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´╗┐Title: Tales from the Veld
Author: Glanville, Ernest, 1855-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Tales from the Veld" ***

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Tales from the Veld
By Ernest Glanville
Illustrations by M. Nisbet
Published by Chatto & Windus, London.
This edition dated 1897.
Tales from the Veld, by Ernest Glanville.




The tales here set forth are, subject to a generous allowance for Uncle
Abe's gift of imagination, true to the animal life and the scenery of a
district in the Cape occupied by the British Settlers of 1820--a tract
rich in incidents of border warfare, hallowed by the struggles of that
early band of colonists, saturated with the superstitions and folk lore
of the Kaffirs, and thoroughly familiar to the author--who passed his
boyhood there.

E. Glanville.

Streatham: September 1897.



Abe Pike--Old Abe Pike, or Uncle Abe as he was variously called--lived
in a one-horse shanty in the division of Albany, Cape Colony.  I won't
locate his farm, for various reasons, beyond saying that there is a
solitary blue-gum on the south side of the house and the rudiments of a
cowshed on the north.  Uncle Abe was not ambitious; he was slow, but he
was sure.  So he said.  One blue-gum satisfied him, and as for the
cowshed he meant to complete it during the century.  I don't introduce
him as a tree planter, but as a narrator of most extraordinary yarns.
He called them facts--but of the truth of this the reader may judge.

Riding over one warm afternoon, I found him leaning over a water-butt
examining the little lively and red worms therein, which would soon
hatch out into livelier mosquitoes.

"Well, Uncle, how d'ye fare?"

"Porly, lad, porly; pumpkins is scarce."

Uncle Abe took a very old pipe from his pocket, and showed the emptiness
of it by placing a very gnarled little finger into the black bowl.

I held out my pouch.

"I'll jest take a little dry to put on the top," he said, as he
deliberately filled the pipe.  "We want a little `dry on the top' to
start us, but if there's nothin' deown below, why, it's a puff and out
it goes.  Yo'll never get a crop from that bottom land o' yours until
you put some dry on the top in the shape of manure.  See!"

Now, of all the laziest, shiftless beings there was no one who could
start level with old Abe Pike, and this advice from him was rasping, but
still he had his points.

"I've heard say there's a powerful heap o' money in portents," he
ventured presently.

"It depends on how you interpret them."

"Well, that's so.  I've got a portent here in this very coat; that's
some small pumpkins, I tell you.  It'll kill any sort o' vermin, rats,
skeeters, wild-cats, jackals, quicker'n winkin'.  See!  I found it out
myself come next Friday fortnight."

"You mean you interpreted the portent."

"Well, now, is that so?  I tole you I got it in my pocket, and ef I
didn't find it, how did it get there?  That's what I want to know."

"All right, Uncle, what is it?"

"That's my portent.  I diskivered it, and I'm gwine to work it under my
name--Abe Pike's Sure Killer."

"Is it a patent medicine you're talking of?"

"Of course; that's what I said.  There it is," and out of his pocket he
produced a strip of bark.

"Sneeze-wood bark, isn't it?"

"Looks like it, don't it?  But there's bark and there's bark.  This is
Abe Pike's Bark, possessing properties which will alleviate the
sufferings of the human race by putting a lightning end to the enemies
of the human kind.  That's what I've studied out to put in the papers in
big letters.  There's money in it, now; ain't there?"

"I don't see it, Uncle."

"Ah! the limitations of knowledge, my boy, is accountable for a pot of
ignorance.  You think that's plain ordinary bark, but that's where your
limitations run dry.  I'll jes' tell you how I diskivered this great and
marvellous killer of the centry.  Come Friday fortnight I sot out with
the axe to chop out a pole for the cowshed--t'other on' been eaten thro'
by those plaguy ants.  Well, I knew of a tree way down in the kloof that
had been growin' for that shed o' mine ever since the seed dropped on
the 'xact spot where nature had provided a bed for it.  When you come to
think of it, everything has got its purpose all smoothed out from the
start, and that little seed spread itself out from the beginnin' to
build up a pole for ole Abe Pike's cowshed.  I sot down on a fallen tree
and thought that all out, while the trees round about made a whisperin'
with their leaves over the head o' that there sneeze 'ood that was
doomed so to speak, by reason o' my cows, and the necessity of keepin'
'em out o' the rain in the winter.  Well, I sot there thinking all these
thoughts until it was too dark, and I went away home 'thout having cut
the tree.  Next mornin' I took up my axe and went down into the kloof
and took off my coat.  I gave two blows and stopped."

"Too much work?"

"Jes' you wait.  I tole you there was a fallen tree; well, in that tree
was a snake.  The first blow of the axe woke him, and he popped his head
out.  The second blow sent a chip that hit him square between the eyes.
Out he came biling with rage, and hissin' like a kettle o' water, and I
just had time to dodge behind the tree when he let out.  His fangs stuck
right in the wood, and with a clip I cut his head off.  I stood away
back looking at his writhing body and at his wicked head sticking there
in the tree jes' where I had made the wedge.  As I looked in, there came
to pass a remarkable circumstance."


"Yes; that tree began to lose colour.  It was a healthy tree, sound as a
bell, with a heart o' iron and a crown o' green leaves; but as I stood
there in the space o' maybe one minit, or a minit and a half, it begun
to turn pale and sickly."

"Turn pale!"

"Yes, sir, that's what I said.  First the leaves shuddered and rustled,
and grew moist; then they slowly turned yeller, curling up as if they'd
been frost-bitten, only sadder.  It s'prised me, that did, for there was
somethin' in the way the leaves went that struck a shudder through me,
'twas so human like in the manner o' it.  But that was nothing--the bark
suddenly cracked and peeled off--then the white trunk itself standin'
there, exposed in its nakedness began to swell--until it split with a
groan--ay, a groan, a moaning shivery gasp o' pain.  'Twas so like life,
I turned and ran, thinkin' that dead snakes was after me--so that as I
ran the fear grew upon me till I came out inter the open.  After looking
around keerfully I sat on a stone an' steadied my thinking machine.
When I got the fear out o' me I went back and there was that tree dead
as tho' it had been struck by lightnin' and bleached by the rain an'


"That tree was pisened!  It died o' snakebite--its system chock full o'
pisen.  I cut it down and took it home, where I planted it under the

"And your portent?"

"I'm comin' to that, if you'll give me time.  That night I couldn't
sleep for a procession of ants.  They came out of a hole in the floor,
crept over my bed--which you may know is on the floor for convenience--
and marched out thro' the crack under the door.  All the ants in the
country were there--red ants, black ants, working ants, soldier ants,
and the soldier ants nipped me whenever I moved.  In the morning, when
they had passed away, I went outside, and in the shed there was
thousands an' thousands o' dead ants, not to speak o' flies."

"All dead?"

"They had been nipping that pisened pole, and those that didn't bite got
the news and moved off for other scenes.  I tell you, you may speak o'
telegraph wires, but lor' bless you, news travels faster among the
creatures.  Why I've knowed--"

"Yes; but you've not told me about your discovery."

"Well, now, the limitations of your knowledge is great.  I've told you
enough to put two and two together.  If not, I'll just make the plain
plainer.  Seeing what the tree had done, I though o' the bark an' the
leaves left there behind in the kloof, and went for 'em.  It was jus' as
I thought.  They was deadly pisen, and when I laid some leaves about the
house they killed all the flies, and a piece o' bark laid in a rat-hole
brought all the rats out corpses.

"Yes sir, that's ole Abe Pike's Vermin Destroyer, and if you're setting
pills for jackals, why, don't you forget to come to my shop."

"Are you opening a shop?"

"That's what I said.  Abe Pike's vermin pisen poles, warrented to stand
the ravages o' time an' insects, and Pike's bark; no other genuine.  So

"Well, so long!"



I had ridden out one day to the outpost, where a troop of young cattle
were running, when the horse rode into a covey of red-wing partridges, a
brace of which I accounted for by a right and left.  Picking up the
birds, and feeling rather proud of the shot, I continued on to Uncle
Pike's to crow over the matter.

The old man was seated outside the door `braiding' a thong of forslag or

"Hitch the reins over the pole.  Ef the shed was ready I'd ask yer to
stable the hoss, but there's a powerful heap o' work yet to finish it
off nice an' shipshape--me being one o' those who like to see a job well
done.  None o' yer rough and ready sheds for me, with a hole in the roof
after the fust rain.  A plump brace o' birds--you got 'em up by the
Round Kopje."

"Yes, Uncle; a right and left from the saddle.  Good shooting, eh!"

"Fair to middling, sonny--fair to middling--but with a handful o' shot
an' a light gun what can yer expect but to hit.  Now, ef you'd bagged
'em with one ball outer an ole muzzle-loader, why I'd up an' admit it
was praisable."

"Why Uncle, where's the man who would knock over two birds with a ball?
It couldn't be done."

"Is that so?  Well, now yer s'prise me."

"You're not going to tell me you have seen that done!"

"Something better.  That's small potatoes."

He rose up, went indoors, and returned with an ancient single
muzzle-loader, the stock bound round with snake skin.  "Jes' yer handle
that wepin."

I handled it, and returned it without a word.  It was ill-balanced, and
came up awkwardly to the shoulder.

"That wepin saved my life."

"In the war?"

"In the big drought.  You remember the time.  The country was that dry,
you could hear the grass crackle like tinder when the wind moved, an'
every breath stirred up columns of sand which went cavorting over the
veld round and round, their tops bending over to each other an' the
bottoms stirring up everything movable, and the whole length of the
funells dotted about with snakes, an' lizards, an' bits of wood.  Why, I
see one o' em whip up a dead sheep, an' shed the wool off o' the carcase
as it went twisting round an' round."

"And the gun?"

"The gun was on the wall over my bed.  Don't you mind the gun.  Well, it
was that dry the pumpkins withered up where they lay on the hard
ground--an' one day there was nought in the larder, not so much as a
smell.  There was no breakfast for ole Abe Pike, nor dinner nor yet tea,
an' the next morning 'twas the same story o' emptiness.  I took down the
old gun from the wall an' cleaned her up.  There was one full charge o'
powder in the horn, an' one bullet in the bag.  All that morning I
considered whether 'twould be wiser to divide that charge inter three,
or to pour the whole lot of it in't once.  When dinner-time came an'
there was no dinner, I solumnly poured the whole bang of it inter the
barrel, an' listened to the music of the black grains as they rattled on
their way down to their last dooty.  I cut a good thick wad from a
buck-hide and rammed it down, `Plunk, plenk, plank, plonk, ploonk,'
until the rod jumped clean out o' the muzzle.  Then I polished up that
lone bullet, wrapped him round in a piece o' oil rag, an' sent him down
gently.  `Squish, squish, squash, squoosh.'  I put the cap on the
nipple, an' sent him home with the pressure o' the hammer.  Then I took
a look over the country to 'cide on a plan o' campaign.  What I wanted
was a big ram with meat on him ter last for a month, if 'twas made inter
biltong.  There was one down by the hoek, but it warnt full grown.  He
was nearest, but there was one I'd seen over yonder off by the river,
beyond the kloof, an' I reckoned 'twas worth while going a couple o'
mile extra to get him."

"You were sure of him?"

"He was as good as dead when I shouldered the gun an' stepped off out on
that wilderness o' burnt land.  The wind came like a breath from a
furnace, an' the hair on my head split an' curled up under the heat.
Whenever I came across a rock with a breadth of shade I sot there to
cool off, panting like a fowl, an' also to cool off the gun for fear
'twould explode.  By reason o' this resting the dark came down when I
reached the ridge above the river, an' I jest camped where it found me,
after digging up some _insange_ root to chew.  The fast had been with me
for two days, an' the gnawing pain inside was terrible, so that I kept
awake looking up at the stars an' listening to the plovers."

"It must have been lonesome!"

"'Twas not the lonesomeness so much as the emptiness that troubled me.
Before the morning came, lighting up the valley, I was going down to the
river on the last hunt.  'Twas do or die that trip--an' it seemed to me
I could see the gleam o' my bones away down there through the mist that
hung over the sick river.  I made straight for the river, knowing there
was a comfort an' fellowship in the water which would draw game there,
an' the big black ram, too, 'fore he marched off inter the thick o' the
kloof for his sleep.  By-and-by, as I went down among the rocks an'
trees, I pitched head first--ker smash--in a sudden fit o' dizziness,
but the shock did me good.  It rattled up my brain--an' instead o' jest
plunging ahead I went slow--slow an' soft as a cat on the trail--pushing
aside a branch here, shoving away a dry twig there, an' glaring around
with hungry eyes.  I spotted him!"

"The ram?"

"Ay, the ram.  The very buck I'd had in my mind when I loaded the old
gun.  He stood away off the other side o' the river, moving his ears,
but still as a rock, and black as the bowl of this pipe, except where
the white showed along his side.  He seemed to be looking straight at
me--an' I sank by inches to the ground with my legs all o' a shake.
Then, on my falling, he stepped down to the water, and stood there
admiring hisself--his sharp horns an' fine legs--an' on my belly, all
empty as 'twas, I crawled, an' crawled, an' crawled.  There was a bush
this side the river, an' I got it in line.  At last I reached it, the
sweat pouring off me, an' slowly I rose up.  The water was dripping from
his muzzle as he threw his head up, an' he turned to spring back, when,
half-kneeling, I fired, an' the next moment the old gun kicked me flat
as a pancake."

"And you missed him?"

"Never!  I got him.  I said I would, an' I did.  I got him, an' a 9
pound barbel."

"Uncle Abe!"

"I say a 9 pound barbel, tho' he might a been 8 and a half pound, an' a
brace of pheasants."

"Uncle Abe!"

"I zed so--an' a hare an', an'," he went on quickly, "a porkipine."

"Uncle Abe!"

"Well--what are you Abeing me for?"

"You got all those with one shot.  Never!"

"I was there--you weren't.  'Tis easy accounted for.  When I pulled the
trigger the fish leapt from the water in the line, and the bullet passed
through him inter the buck.  I tole you the gun kicked.  Well, it flew
out o' my hands, an' hit the hare square on the nose.  To recover
myself, I threw up my hands, an' caught hold o' the two pheasants jest
startled outer the bush."

"And the porcupine?"

"I sot down on the porkipine, an' if you'd like to 'xamine my pants
you'll find where his quills went in.  I was mighty sore, an' I could
ha' spared him well from the bag.  But 'twas a wonderful good shot.
You're not going?"

"Yes, I am.  I'm afraid to stay with you."

"Well, so long!  I cut this yere forslag from the skin o' that same

"Let me see--it's nine years to the big drought."

"That's it."

"That skin has kept well."

"Oh, yes; 'twas a mighty tough skin."

"Not so tough as your yarn, Uncle.  So long!"



Abe Pike was one of those men who would walk ten miles to set a trap
without a murmur, while he thought himself badly used if he were called
upon to hoe a row in the mealie field.  So when, for the third time
within one week, a calf was killed by a tiger, and our attempts to
shoot, poison, or trap the thief had failed, I rode over to Uncle Abe's
to secure his aid.

"I can't do it," he said, when I had stated my business.

"Too busy?"

"No; 'taint that, sonny, 'taint that--tho' there's a powerful heap o'
work to do on that shed."

"I'll put in a couple of days and help you finish it right off, as soon
as the tiger is laid by the heels."

"Thank ye kindly; but I've got to finish that there shed offun my own
bat.  It's a job that wants doin' keerfly."

"Well, Uncle, I'll plough up your old land by the hoek, and put in two
muids of corn.  How will that do?"

"'Twont do, my lad; that land's full o' charlock."

"Then, Uncle, the day you show me the dead body of that tiger, the red
heifer with the white patch on the hump is yours."

He heaved a sigh, and knocked the bowl of his pipe on his thumb, but he
did not accept the offer, though I knew he admired that heifer.

"Why, Uncle, what is the matter?  You're not ill?"

"'Tain't that, either--not 'xactly--tho' there's such a thing as illness
o' the mind."

"I'm very sorry," as I unhitched the bridle and prepared to mount, "for
I'll have to go to Long Sam, and from the hairs I've seen I shouldn't be
surprised if this is a black tiger."

This was the last shot--Abe Pike had not yet trapped a black tiger, and
Long Sam was his rival in bush lore.

"That settles it," he said, with a groan.

"Come along then," I said, with a smile at my success in breaking
through his obstinacy.

Abe rose up and laid his gnarled hand on the mane of the horse.  "'Tis
the same one," he muttered, "the same one, sure."

"Why, of course; you know the old horse, Black Dick."

"Black Nick," he said slowly, and, drawing his hand across his forehead;
"my boy, you'll never trap that animile; he's a witch tiger."

"A witch tiger?"

"That's so: he's given a lodging to some ole Kaffir.  Abe Pike ain't
going arter any black tigers, not he."

"What are you driving at now, you old buffer?"

"Buffer, is it; well--well--buffer--oh, yes, of course; an' me that has
passed through sich a three weeks as ud have scared many another into
his grave."

I felt remorse at the thought that for three weeks I had not called on
the lonely old man, and concluded that he was paying me out for this

"I am very sorry," I said eagerly, "I have not been over; but the truth
is the work has been very heavy.  It must have been very lonely."

"I've had kempany."

"Oh, I see; and perhaps they've engaged your services?"

"That's it.  On 'count o' 'em that's been callin' here I can't go
catching any black tigers."

"I should like to know who it is has set you against doing a service for
a neighbour?"

"There's kempany an' kempany.  This yer kempany ud turn your hair

"Ah!"  I said, sniffing a story.

"Yes, 'twould that.  There were some baboons away over by the big kloof.
A family party--ole man, wives, middle-aged, an' pickaninnies.  They
came there for the Kaffir plum crop, an' were mighty lively, not to say
noisy, three weeks ago, when they began to drop.  I yeared 'em dropping

"Off the trees?"

"No; offun this mortal spear.  As they dropped off in the dark, the
others howled an' whooped like mad.  It was a tiger that did the

"A tiger?"

"You hold on to him.  At last the ole man were left alone, an' he had a
mighty anxious time looking all around at onct, while he hunted for
grubs for fear the enemy 'ud spring on him.  He used to come over yonder
in the lands for kempany.  I've sot here on the door-step an' he sot
over there, glaring at me from his little grey eyes.  Arter a time we
got to know each other, an' I found out he went to sleep on the roof
alongside the chimney."

"He was the company?"

"One on 'em.  An' seein' him about reminded me o' the Kaffir plums, so
one mornin' I took up the can an' went away off to the big kloof where
the plums are red an' juicy.  Well--my boy--that ole man baboon, he up
an' come along with me, an' when he found I were goin' to the kloof he
jabbered most like a human.  I could see he were excited--anybody could
a seen that--an' I sot down on a rock to argy the point with him.  He
wouldn't argy, but he started back for the house.  Well, you know me,
when Abe Pike sots out to do a thing he does it, an' arter I had smoked
two pipes, I resoomed my way, jest as unconcarned as you are, for all
the plain meanin' o' the baboon that I should go away home.  When he saw
that I were sot on it he came along at a canter, with his hind-quarters
slewed round an' the hair all standing up on his neck.  He looked ugly,
but 'xcept he lifted his eyebrows very quick, he said nothin', and went
along very quiet, with the same anxious look on his face I had noticed
prev'ous.  As I went into the kloof he swung into the trees, an' kept
along overhead.  When we came to the thick o' the wood, he going along
all the time scarcely moving a leaf, he made a soft noise, an' looking
up I saw him bobbing his head up an' down to make you giddy.  I know by
that he saw somethin', an' I jes' slipped behind a tree to take stock.
I yeerd a yawn, an' what d'ye think I see thro' the leaves stretched out
on a rock, not twenty foot away?"

"A black fellow?"

"Yes; a black feller, with four legs an' a tail, an' a red mouth all
agape, wide enough to take in my head, hat an' all."

"A black tiger?"

"Yes; an' me with only a tin can.  I jes' sank down inter my boots.  All
o' a sudden his jaws come to with a snap.  Then he riz his head and
stired straight fer me, his eyes gitting flamier as he looked, an' his
tail all on the jerk.  He moved his round head about, then shot out his
neck an' growled in his stummik as he peered under the leaves.  Just
then that baboon let out a `baugh--baugh--bok-hem,' an' dropped down
beyond the tiger.  There were a roar, a leap, a scramble, an' Abe Pike
were shooting on his tracks for the open veld.  He didn't stop running
till he got home--he didn't--not me."

"And the baboon?  He wasn't killed, was he?"

"You wait--jes' you wait.  Before you get the end o' the journey you've
got to pass the half-way house.  This is a solitary place--this
mansion--and beyond the ole Gaika-Bolo I have no visitors--an' he only
when he's doctorin' the Kaffirs down these parts.  So that night, when
there were a tap at the door, I were skeered a little from the shake I
got when I saw that black critter staring at me with them wicked eyes of
hisn.  `Come in!'  I sed, an' the tap came agin, soft an' gentle, like
as if a child or a woman were standin' there--timid--tho' it's many a
year since a female brushed the door-post with her dress--a many years,
my lad."

"Yes, Uncle; who was it?"

"`Come in!'  I sed, laying hold o' a piece of wood.  `Jes' pull the
string,' I sed.  Believe me, the string were pulled--the upper half o'
the door swung open, an' he stepped in."


"The old man baboon!  He pulled the string, the door swung open, an' he
hopped in."

"Good gracious, Uncle!"

"Yer s'prised.  Well, jes' think how it took me--an' on top o' what I
saw that day.  I jes' sot there an' looked, an' when he turned an' shut
that door, an' moved the wooden button to secure it, I were fairly
paralysed.  `Ho-hoo,' he sed, an' blinked his eyes.  He jes' sed
`ho-hoo' in a friendly way, an' planked hisself down before the fire,
with the black palms o' his hands to the coals, his head turned over his
shoulder, an' his little grey eyes takin' stock o' everythin' in the

"He must have escaped from captivity."

"That's the first thought that struck me when I steadied my brain pan.
Thinks I, he b'longed to some man, an' I looked at his waist for signs
of the chain, but there were no sign.  I noticed he looked empty, an',
remembering how he'd saved me by leading the tiger off another way, I
got out a mealie cob.  He snatched it quick, raised his eyebrows at me,
then begun to eat as ef he'd been hungry for a week.  There we sot--he
one side, eating, me t'other, smoking.  All o' a sudden he quit eating:
then he stood up on his hind legs an' looked outer the winder.  `Wot's
up now?' sezs I to myself.  There he stood looking outer that window;
then he gave a jump into the rafters, crowding hisself under the slope.
It gave me a sort o' creepy crawl to see him do that, an' I took down
the ole gun.  Bymby I yeard a sniff under the crack of the door as if a
dog were taking a smell.  Then there were a space o' stillness that was
terrible trying.  I stood there looking at the door, 'xpecting to see it
fly open, when I chanced to give a glance at the winder, and my blood

"What did you see?"

"What did I see?  A pair o' green eyes fixed on me.  Then the gleam o'
white teeth an' a sort o' dim outline o' a big round head.  I let out a
yell, an' fired.  If you look you'll see where the winder's smashed."

"The tiger had tracked the baboon?"

"Very like 'twas jes' that."

"And then?"

"Then I jes' jumped inter the pantry an shut myself in till daybreak."

"Yes, Uncle Abe; and what happened then?"

"I jes' opened the door gently, an' looked out."


"Well!  The door were open.  I yeerd the cracking o' the fire an' the
humming o' the kettle."

"Someone had called?"

"Perhaps so; perhaps not.  'Tany rate the fire were lit.  And when I
looked out the front door there were the old man baboon plucking the
feathers from the grey hen."


"Yes.  An' when he done plucking he popped the old fowl inter the pot."

"Ha!  I suppose the tiger was lying dead?"

"Who--the tiger?  Not he.  The darned critter pulled the plug outer the
water barrel, then turned the barrel over an' let all the water out.
Arter that he pulled the roof offun my shed."

"I don't see the baboon around."

"He ain't around.  Arter breakfast he went.  When I come to think o' it,
he took the road to your place, an' it's my b'lief, sonny, he's on the
spoor o' the same tiger."

"And you won't come over, then?"

"I'm waitin' for that ole man baboon to come back.  If he comes back an'
finds me gone I reckon he'd be disappointed.  I tell yer I'd be mighty
keerful how you treat that tiger."

"Everything happened as you have related, Uncle Abe?"

"That's so, sonny."

"How did the baboon light the fire?"

"He jes' used the bellers, I 'xpect, used the beller, an' puffed the
embers.  Tell me how yer get on.  Sorry I can't go; but I dasn't.  So



I don't know what degree of truth there was in old Abe's account of his
adventure with the black tiger, but I certainly learnt to my cost that
whether the brute had or had not given a domicile to a witch-doctor, it
was too cunning for any efforts on my part to get even with it for the
heavy toll it levied on the young cattle.  I was driven once more to
seek out his assistance, but I thought I would get him over to the
homestead on some other pretext, being firmly persuaded that once he was
there his hunting instincts would lead him on the tiger's spoor.  One
afternoon, therefore, I drove over in the "spider," and found him busily
engaged waxing a stout fishing line for "kabblejauw," a very large, but
coarse sea fish, which loved to venture up the Fish River with the tide.

"Holloa, sonny!" he cried; "climb out an' make yerself at home.  Got any

I stepped out, and handed him a cake of golden leaf, which he just
smelt, then turned over and over.

"Sugar stuff," he growled, with a queer look of disgust, wrinkling up
his nose.

"Good American leaf, Uncle."

"Well, well; what's the race comin' to?  Sugar--all sugar.  Sugar with
tea, sugar with coffee, so that the spoon stands up; sugar with pumkins,
sugar with grog, sugar with baccy, until the stummick which nature gives
us revolts an' cries out for salt an' the bitterness o' wholesome
plants.  Bitterness 'ardens, my boy--bitterness in food, bitterness in
life--an' sugar softens.  Jes' you hole on to that as you plough the
furrer thro' the ups an' downs o' your caryeer."  He cut a slice from
the cake and stowed it away in his cheek.  "Well! ha' yer cotched that
tiger yet?"

"He's prowling around yet, Uncle."

"Soh!  An' you want ole Abe Pike to settle 'im, eh!--but 'taint no use."

"I want you to `ride' a load of wood to the house.  The `boys' have gone
off to a beer dance, and I'm short-handed.  The wood is cut and shaped."

"But I'm goin' a fishin'.  Lemme see.  It's full moon next week.  Well
I'll come along."

He coiled up his line, stowed it away in his skin bag, locked his door,
and climbed in.  Next morning the old chap went off with the wagon for
the wood, and returned late at night.  He had a peculiar way of humming
to himself whenever he was pleased, and I caught the sound as he came in
through the kitchen to the dining-room, where the evening meal was on
the table.  With a nod to me, he sat down to a hearty meal, then,
filling his pipe, he leant back and laughed silently.

"Seen anything, Uncle?"

"I don't know that I have seed anythin' outer the common, but I've
learnt somethin' that's given me a better understandin' o' the spread o'
kindness overlaying things."

"What was that?"

"You know where the wood were stacked?"

I knew the place very well, for that brute of a tiger had killed a foal
there only two days before, and I had directed Abe there in the hope
that he would drop across its tracks.

The old man, still chuckling, went out of the room and returned with a
long bamboo whip-stick, deprived, however, of the twenty-foot thong made
from buffalo hide.

"What's become of the thong?"  I cried.

"That's it.  It's on account of the missin' thong that I'm telling you
o' this remarkable cirkumst'nce.  There's a clump o' trees 'long side
the path 'way over yonder, where the wood were stacked, an' the thong
flew off in the dusk o' the evening thereabouts.  You see there were a
stick fas', and when I lammed into the oxen that ere thong flew off--
whizz!--whang!--into the dark o' the trees.  I lay the stick down an'
searched fer it up an' down, in an' out--the oxen standin' there
knockin' their horns, an' the stars poppin' out.  Well, I guv it up, an'
picked up the stick, an' the thong came through my fingers."

"You said the thong flew off."

"So it did; but there it were fast on the stick--long, smooth, round,
an' taperin' off inter a fine lash, as thick about the middle as my
little finger, an' as tough as steel."

"I know it.  You couldn't match that thong in the Colony.  But where is

"That's what I'm tellin' yer about.  The thong flew off--whizz!--
whang!--but when I picked the stick up, there it were.  I jes' stood
there ponderin' over the strangeness o' this, when a breath o' wind come
up the valley with a sigh on it--one o' those quiverin', mysterious,
solumnelly sounds that makes you look over yer shoulder an' start at a
shadder.  `Hambaka--trek,' I cried, an' whirling the whip around,
touched up the fore-leaders, then brought the forslag down on the achter
ox.  I told you them oxen had stuck fas'.  Well! at the touch o' the
whip they jes' laid their shoulders agin the yokes, an', with a low
groan, they yanked the wagon up that stiff bit--up an' up, without a
pause, to the level veld.  I tell you, sonny, I never seed oxen lay
themselves down like that span."

"Where does the kindness come in?"

"Hole on.  The tortoise gets to the end o' his journey same as the hare,
only samer.  On the level I called to the oxen to whoa!--whoa!--whoa!--
and, arter a time they whoa'd, tho' somehow 'twas ag'inst their will.
They were that active they could have trotted home--they could so.  I
lay down that whip an' filled my pipe."


"Then I took the stick up, an' the thong were gone agin."


"Clean gone, sonny!  Clean gone!"

"Did it fly off?"

"No, sonny; it crawled off."

"Crawled off?"

"That there thong were a whip-snake.  It jes' gripped on ter the bamboo
with its jaws to help me outer that stick fas', an' when we got to the
level it unhitched.  It knew as well as I did the oxen didn't want any
more whip when the flat were reached, and it unhitched."

"Uncle Abe Pike!  Do you expect me to believe that?"

"I have my hopes, my lad.  But when yer gets older you'll get more
faith.  Why, man, an' I yeared that snake move off.  It give a sort o'
friendly hiss as it slid away thro' the grass, an' it cracked its tail
in sport like a whip.  The oxen yeared it, too, and they moved off
'thout waitin' for my call.  I tell you there's a heap o' goodness among
animiles an' reptiles, tho' this is the fust time I 'xperienced the
thoughtfulness o' a snake.  It jes' snapped its tail--ker--rack--as it
moved off."

When the old man prepared himself for sleep I saw the lash off my whip
projecting from the mouth of his skin bag.



The next day was hot and drowsy, and old man Pike simply lazed around,
with his smasher hat tilted over his eyes and his hands in his pockets.
He could not, however, be tempted to roam any distance from the house,
and he showed not the slightest curiosity about that fiend of a black
tiger, which in the night had killed a goat belonging to one of the
"boys."  The kill was made out of sheer lust of blood, for he had eaten
nothing, the body being untouched, except for the festering marks about
the throat I had the carcase brought up for Abe's inspection, since he
would not walk down to the kraal, and he held an inquest upon it,
sitting on an upturned "vatje," or small water barrel.

"That goat," he drawled, "were killed!"

"There seems proof of it," I said mildly.

"Yes, killed by a ole tiger."

"Why old?"

"Well, you see, this yer goat died o' a broken shoulder an' shock--
mostly shock.  The tiger just patted the shoulder in his spring with the
open paw.  I see there are four scratches, an' the hook of the dew claw
over here, a span away from the fore claws.  The middle an' end scratch
is shaller.  Why?  Cas the claws a been worn down.  Now take these yer
wounds in the throat.  These two deep holes here's where his fangs went
in, but on the top side there's jest the marks o' his small teeth.  The
upper fangs is missing or worn down.  Consekently, 'tis a ole tiger."

"And you will catch the old tiger?"

"Not me!  Bein' ole, he's cunnin', an' bein' black, he's naturelly
fierce; and bein' ole an' black he's more'n a match fer me.  See that
big blue fly?  I swear there warn't a blue fly around here ten minutes
ago, an' now there's a whole cloud o' 'em followin' the track, an'
buzzin' like a telegraph wire!  Little things is like big 'uns.  That
there fly is like the first aasvogel sailin' away from the limits o' the
sky on the taint of a dead ox, an' behind him a whole string o'
vultures, with their wings outstretched like the sails of a ship, an'
ther bald heads bent down to spot the dead heap of corruption miles away

I bade the Kaffir take away the dead goat which formed the principal
dish at the feast that night and, getting my double-barrelled gun,
whistled up the dogs, and went off on the spoor of the tiger, leaving
Abe listlessly whittling at a stick.

The scent was good, and the dogs went on it still-mouthed, except for an
occasional growl, and they led me through the large ostrich camp, over a
ridge, across an open strip of veld, to a deep and dark kloof, where the
trees grew so thick that underneath it was twilight in the glare of
mid-day.  The dogs went on, with bristling hair, into the heart of the
kloof, when a singular thing happened.  The shrill, piercing cry of a
"dassie," or rock coney, arose from out the deep silence, and the dogs
stopping, howled dismally, then suddenly turned and slipped away,
disappearing like shadows among the trees.  The noise I knew must have
aroused the tiger, but I pushed on cautiously, hoping to get a shot at
him as he slunk off.  I reached the krantz which rimmed in the kloof
without sight of him, and, hunting around, found his lair, still warm in
a small cave.  Retracing my steps, I had almost reached the edge of the
trees, when in the way lay the body of one of the dogs, an old and
favourite buffalo dog of the mastiff breed, his throat torn, and the
mark of claws on his shoulder and flank.

"It's lucky for you," said Abe when I reached home, "that it were the
dog he took."

"How do you know he got the dog?"

"You went out with five, an' you come home with four, an' a look on your
face 's if you'd seen a ghost.  I'm gwine back in the mornin'."

"You're no friend of mine, Abe Pike, if you don't help destroy that

"I seed the ole man baboon makin' tracks for my place this arternoon--
an' mebbe that ther' tiger would be quittin' too."

"Hang you and your baboon!"

"All serene, sonny--all serene.  I'd rayther be hanged than 'ave my
wizened open'd out by a blood-sucking four-footed witch.  What happened
in your hunt?"  I told him curtly enough.  "My gum!  You believe me:
that dassie cried out to warn the tiger.  He were put there to watch
while his master slep'."

"Nonsense!  His cry was an accident."

"Soh!  Then tell me why the dogs scooted.  You don't know!  O' course
you don't know.  But I know.  I've had 'xperience o' the same thing.
Animiles have got a sense which is missin' from folk, or maybe lost for
want of use, I don't know which, tho' myself I think it's lost.  What we
call a presentment is the remains o' that missin' sense, an' animiles is
got the full sense.  Those dogs knew the meanin' o' that dassie's yell--
that's so."

"And what was your experience?"

"It were all along o' a spring hare hopping along in the night--without
enough solid body to put a shot in.  It were away back in the sixties,
when I were younger nor I am now, an' a sailor chap, knockin' around
doin' odd jobs, happened across my house.  He were a good-hearted
critter, tho' terrible lazy, 'xcept it were shootin' spring hares at
night by lamp-light, which came 'xpensive by reason of his usin' up the
oil an' powder.  Well, one night the wind came off the seas, bringing up
a great stack of clouds, makin' it that dark you couldn't tell which
were solid yearth an' which were sky; but this sailor chap he would go
out, an' I had to go along to hold the lamp, he not bein' keerful enough
to carry it in the strap of his hat.  Well, soon's I got outer the door
I knew there were somethin' wrong.  The black night were full o' the
roar o' the surf breakin' six miles away, an' yet there were the same
sort of shivery stillness you find in a great cave while the echoes are
tossin' about the sound of a dying shout.  In the stillness behind the
holler growl o' the sea I could tell there were somethin' watchful an'
bad.  I wanted to turn back, but he yelled out he yeard the spring hare
gruntin', an' I were obliged to foller him inter the black, with a
sickly sort o' fan-shaped light streaming from the lamp.  `Hist!' says
he.  I histed, an' peering ahead seed a big bright eye glancing out o'
the dark, not mor'n twenty paces off--fer the lantern couldn't throw a
reflection farther than that.  `Take him an inch below the eye,' says I,
an' he let rip.  We went forrard to pick the hare up, but he warn't
there--not a hair o' him.  The grunt o' him come jest ahead agin--an'
steadyin' the lamp, we caught his eye full an' bright.  `I'll blow his
head off,' said the sailor chap, and taking a long aim, he banged off.
There warn't no dead spring hare.  No, sonny; but while we gazed around
his grunt come to us onct more.  I took the ole gun an' loaded her up.
`You take the lantern,' says I, `an' lets stop this 'ere foolishness.'
A step or two we took, an' sure enough that eye blazed out onct more.  I
jes' knelt down under his arms, an' taking full aim at the eye, was dead
sure I had the long-tailed crittur, fer he sat still as a rock, an' as
onsuspicious as a tree trunk.  An' I missed him.  His body warn't there,
but his grunt came jest as lively as ever.  The sailor chap were
laughing at me fer missin', but Abe Pike warn't doing no giggling.  He
smelt somethin' onnatural."

"You had been taking grog, perhaps, that evening?"

"Not a sup nor a sip.  We stood there, he laughin' and me listenin' to
the moan in the air, an' lookin' roun' at the black wall o' night `Blow
me!' says the sailor chap, `if the swab ain't come back,' an' with that
he took out his jack knife an' flung it at the flamin' eye, which had
moved back inter the light from the lantern.  That eye never winked, an'
it made me shiver.  `Come on,' says the sailor, `I'll foller him to the
devil,' says he.  `Foller him,' says I, `but I'm goin' back;' and back I
went; and he, not havin' the lantern, had to come along too, which he
did cheekin' me the ole time.  Well, before we'd gone a hundred paces,
ther' were that eye ahead, an' he says, `Let us get nearer.'  We went
closer, when all on a sudden that eye went out like a burnt match.  Jes'
then I yeard a rustlin' noise behind, an' whipping roun', saw there were
a pair o' sparkles shining green.  He seed 'em too.  `Don't shoot,' says
I, `it's a shadder.'  `Shadder be blowed,' says he, `yer a ole fool.'
He were gettin' ready to fire, when I gripped him by the arm, while the
hair riz on my head, for I saw what was behind those green eyes.  `Let
me go,' he says, hissin' through his teeth.  `If you fire,' I says
speakin' solumn, `yere a dead man.'  `You're silly,' he says, pulling
hard.  `How can a little hare hurt me?'

"`That hare,' says I, `is a tiger.'"

"Was it?"

"You wait.  You know's well as I do a hare, by reason of his eyes bein'
wide apart, only shows one eye to the light, an', moreover, he sits with
his head sideways.  Well, these two eyes, when I looked ag'in, were
close together, an' they gave a green light.  `A tiger,' says I, an'
with my hand on his arm we went back to the house.  As I shut the door I
yeared that grunt ag'in--an' ag'in as we sat down listenin'.  Well, that
sailor chap, he warn't satisfied.  He must open the door an' look out.
`Come here,' he says, an' looking out over his shoulder there I seed
that hare sitting up, an' the light shining thro' his body, `'Tis a
white hare,' he says.  `It's a sperrit,' says I.  `Sperrit or no
sperrit,' he says, snatchin' the gun, `I lay him out!'  With that he
stepped out into the darkness, an' the lantern went out.  Then it

"What happened?"

"Something 'twixt the sailor lad and the tiger.  As I searched aroun'
fer a match I yeard the gun, there were a roar and a shriek, an' when I
got the light started an' went out there were only his old hat an' the
gun.  I'm not fooling with any o' yer tigers that's got sperrits
watchin' over 'em.  I'm going home in the mornin'."



I have referred to Bolo, an old Kaffir medicine man, who, on his
professional tour round the country, always remained a day or two with
Abe Pike, in his way, a great doctor with a valuable fund of information
about the medicinal properties of plants and roots.  Bolo turned up in
the evening, fresh from a beer dance, and the manner of his coming was
that of a ravenous lion.  He charged down upon the house in the dusk,
with his necklet bones rattling, the horsehair mane flying, and the
bellow of his deep voice setting the dogs off into a fury of barking, up
he came--leaping, bounding, hurling himself forward with in-creditable
swiftness, whirling his knobbed kerrie, his eyes glaring and his
features twitching, the dogs snapping around him--right up to the door,
as if he meant to burst in and brain everyone he met.  Then he stopped,
smiled in a wide vacuous way, took snuff, and squatted down, while the
dogs as suddenly ceased their clamour and walked sheepishly away.

"Well, you clatterin' ole heathen," said Abe, seating himself on the
door-step, and shaving slices of tobacco against the ball of his thumb;
"what mischief have you been up to?"

"Yoh," said Bolo, resting his long arms on his knees; "I have heard
tales of the black tiger and the white man's fear.  But my medicine has
sent the black evil away back again to the big kloof."

"To the kloof on my farm?"

"Eweh!  Why not?  The white man is a great medicine man.  Has he not a
familiar in the old baboon--who is the most cunning of familiars?"

"That's so," said Abe gravely; "the baboon is cunnin', but he don't know
everything.  Did I ever tell you the yarn o' the baboon an' the

"No.  Fire away, Uncle."  He hitched himself up against the door-post
and related his story in Kaffir for Bolo's benefit, though I prefer to
render it in English.

"The ole skelpot, one day hunting aroun' nosed out a store o' yearth
nuts.  He raked the yearth over an' flatten' it down, an' he jes' crawl
aroun' till the dry weather sot in, when he took'd up his quarters near
the hidden store.  One day he meet ole man baboon searching fer grubs.
`Things is mighty dry,' says the baboon.  `Might be drier,' says the
skelpot.  `Food is skerce,' says the baboon.  `Might be skercer,' says
the skelpot.  `Ho! ho!' says the baboon, mighty sharp, `you don't seem
to be troubled in your shell.  There's a shine on your shell, ole man
skelpot,' he says.  `Shell shine when the stummick don't pine,' says the

"Er-umh!" grunted Bolo.

"`Shell shine when the stummick don't pine,' said the skelpot.  `Baugh,'
says the baboon, `p'raps you got some food, skelpot,' says the baboon.
`I'm gwine to sleep,' says the skelpot, an' he drew his head into his
house, so the baboon couldn't ask him any more questions."

"Er-umh!" said Bolo, politely signifying his sustained interest.

"The ole man baboon he make sure the skelpot's got some store o' food,
so he hid hisself in a tree an' kep' watch.  There ain't no hurry about
a skelpot, an' this yer skelpot he kep' on sleepin' all through the day,
an' the baboon got that hungry he were obliged ter gnaw the bark from
the tree.  But he jes' kep' on watchin', an' in the dusk he seed the
skelpot pop out his head."

"Er-umh!" said Bolo.

"Then the baboon climbed down softly, an' when the skelpot move off, he
follow'd.  Arter a time the skelpot begin to scrape up the yearth, an'
the baboon look over his shoulder.  He can't see nothing, but he smelt
the yearth nuts, an' he makes a grab.  `So! so!' he says chuckling, `you
got a fine pantry these dry times.  Now you'll have to go shares, or
I'll give the news out.'  Well, the skelpot he sees he were fairly
caught, an' so he take ole man baboon inter partnership, an' the baboon
show him where he's 'ole is, though it were empty now."

"Er-umh!" grunted Bolo.

"Well, the baboon got a bigger stummick than the skelpot, an it were not
long afore he took two nuts to one; then he began ter take some away to
his private 'ole in a Kaffir plum tree; then he break the agreement by
taking three meals a day to the skelpot's one."

"Er-umh!" said Bolo.

"Well, about this time the skelpot smell'd out the baboon."

"Eh-umh!" said Bolo.

"So he made a plan.  He roll hisself in the mud, an' crawl up near the
store, where he draw his head in.  Bymby ole man baboon come up, an
arter takin' some nuts, he sot down on ole skelpot to make his feast.
`Poor ole skelpot,' says the baboon, `three meals to his one, an' a heap
o' nuts in my store 'ole by the ole ant-hill.'  `Too-loo-loo!' says the
skelpot.  `What's that noise?' said the baboon.  `Too-loo-loo!' says the
skelpot.  `Hist!' says the baboon, knockin' his stummick.
`Too-loo-loo!' says the skelpot; then drawin' in his breath he let it
out ag'in, `Hiss! puff!' like a great big snake.  O' coorse the baboon's
dead scared o' snakes, an' droppin' the nuts he jest scooted fer the

"Er-umph!" said Bolo.

"He jest up an' scooted fer the woods, an' the skelpot arter eatin' the
nuts, he went back to the 'ole, scooped the yearth away, an' crawled in.
The baboon were very scared, but when the hunger come back he went for
some more nuts.  No sooner did he pop his hand in than the skelpot grab
him by the little finger and hold on."

"Eh! eh!" said Bolo.

"Grabbed him by ther little finger.  The baboon nearly jumped outer his
skin.  `Who's got hold o' me?' he yelled, but the skelpot he can't talk,
fer his mouth's full.  `Let me go!' howled the baboon, an' he pull and
he pull, and bymby he draw the skelpot's head outer the 'ole.  Well, the
skelpot he's got a head like a puff-adder when yer don't see his shell,
an' when the baboon see'd that yellow head glued onter his finger, he
jest went green, and turned over in a fit.  Bymby the baboon shivers,
then he sot up.  `Hiss! poof!' says the skelpot, an' the baboon lit out
with a shriek, never to come back to that part ag'in.  `Hiss! poof!'
says the skelpot, an' the baboon lit out fer the nex' country."



"Now, Bolo! let us hear something from you."

The old Kaffir took a pinch of snuff, and began about the jackal and the
netikee, the smallest of all South African birds, and a member of the
wren family.

"The jackal one day was boasting.  Said he, `When we go on the hunt all
the animals are still.  We--the lion and I--we rule the forest.  When we
growl the trees shiver, when we roar the earth shakes, when we strike
the biggest goes down before us.  Even the elephant turns out of our
path.'  So he shook his tail and loped off to tell the lion that a fat
eland was drinking at the vlei.  Then up stood the lion, and crawled on
his stomach to the shelter of a rock, while the jackal went round
beyond.  `Look out, eland,' said the jackal; `here comes the lion.'  So
the eland ran, and he ran straight for the lion, who rose through the
air and broke the eland's neck.  The lion ate, and the jackal sat on his
tail, licking his chops and whimpering.  But the lion ate, and ate--
first the hind legs, then the stomach, and the jackal ran up to take a
bite.  `Wait,' grunted the lion, and the jackal sat on his tail and
howled.  Bymby the lion went off to the vlei to drink, and the jackal
snap at the carcase, but before he gets a mouthful down swoop the ring
crows and the aasvogels.  `Away,' said the jackal, `away--this food is
mine and the lion's.'

"`Tell the lion we are obliged to him for giving us a meal,' said the
chief aasvogel, and with his big wing he hit the jackal, ker-bluff--long
side the head, and the black crow dig him in the back.  So the jackal
run away, and jump, and howl."

"`Why don't you roar?' said the netikee.

"The jackal looked up, and there he sees the netikee on a thorn tree.

"`Growl,' says the netikee; `growl, and the tree will shake me off,' and
he laughed.

"`What are you laughing at?'

"`At you.'

"`Why,' said the jackal, looking back over his shoulder at the bag of
bones that the birds had cleaned.

"`'Cos you're afraid of the birds, though the elephant gets out of your
way and you can strike down the biggest,' and the netikee laughs again.

"`Who's afraid?' said the jackal.

"`You are.'

"`What! me!'

"`Yes, you!  I make my nest from your fur.'

"The jackal he bite, and snap, and howl, and then he say he'd only
wished he had a chance of a fight with the birds.

"`What's that spot I see in the sky?' said the netikee, looking up.

"The jackal look up and see the eagle swooping down, and he bolt into
the earth.  Bymby he poke his head out.  `Is he gone?' he said.  `You
see, me and the eagle had a dispute over a lamb which I took away from
him, and I thought he would feel uncomfortable if he saw me.  What did
he say?'

"`The eagle said he willing to fight if the lion leads the animals; but
he's not going to demean himself against any jackal trash.'

"The jackal grinned.  `Well,' said he, `the lion won't fight, he's just
been feeding, and the eagle needn't trouble about it.  You get all the
partridges, the pheasants, ducks, knorhaan, guinea fowl--the more the
merrier, and I'll bring the red cats, the muishonden, the wild dogs, the
tiger-cat, and we'll meet here to-morrow.'

"The netikee flip his tail about, and say, `Yes, he's willing to have a
battle,' and the jackal with a grin he run off to call all his friends
to a big feast off the birds.  The netikee just bunch up his feathers,
tuck his head under his wing, and go to sleep.  Next morning before
sunrise he fly to the bush, and he hear the jackal making a plan.

"`You keep your eye on my tail,' said the jackal.  `Watch my tail,' said
the jackal, `I will hold it up straight like a banner, and you must
follow it into the thick of the fight.'

"The netikee flew away off to a honey-tree, and he had a word with the
bees: then he fly back to the thorn bush with a clump of bees with him.

"Bymby here comes the jackal with his bushy tail held up straight like a
banner, and behind him come a green-eyed, silent, swift, cruel pack of
wild-cats, red cats, grey cats, and wild dogs.

"`There they come,' said the nekitee; `see the jackal, with his tail up.
Stick his tail, creep into his hair, and make him yell.'  So the
netikee left his perch and flew to meet the animals all by himself, for
they could not see the bees; but the bees they swarmed into the big
bushy tail, and the next minute there was the jackal scooting off across
the veld with his tail between his legs.  Next thing you know the
animals is all scuttling home.

"That's why the netikee is so perky."

"Jes' like little men," says Abe Pike.



In the night we heard the loud barking of a baboon, and next morning
Uncle Abe, accompanied by the witch-doctor, Bolo, started back for his
solitary homestead, saying that he had received a call from his
familiar.  This I regarded as an excuse, and judged that the two old men
were bent, like boys, on some fishing excursion.  Strangely enough,
however, the black tiger disappeared at the same time, leaving the live
stock free from his ravages--though human thieves as mischievous were
afoot, and during the week paid a visit in the night to the cattle
kraal, "lifting" a fine cow with a young heifer calf.

The spoor led away towards the dense bush of the Fish River to the east,
and setting a knowing old dog upon the scent, I followed on horseback.
The thief I judged had probably five hours' start, and allowing for the
feeble strength of the calf, I reckoned he was from six to ten miles
ahead, when, if surprised by day-light at any distance from the cover of
the bush, he would probably turn into a kloof.  At intervals of about a
mile I came on spots which, from the numerous hoof marks, indicated that
the thief had stopped to let the calf rest and take milk, then, after
the third such resting, he went right ahead at a sharp pace directly
towards the big kloof on Abe Pike's farm.  If the beasts had been driven
in there I made sure of recovering them, but I presently noticed that
the spoor led away along a ridge to the left, skirting the kloof, and
descending to a wide wooded valley which ran into the bush.  I followed
without much hope into the valley, to find the spoor obliterated by the
tracks of a troop of cattle which had been on the move since sunrise.
After questioning the native herd without success, I turned back towards
Pike's house, reaching it just as he came out from his breakfast.  He
took a long glance at me and my horse.

"Soh," he said, "been spooring a stock thief, eh?  You've got to get up
early to catch that sort--earlier than bedtime.  I seed you go over the
brow of that rand yonder with a dog nosing on in front, and I said to
myself, `Abe Pike, there's the young baas with the hope springing up in
him that he's got the glory of catching a cattle thief.'  The young has
got all the hope and the old all the experience, and I'd swaap a whole
lot of experience for a glimmer of hope."

All this time he had been attending to the horse, rubbing its back and
legs with a wisp of straw.

"Who said I had been after a cattle thief?

"What are words, sonny; words is nothing--nothing but a slower way of
saying a thing you have already made plain enough by your actions.  Says
I, `Abe Pike, the young baas has lost a beast, maybe a cow and calf, and
bymby he'll be looking as black as thunder and as hungry as a mule.'"

"Uncle Abe, you know something about this robbery.  It is true I have
lost a cow and calf.  Have you seen them?"

"What! me?  Where is they?  You know well if Abe Pike had seen them
they'd a been right here waiting for you.  No, lad; but I saw you
follering straight on the spoor, and if there'd been several beasts some
on 'em would have broke from the track, making the spooring bend and
twist.  So I reckoned there were only one beast, maybe a cow and calf.
There's a dough cookie under the coals and some good honey, with a
couple of fresh aigs and a roast mealie, not to say a cup of as good
coffee as you can get.  Help yourself, lad; help yourself."

I sat down to this simple fare--after raking the "cookie" from the
fire-place, whence it came baking hot with wood cinders embedded in its
steaming crust; while Abe leant against the door-post, pulling
reflectively at his pipe.

"What has become of Bolo?"  I asked.

"He quitted last night.  No, he ain't gone off with your cow.  He was

I nodded an inquiry, being engaged with the mealie cob, the eating of
which occupies the mouth too fully for speech.

"Old Bolo were skeered.  Try some of that honey--it's real good.  None
of your euphorbia juice in it to burn your mouth out, but just ripe
sweetness from the hill flowers and sugar bushes."

The old man held his pipe away, and his lips were drawn in as I placed a
piece of gleaming yellow comb on my plate.

"Yes," he chuckled, "old Bolo were skeered, and he lit out for home.
You see, him and me were sitting away yonder, under the tree in the
shade, talking about things, when up comes a honey-bird.
`Chet-chet-chet-chee!' he said, sitting up there in the branches, with
his head on one side and then the other as he fussed about with his
news.  `Chet-chet-chet-chee!' he said--which is his way of saying as how
he'd found a honey-tree and wanted someone to go shares with him.

"`Shall we foller him!' says I.

"Bolo he grunted.  For a heathen he's spry, but it was his lazy time,
and for another thing he was in the middle of a long-winded story, which
he was bound to finish, being a born talker, and very strong ag'inst
being interrupted.

"`Chet-chet-chet-chee!' said the honey-bird, jumping from one branch to
another all in a quiver of impatience.

"`Come on,' says I, `let's see what sort of a nest he's got.'

"`That bird is a mischief bird,' said Bolo; `he will lead us to a snake
or a tiger.  Eweh! to the black tiger.'

"`How?' says I.

"`Why,' says he, `if he were a good bird he would sit away over there on
that thorn bush and wait till we have finished our talk.  This bird is
too anxious.'

"Just then that bird flew away, off to the thorn tree, and there he sat

"`By Jimminy,' says I, `that's funny.'

"Bolo he took a pinch of snuff, and he drove on with his story, with his
`congella wetu,' and his `ke-ke-lo-ko-ke,' jes' 's if nothing had
happened, while I sat with my eyes fixed on that there bird.

"Well, the longest river reaches the sea some time, and at last Bolo
finished that yarn, and what it was about I couldn't tell you, sonny.
`Now,' says I, `let us investigate this matter,' and hang me ef at that
precise moment of the ending of that yarn, the bird didn't come back,
all agog with his news.

"Bolo he shook his head.  `That bird is no bird,' he says, `it's a

"`Whose familiar?' says I.

"`It belongs to that dog of a Fingo,' naming a rival medicine man, `or
else 'tis a slave of the black tiger sent to lead us into a trap.'

"`Well,' says I, `honey is sweet, though it gives a man a bad _pense_,
as the Royal motter says, and I'm for follering him.'  So up I got, and
that bird he jes' flew off, lighting here an' lighting there, so as I
could keep up, and after a mile he sot still as death on a thorn bush.

"`Is this the place?' says I.

"The honey-bird kep' quiet, but he jes' turn his eye on me all of a

"Well, I jes' sniffed aroun' and squinted aroun', and in a brace of
shakes I spotted the honey nest in a hollow ant-hill.  Well, I scooted
back to the house for a bucket, and after smokin' the bees, got out
fifty pound weight of the finest sealed honey, not forgetting to set a
piece of comb with young bees in it for the bird.

"Well, Bolo was pretty sick when he saw me come in with that bucket
full, and he was standing there saying he knew all along that bird was a
good bird, but he didn't want to find the honey seeing as it was on my
farm, and he'd be sure to find it first, whereby he could claim half,
which was against hospitality.  Right there, sonny, that there bird come
and perched on the roof.  `Chet-chet-chee!' says he, as excited as if he
hadn't had a meal for a month.  I see it was the same bird, for there
was a stickiness about his head.

"`Oh, aie;' says Bolo, then he shouted from his chest.  `My little
friend in the grey suit, lead on!'

"Well, the bird flew off, and Bolo, he went after, whistling and calling
it good names.  I jest pottered about by the house into the afternoon,
looking out every now and ag'in to see if Bolo were coming back, when of
a sudden I see him tearing acrost the veld.  He shot by me into the
house, and hang me if he didn't bang the door in my face, and at the
same time that honey-bird lighted on the roof.  You never see sich a
sight as that bird.  He opened his mouth, spread his wings, rolled about
and laughed fit to bust himself.  Bymby he flew away with a final
screech, and Bolo opened the door, his natrally black face being green,
his lips curled back from his teeth, and his eyes rolling.  I up with a
beaker of water and threw it in his face to cool him off--and he came

"`Did you find the honey-tree?' says I.

"`Honey-tree!' says he, and his eyes began to roll ag'in, as though he
were trying to look inside his head.  `There were no honey-tree.  It was
a bad bird I knew it, I told you, and you would not believe the words of
the wise man.  I am going--where are my kerries?'

"`What happened?'

"`This.  Listen.  I followed the evil thing.  It led me across the veld
and a thorn caught me by the leg.  It was a warning, but I did not heed,
I went on across the ridge to the kloof, and into the kloof to a hollow
tree.  I heard the owl cry, the night-bird calling in the day, giving
another warning, but I was deaf.  I smelt honey, and there were no bees
flying in the hole; but the smell of honey was strong.  Into the hole I
was about to thrust my arm when I saw on the bark long scratches.  I
looked up through the plume on my head, so, without turning my face, and
up above on a branch I saw a black form stretching out and yellow eyes
fixed on me; at the same time out of the hollow of the tree there came a
low laugh, strange, fearful, not of man, and with a spring backwards and
a bound sideways, I was off like the deer, with the roar of the black
tiger in my ears.'

"So said Bolo, and without further words he took his kerries and his
bag, and he went away over the hill to the north, running.  Yes, lad, he
quit at a gallop."

"And what do you think of this story, Uncle Abe?"

"I've done a lot of thinking about it.  I thunked that there wooden
shetter for the window as a protection."

"Surely you don't believe that Bolo was led deliberately by the
honey-bird to the tiger?"

"Maybe I do.  Maybe the bird led him to a sure enough bee-tree.  Maybe
Bolo happened on the black critter.  Maybe he were skeered at a shadder.
I dunno; but I tell you I see the bird laf fit to bust, and there's
more in the ways of these animiles than we can catch hold of--a jolly
sight more."

"Well, then, bring your gun along and we'll put the dog on the tiger's

"Not this child!  No, no, sonny!  You leave me to get the blind side of
that tiger; but I've got my own plan, and it's not tracking him I am
when he's on the watch.  Not me."

"What plan, Uncle?"

"There's a powerful thinking machine in a honey-bird," said the old man
slowly, so dismissing his plan from the talk; "and when you come to
think of it, the first bird that led a man to a nest must ha' been a
great diskiverer--a greater diskiverer in his way than was that Columbus
chap who smashed the egg.  That bird must a reckoned the whole thing
out, an' if he could a reckoned way back in the years, why, it stands to
reason his children, after all the experience they've larnt, must reckon
a lot more.  One day one of these birds called me, and I picked up a
bucket and a chopper, and followed after him at a run, for he was in a
mighty hurry, being, as I thought, hungry.  It warn't that, sonny.  He
was jes' mean, and he knew it, for the bee-tree he were leading me to
belonged to another bird.  I found that out when that bird come along.
The two of them had a argument--the new one expostulatin', the other one
jes' ansering in a don't-care way.  The second one he flew off--yelling
threats, and the other one, after bunching himself up, suddenly lit out
ag'in with me after him.  I found the tree, took out the honey, and gave
the bird a piece of comb.  Then, as I was sittin' down with the pipe, up
came a hull lot of birds, with a black-headed, white-throated fiscal--
the chap with a hooked beak who sticks the grasshoppers on thorns out of
sheer devilment.  Well, sonny, believe me, those birds they jes' up and
tried that honey-bird, the other chap giving evidence.  The jury, which
were composed of a yellow oriole, a blue spreuw, and a mouse-bird, they
found my bird guilty, and a old white ringed crow, who was the jedge,
pronounced sentence of death.  My bird didn't say nothing.  He jes' sot
there with a piece of honey in his mouth, and a set, gloomy look in his
eye.  After the verdict that fiscal he swooped down, fixed his claws in
the prisoner's breast, and yanked his head off his neck with a twist.
It was summery justice on that bird for taking possession of the other
bird's honey-tree.  Yes, the fiscal he just yanked the prisoner's head
off, and the body fell to the ground.  Then the jedge he buried the

"How was that?"

"He jes' ate it.  He jes' flopped down, give a caw, and swallowed the
corpse.  I went home then, thinking as how they might try me for aiding
and abetting a crime."



There can be no denying that we were reaping a plentiful crop of
misfortunes, to which farmers in South Africa are especially exposed.
The cattle thieves had mysteriously come and swiftly gone, taking with
them a few head of stock into the dense cover of the Fish River Bush,
thence to slip them at favourable opportunities into Kaffraria.  Then,
one morning the news was brought in that a pack of wild dogs, issuing
from the Kowie Bush on the west, had sallied out on a rush over the
intervening belt of well-stocked cattle country into the Fish River
Valley, and there were few farms on the route that had not suffered.  At
one place a heifer had been pulled down and eaten; at another, a cow had
been attacked and so mauled that death from a rifle-ball was a happy
release; and on my place the pack had stampeded a mob of young cattle,
ran down and killed a steer, besides leaving their marks on many others.
In one night they had covered fifteen miles from one wooded fastness to
the other, killing as they went, and when in the morning the angry
farmers fingered their guns the brutes were resting secure in the
distant woods.  The wild dogs hunt in packs when after game, and
according to a well arranged plan.  Thus, one part of the pack will head
the quarry in a certain direction where other members are lying in wait,
but when on a wild rush across the veld they keep together, and on
coming across cattle or sheep they bite or kill out of sheer lust of
blood, seldom stopping to eat.  Their jaws are enormously powerful, and
with a snap and a wrench they tear away mouthfuls of flesh--so that if a
pack gets among a flock of sheep they do a vast deal of mischief, and
though they cannot pull down an ox, they will cause the death of a cow
by tearing at her udder and belly.  Fortunately their raids into the
comparatively open veld are not frequent, and they prefer to keep in the
shelter of wide stretches of bush until game becoming scarce they shift
quarters, when they may sometimes be caught in an isolated kloof and
shot or poisoned.

Uncle Abe had something to say when I met him next at the monthly
meeting of our Farmers' Association--an organisation of six paying
members and fifteen members who never had enough cash to pay, but who
regularly attended on the chance of getting a square meal from any one
of the five whose turn it was to give up his largest room to the
meeting.  Uncle Abe did most of the orating, and it frequently happened
indeed that the formal business would be forgotten, while Abe from his
usual seat on the door-step held forth on the peculiar gifts of
"animiles."  His idea was that all branches of animal life acted under a
stringent code of laws and regulations.

"Take these yer wild dogs," he said, pointing the stem of his
well-chewed pipe at the President, who sat at the end of the dining-room
table waiting patiently for a nervous young farmer to read his painfully
prepared paper on the vexed question of "Inoculation as a Cure for

"Take these yer wild dogs.  Haven't they got a leader?  They have.  Of
course they have, and wha' jer think they've got a leader for if it
isn't to follow him or her--for more often than not the leader's a she;
and wha' jer think they foller him or her if it ain't because they've
got rules and regulations which are be-known to that leader?"

"Don't they follow the leader because he happens to be the strongest in
the pack?" asked the nervous member anxiously, bent on shirking his

"We ain't going to follow your lead this afternoon on that score," said
Abe caustically.  "No sir, they follow the leader not because he is the
strongest, but for the reason that he knows the rules and regilations."

"Have you seen a printed copy, Abe?" asked one member shyly.

"No, sir.  It's only human beings that ain't got sense enough to know
what they are setting out to do unless they put everything in print.  A
human being wants to know everything, and he don't know nothing; but a
animile he calkalates to know what's necessary for him, and when he
learns his lesson he don't want any noospaper to tell him about it--you
jes' put that in your pipe.  Now take your case--"

"Have some baccy, Uncle," said the interrupting member eagerly.

"Don't mind if I do.  Lemme see.  I were jes' going to tell ye a yarn
about some wild dogs, but I see the President's waiting for our young
friend to 'lighten us about 'noculation, which is good on his part,
considerin' there's some here as were curing lung-sick cattle before he
were born."

"My paper can wait," said the young farmer, hastily stuffing his notes
into his pocket.  "Let us have your story."

"Drive ahead, ole man."

"Well, if it's the wish of the meeting, I'm at your service.  If I
remember, 'twere away back in the sixties, when game were pretty thick
in these parts, and a pack took up lodgings in the big kloof over
yonder.  I was mor'n ordinarily busy building my shed, and hadn't much
time to give any heed to them, though I yeard em often giving tongue as
they went after buck, and saw one of 'em sneaking along right up to the
old tree afore my door in the mealie garden.  The brute were on the
spoor of a big black ram, which had taken that track from the big kloof
to a smaller shelter for a constitutional.  I yapped at him, and after
looking at me with his big ears cocked and the round muzzle of his dirty
head held up, the yellow critter turned and went nosing back.  Two days
after I seed three of 'em stealing up across the veld, and blow me if
they didn't come right up to the mealie patch.  One of 'em lay down at
the bottom, the other come up to the top corner, and the third, a big
chap with a round belly, he stood back of the tree squinting round the
trunk.  Thinks I, what's up? and lighting the pipe, I jes' plumped down
behind a bush, with the ole gun over my knee.  The air was still, with
the drone of the sea, coming like the hum of a big bluebottle, and
bymby, through the stillness I yeard the sudden excited yapping of the
pack, followed after a spell by a loud bark, I looked at the three dogs,
and they was all looking across the veld with the water running from
their mouths.  Casting my eye acrost the veld, there I seed a black spot
in the distance.  It was the ram, sure enough, who had been put up in
the kloof and were now making for his second hiding-place.  He were
taking it easy, though the wind was coming straight to him from the pack
behind.  He came right on, with his head up, then he slowed down to a
walk, and looked back over his shoulder.  Away back there were something
moving, a dark in-and-out patch, the pack on the spoor, and I seed the
ram shake his head and stamp with his hoof.  Then he gave a short bark,
sort of defiant, and on he trotted again; but this time he turned away
to the left, as if he'd got a sudden fancy for the scattered bush clumps
about a mile over the ridge that way.  Well, sir, he hadn't covered
more'n fifty yards when a yeller dog rose up and yapped at him.  The
ram, he stood still, with his head up, looking at this oudacious
critter, when the pack behind gave tongue altogether, and the sound of
it made him skeered, for he wheeled round and came at a smart pace right
for the big tree and the mealie garden.  I turned my head, biting
through my pipe, I was that excited, and I seed those two corner dogs
creeping nearer to the big one, who was standing back of the tree, with
his teeth showing and his tail twitching.  Then I yeard the steps of the
ram, and there he were sailing along over the bushes, and the ant-hills,
his eyes full and bright with the light o' courage in 'em--for you know,
gentlemen, that the bush-buck carries a stout and gallant heart in his
great chest."

"Ay, ay, Uncle; so he does."

"There he came, his sharp hoofs pricking into the ground, his legs
slender and shapely, his great haunches gathering up as he cleared
everything in his way, and the points of his short, strong horns
catching the sparkle of the sun.  Right for the tree he went, then on a
sudden he stopped and looked full ahead, his ears turned backward, but
his gaze fixed on a pair of gleaming eyes that glared at him.  As he
stood there, as big as a year-old calf, with his side to me, I could ha'
driven a ball through his heart; but I didn't as much as go beyon'
closin' my grasp on the rifle.  I wouldn't a shot him--no, not in them
cirkumstances.  There were a duel of staring between those two for a
full half-minute, and in that time those other two yellow critturs were
slinking through the long grass bordering the mealies.  Nex' thing
they'd a been on him from each side, with that other cur comin' up from
behind, not to speak of the pack hurrying up and of the big chap behind
the tree, when I gave a shout: `Look out!' say I, jes' as if he were a
human.  `Look out!' says I, and the chap that was nearest me he rose up
outer the grass and jumped for the ram.  You never seed sich a thing.
For all the ram had got his eyes on the big chap, he slewed his head
round quicker'n lightning, his horns went down, and the next thing that
yeller critter was lying on his back yelping, with a hole in his neck.

"The ram shook his head, and a tiny red mark went winding down the
furrows of his horn nearest me.  Eh! you should a seen him and I jes'
held my breath, while my legs shook so I was obliged to stand up.  Back
of him came the pack--silent now, and the speediest of 'em slipping
along like shadders, while two of the critters stood each side of the
ram watching him, and the big one standing clear of the tree, staring at
the great blazing eyes with his mean little yeller peepers.  Suddenly
the big chap gave a few orders, sharp and snapping, and four leaders
from the pack shot out, two going one side and two the other.  They were
surrounding the ram, and he knew it.  He made a bound forward, and the
same minute the two dogs nearest him sprang open-mouthed, one of 'em
taking a clear mouthful outer the haunch.  The ram swerved, and the big
chap waiting for him went for his belly, but the ram bounded into the
air, and when he came down he wheeled round with his back to the tree.
The dogs they jes' drew off and sat in a ring staring at him, one and
another opening his big jaws and bringing the white teeth together with
a snap, but the sight of that circle didn't shake the nerve of the buck,
for he shook his head at 'em and stamped his hoofs.  One of the young
critters growing impatient ran in, but got a stroke from the pointed
hoof for his pains.  Well, I were that 'xcited I moved towards the tree,
the pack jes' giving me one look, then closed in a step or two.  Three
times the circle were drawn closer, and the sight of those staring eyes
from outer those ugly round heads fairly made me shudder.  I up with the
gun and let 'em have a charge of slugs.  In the confusion the ram went
off full slick this time, and the dogs, with a whimper, scattered after
him; but 'twas no use, he give 'em leg bail, and believe me them
critters come sneakin' back and s'rounded me.  They did that."

"Did they think you were good to eat?"

"'Pears so, for they sat on their tails regarding me with loving looks.
I shoo'd to them, but they didn't shoo a inch.  I went for 'em with the
gun clubbed, but while those in front give way, those ahind came
perilously near my legs.  I heerd the snap of their steel jaws, but when
I turned there they were sitting down with their heads on one side.
Each time I tried that it were the same; and when I give up, there they
sat in a ring round me.  Then I jes' swung up into the tree and snapped
my fingers at em.

"If I were to tell you what them ere wild dogs did, you 'ud up and say
the old man were a liar."

"You hurt our feelings, Uncle."

"Well, that big leader he up and made a speech--not a oration like our
gifted young friend here can make, but a few yaps and growls.  After he
had finished they give him a cheer, and fell to scooping a big trench
round the tree.  Then they gnawed the roots through.  Then they boosted
the tree down.  Yes, gentlemen, them wild dogs which you would call
unthinking critters, deliberately dug up that big tree with their teeth,
so's to get hold o' me."

"Hum!  Did they eat you, Uncle?"

"They boosted the tree down; but while they stood away off, I lit on my
feet and were inside the house 'fore you could say Jack Robinson.  Yes,
that's so."



We were talking about snakes at the little roadside _winkle_--a
composite shop, where you could buy moist black sugar, tinned butter,
imported; tinned milk, also imported; cotton, prints, boots, "square
face," tobacco, dates, nails, gunpowder, cans, ribbons, tallow candles,
and the "Family Herald."  We always did talk about snakes when other
topics failed, and no one had been fishing for some time, and the big
pumpkin season had passed.

"Man," said Lanky John, the ostrich farmer, "I killed a snake, a
_ringhals_, yesterday morning back of the kraal, and in the evening when
I went by there was a live _ringhals_ coiled round the dead one."

"There's a lot of love among snakes," said Abe Pike, who had swapped a
bush-buck hide for a pound of coffee and a roll of tobacco.  "They don't
talk much, but they think a lot, and you can't plumb the feelings of
silent folk; they're that deep."

"Ever been in love, Uncle?" asked Lanky John, popping a big lump of
black sugar into his mouth.

"I guess it won't take more'n a foot measure to get to the bottom of
your feelings, tho' you are long enough to be a telegraft pole," snorted
Uncle Abe.

"Snakes haven't got any brain," said Lanky John, after an awkward pause.

"No more has a whip-stick," said the old man, with a contemptuous glance
at Lanky's long, thin limbs.

"That's true," replied John, with a wink at us; "though I've heard of a
snake that glued on to a whip-stick all for love of you, Uncle."

"Snakes," said Abe, "knows when to speak and when to keep shut, which is
more than some folk can do.  If you come unexpected on a snake in a
path, and he sees your foot coming down on him, he lets you know he's
about, and that foot of yours is jest fixed in the air.  Well, suppose
that snake is not in the path, but jest stretched out 'longside, he
don't call out.  For why?  'Cos he knows it's safer for him and for you
that he should keep quiet.  I tell you there's not a man here who hasn't
time and again passed in the dark within a few inches of a snake."

A listener, who was seated in a dark corner, moved out into the

"Did I ever tell you that yarn about the black mamba?"

"You never did, old man, so shove along."

"You may thank your stars there's no mambas down in this country, for of
all critturs that crawl, or fly, or walk, there's not one for nateral
cussedness and steady hate to come up to a black mamba.  Why! thunder!
if there was a mamba in these parts, and he'd a grudge against me, I'd
move off a hundred miles to where my sister 'Liza lives."

"A hundred miles!  That's a good step."

"Maybe it wouldn't be fur enough neither.  You wait!  Ten years ago I
was riding goods to the Diamond Fields, and after one trip I was
starting back with the empty wagon, there being no produce to load up
with, when a chap came up and offered three guineas for his passage.
Well, a man's wagon is his home, and you don't want to give a fellow the
run of your tent for a month without knowing something about him.  So I
jes' looked him all over--saw that his boots were worn out, and that he
kep' looking over his shoulder, when he climbed into the wagon and drew
the blanket over him--though the sun was fierce enough to light your
pipe.  He gave me sich a look when he went in that I had not the heart
to drag him out, and off I trekked.  He didn't join me at the fire that
night, and when I climbed in, thinking he was asleep, he was shiverin'
as though he had the ague.  Well, I gave him a glass of Cango and went
to sleep.  At sunrise I trekked again, and bymby I see him draw the
canvas aside and look back over the veld, which was as flat as the palm
of my hand.  Thinks I, he's expecting the police, but I let him be, and
at dinner he came out, looking as skeered as a monkey with a candle.
First he took a walk round the wagon, then he shaded his eyes as he
glanced over the veld, then he took a bite and a look, then a sip and a

"`What are you looking for?' says I.

"He let the beaker fall out of his hands and turned white.

"`Have you seen it?' he whispered, with a sort of choke.

"`Seen what?'  I said.

"`I don't feel well,' he answered, with a twitch for a smile, and
climbed back into the wagon.

"I tell you his looks made me feel queer, and I slept that night under
the wagon.  Well, I made a long skoff the next day, crossed the Modder
River, and no sooner'd we get across than the river came down with a
rush, brimming full with a boiling yeller flood right up to the lip of
the steep banks.  That coon spent the whole day on the bank watching the
other side, and fixing his eyes on every tree and branch that went
sailing down.

"`It's a grand flood,' he said, rubbing his hands together; `'twould
sweep a whale away like a piece of straw.'

"`Yes, and a policeman too, eh?' said I, looking at him hard.

"He noticed the meaning in my words, and a human smile broke over his
face, chasing away the worried look that seemed carved into it.
`Policeman,' he said.  `I've no cause to fear a policeman, or any man.
Good God!' he cried, catching me by the arm, `what's that?'

"`Where?' said I, fit to jump out of my skin for the terror in his face.

"He stood there with his eyes glaring at the water, and a shaking finger
pointing into the very heart of the yeller flood.  There stood out the
root of a tree, and clinging to the root the coils of a snake, with his
gleaming head moving like a branch.  Jest a moment it showed, then the
water swirled over it again.

"`Let go of my arm,' I said, for his fingers were biting into me, and
the look of him made me afeard, so that I talked gruffly.

"`Did you see it?' he said, and then he jest collapsed like a bundle of
clothes.  I had a good mind to leave him there, but, instead, I histed
him on to my shoulders, and poured enough Cango into him to make him
forget his name.  He wasn't fit to stand until a couple of days after,
and then wha' jer think he did?  Cut up his clothes into shreds and
laughed fit to kill himself when I found him at it.  Of course, I
thought he was clean daft, but he weren't, and for the first time, with
my old corduroys on him, he sat by the camp fire, sipping his coffee,
and talking--talking mainly about snakes and bloodhounds, and things
that made my backbone whang like a broken fiddle-string.  He frightened
himself, too, so that when he saw the long _achter-oss_ sjambok
quivering on the ground where the driver had thrown it, his jaw got
rigid, and moved up and down without any words coming from his mouth.
Then, with a sort of sob, he snatched up the axe, and I'm blowed if he
didn't cut that sjambok into a thousand bits.  It was a good sjambok,
too, made of rhinoceros hide, as thick as your wrist at the butt and
going off to a point, and when I told the idiot what he'd done, he jes'
went off into another unnateral fit of wild laughter, after which he
paid me a guinea and went to bed.  Putting this, that, and the other
together, with the Cango brandy, I guessed my man had got snakes in his
head, and I kept the demijohn under lock.  That calmed him down, and he
was all right until we came to the Orange River, where we had to camp
while the water went down.  About fifty wagons were there waiting to
cross, and there was quite a stir with all the fellows moving about
visiting.  When we had outspanned, I joined a group to hear about the
state of the roads, the condition of the veld for grazing, and all them
things that transport riders talk about, when one chap asked if I had
heard the news.  `What news?' says I.  `About that snake,' says he; `he
was seen at the Riet River drift last week.'  `Yes,' says another, `and
two days before he was at Aliwal North.'  `I heard from the mail coach
driver,' says a third, `that the snake overtook his coach, stopped the
horses, and took a steady look at all the passengers, after which he
went across the veld, leaving 'em all frozen with terror.  It was twenty
feet long, and its eyes were like black diamonds.'

"Of course, I wasn't swallering that, but when I told my traveller the
sweat gathered in big drops on his forehead, and the old hunted look
came into his face.  `You don't believe this silly yarn?' says I,
placing my hand on his shoulder.  `Believe it, man!' he said.  `Good
heavens! that snake is after me.'  `After you,' says I.  `Yes,' says he,
making an effort to swallow something.  `It has chased me up and down
over a thousand miles for two months.'  `Nonsense!'  I said; `you're
nervous and fanciful.'  `Listen,' he said.  `Two months ago I was
hunting in the Zulu country, and one day, ten miles away from my camp, I
shot a mamba.  I took the body back with me to skin it; but when the two
blacks I had with me saw it, they cried out to me to take it away, or
the mamba's mate would come in the night.  I left them sleeping by the
fire, and the next morning they were still sleeping--ay, they were
sleeping the last sleep, for the mamba had been in the night.'

"As I looked at them, with the blood in me like water, I heard a heavy
breathing, and saw my horse on the ground, his eyes glazed and his
nostrils fighting for breath, while, resting on his body, was the awful
head of a mamba, his eyes fixed on mine, and his forked tongue darting
in and out.  I fired at him with the rifle barrel, but clean missed in
my flurry; then I ran until my courage came back.  I found that I had
left the powder behind, and slowly turned back.  I had not gone a
hundred paces when I met him on my track, slipping like a black streak
through the grass, and I thought of nothing then but escape.  After a
time I met a party of Zulus, but when I asked for their assistance, they
fled with loud cries of alarm, and at a Zulu kraal, where I stopped to
ask for thick milk, they drove me out when they learnt why it was I
fled.  That night as I slept that snake coiled by my side.


"`Yes; he could have struck me then, but he preferred to have full
vengeance.  I woke at the flicker of his tongue on my cheek, thinking it
was a fly--a fly! good Lord! and my hand fell upon his cold, sinewy
folds, and his head was resting on my shoulder.  Ever since he has been
after me, with a deadly hate that is slowly driving me mad.  Sometimes
he disappears, but I never escape from the glint of his unwinking eyes,
and one day he will strike, unless--unless--'

"`Well?' said I, looking at his drawn face.

"`Unless,' he said, `I forestall him.'

"`No my lad,' said I, `for that would be a sin, and when you are
stronger this dream of yours will go.'

"He looked so fallen in, so weak, all of a sudden, that I took him for a
walk to the river, and the rush of the waters seemed to comfort him.  He
sat on a big boulder looking across, and the whiteness presently went
from his cheeks.

"`I've got an idea,' he said, `if I could reach the other side I'd be
all right again.'

"We sat there in a sort of a dream for an hour or two, when I happened
to look round, and right there on the flat of the ground was stretched
out the biggest and the ugliest snake I ever saw, black as night, with a
great vicious diamond-shaped head, and a pair of eyes that glowed all
colours.  He looked as if he'd travelled; his scales, instead of being
glossy, were dull with scratches here and there, and his skin had a sort
of bagginess as if he hadn't eaten for weeks.  As soon as he saw me turn
he raised his head about five feet from the ground, and from his eyes
there shot a look that jest kept me fixed like a stone.  Then that poor
young feller on the stone began to speak again, in a soft way, of the
river and its journey to the sea.

"`I wish,' he said, `I could look on the sea again.'  Then I heard him
move, and I knew he was looking into the eyes of his enemy, for that
snake began to sway his head to and fro, to and fro, while his tail went
twisting in and out, sending his body nearer and nearer.  Suddenly there
was a shriek, and a splash, and the snake went by me--streamed over the
rock into the water, and when I leapt to my feet with a yell that
startled the whole camp, I saw an arm thrust above the yeller flood, and
above the arm the bend of that black snake, his head turned down looking
into the water, and a coil of his body round the elbow.  Ole Abe Pike
has swound away once, and that was the time.  Yes; there was his black
body gleaming with the water on it, and his head turned towards the face
of the enemy--that poor young chap he had follered over three countries
for one thousand miles--one thousand English miles."

"That a true story, Uncle Abe?"

"Ain't I told it?  That's why I gave up transport riding.  I darsn't go
near that Orange River again."



I think I have said that Uncle Abe knew everything there was to be known
about farming, but he was content with his knowledge and never put it to
practical use, unless it was in the growing of water-melons.  His melons
were the biggest and the sweetest, with the reddest hearts and the
smoothest rinds in the district.  His patch was on the sunny side of the
slope, and when the big glistening globes were coming to fruition, the
old chap would sit on the worn sod bank above them and watch them
"drinking in the sunshine," as he said.  I went over one morning to
collect six melons, previously selected, in exchange for a sack of meal,
and found him seated on a bank, the picture of misery.

"What's the matter, Uncle?"

"A go-hoppin' ghost's been around here eating my melons."

"A what?"

"A spook, and he's walked off with the very six melons you set your mark

I dismounted, and walked into the melon patch, the old man silently
pointing out to me, with the stem of his pipe, the severed stems of my

"They're gone--you see."

"Yes," I answered dryly, "and the man who gathered them used a very
clean-cutting knife."

"What man?"

"Come, Uncle, you have parted with my melons to someone else, and I
consider you have behaved shabbily."

"That's it--go on.  It isn't enough that my hair should turn white in
the loneliness of the dark at the dog-hopping terror that came out of
the deep pool down below there, 'midst a fearful groaning in the air and
a splashing in the water, but you must turn on me."

"What became of those melons, you old shuffler?"

"I ain't had a smoke for six days, and, on top of that, each morning I
woke up with an empty pipe to find a melon missing."

I handed him my pouch, and waited for explanations.

"Yes," he said, ramming the tobacco down with his little finger; "six
days ago when I came over here to watch them melons mopping in the
sunshine I saw at once one was gone--and gone, too, without so much as
leaving any sign but a straight cut through the stem to show how it
went, not a footprint, nor a bruised leaf, nor anything.  Yes, that was
the smallest of the six; and next morning another was gone, the next
biggest, and there was no mark on the ground.  I tell you that want of
sign made me queer, and when that night I yeard a splashing down there
in the pool--and there's no sound, mind you, that comes so mysterious as
the sudden splash of water out of the night--I wondered if the Kaffir's
devil was climbing out of the pool, or if the little brown man, the
Tikoloshe, was up to his mischief.  There was that splash, loud and
sudden, as if the big tail of a monstrous snake had come down smack on
the water; then there was a humming all around me in the air.  Have you
got a match?"

He struck the match on his corduroys, lifting his knee to stretch the
breeches taut, and his hollow cheeks nearly met inside as he puffed,
then he held the glow of the expiring match before me.

"There was a humming in the air all around me, and my skin tingled all
over jes'sif the wind were whipping the sand against my wet body when
coming from a sea bathe, and in the centre of that melon patch I seed a
spark of fire like that dying match, jes' one dull spark of fire without
any ray from it.  That was all.  Next morning the third melon was gone--
clean gone."

"Yes; and you ate it."

"I grow melons--I don't eat 'em.  The next day I set a spring-gun with
the string from the fourth melon to the trigger, and in the middle of
the night I woke up with a start to the report of the gun and to a long
terrible wail, that seemed to come out of the depth of the sky and from
the heart of the earth.  It just went soughing and sighing and wailing
through the house, and round it and over it, so that your eyes would
follow it up and down and round, as though there was some living person
there screeching.  I tell you an ole rooster that was perched on the
foot of my bedstead fell down in a dead faint, so that I had to pour a
teaspoonful of brandy down his throat."

"The melon must have given you indigestion."

"Look here, sonny; if you play any longer on that string you'll wear it
out.  In the morning there was one melon left, the spring-gun having
blown the fourth one to smithereens--pieces of it being scattered all
over the ground--though there was not a fragment of skin or hair or
feather to show what sort of thing it was had carried off the fifth
melon.  There was one left.  The biggest of the lot--a great dark-green
ball of liquid fire and honey, that would ha' fetched first prize at any
show.  I made up my mind to save that one, so I built a kraal round it
with stakes driven in a foot deep, and roofed in with saplins, and over
all a fence of thorns.  And when the dark came on I sat out there with
the gun and the bull's-eye lantern.  I tell you I've suffered a lot in
trying to keep those six melons of yours--and that night there was a
stillness in the air that brought out all my sufferings on the stretch
like fiddle-strings.  It was dead quiet far into the night, with the
stars blinking, and the voice of the sea appearing to pass overhead,
when of a sudden there came that splash from the pool, loud and
startlin'.  I stood up to look down into the valley, then I slipped

"What did you see?"

"See! nothing; but I felt there was something crawling up that hill--and
through the air all around there came that humming.  Yes, I slipped
inside; but on the bank I left that lantern glaring like a great eye
over the melon patch.  I could not sleep for a melancholy sound in the
air, half whistle, half moan; and when I went into the middle room to
look out of the window, I'm gummed ef that bull's-eye lantern wasn't
standing on the table with the slide shut.  That very same lantern I'd
left all ablaze on the bank--and in the room there was a smell of crabs,
a damp, muddy smell, and beyond the window was a smoulderin' fire--the
same dull spark-like point I had seen on the first night."

"Your pipe is out; do you want another match?"

"A match is not much good without baccy.  Thankye, sonny.  So I climbed
into bed again, or rather--for I'm not ashamed of being afraid--under
the bed, and there I was when I yeard the old rooster say good-morning
to the sun.  The first thing I did was to look at the melon patch, and--
what'jer think--"

"Go on, you wretched old fabricator."

"I seed that last water-melon sliding down the hill."

"Sliding?  Wasn't it walking?"

"Yes, sliding--not rolling, as you'd expect a round thing to do down a
steep like that, but jes' gently sliding, as though it were resting on a
coat.  There was nothing by it, nothing at all, and it was the most
surprisin' sight I ever seed to watch that fine melon softly skimming
over the grass and dodging all the stones.  I was so lost,
flabbergasted, unbalanced by this sight that I never saw what was
awaiting the melon, down by the pool, until the last thing, when it
slid, all of a sudden, into a dark hole.  Into a dark hole--a sort of
tunnel level with the take-off into the pool--and that hole, that
tunnel, sonny, was the throat of the big devil-snake.  All in a moment I
saw that.  The melon disappeared, the jaws of the snake came together,
and a column of water shot into the air as he slid back into the pool."

"So; and that's where the six melons went?"

"Five, sonny; five--one of 'em was blown to smithereens by the gun.  The
five of 'em were swallowed by that devil-snake."

"And how did he cut the stems so clean?"

"That's where the mystery comes in, sonny.  I expect you'll have to take
six of the best that are left, sonny; and I'm going into town next week
to get some dynamite to blow the bottom outer that pool.  That
devil-snake might take it into his head to swallow me one of these
fishing nights."



The Fish River was "down."  It generally was down, in the sense of being
low, but colonial rivers run by contraries--when they are down they are
up.  There had been a heavy fall of rain "up country," and the water
rushing off the sun-baked surface poured like a flood between the high
banks, sweeping, as we afterwards heard, a stone bridge away, and
catching in its career a wagon and span of eighteen oxen at a drift
which, at the time of crossing, had scarcely water enough to wet the
feet.  For many a mile the banks of the river are of red soil, and as
the flood eats into the banks its waters are stained a dull brick
colour, which hue is imparted to the Atlantic itself for miles along the
coast as the red waters pour out into the sea, bearing with them a
wonderful collection of flotsam in the shape of timber, dead stock, and
live reptiles.  Of late, railway sleepers formed no small part of the
flotsam, and if work was slack we sometimes, when the river was down,
spent a sloppy day on the banks fishing for these floating items.  On
hearing the news I rode off to pick up Uncle Abe, but finding him out,
went to a spot on the bank which he particularly favoured, where a wide
flat rock stood at the base of a krantz.  He was not there, however, and
the rock itself was covered by the flood, which reached half-way up the
krantz, but it was evident he had been there, for from a cave in the
rock, just above the lap of the waters, there issued a thin line of
smoke, and on climbing along a ledge I saw signs of his occupation in a
skin kaross, a dark lantern, a gun, and a few well-known traps which he
always carried with him when after _kablejauw_, the great hundred
pounders which come up as far as this point in the spring tides.  Now
thoroughly alarmed for his safety, I rode down towards the sea, from
which, six miles away, there came the continuous roar and thunder of the
surf, and, to my great relief, met him in a bush path, with a full-grown
otter on his back, and the water oozing from his top boots and from his
clothes, which clung to his lank body.

"Halloa!  Uncle; I thought you were drowned."

"That's me," he said, sweeping the water from his eyes; "I've been
drowned twice over.  Got a pipe and baccy?  I'm jest perishing for a

I saw now that his knuckles were skinned, and that his face was pinched
and blue.

"Get up," I said dismounting.

"Not me.  I'd spoil the saddle.  Lemme catch hold of the stirrup--so.
Now get along quick, for I want to boil this yer soaking of water outer
my bones and body."

We went along, and presently I had a bright fire going in the cave, and
the kettle singing, while Abe, stripped of his clothes, sat shivering
still in his skin kaross, his eyes fixed on the red torrent, which
stretched across for a mile.

A tin beaker of boiling coffee soon brought back the warmth to his body,
and when he had my pipe between his teeth he began to talk.

"I believe I'm getting old, sonny; and I've lost my fishin' tackle."

"Not the _kablejauw_ tackle?"

"Jest that.  It's stood by me, man and boy, for twenty-five years.  I've
waxed it and waxed it, and wired it about the shank, till it were strong
enough to haul in a shark, and now it's gone--all along of this yer
flood.  I don't like loosing old things, and the loss of it pains me as
tho' you'd pulled the sinews outer me."

"How did it happen?"

"Yesterday I came here to fish, and in the afternoon--when the tide
crept whispering along the rushes--I cast in from the big rock.  'Twas
as quiet as Sunday, with a fringe of bubbles right across the river
marking when the tide moved up.  On the mud bank, jest below where the
big fish would soon be routing up the mud like pigs, there was a blue
crane dozing on one leg, with his head bunched between his shoulders; on
a dead tree above sat a big black and white kingfisher, with his red
beak pointing up, and on the top of the krantz a white-headed eagle was
all huddled up.  After a smoke, I built up the fire in the cave, then
made another cast with the line, for the fish were coming up, and the
tide had reached up so high that the crane had to quit.  I heaved the
lead out about thirty yards, and was drawing her in when there comes a
tug, and I was into a _steinbrasse_.  That same moment the eagle started
into the air, sailing roun' and roun', and letting go screech after
screech; and when I looked up at him, surprised at the racket, I yeard a
hollow murmur, like an echo that comes from a cave.  I knew what it

"'Twas the river comin' down, and in a hurry I began hauling in that
line, when, with a rush that parted the water, a big _kablejauw_ took
the _steinbrasse_, and, with a swirl of his tail, made for mid-stream to
bolt his food.  I dunno how it happened, but a coil of the line whipped
roun' my leg, and I was yanked on to the broad of my back into the
river, with that eagle 'twixt me and the blue sky.  That fish pulled me
right into the middle, then he paused to take bearings, and when the
strain slackened I took a breath, and reached along to get hold of the
line.  But it was beyond me to slacken the knot without a knife, and I
turned over to swim to the rock.  'Twas easy enough till I tautened the
line, when the fish made another struggle.  'Twas pull devil, pull
saint, and the line wouldn't break.  First he'd gain, then I'd gain; but
most of the time we just stuck there--he facing to the sea, me to the
rock, and that eagle ripping out up above.  And then!"

"Well, Uncle?"

"Lord love you, lad.  There were a roar in the air; I seed the tree tops
above the bend swaying; then there shot into the air a great tongue of
water, and round the corner, from side to side, there came a wall--the
face of it curved in, the top hissing in foam, and the sides of it
running right up the banks, so high it shut out the valley beyond.  I
gave a yell, then turned over on my back, with my hands clasped behind
my head to protect it from the shock, and the next minute I were
scooting down the river for the sea, with that wall howling behind me
like a thousand thunders."

"I don't understand."

"That _kablejauw_ did.  'Twas a race between him and the flood, and the
way he flashed along showed he'd only been fooling with me before.  And
the line didn't break, and overhead there sailed the eagle, with his
black wings outspread and his white head looking down at me.  We flew so
fast that in a few minutes I saw the white lines one above the other,
which showed where the waves were breaking, and then with a snap like a
pistol-shot, the line snapped.  'Twasn't my weight that broke it, but a
snagged tree, into which, with the way on me, I went feet foremost.  No
sooner'd I clung to a mud greasy branch than, with a roar like a fallen
mountain in my head, the red flood tossed the big tree into the air,
and, when we come down, we were in the thick of it--rushing on, at a
height of twelve feet above the blue waters of the tide.  Phew! how we
did go; and in a minute there was the mouth of the river, the big waves
solemnly rolling in, and beyond them the heaving blue of the ocean.
With a fierce rush, like a live crittur, the flood threw itself at the
sea.  We just footed it over the small waves, then we cut the top off
the first roller, throwing up columns of spray high as the church
steeple, and then the fight began.  Behind us there was a hundred miles
of flood; before us was the tide with the Atlantic at the back, and the
sea after the first shock jes' gave a sort of surly roar, and away back
of the outermost breaker I seed a dark line coming along steady and
unbroken.  'Twas the last of the seven brothers, of the seven big waves
that roll in with the tide at intervals, and it was bigger than all.
Nearer it came, dark at the base, with a glistening curve, and a light
line along the top.  We in the front had made a track for the flood
behind.  For a little we stopped--then my tree was flung forward, and a
red, angry column shot forth to meet the big wave.  My!  Sonny!  The
music of that meeting!  The two waters coming together would neither
give in, and they piled up, and up, and up, until there was built up a
wall of water high as a hill, red on my side, blue on the other, and up
this wall my tree was forced by the flood behind.  Up we went, until we
were balanced on the very ridge, with a black gulf on the other side of
smooth water.  A breath we poised there while the fresh and the salt
were straining against each other, then a heaving mass out of the sea
swiftly smote the great wall, and we went headlong--the tree and me--
into the biggest toss-up you ever see.  I dunno why it was I kept
a-hold, but I think the weight of the waters jammed me into a cleft
branch.  Anyhow, the life kept in my body, and when I took a breath, the
next minute it was dark, the stars were blazing, and the tree was
a-rocking up and down away out on the ocean beyond the fighting
whirl-about of river flood and tide.  In that one second between the
time I went headlong from the curling top of that hill-high wall of
water into the roarin' jumble some hours had gone--the tide had flowed
and turned, and the old tree, with me on it, hanging like a withered
apple, had floated miles.  I must have been drowned over and over, and
reg'lar pickled with salt.  I tell you it was lonesome out there on the
sea--and wet."

"It was a wonderful escape, Uncle."

"But it warn't over.  Bymby the tide turned again, and the tree made
again for the shore, where the fighting was going on jes' the same from
the roar, and when the sun broke I saw we would strike the mouth of the
river again.  I dunno, sonny, how it is, but it seemed to me the ole sea
was entering into the fight, for there was a sort of rush in the great
heaving masses that began to pile in out of the blue, and when I came
near the beat of the surf where the sea was all red, the breaker that
carried the tree on his round back rose higher and higher, as he swept
on until he reached the flood water, when he let the head of him curl
and plunge with a force that swept everything away, and in the wall of
his foam we were shot right into the river.  That's when I was drowned
again; and when I came to I found we were settled in the still centre of
a great circle of waters under the left bank, outer the main current.
Everything that came into that circle went roun' and roun' till it came
gently into the centre, to drift up against the big tree.  Already there
were three goats against the tree, legs up, an' a sheep were drifting
up, while in the circle sailin' roun' was a straw hat and a pair of
trousers.  On the tree there was fifteen snakes--all alive, but
sluggish, mostly puff-adders, with some long yeller boomslangs, and
three or four ugly looking black snakes that must er come way down 200
miles from the karoo veld.  While I was looking at these ugly lodgers
coiled round the branch, there was a swirl in the water, and the sheep
that were drifting along suddenly went under.  'Twas a shark took him.
That made things lively, but when three more sharks come up, and after
eating the goats, the straw hat, and the trousers began butting at the
tree with their shovel noses, I felt there was a lot of excitement in
this world if you only look for it patiently.  The rolling of the tree
stirred the snakes, and the whole fifteen of them began crawling up.  If
there'd been two I'd kicked 'em off, but being so many I sot and took
'em.  When they had settled down again there was one round my neck, a
yeller boomslang, making a very fine collar, there were a pair of black
snakes on each of my arms, a brown boomslang round my waist, and no
less'n six big puff-adders coiled about my legs.  I tell you I kept my
mouth shut less one should crawl in by mistake, an' if my hair hadn't
been so scant and wet it would ha' stood up straight."

"That was a tight fix, Uncle."

"Tight!  By gum!  The pressure of that six foot o' collar on my neck
tilted my chin up in the air, while the chap above my waist nearly broke
my ribs.  The worst of it wer' I was freezing."

"Freezing! and the sun at 108."

"That's so; but fright turns a chap cold, and them snakes were drawing
all the remainin' warmth outer me.  And ther' were those sharks
promenadin' roun' and roun' the tree, every now and again givin' it a
lazy shove.  Jes' then the tide turned, and the tree began to move on
another cruise.  This time I knew it would be all up with me.  I
couldn't live through another fight with the surf, and if I moved there
was the snakes and the sharks.  Soon as the tree moved those snakes woke
up and began hissing an' puffing an' swaying their heads about, while
their eyes got bright and brighter.  Suddenly the collar chap crept up
over my face and took a twist round my head with the end of his tail in
my ear; then one by one the other snakes crawled up over my face, each
one of 'em giving me such a look as threatened my life in case I moved.
I wondered what they were about, for I couldn't see, but the pressure on
my neck was terrible, when, after the last one had gone, I heard a hiss,
a whizz, and a thud.  What jer think?"

"I suppose they flew away."

"They jest piled on top of each other, tail round the other's neck, till
they made a column that would reach the bank; then the topmost one bent
forward, and there was a line of snakes from the tree to the bank.  A
big puff-adder was at the far end, and he hitched his fangs over a tree
stump.  Right there I spotted my chance.  I softly hauled on the line,
and drew the tree ashore, when I jumped to the ground and cut."

"And where did you find the otter?"

"Picked him up, sonny.  And to think that I lost my line."

"That's a wonderful story, Uncle."

"Eh! but it's so.  You can see yourself I'm soaked through and through,
and if you look out, there's the river in flood plain enough, and here's
the otter which will make a good weskitt."



Abe suffered for several days from an attack of rheumatism in his
shoulder, brought on by his immersion in the flood waters, and he
applied himself steadily to the manufacture of a wonderful lotion, in
which camphorated oil was the main stock, with a dash of turpentine, a
strong trace of eucalyptus, and a few drops of the powerful euphorbia
juice, together with extracts from sundry potent herbs.  When I visited
him this concoction was brewing in a pot, the steam from which filled
the house with an extremely pungent smell.

"There," said he, holding up a wooden ladle full of the mixture, "jes'
take a sniff of that.  That's the sort to sift right through you, and
yank out rheumatics from the knuckle joints."

"It certainly is strong."

"Yes, sonny; but it lacks one thing."

"What's that?"

"Jes' a lump, as big as your fist, of fat from a tiger's inside."

"Is that so?"

"'Tw'd give substance to it; bind all these yer scents together, and
make 'em settle down to their work instead of fighting against each
other.  This euphorby juice is mighty cantankerous, and is given to
blisterin' unless it's toned down by tiger fat."

"Well, Uncle, that black tiger is still alive."

"Hum!  I don't know that the black tiger is good for this purpose.  What
do you say?"

"I know nothing about it; but, if any tiger is good, I should say a
black tiger, by reason of his greater strength, should suit best, and,
if you remember, you said you had a plan for trapping him.  I believe
he's still in the big kloof."

"Yes, he's there.  That ole man baboon's been aroun' here, and maybe
he's got some notion of showing me where the black fellow takes his
snooze.  I'll jes' think over it."

"If you want any help I can bring along some dogs and a couple of guns?"

"Dogs, eh!  Seems to me that tiger's too smart for dogs.  He chawed up
one of yours.  I don't want no dogs, sonny, and if this tiger is to be
downed, he's got to be downed by cunning.  You leave him to me."

After the lapse of a week I rode over to see how the old man had
succeeded, and found him peacefully employed boiling down wax berries
for the manufacture of candles for his own lighting--the rheumatism,
apparently, having been vanquished.

"Hallo!  Abe," I said, taking a look round the room, "where's the tiger

"I speck it's on the tiger."

"So your plan didn't succeed?"  Abe solemnly skimmed a ladle full of
melted wax from the water, and poured it into a bamboo mould.

"Berries is terrible skerce this season.  Time was when a body could
gather a bagful in a day from the bushes above the beach; but now--lor',
everything's different now.  This very earth's agoing downhill--it's
getting played out."

"Are you mixing any tiger fat with that wax, Uncle, to bind it?"

"Maybe goose fat would be better, sonny; have you got any to spare?"

"That tiger must be a cunning beast if he's got the better of you,

He shook his head gravely.  "He's no tiger.  He's jes' a ole witch
prowling aroun', that's what he is."


"Yes.  You believe me, that's what ole Black Sam is.  I worked out a
plan to catch him, supposin' I could find where he put up in the
daytime, and what path he took on setting out in the night, for you know
these critturs in the woods don't go along anyhow, but follow paths jes'
as you or me would, and some of these paths they're more fond of than
others.  Well, I kep' watch on that ole man baboon, and when I see him
strolling along outside the kloof I up and follered him.  He knew, bless
you, what I was after, and the way he led me into the dark of that kloof
was a caution; so silent he went, and so careful to take the proper
track.  Bymby he stopped and pointed--yes, pointed with his finger at
the ground--then he jumped for a bough, and there he sat grinning an'
working his eyebrows.  Well, blow me, ef there wer'n't a spoor of the
tiger where he pointed, and squinting along through the underbush I see
a clean walk which the tiger had made--the sides of the trees worn
smooth and the ground jes' trodden down.  That was enough.  So I went
home and made a pill of meat, with enough poison in it to kill a museum
full of stuffed critturs.  Nex' morning I went down, and if that baboon
hadn't a almost stopped me by force I'd a run bang into that tiger."

"Was he dead?"

"Dead!  Thunderation! he was jes' lying full-stretched for a spring from
a tree branch jes' above where I laid that pill, awaiting for me to come
along.  The baboon jes' invited me to climb a tree, and looking through
the leaves, I spotted that black devil, with his tail a-switching and
a-jerking.  I jes' climbed down, and slipped off like a shadder, with my
heart in my boots.  Well, I did some thinking.  You know cats is fond of
certain smells, so is dogs--only dogs is not so dainty as cats.  It's
jes' the same with a tiger, and he's got a nose for a partickler herb
which he rubs his head into.  I dug up one of these year herbs, and I
fixed it up fine, jes' over the spring of a big man trap.  Then, it
being near dusk, I climbed into a yeller wood, and waited for Black Sam
to walk up and put his foot into the jaws of that trap; but the dark
came before he did, and then I wasn't going to trust myself in the
wood--so there I stuck, with the stiffness in all my bones, till the
morning.  By gum! it were skeery work, sittin' up there with the wind
moaning over the tree, and sounds of creeping things all aroun'.  Then,
blame me! the first thing I clapped eyes on in the morning was that
black crittur standing there in the path, staring at that scent bush
'sif it were somethin' to be suspicious about instead of a nice smellin'
bottle.  There he stood like a dark shadder, working his nose for maybe
half an hour, when he walked all around, finally sitting down on his
tail with a pucker between his eyes jes'sif he were thinking.  Yes, he
sat there working his brain; then up he stood, looked about for a
spell--then, I'm hanged, if he didn't pick up a dry stick in his mouth
and poke it at that bush."

"What's that?"

"Yes, sir.  He jes' sprung the trap.  Of course, soon's he poked the
bush the spring give, and the jaws flew together with a snap that bit
clean through the stick.  Then that there witch reached for the bush
with his claw, and fetched a grin that spread all over his face like a
gash in a water-melon.  Then he smelt that trap all over and began to
switch his tail, and with a growl in his stummick off he went slinking
on my trail, taking long strides with his ears flattened.  Luckily he
went on the long trail leading from the house, and soon's he'd gone I
lit out for the top of the krantz, where I could see the veld right up
to my door."


"Well, after a time, I saw him crossing the veld, making himself small
when he was on the level, and running when he got in a holler.  Right up
near the house he went and hid himself in a clump of wild cotton,
waiting and watching for me to come out o' the door.  I tell you he
stopped there till the sun was right over head, then suddenly he ran
right up to the house and looked in at the winder.  I never was so glad
at being not at home to a visitor.  He walked all round the house and
got on the roof; then he came back, full lick, having made up his mind I
was in the kloof.  Yes, then I made a bee line for home, and shut myself

"And that ends it?"

"No, sonny, it's the beginning of the chapter.  He's jes' scheming to
get me; but the ole baboon's on the watch and maybe I'll have the black
skin yet."



In one of the kloofs near the Fish River, an old buffalo bull had taken
up his quarters, and, like all solitary males, he was suspicious and

"And I don't wonder at it," said Abe Pike, when discussing the bull's
points.  "Trouble sours the best of us, and he's had his share of
trouble--what with his struggles as a youngster to get a footing in the
herd, and his struggles, when he became leader, to guard his position
against enemies without in the shape of tigers and hunters, an' against
enemies within in the shape of younger bulls, not to speak of the
jealousy of his wives; and then on top of all this, the trouble of being
driven from the family when his powers were failing, maybe by a own son
of his.  Yes, sir, that lonely animile, for all he's so savage, an'
a'most knocked the life outer me, has my sympathy in his proud old age.
Proud he is, you believe me.  He might a stayed with the herd ef so be
he choose to behave himself and foller with the calves, but once a king
always a king.  Ef he can't rule in the herd, he'll rule all alone in
that kloof--nursing his pride and his memories--and going scatter--
dash--on sight for any critters mad enough to enter his domain."

"Did you run against him, Uncle?"

"Well--I'd put it the other way--that he run against me.  I tole you
often how he fit and killed my _rooi bonte_ bull, Red Prince, that old
red and white chap with a cross of shorthorn that was so masterful you
couldn't keep him in any kraal if he wanted to move out I've seen him
fix his horns under a heavy pole that took two men to place across the
gate, and jest hoist it as tho' it were a straw, and if he set out to go
into the mealie patch why he'd go in, an' there was an end of it,
bellowing all the time fit to drown the roar of the sea."

"Did the old solitary kill your bull?"

"You know that, sonny, for you saw his body with the rip that went to
his heart.  I yeared ole Prince bellow one morning, and, lookin' over
the veld, I saw him away off yonder on the ridge slowly moving, with his
big head swaying from side to side, and as I watched him he would, every
now and again, stop to paw the ground and toss his horns.  I thought,
maybe, there was some stray cattle beyond, and I set off after him with
the sjambok.  After he topped the ridge I could still hear the rumble of
his challenge, and when I reached the divide there he was down below
raking up the earth with his hoof, but there was no sign of a horn or
hide beside him.  I ran down to him, and at the sound of my running he
turned his head, showing the red of his eyes.  He blew through his
nostrils at me, and he looked that wicked that I dodged away behind a
big rock, and soon's I peeped out I saw he was looking at the kloof with
his ears pricked forward.  So I scanned the edge of the wood, which was
about fifty paces off, and there, poking out of the shadows, was the
head of that buffel, his black muzzle held high, and the sharp curved
tips of his horns showing above the great mass of bone on his forehead.
The foam was dripping from his muzzle.  I saw, then, that red crittur of
mine had got the scent of the buffel, and here he had come to do battle
out of the love of a fight.  I called to the old fool to come back, but,
with another dig of his hoof and a shake of his head, he went forward
with that slow, steady stride of a crittur that knows no fear.  From the
wood there came a menacing growl, and at the hoarse rumble of it the red
bull sunk his crest and let out a beller that went rolling over the
kloof.  Then the old solitary stepped out, big and black, with white
scars showing on his shoulders and his head held high and threatenin'.
There the two of them stood face to face with twenty yards between,
their ears twitching and the tails jerking against their sides, Red
Prince looking heavier with a mightier neck, the crest arching like the
neck of a horse, and the dewlap hanging down between his wide knees.
Bigger and stronger he looked than the buffel, but my heart went weak
within me for him when I saw the wild gleam of the buffel eyes, and
dwelt on the pile of rugged bone that spanned his forehead.  Slowly they
walked up to each other, muttering deep threats, then their horns
clashed, and their foreheads were pressed closer and closer to the
strain of heaving quarters.  A minute they stood so, the breathing
coming heavily, so that the dust below was blown about--then my old red
chap turned the buffalo right round, and with a snort and a sidelong
blow, he ripped a long red streak in the black thigh.  The buffel sprang
a step aside, then his tail went up over his back, and he rushed
forward.  Right round on his pins as nimble as a yearling the old red
went, and catching the buffel between the forelegs, he heaved him up and
sent him with a thud on to his side.  If he had only known, poor old
chap, he would never have let his enemy reach his feet again, but he
curled his nose up and jest stood there watching the black devil gather
himself together.  The buffel was up--phew--and then, with a savage
roar, his eyes gleaming like a tiger's, he jest leapt at the big red
body standing there so proud, and the next moment--'twas done so quick--
I saw the blood running from his side.  I wept, lad, at the sight.
There stood the buffel, with his muzzle up--and the foam dripping from
it--watching the red bull, whose legs were planted wide apart to steady
himself.  While the life was flowing from that terrible wound in his
side the old chap shook his head again.  So they stood silent, eyeing
one another, then Prince lurched forward--dead--and the buffel went up
and smelt him, with his back toward me.  I had moved round the rock to
watch the fight, and as I stood there tremblin' from the excitement,
that old black devil suddenly whipped round, and with a most hair-rising
roar, came straight at me.  The outer curve of his horn caught me on the
shoulder, and sent me spinning till I tripped over a rock, and when he
turned I squeezed tight against the shelter of the stone.  Then that ole
brute came and stood by with his nose a few inches off, and his
bloodshot eyes glaring at me, and every minute or so he'd try to chop me
with a hoof, or hook me out with his horns.  And three times he trotted
off to smell the red bull--the which times I'd try to squeeze closer to
the rock, and then at the third time he cleared off to the left at a



I had been busy all day `branding' the young cattle, and returning hot,
dusty, and tired to the house, found Abe Pike comfortably seated in the
cane chair, with the veldschoens of his outspread feet resting on the
top bar of the verandah rail, and his lined face looking up at the
thatched roof, whence came the loud zing of a bluebottle fly caught in
the meshes of a spider web.  A jar of my Transvaal tobacco was on the
ground by his side, and a large jug of buttermilk near it.

"Don't disturb yourself, Uncle!"

"I'm not agoing to.  Mind how you step, else you'll obset that
buttermilk--not that it would matter much, for it ain't been rightly
made.  Should ha' been kep' in a calabash with a drop of old milk in the
bottom, to flavour it with a taste of biled leather and smoke that
belongs to the proper article.  But all the old arts is dying out, and
insects and beasts is the only critturs that keep up the old customs.
Conservatism is a law of nature--among men who have broken away from
nature it's a blind, unreasonin' protest against change.  Conservatism
is the preserving wisdom of the aged, the salt of experience, and change
is born of the rashness of youth.  I'm a Conservative--I'm old.  I
should be presarved for the edification and guidance of the young.  Give
me the buttermilk."

As he would not move, I tilted his chair over by kicking the legs away,
and passed over his recumbent body to the bedroom.  After a wash down I
found him still outspread on the ground, his long legs hooked over the
chair, and his head resting on his arm, while the glow of his pipe
showed that he was still calmly smoking.

"What's brought you over here, Uncle?"

"Well, I 'spect I walked.  Have you ever observed, sonny, that the human
body is so built that it will fit itself to any position?  This is
comfortable and the tobacco is fair to middlin', fair to middlin', with
a touch of sulphur in it."

I sat down on the stone steps to listen to the most delightful of all
sounds--those made by the domestic animals and birds settling to rest;
while from the deep black of the sky the stars shot out with a sudden
blaze, and the cool night wind came softly whispering through the

Uncle Abe gathered himself up, and bunched upon the rail, his back bent
like a sickle to keep his balance.  "What's acrost over yonder?" he

"My boundary ridge."

"Your boundary ridge!  An' a euphorby tree, and a sprinkling of white
thorn acacias, with the gum drops glistenin' on the rough bark, and a
few grey stones all covered with moss and a stretch of grey veld.  Go
'long; there's more than that under the curtain of the dark, for if
there weren't why would you an' me sit here and look away off, an' look
an' look, as ef behind the curtain was all the mysteries of the unknown
world.  The dark makes a wonderful difference."

"So it does--when you're five miles from home and hear the `gurr' of a

"Sonny, I've downed that black tiger."

"You have!"

"That's so.  Ole Abe Pike has come out on top--and soon's I skinned him
I lit out to tell you the news.  You see it was my wits against his.
Traps was no good, so I determined to set my skin against his and trust
to the ole gun.  I calculated to tackle him right close up to his lair."

"In the kloof?"

"Eweh! in the dark of the big kloof, where it's that still you can hear
the sap moving in the trees.  You see that crittur was more'n ordinary
cunning, and he'd seen how he was feared, so he'd settle it down to a
certainty that no man would ever dare tempt death near his sleepin'
place.  Therefore, though deadly risky, the best plan would be to go to
that very spot.  Next thing was to give him a good feed far away--and
yet not too far.  Ef the kill was too far he wouldn't come back to his
roost, and ef it was too near he wouldn't eat before returning.  So I
built a little bush kraal near the kloof an got a brandzickt goat from
Ned Amos to turn in."

"Why not have tied the goat up in the kloof?"

"No good, sonny, with an 'xper'enced tiger.  He'd a suspected a plant,
'cos his understanding 'ud tell him that goats don't grow in kloofs.
The kraal he would take as a piece of man's foolishness.  Before this I
filed down a whole sixpence, and the filings I melted into a good round
bullet, with some clean lead.  Two charges I put in behind that bullet,
and seed that the powder was well up in the nipple with the shiniest cap
well pressed down.  Then I killed a stink-cat--I'll tell you why
afterwards.  I got the goat down to the kraal an hour before sun-down,
and then I slipped into the kloof, treading like a shadder, with the
bleat of the old billy buck calling loud.  I pulled up, an' waited till
that ole man baboon, who had watched all proceedings, gave me the sign
that the Black Sam was on the move.  I felt my way on up to his lair
under a shelving rock at the foot of the precipice that hems in the
kloof on the top side.  It was that dark I couldn't see my hand, and I
knew at once my plan would land me with a split throttle if I waited for
his coming back.  I was that skeered, too, with the whisperin' in the
trees, that I was just making ready to run when I see a firefly dodging

"And you thought it was the tiger's eye?"

"You wait.  I seed a firefly making circles of flame against the
blackness--and I cotched him gently--so's not to spoil his lantern.  I
fixed him in the bark of a tree that stood near the den--and two others
I fixed in line--one above, one below.  The top was three feet above the
ground, the middle was two and a half, and the bottom one a foot high.
Next thing I threw that stink-cat in the den, and the smell of him came
out thick, covering up all taint of a man.  Then I settled down opposite
the tree with the gun fixed on the little spark where I'd fixed the
middle fly.  I reckoned when the ole chap came home and smelt that cat
he'd stand in disgust--and as the smell would strike him just by the
tree his body would blot out the flies and give me a mark."

"And he didn't come back that way?"

"He did that, as it was the easiest way; but before he came the feeling
grew in me that he was just behind watching me where I lay.  I tell you,
sonny, that long watch in the stillness of the dark, with a drop of
water minute by minute falling into a little pool, and a sort of queer
stirring noise among the trees, gave me the ague.  But he came at last.
It may have been three, or two o'clock; but without a sound he was there
before me.  My eyes had grown tired of watching those three dots of
fire, and I'd been shutting them tight for a spell every now and again,
and when I opened them the last time I saw the light was there, but
altered.  I looked away a second, then back, and there was three lights;
but two of 'em were close together, and bigger.  Jimminy! it was the ole
man himself looking at me.  I pulled the trigger, and the gun flew outer
my hands.  Then I rolled over and over, with a roaring, scuffling, and
screaming in my ears as ef the gun had woke a whole crowd of devils and
brought them howling outer the rocks.  I rolled against a tree, and I
was up it before I knew where I was, an' all the time there was that
scuffling an' growlin' and awful screamin' going on down below.  Bymby
it got weaker and weaker, until it died off in gurglings and deep
breathing, and by the grey light of the morning there was the two of 'em
dead, the black tiger and the ole man baboon.  The baboon had got his
two long teeth in the big throat, and there he had held while the tiger
with his hind claws raked the stomach clean out of him."

"And where did your bullet strike?"

"It struck the tree, and smashed the top firefly to smithereens.  The
other two had dropped off."

"Then you didn't kill the tiger?"

"I reckon I did; at any rate, I've got his skin and the skull of the ole
baboon.  He was the biggest tiger you ever see, and old as the hills,
with his teeth worn down.  I'm sorry for the baboon, but I'm glad he was

I have reason to believe that Uncle Abe maligned himself for the sake of
the yarn.  On examining the tiger's skin subsequently, I found no traces
of the baboon's teeth, but exactly between the eyes was a bullet-hole.
The old man had held his gun straight in the dark kloof.



In the spring the quails come in from the west, and one September
morning I went out into the standing oat-crops with two other guns, each
one of us attended by a little Kaffir lad to retrieve the birds.  By
noon we had traversed and re-traversed in line the upper lands and low
lands, bagging 98 brace, and then in the glare of the mid-day we took
shelter in the shade of a yellow-wood tree.  There we argued the
ever-recurring theme of the coming of the quail.

In August there is not a quail to all seeming in the land, but suddenly,
as the spring advances, there comes from every thicket of grass and
square of growing corn on the coast the whistling call of the male
bird--`phee--phe--yew' calling in bird language, `where are you?--where
are you?' and the answering cry of the modest mate--`phee--
phee'--"here--here."  Whence do they come--these thousands of birds that
throng along the coast?  On that point regularly as September came
round, as the 12-bore gun was taken down, and the cartridges filled with
Number 6, we talked greatly, setting forth many theories.  Silas Topper
was of opinion that the quails spent their time in travelling round the
continent of Africa in four huge armies, covering 500 miles from front
to rear, and that while one was passing along the southern coast, the
second army would be going north somewhere above the Zambesi, while the
third would be traversing the shores of the Mediterranean, and the
fourth skirting of Gold Coast.  We all agreed that was a very good
theory, and one deserving more credence than the crude, but positive,
assertion of Amos Topper that the quail was originally a frog.

"It stands to reason," Amos would say, "that a quail is developed from a
frog.  If 'tain't so, what becomes of all the frogs?--tell me that.
Take a caterpillar.  A caterpillar comes from an egg, and a cocoon comes
from a caterpillar, and a butterfly from a cocoon."

"But a quail isn't a butterfly."

"Chuts!  A tadpole comes from an egg, doesn't it?  Well, a frog comes
from a tadpole, and a quail comes from a frog.  That's clear enough,
ain't it?"

Then, of course, the argument would start, and this particular September
morning we had got well into the frog theory when old Abe Pike came

"I don't mind if I do," he said, as he sat down and selected a plump
bird that Amos had carefully prepared for his own eating.  He had opened
it out by a cut down the breast bone, laid the broad bare back on the
wood coals, and in the cup-like cavities of the breast had placed a pat
of butter, with pepper and salt.  The juices of the bird had gathered in
these cavities, and Amos had just cut off a slice of bread to serve as a
plate when old Pike forestalled him.

"That's my bird," said Topper, fiercely.

"Just yeard you say 'twas a frog," grunted Abe, as he dug his knife into
the earth to clean it.

"I said it was a frog, but it's a sure enough bird now--blow you!"

"Go slow, sonny, go slow," said Abe, between the mouthfuls.  "Stick to
one thing at a time.  Once a frog always a frog."

"Humph," said Amos, as he picked out another bird from the heap.  "I
s'pose you never heard frogs whistling of a night?"

"Well, of course."

"What do they whistle for, eh, if they're not fitting themselves for the
bird life--tell me that?"  And Amos looked at us triumphantly.

"They whistle for the rain, you donderkop."

"P'raps, then, you can tell us where these birds come from, as you're so
mighty clever."

"To be sure, sonny, to be sure; they come from the clouds."

"Oh, thunder!"

"Yes; from the clouds, or maybe higher.  I s'pose you yeard of the
people of Israel and how they were fed in the wilderness with manna and
quail.  Where d'you expect those birds came from?  Frogs!  No; they just
dropped from the sky, and they've kep' on droppin' ever since in the

"Go along!  There's no people wandering in the wilderness in these

"I seed 'em."

"The Israelites?"

"No; the quail a-falling out the roof of the world.  I'll tell you how
it came about that I diskivered this secret that's been kep' locked up
all these hundreds of years.  I'd been a-fishin' off the great rock that
stands out of the breakers over there yonder by the Kasouga, an' the
spring tide, rolling in with a great heave, made a boilin' foam 'twixt
me an' the beach.  I were fixed there for the night, sure enough; an' I
tell you what, sonny, when a man is brought face to face in the black of
the night with the leaping sea, he don't forget the time.  Noise! by
gum!  You know what it is to be waked all of a sudden out of a sleep a
full mile from the sea by the smacking crash of a great wave, and there
I was in the very thick of the thunderation, with the big black breakers
swishing out of the dark like a movin' wall, and jus' leapin' agin the
rock as though they were bent on sweeping it away.  The white foam went
flying above, drenching me through and through--and it grew so slippery
up above on that table size top, that I was obliged to lay full
stretched on my back with my heels agin a crack, and my arms
outstretched--and my eyes fixed on the stars above whenever I could see
them through the flying scud.  Even a spring tide turns--and in the
darkness before the early morning I could feel the rock under me growing
firmer.  I was just thinking o' getting to the shore to dry myself in
the white sand when I yeard a queer sound from the sky.  There's just
one thing wanting to this yer quail."

"What's that?"

"Just a dash of Dop brandy."

I passed him over the stone demijohn, and we listened to the cluck of
the liquor as it poured into the tin komeky.

"Yes; out of the black of the sky there came a sort of sound that goes
before a storm; and, boys, it licks me how such a shadder of a noise can
come on in advance."

"It's the way with shadows," said Amos, drily.

"Soh! but it's a queer thing to hear the hum of a wind-storm before the
wind comes along; jes' 'sif th're messages going ahead to warn critturs
and trees to stand firm.  Well, I squinted around, and bymby, as the
light grew, far above I seed a something movin', and the noise of its
coming grew.  'Twas no bigger'n a umbrella when I fixed it; but it soon
spread out, wider and wider, and what was the curiosest, it lengthened
out behind like my old concertina.  I tell you, I begun to get skeered,
for I thought maybe 'twas one o' them water-spouts.  Then the light grew
stronger and there was a twinkling from the growing column jes' if
thousands and thousands o' poplar leaves was stirred by the wind.  `'Tis
alive,' I said, jumping to my feet, and I scaled down that rock and
scooted through the pools, and up over the sand hills to the shelter of
the woods.  I thought it was one o' them here sea-serpents."

"But it was not?"

"No sonny; it was a heaven-high column of quail.  That's what it were."

"Falling from the moon, eh?"

"When the head of the column reached the ground, which it did, on the
beach the whole length just collapsd like a falling tree, and the whole
lot were just scattered along the coast in a twinkling."



Old Abe had strolled over to my place to see a new Harvester tried on a
good crop of wheat.  In the previous reaping season I had been left
suddenly in the lurch by my Kaffirs, who had silently vanished in the
night for other scenes without a word of explanation, or a single regret
for the loss they would put me to, and I determined to be prepared in
future for such another vagary.  Hence the Harvester, which reaped the
corn and bound up the sheaves, aided only by one man and a boy.  We were
just sweeping clear the last square in the small field when Abe came up
and hung himself on the fence, with his back bent like a bow, and his
toes hitched under the lower wire.  There, all bunched up, he eyed the
machine in silence.

"Well, Uncle, what do you think of it?"  I said, with some pride, as the
last sheaf was tossed on one side by the human-like grippers.

He looked at me vacantly, then climbed slowly down, examined the sheaf
and the tie, and then took a look all round the country.

"Things is changing," he said.

"Yes; this is the age of progress and electricity."

"And snorting steam engines and that there man machine--that thing
without a heart, or a stomach, or eyes to see.  Where's the good?"

"It is a labour-saving machine, and enables me to produce more."

"'Tis all vanity, an' foolishness, an laziness--that's what.  Laziness
and pride," and the old sinner, who never did a fair day's work in a
month, wore an air of virtuous indignation as he resumed his seat on the

"Things is changing--that's so; and mankind's on the down track.  Time
was when a reaper would take his sickle and harken to the rustlin' of
the yaller corn as he cut his way along, with the smell o' the yearth in
his nostrils, and the sight of all manner o' living insects below him.
And bymby he would straighten his back and look away over the land, or
at the shining layers behind, and then he would stoop to it again with
the thoughts busy in his mind as bees about a comb concerning the going
out of the wheat in waggons an' trains, an' ships across the sea to the
feeding of the nations.  An' look at this yer cast-iron reaper; what's
it good for but to work for a cast-iron man?  That's what's the world's
comin' to, with all the people cast in a mould.  I'm gwine home!"

"Nonsense; come back with me and try the new lot of rolled tabak from
the Transvaal."

For all his disgust with the Harvester, Uncle Abe did not mind "riding,"
to the house on the driver's seat; neither was he cast down after supper
when he sat out on the stoep.  The day's work was done for man and beast
and the great quiet of the evening brooded over the place.  There we sat
and smoked in silence, until the glow died out of the sky, when the
night creatures began to stir, sending forth inquiring notes as if to
assure themselves that the time was really at hand for the starting of
the wonderful orchestra of the insect band.  And, as we listened, there
rang out above the shrill drummings and chirpings and whistling, the
weird, mournful cry of the "ghon-ya," calling "ghon-ya!" "ghon-ya!" at
regular intervals, until the melancholy of its far-reaching cry stilled
the other noisy voices.

Abe stirred uneasily.  "There's the lost sperrit," he muttered.

"Why, that's the night locust!"

"Soh; jes' a locust."

"Yes, with a transparent drum in place of a body which he blows out when
he wishes to make that noise, and rubs his legs upon the drum."

"How big is this yer drum?"

"About as large as a hen's egg."

"So; and with such a small thunder-bag he can send out a noise that
booms further than the greatest drum in the British army.  Don't tell
me.  That's no insect; it's a cry that comes from beyond."

"Beyond where?"

"Beyond the dark.  I tell you, sonny, when the ghon-ya cries he ain't
bothering himself about any glass-eyed beetle-hunter who's just
hankering to label all the critturs in this yearth; he's not thinkin'
about you nor me, but he's jes' wailing in that shudderous voice to the
shadders that pass by in the night; whether it's to comfort 'em, or to
put 'em on the right track, or to warn 'em of danger, I can't say.  One
night I had taken the short cut past the big krantz, being late from the
shop where I'd been for a tin of o' black sugar, and thinkin' of nothin'
at all when I yeard the ghon-ya's cry passin' overhead.  There was
nothin' more'n ordinary solemn in the wail of it, but when I came to the
thick of the wood it seemed to me there was a queer whisperin' going on
among the trees.  Have you ever marked a bee against the shadder?  Of
course you have, and you'll know how he moves like a drop o' light as
the sun strikes on his wings against the dark of the hill behind.  Well,
I happened to look back over my shoulder to the other side of the valley
where 'twas as black as black, and in the glance of my eyes, with the
blue and red light snapping from 'em as it does sometimes when you
blink, in that very moment of turning, I seed a passing of a many

"Tree shadows?"

"Shadders of dreams, sonny, I tell you.  Jes' in a flash I seed 'em
moving up, and then all was black groups of trees; but I knowed where
that whisperin' come from.  Yes, a many shadders hurryin' on up that
valley with the cry of the `ghon-ya' pealin' out ahead.  Well, I got
outer that valley pretty quick, and were hurryin' by the top of the
krantz overlooking the big kloof when the `ghon-ya' cried jes' ahead o'
me.  A locust!  Lor', sonny, right afore me there was a something
shaddery--a darker patch on the blackness, standing on the brink of the
krantz overlooking the deep kloof that lay below stretching towards the
sea, and the `ghon-ya,' loud, long, mournful as the solitary toll of the
death-bell, went out on the air, an' I jes' went to the ground as if the
bones had all been drawed out.  Looking along the top, with my eyes to
the light that was in the sky over the sea, I seed them shadders from
the valley file down into the kloof.  A many shadders, sonny, come out
of the valley--passed by that dark patch, and jes' floated down into the
kloof--whispering as they went.  What sort o' shadders they were I
couldn't tell you, my lad; but they belong, sure enough, to the other
world beyond the dark.  Many a time I yeard them same things in the
kloof, when the dead quiet has been broken by a movement in the air, and
a sort o' creepin' sound 'sif somethin' were peepin' at you from behind
a tree.  You've felt it, too, of course.  The dogs they know, 'cos
they're not so cock-sure as we are about knowin' everything jes' bekose
we can make a cast-iron reaper."

The ghon-ya from the darkness called again, as if the sorrows of the
world were in the cry.

"A locust!" cried Abe scornfully; "that's no locust.  It's calling the
sperits of the woods together, and the ghostses of animiles--that's
what; and that's why all the other noises is hushed."



"Were you ever in the wars, Abe?"  I asked the old chap on one of my
off-days, when I had called on him to go out after rhea-buck.

"Were I ever in the wars?  Did I ever grow pumpkins?  There's some
fellows go through life asking questions about things that's as plain as
plain--why, blow me, I've known 'em ask ef 'twdn't be a fine day when
there's bin no rain for a month and not a stir o' wind."

"So you have been in the wars?"


"I suppose," said I, unmoved by Abe's indignation, "you never got into a
fix--always kept with the rear column?"

"What, me!  Jes' you look here," and cocking up his chin, he showed a
long scar under his beard.  "Assegai!" he said.

"Must have been a close shave!"

"'Twarnt no barber held that wepin I tell you, sonny.  No, sir!  I jes'
seed the whites of his eyes and the gleam of his teeth, and whizz!--
whough!--the assegai darted like a serpent's tongue.  He was painted
red, he were!"


"The Kaffir, you blind eyed calabash.  It was in Blaauw krantz in '45.
You don't remember those days, 'cos you weren't born, but Blaauw krantz
were jes' where it is now, and the red Kaffirs had suddenly got back
their old idea they could drive us into the sea.  Wonderful how sot they
are on getting us into the salt water; and that time they was partikler
keen on making us take to the sea without so much as a plank.  Of course
we knew there was something in the wind.  When Kaffirs mean to fight
they don't fire off blank cartridges in the papers; they jes' keep dark,
uncommon dark an' sulky, but for all that they can't keep down the human
nature that's in 'em, and they have a way of giving you the shoulder
when you order them about that means mischief.  When a Kaffir clicks at
you with his tongue you don't want him to tell you in plain words that
he's _quaai_ and would like to belt you over the head.  Well, I tell
you, you dursen't order a boy to step a yard but he'd click, an' some of
the chaps with families took the hint and shifted into Grahamstown; but,
lor' bless yer, the Government didn't take any notice.  Oh no; the
Government knew the Kaffirs and it knew the whites, and it believed in
the Kaffirs.  Look here, sonny, Government's a ass--alus was a ass, and
alus will be a ass.  Alus so darned cock-sure, and so blamed ignorant
that any Kaffir chief could best it every time.  You know, sonny, the
chief he would jes' come along--simple an' humble--and pitch in a yarn
about how he loved the `great white ox,' how he wished to herd his
cattle in peace, and how thankful he'd be if the great white chief would
send him a little white chief to keep the wicked white men from his
kraals.  All he wanted was peace--since he had listened to the words of
wisdom from the Government.  Then the chief would say: `That is my
speech,' and the Government would up and pat him on the back; an' when
the farmers said the Kaffirs meant to fight, Government would tell 'em
they was a passel of fools.  Oh, I tell you, Government is vain as a boy
in a new weskit, an' as easily humbugged.  Well, about 1845 Government
was laced up and smoothed down by the chiefs, with their tongues in
their cheeks, and on a sudden the war smoke rose on the frontier."

"The war smoke!"

"Ay, bossie; the heaven-high columns of smoke going up blue and round in
the still air, as a sign to the Kaffirs waiting silently in the bush and
the kloofs.  At the sign out they came, slipping from the bush paths
stealthy as leopards on the trail, and one morning the hill-sides yonder
were red, as though the aloes had blossomed."

"What--with fire?"

"Neh! karel with red clay smeared thick over the black faces, and with
the red blankets carried by the bearers.  Then there was in-spanning of
horses, hurrying of women after their children, and the trail of dust
about each flying cart.  The red Kaffirs!  Ay, lad! many a mother an'
wife has gone white at times of peace at the sight of a Kaffir in his
paint--squatting, maybe, like a tame dog at the back door, waiting for
his women-folk in the kitchen to hand him out a bone--for in the
smouldering eyes of him she can see the leaping flames of a burning
homestead and assegais runnin' red, and if it's so in peace what must
she feel when her roving eye, searching the veld for the little ones to
bid them to breakfast, lights on the far-off streak on the border hills,
and when her ear catches a murmur that is not from the sea--the murmur
of fighting-men singing of death?  The sun was level when it shone upon
the red Kaffirs, and when the shadder was close up to my heels in the
mid-day the country was empty of whites, except maybe a solitary cuss
like me, hating to leave his home, and lurking in the bush close to his

"And the cattle?"

"It's the horned beasts that you think of--well, why not? they're meat
and drink and a roof over your head.  A few there were who saved their
herds, but the bulk were swept in the net of the robbers.  There was not
a many human fish caught in that net that time, 'cept old Dave Harkins,
an' his five sons who fell all in one spot by Palmiet Fontein fighting
to the last grain o' powder, and ole Sam Parkes.  Poor ole Sam.  He
found religion, did ole Sam, and many the day I've a-harkened to him
holdin' forth on his stoep, where he would sit for the rheumatism kep'
him from moving.  Well, ole Sam, when they told him that he must fly, he
said, `Lift my chair to the stoep.  The Kaffirs will not harm me.'  They
placed him there with his face to the east, and there the Kaffirs found
him.  I passed the house the next day, and he was leanin' back lookin'
so peaceful that I hailed him.  But he were dead, sonny, with a gash in
his heart.  Ay, they struck him as he sat, but they left the house
standing and when I peeped in at the window there was the table set with
all the chiney in the house.  The Kaffirs did that One on 'em had been
about a white man's house, and he showed his friends how the white man
prepared his table.  A little one's vanity and the blood dropping from
the assegai."

"What were you doing all this time, Uncle Abe?"

"Shiverin' and hidin', sonny; for a party on 'em swooped down on my
place led by a thunderin' ole thief I had once lammed with a sjambok for
stealin' my sugar.  There was a fine bedstead in the house and a whole
shelf o' crockery, for I had some idees then of marryin', and, blow me,
if they didn't smash the lot, besides breaking all the winders and
burning the thatched roof.  Then they killed an ox, a fine _rooi bonte_,
roasted him whole, and ate him--by gosh.  After that they slept with
their bellies full!  Yes, they did that; slep' with me a watching 'em
from an ant bear hole.  I nearly spiflicated 'em, but somehow I didn't.
Then they moved off all but three, including that ole thief, which
gathered my cows an heifers an' calves an' oxen together, and druv 'em
off.  'Twas like partin' with my heart strings, and I followed 'em up.
That evenin' I druv the lot inter the big kloof."

"You recaptured them?"

"I s'pose so, sonny!"

"And the three Kaffirs?"

"I speck they ate too much beef, sonny, I speck they did.  Any way they
died.  They did so--and after I had druv the cattle into the kloof I sot
off for Grahamstown, passing ole Sam Parkes on the way.  I came pretty
nigh close to parties o' Kaffirs, but 'twas when I came to Blaauw krantz
that I got the shivers.  I were goin' along mighty keerful, I tell you
jes' 'sif I were `still huntin'' but ne'r a sound o' a Kaffir I could
hear.  Well you know one side the road there's a yellow bank with a bush
on the top.  I had turned a corner on the listen, with my eyes every
way, when I caught the move of a insect, or something like that, on the
left.  Blow me, sonny, there was a big Kaffir standing agin' the bank,
all naked, but red with clay.  What caught my eye was the roll of his
eyes, for he were jes' like a part of the wall.  He'd been walking down
the road when he must a' yeard me comin' for all I went so soft.  My!  I
jes' give a jerk o' my head as he launched out with his assegai.  Then I
gave him a charge o' buck-shot in the stummick and jumped back inter the
bush on the lower side.  I yeard a shout from other Kaffirs, and, you
b'lieve me, I dodged through the bush like a blue-bok until I got right
under the big krantz, where I crep' inter a cave.  I seed then the blood
running down, and like a streak I were out o' that cave inter a pool o'
water until I got under a thick `dry-my-throat' bush where I hid.  The
Kaffirs they followed on the blood-spoor right up to the cave, but they
missed me where I lay in the dark o' the pool, an' next evenin' I were
in Grahamstown, where the doctor stitched up the wound."

"A very close call, Uncle."

"Oh, I've been in many tight places, sonny--a many, an' maybe I'll tell
you about 'em."



"How is it you never married?"  I asked of Abe on an evening after the
mealie cobs had been shelled, and we were too dead tired to brush the
husks from our hair.

"Me!  Well, you see this yer cob.  It's worth nothin', 'cos all the
mealies been shelled off.  That's me--I'm a shelled cob, and wimmen folk
isn't got any use for that sort of bargain."

"But you told me the other day that you were thinking of marriage once.
That time, you know, when the Kaffirs smashed your furniture."

"Jes' so--the critturs.  They broke a fine four-posted bed and a hull
lot o' chiney."

"And the lady."

"You see, bossie, she was gone on that four-poster and the chiney.
'Twasn't me she was thinkin' of nohow."

"Nonsense, Abe; you're too modest."

"Well, she forgot me, an' took up with a armchair an' a copper kettle
which belonged to young Buck Wittal, son to ole Bob.  A armchair an' a
shiney kettle, that's what cut me out, sonny; but Buck went up the gum
'cos she would have a swing lookin'-glass.  That's so!  Wimmen is mighty
keen on the look o' things, an' that kettle fetched her.  Them was

"Courting times?"

"Fighting times, sonny; all up an' down the country, in an' out the
kloofs, an' over the mountains, by gum.  I tole you about that chief--
how I spoored him a full forty mile from the Chumie after Black 'Xmas?"

"Black 'Xmas!"

"You mean by that raising o' the voice you never yeard o' Black Xmas!
Well, well, the ignorance an' the vanity o' learnin' which takes no
account of the great happenings in your own country, and you come
swaggerin' about with your Greek turnips."

"I assure you I never heard of Black 'Xmas."

"Never yeard of the soldier settlers away up by the Chumie--them as were
planted there by Sir Harry Smith--of their wives and children, making
merry on Christmas Day, 1850--making merry with the old custom, and the
sounds of the laughing going out into the dark kloof, where the Kaffirs
crouched, eyeing them as they fingered their assegais.  Lor' love you,
lad: when the poor little children were running at their games, and the
women were talking over their washing up, and the men at their pipes in
the quiet of the afternoon, the war shout broke suddenly from the wood.
There was stabbing, and a blaze, a great gasp, and the life went out of
them all that Christmas Day.  That was Black Xmas--men, and women, and
children, and dogs, and every crawlin' crittur given to the assegai.  I
were on my way there after stray cattle, and I yeard the cry of a little
child, sonny, and the sand went out o' young Abe Pike that day.  I seed
it all--yes--lad, and I see it now in the nights, the stabbing of the
women and little ones."

"And what did you do, old man?"

"What did I do?  I dunno, sonny--I dunno!  I must a walked an' walked
all through the night, for the nex' morning I were away beyond the
Chumie in a deep kloof, without knowing how I came there.  Then the cry
of the little one went out o' my ears and out of my eyes with the sight
of them leapin' devils about the burnin' houses, an' I saw the rifle in
my hand--for ther' came boomin' through the trees the sound of a Kaffir
singing from his chest.  I found him in a clearin', stampin' with his
feet and swingin' his kerrie before the chief and his headmen seated all
aroun' against the trees, with their long pipes all agoin'.  The blood
was still caked on his arms, an' I plunked him in the breast."

"You shot him?  Good old Abe!"

"It were a ole muzzle-loader--one smooth, one rifle--and I shifted, but
it weren't long afor' they picked up my spoor, and in the fust rush I
could hear the rattle of assegais as they follered.  Then it was quiet
in the kloof, an' I knew what a animile must feel when the hunter's
after him, or the tiger's tracking him down.  Bymby I yeard the call of
the bush-dove every side, and I gave the call too at a venture, keepin'
my eye on a dark spot where the last cry came from.  Sure enough I seed
the leaves tremble, and there was a show of red paint where the Kaffir
stood.  That were the bush-dove, and he called again; then he came
steppin' along to the fern chump where I were hid, movin' like a shadder
with the whites of his eyes showin' as he glanced around.  By gum, lad,
I thought it was all over, but another dove called an' he moved off.  I
yeard the calls growin' softer an' softer, and I made a move to slip
away; but there's no gettin' to the bottom of a red Kaffir's cuteness."

"How is that?"

"Why, sonny; that chap never went off when he made as if he would.  He
jes' slipped behind a tree, and when I ris my head out of them ferns he
druv his assegai at me, and it clean pinned my left arm to my side.
See, here's the scar;" and the old man rolled back the sleeve of his
worn shirt until a white scar was revealed on the fleshy part of the
upper arm.

"I fetched a groan, and he sprang out to belt me over the head, but I
kep' my senses, an' knocked the wind clear outer him with a straight
thrust of the muzzle.  As he stood gasping, I give him back his own

"You killed him?"

"Maybe he died; but Kaffirs is tough, and at the thrust he gave his cry,
standin' there with his legs wide apart, afore he sank among the ferns.
I turned an' ran, keeping down the little stream till I come to a
krantz, with the water slidin' down, an' I swung over, holdin' fast to a
monkey tow.  I slid down fifty feet, and then let go, holdin' the rifle
high over head, and fell feet first inter a little round pool at the
bottom.  It was a chance, sonny, but I kep' my bones sound and the
powder dry.  I did that.  I tell you young Abe Pike was some pumpkins.
Then I pushed on an' on till I went over a ridge into another kloof, an'
through that to another kop, standing up above the wood in a mass of
stone.  I sat down in a cleft, and the weakness came on me from the loss
of blood and the want of food.  Well, I tell you, sonny, I fit ag'inst
the weakness, an' with a spread of shirt, holdin' one end in my teeth, I
bound up the wound after plugging it with dirt.  Right away I looked
over the country, an' I see'd to the right the smoke rising and across a
stretch of veld I seed a black patch movin'.  'Twere Kaffirs on the
march, an' following the directshun they were taking, I seed a white
speck to the left; a farmhouse, sonny, with a thin trail of smoke going
up from the one chimney."

"The Kaffirs were on their way to sack the place."

"They were that, and I set off to beat 'em.  But look here, I said when
I started talking, I was going to tell you how I trekked the Kosa chief,
and here I been a' spinnin' on about another thing."

"Did you get to the house first?"

"What--me!  I did that, sonny.  I got there fust, an' there was nobody
in--not a one though the pot was on the fire.  I went off with the pot
into a patch of mealies, and when the Kaffirs came up an' smashed things
I were eatin' pap outer the pot, yes, that's so."

"And did they find you?"  I ventured after a long pause.

"That pap were good, but it wanted salt--it did that.  So long, sonny,
so long," and the old man moved off to bed.



"I tole you all about it, and, what's more, I ain't got no time to jaw
along when that shed o' mine wants mendin'," and Abe resolutely
re-filled his pipe, unheeding my request for the completion of his last

"Leave the shed alone.  It will keep--besides, this is resting weather."

"Sonny, listen to me.  Restin' weather's been the ruin of this yer
country.  That so.  When a man should span in and plough, when he should
take the hoe and skoffel the lands, what does he do?  Why up and say at
the first touch of the warm wind, that it's restin' weather.  I can't
stand such laziness, and I ast you, sonny, where'd I been to-day, if I'd
taken notice of the weather?"

I glanced round at the neglected lands, at the solitary gum tree, at the
old water barrel on its tree sledge, at the tumble-down shed, and shook
my head, for there really was nothing to say.

Old Abe followed my look, and then shoved himself back with his heels
into a breadth of shade.

"That's it, my lad," he said with a queer smile, "cast your eyes round
and see what can be done by one man if his heart's in his work.  Forty
years agone this yer land were wilderness, and now look at it, with that
there shed, them pumpkin lands, and this yer tree standin' up like the
steeple of a church as a token of honest labour."

"Wonderful!"  I said.

"That it are.  I watched that old gum grow since it were no higher than
my knee.  I watered it an' tended it, an' measured it by the buttons on
my shirt till it topped my head, and now, blow me, you could send a hull
regiment with the band in the shadder of it."

"I suppose you have seen regiments on the march?"

"What, me?  Well, now, I was tellin' you of that time I give the slip to
the Kaffirs beyond Chumie and took hiding in the mealie field.  Well,
that time I came on a regiment in Pluto's Vale, when a Kaffir poked his
assegai in the big drum, and the Colonel he give me a big knife for what
I did."

I said nothing about the shed or the resting weather, and Uncle Abe,
sprawling in the shade, went on with his story.

"Yes, sonny, there I were in the mealies, and there were the Kaffirs
about the house banging at the windows because there was nobody at home
for 'em to kill.  They were mostly young bucks, and they all jawed
together, 'cept two or three who started singin' about what big potatoes
they was.  Well, after knocking around an' smashin' things, they set off
in a cluster anyhow, on the back trail.  And as I watched 'em go, blow
me ef one of them in the rear didn't drop his assegai on puppose.  On
they went out o' sight behind the bush, but Abe Pike he jest kep' where
he were.  I tell you, Kaffirs is mighty stuck on their assegais, and
bymby, sure enough, back came that chap lopin' along.  When he reached
the house he shouted out to his friends that it was all right and he'd
foller.  Well, they gave him the answer back, saying they would go on.
He were a young chief this, with an ivory ring round his wrist, and a
feather sticking out behind his ear, and as springy on his feet as a
young ram.  I spotted him well, for I were wondering what his game were,
and marked the look in his eyes, and the smooth sweep of his jaws.  He
picked up his wepin and then he giv' a sharp look all roun', and nex' he
went steppin' roun' the house with his head bent.  I saw it then, sonny.
He were lookin' for spoor, and, by gum, he found it sooner you could
snap your fingers.  I yeard him give a grunt, and nex' thing I see him
sailin' along over the veld with his head down on a trail quite away
from that taken by his friends."

"He was spooring the people who had escaped from the house?"

"Don't jump over a gate when you can open it, bossie.  I crep' out of
the mealies and cast round the house; but for all I'd seen where that
young Kaffir went it were many minutes afore I saw the spoor--then it
were as slight as a brush of a hare's tail.  But there it were--the
spoor of a man in _veldschoens_.  You know, there's no heel to a
_veldschoen_, and it leaves little sign; but this yer chap had a habit
of stickin' his toes into the ground, and here and there he had kicked
up a tuft o' grass.  Well, I laid down to that spoor, marking the
direction the Kaffir had taken, and went at a trot, thinking all the
time it were mighty queer for one Kaffir to leave his friends.  When I
reached the wood it was easier going, for in the bush path the naked
spoor of the chief was plain enough in the dust.  The spoor led deeper
into the wood, crossed a stream where the white man had drunk, for there
was the print of his corduroys where he had knelt, and then climbed a
hill, when I went slow.  The darkness was coming on, and I reckoned that
the chief couldn't be but a mile ahead.  Neither he nor me could spoor
in the dark, so I guessed he would pull up, an' I didn't want to run in
on his assegai.  Turnin' away from the trail I pegged out under a rock
until the spreuws whistled before sun-up, when I crept once more on the
trail.  'Twere very faint now, but bymby I come on fresh spoor--so fresh
I jest squatted behind a tree.  Then, after a time, I marked where this
new sign entered the path, and follering it back came on the spot where
the chief had slept.  The beggar had turned back on his trail a matter
o' fifty paces, and if so be I'd follered him in the evening he'd a' had
me sure."

"He was up to his work!"

"Him--I guess so, lad.  He were a caution for cunnin' and bush learnin',
were the chief."

"What chief was he?"

"This ain't the place to bring in his name, for I didn't know him then.
I tell you it was smart work tracking him through the woods, over the
hills, inter the kloofs, but Abe Pike did it sure enough, and he tracked
the white man, though he were half starved and lamed in the arm, by
gosh.  Many a time that day, when my back ached from the bending of it,
and my stummick was jammed together for want of something to eat, many a
time I thought of the three of us strung out in the dark woods like
tigers on the scent.  Hungry, by gum!  I jest chewed leaves as I went
along; and sore--thunder--I kin feel now the throbbing of the wound in
my arm.  But I kep' on.  I tell you, young Abe Pike was tough as
_foreslag_, and he wern't going to cave in while that red Kaffir boy was
keepin' up.  The chap in the lead, the man in _veldschoens_ who was
escaping, must a been made o' iron too, I reckon, for he only stopped
once the second day, when he ate some bread.  There was some crumbs on
the yearth among the grass, with the ants over 'em where he'd sat and
ate, and the dry skin from a piece o' _biltong_.  I took a chew o'
elephant leaves, and bymby in the afternoon I seed little balls of pith,
which showed the Kaffir had cut off a _insengi_ root to chew.  The white
man kep' on for twenty miles, keeping to the woods all the time where he
could, and the Kaffir kep' on arter him, and Abe Pike he kep' on arter
the Kaffir.  If it hadn't a been for that _insengi_ root I'd a lost the
spoor clean, for there were a big stretch of rock veld where they passed
over, and all I could follow was white balls of chewed root.  I dunno
how the Kaffir picked up the trail on that stretch.  He must ha' smelt
it.  There were a bit o' hill to climb, and when I reached the top my
head swam, an' I pitched down like a log.  When I opened my eyes it were
dark, and my bad arm was doubled up."

"You gave up?"

"Sonny; you didn't know young Abe--no, you didn't.  But I did.  And I
tell you, for all his emptiness, he jes' kep' on.  Yes, sir--he did that
I said the darkness were down, but when I looked aroun' I seed the
glimmer o' a spark down below, an' I kep' my eyes on it whiles I crawled
down the steep of the hill to the kloof below.  Things happen sometimes,
sonny, in a way that makes you very quiet an' thoughtful.  A bird flew
up--a grey-wing partridge, I guess, from the whirr--and, searchin'
around, I found its eggs.  They put life into me, and I steadied up--but
what's all this I'm telling you about?  There's work to be done, and if
you don't stir 'twill be sun-down and too dark.  As for me, I'm going to
boil the kettle."

"But you've not finished telling about the spooring."

"Ah, well, it can wait, sonny; but it's time the kettle were put on and
the mealies roasted."



"Oh, ghoisters!" said Abe, "there's the blamed bung come outer the
_vaitje_ and not a drop of Dop left, and all the _buchu_ collected for
the soaking."

"Do you soak the _buchu_ in brandy?"

"The brandy brings out the goodness from the yerb, and I tell you a dose
of it gets home every time.  But what's the good--the brandy's gone,
there's not a tickey in the stocking, and not a man in the country would
offer ole Abe Pike so much as half-a-pint--not a one.  The old people's
gone and the new ones, blow me--the new ones drink cold tea."

"What about the Kaffir chief you were following Abe?"

"I ain't follering no Kaffir chief, not me--and look here sonny, you get
along home, see, 'fore it gets dark."

"I think I could spare a gallon of brown Cango, Abe, if you come over in
the morning."

"Cango, eh!  Stay right here, sonny--I've marked down a fine porkipine--
and we'll hunt him to-night.  In the morning I'll go over with you,
arter showing you something as'll surprise you, I bet."

"What's that?"

"A horn-bill sitting on her nest in a hollow tree, and the entrance
built up with mud, so she can't get out, and the cats can't git in, by
gum, an' the ole chap a feeding her.  Lor' love yer, there's no matchin'
animiles an' birds for cunnin'."

"Yet I remember you saying that young chief was very cunning."

"So he were; lad, he were born smart; an' them gleamin' eyes of his'n
could read the writin' on the ground, the signs of weather, and the ways
of fightin' men better'n you could read a big print book.  That's so.  I
tole you how I follered him, and how he follered a chap in _veldschoens_
all the way from the Chumie.  Well, in the dark of the second evenin' I
seed a red light, and were blunderin' on towards it, being pretty well
dazed from the hunger and weakness and pain o' my bad arm, when
somethin' in the steady glow of it brought me up with a jerk.  Says I,
that fire's been long lit, there's nothin' but coals blazing, and
whoever lit it must feel safe.  Says I, who can feel safe in this yer
place?  Why, a Kaffir.  So I slowed down to a crawl, and blow me, when I
got within hearin' distance, I seed a man by the fire.  Sonny, he were
the man in _veldschoens_."

"The white man the chief was after."

"'Twas a blanged half-caste, lad, that's what he were.  I saw that in
the fust look by the red _dook_ he wore roun' his greasy head, and by
the spread of his flat nose, and the sight of him kept me still, I tell
you.  Half-castes is mean.  And to think I'd been goin' hungry to save a
thing like that, and him a sitting there with his mouth all smeared with
black coal from the bried meat he were eatin'.  The smell of it came to
me where I lay in the shadder, an' I tell you it made me sick with
longing for a bite, but I jes' kept there sniffin' till the faintness
left me.  Well, all ov a sudden I seed his jaws stop, and his eyes had
that sort o' fixed look which they has when a man's listenin'.  Then,
without movin' his body, he reached out for his gun.  Yes, sonny, he
reached out for his gun with his eyes starin' straight for me, and I
kivered him.  While I was gettin' ready to shoot, outer the darkness
behin' him there come a voice callin' in greetin', `Gumela vietu!'  I
giv' a start, but that ere half-caste he never stirred.  The hand that
was reachin' out for his gun stopped, his jaws began to move, but his
voice were a bit shaky when he said `Gumela inkose!' and there was a
sort o' hunchin' of his shoulders as tho' he felt the assegai going in.
For a spell there was silence, then from the wall o' blackness there
stepped to the fire the young chief hisself.  I see the gleam o' his
ivory bracelet.  With his toe he moved the gun away.  Then he reached
down, took up a length of roasting flesh, caught hold of a mouthful and
saw off the chunk with the blade of his assegai 'twixt his hand and his
lips.  He jes' ate and ate, an' the smell o' the meat made my stummick
heave an' grumble most horrible."

"They were friends, then, after all?"

"You wait, sonny--jes' keep still an' wait.  Arter a time they began to
talk.  Then it came out that the half-caste was on some mission from the
head chief, and the young chap was mighty curious to know all about it;
but the half-caste he were too slim.  They jes' paced roun' each other
like a couple o' strange dogs.  At the end the chief he up and say, `I
know where you're going.'  `Soh?' said the half-caste.  `Yes,' said the
chief, `you're going to the white man's camp to give the white chief
news of our coming.'  Well, the half-caste he spat in the fire.  `You
are a boy,' he said; `your place is at home with the women.'  `My place
is with you,' said the young chief, speaking soft, so that the other
laughed in his throat, and called the chief _quedin_--`boy'--again,
which you know is the easiest word to rile a Kaffir.  `I know, in your
heart,' said the boy, `you will sell us for the white man's money.'  The
half-caste spat again.  `Oh, yes,' he said, `the white men are in terror
of you--a warrior like you would be worth a whole goat to them.'  `I am
Sandili,' said the lad, `son of the head chief, and one day the Amakosa
will do my bidding.'  The half-caste giv' a start; then he grew soft all
of a sudden.  `I was but trying you,' he said.  `Oh, chief, forget my
words, and take the path with me in the morning.  We will find out where
the red-coats are, how many of them, and what road they take, so that we
can report to your father, and plans can be made to trap them.'  I could
hear the hiss of a snake in the man's speech, sonny; and it struck me
then he had, in his heart, determined to take the young chief Sandili to
the English colonel."

"It was really Sandili?"

"It were, an' no mistake.  I could a' shot him then, an' put a stop to
two wars; but a good many things could be done, sonny, if only we could
see ahead.  Well, for all they'd made friends, those two didn't trust
one another--not a bit, not they--they jes' sat there glancing acrost
the coals, nodding, an' wakin' up with a start, and when one on 'em
moved t'other would have his eyes wide open.  Long before sun-up they
moved off, an' I crep' outer my hidin' place to the fire, where I found
jes' a coal-blackened strip o' meat that jes' made me hungrier than
afore.  Lor' love you, a human is a helpless crittur.  There was
animiles about an' birds, but as I darn't use my gun I couldn't get one.
I cotched a salamander and ate him, an' a land crab by the stream, an'
ate him--an' I ate some berries, an' a clutch o' young birds from the
nest, and I had a bathe--and took up the spoor of the two of 'em.  'Twas
easier spoorin' now, for they was going slow, and at mid-day I had 'em
in sight, and so kep' 'em till the last.  In the afternoon we were
climbing a ridge among the bushes, when boomin' along there came the
sound of music that brought the three of us to a dead stop.  Never had
young Abe yeard any sound like that afore or since 'cept once--it went
through my worn-out body until I trembled like a leaf--yes, sonny--and
the wet ran down my cheeks.  'Twas the soun' of a big drum."

"There's not much music in that, Abe."

"Isn't there, sonny?  Not when you've been three days in the woods,
skeered of every shadder; not when you've yeard the war-cry of the red
Kaffir; not when the cries of the little ones waitin' for the assegai
are ringin' in yer head.  Only the soun' of a drum.  One, big boomin'
note, rolling clear an' far with a message of help.  The tiredness an'
the sickness fell from me, sonny, an' I could a' run up that hill.  The
other two they crept up presently, and bymby I follered and hid behind
'em.  They was crouchin' by a rock, lookin' down, and I forgot 'em in
lookin' at the picture.  Far below in the valley was the white tents,
an' the cattle, an' a line of red where the soldiers were drawn up,
bayonets flashing.  Then a troop of men on horseback rode down the line,
and again the drums beat and the bugles rang out.  It was a picture,
sonny, that I could a' looked at all day, but I were jes' jerked out o'
my spell o' dreamin' by the chief talkin'."

"`Yoh,' he said, `they are few, but what noise is that?'

"`Tis their witch-music,' said the half-caste; `'tis kep' in a big box,
and when the man hits the top of it with a stick the witch cries out
what they should do.'  `Yoh!' said the chief, `I will kill the box!
They are great warriors, these, but they are foolish to wear a red so
bright, that no man of them can hide.'  `They do not hide,' said the
half-caste, and he shifted his gun as he looked at the chief from the
corner of his eyes.  `Let us go.'  `Nay,' said the chief, `it is a good
sight this--stay a little while.  Why do they move about so?'  `It's
their war-dance, and he on the white horse is the chief.  At his words
they turn and stop, break up, and come together.'  The young chief
watched like a dog straining at the leash--and, by gum, he yeard the
colonel's commands, though never a sound reached me.  A smart Kaffir can
smell, and see, and hear like a animile.  `Yoh!' he said; `listen to his
words!'--and in his excitement he raised his head, and the half-caste he
stood back and lifted his gun.  But he measured his distance to the
camp, and he said, `Let us get nearer'--for why, the cuss wanted to be
near help when he went for the chief.  The chief looked round, and,
ghoisters! he seed my face stickin' outer a bush.  He jumped to his feet
and drew back his arm to fly the assegai, but the half-caste, after one
glance at me, dropped his gun, seized the haft of the assegai with one
hand and hooked his other arm round the chief's neck.  `It was a good
word you spoke, _quedin_,' he said, hissing as he struggled with the
boy.  `I will sell you to the white man.'  Seein' how it was, I stepped
out, and as I went up I seed the chief's eyes rollin', while his
nostrils were blowed out like a horse.  `I am a boy,' he said; `I give
in.'  The half-caste he laughed, turnin' to me whiles he called out in
Dutch that it was he who took the _quedin_ prisoner, but he'd give me
somethin' if I helped him--the skunk, the blanged, mangy, yeller dog.
Well, sonny, that Kaffir were shamming.  Soon's he give in, the
half-caste he loosed his hold, when, with a grunt, the Kaffir yanked his
assegai away, and with a wriggle o' his naked body he got a length and
struck the half-caste under the armpit.  `Dog,' he said, and druv' his
assegai in over the blade.  The half-caste he jes' went green.  `_Ek 'es
dood_,' he said, lookin' at me; then he sat down all of a heap.  The
young chief he stood there eyein' me like a tiger, with his lips curled
back and his chest heavin'.  It was the first man he'd killed, I guess.
Well, I lifted the gun, but the left hand gave out and the barrel
wobbled--then, I dunno why, but I begin to laugh in a foolish way, an' I
kep' on laughin' whiles the Kaffir came crouchin' up with his assegai
held back.  Nex' thing I seed the half-caste roll over, and then sit up
and point his gun at the boy's back.  `Pass op,' I said 'mid the
laughin', while the sweat was drippin' off my nose; and the chief he
jumped aside as tho' there was a snake in his way, and the bullet
whizzed by him.  The half-caste gave a groan and rolled over dead, out
of hate and disappointment, 'cause he'd missed.  That's so.  The chief
he looked at me, an' he looked at the soldiers who were hurrying up from
down below, then he jes' turned and walked away; yes, he jes' walked
away with his head up, and I could a' shot him--for the laughin' fit had
passed away.  But before he could ha' killed me easy as sticking a pig,
so I watched him go; an' when he reached the bush he said, lookin' over
his shoulder, `Grow fat, man who laughs, an' you will be food for my
assegai.'  The cheek of these young bucks; but I reckon, sonny, if he'd
a' known I'd killed two of his men in the Chumie he wouldn't a' waited,
for all I was like a shadder."

"Is that all?"  I said, when the old man paused.

"Well, it were enuff, wern't it?"

"What did the Colonel say?"

"Oh, the Colonel!  He said, `Who the devil are you, an' where the blazes
you come from?'  That's what _he_ said, that time; but 'twern't long
afore he changed the tune of his remarks.  `Who the devil are you, and
where the blazes you come from?' he sed, sittin' in his tent with his
officers by him; an' I jes' reached over to a black square bottle that
was ahind him and put the neck to my mouth."



Our big Christmas hunt was in full swing.  In a smooth, well-carpeted
glade, surrounded by forest trees and bush, the three tent wagons of the
party were outspanned, drawn up in a hollow square which formed a
capacious outside room, roofed in by a wide stretch of canvas.  From the
spreading branches of a yellow-wood hung the last day's `bag,'
consisting of seven bushbucks, two duikers, three blaauwboks, one
jackal, and a wild dog.  Beyond the wagons was the servants' fire, and
the `boys' themselves were `brying' meat and talking, as only Kaffirs
can talk when the day's work is over and food is plentiful.  In our
`scherm' one lantern swung from the centre pole, its light just
sufficient to mark out the position of the brown demijohn on the box
that served as a table; while across the breadth of darkness, where the
`scherm' opened to the wood, fireflies crossed and circled.  The quiet
of the night was over the bush, intensified by the deep undertone from
the sea, and the brooding spirit in time reduced us to silence, even
stilling Long Jim's concertina, whose lugubrious notes had in the early
hours of the evening wailed complainingly over "The Old Camp Ground,"
"Poor Old Joe," and other old favourites.

"I envy you fellows," said Mr Strong, a crack shot from the town; "we
don't get such nights as this."

"The boot's on the other foot," said Long Jim, making his instrument
moan.  "We've got poverty and pumpkins.  You've got comfort and a
pianny."  And he pumped out "Hard times come again no more" till a dog
pointed its nose to the sky and howled in sympathy.

"There's no chance of making a pile in the country," said Amos Topper,
who raised ten acres of "forage" regularly every season, and "rode"
firewood for a living in the balance of the year.  "'Tis all hard work
and disappointment--ticks in the cattle and rust in the corn."

"Soh!" said Abe Pike.

"Well; so it is!"

"Yet," said Abe, "there's chances."

"Meanin' pine-apples and bananas, which Dick Purdy made a fortune out of
through growing them on the slope of a valley."

"No; meanin' diamonds."

"There's no diamonds down here."

"Is that so?  Well, I seed one right here, as big as a plum an' as red
as the eye of a coal gleamin' outer the dark.  Yes, sir."

"Of course.  It belonged to some digger from the field.  For the matter
of that, I've seen a whole bucketful of them, but then they was white,
and the sight of 'em never made me any the richer."

"Your head was allus too big for your hat, Amos.  I expect that's why
there's a hole in the crown of it for your hair to grow through--but it
so happens this yer diamon' I'm speakin' of could ha' been gathered by
anyone who had the pluck to grab it."

"Fire ahead, old man," I said, seeing that Abe was preparing the way for
a yarn.

"You've hit it, sonny," said Abe solemnly; "it was fire-ahead, and no
mistake.  Lemme see; you know ole Harkins, the mad trader?"

"I remember him," said Mr Strong, "a fine hunter in his youth, who
returned from his last trip into the interior broken by the Zambesi
fever.  He had a suspicion that everyone was watching him, and I believe
he died in the bush after leading the life of a hermit."

"That's him," said Abe, pulling at his pipe until the glow lit up his
lined face.  "Yes, he went into the bush--and for three years he hunted
for that same red diamond.  Some people thought he was crazy--so he were
crazy after a fortune, but lor' bless yer, he'd got all his wits about
him, and the fortune was big enough to buy up the whole side of this
district--houses, land and stock--which is a big enough haul to turn the
minds of most of us.  One night, many years ago, I was still-huntin'
buffel by the Kowie bush, when from the thick of the wood I yeard a
noise that sent me up a tree in a jif--a shrill sort o' scream that I
couldn't fix--an' whiles I was up the tree I seed ole Harkins slippin'
along through the moon light.  He stood under the tree listenin', and
then he began talkin' to hisself in jerks.  `That's him, I swear!' he
said, `and by God I'll have him or die!'

"I jes' kep' quiet, for I tell you I didn't like the look o' him, with
his long hair, and his lean fingers, and burnin' eyes, but when he
slipped along inter the wood like a shadder--for there the no boots on
his feet--I skimmed down and let out after him with my heart in my
mouth.  I guess I hadn't got much sense, and when I'd gone no more'n
fifty paces inter the dark of the trees he grabbed me by the throat--
afore I knew where he were.  Oh, lor'!  He jes' grabbed me by the throat
and shook me.  `You're follerin' me!' he hissed.

"Of course, I couldn't speak, but I kicked and spluttered, and he
loosened his hold.  `You're follerin' me!' he said, stickin' his face
close up.  `I ain't,' I said; `I'm after buffel.'  `You yeard it,' he
hissed; `and you meant to rob me.'  Well, I laughed.  The idea of
robbing a scarecrow like him was too much, and I couldn't help laughing,
not though he looked as savage as a starved tiger.  All the property he
carried were a big-bore elephant gun, and I noticed the trigger were
cocked.  `Clear out,' he said; `and if I see you after me I'll kill
you.'  By gum, he meant it, and I cleared out smart with him after me
over the ridge, when once ag'in there came that strange cry from the
woods, so near this time that I jumped inter a bush.  Well, there were a
smashin' o' trees, and afore I knew what was up a bit of the country
rose up and came rolling down through the moonlight.  Man alive--it were
a thunderation bull elephant, and I slipped outer the bush and bolted
for hum with Harkins's yell a-ringing in my ears.  Well, sir, whiles I
was sittin' in the room gettin' back my wind, up along, in a flurry,
came Sam Dale.  `It's true,' said he, with a gasp, as he flung open the
door.  `What's true?'  `Yes,' he said, `I seed it.  I were crossing the
drift in Euphorby Valley when I yeard a splash in the pool, and out of
the dark end beneath the krantz I seed a glow of red.  First I thought
it were a eye, but then I noted how it sparkled, and all in a breath it
struck me it were ole Harkins's diamond.  Then there was a splash in the
water, and I ran on here to ask you to help me kill the crittur.'  `Hol'
on,' I said; `what the blazes are you talking about?  I never yeard of
any diamond, and I'm not killing any crittur to-night,' I said.  Well,
Sam Dale he up and tole me how Harkins had courted his sister years
before, and how his sister had told him, unbeknown to Harkins, how she
had seen the big red diamond he kep' in his pocket, which he had bought
from a Kaffir chief.  And Sam, he told me a most surprisin' story, how
Harkins being one night cornered by a animile in the wood had loaded his
big rifle with that same diamond instead of a bullet--and how he had
fired it into that animile--and how he went crazy in consequence.
That's what Sam tole me that very night arter I had met Harkins hisself,
and it wern't more'n a minute afore I seed that if there was any truth
in that yarn the red diamon' was in that bull elephant.  Sam and me we
talked and talked, until in the early morning we fixed up a company."

"What did you do?"

"We made a company--that's what--the Dale-Pike Diamon' Mining Company,
but lor' bless yer, in the morning the whole thing seemed so blamed
ridiklus that we guv up the idea.  All the same, Sam he went down to
Euphorby Drift, and I smoused over to the old spot where I seed the
elephant, and blow me--there was ole Harkins flattened out Yes, sir.  He

"What ailed him?"

"He were dead--that's all.  That bull elephant must have charged him
down soon's I cleared off.  We reckoned, Sam and me, that as Harkins
were dead that diamon' mine b'longed to us, and we started that company
over again.  It was quite reg'lar.  Sam he studied up a prospectus, and
fixed up a capital, he subscribin' two trek oxen, an' me a cow, a bull
calf, and a pair o' gobblers.  The hull lot came to 16 pounds, and with
that we laid in a stock o' powder, lead, blankets, boots, coffee, sugar,
tabak, an' a demijohn o' Cango.  Then we shut up our homes, both on us
being bachelors, and started after that ere blasted bull elephant."

"I thought you were after a diamond?"

"You ain't got any more thinking machine than a biled rabbit, Sam
Topper.  That bull elephant were the diamon' mine, in course."

"How was that?"

"Ain't I tole you?  Why, when Harkins made that mistake and fired off
that diamon' it went plump into the ole bull.  I seed that as soon's Sam
Dale told me the yarn, and we started after that property of ourn.  That
was forty-five year ago, and I guess from the size of his right tusk,
the left been broken off, he were then about one hundred years old.  I
tell you what, chaps, that diamon's still knocking aroun' in the Addo

"The company didn't come into possession, then?" said Mr Strong.

"Well, do I look as if I had a fortune of one hundred and fifty thousand
golding sovereigns, which we reckoned was the value of that stone?  Not
much!  No, sir."

"Well, did you ever see the diamond?"

"I'll tell you.  Sam and me we struck the spoor at Euphorby, follered it
fifteen miles in an' out of the Kowie bush, away over to the Kasouga,
and ten miles to the Kareiga--in an' out of the thickest bush--sleepin'
out o' nights.  Back ag'in to the Kowie bush, over into the Fish River,
without settin' eyes once on the blanged thing.  One month we were on
the spoor, and the food run out, so's we'd got to raise more capital,
which we riz by selling Sam's plough and my harrow--the two of 'em
bringing in twenty-five shillings.  Then we ran ag'inst the mine after
Sam had taken a horn o' Cango--and his ribs were broken in.  Yes, the
fust thing we knowed one night thet bull charged us out of a patch of
bush in the open.  Well, I took Sam to a farmhouse, and picked up the
spoor, and two nights after came on the bull standin' in a vley on the
flats over yonder.  My!  He were jes' standing there shooting the water
over his mountain-high body, with his big ears flapping, when he turned
his head, and I seed that diamon' shinin' in his forehead like a
blood-red star.  I tell you that mine lit out a yell and came arter me
like a rock hurled from the hilltop.  The land was as flat as the palm
of your hand, and the only thing was ter double.  Well, I did that, and
slipped into the vley, and the ole bull, arter ramping around, stood
there on the brink listenin', while his trunk went twistin' about to
catch my wind.  He kep' me there till the cold got into my bones, and
then, when the dawn was breaking, off he made for the Kareiga again.
Arter that Sam and me we called in fresh capital, an' Jerry Wittal
joined us with a piebald mare and twenty-five sheep.  Part o' the money
was paid to mend Sam's ribs, and then we went arter the ole bull ag'in.
This time he went west, through the Addo and on to the Knysna.  Six
months we kep' on arter him, sometimes he came arter us; and at last he
smashed up the company one morning by takin' us as we slep'.  Yes, sir.
That crittur, he waited till the cold of the mornin', when we couldn't
see for the sleep, and he pounded Jerry into the groun'.  He did that,
and ef he hadn't a screamed in his joy he might a done for us; but Sam
and me, we dodged roun' a tree an' blazed inter him.  Sam right there
said the company must go inter liquidation, an' he worked his way back
home as a handy-man from farm to farm.  Poor Sam!  His nerves went, and
in less than a year he was dead, sure enuf.  Of course all this huntin'
got about, and a chap from Port Elizabeth said he would help me refloat
the company; but when I giv' him all the facts blow me if he didn't try
to `jump' the claim."

"How was that?"

"Why, he went off on the hunt with a couple o' niggers, and afore I
knowed about it he'd been out three days in the bush.  It makes me laugh
now.  Wha' yer think?  I came across him without his gun, or his hat, or
his kit, making tracks for home.  He found the bull sure enough, but the
bull chased him up a yellow-wood tree and kep' him there one day and a

"Did he see the diamond?"

"Oh, yes; he seed too much of it; but he didn't want any more of that
sort o' minin'--and 'tweren't long afore I chucked the job, too."

"How was that?"

"Well, you wouldn't believe me if I tole you.  At any rate it's bedtime;
and if you young ones don't roost now you'll never hold your guns
straight in the mornin'.  So long!"



We were still at the camp near the bush by the sea, and the week's hunt
was ended.  The "boys" had gone off to a neighbouring kraal to dance and
eat and drink throughout the night, and we were left in the great quiet
of a South African evening.  As usual, Long Jim had squeezed from his
concertina all the melancholy airs he knew, and Amos Topper had trotted
out all his well-worn arguments against the _Ukolobola_--the Kaffir
system of selling girls into wedlock in exchange for cattle; a system
which he warmly contended was the root of all the stock-thieving.

"A darned good system," said Abe; "one that's based on reason and
justice; that's so."

"Hear the old boomer!" said Amos scornfully; "anyone would think he'd
got a parcel o' daughters to marry off fer cattle."

"Go slow, Amos Topper, and maybe you won't stumble.  A good system, says
I; and why? 'cos it's lasted all these centuries--since and before Jacob
he collected a heap o' goats for his wife.  See yer, when a white man
marries a girl he don't give nothin' for her, but he asks her father how
much he's going to give the girl.  That's what a white man does, and
lor' lov' yer, more often than not he swallows up all her money, and
then beats her, the skunk.  Now a black man is different.  When he goes
courtin' he don't ask the father how much the girl's goin' to bring to
the hut--not he.  What he does is to ask the father how much he wants
for the girl.  `Five cows,' says the father `for the girl is nice an'
fat.'  Well, the young buck he's got to get them five cows, and if he
takes one outer a white man's kraal that's due to his impatience--it
don't prove the system is wrong.  Well, the five cows is paid over, an'
the girl goes to the young buck.  As usual, the pair has children--and
the cows has calves.  Maybe the husband beats his wife.  What then; why,
sir, the wife takes her children and goes back to her father.  `I've
come back,' she says, `and I'm going to live on them cows and calves.'
The father he can't say nothin'; 'cos why, 'cos he took those same cows
in trust for his daughter 'gainst she should come, back to him on
account of her husband's bad treatment.  That's so.  The _Ukolobola_ is
better'n a magistrate for keeping the peace 'twixt husband and wife.
That's why I say 'tis a good system, an' a just system."

"'Tis well known," said Amos, "that Abe Pike's got no cause to kick
against Kaffir customs, because he keeps no cattle worth havin'--nor
nothin' else, for that matter."

"By the way, Uncle Abe," I said quickly, to prevent the coming storm;
"you promised to tell us how it was you gave over searching for that
diamond mine."

"Meaning that bull elephant," said Amos Topper, still aggressively; "and
I do say this, of all the yarns I heard there's none to beat that for
downright contrariness to what is reasonable.  Who ever heard of a bull
elephant rampaging round with a red diamond stuck in his forehead?"

"Humph!" grunted Abe.  "If we was to believe nothin' you never yeard on
we'd be a pack o' blamed jackasses, and no mistake.  Now, I tell you
that same elephant is a-tramping around now over yonder in the Addo
bush, with that same red diamond a-gleamin' in his forehead, if so be
the hide ain't growed over it."

"Why don't you get a permit from Government and shoot him, then!"

"Not me: not Abe Pike.  Oh, no!  I tole you how he flattened out ole
Harkins, an' stove in my partner's ribs, an' laid out another chap what
j'ined the company with a yeller horse, an' skeered off that Port
Elizabeth fellow what tried to `jump' my claim.  Well, that showed this
yer walkin' diamond mine were dangerous, but, lor' bless yer, the
_schreik_ he gave me was somethin' that sent the everlastin' shivers up
an' down my backbone.  I'll tell you how 'twas.  When the company was
busted up I was the only chap what held shares, an' as there was no
market for 'em I calkerlated to do the prospectin' myself.  So I went on
a reg'lar expedition into the bush with a new castin' o' bullets, a horn
o' powder, a tin box o' caps--them being muzzle-loading days--an' a kit
o' one sheepskin kaross, with a roll o' tobacco, five pounds o' coffee,
an' sugar, an' as much Boer meal as I could buy, with a pot an'
_cometje_.  I reckoned to shoot my own meat an' pick up berries, besides
gettin' a square meal at a farmhouse now an' ag'in.  So I sot out into
the Addo, an' gettin' to the middle of it, planted my kit in a holler
tree.  That was a Sunday.  Then I scouted aroun'.  Monday I seed
nothin'.  Tuesday I came on a family party o' two tigers an' their cubs.
The ole woman, steppin' on her toes, marched me off the premises, an' I
darsn't shoot for fear o' skeerin' the elephant.  I had to march
back'ards, an' the thorns they jest had a picnic with my shirt, I tell
you; an' I got sich a cramp in my stummick that I couldn't hunt any more
that day.  Wednesday I came on elephant spoor--fresh spoor--and follered
it for four hours without ever seein' a patch o' the animile.  Thursday
I came on spoor ag'in within twenty yards o' where I camped.  Yes,
sirree; that crittur had come up as near as that, and he'd stood there
for a long time, maybe watchin' me.  Well, I lit out on the tracks and
follered 'em in an' out an' roun' about all through the mornin' into the
afternoon, the tracks keeping so fresh that I kep' on with the trigger
at full cock.  In the evenin' the spoor led me right back to my holler
tree, and blow me if that crittur hadn't been overhauling my goods.
Yes, that's so.  The kettle it were hung twenty feet from the ground.
The kaross it were peppered all over with holes, where he'd drove his
tusk through.  The Boer meal were all eaten up, except for a sprinkle
here and there; and the tobacco were chewed up and spat out.  I dried it
and smoked it, and it had a flavour of boots most terrible.  Well, I
tell you, this made me _quei_, but when I seed, arter looking more
carefully, that this yer fool elephant were my diamon' mine itself I
jes' picked up.  'Cos, what's the loss of a few shillin's worth of
things when that diamon' 'ud bring in enough to buy up a whole street
full o' grocers' shops."

"How did you know it was the elephant you wanted?"

"How did I know!  'Cos I seed, that's how, by the size of his hoofs and
the plain writin' that he'd only one tusk, same as my bull.  That's how!
Friday I up and follered ag'in afore sunrise, and I tell yer I hadn't
gone mor'n half-an-hour before I diskivered that he were follerin' me.
Yes.  I were standin' to listen, and I yeard the rumbling of his
stummick.  I yeard it plain--and jes' crawled along so's not to crush so
much as a dry leaf.  I yeard that rumble ag'in--but blow me if I could
see him, an' I crawled an' crawled, poking the big gun afore till the
sweat it run down my back.  There was the spoor and there was the
rumble, but--there was no elephant.  I began to feel shivery, and looked
over my shoulder like a man does in the dark, and--by gosh!--I seed that
red diamon' gleamin' out of the leaves behind me.  An' jes' below it and
on each side were two other gleamin' objects--the eyes of the bull
hisself.  Well, he giv' a scream, I rolled over--an' the next I yeard he
were thundering by, smashing down the trees and yelling out most
horrible.  Abe Pike didn't stop there, I tell you.  He jest sneaked off,
and when he yeard the bull stand--which was plain to hear from the
stillness--Abe he stopped to.  I did that."

"Why didn't you go back and shoot him?"

"Sonny, you never had a railway engine runnin' arter you, did you?
Well, you try, and then settle with yourself whether your nerves would
be worth much for a spell.  No, sir; I didn't go back to shoot him, but
I found the biggest yellow-wood and I climbed up.  That's what I did,
and that bull he found out.  Yes, sir, he picked up my scent and he
tree'd me.  But, by gum, d'ye think he'd show hisself?  No, gentlemen,
he jes' kep' away in the thick o' the bush, goin' roun' and roun' an'
stopping sometimes for a blow.  Once I saw the sparkle of the diamon',
when he was doin' a spell o' listenin' and watchin', and I pulled
straight at it.  I hit him hard, the ole cuss, an' he fetched a yell an'
went smashin' off.  The sound o' him runnin' away did me good.  I loaded
up and picked up the blood-trail, and was goin' so hot on that that I'm
blowed if I didn't a'most run inter him.  I were slippin' along, and
from the corner of my eye I saw the point of his tusk on my left.  The
ole chap had turned on his spoor; but his tusk saved me, for I dodged
roun' a big tree and brought the gun up.  D'ye think he'd charge?  He
jes' slipped back by inches and stole away as silent as a hare, whiles I
had my eyes gummed on the thick cover where he'd stood.  He jes' slipped
away and made a circle to come on me from the rear.  He did that, and if
I hadn't edged away to see better inter the cover he'd a nabbed me--for
bymby I saw he'd gone, and on follering on the spoor I seed where he'd
turned back.  I tell you that gave me the creeps, and I made off for a
small krantz near by where there's a stream.  I crawled inter a cave
there and went off ter sleep, because of the tiredness in my bones; and
Saturday mornin' I woke up hungry an' stiff in the j'ints, and I laid
off for the camp.  Blow me, if that blamed bull hadn't been there ag'in.
The kettle were clean gone this time, and all the other things was
smashed to nothing--so there wasn't a smell, let 'lone a mouthful.  I
were that savage I jes' went hot-foot on the old boomer's spoor ag'in,
an' this time he were travellin'.  He went straight on for fifteen
miles, over the ridge, inter a deep kloof--where he laid in grub--and
then set off, nose on, for another five mile towards Alicedale, where he
had a bathe in a pool.  All this time I hadn't seen even the flap of his
ears, and I were still on his spoor, when I just flung myself inter a
hump o' grass and chawed on to a stick o' _biltong_.  Then I went to
sleep, 'cos I couldn't keep my eyes skinned, but the morning cold woke
me in the small hours, and the fust thing I seed were a blazing eye
looking at me outer the dark.  It sparkled and flickered and blinked,
with the red heart of it contractin' an' expandin'.  In the drowsiness I
lay there, thinkin' 'twas the mornin' star, when I yeard the rumble of a
elephant's inside, an' I knew that ole bull were a standing over me;
maybe had been standin' there for hours waitin' for me to wake so's he
could enjoy seein' me shake.

"Afraid!  Well, I think so.  And the shakes went scooting up an' down my
backbone, an' my heart nearly stopped and I could skasely breathe.  Then
I felt about for my gun with one hand, then with the other, and then
with each foot; but, by gosh! the wepin weren't there, an' the cole
chills were chasing each other up an' down my bones, an' the ole bull
laafed in his stummick, while that busted red diamond glowered at me.  I
thought o' poor ole Harkins flattened out, an' I jest pulled the plug
outer the powder-horn, then I got out the flint an' steel, an' lay there
watching the outline of the ole cuss come clearer an' clearer out of the
darkness an' saw the shine of his wicked little eyes.  He laafed in his
stummick ag'in, and the coil of his trunk came out.  I got the flint
ready over the powder, and the stir of my body made him suspicious.  His
big ears went out like sails, and he made a step forrard.  Then I struck
with the steel, an' turned over on my back.  He brought his trunk down
`ker--whack,' on my sitting place, rolling me over an' over--and when I
rubbed the dust outer my eyes I yeard him smashin' through the trees.
The puff and flame of the powder must ha' skeered him bad, but I didn't
wait beyond a second to search for my gun, and I seed the stock one side
of a tree and the barrel bent up a yard away.  He had moved it away, and
were waitin' for me to wake.  Then I lit out for the water an' hid away.
That was Saturday.  On Sunday I took the back tracks, without a wepin
or anythin', and blow me ef that bull didn't reg'lar hunt me.  He did
that, an' in the afternoon he caught me up and druv me inter a big tree.
I jes' managed to reach the first bough when, ker-blunk, he came up
ag'inst it an' nearly shook me off.  By gum! the way that bull went on
was a caution.  He let off steam through his nose, stamped his feet, dug
his tusk in the ground, twisted his little tail, and butted that tree
till its roots heaved up the ground.  In his walk he wore down a circle
as big as a cattle kraal, smashin' all the trees down, and trampling the
leaves and branches and trunks inter a mass.  And every now and then
he'd wheel round and come smash ag'inst my tree till he started the
wound in his forehead where my bullet struck, an' the blood poured down
his face.  I never seed such wickedness an' temper, never, and I crawled
up to the top branch, for the sight of him made me queer.  All through
that Sunday afternoon he kep' up that smash-jamble, an' in the night he
fetched up some water outer his stummick an' washed his face; then, with
that diamon' shinin' red outer the dark, he stood there, still as a
rock, keeping guard.  That night I went empty in my head, an' got back
my senses in starts when I were slippin'.  In the mornin' I jest gave
him my trousers.

"It was a inspiration, that's what.  A flash came inter my brain from
the blue sky, an' I gave him my trousers.  Lor', the scream he gave when
he fell on 'em, trampled 'em, knelt on 'em, jabbed his tusk inter 'em,
and then danced 'em outer sight through the mass o' leaves into the
yearth beneath.  Then he kep' on going away and comin' back with a rush,
till I got giddy, and fin'ly jest slithered to the ground.  That time he
didn't come back, and I krept away outer the Addo bush, living on roots
and leaves like a animile.  That's so.  I got on a Wednesday to a Kaffir
clearing, most like a wild beast, all kivered with ticks and sores."

"And what became of the diamond?"

"Well, the Abe Pike Diamon' Mining Company went to smash.  That
diamond's still in the Addo bush, and if any o' you would like to float
the company I'm not sure but I wouldn't jine you again.  I guess that
ole bull's a hundred an' fifty years old, an' maybe he's not so blamed
active.  So long!"



Abe Pike was laying a new floor to his shed.  He had at last, after many
years, brought that wonderful structure to some semblance of a covered
shelter, and now he was stamping down the red earth taken from
ant-hills.  This earth makes a firm floor, as it binds well and grows
harder from use.

"Yes, sonny," said the old man, "when animiles or insecks take a work in
hand they do it better'n men.  See this yer earth.  Well, every grain of
it's been worked up by the jaws of a ant, and covered with a nateral
mortar.  It's been all milled month in and month out, mostly after a
fall o' rain, each tiny pellet mined out o' the smoking ground and
carried by the little chaps way up the tunnels out inter the sunlight
and glued to its place on the risin' mound.  An' in the buildin' of the
dome them critturs don't forget the chopped straw, and when they've
carried their temple high above the groun' they don't forget, too, to
narrow the circle till they come to the finishin' peak.  Yes, sir, I
tell you, there's more wonder in one of em ord'nary ant-hills than there
is in the biggest cathedral ever built, an' yet here I be spreading the
remains of such works over the floor of this yer shed."

"But ants always keep to the same designs, Abe."

"Not they.  In diffrent countries they have diffrent kinds o' hills; but
when they find the sort that's best fitted for the climate they sticks
to it, which is morn men do.  No, sonny; the animiles an' the insecks
know what they start out to learn without goin' to school for sixteen
years, same as some young ones do that I know of, and then can't tell a
field of wheat from a barley crop.  As for me, I've had no schooling;
but I know how to do what I want to do."

"How long have you been over this shed, Abe?"

"Lemme see.  I laid the fust pole at the time of the big drought, maybe
thirty years ago."

"And when it's finished?"

"Finished!"  Abe left off stamping the red earth, and looked around with
a strange expression.  "I ain't goin' to finish it, sonny; no, what's
the use?  When I begun that shed Abe Pike were a young man, and I seed
under the roof of it when the work were done sacks o' yellow wheat,
piled up.  The lands were young, I had a team o' young oxen, there were
young cows in the kraal, a good flock o' sheep, an' a crop of hopes in
my head.  That were thirty years ago, sonny, an' the shed ain't finished
yet, and the cows is dead, the lands are poor, and Abe Pike don't hope
no more.  I ain't goin' to finish this yer shed, not me; it's all that
holds me together.  There's a man buried in this yer shed."


"Yes, lad, that's so.  Young Abe is here--in the four corners, and under
the ground, an' in the roof, and the sides.  Yes, young Abe hisself, an'
his sorrows, an' his hopes, an' his pride and laziness.  I've worked him
in these thirty years in loneliness, with the sound of the sea groanin'
in the air, an' the hills lookin' on, and the sky stretched abuv,
workin' him in slowly with nery an eye to watch, and what's lef of him
is this yer sun-dried karkus that's standing afore you.  That's all."

Abe Pike straightened himself and looked round at the drab veld, the
grey hills, and the dark of the kloof where the forest trees were
massed.  Then he rested his hands on the handle of his stamper, and, so
standing, gazed with a vacant expression before him, and watching him I
seemed to see a long line of shadowy reflections of him, standing so
with the same fixed look fastened on the empty veld.  The hollow booming
of the great waves solemnly breaking in endless succession alone broke
the heavy silence.

"Did ever anything come out of the sea, Abe?"  I asked, idly, as I
gazed, like him, in a sort of spell, scarcely knowing what I meant.

"A many things," said he, without moving.  "Yes, sonny," he continued,
after a long pause; "a many, many things.  When the evenin' wind comes
off the sea, and I been a-sittin' outside the door, listenin' to the
waves and the different voices of 'em all blendin', with now and ag'in a
mighty bass note from the biggest of the seven brothers, as he rolled
his shining crest--I've seed things come over the randt yonder, seed 'em
come an' melt away, often an' often."

"What things?"

"All manner o' things, sonny; but I allow you won't see 'em, as you
ain't had the trainin'.  Night after night, year in year out, you must
sit alone listenin' in the stillness, and maybe you'll year the voices I
year an' see what I see.  But you couldn't go through it--no, sonny!  I
bin frightened many a time so that I've got up and fetched the gun to
make a noise--yes, that's so; for there's some things you can't see,
only feel, an' they hard to bear.  I seed a little boy once.  Maybe he
was young Abe Pike afore I knew him.  A little chap with brown legs an'
curly hair an' big eyes.  He came drifting over the randt outer the sea,
when its waves was jes' murmuring sof and low, and I yeard him laugh as
I watched him come, thinking he were a wild fowl.  He lighted over there
where that railed-in moss is a-growin'--see how green it is in the dry
of the yearth.  That's where his little naked feet touched the ground,
and where he stood eyeing me with his big eyes and a sort o' dew on his
forehead where the curls came down.  Then he laughed, and with his head
on one side he came up to my knee an' looked up at me.  Yes, a little
chap; an' he came outer the sea to ole Abe Pike, sitting lonely out
there on the door-step.  Maybe if I'd a married I might a' had a son
like that, for he seemed to b'long to me, as he eyed me with a smile.
Only onct he came, only onct; but, sonny, I feel the touch of his hands
now, an' by that touch I know I will meet him ag'in.  He may a bin young
Abe afore I knew him come back to see what I'd made o' him, an' but for
the smile on his face I'd think he were grieved to see what a blamed
failure I'd made outer him.  Many a time I watched for him.  Yes, sonny;
I've sat in the quiet of the afternoon, listenin' to the sea, and when I
year the murmuring same as then I look for that little chap to come
floatin' up over the randt, an' I keep the moss there wet when I have to
go without water to drink in the drought.  You ain't laughing?"

"No, Abe, no.  One of these wretched flies has got into my eye."

"I made a boat for the little chap, 'gainst he came again, and a fishin'
line, and a reed pipe.  We could 'a played many games together, him and
me, but he only came onct."  Abe turned his face to the sea and stared
wistfully.  He was not yarning now, and I wondered at him.

"Yes," he said; "I could a showed him many a bird's nest if he'd a come,
but maybe the white woman has kep' him away.  She's bin here off an' on
for maybe six years.  She came outer the sea, too, footin' her way
through the air--comin' like a cloud or one o' these big sea-birds that
sails on the wind without a flap of his long, narrer wings.  White, my
sonny!--I never seed anythin' so white, not even the sails o' a ship
with the sun on, or the inside o' one o' them shells folk use for tooth
powder.  She comes on me all o' a sudden, and all I see is the gleam o'
her eyes--then she's gone, leavin' me here with my heart beatin'.  Maybe
she looks after the little ones, for when she comes there's a queer
noise in the waves over yonder 's if a heap o' girls were at play.  Oh,
yes; many things come outer the sea besides fish an' otter an' sich
like--many things, sonny; an' when I'm buildin' this yer shed I stop
workin' to look for their comin'.  Of late I bin expectin' somethin'
mor'n ord'nary, but it ain't come.  Yes, I bin waitin' for that little
chap to take me by the hand.  Got any tabak?"

I handed over the pouch, and saw that Abe had come out of the spell that
had been on him.

"That water bar'l o' mine's all broken up."

"How was that?"

"I'll tell you how it happened.  The dry weather druv the field-rats to
the bar'l for water, which they fetched out by dipping their tails in.
Many a time I seed 'em at it, an' it weren't long before a _ringhals_
spotted the performance; so what's he do but get inter the water, tail
fust, through the bung, and watch for the rats to come an' drink.  My!
He guv me a _schreik_ when I went for a drink an' saw his eyes gleamin'
up outer the green bough I poked in the hole to cool the water an'
prevent it shakin' out.  I lef him there, for I couldn't see how to
fetch him out; but, whiles I were sittin' quiet in the evenin', waitin'
for him to crawl out, up came along a percession of rats, with a ole
grey-whiskered chap leading.  He took a look at me, movin' his nose, but
I kep' still, and he reared hisself against the bar'l.  Next rat he run
up, and the next over the two of 'em, till the third got over the swell
of the bar'l and scooted to the bung-hole, backed round and popped in
his tail, unsuspicious of that vicious crittur inside.  Nex' minit that
rat were hollering out blue murder, for the snake grabbed him by the
tail, and the other rats, they jes' lit out for hum.  Well, that snake
he let go, but the rat he jes' curled up and fell down in a kickin' fit.
Then the _ringhals_ crawled out--the ugly five feet length o' livin'
death--and there and then gorged the rat.  Well, I let him be.  Snakes
is bad, and rats is bad.  I let him be, and three days arter there were
the blamed _ringhals_ in my bar'l again.  Blow me, if the same
performance didn't happen over ag'in, and some days arter I seed that
partickler tribe o' rats was gettin' smaller, and, believe me, sonny,
that _ringhals_ had guv the news to another snake, for one evenin' I
seed two o' their wicked-lookin' heads jes' inside the bung on the
twigs.  I were watchin' for the tragedy--same as us'al--when--same as
us'al--up come that ole grey chap on his own hook.  He came to the
bar'l, and sat up on his behind legs like a hare, twiddling his
moustaches and twisting his nose.  Then he backed off, and give a
whopping spring, which landed him on a swell of the bar'l.  Well, he
weren't takin' any water, he weren't; oh, no!  He jes' walked on his
hind legs and took a peep inter the bung-hole.  I guess he seed
something, for he turned a back sumersault, jes' as a vicious head came
with a hiss at him.  Well, I tell you that ole chap he scooted off,
squeaking like a forty-shillin' kettle.  I sat there laughin' at the
skeer of that 'ere rat, but, by gum!  I soon dropped grinnin', for up
along came the ole feller ag'in with a 'ole lot o' rats behind him.
When they drew near he gave them the word to stop, whiles he examined
the bar'l all round.  Then he spoke a few words, and the entire gang
they went to the lower side of the bar'l and began to scratch away the
yearth.  Yes, sir, that's what they done.  They scratched away the
yearth.  Then the ole chap guv another word, an' they got roun' on the
top side o' the bar'l.  Then they begun to shuv."


"I tell you; them rats they jist put their backs ag'in the bar'l and
shuved for all they were worth; but 'twarn't no go.  They was too light.
D'ye think they guv up the job--not they!  The ole chap led 'em roun'
the bottom side, and they set to scraping more yearth away till the
bar'l were almost undermined.  Then roun' they came ag'in, all
squeaking, and one of the snakes popped his head out ter see what the
noise were about.  Nex' minute he'd a' bin among 'em, but the 'ole
parcel o' rats, maybe one hundred, guv another mighty shuv, and 'fore I
could start up to prevent it that bar'l gave a list over, and then
started.  Once it started it jes' flew down the slope, and went to
pieces at the bottom with a smash.  The snake that were hangin' out were
flattened dead, and the way them rats fell on his body were a caution.
They were tearin' it to pieces when, bilin' with rage an' hissin' most
furious, up came the other riptile.  The rats then scooted--that's so!"



"Yes!" said Abe, one afternoon, after he had been helping threshin'
wheat; "these newfangled machines bin smashing up all the good old
customs that were the salt of country life.  This yer thresher of yours
may get through the sheaves with a lot of dust an' rattle an' smoke, but
give me the old floor, an' the oxen tramping out the ear, an' the
neighbours coming to the supper.  Oh, yes! the old customs they brought
the people together and made 'em soshiable and talk.  Lor' bless you,
there ain't no talking nowadays--only grunting."

"Is that so?" said I, as I brushed the dust from my eyes.

"It are.  No one talks now, 'cos of these yer machines, which does
everything.  Why, blow me! you can shoot a man with these new guns
without ever seeing him."

"I don't know that it is any more satisfaction for the man shot to die
with the knowledge that he knows who shot him."

"Well, I do know.  Take these yer talking machines I year on.  What's
the good squeaking through a machine to a man, or maybe a girl, in the
nex' street when you can't see the eyes of her, or the shape of her
lips, or the expression, without which talking's no account.  Look here,
sonny, you listen to what I tell you; these yer machines goin' to turn
out people same as pins, all o' one pattern."

"You're a great talker yourself, Abe?"

"I'm not talking when I ain't got nothin' to say.  When I seed the
Colonel of the 94th up by Pluto's Vale--`Who the blazes are you,' he
said, `and where the devil you come from?'--I weren't saying much, but I
took a pull at his black bottle.  He were one of the ole sort were the
Colonel--grey an' peppery, an' stiff in the upper lip 's if his face bin
fixed in a iron mask.  That's the sort of man he were.  `The Kaffirs is
laying a trap for you,' I said to him.  `They darn't do it,' he said.
`Lay a trap for the 94th!  I never yeard o' sich blamed impertinence,'
he said, twisting his grey moustaches, an' glaring at me's if I'd
insulted him.  `All right,' I said, `if yure too proud to take advice,
go an' walk inter the trap like a blunderin' porkipine, an' you'll get
stuck full o' assegais,' I said.  `You're too free with your tongue,' he
said, gettin' red in the face; so I walked out, but bymby he came over
to where I sot by the fire, an' he sot down 'longside o' me.  He talked
an' I ate, but at last he up an' came to the point.  `Can you scout?' he
said.  `Mejum,' says I.  `Oh,' he said, `I've got a mejum scout with me.
What I want is a fust-class scout.'  Well, sonny, I jes' lit my pipe
and took a puff.  He looked at me under his eyebrows.  `My scout tells
me the Kaffirs have retreated,' he said.  `Soh!' says I, and went on
smoking.  `Yes,' says he, gettin' angry aller a sudden, `and you've been
giving me false news for the sake of getting a reward.'  Well, I jes'
pulled up my sleeve and showed him where I'd been stabbed.  `I beg your
pardon,' he said, and riz up to go back to his tent.  `Colonel,' says I,
laying hold of his sash, `if you want me to scout I'll scout, and you
can send a man along with me.'  `Leave to-morrer,' he said, `if you feel
well enough;' and he marched off jes' as stiff an' unconcerned 's if
he'd asked me to supper.  Soon after a young chap came up to my fire.
`I've received orders to go on scout duty with you,' he said, eyeing me
up an' down 's if I'd been some kur'ous kind o' inseck.  `When do we
start?' says I.  `Oh, furst thing in the morning, if you're awake.'
`Oh!' says I, `so's the Kaffirs can see us?'  `There ain't no Kaffirs,'
says he; `'t any rate I ain't seen any.'  `I'm startin' at midnight,' I
says, and with that turned over to sleep.  Well, at midnight I woke up
and prepared to leave, thinking that young fellow wouldn't be about.
But, blow me, there he were, sitting by the fire watching me.  `I'm
ready,' he said, standin' up.  `What for?'  `Why, to scout, of course'
`Orright,' says I; `take off that sword then, and that white hat, and
that red coat.  You ain't anxious for the Kaffirs to see us furst, are
you?'  He jes' opened his mouth to cheek me; then he ran off, and bymby
he came back without them things, with a grey shirt and soft hat.  `Is
that right?' he said, fetching a grin.  I jes' nodded, an' off we
stepped inter the dark of the night.  Slipping by the sentries without
givin' 'em good evenin', we marched along outer the side of the valley
where the camp were pitched to where it narrowed into a poort, between
big krantzes, with a kloof running down on the left side.  By sunrise we
were on the divide between the poort and the nex' valley, jest about
where the road led over the neck ahead of the troops.  We took cover and
looked around.  `There's a Kaffir,' said I, `over yonder on that rock
above the far krantz, watching the camp.'  The young chap fetched a
laugh.  `That Kaffir,' said he, `is a vidette, and there's a whole
string of 'em on the heights.  None of the enemy can get inter the poort
without being seen.'  Well, this was up against me, an' I kep' quiet,
looking away down inter the next valley where the road track twisted
along the steep aside of the thick bush.  `That's the place for an
ambush,' said the young chap, `down in that ravine.  If there are any
Kaffirs about they will be there.  Let us go down.'  I jes' sot there
watchin', an' bymby he began to fidget; then he up an' tole me that if I
would not scout, he would.  `There's no Kaffirs in the far valley,' I
said.  `I'm tired of you,' he said, in one o' them sort o' drawn tones
that always reminds me o' a sword glinting out o' the scabbard; `I came
out to scout, not to lie in cover; you may stay here by yourself; I'm
going inter the valley below.'  I nearly got angry, but then I thought
what's the use, so I jest explained matters.  `There's no Kaffirs down
there,' says I, `but there is Kaffirs down here in the poort in that big
kloof, an', what's more, them pickets o' yours will be assegaied before
long.  I'll tell you why.  See them birds flying over that kloof?
They've been startled, an', what's more, when they settled jest now they
started off ag'in on a new flight, an', what's more, I seed a jackal an'
a ram slip away over the rise.  That's good enough for me, an' when it's
dark I'll slip back to the camp to tell the Colonel.'  `Are you sure?'
he said, lookin' at me hard.  `Certain,' I said.  `Then,' said he, `we
must go back to the Colonel at once.'

"`You might start to go back,' I said, `but you'd never reach half way.
Where's the picket?'  I said.  He took a look at the krantz where we'd
seen the figgur of a man, and he seed the poor beggar was gone.  `Yes,'
I said, `he's been assegaied!'

"`My God!' he said, `can't we do anything to save the others?'

"`It's no go,' said I, pulling out my pipe.  `Haven't you got any
heart?' he said, fiercely, then he began to move off.  Well, that
wouldn't do, so I pulled him back.  `Keep still,' says I; `the pickets
must look after themselves; we've got to save the camp.'  Well, blow me,
that made him worse, and he struggled to get free, saying the 94th
didn't want to be saved from any Kaffirs, and all that--but I jes' hung
onter him, an' while we were struggling in a holler behind a rock, up
there came the sound of a bugle.  `Hark!' he said, lettin' go his hold;
`the regiment has struck camp--that's the order to advance.'  `The
blamed fool,' I said, `he'll march straight inter the trap.'  `Soh,'
says he, then he made a bolt, saying as he ran, `I must warn them.'  I
seed it were no use, an' I let him go.  By gosh! he jes' bounded down
from rock to rock, without taking any cover, straight for the track that
ran down the poort past the kloof to the regiment.  At the same time I
seed a black figure running down the slope from where the picket had
been, then another an' another, all of 'em crouchin'.  Of course, there
were Kaffirs there, an' in course they seed him, an' they were runnin'
down to stop him."

"And what did you do?"

"What did I do?  Well I jes' sat an' looked, an' bymby I edged away over
the randt away from the Kaffirs.  Then I sot off at a run round to get
to the back of the krantze where the picket had been killed."

"You didn't know he had been killed."

"Well, according to all that was goin' on he oughter bin killed, and 't
any rate I made round that way--but if you're going to talk to me like
that I'll jes' shut up.  I'm gwine to supper now."



The next morning Abe was stamping mealies with a wooden pestle in a
wooden mortar made from a tree trunk.  It was a piece of unusual labour
on his part, and I complimented him on his early industry.

"Industry be blowed--it's my teeth!  They're worn down, and not equal to
chewing hard mealies.  You take pattern by me, sonny, and keep your
teeth.  Lor' love yer, when I sees young boys and gals with half their
teeth missin', I'm jest thinkin' that there's no ignorance like that of
the civilised man.  Take me, or take an ord'nary raw Kaffir turned
sixty, and look at his mouth.  Teeth as white and soun' as a
animile's--'cos why?--'cos he ain't loadin' his inside with all sorts o'
hots an' colds, an' sweets, and thingammies painted yeller an' red--an'
'cos he polishes up his grinders with a bit o' wood and heaps o' water.
Toothache--man wasn't born to have toothache--o' course not; nor to have
his jawbone broken with steel pincers; but there, he ain't got sense to
know when he's well off, and so he starts undermining his teeth from the
day he's old enough to chew toffee."

"I've known a Kaffir to have toothache."

"And I've known a Kaffir to drink off a bottle of Worcester sauce.  But
why?  'Cos some blamed white man invented the sauce to help out his
finicking appetite, and if the Kaffir's fool enough to drink white man's
mixtures, why there's an end to him.  When you start to civilise a
Kaffir you give him toothache, and fill him as full o' wickedness an'
sickness as a white man.  That's so!"

"I didn't know you were such an admirer of Kaffirs."

"Ghoisters!  You're like a ramrod; you can't see your way unless it's
straight.  I'm not in love with the black because his teeth is good."

Abe scooped up the broken maize, and proceeded to make his morning pap,
after which he lit his pipe and was at peace.

"What was the end of your scouting, Abe?"

"I ain't scouting."

"I mean at Pluto's Vale, when the young officer left you."

"Is that so!  Lemme see.  I left him running like a blind hoss at a
precipice, straight for the path by the kloof which I reckoned were full
o' Kaffirs, and with three chaps runnin' down to cut him off.  That
weren't me.  No!  I jest skipped round back o' the krantz opposite the
kloof, an' crawled up to where I'd seen the vidette.  It were as I
thought Stone dead he were, with his face to the sky and his arms
stretched out, assegaied through the back and then turned over by them
as stabbed him--and who who was sneaking down the hill to do the same
for my partner.  I jest peeped over the rock--and far down the valley to
the lef I see the regiment on the march, with the waggons in the centre
and the Colonel riding ahead's if he were going on parade.  Sonny, them
_rooibaaitjes_ can fight, but they're foolish.  They're too stiff in the
lip to ask questions, and too proud to learn.  That's so!  There were
the Colonel marching his men straight into the tightest kind o' fix
without waiting for me to report the lay o' the land.  I looked down
below, and there were that young chap booming along like a rock rolled
from the top, leaping like a buck, an' jes' ahead o' him, in a turn in
the road, crouchin' behin' bushes, was them three red Kaffirs waitin' to
stab him.  A hundred paces he had to cover afore he came up to the fust
of 'em, and I seed in a flash he were a gone coon, unless somethin'
happened.  I tell you, sonny, I did some quick thinking while he were
running them hundred paces.  S'pose I fired!  The report would jes' boom
from side to side o' that valley and wake up every darned Kaffir in the
kloof--s'posing Kaffirs was there.  The Kaffirs would be on the watch,
the Colonel would hear, an' rush up his men, leaving his waggons
unprotected.  Then there'd be a awful kind of a mess--s'posing the
Kaffirs was in that kloof.  I thunked all that, and that young chap had
gone half-way.  If I fired he couldn't a pulled up in time, so I jest
fetched a yell in Kaffir.  From the bottom o' my throat I fetched up one
of them deep Kaffir shouts.  `Look out!'  I yelled; `the soldiers--run!'
The words fell on them Kaffirs like the lash of a whip.  The three of
them jumped to their feet, run across the road, an' slipped inter the
kloof.  The young chap seed 'em cross his track, and pulled up, then I'm
darned if he didn't keep on again.  Well, I give him another chance.  I
cried to him in English to keep to his left, but he jes' lifted his hand
and kep' on.  Nex' moment he were running along the fringe of the kloof
where the dark wood came down to the road, and then he gave a lurch, and
rolled over an' over, his gun flying from his hand.  I could hear the
tinkle of the metal against the stones.  The roll carried him to a rock,
and over that he went with a splash inter a pool o' water, and as he
went in a Kaffir darted from the kloof with his shield and assegai.  I
knew then the kloof were full of Kaffirs, for none of the other three
carried a shield.  All this yer happened in a breath almost, and then I
ran along the krantz to where a corner of it stood out bold, an'
standing there I shouted to the regiment, which lay outstretched down
below, the head of it no further than 300 paces from the beginning of
the kloof on that side.  The Colonel were riding ahead, then followed
the pioneers, with their axes and spades sheathed in shiny black
leather, and on their chests big black beards, behind them a company of
the 94th with the bayonets glittering like running fire, back o' them
the band, and ahind them the waggons in the long line, and far behind, a
full mile from the Colonel, the balance of the regiment.  Sonny! in ten
minutes the hull biling of 'em would 'a been in the narrer of the valley
without room to turn, and they'd a bin assegaied to a man, I tell you!
But Abe Pike were there; and I tell you he gave a shout that went
ekering down that valley from side to side.  `Halt!'  I said.  The
Colonel he pulled up.  I seed him shade his eyes with his hand as he
took a look, and I seed some of the soldiers point up at me.  The
Colonel he shook his reins, and rode on.  `Halt!'  I said; but he jes'
kep' on, calm as possible.  `You blamed fool,' I shouted; `stop!
There's Kaffirs ahead.'  He pulled up, and turned in his saddle.
`Ninety-fourth,' he said--and his voice came up clear--`halt!'  All
along that mile o' men and oxen the order ran down, and the moving
column came to a stand.  `Number 1 company,' he said, `leading files
from your left, two paces to the right.  Rear ranks, two paces to your
front.'  The leading company jest stretched out like a concertina,
across the road.  `Prepare to fire,' he said, and down came that shining
stretch o' bayonets to the level.  Then I'm darned if the Colonel didn't
walk his horse round the turn in the road till he came to the kloof, and
seed the track wind up through the narrer poort up to the ridge beyond,
with me on his right far above him.  He seed nothin', of course; 'cos
why, he couldn't see through the dark o' the woods on his left; but
there was hundreds of black eyes glaring at him through the leaves.  He
looked up at me, as if to say, `Where are the Kaffirs?'  `They're in the
bush,' I shouted; then I slid down the krantz by a monkey tow, and after
making my way through the tumbled mass of boulders and thorn scrub at
the base, started to run down, when I yeard the beat of the drum, and
the next minute seed the pioneers come round the bend, then the first
company, and nex' the band, with the Colonel 'twixt the pioneers and the
company.  The old fire-eater were determined to get inter the trap after
all, and when I reached him he were half-way by the kloof.  `For God's
sake,' I said, putting my hand on the bridle, `stop the waggons, and get
your men outer this.  Turn back!'  I said.  He were jest going to rap me
over the head for mutinous conduct, or some sich nonsense, when the
Kaffir yell rang out.  They couldn't wait any longer.  Whew!  My gum,
sonny! talk o' yellin' an' cussin' an' gruntin'.  Them red Kaffirs were
into us.  They jumped this way, and that, their eyes rollin' in their
heads, their assegais whizzing and kerries flying, with a noise like a
flight o' partridges.  Then the rifles snapped out, and the big drum
boomed onct.  Only onct.  Then I seed the drummer throw up his sticks
an' roll over, drum up, man up, turn an' turn.  I didn't know which way
to turn at first; then I seed a Kaffir raising his kerrie to smash the
Colonel, who were lying on the ground, and I shot him.  I helped the
Colonel up, and he roared out `Bayonets.'  The soldiers were too mixed
up to use their bayonets.  I seed five of them--one after another--
assegaied.  The Kaffirs, they jes' grabbed the poor Johnny by the belt,
pulled him outer the thick of the jam, and then assegaied him.  I seed
how things would go if the soldiers couldn't get ground to fight, so I
jumped for the drum, and, cutting it free from the poor drummer chap, I
banged on it and marched across the stream to the far slope.  Some of
the fellers seed me and follered.  `Steady,' says I, `take your man--
fire.'  Well, they did jes' so, and I banged the drum.  The ole Colonel
he got the pioneers with him--there was eight of them--and, my gum!--
they jest swished their way through the Kaffirs with their axes.  Then
up come some more men, follering the drum, and we peppered the Kaffirs
till they were obliged to get back inter the wood.  Then the Colonel he
looked for the wounded.  There were nary one, but seventeen men lay
dead.  `There's one here,' says I, and led the place to where the young
officer had tumbled in the water.  There he were among the rushes,
bleeding to death from an assegai wound, and one of them pioneers, his
arms all bloody, lifted the young chap up and carried him to the
waggons.  I guessed it were time to go before them Kaffirs got up
steam--so I banged the ole drum and marched back.  `Where you going?'
says the Colonel.  `Back to the camp,' I says.  `That ain't the way,' he
says; `we camp over the ridge to-night,' pointing the other way.  `The
Kaffirs will never let the waggons through,' I said.  `The Kaffirs is
beaten,' he says; and just then a young Kaffir leapt outer the bush and
rammed his assegai into the big drum.  `I have done it,' he cried and I
seed it were Sandili hisself.  I tole you how Sandili he said he would
bust the drum, and by gosh! he bust it.  He was back inter the wood in a
wink, and then he shouted how he had killed the white man's war-god, and
from all parts of the kloof the Kaffirs they began shouting.  You could
hear 'em comin'.  The Colonel he looked round and said `Retire!'  So he
had to turn back after all.  He shelled the kloof all that afternoon;
and the Kaffirs they just moved on."

"And what did the Colonel say to you?"

"He said he'd half a mind to tie me up for givin' orders to the
regiment, and he went on most horrible; then when he cooled down he give
me a huntin' knife, with five blades and a corkscrew, and said he would
mention me in despatches.  I dunno whether he did; 't any rate I never
were called to account again, so I guess he were only skeering me.
Well, so long!"



I had got a new tiger trap, and was displaying its beauties to some
members of our Cat Club--not that this was the official name, which in
full dress proclaimed itself as the Round Hill Society for the
Destruction of Vermin.  The mouth of the trap had a span of fifteen
inches, and the steel spring almost required the weight of a
twelve-stone man to flatten it down to the catch.  There was a stout
chain to the shank end, which could be secured to a log, and the iron
lips had no teeth.

"There's a power of grip in the toothless gums of that 'ere grinning
mouth," said old Abe Pike, who was President of the Club, by virtue of
which office it was his right to point out the spots for the setting of
traps.  "I don't hole with teeth nohow."

"Quite so," remarked Amos Topper, sourly; "your tongue's long enough to
get a clinch round anything.  What I say is, give me a trap with teeth a
inch long that will drive through a tiger's shin-bone."

"Yes; and maybe cut the foot of him right off, and leave ole
dot-and-carry-three to go limpin' away growlin' vengeance.  You ain't
got no exper'ence, Amos; and talking about tongues, if you shut your
teeth down tight you might pass for a wise man."

Amos opened his mouth wide for a retort, but nothing came out but a
cloud of smoke and a grunt.

"I shot a trapped tiger once," said Long Jim, "that was caught only by
his toe.  Yes, sir, by his toe! and the danged crittur jes' lay there
and took the bullet 'thout even standing up.  He jes' hissed like a room
full o' kettles."

"Ever been caught in a trap?" asked Abe quietly.

"I ain't had any occasion to," said Jim severely.

"Well, I have!"

"Gwine after anybody's pumpkins?" asked Amos, thinking this was a good
opportunity to work in his belated retort.

"Some folk's talk," said Abe slowly, "is like burrs--never wanted and
allus spoilin' good material, with this difference on the side of the
burr-weed--that you can root up the weed when you find it."

"It would take a better man than you to dig me up," said Amos, shaking

"We ain't discussin' weeds," said Abe, looking his lanky opponent up and
down; "we're discussin' the points o' traps--especially teeth.  I bin
caught, an' that's why I'm sot against teeth."

"When did it happen, Abe?"

"Well, I'll tell you.  You know ole Hill's garden, which held more
different kinds o' fruit-trees than I have seed in the whole country.
There were a thick quince hedge down one side, and the wild pigs had
made a path through it big enough to let a stoopin' man through.  Well,
I were going short cut to the house one night, and I remembered this yer

"You always had a weakness for fruit, Abe!" remarked Amos.

"I remembered this yer track, and, follering the hedge down, I felt
where the path had been worn, and, parting the quince _luikeys_ with my
hand, made a stoop forrard.  My gum!--there were a click, and a yell
which I ripped out, and nex' thing I knowed somethin' got me sore fast
by the right leg in the thin of the ankle.  It were a tiger trap--that's
what, and sot with teeth.  Lor' love yer!  I can feel the pain of it in
my leg now when I think of it, though it were over twenty-seven year
ago.  One iron fang scramped my shin-bone, and the back one druv clean
through the flesh, while the sides of the mouth pressed in so that the
blood were stopped, and the foot seemed to belong to someone else.  I
tell you all the blood in my body jes' run down to the tight place to
find out what the trouble was, and came rushing back with the news up to
my head with a touch of fire all along.  Then that held-fast leg began
to throb and throb, and a hundred thousand little hammers began
a-hammering all up my backbone, while cold spasms went quivering through
me and outer the top of my head.  I jes' let go yell on yell, until a
faintness came over me, and the sound leg which had been all on a
tremble gave way, and I sot down.  The wrench were terrible, and I jes'
grit my teeth, and held on till the weakness went off, when I shifted
the trap a bit."

"Why didn't you ease the spring?"

"Why don't a bird fly when its wing's broken?  Ease the spring!  Jes'
you put your foot in this yer trap, and see if you can get the spring
down with thirty pound o' iron at the end of your foot and your muscles
all turned to water--to liquid fire--with the pain of the hold.  All I
could do was to rub my knee and yell and bite at the quince leaves, and
dig my fingers inter the flesh.  After a time I found my voice ain't got
no carrying power; it came out in a hoarse whisper, and I seed if the
people at the house hadn't yeard my first call they wouldn't catch any
cry for help I could give now; so I jes' groaned for comfort, same's if
I were a trapped tiger growling through the night.  My head were tossing
about from side to side like the pendulum of a clock, and one of these
side swings I noticed the glare of something bright close by.  I jes'
noticed it as if 'twere something of no account; for, if all the stars
in heaven had taken to swinging at the ends of golden threads it
wouldn't have mattered to me as much as the flame of a tallow candle
sputtering in a horn lantern.  Well, each time I swung my head I seed
these yer bright spots without seeing them--if you know what I mean?--
when I were held still for a moment by a sound.  I looked, and I saw
then that they were eyes staring at me, which blinked as I stared, and
turned away, then sought my face ag'in, and, narrering to a thin green
slit, so looked at me.  What do ye think it were?"

"A pig, of course, waiting for you to move," said Topper.

"You can tell a pig by his grunt," said Abe, pointedly.  "Who ever seed
a pig with green eyes flaming through half-closed lids?  It were a
tiger," and Abe took his pipe out and impressively spat at a
black-beetle that was fussily moving on a ball of earth with its

"A tiger?"

"Yes, sirrees!  It were that--sitting down on his hams like a big dog
within two yards of me.  No, I were not skeered, for the burning pain in
my head and the throbbing in my shin-bone didn't give room for fear of
that kind--and the tiger, he seemed to know what were up, for after a
while he stretched himself out on his stummick, and yawned till I could
see the gleam of his teeth.  Well, I went on groanin' and tossin' my
head, and rubbin' my knee-cap, and chewin' up the quince leaves, every
now and then taking a look at the big crittur lying stretched in the
dark with his eyes opening and shutting like's if you moved the slide
over a bull's-eye lantern when he rolled over on his back and reached
out a claw for me, like a kitten playing with a leaf.  He hooked a claw
inter the trousers of my well leg, and the jerk on it gave him a
_schreik_, for he let out a growl and jumped away, looking back at me
over his shoulder.  Then he slunk away, but bymby when I looked ag'in he
were standing up against the fence with his nose jes' peeping round, and
his near eye squintin' at me through a hole in the leaves.  That give me
a queer feeling--for the beggar'd come up so sly, and I lit out a yell
this time which stuck in my throat.  The pain made me feel faint inside,
an' I jes' closed my eyes.  Soon's the tiger saw I wern't looking he
jes' poked his nose up ag'in the trap, and I yeard him licking the iron
where the blood had run.  Then I felt on my sound leg the pressure of
his body, and yeard the snarly purr of him.  Then he began licking at my
trousers where the trap held fast, and I opened my eyes.  The weight of
his body held my leg down, and one of his paws were right into my
weskit; and, blow me, if he didn't begin shovin' it inter my body, and
opening and shutting his claws like a pleased cat, while the jar of his
purring ran up through my bones, and his big tongue were rasping at my
trousers.  A sort o' stupor, don't-care-what-he-does feeling come over
me, and with it the burning in the pain left my brain, and the hammering
at my bones dropped away inter jes' a sort of tired feeling.  Nex'
minute I felt his tongue on my flesh--for he'd worn a hole right through
them cord tweeds I were wearin'.  At the taste of the blood then he
purred louder than ever, and shuved his paw quicker and harder into my
stummick, until I gasped for breath.  Then he drew fresh blood, and his
purr went inter a savage growl, while, the weight of his body lightened
on my leg.  I tell you, that growl brought back my luv for life in a
moment.  I saw that crittur would in his eagerness take a bite at my
leg--then the game would be up.  What d'ye think I did?"

"Began to jaw," said Topper; "and he bolted with his tail down."

"Jobbed him with a knife back of the head," suggested Long Jim.

"No; what I did was a cirkimstance which only one man would think of,
and that's ole Abe Pike.  I jes' took out my ole pipe, wriggled a length
of straw down the stem till it were black with nicotine, then laid it
across his tongue.  My!  You should 'a seen him.  He shook his head,
tried to wipe his tongue with his paws, then give a roar, and make
lightning tracks for the nearest water.  His growl set the dogs going
tremenjus, then I yeard ole man Hill whistlin' 'em, and I fetched a yell
that brung him up at the double.  By gum!  In being saved I were nearly

"How was that?"

"Why, them dogs took me for the tiger, and they tore the coat offin me,
beside some skin, 'fore ole Bill see who were in the trap and took me
out.  That's why I say I'm dead sot against traps with teeth."



I had not seen old Abe Pike for some weeks, having been on rinderpest
guard on the Orange River, but on my return to the coast I rode over to
Gum Tree Farm, where the lone blue-gum threw its pillar of cloud, in the
blazing afternoon, across the doorway.  Uncle Abe was lounging, as
usual, by the doorway, looking listlessly at the sea.

"Well, oud baas!  How goes it?"

"Is there no more cattle to kill?" he said, straightening his back and
propping himself against the wall.  "Think you'd be ashamed to look a
beefsteak in the face after the way you been shooting them pore

"The plague must be stamped out, Abe."

"Oh, yes!  I yeard that story before!  It's a good way to save a
crittur's life by shooting him!  What beats me is why you don't up and
shoot all children sick with tyfust and grown people ailing with
influenza!  My gum!  I'm ashamed of you!"

"Well, so long!"

"You ain't goin'?"

"I think so; the work of shooting cattle is not pleasant, but it is less
pleasant to be reminded of it."

"Oh, go along!  Put your horse in the shed and come right in.  The place
ain't been the same since you've been away, sonny; 'sides, there's been
no one along for weeks, and I'm jes' bu'sting with talk.  You wouldn't
like to see old Abe die of untold yarns."

So I off-saddled and knee-haltered the horse, for there was no oat-hay
in the shed for him, and he had to get what picking he could from the
old lands, yellow with charlock.

Abe made up the fire, and put on the kettle to boil, while from the
larder he produced a slab of pork and a half-loaf--very black on the
outside and very soft within.

"The last batch of baking," he said, "was not up to the mark.  The yeast
gave out, and I were obliged to get a rise out of a handful of rub-rub
berries.  As for the pork, that came from a pig that was catched."

"What sort of pig?"

"Well, sonny, it was this way.  You know the eagles' nest on the old
yellow-wood in the big kloof?  I got the pig out of there."

"Oh, you did, did you?  As far as I remember, the tree is a hundred feet
high, and the nest quite sixty feet up.  The pig climbed up, I presume?"

"You presoom morn's good for you, sonny.  Don't suppose 'cos you bin to
the Orange River you know everything.  The pig didn't climb up; he jes'
dropped in on passin'; paid a sort of flying visit.  That nest's as big
as a cart wheel, and if you stand below and look up the trunk it shuts
out the sky, while down below there's bones enough, and of sorts, to
build up the skelingtons of a entire museum.  That pair of eagles used
that nest going on for fifteen years, and each year when the young hatch
out they kill off more dassies and cats and blue-boks than you could eat
in a year."

"You are welcome to the cats, Abe."

"Yes, sir.  Them eagles have buried, I reckon, as many as two thousand
animiles in that leaf-mould cemingtary below the big tree.  Well!  Grub
being skerce, I had a fancy to bury them young squabs of eagles, by way
of satisfying my own yearning for food, and giving the ole hook-beaked
pirates a hint that they hadn't the sole right over the earth and air.
Sonny, that's a big tree, and it took me a fortnight to climb up."

"That was quick!"

"I've seen quicker climbin', but taking the size of the tree and the
height of it--maybe, five hundred feet!"

"I thought the height to the nest was about sixty feet?"

"Have you clomb that tree?"

"No, Abe."

"Well, I have; and if it's not a mile high, it's high enuf when you're
up aloft, with nothing to keep you from adding your bones to the pile
below but an iron spike no bigger'n a nail.  I camped out one day at the
bottom of the tree, and it was mighty lonesome, when the wind came
whisperin' round the trees, and dark shadows peeped from behin' the
rocks, while up above the she-eagle would hiss at her mate.  For about
two days they took no heed of me, but the fifth day, when I was
sprawling half-way up, with a looped _rheim_ round the tree, the ole
she-bird took a squint at me over the nest, and flopped down to the
lowest bough, where she watched me under her brows drive in a three-inch
nail.  Two inches I druv it in, and when I lowered myself for another,
she jes' dropped down, clawing to the tree with her long hooked toes,
and yanked that nail out."

"Abe Pike!"

"Yes, sir; she jes' grabbed hole of it, give it a wrench, and out it
come.  Then she fetched a yell loud enough almost to split the tree, and
went off.  Nex' mornin', believe me, there was that nail, and five
others, outside the door!  Them eagles had fetched them up to give
notice it was no good.  They're mighty strong in the beak, is eagles,"
said Abe, pouring out the coffee.

"But truth is stronger, eh?"

"That's so, sonny; you take hole o' that, and it'll do you a heap of
good.  That day I druv in them nails deeper, and they held good, by
reason that the ole she-bird had got lockjaw, and sot up there nursin'
her beak, with her red eyes glowing like coals.  About the fifth day I
were near up, when the ole man dropped a coney's head, and by luck it
took me over the head.  Well, you'd hardly believe me when I tell you,
that no sooner the ole girl seen this than she gave a hiss, and began
scraping out of the nest all the rubbish, bones, and skin, and feathers,
and sich.  Whew!  I tell you I had to scuttle and leave off.  Well, next
day she were looking out for me, and soon's I got up dropped a
full-grown blue-bok--ker-blung--and if I had not been prepared, would
ha' sent me tumbling.  I climbed down, an' roasted that there bit of
venison while the two of them watched.  Of course, after that meal I
went home, and next mornin', when I opened the door, blow me! if there
weren't a rock rabbit, fat as butter, jes' outside.  I ate him and
stopped at home.  Next mornin' there was a brace of partridges, so I ate
'em, and stayed quiet.  Next morning a big hare, an' I ate him and
stayed at home.  So on till the eleventh mornin', when there was only a
black cat, with the musk of him smellin' most awful.  Of course, I
wasn't eating any such vermin, but I thought the eagles meant well, and
I wasn't blaming them.  I buried that crittur two feet deep, and went
hungry to bed.  Next mornin' I was outer the door before I was awake,
expecting to fin' a plump lamb, or maybe a kid or a turkey, but there
was nothing, sir, but the smell of that stink eat hanging around most
dreadful.  Sonny, the feelings of them two eagles had been hurt.  They
took it as a slight that I hadn't eaten that skunk, so I sot off to the
kloof to explain matters.  When I got there the ole he was sailing above
the tree, with his claws tucked up, and his head on one side.  When he
seed me he jes' fetched a screech like a railway engine divin' into a
tunnel, and then he settled on the tree, where, bymby, he were joined by
the ole she.  They jest sot there and looked, making no sign to drop
anything, so I begun to climb; but they took no notice, and bymby I come
to the end of the nails, and the nearest bough was six feet away.  I had
to give it up that day, leaving them two birds all ruffled up and mighty
cold and standoffish.  It was hard next mornin' to find nothing outside
the door, and I seed there was nothing left but to finish the job, and
catch them young squabs.  I went off to the kloof, bitter against the
ingratitood of them stingy birds, which were ready to let a human bein'
starve when they had a larder jes' stuffed with hares and things--and my
hares, too!  Them birds was waiting for me--throwing their beaks back
and screaming like mad, while the squabs in the nest squealed till my
head split.  They had sense enuf to see I were angry, and they sot up
that racket to starve me off; but a hungry man don't stop to listen to
speeches when his dinner is callin' out loud for him, so I went up with
my mouth full of nails.  Very soon I were over the bough, and the
screeching and squealing were terrible to listen to."

"Didn't the eagles attack you?"

"No, sonny!  They were jest helpless with laughing!"


"When I threw my leg over the bough, I got the hammer ready to strike,
but I seed them shakin' all over, till some of the wing feathers dropped
out, and tears were running down their beaks and droppin' off the sharp
point of the hook.  It was not fear--you never seed a eagle afraid--he
couldn't be if he tried--an' I seed at once they were laughin' fit to
die.  I sot there in a tremble at the unnatural circumstance, and then
began to climb till I could look into the nest.  Sonny, d'you know what
they were laughing at."

"The pig in the nest."

"Who told you?"

"Oh, I just guessed."

"Well, I'm blessed!  Ghoisters!  You never seed a pig in a nest up a
tree seven hundred feet high?"

"Not that I remember, Abe."

"Gum!  Yes, sir; there were a pig in that nest.  Them birds, sonny, had
kept me off till their squabs could fly, and then they played that joke
on me.  I chucked the pig out, and when I got down he were as dead as
bacon.  Come to think of it, sonny, it were a kind thought of them
eagles to put it up there, and it makes me smile every time to think of
the way them birds laughed till they shook their feathers out."

The old man fixed his abstracted gaze on a cloud of tobacco smoke.

"I hope to train 'em next year," he said, "to keep me in venison and
lard.  Going?  Well, so long!"

"So long, Abe!"



Our Poison Club was in a flourishing condition.  During the past year
the members had killed off 1,500 red cats, wild dogs, jackals, seven
leopards, and 500 baboons.  This represented a good round sum--each tail
being equivalent to a five-shilling demand on the exchequer of the
country--and the chairman had called a meeting to distribute the awards.

"I have pleasure in announcing, gentlemen," he said, "that Mr Si Amos
is the champion poisoner--having placed to his credit 300 cat tails,
seventy-five jackal tails, fifty-four baboon tails, and one leopard
tail.  In addition to the dues which are rightly his, he is entitled to
the silver medal presented by the club."

"Well done, Si!  Step up!"

Silas pulled his lank figure together, hitched up his trousers, wiped
his mouth with his sleeve, and lumbered up the narrow passage.

"Give him pizen!" said someone in a loud voice, whereat there were cries
of "Shame!"

Silas paused, balanced himself uncertainly on one leg, and searched the

"It's that Abe," he said.  "What he says don't amount to nothin'."

"Mr Pike," expostulated the chairman; "I'm astonished at you."

"Look here, Jim Hockey," said Abe, rising up from a back seat, and
pointing his pipe-stem at the chairman; "I don't keer if you give that
_thing_ there a whole string o' silver buttons--and Lord knows he wants
'em, to keep himself from falling to pieces--but I tell you, you're
opsettin' the laws of nature goin' about killing the animiles off the
face of the yearth.  It's not the mean, sneaking way you've got inter of
dropping pizen pills all over the place that riles me so much as the
killin' of 'em off by the thousan' without takin' any thought of what's
coming.  Take baboons--"

"Are we here, Mr Chairman, to listen to a speech from Mr Pike, or are
we not?" asked one member, who was credited with having opened a market
in jackals' tails.

"Take baboons," said Abe, pointing his pipe-stem insultingly at his
interrupter.  "I allow they're mean, I allow they eat your mealies,
steal your fruit, kill a sheep or two, and frighten your wives; but if
it warn't for the baboons there'd be a scorpion under every stone and a
centipede in every ole stump.  The baboons eat them vermin.  Take cats--
if it warn't for cats the lands would be swarmin' with mice.  If it
warn't for the jackals there'd be a hare in every grass clump."

"If it warn't for Abe Pike," said Silas, with a look of disgust,
"there'd be a durn sight less jaw."

"Hear, hear!"

"Year away," said Abe, "and listen to this.  When you're done killin'
all these critturs, the scorpions, an' the centipedes, an' the rats, an'
the snakes, an' the spiders'll swarm all over you.  What yer got ter do
is to set Nature ag'in Nature.  The wild buck can look after hisself;
teach the tame goat and the sheep to do the same."

"The laws of Nature, Abe, have covered your lands with weeds."

"Yes; and reduced his mangy live stock to one goat," added Si.

"Laugh! yer yeller-eyed, big-footed, long-legged, two-headed,
freckled-faced duffers--laugh!--but I bet you that ole goat'll knock the
stuffin' out of your club, and purtect hisself ag'in any wild crittur,
from a stink-cat to a tiger."

"You're jawing," said Si; "otherwise I'd hold you to your bounce."

Abe took from his pocket a skin purse, tightly bound with a long thong,
unwound this, emptied out into his yellow hand, which shook with
excitement, two bright sovereigns.

"That ain't any wild cat tail money," he said; "it's the saving of sixty
years' hard work--and I stake that."

"What's the wager?" asked the chairman.

"That my ole goat proves to this yer club that Nature provides a way
outside of pizening by holding his own ag'inst anything on two feet or
four feet, 'cept a elephant or a steam roller."

"The club takes the bet," said the chairman, in a solemn voice and a
winking eye.

"Well; jes' take keer o' that money until your nex' meeting, when I'll
turn up with the ole Kapater.  So long!"

"You'll lose that money, Abe," I said following him as he slouched away.

"It's a heap of money," he said; "a glittering pile that I been saving
up for my ole age."

"Call the bet off, Abe."

"You think the ole man's a blasteratious ijiot, sonny?  Well, well!
maybe.  Let him stand at that till nex' meeting."

In three months the meeting was called, and due notice served on Mr Abe
Pike and his goat.  It was a full house that met in the drowsy afternoon
in the big shed on Mr Hockey's farm, and the discussion turned at once
on the disposal of Abe's money--the general opinion being that it should
be given back.

"I object," said Si Amos, who had brought with him a huge and hideous
half-breed between a boar-hound and a mongrel.  "That ole man's been
throwing slurs on this club, and it's my opinion he ought to pay for it.
Anyhow, I'll `psa' my dog on to his goat."

Last of all, Abe Pike himself entered the shed, wearing an expression of
profound despondency.

"Anyone got a pipe of tobacco?" he said, looking around gloomily.

There was no tobacco hospitably forthcoming, everyone being too
disgusted at the thought that all the fun was off.

Abe leant wearily against the wall.  "Time was," he said, "when a man
would hand you his tobacco bag as he said `Good-morning.'  There's a
natural meanness in pizening animiles, and it's jes' oozing out of yer."

"Where's your goat, you old humbug?"

"Gentlemen, I'm very sorry, but that goat's woke up with a most awful
temper, and I jes' drop in t' ask you _voetsack_ all the dogs outer the
place 'fore I bring him in."

"Yah!" said Si Amos; "I knew he'd back down.  It was part of the bet
that dogs was to be brought."

"That's so," said Mr Hockey.

"You won't turn out your dogs?"

"No sir!  But this yer dog'll eat your goat, and I give you fair
warning!" said Si, stirring the big mongrel with his toe.

Abe looked round, gave me a wink, and went out.

When he reappeared he was leading one of the biggest goats--a great blue
"Kapater," with a long beard, massive horns, and a boss of leather and
brass over his forehead.

"Well I'm jiggered!" said one member, getting behind the table.

Someone--I don't know who the rash individual was--said "psa," and the
big mongrel stood up, showing his teeth and growling in his throat.

Abe smiled sadly, let go his hold of the goat, pinched his ear, and then
the great rout of the Poison Club began.  The goat walked briskly up to
the dog, reared up, brought his head down, and sent the mongrel smash
under the table, where he remained whimpering; then in a brace, at a
whistle from his master, the unnatural billy cleared the shed with the
effectiveness of a battering ram.  At the outset the strong man of the
country tried to seize him by the horns, but he evaded the grasp and
shot his massive enemy over a form; and when the others fled, he butted
them from behind so that each man flew out headlong, helping to swell
the struggling pile at the doorway.  After this feat he amused himself
by reducing the table and chairs to splinters, then he came to the door
and stood scratching his ear with his left hind foot, while chewing the
remains of the minute book.

"Fetch me a gun," yelled Si Amos, with his hand pressed to his

"What will you take for that thunderstorm, Abe?" asked Mr Hockey,
tenderly feeling his elbow.

"You don't want to buy him so's you can shoot him?"

"No; I want him as a watch dog."

"Well, seeing's how it's you, you can have him for a pair of blankets
and a bag of meal."

"It's a swap, Abe.  What do you call him?"

"I calls him `Peaceful William.'  I s'pose the club admits it's lost the
bet; 'cos, if not, William will purceed to further business."

"The bet's yours, Abe.  Take the money, for Heaven's sake!"

"All right, then; I'll kraal the goat for you."

The goat was penned up, and Abe loaded his meal on to his horse and went

The club watched the old man out of sight, each member absently rubbing
himself, and all of them remarkably silent.

"Oh!--'ell," said someone, in a tone of unmistakable dismay.

We all, as one man, faced round to the kraal, and then we simultaneously
skurried up to the barn roof.  From this position of safety we saw
Peaceful William, in a shower of dust, carefully demolish the walls of
the pen and the poles that supported the thatched roof, and we fearfully
gazed down upon him as he walked steadily round and round the barn,
stopping at intervals to rear against the wall, to eye us threateningly.
I don't know when he left, but he was not there next morning, when, at
the break of day, Abe's voice greeted us.

"I thought I'd tell you Peaceful Billy is at my place; and he's there
when you care to fetch him.  Fine sunrise, ain't it?  Nice place to see
it from.  Nature's better than pizen if you take her early."

There was a strange gurgling sound of suppressed laughter.

"I say!"  It was Abe again.


"Goat fat 's mighty good for bruises!  So long!"

"Darn you and your goat!" growled the chairman.  "Boys, I vote we
descend to business."

We descended, and while we ate our breakfast the women of the house
giggled till they almost choked.



The red Kaffir is a man with a good deal of character, which he does his
best to destroy.  The pure kraal Kaffir, who lounges negligently in his
red blanket or squats on his loins by the fire at night, telling
interminable stories about nothing in particular, has many points which
mark him from the "town boy"--the spoiled child of civilisation, who
treads tenderly in his hard "Blucher" boots, and covers his corduroy
trousers with bright patches of other material; who has to support his
weary frame against every pillar and post and corner he comes across,
and who is generally shiftless, saucy, and squalid.

The kraal Kaffir is lean, long, and tough, dignified in his movements,
courteous to his friends, given over to long spells of silence broken by
fits of noisy eloquence, his sullen, solemn face seldom lit up by a
smile, and his black smoke-stained eyes smouldering always with an
unquenchable fire, that flames out when he meets a Fingo on the highway,
or when the fire-water runs through his veins at the beer-drinking.

The red Kaffir is a warrior.  He is also a lawyer.  I am not certain
whether he most prefers to settle a dispute by argument or by the
kerrie, but I think his idea of greatest happiness would be a long
disputation extending over a week, to be rounded off with the clashing
of kerries.  Some people, who have seen the wide smile on the face of a
West Coast negro, accept that all-pervading grin as the main feature of
the entire black race, and argue from it that all blacks are
good-tempered children, prone to every impulse.  That is not true of the
Kaffir.  He is of the Bantu stock, which includes the Zulu and the
Basuto, whose chief sentiment is stern pride of race, whose ruling
expression is one of sullen reserve, and whose national impulse is to
fight.  They were cradled somewhere in the valley of the Nile, the hot
nursery of fierce races; their remote ancestors swept South, destroying
as they went, and the southernest fringe are Amaxosa of the Cape
frontier, the men who have waged five separate wars with the red-coats
of England and the sure-shooting border settlers.  Pringle has, in these
lines, given a vivid picture of the Kaffir:

  "Lo! where the fierce Kaffir
  Crouches by the kloof's dark side,
  Watching the settlers' flocks afar--
  Impatient waiting till the evening star
  Guides him to his prey."

Under the fierce ordeal of war the Kaffir thrived.  His limbs were free
and straight, his step springy, his eyes far-seeing, his nostrils could
sniff the taint in the air, his deep melodious voice could boom the
war-cry or the message across the wide valleys.  As a man of peace he
looks squalid in his broken clothes; he moves stiffly in his boots; he
sings hymns in a queer, high note, with great melancholy but little
meaning; goes reeling home from dirty canteens, and is a hopelessly
casual labourer.  He is the victim of civilisation, of strange laws, and
in the confusion of many counsellors his only hope is the goal which has
been offered to the already civilised labourer of a more favoured race--
three acres and several cows, with a title of his own.  There lies his
salvation.  If he could get his title to a plot of land sufficient for
his wants, he may retain some of those characteristics which made
conquerors of his warrior ancestors, if not he will go under in the
struggle in a pair of uncomfortable boots, with a bottle of brandy in
his hands, and strange oaths of civilised man on his lips.

"Yes," said Abe; "the Kaffir can use two things better'n a white man,
easy--his tongue and his stick.  I seed a Kaffir onct get the better of
a fencing master.

"I were sitting in the schoolyard, away up in town, where a sergeant
from the barracks were showing the big boys how to use a singlestick.
There were a Kaffir, leaning his chin on the top of the gate, looking
on, with no more life in his face than a chip of mahogany.

"Bymby the sergeant he spotted the Kaffir, and he sed, sed he, `Now, you
boys; I'll jes' show you what singlestick play is,' and he called to the
Kaffir to come in.

"Well, the black feller, he came in--very slow, pulling his blanket up
to his chin, and looking like a young horse all ready to bolt in a
minnit.  The end of his long kerrie peeped out below his blanket, and
the sergeant touched it with his ash stick, then stood on guard.

"`You keep your eye on my wrist-play, boys,' sed the sergeant, swellin'
out his chest till the brass buttons nearly popped off.  `You keep your
eye on me,' he sed, `and you'll see how I get over his guard every

"The Kaffir he jes' stood there, looking solum, and the sergeant poked
him in the stomjack.

"`Yinnie!' sed the Kaffir, backing off an' snappin' fire from his eyes.
You see he didn't know what the sergeant were about, and though he
wern't fool enough to strike a _rooibaaitje_ in the town, his dander got
up at that poke.

"`Do you want to fight this chap?' sed I.

"`I want to show these boys what real wrist-play is,' sed the sergeant,
making an under-cut with his stick; `and this Kaffir will do well as a
block.  Tell him to put up his kerrie.'

"I jes' tole the Kaffir, and had a quiet larf.  To think of anyone bein'
sich a simple ijiot as to play at sticks with a Kaffir.  I tole the
`boy,' and he said, `Yoh!' in surprise.  Then a sort of smile flickered
about his mouth, and his black eyes began to shine.  He let slip the
blanket offen his shoulders, and caught it on his left arm.  Then he
took his kerrie by the end, and held it out the full length of his arm,
with his head forrard and his toes apart, and back so that he leant
forward.  You know the fighting kerrie, about five feet long, and tough
as steel.

"The sergeant--he smiled--threw forrard his right foot, balanced hisself
on his left, crooked his elbow, and pointed his stick slanting.

"`You see, boys,' he sed; `you must stand naturally, with your body
nicely balanced, ready to advance or retreat.  Look at me, and look at
the Kaffir,' he said.  `He stands on his toes, and if he lost his
balance he would fall on his face.  Watch me get over his guard.'

"`Ready!' he sed, and they begun.

"Well the boys watched, I tell you.  There were a grunting, a clatter
and a whirlwind of sticks--outer which whizzed chips of ash and bits of
the basket-hilt.  They didn't see nuffing of the sergeant's wrist-play,
I tell you.  No, sir, all they seed was that whirling of sticks like the
spokes of a wheel, and bymby outer the dust come the sergeant.

"He didn't look the same man.  His face were red an' angry, his
basket-hilt was all smashed in, his knuckles were raw, and there were no
more'n but a foot left of his stick.

"The Kaffir stood there, solum as a judge, with jes' a touch of fire in
his eyes.  There were not so much as a mark on his smooth skin, as he
slipped the blanket over his shoulder, and waited for more.

"The sergeant fished up sixpence, and gave it to the boy, without a

"`You'd better go,' I sed.

"`Yoh,' sed the Kaffir, looking at the sixpence; `is he done?  Let him
take another stick; we were but playing, and no one's head is broken.'

"`You go,' I said; and he went, looking mighty troubled.

"I tell you what, sonny; the Queen should take a thousand of these yer
red Kaffirs, and make soldiers of 'em for service in a hot country.  Not
here, of course, but away off in Injia.  It's a pity to waste 'em, and
they'd do more good scouting than drinkin' Cape brandy, lifting cattle,
and loafin' around.  A black battalion of Kaffirs and Zulus would be no
small pumpkins, an' they could be officered by Colonials who know the



"Hulloa, Bassie!  I thought this fine morning would bring you over.  The
sap's running strong, and the quail are gathering thick in the young
wheat.  Hear to them whistling.  Where's your gun?"

"I did not come to shoot."

"Soh!  Well, you don't look like shooting.  Been eating too much green

"I've passed the green fruit stage, Abe."

"I ain't; there's nothing better'n a pie of green apricots with cream,
and green mealies is better'n kissing.  You're not in love, are you?"

"I have been writing poetry," I said, with an air of unconcern; "and I
want to take your opinion of it."

"Fire away," said Abe, fetching up a judicial expression; "it's many a
year since I learnt poetry, my boy--many a year.  The ole mum onct, in
the moonlight, when I were knee high, read to me outer a torn sheet she
had, and these words I remember:

  "`He prayeth best who loveth best
  All things, both great and small;
  For the dear God that loveth us,
  He made and loveth all.'

"Long years agone the old mother read that outer a torn slip of paper,
and I know it yet, sonny.  I'd like to year some more."

"I don't think I'll read it you, on second thoughts," I said, with
sudden doubt.

"You bet you will, sonny.  A man that's got the gift of making poetry
has no occasion to stand back in the corner."

"Well it's only a little thing I dashed off the other night.  Here it

  "`Oh, frog, that sits on the garden seat
  (Croak, croak! where the trees hang low),
  Have you ever swum in the ocean deep,
  In the waves where the wild winds blow,
  Where the red crabs crawl on the rocks below,
  On the rocks where the dead men sleep?'"

"It's kind o' buttery," said Abe slowly, "but I don't see no sense in
it.  What's a frog on a garden seat got anything to do with dead men?
And crabs ain't red."

"Oh, that's a poet's licence."

"It are, eh?  Well, I won't go to your shop for spirrits.  Is there any

"This is the second verse," I said, rather discouraged:

  "`Oh, speckled toad, did you ever dream
  (Croak, croak! there's a snake on the wall),
  Did you ever dream of my lady dear,
  Who sometimes walks in the garden here
  (While the milk in the pan is making cream),
  And sings when there's no one near?'"

"How does it sound?"

"It sounds like treacle," said Abe, with a puzzled look; "but I don't
see what the podder's got to do with it, anyhow; and the young woman's
got no business to be wasting her time waiting for the milk to set.  Why
don't she use the cream separator?"

"I couldn't write about a machine."

"Why not--hum--er--hum--why not say this:

  "After she turned the cream separator,
  She sat and ate a cold pertater."

"There is no sentiment in that!"  I said indignantly; "and the words
have no rhythm."

"What's rhythm?"

"Why, tone, modulation, music; you know!"

"Sonny! is there any music in the croak of a frog--is there?  In course
not!  Now listen--what do you hear?"

I listened, and heard nothing but the drowsy hum and hollow drone of the

"I can hear nothing."

"Soh!  Well, now jes' cock yer ear, and hearken to the voice of the
sea--rising and falling, soft and melancholy.  Dying away to a whisper,
then swellin' up as the big wave rolls in, swinging to and fro in a
great song of quiet and peace.  That's music, sonny; and when the wind
rises, and in the dark of the night, the spring-tide, coming in with the
power of the sea behind, thunders on the beach, there's music there--
wild and grand--and when the clouds pile up outer the sea higher and
higher, and the yearth waitin' in silence, when there is no breath of
air, shakes to the rollin' crash of the thunder--there's music then.
Where's your potery beside them sounds and the lightning flash and the
rush of the wind, and the splashing of water risin' suddenly?"

I thrust my paper back into my pocket.

"There's music, sonny, in the veld and bush, and in the night cries of
the wild animiles and birds; but I yeard onct a sound I shall never
forget, and I guess there was in it a whole book of potery.  But you
ain't finished about your podder."

"Never mind the frog, the snake has swallowed him by this.  Tell me the

"Well it were in the Borna Pass, time of the Kaffir War, and the ole
94th were halted in the jaws of the pass, waitin' for the cool of the
afternoon before they marched.  I recomember it well--the dark woods in
the narrow pass rising up till they 'most shut out the sky; the
red-coats down by the water; the smoke rising in tall columns from the
cooking fires; the horses standing in a bunch switching the flies offen
'em; the oxen knee-deep in the water; and a silence born of the hot sun
over all.  It were as quiet as Sunday down in the mouth of the pass,
with the sun running up and down the bayonets like fire, and no red to
stain them, for there was no news of Kaffirs within a day's march.

"I yeard a honey-bird call outer the black of the wood, and I jes' moved
off with nothin' mor'n a pipe and a clasp-knife.

"`Where you going, Abe?' said a little bugler chap, lookin' up from the
shade of a bush.

"`Bee huntin', sonny.'

"`I'll come along o' you,' he sed; `as there ain't no bloomin' Kafs to
hunt, bees'll do.'

"He were a little chap, with his lips all cracked by the sun, and a
little nose that you couldn't see for the freckles, and brown eyes like
you see in a bird or a buck--clear and bright.  Always he were on the
move, like a willey-wagtail, and him and me were chums.  Ah yes; many a
story I tole him by the camp fire, him a sitting with his chin in his
hands staring at me with his big round eyes, and they called him `Abe's
kid,' 'cos I downed a fellow for boosting him with a leather belt.  I
tole you how a little dream lad had come to me one night outer the sea;
that were he, my son--that were my little boy."

"Did he die?"  I said, looking at the old man.

"He went away, sonny, but he said he'd wait for me, and he'll keep his
word."  There was a wistful look in the old man's face as he looked
towards the sea for some time in silence.  "Yes; we slipped inter the
wood, the honey-bird calling--the only sound outer the great stillness
of the woods, 'cept for the crushing of the dried leaves under our
tread, and the bird, flitting like a shadder from tree to tree, led us
on deeper and deeper into the heart of the Borna Pass, till I pulled up
to take bearings.

"`We must get away back, little chap,' I said.

"`Then it's not true what you tole me about the honey-bird?' and he
looked at me askance.

"`Why not?' said I.

"`'Cos there he is a calling like mad, same as ever.  I don't believe
he's a honey-bird, and I don't believe any of them stories you've been
tellin' me.  You're no pal of mine,' he said, looking at me with a
wrinkle 'tween his eyes.

"`I'm thinkin' we're gettin' too far from the lines,' I sed, `and you
ain't used to the bush if Kaffirs were to come.'

"`You're afraid,' he sed; `that's what.'

"`Come on,' I sed, like a fool; and I went on, stooping through the
bush, going mighty quick, and him panting after me.  `I can smell
honey,' I sed, stopping short, and noticin' that the bird had done his

"`Garn!' he sed, wrinkling up his little nose.  There was a holler tree
standin' up in a little clearin' no bigger'n a room, and the hum of the
bees came to us as we stood.

"`I see 'em,' he says; `look at 'em streaming in!  What a lark!  Cut a
hole with your knife,' he says, `'an I'll carry some honey back in this
bugle,' and he laughed.

"`Well,' says I, `who's been tellin' lies?'

"He laughed again.

"`I takes it back, Abe,' he says.  `Oh my eye!  Jes' look!'

"I seed then we'd clomb high up on the left side of the pass, and from
the clearin' there was a sight of the hanging woods over against us, of
the narrow path below, and the soldiers away down to the left.

"`Now you've seed the bee-tree,' I says, `we mus' go back.'

"`Jes' a little honey, Abe,' he says; `jes' a little to take back, else
that Jimmy'll never b'lieve I been up here.'

"I were looking across at the dark wood, and I said to him quietly, `Get
behind the tree,' for I'd seed a Kaffir stretched out on a grey rock
that stood outer the bush.

"`What's the row?' he says, looking a little scared.  Maybe 'cos I
looked the same.

"`Take off that coat,' I sed; for the red showed up plain.

"`Take off the Queen's coat?' he sed, going red and white; `not me!'

"`My lad,' I sed to him quiet; `there are Kaffirs in the bush.'

"`What larx,' he sed in a whisper, and his eyes opening wide as he
stared at me.

"`And if you keep your coat on they'll see you.'

"`Let 'em,' he said, swallering his throat.

"`Take it off,' I said.

"`Not me.'

"`Then I leave you.'  And with that I slipped away, but turned on my
tracks and come back softly to peer at him.  He were still standing
behin' the tree, looking away off at the soldiers, but his coat were
buttoned up tight to his throat I went up to him tip-toe and touched him
on the soldier, and he gave a low cry and jumped aside with his fists
up.  When he seed who it were, the tears came into his eyes.

"`Abe Pike,' he sed, tremblin', `that's a mean trick to play on a boy--a
mean dirty trick.'

"I allow it were mean, but I thought I'd skeer him into taking off that
red rag.  Then I give it up.  `Come on,' I sed, `foller me; stop when I
stop, run when I run, and keep quiet.'

"So we sot off tenderly through the bush, and we hadn't gone mor'n fifty
paces when I smelt the Kaffirs.  I sank down; he did, too, and I peered
through the shadders.  A sound came to us--the sound of naked feet, of
moving branches--and I knew the pass were full of men.

"He touched me on the arm as the bugle call to `fall in' rang along into
the still pass, ekering as it went from side to side.

"I put my mouth to his ear to tell him the Kaffirs were swarming, and
that we could not go on, but must go up the ridge and work round to the

"`What are the Kaffirs doing?' he sed.

"`They are making an ambush.'

"`And the General doesn't know?'

"`No, sonny, he doesn't.'

"`And they'll march in and be stabbed,' he whispered, with his eyes
round and staring.

"`Oh, they'll fight their way out,' I sed.  `Come on after me.'

"`Good-bye,' he said, sitting down.  `You go on--I'm tired.'

"`I'll carry you, little chap,' says I, and I picked him up, but he was
heavy for his size, and the bush was thick, and more than that, he

"So I sot him down, and I yeard a Kaffir calling out to his friends to
know what the noise was.  I motioned to him to come, but he sot there,
with his face white, and shook his head; then he altered his mind.  `Go
on,' he said, `I'll foller--go quick!'  So I sot off up the ridge
through the wood, slipping from tree to tree, thinking he were coming,
when all of a sudden outer the wood, ringing out clear and loud, a bugle
sounded the alarm.  I looked round and the boy were not there.  I ran
back, and saw him with the bugle to his lips, and his cheeks swelling as
he blew another blast.  I can hear it now--the call of that little chap,
with the muttered cries of the Kaffirs, and the sound of their naked
feet running, as they came up.

"`You little devil,' I yelled; `they'll kill you.  Run!'

"He gave me one look over his shoulder, and he put his life into that
last blow.  As the last note went swinging away, there came an answering
note from the regiment--to form square.

"`That'll be Jimmy,' he said.  And the next minnit an assegai struck him
on the neck, and he fell into my arms."

Abe stopped, and looked away.

"What, then?"  I said, touching him on the shoulder.

"I don't know, sonny, what happened, till I laid him down afore the

"You carried him out?"

"I s'pose so--I s'pose so--seeing as we were both there; and my clothes
were in rags from the thorns, and my head cut open with a kerrie.  Yes,
I laid him afore the General.

"`What's this?' he says.

"`General,' I said, `this boy has saved the regiment; he could a' run--
but he didn't.'

"`Who sounded the alarm?' he sed.

"`It was him, and the pass is full of Kaffirs.'

"The General stooped down, and looked into the little feller's face.

"`Damn you, man,' he said, turning on me; `what did you take him into
the wood for?'

"The little chap opened his eyes, and they were fixed, all glazed, on
the General, and the officers stood around, looking, and the soldiers in
the square.

"The General brought his hand to his cap, then he wheeled round: `Ninety

"The ranks came to a salute, and the officers brought their heels
together and their swords up.

"The little chap let his eyes scan the lines.

"`They are saluting you, my brave boy,' said the General.

"I felt him move in my arms, and I lifted his hand to his head to
salute.  Then he sighed, then he smiled, and his eyes closed.  `I'll
wait for you, Abe,' he said, and he was dead.

"`Ninety-fourth,' said the General, `the enemy's in the pass.'

"They came by in columns, and as they passed, they looked at the little
chap and saluted, and they went on in silence with their mouths shut.

"They clean frightened the Kaffirs that time; and next day--they buried
the little chap--the band playing--and all the regiment in full dress.
My little chap--my little chap!" said Abe, in a whisper--"`I'll wait for
you, Abe,' he sed.  And when he sounds the bugle ole Abe'll go.  Yes, I
sit and listen for it."  He sat still, looking toward the sea, and I
went quietly away.



I found Abe Pike one afternoon poring over a newspaper, tracing each
word with a horny finger, and laboriously spelling out the long words.

"Getting hints about pumpkin-growing, Abe?"

"No, sonny; jes' studying how to give spoon-food to infants, and you've
come in time."

The old man looked vexed.  He suddenly rolled the paper into a ball, and
threw it at a lizard.

"It's mean!" he said; "danged mean!"


He held out his hand, and I mechanically gave him my tobacco pouch.

"Ever been to England?" he said.

"Yes; you know I have."

"Soh!  Is the people there white?"

"Of course!"

"Same as you and me?"

"A little whiter, I should say, Abe.  What are you driving at?"

"Look here, sonny!  I've been in this country, man an' boy, ever since I
were born; and, you b'lieve me, I never get hole of a paper from the Ole
Land but there's some abuse of us colonists.  That's why I ask you is
they white."

"What have they been saying now?"

"Saying; why the same old story--that we're a hard lot, always driving
the Kaffirs, an' killing 'em, an' stealing their lands, an' 'busin'
their women-folk, and grindin' 'em down."

"Well; what does it matter!"

"It matters the hull sackful.  Look at me--I've never been to England,
but all the same it's my home.  I love the ole flag, and cry `Hurrah'
for the Queen; an', ole as I am, I'd boost anybody over the head as 'ud
up an' say England was not the best and the biggest and the grandest
country in the world.  Yessir!"

"She's not very big, Abe."

"Soh!  Well, she's big enough to spread her arms all round the yearth,
and fetch anybody on the other side `ker-blum' with a man-o'-war's big
gun.  We give her all--it ain't much, maybe--an' we get back a crop of
suspicions.  That's why I ask, is the people in the Ole Land white?"

"We are all of one family, Abe, and relations don't compliment each

"Who's crying out for compliments?  I leave 'em to the chaps over in
England, who praise each other to their face in the halls, and tell each
other what fine fellows they are to save the Kaffirs from them cruel,
savageous colonists.  May the Lord look up and down 'em for the mischief
they've done."

"You seem very bitter, Abe."

"Well, the reading in that paper has lef a bitter taste.  You see,
sonny, I recomember the wars of the `thirties' and the `forties,' when
your father were a boy--and his uncles and brothers, and sisters and
wives--the whole lot of us--were raw to the land--when the country all
round were wild--and the Kaffirs hangin' on the frontier like a great
dark wave way out on the sea--ready to rush in and sweep us offern the
land.  Three times they rushed in--three times we had to leave our
homes, our flocks, our crops, and make for the posts.  Then we had to
fight 'em back, and those people away over in England each time 'ud
fetch a howl that reached across the sea about the cruelty of the
colonists--with never a word about the burnt houses, and the cattle
swept off, and the women and children.

"Look here, sonny," said Abe, his face growing dark; "I'll tell you
somethin' I seed when I was a grown boy--somethin' about one of these
very wars the people at home have blamed us for making for our own gain.

"The Kaffirs were over yonder; about twenty miles away across the
Chumie, and the farmers were scattered all about, thinkin' of nothin' at
all but the mealie crop, and the wheat nearly ripe, and the pumpkin
patches--for they had been through hard times, and the season were good.
Jes' away back of this place, where the three springs of the
Kleinemonde rise out of the flats, there were a little valley no
bigger'n ten acres, set around with small hills, and the water runnin'
through and round it under big yellerwood and Kaffir plum trees; while
in the water stood clumps of palmeit and tree ferns, yeller and green,
and rustlin' to the wind.  Beyond the hills the grass veld rolled away
to the Fish River bush, over here towards the Kaffirs, and the Kowie
bush 'way back.  On the grass veld were a many herd of bucks--springbok
and blesbok--while in the thick bush were koodoo and buffel--ay, an'

"It is a _mooi_ place now, that little valley; but I tell you then it
were a spot to make a man look and long.  But it were risky.  The Fish
River bush were a leetle too close, in case the Kaffirs raided.

"Howsomdever, there were one man who took the risk.  He were ole Mr
Tolver--a farmer from Devonshire, and with him were seven sons--two on
'em born here, the rest away in the ole country.  My gum! you should a
seed 'em.  The ole man hisself were not so big, though he were broad an'
deep; but four of his boys were over six feet, and the other three were
growing fast.  Ole Mr Tolver druv his stake into the little valley.
`This is my settlement,' he sez to the Government officer who came
riding round, and tried to persuade him to give it up, because of its
aloneness.  `Here I am,' he sez, `and here I stays, and durn the

"`You're a stubborn man, Tolver,' sez the officer, `but I have warned
you.  If the Kaffirs come they would cut you off before you could reach

"`Jes' cast your eyes over my boys,' sez Tolver; and the boys laughed,
and stood in a row.

"There was Jake at the top, six-foot-four, with a yeller beard, and eyes
blue as a bit of sky.  Slow he were and heavy in his tread, with a hand
like a leg o' mutton and a heart soft as a woman.  He were courtin' a
girl over at Clumber.  I seed him offen there, but all the time you'd a
thought he were there to play with the little girl, and not her big
sister.  Nex' to him were Oll, with a smooth face and a bull neck, and
brown eyes that were always laughing.  He took arter his mother.  Arter
him come Seth--long and thin and solum, with a habit of croonin' to
hisself.  And nex' him were Harry--the devil of the family; straight as
a ramrod, handsome, and hot-tempered.  He were a fine young chap, and
the girls ran when he came in sight to put their hair straight.  Then
come one below six foot--young Willie, who took after his brother Jake,
and jes' follered Harry like a shadder.  Nex' him were barefooted
Jimmy--a boy that was a born hunter, and knew more about animiles and
how to cotch 'em than any man; an' last of all were the baby Tom.  Tho'
they called him `baby,' he were as big a'most as you, with the hair
sticking through a hole in his felt hat, and bare brown legs.

"There they stood in a row--the seven sons; and the officer threw his
eye along 'em.

"`By God!' he sed, `they're fine chips from the ole country.  Well,
you'll do as you like, Tolver; but take my advice--build a house with
stone walls out in the clearing, and don't have a thatch-roof.'

"Well; he rode off, and Tolver squatted in that little valley, clearing
out the bush from the centre, and growing a'most anything.  Many a time
I went over there to climb the trees for plums with Tom, or go off bee
huntin' with Jimmie, and in the quiet of the evenin' I've sot outside
with the others, while Seth he played on his concertina bellers, making
the saddest music, fit to make you roll over an' cry.

"One night I went over, so to be ready to go on a long hunt nex' day
with Jimmie, and down the hill there came a Kaffir, with his kerrie
across his shoulder, and his arms resting on the stick by the wrists,
after their way of walking.

"`Gumela!' he sed, and stood near by, waiting, drawin' his red blanket
round him, and his face set like a block o' wood.

"Ole baas Tolver he jes' grunted, and the Kaffir he stood there lookin'.

"Arter a time the ole baas up and sed--`Jake, fetch him a stick o'

"Jake riz up, and there seemed no end to him, and he reached out a long
arm with a yank of black tobak.

"`Yoh!' sed the Kaffir.

"`Oll,' said the ole baas; `step inside for a strip of meat.  Seth, put
another stick on the fire.  You, Harry, draw a bucket o' water from the

"As, one arter the other, these big chaps riz up from the ground, and
went striding off about their jobs which the ole man had set them
a-purpose, the Kaffir looked more an' more s'prised.

"`Sit and eat,' sed the ole baas.

"`Inkosi,' sed the Kaffir; and he squatted down to the fire, with his
hands out to the blaze, and his black eyes half-closed; while the meat
spluttered on the coals, giving off a fine smell.

"`Willie,' sed the ole man; `fetch out the guns and give 'em a clean

"Willie sprang up--nearly six foot of him--and the Kaffir looked roun'
the fire at the other two boys.

"`Yoh,' he said, `these men are like trees;' and his eyes shone in the
light, and on his breast there gleamed white a string of tiger claws.

"So he sot and eat, and then he said he were going on to the Kasouga to
see his brother, who was herding cattle for a white man.

"When he went the ole man laughed in his beard.  `I guess,' he sed,
`he'll see we're too much of a mouthful in case they mean trouble.'

"`I hope we haven't frightened him,' sed Harry; `things are gettin' too

"`The quieter the better,' sed Jake; `we don't wan't any Kaffirs
swooping down here.  I didn't like the look of that fellow; he said too

"`Phooh!' said Harry, `I'd take him with one hand.'

"`I'll jes' walk over to Clumber,' sed Jake, stretching hisself, `and
fetch the sweet pertaters for sowing to-morrow.'

"Harry laughed.

"`You're getting nervous, Jake,' he sed, `now you're in love.  There's
somethin' sweeter'n pertaters over yonder.'

"Jake laid Harry on his back--not so's to hurt him, and swung off inter
the dark, while me and Jimmie and Tom reckoned that Harry was the chap
if there was any trouble.

"Early next morn, me and Jim stretched away across the veld, towards the
Fish River, carrying a tin for the honey and a hunk of black bread.

"We'd gone about six miles when Jimmie stubbed his toe, and sit down,
with a holler, to nurse it.

"`My gum!' he sed, `it's bad; I guess we'll go back and leave this trip
for nex' week.  There's a honey-tree near home, and we'll go there.'

"I were 'leven and he were sixteen, and what he sed I'd got to do, so we
turned back, and he limpin'.

"All o' a sudden, when we got in a dip, he give over limpin'.  `Abe,' he
says, breathin' hard, `there were a Kaffir watching us.  Now you go
along home--quick!  Don't say nothin' to father.  Maybe the chap's up to
no mischief, but if he is, I'll find out.'

"`Come back with me,' I sed, skeered.

"`Do what I tell you,' he sez; and when I started to go, he slipped away
to the left, up the hill.  Well, I went on, gettin' more and more
skeered, till I saw the house, then I jes' hid away and waited for Jim.
Bymby, in the afternoon, here he came running, and I run to meet him
when he slowed down.

"`Whatjer see?'  I asked him.

"`Nothin',' he sez.

"`Whatjer run for, then?'

"`To keep warm,' he sez, though the sweat were running off him.

"Well, when we got to the clearin' we met Jake hauling on a big stump.

"`Well, youngsters,' he says; wiping his forehead with the back of his
hand; `had a good time?'

"`Jake,' said Jimmie, `there's Kaffirs over yonder.'

"`What's that!  Are you joking?'

"`There's Kaffirs over yonder,' sed Jimmie, staring at his brother; `and
the chap as was here last night is with 'em.  I heard them call him.
His name's Tyali.'

"`My God!' said Jake, going white.  `Tell father,' he sed, and then he

"I laughed, sneering at Jake, and Jimmie hit me in the side, though his
mouth were twitching.

"`What the row?' sed Harry, coming up.

"`Kaffirs!' sed Jimmie, scowling after Jake.

"`Hurrah!' sed Harry, and threw up his hat.

"`What's all this I yere from Jake?' said ole man Tolver, striding up.
`So,' he sed, when Jimmie tole him, putting the ends of his beard into
his mouth, which were a trick he had when thinking.  `So; they're
coming.  Well, let 'em come!  I tole that Guv'ment chap I'd stay here,
and here I'll stay.  If any of you boys would like to go, you'd better
clear now.'

"They were all of them together--all but Jake, and he had gone running
into the house.

"`It's too much trouble to run,' said Oll, biting on a piece of grass.
`'Sides, I ain't finished "scoffling" the mealies.  I'll stay.'

"The ole baas he jes' grunted.

"`So'll I,' said Seth.

"`Ef you all went,' said Harry, with his eyes shining, `I'd stop.'

"The ole baas he jes' grunted ag'in.

"`An' me,' said Willie; `and me too'--`and me,' said Jim and baby Tom.

"`Thank you, my sons,' sed Tolver, softly, and jes' then Jake came outer
the house--Jake the biggest and the oldest, and the kindest of the
brothers.  In his hand he carried a big chopping axe, which were like a
little stick in his grasp.  He looked at his brothers, and his father
looked at him.

"`I'm going over to Clumber,' he sed.

"`So,' sed his father; and they all stood silent.

"`Yes,' sed Jake after a time, `I give 'em warning.'

"`And take yourself out of danger,' sed the ole baas quietly.

"Jake looked at his father rather sad-like, and then he said: `Shall I
take Jim and Tom with me?'

"`I won't go,' sed Tom, turning red.

"Jimmie sed nothin', but his lip trembled.  He thought a heap of Jake,
and here he seed him turnin' tail.

"`Abe,' said Jake, speaking quietly; `you've got no part in this--come
with me.'

"`I'm not running away,' I sed.  `I'll stay with Harry.'

"Jake opened his mouth as if he'd speak, then he turned on his heel and
strode away with his axe over his shoulder.

"His brothers turned to look after him, and ole Tolver, he called out in
a hard voice, `Don't you come back here again.  You're no son of mine.'
Jake he gave no sign, and I seed Jimmie's face working.

"`Yah! you're afraid like him,' I sed.

"`You lie,' he sed, and hit me 'longside the jaw.

"`Be quiet, boys,' said Oll Tolver, ketching Jim by the arm.

"`Seth,' said the ole baas, speaking short and firm.  `Get ter the top
of that hill, and keep a sharp look-out.  Willie and Jim, bring the cows
into the kraal.  Oll and Harry, fill the water barrel, and put it inside
the house.  Tom and you, Abe, move all the things outer the big room,
and get the guns ready.'

"Seth sot off up the hill at a lope, and the other boys all went about
their work, and got things to rights in no time.  Then we hung about
fidgettin'--picking things up and putting them down, and looking up to
Seth all the time.

"Arter a long time Seth lifted up his hand, and we all stood in a bunch
watching him till our eyes ached--then here he come down the hill like a
cart wheel, while the big chaps grabbed their guns, and I bolted inter
the house.

"`Are they coming?' shouted Harry.

"Seth nodded as he ran.

"`How many?'

"`One,' said Seth, with a gasp.

"`Good lord!' said Harry, throwing his rifle down.

"`I say,' sed Seth, drawlin' out his words--his neck was that long; `you
fellows jes' slouch around 's if you were at work.  I'm goin' to meet
this chap.  Maybe he's a spy.'

"`Seth's right,' said the ole baas; and the boys put the guns away, and
scattered about as if they were restin'.

"Seth slipped a naked hunting-knife inside the band of his trousers, and
lounged away up the path; and bymby, when he nearly got to the top, a
Kaffir came over the ridge, stood a moment looking, then come down.  He
carried his blanket over his right shoulder.

"When they met, the Kaffir he took snuff, and Seth he gave him a bit of
tobacco.  Then they talked and talked, and the Kaffir, he kep' his eye
on the house, and arter a time he kep' movin' around--'s if he'd like to
get behind Seth--and Seth all the time he kep' his face to the t'other.
Then the Kaffir went away back, and Seth went up to the ridge again, and
there was another spell of waiting.

"Then Harry sed he weren't going to fool about any more, and he made
tracks for the little wood above the clearing, and Willie follered.  No
sooner'd they got clear than here comes Seth again, like a streak.

"`It's all right,' he sed; `they're comin' thick.  The veld's red with

"They gave a hail for Harry and went inside, and each one looked to see
the shiny, brass caps were hard down on the nipple--while Tom, he laid
out the round bullets, and the greased rags for wroppin' 'em in, and the
slugs handy.  Seth were tellin' how the Kaffir ast him questions, and
how he seed the assegai under his blanket--then there came a deep sound
rolling along the ground, which made me hide away in the barrel churn,
and made the brothers all go silent.  It were the war song of the red
Kaffirs, deep from their chests, slow and boomin', and solum, and in
between there were the shrill crying of the women, follering behind the
fightin' men with the mats and the pots.

"Ole baas Tolver stood at the door looking for Harry, and he give a
shout for him to hurry; and the Kaffirs came over the crest of the hill.
Jimmie pushed his rifle through a hole in the wall, with a gasp in his

"`Don't shoot!' sed his father; and he looked away to the woods for his
two sons.  And so they stood, waiting and watching.

"I crept out of the barrel to see what they were looking at so set, and
there I seed the Kaffirs slipping down the hill, from rock to rock,
edging all the time towards the wood, and others coming up over the
ridge, their bodies stripped and oiled for war, and their faces smeared
with red clay.

"`My God!' sed the ole man under his breath; then he bellered out `Run!'

"I looked between his legs, and seed Harry and Willie comin' up from the
wood, and walkin' jes' 's if they were comin' in to dinner.

"The Kaffirs yelled when they seed them, and started running.  Harry
threw up his gun, and they dropped down, hiding away behind nothing.  I
yeard Harry laugh.  Well, they came on at that fool pace, and all on a
sudden the Kaffirs came leaping and dodging down.  The two brothers they
stood still, with their rifles up and fired; then they come on loading,
and fired again.

"`Run, Willie,' sed Harry; `let's see who can get in first,' and with
that he made to run, and Willie let out full speed, with the Kaffirs
yelling like mad.  When he got near the door he looked round and seed
Harry walking backwards with his rifle ready, and the Kaffirs hanging
away back and whizzing their assegais.  He made 's if to start back, but
the ole man caught him by the arm and yanked him in.

"`Fire!' sed the ole baas, and he and the three boys blazed away, Jimmy
letting rip a handful of slugs.

"Well, the Kaffirs they dropped, crawling for shelter, and Harry came in
as cool as you please, with an assegai in his hand that he picked up.
Then he seed me crouching down, and laugh'd a'most till he cried, for I
were covered with the leavings of the churn.

"They took their places inside the room, each one at a hole, and began
firing by fits and starts, Tom standin' ready with a charge of powder
from the horn each time.

"`They're going to rush the cattle,' sed Oll; `and we can't prevent 'em
from here.  Some of us had better get into the shed.'

"Well, three of them boys went out--Oll, and Harry, and Willie--and
there were a terrible how-de-do out there, shoutin' an' whistlin', and
bangin'; the dogs barking fit to bust themselves, the ole red bull
bellering, and the fowls that had flew to the roof cackling all
together.  My!  I were skeered, and Tom, he looked if he'd bolt inter
the tub along with me, but he jes' kep on pouring out the powder.

"Then I yeard `Hurrah,' and ole Tolver tore open the door, and Tom most
split his throat.

"The Kaffirs were on the run, and when I crep' out, I seed Harry a
tearin' up the hill arter them, with Will at his heels, then--oh, lad!--
oh, lad!--from the wood there came out, swift and silent, a party of
Kaffirs led by the chief Tyali, and they cut between the three boys and
the house.

"I yeard Oll shout, `Back!  Turn back!' then again, `Together,
brothers!'--and the three, clubbing their rifles, went straight at the
chief and his men, an' ole Tolver dancing about at the door, fearing to
shoot, and Tom staring with his eyes wide, and the powder running from
the horn on the floor.

"Then there were a whirling crowd of men, and the smack of sticks--and
the `thud--thud--thud,'--and groans--and out of the pack Oll lurched,
carrying Willie, whose head lay back limp.

"He came along like a tipsy man--rolling--with his mouth fixed in a
smile, and the blood running from his head.

"When he were near the door a Kaffir stabbed him in the back, and the
ole baas shot the Kaffir.

"Then Oll reeled back, and he spoke in gasps, `I can't--go--any--
further--father--take Will--he's hurt,'--then he jes' sank to the
ground, and rolled over.

"Seth brought Willie in, and laid him down on the floor.

"And ole man Tolver stood outside the door calling for a loaded gun; and
then he sprang at a Kaffir who were stooping to stab Oll, and broke the
stock of his gun.

"I were by the door, 'cause I had no strength to move, and I seed
someone pass.

"`Get into the house, father,' he sed, `and hold it.'

"It were Jake; and in his hand he held the axe he took away in the

"He put his hand on his father's shoulder a moment `Get back,' he sed,
`for the sake of the boys,' and then he ran up to where the Kaffirs
still swarmed around Harry.  He opened a lane with his axe.  I tell you
I thought it were like splitting water-melons, and I laughed, and
Jimmie, he cried.  The Kaffirs gave way, crouching and holding their
shields up.  Then Jake lifted Harry, who were on his knees, and carried
him down.  As he came, the whole lot of them--maybe five hundred--came
with a rush; then Jimmie dashed out, and took Harry from his brother,
and Jake stood out alone.

"`Shut the door!' he shouted loud and stern; `do you hear--shut it!'

"The old baas looked wildly at Seth; and Seth he shook his head.

"`Shut it,' sed Jake; `in the name of our mother!' and the ole man with
a sort of groan pulled the door to, jamming my fingers.

"Outside were the noise of that fight, and inside were silence, and
white set faces, and the tears running from Jimmie's eyes.

"`Let me out!' he cried; `let me out!' he kep' on cryin'--`let me out!'
and then he struggled to open the door.

"Then we heard Jake again.

"`Good-bye,' he sed; and we held our breath, till the fierce shout rose
higher and higher, and we knew Jake were dead.

"Then the ole man's beard curled up.  He forgot about his other sons.
He opened the door, and with a roar he ran into the Kaffirs, and Jimmie
with him.  Seth were follering, too, when an assegai whizzed into the
room, and a Kaffir stood at the doorway, when Seth jabbed him in the
stomach with the muzzle, and druv his fist into the face of another;
then he pulled-to the door, and there were only him and Tom and me, with
Willie dead and Harry gasping.

"Then Seth began to sing.  He'd stop to shoot, then he'd sing again; and
the sound of his singing were worse than the yelling of the Kaffirs
swarming all round the house.  Tom he stood up in the room tremblin' and
loadin', his face black where the smoke stuck to the tears, and once and
again he'd jump to a hole and shoot.

"And at last an ole pot leg struck Seth on the head and he sot down.

"He put his hand to his head and looked at the blood; then he shook his
head and laughed a strange laugh.

"`It's all over,' he sed--`dang it.'  Then he saw Harry, and he said
softly: `Poor chap,' then he stared at Willie, and his eye came on to me
watchin' him.

"`Abe,' he sed, `you'll find my concertina hanging up; jes' hand it to

"Well, I gave it him, and bolted back into the tub, and he began to

"The Kaffirs stopped, and I yeard one call out `Yinny!' and others said
`Yoh!' and you could hear them trying to peep in.

"`Tom,' he said soft.

"`Yes, Seth.'

"`You and Abe get into the mealie pit in the pantry.  Maybe, they'll not
see you.'

"Tom he shook his head, and banged the gun--and the Kaffirs came hard at
the door.

"Seth he went on playing, and Harry rolled over.  `I've got a pain,' he
muttered; `mother, I've got a pain,'--and Seth he went on playing softer
and softer.

"Then I crawled away inter the dark of the pantry--inter the mealie

Abe stopped, and his face looked grey and aged.

"Well, Abe?"

"That's all sonny.  They did not find me."

"And what became of Tom?"

"He went with his brothers, sonny.  Seven better boys you'd never want
to meet, and seven finer men you could not.  They all went--in that one
day--and the Kaffirs swep' on over the land."



"I see that the magistrate at Port Nolloth has seen the sea-serpent.  It
was a mile out at sea--raised its head ten feet from the water, and
remained in sight for an hour."

"Is he partickler about the ten feet?" said Abe Pike.

"Yes, he is explicit on that point."

"Seems to me it's difficult to judge that height at a distance of a
mile," said Abe; "but, come to think of it, there was a magistrate at
Mossel Bay who had the same luck about two years ago.  He seed the
serpent sporting around for a hour off the coast, and the crittur raised
its head somewhere about ten feet.  So I guess it's the same that's
cruising off Port Nolloth."

"Ever been to Port Nolloth?" asked Long Jim.  "Well, I have; and the
country's that lonesome and sand-blown, and gen'rally lost to all sense
of what's fittin' for human beings to admire, that I'm not surprised the
magistrate thought he saw something."

"Don't you believe in sea-serpents, Jim?"

"What, me!  Well onct I spent a whole hour trying to smash a sea-serpent
with rocks, and at the end of that time I found the thing were
sea-bamboo--round and smooth, and tapering away to a point like a moving
tail.  No, sir; give me something I can see and feel."

"'Cording to all accounts," said Abe, drily, "if you did feel the
crittur, it would be when passing down his throat."

"Of course you've seen one, Abe?" said Si Amos with a slight sneer.

"I have," said Abe, quietly, as he reached over for the demijohn of

"Did he lift his head ten feet from the sea?" asked Long Jim.

"I see what it is," said Abe; "you fellows been listening to my
exper'ences so long that you think I'm lying; and I'm not gwine to
sacrifice my self-respeck by telling you things you don't believe.
That's so!"

There was a long pause, as no one felt disposed to make the needed
sacrifice to Abe's exacting honour.

"Was it a big snake?" asked Long Jim presently.

"Pretty big," said Abe, shortly.

"Twenty feet?" asked Jim, anxiously.

Mr Pike smiled.

"Not so much?" said Jim.

"About a quarter of a mile long," said Abe, rising.  "Well, I guess I'll
go.  So long."

"Stay a moment," said Jim, firmly; "I can't let you go without saying
that Abe Pike's word's as true as steel.  A quarter of a mile, you

"Might a been a yard shorter," said Abe, carelessly, as he paused at the

"Come back, old man," said Jim.  "Take this chair--and there's more in
the jug.  So; that's good.  A quarter of a mile," he muttered.  "Well,
that's good enough for a stretcher."

"If you come along with me, Jim," said Abe, "I'll tell you about it.
But I'm not laying myself open to words from them as is full of
suspicion as a family of jackals."

"That's not fair to me," I said.  "I've swallowed--I mean I've
accepted--all your stories without question."

"And me, too," said Si, with a gulp.  "Try some of this Transvaal
tabak--it's first rate."

Abe permitted himself to be appeased.  He filled his pipe, and as he
leant back in the chair with his heels up on the chimney, and a glass in
one hand, a reminiscent look overspread his rugged face.

"This yer exper'ence happened to me away back 'fore you younkers wore
shoes--but I never told it, as I were afraid of skeering the wits outer
you.  That's so.  The Little Kleinemonde over yonder were a blind river,
same as now, with a stretch of beach about 200 yards wide 'tween its lip
and the sea-foam hissing along the hard sands where the little
tumble-crabs swarm in their shells, and the air comes bubbling up outer
the sea-worm's holes.  It were more lonely than now--for there's town
families as picnic there for weeks in their tents--and you can hear the
little children laugh--and sometimes see a string of girls holding hands
and jumping up in the foam.  There was never a soul then on the wide,
white beach, that stretched away miles east and west--with black rocks
running out into the breakers--and back of the beach the high white
sandhills, rimmed on the top with thick berry bushes.  It were that
lonely that sometimes I could have a run away, and the birds that
flitted along, hunting for what the tide cast up--the oyster catcher and
the curlew made it lonelier with their wild cries.  And the river lay
back, still and quiet, without a current--between the dark woods--quiet
and still--crouching down behind the stretch of beach sand--as if it
feared the roaring surf--always tossing and thundering jest across that
narrow riband.  And the waves came always rushing in, as though they
would like to wash away the sand strip and pour their waters over the
silent river--and in the spring tides I seed the outermost fringe of
foam sweep a'most up to the lip of the river--and go back and come up
again--swinging to and fro--till sometimes a little trickle of the salt
water would fall into the dead stream, where a many fishes gathered,
hoping to get out at last into the great wild waters.  I caught fish
there at them times--going into ten pounds--springers and steinbrasse.
Well, one day there came a great storm of rain--like a cloudburst--and
every cattle track and footpath were a running stream--and every river
bed were filled to the brim.  And in the night I yeard the thunder of
the waves at the fall of the spring tide.  My!  How they roared through
the night--and crashed as the big waves curled over and smote the water
with the blow of a falling rock.  The night were that wild that I could
get no sleep--and went to the door to look out.  The ground was wet and
steaming, and the sound of running water came from every dip and hollow.
I sed to myself the dead river will be alive, and the tide and flood
will cut a passage deep and wide through the beach, and there will be a
litter heaped along the tide mark all down the beach, with good pickings
for the first man.  So I put a sack over my head, and taking the old
muzzle-loader, stepped out into the slushy dark, and squelched away over
the sodden veld towards the Kleinemonde.  I struck the ridge above the
river jest about sunrise, and the light coming through the mist showed
up the wildest sight of tossing waters and a beach all strewn with trees
and litter of seaweed.  As I thought, the dead river was alive and
roaring into the seas through a broad channel cut deep into the sand.  I
went down to the beach and watched the flood pour out, while the spray
from the waves druv stinging against my face.  I tell you, it was a
sight to stand and watch, not heeding the wind or the wet--and the
savageness of it gripped hold of me.  Bymby I crept along the beach, in
and out the piled masses o' rubbish--finding a many dead birds and sich
things--then about noon I was back ag'in at the river--where the
incoming tide, all red with the wash from the land, was rolling back the
river water and damming up the channel ag'in with tons of sand and
seaweed.  I made a fire under the shelter of the wood and cooked a fat
duck I picked up, and when I finished him off I dried myself by the fire
while I watched the river.  Jes' then I seed something in the river that
made me jump behind a tree--the black fin of the biggest shark you ever
seed, standing out maybe a yard high--and raking back maybe twelve
feet--with spikes all along.  `Lord luv me!' thinks I; `what in
thunder's that?'  And I let drive with both barrels, and the thing
darted off with a rush that sent a wave up both sides of the banks among
the trees--and far up the river I seed the sun shine on the curve of his
body as he turned to come down--and I cut my stick.  When I got home I
set to and bent a fish-hook outen a steel stable rake--lashing on a line
of buffalo rheims.  I went back, baited the hook with a sea-bird that I
had picked up, and let it run out, taking a bend round the tree with the
rheim.  The crittur I reckoned was still there--for why, he couldn't get
out by reason of the silting up of the channel--though I could see no
sign of him--and he paid no heed to the bait.  Well, I were getting
tired, when I noticed some cattle at the bend on the other side, where
there's a bit of the flat with a `salt lick'--that's a favourite place
for them, by reason of the salt in the soil.  They were jest capering
around with their tails up, then standing to stare at something in the
river, with a ole black bull nearer than the rest, pawing at the ground.
I could tell there was some crittur there that they didn't like--maybe
a tiger--but I could see nix beyond a rock or tree stump.  As I watched,
wondering what could ha' disturbed them, the ole bull shook his head,
then fetched a deep beller and rolled on a few yards--while the cows and
young stock behind came together in a bunch.  Then the bull stood
ag'in--pawing the wet ground--and Lord sakes!--jes' then that rock riz
out of the river."

"What's that?"

"Yessir!" and Abe wiped the perspiration from his forehead.  "My sakes!
I jes' sunk inter the rushes in a tremble, and the ole bull, with a
beller that rolled down the river, turned to run.  He never got mor'n
ten yards when he were caught by the neck, and I yeard his bones

"What caught him?"

"A mouth!  It were a mouth that caught him, set in a head like a water
barrel, with a neck behind thick as a blue-gum tree, blue along the top
and white below.  Shaped like a snake it were.  It caught the bull by
the neck, and lay outstretched, sucking his blood, while the four legs
of the poor crittur beat the air, and the cows standing off rushed about
lowing.  Eighty yards he was distant, and for all I were in a lather
from fear, I plunked a bullet jes' back of the opened jaws.  Believe me,
at the sound of the gun them cows, with their tails up, charged down on
that sarpint.  Yessirs, they went for him like a troop of hosses.  Some
of them took the neck flying, without attempting any mischief, but two
old cows went slap at the body with their horns down, druving them in
till the blood spurted high.  Then he let go o' the bull, swept the cows
off their feet, and with a snort slid into the river, and came charging
down like a steam tug for the mouth--his head lifted high up, and the
waves streaming as he went I let drive at him as he went by, clean into
the head--and at the shot he towered up like a column--and, so lifting
himself, flung half his length onto the sand bar.  Then he wriggled and
writhed till the bulk of his middle lay high and dry, and the tail of
him, twenty yards up the river, lashed the water with blows that sounded
like cannon--till the swell of the waves he raised floated him off, and
I saw him cut through the waves out into the deep sea beyond."

"Is that all?"

"Yessir, that's all; and if you'd a been there 'sted of me, Si Amos, I
guess you'd a said it was too much--a darn sight too much for your
nerves.  As for me, I niver went near the place for a year, and when
there's a spring-tide I keep indoors.  One thing I seed, and that was a
growth of barnacles and seaweed on his back, which explains why it is
that some folk say the sea-serpent has got a mane like a hoss."



The little Dutch village was astir, where almost hidden by the trees of
the orchards and quince hedges grown high, it stood beneath the bare
rock-bound hills beyond Kambula.

The Zulus had lifted the cattle when they grazed homewards at dusk amid
the thin scattering of dark mimosas on the grey plain.  The herdsman
lay, with his face to the sky, unburied yet, with a terrible wound in
his breast, and the long, ugly slit downwards through the abdomen that
told of Zulu work.

And the Commando was turning out.

Ten men, sitting loosely in their saddles, were all there were--big,
gaunt men with shaggy beards and lined faces of the colour of smoked
leather.  Of untanned leather, too, were their trousers and veldschoens.
Each one carried his food in the small saddle-bag of "rattel" skin,
food of the scantiest--a strip of biltong, a pound or two of "ash
cookies"--and slung from each bent shoulder was the powder-flask and

Ten men and a boy--and he alone showed excitement in the brightness of
his brown eyes and the firm set of his mouth.  A boy so brown that you
would have said he was of coloured origin, and with clothes so worn that
no street boy would have envied him.  A sullen boy and dull of wit you
would have thought from his narrow forehead and bent brows, but there
was one who did not think so.

"Oh, my _kind_!" she said, standing by the gate in the quince hedge;
"they do not want one so young.  And there is the wood to be brought

"Ja!" said one burgher, taking his pipe from his mouth; "he is
altogether too young for this work.  Let him stay."

"Hear to Oom Jan," cried the woman, stepping across a tiny stream that
gurgled pleasantly in its narrow bed beside the road; and she laid a
restraining hand on the old rheim that did service for the boy's reins.
"Come, my son--my little one."

The boy looked steadily at his mother.  "I am not little any more," he

"It is true," said the big man who led the little band, turning slowly
in his saddle.  "He is no longer little.  He must come!"

The woman let go her hold and stood back humbly, while her tear-stained
face was turned appealingly at the man--her own man; and the burghers,
smoking, took advantage of the pause to look back at their own wives and
children, who stood out in the solitary street, drawing comfort from
each other.

"We must all give," he said.

"Why should I give all?" she cried with renewed hope.  "My husband and
my son.  Let him stay.  Oh! let him stay!"

"Ride!" said the Commandant, sternly; then he sighed, and rode on in
silence, never turning.

The boy kept his eyes fixed on his father's broad back; then a lump came
into his throat.

Oom Jan touched him on his shoulder, and the boy started.

"Do not leave her so, neef," he said.

The boy looked back and waved his ragged cap.  "I will come 'gain soon,
little mother," he shouted.

"If the Groot Herr wills," muttered Oom Jan.

The boy looked at him sharply, then rode on with his head up and his
hand firmer upon the stock of his long rifle, as long almost as himself.
Already his keen young eyes swept the veld for signs of the Zulus--and
he had forgotten the little house and the little patient mother.

The village soon was left behind, and the little band went slowly over
the ridge and down the long slope, into a narrow valley, and at dusk
reached the broken veld that stretches up to the frowning height of
Hlobane.  It was very silent.  The burghers smoked, but talked not; and
very plain, and seeming very near, came the dismal baying of a Zulu dog
from a lofty kraal on Zunguin Nek, where a fire gleamed red through the

"There are men there," said the Commandant in a guttural whisper.  "We
must ride hard in the morning when we return."

"Ja!" said Oom Jan; "else they will cut us off.  I hope they will eat
and drink much this night, so that they sleep fast."

The other burghers glanced up at the red fire and round into the
darkness, as if calculating which way they would ride in case they were
cut off.

Young Piet Uys breathed hard.  He had often looked at the steep height
of Zunguin's Kop from afar--and now the dark mass that seemed to shut
out half the sky oppressed him with the sense of hidden danger.
Moreover, he was hungry and cold.  They had been four hours in the
saddle, and it was surely time they stopped?  Why didn't they tell his
father that the horses would grow tired, and that men couldn't go on all
night without feeding and warming themselves?

"There is water here," he ventured, "and good grass."

"Ja!" growled Oom Jan.

"Perhaps we will stop soon," said the boy timidly.

A burgher on his left grunted, and young Piet felt that he had said
something stupid.  There was deeper silence now, for they were riding in
a hollow, and he heard the sound of eating.  Why were they eating?
Perhaps they would not stop!

"If we stop," said Oom Jan, as if answering his thoughts, "we shall not
get there before sun-up."

Young Piet sighed heavily and thought of his rheim bed at home, and then
of the little mother.  He felt now why it was she cried when he left.
This was weary work--this blundering on over rocks and through cold
streams, with none of the rush and excitement he had pictured.

"And if we do not get there before sun-up," continued Oom Jan, in his
slow way, "we lose the cattle and all."

"Hold still!" came a muttered command from the leader.

The men drew up, and the horses shook their heads, then pricked their
ears, as out of the darkness ahead came the murmur of a chant, swelling
up to a deep boom, and sinking again till almost inaudible.

"They dance and make merry," said the leader.  "Ride!"

Once more the horses moved on, picking their way, while each man unslung
his rifle and held it with the butt on his thigh.  And louder rose that
monotonous chant, mounting to the shrill notes of the women's voices,
and sinking to the menacing bass of the warrior's deep chest notes; and
presently there suddenly started out of the gloom a score of gleaming
fires in a circle at the base of a vast bulk that stood for Hlobane.

"Pipes out!" said the leader.  "Groot Andries, and you Dick Stoffel, and
you Piet Uys, will stand here, keeping out of sight, and fire on the
Zulus if they follow.  The rest--ride!"

The two burghers and the boy remained, and the others filed out of
sight.  Slowly the time passed to these three as they crouched behind
rocks, with their horses tethered in a hollow, and the cold wind of the
early morning numbing their fingers and biting their poorly-clad bodies,
till the grey of the dawn appeared and threw the mountain of Hlobane
into relief.  The singing had died away as the wind rose, the fires were
dim, and the silence of the early morn was over the land.

"Look!" said Groot Andries, pointing a huge hand, and a mile off on the
buttress of the mountain young Piet saw a dark mass in motion, with a
few moving specks behind.

He drew his breath in sharply, and the misery left his face.  "They are
driving the cattle," he said.

"Ja!" said Andries, moving in his lair to get more comfortable, and
sighting along his rifle.

How quickly they come.  Piet could see the gleam of tossing horns--and
then he counted the riders, with his father riding last.  "They have not
been seen," he whispered.

"Oh, ja!" growled Stoffel, "the verdomde folk come."

Piet raised his head, and his heart almost stopped, as on the left of
the cattle he saw Zulus running like greyhounds, speeding to reach a
kopje by which the cattle must be driven, and his startled glance
roaming further, marked a thin grey whisp of smoke curling up the
mountain's dark side, while his ear caught the hoarse sound of the Zulu
horn spreading the alarm.

Groot Andries turned his head and looked long.

"Alle magtij!" he cried; "they sleep not up there.  May the Groot Heer
help us out for our wives sake."

Young Piet stared at the big man, then glanced back up Zunguin's
rock-rimmed summit, and saw tiny dark figures like ants hurrying amid
the huge rocks.  He moistened his lips, and looked at his horse.

"Mount and ride, neef," said Andries, softly.  "Keep towards the Blood
River over by Kopje Alleen.  Go, little neef."

"Ja!" growled Stoffel, who was smoking furiously; "loop, little one!"

Young Piet stared at them wildly, then he looked ahead and saw the
cattle coming on in a mass, with his own red heifer leading.  He saw,
too, his father stand alone, looking back, while the other burghers rode
hard behind the cattle, and the Zulus poured along untiring.  Why did
his father stop?  Could he not see the warriors?

"Father," he screamed; "ride!"  He would have risen, but a heavy hand
was laid upon him.

"Remember the order," growled Stoffel--"to keep ourselves hid."

"I will be still," said Piet, quietly.  Then he saw his father throw up
his gun and shoot, while another burgher halted and wheeled round with
his rifle ready.  With a rush the cattle swept by--the burghers after.

Not one drew rein.  Not even the Commandant, who simply glanced at the
three forms as he went by, last of all, saying briefly, "Shoot straight,
and follow fast!"

"Wait, little neef," said Andries, "and don't fire anyhow, but single
out your man.  Then load, mount, and gallop."

Piet was calm now that he was called upon to act.  He dropped a warrior
in his stride, loaded quickly, making the ramrod spring, and was waiting
by his horse with the reins of the other two all ready for their riders.

"Good neef," said Andries, as he swung into the saddle, and having
momentarily checked the enemy's advance, they dashed after their
comrades.  A quarter of a mile further on they passed an ambush, where
three other burghers were lying in readiness, and then they dashed up to
the cattle with a whoop.  Young Piet, flushed with his act, looked for
approval from his father, but the Commandant's gaze was fixed anxiously
ahead on a column of dark figures leaping like antelopes down Zunguin's
side.  From the rear, too, came the loud slap of three rifles, and the
angry war shout of the Hlobane warriors.

"They will head the cattle off," said Stoffel; "and we will be caught
between two fires.  Let us leave the cattle and ride to the left, when
they will let us go free."

"That is a bad word," said the Commandant, sternly.  "We go back with
the cattle or not at all."

They rode, then, into a stretch of donga-worn country, where they had to
slow up; and the cattle, no longer hard pressed, stood to get their
wind, with their heads down and tongues lolling out.

It was only a brief rest; but the Zunguin warriors profited by it, and
their fleetest men were already rounding the cattle to turn them up the
hill.  There rang out the sharp crack of a rifle, and one of the black
warriors pitched forward on his face.

"Keep your fire," said the Commandant, sternly, as he looked round at
his son.  "Was that you, Piet?  It was a good shot, my little one."

Piet hung his head, and looked askance to see whether any of the men
were laughing at him, but they were never so far from laughter as then.
Several were hedging away to the left, looking at the Commandant out of
the tail of their small eyes, ready for the bolt across the rolling
plain to the Blood River.

"We must turn the cattle," said the leader.  "Come, all together," and
he moved on up the hill.  But no one followed.

"If we are killed," said Oom Jan, slowly, "our wives and children will
suffer more than if we return not with the cattle."

"Ja, ja! that is altogether true," said the others, eagerly.

The Commandant glanced back and saw that he was alone.

"Keep the Kaffirs back," he said, without any anger, "and I will myself
turn them."

So he urged on his great horse up the hill, while the others faced about
and fired, not recklessly, but only when they were sure.

Young Piet looked after his father and feared, and urged his horse
forward, and drew back as he saw dark figures crouching low along the
hillside, and flitting swiftly from rock to rock.  Up the hill his
father went, menacing now one warrior, now another, with his rifle,
getting at last above the cattle, then with a roar he turned and swept
the herd before him down on to the rolling grass veld again.

All would have been well if the burghers had stood fast a moment longer,
but seeing the cattle safe they galloped after, and the Zulus, fearing
to be baulked of their prey, made their last effort.

"My Gott!" cried the Commandant, "why do you run?  Hold them back!"  But
the men had got the madness of flight in their blood now, and nothing
would hold them, though the Zulus were now out on the plain and without
shelter.  So once again he stood alone, checking the rush of the foe
with his menacing rifle before he galloped on.  Assegais whizzed by his
head; then his horse reared with a shrill scream of pain, and he was
hurled headlong.

When he presently sat up with a ringing in his head, he saw the Zulus
standing away off with the assegais poised, and he attempted to rise.

"My leg is broken," he muttered.

"Lay still, my father.  Oom Jan will come for you."

The big man looked round and saw his son standing behind, with his rifle
ready, facing the warriors, alone.  "Oh, Heer!  Oh, Heer!" he groaned.
"My son, why are you here?"

"Oom Jan will come," muttered the boy, huskily.

"Anything but this," cried the big man.  Then he said sternly, "Give me
your rifle, Piet, and run--run for your mother's sake.  Run, you are
untired and the Kaffirs have come miles.  Your rifle--quick!"

Young Piet shook his head.  "Oom Jan will come," he whispered.

The Zulus, silent with quivering nostrils and gleaming eyes, drew in

The veld echoed the sound of rapid hoof-beats.

Old Piet Uys raised himself on his arm and looked over the veld.  He saw
his burghers coming; but they were far, and he faintly heard Oom Jim's
voice ring out in encouragement.

"Run, my little one," he repeated; "run, I order you!  Your father tells
you," and the man looked sternly at his son.

The boy shook his head, his lips parted, but the words never came.  The
next instant his rifle spoke its last message, and the Zulus rushed in.

They found them both; the boy lying across his father's broad breast.
And the little mother sat tearless through the night crying that "The
Groot Heer was good, but he had taken all--all," while Oom Jan wept like
a child.



The day was wet, the ploughing was over, and as we had an idle spell,
what more natural than that most of us should find business at the
store? where we sat on bags and boxes, and smoked and talked, or
sometimes sang beautifully to the wailing tunes from Long Jim's
concertina.  This day old Abe Pike, humped up on the counter, with his
heels drumming against the side of it, was holding forth on the iniquity
of Parliament, when a stranger entered, wringing wet, and Abe stopped to
investigate his appearance.

"Don't let me interrupt you," said the stranger--a townsman evidently,
from his dress and assurance.

"Take a seat," said Abe, pointing with his boot at a box of soap.  "Not
walking, are yer?" with a curious glance at the stranger's
knickerbockers.  "Going far?  Stopping here long?  Stranger, aren't

"Well, yes," said the newcomer with a laugh.  "I've come thirty miles
since breakfast."

"Grub early?"

"I beg your pardon?  Oh, no; had breakfast at eight, left at nine."

"Phew!" said Abe, "thirty miles in four hours.  Must be a good horse
you've got."

"It is rather," said the stranger, with a curious smile.

"Hoss knocked up, I s'pose.  Been riding too hard?"

"No, not at all.  He's good for another thirty miles before sunset," and
he gave us a wink.

Abe looked gravely at the stranger for some seconds, while one by one,
on some excuse or other, we went outside to look at the stranger's
horse.  We found a new pattern bicycle in the shed--new to us--and we
returned to the room looking as much unconcerned as we could, but eager
to get a rise out of Abe.

"That's a fine animal," said Long Jim; "clean in the limbs, with plenty
of grit, and full of fire.  Never turned a hair, too, what's more!"

Abe looked at Long Jim, who was trying to suppress a smile; then he
relit the pipe he had suffered to go out.

"Reminds me," he said, "of that there hoss Topgallant, which carried me
one hundred miles twixt sun-up and sun-down."  Fixing his eyes on--the
stranger, he launched into a long yarn about some impossible incident.
He was not, however, up to his usual form, being suspicious of our nods
and winks, and the stranger was not astonished.

"It's a curious thing," he said, "that people are slow to believe in
things which have not come under their own observation unless they read
of them in print.  Now this very morning I met with an experience which
may seem to you incredible."

"Go ahead," said Long Jim.  "If you've got a story, tell it, and we'd be
thankful to you, after the stuff we've been obliged to swallow from Mr
Pike there."

"If I may say so," said the stranger, "his story was fair, but it lacked
circumstance.  There is an art in building up a story which perhaps my
friend on the counter has missed."

"Fire away," said Abe, grimly.  "I'm not too old to larn."

"Thank you.  Of course, you all know the long descent into Blaauw
Krantz, and the sharp elbow bend in the wood near the bottom before the
steep fall into the river.  Of course.  Well, I have been in the habit
of riding out on Saturday evenings to visit a farmhouse on this side,
and, as a precautionary measure, I ring the bell continuously while
riding down the slope."

Abe arrested the narrative by a gesture--"Whatjer carry a bell for?" he
asked, suspiciously.

"To warn people ahead.  You see," with a slight movement of the eyelids,
"I travel so fast that I am obliged to herald my approach."

"Better carry a trumpet," growled Abe.  "Well, ring along."

"You are doubtless aware," continued the stranger, with a keen look at
the old man, "that snakes are sensitive to the influence of music."

"I've marked that circumstance," said Abe, with a lingering on the word.
"Why there's a snake in our Chapel as beats time to the `Ole Hundred,'
and many a time I've--"

"Oh! shut up," said Long Jim.  "You were saying, sir--"

"My bell," continued the stranger, speaking more rapidly and keeping his
eye on Abe, "has a most melodious tinkle, and on the second occasion of
my visit to the house I have mentioned I noticed just at the elbow bend
what appeared to be the head and neck of a large snake thrust out from
the bush.  On my next visit I observed the same spot more carefully, and
saw that I had not been mistaken.  On three separate occasions that
snake was there, evidently attracted by the music of the bell."

"Why--" began Abe.

"I understand what you mean," exclaimed the stranger.  "Why did I not
stop?  Because I was travelling too fast; and whenever I returned up the
hill, going naturally slower, I could never see the slightest trace of
the snake.  To come to the climax, this morning I sounded the bell as
usual, and on nearing the bend I saw that there were two snakes, and
that one of them, in order probably to hear the music more distinctly,
had glided partly into the road with his head raised about three feet.
To take the bend I was obliged to keep on the outer edge, which brought
me closer to the snake than I could wish--and evidently too close for
his comfort--for as I whizzed by he lost his presence of mind, and,
instead of retreating, advanced, with the result that his head and neck
went through the spokes of the front wheel."

"Front wheel!" said Abe with a snap.

"Certainly--the front wheel of the bicycle."

"A bysticle!" ejaculated Abe, with a snort of disgust that would have
sent us into an explosion of laughter if we had not been too much
absorbed in the story.

"Of course, the revolution of the wheel swung the remainder of the body
clear of the bush, and the tail whizzed by my head.  To my fear and
horror, the next instant my left wrist was seized as in a grasp of iron
by the tail.  The head, after one or two sickening thuds on the hard
road, which must have temporarily stunned the creature, slipped out on
the left side, when the momentum of the wheel immediately strung the
entire body straight out behind me, where it streamed with all its
twenty pounds weight acting as a brake."

"A brake?" said Long Jim.

"Yes, sir.  As the tail seized my wrist, the curve of it took a bend
also round the handle bar.  To that circumstance I owe my life.  The
slackening in the speed of the machine, over which I had lost control,
owing to the dead weight of the serpent, prevented what would most
certainly have been a fatal smash among the boulders in the river bed.
As it was, the bicycle narrowly missed a large rock, and ran straight
into deep water, where it was, of course, brought to a stop.  You notice
that my clothes are wringing wet still.  I was, of course, thrown out of
the saddle by the jerk of the sudden stoppage, but as my wrist was
manacled to the handle bar I was in danger of suffocation by drowning."

The stranger paused, and Abe observed him with an admiring glance.

"How did you escape?" asked Long Jim.

"Why, sir, owing to the gratitude of that serpent.  The cold bath
revived him, and when he realised the situation, he swam ashore and drew
me out with the machine.  Yes, gentlemen, I assure you that was the
case.  Then he unwound his tail and moved his wounded head, while
regarding me with a bright, but rather disconcerting, stare.  I realised
in a flash what he was waiting for, and I rang the bell for five
minutes, when he slowly moved off into the wood, looking very sick from
the severe bashing.  I do not ask you to believe the story, gentlemen,
but I am convinced that if the next time you come down Blaauw Krantz on
a bicycle you ring your bell you will credit me with keeping to the
exact facts."

"That beats your yarns, Abe Pike," said Si Amos, who had often been the
butt of the old man; "beats them to smithers."

"Jest does, and no mistake," said Long Jim.

"Why, Abe couldn't tell a story like that, with `circumstance' in it, to
save his life," said a third.

Abe shook his head sadly, and left the store, the stranger bidding him
good-bye very politely, then turning to join in the laugh.  He was a
very pleasant young fellow, and he received our open flattery with a
quite affable air.

Old Abe, however, had not retired vanquished from the scene.  When we
trooped out of the store we saw him lost in solemn contemplation of the
stranger's bicycle.

"A good horse, is it not?" said the stranger slyly.  "Like to mount?"

"Sir," said Abe, "allow an old man to shake hands with you.  I'm
thankful for your offer, but I won't mount now."  The boys laughed.
"No, sir, not now; but, if you're coming down Blaauw Krantz next
Saturday week I'll meet you at the top and ride down."

"Can you manage a bicycle?"

"I can't now; but I'll larn.  Is it a go?"

"Let him," said Long Jim, "and we'll all be at the bottom to pick him

The stranger at last consented, very reluctantly; and it was agreed that
on the day named we should be at the "drift".  Abe disappeared for
several days, returning at the end of that time with several scratches
on his hands and a decided stiffness in his legs.  He would say nothing
to satisfy our curiosity beyond the simple remark that he had been
"Larning to steer a lightning wheel-barrer down a hill."

On the appointed day, having satisfied ourselves that Abe Pike meant to
stick to his contract, we all rode off to the "drift" to await the
descent and pick up the pieces.

The stranger kept up his side of the agreement; and, as it turned out,
he gave up his machine into the shaky control of Uncle Abe, after much
advice upon the art of steering round a corner on a slope.

Precisely at noon we heard, far up the hill, coming out of the dense
wood which hid the road and the curve from our view, the silver tinkle
of a bell rung continuously.  Clear and sharp the sound came to us as we
waited in silence, for the space of a minute, growing louder, till
suddenly it ceased.  After waiting a minute we all mounted and galloped
up.  At the great elbow bend we saw the stranger tearing down on foot,
but there was no sign of Abe or of the machine.

On the road, however, there was the track of the wheel in the dust--a
track that faded away up the road, but stopped short at the bend.

"Where the blazes!" said Long Jim, looking around and up into the sky.

"What's that in the trees?" said Si, pointing down into the forest below
the bend.

"It's my cycle!" gasped the stranger, as he came up.  "What a mad fool I
was to let him ride."

"Damn your cycle!" said Jim; "where's the old man?"

We peered over the edge, and saw him in a thicket blinking up at us.

We had him out and up in no time, while two men climbed the tree to
recover the machine, the stranger dancing about as if he were on hot

"Is it injured?" he kept on crying.

"Injured be blowed," growled Si Amos; "it'll be injured sharp enough if
the old man's hurt."

"Who said I was hurt," said Abe suddenly, sitting up and feeling his
body.  "I'm all right; but, boys, my sakes, you'll never b'lieve me,

"What's happened?  Are you all right?  Sure?"

Abe slowly rose and felt himself.  "Yes.  You listen," he said,
solemnly.  "The stranger's right about them snakes--dead right."

"It's no time to joke," said the stranger, looking ruefully at the bent
spokes and twisted handle bar.

"You're right there; no man would joke who's jest escaped from death.
No, sir; I tell you, jes' as I came to this yer bend I looked out for
the snake, but instead of the snake I seed--and my heart jumped into my
throat at the sight--a thick rope stretched right across the road from
the bank on this side to the tree on the other, raised about two feet
from the level.  The next instant I went smash into it."

"Who could have done that trick?" said Long Jim, with a dangerous look.

"The snake," said Abe, with a croak.

"The snake!"

"Yessir.  I seed the glisten of his scales jes' as I went flying into
the bush."

"The snake!" said the stranger.  "Absurd!  Rot!"

"It were the snake--the friend of the crittur you hurt," said Abe with a
groan.  "You see as I allow he were determined to have revenge, and when
he heard the bell he hitched his jaw to that root hanging down the bank,
and he stretched his tail round the bough of that tree on the other
side.  A twenty-foot rock snake he were.  I guess he's got the
stomach-ache from the hit I give him."

For a moment there was intense silence as the boys grasped the
situation, then they laughed till they sat down.

"Whatjer laughing at?" said Abe, solemnly, though his lips twitched
either with fun or pain.

The stranger smiled sadly, then he laughed too.  "Old man," he said,
"let us shake again.  You have beaten me.  I confess I was lying, and
you have taken a strong measure to punish me."

"You was lying!" said Abe, opening his eyes and looking the picture of
astonishment.  "Then why did that durned snake upset me?"

Then he fell back in a swoon, for he had been sore hurt--and we carried
him to the nearest homestead, while Si Amos rode furiously for a Doctor,
and Long Jim went about on tip-toe from the room to the door and back in
a state of restless anxiety.


The End.

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