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Seeking the Dead Elephants- Ambuscade of the Matabili Warriors
- Escape of Hans Sterk and his Party– Battle with the Matabili— The Slaughter of Siedenberg.
HE waggons can follow,' said Hans; that will
be best. The Kaffir can show where the
dead elephants are lying, and we will ride Shall we follow the spoor, Victor, or try and cut off the track?'
Better follow the spoor, Hans, I think,' replied Victor; .but what does Heinrich say?'
'Follow the spoor from where we last saw the elephants; we are sure to find them there.'
It being thus agreed among the most experienced to follow the spoor, the whole party mounted their horses and rode on their journey, little expecting what was before them.
There was but little game visible to the hunters as they rode towards the locality on which their yesterday's sport had been enjoyed; but this they believed was due to the alarm which their firing had caused; for so wide is the country in Africa, that the animals can, if necessary, journey their forty miles during the night, and yet obtain a good grazing-ground free from interruption ; so that a hunter rarely expects to find game in any district which has been hunted on the day previously, but looks for it some thirty miles distant.
As the hunters rode forward the sun rose, and dried up the heavy dew which had covered the herbage during the night.
The fog and mist were scattered before his burning rays, and the country once more exhibited its tropical appearance.
Hans, who had taken out his telescope to examine the country in various directions, at length exclaimed, “There is one of the Kaffirs near the elephants. How could he get there before us ?'
'It is 'N quane, perhaps; he is very quick, and may have passed us in the fog.'
'No,' replied Hans; ''Nquane, like all Kaffirs, does not like going a journey before the sun has dried and warmed the air. Can the man be a stray Matabili ?'
* No matter if he is,' said one of the Boers. “Let us canter on; we shall soon see.'
The hunters increased their speed, and rode on towards their dead elephants, but saw, as they approached, no Kaffirs; and all except Hans began to doubt whether the figure he had seen really was a Kaffir, or only a stump burned and blackened so as to resemble a man. The party left the open country, and rode into the forest, being obliged to ride in file along the paths made by
Attacked by the Matabili.
the elephants. They had penetrated about two hundred yards into the forest, when a shrill whistle was uttered from the wood behind, and instantly from all parts of the bush an armed Matabili warrior sprang to his feet. Two hundred men at least appeared, forming a ring, in the midst of which were the hunters. These warriors did not leave the white men long in doubt as to their intentions; but beating their shields, and waving their assagies, they rushed in towards their supposed victims.
With that readiness of expedient which a long training in such hunting expeditions as those we have described is likely to produce, the Dutchmen saw their only chance for escape. They turned their horses, and firing a destructive volley at the Matabili who blocked the path in their rear, spurred their horses, and charged at the opening which their bullets and slugs had cleared. Each man retained a charge in one barrel; and as each neared the enemy he fired from the saddle, and mostly killed or disabled his foe. So sudden had been the attack, and so rapid the retreat, that in five minutes from the first alarm the hunters found themselves clear of the bush, and with no further loss than two horses severely gashed by the assagies of their enemies, who fortunately possessed no fire-arms.
The men belong to the old villain Moselekatse,' said Hans ; 'we must fight them in the open and not spare a man, or our waggon and oxen will be captured ; let us halt and try to draw them out into this open bush. Are you all loaded, men ?' inquired Hans, who, though