Prester John HTML version
Morning In The Berg
I was perhaps half a mile the nearer to the glen, and was likely to get there first.
And after that? I could see the track winding by the waterside and then crossing
a hill-shoulder which diverted the stream. It was a road a man could scarcely
ride, and a tired man would have a hard job to climb. I do not think that I had any
hope. My exhilaration had died as suddenly as it had been born. I saw myself
caught and carried off to Laputa, who must now be close on the rendezvous at
Inanda's Kraal. I had no weapon to make a fight for it. My foemen were many and
untired. It must be only a matter of minutes till I was in their hands.
More in a dogged fury of disappointment than with any hope of escape I forced
my sore legs up the glen. Ten minutes ago I had been exulting in the glories of
the morning, and now the sun was not less bright or the colours less fair, but the
heart had gone out of the spectator. At first I managed to get some pace out of
myself, partly from fear and partly from anger. But I soon found that my body had
been tried too far. I could plod along, but to save my life I could not have hurried.
Any healthy savage could have caught me in a hundred yards.
The track, I remember, was overhung with creepers, and often I had to squeeze
through thickets of tree-ferns. Countless little brooks ran down from the hillside,
threads of silver among the green pastures. Soon I left the stream and climbed
up on the shoulder, where the road was not much better than a precipice. Every
step was a weariness. I could hardly drag one foot after the other, and my heart
was beating like the fanners of a mill, I had spasms of acute sickness, and it took
all my resolution to keep me from lying down by the roadside.
At last I was at the top of the shoulder and could look back. There was no sign of
anybody on the road so far as I could see. Could I have escaped them? I had
been in the shadow of the trees for the first part, and they might have lost sight of
me and concluded that I had avoided the glen or tried one of the faces. Before
me, I remember, there stretched the upper glen, a green cup-shaped hollow with
the sides scarred by ravines. There was a high waterfall in one of them which
was white as snow against the red rocks. My wits must have been shaky, for I
took the fall for a snowdrift, and wondered sillily why the Berg had grown so
A faint spasm of hope took me into that green cup. The bracken was as thick as
on the Pentlands, and there was a multitude of small lovely flowers in the grass.
It was like a water-meadow at home, such a place as I had often in boyhood
searched for moss-cheepers' and corncrakes' eggs. Birds were crying round me
as I broke this solitude, and one small buck - a klipspringer - rose from my feet
and dashed up one of the gullies. Before me was a steep green wall with the sky
blue above it. Beyond it was safety, but as my sweat-dimmed eyes looked at it I
knew that I could never reach it.
Then I saw my pursuers. High up on the left side, and rounding the rim of the
cup, were little black figures. They had not followed my trail, but, certain of my
purpose, had gone forward to intercept me. I remember feeling a puny weakling
compared with those lusty natives who could make such good going on steep