“Black Heart still sleeps,” the voice said, “but there is colour in his face; I think that he will wake soon, and find his thoughts again.”
“Have no fear, Nanea, he will surely wake, his hurts are not dangerous,” answered another voice, that of Nahoon. “He fell heavily with the weight of the tiger on top of him, and that is why his senses have been shaken for so long. He went near to death, but certainly he will not die.”
“It would have been a pity if he had died,” answered the soft voice, “he is so beautiful; never have I seen a white man who was so beautiful.”
“I did not think him beautiful when he stood with his rifle pointed at my heart,” answered Nahoon sulkily.
“Well, there is this to be said,” she replied, “he wished to escape from Cetywayo, and that is not to be wondered at,” and she sighed. “Moreover he asked you to come with him, and it might have been well if you had done so, that is, if you would have taken me with you!”
“How could I have done it, girl?” he asked angrily. “Would you have me set at nothing the order of the king?”
“The king!” she replied raising her voice. “What do you owe to this king? You have served him faithfully, and your reward is that within a few days he will take me from you—me, who should have been your wife, and I must—I must——” And she began to weep softly, adding between her sobs, “if you loved me truly, you would think more of me and of yourself, and less of the Black One and his orders. Oh! let us fly, Nahoon, let us fly to Natal before this spear pierces me.”
“Weep not, Nanea,” he said; “why do you tear my heart in two between my duty and my love? You know that I am a soldier, and that I must walk the path whereon the king has set my feet. Soon I think I shall be dead, for I seek death, and then it will matter nothing.”
“Nothing to you, Nahoon, who are at peace, but to me? Yet, you are right, and I know it, therefore forgive me, who am no warrior, but a woman who must also obey—the will of the king.” And she cast her arms about his neck, sobbing her fill upon his breast.
Presently, muttering something that the listener could not catch, Nahoon left Nanea, and crept out of the hut by its bee-hole entrance. Then Hadden opened his eyes and looked round him. The sun was sinking and a ray of its red light streaming through the little opening filled the place with a soft and crimson glow. In the centre of the hut—supporting it—stood a thorn-wood roof-tree coloured black by the smoke of the fire; and against this, the rich light falling full upon her, leaned the girl Nanea—a very picture of gentle despair.