THE VISION OF RALPH AND SUZANNE
“Sihamba,” said the chief Sigwe, “this man who was found wandering upon the outskirts of the town, declares that he is your servant, and that he comes to seek you. Is it so?”
“It is so, indeed, chief,” she answered, “though I scarcely expected to see him again,” and she told how they two and Zinti had parted.
Then Zinti was commanded to tell his tale, and from it it seemed that after he had rested some hours in the kloof he crept to the mouth of it, and, hidden behind a stone, saw Swart Piet and his servants pass quite close to him on their homeward way. A sorry sight they were, for three of their horses were lame, so that the riders were obliged to walk and lead them, and the men themselves had been so bruised with the spear-shafts that they seemed more dead than alive. Swart Piet rode last of all, and just then he turned, and looking towards the peak shook his fist as though threatening it, and cursed aloud in Dutch and Kaffir. Indeed, Zinti said that his head and face were so swollen with blows that had it not been for his large round eyes he could not have known him, and Sihamba thought that very good tidings.
Well, when they had gone Zinti took heart, for it was plain that they had been roughly handled, and had failed to catch his mistress or the Swallow. So he went back to where he had left his horse eating a little grass, and since it was too weak to carry him he led it, following Van Vooren’s spoor backwards till in the evening he came to the ford of the Red River. Here he halted for the night, knee-haltering the horse, and leaving it loose to graze, though he himself had nothing to eat. At the first grey of dawn he awoke, and was astonished to see a second animal feeding with the horse, which proved to be none other than the mule that, as these creatures sometimes will, had followed the spoor of his companion, Sihamba’s horse, till it found it again. After this he crossed the drift, riding slowly and leading the mule, till shortly after sunrise he came to the outskirts of the town, where Sigwe’s watchmen found him and brought him to the chief.
“This man is a servant worth having,” said Sigwe when he had heard the story. “Let food be given to him and to the beasts.”
When Zinti had gone Sigwe spoke to Suzanne.
“Lady Swallow,” he said, “as you have heard, by the command of the spirits of my ancestors speaking through the mouth of the diviner, while you are with us, you and not I are the captain of my army, and must lead it in this great war which I make against the Endwandwe. Now the regiments are ready to march, and I ask if it be your pleasure that we should set out to-morrow at the dawn, for time presses, and the Endwandwe live very far away?”
“Your will is my will, chief,” she answered, for she could see no way of escape from this strange journey, “but I desire to learn the cause of this war which I must lead by the decree of the spirits of your ancestors.”