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ought to enable us to reach our people before we are overtaken.'
'But there are hundreds of the Matabili out on war,' said Katrine, and we may fall in with some of them.'
'Ah! and I have lost my far-seer,' said Hans. That is a loss. But we had better not talk; let us listen and think; we may then be less liable to a surprise.'
The party reached the stream of which Katrine had spoken, and crossed it in safety, and found before them an apparently smooth, undulating plain. After journeying over this about half an hour, the moon rose, she being some days past the full. By her light, and by the aid of the stars as guides, Hans pursued a course which led nearly in the direction of his countrymen's settlements; but as these were distant fully three days' journey, even riding at the best speed, and as the party had no provisions, there seemed much to be overcome before a place of safety could be reached.
The Prisoners are free-The Pursuit-The Horses sick-The Ride for Life-The Concealment.
HE morning following that on which Hans and his companions had escaped, broke with all
the splendour of an African day. The dew had fallen heavily during the night, and thus the first rays of the sun produced a mist which hung like steam over the valleys; but this soon clearing away, left the atmosphere clear and transparent; so that distance could not be measured by atmosphere, as in our misty climate, but a far-off range of mountains seemed within a short ride of the observers, whereas it was distant at least fifty miles. This clearness had a great advantage for Hans' party, as it rendered surprise less likely than if a dense fog or cloudy weather had prevailed.
No sooner did the slightest sign of daylight appear, than Hans, by the aid of some loose powder and a piece of rag, with a flint and steel lighted a fire, and commenced preparations for a breakfast. Victor and Bernhard, like the others of the party, had merely
lain down under the shelter of some bushes to obtain a few hours' rest; but all had gone supperless to bed, if bed it could be termed. But in such a climate a night passed in the open country was not a very great hardship, even to young girls like Katrine and her sister. That very unromantic feeling, hunger, was however demanding attention; and when Victor and Bernhard, suddenly awaking at the sound of Hans' flint and steel, started up and observed daylight beginning to dawn, and Hans making a fire, they, with an air of surprise, said,
'You have fire, Hans, but where is the food?'
'I did not like to fire a gun, lest I might disturb the country, and let some strange Matabili know we were hereabouts; so I have procured breakfast with a Matabili's assagy.'
'What have you?' eagerly asked the hungry hunters. 'A young vleck vark and a porcupine,' replied Hans. 'The porcupine I found out on the plains, and speared him before he got to his hole. The pig I saw run into quietly over it with my
a jackall's hole, so I waited assagy till it came out to peep where I had gone. I stabbed it in the neck, and held it down till I killed it with my assagy. So we shall not starve yet, Victor; and the girls can eat pork, if they object to porcupine.' 'Ah! Hans,' said Victor, though I am an old hunter, I know I should starve in the desert where you would keep fat and sleek.'
It was a strange breakfast, that which took place on
Breakfast in the Desert.
the mountain-spur, between the five white people on the morning in question. It is seldom that lovers pass through such scenes as those in which were Hans and Katrine. Artificial life is now so much more general than is natural life, that few people are aware how very false is much that surrounds them. A well-bred English lady would probably imagine that she would rather starve than make a meal off a porcupine, when no plate or fork enabled her to eat, as some would term it, 'like a Christian.' It is surprising, however, how soon we learn to dispense with these ornaments of the feast, as we may term them. The writer of this tale cannot recall to mind any more enjoyable feasts, though flavoured with the best of wines and the most intellectual society, and amidst scenes of richness or splendour, than some repasts eaten amidst the dense bush of an African forest, with no other companion than the one black follower whose duty it was to spoor or carry the game, and where the cooking was simply toasting on a ramrod over the campfire some of the steaks from the buck which an hour previously was roaming freely in the forest. That unrivalled sauce, hunger,' gave an additional flavour to the venison, whilst the most robust health and the purest air supplied the want of many of those addenda which are considered necessities in civilized dining-rooms.
Thus the breakfast of porcupine and wild pig, though no bread or salt were added, no tea or sugar, and nothing but a draught of pure water from a tiny mountain stream near, was relished by those who with a brie
but refreshing sleep had passed the night under the cloudless canopy of heaven.
Hans had selected the halting-place for the night under some trees on a spur of a range of mountains which skirted the plains, so that as the morning dawned he might be able to see around, and thus possibly discover if any parties of the enemy were out in search of him. He found none, however, and therefore immediately breakfast was finished, the horses were mounted, and the party continued their journey, changing their direction now to the westward, in order to ride towards the district in which they believed their friends would be most likely to be found.
The sun had nearly attained his meridian altitude before Hans decided to halt, to off-saddle the horses, and to refresh the party, by partaking of the remainder of his morning's captures. The place that he had selected for the halt was a slightly wooded ravine, amidst the rocks of which a clear stream ran over a grassy or pebbly bed, behind him was a range of rocky hills, the summit of which was crowned by huge masses of rock, looking from the distance like vast slabs placed by giant strength in their present position. Before them was an undulating plain, on which detached clumps of bushes and trees were scattered; tiny mountain-born streams flowed in various parts of this plain, and could be seen like silver threads winding about amongst trees, shrubs, and ferns, until two or three joining together formed a fair-sized river. On these plains herds of antelope were grazing,