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Short Complete Tales by 1…


Short Complete Tales by 1 Renowned Writers. [COPYRIGHT. I THE YOUNG BURGHER. A TALE OF THE KAFFIR WAR. By ERNEST GLANVILLE, Author of "The Eossickers," "The Lost Heiress," &c., &e. Commandant Bonker stood tapping his boot3 foipatiently with his riding whip. Up to the present be had doi.e well. With an advance KUard of 50 Cape Burghers he had stopped the present be had doi.e well. With an advance KUard of 50 Cape Burghers he had stopped the career of Kaffir looting parties and retaken a lnrsfe number of Citttlo. Now his progress was luexpectedly stopped at the Fish River. The drift was commanded bv a precipice which was held by a large force of Gaikas who had am- bushed him on the previous day with disastrous bushed him on the previous day with disastrous effect. "It's! too deep to rush,"he said for the twentieth time; they'd empty every saddle as we were Crossing." i<e walked forward a few steps until he stood the edge of a clearing. The road stretched straight before him for about 100 yards and then disappeared behind a solitary bluff, below which fras the river. As lie stood a bullet struck near his feet, and a Puff of smoke appeared on the edge of the bluff, Marking the whereabouts of the sharpshooter. The Commandant slashed with his whip at the rent in the earth made by the ball, and then he ihook his fist at the concealed foe. By George he cried, a moment later, I'll iave you." He returned to his men. Who is the best snap-shot among you ?" "Young Steve Gradwell," came from the troop. "Step to the front, Steve." A young man who had been lying full length on the ground, gazing up at the sky and smoking Peacefully the while, rose up, shook the dry grass ■fom him, and leisurely advanced till he faced his ^ptain, over whom he towered by full five inches. Can you sight an object and pull trigger Sefote a Kaffir, Steve V' asked the Commandant, •low I}'. Steve smiled, but made no reply. 1. Look here," said the officer, after a pause, "wt:'re going to clear the drift. Steve, you will fst under cover by the edge of the clearing the test of the troop will prepare to charge the bluff te soon as Steve fires." What must I fire at. Commandant ?" asked Ihe young Burgher, quietly. At a Kaffir. I will step out into the clearing and draw the man's fire, but you must hit him Srst." Steve drew the cartridge from his Martini, Examined it, replaced it, cocked the rifle, and went touching forward. The other men quietly took .thelr positions. Are you ready ?" Ye.3, sir but you are running a great risk." The Commandant hurried away to the clearing, ln(I ,Is he pissed Steve he whispered, "His life 1r. mine, my lad." Then the brave man walked right out into the Jpen and stood front to the bluff, his arms crossed, bi?chm up, his thin lips slightly parted. His self-imposed ordeal was not to be instantly Sieved. There was a long and trying ppuse. The men standing alert in the bush felt a weight t>n their breasts from their suspended breathing. A fall minute passed and there was no movement klitong the bushes on the bluff. The (Joirmiandaut had grown pale under the 'train, and his breathing was quicker, but his thin ^iry figure was drawn to its full height. The young Burgher kneeling behind a bush was apparently the most iwimoved-; his figure was as d ttmtigii-earved in stone, but his keen grey "4i %a *yea were strained, and beads of perspiration broke 0",08 his forehead, while his large bony fingers fci'asped the stock and barrel of his rifle a3 though ^vetted thereto. He was at a disadvantage. The Kaffir on the hill could look through the bushes and take ttim without showing an inch of his Person. No doubt the quick sense of the native n-ld detected some plot afoot which would make him cautious. These thoughts flash ad upon the young man's mind as he made a sharp, hissing noise to attract the Commandant's attention, Without, however, withdrawing his gaze. The officer heard the sound, paused, and ad- vanced slowly towards the shelter of the bush. Suddenly he stopped, and his face grew stern and 'et. He saw Steve's rifle levelled, and waited in •ttsoanse for the report or double report. But Steve did not fire. He lowered his gun and lioved his head with an anxious look in his eyes. Then the Commandant did a cool thing. Out of his pocket he drew his pipo and tobacco, tilled th" bowl, struck a match on the sole of his boot, and hollowed his hands to shelter the flame. A bush shook on the top of the bluff, and the 'un gleamed for a second on a rifle barrel. In a flash the rifle leapt to Steve's shoulder and that same instant he pressed the trigger. Forward Out of the bush rushed the waiting Burghers. Ihey flew up the hill, reached the summit, and looked down the riverside front of the bluff, a *heer precipice. There on a narrow ledge of rock, between the base of the precipice and the river, where the Kaffirs, taken completely by surprise. They had been eating, and so quick had been the ^Q&h of their foes, that some of them still had Atrips of roasted flesh in their hands. A withering tolJey was poured into them, and those uninjured fled down the banks completely protected by the Wall of stone. Seven men werok left dead, and among them was the sharpshooter. They found his rifle on the top and traced him down to the ledge by a wide blood 'poor. He had been shot by the young Burgher through the shoulder, and into tbe wound hn had hastily stuffed a tuft or grass. Another ball fired in the volley had pierced his brain. The troop crossed the drift and passed on to the foot of a bare ridce, where they off-saddled, and Prepared a rough ineal. Then they made arrang- nisnts aJ though they would sleep there—but after nightfall the horses were taddled, and led lui ;tly to the summit of the ridge. Then out- posts were stationed, and the men stretched them- selves on the dewy grass, each with his horse's bridle over his -arm. to be in readiness for any night alarm. Young Gradwell was one of the guards. His post was a quarter of a mile away on the further- most limit of the n.ge- a post of danger, where "xtreme vigilance was needed. He fastened his horse in the shadow of a lonely tree, and himself sat down against a rock below the skyline, his face towards the east, where the main body of the eusmy lay in the depths of a gloomy kloof, known 13 Macomo's Dan, the haunt of leopards and wild degs. Long he sat there, listening to the voices of the still night to the cry of the jackal and the wi:d cat—with a dark sky over- head and the intense blackness before |11U5* Suddenly lie stood erect with head bent forward. There came to him a faint murmur, so slight that many wou d have unheeded its warn- lng, taking it for a confused murmur ot wild Animals, but. slight though it was, he recognised the echo of Kaffir voices. Thoro was a glow in the east, a strange red ftarestaining one portion of the daik heavens. They've fired a farmhouse," he muttered as he unfastened his horse. He swung himself into the saddle, and turned towards the troop, then t ined in abruptly. My God can that be Hartley's ? His is the only homestead in that direction, and I haard that he bad gone hack. I'll go forward to the next kopje and see." Altering his course, he went down the hill, rtivay from his friends, and rode for a higher peak to the right. Reaching the summit he saw far away in the wall of black, a flame of tire, and Plainer came the sound of deep voices chanting a War song. There' was a pause, a rifle shot, dulled by distance, and a renewed outbreak of shouting, followed by several shots in quick suc- session. We're wanted there and the sooner the better for some poor creature." He put his hand to bis mouth and gave a loud shout. In the quiet air he heard the sound of horses trotting. The guards were galloping in to the troop. Again he shouted, pointing in the direction of 'he flame unconsciously with his arm. "They're attacking Hartley." Twice he shouted, then set off home on his Perilous ride, thinking nothing of his own risk. A. mile to his right was a waggon track leading direct to Hartley's, and for this he made at a ?**art pace, trusting to his horse to avoid jackal "Oles and ant-hills. Reaching the road, which dimly dtfined, he galloped on until a shrill thistle near him made him pull up. Edging his horse slowly off the road on to the Jfrass, be drew up near a large bush and listened, well he knew that whistie was the warning Clan of a Kaffir to his matts. There w»3 a movement in the grass, now here, there, the fa nt sound of soft footfalls, to be *'t rather than heard, and he cocked his rifle S**fifully, so that tho sharp click should not be A soft whistle behind him was answered one ahead, and then even his practised ears Ðould detect no movement of his wily foef. j But there was a keener sense than his, and, earting forward, he watched his horse's ears. One bent back, the other forward then both were forward for a long pause, until tho animal "ddenly turned his head to the 'eft. .^teve glanced in that direction, then drove the Hxirs in deep. As the horse sprang forward with %-J: a snort, rm assegai whizzed by him, and a dark figure slipping round tho bush, shouted loud a warning to hi-i friends beyond. A flame flashed out of the dark on his right,and a ball "sped vjoiously by. He turned diagonally and a dark figure sprang at his reins, while yet another pripped him by the ankle and struck at him with a kerrie. The blow, through the speed of the horse, fell lightly on his shoulder, but an assegai hurled from behind ripped his coat open and stung along his ribs like a led-hot iron. Stung into ungovernabb fury the young Bur- gher reined in his horse, and freeing one foot dashed his heel into the face of the warrior who still grasped his leg, then fired from his hip at a man who stood just before him, the same who had clutched at the reins. Thrusting in another cartridge he turned his horse again and galloped at right angles to his former course, thus throwing off the greater number of his assailants, whose shouts came thicker from front and rear. A few shots were fired after him. then his pursuers shouted in Kaffir directions, as the flying- horsemen gathered to others of their band. On he dashed, however, veering slightly to the ieft the further he went, for still he was bent on reaching Hartley's, when suddenly ri^ht before him there shone the glowing coals of several woud fires. Almost involuntarily he tugged at the reins, and the sudden pause in full gallop nearly shot him out of the saddle. Regaining his seat he saw there was no forms about the iires, but by the nearest heap of coals ha marked the dark folds of a blanket. There were Kaffirs near. They wero perhaps creeping up to him. In an instant he made up his mind. Right through the circle of fitvs he dashed, and a wild yell of anger and dis- appointment broke from the bushes around. A doz-n balls flew harmlessly by, harmless then— but well he knew the reports would put other bands upon their guard; for he had evidently ridden into a strong force on the march. The horse which had carried him so well now was a source of danger-for his hoof-beats would quickly be marked by the keen-eared natives. Still, he was reluctant to abandon him, though. after a hard gallop he pulled up to consider his position and as he sat still there suddenly brok': out far away to his rear left the loud rattle of a volley, followed by quick independent firing. Then far and near he heard Kaffirs calling to one another, and judged rightly that the warriors were rushing back to join their comrades in a skirmish with Commandant Bonker's troop. The young man wavered a minute between duty to his friends and the carrying out of his inten- tion to reach Hartley's. They can hold their own," he said, with an obstinate look in his face. And now is iny time to advance while the Kaffirs have their hands full." So he took his bearingl by the red flare in the sky, which was now to his left, and sped on again. But he reckoned without knowledge of the fact that the whole of Macomo's forces, some thousand men, were "out," and twice he almost rode into hurrying bands. From the first he escaped by his presence of mind. Mistaking him for a mounted native, one of a small number who acted as scouts, a Kaffir asked him the canse of the volley firing. Oh—our men have eaten up a small party of whites—there's no cause to hurry," said Steve in Kaffir, urging on his horse the time. Out of that danger he soon after fell into a worse predicament. He had reached the top of a ridge and had drawn rein to blow his horse and take notice of the direction he must follow, when out of the grass about him-out of the earth it seemed to him—a score of naked figures sprang and hemmed him in. He tried again to gallop through, but a warrior thrml: his assegai deep Into the gallant horse. With a wild, unearthly shriek the poor creature sprang into the air, staggered on a. step or two, then rolled over. Steve vaulted from the saddle, and sprang for- ward, pulling the triggeras he went, and profiting by the surprise caused by his unexpected assault, he found himself almost unopposed. Thrusting the smoking barrel of his rifle into the stomach of one man, ht. dashed by the next, and tore along the ridge at a speed which only the hunted mau is capable of. He tore through small bushes, stumbled over reeks, and once fell with great violence—but he was up again, still grasping his gun, and rushed on bareheaded, andbleedingfrom a wound in his forehead. He had run a mile, perhaps, gaining on his pursuers all the time, and then he doubled on his track and stood still to regain his wind. Soon he heard the deep breath- ing of a native, then the sound of others run- ning. They passed on, and he took off his boats so they should not heard him in case they had stopped to listen. This time he struck away down the slope of the hill to the left, pausing every few yards, to listen, and now only anxious to find some safe place of retreat against the coming morn, when, no doubt, scores of sharp eyed trackers would be searching for him. He was sore now from his wound, and from the knocks and cuts received in his headlong flight, and his feet growing painful beyond endurance, he sat down with a sullen resolve to run no further should he die for it. And as he sat there, like an animal at bay, he saw a white figure approaching by fits and starts, now running a few yards, now pausing. To the mind of a colonist reared on native superstition this apparition could not be other than fearful, but Grad welllmd got beyond all feeling of fear. He. thrust his white and bleeding face forward with a™ grim look about his mouth, aud then slowly lifted his rifle and followed the movements of the figure with the barrel. Three times his finger curled round the trigger, but each time he was restrained from giving the fatal pressure. The figuro was now within six yards of him. Stop he cried, fiercely. He was answered by a low gasp of fear, and the figure stood still, its white garment quivering from the violent trembling. A woman! cried Steve. Who are you?" He rose up, took a step forward, swayed, and pitched heavily forward, his rifle flying away with a clatter. A native still prowling about heard the noise and called to his friends, but ere he reached the spot the woman sprang forward, caught Steve by the arms, and dragged him into the shelter of a thicket near, herself crouching low down under the leaves. Shj sat there, trembling violently at intervals, while the Kaffirs searched around, and then when all was again quiet she summoned courage enough to raise the h<?ad of the unconscious man to her lap, and waited in a stupor of despair. In the cold hours of the early mcrning Stave stirred, thtn sat suddenly up, making a stir in the bush. Be quiet," she said, clutching his wrists. Gradwell smatched his hand away roughly. Where's my gun T' You dropped it," she whispered. when you fainted. There are Kaffirs near. I dragged you inhere." "You did ?" he said wonderingly then after a pause, You should have left ine and found better shelter. We must get out of this." She shivered, and he crept out of the bush and looked towards the east, where the dawn was showing in a band of grey suffused with delicate pink. Lie close, he whispered, while I find my rifle." He crept along slowly, raising his head to peer about, and soon he wriggled baok with his rifle, which was sticking butt uppermost in a bush. Come along," he whispered from the mist rising beyond there must b« a kloof near, where we may find better shelter." We may be found before we get there," she replied fearfully. "Do you know Kaffir warfare ?'he asked, sig. nificantly. I am Grace Hartley." she answered. Ah I see. You were escaping from the fire. Well, you know they will find you here in the morning-In an hour maybe—and what then ? She rose up and stood by his side. He took her by the arm and they went on to where a vapour appeared ghostly against the dark hills. Swiftly, but in utter silence they went, but the mist seemed to recede before them, and when they stood at last on the edge of the mist, the sun had shown a. blood-red crescent above the dark horizon. His rays shot up fan-like into the heavens, but as the vast orb stood clear, the long slanting beams fell in radiance on the billowing mist, pierced into the gloomiest shadows beyond, and it was day. Day—and they stood exposed on a bare rock. She drew back, clutching at her breast, and he looked wildly round. No words were wanted to tell them of their danger. The mist below them covered a deep kloof, and the rock they stood on .was the upper ri.R* °f a sheer precipice. Behind them ana on either side there was no shelter, nothing but a rock-strewn ridge,with here and there a busb. Steve ran to-and-fro, peering down into the mist for some way down the wall of rock, but the white curtain, rolling and twisting, hid all. A cry from Miss Hartley drew his attention. She was pointing up the rtdge-a. look of terror in her large black eyes, and as he followed the direction of her gaze, he groaned. On a tall rock a Kaffir stood, beckoning with his hand. But while his arm was still outstretched, the rifle spoke and he leapt into the air mortally stricken. Grace buried her face ;n her hands, and in her terror she did not hear the hoarse shout which marked the death of the warrior. Steve did, and he looked round with bis face white to the lips. Ah what was that dark object looming near at hand out of the mist ?—a tree Here, Gruoe. quick, qui3k He seized her by the arm, and drew her to the edge of the preci- pice. Lying down on his stomach, he reached over and caught a bough of the tree. "Grasp it," he said, "and it will swing you out into the tree. Hold on, and then quickly climb down. They don't know you are here, and will not search for you." She looked dowh into the unknown depths and shuddered. I can't," she murmured. You must he cried, almost savagely. But you 1" Grace Hartley, do you want to fall into the hands of these timers ? Take hold, I say ?" She leant down, grasped the bough, and let her body drop. Steve let go, and the bough swung her out. He watched her, pausing heavily. Now," he cried, slip down by that monkey tow." She caught fast hold of a trailing creeper, and slowly disappeared, her white face looking up at his, deathlike and horror-struck. A shout behind, fierce and exulting, brought Steve to his feet, as though he had been jerked up. He picked up his rifle, faced round, grew ashen grey, trembled, then drew himself up with open bps showing his teeth, and a glare in his eye^. His hand was steady as he opened the breach for thejeartridge, and there he stood while he emptied his pouch, the barrel growing hot to the touch in the rapid snap-firing that had earned for him his reputation as the quickest sight shot amidst a troop of noted marksmen. But though many of his balls took effect on limb or body, others missed the moving mark, and the foremost of the warriors was close upon him, his assegai held in I readiness, and those behind kept up a struggling fire With a shout Steve hurled his rifle into the kloof—why he could not tell; then turning he dashed along the brink. of the precipice. After hm tore a dozen warrioreeager for vengeance, making terrific bounds, bringing them nearer to their prey. On went the flying man, in the second wild dash for life within the twenty-four hours, gasping painfully, his feet torn at every step by sharp rocks. Now the ground swept abruptly down to a wooded valley, through which wound a silver stream, bordered by a waggon road. On the water he fixed his haggard glance. If he could only reach that," he felt in a dazed condition, if he could only bury his hot face in the cool water—if he could throw himself head first into its cool depths—he would thank God—oh—he would thank God for His mercy." Down the steep incline ha swept, his fists held tight to his throbbing breast, his head forward, and his tongue out. Nearer and nearer came the water, and closer the steps behind. He could see the ripples on the surface. He marked a swallow make a sudden •woop, touching the silver surface with its wings. Just a moment more, just—just a little minute— and he would be there. What's this mist before his eyes? His breath comes iaspb?. He staggers upon the very edge of the road, within ten paces of the river, beating the air withhisarma. There is a fierce gurgling sound behind him. a strangled shout of victory, and the fierce Kaffir, the foam bleaching his naked breast, drives his assearatintheawayingbody. "Ready! Fire!" The warrior falls riddled above the prostrate body, and a troop of horse sweep out of the bush on the right and dash up the hill after the astonished Kaffirs. One man remains behind. He stoops over the still body, and his thin, stern face is strangely moved. He sighs heavily. Poor boy! poor boy! Just one second too late." He lifts the tall form in his arms and carries it to the water's edge. There he bathes the haggard, blood-smeared face. Then he holds his breath. The blue eyes are opened wide, and the pale lips move. I'm coming, mother. I've reached the water of life." The eyes roll, then are fixed again with a look of intelligence upon the face above him. "Ah," he says, with a start, "Commandant— Grace Hartley—foot of the Kvantz —look—for— very. Good-bye—did—you—lick the beggars T And then the end ,camet and the commandant was found there with his head buried in the grass bestdethatstillform. He's dead, boys. Dead—and I hoped to make a son of him. Some of you come with me." He went up into the kloot at the base of the precipice, and half way up he found a white girl sitting at the foot of a huge yellow wood, ner dress all torn and her hands cut. Her dark eyes swept over them with an eager look. He has escaped ?" she asked. The commandant took her by the hand and led her out of che dark wood, while his troopers won- dured among themselves what had happened. Outside the wood she told her story-bow she had found a trooper, and how he had saved her life. Then take me to him that I may thank him." The commandant looked at her, and then he looked away over the hills. I cannot take you to him," he answered presently in a grave voice, so grave and sorrowful that she knew it aU. "Ho has gone," and he pointed to the sky. M Would you like to see him now?" She nodded her head, and they went and stood round the body. The Commandant lifted his hat. Men, ho gave his life for another. We have losfe a com- rade, but the angels have taken to themselves a brother. Amen f" Amen they echoed. Then they wrapped him in a blanket, strapped him to a horse, and Sent him back with six men, one of them carrying on the saddle before him a girl whosoWaok eyes were wide open and fixed. Prepare to mount; mount; walk trot!" The troop swept along the road, and soon was in the thick of a hot engagement, holding the Kaffirs till the main body arrived. [THE END ] NEXT WEEK— THE TRUTH ABOUT LORD WESTPORT. By HAMILTON AIDE.




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