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Authors: Wilbur Smith

The Angels Weep

BOOK: The Angels Weep
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‘Wilbur Smith
rarely misses a trick’
Sunday Times

world’s leading adventure writer’
Daily Express

‘Action is the
name of Wilbur Smith’s game and
he is a master’
Washington Post

‘The pace would
do credit to a Porsche, and the invention
is as bright and explosive as a fireworks display’
Sunday Telegraph
A violent saga … told with vigour
and enthusiasm … Wilbur Smith spins a fine
Evening Standard

‘A bonanza of
New York Times

‘… a
natural storyteller who moves confidently and
often splendidly in his period and sustains a flow of
convincing incident’

‘Raw experience,
grim realism, history and romance welded
with mystery and the bewilderment of life itself
Library Journal

‘A thundering
good read’
Irish Times

‘Extrovert and
vigorous … constantly changing incidents and
memorable portraits’
Liverpool Daily Post

‘An immensely
powerful book, disturbing and compulsive,
harsh yet compassionate’

‘An epic novel
… it would be hard to think of a theme that
was more appropriate today … Smith writes with a
passion for the soul of Africa’

‘I read on to the
last page, hooked by its frenzied inventiveness
piling up incident upon incident … mighty
Yorkshire Post

‘There is a
streak of genuine poetry, all the more attractive
for being unfeigned’
Sunday Telegraph

‘… action
follows action … mystery is piled
on mystery … tales to delight the millions of addicts of
gutsy adventure story’
Sunday Express

Sunday Times

‘Rattling good
Evening Standard


Wilbur Smith was born
in Central Africa in 1933. He was educated at Michaelhouse and
Rhodes University. He became a full-time writer in 1964 after the
successful publication of
When the Lion Feeds
, and has
written over thirty novels, all meticulously researched on his
numerous expeditions worldwide. His books are now translated into
twenty-six languages.

The novels of Wilbur Smith

When the Lion Feeds
The Sound of Thunder
A Sparrow Falls
Birds of Prey
Blue Horizon
The Triumph of the Sun

The Burning Shore
Power of the Sword
A Time to Die
Golden Fox

A Falcon Flies
Men of Men
The Angels Weep
The Leopard Hunts in Darkness

River God
The Seventh Scroll
The Quest


The Dark of the
Shout at the Devil
Gold Mine
The Diamond Hunters
The Sunbird
Eagle in the Sky
The Eye of the Tiger
Cry Wolf
Hungry as the Sea
Wild Justice
Elephant Song



First published 1982 by
William Heinemann Ltd

First published by Pan Books

This electronic edition published
2008 by Pan Books
an imprint of Pan Macmillan Ltd
Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world

ISBN 978-0-330-47287-6 in Adobe Reader
ISBN 987-0-330-47286-9 in Adobe Digital Editions format
ISBN 987-0-330-47289-0 in Microsoft Reader format
ISBN 987-0-330-47288-3 in Mobipocket format

Copyright © Wilbur Smith

The right of Wilbur Smith to be
identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him
in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act

You may not copy, store,
distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available
this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any
means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission
of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in
relation to this publication may be liable to criminal
prosecution and civil claims for damages.

A CIP catalogue record for this
book is available from the British Library.

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        But man,
proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

Measure for Measure
William Shakespeare

This book is for my wife and the
of my life, Mokhiniso, with all my love
and gratitude for the enchanted years
that I have been married to her


hree horsemen
rode out from the edge of the forest with a restrained eagerness
that not even weary weeks of constant searching could dull.

They reined in, stirrup to stirrup, and looked down into
another shallow valley. Each stalk of the dry winter grass bore a
fluffy seed-head of a lovely pale rose colour, and the light
breeze stirred them and made them dance, so that the herd of
sable antelope in the gut of the valley seemed to float
belly-deep in a bank of swirling pink mist.

There was a single herd bull. He stood almost fourteen hands
tall at the withers. His satiny back and shoulders were black as
a panther’s, but his belly and the intricate designs of his
face-mask were the startling iridescent white of mother-of-pearl.
His great ridged horns, curved like Sala-din’s scimitar,
swept back to touch his croup, and his neck was proudly arched as
that of a blood Arabian stallion. Long ago hunted to extinction
in his former southern ranges, this noblest of all the antelopes
of Africa had come to symbolize for Ralph Ballantyne this wild
and beautiful new land between the Limpopo and the wide green
Zambezi rivers.

The great black bull stared arrogantly at the horsemen on the
ridge above him, then snorted and tossed his warlike head. Thick
dark mane flying, sharp hooves clattering over the stony ground,
he led his chocolate-coloured brood mares at a gallop up and over
the far ridge, leaving the watching men mute at their grandeur
and their beauty.

Ralph Ballantyne was first to rouse himself and he turned in
the saddle towards his father.

‘Well, Papa,’ he asked, ‘do you recognize
any landmarks?’

‘It was more than thirty years ago,’ Zouga
Ballantyne murmured, a little frown of concentration puckering an
arrowhead in the centre of his forehead, ‘thirty years, and
I was riddled with malaria.’ Then he turned to the third
rider, the little wizened Hottentot, his companion and servant
since those far-off days. ‘What do you think, Jan

The Hottentot lifted the battered regimental cap from his
head, and smoothed the little peppercorns of pure white wool that
covered his scalp. ‘Perhaps—’

Ralph cut in brusquely, ‘Perhaps it was all merely a
fever dream.’

The frown on his father’s handsome bearded features
sharpened, and the scar upon his cheek flushed from
bone-porcelain to rose, while Jan Cheroot grinned with
anticipation; when these two were together it was better
entertainment than a cock-fight any day.

‘Damn it, boy,’ Zouga snapped. ‘Why
don’t you go back to the wagons and keep the women
company.’ Zouga drew the thin chain from his fob pocket and
dangled it before his son’s face. ‘There it
is,’ he snapped, ‘that’s the proof.’

On the ring of the chain hung a small bunch of keys, and other
oddments, a gold seal, a St Christopher, a cigar-cutter and an
irregular lump of quartz the size of a ripe grape. This last was
mottled like fine blue marble and starred through its centre with
a thick wedge of gleaming native metal.

‘Raw red gold,’ said Zouga. ‘Ripe for the

Ralph grinned at his father, but it was an insolent and
provocative grin, for he was bored. Weeks of wandering and
fruitless searching were not Ralph’s style at all.

‘I always suspected that you picked that up from a
pedlar’s stall on the Grand Parade at Cape Town, and that
it’s only fool’s gold anyway.’

The scar on his father’s cheek turned a darker furious
red, and Ralph laughed delightedly and clasped Zouga’s

‘Oh, Papa, if I truly believed that, do you think I
would waste weeks of my time? What with the railroad building and
the dozen other balls I am juggling, would I be here, instead of
in Johannesburg or Kimberley?’

He shook Zouga’s shoulder gently, the smile no longer
mocking. ‘It’s here – we both know it. We could
be standing on the reef at this very moment, or it could be just
over the next ridge.’

Slowly the heat went out of Zouga’s scar, and Ralph went
on evenly. ‘The trick, of course, is to find it again. We
could stumble over it in the next hour, or search another ten

Watching father and son, Jan Cheroot felt a small prick of
disappointment. He had seen them fight once before, but that was
long ago. Ralph was now in the full prime of his manhood, almost
thirty years of age, accustomed to handling the hundreds of rough
men that he employed in his transport company and his
construction teams, handling them with tongue and boot and fist.
He was big and hard and strutty as a game cock, but Jan Cheroot
suspected that the old dog would still be able to roll the puppy
in the dust. The praise name that the Matabele had given Zouga
Ballantyne was ‘Bakela’, the Fist, and he was still
fast and lean. Yes, Jan Cheroot decided regretfully, it would
still be worth watching, but perhaps another day, for already the
flare of tempers had faded and the two men were again talking
quietly and eagerly, leaning from their saddles towards each
other. Now they seemed more like brothers, for although the
family resemblance was unmistakable, yet Zouga did not seem old
enough to be Ralph’s father. His skin was too clear and
unlined, his eye too quick and vital and the faint lacing of
silver in his golden beard might have been merely the bleaching
of the fierce African sun.

‘If only you had been able to get a sun-sight, the other
observations you made were all so accurate,’ Ralph
lamented. ‘I was able to go directly to every cache of
ivory that you left that year.’

‘By that time the rains had started.’ Zouga shook
his head. ‘And, by God, how it rained! We hadn’t seen
the sun for a week, every river was in full spate, so we were
marching in circles, trying to find a ford—’ He broke
off, and lifted the reins in his left hand. ‘But I’ve
told the tale a hundred times. Let’s get on with the
search,’ he suggested quietly, and they trotted down off
the ridge into the valley, Zouga stooping from the saddle to
examine the ground for chips of broken reef, or swivelling slowly
to survey the skyline to try and recognize the shape of the
crests or the blue loom of a distant kopje against the towering
African sky, where the silver fair-weather cumulus sailed high
and serene.

‘The only definite landmark we have to work on is the
site of the ruins of Great Zimbabwe,’ Zouga muttered.
‘We marched eight days due westwards from the

‘Nine days,’ Jan Cheroot corrected him. ‘You
lost one day when Matthew died. You were in fever. I had to nurse
you like a baby, and we were carrying that damned stone

‘We couldn’t have made good more than ten miles a
day,’ Zouga ignored him. ‘Eight days’ march,
not more than eighty miles.’

BOOK: The Angels Weep
11.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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