Read When the Lion Feeds Online

Authors: Wilbur Smith,Tim Pigott-Smith

Tags: #Historical, #Action & Adventure, #Fiction

When the Lion Feeds (6 page)

BOOK: When the Lion Feeds
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I don't want to cut them, said Sean and flushed scarlet.

They'll grow quicker if you shave them a bit at first, Ada told him.

Across the table from her Garrick fingered his jowls wistfully.

Waite fetched them from school at the beginning of the December holidays. In the confusion of loading their cases onto the buggy and shouting farewells to Friulein and to their friends, some of whom they would not see for another six weeks, the twins did not notice that Waite was acting strangely.

It was only later when the horses were heading for home at twice their normal speed that Sean asked, What's the hurry, Pa?

You'll see, said Waite, and both Garrick and Sean looked at him with sudden interest. It had been an idle question of Sean's but Waite's answer had them immediately intrigued. Waite grinned at the bombardment of questions but he kept his answers vague. He was enjoying himself. By the time they reached Theunis Kraal the twins were in a frenzy of curiosity.

Waite pulled the horses up in front of the house and one of the grooms ran to take the reins. Ada was waiting on the veranda and Sean jumped down and ran up the steps to her. He kissed her quickly. What's happening? he pleaded. Pa won't tell us- but we know it's something. Garrick hurried up the steps also. Go on, tell us. He caught hold of her arm and tugged it.

I don't know what you're talking about, Ada laughed. You'd better ask your father again.

Waite climbed up after them, put one arm around Ada's waist and squeezed her.

I don't know where they got this idea from, said Waite, but why not tell them to go and have a look in their bedroom? They might as well have their Christmas presents a bit earlier this year. Sean beat Garrick to the lounge and was far in the lead by the time he reached the door of their bedroom.

Wait for me, called Garrick desperately. Please wait for me. Sean stopped in the doorway.

Jesus Christ, he whispered, they were the strongest words he knew.

Garrick came up behind him and together they stared at the pair of leather cases that lay on the table in the middle of the room, long flat cases, heavy polished leather with the corners bound in brass.

Rifles! said Sean. He walked slowly to the table as though he were stalking the cases, expecting them at any moment to vanish.

Look! Sean reached out to touch with one finger the gold lettering stamped into the lid of the nearest case. Our names on them even. He sprung the locks and lifted the lid. In a nest of green baize, perfumed with gun oil, glistened a poem in steel and wood.

Jesus Christ, said Sean again. Then he looked over his shoulder at garrick. Aren't you going to open yours?

Garrick limped up to the table trying to hide his disappointment : he had wanted a set of Dickens so badly.

In the river there were whirlpools:

The last week of the Christmas holidays and Garrick was in bed with one of his colds. Waite Courtney had gone to Pietermaritzburg for a meeting of the Beef GrowersAssociation and there was very little work to do on the farm that day. After Sean had dosed the sick cattle in the sanatorium paddock and ridden an inspection around the South section he returned to the homestead and spent an hour talking to the stableboys, then he drifted up to the house. Garry was asleep and Ada was in the dairy making butter. He asked for and got an early lunch from Joseph and ate it standing in the kitchen. While he ate he thought over the problem of how to fill the afternoon. He weighed the alternatives carefully. Take the rifle and try for duiker along the edge of the escarpment or ride to the pools above the White Falls and fish for eels.

He was still undecided after he had finished eating so he crossed the yard and looked into the cool dimness of the dairy.

Ada smiled at him across the churn. Hello, Sean, I suppose you want your lunch. Joseph gave it to me already, thanks, Ma. Joseph has already given it to me, Ada corrected mildly. Sean repeated it after her and sniffed the dairy smell, he liked the cheesy warmth of new butter and the tang of the cow dung smeared on the earth floor.

What are you going to do this afternoon?

I came to ask you if you wanted venison or eels, I don't know if I want to go fishing or shooting. Eels would be nice, we could jelly -them and have them for dinner tomorrow when your father comes home. I'll get you a bucket full. He saddled the pony, hung his tin of worms on the saddle and with his pole over his shoulder rode towards Lady-burg. He crossed the Baboon Stroorn bridge and turned off the road to follow the stream up to the falls.

As he skirted the wattle plantation below the Van Essensplace he realized he had made a mistake in picking this route. Anna, with her skirts held up to her knees, came pelting out from among the trees. Sean kicked the pony into a trot and looked straight ahead.

Sean, hey, Sean. She was ahead of him, running to intercept him; there was no chance of evading her so he stopped the pony.

Hello, Sean. She was panting and her face was flushed. Hello, he gruffed. Where are you going? There and back to see how far it is.

You're going fishing, may I come with you? She smiled appealingly. Her teeth were small and white. No, you talk too much; you'll frighten the fish He started the pony. Please, I'll be quiet; honest I will. She was running next to him.

No. He flicked the reins and pulled away from her. He rode for a hundred yards then looked round and she was still following with her black hair streaming out behind her. He stopped the pony and she caught up with him.

I knew you'd stop, she told him through her gasps.

Will you go home? I don't want you following me. honest I will I'll be quiet as anything He knew she'd follow him right up to the top of the escarpment and he gave in. all right, but if you say a word, just one single word, I'll send you home! promise, help me up, please. He dragged her onto the pony's rump and she sat sideways with her arms round his waist. They climbed the escarpment. The path ran close beside the White Falls and they could feel the spray blowing off them fine as mist.

Anna kept her promise until she was sure they'd gone too far for Sean to send her back alone. She started talking again. When she wanted an answer from him, which wasn't very often, she squeezed his waist and sean grunted . Sean knee-haltered the pony, and left him among the trees above the pools. He hid his saddle and bridle in an ant-bear hole and they walked down through the reeds to the water. Anna ran ahead of him and when he came out on to the sandbank she was throwing pebbles into the pool. Hey, stop that! You'll frighten the fish, Sean shouted.

Oh. I'm sorry. I forgot.

She sat down and wriggled her bare toes into the sand.

Sean baited his hook and lobbed it out into the green water, the current drifted his float in a wide circle under the far bank and they both watched it solemnly. It doesn't seem as though there are any fish here, Anna said. You've got to be patient, you can't expect to catch one right away. Anna drew patterns in the sand with her toes and five lutes passed slowly. Sean ssh!

Another five minutes. Fishing's a silly old thing. Nobody asked you to come, Sean told her. It's hot here!

Sean didn't answer The high reed beds shut out any breeze and the white sand threw the sun's heat back at them. Anna stood up and wandered restlessly across the sand to the edge of the reeds. She picked a handful of the long spear-shaped leaves and plaited them together.

I'm bored, she announced. Well, go home thenAnd I'm hot. Sean pulled his line in, inspected the worms and cast them out again. Anna stuck her tongue out at his back.

Let's have a swim, she suggested.

Sean ignored her. He stuck the butt of his rod into the sand, pulled his hat down to shield his eyes from the glare and leaned back on his elbows with his legs stretched out in front of him. He could hear the sand crunching as she moved and then there was another silence. He started to worry what she was doing but if he looked around it would be a show of weakness.

Girls! he thought bitterly.

There was the sound of running feet just behind him.

He sat up quickly and started to turn. Her white body flashed past him and hit the water, with a smack like a rising trout. Sean jumped up.

Hey, what're you doing? I'm swimming laughed Anna, waist-deep in green water, with her hair slicked wetly down her shoulders and over her breasts. Sean looked at those breasts, white as the flesh of an apple and nippled in dark pink, almost red. Anna dropped onto her back and kicked the water white.

Voet sak, little fishes! Scat, little fishes, she gurgled. Hey, you mustn't do that, Sean said halfheartedly.

He wanted her to stand up again, those breasts gave him a strange tight feeling in his stomach, but Anna knelt with the water up to her chin. He could see them through the water. He wanted her to stand up. It's lovely! Why don't you come in? She rolled on her stomach and ducked her head under the water; the twin ovals of her bottom broke the surface and sean's stomach tightened again. Are You coming in? she demanded, rubbing the water out of her eyes with both hands. Sean stood bewildered within a few seconds his feelings towards her had undergone a major revolution. He wanted very much to be in the water with all those mysterious white bulges, but he was shy. You're scared! Come on, I give you guts to come in She teased him. The challenge pricked him.

I'm not scaredWell, come on then He hesitated a few seconds longer, then he threw off his hat and unbuttoned his shirt. He turned his back on her while he dropped his pants then spun round and dived into the Pool, thankful for the cover it gave him. His head came out and Anna pushed it under again. He groped and caught her legs, straightened up and threw her on her back. He dragged her towards the shallows, where the water wouldn't cover her. She was thrashing her arms to keep her head out and screaming delightedly. Sean's heels snagged a rock and he fell, letting go of her; before he could recover she had leapt on him and straddled his back.

He could have thrown her off, but he liked the feel of her flesh on his back, warm through the cool water, slippery with wetness. She picked up a handful of sand and rubbed it into his hair. Sean struggled gently.

She threw her arms round his neck and he could feel the whole length of her body along his back. The tightness in his stomach moved up into his chest and he wanted to hold her. He rolled over and reached for her but she twisted out of his hands and dived back into the deep again. Sean splashed after her but she kept out of his reach, laughing at him.

At last they faced each other, still chin deep, and Sean was getting angry. He wanted to hold her. She saw the change of his mood and she waded to the bank, walked to his clothes and picked up his shirt. She dried her face on it, standing naked and unashamed, she had too many brothers for modesty. Sean watched the way her breasts changed shape as she lifted her arms, he looked at the lines of her body and saw that her once skinny legs had filled out; her thighs touched each other all the way UP to the base of her belly and there she wore the dark triangular badge of womanhood. She spread the shirt out on the sand and sat down upon it, then she looked at him. Are you coming out? He came out awkwardly, coverig himself with his hands. Anna moved over on the shirt. You can sit down, if you like He sat hurriedly and drew his knees up under his chin.

He watched her from the corner of his eye. There were little goose-pimples round her nipples from the cold water. She was aware that he was watching her and she pulled back her shoulders, enjoying it. Sean felt bewildered again, she was so clearly in control now.

Before she had been someone to growl at but now she was giving the orders and he was obeying. You've got hairs on your chest, Anna said, turning to look at him. Sparse and silky though they were, Sean was glad that he had them. He straightened out his legs.

And you're much bigger there than Frikkie. Sean tried to Pull up his knees again but she put her hand on his leg and stopped him. Can I touch you? Sean tried to speak but his throat had closed and no sound came through it. Anne did not wait for an answer.

oh, look! It's getting all cheeky, just like Caribou's. Caribou was Mr van Essen's stallion.

I always know when Pa is going to let Caribou service a mare, he tells me to go and visit Aunt Lettie. I just hide in the plantation. You can see the paddock jolly well from the plantation. Anna's hand was soft and restless, Sean could think of nothing else. Do you know that people service, just like horses do? she asked.

Sean nodded, he had attended the biology classes conducted by Messrs daffel and Company in the school latrines. They were quiet for a while, then Anna whispered. Sean, would you service me? I don't know how, croaked Sean.

I bet horses don't either the first time, nor people for that matter, Anna said. We could find out.

They rode home in the early evening, Anna sitting up behind Sean, her arms tight round his waist and the side of her face pressed between his shoulders. He dropped her at the back of the plantation.

I'll see you at school on Monday, she said and turned to go.

Yes. is it still sore? No, and then, after a moment's thought, it feels nice She turned and ran into the wattle trees.

Sean rode slowly home. He was empty inside; it was a sad feeling and it puzzled him.

rWhere are the fish? asked Ada. They weren't biting. Not even one?

BOOK: When the Lion Feeds
3.63Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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