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party retreated without seeing any thing of an enemy. Game of various kinds was abundant; but except to supply themselves with food the hunters did not shoot, for they knew not how soon their lives might depend upon a plentiful supply of ammunition being at hand. So that each bar of lead was at once converted into bullets or slugs, the loose powder was made up into cartridges, and every gun cleaned and carefully loaded, so as to be as efficient as possible.
It was on the morning of the third day that the hunters observed in the distance what appeared to be a broken-down waggon, but no oxen or human beings seemed to be near it. Such a sight, however, as a wreck in the desert at once excited the curiosity of the travellers, who, leaving the waggons in charge of half the party, rode off to examine the scene on which the waggon appeared to have broken down. As they approached the spot, they saw a man limp from out of a clump of bush and make signs to them, and this man they found to be a Hottentot, who was badly wounded in several places, and seemed almost famished with hunger.
Having supplied him with food, he informed them that he was the driver of one of three waggons belonging to a Dutchman, who, with his wife and two daughters, was travelling over the country in search of elands, when they were attacked by a party of Matabili, who came upon them at day-break, and carried off oxen, wife, and daughters, killed the Dutchman and another Hottentot, and would have also killed him, had he not shammed to be dead.
Hans Sterk, who had been watching attentively the waggon and debris around, whilst he listened to the Hottentot's remarks, suddenly and eagerly inquired what was the Dutchman's name.
Siedenberg,' said the Hottentot.
Siedenberg !' shrieked Hans, as he grasped his rifle like a vice; "and Katrine was with him?'
'Ja,' said the Hottentot ; 'the Mooi Katrine has been carried off by the Matabili, and her little sister too.'
• Men,' said Hans, as he turned to his companions, • Katrine Siedenberg was to have been my wife in two months' time. I swear she shall be freed from the Matabili, or I will die in the attempt. Which of you will aid me in my work, with your rifles, horses, and skill?'
'I will,' replied Victor. 'And I,' said Heinrich.
‘And I,' said all those with him ; 'but we must get more men.'
It was immediately agreed that the journey should be continued until the waggons and their contents were placed in safety, for the Matabili had two days' start, and therefore could not be overtaken by the poor half-starved horses, which now alone belonged to the hunters. Fresh horses, more people, and more ammunition were necessary, and then a successful expedition might be carried on against Moselekatse and his warriors. The Hottentot was helped back to the hunter's waggons and allowed to ride in one of them; and the onward journey was continued with all speed, so that in three days after finding the broken-down waggon, the hunters had crossed the Nama Hari river, and had joined a large party of the emigrant farmers, who were encamped south of this river.
The news of the attack on the hunters, the slaughter of Siedenberg, and the carrying off of his daughters, scarcely required to be detailed with the eloquence which Hans brought to bear upon it, in order to raise the
anger and thirst for vengeance of the Dutchmen. Those who could were at once eager to bear arms against their savage and treacherous foe, whose proceedings caused a feeling of insecurity to pervade the Boers' encampment; and thus the expediency of inflicting a lesson on the black chieftain was considered advisable. And also there was a strong temptation to inflict this lesson, when it was remembered that enormous herds of sleek cattle belonged to the Matabili, and would of course become the property of the conquerors; and who those conquerors would be was not doubtful, considering the relative value of assagies and double-barrelled guns.
Commando against the Matabili and Moselekatse, the Chief of the
10 men who lived the life of the farmer in
Africa, surrounded on all sides by savage
animals, or those creatures which were hunted for the sake of their flesh, obliged to be watchful at all times on account of their enemies, the Kaffirs of the old colony and the tribes to the north of themtheir preparations for a campaign were speedily made ; and on the morning following that on which Hans Sterk's party had rejoined his companions, more than eighty Dutchmen, with as many after riders, all well armed and mounted, were ready to start on their expedition against the Matabili.
The foe against which this party was being led was known to be both cunning and daring, and so it was considered expedient to place the camp in a state of defence, lest the enemy, taking advantage of the absence of the greater number of the fighting men, should select that time for their attack; for such is the usual proceeding of African chieftains against their enemies. The waggons were therefore drawn together and brushwood placed so as to prevent an easy entrance among them, regular watches were set, so that a surprise would have been difficult, had it been attempted; and a regular attack when the Boers were prepared would have ended in a fearful slaughter of the assailants. Matters being thus satisfactorily arranged at home, the expedition started, amidst great firing of guns, this being among the Africanders the substitute for cheering.
A leader having been chosen from among the Boers, the party started full of hope, and during the first day had travelled nearly forty miles. Every precaution was taken to avoid being surprised and also to ensure surprising the enemy, for the Boers were well aware of the advantages to be gained from surprising such an enemy as the Matabili. Game was abundant in the country through which the commando passed, and thus it was not necessary for the men to burden themselves with much weight in the form of food; water was at this time of the year plentiful, and thus the two essentials of life, food and water, were to be obtained with ease.
To men who loved adventure as much as did these men, such an expedition as this was sport; and had any stranger come to the bivouac at night, seen the jovial, free-from-care manner of the Boers, and heard their spirit-stirring tales, he would scarcely have imagined that these men were bound on a matter of life and death, and were shortly to be engaged with a brave and powerful enemy, who,