The Ghost Kings HTML version

The afternoon was intensely, terribly hot. Looked at from the high
ground where they were encamped above the river, the sea, a mile or
two to her rightÑfor this was the coast of Pondo-landÑto little Rachel
Dove staring at it with sad eyes, seemed an illimitable sheet of stagnant
oil. Yet there was no sun, for a grey haze hung like a veil beneath the
arch of the sky, so dense and thick that its rays were cut off from the
earth which lay below silent and stifled. Tom, the Kaffir driver, had told
her that a storm was coming, a father of storms, which would end the
great drought. Therefore he had gone to a kloof in the mountains where
the oxen were in charge of the other two native boysÑsince on this up-
land there was no pasturage to drive them back to the waggon. For, as he
explained to her, in such tempests cattle are apt to take fright and rush
away for miles, and without cattle their plight would be even worse than
it was at present.
At least this was what Tom said, but Rachel, who had been brought up
among natives and understood their mind, knew that his real reason was
that he wished to be out of the way when the baby was buried. Kaffirs
do not like death, unless it comes by the assegai in war, and Tom, a good
creature, had been fond of that baby during its short little life. Well, it
was buried now; he had finished digging its resting-place in the hard soil
before he went. Rachel, poor child, for she was but fifteen, had borne it
to its last bed, and her father had unpacked his surplice from a box, put
it on and read the Burial Service over the grave. Afterwards together
they had filled in that dry, red earth, and rolled stones on to it, and as
there were few flowers at this season of the year, placed a shrivelled
branch or two of mimosa upon the stonesÑthe best offering they had to
Rachel and her father were the sole mourners at this funeral, if we may
omit two rock rabbits that sat upon a shelf of stone in a neighbouring
cliff, and an old baboon which peered at these strange proceedings from