Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

under the smoke, and saw two of their enemies lying dead, whilst a third was jumping about in pain and rage, a wound from one of the cut bullets having rendered him unfit for further service. The remaining Matabili, however, though daunted for a moment, beat their shields and rushed forward : there was, however, only room for one at a time on the ridge, and their endeavour to precede each other caused a moment's delay.

‘My turn now, Victor,' said Hans; and raising his gun, a second discharge brought two more Matabili to the ground.

'Fire at the leader, Victor,' said Hans: 'they are going to retreat. I'll pick off the large man near him; and the two shots in quick succession killed the two men against whom the aim was taken. 'In with the bullets, Victor,' whispered Hans, 'before

Six out of ten killed, and one or two wounded, is good; the others will never stay, they will run for aid to those on before; and I must stop this, or we shall have near a hundred men upon us in twelve hours or less. You keep guard here, Victor; I'll cut off these rascals' retreat: mind those fellows are not shamming. Katrine,' called Hans, 'it is well; we have driven away the murdering hounds, and I'm going now to stop the few that have escaped from telling tales. I'll be back soon.'

Hans, by means of some wild vine and creepers, descended from the opposite side of the small plateau to that by which the Matabili had advanced : he then ran.

we move.

As they

along the top of the ridge, and made his way rapidly down to the edge of the bush. He thus commanded the plain along which he expected the three Matabili would run, who he believed were likely to follow their main body in order to procure assistance. He soon saw he was not mistaken in his suppositions; for, crouching so as to be concealed as much as possible from the view of any one at the caves, the three men who had escaped the bullets of the two hunters ran rapidly onwards, and were soon within fifty yards of Hans' position. passed him he raised his gun and made an excellent shot at the leader, who never moved after he touched the ground, on which he fell headlong. The two remaining men with wonderful agility darted from right to left like snipe in their course, and thus gave Hans merely a snap shot at about one hundred yards. He fired, however, but heard the harmless whistle of his bullet as it struck the ground, and whizzed far on ahead of his enemies.

Had the Matabili been aware that he had no other weapon than his gun, they would upon this second discharge have endeavoured to close with him, and with their assagies they might easily have done so before he could reload ; but they knew not either the weapons he used, or whether there was more than one white man near them, so they were intent only on retreat.

It was with deep disappointment that Hans saw the failure of his second shot, and at first he thought he might obtain another chance if he reloaded and ran in pursuit, but the speed at which the Matabili ran and Escape of the Matabili.

133

their well-known endurance, reminded him that he was no match for them in a foot-race; and so he decided to return at once to Victor, in order to consult as to the best means to adopted to meet what he now looked upon as certain, viz. an attack in about twelve hours from at least a hundred infuriated Matabili, who were brave to a degree, and who would not mind sacrificing some dozen men, in order to at length be able to bring back to their chief the captives who had, by a temporary neglect, been given a chance to escape.

CHAPTER XIV.

The Fortification— Waiting Relief— Fight to the Last- Fresh

Weapons—The Maidens keep watch— The Savages' Night Attack - Their Defeat- The Battle-New Allies—The Poisoned Arrows - More of the Enemy arrive.

[ocr errors]

1T is a bad business, Hans, that the Matabili

escaped; but it cannot be helped,' was

Victor's answer to Hans, upon hearing the result of his attempt to prevent the escape of any of the party. What are we to do, Hans? If we stay here we shall be unable to beat off a hundred men, though we might succeed against half that number; what shall we do?'

• If the Matabili were not such keen-eyed spoorers, I would recommend that we made all speed in retreating from this; but it would be no use, for they would be certain to trace us, and to be hunted down in that way would be worse than to die here fighting to the last.' 'I agree, Hans; so we will stay here.

I think, too, can make this place stronger. Suppose we cut through that narrow path that leads here, and raise a

we

Preparing the Defence.

135

bank to protect us from any spears that might be thrown. We might cut down some stout branches and make a difficult fence to force a way through, every obstacle will stop the enemy, and give us time to load. I have found what

may be a useful weapon, too, when our ammunition is all gone, that is a Bushman's bow, and a case of poisoned arrows. There are

ten arrows, and each arrow is a man's life. It will be doubtful whether the Matabili will continue the attack when their first rush fails, and they lose several men. They dread firearms now, though they have gained victories against those who use them.

Let us now prepare our defences; if we only hold out three days we ought to obtain help, if Bernhard has been lucky.'

The two men sat to work to remove the bodies of the Matabili who were shot, and having secured their weapons, they used these to dig up the ground and undermine large stones, which they carried to the plateau, and thus formed a breastwork, whilst the removal of these stones and the earth rendered access to the flat rock impossible except by climbing. In two hours the rock was therefore rendered almost impregnable, and it would have been quite so had a dozen men occupied it who were well provided with guns and ammunition.

Victor,' exclaimed Hans, 'I can make a good weapon for the defence of this place, which may save us ammunition. I will cut some of those long bamboos near the stream below, then the broad, sharp blade of an assagy fastened to the end of this will make a lance

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »