Now Jan went to the glade that I pointed out to find the schimmel, while I led Ralph to Sihamba. She heard him coming and opened her eyes.
“Welcome, husband of Swallow,” she said, “you have done well and bravely, yet it was the hand of fate and not yours that smote yonder on the rock point. Now hearken——” and she told the road which he must follow across the Quathlamba, if he would hope to reach the white koppie camp by dawn.
Before she had done, for the dying Sihamba spoke slowly and with pain, Jan came leading the schimmel saddled and bridled, for Swart Piet’s saddle had been put upon it, the mare he was riding having been taken by one of his men whom he had sent to drive in the captured cattle.
The great roan horse, which I rejoiced to see once more, was somewhat thin, for he had lacked water like the rest, but throughout the siege he had been well tended by Sihamba and Zinti, and fed with green corn, and since that morning he had drunk all he would, so that now he was strong again and fit to run.
“Bring me the schimmel,” said Sihamba, but there was no need, for the brute which loved her now as always, had winded her, and coming to where she lay, put down his head and fondled her with his black lips. Catching him by the forelock, she drew herself up, and as once before she had done when he swam the Red Water, she whispered into his ear, and as I live the beast seemed to listen and understand.
“Not I, not I,” she said aloud when she had finished whispering, “not I but the Englishman, yet, Horse, I think that I shall ride you again, but it will be beyond the darkness. Stay not, stumble not, for you go on your last and greatest gallop. Speed like the swallow to save the Swallow, for so shall you live on when your swift bones are dust. Now, Englishman, away.”
Ralph stooped down and kissed the woman, the angel whom God had sent to save him and his, and with her dying lips she blessed him and Suzanne, prophesying to them life and joy. Then he leapt into the saddle, and with a snort and a quick shake of its head the schimmel plunged forward in the red glow of the sunset.
Sihamba leaned against the rock and watched the light pass. As its last ray fell upon her quivering face, she lifted her arms and cried, “Swallow, I have kept my oath. Swallow, I have served you well and saved you. Sister, forget me not.”
With these words upon her lips Sihamba Ngenyanga died; yes, she and the daylight died together, while Jan and I stood over her and wept.
THE SCHIMMEL’S LAST RACE
Ralph cleared the mountain slope, but before he had covered a mile of way the darkness began to fall, till presently the night was black. Now he must ride slowly, steering his path by the stars, and searching the dim outline of the mountains with his eyes.