Three minutes later, followed by the two Zulus, they were walking—or rather, running—along the banks of the Zambesi.
“Why do you not come quicker?” she asked impatiently. “Oh, I beg your pardon, you are lame. Robert, what made you lame, and oh! why are you not dead, as they all swore you were, you, you—hero, for I know that part of the story?”
“For a very simple reason, Benita: because I didn’t die. When that Kaffir took the watch from me I was insensible, that’s all. The sun brought me to life afterwards. Then some natives turned up, good people in their way, although I could not understand a word they said. They made a stretcher of boughs and carried me for some miles to their kraal inland. It hurt awfully, for my thigh was broken, but I arrived at last. There a Kaffir doctor set my leg in his own fashion; it has left it an inch shorter than the other, but that’s better than nothing.
“In that place I lay for two solid months, for there was no white man within a hundred miles, and if there had been I could not have communicated with him. Afterwards I spent another month limping up towards Natal, until I could buy a horse. The rest is very short. Hearing of my reported death, I came as fast as I could to your father’s farm, Rooi Krantz, where I learned from the old vrouw Sally that you had taken to treasure-hunting, the same treasure that I told you of on the Zanzibar.
“So I followed your spoor, met the servants whom you had sent back, who told me all about you, and in due course, after many adventures, as they say in a book, walked into the camp of our friends, the Matabele.
“They were going to kill me at once, when suddenly you appeared upon that point of rock, glittering like—like the angel of the dawn. I knew that it must be you, for I had found out about your attempted escape, and how you were hunted back to this place. But the Matabele all thought that it was the Spirit of Bambatse, who has a great reputation in these parts. Well, that took off their attention, and afterwards, as I told you, it occurred to them that I might be an engineer. You know the rest, don’t you?”
“Yes,” answered Benita softly. “I know the rest.”
Then they plunged into the reeds and were obliged to stop talking, since they must walk in single file. Presently Benita looked up and saw that she was under the thorn which grew in the cleft of the rock. Also, with some trouble she found the bunch of reeds that she had bent down, to mark the inconspicuous hole through which she had crept, and by it her lantern. It seemed weeks since she had left it there.
“Now,” she said, “light your candles, and if you see a crocodile, please shoot.”
THE TRUE GOLD
“Let me go first,” said Robert.
“No,” answered Benita. “I know the way; but please do watch for that horrible crocodile.”