Swallow: a tale of the great trek eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 319 pages of information about Swallow.

It was Piet Van Vooren.

CHAPTER XXXIV

THE AVENGER OF BLOOD

For a moment the two men stood looking at each other, yes, the shedder of blood and the avenger of blood stood quite still and silent, and looked each other in the eyes, as though a spell had fallen upon them striking them into stone.  It was the voice of Sihamba that broke the spell, and it issued from her parched throat with a sound like the sound of a death-rattle.

“Ah! devil and torturer,” it said, “did I not tell you that doom was at hand?  Welcome, Ralph Kenzie, husband of Swallow.”

Then with a roar like that of a wounded beast, Ralph sprang forward, in his hand the uplifted spear.  For one instant Swart Piet hesitated, but at the words of Sihamba a sudden terror had taken hold of him and he dared not wait.  Like a startled buck he turned and fled up the mountain, but as he passed her he struck downwards with the knife he held, stabbing Sihamba in the body.

Once also he looked round for help, but there was none, for during the long torment of Sihamba all the black villains who served him had slipped away, fearing lest others should secure their share of the stolen cattle.  Then he sped on up the pass and never did a man run more swiftly.  But after him came one who was swifter than he, the light-footed, long-limbed Englishman with rage in his heart, and an awful fire of vengeance blazing in his eyes.

Up the pass they ran, leaping over stones and dead cattle till at length they reached the tableland at the top.  Here once again Van Vooren paused for an instant, for he bethought him that, perhaps, he might hold the mouth of the cleft against his pursuer.  But his wicked heart was too full of fear to let him stay, so at full speed he set forward across the plain, heading for that chair rock where still sat the whitened corpse, for there he thought he could defend himself.  Ralph followed him somewhat more slowly, for of a sudden he had grown cold and cunning, and, knowing that his foe could not escape him, he desired to save his breath for the last struggle.

For six hundred yards or more they ran thus, and when Van Vooren began to climb the pedestal of rock Ralph was fifty paces behind him.  Presently he also reached the pedestal and paused to look.  Already Swart Piet was standing by the stone chair, but it was not at him that he looked, but rather at the figure which was tied in the chair that he now saw for the first time.  That figure no longer sat upright, draped in its white fur cloak, for it had been disturbed, as I shall tell presently, and the cloak was half torn from it.  Now it hung over the arm of the chair, the ghastly white face looking down towards Ralph and beneath it the bare black breast.

Ralph stared, wondering what this might mean.  Then the answer to the riddle flashed into his mind, and he laughed aloud, for here he saw the handiwork of Sihamba.  Yes, that grisly shape told him that his love still lived and that it was to win the secret of her whereabouts that the devil above him had practised torment upon the little doctoress.

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Swallow: a tale of the great trek from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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