Page images
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

6

them. They were not long left in doubt, for, upon a loud yell being uttered, five parties of Matabili, each consisting of above twenty men, rushed towards the rocks, each carrying a slender tree about forty feet in length. These they had cut, and left a few branches on, so that they could be easily climbed. The trees were to be placed against the face of the rock, and in fact were not a bad imitation of a scaling-ladder.

Our guns for this, Victor,' said Hans; 'let us thin them as they come; then our spears as they come within reach of them.'

To men fighting for their lives as were the two Dutchmen, a shot was a matter of deep importance; and so steady was their aim, that after four discharges the bearers of two of the trees had suffered so severely that they retreated precipitately to the cover of the bush. The others, however, placed theirs upright against the rock, and had they been able to ascend three or four abreast, the fate of Hans and his party would soon have been decided; the Matabili, however, would not quit their shields or spears, and therefore, with only one hand to aid them, and being able to ascend merely one after the other, Hans and Victor had time to reload, and before the most active savage could set his foot on the rock, he was thrust back with the long spears, a second and a third stabbed in the same manner, whilst, dropping the spear and seizing his gun, Hans shot two Matabili who were urging on those before them.

Such rapid slaughter caused a panic among those who

M

were exposed to the deadly aim of the hunters, and they gave up their first attempt of climbing on the rock, and fled amongst the bushes and trees.

Now, Hans,' said Victor, let us push these trees down: it will take them some time to put them up again.'

The two men pushed the tops of the trees which reached to their position on one side, and then by aid of their long bamboos shoved them so much out of the perpendicular that they fell by their own weight to the ground.

Having accomplished this, they were able to turn their attention to their numerous enemies below them, who seemed to be clustering together for a second rush, and another attempt on their stronghold. The whole force had now assembled for a determined assault, and were merely waiting for the signal of the chief who was to direct them. At this instant Hans heard the voice of Katrine, which was audible amidst the din of the yelling savages below. Knowing that she would not take off his attention unless for a special reason, he called out, —

“What is it, Katie?'

'Help is near, Hans : I am certain I saw three mounted Mensch ride at a gallop over the far ridge, and enter the bush. I just looked there, and as I looked I saw these three an instant before they disappeared.'

' Are you certain, Katie? But three men, unless they could come up here to us, will only be slaughtered if they get into the bush.'

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

:

There might have been many more, Hans, and they might have gone out of sight before I looked up; but they must come here in a very few minutes. Oh, the fiends, how they yell!' exclaimed Katrine, as the Matabili, preparing for their rush, shrieked at the top of their voices.

'Don't let us waste a shot, Victor : we must hold on another half-hour, and we may get aid. Kate has seen white men near.'

• The Matabili are very numerous, Hans : I hope there will be plenty of aid, if it does come.'

‘Look, Victor ! look! what are they doing?' exclaimed Hans, as the Matabili, suddenly ceasing their yells, turned from the rock, and ran rapidly into the bush.

The two besieged men were not long left in uncertainty as to the change in the Matabili's proceedings, for from the bush below there came the loud report of a gun, followed by a second, and then half a dozen at a time. The threatening yells of the Matabili were changed into shrieks of agony, as they felt the deadly effects of the doublebarrelled guns of nearly thirty experienced hunters. For a few minutes the black warriors stood their ground, and even attempted a charge; but their ox-hide shields offering no resistance to the bullets of their opponents, the boldest among them were soon shot, and the remainder fled in disorder, staying not until they had reached the more open plain, or when exhausted and out of breath they could run no more.

The hunters were not yet aware whether their friends and connexions were all safe, but they determined to

a

revenge themselves on their savage foes; so, signalling for their horses, which had been left concealed in the ravines below, and in charge of five of their party, about twenty hunters mounted their steeds, and galloping after their retreating enemies, shot them down without mercy. Out of that yelling and exulting band, which an hour before had been threatening Hans' party with instant death, not half a dozen men remained to sneak by night over the plain, and to report to their chief the disasters that had occurred to them.

Bernhard's anxiety was so great to ascertain the fate of Katrine's sister and the others of the party, that he no sooner found the Matabili in retreat than he came back to the rock from which he had heard the firing, and there recognized Hans and Victor, who with Katrine and her sister were watching their enemies driven rapidly before their friends and brethren.

Upon recognizing Bernhard, Hans threw his cap in the air and shouted for joy.

'Come up, Bernhard,' he exclaimed. Come and see our strong kraal ; two hundred Matabili could not take it from us.

Come

up, that we may welcome you.' Guided by the numbers of slain to what he supposed must be the place for the ascent, Bernhard, with considerable difficulty, managed to climb up the rock; but he would not have been able to secure a footing on it had it not been for the aid of his two friends, who pulled him up when no other means of ascent existed. Bernhard's welcome was a hearty one. No formalities or rules laid

6

6

[blocks in formation]

6

down by cold-hearted reasoners checked the natural affection of these people: Katrine threw her arms round him, and amidst her tears and kisses thanked him as the preserver of her sister and Hans. The two men, though less demonstrative, were not less sincere in their welcome, and for a few minutes they could think of nothing but gratitude to their preserver, and thankfulness for their escape.

'How did you manage to return so soon, Bernhard ?' inquired Hans: 'we feared you could not return under a week.'

'I luckily came across all our people as they were out on a patrol. They expected some Matabili might be coming near them to spy, and so they came out in a large body, both to hunt and to look out for an enemy. We are not safe any where from Moselekatse, and unless we give him a lesson, we shall be eaten up by him. What weapon is this?' exclaimed Bernhard, as he saw the long lance which Hans had made with the blade of the Matabili's assagy and the bamboo stick.

Hans explained how he had made it, and how effective it had proved against their assailants, whilst he led Bernhard round the small rock, and showed him the method he had adopted to make his retreat secure. All his expedients were fully appreciated by Bernhard, who listened attentively to Hans' description of the Bushmen's death, the attempt of the Matabili to cast rocks upon him, and their last endeavour to climb the rock by aid of trees.

« PreviousContinue »