Зображення сторінки


Hartley continued, “should I and herds was too tedious for not make you sell me your an expedition costing £2 a-day waggon and oxen, which are so for

waggon - hire alone and much better than mine? In- rapidly running short of prostead of that, I do not even visions. tell you I want them.

I want them. I let my In order to allay any lingerdoctor physic your vrouw, and ing suspicion on the part of I give you a soupie of good the Boer, Hartley accepted his brandy, taking nothing from escort through the last dorp on you. Does that look like the line of march, but was Rhodes ?”

careful to make no stay there ; Van Enter began to be im- for dorp officialdom, having pressed. The Boer conception plenty of time on its hands, of the character of the Colossus might prove inquisitive. Harthad been well presented. ley did not feel comfortable till

“And you talk of likenesses. he was outspanned six miles Many a foolish fellow has taken beyond the dorp. He sent me for Rhodes, but I am not Smeer and the Kafirs back to so nearly like him as you are to make such purchases as were a Boer who stole my horse by necessary, and took advantage Ermelo last year.

of the dying moon to work a Van Enter looked uneasy for trek that put twenty miles

few moments; then the between him and the reprehumour of the situation ap- sentatives of Pretoria. pealed to him, for he laughed, The country had again beand Hartley knew that all come uniformly wild and diffidanger was past, since laughter cult, and

rain had kills the reason in an Afri- softened and cut up the roads kander.

into morass or gully. The oxen Within ten

ten minutes Van began to give up, and longer Enter had produced his bottle and more frequent rests and of carefully - conserved dop shorter treks were imperative. brandy, Wilmot had adminis- The waits gave Wilmot ample tered a half-pint of his physic opportunity for gratifying his to the vrouw, who took it with exploratory instinct by rides the nonchalance and ease of a off the track in quest of game confirmed hypochondriac, and and topographical enlightenall parted as friends.

ment. Hartley still strongly Van Enter had invited opposed these solitary excurHartley to join forces with him sions, and by way of deterrent and trek along the same route. told many stories of new-comers, The Yorkshireman quite ap- and even old hands, being left preciated the advantage of to die in the veld as the result travelling under the escort of of a broken limb obtained while a Burgher known in and know- scaling some rugged height. ing the district, and would Veld lore has hundreds of these have been glad to accept the records, all sufficiently tragic offer. But the progress of a to need no embellishment. Boer on trek with his flocks As they struck the road that

a late

led to the once famous gold- waggon that evening, “I want fields of the Murchison Range, you to make a note of something they came upon an object-lesson I have forgotten. If we pull in one of the most pathetic this thing through, and any. memorials ever erected over a thing should happen to me like nameless grave.

Beneath a that”-he had been telling the large thorn - tree was a heap story of the death and burial of of stones, almost breast-high, a companion in Mashonalandwhich tradition says marks the


my share goes to Clarie. resting place of an unknown But bear in mind, Wilmot, only white man, who, with a native on condition that she doesn't servant, was prospecting and marry thathunting in this region in the He jerked his pipe in the early Eighties. He died from direction where Smeer was the effect of some such accident sleeping wrapped in his as Hartley prophesied for Wil- blankets. mot. Evidently the Kafir had “I'll see it through, Dick; possessed a larger share of the but there's no occasion to talk virtue of gratitude than is usu of pegging out." ally accredited to his race, for “ I've got to finish up somehe had carved on the trunk of where; why not now? It the tree in large rude letters would be like my luck to knock this simple tribute to his dead under just as I had pulled off master

the biggest thing in my life.” This

the first time GOOD BAAS.

Hartley had made any reference The district contains many to what Wilmot had long since uninscribed memorials to the guessed was an understanding unknown wardens of the Em- between him and Clarie. He pire who have fallen by the felt encouraged to put way, whose memory lives only questionin some distant home beyond “I suppose if it's not a the seas, or perchance in the funeral here, it will be a mar. breasts of the companions of riage there?” the trek, who passed through Hartley replied quite frankly: the most heartrending of tra “Yes, it's all fixed up. At vails that friendship can suffer, any rate, I think it is, or it -watching one die to whom would be if I was not such an no help can be given, then dig- ass when it comes to talking to ging his lonely grave and leav. women. Look here”-he being him to the eternal solitude came very earnest - “I don't of the wilderness. Twice had know whether it's the same Hartley undergone this ordeal, with other chaps, but when and the sight of these tragic I'm away from Clarie I can reminders of the shadows of think of all sorts of things I the veld depressed him for the want to say to her, and the rest of that day.

proper way to say them, but “Wilmot,” said he, as the I'm hanged if it doesn't all slip two sæt smoking under the away as soon as I get within



of the landmarks, and as few ensberg through a pass that the Boers had yet trekked in this stoutest Voortrekker deemed direction, there came a time impregnable.


him the when Smeer had to confess lowering of a waggon five that he had lost his bearings, hundred feet down a slope, and advised a halt of a day which he described as smooth while he rode ahead to spy out as the roof of a house, was the lay of the land. He re- child's play. turned next day with satisfac- Wilmot watched with fascition writ large on his otherwise nated interest the process of inexpressive face, and announced making the wheels immovable a heroic resolve. He had dis- with strips of raw-hide called covered the track, but to reach reims,—the veld-man's rope, it one of two things had to be twine, and wire combined ; done-either they must retrace helped to remove some of the their weary way some twenty smaller articles that could not miles, or the waggon must be be thoroughly secured ; and tied up and lowered from the with beating heart saw the edge of the high plateau where oxen taken out and the heavy they had halted into the valley waggon directed sideways over below.

the cliff. It ran for twenty When the plan was explained yards with its own momentum, to Wilmot he stood aghast. then brought up in a hollow. The side of the hill it was All hands ran to the rescue, proposed to launch the waggon laid a course diagonally down down sloped at an angle varying the side, and another space was between thirty-five and forty- cleared. The next lap was five degrees. It was largely finished on the top of a boulder, covered with grass, but the many and much labour and ingenugullies, projecting ridges, and ity were needed to bring the huge boulders seemed to offer waggon into position for the insuperable obstacles.

next run; but half an hour's Englishman the proposal ap- work did it, and then began a peared madness; but the craft series of slides, some smooth of a Boer transport rider is a and gentle, others a succession thing of marvel, that may only of shocks, bumps, and threats be witnessed and described by of capsize. Again and again those whose probity and char- Wilmot saw the unwieldy mass acter stand assured. Johannes dashing on to destruction on a Smeer had ridden transport in boulder; but a skilful deflection the days when Kimberley was of the pole or disselboom, that young, and the rates stood at stood out like a bowsprit or thirty shillings the hundred- outrigger, had the effect of a weight, and were not too high. touch on the tiller of a sailing This same old waggon had boat, and steered the craft into bumped up the Gibraltar, from smooth water. Within an hour which the Devil's Kantoor looks the waggon was awaiting the down on Barberton, and Smeer arrival of the oxen, which had had steered it across the Drak- been taken down by a track

To an

that required as careful negoti- until their documents had been ation as that of the waggon.

verified, and with all his courThe climbing of difficult hills age Hartley feared the conwas a sight Wilmot could not sequences of having his name endure, because of the suffer- brought prominently under the ing inflicted upon the patient, notice of Boer officialdom. It meek-eyed oxen. Frequently had taken too great an interest a couple of hours would be ex- in him of late. pended in getting the waggon On the tenth day of the up a hundred yards of steep trek the expected happened. incline by a process of zig- They came upon an elderly zagging that would have been Boer who, with his family easy but for the process of and cattle, was trekking to turning the sixty yards of his winter farm. His waggon oxen on the trek chain: more was outspanned a few miles than half the load had to to the right, on the road be removed before the ascent that Hartley would have been could be attempted, and labori. travelling, but that it led ously dragged up piece by through a dorp he was anxious piece. But the new track dis- to avoid. covered by Smeer got grad

The Boer pulled up fifty ually better, and the time- and yards from the party, and sat temper-exhausting mountain- in the saddle reconnoitring. eering became less frequent.

After a time he cautiously Occasionally Wilmot and advanced, announced that he Hartley rode off the track a was Van Enter of the Ermelo few miles to put up a buck district, and put the customor bustard and guinea - fowl, ary questions to the travellers. that relieved the monotony of Smeer acted as spokesman. the eternal tinned meats. But Instead of allaying suspicion, Hartley was not in favour of the old man's presence had the these excursions : he was fear- opposite effect. Van Enter ful of encountering some wan- could understand a party of dering party of Boers, whose ignorant Rooineks travelling suspicions might be excited off the road, but it puzzled and cause delay, while they him to find such a blunder communicated with the dis- made by a Boer like Johannes trict field-cornet. Hartley had Smeer, and with Afrikander thoughtfully provided himself directness he put his suspicion with a prospector's licence in into words. With tactless proper form; but it was more bluntness Smeer confessed that than probable that the field- the Rooinek had chosen the cornet would not be able to route, as he did not want to read it, and would insist on his pass through dorps. right to prevent progress until Hartley heard the foolish an interpreter had been found. statement, and drew on his The Johannesburg papers had resourcefulness promptly. lately recorded cases of trav- “I have gone off the road to ellers being detained many days find the elandsboontje (elands


faith and prayer.


bean). I have an Irish doctor “He is only just come into with me who makes good medi- the land.” cine out of it for my sickness." “Did he, then, come with

Van Enter grew interested. Jameson ?” Next to the Predikant, the Hartley laughed. “Did I Boer respects the doctor, and not say he was an Irishman?' is often more willing to hear of

Van Enter was silenced. a new physic than of a cure by After pause he inquired

whether the doctor would “ Have you seen any elands- ride over to the waggon and boontje ?” Hartley went on, see his vrouw, who had been well knowing that the plant sick for many months. was very rare in that region. Hartley

answered that “We have been told that there nothing would make the doctor is a kind hereabouts worth all happier, and in low tones he the others.”

explained the situation to Van Enter was completely Wilmot. It had been arranged bluffed. He came up to the beforehand that he was in waggon, which had stopped, emergency to play such shook hands with grave re

rôle. An Irishman was not a spect with Wilmot the Irish schelm Rooinek in Boer esteem, doctor, accepted a soupie of and if he were, his medical brandy,


entered into qualifications atoned. general conversation. All the Van Enter rode off to pretime he was eyeing the gear. pare his wife for the visit,

“What is that?” at last he while Wilmot got ready the asked.

physic, without which academic Hartley told the story made qualifications counted for nothto fit the load.

ing. He made up a big bottle“Whose farm are you going ful of a harmless liquid comto prospect ?" was the next pounded of liquorice, cayenne question.

pepper, Worcester sauce, and Hartley was not prepared salt. It contained all the exfor this, and mentioned a name ternal essentials of good physic, haphazard.

being black, thick, and nauseVan Enter was puzzled. He ous, and, doubtless, equally knew, he said, every Boer in efficacious for internal and exthe district mentioned, but had ternal application. never heard of Eckbout.

Hartley and Wilmot rode “He is in Pretoria. He went over after their oxen had been to fight Jameson,” Hartley ex- outspanned and the midday plained.

meal disposed of. They found “What were you doing when the usual multitudinous family Jameson came in?” was the of barefooted children, as next embarrassing question. healthy as dirty, who for the

"Prospecting on the East most part dodged the ceremony Rand.”

of handshaking, probably in “And your friend the doctor, awe of the doctor and his art. . where was he?"

Mrs Van Enter, fat and ponder

« НазадПродовжити »