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They Miss their Horses.
Hans was equally surprised at the disappearance of the Matabili, whom he had expected to see immediately behind Katrine and her sister, but who, it was evident, were not following her. Seeing this, Hans turned to his companions and said, "To the horses, men ! not a moment must be lost now.'
Hans, half carrying Katrine, who, however, was well able to move on at speed, was followed by Victor and Bernhard, between whom was Katrine's sister. The party walked and ran up the path towards where the horses had been left, and soon reached the open grassy glade where they had been allowed to graze. Instead, however, of finding their five horses there ready saddled for mounting, and merely knee-haltered to prevent their straying, the place was deserted, and no horses visible.
Bernhard,' exclaimed Hans, where are the horses ?' 'I left them here, Hans ;' replied Bernhard, 'they can't be far off. Let us each take a path, and we shall soon bring them up: let the girls wait here for us.'
Hans reluctantly quitted the side of Katrine and selected the path to his left, his two companions taking two other paths. Hans had proceeded but a few yards along his selected path, and was looking at the spoor of the horses, which was fresh on the ground before him, when a slight noise behind caused him to turn : he had but just time to raise his arm and partly ward off a blow aimed at his head by a Matabili who was armed with a horn knobskerrie, when his arms were seized and he thrown violently to the ground, his gun dragged from
him, and he held by the powerful arms of some five or six Matabili. Almost at the same instant a shout from Victor and an oath from Bernhard, combined with the sound of struggling in the bush, indicated to Hans that his companions also had been captured ; and therefore a regular ambush must have been prepared for the whole party. That he was not slaughtered at once, surprised him ; for to make prisoners is usually considered by these warriors to be bad policy. Still, to be thus suddenly made a prisoner, and to know that Katrine also must be once more in the hands of his enemies, was a severe blow to Hans, especially when success had just seemed about to crown his efforts.
Hans was almost immediately bound with his hands behind him and led, with shouts of triumph and laughter, to the open glade where he had expected to find his horses; there he found Victor and Bernhard, bound like himself, and near them more than fifty armed Matabili warriors; whilst crouching on the ground, her arm round her sister, and crying bitterly, sat Katrine, entirely overwhelmed by grief and disappointment. The horses were held by some boys near the group; whilst a Matabili chief, who seemed to command the party, stood watching his prisoners. Suddenly addressing Hans, he said,
“Why have you come armed and without notice into the country of Moselekatse, when it is war between us ?
To this inquiry Hans gave no other answer than a look of disgust at the man, who, signalling to his followers, led the way down the ravine towards the kraals.
Hans Sterk becomes a Prisoner with his Companions—Finds an
unexpected Ally—Plots an Escape.
HERE are few conditions more unpleasant to
any man than that of being a prisoner. When,
moreover, it happens to a man of active and enterprising habits, and when the captors are men who are bound by none of those laws which possess an influence in civilization, and where, consequently, the prisoner may be put to death at any moment merely to gratify the whim of a despot, a captive's condition is one not to be envied.
As soon as Hans Sterk found that he had been fairly entrapped and made prisoner by the Matabili, he blamed himself for his want of watchfulness and caution : had he been one of the unskilled residents of the towns, he could not have been more easily outwitted. He saw that his captors looked at him with contempt and seemed to consider him quite a novice in the art of bush warfare; and as they talked unreservedly of their proceedings, he was enabled to find out how artful had been their plans. The Matabili, he discovered, had crossed the spoor of his horses, and saw at once that it led to the ravine in which he was concealed; they believed that he must be with his companions concealed in that ravine, but if they followed him at once he would, being provided with horses, either escape by riding, or would fight and probably kill many of his enemies before he was himself slain. They decided therefore to ascertain first whether he was still in the ravine; and a young keen-eyed boy was despatched to the far side, to see if there were any spoor leading out; for if there were not, then the white men must be concealed in the ravine.
As soon as this boy's report had been received, the Matabili chiefs concluded that the men had come either to act as spies, which was unlikely, or else for the purpose of rescuing the two girls. This latter supposition was considered the more probable by the experienced
and the ravine having been carefully surrounded by a large party of the Matabili, who, to avoid suspicion, left the kraals in parties of three or four only, a careful espionage was kept upon the two female prisoners, and Hans' plot immediately discovered and guarded against, and preparations made for his capture and for that of his companions.
The prisoners were conducted to the kraal from which Katrine and her sister had escaped in the morning. The three men were placed in the hut, the door of which was closed, their hands tied behind them, and some half-dozen boys appointed to watch the hut from the exterior.
Imprisoned. There are times when men of the greatest energy and enterprise fail in the attempts they are making to obtain certain results; these failures do not invariably occur in consequence of want of skill or care on the part of the men themselves, but seem to be the effect of some inscrutable power, which is often termed luck. When again and again such failures happen, we are accustomed to be thoroughly cast down, and to feel that no endeavours of our own can aid us: do what we may, think what we may, yet an evil luck will attend us, and failure must follow. These seasons of ill-luck or want of success may be the means used to teach us that man's efforts alone can be but fruitless, and that it needs the assistance of higher powers to ensure success.
It was with a feeling of utter despair that Hans Sterk contemplated his late failure and his present pitiable condition. Like as a beaten chess-player reflects on the move which, if executed, might have saved him his game, so did Hans turn over every act and thought of the past, in order to find how he might have avoided his late failure ; but the fact remained, that the enemy had been too crafty for him, and he too sanguine of
The hut in which he was a bound prisoner was like all the huts of the Kaffirs. It was constructed of strong wicker work, and thatched with reeds and long grass; the door was merely a small wattled hurdle, and did not so entirely block the doorway as to prevent those outside from looking in; the walls were so thin that voices