After China refused to accept foreign garbage, Europe and the United States turned to Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asian countries were collectively angry.

时间:2023-09-25 18:29:25来源:China Sailing and Windsurfing Association website 作者:Tuen Mun District

“Not a shadow of a chance. Both wiped out.”“H’m! Poor chaps,” says Hoste seriously. “As for ourselves, here we are, stranded without even a horse between us; right at the wrong end of the country; hostile niggers all over the shop, and all our fellows gone home. Bright look out, isn’t it!”“We are two fools,” answers Payne sententiously.Chapter Twenty Four.A Dark Rumour in Komgha.There was rejoicing in many households when it became known in Komgha that the Kaffrarian Rangers had been ordered home, but in none was it greater than in that run conjointly by Mrs Hoste and her family and Eanswyth Carhayes.The satisfaction of the former took a characteristically exuberant form. The good soul was loud in her expressions of delight. She never wearied of talking over the doughty deeds of that useful corps; in fact, to listen to her it might have been supposed that the whole success of the campaign, nay the very safety of the Colony itself, had been secured by the unparalleled gallantry of the said Rangers in general and of the absent Hoste in particular. That the latter had only effected his temporary emancipation from domestic thrall in favour of the “tented field” through a happy combination of resolution and stratagem, she seemed quite to have forgotten. He was a sort of hero now.Eanswyth, for her part, received the news quietly enough, as was her wont. Outwardly, that is. Inwardly she was silently, thankfully happy. The campaign was over—he was safe. In a few days he would be with her again—safe. A glow of radiant gladness took possession of her heart. It showed itself in her face—her eyes—even in her voice. It did not escape several of their neighbours and daily visitors, who would remark among themselves what a lucky fellow Tom Carhayes was; at the same time wondering what there could be in such a rough, self-assertive

For a minute he seemed to have reason to congratulate himself on this idea. The rigid stony horror depicted on her features relaxed, giving way to a dazed, bewildered expression, as though she had borne the first brunt of the shock, and was calming down.“Tell me!” she gasped at length. “How was it? When? Where?”“It was across the Bashi. They were cut off by the Kafirs, and killed.”“‘They’? Who—who else?”Shelton wished the friendly earth would open beneath his feet then and there.“Mrs Carhayes, pray be calm,” he said unsteadily. “You have heard the worst, remember—the worst, but not all. You cousin shared poor Tom’s fate.”“Eustace?”The word was framed, rather than uttered, by those livid and bloodless lips. Yet the listener caught it and bent his head in assent.She did not cry out; she did not swoon. Yet those who beheld her almost wished she had done both—anything rather than take the blow as she was doing. She stood there in the doorway—her tall form seeming to tower above them—her large eyes sparkling forth from her livid and bloodless countenance—and the awful and set expression of despair imprinted therein was such as the two who witnessed it prayed they might never behold on human countenance again.She had heard the worst—the worst, but not all—her informant had said. Had she? The mockery of it! The first news was terrible; the second —death; black, hopeless, living death. Had heard the worst! Ah, the mockery of it! And as these reflections sank into her dazed brain—driven in, as it were, one after another by the dull blows of a hammer, her lips even shaped the ghost of a smile. Ah, the irony of it!Still she did not faint. She stood there in the doorway, curdling thevery heart’s blood of the lookers on with that dreadful shadow of a smile. Then, without a word, she turned and walked to her room.“Oh! I must go to her!” cried Mrs Hoste eagerly. “Oh, this is too fearful.”“If you take my advice—it’s better not! Not at present, at any rate,” answered Shelton. “Leave her to get over the first shock alone. And what a shock it is. Bereaved of husband and cousin at one stroke. And the cousin was almost like a brother, wasn’t he?”“Yes,” and the recollection of her recent suspicions swept in with a rush upon the speaker’s mind, deepening her flurry and distress. “Yes. That is—I mean—Yes, I believe she was very fond of him. But how bravely she took it.”“Rather too bravely,” answered the other with a grave shake of the head. “I only hope the strain may not be too much for her—affect her brain, I mean. Mrs Carhayes has more than the average share of strong-mindedness, yet she strikes me as being a woman of extraordinarily strong feeling. The shock must have been frightful, and although she didn’t scream or faint, the expression of her face was one that I devoutly hope never to see upon any face again. And now, good-bye for the present. I’ll call around later and hear how she’s getting on. Poor thing!”The sun of her life had set—had gone down into black night—yet the warm rays of the summer sunshine glanced through the open window of her room, glowing down upon the wide veldt outside and upon the distant sparkle of the blue sea. Never again would laughter issue from those lips —yet the sound of light-hearted chat and peals of mirth was ever and anon borne from without. The droning hum of insects in the afternoon air —the clink of horse-hoofs, the deep-toned conversation of natives passing near the window—all these familiar sounds of everyday life found a faint and far-away echo in her benumbed brain. What, though one heart was broken—the world went on just the same.Stay! Was it but a few minutes ago that she passed out through that

After China refused to accept foreign garbage, Europe and the United States turned to Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asian countries were collectively angry.

door trilling the cheerful fragments of the airiest of songs—but a few minutes since she picked up that fatal scrap of paper, and then stood face to face with those who brought her news which had laid her life in ruins! Only a few minutes! Why, it seemed years—centuries—aeons. Was it a former state of existence that upon which she now looked back as across a great and yawning gulf? Was she now dead—and was this the place of torment? The fire that burned forever and ever! How should she quench the fire in her heart and brain?There was a very stoniness about her grief as if the blow had petrified her. She did not fling herself upon the couch in her agony of despair. No tears did she shed—better if she had. For long after she had gained her room and locked herself in alone she stood—stood upright— and finally when she sought a chair it was mechanically, as with the movement of a sleep walker. Her heart was broken—her life was ended. He had gone from her—it only remained for her to go to him.And then, darting in across her tortured brain, in fiery characters, came the recollection of his own words—spoken that first and last blissful morning at Anta’s Kloof. “If we are doing wrong through love for each other we shall have to expiate it at some future time. We shall be made to suffer through each other,” and to this she had responded “Amen.” How soon had those words come true. The judgment had fallen. He had gone from her, but she could not go to him. Their love, unlawful in this world, could never be ratified in another. And then, indeed, there fell upon her the gloom of outer darkness. There was no hope.Chapter Twenty Six.“And the Summer’s Night is a Winter’s Day.”For Eanswyth Carhayes the sun of life had indeed set.The first numbing shock of the fearful news over, a period of even greater agony supervened. He who had succeeded in setting free the wholly unsuspected volcanic fires of her strong and passionate nature— him, her first and only love—she would never see again in life. If she hadsinned in yielding to a love that was unlawful, surely she was expiating it now. The punishment seemed greater than she could bear.She made no outcry—no wild demonstrations of grief. Her sorrow was too real, too sacred, for any such commonplace manifestations. But when she emerged from her first retirement, it was as a walking ghost. There was something about that strained and unnatural calm, something which overawed those who saw it. She was as one walking outside the world and its incidents. They feared for her brain.As the days slipped by, people wondered. It seemed strange that poor Tom Carhayes should have the faculty of inspiring such intense affection in anybody. No one suspected anything more than the most ordinary of easy-going attachment to exist between him and his wife, yet that the latter was now a broken-hearted woman was but too sadly obvious. Well, there must have been far more in the poor fellow than he had generally been credited with, said the popular voice, and after all, those outside are not of necessity the best judges as to the precise relationship existing between two people. So sympathy for Eanswyth was widespread and unfeigned.Yet amid all her heart-torture, all her aching and hopeless sorrow, poor Tom’s fate hardly obtruded itself. In fact, had she been capable of a thorough and candid self-analysis she would have been forced to admit that it was rather a matter for gratulation than otherwise, for under cover of it she was enabled to indulge her heart-broken grief to the uttermost. Apart from this, horrible as it may seem, her predominating feeling toward her dead husband was that of intense bitterness and resentment. He it was who had led the others into peril. That aggressive fool-hardiness of his, which had caused her many and many a long hour of uneasiness and apprehension, had betrayed him to a barbarous death, and with it that other. The cruel irony of it, too, would burst upon her. He had avenged himself in his very death—had broken her heart.Had Tom Carhayes been the only one to fall, it is probable that Eanswyth would have mourned him with genuine—we do not say with durable—regret. It is possible that she might have been afflicted with acute remorse at the part she had played. But now all thoughts of anysuch thing faded completely from her mind, obliterated by the one overwhelming, stunning stroke which had left her life in shadow until it should end.Then the Rangers had returned, and from the two surviving actors in the terrible tragedy—Payne and Hoste, to wit—she learned the full particulars. It was even as she had suspected—Tom’s rashness from first to last. The insane idea of bushbuck hunting in a small party in an enemy’s country, then venturing across the river right into what was nothing more nor less than a not very cunningly baited trap—all was due to his truculent fool-hardiness. But Eustace, knowing that her very life was bound up in his—how could he have allowed himself to be so easily led away? And this was the bitterest side of it.To the philosophic and somewhat cynical Payne this interview was an uncomfortable one, while Hoste subsequently pronounced it to be the most trying thing he had ever gone through in his life.“Is there absolutely no hope?” Eanswyth had said, in a hard, forced voice.The two men looked at each other.“Absolutely none, Mrs Carhayes,” said Payne. “It would be sham kindness to tell you anything different. Escape was an impossibility, you see. Both their horses were killed and they themselves were surrounded. Hoste and I only got through by the skin of our teeth. If our horses had ‘gone under’ earlier it would have been all up with us, too.”“But the—but they were not found, were they? They may have been taken prisoners.”Again the two men looked at each other. Neither liked to give utterance to what was passing through his mind. Better a hundredfold the unfortunate men were dead and at rest than helpless captives in the hands of exasperated and merciless savages.“Kafirs never do take prisoners,” said Payne after a pause. “At least,

After China refused to accept foreign garbage, Europe and the United States turned to Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asian countries were collectively angry.

never in the heat and excitement of battle. And it is not likely that Carhayes or Milne would give them a chance, poor chaps.”“You mean—?”“They would fight hard to the bitter end—would sell their lives dearly. I am afraid you must face the worst. I wish I could say otherwise, but I can’t. Eh, Hoste?”The latter nodded. He had very willingly allowed the other to do all the talking. Then, as all things come to an end sooner or later—even Wigmore Street—so eventually did this trying interview.“I say, George. That just was a bad quarter of an hour,” said Hoste, as the two companions-in-arms found themselves once more in their favourite element—the open air, to wit. “I don’t want to go through it again many times in a lifetime. If ever there was ‘broken heart,’ writ large in any woman’s face, it is on that of poor Mrs Carhayes. I believe she’ll never get over it.”Payne, who had shown himself far from unfeeling during the above-mentioned trying interview, regarded this remark as a direct challenge to the ingrained cynicism of his nature.“You don’t, eh?” he replied. “Well, I don’t want to seem brutal, Hoste, but I predict she’ll be patching up that same ‘broken heart’ in most effective style at some other fellow’s expense, before the regulation two years are over. They all do it. Lend us your ’bacco pouch.”Hoste said nothing. But for that little corner of the curtain of her suspicions which his wife had lifted on the first night of Eanswyth’s arrival, he might have been three parts inclined to agree with his friend. As things stood, he wasn’t.But could they at that moment have seen the subject of their conversation, it is possible that even the shelly and cynical Payne might have felt shaken in his so glibly expressed opinion. In the seclusion of her room she sat, soft tears coming to the relief of the hitherto dry andburning eyes as she pressed to her lips, forehead, and heart, a little bit of cold and tarnished metal. It was the broken spur which Eustace had been wearing at the time of the disaster, and which her recent visitors had just given her. And over this last sorry relic she was pouring out her whole soul—sorrowing as one who had no hope.Chapter Twenty Seven.The Shield of her Love.When Eustace Milne fell from his saddle to the earth, the savage who had stabbed him, and who was about to follow up the blow, started back with a loud shout of astonishment and dismay.It arrested the others. They paused as they stood. It arrested assegai blades quivering to bury themselves in the fallen man’s body. It arrested murderous knob-kerries whistling in the air ready to descend and crash out the fallen man’s brains. They stood, those maddened, bloodthirsty barbarians, paralysed, petrified, as they took up with one voice their compatriot’s dismayed shout.“Au! Umtagati! Mawo!” (Ha! Witchcraft! A wonder!)They crowded round the prostrate body, but none would touch it. The blow had been dealt hard and fair, by a hand which had dealt more than one such blow before, and always with deadly effect. Yet the wound did not bleed.The dealer of it stood, contemplating his assegai, with looks of amazement, of alarm. Instead of driving its great broad blade up to the hilt in the yielding body of his victim, and feeling the warm blood gush forth upon his hand, the point had encountered something hard, with the effect of administering quite a shock to wrist and arm, so great was the force of the blow and the resistance. And the point of the spear blade had snapped off by at least an inch.“Witchcraft!” they cried again. “He is dead, and yet he does not

After China refused to accept foreign garbage, Europe and the United States turned to Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asian countries were collectively angry.

bleed. Mawo!”He was. Not a movement stirred his limbs; not a breath heaved his chest ever so faintly. The lips, slightly parted, were as livid as the features.For a few moments they stood contemplating their victim in speechless amazement. Then one, more daring or less credulous than his fellows, reached forward as if about to plunge his assegai into the motionless body. The rest hung breathlessly watching the result of the experiment. But before it could be carried into effect the deep tones of a peremptory voice suspended the uplifted weapon. Every head turned, and the circle parted to make way for the new arrival.He was a tall, muscular Kafir, as straight as a dart, and carried his head with an air of command which, with the marked deference shown him, bespoke him a man of considerable rank. His bronzed and sinewy proportions were plentifully adorned with fantastic ornaments of beadwork and cow-tails, and he wore a headpiece of monkey skin surmounted by the long waving plumes of the blue crane.Without a word he advanced, and, bending over the prostrate body, scrutinised the dead man’s features. A slight start and exclamation of astonishment escaped him, then, recovering himself, he carefully examined, without touching it, the place where the assegai had struck. There it was, visible to all, a clean cut in the cord jacket—yet no sign of blood.“Au! He does not bleed! He does not bleed!” ejaculated the crowd again.By this time the numbers of the latter had augmented. Having given up the chase of the other two whites, or leaving it to their advance guards, the Kafirs swarmed back by twos and threes to where the gathering crowd showed that something unusual was going on.The chief drew a knife from his girdle and bent once more over the prostrate form. But his purpose was not at present a bloodthirsty one, for

he only held the broad blade across the livid lips. Then raising it he scrutinised it keenly. The bright steel was ever so slightly dimmed.“Ha!” he exclaimed in a tone of satisfaction, rising to his feet after repeating the operation. Then he issued his orders, with the result that poor Eustace was lifted on to a stout blanket, and four men, advancing, shouldered a corner apiece and thus, with their living burden in their midst, the whole band moved away down the kloof.After about two hours’ marching, during which the country grew wilder and more wooded, they halted at a water-hole—one of a chain of several in the otherwise dried-up bed of a stream. Eustace was gently lowered to the ground, and, squatting around him, his bearers began to watch him with a great and gathering curiosity, for he was beginning to show signs of returning life.At a rapid signal from the chief, water was fetched from the hole and his brow and face bathed. A tremor ran through his frame and a sigh escaped him. Then he opened his eyes.“Hau!” exclaimed the Kafirs, bending eagerly forward.At sight of the ring of dark faces gazing upon him in the gathering dusk, Eustace raised his head with a slight start. Then, as recollection returned to him, he sank wearily back. His head was aching, too, as if it would split. He would be fortunate if the blow which had deprived him of consciousness did not end in concussion of the brain.With the return of consciousness came a feeling of intense gratification that he was still alive. This may seem a superfluous statement, yet not. Many a man waking to the consciousness that he was a helpless captive in the power of fierce and ruthless barbarians, has prayed with all his soul for the mercy of a swift and certain death, and has done so with a grim and terrible earnestness. Not so, however, Eustace Milne. He had something to live for now. While there was life there was hope. He was not going to throw away a single chance.To this end, then, he lay perfectly still, closing his eyes again, for heThey had struck into a narrow gorge in the side of the hill. It was hard work making any headway at all. The dense bush, intertwined with creepers, met them in places in an unbroken wall, but Josane would hack away manfully with his broad-bladed assegai until he succeeded in forcing a way.“It seems as if we were going to storm the devil’s castle,” said Shelton, sitting down to wipe his streaming brow. “It’s hot enough anyway.”“Rather,” assented Hoste. “Milne, old chap, how do you feel?”“Headachy. There’s a power of thunder sticking out—as Josane says —against when we get out.”“If we ever do get out.”“That’s cheerful. Well, if we mean to get in, I suppose we’d better make a move? Eh, Josane!” The Kafir emphatically agreed. He had witnessed their dilatoriness not without concern. He appeared strangely eager to get the thing over—contrary to the habits of his kind, for savages, of whatever race, are never in a hurry. A line of rocky boulders in front, thickly grown with straight stemmed euphorbia, stiff and regular like the pipes of an organ, precluded any view of the sort of formation that lay beyond. Right across their path, if path it might be called, rose another impenetrable wall of thorns and creepers. In front of this Josane halted.Chapter Forty Three.“Kwa ’Zinyoka.”The brooding, oppressive stillness deepened. Not a breath of air stirred the sprays of the bush, which slept motionless as though carved in stone. Even the very bird voices were hushed. Far below, the sound of the river, flowing over its long stony reaches, came upwards in plaintive monotonous murmur.

All of a sudden Josane turned. He sent one keen searching glance straight in front of him, and another from side to side.“The Home of the Serpents is a horrible place,” he said. “I have warned you that it is so. It is not too late now. The Amakosi can yet turn back.”The awed solemnity of his tone could not fail to impress his hearers, especially two of them. The boding sense of oppression in the atmosphere, the utter wildness of the surroundings, the uneasy, mysterious nature of their quest, and the tall gaunt figure of the old Kafir standing in the semi-gloom beneath the funereal plumes of the straight stemmed euphorbia, like an oracle of misfortune—all this affected the imagination of two, at any rate, of these ordinarily hard-headed and practical men in a fashion they could scarcely have deemed possible. The third, however, was impervious to such influences. There was too much involved in the material side of the undertaking. No thought had he to spare apart from this; no scope was there for giving free rein to his imagination.“I think I may say we none of us have the slightest idea of turning back!” he answered.“Certainly not,” assented the other two.Josane looked fixedly at them for a moment. Then he said:“It is good. Follow me—carefully, carefully. We do not want to leave a broad spoor.”The undergrowth among the straight stiff stems of the euphorbia looked dense and impenetrable as a wall. To the astonishment of the spectators, the old Kafir lay flat on his stomach, lifted the dense tangle just enough to admit the passage of his body, for all the world as though he were lifting a heavy curtain, and slipped through.“Come,” he whispered from the other side, for he had completely disappeared from view. “Come—as I did. But do not rend the bushesmore than is absolutely necessary.”They followed, worming their way in the same fashion about a dozen yards. Then an ejaculation of amazement, not unmixed with alarm, broke from the lips of Shelton, who was leading. It found an echo on those of the other two. Their first instinct was to draw back.They had emerged upon a narrow ledge, not of rock, or even earth; a narrow ledge of soft, yielding, quaking moss. And it overhung what had the appearance of a huge natural well.It literally overhung. By peering cautiously outward they could see a smooth perpendicular wall of red rock falling sheer and straight to a depth of nearly two hundred feet. Three sides of the hollow—itself not that distance in width—were similarly constituted, the fourth being a precipitous, well-nigh perpendicular slope, with a sparse growth of stunted bushes jotting its rugged sides. A strange, gruesome looking hole, whose dismal depths showed not the smallest sign of life. Could this be the awesome, mysterious “Home of the Serpents?”But Josane’s next words disabused them on this point.“Tarry not,” he said. “Follow me. Do even as I do.”Right to the brink of this horrible abyss the bush grew in a dense jungly wall, and it was the roots of this, overgrown with an accumulation of moss and soil, that constituted the apology for a ledge along which they were expected to make their way. And there was a distance of at least sixty or seventy yards of this precarious footway, to miss which would mean a certain and terrible death.It would have been something of an ordeal even had the foothold been firm. Now, however, as they made their way along this quivering, quaking, ladder-like pathway of projecting roots interleaved with treacherous moss, not one of the three was altogether free from a nervous and shaky sensation about the knees as he moved slowly forward, selecting the strongest-looking stems for hand-hold. Once a root whereon Hoste had put his foot gave way with a muffled crack, letting his

leg through the fearful pathway up to the thigh. An involuntary cry escaped him as, grasping a stem above him, he drew it forth with a supreme effort, and his brown visage assumed a hue a good many shades paler, as through the hole thus made he contemplated a little cloud of leaves and sticks swirling away into the abyss.“Great Heaven!” he ejaculated. “Are we never coming to the end of this ghastly place?”“How would you like to cross it running at full speed, like a monkey, as I was forced to do? I told you I had to fly through the air,” muttered Josane, who had overheard. “The horror of it has only just begun—just begun. Hau! Did I not say it was going to be a horrible place?”But they were destined to reach the end of it without mishap, and right glad were they to find themselves crawling along a narrow ledge overhung by a great rock, still skirting the abyss, but at any rate there was hard ground under them; not a mere shaky network of more or less rotten roots.“Is this the only way, Josane?” said Eustace at length, as they paused for a few minutes to recover breath, and, truth to say, to steady their nerves a trifle. Even he put the question with some diffidence, for as they drew nearer and nearer to the locality of their weird quest the old Gcaléka’s manner had undergone a still further change. He had become morose and taciturn, gloomy and abstracted to a degree.“It is not,” he answered. “It is the only way I know. When I came here my eyes were shut; when I went away they were open. Then I approached it from above; now we have approached from below. The way by which I left, is the way you have seen.”“O Lord! I wouldn’t travel the last infernal hundred yards again for a thousand pounds,” muttered Hoste ruefully. “And now, I’ve got to do it again for nothing. I’d sooner run the gauntlet of the whole Gcaléka tribe, as we did before.”“We may have to do that as well,” remarked Shelton. “But I think Inever did see such an utterly dismal and God-forsaken corner in my life. Looks as if Old Nick had built it out of sheer devilment.”There was reason in what he said. The immense funnel-like hole seemed an extraordinary caprice of Nature. Nothing grew at the bottom but coarse herbage and a few stunted bushes. It seemed absolutely lacking in raison d’être. Occurring at the top of a mountain, it would at once have suggested an ancient crater. Occurring, as it did, in solid ground on the steep slope of a lofty river bank that theory seemed not to hold good. On all sides, save the narrow defile they had come through, it was shut in by lofty wooded heights breaking here and there into a red iron-stone cliff.Their guide resumed his way, advancing in a listening attitude, and with intense caution. The ledge upon which they crept, now on all-fours, widened considerably. The projecting rock overhead jutted out further and further, till it overhung the abyss for a considerable distance. Beneath its shade they were already in semi-gloom. Crawling along, toilsomely, laboriously, one behind the other, each man with all his senses, all his faculties, on the alert, the fact that their guide had stopped came upon them as a surprise. Then, as they joined him, and crouched there side by side—each man’s heart beat quicker, each man’s face slightly changed colour. For the overhanging rock had heightened—the ledge had widened to an area of fifteen or twenty feet. Flooring and rock-roof no longer met. At the bottom of this area, both yawned away from each other in a black horizontal rift.Save through this rift there was no getting any further. Quickly each mind grasped the solution. The cave yawning in front of them was—“Where does that hole lead to, Josane?” said Hoste.“Kwa ’zinyoka,” replied the Gcaléka, impressively.Such creatures are we of the light and air, that it is safe to assert that not even the boldest among us can undertake the most cursory exploration into the bowels of the earth without a consciousness of ever so slight a sobering influence, a kind of misgiving begotten of the idea of