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Hendricks the Hunter; Or, The Border Farm: A Tale of Zululand

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Hendricks the Hunter; or, The Border Farm, a Tale of Zululand, by W.H.G.Kingston.


  In this well-written book we find ourselves in Zululand, amid thebeautiful scenery of South Africa. Hendricks makes his living byhunting, and trading the skins and other products. It is a dangerousway of earning money, and we are with him on one of his trips. Thereare dangers from animals, lack of water, snakes, and, of course, thenatives. Some of the latter are friendly, and these are sympatheticallydepicted in the story.

  There were quite a few type-setting errors, mainly in wrong, missing, orsuperfluous quote signs. We think we have got this right in thisversion of the book.

  It makes a good audiobook, of about ten hours' duration.





  Zululand is a wild region of mountain ranges, deep valleys and gorges,roaring torrents, rapidly flowing rivers, plains covered with mimosabushes, meadows where cattle pasture and grow fat, and level plateauxextending for many miles across it, several hundred feet above the levelof the ocean; while scattered here and there, in some parts prettythickly, are to be seen the kraals or villages and the mealy grounds ofthe natives. Wild as is the country, and although roads, properlyspeaking, there are none, it is sufficiently practicable for waggons invarious directions.

  Some few years back, one of these vehicles, drawn by a span of twelveoxen, was seen slowly wending its way to the south-west, in thedirection of Natal. It was a loosely yet strongly built machine on fourwheels, fourteen feet long and four wide, formed of well-seasoned stinkwood, the joints and bolts working all ways, so that, as occasionallyhappened, as it slowly rumbled and bumped onward, when the front wheelsank into a deep hole, the others remained perfectly upright. It wastilted over with thick canvas impervious to rain, the goods orpassengers inside being thus well sheltered from the hardest showers,and even from the hot rays of the sun.

  The oxen pulled steadily together, as became animals long accustomed towork in company. On a board in front stood a Hottentot driver, hisblack visage surmounted by a broad-brimmed straw hat ornamented by a fewostrich feathers twined round the crown, while his hand held a whip ofBrobdignagian proportions, the stock being fully fourteen feet, and thelash upwards of twenty-four feet in length, with which he occasionallyurged on the leaders, or drew blood from the animals beneath his feet,as well as from those intermediate in the span, whenever a rise in theground or its unusual roughness required an additional exertion of theirstrength.

  Several black men, of tall sinewy forms and Kaffir features, eachcarrying a gun at his back, and a long pole in his hand, accompanied thewaggon on foot. At some little distance ahead rode a florid,good-looking man, above the middle height, and of strongly built figure,dressed in a grey suit, with a broad-brimmed hat on his head. He alsocarried a gun at his back and a brace of pistols in a broad belt whichhe wore round his waist. Though his hair and beard were slightlygrizzled, yet, by the expression of his countenance and his easymovements, he appeared to have lost none of the activity of youth, whilehis firm-set mouth and bright blue eyes betokened courage and energy.Some horses followed the waggon, secured by thongs of a lengthsufficient to enable them to pick their way. A glance into the interiorof the waggon would have shown that it was fully loaded, the chiefcontents being the skins of wild animals, the huge tusks of elephants,and other spoils of the chase, with which the proprietor was returningafter a hunt of many months' duration, to dispose of them at Maritzburgor D'Urban.

  The horseman was apparently one of those enterprising traders andhunters who roam over the southern parts of the dark continent to barterEuropean goods for cattle, skins, ivory, and other produce of thecountry. As he was the owner of the waggon and the master of the menattending it, we will for the present designate him as the Trader. Hegenerally rode on in silence, amusing himself with his own thoughts, butoccasionally he turned to address a tall Kaffir by his side, whoseleopard-skin robe and head-dress, the long rifle at his back, and theindependent air with which he walked, betokened him to be a leadinghunter, and the familiar way in which he was addressed and replied,showed that he was held in high esteem by his employer.

  "We must look out for a camping-place before long, Umgolo," said thetrader. "The beasts have had a rough journey, and will require plentyof time for feeding. Do you go on ahead, and select a spot where grassand water are to be found, and where we may watch them, and defendourselves, should any of the people hereabouts take a fancy to thebeasts or to the contents of our waggon."

  "The master shall be obeyed," answered the Kaffir. "It may be as well,as he has said, to be on our guard, for the Zulus in these parts arearrant thieves, and will not scruple to steal if they have the chance."

  The Kaffir, who had of course spoken in his native tongue, hurried aheadof the team. In a short time the waggon overtook him at a spot which hehad chosen on the slope of a hill forming one side of a valley throughwhich ran a sparkling stream, the ground in the neighbourhood of itsbanks being covered with rich grass. No more favourable spot could havebeen selected for the camp, as the stream served as a boundary on oneside, and the hill on the other, so that a man stationed at either endcould effectually prevent the cattle from straying.

  Another valley opened into that along which the waggon was travelling,and on a level space some considerable way from the bottom could bedistinguished in the distance a circular palisade forming a kraal, thedome-roofed huts just appearing above the enclosure. It was so far off,however, that the inhabitants were not likely to have discovered thewaggon as it passed along.

  At that period, it should be understood, the Zulus and their whiteneighbours were on tolerably good terms, though some of the former mightoccasionally have carried off a few horses or head of cattle belongingto the settlers, when they could do so without the risk of being caught.Sportsmen and traders therefore penetrated fearlessly into the country,the traders carrying cotton goods, blankets, cutlery, and notunfrequently firearms and powder and shot, which they exchanged forskins and oxen.

  However, we will return to our friends. At a short distance from thespot selected by Umgolo for the camp was a wood from which fuel for thefires could be obtained, and which would have afforded materials forthrowing up a fortification, had such been considered necessary. Butthe sturdy owner of the waggon, with his band of expert marksmen,believed himself well able to cope with any natives who might venture tointerfere with him.

  Having outspanned, or in other words the oxen being unyoked, theyhurried of their own accord down to the stream to drink, attended by twoof the men, with their guns in hand, in case any lion or other savagebeast should be lurking in the neighbourhood. The water was too shallowfor crocodiles, which in many parts have to be guarded against. Therest of the men were engaged in collecting fuel for the fire, andcutting stakes and poles to form a temporary enclosure in which the oxenmight be penned during the dark hours of night.

  Meantime the trader, attended by Umgolo, set off in search of aspringboc or a pallah, called also the rooyaboc, or a wild boar or awater-buck, whose flesh might serve the party for supper and breakfast.There was no fear of starving in a country where numberless varieties ofanimals abounded. They made their way towards a thicket which extendedfrom some distance up the hill, across the valley, alm
ost down to theriver. Game of some sort was sure to be found within it, while at thesame time they themselves would be concealed by the thick bushes, and beenabled to get sufficiently close to an animal to shoot it withcertainty.

  It was only, however, in some places that the thicket could bepenetrated; for below the large mimosa trees there grew thorny creepersand bushes, among which it was impossible to force a passage without thecertainty of having to emerge with garments torn to shreds, and legsbleeding from lacerations innumerable. Here in wild profusion grew thecreeper known as the "wait-a-bit," because its hooked thorns will catchthe clothes of any person brushing by it, and compel him to wait a bituntil he has released himself by drawing them out one by one. Thenatives give it the still more honourable title of "catch tiger," asthey affirm that even that savage creature, who may unwarily leap intoit, will find itself trapped in a way from which there is no escape.Then there was the cactus with spikes three inches in length, and the"Come and I'll kiss you," a bush armed with almost equally formidablethorns, and huge nettles, and numerous other vegetable productions,offering impracticable impediments to the progress, not only of humanbeings, but of every species of animal, with the exception of elephantsand rhinoceroses, which might attempt to force a way through them.

  The hunters had not gone far, when, as they were skirting the thicket,they came on a small herd of water-buck. The trader, raising his rifle,fired, and one of the graceful animals lay struggling on the grass. Therest bounded off like lightning, to escape the shot which the nativedischarged. Both hurrying forward, soon put the deer out of its misery.To follow the rest would have been useless, as they were away far outof range of their firearms. They therefore at once applied themselvesto the task of cutting up the dead animal, so that they might carry backthe best portions of the meat to the camp.

  While they were thus employed, a crashing sound was heard coming fromthe thicket at no great distance, when springing to their feet they sawbefore them a black rhinoceros, the most formidable inhabitant of thosewild regions. It is more dangerous to encounter than even the lion orthe elephant, because the only one which will deliberately chase a humanbeing whenever it catches sight of him, and will never give up thepursuit, unless its intended victim can obtain concealment, or it isitself compelled to bite the dust. Its sight is, however, far fromkeen; so that if there are bushes or rocks near at hand, it can beeasily avoided.

  Such was, fortunately for the hunters, the case in the present instance.As on it came thundering over the ground, uttering a roar ofdispleasure, the Kaffir, shouting to his master, sprang behind a bush,near which the deer had fallen. The trader, however, stood firm, hisweapon in his hand, ready to fire, although knowing full well that,should he miss, the next instant the savage brute would be upon him, andeither gore or trample him to death.

  Flight was out of the question with such a pursuer at his heels, whileeven should he now attempt to take refuge behind a bush, the rhinoceros,close as it was, would probably see him. Notwithstanding this, heremained motionless; not a limb shook, not a nerve quivered. As theferocious monster, with its formidable horn lowered, came rushing on,the trader, raising his rifle, fired, and then, before the smoke hadcleared off, with an agility which could scarcely have been expected ina man of his proportions, sprang on one side. Almost at the same momenta crack was heard from Umgolo's rifle, and the rhinoceros sank to theground, uttering a loud scream indicative of pain and also of anger atfinding itself foiled in its onslaught.

  In vain the brute attempted to rise. Umgolo sprang forward and plungedhis assegai into its breast. The hunters' sharp knives soon cut throughthe tough skin, and several slices of the flesh were added to the storeof meat with which they set off on their return to the camp. It was theleader's intention to send some of his people to bring in the horn and afurther portion of the flesh, should it not in the meantime have beendevoured by jackals, hyenas, and other scavengers of the wilds. Theirarrival was greeted with a shout of satisfaction by the people. Whilesome eagerly set to work to cook the meat brought to them, others wentout to bring in a further supply. On their return, each man loaded withas much as he could carry, they reported that they had been only just intime to drive off a pack of wolves which would soon have left them thebare bones alone for their share.

  Although they had performed a long and rough day's journey, they sat upround the fire late into the night, cooking and eating the rhinocerosand water-buck flesh, and relating to each other their oft-toldadventures. As soon as darkness came on, the cattle were driven in andsecured close to the waggon, and sentries, with muskets in their hands,were placed to watch them, as well as to serve as guards to the rest ofthe camp.

  The trader's accustomed sleeping-place was inside his waggon, where, bythe light of a lantern hung from the roof, he could sit and read orwrite when so disposed. After allowing his followers sufficient time toamuse themselves, he shouted to them to cease their noise and go tosleep. To hear with his well-disciplined hunters and drivers was toobey, and at once rolling themselves up in their blankets or karossesthey lay down round the fire, which had previously been made up, so asto last some hours without additional fuel. He then, before turning inhimself, took a turn round the camp, stopping occasionally to listen forany sounds which might indicate that a lion was prowling in theneighbourhood. He was just about to return to the waggon, when heobserved emerging from behind a clump of trees in the valley below himnumerous dark figures moving slowly over the ground. He watched themattentively, and was convinced that they were a party of Zulus bent on awarlike expedition. Others followed, until a large number had assembledin the open. Whether or not their object was to attack his camp hecould not tell; but he resolved, should they do so, to defend hisproperty to the last. He at once called up Umgolo, and in a low voiceordered him to arouse his companions, but on no account to allow them toshow themselves or to make the slightest noise. These orders wereobeyed, and the trader retired to the shade of his waggon, where hecould watch what was going forward without himself being seen. Thefire, from which a few flames occasionally flickered up, must, he knew,have shown the Zulus the position of the camp.

  Though he took these precautions for prudence' sake, he did not considerit likely that the Zulus, who had hitherto been friendly, would ventureto attack him. His followers, however, appeared not to be so wellsatisfied on that point as he was; for each man, as he lay on theground, examined his arms to be sure that they were ready for instantaction.

  The dark figures moved slowly on, then halted.

  "They are considering whether they shall venture to come against us,"whispered Umgolo. "If they do, we will give them a warmer welcome thanthey expect."

  Such might have been the interpretation of his remarks.

  "I still doubt whether they will attack us," answered his master. "Theyknow too well the power of the white man's powder and lead."

  At that time comparatively few firearms had been introduced among theZulus, and they had but an imperfect knowledge of their use.

  Again the black figures began to move, but instead of drawing nearer thecamp, apparently supposing that they had not been observed, theydirected their course towards the kraal which had been observed by thetravellers on the hillside just before they unspanned.

  "They are about to work no good to yonder kraal, or they would not bemoving thus silently at this time of night," observed Umgolo. "Beforemorning dawns, not a man, woman, or child will be left alive, and not ahoof remain inside."

  "I would then that we could give the inhabitants notice of theirimpending doom, or save the unhappy wretches by some means or other,"said the trader, more to himself than his follower, well aware thatUmgolo would scarcely enter into his feelings on the subject.

  "It cannot be done," remarked Umgolo. "Any one approaching the kraalwould be discovered by the warriors, and put to death to a certainty."

  "Why do you think that the kraal is to be attacked?" asked his master.

  "This I know, th
at yonder kraal is the abode of the brave young chiefMangaleesu, who possesses numerous head of cattle, and has under him aband of devoted followers. Perhaps Panda, the king of the Zulus, orsome other great chief, covets Mangaleesu's cattle, or fears his power,and this expedition has been sent out to destroy him and all his people.It may be that one of Panda's wives has been ill, and the doctor, notknowing what else to say, having declared that she was bewitched, wasordered to go and smell out the culprit; the cunning rogue knowing fullwell how best to please the king; or, as I remarked, some other enemy ofMangaleesu has fixed on him."

  "How do you know, Umgolo, that such is the case?" inquired his master.

  "I guess it," answered Umgolo. "Perhaps I am wrong. The young chiefmay be an enemy of Cetchwayo, and he it is who has sent the army todestroy him. He knows the bravery and cleverness of Mangaleesu, who,had he gained an inkling of what is intended, would have made his escapeinto Natal. There may be some other cause for the intended attack, butI am not far wrong, master, you may depend upon that."

  "I fear, indeed, that you are right in your conjectures," said thetrader. "I am satisfied that the Zulus do not intend to attack us.Tell the people that they may again go to sleep, and that they will besummoned if they are required."

  While Umgolo went to execute this order, the trader stood leaning on hisgun at a spot a short distance from the camp, to which he had made hisway the better to watch the proceedings of the Zulu force. He wasconsidering how he could manage to reach the kraal before the Zuluwarriors had surrounded it, and were ready to commence their work ofslaughter. He might, by following a different direction, and movingmore rapidly over the ground, get to the rear of the kraal, and warn thedoomed inhabitants to flee while there was yet time. Too probably,however, they would be seen escaping, and would be pursued andslaughtered before they had time to get to any distance. Still hisgenerous feelings prompted him to make the attempt. There would be aconsiderable amount of risk to himself, though the Zulus at that timeheld white men in respect, and himself especially as he had sofrequently traversed their country, and was known to many of them.Notwithstanding this, if found interfering with their proceedings, theymight, in a sudden fit of anger, put him to death. Leaving the camp,therefore, he proceeded with rapid steps along the side of the hill, inthe direction the Zulus had taken. Though the kraal was concealed fromview by the shades of night, and no lights issued from it, he well knewits position. He soon gained a spot whence in daylight he could clearlyhave perceived it, when to his grief he saw what might have beenmistaken for a dark shadow creeping over the ground and alreadyascending the hill on which the kraal stood. He was now convinced ofthe impossibility of getting to it in time to warn the inhabitants oftheir impending fate. Perfect stillness reigned around, brokenoccasionally by the distant mutterings of a lion, or the melancholy cryof some beast or bird of prey. Unable to tear himself away from thespot, he waited, moved by a painful curiosity to learn what wouldhappen, as he knew that the dusky warriors must have reached the kraal,though he was unable to see their movements. Still no cry reached hisear. Had the inhabitants got warning of the intended attack, and beatena timely retreat? He hoped that such might have been the case.

  A crescent moon and the bright stars shed a faint light over the scene.He could look far up and down the valley, but the part where the kraalstood was shrouded in gloom. Presently the silence was broken by achorus of shouts and yells, borne by the night wind from the directionof the kraal, followed by shrieks and cries which continued withoutintermission for some minutes, and then he saw lights glimmering hereand there, increasing in intensity, until a circle of flame burst forth,rising rapidly as the fire caught hold of the combustible material ofwhich the kraal was composed. By this time all sounds had ceased, andhe knew that the last of the unhappy inhabitants had been killed.

  Wishing to avoid the risk of meeting any of the savage warriors, shouldthey cross the hill, he hastened back to the camp. He found Umgolo, whohad discovered his absence, looking out, wondering what had become ofhim.

  The Kaffir had heard the yells and shrieks of the savages as theyattacked the kraal, and fearing that his master might have been temptedto interfere, was proportionally glad to see him return safe.

  They were still standing just outside the camp, when the sound ofapproaching footsteps reached their ears.

  "Here come some of the savage Zulus. We must drive them back, if theyintend to molest us," said the trader.

  "No fear of that," replied the Kaffir. "There are but two pair of feet.See! there they come up the hill."

  The next instant the figure of a young warrior, with assegais in hand,supporting with his left arm a slight girl, came in sight. The flamesfrom the fire lighted up their figures. Blood streamed from the sideand right arm of the man. Both were panting for breath.

  "Mangaleesu claims your protection, white chief, for her he loves, andfor himself, that he may avenge the death of those he has lost. Youwill not refuse it?"

  "I will gladly conceal you, and afford you all the help I can," answeredthe trader. "Come on: there is not a moment to be lost. Your wife canget into the waggon, and you can lie in the hammock beneath it, where,even if your enemies come, they will not think of looking for you."

  This was said as the young chief and the girl were being conducted tothe waggon. All was done so rapidly and silently, that none of thesleeping servants were awakened, and only those who had charge of thecattle could have observed what had happened, while the curtain whichclosed the front of the waggon was allowed to remain open, so as not toexcite the suspicion of the Zulus, should they come to the camp.

  The trader and Umgolo slowly paced up and down with their rifles intheir hands, waiting the arrival of their pursuers. At length theybegan to hope that Mangaleesu had evaded them, and that they had goneoff in a different direction. So satisfied were they that this was thecase, that the trader returned to the waggon to see what assistance hecould render to the wounded chief. Mangaleesu, however, made light ofhis hurts, although they were such as any white man would haveconsidered very serious.

  He told his white friend that his wife was uninjured, notwithstandingthe many assegais thrust at her.

  "Have any more of your people escaped from your enemies?" asked thetrader.

  "No; few even fought for their lives," answered the Zulu chief. "When Iwas first awakened out of sleep by the shouting around my kraal, I knewwell what was about to happen; but I resolved for Kalinda's sake, aswell as my own, to struggle for life. To fight my way out and to savemy wife, I knew was impossible, had I dashed out boldly as I at firstthought of doing; but she whispered to me, `Let us make a figure; ourenemies will stab at that, and we meantime may perchance get clear.'The idea struck me as good. She brought me a mat, and we rolled it upround a thick stick. We then fastened a shield to it, and on the top abundle of assegais, as if held in the hand of a warrior. It was muchtoo dark for our enemies to discover the deceit. When all was ready, Iheld the figure in one hand, while I grasped my weapons in the other,Kalinda keeping close behind me. I then opened the door, and thrust outthe figure in the midst of those standing near, thirsting for my blood.They instantly, as I knew they would, gathered round it, piercing itwith their assegais. While they were thus employed, I sprang out, stillholding the figure, and in a few bounds reached the inside of the outerfence, against which I placed my back, and kept my assailants at bay.As they drew away from the door to attack me, Kalinda rushed out; andour enemies, who had supposed that there was only one person in the hut,seeing another appear, fancied that there might be more, and becameconfused, not knowing how to act; for many of them had already felt thepoint of my assegai. Kalinda, getting close to me without a wound,threw the figure over the fence, among those guarding the outside. Theyinstantly rushed at it, leaving the gate for a few seconds unguarded.This was all I required. Sheltering my wife with my shield, as sheclung to my arm, I sprang with her through the opening, over the bodiesof my slaughtered
followers, and before our enemies knew we had gone wewere running like springbocs down the hill. We knew that if our flightshould be discovered we should be pursued, but we hoped that we had notbeen seen at the moment we were rushing out of the kraal. I had beenout hunting until late in the evening, and had discovered the tracks ofyour waggon. I guessed therefore whereabouts you would camp, anddetermined to place my wife under your protection, knowing that whilewith you our pursuers would not molest her. For myself, I intended tofollow up my enemies, and revenge myself by trying to kill some of them.When morning breaks, and they do not find my dead body, they'll knowthat I have made my escape."

  "You have acted a brave part," said the trader; "but I would advise youto let your enemies go their own way. You have saved your young wifeand your own life. You will, I hope, be able to reach Natal in safety,where you will be free from danger. If you attempt to kill yourenemies, you will very likely be killed yourself, and there will be noone to protect your wife. You are also now weak from loss of blood, andalthough your heart is courageous, your strength may fail you."

  One of the servants had in the meantime been employed, by command of hismaster, in making some broth over the fire, which he now brought to theyoung chief, who notwithstanding his boasting was very glad to obtainit, being much exhausted from the exertions he had made.

  The trader then took some to Kalinda, who lay trembling in the waggon,expecting every moment the arrival of their pursuers to kill her and herhusband. The trader did his best to soothe her fears by promising thathe would not deliver them up to their enemies, even though it should bediscovered where they had taken refuge.

  The remainder of the night passed quietly by. The glare from theburning kraal could be seen in the distance for some time, but itgradually died out, and all was dark in that direction. No sounds werebrought down by the night wind to show whether the Zulus were stillsurrounding it; but Umgolo, knowing their habits, gave it as his opinionthat they had departed as silently as they had come, after executingtheir fell purpose; and that if they had discovered the flight of thechief and his wife, a party had gone in pursuit of them in the directionit was supposed they had taken. One thing was certain, it could nothave been suspected that the fugitives had taken refuge in the camp, orsome of their enemies would have arrived before now to demand them.

  The trader had previously determined to spend a day where he was nowencamped, in order to rest his cattle from their rough journey, and hethought it prudent to adhere to his intention the better to deceive theZulus, who would be less likely to suspect that he was sheltering thefugitives should he remain stationary, than were he to be found hurryingaway from the neighbourhood.