Led by this same driver I walked to the edge of the cliff for I had never visited the place before and looked at the deep sea-pool, forty feet below me, into which Swart Piet had thrown Ralph after he had shot him. Also I went down to the edge of the pool and climbed up again by the path along which Zinti and Sihamba had staggered with his senseless body.
We had the opportunity of accepting the invitation of Mr. C. Wessels to take breakfast at his house. It was there that General Piet de Wet came to me and asked if I still saw any chance of being able to continue the struggle? The question made me very angry, and I did not try to hide the fact. "Are you mad?"
He was an open enemy; and she turned from him with the same loathing that she would have shown for a reptile in her path. His laugh that horrible, slippery sound followed her. He said something in Dutch to the man who lounged beside him, and at once another laugh Piet Vreiboom's bellowed forth like the blare of a bull. She flinched in spite of herself. Every nerve shrank.
"What makes you think he is likely to?" said Piet, dryly. There was a silence. Then he added: "When do you go?" "The the twenty-sixth, I believe. I've got aunty's consent I go with the Archibalds to San Francisco." "And this is ?" "The twentieth."
When Piet went out he left the door-board of the hut open, so that Sihamba dared neither act nor speak, fearing lest the guard should hear or see her through it. Therefore she still lay upon the top of the hut, and watched through the smoke-hole.
The arrival of a white man in the Mashona country was evidently a quite unique event, exciting the utmost curiosity in the minds of the inhabitants indeed, I subsequently learned that such a thing had never happened since the memorable visit of my friend Major Henderson and his partner, Van Raalte, consequently it was only a very few of the older men who had ever beheld a white man before; for as I rode along at a foot-pace, with Piet respectfully walking in my rear, the whole way was lined on either side by thousands of men, women, and children, who had turned out for the express purpose of beholding such an astonishing spectacle, this, it appeared, being rendered all the more extraordinary by the fact that horses were unknown to the Mashonas, and not one of them, save the half-dozen or so elders above-mentioned, had ever so much as heard of a mounted man!
Already they were out of the wood and upon the plain, when from their right a body of horsemen swooped towards them, seven in all, of whom one, the leader, was Swart Piet himself, cutting them off from the Nek. They halted their horses as though to a word of command, and speaking rapidly, Sihamba asked of Zinti: "Is there any other pass through yonder range, for this one is barred to us?"
"It is well, O king, and I thank thee," said I. "And now, in acknowledgment of thy friendliness, I ask thine acceptance of certain presents," and I beckoned Piet to approach with his parcel, which I forthwith proceeded to open.
Observe young Piet, dressed in his best Sunday suit, and wearing a worried look in addition, sitting on one end of a long form that stands on the veranda of the house; and observe also a fair young damsel, who has just been initiated into the art of doing her hair up on top, sitting on the other extreme end of that form.
In case of such an emergency, De Wet divided his forces into two parts. He placed one division 1050 strong with four guns under the control of Generals Cronje, Froneman, Wessels, and Piet De Wet, with instructions to occupy the positions east of the Modder River and directly opposite the Waterworks, so as to check Broadwood, should he come to the rescue of the garrison.