Indeed I, who watched him, believe that this would have been so, or else his brain must have burst beneath its shock of sorrow, had not nature been kind to him and plunged him back into stupor. In this he lay long, until well on into the morrow indeed, or rather the day, for by now it was three o’clock, when the doctor came to take out the pistol ball and set his shattered bone. For, as it chanced, a doctor, and a clever one, had been sent for from the dorp to visit the wife of a neighbour who lay sick not more than twenty miles away, and we were able to summon him. Indeed but for this man’s skill, the sleeping medicines he gave him to quiet his mind, and, above all, a certain special mercy which shall be told of in its place, I think that Ralph would have died. As it was, seven long weeks went by before he could sit upon a horse.
THE HIDDEN KRANTZ
Before the waggon left her, Sihamba took from it Ralph’s gun, a very good roer, together with powder and bullets. Also she took tinder, a bottle of peach-brandy, a blanket, mealies in a small bag, wherewith to bait the horses in case of need, and some other things which she thought might be necessary. These she laded among her own goods upon the mule that with her horse had been fetched by Zinti and hastily fed with corn. Now, at her bidding, Zinti set Suzanne’s saddle upon the back of the schimmel, and Ralph’s on that of Suzanne’s grey mare, which he mounted that the mule might travel lighter. Then Sihamba got upon her own horse, a good and quiet beast which she rode with a sheepskin for a saddle, and they started, Sihamba leading the schimmel and Zinti the mule that, as it chanced, although bad tempered, would follow well on a riem.
Riding up the kloof they soon reached the spot where Van Vooren’s band had tethered their horses and tracked the spoor of them with ease for so long as the ground was soft. Afterwards when they reached the open country, where the grass had been burnt off and had only just begun to spring again, this became more difficult, and at length, in that light, impossible. Here they wasted a long time, searching for the hoof-marks by the rays of the waning moon, only to lose them again so soon as they were found.
“At this pace we shall take as long to reach Bull-Head’s kraal as did the cow you followed,” said Sihamba presently. “Say, now, can you find the way to it?”
“Without a doubt, lady; Zinti never forgets a road or a landmark.”
“Then lead me there as fast as may be.”
“Yes, lady, but Bull-Head may have taken the Swallow somewhere else, and if we do not follow his spoor how shall we know where he has hidden her?”
“Fool, I have thought of that,” she answered angrily, “else should I have spent all this time looking for hoof-marks in the dark? We must risk it, I say. To his house he has not taken her, for other white folk are living in it, and it is not likely he would have a second, or a better hiding-place than that you saw. I say that we must be bold and risk it since we have no time to lose.”