1972 - A Story Like the Wind

1972 - A Story Like the Wind by Laurens Van Der Post, Prefers to remain anonymous

Book: 1972 - A Story Like the Wind by Laurens Van Der Post, Prefers to remain anonymous Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurens Van Der Post, Prefers to remain anonymous
already knew many others of their kinsmen had fled.
    He himself had been born in the desert, but in all the Bushmen there was a hope that one day they would be able to come back to their home in this cave. The memory of it and the love of it was kept alive among them by the stories, poems and songs taught to them by their parents from the time they were born, and even in the great art of the dances they danced around the fire at least once a year in the desert, to express the joy they would all feel when the great day came and they could take possession of their cave, honey-pastures (they loved honey above all things) and hunting grounds again. Moreover, it was the accepted tradition among his people when the first-born son was about to become a man—here he looked at François and said, in other words when he reached the age that François appeared to have reached—for the father to lead the boy out of the desert-and secretly show him the way to the cave. There he would live with him for a week or two so that his memory of it, the magic spirit of the place and the sense of return which living in it, re-created, would remain with the son for ever. When the father died, as his had done, the son would have to return to tell the cave the sad news and make its new master known to it. He thought that if François would help him, the best thing to do now would be to make for the cave. He could lie up there safely, since the cave had never been discovered by any other race. When he was fully recovered, he could make his way back again to the safety of the desert.
    François’s excitement at this piece of intelligence was only matched by his relief that there was in fact a place nearby where the gravely injured man would be safe. His only doubt was whether the Bushman would be strong enough to get to the cave, and he unhesitatingly said so. But thanks to the pain-killer and the food, as well as his indomitable spirit and natural resilience, the little Bushman at once illustrated how capable he was of setting out there and then. He stood up without any assistance on one leg, picked up his bow and arrows and spear, grasped his spear in his right hand and leaning on its shaft he hobbled out on to the track on his own.
    François immediately offered him his arm to help as he had helped before but the Bushman would have none of it, only allowing him to carry his bow and quiver. For the rest, he just begged François to follow and slowly started through the bush northwards, in the direction of the hills. There was no track of any kind to follow, but the Bushman seemed to know every stone, tree, shrub and plant individually as if they had been intimate friends all his life. Indeed, he went straight without hesitation, as François had read in his books a homing pigeon would, still knowing the way back to the loft where it had been born, despite having been hooded and taken a thousand miles away.
    What impressed François even more was that not once did the Bushman, handicapped as he was with that terribly mangled leg, step on a blade of grass or bruise a leaf thereby leaving signs behind him of their progress through the bush. So they climbed steadily upwards, with many a rest in the shade of storm bush and acacia trees, until at last they came to the top of one of the horns of the crescent of hills which enclosed Hunter’s Drift. They stood there for a moment, hidden behind some black storm bushes and looked down five hundred feet into the swirling waters of the swollen Amanzim-tetse, the River of Sweet Waters. Clearly there was no way up the sheer cliff from the river and, what was far worse, so far as François could see there appeared to be no way along its face either. Yet still the little Bushman did not hesitate.
    He turned sharply to the right, went down on his hands and knees and crawled forward slowly underneath the black storm bushes until suddenly they came to a narrow cleft in the rock face, blocked by an enormous boulder.

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