While I was wondering how I could find out the truth, Hans, who was squatted behind a bush, suddenly rose and gave the rifle he was carrying to the remaining Zulu.
“Baas,” he said, “I am going to look and find out what those people are doing, if they are still there, and then you will know how and when to attack them. Don’t be afraid for me, Baas, it will be easy in that mist and you know I can move like a snake. Also if I should not come back, it does not matter and it will tell you that they are there.”
I hesitated who did not wish to expose the brave little Hottentot to such risks. But when he understood, Umslopogaas said,
“Let the man go. It is his gift and duty to spy, as it is mine to smite with the axe, and yours to lead, Macumazahn. Let him go, I say.”
I nodded my head, and having kissed my hand in his silly fashion in token of much that he did not wish to say, Hans slipped out of sight, saying that he hoped to be back within an hour. Except for his great knife, he went unarmed, who feared that if he took a pistol he might be tempted to fire it and make a noise.
THE MIDNIGHT BATTLE
That hour went by very slowly. Again and again I consulted my watch by the light of the moon, which was now rising high in the heavens, and thought that it would never come to an end. Listen as I would, there was nothing to be heard, and as the mist still prevailed the only thing I could see except the heavens, was the twinkling of the fires lit by Goroko and his party.
At length it was done and there was no sign of Hans. Another half hour passed and still no sign of Hans.
“I think that Light-in-Darkness is dead or taken prisoner,” said Umslopogaas.
I answered that I feared so, but that I would give him another fifteen minutes and then, if he did not appear, I proposed to order an advance, hoping to find the enemy where we had last seen them from the top of the mountain.
The fifteen minutes went by also, and as I could see that the Amahagger captains who sat at a little distance were getting very nervous, I picked up my double-barrelled rifle and turned round so that I faced up hill with a view of firing it as had been agreed with Goroko, but in such a fashion that the flashes perhaps would not be seen from the plain below. For this purpose I moved a few yards to the left to get behind the trunk of a tree that grew there, and was already lifting the rifle to my shoulder, when a yellow hand clasped the barrel and a husky voice said,
“Don’t fire yet, Baas, as I want to tell you my story first.”
I looked down and there was the ugly face of Hans wearing a grin that might have frightened the man in the moon.
“Well,” I said with cold indifference, assumed I admit to hide my excessive joy at his safe return, “tell on, and be quick about it. I suppose you lost your way and never found them.”