I Had Only Just Returned To Howard

I Had Only Just Returned To Howard


I had only just returned to Howard Woolf’s farm and put the car away in the barn when Cetewayo the foreman came up to me. He was looking very agitated. “Baas!” he said breathlessly. “Mr. Woolf says you are a good doctor. Can you help me? Please!”
“What’s the trouble?” I asked.

He looked feverishly in all directions. “Mr. Woolf and his brother are in the fields. It’s better if they don’t know for the moment.”
“Please be more precise,” I urged him.

“My nephew Bheka is back. He’s, not well. He’s sick, very sick.”
I wanted to go by car, but Cetewayo told me we could only get to his brother’s house on foot. It wouldn’t take more than a quarter of an hour, he said.

The family of Cetewayo’s brother lived in a small house on the edge of a village inhabited exclusively by blacks.
Several men and women were standing around, talking together in low voices. They fell silent when they saw us coming and followed us with their gaze until we disappeared into the house.

Cetewayo’s brother, who was waiting for us inside, thanked me effusively for coming. Sadly, his English was so poor that I could hardly understand what he was saying.

Cetewayo told me that his sister-in-law and her two younger children had been temporarily housed elsewhere for fear of infection or a curse of some kind. Bheka’s brother and sister had to be protected at all costs, he said.

The house had only two rooms. Bheka, his wrists, and ankles tied together with a cord were lying on a plank bed in the back room, which was only some ten or twelve feet square. He strove to sit up, writhing like a captive animal. His huge, sunken eyes glared at us angrily, and the gag in his mouth muffled his cries. His behavior was extremely, unaccountably hostile.

Having now succeeded in sitting up, the youth tried to grab me with his pinioned hands. At the same time, his head kept jerking back and forth. His face was streaked with sweat. “Where was he found?” I asked Cetewayo.
“He turned up here a few hours ago. He scarcely reacted at first. My brother and the others brought him into the house, but he suddenly turned so vicious, they had to tie him up. He even tried to bite them, “Is it possible to communicate with him?”
Cetewayo relayed my question to his brother, who gave a helpless shrug.

“You’ll have to hold the boy down so I can examine him,” I said.

The two men kneeled beside the bed. Celewayo gripped Bheka’s ankles while his brother took hold of his wrists.

Every inch of the boy’s body was filmed with perspiration and felt inordinately hot. He twitched at my touch but temporarily kept quite still.
“He was gone for five days,” said Cetewayo. “Can you tell us what happened to him?”. “It would be extremely helpful if we knew where he spent that time.”
The boy’s eyes were closed now. His chest was rising and falling rapidly. “Tell your brother to remove the gag,” I said. “Please try to talk with him.”

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