“Yes, it’s a feminine
hand,” he echoed, gazing critically on the envelope.
“There’s character in it too. Now
I wonder who the deuce it can be from.”
“Father, will you open
it? Can’t you see I am dying with curiosity?”
“Now, I’m not not
one little bit,” he answered, delighted to tease
her. “In fact I wouldn’t mind postponing
the further investigation of this mysterious missive
for at least a week. Letters in unknown hands
are generally of that character. For the matter
of that, only too often so are those in known ones.”
For answer she suddenly snatched the
letter from his hand and tore it open. “There
now. Will you read it?” she said, giving
as the name at the end caught his eyes, a whistle of
surprise escaped him. His fun sobered down while
“The Royal Hotel,
“My dear distant Relative,
“We are related, but I believe distantly,
at any rate poor mother always gave me to understand
so, and latterly she talked a great deal of you.
You may or may not have heard that we lost her between
five or six months ago; but towards the last, when
she was talking about you so often, she made me
promise that I would find you out, and renew our
acquaintance; though I don’t know about the `renewing’
part of it, for I was much too small in those days
to remember anything of you now. However she
gave me your address, and though it is an address of
ever so many years ago it may still hold good, or
at any rate be the means of finding you out eventually.”
Thornhill paused in his reading, and
frowned. The reference to an address of `ever
so many years ago’ awoke unpleasant memories.
His address at that time was fairly public property,
and it was the same one that he owned now.
“I have not been many days here,”
the letter went on, “but it seems a delightful
country, and I should like to see more of it.
Can you take me in for a little while, and if so,
please write or wire how I can get to you, and when.
I have always heard that colonial ways are unconventional,
and colonial houses `elastic,’ which sounds perfectly
delightful, and emboldens me to sink ceremony.
Hoping this will find you,
“Yours very truly,
“Read that, and tell me what
you think of it, Edala,” said Thornhill, handing
over the letter.
The girl took it eagerly.
“I don’t know,”
she said, when she was through with it. “It
sounds as if she might be nice. I see she writes
from the Royal in Durban. But when?
She gives no date.”
“Of course not being
a female. Nor does the postmark help any, as
I said before.”
“Well, the postmark is neither
designed nor executed by `females’,” retorted
“True, O Queen. You have
me there. Well? What do you think of it?”
“Wire her to come, by all means.
I like her free and easy style. She ought to
be nice. But what’s she like, and who is
she, when all’s said and done?”
“First for the wire. Gomfu
is waiting as it is. Then we can enter into
He got out a telegraph form and wrote:
“Miss Carden Royal Hotel Durban
Train to Telani will meet you there
only give a day or two for reply wire
very welcome address Care of
Elvesdon Kwabulazi: Thornhill.”
“Wa Gomfu!” he hailed.
The boy was round in a moment.
“Here. See that this goes
directly you get back. Have they given you coffee
in the kitchen, for the night is cold?”
“Nkose is my father.
Ramasam is a very induna of the fire. Never
have I met such coffee as his.”
“Well, here is gwai,”
handing him a span of Boer tobacco. “Now
go and here is yet a letter to take.”
The boy disappeared and soon the retreating
hoofs of his undersized pony could be heard splashing
through the sludgy surface of the saturated veldt.
The dogs growled again, presumably because having
seen the same postboy appear regularly twice a week
and go away again those sagacious animals must needs
sustain their world-wide reputation for sagacity by
doing something, though quite unnecessary or
possibly to vary the monotony of a wet and very dismal
day. Anyhow they growled.
“You wanted to know about this
new and distant relative,” said Thornhill, coming
back into the room. “Well, I can’t
tell you anything about her personally, because, as
she says, she was too much of a kid to remember me,
and I, for my part, just remember her as an ordinary
kid, usually smeared with jam or some other sticky
form of nastiness. Just that and nothing more.”
“But this mother she talks about who
was she?” went on Edala.
“Poor Mary Carden. Oh,
we got rather friendly. She was a bit older
than me though. I had something to do with the
settling up of her affairs when she was left a widow not
that there was much to settle up, poor thing.
By the bye, and yet this girl writes in rather an
independent way, and dates from the Royal at Durban.
Well, you know, hotels in this country aren’t
cheap, and the Royal isn’t one of the cheapest
by any means, although it’s good. They
may have had a windfall since I knew them; probably
have, since she seems to be out here for fun.”
“How old would she be, father?”
“Let me think now. Let
me think back. She must be some years older
than you, child. But it’ll be a good thing
for you to have a companion for a time, who isn’t
an old fogey. Of course we are both talking round
our hats, as neither of us have the ghost of a notion
what she’s like, and won’t have till we
“Well, we’ll chance it,” said Edala.
“That’s the best way.
And now I think I’ll get on a horse and take
a turn round. Old Patolo may be letting his
cattle stray in this mist.”
Manamandhla the Zulu strode over the
sopping veldt quite indifferent to the rain which
beat down upon his bare head, and strove to permeate
the thick folds of his green blanket, and while he
walked he was thinking out a plan.
The subject of his thoughts was not
tragical, not even weighty except as regarded his
own immediate wants. He was tired of goat, he
wanted beef and plenty of it. How should he
get it? He thought he knew.
He could not expect Thornhill to kill
a full grown beast, or any kind, even for him.
But beef he hankered for, and have it he must.
So now he held straight on over the veldt to where
he knew he should find the cattle.
The mist was all in his favour, in
fact it had suggested his plan, which was an ingenious
one. He ascended the nearest ridge of the Sipazi
mountain, his ears open. Presently both sound
and scent told him he had come upon the object of
his quest. In a moment more the forms of grazing
cattle all round him, told that he was in the middle
of the herd.
Some of the beasts snuffed and started,
showing a tendency to canter away; others merely raised
their heads and went on grazing as though nothing
had happened. But this was not how he proposed
to obtain beef. He had a broad assegai beneath
his blanket, but he would not use it not
He crooned a milking song in a low
tone as he went through the herd This had the effect
of keeping quiet any of the wilder animals which might
have been disposed to panic and stampede at the suddenness
of his appearance in their midst. But he kept
on edging more and more to the left; with the result
that the animals on that side gave way more and more
in the same direction, as he intended they should.
The cloud wreaths on this side took
the form of spiral twirls, and a fresh, cold draught
struck Manamandhla on the left ear. This was
as it should be. Here the ground ended and the
It was not the great overhanging cliff
at the summit of the mountain, but the beginning of
the same, and might have meant a sixty or seventy
feet drop. But between the apparent brow of the
krantz and the actual one was about ten feet of grass
slope a slope so steep as to be well-nigh
precipitous, and in weather like this, deadly slippery.
Now, as Manamandhla uttered a quick bark, at the
same time flapping his blanket, the suddenly terrified
animals between him and the brow, started at a run,
plunging wildly, some this way, some that, to gallop
off in wild panic. Not all though all
save one and that a nearly full grown call
It, he saw disappear over the brow, instinctively seeking
safety upon the precipitous slope.
The Zulu chuckled. Crouching
low, he was upon the brink in a moment, and peering
over. There stood the poor stupid beast a
white one its head down, and with difficulty
keeping its footing. Manamandhla sprang up suddenly,
again uttering a bark and flapping his blanket downwards.
The poor animal, frenzied now with panic, made a wild
frantic plunge, lost its footing and slid over the
brink of the sheer cliff. Manamandhla had obtained
He emitted a chuckle of glee as the
dull thud of the fallen carcase came up from below,
then turned to find himself face to face
The latter was standing some twelve
or fifteen yards away, his right hand in his right
pocket. Ever quick of perception, the Zulu grasped
this fact and its significance. Instinctively
he dropped into a half crouching attitude the
attitude of a wild beast preparing for its spring and
the grip of the broad assegai beneath his blanket tightened.
“No use, Manamandhla.
You would be dead before you had taken five steps.”
The Zulu knew this. Even were
it otherwise he had no wish for the other’s
death not just yet, at any rate. It
was more profitable to himself to keep him alive.
But for the moment he felt like a cornered animal,
quick, desperate, dangerous.
“One of the beasts has gone
over, Inqoto,” he said. “I would
have prevented it, but when I tried to drive it back
I drove it over instead. It is a pity.”
“It is. You were in want
of beef, I think, Manamandhla,” was the answer,
“Whau! Inqoto has
not a very open hand, and I was tired of goat.
There are `mouths’ on this mountain that do not
return that which those whom they
swallow. But there is one which can be got into
by men with long lines. And what
would they find? Ah ah! What
would they find?”
The Zulu felt secure now, and yet,
had he only known it, he had never stood in more deadly
peril in his life. Thornhill had been waiting
for some such chance as this and now it had come.
For, from the moment he had arrived unobserved upon
the scene all its opportunities had flashed upon his
mind. The Zulu had deliberately driven one of
his cattle over the krantz, and on being detected
in the act had rushed upon him with an assegai; for
he could pretty shrewdly guess what the other held
concealed beneath the blanket. He had shot his
assailant dead, in self defence, as he had no other
alternative than to do. Thus he would be rid
of this incubus, this blackmailer, and once more would
be at peace. The time and opportunity had come.
Manamandhla must have read his thoughts.
Hard and desperately, yet with the quickness of lightning,
he was calculating his chances. A sudden zig-zagging
spring might cause his enemy to miss, and he would
be upon him before he had time to fire again.
The two the white man and the dark man thus
stood fronting each other in the spectral wreaths of
the drear mist, each resolved that one or other of
them should not leave that spot alive. Thornhill
“I am tired of you, Manamandhla.
You can leave this place, do you hear? and it will
not be well for you to come near it again. You
are of no further use to me. So you may go.
But these last words of farewell,
which the speaker intended should signal Manamandhla’s
departure in a very different sense, were scarcely
uttered. A dark form, the form of a man, immediately
behind the Zulu, and in a direct line with him, loomed
through the mist; and the voice of old Patolo, the
cattle-herd, was raised in greeting to his master.
The latter knew that his opportunity had passed.
He could not shoot Manamandhla in the presence of
a witness, and of course the could not shoot old Patolo
“Nkose,” said the
latter. “I fear that the cattle will be
difficult to collect in the thickness of this cloud.
But those that remain out will not stray far, and
we can collect them in the morning.”
“One has fallen over this cliff,
Patolo,” said Manamandhla, as calmly as though
no deadly tragedy had been averted by a mere moment
of time. Then to Thornhill: “Nkose,
had I not better go over to the location and collect
some boys to skin and cut up the beef? It may
be that there is some of it yet uninjured and good
enough for the Great House.”
“That you had better do, Manamandhla,”
answered Thornhill, with equal sang-froid.
“And lose no time, before it grows dark.”
And, turning, he left them, to go
back to where he had left his horse.
This was how Manamandhla obtained
the beef he hankered after and plenty of