Hendricks the Hunter; or, The Border Farm, a Tale of Zululand, by W.H.G. Kingston.
In this well-written book we find ourselves in Zululand, amid the beautiful scenery of South Africa. Hendricks makes his living by hunting, and trading the skins and other products. It is a dangerous way of earning money, and we are with him on one of his trips. There are dangers from animals, lack of water, snakes, and, of course, the natives. Some of the latter are friendly, and these are sympathetically depicted in the story.
There were quite a few type-setting errors, mainly in wrong, missing, or superfluous quote signs. We think we have got this right in this version of the book.
It makes a good audiobook, of about ten hours' duration.
HENDRICKS THE HUNTER; OR, THE BORDER FARM, A TALE OF ZULULAND, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
THE TRADER IN ZULULAND.
Zululand is a wild region of mountain ranges, deep valleys and gorges, roaring torrents, rapidly flowing rivers, plains covered with mimosa bushes, meadows where cattle pasture and grow fat, and level plateaux extending for many miles across it, several hundred feet above the level of the ocean; while scattered here and there, in some parts pretty thickly, are to be seen the kraals or villages and the mealy grounds of the natives. Wild as is the country, and although roads, properly speaking, there are none, it is sufficiently practicable for waggons in various directions.
Some few years back, one of these vehicles, drawn by a span of twelve oxen, was seen slowly wending its way to the south-west, in the direction of Natal. It was a loosely yet strongly built machine on four wheels, fourteen feet long and four wide, formed of well-seasoned stink wood, the joints and bolts working all ways, so that, as occasionally happened, as it slowly rumbled and bumped onward, when the front wheel sank into a deep hole, the others remained perfectly upright. It was tilted over with thick canvas impervious to rain, the goods or passengers inside being thus well sheltered from the hardest showers, and even from the hot rays of the sun.
The oxen pulled steadily together, as became animals long accustomed to work in company. On a board in front stood a Hottentot driver, his black visage surmounted by a broad-brimmed straw hat ornamented by a few ostrich feathers twined round the crown, while his hand held a whip of Brobdignagian proportions, the stock being fully fourteen feet, and the lash upwards of twenty-four feet in length, with which he occasionally urged on the leaders, or drew blood from the animals beneath his feet, as well as from those intermediate in the span, whenever a rise in the ground or its unusual roughness required an additional exertion of their strength.
Several black men, of tall sinewy forms and Kaffir features, each carrying a gun at his back, and a long pole in his hand, accompanied the waggon on foot. At some little distance ahead rode a florid, good-looking man, above the middle height, and of strongly built figure, dressed in a grey suit, with a broad-brimmed hat on his head. He also carried a gun at his back and a brace of pistols in a broad belt which he wore round his waist. Though his hair and beard were slightly grizzled, yet, by the expression of his countenance and his easy movements, he appeared to have lost none of the activity of youth, while his firm-set mouth and bright blue eyes betokened courage and energy. Some horses followed the waggon, secured by thongs of a length sufficient to enable them to pick their way. A glance into the interior of the waggon would have shown that it was fully loaded, the chief contents being the skins of wild animals, the huge tusks of elephants, and other spoils of the chase, with which the proprietor was returning after a hunt of many months' duration, to dispose of them at Maritzburg or D'Urban.
The horseman was apparently one of those enterprising traders and hunters who roam over the southern parts of the dark continent to barter European goods for cattle, skins, ivory, and other produce of the country. As he was the owner of the waggon and the master of the men attending it, we will for the present designate him as the Trader. He generally rode on in silence, amusing himself with his own thoughts, but occasionally he turned to address a tall Kaffir by his side, whose leopard-skin robe and head-dress, the long rifle at his back, and the independent air with which he walked, betokened him to be a leading hunter, and the familiar way in which he was addressed and replied, showed that he was held in high esteem by his employer.
"We must look out for a camping-place before long, Umgolo," said the trader. "The beasts have had a rough journey, and will require plenty of time for feeding. Do you go on ahead, and select a spot where grass and water are to be found, and where we may watch them, and defend ourselves, should any of the people hereabouts take a fancy to the beasts or to the contents of our waggon."
"The master shall be obeyed," answered the Kaffir. "It may be as well, as he has said, to be on our guard, for the Zulus in these parts are arrant thieves, and will not scruple to steal if they have the chance."
The Kaffir, who had of course spoken in his native tongue, hurried ahead of the team. In a short time the waggon overtook him at a spot which he had chosen on the slope of a hill forming one side of a valley through which ran a sparkling stream, the ground in the neighbourhood of its banks being covered with rich grass. No more favourable spot could have been selected for the camp, as the stream served as a boundary on one side, and the hill on the other, so that a man stationed at either end could effectually prevent the cattle from straying.
Another valley opened into that along which the waggon was travelling, and on a level space some considerable way from the bottom could be distinguished in the distance a circular palisade forming a kraal, the dome-roofed huts just appearing above the enclosure. It was so far off, however, that the inhabitants were not likely to have discovered the waggon as it passed along.
At that period, it should be understood, the Zulus and their white neighbours were on tolerably good terms, though some of the former might occasionally have carried off a few horses or head of cattle belonging to the settlers, when they could do so without the risk of being caught. Sportsmen and traders therefore penetrated fearlessly into the country, the traders carrying cotton goods, blankets, cutlery, and not unfrequently firearms and powder and shot, which they exchanged for skins and oxen.
However, we will return to our friends. At a short distance from the spot selected by Umgolo for the camp was a wood from which fuel for the fires could be obtained, and which would have afforded materials for throwing up a fortification, had such been considered necessary. But the sturdy owner of the waggon, with his band of expert marksmen, believed himself well able to cope with any natives who might venture to interfere with him.
Having outspanned, or in other words the oxen being unyoked, they hurried of their own accord down to the stream to drink, attended by two of the men, with their guns in hand, in case any lion or other savage beast should be lurking in the neighbourhood. The water was too shallow for crocodiles, which in many parts have to be guarded against. The rest of the men were engaged in collecting fuel for the fire, and cutting stakes and poles to form a temporary enclosure in which the oxen might be penned during the dark hours of night.
Meantime the trader, attended by Umgolo, set off in search of a springboc or a pallah, called also the rooyaboc, or a wild boar or a water-buck, whose flesh might serve the party for supper and breakfast. There was no fear of starving in a country where numberless varieties of animals abounded. They made their way towards a thicket which extended from some distance up the hill, across the valley, almost down to the river. Game of some sort was sure to be found within it, while at the same time they themselves would be concealed by the thick bushes, and be enabled to get sufficiently close to an animal to shoot it with certainty.
It was only, however, in some places that the thicket could be penetrated; for below the large mimosa trees there grew thorny creepers and bushes, among which it was impossible to force a passage without the certainty of having to emerge with garments torn to shreds, and legs bleeding from lacerations innumerable. Here in wild profusion grew the creeper known as the "wait-a-bit," because its hooked thorns will catch the clothes of any person brushing by it, and compel him to wait a bit until he has released himself by drawing them out one by one. The natives give it the still more honourable title of "catch tiger," as they affirm that even that savage creature, who may unwarily leap into it, will find itself trapped in a way from which there is no escape. Then there was the cactus with spikes three inches in length, and the "Come and I'll kiss you," a bush armed with almost equally formidable thorns, and huge nettles, and numerous other vegetable productions, offering impracticable impediments to the progress, not only of human beings, but of every species of animal, with the exception of elephants and rhinoceroses, which might attempt to force a way through them.
The hunters had not gone far, when, as they were skirting the thicket, they came on a small herd of water-buck. The trader, raising his rifle, fired, and one of the graceful animals lay struggling on the grass. The rest bounded off like lightning, to escape the shot which the native discharged. Both hurrying forward, soon put the deer out of its misery. To follow the rest would have been useless, as they were away far out of range of their firearms. They therefore at once applied themselves to the task of cutting up the dead animal, so that they might carry back the best portions of the meat to the camp.
While they were thus employed, a crashing sound was heard coming from the thicket at no great distance, when springing to their feet they saw before them a black rhinoceros, the most formidable inhabitant of those wild regions. It is more dangerous to encounter than even the lion or the elephant, because the only one which will deliberately chase a human being whenever it catches sight of him, and will never give up the pursuit, unless its intended victim can obtain concealment, or it is itself compelled to bite the dust. Its sight is, however, far from keen; so that if there are bushes or rocks near at hand, it can be easily avoided.
Such was, fortunately for the hunters, the case in the present instance. As on it came thundering over the ground, uttering a roar of displeasure, the Kaffir, shouting to his master, sprang behind a bush, near which the deer had fallen. The trader, however, stood firm, his weapon in his hand, ready to fire, although knowing full well that, should he miss, the next instant the savage brute would be upon him, and either gore or trample him to death.
Flight was out of the question with such a pursuer at his heels, while even should he now attempt to take refuge behind a bush, the rhinoceros, close as it was, would probably see him. Notwithstanding this, he remained motionless; not a limb shook, not a nerve quivered. As the ferocious monster, with its formidable horn lowered, came rushing on, the trader, raising his rifle, fired, and then, before the smoke had cleared off, with an agility which could scarcely have been expected in a man of his proportions, sprang on one side. Almost at the same moment a crack was heard from Umgolo's rifle, and the rhinoceros sank to the ground, uttering a loud scream indicative of pain and also of anger at finding itself foiled in its onslaught.
In vain the brute attempted to rise. Umgolo sprang forward and plunged his assegai into its breast. The hunters' sharp knives soon cut through the tough skin, and several slices of the flesh were added to the store of meat with which they set off on their return to the camp. It was the leader's intention to send some of his people to bring in the horn and a further portion of the flesh, should it not in the meantime have been devoured by jackals, hyenas, and other scavengers of the wilds. Their arrival was greeted with a shout of satisfaction by the people. While some eagerly set to work to cook the meat brought to them, others went out to bring in a further supply. On their return, each man loaded with as much as he could carry, they reported that they had been only just in time to drive off a pack of wolves which would soon have left them the bare bones alone for their share.
Although they had performed a long and rough day's journey, they sat up round the fire late into the night, cooking and eating the rhinoceros and water-buck flesh, and relating to each other their oft-told adventures. As soon as darkness came on, the cattle were driven in and secured close to the waggon, and sentries, with muskets in their hands, were placed to watch them, as well as to serve as guards to the rest of the camp.
The trader's accustomed sleeping-place was inside his waggon, where, by the light of a lantern hung from the roof, he could sit and read or write when so disposed. After allowing his followers sufficient time to amuse themselves, he shouted to them to cease their noise and go to sleep. To hear with his well-disciplined hunters and drivers was to obey, and at once rolling themselves up in their blankets or karosses they lay down round the fire, which had previously been made up, so as to last some hours without additional fuel. He then, before turning in himself, took a turn round the camp, stopping occasionally to listen for any sounds which might indicate that a lion was prowling in the neighbourhood. He was just about to return to the waggon, when he observed emerging from behind a clump of trees in the valley below him numerous dark figures moving slowly over the ground. He watched them attentively, and was convinced that they were a party of Zulus bent on a warlike expedition. Others followed, until a large number had assembled in the open. Whether or not their object was to attack his camp he could not tell; but he resolved, should they do so, to defend his property to the last. He at once called up Umgolo, and in a low voice ordered him to arouse his companions, but on no account to allow them to show themselves or to make the slightest noise. These orders were obeyed, and the trader retired to the shade of his waggon, where he could watch what was going forward without himself being seen. The fire, from which a few flames occasionally flickered up, must, he knew, have shown the Zulus the position of the camp.
Though he took these precautions for prudence' sake, he did not consider it likely that the Zulus, who had hitherto been friendly, would venture to attack him. His followers, however, appeared not to be so well satisfied on that point as he was; for each man, as he lay on the ground, examined his arms to be sure that they were ready for instant action.
The dark figures moved slowly on, then halted.
"They are considering whether they shall venture to come against us," whispered Umgolo. "If they do, we will give them a warmer welcome than they expect."
Such might have been the interpretation of his remarks.
"I still doubt whether they will attack us," answered his master. "They know too well the power of the white man's powder and lead."
At that time comparatively few firearms had been introduced among the Zulus, and they had but an imperfect knowledge of their use.
Again the black figures began to move, but instead of drawing nearer the camp, apparently supposing that they had not been observed, they directed their course towards the kraal which had been observed by the travellers on the hillside just before they unspanned.
"They are about to work no good to yonder kraal, or they would not be moving thus silently at this time of night," observed Umgolo. "Before morning dawns, not a man, woman, or child will be left alive, and not a hoof remain inside."
"I would then that we could give the inhabitants notice of their impending doom, or save the unhappy wretches by some means or other," said the trader, more to himself than his follower, well aware that Umgolo would scarcely enter into his feelings on the subject.
"It cannot be done," remarked Umgolo. "Any one approaching the kraal would be discovered by the warriors, and put to death to a certainty."
"Why do you think that the kraal is to be attacked?" asked his master.
"This I know, that yonder kraal is the abode of the brave young chief Mangaleesu, who possesses numerous head of cattle, and has under him a band of devoted followers. Perhaps Panda, the king of the Zulus, or some other great chief, covets Mangaleesu's cattle, or fears his power, and this expedition has been sent out to destroy him and all his people. It may be that one of Panda's wives has been ill, and the doctor, not knowing what else to say, having declared that she was bewitched, was ordered to go and smell out the culprit; the cunning rogue knowing full well how best to please the king; or, as I remarked, some other enemy of Mangaleesu has fixed on him."
"How do you know, Umgolo, that such is the case?" inquired his master.
"I guess it," answered Umgolo. "Perhaps I am wrong. The young chief may be an enemy of Cetchwayo, and he it is who has sent the army to destroy him. He knows the bravery and cleverness of Mangaleesu, who, had he gained an inkling of what is intended, would have made his escape into Natal. There may be some other cause for the intended attack, but I am not far wrong, master, you may depend upon that."
"I fear, indeed, that you are right in your conjectures," said the trader. "I am satisfied that the Zulus do not intend to attack us. Tell the people that they may again go to sleep, and that they will be summoned if they are required."
While Umgolo went to execute this order, the trader stood leaning on his gun at a spot a short distance from the camp, to which he had made his way the better to watch the proceedings of the Zulu force. He was considering how he could manage to reach the kraal before the Zulu warriors had surrounded it, and were ready to commence their work of slaughter. He might, by following a different direction, and moving more rapidly over the ground, get to the rear of the kraal, and warn the doomed inhabitants to flee while there was yet time. Too probably, however, they would be seen escaping, and would be pursued and slaughtered before they had time to get to any distance. Still his generous feelings prompted him to make the attempt. There would be a considerable amount of risk to himself, though the Zulus at that time held white men in respect, and himself especially as he had so frequently traversed their country, and was known to many of them. Notwithstanding this, if found interfering with their proceedings, they might, in a sudden fit of anger, put him to death. Leaving the camp, therefore, he proceeded with rapid steps along the side of the hill, in the direction the Zulus had taken. Though the kraal was concealed from view by the shades of night, and no lights issued from it, he well knew its position. He soon gained a spot whence in daylight he could clearly have perceived it, when to his grief he saw what might have been mistaken for a dark shadow creeping over the ground and already ascending the hill on which the kraal stood. He was now convinced of the impossibility of getting to it in time to warn the inhabitants of their impending fate. Perfect stillness reigned around, broken occasionally by the distant mutterings of a lion, or the melancholy cry of some beast or bird of prey. Unable to tear himself away from the spot, he waited, moved by a painful curiosity to learn what would happen, as he knew that the dusky warriors must have reached the kraal, though he was unable to see their movements. Still no cry reached his ear. Had the inhabitants got warning of the intended attack, and beaten a timely retreat? He hoped that such might have been the case.
A crescent moon and the bright stars shed a faint light over the scene. He could look far up and down the valley, but the part where the kraal stood was shrouded in gloom. Presently the silence was broken by a chorus of shouts and yells, borne by the night wind from the direction of the kraal, followed by shrieks and cries which continued without intermission for some minutes, and then he saw lights glimmering here and there, increasing in intensity, until a circle of flame burst forth, rising rapidly as the fire caught hold of the combustible material of which the kraal was composed. By this time all sounds had ceased, and he knew that the last of the unhappy inhabitants had been killed.
Wishing to avoid the risk of meeting any of the savage warriors, should they cross the hill, he hastened back to the camp. He found Umgolo, who had discovered his absence, looking out, wondering what had become of him.
The Kaffir had heard the yells and shrieks of the savages as they attacked the kraal, and fearing that his master might have been tempted to interfere, was proportionally glad to see him return safe.
They were still standing just outside the camp, when the sound of approaching footsteps reached their ears.
"Here come some of the savage Zulus. We must drive them back, if they intend to molest us," said the trader.
"No fear of that," replied the Kaffir. "There are but two pair of feet. See! there they come up the hill."
The next instant the figure of a young warrior, with assegais in hand, supporting with his left arm a slight girl, came in sight. The flames from the fire lighted up their figures. Blood streamed from the side and right arm of the man. Both were panting for breath.
"Mangaleesu claims your protection, white chief, for her he loves, and for himself, that he may avenge the death of those he has lost. You will not refuse it?"
"I will gladly conceal you, and afford you all the help I can," answered the trader. "Come on: there is not a moment to be lost. Your wife can get into the waggon, and you can lie in the hammock beneath it, where, even if your enemies come, they will not think of looking for you."
This was said as the young chief and the girl were being conducted to the waggon. All was done so rapidly and silently, that none of the sleeping servants were awakened, and only those who had charge of the cattle could have observed what had happened, while the curtain which closed the front of the waggon was allowed to remain open, so as not to excite the suspicion of the Zulus, should they come to the camp.
The trader and Umgolo slowly paced up and down with their rifles in their hands, waiting the arrival of their pursuers. At length they began to hope that Mangaleesu had evaded them, and that they had gone off in a different direction. So satisfied were they that this was the case, that the trader returned to the waggon to see what assistance he could render to the wounded chief. Mangaleesu, however, made light of his hurts, although they were such as any white man would have considered very serious.
He told his white friend that his wife was uninjured, notwithstanding the many assegais thrust at her.
"Have any more of your people escaped from your enemies?" asked the trader.
"No; few even fought for their lives," answered the Zulu chief. "When I was first awakened out of sleep by the shouting around my kraal, I knew well what was about to happen; but I resolved for Kalinda's sake, as well as my own, to struggle for life. To fight my way out and to save my wife, I knew was impossible, had I dashed out boldly as I at first thought of doing; but she whispered to me, 'Let us make a figure; our enemies will stab at that, and we meantime may perchance get clear.' The idea struck me as good. She brought me a mat, and we rolled it up round a thick stick. We then fastened a shield to it, and on the top a bundle of assegais, as if held in the hand of a warrior. It was much too dark for our enemies to discover the deceit. When all was ready, I held the figure in one hand, while I grasped my weapons in the other, Kalinda keeping close behind me. I then opened the door, and thrust out the figure in the midst of those standing near, thirsting for my blood. They instantly, as I knew they would, gathered round it, piercing it with their assegais. While they were thus employed, I sprang out, still holding the figure, and in a few bounds reached the inside of the outer fence, against which I placed my back, and kept my assailants at bay. As they drew away from the door to attack me, Kalinda rushed out; and our enemies, who had supposed that there was only one person in the hut, seeing another appear, fancied that there might be more, and became confused, not knowing how to act; for many of them had already felt the point of my assegai. Kalinda, getting close to me without a wound, threw the figure over the fence, among those guarding the outside. They instantly rushed at it, leaving the gate for a few seconds unguarded. This was all I required. Sheltering my wife with my shield, as she clung to my arm, I sprang with her through the opening, over the bodies of my slaughtered followers, and before our enemies knew we had gone we were running like springbocs down the hill. We knew that if our flight should be discovered we should be pursued, but we hoped that we had not been seen at the moment we were rushing out of the kraal. I had been out hunting until late in the evening, and had discovered the tracks of your waggon. I guessed therefore whereabouts you would camp, and determined to place my wife under your protection, knowing that while with you our pursuers would not molest her. For myself, I intended to follow up my enemies, and revenge myself by trying to kill some of them. When morning breaks, and they do not find my dead body, they'll know that I have made my escape."
"You have acted a brave part," said the trader; "but I would advise you to let your enemies go their own way. You have saved your young wife and your own life. You will, I hope, be able to reach Natal in safety, where you will be free from danger. If you attempt to kill your enemies, you will very likely be killed yourself, and there will be no one to protect your wife. You are also now weak from loss of blood, and although your heart is courageous, your strength may fail you."
One of the servants had in the meantime been employed, by command of his master, in making some broth over the fire, which he now brought to the young chief, who notwithstanding his boasting was very glad to obtain it, being much exhausted from the exertions he had made.
The trader then took some to Kalinda, who lay trembling in the waggon, expecting every moment the arrival of their pursuers to kill her and her husband. The trader did his best to soothe her fears by promising that he would not deliver them up to their enemies, even though it should be discovered where they had taken refuge.
The remainder of the night passed quietly by. The glare from the burning kraal could be seen in the distance for some time, but it gradually died out, and all was dark in that direction. No sounds were brought down by the night wind to show whether the Zulus were still surrounding it; but Umgolo, knowing their habits, gave it as his opinion that they had departed as silently as they had come, after executing their fell purpose; and that if they had discovered the flight of the chief and his wife, a party had gone in pursuit of them in the direction it was supposed they had taken. One thing was certain, it could not have been suspected that the fugitives had taken refuge in the camp, or some of their enemies would have arrived before now to demand them.
The trader had previously determined to spend a day where he was now encamped, in order to rest his cattle from their rough journey, and he thought it prudent to adhere to his intention the better to deceive the Zulus, who would be less likely to suspect that he was sheltering the fugitives should he remain stationary, than were he to be found hurrying away from the neighbourhood.
THE FOUNDLING OF THE KRAAL.
The trader having selected three of his men to keep watch, lay down, wrapped in a mantle of skin, under his waggon, having given up his usual sleeping-place to his guests.
No one was seen however, nor were any sounds heard to indicate that any persons were approaching the camp, and dawn at length broke.
Rising from his bed under the waggon, the trader walked a few paces beyond the camp, to take a look over the country around, for the purpose of ascertaining as far as his eye could help him, whether any of the Zulus were still in the neighbourhood. The air was deliciously fresh and balmy, the atmosphere was bright and clear, so that the outlines of the distant hills were clearly defined against the sky. There were a few soft, white, fleecy clouds of mist floating here and there, which the breeze, as the sun rose, quickly dispersed; while below, winding through the valley, could be seen the sheen of the river between the clumps of the trees bordering its banks.
It was difficult to believe that a terrible tragedy had been enacted a few short hours before in the midst of so lovely a scene. He proceeded on along the hill to a place whence he could see the spot where the kraal had existed. Looking through his telescope, he could clearly distinguish a large black circle of ashes marking the spot where the habitations of the slaughtered people had lately stood. He could see no human beings moving about in the neighbourhood, though he turned his glass in every direction. He feared the worst.
"Perhaps some of the poor people may have escaped death from the assegais of their enemies, and may be lying hid in the bushes or plantations around," he said to himself; "though I fear those savages do their work too surely to give much hope of that."
He hastened back to the camp, and having taken a hurried breakfast, and advised his guests to remain quiet in their places of concealment, he set out, accompanied by Umgolo, towards the kraal.
The stream was easily forded. As the morning was fresh, he and his companion walked briskly on. They were thus not long in reaching the neighbourhood of the kraal. A dreadful sight met their eyes. Everywhere the ground was strewed with the dead bodies of its late inhabitants. As he had supposed, the assegais of the avengers had been used too well to allow any of them to escape with life. Some lay outside, others within the two circles of ashes where the huts had stood. Still it was possible that some might have crept to a distance. He and his companion searched, however, all round, and although every bush was examined, no one was discovered, nor did they perceive any traces of blood which might have indicated that some wounded person had got thus far from the scene of slaughter.
They were about to return to the camp, when, looking towards the kraal, the trader fancied that he saw some object move in the centre among several dead oxen, which had probably been wounded by the assegais of the attacking party, and had returned there to die. He accordingly made his way towards the spot, followed by Umgolo, over the still warm ashes. He preferred the risk of burning his boots to going round through the entrance, where the bodies of the slaughtered people lay so thickly that he could scarcely pass without treading upon them.
"Who can this be?" he exclaimed as he got near where the dead oxen lay. "If my eyes do not deceive me, here's a young white boy. Who are you? What brought you here, my child?" he asked in a kind tone.
But the boy did not reply. He had been lying between two of the cattle, partly under one of them, and having apparently been asleep, and just awakened, was endeavouring to get up. Round his waist was a robe of monkey skins, and a cloak of wild cat skins hung over his shoulders. Both were stained with blood, but whether it came from a wound he had received, or was that of the animals whose bodies had sheltered him, it was difficult to say. When the trader lifted him up, he evinced no fear, though he still did not speak.
"Are you English or Dutch?" asked the trader. "A Zulu you cannot be, though dressed like one."
There was no reply. The boy, who seemed to be about eight or nine years old, looked round with an astonished gaze at the circle of ashes to which the kraal had been reduced.
"Why, the poor child is wounded, I fear," said the trader, examining his arm. "Terror probably has deprived him of his wits."
As he said this, taking a handkerchief from his pocket, he bound it round the injured limb, so as to staunch the flow of blood.
"The sooner we get him to the camp the better: he wants both food and water. Although he cannot say anything about himself, I have no doubt that Mangaleesu will be able to give an account of him."
Saying this, the trader, giving his gun to Umgolo to carry, lifted the boy up in his arms, and hurried with him down the hill towards the camp. Had the boy been a Zulu, Umgolo would probably have recommended that he should be left to shift for himself, but observing his white skin he did not venture to interfere.
The child, evidently satisfied that he had found a friend, lay quietly in the strong arms of the trader, who walked on with rapid steps, carrying him as if he had been an infant.
The camp was soon reached, and the trader, placing the boy on some skins in the shade of the waggon, ordered one of his Kaffirs who acted as cook to get some broth ready, while he sent off another to obtain fresh water from the spring.
This done, he examined the wound in the boy's arm, more carefully than he had before been able to do. He first got out of the waggon a salve and some lint, with some linen bandages; for he was too experienced a hunter to travel without articles which might occasionally be of the greatest necessity.
Having taken off the handkerchief and carefully washed the wound in warm water, he dressed it with the skill of a surgeon. The boy looked up gratefully in his new friend's face, but still did not speak. The trader having in vain endeavoured to obtain an answer when addressing him in English or Dutch, he at last spoke to him in Kaffir.
The boy at once said, "I thank you, white stranger, for what you have done for me. I thought at first that you belonged to those who had killed our people, and that you were going to kill me. Now I know that you are my friend."
"You are right, my boy; I wish to be so," said the trader. "But tell me, how comes it that you who are white, cannot speak your native tongue?"
"I have been so long with the Zulus that I have forgotten it," answered the boy. "I once could speak it, and I well remember the white people I lived amongst. For a long time I remembered my native language; but as I always, since I could speak, knew some Kaffir, I soon understood what was said to me. I had a black nurse, but she was assegaid, and I was torn from her arms by the Zulus who carried me off. More than that I cannot tell."
The kind-hearted trader was obliged to be content with this information. He was unwilling indeed, till the poor boy had regained his strength, further to question him, and he hoped to learn more of his history from Mangaleesu and Kalinda, who he had no doubt would be able to afford it.
Having given the boy some of the broth which was now ready, and placed a blanket under his head to serve as a pillow, he left Umgolo to watch over him. He then went and sat down by the side of Mangaleesu, who still lay in the hammock under the waggon, not yet recovered from the exertions he had made on the previous night, and the loss of blood from his wounds.
"I have recovered one of your people, and have brought him to the camp," said the trader.
"Who is he?" asked Mangaleesu eagerly. "I thought that all had been killed."
"Although he has a white skin, he seems by his dress and language to be a Zulu," answered the trader.
"Then he must be little Unozingli," said the chief. "I am glad he has escaped, for he was a favourite with us, and will some day, if he lives, become a great warrior."
"By what chance did he happen to be living among you? Although he is dressed like a Zulu, and speaks the Kaffir tongue alone, he is evidently the child of white parents."
"He was brought to my kraal by a tribe from a distant part of the country, who afterwards joined my people," answered the chief. "They had taken him, they said, from a black woman who had been killed; but the child being white, they had been unwilling to destroy him, and had carried him off with them. He was at once adopted into the tribe, and has lived with us ever since, learning our customs and language, and we gave him the name of Unozingli."
From this answer it was evident that no further satisfactory information could be obtained from Mangaleesu respecting the boy. This was a disappointment to the trader. He had hoped, after rescuing the little fellow, to have had the satisfaction of discovering his parents or friends, and restoring him to them. He was satisfied that the child was either English or Dutch, and from his features he was inclined to think he was the former.
"I don't fancy calling him by his Kaffir name," he said to himself. "I must get one more suited to him." As he looked at the thick auburn hair which hung in curls over the boy's head, his freckled, though otherwise fair countenance, his large blue eyes, and broad, open countenance, he exclaimed, "I have it! I'll call him Lionel; for a young lion he looks, and will, I hope, some day bring down many of the brutes of the forest."
Unwilling to leave the camp himself, lest their enemies might come in search of the young chief and his bride, towards evening the trader sent out Umgolo and another man in search of game to supply his followers with meat, for in that climate what is killed one day is scarcely eatable the next.
He also despatched two others in different directions to ascertain if any of the Zulus were in the neighbourhood, apparently searching for Mangaleesu, as he intended in that case to keep the chief and his bride more carefully concealed until he had carried them safely across the border.
The hunters were the first to return, loaded with the flesh of a couple of antelopes. Soon afterwards, while they were busily employed in cutting up the animals and preparing them for supper, the scouts came in, bringing the information that they had seen a large party who seemed to them coming from the south-west, but who were too far off to enable them to ascertain who they were. As—the intermediate ground being uneven—it would have taken them a long time to get nearer, they deemed it wise to return at once with their report.
"Whether friends or foes, we are ready for them," said the trader. "In case they should be foes, we must keep our guests concealed; but from the direction they come, I think it more likely that they are friends, and we will have some food ready for them."
The cooks therefore spitted according to camp fashion an additional supply of meat to roast, while the trader walked on a short distance in the direction he expected the strangers to appear. He was not mistaken in his surmise. After some time he saw through his glass a waggon very similar to his own, accompanied by two persons on horseback and several on foot. On this, returning to the camp, he ordered his horse to be saddled, and went out to meet them. As he was seen approaching, the two mounted strangers rode forward.
"What, Hendricks the Hunter!" exclaimed the elder, a tall, gaunt man, with a weather-beaten countenance, whose grey twinkling eyes, the form of his features, and his rich brogue showed him to be an Irishman. "Mighty glad to fall in with you, old friend!" and the gentlemen shook hands warmly.
"I'm equally well pleased to meet you, Maloney," answered Mr Hendricks. "You can give me news of the civilised world, of which I have heard nothing for many a long month."
"Faith! as to that, it wags much as usual. Skins are fetching fair prices, which is good news for you; but the Kathlamba bushmen are again becoming troublesome, and have lately carried off several head of cattle and horses from the settlers in that direction, which is a bad matter for them, while the new arrivals are grumbling and complaining as usual because they do not find the colony the Eldorado they expected, before they have had time to dig a spade into the ground or run a plough over it. For my part, I'm mighty glad to get out of their company and find myself in the wilderness."
"So am I generally, after I have been a short time at home, I confess, though I have many friends in Maritzburg, with whom I am glad now and again to spend a few days," replied Hendricks. "Had you, however, waited a little longer, I intended to propose that we should join forces and travel together. I thought it possible indeed that I might fall in with you, although as I did not expect to do so for several days to come I was in hopes that you would be induced to wait for me till I was ready to make a fresh start."
"I would willingly have delayed my journey or waited for you, had we met closer to the Natal border," answered Mr Maloney; "but as you know, it would not be prudent to remain longer than possible in this part of the country, and even now, as I shall spend some time trading and hunting to the south of the Drakensberg, you will probably overtake me before I get over the mountains."
"It will be from no fault of mine if I do not," said Hendricks. "I shall not be long in transacting my business at Maritzburg. However, we'll talk of that presently; and now come along to my camp, for supper will be ready by the time we get there. By the bye, who is the lad with you? He looks somewhat tired from his journey."
"He is my son Denis, a chip of the old block," answered Mr Maloney. "To say the truth, however, he is just now somewhat sick, and I'd rather see him safe at Maritzburg than travelling with me into the wilderness. I have a favour to ask—it is that you will take charge of him and let him accompany you back to the town. I shall be mighty thankful to you if you will."
"I will do as you wish," said Hendricks, "though the lad, I suspect, would rather be hunting with you than kicking his heels in town with nothing to do."
"He has been too well-trained to dispute my authority," observed Mr Maloney. "I took him from the office of his uncle, my worthy brother-in-law, and he must go back for a few months until I return and am ready to make my next trip. By that time he'll have more muscle and stamina, and be better able to stand the fatigue and hard life we hunters have to endure."
"I'll carry out your wishes with all my heart, and will look after the lad while I remain in the colony," said Hendricks.
This conversation took place while the two leaders were riding on towards the camp, the lad following a short distance behind them.
Mr Hendricks briefly related to his companion the attack on the kraal, and the way in which the Zulu chief, his bride and the little boy had been rescued. "I intend to take the child with me, to leave him in charge of my good sister, Susannah Jansen," he added. "We may some day discover to whom he belongs, but I will, in the meantime, act the part of a guardian to him."
"It is a kind act of yours, but faith! I suppose I should be after doing the same sort of thing myself, though I find one son as much as I can manage. To be sure, all boys are not like Denis here, who boasts that he shot a springboc before he was ten years old, and that he has since killed a lion and a wild boar, his great ambition being now to bring an elephant to the ground."
As his father was speaking, Denis, who had hitherto kept in the rear, hearing his name mentioned rode up.
"I have asked Mr Hendricks to take you back with him to Maritzburg, where you must wait with all the patience you can muster till my next trip," said Mr Maloney. "You are not strong enough for the work before us; and if you knock up, the object of my expedition will be defeated, for I shall have to nurse you instead of being able to hunt or carry on trade."
"I am much obliged to Mr Hendricks, but I don't intend to knock up," said Denis, not looking very well pleased at his father's proposal. "I'm a little sick now, but I shall be all to rights in a day or two, and will be able to continue the journey."
His looks, however, belied his assertion, though he was evidently doing his utmost to appear at his ease.
"Well, well, we'll see about it, my boy; but for your own sake, as well as mine, I wish you to go back. I took you somewhat against my better judgment, in the hopes that the journey would strengthen you, instead of which you look worse than when we started."
Denis still begged to be allowed to go on, until his father, losing patience, told him to say no more about the matter; that he should decide what was best to be done, and should act accordingly.
Hearing his father say this, Denis, not venturing to make any further appeal, again dropped behind.
"You see the boy has a will of his own," observed Mr Maloney. "Though so tall and full of spirit, he is scarcely twelve years of age, and has in truth outgrown his strength. Since he lost his mother he has only had his uncle, Tom Lumly, to look after him when I have been away, and my good brother-in-law being much taken up with business has had little time to attend to him, so that he has been allowed to run rather wild. However, as he is now well able to make himself useful, Tom will give him work to do, and that will help to keep him out of harm's way."
"You are right, my friend; there's nothing like plenty of work to help keep a person out of mischief; but, after all, he must have steadiness and good principles. They alone are to be depended on, and I hope your son has got those as ballast."
The two gentlemen, followed by Denis, soon arrived at the camp. They found the promised repast spread out under the shade cast by the waggon as the sun sank towards the western hills.
The two ciders did ample justice to the venison steaks and other African luxuries placed before them; but though Denis managed to eat a little, he had to acknowledge that he was somewhat off his feed.
Umgolo, who ranked as a chief amongst his followers, and shared his master's board, ate considerably more than the two white men together. Mangaleesu and Kalinda, who had been invited, at first hung back, but overcoming their bashfulness at length came and joined the party, and did ample justice to the food offered them. At last, little Unozingli, the white boy, or Lionel, as his protector determined to call him, crept out from the corner of the waggon, and, tempted by the smell of the viands, came and placed himself by the side of the Zulu chief, of whom he showed no fear.
"The child has been well treated, or he would keep away from our dark-skinned friend there," observed Mr Maloney. "It's mighty curious that he's unable to utter a word of English; but he'll find his tongue soon, when he has stowed away a little food."
The little fellow, unlike the Zulus, ate moderately, and after taking a draught of cold water declared that he was satisfied. His wounded arm, which Hendricks had placed in a sling, did not appear to cause him much pain; at all events, he did not complain as most boys more delicately nurtured than he had been would have done.
The Zulu chief now addressed him in a kind tone. He at once answered, and was soon chattering away either with him or Kalinda, with whom he appeared to be a favourite. After this, as he had recovered his spirits, Hendricks called him to come and sit by his side, and speaking in the Zulu language, questioned him as to his early recollections, when his answers fully confirmed the account given by Mangaleesu.
"Do you wish to return to your white friends?" asked Hendricks.
The boy's countenance brightened. "I am fond of the chief and Kalinda, but I should greatly like to see the white lady who often used to talk to me, and whom I called mother, and a man with hair like mine, who sometimes carried me on his back or in his arms, and let me ride on his knee. Then there was the black woman, but I shall never see her, for I remember well how the Zulus pierced her with their assegais. She fell into the river and was swept away, while one of the warriors carried me off."
"We will try and find your parents if they are still alive, and until they are found I will be a father to you," said Hendricks. "Will you trust me?"
"Indeed I will, for I like your face," answered the boy frankly.
"I suspect the little fellow is the child of some Dutch boers, slaughtered by the Zulus, while travelling in search of a location," observed Hendricks to his guest. "So many of the unfortunate settlers have thus lost their lives, that it is very improbable I shall ever discover to whom he belongs. If not, I will adopt him as my son, as he seems to have been committed to my charge by Providence."
Meantime Mr Maloney's waggon had arrived, and had been drawn up close to that of his friend, in such a position that in case of necessity it might serve to afford additional strength to the camp. Their respective Kaffir and Hottentot servants had assembled round a large fire a little distance off, the necessary guards only remaining to watch the cattle.
As the night was drawing on, and young Denis looked very sleepy, his father ordered him off to his berth in the waggon, which, though pretty well loaded with goods for traffic, had space enough for a couple of sleeping-places.
The lad got up, and wishing his father and Hendricks "good-night," sauntered away to the waggon, while the hunters remained seated near the fire, discussing their plans for the future. The Irishman intended to push forward through Zululand to a region some distance to the northward, where elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotami abounded, so that he might obtain a supply of ivory as well as of skins and any other valuable products of the country which he might discover.
Hendricks proposed, after remaining at Maritzburg two or three months, again to set out northward with the same object in view. He however relied less on trading than his own skill as a hunter to load up his waggon.
"If you find my boy well enough, and think fit to bring him along with you, do so; though don't tell him of your intention until the time for starting has arrived, or he will not settle down to his work in the town," said Maloney.
His friend promised to carry out his wishes, and at last, their various plans being arranged, they gave the word to their followers to go to sleep, while they themselves retired to their respective waggons.
A resting-place had been constructed for the young chief and his wife under the waggon, and little Lionel, who did not occupy much space, crept into his corner on the top of the cargo beneath the tilt.
Before lying down Hendricks took a turn round the camp to ascertain that the guards were properly posted and on the watch. This precaution his friend did not appear to have considered necessary, a single Hottentot alone being left to watch the cattle. The night was calm and clear, enabling him to see a considerable distance both up and down the valley.
No sounds broke the silence, and if there were lions or other wild animals in the neighbourhood, they did not make themselves audible. Satisfied that all was right, he at length got into his usual berth, and was soon fast asleep.
LOST AND FOUND.
Hendricks was awakened by the voice of Maloney shouting—
"Do you know what has become of my son Denis? The boy is not in his berth, and none of my people can tell where he has gone. They all declare that they did not see him leave the camp, and though I have been shouting to him for the last ten minutes, he has not replied to me."
The hunter, springing out of the waggon, answered—
"As I have been fast asleep I cannot tell you, but the chances are that he has taken his gun to show his skill as a sportsman, and hopes to bring back a pallah or springboc for breakfast. We must ascertain in what direction he has gone. Perhaps some of my Hottentots who went down with the oxen to the stream may have seen him."
Neither of the Hottentots, however, could give any account of the missing boy. The men who had been on guard were also questioned, but none of them had seen him, and from the answers they gave it seemed more than probable that they had been nodding at their posts. One of them at last acknowledged that he had caught sight of a figure, just before daybreak, some little distance from the camp, going to the northward.
Further search was made, and Denis not appearing, his father and Hendricks determined to set off in quest of him, in the direction he was supposed to have gone, leaving orders with their followers to get breakfast ready and to prepare for inspanning directly they returned.
"I fancy that my first suspicions are correct, and that your boy wants to prove how able he is to accompany you," observed the latter. "If he appears loaded with venison, it will be difficult to persuade him to the contrary."
"Faith! the young rascal has spirit enough, but his strength is not equal to it," answered Maloney. "If I take him with me, he'll be getting into mischief; whether, therefore, he appears loaded with venison or empty handed, nolens volens, I'll send him back with you."
While they were speaking, the sound of footsteps was heard coming up behind them. They both turned expecting to see Master Denis; but instead, little Unozingli the white boy, or Lionel, as Hendricks called him, came running up to them.
"What brings you after us, boy?" asked Hendricks in Zulu.
"To help the masters find my white brother," answered the boy. "I know the way he has taken, for I saw his footsteps on the grass, though the master may not have discovered them. We shall find him in time, but he may already be some distance away."
"I will trust you, boy, and am glad you came," said Hendricks. "But how is it you are so confident of finding him?"
"Because I have often gone out with my Zulu masters to search for game, and sometimes to follow their enemies, and I know the signs on the ground which guided them. Here the grass pressed, there a twig broken off, or a stone moved, or the mark of feet on the sand or soft earth."
"You understand what is wanted, I see. Come with us," said Hendricks. Then turning to his companion, he added, "The boy's wits have been sharpened by his life with the blacks. I have always noted that when a white man has the same necessity for acquiring knowledge as savages, he always surpasses them. In course of time, had that boy continued with the Zulus, he would have become a great chief among them, and would probably have made himself a terror to the settlers, had any cause of quarrel arisen. It's an ill wind that blows no one good, and it's fortunate for him as well as for the settlers, that the kraal was destroyed and that he was liberated."
The boy, on obtaining permission to accompany his new friends, immediately took the lead, with his eyes fixed on the ground, at a pace with which they found it somewhat difficult at times to keep up. The trail, or as the Dutch call it, the spoor, when an animal is being tracked, must have been remarkably clear to the eyes of the little fellow; for he did not hesitate a moment, though the white men, with all their experience as hunters, were unable to distinguish any of the marks by which he was guided. Several animals were seen as they went along. Now a buffalo would dash out of a thicket, and go rushing at a rapid rate across their path. Now a herd of peewas were caught sight of, making their way towards the stream to take their morning draught. Presently a flock of Guinea fowl would rise from the tangled underwood, and fly hither and thither, filling the air with their discordant notes. Then suddenly a white rhinoceros would appear strolling along, until, seeing the strangers, he would break into a gallop similar to that of a well-bred horse; notwithstanding his heavy body, showing a splendid action, with his head well up, and moving at a pace few horses could rival. But these occurrences did not for a moment draw off the boy's attention. The heat as the sun rose became excessive, beating down with a force which only those accustomed to the wilds of Africa could have borne without complaining.
After going a considerable distance the boy stopped and examined the ground. What was the horror of Hendricks and Maloney to see the grass stained with blood! It was too probably that of Denis.
"The poor boy must have been struck down by a lion, and has been carried off into the thicket," exclaimed his father.
"I am not so sure of that," answered Hendricks. "What is it, Unozingli?"
"The white boy shot a pallah, which galloped off away out there, and he followed," answered the little fellow, pointing to the north. "We shall find him before long. He thought to get another shot, but he had little chance of that."
Scarcely had he spoken when a roar was heard coming from the direction towards which he pointed. He looked anxious; it was the voice, undoubtedly, of a lion.
"Come on!" he said; "but be ready to fire."
Presently another roar was heard, but this time there were the voices of two lions—the sound, however, came from a considerable distance. The hunters pressed on. They were too well accustomed to encounter the monarch of the wilds under ordinary circumstances to have any feeling of alarm for themselves, but they became intensely anxious about Denis; still it was not likely that the lions would be roaring had they seized him. They hurried on even faster than before, though they had several times to turn aside to avoid the thorny thickets in their path, through which even their young guide did not attempt to make his way. The sounds grew louder and louder. They were approaching the spot where the lions would be discovered. For their own safety it was necessary to be cautious. Their great hope was that Denis had turned aside, and that the beasts were roaring over the body of the wounded pallah which they had brought down. Still Lionel, though he slackened his pace, did not hesitate, but went on, his eyes peering about in every direction. He seemed to place perfect reliance on the power of his companions' firearms. For some time the roaring ceased. Could the brutes have gone off, or were they watching the approach of the strangers? Suddenly three lion cubs burst out from a thicket. Maloney was instinctively about to fire, but Hendricks stopped him. "Take care! the old ones are not far off. Those little brutes were sent out by the lion and lioness to watch us."
As he said this, the cubs, turning round, galloped off to the left up the hill. Cautiously the hunters advanced. It was well they did so, for scarcely had they gone fifty paces more when a lion and lioness suddenly bounded out with rapid strides, their heads and tails up.
"You take the lioness, I'll take the lion," said Hendricks calmly, while the boy, showing no signs of fear, stepped behind his friends. All at once the lion stopped, then gazing a moment at the intruders, galloped off after the cubs, but the lioness still came bounding on. Hendricks on this refrained from pulling his trigger. Maloney fired, the ball struck the savage animal in the neck, but notwithstanding on she came towards him, and in another instant would probably have laid him low on the ground with a blow from her powerful paw. It was fortunate that Hendricks had not thrown his shot away. He stood as firm as a rock, and raising his rifle aimed at the lioness's chest. She made one bound into the air, and fell close to his feet. She was still not dead, and he, grasping the boy by the arm, sprang to a distance on one side while Maloney leapt to the other. She made several efforts to reach them, crawling along for some distance on the ground, but in vain attempted to rise, and after giving a few convulsive struggles, she fell over on her side dead.
"My poor boy, my poor boy! If he has encountered those brutes, what chance of escape can he have had?" exclaimed Maloney.
"We'll hope for the best. Come on," was the answer. And not stopping, as they would otherwise have done, to skin the lioness, they hurried forward, led by their young guide.
"He's not far off, he has not been killed," he said, in answer to a question Hendricks put to him.
Presently a shout reached their ears, and looking up, there, to their intense relief, they saw Master Denis seated amidst the branches of a tree, well out of reach of the lions. Below it lay his gun.
"Have you settled the brutes?" he shouted out. "I'm glad you have come, for I'm desperately hungry. They seemed inclined to keep me here all day. If I hadn't had to leave my gun on the ground, I should soon have driven them away. I saw the brutes just in time to scramble up here."
"You may thank heaven that you were not torn to pieces by them," said Hendricks.
"Come down, Denis," cried his father, thankful that he had escaped, and too glad to find fault with him just then.
The boy made his way down, but would have fallen on reaching the ground, had not his father caught him. He looked paler even than on the previous evening, but that was not surprising, considering the alarm he had been in, and that he had had no breakfast. It was important that they should get back to the camp as soon as possible, and the two hunters, each taking an arm, helped him along, for by himself it was very evident that he would have been unable to walk even a short distance.
"You have given us a pretty fright, Denis," said his father. "What made you take it into your head to start off alone from the camp, without letting any one know where you were going?"
"Faith! for the sake of showing you what I could do," answered Denis. "Besides, I just honestly confess that I thought you would have inspanned and come along this way, when I hoped you would not have refused to take me with you."
"I thought as much, but you've gained nothing by the move," observed his father. "You have shown me more clearly than before that you are utterly unfit to go through the fatigues of a hunter's life. You'll just take advantage of the kind offer of our friend here, and go back with him to Maritzburg."
Poor Denis looked very crestfallen, but said nothing, for he did not feel just then well able to enter into a controversy with any one. Indeed, he was growing weaker and weaker, and it seemed more than probable that he would be unable to get back to the camp unless he was carried. Little Lionel had picked up his gun, and was staggering ahead with it over his shoulders. He kept his eyes looking about him as if on the watch for something or other. Presently he cried out in Zulu, "Be on your guard, white chief. See, see! there they come!" and Hendricks caught sight of the lion, followed at a distance by the cubs, stealing down the hill towards the spot where the lioness had been shot. He kept his eye on the animal, to watch its movements. Both he and Maloney had loaded with ball, and they now halted until the lion came within range of their weapons.
The brute moved slowly on, and then suddenly sitting up on its haunches, surveyed them at a distance.
"The lion has no stomach for a fight. We may go on," said Hendricks. They walked on supporting Denis, while the boy kept close to their side until they had passed the body of the lioness, the lion all the time retaining its position, conscious probably that its duties were to protect its cubs. They went on and on until they got out of sight of the lion, which, when they last saw it, had not moved from its post. Very frequently, however, Hendricks looked back to ascertain whether the animal was following them. "After all, they are cowardly brutes," he observed. "They will seldom attack a man when they see he is prepared for them, unless hard pressed by hunger. I have never found them otherwise."
A rhinoceros, a panther, and several deer were seen, but they had no further interruptions to their progress, and at length the camp was reached. They found breakfast ready for them. From the appearance of Denis, who scarcely ate a morsel, it was more than ever evident that he would be unable to accompany his father. It was doubtful indeed whether he would be able to start with Hendricks the following morning, unless room could be found for him in the waggon. In the meantime a bed was made up for him in the shade beneath it, consisting of a blanket and kaross, the latter being a robe composed of jackal skins sewn together. Hendricks, although anxious to get to Maritzburg, agreed to wait until the following morning, when it was hoped that Denis would be able to sit his horse, and benefit by the fresh air of the early day.
His father was very grateful to their friend for his kindness.
"Don't talk about it," answered the sturdy hunter. "Our oxen will benefit by having another day's rest and good feeding, which neither yours nor mine are likely to obtain for some time to come; for when once I inspan, I shall let nothing stop me until I get to the end of my journey, and you, of course, will have to traverse the barren country I lately passed over."
The young chief, however, showed great impatience at the delay. He evidently feared that his countrymen would discover him and drag him from the protection of the English. He expressed this idea to Hendricks.
"They will have to fight pretty hard to do that, and you must not be slow to defend yourselves," observed the hunter.
The black chief flourished his assegai with a fierce look. "Mangaleesu has shown what he can do, and he will not yield while life lasts," he exclaimed.
"Those who are ready to fight for themselves merit assistance," observed the hunter. "Rest assured, we will not deliver you up."
During the hot hours of the day the Kaffir and Hottentot servants lay about in whatever shade could be found, some smoking, others spinning interminable yarns, but the larger number passing the time fast asleep, stretched on the ground with a few boughs or pieces of blanket over their heads. Occasionally the Hottentots were roused up to take then turn in watching the cattle, on which, even during the day, it was necessary to keep a bright look-out lest a lion might pounce down upon them, or a black rhinoceros charge into their midst and put them to flight. At length Hendricks called out the hunters, and sent them in search of game. While they took one direction, he himself, with Maloney, accompanied by Umgolo, proceeded higher up the mountain-side, his object being to discover if there was any more practicable route than the one by which the latter had come, as also to ascertain if there were any native kraals in the neighbourhood. The summit of the hill was soon reached.
"It is as I thought," said Maloney, after they had surveyed the country. "You'll not find a better road to the east or west, bad as it is; if you make the attempt, you'll very likely get out of the frying-pan into the fire."
On either side were seen a succession of tree-covered heights, through which no waggon could force its way, unless preceded by a party of pioneers to cut down the trees and bridge the ravines. In the far distance were a few kraals with open spaces marking the mealy grounds of the inhabitants, but in other respects the whole country was a perfect wilderness.
As they were descending they caught sight of a graceful animal which at that moment had leapt on a rock not far from them. In colour and appearance it resembled the common roe, but was considerably smaller. On seeing the strangers, it was on the point of turning to escape, when Hendricks, raising his gun in a moment to his shoulder, fired, and the little klipspringer fell from the projecting rock on which it was standing, down on the smooth side of the hill, where it lay motionless. The klipspringer is one of the most active of antelopes, differing from others of its species in having small hoofs and somewhat short legs for its size, thus adapting it to its roaming mountainous life, while the hair is so loose in the skin, that even in the short distance the animal just shot had fallen, a considerable part had been knocked off. Umgolo at once shouldered it, and without difficulty carried it off to the camp. Had it been a load of any other description, he would have declined to demean himself by lifting it on his shoulders. On their way back, the hunters shot several dassi, or rock rabbits, which thus paid the penalty of their curiosity as they came out of their holes to look at the passers-by. Their flesh, although not so highly flavoured, was more likely to prove tender than that of larger game, and they were thus an acceptable addition to the store of meat.
Poor Denis made his appearance at supper-time, somewhat revived by a long sleep. Although he tried to be cheerful, and declared that he was fit for anything, it was still very evident that he would be unable to accompany his father.
Except that there was a continual serenade of hyenas and jackals, with the occasional low mutterings of lions in the distance, the night passed quietly by. Before dawn the next morning both camps were astir. After a hurried breakfast the oxen were inspanned, and Denis was placed in the homeward-bound waggon. His father having taken leave of him, and parted from Hendricks with a hearty shake of the hand, the two vehicles commenced their journeys in opposite directions. Mangaleesu and Kalinda walked together close to the waggon, and it had been arranged that should any natives appear, she was to get inside, while the young chief, who had put off the insignia of his rank, and was dressed like one of the other natives, would then, it was hoped, pass without discovery. Little Lionel, whose wound was slighter than at first supposed, and who seemed to look upon it as a mere scratch, some times trotted alongside them, and at others clambered up by the side of the driver, to whom he took an especial fancy. Denis frequently called him to sit in the corner at the other end of the waggon, and amused himself by trying to teach him English, which the boy acquired with wonderful rapidity, it being scarcely ever necessary to tell him twice the name of a thing.
"I'm sure the little chap is English," said Denis to Hendricks, when they outspanned for the night. "Had his parents been Dutch, he would not have recollected the names of things so uncommonly fast as he does. When I put my hand to my head, and said head, he immediately repeated the word after me, and when I asked him again ten minutes afterwards he had not forgotten it. When I touched my cap, without telling him the name, he at once said 'cap.' If he goes on at that rate, he'll be able to talk English before we get to Maritzburg, and I shouldn't be surprised if he will then be able to give us a more clear account of himself than he has hitherto done."
"That's right, Denis; go on and try to make him talk as much as you can. I have got some books, and you may be able to teach him his letters, and perhaps even to read before the journey is over," said Hendricks. "He is a sharp little fellow, no doubt about that, and will do credit to your instruction."
Denis looked well pleased at this remark. He was flattered at the confidence placed in him, and was thus reconciled to sitting quietly in the waggon all day, instead of mounting his horse. He was really unfit for hard exercise, though, had he not found this employment, he would probably have been restless and discontented, and would have insisted on mounting his horse, and exposing himself to the hot sun.
Day after day the waggon moved on, generally only ten miles were accomplished, frequently even less, and seldom much more, except when the ground was level and hard. Occasionally the men had to put their shoulders to the wheels to help on the oxen where the ground was unusually steep. On these occasions the young chief made himself useful, not disdaining to labour with the other men. He appeared desirous, indeed, of showing his gratitude to Hendricks for the protection afforded him. He still, however, did not seem to be at his ease. Whenever a height was reached, his eye ranged anxiously over the country, as if he expected his enemies to be coming in search of him. Hendricks inquired one day who he supposed was the leader of the attack against the kraal. Was it Cetchwayo? he asked. "No, but Mapeetu, another chief, a great friend of his. He had seen Kalinda, and wished to make her his wife, but she ran from him because she loved me, and she became mine. He knew that he could not get her back, because I kept too strict a watch over her, and would never allow her to go out of the kraal without going myself, with a strong party; so in revenge, when one of the king's wives fell ill, he bribed the doctor to declare that I had bewitched her. I heard of this, and so, when the king sent for me, knowing that I should be murdered on the way, I refused to go. Mapeetu was cunning, and appeared to have forgotten all about the matter. This threw me off my guard, or I should have moved with my people and cattle, as soon as our crops had been gathered in, to another part of the country. Thinking that all was secure, I kept no watch at the kraal that night, but the moment I heard the sounds outside, I knew what was about to happen, and resolved to fight, not so much to preserve my own life, as to prevent Kalinda from falling into the power of Mapeetu. Had she been killed, I would have sought him out, and followed him through the country until I had satisfied my revenge."
"I am glad that you both escaped. And now tell me; how are you going to support yourself in Natal?" asked Hendricks.
"Where game is abundant one need never be anxious on that score," answered Mangaleesu. "When I have provided for my wife, I intend to return to Zululand and punish Mapeetu for the slaughter of my people. Cetchwayo will not dare to kill me, for it will be acknowledged that a chief so brave as I have proved myself could not have been guilty of witchcraft. Then, when I have gathered some people round me, and have built another kraal, I will go back for my Kalinda."
Hendricks, though suspecting that the young chief would probably lose his life in endeavouring to carry out his plan, was well aware that to attempt dissuading him from it would be useless; he therefore simply observed, "You have a good many things to do first, and perhaps you will not find it as easy as you suppose to obtain a livelihood in Natal."
The chief looked somewhat disconcerted at this remark, but the next moment drawing himself up proudly, he answered—
"Mangaleesu's strong arm and rifle will supply him and his wife with all their wants. The Zulus are not like you white men, they can live where you would starve."
"You are a brave young man, but you have no rifle and ammunition to begin with," said Hendricks. "However, I will supply you, and will purchase the skins you bring me at a fair price. In that way, if you hunt diligently, you will be able to support yourself and your wife."
The chief appeared well pleased with this arrangement, and did not for the remainder of the journey again talk of returning to Zululand to revenge himself on his enemies. When the waggon was passing in the neighbourhood of kraals, the natives on several occasions paid Hendricks a visit, supposing that he had come to trade with them; but, as his goods were exhausted, and his waggon already fully loaded, he told them that he could do no business, and they soon again took their departure. None of them appeared to recognise Mangaleesu, and as Kalinda always cautiously crept inside she was not seen. It was therefore hoped that Mapeetu had no suspicion of how the young chief and his bride had escaped, and that the party ran no risk of being molested. Several not very important adventures were met with. Game, which was everywhere abundant, was killed to supply the travellers with food, and at length descending from the high ground they reached the colony. They had a considerable distance to travel, but all danger from hostile Zulus was over. A journey of about ten days brought them in sight of the high black hills, devoid of a single tree, which bound Maritzburg on the north and north-west. Soon afterwards the town itself appeared, situated on a large knoll or plateau, rising out of a natural basin, and almost surrounded by "little Bushmans" river. Crossing the stream, the waggon passed along a broad road bounded by green hedges of pomegranate, enclosing nicely kept gardens, in which stood neat little whitewashed cottages with verandahs in front, round whose posts were twined beautiful and luxurious creepers. By the side of the water-courses by which the gardens were irrigated, coming from the main stream, grew weeping willows and lilac trees, with several other water-loving and rapidly growing shrubs. The streets of the town were at right angles; the houses uniformly white, few of them being of more than one story, but all looking very neat and clean, as did the streets themselves, with channels of clear water flowing on either side, affording the inhabitants an abundant supply for all their wants. Indeed, it could not but be acknowledged that the site of Pieter Maritzburg had been admirably chosen for a colonial town.
Hendricks having outspanned in an open place at the entrance of the town, left Umgolo to look after the waggon, and took Denis and Lionel to dispose of them as he had arranged. Denis was kindly received by his uncle, who, thanking Hendricks for having brought him back, promised to give him employment until his father should come or send for him. Denis seemed very sorry to part from Lionel, who had been so long his pupil.
"Don't you be after forgetting all I have taught you, Lionel," he said.
"No fear, me no forget," answered Lionel, laughing. "Soon talkee English well as Den 'self."
The little fellow, as he walked alongside his tall friend, gazed with astonishment at all he saw, and when he came near the public buildings— which though unpretending edifices enough, were of gigantic size compared with any structures he had seen—he opened his eyes and inquired how men could ever manage to put them together.
Mr Hendricks led him through the town, until they reached a neat little cottage standing in a nicely kept garden surrounded by a pomegranate hedge, and full of gay flowers. In front of the house was a porch, round the posts of which were trained several luxuriant creepers, so as to hang in festoons from the roof. The floor was paved with Dutch tiles, kept as polished and clean as a dinner-table.
As they entered through the wicket gate, a fair, portly-looking dame, of a comely and cheerful countenance, her white cap concealing her smooth light hair, appeared at the door.
"What, do my eyes deceive me? or do I really see my dear brother safe and sound in limb and body?" she exclaimed, sticking her knitting-needles and balls of cotton into one of her ample pockets, ready for the affectionate embrace she was prepared to give and receive.
"Yes, indeed, you see me as strong and hearty as ever, and richer than I have been since I first started off from home as a younker, with a pack at my back and a rifle in my hand. Never have I made a more successful trip; for I have returned with the waggon so loaded that I sometimes feared the stout wheels would give way under the weight they carried."
"What young stranger have you brought here?" asked the dame, after the first salutations were over. "A fine little child, by my troth!"
Hendricks briefly described how Lionel had come into his hands. "And I want you, my good sister, to take charge of him, and bring him up, until by some means we may discover his parents. He will repay your trouble if I judge rightly of his disposition; and although he has no large amount of English at his command at present, he will soon chatter away fast enough to afford you plenty of amusement."
Kind Mistress Jansen, taking the boy by the hand, and drawing him towards her, answered, "That I'll do with all my heart, and we shall be good friends at once, shall we not, my boy?"
The little fellow did not answer, but looked up at Hendricks as if asking him to reply. The hunter spoke a few words in Zulu, on hearing which the child's eye brightened.
"I have told him that you will be a mother to him Susannah, and he seems well pleased at the thought."
That matter being settled, the hunter having taken a cup of tea with his good sister, and enjoyed a little further conversation, left his young protege with her, and returned to where his waggon and followers were encamped to make arrangements for the disposal of his cargo. Finding, however, that it would be well worth his while to proceed to D'Urban, he the following day set off for that town, to dispose of the produce of his hunting, and to procure fresh goods for his next journey. According to his promise, he made a present of a good rifle and stock of ammunition to the young chief Mangaleesu, giving him authority to procure a further supply of powder and shot when that was exhausted.
Lionel was soon perfectly at home with Mistress Jansen. He showed an amiable disposition, and willingly obeyed her, but at the same time she discovered that he had several savage habits and customs to be cured of. Young as he was, he showed a fearless and independent spirit, but she endeavoured by kind and judicious treatment to keep him in good order. He paid almost a daily visit to Denis Maloney to be taught his lessons; but Mistress Jansen took upon herself to give him instruction in religious truth, of which very naturally he was totally ignorant. He had no idea that there was a God in heaven, or how the world had been formed, or of a future state, and it was some time before he could comprehend the plan of salvation, while he exhibited a woeful ignorance of what was right and wrong. Had he been older, the task of instructing him would have been more difficult, but as it was, his mind in most respects was a perfect blank. He was ready enough, however, to receive the impression his kind instructress endeavoured to make. As he gained knowledge himself, he felt very anxious to impart it to Mangaleesu, who had built a hut on the nearest piece of wild land he could find to the town. Here he lived with the independence of a Zulu chief and gentleman, his wife attending to household affairs of a very primitive description, while he, gun in hand, hunted through the neighbourhood, and never failed to obtain an ample supply of food. The agent of Hendricks also was always ready to make advances on the skins of the animals and the feathers of the birds he shot, which afforded him and his wife all the other necessaries of life. Though he listened to what Lionel had to say, he had always a ready answer to excuse himself for not following his advice. At the same time he assured the boy that he should be very glad to see him whenever he would come to pay him a visit. By this means Lionel kept up his knowledge of the Zulu language, which there would have been a risk of his forgetting while he was acquiring that of English.
When his guardian returned from D'Urban, he was greatly surprised at his proficiency, not only in speaking, but in general knowledge.
"If you continue as you have begun, Lionel, you will soon be able to accompany me on my journeys, and make yourself very useful in a variety of ways," he said.
"Then I'll make great haste," answered Lionel. "I'll go with you as soon as you will take me, and learn how to shoot lions and elephants, and Zulus too, if they try to treat us as they did the people in Mangaleesu's kraal."
Lionel had still need of further religious instruction, as his last remark showed, and good Mistress Jansen endeavoured to give it by teaching him "to love our enemies, to bless them that curse us, to do good to them that hate us, and to pray for them which despitefully use and persecute us."
A JOURNEY NORTHWARD.
What the camel is in Northern Africa—the ship of the desert—so may be considered the waggon in the southern part of the dark continent. It may be likened indeed to a huge, deeply laden merchantman, steadily making her way amid the rolling waves of the ocean.
Some time had passed, not reckoned by months only, but by years, since the events narrated in the previous chapters occurred, when one of those lumbering vehicles, dragged by a span of fourteen sturdy oxen, was rolling along through the eastern part of Natal towards the Zulu border.
A short distance ahead rode our old friend Hendricks the hunter, scarcely changed since we first knew him, except that his beard might have become slightly more grizzled, and that here and there a wrinkle had deepened on his open countenance. Occasionally a shade of melancholy passed over it, as he spoke to a companion who rode at his side on a light, active little horse.
"It was His will who rules all things, Lionel, to take her; but I would rather you had remained some time longer under her fostering care, instead of commencing the rough life you will have to lead with me. But she has done you justice. You are better fitted morally and physically for what you may have to go through, than I might have ventured to hope. You will be of great service to me, as I can rely on you in a way I cannot even on Umgolo, or certainly on the rest of our Kaffir and Hottentot servants."
"Thank you, uncle, for your good opinion of me," answered Lionel, who had learnt to call his kind protectress, Mrs Jansen, by the name of aunt, and very naturally in consequence addressed her brother, the hunter, as uncle. "I will do my best to show my gratitude to you, and to Aunt Susannah for all her kindness to me. Though I shall never see her again, I cannot help fancying that she will know what I am about. It was a sad day when she was taken from us so suddenly, and I thought I should have broken my heart if you had not arrived. I was so happy with her, that I never wished to be away, though I used to like going out with Mangaleesu, and shooting with the little fowling-piece you gave me, as long as he lived in the neighbourhood. Did you know that a short time ago he and his wife disappeared without saying where they were going? When I last went to see them, what was my dismay to find their hut burnt to the ground! At first I was afraid that they had been murdered; but Denis Maloney, who accompanied me the next morning, and I could discover no remains of anything belonging to them, and he is of opinion that they had some reason for going off. If they hadn't been in a desperate hurry, they would, I am sure, have come to bid us good-bye."
"I have no doubt that Mangaleesu was summoned by a superior chief to whom he owes allegiance for some special object—probably to take part in an attack on another chief. We shall hear about it when we get into Zululand," replied Hendricks. "You were speaking just now of young Maloney. I am glad to hear so good an account of him; he appears to have acted the part of a true friend to you."
"Indeed he has, and I am much obliged to him. It was fortunate for me that he remained in Maritzburg so long, for he taught me a great many of the things I know. Still he declares that he hates books, and would a hundred times rather be shooting elephants and lions than studying. Poor fellow! he has become very anxious about his father. Still he does not give him up, though everybody else in the town thinks he is dead."
"I do not agree with them, though I confess that I am very anxious about my old friend," answered Hendricks; "I still hope that he pushed, as I know he intended doing, far away to the northward, and that though he may probably have got into difficulties, he has escaped with his life. I think it very likely, however, that he has lost his waggon and servants, or he would have managed to communicate with me during my last long trip. I made every possible inquiry, and sent out messengers in all directions; but could hear nothing of him. It is strange that he should have so totally disappeared, without leaving any trace to show the direction he took. I am inclined to believe that he was entrapped by some treacherous chief or by some rebel boers who have often vowed that they would allow no Englishman to come near the territory they claim."
While Hendricks was speaking, Denis Maloney, now a well-grown lad, rode up. He had previously been forming one of a party of three following the waggon at a little distance. All traces of sickness had disappeared, his muscles were well knit, and his countenance bronzed by the heat of the sun to which he had been exposed during a trading expedition dispatched by his uncle into Zululand. He had gone in the capacity of clerk or accountant to the leader of the expedition, his duties being similar to those of a supercargo on board ship. He had acquitted himself in the most satisfactory manner, and had thus gained experience both as a hunter and a trader. His uncle was so much pleased that he promised before long to fit him out with a waggon and team on his own account, that he might try his fortune in trading, chiefly for cattle, among the Zulus.
"Mr Crawford and young Broderick asked me to come on and inquire when we are likely to outspan, for they complain that they are both hungry and tired, as they are not well accustomed to our style of travelling," he said, addressing their leader.
"Tell them we shall camp in an hour or in less time perhaps; and if they can't hold out, do you get some biscuits from a box in the hinder part of the waggon," answered Hendricks.
Young Lionel was inclined to feel something like contempt for those so much older than himself, who were not ashamed to acknowledge that they were hungry and tired after travelling somewhat under twenty miles in a broiling sun. Denis, who had, it must be confessed, spoken one word for them and two for himself, soon got out the biscuits, and keeping a portion, distributed the rest between his two companions. One of them, Percy Broderick, was a lad about his own age, fair and good-looking, and well-grown, not having the appearance, however, of a person particularly well fitted for a life in the wilderness. The other, Harry Crawford, though much older, looked at the first glance still less fitted for roughing it. Not that he wanted breadth of shoulders, strong muscles, or stout limbs; but that his countenance betokened intellect and refinement, rather than firmness, resolution, and the other qualities requisite for a person who has to go through the hardships of a settler's existence.
"Faith! I wonder what brought you two fellows out here, and I doubt much whether you'll like the country now you have come. It's a mighty fine one, there's no doubt about that, for those who have a fancy for a wild life, and shooting rhinoceroses and buffaloes, not to speak of elephants and lions," exclaimed Denis. He had as yet had but little conversation with his fellow-travellers, they having only that morning joined the waggon party from a farm at which they had been staying. All Denis knew was that they had come out together from England, and were now bound in the same direction.
"As to that, I was born in the colony, and have only come back to my native land," answered Percy. "Haven't you heard of my father, Captain Broderick, who is settled at Falls Farm on the borders of the Transvaal country? I suppose I can endure what my father and mother, and my brothers and sisters have to go through, and I shall soon get accustomed to it. I can't say I know much about it at present, as I was sent to school in the old country, when I was a very little chap under the charge of an uncle, with whom I spent my holidays, and who looked after me all the time I was in England; but he died some months ago, and as my father could not send money to pay for my schooling, I was shipped off to return home, and Mr Piatt, the owner of the Cloof Farm, where we were staying, was good enough to ask your friend Mr Hendricks to let us accompany him as far as we were going, as he said that he expected to pass close to my father's house."
"You are very fortunate to find so good a man to travel with," said Denis. "He is the most noted hunter in the whole colony, and a capital fellow besides."
"I was much pleased with him," remarked Crawford, "and should greatly like to accompany him throughout the whole of the expedition; but as I came out to farm, I must lose no time in endeavouring to learn. Half a year ago I had no notion of doing such a thing. I was at Oxford, intending to become a barrister; but the small fortune I expected to inherit disappeared, and as it might be several years before I could obtain a brief, I thought the wisest thing I could do with the remainder of my possessions was to come out to this country, of which I had heard glowing accounts. I cannot say exactly that I am disappointed; but were I to purchase a farm, and attempt to commence operations by myself, I should feel remarkably like a fish out of water, for I confess I have not the slightest idea what I should do."
"Faith! there are a good many young gentlemen like you, Mr Crawford," observed Denis, "only they haven't the wisdom to keep their money in a bank while they are learning something about the business they wish to engage in. In most instances they are so eager to begin, that they buy land, and very soon find all their money gone, long before their crops have grown, or what they have laid out in other ways has given them any return. When I was in the office of my uncle, Mr Walker, in Maritzburg, numbers of young gentlemen used to come and ask for employment, just for their food and lodging. Those who have friends at home who can pay their passage money return, others have to turn their hands to digging and delving, or road making, though a few occasionally get to the surface. Now if they, as I was saying, had kept their money, and begun by working on a farm, either for wages or even for nothing, they would have been able in time to set up for themselves."
"As to that, I must not boast too much of my wisdom," answered Crawford. "My capital hasn't yet been sent out to the colony, so that I could not invest it even if I wished to do so. Percy assures me that I shall receive a warm welcome from his family, and that I may besides have an opportunity of seeing how farming operations are carried on. He tells me also that I shall obtain an easy introduction to every description of wild beast: elephants, rhinoceroses, lions, gnus, black and brindled, blessbocs, hartebeests, reitbocs, not to speak of others of smaller size, and birds innumerable."
"Faith! you'll not find any want of them, but you'll remember it's not always pleasant to meet a lion or a black rhinoceros in a morning's ramble, and you will have reason to be thankful if you don't, for I can assure you that they're rather troublesome acquaintances. I came to that opinion not many years ago, when I had to spend some hours up a tree, waiting for my breakfast, while a couple of lions and their cubs were watching below, eager to breakfast off me;" and Denis told, with much naivete, his adventure on his first journey with his father.
Besides the white persons who have been mentioned, the waggon party consisted of three Hottentots, whose duty was to drive and attend especially to the cattle; and six Kaffir hunters, among whom Umgolo was the chief. Hendricks intended to obtain others who had before served under him on the way. There were three spare horses, which followed the waggon, fastened by riems or thongs of hide, the general substitute for rope in the colony. Five dogs may also be counted as forming part of the expedition, rejoicing in the names of Spout, Growl, Pincher, Fangs, and Raff. The latter belonged to Denis, who so called the animal after the name of a countryman, Paddy Rafferty, who had given it to him. The "baste," he boasted, did credit to the "ould counthry:" for although no beauty, he was the cleverest and bravest of all the dogs, and much attached to him.