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'Tween Snow and Fire A Tale of the Last Kafir War   By: (1855-1914)

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'Tween Snow and Fire, by Bertram Mitford.




The buck is running for dear life.

The dog is some fifty yards behind the buck. The Kafir is about the same distance behind the dog, which distance he is striving right manfully to maintain; not so unsuccessfully, either, considering that he is pitting the speed of two legs against that of eight.

Down the long grass slope they course buck, dog, and savage. The former, a game little antelope of the steinbok species, takes the ground in a series of long, flying leaps, his white tail whisking like a flag of defiance. The second, a tawny, black muzzled grey hound, stretching his snaky length in the wake of his quarry, utters no sound, as with arrow like velocity he holds on his course, his cruel eyes gleaming, his jaws dripping saliva in pleasurable anticipation of the coming feast. The third, a fine, well knit young Kafir, his naked body glistening from head to foot with red ochre, urges on his hound with an occasional shrill whoop of encouragement, as he covers the ground at a surprising pace in his free, bounding stride. He holds a knob kerrie in his hand, ready for use as soon as the quarry shall be within hurling distance.

But of this there seems small chance at present. It takes a good dog indeed to run down an unwounded buck with the open veldt before him, and good as this one is, it seems probable that he will get left. Down the long grass slope they course, but the opposite acclivity is the quarry's opportunity. The pointed hoofs seem hardly to touch ground in the arrowy flight of their owner. The distance between the latter and the pursuing hound increases.

Along a high ridge overlooking this primitive chase grow, at regular intervals, several circular clumps of bush. One of these conceals a spectator. The latter is seated on horseback in the very midst of the scrub, his feet dangling loosely in the stirrups, his hand closed tightly and rather suggestively round the breech of a double gun rifle and smooth bore which rests across the pommel of his saddle. There is a frown upon his face, as, himself completely hidden, he watches intently the progress of the sport. It is evident that he is more interested than pleased.

For Tom Carhayes is the owner of this Kaffrarian stock run. In that part of Kaffraria, game is exceedingly scarce, owing to the presence of a redundant native population. Tom Carhayes is an ardent sportsman and spares no effort to protect and restore the game upon his farm. Yet here is a Kafir running down a buck under his very nose. Small wonder that he feels furious.

"That scoundrel Goniwe!" he mutters between his set teeth. "I'll put a bullet through his cur, and lick the nigger himself within an inch of his life!"

The offence is an aggravated one. Not only is the act of poaching a very capital crime in his eyes, but the perpetrator ought to be at that moment at least three miles away, herding about eleven hundred of his master's sheep. These he has left to take care of themselves while he indulges in an illicit buck hunt. Small wonder indeed that his said master, at no time a good tempered man, vows to make a condign example of him.

The buck has nearly gained the crest of the ridge. Once over it his chances are good. The pursuing hound, running more by sight than by scent, may easily be foiled, by a sudden turn to right or left, and a double or two. The dog is a long way behind now, and the spectator has to rise in his stirrups to command a view of the situation. Fifty yards more and the quarry will be over the ridge and in comparative safety.

But from just that distance above there suddenly darts forth another dog a white one... Continue reading book >>

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