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Diamond Dyke, Page 2

George Manville Fenn



  That was months before the opening of our story, when Dyke was makinghis way in disgust toward the moist shade of the kopje, where, deep downfrom cracks of the granite rock, the spring gurgled out.

  Only a part ran for a few yards, and then disappeared in the sand,without once reaching to where the sun blazed down.

  Joe Emson shouted once more, but Dyke would not turn his head.

  "Let him follow me if he wants me," muttered the boy. "He isn't half sohot as I am."

  Hot or not hot, the big fellow took off his broad Panama hat, gave hishead a vicious rub, replaced it, and turned to shout again. "Jack!Ahoy, Jack!"

  There was no reply to this, for Kaffir Jack lay behind the house in avery hot place, fast asleep upon the sand, with his dark skin glisteningin the sunshine, the pigment within keeping off the blistering sunburnwhich would have followed had the skin been white.

  "I shall have to go after him," muttered Joe Emson; and, casting off thefeeling of languor which had impelled him to call others instead ofacting himself, he braced himself up, left the scorching iron housebehind, and trotted after Dyke, scaring a group of stupid-looking youngostriches into a run behind the wire fence.

  He knew where he would find his half-brother, and there he was, lyingupon his breast, with a cushion of green mossy growth beneath him, ahuge hanging rock overhead casting a broad shade, and the water gurglingcool and clear so close that he had but to stretch out his hand to scoopit up and drink from the palm.

  Outside there was the scorching, blinding sunshine, however, and amongthe rocks all looked black, and seemed rather cool.

  "Oh, you lazy young sybarite!" cried Joe Emson, as he came up. "Youalways know the best places. Why didn't you answer me?"

  "What's the good of answering?" cried Dyke. "I can't help old Goblingetting away again. He will go, and nothing will stop him."

  "But something shall stop him," said Joe. "I'll have an iron bar driveninto the ground, and tether him with a rope."

  "No good," said Dyke drowsily: "he'd eat the rope and swallow the bar."

  "Then I'll tether him with a piece of chain."

  "He'd roll it up and swallow it.--I say Joe, I feel sure he had thatcurb chain and the two buckles we missed."

  "Nonsense! Come, get up, and help drive him in."

  "I'm too tired, and it isn't nonsense. He's always on the lookout forbits of iron and broken crockery. I took a hammer and a crackedwillow-pattern plate one day, and broke it up in bits and fed him withthem. He ate them all."

  "Well, of course: birds do pick up stones and things to fill theirgizzards."

  "And that's just how I feel," said Dyke.

  "Eh? How?"

  "As if my gizzard was filled with sharp bits of stone, and it makes meirritable and cross."

  "And lazy. Come: jump up."

  "I can't, Joe. I said last time I'd never go after the goblin again,and I won't."

  "Yes, you will; you'll come and help me drive him in."

  "No: let him go."

  "Nonsense! He's the best cock bird I've got."

  "Then the others must be bad ones," grumbled Dyke.

  "Get up, sir!" cried Joe, stirring the boy with his toe.

  "Shan't. I don't mind your kicking."

  "Get up, or I'll duck you in the spring."

  "Wouldn't be such a coward, because you're big and strong. Hit one ofyour own size."

  "I declare I will," cried Joe, bending down and seizing the boy by thearm and waistband.

  "All right, do: it will be deliriously cool."

  Joe Emson rose up and took hold of his big beard.

  "Don't leave me everything to do, Dyke, old boy," he said appealingly."I wouldn't lose that great ostrich for any money."

  Dyke muttered something about hating the old ostrich, but did not stir.

  "All right. I'll go alone," said Joe; and he turned away and walkedswiftly back.

  But before he had gone a dozen yards Dyke had sprung up and overtakenhim.

  "I'll come, Joe," he said; "but that old cock does make me so wild. Iknow he understands, and he does it on purpose to tease me. I wishyou'd shoot him."

  "Can't afford the luxury, little un," said Joe, clapping his brother onthe shoulder. "Let's make our pile first."

  "Then the goblin will live for ever," sighed the boy, "for we shallnever make any piles.--Where is he?"

  Joe shaded his eyes and looked right across the barren veldt, where theglare of the sun produced a hazy, shimmering effect.

  "There he is!"

  "Don't see anything."

  "Yes, you can. Your eyes are sharper than mine. There, just to theleft of that rock."

  "What!--that one like a young kopje?"

  "Yes, just to the left."

  "What!--that speck? Oh! that can't be it."

  "Yes, it is; and if you had the glass, you could tell directly."

  "But it's so far, and oh dear, how hot it is!"

  "It will be cooler riding."

  "No, it won't," grumbled Dyke; "there'll be hot horses under you, then."

  "Yes, but cool air rushing by you. Come, old lad, don't sham idleness."

  "It isn't sham," said Dyke. "I don't think I used to be idle, but thishot sun has stewed all the spirit out of me."

  Joe said nothing, but led the way round to the back of the long lowhouse, to where a high thick hedge of thorns shut in a lean-to shedthatched with mealie leaves and stalks; these, the dry remains of a loadof Indian corn, being laid on heavily, so as to form a good shelter forthe horses, haltered to a rough manger beneath.

  As Dyke approached, he raised a metal whistle which hung from his neckby a leather thong, and blew loudly. A low whinny answered the call,and a big, raw-boned, powerful horse and a handsome, well-bred cob wereunhaltered, to turn and stand patiently enough to be bridled andsaddled, afterwards following out their masters like dogs.

  And now as they passed the end of the stable, all the languor andlassitude passed away from Dyke on the instant. For he now caught sightof their Kaffir servant lying fast asleep just beneath the eaves of thecorrugated iron roof.

  The sand hushed the horses' hoofs, and the Kaffir slept on, with theflies buzzing about his half-open mouth, as if they mistook the thickred lips for the petals of some huge flower.

  "I'm not going to stand that," said the boy.

  "What are you going to do?"

  "You'll see," whispered Dyke. "If I'm to be toiling after goblins, he'snot going to sleep there like a black pig. Go on a little way and lookback."

  Joe Emson smiled in a heavy, good-humoured way, as he took the bridlehis brother handed to him, and the smile developed into a silent laugh,as he saw the boy's energy over a bit of mischief.

  For Dyke actually ran back to the stable, brought out a bucket of water,stood counting the furrows of the iron roofing, and then carried thepail round to the other side and set it down.

  His next movement was to fetch a roughly made step-ladder, count thefurrows on his side, then place the ladder carefully, and at such aslope that it lay flat on the roof, so that, steadily preserving hisbalance, he walked up with the bucket of water from round to round tillhe could see across the ridge to where his brother stood with the horsesa hundred yards away, watching over the big nag's mane, and grasping nowwhat was to happen.

  Dyke knelt down now behind the ridge, to which the top of the ladderjust reached, and had calculated his distance so well, that upon tiltingthe bucket a little, some water trickled down two of the furrows of aniron sheet, and began to drip from the eaves upon the Kaffir's nudechest.

  There was no movement, so a little more water was poured, and thisbrought forth a pig-like grunt, as if of satisfaction.

  More water--more grunts.

  More water, and a shuffling movement.

  More water, and an angry gasp; the Kaffir raised his head, looked up atthe sky, the dripping eaves--looked round, and settled down to sle

  All this was invisible to Dyke, but he could tell by the sounds that hisshower was having effect; and as soon as the man ceased to move, the boysent down a third of the bucketful.

  This produced a sharp ejaculation, and the man sprang up into a sittingposition, and looking angrily round, saw that Emson was standing faraway with the horses, and that no one else was near. His next glancewas at the cloudless sky, and the dripping eaves, to which a few brightdrops still hung and ceased to fall.

  Only a rare shower, the man seemed to think; and, muttering to himself,he shuffled a little into a dry spot to lie down yawning, when rush camethe rest of the water, deluging him this time, and making him jump upand burst into a torrent of objurgations against the sky in his owntongue, shaking both his fists the while, till, _bang, clatter, crash_!the bucket came rattling down, and he turned and ran out toward whereEmson stood looking on.

  Dyke descended quickly, and making a circuit, he ran round, and thenappeared slowly from the end of a fence fifty yards from the house,walking quietly across to join his brother.

  As he drew near, the Kaffir was gesticulating and talking away in brokenEnglish, mingled with more words of his own tongue; and when Dyke joinedthem and took the rein of his little cob, the man turned excitedly tohim.

  "What's the matter, Jack?"

  The Kaffir looked at him suspiciously for a moment or two, but Dykemounted and returned the gaze in the most unruffled manner.

  "Big rain--big wet rain--big water--big bucket--all wet, wet," cried theKaffir.

  "Make the mealies grow," said Dyke coolly.

  "Make mealie grow!" cried the man. Then a change came over him. Thelook of doubt and wonder became one of certainty, and his faceexpanded into a broad grin which displayed all his white teeth."Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!" he cried, pointing to a couple of wet patches onthe leg of the boy's trousers; "you make rain--Massa Dyky make rain.Wet, wet. Ah-ah-ah-ah!"

  "You come along and help drive the ostrich," said Dyke, setting his cobto canter; and, followed by the Kaffir at a quick trot, which soon driedup his moisture, they went over the heated red sand toward where thespeck in the distance had been pointed out as the object they sought.