Damien's Destiny

Damien's Destiny by Jean Hart Stewart

Book: Damien's Destiny by Jean Hart Stewart Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jean Hart Stewart
having your friend taken to the very border of Mashonaland but then we could not make Lobengula bring him further. Our Portuguese hosts are being quite helpful. But Lobengula demands a ransom, I fear, in order to let your friend cross the boundary.”
    Jason nodded. “Lord Sinclair expected that and I’ve come prepared. What I need are a few men to help me secure the Duke of Essingdon’s son and transfer him to Lord Sinclair’s yacht. I have no idea of how mobile our friend will be after so long a time in Lobengula’s hands.”
    Captain Reeves looked solemn. “I think he’ll not be in good shape, sir. Lobengula’s men are not known for treating a hostage with kindness. Would four men be of help? Plus myself, of course.”
    Jason smiled his first genuine smile in the long days since he’d left England.
    “Immeasurably. Thank you. And I’d like to leave right away. With this small a ship I can’t really take many of the crew without jeopardizing its safety so I’m very grateful for the addition of your men. If you’d send them to the dock I’ll wire Lord Sinclair and then be ready to leave. I assume your men know the way better than I do?”
    “Yes sir, as I do and I’ll be with them. You can leave your crew on the ship so they’ll be ready to sail as soon as we return with your friend.”
    A blessing Jason hadn’t expected. He sometimes forgot the power Damien exercised. He really shouldn’t. Damien was a commanding man in many ways.
    “I’ll fetch my men and come back. We should use horses as they are the faster method. I assume you ride, sir?”
    “Of course,” Jason answered with a smile. “Like most British country gentlemen.”
    Captain Reeves grinned. “We’ll not be long, sir.”
    He saluted smartly, rode away and true to his word returned within the half hour with four mounted men and two extra horses.
    “In case your friend isn’t up to riding, sir, we’ve brought a litter as well.”
    With that dire reminder the little party set out.
    * * * * *
    Jason found himself not only unexpectedly saddle sore but increasingly apprehensive as the small group neared the border between Mashonaland and Mozambique. Rhodes’ control over Mashonaland was not complete but the small party experienced no difficulty even as they approached the border. Portuguese guards had apparently been instructed to let them through and they had no trouble as they crossed from Beira to a slight pass in the mountainous border. There they were stopped by armed Africans, strong black men whose powerful build left no doubt of their ability to repel any challenge.
    As the evident leader of the group stepped forward, so did Jason.
    “You are here for what reason, white man?”
    Jason stood still. There seemed no use wasting pleasantries with this formidable group.
    “I am here to collect my good friend, Marquis Chittenden. I believe you have him in your custody?”
    The impressive man so evidently a leader merely looked stoically at the small white group before him.
    “His title means nothing to me. But I assume he is then valuable to you. As he is to us. Are you prepared to pay for his release?”
    Jason could only admire his opponent’s magnificent physique and bearing, as well as his command of the English language. Not at all what he’d expected. A fleeting thought he might understand why Rafe had tried, even though unsuccessfully, to aid this lost cause tempered his response. There was more here in the politics of South Africa than Jason could grasp. In fact, he’d made little effort up ’til now to understand. Inner workings of the opposing forces just hadn’t interested him much, nor did he think many of his countrymen cared. Most were content with the fact Britannia was amassing gold, diamonds and land.
    Jason grimaced. He’d never be so short-sighted again.
    He faced the tall African squarely.
    “Yes, we are prepared to pay. Not sight unseen, however. When you deliver the Marquis to us we will pay the

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