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The White Hand and the Black A Story of the Natal Rising   By: (1855-1914)

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The White Hand and the Black, by Bertram Mitford.

THE WHITE HAND AND THE BLACK, BY BERTRAM MITFORD.

PROLOGUE.

A weight had fallen from him the weight of a lifetime; the galling, hopeless, demoralising weight which had paralysed his energies, sterilised his brain, and, in the case of a subject less clear sighted, would have brought him down to drink or suicide, possibly both. And now it had fallen from him.

The man on the mountain top looked around, and as he did so, something of buoyancy that he had not known for years, came over his mind. He was free free. His life was now his own. He could have sung aloud in the stillness of the night. And yet the said night was not one calculated to effect excessive exaltation in any mind. It was oppressive and boding; and even its usual voices, of bird and beast and insect life, seemed hushed as in awe of something impending. The broad moon glared drearily down, ghastly athwart a filmy haze; and ever and anon a heavy boom seemed to shake the earth, while huge, plume like masses of cloud rising higher and higher above the cliffs and ridges, gleamed beautiful in golden depths with every intermittent flash. When the storm broke it would be an appalling one, but to the man on the mountain top this brought no misgiving whatever, yet he knew that it would overtake him long before he had time to reach home.

He knew something else, knew that it was vital to him to choose his steps carefully. For the summit was flat and to all appearance smooth and unbroken, yet it was seamed with crevices; crevices partly or entirely hidden by the coarse, sour herbage; crevices of no great width but some of them awful rifts, into which should a man fall, he would he entombed by that lonely mountain height until the crack of doom. But this man had no intention of undergoing any such fate. He knew his ground well, and, knowing it well, moved with especial care.

All of a sudden he was conscious of a quick tingling of the blood, but he had sufficient control neither to stop nor look round. He only listened ; listened with an acute, almost painful intensity. He had seen nobody, had heard nothing, yet that strange sixth sense of realisation had told him that he was no longer alone on the mountain top.

For a moment a quiver or qualm of superstition shook even his mind. What consideration on earth could have brought any being other than himself any human being up here to night? Yet even the misgiving of superstition was a relief. The thing to be feared was the presence of such human being.

He whirled round quickly and suddenly. Just as he had thought. In the flash, lighting up the whole plateau, something dropped; disappeared behind a flat boulder not fifty yards away, and in that flash the man on the mountain top realised that he had to do with a human being. In which case every instinct of self preservation cried out loudly that the other must not leave the mountain top alive.

There was something cat like in his movement as with incredible speed and agility he made straight for the spot. Something sang past his head. It was not the breeze now sweeping the tableland in fitful puffs. It was something which he heard strike the stones behind him with a steely ring. Then he had grappled with the figure behind the rock.

It rose, to fully his own height. Something else that was steely gleamed in his eyes a broad, formidable blade. But the wrist of its wielder was grasped with a grip as of iron.

The huge white mountainous cloud, lit up by un intermittent lightning flashes, now illuminated this life and death struggle with weird, lamp like effect. For it was a life and death struggle. The white man could not, by every known law of self preservation, let any witness get away from this place a living witness... Continue reading book >>




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