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´╗┐Title: John Ames, Native Commissioner - A Romance of the Matabele Rising
Author: Mitford, Bertram, 1855-1914
Language: English
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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.

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John Ames, Native Commissioner, by Bertram Mitford.





Madula's kraal, in the Sikumbutana, was in a state of quite unusual

The kraal, a large one, surrounded by an oval ring-fence of thorn,
contained some seventy or eighty huts.  Three or four smaller kraals
were dotted around within a mile of it, and the whole lay in a wide,
open basin sparsely grown with mimosa and low scrub, shut in by
round-topped acacia-grown hills bearing up against the sky-line at no
great distance.

The time was towards evening, usually the busy time of the day, for then
it was that the cattle were driven in for milking.  But now, although
the sun was within an hour of the western horizon, no lowing herds could
be descried, threading, in dappled streams, the surrounding bush,
converging upon the kraal.  The denizens of the calf-pens might low for
their mothers, and might low in vain; and this was primarily at the root
of the prevailing excitement.

In the neighbourhood of the chief's hut squatted six or eight
head-ringed men, sullen and resentful, conversing not much, and in low
murmurs.  At a respectful distance the young men of the kraal clustered
in dark groups; less reserved, judging from the fierce hubbub of angry
voices, which their elders made no effort to restrain.  Few women were
visible, and such as were, kept well within the shelter of the huts at
the back of those of the chief, peering forth anxiously, or darting out
to retrieve some fat runaway toddler, which seemed to be straying in the
direction of all sorts of imaginary danger.  And, in the centre of all
this brewing commotion, quite unconcerned, although clearly the object
of it, stood ten men, or to be more accurate, eleven.  These were of the
same colour and build, of the same cast of features, as those around
them, but whereas the excited inhabitants of the kraal wore nothing but
the _mutya_, these were clad in neat uniform, consisting of blue serge
tunic, red-braided khaki knee-breeches, and fez caps; and while the
others showed no weapons--as yet--save knobsticks, these were armed with
Martini rifles and well-filled bandoliers.  They consisted, in fact, of
a sergeant and ten men of the Chartered Company's Matabele Police, and
to their presence and errand there at that time was due the brooding,
not to say dangerous, excitement prevailing.  The nature of that errand
stood revealed in the _indaba_ then being held between the two opposing

"Who talks of time?" said the police sergeant, swelling himself out in
his uniform, with the swagger of a native of no class who finds himself
in a position of authority, and by virtue of it qualified to domineer
over and flout those of his own race to whom formerly he looked up with
deference.  "Who talks of time?  You have had time, Madula--more than
enough time--yet the cattle have not been sent in.  Now we have come to
take them.  It is the `word' of the Government."

A click, expressive of contemptuous disgust, broke from the groups of
bystanders, and with it deep-toned murmurs of savage wrath.  But its
only effect was further to develop the arrogant swagger of the native

"Keep your dogs quiet, Madula," he said insolently, with a sneering
glance at the murmurers.  "_Hau_!  A man cannot talk amid such a barking
of curs."

"A man!  _Hau_!  A man!  A dog rather.  A dog--who cringes to those who
throw stones at him and his father's house," they shouted, undeterred by
the presence of their elders and chief; for the familiar, and therefore
impudent manner in which this uniformed "dog of the Government" had
dared to address their chief by name, stung them beyond control.  "Who
is the `dog'?  Nanzicele, the bastard.  Not his father's son, for Izwe
was a brave man and a true, and could never have been the father of such
a whelp as Nanzicele.  _Au_!  Go home, Nanzicele.  Go home!" they
shouted, shaking their sticks with roars of jeering laughter, in which
there was no note of real mirth.

At these insults Nanzicele's broad countenance grew set with fury and
his eyes glared, for beneath the uniform seeming to tell of discipline
and self-restraint, the heart of a savage beat hard--the heart of a
savage as fierce and ruthless as that which beat in the dusky breast of
any of those around.  A Matabele of pure blood, he had fought in the
ranks of Lo Bengula during the war of occupation, and that he and others
should have taken service under their conquerors was an offence the
conquered were not likely to forgive.  As to his courage though, there
was no question, and for all his insolence and swagger, no qualm of
misgiving was in his mind as he faced the jeering, infuriated crowd with
a savage contempt not less than their own.  They represented a couple of
hundred at least, and he and his ten men, for all their rifles and
cartridges, would be a mere mouthful to them in the event of a sudden

"Dogs?  Nay, nay.  It is ye who are the dogs--all dogs--dogs of the
Government which has made me a chief," was his fierce retort, as he
stood swelling out his chest in the pride of his newly acquired
importance.  "You have no chiefs now; all are dogs--dogs of the
Government.  I--_I_ am a chief."

"_Hau_!  A dog-chief.  _Nkose_!  We hail thee, Nanzicele, chief of the
dogs!" roared some; while others, more infuriated than the rest, began
to crowd in upon the little knot of police.  Before the latter could
even bring their rifles to the present, Madula rose, with both hands
outspread.  Like magic the tumult was stayed at the gesture, though
deep-toned mutterings still rolled through the crowd like the
threatening of distant thunder.

The chief, Madula, was an elderly man, tall and powerfully built.  Like
the police sergeant he was of the "Abezantzi," the "people from below"--
i.e. those from lower down the country, who came up with Umzilikazi, and
who constituted the aristocratic order of the Matabele nation, being of
pure Zulu parentage; whereas many of his tribal followers were not;
hence the haughty contempt with which the police sergeant treated the
menacing attitude of the crowd.  Standing there; his shaven head--
crowned with the shiny ring--thrown back in the easy unconscious dignity
of command; his tall erect frame destitute of clothing save the _mutya_
round the loins--of adornment save for a string of symbolical wooden
beads, the savage chieftain showed to immeasurable advantage as
contrasted with the cheap swagger of the drilled and uniformed convert
to the new civilisation who confronted him.  Now he spoke.

"Hearken, Nanzicele.  Here we have none of the King's cattle.  All we
have is our own.  When we sent in such of the King's cattle as were
among us, we were told to send in more.  We asked for time to search and
see if there were a few more that had been overlooked, and we were
granted time.  Now we have searched and there are no more.  If there are
no more we can send no more.  Can anything be clearer than that?"

A full-throated shout of assent went up from the young men.  Their chief
had spoken, therefore there was an end of the matter.  Nanzicele and his
police could now go home, and go empty handed.  But Nanzicele had no
intention of doing anything of the sort.

"Then that is your `word,' Madula," he said.  "You will send no cattle?"

"Have I not spoken?" returned the chief.  "_Whau_!  The Government must
employ queer messengers if it sends men who cannot understand plain
words.  If there are no King's cattle for me to send, how can I send
any?  Is not that `word' plain enough, Nanzicele?"  And again a shout of
uproarious delight went up from the young men.

"There is a plainer `word,'" retorted the police sergeant, "and that is
the `word' of the Government.  All the cattle in the country are King's
cattle, therefore the cattle of Madula are King's cattle, and as Madula
will not send them in I am here to take them.  Fare ye well, children of
Madula.  You have resisted the arm of the Government, and you have
insulted its mouth.  Fare ye well;" and there was a volume of
threatening significance in the tone.

No movement was made to hinder them as the handful of police marched out
between the serried ranks of dusky forms, the glare of savage animosity
darting forth from hostile eyes.  But as they gained the outside of the
kraal a great roar of derision went up, coupled with allusions which
caused Nanzicele to scowl darkly.  For the incident to which they
referred was the curt refusal of a follower of Madula to give him one of
his daughters to wife, at less than the current market value; in which
the obdurate parent received the full support of his chief, who was in
nowise disposed to befriend the Government policeman.  The man had since
married his daughter to somebody else, but Nanzicele had neither
forgotten nor forgiven.  And now the young men of the kraal followed him
jeering, and improvising songs asking whether Nanzicele had found a wife

But soon such good humour as underlay their mirth was turned to
downright hate.  They had followed the retreating police as far as the
brow of an eminence some little distance from the kraal, and now a sight
met their view which turned every heart black with pent up hostility.
Away over the plain a dust cloud was moving, and behind it the
multicoloured hides of a considerable herd of cattle.  These were
travelling at a swift pace, propelled by the shouts of a number of
running figures.  The bulk, if not the whole, of Madula's cattle were
being swept away by the Government emissaries.

No further time had Madula's people to devote to this handful of police,
whom hitherto they had busied themselves with annoying.  With long-drawn
whoops of wrath and rally, they surged forward, intent only on retaking
their cherished, and, in fact, their only possessions.  Assegai blades
flashed suddenly aloft, drawn forth from their places of concealment,
and the plain was alive with the dark forms of bounding savages.  There
would be a collision and bloodshed, and the country was in no state for
the heaping of fuel upon a smouldering fire.

But Nanzicele's native astuteness had not been caught napping.  He had
been prepared for some such move, for his quick glance had not been slow
to note that many of those who had followed him from the kraal were
arrayed in skin karosses or other nondescript articles of attire,
whereas, only just before, except for their _mutyas_, they had been
naked.  This could mean nothing but concealed weapons, and when such
were produced he was ready for the contingency.  With hurried, muttered
commands to his men to hold their rifles in readiness, he pressed them
forward at the double, and arrived on the scene of turmoil not much
later than Madula's excited tribesmen.

These, for their part, had rushed the situation on all sides, and things
were already tolerably lively.  The scared and maddened cattle, frenzied
by the dark forms surging around them front and rear, halted, bunched,
"milled" around for a moment in blind unreasoning fear, then broke up
and streamed forth over the plain in a dozen different directions,
bellowing wildly, and pursued by the whooping, bounding figures in their
rear and on their flanks; and in a few moments, save for long lines of
lingering dust-clouds, not one remained in sight.  Nanzicele's plan had
miscarried entirely.  In a fury the latter turned upon his corporal.

"Fool--dog--jackal!" he snarled.  "Is this how my orders are obeyed?
Instead of carrying them out promptly, were ye all asleep or drinking
beer with the women?  Yonder cattle should have been halfway to Jonemi's
by this time, and lo now, Madula and his herd of Amaholi are laughing at
us.  Thou, Singisa--I will have thee flogged out of the ranks with
raw-hide whips.  Was I to keep Madula talking for a moon instead of a
very small piece of a day, to give thee time to rest thy lazy carcase
and go to sleep?  Ye shall all suffer for this, and dearly."

But the corporal was not much perturbed by this threat.  He merely
shrugged his shoulders.

"I know not," he said.  "But this I know, Nanzicele.  Seven men cannot
move quicker than two hundred, and as many were yonder"--pointing in the
direction of the retreating dust-clouds.  "And we were under no orders
to fire upon Madula's people, nor indeed do I think we were under orders
to take his cattle at all."

"Thou art a fool, Singisa," retorted Nanzicele, with a savage scowl.

But whether Singisa was a fool or not, the fact remained with them that
Nanzicele's plan had miscarried.  All he had effected by his attempted
_coup de main_ was to render the name of the Matabele police a trifle
more putrescent in the nostrils of the Matabele than it already was, and
in the mean time Madula's cattle were still in Madula's possession.
And, after all, that possession is nine points of the law--meaning
presumably nine-tenths--still remains a good old English axiom.



John Ames was Native Commissioner for the district of Sikumbutana.

Now, the area of the said district contained about as many square miles
as did one half of England.  It likewise contained some thousands of its
original inhabitants, a considerable percentage of which were Matabele,
and the residue Makalaka, the bulk of whom had, prior to the war of
occupation, been incorporated into the ranks of Lo Bengula's
fighting-men.  Indeed, they reckoned themselves as integral with the
nation--as much so as the original Abezantzi, even then fast dwindling
numerically--and by no means welcomed their so-called emancipation at
the hands of the British with the acclaim our theoretically humane
civilisation had striven to persuade itself they would.  They were
settled upon reservations there as in other districts under the charge
of Native Commissioners appointed by the Government of the Chartered

Now the duties of these Native Commissioners were multifarious, if
ill-defined.  They involved the collection of hut tax; the keeping of a
vigilant eye upon the people at large; the carrying out of the
disarmament programme; the settlement of all local disputes that were
potient of settlement; and of about half a hundred other questions that
might arise from day to day.  These officials were expected to act the
part of benevolent uncle all round, to the natives under their charge;
and in order to effect this thoroughly, they had to be continually on
the move, keeping up a constant system of patrol in order to become
acquainted with every nook and corner of their somewhat vast area, and
see that things were going on all right in general; and bearing in mind
the extent of that area, it will be seen that this alone constituted a
very laborious and responsible side of their duties.  For it was no case
of progressing in a fairly comfortable conveyance: neither the natural
formation of the country nor the not very munificent travelling
allowance granted by their government would admit of that.  It meant
real downright roughing it.  Day after day of long rides on horseback,
over mountain and plain and low-lying fever belt in all weathers, and a
camp under rock or tree at night; and when it is remembered that such
peregrinations amounted in the aggregate to about half the year, it
follows that the faculties both physical and mental, of these useful
public servants were not likely to stagnate for lack of use.

There was one other duty which devolved upon them at the time of our
story; the collecting of the cattle which the Chartered Company exacted
as a war indemnity from the not thoroughly conquered Matabele; and
remembering that cattle constitutes the whole worldly wealth of a
native, it may be imagined what a thankless and uningratiating task was
thrown upon their hands.

John Ames was an excellent specimen of this class of public official.
Born on a Natal farm, he could speak the native languages fluently, and
had all the idiosyncrasies of the native character at his fingers' ends,
a phase of useful knowledge which a few years spent at an English public
school had failed to obliterate, and which, on his return to the land of
his birth, he was able to turn to practical account.  He had come to
Rhodesia with the early Pioneers, and having served through the Matabele
war of 1893, had elected to remain in the country.  He was of goodly
height and proportion, standing six feet in his socks, handsome withal,
having regular features, and steadfast and penetrating grey eyes; and at
the time we make his acquaintance had just turned thirty, but looked

"Here's a pretty kettle of fish," he was saying, as he sat in his
compound on the day following the events recorded in the last chapter.
"This thing will have to be gone into, Inglefield, and that pretty

"Certainly, old chap, certainly.  But what is the `thing' when all's
said and done, and what sort of fish are in the kettle?  You forget
you've been pattering away to these chaps for the last half-hour, and
except for a word or two, I haven't caught any of it.  Even now I don't
know what it's all about."

"These police of yours seem to have been rather playing the fool," was
the direct answer.

He addressed as Inglefield was the sub-inspector in charge of the
Matabele Police, whose camp lay about a mile away.  Inglefield was an
English importation, an ex-subaltern in a line regiment, who having
lived at the rate of about double his means for a few years, had, in
common with not a few of his kind, found it necessary to migrate with
the object of "picking up something;" and he had duly "picked up" a
commission in the Matabele Police.  Now Inglefield twirled his moustache
and looked annoyed.

"Oh, the police again!" he retorted, somewhat snappishly.  "I say, Ames.
Can they by any chance ever do anything right according to you

The two men were seated together outside the hut which Ames used for an
office.  In front of them about a dozen Matabele squatted in a
semicircle.  One of these--a ringed man--had been speaking at some
length, but the bulk of his conversation was utterly unintelligible to

"Granting for the sake of argument they never can, it is hardly to be
wondered at," replied Ames, tranquilly.  "Their very existence as at
present constituted is a mistake, and may prove a most serious one some
of these days.  First of all, the Matabele have never been more than
half conquered, and having given them peace--on not such easy terms,
mind--the first thing we do is to pick out a number of them, arm them,
and teach them to shoot.  And such fellows are turned loose to keep
their own crowd in order.  Well, it isn't in human nature that the plan
won't lead to ructions, and this is only another of them.  I know
natives, Inglefield, and you don't, if you'll excuse my saying so.  Now,
every man Jack of your Matabele Police imagines himself a bigger man
than the old indunas of the country before whom he used to shake in his
shoes.  And the Matabele won't stand that for ever."

"Oh, come now, Ames, you're putting things rather strong.  Besides, we
seem to have heard all that before."

"And so these fellows can swagger around in their uniforms and put on
side, and crow over the old indunas, and bully the crowd at large, and--
what is worse, use their position to pay off old grudges.  Which is just
what seems to have been done in the present case."

"The devil it does!  Who says so?"

"The man who has been talking the most is Samvu, the brother of Madula,"
went on Ames.  "He is here to complain of your men.  They appear to have
acted in a pretty high-handed way at Madula's, and the wonder is they
didn't come to blows.  You remember what the orders were to Nanzicele?
We gave them conjointly."

"Yes.  He was to remind Madula that more cattle were due from him, and
that it is time they were sent in."

"Precisely.  Well, what do you think the fellow has been doing?  He sent
half his patrol to drive off all Madula's cattle, while he kept the
people of the kraal busy with _indaba_.  Even then he seems to have
cheeked the chief and played Harry all round.  The wonder is he didn't
bring on a fight.  As it was, the whole kraal turned out, and simply ran
all the cattle back again."

"If he did that, of course he exceeded his orders," allowed Inglefield,
albeit somewhat grudgingly.  "But how do we know these chaps are not

"I don't think they are, but of course we must have a full
investigation.  We can begin it this afternoon.  It's dinner-time now.
Come in and have a bite, Inglefield."

"No thanks, old chap.  I've got something going at the camp, and my cook
will get careless if I keep disappointing him.  I'll look round in an
hour or so.  But--I say.  Why the deuce should Nanzicele--oh, dash it, I
can't get round these infernal clicks!--why should he have played the
fool at that particular kraal?"

"There comes in what I was saying before about paying off old grudges.
He had a squabble about a girl at that very kraal a little while back,
and now sees his chance.  Well, so long.  We'll go thoroughly into the

The police officer mounted his horse and rode away in the direction of
the camp, and John Ames, having said a few words to the squatting
Matabele, dismissed them for the present, and turned into the hut which
he used as a dining and general sitting-room.  This was a large,
circular hut, rough and ready of aspect outside, with its plastered wall
and high conical thatch, but the interior was not without comfort and
even tastefulness.  It was hung around with a dark blue fabric commonly
called by the whites "limbo," being a corruption of the native name
"ulembu," which signifieth "web."  Strips of white calico constituted
the ceiling, and thus both thatch and plastered walls being completely
hidden, the interior, hung around with framed photographs and prints,
wore a comfortable and homelike aspect.  Two small glass windows let in
light and air when the door was closed, which it seldom was.  Four other
huts similarly constructed stood within the compound, doing duty for
office, bedroom, kitchen, and store-house respectively, and the whole
were enclosed by a palisade of woven grass, standing about breast high.

The life was a lonely one, and there were times when John Ames would
feel very tired of it.  The place being more than a long day's journey
from anywhere, visitors were few and far between, and beyond Inglefield,
the police sub-inspector, he rarely saw a social equal.  Inglefield was
a married man, but his wife, a soured and disappointed person, had made
herself so disagreeable to John Ames on the few occasions they had met,
that the latter had dropped all intercourse which involved associating
with Inglefield at that worthy's own home.  If Inglefield wanted to see
him for social purposes, why, he knew his way up; and truth to tell, it
was a way Inglefield not seldom found, for if there is one state more
lonely than the man who lives alone in an out of the way locality, it is
the man who lives in it with an entirely uncongenial partner.  But even
with Inglefield the position was occasionally strained, by reason of
their official relations Inglefield thought the force under his command
could do no wrong; Ames knew that it could, and not infrequently did.

The latter sat down to his solitary meal, which on the whole was a good
one; for the game laws were not at that time rigidly enforced, nor had a
combination of rinderpest and prospector decimated the larger kinds; and
steaks of the roan antelope, hot and frizzling, are by no means
despicable.  Add to this brown bread and tinned butter, the whole washed
down with a couple of glasses of whisky and aerated water from a
selzogene, and it will be seen that our lonely official did not fare so
badly.  The era of "bully" beef and other canned abominations had not
yet set in.

His dinner over, John Ames lit a pipe and adjourned to a cane chair
before his office door to await the appearance of Inglefield.  The day
was hot and drowsy, and he wore the light attire customary in Rhodesia--
shirt and trousers to wit, and leather belt--and on his head a
wide-brimmed hat of the "cowboy" order; but the heat notwithstanding, a
shiver ran through his frame, bringing with it a not unwarranted

"This infernal fever again," he said to himself half aloud.  "How the
mischief am I going to get through the rainy season?  No.  I really must
apply for three months' leave, and get to some cool place at the
seaside.  If they won't give it me I'll resign.  I'm not going to turn
into a premature wreck to please anybody."

There was very little fear of this alternative.  John Ames was far too
valuable an official for his superiors to bring themselves to part with
so readily.  His thorough knowledge of the natives and their ways, his
consummate tact in dealing with them, and his scrupulous and
unquestionable probity, had already rendered him a man of mark in his
department; but withal it never occurred to him for a moment to
overestimate himself, or that his chances were one whit better than
those of anybody else.

In due course Inglefield arrived, and with him Nanzicele and the squad
of police whose conduct was under investigation.  John Ames was attended
by his native messengers--a brace of stalwart Matabele--and, Madula's
people having been convened, the investigation began.

Even here the picturesque element was not wanting.  The open space of
the compound was nearly filled; the police ranged in a double file on
the one side, the people of Madula under Samvu, the chief's brother,
squatting in a semicircle on the other.  Inglefield occupied a chair
beside John Ames, his orderly behind him, and his interpreter--for his
acquaintance with the language was but scanty--rendering the words of
each witness.  And these were legion; and as the hearing progressed,
both sides became more and more excited, to such an extent that when
Nanzicele was making his statement, audible murmurs of dissent and
disgust, among which such epithets as "liar" were not undiscernible,
arose from Samvu's followers.  More than once John Ames would intervene,
quiet but decisive; but even his influence seemed strained under the
task of preserving order among these rival bands of savage and slightly
civilised savage.

But Nanzicele had no chance.  When it came to cross-questioning him,
Samvu and another ringed man of Madula's simply turned him inside out.
There could be no question but that he had exceeded his orders, and had
acted in a grossly provocative and arbitrary manner, calculated to bring
about serious trouble.

Yet not all at once was this decision arrived at.  Inglefield, promptly
sick of the whole thing, would have slurred the proceedings over--
anything to finish them that day--but Ames was built of different stuff.
Calm and judicial, he gave both sides a thoroughly patient hearing, and
the investigation indeed was not concluded until late on the following
day.  Then the above decision was arrived at and reported to the proper
quarter, and in the result, it not being his first offence of the kind,
Nanzicele was adjudged to lose his stripes.

There were three parties to whom this decision was exceedingly
unwelcome.  The first was represented by the comrades of the degraded
man, who looked up to him on account of the very derelictions which had
brought him into trouble--his high-handed thoroughness, to wit.  The
second was Inglefield, who felt that he had lost a particularly smart
non-com., and one that was useful to him in another capacity, for
Nanzicele was a skilful hunter, and could always show his officer where
sport was to be obtained; whereas now, Nanzicele, sulky and reduced to
the ranks, would probably revenge himself by a falling off in this

The third was Nanzicele himself, and, his fierce and sullen spirit
smouldering with bitter resentment, he inwardly vowed vengeance against
Madula and his following.  But greater vengeance still did he vow
against the white race in general, and John Ames in particular.  There
was point in this, because he was in a position to suppose that the day
might not be so very far distant when his vow should be repaid to the



Shiminya the sorcerer was seated within his "muti" kraal on the banks of
the Umgwane river.

This kraal was situated in the heart of a vast thicket of "wait-a-bit"
thorns.  It was enclosed by a closely woven fence of the same
redoubtable growth, whose height and bristling solidity laughed to scorn
the efforts of man or beast.  The main approach consisted of a narrow
labyrinthine passage; other approaches there were, but known only to its
weird occupant, who had mechanical but secret means of his own of being
warned of any advance, even by the recognised way, some time before the
visitor or visitors should arrive at the gate.

This formidable stockade enclosed a space in which stood three huts,
circular, with low conical roofs of thatch, and in front of these
Shiminya was squatting.  He had a large bowl in his hands, which he kept
turning from side to side, narrowly scrutinising its contents, which
smelt abominably, half muttering, half singing to himself the while.  In
front, its head couched between its paws, dog-like, blinking its yellow
eyes, lay an animal.  Yet it was not a dog, but represented the smaller
species of hyaena--the South African "wolf."

This brute looked grim and uncanny enough, but not more so than his
master.  The latter was a native of small stature and very black hue,
with features of an aquiline, almost Semitic cast.  But the glance of
his eye was baleful, cruel as that of a serpent, keen, rapacious as that
of a hawk; and while the muscular development of his frame was slight
almost to puniness, his sinister features showed that which must ever
dominate over mere brutal sinew and brawn, viz. Mind.  Craft, guile,
cunning, illimitable patience, and dauntless courage all fought for the
mastery in the thin cruel features of the sorcerer.

His whole aspect differed as widely as possible from the pure-blood
Matabele, which is scarcely surprising, seeing that he could boast no
strain of that warrior race.  He was, in fact, of the Amaholi, or slave
caste; but as among other and more powerful nations of both new and old
civilisation, Mind is bound to tell Shiminya--at the time we make his
acquaintance and for some years previously--was one of the highest in
the ranks of the mysterious hierarchy known to the natives as "Children
of the Umlimo."

The origin of the cultus of this sinister abstraction has never been
located with certainty.  Its hierarchy was protected, if not encouraged,
by Lo Bengula and his warrior sire, probably out of three parts
political motive to a fourth superstitious; and now, at the period of
our story, when the dynasty and despotism of the Matabele kings had gone
down before the Maxims of the Chartered Company, the shadowy-sayings of
the Umlimo began to be sought out eagerly by the conquered race, and a
rosy time seemed likely to set in for the myrmidons of the abstraction.

These, with the astuteness of their craft all the world over, saw their
time.  The conquered race, strange to say, was not satisfied.  It had
signally failed to appreciate the blessings of civilisation.  If life
was a trifle less secure under the rule of the King, why, that was all
in accordance with national custom.  In the good old days there was
plenty of fun and fighting, of raids far and near; of the mustering of
regiments at the King's kraal, and cattle-killing and feasting and
dancing.  Yes, life was life in those days, when looked at from the
point, of view of a warrior nation.  But now, all this had given place
to a state of things which from that point of view was utterly nauseous.
The great circle of Bulawayo proudly dominating the land was razed to
the ground, its place occupied by a solitary house, whence the white man
governed a nation of conquered slaves.  Below, in the valley, which
formerly shook to the hum and thunder of marching impis, the white man
was dumping down his iron houses and calling it his town.  Throughout
the land even the oldest and most powerful indunas were under white
officials, to whom they were obliged to give deferential greeting, and
all the little phases of excitement incidental to former days were
sternly forbidden.  Moreover, the conquerors had seized all the cattle
of the nation, and now the land was flooded with arrogant, masterful
whites, to whom no spot was sacred if only it was thought to contain a
little gold.  Outwardly patient, but with black rage and inexhaustible
hostility gnawing at their hearts, chiefs and people alike sullenly
brooded; and on such dry tinder the sparks, artfully kindled by the
"Abantwana 'Mlimo," fell as on well-prepared ground.

Seated there upon the ground, Shiminya continued to shake his bowl of
hell-broth.  Save for a few birds' claws and a bladder or two fastened
in his thick wool--for he was not ringed--he was destitute of the
revolting gewgaws of his profession.  Suddenly the wolf emitted a low
snarl, simultaneously with an inarticulate wail which proceeded from the
hut behind.

"Ha--my Lupiswana!  Ha--ha, my good little beast!" chuckled Shiminya,
apostrophising the creature.  "Tea--lick thy jaws, for I think it is
time for more blood--only a little--only a taste.  _Hau_!"

As though understanding these words the brute rose, and sneaked over to
the wicker door of the hut, sniffing at the fastenings, sullenly
growling.  Rising, the wizard followed, and, pushing back the animal,
crept into the hut, and slapped the door to in its jaws.  At his
appearance the low moaning rose again, and in its note was the very
extremity of pain and fear.

It proceeded from a long dark form lying on the ground, which the eyes,
becoming accustomed to the semi-light of the interior, would have no
hesitation in pronouncing as human.  Further investigation would reveal
it a female form, securely bound and lashed to a pole; a female form
too, dowered with no small share of symmetry and comeliness.  The face,
when undistorted by pain and terror, must have been a pleasing one in
the extreme.

"Ah--ah, Nompiza!" chuckled the wizard, rubbing his hands together.
"The children of Umlimo have pretty houses, do they not--pretty houses?"
And he glanced gleefully around his horrible den.

For this is just what it was.  Human skulls and bones decked the
plastered wall, but the most dreadful object of all was the whole skin
of the head and face of a man--of a white man too, with a long heavy
beard.  This awful object glowered down in the semi-gloom, a gruesome
expression of pain in the pucker of the parchment-like hide.  Great
snake-skins depended from the roof--the heads artfully stuffed, and the
attitudes arranged to simulate life; and many a horrid object,
suggestive of torture and death, was disposed around.

"A pretty house, Nompiza--ah--ah--a pretty house, is it not?" chuckled
Shiminya, leering down into the young woman's face.  "And thou hast only
to speak one word to be taken out of it.  Yet I wonder not at thy

"I will not speak it, Shiminya," she replied, with some fire of spirit.
"The rattle of these old bones has no terror for me.  And if thou
harmest me further, there are those who will avenge me, child of the
Umlimo or not."

For all answer the wizard laughed softly but disdainfully.  Then
reaching to the door, he opened it.  The wolf leaped in, snarling.

"See now, thou obstinate Nompiza," he went on, restraining the brute
with a flourish of a large stick painted red, before which it cowered
back.  "This is Lupiswana--no ordinary wolf.  Whoever this one bites
becomes _tagati_, and will be hunted through the night by him after
death, until they can escape only by riding on him as the white men ride
their horses.  Then, if they fall off, they are hunted again night after
night--for ever and ever.  Ha!"

At the enunciation of this grim superstition the unfortunate prisoner
tugged at her bonds, uttering a shriek of terror.  She recognised here
not the dog she had at first expected to see, but the horrid mongrel
beast held in abhorrence by the superstitious.  The growlings of the
brute redoubled.

"Now, tell quickly," went on the wizard.  "The news of the meeting thou
didst make known to two people only.  Their names?  Hesitate not, or--"

"Shall I be allowed to depart from here if I tell, child of the Umlimo?"
she gasped eagerly.

"Thou shalt be taken hence.  Oh yes, thou shalt be taken hence."

"Swear it.  Swear it," she cried.

"Umzilikazi!" rejoined the wizard, thus ratifying his assertion by the
sacred name of the great king, founder of the nation.

But now, seeing its master's vigilance relaxed, the wolf sprang forward,
and, with a horrid mumbling snarl, buried its fangs in the helpless
prisoner's thigh.  A wild, piteous, despairing shriek rent the interior
of this fiend's den.

"Take it off!  Take it off!  Oh, I am devoured!  Quick!  I will tell!"

Seizing a pair of iron tongs, Shiminya compelled the now infuriated
brute to loose its hold, and following it with a tremendous blow on the
head, it retreated yelling to the further side of the hut.

"The names--quick--ere it seizes thee again," urged the wizard.

"Pukele," she howled, frantic with agony and terror.

"The son of thy father, who is servant to Jonemi?"

"The same.  The other is Ntatu."

The words seemed squeezed from the sufferer.  Her thigh, horribly
lacerated by the jaws of the savage beast, streaming with blood, was
quivering in every nerve.

"Thy sister, formerly wife of Makani?"

"The same.  Now, child of the Umlimo, suffer me to depart."

"Thy thigh is not well enough, sister," replied the wizard, in a soft
purring voice, putting his head on one side, and surveying her through
half closed eyes.  "Tarry till evening, then shalt thou be taken hence.
_Au_!  It is not good to be seen quitting the abode of Shiminya.  There
is _tagati_ in it."

Having first kicked the wolf out of the hut, the sorcerer set to work to
tend the wound of his helpless victim.  She, for her part, lay and
moaned feebly.  She had purchased her life, but at what a cost.  Still,
even the magnificent physical organisation of a fine savage was not
proof against all she had undergone, for this was not her first taste of
the torture since being forcibly seized by the satellites of Shiminya
and brought hither.

Now, moaning in her pain, Nompiza lay and reflected.  She had betrayed
two of her father's children, had marked them out for the vengeance of
not only the Abantwana 'Mlimo, but of the disaffected chiefs.  This,
however, might be remedied.  Once out of this she would go straight to
Jonemi--which was the name by which John Ames was known to the natives,
being a corruption of his own--and claim protection for herself and
them, perhaps even procure the arrest of Shiminya.  This thought came as
a ray of light to the savage girl as she lay there.  The white men would
protect and avenge her.  Yet--poor simpleton!

"Of what art thou thinking, Nompiza?" said the wizard, softly, as he
refrained from his seeming work of mercy.  "_Au_!  Shall I tell thee?
It is that thou wilt reveal to Jonemi all thou knowest of the gathering
at the Home of the Umlimo when the moon was full.  So shalt thou save
thyself and Pukele and Ntatu, the children of thy father."

A cry of terror escaped the sufferer.  How should she have forgotten
that this dreadful sorcerer could read the thoughts of men?

"Not so, my father, not so," she prayed.  "I ask for nothing but to be
allowed to go home."

"To go home?  But how would that avail one who has been bitten by
Lupiswana?  There is no escape from that.  Lupiswana will come for thee
after death.  Thou wilt be hunted round for ever, with Lupiswana
biting--biting--at thee even as now, and thou wilt spring wildly forward
to avoid his bites, and his teeth will close in thy flesh, even as now.
Thou wilt run wailing round the kraals of thy people, hunted ever by
Lupiswana, but they will not admit thee.  They will cover their heads in
terror lest the same doom overtake them.  _Hau_!  Even this night will
that doom begin."

"This night?" echoed the victim, feeling well-nigh dead with an awful
fear.  "This night?  Now, my father, thou hast promised--hast sworn--I
shall be allowed to depart."

"I did but mean the night of death," replied the other, his head on one
side, his eyes glittering with satanic mirth.  "That may be when thou
art old and tottering, Nompiza, or it may mean this night, for what is
time but a flash, even as that of the summer lightning?  The night of
death will surely come."

No relief came into the face of the sufferer.  The awful fate predicted
for her by Shiminya seemed to her just as certain as though it had
already befallen her, and the recollection of the horrid animal tearing
at her flesh was too recent.  It was a form of superstition, too, not
unknown among her people, and here everything seemed to bring it home--
time, place, surroundings, and the horror of this gruesome being's
presence.  But before she would utter further prayer or protest, a
strange hollow, humming noise was heard, at sound of which Shiminya
arose suddenly, with an eager look on his repulsive countenance, and
crept out of the hut, taking care to secure the door behind him.



Shiminya resumed his seat upon the ground, with the _muti_ bowl in his
hands.  The wolf he had already secured in one of the huts.  The grim
beast was in truth his familiar spirit, and as such not to be gazed upon
by profane eyes, and in broad daylight.  And now footsteps were heard
approaching the _scherm_, together with the rattle of assegai hafts.
Three men entered by the narrow gateway.  Shiminya looked up.

"Greeting, _Izinduna_," he said.

"Greeting to thee, Umtwana 'Mlimo," came the reply in a deep-voiced hum,
as the newcomers deposited their assegais just within the gate, and
advanced a few steps nearer in.  With two of these we are already
acquainted, they being, in fact, Madula and his brother Samvu.  The
third was another influential chief by name Zazwe.

Shiminya seemed to take no further notice of their presence, continuing
to sway the _muti_ bowl from side to side, muttering the while.  The
faces of the three indunas wore an expression of scarcely to be
concealed disgust; that of Zazwe in addition showed unutterable
contempt.  He was an unprepossessing looking man, lean, and of middle
height, with a cold, cruel countenance.  At bottom he loathed and
despised the whole Umlimo hierarchy as a pack of rank impostors, but it
suited him now to cultivate them, for he was an arrant schemer, and
would fain see every white man in the country cut to pieces.

"There are three goats in thy kraal beyond the river, Shiminya," he
began presently, tired of the silence.

"That is good, my father," the sorcerer condescended to reply.  "They
are for Umlimo?"

"Nay; for his child."

"And--for Umlimo?"

"There is a young heifer."

"_Au_!  Of such there will soon be no more," replied Shiminya.

"No more?" echoed the trio.

"No more.  The whites are bewitching all the cattle in the land.  Soon
you will see great things.  The land will stink with their rotting

A murmur went up from the three listeners.  They all bent eagerly
forward.  Shiminya, who knew his dupes, was in no hurry.  He continued
to shake his bowl of abomination and mutter; then he went on:

"The last time you heard the Great Voice, what did it say?  Were not the
words thereof as mine are now--I, its child?  _Whau_!  I fear there were
some who heard that voice and laughed, Izinduna--who heard that voice
and did not believe."

At this juncture there came a subdued wail, inexpressibly doleful, from
one of the huts.  It was answered by a snarl from another.  Two of the
three chiefs, listening, felt perturbed, the countenance of Zazwe alone
preserving its hard, sceptical expression; though, to tell the truth,
even he--so rooted is the innate superstition of savages--did not feel
entirely at ease in his surroundings.

"There is, further, a good milch cow for the Umlimo," spake Madula, "and
for his child a heifer."

"It is well.  There will soon be no more," repeated the wizard.

"And three fat-tailed sheep, and for Umlimo a young bull," said Samvu.

"That, too, is good," was the cold acknowledgment of Shiminya, "for
there will soon be no more."

Now, cattle constitute the very life of all the South African tribes,
wherefore the three chiefs felt their hearts sink as they realised the
gist of this doleful prophecy.  The rinderpest had not as yet made its
appearance in their midst, but was very soon destined to do so, and the
sorcerers of the nation, having gained secret information that the
terrible scourge was, in the ordinary course of things, bound to be upon
them soon from further north, used their knowledge as a most powerful
lever towards promoting the uprising they were straining every nerve to
bring about.  In this they found willing aid from many of the chiefs,
who saw their power and influence waning day by day; themselves forced
to be the subservient vassals of a few--from their point of view--
upstart and arrogant whites.

"Why, then, should Makiwa [Matabele term for the white man] wish to
bewitch all the cattle?" said Madula, who at present was in the
vacillating stage, though the high-handed action we have recorded, on
the part of the native police, had gone far towards settling him in the
wrong direction.  "They will suffer equally with ourselves."

"_Our_ cattle are our life.  _Their_ life is in other things,"
pronounced Shiminya, who never looked at his interlocutors when he
spoke, thus giving his answers an oracular air, as though inspired by
the magic stuff into whose black depth he was gazing.  "We die.  They

"_Hau_!" cried the listeners, fully comprehending the hint.

"Not many times will the moon be at full before this death is upon us,"
went on the wizard, still without looking up.  "If there are no whites
left in the land, then will it be averted."

Again that hollow groan proceeded from the hut.  Their feelings worked
up to an artificial pitch, the superstitious savages felt something like
a shudder run through their frames.  But the imperturbable Shiminya went

"There are two who must die--Pukele, the son of Mambane."

"He who is servant to Jonemi?" queried Madula.

"The same."

"Has he done wrong?" said Samvu, for the man named was one of Madula's
people, and neither of the brothers liked this edict.

"He knows too much," was the remorseless reply.  "The other is Ntatu,
formerly wife of Makani."

A measure of relief came into the countenances of the two chiefs.  A
woman more or less mattered nothing, but they did not like to sacrifice
one of their men.

"It is the `word' of Umlimo," pursued Shiminya, decisively.  "This must
be."  And for the first time he raised his eyes, and fixed them upon the
two chiefs with cruel, snake-like stare.

"What is the life of a man, more or less, when Umlimo has spoken?" said
Zazwe, thus throwing in the weight of his influence with the dictum of
the sorcerer.  "A man, too, who is faithful to one of these whites set
over us!  _Au_!  Umlimo is wise."

This carried the day; and after some more talk, mostly "dark," and
consisting of hints, the three chiefs, gathering up their assegais,

Left alone, Shiminya still sat there, satisfied that his sanguinary
edict would be carried out.  A dead silence reigned over the great thorn
thicket, and as though the satanic influence which seemed to brood upon
the place imparted itself to wild Nature, even the very birds forbore to
flutter and chirp in its immediate vicinity.  The sun sank to the
western horizon, shedding its arrows of golden light upon the myriad
sharp points of the sea of thorns, then dipped below the rim of the
world, and still the grim wizard squatted, like a crafty, cruel,
bloodthirsty spider, in the midst of his vast web, though indeed the
comparison is a libel on the insect, who slays to appease hunger,
whereas this human spider was wont to doom his victims out of a sheer
diabolical lust of cruelty and the power which he could sway through
that agency.  This day, indeed, he might feel content, for it had not
been wasted.  But the day was not over yet--oh no--not quite yet.
Still, would it be possible for this satanic being to commit further
deeds of atrocity and of blood?  Well, is there not the wretched
sufferer lying bound and helpless within the hut?

Again that low, vibrating hum sounded forth.  It seemed to come from the
thick of the thorn palisade.  The deeply plotting brain of the wizard
was again on the alert, but its owner evinced no eagerness, not even
looking up from what he was doing.  Some person or persons had unawares
touched the hidden communication wire which, situated at the entrance of
the narrow labyrinthine passage leading to the kraal, signalled such

Shiminya's discernment was consummate in every sense he possessed;
indeed, this faculty had not a little to do with the ascendency he had
gained.  In the very footsteps of the new comer, shod with the
_amanyatelo_--a kind of raw-hide sandal used as protection in thorny
country--his keen ear could gather a whole volume of information.  They
were, in fact, to him an open index of the new comer's mind.  While
distant they indicated a mind made up, yet not altogether removed from,
the verge of wavering; the possession of a purpose, yet not altogether a
whole-heartedness in its carrying out.  Nearer they revealed the vulgar
trepidation attendant upon the mere fact of approaching a place so
sinister and redoubtable as the _muti_ den of a renowned sorcerer, and
that in the dim hours of night.

For the brief twilight had long since passed, and now a golden moon, in
its third quarter, hung lamplike in the sky, and, save in the shadows,
its soft brilliance revealed every detail almost as clear as in the day.
It fell on the form of a tall, powerfully built savage, standing there
in the gateway, naked save for the _mutya_, unarmed save for a short,
heavy knobstick.  This he laid down as he drew near the wizard.

"Greeting, my father," he uttered.

"Greeting, Nanzicele," replied the sorcerer, without looking up.

Divested of his civilised and official trappings, the ex-sergeant of
police looked what he was--a barbarian pure and simple, no whit less of
a one, in fact, than those over whom he was vested with a little brief
authority.  Whether this visit was made in the interests of loyalty to
his superiors or not may hereinafter appear.

"Hast thou brought what I desired of thee, Nanzicele?" said the wizard,
coming direct to the point.

Nanzicele, who had squatted himself on the ground opposite the other,
now fumbled in a skin bag which was hung around him, and produced a
packet.  It was small, but solid and heavy.

"What is this?" said Shiminya, counting out ten Martini-Henry
cartridges.  "Ten?  Only ten!  _Au_!  When I promised thee vengeance it
was not for such poor reward as this."

"They are not easily obtained, my father.  The men from whom I got these
will be punished to-morrow for not having them; but I care not.  Be
content with a few, for few are better than none.  And--this vengeance?"

"Thou knowest Pukele--the servant of Jonemi?"

"The son of Mambane?"

"The son of Mambane, who helped hoot thee out of his kraal when thou
wouldst not offer enough _lobola_ for Nompiza.  He is to die."

Nanzicele leaped with delight.  "When?  How?" he cried.  "Now will my
eyes have a feast indeed."

"At thy hand.  The manner and the time are of thine own choosing.  To
thee has Umlimo left it."

Nanzicele's glee was dashed.  His jaw fell.

"_Au_!  I have no wish to dance in the air at the end of a long rope,"
he growled; "and such would assuredly be my fate if I slew Pukele, even
as it was that of Fondosa, the son of Mbai, who was an _innyanga_ even
as thyself, my father.  _Whau_!  I saw it with these eyes.  All
Fondosa's _muti_ did not save him there, my father, and the whites
hanged him dead the same as any rotten Maholi."

"Didst thou glance over one shoulder on the way hither, Nanzicele?
Didst thou see Lupiswana following thee, yea, even running at thy side?
I traced thy course from here.  I saw thee from the time of leaving
Jonemi's.  He was waiting for thee was Lupiswana.  It is not good for a
man when such is the case," said Shiminya, whose _esprit de corps_
resented the sneering, contemptuous tone which the other had used in
speaking of a member of his "cloth."

For the event referred to was the execution of a Mashuna witch-doctor
for the murder of a whole family, whose death he had ordered.

The snake-like stare of Shiminya, the appeal to his superstitions, the
sinister associations of the place he was in, a stealthy, mysterious
sound even then becoming audible--all told, Nanzicele looked somewhat
cowed, remembering, too, how his return journey had to be effected alone
and by night.

Having, in vulgar and civilised parlance, taken down his man a peg or
two, Shiminya could afford to let the matter of Pukele stand over.  Now
he said softly--

"And the other ten cartridges, those in thy bag, Nanzicele?  Give them
to me, for I have a better revenge, here, ready at thy hand, and a safer

"_Au_!  They were to have been thine, my father; I was but keeping them
to the last," replied the ex-police sergeant, shamefacedly and utterly
mendaciously, as he placed the packet in the wizard's outstretched hand.
"And now, what is this vengeance?"

Shiminya rose, and, beckoning the other to follow, opened and crept
through the door of the hut behind him.  A hollow groan rose from the
inside.  Nanzicele, halfway in, made an instinctive move to draw back.
Then he recovered himself.  "It is not a good omen to draw back when
half through a doorway," said Shiminya, as they both stood upright in
the darkness.  "Yet--look."

He had struck a match, and lighted a piece of candle.  Nanzicele looked
down, and a start of surprise leapt through his frame.

"_Whau_!" he cried.  "It is Nompiza!"

"And--thy vengeance," murmured the wizard at his side.

But the sufferer heard it, and began to wail aloud--

"Thy promise, Great _Innyanga_!  Thy promise.  Give me not over to this
man, for I fear him.  Thou didst swear I should be allowed to depart
hence; on the head of Umzilikazi thou didst swear it.  Thy promise, O
Great _Innyanga_!"

"It shall be kept, sister," said Shiminya, softly, his eyes fairly
scintillating with devilish glee.  "I swore to thee that thou shouldst
be _taken_ hence, and thou shalt, for this man and I will take thee."

The wretched creature broke into fresh outcries, which were partly
drowned, for already they were dragging her, still lashed to the pole,

"Ha, Nompiza!" jeered Nanzicele, bending down and peering into her face
as she lay in the moonlight.  "Dost remember how I was driven from thy
father's kraal with jeers?  Ha!  Whose jeers were the loudest?  Whose
mockeries the most biting?  Thine.  And now Kulula will have to buy
another wife.  Thou hadst better have been the wife of Nanzicele than of
death.  Of death, is it not, my father?" turning to Shiminya, who glared
a mirthless smile.

Wrought up to a pitch of frenzy by the recollection of the insults he
had then received, the vindictive savage continued to taunt and terrify
the wretched creature as she lay.  Then he went over to pick up his
great knobstick.

"Not thus, blunderer; not thus," said Shiminya, arresting his arm.  "See
now.  Take that end of the pole while I take the other.  Go thou first."

Lifting the pole with its helpless human burden, these bloodthirsty
miscreants passed out of the kraal.  Down the narrow way they hurried,
for Shiminya though small was surprisingly wiry, and the powerful frame
of the other felt it not, although their burden was no light one.  Down
through a steep winding path, and soon the thorns thinned out, giving
way to forest trees.

"Well, sister, I predicted that Lupiswana would come for thee to-night,"
said Shiminya, as they set their burden down to rest themselves.  "And--
there he is already."

A stealthy shape, which had been following close upon their steps,
glided into view for a moment and disappeared.  The wretched victim saw
it too, and uttered such a wild ringing shriek of despair that Nanzicele
fairly shuddered.

"_Au_!  I like not this," he growled.  "It is a deed of _tagati_."

"Yet thou must do it, brother, or worse will befall thyself," said
Shiminya, quietly.  Then they resumed their burden.

Through the trees now came a glint of silver light, then a broad
shimmer.  It was the glint of the moon upon water.  The Umgwane River,
in the dry season, consists of a series of holes.  One of these they had

"And now, sister," began the wizard, as they set down their burden upon
its brink, "thou seest what is the result of an unquiet tongue.  But for
that thou wouldst not now be here, and thy brother Pukele and thy sister
Ntatu would have yet longer to live.  But you all know too much, the
three of you.  Look!  Yonder is Lupiswana waiting for thee, even as I
predicted," said this human devil, who could not refrain from adding
acute mental torture to the dying moments of his victim.  And as he
spoke a low whine rose upon the night air, where a dark sinister shape
lay silhouetted against the white stones of the broad river-bed some
little distance away.

The victim heard it and wailed, in a manner that resembled the whine of
the gruesome beast.  Shiminya laughed triumphantly.

"Even the voice she has already," he exclaimed.  "She will howl bravely
when Lupiswana hunts her."

"Have done," growled Nanzicele.  Brutal barbarian as he was, even his
savagery stopped short at this; besides, his superstitious nature was
riven to the core.  "Get it over; get it over!"

They raised the pole once more, and, by a concerted movement, swung it
and its human burden over the brink, where the pool was deepest.  One
wild, appalling shriek, then a splash, and a turmoil of eddies and
bubbles rolling and scintillating on the surface, and the cold
remorseless face of the brilliant moon looked down, impassive, upon a
human creature thus horribly done to death.

"_Hlala-gahle_!" cried Shiminya, with a fiend-like laugh, watching the
uprising of the stream of bubbles.  Then, turning to his fellow
miscreant, "And now, Nanzicele, whom Makiwa made a chief, and then
unmade, the people at Madula's can hardly speak for laughing at thee,
remembering thy last appearance there, bragging that thou wert a chief.
Makiwa has done this, but soon there may not be any Makiwa, for so I
read the fates.  Go now.  When I want thee I will send for thee again."

And the two murderers separated--Nanzicele, dejected and feeling as
though his freedom had gone from him for ever; Shiminya, chuckling and
elate, for the day had been a red letter one, and the human spider was
gorged full of human prey.



The mail-steamer from England had been docked early in Cape Town, and
the tables at lunch-time, in the dining room of Cogill's Hotel at
Wynberg, were quite full.  There is something unmistakable about the
newly landed passenger, male or female, especially when taken
gregariously; and this comes out mainly in a wholly abnormal vivacity,
begotten presumably of a sense of emancipation from the cooped monotony
of shipboard, and a conversational tendency to hark back to the
incidents of the voyage, and the idiosyncrasies of the populace of the
recent floating prison.  Add to this a display of brand new ribbons on
the hats of certain of the ornamental sex, bearing the name of the
floating prison aforesaid, and a sort of huddled up clannishness as of a
hanging together for mutual protection in a strange land.

With this phase of humanity were most of the tables filled.  One,
however, was an exception, containing a square party of four, not of the
exuberantly lively order.  To be perfectly accurate, though, only three
of these constituted a "party;" the fourth, a silent stranger, wearing
more the aspect of a man from up-country than one of the newly landed,
was unknown to the residue.

"What an abominable noise those people are making," remarked one of the
trio, a tall, thin, high-nosed person of about thirty, with a glance at
a table over the way, where several newly landed females were screaming
over the witticisms of a brace of downy lipped youths, who were under
the impression the whole room was hanging upon their words.  "I only
hope they don't represent the sort of people we shall have to put up
with if we stay here."

"Don't you be alarmed about that, Mrs Bateman," said the man on her
right.  "That stamp of Britisher doesn't stay here.  It melts off into
boarding-houses and situations in Cape Town or Johannesburg.  Just rolls
up here because it's the thing to run out to Cogill's and have tiffin
first thing on landing; at least, so it thinks.  It'll all have
disappeared by to-night."

"That's a comfort, anyway, if we do stay.  What do you think of this
place, Nidia?"

"I think it'll do.  Those views of the mountain we got coming along in
the train were perfectly lovely.  And then it seems so leafy and cool.
You can get about from here, too, can't you, Mr Moseley?"

"Oh yes, anywhere.  Any amount of trains and trams.  And I expect you'll
wear out the roads with that bike of yours, Miss Commerell."

"By the way, I wonder if they brought our bicycles from the station?"
said the other of the two ladies.  "You saw them last, Nidia."

"Yes.  They are all right.  They were standing outside when we came in."

Now, utterly workaday and commonplace as all this was, not a word of it
escaped the silent stranger.  This girl, seated at his right, had
riveted his attention from the moment she came in, and indeed there was
that about Nidia Commerell's face which was likely to exercise such an
effect.  It had a way of lighting up--a sudden lifting of the eyelashes,
the breaking into a half smile, revealing a row of teeth beautifully
even and white.  She had blue eyes, and her hair, which was neither
brown nor golden, but something between, curled in soft natural waves
along the brow, dispensing with the necessity of any attempt at a
fringe; and her colouring was of that warm richness which gave the idea
that Nature had at first intended her for a brunette, then got puzzled,
and finally had given her up in hopeless despair, which was perhaps the
best thing that could have happened, for the result was about as dainty,
refined, alluring a specimen of young womanhood as the jaded glance of
the discriminating male could wish to rest upon.

This, at any rate, was the mental verdict of the stranger, and for this
reason he hailed with inward satisfaction the recently expressed
decision of the two as to taking up their quarters there for a time.

"You ought to remain here a few days, and show us about, Mr Moseley,"
said the elder of the two ladies, after some more desultory

"Wish I could, Mrs Bateman.  No such luck, though.  I've got to start
for Bulawayo to-night.  They are hurrying the soul out of me as it is."

"Isn't the journey a frightful one?" asked Nidia.

"It isn't a delightful one," laughed the man, who was just a fair
average specimen of the well-bred Englishman, of good height, well set
up, and well groomed.  "Railway to Mafeking, then eight days' coaching;
and they tell me the coach is always crammed full.  Pleasant, isn't it?"

The stranger looked up quickly as though about to say something, but
thought better of it.  Nidia rejoined--

"What in the world will we do when our time comes?"

"I am afraid you must make up your minds to some discomforts," replied
Moseley.  "One of the conditions of life in a new country, you know.
But people are very decent in those parts, and I'm sure would do
everything they could to assist you."

A little more conversation, and, lunch being over, the trio withdrew.
John Ames, left alone at the table, was lost in all sorts of wild
imaginings.  Something seemed to have altered within him, and that owing
to the proximity of this girl, a perfect stranger, whom three quarters
of an hour ago he had never set eyes on.  It was really very absurd, he
told himself.  But when a man has had fever, he is bound to be liable to
fall a victim to any kind of absurdity.  Fever! that was it--so he told

Now, as he sat there, dreamily cracking almonds, he began to regret his
reticence.  The very turn of the conversation favoured him.  He might
have volunteered considerable information for the benefit of the man who
was going up-country, he suspected, for the first time.  The
conversation would have become general, and might have paved the way to
an acquaintanceship.  There was no necessity for him to have been so
reticent.  He had lived too long stowed away, he decided.  It was high
time he came out of his shell.

He had applied for and obtained his leave, and had come down there to
spend it.  The sea breezes blowing across the isthmus of the Cape
Peninsula, the cool leafiness of the lovely suburbs, were as a very
tonic after the hot, steamy, tropical glow of his remote home.  But the
effects of the fever, combined with a natural reserve, kept him from
going much among people, and most of his time was spent alone.

"I wonder who that man is who sat at our table," Nidia Commerell was
saying; for the trio were seated outside trying to converse amid the
cackle and din of one of the livelier parties before referred to.

"He looked awfully gloomy," said Mrs Bateman.

"Did you think so, Susie?  Now, I thought he looked nice.  Perhaps he
wasn't feeling well."

"He had a look that way, too," said Moseley.  "Up-country man perhaps.
Down here to throw off a touch of fever.  I've seen them before."

"Poor fellow!  That may have accounted for it," said Nidia.  "Yes; he's
quite nice-looking."

John Ames, meanwhile, was smoking a solitary pipe on the balcony in
front of his room, and his thoughts continued to run on this new--and to
him, supremely foolish subject.  Then he pulled himself together.  He
would get on his bicycle and roll down to Muizenberg for a whiff of the

The afternoon was cloudless and still, and the spin along a smooth and,
for the most part, level road exhilarating.  A brisk stroll on the
beach, the rollers tumbling lazily in, and he had brought his mind to
other things--the affairs of his district, and whether the other man who
was temporarily filling his place would be likely to make a mess of them
or not, and how he would pull with Inglefield--whether Madula had
recovered from the sulky mood into which the action of Nanzicele had
thrown him--and half a hundred matters of the sort.  And so, having
re-mounted his wheel, and being about halfway homeward again, he could
own himself clear of the foolish vein in which he had set out, when--
there whirled round the bend in the road two bicycles, the riders
whereof were of the ornamental sex; in fact, the very two upon one of
whom his thoughts had been chaotically running.

One quick glance from Nidia Commerell's blue eyes as they shot by, and
John Ames was thrown right back into all that futile vein of meditation
which he had only just succeeded in putting behind him.  The offender,
meanwhile, was delivering herself on the subject of him to her companion
in no uncertain terms.

"Susie, that's the man who was sitting at our table.  I think we'll get
to know him.  He looks nice, and, as he bikes, he'll come in handy as
escort to a pair of unprotected females."

"How do you know he'll appreciate the distinction you propose to confer
upon him?  He may not, you know.  He looks reserved."

"Oh, he's only shy.  Say something civil to him to-night at dinner.
We'll soon get him out of his shell.  He only wants a little judicious
drawing out."

The other looked dubious.  "I don't know," she said.  "I'm not sure we
hadn't better leave him alone.  You see, I'm responsible for your good
behaviour now, Nidia; and really it is a responsibility.  I don't like
being a party to adding this unfortunate man's to your string of

We regret to record that at this juncture Nidia's exceedingly pretty
mouth framed but one word of one syllable.  This was it:


"No, it isn't bosh," went on her friend, emphatically.  "And, the worst
of it is, they all take it so badly; and this one looks as if he'd be no
exception to the general rule, but very much the reverse.  I don't know
what there is about you, but you really ought to be cloistered, my
child; you're too dangerous to be at large."

"Susie, dry up!  We'll exploit our interesting stranger this evening,
that is, presently; and now I think we'd better turn, for after three
weeks of the ship I can't ride any further with the slightest hope of
getting back to-night."

The upshot of all this was that when the two sat down to dinner they
gave John Ames the "Good evening" with just as much geniality as the
frigidity of English manners would allow to be manifested when outside
England towards the only other occupant of the same table.  It sufficed
for its purposes, and soon the three were in converse.

"We passed each other on the road this evening," said John Ames.  "It
was some way out, and I wonder you got back in time.  Are you fond of

"We simply live on our bikes when the weather is decent," replied Nidia.
"This seems a good locality for it.  The roads are splendid, aren't

"Yes.  I generally wheel down to Muizenberg or Kalk Bay for a puff of
sea air.  It's refreshing after the up-country heat."

"Sea air?  But can you get to the sea so soon?" said Mrs Bateman,

"Oh yes.  In less than an hour."

Both then began to enthuse about the sea, after the British method,
which was the more inexplicable considering they had just had three
weeks of it, and that viewed from its very worst standpoint--_upon_ it,
to wit.  They must go there to-morrow.  Was it easy to find the way?
And so forth.  What could John Ames do but volunteer to show it them?--
which offer was duly accepted.  Things were now upon a good

"Do they ride bikes much up-country--I think you said you were from
up-country, did you not?" said Nidia, artlessly, with that quick lift of
the eyelids.

"Oh yes, a good deal.  But it's more for the hard practical purpose of
getting from one place to another than just riding about for fun.  It
strikes one though, if one has any imagination, as a sample of the way
in which this aggressive civilisation of ours wedges itself in
everywhere.  You are right away in the veldt, perhaps only just scared
away a clump of sable or roan antelope, or struck the fresh spoor of a
brace of business-like lions, when you look up, and there are two
fellows whirring by on up-to-date bikes.  You give each other a passing
shout and they are gone."

"Yes.  It is a contrast, if one has an imagination," said Nidia.  "But
not everybody has.  Don't you think so?"

"Certainly.  But when a man lives a good deal alone, and sees
comparatively little of his kind, it is apt to stimulate that faculty."

Nidia looked interested.  The firm, quiet face before her, the straight
glance of the grey eyes, represented a character entirely to her liking,
she decided.  "Is it long since you came out?" she asked.

"Well, in the sense you mean I can't be said to have come out at all,
for I was born and bred out here--in Natal, at least.  But I have been
in England."

"Really?  I thought you were perhaps one of the many who had come out
during the last few years."

"Am I not colonial enough?" said John Ames, with a quiet laugh.

"N-no.  At least, I don't mean that--in fact, I don't know what I do
mean," broke off Nidia, with a perfectly disarming frankness.

"Do you know Bulawayo at all?"

The diversion came from the third of the trio.

"Oh yes; I have just come from up that way."

"Really.  I wonder if you ever met my husband.  He is a mining engineer.
Bateman our name is."

John Ames thought.

"The name doesn't seem altogether unknown to me," he said.  "The fact is
I am very seldom in Bulawayo.  My district lies away out in the wilds,
and very wild indeed it is."

"What sort of a place is Bulawayo?"

"Oh, a creditable township enough, considering that barely three years
ago it was a vast savage kraal, and, barring a few traders, there wasn't
a white man in the country."

"But isn't it full of savages now?" struck in Nidia.

"Yes; there are a good few--not right around Bulawayo, though.  Are you
likely to be going up there?"

"We are, a little later," replied Mrs Bateman.  "This is fortunate.
You will be able to tell us all about it."

"With pleasure.  I shall be too happy to give you any information I

"Is it safe up there?" said Nidia.  "Is there no fear of those dreadful
savages rising some night and killing us all?"

Unconsciously the official reserve came over John Ames.  He had more
than once predicted to himself and one or two confidential friends such
a contingency as by no means outside the bounds of practical politics,
almost invariably to be laughed at for his pains.  Now he replied:

"Everything that precaution can do is against it.  They are carefully
supervised; in fact, it is my own particular business to supervise a
considerable section of them."

"Really?  But how do you talk, to them?  Can they talk English?"

John Ames smiled.  "You forget I mentioned that I was raised in Natal."

"Of course.  How stupid I am!" declared Nidia.  "And so you know their
language and have to look after them?  Isn't it very exciting?"

"No; deplorably prosaic.  There are points of interest about the work,

"And you keep them in order, and know all that's going on?"

"We try to; and I think on the whole we succeed fairly well."

But at that very moment Shiminya the sorcerer was dooming to death two
persons, and filling with seditious venom the minds of three chiefs of
importance within the speaker's district.



John Ames was beginning to enjoy his leave, and that actively.

At first he had done so in a negative kind of way.  It was pleasant to
have nothing to do, and plenty of time to do it in, to rise in the
morning and know that until bedtime at night he had only to please
himself and take no thought for anything whatever.  He had a few
acquaintance in the neighbourhood, more or less busy people whose
avocations kept them in Cape Town throughout the working day, and so was
mostly thrown upon his own resources.  This, however, was not without
its advantages, for the change had hardly benefited him much as yet, and
he was conscious of a sort of mental languor which rendered him rather
disinclined than otherwise for the society of his fellows.  He liked to
mount his bicycle and spin for miles along the smooth level roads,
beneath the oak and fir shade, the towering wall of mountain glimpsed
ever and anon athwart the trees; or, gaining the nearest point of sea
shore, lie on the beach for hours, watching the rollers come tumbling
in, and the revels of bathers skipping amid the surf.  Hitherto he had
been content to do all this alone, now he was not; and the name of the
agency which had effected this change was Nidia Commerell.

Nearly a fortnight has gone by since we introduced that entrancing
personality to the reader's notice; and whatever effects the same had
had upon John Ames, one at any rate was certain, viz. a conviction that
it was not good to be alone.

They had seen a good deal of each other within that time.  Nidia had
carried out to the full her expressed intention of using him as an
escort, and he, for his part, had gladly welcomed the _role_, and
efficiently discharged it; and whether it was along bicycle ride, or a
more remote expedition by rail, or a scramble up the Devil's Peak, that
commended itself to the two ladies for the day's programme, there was
John Ames in sure and faithful attendance.  It did him good, too.  There
was an ingredient in the tonic which was stimulating, life-giving
indeed, and now in this daily companionship he felt that life was worth
living.  Decidedly he had begun to enjoy his leave.

"Well, Susie, wasn't I justified in my prediction?" said Nidia to her
friend, as they were dressing for dinner after one of these expeditions.

"Which prediction?  You make so many."

"Concerning John Ames,"--for so they had got into the way of designating
him when alone together.

"I said he looked as if he were nice, and also that he would come in
handy as an escort for two unprotected females.  Well, he is both.
Isn't he?"

"Yes; he is a remarkably well-mannered, pleasant man."

"With more than two ideas in his head?"

"Yes; he can talk intelligently on any subject, and if he knows nothing
about it won't pretend to."

"As is the case with the average turned-out-of-a-bandbox,
eyeward-twisting-moustache type of Apollo one usually encounters in
one's progress through this vale of woe," supplied Nidia, with an airy

"That holds good, too.  But, gracious Heavens, child, don't pile up your
adjectives in that mountainous fashion, or you'll reflect no credit on
my most careful training and tuition."

"All rights Govvie," cried Nidia, with a peal of merry laughter--the
point of the allusion being that prior to her marriage Susie Bateman had
been a combination of companion and governess to the girl she was now
chaperoning; in fact, was a distant relation to boot.  "But the said
careful training was such a long time ago.  I'm beginning to forget it."

"Long time ago!"

"Yes, it was.  In the days of my youth.  I am in my twenty-fourth year,
remember.  Is that nothing?"

"Of course it's nothing.  But--what were we talking about?"

"Oh, John Ames, as usual."

"As usual--yes.  But, Nidia, isn't it rather rough on the man?  He's
sure to end by falling in love with you."

Again the girl laughed, but this time she changed colour ever so

"To _end_ by it!  That's not very complimentary to my transcendent
fascinations, O Susie.  He ought to begin by it.  But--to be serious--
perfectly serious--he isn't that sort."

"I'm not by any means sure.  Why should you think so?"

"No signs.  He'd have hung out signals long ago if he'd been trending
that way.  They all do.  The monotony of the procedure is simply

"Nidia, you are really a very dreadful child.  Your talk is absolutely
shocking to the ears of a well brought up British female."

"Can't help it.  If a series of idiots come to labour under the
impression that life outside my presence--ten days after first becoming
aware of my existence--is totally unendurable, where am I to blame?  I
can't scowl at them, and nothing short of that will restrain them.  Now,
the reason why I rather like this man is that he has so far shown no
signs of mental aberration."

She meant it all.  For one so plenteously, so dangerously, dowered as
far as the other sex was concerned, Nidia Commerell was strangely
unromantic.  In her allusion to the rapidity with which the average male
succumbed to her charms there was no exaggeration.  She seemed to
possess the art of conquest sudden and complete, yet, in reality, art it
was not, for she had not a shadow of the flirt in her composition.  The
very artlessness of her frank unstudied demeanour constituted, in fact,
her most formidable armament.  But she refused to see why she should
avoid the other sex simply because a large percentage of its members
were weak enough to fall in love with her upon no sort of warranty or
provocation.  There was no affectation, either, in her declaration that
the unanimity wherewith they did so candidly bored her.

"Just as I begin to like a man," she would plaintively declare, "and
find him of some use, he gets serious, gloomy, and spoils everything."
And for all her airiness on the subject, she was not entirely without a
qualm lest John Ames should follow suit, and him she had more than begun
to like very much indeed.  The roar of a truly demoniacal gong cut short
further discussion of the subject, by warning them that it was time to
go down and join the object of it at table.  Him they found in an amused

"Rather fun," he said.  "Some fellow has been going for that most
cherished and firmly rooted institution, the great Cape fish-horn, in a
letter to the evening _Argus_.  He doesn't see how a civilised community
at the end of the nineteenth century can tolerate their day and night
alike being made hideous by an unending procession of dirty Malays
blaring weirdly, wildly, deafeningly through a `yard of tin;' and, for
the matter of that, no more do I.  Look, here it is"--handing the paper
across to Mrs Bateman.

The latter, like most high-featured people, was of censorious habit.
"Yes; it's amusing," she said.  "But there are some people who are never
happy unless they are finding fault.  I suppose even these poor Malays
must earn their living."

"No fear of their not doing that," rejoined Ames.  "Why, they are the
most well-to-do crowd on this peninsula.  I take it the writer's point
is they could earn it without making life intolerable to the world at

At which remark, ever so faint a droop of the mouth-corners changed the
visage of a silent, middle-aged individual seated at an adjacent table;
but his back was towards them, and they couldn't see it.  "Oh,
nonsense," retorted Mrs Bateman, breezily.  "People who can't stand a
little noise ought to go and live by themselves on a desert island."

Here the droop on the lips of the silent one became a very pronounced
sneer.  "A fool of a woman, answering according to her folly," he

"Let me see it," cried Nidia.  "Yes; it is a good joke, and perfectly
true, too.  I know I've wished that same hideous noise anywhere times
out of number.  I quite agree--it is amazing how they tolerate it.  I
wonder who the writer is.  Positively I'd like to send him an anonymous
letter of cordial thanks."

This time the silent one laughed to himself, heartily and undisguisedly.

"Write it to the _Argus_ instead and agree with him; that'll do just as
well," said John Ames.  "The fact of the matter is that the Malay vote
is a power just here, and it would be about as easy to uproot Table
Mountain itself as the diabolical snoek trumpet under discussion."

"No, I don't agree with you in the least, Susie," declared Nidia.  "I
think unnecessary racket ought to be put down with a stern hand.  Don't
you remember all that abominable cannon nuisance when we were in the
Bernese Oberland?  You didn't like that any more than I did.  Just
fancy, Mr Ames.  Some of the most picturesque turnings of the road,
almost wherever we went, were tenanted by a miscreant volunteering to
let off a horrid cannon for half a franc--to raise an echo."

"I should have felt like offering him a whole one not to raise it," was
the reply.  "But the noble Switzer was shrewd enough to appraise his
clients at their correct value.  The English are never quite happy
unless they are making a noise, unless it is when they are listening to

"Yes; aren't they?" cried Nidia.  "You see it in their fondness for
banging doors and talking at the top of their voices on every landing at
all hours of the day and night, and throwing their boots about and
pounding up and down for hours over somebody else's head, in a house
full of other people."

The silent one hearkened approvingly.  "That's no fool of a girl," he
was saying to himself.

"I know," replied John Ames.  "And, talking about that stumping overhead
trick, if you were wantonly to knock a cripple off his crutch you would
be voted the greatest brute on earth.  Yet that same cripple will go
into the room above yours, and, as you say, pound up and down for hours,
or perhaps let fall that same crutch with a mighty bang upon the floor,
totally callous to the possibility of there being some unfortunate wight
underneath with shattered nerves, and generally seedy, and who would
give his soul for a square night's rest.  No; if you expect from other
people any of the consideration they expect from you, you are simply
laughed at for a fool, and a selfish one at that."

"Oh, well, in life we have to give and take, I suppose," remarked the
censorious one, with striking originality.

John Ames smiled.  He had an idea as to the sort of giving and taking
this masterful person would be likely to practise, save in one quarter,
that is; for he had not spent the time he had in the society of the two
without detecting that she had at any rate one soft place, and that was
Nidia Commerell.  So he agreed easily, and the talk drifted on to other

It was pleasant out in the moonlight.  The elder of the two ladies had
pronounced herself tired when Nidia, whose freshness nothing seemed to
impair, suggested strolling.  John Ames was rather inclined to be silent
as they wandered on, the light of the southern moon flooding down
through the overshadowing firs, the balmy stillness of the night broken
by distant snatches of shrill laughter and the chatter of voices from
squalid coloured loafers on the main road.  He was realising with a sort
of pang at the heart how all this time would soon be behind him, as in a
flash, only as an episode to look back to.  The girl, noting his
silence, was wondering whether it was a prelude to what she had airily
termed "hoisting the signals," and, thus conjecturing, was surprised at
herself and her lack of the usual eagerness to avoid them.

"You are feeling much better than when you came down, are you not, Mr
Ames?" she said softly.

"Ever so much.  I shall go back quite set up."

Her practised ear detected the slightest suspicion of melancholy in the
tone, while admiring the strength which controlled it.

"What a strange life you must have to lead up there!" she went on; for
he had told her a good deal about himself during the time of their

"Oh yes.  It gets monotonous at times.  But then, I take it, everything

"But it is such a useful life.  And you have helped to open up the
country, too."

"Not I.  That is left to other people."

"But you were with the first expedition, and so of course you helped.  I
don't wonder you pioneers are proud of the part you took in extending
the Empire.  Isn't that the correct newspaper phrase?  At any rate, it
sounds something big."

John Ames smiled queerly.  He was not especially proud of the extension
of the Empire; he had seen a few things incidental to that process which
had killed within him any such incipient inflation.

"Oh yes; there's a good deal of sound about most of the doings of `the
Empire,' but there--I must not get cynical on that head, because the
said extension is finding me in bread and cheese just now, and I must
endeavour to be `proud of' that."

"You must have great responsibilities holding the position you do.  Tell
me, are you able to throw them off while you are away, or do you lie
awake sometimes at night wondering if things are going right?"

"Oh, I try not to bother my head about them.  It's of no use taking a
holiday and thinking about `shop' all the while.  Besides, the man who
is in my place is all there.  He has been at it as long as I have; and
if there is one thing I may say without conceit I do know--in fact, both
of us know--it is the wily native and his little ways."

Ah, John Ames, so you thought, and so thought many others in those
boding days!  But at this moment the man who is in your place is
drinking whisky and water and smoking pipes with the Police
sub-inspector in a circular hut on the Sikumbutana, and you are dallying
beneath a radiant moon upon a fir-shaded road at Wynberg, with more than
one lingering glance into the eyes of the sweet-faced, soft-voiced girl
beside you.  But one could almost read a leering derisive grin into the
face of the cold moon, for that moon is now looking down upon that which
would give both yourself and `the man in your place' something very
serious to think about and to do.  It is looking down upon--let us see



It is probable that the Matopo Hills, in Southern Matabeleland, are, as
a freak of Nature, unique on the earth's surface.

Only a vast upheaval--whether through the agency of fire or of water,
let the geologists determine and quarrel over--can have produced such a
bizarre result.  A very sea of granite waves, not smooth and rolling,
but piled in gigantic, rugged heaps; cones of immense boulders, rising
to the height of many hundred feet; titanic masses of castellated rock;
slab-like _mesas_ and smooth-headed domes all jumbled together
arbitrarily side by side; it is as though at some remote age a
stupendous explosion had torn the heart out of earth's surface, and
heaving it on high with irresistible force, had allowed it to fall and
settle as it would.  Colossal boulders, all on end, anyhow, forming dark
holes and caves, lead up to the summits of these marvellous cones; and
in such clefts wild vegetation finds abundant anchorage--the acacia and
wild fig and mahobo-hobo.  Here a tall rock pinnacle, balancing upon its
apex a great stone, which, to the unthinking eye, a mere touch would
send crashing from its airy resting-place where it has reposed for ages
and ages beyond all memory; there a solid square granite block the size
of a castle, riven from summit to base as completely and smoothly as a
bisected cheese.  Grim baboons, of large size and abnormal boldness,
bark threateningly from the ledges, and every crag is a perfect rookery
of predatory birds--hawks and buzzards, and kites and carrion crows--
soaring and wheeling beneath the blue of the heavens.  Valleys, narrow
and winding, intersect this chaotic mass, swampy withal in parts, and
harbouring reedy water-holes where, beneath the broad leaves and fair
blossoms of radiant lilies, the demon crocodile lurks unsuspected.
Great crater-like hollows, too--only to be entered by a single way, and
that a very staircase of rocks--the whole a vast and forbidding series
of natural fastnesses, which even now have been thoroughly penetrated by
but few whites, and at that time by the conquerors of the country not at

Evening is drawing down upon this rugged wilderness.  The sun has gone
off the world, but a rosy afterglow still tinges the piled boulders or
smooth, balanced crags rearing up above the feathery foliage of acacia;
and, save for an odd one here and there, the wheeling birds of prey have
sought their inaccessible roosting-places.  But such as have not--for
these an unwonted sight lies beneath.  The deathlike solitude of each
winding valley is disturbed by an unwonted life--the life of men.

On they come--dark forms in straggling lines--threescore here, two
there; a dozen further back, even as many as a hundred together.  And
they are converging upon one point.  This is a hollow, the centre of
which forms an open space--once under cultivation--the sides a perfect
ruin of shattered rocks.

On they come--line upon line of dark savages--advancing mostly in
silence, though now and then the hum of a marching song, as some fresh
group arrives at the place, rises upon the stillness in clear cadence.
None are armed, unless a stick apiece and a small shield can be defined
as weapons; and there is a curiously subdued note pervading the
assembly--an elated look on some of those dark faces, a thoughtful one
on others--but one of expectancy upon all.

Each party as it arrives squats upon the ground awaiting the next.  And
still the tread of advancing feet, the hum of approaching voices, and
presently the open space is filled with dark humanity to the number of
several hundreds.  During the period of waiting, chiefs, leaving their
own following, greet each other, and draw apart for converse among
themselves.  Suddenly, and with startling nearness, there echoes forth
from a crag overhead a loud resonant bark.  It is answered by another
and another.  A volley of deep-voiced ejaculation, first startled--for
their feelings are wrought up--then mirthful, arises from scores of
throats.  A troop of baboons has discovered this human concourse, and,
secure in a lofty vantage ground, is vocally resenting its presence.

But such levity is promptly checked by a sense of the serious nature of
the gathering.  It is clear that all are assembled who mean to come.
And now the gloom lightens with amazing rapidity, as the broad disc of a
full moon sails majestically forth above the jumble of serrated crags;
and to it turns that sea of wild dark faces stamped with an unwonted
expectation and awe, for as yet the bulk of those present have but a dim
idea of the end and object of this mysterious convention.

In the lamplike glow of this new light faces are clearly discernible,
and amid the group of chiefs are those of Madula, and Zazwe, and
Sikombo, and Umlugula, and several others holding foremost rank among
their tribesmen.  On this occasion, however, they are not foremost, for
it is upon another group that the main interest and expectation centres.

The members of this are decked out in the weird array of sorcerers, are
hung around with entrails and claws, mysterious bunches of "charms,"
white cowhair and feather adornments, and the grinning skulls of wild
animals.  One alone is destitute of all ornamentation, but the grim
hawk-like countenance, the snaky ferocity of the cruel stare, the lithe
stealthiness of movement, stamps this man with an individuality all his
own, and he is none other than Shiminya.  These are the "Abantwana
'Mlimo," the hierarchy of the venerated Abstraction, the "Children of
Umlimo."  Of them there are perhaps two score.  They are seated in a
circle, droning a song, or rather a refrain, and, in the midst, Shiminya
walks up and down discanting.  The chiefs occupy a subsidiary place
to-night, for the seat of the oracle is very near, and these are the
mouthpieces of the oracle.

By degrees the assembly gathers around.  Voices are hushed.  All
attention is bent upon these squatting, droning figures.  Suddenly they
rise, and, bursting through the surrounding ranks, which promptly open
to give them way, start off at a run.  The crowd follows as though
magnet drawn.  But the run soon slows down to a kind of dancing step;
and, following, the dark assemblage sweeps up the valley bottom, the
long dry grass crackling as the excited multitude crushes its way
through.  On the outskirts of the column a great venomous snake,
disturbed, trodden on, rears its hideous head, and, quick as lightning,
strikes its death-dealing fangs into the legs of two of the crowd, but
in the exaltation of the hour no thought is given to these.  They may
drop out and die; none can afford to waste time over them.

For nearly an hour the advance continues, the black mass pouring, like
ants, over every obstacle--over stones, rocks, uprooted tree-trunks--
winding through a tortuous valley bottom, the granite crags, towering
aloft in their immensity, looking down as though in cold scornful
indifference upon this pigmy outburst of mere human excitement, and then
the way opens, becoming comparatively clear.  The "Abantwana 'Mlimo"
slacken their pace, and then the whole body is brought to a halt.

The spot is a comparatively open one save for the long dry grass.  In
front is a belt of acacias; but behind, and towering above this, there
rises an immense mass of solid granite, its apex about two hundred feet
above the bottom of the hollow--a remarkable pile, smoother and more
compact than the surrounding crags, and right in the centre of its face
is a black spot about twelve feet square.

The blackness, however, is the effect of gloom.  This spot is the mouth
of a hole or cave.

In dead silence now the multitude crouches, all eyes fixed expectantly
upon the black yawning mouth.  Yet, what can appear there within, for
the rock face is inaccessible to any save winged creatures?  A cleft,
passing the hole, traverses obliquely the entire pile, but as
unavailable for purposes of ascent as the granite face itself.  No
living being can climb up thence.  Another vertical crack descends from
above.  That, too, is equally unavailable.  Yet, with awe-stricken
countenances, the whole assembly, crouching in semicircular formation,
are straining their eyeballs upon the gaping aperture.

In front are the hierarchs of the grim Abstraction.  If here indeed is
the home of the latter it is well chosen, for a scene of more utter
wildness and desolation than this weird, granite-surrounded fastness is
hardly imaginable.  The great round moon, floating on high, seems to the
impressionable multitude to lower and spread--almost to burn.

And now the "Abantwana 'Mlimo" rise from their squatting posture, and,
forming into a double line, their faces lifted towards the black, gaping
hole, begin to sing.  Their chant rolls forth in a regular rhythm, but
the usual accompaniment of the stamping of feet is at first absent.  But
the song, the wild savage harmony of voices fitting well into their
parts, is more tuneful, more melodious, than most barbaric outbursts of
the kind.  Its burden may be rendered somewhat in this wise--

"Voice from the air, Lighten our way!  Word of the Wise, Say! shall we
slay?  Voice of the Great, Speaking from gloom; Say! shall we wait
Darkness of doom?"

The echoes ring out upon the still night air, rolling in eddies of sound
among the granite crags.  The company of sorcerers, every nerve and
muscle at its highest tension, softly move their feet to the time, as
again and again they repeat their awesome invocation, and with each
repetition the sound gathers volume, until it reaches a mighty roar.
The multitude, stricken motionless with the awe of a great expectation,
gaze upward with protruding eyeballs, awaiting a reply.  It comes.

The singing of the Abantwana 'Mlimo has ceased.  There is a silence that
may be felt, only broken by a strained breathing from hundreds of
throats.  Then, from the black cave, high above, sounds forth a voice--a
single voice, but of amazing volume and power, the voice of the Great
Abstraction--of the Umlimo himself.  And the answer is delivered in the
same rhythm as the invocation--

"Dire is the scourge, Sweeping from far: Bed is the spear, Warming for
war.  Burned is the earth, Gloom in the skies; Nation's new birth--
Manhood arise!"

Strong and firm the Voice rolls forth, booming from that black portal as
with a thunder note--clear to a marvel in its articulation, cold,
remorseless in the decision of its darkly prophesying utterance.
Indescribably awe-inspiring as it pours forth its trumpet notes upon the
dead silence, small wonder that to the subdued eager listeners it is the
voice of a god.  Thrice is the rhythm repeated, until every word has
burned deep into their minds as melted lead into a beam of soft-grained

And now in the silence which ensues there steps forth from the ranks of
the Abantwana 'Mlimo one man.  Standing alone a little in front of the
rest, he faces upward to the great cave overhead.  In the absence of
weird adornment, and with the moon upon his bird-like countenance,
stands revealed Shiminya.

"Great Great One!  Voice of the Wise!" he cries.  "Thy children hear
thee.  They are brought even unto death.  The scourge which Makiwa has
brought upon them strikes hard.  It is striking their cattle down by
scores already.  There will be no more left."

There is a pause.  With outstretched arms in the moonlight, the mediator
stands motionless, awaiting the answer.  It comes:--

"There will first be no more Makiwa."

A heave of marvel and suppressed excitement sways the crowd.  There is
no misunderstanding this oracular pronouncement, for it is in the main
what all are there to hear.  Shiminya goes on.

"Oh, Great Great One, the land is burned dry for lack of rain, and thy
children die of hunger.  Will the land never again yield corn?"

"Makiwa has laid his hand upon it;" and the dull, hollow, remorseless
tone, issuing from the darkness, now seems swept by a very tempest of
hate, then replies, "Remove the hand!"

Sticks are clutched and shields shaken to the accompaniment of a deep
growl of wrath forced from between clenched teeth.

"Remove the hand!" runs in a humming murmur through the multitude.  "Ah,
ah!  Remove the hand!"

Again, with hollow boom, the Voice rolls forth.

"Even the very skies are darkening.  Behold!"

Every head is quickly jerked back.


Just the one ejaculation, volleyed from every throat, and in it there is
but one consent, one expression, that of marvel and quaking dread.  For
in the tense excitement of awaiting the utterances of the oracle none
have noticed that the flooding light of the moon has been gradually
fading to darkness, albeit not a cloud is in the heavens.  Now, as they
look up, lo! the silvern orb is half covered with a black shadow.
Onward it steals, creeping further and further, until the broad disc is
entirely shrouded.  A weird unnatural darkness lies upon the earth.

In silent awe the superstitious savages gaze blankly upon the
phenomenon.  There are those among them who have beheld it before, and
to such under ordinary circumstances it would be looked upon with little
concern.  Now, however, worked up as they are, it is different.  There
are even some among them who have heard of the darkening of the sun
during the first struggle of the great parent race of Zulu against the
white invasion.  Then it presaged great slaughter of their white
enemies.  And, as though reading the thoughts of such, the awful voice
of the Great Abstraction broke in upon the oppressive, unnatural gloom--

"Children of Matyobane, [Father of Umzilikazi, founder and first king of
the Matabelo nation], hearken.  When Makiwa thought to eat up the mighty
stock from which ye are sprung the very sun withdrew his light, and the
plains between Isandhlwana and Umzinyati were red with the blood of
Makiwa.  Such as were not slain fled from the land.  For the children of
Zulu the sun grew black.  For the children of Matyobane the moon.  Lo,
the blackening of the moon is the hiding of the nation, crushed,
blackened, beneath the might of Makiwa.  But the blackness does not
last; so is the foot of Makiwa removed from the neck of the people of
Matyobane.  Behold!"

Every face, which has been turned towards the bark mouth of the oracle,
again looks skyward.  The black disc is moving back.  The outer rim of
the broad moon once more shines forth in a shaft of light.  Broader and
broader does this become, the strained eyeballs of the wrought-up
savages bent upon it with concentrated stare.  Then the Abantwana
'Mlimo, falling prone to the earth, once more raise the chant, and this
time the whole multitude joins, in a great rolling volume of chorus:--

"Burned is the earth, Gloom in the skies; Nation's new birth--Manhood

In wild uncontrollable excitement the multitude watches the now fast
lightening orb; then, when the shadow has entirely left it, shining in
bright, clear radiance as before, all faces are once more turned upward
to the great granite pile, looming huge against the stars, its front a
dull grey in the moonlight.  Once more is the silence dead--expectant.

"Oh, Great Great One!" cries Shiminya, standing with arms outstretched,
"we behold a nation's new birth.  But the time, O Word of the Wise?  The

"The time!"  And now the Voice rolled from the black cavern mouth in a
very thunder roar that reverberated among the mighty granite walls in a
shock of echo that struck the entranced auditors speechless.  "The time,
Children of Matyobane?  The time?  _Before next moon is dead_."



John Ames was seated beneath the verandah at Cogill's Hotel with a blue
official document in his hand and a very disgusted look upon his face.

The former accounted for the latter inasmuch as it was the direct cause
thereof.  In cold official terminology it regretted the necessity of
abridging the period of his leave, and in terse official terminology
requested that he would be good enough to return to his post with all
possible dispatch.

He looked up from his third reading of this abominable document, and his
brows were knitted in a frown.  He looked at the thick plumbago hedge
opposite, spangled with its pale blue blossoms, at the smooth red stems
of the tall firs, up again at the deep blue of the cloudless sky
overhead, then down once more upon the detestable missive, and said:--


John Ames was not addicted to the use of strong language.  Now, however,
he reckoned the occasion justified it.

"With all possible dispatch."  That would mean taking his departure that
night--that very night.  And here he was, ready and waiting to do the
usual escort duty, this time for a long day out on the bicycle.  If he
were to start that night it would mean exactly halving that long day.
With a savage closing of the hand he crushed the official letter into a
blue ball, and once more ejaculated--



Thereat he started.  Nidia Commerell was standing in the doorway right
beside him, drawing on a pair of suede gloves, her blue eyes dancing
with mirth.  She was clad in a bicycle skirt and light blouse, and wore
a plain white sailor hat.

"Sssh!  _You_ using naughty swear words?  I _am_ surprised at you!"

The smile which rippled brightly from the mobile lips showed, however,
that the surprise, if any, was not of a derogatory nature.  John Ames
laughed ruefully.

"I'm sorry.  But really it was under great provocation.  I've received
marching orders."

"No?  Not really?  Oh, how disgusting!"

The utterance was quick.  His eyes were full upon her face.  How would
she receive the communication?  Was that really a flash of
consternation, of regret, that swept over it?

"When must you go?" she continued, still, it seemed to him, speaking
rather quickly.

"I ought to start by to-night's train"--then, breaking off--"Where is
Mrs Bateman?  Is she ready?"

"We shall have to go without her.  She can't come--says she's getting

"Oh, I'm so sorry!"

Nidia had to turn away her head to avoid a splutter outright.  Never had
she heard words intended to be sympathetic uttered in tones of more
jubilant relief.  To herself she said: "You are a sad tarradiddler, John
Ames."  To him she said, "Yes; it's a pity, isn't it?"  He, for his
part, was thinking that this time the official order need not be
interpreted too literally.  It had plainly intimated that a state of
things had transpired which necessitated the presence of every official
at his post, but this time the state of things could dispense with his
adjusting hand for twenty-four hours longer.  "With all possible
dispatch."  Well, to start that night under the circumstances would not
be possible, under others it would.  Throughout the whole day Nidia
would be alone with him, and he meant that day to be one that he should

They started.  At first the exhilarating spin along the smooth
fir-shaded road, together with the consciousness that the day was only
beginning, caused him partly to forget that most unwelcome recall.  They
had arranged to use by-roads where the riding was good, and, taking the
train at Mowbray, proceed to Cape Town, and ride out thence as far
beyond Camp's Bay as they felt inclined.  Now, as they spun along
through the sunlit air, between leafy gardens radiant with bright
flowers and the piping of gladsome birds, the noble mountain wall away
on the left towering majestic though not stern and forbidding, its
cliffs softened in the summer haze, its slopes silvered with the
beautiful wattle, and great seas of verdure--the bright green of oak
foliage throwing out in relief the darker pine and blue eucalyptus--
surging up against its mighty base, the very contrast afforded by this
glorious scene of well-nigh Paradisical beauty, and the mental vision of
a hot steamy wilderness, not unpicturesque, but depressing in the sense
of remote loneliness conveyed, was borne forcibly home to the mind of
one of them.  It was a question of hours, and all would have fled.  He
grew silent.  Depression had reasserted itself.

Yet, was it merely a sense of the external contrast which was afflicting
him?  He had traversed this very scene before, and not once or even
twice only.  He had always admired it, but listlessly.  But now?  The
magic wand had been waved over the whole.  But why transform the
ordinary and mundane into a paradise for one who was to be suffered but
one glimpse therein, and now was to be cast forth?  A paradise--ah yes;
but a fool's paradise, he told himself bitterly.


He started.  The query had come from Nidia, and was uttered artlessly,
innocently, but with a spice of mischief.

"Yes?  I was wondering?" she went on.

"What were you wondering?"

"Oh, nothing!  Only--er--as it is rather--er--slow for me, don't you
think so--supposing you give me an inkling of the problem that is
absorbing you so profoundly?  You haven't said a word for at least ten
minutes.  And I like talking."

"I am so sorry.  Yes; I might have remembered that.  How shall I earn

"By telling me exactly what you were thinking about, absolutely and
without reservations.  On no other conditions, mind."

"Oh, only what a nuisance it is being called away just now."

The tone was meant to be offhand, but the quick ear of Nidia was not so
easy to deceive.  When John Ames did look down into the bright laughing
face it had taken an expression of sympathy, that with a quick bound of
the heart he read for one that was almost tender.

"Yes.  It is horrid!" she agreed.  "You had a long time to run yet,
hadn't you?"

"Nearly a month."

"I call it perfectly abominable.  Can't you tell them it is absolutely
impossible to come back just now, that--er--in short, on no account can

He looked at her.  "Do _you_ wish it?" was on his lips; but he left the
words unsaid.  He shook his head sadly.

"I'm afraid it can't be done.  You see, I am entirely at their beck and
call.  And then, from what they say, I believe they really do want me."

"Yes; I was forgetting that.  It is something, after all, to be of some
use, as I was telling you the other night; do you remember?"

Did he remember?  Was there one word she had ever said to him--one look
she had ever given him--that he did not remember, that he had not
thought of, and weighed, and pondered over, in the dark silent hours of
the night, and in the fresh, but far from silent, hours of early
morning?  No, indeed; not one.

"I remember every single word you have ever said to me," he answered
gravely, with his full straight glance meeting hers.  And then it was
Nidia Commerell's turn to subside into silence, for there struck across
her mind, in all its force, the badinage she had exchanged with her
friend in the privacy of their chamber.  If he had never before, as she
defined it, "hung out the signals," John Ames was beginning to do so
now--of that she felt very sure; yet somehow the thought, unlike in
other cases, inspired in her no derision, but a quickened beating of the
heart, and even a little pain, though why the latter she could not have

"Come," she said suddenly, consulting her watch, "we must put on some
pace or we shall miss the train.  We have some way to go yet."

On over the breezy flat of the Rondebosch camp-ground and between long
rows of cool firs meeting overhead; then a sharp turn and a spin of
straight road; and in spite of the recurring impediments of a stupidly
driven van drawn right across the way, and a long double file of
khaki-clad mounted infantry crossing at right angles and a foot's pace,
they reached the station in time, but only just.  Then, as Nidia,
laughing and panting with the hurry of exertion she had been subjected
to, flung herself down upon the cushion of the compartment, and her
escort, having seen the bicycles safely stowed, at considerable risk to
life and limb, thanks to a now fast-moving train, clambered in after
her, both felt that the spell which had been moving them to grave and
serious talk was broken between them--for the present.

But later--when the midday glow had somewhat lost its force, when the
golden lights of afternoon were painting with an even more vivid green
the vernal slopes piling up to the great crags overhanging Camp's Bay,
the same seriousness would recur, would somehow intrude and force its
way in.  They had left their bicycles at the inn where they had lunched,
and had half strolled, half scrambled down to the place they now were
in--a snug resting-place indeed, if somewhat hard, being an immense
rock, flat-topped and solid.  Overhead, two other boulders meeting,
formed a sort of cave, affording a welcome shelter from the yet
oppressive sun.  Beneath, the ocean swell was raving with hoarse sullen
murmur among the iron rocks, dark with trailing masses of seaweed, which
seemed as a setting designed to throw into more gorgeous relief the
vivid, dazzling blue of each little inlet.  Before, the vast sheeny
ocean plain, billowing to the ruffle of the soft south wind.

"Really, you are incorrigible," said Nidia at last, breaking the
silence.  "What shall I do to make you talk?"

"Yes; I am very slow to-day--I sorrowfully admit it," he answered, with
a laugh which somehow or other lacked the ring of merriment.

"I know," went on Nidia.  "I must start discussing the Raid.  There!
You will have to be interesting then."

"That's ruled out," he replied, the point being that from the very first
days of their acquaintance the Raid was a topic he had resolutely
declined to argue or to express any opinion upon.  "Besides, it's such a
threadbare subject.  You are right, though.  I am treating you very
badly.  In fact, it is not fair, and I am haunted by a shrivelling
conviction that you are sorry you came out to-day, and at this moment
are heartily wishing yourself at home.  Am I not right?"

"No; quite wrong.  I have, you know, a great respect for your
convictions--at times, but for this last one I have nothing but
contempt; yes, contempt--profound contempt.  There!  Will that satisfy

Her tone was decisive, without being vehement.  In it--in the glance of
her eyes--he detected a ring of sympathy, of feeling.  Could she read
his inner thoughts, he wondered, that each hour of this day as it wore
away did but tighten the grip of the bitter desolating pain that had
closed around his heart?  He watched her as she reclined there, the very
embodiment of dainty and graceful ease.  He noted the stirring of each
little wave of gold-brown hair as it caressed her forehead to the breath
of the soft sea wind; the quick lifting of the lashes revealing the deep
blue of the soulful eyes, so free and frank and fearless as they met
his; the rich tint of the smooth skin, glowing with the kiss of the air
and sun; every curve, too, of the mobile expressive lips; and the
self-restraint he was forced to put upon himself became something
superhuman.  And it was their last day together!  She, for her part, was
thinking, "John Ames is a fool, but the most self-controlled fool I ever
met.  How I shall miss him!  Yes, indeed, how I shall miss him!"  Aloud
she said--

"I wonder when _we_ shall be going up-country?"

"Never, I predict," was the somewhat decisive rejoinder.

Nidia raised herself on one elbow.  "You seem pretty certain as to
that," she said, "so certain that I begin to think the wish is father to
the thought."

"Thank you."

"There, there, don't be cross.  I am only teasing you.  I can be an
awful tease at times, can't I?  Ask Susie if I can't--if you haven't
found it out already, that is."

The mischief had all left her voice, the laughing eyes were soft and
sympathetic again.  He laughed, too, but somewhat sadly.

"Because things up there are not over bright, and are likely to be less
so.  The cattle is all dying off from this new disease--rinderpest.  The
natives have never been thoroughly conquered, and there are still plenty
of them.  The loss of their cattle will make them desperate, and
therefore dangerous.  The outlook is gloomy all round."

"Oh, but you will be able to put things right when you get back."

John Ames stared, as well he might.  Either she meant what she said or
she did not.  In the first event, she had a higher opinion of him than
ever he had dreamed; in the second, the remark was silly to the last
degree; and silliness was a fault, any trace of which he had not as yet
discovered in Nidia Commerell.

"You cannot really mean that," he said.  "If so, you must be under an
entire misconception as to my position.  I am only one of several.  We
each of us try to do our best, but none of us can do anything very

Listening intently, Nidia was saying to herself, "How true he rings!
Note.  The swagger and egotism of the up-to-date Apollo is conspicuously
absent here."  Then, aloud--

"No; I was not chaffing.  I believe you can do a great deal.  Remember,
we have been very much together of late, and I rather pride myself upon
a faculty for character reading."

The delicate insinuation of flattery in her tone constituted the last
straw.  John Ames felt his resolution growing very weak.  Passionate
words of adoration rose to his lips--when--

A screech and chatter of child voices and scurrying feet, right behind
the rock under whose shadow the two were resting, then the sound of
scrambling, and their resting-place was theirs no more.  A round
half-dozen uproarious infants were spreading themselves over the rock
slabs around, their shrill shrieks of glee hardly arrested, as with a
start they discovered the presence of others upon their new playground.
And that they were there to stay they speedily made known by dint of
yelling response to the calls of the parent-bird, whose own voice drew
nearer around the rock.

The spell was broken.  At that moment John Ames would have given
anything to have seen the rocks below swept by a sudden tidal wave.  The
spell was broken.  The moment had come and gone, and he was aware, as by
an intuitive flash, that it would not come again.

Nidia rose.  Did she welcome the fortuitous relief or not? he wondered,
as he glanced at her keenly.

"Let us stroll quietly back," she said.  "We shall get no more peace
with that nursery romping round us.  Besides, it's time we thought of
beginning the return ride.

"What an ideal day it has been!" resumed Nidia, when the ground became
even enough to carry on conversation with any degree of facility.
"Hasn't it?"

"M'yes.  Very `ideal,' in that like other ideals it doesn't last.  An
ideal is like a wine-glass, sooner or later destined to be shattered."

"That's quite true.  I wonder are there any exceptions to the rule?"

"Safely, no.  People set one up for themselves and adore it; then
crash--bang! some fine day they knock it down, and it shatters into
smithereens.  Then there is a pedestal empty--a pedestal to let."

"And up goes another image, with like result," laughed the girl.

"Precisely.  But how cynical we are becoming.  By the way, to go back to
what I was saying a little while ago, you will probably not be coming
up-country at all.  Then we shall never see each other again."

"Even then, why should we not?"

"Why?  Why, because the chance that--that made us meet now is not likely
to recur.  That sort of blessed luck is not apt to duplicate in this
vale of woe.  Not much."

She smiled, softly, tenderly.  The self-contained John Ames was waxing
vehement.  His words were tumbling over each other.  He could hardly get
them out quick enough.

"And would you mind so very much if it did not?"


"So would I."

Then silence for a few moments.  They were walking along a high-road.
At very short intervals the ubiquitous cyclist--singly or in pairs--shot
noiselessly by, or here and there a coloured pedestrian, seated by the
roadside, eyed them indifferently.

"Why should we lose sight of each other?" said John Ames at length.  "Do
you know--this time we have had together has been--has been one that I
could never have dreamed of as within the bounds of possibility."

"We have had a good time, haven't we?" assented Nidia, demurely, though
conscious of a quickening pulse.  "And now, I don't mind telling you
something--because I have failed to discover one atom of conceit in your
composition--so I don't mind telling you--"


The interruption was startling.  The voice was dry, the face stony.  Had
he but known it the interrupter was going up many degrees in the
speaker's estimation.

"Only that I shall miss you dreadfully--when you are gone."

Nidia's mischievous demureness simply bubbled with enjoyment at the look
of relief which came over the other's features.  She continued--

"As you say, why _should_ we lose sight of each other?  You may write to
me occasionally--when you can spare the time required for the saving of
your country from all the ills that threaten it.  But--let's see, I--oh,
well, never mind--I was going to say something, but I won't.  And now--
we must not be serious any more.  We have had a lovely day, the
loveliest day we could possibly have had, and we are going to have a
lovely ride back.  Here we are at the hotel again."

The significance of the tone, the veiled emphasis which underlay the
remark, was not lost upon the listener.  John Ames was one who knew when
to let well alone.  Patience, tact, a judicious mind, were all among his
qualifications for his responsible and difficult post.  Should they fail
him in a matter where private feeling, however deep, was concerned?  So
he acquiesced.

Nidia, for her part, was conscious of mingled feelings.  She did not
know whether to be glad or not that they had been summarily interrupted;
on the whole, she thought she was glad.  On the other hand, she had not
exaggerated in saying she would miss him dreadfully, and already she had
some idea as to how she would miss him.  Here was a man who was outside
her experience, who represented an entirely new phase of character.
With her, too, this time that they had spent so much together stood

But although no more was said during their homeward ride of a nature to
trench on grave matters, the tone between both of them was one that
seemed unconsciously to breathe of confidence and rest.  The deep murmur
of the ocean swell had sunk its hoarse raving as it lapped the rocks
below the skirting road; the golden glory of the heaving waters had
turned to a deeper sapphire blue suffused with pink as the sun sank
behind the rampart crags, and already two or three stars, twinkling
forth, seemed to rest upon, then hover over, the rock crest of the great
Lion Mountain, heaving up, a majestic sentinel, over the liquid plain.
Yes; both were content, for in the hearts of both still rang the
gladness and the quietude of a very conscious refrain:--"We shall meet
again, soon."

Thus the parting of the ways.  But before they should meet again--what?
In that surrounding of peace and evening calm, small wonder that no
suggestion should find place as to a very different surrounding, where,
far to the north, from the drear mountain wilderness, even at that
moment, thundered forth--as another Voice from Sinai of old--a dire and
terrible voice telling of scourge and of war--a voice, indeed, of woe
and of wrath, sounding its dread tocsin o'er an entire land.

"Burned is the earth, Gloom in the skies Nation's new birth--Manhood



Madula's kraal, in the Sikumbutana, was again in a state of profound
malcontentment and unrest, and again for much the same reason as before.
Then that reason had been the imminent loss of its cattle, now that
loss had become a certainty.  The dread scourge had swept over the land,
in all its dire unsparingness, and now Madula and his people were
convened to witness the destruction of their worldly wealth.

For the edict of the ruling power had gone forth.  The animals were to
be destroyed, and that wholesale.  Segregated into small herds, they
were carefully watched.  With the first case of sickness becoming
apparent the whole herd containing it was doomed.  And now nearly the
whole of Madula's herds had been declared infected.

The place appointed for this wholesale slaughter was an open plain some
little distance from the kraal.  About threescore dead oxen lay where
they had fallen, the nostrils of a few still frothy with the fatal
running which denoted the fell pestilence.  John Ames, grounding his
smoking rifle, turned to talk with Inglefield and another white man, the
latter being one of the Government cattle inspectors.  Both these
carried rifles, too, and behind them was drawn up a troop of native
police.  In a great semicircle Madula's people squatted around, their
countenances heavy with sullen rankling, their hearts bitter and
vengeful.  In the mind of the chief the dexterous venom of Shiminya was
taking full effect.  The fact of a few cattle being sick was seized upon
by their rulers as a pretext for the destruction of all; and what would
become of the people then?  In the minds of the people the predictions
of Umlimo were being fulfilled to the letter.  Now, however, they could
afford to wait.  Soon there would be no more cattle; soon--very soon--
there would be no more whites.

John Ames, laying down his weapon, addressed the muttering, brooding
savages.  It was a most revolting task that which had been put upon him,
he explained; not one that he would have undertaken of his own free
will.  To shoot down miserable unresisting animals in cold blood, one
after another, could not be otherwise.  It would seem to the people that
to destroy the whole as well as the sick was an act of sheer wanton
tyranny, but they must not look at it in that light.  The Government was
their father, and had their interests at heart; and although it was
found necessary to reduce them to seeming poverty for the time being,
yet they would not be losers in the long run.  Then, again, they were in
no worse case than the white men themselves, whose cattle was destroyed
in the same way if disease broke out; but, above all, they must be
patient, and bear in mind that by right of conquest all the cattle in
the land belonged to the Government, and what they had was only allowed
them by favour.  This disease was a cloud they were all passing through,
white and black alike.  It would pass, and the sun would shine forth
again.  Let them be patient.

John Ames, in the plenitude of his experience, noted the sullen apathy
wherewith his words were received, yet he attached no greater importance
to it than he reckoned it deserved; he could appreciate the outrage on
their feelings which this wholesale destruction of their most cherished
possessions must involve.  Then Madula spoke.

"What Jonemi had told them must be true, since Jonemi said it.  But what
the people could not understand was why Government should have restored
them their cattle, if only to destroy it all before their eyes; should
give it back with one hand to take it away with the other.  That did not
seem like the fatherly act of a fatherly Government.  Nor could they
understand why the beasts that were not sick should be shot just the
same as those that were.  Let them be spared until the signs of sickness
showed, then shoot them.  Those signs might never show themselves."  And
more to the same effect.

With infinite patience John Ames laid himself out to explain, for the
twentieth time, all he had said before.  It was like reasoning with a
wall.  "Let the people only have patience," he concluded.  "Let the
people have patience."

"M--m!" hummed his auditors, assenting.  "Let the people have patience."

But there was a significance in their tone which was lost on him then,
though afterwards he was destined to grasp it.

"It's a disgusting business all this butchery," he observed, as he and
the other two white men were riding homeward together.  "I don't wonder
the people are exasperated.  As Madula says, they'll never understand
how the Government can give them back the cattle with one hand only to
take it all away with the other."

"It strikes me that Mr Madula says a great deal too much," said
Inglefield, dropping the bridle on his horse's neck, while shielding a
match with both hands so as to light his pipe.  "A little experience of
the inside of Bulawayo gaol would do him all the good in the world, in
my opinion."

"You can't work these people that way, Inglefield, as I'm always telling
you," rejoined John Ames.  "You've got to remember that a man like
Madula wants some humouring.  He was a bigwig here before either you or
I held our commissions in this country, possibly before we had,
practically, ever heard of it.  Now, for my part, I always try and bear
that in mind when dealing with the old-time indunas, and I'm confident
it pays."

"Oh, you go on the coddling plan," was the thoughtless retort.  "For my
part--well--a nigger's a nigger, whether he's an induna or whether he
isn't, and he ought to be taught to respect white men.  I wouldn't make
any difference whatever he was.  An induna!  Faugh!  A dirty snuffy
nigger with a greasy black curtain ring stuck on top of his head.  Pooh!
Fancy treating such a brute as that with respect!"

"All right, Inglefield.  I don't in the least agree with you.  Perhaps
when you've had a little experience you may be in a position to form an
opinion as to which of our lines is the most workable one."

"Oh, draw it mild, Ames," retorted the police officer, ill-humouredly.
"It doesn't follow that because a fellow can patter by the hour to a lot
of niggers that he knows everything.  I say, old chap, why don't you
chip in for some of old Madula's daughters--marry 'em, don't you know?
He has some spanking fine ones, anyway."

The tone was ill-tempered and sneering to the last degree.  Inglefield
could be bumptious and quarrelsome at times, but he had a poor life of
it, with a detestable wife, and an appointment of no great emolument,
nor holding out any particular prospect of advancement.  All of which
bearing in mind, John Ames controlled his not unnatural resentment, and
answered equably:--

"Because I hope to make a better thing of life, Inglefield.  But that
sort of thing is rather apt to stick to a man, and crop up just when
least convenient.  I'm no prig or puritan, so putting it on that ground
alone, it's better not touched."

"Oh, all right, old chap; only don't be so beastly satirical.  I can't
help grousing like the devil at times when I think how I'm stuck away
here in this infernal God-forsaken hole.  Wish I could fall into a bunk
at Bulawayo or Salisbury or anywhere.  Even Crosse here has a better
time of it going around sniffing out rinderpest."

"Don't know about that," said the cattle inspector.  "I'll swap you
bunks, anyway, Inglefield."

"Wish we could, that's all," replied the police officer, who was in a
decidedly "grousy" vein, as he owned himself, half petulantly, half
laughingly, when presently the conical huts of Sikumbutana hove in sight
over the brow of the rise.  "Well, now, Ames, you'll roll up to `skoff'
at seven, won't you, unless you'll change your mind and come in now?"

"I'll roll up all right.  But not now, I've got some work on hand, and
it's early yet."

"Very well.  Seven, then.  Don't go sending over some tinpot excuse, you
unreliable beggar."

"No; I'll be there.  So long.  So long, Crosse."  And he turned his
horse's head into the track that led to his own compound.  "Rum chap
that fellow Ames," said Inglefield, when he and the cattle inspector
were alone together.  "He's a rattling good chap at bottom, and we are
really great pals, but we fight like the devil whenever we have to do
with each other officially."

"How's that?" said Crosse, a quiet, self-contained man, with a large
sandy beard and steady, reliable eyes.

"Oh, I don't know.  He's so beastly officious--he calls it
conscientious.  Always prating about `conscientious discharge of his
duties'--`can't conscientiously do it'--and so on.  You know.  Now, only
the other day--or, rather, just before he went on leave--he must needs
get my pet sergeant reduced--a fellow worth his weight in gold to me as
a hunter.  Now, of course, the chap has turned sulky, and swears he's no
good--can't tell where game is or is likely to be, or anything."

"So.  How did he get him reduced?"

"Oh, some rotten bother with that old nigger who was out to-day, Madula.
Nanzicele--Oh, blazes!  I can't manage these infernal clicks."

"Never mind; you'll learn some day," said Crosse.  "Well, what did
Nanzicele do?"

"Nothing.  That's the point of the whole joke.  He was sent to collar
some cattle from Madula, and he--didn't collar it."

"And is that why he was reduced?"

"No fear.  It was for _trying_ to collar it.  The niggers came in and
complained to Ames, and Ames insisted on an inquiry.  He took two mortal
days over it, too; a rotten trumpery affair that ought to have been let
rip.  Then a lot of darn red tape, and my sergeant was reduced.  No;
Ames always pampers the niggers, and some day he'll find out his
mistake.  If they come around--especially these indunas--he talks to
them as if they were somebody.  _I'd_ sjambok them out of the compound."

Crosse, listening, was chuckling to himself, for he knew whose judgment
was likely to be the soundest, that of the speaker or that of Ames.
Then he said:--

"And this Nanzicele--is he that big tall Kafir who was nearest us, on
the outside of the line, during the cattle-shooting?"

"Yes; that's the chap.  By George! he's a splendid chap, as plucky as
the very devil.  Many a time I've had him out with me, and he'd go
through anything.  He was with me once when I missed a charging lion out
beyond Inyati.  _He_ didn't miss him, though--not much.  I'd trust my
life to that fellow any day in the week."

"Trust your life to him, would you?"

"Yes.  Rather."


"Yes, I would.  You don't know the chap, Crosse.  I do.  See?"


The while, John Ames, having turned his horse over to his boy, entered
his office.  There was not much to do that day, as it happened, so after
spending half an hour looking over some papers, he locked up for the
day, and adjourned to the hut which served him for sitting and dining
room combined, in which we have already seen him.

He threw himself into a chair and lighted a pipe.  There was an absent,
thoughtful look in his eyes, which had been there ever since he found
himself alone; wherefore it is hardly surprising that in lieu of seeking
solace in literature, he should have sat, to all outward appearances,
doing nothing.  In reality, he was thinking--thinking hard and deeply.

A month had gone by since his unexpected and most unwelcome recall; but
unwelcome as it had been, he could not quarrel with it on the ground of
its superfluity.  Times had been lively since his return--more than
lively--but not in an exhilarating sense.  The rinderpest had taken firm
root in the land, and was in a fair way of clearing it of horned cattle
from end to end.  Not at domestic cattle did it stay its ravages either.
The wild game went down before its fell breath; every variety of
stately and beautiful antelope, formerly preserved with judicious care
beneath the rule of the barbarian king, underwent decimation.  But it
was in the mowing down of the cattle that the serious side of the
scourge came, because, apart from the actual loss to the white settlers,
the enforced destruction of the native stock rendered the savages both
desperate and dangerous.  Already rumours of rising were in the air.
The sullen, brooding demeanour exhibited by Madula's people was but a
sample of the whole.

To the perilous side of the position, as regarded himself individually,
John Ames was not blind.  He was far too experienced for that.  And his
position was full of peril.  Apart from a rising, he was marked out as
the actual agent in executing the most hateful law ever forced upon a
conquered people.  His was the hand by which actually perished its
animal wealth.  Every bullock or heifer shot down sent a pang of fierce
vindictiveness through more than one savage heart.  In blind, barbaric
reasoning, what more plausible than that to destroy the instrument would
be to render inoperative the cause which set that instrument in motion?
A blow from behind, a sudden stab, in the desperate impulse of the
moment--what more likely?

Not of peril, present or potential, however, was he thinking, as he sat
there alone, but of the change, absorbing and entire, which had come
over his life since returning from his all too brief furlough.  He had
left, cool, well-balanced, even-minded; he had returned, so far as his
inner moments were concerned, in a trance, a state of absorption.  It
was wonderful.  He hardly recognised himself.  But what a new glad
sunshine was now irradiating his lonely life.  The recollection!  Why,
he could sit for hours going over it all again.  Not again only, but
again and again.  Everything, from the first accidental meeting to that
last bright and golden day by an enchanted sea--to the last farewell.
Every word, every tone was recalled and weighed.  Ah, he had not known
what it was to live before!  He had grovelled like a blind grub in the
dust and darkness--now he was soaring in arrowy gleams upon wings of
light.  But--no words had been uttered, no promises exchanged.  What
matter?  If at times of physical depression he felt misgivings he put
them from him.

True to her promise, Nidia had written--once--and with that letter he
had had no cause to find fault.  She had even sent him a dainty little
portrait of herself, the only one she had, she explained; but where that
was habitually kept we decline to say, "We shall meet again," she had
declared.  Yet if that utterance were to be unfulfilled, if indeed this
dream were to fade, to go the way of too many such dreams, and to end in
a drear awakening, even then was it not something to have lived in the
dream, to have looked upon life as so new and golden and altogether
priceless?  With such considerations would he comfort himself in moments
of depression.

"We shall meet again."

Often he would picture to himself that meeting.  There would be others
present most probably, but she, in his sight, would be alone.  She would
be surrounded by adorers, of course, but as her eyes met his she would
know there was in reality but one.  In all the adjuncts to her serene
loveliness which taste and daintiness could surround her with, she would
stand before him.  Such would be their meeting, and upon it he dwelt;
and to it his imagination reached through space, as to the culminating
ecstasy of the goal of a life attained.

From such soarings, however, comes a descent, as abrupt as it is
profound, in this hard work-a-day world.  John Ames sat bolt upright
with a start of dismay, for the clock opposite told its own tale.  His
musings had carried him over some hours.  It was nearly dark, and he was
due--almost overdue--at Inglefield's.



"That man's late again.  He always is.  Tom, don't ever ask him again.
He seems to treat me with studied rudeness."

Thus Mrs Inglefield, consulting her watch.  She was an acid looking
person, who might once have been passable in aspect.  Now the deepening
of her habitual frown was far from prepossessing.

"It's only on the stroke of seven," said Inglefield, shortly.  "Give him
a little law, Annie.  He'll be here directly.  Perhaps some nigger
turned up at the last moment on particular business."

The suggestion was like throwing paraffin upon flames.

"That makes it worse," exploded the lady.  "To keep me--to keep us--
waiting to suit the convenience of a few filthy blacks--"

"Well, give the chap a show," snapped Inglefield, not in the best of
humours himself.  The while, Crosse, the cattle inspector, sat
profoundly pitying Inglefield, thinking, too, that the defaulter, when
he did come, was not going to enjoy his dinner overmuch.

"Hope I'm not late," said a voice in the doorway.

"Not a bit, Ames; at least, only two minutes, and that doesn't count,"
cried Inglefield, cordially, feeling very much "in opposition."

"Roll up, man, and have an appetiser, Crosse, you'll cut in?"

John Ames, ignoring the coldness of his hostess' greeting, noticed that
fully a quarter of an hour went by before they sat down to table.  When
they did sit down the interior of the hut looked snug enough.  The
bright lamp shed a cheerful glow upon the white napery and silver forks;
and pictures and knick-knacks upon the walls and about the room--or
rather, the hut, for such it was--rendered the place pleasant and
homelike, suggestive of anything but the wilds of savage Matabeleland.
Any remark, however, which he addressed to his hostess was met by a curt
monosyllable, she turning immediately to converse with Crosse, affably
voluble.  It mattered nothing.  He had only consented to come upon
Inglefield's urgent and repeated invitation, having experienced that
sample of behaviour before.

"What sort of a time did you have down in Cape Town, Ames?" said Crosse
presently, when he could conversationally break away.

"Rather a good one.  It was a great nuisance having to come back."

"Mr Coates was such a nice man," interpolated Mrs Inglefield, with
meaning, referring to John Ames's _locum tenens_.  "We used to see a
great deal of him."

"Find any nice girls down there, eh, Ames?" said Inglefield, slily,
fully alive to the unveiled rudeness of his spouse.

"Oh yes--several."

"And one in particular, eh?" went on the other, waggishly, drawing a bow
at a venture; for John Ames was not one to wear his heart upon his
sleeve or to embark in chatter upon the subject nearest and dearest to
that organ.

"_Nice_ girls!  I didn't know there were any nowadays," snapped Mrs
Inglefield.  "A pack of bicycling, cigarette-smoking, forward tomboys!"

"Oh, come, Mrs Inglefield," laughed Crosse, "you mustn't be so down on
them.  They're only up to date, you know."

"Up to date!  Then, thank Heaven I'm not up to date; I'm only
old-fashioned," she retorted.

"I'd be sorry to wear the boots of the chip who told you so, Annie,"
pronounced Inglefield.  "Besides, you're romping hard over Ames's
feelings; at least, I surmise you are.  He's too close a bird to give
the show away.  _But_--as poor old Corney Grain used to say."

"Oh, I always say what I mean," she answered, with an air which plainly
added: "if people don't like it so much the worse for the people."  And
John Ames was thinking that never again, under any circumstances
whatever, would he sit at the table of this abominably ill-bred and
offensive woman.  He was right.  He never would; but for a reason that
it was as well he--and all of them seated there--did not so much as

Then, partly that subject-matter for conversation is, to isolated
dwellers in a remote wilderness, necessarily limited, partly because he
deemed it a safe topic, Inglefield led the talk round to the day's
doings--the destruction of Madula's cattle.

"It's an infernally wasteful way of getting rid of them," he said.  "I
dare say you've blazed away nearer a thousand cartridges than a hundred,
eh, Ames?"

"Quite that.  As you say, it is an abominable waste, and if ever the
time comes when we shall sorely need every one of those cartridges for
our own defence--"

"Oh, now you're croaking again, old chap," interrupted Inglefield; while
his spouse remarked--

"Faugh!  I'd as soon be a slaughter-house butcher at once.  Sooner."

"Somebody must do it, you know, Mrs Inglefield," replied John Ames,
placidly.  "If the job were turned over to natives they'd waste five
times the number of cartridges, and the poor beasts would suffer all the

"Suppose we change this very unpleasant subject," she remarked, looking
pointedly at him, quite ignoring the fact that it had been started by
her husband, and she it was who had done the most towards keeping it

"Policeman he want to see Inkose."

The interruption proceeded from one of the two small boys who acted as
waiters, and who had just entered.

"Tell him to wait until I've done dinner, Piccanin," replied Inglefield,

"It may be something important," hazarded John Ames.

"Oh, it'll keep till after dinner," was the airy rejoinder.  "Er--which
policeman is it, Piccanin?"

"Big policeman, 'Nkose; him name Nanzicele.  Him come up from barracks

The men's quarters--which, by the way, were not barracks but native
huts--lay about three hundred yards below those occupied by their

"Then tell `him' to go back to them again, and wait until I've done
dinner," replied Inglefield, briskly; for he was of an obstinate turn,
besides instinctively resenting anything like interference on the part
of his brother official.

The small boy retired, and for a moment voices were heard outside.  Then
there entered--Nanzicele.

"Great Caesar!" cried Inglefield, reddening.  "What the devil do you
mean, sir, by disobeying orders?  Go back to the barracks at once!
Here, _Puma!  Hambasuka_!  Footsack!"

But ignoring the pointing finger of his irate superior, Nanzicele took
one step to the side--leaving the door clear--and, standing at
attention, ejaculated in loud and sonorous tones--


Was it a signal?  Crosse, who was seated opposite the door, lurched
forward, falling with his face on the table, simultaneously with the
crash of two shots fired from outside.  John Ames, pinned to his chair
by a grip as powerful as steel, was impotent to do more than
ineffectually struggle.  Half a dozen stalwart savages rushed into the
hut, and, dividing their forces, four of them threw themselves upon
Inglefield, the remaining two turning their attention to the latter's
wife.  It was all done in a moment.  The suddenness of it, the total,
utter unpreparedness of those who, but two seconds ago, had been
unsuspectingly dining, left not the smallest chance of resistance.
Inglefield, starting up, instinctively to seize the carving-knife, was
stabbed again and again with sword-bayonets before he could raise a
hand, and fell to the floor.  The wretched woman, too petrified with the
suddenness and terror of it all even to shriek, was promptly despatched;
one savage drawing his weapon across her throat with a slash that nearly
severed the head.  It was all over in a moment.  Yet one victim

John Ames, now bound fast to his chair with straps, felt himself grow
dizzy and sick with the horror of this appalling butchery.  Blood
dripped to the floor, then splashed in bright red drops on the garments
of the murderers.  And those garments were the uniform of the Native

All seemed to heave in misty dimness before his eyes.  In a moment he
would faint.  Then, with a vast effort of will, he recovered himself.
Why had _he_ been spared?  In a moment the whole situation flashed
through his brain.  This was the beginning of a general rising.  The
Native Police had no grudge against their officers, let alone against
Inglefield, who was, if anything, too easy-going.  If _they_ were in
open revolt, then the rising was general, even as he and one or two
others had feared might one day be the case.  The fiercely sullen
demeanour of Madula and his people at the destruction of their cattle
now assumed an aspect of deadly significance.  The destruction of their
cattle!  Ah, there was the last straw!  But--why had he been spared?

Then amid this scene of horror hope came uppermost.  His administration
had always been signalled by strict and impartial justice to the
natives, even when white interests were concerned--a line, be it
whispered, not invariably the rule in those days, when the policy known
as "supporting the white man against the black" at any cost, was deemed
wise and necessary.  He was known to several of the chiefs, and by
chiefs and people alike respected.  It might well be that he was marked
out for exemption from a general massacre.

But now a voice, lifted up, seemed to shatter to fragments any such
hopes--a great jeering voice, vengeful, triumphant, menacing.  It was
the voice of Nanzicele, addressing him in voluble Sindabele.

"Ho, Jonemi!  Where are you now?  And these?  `Let the people have
patience.  Let the people have patience,' Your words, Jonemi.  Great
words, Jonemi!  Well, the people have had patience, and now their day is
come.  By this time to-morrow all the whites in the land will be dead."

"Will be dead," echoed those around, with an emphatic hum.

"Why have you--have you all done this thing, Nanzicele?" said John Ames,
striving to repress the shudder of loathing and disgust which shook his
voice.  "Have you not been treated well--treated with every
consideration and justice by your officer?  And yet--"

"Justice!" growled the savage.  "Justice!  Now nay, Jonemi; now nay.  I
was a chief in the Amapolise, now I am a common man again.  Who made me
so?  Not this"--pushing with his foot the bleeding corpse of Inglefield.
"But for thy counsels he would not have brought me down.  It was thou,
Jonemi--thou.  Now shall thy blood pour over my hand."

Nanzicele all this while had been working himself up to a state of fury,
as he talked into the face of his helpless prisoner, or victim, the
others standing around emphatically applauding.  Now he seized a poultry
knife from the table, and, jerking back John Ames' head, held the edge
against his throat.

It was a horrible moment, that expectation of an agonising death, and an
ignominious one to boot--one of those moments which could concentrate a
lifetime of horror.  The helpless man could do nothing.  Every second he
thought to feel the keen blade slashing through vein and muscle, carotid
and windpipe.  But the barbarian seemed in no hurry.  He threw down the
knife again.

"I have a better way with thee than that, Jonemi.  When we have finished
we will burn down this hut, leaving thee here.  Ah--ah!"  Then he turned
his attention to the table, where the other murderers were promptly
demolishing the remnants of the feast.

But for the tragedy just perpetrated the sight would have been comic.
Two had got hold of a roast fowl and were quarrelling over it like a
couple of dogs over a bone.  A third had cut a huge chunk out of a leg
of sable antelope, and having plastered it thickly with mustard, was
devouring it in great bites, the tears streaming down his face the
while.  Pepper, too, had discomfited another; and yet another, trying to
use it, had driven a fork nearly through his cheek, all talking and
spluttering the while.  Yet all were foul with the blood which had just
been shed; even the white cloth was splashed and smeared with it.  Among
them John Ames recognised his own body-servant, Pukele.  The latter had
taken no active part in the murders, having, with two other men, come in
later.  Still, there he was among them, the man whose faithfulness, to
himself at any rate, he had always deemed beyond suspicion; the man with
whom he would have entrusted his life, even as poor Inglefield had said
but an hour or two ago with regard to Nanzicele.  Yet that fiend had
been the first to murder him in cold blood.  In truth, one could trust
nobody.  Little, therefore, was he surprised now when Pukele, turning to
him, joined the others in abusing and threatening him.

A bottle of whisky, half emptied, stood on the table, and another,
unopened, on the sideboard, together with two of "squareface."  Most of
those present understood the corkscrew of civilisation, and in a few
moments were choking and gasping with the effects of their fiery
libations.  As this unwonted indulgence began to take effect, the uproar
created by the murderous crew became simply indescribable.  Plates and
dishes were smashed, glasses thrown at each other, and one of the
bottles with its precious contents was smashed.  And foremost of all,
amid the madness of the riot, was Pukele--the quiet Pukele, the faithful

Already two of the murderers had rolled under the table dead drunk,
falling upon and clutching the gashed bodies of their victims.  Others,
snatching up knives from the table, with reeling step and blood-lust in
their drunken faces, staggered towards their victim.  But between the
latter and them, somehow, was always interposed the form of the faithful
Pukele, of the riotous Pukele, of the treacherous, murdering Pukele.

To John Ames it seemed that death's bitterness should already be past,
for whatever the method of it, death itself was sure.  He knew he would
never leave that hut alive, and could almost have prayed that all were
over.  Then his thoughts reverted to Nidia Commerell.  How thankful he
was that she was in safety twelve hundred miles away.  Would she feel
more than a transient sorrow or regret when she heard of his end?  He
would have died at his post anyhow.  And then he recalled the words of
flattering approval she had more than once uttered when expressing an
interest in his career.  And that last long golden day they had passed
together.  Well, even at this terrible moment he felt thankful he had
lived to go through that experience.  But--what was this?

The strap which bound his right arm to that of the chair had snapped.
Snapped?  No; it had been cut.  The large form of Pukele stood in front
of him, was standing with his hands behind his back, and one of those
hands held a sword-bayonet such as was used by the Native Police, its
haft _towards_ John Ames.  Now he saw who had cut the strap.

He reached forth cautiously, and gently withdrew the weapon from
Pukele's grasp; then, having cut the strap confining his other arm, bent
down, and in a moment his legs were free.  Pukele the while was
discoursing volubly with the other Police rebels, fanning a heated
discussion and egging them on to drink.  But ever between them and the
prisoner he stood.  A horrible sight they presented, their once smart
uniforms filthy with blood and grease, their faces lolling with
intoxicated imbecility, their speech thick and their legs tottering.
But the treacherous Pukele, the riotous, drunken, abusive Pukele, now
seemed, strange to say, as sober as the proverbial judge.  He stood
firm, unless perhaps a gradual swaying of his body to the left were
perceptible; and the door of the hut was behind him--a little to the

John Ames, between him and the door aforesaid, watched every move.  The
savage roysterers were becoming alternately more and more riotous and
maudlin.  Then the faithful Pukele made a movement with his hand behind
him.  It was unmistakable.  John Ames slid from the chair, and in a
moment was through the door, and round behind the hut just in time to
avoid running right into the arms of a new--and sober--body of the now
revolted police, who had come up to join in the fun and to loot their
murdered officer's quarters.  He had escaped with his life.  After all,
there was some fidelity left among these barbarians, he thought, as he
stepped briskly, yet cautiously, through the darkness.  He had escaped
with his life, yet here he was, in the heart of a rebel country--every
one of whose white settlers had probably by this time fallen in savage
massacre--without food or means of procuring any, and with no other
weapon than a sword-bayonet.  The outlook was far from reassuring.



"Roll out, Dibs.  Roll out, you lazy beggar.  It'll take us at least
three hours."

Thus Moseley, surveyor, to Tarrant, ditto.  The campfire had gone out
during the small hours, and the line of action enjoined upon the latter
by his chum was not a congenial one, for the atmosphere half an hour
before sunrise was chill and shivery.  Yet, early as it was, the horses
and pack-donkeys had already been turned out of the "scherm," or
extemporised enclosure, in which they had spent the night, and were
cropping the grass with an enjoyment born of the night's abstinence.

"No hurry," returned he thus unceremoniously disturbed, rolling his rugs
closer around him.

"But there is hurry, Dibs, if we want to get to Hollingworth's by

"But _I_ don't want to get to Hollingworth's by breakfast-time, or any
other time for the matter of that."

"Oh yes, you do, once you're up.  Come now, old man.  Roll out."

The two were old schoolfellows--hence the nickname which still stuck to
one of them--and had met up-country by the merest chance, Moseley we
have already seen, in the capacity of newly landed passenger from the
English mail-steamer.  Tarrant was a lean, dark man, with a pointed
beard and a dry expression of countenance.  He was inclined to take
things easily, declaring that everything was bound to come right if only
it were left alone.  Moseley, on the other hand, was one of those
painfully energetic persons, bursting with an all-pervading and utterly
superfluous vitality.  They had been out surveying claims, and were now
on their return to Bulawayo.

The night's camp had been pitched in a romantic glen, with nothing
between the sleepers and the starry heaven but the spreading branches of
a wild fig, nothing between them and Mother Earth but some cut grass and
a rug.  Stiff and cold, Tarrant rose from amid his blankets, and stood
rubbing his eyes.

"I'll never come out on survey with you again, Moseley," he declared.
"You're a bore of the first water."

"Won't you, old chap?  I seem to have heard something of that sort
before--often before."

"I mean it this time.  Er--Mafuta.  _Tshetsha_ with that fire.
_Tshetsha umlilo, Umfaan_.  You savvy?  _Tshetsha_!"

Whether the native boy understood this adjuration in the dialect known
as "kitchen Kafir" or not, he continued stolidly striving to blow into
flame some ends of stick still smouldering from last night's blaze, it
not seeming to occur to him that a couple of handfuls of dry grass would
do the trick in as many seconds.  The while the dialogue between his
white masters continued.

"Who the devil is Hollingworth when he's at home, Moseley?"

"Down-country man, up here trying to farm.  Served in the war against Lo
Ben, and had ground given him.  Rattling good chap.  By the way, he's
got rather a pretty wife."


"Yes; three or four.  I forget which."

"Faugh!  Hate kids.  Always a nuisance.  Always yelling.  Yell when
they're not happy; yell ten times more when they are.  Besides, they
smudge their faces with jam.  Damn Hollingworth!  I won't go there."

This statement was received by the other with all serenity and without
reply.  He knew his chum's little weakness, therefore knew that the bait
thrown out would be not merely nibbled at but swallowed, the
objectionable progeny notwithstanding.  So he continued pulling on his
long boots and otherwise completing his not extravagant toilet with
complete equanimity.  And then Mafuta, who at length had got the fire to
burn, came along with some steaming coffee.

"That's better," pronounced Tarrant, having got outside the invigorating
brew.  "Wonder if there are any crocs in these water puddles, Moseley?
I'm going to tub."

"Tub?  Man alive, we're just ready to start.  What on earth do you want
to tub now for?"

"I thought you said Hollingworth had a pretty wife," tranquilly rejoined
the other, digging into his kitbag for a towel.  "You can't make
acquaintance with a pretty woman when you're in an untubbed state, you

Moseley roared.

"Oh, skittles!" he said.  "You can tub when you get there."

"I believe you're right; and the water looks dashed cold at this time of

"And I thought you said you wouldn't go there."

"Did I?  Oh, well, I suppose I must if you do.  It wouldn't look well,
would it?"

"Why, of course not.  Hurry up now.  The boys want to load up your kit."

The pack-donkeys had been driven up, and the horses stood ready saddled.
In an incredibly short space of time all personal baggage and camp
impedimenta had been removed and stowed upon the backs of the patient
little Neddies--in the long run and the land of horse-sickness and
"fly," perhaps more serviceable all round than that noble animal the
horse.  And then, as the first arrowy gleams of the sun began to warm
the world, they started from their night's camp.

It was pleasant country that through which they now rode.  Dewdrops
still hung from the sprays of the feathery acacias, gleaming like
diamonds in the rising sunlight; and the thorn-brake was musical with
bird voices, or the clucking of bush-pheasants scuttling alarmed amid
the long grass and undergrowth; and here and there a troop of
guinea-fowl darting away with the rapidity of spiders at the sound of
hoofstrokes, as the wayfarers wended their way along the edge of a
native "land."  Kraals, too, the conical roofs of the huts shining
yellow in the sunlight; but from these no reek of blue smoke mounted to
the heavens.  Of cattle, either, was there no sign, nor indeed of human
occupancy.  The land seemed deserted--dead.  What did it mean?  Turning
back, Moseley called to the boy to find out what he thought about it.

Mafuta came trotting up.  Where were all the cattle?  There were no
cattle.  They were all dead of the disease.  Where were all the people?
They had moved to other parts of the country, or possibly some were
still lying asleep as there were no cattle to tend.  He, Mafuta, did not
know.  This was not his part.  He came from a kraal a long way off--away
beyond the Gwai.

This Mafuta was a young Matabele, who had served in the Ingubo regiment
when Lo Bengula was king, and had entered the white man's service to
earn money in order to buy a wife.  He was an intelligent and
warrior-looking youth, but with an expression of countenance as of one
who had gazed on--perhaps taken part in--scenes of cruelty and
bloodshed, and would not in the least object to doing so again.  He was
carrying Tarrant's Martini rifle and cartridge-belt, and looked
thoroughly at home with them, as in fact he was, for his masters would
often send him out to shoot game for camp consumption, when the heat
disinclined them for needless activity.  Moseley had a shot-gun, which
he preferred to carry himself.

Now, however, they were not on sport intent, but held steadily on their
way; and, after about two hours' riding, a thread of blue smoke
appeared.  A little further and they made out a homestead, standing on a
slope beyond the high precipitous banks of a dry river.

"It'll be something to get our heels under a table again," remarked
Tarrant, as they urged their horses up the steep path of the drift.
"Eating your `skoff' in a sort of tied-in-a-knot attitude, with your
plate tobogganing away from you on the very slightest provocation, may
be romantic enough on paper, but it's a beastly bore in actual practice.
Is that Hollingworth?"


A tall man was advancing towards them from the house.  He wore a large
beard, and his attire was the same as theirs--a silk shirt, and
riding-trousers tucked into long boots, leather belt, and broad-brimmed

"Hallo, Moseley!" he sung out.  "Back again, eh?  What's the news?"

"Oh, rinderpest--always rinderpest.  Here, I say, d'you know Tarrant?
No?  Well, here he is.  Not a bad chap at bottom, but you've got to keep
him at it."

The usual hand-shake followed, and then Hollingworth, farmer-like, began
to growl.

"Rinderpest?  I should think so.  Why, I've hardly a hoof left.  No
fear.  I'm going to chuck farming and go prospecting again.  But come
along in and have a drop of something after your ride.  It'll be
breakfast-time directly."

"Er--could one have a tub--among other things?" said Tarrant.

"Tub?  Why, of course.  Here--this way."  And their host piloted them
behind the scenes.

When the two men re-appeared, refreshed both inwardly and out, the
residue of the household were gathered.  Tarrant, already appraising his
hostess, decided that Moseley's judgment was not at fault.  She was a
pretty little woman, dark-eyed and sparkling, albeit somewhat overtanned
by sun and air; but it took him just two minutes to determine that she
had not an idea or thought outside her very restive progeny, which, in
proportion of one to the other, were even as a row of organ-pipes.  Then
a diversion occurred--a diversion strange and startling.  The door
behind him opened, and there entered somebody; yet was that any reason
why Moseley should suddenly jump up from his seat like a lunatic, at the
risk of upsetting no end of things, and vociferate--"Great Heavens!
Miss Commerell, who'd have thought of meeting _you_ here?  When on earth
did you get here?  Well, I _am_ glad!"  No; there was no need for
Moseley to kick up such a fuss.  It was beastly bad form; but then,
Moseley always was such an impulsive chap.

"So you've met before?" cried Mrs Hollingworth, who had been about to
introduce them.

"Rather.  I should rather think we had met before," sung out Moseley, in
what his travelling chum was wont to call his "hail-the-maintop"
voice. "Why, we were fellow-passengers, fellow-actors,
fellow-all-sorts-of-things, weren't we, Miss Commerell?  But how did you
find your way up here, and when?"

"You've asked me about four questions at once, Mr Moseley," said Nidia,
in her bright, laughing way, "but I'll only ask you one--How am I going
to answer them all at once?"

Tarrant, the while, was murmuring to himself, "Oh, never mind me.
Perhaps in half an hour or so he may remember that we are pards, and
that I'm entitled to share his acquaintance with the young lady."  And
indeed at that moment the same idea occurred to Moseley himself, and he
proceeded to introduce them.

Nidia was looking her very best.  Here, in a settler's homestead,
perforce rough, in the hot steamy wilds of Matabeleland, she looked as
cool and fresh as with all the appliances of comfort and civilisation
ready to hand.  Tarrant, who rather fancied himself as a connoisseur in
that line, was struck.  Here was something quite out of the common, he
thought to himself, as his glance took in the animated, expressive face,
the lighting up of the blue eyes, the readiness wherewith the lips would
curve into the most captivating of smiles, the dainty figure, and the
cool, neat, tasteful attire.  Mrs Hollingworth was a pretty woman,
Moseley had declared, and rightly; but his chum had never prepared him
for anything like this.

The while Nidia herself was replying to the questions volubly fired into
her by Moseley.  They had come up to Bulawayo in due course.  Fatiguing!
No; on the whole she had rather enjoyed the journey--the novelty and so
on--and everybody they met had been very kind to them, and had done all
they knew to make things easy.  How was Mrs Bateman?  Oh, flourishing.
In fact, when Mr Bateman returned she herself had, of course, felt _de
trop_, and so had come to inflict herself on Mrs Hollingworth, and see
some of the real wild side of the country.

The last in her most arch and quizzical manner.

"It's a poor time you've chosen to look at it in, Miss Commerell,"
remarked Hollingworth.  "Rinderpest has about done for us all, and bar
that the whole show has been as dry as chips."

"Yet, it's all very interesting to me, at any rate," she returned.  "And
the savages.  I can hardly believe they are the wicked ferocious beings
you all make out, poor, patient, put-upon looking mortals!  Some of the
old men have such really fine faces, and their voices are so soft and
kindly--though, of course, I can't understand a word they say," she
broke off, with a whimsical candour that made everybody laugh.

Hollingworth whistled.

"`Soft and kindly!'  Why, they are just about as sulky and discontented
as they can well be--though, poor devils, one can hardly blame them.  It
must be hard, rough luck to see their cattle shot down by hundreds--by
thousands--under their very noses.  Of course they abuse the Government
for giving them back the cattle with one hand only to take it away with
the other.  It's only what we should do ourselves."

"I should think so.  Poor things!  Really, Mr Hollingworth, I think you
seem to have treated them all very badly."

Such a sentiment was not popular in Matabeleland then, nor, for the
matter of that, has it ever been.  In fact, it is about as heterodox an
utterance as though some rash wight were to pronounce the former realm
of Lo Bengula a non-gold-producing country.  But it was impossible to be
angry with the owner of the voice that now made it.

"I don't know that we have, Miss Commerell," replied Hollingworth.
"Indeed, I think, on the whole, we haven't.  Now, I can always get boys
enough--so can my neighbours--and that's the best test.  A nigger won't
stop a week with anybody who treats him badly."

"Oh, I didn't mean that way, Mr Hollingworth.  I meant as a nation."

"Even there, Lo Bengula and the old chiefs didn't rule them with sugar
and honey, let me tell you.  But, squarely, I believe they did prefer
the kicks of Lo Ben to the halfpence of the Chartered Company; and I
suppose it's natural.  A nigger's ways are not a white man's ways, and
never will be."

And then as the shrill yells and other vociferations raised by the
Hollingworth posterity in fierce debate over the limit of its jam
allowance rendered further conversation impossible, an adjournment was
made outside.

"Were you all the time at the Cape before coming up here, Miss
Commerell?" began Moseley, as they found seats beneath the shade of a
large fig-tree.

"Yes.  We remained on at Cogill's.  It was rather fun.  I think there
was hardly a corner of the whole neighbourhood we didn't explore."

"--With John Ames."

The tone, slightly bantering, was thoroughly good-natured.  Even one
more touchy than Nidia Commerell could hardly have taken offence.  But
nothing was further from her thoughts.

"You know him, then?"  And the expressive face lighted up with genuine

"Not personally; only by name."

"Then, how did you know--"

"--About the explorations?  The Cape Peninsula is a very gossipy place."

"I suppose so.  Most places are," said Nidia, tranquilly; "but that sort
of thing never troubles me one little bit.  Mr Ames lives somewhere up
here, doesn't he?  I wonder where he is now?"

Cool and at ease they sat there chatting.  Had she been a clairvoyante a
vision might have been vouchsafed to Nidia--the vision of a man,
crouching in a thicket of "wacht-een-bietje" thorns, his face and hands
lacerated, his clothes torn--a hunted man, with the look of some recent
horror stamped upon his pale, set face; the last degree of desperation,
of despair, yet of resolution, shining from his eyes; his hand grasping
a sword-bayonet, already foul with the dried stains of human blood; and
flitting through the brake, their dark forms decked with cowhair and
other fantastic adornments, glistening in the sun, a band of armed
savages bent on the shedding of blood.  But not being blessed--or the
reverse--with the faculty of clairvoyance, all she did see was the
eminently peaceful scene around her--the two men lazily smoking their
pipes beneath the shade of the great tree, while the third moved about
attending to some of the hundred and one details of his farm business;
the figure of her hostess, her head protected by an ample white "kapje,"
coming forth to see that four of her young, disporting themselves in the
open in front of the house, were not getting into more mischief than
usual, and retiring precipitately within to assuage the yells of the
fifth, and haply to attend to some household duty, "Where he is now?"
repeated Moseley.  "Why, he can't be far from here.  He's Native
Commissioner of Sikumbutana.  I don't suppose his place can be more than
twenty or twenty-two miles off.  Eh, Dibs?"

"About that," assented Tarrant, laconically.

"I should so like to see him again," pursued Nidia.

"Nothing easier, Miss Commerell.  Get Hollingworth to send over a boy
with a note, or a message to that effect, and I predict Ames will be
here like a shot."

"I'm sure he would," assented Nidia, in such a genuinely and naturally
pleased tone as to set Tarrant the cynic, Tarrant the laconic, Tarrant
the incipient admirer of herself, staring.  "We were great friends down
at the Cape, and made no end of expeditions together.  Yes; I would like
to see him again."

"Phew!" whistled Tarrant to himself, not entirely deceived by her
consummate ingenuousness.  "Lucky Ames!  Well, there's no show for me in
that quarter, that's manifest."

"Isn't he that rather good-looking chap who was sitting at our table the
day I had lunch with you at Cogill's?" said Moseley.

"Yes.  That's the man.  We soon got to know him, and saw a great deal of

"And thought a great deal of him?"

"Well, yes.  I can see that you're trying to tease me, Mr Moseley, but
I don't care.  I don't know when I've seen a man I liked better."

"`Present company--' of course?"

"No; not even present company.  No; but really, I would like to let Mr
Ames know I am here.  But I don't like to ask Mr Hollingworth.  It's a
long way to send, and he may not be able to spare a boy."

Thought Tarrant, "She's a puzzler!  She's playing on the innocent stop
for all the instrument will carry, or--she's genuine.  Can't make her

But Moseley lifted up his voice and hailed--


"What is it?" sung out that worthy.  "Sun over the yard-arm yet?  All
right.  You know where to find it.  No soda, though; you'll have to do
with selzogene.  If you want `squareface' you must get the missis to dig
it out of the store.  There's none out.  Maitland and Harvey between
them got outside what there was yesterday."

"No, no; that's not what we want, though it'll come in directly,"
laughed Moseley.  "Look here, Hollingworth"--the latter had drawn near
by this time--"Miss Commerell has found an old friend up here--Ames at
Sikumbutana--and she doesn't like to ask you to send a boy over to let
him know she's here."

"But, Mr Moseley, I didn't tell you to ask Mr Hollingworth," laughed

"Pooh!  Why didn't you like to ask me, Miss Commerell?  Of course I can
send over.  Though--if it will be all the same to you, I'd rather send
to-morrow," Hollingworth added dubiously.

"Certainly it will.  Thanks awfully.  Are you sure it won't
inconvenience you?" said Nidia, in her most winning way.

"Not to-morrow.  To-day, you see, I have two boys away.  But I'll start
one off the first thing in the morning."

She reiterated her thanks; and Tarrant, keenly observant, said to
himself: "No; clearly I've no show.  Damn Ames!"



"Well, good-bye, Moseley.  Pity you're in such a hurry; you might just
as well have stayed the night.  However, since you're determined, you'd
better not ride too slow.  It'll take you three mortal hours to fetch
Jekyll's place."

Thus Hollingworth, soon after the midday dinner.  The horses stood ready
saddled, the pack-donkeys having been sent on in the forenoon.

"I'll see you in Bulawayo week after next, I suppose.  I've got to go in
about that disputed `pegging' case.  Beastly nuisance!  Besides, I've
got to take Miss Commerell back."

Tarrant pricked up his ears at this.  He had not done much to improve
the shining hour with Nidia during that long, cool, lazy morning.  He
had confined himself to observing her, now and then putting in a word or
two, but not often.  But he had plans.

And now the farewells became general, all talking at once, as people
will on such occasions; for the whole household had turned out to see
them off.  Suddenly Hollingworth said:--

"You've forgotten your rifle, Tarrant.  Never mind; don't get down"--for
the other was already mounted.  "I'll get it for you.  Which corner did
you leave it in?"

"Didn't leave it.  Mafuta's gone on ahead with it."

"Oh!  No chance of him clearing with it, eh?" said Hollingworth.

"No; he's a reliable boy.  Had him a long time.  He's quite safe."

Thus in that lurid March of '96 did the settlers in Matabeleland rejoice
in their security.

"You put that on rather well, old man," said Tarrant, as the two rode

"What did I put on?"

"Oh, the surprise part of the business.  Now I see why you were so
desperately bent on fetching up at Hollingworth's."

"Smart boy, Dibs.  See through a brick wall, and all that sort of
thing," replied Moseley, good-humouredly.  "This time you've seen
through too far, though.  I had no more notion Miss Commerell was there
than you had, or even that she was in the country at all.  Nice girl,
isn't she?"

"Ye-es.  I was studying her rather closely.  She's either the most
consummate actress or the most out of the ordinary sample of her sex
I've encountered for a long, long time, if ever."

"Well, she's the last, then.  If there's one thing about Nidia Commerell
that appeals to me it is that she's so perfectly natural, and therefore,
of course, unconventional."

"Oh, she does `appeal' to you, then?  I rather thought she did," said
Tarrant, serenely.  "But you've no show, old man.  It's the other
Johnny--what's his name--"


"--Yes.  He seems to have got the floor just now."

"As to the first--skittles; as to the last--why do you think so?"

"Didn't I tell you I was studying her rather closely?  When you first
mentioned--er--Ames, she just, ever so little, overdid it.  You may rely
upon it that joker made his hay while the sun shone."

Moseley burst into a great contemptuous laugh.  "Oh, bosh, Dibs!  You've
got the keenest nose for a mare's nest I ever saw.  I tell you that's
Miss Commerell's way.  If she likes any one she doesn't in the least
mind saying so.  That alone shows there's nothing deeper in it."

"Her way, is it?  Oh, well, then, so much the worse for--er--Ames."

The while those they had just left were comparing opinions upon them.

"That friend of Mr Moseley's seems a very quiet man," Mrs Hollingworth
was saying.  "Who is he, George?"

"Never saw him before in my life.  In the same line of business, I take
it.  His `quietness,' though, seemed to me to cover a suspicion of
`side.'  Sort of `know everything' manner."

"Yes.  Perhaps I am wrong, but there seemed a sort of conscious
superiority about him.  What did you think, Nidia?"

"Just what you do.  But we may be wrong.  The other is all rights
though, so jolly and good-natured always.  We came out on the same

"Moseley.  Yes; he's a good chap, but he's got a detestable wife," said

"It's astonishing what a number of `good chaps' have," laughed Nidia.
"But where is she?"

"In England now.  Moseley drives his trade here, and she has a good time
on the lion's share of the proceeds there.  She won't stay in this
country.  Yes?  What is it?"

This to his son and heir, _aetat_ ten, who was trying to get in a chance
of asking to be allowed to go out and shoot a buck.

"Don't know.  You're too much of a kiddie, Jim.  Your mother fidgeted
herself--and me--to death last time you went."

"I got the buck, though," was the reply, half defiant, half triumphant.

"So you did, sonny.  Well, you can go.  Be careful with the gun, and
don't be late.  It's a good thing for them to learn to shoot straight in
a country like this," he added, as the boy skipped away without waiting
for the possibility of any recall of this edict: and a moment later they
saw him disappearing in the bush, away beyond the mealie-lands.

"Fancy you and Ames being old pals, Miss Commerell," said Hollingworth.
"Where did you know each other?"

"Down at the Cape.  We were in the same hotel at Wynberg.  I saw a good
deal of him, and liked him very much.  Is he getting on well up here,
Mr Hollingworth?"

"Yes, I think so.  He's thought a good deal of in his own line.
Shouldn't wonder if he gets into something better before long.  And now,
if you'll excuse me, Miss Commerell, I'll go and take my usual forty
winks, if those `kinders' will let me."

This was a figure of speech on Hollingworth's part.  Had his progeny
been ten times more riotous and restive than it was he would have slept
tranquilly through all the racket they could make.  There are persons
who can sleep through anything--from a fox-terrier in a backyard to a
big gun practice--and Hollingworth was one of them.

Nidia, left alone, did not feel in the least inclined to follow his
example.  A strange restlessness was upon her, a desire for solitude;
and where could she obtain this better than amid the wild bush by which
the homestead was surrounded?  Going inside, she threw on a straw hat,
then taking a light _umzimbiti_ walking-stick, she struck into one of
the forest paths.

She felt not the slightest fear or misgiving.  The natives at that time
were deferential and submissive, and seldom encountered outside their
own locations.  Wild beasts avoided the near proximity of human
habitations, at any rate in the full blaze of the afternoon sun, and if
she came upon a snake she could always run away; for she was not one of
those who imagine that the average serpent can leap--say, fifty feet--
through the air, or spends its time lying in wait for human beings for
the fun of biting them.  So she wandered on beneath the feathery acacias
and gnarled wild fig, now stopping to disengage her skirt from the sharp
claws of a projecting spray of "haak-doorn," now bending down to examine
some strange and brilliant-winged beetle.  A pair of "go-away" birds,
uttering their cat-like call, darted from tree to tree, keeping ever a
short distance before her.  When she drew near the spray on which they
were perched on they would go again, and she could mark their conical
crests as again they plunged forward in arrow-like flight, only to perch
again as before.

A small stony kopje rose above the level of the brake.  To this she
ascended, and, finding a shady spot, sat down upon a granite boulder to
rest.  Away and around the gaze could range over a great expanse of
country, here smoothly undulating in a green sea of verdure, there
broken-up into stony hillocks.  She could not see the homestead--that
was hidden by the gradual depression towards the river-bank, but the
river-bed was discernible by the winding slit its course left in the
expanse of foliage.  And away in the golden haze of the blue horizon a
line of hills which she instinctively guessed were those of the

So John Ames was so near and she would see him again; a matter of twenty
miles or so was no distance in up-country estimation!  Yet, why should
this consciousness bring with it a feeling of elation?  She was not in
the least in love with the man.  She could mention his name, or hear it
mentioned, without a tremor in her voice or a stirring of the pulse.
She had not even gone to the pains of inquiring after him, or as to his
whereabouts, since her arrival at Bulawayo; yet now, suddenly an impulse
was upon her to see him again which amounted almost to a longing.  She
had missed him greatly after his departure, even as she had said she
would, but only as she would have missed anybody in whose society she
had found pleasure and entertainment; yet now she found herself looking
forward to meeting him again with such a curious mingling of feelings as
she had never known before.  She had seen him amid conventional, and, to
him strange, surroundings, now she wanted to see him at home as it were,
and in his own everyday sphere.

How would they meet?  She supposed he would ride over directly he
received her note.  Would he look surprised and pleased?  Would that
grave, firm face relax as he greeted her, the straight glance of the
grey eyes soften ever so little as it met hers?  Thus she pondered.  Yet
she was not in the least in love with John Ames.

For long she sat, pondering thus.  Then, upon the distant stillness,
rolled forth a shot, followed by another.  It broke the current of her

"Jimmie is getting some sport," she said to herself, standing up to look
in the direction of the double report.  "But he must be finding it very
near home.  That shot sounded almost as if it were at the house."

She glanced at the sun.  Its distance above the horizon reminded her
that she must be getting back herself.  Rising, she descended the
granite kopje, and took her way along the bush-path she had come by.
This was a matter of no difficulty, even if she were now following it
for the first time, for those among whom she had lately moved had taught
her something of the mysteries of "spoor."

How peaceful it looked in the golden light of the afternoon stillness!
The homestead, truly, was of the roughest description, with its thatched
roof and "dagga" walls, yet it, and the pointed conical huts behind it,
were all in keeping.  A settler's dwelling in a new land!  A halo of
romance overspread it in Nidia's mind as she emerged from the bush-path
into the clearing.

Stay.  What was that?  Blood!  She had just time to switch her skirt
aside.  Blood?  Yes; a great patch of it--then another and another, and
a long trail in the dust as though something heavy had been dragged
along the ground.  Ah, Jimmie had been in luck again and had brought
down another buck.  That was the meaning of the double shot she had
heard.  The animal had been too heavy for the little chap to carry.  He
had been obliged to drag it, hence the trail along the ground.  And in
her rejoicing over the small boy's venatorial triumph, Nidia forgot her
natural disgust at sight of the blood-gouts which lay thick and
hideously red along the trail.

How still it all was!  Had their mother taken those earthquakes of
children for a walk? she wondered.  Even then it was strange to be out
of earshot of their voices, if only in the distance.  Well, the youthful
hunter should be in, anyhow.

"Jimmie!" she called.  "Jim-mie!"

No answer.

The front door was closed.  She noticed that the trail went round as
though to the back of the house, yet in front of the closed door the
blood-patches lay thicker than ever.  Jimmy would catch it when his
mother came back, she thought to herself, for bringing his quarry in at
the front door and making that horrid mess.  Lifting her skirt to avoid
the latter, and making a little grimace of disgust, she turned the

There was a window opposite, but the blind was down.  To Nidia, coming
in from the full glow of the sunlight, the room was almost dark.  Only
for a moment though, and then she saw--

She saw that which might have turned many a stronger brain than hers--
she saw that which made her cover her eyes with her hands, and stagger
back against the doorpost with a low wailing cry of such unutterable
horror as can rarely have proceeded from human throat.  Oh Heaven! must
she look again and go mad? was the thought which flashed through her
mind as with hands pressed to her eyes she leaned against the doorpost
as rigid as though turned to stone.

On the couch beneath the window aforesaid lay the form of Hollingworth--
the form, for little else about the wretched man was distinguishable but
his clothing.  His skull had been battered in, and his features smashed
to a pulp.  There he lay, and on the floor beside him a periodical which
he had been reading before overtaken by the sleep from which he was
destined never to awaken.  In one corner lay the corpse of his wife--
and, in a row, four children, all with their skulls smashed, and nailed
to the ground with assegais--the whole having undergone more or less
nameless horrors of mutilation.  This is what she saw--this girl--who
had never looked upon a scene of violence or of bloodshed in her life.
This is what she saw, returning in serene security to the peaceful home
that sheltered her.  No wonder she stood against the doorpost, her hands
pressed tightly to her eyes, her brain on fire.  Was it a dream--an
awful nightmare?  The very magnitude of the horror saved her.

Out into the air again.  Not another glance dare she venture into that
scene of hideous butchery.  Out into the air again.  The same golden sun
was shining, the same fair earth, the same feathery foliage peaceful in
the afternoon light.  But within?  The world began to go round with her.
She staggered as though to sink into a swoon, when--

What was that?  A cry?  A moan?  From the back of the house it seemed to
come, and it was distinctly that of a human being in pain.  Thither
Nidia flew.  The sound had created a diversion, and had certainly saved
her brain from giving way from shock and fright.

A form was lying on the ground covered with blood and dust.  Nidia
recognised it in a moment for that of Hollingworth's eldest boy--the
youthful hunter whose prowess she had been about to congratulate.

"Jimmie!" she cried, bending over him.  "Jimmie, my poor child, what has
happened?  What have they done to you--to--to everybody?"

Her voice broke down, and she could only sob piteously.  She tried to
raise the boy's head, but he screamed.

"Oh, don't--don't!  Oh, it hurts!"

To her horror, Nidia saw something of the extent of the terrible
injuries the poor little fellow had received.  Besides a huge bump on
the side of the head he was covered with assegai-stabs.  Yet he was
still alive.  Amid his moans, he looked up suddenly.

"Oh, it's you, Miss Commerell!" he gasped.

"Yes--yes.  Oh, my dear little boy, what does it all mean?" she wailed,
her voice thrilling with horrified pity.

A gleam came into the boy's eyes, and for the moment he seemed to forget
his agony.

"I--plugged two of the devils," he said--"two of them.  One was Qota,
our boy.  He got the charge of buckshot, the other the bullet.  Then
they hit me on the head with a kerrie.  Oh-h!"

He sank back groaning under a renewed spasm of pain.  This, then, was
the double shot Nidia had heard.  She saw now the meaning of the bloody
trail which she had imagined was that made by the youthful hunter
dragging home his quarry.  The miscreants had dragged away the bodies of
their own dead.  Two of them had been sent to their account, red-handed,
and that by this mere child, either in defence of those who were all to
him, or revengeful in his rage and grief.  Bit by bit she got at the

He was returning from an unsuccessful stalk, and had gained the outside
of the bush behind the house, when he heard a low prolonged scream
proceeding from within.  In this he recognised the voice of his mother.
Cocking his gun, he ran hurriedly forward, but before he could gain the
front door he was met by several savages armed with axes and
knobkerries.  Two of these he immediately shot--shot them dead, too, he
declared--and then, before he could slip in fresh cartridges, they were
upon him.  The gun was wrenched from his hand, then something seemed to
fall upon his head, for after that he knew no more.

All this was told spasmodically between lengthened pauses, and the
effort had quite exhausted the poor little fellow.  And now some inkling
of the situation seemed to rush through Nidia's reeling brain, though
even then the idea that this wholesale murder was but one instance of
several at that very moment throughout the land, did not occur to her.
She supposed it to be a mere sporadic outbreak of savagery, or lust of
plunder.  It was clear, too, that this poor child was ignorant of all
that had actually happened within, and she felt a sort of miserable
consolation in realising that physical agony had so confused his mind
that he showed no curiosity on the subject.  Nor would he allow her to
examine the extent of his hurts.  If she so much as touched him he
screamed aloud; but she knew, as confidently as though assured by the
whole faculty, that his hours were numbered.

"I feel sleepy.  How dark it is!" he murmured at length.

Dark!  Why, the surroundings were in a very bath of lustre--of golden
sunlight glow.

"So sleepy.  Don't leave me.  Promise you won't leave me!"

"Of course I won't leave you, Jimmie darling," sobbed Nidia, bending
down and kissing his forehead; for well she knew what this deepening
coma portended.  Soon again he spoke, but in the feeblest of murmurs.
"You must go.  They'll come back and find you; then they'll kill you,
the devils.  You must go.  Hide in the bush, down below the river-bank.
They won't look there.  Go--go quick.  They'll come back.  Hark!  I hear

"But I won't go, Jimmie; I won't leave you, whether they kill me or
not," she sobbed, moved to the heart by the unselfishness of this
child-hero, who had first slain with his own hand two of the murderers
of his parents, and now was urging her to leave him to the solitude he
dreaded, lest she should meet with the same fate.  But this heroic
injunction was his last utterance.  A few minutes, and the head fell
back, the eyes opening wide in a glassy stare.  Little Jimmie had joined
his murdered kindred.

The sun sank beneath the rim of the world, and the purple shades of the
brief twilight deepened over this once peaceful homestead, now a
mausoleum for its butchered inmates lying in their blood.  And still
Nidia sat there holding the head of the dead boy in her lap.



Jekyll's Store, near Malengwa, was an institution of considerable
importance in its way, for there not only did prospectors and travellers
and settlers replenish their supplies, but it served as a place of
general "roll up," when the monotony of life in camp or on lonely farms
began to weigh upon those destined to lead the same.

Its situation was an open slope, fronting a rolling country, more or
less thickly grown with wild fig and mahobo-hobo, mimosa and feathery
acacia.  Behind, some three or four hundred yards, rose a low ridge of
rocks, whose dull greyness was relieved by the vivid green of
sugar-bush.  Strategically its position was bad, but this was a side to
which those who planted it there had not given a thought.  The Maxims of
the Company's forces had done for the natives for ever and a day.  There
was not a kick left in them.

The building was a fair-sized oblong one, constructed of the usual
wattle and "dagga" as to the walls, and with a high-pitched roof of
thatch.  Internally it was divided into three compartments--a
sleeping-room, a living-room, and the store itself, the latter as large
as the two first put together.  From end to end of this was a long
counter, about a third of which was partitioned off as a public bar.
Rows of shelves lined the walls, and every conceivable article seemed
represented--blankets and rugs; tinned food and candles; soap and
cheese; frying-pans and camp-kettles; cooking-pots and high boots;
straps and halters; Boer tobacco and Manila cheroots; all jostling each
other, down even to accordions and concertinas, seemed only to begin the
list of general "notions" which, either stacked on shelves or hanging
from the beam which ran along the building parallel with the spring of
the roof, filled every available space.  Bags of mealies, too, and flour
stood against the further wall; and the shelves backing the bar
department were lined with a plentiful and varied assortment of bottles.

Not much less varied was the type of customer who was prone to sample
their contents.  Miners working for a wage, independent prospectors,
transport riders, now and then a company promoter or a mining engineer
or surveyor, settlers on farms, an occasional brace of troopers of the
Matabeleland Mounted Police--would all roll up at Jekyll's in turn; but
by reason of the wide distances over which the sparse population was
scattered, there were seldom more than a dozen gathered together there
at once--usually less.  But even there the characteristics of the
gathering were much akin to those pervading similar groups as seen in
older civilisation--the bore simple and the bore reiterative, the local
Ananias, usually triplicated; the assumptive bore; the literary critic--
the last especially in full bloom after a few rounds of "squareface" or
John Dewar--and other varieties.  Such characteristics, however, were
well known to the sound residue of the assemblage, who would delight to
"draw" the individual owners thereof--after the few rounds aforesaid.

Within the store and canteen part of the building about a dozen men were
gathered when Moseley and Tarrant rode up.  All were attired in the
usual light marching order of the country--shirt and trousers, high
boots and wide-brimmed hat.  Some were lounging against the counter,
others squatting on sacks or packing-cases, and all were smoking.
Jekyll, himself, a tall man with a grizzled beard, and who had been a
good many years in the country before the entry of the first Pioneer
force, was dispensing drinks, with the help of his assistant, a young
Englishman who had been ploughed for his degree at Oxford.  To several
of these the new arrivals were known, and forthwith there was a fresh
call on the resources of the bar department.

"News?" said Jekyll, in reply to a question from Moseley.  "Thought
maybe you'd have brought some.  There's talk of a rising among the
niggers down beyond Sikumbutana.  Heard anything of it?"

"Not a word."

"Gah on.  There won't be no bloomin' rahsin'," cut in a prospector, a
Cockney ex-ship-steward.  "Nothink but a lot o' gas.  The wy to treat
niggers is my wy."

"And what might that be?" said another prospector, a tall, bronzed,
fine-looking man, who _had_ taken _his_ degree at Oxford.

"Why, one o' my boys cheeked me yesterday, so I ups with a bloomin'
pick-'andle and jes lets 'im 'ave it over the bloomin' boko.  That's my
wy with 'em."

And the speaker cocked his head and looked around with the defiant
bounce of a cad with a couple of drinks too many on board.

"H'm!" rejoined the other man, drily.

"By-the-by," said Tarrant, "I wonder what Mafuta did with my rifle and

Jekyll pricked up his ears.

"Is that one of your boys?" he said.

"Yes.  He was carrying my gun and cartridges."

"Well, there was no gun and cartridges with your donkeys when they
turned up."

"The devil there wasn't!" said Tarrant.  "Let's go and look into it."

They went outside, Jekyll and two or three others accompanying them.
The three boys in charge of the donkeys were there.  They had off-loaded
the packs and taken them inside.  Where was Mafuta?  They did not know.
They had last seen him about half way; after that no more.  They thought
perhaps he had been ordered to try and shoot some game on the way.
Tarrant looked blue.

"Oh, he'll turn up," he said, in a tone which conveyed the idea that
such a contingency was remote.

"Pity you trusted him with a gun in these times," said Jekyll.  "I'm
afraid he'll clear with it."

"Wot'll yer tike for the chawnce?" said the Cockney, who was one of
those who had accompanied them outside.

"Oh, he'll roll up directly," said Tarrant, ignoring this specimen;
"Mafuta's a reliable boy.  I've had him a long while."

Returning from the huts, they became aware of a certain amount of
excitement in front of the store.  A trooper of the Matabeleland Mounted
Police had just ridden up.  The rising was a fact, and he had been sent
round to warn everybody to come in to Bulawayo if possible; if not, to
collect together and form laagers.  Several prospectors and miners had
been murdered in the Sikumbutana district, but how far the outbreak had
spread could not as yet be determined.  He was on his way to warn
Hollingworth; after that, if he could manage it, he must get through to
John Ames'.

The excitement produced by this news was mingled with consternation.
Half of those there collected were unarmed.  Those who had weapons had
left them behind at their camps; while some, with the habitual British
carelessness which passes for intrepidity, had not even got any there.

The police trooper's horse was offsaddled and put into one of the huts
which did duty for stable for a feed and a brief rest, and then the
whole party re-entered the store to discuss the situation and a fresh
round of drinks.  While this was in progress some one reported a party
of natives approaching from the open side in front of the house.
Quickly Jekyll got out a powerful binocular.

"There are about thirty of them," he said, "but they've got no guns--
only knobkerries and some axes.  On the face of the latest news I
believe they mean mischief.  Now, chaps, we'll startle 'em some.  They
won't know there's a whole crowd of you here.  They'll think there's
only me and Selwyn to deal with.  Who've got guns?"

Seven answered in the affirmative.

"All right.  Now then.  You, Carbutt and Harris, get to that front
window in t'other room--don't let 'em see you, though.  I'll go out in
front and _indaba_ them.  Selwyn 'll stand in the doorway lighting his
pipe--and when I sing out, `Let go,' blaze away into the foremost of
them.  I shall want some men to go outside at the back of the house,

All volunteered.

"No.  You three'll do"--indicating the policeman and two others.
"Directly you hear the first shot fired, whip round to the front and
blaze into them for all you're worth.  See the plan?"

"Rather, and an A1 plan it is," said Moseley, who was one of the
rearguard, slipping a couple of heavy buckshot cartridges into his

Those for behind scrambled through the back windows--the other two were
already in position, one armed with a Winchester, the other with a
Lee-Metford.  Hardly had they done so than the natives emerged from the
sparse bush in front.

There was nothing warlike in their aspect; indeed, to all appearance,
they might have been a gang of boys travelling round to look for work in
the mines.  They halted about fifty yards from the house, and Jekyll, in
pursuance of his plan, strolled about a dozen to meet them.  Then he
called for a couple of them to come up.

Who were they, he asked, and where going?  They were looking for work,
the spokesman answered.  Could the _'Nkose_ take any of them on?  Jekyll
observed that perhaps he could do with two or three.  Selwyn, the
English assistant, was standing in the doorway, carelessly lighting his
pipe.  Others now began stealing up towards the two spokesmen.  The
savages little knew into what a trap their treachery was leading them.
Then a shout arose from among them:--

"_Tyay' Amakiwa_!"  [Strike down the whites.]

But, simultaneously with the rush made upon Jekyll, and for which the
words were the signal, the rifles of the two men at the window crashed
forth in one report.  The two foremost Matabele dropped dead, while the
three men stationed behind the house were in position at once, and
simply raked the whole crowd.  Again and again the magazine rifles
spoke, and between them and Moseley's buckshot the result was that a
little more than half the treacherous assailants were running for dear
life and for the nearest bush; while Jekyll, who had not stirred
throughout, stood re-lighting his pipe as if nothing had happened.

"Sharp work, chaps," he said, as they all came out to see the result.
"We've taught them how to fight the devil with fire--eh?"

The transformation was marvellous in its rapidity.  The place which,
five minutes before, had been the scene of a peaceful gathering, was now
one of slaughter.  More than one there present, who had never witnessed
death by violence, gazing upon the stark, bleeding corpses, looked

"Here's one who isn't dead," said Jekyll.  "Let's see if he'll give away
anything."  And, bending down, Jekyll began to talk fluently in
Sindabele.  But the wounded man, a big, evil-looking savage, answered
never a word.  He had a bullet through him, and a couple of grains of
heavy buckshot, and was bleeding profusely.  The wonder was he was still
alive.  To all of Jekyll's questions he answered nothing.

"I sy.  'E's a bloomin' impident black beggar, I _don't_ think," said
the Cockney, giving the prostrate native a push with his foot that was
more than half a kick.  "Wish I 'ad my bloomin' pick-'andle 'ere."

"Oh, shut up, Higgins, and leave the nigger alone," said the man who had
first taken exception to the swaggering cad's bounce.  "We don't do
things that way here."

"'Ere, I sy, I'd like to know what I've done.  Cawn't a chep mike a
bloomin' blanked nigger awnswer a question when a gentleman arsts 'im

But whether this feat was practicable or not was destined to remain
unrecorded, for at that moment came the crash of a volley poured from
the line of bush wherein the discomfited barbarians had disappeared, and
the vicious hum of missiles overhead and around, knocking chips of
plaster from the walls of the house.  Two men staggered, only wounded
though, among them the police trooper, who was shot in the leg.

"Get inside, sharp," sang out Jekyll, himself hauling in one of the
wounded.  "Stand ready.  They'll charge directly."

Hurriedly, yet without panic, the men regained the shelter of the house.
At the same time a cloud of savages, who had wormed their way up
through the long grass, rose on the edge of the bush, and again poured
in their fire.  Again the bullets whizzed overhead, some penetrating the
plaster wail, but no one was hit.  Those within had already flown to the
windows, and were returning the fire with a will.  Several were seen to
fall.  The rest dropped down into cover again.  Clearly they had no
stomach for charging that determined few under cover.

"That's all right," said Jekyll.  "This is all part of the scheme.
These jokers have got on their war-gear.  The first lot were an advance
guard.  I say, Selwyn, where would you and I have been now but for our
friend here giving us the office?  We'd have been quietly knocked on the

"We'd have had no show at all," replied the assistant, who was brimful
of pluck and beginning to enjoy the fight.  But Jekyll, and two or three
others, who were alive to the gravity of the situation, failed to
discover an enjoyable side thereto.

The Matabele were evidently in sufficient force to render them
over-confident, and, indeed, they were hardly careful to remain under
shelter.  Squads of twenty and thirty could be seen pouring in to swell
the already formidable number, glancing through the bush and long grass,
all in war-gear, with flowing tufts of red or white cowtail, and wearing
the _isiqoba_, or ball of feathers, on the forehead.  Warriors, defying
fate, would spring up, and go through the performance known as "_gwaza_"
making a series of quick leaps in the air, shouting the most
bloodcurdling promises with regard to their enemies, and darting stabs,
lightning-like, this way and that, as though in hand-to-hand conflict
with an imaginary foe.  At these the besieged whites, acting on the
advice of the more experienced, forebore to fire.  The mark was a very
uncertain one, and there was not much to be gained by picking off two or
three of these boasters.  Ammunition was not plentiful.  In fact, there
was every chance of it giving out.



"Stand by, now.  Here they come," warned Jekyll.  "Not too soon, and
fire low."

For the line of bush was alive with gleaming forms, as fully a hundred
warriors darted out, making straight for the store; not in a compact
body, but in a scattered line; not erect and in bounds and leaps, but
bent low and crouching behind their shields.  The while those in the
background now opened a tremendous fire upon the building.  Fortunately,
however, most of the missiles flew high.

Those within, crouching too, with their heads just above the sills of
the windows, waited a moment, then, partly rising, fired upon the
advancing shields at a hundred yards' distance.  Several were seen to go
down.  Crash! a second volley, then a third.  The magazine rifles were
doing their duty right nobly.  At the fourth volley the charging
warriors, dividing into two sections, sheered off at a tangent, and,
dropping down in the grass, crawled away with the silence and rapidity
of snakes, offering no mark to draw the defenders' fire.

"Quick!  To the back!" cried Jekyll.  "Not all, though."

With instinctive unanimity the little garrison divided itself.  Those
told off to the back of the store arrived there in time to see their
enemies swarming up among the low rocky ridge which overlooked their
position from the rear.

"By George! that was real strategy, covering the advance of the storming
party," said one man, who was an ex-soldier.  "Looks as if there were
whites among them.  Dutch perhaps."

"No fear," returned Jekyll.  "The most English-hating Dutchman this
country ever produced wouldn't turn niggers on to white men.  We'd be
much more likely to do it ourselves.  Hallo, Selwyn!  Not hurt?"

This anxiously, as the young fellow, who had been peering forth watching
his chance of a shot, staggered back from the window holding his hands
to his head.  Then it was seen that his face was streaming with blood.

"N-no; I don't think so," was the answer.  "A splinter, I think it is."

"Let's see," said Jekyll.  "Ah yes.  Here you are"--exhibiting an ugly
splinter of wood, which he had simultaneously extracted from the other's
forehead.  "Only a skin-wound.  You're in luck."

"There's some fellow who can shoot, at any rate," remarked Tarrant, as
another bullet pinged in through the window.  "Oh, I say!  Here, quick,
some one!  Lend me a rifle, for God's sake"--almost snatching one from
the hand of his neighbour, who yielded, too astonished to demur--and
blazed at the point from which the last shot had come, just missing.  A
shout of laughter was the reply, together with a puff of smoke, and a
bullet so near as to make Tarrant duck--of course, after it had passed.
He again returned this, again missing, but narrowly.

"Here, try, one of you chaps; I'm no shot.  For Heaven's sake drop the
young beast!  It's my infernal boy--Mafuta."

A roar from his auditors greeted this intelligence, once its tenor was

"Your boy!  But you said he was a reliable boy?" cried Jekyll.

"So he is, damn him.  You may rely upon him doing for one of us yet,"
answered Tarrant.  "He can shoot, can Mafuta.  And the infernal young
scoundrel's practising at me with my own gun and cartridges."  And they
all roared louder than ever, the besieging Matabele the while deciding
that Makiwa was a madder beast than even they had reckoned him.

"Now's your chance, Dibs!" cried Moseley.

For Mafuta it was, sure enough; and now he had sprung up, and whirling
and zigzagging to dodge his former master's aim, the young rascal,
brandishing the stolen rifle over his head in derision, bounded away to
better cover, and gained it too.

"Drinks all round to `the reliable boy's' health!" shouted some one.

"Right.  Help yourselves," answered Jekyll.  "Free drinks now, and
everything else any one wants.  This garrison's in a state of siege.
Only, don't overdo it, for we'll need plenty of straight shooting before
we get out of this."

"Good owld Jekyll!" sung out the Cockney prospector, who, to do him
justice, was not deficient in pluck.  "I always said 'e was one of the
raht sort.  'E's a reel owld corf-drop, 'e is--now mistike abart it."

There had been a lull in the firing so far, but now the Matabele on the
rock ridge began to open on the house from that side.  The besieged were
between two fires.  Chary of throwing away even one shot, they forbore
to reply, carefully watching their chance, however.  Then it was amusing
to see them stealing by twos and threes to the bar, avoiding the line of
fire--laughing, as one would dodge to avoid an imaginary bullet.  But as
the sublime and the ridiculous invariably go hand in hand, so it was in
this case.  One man, incautiously exposing himself, fell.  The heavy,
log-like fall told its own tale even before they could spring to his
aid.  He was stone dead.

An awed silence fell upon the witnesses, broken at length by fierce
aspirations for vengeance upon the barbarous foe; not so easy of
fulfilment, though, for the latter was not in the least eager to take
any of the open chances of war.  His game was a waiting one, and he knew
it.  By keeping up a continuous fire upon the exposed points of the
defence, he forced the besieged to remain ever on the alert.

The sun went down, and now the savages began to shout tauntingly.

"Look at it, Amakiwa!  You will never see another.  Look at it well.
Look your last on it.  You will not see it rise.  There are no whites
left in the land."

"There are enough left to make jackal meat of you all," shouted back
Jekyll in Sindabele.  "_Au_!  We shall see many more suns rise, and many
shadows against them--the shadows of hung Amandabele."  But a great
jeering laugh was all the answer vouchsafed.

With the darkness the firing ceased, but those watching at the windows
redoubled their vigilance, every sense on the alert lest the enemy
should steal up under its cover and rush the position.  Enraged and
gloomy at so little opportunity being given them of avenging their
comrade's death, those within almost wished they would.  One of the
wounded men--the police trooper, to wit--was groaning piteously.  Both
had been made as comfortable as was practicable, but it was painful to
listen to the poor fellow's pleadings in the darkness, for, of course,
they dared not strike a light.  Would they not shoot him at once and put
him out of his agony, he begged.

"Poor old chap!  We'll see you through all right.  You'll live to talk
over all this again and again," was the pitying reply of a comrade.

"I don't want to; I want to be dead.  Oh, it's awful--awful!"

His kneebone had been shattered by a bullet, and he was enduring
terrible agony.  To listen to his pitiful writhings and groans was
enough to take the heart out of the most daredevil glutton for fighting.

"Here, have a drink, old man.  It'll buck you up a bit," said another,
groping towards him with a whisky bottle.

"Yes.  Give it here.  Where is it?"  And the sufferer's groans were
silenced in a gasping gurgle.

"Worst thing possible for him, I believe," whispered Moseley.

"Shouldn't wonder," replied Tarrant also in a whisper.  "Doesn't much
matter, though, the poor devil!  He's a `goner' anyhow.  A knock like
that means mortification, and there's no doctor here to take his leg
off, nor could it be done under the circumstances if there was."

"By the Lord, Moseley," he resumed, a moment later, "I wonder if there's
anything in what Jekyll said the niggers were saying just now--that
there are no whites left in the land.  If this is a general outbreak,
what of Hollingworth and his crowd?"

An exclamation of dismay escaped the other.  Their own position was so
essentially one of action that they had had little or no time to take
thought for any but themselves.  Now it came home to them.  But for the
timely warning brought by the police trooper, they themselves would have
been treacherously set upon and massacred; how, then, should those who
had not been so warned escape?

"Heavens! it won't bear thinking about," he replied.  "Formerly, in the
Cape wars; the Kafirs didn't kill women; at least, so I've often heard.
Perhaps these don't either.  Dibs, it's too awful.  Let's put it to

But the opinion of that worthy, and of two others with experience, was
not cheering either.  It was impossible to say what these might do.
Most of the younger men of the Matabele nation were a mongrel lot, and a
ruffianly withal One resolve, however, was arrived at--that if they
succeeded in beating off their present assailants, they would hurry over
to the aid of the Hollingworths.

The night wore on, and still the enemy gave no sign of his presence.
Had he cleared out, they speculated?  No, that was not likely, either.
The odds were too great in his favour.  It was far more likely that he
was waiting his chance, either that they might strive to break through
his cordon and get away in the darkness--and there were some who but for
the fact of having wounded men to look after would have favoured this
course--or that he would make a determined rush on the position with the
first glimmer of dawn.

In the small hours of the morning the man with the shattered kneebone
sank and died.  He knew he was doomed, and declared that he welcomed a
speedy release.  Had he any message? asked the others, awed, now the
time for action was in abeyance, at this pitiful passing away in their
midst.  If so, they pledged themselves solemnly to attend to his wishes.
No, not he, was the answer.  Anybody belonging to him would be only too
glad to be rid of him, and to such the news of his death would be
nothing but good news.  He had never done any good for himself or
anybody else, or he supposed he wouldn't be where he was.

"Don't say that, old chap," said Jekyll.  "Every man Jack of us who gets
away from here without having his throat cut owes it to you.  If that
isn't doing any good for anybody else I'd like to know what is."

"Hear, hear!" came in emphatic chorus.

"Oh well, then perhaps a fellow has done something," was the feeble
rejoinder.  And so the poor fellow passed away.

But they were not to be suffered to give way to the sad impressiveness
of the moment, for a quick whisper from those at the back window warned
that something was taking place.  At the same time those watching the
front of the house gave the alarm.  Straining their sight in the dimness
of the approaching dawn, the besiegers made out a number of dark forms
crawling up from all sides.  The Matabele were renewing the attack.

Those within had already laid their plans.  There were two windows in
front and one behindhand at each of these two men were on guard.
Carefully aiming so as to rake the dark mass, they let go
simultaneously, then dived below the level of the sill, and not a
fraction of a moment too soon.  A roar of red flame poured from the
darkness, both front and rear, and several bullets came humming in,
burying themselves in the opposite plaster, and filling the interior
with dust.  The former tactics had been repeated--the storming party
advancing under cover of the fire of their supports.  And immediately
upon the cessation of that fire, a mass of savages rose from the earth,
and, quick as lightning, hurled themselves upon the store.

Then those within had their hands full.  The magazine rifles, playing
upon the advancing crowd, wrought fearful havoc at point-blank quarters,
and bodies, in the struggles of death or wounds, lay heaped up under the
windows.  But the assailants paused not, pressing on with greater
intrepidity than ever, seeming to laugh at death.  Now their hands were
on the window-sills, but before they could effect an entrance there was
the same crash, the same wild spring, the same fall backward without,
and mingling with the din of firearms, the unearthly vibration of the
Matabele battle-hum, uttered from the chest through the closed teeth
outward, "Jji-jji!" rendered the scene as one of the strivings of
fiends.  Then the set, awful faces of those within--visible in the glare
and smoke of the rifles--battling for their lives against tremendous

It could not last.  Very few minutes would decide one way or the other.
Carbutt, helping defend one of the front windows, found the magazine of
his rifle exhausted.  Dropping back to fill it, he found his ammunition
in like state--exhausted too; and at the same time the man who stepped
forward to take his place received a blow with a heavy knobkerrie that
sent him down like a bullock.  A big Matabele warrior was half in the
room; another, quick as thought, drove his assegai clean through the
Cockney prospector.  The entrance was forced.  The besiegers held
possession of the interior.

Not quite, though.  The last man left alive, viz.  Carbutt himself,
stepped back through the compartment door and slammed it in their faces.
But what avail?  They would soon batter it in.  It was only staving off
the evil day.

The firing without was now renewed--renewed with a fury not hitherto
manifested.  Yet none of the missiles seemed to take effect.  But a
perfect uproar was taking place, wild cries, and rushings to and fro.
Then the warriors who had entered the further compartment seemed to be
crowding out as fast as ever they could.  The dawn now was fairly
broken.  The space around the house had cleared as if by magic, save for
the dead and disabled.  Those within the bush were retreating, turning
to fire as they did so.  But--_not at the store_.

Then came a low rumbling sound, which the besieged ones, hearing, looked
at each other for a moment, and then broke into a mighty hurrah, for in
it they recognised the sound of hoofs, and of many hoofs.

Some two score horsemen rode up to the door, their uniforms and
trappings those of the Matabeleland Mounted Police.  That this did not
constitute the whole of the force which had so effectually and in the
nick of time come to their relief, a sound of brisk firing from the rock
ridge at the back of the store served to show.  A squad, having taken
possession of the said ridge, was hastening the departure of the
retreating Matabele.

As the besieged stepped forth they presented a not unimpressive
spectacle.  Haggard, unshorn; hands blackened and burnt from contact
with the quick-firing magazine rifles; the anxious look telling of many
hours of strained vigilance; the hard set of determined faces; and the
light of battle not yet gone out of their eyes--they were in keeping
with the background of bullet-battered wall and the foreground of dark
corpses, grim and gory, lying stark and in every variety of contorted
shape, at which the Police horses were snorting and shying.

"Just in time, Overton!" said Jekyll, hailing the officer in command,
who was a friend of his.  "Only just in the nick of time.  They had
already got inside the further room.  Five minutes more would have done
for us."

"You stood them off well," returned the other, dismounting.  "I never
thought we'd have been any good at all; thought you'd have been knocked
on the head long ago."  Then gravely, "Any--er--losses?"

"Four.  One of your men.  The one who warned us."

"Robinson, wasn't it?"--turning to a trooper, who answered in the

"Poor chap!  Hallo, Carbutt.  _You_ in it, eh?"

"Glad to be out of it, too.  Have a drink, Overton.  I think we all
deserve one."

Now the residue of the relieving force arrived.  These were all
dismounted men, prospectors mostly, who had either been warned in time
or had fallen in with the Police during their flight.  Nearly all were
known to some one or other of the defenders of the store, and there was
a great interchange of greeting, and more than one story of hairbreadth
escapes, told by some, who, like these, had been succoured only in the
nick of time.

"There's going to be the devil to pay," the police captain was saying.
"The rebellion's a general one, or precious nearly so; at any rate, in
this part of the country.  Zazwe's people and Umlugula's have risen, and
Bulawayo was being laagered up for all it was worth when we left.  We
can't get any news from Sikumbutana, but Madula's a very shaky customer,
and if he joins in, then I'm afraid Inglefield and Ames will be in a bad

"Roll up, boys!  Roll up!" sang out Jekyll, who had gone outside.
"There's free drinks all round this morning.  `Skoff,' too.  Help get
down some of these tins."

There was no lack of response to this appeal, and the sun rose upon a
busy scene.  Glasses and beakers clinked, and men sat or stood around,
devouring "bully" beef or canned tongues and other provisions, some of
the rougher sort now and then shying the empty tins in scornful hate at
the dead bodies of the fallen savages--for, after all, the corpses of
four of their countrymen still lay unburied within.

"You've done for thirty-one all told, Jekyll," presently remarked
Overton, who had set some of his men to count the dead immediately
around the place.  "Not a bad bag for seven guns.  What?"

"No; but we've lost four," was the grave reply.

Then, having taken in a great deal of much needed refreshment, and
effected the burial of their slain comrades--the latter, by the
exigencies of the circumstances, somewhat hurriedly performed--the force
divided, the Police moving on to warn Hollingworth.  With them went
Moseley and Tarrant, while the remainder elected to stay at Jekyll's
until they saw how things were likely to turn.

"I don't know that you're altogether wise, all of you," were the Police
captain's parting words.  "You've held your own against tremendous odds
so far; but when it's a case of the whole country being up against you,
I'm afraid you'll have no show."

But to this the reply was there were plenty of them now, and they could
hold their own against every carmine-tinted nigger in Matabeleland.

It was late in the afternoon when the mounted force arrived at
Hollingworth's farm.  There was a silence about the place, an absence of
life that struck upon them at once.

"I expect they've cleared," said Moseley.  "In fact, they must have, or
we'd have heard the kids' voices in some shape or form."

"Let's hope so," replied the Police captain.  Then a startled gasp
escaped him.  For exactly what had attracted Nidia's glance on her
return attracted his--the broad trail in the dust and the blood-patches,
now dry and black.

With sinking hearts they dismounted at the door, and Overton knocked.
No answer.

Somehow several of the faces of those who stood looking at each other
had gone white.  A moment of silence, then, turning the handle, the
Police captain entered.  He was followed by Moseley and Tarrant.

Almost instinctively they made a movement as though to back out again,
then with set faces advanced into the room.  Those horrible remains--
battered, mutilated--told their own tale.  They were too late--too late
by twenty-four hours.

Then Tarrant's behaviour astonished the other two.  Pushing past them he
entered the other rooms, casting quick searching glances into every
corner or recess.  When he returned there was a look almost of relief
upon his face.

"Miss Commerell is not here," he said.

"Miss who?" asked Overton, quickly.

"Miss Commerell.  A visitor.  Moseley, can she have escaped?"

"I hope to Heaven she has," was the reply.  "Wait.  We haven't examined
the huts or the stable."

Quickly they went round to the back, and with sinking hearts began their
search.  In one of the huts the body of poor little Jimmie came to
light; then the lock of the store-hut was battered off--the stable--
everywhere.  Still, no trace of the missing girl.

"She may have escaped into the bush," suggested Tarrant, whose
suppressed excitement, even at that moment, did not escape the others.
"Quick, Overton!  Send some of your men to scour it in every direction."

"Not so fast," said the Police captain.  "Things can't be done that way.
We must go to work systematically."

He called up two of his men who were born colonists and versed in the
mysteries of spoor.  They, however, did not look hopeful.  The ground
around the homestead was so tramped and withal so dry, it would be
difficult to do anything in that line.  But they immediately set to

Meanwhile Overton, with the aid of his sergeant, was drawing up an
official report, and making general examination.  It was clear that the
whole family had been set upon and treacherously massacred.

And those who looked upon these pitiful remains--a black lust of
vengeance was set up in their hearts which was destined to burn there
for many a long day.  Woe to the savage who should meet these men in
battle, or who, vanquished, should expect mercy.  Such mercy they might
expect as they had shown; and what that mercy was let the mutilated
remains of father, mother, and little children treacherously slaughtered
beneath their own roof-tree speak for themselves.  "Remember the
Hollingworths," would henceforth be a sufficient rallying cry to those
who had stood here, when the savage foe should stand before them.



In the morning, peace, tranquillity, security; in the evening, violence,
bloodshed, death--such is the sort of contrast that life seems to enjoy
affording, especially life in a barbarous land--and however it may
appeal to those at a distance from its tragedy, to a refined English
girl, brought up amid the comforts of an advanced civilisation, unused,
alike, to scenes of violence or to the endurance of hardships, the
matter is different.  Which may be taken to mean that the position in
which Nidia Commerell now found herself was simply appalling.

She was alone--alone in a strange wild land--surrounded by beings who
were devils in human shape; at their mercy, in fact; and, we repeat,
what that "mercy" would be likely to mean, let those fearful remains
within the ill-fated dwelling testify.  Whither could she turn--whither

Night was falling fast.  Where would she find shelter, let alone food?
Not at the price of her life would she enter that awful room again.  She
dared not.  She felt that her reason would go.  That sight repeated
would turn her into a maniac, and indeed that this had not already
happened was due to the saving diversion effected by the finding of poor
little Jimmie, and his partial revival.  Action.  This alone had saved

She could not remain where she was.  The murderers might return.  Little
Jimmie's last words came back to her--"Down below the river-bank.  They
won't look for you there."  Yes; she would go.

But the dead boy?  She could not leave him thus, in the open.  Two huts
which did duty for outhouses stood at the back of the house.  One of
these was locked.  It was the store-room.  The other was open.  The poor
little fellow was not heavy for his age, and Nidia was endowed with an
average share of strength.  She managed to get the body inside; then,
shutting the door upon it, stood pondering as to what she should do

It was now quite dark, yet thanks to the myriad stars which had rushed
forth in the heavens, not so blackly so but that outlines were
discernible.  Standing thus she thought she heard a sound--the sound of
voices.  Hope--relief--gave way to terror, as she recognised the clear,
yet deep-toned, drawl of native voices.  It is probable they were a
great way off, for the sound of the human voice, especially the native
voice, carries far in the stillness of night; but of this, wholly
unnerved by the ghastly discoveries of the last hour, she did not pause
to think.  In wild panic she fled.

By the light of the stars she could see her way dimly.  She knew the
path leading to the river-bed, and down it she dashed.  Something
rustled in the bushes at her right.  Her brain throbbed like a
steam-hammer, and she pressed her hands to her breast to keep down the
piercing, panic-stricken scream which rose to her lips.  The grasp of
murderous hands put forth to seize her, the crash or stab of savage
weapon, were what she expected.  Her limbs gave way beneath her, and she
sank to the earth.

Only for a moment, though.  The instinct of self-preservation rose
strong within her.  She must conquer her fears.  The effort must be
made.  Rising, she continued her flight, and soon had gained the bed of
the river, and the hiding-place for which she was making.  There, like a
hunted hare, she crouched, striving to still the beatings of her heart,
which to her terrified imagination seemed audible enough to reach any
ears within hearing of anything.

The place she was in she knew well.  It had been a favourite spot for
the Hollingworth children to use for their impromptu pic-nics, and more
than once she had helped them light their fire and grill the birds they
had shot with their catapults--playing at camping out having been one of
their favourite amusements.  It was a hollow in the river-bank--which
here was of stiff clay and perpendicular--and the front being entirely
hidden by brushwood, it formed a sort of cave.  Here, if anywhere, she
would be safe from discovery.

That a great and imminent peril has the effect of nullifying lesser or
imaginary ones is a wise provision of Nature.  Had it been suggested to
Nidia Commerell, say that time the evening before, that she should pass
the night all alone in a hole on the banks of the Umgwane River, her
reply would have been as unhesitating as it was uncompromising.  Not for
a fortune--not for ten fortunes--would she have embarked on such an
experience, and that with the house and its inhabitants within half a
mile.  Any one of the half-hundred ordinary terrors of the night, actual
or shadowy, potential lions, snakes, leopards--even down to ghosts--
would simply turn her into a lunatic before the hours of darkness were
half through, she would have declared.  Now, the house was there just
the same, but turned into a tomb for the awful remains of those with
whom last evening at that time she was in happy and social converse, yet
she welcomed the darkness of this hole as a very haven of refuge.

But as the night wore on the terrors which came upon the unhappy girl
grew more and more acute.  Visions of the Hollingworth family, not as
she remembered it in life, but as she had seen it in the mutilation and
agony of savage butchery, rose before her in the darkness, seeming to
point to and suggest her own fate, ghastly and revolting as that which
had overtaken them.  Each stealthy rustle in the brake--every weird cry
of night bird or beast, near or for--carried with it a new terror.  A
tiger-wolf howled along the river-bank, and although she knew that this
brute is the most skulking and cowardly of carnivora, yet it might be
different where there was only a frightened and defenceless woman to
deal with.  Lions, too, were not unknown in that part of the country;
but their movements were sporadic, and there had been no sign of them
anywhere in the neighbourhood for some time.  Still, the horrible
bloodshed which had taken place might attract all manner of wild
animals; and she shivered with renewed terror at every sound.  Soft
footfalls seemed to be stealing towards her under cover of the foliage,
breathings as of some fierce carnivorum stalking its prey; and there she
lay utterly helpless.  And then, the appalling loneliness of those dark

But she was destined to meet with a very real fright before they were
over.  A clinking of stones struck upon her ear, as though something
were coming along the dry river-bed.  With despair in her heart she
peered forth.  Dawn was at hand, and in its gathering light she made out
a shape--long, stealthy, sinuous--that of a beast.  A leopard was
crossing obliquely to the side opposite her hiding-place, where under
the further bank lay a small water-hole.  Not fifty yards distant, she
could make out the markings of its beautiful skin as the great cat
crouched there, lapping.  At length it rose, and, facing round upon her
hiding-place, stood for a moment, the water dripping from its jaws, its
yellow eyes blinking.  Then it walked back to the other side, uttering a
throaty see-saw noise, taking a line which would bring it within twenty
yards of where the terrified girl lay.  Would it discover her presence?
Surely.  With fascinated gaze she stared at the beast.  She could mark
its great fangs as it bared them, emitting its horrid plank-sawing
growl, even each smooth and velvety footfall hardly rattling the loose
stones as it passed--but--wholly unsuspicious of her proximity.

Then as the sun arose, and all the glad bird and insect life of the
wilderness broke into voice, Nidia felt for the moment a gleam of hope.
Whether it was that the strain of the last twelve hours had hardened her
to peril, or that the shock had changed her, she seemed to herself
hardly the same personality, and was surprised at the calmness with
which she could now map out the situation.  For the first time it began
to strike her that the murder of the Hollingworths was part of a
preconcerted rising.  The latter eventuality she had heard now and again
discussed during her brief stay in the country, but only to be dismissed
with contempt, as something outside the bounds of possibility.  The only
one who had not so treated it was John Ames; but even he had not
reckoned it as an imminent or even probable danger.

And with the thought of John Ames came an inspiration.  If she could
strike across-country, surely at his place, if anywhere, she would find
refuge.  As a Government official he would be provided with police; in
fact, she remembered hearing him say there was a strong police force
stationed at his headquarters.  She had an idea of the direction in
which lay Sikumbutana, and she was a good walker.  Yet--twenty miles,
Moseley had said it was.  This was a long distance.  If she had only her
bicycle to help her over the half of it!

Their nearest neighbour on the other side, she remembered, was Jekyll,
who kept a store, for the supplying of prospectors and others with
necessaries and general "notions."  She had passed it on her way out to
the Hollingworths.  This was quite eighteen miles off, practically as
far as the Sikumbutana.  Besides, a store was the first thing to be
attacked and looted were the rising a general one.  No; the first was
the best plan.

But, as she began to contemplate its immediate carrying out, her heart
sank.  The wild vastness of the country filled her with dread.  She
remembered how impressed she had been with it during their journey out
from Bulawayo, how every mile covered, as they drove through the hot
steamy atmosphere, seemed to be taking them further and further into
remote and mysterious regions; and now here she found herself, alone and
thrown upon her own resources to accomplish what a man under like
circumstances might well recoil from.

Then she called to mind all the stories she had heard or read of what
had been done by persons--women especially--situated as she was, more
particularly during the Indian Mutiny.  They had escaped, and so far so
had she.  And, she was determined, so _would she_.

But to travel a distance of twenty miles necessitates a food supply.
The bare idea of returning to the homestead filled Nidia with a
shuddering dread, and that quite apart from the possible peril of such a
course.  It seemed to bring back all the terrors of the previous night.
Yet it must be done.  The store-hut was outside; she need not enter the
house at all.  Yet--the knowledge of what lay within!

It must be done, however.  Already the pangs of hunger were taking hold
of her, for she had eaten nothing since the middle of the previous day.
Cautiously she stepped forth from her hiding-place, and climbing the
steep path down which she had dashed so panic-stricken in the darkness,
was soon at the homestead.

How peaceful it looked in the morning sunlight--as though the whole
pitiful tragedy had been but a dream--a nightmare.  Her eyes filled as
she thought of it all; but no, she would not think, except as to the
methods of accomplishing her own escape.  And the first of these was to
obtain the food she had come to seek.

Check Number 1.--The door of the store-hut was padlocked.

She looked round for a stone of convenient shape and size for smashing
out the staples that held the lock, and soon found one.  Then an idea
occurred to her.  What if the sound of hammering should reach hostile
ears?  There was no help for it, however; and soon the pretty, tapering
fingers were all sore and rubbed; but the abominable iron remained
obdurate.  In despair she desisted, and stood panting with the exertion.

The key?  To obtain it she would have to enter the house: No, that was
not to be thought of--not for a moment.  Then another idea struck her.
The kitchen door was at the back of the house.  No gruesome spectacle of
slaughter would meet her eyes if she entered that department, and it was
just possible she might find something there, enough, at any rate, to
sustain life for a day or two.

No sooner thought out than acted upon.  With beating heart she stood
within the room.  It was as it had been left--crockery in a semi-washed
state; utensils lying about; and--her pulses gave a throb of joy--there
on a table stood a pie-dish, containing about half of a cold pie.
Beside it, too, were three boiled mealie-cobs.  The latter she placed in
the empty half of the dish, and, laden with this most opportune spoil,
she went outside, and having gently closed the door, took her way down
the river-path again.

But ere she was half way again the sound of voices was borne to her
ears.  Standing still for a moment she listened intently.  They were
native voices, and--they were drawing nearer.  Swiftly she fled down the
river-path, and having regained her place of refuge, lay within it like
a hunted animal, all inclination for food now gone.

No further sound arose to disturb her, and presently a drowsiness came
upon her, and she fell fast asleep, slumbering peacefully and
dreamlessly.  Hour after hour went by, and the sun mounted high in the
heavens.  When at length she did awaken, lo! the day was half gone.  But
she felt greatly refreshed, and attacked the viands she had so
opportunely discovered with good appetite.

And now Nidia made her first and great mistake.  She should have
remained where she was until the following day, starting with the very
first glimmer of dawn upon her long and weary pilgrimage.  This would
have given her the advantage of several cool hours in which to travel.
Instead, she decided to start at once.

She went over to one of the water-holes, of which there were several,
and took a long deep drink.  Then she made her way down the dry bed of
the river.  It was easier walking, for there was no bush or long grass
to impede her way, and had the further advantage of screening her from
observation.  Two or three times, after peeping cautiously forth, she
had stolen across a neck of ground so as to shorten the way where the
river-bed made a long bend; but the coarse sawlike grass had cut her
scantily protected ankles, and her skirt was ripped in several places by
numerous thorns, and by the time she had travelled for three hours, she
became sadly alive to the certainty that she had effected very little
progress indeed.

Worse still.  She was beginning to feel utterly exhausted.  Even a fair
amount of bicycle training, and that in an equable climate, was
inadequate training for a twenty mile across-country walk through the
burning enervating heat of sub-tropical Matabeleland, and, moreover, she
was tormented by a raging thirst; for no water had she found since first
starting, and now she had walked for three hours.

The river-bed here made a bend.  Despairingly poor Nidia sent a glance
at the sun, to discover that the amount of daylight left to her was
diminishing to an alarming degree.  Then she climbed up the bank to
ascertain whether a short cut might not effect a considerable saving of

She discovered it would.  The country was dangerously open, though, and
there were cultivated lands she would have to pass.  Summoning up all
her strength and courage, she stole rapidly along, keeping within the
shelter of a line of thorn-bushes.  These came abruptly to an end, and
away, about a quarter of a mile off, stood three or four huts.

Quickly she drew back.  Too late.  She had been seen.  Two natives were
crossing the patch of cultivated land--a big man and a small one--and
both were armed with guns.  She turned instinctively to flee, but in
loud and threatening tones they called on her to stop.  At the same time
a rush of gaunt curs, from the neighbourhood of the huts, howling and
yelping, decided the situation.  Poor Nidia, panting with exhaustion and
fear, turned again, and, trying to summon all her courage, stood
awaiting the approach of the two barbarians, who were advancing towards
her with rapid strides.



The aspect of the two natives into whose power she had fallen was not
such as to inspire Nidia with any great degree of reassurance.  They
formed an evil-looking pair; the tall one, heavy, sullen, scowling; the
short one, lithe, lean, very black, with hawk-like features and sunken
cruel eyes.  One circumstance, however, she did not fail to note, and it
inspired her with a momentary gleam of hope.  The big man was clad in
the uniform of the Native Police, very much soiled and worn, and hardly
looking identical with the smart get-up she had noticed in members of
the same corps at Bulawayo, yet the uniform for all that.  If he was a
policeman she was safe.  He would be bound to protect her, and guide her
to some place of safety.  To this end she addressed him.

"You are a policeman, are you not?"

"Where you go?" was the gruff reply.

"To Sikumbutana.  You must show me the way, and I will give you
something you will like--money."

"Sikumbutana?  Kwa Jonemi?" repeated the man.

"Jonemi?"--wonderingly.  "John Ames!  Yes; that is the name," she
exclaimed, eagerly recognising it.  "How much you give me?"

"A pound.  Twenty shillings."

"Give me now"--stretching out his hand.

Could she trust him?  She would willingly have given twenty--fifty--
pounds to find herself in a place of safety, but the gruff offhand
manner, so different to the smooth deferential way in which natives were
wont to treat their white conquerors, inspired her with distrust and
alarm.  But she was in their power absolutely.

She took out her purse--a dainty, silver-rimmed, snake-skin affair--
which contained some loose silver and a couple of sovereigns, and opened
it.  The big native snatched it roughly from her hand.

She started back, flushing with anger, less at the robbery than at the
ruffianly manner of its perpetration, but her anger was dashed with a
chill, sinking feeling of terror.  She was so entirely within the power
of these two savages.  Then she remembered how John Ames had laid down,
in the course of one of their numerous conversations, that in dealing
with natives it never did to let them think you were afraid of them.

"Why did you do that?" she said, looking him straight in the face, her
eyes showing more contempt than anger.  "You--a policeman?  I would have
given you all that money if you had asked me, and more, too, when you
had taken me where I wanted to go."

Her utterance was purposely slow, clear and deliberate.  The big native
had sufficient knowledge of English to enable him to understand at any
rate the gist of her rebuke.  But he only scowled, and made no reply.
Then the small man began to address her volubly in Sindabele, but to
each of his remarks or questions Nidia could only shake her head.  She
understood not one word of them.  Having satisfied himself to that
extent, he left off talking to her, and, turning to the other, began a
long and earnest discussion, of which it was just as well that Nidia
could not understand a word.

"See, Nanzicele," the short man was saying.  "This woman has walked
right into our hands.  The whites are all killed.  Now, kill her."

But the other shook his head with a dissentient grunt.

"One blow of that heavy stick in thy belt, and that head will fly to
pieces like a pumpkin rolling down a hill.  Or why not cut that white
throat and see the red blood flow?  _Au_!  The red blood, flowing over a
white skin--a skin as white as milk--and the red of the blood--ah--ah!
It will be acceptable to Umlimo, that blood.  See, Nanzicele, thou hast
a knife that is sharp.  The red blood will flow as it did from the
throat of the wife of thy captain in the hut but two nights ago."

Again the tall barbarian grunted dissent.

"I like not this killing of women, Umtwana 'Mlimo," he answered.  "This
woman has never harmed me.  I will not kill her."

"What about Nompiza?" said the small demon, with his head on one side.
"_Au_! thou didst laugh when she splashed into the water-hole in the

"She did harm me, in that she scorned and mocked me.  Yet, I liked not
that deed either, Shiminya."

"Yonder dogs, shall we call them and set them on to devour this white
witch?" went on the sorcerer.  "They are hungry, and she is defenceless.
We shall laugh at her face of terror when they attack her on all sides,
and then, when they rend her limb from limb--they shall eat white meat
for once.  _Au_!  It will be a sacrifice pleasing to Umlimo."

"I never heard of a sacrifice pleasing to Umlimo, or any other Great
Great One, that was offered through a dog's maw, Shiminya," cried the
other, with a great jeer; for too much association had somewhat sapped
Nanzicele's respect for the redoubted magician.  The latter, conscious
of having made a slip, went on.

"Nompiza scorned thee when thou wouldst take her to wife, Nanzicele.
Thou art large and strong, but thou hast no cattle, son of Fondosi,
therefore thou hast no wives.  Here is one who comes straight to thee.
She is white, it is true, yet take her."

Of all these atrocious suggestions Nidia, standing there, was of course
blissfully ignorant.  The sun was declining, and she was inwardly
growing somewhat impatient.  Would they never have finished their
_indaba_?  Was it, perhaps, her look of absolute unconsciousness, her
very helplessness, that appealed to some spark of manliness within the
heart of that rough savage, as he replied?

"No, no.  I want not such.  They are _tagati_, these white women.  The
Amakiwa are the wisest people in the world, yet they treat such women as
these as though they were gods.  I have seen it--yes, I, myself.  Look,
too, at this woman.  She is not afraid.  There is a power behind her,
and I will not offer her violence."

Then the abominable wizard deemed it time to throw his trump card.

"Where is she going?  To Sikumbutana," he said, lapsing into a
professional oracularism.  "To whom is she going?  To Jonemi.  Nanzicele
was a chief in the _Amapolise_, but he is not now.  Why not?  Ask
Jonemi.  This woman knows Jonemi--belongs to him, it may be; perhaps his
sister--perhaps his wife.  Jonemi was in our power, but he escaped from
us.  This woman is in our power; shall we let her go?"

This recapitulation of his wrongs and appeal to his vengeful feelings
was not entirely without effect upon Nanzicele.  He hated John Ames,
whom he regarded, and rightly, as the main instrument of his own
degradation.  He had only spared him, in the massacre of Inglefield's
hut, for a worse fate, intending to convey him to Shiminya's _muti_
kraal, and put him to death in the most atrocious form that the fiendish
brain of the wizard could devise.  Then they had all become drunk, and
John Ames had escaped, and for all the trace he had left behind him
might just as well have disappeared into empty air.  And now, here,
ready to his hand, was a scheme of vengeance upon the man he hated.
Turning his head, he looked intently at Nidia.  But the aspect of her,
standing there calm and fearless--fearless because entirely ignorant of
what had happened at Sikumbutana, and still regarding this man, rough as
he had shown himself, as her protector by reason of his Police uniform--
appealed to the superstitious nature of the savage.  He felt that it was
even as he had said.  There was a power behind her.

"I will not harm her, Shiminya," he growled.  "_Au_!  I am sick of all
this killing of women.  It will bring ill chance upon us.  They ought to
have been shown a broad road out of the country."

"To show a broader road to more whites to come into it by?  Thy words
are not words of sense, Nanzicele.  Have it as thou wilt, however," said
the crafty wizard, who knew when to humour the savage and stubborn
temperament of his confederate.  "We will take care of her this night--
ah--ah! in the only safe and secure place"--with a sinister chuckle.

"Be it so.  I will not have her harmed, Shiminya," declared the other.
"It may be we shall yet obtain large reward for delivering her back to
her own people in safety."

"Will the reward be of lead or of raw-hide?" said the sorcerer,
pleasantly.  "And who will give it when there are no more whites in the

"No more whites in the land?  That will be never," returned Nanzicele,
with a great laugh.  "That is a good tale for the people, Umtwana
'Mlimo.  But for thee and for me--_au_! we know.  When Makiwa sets his
foot in any land, that foot is never taken up.  It never has been, and
never will be."

Yes, decidedly in this case familiarity had bred contempt.  The
ex-police sergeant had "got behind" the mysterious cult, through his
close association with one of its most influential exponents.  Shiminya,
for his part, was aware of this, and viewed the situation with some
concern.  Now he only said--

"Talk not so loudly, my son, lest ears grow on yonder bushes as well as
thorns.  Now we will go home."

A look of relief came into Nidia's face as she knew, by the rising of
the two, that their conference was at an end.  Then Nanzicele said--

"You go with we."

"Can we get there to-night?" she asked eagerly.

"We try.  Where you from?"

Then she told him, and about the murder of the Hollingworths; and her
voice shook and her eyes filled.  To her listener it was all a huge
joke.  He knew she was tinder the impression that she was talking to a
loyal policeman.  Then she began asking questions about John Ames.  Was
he at home? and so forth.  But Nanzicele suddenly became afflicted by a
strange density, an almost total ignorance of English.

For upwards of an hour they journeyed on, leaving the cultivated lands,
and striking into wilder country.  Once a great snake rose in their
path, and went gliding away, hissing in wrath, and bright-plumaged birds
darted overhead.  Vast thickets of "wacht-een-bietje" thorns lined the
river-bank, and these they skirted.

Nidia was becoming exhausted.  So far excitement and nervous tension had
kept her up.  Now she felt she could hold out no longer.  Just then they

In front was the vast thicket.  Shiminya, bending down, crawled into
what was nothing more nor less than a tunnel piercing the dense thorns
and just wide enough to admit the body of a man.  There was something
sinister in its very aspect.  Nidia drew back.

"Go after him.  Go after that man," ordered Nanzicele, roughly.

"No.  I don't like it.  I can't get through there," she answered.  "This
can't be the way to Sikumbutana."

Nanzicele snatched out the short-handled heavy knob kerrie stuck through
his belt.

"Go after that man," he roared, flourishing it over her head.

The aspect of the great savage was so terrific, the sudden change so
startling, that Nidia put her hands over her eyes and shrank back with a
faint cry, expecting every moment to feel the hard wood crash down upon
her head.  Trembling now in every limb, she obeyed without hesitation
the command so startlingly emphasised, and crawled as best she could in
the wake of Shiminya, Nanzicele bringing up the rear.

The tunnel did not last long, and soon they were able to proceed
upright, but still between high walls of the same impenetrable thorn.
Lateral passages branched out on either side in such labyrinthine
tortuosity of confusion that Nidia's first thought was how it would be
possible for any one to find his way through here a second time.

Soon a low whining sound was heard in front; then the thorns seemed to
meet in an arch overhead.  Passing beneath this, the trio stood in a
circular open space, at the upper end of which were three huts, "What
place is this?" exclaimed Nidia, striving not to allow her alarm to show
in her voice, for in her heart was a terrible sinking.  There was that
about this retreat which suggested the den of a wild beast rather than
an abode of human beings, even though barbarians.  How helpless, how
completely at the mercy of these two she felt.

"You stay here," replied Nanzicele.  "Sikumbutana too far.  Go there
to-morrow.  Plenty Matabele about make trouble.  You stay here."

There was plausibility about the explanation which went far to satisfy
her.  The situation was a nervous one for a solitary unprotected woman;
but she had been through so much within the last twenty-four hours that
her sensibilities were becoming blunted.  They offered her some boiled
corn, but she was too tired to eat.  She asked for water, and they
brought her some, greasy, uninviting, in a clay bowl, but her thirst was

"You go in there--go to sleep," said Nanzicele, opening one of the huts.

"But I would rather sleep outside."

"You go in there," he repeated, more threateningly.  And Nidia,
recollecting the knobstick argument, obeyed.

The hut was stuffy and close; suggestive, too, of creeping things both
small and great; but, fortunately, she was too completely exhausted to
allow room for nervous fears, and sleep overwhelmed her.  Sleep!  The
ghosts of former victims done to death amid every circumstance of horror
within that den arose not to appal her.  She slept on in blissful
ignorance; slept--within the scarce-known retreat of one of the most
atrocious monsters of cruelty that ever flourished amid even a barbarous
race--slept--within the web of the crafty blood-sucking human spider.

Nanzicele departed, and the sorcerer, having secured the entrances to
his den with thick thorn branches, sat crouching over a small red fire,
his plotting brain ever at work.  He was in high good humour, for here
was a new victim for him to practise some of his favourite barbarities
upon.  In this case they must be refined forms of barbarity, such as
would torture the mind rather more acutely than the red-hot iron would
the body, and a better subject for such he thought he had never seen.
So he squatted there, and gleefully chuckled.  Beside him crouched the
wolf.  "Ah, ah, Lupiswana!" he exclaimed, addressing his familiar
spirit.  "It may be that thou shalt sink thy fangs into white flesh--
dainty delicate flesh, Lupiswana.  White blood, too--white red blood--
richer, more rare than that of Nompiza, and such.  It is sleeping now.
Come, Lupiswana; we will go forth and see."

Taking one of the red faggots from the fire, he blew it into flame;
then, rising, he went to the door of the hut wherein Nidia was asleep.
Softly undoing the fastenings, he entered.  The light flickered fitfully
on the horrible trophies disposed around.  The evil beast at his side
was emitting a low, throaty growl; but neither that nor the proximity of
this demon availed to awaken the sleeping girl.  Calm, peaceful, she
slumbered on amid her hideous surroundings.  The wizard went forth
again, "Ah, ah, Lupiswana!  She knows not what is before her.  To-morrow
I think thou must have one taste of this white flesh--perhaps two."

And the four-footed demon growled in response to the biped one.



Nidia's sleep had been dreamless and profound, wherefore when she awoke
the next morning she felt rested and refreshed.  A shudder of repulsion
ran: through her as her gaze made out the hideous adornments of her
grisly sleeping apartment--the skulls and bones and stuffed
snake-skins--but she felt no real fear.  Even the human mask, looking
sufficiently horrible in the semi-darkness of the hut, failed to inspire
her with the wild panic terror which the wizard had confidently reckoned
upon.  Waking up amid such gruesome surroundings would, he calculated,
produce such a shock upon her nerves as to render her frantic with
terror, and this was one of the little refinements of cruelty he had
promised himself.  But she had gone through too much real peril, had
looked on horrors too material to be scared by such mere bogeydom as a
few skulls and bones.

She lay for a little while longer thinking out the position.  Though
naturally not a little anxious and a trifle uneasy, she was far from
realising the desperate nature of her position, and that the very man
she trusted in as protector and guide was an arch-rebel who had
instigated and participated in more than one treacherous and wholesale
murder.  She supposed they had brought her here for the reason this man
had given--for better security--and that to-day he would guide her
safely to Sikumbutana.

To this end she rose.  A snuffling noise outside the door of the hut
attracted her attention, then a low growl.  Some kraal cur, was all the
thought she gave it.  She opened the door and went outside.  The sun was
well up, and the birds were twittering in the thorn thicket, but of
those who had brought her there she saw no sign.  The ashes of the fire
over which Shiminya had squatted lay white and dead, but of himself and
the other there was no sign.  But the animal she had heard was lying
across the entrance of the kraal.  She surveyed it with some curiosity.
If this was a dog she had never seen one like it before.  It was more
like the pictures she had seen of a hyaena.

She went back into the hut to put on her straw hat, for the sun was hot.
The fact of having the hat with her reminded her of the signal escape
she herself had had from the massacre which had overwhelmed the
Hollingworths.  But that she had felt moved to take a stroll that
afternoon she would have shared their fate.  Then she upbraided herself.
Was it not selfish to feel any sort of satisfaction under such
circumstances?  Ah, but--life was life, and death was ghastly and
terrible--and she was alive.

As she came forth again the brute lying across the entrance opened its
yellow eyes and snarled.  She called to it in a soothing tone, which
caused it to snarl louder.  The sun waxed hotter and hotter, yet somehow
she preferred the shadeless glare to the dour interior of the hut.  What
had become of the two natives?  She felt instinctively that they were
not in the other huts, therefore they must be absent.  But on what
errand?  She began to feel more and more uneasy.

The sun mounted higher and higher, and still no sign of their return.
Were they, after all, treacherous?  Yet why had they not murdered her at
first?  They could so easily have done so.  But perhaps they had gone to
fetch some more of their countrymen to enjoy the spectacle of seeing her
put to death.

With such fears did poor Nidia torment herself.  Then suddenly she
became alive to the fact that a little more of this sort of speculation
would utterly unnerve her.  So she resolved by an effort of will to put
such imaginings far from her, and as an initiative in that direction she
would try to find something to eat, for she was growing hungry.

Rising, she went to one of the huts.  The recumbent beast snarled so
threateningly that she half turned.  Would it fly at her?  She looked
around for a stick or a stone.  There was nothing of the sort in sight.
Still looking over her shoulder she undid the fastenings of the door.
The brute lay snarling, but made no move to attack her.

The interior of the hut was close and frowsy, but looked as if it were
used more as a store-room than for purposes of habitation, for it was
piled up with all manner of odds and ends--blankets, rolls of "limbo,"
looking-glasses, boots, hats, shirts, and articles of native clothing
and adornment, all jostled up together--even a camp wash-basin and jug.
The latter looked inviting.  If only she could find some water.  Ah,
here was some!  A large calabash when shaken gave forth a gurgling
sound, and in a moment Nidia was plunging her face into a most
refreshing basinful.

Further investigation revealed some cold boiled mealies.  They were
insipid and uninviting fare, and the bowl containing them was not over
clean; still, they were something to eat, and poor Nidia was becoming
very hungry.  So she devoured them before pursuing her investigations

Ha! what was this?  Meat it seemed like, and it was wrapped in a damp
rag.  Well, a steak done over the coals would not come in badly just
then, she thought, reflecting how fortunate it was she had once taken
lessons in a cookery school.  She even smiled to herself as she pictured
her dusky entertainers returning to find her in the middle of the
breakfast, which certainly _they_ had been at no pains to provide.

She undid the damp cloth.  Yes; it was meat, uncooked meat--and then--
She dashed the whole to the ground, and stood, with distended eyeballs,
gazing at what lay there, the very personification of staring horror.

For there lay upon the ground two human hands--arms, rather--for they
were attached to the forearm, which had been disjointed at the elbow.
They were clearly those of a native, albeit turned almost white, as
though from the action of water.  This was what the damp rag had
contained, these two sodden maimed limbs of a human being.

But with the discovery an idea suddenly struck root in Nidia's mind
which seemed to turn her to stone, so appalling was it in its
likelihood.  Were these people cannibals--secret cannibals, perhaps?
The smaller of the two men had, at any rate, a totally different look to
any other native she had ever seen.  This, then, was why she had been
brought here, was being kept here.  This, too, accounted for the absence
of her custodians.  They had gone to fetch others to share in their
feast--that feast herself.

Utterly beside herself now with the horror of this dreadful thought, she
dashed from the hut--one idea in her mind--to get away from this awful
place at whatever cost.  But there was another who entertained different
ideas concerning the disposal of her movements, and that was the wolf.

For as she approached the gap in the circular fence which constituted
the exit, the brute lay and snarled.  She talked soothingly, then
scoldingly, as to a dog.  All to no purpose.  It lifted its hideous
head, and snarled louder and more threateningly.  But it would not budge
an inch, and she could only pass through that gap over its body.

Perfectly frantic with desperation, Nidia tore a thorn bough from the
fence; and, advanced upon the beast.  It crouched, snarling shrilly;
then, as she thrust the spiky end sharply against its face, it sprang at
her open-mouthed, uttering a fiendish yell.  But for the bough she would
have had her throat torn out; as it was the sharp spines served as a
shield between her and the infuriated brute, which, with ears thrown
back and fangs bared, squirmed hither and thither to get round this
thorny buckler--its eyes flashing flame, its jaws spitting foam.  The
struggle could not last for ever.  Her strength was fast leaving her,
and in her extremity a wild shriek of the most awful terror and despair
pealed forth from the lips of the unhappy girl.  Then another and

What was this?  Unheard by the combatants because drowned by the savage
yells and snarls of the one and the terrified screams of the other,
there was a tearing, crashing sound at the upper end of the enclosure.
A man dashed through the thorny fence--a white man--hatless and with
clothes well-nigh in tatters--pale as death, his right hand grasping a
sword-bayonet.  Without a moment's hesitation he made straight at the
infuriated beast, darting such a stab with his weapon that had it gone
home the wizard's "familiar spirit" would have needed a successor.  The
quick movements of the animal, however, turned the blade aside--result a
deep ugly gash along the ribs.  But seeing it had no longer to deal with
a badly frightened woman, but a strong, determined man, the skulking
nature of the beast came uppermost even in the midst of its fury.  With
a shrill yelp of pain and fear, it fell off, and, turning, fled through
the entrance like a streak of lightning.

The girl dropped the thorny bough and faced her rescuer, with a burst of
half hysterical laughter.  One exclamation escaped her--

"John Ames!"

Wonder, delight, relief--all entered into the tone.  In the extremity of
her fear and exhaustion conventionality was lost sight of--formality
forgotten.  The name by which she had been accustomed to designate him
alone with her friend, to think of him alone with herself would out.
Not another, word, though, could she utter.  She stood there breathless,
panting, a mist before her eyes, after the violence of her exertions,
the extremity of her fear.

"Don't try and talk," he said--"simply rest."

She looked at him--still panting violently--shook her head, and smiled.
She was physically incapable of speaking after her exertion.  But even
then a contrast rose vividly before her--this man now, and when she had
last seen him.  They had bidden him good-bye, she and her relative, in
the front door of the hotel at Wynberg, cordially--and conventionally--
mutually expressing the wish to meet again soon up-country.  Now, here
he stood, having dropped, as it were, from the clouds, to come to her
aid in her moment of sore need.  And his appearance--haggard, unshaven,
hatless, his clothes in tatters; yet it seemed to her sufficient at this
moment that he was here at all.  For some little while they sat in
silence.  Then he said--

"If you are sufficiently rested, tell me how it is you are here--in this

"Oh yes; I can talk now.  But--oh, what would I have done with that
horrible fiend of an animal but for you?  I should have been torn to

"Strange, too, how it got here.  I know the sort of beast.  It in a kind
of mongrel hyaena--Lupiswana, the natives call it.  Ah!  Now I begin to

This as if a sudden idea had struck him.  But again he repeated his
request that she should tell him her experiences.  And this she did--
from the murder of the Hollingworths right on.

"And so you were coming to me for refuge?" he said, for she had made no
secret of that part of it either.  "It was well indeed you did not, for
I only escaped through the fidelity of my own servant.  I will tell you
all about it another time.  I must take care of you until we fall in
with a patrol.  We shall have to keep closely in hiding, you know.  I am
only a fugitive like yourself.  The whole country is up in arms, but it
is only a question of time and--"

A bullet hummed over the speaker's head, very near, simultaneously with
the crash of a firearm, discharged from the entrance of the enclosure,
where a small lean native stood already inserting another cartridge in
the breach of his smoking rifle.  But John Ames was upon him with a
tiger spring, just in time to strike up the barrel and send the bullet
humming into space.

"No, no!  You don't go like that," he said in Sindabele, gripping the
other's wrists.  The savage, small and thin, was no match for the tall
muscular white man; yet even he was less puny than he appeared and was
striving for an opportunity to slide, eel-like, from that grasp, and
make good his escape.  "_Gahle, gahle_! or I will break your wrists."

Then the native gave in, whining that Jonemi was his father, and he shot
at him in mistake, seeing him in his kraal.  He had retired there in
peace, in order to keep out of all the trouble that was being made.

"Yes; thou knowest me, and I know thee, Shiminya," was the answer.  "In
the mean time I will take thy rifle--which belongs to the Government--
and cartridges.  That's it.  Now, go and sit over there, and if thou
movest I will shoot thee dead, for I can shoot better than thou."

The discomfited sorcerer, now the odds were against him, did as he was
told, turning the while to Nidia and adjuring her to speak for him.  His
was the kraal that had taken her in.  He had housed and fed her.  This
very day he had intended to take her to Sikumbutana.  He had gone forth
to see that the way was clear so that he might do so in safety, and,
returning, had found Jonemi, whom, mistaking for some plunderer, he had
fired at.

Nidia, of course, understood not a word of this, but John Ames had let
the rascal's tongue run on.  He more than suspected Shiminya to be an
instigator of the murder of the Inglefields, and was sure that he was
aware of it.  For the rest, it certainly seemed as he had said.  Nidia's
own tale was in keeping.  They had been somewhat rough in their manner
to her, but had given her food and shelter, and had done her no serious
harm.  As for her ghastly find within the hut, John Ames had speedily
quieted her fears on that head.  This Shiminya was a wizard of note, and
portions of the human anatomy were occasionally used by such in their
disgusting and superstitious rites.

"We have need of many things which thou hast in thy huts, Shiminya," he
said, "for we are going to leave thee, and return to Sikumbutana"--this
with design.  "I, for instance, have no hat, and my clothes are torn.  I
need further thy rifle, or rather the rifle of Government, and all the
cartridges thou hast.  Rise, therefore, and show us where such may be
found.  But first I will bind thy hands."

The countenance of the sorcerer, which had brightened up, fell at this.
Nidia, at a word from John Ames, having searched in the huts for the
necessary thongs, the binding was effected in the most masterly manner.
Then, forcing the prisoner into the hut where Nidia had made her
startling discovery, John Ames set to work to ransack the place.
Luckily, it was a very store-house of European goods, which Shiminya,
being of an avaricious turn, had exacted from his clients and dupes and
kept hoarded up here.  Most of the articles of wear, though of coarse
and shoddy make, were new; and, best of all, there were four packets of
Martini-Henry cartridges stowed away in the thatch; for here was one who
knew where to look for that kind of contraband goods.

"I am now going to kill thee, Shiminya," said John Ames, when he had
selected, not all he wanted, but all he would be able to carry.

The wizard looked scared, for well he knew how richly he deserved death
at the hand of every white man in the land, and this one he believed to
be quite capable of carrying out his threat.  But the cunning rogue
shrewdly played upon his best stop, and kept reiterating all he had done
for the _inkosikazi_ when she had appealed to him for protection,
frightened and exhausted and alone.

"Yet it is necessary that I should slay thee, Shiminya, for although
thou hast done this for the _inkosikazi_, I know that thou lovest me
not; and if I spare thee, how long will it be before thou art running in
front of Madula's people, and crying, `This way hath Jonemi gone'?"

And turning to Nidia, he asked her to go outside, saying that he would
join her in a moment.  Then, being alone with his captive, he took up a
heavy knobkerrie.

"Now, Shiminya.  Thy death is near," he said, raising the club.

But the wizard was another instance to the contrary of the cut-and-dried
idea that cruelty and cowardice are bound to go hand in hand.  No
further appeal for mercy did he make.  Not a word did he utter.  With a
last look of hate glowing in his snaky eyes, he put forth his skull, as
though to meet the blow.  But the other lowered his weapon.

"I give thee thy life, Shiminya," he said.  "Should the time ever come,
remember that thy life lay within my hand and I gave it thee."

The wizard murmured assent.  Of a truth he felt that the jaws of Death
had been opened very wide before him, and then closed.

"But I trust thee not, so I will leave thee here bound," went on John
Ames.  "It will not be long ere thy people find thee out."

He tied his prisoner fast by the feet to the pole of the hut, and was
just leaving him, when Shiminya exclaimed--

"_'Nkose_, make, I pray thee, the door very fast.  Do not only tie it.
Thrust also a stout stick through the fastenings."

"Why so?" said John Ames in amazement.

"Animals might get in.  And I am helpless."

"Lupiswana, for one?"

"_Au_!  Jonemi knows everything," replied the sorcerer, with a half

"I see.  Yes; I will see that the door is fast.  _Hlala-gahle_,

"Now we must leave," he said, rejoining Nidia, and then setting to work
to bar up the wizard in his own den.  Then, as they stepped forth, he
told her how he had designedly caused the latter to feel himself within
the very portal of death, in order that he might the more thoroughly
realise how entirely his life had been given him.  If there was any good
in the man he would appreciate this act of clemency, explained John

She looked at him in admiration.

"What an ingenious idea!" she said.  "But there must be some good in him
or he would have killed me when I was in his power."

"There is that in his favour.  Yet I wish I could think that he had no
worse object in view in not killing you.  He is one of the Abantwana
'Mlimo, and I have had my eye on him for some time.  The other man wore
a police uniform, you say?  You were not able to catch his name?"

"No.  You see, I don't understand a word of the language."

"H'm.  That's a pity, for your description of him almost tallies with
that of the greatest rascal unhung, and whom I hope will not very long
remain unhung."

"This is not the way I came in by," said Nidia.  "Look.  I don't
remember that water-hole."

They had gained the river-bed, and before them lay a still deep pool.
But the grisly remains which lay beneath its placid waters rose not up
in judgment against the cruel murderer, who sat bound in his own den up
above; and little did they who now passed it dream of the shrieking
tragedy of which it had more than once been the scene in the dead of
night.  And the wizard?  At that moment even he was beginning to taste
of some of the terror which he had delighted in meting out to his
helpless victims, for he himself was now helpless, and the evil beast
having returned, and being by some mysterious instinct aware of the
fact, was tearing and scratching and growling at the fastenings of the
hut door in order to get at its more evil master, who, for his part, in
spite of the extra precaution, was momentarily growing more and more
anxious lest it should succeed.  One taste of white flesh he had
promised his "familiar"!  The probability was that ere the day should
close it would have gorged its fill of black.



"Do you know, this place reminds me a little of our resting ground that
day down among the rocks at Camp's Bay," Nidia said, gazing up at the
gigantic boulder, which, piled obliquely against two more, formed a
natural penthouse on a very large scale.  A blackened patch against the
rock in the entrance of the cave, showed a fireplace surrounded by
stones, and the very scanty baggage of the fugitives was disposed

John Ames, who was engaged in his normal occupation, viz. mounting
guard, turned.

"Yes," he said; "it's the same sort of day, and grander scenery, because
wilder.  Peaceful, too.  Yet here we are, you and I, obliged to hide
among rocks and holes in peril of our lives."

"Strange, isn't it, how adaptable one can become?" went on Nidia.  "That
day, do you remember, when you were so sceptical as to our ever meeting
again, who could have thought how we would meet and what experiences
should have been ours between then and now?

"Do you know," she went on gravely, after a thoughtful pause, "at times
I think I must be frightfully hard-hearted and unfeeling--I mean, to
have looked upon what I did--" and she shuddered.

"I liked the Hollingworths so much, too.  And yet somehow it all seems
to have happened so long ago.  Why is it that I do not feel it more,
think of it more?  Tell me your opinion."

"One word explains it," he answered.  "That is, `Action'."


"Yes.  You have been kept continually on the move ever since.  First of
all, you had your own safety to secure; consequently you had no time to
think of anything but that--of anybody but yourself."

"That sounds horribly selfish, somehow, but true."

"Well, selfishness in its etymological sense is only another word for
self-preservation, or, at any rate, an extension of that principle.
Were you to sit down and weep over the loss of your friends until some
obliging barbarian should come up and put an end to you?  I think the
pluck you showed throughout was wonderful, and not less so the soundness
of judgment.  When you found poor Hollingworth's youngster so badly
hurt, didn't you sit there and look after him at momentary risk of your
life until he died, poor little chap?  Selfish?  I call it by another
name, and so will other people when we get safely out of this."

Nidia smiled, rather sadly, and shook her head.

"Leave _you_ alone for trying to flatter me," she said softly.  "You
have been doing nothing else ever since we have been together.  But--you
don't really think me unfeeling and hard-hearted, Mr Ames?"

He turned quickly, for he had been looking out over the surrounding

"That isn't what you called me the first time in Shiminya's kraal," he

"What?  Unfeeling and hard-hearted.  No.  Why should I?" she rejoined
demurely, but brimming with mischief.  Then, as he looked hurt, "Don't
be angry.  I'm only teasing, as usual.  Really, though, I ought to
apologise for that slip.  But the name came out without my knowing it.
You see, Susie and I used always to call you by it between ourselves.
We saw it in the book at Cogill's the day we arrived, written in a hand
that seemed somehow to stand out differently from among all the others.
At first, when we were trying to locate the people there, we used to
wonder which was `John Ames,' and so we got into the habit of calling
you that way by ourselves.  And in my mingled scare and surprise the
other day, out it came."

"We have been through a good deal together during the last four days,"
he said, "including one of the narrowest shaves for our lives we can
ever possibly again experience.  Heaven knows how long we are destined
to roam the wilds together, but why not keep the conventional until our
return to conventionality?"

"Very well," she answered.

It was even as he had said.  This was the afternoon of the fourth day
after leaving Shiminya's den, and now they were well in among the Matopo
range.  Here, if anywhere, amid this vast sea of jumbled boulders and
granite cones and wide rocky hollows, they would be comparatively safe,
if only they kept a constant and careful look out, John Ames declared.
The open country would be swarming with rebels, and it was not
improbable that Bulawayo itself was in a state of siege.  Here, where
almost every stone represented a hiding-place, they could lie _perdu_
for any time; and such was far the safer course, at any rate until able
to gain some inkling of what had really transpired, as to which they
were so far in complete ignorance.  If the Matabele had risen upon
Bulawayo with the same secrecy and suddenness wherewith they had
surprised outlying stations, why, the capital would be absolutely at
their mercy, in which case the only whites left alive in the land would
be stray fugitives like themselves.  Indeed, to John Ames it seemed too
much to hope that any other state of things could be the prevalent one,
wherefore for the present these rugged and seldom trodden fastnesses
afforded the securest of all refuges.  This plan he had put to Nidia,
and she had agreed at once.

"Do not even go to the trouble of consulting me," she had said.  "Always
act exactly as you think best.  What do I know about things here, and
where would I have been now but for you?"

"You showed yourself full of resource before I came on the scene,
anyway.  You might have pulled through just as well."

"No; I should never have been able to keep it up.  Heavens! where would
I have been?"--looking round upon the wilderness and realising its
sombre vastness.  "But with you I feel almost as safe as I did--well,
this day last week."

As he had said, they had indeed been a great deal together during the
past four days, really a great deal more so than during the three weeks
and upwards that they had known each other down-country.  Hiding away in
sluit and river-bed and thorn thicket, every step of their flight had
been attended with peril.  Discovery meant death--certain death.  Even
were any trace of them lighted upon so as to arouse suspicion of their
presence in the minds of their ruthless enemies, detection would not
long follow.  They could be tracked and hunted down with dogs, whatever
start they might have gained; and as for hoping to distance their
pursuers, why, a chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and Nidia,
for all the fine healthy training she was most fortunately in, was
hardly a match, either in fleetness or staying power, for a pack of
hardy muscular barbarians.  No; in superlative caution alone lay their
only chance of safety.

And, throughout all this most trying experience--trying alike in the
terrible strain upon the nerves, and the physical strain of forced
marches in the enervating heat of a sub-tropical climate, over rough and
fatiguing ground--how many times had Nidia noted with confidence and
admiration the consummate judgment of her fellow-fugitive; the
unflagging vigilance, the readiness of resource, and the tranquil
hopefulness which he threw into the situation.  Never a moment did he
relax observation even in the most trivial matters, and his knowledge of
the country, too, was wonderful.  The part they had to traverse was the
most dangerous part, indeed, through which their line of flight could
possibly take them, bearing, as it did, a considerable population.  More
than once they would have to pass so near a kraal that the barking of
dogs almost made them think they were discovered; but the narrow escape
to which we heard him allude had occurred at about noon of the second
day after leaving Shiminya's.

The line of country they were traversing was rough and difficult--
undulating flats covered with long grass, and plentifully studded with
trees, but there was no avoiding it, and, indeed, every step, even here,
was fraught with the gravest peril, for they were in the neighbourhood
of quite a cluster of kraals.  Poor Nidia felt as though she must give
up in despair and exhaustion.  The flags of the coarse grass cut her
ankles like saws, and she felt as though she could hardly drag one foot
after another, and even the words of cheer whispered by her companion
seemed to fall on deaf ears.  Suddenly the latter halted, listened a
moment, then Nidia felt herself seized, and, with a whisper of caution,
dragged down as though into the very earth itself.  As a matter of fact
this was nearly the case.  The place she found herself in was a shallow
donga, almost concealed by long grass and brambles, and these her
companion was quickly but noiselessly dragging over her and himself.
Then had come the sound of footsteps, the hum of voices.  She could see
out through the grass that was over her, and that without moving a
muscle.  An _impi_ was approaching, and that in a line which should
bring it right over their hiding-place; an _impi_ of considerable size,
and which might have numbered some hundreds.  The warriors were marching
in no particular order, and she could make out every detail of their
equipment--the great tufted shields and gleaming assegais; rifles, too,
many of them carried, and knobkerries and battle-axes.  Some were
crested with great ostrich skin war-bonnets covering the head and
shoulders, others wore the _isiqoba_, or ball of feathers, fixed to the
forelock; a long wing feather of the kite or crane stuck through this,
and rising horn-like above the head; and catskin _mutyas_ and anklets of
flowing cowhair.  At any other time she would have admired the spectacle
exceedingly; now, however, in the grim dark faces and rolling eyeballs
she could see nothing but the countenances of bloodthirsty and pitiless
fiends.  Oh, Heaven! would they never pass?  The throb of her
heart-beats seemed loud enough to attract their attention and cause them
to stop.  But no sooner had one squad glided by than another appeared;
and with the advent of each, to those who lay there, it seemed that the
bitterness of death had to be gone through again.  Several passed so
near to their hiding-place that the effluvium of their heated bodies
reached the fugitives, musky and strong, but their attention was fixed
upon the conversation of their fellows on the other side, and that peril
was over.  But not until nearly an hour had passed since the last of the
savages had disappeared, and the lingering drawl of their deep-toned
voices had died away, would John Ames suffer his companion even so much
as to whisper, let alone move.

Well, that peril had passed over their beads, and now, in the well-nigh
uninhabited fastnesses of the Matopo, they felt comparatively safe.  And
Nidia, remembering, and observing her fellow-fugitive and protector,
would find herself twenty times a day making comparisons between him and
all the other men she had ever known in a sense which was sadly
unflattering to the latter; and an unconscious softness would come into
her voice in conversing with him which was not a little trying to John

For if there was one point upon which the latter had made up his mind,
it was that while Nidia was alone with him, and entirely under his care,
he must never for a moment allow his feelings to get the better of him.
To do so under the circumstances was, rightly or wrongly, to take an
advantage of the position, against which his principles rose up in
revolt.  Yet there were times when his guard would insensibly slacken,
and his tone, too, would take on an unconscious softening.

They were fugitives, those two, hiding for their lives in the heart of a
savage and hostile land, wherein well-nigh every one of their own colour
had almost certainly been massacred, yet to one of them, at any rate,
the days that followed, that saw them hiding in and wandering through
this grim rock wilderness, were days of sheer unadulterated delight.
Life in the open entailed upon him no privation--he was used to it; to
rough it on coarse and scanty fare he never felt, and as a price to pay
for the happiness that was now his, why, it did not come in at all.  To
awaken in the morning to the consciousness that the whole day should be
spent in the society and presence of this girl; that she was as
absolutely dependent upon him--upon his care and protection--as she was
upon the very air she breathed; that throughout the livelong day he
would have in his ears the music of her voice, under his gaze the sunny
witchery of that bright face, the blue eyes lighting up in rallying
mockery, or growing soft and dewy and serious according to the thoughts
discussed between them--all this was to John Ames rapture unutterable.
He looked back on his many communings in his solitary comings and
goings, and how the thought of her alone had possessed his whole being,
how he would sit for hours recalling every incident of their
acquaintanceship, even--so vivid was memory--going over all that was
said and done on each day of the same, and yet, running through all, the
hope of meeting again, somehow, somewhere.  And now they had met--not as
he had all along pictured, under conventional circumstances and
surrounded by others, but as the survivors of savage massacre, who had
been wonderfully thrown together, having passed through an ordeal of
tragedy and blood.  Her very life was in his hands, and by a sure and
certain instinct he knew that it was in his hands to save once more,
even as he had done more than once already.

And that his cup of joy might be full, the way in which his charge
accepted the position was perfect.  Under the circumstances other women
might well have given way.  The very precariousness of their situation,
recollection of the horrors and perils so lately passed through,
apprehensions as to the future, the necessary roughness of their life,
the deprivation of a thousand and one of the many conveniences and
comforts--great and small--of ordinary civilisation, the society of but
one companion day after day--all might have conduced to low spirits and
constraint and irritation, but nothing of the kind was manifest in Nidia
Commerell.  A day of complete rest in their snug hiding-place amid the
rocks had completely set her up.  The outdoor life and plain rough
living, and sense of temporary security, had brought a healthy glow into
her face, and the excitement and novelty of the position a brightness
and sparkle into her eyes, that rendered her in the sight of her
companion more entrancing to look upon than ever.  Nor did she show the
least tendency to become weary of him, any more than in that time, which
now seemed so long back, when they were so much together amid
surroundings of civilisation and peace.  Her spirits were unflagging,
her appreciation of his efforts and care for her comfort never wanting.
She, too, seemed to have made up her mind to put the past, with its
grievous and terrible recollections, the future, with its apprehensive
uncertainty, far from her, and to live in the present.

And at night, when the grim mountain solitudes would be awakened by
strange eerie sounds--the weird bay of the jackal, the harsh truculent
bark of the baboon, the howling of tiger wolves, and other mysterious
and uncanny noises, exaggerated by echo, rolling and reverberating among
the grim rocks--she would lie and listen, her eyes upon the patch of
gushing stars framed in the black portal of their rocky retreat, alive
to the ghostly gloom and vastness of the wilderness around; then,
rejoicing in the sense of proximity, even the care, of one whose slumber
was light unto wakefulness in the reliability of his guard over her, she
would fall asleep once more in the restful security afforded by the



Reduced to existence in its most primitive state, it followed that the
means of sustaining such existence were perforce primitive, and,
foreseeing this, John Ames had managed, during their progress through
the inhabited districts, to levy upon the grain fields.  But although
the supply was not yet exhausted, it had to be supplemented.  There was
no grain in the mountains, wherefore it became necessary to go out and

This primitive method of obtaining food was, however, handicapped by two
important considerations.  First, there was very little game indeed,
most of that little consisted of birds--wild guinea-fowl, francolin, and
a few partridges--and the hunter, though well set up in rifle
ammunition, had no shot-gun.  Much hard climbing sometimes produced a
klip-springer; but this comes under the second of the two
considerations, the inexpediency of discharging a firearm lest the
report should reach undesirable ears.  Fortunately John Ames, having
been raised among natives, was an adept at throwing a kerrie, and with
this primitive weapon was able to keep the larder supplied.

It meant hard work, though.  Just as he would be congratulating himself
upon having successfully stalked a troop of guinea-fowl, yet wanting a
little shorter throwing-range, the abominable birds would raise their
grating cackle of alarm, and, running like spiders through the grass,
eventually wing their way to a lofty pile of boulders.  Then the stalk
had to be begun over again, involving unwearied patience and a well-nigh
superhuman display of activity; involving, too, a more or less prolonged
absence from camp.

Nidia, left alone during such absences, was obliged to summon all her
courage, all her self-command.  For she felt so thoroughly alone.  The
consciousness that no human being was within reach, that she stood
solitary as she looked forth upon the tossing sea of granite crags and
feathery foliage and frowning piles of rocks towering to the sky like
giants' castles, would get upon her nerves to such an extent that when
her companion was absent longer than usual she would become half frantic
with uneasiness and fear.  What if he should not come back?  What if he
should meet with an accident, a fall, perhaps, and perish miserably in
those grim solitudes, alone, unaided, or, what was much more likely,
allow himself to be surprised by the savage enemy?  What would become of
her?  And then she would take herself to task.  Was it only of herself
she could think at such a time?  Had she no thought for him and his
safety?  Ah! had she not?  She could hardly disguise the truth from
herself.  It was of no use to reason that being thrown together she must
perforce make the best of the companionship into which she was thrown.
She was face to face with the fact that John Ames was becoming very dear
to her indeed.

More and more did each enforced absence emphasise this consciousness.
It did not lessen her uneasiness; indeed, if any thing, very much the
reverse.  But it changed the quality thereof.  She thought less and less
of what a mishap involving him would entail upon her, more and more of
what it would mean on his account.

And yet this growing consciousness did not give rise to any alteration
in their daily relations.  Nidia Commerell's character was stamped with
a very strong individuality.  Prudery was utterly foreign to it, and she
could not for the life of her see any necessity for affecting a reserve
she did not feel, because she had for the first time in her life
discovered a man possessed of every quality to which she could look up--
merely because she and that man happened to be alone together in a
wilderness, in hiding for their lives.  She smiled a little to herself
as she thought of her people in England, and what they would say if they
could see her now.  Then she thought of their anxiety on hearing of the
outbreak in Rhodesia, but they would not have time to be anxious before
hearing of her safety.  She wondered, too, whether Susie Bateman was
becoming alarmed about her, and from that she got to thinking, not for
the first time that afternoon, that John Ames was later than usual; and,
thus thinking, she rose to look forth.

The sun was dipping to the serrated sky-line, bathing the granite-piles
in a lurid flush.  The light had gone off the wide hollow beneath,
leaving its broken-up stormy billows cold and grey, and the hush of
evening was in the air.  Then a sound fell upon her ear, the sound as of
a stone dislodged by a light footfall.  Her pulse beat quicker.  It was
her companion returning at last.

But the glad smile, which she had prepared to welcome him faded from her
lips, and her face grew pale.  Down yonder, on the fringe of the acacia
growth, a figure was standing; but it was not his.

Had the savage enemy found them out at last?  Nidia's heart-strings
tightened and her blood froze.  A further glance served to reassure her,
but only partially.  The figure was not that of a native, of a savage.
But--was it human?

It had vanished--silently, imperceptibly; had vanished as suddenly as it
had appeared, but in that brief moment she had taken in every detail.
The figure was that of a European, clad in brown, weather-beaten
garments, tall, and wearing a long white beard.  But the face.  She had
seen it for that moment, turned towards the setting sun, the light full
upon it--full in the eyes--and never before had she beheld so awful an
expression of fiendish hate stamped upon the human countenance.  Was it
human?  The face was that of a devil!  Nidia felt her flesh creep, and
her hair rise, as she called to mind its expression, and all sorts of
weird ideas, begotten of solitude amid vastness, circled through her
brain.  Was this frowning wilderness truly a demon-haunted spot, or had
she seen the spectre of one of her murdered countrymen, who could not
rest in his blood-stained grave?  But that it could be a human figure
she felt it impossible to believe.

Then another idea struck her.  Was it indeed human--one who had escaped,
like themselves, only to discover, or perhaps to witness the slaughter
of those dear to him, whose brain had been turned thereby, and who, in a
state of maniacal fury, was wandering at large?  This solution, however,
was hardly more palatable than the first.  Had it seen her?  She thought
not; for she had remained perfectly still, true to an oft repeated
injunction of her companion's, as to the fatal attraction exercised
towards oneself by any sudden movement, however slight.  The sun had
sunk altogether now, and already the very brief twilight was descending
upon the surrounding waste.  Would he never return?  Nidia's heart was
well-nigh bursting with mingled terror and anxiety.  Then it leapt for
joy.  A low whistle, a bar or two of a favourite song, a home-coming
signal agreed upon between them, was borne to her ears.  She could have
laughed aloud in her delight.  She composed both her face and manner to
hide from him her terrors, for she had been careful never to let him
suspect the half of what she went through during these protracted
absences.  Then his figure appeared striding out from the darkness.

"I've been in luck to-day, Miss Commerell!" he exclaimed gaily, flinging
down a brace of full grown guinea-fowl, "Got them both at one throw,

Nidia did not for a moment reply.  She was looking up at him with a very
soft and entrancing flush upon her face, and a light in her wide-opened
eyes which he never quite remembered ever having seen there before.
Then she said slowly, and with the air of one repeating a lesson--

"We have been through a good deal together during the last four days,
including one of the narrowest shaves for our lives we can ever possibly
again experience, and Heaven knows how long we are destined to roam the
wilds together; but why not keep the conventional until our return to
conventionality?  Have I got a good memory, John?"

"Excellent," he answered.  "I must try to imitate it."

His tone was even; but Nidia was not deceived.  She was as well aware as
he of the thrill that went through his heart on hearing his own words so
exactly repeated, and all that they involved, and being so, she admired
his self-restraint, and appreciated it in proportion to its rarity.  If
he had begun "to hang out the signals" at one time, he was careful to
avoid doing so now.  Yet--she knew.

"I'm afraid I'm late," he went on.  "I hope you did not begin to get
frightened.  The fact is, I had a very long hard scramble after those
wretched birds."

"Yes.  Oblige me by putting down that bundle of sticks, and going and
sitting over there.  _I_ am going to build this fire, not you.  Don't
you hear?  Do as you're told," she went on, with a little stamp of her
foot, as he made no movement towards obeying.  "You do the outdoor work,
I the in.  That's fair division of labour."

"I won't hear of any `division of labour,' falling to you," he objected.

"Now, how often have we fought over this already?  The only thing we
ever do fight about, isn't it?  Go and sit over there, you poor tired
thing, and--and talk to me."

The while she took the sticks from his hands, looking up into his face,
with a merry, defiant expression of command mingled with softness upon
hers, that again John Ames came near losing his head.  However, he
obeyed.  It was sheer delight to him to sit there watching her, as she
broke up the sticks and deftly kindled a blaze in the fireplace,
securely sheltered by rocks from outside gaze, chatting away the while.
The fire was wanted rather for light and cheerfulness than for cooking
purposes, for it was late, and there was sufficient remaining from the
last cooking to make a supper of.  While they were discussing this he
told her about his afternoon's doings, and the long and hard scramble he
had been obliged to undertake over two high granite kopjes before
obtaining his birds.  There was smoke visible, far away to the
south-west, but what it meant was impossible to say.  Then she, for her
part, told him what she had seen.  He looked surprised, even startled,
and the next moment strove to conceal it.

"Are you dead sure your imagination wasn't playing tricks with you,
Nidia?  When one is alone in a place like this for hours at a time one's
imagination will turn anything into shape.  I have more than once blazed
at a stump in the dusk, when my mind has been running upon bucks."

"But my mind wasn't running upon bucks, nor yet upon tall old men with
long white beards," returned Nidia, sweetly.  "But the face! oh, it was
too awful in its expression.  I don't believe the thing was of this

"I expect it's some one in the same boat as ourselves."  And John Ames
lighted his pipe--for he had obtained a stock of tobacco from Shiminya's
store-hut as well as matches--and sat silent.  The prospect of falling
in with another fugitive was anything but welcome.  It would not even
add to their safety, rather the reverse, for it was sure to mean two
skippers in one ship.  Such a fugitive too, as Nidia had described this
one to look like, would prove anything but an acquisition.  But--was
that all?

No, not quite.  He was forced to own to himself that he had no desire to
hurry the end of this idyllic and primitive state of existence,
certainly not at any price less than Nidia's entire safety.  He would
have welcomed a strong patrol, though with mingled feelings.  He
certainly would not welcome at all the appearance of a fellow refugee,
which would end the idyll, without the compensating element of rescue.

"He had no gun, you say?" he went on.

"No.  At least, I don't think so, or I should have seen it.  What can it
have been?"

"As I say, some one in the same boat as ourselves.  He'll be walking up
to our camp directly.  And--I would rather he didn't."

"Would you?"

"Wouldn't you?"

Nidia laughed.

"I believe I would.  But what if it is some poor wretch who is lost?
Oughtn't we to try to help him?"

"At our own risk?  Your description of this individual does not make one
precisely yearn for his society, Nidia.  Indeed, I gather from it that
we should not be at all likely to get on, and I never heard that two
skippers in one ship tended to enhance the safety of that craft.  On the
whole, I think we will leave the interesting stranger to his own
devices.  If, as you surmise, he really is off his chump, why, for that
very reason the Matabele won't hurt him, and for the same reason he will
be the reverse of an acquisition to us."

Then they talked on about other things--the times of their first
meeting, and the Hollingworths, and Bulawayo, and presently Nidia grew
sleepy.  But, as she lay down, her last thought was a drowsy, half
amused recollection that the apparition of the mysterious stranger
seemed to have much the same effect upon her companion as the footprint
in the sand had upon Robinson Crusoe.

He, for his part, sat thinking hard, and gradually growing drowsy.
Suddenly an idea struck him, an idea that started him wide awake with a
smothered whistle, expressive of mingled surprise and dismay.  Rising,
he took off the blanket which had been wrapped round him, and going over
to the sleeping girl spread it softly over her, for there was a chill
edge in the atmosphere.  Then, taking his rifle and cartridges, he went
to the entrance of the cave, and with his back against the rock,
prepared to spend a wakeful and a watchful night.

Now, a seated posture, with one's back against a hard and uneven surface
of rock, in the open air, and that air with a particularly keen edge
upon it, is not conducive to sleep unless the sitter is there with the
object of being on the watch; which paradoxical deduction may for
present purposes be sufficient to account for the fact that, as the
night hours followed each other one by one, John Ames began to grow very
drowsy indeed.  Still, by reason of his enforced attitude, he could not
yield; at least, so he would have said but for the fact that in that
dead dark hour which just precedes dawn he was awakened--yes, awakened--
by the weird instinct which warns of a presence, although neither by
sight nor sound is that presence suggested.  Something brushed past him
as he sat there, and with it his ear caught a sound as of a stealthy
human footfall.  He started to his feet.  Yes, his gaze was true.  It
was a figure--a tall figure disappearing in the darkness.

"Stand, or I fire!" he called.

But there came no reply.

He stood thus for a moment.  There was nothing to be gained by
discharging his piece at a venture in darkness like this.  It might be
heard anywhere, and furthermore would startle Nidia out of her wits.
No, he would not fire.

"Who is it?" he called again, clear but low, so as not to be heard by
the sleeper within.

For answer there came a far away, mocking laugh, harsh and long-drawn.
Then silence.

With every drop of blood tingling in his veins, John Ames sprang within
the cave again, for an awful idea had seized him.  This thing must have
been, right inside their hiding-place.  His hand shook so that he could
hardly get out a match and strike it.  He bent down over the sleeping
girl.  She still slumbered--breathing softly, peacefully, but with brow
slightly ruffled as though by dreams.  He gazed upon her unconscious
face until the match burned out, then turned away, filled with
unutterable relief.  No harm had happened to her, at any rate.

Then the first grey of dawn lightened upon the mountains.



"I think we'll move on a little further to-day, if you feel equal to it,

She looked up in surprise.

"Certainly, if you think it advisable," she answered.

"Well, to tell the truth, I do.  It's not a good plan to remain too long
in the same place.  My notion is to work our way gradually to the
northern edge of the range, where we can reconnoitre the open country
between it and Bulawayo.  It'll be that way we shall be most likely to
strike a patrol."

John Ames was occupied in plucking the guinea-fowls he had brought in
yesterday.  Nidia had just lighted the fire and was engaged in making it
burn.  The sun had just risen upon a glorious day of cloudlessness, of
coolness too, judging from the keen edge which still ran through the

"John," she said, looking up suddenly, "is it because of what I told you

"The proposed move?  N-no.  Yet, perhaps a little of that too.  You
would never feel easy if left alone here again.  But I have other
reasons--that smoke, for instance, I saw yesterday.  It may mean
natives.  There may have been fighting down Sikumbutana way or on the
Umgwane, and they may be taking to the mountains.  We had better get
further on."

"Do you know, I am glad you have come to that conclusion.  What I told
you yesterday has rather got upon my nerves, and, now we are going to
move, I'll tell you something more.  I dreamt of it--dreamt that awful
face was bending over me looking into mine.  You know--one of those
dreams that is horribly real, one that remains with you after you wake,
and, in fact, that you remember as though it had actually happened.  Are
those birds ready?"

"Yes.  Never mind.  I'll fix them," he replied; and in a moment, fixed
on a deft arrangement of sticks, they were hissing and sputtering over
the fire.  His mind was full of Nidia's dream.  But was it a dream?
That shape, brushing past him in the darkness--the hollow, demoniacal
laugh?  Had the being, whatever it was, actually entered the cave,
passing him seated there on guard?  Was it a dream, indeed, or was it
the actual face which she had seen?  The latter seemed far more like it.
Then he remembered that even if such were the case, it was too dark for
features to be distinguishable.  He was fairly puzzled.  And by way of
finding some solution to the mystery he went down to the spot which
Nidia pointed out to him as the scene of the first apparition, and
examined the ground long and carefully.  There was not a trace of a
human footmark--not a stone displaced.  He felt more puzzled than ever.

But not to Nidia was he going to impart his misgivings.  With a change
of camping-place she would forget this rather unpleasant mystery, if
only it did not take to following them, that is--and indeed they would
be fortunate if they met with no more material cause for alarm.

"On the whole it's rather lucky we struck old Shiminya's place," he
remarked, as they were seated at their primitive breakfast.  "Blankets,
matches, everything we have--and that's not much--we owe to him, even
the rifle and cartridges.  When I cleared from Sikumbutana, with nothing
on earth but a pipe, a sword-bayonet, and a bunch of keys, I felt pretty
helpless, I can tell you.  What must you have felt, when you first found
yourself adrift?"

"It was awful.  That night--shall I ever forget it?  And how strange we
should have met like that.  The very next day I was going to send over
to let you know I was at the Hollingworths'.  I only heard from Mr
Moseley that you were so near.  Would you have come to see me?"

"Have you forgotten that last long day of ours, down by the sea, that
you can ask such a question?" he said gravely, his full, straight glance
meeting hers.  Nidia was conscious of ever so slight a flush stealing
over her face.  "How ingenious you are," intently examining one of the
wooden forks which he had roughly carved for her as they went along.
"You must let me keep these as a memento of this wandering of ours."

"How many are there?" he answered.  "Three--may not I keep one of them?
I want a memento, too."

"Am I getting irremediably freckled and tanned?" she said.  "And
tattered?  Yet one would be in absolute rags, but for that
thorn-and-fibre needle and thread of yours."

"I never saw you look better in my life.  There are no freckles, and the
brown will soon wear off, if you want it to.  Though really it's
becoming--makes the eyes larger.  So make your mind easy on that score.
As for tatters"--looking at his own attire--"I'm afraid we are rather a
ragged pair.  By the way, I wonder what your people in England would say
if they could see you now."

"I know what they'd say to you for the care you've taken of me," she
answered seriously, "what they will say, I hope, one of these days."

He turned away suddenly, and bending down, began busying himself over
the rolling up of their scanty kit.

"Oh, as to that," he rejoined, speaking in a tone of studied
carelessness, "where should I have been all this time without you?  Nice
cheerful work it would have been romping about the mountains alone,
wouldn't it?"

"You would have been in safety long ago without myself as a drag upon

"Possibly; possibly not.  But, speaking selfishly, I prefer things as
they are.  But it's rough on you, that's what I'm thinking about.  By
the way, old Shiminya isn't quite such a rip as I thought.  I was more
than half afraid he'd have given us away when they cut him loose.  But
he doesn't seem to have done so, or we'd have heard about it before

This apparently careless change of subject did not impose upon Nidia.
She saw through and appreciated it--and a thrill of pride and admiration
went through her.  Whimsically enough, her own words, spoken to her
friend on the day of that first meeting, came into her mind.  "I think
we'll get to know him, he looks nice."  And now--he had impressed her as
no man had ever before done.  Full of resource, strong, tactful, and
eminently companionable as he had shown himself, she was intensely proud
of the chivalrous adoration with which she knew he regarded her, and all
manifestation of which he was ever striving to repress.  What would she
do when they returned to safety, and their ways would lie apart?  For
somehow in Nidia's mind the certainty that they would return to safety
had firmly taken root.

"Perhaps they haven't cut him loose yet," she suggested.

Her companion gave a whistle, and looked scared.  Only for a moment,

"Bad for him in that case.  It would have been better for him and safer
for us--to have given him a tap on the head.  I couldn't prove anything
against him, though I've had my eye on him for some time--besides, he
seems to have taken some care of you.  But he's sure to have been found.
He's one of these Abantwana 'Mlimo, and too much in request just now."

"Is there anything in that Umlimo superstition, do you think, John?"

"There is, to this extent.  From what I can get out of the natives it is
of Makalaka origin, and manifests itself in a voice speaking from a
cave.  Now I believe that to be effected by ventriloquy.  There is a
close `ring' of hierarchs of the Abstraction, probably most of them
ventriloquists, and they retain their power by the very simple but
seldom practised expedient of keeping their eyes and ears open and their
mouths shut.  That is about the secret of all necromancy, I suspect,
from its very beginning."

"Then you don't believe in a particular prophet who talks out of a

"No; if only for the reason that the cave the Umlimo is supposed to
speak from is one that no man could get into or out of--at least, so the
Matabele say.  No; the thing is a mere abstraction; an idea cleverly
fostered by Messrs. Shiminya and Co.  They shout up questions to the
cave, and ventriloquise the answers back."

What was it?  Did the speaker actually hear at that moment a shadowy
echo of the mocking laugh which had been hurled at him from the
darkness, or did he imagine it?  The latter, of course.  But here, in
the very home of the superstition they had been discussing, could there,
after all, be more in it--more than met the eye?  He could not but feel
vaguely uneasy.  He glanced at his companion.  She had altered neither
attitude nor expression.  He felt relieved.

Over less forbidding looking ground their way now lay.  The grey chaotic
billowings and craters of granite blocks gave way to table-land covered
with long grass and abundant foliage.  Here they advanced ever with
caution, conversing but little, and then only in whispers.  Indeed,
after the rest and comparative safety of their late refuge, it was like
entering into all the anxiety and apprehensions of peril renewed.  Not
very fast, however, could they travel, for Nidia, though a good walker,
felt the heat, and John Ames, although, as he declared, he had "humped"
a heavier "swag" than that comprised by their load, yet it demoralised
him too.

A fireless camp amid the rocks, then on again in the cool of the
morning.  And as their way lay over high ground, the sun rose upon such
a sea of vast and unrivalled wildness--castellated peaks and needle-like
granite shafts, here a huge grey rock-dome, smooth, and banded round by
a beautiful formation of delicate pink; there, and all around, cone-like
kopjes of tumbled angular boulders, as though the fire whirlpool beneath
earth's surface had swept round and round, throwing on high its rocky
billows, leaving in the centre this great dome, smooth and unriven.
Doves cooed among the greenness of the acacias, whose feathery sprays
gleamed bright against the background of grim rock in sombre masses.

"Yes, it is about as wild a bit of scene as you could find anywhere,"
said John Ames, in reply to his companion's cry of amazement and
delight.  "You will have something to talk about after this; for you can
safely say you have been where very very few whites have ever set foot.
Even now there are parts of the Matopos which have never been explored.
The old-time hunters avoided them because there was no game--as we, by
the way, know to our cost; the traders because there were no natives--as
we know to our advantage; and the prospectors because granite and gold
don't go together."

The foliage grew more abundant as they advanced; the "marula" and wild
fig, and omnipresent acacia.  Winding around the spurs of the great
hills every turn of their way would reveal some fresh view of exquisite
wildness and beauty.

"Look over there, Nidia.  That might be the cave of the Umlimo himself,"
said John Ames, pointing to a great granite cone which rose up from the
valley bottom some little distance off.  It was apparently about two
hundred feet in height, and in the centre of its face yawned a great
square hole, black and darksome.

"I wonder is it?" she said, gazing with interest at what was in fact a
sufficiently remarkable object, "If it isn't, it ought to be."

"Look," he went on.  "Imagine it a bright moonlight night, and that
valley bottom crowded with about half the Matabele fighting-men, all
ranged in crescent formation, looking up at the cave there.  Then
imagine the oracle booming forth its answers from the blackness of
yonder hole.  Wouldn't that make a scene--eh?"

"Yes, indeed it would.  But--how could anybody get up there?  It looks
quite inaccessible."

"So it probably is.  But there would be no necessity for anybody to get
up there.  Messrs. Shiminya and Co. would take care of that part of the
entertainment, as I was telling you the other day.  Well, we won't camp
near it on the off chance that it may be the real place."

The spot they did select for a camp-ground was some little way further
on, and a wild and secluded one it was, right in among rocks and trees,
and well up on the hillside.  This elevated position was of further
advantage in that a reedy swamp wound through the valley bottom; two
water-holes of oval formation, gleaming like a pair of great eyes from
its midst.

"I'm afraid `skoff' is running low, Nidia," remarked John Ames,
surveying gravely a pair of turtle-doves and a _swempi_, the latter a
small variety of partridge, which he had knocked over with stones during
their journeying.  "A brace of record pedestrians can't afford to let
themselves run down in condition.  The English of which is that I must
go out and kill something--or try to."

"Mayn't I go with you?" she asked, rather wistfully.  He looked

"I wish you could," he answered slowly.  "But--you have walked enough
the last couple of days; and apart from the discomfort to you, it is
essential you should not overtire yourself.  In fact, it might become a
matter of life or death.  No.  Be good now, and remain perfectly quiet
here, and rest.  I'll be back before dark.  Good-bye."

What impulse moved her to put out both her bands to him?  He took them.

"Good-bye," he said again.  One second more of their eyes thus meeting
and his resolution would be shattered.  With a farewell pressure he
dropped her hands and was gone.

It was early in the afternoon, and warm withal.  Left alone Nidia grew
drowsy and fell into a doze.  When she awoke the sun was just going off
the valley beneath, and she was still alone.  She sat up congratulating
herself upon having got through those lonely hours in sleep.  He would
be back now at any moment.  Rising, she went over to the runnel of water
which trickled down the rocks just behind their resting-place, and
bathed her face in one of its clear basins.  Then she returned.  Still
no John Ames.

The sun was off the valley now--off the world.  In the brief twilight
the stars began to rush forth.  A terrible loneliness came over her.
Oh, why was he so late?  The two water-holes in the valley glared up at
her with a lack-lustre stare, as of a pair of gigantic eyes, watching
her loneliness.  Still he came not.

Was he uncertain of the place?  They had but just arrived there, and he
might well be.  Fool that she was not to have thought of it, and now her
hands trembled with eagerness as she collected some dry grass and sticks
together, and caring nothing what other eyes might see it if only his
would, kindled them into a bright blaze.

How her hearing was strained to its uttermost tension!  Every rustle of
a leaf, every snapping of a twig, sent a thrill of anticipatory joy
through her being, only to give way to sickening disappointment.  An
hour went by, then two.  Faint and exhausted, she had not even the
energy to prepare food.  The one consciousness of her appalling
loneliness here in this scarcely trodden waste seemed to sap and
paralyse all her facilities.  The weird voices of the night held a
different meaning now that she was lying out alone on the hillside.
Below, in the swamp, the trailing gleam of will-o'-the-wisps played
fitfully, and the croaking of frogs was never stilled.

Had anything befallen him?  It must be so.  Nothing short of that could
have kept him from returning to her.  And she?  She could do nothing to
aid him.  She was so absolutely helpless.

"Oh, darling! why did I ever allow you to leave me, my own, my true
chivalrous love?" she murmured to herself amid a rain of tears,
confiding to herself the secret of her heart in the agony of her
distress and terror.  And still the dark hours wore on, one upon
another, and he--the companion, protector--lover--did not return.

The night she had spent hiding in the river-bank after the slaughter of
the Hollingworths could hardly be surpassed for horror and apprehension,
Nidia had thought at the time.  Now she recognised that it had been as
nothing to this one.  Then she had hardly known the secret of her
heart--now she had discovered it.  But--too late.

Yet, was it too late?  Harm might not have befallen him, after all.  He
might have missed his way in the darkness.  In the very earliest dawn he
would return, and then the joy of it!  This hope acted like a sedative
to poor Nidia's overwrought brain.  The night air was soft and balmy.
At last she slept.

It was grey dawn when she awoke, but her awakening was startling, for it
was brought about by a loud harsh shout--almost in her ear.  Nidia
sprang to her feet, trembling with terror.  Several great dark shapes
fled to the rocks just overhanging her resting-place, and, gaining them,
faced round again, uttering their harsh, angry shout.  Baboons?  Could
they be?  Nidia had seen here and there a dejected looking baboon or two
chained to a post; but such had nothing in common with these great
fierce brutes up there, barely twenty yards distant, which skipped
hither and thither, champing their great tusks and barking savagely.
One old male of enormous size, outlined against the sky, on the apex of
a cone, looked as large as a lion.  Others came swarming down the rocks;
evil-looking horrors, repulsive as so many gigantic spiders.

Wild-eyed with fear, Nidia snatched up a blanket, and ran towards them,
waving it, and shouting.  They retreated helter-skelter, but only to
skip forward again, mowing and gibbering.  Three of the foremost,
indeed, great males, would hardly move at all.  They squatted almost
within springing distance, gnashing their tusks, hideously threatening.

Then, as by magic, the whole gnome-like troop wildly fled; but the cause
of this change of front was hard and material.  "Whizz--Bang--Whack!"
came a succession of stones, forcibly hurled, splintering off a rock
like a bullet, thudding hard upon simian ribs.  Yelling and jabbering,
the whole crew skipped and shoggled up the rocks, and Nidia, with a very
wan and scared smile upon her pallid face, turned to welcome her
companion and protector--turned, to behold--not John Ames at all, but a
burly savage--a tall Matabele warrior, barbarously picturesque in the
weird panoply of his martial adornments.



His mind aglow with the recollection of that farewell, his one thought
how soon he should be able to return, John Ames strode forth upon his
quest, and as he did so it is probable that the whole world could not
have produced another human being filled with such a rapturous
exaltation as this refugee from a fiendish massacre, hiding for his life
in the grim fastnesses of the Matopo Hills.

That last look he had discerned in Nidia's eyes, that last pressure of
her hands, could mean but one thing, and that the one thing to obtain
which he would have laid down his life again and again.  She was
beginning to care for him.  Other little spontaneous acts of cordiality
during their enforced exile, had more than once stirred within him this
wild hope, yet he had not encouraged himself to entertain it.  Such he
had of course deemed to be the outcome of their position.  Now, however,
the scales seemed to fall from his eyes, and he could read into them a
very different meaning.

These last few days!  Why, they seemed a lifetime.  And when they should
be over--what then?  Was not his resolution a quixotic one; now, indeed,
an impossible one?  He almost made up his mind to abandon it, and on his
return to ascertain once and for all how matters stood.  As against
that, what if he were mistaken, or partially so?  There was such a thing
as being too precipitate.  Would it not be better to wait until he had
brought Nidia safely and triumphantly through the multifold perils which
still overhung their way?

How casual had been their meeting in the first instance, how marvellous
and providential in the second.  If anything seemed to point a
significant augury, this did.  But what of the more practical side?
What would Nidia's own people have to say in the matter?  From things
let drop he had gleaned incidentally that they were people of very
considerable wealth, whereas he himself had little beyond the by no
means princely salary wherewith the Chartered Company saw fit to
remunerate his valuable services.  Well, he would not think of that just
then.  Time enough to do so when they were safely back in prosaic
civilisation once more.  Let him revel in his happiness while it was

And it was happiness.  Here he was--enjoying advantages such as rarely
fall to the lot of the ardent lover.  The daily intercourse, for all
present purposes, each representing all the world to the other, beyond
the reach of officious or intrusive outsider; she dependent upon him for
everything--protection, companionship, even the very means of
subsistence--what a labour of love was all this.

A slight rattle, as of stones, above his head, brought his mind back to
the object of his quest; and lo! there stood the aforesaid means of
subsistence personified, in the shape of a klip-springer, which from its
boulder pedestal was regarding him with round-eyed amazement and
distrust.  Dare he use his rifle?  There was no other way of securing
the little buck.  It was out of throwing-range, and in any case would be
nimble enough to dodge a kerrie.  He thought he would risk it.  Game was
alarmingly scarce.

But the question was decided for him.  The animal suddenly sprang from
the boulder, and in a couple of bounds had disappeared among the rocks.
What--who--had scared it?  The answer came--and a startling one it was.
A score of Matabele warriors rose from among the long grass, and,
uttering their fierce vibrating war-shout, flung themselves upon him.
So intent had he been upon his thoughts, and on watching the
klip-springer, that, crawling like snakes in the grass, they had been
able to surround him unperceived.  So sudden was the onslaught, that not
a moment was given him for defence.  His rifle was knocked from his
grasp by a blow with a kerrie which he thought had shattered his wrist.
Assegais flashed in front of his eyes, battle-axes were flourished in
his face, his ears were deafened with the hubbub of voices.  Then arose
a great shout.

"_Au_!  U'Jonemi!"

They had recognised him.  Did that account for the fact that he was
still alive?  He had expected instant death, and even in that brief
flash of time had crossed his mind a vision of Nidia left alone, of her
agony of fear, of her utter helplessness.  Oh, fool that he was, to have
been lulled into this false security!

As though satisfied with having disarmed him, they had so far refrained
from offering him further violence.  No, he dared not hope.  Others came
swarming up, crowding around to look at him, many of them recognising
him with jeers.

"_Au_!  Jonemi!  Thou art a long way from home!" they would cry.  "Where
are thy people--the other Amakiwa--and thy horses?"

"No people have I, nor horses, _amadoda_.  I am alone.  Have I not
always wished well and acted well towards you?  Return me, therefore, my
rifle, and let me go my way in peace."

It was putting a bold face on things; but, in his miserable extremity,
as he thought of Nidia it seemed to John Ames that he was capable of any
expedient, however insane.  The proposal was greeted with shouts of
derisive laughter by some.  Others scowled.

"Wished well and acted well towards us?" echoed one of these.  "_Au_!
And our cattle--whose hand was it that destroyed them daily?"

This was applying the match with a vengeance.

"Yea--whose?" they shouted.  "That of Jonemi."

Their mood was rapidly growing more ugly, their demeanour threatening.
Those who had been inclined to good humour before, now looked black.
Several, darting out from the rest, began to go through the performance
of "gwaza," throwing themselves into every conceivable contortion of
attack or defence, then, rushing at their prisoner, would make a
lightning-like stab at him, just arresting the assegai blade within a
foot of his body, or the same sort of performance would be gone through
with a battle-axe.  It was horribly trying to the nerves, dangerous,
too, and John Ames was very sick of it.

"Keep the gun, then, if you will," he said.  "But now I must go on my
way again.  _Hlalani-gahle 'madoda_."  And he made as if he would
depart.  But they barred his way.

"Now, nay, Jonemi.  Now, nay," they cried, "Madula, our father, would
fain see _his_ father again, and he is at hand.  Come now with us,
Jonemi, for it will be good for him to look upon thy face again."

The words were spoken jeeringly, and he knew it.  But he pretended not
to.  Boldness alone would serve his course.  Yet his heart was like
water within him at the thought of Nidia, how she would be waiting his
coming, hour after hour--but no--he must not think of it, if he wanted
to keep his mind.  Madula, too, owed him a bitter grudge as the actual
instrument for carrying out the cattle destroying edict, and was sure to
order him to be put to death.  Such an opportunity of revenge was not
likely to be foregone by a savage, who, moreover, was already
responsible for more than one wholesale and treacherous murder.

"Yes," he answered, "Madula was my friend.  I would fain see him again--
also Samvu."

"_Hau_!  Samvu?  There is no Samvu," said one, with a constrained air.
"The whites have shot him."

"In battle?" said John Ames, quickly.

"Not so.  They found him and another man sitting still at home.  They
declared that he had helped kill `Ingerfiel,' and they shot them both."

"I am sorry," John Ames said.  "Samvu was also my friend.  I will never
believe he did this."

A hum, which might have been expressive of anything, rose from the
listeners.  But this news had filled John Ames with the gravest
forebodings.  If the chief's brother had been slain in battle, it would
have been bad enough; but the fact that he had been shot down in cold
blood out of sheer revenge by a band of whites, with or without the
figment of a trial, would probably exasperate Madula and his clan to a
most perilous extent, and seemed to aggravate the situation as regarded
himself, well-nigh to the point of hopelessness.

They had been travelling all this while, and John Ames noticed they were
taking very much the direction by which he had come.  If only it would
grow dark he might manage to give them the slip.  But it was some way
before sundown yet.

Turning into a lateral valley, numerous smokes were rising up above the
rocks and trees.  Fires?  Yes, and men came crowding around the
newcomers.  Why, the place was swarming with rebels; and again bitterly
did John Ames curse his fancied and foolish security.

He glanced at the eager, chattering faces which crowded up to stare at
him, and recognised several.  Might not there be among these some who
would befriend him, even as Pukele had done before?  He looked for
Pukele, but looked in vain.

He strode up to Madula's camp to all outward appearance as unconcernedly
as when he used to visit the chief's kraal before the outbreak.  His
line was to seem to ignore the fact of there being an outbreak, or at
any rate that these here present had anything to do with it.

He found Madula seated against a rock smoking a pipe, and tricked out in
war-gear.  With him sat Zazwe, and another induna named Mayisela.  And
then, as if his position were not already critical enough, a new idea
came to John Ames.  These men had been seen by him under arms, in overt
rebellion.  Was it likely they would suffer him to depart, in order
hereafter to bear testimony against them?  Indeed, their method of
returning his greeting augured the worst Madula was gruff even to
rudeness, Mayisela sneeringly polite, while Zazwe condescended not to
reply at all.  Of this behaviour, however, he took no notice, and
sitting down opposite them, began to talk.  Why were they all under arms
in this way?  He was glad to have found Madula.  He had wanted to find
Madula to induce him to return to his former location.  The police
officer and his wife had been murdered, but that had been done by
policemen.  It was impossible that Madula could have countenanced that.
Why then had he fled?  Why not return?

A scornful murmur from the three chiefs greeted these remarks.  Madula
with great deliberation knocked his pipe empty on a stone, and stretched
out his hand for tobacco, which John Ames promptly gave him.  Then he
replied that they had not "fled."  He knew nothing of Inglefield, and
did not care.  If his _Amapolise_ were tired of him they were quite
right to get rid of him.  They had not fled.  The time had come for them
to take their own land again.  There were no whites left by this time,
except a few who were shut up in Bulawayo, and even for these a road was
left open out of the country.  If they failed to take it they would soon
be starved out.

This was news.  Bulawayo, at any rate, had not been surprised.  It was
probably strongly laagered.  But they would give no detail.  All the
whites in the country had been killed, save only these few, they
declared.  Yet he did not believe this statement in its entirety.

John Ames, as he sat there, talking, to all outward appearance as though
no rebellion had taken place, knew that his life hung upon a hair.
There was a shifty sullenness about the manner of the indunas that was
not lost upon him.  And groups of their followers would continually
saunter up to observe him, some swaggering and talking loud, though in
deference to the chiefs, not coming very near, others quiet, but all
scowling and hostile.  Nothing escaped him.  He read the general
demeanour of the savages like an open book.  Short of a miracle he was
destined not to leave this place alive.

The day was wearing on, and now the sun was already behind the crags
which rose above the camp.  It would soon be dusk.  Every faculty on the
alert, always bearing in view the precious life which depended upon his,
he was calculating to a minute how soon he could carry into effect the
last and desperate plan, the while he was conversing in the most even of
tones, striving to impress upon his hearers the futility, in the long
run, of thinking to drive the white man out.  They had done nothing
overt as yet.  Let them return, and all would be well.

What of their cattle which had all been killed? they asked.  It was
evident Makiwa was anxious to destroy the people, since cattle were the
life of the people.  So John Ames was obliged to go all over the same
ground again; but, after all, it was a safe topic.  He knew, as well as
they did, that the murder of the Hollingworths, of the Inglefields, and
every other massacre which had surprised and startled the scattered
white population, was instigated and approved by these very men, but
this was not the time to say so.  Wherefore he temporised.

The first shadow of dusk was deepening over the halting-place.  Already
fires were beginning to gleam out redly.

"Fare ye well, _Izinduma_" he said, rising.  "I must now go on my way.
May it be soon that we meet again as we met before.  Fare ye well!"

They grunted out a gruff acknowledgment, and he walked away.  Now was
the critical moment.  The warriors, standing in groups, or squatted
around the fires, eyed him as he passed through.  Some gave him
greeting, others uttered a jeering half laugh, but a sudden stillness
had fallen upon the hitherto buzzing and restless crowd.  It was a
moment to remain in a man's mind for life--the dark forms and savage,
hostile faces, the great tufted shields and shining assegai blades, and
gun-barrels, and this one man pacing through their midst, unarmed now,
and absolutely at the mercy of any one of them.

He had passed the last of them, uttering a pleasant farewell greeting.
In a moment more the friendly gloom would shut him from their view.  His
heart swelled with an intense and earnest thankfulness, when--What was
that long stealthy movement, away on his right?  One glance was
sufficient.  A line of armed savages was stealing up to cut him off.

On that side the boulders rose, broken and tumbled, with many a network
of gnarled bough or knotty root.  On the other, brushwood, then a wide
_dwala_, or flat, bare, rock surface sloping away well-nigh
precipitously to another gorge below.  One more glance and his plans
were laid.  He started to run.

With a wild yell the warriors dashed in pursuit, bounding, leaping, like
demon figures in the dusk.  Down the slope fled the fugitive, crashing
through long grass and thorns.  Now the _dwala_ is gained, and he races
across it.  The pursuers pause to fire a volley at the fleeing figure in
the open, but without effect, then on again; but they have lost ground.

They soon regain it, however.  In this terrible race for life--for two
lives--John Ames becomes conscious that he is no match for these human
bloodhounds.  Thorns stretch forth hooked claws, and lacerate and delay
him, but _they_ spring through unscathed, unchecked.  They are almost
upon him.  The hissed forth "I--jji!  I--jji!" is vibrating almost in
his ears, and assegais hurtle by in the gathering gloom.  His heart is
bursting, and a starry mist is before his eyes.  The cover ends.  Here
all is open again.  They are upon him--in the open.  Yet stay--what is
this?  Blank!  Void!  Space!  In the flash of a moment he takes in the
full horror of the plunge before him, for he cannot stop if he would,
then a sickening whirr through empty air, and a starry crash.  Blank--

And a score of Matabele warriors, left upon the brink of the height, are
firing off excited comments and ejaculations, while striving to peer
into the dark and silent depths beneath.

"_Au_!  He has again escaped us," ejaculated Nanzicele.  "He is



Nidia stared at the savage, her eyes dilated with the wildest dismay.
The savage, for his part, stared at her, with a countenance which
expressed but little less astonishment than her own.  Bringing his hand
to his mouth, he ejaculated--

"_Whau!  Umfanekiso_!"  [The picture.]

Her glance fell upon the naked sword-bayonet which lay on the ground
between them.  She made a movement to seize it, with a desperate idea of
defending herself.  The savage, however, was too quick for her.  He
promptly set his foot on the weapon, saying in English--

"No take it."

By now Nidia's first fear had begun to calm down.  She had been in the
power of some of these people before, and they had not harmed her;
wherefore she tried to put on a bold front towards this one.

"Who are you?" she said, speaking slowly to facilitate the man
understanding her.  "You frightened me at first; not now."

"_Ikonde_, [baboon] he flighten much more," was the answer made with a
half laugh.  Then Nidia noticed that this Matabele had by no means an
unpleasant face; indeed, she could hardly believe that he belonged to
the same race as the fiends who had slaughtered the Hollingworths.

"No be flighten," he went on.  "I see you before--one, two, tlee--much
many time."

"Seen me before?" echoed Nidia in astonishment.  "Where?"

"Kwa Jonemi."

"Jonemi?" she repeated, with a start.  "You know him?"

The warrior laughed.

"Oh, yes, missis.  I know him.  I Pukele.  Jonemi his boy."

"Ah; now I see.  You were his servant?  You are the man who saved his
life, when the others were all murdered?"  For Nidia had, of course,
heard the whole story of the tragedy in Inglefield's quarters.

"I dat man, missie," said the other, with a grin that showed a
magnificent set of teeth.  "Umlimo he say kill all Amakiwa--white
people.  Pukele say, No kill Jonemi.  _Amapolise_ dey kill Ingerfiel,
and missis, and strange white man.  I not help.  I go wit _amapolise_.
I save Jonemi.  See," lifting his foot off the sword-bayonet, "_I_ give
him dis."

"And for that you will never be sorry, I promise you," said Nidia.
"Listen, Pukele.  For that, and that alone, you shall have what will buy
twenty cows.  _I_ will give it you when we are safe again.  Only--you
must never tell Jonemi."

The man broke into extravagant expressions of delight, in his own
tongue, once he had begun to grasp the burden of this promise, declaring
that Jonemi had always been his "father," and he was not going to let
his "father" be killed, even at the bidding of ten Umlimos--looking
round rather furtively however, as he gave utterance to this
sacrilegious sentiment.

"You said you had seen me at Jonemi's," went on Nidia; "but I have never
been there.  It must have been somewhere else."

"No somewhere else.  I see missie on bit of paper, hang on de wall.
Jonemi he have it in hut where he sleep.  He often stand, look at it for
long time."

A soft flush came into Nidia's face, accompanied by a pleased smile.

"And you knew me from that?" she said.  Then all her anxiety coming back
upon her--for she had momentarily lost sight of it in the feeling of
safety engendered by this man's appearance and identity--she exclaimed--

"But where is Jonemi?  He went out yesterday--not much after midday--and
should have been back by sundown.  You must find him, Pukele."

The man uttered some words to himself in his own tongue, which from the
tone were expressive of like anxiety.  Then, to her--

"Which way he go?"

She pointed out, as best she could, the way John Ames had proposed to
take.  Pukele shook his head.

"No good dat way.  Much Matabele dere.  'Spose he fire gun, den Matabele
hear him for sure."

Nidia's face blanched, and she clasped her hands together wildly.

"You don't think they have--killed him?" she said slowly.

In his heart of hearts Pukele thought that nothing was more likely; but
he was not going to say so.

"I tink not," he answered, "Jonemi _nkos'nkulu_.  Great master.  He
aflaid o' nuffin.  Matabele much like him."

"Listen, Pukele," said Nidia, impressively.  "You must go and find him."

"But what you do, missis?  You be flighten, all alone.  Suppose
_Uconde_--bobyaan--he come again, you much flighten?  I be away till
sun, him so," pointing to the western horizon.

"I'll be frightened of nothing," she answered emphatically.  "Leave me
one of your long assegais, and go.  Even if you have to be away all
night, don't come back.  I'll get through it somehow.  But--find

With many injunctions to her not to wander far from this spot, where to
hide in the event of any Matabele chancing to pass that way, and
promising to be back by sundown, Pukele took his departure.  Once more
Nidia was alone.  This time, however, loneliness in itself no longer
oppressed her.  Intense anxiety on behalf of another precluded all
thought of self.

True to his promise Pukele returned at sundown, and he had learned
something.  Jonemi had fallen in with the Matabele, even as he had
expected.  He had talked with the indunas, and having bidden farewell
had walked away.  That was about the same time last evening.  But Pukele
said nothing of the subsequent and stealthy pursuit, and the plunge from
the height, for the simple reason that these were among the things he
had not learned.  The agents concerned in that last tragedy had their
own motives for not advertising it abroad.

"Who were the indunas he was talking with?" asked Nidia, suddenly.

"Dey izinduna from Sikumbutana," replied the warrior, as she thought,
evasively; and in truth this was so, for although he would do anything
to assist his former master, or one in whom his former master took an
interest, Pukele's native instincts were against revealing too much.
There was always in the background a possibility of the whites regaining
the upper hand, in which case it was just as well that the prime movers
in the rising should not be known to too many by name.

"But if they were his own people they would not harm him?"

"Not harm him, missie.  He walk away."

"Then why is he not here, long before now?"  Then, excitedly, "Pukele,
you don't think--they--followed him up in the dark--and--and killed

This again Pukele thought was far from unlikely.  But he dissembled.  It
was more probable, he declared, that Jonemi had taken a longer way to
come back in order to throw off his track any who might be following.
Or he might have discovered another impi and be forced to travel in the
opposite direction to avoid it.  He might be back any time.

This for her benefit.  But in his heart of hearts the Matabele warrior
thought that the chances of his former master being still in the land of
the living were so small as to be not worth reckoning with.  So he made
up the fire, and cooked birds for Nidia and prepared to watch over her

That night weird sounds came floating up to their resting-place, a
rhythmical distant roaring, now subsiding into silence, then bursting
forth again, till it gathered volume like the rolling of thunder.  Fires
twinkled forth, too, like eyes in the darkness, among the far windings
of the hills.

"What is that, Pukele?" cried Nidia, starting up.

"Matabele make dance, missie.  Big dance.  Umlimo dance Matabele call
him," replied the savage, who was listening intently.

"Umlimo dance.  Ah!  I remember.  Is there an Umlimo cave down there,
where they are?"  For she was thinking of the place John Ames had
pointed out to her the day before, and his remark that if it wasn't a
real Umlimo cave, it ought to be.  And these strange wild sounds seemed
to proceed from about that very spot.

"_An_!  Umlimo cave, what dat, missie?" inquired Pukele.

"A cave--a hole--where Umlimo speaks from," she tried to explain.  But
the other became suddenly and unaccountably dense.

"Gave?  Hole?  Oh yes, missie.  Plenty hole here.  Plenty hole in
Matopo.  Oh yes.  Big mountain, plenty hole."

The great volume of savage sound came rolling up almost unintermittently
till midnight.  Then there was silence once more.

The next day, John Ames did not appear, nor the next.  Then, in utter
despair, Nidia agreed to Pukele's repeated proposal to guide her out of
the hills, and if possible to bring her into Bulawayo itself.

And right well and faithfully did this barbarian fulfil his undertaking.
The rebels were coming into the hills now, and every step of the way
was fraught with danger.  He made her lie hidden during the day, always
choosing some apparently inaccessible and least suspicious looking
retreat, while he himself would wander forth in search of the means of
subsistence.  At night they would do their travelling, and here the eyes
of the savage were as the eyes of a cat, and actually the eyes of both
of them.  And throughout, he watched over her safety with the fidelity
of a dog.

One great argument which had availed to induce Nidia to yield to her
guide's representations, was that once she was safe in Bulawayo, he
would be left free to pursue his search for the missing man.  As to
which, let him but succeed, she assured him, and he would be a rich
man--as his people counted riches--for life.

Thus journeying they had reached the outskirts of the hills, and could
now and then obtain glimpses of the open country.  Twice had Pukele
fallen in with his countrymen, from whom he had gleaned that it was so
far open around Bulawayo, but would not be long, for the Umlimo had
pronounced in favour of shutting it in, and the impis were massing with
that object.

Pukele was returning from a solitary hunt, bringing with him the carcase
of a klip-springer.  He was under no restriction as to who heard the
report of his rifle, and being a fair shot, and as stealthy and active
as the game itself, he seldom returned from such empty handed.
Moreover, he knew where to find grain when it was wanted, wherefore his
charge suffered no disadvantage by reason of short commons.  He was
returning along the base of a large granite kopje.  The ground was open
immediately in front, but on his left was a straggling line of trees and
undergrowth.  Singing softly to himself he was striding along when--

Just the faintest suspicion of a tinkling sound.  His quick ears caught
it.  At any other time he would have swerved and with the rapidity of a
snake would have glided and disappeared among the granite boulders.
Now, however, he stood his ground.

Three mounted men--white men--dashed from the cover, with revolvers
drawn.  Pukele dropped his weapons and held forth his arms.

"Fire not, Amakiwa!" he said, in his own tongue.  "I was seeking for
such as ye."

But the mounted volunteers, for such they were, understood next to
nothing of that tongue.  They only saw before them, a native, a savage,
a rebel, fully armed, with rifle and assegais, and in war-gear.

Pukele being a native, and having such an important communication to
make as that a refugee white woman was under his charge whom he desired
to place under theirs, it was not in him to make it in three words, nor
would these have understood him if he had.  He, however, stood waiting
for their answer.  A fourth trooper dashed from the bush.

"What are you waiting for, you blanked idiots?" he yelled.  "Here's a
bloody nigger, ain't there?  Well, then--Remember Hollingworth's!"

With the words he discharged his revolver almost point-blank into
Pukele's chest.  Another echoing the vengeful shout, "Remember
Hollingworth's!" fired his into the body of the faithful protector of
the only survivor of Hollingworth's, which slowly sank to the earth,
then toppled forward on its face.

The troopers looked upon the slain man with hate and execration.  They,
be it remembered, had looked upon the bodies of their own countrymen and
women and children, lying stark under all the circumstances of a hideous
and bloody death.  Then the first man who had fired, dismounted and
seized the dead warrior's weapons, administering a savage kick to the
now motionless corpse.  So Pukele met with his reward.

"Get into cover again.  There may be more of 'em!" he enjoined.  And
scarcely had they done so than the rest of the troop--for which these
had been acting as flying scouts--having heard the firing, came hurrying

The affair was reported.  Those in command jocosely remarking that it
seemed a devil of a waste of ammunition to fire two shots into one
nigger, who was neither fighting nor running away.  Orders were given to
keep a sharp look-out ahead, in case the slain man should be one of the
scouts of an impi, and the troop moved on.  It was, in fact, a relief
troop which had been formed to search for and rescue such whites in the
disturbed districts who had not already been massacred, and of such it
had found and rescued some.  Now it was returning.

Soon it was reported that the scouts had descried something or somebody,
moving among the granite boulders of an adjacent kopje.  Field-glasses
were got out.

"By George, it's a woman.  A white woman!" cried the officer in command,
nearly dropping his glass from his hand.  "She looks the worse for wear
too, poor thing.  Another of these awful experiences, I'll bet a dollar.
She's seen us.  She's coming down off the kopje.  But we don't want to
scare her with all our ugly faces, though.  Looks like a lady too, in
spite of her tatters, poor thing," he went on, with his glass still at
his eyes.  "Moseley, Tarrant--you might step forward and meet her, eh?
We don't need all to mob her in a body."

"We've met her before, I think, colonel," said the latter, who had also
been looking through his field-glasses.  "And that was at


"Fact.  When we got there she had disappeared, leaving no trace.  Great
Heaven, where can she have been all this while?  Come along, Moseley."

Great sensation spread through the troop, as it got abroad that this was
the girl whose unknown fate had moved them all so profoundly.  Several
were there, too, who had been present at the discovery of the murdered
family, and whose cherished thoughts of vengeance had been deepened
tenfold by the thought of this helpless English girl in the power of the
very fiends who had perpetrated that atrocity.

Under the circumstances, it was little to be wondered at if the voices
of Moseley and Tarrant were a little unsteady as they welcomed the
fugitive, and if indeed--as those worthies afterwards admitted to each
other--they felt like qualified idiots, when they remembered the bright,
sweet, sunny-faced girl, with the stamp of daintiness and refinement
from the sole of her little shoe to the uppermost wave of her
golden-brown hair.  And now they saw a sad-faced woman, wistful-eyed,
sun-tanned, in attire bordering on tattered dishevelment.  Truly a lump
gathered in their throats, as they stood uncovered before her and
thought of all she must have gone through.

"Welcome, Miss Commerell.  A hearty, happy welcome," was all that
Moseley could jerk out, as he put out his hand.  "Thanks.  Oh yes.  We
have met before," with a tired smile, in answer to Tarrant's rather
incoherent greeting.  "But--where are the rest of you?  Ah--I see--over

Soon the officer in command was welcoming her, and the troopers
gradually edged in nearer, for curiosity was great and discipline by no
means rigid.

"And I am among friends at last, and safe?" looking from one to the
other, in a half vacant way, "But where is Pukele?"

"Who is `Pukele,' Miss Commerell?" said Moseley.

"A Matabele.  He has guided and taken care of me for the last week.
Where is he?  Isn't he here?  Didn't he bring you to me?  He went out to
find game.  I thought I heard him fire two shots, just lately, and came
out to see.  Then I saw you all.  Where can he be?"

Where indeed?  A strange, startled look was now on the faces of several
of her listeners, including those in command.  "Went out to find game."
And the native just shot was in possession of a klip-springer.

Dreamily Nidia continued--

"I feel so tired.  Where am I, did you say?"  Then passing her hands
over her eyes, "How dark it seems" (it was mid forenoon).  "I think--
I'll--rest."  And she sank down in a deathly swoon.

"Jee-hoshaphat, Jack!" a trooper in the background was saying.  "That
was _her_ nigger you chaps bowled over.  And now she's asking for him."

"What did the fool run up against our guns for, in that cast-iron
hurry?" sullenly grumbled the other, who was really sorry for the
mistake.  "It wasn't our faults, was it?"

"Of course not, old man," rejoined the other.  "It was nobody's fault--
only the nigger's misfortune.  Accidents will happen."

Such the epitaph on the faithful, loyal savage, who having watched over
the helpless refugee for days and nights that he might restore her to
friends and safety, had found his reward.  Shot on sight, by those very
friends, when in the act of consummating his loyalty, such was his
epitaph.  "Accidents will happen!"



When John Ames at last returned to consciousness, the first thought to
take definite shape was that he was dead.  There was a rock ceiling
overhead.  He had been dragged into a cave, he decided, a favourite
place of sepulture for natives of rank.  His enemies had accorded him
that distinction.  He could not move his limbs.  They had been bound
round him.

Then there returned in dim confused fashion the events of the day; the
surprise; the visit to Madula's camp; the crafty pursuit; the sudden
ending of the ground beneath his feet; the plunge through empty air;
then--starry void; and remembering it all, the supposed funeral
ligatures took the form of a blanket, which, wrapped tightly round him,
impeded the use of his limbs.  He was not dead, only dreaming, suffering
from a bad nightmare.  The blanket--the rock overhead!  What a blessed
relief!  All the events, terrible and tragic, he had just gone through,
were parts of a dream.  Nidia was not left alone in that savage
wilderness, but here, within a few yards of him.  He was lying across
the entrance of her retreat, as usual, that none might imperil her save
by passing over him.  Filled with an intense thankfulness, he lay and
revelled in the realisation that it had all been a dream.  Still it
should act as a warning one.  Never would he be so confiding in their
security again.

The light grew and spread.  The grey rock above him became less shadowy,
more distinct.  Whence the languor that seemed to attend his waking
hours, the drowsy disinclination to move?  Yet there it was.  Well, he
must combat it; and with this idea he suddenly sat up, only to fall back
with a cry of acute anguish.  His head was splitting.

For some time he lay, unable to move, thinking the while whether his cry
had disturbed Nidia.  No; she had not moved.  At last an idea took hold
of his confused brain.  Their camping-ground this time was not a cave.
It was in the open.  Whence, then, this rock--this rock which somehow
seemed to weigh upon him like a tombstone?  And--Heavens!  What was that
over there?  A table?

A table!  Why, a railway engine would have been no more phenomenal at
that moment.  A table!  Was he dreaming?  No.  There it stood; a sturdy,
if unpretentious four-legged table, right up against a tolerably
perpendicular rock-wall.

He stared at it--stared wildly.  Surely no such homely and commonplace
object had ever been the motive power for such consternation, such
despairing, sickening disappointment before.  For it conveyed to him
that the events of the previous day had been no dream, but dire reality.
Where he now was he had no idea, but wherever it might be, it was
certainly not in the place where he had parted from Nidia and she would
still be undergoing all the horrors of utter solitude.  Again he tried
to leap up; but this time an invisible hand seemed to press him down, an
unseen force to calm and hypnotise him, and in the result everything
faded into far-away dimness.  Nothing seemed to matter.  Once more he
dropped off into a soothing, dreamless slumber.

How long this lasted he could not have told.  On awakening, the
frightful brain agony had left him.  He could now raise his head without
falling back again sick with pain.  The first thing he noticed was that
the place was a rock-chamber of irregular shape; the further wall nearly
perpendicular, the ceiling slanting to the side on which he lay.  A
strange roseate light filled the place, proceeding from whence he knew
not.  But now he became conscious of a second presence.  Standing within
this light was a human figure.  What--who could it be?  It was not that
of a native.  So much he could see, although the back was towards him.
Then it turned.  Heavens! though _he_ had not seen it before, the
recognition was instantaneous.  This was the apparition at their former
camp.  The tall figure, the weather-worn clothing, the long white beard,
and--the face!  Turned full upon him, in all its horror, John Ames felt
his flesh creep.  The blasting, mesmeric power of the eyes, surcharged
with hate, seemed to freeze the very marrow of his bones.  This, then,
was petrifying him.  This, with its baleful, basilisk stare, was turning
his heart to water.  What was it?  Man or devil?

There was a spell in the stare.  That glance John Ames felt that his own
could not leave.  It held him enthralled.  At all risks he must break
the spell.  "Where am I?" he exclaimed, astonished at the feebleness of
his own voice.

"In luck's way this time.  Perhaps not," came the reply, in full, deep
tones.  "What do you think of that, John Ames?"

"You appear to know me; but, I am sorry to say, the advantage is all on
your side.  Where have we met before?"

The other's set face relaxed.  A ghastly, mirthless laugh proceeded from
a scarcely opened mouth.  There was that in it which made the listener
start, such an echo was it of the mocking laugh thrown back at him out
of the darkness when challenging that shadowy figure at their former

"Where have we not met?" came the reply, after a pause.  "That would be
an easier question to answer."

"Well, at any rate, it is awfully good of you to have taken care of me
like this," said John Ames, thinking it advisable to waive the question
of identity for the present.  "Did I fall far?"

"So far that, but for a timely tree breaking your fall, you would hardly
have an unbroken bone within you now."

"But how did I get here?  Did you get me here alone?"

"A moment ago you were deciding that curiosity might sometimes be out of
place.  You are quick at changing your mind, John Ames."

The latter felt guilty.  This was indeed "thought-reading" with a

"Yes; but pardon me if it seems to you inquisitive--it is not meant that
way," he said.  "The fact is, I am not alone.  I have a friend who will
be terribly anxious--in fact, terribly frightened at my absence.  I
suppose you are in hiding, like ourselves?"  Again that mirthless laugh.

"In hiding?  Yes; in hiding.  But not like yourselves."

"But will you not join us?  I know my way about this sort of country
fairly well, and it is only a question of a little extra care, and we
are bound to come through all right."

"Such `little extra care' as you displayed only yesterday, John Ames?
Yet an evening or so back you thought my presence hardly likely to prove
an acquisition."

The cold, sneering tone scarcely tended to allay the confusion felt by
the other at this reminder.  This, then, was the apparition seen by
Nidia, and he had been able to draw near enough to overhear their
conversation with reference to his appearance.  The thought was
sufficiently uncomfortable.  Who could the man be?  That he was an
eccentricity was self-evident.  He went on--

"You were right in saying that your `friend' would be terribly
frightened.  She has gone through such a night as she hopes never to
spend again, and her fears are not over, but this time they are very
material, and are for herself.  There are shapes stealing upon her down
the rocks--dark shapes.  Natives?  No.  Human?  No.  What then?  Beasts.
She screams; tries to drive them off.  They grow bolder and bolder--

"Heavens alive, man, don't drive me mad!" roared John Ames, whirling up
from his couch, forgetful alike of aching bones and bruised and shaken
frame.  "What, is it you see--or know?  Are you the devil himself?"

But the face of the seer remained perfectly impassible.  Not so much as
a finger of his moved.  His eyes seemed to open wider, then to close;
then to open again, as one awakening from a trance.  Their expression
was that of slight, unperturbed surprise.

"Look here, now," said John Ames, quickly and decidedly.  "You have
taken care of me when I was in a bad fix, and most likely saved my life.
I am deeply grateful, and hope we shall get to know each: other
properly.  But just now I must not lose a moment in going back to my
friend, and if you won't go with me, I'll ask you to put me into my

The stranger did not move in his attitude, or relax a muscle.

"You can't go from here now," he said; "nor, in fact, until I allow

"Can't?  But I must!" shouted John Ames.  "Heavens!  I don't see how you
can know all you have been saying; but the bare suggestion that she may
be in danger--all alone and helpless--oh, good God, but it'll drive me

"How I can know?  Well, perhaps I can't--perhaps I can.  Anyway, there's
one thing you can't do, and that is leave this place without my aid.  If
you don't believe me, just take a look round and try."

He waved his hand with a throw-everything-open sort of gesture.  In
feverish strides, like those of a newly caged tiger, John Ames quickly
explored the apartment, likewise another which opened out of it.  His
mind fired with Nidia's helplessness and danger, he gave no thought to
the curious nature of this subterranean dwelling; all he thought about
was means of egress.

At the further end of the apartment in which he had been lying yawned a
deep shaft like that of a disused mine.  Air floated up this; clearly,
therefore, it gave egress.  But the means of descent?  He looked around
and above.  No apparatus rewarded his view--not even a single rope.  He
explored the further chamber, which, like the first, was lighted by a
curious eye-shaped lamp fixed in a hole in the rock-partition wall.
Here too were several smaller oubliette-like shafts.  But no means of

The while, his host--or gaoler--had been standing immovable, as though
these investigations and their results had not the faintest interest for
him.  John Ames, utterly baffled, gave up the search, and the terrible
conviction forced itself upon him that he was shut up in the very heart
of the earth with a malevolent lunatic.  Yet there was that about the
other's whole personality which was not compatible with the lunatic
theory; a strong, mesmeric, compelling force, as far removed from
insanity in any known phase as it could possibly be.  Power was
proclaimed large in every look, in every utterance.

"Was I right?" he said.  "But patience, John Ames; you must be pitifully
wrapped up in this--`friend' of yours, to lose your head in that
unwonted fashion.  Unwonted--yes.  I know you, you see, better than you
do me.  Well, I won't try your patience any longer.  Had you not
interrupted me it would have been better for you; I was going on to say
that while I saw danger I saw, also, succour--rescue--safety."

"Safety?  Rescue?" echoed John Ames, in almost an awed tone, but one
that was full of a great thankfulness and relief.  "Ah, well, my awful
anxiety was deserved.  Forgive me the interruption."

Even then it did not occur to him, the level-headed, the thinking, the
judicious, that here was a man--a strange one certainly--who had just
told him a cock-and-bull story about events he could not possibly know,
with the result of driving him perfectly frantic with anxiety and a
sense of his own helplessness.  Why not?  Because the narrative had been
unfolded with a knowledge stamped upon the narrator's countenance that
was as undeniable as the presence of the narrator himself.  Strange to
say, not for a moment did it occur to him to question it.

He looked at the seer; a steadfast, penetrating, earnest glance.  The
face was a refined one; handsome, clear-cut, furrowing somewhat with age
and hardness; but it was the face of one who had renounced all--hence
its power; of one who, for some reason or other, was a bitter hater of
his species, yet which as surely bore traces of a great overwhelming
sorrow, capabilities of a vast and selfless love.  Who was this strange
being?  What his tragic past?  John Ames, thus striving to penetrate it,
felt all his repulsion for the other melt away into a warm, indefinable
sense of sympathy.  Then he replied--

"In using the expression `wrapped up in,' you have used the right one.
If harm were to befall her I should feel that life had no more value."

"Then how will you face the--parting of the ways?"

The question chilled upon its hearer.  Was it a prophecy?

"The parting of the ways?" he echoed slowly, comprehending the other's
meaning.  "Why should there be any parting?"

"Because it is the way of life."

And with the harsh, jeering, mirthless laugh which accompanied the
cynicism, the stranger's countenance became once more transformed.  The
stare of hate and repulsion came into it again, and he turned away.  But
in the mind of his hearer there arose a vision of that last farewell,
and he felt reassured--yet not.  Coming from any other, he would have
laughed at the utterance as a mere cynical commonplace, but from this
one it impressed him as a dire prophecy.

"There will come a time when you will look back upon these rough
wanderings of yours--the two of you--as a dream of Paradise, John Ames.
Hourly danger; scarce able to compass the means of existence; unknown
country swarming with enemies; what a fearful experience it seems!
Yet--how you will look back to it, will long for it!  Ah, yes, I know;
for your experience was once mine."

"Once yours?"

"Once mine."  Then, with sudden change of tone and demeanour--"And now,
be advised by me, and restore Nature a little.  You will find the
wherewithal in that chest, for you may need all your strength."

Had it been anybody else, John Ames might have thought it somewhat
unhostlike of the other to leave him to do all the foraging for himself,
but somehow in this case it seemed all right.  He could hardly have
imagined this strange being bustling about over such commonplace work as
rummaging out food.  So he opened the chest indicated, and found it well
stored with creature comforts.  He set out, upon the table which had so
startled him at first, enough for his present wants, and turned to speak
to his host.  But the latter was no longer there.  He looked in the
other apartment.  That, too, was empty!

Weird and uncanny as this disappearance was, it disconcerted John Ames
less than it would have done at first.  In was in keeping with the place
and its strange occupant, for now, as he gazed around, he noted that the
rock in places was covered with strange hieroglyphics.  He had seen
Bushman drawings in the caves of the Drakensberg, executed with
wonderful clearness and a considerable amount of rude skill.  These,
however, seemed the production of a civilised race, and that in the dim
ages of a remote past, probably the race which was responsible for the
ancient gold workings whereof the land showed such plentiful remains.
At any other time the investigation of these hieroglyphics would have
afforded him a rare interest, at present he had enough to think about.
But if his host--or gaoler--chose to disappear into the earth or air at
will it was no concern of his, and he had not as yet found any great
encouragement to curiosity in that quarter.  Meanwhile, he set to work
to make a hearty breakfast--or dinner--or whatever it might be, for he
had no idea of time, his watch having been smashed in his fall.

Strangely enough, a feeling of complete confidence had succeeded to his
agony of self-reproach and anxiety as to Nidia's safety.  Stranger, too,
that such should be inspired by the bare word of this marvellous being
who held him, so far, in his power.  Yet there it was, this conviction.
It surprised him.  It was unaccountable.  Yet there it was.

Among other creature comforts he had found in the cupboard was a bottle
of whisky.  He mixed himself a modest "peg."  But somehow the taste
brought back the terrible tragedy in Inglefield's hut, that, perforce,
being the last time he had drunk any, and a sort of disgust for the
spirit came over him.

So did something else--a sadden and unaccountable drowsiness, to wit.
He strove to combat it, but fruitlessly.  Returning to his couch, he lay
down, and fell into a deep and heavy sleep.



When he awoke, John Ames found himself in the dark; not the ordinary
darkness of night, wherein objects are faintly outlined, but black,
pitchy, impenetrable gloom--an outer darkness which weighed upon mind
and spirits with a sense of living entombment.

Breathed there a mystic atmosphere in this weird place which affected
the mind?  This darkness seemed to unnerve him, to start him wide awake
with a feeling of chill fear.  Light!  That was the first requisite.
But a hurried search in every pocket revealed that he was without the
means of procuring that requisite.  He could find no matches.  Had he by
chance put them on the table, and left them there?  He had no
recollection of doing so, but in any case dared not get up and grope for
them, bearing in mind the shaft-like pit at one end of the room.
Nothing would be easier than to fall into this in the bewildering
blackness.  Equally nothing was there for it but to lie still and await
the course of events.

More and more did the walled-in blackness weigh him down.  The air
seemed full of whispering voices--indistinct, ghostly, rising and
falling in far-away flute-like wailings; and there came upon him a
vision.  He saw again the great granite cone with the black hole, dark
and forbidding, piercing its centre; but not as he had pointed it out to
his fellow-fugitive in the sunlight gold.  No; it was night now, and
there, around its base, a mighty gathering occupied the open, and from
this arose a roar of voices--voices in supplication, voices in
questionings, voices singing fierce songs of war.  Then there would be
silence, and from the cavern mouth would issue one voice--denunciatory,
reproachful, prophetic, yet prophesying no good thing.  And the voice
was as that of the strange being in whose power he lay.

Louder and louder boomed the roar of the war-song.  It shook the air; it
vibrated as in waves upon the dense opacity of the darkness, echoing
from the walls of this mysterious vault, for he was conscious of a dual
personality--one side of it without, a witness of the scene conjured up
by the vision; the other still within himself, still entombed and
helpless within the heart of the earth.  And then again the whole faded,
into sleep or nirvana.

Once more came awakening.  He was no longer in darkness.  The rose-light
threw quivering shadows from the objects about the place, and he was no
longer alone.  His host--or gaoler stood contemplating him.

"You have had a long sleep, John Ames."

"And strange dreams, too," was the reply, made with a certain
significance.  "When I woke up in the dark--"

"Are you sure you did wake up in the dark?  Are you sure you did not
dream you woke up?"

"Upon my word, I can't tell.  I sometimes think that in these days I can
be sure of nothing."

"Well, you shall hear what will give you something to rejoice over.  The
`friend' you were taking care of is safe."


"Yes.  I told you exactly what had happened.  And now she will be in
Bulawayo as soon as yourself."

"As soon as myself?"

"Yes, for you will soon be there.  You see, I have a use to turn you to.
I have a message for the outside world, and you shall be the means of
transmitting it."

"That will I do, with the greatest of pleasure.  But what if I do not
get through?  The Matabele seem to be taking to the hills in force, and
it's a long few days to get through from where we are--or were, rather,
should I say, for I'm not at all sure where I am now."

"Quite right, John Ames.  You are not.  Still you shall get through.
And then, when you rejoin your `friend'--the girl with the very blue
eyes, and the quick lift of the eyelids, and the animated countenance
changing vividly with every expression, and the brown-gold hair--I
suppose you will think life holds for you no greater good?"

"I say, but you seem to have studied her rather closely," was the
rejoinder, with a dry smile.  "Anybody would think you knew her."

"I have watched her from far more closely than you dream of, John Ames.
For instance, every step of your way since leaving Shiminya tied up in
his hut, has been known to me and to others too.  Your life--both your
lives--have been in my hand throughout, what time you have prided
yourself upon your astuteness in evading pursuit and discovery.  The
lives of others have been in my hand in like manner, and--the hand has
closed on them.  You will soon learn how few have escaped."

The grim relentlessness succeeding to the even, almost benevolent tone
which had characterised the first part of this extraordinary statement
impressed John Ames.  At the same time he felt correspondingly reduced.
He had prided himself, too--in advance--upon bringing Nidia safely in,
alone and unaided; now he was done out of this satisfaction, and others
would take to themselves the credit.  Then he felt smaller still because
thoroughly ashamed of himself.  How could he harbour such a thought amid
the great glad joy of hearing that her safety was assured?

"Are you influencing these rebels, then?" he asked, all his old
repulsion for the other returning, as he saw, as in a flash, the fell
meaning of the words.  "It seems strange that you should aid in the
murder of your own countrymen."

"My own countrymen!" and the expression of the speaker became absolutely
fiendish.  "`My own countrymen' would have doomed me to a living death--
a living hell--long years ago, for no crime; for that which injured
nobody, but was a mere act of self-defence.  Well, `my own countrymen'
have yielded up hundreds of lives in satisfaction since then."

"But--great Heavens! you say `would have.'  They _would_ have done this?
Why, even if it had happened, such a revenge as yours would have been
too monstrous.  Now I begin to see.  Yet, in aiding these murderers of
women and children, you are sacrificing those who never harmed you.  But
surely you can never have done this!"

"Ha, ha!  Really, John Ames, I am beginning to feel I have made a
mistake--to feel disappointed in you, in thinking you were made of very
different clay to the swaggering, bullet-headed fool, the first article
of whose creed is that God made England and the devil the remainder of
the world.  Well, listen further.  To escape from this doom I was forced
to flee--to hide myself.  And with me went one other.  We wandered day
after day as you have wandered--we two alone."

In spite of his repulsion John Ames was interested, vividly interested.
Verily here a fellow-feeling came in.  A marvellous change had crept
into the face of the other.  The hard steely expression, the eyes
glittering with hate, had given way to such a look of wondrous softness
as seemed incredible that that countenance could take on.

"There is a lonely grave in the recesses of the Lebombo Mountains,
unmarked, unknown to any but myself.  I once had a heart, John Ames,
strange to say, and it lies buried there.  But every time I return
thence it is with the fire renewed within me; and the flames of that
fire are the hate of hell for those you were just now describing as `my
own countrymen.'"

The hopeless pathos, the white-hot revenge running side by side,
silenced the listener.  There was a fury of passion and of pain here
which admitted of no comment.  To strive further to drive home his
original protest struck him now as impertinent and commonplace.  For a
while neither spoke.

"This is not the first time `my own countrymen' have felt my unseen
hand," continued the narrator.  "They felt it when three miles of plain
were watered with British blood, and a line of whitened bones, as the
line of a paper-chase, marked out a broad way from Isandhlwana to the
Buffalo drift.  They felt it when British blood poured into the swollen
waters of the Intombi river, and when the `neck' on Hlobane mountain was
choked with struggling men and horses fleeing for dear life, and but few
escaping.  That was for me.  They have felt it often since.  That was
for _her_.  They felt it when the hardest blow of all was dealt to their
illimitable self-righteousness a year later; and, in short, almost
whenever there has been opportunity for decimating them this side of the
equator, my hand has been there.  They would have felt it three years
ago, when they seized this country we are now in, but for a wholly
unavoidable reason, and then even the strong laagers and parks of Maxims
would have counted for nought.  That was for _her_.  The malice of the
devilish laws of `my country' drove me forth, and with me went that one.
In the malarial valleys of the foothills of the Lebombo she died.  I
still live; but I live for a lifelong revenge upon `my countrymen'--and

Listening with the most vivid interest, John Ames was awed.  The
narrative just then could not but appeal to him powerfully.  What if his
own wanderings had ended thus, substituting Matopo for Lebombo?  He
shuddered to think that but for their signal good fortune in being
blessed with fine dry weather, such might not inconceivably have been
the case.  The earlier and more tragic of the historical events referred
to had taken place during the period of his English education, but now
there recurred to his memory certain tales which he had heard on his
return to his native colony of Natal, relating to the disappearance
during the Zulu war of a border outlaw under circumstances of romantic
interest.  Could they have been authentic?  Could this mysterious
personage be indeed the chief actor in them?  But, then, what must have
been the strength and power of such a passion as had been this man's,
that he should cherish it full and strong after all these years; to the
compassing of illimitable bloodshed, prosecuting the fierce and
relentless hatred of his own countrymen to the extent of metamorphosing
the memory of its object into a very Kali, sacrificing to that memory in
blood!  Of a truth it could be nothing less than a mania--a grim and
terrible monomania.

"You are already beginning to lose your horror at what I have told you,
John Ames," went on the other, his keen, darting eyes reading his
listener's face like an open page.  "Yet why should you ever have
entertained it?  Is not this blue-eyed girl you were taking care of for
so many days all the world to you--more than life itself?"

"She is.  She is indeed, God knows," was the reply, emphatically

"Then what revenge could you wreak that would be too full, too sweet,
upon whosoever should be instrumental in bereaving you of her for ever?
You have not yet been tried, John Ames, and yours is a character outside
the ordinary."

Was the speaker right, after all? thought John Ames.  He looked at the
dark face and silvery beard, and the glitter of the keen grey eyes, and
wondered.  Yet as he looked, he decided that the owner of that face must
be considerably younger than his appearance.  Was he himself capable of
such a hardening--of so gigantic and ruthless and lifelong a feud?  One
thing was incontestable.  He certainly had lost the first feeling of
repulsion and horror; indeed, he could not swear it had not been
replaced by one of profound sympathy.  The other continued.

"This is what you will do.  First of all, you will give me your word to
make no attempt to seek out this place, though it would be futile even
if made.  For remember I have saved your life, and the life of one who
is more to you than life, not once, but many times, though unknown to
you.  Others sought escape in the same way as yourselves.  Ask, when you
are safe again, how many found it?  I did not spare them.  I spared you,
John Ames, because your wanderings reminded me of my own.  I watched you
both frequently, unknown to yourselves, and doing so the past came back
so vividly as to render me more merciless still towards others in the
same plight.  But you two I spared."

"Then it was you I challenged that morning in the dark?"

"Even your vigilance was as nothing against me, John Ames, for did I not
step right over you while you slept?"

The other whistled.  There could be no doubt about that.

"Then you will take these two packets.  The one marked on the outside
`A' you will open at once, and with every precaution will forward the
enclosure it contains to the address that enclosure bears."

This John Ames promised to do.  He would register it if the post lines
were still open.  If not, he would take every precaution for its safety
until they were.

"But they will be still open," was the decided reply.  "As for the next
packet, marked `B,' you will not open it--not yet.  Keep it with you.
The time may come when you will see everything dark around you, and
there is no outlook, and life hardly worth prolonging.  Then, and then
only, open it.  Do you promise to observe my instructions implicitly?"

"I pledge you my word of honour to do so," replied John Ames, gravely.

"Then our time for parting is very near.  Remember that you owe your
life--both your lives--to me.  Don't interrupt.  It is not unnecessary
to remind you again of this, for you will meet with every temptation to
reveal that which I charge you to keep to yourself--viz. all relating to
my personality and what you have seen and heard."

"One moment.  Pardon my asking," said John Ames, tentatively.  "But have
you ever told anybody else what you have told me?"

"Not one living soul.  Why have I told you?  Perhaps I had my reasons:
perhaps the sight of you two wandering as I have wandered.  It is
immaterial.  My work here is nearly done.  This rising which has been so
disastrous to your countrymen and mine--how disastrous you have yet to
learn--my hand has fostered and fed.  I have foreseen the opportunity.
I waited for it patiently, and when it came I seized it.  But there will
be more work in other parts, and, mark me, John Ames, my unseen hand
will again be there to strike."

"Tell me one thing more.  If it was through your influence the people
spared us, how is it they tried to kill me that time I was leaving
Madula, when they drove me over the _dwala_, and I woke up to find
myself here?  That was a narrow squeak, I can tell you."

"It was indeed, John Ames.  But that was accidental, and was contrary to
my orders."

"Contrary to your orders?  But,"--sitting up, with a stare of blank
amazement--"but--who are you?"

"I am Umlimo."

"What!  _You_ Umlimo?  It cannot be.  I have always held Umlimo to be a
sort of fraudulent abstraction, engineered by innyangas like Shiminya
and others.  _You_ the Umlimo?"

But to the startled eyes of the questioner the form of the questioned
seemed to grow larger, taller, like a presence filling the whole place.
The old relentless look of implacable hate transformed the features, and
the deep eyes glowed, while from the scarcely opened lips boomed forth
as in deep thunder-tones--

"I am Umlimo."

A mist filled the place.  The figure with its background of rock-wall
seemed to lose form.  A sudden stupor seized upon the brain of John
Ames, as though the whole atmosphere were pervaded by a strong narcotic.
Then he knew no more.



There can be no doubt but that, during the period of the rising, and
especially during the earlier half of the same, the township of Bulawayo
was a very uncomfortable place indeed.

The oft-recurring scares, necessitating the crowding of, at any rate,
the bulk of its inhabitants into the laagers at night, contributed in
the main to this.  With instances of the fell unsparing ferocity which
attended the rebel stroke--sudden, swift, and unexpected--fresh in the
mind of everybody, citizens were chary of exposing themselves and their
families to a like visitation.  Private residences straggling over the
surburban stands were abandoned for the greater security of the
temporary forts which had been hastily but effectively formed out of
some of the principal buildings in and around the township itself; and
the comfort and privacy of home-life had perforce to be exchanged for an
overcrowded, hotch-potch, barrack sort of existence; men, women, and
children of all sorts and sizes herding together, hugger-mugged, under
every conceivable form of racket and discomfort, and under the most
inadequate conditions of area and convenience.  Rumour, in its
many-tongued and wildest form, filled the air, gathering in volume, and
frequently in wildness, with the advent of every fresh batch of
refugees.  For from all sides these came flying in--prospectors, miners,
outlying settlers with their families, some with a portion of their
worldly goods, others with none at all, and fortunate in having escaped
with their lives where others had not.  For it soon became manifest that
such events as the massacre of the Hollingworths and the Inglefields,
and the fight and resolute defence at Jekyll's Store, were but samples
of what had taken place--or was still going on--all over the country.
Haggard fugitives, gaunt with starvation, stony-eyed with days and
nights of deadly peril for close companionship, nerves shattered by the
most horrible recollections, and apprehension worked up to the acutest
phase thereby--continued to arrive, each and all bringing the same tale
of treachery and ruthlessness and blood, deepening on every hand the
gloom and anxiety of the situation--anxiety on behalf of those not yet
accounted for, mingling with an apprehensive looking forward to how it
was all going to end, and when.  The necessaries of life went up to
famine prices, and then the enemy began to invest the town.

Southward, crouching lion-like, among the Matyamhlope rocks; on the
north, occupying the site of the old Bulawayo kraal, and in possession
of the "Government" House which the presumptuous white man had erected
upon the former seat of the departed king, overhanging, like a dark
cloud, the township beneath, or again making fierce dashes upon traffic
which should attempt the eastward way, he mustered in all his savage
might--an ever-present menace.  But the way to the west, for some
unaccountable reason, was left open.

Those in charge of the safety of the township had their hands full.
They might sally forth in force, as they frequently did, with the object
of rolling back the danger that threatened; an object sometimes
accomplished, sometimes not, for the rolling back was not invariably all
on one side.  But whichever way the attempt would go, the wily foe was
sure to be in position again almost immediately, whence, massed around
the very edifice that symbolised the domination of those threatened, the
defiant thunder of his war-song would reach their ears.

Of all the narrow escapes from the widespread massacre which at that
time were in everybody's mouth, none perhaps commanded general attention
so much as that of Nidia Commerell.  It was so fraught with the dramatic
element, being in fact not one escape, but a series of them.  Her
personality, too, imparted to it an additional interest; this refined
and attractive girl, brought up amid every comfort, suddenly to be
thrown by rude contrast from the luxurious appointments of her peaceful
English home into the red surroundings of massacre and of death.  Again,
the circumstances of her wanderings appealed strongly to the romantic
side, and people looked knowingly at each other, and pronounced John
Ames to be a singularly fortunate individual--would be, at least, were
it not for the fact that nobody knew whether he was alive or dead;
indeed, the latter contingency seemed the more probable.

There was one to whom Nidia's reappearance was as little short of
restoration to life for herself, and that one was Mrs Bateman, for to
her the girl was more than all the world put together--far more than her
own husband, and she had no children.  When the first tidings of the
outbreak, and the massacre of the Hollingworths, had come in, the poor
woman had been simply frantic.  The fact that Nidia had not been
included in the tragedy, but had disappeared, brought with it small
comfort.  She pictured her darling in the power of brutal savages, or
wandering alone in the wilderness to perish miserably of starvation and
exhaustion; perhaps, even, to fall a prey to wild animals.  Was it for
this she had allowed her to leave her English home "for a peep into wild
life," as they had put it when the much debated question had arisen?
Not even the dreadful task of breaking the news to Nidia's relatives
occurred to her now, her grief was too whole-hearted, too unmixed.  Her
husband came in for a convenient safety-valve, though.  Why had he
induced either of them to come near such a hateful country?  He was the
real murderer, not these vile savages; and having with admirable and
usual feminine logic clapped the saddle on the wrong horse to her
heart's content, and caused that estimable engineer mildly to wish he
had never been born, she hunted him off with one of the relief forces,
together with every man she could succeed in pressing into her service.
Indeed, it used to be said that, could she have had her way, just about
every available man in Bulawayo would have been started off on that
particular search, leaving all the other women and children, herself
included, to take their chance.  And then, when her grief had reached
the acutest pitch of desperation, the missing girl had been found.
Thenceforward nothing mattered.  The place might be attacked nightly by
all the Matabele in Rhodesia for all she cared.  She had got her darling
back again.

Back again--yes.  But this was not the same Nidia.  The bright sunny
flow of spirits was gone, likewise the sweet equanimity and caressing,
teasing, provocative little ways.  This Nidia had come back so changed.
There was a tired, hunted look in her eyes, a listlessness of speech and
manner such as might have suited her twenty years thence, after an
indifferent experience of life _interim_, but now was simply startling
as a contrast.  She talked but little, and of her escape and the manner
of it, seemed to care to talk least of all.  The part John Ames had
borne in that escape she took care to make widely known, but when alone
with her friend reference to him had the effect of causing her to burst
into tears in the most unexpected and therefore alarming fashion.  This
seemed not unnatural.  The terrible experiences the poor girl had gone
through were calculated to unhinge her; nor was it strange she should
grieve over the tragic fate which had almost certainly overtaken the man
who had been her sole guide and protector during those terrible days,
whose sagacity and resource had brought her in safety through every
peril that threatened.  It was in the nature of things she should so
grieve, even had they not been on very friendly terms before.  There was
nothing for it but time, thought Susie Bateman--time and change of
scene; and with a view to the latter she hinted at the advisability of
risking the journey down-country, for, strange to say, the enemy had
refrained from intercepting the coach traffic on the Mafeking road.
This proposal, however, was met by Nidia with a very decided negative.

These two were fortunately exempt from the crowding and discomfort of
the laagers, through the fact that the house owned by the absent Bateman
was situated within about a stone's throw of one of the latter.  Should
occasion really arise, they would, of course, be obliged to take refuge
therein; but in the mean time they could afford to ignore
unsubstantiated scares, for there were not wanting those who made it--
literally in some instances--a labour of love to keep extra and special
watch over this particular household.  Moseley and Tarrant, for
instance, who were among the defenders of the township; Carbutt, the
tall, good-looking man who had figured prominently in the fight at
Jekyll's Store; and several others.  Leave it to them, had been their
assurance.  If real necessity arose, they would see to it that the two
ladies should be within the laager in ample time.  Meanwhile they need
take no notice of the ordinary regulation scare, but just sit still in
peace and quietness.

They were thus sitting a few days after Nidia's return, when the latter
startled her friend by an apparently insane proposal.  "Let's go for a
bike ride, Susie; a real good long one."

"Great Heavens!  Is the child mad?  Why, we'd run into those hateful
black wretches before we'd gone a couple of miles.  They're all round us
thick as bees.  Why, we could see them no further than Government House
only this morning."

"That's just the way I wanted to go.  It would be such fun to see how
near we could get, and then skim away downhill again.  They'd look so

"Haven't you had enough of that sort of thing yet, Nidia?  If I had been
through one-tenth of what you have, I'd never want to go adventuring any

"Perhaps I've contracted a taste that way now," was the reply, with a
weariful laugh.  "But anything rather than sit still as we are doing.  I
want a little excitement--a stirring up."

The other stared in wild amazement.  Was the child really going off her
head? she thought again.  But a knock on the open door announced the
advent of visitors, and lo! two men bronzed and coatless, according to
the fashion in Rhodesia, swept off their broad-brimmed hats and entered.
They were, in fact, Tarrant and Carbutt, and at sight of them Nidia
brightened up somewhat.

"Well, and what's the latest in the way of scares?" she began, after the
exchange of greetings.

"None at present, Miss Commerell," replied Carbutt.  "Things are slack.
We shall have to go and have another slap at the niggers up yonder, to
keep the rust off.  They are getting altogether too cheeky, squatting
around Government House its very self."

"That'll make a little excitement," said Nidia.  "We can watch your
deeds of derring-do from here through the glasses."

"Heavens, no!" said Mrs Bateman, with fervour.  "I don't want to see or
hear anything more of those dreadful wretches, except that they've all
been shot."

"By the way, there is a small item in the way of the latest," said
Tarrant, carelessly.  "Another man has rolled in who had been given up
as a dead 'un."

"Yes.  Is it anybody we know?" asked Nidia, quickly.

"I rather think it is," returned Tarrant, watching her face yet while
not seeming to.  "Ames of Sikumbutana."

Nidia caught her breath with a sort of gasp, and her whole face lit up.

"Not John Ames?" she cried, as though hanging on the answer.  Then, as
Tarrant nodded assent, "Oh, I am glad!"

And then all of Nidia's old self seemed to return.  She poured forth
question upon question, hardly waiting to be answered.  How had he
escaped?  Where was he, and when was he coming to see her? and so on--
and so on.

"He's rather close on the subject, Miss Commerell," Tarrant replied.
"He has a yarn about being chevvied by niggers and tumbling over a
_dwala_, and lying unconscious--and then some niggers who knew him
piloting him in.  He asked after you the first thing, just as if you had
never been away from here; and the odd part of it is, he didn't seem in
the least surprised to hear you were safe and sound, and quite all

But the oddness of John Ames' lack of astonishment did not strike Nidia
just then.  She talked on, quite in her old way--now freely, too--on the
subject of her escape and wanderings, making much of the humorous side
thereof, and more of the judgment and courage and resource of her guide.
Her voice had a glad note about it; a very carol of joy and relief
seemed to ring out in every tone.  Ever unconventional, it never
occurred to her to make the slightest attempt to disguise her feelings.
If she was glad that the man who had done so much for her had returned
safe and sound, it was not in her to conceal that fact.

"Phew! she's giving away the show," Tarrant was thinking to himself.
"That first shot of mine _re_ John Ames was a plumb centre.  I'll have
the crow over old Moseley now.  Lucky John Ames!"

But at heart he was conscious of a certain not altogether to be
controlled sinking.  He was not without a weakness for Nidia himself;
now, however, in a flash he recognised its utter futility, and was far
too much a man of the world not to realise that the sooner he cured
himself of it the better.

Upon one other the change in Nidia's manner was not lost, and the
discovery struck Susie Bateman with such wild amazement that she at
first refused to entertain it.  Here, then, lay the secret of the girl's
fits of depression and generally low spirits.  Such were not due to her
recent terrible experiences.  She had been secretly grieving on account
of the man who had shared them, or why this sudden and almost miraculous
restoration which the news of his safety had effected?  She recalled her
half-playful, half-serious warning to Nidia during their earlier
acquaintance with this man--a warning more than once repeated, too.
That had been out of consideration for the man; but that it should ever
have been needed on Nidia's own account--oh, Heavens! the idea was
ghastly, if it were not so incredible Nidia, who had renounced airily
the most alluring possibilities more than once, now to throw herself
away upon a mere nobody!  Nidia, who had never taken any of them
seriously in her life, to succumb in this fashion!  No, it could not be
allowed.  It could be nothing but the result of propinquity, and danger
mutually shared.  She must be saved from this at all costs.  And then
the good woman recognised uneasily that John Ames would be rather a
difficult person to defeat, once he had made up his mind to opposition.
Ah! but she had one card to play, one weapon wherewith to deal a blow to
which one of his mould would be peculiarly vulnerable.

The while she watched Nidia closely.  But for the discovery she had
made, she would have rejoiced to see her darling so completely her old
self, all brightness and animation as she chatted away with the two
visitors; now that very gladsomeness was as a poisoned and rankling dart
to the dismayed observer, for it confirmed all her direst suspicions.
Susie Bateman's Christianity was about on a par with that of the average
British female, in that she would have looked sourly askance at anybody
who should refuse to attend church, yet just then she would have given a
great deal to learn that Tarrant's report was erroneous, and that John
Ames was at that moment lying among the granite wilds of the Matopos, as
lifeless as the granite itself, with half a dozen Matabele assegais
through him.

Such aspirations, however, were as futile as they usually are, and the
best proof of the truth of Tarrant's story lay in the real objective
presence of the subject thereof; for hardly had the two men departed
when they were replaced by a third--even John Ames him-self.



With her usual frank naturalness and absence of conventionality, Nidia
went to meet him in the doorway.  Then, as he took her extended hands,
it seemed as though he were going to hold them for ever.  Yet no word
had passed between them.

How well he looked! she was thinking.  The light, not unpicturesque
attire there prevailing, and so becoming to a good-looking, well-made
man, suited him, she decided.  She had first seen him in the ordinary
garments of urban civilisation.  She had seen him last a tattered
fugitive, haggard and unshaven.  Now the up-country costume--silk shirt
and leather belt, and riding-trousers with gaiters--endowed his lithe
well set-up form with an air of freedom and ease, and looking into the
clear-cut face and full grey eyes, framed by the wide, straight brim of
the up-country hat, she thought she had never seen him looking so well.
"How glad I am to see you again!" she said, "Ten thousand welcomes.  Do
you know, I have been feeling ever since as if _I_ were responsible
for--for whatever had befallen you."

"Yes?  Imagine, then, what _I_ must have felt at the thought of you,
alone in the mountains, not knowing what to do or where to turn.  I
wonder it didn't drive me stark staring mad.  Imagine it, Nidia.  Just
try to imagine it!  Words won't convey it."

"I did have a dreadful time.  But I knew nothing would have kept you
from returning to me, had you been able.  And then your boy, Pukele,
arrived, and took such care of me.  I sent him out to find you, and he
said you had been among the Matabele, but had been able to leave them

"Who?  My boy?  Pukele?" repeated John Ames, wonderingly.

"Yes.  He brought me out of the mountains.  One day he went out to hunt.
I heard him, as I thought, fire a couple of shots, and came up to find
myself among friends again."

"Nidia," called a voice from within--a voice not untinged with
acerbity--"won't Mr Ames come inside?"

John Ames started, and the effect seemed to freeze him somewhat.  The
coldness of the greeting extended to him as he complied, completed the
effect.  Instinctively he set it down to its true cause.

"We met last under very different circumstances, didn't we, Mrs
Bateman?" he said easily.  "None of us quite foresaw all that has
happened since."

"I should think not.  The wonder is that one of us is alive to tell the
tale," was the rejoinder, in a tone which seemed to imply that no thanks
were due to John Ames that `one of us' was--in short, that he was
responsible for the whole rising.

"And do you remember my asking if there wasn't a chance of the natives
rising and killing us all?" said Nidia.  "I have often thought of that.
What times we have been through!" with a little shudder.  "Yet, in some
ways it seems almost like a dream.  Doesn't it, Susie?"

"A dream we are not awakened from, unfortunately," was the reply.  "We
don't seem through our troubles yet.  Well, as for as we are concerned,
we soon shall be.  I want to take Miss Commerell out of this wretched
country, Mr Ames, as soon as ever it can be managed.  Don't you think
it the best plan?"

"I think you are both far safer where you are, since you ask me," he
answered.  "Any amount of reinforcements are on their way, and meanwhile
the laager here, though uncomfortable, is absolutely safe, because
absolutely impregnable.  Whereas the Mafeking road, if still open, is so
simply on sufferance of the rebels.  Any day we may hear of the Mangwe
being blocked."

"I disagree with you entirely," came the decisive reply.  "I hear, on
first-rate authority, that the coaches are running regularly, under
escort, and that the risk is very slight.  I think that will be our best
plan.  I suppose you will be joining one of the forces taking the field
as soon as possible, won't you, Mr Ames?"

If there was one thing that impressed itself upon John Ames when he
first entered, it was that this woman intended to make herself supremely
disagreeable; now he could not but own that she was thoroughly
succeeding, and, as we said, he had instinctively seen her bent.  She
was, in fact, warning him off.  The tone and manner, the obtrusive way
in which she was mapping out his own movements for him, stirred within
him a resentment he could hardly disguise, but her suggestion with
regard to disposing of those of Nidia struck him with a pang of dismay,
and that accentuated by considerations which will hereinafter appear.
Now he replied--

"My plans are so absolutely in the clouds that I can hardly say what I
may decide to do, Mrs Bateman.  I might even decide to cut my
connection with this country.  Take a run home to England, perhaps.
What if I were so fortunate as to come in as your escort?"

This he said out of sheer devilment, and he was rewarded, for if ever a
human countenance betrayed disgust, repressed wrath, baffled scheming,
all at once, that countenance belonged to Susie Bateman at that moment
Nidia came to the rescue.

"You have not told us your adventures yet," she said.  "I want to know
all that happened since you left me.  I only hope none of these tiresome
men will come in and interrupt."

_All_ that happened!  He could not tell her all, for he had pledged his
word to the Umlimo.  The latter had predicted that he would meet with
every temptation to violate that pledge, and here was one of them.  No,
not even to her could he reveal all.  But he told her of his fall from
the dwala, his unconsciousness, and, leaving out that strange and
startling experience, he went on to tell her what the reader has yet to
learn--how he awoke in the broad light of day to find himself surrounded
by armed natives, friendly to himself, however, who, of course, acting
under orders from the Umlimo, had escorted him to within safe distance
of Bulawayo.

Unconsciously their tones--he narrating, she commenting upon the
narrative--became soft.  Their glances, too, seemed to say something
more than words.  Both, in fact, were back again in imagination, roaming
the wilds together, alone.  They seemed to lose themselves in the
recollection, oblivious of the presence of a third party.

The said third party, however, was by no means oblivious of them.  Her
ear weighed every tone, her keen eye noted every glance, every
expression, and she grew proportionately venomous.  Yet, looking at the
man, she could hardly wonder at Nidia's preference, and the
uncomfortable consciousness was forced upon her that whoever might be
the object of it, this man or any other, her own feeling would be just
the same--one of acute powerless jealousy, to wit, that any should ever
stand before herself in her darling's preferences.

"Don't go," said Nidia, putting forth a hand to detain him, for his
story had run on late, and he was rising with an apology.  "Stay and
have dinner with us.  It's siege fare, but even then a little more
varied than our precarious ration under the rocks--not that one did not
positively enjoy that at the time," she added with a laugh.  He joined

"Did you?  I'm sure I did.  Considering we were without any adjuncts,
your cooking was marvellous, Nidia."

"Nidia" again!  Heavens!  It had come to that, then!  Susie Bateman's
hair nearly rose on end.

"Well, you shall see if it is any better now," went on the girl, airily.
"Oh, I do hope none of those stupid men will drop in.  I want to have a
nice long talk."

"You haven't found them so stupid up till now, Nidia," struck in Susie
Bateman.  "Why, there isn't an evening some of them haven't been in to
cheer us up."

This for the benefit of John Ames, to whom the speaker divined it might
in some way not be palatable.  He for his part noted that she did not
second the invitation, but he had reached that stage when he really
didn't care to consider any Susie Bateman overmuch.  Wherefore he
accepted.  But the latter, for her part, was resolved to pursue the
campaign, and that vigorously, and to this end she never left them for
one moment alone together.  Likewise was she rather oftener than
necessary very emphatic in referring to "Miss Commerell;" and when,
later on, some of "those stupid men" did drop in, her joy was unbounded,
equally so that they stayed late enough to leave John Ames no pretext
for sitting them out.

Resisting a pressing invite to finish up the evening at the Silver
Grill, the latter went back to his quarters in by no means an elated
frame of mind.  Yet he had to some extent foreseen what had happened.
Nidia had been kind and cordial to him, but there it was--as one of a
crowd.  There was no longer that sweet day-to-day companionship, they
two isolated from the world.  We repeat that he had foreseen this
eventuality, yet now that it had arrived he liked it not one whit the
more; nor was there consolation in the thought that here was another
confirmation of the general accuracy of his forecasting faculty.
Already he began to realise the Umlimo's forecast: "There will come a
time when you will look back upon these rough wanderings of yours--the
two of you--as a dream of paradise."  Of a truth that strange being
possessed the gift of prophecy to an extraordinary degree.

Now, too, and in the days that followed, he found subject-matter for
some very serious thinking, and one of the main subjects of his thoughts
was that of the Umlimo.  No abstraction, then, was this cult, such as he
and others had supposed.  Probably it had been originally, but he who
now used the title had seized the opportunity of turning it into a most
formidable weapon against his enemies, in furtherance of one of the most
ruthless, daring, and far-reaching schemes of vengeance which the mind
of man could ever conceive and foster; and the object of this terrible
monomania, the man's own nationality.  John Ames was in a quandary.
Here he stood, possessed of most important knowledge, yet powerless to
divulge it; cognisant of a fact of most vital moment to those who
employed him, and whose pay he was receiving, yet tied and bound by his
pledged word.

There was one way out of this difficulty, and that way, not being an
unscrupulous man, he decided to take.  He resigned his position in the
service of the Chartered Company.  Even then his mind was by no means at
ease.  There seemed still to be a duty to perform to humanity in
general.  Were he to keep this knowledge to himself, how many lives
would be sacrificed which otherwise might have been saved?  The capture
or death of the Umlimo--would it not be effectual to stop the rising?
and was he not in duty bound to further this end in the interests of his
fellow-countrymen?  Conscience told him he might do this; for with all
the care and secrecy that had attended both his entrance to and exit
from the cave of mystery, he could not disguise from himself that, by
careful calculations as to time and locality, he might be able to find
the spot again.  But then would rise before him his pledged word.  He
had given it when in the power of this extraordinary being, when both
his own life and that of Nidia had lain in his hand, and he could not
now go back on it--no, not on any consideration.  His countrymen must
take their chance.  He had done all that could reasonably be expected of
him in resigning his position and its emoluments.

In doing this, however, it was pre-eminently a case of looking to virtue
as its own reward.  Certainly it brought him no nearer the realisation
of his hopes; for so slender were his private means of existence, that
only by the exercise of the most rigid economy could he get along at
all, and the necessaries of life, be it remembered, were at famine
prices.  Decidedly, indeed, his prospects were looking blacker and yet
more black.

And what of Nidia herself?  As the days went by she seemed to draw no
nearer.  Seldom now was he suffered to be alone with her, and then only
for a minute or so, when an ever-present feeling of _gene_ and flurry
would be there to mar the effect of any opportunity he might have had to
improve the occasion, and, indeed, he was beginning to regard matters as
hopeless.  The persistent hostility of Mrs Bateman was ever on the
watch to defeat his every move; and as to this, even, there were times
when it seemed to him that Nidia was a trifle too acquiescent in the
latter's objectionable and scarcely concealed efforts at railing him
off.  Then, too, Nidia was constantly surrounded by a knot of men, many
of them fine gallant-looking fellows, already distinguished for some
feat of intrepidity.  There was the commander of the relief troop which
had brought her in, for instance, and Carbutt and Tarrant and several
others.  He, John Ames, so far from being the one to bring her in, as he
used to pride himself would be the case, had merely imperilled her the
more by his own sheer incautious blundering.  Sick at heart, he would
fain be lying where he had fallen--a battered, lifeless heap at the base
of the great _dwala_.

From this his thoughts would wander to the mysterious rock-dwelling, and
to him who inhabited it.  Why, and with what object to serve, had the
Umlimo spared and tended him?  That he might deliver his message to the
outside world?  Well, he had done that.  And then--and the very thought
sent a thrill as of needles and pins throughout his whole system.  He
had delivered the one message, but what of the other enclosure, the one
which in some mysterious way concerned himself, the packet marked "B"?
He got it out and eyed it.  The Umlimo's words were vividly imprinted in
his memory.  "The time may come when you will see everything dark around
you, and there is no outlook, and life hardly worth prolonging.  Then,
and then only, open it."

Solemn and weighty now did those words seem.  Great Heaven! had not just
such a time come?  Was not everything dark enough in all conscience, and
what outlook did life afford?  Yes, he would do it.  His heart beat fast
as he undid the sealed oilskin wrappings of the packet.  What would it
contain, and how could such contents in any way conduce to his own
welfare?  The last wrapping was off, revealing an enclosure.  Only a
sealed letter, directed to the same names and address as that in the
packet marked "A"--a firm in Cape Town--of solicitors or agents, he
conjectured.  One word of instructions accompanied this, one single


"And that is all?" he said to himself, perhaps a trifle disappointedly,
turning the enclosure round and round.  "Well, that's no trouble.  I'll
go and do it."



MacFurdon's troop, about two hundred strong, was sweeping up the long
slope which ran northward from the township of Bulawayo, and the line it
was taking would bring it out a little to the right of Government House
and the site of the old kraal.

It was bitterly cold, for the dawn had not yet risen.  The insurgents
had waxed bolder and yet more bold.  They were holding the ridge, and
were in calm possession of Government House itself, and now the idea was
to teach them that the time had come when they could no longer have
everything their own way.  To this end it had been decided to get well
within striking distance of them at break of day.

MacFurdon's troop was rather a scratch concern, got together in a hurry,
but consisting of good material.  With it went many volunteers.  It was,
however, in this instance, as much a reconnoitring party as one for
fighting purposes.  On its right flank moved a contingent of the Cape
Boy corps, feeling the ground towards the Umguza.  This, too, was rather
a scratch force, composed of every conceivable kind of South African
native, but, like the other, of excellent fighting material.

"Say, Ames--what sort of show you think we got?" whispered one of the
volunteers aforesaid, as they drew near the crest of the rise.  "Now, if
they was Indians, I guess we'd boost them out of yon White House of
yours in no time, striking them in the dark so."

The speaker was an American, by name Shackleton, commonly called "The
Major," by virtue of his having claimed to hold that rank in Uncle Sam's
regular army.  He likewise claimed to have seen service in the Indian
wars on the Plains.  In more peaceful times he was a prospector by

"Show?  Oh, the usual thing," answered John Ames.  "We shall get in
touch with each other, and there'll be a big swap in bullets, and a
general hooroosh.  They'll all sneak away in the grass, and we shall get
back into camp feeling as if our clothes all wanted letting out.  If
there are more of them than we can take care of all at once, why, we
shan't be feeling so vast."

"That so?  You ever fight Matabele before?"

"Yes.  I was up here with the column in '93.  That used to be the
programme then."

The wind was singing in frosty puffs through the grass, bitterly cold.
Riding along in the darkness, the numbed feet of most there advancing
could hardly feel the stirrups.  Then upon the raw air arose a sound--a
strange, long-drawn wailing sound, not devoid of rhythm, and
interspersed every now and then with a kind of humming hiss.

"They are holding a war-dance, so there must be plenty of them there,"
whispered John Ames.  "Listen!  I can hear the words now."

It was even as he said.  They were near enough for that.  Louder and
louder the war-song of Lobengula swelled forth upon the darkness, coming
from just beyond the rise--

  "Woz 'ubone!  Woz 'ubone, kiti kwazula!  Woz 'ubone!  Nants 'indaba.
  Indaba yemkonto--Jji-jji!  Jji-jji!

  "Nants 'indaba.  Indaba yezizwe.  Akwazimuntu.  Jji-jji!  Jji-jji!
  Woz 'ubone!  Nants 'indaba.  Indaba kwa Matyobane.  Jji-jji!

["Jji-jji" is the cry on striking a foe.]

  A translation of the war-song:

  "Come behold, come behold, at the High Place!
  Come behold.  That is the tale--the tale of the spear.
  That is the tale--the tale of the nation.  Nobody knows.
  Come behold.  That is the tale--the tale of Matyobane."

The barbaric strophes rolled in a wave of sound, rising higher with each
repetition, and to the measured accompaniment of the dull thunder of
stamping feet, the effect was weirdly grand in the darkness.

"It makes something very like nonsense if turned into English,"
whispered John Ames, in reply to his comrade's query, "but it contains
allusions well understood by themselves.  There isn't anything
particularly bloodthirsty about it, either.  That sort of hiss, every
now and then, is what we shall hear if we get to close quarters."

"Their kind of war-whoop, maybe.  I recollect at Wounded Knee Creek,
when Big Foot's band made believe to come in--"

But what the speaker recollected at Wounded Knee Creek was destined
never to be imparted to John Ames, for at that juncture a peremptory
word was passed for silence in the ranks.

Now the dawn was beginning to show, revealing eager faces, set and grim,
and rifles were grasped anew.  Then what happened nobody seemed to know
individually.  A straggling volley was poured into the advancing troop
from the crest of the rise, and the bugle rang out the order to charge.
As John Ames had described it, there followed a sort of "hooroosh" in
which each man was acting very much to his own hand, as, the troop
having whirled over the ridge, the order was given to dismount, and the
men stood pouring volley upon volley after the loose masses of flying

This, however, was not destined to last.  The first shock over of
surprise and dismay, the Matabele dropped down into cover and began to
return the fire with considerable spirit.  They were in some force, too,
and it behoved the attacking whites to seize what shelter they could,
each man taking advantage of whatever lay to his hand, whether stone or
bush or ant heap, or even a depression in the ground.

Then, for a space, things grew very lively.  The sharp spit of rifles
was never silent, with the singing of missiles overhead.  The enemy had
the advantage in the matter of cover, and now and then a dark form,
gliding like a snake among the grass and thorns, would be seen to make a
convulsive spring and fall over kicking.  One trooper was shot dead, and
more than one wounded, and meanwhile masses of the enemy could be
descried working up to the south-west.  Reinforcements?  It looked like
it, remembering that the force at first engaged was not inconsiderable.
The word went forth to retreat.

This was done in good order--at first.  But now appeared a great
outflanking mass, pouring up from the northern side, and its object was
clear.  A long wire fence ran down from the apex of the rise.  It was
necessary to retreat round the upper end of this.  Did this outflanking
mass reach it first, the white force would probably be destroyed, for
they could not get their horses through the wire, and would have
crushing odds to overwhelm them.  It became a race for the end of the
fence, which, however, the cool intrepidity and sound judgment of the
leaders prevented from being a helter-skelter one.

John Ames and "The Major" and a trooper were on the extreme left flank,
now become the right one, all intent on a knot of savages, who were
keeping them busily employed from a thick bit of thorn bush, and did not
at once become alive to the retreat.  When they did, they became alive
to something else, and that was that by nothing short of a miracle could
they gain the upper end of that fence in time.

"Your horse jump, Ames?" said the American.

"Don't know.  Never tried."

"You got to try now, then, by God!  Our only chance.  Look!"

John Ames did look, and so did the other man.  At the upper end of the
fence a mass of savages were in possession, pouring a volley after the
retreating troop.  Below on their right the three men saw the other
outflanking "horn" now closing in upon them, and a line of warriors
coming through the grass and thorns in front at a trot.  It was a strong
impi, and a large one.

In that brief flash of time, John Ames was curiously alive to detail.
He could see the ostrich-feather mutyas worn by the warriors, the
parti-coloured shields and the gleam of spears, and decided this was a
crack regiment.  He could see, too, the township of Bulawayo lying in
its basin below, and the retreating horsemen now already far away.  He
noted the look of fear on the face of the trooper, and that of desperate
resolve in the keen eyes of the American.

"Now for it!" he cried.  "Put your horses at it here.  I'll give you a

A wire fence is a trying thing to jump, with an uncertain steed.  To his
surprise, John Ames lighted in safety on the other side.  Not so
Shackleton.  His horse's hoofs caught the top wire, and turning a
complete somersault, threw its rider heavily, but on the right side of
the fence, while that of the trooper refused point-blank and trotted
off, snorting idiotically, right down the fence into the very teeth of
the advancing enemy.

John Ames turned, then rode back.

"Get up, Major, for Heaven's sake!"

Shackleton had already been on his feet, but subsided again with a

"Can't.  Ankle gone.  Guess my time's here--right here," he panted.
"You go on."

"We don't do things that way, damn it!"  John Ames answered, in his
strong excitement.  "Here, get up on my horse."

He had dismounted.  Shackleton's fool of an animal had already recovered
itself and made itself scarce.  The advancing impi was barely three
hundred yards distant, pouring onward, shivering the air with its deep
vibrating "Jji-jji!"

"You go on!" repeated the American.  "I won't be taken alive."

John Ames _said_ no more.  He _did_.  Shackleton, fortunately, was
rather a small man, and light.  The other seized him under the
shoulders, and by dint of half lifting, half pushing, got him bodily
into the saddle.

"Now go!" he shouted.  "I'll hold on the stirrup."

All this had taken something under a minute.

They went.  The impi was now pouring through the fence, whose momentary
obstruction almost made a difference of life or death to the fugitives.
How they escaped John Ames never knew.  Sky, earth, the distant township
beneath, all whirled round and round before him.  Twice he nearly lost
hold of the stirrup-leather and would have fallen; then at last became
aware of slackening pace.  Turning, dizzy and exhausted, he saw that the
enemy had abandoned pursuit.

And what of the unfortunate trooper?  Not much, and that soon over,
luckily.  Abandoning his mount, he made a rush for the fence, but too
late.  A very hail of assegais was showered upon him, and he fell, half
in, half out, across the wire.  With a roar of exultation the savages
were around him.  Assegais gleamed in the air, first bright, then red,
and in a second nothing was left but a shapeless and mangled mass.

Such tragedies, however, come but under the simple word "losses," and
these, all things considered, had not been great.  On the other hand,
the enemy had suffered severely, and if, by sheer force of overwhelming
numbers, he had succeeded in driving them back, those forming the
reconnaissance were not disposed to feel it acutely.  They were quite
ready to go in at him another day, and thus make things even.

But Shackleton, otherwise "The Major," was not going to let the thing
down so easily.  His sprained ankle kept him tied by the leg for some
days, but on the subject of the fight and the retreat he became somewhat
of a bore.  On the subject of John Ames he became even more of one.  He
was never tired of extolling that worthy's readiness and nerve, and his
self-devotion in risking his life to save a comrade.

"You British have got a little iron notion," he would say, "a thing you
call a Victoria Cross, I reckon.  Well, when you going to get it for
John Ames?  He boosted me on to his broncho like a sack right away, and
run afoot himself.  But for him where'd I be now?  Cut into bully beef
by those treacherous savages.  Yes, sir."

But as these incisive utterances were invariably accompanied by an
invitation to liquor, there were some who were not above drawing.  The
Major upon his favourite topic.  To most, however, he became a bore, but
to none so much as the subject thereof.  Said the latter one day--

"Do you know, Major, I begin to wish I had left you where you were.
It's a fact that you're making a perfect fool of me, and I wish you'd
drop it."

"Shucks!  Now you quit that fool-talk, John Ames, and reach down that
whisky over there--if you can call such drug-store mixture as your
Scotch stuff by the same name as real old Kentucky.  I'm going on at it
until they give you that little nickel thing you British think such a
heap of."

"But I don't want it, can't you understand?" he retorted angrily; "nor
anything else either.  I believe I'll get out of this country mighty
soon.  I'm sick of the whole show."

Shackleton looked at his friend, and shook his head gravely.  John Ames
petulant, meant something very wrong indeed with John Ames.  Then an
idea struck "The Major"--a bright idea, he reckoned--and in the result
he seized an early opportunity of making a call, and during that call he
retold his favourite tale to just two persons--to one of whom it was
pleasant and to one of whom it was not.  You see, he was a shrewd
observer, was Shackleton, otherwise "The Major."



"Do try and be serious a little while if you can, Nidia, if only that I
have something very serious to say to you."

"Drive ahead, then, Govvie.  I promise not even to laugh."

Susie Bateman looked at the girl as she sat there, with hands clasped
together and downcast eyes, striving to look the very picture of
be-lectured demureness, and tried to feel angry with her.  Yet, somehow,
she could not--no, not even when she thought to detect a suspicious
heave of the shoulders which denoted a powerful fund of compressed
laughter.  With the absent object of her intended "straight talk" she
felt venomously savage.  With this one--no, she could not.

"Well, what I want to say is this," she went on.  "Nidia, is it fair to
encourage that man as you do?"

"Which man?  There are so many men.  Do I encourage them?"

"Oh, child, don't be so wildly exasperating.  You know perfectly well
who I mean."

Then Nidia lifted her eyes with a gleam of delightful mischief in them.

"I have a notion you are ungrammatical, Govvie.  I am almost sure you
ought to have said `_whom_ I mean.'  Well, we won't be particular about
that.  But, as my American adorer, `Major' Shackleton, would say, `Oh,
do drive on,' By the way, is he the man I am encouraging?"

What was to be done with such a girl as this?  But Susie Bateman was not
to be put off.

"You know perfectly well that I mean John Ames."

"Oh!  Now you're talking, as my `Major' aforesaid would rejoin.  And so
I encourage John Ames, do I?  Poor fellow! he seems to need it."

There was an unconscious softness wherewith these words were uttered.
It drove the other frantic, "Need it indeed!  On the contrary, what he
needs is discouragement, and plenty of it.  Well, he gets it from me, at
any rate."

"Oh yes, he does," came the softly spoken interpolation.

"Well, but, Nidia, how much further is this thing to go?  Why, the man
comes here and talks to you as if you belonged to him; has a sort of
taken-possession-of-you way about him that it's high time to put an end

"And if he had not `taken possession' of me in that ghastly place on the
Umgwane, and kept it ever since, where would I be now?" came the placid

"Yes, I know.  That is where the mischief came in.  It was partly my
fault for ever encouraging the man's acquaintance.  I might have known
he would be dangerous.  There is that about him so different to the
general run of them that would make him that way to one like yourself,
Nidia.  Yes; I blame myself."

"Yes; he is different to the general ruck, isn't he?" rejoined Nidia,
with a softness in her wide-opened eyes that rather intensified than
diminished the bitterness of her friend and mentor.

"Well, at any rate he is nobody in particular," flashed out the latter,
"and probably hasn't got a shilling to his name; and now I hear he has
resigned his appointment"--again that provoking smile, "Once for all,
Nidia; do you intend to marry him?"

"Marry who?  John Ames?"

"Yes," with a snap.

"He hasn't asked me."

The innocent artlessness of the tone, the look of absolute and childlike
simplicity in the blue eyes as the answer came tranquilly forth, would
have sent a bystander into convulsions.  It sent Mrs Bateman out of the
room in a whirlwind of wrath.  After her went the offender.

"Don't get mad, Susie.  I can't help being a tease, can I?  I was built
that way.  Come along out, and we'll drop in on some other frightened
and beleaguered female, and swap camp and laager gossip."

But the other refused.  She was seriously put out, she said, and never
felt less like going anywhere.  So Nidia, who understood her--at times,
somewhat crusty--friend thoroughly, and managed her accordingly, put on
her hat and went alone.

To do her justice, Mrs Bateman, from her point of view, was not without
cause for concern.  Nidia's father--she had lost her mother--was the
senior partner of an exceedingly wealthy firm of shipowners, and had
certainly a more brilliant future planned for his only and idolised
daughter than an alliance with a penniless nobody; for so, with a
certain spiteful emphasis, Mrs Bateman delighted to designate the
object of her abhorrence.  The girl had been allowed to accompany her
only after long and much-expressed opposition on the paternal side, and
now she felt simply weighted down with responsibility.  And this was the
way in which she had fulfilled her trust!

But fortune seemed inclined to favour her to-day.  Scarcely had Nidia
been gone ten minutes, than there came a knock at the door of their
diminutive abode.  John Ames himself!  Susie Bateman snorted like the
metaphoric warhorse, for she scented battle.  She was about to indulge
this obnoxious person with a very considerable fragment of her mind.
Nevertheless she welcomed him pleasantly--almost too pleasantly, thus
overdoing the part.  But she had no intention of sending him off at a
tangent, as she knew full well would be the result of letting him know
that Nidia was not in.

Observing him keenly, she noted the quick shade of disappointment as he
became alive to the fact that the room was empty save for herself.  She
knew exactly what was passing in his mind, and found a cruel enjoyment
in observing every sign of expectation evoked by this or that sound
outside, for she had not told him that Nidia was out, and knew that he
was still hoping she might only be in another room.  At length he

"Miss Commerell has gone out," she replied.  "She went round to see some
people; I didn't even hear who they were.  She won't be back till
lunch-time, if then; and perhaps it is just as well, Mr Ames, for I
have been wanting to have a little quiet conversation with you.  Now we
can have it."

"Yes?" he said enquiringly.  But tranquil as the tone was, she had not
failed to note the scarcely perceptible start of conscious dismay evoked
by the announcement.  Yet now it had come to the point, she for her part
hardly knew how to begin, and he was not going to help her.  Besides,
his tranquil self-possession was somewhat disconcerting.  However, she
started in at it, characteristically, headlong.

"Now, you must not be angry with me, Mr Ames; but I want to talk to you
as a woman of the world to a man of the world.  In short, about Miss

"Such a subject cannot but be interesting, Mrs Bateman."

"She is under my charge, you know."

"Yes.  You are to be congratulated on the delightful nature of such a

"But you admit that it is one which entails a grave responsibility?"

"The gravest responsibility," he replied.

"Well, then, the gravity of that responsibility must be my excuse for
what I am about to say.  Don't you think you come here rather often?"

She was exasperated by his imperturbability.  She could see he meant
fencing, wherefore she clubbed him without further preliminary.

"Do I?" he answered, in the same even tone.

She could hardly restrain her wrath, and her voice took a higher pitch.

"Do you?" she echoed somewhat stupidly, because fast losing her temper.
"Well, when I tell you people are beginning to talk about it?"

"Yes; they would be sure to do that.  You see, they have so little to
talk about, all crowded up together here."

She was taken wildly aback.  The unparalleled impudence of the man,
taking everything for granted in this way!

"Well, I can't have Miss Commerell talked about, and I won't.  And
that's all about it."

"Oh, it's about Miss Commerell they are talking?  I understood you to
mean it was about my coming here."

Then Mrs Bateman lost her temper, and, as women of her stamp usually do
under such circumstances, she became rude.

"Bless the man, is he quite a fool?" she broke forth, fairly quivering
with rage.  "Don't you, or won't you, understand that you are the cause
of getting Nidia talked about?  You!  And I won't have it.  Indeed,
under the circumstances, your acquaintance with Miss Commerell had
better cease.  She is in my charge, remember."

"Yes.  But she is not a child.  I should first like to hear Miss
Commerell's own views in the matter; indeed, shall do so before deciding
on whether to fall in with yours or not, and so I tell you frankly, Mrs
Bateman.  Of course this is your house, and I need hardly say I shall
visit it no more."

"One moment.  I have not quite done," she went on, for he had risen to
go.  "Again you must forgive me for plain-speaking; but let me advise
you, as a friend, to entertain no hopes that can only end in
disappointment.  You are probably aware that Miss Commerell's father is
a very wealthy man, and therefore you will not be surprised to learn
that he has mapped out a brilliant future for his only daughter."

The speaker was alive to the slight stirring of dismay that passed like
a ripple over the countenance of her hearer.  She knew him well enough
to be sure that the bolt had gone home, and at heart secretly respected
him.  In making this statement she had thrown her king of trumps.

"It is very painful for me to be obliged to speak like this, Mr Ames,"
she went on, deftly infusing a little less acerbity into her tone,
"especially when _I_ think of all you have done for Miss Commerell
throughout a time of terrible danger.  But as to this, you will
certainly not find her people ungrateful; you may take my assurance as
to that.  Let me see.  You have resigned your appointment, have you not?
At least, so I have been told."

She paused.  She had thrown her ace.

John Ames, his face white to the lips with this culminating outrage,

"Pardon me if I decline to discuss my own private affairs with anybody,
Mrs Bateman.  For the rest, there is a pitch of perfection in
everything, even in the art of plain-speaking, and perfection in that
art I must congratulate you on having attained.  Good morning!"

He bowed and left the house, with, at any rate, all the honours of war
on his side; and this she could not but recognise, feeling rather small
and uncomfortable as she looked after his retreating figure.  But she
had thrown her ace of trumps, anyway.


"How will you face the parting of the ways?"

The Umlimo's question came back to his mind as he walked away from the
house in a very fury of turmoil.  The Umlimo's predictions seemed to
fulfil themselves to the letter in every particular.  In his then frame
of mind John Ames found his thoughts reverting to that strange
personality with a kind of fascination, of deepened sympathy.  He
himself began to feel the same hatred of his kind, the same intuition
that even as the hand of everybody was against him, so should his hand
be against everybody.  It was significant that Nidia should have been
out of the way.  Could it be that she had deputed this cursed,
parrot-faced, interfering woman to take up her part and so clear the
ground for her?  His part was played.  He had been Nidia's Providence
during that perilous flight, but now his part was played.  She had no
longer any use for him.  The "brilliant future mapped out for her"--the
words seemed burnt into his brain--what part or lot had he in such, he a
mere penniless nobody?  And then all the outrageous insult conveyed by
the woman's words--a sort of patronising assurance that he would be
compensated, yes, compensated--paid--why did she not call it?  Faugh!
It was sickening.  Well, again, as the Umlimo had pronounced, it was the
way of life.  Black and bitter were his thoughts.  All was dark--blankly
dark.  He knew not which way to turn.  And at this juncture "The Major,"
otherwise Shackleton, his ankle now restored sufficiently to enable its
owner to hobble about, barred his material way with a pressing
invitation to come round and lunch.  Lunch, indeed!  Mentally he
consigned that estimable American to the devil, and, leaving him
astonished, went on to his own quarters, like a wounded animal, to hide
his pain and heartbreak alone.  Besides, he was sick of the story of his
own "heroism."  Damn such "heroism"!  He thought of the luckless trooper
who had been with them in their peril, probably conjured up by the sight
of Shackleton, and envied him.  Why had he not been the one to end his
hopes and fears then in that swift and easy manner?  That poor devil
probably had plenty of life's sweets in front of him.  He had none.
That was all over and done with.

He gained his quarters.  The post had come in, and on his table lay a
pile of official-looking letters, most of them addressed to him by his
late official style.  He glanced through them listlessly, one after
another, and then--What was it that caused his hand to shake and the
colour to leave his face, and started him bolt upright?  He stared at
the sheet again and again.  Yes, there it was.  He was not dreaming.
The sheet of paper was material, substantial; the words on it, written
in a somewhat flourishing, clerkly hand, were plain enough, and they
were to the effect that there had been placed to his credit, and lay at
his disposal, in the Standard Bank in Cape Town, the sum of twenty-five
thousand pounds.

Twenty-five thousand pounds!  At his disposal!  Heavens, what did it
mean?  Some hoax?  Some practical joke?  Of course.  But with the bank
communication was an enclosure.  This he opened with trembling fingers,
and thus it ran--

"In carrying out my instructions, John Ames, as you have done to the
very letter, you have rendered me a service beyond any money value.  Go
now and be happy with her whom you love, and this end the accompanying
communication will materially further.  Do not spoil your happiness by
any cursed foolish pride, or insane ideas of being under an obligation,
for this sum is less to me than a five-pound note would be to you
probably at this moment"--again that well-nigh superhuman gift of
forecast--"and take no more risks, but go in peace while you, or rather
while _ye_, may--_the road is still open_--and by your lifelong
happiness continue to justify the forecasts of:--


This, then, was what meant the opening of the packet marked "B."



John Ames stared at this communication till his eyes were dizzy, and a
wild rush of joy surged through his being.  Its genuineness he could not
doubt.  The bank paper, the bank seal--even the signature of the letter
he knew by name.  Now he was no longer a penniless nobody, but the
possessor of what was really a small fortune.  Why, indeed, should any
false pride stand in the way of his acceptance of it?  People received
bequests, even from unknown testators--received them thankfully; why
should not he?  The testator was living, yet practically dead to his
kind.  Again, there was a sort of appeal in the very wording of this
strange communication.  Why should he wreck his life's happiness upon
any rock of false pride?  He could now press his suit upon, at any rate,
independent terms.

Then, to dash his exultation, in came that ugly thought again.  Could it
really be that that odious woman was deputed by Nidia?  Horrible!  What
was this sudden access to competence in such a case?  "A brilliant
future mapped out for her."  Even now, under his changed fortunes, such
was not within his reach to offer her.  John Ames was a proud man and a
sensitive one.  Could it be that his ideal had stopped down from her
pedestal?  Then, by a comic twist of thought, came back that
conversation down by the blue sea at Camp's Bay.  This pedestal to let!
Yes, it was comical.

But again, by another twist of thought, came back that day in all its
idyllic aspects; in all the golden glow of love and faith, and vague,
indefinable hope.  Came back also that parting in the solitudes of a
grim wilderness, that pressure of the hands, that last long look into
the eyes.  Surely there was truth; there, far from artificial
restraints, was the soul laid bare.  John Ames became sane again.

Yet it was in no great exaltation of mind that he wended his way, a
couple of days later, to the dwelling occupied by Mrs Bateman.  He had
declared he would enter it no more, but now, under the circumstances, he
would do so once.  He would be firm and decided, too, in the attainment
of his object, and that was to see Nidia alone.  He would take no

This time, however, he was spared the necessity of further conflict.
Nidia was there to welcome him, and she was alone.  She looked at him
searchingly, and her eyes were grave.

"What is the matter?" she said.  "You are looking careworn and anxious.

"Am I?  Oh, it's nothing.  Some active service will soon send that

"Active service?"

"Yes.  I'm going to volunteer."

"Haven't you had enough of that yet?"

"I haven't had any.  My active service up till now has been strictly
confined to running away, and uncommonly `active' service it has been,
let me assure you."

"Running away?" she repeated.  "Yes; it is the sort of running away that
one has a particular admiration for.  Running away on foot, for
instance, with about a thousand savages a hundred yards behind, so that
a wounded comrade may ride away on one's horse."

He flushed.  That wretched Shackleton had been firing off that stale
yarn here too.  Of course, it would look as though he himself had
inspired it.

"Don't look annoyed," said Nidia, softly; "because I haven't half done.
`Running away,' too, in order to take care of a certain helpless
fugitive belonging to the helpless sex, who would otherwise certainly
have been murdered, or certainly have come to some miserable end a dozen
times over, is another kind of flight which appeals."

"Oh, for Heaven's sake leave that part of it!  It was no thanks to me
and my blundering asinine stupidity that you came in safe at all."

"No.  But, you see, I happen to hold a different opinion.  And now,
John, I have a little sore grievance against you, and I want to work it
off.  We don't see much of you now.  Why not?"

"Well, `_we_' don't want to.  Do you happen to know that only a couple
of days ago I was requested not to come here any more?"

"Do I happen to know?  Why, of course I don't.  This is the first I've
heard of it," answered Nidia, speaking quickly and with some
indignation.  "I did not even know you had been here a couple of days
ago.  I only know how I have missed you since."

"It is hardly fair, though, to give that as a reason.  There may be
others.  One is, perhaps, that I thought you might have too much of a
not very good thing; that you might have had enough of me during all the
time we were together, and change is congenial sometimes.  Again,
perhaps, it is that I have not been feeling particularly cheerful of
late, and feared to inflict it upon you."

Nidia's face, which at first had taken on a hurt look, now grew very

"What have you been troubled about?  Can you not tell me?  _Me_,

The very tone was a caress.  But somehow it recalled the abominable hint
thrown out by Mrs Bateman that very morning--the imputation that had
stung and insulted him to the very core of his finest feelings--and the
recollection hardened him.

"Whatever I have been troubled about will trouble me as long as life
itself," he answered, looking her in the eyes full and straight.  "But I
did not come here to whine to you, trouble or not.  I came to say


"Yes.  I have volunteered for active service, and am under orders to be
in readiness to take the field at a moment's notice."

"Then you may consider those orders cancelled.  You are under orders to
remain where you are until further notice."

"What?" he said, looking down at her where she stood, for he had risen
preparatory to taking his leave.  "To remain where I am?  What do you
mean, Nidia?"

"I mean that you can't go, and I don't intend that you shall.  Heavens,
what do you want to go getting yourself killed for?  Wasn't it bad
enough when you nearly did--when I--when we--all thought you were?  You
have got to stay here and take care of me."

What was this?  Nidia's self-possession breaking down so signally?  Were
his eyes and ears utterly deceiving him?  There was what sounded
suspiciously like the catch of a sob in her voice, and in her eyes that
same look of appeal, of wistfulness, he had seen there when they bade
each other that last farewell in the wilds of the Matopos.  His face
flushed beneath its bronze, then went white; but his voice was firm as
ever as he imprisoned her with his arms.

"To take care of you?  Then I must do so for life, Nidia."

"Yes; I think you had better, as you know how to do it so well," she
replied, raising her lips.

It was their first kiss; but it was even as the welding of two souls.
It was their first kiss, but for a very brief space the only one.  With
no further necessity for self-containment, John Ames seemed to pour
forth his whole soul, his whole nature, in adoration of this girl, the
first sight of whom had turned the whole current of his thoughts and
inner life.  All of this Nidia learned, and was infinitely, radiantly

"Shall I tell you something--darling?" she said.  "Strange as it may
sound, I have never loved anybody before--have never felt the slightest
inclination to.  But when I saw you, I knew the possibility was there.
You were--are--so different to everybody else.  I missed you so
frightfully when you left to come up here.  There, I never told you that
before.  And all the time we were out together in the mountains I loved
being with you--felt so safe with you, somehow, and--Oh!"

The last ejaculation was evoked by the appearance of a third party on
the scene.  In the doorway stood Mrs Bateman, speechless, her
high-featured countenance livid with amazement, rage, and baffled spite.

"Come here, Susie, and say, `Bless you, my children,'" called out Nidia,
a lovely blush coming over her face, as she realised the very near
propinquity in which she stood to the other occupant of the room, who,
for his part, said nothing.

But there came no answer.  The other turned and walked away in silence.
She had thrown her king and her ace, but the odd trick remained, and
this John Ames held.

Shiminya, the sorcerer, was seated in his _muti_ kraal on the Umgwane
river, but he was not alone.  With him sat Nanzicele, ex-sergeant of the
native police.

From the tone of their voices they seemed not on very good terms.  Not
to put too fine a point upon it, they were quarrelling.

Now, the cause of the difference lay in the fact that Nanzicele aspired
to join the ranks of the Abantwana 'Mlimo.  Shiminya, on the other hand,
was resolved that the hierarchy of the Great Abstraction would be better
without him, and was breaking this resolve as gently as might be.

But Nanzicele had been drinking.  He had obtained some gin among certain
overlooked loot of a sacked store, and Nanzicele, foiled in his objects,
and half drunk, was a very unpleasant customer indeed, not to say a
sufficiently formidable one.

Now he was raising his voice threateningly, jeering Shiminya, and more
than hinting that he was a rank impostor--he and all his cloth.  The
seer's snake-like eyes sparkled with vindictive hate, for he was no more
fond of being reviled and insulted than other and commoner mortals.

Another consideration actuating this precious pair was that each was in
a position to give the other away.  Both knew that the result of the
rising was but a question of time, and each had an idea that he might
purchase safety at the expense of the other.

A large bowl of _tywala_ was on the ground between them.  Suddenly, as
Shiminya stooped to raise this, his confederate whirled up his stick,
intending to bring it down upon the sorcerer's head in such wise that
the Umlimo would be without one of his most valuable myrmidons.  But the
move was not quick enough.  The blow, instead of shattering skull, came
down on shoulder, with numbing, crushing effect.  Lithe as an eel,
Shiminya twisted, and sprang to his feet.  At him sprang Nanzicele.  The
sorcerer had no weapon to hand.  The big Matabele, pressing him hard
against the thorn fence, had him at his mercy.

Not quite.  As the second blow descended, something entered Nanzicele's
side, sharp, fiery, scathing.  Then Shiminya fell, his limbs squirming
in spasmodic quiver, and from his relaxed grasp there fell a small
knife.  This Nanzicele pushed aside with his foot, uttering a
contemptuous grunt.

"_Au_!  That does not kill," he growled, surveying his ribs, whence the
blood flowed freely, but from a mere flesh-wound.  Then shifting his
knobstick into his left hand, the vengeful savage seized a broad-bladed
assegai, and plunged it into the vitals of his prostrate confederate.

"Yeh-bo!" he cried.  "Fare thee well, Shiminya.  The Umtwana 'Mlimo can
bleed as well as an ordinary man--can die!  _Hlala-gahle Umtwana

The body of the sorcerer lay motionless.  Gazing upon it for a moment,
Nanzicele turned away to the huts.  There was plunder there, plenty of
it, and for some little while he turned his attention thitherward,
finding and appropriating to his own use a good many things of vast
value in his eyes, arms and ammunition, wearing apparel, tobacco, and
what not.  But as he opened one of the huts there darted out against his
legs something grey and hairy and snarling, nearly upsetting him with
the shock and the scare.  Before he had recovered from his startled
surprise the thing had vanished and now Nanzicele deemed it time to do

The sun's rays grew longer and longer, throwing shadows over the
ill-omened abode of dark dealings, and the motionless body that lay
there.  Then the body was motionless no longer.  The limbs moved; next
the head was raised, but feebly.  Shiminya sat up.

"Ah, ah!  The Umtwana 'Mlimo is not so easy to kill, Nanzicele; and
thou--for this thou shalt die a thousand deaths," he murmured.

He reached over for the _tywala_ bowl, but it had been upset in the
scuffle and was empty.  Parched with a feverish and burning thirst, the
sorcerer dragged himself on hands and knees to the hut wherein he knew
there was more of the liquor.  He reached it at length, trailing broad
splashes of blood behind him.  Creeping within, he found the great
calabash.  It was empty.  Nanzicele had drained it.

In a tremble of exhaustion Shiminya sank to the ground.  The cold dews
of death were upon his face.  The awful coldness throughout his frame,
the result of a prodigious loss of blood, became an agony.  Air!  A
great craving for air was upon him.  His brain reeled, and his lungs
gasped.  He felt as though he could no longer move.

Then the door was darkened, and something brushed in.  With a superhuman
effort he collected his energies.

"Hamba, Lupiswana!" he gurgled.  "Hamba-ke!"

But the brute took no notice of the voice before which it was wont to
cower and tremble.  It crouched, snarling.  Then it put its head down
and licked the blood-gouts which had fallen upon the ground from the
veins of its evil master.

The latter began to experience some of the agonies he had delighted to
witness in his victims.  The savage beast had tasted blood--his blood.
And he himself was too weak to have resisted the onslaught of a rat.

Again he called, trying to infuse strength into his voice.  But the
crafty beast knew his state exactly, it had learnt to gauge helplessness
in the case of too many other victims, perhaps.  It only crawled a
little nearer, still growling.

For a while they lay thus, man and beast, mutually eyeing each other.
The eyes of the former were becoming glazed with the agony of utter
weakness but active apprehension.  Those of the latter glared yellow and
baleful in the semi-gloom of the hut.  It was a horrid sight.

"Hamba, Lupiswana!" repeated the sorcerer, instinctively groping for a
weapon.  But with a shrill snarl the brute was at his throat, tearing
and worrying, and, although a small animal, so furious was its frenzy
over this new and copious feast of blood, that it shook the light form
of the wizard, almost as it would have done that of a newly dropped
fawn.  And then in the semi-gloom was the horrible spectacle of a man
with his throat half torn out, feebly battling with the enraged furious
beast covered with blood and uttering its guttural snarls, as it tore
and clawed at his already lacerated vitals.  But the struggle did not
last.  The grim "familiar spirit" had triumphed over its evil master.
Shiminya the sorcerer lay dead in his _muti_ kraal, and the horrible
brute lay growling and snarling as it gorged itself to repletion upon
his mangled body.

And Nanzicele?  Exultant, yet somewhat fearing, he decamped with his
booty; but he did not get far.  A dizziness and griping pain was upon
him, and he sank down in the river-bed, by a water-hole.  What was it?
His wound was slight.  Ha!  The knife!  Yes.  A greenish froth was on
the surface of his wound.  The knife was poisoned.

His agonies now were hardly less than those of his slayer, and his
thirst became intense.  Crawling to a water-hole, he staggered over it
to drink, then drew back appalled.  He could not drink there, at any
rate.  It was the very hole into which he had helped throw the
unfortunate girl Nompiza.  Her decomposing lineaments seemed to glower
at him from the surface of the water as he bent over to drink.  With a
raucous yell he flung himself back, and then, in a paroxysm of agonised
convulsions, the rebel and treacherous murderer yielded up the ghost.

He too, you see, had thought to hold the trump card over his
confederate, but it was the latter who held the odd trick.  Yet better
for both, swifter and more merciful, would have been the noosed rope of
the white man's justice than the end which had overtaken them.



Golden August--a sky of cloudless blue softening into the autumn haze
which dims the horizon; golden August, with the whirr of the
reaping-machine, as the yellow wheat falls to the harvest, blending with
the cooing of wood-pigeons among the leafy shades of the park; golden
August, with its still, rich atmosphere, and roll of green champaign and
velvety coppice, and honeysuckle-twined hedgerow, and dappled kine
standing knee-deep in shaded pond; in short, golden August in one of the
fairest scenes of fair England.

Here and there red roofs clustering around a grey church tower, whose
sparkling vane flashes in the sun; here and there a solitary thatch.  In
front a lovely sward stretching down to a sunken fence, and a gap,
revealing the charming vista of landscape beyond--such is the outlook
from the library window of the beautiful and sumptuous home into which
we will take a brief and only peep, for it has been for some years past
Nidia's home, and is the property of her father.  _Has_ been? we said.
That it should continue to be so, forms, as it happens, the
subject-matter of the very conversation going on at that moment between

Nidia herself seems in no wise to have altered; indeed, why should she,
unless to grow more charming, more alluring than before, that being the
only alteration happiness is potent to effect?  For on the third finger
of her left hand a plain gold ring of suspicious newness proclaims that
she is Nidia Commerell no longer.  The other party to the conversation
is her father.

"It is really good of you, child," the latter is saying, "to come back
so soon to your old father, left all alone.  Not many would have done
it--at any rate, at such a time as this.  But I don't want to be
selfish.  You had been away from me so long, and had been so near--well,
being away altogether it would have been, I suppose, but for that fine
fellow, John Ames--that--well, I did want to see my little girl again
for a few days before she started on her travels, not in an infernal
savage-ridden country this time, thank God!"

"Of course I wanted to see you again, dear--and just as much as you did
me," returned Nidia, meaning it, too.  "But even the `infernal
savage-ridden country' has its bright side."

"Meaning John Ames," said the old gentleman, with a laugh.

In aspect Mr Commerell was of about medium height, scrupulously neat in
his attire.  He wore a short white beard, and had very refined features;
and looking into his eyes, it was easy to see whence Nidia had got hers.
In manner he was very straight to the point and downright, but it was
not the downrightness which in nineteen cases out of twenty degenerates
into mere brusquerie.  He and John Ames had taken to each other
wonderfully, and the old gentleman had already begun to look upon his
son-in-law as his own son.

"What I have got to say, child, is this," he went on; "and mind you, I
don't much like saying it.  However, here it is.  When you have done
your round on the Continent, why not come back here and make this your
home?  I know the old argument against relations-in-law in the same
house and all that, but here it's different.  You should both be as free
as air as far as I am concerned.  You know I am not of the interfering
sort--indeed, you could have your own set of apartments, for the matter
of that.  But when I bought this property to retire to in my old age, it
was with an eye to some such contingency, and--um--well, it could not
have befallen better.  Well, what I was coming to is that it is a large
property and wants some looking after, and John will find plenty to do
in looking after it.  He will have to look after it for himself and you
when my time is up, so may as well begin now."

But Nidia took the old man's face between her hands as he sat, and
stopped his utterance with a very loving kiss.

"Father, darling, don't say any more about relations-in-law and
interfering, and all that--bosh.  Yes, bosh.  _You_ interfering, indeed!
And for the matter of that, I know that John is awfully fond of you;
you get on splendidly together.  Of course we will come back and take
care of you, and we'll all be as happy together as the day is long."

"God bless you, Nidia, child!  Hallo! here he comes."

"Who?" asked Nidia, with a ripple of mirth over the inconsequence of the
remark--which certainly was funny.

"John, of course.  He is a fine fellow, Nidia.  Didn't know they grow
men like that in those parts"--with a very approving gaze at the
advancing figure of his son-in-law, who, strolling along the terrace,
was drinking in the lovely panorama of fair English landscape,
contrasting it, perchance, with certain weird regions of granite boulder
and tumbled rock and impenetrable thorn thicket.  And here it may be
noted that, her present happiness notwithstanding, Nidia had by no means
forgotten her sad and terrible experiences, and there were times when
she would start up in her sleep wild-eyed and with a scream of horror,
as she saw once more the mutilated corpses of the murdered settler's
family, or found herself alone in the shaggy wilds of the Matopos.  But
the awakening more than made up for the reminiscence.  She was young,
and of sound and buoyant Constitution, and the grim and ghastly
recollection of appalling sights and peril passed through would
eventually fade.

"Am I interrupting you?" said John Ames, as at his entrance the two
looked up.  "Nidia was going to stroll down to the bridge with me, Mr
Commerell; but if you want her, why, I shall have to keep myself

"Considerate, as few of them are or would be under the circumstances,"
thought the old gentleman to himself.  But aloud he said, "No--no.  It's
all right.  We've done our talk, John.  You'd better take her with you,
and she can tell you what it has all been about.  Besides, I have some
business to attend to."

He watched them strolling along the terrace together, and a strange
joyful peace was around the old man's heart.

"God bless them!" he murmured to himself--his spectacles, perhaps, a
trifle dim.  "They are a well matched pair, and surely this is a
Heaven-made union if such a thing exists.  God bless them, and send them
every happiness!"

And here we take leave to join in the above aspiration; for although
ourselves no believers in the old-fashioned "lived-happy-ever-after"
theory, holding that about nineteen such cases out of twenty, putting it
at a modest proportion, are, in actual fact, but sparsely hedged around
with the a "happy" qualification, yet here we think it possible that the
twentieth case may be found, if only that all the circumstances
attendant upon it go to make for that desirable end.

The End.

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