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Benita An African Romance by H. Rider Haggard

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"Then why do you still think about this treasure which probably does
not exist?"

"Why, Miss Clifford, do you think about various things that probably
do not exist? Perhaps because you feel that here or elsewhere they
/do/ exist. Well, that is what I feel about the treasure, and what I
have always felt. It exists, and I shall find it--now. I shall live to
see more gold than you can even imagine, and that is why I still
continue to breed horses on the Transvaal veld. Ah! you laugh; you
think it is a nightmare that I breed----"

Then suddenly he became aware of Sally, who had appeared over the fold
of the rise behind them, and asked irritably:

"What is it now, old vrouw?"

"The Baas Clifford wants to speak with you, Baas Jacob. Messengers
have come to you from far away."

"What messengers?" he asked.

"I know not," answered Sally, fanning her fat face with a yellow
pocket-handkerchief. "They are strange people to me, and thin with
travelling, but they talk a kind of Zulu. The Baas wishes you to

"Will you come also, Miss Clifford? No? Then forgive me if I leave
you," and lifting his hat he went.

"A strange man, Missee," said old Sally, when he had vanished, walking
very fast.

"Yes," answered Benita, in an indifferent voice.

"A very strange man," went on the old woman. "Too much in his kop,"
and she tapped her forehead. "I tink it will burst one day; but if it
does not burst, then he will be great. I tell you that before, now I
tell it you again, for I tink his time come. Now I go cook dinner."

Benita sat by the lake till the twilight fell, and the wild geese
began to flight over her. Then she walked back to the house thinking
no more of Heer Meyer, thinking only that she was weary of this place
in which there was nothing to occupy her mind and distract it from its
ever present sorrow.

At dinner, or rather supper, that night she noticed that both her
father and his partner seemed to be suffering from suppressed
excitement, of which she thought she could guess the cause.

"Did you find your messengers, Mr. Meyer?" she asked, when the men had
lit their pipes, and the square-face--as Hollands was called in those
days, from the shape of the bottle--was set upon the rough table of
speckled buchenhout wood.

"Yes, I found them," he answered; "they are in the kitchen now." And
he looked at Mr. Clifford.

"Benita, my dear," said her father, "rather a curious thing has
happened." Her face lit up, but he shook his head. "No, nothing to do
with the shipwreck--that is all finished. Still, something that may
interest you, if you care to hear a story."

Benita nodded; she was in a mood to hear anything that would occupy
her thoughts.

"You know something about this treasure business," went on her father.
"Well, this is the tale of it. Years ago, after you and your mother
had gone to England, I went on a big game shooting expedition into the
interior. My companion was an old fellow called Tom Jackson, a rolling
stone, and one of the best elephant hunters in Africa. We did pretty
well, but the end of it was that we separated north of the Transvaal,
I bringing down the ivory that we had shot, and traded, and Tom
stopping to put in another season, the arrangement being that he was
to join me afterwards, and take his share of the money. I came here
and bought this farm from a Boer who was tired of it--cheap enough,
too, for I only gave him 100 for the 6,000 acres. The kitchens behind
were his old house, for I built a new one.

"A year had gone by before I saw any more of Tom Jackson, and then he
turned up more dead than alive. He had been injured by an elephant,
and lay for some months among the Makalanga to the north of
Matabeleland, where he got fever badly at a place called Bambatse, on
the Zambesi. These Makalanga are a strange folk. I believe their name
means the People of the Sun; at any rate, they are the last of some
ancient race. Well, while he was there he cured the old Molimo, or
hereditary high-priest of this tribe, of a bad fever by giving him
quinine, and naturally they grew friendly. The Molimo lived among
ruins of which there are many over all that part of South Africa. No
one knows who built them now; probably it was people who lived
thousands of years ago. However, this Molimo told Tom Jackson a more
recent legend connected with the place.

"He said that six generations before, when his great-great-great
grandfather was chief (Mambo, he called it), the natives of all that
part of South Africa rose against the white men--Portuguese, I suppose
--who still worked the gold there. They massacred them and their
slaves by thousands, driving them up from the southward, where
Lobengula rules now, to the Zambesi by which the Portuguese hoped to
escape to the coast. At length a remnant of them, not more than about
two hundred men and women, arrived at the stronghold called Bambatse,
where the Molimo now lives in a great ruin built by the ancients upon
an impregnable mountain which overhangs the river. With them they
brought an enormous quantity of gold, all the stored-up treasure of
the land which they were trying to carry off. But although they
reached the river they could not escape by it, since the natives, who
pursued them in thousands, watched day and night in canoes, and the
poor fugitives had no boats. Therefore it came about that they were
shut up in this fortress which it was impossible to storm, and there
slowly perished of starvation.

"When it was known that they were all dead, the natives who had
followed them from the south, and who wanted blood and revenge, not
gold, which was of no use to them, went away; but the old priest's
forefather who knew the secret entrance to the place, and who had been
friendly to the Portuguese, forced his way in and there, amidst the
dead, found one woman living, but mad with grief--a young and
beautiful girl, the daughter of the Portuguese lord or captain. He
gave her food, but in the night, when some strength had returned to
her, she left him, and at daybreak he found her standing on the peak
that overhangs the river, dressed all in white.

"He called some of his councillors, and they tried to persuade her to
come down from the rock, but she answered, 'No, her betrothed and all
her family and friends were dead, and it was her will to follow them.'
Then they asked where was the gold, for having watched day and night
they knew it had not been thrown into the river. She answered that it
was where it was, and that, seek as he might, no black man would ever
find it. She added that she gave it into his keeping, and that of his
descendants, to safeguard until she came again. Also she said that if
they were faithless to that trust, then it had been revealed to her
from heaven above that those same savages who had killed her father
and her people, would kill his people also. When she had spoken thus
she stood a while praying on the peak, then suddenly hurled herself
into the river, and was seen no more.

"From that day to this the ruin has been held to be haunted, and save
the Molimo himself, who retires there to meditate and receive
revelations from the spirits, no one is allowed to set a foot in its
upper part; indeed, the natives would rather die than do so.
Consequently the gold still remains where it was hidden. This place
itself Tom Jackson did not see, since, notwithstanding his friendship
for him, the Molimo refused to allow him to enter there.

"Well, Tom never recovered; he died here, and is buried in the little
graveyard behind the house which the Boers made for some of their
people. It was shortly before his death that Mr. Meyer became my
partner, for I forgot to say that I had told him the story, and we
determined to have a try for that great wealth. You know the rest. We
trekked to Bambatse, pretending to be traders, and found the old
Molimo who knew of me as having been Tom Jackson's friend. We asked
him if the story he had told to Jackson were true, and he answered
that, surely as the sun shone in the heavens, it was true--every word
of it--for it, and much more than he had spoken of, had been handed
down from father to son, and that they even knew the name of the white
lady who had killed herself. It was Ferreira--your mother's name,
Benita, though a common one enough in South Africa.

"We asked him to allow us to enter the topmost stronghold, which
stands upon the hill, but he refused, saying that the curse still lay
upon him and his, and that no man should enter until the lady Ferreira
came again. For the rest the place was free to us; we might dig as we
would. So we did dig, and found some gold buried with the ancients,
beads and bangles and wire--about 100 worth. Also--that was on the
day when the young Seymours came upon us, and accounts for Meyer's
excitement, for he thought that we were on the track of the treasure--
we found a single gold coin, no doubt one that had been dropped by the
Portuguese. Here it is." And he threw a thin piece of gold on the
table before her. "I have shown it to a man learned in those matters,
and he says that it is a ducat struck by one of the doges of Venice.

"Well, we never found any more. The end of it was that the Makalanga
caught us trying to get in to the secret stronghold by stealth, and
gave us the choice of clearing out or being killed. So we cleared out,
for treasure is not of much use to dead men."

Mr. Clifford ceased speaking, and filled his pipe, while Meyer helped
himself to squareface in an absent manner. As for Benita, she stared
at the quaint old coin, which had a hole in it, wondering with what
scenes of terror and of bloodshed it had been connected.

"Keep it," said her father. "It will go on that bracelet of yours."

"Thank you, dear," she answered. "Though I don't know why I should
take all the Portuguese treasure since we shall never see any more of

"Why not, Miss Clifford?" asked Meyer quickly.

"The story tells you why--because the natives won't even let you look
for it; also, looking and finding are different things."

"Natives change their minds sometimes, Miss Clifford. That story is
not done, it is only begun, and now you shall hear its second chapter.
Clifford, may I call in the messengers?" And without waiting for an
answer he rose and left the room.

Neither Mr. Clifford nor his daughter said anything after he had gone.
Benita appeared to occupy herself in fixing the broad gold coin to a
little swivel on her bracelet, but while she did so once more that
sixth sense of hers awoke within her. As she had been afraid at the
dinner on the doomed steamer, so again she was afraid. Again death and
great fear cast their advancing shadows on to her soul. That piece of
gold seemed to speak to her, yet, alas! she could not understand its
story. Only she knew that her father and Jacob Meyer and--yes, yes,
yes--Robert Seymour, had all a part in that tragedy. Oh! how could
that be when he was dead? How could this gold link him to her? She
knew not--she cared not. All she knew was that she would follow this
treasure to the edge of the world, and if need be, over it, if only it
brought her back to him again.



The door opened, and through it came Jacob Meyer, followed by three
natives. Benita did not see or hear them; her soul was far away. There
at the head of the room, clad all in white, for she wore no mourning
save in her heart, illuminated by the rays of the lamp that hung above
her, she stood still and upright, for she had risen; on the face and
in her wide, dark eyes a look that was very strange to see. Jacob
Meyer perceived it and stopped; the three natives perceived it also
and stopped. There they stood, all four of them, at the end of the
long sitting-room, staring at the white Benita and at her haunted

One of the natives pointed with his thin finger to her face, and
whispered to the others. Meyer, who understood their tongue, caught
the whisper. It was:

"Behold the Spirit of the Rock!"

"What spirit, and what rock?" he asked in a low voice.

"She who haunts Bambatse; she whom our eyes have seen," answered the
man, still staring at Benita.

Benita heard the whispering, and knew it was about herself, though not
one word of it did she catch. With a sigh she shook herself free from
her visions and sat down in a chair close by. Then one by one the
messengers drew near to her, and each, as he came, made a profound
obeisance, touching the floor with his finger-tips, and staring at her
face. But her father they only saluted with an uplifted hand. She
looked at them with interest, and indeed they were interesting in
their way; tall, spare men, light coloured, with refined, mobile
faces. Here was no negro-blood, but rather that of some ancient people
such as Egyptians or Phnicians: men whose forefathers had been wise
and civilized thousands of years ago, and perchance had stood in the
courts of Pharaoh or of Solomon.

Their salutations finished, the three men squatted in a line upon the
floor, drawing their fur karosses, or robes, about them, and waited in
silence. Jacob Meyer thought a while, then said:

"Clifford, will you translate to your daughter, so that she may be
sure she is told exactly what passes?"

Next he turned and addressed the natives.

"Your names are Tamas, Tamala, and Hoba, and you, Tamas, are the son
of the Molimo of Bambatse, who is called Mambo, and you, Tamala and
Hoba, are his initiated councillors. Is it so?"

They bowed their heads.

"Good. You, Tamas, tell the story and give again your message that
this lady, the lady Benita, may hear it, for she has a part in the

"We understand that she has a part," answered Tamas. "We read in her
face that she has the greatest part. Doubtless it is of her that the
Spirit told my father. These, spoken by my mouth, are the words of the
Molimo, my father, which we have travelled so far to deliver.

"'When you two white men visited Bambatse four years ago, you asked of
me, Mambo, to be admitted to the holy place, that you might look for
the treasure there which the Portuguese hid in the time of my ancestor
in the sixth generation. I refused to allow you to look, or even to
enter the holy place, because I am by birth the guardian of that
treasure, although I know not where it lies. But now I am in a great
strait. I have news that Lobengula the usurper, who is king of the
Matabele, has taken offence against me for certain reasons, among them
that I did not send him a sufficient tribute. It is reported to me
that he purposes next summer to despatch an impi to wipe me and my
people out, and to make my kraal black as the burnt veld. I have
little strength to resist him who is mighty, and my people are not
warlike. From generation to generation they have been traders,
cultivators of the land, workers in metal, and men of peace, who
desire not to kill or be killed. Also they are few. Therefore I have
no power to stand against Lobengula.

"'I remember the guns that you and your companion brought with you,
which can kill things from far away. If I had a supply of those guns
from behind my walls I might defy the impi of Lobengula, whose
warriors use the assegai. If you will bring me a hundred good guns and
plenty of powder and bullets for them, it is revealed to me that it
will be lawful for me to admit you to the secret, holy place, where
you may look for the buried gold for as long as you wish, and if you
can find it, take it all away without hindrance from me or my people.
But I will be honest with you. That gold will never be found save by
the one appointed. The white lady said so in the time of my
forefather; he heard it with his ears, and I have heard it from his
descendants with my ears, and so it shall be. Still, if you bring the
guns you can come and see if either of you is that one appointed. But
I do not think that any man is so appointed, for the secret is hid in
woman. But of this you can learn for yourselves. I do but speak as I
am bidden.

"'This is my message spoken by my mouth, Tamas, son of my body, and my
councillors who go with him will bear witness that he speaks the
truth. I, Mambo, the Molimo of Bambatse, send you greeting, and will
give you good welcome and fulfil my promise, if you come with the far-
shooting guns, ten times ten of them, and the powder, and the bullets
wherewith I may drive off the Matabele, but not otherwise. My son,
Tamas, and my councillors will drive your waggon into my country but
you must bring no strange servants. The Spirit of the white woman who
killed herself before the eyes of my forefather has been seen of late
standing upon the point of rock; also she has visited me at night in
my secret place where her companions died. I do not know all that this
portends, but I think that amongst other things she wished to tell me
that the Matabele are about to attack us. I await the decree of the
Heavens. I send you two karosses as a gift, and a little ancient gold,
since ivory is too heavy for my messengers to carry, and I have no
waggon. Farewell.'"

"We have heard you," said Meyer, when Mr. Clifford had finished
translating, "and we wish to ask you a question. What do you mean when
you say that the Spirit of the white woman has been seen?"

"I mean what I say, white man," answered Tamas. "She was seen by all
three of us, standing upon the pinnacle at the dawn; also my father
saw and spoke with her alone in his sleep at night. This is the third
time in my father's day that she has appeared thus, and always before
some great event."

"What was she like?" asked Meyer.

"Like? Oh! like the lady who sits yonder. Yes, quite the same, or so
it seemed to us. But who knows? We have seen no other white women, and
we were not very near. Let the lady come and stand side by side with
the Spirit, so that we can examine them both, and we shall be able to
answer better. Do you accept the offer of the Molimo?"

"We will tell you to-morrow morning," replied Meyer. "A hundred rifles
are many to find, and will cost much money. Meanwhile, for you there
is food and a sleeping-place."

The three men seemed disappointed at his answer, which they evidently
believed to be preliminary to a refusal. For a moment or two they
consulted together, then Tamas put his hand into a pouch and drew from
it something wrapped in dry leaves, which he undid, revealing a quaint
and beautiful necklace, fashioned of twisted gold links, wherein were
set white stones, that they had no difficulty in recognising as uncut
diamonds of considerable value. From this necklace also hung a
crucifix moulded in gold.

"We offer this gift," he said, "on behalf of Mambo, my father, to the
lady yonder, to whom the karosses and the rough gold are of no use.
The chain has a story. When the Portuguese lady hurled herself into
the river she wore it about her neck. As she fell into the river she
struck against a little point of rock which tore the chain away from
her--see where it is broken and mended with gold wire. It remained
upon the point of rock, and my forefather took it thence. It is a gift
to the lady if she will promise to wear it."

"Accept it," muttered Mr. Clifford, when he had finished translating
this, "or you will give offence."

So Benita said: "I thank the Molimo, and accept his gift."

Then Tamas rose, and, advancing, cast the ancient, tragic thing over
her head. As it fell upon her shoulders, Benita knew that it was a
chain of destiny drawing her she knew not where, this ornament that
had last been worn by that woman, bereaved and unhappy as herself, who
could find no refuge from her sorrow except in death. Had she felt it
torn from her breast, she wondered, as she, the living Benita of
to-day, felt it fall upon her own?

The three envoys rose, bowed, and went, leaving them alone. Jacob
Meyer lifted his head as though to address her, then changed his mind
and was silent. Both the men waited for her to speak, but she would
not, and in the end it was her father who spoke first.

"What do you say, Benita?" he asked anxiously.

"I? I have nothing to say, except that I have heard a very curious
story. This priest's message is to you and Mr. Meyer, father, and must
be answered by you. What have I to do with it?"

"A great deal, I think, my dear, or so those men seemed to believe. At
any rate, I cannot go up there without you, and I will not take you
there against your wish, for it is a long way off, and a queer
business. The question is, will you go?"

She thought a space, while the two men watched her anxiously.

"Yes," she answered at length, in a quiet voice. "I will go if you
wish to go, not because I want to find treasure, but because the story
and the country where it happened interest me. Indeed, I don't believe
much in the treasure. Even if they are superstitious and afraid to
look for it themselves, I doubt whether they would allow you to look
if they thought it could be found. To me the journey does not seem a
good business speculation, also there are risks."

"We think it good enough," broke in Meyer decidedly. "And one does not
expect to get millions without trouble."

"Yes, yes," said her father; "but she is right--there are risks, great
risks--fever, wild beasts, savages, and others that one cannot
foresee. Have I a right to expose her to them? Ought we not to go

"It would be useless," answered Meyer. "Those messengers have seen
your daughter, and mixed her up with their superstitious story of a
ghost, of which I, who know that there are no such things, believe
nothing. Without her now we shall certainly fail."

"As for the risks, father," said Benita, "personally I take no account
of them, for I am sure that what is to happen will happen, and if I
knew that I was to die upon the Zambesi, it would make no difference
to me who do not care. But as it chances, I think--I cannot tell you
why--that you and Mr. Meyer are in more danger than I am. It is for
you to consider whether you will take the risks."

Mr. Clifford smiled. "I am old," he said; "that is my answer."

"And I am accustomed to such things," said Meyer, with a shrug of his
shoulders. "Who would not run a little danger for the sake of such a
glorious chance? Wealth, wealth, more wealth than we can dream of, and
with it, power--power to avenge, to reward, to buy position, and
pleasure, and all beautiful things which are the heritage of the very
rich alone," and he spread out his hands and looked upwards, as though
in adoration of this golden god.

"Except such trifles as health and happiness," commented Benita, not
without sarcasm, for this man and his material desires disgusted her
somewhat, especially when she contrasted him with another man who was
lost to her, though it was true that /his/ past had been idle and
unproductive enough. Yet they interested her also, for Benita had
never met anyone like Mr. Meyer, so talented, so eager, and so

"Then I understand it is settled?" she said.

Mr. Clifford hesitated, but Meyer answered at once:

"Yes, settled as far as anything can be."

She waited a moment for her father to speak, but he said nothing; his
chance had gone by.

"Very well. Now we shall not need to trouble ourselves with further
doubts or argument. We are going to Bambatse on the Zambesi, a distant
place, to look for buried gold, and I hope, Mr. Meyer, that if you
find it, the results will come up to your expectations, and bring you
all sorts of good luck. Good-night, father dear, good-night."

"My daughter thinks it will bring us ill-luck," said Mr. Clifford,
when the door had closed behind her. "That is her way of saying so."

"Yes," answered Meyer gloomily; "she thinks that, and she is one of
those who have vision. Well, she may be wrong. Also, the question is,
shall we seize our opportunity and its dangers, or remain here and
breed bad horses all our lives, while she who is not afraid laughs at
us? I am going to Bambatse."

Again Mr. Clifford made no direct answer, only asked a question:

"How long will it take to get the guns and ammunition, and what will
they cost?"

"About a week from Wakkerstroom," replied Meyer. "Old Potgieter, the
trader there, has just imported a hundred Martinis and a hundred
Westley-Richards falling-blocks. Fifty of each, with ten thousand
rounds of cartridges, will cost about 600, and we have as much as
that in the bank; also we have the new waggon, and plenty of good oxen
and horses. We can take a dozen of the horses with us, and sell them
in the north of the Transvaal for a fine price, before we get into the
tetsefly belt. The oxen will probably carry us through, as they are
most of them salted."

"You have thought it all out, Jacob, I see; but it means a lot of
money one way and another, to say nothing of other things."

"Yes, a lot of money, and those rifles are too good for Kaffirs.
Birmingham gas-pipes would have done for them, but there are none to
be had. But what is the money, and what are the guns, compared to all
they will bring us?"

"I think you had better ask my daughter, Jacob. She seems to have her
own ideas upon the subject."

"Miss Clifford has made up her mind, and it will not change. I shall
ask her no more," replied Meyer.

Then he, too, left the room, to give orders about the journey to
Wakkerstroom that he must take upon the morrow. But Mr. Clifford sat
there till past midnight, wondering whether he had done right, and if
they would find the treasure of which he had dreamed for years, and
what the future had in store for them.

If only he could have seen!

When Benita came to breakfast the next morning, she asked where Mr.
Meyer was, and learned that he had already departed for Wakkerstroom.

"Certainly he is in earnest," she said with a laugh.

"Yes," answered her father; "Jacob is always in earnest, though,
somehow, his earnestness has not brought him much good so far. If we
fail, it will not be want of thought and preparation on his part."

Nearly a week went by before Meyer returned again, and meanwhile
Benita made ready for her journey. In the intervals of her simple
preparations also she talked a good deal, with the help of her father,
to the three sturdy-looking Makalanga, who were resting thankfully
after their long journey. Their conversation was general, since by
tacit consent no further mention was made of the treasure or of
anything to do with it, but it enabled her to form a fair opinion of
them and their people. She gathered that although they spoke a dialect
of Zulu, they had none of the bravery of the Zulus, and indeed lived
in deadly terror of the Matabele, who are bastard Zulus--such terror,
in fact, that she greatly doubted whether the hundred rifles would be
of much use to them, should they ever be attacked by that tribe.

They were what their fathers had been before them, agriculturists and
workers in metals--not fighting men. Also she set herself to learn
what she could of their tongue, which she did not find difficult, for
Benita had a natural aptitude for languages, and had never forgotten
the Dutch and Zulu she used to prattle as a child, which now came back
to her very fast. Indeed, she could already talk fairly in either of
those languages, especially as she spent her spare hours in studying
their grammar, and reading them.

So the days went on, till one evening Jacob Meyer appeared with two
Scotch carts laden with ten long boxes that looked like coffins, and
other smaller boxes which were very heavy, to say nothing of a
multitude of stores. As Mr. Clifford prophesied, he had forgotten
nothing, for he even brought Benita various articles of clothing, and
a revolver for which she had not asked.

Three days later they trekked away from Rooi Krantz upon a peculiarly
beautiful Sunday morning in the early spring, giving it out that they
were going upon a trading and shooting expedition in the north of the
Transvaal. Benita looked back at the pretty little stead and the
wooded kloof behind it over which she had nearly fallen, and the
placid lake in front of it where the nesting wildfowl wheeled, and
sighed. For to her, now that she was leaving it, the place seemed like
home, and it came into her mind that she would never see it any more.



Nearly four months had gone by when at length the waggon with which
were Mr. Clifford, Benita, and Jacob Meyer camped one night within the
country of the Molimo of Bambatse, whose name was Mambo. Or perhaps
that was his title, since (according to Tamas his son) every chief in
succession was called Mambo, though not all of them were Molimos, or
representatives and prophets of God, or the Great Spirit whom they
knew as Munwali. Thus sometimes the Molimo, or priest of Munwali, and
the Mambo or chief were different persons. For instance, he said that
he, Tamas, would be Mambo on his father's death, but no visions were
given to him; therefore as yet, at any rate, he was not called to be

In the course of this long journey they had met with many adventures,
such as were common to African travellers before the days of
railroads; adventures with wild beasts and native tribes, adventures
with swollen rivers also, and one that was worst, with thirst, since
for three days (owing to the failure of a pit or pan, where they
expected to find water) they were obliged to go without drink. Still,
none of these were very serious, nor had any of the three of them ever
been in better health than they were at this moment, for by good luck
they had escaped all fever. Indeed, their rough, wild life had agreed
with Benita extraordinarily well, so well that any who had known her
in the streets of London would scarcely have recognized her as the
sunburnt, active and well-formed young woman who sat that night by the
camp fire.

All the horses they had brought with them had been sold, except some
which had died, and three that were "salted," or proof against the
deadly horse sickness, which they took on with them. Their own
servants also had been sent back to Rooi Krantz in charge of a Scotch
cart laden with ivory, purchased from Boer hunters who had brought it
down from the north of the Transvaal. Therefore, for this was part of
the bargain, the three Makalanga were now their only attendants who
drove and herded the cattle, while Benita cooked the food which the
two white men shot, or sometimes bought from natives.

For days they had been passing through a country that was practically
deserted, and now, having crossed a high nek, the same on which Robert
Seymour had left his waggon, they were camped in low land which, as
they could see by the remains of walls that appeared everywhere, had
once been extensively enclosed and cultivated. To their right was a
rising mountainous ground, beyond which, said the Makalanga, ran the
Zambesi, and in front of them, not more than ten miles away, a great
isolated hill, none other than that place that they had journeyed so
far to reach, Bambatse, round which flowed the great river. Indeed,
thither one of the three Makalanga, he who was named Hoba, had gone on
to announce their approach.

They had outspanned amongst ruins, most of them circular in shape, and
Benita, studying them in the bright moonlight, guessed that once these
had been houses. That place now so solitary, hundreds or thousands of
years ago was undoubtedly the home of a great population. Thousands,
rather than hundreds, she thought, since close at hand in the middle
of one of these round houses, grew a mighty baobab tree, that could
not have seen less than ten or fifteen centuries since the seed whence
it sprang pierced the cement floor which was still visible about its
giant bole.

Tamas, the Molimo's son, saw her studying these evidences of
antiquity, and, approaching, saluted her.

"Lady," he said in his own language, which by now she spoke very well,
"lady"--and he waved his hand with a fine gesture--"behold the city of
my people."

"How do you know that it was their city?" she asked.

"I do not know, lady. Stones cannot speak, the spirits are silent, and
we have forgotten. Still, I think so, and our fathers have told us
that but six or eight generations ago many folk lived here, though it
was not they who built these walls. Even fifty years ago there were
many, but now the Matabele have killed them, and we are few; to-morrow
you will see how few. Come here and look," and he led her through the
entrance of a square cattle kraal which stood close by. Within were
tufts of rank grass, and a few bushes, and among these scores of
skulls and other bones.

"The Matabele killed these in the time of Moselikatse," he said. "Now
do you wonder that we who remain fear the Matabele, and desire guns to
defend ourselves from them, even if we must sell our secrets, in order
to buy those guns, who have no money to pay for them?"

"No," she answered, looking at the tall, dignified man, into whose
soul the irons of fear and slavery had burnt so deep. "No, I do not

Next morning at daybreak they trekked on, always through these
evidences of dead, forgotten people. They had not more than ten miles
to cover to reach their long journey's end, but the road, if so it
could be called, ran up-hill, and the oxen, whereof only fourteen were
now left to drag the heavy-laden waggon, were thin and footsore, so
that their progress was very slow. Indeed, it was past midday when at
length they began to enter what by apology might be called the town of

"When we go away from this, it will have to be by water, I think,
unless we can buy trek-cattle," said Meyer, looking at the labouring
oxen with a doubtful eye.

"Why?" asked Mr. Clifford anxiously.

"Because several of those beasts have been bitten by tetsefly, like my
horse, and the poison is beginning to work. I thought so last night,
but now I am sure. Look at their eyes. It was down in that bit of bush
veld eight days ago. I said that we ought not to camp there."

At this moment they came to the crest of the ridge, and on its further
side saw the wonderful ruins of Bambatse close at hand. In front of
them stood a hill jutting out, as it were into the broad waters of the
Zambesi river, which, to a great extent, protected it upon three
sides. The fourth, that opposite to them, except at one place where a
kind of natural causeway led into the town, was also defended by
Nature, since here for more than fifty feet in height the granite rock
of the base of the hill rose sheer and unclimbable. On the mount
itself, that in all may have covered eight or ten acres of ground, and
surrounded by a deep donga or ditch, were three rings of
fortifications, set one above the other, mighty walls which, it was
evident, had been built by no modern hand. Looking at them Benita
could well understand how it came about that the poor fugitive
Portuguese had chosen this as their last place of refuge, and were
overcome at length, not by the thousands of savages who followed and
surrounded them, but by hunger. Indeed, the place seemed impregnable
to any force that was not armed with siege guns.

On the hither side of this natural fosse, which, doubtless, in ancient
times had been filled with water led from the Zambesi, stood the
village of the Bambatse Makalanga, a collection of seventy or eighty
wretched huts, round, like those of their forefathers, but built of
mud and thatch. About them lay the gardens, or square fields, that
were well cultivated, and at this season rich with ripening corn.
Benita, however, could see no cattle, and concluded, therefore, that
these must be kept on the hill for safety, and within its walls.

Down the rough road they lumbered, and through the village, where the
few women and children stared at them in a frightened way. Then they
came to the causeway, which, on its further side, was blocked with
thorns and rough stones taken from the ruins. While they waited for
these to be removed by some men who now appeared, Benita looked at the
massive, circular wall still thirty or forty feet in height, by
perhaps twenty through its base, built of granite blocks without
mortar, and ornamented with quaint patterns of other coloured stones.
In its thickness she could see grooves, where evidently had once been
portcullises, but these had disappeared long ago.

"It is a wonderful place," she said to her father. "I am glad that I
came. Have you been all over it?"

"No; only between the first and second walls, and once between the
second and third. The old temple, or whatever it is, is on the top,
and into that they would never admit us. It is there that the treasure

"That the treasure is supposed to lie," she answered with a smile.
"But, Father, what guarantee have you that they will do so now?
Perhaps they will take the guns and show us the door--or rather the

"Your daughter is right, there is none; and before a box is taken off
the waggon we must get one," said Meyer. "Oh! I know it is risky, and
it would have been better to make sure first, but it is too late to
talk of that now. Look, the stones are cleared. Trek on--trek!"

The long waggon-whip cracked, the poor, tired-out oxen strained at the
yokes, and on they went through the entrance of that fateful fortress
that was but just wide enough to admit them. Inside lay a great open
space, which, as they could see from the numerous ruins, had once been
filled with buildings that now were half hidden by grass, trees, and
creepers. This was the outer ring of the temple where, in ancient
days, the priests and captains had their home. Travelling across it
for perhaps a hundred and fifty yards, they came near the second wall,
which was like the first, only not quite so solid, and saw that on a
stretch of beaten ground, and seated in the shadow, for the day was
hot, the people of Bambatse were gathered to greet them.

When within fifty yards they dismounted from the horses, which were
left with the waggon in the charge of the Makalanga, Tamala. Then
Benita taking her position between her father and Jacob Meyer, they
advanced towards the ring of natives, of whom there may have been two
hundred--all of them adult men.

As they came, except one figure who remained seated with his back
against the wall, the human circle stood up as a token of respect, and
Benita saw that they were of the same stamp as the messengers--tall
and good-looking, with melancholy eyes and a cowed expression, wearing
the appearance of people who from day to day live in dread of slavery
and death. Opposite to them was a break in the circle, through which
Tamas led them, and as they crossed it Benita felt that all those
people were staring at her with their sad eyes. A few paces from where
the man crouched against the wall, his head hidden by a beautifully
worked blanket that was thrown over it, were placed three well-carved
stools. Upon these, at a motion from Tamas, they sat themselves down,
and, as it was not dignified for them to speak first, remained silent.

"Be patient and forgive," said Tamas at length. "My father, Mambo,
prays to the Munwali and the spirits of his fathers that this coming
of yours may be fortunate, and that a vision of those things that are
to be may descend upon him."

Benita, feeling nearly two hundred pairs of eyes concentrated upon
her, wished that the vision might come quickly, but after a minute or
two fell into tune with the thing, and almost enjoyed this strange
experience. Those mighty ancient walls built by hands unknown, which
had seen so much history and so much death; the silent, triple ring of
patient, solemn men, the last descendants of a cultured race, the
crouching figure hidden beneath the blanket, who imagined himself to
be communicating with his god--it was all very strange, very well
worth the seeing to one who had wearied of the monotony of

Look, the man stirred, and threw back his blanket, revealing a head
white with age, a spiritual, ascetic face, so thin that every bone
showed in it, and dark eyes which stared upwards unseeingly, like
those of a person in a trance. Thrice he sighed, while his tribesmen
watched him. Then he let his eyes fall upon the three white people
seated in front of him. First he looked at Mr. Clifford, and his face
grew troubled; then at Jacob Meyer, and it was anxious and alarmed.
Lastly, he stared at Benita, and while he did so the dark eyes became
calm and happy.

"White maiden," he said in a soft, low voice, "for you, at least, I
have good tidings. Though Death come near to you, though you see him
on your right hand and your left, and in front of you and behind you,
I say, fear not. Here you, who have known deep sorrow, shall find
happiness and rest, O maiden, with whom goes the spirit of one pure
and fair as you, who died so long ago."

Then, while Benita wondered at his words, spoken with such sweet
earnestness that although she believed nothing of them, they brought a
kind of comfort to her, he looked once more at her father and Jacob
Meyer, and, as it were with an effort, was silent.

"Have you no pleasant prophecy for me, old friend," said Jacob, "who
have come so far to hear it?"

At once the aged face grew inscrutable, all expression vanished behind
a hundred wrinkles, and he answered:

"None, white man--none that I am charged to deliver. Search the skies
for yourself, you who are so wise, and read them if you can. Lords,"
he went on in another voice, "I greet you in the name and presence of
my children. Son Tamas, I greet you also; you have done your mission
well. Listen, now--you are weary and would rest and eat; still, bear
with me, for I have a word to say. Look around you. You see all my
tribe, not twenty times ten above the age of boys, we who once were
countless as the leaves on yonder trees in spring. Why are we dead?
Because of the Amandabele, those fierce dogs whom, two generations
ago, Moselikatse, the general of Chaka, brought up to the south of us,
who ravish us and kill us year by year.

"We are not warlike, we who have outlived war and the lust of slaying.
We are men of peace, who desire to cultivate the land, and to follow
our arts which have descended to us from our ancestors, and to worship
the Heavens above us, whither we depart to join the spirits of our
forefathers. But they are fierce and strong and savage, and they come
up and murder our children and old people, and take away the young
women and the maidens to be slaves, and with them all our cattle.
Where are our cattle? Lobengula, chief of the Amandabele, has them;
scarce a cow is left to give milk to the sick or to the motherless
babe. And yet he sends for cattle. Tribute, say his messengers,
deliver tribute, or my impi will come and take it with your lives. But
we have no cattle--all are gone. We have nothing left to us but this
ancient mountain and the works built thereon, and a little corn on
which we live. Yes, I say it--I, the Molimo--I whose ancestors were
great kings--I who have still more wisdom in me than all the hosts of
the Amandabele," and as he spoke the old man's grey head sank upon his
breast and the tears ran down his withered cheeks, while his people

"Mambo, it is true."

"Now listen again," he went on. "Lobengula threatens us, therefore I
sent to these white men who were here before, saying that if they
would bring me a hundred guns, and powder and ball, to enable us to
beat off the Amandabele from behind these strong walls of ours, I
would take them into the secret holy place where for six generations
no white man has set a foot, and there suffer them to search for the
treasure which is hid therein, no man knows where, that treasure which
they asked leave to find four winters gone. We refused it then and
drove them hence, because of the curse laid upon us by the white maid
who died, the last of the Portuguese, who foretold her people's fate
for us if we gave up the buried gold save to one appointed. My
children, the Spirit of Bambatse has visited me; I have seen her and
others have seen her, and in my sleep she said to me: 'Suffer the men
to come and search, for with them is one of the blood to whom my
people's wealth is given; and great is your danger, for many spears
draw nigh.' My children, I sent my son and other messengers on a far
journey to where I knew the men dwelt, and they have returned after
many months bringing those men with them, bringing with them also
another of whom I knew nothing--yes, her who is appointed, her of whom
the Spirit spoke."

Then he lifted his withered hand and held it towards Benita, saying:
"I tell you that yonder she sits for whom the generations have

"It is so," answered the Makalanga. "It is the White Lady come again
to take her own."

"Friends," asked the Molimo, while they wondered at his strange
speech, "tell me, have you brought the guns?"

"Surely," answered Mr. Clifford, "they are there in the waggon, every
one of them, the best that can be made, and with them ten thousand
cartridges, bought at a great cost. We have fulfilled our share of the
bargain; now will you fulfil yours, or shall we go away again with the
guns and leave you to meet the Matabele with your assegais?"

"Say you the agreement while we listen," answered the Molimo.

"Good," said Mr. Clifford. "It is this: That you shall find us food
and shelter while we are with you. That you shall lead us into the
secret place at the head of the hill, where the Portuguese died, and
the gold is hidden. That you shall allow us to search for that gold
when and where we will. That if we discover the gold, or anything else
of value to us, you shall suffer us to take it away, and assist us
upon our journey, either by giving us boats and manning them to travel
down the Zambesi, or in whatever fashion may be most easy. That you
shall permit none to hurt, molest, or annoy us during our sojourn
among you. Is that our contract?"

"Not quite all of it," said the Molimo. "There is this to add: first
that you shall teach us how to use the guns; secondly, that you shall
search for and find the treasure, if so it is appointed, without our
help, since in this matter it is not lawful for us to meddle; thirdly,
that if the Amandabele should chance to attack us while you are here,
you shall do your best to assist us against their power."

"Do you, then, expect attack?" asked Meyer suspiciously.

"White man, we always expect attack. Is it a bargain?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Clifford and Jacob Meyer in one voice, the latter
adding: "the guns and the cartridges are yours. Lead us now to the
hidden place. We have fulfilled our part; we trust to the honour of
you and all your people to fulfil yours."

"White Maiden," asked the Molimo, addressing Benita, "do you also say
that it is a bargain?"

"What my father says, I say."

"Good," said the Molimo. "Then, in the presence of my people, and in
the name of the Munwali, I, Mambo, who am his prophet, declare that it
is so agreed between us, and may the vengeance of the heavens fall
upon those who break our pact! Let the oxen of the white men be
outspanned, their horses fed, their waggon unloaded, that we may count
the guns. Let food be brought into the guest-house also, and after
they have eaten, I, who alone of all of you have ever entered it, will
lead them to the holy place, that there they may begin to search for
that which the white men desire from age to age--to find it if they
can; if not, to depart satisfied and at peace."



Mr. Clifford and Meyer rose to return to the waggon in order to
superintend the unyoking of the oxen and to give directions as to
their herding, and the off-saddling of the horses. Benita rose also,
wondering when the food that had been promised would be ready, for she
was hungry. Meanwhile, the Molimo was greeting his son Tamas, patting
his hand affectionately and talking to him, when suddenly Benita, who
watched this domestic scene with interest, heard a commotion behind
her. Turning to discover its cause, she perceived three great man clad
in full war panoply, shields on their left arms, spears in their right
hands, black ostrich plumes rising from the polished rings woven in
their hair, black moochas about their middles, and black oxtails tied
beneath their knees, who marched through the throng of Makalanga as
though they saw them not.

"The Matabele! The Matabele are on us!" cried a voice; while other
voices shouted, "Fly to your walls!" and yet others, "Kill them! They
are few."

But the three men marched on unheeding till they stood before Mambo.

"Who are you, and what do you seek?" the old man asked boldly, though
the fear that had taken hold of him at the sight of these strangers
was evident enough, for his whole body shook.

"Surely you should know, chief of Bambatse," answered their spokesman
with a laugh, "for you have seen the like of us before. We are the
children of Lobengula, the Great Elephant, the King, the Black Bull,
the Father of the Amandabele, and we have a message for your ear,
little Old Man, which, finding that you leave your gate open, we have
walked in to deliver."

"Speak your message then, envoys of Lobengula, in my ear and in those
of my people," said the Molimo.

"Your people! Are these all your people?" the spokesman replied
contemptuously. "Why then, what need was there for the indunas of the
King to send so large an impi under a great general against you, when
a company of lads armed with sticks would have served the turn? We
thought that these were but the sons of your house, the men of your
own family, whom you had called together to eat with the white

"Close the entrance in the wall," cried the Molimo, stung to fury by
the insult; and a voice answered:

"Father, it is already done."

But the Matabele, who should have been frightened, only laughed again,
and their spokesman said:

"See, my brothers, he thinks to trap us who are but three. Well, kill
on, Old Wizard, if you will, but know that if a hand is lifted, this
spear of mine goes through your heart, and that the children of
Lobengula die hard. Know also that then the impi which waits not far
away will destroy you every one, man and woman, youth and maiden,
little ones who hold the hand and infants at the breast; none shall be
left--none at all, to say, 'Here once lived the cowardly Makalanga of
Bambatse.' Nay, be not foolish, but talk softly with us, so that
perhaps we may spare your lives."

Then the three men placed themselves back to back, in such fashion
that they faced every way, and could not be smitten down from behind,
and waited.

"I do not kill envoys," said the Molimo, "but if they are foul-
mouthed, I throw them out of my walls. Your message, men of the

"I hear you. Hearken now to the word of Lobengula."

Then the envoy began to speak, using the pronoun I as though it were
the Matabele king himself who spoke to his vassal, the Makalanga
chief: "I sent to you last year, you slave, who dare to call yourself
Mambo of the Makalanga, demanding a tribute of cattle and women, and
warning you that if they did not come, I would take them. They did not
come, but that time I spared you. Now I send again. Hand over to my
messengers fifty cows and fifty oxen, with herds to drive them, and
twelve maidens to be approved by them, or I wipe you out, who have
troubled the earth too long, and that before another moon has waned.

"Those are the words of Lobengula," he concluded, and taking the horn
snuff-box from the slit in his ear, helped himself, then insolently
passed it to the Molimo.

So great was the old chief's rage that, forgetting his self-control,
he struck the box from the hand of his tormentor to the ground, where
the snuff lay spilled.

"Just so shall the blood of your people be spilled through your rash
foolishness," said the messenger calmly, as he picked up the box, and
as much of the snuff as he could save.

"Hearken," said the Molimo, in a thin, trembling voice. "Your king
demands cattle, knowing that all the cattle are gone, that scarce a
cow is left to give drink to a motherless babe. He asks for maidens
also, but if he took those he seeks we should have none left for our
young men to marry. And why is this so? It is because the vulture,
Lobengula, has picked us to the bone; yes, while we are yet alive he
has torn the flesh from us. Year by year his soldiers have stolen and
killed, till at last nothing is left of us. And now he seeks what we
have not got to give, in order that he may force a quarrel upon us and
murder us. There is nought left for us to give Lobengula. You have
your answer."

"Indeed!" replied the envoy with a sneer. "How comes it, then, that
yonder I see a waggon laden with goods, and oxen in the yokes? Yes,"
he repeated with meaning, "with goods whereof we have known the like
at Buluwayo; for Lobengula also sometimes buys guns from white men, O!
little Makalanga. Come now, give us the waggon with its load and the
oxen and the horses, and though it be but a small gift, we will take
it away and ask nothing more this year."

"How can I give you the property of my guests, the white men?" asked
the Molimo. "Get you gone, and do your worst, or you shall be thrown
from the walls of the fortress."

"Good, but know that very soon we shall return and make an end of you,
who are tired of these long and troublesome journeys to gather so
little. Go, tend your corn, dwellers in Bambatse, for this I swear in
the name of Lobengula, never shall you see it ripen more."

Now the crowd of listening Makalanga trembled at his words, but in the
old Molimo they seemed only to rouse a storm of prophetic fury. For a
moment he stood staring up at the blue sky, his arms outstretched as
though in prayer. Then he spoke in a new voice--a clear, quiet voice,
that did not seem to be his own.

"Who am I?" he said. "I am the Molimo of the Bambatse Makalanga; I am
the ladder between them and Heaven; I sit on the topmost bough of the
tree under which they shelter, and there in the crest of the tree
Munwali speaks with me. What to you are winds, to me are voices
whispering in my spirit's ears. Once my forefathers were great kings,
they were Mambos of all the land, and that is still my name and
dignity. We lived in peace; we laboured, we did wrong to no man. Then
you Zulu savages came upon us from the south-east and your path was
red with blood. Year after year you robbed and you destroyed; you
raided our cattle, you murdered our men, you took our maidens and our
children to be your women and your slaves, until at length, of all
this pit filled with the corn of life, there is left but a little
handful. And this you say you will eat up also, lest it should fall
into good ground and grow again. I tell you that I think it will not
be so; but whether or no that happens, I have words for the ear of
your king--a message for a message. Say to him that thus speaks the
wise old Molimo of Bambatse.

"I see him hunted like a wounded hyena through the rivers, in the deep
bush, and over the mountain. I see him die in pain and misery; but his
grave I see not, for no man shall know it. I see the white man take
his land and all his wealth; yea, to them and to no son of his shall
his people give the Bayte, the royal salute. Of his greatness and his
power, this alone shall remain to him--a name accursed from generation
to generation. And last of all I see peace upon the land and upon my
children's children." He paused, then added: "For you, cruel dog that
you are, this message also from the Munwali, by the lips of his
Molimo. I lift no hand against you, but you shall not live to look
again upon your king's face. Begone now, and do your worst."

For a moment the three Matabele seemed to be frightened, and Benita
heard one of them say to his companions:

"The Wizard has bewitched us! He has bewitched the Great Elephant and
all his people! Shall we kill him?"

But quickly shaking off his fears their spokesman laughed, and

"So that is what you have brought the white people here for, old
traitor--to plot against the throne of Lobengula."

He wheeled round and stared at Mr. Clifford and Jacob Meyer; then

"Good, Grey-beard and Black-Beard: I myself will put you both to such
a death as you have never heard of, and as for the girl, since she is
well favoured, she shall brew the king's beer, and be numbered amongst
the king's wives--unless, indeed, he is pleased to give her to me."

In an instant the thing was done! At the man's words about Benita,
Meyer, who had been listening to his threats and bombast unconcerned,
suddenly seemed to awake. His dark eyes flashed, his pale face turned
cruel. Snatching the revolver from his belt he seemed to point and
fire it with one movement, and down--dead or dying--went the Matabele.

Men did not stir, they only stared. Accustomed as they were to death
in that wild land, the suddenness of this deed surprised them. The
contrast between the splendid, brutal savage who had stood before them
a moment ago, and the limp, black thing going to sleep upon the
ground, was strange enough to move their imaginations. There he lay,
and there, over him, the smoking pistol in his hand, Meyer stood and

Benita felt that the act was just, and the awful punishment deserved.
Yet that laugh of Jacob's jarred upon her, for in it she thought she
heard the man's heart speaking; and oh, its voice was merciless!
Surely Justice should not laugh when her sword falls!

"Behold, now," said the Molimo in his still voice, pointing at the
dead Matabele with his finger; "do I speak lies, or is it true that
this man shall not look more upon his king's face? Well, as it was
with the servant, so it shall be with the lord, only more slowly. It
is the decree of the Munwali, spoken by the voice of his Mouth, the
Molimo of Bambatse. Go, children of Lobengula, and bear with you as an
offering this first-fruit of the harvest that the white men shall reap
among the warriors of his people."

The thin voice died away, and there was silence so intense that Benita
thought she heard the scraping of the feet of a green lizard which
crept across a stone a yard or two away.

Then of a sudden it ended. Of a sudden the two remaining Matabele
turned and fled for their lives, and as, when dogs run, a flock of
sheep will wheel about and pursue them, so did the Makalanga. They
grabbed at the messengers with their hands, tearing their finery from
them; they struck them with sticks, they pounded them with stones,
till at length two bruised and bleeding men, finding all escape cut
off, and led perhaps by some instinct, staggered back to where Benita
stood horrified at this dreadful scene, and throwing themselves upon
the ground, clutched at her dress and prayed for mercy.

"Move a little, Miss Clifford," said Meyer. "Three of those brutes
will not weigh heavier than one upon my conscience."

"No, no, you shall not," she answered. "Mambo, these men are
messengers; spare them."

"Hearken to the voice of pity," said the old prophet, "spoken in a
place where pity never was, and not in vain. Let them go. Give mercy
to the merciless, for she buys their lives with a prayer."

"They will bring the others on us," muttered Tamas, and even old Mr.
Clifford shook his head sadly. But the Molimo only said:

"I have spoken. Let them go. That which will befall must befall, and
from this deed no ill shall come that would not have come otherwise."

"You hear? Depart swiftly," said Benita, in Zulu.

With difficulty the two men dragged themselves to their feet, and
supporting each other, stood before her. One of them, a clever,
powerful-faced man, whose black hair was tinged with grey, addressing
himself to Benita, gasped:

"Hear me. That fool there," and he pointed to his dead companion,
"whose boasting brought his death upon him, was but a low fellow. I,
who kept silence and let him talk, am Maduna, a prince of the royal
house who justly deserve to die because I turned my back upon these
dogs. Yet I and my brother here take life at your hands, Lady, who,
now that I have had time to think, would refuse it at theirs. For,
whether I stay or go does not matter. The impi waits; the slayers are
beneath the walls. Those things which are decreed will happen; there,
yonder old Wizard speaks true. Listen, Lady: should it chance that you
have cause to demand two lives at the hands of Maduna, in his own name
and the name of his king he promises them to you. In safety shall they
pass, they and all that is theirs, without toll taken. Remember the
oath of Maduna, Lady, in the hour of your need, and do you, my
brother, bear witness to it among our people."

Then, straightening themselves as well as they were able, these two
sorely hurt men lifted their right arms and gave Benita the salute due
to a chieftainess. This done, taking no note of any other creature
there, they limped away to the gate that had been opened for them, and
vanished beyond the wall.

All this while Meyer had stood silent; now he spoke with a bitter

"Charity, Miss Clifford, said a certain Paul, as reported in your New
Testament, covers a multitude of sins. I hope very much that it will
serve to cover our remains from the aasvogels, after we have met our
deaths in some such fashion as that brute promised us," and he pointed
to the dead man.

Benita looked at her father in question.

"Mr. Meyer means, my dear, that you have done a foolish thing in
begging the lives of those Matabele. It would have been safer for us
if they were dead, who, as it is, have gone off burning for revenge.
Of course, I understand it was natural enough, but----" and he
hesitated and stopped.

"The chief did not say so," broke in Benita with agitation; "besides,
if he had, I should not have cared. It was bad enough to see one man
killed like that," and she shivered; "I could not bear any more."

"You should not be angry at the fellow's death, seeing that it was
what he said of you which brought it upon him," Meyer replied with
meaning. "Otherwise he might have gone unharmed as far as I was
concerned. For the rest, I did not interfere because I saw it was
useless; also I am a fatalist like our friend, the Molimo, and believe
in what is decreed. The truth is," he added sharply, "among savages
ladies are not in place."

"Why did you not say that down at Rooi Krantz, Jacob?" asked Mr.
Clifford. "You know I thought so all the while, but somehow I was
over-ruled. Now what I suggest is, that we had better get out of this
place as fast as we can--instantly, as soon as we have eaten, before
our retreat is cut off."

Meyer looked at the oxen which had been outspanned: nine were
wandering about picking up what food they could, but the five which
were supposed to have been bitten by tetsefly had lain down.

"Nine worn-out and footsore oxen will not draw the waggon," he said;
"also in all probability the place is already surrounded by Matabele,
who merely let us in to be sure of the guns which their spies must
have told them we were carrying. Lastly, having spent so much and come
so far, I do not mean to go without what we seek. Still, if you think
that your daughter's danger is greater within these walls than outside
of them, you might try, if we can hire servants, which I doubt. Or
possibly, if any rowers are to be had, you could go down the Zambesi
in a canoe, risking the fever. You and she must settle it, Clifford."

"Difficulties and dangers every way one looks. Benita, what do you
say?" asked her father distractedly.

Benita thought a moment. She wished to escape from Mr. Meyer, of whom
she was weary and afraid, and would have endured much to do so. On the
other hand, her father was tired out, and needed rest; also to turn
his back upon this venture now would have been a bitter blow to him.
Moreover, lacking cattle and men, how was it to be done? Lastly,
something within her, that same voice which had bidden her to come,
seemed to bid her to stay. Very soon she had made up her mind.

"Father, dear," she said, "thank you for thinking of me, but as far as
I can see, we should run more risks trying to get away than we do in
stopping here. I wanted to come, though you warned me against it, and
now I must take my chance and trust to God to bring us safe through
all dangers. Surely with all those rifles the Makalanga ought to be
able to hold such a place as this against the Matabele."

"I hope so," answered her father; "but they are a timid folk. Still,
though it would have been far better never to have come, I think with
you that it is best to stay where we are, and trust to God."



If our adventurers, or any of them, hoped that they were going to be
led to the secret places of the fortress that day, they were destined
to disappointment. Indeed, the remainder of it was employed arduously
enough in unpacking rifles, and a supply of ammunition; also in giving
to a few of the leading Makalanga preliminary lessons in the method of
their use, a matter as to which their ideas were of the vaguest. The
rest of the tribe, having brought their women and children into the
outer enclosure of the ancient stronghold, and with them their sheep
and goats and the few cattle which remained to them, were employed in
building up the entrance permanently with stones, a zigzag secret path
upon the river side, that could be stopped in a few minutes, being now
their only method of ingress and egress through the thickness of the
walls. A certain number of men were also sent out as spies to
discover, if possible, the whereabouts of the Matabele impi.

That there was some impi they were almost sure, for a woman who had
followed them reported that the injured captain, Maduna, and his
companion had been met at a distance of about three miles from
Bambatse by a small party of Matabele, who were hiding in some bushes,
and that these men had made litters for them, and carried them away;
whither she did not know, for she had not dared to pursue them

That night Benita passed in the guesthouse, which was only a hut
rather larger than the others, while the two men slept in the waggon
just outside. She was so tired that for a long while she could not
rest. Her mind kept flying back to all the events of the day: the
strange words of that mystic old Molimo, concerning herself; the
arrival of the brutal messengers and the indaba that followed; then
the sudden and awful destruction of their spokesman at the hand of
Jacob Meyer. The scene would not leave her eyes, she saw it again and
yet again: the quick transformation of Meyer's indifferent face when
the soldier began to insult and threaten her, the lightning-like
movement of his hand, the flash, the report, the change from life to
death, and the slayer's cruel laugh. He could be very terrible, Jacob
Meyer, when his passions were roused!

And what had roused them then? She could not doubt that it was herself
--not mere chivalry towards a woman. Even if he were capable of
chivalry, merely for that he would never have taken such risk of
future trouble and revenge. No; it was something deeper. He had never
said anything or done anything, yet long ago instinct or insight had
caused Benita to suspect the workings of his mind, and now she was
sure of them. The thought was terrible--worse than all her other
dangers put together. True, she had her father to rely on, but he had
been somewhat ailing of late; age and these arduous journeys and
anxieties had told upon him. Supposing that anything were to happen to
him--if he died, for instance, how dreadful her position might become,
left alone far from the reach of help, with savages--and Jacob Meyer.

Oh! if it had not been for that dreadful shipwreck, how different
might be her lot to-day! Well, it was the thought of the shipwreck and
of him whom she had lost therein, which had driven her on to this
adventure, that in it perhaps her suffering mind might be numbed to
rest; and now she must face its issues. God still remained above her,
and she would put her trust in Him. After all, if she died, what did
it matter?

But that old Molimo had promised her that she was safe from death,
that she should find here happiness and rest, though not that of the
grave. He promised this, speaking as one who knew of all her grief,
and a very little while afterwards, in the case of the Matabele
soldier, he had proved himself a prophet of awful power. Also--she
knew not how, she knew not why--now, as before, her inmost heart
seemed to bear witness that this old dreamer's words were true, and
that for her, in some strange manner unforeseen, there still remained
a rest.

Comforted a little by this intuition, at length Benita fell asleep.

Next morning, when she came out of the hut, Benita was met by her
father, who with a cheerful countenance informed her that at any rate
as yet there was no sign of the Matabele. A few hours later, too, some
spies came in who said that for miles round nothing could be seen or
heard of them. Still the preparations for defence went on, and the
hundred best men having been furnished with the rifles, were being
drilled in the use of them by Tamas and his two companions, Tamala and
Hoba, who had learned how to handle a gun very well in the course of
their long journey. The shooting of these raw recruits, however,
proved to be execrable; indeed, so dangerous were they that when one
of them fired at a mark set upon the wall, it was found necessary to
order all the rest to lie down. As it was, a poor trek ox--luckily it
was sick--and two sheep were killed.

Foreseeing a scarcity of provisions in the event of a siege, Meyer,
provident as ever, had already decreed the death of the tetse-bitten
cattle. These were accordingly despatched, and having been skinned and
cut up, their flesh was severed into long strips to be dried in the
burning sun as biltong, which secretly Benita hoped she might never be
called upon to eat. Yet the time was to come when she would swallow
that hard, tetse-poisoned flesh with thankfulness.

At midday, after they had eaten, Mr. Clifford and Meyer went to the
Molimo, where he sat against the second wall, and, pointing to the men
with the guns, said:

"We have fulfilled our bargain. Now fulfil yours. Lead us to the holy
place that we may begin our search."

"So be it," he answered. "Follow me, white people."

Then, quite unattended, he guided them round the inner wall till they
came to a path of rock not more than a yard wide, beneath which was a
precipice fifty feet or so in depth that almost overhung the river.
This giddy path they followed for about twenty paces, to find that it
ended in a cleft in the wall so narrow that only one person could walk
through it at a time. That it must have been the approach to the
second stronghold was evident, however, since it was faced on either
side with dressed stones, and even the foundation granite had been
worn by the human feet which had passed here for ages upon ages. This
path zigzagged to and fro in the thickness of the wall till it brought
them finally within its circle, a broad belt of steeply-rising ground,
covered like that below with the tumbled ruins of buildings amidst
which grew bush and trees.

"Heaven send that the gold is not buried here," said Mr. Clifford,
surveying the scene; "for if it is, we shall never find it."

The Molimo seemed to guess the meaning of his words from his face, for
he answered:

"I think not here. The besiegers won this place and camped in it for
many weeks. I could show you were they built their fires and tried to
undermine the last wall within which the Portuguese sat about until
hunger killed them, for they could not eat their gold. Follow me

So on they went up the slope till they came to the base of the third
wall, and as before, passed round it, and reached a point above the
river. But now there was no passage, only some shallow and almost
precipitous steps cut from single stones leading from the foot of the
wall to its summit, more than thirty feet above.

"Really," said Benita, contemplating this perilous ascent with dismay,
"the ways of treasure seekers are hard. I don't think I can," while
her father also looked at them and shook his head.

"We must get a rope," said Meyer to the Molimo angrily. "How can we
climb that place without one, with such a gulf below?"

"I am old, but I climb it," said the aged man in mild surprise, since
to him, who had trodden it all his life, it seemed not difficult.
"Still," he added, "I have a rope above which I use upon dark nights.
I will ascend and let it down."

Ascend he did accordingly; indeed, it was a wondrous sight to see his
withered legs scrambling from step to step as unconcernedly as though
he were going upstairs. No monkey could have been more agile, or more
absolutely impervious to the effects of height. Soon he vanished in--
or, rather, through--the crest of the wall, and presently appeared
again on the top step, whence he let down a stout hide rope, remarking
that it was securely tied. So anxious was Meyer to enter the hidden
place of which he had dreamed so long that he scarcely waited for it
to reach his hand before he began the climb, which he accomplished
safely. Then, sitting on the top of the wall, he directed Mr. Clifford
to fasten the end of the rope round Benita's waist, and her turn came.

It was not so bad as she expected, for she was agile, and the
knowledge that the rope would prevent disaster gave her confidence. In
a very little while she had grasped Meyer's outstretched hand, and
been drawn into safety through a kind of aperture above the top step.
Then the rope was let down again for her father, who tied it about his
middle. Well was it that he did so, since when he was about half-way
up, awkwardness, or perhaps loss of nerve--neither of them wonderful
in an old man--caused his foot to slip, and had it not been for the
rope which Meyer and the Molimo held, he would certainly have fallen
into the river some hundreds of feet below. As it was, he recovered
himself, and presently arrived panting and very pale. In her relief
Benita kissed him, and even as she did so thought again that she had
been very near to being left alone with Jacob Meyer.

"All's well that ends well, my dear," he said. "But upon my word I am
beginning to wish that I had been content with the humble profits of

Benita made no answer; it seemed too late for any useful consideration
of the point.

"Clever men, those ancients," said Meyer. "See," and he pointed out to
her how, by drawing a heavy stone which still lay close by over the
aperture through which they had crept, the ascent of the wall could be
made absolutely impossible to any enemy, since at its crest it was
battened outwards, not inwards, as is usual in these ancient ruins.

"Yes," she answered, "we ought to feel safe enough inside here, and
that's as well since I do not feel inclined to go out again at

Then they paused to look about them, and this was what they saw:

The wall, built like those below, of unmortared blocks of stone,
remained in a wonderfully good state of preservation, for its only
enemies had been time, the tropical rains, and the growth of shrubs
and trees which here and there had cracked and displaced the stones.
It enclosed all the top of the hill, perhaps three acres of ground,
and on it at intervals were planted soap-stone pillars, each of them
about twelve feet in height, and fashioned at the top to a rude
resemblance of a vulture. Many of these columns, however had been
blown down, or perhaps struck by lightning, and lay broken upon the
wall, or if they had fallen inward, at its foot; but some, six or
eight perhaps, were still standing.

Benita learned afterwards that they must have been placed there by the
ancient Phnicians, or whatever people constructed this gigantic
fortification, and had something to do with the exact recordings of
the different seasons of the year, and their sub-divisions, by means
of the shadows which they cast. As yet, however, she did not pay much
attention to them, for she was engaged in considering a more
remarkable relic of antiquity which stood upon the very verge of the
precipice, the wall, indeed, being built up to its base on either

It was the great cone of which Richard Seymour had told her, fifty
feet high or more, such as once was found in the Phnician temples.
But in this case it was not built of masonry, but shaped by the hand
of man out of a single gigantic granite monolith of the sort that are
sometimes to be met with in Africa, that thousands or millions of
years ago had been left standing thus when the softer rock around it
was worn away by time and weather. On the inner side of this cone were
easy steps whereby it could be ascended, and its top, which might have
been six feet in diameter, was fashioned in the shape of a cup,
probably for the purposes of acts of worship and of sacrifice. This
extraordinary monument, which, except on the river side, could not be
seen from below on account of the slope of the hill, leaned slightly
outwards, so that a stone dropped from its crest would fall into the
waters of the stream.

"Thence it was," said the Molimo, "that my forefathers saw the last of
the Portuguese, the fair daughter of the great Captain Ferreira, hurl
herself to death after she had given the gold into our keeping, and
laid the curse upon it, until she came again. So in my dreams have I
seen and heard her also, ay, and others have seen her, but these only
from by the river far below."

He paused awhile, looking at Benita with his queer, dreamy eyes; then
said suddenly:

"Say, Lady, do you remember nothing of that matter?"

Now Benita grew vexed, for the whole thing was uncanny and jarred upon

"How can I remember," she asked, "who was born not five and twenty
years ago?"

"I do not know," he answered. "How should I know, who am but an
ignorant old black man, who was born not much more than eighty years
ago? Yet, Lady, tell me, for I seek your wisdom, where were you born
from? Out of the earth, or out of the heavens? What? You shake your
head, you who do not remember? Well, neither do I remember. Yet it is
true that all circles meet somewhere, and it is true that the
Portuguese maiden said she would come again; and lastly it is true
that she was such an one as you are, for she haunts this place, and I,
who have seen her sitting yonder in the moonlight, know her beauty
well. Yet mayhap she comes no more in flesh, but still her spirit
comes; for, Lady, out of those eyes of yours I see it gaze at me.
Come," he added abruptly, "let us descend the wall, for as you cannot
remember, there is more to show you. Have no fear--the steps are

So they went down without much difficulty, since, from the
accumulation of rubbish and other causes, the wall was a great deal
lower on this side, and found themselves in the usual dense growth of
vegetation and brushwood through which ran a little path. It led them
past the ruins of buildings whereof the use and purpose were long
since forgotten, for their roofs had fallen in hundreds or thousands
of years ago, to the entrance of a cave which was placed almost at the
foot of the monolithic cone, but thirty or forty yards further from
the circle of the wall. Here the Molimo bade them stay while he lit
the lamps within. Five minutes passed and he returned, saying that all
was ready.

"Be not afraid of what you may see," he added, "for know, white
people, that save my forefathers and myself, none have entered this
place since the Portuguese perished here, nor have we, who do but come
hither to pray and receive the word of the Munwali, ever ventured to
disturb it. As it was, so it is. Come, Lady, come; she whose spirit
goes with you was the last of your white race to pass this door. It is
therefore fitting that your feet and her spirit should be the first to
enter it again."

Benita hung back a little, for the adventure was eerie, then,
determined that she would show no fear in the presence of this old
priest, took the thin hand he stretched out to her, and walked forward
with head erect. The two men began to follow her, but the Molimo
stopped them, saying:

"Not so. The maiden enters first alone with me; it is her house, and
should it please her to ask you to dwell therein, so be it. But first
she must visit her house alone."

"Nonsense," said Mr. Clifford angrily. "I will not have it. It will
frighten her."

"Lady, do you trust me?" asked the Molimo.

"Yes," she answered; adding, "Father, I think you had better let me go
alone. I am not afraid now, and it may be wisest not to thwart him.
This is a very strange business--not like anything else--and really I
think that I had better go alone. If I do not come back presently, you
can follow."

"Those who break in upon the sleep of the dead should walk gently,
gently," piped the old Molimo in a sing-song voice. "The maiden's
breath is pure; the maiden's foot is light; her breath will not offend
the dead; her step will not disturb the dead. White men, white men,
anger not the dead, for the dead are mighty, and will be revenged upon
you when you are dead; soon, very soon, when you are dead--dead in
your sorrows, dead in your sins, dead, gathered to that company of the
dead who await us here."

And, still chanting his mystic song, he led Benita by the hand out of
the light, onward into darkness, away from life, onward into the place
of death.



Like every other passage in this old fortress, the approach to the
cave was narrow and winding; presumably the ancients had arranged them
thus to facilitate their defence. After the third bend, however,
Benita saw a light ahead which flowed from a native lamp lit in the
arched entrance. At the side of this arch was a shell-shaped hollow,
cut in the rock about three feet above the floor. Its appearance
seemed familiar to her; why, she was soon to learn, although at the
moment she did not connect it with anything in particular. The cave
beyond was large, lofty, and not altogether natural, for its walls had
evidently been shaped, or at any rate trimmed, by man. Probably here
the old Priests had established their oracle, or place of offering.

At first Benita could not see much, since in that great cavern two
lamps of hippopotamus oil gave but little light. Presently, however,
her eyes became accustomed to the gloom, and as they advanced up its
length she perceived that save for a skin rug upon which she guessed
the Molimo sat at his solitary devotions, and some gourds and platters
for water and food, all the front part of the place appeared to be
empty. Beyond, in its centre, stood an object of some gleaming metal,
that from its double handles and roller borne upon supports of rock
she took to be some kind of winch, and rightly, for beneath it was the
mouth of a great well, the water supply of the topmost fortification.

Beyond the well was a stone altar, shaped like a truncated cone or
pyramid, and at some distance away against the far wall, as she dimly
discovered by the lamp that stood upon the altar, cut in relief upon
that wall indeed, a colossal cross to which, vigorously if rudely
executed in white stone, hung the image of Christ crucified, the crown
of thorns upon His drooping head. Now she understood. Whatever may
have been the first worship to which this place was dedicated,
Christians had usurped it, and set up here the sacred symbol of their
faith, awful enough to look upon in such surroundings. Doubtless,
also, the shell-shaped basin at the entrance had served the
worshippers in this underground chapel as a stoup for holy water.

The Molimo lifted the lamp from the altar, and having adjusted its
wick, held it up in front of the rood before which, although she was
no Catholic, Benita bowed her head and crossed herself, while he
watched her curiously. Then he lowered it, and she perceived that on
the cemented floor lay great numbers of shrouded forms that at first
looked to her like folk asleep. He stepped to one of them and touched
it with his foot, whereon the cloth which with it was covered crumbled
into dust, revealing beneath a white skeleton.

All those sleepers rested well indeed, for they had been dead at least
two hundred years. There they lay--men, women, and children, though of
the last but few. Some of them had ornaments on their bones, some were
clad in armour, and by all the men were swords, or spears, or knives,
and here and there what she took to be primitive fire-arms. Certain of
them also had turned into mummies in that dry air--grotesque and
dreadful objects from which she gladly averted her eyes.

The Molimo led her forward to the foot of the crucifix, where, upon
its lowest step and upon the cemented floor immediately beneath it
respectively, lay two shapes decorously covered with shawls of some
heavy material interwoven with gold wire, for the manufacture of which
the Makalanga were famous when first the Portuguese came into contact
with them. The Molimo took hold of the cloths that seemed almost as
good now as on the day when they were woven, and lifted them,
revealing beneath the figures of a man and woman. The features were
unrecognizable, although the hair, white in the man's case and raven
black in that of the woman, remained perfect. They had been great
people, for orders glittered upon the man's breast, and his sword was
gold hilted, whilst the woman's bones were adorned with costly
necklaces and jewels, and in her hand was still a book bound in sheets
of silver. Benita took it up and looked at it. It was a missal
beautifully illuminated, which doubtless the poor lady had been
reading when at length she sank exhausted into the sleep of death.

"See the Lord Ferreira and his wife," said the Molimo, "whom their
daughter laid thus before she went to join them." Then, at a motion
from Benita, he covered them up again with their golden cloths.

"Here they sleep," he went on in his chanting voice, "a hundred and
fifty and three of them--a hundred and fifty and three; and when I
dream in this place at night, I have seen the ghosts of every one of
them arise from beside their forms and come gliding down the cave--the
husband with the wife, the child with the mother--to look at me, and
ask when the maiden returns again to take her heritage and give them

Benita shuddered; the solemn awfulness of the place and scene
oppressed her. She began to think that she, too, saw those ghosts.

"It is enough," she said. "Let us be going."

So they went, and the pitiful, agonized Christ upon the cross, at
which she glanced from time to time over her shoulder, faded to a
white blot, then vanished away in the darkness, through which, from
generation to generation, it kept its watch above the dead, those dead
that in their despair once had cried to it for mercy, and bedewed its
feet with tears.

Glad, oh! glad was she when she had left that haunted place behind
her, and saw the wholesome light again.

"What have you seen?" asked her father and Meyer, in one breath, as
they noted her white and frightened face.

She sank upon a stone seat at the entrance of the cave, and before she
could open her lips the Molimo answered for her:

"The maiden has seen the dead. The Spirit who goes with her has given
greeting to its dead that it left so long ago. The maiden has done
reverence to the White One who hangs upon the cross, and asked a
blessing and a pardon of Him, as she whose Spirit goes with her did
reverence before the eyes of my forefathers, and asked a blessing and
a pardon ere she cast herself away." And he pointed to the little
golden crucifix which hung upon Benita's bosom, attached to the
necklace which Tamas, the messenger, had given her at Rooi Krantz.

"Now," he went on, "now the spell is broken, and the sleepers must
depart to sleep elsewhere. Enter, white men; enter, if you dare, and
ask for pardon and for blessing if it may be found, and gather up the
dry bones and take the treasure that was theirs, if it may be found,
and conquer the curse that goes with the treasure for all save one, if
you can, if you can, if you can! Rest you here, maiden, in the sweet
sunshine, and follow me, white men; follow me into the dark of the
dead to seek for that which the white men love." And once more he
vanished down the passage, turning now and again to beckon to them,
while they went after him as though drawn against their wish. For now,
at the last moment, some superstitious fear spread from him to them,
and showed itself in their eyes.

To Benita, half fainting upon the stone seat, for this experience had
shaken her to the heart, it seemed but a few minutes, though really
the best part of an hour had gone by, when her father reappeared as
white-faced as she had been.

"Where is Mr. Meyer?" she asked.

"Oh!" he answered. "He is collecting all the golden ornaments off
those poor bodies, and tumbling their bones together in a corner of
the cave."

Benita uttered an exclamation of horror.

"I know what you mean," said her father. "But, curse the fellow! he
has no reverence, although at first he seemed almost as scared as I
was myself. He said that as we could not begin our search with all
those corpses about, they had best be got out of the way as soon as
possible. Or perhaps it was because he is really afraid of them, and
wanted to prove to himself that they are nothing more than dust.
Benita," went on the old man, "to tell you the truth, I wish heartily
that we had left this business alone. I don't believe that any good
will come of it, and certainly it has brought enough trouble already.
That old prophet of a Molimo has the second sight, or something like
it, and he does not hide his opinion, but keeps chuckling away in that
dreadful place, and piping out his promises of ill to be."

"He promised me nothing but good," said Benita with a little smile.
"Though I don't see how it can happen. But if you dislike the thing,
father, why not give it up and try to escape?"

"It is too late, dear," he replied passionately. "Meyer would never
come, and I can't in honour leave him. Also, I should laugh at myself
for the rest of my life; and, after all, why should we not have the
gold if it can be found? It belongs to nobody. We do not get it by
robbery, or murder; nuggets are of no use to Portuguese who have been
dead two hundred years, and whose heirs, if they have any, it is
impossible to discover. Nor can it matter to them whether they lie
about singly as they died or were placed after death, or piled
together in a corner. Our fears were mere churchyard superstitions,
which we have caught from that ghoul of a Molimo. Don't you agree with

"Yes, I suppose so," answered Benita, "though a fate may cling to
certain things or places, perhaps. At any rate, I think that it is of
no use turning back now, even if we had anywhere to turn, so we may as
well go through with the venture and await its end. Give me the water-
bottle, please. I am thirsty."

A while later Jacob Meyer appeared, carrying a great bundle of
precious objects wrapped in one of the gold cere-cloths, which bundle
he hid away behind a stone.

"The cave is much tidier now," he said, as he flicked the thick dust
which had collected on them during his unhallowed task from his hands,
and hair, and garments. Then he drank greedily, and asked:

"Have you two made any plans for our future researches?"

They shook their heads.

"Well, then, I have. I thought them out while I was bone-carting, and
here they are. It is no use our going down below again; for one thing,
the journey is too dangerous, and takes too long; and for another, we
are safer up above, where we have plenty to do."

"But," said Benita, "how about things to eat and sleep on, and the

"Simple enough, Miss Clifford; we must get them up. The Kaffirs will
bring them to the foot of the third wall, and we will haul them to its
top with a rope. Of water it seems there is plenty in that well, which
is fed by a spring a hundred and fifty feet down, and the old chain is
still on the roller, so we only need a couple of buckets from the
waggon. Of wood for cooking there is plenty also, growing on the spot;
and we can camp in the cave or outside of it, as we like, according to
the state of the weather. Now, do you rest here while I go down. I
will be back in an hour with some of the gear, and then you must help

So he went, and the end of it was that before nightfall they had
enough things for their immediate needs, and by the second night,
working very hard, were more or less comfortably established in their
strange habitation. The canvas flap from the waggon was arranged as a
tent for Benita, the men sleeping beneath a thick-leaved tree near by.
Close at hand, under another tree, was their cooking place. The
provisions of all sorts, including a couple of cases of square-face
and a large supply of biltong from the slaughtered cattle, they stored
with a quantity of ammunition in the mouth of the cave. Fresh meat
also was brought to them daily, and hauled up in baskets--that is,
until there was none to bring--and with it grain for bread, and green
mealies to serve as vegetables. Therefore, as the water from the well
proved to be excellent and quite accessible, they were soon set up in
all things necessary, and to these they added from time to time as
opportunity offered.

In all these preparations the old Molimo took a part, nor, when they
were completed, did he show any inclination to leave them. In the
morning he would descend to his people below, but before nightfall he
always returned to the cave, where for many years it had been his
custom to sleep--at any rate several times a week, in the gruesome
company of the dead Portuguese. Jacob Meyer persuaded Mr. Clifford
that his object was to spy upon them, and talked of turning him out;
but Benita, between whom and the old man had sprung up a curious
friendship and sympathy, prevented it, pointing out that they were
much safer with the Molimo, as a kind of hostage, than they could be
without him; also, that his knowledge of the place, and of other
things, might prove of great help to them. So in the end he was
allowed to remain, as indeed he had a perfect right to do.

All this while there was no sign of any attack by the Matabele.
Indeed, the fear of such a thing was to some extent dying away, and
Benita, watching from the top of the wall, could see that their nine
remaining oxen, together with the two horses--for that belonging to
Jacob Meyer had died--and the Makalanga goats and sheep, were daily
driven out to graze; also, that the women were working in the crops
upon the fertile soil around the lowest wall. Still, a strict watch
was kept, and at night everyone slept within the fortifications;
moreover, the drilling of the men and their instruction in the use of
firearms went on continually under Tamas, who now, in his father's old
age, was the virtual chief of the people.

It was on the fourth morning that at length, all their preparations
being completed, the actual search for the treasure began. First, the
Molimo was closely interrogated as to its whereabouts, since they
thought that even if he did not know this exactly, some traditions of
the fact might have descended to him from his ancestors. But he
declared with earnestness that he knew nothing, save that the
Portuguese maiden had said that it was hidden; nor, he added, had any
dream or vision come to him concerning this matter, in which he took
no interest. If it was there, it was there; if it was not there, it
was not there--it remained for the white men to search and see.

For no very good reason Meyer had concluded that the gold must have
been concealed in or about the cave, so here it was that they began
their investigations.

First, they bethought them of the well into which it might possibly
have been thrown, but the fact of this matter proved very difficult to
ascertain. Tying a piece of metal--it was an old Portuguese sword-hilt
--to a string, they let it down and found that it touched water at a
depth of one hundred and twenty feet, and bottom at a depth of one
hundred and forty-seven feet. Therefore there were twenty-seven feet
of water. Weighting a bucket they sank it until it rested upon this
bottom, then wound it up again several times. On the third occasion it
brought up a human bone and a wire anklet of pure gold. But this
proved nothing, except that some ancient, perhaps thousands of years
ago, had been thrown, or had fallen, into the well.

Still unsatisfied, Jacob Meyer, who was a most intrepid person,
determined to investigate the place himself, a task of no little
difficulty and danger, since proper ladders were wanting, nor, had
they existed, was there anything to stand them on. Therefore it came
to this: a seat must be rigged on to the end of the old copper chain,
and be lowered into the pit after the fashion of the bucket. But, as
Benita pointed out, although they might let him down, it was possible
that they would not be able to draw him up again, in which case his
plight must prove unfortunate. So, when the seat had been prepared, an
experiment was made with a stone weighing approximately as much as a
man. This Benita and her father let down easily enough, but, as they
anticipated, when it came to winding it up again, their strength was
barely sufficient to the task. Three people could do it well, but with
two the thing was risky. Now Meyer asked--or, rather, commanded--the
Molimo to order some of his men to help him, but this the old chief
refused point blank to do.

First, he made a number of excuses. They were all employed in
drilling, and in watching for the Matabele; they were afraid to
venture here, and so forth. At last Meyer grew furious; his eyes
flashed, he ground his teeth, and began to threaten.

"White man," said the Molimo, when he had done, "it cannot be. I have
fulfilled my bargain with you. Search for the gold; find it and take
it away if you can. But this place is holy. None of my tribe, save he
who holds the office of Molimo for the time, may set a foot therein.
Kill me if you will--I care not; but so it is, and if you kill me,
afterwards they will kill you."

Now Meyer, seeing that nothing was to be gained by violence, changed
his tone, and asked if he himself would help them.

"I am old, my strength is small," he replied; "yet I will put my hand
to the chain and do my best. But, if I were you, I would not descend
that pit."

"Still, I will descend it, and to-morrow," said Meyer.



Accordingly, on the next day the great experiment was made. The chain
and ancient winding gear had been tested and proved to be amply
sufficient to the strain. Therefore, nothing remained save for Meyer
to place himself in the wooden seat with an oil-lamp, and in case this
should be extinguished, matches and candles, of both of which they had
a large supply.

He did so boldly enough, and swung out over the mouth of the pit,
while the three of them clutched the handles of the winch. Then they
began to lower, and slowly his white face disappeared into the black
depth. At every few turns his descent was stopped that he might
examine the walls of the well, and when he was about fifty feet down
he called to them to hold on, which they did, listening while he
struck at the rock with a hammer, for here it sounded very hollow.

At length he shouted to them to lower away again, and they obeyed,
until nearly all the chain was out, and they knew he must be near the
water. Now Benita, peeping over the edge, saw that the star of light
had vanished. His lamp was out, nor did he appear to attempt to
re-light it. They shouted down the well to him, but no answer coming,
began to wind up as fast as they were able. It was all that their
united strength could manage, and very exhausted were they when at
length Jacob reappeared at the top. At first, from the look of him
they thought that he was dead, and had he not tied himself to the
chain, dead he certainly would have been, for evidently his senses had
left him long ago. Indeed, he had fallen almost out of the seat, over
which his legs hung limply, his weight being supported by the hide
rope beneath his arms which was made fast to the chain.

They swung him in and dashed water over his face, till, to their
relief, at last he began to gasp for breath, and revived sufficiently
to enable them to half-lead and half-carry him out into the fresh air.

"What happened to you?" asked Clifford.

"Poisoned with gases, I suppose," Meyer answered with a groan, for his
head was aching sadly. "The air is often bad at the bottom of deep
wells, but I could smell or feel nothing until suddenly my senses left
me. It was a near thing--a very near thing."

Afterwards, when he had recovered a little, he told them that at one
spot deep down in the well, on the river side of it, he found a place
where it looked as though the rock had been cut away for a space of
about six feet by four, and afterwards built up again with another
sort of stone set in hard mortar or cement. Immediately beneath, too,
were socket-holes in which the ends of beams still remained,
suggesting that here had been a floor or platform. It was while he was
examining these rotted beams that insensibility overcame him. He added
that he thought that this might be the entrance to the place where the
gold was hidden.

"If so," said Mr. Clifford, "hidden it must remain, since it can have
no better guardian than bad air. Also, floors like that are common in
all wells to prevent rubbish from falling into the water, and the
stonework you saw probably was only put there by the ancients to mend
a fault in the rock and prevent the wall from caving in."

"I hope so," said Meyer, "since unless that atmosphere purifies a good
deal I don't think that even I dare go down again, and until one gets
there, of that it is difficult to be sure, though of course a lantern
on a string will tell one something."

This was the end of their first attempt. The search was not renewed
until the following afternoon, when Meyer had recovered a little from
the effects of the poisoning and the chafing of the hide ropes beneath
his arms. Indeed, from the former he never did quite recover, since
thenceforward Benita, who for her own reasons watched the man closely,
discovered a marked and progressive change in his demeanour. Hitherto
he had appeared to be a reserved man, one who kept tight hand upon
himself, and, if she knew certain things about him, it was rather
because she guessed, or deduced them, than because he allowed them to
be seen. On two occasions only had he shown his heart before her--when
they had spoken together by the shores of Lake Chrissie on the day of
the arrival of the messengers, and he declared his ardent desire for
wealth and power; and quite recently, when he killed the Matabele
envoy. Yet she felt certain that this heart of his was very passionate
and insurgent; that his calm was like the ice that hides the stream,
beneath which its currents run fiercely, none can see whither. The
fashion in which his dark eyes would flash, even when his pale
countenance remained unmoved, told her so, as did other things.

For instance, when he was recovering from his swoon, the first words
that passed his lips were in German, of which she understood a little,
and she thought that they shaped themselves to her name, coupled with
endearing epithets. From that time forward he became less guarded--or,
rather, it seemed as though he were gradually losing power to control
himself. He would grow excited without apparent cause, and begin to
declaim as to what he would do when he had found the gold; how he
would pay the world back all it had caused him to suffer--how he would
become a "king."

"I am afraid that you will find that exalted position rather lonely,"
said Benita with a careless laugh, and next minute was sorry that she
had spoken, for he answered, looking at her in a way that she did not

"Oh, no! There will be a queen--a beautiful queen, whom I shall endow
with wealth, and deck with jewels, and surround with love and

"What a fortunate lady!" she said, still laughing, but taking the
opportunity to go away upon some errand.

At other times, especially after dark, he would walk up and down in
front of the cave, muttering to himself, or singing wild old German
songs in his rich voice. Also, he made a habit of ascending the

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