by H. Rider Haggard
My Dear Macumazahn,
It was your native name which I borrowed at the christening of
that Allen who has become as well known to me as any other friend
I have. It is therefore fitting that I should dedicate to you
this, his last tale--the story of his wife, and the history of
some further adventures which befell him. They will remind you of
many an African yarn--that with the baboons may recall an
experience of your own which I did not share. And perhaps they
will do more than this. Perhaps they will bring back to you some
of the long past romance of days that are lost to us. The country
of which Allan Quatermain tells his tale is now, for the most
part, as well known and explored as are the fields of Norfolk.
Where we shot and trekked and galloped, scarcely seeing the face
of civilized man, there the gold-seeker builds his cities. The
shadow of the flag of Britain has, for a while, ceased to fall on
the Transvaal plains; the game has gone; the misty charm of the
morning has become the glare of day. All is changed. The blue gums
that we planted in the garden of the "Palatial" must be large
trees by now, and the "Palatial" itself has passed from us. Jess
sat in it waiting for her love after we were gone. There she
nursed him back to life. But Jess is dead, and strangers own it,
or perhaps it is a ruin.
For us too, Macumazahn, as for the land we loved, the mystery and
promise of the morning are outworn; the mid-day sun burns
overhead, and at times the way is weary. Few of those we knew are
left. Some are victims to battle and murder, their bones strew the
veldt; death has taken some in a more gentle fashion; others are
hidden from us, we know not where. We might well fear to return to
that land lest we also should see ghosts. But though we walk apart
to-day, the past yet looks upon us with its unalterable eyes.
Still we can remember many a boyish enterprise and adventure,
lightly undertaken, which now would strike us as hazardous indeed.
Still we can recall the long familiar line of the Pretoria Horse,
the face of war and panic, the weariness of midnight patrols; aye,
and hear the roar of guns echoed from the Shameful Hill.
To you then, Macumazahn, in perpetual memory of those eventful
years of youth which we passed together in the African towns and
on the African veldt, I dedicate these pages, subscribing myself
now as always,
Your sincere friend,
To Arthur H. D. Cochrane, Esq.
CHAPTER I. EARLY DAYS
It may be remembered that in the last pages of his diary, written just
before his death, Allan Quatermain makes allusion to his long dead
wife, stating that he has written of her fully elsewhere.
When his death was known, his papers were handed to myself as his
literary executor. Among them I found two manuscripts, of which the
following is one. The other is simply a record of events wherein Mr.
Quatermain was not personally concerned--a Zulu novel, the story of
which was told to him by the hero many years after the tragedy had
occurred. But with this we have nothing to do at present.
I have often thought (Mr. Quatermain's manuscript begins) that I would
set down on paper the events connected with my marriage, and the loss
of my most dear wife. Many years have now passed since that event, and
to some extent time has softened the old grief, though Heaven knows it
is still keen enough. On two or three occasions I have even begun the
record. Once I gave it up because the writing of it depressed me
beyond bearing, once because I was suddenly called away upon a
journey, and the third time because a Kaffir boy found my manuscript
convenient for lighting the kitchen fire.
But now that I am at leisure here in England, I will make a fourth
attempt. If I succeed, the story may serve to interest some one in
after years when I am dead and gone; before that I should not wish it
to be published. It is a wild tale enough, and suggests some curious
I am the son of a missionary. My father was originally curate in
charge of a small parish in Oxfordshire. He had already been some ten
years married to my dear mother when he went there, and he had four
children, of whom I was the youngest. I remember faintly the place
where we lived. It was an ancient long grey house, facing the road.
There was a very large tree of some sort in the garden. It was hollow,
and we children used to play about inside of it, and knock knots of
wood from the rough bark. We all slept in a kind of attic, and my
mother always came and kissed us when we were in bed. I used to wake
up and see her bending over me, a candle in her hand. There was a
curious kind of pole projecting from the wall over my bed. Once I was
dreadfully frightened because my eldest brother made me hang to it by
my hands. That is all I remember about our old home. It has been
pulled down long ago, or I would journey there to see it.
A little further down the road was a large house with big iron gates
to it, and on the top of the gate pillars sat two stone lions, which
were so hideous that I was afraid of them. Perhaps this sentiment was
prophetic. One could see the house by peeping through the bars of the
gates. It was a gloomy-looking place, with a tall yew hedge round it;
but in the summer-time some flowers grew about the sun-dial in the
grass plat. This house was called the Hall, and Squire Carson lived
there. One Christmas--it must have been the Christmas before my father
emigrated, or I should not remember it--we children went to a
Christmas-tree festivity at the Hall. There was a great party there,
and footmen wearing red waistcoats stood at the door. In the dining-
room, which was panelled with black oak, was the Christmas-tree.
Squire Carson stood in front of it. He was a tall, dark man, very
quiet in his manners, and he wore a bunch of seals on his waistcoat.
We used to think him old, but as a matter of fact he was then not more
than forty. He had been, as I afterwards learned, a great traveller in
his youth, and some six or seven years before this date he married a
lady who was half a Spaniard--a papist, my father called her. I can
remember her well. She was small and very pretty, with a rounded
figure, large black eyes, and glittering teeth. She spoke English with
a curious accent. I suppose that I must have been a funny child to
look at, and I know that my hair stood up on my head then as it does
now, for I still have a sketch of myself that my mother made of me, in
which this peculiarity is strongly marked. On this occasion of the
Christmas-tree I remember that Mrs. Carson turned to a tall, foreign-
looking gentleman who stood beside her, and, tapping him
affectionately on the shoulder with her gold eye-glasses, said--
"Look, cousin--look at that droll little boy with the big brown eyes;
his hair is like a--what you call him?--scrubbing-brush. Oh, what a
droll little boy!"
The tall gentleman pulled at his moustache, and, taking Mrs. Carson's
hand in his, began to smooth my hair down with it till I heard her
"Leave go my hand, cousin. Thomas is looking like--like the
Thomas was the name of Mr. Carson, her husband.
After that I hid myself as well as I could behind a chair, for I was
shy, and watched little Stella Carson, who was the squire's only
child, giving the children presents off the tree. She was dressed as
Father Christmas, with some soft white stuff round her lovely little
face, and she had large dark eyes, which I thought more beautiful than
anything I had ever seen. At last it came to my turn to receive a
present--oddly enough, considered in the light of future events, it
was a large monkey. Stella reached it down from one of the lower
boughs of the tree and handed it to me, saying--
"Dat is my Christmas present to you, little Allan Quatermain."
As she did so her sleeve, which was covered with cotton wool, spangled
over with something that shone, touched one of the tapers and caught
fire--how I do not know--and the flame ran up her arm towards her
throat. She stood quite still. I suppose that she was paralysed with
fear; and the ladies who were near screamed very loud, but did
nothing. Then some impulse seized me--perhaps instinct would be a
better word to use, considering my age. I threw myself upon the child,
and, beating at the fire with my hands, mercifully succeeded in
extinguishing it before it really got hold. My wrists were so badly
scorched that they had to be wrapped up in wool for a long time
afterwards, but with the exception of a single burn upon her throat,
little Stella Carson was not much hurt.
This is all that I remember about the Christmas-tree at the Hall. What
happened afterwards is lost to me, but to this day in my sleep I
sometimes see little Stella's sweet face and the stare of terror in
her dark eyes as the fire ran up her arm. This, however, is not
wonderful, for I had, humanly speaking, saved the life of her who was
destined to be my wife.
The next event which I can recall clearly is that my mother and three
brothers all fell ill of fever, owing, as I afterwards learned, to the
poisoning of our well by some evil-minded person, who threw a dead
sheep into it.
It must have been while they were ill that Squire Carson came one day
to the vicarage. The weather was still cold, for there was a fire in
the study, and I sat before the fire writing letters on a piece of
paper with a pencil, while my father walked up and down the room
talking to himself. Afterwards I knew that he was praying for the
lives of his wife and children. Presently a servant came to the door
and said that some one wanted to see him.
"It is the squire, sir," said the maid, "and he says he particularly
wishes to see you."
"Very well," answered my father, wearily, and presently Squire Carson
came in. His face was white and haggard, and his eyes shone so
fiercely that I was afraid of him.
"Forgive me for intruding on you at such a time, Quatermain," he said,
in a hoarse voice, "but to-morrow I leave this place for ever, and I
wish to speak to you before I go--indeed, I must speak to you."
"Shall I send Allan away?" said my father, pointing to me.
"No; let him bide. He will not understand." Nor, indeed, did I at the
time, but I remembered every word, and in after years their meaning
grew on me.
"First tell me," he went on, "how are they?" and he pointed upwards
with his thumb.
"My wife and two of the boys are beyond hope," my father answered,
with a groan. "I do not know how it will go with the third. The Lord's
will be done!"
"The Lord's will be done," the squire echoed, solemnly. "And now,
Quatermain, listen--my wife's gone."
"Gone!" my father answered. "Who with?"
"With that foreign cousin of hers. It seems from a letter she left me
that she always cared for him, not for me. She married me because she
thought me a rich English milord. Now she has run through my property,
or most of it, and gone. I don't know where. Luckily, she did not care
to encumber her new career with the child; Stella is left to me."
"That is what comes of marrying a papist, Carson," said my father.
That was his fault; he was as good and charitable a man as ever lived,
but he was bigoted. "What are you going to do--follow her?"
He laughed bitterly in answer.
"Follow her!" he said; "why should I follow her? If I met her I might
kill her or him, or both of them, because of the disgrace they have
brought upon my child's name. No, I never want to look upon her face
again. I trusted her, I tell you, and she has betrayed me. Let her go
and find her fate. But I am going too. I am weary of my life."
"Surely, Carson, surely," said my father, "you do not mean----"
"No, no; not that. Death comes soon enough. But I will leave this
civilized world which is a lie. We will go right away into the wilds,
I and my child, and hide our shame. Where? I don't know where.
Anywhere, so long as there are no white faces, no smooth educated
"You are mad, Carson," my father answered. "How will you live? How can
you educate Stella? Be a man and wear it down."
"I will be a man, and I will wear it down, but not here, Quatermain.
Education! Was not she--that woman who was my wife--was not she highly
educated?--the cleverest woman in the country forsooth. Too clever for
me, Quatermain--too clever by half! No, no, Stella shall be brought up
in a different school; if it be possible, she shall forget her very
name. Good-bye, old friend, good-bye for ever. Do not try to find me
out, henceforth I shall be like one dead to you, to you and all I
knew," and he was gone.
"Mad," said my father, with a heavy sigh. "His trouble has turned his
brain. But he will think better of it."
At that moment the nurse came hurrying in and whispered something in
his ear. My father's face turned deadly pale. He clutched at the table
to support himself, then staggered from the room. My mother was dying!
It was some days afterwards, I do not know exactly how long, that my
father took me by the hand and led me upstairs into the big room which
had been my mother's bedroom. There she lay, dead in her coffin, with
flowers in her hand. Along the wall of the room were arranged three
little white beds, and on each of the beds lay one of my brothers.
They all looked as though they were asleep, and they all had flowers
in their hands. My father told me to kiss them, because I should not
see them any more, and I did so, though I was very frightened. I did
not know why. Then he took me in his arms and kissed me.
"The Lord hath given," he said, "and the Lord hath taken away; blessed
be the name of the Lord."
I cried very much, and he took me downstairs, and after that I have
only a confused memory of men dressed in black carrying heavy burdens
towards the grey churchyard!
Next comes a vision of a great ship and wide tossing waters. My father
could no longer bear to live in England after the loss that had fallen
on him, and made up his mind to emigrate to South Africa. We must have
been poor at the time--indeed, I believe that a large portion of our
income went from my father on my mother's death. At any rate we
travelled with the steerage passengers, and the intense discomfort of
the journey with the rough ways of our fellow emigrants still remain
upon my mind. At last it came to an end, and we reached Africa, which
I was not to leave again for many, many years.
In those days civilization had not made any great progress in Southern
Africa. My father went up the country and became a missionary among
the Kaffirs, near to where the town of Cradock now stands, and here I
grew to manhood. There were a few Boer farmers in the neighbourhood,
and gradually a little settlement of whites gathered round our mission
station--a drunken Scotch blacksmith and wheelwright was about the
most interesting character, who, when he was sober, could quote the
Scottish poet Burns and the Ingoldsby Legends, then recently
published, literally by the page. It was from that I contracted a
fondness for the latter amusing writings, which has never left me.
Burns I never cared for so much, probably because of the Scottish
dialect which repelled me. What little education I got was from my
father, but I never had much leaning towards books, nor he much time
to teach them to me. On the other hand, I was always a keen observer
of the ways of men and nature. By the time that I was twenty I could
speak Dutch and three or four Kaffir dialects perfectly, and I doubt
if there was anybody in South Africa who understood native ways of
thought and action more completely than I did. Also I was really a
very good shot and horseman, and I think--as, indeed, my subsequent
career proves to have been the case--a great deal tougher than the
majority of men. Though I was then, as now, light and small, nothing
seemed to tire me. I could bear any amount of exposure and privation,
and I never met the native who was my master in feats of endurance. Of
course, all that is different now, I am speaking of my early manhood.
It may be wondered that I did not run absolutely wild in such
surroundings, but I was held back from this by my father's society. He
was one of the gentlest and most refined men that I ever met; even the
most savage Kaffir loved him, and his influence was a very good one
for me. He used to call himself one of the world's failures. Would
that there were more such failures. Every morning when his work was
done he would take his prayer-book and, sitting on the little stoep or
verandah of our station, would read the evening psalms to himself.
Sometimes there was not light enough for this, but it made no
difference, he knew them all by heart. When he had finished he would
look out across the cultivated lands where the mission Kaffirs had
But I knew it was not these he saw, but rather the grey English
church, and the graves ranged side by side before the yew near the
It was there on the stoep that he died. He had not been well, and one
evening I was talking to him, and his mind went back to Oxfordshire
and my mother. He spoke of her a good deal, saying that she had never
been out of his mind for a single day during all these years, and that
he rejoiced to think he was drawing near that land wither she had
gone. Then he asked me if I remembered the night when Squire Carson
came into the study at the vicarage, and told him that his wife had
run away, and that he was going to change his name and bury himself in
some remote land.
I answered that I remembered it perfectly.
"I wonder where he went to," said my father, "and if he and his
daughter Stella are still alive. Well, well! I shall never meet them
again. But life is a strange thing, Allan, and you may. If you ever
do, give them my kind love."
After that I left him. We had been suffering more than usual from the
depredations of the Kaffir thieves, who stole our sheep at night, and,
as I had done before, and not without success, I determined to watch
the kraal and see if I could catch them. Indeed, it was from this
habit of mine of watching at night that I first got my native name of
Macumazahn, which may be roughly translated as "he who sleeps with one
eye open." So I took my rifle and rose to go. But he called me to him
and kissed me on the forehead, saying, "God bless you, Allan! I hope
that you will think of your old father sometimes, and that you will
lead a good and happy life."
I remember that I did not much like his tone at the time, but set it
down to an attack of low spirits, to which he grew very subject as the
years went on. I went down to the kraal and watched till within an
hour of sunrise; then, as no thieves appeared, returned to the
station. As I came near I was astonished to see a figure sitting in my
father's chair. At first I thought it must be a drunken Kaffir, then
that my father had fallen asleep there.
And so he had,--for he was dead!
CHAPTER II. THE FIRE-FIGHT
When I had buried my father, and seen a successor installed in his
place--for the station was the property of the Society--I set to work
to carry out a plan which I had long cherished, but been unable to
execute because it would have involved separation from my father. Put
shortly, it was to undertake a trading journey of exploration right
through the countries now known as the Free State and the Transvaal,
and as much further North as I could go. It was an adventurous scheme,
for though the emigrant Boers had begun to occupy positions in these
territories, they were still to all practical purposes unexplored. But
I was now alone in the world, and it mattered little what became of
me; so, driven on by the overmastering love of adventure, which, old
as I am, will perhaps still be the cause of my death, I determined to
undertake the journey.
Accordingly I sold such stock and goods as we had upon the station,
reserving only the two best waggons and two spans of oxen. The
proceeds I invested in such goods as were then in fashion, for trading
purposes, and in guns and ammunition. The guns would have moved any
modern explorer to merriment; but such as they were I managed to do a
good deal of execution with them. One of them was a single-barrelled,
smooth bore, fitted for percussion caps--a roer we called it--which
threw a three-ounce ball, and was charged with a handful of coarse
black powder. Many is the elephant that I killed with that roer,
although it generally knocked me backwards when I fired it, which I
only did under compulsion. The best of the lot, perhaps, was a double-
barrelled No. 12 shot-gun, but it had flint locks. Also there were
some old tower muskets, which might or might not throw straight at
seventy yards. I took six Kaffirs with me, and three good horses,
which were supposed to be salted--that is, proof against the sickness.
Among the Kaffirs was an old fellow named Indaba-zimbi, which, being
translated, means "tongue of iron." I suppose he got this name from
his strident voice and exhaustless eloquence. This man was a great
character in his way. He had been a noted witch-doctor among a
neighbouring tribe, and came to the station under the following
circumstances, which, as he plays a considerable part in this history,
are perhaps worth recording.
Two years before my father's death I had occasion to search the
country round for some lost oxen. After a long and useless quest it
occurred to me that I had better go to the place where the oxen were
bred by a Kaffir chief, whose name I forget, but whose kraal was about
fifty miles from our station. There I journeyed, and found the oxen
safe at home. The chief entertained me handsomely, and on the
following morning I went to pay my respects to him before leaving, and
was somewhat surprised to find a collection of some hundreds of men
and women sitting round him anxiously watching the sky in which the
thunder-clouds were banking up in a very ominous way.
"You had better wait, white man," said the chief, "and see the rain-
doctors fight the lightning."
I inquired what he meant, and learned that this man, Indaba-zimbi, had
for some years occupied the position of wizard-in-chief to the tribe,
although he was not a member of it, having been born in the country
now known as Zululand. But a son of the chief's, a man of about
thirty, had lately set up as a rival in supernatural powers. This
irritated Indaba-zimbi beyond measure, and a quarrel ensued between
the two witch-doctors that resulted in a challenge to trial by
lightning being given and accepted. These were the conditions. The
rivals must await the coming of a serious thunderstorm, no ordinary
tempest would serve their turn. Then, carrying assegais in their
hands, they must take their stand within fifty paces of each other
upon a certain patch of ground where the big thunderbolts were
observed to strike continually, and by the exercise of their occult
powers and invocations to the lightning, must strive to avert death
from themselves and bring it on their rival. The terms of this
singular match had been arranged a month previously, but no storm
worthy of the occasion had arisen. Now the local weather-prophets
believed it to be brewing.
I inquired what would happen if neither of the men were struck, and
was told that they must then wait for another storm. If they escaped
the second time, however, they would be held to be equal in power, and
be jointly consulted by the tribe upon occasions of importance.
The prospect of being a spectator of so unusual a sight overcame my
desire to be gone, and I accepted the chief's invitation to see it
out. Before mid-day I regretted it, for though the western heavens
grew darker and darker, and the still air heralded the coming of the
storm, yet it did not come. By four o'clock, however, it became
obvious that it must burst soon--at sunset, the old chief said, and in
the company of the whole assembly I moved down to the place of combat.
The kraal was built on the top of a hill, and below it the land sloped
gently to the banks of a river about half a mile away. On the hither
side of the bank was the piece of land that was, the natives said,
"loved of the lightning." Here the magicians took up their stand,
while the spectators grouped themselves on the hillside about two
hundred yards away--which was, I thought, rather too near to be
pleasant. When we had sat there for a while my curiosity overcame me,
and I asked leave of the chief to go down and inspect the arena. He
said I might do so at my own risk. I told him that the fire from above
would not hurt white men, and went to find that the spot was a bed of
iron ore, thinly covered with grass, which of course accounted for its
attracting the lightning from the storms as they travelled along the
line of the river. At each end of this iron-stone area were placed the
combatants, Indaba-zimbi facing the east, and his rival the west, and
before each there burned a little fire made of some scented root.
Moreover they were dressed in all the paraphernalia of their craft,
snakeskins, fish-bladders, and I know not what beside, while round
their necks hung circlets of baboons' teeth and bones from human
hands. First I went to the western end where the chief's son stood. He
was pointing with his assegai towards the advancing storm, and
invoking it in a voice of great excitement.
"Come, fire, and lick up Indaba-zimbi!
"Hear me, Storm Devil, and lick Indaba-zimbi with your red tongue!
"Spit on him with your rain!
"Whirl him away in your breath!
"Make him as nothing--melt the marrow in his bones!
"Run into his heart and burn away the lies!
"Show all the people who is the true Witch Finder!
"Let me not be put to shame in the eyes of this white man!"
Thus he spoke, or rather chanted, and all the while rubbed his broad
chest--for he was a very fine man--with some filthy compound of
medicine or /mouti/.
After a while, getting tired of his song, I walked across the iron-
stone, to where Indaba-zimbi sat by his fire. He was not chanting at
all, but his performance was much more impressive. It consisted in
staring at the eastern sky, which was perfectly clear of cloud, and
every now and again beckoning at it with his finger, then turning
round to point with the assegai towards his rival. For a while I
looked at him in silence. He was a curious wizened man, apparently
over fifty years of age, with thin hands that looked as tough as wire.
His nose was much sharper than is usual among these races, and he had
a queer habit of holding his head sideways like a bird when he spoke,
which, in addition to the humour that lurked in his eye, gave him a
most comical appearance. Another strange thing about him was that he
had a single white lock of hair among his black wool. At last I spoke
"Indaba-zimbi, my friend," I said, "you may be a good witch-doctor,
but you are certainly a fool. It is no good beckoning at the blue sky
while your enemy is getting a start with the storm."
"You may be clever, but don't think you know everything, white man,"
the old fellow answered, in a high, cracked voice, and with something
like a grin.
"They call you Iron-tongue," I went on; "you had better use it, or the
Storm Devil won't hear you."
"The fire from above runs down iron," he answered, "so I keep my
tongue quiet. Oh, yes, let him curse away, I'll put him out presently.
Look now, white man."
I looked, and in the eastern sky there grew a cloud. At first it was
small, though very black, but it gathered with extraordinary rapidity.
This was odd enough, but as I had seen the same thing happen before it
did not particularly astonish me. It is by no means unusual in Africa
for two thunderstorms to come up at the same time from different
points of the compass.
"You had better get on, Indaba-zimbi," I said, "the big storm is
coming along fast, and will soon eat up that baby of yours," and I
pointed to the west.
"Babies sometimes grow to giants, white man," said Indaba-zimbi,
beckoning away vigorously. "Look now at my cloud-child."
I looked; the eastern storm was spreading itself from earth to sky,
and in shape resembled an enormous man. There was its head, its
shoulders, and its legs; yes, it was like a huge giant travelling
across the heavens. The light of the setting sun escaping from beneath
the lower edge of the western storm shot across the intervening space
in a sheet of splendour, and, lighting upon the advancing figure of
cloud, wrapped its middle in hues of glory too wonderful to be
described; but beneath and above this glowing belt his feet and head
were black as jet. Presently, as I watched, an awful flash of light
shot from the head of the cloud, circled it about as though with a
crown of living fire, and vanished.
"Aha," chuckled old Indaba-zimbi, "my little boy is putting on his
man's ring," and he tapped the gum ring on his own head, which natives
assume when they reach a certain age and dignity. "Now, white man,
unless you are a bigger wizard than either of us you had better clear
off, for the fire-fight is about to begin."
I thought this sound advice.
"Good luck go with you, my black uncle," I said. "I hope you don't
feel the iniquities of a mis-spent life weighing on you at the last."
"You look after yourself, and think of your own sins, young man," he
answered, with a grim smile, and taking a pinch of snuff, while at
that very moment a flash of lightning, I don't know from which storm,
struck the ground within thirty paces of me. That was enough for me, I
took to my heels, and as I went I heard old Indaba-zimbi's dry chuckle
I climbed the hill till I came to where the chief was sitting with his
indunas, or headmen, and sat down near to him. I looked at the man's
face and saw that he was intensely anxious for his son's safety, and
by no means confident of the young man's powers to resist the magic of
Indaba-zimbi. He was talking in a low voice to the induna next to him.
I affected to take no notice and to be concentrating my attention on
the novel scene before me; but in those days I had very quick ears,
and caught the drift of the conversation.
"Hearken!" the chief was saying, "if the magic of Indaba-zimbi
prevails against my son I will endure him no more. Of this I am sure,
that when he has slain my son he will slay me, me also, and make
himself chief in my place. I fear Indaba-zimbi. /Ou!/"
"Black One," answered the induna, "wizards die as dogs die, and, once
dead, dogs bark no more."
"And once dead," said the chiefs, "wizards work no more spells," and
he bent and whispered in the induna's ear, looking at the assegai in
his hand as he whispered.
"Good, my father, good!" said the induna, presently. "It shall be done
to-night, if the lightning does not do it first."
"A bad look-out for old Indaba-zimbi," I said to myself. "They mean to
kill him." Then I thought no more of the matter for a while, the scene
before me was too tremendous.
The two storms were rapidly rushing together. Between them was a gulf
of blue sky, and from time to time flashes of blinding light passed
across this gulf, leaping from cloud to cloud. I remember that they
reminded me of the story of the heathen god Jove and his thunderbolts.
The storm that was shaped like a giant and ringed with the glory of
the sinking sun made an excellent Jove, and I am sure that the bolts
which leapt from it could not have been surpassed even in mythological
times. Oddly enough, as yet the flashes were not followed by thunder.
A deadly stillness lay upon the place, the cattle stood silently on
the hillside, even the natives were awed to silence. Dark shadows
crept along the bosom of the hills, the river to the right and left
was hidden in wreaths of cloud, but before us and beyond the
combatants it shone like a line of silver beneath the narrowing space
of open sky. Now the western tempest was scrawled all over with lines
of intolerable light, while the inky head of the cloud-giant to the
east was continually suffused with a white and deadly glow that came
and went in pulses, as though a blood of flame was being pumped into
it from the heart of the storm.
The silence deepened and deepened, the shadows grew blacker and
blacker, then suddenly all nature began to moan beneath the breath of
an icy wind. On sped the wind; the smooth surface of the river was
ruffled by it into little waves, the tall grass bowed low before it,
and in its wake came the hissing sound of furious rain.
Ah! the storms had met. From each there burst an awful blaze of
dazzling flame, and now the hill on which we sat rocked at the noise
of the following thunder. The light went out of the sky, darkness fell
suddenly on the land, but not for long. Presently the whole landscape
grew vivid in the flashes, it appeared and disappeared, now everything
was visible for miles, now even the men at my side vanished in the
blackness. The thunder rolled and cracked and pealed like the trump of
doom, whirlwinds tore round, lifting dust and even stones high into
the air, and in a low, continuous undertone rose the hiss of the
I put my hand before my eyes to shield them from the terrible glare,
and looked beneath it towards the lists of iron-stone. As flash
followed flash, from time to time I caught sight of the two wizards.
They were slowly advancing towards one another, each pointing at his
foe with the assegai in his hand. I could see their every movement,
and it seemed to me that the chain lightning was striking the iron-
stone all round them.
Suddenly the thunder and lightning ceased for a minute, everything
grew black, and, except for the rain, silent.
"It is over one way or the other, chief," I called out into the
"Wait, white man, wait!" answered the chief, in a voice thick with
anxiety and fear.
Hardly were the words out of his mouth when the heavens were lit up
again till they literally seemed to flame. There were the men, not ten
paces apart. A great flash fell between them, I saw them stagger
beneath the shock. Indaba-zimbi recovered himself first--at any rate
when the next flash came he was standing bolt upright, pointing with
his assegai towards his enemy. The chief's son was still on his legs,
but he was staggering like a drunken man, and the assegai had fallen
from his hand.
Darkness! then again a flash, more fearful, if possible, than any that
had gone before. To me it seemed to come from the east, right over the
head of Indaba-zimbi. At that instant I saw the chief's son wrapped,
as it were, in the heart of it. Then the thunder pealed, the rain
burst over us like a torrent, and I saw no more.
The worst of the storm was done, but for a while the darkness was so
dense that we could not move, nor, indeed, was I inclined to leave the
safety of the hillside where the lightning was never known to strike,
and venture down to the iron-stone. Occasionally there still came
flashes, but, search as we would, we could see no trace of either of
the wizards. For my part, I believed that they were both dead. Now the
clouds slowly rolled away down the course of the river, and with them
went the rain; and now the stars shone in their wake.
"Let us go and see," said the old chief, rising and shaking the water
from his hair. "The fire-fight is ended, let us go and see who has
I rose and followed him, dripping as though I had swum a hundred yards
with my clothes on, and after me came all the people of the kraal.
We reached the spot; even in that light I could see where the iron-
stone had been split and fused by the thunderbolts. While I was
staring about me, I suddenly heard the chief, who was on my right,
give a low moan, and saw the people cluster round him. I went up and
looked. There, on the ground, lay the body of his son. It was a
dreadful sight. The hair was burnt off his head, the copper rings upon
his arms were fused, the assegai handle which lay near was literally
shivered into threads, and, when I took hold of his arm, it seemed to
me that every bone of it was broken.
The men with the chief stood gazing silently, while the women wailed.
"Great is the magic of Indaba-zimbi!" said a man, at length. The chief
turned and struck him a heavy blow with the kerrie in his hand.
"Great or not, thou dog, he shall die," he cried, "and so shalt thou
if thou singest his praises so loudly."
I said nothing, but thinking it probable that Indaba-zimbi had shared
the fate of his enemy, I went to look. But I could see nothing of him,
and at length, being thoroughly chilled with the wet, started back to
my waggon to change my clothes. On reaching it, I was rather surprised
to see a strange Kaffir seated on the driving-box wrapped up in a
"Hullo! come out of that," I said.
The figure on the box slowly unrolled the blanket, and with great
deliberation took a pinch of snuff.
"It was a good fire-fight, white man, was it not?" said Indaba-zimbi,
in his high, cracked voice. "But he never had a chance against me,
poor boy. He knew nothing about it. See, white man, what becomes of
presumption in the young. It is sad, very sad, but I made the flashes
fly, didn't I?"
"You old humbug," I said, "unless you are careful you will soon learn
what comes of presumption in the old, for your chief is after you with
an assegai, and it will take all your magic to dodge that."
"Now you don't say so," said Indaba-zimbi, clambering off the waggon
with rapidity; "and all because of this wretched upstart. There's
gratitude for you, white man. I expose him, and they want to kill me.
Well, thank you for the hint. We shall meet again before long," and he
was gone like a shot, and not too soon, for just then some of the
chief's men came up to the waggon.
On the following morning I started homewards. The first face I saw on
arriving at the station was that of Indaba-zimbi.
"How do you do, Macumazahn?" he said, holding his head on one side and
nodding his white lock. "I hear you are Christians here, and I want to
try a new religion. Mine must be a bad one seeing that my people
wanted to kill me for exposing an impostor."
CHAPTER III. NORTHWARDS
I make no apology to myself, or to anybody who may happen to read this
narrative in future, for having set out the manner of my meeting with
Indaba-zimbi: first, because it was curious, and secondly, because he
takes some hand in the subsequent events. If that old man was a
humbug, he was a very clever one. What amount of truth there was in
his pretensions to supernatural powers it is not for me to determine,
though I may have my own opinion on the subject. But there was no
mistake as to the extraordinary influence he exercised over his
fellow-natives. Also he quite got round my poor father. At first the
old gentleman declined to have him at the station, for he had a great
horror of these Kaffir wizards or witch-finders. But Indaba-zimbi
persuaded him that he was anxious to investigate the truths of
Christianity, and challenged him to a discussion. The argument lasted
two years--to the time of my father's death, indeed. At the conclusion
of each stage Indaba-zimbi would remark, in the words of the Roman
Governor, "Almost, praying white man, thou persuadest me to become a
Christian," but he never quite became one--indeed, I do not think he
ever meant to. It was to him that my father addressed his "Letters to
a Native Doubter." This work, which, unfortunately, remains in
manuscript, is full of wise saws and learned instances. It ought to be
published together with a /précis/ of the doubter's answers, which
So the talk went on. If my father had lived I believe it would be
going on now, for both the disputants were quite inexhaustible.
Meanwhile Indaba-zimbi was allowed to live on the station on condition
that he practised no witchcraft, which my father firmly believed to be
a wile of the devil. He said that he would not, but for all that there
was never an ox lost, or a sudden death, but he was consulted by those
When he had been with us a year, a deputation came to him from the
tribe he had left, asking him to return. Things had not gone well with
them since he went away, they said, and now the chief, his enemy, was
dead. Old Indaba-zimbi listened to them till they had done, and, as he
listened, raked sand into a little heap with his toes. Then he spoke,
pointing to the little heap, "There is your tribe to-day," he said.
Then he lifted his heel and stamped the heap flat. "There is your
tribe before three moons are gone. Nothing is left of it. You drove me
away: I will have no more to do with you; but when you are being
killed think of my words."
The messengers went. Three months afterwards I heard that the whole
community had been wiped out by an Impi of raiding Pondos.
When I was at length ready to start upon my expedition, I went to old
Indaba-zimbi to say good-bye to him, and was rather surprised to find
him engaged in rolling up medicine, assegais, and other sundries in
"Good-bye, Indaba-zimbi," I said, "I am going to trek north."
"Yes, Macumazahn," he answered, with his head on one side; "and so am
I--I want to see that country. We will go together."
"Will we!" I said; "wait till you are asked, you old humbug."
"You had better ask me, then, Macumazahn, for if you don't you will
never come back alive. Now that the old chief (my father) is gone to
where the storms come from," and he nodded to the sky, "I feel myself
getting into bad habits again. So last night I just threw up the bones
and worked out about your journey, and I can tell you this, that if
you don't take me you will die, and, what is more, you will lose one
who is dearer to you than life in a strange fashion. So just because
you gave me that hint a couple of years ago, I made up my mind to come
"Don't talk stuff to me," I said.
"Ah, very well, Macumazahn, very well; but what happened to my own
people six months ago, and what did I tell the messengers would
happen? They drove me away, and they are gone. If you drive me away
you will soon be gone too," and he nodded his white lock at me and
smiled. Now I was not more superstitious than other people, but
somehow old Indaba-zimbi impressed me. Also I knew his extraordinary
influence over every class of native, and bethought me that he might
be useful in that way.
"All right," I said: "I appoint you witch-finder to the expedition
"First serve, then ask for wages," he answered. "I am glad to see that
you have enough imagination not to be altogether a fool, like most
white men, Macumazahn. Yes, yes, it is want of imagination that makes
people fools; they won't believe what they can't understand. You can't
understand my prophecies any more than the fool at the kraal could
understand that I was his master with the lightning. Well, it is time
to trek, but if I were you, Macumazahn, I should take one waggon, not
"Why?" I said.
"Because you will lose your waggons, and it is better to lose one than
"Oh, nonsense!" I said.
"All right, Macumazahn, live and learn." And without another word he
walked to the foremost waggon, put his bundle into it, and climbed on
to the front seat.
So having bid an affectionate adieu to my white friends, including the
old Scotchman who got drunk in honour of the event, and quoted Burns
till the tears ran down his face, at length I started, and travelled
slowly northwards. For the first three weeks nothing very particular
befell me. Such Kaffirs as we came in contact with were friendly, and
game literally swarmed. Nobody living in those parts of South Africa
nowadays can have the remotest idea of what the veldt was like even
thirty years ago.
Often and often I have crept shivering on to my waggon-box just as the
sun rose and looked out. At first one would see nothing but a vast
field of white mist suffused towards the east by a tremulous golden
glow, through which the tops of stony koppies stood up like gigantic
beacons. From the dense mist would come strange sounds--snorts,
gruntings, bellows, and the thunder of countless hoofs. Presently this
great curtain would grow thinner, then it would melt, as the smoke
from a pipe melts into the air, and for miles on miles the wide
rolling country interspersed with bush opened to the view. But it was
not tenantless as it is now, for as far as the eye could reach it
would be literally black with game. Here to the right might be a herd
of vilderbeeste that could not number less than two thousand. Some
were grazing, some gambolled, whisking their white tails into the air,
while all round the old bulls stood upon hillocks sniffing
suspiciously at the breeze. There, in front, a hundred yards away,
though to the unpractised eye they looked much closer, because of the
dazzling clearness of the atmosphere, was a great herd of springbok
trekking along in single file. Ah, they have come to the waggon-track
and do not like the look of it. What will they do?--go back? Not a bit
of it. It is nearly thirty feet wide, but that is nothing to a
springbok. See, the first of them bounds into the air like a ball. How
beautifully the sunshine gleams upon his golden hide! He has cleared
it, and the others come after him in numberless succession, all except
the fawns, who cannot jump so far, and have to scamper over the
doubtful path with a terrified /bah/. What is that yonder, moving
above the tops of the mimosa, in the little dell at the foot of the
koppie? Giraffes, by George! three of them; there will be marrow-bones
for supper to-night. Hark! the ground shakes behind us, and over the
brow of the rise rush a vast herd of blesbock. On they come at full
gallop, their long heads held low, they look like so many bearded
goats. I thought so--behind them is a pack of wild dogs, their fur
draggled, their tongues lolling. They are in full cry; the giraffes
hear them and are away, rolling round the koppie like a ship in a
heavy sea. No marrow-bones after all. See! the foremost dogs are close
on a buck. He has galloped far and is outworn. One springs at his
flank and misses him. The buck gives a kind of groan, looks wildly
round and sees the waggon. He seems to hesitate a moment, then in his
despair rushes up to it, and falls exhausted among the oxen. The dogs
pull up some thirty paces away, panting and snarling. Now, boy, the
gun--no, not the rifle, the shot-gun loaded with loopers.
Bang! bang! there, my friends, two of you will never hunt buck again.
No, don't touch the buck, for he has come to us for shelter, and he
shall have it.
Ah, how beautiful is nature before man comes to spoil it!
Such a sight as this have I seen many a hundred times, and I hope to
see it again before I die.
The first real adventure that befell me on this particular journey was
with elephants, which I will relate because of its curious
termination. Just before we crossed the Orange River we came to a
stretch of forest-land some twenty miles broad. The night we entered
this forest we camped in a lovely open glade. A few yards ahead
tambouki grass was growing to the height of a man, or rather it had
been; now, with the exception of a few stalks here and there, it was
crushed quite flat. It was already dusk when we camped; but after the
moon got up I walked from the fire to see how this had happened. One
glance was enough for me; a great herd of elephants had evidently
passed over the tall grass not many hours before. The sight of their
spoor rejoiced me exceedingly, for though I had seen wild elephants,
at that time I had never shot one. Moreover, the sight of elephant
spoor to the African hunter is what "colour in the pan" is to the
prospector of gold. It is by the ivory that he lives, and to shoot it
or trade it is his chief aim in life. My resolution was soon taken. I
would camp the waggons for a while in the forest, and start on
horseback after the elephants.
I communicated my decision to Indaba-zimbi and the other Kaffirs. The
latter were not loth, for your Kaffir loves hunting, which means
plenty of meat and congenial occupation, but Indaba-zimbi would
express no opinion. I saw him retire to a little fire that he had lit
for himself, and go through some mysterious performances with bones
and clay mixed with ashes, which were watched with the greatest
interest by the other Kaffirs. At length he rose, and, coming forward,
informed me that it was all right, and that I did well to go and hunt
the elephants, as I should get plenty of ivory; but he advised me to
go on foot. I said I should do nothing of the sort, but meant to ride.
I am wiser now; this was the first and last time that I ever attempted
to hunt elephants on horseback.
Accordingly we started at dawn, I, Indaba-zimbi, and three men; the
rest I left with the waggons. I was on horseback, and so was my
driver, a good rider and a skilful shot for a Kaffir, but Indaba-zimbi
and the others walked. From dawn till mid-day we followed the trail of
the herd, which was as plain as a high road. Then we off-saddled to
let the horses rest and feed, and about three o'clock started on
again. Another hour or so passed, and still there was no sign of
elephants. Evidently the herd had travelled fast and far, and I began
to think that we should have to give it up, when suddenly I caught
sight of a brown mass moving through the thorn-trees on the side of a
slope about a quarter of a mile away. My heart seemed to jump into my
mouth. Where is the hunter who has not felt like this at the sight of
his first elephant?
I called a halt, and then the wind being right, we set to work to
stalk the bull. Very quietly I rode down the hither side of the slope
till we came to the bottom, which was densely covered with bush. Here
I saw the elephants had been feeding, for broken branches and upturned
trees lay all about. I did not take much notice, however, for all my
thoughts were fixed upon the bull I was stalking, when suddenly my
horse gave a violent start that nearly threw me from the saddle, and
there came a mighty rush and upheaval of something in front of me. I
looked: there was the hinder part of a second bull elephant not four
yards off. I could just catch sight of its outstretched ears
projecting on either side. I had disturbed it sleeping, and it was
Obviously the best thing to do would have been to let it run, but I
was young in those days and foolish, and in the excitement of the
moment I lifted my "roer" or elephant gun and fired at the great brute
over my horse's head. The recoil of the heavy gun nearly knocked me
off the horse. I recovered myself, however, and, as I did so, saw the
bull lurch forward, for the impact of a three-ounce bullet in the
flank will quicken the movement even of an elephant. By this time I
had realized the folly of the shot, and devoutly hoped that the bull
would take no further notice of it. But he took a different view of
the matter. Pulling himself up in a series of plunges, he spun round
and came for me with outstretched ears and uplifted trunk, screaming
terribly. I was quite defenceless, for my gun was empty, and my first
thought was of escape. I dug my heels into the sides of my horse, but
he would not move an inch. The poor animal was paralyzed with terror,
and he simply stood still, his fore-legs outstretched, and quivering
all over like a leaf.
On rushed the elephant, awful to see; I made one more vain effort to
stir the horse. Now the trunk of the great bull swung aloft above my
head. A thought flashed through my brain. Quick as light I rolled from
the saddle. By the side of the horse lay a fallen tree, as thick
through as a man's body. The tree was lifted a little off the ground
by the broken boughs which took its weight, and with a single
movement, so active is one in such necessities, I flung myself beneath
it. As I did so, I heard the trunk of the elephant descend with a
mighty thud on the back of my poor horse, and the next instant I was
almost in darkness, for the horse, whose back was broken, fell over
across the tree under which I lay ensconced. But he did not stop there
long. In ten seconds more the bull had wound his trunk about my dead
nag's neck, and, with a mighty effort, hurled him clear of the tree. I
wriggled backwards as far as I could towards the roots of the tree,
for I knew what he was after. Presently I saw the red tip of the
bull's trunk stretching itself towards me. If he could manage to hook
it round any part of me I was lost. But in the position I occupied,
that was just what he could not do, although he knelt down to
facilitate his operations. On came the snapping tip like a great open-
mouthed snake; it closed upon my hat, which vanished. Again it was
thrust down, and a scream of rage was bellowed through it within four
inches of my head. Now it seemed to elongate itself. Oh, heavens! now
it had me by the hair, which, luckily for myself, was not very long.
Then it was my turn to scream, for next instant half a square inch of
hair was dragged from my scalp by the roots. I was being plucked
alive, as I have seen cruel Kaffir kitchen boys pluck a fowl.
The elephant, however, disappointed with these moderate results,
changed his tactics. He wound his trunk round the fallen tree and
lifted. The tree stirred, but fortunately the broken branches embedded
in the spongy soil, and some roots, which still held, prevented it
from being turned over, though he lifted it so much that, had it
occurred to him, he could now easily have drawn me out with his trunk.
Again he hoisted with all his mighty strength, and I saw that the tree
was coming, and roared aloud for help. Some shots were fired close by
in answer, but if they hit the bull, their only effect was to stir his
energies to more active life. In another few seconds my shelter would
be torn away, and I should be done for. A cold perspiration burst out
over me as I realized that I was lost. Then of a sudden I remembered
that I had a pistol in my belt, which I often used for despatching
wounded game. It was loaded and capped. By this time the tree was
lifted so much that I could easily get my hand down to my middle and
draw the pistol from its case. I drew and cocked it. Now the tree was
coming over, and there, within three feet of my head, was the great
brown trunk of the elephant. I placed the muzzle of the pistol within
an inch of it and fired. The result was instantaneous. Down sunk the
tree again, giving one of my legs a considerable squeeze, and next
instant I heard a crashing sound. The elephant had bolted.
By this time, what between fright and struggling, I was pretty well
tired. I cannot remember how I got from under the fallen tree, or
indeed anything, until I found myself sitting on the ground drinking
some peach brandy from a flask, and old Indaba-zimbi opposite to me
nodding his white lock sagely, while he fired off moral reflections on
the narrowness of my escape, and my unwisdom in not having taken his
advice to go on foot. That reminded me of my horse--I got up and went
to look at it. It was quite dead, the blow of the elephant's trunk had
fallen on the saddle, breaking the framework, and rendering it
useless. I reflected that in another two seconds it would have fallen
on /me/. Then I called to Indaba-zimbi and asked which way the
elephants had gone.
"There!" he said, pointing down the gully, "and we had better go after
them, Macumazahn. We have had the bad luck, now for the good."
There was philosophy in this, though, to tell the truth, I did not
feel particularly sharp set on elephants at the moment. I seemed to
have had enough of them. However, it would never do to show the white
feather before the boys, so I assented with much outward readiness,
and we started, I on the second horse, and the others on foot. When we
had travelled for the best part of an hour down the valley, all of a
sudden we came upon the whole herd, which numbered a little more than
eighty. Just in front of them the bush was so thick that they seemed
to hesitate about entering it, and the sides of the valley were so
rocky and steep at this point that they could not climb them.
They saw us at the same moment as we saw them, and inwardly I was
filled with fears lest they should take it into their heads to charge
back up the gully. But they did not; trumpeting aloud, they rushed at
the thick bush which went down before them like corn before a sickle.
I do not think that in all my experiences I ever heard anything to
equal the sound they made as they crashed through and over the shrubs
and trees. Before them was a dense forest belt from a hundred to a
hundred and fifty feet in width. As they rushed on, it fell, so that
behind them was nothing but a level roadway strewed with fallen
trunks, crushed branches, and here and there a tree, too strong even
for them, left stranded amid the wreck. On they went, and,
notwithstanding the nature of the ground over which they had to
travel, they kept their distance ahead of us. This sort of thing
continued for a mile or more, and then I saw that in front of the
elephants the valley opened into a space covered with reeds and grass
--it might have been five or six acres in extent--beyond which the
valley ran on again.
The herd reached the edge of this expanse, and for a moment pulled up,
hesitating--evidently they mistrusted it. My men yelled aloud, as only
Kaffirs can, and that settled them. Headed by the wounded bull, whose
martial ardour, like my own, was somewhat cooled, they spread out and
dashed into the treacherous swamp--for such it was, though just then
there was no water to be seen. For a few yards all went well with
them, though they clearly found it heavy going; then suddenly the
great bull sank up to his belly in the stiff peaty soil, and remained
fixed. The others, mad with fear, took no heed of his struggles and
trumpetings, but plunged on to meet the same fate. In five minutes the
whole herd of them were hopelessly bogged, and the more they struggled
to escape, the deeper they sunk. There was one exception, indeed, a
cow managed to win back to firm shore, and, lifting her trunk,
prepared to charge us as we came up. But at that moment she heard the
scream of her calf, and rushed back to its assistance, only to be
bogged with the others.
Such a scene I never saw before or since. The swamp was spotted all
over with the large forms of the elephants, and the air rang with
their screams of rage and terror as they waved their trunks wildly to
and fro. Now and then a monster would make a great effort and drag his
mass from its peaty bed, only to stick fast again at the next step. It
was a most pitiable sight, though one that gladdened the hearts of my
men. Even the best natives have little compassion for the sufferings
Well, the rest was easy. The marsh that would not bear the elephants
carried our weight well enough. Before midnight all were dead, for we
shot them by moonlight. I would gladly have spared the young ones and
some of the cows, but to do so would only have meant leaving them to
perish of hunger; it was kinder to kill them at once. The wounded bull
I slew with my own hand, and I cannot say that I felt much compunction
in so doing. He knew me again, and made a desperate effort to get at
me, but I am glad to say that the peat held him fast.
The pan presented a curious sight when the sun rose next morning.
Owing to the support given by the soil, few of the dead elephants had
fallen: there they stood as though they were asleep.
I sent back for the waggons, and when they arrived on the morrow,
formed a camp, about a mile away from the pan. Then began the work of
cutting out the elephants' tusks; it took over a week, and for obvious
reasons was a disgusting task. Indeed, had it not been for the help of
some wandering bushmen, who took their pay in elephant meat, I do not
think we could ever have managed it.
At last it was done. The ivory was far too cumbersome for us to carry,
so we buried it, having first got rid of our bushmen allies. My boys
wanted me to go back to the Cape with it and sell it, but I was too
much bent on my journey to do this. The tusks lay buried for five
years. Then I came and dug them up; they were but little harmed.
Ultimately I sold the ivory for something over twelve hundred pounds--
not bad pay for one day's shooting.
This was how I began my career as an elephant hunter. I have shot many
hundreds of them since, but have never again attempted to do so on
CHAPTER IV. THE ZULU IMPI
After burying the elephant tusks, and having taken careful notes of
the bearings and peculiarities of the country so that I might be able
to find the spot again, we proceeded on our journey. For a month or
more I trekked along the line which now divides the Orange Free State
from Griqualand West, and the Transvaal from Bechuanaland. The only
difficulties met with were such as are still common to African
travellers--occasional want of water and troubles about crossing
sluits and rivers. I remember that I outspanned on the spot where
Kimberley now stands, and had to press on again in a hurry because
there was no water. I little dreamed then that I should live to see
Kimberley a great city producing millions of pounds worth of diamonds
annually, and old Indaba-zimbi's magic cannot have been worth so much
after all, or he would have told me.
I found the country almost entirely depopulated. Not very long before
Mosilikatze the Lion, Chaka's General had swept across it in his
progress towards what is now Matabeleland. His footsteps were evident
enough. Time upon time I trekked up to what had evidently been the
sites of Kaffir kraals. Now the kraals were ashes and piles of tumbled
stones, and strewn about among the rank grass were the bones of
hundreds of men, women, and children, all of whom had kissed the Zulu
assegai. I remember that in one of these desolate places I found the
skull of a child in which a ground-lark had built its nest. It was the
twittering of the young birds inside that first called my attention to
it. Shortly after this we met with our second great adventure, a much
more serious and tragic one than the first.
We were trekking parallel with the Kolong river when a herd of
blesbock crossed the track. I fired at one of them and hit it behind.
It galloped about a hundred yards with the rest of the herd, then lay
down. As we were in want of meat, not having met with any game for a
few days past, I jumped on to my horse, and, telling Indaba-zimbi that
I would overtake the waggons or meet them on the further side of a
rise about an hour's trek away, I started after the wounded buck. As
soon as I came within a hundred yards of it, however, it jumped up and
ran away as fast as though it were untouched, only to lie down again
at a distance. I followed, thinking that strength would soon fail it.
This happened three times. On the third occasion it vanished behind a
ridge, and, though by now I was out of both temper and patience, I
thought I might as well ride to the crest and see if I could get a
shot at it on the further side.
I reached the ridge, which was strewn with stones, looked over it, and
saw--a Zulu Impi!
I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Yes, there was no doubt of it. They
were halted about a thousand yards away, by the water; some were lying
down, some were cooking at fires, others were stalking about with
spears and shields in their hands; there might have been two thousand
or more of them in all. While I was wondering--and that with no little
uneasiness--what on earth they could be doing there, suddenly I heard
a wild cry to the right and left of me. I glanced first one way, then
the other. From either side a great Zulu was bearing down on me, their
broad stabbing assegais aloft, and black shields in their left hands.
The man to the right was about fifteen yards away, he to the left was
not more than ten. On they came, their fierce eyes almost starting out
of their heads, and I felt, with a cold thrill of fear, that in
another three seconds those broad "bangwans" might be buried in my
vitals. On such occasions we act, I suppose, more from instinct than
from anything else--there is no time for thought. At any rate, I
dropped the reins and, raising my gun, fired point blank at the left-
hand man. The bullet struck him in the middle of his shield, pierced
it, and passed through him, and over he rolled upon the veldt. I swung
round in the saddle; most happily my horse was accustomed to standing
still when I fired from his back, also he was so surprised that he did
not know which way to shy. The other savage was almost on me; his
outstretched shield reached the muzzle of my gun as I pulled the
trigger of the left barrel. It exploded, the warrior sprung high into
the air, and fell against my horse dead, his spear passing just in
front of my face.
Without waiting to reload, or even to look if the main body of the
Zulus had seen the death of their two scouts, I turned my horse and
drove my heels into his sides. As soon as I was down the slope of the
rise I pulled a little to the right in order to intercept the waggons
before the Zulus saw them. I had not gone three hundred yards in this
new direction when, to my utter astonishment, I struck a trail marked
with waggon-wheels and the hoofs of oxen. Of waggons there must have
been at least eight, and several hundred cattle. Moreover, they had
passed within twelve hours; I could tell that by the spoor. Then I
understood; the Impi was following the track of the waggons, which, in
all probability, belonged to a party of emigrant Boers.
The spoor of the waggons ran in the direction I wished to go, so I
followed it. About a mile further on I came to the crest of a rise,
and there, about five furlongs away, I saw the waggons drawn up in a
rough laager upon the banks of the river. There, too, were my own
waggons trekking down the slope towards them.
In another five minutes I was there. The Boers--for Boers they were--
were standing about outside the little laager watching the approach of
my two waggons. I called to them, and they turned and saw me. The very
first man my eyes fell on was a Boer named Hans Botha, whom I had
known well years ago in the Cape. He was not a bad specimen of his
class, but a very restless person, with a great objection to
authority, or, as he expressed it, "a love of freedom." He had joined
a party of the emigrant Boers some years before, but, as I learned
presently, had quarrelled with its leader, and was now trekking away
into the wilderness to found a little colony of his own. Poor fellow!
It was his last trek.
"How do you do, Meinheer Botha?" I said to him in Dutch.
The man looked at me, looked again, then, startled out of his Dutch
stolidity, cried to his wife, who was seated on the box of the
"Come here, Frau, come. Here is Allan Quatermain, the Englishman, the
son of the 'Predicant.' How goes it, Heer Quatermain, and what is the
news down in the Cape yonder?"
"I don't know what the news is in the Cape, Hans," I answered,
solemnly; "but the news here is that there is a Zulu Impi upon your
spoor and within two miles of the waggons. That I know, for I have
just shot two of their sentries," and I showed him my empty gun.
For a moment there was a silence of astonishment, and I saw the
bronzed faces of the men turn pale beneath their tan, while one or two
of the women gave a little scream, and the children crept to their
"Almighty!" cried Hans, "that must be the Umtetwa Regiment that
Dingaan sent against the Basutus, but who could not come at them
because of the marshes, and so were afraid to return to Zululand, and
struck north to join Mosilikatze."
"Laager up, Carles! Laager up for your lives, and one of you jump on a
horse and drive in the cattle."
At this moment my own waggons came up. Indaba-zimbi was sitting on the
box of the first, wrapped in a blanket. I called him and told him the
"Ill tidings, Macumazahn," he said; "there will be dead Boers about
to-morrow morning, but they will not attack till dawn, then they will
wipe out the laager /so!/" and he passed his hand before his mouth.
"Stop that croaking, you white-headed crow," I said, though I knew his
words were true. What chance had a laager of ten waggons all told
against at least two thousand of the bravest savages in the world?
"Macumazahn, will you take my advice this time?" Indaba-zimbi said,
"What is it?" I asked.
"This. Leave your waggons here, jump on that horse, and let us two run
for it as hard as we can go. The Zulus won't follow us, they will be
looking after the Boers."
"I won't leave the other white men," I said; "it would be the act of a
coward. If I die, I die."
"Very well, Macumazahn, then stay and be killed," he answered, taking
a pinch of snuff. "Come, let us see about the waggons," and we walked
towards the laager.
Here everything was in confusion. However, I got hold of Hans Botha
and put it to him if it would not be best to desert the waggons and
make a run for it.
"How can we do it?" he answered; "two of the women are too fat to go a
mile, one is sick in childbed, and we have only six horses among us.
Besides, if we did we should starve in the desert. No, Heer Allan, we
must fight it out with the savages, and God help us!"
"God help us, indeed. Think of the children, Hans!"
"I can't bear to think," he answered, in a broken voice, looking at
his own little girl, a sweet, curly-haired, blue-eyed child of six,
named Tota, whom I had often nursed as a baby. "Oh, Heer Allan, your
father, the Predicant, always warned me against trekking north, and I
never would listen to him because I thought him a cursed Englishman;
now I see my folly. Heer Allan, if you can, try to save my child from
those black devils; if you live longer than I do, or if you can't save
her, kill her," and he clasped my hand.
"It hasn't come to that yet, Hans," I said.
Then we set to work on the laager. The waggons, of which, including my
two, there were ten, were drawn into the form of a square, and the
disselboom of each securely lashed with reims to the underworks of
that in front of it. The wheels also were locked, and the space
between the ground and the bed-planks of the waggons was stuffed with
branches of the "wait-a-bit" thorn that fortunately grew near in
considerable quantities. In this way a barrier was formed of no mean
strength as against a foe unprovided with firearms, places being left
for the men to fire from. In a little over an hour everything was done
that could be done, and a discussion arose as to the disposal of the
cattle, which had been driven up close to the camp. Some of the Boers
were anxious to get them into the laager, small as it was, or at least
as many of them as it would hold. I argued strongly against this,
pointing out that the brutes would probably be seized with panic as
soon as the firing began, and trample the defenders of the laager
under foot. As an alternative plan I suggested that some of the native
servants should drive the herd along the valley of the river till they
reached a friendly tribe or some other place of safety. Of course, if
the Zulus saw them they would be taken, but the nature of the ground
was favourable, and it was possible that they might escape if they
started at once. The proposition was promptly agreed to, and, what is
more, it was settled that one Dutchman and such of the women and
children as could travel should go with them. In half an hour's time
twelve of them started with the natives, the Boer in charge, and the
cattle. Three of my own men went with the latter, the three others and
Indaba-zimbi stopped with me in the laager.
The parting was a heart-breaking scene, upon which I do not care to
dwell. The women wept, the men groaned, and the children looked on
with scared white faces. At length they were gone, and I for one was
thankful of it. There remained in the laager seventeen white men, four
natives, the two Boer fraus who were too stout to travel, the woman in
childbed and her baby, and Hans Bother's little daughter Tota, whom he
could not make up his mind to part with. Happily her mother was
already dead. And here I may state that ten of the women and children,
together with about half of the cattle, escaped. The Zulu Impi never
saw them, and on the third day of travel they came to the fortified
place of a Griqua chief, who sheltered them on receiving half the
cattle in payment. Thence by slow degrees they journeyed down to the
Cape Colony, reaching a civilized region within a little more than a
year from the date of the attack on the laager.
The afternoon was now drawing towards evening, but still there were no
signs of the Impi. A wild hope struck us that they might have gone on
about their business. Ever since Indaba-zimbi had heard that the
regiment was supposed to belong to the Umtetwa tribe, he had, I
noticed, been plunged in deep thought. Presently he came to me and
volunteered to go out and spy upon their movements. At first Hans
Botha was against this idea, saying that he was a "verdomde swartzel"
--an accursed black creature--and would betray us. I pointed out that
there was nothing to betray. The Zulus must know where the waggons
were, but it was important for us to gain information of their
movements. So it was agreed that Indaba-zimbi should go. I told him
this. He nodded his white lock, said "All right, Macumazahn," and
started. I noticed with some surprise, however, that before he did so
he went to the waggon and fetched his "mouti," or medicine, which,
together with his other magical apparatus, he always carried in a skin
bag. I asked him why he did this. He answered that it was to make
himself invulnerable against the spears of the Zulus. I did not in the
least believe his explanation, for in my heart I was sure that he
meant to take the opportunity to make a bolt of it, leaving me to my
fate. I did not, however, interfere to prevent this, for I had an
affection for the old fellow, and sincerely hoped that he might escape
the doom which overshadowed us.
So Indaba-zimbi sauntered off, and as I looked at his retreating form
I thought I should never see it again. But I was mistaken, and little
knew that he was risking his life, not for the Boers whom he hated one
and all, but for me whom in his queer way he loved.
When he had gone we completed our preparations for defence,
strengthening the waggons and the thorns beneath with earth and
stones. Then at sunset we ate and drank as heartily as we could under
the circumstances, and when we had done, Hans Botha, as head of the
party, offered up prayer to God for our preservation. It was a
touching sight to see the burly Dutchman, his hat off, his broad face
lit up by the last rays of the setting sun, praying aloud in homely,
simple language to Him who alone could save us from the spears of a
cruel foe. I remember that the last sentence of his prayer was,
"Almighty, if we must be killed, save the women and children and my
little girl Tota from the accursed Zulus, and do not let us be
I echoed the request very earnestly in my own heart, that I know, for
in common with the others I was dreadfully afraid, and it must be
admitted not without reason.
Then the darkness came on, and we took up our appointed places each
with a rifle in his hands and peered out into the gloom in silence.
Occasionally one of the Boers would light his pipe with a brand from
the smouldering fire, and the glow of it would shine for a few moments
on his pale, anxious face.
Behind me one of the stout "fraus" lay upon the ground. Even the
terror of our position could not keep her heavy eyes from their
accustomed sleep, and she snored loudly. On the further side of her,
just by the fire, lay little Tota, wrapped in a kaross. She was asleep
also, her thumb in her mouth, and from time to time her father would
come to look at her.
So the hours wore on while we waited for the Zulus. But from my
intimate knowledge of the habits of natives I had little fear that
they would attack us at night, though, had they done so, they could
have compassed our destruction with but small loss to themselves. It
is not the habit of this people, they like to fight in the light of
day--at dawn for preference.
About eleven o'clock, just as I was nodding a little at my post, I
heard a low whistle outside the laager. Instantly I was wide awake,
and all along the line I heard the clicking of locks as the Boers
cocked their guns.
"Macumazahn," said a voice, the voice of Indaba-zimbi, "are you
"Yes," I answered.
"Then hold a light so that I can see how to climb into the laager," he
"Yah! yah! hold a light," put in one of the Boers. "I don't trust that
black schepsel of yours, Heer Quatermain; he may have some of his
countrymen with him." Accordingly a lantern was produced and held
towards the voice. There was Indaba-zimbi alone. We let him into the
laager and asked him the news.
"This is the news, white men," he said. "I waited till dark, and
creeping up to the place where the Zulus are encamped, hid myself
behind a stone and listened. They are a great regiment of Umtetwas as
Baas Botha yonder thought. They struck the spoor of the waggons three
days ago and followed it. To-night they sleep upon their spears,
to-morrow at daybreak they will attack the laager and kill everybody.
They are very bitter against the Boers, because of the battle at Blood
River and the other fights, and that is why they followed the waggons
instead of going straight north after Mosilikatze."
A kind of groan went up from the group of listening Dutchmen.
"I tell you what it is, Heeren," I said, "instead of waiting to be
butchered here like buck in a pitfall, let us go out now and fall upon
the Impi while it sleeps."
This proposition excited some discussion, but in the end only one man
could be found to vote for it. Boers as a rule lack that dash which
makes great soldiers; such forlorn hopes are not in their line, and
rather than embark upon them they prefer to take their chance in a
laager, however poor that chance may be. For my own part I firmly
believe that had my advice been taken we should have routed the Zulus.
Seventeen desperate white men, armed with guns, would have produced no
small effect upon a camp of sleeping savages. But it was not taken, so
it is no use talking about it.
After that we went back to our posts, and slowly the weary night wore
on towards the dawn. Only those who have watched under similar
circumstances while they waited the advent of almost certain and cruel
death, can know the torturing suspense of those heavy hours. But they
went somehow, and at last in the far east the sky began to lighten,
while the cold breath of dawn stirred the tilts of the waggons and
chilled me to the bone. The fat Dutchwoman behind me woke with a yawn,
then, remembering all, moaned aloud, while her teeth chattered with
cold and fear. Hans Botha went to his waggon and got a bottle of peach
brandy, from which he poured into a tin pannikin, giving us each a
stiff dram, and making attempts to be cheerful as he did so. But his
affected jocularity only seemed to depress his comrades the more.
Certainly it depressed me.
Now the light was growing, and we could see some way into the mist
which still hung densely over the river, and now--ah! there it was.
From the other side of the hill, a thousand yards or more from the
laager, came a faint humming sound. It grew and grew till it gathered
to a chant--the awful war chant of the Zulus. Soon I could catch the
words. They were simple enough:
"We shall slay, we shall slay! Is it not so, my brothers?
Our spears shall blush blood-red. Is it not so, my brothers?
For we are the sucklings of Chaka, blood is our milk, my brothers.
Awake, children of the Umtetwa, awake!
The vulture wheels, the jackal sniffs the air;
Awake, children of the Umtetwa--cry aloud, ye ringed men:
There is the foe, we shall slay them. Is it not so, my brothers?
/S'gee! S'gee! S'gee!/"
Such is a rough translation of that hateful chant which to this very
day I often seem to hear. It does not look particularly imposing on
paper, but if, while he waited to be killed, the reader could have
heard it as it rolled through the still air from the throats of nearly
three thousand warriors singing all to time, he would have found it
Now the shields began to appear over the brow of the rise. They came
by companies, each company about ninety strong. Altogether there were
thirty-one companies. I counted them. When all were over they formed
themselves into a triple line, then trotted down the slope towards us.
At a distance of a hundred and fifty yards or just out of the shot of
such guns as we had in those days, they halted and began singing
"Yonder is the kraal of the white man--a little kraal, my brothers;
We shall eat it up, we shall trample it flat, my brothers.
But where are the white man's cattle--where are his oxen, my brothers?"
This question seemed to puzzle them a good deal, for they sang the
song again and again. At last a herald came forward, a great man with
ivory rings about his arm, and, putting his hands to his mouth, called
out to us asking where our cattle were.
Hans Botha climbed on to the top of a waggon and roared out that they
might answer that question themselves.
Then the herald called again, saying that he saw the cattle had been
"We shall go and find the cattle," he said, "then we shall come and
kill you, because without cattle you must stop where you are, but if
we wait to kill you before we get the cattle, they may have trekked
too far for us to follow. And if you try to run away we shall easily
catch you white men!"
This struck me as a very odd speech, for the Zulus generally attack an
enemy first and take his cattle afterwards; still, there was a certain
amount of plausibility about it. While I was still wondering what it
all might mean, the Zulus began to run past us in companies towards
the river. Suddenly a shout announced that they had found the spoor of
the cattle, and the whole Impi of them started down it at a run till
they vanished over a rise about a quarter of a mile away.
We waited for half an hour or more, but nothing could we see of them.
"Now I wonder if the devils have really gone," said Hans Botha to me.
"It is very strange."
"I will go and see," said Indaba-zimbi, "if you will come with me,
Macumazahn. We can creep to the top of the ridge and look over."
At first I hesitated, but curiosity overcame me. I was young in those
days and weary with suspense.
"Very well," I said, "we will go."
So we started. I had my elephant gun and ammunition. Indaba-zimbi had
his medicine bag and an assegai. We crept to the top of the rise like
sportsmen stalking a buck. The slope on the other side was strewn with
rocks, among which grew bushes and tall grass.
"They must have gone down the Donga," I said to Indaba-zimbi, "I can't
see one of them."
As I spoke there came a roar of men all round me. From every rock,
from every tuft of grass rose a Zulu warrior. Before I could turn,
before I could lift a gun, I was seized and thrown.
"Hold him! Hold the White Spirit fast!" cried a voice. "Hold him, or
he will slip away like a snake. Don't hurt him, but hold him fast. Let
Indaba-zimbi walk by his side."
I turned on Indaba-zimbi. "You black devil, you have betrayed me!" I
"Wait and see, Macumazahn," he answered, coolly. "Now the fight is
going to begin."
CHAPTER V. THE END OF THE LAAGER
I gasped with wonder and rage. What did that scoundrel Indaba-zimbi
mean? Why had I been drawn out of the laager and seized, and why,
being seized, was I not instantly killed? They called me the "White
Spirit." Could it be that they were keeping me to make me into
medicine? I had heard of such things being done by Zulus and kindred
tribes, and my blood ran cold at the thought. What an end! To be
pounded up, made medicine of, and eaten!
However, I had little time for further reflection, for now the whole
Impi was pouring back from the donga and river-banks where it had
hidden while their ruse was carried out, and once more formed up on
the side of the slope. I was taken to the crest of the slope and
placed in the centre of the reserve line in the especial charge of a
huge Zulu named Bombyane, the same man who had come forward as a
herald. This brute seemed to regard me with an affectionate curiosity.
Now and again he poked me in the ribs with the handle of his assegai,
as though to assure himself that I was solid, and several times he
asked me to be so good as to prophesy how many Zulus would be killed
before the "Amaboona," as they called the Boers, were "eaten up."
At first I took no notice of him beyond scowling, but presently,
goaded into anger, I prophesied that he would be dead in an hour!
He only laughed aloud. "Oh! White Spirit," he said, "is it so? Well,
I've walked a long way from Zululand, and shall be glad of a rest."
And he got it shortly, as will be seen.
Now the Zulus began to sing again--
"We have caught the White Spirit, my brother! my brother!
Iron-Tongue whispered of him, he smelt him out, my brother.
Now the Maboona are ours--they are already dead, my brother."
So that treacherous villain Indaba-zimbi had betrayed me. Suddenly the
chief of the Impi, a grey-haired man named Sususa, held up his
assegai, and instantly there was silence. Then he spoke to some
indunas who stood near him. Instantly they ran to the right and left
down the first line, saying a word to the captain of each company as
they passed him. Presently they were at the respective ends of the
line, and simultaneously held up their spears. As they did so, with an
awful roar of "Bulala Amaboona"--"Slay the Boers," the entire line,
numbering nearly a thousand men, bounded forward like a buck startled
from its form, and rushed down upon the little laager. It was a
splendid sight to see them, their assegais glittering in the sunlight
as they rose and fell above their black shields, their war-plumes
bending back upon the wind, and their fierce faces set intently on the
foe, while the solid earth shook beneath the thunder of their rushing
feet. I thought of my poor friends the Dutchmen, and trembled. What
chance had they against so many?
Now the Zulus, running in the shape of a bow so as to wrap the laager
round on three sides, were within seventy yards, and now from every
waggon broke tongues of fire. Over rolled a number of the Umtetwa, but
the rest cared little. Forward they sped straight to the laager,
striving to force a way in. But the Boers plied them with volley after
volley, and, packed as the Zulus were, the elephant guns loaded with
slugs and small shot did frightful execution. Only one man even got on
to a waggon, and as he did so I saw a Boer woman strike him on the
head with an axe. He fell down, and slowly, amid howls of derision
from the two lines on the hill-side, the Zulus drew back.
"Let us go, father!" shouted the soldiers on the slope, among whom I
was, to their chief, who had come up. "You have sent out the little
girls to fight, and they are frightened. Let us show them the way."
"No, no!" the chief Sususa answered, laughing. "Wait a minute and the
little girls will grow to women, and women are good enough to fight
The attacking Zulus heard the mockery of their fellows, and rushed
forward again with a roar. But the Boers in the laager had found time
to load, and they met with a warm reception. Reserving their fire till
the Zulus were packed like sheep in a kraal, they loosed into them
with the roers, and the warriors fell in little heaps. But I saw that
the blood of the Umtetwas was up; they did not mean to be beaten back
this time, and the end was near. See! six men had leapt on to a
waggon, slain the man behind it, and sprung into the laager. They were
killed there, but others followed, and then I turned my head. But I
could not shut my ears to the cries of rage and death, and the
terrible /S'gee! S'gee!/ of the savages as they did their work of
murder. Once only I looked up and saw poor Hans Botha standing on a
waggon smiting down men with the butt of his rifle. The assegais shot
up towards him like tongues of steel, and when I looked again he was
I turned sick with fear and rage. But alas! what could I do? They were
all dead now, and probably my own turn was coming, only my death with
not be so swift.
The fight was ended, and the two lines on the slope broke their order,
and moved down to the laager. Presently we were there, and a dreadful
sight it was. Many of the attacking Zulus were dead--quite fifty I
should say, and at least a hundred and fifty were wounded, some of
them mortally. The chief Sususa gave an order, the dead men were
picked up and piled in a heap, while those who were slightly hurt
walked off to find some one to tie up their wounds. But the more
serious cases met with a different treatment. The chief or one of his
indunas considered each case, and if it was in any way bad, the man
was taken up and thrown into the river which ran near. None of them
offered any objection, though one poor fellow swam to shore again. He
did not stop there long, however, for they pushed him back and drowned
him by force.
The strangest case of all was that of the chief's own brother. He had
been captain of the line, and his ankle was smashed by a bullet.
Sususa came up to him, and, having examined the wound, rated him
soundly for failing in the first onslaught.
The poor fellow made the excuse that it was not his fault, as the
Boers had hit him in the first rush. His brother admitted the truth of
this, and talked to him amicably.
"Well," he said at length, offering him a pinch of snuff, "you cannot
"No, chief," said the wounded man, looking at his ankle.
"And to-morrow we must walk far," went on Sususa.
"Say, then, will you sit here on the veldt, or----" and he nodded
towards the river.
The man dropped his head on his breast for a minute as though in
thought. Presently he lifted it and looked Sususa straight in the
"My ankle pains me, my brother," he said; "I think I will go back to
Zululand, for there is the only kraal I wish to see again, even if I
creep about it like a snake."[*]
[*] The Zulus believe that after death their spirits enter into the
bodies of large green snakes, which glide about the kraals. To
kill these snakes is sacrilege.
"It is well, my brother," said the chief. "Rest softly," and having
shaken hands with him, he gave an order to one of the indunas, and
Then men came, and, supporting the wounded man, led him down to the
banks of the stream. Here, at his request, they tied a heavy stone
round his neck, and then threw him into a deep pool. I saw the whole
sad scene, and the victim never even winced. It was impossible not to
admire the extraordinary courage of the man, or to avoid being struck
with the cold-blooded cruelty of his brother the chief. And yet the
act was necessary from his point of view. The man must either die
swiftly, or be left to perish of starvation, for no Zulu force will
encumber itself with wounded men. Years of merciless warfare had so
hardened these people that they looked on death as nothing, and were,
to do them justice, as willing to meet it themselves as to inflict it
on others. When this very Impi had been sent out by the Zulu King
Dingaan, it consisted of some nine thousand men. Now it numbered less
than three; all the rest were dead. They, too, would probably soon be
dead. What did it matter? They lived by war to die in blood. It was
their natural end. "Kill till you are killed." That is the motto of
the Zulu soldier. It has the merit of simplicity.
Meanwhile the warriors were looting the waggons, including my own,
having first thrown all the dead Boers into a heap. I looked at the
heap; all of them were there, including the two stout fraus, poor
things. But I missed one body, that of Hans Botha's daughter, little
Tota. A wild hope came into my heart that she might have escaped; but
no, it was not possible. I could only pray that she was already at
Just then the great Zulu, Bombyane, who had left my side to indulge in
the congenial occupation of looting, came out of a waggon crying that
he had got the "little white one." I looked; he was carrying the child
Tota, gripping her frock in one of his huge black hands. He stalked up
to where we were, and held the child before the chief. "Is it dead,
father?" he said, with a laugh.
Now, as I could well see, the child was not dead, but had been hidden
away, and fainted with fear.
The chief glanced at it carelessly, and said--
"Find out with your kerrie."
Acting on this hint the black devil held up the child, and was about
to kill it with his knobstick. This was more than I could bear. I
sprang at him and struck him with all my force in the face, little
caring if I was speared or not. He dropped Tota on the ground.
"Ou!" he said, putting his hand to his nose, "the White Spirit has a
hard fist. Come, Spirit, I will fight you for the child."
The soldiers cheered and laughed. "Yes! yes!" they said, "let Bombyane
fight the White Spirit for the child. Let them fight with assegais."
For a moment I hesitated. What chance had I against this black giant?
But I had promised poor Hans to save the child if I could, and what
did it matter? As well die now as later. However, I had wit enough
left to make a favour of it, and intimated to the chief through
Indaba-zimbi that I was quite willing to condescend to kill Bombyane,
on condition that if I did so the child's life should be given to me.
Indaba-zimbi interpreted my words, but I noticed that he would not
look on me as he spoke, but covered his face with his hands and spoke
of me as "the ghost" or the "son of the spirit." For some reason that
I have never quite understood, the chief consented to the duel. I
fancy it was because he believed me to be more than mortal, and was
anxious to see the last of Bombyane.
"Let them fight," he said. "Give them assegais and no shields; the
child shall be to him who conquers."
"Yes! yes!" cried the soldiers. "Let them fight. Don't be afraid,
Bombyane; if he is a spirit, he's a very small one."
"I never was frightened of man or beast, and I am not going to run
away from a White Ghost," answered the redoubtable Bombyane, as he
examined the blade of his great bangwan or stabbing assegai.
Then they made a ring round us, gave me a similar assegai, and set us
some ten paces apart. I kept my face as calm as I could, and tried to
show no signs of fear, though in my heart I was terribly afraid.
Humanly speaking, my doom was on me. The giant warrior before me had
used the assegai from a child--I had no experience of the weapon.
Moreover, though I was quick and active, he must have been at least
twice as strong as I am. However, there was no help for it, so,
setting my teeth, I grasped the great spear, breathed a prayer, and
The giant stood awhile looking at me, and, as he stood, Indaba-zimbi
walked across the ring behind me, muttering as he passed, "Keep cool,
Macumazahn, and wait for him. I will make it all right."
As I had not the slightest intention of commencing the fray, I thought
this good advice, though how Indaba-zimbi could "make it all right" I
failed to see.
Heavens! how long that half-minute seemed! It happened many years ago,
but the whole scene rises up before my eyes as I write. There behind
us was the blood-stained laager, and near it lay the piles of dead;
round us was rank upon rank of plumed savages, standing in silence to
wait the issue of the duel, and in the centre stood the grey-haired
chief and general, Sususa, in all his war finery, a cloak of leopard
skin upon his shoulders. At his feet lay the senseless form of little
Tota, to my left squatted Indaba-zimbi, nodding his white lock and
muttering something--probably spells; while in front was my giant
antagonist, his spear aloft and his plumes wavering in the gentle
wind. Then over all, over grassy slope, river, and koppie, over the
waggons of the laager, the piles of dead, the dense masses of the
living, the swooning child, over all shone the bright impartial sun,
looking down like the indifferent eye of Heaven upon the loveliness of
nature and the cruelty of man. Down by the river grew thorn-trees, and
from them floated the sweet scent of the mimosa flower, and came the
sound of cooing turtle-doves. I never smell the one or hear the other
without the scene flashing into my mind again, complete in its every
Suddenly, without a sound, Bombyane shook his assegai and rushed
straight at me. I saw his huge form come; like a man in a dream, I saw
the broad spear flash on high; now he was on me! Then, prompted to it
by some providential impulse--or had the spells of Indaba-zimbi
anything to do with the matter?--I dropped to my knee, and quick as
light stretched out my spear. He drove at me: the blade passed over my
head. I felt a weight on my assegai; it was wrenched from my hand; his
great limbs knocked against me. I glanced round. Bombyane was
staggering along with head thrown back and outstretched arms from
which his spear had fallen. His spear had fallen, but the blade of
mine stood out between his shoulders--I had transfixed him. He
stopped, swung slowly round as though to look at me: then with a sigh
the giant sank down--/dead/.
For a moment there was silence; then a great cry rose--a cry of
"Bombyane is dead. The White Spirit has slain Bombyane. Kill the
wizard, kill the ghost who has slain Bombyane by witchcraft."
Instantly I was surrounded by fierce faces, and spears flashed before
my eyes. I folded my arms and stood calmly waiting the end. In a
moment it would have come, for the warriors were mad at seeing their
champion overthrown thus easily. But presently through the tumult I
heard the high, cracked voice of Indaba-zimbi.
"Stand back, you fools!" it cried; "can a spirit then be killed?"
"Spear him! spear him!" they roared in fury. "Let us see if he is a
spirit. How did a spirit slay Bombyane with an assegai? Spear him,
rain-maker, and we shall see."
"Stand back," cried Indaba-zimbi again, "and I will show you if he can
be killed. I will kill him myself, and call him back to life again
before your eyes."
"Macumazahn, trust me," he whispered in my ear in the Sisutu tongue,
which the Zulus did not understand. "Trust me; kneel on the grass
before me, and when I strike at you with the spear, roll over like one
dead; then, when you hear my voice again, get up. Trust me--it is your
Having no choice I nodded my head in assent, though I had not the
faintest idea of what he was about to do. The tumult lessened
somewhat, and once more the warriors drew back.
"Great White Spirit--Spirit of victory," said Indaba-zimbi, addressing
me aloud, and covering his eyes with his hand, "hear me and forgive
me. These children are blind with folly, and think thee mortal because
thou hast dealt death upon a mortal who dared to stand against thee.
Deign to kneel down before me and let me pierce thy heart with this
spear, then when I call upon thee, arise unhurt."
I knelt down, not because I wished to, but because I must. I had not
overmuch faith in Indaba-zimbi, and thought it probable that he was in
truth about to make an end of me. But really I was so worn out with
fears, and the horrors of the night and day had so shaken my nerves,
that I did not greatly care what befell me. When I had been kneeling
thus for about half a minute Indaba-zimbi spoke.
"People of the Umtetwa, children of T'Chaka," he said, "draw back a
little way, lest an evil fall on you, for now the air is thick with
They drew back a space, leaving us in a circle about twelve yards in
"Look on him who kneels before you," went on Indaba-zimbi, "and listen
to my words, to the words of the witch-finder, the words of the rain-
maker, Indaba-zimbi, whose fame is known to you. He seems to be a
young man, does he not? I tell you, children of the Umtetwa, he is no
man. He is the Spirit who gives victory to the white men, he it is who
gave them assegais that thunder and taught them how to slay. Why were
the Impis of Dingaan rolled back at the Blood River? Because /he/ was
there. Why did the Amaboona slay the people of Mosilikatze by the
thousand? Because /he/ was there. And so I say to you that, had I not
drawn him from the laager by my magic but three hours ago, you would
have been conquered--yes, you would have been blown away like the dust
before the wind; you would have been burnt up like the dry grass in
the winter when the fire is awake among it. Ay, because he had but
been there many of your bravest were slain in overcoming a few--a
pinch of men who could be counted on the fingers. But because I loved
you, because your chief Sususa is my half-brother--for had we not one
father?--I came to you, I warned you. Then you prayed me and I drew
the Spirit forth. But you were not satisfied when the victory was
yours, when the Spirit, of all you had taken asked but one little
thing--a white child to take away and sacrifice to himself, to make
the medicine of his magic of----"
Here I could hardly restrain myself from interrupting, but thought
better of it.
"You said him nay; you said, 'Let him fight with our bravest man, let
him fight with Bombyane the giant for the child.' And he deigned to
slay Bombyane as you have seen, and now you say, 'Slay him; he is no
spirit.' Now I will show you if he is a spirit, for I will slay him
before your eyes, and call him to life again. But you have brought
this upon yourselves. Had you believed, had you offered no insult to
the Spirit, he would have stayed with you, and you should have become
unconquerable. Now he will arise and leave you, and woe be on you if
you try to stay him.
"Now all men," he went on, "look for a space upon this assegai that I
hold up," and he lifted the bangwan of the deceased Bombyane high
above his head so that all the multitude could see it. Every eye was
fixed upon the broad bright spear. For a while he held it still, then
he moved it round and round in a circle, muttering as he did so, and
still their gaze followed it. For my part, I watched his movements
with the greatest anxiety. That assegai had already been nearer my
person than I found at all pleasant, and I had no desire to make a
further acquaintance with it. Nor, indeed, was I sure that Indaba-
zimbi was not really going to kill me. I could not understand his
proceedings at all, and at the best I did not relish playing the
/corpus vile/ to his magical experiments.
"/Look! look! look!/" he screamed.
Then suddenly the great spear flashed down towards my breast. I felt
nothing, but, to my sight, it seemed as though it had passed through
"See!" roared the Zulus. "Indaba-zimbi has speared him; the red
assegai stands out behind his back."
"Roll over, Macumazahn," Indaba-zimbi hissed in my ear, "roll over and
pretend to die--quick! quick!"
I lost no time in following these strange instructions, but falling on
to my side, threw my arms wide, kicked my legs about, and died as
artistically as I could. Presently I gave a stage shiver and lay
"See!" said the Zulus, "he is dead, the Spirit is dead. Look at the
blood upon the assegai!"
"Stand back! stand back!" cried Indaba-zimbi, "or the ghost will haunt
you. Yes, he is dead, and now I will call him back to life again.
Look!" and putting down his hand, he plucked the spear from wherever
it was fixed, and held it aloft. "The spear is red, is it not? Watch,
men, watch! /it grows white!/"
"Yes, it grows white," they said. "Ou! it grows white."
"It grows white because the blood returns to whence it came," said
Indaba-zimbi. "Now, great Spirit, hear me. Thou art dead, the breath
has gone out of thy mouth. Yet hear me and arise. Awake, White Spirit,
awake and show thy power. Awake! arise unhurt!"
I began to respond cheerfully to this imposing invocation.
"Not so fast, Macumazahn," whispered Indaba-zimbi.
I took the hint, and first held up my arm, then lifted my head and let
it fall again.
"He lives! by the head of T'Chaka he lives!" roared the soldiers,
stricken with mortal fear.
Then slowly and with the greatest dignity I gradually arose, stretched
my arms, yawned like one awaking from heavy sleep, turned and looked
upon them unconcernedly. While I did so, I noticed that old Indaba-
zimbi was almost fainting from exhaustion. Beads of perspiration stood
upon his brow, his limbs trembled, and his breast heaved.
As for the Zulus, they waited for no more. With a howl of terror the
whole regiment turned and fled across the rise, so that presently we
were left alone with the dead, and the swooning child.
"How on earth did you do that, Indaba-zimbi?" I asked in amaze.
"Do not ask me, Macumazahn," he gasped. "You white men are very
clever, but you don't quite know everything. There are men in the
world who can make people believe they see things which they do not
see. Let us be going while we may, for when those Umtetwas have got
over their fright, they will come back to loot the waggons, and then
perhaps /they/ will begin asking questions that I can't answer."
And here I may as well state that I never got any further information
on this matter from old Indaba-zimbi. But I have my theory, and here
it is for whatever it may be worth. I believe that Indaba-zimbi
/mesmerized/ the whole crowd of onlookers, myself included, making
them believe that they saw the assegai in my heart, and the blood upon
the blade. The reader may smile and say, "Impossible;" but I would ask
him how the Indian jugglers do their tricks unless it is by mesmerism.
The spectators /seem/ to see the boy go under the basket and there
pierced with daggers, they /seem/ to see women in a trance supported
in mid-air upon the point of a single sword. In themselves these
things are not possible, they violate the laws of nature, as those
laws are known to us, and therefore must surely be illusion. And so
through the glamour thrown upon them by Indaba-zimbi's will, that Zulu
Impi seemed to see me transfixed with an assegai which never touched
me. At least, that is my theory; if any one has a better, let him
adopt it. The explanation lies between illusion and magic of a most
imposing character, and I prefer to accept the first alternative.
CHAPTER VI. STELLA
I was not slow to take Indaba-zimbi's hint. About a hundred and fifty
yards to the left of the laager was a little dell where I had hidden
my horse, together with one belonging to the Boers, and my saddle and
bridle. Thither we went, I carrying the swooning Tota in my arms. To
our joy we found the horses safe, for the Zulus had not seen them.
Now, of course, they were our only means of locomotion, for the oxen
had been sent away, and even had they been there we could not have
found time to inspan them. I laid Tota down, caught my horse, undid
his knee halter, and saddled up. As I was doing so a thought struck
me, and I told Indaba-zimbi to run to the laager and see if he could
find my double-barrelled gun and some powder and shot, for I had only
my elephant "roer" and a few charges of powder and ball with me.
He went, and while he was away, poor little Tota came to herself and
began to cry, till she saw my face.
"Ah, I have had such a bad dream," she said, in Dutch: "I dreamed that
the black Kaffirs were going to kill me. Where is my papa?"
I winced at the question. "Your papa has gone on a journey, dear," I
said, "and left me to look after you. We shall find him one day. You
don't mind going with Heer Allan, do you?"
"No," she said, a little doubtfully, and began to cry again. Presently
she remembered that she was thirsty, and asked for water. I led her to
the river and she drank. "Why is my hand red, Heer Allan?" she asked,
pointing to the smear of Bombyane's blood-stained fingers.
At this moment I felt very glad that I had killed Bombyane.
"It is only paint, dear," I said; "see, we will wash it and your
As I was doing this, Indaba-zimbi returned. The guns were all gone; he
said the Zulus had taken them and the powder. But he had found some
things and brought them in a sack. There was a thick blanket, about
twenty pounds weight of biltong or sun-dried meat, a few double-
handfuls of biscuits, two water-bottles, a tin pannikin, some matches
"And now, Macumazahn," he said, "we had best be going, for those
Umtetwas are coming back. I saw one of them on the brow of the rise."
That was enough for me. I lifted little Tota on to the bow of my
saddle, climbed into it, and rode off, holding her in front of me.
Indaba-zimbi slipped a reim into the mouth of the best of the Boer
horses, threw of the sack of sundries on to its back and mounted also,
holding the elephant gun in his hand. We went eight or nine hundred
yards in silence till we were quite out of range of sight from the
waggons, which were in a hollow. Then I pulled up, with such a feeling
of thankfulness in my heart as cannot be told in words; for now I knew
that, mounted as we were, those black demons could never catch us. But
where were we to steer for? I put the question to Indaba-zimbi, asking
him if he thought that we had better try and follow the oxen which we
had sent away with the Kaffirs and women on the preceding night. He
shook his head.
"The Umtetwas will go after the oxen presently," he answered, "and we
have seen enough of them."
"Quite enough," I answered, with enthusiasm; "I never want to see
another; but where are we to go? Here we are alone with one gun and a
little girl in the vast and lonely veldt. Which way shall we turn?"
"Our faces were towards the north before we met the Zulus," answered
Indaba-zimbi; "let us still keep them to the north. Ride on,
Macumazahn; to-night when we off-saddle I will look into the matter."
So all that long afternoon we rode on, following the course of the
river. From the nature of the ground we could only go slowly, but
before sunset I had the satisfaction of knowing that there must be at
least twenty-five miles between us and those accursed Zulus. Little
Tota slept most of the way, the motion of the horse was easy, and she
was worn out.
At last the sunset came, and we off-saddled in a dell by the river.
There was not much to eat, but I soaked some biscuit in water for
Tota, and Indaba-zimbi and I made a scanty meal of biltong. When we
had done I took off Tota's frock, wrapped her up in a blanket near the
fire we had made, and lit a pipe. I sat there by the side of the
sleeping orphaned child, and from my heart thanked Providence for
saving her life and mine from the slaughter of that day. What a
horrible experience it had been! It seemed like a nightmare to look
back upon. And yet it was sober fact, one among those many tragedies
which dotted the paths of the emigrant Boers with the bones of men,
women, and children. These horrors are almost forgotten now; people
living in Natal now, for instance, can scarcely realize that some
forty years ago six hundred white people, many of them women and
children, were thus massacred by the Impis of Dingaan. But it was so,
and the name of the district, /Weenen/, or the Place of Weeping, will
commemorate them for ever.
Then I fell to reflecting on the extraordinary adroitness old Indaba-
zimbi had shown in saving my life. It appeared that he himself had
lived among the Umtetwa Zulus in his earlier manhood, and was a noted
rain-doctor and witch-finder. But when T'Chaka, Dingaan's brother,
ordered a general massacre of the witch-finders, he alone had saved
his life by his skill in magic, and ultimately fled south for reasons
too long to set out here. When he heard, therefore, that the regiment
was an Umtetwa regiment, which, leaving their wives and children, had
broken away from Zululand to escape the cruelties of Dingaan; under
pretence of spying on them, he took the bold course of going straight
up to the chief, Sususa, and addressing him as his brother, which he
was. The chief knew him at once, and so did the soldiers, for his fame
was still great among them. Then he told them his cock and bull story
about my being a white spirit, whose presence in the laager would
render it invincible, and with the object of saving my life in the
slaughter which he knew must ensue, agreed to charm me out of the
laager and deliver me into their keeping. How the plan worked has
already been told; it was a risky one; still, but for it my troubles
would have been done with these many days.
So I lay and thought with a heart full of gratitude, and as I did so
saw old Indaba-zimbi sitting by the fire and going through some
mysterious performances with bones which he produced from his bag, and
ashes mixed with water. I spoke to him and asked what he was about. He
replied that he was tracing out the route that we should follow. I
felt inclined to answer "bosh!" but remembering the very remarkable
instances which he had given of his prowess in occult matters I held
my tongue, and taking little Tota into my arms, worn out with toil and
danger and emotion, I went to sleep.
I awoke just as the dawn was beginning to flame across the sky in
sheets of primrose and of gold, or rather it was little Tota who woke
me by kissing me as she lay between sleep and waking, and calling me
"papa." It wrung my heart to hear her, poor orphaned child. I got up,
washed and dressed her as best I could, and we breakfasted as we had
supped, on biltong and biscuit. Tota asked for milk, but I had none to
give her. Then we caught the horses, and I saddled mine.
"Well, Indaba-zimbi," I said, "now what path do your bones point to?"
"Straight north," he said. "The journey will be hard, but in about
four days we shall come to the kraal of a white man, an Englishman,
not a Boer. His kraal is in a beautiful place, and there is a great
peak behind it where there are many baboons."
I looked at him. "This is all nonsense, Indaba-zimbi," I said.
"Whoever heard of an Englishman building a house in these wilds, and
how do you know anything about it? I think that we had better strike
east towards Port Natal."
"As you like, Macumazahn," he answered, "but it will take us three
months' journey to get to Port Natal, if we ever get there, and the
child will die on the road. Say, Macumazahn, have my words come true
heretofore, or have they not? Did I not tell you not to hunt the
elephants on horseback? Did I not tell you to take one waggon with you
instead of two, as it is better to lose one than two?"
"You told me all these things," I answered.
"And so I tell you now to ride north, Macumazahn, for there you will
find great happiness--yes, and great sorrow. But no man should run
away from happiness because of the sorrow. As you will, as you will!"
Again I looked at him. In his divinations I did not believe, yet I
came to the conclusion that he was speaking what he knew to be the
truth. It struck me as possible that he might have heard of some white
man living like a hermit in the wilds, but preferring to keep up his
prophetic character would not say so.
"Very well, Indaba-zimbi," I said, "let us ride north."
Shortly after we started, the river we had followed hitherto turned
off in a westerly direction, so we left it. All that day we rode
across rolling uplands, and about an hour before sunset halted at a
little stream which ran down from a range of hills in front of us. By
this time I was heartily tired of the biltong, so taking my elephant
rifle--for I had nothing else--I left Tota with Indaba-zimbi, and
started to try if I could shoot something. Oddly enough we had seen no
game all the day, nor did we see any on the subsequent days. For some
mysterious reason they had temporarily left the district. I crossed
the little streamlet in order to enter the belt of thorns which grew
upon the hill-side beyond, for there I hoped to find buck. As I did so
I was rather disturbed to see the spoor of two lions in the soft sandy
edge of a pool. Breathing a hope that they might not still be in the
neighbourhood, I went on into the belt of scattered thorns. For a long
while I hunted about without seeing anything, except one duiker buck,
which bounded off with a crash from the other side of a stone without
giving me a chance. At length, just as it grew dusk, I spied a Petie
buck, a graceful little creature, scarcely bigger than a large hare,
standing on a stone, about forty yards from me. Under ordinary
circumstances I should never have dreamed of firing at such a thing,
especially with an elephant gun, but we were hungry. So I sat down
with my back against a rock, and aimed steadily at its head. I did
this because if I struck it in the body the three-ounce ball would
have knocked it to bits. At last I pulled the trigger, the gun went
off with the report of a small cannon, and the buck disappeared. I ran
to the spot with more anxiety than I should have felt in an ordinary
way over a koodoo or an eland. To my delight there the little creature
lay--the huge bullet had decapitated it. Considering all the
circumstances I do not think I have often made a better shot than
this, but if any one doubts, let him try his hand at a rabbit's head
fifty yards away with an elephant gun and a three-ounce ball.
I picked up the Petie in triumph, and returned to the camp. There we
skinned him and toasted his flesh over the fire. He just made a good
meal for us, though we kept the hind legs for breakfast.
There was no moon this night, and so it chanced that when I suddenly
remembered about the lion spoor, and suggested that we had better tie
up the horses quite close to us, we could not find them, though we
knew they were grazing within fifty yards. This being so we could only
make up the fire and take our chance. Shortly afterwards I went to
sleep with little Tota in my arms. Suddenly I was awakened by hearing
that peculiarly painful sound, the scream of a horse, quite close to
the fire, which was still burning brightly. Next second there came a
noise of galloping hoofs, and before I could even rise my poor horse
appeared in the ring of firelight. As in a flash of lightning I saw
his staring eyes and wide-stretched nostrils, and the broken reim with
which he had been knee-haltered, flying in the air. Also I saw
something else, for on his back was a great dark form with glowing
eyes, and from the form came a growling sound. It was a lion.
The horse dashed on. He galloped right through the fire, for which he
had run in his terror, fortunately, however, without treading on us,
and vanished into the night. We heard his hoofs for a hundred yards or
more, then there was silence, broken now and again by distant growls.
As may be imagined, we did not sleep any more that night, but waited
anxiously till the dawn broke, two hours later.
As soon as there was sufficient light we rose, and, leaving Tota still
asleep, crept cautiously in the direction in which the horse had
vanished. When we had gone fifty yards or so, we made out its remains
lying on the veldt, and caught sight of two great cat-like forms
slinking away in the grey light.
To go any further was useless; we knew all about it now, so we turned
to look for the other horse. But our cup of misfortune was not yet
full; the horse was nowhere to be found. Terrified by the sight and
smell of the lions, it had with a desperate effort also burst the reim
with which it had been knee-haltered, and galloped far away. I sat
down, feeling as though I could cry like a woman. For now we were left
alone in these vast solitudes without a horse to carry us, and with a
child who was not old enough to walk for more than a little way at a
Well, it was no use giving in, so with a few words we went back to our
camp, where I found Tota crying because she had woke to find herself
alone. Then we ate a little food and prepared to start. First we
divided such articles as we must take with us into two equal parts,
rejecting everything that we could possibly do without. Then, by an
afterthought, we filled our water-bottles, though at the time I was
rather against doing so, because of the extra weight. But Indaba-zimbi
overruled me in the matter, fortunately for all three of us. I settled
to look after Tota for the first march, and to give the elephant gun
to Indaba-zimbi. At length all was ready, and we set out on foot. By
the help of occasional lifts over rough places, Tota managed to walk
up the slope of the hill-side where I had shot the Petie buck. At
length we reached it, and, looking at the country beyond, I gave an
exclamation of dismay. To say that it was desert would be saying too
much; it was more like the Karroo in the Cape--a vast sandy waste,
studded here and there with low shrubs and scattered rocks. But it was
a great expanse of desolate land, stretching further than the eye
could reach, and bordered far away by a line of purple hills, in the
centre of which a great solitary peak soared high into the air.
"Indaba-zimbi," I said, "we can never cross this if we take six days."
"As you will, Macumazahn," he answered; "but I tell you that there"--
and he pointed to the peak--"there the white man lives. Turn which way
you like, but if you turn you will perish."
I reflected for a moment, Our case was, humanly speaking, almost
hopeless. It mattered little which way we went. We were alone, almost
without food, with no means of transport, and a child to carry. As
well perish in the sandy waste as on the rolling veldt or among the
trees of the hill-side. Providence alone could save us, and we must
trust to Providence.
"Come on," I said, lifting Tota on to my back, for she was already
tired. "All roads lead to rest."
How am I to describe the misery of the next four days? How am I to
tell how we stumbled on through that awful desert, almost without
food, and quite without water, for there were no streams, and we saw
no springs? We soon found how the case was, and saved almost all the
water in our bottles for the child. To look back on it is like a
nightmare. I can scarcely bear to dwell on it. Day after day, by turns
carrying the child through the heavy sand; night after night lying
down in the scrub, chewing the leaves, and licking such dew as there
was from the scanty grass! Not a spring, not a pool, not a head of
game! It was the third night; we were nearly mad with thirst. Tota was
in a comatose condition. Indaba-zimbi still had a little water in his
bottle--perhaps a wine-glassful. With it we moistened our lips and
blackened tongues. Then we gave the rest to the child. It revived her.
She awoke from her swoon to sink into sleep.
See, the dawn was breaking. The hills were not more than eight miles
or so away now, and they were green. There must be water there.
"Come," I said.
Indaba-zimbi lifted Tota into the kind of sling that we had made out
of the blanket in which to carry her on our backs, and we staggered on
for an hour through the sand. She awoke crying for water, and alas! we
had none to give her; our tongues were hanging from our lips, we could
We rested awhile, and Tota mercifully swooned away again. Then Indaba-
zimbi took her. Though he was so thin the old man's strength was
Another hour; the slope of the great peak could not be more than two
miles away now. A couple of hundred yards off grew a large baobab
tree. Could we reach its shade? We had done half the distance when
Indaba-zimbi fell from exhaustion. We were now so weak that neither of
us could lift the child on to our backs. He rose again, and we each
took one of her hands and dragged her along the road. Fifty yards--
they seemed to be fifty miles. Ah, the tree was reached at last;
compared with the heat outside, the shade of its dense foliage seemed
like the dusk and cool of a vault. I remember thinking that it was a
good place to die in. Then I remember no more.
I woke with a feeling as though the blessed rain were falling on my
face and head. Slowly, and with great difficulty, I opened my eyes,
then shut them again, having seen a vision. For a space I lay thus,
while the rain continued to fall; I saw now that I must be asleep, or
off my head with thirst and fever. If I were not off my head how came
I to imagine that a lovely dark-eyed girl was bending over me
sprinkling water on my face? A white girl, too, not a Kaffir woman.
However, the dream went on.
"Hendrika," said a voice in English, the sweetest voice that I had
ever heard; somehow it reminded me of wind whispering in the trees at
night. "Hendrika, I fear he dies; there is a flask of brandy in my
saddle-bag; get it."
"Ah! ah!" grunted a harsh voice in answer; "let him die, Miss Stella.
He will bring you bad luck--let him die, I say." I felt a movement of
air above me as though the woman of my vision turned swiftly, and once
again I opened my eyes. She had risen, this dream woman. Now I saw
that she was tall and graceful as a reed. She was angry, too; her dark
eyes flashed, and she pointed with her hand at a female who stood
before her, dressed in nondescript kind of clothes such as might be
worn by either a man or a woman. The woman was young, of white blood,
very short, with bowed legs and enormous shoulders. In face she was
not bad-looking, but the brow receded, the chin and ears were
prominent--in short, she reminded me of nothing so much as a very
handsome monkey. She might have been the missing link.
The lady was pointing at her with her hand. "How dare you?" she said.
"Are you going to disobey me again? Have you forgotten what I told
"Ah! ah!" grunted the woman, who seemed literally to curl and shrivel
up beneath her anger. "Don't be angry with me, Miss Stella, because I
can't bear it. I only said it because it was true. I will fetch the
Then, dream or no dream, I determined to speak.
"Not brandy," I gasped in English as well as my swollen tongue would
allow; "give me water."
"Ah, he lives!" cried the beautiful girl, "and he talks English. See,
sir, here is water in your own bottle; you were quite close to a
spring, it is on the other side of the tree."
I struggled to a sitting position, lifted the bottle to my lips, and
drank from it. Oh! that drink of cool, pure water! never had I tasted
anything so delicious. With the first gulp I felt life flow back into
me. But wisely enough she would not let me have much. "No more! no
more!" she said, and dragged the bottle from me almost by force.
"The child," I said--"is the child dead?"
"I do not know yet," she answered. "We have only just found you, and I
tried to revive you first."
I turned and crept to where Tota lay by the side of Indaba-zimbi. It
was impossible to say if they were dead or swooning. The lady
sprinkled Tota's face with the water, which I watched greedily, for my
thirst was still awful, while the woman Hendrika did the same office
for Indaba-zimbi. Presently, to my vast delight, Tota opened her eyes
and tried to cry, but could not, poor little thing, because her tongue
and lips were so swollen. But the lady got some water into her mouth,
and, as in my case, the effect was magical. We allowed her to drink
about a quarter of a pint, and no more, though she cried bitterly for
it. Just then old Indaba-zimbi came to with a groan. He opened his
eyes, glanced round, and took in the situation.
"What did I tell you, Macumazahn?" he gasped, and seizing the bottle,
he took a long pull at it.
Meanwhile I sat with my back against the trunk of the great tree and
tried to realize the situation. Looking to my left I saw too good
horses--one bare-backed, and one with a rudely made lady's saddle on
it. By the side of the horses were two dogs, of a stout greyhound
breed, that sat watching us, and near the dogs lay a dead Oribé buck,
which they had evidently been coursing.
"Hendrika," said the lady presently, "they must not eat meat just yet.
Go look up the tree and see if there is any ripe fruit on it."
The woman ran swiftly into the plain and obeyed. Presently she
returned. "I see some ripe fruit," she said, "but it is high, quite at
"Fetch it," said the lady.
"Easier said than done," I thought to myself; but I was much mistaken.
Suddenly the woman bounded at least three feet into the air and caught
one of the spreading boughs in her large flat hands; then came a swing
that would have filled an acrobat with envy--and she was on it.
"Now there is an end," I thought again, for the next bough was beyond
her reach. But again I was mistaken. She stood up on the bough,
gripping it with her bare feet, and once more sprang at the one above,
caught it and swung herself into it.
I suppose that the lady saw my expression of astonishment. "Do not
wonder, sir," she said, "Hendrika is not like other people. She will
I made no answer, but watched the progress of this extraordinary
person with the most breathless interest. On she went, swinging
herself from bough to bough, and running along them like a monkey. At
last she reached the top, and began to swarm up a thin branch towards
the ripe fruit. When she was near enough she shook the branch
violently. There was a crack--a crash--it broke. I shut my eyes,
expecting to see her crushed on the ground before me.
"Don't be afraid," said the lady again, laughing gently. "Look, she is
I looked, and so she was. She had caught a bough as she fell, clung to
it, and was now calmly dropping to another. Old Indaba-zimbi had also
watched this performance with interest, but it did not seem to
astonish him over-much. "Baboon-woman?" he said, as though such people
were common, and then turned his attention to soothing Tota, who was
moaning for more water. Meanwhile Hendrika came down the tree with
extraordinary rapidity, and swinging by one hand from a bough, dropped
about eight feet to the ground.
In another two minutes we were all three sucking the pulpy fruit. In
an ordinary way we should have found it tasteless enough: as it was I
thought it the most delicious thing I had ever tasted. After three
days spent without food or water, in the desert, one is not
particular. While we were still eating the fruit, the lady of my
vision set her companion to work to partially flay the oribé which her
dogs had killed, and busied herself in making a fire of fallen boughs.
As soon as it burned brightly she took strips of the oribé flesh,
toasted them, and gave them to us on leaves. We ate, and now were
allowed a little more water. After that she took Tota to the spring
and washed her, which she sadly needed, poor child! Next came our turn
to wash, and oh, the joy of it!
I came back to the tree, walking painfully, indeed, but a changed man.
There sat the beautiful girl with Tota on her knees. She was lulling
her to sleep, and held up her finger to me enjoining silence. At last
the child went off into a sound natural slumber--an example that I
should have been glad to follow had it not been for my burning
curiosity. Then I spoke.
"May I ask what your name is?" I said.
"Stella," she answered.
"Stella what?" I said.
"Stella nothing," she answered, in some pique; "Stella is my name; it
is short and easy to remember at any rate. My father's name is Thomas,
and we live up there," and she pointed round the base of the great
peak. I looked at her astonished. "Have you lived there long?" I
"Ever since I was seven years old. We came there in a waggon. Before
that we came from England--from Oxfordshire; I can show you the place
on a big map. It is called Garsingham."
Again I thought I must be dreaming. "Do you know, Miss Stella," I
said, "it is very strange--so strange that it almost seems as though
it could not be true--but I also came from Garsingham in Oxfordshire
many years ago."
She started up. "Are you an English gentleman?" she said. "Ah, I have
always longed to see an English gentleman. I have never seen but one
Englishman since we lived here, and he certainly was not a gentleman--
no white people at all, indeed, except a few wandering Boers. We live
among black people and baboons--only I have read about English people
--lots of books--poetry and novels. But tell me what is your name?
Macumazahn the black man called you, but you must have a white name,
"My name is Allan Quatermain," I said.
Her face turned quite white, her rosy lips parted, and she looked at
me wildly with her beautiful dark eyes.
"It is wonderful," she said, "but I have often heard that name. My
father has told me how a little boy called Allan Quatermain once saved
my life by putting out my dress when it was on fire--see!"--and she
pointed to a faint red mark upon her neck--"here is the scar of the
"I remember it," I said. "You were dressed up as Father Christmas. It
was I who put out the fire; my wrists were burnt in doing so."
Then for a space we sat silent, looking at each other, while Stella
slowly fanned herself with her wide felt hat, in which some white
ostrich plumes were fixed.
"This is God's doing," she said at last. "You saved my life when I was
a child; now I have saved yours and the little girl's. Is she your own
daughter?" she added, quickly.
"No," I answered; "I will tell you the tale presently."
"Yes," she said, "you shall tell me as we go home. It is time to be
starting home, it will take us three hours to get there. Hendrika,
Hendrika, bring the horses here!"
CHAPTER VII. THE BABOON-WOMAN
Hendrika obeyed, leading the horses to the side of the tree.
"Now, Mr. Allan," said Stella, "you must ride on my horse, and the old
black man must ride on the other. I will walk, and Hendrika will carry
the child. Oh, do not be afraid, she is very strong, she could carry
you or me."
Hendrika grunted assent. I am sorry that I cannot express her method
of speech by any more polite term. Sometimes she grunted like a
monkey, sometimes she clicked like a Bushman, and sometimes she did
both together, when she became quite unintelligible.
I expostulated against this proposed arrangement, saying that we could
walk, which was a fib, for I do not think that I could have done a
mile; but Stella would not listen, she would not even let me carry my
elephant gun, but took it herself. So we mounted with some difficulty,
and Hendrika took up the sleeping Tota in her long, sinewy arms.
"See that the 'Baboon-woman' does not run away into the mountains with
the little white one," said Indaba-zimbi to me in Kaffir, as he
climbed slowly on to the horse.
Unfortunately Hendrika understood his speech. Her face twisted and
grew livid with fury. She put down Tota and literally sprang at
Indaba-zimbi as a monkey springs. But weary and worn as he was, the
old gentleman was too quick for her. With an exclamation of genuine
fright he threw himself from the horse on the further side, with the
somewhat ludicrous result that all in a moment Hendrika was occupying
the seat which he had vacated. Just then Stella realized the position.
"Come down, you savage, come down!" she said, stamping her foot.
The extraordinary creature flung herself from the horse and literally
grovelled on the ground before her mistress and burst into tears.
"Pardon, Miss Stella," she clicked and grunted in villainous English,
"but he called me 'Babyan-frau' (Baboon-woman)."
"Tell your servant that he must not use such words to Hendrika, Mr.
Allan," Stella said to me. "If he does," she added, in a whisper,
"Hendrika will certainly kill him."
I explained this to Indaba-zimbi, who, being considerably frightened,
deigned to apologize. But from that hour there was hate and war
between these two.
Harmony having been thus restored, we started, the dogs following us.
A small strip of desert intervened between us and the slope of the
peak--perhaps it was two miles wide. We crossed it and reached rich
grass lands, for here a considerable stream gathered from the hills;
but it did not flow across the barren lands, it passed to the east
along the foot of the hills. This stream we had to cross by a ford.
Hendrika walked boldly through it, holding Tota in her arms. Stella
leapt across from stone to stone like a roebuck; I thought to myself
that she was the most graceful creature that I had ever seen. After
this the track passed around a pleasantly-wooded shoulder of the peak,
which was, I found, known as Babyan Kap, or Baboon Head. Of course we
could only go at a foot pace, so our progress was slow. Stella walked
for some way in silence, then she spoke.
"Tell me, Mr. Allan," she said, "how it was that I came to find you
dying in the desert?"
So I began and told her all. It took an hour or more to do so, and she
listened intently, now and again asking a question.
"It is all very wonderful," she said when I had done, "very wonderful
indeed. Do you know I went out this morning with Hendrika and the dogs
for a ride, meaning to get back home by mid-day, for my father is ill,
and I do not like to leave him for long. But just as I was going to
turn, when we were about where we are now--yes, that was the very bush
--an oribé got up, and the dogs chased it. I followed them for the
gallop, and when we came to the river, instead of turning to the left
as bucks generally do, the oribé swam the stream and took to the Bad
Lands beyond. I followed it, and within a hundred yards of the big
tree the dogs killed it. Hendrika wanted to turn back at once, but I
said that we would rest under the shade of the tree, for I knew that
there was a spring of water near. Well, we went; and there I saw you
all lying like dead; but Hendrika, who is very clever in some ways,
said no--and you know the rest. Yes, it is very wonderful."
"It is indeed," I said. "Now tell me, Miss Stella, who is Hendrika?"
She looked round before answering to see that the woman was not near.
"Hers is a strange story, Mr. Allan. I will tell you. You must know
that all these mountains and the country beyond are full of baboons.
When I was a girl of about ten I used to wander a great deal alone in
the hills and valleys, and watch the baboons as they played among the
rocks. There was one family of baboons that I watched especially--they
used to live in a kloof about a mile from the house. The old man
baboon was very large, and one of the females had a grey face. But the
reason why I watched them so much was because I saw that they had with
them a creature that looked like a girl, for her skin was quite white,
and, what was more, that she was protected from the weather when it
happened to be cold by a fur belt of some sort, which was tied round
her throat. The old baboons seemed to be especially fond of her, and
would sit with their arms round her neck. For nearly a whole summer I
watched this particular white-skinned baboon till at last my curiosity
quite overmastered me. I noticed that, though she climbed about the
cliffs with the other monkeys, at a certain hour a little before
sundown they used to put her with one or two other much smaller ones
into a little cave, while the family went off somewhere to get food,
to the mealie fields, I suppose. Then I got an idea that I would catch
this white baboon and bring it home. But of course I could not do this
by myself, so I took a Hottentot--a very clever man when he was not
drunk--who lived on the stead, into my confidence. He was called
Hendrik, and was very fond of me; but for a long while he would not
listen to my plan, because he said that the babyans would kill us. At
last I bribed him with a knife that had four blades, and one afternoon
we started, Hendrik carrying a stout sack made of hide, with a rope
running through it so that the mouth could be drawn tight.
"Well, we got to the place, and, hiding ourselves carefully in the
trees at the foot of the kloof, watched the baboons playing about and
grunting to each other, till at length, according to custom, they took
the white one and three other little babies and put them in the cave.
Then the old man came out, looked carefully round, called to his
family, and went off with them over the brow of the kloof. Now very
slowly and cautiously we crept up over the rocks till we came to the
mouth of the cave and looked in. All the four little baboons were fast
asleep, with their backs towards us, and their arms round each other's
necks, the white one being in the middle. Nothing could have been
better for our plans. Hendrik, who by this time had quite entered into
the spirit of the thing, crept along the cave like a snake, and
suddenly dropped the mouth of the hide bag over the head of the white
baboon. The poor little thing woke up and gave a violent jump which
caused it to vanish right into the bag. Then Hendrik pulled the string
tight, and together we knotted it so that it was impossible for our
captive to escape. Meanwhile the other baby baboons had rushed from
the cave screaming, and when we got outside they were nowhere to be
"'Come on, Missie,' said Hendrik; 'the babyans will soon be back.' He
had shouldered the sack, inside of which the white baboon was kicking
violently, and screaming like a child. It was dreadful to hear its
"We scrambled down the sides of the kloof and ran for home as fast as
we could manage. When we were near the waterfall, and within about
three hundred yards of the garden wall, we heard a voice behind us,
and there, leaping from rock to rock, and running over the grass, was
the whole family of baboons headed by the old man.
"'Run, Missie, run!' gasped Hendrik, and I did, like the wind, leaving
him far behind. I dashed into the garden, where some Kaffirs were
working, crying, 'The babyans! the babyans!' Luckily the men had their
sticks and spears by them and ran out just in time to save Hendrik,
who was almost overtaken. The baboons made a good fight for it,
however, and it was not till the old man was killed with an assegai
that they ran away.
"Well, there is a stone hut in the kraal at the stead where my father
sometimes shuts up natives who have misbehaved. It is very strong, and
has a barred window. To this hut Hendrik carried the sack, and, having
untied the mouth, put it down on the floor, and ran from the place,
shutting the door behind him. In another moment the poor little thing
was out and dashing round the stone hut as though it were mad. It
sprung at the bars of the window, clung there, and beat its head
against them till the blood came. Then it fell to the floor, and sat
upon it crying like a child, and rocking itself backwards and
forwards. It was so sad to see it that I began to cry too.
"Just then my father came in and asked what all the fuss was about. I
told him that we had caught a young white baboon, and he was angry,
and said that it must be let go. But when he looked at it through the
bars of the window he nearly fell down with astonishment.
"'Why!' he said, 'this is not a baboon, it is a white child that the
baboons have stolen and brought up!'
"Now, Mr. Allan, whether my father is right or wrong, you can judge
for yourself. You see Hendrika--we named her that after Hendrik, who
caught her--she is a woman, not a monkey, and yet she has many of the
ways of monkeys, and looks like one too. You saw how she can climb,
for instance, and you hear how she talks. Also she is very savage, and
when she is angry or jealous she seems to go mad, though she is as
clever as anybody. I think that she must have been stolen by the
baboons when she was quite tiny and nurtured by them, and that is why
she is so like them.
"But to go on. My father said that it was our duty to keep Hendrika at
any cost. The worst of it was, that for three days she would eat
nothing, and I thought that she would die, for all the while she sat
and wailed. On the third day, however, I went to the bars of the
window place, and held out a cup of milk and some fruit to her. She
looked at it for a long while, then crept up moaning, took the milk
from my hand, drank it greedily, and afterwards ate the fruit. From
that time forward she took food readily enough, but only if I would
"But I must tell you of the dreadful end of Hendrik. From the day that
we captured Hendrika the whole place began to swarm with baboons which
were evidently employed in watching the kraals. One day Hendrik went
out towards the hills alone to gather some medicine. He did not come
back again, so the next day search was made. By a big rock which I can
show you, they found his scattered and broken bones, the fragments of
his assegai, and four dead baboons. They had set upon him and torn him
"My father was very much frightened at this, but still he would not
let Hendrika go, because he said that she was human, and that it was
our duty to reclaim her. And so we did--to a certain extent, at least.
After the murder of Hendrik, the baboons vanished from the
neighbourhood, and have only returned quite recently, so at length we
ventured to let Hendrika out. By this time she had grown very fond of
me; still, on the first opportunity she ran away. But in the evening
she returned again. She had been seeking the baboons, and could not
find them. Shortly afterwards she began to speak--I taught her--and
from that time she has loved me so that she will not leave me. I think
it would kill her if I went away from her. She watches me all day, and
at night sleeps on the floor of my hut. Once, too, she saved my life
when I was swept down the river in flood; but she is jealous, and
hates everybody else. Look, how she is glaring at you now because I am
talking to you!"
I looked. Hendrika was tramping along with the child in her arms and
staring at me in a most sinister fashion out of the corners of her
While I was reflecting on the Baboon-woman's strange story, and
thinking that she was an exceedingly awkward customer, the path took a
"Look!" said Stella, "there is our home. Is it not beautiful?"
It was beautiful indeed. Here on the western side of the great peak a
bay had been formed in the mountain, which might have measured eight
hundred or a thousand yards across by three-quarters of a mile in
depth. At the back of this indentation the sheer cliff rose to the
height of several hundred feet, and behind it and above it the great
Babyan Peak towered up towards the heavens. The space of ground,
embraced thus in the arms of the mountain, as it were, was laid out,
as though by the cunning hand of man, in three terraces that rose one
above the other. To the right and left of the topmost terrace were
chasms in the cliff, and down each chasm fell a waterfall, from no
great height, indeed, but of considerable volume. These two streams
flowed away on either side of the enclosed space, one towards the
north, and the other, the course of which we had been following, round
the base of the mountain. At each terrace they made a cascade, so that
the traveller approaching had a view of eight waterfalls at once.
Along the edge of the stream to our left were placed Kaffir kraals,
built in orderly groups with verandahs, after the Basutu fashion, and
a very large part of the entire space of land was under cultivation.
All of this I noted at once, as well as the extraordinary richness and
depth of the soil, which for many ages past had been washed down from
the mountain heights. Then following the line of an excellent waggon
road, on which we now found ourselves, that wound up from terrace to
terrace, my eye lit upon the crowning wonder of the scene. For in the
centre of the topmost platform or terrace, which may have enclosed
eight or ten acres of ground, and almost surrounded by groves of
orange trees, gleamed buildings of which I had never seen the like.
There were three groups of them, one in the middle, and one on either
side, and a little to the rear, but, as I afterwards discovered, the
plan of all was the same. In the centre was an edifice constructed
like an ordinary Zulu hut--that is to say, in the shape of a beehive,
only it was five times the size of any hut I ever saw, and built of
blocks of hewn white marble, fitted together with extraordinary
knowledge of the principles and properties of arch building, and with
so much accuracy and finish that it was often difficult to find the
joints of the massive blocks. From this centre hut ran three covered
passages, leading to other buildings of an exactly similar character,
only smaller, and each whole block was enclosed by a marble wall about
four feet in height.
Of course we were as yet too far off to see all these details, but the
general outline I saw at once, and it astonished me considerably. Even
old Indaba-zimbi, whom the Baboon-woman had been unable to move,
deigned to show wonder.
"Ou!" he said; "this is a place of marvels. Who ever saw kraals built
of white stone?"
Stella watched our faces with an expression of intense amusement, but
"Did your father build those kraals?" I gasped, at length.
"My father! no, of course not," she answered. "How would it have been
possible for one white man to do so, or to have made this road? He
found them as you see."
"Who built them, then?" I said again.
"I do not know. My father thinks that they are very ancient, for the
people who live here now do not know how to lay one stone upon
another, and these huts are so wonderfully constructed that, though
they must have stood for ages, not a stone of them had fallen. But I
can show you the quarry where the marble was cut; it is close by and
behind it is the entrance to an ancient mine, which my father thinks
was a silver mine. Perhaps the people who worked the mine built the
marble huts. The world is old, and no doubt plenty of people have
lived in it and been forgotten."[*]
[*] Kraals of a somewhat similar nature to those described by Mr.
Quatermain have been discovered in the Marico district of the
Transvaal, and an illustration of them is to be found in Mr.
Anderson's "Twenty-five Years in a Waggon," vol. ii. p. 55. Mr.
Anderson says, "In this district are the ancient stone kraals
mentioned in an early chapter; but it requires a fuller
description to show that these extensive kraals must have been
erected by a white race who understood building in stone and at
right angles, with door-posts, lintels, and sills, and it required
more than Kaffir skill to erect the stone huts, with stone
circular roofs, beautifully formed and most substantially erected;
strong enough, if not disturbed, to last a thousand years."--
Then we rode on in silence. I have seen many beautiful sights in
Africa, and in such matters, as in others, comparisons are odious and
worthless, but I do not think that I ever saw a lovelier scene. It was
no one thing--it was the combination of the mighty peak looking forth
on to the everlasting plains, the great cliffs, the waterfalls that
sparkled in rainbow hues, the rivers girdling the rich cultivated
lands, the gold-specked green of the orange trees, the flashing domes
of the marble huts, and a thousand other things. Then over all brooded
the peace of evening, and the infinite glory of the sunset that filled
heaven with changing hues of splendour, that wrapped the mountain and
cliffs in cloaks of purple and of gold, and lay upon the quiet face of
the water like the smile of a god.
Perhaps also the contrast, and the memory of those three awful days
and nights in the hopeless desert, enhanced the charm, and perhaps the
beauty of the girl who walked beside me completed it. For of this I am
sure, that of all sweet and lovely things that I looked on then, she
was the sweetest and the loveliest.
Ah, it did not take me long to find my fate. How long will it be
before I find her once again?
CHAPTER VIII. THE MARBLE KRAALS
At length the last platform, or terrace, was reached, and we pulled up
outside the wall surrounding the central group of marble huts--for so
I must call them, for want of a better name. Our approach had been
observed by a crowd of natives, whose race I have never been able to
determine accurately; they belonged to the Basutu and peaceful section
of the Bantu peoples rather than to the Zulu and warlike. Several of
these ran up to take the horses, gazing on us with astonishment, not
unmixed with awe. We dismounted--speaking for myself, not without
difficulty--indeed, had it not been for Stella's support I should have
"Now you must come and see my father," she said. "I wonder what he
will think of it, it is all so strange. Hendrika, take the child to my
hut and give her milk, then put her into my bed; I will come
Hendrika went off with a somewhat ugly grin to do her mistress's
bidding, and Stella led the way through the narrow gateway in the
marble wall, which may have enclosed nearly half an "erf," or three-
quarters of an acre of ground in all. It was beautifully planted as a
garden, many European vegetables and flowers were growing in it,
besides others with which I was not acquainted. Presently we came to
the centre hut, and it was then that I noticed the extraordinary
beauty and finish of the marble masonry. In the hut, and facing the
gateway, was a modern door, rather rudely fashioned of Buckenhout, a
beautiful reddish wood that has the appearance of having been
sedulously pricked with a pin. Stella opened it, and we entered. The
interior of the hut was the size of a large and lofty room, the walls
being formed of plain polished marble. It was lighted somewhat dimly,
but quite effectively, by peculiar openings in the roof, from which
the rain was excluded by overhanging eaves. The marble floor was
strewn with native mats and skins of animals. Bookcases filled with
books were placed against the walls, there was a table in the centre,
chairs seated with rimpi or strips of hide stood about, and beyond the
table was a couch on which a man was lying reading.
"Is that you, Stella?" said a voice, that even after so many years
seemed familiar to me. "Where have you been, my dear? I began to think
that you had lost yourself again."
"No, father, dear, I have not lost myself, but I have found somebody
At that moment I stepped forward so that the light fell on me. The old
gentleman on the couch rose with some difficulty and bowed with much
courtesy. He was a fine-looking old man, with deep-set dark eyes, a
pale face that bore many traces of physical and mental suffering, and
a long white beard.
"Be welcome, sir," he said. "It is long since we have seen a white
face in these wilds, and yours, if I am not mistaken, is that of an
Englishman. There has been but one Englishman here for twelve years,
and he, I grieve to say, was an outcast flying from justice," and he
bowed again and stretched out his hand.
I looked at him, and then of a sudden his name flashed back into my
mind. I took his hand.
"How do you do, Mr. Carson?" I said.
He started as though he had been stung.
"Who told you that name?" he cried. "It is a dead name. Stella, is it
you? I forbade you to let it pass your lips."
"I did not speak it, father. I have never spoken it," she answered.
"Sir," I broke in, "if you will allow me I will show you how I came to
know your name. Do you remember many years ago coming into the study
of a clergyman in Oxfordshire and telling him that you were going to
leave England for ever?"
He bowed his head.
"And do you remember a little boy who sat upon the hearthrug writing
with a pencil?"
"I do," he said.
"Sir, I was that boy, and my name is Allan Quatermain. Those children
who lay sick are all dead, their mother is dead, and my father, your
old friend, is dead also. Like you he emigrated, and last year he died
in the Cape. But that is not all the story. After many adventures, I,
one Kaffir, and a little girl, lay senseless and dying in the Bad
Lands, where we had wandered for days without water, and there we
should have perished, but your daughter, Miss----"
"Call her Stella," he broke in, hastily. "I cannot bear to hear that
name. I have forsworn it."
"Miss Stella found us by chance and saved our lives."
"By chance, did you say, Allan Quatermain?" he answered. "There is
little chance in all this; such chances spring from another will than
ours. Welcome, Allan, son of my old friend. Here we live as it were in
a hermitage, with Nature as our only friend, but such as we have is
yours, and for as long as you will take it. But you must be starving;
talk no more now. Stella, it is time to eat. To-morrow we will talk."
To tell the truth I can recall very little of the events of that
evening. A kind of dizzy weariness overmastered me. I remember sitting
at a table next to Stella, and eating heartily, and then I remember
I awoke to find myself lying on a comfortable bed in a hut built and
fashioned on the same model as the centre one. While I was wondering
what time it was, a native came bringing some clean clothes on his
arm, and, luxury of luxuries, produced a bath hollowed from wood. I
rose, feeling a very different man, my strength had come back again to
me; I dressed, and following a covered passage found myself in the
centre hut. Here the table was set for breakfast with all manner of
good things, such as I had not seen for many a month, which I
contemplated with healthy satisfaction. Presently I looked up, and
there before me was a more delightful sight, for standing in one of
the doorways which led to the sleeping huts was Stella, leading little
Tota by the hand.
She was very simply dressed in a loose blue gown, with a wide collar,
and girdled in at the waist by a little leather belt. In the bosom of
her robe was a bunch of orange blooms, and her rippling hair was tied
in a single knot behind her shapely head. She greeted me with a smile,
asking how I had slept, and then held Tota up for me to kiss. Under
her loving care the child had been quite transformed. She was neatly
dressed in a garment of the same blue stuff that Stella wore, her fair
hair was brushed; indeed, had it not been for the sun blisters on her
face and hands, one would scarcely have believed that this was the
same child whom Indaba-zimbi and I had dragged for hour after hour
through the burning, waterless desert.
"We must breakfast alone, Mr. Allan," she said; "my father is so upset
by your arrival that he will not get up yet. Oh, you cannot tell how
thankful I am that you have come. I have been so anxious about him of
late. He grows weaker and weaker; it seems to me as though the
strength were ebbing away from him. Now he scarcely leaves the kraal,
I have to manage everything about the farm; he does nothing but read
Just then Hendrika entered, bearing a jug of coffee in one hand and of
milk in the other, which she set down upon the table, casting a look
of little love at me as she did so.
"Be careful, Hendrika; you are spilling the coffee," said Stella.
"Don't you wonder how we come to have coffee here, Mr. Allan? I will
tell you--we grow it. That was my idea. Oh, I have lots of things to
show you. You don't know what we have managed to do in the time that
we have been here. You see we have plenty of labour, for the people
about look upon my father as their chief."
"Yes," I said, "but how do you get all these luxuries of
civilization?" and I pointed to the books, the crockery, and the
knives and forks.
"Very simply. Most of the books my father brought with him when we
first trekked into the wilds; there was nearly a waggon load of them.
But every few years we have sent an expedition of three waggons right
down to Port Natal. The waggons are loaded with ivory and other goods,
and come back with all kinds of things that been sent out from England
for us. So you see, although we live in this wild place, we are not
altogether cut off. We can send runners to Natal and back in three
months, and the waggons get there and back in a year. The last lot
arrived quite safe about three months ago. Our servants are very
faithful, and some of them speak Dutch well."
"Have you ever been with the waggons?" I asked.
"Since I was a child I have never been more than thirty miles from
Babyan's Peak," she answered. "Do you know, Mr. Allan, that you are,
with one exception, the first Englishman that I have known out of a
book. I suppose that I must seem very wild and savage to you, but I
have had one advantage--a good education. My father has taught me
everything, and perhaps I know some things that you don't. I can read
French and German, for instance. I think that my father's first idea
was to let me run wild altogether, but he gave it up."
"And don't you wish to go into the world?" I asked.
"Sometimes," she said, "when I get lonely. But perhaps my father is
right--perhaps it would frighten and bewilder me. At any rate he would
never return to civilization; it is his idea, you know, although I am
sure I do not know where he got it from, nor why he cannot bear that
our name should be spoken. In short, Mr. Quatermain, we do not make
our lives, we must take them as we find them. Have you done your
breakfast? Let us go out, and I will show you our home."
I rose and went to my sleeping-place to fetch my hat. When I returned,
Mr. Carson--for after all that was his name, though he would never
allow it to be spoken--had come into the hut. He felt better now, he
said, and would accompany us on our walk if Stella would give him an
So we started, and after us came Hendrika with Tota and old Indaba-
zimbi whom I found sitting outside as fresh as paint. Nothing could
tire that old man.
The view from the platform was almost as beautiful as that from the
lower ground looking up to the peak. The marble kraals, as I have
said, faced west, consequently all the upper terrace lay in the shadow
of the great peak till nearly eleven o'clock in the morning--a great
advantage in that warm latitude. First we walked through the garden,
which was beautifully cultivated, and one of the most productive that
I ever saw. There were three or four natives working in it, and they
all saluted my host as "Baba," or father. Then we visited the other
two groups of marble huts. One of these was used for stables and
outbuildings, the other as storehouses, the centre hut having been,
however, turned into a chapel. Mr. Carson was not ordained, but he
earnestly tried to convert the natives, most of whom were refugees who
had come to him for shelter, and he had practised the more elementary
rites of the church for so long that I think he began to believe that
he really was a clergyman. For instance, he always married those of
his people who would consent to a monogamous existence, and baptized
When we had examined those wonderful remains of antiquity, the marble
huts, and admired the orange trees, the vines and fruits which thrive
like weeds in this marvellous soil and climate, we descended to the
next platform, and saw the farming operations in full swing. I think
that it was the best farm I have ever seen in Africa. There was ample
water for purposes of irrigation, the grass lands below gave pasturage
for hundreds of head of cattle and horses, and, for natives, the
people were most industrious. Moreover, the whole place was managed by
Mr. Carson on the co-operative system; he only took a tithe of the
produce--indeed, in this land of teeming plenty, what was he to do
with more? Consequently the tribesmen, who, by the way, called
themselves the "Children of Thomas," were able to accumulate
considerable wealth. All their disputes were referred to their
"father," and he also was judge of offences and crimes. Some were
punished by imprisonment, whipping, and loss of goods, other and
graver transgressions by expulsion from the community, a fiat which to
one of these favoured natives must have seemed as heavy as the decree
that drove Adam from the Garden of Eden.
Old Mr. Carson leaned upon his daughter's arm and contemplated the
scene with pride.
"I have done all this, Allan Quatermain," he said. "When renouncing
civilization, I wandered here by chance; seeking a home in the
remotest places of the world, I found this lonely spot a wilderness.
Nothing was to be seen except the site, the domes of the marble huts,
and the waterfalls. I took possession of the huts. I cleared the path
of garden land and planted the orange grove. I had only six natives
then, but by degrees others joined me, now my tribe is a thousand
strong. Here we live in profound peace and plenty. I have all I need,
and I seek no more. Heaven has prospered me so far--may it do so to
the end, which for me draws nigh. And now I am tired and will go back.
If you wish to see the old quarry and the mouth of the ancient mines,
Stella will show them to you. No, my love, you need not trouble to
come, I can manage. Look! some of the headmen are waiting to see me."
So he went; but still followed by Hendrika and Indaba-zimbi, we
turned, and, walking along the bank of one of the rivers, passed up
behind the marble kraals, and came to the quarry, whence the material
of which they were built had been cut in some remote age. The pit
opened up a very thick seam of the whitest and most beautiful marble.
I know another like it in Natal. But by whom it had been worked I
cannot say; not by natives, that is certain, though the builders of
these kraals had condescended to borrow the shape of native huts for
their model. By the way, the only relic of those builders that I ever
saw was a highly finished bronze pick-axe which Stella had found one
day in the quarry.
After we had examined this quarry we climbed the slope of the hill
till we came to the mouth of the ancient mines which were situated in
a gorge. I believe them to have been silver mines. The gorge was long
and narrow, and the moment we entered it there rose from every side a
sound of groaning and barking that was almost enough to deafen us. I
knew what it was at once: the whole place was filled with baboons,
which clambered down the rocks towards us from every direction, and in
a manner that struck me as being unnaturally fearless. Stella turned a
little pale and clung to my arm.
"It is very silly of me," she whispered. "I am not at all nervous, but
ever since they killed Hendrik I cannot bear the sight of those
animals. I always think that there is something human about them."
Meanwhile the baboons drew nearer, talking to each other as they came.
Tota began to cry, and clung to Stella. Stella clung to me, while I
and Indaba-zimbi put as bold a front on the matter as we could. Only
Hendrika stood looking at the brutes with an unconcerned smile on her
monkey face. When the great apes were quite near, she suddenly called
aloud. Instantly they stopped their hideous clamour as though at a
word of command. Then Hendrika addressed them: I can only describe it
so. That is to say, she began to make a noise such as baboons do when
they converse with each other. I have known Hottentots and Bushmen who
said that they could talk with the baboons and understand their
language, but I confess I never heard it done before or since.
From the mouth of Hendrika came a succession of grunts, groans,
squeals, clicks, and every other abominable noise that can be
conceived, conveying to my mind a general idea of expostulation. At
any rate the baboons listened. One of them grunted back some answer,
and then the whole mob drew off to the rocks.
I stood astonished, and without a word we turned back to the kraal,
for Hendrika was too close to allow me to speak. When we reached the
dining hut Stella went in, followed by Hendrika. But Indaba-zimbi
plucked me by the sleeve, and I stopped outside.
"Macumazahn," he said. "Baboon-woman--devil-woman. Be careful,
Macumazahn. She loves that Star (the natives aptly enough called
Stella the Star), and is jealous. Be careful, Macumazahn, or the Star
CHAPTER IX. "LET US GO IN, ALLAN!"
It is very difficult for me to describe the period of time which
elapsed between my arrival at Babyan's Peak and my marriage with
Stella. When I look back on it, it seems sweet as with the odour of
flowers, and dim as with the happy dusk of summer eves, while through
the sweetness comes the sound of Stella's voice, and through the gloom
shines the starlight of her eyes. I think that we loved each other
from the first, though for a while we said no word of love. Day by day
I went about the place with her, accompanied by little Tota and
Hendrika only, while she attended to the thousand and one matters
which her father's ever-growing weakness had laid upon her; or rather,
as time drew on, I attended to the business, and she accompanied me.
All day through we were together. Then after supper, when the night
had fallen, we would walk together in the garden and come at length to
hear her father read aloud sometimes from the works of a poet,
sometimes from history. Or, if he did not feel well, Stella would
read, and when this was done, Mr. Carson would celebrate a short form
of prayer, and we would separate till the morning once more brought
our happy hour of meeting.
So the weeks went by, and with every week I grew to know my darling
better. Often, I wonder now, if my fond fancy deceives me, or if
indeed there are women as sweet and dear as she. Was it solitude that
had given such depth and gentleness to her? Was it the long years of
communing with Nature that had endowed her with such peculiar grace,
the grace we find in opening flowers and budding trees? Had she caught
that murmuring voice from the sound of the streams which fall
continually about her rocky home? was it the tenderness of the evening
sky beneath which she loved to walk, that lay like a shadow on her
face, and the light of the evening stars that shone in her quiet eyes?
At the least to me she was the realization of that dream which haunts
the sleep of sin-stained men; so my memory paints her, so I hope to
find her when at last the sleep has rolled away and the fevered dreams
At last there came a day--the most blessed of my life, when we told
our love. We had been together all the morning, but after dinner Mr.
Carson was so unwell that Stella stopped in with him. At supper we met
again, and after supper, when she had put little Tota, to whom she had
grown much attached, to bed, we went out, leaving Mr. Carson dozing on
The night was warm and lovely, and without speaking we walked up the
garden to the orange grove and sat down upon a rock. There was a
little breeze which shook the petals of the orange blooms over us in
showers, and bore their delicate fragrance far and wide. Silence
reigned around, broken only by the sound of the falling waterfalls
that now died to a faint murmur, and now, as the wavering breeze
turned, boomed loudly in our ears. The moon was not yet visible, but
already the dark clouds which floated through the sky above us--for
there had been rain--showed a glow of silver, telling us that she
shone brightly behind the peak. Stella began to talk in her low,
gentle voice, speaking to me of her life in the wilderness, how she
had grown to love it, how her mind had gone on from idea to idea, and
how she pictured the great rushing world that she had never seen as it
was reflected to her from the books which she had read. It was a
curious vision of life that she had: things were out of proportion to
it; it was more like a dream than a reality--a mirage than the actual
face of things. The idea of great cities, and especially of London,
had a kind of fascination for her: she could scarcely realize the
rush, the roar and hurry, the hard crowds of men and women, strangers
to each other, feverishly seeking for wealth and pleasure beneath a
murky sky, and treading one another down in the fury of their
"What is it all for?" she asked earnestly. "What do they seek? Having
so few years to live, why do they waste them thus?"
I told her that in the majority of instances it was actual hard
necessity that drove them on, but she could barely understand me.
Living as she had done, in the midst of the teeming plenty of a
fruitful earth, she did not seem to be able to grasp the fact that
there were millions who from day to day know not how to stay their
"I never want to go there," she went on; "I should be bewildered and
frightened to death. It is not natural to live like that. God put Adam
and Eve in a garden, and that is how he meant their children to live--
in peace, and looking always on beautiful things. This is my idea of
perfect life. I want no other."
"I thought you once told me that you found it lonely," I said.
"So I did," she answered, innocently, "but that was before you came.
Now I am not lonely any more, and it is perfect--perfect as the
Just then the full moon rose above the elbow of the peak, and her rays
stole far and wide down the misty valley, gleaming on the water,
brooding on the plain, searching out the hidden places of the rocks,
wrapping the fair form of nature as in a silver bridal veil through
which her beauty shone mysteriously.
Stella looked down the terraced valley; she turned and looked up at
the scarred face of the golden moon, and then she looked at me. The
beauty of the night was about her face, the scent of the night was on
her hair, the mystery of the night shone in her shadowed eyes. She
looked at me, I looked on her, and all our hearts' love blossomed
within us. We spoke no word--we had no words to speak, but slowly we
drew near, till lips were pressed to lips as we kissed our eternal
It was she who broke that holy silence, speaking in a changed voice,
in soft deep notes that thrilled me like the lowest chords of a
"Ah, now I understand," she said, "now I know why we are lonely, and
how we can lose our loneliness. Now I know what it is that stirs us in
the beauty of the sky, in the sound of water and in the scent of
flowers. It is Love who speaks in everything, though till we hear his
voice we understand nothing. But when we hear, then the riddle is
answered and the gates of our heart are opened, and, Allan, we see the
way that wends through death to heaven, and is lost in the glory of
which our love is but a shadow.
"Let us go in, Allan. Let us go before the spell breaks, so that
whatever overtakes us, sorrow, death, or separation, we may always
have this perfect memory to save us. Come, dearest, let us go!"
I rose like a man in a dream, still holding her by the hand. But as I
rose my eye fell upon something that gleamed white among the foliage
of the orange bush at my side. I said nothing, but looked. The breeze
stirred the orange leaves, the moonlight struck for a moment full upon
the white object.
It was the face of Hendrika, the Babyan-woman, as Indaba-zimbi had
called her, and on it was a glare of hate that made me shudder.
I said nothing; the face vanished, and just then I heard a baboon bark
in the rocks behind.
Then we went down the garden, and Stella passed into the centre hut. I
saw Hendrika standing in the shadow near the door, and went up to her.
"Hendrika," I said, "why were you watching Miss Stella and myself in
She drew her lips up till her teeth gleamed in the moonlight.
"Have I not watched her these many years, Macumazahn? Shall I cease to
watch because a wandering white man comes to steal her? Why were you
kissing her in the garden, Macumazahn? How dare you kiss her who is a
"I kissed her because I love her, and because she loves me," I
answered. "What has that to do with you, Hendrika?"
"Because you love her," she hissed in answer; "and do I not love her
also, who saved me from the babyans? I am a woman as she is, and you
are a man, and they say in the kraals that men love women better than
women love women. But it is a lie, though this is true, that if a
woman loves a man she forgets all other love. Have I not seen it? I
gather her flowers--beautiful flowers; I climb the rocks where you
would never dare to go to find them; you pluck a piece of orange bloom
in the garden and give it to her. What does she do?--she takes the
orange bloom, she puts it in her breast, and lets my flowers die. I
call to her--she does not hear me--she is thinking. You whisper to
some one far away, and she hears and smiles. She used to kiss me
sometimes; now she kisses that white brat you brought, because you
brought it. Oh, I see it all--all; I have seen it from the first; you
are stealing her from us, stealing her to yourself, and those who
loved her before you came are forgotten. Be careful, Macumazahn, be
careful, lest I am revenged upon you. You, you hate me; you think me
half a monkey; that servant of yours calls me Baboon-woman. Well, I
have lived with baboons, and they are clever--yes, they can play
tricks and know things that you don't, and I am cleverer than they,
for I have learnt the wisdom of white people also, and I say to you,
Walk softly, Macumazahn, or you will fall into a pit," and with one
more look of malice she was gone.
I stood for a moment reflecting. I was afraid of this strange creature
who seemed to combine the cunning of the great apes that had reared
her with the passions and skill of human kind. I foreboded evil at her
hands. And yet there was something almost touching in the fierceness
of her jealousy. It is generally supposed that this passion only
exists in strength when the object loved is of another sex from the
lover, but I confess that, both in this instance and in some others
which I have met with, this has not been my experience. I have known
men, and especially uncivilized men, who were as jealous of the
affection of their friend or master as any lover could be of that of
his mistress; and who has not seen cases of the same thing where
parents and their children are concerned? But the lower one gets in
the scale of humanity, the more readily this passion thrives; indeed,
it may be said to come to its intensest perfection in brutes. Women
are more jealous than men, small-hearted men are more jealous than
those of larger mind and wider sympathy, and animals are the most
jealous of all. Now Hendrika was in some ways not far removed from
animal, which may perhaps account for the ferocity of her jealousy of
her mistress's affection.
Shaking off my presentiments of evil, I entered the centre hut. Mr.
Carson was resting on the sofa, and by him knelt Stella holding his
hand, and her head resting on his breast. I saw at once that she had
been telling him of what had come about between us; nor was I sorry,
for it is a task that a would-be son-in-law is generally glad to do by
"Come here, Allan Quatermain," he said, almost sternly, and my heart
gave a jump, for I feared lest he might be about to require me to go
about my business. But I came.
"Stella tells me," he went on, "that you two have entered into a
marriage engagement. She tells me also that she loves you, and that
you say that you love her."
"I do indeed, sir," I broke in; "I love her truly; if ever a woman was
loved in this world, I love her."
"I thank Heaven for it," said the old man. "Listen, my children. Many
years ago a great shame and sorrow fell upon me, so great a sorrow
that, as I sometimes think, it affected my brain. At any rate, I
determined to do what most men would have considered the act of a
madman, to go far away into the wilderness with my only child, there
to live remote from civilization and its evils. I did so; I found this
place, and here we have lived for many years, happily enough, and
perhaps not without doing good in our generation, but still in a way
unnatural to our race and status. At first I thought I would let my
daughter grow up in a state of complete ignorance, that she should be
Nature's child. But as time went on, I saw the folly and the
wickedness of my plan. I had no right to degrade her to the level of
the savages around me, for if the fruit of the tree of knowledge is a
bitter fruit, still it teaches good from evil. So I educated her as
well as I was able, till in the end I knew that in mind, as in body,
she was in no way inferior to her sisters, the children of the
civilized world. She grew up and entered into womanhood, and then it
came into my mind that I was doing her a bitter wrong, that I was
separating her from her kind and keeping her in a wilderness where she
could find neither mate nor companion. But though I knew this, I could
not yet make up my mind to return to active life; I had grown to love
this place. I dreaded to return into the world I had abjured. Again
and again I put my resolutions aside. Then at the commencement of this
year I fell ill. For a while I waited, hoping that I might get better,
but at last I realized that I should never get better, that the hand
of Death was upon me."
"Ah, no, father, not that!" Stella said, with a cry.
"Yes, love, that, and it is true. Now you will be able to forget our
separation in the happiness of a new meeting," and he glanced at me
and smiled. "Well, when this knowledge came home to me, I determined
to abandon this place and trek for the coast, though I well knew that
the journey would kill me. I should never live to reach it. But Stella
would, and it would be better than leaving her here alone with savages
in the wilderness. On the very day that I had made up my mind to take
this step Stella found you dying in the Bad Lands, Allan Quatermain,
and brought you here. She brought you, of all men in the world, you,
whose father had been my dear friend, and who once with your baby
hands had saved her life from fire, that she might live to save yours
from thirst. At the time I said little, but I saw the hand of
Providence in this, and I determined to wait and see what came about
between you. At the worst, if nothing came about, I soon learned that
I could trust you to see her safely to the coast after I was gone. But
many days ago I knew how it stood between you, and now things are
determined as I prayed they might be. God bless you both, my children;
may you be happy in your love; may it endure till death and beyond it.
God bless you both!" and he stretched out his hand towards me.
I took it, and Stella kissed him.
Presently he spoke again--
"It is my intention," he said, "if you two consent, to marry you next
Sunday. I wish to do so soon, for I do not know how much longer will
be allowed to me. I believe that such a ceremony, solemnly celebrated
and entered into before witnesses, will, under the circumstances, be
perfectly legal; but of course you will repeat it with every formality
the first moment it lies in your power so to do. And now, there is one
more thing: when I left England my fortunes were in a shattered
condition; in the course of years they have recovered themselves, the
accumulated rents, as I heard but recently, when the waggons last
returned from Port Natal, have sufficed to pay off all charges, and
there is a considerable balance over. Consequently you will not marry
on nothing, for of course you, Stella, are my heiress, and I wish to
make a stipulation. It is this. That so soon as my death occurs you
should leave this place and take the first opportunity of returning to
England. I do not ask you to live there always; it might prove too
much for people reared in the wilds, as both of you have been; but I
do ask you to make it your permanent home. Do you consent and promise
"I do," I answered.
"And so do I," said Stella.
"Very well," he answered; "and now I am tired out. Again God bless you
both, and good-night."
CHAPTER X. HENDRIKA PLOTS EVIL
On the following morning I had a conversation with Indaba-zimbi. First
of all I told him that I was going to marry Stella.
"Oh!" he said, "I thought so, Macumazahn. Did I not tell you that you
would find happiness on this journey? Most men must be content to
watch the Star from a long way off, to you it is given to wear her on
your heart. But remember, Macumazahn, remember that stars set."
"Can you not stop your croaking even for a day?" I answered, angrily,
for his words sent a thrill of fear through me.
"A true prophet must tell the ill as well as the good, Macumazahn. I
only speak what is on my mind. But what of it? What is life but loss,
loss upon loss, till life itself be lost? But in death we may find all
the things that we have lost. So your father taught, Macumazahn, and
there was wisdom in his gentleness. Ou! I do not believe in death; it
is change, that is all, Macumazahn. Look now, the rain falls, the
drops of rain that were one water in the clouds fall side by side.
They sink into the ground; presently the sun will come out, the earth
will be dry, the drops will be gone. A fool looks and says the drops
are dead, they will never be one again, they will never again fall
side by side. But I am a rain-maker, and I know the ways of rain. It
is not true. The drops will drain by many paths into the river, and
will be one water there. They will go up to the clouds again in the
mists of morning, and there will again be as they have been. We are
the drops of rain, Macumazahn. When we fall that is our life. When we
sink into the ground that is death, and when we are drawn up again to
the sky, what is that, Macumazahn? No! no! when we find we lose, and
when we seem to lose, then we shall really find. I am not a Christian,
Macumazahn, but I am old, and have watched and seen things that
perhaps Christians do not see. There, I have spoken. Be happy with
your star, and if it sets, wait, Macumazahn, wait till it rises again.
It will not be long; one day you will go to sleep, then your eyes will
open on another sky, and there your star will be shining, Macumazahn."
I made no answer at the time. I could not bear to talk of such a
thing. But often and often in the after years I have thought of
Indaba-zimbi and his beautiful simile and gathered comfort from it. He
was a strange man, this old rain-making savage, and there was more
wisdom in him than in many learned atheists--those spiritual
destroyers who, in the name of progress and humanity, would divorce
hope from life, and leave us wandering in a lonesome, self-consecrated
"Indaba-zimbi," I said, changing the subject, "I have something to
say," and I told him of the threats of Hendrika.
He listened with an unmoved face, nodding his white lock at intervals
as the narrative went on. But I saw that he was disturbed by it.
"Macumazahn," he said at length, "I have told you that this is an evil
woman. She was nourished on baboon milk, and the baboon nature is in
her veins. Such creatures should be killed, not kept. She will make
you mischief if she can. But I will watch her, Macumazahn. Look, the
Star is waiting for you; go, or she will hate me as Hendrika hates
So I went, nothing loth, for attractive as was the wisdom of Indaba-
zimbi, I found a deeper meaning in Stella's simplest word. All the
rest of that day I passed in her company, and the greater part of the
two following days. At last came Saturday night, the eve of our
marriage. It rained that night, so we did not go out, but spent the
evening in the hut. We sat hand in hand, saying little, but Mr. Carson
talked a good deal, telling us tales of his youth, and of countries
that he had visited. Then he read aloud from the Bible, and bade us
goodnight. I also kissed Stella and went to bed. I reached my hut by
the covered way, and before I undressed opened the door to see what
the night was like. It was very dark, and rain was still falling, but
as the light streamed out into the gloom I fancied that I caught sight
of a dusky form gliding away. The thought of Hendrika flashed into my
mind; could she be skulking about outside there? Now I had said
nothing of Hendrika and her threats either to Mr. Carson or Stella,
because I did not wish to alarm them. Also I knew that Stella was
attached to this strange person, and I did not wish to shake her
confidence in her unless it was absolutely necessary. For a minute or
two I stood hesitating, then, reflecting that if it was Hendrika,
there she should stop, I went in and put up the stout wooden bar that
was used to secure the door. For the last few nights old Indaba-zimbi
had made a habit of sleeping in the covered passage, which was the
only other possible way of access. As I came to bed I had stepped over
him rolled up in his blanket, and to all appearances fast asleep. So
it being evident that I had nothing to fear, I promptly dismissed the
matter from my mind, which, as may be imagined, was indeed fully
occupied with other thoughts.
I got into bed, and for awhile lay awake thinking of the great
happiness in store for me, and of the providential course of events
that had brought it within my reach. A few weeks since and I was
wandering in the desert a dying man, bearing a dying child, and with
scarcely a possession left in the world except a store of buried ivory
that I never expected to see again. And now I was about to wed one of
the sweetest and loveliest women on the whole earth--a woman whom I
loved more than I could have thought possible, and who loved me back
again. Also, as though that were not good fortune enough, I was to
acquire with her very considerable possessions, quite sufficiently
large to enable us to follow any plan of life we found agreeable. As I
lay and reflected on all this I grew afraid of my good fortune. Old
Indaba-zimbi's melancholy prophecies came into my mind. Hitherto he
had always prophesied truly. What if these should be true also? I
turned cold as I thought of it, and prayed to the Power above to
preserve us both to live and love together. Never was prayer more
needed. While its words were still upon my lips I dropped asleep and
dreamed a most dreadful dream.
I dreamed that Stella and I were standing together to be married. She
was dressed in white, and radiant with beauty, but it was a wild,
spiritual beauty which frightened me. Her eyes shone like stars, a
pale flame played about her features, and the wind that blew did not
stir her hair. Nor was this all, for her white robes were death
wrappings, and the altar at which we stood was formed of the piled-up
earth from an open grave that yawned between us. So we stood waiting
for one to wed us, but no one came. Presently from the open grave
sprang the form of Hendrika. In her hand was a knife, with which she
stabbed at me, but pierced the heart of Stella, who, without a cry,
fell backwards into the grave, still looking at me as she fell. Then
Hendrika leaped after her into the grave. I heard her feet strike
"/Awake, Macumazahn! awake!/" cried the voice of Indaba-zimbi.
I awoke and bounded from the bed, a cold perspiration pouring from me.
In the darkness on the other side of the hut I heard sounds of furious
struggling. Luckily I kept my head. Just by me was a chair on which
were matches and a rush taper. I struck a match and held it to the
taper. Now in the growing light I could see two forms rolling one over
the other on the floor, and from between them came the flash of steel.
The fat melted and the light burnt up. It was Indaba-zimbi and the
woman Hendrika who were struggling, and, what is more, the woman was
getting the better of the man, strong as he was. I rushed towards
them. Now she was uppermost, now she had wrenched herself from his
fierce grip, and now the great knife she had in her hand flashed up.
But I was behind her, and, placing my hands beneath her arms, jerked
with all my strength. She fell backwards, and, in her effort to save
herself, most fortunately dropped the knife. Then we flung ourselves
upon her. Heavens! the strength of that she-devil! Nobody who has not
experienced it could believe it. She fought and scratched and bit, and
at one time nearly mastered the two of us. As it was she did break
loose. She rushed at the bed, sprung on it, and bounded thence
straight up at the roof of the hut. I never saw such a jump, and could
not conceive what she meant to do. In the roof were the peculiar holes
which I have described. They were designed to admit light, and covered
with overhanging eaves. She sprung straight and true like a monkey,
and, catching the edge of the hole with her hands, strove to draw
herself through it. But here her strength, exhausted with the long
struggle, failed her. For a moment she swung, then dropped to the
ground and fell senseless.
"Ou!" gasped Indaba-zimbi. "Let us tie the devil up before she comes
to life again."
I thought this a good counsel, so we took a reim that lay in the
corner of the room, and lashed her hands and feet in such a fashion
that even she could scarcely escape. Then we carried her into the
passage, and Indaba-zimbi sat over her, the knife in his hand, for I
did not wish to raise an alarm at that hour of the night.
"Do you know how I caught her, Macumazahn?" he said. "For several
nights I have slept here with one eye open, for I thought she had made
a plan. To-night I kept wide awake, though I pretended to be asleep.
An hour after you got into the blankets the moon rose, and I saw a
beam of light come into the hut through the hole in the roof.
Presently I saw the beam of light vanish. At first I thought that a
cloud was passing over the moon, but I listened and heard a noise as
though some one was squeezing himself through a narrow space.
Presently he was through, and hanging by his hands. Then the light
came in again, and in the middle of it I saw the Babyan-frau swinging
from the roof, and about to drop into the hut. She clung by both
hands, and in her mouth was a great knife. She dropped, and I ran
forward to seize her as she dropped, and gripped her round the middle.
But she heard me come, and, seizing the knife, struck at me in the
dark and missed me. Then we struggled, and you know the rest. You were
very nearly dead to-night, Macumazahn."
"Very nearly indeed," I answered, still panting, and arranging the
rags of my night-dress round me as best I might. Then the memory of my
horrid dream flashed into my mind. Doubtless it had been conjured up
by the sound of Hendrika dropping to the floor--in my dream it had
been a grave that she dropped into. All of it, then, had been
experienced in that second of time. Well, dreams are swift; perhaps
Time itself is nothing but a dream, and events that seem far apart
really occur simultaneously.
We passed the rest of the night watching Hendrika. Presently she came
to herself and struggled furiously to break the reim. But the untanned
buffalo hide was too strong even for her, and, moreover, Indaba-zimbi
unceremoniously sat upon her to keep her quiet. At last she gave it
In due course the day broke--my marriage day. Leaving Indaba-zimbi to
watch my would-be murderess, I went and fetched some natives from the
stables, and with their aid bore Hendrika to the prison hut--that same
hut in which she had been confined when she had been brought a baboon-
child from the rocks. Here we shut her up, and, leaving Indaba-zimbi
to watch outside, I returned to my sleeping-place and dressed in the
best garments that the Babyan Kraals could furnish. But when I looked
at the reflection of my face, I was horrified. It was covered with
scratches inflicted by the nails of Hendrika. I doctored them up as
best I could, then went out for a walk to calm my nerves, which, what
between the events of the past night, and of those pending that day,
were not a little disturbed.
When I returned it was breakfast time. I went into the dining hut, and
there Stella was waiting to greet me, dressed in simple white and with
orange flowers on her breast. She came forward to me shyly enough;
then, seeing the condition of my face, started back.
"Why, Allan! what have you been doing to yourself?" she asked.
As I was about to answer, her father came in leaning on his stick,
and, catching sight of me, instantly asked the same question.
Then I told them everything, both of Hendrika's threats and of her
fierce attempt to carry them into execution. But I did not tell my
Stella's face grew white as the flowers on her breast, but that of her
father became very stern.
"You should have spoken of this before, Allan," he said. "I now see
that I did wrong to attempt to civilize this wicked and revengeful
creature, who, if she is human, has all the evil passions of the
brutes that reared her. Well, I will make an end of it this very day."
"Oh, father," said Stella, "don't have her killed. It is all dreadful
enough, but that would be more dreadful still. I have been very fond
of her, and, bad as she is, she has loved me. Do not have her killed
on my marriage day."
"No," her father answered, "she shall not be killed, for though she
deserves to die, I will not have her blood upon our hands. She is a
brute, and has followed the nature of brutes. She shall go back whence
No more was said on the matter at the time, but when breakfast--which
was rather a farce--was done, Mr. Carson sent for his headman and gave
him certain orders.
We were to be married after the service which Mr. Carson held every
Sunday morning in the large marble hut set apart for that purpose. The
service began at ten o'clock, but long before that hour all the
natives on the place came up in troops, singing as they came, to be
present at the wedding of the "Star." It was a pretty sight to see
them, the men dressed in all their finery, and carrying shields and
sticks in their hands, and the women and children bearing green
branches of trees, ferns, and flowers. At length, about half-past
nine, Stella rose, pressed my hand, and left me to my reflections. A
few minutes to ten she reappeared again with her father, dressed in a
white veil, a wreath of orange flowers on her dark curling hair, a
bouquet of orange flowers in her hand. To me she seemed like a dream
of loveliness. With her came little Tota in a high state of glee and
excitement. She was Stella's only bridesmaid. Then we all passed out
towards the church hut. The bare space in front of it was filled with
hundreds of natives, who set up a song as we came. But we went on into
the hut, which was crowded with such of the natives as usually
worshipped there. Here Mr. Carson, as usual, read the service, though
he was obliged to sit down in order to do so. When it was done--and to
me it seemed interminable--Mr. Carson whispered that he meant to marry
us outside the hut in sight of all the people. So we went out and took
our stand under the shade of a large tree that grew near the hut
facing the bare space where the natives were gathered.
Mr. Carson held up his hand to enjoin silence. Then, speaking in the
native dialect, he told them that he was about to make us man and wife
after the Christian fashion and in the sight of all men. This done, he
proceeded to read the marriage service over us, and very solemnly and
beautifully he did it. We said the words, I placed the ring--it was
her father's signet ring, for we had no other--upon Stella's finger,
and it was done.
Then Mr. Carson spoke. "Allan and Stella," he said, "I believe that
the ceremony which has been performed makes you man and wife in the
sight of God and man, for all that is necessary to make a marriage
binding is, that it should be celebrated according to the custom of
the country where the parties to it reside. It is according to the
custom that has been in force here for fifteen years or more that you
have been married in the face of all the people, and in token of it
you will both sign the register that I have kept of such marriages,
among those of my people who have adopted the Christian Faith. Still,
in case there should be any legal flaw I again demand the solemn
promise of you both that on the first opportunity you will cause this
marriage to be re-celebrated in some civilized land. Do you promise?"
"We do," we answered.
Then the book was brought out and we signed our names. At first my
wife signed hers "Stella" only, but her father bade her write it
Stella Carson for the first and last time in her life. Then several of
the indunas, or headmen, including old Indaba-zimbi, put their marks
in witness. Indaba-zimbi drew his mark in the shape of a little star,
in humorous allusion to Stella's native name. That register is before
me now as I write. That, with a lock of my darling's hair which lies
between its leaves, is my dearest possession. There are all the names
and marks as they were written many years ago beneath the shadow of
the tree at Babyan Kraals in the wilderness, but alas! and alas! where
are those who wrote them?
"My people," said Mr. Carson, when the signing was done, and we had
kissed each other before them all--"My people, Macumazahn and the
Star, my daughter, are now man and wife, to live in one kraal, to eat
of one bowl, to share one fortune till they reach the grave. Hear now,
my people, you know this woman," and turning he pointed to Hendrika,
who, unseen by us, had been led out of the prison hut.
"Yes, yes, we know her," said a little ring of headmen, who formed the
primitive court of justice, and after the fashion of natives had
squatted themselves in a circle on the ground in front of us. "We know
her, she is the white Babyan-woman, she is Hendrika, the body servant
of the Star."
"You know her," said Mr. Carson, "but you do not know her altogether.
Stand forward, Indaba-zimbi, and tell the people what came about last
night in the hut of Macumazahn."
Accordingly old Indaba-zimbi came forward, and, squatting down, told
his moving tale with much descriptive force and many gestures,
finishing up by producing the great knife from which his watchfulness
had saved me.
Then I was called upon, and in a few brief words substantiated his
story: indeed my face did that in the sight of all men.
Then Mr. Carson turned to Hendrika, who stood in sullen silence, her
eyes fixed upon the ground, and asked her if she had anything to say.
She looked up boldly and answered--
"Macumazahn has robbed me of the love of my mistress. I would have
robbed him of his life, which is a little thing compared to that which
I have lost at his hands. I have failed, and I am sorry for it, for
had I killed him and left no trace the Star would have forgotten him
and shone on me again."
"Never," murmured Stella in my ear; but Mr. Carson turned white with
"My people," he said, "you hear the words of this woman. You hear how
she pays me back, me and my daughter whom she swears she loves. She
says that she would have murdered a man who has done her no evil, the
man who is the husband of her mistress. We saved her from the babyans,
we tamed her, we fed her, we taught her, and this is how she pays us
back. Say, my people, what reward should be given to her?"
"Death," said the circle of indunas, pointing their thumbs downwards,
and all the multitude beyond echoed the word "Death."
"Death," repeated the head induna, adding, "If you save her, my
father, we will slay her with our own hands. She is a Babyan-woman, a
devil-woman; ah, yes, we have heard of such before; let her be slain
before she works more evil."
Then it was that Stella stepped forward and begged for Hendrika's life
in moving terms. She pleaded the savagery of the woman's nature, her
long service, and the affection that she had always shown towards
herself. She said that I, whose life had been attempted, forgave her,
and she, my wife, who had nearly been left a widow before she was made
a bride, forgave her; let them forgive her also, let her be sent away,
not slain, let not her marriage day be stained with blood.
Now her father listened readily enough, for he had no intention of
killing Hendrika--indeed, he had already promised not to do so. But
the people were in a different humour, they looked upon Hendrika as a
devil, and would have torn her to pieces there and then, could they
have had their way. Nor were matters mended by Indaba-zimbi, who had
already gained a great reputation for wisdom and magic in the place.
Suddenly the old man rose and made quite an impassioned speech, urging
them to kill Hendrika at once or mischief would come of it.
At last matters got very bad, for two of the Indunas came forward to
drag her off to execution, and it was not until Stella burst into
tears that the sight of her grief, backed by Mr. Carson's orders and
my own remonstrances, carried the day.
All this while Hendrika had been standing quite unmoved. At last the
tumult ceased, and the leading induna called to her to go, promising
that if ever she showed her face near the kraals again she should be
stabbed like a jackal. Then Hendrika spoke to Stella in a low voice
and in English--
"Better let them kill me, mistress, better for all. Without you to
love I shall go mad and become a babyan again."
Stella did not answer, and they loosed her. She stepped forward and
looked at the natives with a stare of hate. Then she turned and walked
past me, and as she passed whispered a native phrase in my ear, that,
being literally translated, means, "Till another moon," but which has
the same significance as the French "au revoir."
It frightened me, for I knew she meant that she had not done with me,
and saw that our mercy was misplaced. Seeing my face change she ran
swiftly from me, and as she passed Indaba-zimbi, with a sudden
movement snatched her great knife from his hand. When she had gone
about twenty paces she halted, looked long and earnestly on Stella,
gave one loud cry of anguish, and fled. A few minutes later we saw her
far away, bounding up the face of an almost perpendicular cliff--a
cliff that nobody except herself and the baboons could possibly climb.
"Look," said Indaba-zimbi in my ear--"Look, Macumazahn, there goes the
Babyan-frau. But, Macumazahn, /she will come back again/. Ah, why will
you not listen to my words. Have they not always been true words,
Macumazahn?" and he shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
For a while I was much disturbed, but at any rate Hendrika was gone
for the present, and Stella, my dear and lovely wife, was there at my
side, and in her smiles I forgot my fears.
For the rest of that day, why should I write of it?--there are things
too happy and too sacred to be written of.
At last I had, if only for a little while, found that rest, that
perfect joy which we seek so continually and so rarely clasp.
CHAPTER XI. GONE!
I wonder if many married couples are quite as happy as we found
ourselves. Cynics, a growing class, declare that few illusions can
survive a honeymoon. Well, I do not know about it, for I only married
once, and can but speak from my limited experience. But certainly our
illusion, or rather the great truth of which it is the shadow, did
survive, as to this day it survives in my heart across all the years
of utter separation, and across the unanswering gulf of gloom.
But complete happiness is not allowed in this world even for an hour.
As our marriage day had been shadowed by the scene which has been
described, so our married life was shadowed by its own sorrow.
Three days after our wedding Mr. Carson had a stroke. It had been long
impending, now it fell. We came into the centre hut to dinner and
found him lying speechless on the couch. At first I thought that he
was dying, but this was not so. On the contrary, within four days he
recovered his speech and some power of movement. But he never
recovered his memory, though he still knew Stella, and sometimes
myself. Curiously enough he remembered little Tota best of all three,
though occasionally he thought that she was his own daughter in her
childhood, and would ask her where her mother was. This state of
affairs lasted for some seven months. The old man gradually grew
weaker, but he did not die. Of course his condition quite precluded
the idea of our leaving Babyan Kraals till all was over. This was the
more distressing to me because I had a nervous presentiment that
Stella was incurring danger by staying there, and also because the
state of her health rendered it desirable that we should reach a
civilized region as soon as possible. However, it could not be helped.
At length the end came very suddenly. We were sitting one evening by
Mr. Carson's bedside in his hut, when to our astonishment he sat up
and spoke in a strong, full voice.
"I hear you," he said. "Yes, yes, I forgive you. Poor woman! you too
have suffered," and he fell back dead.
I have little doubt that he was addressing his lost wife, some vision
of whom had flashed across his dying sense. Stella, of course, was
overwhelmed with grief at her loss. Till I came her father had been
her sole companion, and therefore, as may be imagined, the tie between
them was much closer than is usual even in the case of father and
daughter. So deeply did she mourn that I began to fear for the effect
upon her health. Nor were we the only ones to grieve; all the natives
on the settlement called Mr. Carson "father," and as a father they
lamented him. The air resounded with the wailing of women, and the men
went about with bowed heads, saying that "the sun had set in the
heavens, now only the Star (Stella) remained." Indaba-zimbi alone did
not mourn. He said that it was best that the Inkoos should die, for
what was life worth when one lay like a log?--moreover, that it would
have been well for all if he had died sooner.
On the following day we buried him in the little graveyard near the
waterfall. It was a sad business, and Stella cried very much, in spite
of all I could do to comfort her.
That night as I sat outside the hut smoking--for the weather was hot,
and Stella was lying down inside--old Indaba-zimbi came up, saluted,
and squatted at my feet.
"What is it, Indaba-zimbi?" I said.
"This, Macumazahn. When are you going to trek towards the coast?"
"I don't know," I answered. "The Star is not fit to travel now, we
must wait awhile."
"No, Macumazahn, you must not wait, you must go, and the Star must
take her chance. She is strong. It is nothing. All will be well."
"Why do you say so? why must we go?"
"For this reason, Macumazahn," and he looked cautiously round and
spoke low. "The baboons have come back in thousands. All the mountain
is full of them."
"I did not know that they had gone," I said.
"Yes," he answered, "they went after the marriage, all but one or two;
now they are back, all the baboons in the world, I think. I saw a
whole cliff back with them."
"Is that all?" I said, for I saw that he had something behind. "I am
not afraid of a pack of baboons."
"No, Macumazahn, it is not all. The Babyan-frau, Hendrika, is with
Now nothing had been heard or seen of Hendrika since her expulsion,
and though at first she and her threats had haunted me somewhat, by
degrees she to a great extent had passed out of my mind, which was
fully preoccupied with Stella and my father-in-law's illness. I
started violently. "How do you know this?" I asked.
"I know it because I saw her, Macumazahn. She is disguised, she is
dressed up in baboon skins, and her face is stained dark. But though
she was a long way off, I knew her by her size, and I saw the white
flesh of her arm when the skins slipped aside. She has come back,
Macumazahn, with all the baboons in the world, and she has come back
to do evil. Now do you understand why you should trek?"
"Yes," I said, "though I don't see how she and the baboons can harm
us, I think that it will be better to go. If necessary we can camp the
waggons somewhere for a while on the journey. Hearken, Indaba-zimbi:
say nothing of this to the Star; I will not have her frightened. And
hearken again. Speak to the headmen, and see that watchers are set all
round the huts and gardens, and kept there night and day. To-morrow we
will get the waggons ready, and next day we will trek."
He nodded his white lock and went to do my bidding, leaving me not a
little disturbed--unreasonably so, indeed. It was a strange story.
That this woman had the power of conversing with baboons I knew.[*]
That was not so very wonderful, seeing that the Bushmen claim to be
able to do the same thing, and she had been nurtured by them. But that
she had been able to muster them, and by the strength of her human
will and intelligence muster them in order to forward her ends of
revenge, seemed to me so incredible that after reflection my fears
grew light. Still I determined to trek. After all, a journey in an ox
waggon would not be such a very terrible thing to a strong woman
accustomed to roughing it, whatever her state of health. And when all
was said and done I did not like this tale of the presence of Hendrika
with countless hosts of baboons.
[*] For an instance of this, see Anderson's "Twenty-five Years in a
Waggon," vol. i. p. 262.--Editor.
So I went in to Stella, and without saying a word to her of the baboon
story, told her I had been thinking matters over, and had come to the
conclusion that it was our duty to follow her father's instructions to
the letter, and leave Babyan Kraals at once. Into all our talk I need
not enter, but the end of it was that she agreed with me, and declared
that she could quite well manage the journey, saying, moreover, that
now that her dear father was dead she would be glad to get away.
Nothing happened to disturb us that night, and on the following
morning I was up early making preparations. The despair of the people
when they learned that we were going to leave them was something quite
pitiable. I could only console them by declaring that we were but on a
journey, and would return the following year.
"They had lived in the shadow of their father, who was dead," they
declared; "ever since they were little they had lived in his shadow.
He had received them when they were outcasts and wanderers without a
mat to lie on, or a blanket to cover them, and they had grown fat in
his shadow. Then he had died, and the Star, their father's daughter,
had married me, Macumazahn, and they had believed that I should take
their father's place, and let them live in my shadow. What should they
do when there was no one to protect them? The tribes were kept from
attacking them by fear of the white man. If we went they would be
eaten up," and so on. Alas! there was but too much foundation for
I returned to the huts at mid-day to get some dinner. Stella said that
she was going to pack during the afternoon, so I did not think it
necessary to caution her about going out alone, as I did not wish to
allude to the subject of Hendrika and the baboons unless I was obliged
to. I told her, however, that I would come back to help her as soon as
I could get away. Then I went down to the native kraals to sort out
such cattle as had belonged to Mr. Carson from those which belonged to
the Kaffirs, for I proposed to take them with us. It was a large herd,
and the business took an incalculable time. At length, a little before
sundown, I gave it up, and leaving Indaba-zimbi to finish the job, got
on my horse and rode homewards.
Arriving, I gave the horse to one of the stable boys, and went into
the central hut. There was no sign of Stella, though the things she
had been packing lay about the floor. I passed first into our sleeping
hut, thence one by one into all the others, but still saw no sign of
her. Then I went out, and calling to a Kaffir in the garden asked him
if he had seen his mistress.
He answered "yes." He had seen her carrying flowers and walking
towards the graveyard, holding the little white girl--my daughter--as
he called her, by the hand, when the sun stood "there," and he pointed
to a spot on the horizon where it would have been about an hour and a
half before. "The two dogs were with them," he added. I turned and ran
towards the graveyard, which was about a quarter of a mile from the
huts. Of course there was no reason to be anxious--evidently she had
gone to lay the flowers on her father's grave. And yet I was anxious.
When I got near the graveyard I met one of the natives, who, by my
orders, had been set round the kraals to watch the place, and noticed
that he was rubbing his eyes and yawning. Clearly he had been asleep.
I asked him if he had seen his mistress, and he answered that he had
not, which under the circumstances was not wonderful. Without stopping
to reproach him, I ordered the man to follow me, and went on to the
graveyard. There, on Mr. Carson's grave, lay the drooping flowers
which Stella had been carrying, and there in the fresh mould was the
spoor of Tota's veldschoon, or hide slipper. But where were they?
I ran from the graveyard and called aloud at the top of my voice, but
no answer came. Meanwhile the native was more profitably engaged in
tracing their spoor. He followed it for about a hundred yards till he
came to a clump of mimosa bush that was situated between the stream
and the ancient marble quarries just over the waterfall, and at the
mouth of the ravine. Here he stopped, and I heard him give a startled
cry. I rushed to the spot, passed through the trees, and saw this. The
little open space in the centre of the glade had been the scene of a
struggle. There, in the soft earth, were the marks of three pairs of
human feet--two shod, one naked--Stella's, Tota's, and /Hendrika's/.
Nor was this all. There, close by, lay the fragments of the two dogs--
they were nothing more--and one baboon, not yet quite dead, which had
been bitten in the throat by the dogs. All round was the spoor of
numberless baboons. The full horror of what had happened flashed into
My wife and Tota had been carried off by the baboons. As yet they had
not been killed, for if so their remains would have been found with
those of the dogs. They had been carried off. The brutes, acting under
the direction of that woman-monkey, Hendrika, had dragged them away to
some secret den, there to keep them till they died--or kill them!
For a moment I literally staggered beneath the terror of the shock.
Then I roused myself from my despair. I bade the native run and alarm
the people at the kraals, telling them to come armed, and bring me
guns and ammunition. He went like the wind, and I turned to follow the
spoor. For a few yards it was plain enough--Stella had been dragged
along. I could see where her heels had struck the ground; the child
had, I presumed, been carried--at least there were no marks of her
feet. At the water's edge the spoor vanished. The water was shallow,
and they had gone along in it, or at least Hendrika and her victim
had, in order to obliterate the trail. I could see where a moss-grown
stone had been freshly turned over in the water-bed. I ran along the
bank some way up the ravine, in the vain hope of catching a sight of
them. Presently I heard a bark in the cliffs above me; it was answered
by another, and then I saw that scores of baboons were hidden about
among the rocks on either side, and were softly swinging themselves
down to bar the path. To go on unarmed as I was would be useless. I
should only be torn to pieces as the dogs had been. So I turned and
fled back towards the huts. As I drew near I could see that my
messenger had roused the settlement, for natives with spears and
kerries in their hands were running up towards the kraals. When I
reached the hut I met old Indaba-zimbi, who wore a very serious face.
"So the evil has fallen, Macumazahn," he said.
"It has fallen," I answered.
"Keep a good heart, Macumazahn," he said again. "She is not dead, nor
is the little maid, and before they die we shall find them. Remember
this, Hendrika loves her. She will not harm her, or allow the babyans
to harm her. She will try to hide her away from you, that is all."
"Pray God that we may find her," I groaned. "The light is going fast."
"The moon rises in three hours," he answered; "we will search by
moonlight. It is useless to start now; see, the sun sinks. Let us get
the men together, eat, and make things ready. /Hamba gachla/. Hasten
As there was no help, I took his advice. I could eat no food, but I
packed some up to take with us, and made ready ropes, and a rough kind
of litter. If we found them they would scarcely be able to walk. Ah!
if we found them! How slowly the time passed! It seemed hours before
the moon rose. But at last it did rise.
Then we started. In all we were about a hundred men, but we only
mustered five guns between us, my elephant roer and four that had
belonged to Mr. Carson.
CHAPTER XII. THE MAGIC OF INDABA-ZIMBI
We gained the spot by the stream where Stella had been taken. The
natives looked at the torn fragments of the dogs, and at the marks of
violence, and I heard them swearing to each other, that whether the
Star lived or died they would not rest till they had exterminated
every baboon on Babyan's Peak. I echoed the oath, and, as shall be
seen, we kept it.
We started on along the stream, following the spoor of the baboons as
we best could. But the stream left no spoor, and the hard, rocky banks
very little. Still we wandered on. All night we wandered through the
lonely moonlit valleys, startling the silence into a thousand echoes
with our cries. But no answer came to them. In vain our eyes searched
the sides of precipices formed of water-riven rocks fantastically
piled one upon another; in vain we searched through endless dells and
fern-clad crannies. There was nothing to be found. How could we expect
to find two human beings hidden away in the recesses of this vast
stretch of mountain ground, which no man yet had ever fully explored.
They were lost, and in all human probability lost for ever.
To and fro we wandered hopelessly, till at last dawn found us footsore
and weary nearly at the spot whence we had started. We sat down
waiting for the sun to rise, and the men ate of such food as they had
brought with them, and sent to the kraals for more.
I sat upon a stone with a breaking heart. I cannot describe my
feelings. Let the reader put himself in my position and perhaps he may
get some idea of them. Near me was old Indaba-zimbi, who sat staring
straight before him as though he were looking into space, and taking
note of what went on there. An idea struck me. This man had some
occult power. Several times during our adventures he had prophesied,
and in every case his prophecies had proved true. He it was who, when
we escaped from the Zulu Impi, had told me to steer north, because
there we should find the place of a white man who lived under the
shadow of a great peak that was full of baboons. Perhaps he could help
in this extremity--at any rate it was worth trying.
"Indaba-zimbi," I said, "you say that you can send your spirit through
the doors of space and see what we cannot see. At the least I know
that you can do strange things. Can you not help me now? If you can,
and will save her, I will give you half the cattle that we have here."
"I never said anything of the sort, Macumazahn," he answered. "I do
things, I do not talk about them. Neither do I seek reward for what I
do like a common witch-doctor. It is well that you have asked me to
use my wisdom, Macumazahn, for I should not have used it again without
being asked--no, not even for the sake of the Star and yourself, whom
I love, for if so my Spirit would have been angry. In the other
matters I had a part, for my life was concerned as well as yours; but
in this matter I have no part, and therefore I might not use my wisdom
unless you thought well to call upon my Spirit. However, it would have
been no good to ask me before, for I have only just found the herb I
want," and he produced a handful of the leaves of a plant that was
unfamiliar to me. It had prickly leaves, shaped very much like those
of the common English nettle.
"Now, Macumazahn," he went on, "bid the men leave us alone, and then
follow me presently to the little glade down there by the water."
I did so. When I reached the glade I found Indaba-zimbi kindling a
small fire under the shadow of a tree by the edge of the water.
"Sit there, Macumazahn," he said, pointing to a stone near the fire,
"and do not be surprised or frightened at anything you see. If you
move or call out we shall learn nothing."
I sat down and watched. When the fire was alight and burning brightly,
the old fellow stripped himself stark naked, and, going to the foot of
the pool, dipped himself in the water. Then he came back shivering
with the cold, and, leaning over the little fire, thrust leaves of the
plant I have mentioned into his mouth and began to chew them,
muttering as he chewed. Most of the remaining leaves he threw on to
the fire. A dense smoke rose from them, but he held his head in this
smoke and drew it down his lungs till I saw that he was exhibiting
every sign of suffocation. The veins in his throat and chest swelled,
he gasped loudly, and his eyes, from which tears were streaming,
seemed as though they were going to start from his head. Presently he
fell over on his side, and lay senseless. I was terribly alarmed, and
my first impulse was to run to his assistance, but fortunately I
remembered his caution, and sat quiet.
Indaba-zimbi lay on the ground like a person quite dead. His limbs had
all the utter relaxation of death. But as I watched I saw them begin
to stiffen, exactly as though /rigor mortis/ had set in. Then, to my
astonishment, I perceived them once more relax, and this time there
appeared upon his chest the stain of decomposition. It spread and
spread; in three minutes the man, to all appearance, was a livid
I sat amazed watching this uncanny sight, and wondering if any further
natural process was about to be enacted. Perhaps Indaba-zimbi was
going to fall to dust before my eyes. As I watched I observed that the
discoloration was beginning to fade. First it vanished from the
extremities, then from the larger limbs, and lastly from the trunk.
Then in turn came the third stage of relaxation, the second stage of
stiffness or /rigor/, and the first stage of after-death collapse.
When all these had rapidly succeeded each other, Indaba-zimbi quietly
I was too astonished to speak; I simply looked at him with my mouth
"Well, Macumazahn," he said, putting his head on one side like a bird,
and nodding his white lock in a comical fashion, "it is all right; I
have seen her."
"Seen who?" I said.
"The Star, your wife, and the little maid. They are much frightened,
but unharmed. The Babyan-frau watches them. She is mad, but the
baboons obey her, and do not hurt them. The Star was sleeping from
weariness, so I whispered in her ear and told her not to be
frightened, for you would soon rescue her, and that meanwhile she must
seem to be pleased to have Hendrika near her."
"You whispered in her ear?" I said. "How could you whisper in her
"Bah! Macumazahn. How could I seem to die and go rotten before your
eyes? You don't know, do you? Well, I will tell you one thing. I had
to die to pass the doors of space, as you call them. I had to draw all
the healthy strength and life from my body in order to gather power to
speak with the Star. It was a dangerous business, Macumazahn, for if I
had let things go a little further they must have stopped so, and
there would have been an end of Indaba-zimbi. Ah, you white men, you
know so much that you think you know everything. But you don't! You
are always staring at the clouds and can't see the things that lie at
your feet. You hardly believe me now, do you, Macumazahn? Well, I will
show you. Have you anything on you that the Star has touched or worn?"
I thought for a moment, and said that I had a lock of her hair in my
pocket-book. He told me to give it him. I did so. Going to the fire,
he lit the lock of hair in the flame, and let it burn to ashes, which
he caught in his left hand. These ashes he mixed up in a paste with
the juice of one of the leaves of the plant I have spoken of.
"Now, Macumazahn, shut your eyes," he said.
I did so, and he rubbed his paste on to my eyelids. At first it burnt
me, then my head swam strangely. Presently this effect passed off, and
my brain was perfectly clear again, but I could not feel the ground
with my feet. Indaba-zimbi led me to the side of the stream. Beneath
us was a pool of beautifully clear water.
"Look into the pool, Macumazahn," said Indaba-zimbi, and his voice
sounded hollow and far away in my ears.
I looked. The water grew dark; it cleared, and in it was a picture. I
saw a cave with a fire burning in it. Against the wall of the cave
rested Stella. Her dress was torn almost off her, she looked
dreadfully pale and weary, and her eyelids were red as though with
weeping. But she slept, and I could almost think that I saw her lips
shape my name in her sleep. Close to her, her head upon Stella's
breast, was little Tota; she had a skin thrown over her to keep out
the night cold. The child was awake, and appeared to be moaning with
fear. By the fire, and in such a position that the light fell full
upon her face, and engaged in cooking something in a rough pot shaped
from wood, sat the Baboon-woman, Hendrika. She was clothed in baboon
skins, and her face had been rubbed with some dark stain, which was,
however, wearing off it. In the intervals of her cooking she would
turn on Stella her wild eyes, in which glared visible madness, with an
expression of tenderness that amounted to worship. Then she would
stare at the child and gnash her teeth as though with hate. Clearly
she was jealous of it. Round the entrance arch of the cave peeped and
peered the heads of many baboons. Presently Hendrika made a sign to
one of them; apparently she did not speak, or rather grunt, in order
not to wake Stella. The brute hopped forward, and she gave it a second
rude wooden pot which was lying by her. It took it and went. The last
thing that I saw, as the vision slowly vanished from the pool, was the
dim shadow of the baboon returning with the pot full of water.
Presently everything had gone. I ceased to feel strange. There beneath
me was the pool, and at my side stood Indaba-zimbi, smiling.
"You have seen things," he said.
"I have," I answered, and made no further remark on the matter. What
was there to say?[*] "Do you know the path to the cave?" I added.
[*] For some almost equally remarkable instances of Kaffir magic the
reader is referred to a work named "Among the Zulus," by David
He nodded his head. "I did not follow it all just now, because it
winds," he said. "But I know it. We shall want the ropes."
"Then let us be starting; the men have eaten."
He nodded his head again, and going to the men I told them to make
ready, adding that Indaba-zimbi knew the way. They said that was all
right, if Indaba-zimbi had "smelt her out," they should soon find the
Star. So we started cheerfully enough, and my spirits were so much
improved that I was able to eat a boiled mealie cob or two as we
We went up the valley, following the course of the stream for about a
mile; then Indaba-zimbi made a sudden turn to the right, along another
kloof, of which there were countless numbers in the base of the great
On we went through kloof after kloof. Indaba-zimbi, who led us, was
never at a loss, he turned up gulleys and struck across necks of hills
with the certainty of a hound on a hot scent. At length, after about
three hours' march, we came to a big silent valley on the northern
slope of the great peak. On one side of this valley was a series of
stony koppies, on the other rose a sheer wall of rock. We marched
along the wall for a distance of some two miles. Then suddenly Indaba-
"There is the place," he said, pointing to an opening in the cliff.
This opening was about forty feet from the ground, and ellipse-shaped.
It cannot have been more than twenty feet high by ten wide, and was
partially hidden by ferns and bushes that grew about it in the surface
of the cliff. Keen as my eyes were, I doubt if I should ever have
noticed it, for there were many such cracks and crannies in the rocky
face of the great mountain.
We drew near and looked carefully at the place. The first thing I
noticed was that the rock, which was not quite perpendicular, had been
worn by the continual passage of baboons; the second, that something
white was hanging on a bush near the top of the ascent.
It was a pocket-handkerchief.
Now there was no more doubt about the matter. With a beating heart I
began the ascent. For the first twenty feet it was comparatively easy,
for the rock shelved; the next ten feet was very difficult, but still
possible to an active man, and I achieved it, followed by Indaba-
zimbi. But the last twelve or fifteen feet could only be scaled by
throwing a rope over the trunk of a stunted tree, which grew at the
bottom of the opening. This we accomplished with some trouble, and the
rest was easy. A foot or two above my head the handkerchief fluttered
in the wind. Hanging to the rope, I grasped it. It was my wife's. As I
did so I noticed the face of a baboon peering at me over the edge of
the cleft, the first baboon we had seen that morning. The brute gave a
bark and vanished. Thrusting the handkerchief into my breast, I set my
feet against the cliff and scrambled up as hard as I could go. I knew
that we had no time to lose, for the baboon would quickly alarm the
others. I gained the cleft. It was a mere arched passage cut by water,
ending in a gulley, which led to a wide open space of some sort. I
looked through the passage and saw that the gulley was black with
baboons. On they came by the hundred. I unslung my elephant gun from
my shoulders and waited, calling to the men below to come up with all
possible speed. The brutes streamed on down the gloomy gulf towards
me, barking, grunting, and showing their huge teeth. I waited till
they were within fifteen yards. Then I fired the elephant gun, which
was loaded with slugs, right into the thick of them. In that narrow
place the report echoed like a cannon shot, but its sound was quickly
swallowed in the volley of piercing human-sounding groans and screams
that followed. The charge of heavy slugs had ploughed through the host
of baboons, of which at least a dozen lay dead or dying in the
passage. For a moment they hesitated, then they came on again with a
hideous clamour. Fortunately by this time Indaba-zimbi, who also had a
gun, was standing by my side, otherwise I should have been torn to
pieces before I could re-load. He fired both barrels into them, and
again checked the rush. But they came on again, and notwithstanding
the appearance of two other natives with guns, which they let off with
more or less success, we should have been overwhelmed by the great and
ferocious apes had I not by this time succeeded in re-loading the
elephant gun. When they were right on us, I fired, with even more
deadly effect than before, for at that distance every slug told on
their long line. The howls and screams of pain and rage were now
something inconceivable. One might have thought that we were doing
battle with a host of demons; indeed in that light--for the
overhanging arch of rock made it very dark--the gnashing snouts and
sombre glowing eyes of the apes looked like those of devils as they
are represented by monkish fancy. But the last shot was too much for
them; they withdrew, dragging some of their wounded with them, and
thus gave us time to get our men up the cliff. In a few minutes all
were there, and we advanced down the passage, which presently opened
into a rocky gulley with shelving sides. This gulley had a water-way
at the bottom of it; it was about a hundred yards long, and the slopes
on either side were topped by precipitous cliffs. I looked at these
slopes; they literally swarmed with baboons, grunting, barking,
screaming, and beating their breasts with their long arms, in fury. I
looked up the water-way; along it, accompanied by a mob, or, as it
were, a guard of baboons, ran Hendrika, her long hair flying, madness
written on her face, and in her arms was the senseless form of little
She saw us, and a foam of rage burst from her lips. She screamed
aloud. To me the sound was a mere inarticulate cry, but the baboons
clearly understood it, for they began to roll rocks down on to us. One
boulder leaped past me and struck down a Kaffir behind; another fell
from the roof of the arch on to a man's head and killed him. Indaba-
zimbi lifted his gun to shoot Hendrika; I knocked it up, so that the
shot went over her, crying that he would kill the child. Then I
shouted to the men to open out and form a line from side to side of
the shelving gulley. Furious at the loss of their two comrades, they
obeyed me, and keeping in the water-way myself, together with Indaba-
zimbi and the other guns, I gave the word to charge.
Then the real battle began. It is difficult to say who fought the most
fiercely, the natives or the baboons. The Kaffirs charged along the
slopes, and as they came, encouraged by the screams of Hendrika, who
rushed to and fro holding the wretched Tota before her as a shield,
the apes bounded at them in fury. Scores were killed by the assegais,
and many more fell beneath our gun-shots; but still they came on. Nor
did we go scathless. Occasionally a man would slip, or be pulled over
in the grip of a baboon. Then the others would fling themselves upon
him like dogs on a rat, and worry him to death. We lost five men in
this way, and I myself received a bite through the fleshy part of the
left arm, but fortunately a native near me assegaied the animal before
I was pulled down.
At length, and all of a sudden, the baboons gave up. A panic seemed to
seize them. Notwithstanding the cries of Hendrika they thought no more
of fight, but only of escape; some even did not attempt to get away
from the assegais of the Kaffirs, they simply hid their horrible faces
in their paws, and, moaning piteously, waited to be slain.
Hendrika saw that the battle was lost. Dropping the child from her
arms, she rushed straight at us, a very picture of horrible insanity.
I lifted my gun, but could not bear to shoot. After all she was but a
mad thing, half ape, half woman. So I sprang to one side, and she
landed full on Indaba-zimbi, knocking him down. But she did not stay
to do any more. Wailing terribly, she rushed down the gulley and
through the arch, followed by a few of the surviving baboons, and
vanished from our sight.
CHAPTER XIII. WHAT HAPPENED TO STELLA
The fight was over. In all we had lost seven men killed, and several
more severely bitten, while but few had escaped without some tokens
whereby he might remember what a baboon's teeth and claws are like.
How many of the brutes we killed I never knew, because we did not
count, but it was a vast number. I should think that the stock must
have been low about Babyan's Peak for many years afterwards. From that
day to this, however, I have always avoided baboons, feeling more
afraid of them than any beast that lives.
The path was clear, and we rushed forward along the water-course. But
first we picked up little Tota. The child was not in a swoon, as I had
thought, but paralyzed by terror, so that she could scarcely speak.
Otherwise she was unhurt, though it took her many a week to recover
her nerve. Had she been older, and had she not remembered Hendrika, I
doubt if she would have recovered it. She knew me again, and flung her
little arms about my neck, clinging to me so closely that I did not
dare to give her to any one else to carry lest I should add to her
terrors. So I went on with her in my arms. The fears that pierced my
heart may well be imagined. Should I find Stella living or dead?
Should I find her at all? Well, we should soon know now. We stumbled
on up the stony watercourse; notwithstanding the weight of Tota I led
the way, for suspense lent me wings. Now we were through, and an
extraordinary scene lay before us. We were in a great natural
amphitheatre, only it was three times the size of any amphitheatre
ever shaped by man, and the walls were formed of precipitous cliffs,
ranging from one to two hundred feet in height. For the rest, the
space thus enclosed was level, studded with park-like trees, brilliant
with flowers, and having a stream running through the centre of it,
that, as I afterwards discovered, welled up from the ground at the
head of the open space.
We spread ourselves out in a line, searching everywhere, for Tota was
too overcome to be able to tell us where Stella was hidden away. For
nearly half an hour we searched and searched, scanning the walls of
rock for any possible openings to a cave. In vain, we could find none.
I applied to old Indaba-zimbi, but his foresight was at fault here.
All he could say was that this was the place, and that the "Star" was
hidden somewhere in a cave, but where the cave was he could not tell.
At last we came to the top of the amphitheatre. There before us was a
wall of rock, of which the lower parts were here and there clothed in
grasses, lichens, and creepers. I walked along it, calling at the top
of my voice.
Presently my heart stood still, for I thought I heard a faint answer.
I drew nearer to the place from which the sound seemed to come, and
again called. Yes, there was an answer in my wife's voice. It seemed
to come from the rock. I went up to it and searched among the
creepers, but still could find no opening.
"Move the stone," cried Stella's voice, "the cave is shut with a
I took a spear and prodded at the cliff whence the sound came.
Suddenly the spear sunk in through a mass of lichen. I swept the
lichen aside, revealing a boulder that had been rolled into the mouth
of an opening in the rock, which it fitted so accurately that, covered
as it was by the overhanging lichen, it might well have escaped the
keenest eye. We dragged the boulder out; it was two men's work to do
it. Beyond was a narrow, water-worn passage, which I followed with a
beating heart. Presently the passage opened into a small cave, shaped
like a pickle bottle, and coming to a neck at the top end. We passed
through and found ourselves in a second, much larger cave, that I at
once recognized as the one of which Indaba-zimbi had shown me a vision
in the water. Light reached it from above--how I know not--and by it I
could see a form half-sitting, half lying on some skins at the top end
of the cave. I rushed to it. It was Stella! Stella bound with strips
of hide, bruised, torn, but still Stella, and alive.
She saw me, she gave one cry, then, as I caught her in my arms, she
fainted. It was happy indeed that she did not faint before, for had it
not been for the sound of her voice I do not believe we should ever
have found that cunningly hidden cave, unless, indeed, Indaba-zimbi's
magic (on which be blessings) had come to our assistance.
We bore her to the open air, laid her beneath the shade of a tree, and
cut the bonds loose from her ankles. As we went I glanced at the cave.
It was exactly as I had seen it in the vision. There burnt the fire,
there were the rude wooden vessels, one of them still half full of the
water which I had seen the baboon bring. I felt awed as I looked, and
marvelled at the power wielded by a savage who could not even read and
Now I could see Stella clearly. Her face was scratched, and haggard
with fear and weeping, her clothes were almost torn off her, and her
beautiful hair was loose and tangled. I sent for water, and we
sprinkled her face. Then I forced a little of the brandy which we
distilled from peaches at the kraals between her lips, and she opened
her eyes, and throwing her arms about me clung to me as little Tota
had done, sobbing, "Thank God! thank God!"
After a while she grew quieter, and I made her and Tota eat some food
from the store that we had brought with us. I too ate and was
thankful, for with the exception of the mealie cobs I had tasted
nothing for nearly four-and-twenty hours. Then she washed her face and
hands, and tidied her rags of dress as well as she was able. As she
did so by degrees I drew her story from her.
It seemed that on the previous afternoon, being wearied with packing,
she went out to visit her father's grave, taking Tota with her, and
was followed there by the two dogs. She wished to lay some flowers on
the grave and take farewell of the dust it covered, for as we had
expected to trek early on the morrow she did not know if she would
find a later opportunity. They passed up the garden, and gathering
some flowers from the orange trees and elsewhere, went on to the
little graveyard. Here she laid them on the grave as we had found
them, and then sitting down, fell into a deep and sad reverie, such as
the occasion would naturally induce. While she sat thus, Tota, who was
a lively child and active as a kitten, strayed away without Stella
observing it. With her went the dogs, who also had grown tired of
inaction; a while passed, and suddenly she heard the dogs barking
furiously about a hundred and fifty yards away. Then she heard Tota
scream, and the dogs also yelling with fear and pain. She rose and ran
as swiftly as she could towards the spot whence the sound came.
Presently she was there. Before her in the glade, holding the
screaming Tota in her arms, was a figure in which, notwithstanding the
rough disguise of baboon skins and colouring matter, she had no
difficulty in recognizing Hendrika, and all about her were numbers of
baboons, rolling over and over in two hideous heaps, of which the
centres were the unfortunate dogs now in process of being rent to
"Hendrika," Stella cried, "what does this mean? What are you doing
with Tota and those brutes?"
The woman heard her and looked up. Then Stella saw that she was mad;
madness stared from her eyes. She dropped the child, which instantly
flew to Stella for protection. Stella clasped it, only to be herself
clasped by Hendrika. She struggled fiercely, but it was of no use--the
Babyan-frau had the strength of ten. She lifted her and Tota as though
they were nothing, and ran off with them, following the bed of the
stream in order to avoid leaving a spoor. Only the baboons who came
with her, minus the one the dogs had killed, would not take to the
water, but kept pace with them on the bank.
Stella said that the night which followed was more like a hideous
nightmare than a reality. She was never able to tell me all that
occurred in it. She had a vague recollection of being borne over rocks
and along kloofs, while around her echoed the horrible grunts and
clicks of the baboons. She spoke to Hendrika in English and Kaffir,
imploring her to let them go; but the woman, if I may call her so,
seemed in her madness to have entirely forgotten these tongues. When
Stella spoke she would kiss her and stroke her hair, but she did not
seem to understand what it was she said. On the other hand, she could,
and did, talk to the baboons, that seemed to obey her implicitly.
Moreover, she would not allow them to touch either Stella or the child
in her arms. Once one of them tried to do so, and she seized a dead
stick and struck it so heavily on the head that it fell senseless.
Thrice Stella made an attempt to escape, for sometimes even Hendrika's
giant strength waned and she had to set them down. But on each
occasion she caught them, and it was in these struggles that Stella's
clothes were so torn. At length before daylight they reached the
cliff, and with the first break of light the ascent began. Hendrika
dragged them up the first stages, but when they came to the
precipitous place she tied the strips of hide, of which she had a
supply wound round her waist, beneath Stella's arms. Steep as the
place was the baboons ascended it easily enough, springing from a
knock of rock to the trunk of the tree that grew on the edge of the
crevasse. Hendrika followed them, holding the end of the hide reim in
her teeth, one of the baboons hanging down from the tree to assist her
ascent. It was while she was ascending that Stella bethought of
letting fall her handkerchief in the faint hope that some searcher
might see it.
By this time Hendrika was on the tree, and grunting out orders to the
baboons which clustered about Stella below. Suddenly these seized her
and little Tota who was in her arms, and lifted her from the ground.
Then Hendrika above, aided by other baboons, put out all her great
strength and pulled the two of them up the rock. Twice Stella swung
heavily against the cliff. After the second blow she felt her senses
going, and was consumed with terror lest she should drop Tota. But she
managed to cling to her, and together they reached the cleft.
"From that time," Stella went on, "I remember no more till I woke to
find myself in a gloomy cave resting on a bed of skins. My legs were
bound, and Hendrika sat near me watching me, while round the edge of
the cave peered the heads of those horrible baboons. Tota was still in
my arms, and half dead from terror; her moans were pitiful to hear. I
spoke to Hendrika, imploring her to release us; but either she has
lost all understanding of human speech, or she pretends to have done
so. All she would do was to caress me, and even kiss my hands and
dress with extravagant signs of affection. As she did so, Tota shrunk
closer to me. This Hendrika saw and glared so savagely at the child
that I feared lest she was going to kill her. I diverted her attention
by making signs that I wanted water, and this she gave me in a wooden
bowl. As you saw, the cave was evidently Hendrika's dwelling-place.
There are stores of fruit in it and some strips of dried flesh. She
gave me some of the fruit and Tota a little, and I made Tota eat some.
You can never know what I went through, Allan. I saw now that Hendrika
was quite mad, and but little removed from the brutes to which she is
akin, and over which she has such unholy power. The only trace of
humanity left about her was her affection for me. Evidently her idea
was to keep me here with her, to keep me away from you, and to carry
out this idea she was capable of the exercise of every artifice and
cunning. In this way she was sane enough, but in every other way she
was mad. Moreover, she had not forgotten her horrible jealousy.
Already I saw her glaring at Tota, and knew that the child's murder
was only a matter of time. Probably within a few hours she would be
killed before my eyes. Of escape, even if I had the strength, there
was absolutely no chance, and little enough of our ever being found.
No, we should be kept here guarded by a mad thing, half ape, half
woman, till we perished miserably. Then I thought of you, dear, and of
all that you must be suffering, and my heart nearly broke. I could
only pray to God that I might either be rescued or die swiftly.
"As I prayed I dropped into a kind of doze from utter weariness, and
then I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that Indaba-zimbi stood over
me nodding his white lock, and spoke to me in Kaffir, telling me not
to be frightened, for you would soon be with me, and that meanwhile I
must humour Hendrika, pretending to be pleased to have her near me.
The dream was so vivid that I actually seemed to see and hear him, as
I see and hear him now."
Here I looked up and glanced at old Indaba-zimbi, who was sitting
near. But it was not till afterwards that I told Stella of how her
vision was brought about.
"At any rate," she went on, "when I awoke I determined to act on my
dream. I took Hendrika's hand, and pressed it. She actually laughed in
a wild kind of way with happiness, and laid her head upon my knee.
Then I made signs that I wanted food, and she threw wood on the fire,
which I forgot to tell you was burning in the cave, and began to make
some of the broth that she used to cook very well, and she did not
seem to have forgotten all about it. At any rate the broth was not
bad, though neither Tota nor I could drink much of it. Fright and
weariness had taken away our appetites.
"After the meal was done--and I prolonged it as much as possible--I
saw Hendrika was beginning to get jealous of Tota again. She glared at
her and then at the big knife which was tied round her own body. I
knew the knife again, it was the one with which she had tried to
murder you, dear. At last she went so far as to draw the knife. I was
paralyzed with fear, then suddenly I remembered that when she was our
servant, and used to get out of temper and sulk, I could always calm
her by singing to her. So I began to sing hymns. Instantly she forgot
her jealousy and put the knife back into its sheath. She knew the
sound of the singing, and sat listening to it with a rapt face; the
baboons, too, crowded in at the entrance of the cave to listen. I must
have sung for an hour or more, all the hymns that I could remember. It
was so very strange and dreadful sitting there singing to mad Hendrika
and those hideous man-like apes that shut their eyes and nodded their
great heads as I sang. It was a horrible nightmare; but I believe that
the baboons are almost as human as the Bushmen.
"Well, this went on for a long time till my voice was getting
exhausted. Then suddenly I heard the baboons outside raise a loud
noise, as they do when they are angry. Then, dear, I heard the boom of
your elephant gun, and I think it was the sweetest sound that ever
came to my ears. Hendrika heard it too. She sprang up, stood for a
moment, then, to my horror, swept Tota into her arms and rushed down
the cave. Of course I could not stir to follow her, for my feet were
tied. Next instant I heard the sound of a rock being moved, and
presently the lessening of the light in the cave told me that I was
shut in. Now the sound even of the elephant gun only reached me very
faintly, and presently I could hear nothing more, straining my ears as
"At last I heard a faint shouting that reached me through the wall of
rock. I answered as loud as I could. You know the rest; and oh, my
dear husband, thank God! thank God!" and she fell weeping into my
CHAPTER XIV. FIFTEEN YEARS AFTER
Both Stella and Tota were too weary to be moved, so we camped that
night in the baboons' home, but were troubled by no baboons. Stella
would not sleep in the cave; she said the place terrified her, so I
made her up a kind of bed under a thorn-tree. As this rock-bound
valley was one of the hottest places I ever was in, I thought that
this would not matter; but when at sunrise on the following morning I
saw a veil of miasmatic mist hanging over the surface of the ground, I
changed my opinion. However, neither Stella nor Tota seemed the worse,
so as soon as was practical we started homewards. I had already on the
previous day sent some of the men back to the kraals to fetch a
ladder, and when we reached the cliff we found them waiting for us
beneath. With the help of the ladder the descent was easy. Stella
simply got out of her rough litter at the top of the cliff, for we
found it necessary to carry her, climbed down the ladder, and got into
it again at the bottom.
Well, we reached the kraals safely enough, seeing nothing more of
Hendrika, and, were this a story, doubtless I should end it here with
--"and lived happily ever after." But alas! it is not so. How am I to
My dearest wife's vital energy seemed completely to fail her now that
the danger was past, and within twelve hours of our return I saw that
her state was such as to necessitate the abandonment of any idea of
leaving Babyan Kraals at present. The bodily exertion, the anguish of
mind, and the terror which she had endured during that dreadful night,
combined with her delicate state of health, had completely broken her
down. To make matters worse, also, she was taken with an attack of
fever, contracted no doubt in the unhealthy atmosphere of that
accursed valley. In time she shook the fever off, but it left her
dreadfully weak, and quite unfit to face the trial before her.
I think she knew that she was going to die; she always spoke of my
future, never of /our/ future. It is impossible for me to tell how
sweet she was; how gentle, how patient and resigned. Nor, indeed, do I
wish to tell it, it is too sad. But this I will say, I believe that if
ever a woman drew near to perfection while yet living on the earth,
Stella Quatermain did so.
The fatal hour drew on. My boy Harry was born, and his mother lived to
kiss and bless him. Then she sank. We did what we could, but we had
little skill, and might not hold her back from death. All through one
weary night I watched her with a breaking heart.
The dawn came, the sun rose in the east. His rays falling on the peak
behind were reflected in glory upon the bosom of the western sky.
Stella awoke from her swoon and saw the light. She whispered to me to
open the door of the hut. I did so, and she fixed her dying eyes on
the splendour of the morning sky. She looked on me and smiled as an
angel might smile. Then with a last effort she lifted her hand, and,
pointing to the radiant heavens, whispered:
"/There, Allan, there!/"
It was done, and I was broken-hearted, and broken-hearted I must
wander to the end. Those who have endured my loss will know my sorrow;
it cannot be written. In such peace and at such an hour may I also
Yes, it is a sad story, but wander where we will about the world we
can never go beyond the sound of the passing bell. For me, as for my
father before me, and for the millions who have been and who shall be,
there is but one word of comfort. "The Lord hath given, and the Lord
hath taken away." Let us, then, bow our heads in hope, and add with a
humble heart, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."
I buried her by her father's side, and the weeping of the people who
had loved her went up to heaven. Even Indaba-zimbi wept, but I could
weep no more.
On the second night from her burial I could not sleep. I rose, dressed
myself, and went out into the night. The moon was shining brightly,
and by its rays I shaped my course towards the graveyard. I drew near
silently, and as I came I thought that I heard a sound of moaning on
the further side of the wall. I looked over it. Crouched by Stella's
grave, and tearing at its sods with her hands, as though she would
unearth that which lay within, was /Hendrika/. Her face was wild and
haggard, her form was so emaciated that when the pelts she wore
slipped aside, the shoulder-blades seemed to project almost through
her skin. Suddenly she looked up and saw me. Laughing a dreadful
maniac laugh, she put her hand to her girdle and drew her great knife
from it. I thought that she was about to attack me, and prepared to
defend myself as I best could, for I was unarmed. But she made no
effort to do so. Lifting the knife on high, for a moment she held it
glittering in the moonlight, then plunged it into her own breast, and
fell headlong to the ground.
I sprang over the wall and ran to her. She was not yet dead. Presently
she opened her eyes, and I saw that the madness had gone out of them.
"Macumazahn," she said, speaking in English and in an thick difficult
voice like one who half forgot and half remembered--"Macumazahn, I
remember now. I have been mad. Is she really dead, Macumazahn?"
"Yes," I said, "she is dead, and you killed her."
"I killed her!" the dying woman faltered, "and I loved her. Yes, yes,
I know now. I became a brute again and dragged her to the brutes, and
now once more I am a woman, and she is dead, and I killed her--because
I loved her so. I killed her who saved me from the brutes. I am not
dead yet, Macumazahn. Take me and torture me to death, slowly, very
slowly. It was jealousy of you that drove me mad, and I have killed
her, and now she never can forgive me."
"Ask forgiveness from above," I said, for Hendrika had been a
Christian, and the torment of her remorse touched me.
"I ask no forgiveness," she said. "May God torture me for ever,
because I killed her; may I become a brute for ever till she comes to
find me and forgives me! I only want her forgiveness." And wailing in
an anguish of the heart so strong that her bodily suffering seemed to
be forgotten, Hendrika, the Baboon-woman, died.
I went back to the kraals, and, waking Indaba-zimbi, told him what had
happened, asking him to send some one to watch the body, as I proposed
to give it burial. But next morning it was gone, and I found that the
natives, hearing of the event, had taken the corpse and thrown it to
the vultures with every mark of hate. Such, then, was the end of
A week after Hendrika's death I left Babyan Kraals. The place was
hateful to me now; it was a haunted place. I sent for old Indaba-zimbi
and told him that I was going. He answered that it was well. "The
place has served your turn," he said; "here you have won that joy
which it was fated you should win, and have suffered those things that
it was fated you should suffer. Yes, and though you know it not now,
the joy and the suffering, like the sunshine and the storm, are the
same thing, and will rest at last in the same heaven, the heaven from
which they came. Now go, Macumazahn."
I asked him if he was coming with me.
"No," he answered, "our paths lie apart henceforth, Macumazahn. We met
together for certain ends. Those ends are fulfilled. Now each one goes
his own way. You have still many years before you, Macumazahn; my
years are few. When we shake hands here it will be for the last time.
Perhaps we may meet again, but it will not be in this world.
Henceforth we have each of us a friend the less."
"Heavy words," I said.
"True words," he answered.
Well, I have little heart to write the rest of it. I went, leaving
Indaba-zimbi in charge of the place, and making him a present of such
cattle and goods as I did not want.
Tota, I of course took with me. Fortunately by this time she had
almost recovered the shock to her nerves. The baby Harry, as he was
afterwards named, was a fine healthy child, and I was lucky in getting
a respectable native woman, whose husband had been killed in the fight
with the baboons, to accompany me as his nurse.
Slowly, and followed for a distance by all the people, I trekked away
from Babyan Kraals. My route towards Natal was along the edge of the
Bad Lands, and my first night's outspan was beneath that very tree
where Stella, my lost wife, had found us as we lay dying of thirst.
I did not sleep much that night. And yet I was glad that I had not
died in the desert about eleven months before. I felt then, as from
year to year I have continued to feel while I wander through the
lonely wilderness of life, that I had been preserved to an end. I had
won my darling's love, and for a little while we had been happy
together. Our happiness was too perfect to endure. She is lost to me
now, but she is lost to be found again.
Here on the following morning I bade farewell to Indaba-zimbi.
"Good-bye, Macumazahn," he said, nodding his white lock at me. "Good-
bye for a while. I am not a Christian; your father could not make me
that. But he was a wise man, and when he said that those who loved
each other shall meet again, he did not lie. And I too am a wise man
in my way, Macumazahn, and I say it is true that we shall meet again.
All my prophecies to you have come true, Macumazahn, and this one
shall come true also. I tell you that you shall return to Babyan
Kraals and shall not find me. I tell you that you shall journey to a
further land than Babyan Kraals and shall find me. Farewell!" and he
took a pinch of snuff, turned, and went.
Of my journey down to Natal there is little to tell. I met with many
adventures, but they were of an every-day kind, and in the end arrived
safely at Port Durban, which I now visited for the first time. Both
Tota and my baby boy bore the journey well. And here I may as well
chronicle the destiny of Tota. For a year she remained under my
charge. Then she was adopted by a lady, the wife of an English
colonel, who was stationed at the Cape. She was taken by her adopted
parents to England, where she grew up a very charming and pretty girl,
and ultimately married a clergyman in Norfolk. But I never saw her
again, though we often wrote to each other.
Before I returned to the country of my birth, she too had been
gathered to the land of shadows, leaving three children behind her. Ah
me! all this took place so long ago, when I was young who now am old.
Perhaps it may interest the reader to know the fate of Mr. Carson's
property, which should of course have gone to his grandson Harry. I
wrote to England to claim the estate on his behalf, but the lawyer to
whom the matter was submitted said that my marriage to Stella, not
having been celebrated by an ordained priest, was not legal according
to English law, and therefore Harry could not inherit. Foolishly
enough I acquiesced in this, and the property passed to a cousin of my
father-in-law's; but since I have come to live in England I have been
informed that this opinion is open to great suspicion, and that there
is every probability that the courts would have declared the marriage
perfectly binding as having been solemnly entered into in accordance
with the custom of the place where it was contracted. But I am now so
rich that it is not worth while to move in the matter. The cousin is
dead, his son is in possession, so let him keep it.
Once, and once only, did I revisit Babyan Kraals. Some fifteen years
after my darling's death, when I was a man in middle life, I undertook
an expedition to the Zambesi, and one night outspanned at the mouth of
the well-known valley beneath the shadow of the great peak. I mounted
my horse, and, quite alone, rode up the valley, noticing with a
strange prescience of evil that the road was overgrown, and, save for
the music of the waterfalls, the place silent as death. The kraals
that used to be to the left of the road by the river had vanished. I
rode towards their site; the mealie fields were choked with weeds, the
paths were dumb with grass. Presently I reached the place. There,
overgrown with grass, were the burnt ashes of the kraals, and there
among the ashes, gleaming in the moonlight, lay the white bones of
men. Now it was clear to me. The settlement had been fallen on by some
powerful foe, and its inhabitants put to the assegai. The forebodings
of the natives had come true; Babyan Kraals were peopled by memories
I passed on up the terraces. There shone the roofs of the marble huts.
They would not burn, and were too strong to be easily pulled down. I
entered one of them--it had been our sleeping hut--and lit a candle
which I had with me. The huts had been sacked; leaves of books and
broken mouldering fragments of the familiar furniture lay about. Then
I remembered that there was a secret place hollowed in the floor and
concealed by a stone, where Stella used to hide her little treasures.
I went to the stone and dragged it up. There was something within
wrapped in rotting native cloth. I undid it. It was the dress my wife
had been married in. In the centre of the dress were the withered
wreath and flowers she had worn, and with them a little paper packet.
I opened it; it contained a lock of my own hair!
I remembered then that I had searched for this dress when I came away
and could not find it, for I had forgotten the secret recess in the
Taking the dress with me, I left the hut for the last time. Leaving my
horse tied to a tree, I walked to the graveyard, through the ruined
garden. There it was a mass of weeds, but over my darling's grave grew
a self-sown orange bush, of which the scented petals fell in showers
on to the mound beneath. As I drew near, there was a crash and a rush.
A great baboon leapt from the centre of the graveyard and vanished
into the trees. I could almost believe that it was the wraith of
Hendrika doomed to keep an eternal watch over the bones of the woman
her jealous rage had done to death.
I tarried there a while, filled with such thoughts as may not be
written. Then, leaving my dead wife to her long sleep where the waters
fall in melancholy music beneath the shadow of the everlasting
mountain, I turned and sought that spot where first we had told our
love. Now the orange grove was nothing but a tangled thicket; many of
the trees were dead, choked with creepers, but some still flourished.
There stood the one beneath which we had lingered, there was the rock
that had been our seat, and there on the rock sat the wraith of
/Stella/, the Stella whom I had wed! Ay! there she sat, and on her
upturned face was that same spiritual look which I saw upon it in the
hour when we first had kissed. The moonlight shone in her dark eyes,
the breeze wavered in her curling hair, her breast rose and fell, a
gentle smile played about her parted lips. I stood transfixed with awe
and joy, gazing on that lost loveliness which once was mine. I could
not speak, and she spoke no word; she did not even seem to see me. Now
her eyes fell. For a moment they met mine, and their message entered
Then she was gone. She was gone; nothing was left but the tremulous
moonlight falling where she had been, the melancholy music of the
waters, the shadow of the everlasting mountain, and, in my heart, the
sorrow and the hope.