Chapter 52281668

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Chapter NumberXIII
Chapter TitleTHE RESCUE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article52281668
Full Date1889-08-07
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count3225
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleMorning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1878 - 1954)
Trove TitleThe Curse of Carne's Hold, a Tale of Adventure
article text

CHAFTEB XTII.-THE RESCUE.

Ronald, «¡th Kreta »nd two of hie men, now crept down to the very edge of the boshes at e spot where they could command a view of the entrance to the hut. For a long time female figures came in and out, and it was not until long past midnight that they saw the last female figure disappear inside and the «kin drawn across the entrance.

" How long shall we give them, Kreta ?"

" In an hour Kreta will go OD," the chief said ; " bat better give two hours for all to be fast asleep."

In about an hour Ronald, who had been half lying on the ground with his head on his bands, looked round and fouod that the chief had Btolen away, be sat up and watched thc but intently. The fires were burning low now, although many of the Kaffirs were Bitting round them ; but there was still light enough for bim, looking intently, to have seen a figure moving along. Unce or twice be fancied he saw a dark shadow on the ground close to the hut, but he was not sure, and was still gazing intently when there was a touch on his eboulder, and looking round he

ssw the chief beside him.

"Two women watch," he said, " others al quiet Give a little time longer to make eure that all are asleep, then we go on."

It seemed to Ronald fully two hours, although it was less than one, before Kreta again touched him.

"Time to go, incoa," he said. "You go down with me to the hut, but not quite close. Kreta bring girl to you. You better not go. Kreta walk more quietly than white man."

Ronald gave his consent, though reluctantly, but he felt that it was right that the Fiogo, who waB risking his life for his sake, should carry out his plans in his own way. Kreta ordered one of his men to rejoin bis com. panions, and with the others advanced towards the village.

When within forty yards of the hut he touched Ronald and whispered to him to re- main there. Then he and bis companion lay down on the ground, and without the slightest sound that Ronald could detect, disappeared

io the darkuess. Ronald stood with his

revolver in his hand, ready at any moment to spring forward and throw himself upon the

Kaffirs.

Mary Armstrong lay awake with every faculty upon the stretch. Where the euccour waB to come from, or bow, she oould not imagine; but it was evident, at least, that some white man was here, and was working for ber. She listened intently to every sound, with ber eyes wide open, staring at the two women, who were cooking mealies in the fire and keeping up a low murmured talk. She had not even a hope that they would Bleep. She knew that the natives constantly sit up talking and feasting until daylight is close at band, and as they had extra motives for vigilance, she was sure that they would keep awake.

Suddenly, so suddenly that she scarcely knew what had happened, the two women disappeared from her sight, A hand bad grasped each tightly by the throat, aoother band seized the hair, and with a sharp jerk pulled the head on one eide, breaking the neck in a moment, a common mode among tile Kaffirs of putting anyone to death. The whole thing did not occupy a moment, and as the women disappeared from her eight two natives

rose to their feet and looked round. Con- vinced that this wae the eucoour promised her, she sat up. One of the natives put his finger upon his lips to Indicate the necessity of silence, asd beckoned for ber to rise and come to him. When ehe did so he wrapped

her in a dark blanket and led ber to the door.

He pushed aside the hanging end went out.

Mary followed close behind bim. He now put the blanket orer ber head and lifted her in bis arms, A momentary dread seized her lest this might be an emissary of some other chief, who had sent him to carry off Macomo's new captive, but the thought of the English words reassured her, and at any rate, even if it were so, her position oould not possibly be worse thsn on the return of Macomo the next moruing. She waa carried a short distance, then she heard her bearer eay in English, " Come aloof;. I take her a bit further. Too close to Kaffir still." She waB carried on for some distance. Then there was a stop, and she was placed on her feet. Tben the blanket was removed from her head, and a moment later a dark figure seized her hand.

" Thank God, we have got you out, Miss Armstrong."

The revulsion of feeling at hearing her own tongue was so great that she was not capable of Bpeakiog, and she would have fallen had she not been clasped in the arms of the person who addressed her. Her surprise at feeling that the arms that encircled her were bare, roused her.

"Who are you, sir ?" ehe asked trembling. "I am Sergeant Blunt, Miss Armstrong. No wonder you didn't know me. I am got up io Dative fashion. You can trust yourself with me, you know."

" Ob, yes, yes," the girl sobbed. " I know I can, you saved my life once before. How did you oome here ? And oh. can you tell me aoy news about my father !"

" He is hurt, Miss Armstrong, but I have every hope that he will recover. Now you must be etrong, for we muet be miles from here before morning. Can yon walk ?"

"Oh yes, 1 csu walk any distance," the firl said. " Yesterday it seemed to me that

could not walk an inch farther were it to save my life, and they had to oarry ma the last mile or two, but now I feel strong enough to walk any distanoe."

" She can walk at present, chief," Ronald eaid, " let us go forward at once "

They were now on the pathway leading down to the kraal. The chief took the lead, telling Mary Armstrong to take hold of his blanket and follow close behind bim, while Ronald followed on her heels, the other Fmgoes keeping in the rear. The darkness beneath the trees was dense, and it was some time before Ronald could make out even the ontline of the figures before bim. Before approaching a kraal a halt was made, and one of the natives went on ahead to ere if the fires were oot, and all natives inside their huts. Several times, although alt the human beings were asleep, the scout returned ssying that they could not pass through tbe kraal, for tbe dogs had scented him and growled fiercely, and would set up such a barking wheu the patty passed as to bring all the village ont to

eeo what was the matter.

Then long iletonra tbatweredifficultenongh through the thick DUBh in daylight, but at night were almost impossible, had to be made. Bscb time that this had to be done, Kreta lifted Mary Armstrong and carried her, sed she had now become so exhausted that she wsB unable even to protest. Ronald would have carried her himself but he felt tbat it would be worse than useless to attempt to do eo ; though unencumbered he had the greatest difficulty in making his way through the buabeB; he scratched and tore his flesh terribly, but tbe chief seemed to be possessed of the eyes of a bat, and glided through them, scarcely moving a twig as he passed, J» fter going on for upwards of three hours the chief stopped.

" lt will be getting light Boon ; we must hide here now ; cannot get further until to- morrow night."

Although Ronald Mervyn, struggling along in the darkness, had not noticed it, the party had for the last hoar turned off from the line that they had before been following. They stopped by a tittie stream running down the valley. Here a native refilled the gourds. Mary Armstrong felt better after a drink of

water.

" I think," Ronald said to hsr, " that if yon were to bathe your face and hands it wosld

refresh yon. There ie a rook here jut nt toe edge of the stream. I sm sore yonr feet must

be sore end buttered. It will be belt sn honr

before there is a gleam of light, and I should recommend you te take off your shoes and stockings and paddle your feet in the water."

"That would be refreshing," the girl said. "My feet are aching dreadfully. Now please tell me all that hos happened, and how you

came to be Itere."

Sitting beside her, Ronald told her of everything, from thc time when his party ar- rived and beat off the natives attacking the

waggons.

" flow can I thsnk you enough ?" she said, when he had finished. " To think that you

have done all this for me."

** Never mind about thanks, Miss Arm- strong ; we are not out of the wood yet, our dangers are only half over, and if it were not that I trust to the cunning of our good friend Kreta and bis Fiogoes, I should have little hope of getting out of this mess. I think that it is just beginning to get light ; I can jUBt make out the outlines of the truoks of the trees, which ls more than I could do before. I will go and aek Kreta what he is going to do, and by the time I come back perhaps you bad better get your shoes on again, and be ready for a start. I don't suppose we shall go far, but no doubt he will find some sort of hiding-plsee.' Kreta, in fact, was just giving instructions to his men.

" We are going out in different directions tn look for eenie place to lie up to-day," he said. " In the morning they search all about the woods. We must get into shelter before it is light enough for the men on the hill topB to see down through the treeB. You stop here, quiet, In half an hour we come back again. There is plenty time ; they no find out yet that woman gone."

In a few minutes Mary Armstrong joined

Ronald.

" How do you feel now ?" he asked.

! " All the fresher and better for the wash," I she said : '. but I really don't think I could

walk very far, my teet are very much blistered. I don't see why they should be so bad ; we hare only gone about twenty four miles each day, and I always considered that 1 could walk twenty miles without difficulty."

" It makes all the difference how you walk, MÍBS Armstrong. No doubt, if yon bad been in good spirits, and with a pleasant party, you could have walked fifty miles in two days, although that is certainly a long distance for a woman ; but depressed and almost despair iog, as you were, it told npon you generally, and doubtless yon rather dragged your feet along than walked."

" 1 don't want to think about it," the girl said, with a shudder. "It seems to have been an awful dream. Some day I will tell you about it ; but I cannot now."

"Here are some mealies and some cold meat. We eaoh brougnt a week's supply with us when we left the waggons. I am sure that you will be all the better for eating some- thing."

" I do feel very hungry, now I think of it," the girl assented; "I have hardly eaten a mouthful since that morning,"

"I am hungry myself," Ronald said ; " I was too anxious yesterday to do justice to my

food."

" I feel very much better now," the girl said when she had finished. " I believe I was faint from want of food before, although I did not think of it. I am 6ure I could go on walking now. It was not the pain that stopped me, but eimply because I didn't feel as it I could lift my foot from tbe ground. And there is one thing I want to say : I wish you would not call me Miss Armstrong, it seems so formal and stiff, when you are running such terrible risks to save me. Please call me Mary, and I will call yon Harry. I think I heard you tell my father your name was darry Blunt."

" That is the name I enlisted under, it is not my own name ; men very seldom enlist under their own names.

" Why not ?" abe asked in surprise.

"Partly, I suppose, because a good many of us got into scrapes before we enlisted, and don't care for our friends to be able to trace us."

" I am sure you never got into a scrape," the girl said, looking up into Ronald's faoe.

"I got into a very bad scrape," Ronald answered, " a scrape that bas spoilt my whole life ; but we will not talk about that. But I would rather if you don't mind, that you should call me by my own name now we are together. 4 If we get ont of this I shall be Sergeant Blunt again, but I should like you to call me Ronald now."

" Ronald, ' the girl said, " that sounds

Scottish."

" I am not Scotch, nor so far as I know is there any Scotch blood in my veins, but the name bas been in the family a good many years ; how it got there there I do not know."

"I almost wish it «as dirk again," the girl said with a little laugh ;. " in the dara yon seam to me the Sergeant Blunt who came jost in time to eave us that day the {arm was attacked ; bat now I caa see yon I cannot recognise yon at all ; even your eyes look quite

different in that black skin."

" I (latter myself that my get np is very good," Konala laughed. " I have had some difficulty in keeping op tbe colour. Each day before etarting we have gone to your fares and got fresh obarcoal and mixed it witb some grease we brought with us, and rubbed it in

afresh."

"But your hair f.what have yon done to your hair Î"

Ronald told her the souroe from whioh he derived his wig, and Mary Armstrong had difficulty in restraining herself from bursting out into a merry, langh. Two or three of the Fingoes had by thiatime returned) and in a few minutes all had gathered at the epot. Kreta listened to the reports of each uf his men. There was then a abort consultation. Then he came up to Ronald.

" One of my awn bas found a place that will do well," he said. " It is time we were going."

One of tbe Fingoes now tonk the lead ; the others followed. A quarter of an boar's walk up the bill, wbich grew steeper and steeper every etep, brought them toa epnt where

some masses of rook had fallen from above. They were half covered with the thiok growth of brushwood. The native pushed one of the bushes aside, and showed a sort of cave formed by a. great slab of rock that had fallen over the others, Kreta uttered an expression of' approval. Two of the natives crept in with, their assegaiB in their hand. In two or three minutes one of them returned with the bodies, of two puff adders tnat they had killed. These were dropped in among some rocks.

" Von can go in now,;' Kreta said. " There

are no more cf them."

Ronald crawled in. first, and helped Mary Armstrong; in aftxr him. the natives followed. Kreta Cime in las', carefully ex- amining the bush before be did so, to see that no twig was broken or diBarraaged. He managed as he entered to place two or three rocks over the entrance.

"Good place," be said, looking mund as he joined the otheas. lt w.s of ample aise to contain the party, and was BOPJ« tour feet in height. Light came in in several places be- tween the recks on which the upper slab reBted.

"It could not be better, Kreta, even if it had been made on purpose. It was lucky in- deed your fellow fouuel it."

" We found two or three others," the chief said, "hut this best."

"It is lucky those men came in first and found the snakes," Mary Armstrong said, " for we have not got here the stuff we always use in the Colony as an antidote, and their bite is almost always fatal unless that can be used in time." honuld «as aware of this, and had, indeed, during the night's march bad snakes conBtsntly in hie mind, for he knew that they aboundrtl in the hil ». One ol the Fingoes had taken i« stati .? <t the entrance, having moved the upper . the chief bad placed there, so t jat ' I bit with bis bead out of the opeoi f an hour after they bad entered th turned round and spoke to the obi

"The Kaffirs a. " Kreta said. Listening at the y could bear distant abouts. 1 .oewered from

many point«, «ame of them comparatively

elrae.

"The new« li being passed from kraal to kraal," Ronald said j " they will be up like a .warm of bees now, but search as they will they are not likely to find na here. Do yon think they will trace na at all, ohief t"

" They will find where we stopped close to kraal," Kreta said; "the dead leaves wera stirred by our feet ; after that not find, too roany peoplegone atong path ; ground very hard ; may rad, sometime, mark of white woman's shoe ; but we leave path many times, and after I carry no find at all. Mountains very big, much bush : never find here."

The chief now told his follower to replace the Btone and join tbs others, and that all should be silent. Sitting with his ear at one of the openings he listened to the sounds in the woods ; once or twice he whispered that Kaffirs were passing close, searching among the bushes ; and one party came so near that their words could be plainly beard in the cave. They were discussiog the manner in which the fugitive bad esoaped, and were

unanimous in the belief that ehe had been aided by the followers of some other chief, for that an enemy ebould have pero rated into the heart of the Amatólas did not strike them as possible.

(To oe continued.)