Puslapio vaizdai

middle of the wet season, when the dews are the heaviest and Blue-tongue most rampant, Charlie arose one morning to find the door of the shed open and his horse gone.

Like one crazed, he ran about the hill, calling her name, and searching in vain. for fresh tracks among the many on the green hillside. His wife, building a fire in the little yard before the door of the hut, was making ready the morning meal of mealie (corn) mush.

"What troubles my lord?" she called to him.

"Ingelosi! My Ingelosi, where is she?" cried Charlie, tragically, and suddenly ran up the hill, waving his arms and shouting in a frenzy.

Umlilo was suddenly afraid for him. She left off building the fire and hurried down the valley into the narrow, deep water-course of the Pandani River, where the mists lay piled as thick and white as a bank of snow.

An hour later she returned, leading Ingelosi by a broken halter.

"Where did you find her, Umlilo? Where did you find her?" babbled Charlie as he snatched the halter from her.

"Why, my lord-why, my lord, she had strayed down the valley," stammered Umlilo.

Charlie took note of her stammering and of the way in which her eyes avoided his as she spoke; at the same time he observed that the sides of Ingelosi were wet and shivering, and he remembered that his wife hated his pet. The truth flashed upon him with a hot wave of anger.

"By my grandfather's soul, you hid her in the valley!" he yelled, and struck her across the face with the end of the halter. Blinding tears sprang to her eyes; but she gasped tauntingly: "Most truly I did. You will never ride her again. See, already the Blue-tongue has her."

"You witch of the mountains!" screeched Charlie. "You fool, you fool!" Picking up a large stone, he hurled it at Umlilo, who dodged, and ran screaming from him. Charlie could not follow, for Ingelosi held his attention.

Her shivering changed to an ague that shook her whole beautiful body. She hung her head, and great drops of pink foam oozed from her pendulous lips. Through the livelong day Charlie stood

by her, petting and soothing her. There was nothing else he could do. At last came a great flood of foam from the poor creature's mouth, and a choking spasm; and her tongue, swollen twice its size and a blotchy-purple hue, protruded between her teeth. That was the end.

Charlie turned to Umlilo, who, silent and frightened, had come back to the tragic scene. "Behold, she is dead." he said bitterly. "You have killed her and my desire for you. You can stay here or go back to your father's, just as you please. I am going to the mines."

In vain she pleaded for him to stay, in vain she protested her sorrow for her mad act, in vain she begged to accompany him. That very night he went forth.


IN the grip of Drought lay the land.

Inyoni, son of Umasi, and leader in the little Zulu mission of Noodsberg, squatted in the shade of his hut on the south side of the mountain, and frowned at the dazzling sky and dead earth. His father, Umasi, crawled slowly out of the hut to sit beside him. The village sage sat on his bony hams and turned his wrinkled face toward the valley. He seemed to be studying a secretary-bird that promenaded haughtily through the wilted grass beside a cornfield, but he was thinking.

"My son," he said, "this long season of heat must end soon, else we all perish." Inyoni assented with a grim nod.

"My son, you know Amatoli, the old woman that lives by herself between the Noodsbergs? She is a witch. If we are to live, she must die."

"What do you mean?" gasped Inyoni, startled.

"I said that she must die."

Inyoni was of the generation brought up in mission-schools; and while he had many of the superstitions of his people, he had a horror of sudden death. "You do not mean to kill her!" he exclaimed.

Umasi cackled with toothless, mirthless laughter. "No, I do not mean to kill her. I am too old to kill a flea. But if you want to live, if you want to save the village, you must rid us of her."

"But, Father, it is a killing!" expostulated Inyoni, full of the teaching of the missions.

"My son," replied the old man, "she is River; and the tall, brown, barren hills killing us all."

"How do you know?"

"I had a dream," said Umasi, decisively. Those dreams of the sage were oracles in the village. When Umasi said, "I had a dream," not even the missionary could

rising beyond made a background so vastly grim that the little dwelling was almost lost in the gloom. Inyoni, however, saw only the mealies. They stood as high as a man, green and luxuriant, with the lighter green of ears beginning to show upon their

firm stalks. The whole field was a fresh, healthy, invigorating green, a strange contrast to the yellow grass, the brown hills beyond, and the brazen sky above. What made it so green? Inyoni could not answer, but all the superstitions of his fathers suddenly crowded into his heart to the destruction of that which was mysterious, inexplicable, and of the shadows.


All at once he noted a movement by the door of the hut. There sat Amatoli, dressed only in an apron of greasy leather. The sun, resting on the top of the mountain behind him, cast a lurid glow over the figure by the black hole of the hut. She was terrible to look upon, with her cavernous eyes, her wrinkled face, and her emaciated old body, glowing in the sunlight.


shake the people's faith in the certain progress of events. Inyoni was silenced.

Late that afternoon he visited the hut of Amatoli. He halted behind a stunted mimosa a few rods from the kraal and studied it carefully. There was not much to be seen: an old hut, standing on the mountain-side, blackened and torn by the storms until it looked like an ant-heap; a tiny field of mealies beside it. Far below, at the foot of the mountain, was the Igazi

As the sun dropped behind the mountain, plunging the valley in mysterious gloom, the old woman burst into weird song.

The sound, but not the words, pierced Inyoni. He shuddered violently, and, turning, went grimly home.

North of the Big Noodsberg is a huge block of granite, difficult of ascent. Though its base nestles in a hollow of the

mountain-side, the fifteen feet square of its top hangs over the rocky bed of the Igazi, a sheer three hundred feet below. It was the place of execution for the old Umzila race.

Thither Inyoni, with the help of two strong, vengeful men, half carried and half dragged Amatoli. They took her at three, the darkest hour of the summer night, but she was so frenziedly desperate in her opposition that it was near sunrise before they could bring her to the top of the rock. Meanwhile some herder-boys had seen them and spread the news, so that in the pink mistiness of the early dawn all of the village except the missionary and his family, who for obvious reasons were not informed, had gathered at the base of the rock.

Standing above the sea of swirling mist in the deep valley, Inyoni accused Amatoli. "Oh, I'm not a witch!" she screamed, throwing herself at the feet of the three men-three black figures against the pale blue of the sky.

The crowd gathered in the rear of the rock was as pitiless as the stern figures on its summit. Drought had parched their mealies, killed their potatoes, and dried up their springs. Famine stared them in the face. Already hunger had pinched their cheeks, and under its influence their memories grew pregnant of the evil ways of this woman. First one and then another cast each his stone of damning evidence. And still she protested her innocence, groveling at the feet of her captors.

"What makes your mealies live when ours die?" sternly demanded Inyoni as the final charge.

"I water it! With these old hands of mine I bring water by the gourdful every morning. I bring it from the river. Yes, old as I am, I totter to the river and bring water early every morning. I am poor. The corn is all I have. I must make it live," she sobbed in her terror.

Inyoni could not help being affected. But he knew as well as the rest that it was only further proof of her evil power that he should thus be moved. And so, even as the great red sun flooded the rock with fire, the three men bent over the raving creature, caught her up, and swung her far out above the clouds.

Silently they all went home. Inyoni's father met him at his door with a questioning look.

"She is gone," grunted Inyoni. "Then will the drought go," commended the sage. "Be of good cheer, my son; you did well."

And still the brassy sun arose out of the east and sank into the west day after day and day after day; and still the Drought prevailed.


IN almost any other part of the world Coast-fever would be called sheer laziness, but in South Africa it is a disease the power of which is to be reckoned with. Europeans can deal with it in only two ways: by yielding, they can live a long, though unprogressive, life, or, by constantly fighting, become wealthy and great, and die of old age before sixty.

Against this enemy Lincoln Strong pitted all his iron strength. He was an ambitious young American who had purchased a farm among the scraggy hills of the upper Umazi River, where he thought to make a small fortune. It was a beautiful place. The farm of five hundred acres stretched an irregular rectangle to the top of a round hill beside the river, and included a broad, uneven valley that butted against a precipice, where a small stream of water came tumbling down its way to the river.

It was a picturesque spot, but Strong did not choose it on account of its beauty. The soil was good, and the location ideal for irrigation, with a reservoir built above the precipice.

Strong was a tall, lean, wiry Yankee, with crow's-feet invading the corners of his eyes. And he was a worker. From the misty, chilly mornings to the hot and stifling evenings he worked hard all the year through. His six coolies called him "the Wonder," because he was the first white man they had known who toiled harder than his servants. The Kafirs from the neighboring kraals used to stare at him as he sweatingly strove in the fierce heat of mid-afternoon. The fat English planters sometimes visited him, and when they went away they shook their heads pityingly and said he was crazy. One big planter, Mr. Lindley by name, even remonstrated with him for his folly; but he only laughed and showed muscles as hard as steel.

The second summer found Strong's farm a land rich with promise. A series

of little canals supplied water from the reservoir to everything growing on the hill and in the valley. He calculated that the results of his scientific toil would bring him in a clear hundred pounds sterling, and he laughed as he thought of the warnings of the phlegmatic Mr. Lindley.

But when the sharply cold nights and the misty, steaming hot days of the the winter came, Strong had a strange experience.

One day he became tired! It was in the midst of his preparations for the next season's planting. Shortly after the noon luncheon he felt suddenly tired-so tired that he had to leave his work and lie down.

He did not get up again for three weeks. All the diseases in the category of human ills seemed to be attacking him at once. He thought he had rheumatism, influenza, dysentery, malaria all combined; and he sent for the doctor.

The doctor was a medical missionary at Umzinto, thirty miles north of Umazi. The evening of the second day he came, slowly plodding up the hill on a hardy little Basuto pony. He said Strong had it.

Strong had it all right; or, rather, it had Strong. He was maddened to be thus beaten. He made up his mind to get well. At the end of three

"I want to be able to order your coffin in time, you know. Terribly hot weather."

With this grim suggestion the doctor left for good. Strong tried to resume his work where it had been interrupted; but,

[ocr errors]

to his disgust, he found that he no longer had the eager zest for it that he had had the previous summer. It was too cold in the morning, too hot. at noon, and too damp at night.

At last he bought more coolies and hired an overseer, and consoled himself with the thought that the valley was rich enough to support them all; but his dream of making a fortune was slipping away.

[ocr errors]

Finding his idle time. dragging, he began to visit the neighboring estates, especially that of Mr. Lindley, who had a big tea plantation fifteen miles down the knobby hill ranges toward the sea. He had also a blue-eyed, brown-haired daughter. But of course. Strong visited his place more often than the others because he wanted to find out how Mr. Lindley could make any money in the wasteful way he ran the estate. With two thousand acres of arable land, the Englishman was content with a scant four hundred in cultivation, and for that he had five hundred coolies and two Such luxurious ease was an interesting study for Strong, and with Flora Lindley for guide he made a most thorough investigation.


weeks the doctor told him that it was his grit that saved him; and he forbade Strong from working in the hot sun for at least a year. Lincoln swore he would.

"All right," laughed the doctor. "By the way, how tall are you, and what 's the width across the shoulders?"

"What do you want to know for?" asked Strong.

white overseers.

Her father said that the plantation was not run to make money, but to live; and when Flora Lindley came to Strong with a marriage portion of two hundred and fifty guineas, he decided that

the old man knew what he was talking about.


JOHN MAKEBESANI hated Christianity on general principles, but largely because he liked beer and polygamy, against which liking all the missionaries he knew waged stern and relentless war. His kraal was on the very summit of the Inyati Mountain, overlooking the great Tugela, the river that separates Natal from Zululand. On three sides of the mountain were lofty precipices, while on the fourth the ascent was so steep that John had never dared to bring his wagons to the top. John was absolute monarch of his wives, his children, and his children's children to the number of two hundred souls.

The Rev. Willard Deming, the new missionary at Mupolo, fifteen miles from the Inyati, soon heard of the inaccessibility of John Makebesani, and determined to reach him if possible. As he followed the trail to the Inyati, he found the adjacent hills alive with immense herds of grazing cattle that belonged to the chief of the mountain. Deming talked pleasantly with the naked little herderboys and continued on his way.

The chief was squatting on a mat with a horn pipe in his hand and a pot of beer beside him. He was a large, fleshy man, with grizzled hair, and massive features inlaid with hard wrinkles; he was clad in a heavy loin-covering of wildcat tails, a necklace of hyena teeth, and a coronet of

[ocr errors]

Drawn by Percy E. Cowen. Half-tone plate engraved by R. C. Collins "HE EXTRACTED THE BROKEN STUMP OF THE TOOTH"

The first thing that met his eye on the summit was the huge cattle-kraal, an ovalshaped, brush-walled inclosure that covered about a fourth of the available space on the mountain. From the number and size of the herds he had seen, Deming calculated that Makebesani must have at least five hundred head of cattle, and marveled at his wealth.

twisted horsehair covered with black clay and beeswax and polished until it shone like ebony. A company of six retainers sat near, and others gathered until the missionary was surrounded by half a hundred men. Nothing daunted, the Rev. Mr. Deming explained the object of his visit.

"If I could build a school in the valley," he said compromisingly, "you might—”

« AnkstesnisTęsti »