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• We will not waste a shot, Victor,' exclaimed Hans; ' let us thrust the brutes down with these lances. They can never succeed in climbing this place, as long as we meet them boldly. Have your gun ready, but let us use these lances whilst we find them useful.'
The defeat of the surprise party, or rather spies,—for it was to ascertain whether an enemy really was in the caves that the Matabili ventured on this errand, -caused a momentary delay on the part of the Matabili; but their system of warfare was one quite different from that of the Amakosa Kaffirs. The latter like to fight in the bush, and much after the fashion of the North American Indians. The Matabili, however, like to come to close quarters with their enemy, and to stab him at arm's length. Confident in his numbers, the leader of this party gave the order to attack the Dutchmen's stronghold. The Matabili who had been wounded in the first attack had remained concealed in the ravines until the arrival of his companions, and it was by his information that the chief learnt that there was a causeway by which he could reach the position of his enemy. Dividing his forces into three divisions, he ordered one to climb the rock where the spy had just been hurled down. The second division he directed to attack by the causeway, whilst the third was to endeavour to find some third means of ascent, or at least to make such a demonstration as to prevent the Dutchmen from giving undivided attention to the other parts of attack. These arrangements having been completed, the Matabili, with
loud yells, and beating their shields to add to the noise, rushed towards the points of attack.
Whilst one party endeavoured to ascend the wall of rock, the other suddenly found themselves opposed by stakes, and a steep rock and bank. Expecting momentarily to feel the deadly bullet amongst them, they were surprised to find no attempt made to attack them; attributing this to only one cause, they shouted to each other that the white man's powder was finished, and thus encouraged they climbed on one another's shoulders, and thus reached the level of the rock. No sooner, however, did the body of a Matabili rise above the level of the plateau, than the deadly thrust of a lance hurled the intruder back lifeless amongst his comrades. Three times did the persevering enemy succeed in raising one of their numbers to the level of the rock, but it was only to find him fall amongst them pierced through and through with the broad blade of one of their own iron spear-heads. Still the shouts ‘Their powder is all done' gave encouragement to others to attempt an entrance to the fortification; and it was only when ten men had been sacrificed, that the chief ordered his men to desist, in order that some other plan of attack should be adopted.
“So far it has been all gain on our side,' said Hans; we have not fired a shot, yet we have beaten them off. That was a good thought of mine, to make those spears. We must not let them know we have powder; for if they believe we have none, they may make plans which we can easily defeat.'
For more than an hour the Matabili made no attempt to attack the fortress, for such it might well be termed : then, however, they again advanced to the attack, shouting as before. Hans and Victor prepared to resist their foes, and stood behind the breastwork they had raised ready to thrust down the intruders. Whilst their attention was thus directed below them, a slight noise above attracted their attention, and both turned to look at the rock above, when they instantly saw the plot of their crafty enemies. The Matabili, by a circuitous path, had ascended the summit of the ridge, and then climbed to the rocks above the plateau : they had then loosened some large stones, and were preparing to cast these down on the two Dutchmen, when the latter, attracted by the noise, turned and saw their danger.
The rocks above the plateau on which were the white men rather overhung than receded from the perpendicular, so that it required the man who hurled the stone to lean forward in order to cast it on the right spot: had it fallen attracted by gravity alone, the stones would have passed clear of the plateau, and would have descended into the ravine below. The ground above the slight ridge on which the Matabili had taken up their position was nearly perpendicular, and being bare of underwood, offered no cover to the men who had to descend it, a single false step would have resulted in the fall of the man into the ravine below, where he would be undoubtedly dashed to pieces. Thus it was a most daring proceeding to descend to the ridge above the plateau. This position, however, entirely commanded the Dutchmen's defences, and had not the Matabili made a slight noise, the white men might have remained ignorant of the position of their enemies, until the fall of heavy stones on or near them warned them of their danger.
Immediately Hans saw the Matabili preparing to cast these heavy stones on him, he called to Victor to keep close to the rocks. “They cannot touch us here,' said Hans; but we must use some bullets on them, or they may drop stones on us as we are resisting the men who venture to climb up. Yes,' he continued, that is their plan, and it is clever. These men above hope to keep us back whilst the others obtain a footing on our rock, then it would be all over with us; but we will just teach them a lesson. Now, Victor, we must be quicker than those stones; we must run out and back so rapidly that we shall get the men to hurl their rocks down, but we must avoid them; then instantly, before they have another rock ready, we must shoot them down. They are not sixty yards above us, and we can each drop a running ourebi at that distance. Are you ready now?'
“Yes,' replied Victor, and the two men ran out into an exposed position, and, waiting an instant, sprang back under cover of the rock. They were only just in time to avoid two heavy masses of stone that were hurled at them by the Matabili above them ; whilst those below shouted defiantly, and instantly commenced again to ascend to their enemies.
"Now for our bullets on those above,' said Hans; we
The Enemy Thwarted.
must be quick. I will take the fellow on the sunny side, you the man in the shade.'
As the Dutchmen raised their guns, there was a shout of ridicule from those below, as well as those above. “Their powder is done' was the cry, mingled with taunting laughs. This, however, did not affect the aim of the two hunters, who covered each his man, and the two shots fired in rapid succession were echoed from ridge to ridge.
One of the Matabili sank instantly to the ground motionless, and there remained, as still as the rocks around him: the other, who had been busy in hurling stones, rose on his feet, and with a tremendous bound sprang off from the rocks into the air : with upraised arms and struggling body he cleaved through the air, struck against a projecting rock in his descent, and, crashing through the branches of the trees below, fell mangled among his comrades.
The effect of the shot on the other Matabili was instantly visible. Those who were climbing up the rock at once retreated under cover, for they now knew that they were opposed to desperate men, whose ammunition was not gone, and who, it was evident, could use their weapons with skill.
The two remaining men who had ascended the rocks at once endeavoured to escape. One, in his eagerness, missed his footing, and sliding down the incline, bounded off into the air, and was killed by his fall into the depths below. The other, however, managed to
effect his escape.