“Father, I think we must take
out Evelyn and show her how we shoot bushbucks.”
Thus Edala, one lovely morning at breakfast time.
“I don’t mind. What do you say,
“That it would be delightful. But shouldn’t
I be in your way?”
“Not if you keep quiet, and
do as you are told,” said Edala. “Oh,
and by the way, don’t wear any colours.
It’s astonishing how you miss chances that
“What have I got? Oh I
know. I’ve got an old khaki coloured dress.
At the time of the Boer war, you know, some of us
took on a fit of idiocy in the way of khaki fever.
It didn’t last, of course, but I brought the
thing out here with me under a sort of vague impression
it might be useful in the veldt for knocking-about
“The very thing,” cried
Edala. “Now go and put it on, and I’ll
get into my `Robin Hood’ outfit. Father,
you see about the horses.”
“Yes and the guns.”
“But but,” protested the visitor,
“I’ve never fired a gun in my life.”
“You’ll soon learn,”
returned Edala, tranquilly. “To-day, though,
you need only look on.”
“What an Amazon the child is,”
laughed Evelyn. “Why I should never learn.
I’m much too nervous. Guns kick and
all that sort of thing, don’t they?”
“Not if you hold them properly.
But, that’s where the `learning’ part
of it comes in. Well, let’s go and get
our toggery on.”
Thornhill did not immediately set
to work to make arrangements for the coming sport,
instead he lit a pipe and sat thinking. Evelyn
Carden had been a guest under his roof for nearly
three weeks now, and he was ready to own that she
had proved a very great acquisition indeed. She
had adapted herself so wholeheartedly to their way
of life, and she and Edala had taken to each other
wonderfully. It was good for Edala to have the
companionship of someone approximately near her own
age; the difficulty hitherto had been to obtain such
companionship for her. And as regarded himself,
why her demeanour was perfection. She could talk
brilliantly and well upon all his favourite topics,
without ever becoming contradictious or argumentative,
as is the way of her sex. She forestalled his
every want, yet in such a tactful unobtrusive way;
and while perfectly frank and unconstrained, she always
managed to bring into her intercourse with him just
that little scarcely perceptible touch of deference
which the difference between their ages rendered so
charming. It had more than once occurred to him
that Edala might become jealous, but with a certain
grim sadness he had recognised that it might not be
altogether a bad thing if Edala did.
Now the said Edala reappeared, clad
in what she termed her `Robin Hood suit,’ which
by the way did not denote `bloomers’ or any such
atrocity, but was merely an exceedingly workman-like
blouse and skirt of sage green, an excellent hue for
blending with the prevailing tints of the surrounding
bush country. Her golden head was crowned by
a soft felt hat, without any adornment whatever.
“Father!” she cried, “you
haven’t done anything towards getting up the
horses, or getting things ready. And we
“I don’t see `we’
all the same,” he laughed. “I only
see one. And the day has hardly begun.
Hullo! What’s all that about?”
`That’ was represented by an
abominable and riotous clamour suddenly raised by
the dogs, who were lying outside. They had sprung
up and were pouring forth hideous defiance to the
world at large. Quickly each had seized the
binoculars lying always handy for the scrutiny of new
arrivals or passers-by in the distance and
were out on the stoep.
“Why it’s Elvesdon and Prior,”
said Thornhill, lowering the glasses. “And
they’ve both brought guns. You didn’t
send word, did you, that you were plotting this hunt?”
“No, and it’s a beastly
bore they’ve turned up just now,” she answered
pettishly. “Now I can’t take my gun.”
“You know I never shoot when there’s a
“Oh well. We know Elvesdon
well enough by this time, and Prior’s only a
young ’un. I wouldn’t let that count.”
Edala did not want much persuading.
“We had better make a whole
day of it then,” she said. “I’ll
tell Ramasam to put up lunch, and it had better be
taken down to Bees’ Nest Kloof by one o’clock.”
“All right, dear. Do that,” said
By this time the new arrivals were
riding up to the open space in front of the stables;
the dogs squirming and leaping around them and uttering
a perfectly frantic clamour. But it was an amicable
riot this time, for the guns carried by the two officials
told those intelligent quadrupeds that sport was afoot,
wherefore they were simply beside themselves with
“Well, Elvesdon, how are you how
are you. Prior?” said Thornhill, meeting
the pair as they dismounted. “Why this
is a case of the veriest telepathy. Edala had
just suggested we should show Miss Carden some sport
in the kloofs, and here you turn up, just in the very
nick of time.”
“That so?” laughed Elvesdon.
“Well, there was nothing particular doing to-day,
so this fellow here suggested we should invade you
with an eye to a buck or two.”
“Glad of it. Come on in. Had breakfast?”
“Oh yes, before we left.”
“Well, you’d better off-saddle
for half an hour. We’re not quite ready
Then the two girls came out.
If Elvesdon, who was a sportsman to the finger tips,
had any misgiving that under the circumstances of two
women in the field the bag was likely to prove nothing
very great, he decided in his own mind, as he shook
hands with Edala, that there were compensations.
The very plainness of her attire, the slight flush
of expectation in the flower-like face, the eager
light in the clear blue eyes, rendered the girl, in
his sight, inexpressibly sweet and winning. He
thought he would contrive to keep her near him throughout
the day, even to the sacrifice, if need be, of his
own share of the sport; which, upon those terms, would
be no sacrifice at all.
“And you, Miss Carden, are you a Diana too?”
“No, no. I’m only going as a spectator.”
“This little girl was shy about
taking out a gun when she saw you coming,” said
Thornhill, dropping a hand on to Edala’s shoulder.
“I told her you wouldn’t be hard on her
if she misses.”
“Er I’m sure
Miss Thornhill never misses,” blurted out Prior,
immediately thinking himself an ass, an opinion in
which Edala at the moment freely shared.
“Well come on in, and have something
after your ride,” said Thornhill, as a couple
of boys came up to take the horses.
They were all very jolly and merry,
chatting and making plans for the day. Suddenly
a tall figure appeared at the foot of the steps of
the stoep. The sight of it brought a queer look,
though a momentary one to Elvesdon’s face.
“Oh, you’ve still got
that chap, Thornhill,” he said carelessly.
“Yes. I find him useful,
and at times, rather interesting. I’ll
just go out and see what he wants.”
What Manamandhla wanted was this.
The Amakosi, he perceived, were about to have
a hunt. Might not he come too, and help drive
out the bush? He loved to see a hunt, and could
make himself of use.
Thornhill’s thoughts on hearing
this request were known to himself and his Maker incidentally,
they may have been more than guessed at by the Zulu as
he answered equably that the other could do so if he
wished. He was thinking how easy it was to mistake
a man for a buck in thick bush and that
a charge of Treble A at close quarters And
the laughter and joking of those within came loud
through the open windows; for tragedy and mirth, are
they not always more or less closely allied, and running
on parallel rails?
“I say, Miss Thornhill, do let
me carry your gun for you,” said Prior, eagerly,
as he ranged his horse alongside. This was a
new experience to him. He had never seen a girl
taking part in a hunt before, though of course he
had heard of this one doing so.
“Thanks, Mr Prior, but there’s
no necessity. Would you like to hold it for
me while I shoot? I am even capable of turning
a door-handle for myself at a pinch.”
Elvesdon smiled, and Thornhill chuckled.
Evelyn Carden did neither. She was fond of being
waltzed around, and generally thurificated.
Poor Prior dropped back snubbed.
Five was an awkward number and the track was narrow.
He remembered too that he had come very near `riding
out’ his chief. But the latter seemed not
in any way perturbed.
Down the valley their way ran.
At length they came to a neck, overlooking a downward
sweep of dense bush, intersected by a dry watercourse.
The dogs, all of a quiver with suppressed excitement,
squirmed and whined, yet ever in wholesome dread of
their master’s whip. Thornhill proceeded
to dispose the guns.
“Elvesdon, you go to the very
bottom of the kloof see, where those two
tree ferns stand,” pointing out a spot about
three quarters of a mile away. “Prior,
you take the other side, and both of you stand about
seventy yards from the sluit, and keep well
up on the rise till you get to your places.
Edala, you take Evelyn with you. The usual place,
you know by the red slab. There ought
to be enough to keep all hands lively to-day, we haven’t
hunted this kloof for half a year. I’ll
drive down, with Manamandhla and Mlamvu. Give
you all twenty minutes before we start,” getting
out his watch.
“Right,” cried Elvesdon. “Come
Their way lay together up to a certain
point. Then Edala and Evelyn plunged down through
a straggling, gappy opening between the thicker recesses
of the bush.
“This looks as if it was going
to be exciting,” said the latter, none too much
at her ease among this kind of rather rough riding.
“By Jove, and it is,”
returned Edala, who in moments of animation was apt
to be unconventional in her speech. “We’ll
leave the horses here,” she went on, sliding
from her saddle, and giving her companion who
although a good `seat’ in the Row, was not quite
so ready at getting on and off as one who scarcely
remembered when she could not ride a helping
hand to doing likewise.
“Now, come along,” she
said, starting downwards among the loose stones, yet
hardly disturbing one of them, “and don’t
make any more row than you can help.”
A very few minutes of this descent
brought them to a place where the bush forked away
into a comparatively open space. Below, the dry
watercourse ran, some sixty yards distant. About
half that distance a low, broad, flat rock of a reddish
tint lay like a huge table.
“You always get a shot here,”
whispered Edala. “The bucks always scoot
along the same track, just the other side of the red
slab. I pull off on them at five yards this
side of it, then, if I miss, I get them with the second
barrel when they show up beyond it.”
“Shall we shall you get
a chance to-day?” whispered the other, who had
caught her companion’s excitement.
see. But get back a little more. You’re
showing too much. An old bushbuck ram is no
end of a slim beast. The least sight
of you, and he’ll double back. Ah!
Now they’re starting.”
“Are these bucks dangerous?”
asked Evelyn, her excitement for the moment somewhat
clouded by the feminine instinct of scare. It
would have been different, of course, had she been
beside one of the men her host or Elvesdon
for instance but when her only bulwark was
merely another girl, why the thing seemed to take
on a different aspect.
“Dangerous? Good Lord,
no. But a wounded ram, who’s still got
the use of his legs, well it doesn’t do to go
up to him. They’ve got beastly horns,
and I’ve twice seen a dog stuck through and through.”
The English-bred girl looked at the
Colonial one, with some curiosity, a touch of increased
respect and a great deal of admiration. The flush
of excitement which had come into Edala’s cheeks,
the sparkle in her fearless blue eyes, rendered the
face surpassingly beautiful.
“Oh, I’m not afraid with
you, dear,” rejoined Evelyn. “Only you
must bear with an ignoramus.”
“Ssh!” said Edala, holding
up a hand. “No more talking now.”