deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe,

time:2023-12-07 05:18:13 source:Stately net author:problem

Suddenly, as I neared the place, I heard the strangest sound coming from the rocks. It was a deep muffled groaning, so eerie and unearthly that for the moment I stood and shivered. Then I remembered my river of yesterday. It must be above this place that it descended into the earth, and in the hush of dawn the sound was naturally louder. No wonder old Coetzee had been afraid of devils. It reminded me of the lines in Marmion -

deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe,

'Diving as if condemned to lave Some demon's subterranean cave, Who, prisoned by enchanter's spell, Shakes the dark rock with groan and yell.'

deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe,

While I was standing awestruck at the sound, I observed a figure moving towards the cliffs. I was well in cover, so I could not have been noticed. It was a very old man, very tall, but bowed in the shoulders, who was walking slowly with bent head. He could not have been thirty yards from me, so I had a clear view of his face. He was a native, but of a type I had never seen before. A long white beard fell on his breast, and a magnificent kaross of leopard skin covered his shoulders. His face was seamed and lined and shrunken, so that he seemed as old as Time itself.

deserts must be superb. We passed likewise San Felipe,

Very carefully I crept after him, and found myself opposite the fold where the gully was. There was a clear path through the jungle, a path worn smooth by many feet. I followed it through the undergrowth and over the screes till it turned inside the fold of the gully. And then it stopped short. I was in a deep cleft, but in front was a slab of sheer rock. Above, the gully looked darker and deeper, but there was this great slab to pass. I examined the sides, but they were sheer rock with no openings.

Had I had my wits about me, I would have gone back and followed the spoor, noting where it stopped. But the whole thing looked black magic to me; my stomach was empty and my enterprise small. Besides, there was the terrible moaning of the imprisoned river in my ears. I am ashamed to confess it, but I ran from that gully as if the devil and all his angels had been following me. Indeed, I did not slacken till I had put a good mile between me and those uncanny cliffs. After that I set out to foot it back. If the horses would not come to me I must go to them.

I walked twenty-five miles in a vile temper, enraged at my Dutchmen, my natives, and everybody. The truth is, I had been frightened, and my pride was sore about it. It grew very hot, the sand rose and choked me, the mopani trees with their dull green wearied me, the 'Kaffir queens' and jays and rollers which flew about the path seemed to be there to mock me. About half-way home I found a boy and two horses, and roundly I cursed him. It seemed that my pony had returned right enough, and the boy had been sent to fetch me. He had got half-way before sunset the night before, and there he had stayed. I discovered from him that he was scared to death, and did not dare go any nearer the Rooirand. It was accursed, he said, for it was an abode of devils, and only wizards went near it. I was bound to admit to myself that I could not blame him. At last I had got on the track of something certain about this mysterious country, and all the way back I wondered if I should have the courage to follow it up.


A week later the building job was finished, I locked the door of the new store, pocketed the key, and we set out for home. Sikitola was entrusted with the general care of it, and I knew him well enough to be sure that he would keep his people from doing mischief. I left my empty wagons to follow at their leisure and rode on, with the result that I arrived at Blaauwildebeestefontein two days before I was looked for.


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