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supplied water, and grass was abundant. Making a careful examination of the surrounding country, and seeing no signs of an enemy, Bernhard off-saddled, lighted a fire, and commenced cooking his breakfast.
Whilst thus occupied he heard distinctly the sound of a heavy gun; this was to him better than the voice of a friend, and when he heard a second and a third shot, which he found came from some hills about four miles off, he shouted with delight. Seizing his roer, and regardless of the expenditure of his scarce and valued ammunition, he placed the barrels of his gun towards the direction from which he had heard the firing, and in quick succession fired off both barrels. Loading again with a heavy charge of powder only, which he rammed down tightly in both barrels, he waited a few minutes, and again pulled both triggers. Bernhard knew that if the report of firearms which he had heard came from any of his own people, the signal which he had given would be soon answered—at least, it would be if it could be heard. In less than five minutes after his signal was given he heard it answered, and he was thus aware that aid was at hand; what that aid was he did not know.
Great as was his requirement for food, yet he was more anxious to discover what assistance was likely to be afforded him, so he ran to a rising-ground near and looked in the direction from which the sounds of firing had been heard. He then saw a party of about thirty mounted men riding at a canter towards him, their general ap
To the Rescue.
pearance seeming to indicate that they were Dutch
His uncertainty was soon set at rest, for as they approached, he recognized familiar forms; and waving his hat as a signal, he was answered by more than one, who, though ignorant as yet as to who he was, were yet aware that a friend was greeting them.
It was not long before Bernhard was the centre of an eager and inquiring circle, amongst whom were uncles, cousins, and other relations of Katrine and Hans. Upon hearing the condition of those whom Bernhard had lately left, there was a general cry of 'On, on ! let us go help them.' Bernhard, however, stopped this eagerness, and made inquiries as to the amount of ammunition amongst the parties, the number of horses, &c.
“We should take extra horses, and as much ammunition as we can carry,' he urged; 'we shall very likely have to fight, and certainly there must be enough horses to carry all the party.'
The most experienced at once agreed that this step was necessary, and it was therefore decided that whilst the main body moved forward some five or six should return to the waggons, which were about five miles off, bring extra horses, and all the ammunition, and follow the main body.
Great was the anxiety of all the party to get forward. Hans was a favourite with them all; and the general opinion was, that it would be very odd if Hans had not managed to be a match in some way for any Matabili who might have discovered him. During the whole day the cavalcade advanced with speed, led by Bernhard, and, with but two brief halts, continued their progress, until darkness set in and they were compelled to halt. Bernhard was now in great hopes that he would be enabled to rescue Hans and the girls; for thirty mounted Boers, all well-armed and amply supplied with ammunition, was a formidable force, and one that, against savages armed with spears only, was not easy to withstand. He was therefore much better pleased with the aspect of affairs than he was on the previous night, when he had camped within a few miles of this same locality.
Although a watch was kept and other precautions taken against a surprise, the Dutchmen made no great efforts to conceal themselves : they thus lighted a fire and cooked their provisions, amongst which coffee was one of the items, a steaming tea-cup of which can only be fully appreciated by those who have for days had water as the mere quencher of thirst.
Soon after the camp had been formed the party which had been sent back for extra horses regained their brother hunters, and the reinforcement for Hans now amounted to thirty-two hunters, all Dutchmen, and four Hottentots; whilst forty-two horses in all were either ridden or led by
Bernhard estimated that he could reach the ground near which Hans would be concealed by about midday on the morrow, and thus, instead of taking a week
to obtain aid, he would be able to return in half that time, and with as efficient a force as could be expected: Reflecting upon the probable results of the morrow, he sank to sleep, and enjoyed a night's rest undisturbed by any of the numerous sounds that broke the silence of the wilderCHAPTER XVI.
The Fight for Life-Grand Attack of the Matabili—Help arrives –
The Meeting of Old Friends - Retreat from the Stronghold.
HEY may yell, Victor,' exclaimed Hans, but
they have not taken us yet : at least fifty of
them will not see to-morrow's sun rise, before they capture us. had only half a dozen more Mensch here, we would give them a lesson; or if we had an unlimited supply of ammunition. Now I dare not fire a shot unless I am certain of my man; so we cannot be as dangerous as we otherwise should be. When these new arrivals come, they will try to scale our stronghold, and we shall then have to use our long spears again.
In half an hour the reinforcement had joined their dark brethren, and there was evidently a consultation going on in the ravine below : there was much talking audible, whilst the men did not show themselves in the neighbourhood. After a time there was a sound as if trees were being felled, and Hans and Victor then knew some plan was going to be put in practice against