Stories by English Authors in Africa HTML version
The darksome cave they enter, where they find
That cursed man, low sitting on the ground,
Musing full sadly in his sullen mind.
/The Faerie Queene./
When Corporal Francis Dollond and Trooper James Franks, of the Natal
Mounted Police, overstayed their ten days' leave of absence from the camp on
the Upper Tugela, in the early part of 1883, everybody was much surprised; they
being two of the best conducted and most methodical men in the force. But the
weeks and then the months went by without anything whatever being heard of
them, so they were officially recorded as deserters. Nevertheless none of their
comrades really believed that these men had deserted; each one felt there was
something mysterious about the circumstances of their disappearance. They had
applied for leave for the alleged purpose of visiting Pietermaritzburg. They
started on foot, stating their intention of walking to Estcourt, hiring horses from
natives there, and proceeding on horseback. They had evidently never reached
Estcourt, as nothing could be heard of them at that village. They were both young
men-- colonists by birth. Dollond had an especially youthful appearance. Franks
was older. He had joined the force later in life. He and Dollond, who had only
very recently before his disappearance been promoted, were chums.
Some months later in the same year, when Troopers George Langley and Hiram
Whitson also applied for ten days' leave of absence,--likewise to proceed to
Pietermaritzburg,--the leave was granted; but the officer in charge of the
detachment laughingly remarked that he hoped they were not going to follow
Dollond and Franks.
Now, neither Langley nor Whitson had the remotest idea of visiting
Pietermaritzburg. It is necessary, of course, for the reader to know where they
did intend going to, and how the intention arose; but before doing this we must
deal with some antecedent circumstances.
Langley was most certainly the most boyish-looking man in the force. He had a
perfectly smooth face, ruddy complexion, and fair hair. He was of middle height,
and was rather inclined to stoutness. He was so fond of talking that his comrades
nicknamed him "Magpie." A colonist by birth, he could speak the Kaffir language
like a native.
Whitson was a sallow-faced, spare-built man of short stature, with dark-brown
beard and hair, and piercing black eyes. His age was about forty. He had a wiry
and terrier-like appearance. A "down-East" Yankee, he had spent some years in
Mexico, and then drifted to South Africa during the war period, which, it will be