Child of Storm
by H. Rider Haggard
Dear Mr. Stuart,
For twenty years, I believe I am right in saying, you, as Assistant
Secretary for Native Affairs in Natal, and in other offices, have been
intimately acquainted with the Zulu people. Moreover, you are one of
the few living men who have made a deep and scientific study of their
language, their customs and their history. So I confess that I was the
more pleased after you were so good as to read this tale--the second
book of the epic of the vengeance of Zikali, "the
Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born," and of the fall of the House of
Senzangakona*--when you wrote to me that it was animated by the true
[*--"Marie" was the first. The third and final act in the drama is yet
I must admit that my acquaintance with this people dates from a period
which closed almost before your day. What I know of them I gathered at
the time when Cetewayo, of whom my volume tells, was in his glory,
previous to the evil hour in which he found himself driven by the
clamour of his regiments, cut off, as they were, through the annexation
of the Transvaal, from their hereditary trade of war, to match himself
against the British strength. I learned it all by personal observation
in the 'seventies, or from the lips of the great Shepstone, my chief and
friend, and from my colleagues Osborn, Fynney, Clarke and others, every
one of them long since "gone down."
Perhaps it may be as well that this is so, at any rate in the case of
one who desires to write of the Zulus as a reigning nation, which now
they have ceased to be, and to try to show them as they were, in all
their superstitious madness and bloodstained grandeur.
Yet then they had virtues as well as vices. To serve their Country in
arms, to die for it and for the King; such was their primitive ideal.
If they were fierce they were loyal, and feared neither wounds nor doom;
if they listened to the dark redes of the witch-doctor, the trumpet-call
of duty sounded still louder in their ears; if, chanting their terrible
"Ingoma," at the King's bidding they went forth to slay unsparingly, at
least they were not mean or vulgar. From those who continually must
face the last great issues of life or death meanness and vulgarity are
far removed. These qualities belong to the safe and crowded haunts of
civilised men, not to the kraals of Bantu savages, where, at any rate of
old, they might be sought in vain.
Now everything is changed, or so I hear, and doubtless in the balance
this is best. Still we may wonder what are the thoughts that pass
through the mind of some ancient warrior of Chaka's or Dingaan's time,
as he suns himself crouched on the ground, for example, where once stood
the royal kraal, Duguza, and watches men and women of the Zulu blood
passing homeward from the cities or the mines, bemused, some of them,
with the white man's smuggled liquor, grotesque with the white man's
cast-off garments, hiding, perhaps, in their blankets examples of the
white man's doubtful photographs--and then shuts his sunken eyes and
remembers the plumed and kilted regiments making that same ground shake
as, with a thunder of salute, line upon line, company upon company, they
rushed out to battle.
Well, because the latter does not attract me, it is of this former time
that I have tried to write--the time of the Impis and the witch-finders
and the rival princes of the royal House--as I am glad to learn from
you, not quite in vain. Therefore, since you, so great an expert,
approve of my labours in the seldom-travelled field of Zulu story, I ask
you to allow me to set your name upon this page and subscribe myself,
Gratefully and sincerely yours,
H. RIDER HAGGARD.
Ditchingham, 12th October, 1912.
To James Stuart, Esq.,
Late Assistant Secretary for Native Affairs, Natal.
Mr. Allan Quatermain's story of the wicked and fascinating Mameena, a
kind of Zulu Helen, has, it should be stated, a broad foundation in
historical fact. Leaving Mameena and her wiles on one side, the tale of
the struggle between the Princes Cetewayo and Umbelazi for succession to
the throne of Zululand is true.
When the differences between these sons of his became intolerable,
because of the tumult which they were causing in his country, King
Panda, their father, the son of Senzangakona, and the brother of the
great Chaka and of Dingaan, who had ruled before him, did say that "when
two young bulls quarrel they had better fight it out." So, at least, I
was told by the late Mr. F. B. Fynney, my colleague at the time of the
annexation of the Transvaal in 1877, who, as Zulu Border Agent, with the
exceptions of the late Sir Theophilus Shepstone and the late Sir Melmoth
Osborn, perhaps knew more of that land and people than anyone else of
As a result of this hint given by a maddened king, the great battle of
the Tugela was fought at Endondakusuka in December, 1856, between the
Usutu party, commanded by Cetewayo, and the adherents of Umbelazi the
Handsome, his brother, who was known among the Zulus as
"Indhlovu-ene-Sihlonti", or the "Elephant with the tuft of hair," from a
little lock of hair which grew low down upon his back.
My friend, Sir Melmoth Osborn, who died in or about the year 1897, was
present at this battle, although not as a combatant. Well do I remember
his thrilling story, told to me over thirty years ago, of the events of
that awful day.
Early in the morning, or during the previous night, I forget which, he
swam his horse across the Tugela and hid with it in a bush-clad kopje,
blindfolding the animal with his coat lest it should betray him. As it
chanced, the great fight of the day, that of the regiment of veterans,
which Sir Melmoth informed me Panda had sent down at the last moment to
the assistance of Umbelazi, his favourite son, took place almost at the
foot of this kopje. Mr. Quatermain, in his narrative, calls this
regiment the Amawombe, but my recollection is that the name Sir Melmoth
Osborn gave them was "The Greys" or "Upunga."
Whatever their exact title may have been, however, they made a great
stand. At least, he told me that when Umbelazi's impi, or army, began
to give before the Usutu onslaught, these "Greys" moved forward above
3,000 strong, drawn up in a triple line, and were charged by one of
The opposing forces met, and the noise of their clashing shields, said
Sir Melmoth, was like the roll of heavy thunder. Then, while he
watched, the veteran "Greys" passed over the opposing regiment "as a
wave passes over a rock"--these were his exact words--and, leaving about
a third of their number dead or wounded among the bodies of the
annihilated foe, charged on to meet a second regiment sent against them
by Cetewayo. With these the struggle was repeated, but again the
"Greys" conquered. Only now there were not more than five or six
hundred of them left upon their feet.
These survivors ran to a mound, round which they formed a ring, and here
for a long while withstood the attack of a third regiment, until at
length they perished almost to a man, buried beneath heaps of their
slain assailants, the Usutu.
Truly they made a noble end fighting thus against tremendous odds!
As for the number who fell at this battle of Endondakusuka, Mr. Fynney,
in a pamphlet which he wrote, says that six of Umbelazi's brothers died,
"whilst it is estimated that upwards of 100,000 of the people--men,
women and children--were slain"--a high and indeed an impossible
That curious personage named John Dunn, an Englishman who became a Zulu
chief, and who actually fought in this battle, as narrated by Mr.
Quatermain, however, puts the number much lower. What the true total
was will never be known; but Sir Melmoth Osborn told me that when he
swam his horse back across the Tugela that night it was black with
bodies; and Sir Theophilus Shepstone also told me that when he visited
the scene a day or two later the banks of the river were strewn with
multitudes of them, male and female.
It was from Mr. Fynney that I heard the story of the execution by
Cetewayo of the man who appeared before him with the ornaments of
Umbelazi, announcing that he had killed the prince with his own hand.
Of course, this tale, as Mr. Quatermain points out, bears a striking
resemblance to that recorded in the Old Testament in connection with the
death of King Saul.
It by no means follows, however, that it is therefore apocryphal;
indeed, Mr. Fynney assured me that it was quite true, although, if he
gave me his authorities, I cannot remember them after a lapse of more
than thirty years.
The exact circumstances of Umbelazi's death are unknown, but the general
report was that he died, not by the assegais of the Usutu, but of a
broken heart. Another story declares that he was drowned. His body was
never found, and it is therefore probable that it sank in the Tugela, as
is suggested in the following pages.
I have only to add that it is quite in accordance with Zulu beliefs that
a man should be haunted by the ghost of one whom he has murdered or
betrayed, or, to be more accurate, that the spirit ("umoya") should
enter into the slayer and drive him mad. Or, in such a case, that
spirit might bring misfortune upon him, his family, or his tribe.
H. RIDER HAGGARD.
We white people think that we know everything. For instance, we think
that we understand human nature. And so we do, as human nature appears
to us, with all its trappings and accessories seen dimly through the
glass of our conventions, leaving out those aspects of it which we have
forgotten or do not think it polite to mention. But I, Allan
Quatermain, reflecting upon these matters in my ignorant and uneducated
fashion, have always held that no one really understands human nature
who has not studied it in the rough. Well, that is the aspect of it
with which I have been best acquainted.
For most of the years of my life I have handled the raw material, the
virgin ore, not the finished ornament that is smelted out of it--if,
indeed, it is finished yet, which I greatly doubt. I dare say that a
time may come when the perfected generations--if Civilisation, as we
understand it, really has a future and any such should be allowed to
enjoy their hour on the World--will look back to us as crude,
half-developed creatures whose only merit was that we handed on the
flame of life.
Maybe, maybe, for everything goes by comparison; and at one end of the
ladder is the ape-man, and at the other, as we hope, the angel. No, not
the angel; he belongs to a different sphere, but that last expression of
humanity upon which I will not speculate. While man is man--that is,
before he suffers the magical death-change into spirit, if such should
be his destiny--well, he will remain man. I mean that the same passions
will sway him; he will aim at the same ambitions; he will know the same
joys and be oppressed by the same fears, whether he lives in a Kafir hut
or in a golden palace; whether he walks upon his two feet or, as for
aught I know he may do one day, flies through the air. This is certain:
that in the flesh he can never escape from our atmosphere, and while he
breathes it, in the main with some variations prescribed by climate,
local law and religion, he will do much as his forefathers did for
That is why I have always found the savage so interesting, for in him,
nakedly and forcibly expressed, we see those eternal principles which
direct our human destiny.
To descend from these generalities, that is why also I, who hate
writing, have thought it worth while, at the cost of some labour to
myself, to occupy my leisure in what to me is a strange land--for
although I was born in England, it is not my country--in setting down
various experiences of my life that do, in my opinion, interpret this
our universal nature. I dare say that no one will ever read them;
still, perhaps they are worthy of record, and who knows? In days to
come they may fall into the hands of others and prove of value. At any
rate, they are true stories of interesting peoples, who, if they should
survive in the savage competition of the nations, probably are doomed to
undergo great changes. Therefore I tell of them before they began to
Now, although I take it out of its strict chronological order, the first
of these histories that I wish to preserve is in the main that of an
extremely beautiful woman--with the exception of a certain Nada, called
"the Lily," of whom I hope to speak some day, I think the most beautiful
that ever lived among the Zulus. Also she was, I think, the most able,
the most wicked, and the most ambitious. Her attractive name--for it
was very attractive as the Zulus said it, especially those of them who
were in love with her--was Mameena, daughter of Umbezi. Her other name
was Child of Storm (Ingane-ye-Sipepo, or, more freely and shortly,
O-we-Zulu), but the word "Ma-mee-na" had its origin in the sound of the
wind that wailed about the hut when she was born.*
[*--The Zulu word "Meena"--or more correctly "Mina"--means "Come here,"
and would therefore be a name not unsuitable to one of the heroine's
proclivities; but Mr. Quatermain does not seem to accept this
Since I have been settled in England I have read--of course in a
translation--the story of Helen of Troy, as told by the Greek poet,
Homer. Well, Mameena reminds me very much of Helen, or, rather, Helen
reminds me of Mameena. At any rate, there was this in common between
them, although one of them was black, or, rather, copper-coloured, and
the other white--they both were lovely; moreover, they both were
faithless, and brought men by hundreds to their deaths. There, perhaps,
the resemblance ends, since Mameena had much more fire and grit than
Helen could boast, who, unless Homer misrepresents her, must have been
but a poor thing after all. Beauty Itself, which those old rascals of
Greek gods made use of to bait their snares set for the lives and honour
of men, such was Helen, no more; that is, as I understand her, who have
not had the advantage of a classical education. Now, Mameena, although
she was superstitious--a common weakness of great minds--acknowledging
no gods in particular, as we understand them, set her own snares, with
varying success but a very definite object, namely, that of becoming the
first woman in the world as she knew it--the stormy, bloodstained world
of the Zulus.
But the reader shall judge for himself, if ever such a person should
chance to cast his eye upon this history.
It was in the year 1854 that I first met Mameena, and my acquaintance
with her continued off and on until 1856, when it came to an end in a
fashion that shall be told after the fearful battle of the Tugela in
which Umbelazi, Panda's son and Cetewayo's brother--who, to his sorrow,
had also met Mameena--lost his life. I was still a youngish man in
those days, although I had already buried my second wife, as I have told
elsewhere, after our brief but happy time of marriage.
Leaving my boy in charge of some kind people in Durban, I started into
"the Zulu"--a land with which I had already become well acquainted as a
youth, there to carry on my wild life of trading and hunting.
For the trading I never cared much, as may be guessed from the little
that ever I made out of it, the art of traffic being in truth repugnant
to me. But hunting was always the breath of my nostrils--not that I am
fond of killing creatures, for any humane man soon wearies of slaughter.
No, it is the excitement of sport, which, before breechloaders came in,
was acute enough, I can assure you; the lonely existence in wild places,
often with only the sun and the stars for companions; the continual
adventures; the strange tribes with whom I came in contact; in short,
the change, the danger, the hope always of finding something great and
new, that attracted and still attracts me, even now when I have found
the great and the new. There, I must not go on writing like this, or I
shall throw down my pen and book a passage for Africa, and incidentally
to the next world, no doubt--that world of the great and new!
It was, I think, in the month of May in the year 1854 that I went
hunting in rough country between the White and Black Umvolosi Rivers, by
permission of Panda--whom the Boers had made king of Zululand after the
defeat and death of Dingaan his brother. The district was very
feverish, and for this reason I had entered it in the winter months.
There was so much bush that, in the total absence of roads, I thought it
wise not to attempt to bring my wagons down, and as no horses would live
in that veld I went on foot. My principal companions were a Kafir of
mixed origin, called Sikauli, commonly abbreviated into Scowl, the Zulu
chief Saduko, and a headman of the Undwandwe blood named Umbezi, at
whose kraal on the high land about thirty miles away I left my wagon and
certain of my men in charge of the goods and some ivory that I had
This Umbezi was a stout and genial-mannered man of about sixty years of
age, and, what is rare among these people, one who loved sport for its
own sake. Being aware of his tastes, also that he knew the country and
was skilled in finding game, I had promised him a gun if he would
accompany me and bring a few hunters. It was a particularly bad gun
that had seen much service, and one which had an unpleasing habit of
going off at half-cock; but even after he had seen it, and I in my
honesty had explained its weaknesses, he jumped at the offer.
"O Macumazana" (that is my native name, often abbreviated into
Macumazahn, which means "One who stands out," or as many interpret it, I
don't know how, "Watcher-by-Night")--"a gun that goes off sometimes when
you do not expect it is much better than no gun at all, and you are a
chief with a great heart to promise it to me, for when I own the White
Man's weapon I shall be looked up to and feared by everyone between the
Now, while he was speaking he handled the gun, that was loaded,
observing which I moved behind him. Off it went in due course, its
recoil knocking him backwards--for that gun was a devil to kick--and its
bullet cutting the top off the ear of one of his wives. The lady fled
screaming, leaving a little bit of her ear upon the ground.
"What does it matter?" said Umbezi, as he picked himself up, rubbing his
shoulder with a rueful look. "Would that the evil spirit in the gun had
cut off her tongue and not her ear! It is the Worn-out-Old-Cow's own
fault; she is always peeping into everything like a monkey. Now she
will have something to chatter about and leave my things alone for
awhile. I thank my ancestral Spirit it was not Mameena, for then her
looks would have been spoiled."
"Who is Mameena?" I asked. "Your last wife?"
"No, no, Macumazahn; I wish she were, for then I should have the most
beautiful wife in the land. She is my daughter, though not that of the
Worn-out-Old-Cow; her mother died when she was born, on the night of the
Great Storm. You should ask Saduko there who Mameena is," he added with
a broad grin, lifting his head from the gun, which he was examining
gingerly, as though he thought it might go off again while unloaded, and
nodding towards someone who stood behind him.
I turned, and for the first time saw Saduko, whom I recognised at once
as a person quite out of the ordinary run of natives.
He was a tall and magnificently formed young man, who, although his
breast was scarred with assegai wounds, showing that he was a warrior,
had not yet attained to the honour of the "ring" of polished wax laid
over strips of rush bound round with sinew and sewn to the hair, the
"isicoco" which at a certain age or dignity, determined by the king,
Zulus are allowed to assume. But his face struck me more even than his
grace, strength and stature. Undoubtedly it was a very fine face, with
little or nothing of the negroid type about it; indeed, he might have
been a rather dark-coloured Arab, to which stock he probably threw back.
The eyes, too, were large and rather melancholy, and in his reserved,
dignified air there was something that showed him to be no common
fellow, but one of breeding and intellect.
"Siyakubona" (that is, "we see you," anglice "good morrow") "Saduko," I
said, eyeing him curiously. "Tell me, who is Mameena?"
"Inkoosi," he answered in his deep voice, lifting his delicately shaped
hand in salutation, a courtesy that pleased me who, after all, was
nothing but a white hunter, "Inkoosi, has not her father said that she
is his daughter?"
"Aye," answered the jolly old Umbezi, "but what her father has not said
is that Saduko is her lover, or, rather, would like to be. Wow!
Saduko," he went on, shaking his fat finger at him, "are you mad, man,
that you think a girl like that is for you? Give me a hundred cattle,
not one less, and I will begin to think of it. Why, you have not ten,
and Mameena is my eldest daughter, and must marry a rich man."
"She loves me, O Umbezi," answered Saduko, looking down, "and that is
more than cattle."
"For you, perhaps, Saduko, but not for me who am poor and want cows.
Also," he added, glancing at him shrewdly, "are you so sure that Mameena
loves you though you be such a fine man? Now, I should have thought
that whatever her eyes may say, her heart loves no one but herself, and
that in the end she will follow her heart and not her eyes. Mameena the
beautiful does not seek to be a poor man's wife and do all the hoeing.
But bring me the hundred cattle and we will see, for, speaking truth
from my heart, if you were a big chief there is no one I should like
better as a son-in-law, unless it were Macumazahn here," he said,
digging me in the ribs with his elbow, "who would lift up my House on
his white back."
Now, at this speech Saduko shifted his feet uneasily; it seemed to me as
though he felt there was truth in Umbezi's estimate of his daughter's
character. But he only said:
"Cattle can be acquired."
"Or stolen," suggested Umbezi.
"Or taken in war," corrected Saduko. "When I have a hundred head I will
hold you to your word, O father of Mameena."
"And then what would you live on, fool, if you gave all your beasts to
me? There, there, cease talking wind. Before you have a hundred head
of cattle Mameena will have six children who will not call you father.
Ah, don't you like that? Are you going away?"
"Yes, I am going," he answered, with a flash of his quiet eyes; "only
then let the man whom they do call father beware of Saduko."
"Beware of how you talk, young man," said Umbezi in a grave voice.
"Would you travel your father's road? I hope not, for I like you well;
but such words are apt to be remembered."
Saduko walked away as though he did not hear.
"Who is he?" I asked.
"One of high blood," answered Umbezi shortly. "He might be a chief
to-day had not his father been a plotter and a wizard. Dingaan smelt
him out"--and he made a sideways motion with his hand that among the
Zulus means much. "Yes, they were killed, almost every one; the chief,
his wives, his children and his headmen--every one except Chosa his
brother and his son Saduko, whom Zikali the dwarf, the
Smeller-out-of-evil-doers, the Ancient, who was old before Senzangakona
became a father of kings, hid him. There, that is an evil tale to talk
of," and he shivered. "Come, White Man, and doctor that old Cow of
mine, or she will give me no peace for months."
So I went to see the Worn-out-Old-Cow--not because I had any particular
interest in her, for, to tell the truth, she was a very disagreeable and
antique person, the cast-off wife of some chief whom at an unknown date
in the past the astute Umbezi had married from motives of policy--but
because I hoped to hear more of Miss Mameena, in whom I had become
Entering a large hut, I found the lady so impolitely named "the Old Cow"
in a parlous state. There she lay upon the floor, an unpleasant object
because of the blood that had escaped from her wound, surrounded by a
crowd of other women and of children. At regular intervals she
announced that she was dying, and emitted a fearful yell, whereupon all
the audience yelled also; in short, the place was a perfect pandemonium.
Telling Umbezi to get the hut cleared, I said that I would go to fetch
my medicines. Meanwhile I ordered my servant, Scowl, a humorous-looking
fellow, light yellow in hue, for he had a strong dash of Hottentot in
his composition, to cleanse the wound. When I returned from the wagon
ten minutes later the screams were more terrible than before, although
the chorus now stood without the hut. Nor was this altogether
wonderful, for on entering the place I found Scowl trimming up "the Old
Cow's" ear with a pair of blunt nail-scissors.
"O Macumazana," said Umbezi in a hoarse whisper, "might it not perhaps
be as well to leave her alone? If she bled to death, at any rate she
would be quieter."
"Are you a man or a hyena?" I answered sternly, and set about the job,
Scowl holding the poor woman's head between his knees.
It was over at length; a simple operation in which I exhibited--I
believe that is the medical term--a strong solution of caustic applied
with a feather.
"There, Mother," I said, for now we were alone in the hut, whence Scowl
had fled, badly bitten in the calf, "you won't die now."
"No, you vile White Man," she sobbed. "I shan't die, but how about my
"It will be greater than ever," I answered; "no one else will have an
ear with such a curve in it. But, talking of beauty, where is Mameena?"
"I don't know where she is," she replied with fury, "but I very well
know where she would be if I had my way. That peeled willow-wand of a
girl"--here she added certain descriptive epithets I will not
repeat--"has brought this misfortune upon me. We had a slight quarrel
yesterday, White Man, and, being a witch as she is, she prophesied evil.
Yes, when by accident I scratched her ear, she said that before long
mine should burn, and surely burn it does." (This, no doubt, was true,
for the caustic had begun to bite.)
"O devil of a White Man," she went on, "you have bewitched me; you have
filled my head with fire."
Then she seized an earthenware pot and hurled it at me, saying, "Take
that for your doctor-fee. Go, crawl after Mameena like the others and
get her to doctor you."
By this time I was half through the bee-hole of the hut, my movements
being hastened by a vessel of hot water which landed on me behind.
"What is the matter, Macumazahn?" asked old Umbezi, who was waiting
"Nothing at all, friend," I answered with a sweet smile, "except that
your wife wants to see you at once. She is in pain, and wishes you to
soothe her. Go in; do not hesitate."
After a moment's pause he went in--that is, half of him went in. Then
came a fearful crash, and he emerged again with the rim of a pot about
his neck and his countenance veiled in a coating of what I took to be
"Where is Mameena?" I asked him as he sat up spluttering.
"Where I wish I was," he answered in a thick voice; "at a kraal five
hours' journey away."
Well, that was the first I heard of Mameena.
That night as I sat smoking my pipe under the flap lean-to attached to
the wagon, laughing to myself over the adventure of "the Old Cow,"
falsely described as "worn out," and wondering whether Umbezi had got
the honey out of his hair, the canvas was lifted, and a Kafir wrapped in
a kaross crept in and squatted before me.
"Who are you?" I asked, for it was too dark to see the man's face.
"Inkoosi," answered a deep voice, "I am Saduko."
"You are welcome," I answered, handing him a little gourd of snuff in
token of hospitality. Then I waited while he poured some of the snuff
into the palm of his hand and took it in the usual fashion.
"Inkoosi," he said, when he had scraped away the tears produced by the
snuff, "I have come to ask you a favour. You heard Umbezi say to-day
that he will not give me his daughter, Mameena, unless I give him a
hundred head of cows. Now, I have not got the cattle, and I cannot earn
them by work in many years. Therefore I must take them from a certain
tribe I know which is at war with the Zulus. But this I cannot do
unless I have a gun. If I had a good gun, Inkoosi--one that only goes
off when it is asked, and not of its own fancy, I who have some name
could persuade a number of men whom I know, who once were servants of my
father, or their sons, to be my companions in this venture."
"Do I understand that you wish me to give you one of my good guns with
two mouths to it (i.e. double-barrelled), a gun worth at least twelve
oxen, for nothing, O Saduko?" I asked in a cold and scandalised voice.
"Not so, O Watcher-by-Night," he answered; "not so, O
He-who-sleeps-with-one-eye-open" (another free and difficult rendering
of my native name, Macumazahn, or more correctly, Macumazana)--"I should
never dream of offering such an insult to your high-born intelligence."
He paused and took another pinch of snuff, then went on in a meditative
voice: "Where I propose to get those hundred cattle there are many more;
I am told not less than a thousand head in all. Now, Inkoosi," he
added, looking at me sideways, "suppose you gave me the gun I ask for,
and suppose you accompanied me with your own gun and your armed hunters,
it would be fair that you should have half the cattle, would it not?"
"That's cool," I said. "So, young man, you want to turn me into a
cow-thief and get my throat cut by Panda for breaking the peace of his
"Neither, Macumazahn, for these are my own cattle. Listen, now, and I
will tell you a story. You have heard of Matiwane, the chief of the
"Yes," I answered. "His tribe lived near the head of the Umzinyati, did
they not? Then they were beaten by the Boers or the English, and
Matiwane came under the Zulus. But afterwards Dingaan wiped him out,
with his House, and now his people are killed or scattered."
"Yes, his people are killed and scattered, but his House still lives.
Macumazahn, I am his House, I, the only son of his chief wife, for
Zikali the Wise Little One, the Ancient, who is of the Amangwane blood,
and who hated Chaka and Dingaan--yes, and Senzangakona their father
before them, but whom none of them could kill because he is so great and
has such mighty spirits for his servants, saved and sheltered me."
"If he is so great, why, then, did he not save your father also,
Saduko?" I asked, as though I knew nothing of this Zikali.
"I cannot say, Macumazahn. Perhaps the spirits plant a tree for
themselves, and to do so cut down many other trees. At least, so it
happened. It happened thus: Bangu, chief of the Amakoba, whispered into
Dingaan's ear that Matiwane, my father, was a wizard; also that he was
very rich. Dingaan listened because he thought a sickness that he had
came from Matiwane's witchcraft. He said: 'Go, Bangu, and take a
company with you and pay Matiwane a visit of honour, and in the night, O
in the night! Afterwards, Bangu, we will divide the cattle, for
Matiwane is strong and clever, and you shall not risk your life for
Saduko paused and looked down at the ground, brooding heavily.
"Macumazahn, it was done," he said presently. "They ate my father's
meat, they drank his beer; they gave him a present from the king, they
praised him with high names; yes, Bangu took snuff with him and called
him brother. Then in the night, O in the night--!
"My father was in the hut with my mother, and I, so big only"--and he
held his hand at the height of a boy of ten--"was with them. The cry
arose, the flames began to eat; my father looked out and saw. 'Break
through the fence and away, woman,' he said; 'away with Saduko, that he
may live to avenge me. Begone while I hold the gate! Begone to Zikali,
for whose witchcrafts I pay with my blood.'
"Then he kissed me on the brow, saying but one word, 'Remember,' and
thrust us from the hut.
"My mother broke a way through the fence; yes, she tore at it with her
nails and teeth like a hyena. I looked back out of the shadow of the
hut and saw Matiwane my father fighting like a buffalo. Men went down
before him, one, two, three, although he had no shield: only his spear.
Then Bangu crept behind him and stabbed him in the back and he threw up
his arms and fell. I saw no more, for by now we were through the fence.
We ran, but they perceived us. They hunted us as wild dogs hunt a
buck. They killed my mother with a throwing assegai; it entered at her
back and came out at her heart. I went mad, I drew it from her body, I
ran at them. I dived beneath the shield of the first, a very tall man,
and held the spear, so, in both my little hands. His weight came upon
its point and it went through him as though he were but a bowl of
buttermilk. Yes, he rolled over, quite dead, and the handle of the
spear broke upon the ground. Now the others stopped astonished, for
never had they seen such a thing. That a child should kill a tall
warrior, oh! that tale had not been told. Some of them would have let
me go, but just then Bangu came up and saw the dead man, who was his
"'Wow!' he said when he knew how the man had died. 'This lion's cub is
a wizard also, for how else could he have killed a soldier who has known
war? Hold out his arms that I may finish him slowly.'
"So two of them held out my arms, and Bangu came up with his spear."
Saduko ceased speaking, not that his tale was done, but because his
voice choked in his throat. Indeed, seldom have I seen a man so moved.
He breathed in great gasps, the sweat poured from him, and his muscles
worked convulsively. I gave him a pannikin of water and he drank, then
he went on:
"Already the spear had begun to prick--look, here is the mark of
it"--and opening his kaross he pointed to a little white line just below
the breast-bone--"when a strange shadow thrown by the fire of the
burning huts came between Bangu and me, a shadow as that of a toad
standing on its hind legs. I looked round and saw that it was the
shadow of Zikali, whom I had seen once or twice. There he stood, though
whence he came I know not, wagging his great white head that sits on the
top of his body like a pumpkin on an ant-heap, rolling his big eyes and
"'A merry sight,' he cried in his deep voice that sounded like water in
a hollow cave. 'A merry sight, O Bangu, Chief of the Amakoba! Blood,
blood, plenty of blood! Fire, fire, plenty of fire! Wizards dead here,
there, and everywhere! Oh, a merry sight! I have seen many such; one
at the kraal of your grandmother, for instance--your grandmother the
great Inkosikazi, when myself I escaped with my life because I was so
old; but never do I remember a merrier than that which this moon shines
on,' and he pointed to the White Lady who just then broke through the
clouds. 'But, great Chief Bangu, lord loved by the son of Senzangakona,
brother of the Black One (Chaka) who has ridden hence on the assegai,
what is the meaning of this play?' and he pointed to me and to the two
soldiers who held out my little arms.
"'I kill the wizard's cub, Zikali, that is all,' answered Bangu.
"'I see, I see,' laughed Zikali. 'A gallant deed! You have butchered
the father and the mother, and now you would butcher the child who has
slain one of your grown warriors in fair fight. A very gallant deed,
well worthy of the chief of the Amakoba! Well, loose his spirit--only--'
He stopped and took a pinch of snuff from a box which he drew from a
slit in the lobe of his great ear.
"'Only what?' asked Bangu, hesitating.
"'Only I wonder, Bangu, what you will think of the world in which you
will find yourself before to-morrow's moon arises. Come back thence and
tell me, Bangu, for there are so many worlds beyond the sun, and I would
learn for certain which of them such a one as you inhabits: a man who
for hatred and for gain murders the father and the mother and then
butchers the child--the child that could slay a warrior who has seen
war--with the spear hot from his mother's heart.'
"'Do you mean that I shall die if I kill this lad?' shouted Bangu in a
"'What else?' answered Zikali, taking another pinch of snuff.
"'This, Wizard; that we will go together.'
"'Good, good!' laughed the dwarf. 'Let us go together. Long have I
wished to die, and what better companion could I find than Bangu, Chief
of the Amakoba, Slayer of Children, to guard me on a dark and terrible
road. Come, brave Bangu, come; kill me if you can,' and again he
laughed at him.
"Now, Macumazahn, the people of Bangu fell back muttering, for they
found this business horrible. Yes, even those who held my arms let go
"'What will happen to me, Wizard, if I spare the boy?' asked Bangu.
"Zikali stretched out his hand and touched the scratch that the assegai
had made in me here. Then he held up his finger red with my blood, and
looked at it in the light of the moon; yes, and tasted it with his
"'I think this will happen to you, Bangu,' he said. 'If you spare this
boy he will grow into a man who will kill you and many others one day.
But if you do not spare him I think that his spirit, working as spirits
can do, will kill you to-morrow. Therefore the question is, will you
live a while or will you die at once, taking me with you as your
companion? For you must not leave me behind, brother Bangu.'
"Now Bangu turned and walked away, stepping over the body of my mother,
and all his people walked away after him, so that presently Zikali the
Wise and Little and I were left alone.
"'What! have they gone?' said Zikali, lifting up his eyes from the
ground. 'Then we had better be going also, Son of Matiwane, lest he
should change his mind and come back. Live on, Son of Matiwane, that
you may avenge Matiwane.'"
"A nice tale," I said. "But what happened afterwards?"
"Zikali took me away and nurtured me at his kraal in the Black Kloof,
where he lived alone save for his servants, for in that kraal he would
suffer no woman to set foot, Macumazahn. He taught me much wisdom and
many secret things, and would have made a great doctor of me had I so
willed. But I willed it not who find spirits ill company, and there are
many of them about the Black Kloof, Macumazahn. So in the end he said:
'Go where your heart calls, and be a warrior, Saduko. But know this:
You have opened a door that can never be shut again, and across the
threshold of that door spirits will pass in and out for all your life,
whether you seek them or seek them not.'
"'It was you who opened the door, Zikali,' I answered angrily.
"'Mayhap,' said Zikali, laughing after his fashion, 'for I open when I
must and shut when I must. Indeed, in my youth, before the Zulus were a
people, they named me Opener of Doors; and now, looking through one of
those doors, I see something about you, O Son of Matiwane.'
"'What do you see, my father?' I asked.
"'I see two roads, Saduko: the Road of Medicine, that is the spirit
road, and the Road of Spears, that is the blood road. I see you
travelling on the Road of Medicine, that is my own road, Saduko, and
growing wise and great, till at last, far, far away, you vanish over the
precipice to which it leads, full of years and honour and wealth, feared
yet beloved by all men, white and black. Only that road you must travel
alone, since such wisdom may have no friends, and, above all, no woman
to share its secrets. Then I look at the Road of Spears and see you,
Saduko, travelling on that road, and your feet are red with blood, and
women wind their arms about your neck, and one by one your enemies go
down before you. You love much, and sin much for the sake of the love,
and she for whom you sin comes and goes and comes again. And the road
is short, Saduko, and near the end of it are many spirits; and though
you shut your eyes you see them, and though you fill your ears with clay
you hear them, for they are the ghosts of your slain. But the end of
your journeying I see not. Now choose which road you will, Son of
Matiwane, and choose swiftly, for I speak no more of this matter.'
"Then, Macumazahn, I thought a while of the safe and lonely path of
wisdom, also of the blood-red path of spears where I should find love
and war, and my youth rose up in me and--I chose the path of spears and
the love and the sin and the unknown death."
"A foolish choice, Saduko, supposing that there is any truth in this
tale of roads, which there is not."
"Nay, a wise one, Macumazahn, for since then I have seen Mameena and
know why I chose that path."
"Ah!" I said. "Mameena--I forgot her. Well, after all, perhaps there
is some truth in your tale of roads. When I have seen Mameena I will
tell you what I think."
"When you have seen Mameena, Macumazahn, you will say that the choice
was very wise. Well, Zikali, Opener of Doors, laughed loudly when he
heard it. 'The ox seeks the fat pasture, but the young bull the rough
mountainside where the heifers graze,' he said; 'and after all, a bull
is better than an ox. Now begin to travel your own road, Son of
Matiwane, and from time to time return to the Black Kloof and tell me
how it fares with you. I will promise you not to die before I know the
end of it.'
"Now, Macumazahn, I have told you things that hitherto have lived in my
own heart only. And, Macumazahn, Bangu is in ill favour with Panda,
whom he defies in his mountain, and I have a promise--never mind
how--that he who kills him will be called to no account and may keep his
cattle. Will you come with me and share those cattle, O
"Get thee behind me, Satan," I said in English, then added in Zulu: "I
don't know. If your story is true I should have no objection to helping
to kill Bangu; but I must learn lots more about this business first.
Meanwhile I am going on a shooting trip to-morrow with Umbezi the Fat,
and I like you, O Chooser of the Road of Spears and Blood. Will you be
my companion and earn the gun with two mouths in payment?"
"Inkoosi," he said, lifting his hand in salute with a flash of his dark
eyes, "you are generous, you honour me. What is there that I should
love better? Yet," he added, and his face fell, "first I must ask
Zikali the Little, Zikali my foster-father."
"Oh!" I said, "so you are still tied to the Wizard's girdle, are you?"
"Not so, Macumazahn; but I promised him not long ago that I would
undertake no enterprise, save that you know of, until I had spoken with
"How far off does Zikali live?" I asked Saduko.
"One day's journeying. Starting at sunrise I can be there by sunset."
"Good! Then I will put off the shooting for three days and come with
you if you think that this wonderful old dwarf will receive me."
"I believe that he will, Macumazahn, for this reason--he told me that I
should meet you and love you, and that you would be mixed up in my
"Then he poured moonshine into your gourd instead of beer," I answered.
"Would you keep me here till midnight listening to such foolishness when
we must start at dawn? Begone now and let me sleep."
"I go," he answered with a little smile. "But if this is so, O
Macumazana, why do you also wish to drink of the moonshine of Zikali?"
and he went.
Yet I did not sleep very well that night, for Saduko and his strange and
terrible story had taken a hold of my imagination. Also, for reasons of
my own, I greatly wished to see this Zikali, of whom I had heard a great
deal in past years. I wished further to find out if he was a common
humbug, like so many witch-doctors, this dwarf who announced that my
fortunes were mixed up with those of his foster-son, and who at least
could tell me something true or false about the history and position of
Bangu, a person for whom I had conceived a strong dislike, possibly
quite unjustified by the facts. But more than all did I wish to see
Mameena, whose beauty or talents produced so much impression upon the
native mind. Perhaps if I went to see Zikali she would be back at her
father's kraal before we started on our shooting trip.
Thus it was then that fate wove me and my doings into the web of some
very strange events; terrible, tragic and complete indeed as those of a
Greek play, as it has often done both before and since those days.
On the following morning I awoke, as a good hunter always should do,
just at that time when, on looking out of the wagon, nothing can be seen
but a little grey glint of light which he knows is reflected from the
horns of the cattle tied to the trek-tow. Presently, however, I saw
another glint of light which I guessed came from the spear of Saduko,
who was seated by the ashes of the cooking fire wrapped in his kaross of
wildcatskins. Slipping from the voorkisse, or driving-box, I came
behind him softly and touched him on the shoulder. He leapt up with a
start which revealed his nervous nature, then recognising me through the
soft grey gloom, said:
"You are early, Macumazahn."
"Of course," I answered; "am I not named Watcher-by-Night? Now let us
go to Umbezi and tell him that I shall be ready to start on our hunting
trip on the third morning from to-day."
So we went, to find that Umbezi was in a hut with his last wife and
asleep. Fortunately enough, however, as under the circumstances I did
not wish to disturb him, outside the hut we found the Old Cow, whose
sore ear had kept her very wide awake, who, for purposes of her own,
although etiquette did not allow her to enter the hut, was waiting for
her husband to emerge.
Having examined her wound and rubbed some ointment on it, with her I
left my message. Next I woke up my servant Scowl, and told him that I
was going on a short journey, and that he must guard all things until my
return; and while I did so, took a nip of raw rum and made ready a bag
of biltong, that is sun-dried flesh, and biscuits.
Then, taking with me a single-barrelled gun, that same little Purdey
rifle with which I shot the vultures on the Hill of Slaughter at
Dingaan's Kraal,* we started on foot, for I would not risk my only horse
on such a journey.
[*--For the story of this shooting of the vultures by Allan Quatermain,
see the book called "Marie."--EDITOR.]
A rough journey it proved to be indeed, over a series of bush-clad hills
that at their crests were covered with rugged stones among which no
horse could have travelled. Up and down these hills we went, and across
the valleys that divided them, following some path which I could not
see, for all that live-long day. I have always been held a good walker,
being by nature very light and active; but I am bound to say that my
companion taxed my powers to the utmost, for on he marched for hour
after hour, striding ahead of me at such a rate that at times I was
forced to break into a run to keep up with him. Although my pride would
not suffer me to complain, since as a matter of principle I would never
admit to a Kafir that he was my master at anything, glad enough was I
when, towards evening, Saduko sat himself down on a stone at the top of
a hill and said:
"Behold the Black Kloof, Macumazahn," which were almost the first words
he had uttered since we started.
Truly the spot was well named, for there, cut out by water from the
heart of a mountain in some primeval age, lay one of the most gloomy
places that ever I had beheld. It was a vast cleft in which granite
boulders were piled up fantastically, perched one upon another in great
columns, and upon its sides grew dark trees set sparsely among the
rocks. It faced towards the west, but the light of the sinking sun that
flowed up it served only to accentuate its vast loneliness, for it was a
big cleft, the best part of a mile wide at its mouth.
Up this dreary gorge we marched, mocked at by chattering baboons and
following a little path not a foot wide that led us at length to a large
hut and several smaller ones set within a reed fence and overhung by a
gigantic mass of rock that looked as though it might fall at any moment.
At the gate of the fence two natives of I know not what tribe, men of
fierce and forbidding appearance, suddenly sprang out and thrust their
spears towards my breast.
"Whom bring you here, Saduko?" asked one of them sternly.
"A white man that I vouch for," he answered. "Tell Zikali that we wait
"What need to tell Zikali that which he knows already?" said the sentry.
"Your food and that of your companion is already cooked in yonder hut.
Enter, Saduko, with him for whom you vouch."
So we went into the hut and ate, also I washed myself, for it was a
beautifully clean hut, and the stools, wooden bowls, etc., were finely
carved out of red ivory wood, this work, Saduko informed me, being done
by Zikali's own hand. just as we were finishing our meal a messenger
came to tell us that Zikali waited our presence. We followed him across
an open space to a kind of door in the tall reed fence, passing which I
set eyes for the first time upon the famous old witch-doctor of whom so
many tales were told.
Certainly he was a curious sight in those strange surroundings, for they
were very strange, and I think their complete simplicity added to the
effect. In front of us was a kind of courtyard with a black floor made
of polished ant-heap earth and cow-dung, two-thirds of which at least
was practically roofed in by the huge over-hanging mass of rock whereof
I have spoken, its arch bending above at a height of not less than sixty
or seventy feet from the ground. Into this great, precipice-backed
cavity poured the fierce light of the setting sun, turning it and all
within it, even the large straw hut in the background, to the deep hue
of blood. Seeing the wonderful effect of the sunset in that dark and
forbidding place, it occurred to me at once that the old wizard must
have chosen this moment to receive us because of its impressiveness.
Then I forgot these scenic accessories in the sight of the man himself.
There he sat on a stool in front of his hut, quite unattended, and
wearing only a cloak of leopard skins open in front, for he was
unadorned with the usual hideous trappings of a witch-doctor, such as
snake-skins, human bones, bladders full of unholy compounds, and so
What a man he was, if indeed he could be called quite human. His
stature, though stout, was only that of a child; his head was enormous,
and from it plaited white hair fell down on to his shoulders. His eyes
were deep and sunken, his face was broad and very stern. Except for
this snow-white hair, however, he did not look ancient, for his flesh
was firm and plump, and the skin on his cheeks and neck unwrinkled,
which suggested to me that the story of his great antiquity was false.
A man who was over a hundred years old, for instance, surely could not
boast such a beautiful set of teeth, for even at that distance I could
see them gleaming. On the other hand, evidently middle age was far
behind him; indeed, from his appearance it was quite impossible to guess
even approximately the number of his years. There he sat, red in the
red light, perfectly still, and staring without a blink of his eyes at
the furious ball of the setting sun, as an eagle is said to be able to
Saduko advanced, and I walked after him. My stature is not great, and I
have never considered myself an imposing person, but somehow I do not
think that I ever felt more insignificant than on this occasion. The
tall and splendid native beside, or rather behind whom I walked, the
gloomy magnificence of the place, the blood-red light in which it was
bathed, and the solemn, solitary, little figure with wisdom stamped upon
its face before me, all tended to induce humility in a man not naturally
vain. I felt myself growing smaller and smaller, both in a moral and a
physical sense; I wished that my curiosity had not prompted me to seek
an interview with yonder uncanny being.
Well, it was too late to retreat; indeed, Saduko was already standing
before the dwarf and lifting his right arm above his head as he gave him
the salute of "Makosi!"* whereon, feeling that something was expected of
me, I took off my shabby cloth hat and bowed, then, remembering my white
man's pride, replaced it on my head.
[*--"Makosi", the plural of "Inkoosi", is the salute given to Zulu
wizards, because they are not one but many, since in them (as in the
possessed demoniac in the Bible) dwell an unnumbered horde of
The wizard suddenly seemed to become aware of our presence, for, ceasing
his contemplation of the sinking sun, he scanned us both with his slow,
thoughtful eyes, which somehow reminded me of those of a chameleon,
although they were not prominent, but, as I have said, sunken.
"Greeting, son Saduko!" he said in a deep, rumbling voice. "Why are you
back here so soon, and why do you bring this flea of a white man with
Now this was more than I could bear, so without waiting for my
companion's answer I broke in:
"You give me a poor name, O Zikali. What would you think of me if I
called you a beetle of a wizard?"
"I should think you clever," he answered after reflection, "for after
all I must look something like a beetle with a white head. But why
should you mind being compared to a flea? A flea works by night and so
do you, Macumazahn; a flea is active and so are you; a flea is very hard
to catch and kill and so are you; and lastly a flea drinks its fill of
that which it desires, the blood of man and beast, and so you have done,
do, and will, Macumazahn," and he broke into a great laugh that rolled
and echoed about the rocky roof above.
Once, long years before, I had heard that laugh, when I was a prisoner
in Dingaan's kraal, after the massacre of Retief and his company, and I
recognised it again.
While I was searching for some answer in the same vein, and not finding
it, though I thought of plenty afterwards, ceasing of a sudden from his
unseemly mirth, he went on:
"Do not let us waste time in jests, for it is a precious thing, and
there is but little of it left for any one of us. Your business, son
"Baba!" (that is the Zulu for father), said Saduko, "this white Inkoosi,
for, as you know well enough, he is a chief by nature, a man of a great
heart and doubtless of high blood [this, I believe, is true, for I have
been told that my ancestors were more or less distinguished, although,
if this is so, their talents did not lie in the direction of
money-making], has offered to take me upon a shooting expedition and to
give me a good gun with two mouths in payment of my services. But I
told him I could not engage in any fresh venture without your leave,
and--he is come to see whether you will grant it, my father."
"Indeed," answered the dwarf, nodding his great head. "This clever
white man has taken the trouble of a long walk in the sun to come here
to ask me whether he may be allowed the privilege of presenting you with
a weapon of great value in return for a service that any man of your
years in Zululand would love to give for nothing in such company?
"Son Saduko, because my eye-holes are hollow, do you think it your part
to try to fill them up with dust? Nay, the white man has come because
he desires to see him who is named Opener-of-Roads, of whom he heard a
great deal when he was but a lad, and to judge whether in truth he has
wisdom, or is but a common cheat. And you have come to learn whether or
no your friendship with him will be fortunate; whether or no he will aid
you in a certain enterprise that you have in your mind."
"True, O Zikali," I said. "That is so far as I am concerned."
But Saduko answered nothing.
"Well," went on the dwarf, "since I am in the mood I will try to answer
both your questions, for I should be a poor Nyanga" [that is doctor] "if
I did not when you have travelled so far to ask them. Moreover, O
Macumazana, be happy, for I seek no fee who, having made such fortune as
I need long ago, before your father was born across the Black Water,
Macumazahn, no longer work for a reward--unless it be from the hand of
one of the House of Senzangakona--and therefore, as you may guess, work
Then he clapped his hands, and a servant appeared from somewhere behind
the hut, one of those fierce-looking men who had stopped us at the gate.
He saluted the dwarf and stood before him in silence and with bowed
"Make two fires," said Zikali, "and give me my medicine."
The man fetched wood, which he built into two little piles in front of
Zikali. These piles he fired with a brand brought from behind the hut.
Then he handed his master a catskin bag.
"Withdraw," said Zikali, "and return no more till I summon you, for I am
about to prophesy. If, however, I should seem to die, bury me to-morrow
in the place you know of and give this white man a safe-conduct from my
The man saluted again and went without a word.
When he had gone the dwarf drew from the bag a bundle of twisted roots,
also some pebbles, from which he selected two, one white and the other
"Into this stone," he said, holding up the white pebble so that the
light from the fire shone on it--since, save for the lingering red glow,
it was now growing dark--"into this stone I am about to draw your
spirit, O Macumazana; and into this one"--and he held up the black
pebble--"yours, O Son of Matiwane. Why do you look frightened, O brave
White Man, who keep saying in your heart, 'He is nothing but an ugly old
Kafir cheat'? If I am a cheat, why do you look frightened? Is your
spirit already in your throat, and does it choke you, as this little
stone might do if you tried to swallow it?" and he burst into one of his
great, uncanny laughs.
I tried to protest that I was not in the least frightened, but failed,
for, in fact, I suppose my nerves were acted on by his suggestion, and I
did feel exactly as though that stone were in my throat, only coming
upwards, not going downwards. "Hysteria," thought I to myself, "the
result of being overtired," and as I could not speak, sat still as
though I treated his gibes with silent contempt.
"Now," went on the dwarf, "perhaps I shall seem to die; and if so do not
touch me lest you should really die. Wait till I wake up again and tell
you what your spirits have told me. Or if I do not wake up--for a time
must come when I shall go on sleeping--well--for as long as I have
lived--after the fires are quite out, not before, lay your hands upon my
breast; and if you find me turning cold, get you gone to some other
Nyanga as fast as the spirits of this place will let you, O ye who would
peep into the future."
As he spoke he threw a big handful of the roots that I have mentioned on
to each of the fires, whereon tall flames leapt up from them, very
unholy-looking flames which were followed by columns of dense, white
smoke that emitted a most powerful and choking odour quite unlike
anything that I had ever smelt before. It seemed to penetrate all
through me, and that accursed stone in my throat grew as large as an
apple and felt as though someone were poking it upwards with a stick.
Next he threw the white pebble into the right-hand fire, that which was
opposite to me, saying:
"Enter, Macumazahn, and look," and the black pebble he threw into the
left-hand fire saying: "Enter, Son of Matiwane, and look. Then come
back both of you and make report to me, your master."
Now it is a fact that as he said these words I experienced a sensation
as though a stone had come out of my throat; so readily do our nerves
deceive us that I even thought it grated against my teeth as I opened my
mouth to give it passage. At any rate the choking was gone, only now I
felt as though I were quite empty and floating on air, as though I were
not I, in short, but a mere shell of a thing, all of which doubtless was
caused by the stench of those burning roots. Still I could look and
take note, for I distinctly saw Zikali thrust his huge head, first into
the smoke of what I will call my fire, next into that of Saduko's fire,
and then lean back, blowing the stuff in clouds from his mouth and
nostrils. Afterwards I saw him roll over on to his side and lie quite
still with his arms outstretched; indeed, I noticed that one of his
fingers seemed to be in the left-hand fire and reflected that it would
be burnt off. In this, however, I must have been mistaken, since I
observed subsequently that it was not even scorched.
Thus Zikali lay for a long while till I began to wonder whether he were
not really dead. Dead enough he seemed to be, for no corpse could have
stayed more stirless. But that night I could not keep my thoughts fixed
on Zikali or anything. I merely noted these circumstances in a
mechanical way, as might one with whom they had nothing whatsoever to
do. They did not interest me at all, for there appeared to be nothing
in me to be interested, as I gathered according to Zikali, because I was
not there, but in a warmer place than I hope ever to occupy, namely, in
the stone in that unpleasant-looking, little right-hand fire.
So matters went as they might in a dream. The sun had sunk completely,
not even an after-glow was left. The only light remaining was that from
the smouldering fires, which just sufficed to illumine the bulk of
Zikali, lying on his side, his squat shape looking like that of a dead
hippopotamus calf. What was left of my consciousness grew heartily sick
of the whole affair; I was tired of being so empty.
At length the dwarf stirred. He sat up, yawned, sneezed, shook himself,
and began to rake among the burning embers of my fire with his naked
hand. Presently he found the white stone, which was now red-hot--at any
rate it glowed as though it were--and after examining it for a moment
finally popped it into his mouth! Then he hunted in the other fire for
the black stone, which he treated in a similar fashion. The next thing
I remember was that the fires, which had died away almost to nothing,
were burning very brightly again, I suppose because someone had put fuel
on them, and Zikali was speaking.
"Come here, O Macumazana and O Son of Matiwane," he said, "and I will
repeat to you what your spirits have been telling me."
We drew near into the light of the fires, which for some reason or other
was extremely vivid. Then he spat the white stone from his mouth into
his big hand, and I saw that now it was covered with lines and patches
like a bird's egg.
"You cannot read the signs?" he said, holding it towards me; and when I
shook my head went on: "Well, I can, as you white men read a book. All
your history is written here, Macumazahn; but there is no need to tell
you that, since you know it, as I do well enough, having learned it in
other days, the days of Dingaan, Macumazahn. All your future, also, a
very strange future," and he scanned the stone with interest. "Yes,
yes; a wonderful life, and a noble death far away. But of these matters
you have not asked me, and therefore I may not tell them even if I
wished, nor would you believe if I did. It is of your hunting trip that
you have asked me, and my answer is that if you seek your own comfort
you will do well not to go. A pool in a dry river-bed; a buffalo bull
with the tip of one horn shattered. Yourself and the bull in the pool.
Saduko, yonder, also in the pool, and a little half-bred man with a gun
jumping about upon the bank. Then a litter made of boughs and you in
it, and the father of Mameena walking lamely at your side. Then a hut
and you in it, and the maiden called Mameena sitting at your side.
"Macumazahn, your spirit has written on this stone that you should
beware of Mameena, since she is more dangerous than any buffalo. If you
are wise you will not go out hunting with Umbezi, although it is true
that hunt will not cost you your life. There, away, Stone, and take
your writings with you!" and as he spoke he jerked his arm and I heard
something whiz past my face.
Next he spat out the black stone and examined it in similar fashion.
"Your expedition will be successful, Son of Matiwane," he said.
"Together with Macumazahn you will win many cattle at the cost of sundry
lives. But for the rest--well, you did not ask me of it, did you?
Also, I have told you something of that story before to-day. Away,
Stone!" and the black pebble followed the white out into the surrounding
We sat quite still until the dwarf broke the deep silence with one of
his great laughs.
"My witchcraft is done," he said. "A poor tale, was it not? Well, hunt
for those stones to-morrow and read the rest of it if you can. Why did
you not ask me to tell you everything while I was about it, White Man?
It would have interested you more, but now it has all gone from me back
into your spirit with the stones. Saduko, get you to sleep.
Macumazahn, you who are a Watcher-by-Night, come and sit with me awhile
in my hut, and we will talk of other things. All this business of the
stones is nothing more than a Kafir trick, is it, Macumazahn? When you
meet the buffalo with the split horn in the pool of a dried river,
remember it is but a cheating trick, and now come into my hut and drink
a kamba [bowl] of beer and let us talk of other things more
So he took me into the hut, which was a fine one, very well lighted by a
fire in its centre, and gave me Kafir beer to drink, that I swallowed
gratefully, for my throat was dry and still felt as though it had been
"Who are you, Father?" I asked point-blank when I had taken my seat upon
a low stool, with my back resting against the wall of the hut, and lit
He lifted his big head from the pile of karosses on which he was lying
and peered at me across the fire.
"My name is Zikali, which means 'Weapons,' White Man. You know as much
as that, don't you?" he answered. "My father 'went down' so long ago
that his does not matter. I am a dwarf, very ugly, with some learning,
as we of the Black House understand it, and very old. Is there anything
else you would like to learn?"
"Yes, Zikali; how old?"
"There, there, Macumazahn, as you know, we poor Kafirs cannot count very
well. How old? Well, when I was young I came down towards the coast
from the Great River, you call it the Zambesi, I think, with Undwandwe,
who lived in the north in those days. They have forgotten it now
because it is some time ago, and if I could write I would set down the
history of that march, for we fought some great battles with the people
who used to live in this country. Afterwards I was the friend of the
Father of the Zulus, he whom they still call Inkoosi Umkulu--the mighty
chief--you may have heard tell of him. I carved that stool on which you
sit for him and he left it back to me when he died."
"Inkoosi Umkulu!" I exclaimed. "Why, they say he lived hundreds of
"Do they, Macumazahn? If so, have I not told you that we black people
cannot count as well as you do? Really it was only the other day.
Anyhow, after his death the Zulus began to maltreat us Undwandwe and the
Quabies and the Tetwas with us--you may remember that they called us the
Amatefula, making a mock of us. So I quarrelled with the Zulus and
especially with Chaka, he whom they named 'Uhlanya' [the Mad One]. You
see, Macumazahn, it pleased him to laugh at me because I am not as other
men are. He gave me a name which means
'The-thing-which-should-never-have-been-born.' I will not speak that
name, it is secret to me, it may not pass my lips. Yet at times he
sought my wisdom, and I paid him back for his names, for I gave him very
ill counsel, and he took it, and I brought him to his death, although
none ever saw my finger in that business. But when he was dead at the
hands of his brothers Dingaan and Umhlangana and of Umbopa, Umbopa who
also had a score to settle with him, and his body was cast out of the
kraal like that of an evil-doer, why I, who because I was a dwarf was
not sent with the men against Sotshangana, went and sat on it at night
and laughed thus," and he broke into one of his hideous peals of
"I laughed thrice: once for my wives whom he had taken; once for my
children whom he had slain; and once for the mocking name that he had
given me. Then I became the counsellor of Dingaan, whom I hated worse
than I had hated Chaka, for he was Chaka again without his greatness,
and you know the end of Dingaan, for you had a share in that war, and of
Umhlangana, his brother and fellow-murderer, whom I counselled Dingaan
to slay. This I did through the lips of the old Princess Menkabayi,
Jama's daughter, Senzangakona's sister, the Oracle before whom all men
bowed, causing her to say that 'This land of the Zulus cannot be ruled
by a crimson assegai.' For, Macumazahn, it was Umhlangana who first
struck Chaka with the spear. Now Panda reigns, the last of the sons of
Senzangakona, my enemy, Panda the Fool, and I hold my hand from Panda
because he tried to save the life of a child of mine whom Chaka slew.
But Panda has sons who are as Chaka was, and against them I work as I
worked against those who went before them."
"Why?" I asked.
"Why? Oh! if I were to tell you all my story you would understand
why, Macumazahn. Well, perhaps I will one day." (Here I may state that
as a matter of fact he did, and a very wonderful tale it is, but as it
has nothing to do with this history I will not write it here.)
"I dare say," I answered. "Chaka and Dingaan and Umhlangana and the
others were not nice people. But another question. Why do you tell me
all this, O Zikali, seeing that were I but to repeat it to a
talking-bird you would be smelt out and a single moon would not die
before you do?"
"Oh! I should be smelt out and killed before one moon dies, should I?
Then I wonder that this has not happened during all the moons that are
gone. Well, I tell the story to you, Macumazahn, who have had so much
to do with the tale of the Zulus since the days of Dingaan, because I
wish that someone should know it and perhaps write it down when
everything is finished. Because, too, I have just been reading your
spirit and see that it is still a white spirit, and that you will not
whisper it to a 'talking-bird.'"
Now I leant forward and looked at him.
"What is the end at which you aim, O Zikali?" I asked. "You are not one
who beats the air with a stick; on whom do you wish the stick to fall at
"On whom?" he answered in a new voice, a low, hissing voice. "Why, on
these proud Zulus, this little family of men who call themselves the
'People of Heaven,' and swallow other tribes as the great tree-snake
swallows kids and small bucks, and when it is fat with them cries to the
world, 'See how big I am! Everything is inside of me.' I am a Ndwande,
one of those peoples whom it pleases the Zulus to call 'Amatefula'--poor
hangers-on who talk with an accent, nothing but bush swine. Therefore I
would see the swine tusk the hunter. Or, if that may not be, I would
see the black hunter laid low by the rhinoceros, the white rhinoceros of
your race, Macumazahn, yes, even if it sets its foot upon the Ndwande
boar as well. There, I have told you, and this is the reason that I
live so long, for I will not die until these things have come to pass,
as come to pass they will. What did Chaka, Senzangakona's son, say when
the little red assegai, the assegai with which he slew his mother, aye
and others, some of whom were near to me, was in his liver? What did he
say to Mbopa and the princes? Did he not say that he heard the feet of
a great white people running, of a people who should stamp the Zulus
flat? Well, I, 'The-thing-who-should-not-have-been-born,' live on until
that day comes, and when it comes I think that you and I, Macumazahn,
shall not be far apart, and that is why I have opened out my heart to
you, I who have knowledge of the future. There, I speak no more of
these things that are to be, who perchance have already said too much of
them. Yet do not forget my words. Or forget them if you will, for I
shall remind you of them, Macumazahn, when the feet of your people have
avenged the Ndwandes and others whom it pleases the Zulus to treat as
Now, this strange man, who had sat up in his excitement, shook his long
white hair which, after the fashion of wizards, be wore plaited into
thin ropes, till it hung like a veil about him, hiding his broad face
and deep eyes. Presently he spoke again through this veil of hair,
"You are wondering, Macumazahn, what Saduko has to do with all these
great events that are to be. I answer that he must play his part in
them; not a very great part, but still a part, and it is for this
purpose that I saved him as a child from Bangu, Dingaan's man, and
reared him up to be a warrior, although, since I cannot lie, I warned
him that he would do well to leave spears alone and follow after wisdom.
Well, he will slay Bangu, who now has quarrelled with Panda, and a
woman will come into the story, one Mameena, and that woman will bring
about war between the sons of Panda, and from this war shall spring the
ruin of the Zulus, for he who wins will be an evil king to them and
bring down on them the wrath of a mightier race. And so
'The-thing-that-should-not-have-been-born' and the Ndwandes and the
Quabies and Twetwas, whom it has pleased the conquering Zulus to name
'Amatefula,' shall be avenged. Yes, yes, my Spirit tells me all these
things, and they are true."
"And what of Saduko, my friend and your fosterling?"
"Saduko, your friend and my fosterling, will take his appointed road,
Macumazahn, as I shall and you will. What more could he desire, seeing
it is that which he has chosen? He will take his road and he will play
the part which the Great-Great has prepared for him. Seek not to know
more. Why should you, since Time will tell you the story? And now go
to rest, Macumazahn, as I must who am old and feeble. And when it
pleases you to visit me again, we will talk further. Meanwhile,
remember always that I am nothing but an old Kafir cheat who pretends to
a knowledge that belongs to no man. Remember it especially, Macumazahn,
when you meet a buffalo with a split horn in the pool of a dried-up
river, and afterwards, when a woman named Mameena makes a certain offer
to you, which you may be tempted to accept. Good night to you,
Watcher-by-Night with the white heart and the strange destiny, good
night to you, and try not to think too hardly of the old Kafir cheat who
just now is called 'Opener-of-Roads.' My servant waits without to lead
you to your hut, and if you wish to be back at Umbezi's kraal by
nightfall to-morrow, you will do well to start ere sunrise, since, as
you found in coming, Saduko, although he may be a fool, is a very good
walker, and you do not like to be left behind, Macumazahn, do you?"
So I rose to go, but as I went some impulse seemed to take him and he
called me back and made me sit down again.
"Macumazahn," he said, "I would add a word. When you were quite a lad
you came into this country with Retief, did you not?"
"Yes," I answered slowly, for this matter of the massacre of Retief is
one of which I have seldom cared to speak, for sundry reasons, although
I have made a record of it in writing.* Even my friends Sir Henry
Curtis and Captain Good have heard little of the part I played in that
tragedy. "But what do you know of that business, Zikali?"
[*--Published under the title of "Marie."--EDITOR.]
"All that there is to know, I think, Macumazahn, seeing that I was at
the bottom of it, and that Dingaan killed those Boers on my advice--just
as he killed Chaka and Umhlangana."
"You cold-blooded old murderer--" I began, but he interrupted me at
"Why do you throw evil names at me, Macumazahn, as I threw the stone of
your fate at you just now? Why am I a murderer because I brought about
the death of some white men that chanced to be your friends, who had
come here to cheat us black folk of our country?"
"Was it for this reason that you brought about their deaths, Zikali?"
I asked, staring him in the face, for I felt that he was lying to me.
"Not altogether, Macumazahn," he answered, letting his eyes, those
strange eyes that could look at the sun without blinking, fall before my
gaze. "Have I not told you that I hate the House of Senzangakona? And
when Retief and his companions were killed, did not the spilling of
their blood mean war to the end between the Zulus and the White Men?
Did it not mean the death of Dingaan and of thousands of his people,
which is but a beginning of deaths? Now do you understand?"
"I understand that you are a very wicked man," I answered with
"At least you should not say so, Macumazahn," he replied in a new
voice, one with the ring of truth in it.
"Because I saved your life on that day. You escaped alone of the White
Men, did you not? And you never could understand why, could you?"
"No, I could not, Zikali. I put it down to what you would call 'the
"Well, I will tell you. Those spirits of yours wore my kaross," and he
laughed. "I saw you with the Boers, and saw, too, that you were of
another people--the people of the English. You may have heard at the
time that I was doctoring at the Great Place, although I kept out of the
way and we did not meet, or at least you never knew that we met, for you
were--asleep. Also I pitied your youth, for, although you do not
believe it, I had a little bit of heart left in those days. Also I knew
that we should come together again in the after years, as you see we
have done to-day and shall often do until the end. So I told Dingaan
that whoever died you must be spared, or he would bring up the 'people
of George' [i.e. the English] to avenge you, and your ghost would enter
into him and pour out a curse upon him. He believed me who did not
understand that already so many curses were gathered about his head that
one more or less made no matter. So you see you were spared,
Macumazahn, and afterwards you helped to pour out a curse upon Dingaan
without becoming a ghost, which is the reason why Panda likes you so
well to-day, Panda, the enemy of Dingaan, his brother. You remember the
woman who helped you? Well, I made her do so. How did it go with you
afterwards, Macumazahn, with you and the Boer maiden across the Buffalo
River, to whom you were making love in those days?"
"Never mind how it went," I replied, springing up, for the old wizard's
talk had stirred sad and bitter memories in my heart. "That time is
"Is it, Macumazahn? Now, from the look upon your face I should have
said that it was still very much alive, as things that happened in our
youth have a way of keeping alive. But doubtless I am mistaken, and it
is all as dead as Dingaan, and as Retief, and as the others, your
companions. At least, although you do not believe it, I saved your life
on that red day, for my own purposes, of course, not because one white
life was anything among so many in my count. And now go to rest,
Macumazahn, go to rest, for although your heart has been awakened by
memories this evening, I promise that you shall sleep well to-night,"
and throwing the long hair back off his eyes he looked at me keenly,
wagging his big head to and fro, and burst into another of his great
So I went. But, ah! as I went I wept.
Anyone who knew all that story would understand why. But this is not
the place to tell it, that tale of my first love and of the terrible
events which befell us in the time of Dingaan. Still, as I say, I have
written it down, and perhaps one day it will be read.
I slept very well that night, I suppose because I was so dog-tired I
could not help it; but next day, on our long walk back to Umbezi's
kraal, I thought a great deal.
Without doubt I had seen and heard very strange things, both of the past
and the present--things that I could not in the least understand.
Moreover, they were mixed up with all sorts of questions of high Zulu
policy, and threw a new light upon events that happened to me and others
in my youth.
Now, in the clear sunlight, was the time to analyse these things, and
this I did in the most logical fashion I could command, although without
the slightest assistance from Saduko, who, when I asked him questions,
merely shrugged his shoulders.
These questions, he said, did not interest him; I had wished to see the
magic of Zikali, and Zikali had been pleased to show me some very good
magic, quite of his best indeed. Also he had conversed alone with me
afterwards, doubtless on high matters--so high that he, Saduko, was not
admitted to share the conversation--which was an honour he accorded to
very few. I could form my own conclusions in the light of the White
Man's wisdom, which everyone knew was great.
I replied shortly that I could, for Saduko's tone irritated me. Of
course, the truth was that he felt aggrieved at being sent off to bed
like a little boy while his foster-father, the old dwarf, made
confidences to me. One of Saduko's faults was that he had always a very
good opinion of himself. Also he was by nature terribly jealous, even
in little things, as the readers of his history, if any, will learn.
We trudged on for several hours in silence, broken at length by my
"Do you still mean to go on a shooting expedition with Umbezi, Inkoosi?"
he asked, "or are you afraid?"
"Of what should I be afraid?" I answered tartly.
"Of the buffalo with the split horn, of which Zikali told you. What
Now, I fear I used strong language about the buffalo with the split
horn, a beast in which I declared I had no belief whatsoever, either
with or without its accessories of dried river-beds and water-holes.
"If all this old woman's talk has made you afraid, however," I added,
"you can stop at the kraal with Mameena."
"Why should the talk make me afraid, Macumazahn? Zikali did not say
that this evil spirit of a buffalo would hurt me. If I fear, it is
for you, seeing that if you are hurt you may not be able to go with me
to look for Bangu's cattle."
"Oh!" I replied sarcastically; "it seems that you are somewhat selfish,
friend Saduko, since it is of your welfare and not of my safety that you
"If I were as selfish as you seem to believe, Inkoosi, should I advise
you to stop with your wagons, and thereby lose the good gun with two
mouths that you have promised me? Still, it is true that I should like
well enough to stay at Umbezi's kraal with Mameena, especially if Umbezi
Now, as there is nothing more uninteresting than to listen to other
people's love affairs, and as I saw that with the slightest
encouragement Saduko was ready to tell me all the history of his
courtship over again, I did not continue the argument. So we finished
our journey in silence, and arrived at Umbezi's kraal a little after
sundown, to find, to the disappointment of both of us, that Mameena was
Upon the following morning we started on our shooting expedition, the
party consisting of myself, my servant Scowl, who, as I think I said,
hailed from the Cape and was half a Hottentot; Saduko; the merry old
Zulu, Umbezi, and a number of his men to serve as bearers and beaters.
It proved a very successful trip--that is, until the end of it--for in
those days the game in this part of the country was extremely plentiful.
Before the end of the second week I killed four elephants, two of them
with large tusks, while Saduko, who soon developed into a very fair
shot, bagged another with the double-barrelled gun that I had promised
him. Also, Umbezi--how, I have never discovered, for the thing partook
of the nature of a miracle--managed to slay an elephant cow with fair
ivories, using the old rifle that went off at half-cock.
Never have I seen a man, black or white, so delighted as was that
vainglorious Kafir. For whole hours he danced and sang and took snuff
and saluted with his hand, telling me the story of his deed over and
over again, no single version of which tale agreed with the other. He
took a new title also, that meant "Eater-up-of-Elephants"; he allowed
one of his men to "bonga"--that is, praise--him all through the night,
preventing us from getting a wink of sleep, until at last the poor
fellow dropped in a kind of fit from exhaustion, and so forth. It
really was very amusing until it became a bore.
Besides the elephants we killed lots of other things, including two
lions, which I got almost with a right and left, and three white
rhinoceroses, that now, alas! are nearly extinct. At last, towards the
end of the third week, we had as much as our men could carry in the
shape of ivory, rhinoceros horns, skins and sun-dried buckflesh, or
biltong, and determined to start back for Umbezi's kraal next day.
Indeed, this could not be long delayed, as our powder and lead were
running low; for in those days, it will be remembered, breechloaders had
not come in, and ammunition, therefore, had to be carried in bulk.
To tell the truth, I was very glad that our trip had come to such a
satisfactory conclusion, for, although I would not admit it even to
myself, I could not get rid of a kind of sneaking dread lest after all
there might be something in the old dwarf's prophecy about a
disagreeable adventure with a buffalo which was in store for me. Well,
as it chanced, we had not so much as seen a buffalo, and as the road
which we were going to take back to the kraal ran over high, bare
country that these animals did not frequent, there was now little
prospect of our doing so--all of which, of course, showed what I already
knew, that only weak-headed superstitious idiots would put the slightest
faith in the drivelling nonsense of deceiving or self-deceived Kafir
medicine-men. These things, indeed, I pointed out with much vigour to
Saduko before we turned in on the last night of the hunt.
Saduko listened in silence and said nothing at all, except that he would
not keep me up any longer, as I must be tired.
Now, whatever may be the reason for it, my experience in life is that it
is never wise to brag about anything. At any rate, on a hunting trip,
to come to a particular instance, wait until you are safe at home till
you begin to do so. Of the truth of this ancient adage I was now
destined to experience a particularly fine and concrete example.
The place where we had camped was in scattered bush overlooking a great
extent of dry reeds, that in the wet season was doubtless a swamp fed by
a small river which ran into it on the side opposite to our camp.
During the night I woke up, thinking that I heard some big beasts moving
in these reeds; but as no further sounds reached my ears I went to sleep
Shortly after dawn I was awakened by a voice calling me, which in a hazy
fashion I recognised as that of Umbezi.
"Macumazahn," said the voice in a hoarse whisper, "the reeds below us
are full of buffalo. Get up. Get up at once."
"What for?" I answered. "If the buffalo came into the reeds they will
go out of them. We do not want meat."
"No, Macumazahn; but I want their hides. Panda, the King, has demanded
fifty shields of me, and without killing oxen that I can ill spare I
have not the skins whereof to make them. Now, these buffalo are in a
trap. This swamp is like a dish with one mouth. They cannot get out at
the sides of the dish, and the mouth by which they came in is very
narrow. If we station ourselves at either side of it we can kill many
By this time I was thoroughly awake and had arisen from my blankets.
Throwing a kaross over my shoulders, I left the hut, made of boughs, in
which I was sleeping and walked a few paces to the crest of a rocky
ridge, whence I could see the dry vlei below. Here the mists of dawn
still clung, but from it rose sounds of grunts, bellows and tramplings
which I, an old hunter, could not mistake. Evidently a herd of buffalo,
one or two hundred of them, had established themselves in those reeds.
Just then my bastard servant, Scowl, and Saduko joined us, both of them
full of excitement.
It appeared that Scowl, who never seemed to sleep at any natural time,
had seen the buffalo entering the reeds, and estimated their number at
two or three hundred. Saduko had examined the cleft through which they
passed, and reported it to be so narrow that we could kill any number of
them as they rushed out to escape.
"Quite so. I understand," I said. "Well, my opinion is that we had
better let them escape. Only four of us, counting Umbezi, are armed
with guns, and assegais are not of much use against buffalo. Let them
go, I say."
Umbezi, thinking of a cheap raw material for the shields which had been
requisitioned by the King, who would surely be pleased if they were made
of such a rare and tough hide as that of buffalo, protested violently,
and Saduko, either to please one whom he hoped might be his
father-in-law or from sheer love of sport, for which he always had a
positive passion, backed him up. Only Scowl--whose dash of Hottentot
blood made him cunning and cautious--took my side, pointing out that we
were very short of powder and that buffalo "ate up much lead." At last
"The lord Macumazana is our captain; we must obey him, although it is a
pity. But doubtless the prophesying of Zikali weighs upon his mind, so
there is nothing to be done."
"Zikali!" exclaimed Umbezi. "What has the old dwarf to do with this
"Never mind what he has or has not to do with it," I broke in, for
although I do not think that he meant them as a taunt, but merely as a
statement of fact, Saduko's words stung me to the quick, especially as
my conscience told me that they were not altogether without foundation.
"We will try to kill some of these buffalo," I went on, "although,
unless the herd should get bogged, which is not likely, as the swamp is
very dry, I do not think that we can hope for more than eight or ten at
the most, which won't be of much use for shields. Come, let us make a
plan. We have no time to lose, for I think they will begin to move
again before the sun is well up."
Half an hour later the four of us who were armed with guns were posted
behind rocks on either side of the steep, natural roadway cut by water,
which led down to the vlei, and with us some of Umbezi's men. That
chief himself was at my side--a post of honour which he had insisted
upon taking. To tell the truth, I did not dissuade him, for I thought
that I should be safer so than if he were opposite to me, since, even if
the old rifle did not go off of its own accord, Umbezi, when excited,
was a most uncertain shot. The herd of buffalo appeared to have lain
down in the reeds, so, being careful to post ourselves first, we sent
three of the native bearers to the farther side of the vlei, with
instructions to rouse the beasts by shouting. The remainder of the
Zulus--there were ten or a dozen of them armed with stabbing spears--we
kept with us.
But what did these scoundrels do? Instead of disturbing the herd by
making a noise, as we told them, for some reason best known to
themselves--I expect it was because they were afraid to go into the
vlei, where they might meet the horn of a buffalo at any moment--they
fired the dry reeds in three or four places at once, and this, if you
please, with a strong wind blowing from them to us. In a minute or two
the farther side of the swamp was a sheet of crackling flame that gave
off clouds of dense white smoke. Then pandemonium began.
The sleeping buffalo leapt to their feet, and, after a few moments of
indecision, crashed towards us, the whole huge herd of them, snorting
and bellowing like mad things. Seeing what was about to happen, I
nipped behind a big boulder, while Scowl shinned up a mimosa with the
swiftness of a cat and, heedless of its thorns, sat himself in an
eagle's nest at the top. The Zulus with the spears bolted to take cover
where they could. What became of Saduko I did not see, but old Umbezi,
bewildered with excitement, jumped into the exact middle of the roadway,
"They come! They come! Charge, buffalo folk, if you will. The
Eater-up-of-Elephants awaits you!"
"You etceterad old fool!" I shouted, but got no farther, for just at
this moment the first of the buffalo, which I could see was an enormous
bull, probably the leader of the herd, accepted Umbezi's invitation and
came, with its nose stuck straight out in front of it. Umbezi's gun
went off, and next instant he went up. Through the smoke I saw his
black bulk in the air, and then heard it alight with a thud on the top
of the rock behind which I was crouching.
"Exit Umbezi," I said to myself, and by way of a requiem let the bull
which had hoisted him, as I thought to heaven, have an ounce of lead in
the ribs as it passed me. After that I did not fire any more, for it
occurred to me that it was as well not to further advertise my presence.
In all my hunting experience I cannot remember ever seeing such a sight
as that which followed. Out of the vlei rushed the buffalo by dozens,
every one of them making remarks in its own language as it came. They
jammed in the narrow roadway, they leapt on to each other's backs. They
squealed, they kicked, they bellowed. They charged my friendly rock
till I felt it shake. They knocked over Scowl's mimosa thorn, and would
have shot him out of his eagle's nest had not its flat top fortunately
caught in that of another and less accessible tree. And with them came
clouds of pungent smoke, mixed with bits of burning reed and puffs of
It was over at last. With the exception of some calves, which had been
trampled to death in the rush, the herd had gone. Now, like the Roman
emperor--I think he was an emperor--I began to wonder what had become of
"Umbezi," I shouted, or, rather, sneezed through the smoke, "are you
dead, Umbezi? "
"Yes, yes, Macumazahn," replied a choking and melancholy voice from the
top of the rock, "I am dead, quite dead. That evil spirit of a silwana
[i.e. wild beast] has killed me. Oh! why did I think I was a hunter;
why did I not stop at my kraal and count my cattle?"
"I am sure I don't know, you old lunatic," I answered, as I scrambled up
the rock to bid him good-bye.
It was a rock with a razor top like the ridge of a house, and there,
hanging across this ridge like a pair of nether garments on a
clothes-line, I found the "Eater-up-of-Elephants."
"Where did he get you, Umbezi?" I asked, for I could not see his wounds
because of the smoke.
"Behind, Macumazahn, behind!" he groaned, "for I had turned to fly, but,
alas! too late."
"On the contrary," I replied, "for one so heavy you flew very well; like
a bird, Umbezi, like a bird."
"Look and see what the evil beast has done to me, Macumazahn. It will
be easy, for my moocha has gone."
So I looked, examining Umbezi's ample proportions with care, but could
discover nothing except a large smudge of black mud, as though he had
sat down in a half-dried puddle. Then I guessed the truth. The
buffalo's horns had missed him. He had been struck only with its muddy
nose, which, being almost as broad as that portion of Umbezi with which
it came in contact, had inflicted nothing worse than a bruise. When I
was sure he had received no serious injury, my temper, already sorely
tried, gave out, and I administered to him the soundest smacking--his
position being very convenient--that he had ever received since he was a
"Get up, you idiot!" I shouted, "and let us look for the others. This
is the end of your folly in making me attack a herd of buffalo in reeds.
Get up. Am I to stop here till I choke?"
"Do you mean to tell me that I have no mortal wound, Macumazahn?" he
asked, with a return of cheerfulness, accepting the castigation in good
part, for he was not one who bore malice. "Oh, I am glad to hear it,
for now I shall live to make those cowards who fired the reeds sorry
that they are not dead; also to finish off that wild beast, for I hit
him, Macumazahn, I hit him."
"I don't know whether you hit him; I know he hit you," I replied, as I
shoved him off the rock and ran towards the tilted tree where I had last
Here I beheld another strange sight. Scowl was still seated in the
eagle's nest that he shared with two nearly fledged young birds, one of
which, having been injured, was uttering piteous cries. Nor did it cry
in vain, for its parents, which were of that great variety of kite that
the Boers call "lammefange", or lamb-lifters, had just arrived to its
assistance, and were giving their new nestling, Scowl, the best doing
that man ever received at the beak and claws of feathered kind. Seen
through those rushing smoke wreaths, the combat looked perfectly
titanic; also it was one of the noisiest to which I ever listened, for I
don't know which shrieked the more loudly, the infuriated eagles or
Seeing how things stood, I burst into a roar of laughter, and just then
Scowl grabbed the leg of the male bird, that was planted in his breast
while it removed tufts of his wool with its hooked beak, and leapt
boldly from the nest, which had become too hot to hold him. The eagle's
outspread wings broke his fall, for they acted as a parachute; and so
did Umbezi, upon whom he chanced to land. Springing from the prostrate
shape of the chief, who now had a bruise in front to match that behind,
Scowl, covered with pecks and scratches, ran like a lamp-lighter,
leaving me to collect my second gun, which he had dropped at the bottom
of the tree, but fortunately without injuring it. The Kafirs gave him
another name after that encounter, which meant
Well, we escaped from the line of the smoke, a dishevelled trio--indeed,
Umbezi had nothing left on him except his head ring--and shouted for the
others, if perchance they had not been trodden to death in the rush.
The first to arrive was Saduko, who looked quite calm and untroubled,
but stared at us in astonishment, and asked coolly what we had been
doing to get in such a state. I replied in appropriate language, and
asked in turn how he had managed to remain so nicely dressed.
He did not answer, but I believe the truth was that he had crept into a
large ant-bear's hole--small blame to him, to be frank. Then the
remainder of our party turned up one by one, some of them looking very
blown, as though they had run a long way. None were missing, except
those who had fired the reeds, and they thought it well to keep clear
for a good many hours. I believe that afterwards they regretted not
having taken a longer leave of absence; but when they finally did arrive
I was in no condition to note what passed between them and their
Being collected, the question arose what we should do. Of course, I
wished to return to camp and get out of this ill-omened place as soon as
possible. But I had reckoned without the vanity of Umbezi. Umbezi
stretched over the edge of a sharp rock, whither he had been hoisted by
the nose of a buffalo, and imagining himself to be mortally wounded, was
one thing; but Umbezi in a borrowed moocha, although, because of his
bruises, he supported his person with one hand in front and with the
other behind, knowing his injuries to be purely superficial, was quite
"I am a hunter," he said; "I am named 'Eater-up-of-Elephants';" and he
rolled his eyes, looking about for someone to contradict him, which
nobody did. Indeed, his "praiser," a thin, tired-looking person, whose
voice was worn out with his previous exertions, repeated in a feeble
"Yes, Black One, 'Eater-up-of-Elephants' is your name;
'Lifted-up-by-Buffalo' is your name."
"Be silent, idiot," roared Umbezi. "As I said, I am a hunter; I have
wounded the wild beast that subsequently dared to assault me. [As a
matter of fact, it was I, Allan Quatermain, who had wounded it.] I
would make it bite the dust, for it cannot be far away. Let us follow
He glared round him, whereon his obsequious people, or one of them,
"Yes, by all means let us follow it, 'Eater-up-of-Elephants.'
Macumazahn, the clever white man, will show us how, for where is the
buffalo that he fears!"
Of course, after this there was nothing else to be done, so, having
summoned the scratched Scowl, who seemed to have no heart in the
business, we started on the spoor of the herd, which was as easy to
track as a wagon road.
"Never mind, Baas," said Scowl, "they are two hours' march off by now."
"I hope so," I answered; but, as it happened, luck was against me, for
before we had covered half a mile some over-zealous fellow struck a
I marched on that spoor for twenty minutes or so, till we came to a
patch of bush that sloped downwards to a river-bed. Right to this river
I followed it, till I reached the edge of a big pool that was still full
of water, although the river itself had gone dry. Here I stood looking
at the spoor and consulting with Saduko as to whether the beast could
have swum the pool, for the tracks that went to its very verge had
become confused and uncertain. Suddenly our doubts were ended, since
out of a patch of dense bush which we had passed--for it had played the
common trick of doubling back on its own spoor--appeared the buffalo, a
huge bull, that halted on three legs, my bullet having broken one of its
thighs. As to its identity there was no doubt, since on, or rather
from, its right horn, which was cleft apart at the top, hung the remains
of Umbezi's moocha.
"Oh, beware, Inkoosi," cried Saduko in a frightened voice. "It is the
buffalo with the cleft horn!"
I heard him; I saw. All the scene in the hut of Zikali rose before
me--the old dwarf, his words, everything. I lifted my rifle and fired
at the charging beast, but knew that the bullet glanced from its skull.
I threw down the gun--for the buffalo was right on me--and tried to jump
Almost I did so, but that cleft horn, to which hung the remains of
Umbezi's moocha, scooped me up and hurled me off the river bank
backwards and sideways into the deep pool below. As I departed thither
I saw Saduko spring forward and heard a shot fired that caused the bull
to collapse for a moment. Then with a slow, sliding motion it followed
me into the pool.
Now we were together, and there was no room for both, so after a certain
amount of dodging I went under, as the lighter dog always does in a
fight. That buffalo seemed to do everything to me which a buffalo could
do under the circumstances. It tried to horn me, and partially
succeeded, although I ducked at each swoop. Then it struck me with its
nose and drove me to the bottom of the pool, although I got hold of its
lip and twisted it. Then it calmly knelt on me and sank me deeper and
deeper into the mud. I remember kicking it in the stomach. After this
I remember no more, except a kind of wild dream in which I rehearsed all
the scene in the dwarf's hut, and his request that when I met the
buffalo with the cleft horn in the pool of a dried river, I should
remember that he was nothing but a "poor old Kafir cheat."
After this I saw my mother bending over a little child in my bed in the
old house in Oxfordshire where I was born, and then--blackness!
I came to myself again and saw, instead of my mother, the stately figure
of Saduko bending over me upon one side, and on the other that of Scowl,
the half-bred Hottentot, who was weeping, for his hot tears fell upon my
"He is gone," said poor Scowl; "that bewitched beast with the split horn
has killed him. He is gone who was the best white man in all South
Africa, whom I loved better than my father and all my relatives."
"That you might easily do, Bastard," answered Saduko, "seeing that you
do not know who they are. But he is not gone, for the 'Opener-of-Roads'
said that he would live; also I got my spear into the heart of that
buffalo before he had kneaded the life out of him, as fortunately the
mud was soft. Yet I fear that his ribs are broken"; and he poked me
with his finger on the breast.
"Take your clumsy hand off me," I gasped.
"There!" said Saduko, "I have made him feel. Did I not tell you that he
After this I remember little more, except some confused dreams, till I
found myself lying in a great hut, which I discovered subsequently was
Umbezi's own, the same, indeed, wherein I had doctored the ear of that
wife of his who was called "Worn-out-old-Cow."
For a while I contemplated the roof and sides of the hut by the light
which entered it through the smoke-vent and the door-hole, wondering
whose it might be and how I came there.
Then I tried to sit up, and instantly was seized with agony in the
region of the ribs, which I found were bound about with broad strips of
soft tanned hide. Clearly they, or some of them, were broken.
What had broken them? I asked myself, and in a flash everything came
back to me. So I had escaped with my life, as the old dwarf,
"Opener-of-Roads," had told me that I should. Certainly he was an
excellent prophet; and if he spoke truth in this matter, why not in
others? What was I to make of it all? How could a black savage,
however ancient, foresee the future?
By induction from the past, I supposed; and yet what amount of induction
would suffice to show him the details of a forthcoming accident that was
to happen to me through the agency of a wild beast with a peculiarly
shaped horn? I gave it up, as before and since that day I have found it
necessary to do in the case of many other events in life. Indeed, the
question is one that I often have had cause to ask where Kafir
"witch-doctors" or prophets are concerned, notably in the instance of a
certain Mavovo, of whom I hope to tell one day, whose predictions saved
my life and those of my companions.
Just then I heard the sound of someone creeping through the bee-hole of
the hut, and half-closed my eyes, as I did not feel inclined for
conversation. The person came and stood over me, and somehow--by
instinct, I suppose--I became aware that my visitor was a woman. Very
slowly I lifted my eyelids, just enough to enable me to see her.
There, standing in a beam of golden light that, passing through the
smoke-hole, pierced the soft gloom of the hut, stood the most beautiful
creature that I had ever seen--that is, if it be admitted that a person
who is black, or rather copper-coloured, can be beautiful.
She was a little above the medium height, not more, with a figure that,
so far as I am a judge of such matters, was absolutely perfect--that of
a Greek statue indeed. On this point I had an opportunity of forming an
opinion, since, except for her little bead apron and a single string of
large blue beads about her throat, her costume was--well, that of a
Greek statue. Her features showed no trace of the negro type; on the
contrary, they were singularly well cut, the nose being straight and
fine and the pouting mouth that just showed the ivory teeth between,
very small. Then the eyes, large, dark and liquid, like those of a
buck, set beneath a smooth, broad forehead on which the curling, but not
woolly, hair grew low. This hair, by the way, was not dressed up in any
of the eccentric native fashions, but simply parted in the middle and
tied in a big knot over the nape of the neck, the little ears peeping
out through its tresses. The hands, like the feet, were very small and
delicate, and the curves of the bust soft and full without being coarse,
or even showing the promise of coarseness.
A lovely woman, truly; and yet there was something not quite pleasing
about that beautiful face; something, notwithstanding its childlike
outline, which reminded me of a flower breaking into bloom, that one
does not associate with youth and innocence. I tried to analyse what
this might be, and came to the conclusion that without being hard, it
was too clever and, in a sense, too reflective. I felt even then that
the brain within the shapely head was keen and bright as polished steel;
that this woman was one made to rule, not to be man's toy, or even his
loving companion, but to use him for her ends.
She dropped her chin till it hid the little, dimple-like depression
below her throat, which was one of her charms, and began not to look at,
but to study me, seeing which I shut my eyes tight and waited.
Evidently she thought that I was still in my swoon, for now she spoke to
herself in a low voice that was soft and sweet as honey.
"A small man," she said; "Saduko would make two of him, and the
other"--who was he, I wondered--"three. His hair, too, is ugly; he cuts
it short and it sticks up like that on a cat's back. Iya!" (i.e.
Piff!), and she moved her hand contemptuously, "a feather of a man. But
white--white, one of those who rule. Why, they all of them know that he
is their master. They call him 'He-who-never-Sleeps.' They say that he
has the courage of a lioness with young--he who got away when Dingaan
killed Piti [Retief] and the Boers; they say that he is quick and
cunning as a snake, and that Panda and his great indunas think more of
him than of any white man they know. He is unmarried also, though they
say, too, that twice he had a wife, who died, and now he does not turn
to look at women, which is strange in any man, and shows that he will
escape trouble and succeed. Still, it must be remembered that they are
all ugly down here in Zululand, cows, or heifers who will be cows.
Piff! no more."
She paused for a little while, then went on in her dreamy, reflective
"Now, if he met a woman who is not merely a cow or a heifer, a woman
cleverer than himself, even if she were not white, I wonder--"
At this point I thought it well to wake up. Turning my head I yawned,
opened my eyes and looked at her vaguely, seeing which her expression
changed in a flash from that of brooding power to one of moved and
anxious girlhood; in short, it became most sweetly feminine.
"You are Mameena?" I said; "is it not so?"
"Oh, yes, Inkoosi," she answered, "that is my poor name. But how did
you hear it, and how do you know me?"
"I heard it from one Saduko"--here she frowned a little--"and others,
and I knew you because you are so beautiful"--an incautious speech at
which she broke into a dazzling smile and tossed her deer-like head.
"Am I?" she asked. "I never knew it, who am only a common Zulu girl to
whom it pleases the great white chief to say kind things, for which I
thank him"; and she made a graceful little reverence, just bending one
knee. "But," she went on quickly, "whatever else I be, I am of no
knowledge, not fit to tend you who are hurt. Shall I go and send my
"Do you mean her whom your father calls the 'Worn-out-old-Cow,' and
whose ear he shot off?"
"Yes, it must be she from the description," she answered with a little
shake of laughter, "though I never heard him give her that name."
"Or if you did, you have forgotten it," I said dryly. "Well, I think
not, thank you. Why trouble her, when you will do quite as well? If
there is milk in that gourd, perhaps you will give me a drink of it."
She flew to the bowl like a swallow, and next moment was kneeling at my
side and holding it to my lips with one hand, while with the other she
supported my head.
"I am honoured," she said. "I only came to the hut the moment before
you woke, and seeing you still lost in swoon, I wept--look, my eyes are
still wet [they were, though how she made them so I do not know]--for I
feared lest that sleep should be but the beginning of the last."
"Quite so," I said; "it is very good of you. And now, since your fears
are groundless--thanks be to the heavens--sit down, if you will, and
tell me the story of how I came here."
She sat down, not, I noted, as a Kafir woman ordinarily does, in a kind
of kneeling position, but on a stool.
"You were carried into the kraal, Inkoosi," she said, "on a litter of
boughs. My heart stood still when I saw that litter coming; it was no
more heart; it was cold iron, because I thought the dead or injured man
was--" And she paused.
"Saduko?" I suggested.
"Not at all, Inkoosi--my father."
"Well, it wasn't either of them," I said, "so you must have felt happy."
"Happy! Inkoosi, when the guest of our house had been wounded, perhaps
to death--the guest of whom I have heard so much, although by misfortune
I was absent when he arrived."
"A difference of opinion with your eldest mother?" I suggested.
"Yes, Inkoosi; my own is dead, and I am not too well treated here. She
called me a witch."
"Did she?" I answered. "Well, I do not altogether wonder at it; but
please continue your story."
"There is none, Inkoosi. They brought you here, they told me how the
evil brute of a buffalo had nearly killed you in the pool; that is all."
"Yes, yes, Mameena; but how did I get out of the pool?"
"Oh, it seems that your servant, Sikauli, the bastard, leapt into the
water and engaged the attention of the buffalo which was kneading you
into the mud, while Saduko got on to its back and drove his assegai down
between its shoulders to the heart, so that it died. Then they pulled
you out of the mud, crushed and almost drowned with water, and brought
you to life again. But afterwards you became senseless, and so lay
wandering in your speech until this hour."
"Ah, he is a brave man, is Saduko."
"Like others, neither more nor less," she replied with a shrug of her
rounded shoulders. "Would you have had him let you die? I think the
brave man was he who got in front of the bull and twisted its nose, not
he who sat on its back and poked at it with a spear."
At this period in our conversation I became suddenly faint and lost
count of things, even of the interesting Mameena. When I awoke again
she was gone, and in her place was old Umbezi, who, I noticed, took down
a mat from the side of the hut and folded it up to serve as a cushion
before he sat himself upon the stool.
"Greeting, Macumazahn," he said when he saw that I was awake; "how are
"As well as can be hoped," I answered; "and how are you, Umbezi?"
"Oh, bad, Macumazahn; even now I can scarcely sit down, for that bull
had a very hard nose; also I am swollen up in front where Sikauli struck
me when he tumbled out of the tree. Also my heart is cut in two because
of our losses."
"What losses, Umbezi?"
"Wow! Macumazahn, the fire that those low fellows of mine lit got to our
camp and burned up nearly everything--the meat, the skins, and even the
ivory, which it cracked so that it is useless. That was an unlucky
hunt, for although it began so well, we have come out of it quite naked;
yes, with nothing at all except the head of the bull with the cleft
horn, that I thought you might like to keep."
"Well, Umbezi, let us be thankful that we have come out with our
lives--that is, if I am going to live," I added.
"Oh, Macumazahn, you will live without doubt, and be none the worse.
Two of our doctors--very clever men--have looked at you and said so.
One of them tied you up in all those skins, and I promised him a heifer
for the business, if he cured you, and gave him a goat on account. But
you must lie here for a month or more, so he says. Meanwhile Panda has
sent for the hides which he demanded of me to be made into shields, and
I have been obliged to kill twenty-five of my beasts to provide
them--that is, of my own and of those of my headmen."
"Then I wish you and your headmen had killed them before we met those
buffalo, Umbezi," I groaned, for my ribs were paining me very much.
"Send Saduko and Sikauli here; I would thank them for saving my life."
So they came, next morning, I think, and I thanked them warmly enough.
"There, there, Baas," said Scowl, who was literally weeping tears of joy
at my return from delirium and coma to the light of life and reason; not
tears of Mameena's sort, but real ones, for I saw them running down his
snub nose, that still bore marks of the eagle's claws. "There, there,
say no more, I beseech you. If you were going to die, I wished to die,
too, who, if you had left it, should only have wandered through the
world without a heart. That is why I jumped into the pool, not because
I am brave."
When I heard this my own eyes grew moist. Oh, it is the fashion to
abuse natives, but from whom do we meet with more fidelity and love than
from these poor wild Kafirs that so many of us talk of as black dirt
which chances to be fashioned to the shape of man?
"As for myself, Inkoosi," added Saduko, "I only did my duty. How could
I have held up my head again if the bull had killed you while I walked
away alive? Why, the very girls would have mocked at me. But, oh, his
skin was tough. I thought that assegai would never get through it."
Observe the difference between these two men's characters. The one,
although no hero in daily life, imperils himself from sheer, dog-like
fidelity to a master who had given him many hard words and sometimes a
flogging in punishment for drunkenness, and the other to gratify his
pride, also perhaps because my death would have interfered with his
plans and ambitions in which I had a part to play. No, that is a hard
saying; still, there is no doubt that Saduko always first took his own
interests into consideration, and how what he did would reflect upon his
prospects and repute, or influence the attainment of his desires. I
think this was so even when Mameena was concerned--at any rate, in the
beginning--although certainly he always loved her with a single-hearted
passion that is very rare among Zulus.
Presently Scowl left the hut to prepare me some broth, whereon Saduko at
once turned the talk to this subject of Mameena.
He understood that I had seen her. Did I not think her very beautiful?
"Yes, very beautiful," I answered; "indeed, the most beautiful Zulu
woman I have ever seen."
And very clever--almost as clever as a white?
"Yes, and very clever--much cleverer than most whites."
"Yes; very dangerous, and one who could turn like the wind and blow hot
and blow cold."
"Ah!" he said, thought a while, then added: "Well, what do I care how
she blows to others, so long as she blows hot to me."
"Well, Saduko, and does she blow hot for you?"
"Not altogether, Macumazahn." Another pause. "I think she blows rather
like the wind before a great storm."
"That is a biting wind, Saduko, and when we feel it we know that the
storm will follow."
"I dare say that the storm will follow, Inkoosi, for she was born in a
storm and storm goes with her; but what of that, if she and I stand it
out together? I love her, and I had rather die with her than live with
any other woman."
"The question is, Saduko, whether she would rather die with you than
live with any other man. Does she say so?"
"Inkoosi, Mameena's thought works in the dark; it is like a white ant in
its tunnel of mud. You see the tunnel which shows that she is thinking,
but you do not see the thought within. Still, sometimes, when she
believes that no one beholds or hears her"--here I bethought me of the
young lady's soliloquy over my apparently senseless self--"or when she
is surprised, the true thought peeps out of its tunnel. It did so the
other day, when I pleaded with her after she had heard that I killed the
buffalo with the cleft horn.
"'Do I love you?' she said. 'I know not for sure. How can I tell? It
is not our custom that a maiden should love before she is married, for
is she did so most marriages would be things of the heart and not of
cattle, and then half the fathers of Zululand would grow poor and refuse
to rear girl-children who would bring them nothing. You are brave, you
are handsome, you are well-born; I would sooner live with you than with
any other man I know--that is, if you were rich and, better still,
powerful. Become rich and powerful, Saduko, and I think that I shall
"'I will, Mameena,' I answered; 'but you must wait. The Zulu nation was
not fashioned from nothing in a day. First Chaka had to come.'
"'Ah!' she said, and, my father, her eyes flashed. 'Ah! Chaka! There
was a man! Be another Chaka, Saduko, and I will love you more--more
than you can dream of--thus and thus,' and she flung her arms about me
and kissed me as I was never kissed before, which, as you know, among us
is a strange thing for a girl to do. Then she thrust me from her with a
laugh, and added: 'As for the waiting, you must ask my father of that.
Am I not his heifer, to be sold, and can I disobey my father?' And she
was gone, leaving me empty, for it seemed as though she took my vitals
with her. Nor will she talk thus any more, the white ant who has gone
back into its tunnel."
"And did you speak to her father?"
"Yes, I spoke to him, but in an evil moment, for he had but just killed
the cattle to furnish Panda's shields. He answered me very roughly. He
said: 'You see these dead beasts which I and my people must slay for the
king, or fall under his displeasure? Well, bring me five times their
number, and we will talk of your marriage with my daughter, who is a
maid in some request.'
"I answered that I understood and would try my best, whereon he became
more gentle, for Umbezi has a kindly heart.
"'My son,' he said, 'I like you well, and since I saw you save
Macumazahn, my friend, from that mad wild beast of a buffalo I like you
better than before. Yet you know my case. I have an old name and am
called the chief of a tribe, and many live on me. But I am poor, and
this daughter of mine is worth much. Such a woman few men have bred.
Well, I must make the best of her. My son-in-law must be one who will
prop up my old age, one to whom, in my need or trouble, I could always
go as to a dry log,* to break off some of its bark to make a fire to
comfort me, not one who treads me into the mire as the buffalo did to
Macumazahn. Now I have spoken, and I do not love such talk. Come back
with the cattle, and I will listen to you, but meanwhile understand that
I am not bound to you or to anyone; I shall take what my spirit sends
me, which, if I may judge the future by the past, will not be much. One
word more: Do not linger about this kraal too long, lest it should be
said that you are the accepted suitor of Mameena. Go hence and do a
man's work, and return with a man's reward, or not at all.'"
[*--In Zululand a son-in-law is known as "isigodo so mkwenyana", the
"son-in-law log," for the reason stated in the text.--EDITOR.]
"Well, Saduko, that spear has an edge on it, has it not?" I answered.
"And now, what is your plan?"
"My plan is, Macumazahn," he said, rising from his seat, "to go hence
and gather those who are friendly to me because I am my father's son and
still the chief of the Amangwane, or those who are left of them,
although I have no kraal and no hoof of kine. Then, within a moon, I
hope, I shall return here to find you strong again and once more a man,
and we will start out against Bangu, as I have whispered to you, with
the leave of a High One, who has said that, if I can take any cattle, I
may keep them for my pains."
"I don't know about that, Saduko. I never promised you that I would
make war upon Bangu--with or without the king's leave."
"No, you never promised, but Zikali the Dwarf, the Wise Little One, said
that you would--and does Zikali lie? Ask yourself, who will remember a
certain saying of his about a buffalo with a cleft horn, a pool and a
dry river-bed. Farewell, O my father Macumazahn; I walk with the dawn,
and I leave Mameena in your keeping."
"You mean that you leave me in Mameena's keeping," I began, but already
he was crawling through the hole in the hut.
Well, Mameena kept me very comfortably. She was always in evidence, yet
not too much so.
Heedless of her malice and abuse, she headed off the "Worn-out-old-Cow,"
whom she knew I detested, from my presence. She saw personally to my
bandages, as well as to the cooking of my food, over which matter she
had several quarrels with the bastard, Scowl, who did not like her, for
on him she never wasted any of her sweet looks. Also, as I grew
stronger, she sat with me a good deal, talking, since, by common
consent, Mameena the fair was exempted from all the field, and even the
ordinary household labours that fall to the lot of Kafir women. Her
place was to be the ornament and, I may add, the advertisement of her
father's kraal. Others might do the work, and she saw that they did it.
We discussed all sorts of things, from the Christian and other religions
and European policy down, for her thirst for knowledge seemed to be
insatiable. But what really interested her was the state of affairs in
Zululand, with which she knew I was well acquainted, as a person who had
played a part in its history and who was received and trusted at the
Great House, and as a white man who understood the designs and plans of
the Boers and of the Governor of Natal.
Now, if the old king, Panda, should chance to die, she would ask me,
which of his sons did I think would succeed him--Umbelazi or Cetewayo,
or another? Or, if he did not chance to die, which of them would he
name his heir?
I replied that I was not a prophet, and that she had better ask Zikali
"That is a very good idea," she said, "only I have no one to take me to
him, since my father would not allow me to go with Saduko, his ward."
Then she clapped her hands and added: "Oh, Macumazahn, will you take me?
My father would trust me with you."
"Yes, I dare say," I answered; "but the question is, could I trust
myself with you?"
"What do you mean?" she asked. "Oh, I understand. Then, after all, I
am more to you than a black stone to play with?"
I think it was that unlucky joke of mine which first set Mameena
thinking, "like a white ant in its tunnel," as Saduko said. At least,
after it her manner towards me changed; she became very deferential; she
listened to my words as though they were all wisdom; I caught her
looking at me with her soft eyes as though I were quite an admirable
object. She began to talk to me of her difficulties, her troubles and
her ambitions. She asked me for my advice as to Saduko. On this point
I replied to her that, if she loved him, and her father would allow it,
presumably she had better marry him.
"I like him well enough, Macumazahn, although he wearies me at times;
but love-- Oh, tell me, what is love?" Then she clasped her slim
hands and gazed at me like a fawn.
"Upon my word, young woman," I replied, "that is a matter upon which I
should have thought you more competent to instruct me."
"Oh, Macumazahn," she said almost in a whisper, and letting her head
droop like a fading lily, "you have never given me the chance, have
you?" And she laughed a little, looking extremely attractive.
"Good gracious!"--or, rather, its Zulu equivalent--I answered, for I
began to feel nervous. "What do you mean, Mameena? How could I--"
There I stopped.
"I do not know what I mean, Macumazahn," she exclaimed wildly, "but I
know well enough what you mean--that you are white as snow and I am
black as soot, and that snow and soot don't mix well together."
"No," I answered gravely, "snow is good to look at, and so is soot, but
mingled they make an ugly colour. Not that you are like soot," I added
hastily, fearing to hurt her feelings. "That is your hue"--and I
touched a copper bangle she was wearing--"a very lovely hue, Mameena,
like everything else about you."
"Lovely," she said, beginning to weep a little, which upset me very
much, for if there is one thing I hate, it is to see a woman cry. "How
can a poor Zulu girl be lovely? Oh, Macumazahn, the spirits have dealt
hardly with me, who have given me the colour of my people and the heart
of yours. If I were white, now, what you are pleased to call this
loveliness of mine would be of some use to me, for then-- then-- Oh,
cannot you guess, Macumazahn?"
I shook my head and said that I could not, and next moment was sorry,
for she proceeded to explain.
Sinking to her knees--for we were quite alone in the big hut and there
was no one else about, all the other women being engaged on rural or
domestic tasks, for which Mameena declared she had no time, as her
business was to look after me--she rested her shapely head upon my knees
and began to talk in a low, sweet voice that sometimes broke into a sob.
"Then I will tell you--I will tell you; yes, even if you hate me
afterwards. I could teach you what love is very well, Macumazahn; you
are quite right--because I love you." (Sob.) "No, you shall not stir
till you have heard me out." Here she flung her arms about my legs and
held them tight, so that without using great violence it was absolutely
impossible for me to move. "When I saw you first, all shattered and
senseless, snow seemed to fall upon my heart, and it stopped for a
little while and has never been the same since. I think that something
is growing in it, Macumazahn, that makes it big." (Sob.) "I used to
like Saduko before that, but afterwards I did not like him at all--no,
nor Masapo either--you know, he is the big chief who lives over the
mountain, a very rich and powerful man, who, I believe, would like to
marry me. Well, as I went on nursing you my heart grew bigger and
bigger, and now you see it has burst." (Sob.) "Nay, stay still and do
not try to speak. You shall hear me out. It is the least you can do,
seeing that you have caused me all this pain. If you did not want me to
love you, why did you not curse at me and strike me, as I am told white
men do to Kafir girls?" She rose and went on:
"Now, hearken. Although I am the colour of copper, I am comely. I am
well-bred also; there is no higher blood than ours in Zululand, both on
my father's and my mother's side, and, Macumazahn, I have a fire in me
that shows me things. I can be great, and I long for greatness. Take
me to wife, Macumazahn, and I swear to you that in ten years I will make
you king of the Zulus. Forget your pale white women and wed yourself to
that fire which burns in me, and it shall eat up all that stands between
you and the Crown, as flame eats up dry grass. More, I will make you
happy. If you choose to take other wives, I will not be jealous,
because I know that I should hold your spirit, and that, compared to me,
they would be nothing in your thought--"
"But, Mameena," I broke in, "I don't want to be king of the Zulus."
"Oh, yes, yes, you do, for every man wants power, and it is better to
rule over a brave, black people--thousands and thousands of them--than
to be no one among the whites. Think, think! There is wealth in the
land. By your skill and knowledge the amabuto [regiments] could be
improved; with the wealth you would arm them with guns--yes, and
'by-and-byes' also with the throat of thunder" (that is, or was, the
Kafir name for cannon).* "They would be invincible. Chaka's kingdom
would be nothing to ours, for a hundred thousand warriors would sleep on
their spears, waiting for your word. If you wished it even you could
sweep out Natal and make the whites there your subjects, too. Or
perhaps it would be safer to let them be, lest others should come across
the green water to help them, and to strike northwards, where I am told
there are great lands as rich and fair, in which none would dispute our
[*--Cannon were called "by-and-byes" by the natives, because when
field-pieces first arrived in Natal inquisitive Kafirs pestered the
soldiers to show them how they were fired. The answer given was always
"By-and-bye!" Hence the name.--EDITOR]
"But, Mameena," I gasped, for this girl's titanic ambition literally
overwhelmed me, "surely you are mad! How would you do all these
"I am not mad," she answered; "I am only what is called great, and you
know well enough that I can do them, not by myself, who am but a woman
and tied with the ropes that bind women, but with you to cut those ropes
and help me. I have a plan which will not fail. But, Macumazahn," she
added in a changed voice, "until I know that you will be my partner in
it I will not tell it even to you, for perhaps you might talk--in your
sleep, and then the fire in my breast would soon go out--for ever."
"I might talk now, for the matter of that, Mameena."
"No; for men like you do not tell tales of foolish girls who chance to
love them. But if that plan began to work, and you heard say that kings
or princes died, it might be otherwise. You might say, 'I think I know
where the witch lives who causes these evils'--in your sleep,
"Mameena," I said, "tell me no more. Setting your dreams on one side,
can I be false to my friend, Saduko, who talks to me day and night of
"Saduko! Piff!" she exclaimed, with that expressive gesture of her
"And can I be false," I continued, seeing that Saduko was no good card
to play, "to my friend, Umbezi, your father?"
"My father! " she laughed. "Why, would it not please him to grow great
in your shadow? Only yesterday he told me to marry you, if I could, for
then he would find a stick indeed to lean on, and be rid of Saduko's
Evidently Umbezi was a worse card even than Saduko, so I played another.
"And can I help you, Mameena, to tread a road that at the best must be
red with blood?"
"Why not," she asked, "since with or without you I am destined to tread
that road, the only difference being that with you it will lead to glory
and without you perhaps to the jackals and the vultures? Blood! Piff!
What is blood in Zululand?"
This card also having failed, I tabled my last.
"Glory or no glory, I do not wish to share it, Mameena. I will not make
war among a people who have entertained me hospitably, or plot the
downfall of their Great Ones. As you told me just now, I am
nobody--just one grain of sand upon a white shore--but I had rather be
that than a haunted rock which draws the heavens' lightnings and is
drenched with sacrifice. I seek no throne over white or black, Mameena,
who walk my own path to a quiet grave that shall perhaps not be without
honour of its own, though other than you seek. I will keep your
counsel, Mameena, but, because you are so beautiful and so wise, and
because you say you are fond of me--for which I thank you--I pray you
put away these fearful dreams of yours that in the end, whether they
succeed or fail, will send you shivering from the world to give account
of them to the Watcher-on-high."
"Not so, O Macumazana," she said, with a proud little laugh. "When your
Watcher sowed my seed--if thus he did--he sowed the dreams that are a
part of me also, and I shall only bring him back his own, with the
flower and the fruit by way of interest. But that is finished. You
refuse the greatness. Now, tell me, if I sink those dreams in a great
water, tying about them the stone of forgetfulness and saying: 'Sleep
there, O dreams; it is not your hour'--if I do this, and stand before
you just a woman who loves and who swears by the spirits of her fathers
never to think or do that which has not your blessing--will you love me
a little, Macumazahn?"
Now I was silent, for she had driven me to the last ditch, and I knew
not what to say. Moreover, I will confess my weakness--I was strangely
moved. This beautiful girl with the "fire in her heart," this woman who
was different from all other women that I had ever known, seemed to have
twisted her slender fingers into my heart-strings and to be drawing me
towards her. It was a great temptation, and I bethought me of old
Zikali's saying in the Black Kloof, and seemed to hear his giant laugh.
She glided up to me, she threw her arms about me and kissed me on the
lips, and I think I kissed her back, but really I am not sure what I did
or said, for my head swam. When it cleared again she was standing in
front of me, looking at me reflectively.
"Now, Macumazahn," she said, with a little smile that both mocked and
dazzled, "the poor black girl has you, the wise, experienced white man,
in her net, and I will show you that she can be generous. Do you think
that I do not read your heart, that I do not know that you believe I am
dragging you down to shame and ruin? Well, I spare you, Macumazahn,
since you have kissed me and spoken words which already you may have
forgotten, but which I do not forget. Go your road, Macumazahn, and I
go mine, since the proud white man shall not be stained with my black
touch. Go your road; but one thing I forbid you--to believe that you
have been listening to lies, and that I have merely played off a woman's
arts upon you for my own ends. I love you, Macumazahn, as you will
never be loved till you die, and I shall never love any other man,
however many I may marry. Moreover, you shall promise me one
thing--that once in my life, and once only, if I wish it, you shall kiss
me again before all men. And now, lest you should be moved to folly and
forget your white man's pride, I bid you farewell, O Macumazana. When
we meet again it will be as friends only."
Then she went, leaving me feeling smaller than ever I felt in my life,
before or since--even smaller than when I walked into the presence of
old Zikali the Wise. Why, I wondered, had she first made a fool of me,
and then thrown away the fruits of my folly? To this hour I cannot
quite answer the question, though I believe the explanation to be that
she did really care for me, and was anxious not to involve me in trouble
and her plottings; also she may have been wise enough to see that our
natures were as oil and water and would never blend.
It may be thought that, as a sequel to this somewhat remarkable scene in
which I was absolutely bowled over--perhaps bowled out would be a better
term--by a Kafir girl who, after bending me to her will, had the genius
to drop me before I repented, as she knew I would do so soon as her back
was turned, thereby making me look the worst of fools, that my relations
with that young lady would have been strained. But not a bit of it.
When next we met, which was on the following morning, she was just her
easy, natural self, attending to my hurts, which by now were almost
well, joking about this and that, inquiring as to the contents of
certain letters which I had received from Natal, and of some newspapers
that came with them--for on all such matters she was very curious--and
Impossible, the clever critic will say--impossible that a savage could
act with such finish. Well, friend critic, that is just where you are
wrong. When you come to add it up there's very little difference in all
main and essential matters between the savage and yourself.
To begin with, by what exact right do we call people like the Zulus
savages? Setting aside the habit of polygamy, which, after all, is
common among very highly civilised peoples in the East, they have a
social system not unlike our own. They have, or had, their king, their
nobles, and their commons. They have an ancient and elaborate law, and
a system of morality in some ways as high as our own, and certainly more
generally obeyed. They have their priests and their doctors; they are
strictly upright, and observe the rites of hospitality.
Where they differ from us mainly is that they do not get drunk until the
white man teaches them so to do, they wear less clothing, the climate
being more genial, their towns at night are not disgraced by the sights
that distinguish ours, they cherish and are never cruel to their
children, although they may occasionally put a deformed infant or a twin
out of the way, and when they go to war, which is often, they carry out
the business with a terrible thoroughness, almost as terrible as that
which prevailed in every nation in Europe a few generations ago.
Of course, there remain their witchcraft and the cruelties which result
from their almost universal belief in the power and efficiency of magic.
Well, since I lived in England I have been reading up this subject, and
I find that quite recently similar cruelties were practised throughout
Europe--that is in a part of the world which for over a thousand years
has enjoyed the advantages of the knowledge and profession of the
Now, let him who is highly cultured take up a stone to throw at the
poor, untaught Zulu, which I notice the most dissolute and drunken
wretch of a white man is often ready to do, generally because he covets
his land, his labour, or whatever else may be his.
But I wander from my point, which is that a clever man or woman among
the people whom we call savages is in all essentials very much the same
as a clever man or woman anywhere else.
Here in England every child is educated at the expense of the Country,
but I have not observed that the system results in the production of
more really able individuals. Ability is the gift of Nature, and that
universal mother sheds her favours impartially over all who breathe.
No, not quite impartially, perhaps, for the old Greeks and others were
examples to the contrary. Still, the general rule obtains.
To return. Mameena was a very able person, as she chanced to be a very
lovely one, a person who, had she been favoured by opportunity, would
doubtless have played the part of a Cleopatra with equal or greater
success, since she shared the beauty and the unscrupulousness of that
famous lady and was, I believe, capable of her passion.
I scarcely like to mention the matter since it affects myself, and the
natural vanity of man makes him prone to conclude that he is the
particular object of sole and undying devotion. Could he know all the
facts of the case, or cases, probably he would be much undeceived, and
feel about as small as I did when Mameena walked, or rather crawled, out
of the hut (she could even crawl gracefully). Still, to be honest--and
why should I not, since all this business "went beyond" so long ago?--I
do believe that there was a certain amount of truth in what she
said--that, for Heaven knows what reason, she did take a fancy to me,
which fancy continued during her short and stormy life. But the reader
of her story may judge for himself.
Within a fortnight of the day of my discomfiture in the hut I was quite
well and strong again, my ribs, or whatever part of me it was that the
buffalo had injured with his iron knees, having mended up. Also, I was
anxious to be going, having business to attend to in Natal, and, as no
more had been seen or heard of Saduko, I determined to trek homewards,
leaving a message that he knew where to find me if he wanted me. The
truth is that I was by no means keen on being involved in his private
war with Bangu. Indeed, I wished to wash my hands of the whole matter,
including the fair Mameena and her mocking eyes.
So one morning, having already got up my oxen, I told Scowl to inspan
them--an order which he received with joy, for he and the other boys
wished to be off to civilisation and its delights. Just as the
operation was beginning, however, a message came to me from old Umbezi,
who begged me to delay my departure till after noon, as a friend of his,
a big chief, had come to visit him who wished much to have the honour of
making my acquaintance. Now, I wished the big chief farther off, but,
as it seemed rude to refuse the request of one who had been so kind to
me, I ordered the oxen to be unyoked but kept at hand, and in an
irritable frame of mind walked up to the kraal. This was about half a
mile from my place of outspan, for as soon as I was sufficiently
recovered I had begun to sleep in my wagon, leaving the big hut to the
There was no particular reason why I should be irritated, since time in
those days was of no great account in Zululand, and it did not much
matter to me whether I trekked in the morning or the afternoon. But the
fact was that I could not get over the prophecy of Zikali, "the Little
and Wise," that I was destined to share Saduko's expedition against
Bangu, and, although he had been right about the buffalo and Mameena, I
was determined to prove him wrong in this particular.
If I had left the country, obviously I could not go against Bangu, at
any rate at present. But while I remained in it Saduko might return at
any moment, and then, doubtless, I should find it hard to escape from
the kind of half-promise that I had given to him.
Well, as soon as I reached the kraal I saw that some kind of festivity
was in progress, for an ox had been killed and was being cooked, some of
it in pots and some by roasting; also there were several strange Zulus
present. Within the fence of the kraal, seated in its shadow, I found
Umbezi and some of his headmen, and with them a great, brawny "ringed"
native, who wore a tiger-skin moocha as a mark of rank, and some of
his headmen. Also Mameena was standing near the gate, dressed in her
best beads and holding a gourd of Kafir beer which, evidently, she had
just been handing to the guests.
"Would you have run away without saying good-bye to me, Macumazahn?" she
whispered to me as I came abreast of her. "That is unkind of you, and I
should have wept much. However, it was not so fated."
"I was going to ride up and bid farewell when the oxen were inspanned,"
I answered. "But who is that man?"
"You will find out presently, Macumazahn. Look, my father is beckoning
So I went on to the circle, and as I advanced Umbezi rose and, taking me
by the hand, led me to the big man, saying:
"This is Masapo, chief of the Amansomi, of the Quabe race, who desires
to know you, Macumazahn."
"Very kind of him, I am sure," I replied coolly, as I threw my eye over
Masapo. He was, as I have said, a big man, and of about fifty years of
age, for his hair was tinged with grey. To be frank, I took a great
dislike to him at once, for there was something in his strong, coarse
face, and his air of insolent pride, which repelled me. Then I was
silent, since among the Zulus, when two strangers of more or less equal
rank meet, he who speaks first acknowledges inferiority to the other.
Therefore I stood and contemplated this new suitor of Mameena, waiting
Masapo also contemplated me, then made some remark to one of his
attendants, that I did not catch, which caused the fellow to laugh.
"He has heard that you are an ipisi" (a great hunter), broke in Umbezi,
who evidently felt that the situation was growing strained, and that it
was necessary to say something.
"Has he?" I answered. "Then he is more fortunate than I am, for I have
never heard of him or what he is." This, I am sorry to say, was a fib,
for it will be remembered that Mameena had mentioned him in the hut as
one of her suitors, but among natives one must keep up one's dignity
somehow. "Friend Umbezi," I went on, "I have come to bid you farewell,
as I am about to trek for Durban."
At this juncture Masapo stretched out his great hand to me, but without
rising, and said:
"Siyakubona [that is, good-day], White Man."
"Siyakubona, Black Man," I answered, just touching his fingers, while
Mameena, who had come up again with her beer, and was facing me, made a
little grimace and tittered.
Now I turned on my heel to go, whereon Masapo said in a coarse, growling
"O Macumazana, before you leave us I wish to speak with you on a certain
matter. Will it please you to sit aside with me for a while?"
"Certainly, O Masapo." And I walked away a few yards out of hearing,
whither he followed me.
"Macumazahn," he said (I give the gist of his remarks, for he did not
come to the point at once), "I need guns, and I am told that you can
provide them, being a trader."
"Yes, Masapo, I dare say that I can, at a price, though it is a risky
business smuggling guns into Zululand. But might I ask what you need
them for? is it to shoot elephants?"
"Yes, to shoot elephants," he replied, rolling his big eyes round him.
"Macumazahn, I am told that you are discreet, that you do not shout from
the top of a hut what you hear within it. Now, hearken to me. Our
country is disturbed; we do not all of us love the seed of Senzangakona,
of whom the present king, Panda, is one. For instance, you may know
that we Quabies--for my tribe, the Amansomi, are of that race--suffered
at the spear of Chaka. Well, we think that a time may come when we who
live on shrubs like goats may again browse on tree-tops like giraffes,
for Panda is no strong king, and he has sons who hate each other, one of
whom may need our spears. Do you understand?"
"I understand that you want guns, O Masapo," I answered dryly. "Now, as
to the price and place of delivery."
Then we bargained for a while, but the details of that business
transaction of long ago will interest no one. Indeed, I only mention
the matter to show that Masapo was plotting to bring trouble on the
ruling house, whereof Panda was the representative at that time.
When we had concluded our rather nefarious negotiations, which were to
the effect that I was to receive so many cattle in return for so many
guns, if I could deliver them at a certain spot, namely, Umbezi's kraal,
I returned to the circle where Umbezi, his followers and guests were
sitting, purposing to bid him farewell. By now, however, meat had been
served, and as I was hungry, having had little breakfast that morning, I
stayed to eat. When I had finished my meal, and washed it down with a
draught of tshwala (that is, Kafir beer), I rose to go, but just at that
moment who should walk through the gate but Saduko?
"Piff!" said Mameena, who was standing near me, speaking in a voice that
none but I could hear. "When two bucks meet, what happens, Macumazahn?"
"Sometimes they fight and sometimes one runs away. It depends very much
on the doe," I answered in the same low voice, looking at her.
She shrugged her shoulders, folded her arms beneath her breast, nodded
to Saduko as he passed, then leaned gracefully against the fence and
"Greeting, Umbezi," said Saduko in his proud manner. "I see that you
feast. Am I welcome here?"
"Of course you are always welcome, Saduko," replied Umbezi uneasily,
"although, as it happens, I am entertaining a great man." And he looked
"I see," said Saduko, eyeing the strangers. "But which of these may be
the great man? I ask that I may salute him."
"You know well enough, umfokazana" (that is, low fellow), exclaimed
"I know that if you were outside this fence, Masapo, I would cram that
word down your throat at the point of my assegai," replied Saduko in a
fierce voice. "Oh, I can guess your business here, Masapo, and you can
guess mine," and he glanced towards Mameena. "Tell me, Umbezi, is this
little chief of the Amansomi your daughter's accepted suitor?"
"Nay, nay, Saduko," said Umbezi; "no one is her accepted suitor. Will
you not sit down and take food with us? Tell us where you have been,
and why you return here thus suddenly, and--uninvited?"
"I return here, O Umbezi, to speak with the white chief, Macumazahn. As
to where I have been, that is my affair, and not yours or Masapo's."
"Now, if I were chief of this kraal," said Masapo, "I would hunt out of
it this hyena with a mangy coat and without a hole who comes to devour
your meat and, perhaps," he added with meaning, "to steal away your
"Did I not tell you, Macumazahn, that when two bucks met they would
fight?" whispered Mameena suavely into my ear.
"Yes, Mameena, you did--or rather I told you. But you did not tell me
what the doe would do."
"The doe, Macumazahn, will crouch in her form and see what happens--as
is the fashion of does," and again she laughed softly.
"Why not do your own hunting, Masapo?" asked Saduko. "Come, now, I will
promise you good sport. Outside this kraal there are other hyenas
waiting who call me chief--a hundred or two of them--assembled for a
certain purpose by the royal leave of King Panda, whose House, as we all
know, you hate. Come, leave that beef and beer and begin your hunting
of hyenas, O Masapo."
Now Masapo sat silent, for he saw that he who thought to snare a baboon
had caught a tiger.
"You do not speak, O Chief of the little Amansomi," went on Saduko, who
was beside himself with rage and jealousy. "You will not leave your
beef and beer to hunt the hyenas who are captained by an umfokazana!
Well, then, the umfokazana will speak," and, stepping up to Masapo, with
the spear he carried poised in his right hand, Saduko grasped his
rival's short beard with his left.
"Listen, Chief," he said. "You and I are enemies. You seek the woman I
seek, and, mayhap, being rich, you will buy her. But if so, I tell you
that I will kill you and all your House, you sneaking, half-bred dog!"
With these fierce words he spat in his face and tumbled him backwards.
Then, before anyone could stop him, for Umbezi, and even Masapo's
headmen, seemed paralysed with surprise, he stalked through the kraal
gate, saying as he passed me:
"Inkoosi, I have words for you when you are at liberty."
"You shall pay for this," roared Umbezi after him, turning almost green
with rage, for Masapo still lay upon his broad back, speechless, "you
who dare to insult my guest in my own house."
"Somebody must pay," cried back Saduko from the gate, "but who it is
only the unborn moons will see."
"Mameena," I said as I followed him, "you have set fire to the grass,
and men will be burned in it."
"I meant to, Macumazahn," she answered calmly. "Did I not tell you that
there was a flame in me, and it will break out sometimes? But,
Macumazahn, it is you who have set fire to the grass, not I. Remember
that when half Zululand is in ashes. Farewell, O Macumazana, till we
meet again, and," she added softly, "whoever else must burn, may the
spirits have you in their keeping."
At the gate, remembering my manners, I turned to bid that company a
polite farewell. By now Masapo had gained his feet, and was roaring out
like a bull:
"Kill him! Kill the hyena! Umbezi, will you sit still and see me, your
guest--me, Masapo--struck and insulted under the shadow of your own hut?
Go forth and kill him, I say!"
"Why not kill him yourself, Masapo," asked the agitated Umbezi, "or bid
your headmen kill him? Who am I that I should take precedence of so
great a chief in a matter of the spear?" Then he turned towards me,
saying: "Oh, Macumazahn the crafty, if I have dealt well by you, come
here and give me your counsel."
"I come, Eater-up-of-Elephants," I answered, and I did.
"What shall I do--what shall I do?" went on Umbezi, brushing the
perspiration off his brow with one hand, while he wrung the other in his
agitation. "There stands a friend of mine"--he pointed to the
infuriated Masapo--"who wishes me to kill another friend of mine," and
he jerked his thumb towards the kraal gate. "If I refuse I offend one
friend, and if I consent I bring blood upon my hands which will call for
blood, since, although Saduko is poor, without doubt he has those who
"Yes," I answered, "and perhaps you will bring blood upon other parts of
yourself besides your hands, since Saduko is not one to sit still like a
sheep while his throat is cut. Also did he not say that he is not quite
alone? Umbezi, if you will take my advice, you will leave Masapo to do
his own killing."
"It is good; it is wise!" exclaimed Umbezi. "Masapo," he called to that
warrior, "if you wish to fight, pray do not think of me. I see nothing,
I hear nothing, and I promise proper burial to any who fall. Only you
had best be swift, for Saduko is walking away all this time. Come, you
and your people have spears, and the gate stands open."
"Am I to go without my meat in order to knock that hyena on the head?"
asked Masapo in a brave voice. "No, he can wait my leisure. Sit still,
my people. I tell you, sit still. Tell him, you Macumazahn, that I am
coming for him presently, and be warned to keep yourself away from him,
lest you should tumble into his hole."
"I will tell him," I answered, "though I know not who made me your
messenger. But listen to me, you Speaker of big words and Doer of small
deeds, if you dare to lift a finger against me I will teach you
something about holes, for there shall be one or more through that great
carcass of yours."
Then, walking up to him, I looked him in the face, and at the same time
tapped the handle of the big double-barrelled pistol I carried.
He shrank back muttering something.
"Oh, don't apologise," I said, "only be more careful in future. And now
I wish you a good dinner, Chief Masapo, and peace upon your kraal,
After this speech I marched off, followed by the clamour of Masapo's
furious attendants and the sound of Mameena's light and mocking
"I wonder which of them she will marry?" I thought to myself, as I set
out for the wagons.
As I approached my camp I saw that the oxen were being inspanned, as I
supposed by the order of Scowl, who must have heard that there was a row
up at the kraal, and thought it well to be ready to bolt. In this I was
mistaken, however, for just then Saduko strolled out of a patch of bush
"I ordered your boys to yoke up the oxen, Inkoosi."
"Have you? That's cool!" I answered. "Perhaps you will tell me why."
"Because we must make a good trek to the northward before night,
"Indeed! I thought that I was heading south-east."
"Bangu does not live in the south or the east," he replied slowly.
"Oh, I had almost forgotten about Bangu," I said, with a rather feeble
attempt at evasion.
"Is it so?" he answered in his haughty voice. "I never knew before that
Macumazahn was a man who broke a promise to his friend."
"Would you be so kind as to explain your meaning, Saduko?"
"Is it needful?" he answered, shrugging his shoulders. "Unless my ears
played me tricks, you agreed to go up with me against Bangu. Well, I
have gathered the necessary men--with the king's leave--they await us
yonder," and he pointed with his spear towards a dense patch of bush
that lay some miles beneath us. "But," he added, "if you desire to
change your mind I will go alone. Only then, I think, we had better bid
each other good-bye, since I love not friends who change their minds
when the assegais begin to shake."
Now, whether Saduko spoke thus by design I do not know. Certainly,
however, he could have found no better way to ensure my companionship
for what it was worth, since, although I had made no actual promise in
this case, I have always prided myself on keeping even a half-bargain
with a native.
"I will go with you," I said quietly, "and I hope that, when it comes to
the pinch, your spear will be as sharp as your tongue, Saduko. Only do
not speak to me again like that, lest we should quarrel."
As I said this I saw a look of relief appear on his face, of very great
"I pray your pardon, my lord Macumazahn," he said, seizing my hand,
"but, oh! there is a hole in my heart. I think that Mameena means to
play me false, and now that has happened with yonder dog, Masapo, which
will make her father hate me."
"If you will take my advice, Saduko," I replied earnestly, "you will let
this Mameena fall out of the hole in your heart; you will forget her
name; you will have done with her. Ask me not why."
"Perhaps there is no need, O Macumazana. Perhaps she has been making
love to you, and you have turned her away, as, being what you are, and
my friend, of course you would do." (It is rather inconvenient to be
set upon such a pedestal at times, but I did not attempt to assent or to
deny anything, much less to enter into explanations.)
"Perhaps all this has happened," he continued, "or perhaps it is she who
has sent for Masapo the Hog. I do not ask, because if you know you will
not tell me. Moreover, it matters nothing. While I have a heart,
Mameena will never drop out of it; while I can remember names, hers will
never be forgotten by me. Moreover, I mean that she shall be my wife.
Now, I am minded to take a few men and spear this hog, Masapo, before we
go up against Bangu, for then he, at any rate, will be out of my road."
"If you do anything of the sort, Saduko, you will go up against Bangu
alone, for I trek east at once, who will not be mixed up with murder."
"Then let it be, Inkoosi; unless he attacks me, as my Snake send that he
may, the Hog can wait. After all, he will only be growing a little
fatter. Now, if it pleases you order the wagons to trek. I will show
the road, for we must camp in that bush to-night where my people wait
me, and there I will tell you my plans; also you will find one with a
message for you."
We had reached the bush after six hours' downhill trek over a pretty bad
track made by cattle--of course, there were no roads in Zululand at this
date. I remember the place well. It was a kind of spreading woodland
on a flat bottom, where trees of no great size grew sparsely. Some were
mimosa thorns, others had deep green leaves and bore a kind of plum with
an acid taste and a huge stone, and others silver-coloured leaves in
their season. A river, too, low at this time of the year, wound through
it, and in the scrub upon its banks were many guinea-fowl and other
birds. It was a pleasing, lonely place, with lots of game in it, that
came here in the winter to eat the grass, which was lacking on the
higher veld. Also it gave the idea of vastness, since wherever one
looked there was nothing to be seen except a sea of trees.
Well, we outspanned by the river, of which I forget the name, at a spot
that Saduko showed us, and set to work to cook our food, that consisted
of venison from a blue wildebeest, one of a herd of these wild-looking
animals which I had been fortunate enough to shoot as they whisked past
us, gambolling in and out between the trees.
While we were eating I observed that armed Zulus arrived continually in
parties of from six to a score of men, and as they arrived lifted their
spears, though whether in salutation to Saduko or to myself I did not
know, and sat themselves down on an open space between us and the
river-bank. Although it was difficult to say whence they came, for they
appeared like ghosts out of the bush, I thought it well to take no
notice of them, since I guessed that their coming was prearranged.
"Who are they?" I whispered to Scowl, as he brought me my tot of
"Saduko's wild men," he answered in the same low voice, "outlaws of his
tribe who live among the rocks."
Now I scanned them sideways, while pretending to light my pipe and so
forth, and certainly they seemed a remarkably savage set of people.
Great, gaunt fellows with tangled hair, who wore tattered skins upon
their shoulders and seemed to have no possessions save some snuff, a few
sleeping-mats, and an ample supply of large fighting shields, hardwood
kerries or knob-sticks, and broad ixwas, or stabbing assegais. Such was
the look of them as they sat round us in silent semicircles, like
aas-vogels--as the Dutch call vultures--sit round a dying ox.
Still I smoked on and took no notice.
At length, as I expected, Saduko grew weary of my silence and spoke.
"These are men of the Amangwane tribe, Macumazahn; three hundred of
them, all that Bangu left alive, for when their fathers were killed, the
women escaped with some of the children, especially those of the
outlying kraals. I have gathered them to be revenged upon Bangu, I who
am their chief by right of blood."
"Quite so," I answered. "I see that you have gathered them; but do they
wish to be revenged on Bangu at the risk of their own lives?"
"We do, white Inkoosi," came the deep-throated answer from the three
"And do they acknowledge you, Saduko, to be their chief?"
"We do," again came the answer. Then a spokesman stepped forward, one
of the few grey-haired men among them, for most of these Amangwane were
of the age of Saduko, or even younger.
"O Watcher-by-Night," he said, "I am Tshoza, the brother of Matiwane,
Saduko's father, the only one of his brothers that escaped the slaughter
on the night of the Great Killing. Is it not so?"
"It is so," exclaimed the serried ranks behind him.
"I acknowledge Saduko as my chief, and so do we all," went on Tshoza.
"So do we all," echoed the ranks.
"Since Matiwane died we have lived as we could, O Macumazana; like
baboons among the rocks, without cattle, often without a hut to shelter
us; here one, there one. Still, we have lived, awaiting the hour of
vengeance upon Bangu, that hour which Zikali the Wise, who is of our
blood, has promised to us. Now we believe that it has come, and one and
all, from here, from there, from everywhere, we have gathered at the
summons of Saduko to be led against Bangu and to conquer him or to die.
Is it not so, Amangwane?"
"It is, it is so!" came the deep, unanimous answer, that caused the
stirless leaves to shake in the still air.
"I understand, O Tshoza, brother of Matiwane and uncle of Saduko the
chief," I replied. "But Bangu is a strong man, living, I am told, in a
strong place. Still, let that go; for have you not said that you come
out to conquer or to die, you who have nothing to lose; and if you
conquer, you conquer; and if you die, you die and the tale is told. But
supposing that you conquer. What will Panda, King of the Zulus, say to
you, and to me also, who stir up war in his country?"
Now the Amangwane looked behind them, and Saduko cried out:
"Appear, messenger from Panda the King!"
Before his words had ceased to echo I saw a little, withered man
threading his way between the tall, gaunt forms of the Amangwane. He
came and stood before me, saying:
"Hail, Macumazahn. Do you remember me?"
"Aye," I answered, "I remember you as Maputa, one of Panda's indunas."
"Quite so, Macumazahn; I am Maputa, one of his indunas, a member of his
Council, a captain of his impis [that is, armies], as I was to his
brothers who are gone, whose names it is not lawful that I should name.
Well, Panda the King has sent me to you, at the request of Saduko there,
with a message."
"How do I know that you are a true messenger?" I asked. "Have you
brought me any token?"
"Aye," he answered, and, fumbling under his cloak, he produced something
wrapped in dried leaves, which he undid and handed to me, saying:
"This is the token that Panda sends to you, Macumazahn, bidding me to
tell you that you will certainly know it again; also that you are
welcome to it, since the two little bullets which he swallowed as you
directed made him very ill, and he needs no more of them."
I took the token, and, examining it in the moonlight, recognised it at
It was a cardboard box of strong calomel pills, on the top of which was
written: "Allan Quatermain, Esq.: One only to be taken as directed."
Without entering into explanations, I may state that I had taken "one as
directed," and subsequently presented the rest of the box to King Panda,
who was very anxious to "taste the white man's medicine."
"Do you recognise the token, Macumazahn?" asked the induna.
"Yes," I replied gravely; "and let the King return thanks to the spirits
of his ancestors that he did not swallow three of the balls, for if he
had done so, by now there would have been another Head in Zululand.
Well, speak on, Messenger."
But to myself I reflected, not for the first time, how strangely these
natives could mix up the sublime with the ridiculous. Here was a matter
that must involve the death of many men, and the token sent to me by the
autocrat who stood at the back of it all, to prove the good faith of his
messenger, was a box of calomel pills! However, it served the purpose
as well as anything else.
Maputa and I drew aside, for I saw that he wished to speak with me
"O Macumazana," he said, when we were out of hearing of the others,
"these are the words of Panda to you: 'I understand that you,
Macumazahn, have promised to accompany Saduko, son of Matiwane, on an
expedition of his against Bangu, chief of the Amakoba. Now, were anyone
else concerned, I should forbid this expedition, and especially should I
forbid you, a white man in my country, to share therein. But this dog
of a Bangu is an evil-doer. Many years ago he worked on the Black One
who went before me to send him to destroy Matiwane, my friend, filling
the Black One's ears with false accusations; and thereafter he did
treacherously destroy him and all his tribe save Saduko, his son, and
some of the people and children who escaped. Moreover, of late he has
been working against me, the King, striving to stir up rebellion against
me, because he knows that I hate him for his crimes. Now I, Panda,
unlike those who went before me, am a man of peace who do not wish to
light the fire of civil war in the land, for who knows where such fires
will stop, or whose kraals they will consume? Yet I do wish to see
Bangu punished for his wickedness, and his pride abated. Therefore I
give Saduko leave, and those people of the Amangwane who remain to him,
to avenge their private wrongs upon Bangu if they can; and I give you
leave, Macumazahn, to be of his party. Moreover, if any cattle are
taken, I shall ask no account of them; you and Saduko may divide them as
you wish. But understand, O Macumazana, that if you or your people are
killed or wounded, or robbed of your goods, I know nothing of the
matter, and am not responsible to you or to the white House of Natal; it
is your own matter. These are my words. I have spoken.'"
"I see," I answered. "I am to pull Panda's hot iron out of the fire and
to extinguish the fire. If I succeed I may keep a piece of the iron
when it gets cool, and if I burn my fingers it is my own fault, and I or
my House must not come crying to Panda."
"O Watcher-by-Night, you have speared the bull in the heart," replied
Maputa, the messenger, nodding his shrewd old head. "Well, will you go
up with Saduko?"
"Say to the King, O Messenger, that I will go up with Saduko because I
promised him that I would, being moved by the tale of his wrongs, and
not for the sake of the cattle, although it is true that if I hear any
of them lowing in my camp I may keep them. Say to Panda also that if
aught of ill befalls me he shall hear nothing of it, nor will I bring
his high name into this business; but that he, on his part, must not
blame me for anything that may happen afterwards. Have you the
"I have it word for word; and may your Spirit be with you, Macumazahn,
when you attack the strong mountain of Bangu, which, were I you," Maputa
added reflectively, "I think I should do just at the dawn, since the
Amakoba drink much beer and are heavy sleepers."
Then we took a pinch of snuff together, and he departed at once for
Nodwengu, Panda's Great Place.
Fourteen days had gone by, and Saduko and I, with our ragged band of
Amangwane, sat one morning, after a long night march, in the hilly
country looking across a broad vale, which was sprinkled with trees like
an English park, at that mountain on the side of which Bangu, chief of
the Amakoba, had his kraal.
It was a very formidable mountain, and, as we had already observed, the
paths leading up to the kraal were amply protected with stone walls in
which the openings were quite narrow, only just big enough to allow one
ox to pass through them at a time. Moreover, all these walls had been
strengthened recently, perhaps because Bangu was aware that Panda looked
upon him, a northern chief dwelling on the confines of his dominions,
with suspicion and even active enmity, as he was also no doubt aware
Panda had good cause to do.
Here in a dense patch of bush that grew in a kloof of the hills we held
a council of war.
So far as we knew our advance had been unobserved, for I had left my
wagons in the low veld thirty miles away, giving it out among the local
natives that I was hunting game there, and bringing on with me only
Scowl and four of my best hunters, all well-armed natives who could
shoot. The three hundred Amangwane also had advanced in small parties,
separated from each other, pretending to be Kafirs marching towards
Delagoa Bay. Now, however, we had all met in this bush. Among our
number were three Amangwane who, on the slaughter of their tribe, had
fled with their mothers to this district and been brought up among the
people of Bangu, but who at his summons had come back to Saduko. It was
on these men that we relied at this juncture, for they alone knew the
country. Long and anxiously did we consult with them. First they
explained, and, so far as the moonlight would allow, for as yet the dawn
had not broken, pointed out to us the various paths that led to Bangu's
"How many men are there in the town?" I asked.
"About seven hundred who carry spears," they answered, "together with
others in outlying kraals. Moreover, watchmen are always set at the
gateways in the walls."
"And where are the cattle?" I asked again.
"Here, in the valley beneath, Macumazahn," answered the spokesman. "If
you listen you will hear them lowing. Fifty men, not less, watch them
at night--two thousand head of them, or more."
"Then it would not be difficult to get round these cattle and drive them
off, leaving Bangu to breed up a new herd?"
"It might not be difficult," interrupted Saduko, "but I came here to
kill Bangu, as well as to seize his cattle, since with him I have a
"Very good," I answered; "but that mountain cannot be stormed with three
hundred men, fortified as it is with walls and schanzes. Our band would
be destroyed before ever we came to the kraal, since, owing to the
sentries who are set everywhere, it would be impossible to surprise the
place. Also you have forgotten the dogs, Saduko. Moreover, even if it
were possible, I will have nothing to do with the massacre of women and
children, which must happen in an assault. Now, listen to me, O Saduko.
I say let us leave the kraal of Bangu alone, and this coming night send
fifty of our men, under the leadership of the guides, down to yonder
bush, where they will lie hid. Then, after moonrise, when all are
asleep, these fifty must rush the cattle kraal, killing any who may
oppose them, should they be seen, and driving the herd out through
yonder great pass by which we have entered the land. Bangu and his
people, thinking that those who have taken the cattle are but common
thieves of some wild tribe, will gather and follow the beasts to
recapture them. But we, with the rest of the Amangwane, can set an
ambush in the narrowest part of the pass among the rocks, where the
grass is high and the euphorbia trees grow thick, and there, when they
have passed the Nek, which I and my hunters will hold with our guns, we
will give them battle. What say you?"
Now, Saduko answered that he would rather attack the kraal, which he
wished to burn. But the old Amangwane, Tshoza, brother of the dead
"No, Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night, is wise. Why should we waste our
strength on stone walls, of which none know the number or can find the
gates in the darkness, and thereby leave our skulls to be set up as
ornaments on the fences of the accursed Amakoba? Let us draw the
Amakoba out into the pass of the mountains, where they have no walls to
protect them, and there fall on them when they are bewildered and settle
the matter with them man to man. As for the women and children, with
Macumazahn I say let them go; afterwards, perhaps, they will become
our women and children."
"Aye," answered the Amangwane, "the plan of the white Inkoosi is good;
he is clever as a weasel; we will have his plan and no other."
So Saduko was overruled and my counsel adopted.
All that day we rested, lighting no fires and remaining still as the
dead in the dense bush. It was a very anxious day, for although the
place was so wild and lonely, there was always the fear lest we should
be discovered. It was true that we had travelled mostly by night in
small parties, to avoid leaving a spoor, and avoided all kraals; still,
some rumour of our approach might have reached the Amakoba, or a party
of hunters might stumble on us, or those who sought for lost cattle.
Indeed, something of this sort did happen, for about midday we heard a
footfall, and perceived the figure of a man, whom by his head-dress we
knew for an Amakoba, threading his way through the bush. Before he saw
us he was in our midst. For a moment he hesitated ere he turned to fly,
and that moment was his last, for three of the Amangwane leapt on him
silently as leopards leap upon a buck, and where he stood there he died.
Poor fellow! Evidently he had been on a visit to some witch-doctor,
for in his blanket we found medicine and love charms. This doctor
cannot have been one of the stamp of Zikali the Dwarf, I thought to
myself; at least, he had not warned him that he would never live to dose
his beloved with that foolish medicine.
Meanwhile a few of us who had the quickest eyes climbed trees, and
thence watched the town of Bangu and the valley that lay between us and
it. Soon we saw that so far, at any rate, Fortune was playing into our
hands, since herd after herd of kine were driven into the valley during
the afternoon and enclosed in the stock-kraals. Doubtless Bangu
intended on the morrow to make his half-yearly inspection of all the
cattle of the tribe, many of which were herded at a distance from his
At length the long day drew to its close and the shadows of the evening
thickened. Then we made ready for our dreadful game, of which the stake
was the lives of all of us, since, should we fail, we could expect no
mercy. The fifty picked men were gathered and ate food in silence.
These men were placed under the command of Tshoza, for he was the most
experienced of the Amangwane, and led by the three guides who had dwelt
among the Amakoba, and who "knew every ant-heap in the land," or so they
swore. Their duty, it will be remembered, was to cross the valley,
separate themselves into small parties, unbar the various cattle kraals,
kill or hunt off the herdsmen, and drive the beasts back across the
valley into the pass. A second fifty men, under the command of Saduko,
were to be left just at the end of this pass where it opened out into
the valley, in order to help and reinforce the cattle-lifters, or, if
need be, to check the following Amakoba while the great herds of beasts
were got away, and then fall back on the rest of us in our ambush nearly
two miles distant. The management of this ambush was to be my charge--a
heavy one indeed.
Now, the moon would not be up till midnight. But two hours before that
time we began our moves, since the cattle must be driven out of the
kraals as soon as she appeared and gave the needful light. Otherwise
the fight in the pass would in all probability be delayed till after
sunrise, when the Amakoba would see how small was the number of their
foes. Terror, doubt, darkness--these must be our allies if our
desperate venture was to succeed.
All was arranged at last and the time had come. We, the three captains
of our divided force, bade each other farewell, and passed the word down
the ranks that, should we be separated by the accidents of war, my
wagons were the meeting-place of any who survived.
Tshoza and his fifty glided away into the shadow silently as ghosts and
were gone. Presently the fierce-faced Saduko departed also with his
fifty. He carried the double-barrelled gun I had given him, and was
accompanied by one of my best hunters, a Natal native, who was also
armed with a heavy smooth-bore loaded with slugs. Our hope was that the
sound of these guns might terrify the foe, should there be occasion to
use them before our forces joined up again, and make them think they had
to do with a body of raiding Dutch white men, of whose roers--as the
heavy elephant guns of that day were called--all natives were much
So Saduko went with his fifty, leaving me wondering whether I should
ever see his face again. Then I, my bearer Scowl, the two remaining
hunters, and the ten score Amangwane who were left turned and soon were
following the road by which we had come down the rugged pass. I call it
a road, but, in fact, it was nothing but a water-washed gully strewn
with boulders, through which we must pick our way as best we could in
the darkness, having first removed the percussion cap from the nipple of
every gun, for fear lest the accidental discharge of one of them should
warn the Amakoba, confuse our other parties, and bring all our deep-laid
plans to nothing.
Well, we accomplished that march somehow, walking in three long lines,
so that each man might keep touch with him in front, and just as the
moon began to rise reached the spot that I had chosen for the ambush.
Certainly it was well suited to that purpose. Here the track or gully
bed narrowed to a width of not more than a hundred feet, while the steep
slopes of the kloof on either side were clothed with scattered bushes
and finger-like euphorbias which grew among stones. Behind these stones
and bushes we hid ourselves, a hundred men on one side and a hundred on
the other, whilst I and my three hunters, who were armed with guns, took
up a position under shelter of a great boulder nearly five feet thick
that lay but a little to the right of the gully itself, up which we
expected the cattle would come. This place I chose for two reasons:
first, that I might keep touch with both wings of my force, and,
secondly, that we might be able to fire straight down the path on the
These were the orders that I gave to the Amangwane, warning them that he
who disobeyed would be punished with death. They were not to stir until
I, or, if I should be killed, one of my hunters, fired a shot; for my
fear was lest, growing excited, they might leap out before the time and
kill some of our own people, who very likely would be mixed up with the
first of the pursuing Amakoba. Secondly, when the cattle had passed and
the signal had been given, they were to rush on the Amakoba, throwing
themselves across the gully, so that the enemy would have to fight
upwards on a steep slope.
That was all I told them, since it is not wise to confuse natives by
giving too many orders. One thing I added, however--that they must
conquer or they must die. There was no mercy for them; it was a case of
death or victory. Their spokesman--for these people always find a
spokesman--answered that they thanked me for my advice; that they
understood, and that they would do their best. Then they lifted their
spears to me in salute. A wild lot of men they looked in the moonlight
as they departed to take shelter behind the rocks and trees and wait.
That waiting was long, and I confess that before the end it got upon my
nerves. I began to think of all sorts of things, such as whether I
should live to see the sun rise again; also I reflected upon the
legitimacy of this remarkable enterprise. What right had I to involve
myself in a quarrel between these savages?
Why had I come here? To gain cattle as a trader? No, for I was not at
all sure that I would take them if gained. Because Saduko had twitted
me with faithlessness to my words? Yes, to a certain extent; but that
was by no means the whole reason. I had been moved by the recital of
the cruel wrongs inflicted upon Saduko and his tribe by this Bangu, and
therefore had not been loath to associate myself with his attempted
vengeance upon a wicked murderer. Well, that was sound enough so far as
it went; but now a new consideration suggested itself to me. Those
wrongs had been worked many years ago; probably most of the men who had
aided and abetted them by now were dead or very aged, and it was their
sons upon whom the vengeance would be wreaked.
What right had I to assist in visiting the sins of the fathers upon the
sons? Frankly I could not say. The thing seemed to me to be a part of
the problem of life, neither less nor more. So I shrugged my shoulders
sadly and consoled myself by reflecting that very likely the issue would
go against me, and that my own existence would pay the price of the
venture and expound its moral. This consideration soothed my conscience
somewhat, for when a man backs his actions with the risk of his life,
right or wrong, at any rate he plays no coward's part.
The time went by very slowly and nothing happened. The waning moon
shone brightly in a clear sky, and as there was no wind the silence
seemed peculiarly intense. Save for the laugh of an occasional hyena
and now and again for a sound which I took for the coughing of a distant
lion, there was no stir between sleeping earth and moonlit heaven in
which little clouds floated beneath the pale stars.
At length I thought that I heard a noise, a kind of murmur far away. It
grew, it developed.
It sounded like a thousand sticks tapping upon something hard, very
faintly. It continued to grow, and I knew the sound for that of the
beating hoofs of animals galloping. Then there were isolated noises,
very faint and thin; they might be shouts; then something that I could
not mistake--shots fired at a distance. So the business was afoot; the
cattle were moving, Saduko and my hunter were firing. There was nothing
for it but to wait.
The excitement was very fierce; it seemed to consume me, to eat into my
brain. The sound of the tapping upon the rocks grew louder until it
merged into a kind of rumble, mixed with an echo as of that of very
distant thunder, which presently I knew to be not thunder, but the
bellowing of a thousand frightened beasts.
Nearer and nearer came the galloping hoofs and the rumble of bellowings;
nearer and nearer the shouts of men, affronting the stillness of the
solemn night. At length a single animal appeared, a koodoo buck that
somehow had got mixed up with the cattle. It went past us like a flash,
and was followed a minute or so later by a bull that, being young and
light, had outrun its companions. That, too, went by, foam on its lips
and its tongue hanging from its jaws.
Then the herd appeared--a countless herd it seemed to me--plunging up
the incline--cows, heifers, calves, bulls, and oxen, all mixed together
in one inextricable mass, and every one of them snorting, bellowing, or
making some other kind of sound. The din was fearful, the sight
bewildering, for the beasts were of all colours, and their long horns
flashed like ivory in the moonlight. Indeed, the only thing in the
least like it which I have ever seen was the rush of the buffaloes from
the reed camp on that day when I got my injury.
They were streaming past us now, a mighty and moving mass so closely
packed that a man might have walked upon their backs. In fact, some of
the calves which had been thrust up by the pressure were being carried
along in this fashion. Glad was I that none of us were in their path,
for their advance seemed irresistible. No fence or wall could have
saved us, and even stout trees that grew in the gully were snapped or
At length the long line began to thin, for now it was composed of
stragglers and weak or injured beasts, of which there were many. Other
sounds, too, began to dominate the bellowings of the animals, those of
the excited cries of men. The first of our companions, the
cattle-lifters, appeared, weary and gasping, but waving their spears in
triumph. Among them was old Tshoza. I stepped upon my rock, calling to
him by name. He heard me, and presently was lying at my side panting.
"We have got them all!" he gasped. "Not a hoof is left save those that
are trodden down. Saduko is not far behind with the rest of our
brothers, except some that have been killed. All the Amakoba tribe are
after us. He holds them back to give the cattle time to get away."
"Well done!" I answered. "It is very good. Now make your men hide
among the others that they may find their breath before the fight."
So he stopped them as they came. Scarcely had the last of them vanished
into the bushes when the gathering volume of shouts, amongst which I
heard a gun go off, told us that Saduko and his band and the pursuing
Amakoba were not far away. Presently they, too, appeared--that is the
handful of Amangwane did--not fighting now, but running as hard as they
could, for they knew they were approaching the ambush and wished to pass
it so as not to be mixed up with the Amakoba. We let them go through
us. Among the last of them came Saduko, who was wounded, for the blood
ran down his side, supporting my hunter, who was also wounded, more
severely as I feared.
I called to him.
"Saduko," I said, "halt at the crest of the path and rest there so that
you may be able to help us presently."
He waved the gun in answer, for he was too breathless to speak, and went
on with those who were left of his following--perhaps thirty men in
all--in the track of the cattle. Before he was out of sight the Amakoba
arrived, a mob of five or six hundred men mixed up together and
advancing without order or discipline, for they seemed to have lost
their heads as well as their cattle. Some of them had shields and some
had none, some broad and some throwing assegais, while many were quite
naked, not having stayed to put on their moochas and much less their war
finery. Evidently they were mad with rage, for the sounds that issued
from them seemed to concentrate into one mighty curse.
The moment had come, though to tell the truth I heartily wished that it
had not. I wasn't exactly afraid, although I never set up for great
courage, but I did not quite like the business. After all we were
stealing these people's cattle, and now were going to kill as many of
them as we could. I had to recall Saduko's dreadful story of the
massacre of his tribe before I could make up my mind to give the signal.
That hardened me, and so did the reflection that after all they
outnumbered us enormously and very likely would prove victors in the
end. Anyhow it was too late to repent. What a tricky and uncomfortable
thing is conscience, that nearly always begins to trouble us at the
moment of, or after, the event, not before, when it might be of some
I raised myself upon the rock and fired both barrels of my gun into the
advancing horde, though whether I killed anyone or no I cannot say. I
have always hoped that I did not; but as the mark was large and I am a
fair shot, I fear that is scarcely possible. Next moment, with a howl
that sounded like that of wild beasts, from either side of the gorge the
fierce Amangwane free-spears--for that is what they were--leapt out of
their hiding-places and hurled themselves upon their hereditary foes.
They were fighting for more than cattle; they were fighting for hate and
for revenge since these Amakoba had slaughtered their fathers and their
mothers, their sisters and their brothers, and they alone remained to
pay them back blood for blood.
Great heaven! how they did fight, more like devils than human beings.
After that first howl which shaped itself to the word "Saduko," they
were silent as bulldogs. Though they were so few, at first their
terrible rush drove back the Amakoba. Then, as these recovered from
their surprise, the weight of numbers began to tell, for they, too, were
brave men who did not give way to panic. Scores of them went down at
once, but the remainder pushed the Amangwane before them up the hill. I
took little share in the fight, but was thrust backward with the others,
only firing when I was obliged to save my own life. Foot by foot we
were pushed back till at length we drew near to the crest of the pass.
Then, while the issue hung in the balance, there was another shout of
"Saduko!" and that chief himself, followed by his thirty, rushed upon
This charge decided the battle, for not knowing how many more were
coming, those who were left of the Amakoba turned and fled, nor did we
pursue them far.
We mustered on the hill-top, not more than two hundred of us now, the
rest were fallen or desperately wounded, my poor hunter, whom I had lent
to Saduko, being among the dead. Although wounded, he died fighting to
the last, then fell down, shouting to me:
"Chief, have I done well?" and expired.
I was breathless and spent, but as in a dream I saw some Amangwane drag
up a gaunt old savage, crying:
"Here is Bangu, Bangu the Butcher, whom we have caught alive."
Saduko stepped up to him.
"Ah! Bangu," be said, "now say, why should I not kill you as you would
have killed the little lad Saduko long ago, had not Zikali saved him?
See, here is the mark of your spear."
"Kill," said Bangu. "Your Spirit is stronger than mine. Did not Zikali
foretell it? Kill, Saduko."
"Nay," answered Saduko. "If you are weary I am weary, too, and wounded
as well. Take a spear, Bangu, and we will fight."
So they fought there in the moonlight, man to man; fought fiercely while
all watched, till presently I saw Bangu throw his arms wide and fall
Saduko was avenged. I have always been glad that he slew his enemy
thus, and not as it might have been expected that he would do.
We reached my wagons in the early morning of the following day, bringing
with us the cattle and our wounded. Thus encumbered it was a most
toilsome march, and an anxious one also, for it was always possible that
the remnant of the Amakoba might attempt pursuit. This, however, they
did not do, for very many of them were dead or wounded, and those who
remained had no heart left in them. They went back to their mountain
home and lived there in shame and wretchedness, for I do not believe
there were fifty head of cattle left among the tribe, and Kafirs without
cattle are nothing. Still, they did not starve, since there were plenty
of women to work the fields, and we had not touched their corn. The end
of them was that Panda gave them to their conqueror, Saduko, and he
incorporated them with the Amangwane. But that did not happen until
some time afterwards.
When we had rested a while at the wagons the captured beasts were
mustered, and on being counted were found to number a little over twelve
hundred head, not reckoning animals that had been badly hurt in the
flight, which we killed for beef. It was a noble prize, truly, and,
notwithstanding the wound in his thigh, which hurt him a good deal now
that it had stiffened, Saduko stood up and surveyed them with glistening
eyes. No wonder, for he who had been so poor was now rich, and would
remain so even after he had paid over whatever number of cows Umbezi
chose to demand as the price of Mameena's hand. Moreover, he was sure,
and I shared his confidence, that in these changed circumstances both
that young woman and her father would look upon his suit with very
favourable eyes. He had, so to speak, succeeded to the title and the
family estates by means of a lawsuit brought in the "Court of the
Assegai," and therefore there was hardly a father in Zululand who would
shut his kraal gate upon him. We forgot, both of us, the proverb that
points out how numerous are the slips between the cup and the lip,
which, by the way, is one that has its Zulu equivalents. One of them,
if I remember right at the moment, is: "However loud the hen cackles,
the housewife does not always get the egg."
As it chanced, although Saduko's hen was cackling very loudly just at
this time, he was not destined to find the coveted egg. But of that
matter I will speak in its place.
I, too, looked at those cattle, wondering whether Saduko would remember
our bargain, under which some six hundred head of them belonged to me.
Six hundred head! Why, putting them at £5 apiece all round--and as oxen
were very scarce just at that time, they were worth quite as much, if
not more--that meant £3,000, a larger sum of money than I had ever owned
at one time in all my life. Truly the paths of violence were
profitable! But would he remember? On the whole I thought probably
not, since Kafirs are not fond of parting with cattle.
Well, I did him an injustice, for presently he turned and said, with
something of an effort:
"Macumazahn, half of all these belong to you, and truly you have earned
them, for it was your cunning and good counsel that gained us the
victory. Now we will choose them beast by beast."
So I chose a fine ox, then Saduko chose one; and so it went on till I
had eight of my number driven out. As the eighth was taken I turned to
Saduko and said:
"There, that will do. These oxen I must have to replace those in my
teams which died on the trek, but I want no more."
"Wow!" said Saduko, and all those who stood with him, while one of them
added--I think it was old Tshoza:
"He refuses six hundred cattle which are fairly his! He must be mad!"
"No friends," I answered, "I am not mad, but neither am I bad. I
accompanied Saduko on this raid because he is dear to me and stood by me
once in the hour of danger. But I do not love killing men with whom I
have no quarrel, and I will not take the price of blood."
"Wow!" said old Tshoza again, for Saduko seemed too astonished to speak,
"he is a spirit, not a man. He is holy!"
"Not a bit of it," I answered. "If you think that, ask Mameena"--a dark
saying which they did not understand. "Now, listen. I will not take
those cattle because I do not think as you Kafirs think. But as they
are mine, according to your law, I am going to dispose of them. I give
ten head to each of my hunters, and fifteen head to the relations of him
who was killed. The rest I give to Tshoza and to the other men of the
Amangwane who fought with us, to be divided among them in such
proportions as they may agree, I being the judge in the event of any
Now these men raised a great cry of "Inkoosi!" and, running up, old
Tshoza seized my hand and kissed it.
"Your heart is big," he cried; "you drop fatness! Although you are so
small, the spirit of a king lives in you, and the wisdom of the
Thus he praised me, while all the others joined in, till the din was
awful. Saduko thanked me also in his magnificent manner. Yet I do not
think that he was altogether pleased, although my great gift relieved
him from the necessity of sharing up the spoil with his companions. The
truth was, or so I believe, that he understood that henceforth the
Amangwane would love me better than they loved him. This, indeed,
proved to be the case, for I am sure that there was no man among all
those wild fellows who would not have served me to the death, and to
this day my name is a power among them and their descendants. Also it
has grown into something of a proverb among all those Kafirs who know
the story. They talk of any great act of liberality in an idiom as "a
gift of Macumazana," and in the same way of one who makes any remarkable
renunciation, as "a wearer of Macumazana's blanket," or as "he who has
stolen Macumazana's shadow."
Thus did I earn a great reputation very cheaply, for really I could not
have taken those cattle; also I am sure that had I done so they would
have brought me bad luck. Indeed, one of the regrets of my life is that
I had anything whatsoever to do with the business.
Our journey back to Umbezi's kraal--for thither we were heading--was
very slow, hampered as we were with wounded and by a vast herd of
cattle. Of the latter, indeed, we got rid after a while, for, except
those which I had given to my men, and a hundred or so of the best
beasts that Saduko took with him for a certain purpose, they were sent
away to a place which he had chosen, in charge of about half of his
people, under the command of his uncle, Tshoza, there to await his
Over a month had gone by since the night of the ambush when at last we
outspanned quite close to Umbezi's, in that bush where first I had met
the Amangwane free-spears. A very different set of men they looked on
this triumphant day to those fierce fellows who had slipped out of the
trees at the call of their chief. As we went through the country Saduko
had bought fine moochas and blankets for them; also head-dresses had
been made with the long black feathers of the sakabuli finch, and
shields and leglets of the hides and tails of oxen. Moreover, having
fed plentifully and travelled easily, they were fat and well-favoured,
as, given good food, natives soon become after a period of abstinence.
The plan of Saduko was to lie quiet in the bush that night, and on the
following morning to advance in all his grandeur, accompanied by his
spears, present the hundred head of cattle that had been demanded, and
formally ask his daughter's hand from Umbezi. As the reader may have
gathered already, there was a certain histrionic vein in Saduko; also
when he was in feather he liked to show off his plumage.
Well, this plan was carried out to the letter. On the following
morning, after the sun was well up, Saduko, as a great chief does, sent
forward two bedizened heralds to announce his approach to Umbezi, after
whom followed two other men to sing his deeds and praises. (By the way,
I observed that they had clearly been instructed to avoid any mention of
a person called Macumazahn.) Then we advanced in force. First went
Saduko, splendidly apparelled as a chief, carrying a small assegai and
adorned with plumes, leglets and a leopard-skin kilt. He was attended
by about half a dozen of the best-looking of his followers, who posed as
"indunas" or councillors. Behind these I walked, a dusty, insignificant
little fellow, attended by the ugly, snub-nosed Scowl in a very greasy
pair of trousers, worn-out European boots through which his toes peeped,
and nothing else, and by my three surviving hunters, whose appearance
was even more disreputable. After us marched about four score of the
transformed Amangwane, and after them came the hundred picked cattle
driven by a few herdsmen.
In due course we arrived at the gate of the kraal, where we found the
heralds and the praisers prancing and shouting.
"Have you seen Umbezi?" asked Saduko of them.
"No," they answered; "he was asleep when we got here, but his people say
that he is coming out presently."
"Then tell his people that he had better be quick about it, or I shall
turn him out," replied the proud Saduko.
Just at this moment the kraal gate opened and through it appeared
Umbezi, looking extremely fat and foolish; also, it struck me,
frightened, although this he tried to conceal.
"Who visits me here," he said, "with so much--um--ceremony?" and with
the carved dancing-stick he carried he pointed doubtfully at the lines
of armed men. "Oh, it is you, is it, Saduko?" and he looked him up and
down, adding: "How grand you are to be sure. Have you been robbing
anybody? And you, too, Macumazahn. Well, you do not look grand. You
look like an old cow that has been suckling two calves on the winter
veld. But tell me, what are all these warriors for? I ask because I
have not food for so many, especially as we have just had a feast here."
"Fear nothing, Umbezi," answered Saduko in his grandest manner. "I have
brought food for my own men. As for my business, it is simple. You
asked a hundred head of cattle as the lobola [that is, the marriage
gift] of your daughter, Mameena. They are there. Go send your servants
to the kraal and count them."
"Oh, with pleasure," Umbezi replied nervously, and he gave some orders
to certain men behind him. "I am glad to see that you have become rich
in this sudden fashion, Saduko, though how you have done so I cannot
"Never mind how I have become rich," answered Saduko. "I am rich;
that is enough for the present. Be pleased to send for Mameena, for I
would talk with her."
"Yes, yes, Saduko, I understand that you would talk with Mameena;
but"--and he looked round him desperately--"I fear that she is still
asleep. As you know, Mameena was always a late riser, and, what is
more, she hates to be disturbed. Don't you think that you could come
back, say, to-morrow morning? She will be sure to be up by then; or,
better still, the day after?"
"In which hut is Mameena?" asked Saduko sternly, while I, smelling a
rat, began to chuckle to myself.
"I really do not know, Saduko," replied Umbezi. "Sometimes she sleeps
in one, sometimes in another, and sometimes she goes several hours'
journey away to her aunt's kraal for a change. I should not be in the
least surprised if she had done so last night. I have no control over
Before Saduko could answer, a shrill, rasping voice broke upon our ears,
which after some search I saw proceeded from an ugly and ancient female
seated in the shadow, in whom I recognised the lady who was known by the
pleasing name of "Worn-out-Old-Cow."
"He lies!" screeched the voice. "He lies. Thanks be to the spirit of
my ancestors that wild cat Mameena has left this kraal for good. She
slept last night, not with her aunt, but with her husband, Masapo, to
whom Umbezi gave her in marriage two days ago, receiving in payment a
hundred and twenty head of cattle, which was twenty more than you bid,
Now when Saduko heard these words I thought that he would really go mad
with rage. He turned quite grey under his dark skin and for a while
trembled like a leaf, looking as though he were about to fall to the
ground. Then he leapt as a lion leaps, and seizing Umbezi by the
throat, hurled him backwards, standing over him with raised spear.
"You dog!" he cried in a terrible voice. "Tell me the truth or I will
rip you up. What have you done with Mameena?"
"Oh! Saduko," answered Umbezi in choking tones, "Mameena has chosen to
get married. It was no fault of mine; she would have her way."
He got no farther, and had I not intervened by throwing my arms about
Saduko and dragging him back, that moment would have been Umbezi's last,
for Saduko was about to pin him to the earth with his spear. As it
proved, I was just in time, and Saduko, being weak with emotion, for I
felt his heart going like a sledge-hammer, could not break from my grasp
before his reason returned to him.
At length he recovered himself a little and threw down his spear as
though to put himself out of temptation. Then he spoke, always in the
same terrible voice, asking:
"Have you more to say about this business, Umbezi? I would hear all
before I answer you."
"Only this, Saduko," replied Umbezi, who had risen to his feet and was
shaking like a reed. "I did no more than any other father would have
done. Masapo is a very powerful chief, one who will be a good stick for
me to lean on in my old age. Mameena declared that she wished to marry
"He lies!" screeched the "Old Cow." "What Mameena said was that she had
no will towards marriage with any Zulu in the land, so I suppose she is
looking after a white man," and she leered in my direction. "She said,
however, that if her father wished to marry her to Masapo, she must be a
dutiful daughter and obey him, but that if blood and trouble came of
that marriage, let it be on his head and not on hers."
"Would you also stick your claws into me, cat?" shouted Umbezi, catching
the old woman a savage cut across the back with the light dancing-stick
which he still held in his hand, whereon she fled away screeching and
"Oh, Saduko," he went on, "let not your ears be poisoned by these
falsehoods. Mameena never said anything of the sort, or if she did it
was not to me. Well, the moment that my daughter had consented to take
Masapo as her husband his people drove a hundred and twenty of the most
beautiful cattle over the hill, and would you have had me refuse them,
Saduko? I am sure that when you have seen them you will say that I was
quite right to accept such a splendid lobola in return for one
sharp-tongued girl. Remember, Saduko, that although you had promised a
hundred head, that is less by twenty, at the time you did not own one,
and where you were to get them from I could not guess. Moreover," he
added with a last, desperate, imaginative effort, for I think he saw
that his arguments were making no impression, "some strangers who called
here told me that both you and Macumazahn had been killed by certain
evil-doers in the mountains. There, I have spoken, and, Saduko, if you
now have cattle, why, on my part, I have another daughter, not quite so
good-looking perhaps, but a much better worker in the field. Come and
drink a sup of beer, and I will send for her."
"Stop talking about your other daughter and your beer and listen to me,"
replied Saduko, looking at the assegai which he had thrown to the ground
so ominously that I set my foot on it. "I am now a greater chief than
the boar Masapo. Has Masapo such a bodyguard as these
Eaters-up-of-Enemies?" and he jerked his thumb backwards towards the
serried lines of fierce-faced Amangwane who stood listening behind us.
"Has Masapo as many cattle as I have, whereof those which you see are
but a tithe brought as a lobola gift to the father of her who had been
promised to me as wife? Is Masapo Panda's friend? I think that I have
heard otherwise. Has Masapo just conquered a countless tribe by his
courage and his wit? Is Masapo young and of high blood, or is he but an
old, low-born boar of the mountains?
"You do not answer, Umbezi, and perhaps you do well to be silent. Now
listen again. Were it not for Macumazahn here, whom I do not desire to
mix up with my quarrels, I would bid my men take you and beat you to
death with the handles of their spears, and then go on and serve the
Boar in the same fashion in his mountain sty. As it is, these things
must wait a little while, especially as I have other matters to attend
to first. Yet the day is not far off when I will attend to them also.
Therefore my counsel to you, Cheat, is to make haste to die or to find
courage to fall upon a spear, unless you would learn how it feels to be
brayed with sticks like a green hide until none can know that you were
once a man. Send now and tell my words to Masapo the Boar. And to
Mameena say that soon I will come to take her with spears and not with
cattle. Do you understand? Oh! I see that you do, since already you
weep with fear like a woman. Then farewell to you till that day when I
return with the sticks, O Umbezi the cheat and the liar, Umbezi,
'Eater-up-of-Elephants,'" and turning, Saduko stalked away.
I was about to follow in a great hurry, having had enough of this very
unpleasant scene, when poor old Umbezi sprang at me and clasped me by
"O Macumazana," he exclaimed, weeping in his terror, "O Macumazana, if
ever I have been a friend to you, help me out of this deep pit into
which I have fallen through the tricks of that monkey of a daughter of
mine, who I think is a witch born to bring trouble upon men.
Macumazahn, if she had been your daughter and a powerful chief had
appeared with a hundred and twenty head of such beautiful cattle, you
would have given her to him, would you not, although he is of mixed
blood and not very young, especially as she did not mind who only cares
for place and wealth?"
"I think not," I answered; "but then it is not our custom to sell women
in that fashion."
"No, no, I forgot; in this as in other matters you white men are mad
and, Macumazahn, to tell you the truth, I believe it is you she really
cares for; she said as much to me once or twice. Well, why did you not
take her away when I was not looking? We could have settled matters
afterwards, and I should have been free of her witcheries and not up to
my neck in this hole as I am now."
"Because some people don't do that kind of thing, Umbezi."
"No, no, I forgot. Oh! why can I not remember that you are quite mad
and therefore that it must not be expected of you to act as though you
were sane. Well, at least you are that tiger Saduko's friend, which
again shows that you must be very mad, for most people would sooner try
to milk a cow buffalo than walk hand in hand with him. Don't you see,
Macumazahn, that he means to kill me, Macumazahn, to bray me like a
green hide? Ugh! to beat me to death with sticks. Ugh! And what is
more, that unless you prevent him, he will certainly do it, perhaps
to-morrow or the next day. Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!"
"Yes, I see, Umbezi, and I think that he will do it. But what I do
not see is how I am to prevent him. Remember that you let Mameena grow
into his heart and behaved badly to him, Umbezi."
"I never promised her to him, Macumazahn. I only said that if he
brought a hundred cattle, then I might promise."
"Well, he has wiped out the Amakoba, the enemies of his House, and there
are the hundred cattle whereof he has many more, and now it is too late
for you to keep your share of the bargain. So I think you must make
yourself as comfortable as you can in the hole that your hands dug,
Umbezi, which I would not share for all the cattle in Zululand."
"Truly you are not one from whom to seek comfort in the hour of
distress," groaned poor Umbezi, then added, brightening up: "But perhaps
Panda will kill him because he has wiped out Bangu in a time of peace.
Oh Macumazahn, can you not persuade Panda to kill him? If so, I now
have more cattle than I really want--"
"Impossible," I answered. "Panda is his friend, and between ourselves I
may tell you that he ate up the Amakoba by his especial wish. When the
King hears of it he will call to Saduko to sit in his shadow and make
him great, one of his councillors, probably with power of life and death
over little people like you and Masapo."
"Then it is finished," said Umbezi faintly, "and I will try to die like
a man. But to be brayed like a hide! And with thin sticks! Oh!" he
added, grinding his teeth, "if only I can get hold of Mameena I will not
leave much of that pretty hair of hers upon her head. I will tie her
hands and shut her up with the 'Old Cow,' who loves her as a meer-cat
loves a mouse. No; I will kill her. There--do you hear, Macumazahn,
unless you do something to help me, I will kill Mameena, and you won't
like that, for I am sure she is dear to you, although you were not man
enough to run away with her as she wished."
"If you touch Mameena," I said, "be certain, my friend, that Saduko's
sticks and your skin will not be far apart, for I will report you to
Panda myself as an unnatural evil-doer. Now hearken to me, you old
fool. Saduko is so fond of your daughter, on this point being mad, as
you say I am, that if only he could get her I think he might overlook
the fact of her having been married before. What you have to do is to
try to buy her back from Masapo. Mind you, I say buy her back--not get
her by bloodshed--which you might do by persuading Masapo to put her
away. Then, if he knew that you were trying to do this, I think that
Saduko might leave his sticks uncut for a while."
"I will try. I will indeed, Macumazahn. I will try very hard. It is
true Masapo is an obstinate pig; still, if he knows that his own life is
at stake, he might give way. Moreover, when she learns that Saduko has
grown rich and great, Mameena might help me. Oh, I thank you,
Macumazahn; you are indeed the prop of my hut, and it and all in it are
yours. Farewell, farewell, Macumazahn, if you must go. But why--why
did you not run away with Mameena, and save me all this fear and
So I and that old humbug, Umbezi, "Eater-up-of-Elephants," parted for a
while, and never did I know him in a more chastened frame of mind,
except once, as I shall tell.
When I got back to my wagons after this semi-tragical interview with
that bombastic and self-seeking old windbag, Umbezi, it was to find that
Saduko and his warriors had already marched for the King's kraal,
Nodwengu. A message awaited me, however, to the effect that it was
hoped that I would follow, in order to make report of the affair of the
destruction of the Amakoba. This, after reflection, I determined to do,
really, I think, because of the intense human interest of the whole
business. I wanted to see how it would work out.
Also, in a way, I read Saduko's mind and understood that at the moment
he did not wish to discuss the matter of his hideous disappointment.
Whatever else may have been false in this man's nature, one thing rang
true, namely, his love or his infatuation for the girl Mameena.
Throughout his life she was his guiding star--about as evil a star as
could have arisen upon any man's horizon; the fatal star that was to
light him down to doom. Let me thank Providence, as I do, that I was so
fortunate as to escape its baneful influences, although I admit that
they attracted me not a little.
So, seduced thither by my curiosity, which has so often led me into
trouble, I trekked to Nodwengu, full of many doubts not unmingled with
amusement, for I could not rid my mind of recollections of the utter
terror of the "Eater-up-of-Elephants" when he was brought face to face
with the dreadful and concentrated rage of the robbed Saduko and the
promise of his vengeance. Ultimately I arrived at the Great Place
without experiencing any adventure that is worthy of record, and camped
in a spot that was appointed to me by some induna whose name I forget,
but who evidently knew of my approach, for I found him awaiting me at
some distance from the town. Here I sat for quite a long while, two or
three days, if I remember right, amusing myself with killing or missing
turtle-doves with a shotgun, and similar pastimes, until something
should happen, or I grew tired and started for Natal.
In the end, just as I was about to trek seawards, an old friend, Maputa,
turned up at my wagons--that same man who had brought me the message
from Panda before we started to attack Bangu.
"Greeting, Macumazahn," he said. "What of the Amakoba? I see they did
not kill you."
"No," I answered, handing him some snuff, "they did not quite kill me,
for here I am. What is your pleasure with me?"
"O Macumazana, only that the King wishes to know whether you have any of
those little balls left in the box which I brought back to you, since,
if so, he thinks he would like to swallow one of them in this hot
I proffered him the whole box, but he would not take it, saying that the
King would like me to give it to him myself. Now I understood that this
was a summons to an audience, and asked when it would please Panda to
receive me and "the-little-black-stones-that-work-wonders." He
So we started, and within an hour I stood, or rather sat, before Panda.
Like all his family, the King was an enormous man, but, unlike Chaka and
those of his brothers whom I had known, one of a kindly countenance. I
saluted him by lifting my cap, and took my place upon a wooden stool
that had been provided for me outside the great hut, in the shadow of
which he sat within his isi-gohlo, or private enclosure.
"Greeting, O Macumazana," he said. "I am glad to see you safe and well,
for I understand that you have been engaged upon a perilous adventure
since last we met."
"Yes, King," I answered; "but to which adventure do you refer--that of
the buffalo, when Saduko helped me, or that of the Amakoba, when I
"The latter, Macumazahn, of which I desire to hear all the story."
So I told it to him, he and I being alone, for he commanded his
councillors and servants to retire out of hearing.
"Wow!" he said, when I had finished, "you are clever as a baboon,
Macumazahn. That was a fine trick to set a trap for Bangu and his
Amakoba dogs and bait it with his own cattle. But they tell me that you
refused your share of those cattle. Now, why was that, Macumazahn?"
By way of answer I repeated to Panda my reasons, which I have set out
"Ah!" he exclaimed, when I had finished. "Every one seeks greatness in
his own way, and perhaps yours is better than ours. Well, the White man
walks one road--or some of them do--and the Black man another. They
both end at the same place, and none will know which is the right road
till the journey is done. Meanwhile, what you lose Saduko and his
people gain. He is a wise man, Saduko, who knows how to choose his
friends, and his wisdom has brought him victory and gifts. But to you,
Macumazahn, it has brought nothing but honour, on which, if a man feeds
only, he will grow thin."
"I like to be thin, O Panda," I answered slowly.
"Yes, yes, I understand," replied the King, who, in common with most
natives, was quick enough to seize a point, "and I, too, like people who
keep thin on such food as yours, people, also, whose hands are always
clean. We Zulus trust you, Macumazahn, as we trust few white men, for
we have known for years that your lips say what your heart thinks, and
that your heart always thinks the thing which is good. You may be named
Watcher-by-Night, but you love light, not darkness."
Now, at these somewhat unusual compliments I bowed, and felt myself
colouring a little as I did so, even through my sunburn, but I made no
answer to them, since to do so would have involved a discussion of the
past and its tragical events, into which I had no wish to enter. Panda,
too, remained silent for a while. Then he called to a messenger to
summon the princes, Cetewayo and Umbelazi, and to bid Saduko, the son of
Matiwane, to wait without, in case he should wish to speak with him.
A few minutes later the two princes arrived. I watched their coming
with interest, for they were the most important men in Zululand, and
already the nation debated fiercely which of them would succeed to the
throne. I will try to describe them a little.
They were both of much the same age--it is always difficult to arrive at
a Zulu's exact years--and both fine young men. Cetewayo, however, had
the stronger countenance. It was said that he resembled that fierce and
able monster, Chaka the Wild Beast, his uncle, and certainly I perceived
in him a likeness to his other uncle, Dingaan, Umpanda's predecessor,
whom I had known but too well when I was a lad. He had the same surly
eyes and haughty bearing; also, when he was angry his mouth shut itself
in the same iron fashion.
Of Umbelazi it is difficult for me to speak without enthusiasm. As
Mameena was the most beautiful woman I ever saw in Zululand--although it
is true that old war-dog, Umslopogaas, a friend of mine who does not
come into this story, used to tell me that Nada the Lily, whom I have
mentioned, was even lovelier--so Umbelazi was by far the most splendid
man. Indeed, the Zulus named him "Umbelazi the Handsome," and no
wonder. To begin with, he stood at least three inches above the tallest
of them; from a quarter of a mile away I have recognised him by his
great height, even through the dust of a desperate battle, and his
breadth was proportionate to his stature. Then he was perfectly made,
his great, shapely limbs ending, like Saduko's, in small hands and feet.
His face, too, was well-cut and open, his colour lighter than
Cetewayo's, and his eyes, which always seemed to smile, were large and
Even before they passed the small gate of the inner fence it was easy
for me to see that this royal pair were not upon the best of terms, for
each of them tried to get through it first, to show his right of
precedence. The result was somewhat ludicrous, for they jammed in the
gateway. Here, however, Umbelazi's greater weight told, for, putting
out his strength, he squeezed his brother into the reeds of the fence,
and won through a foot or so in front of him.
"You grow too fat, my brother," I heard Cetewayo say, and saw him scowl
as he spoke. "If I had held an assegai in my hand you would have been
"I know it, my brother," answered Umbelazi, with a good-humoured laugh,
"but I knew also that none may appear before the King armed. Had it
been otherwise, I would rather have followed after you."
Now, at this hint of Umbelazi's, that he would not trust his brother
behind his back with a spear, although it seemed to be conveyed in jest,
I saw Panda shift uneasily on his seat, while Cetewayo scowled even more
ominously than before. However, no further words passed between them,
and, walking up to the King side by side, they saluted him with raised
hands, calling out "Baba!"--that is, Father.
"Greeting, my children," said Panda, adding hastily, for he foresaw a
quarrel as to which of them should take the seat of honour on his right:
"Sit there in front of me, both of you, and, Macumazahn, do you come
hither," and he pointed to the coveted place. "I am a little deaf in my
left ear this morning."
So these brothers sat themselves down in front of the King; nor were
they, I think, grieved to find this way out of their rivalry; but first
they shook hands with me, for I knew them both, though not well, and
even in this small matter the old trouble arose, since there was some
difficulty as to which of them should first offer me his hand.
Ultimately, I remember, Cetewayo won this trick.
When these preliminaries were finished, Panda addressed the princes,
"My sons, I have sent for you to ask your counsel upon a certain
matter--not a large matter, but one that may grow." And he paused to
take snuff, whereon both of them ejaculated:
"We hear you, Father."
"Well, my sons, the matter is that of Saduko, the son of Matiwane, chief
of the Amangwane, whom Bangu, chief of the Amakoba, ate up years ago by
leave of Him who went before me. Now, this Bangu, as you know, has for
some time been a thorn in my foot--a thorn that caused it to fester--and
yet I did not wish to make war on him. So I spoke a word in the ear of
Saduko, saying, 'He is yours, if you can kill him; and his cattle are
yours.' Well, Saduko is not dull. With the help of this white man,
Macumazahn, our friend from of old, he has killed Bangu and taken his
cattle, and already my foot is beginning to heal."
"We have heard it," said Cetewayo.
"It was a great deed," added Umbelazi, a more generous critic.
"Yes," continued Panda, "I, too, think it was a great deed, seeing that
Saduko had but a small regiment of wanderers to back him--"
"Nay," interrupted Cetewayo, "it was not those eaters of rats who won
him the day, it was the wisdom of this Macumazahn."
"Macumazahn's wisdom would have been of little use without the courage
of Saduko and his rats," commented Umbelazi, and from this moment I saw
that the two brothers were taking sides for and against Saduko, as they
did upon every other matter, not because they cared for the right of
whatever was in question, but because they wished to oppose each other.
"Quite so," went on the King; "I agree with both of you, my sons. But
the point is this: I think Saduko a man of promise, and one who should
be advanced that he may learn to love us all, especially as his House
has suffered wrong from our House, since He-who-is-gone listened to the
evil counsel of Bangu, and allowed him to kill out Matiwane's tribe
without just cause. Therefore, in order to wipe away this stain and
bind Saduko to us, I think it well to re-establish Saduko in the
chieftainship of the Amangwane, with the lands that his father held, and
to give him also the chieftainship of the Amakoba, of whom it seems that
the women and children, with some of the men, remain, although he
already holds their cattle which he has captured in war."
"As the King pleases," said Umbelazi, with a yawn, for he was growing
weary of listening to the case of Saduko.
But Cetewayo said nothing, for he appeared to be thinking of something
"I think also," went on Panda in a rather uncertain voice, "in order to
bind him so close that the bonds may never be broken, it would be wise
to give him a woman of our family in marriage."
"Why should this little Amangwane be allowed to marry into the royal
House?" asked Cetewayo, looking up. "If he is dangerous, why not kill
him, and have done?"
"For this reason, my son. There is trouble ahead in Zululand, and I do
not wish to kill those who may help us in that hour, nor do I wish them
to become our enemies. I wish that they may be our friends; and
therefore it seems to me wise, when we find a seed of greatness, to
water it, and not to dig it up or plant it in a neighbour's garden.
From his deeds I believe that this Saduko is such a seed."
"Our father has spoken," said Umbelazi; "and I like Saduko, who is a man
of mettle and good blood. Which of our sisters does our father propose
to give to him?"
"She who is named after the mother of our race, O Umbelazi; she whom
your own mother bore--your sister Nandie" (in English, "The Sweet").
"A great gift, O my Father, since Nandie is both fair and wise. Also,
what does she think of this matter?"
"She thinks well of it, Umbelazi, for she has seen Saduko and taken a
liking to him. She told me herself that she wishes no other husband."
"Is it so?" replied Umbelazi indifferently. "Then if the King commands,
and the King's daughter desires, what more is there to be said?"
"Much, I think," broke in Cetewayo. "I hold that it is out of place
that this little man, who has but conquered a little tribe by borrowing
the wit of Macumazahn here, should be rewarded not only with a
chieftainship, but with the hand of the wisest and most beautiful of the
King's daughters, even though Umbelazi," he added, with a sneer, "should
be willing to throw him his own sister like a bone to a passing dog."
"Who threw the bone, Cetewayo?" asked Umbelazi, awaking out of his
indifference. "Was it the King, or was it I, who never heard of the
matter till this moment? And who are we that we should question the
King's decrees? Is it our business to judge or to obey?"
"Has Saduko perchance made you a present of some of those cattle which
he stole from the Amakoba, Umbelazi?" asked Cetewayo. "As our father
asks no lobola, perhaps you have taken the gift instead."
"The only gift that I have taken from Saduko," said Umbelazi, who, I
could see, was hard pressed to keep his temper, "is that of his service.
He is my friend, which is why you hate him, as you hate all my
"Must I then love every stray cur that licks your hand, Umbelazi? Oh,
no need to tell me he is your friend, for I know it was you who put it
into our father's heart to allow him to kill Bangu and steal his cattle,
which I hold to be an ill deed, for now the Great House is thatched with
his reeds and Bangu's blood is on its doorposts. Moreover, he who
wrought the wrong is to come and dwell therein, and for aught I know to
be called a prince, like you and me. Why should he not, since the
Princess Nandie is to be given to him in marriage? Certainly, Umbelazi,
you would do well to take the cattle which this white trader has
refused, for all men know that you have earned them."
Now Umbelazi sprang up, straightening himself to the full of his great
height, and spoke in a voice that was thick with passion.
"I pray your leave to withdraw, O King," he said, "since if I stay here
longer I shall grow sorry that I have no spear in my hand. Yet before I
go I will tell the truth. Cetewayo hates Saduko, because, knowing him
to be a chief of wit and courage, who will grow great, he sought him for
his man, saying, 'Sit you in my shadow,' after he had promised to sit in
mine. Therefore it is that he heaps these taunts upon me. Let him deny
it if he can."
"That I shall not trouble to do, Umbelazi," answered Cetewayo, with a
scowl. "Who are you that spy upon my doings, and with a mouth full of
lies call me to account before the King? I will hear no more of it. Do
you bide here and pay Saduko his price with the person of our sister.
For, as the King has promised her, his word cannot be changed. Only let
your dog know that I keep a stick for him, if he should snarl at me.
Farewell, my Father. I go upon a journey to my own lordship, the land
of Gikazi, and there you will find me when you want me, which I pray may
not be till after this marriage is finished, for on that I will not
trust my eyes to look."
Then, with a salute, he turned and departed, bidding no good-bye to his
My hand, however, he shook in farewell, for Cetewayo was always friendly
to me, perhaps because he thought I might be useful to him. Also, as I
learned afterwards, he was very pleased with me for the reason that I
had refused my share of the Amakoba cattle, and that he knew I had no
part in this proposed marriage between Saduko and Nandie, of which,
indeed, I now heard for the first time.
"My Father," said Umbelazi, when Cetewayo had gone, "is this to be
borne? Am I to blame in the matter? You have heard and seen--answer
me, my Father."
"No, you are not to blame this time, Umbelazi," replied the King, with a
heavy sigh. "But oh! my sons, my sons, where will your quarrelling end?
I think that only a river of blood can quench so fierce a fire, and
then which of you will live to reach its bank?"
For a while he looked at Umbelazi, and I saw love and fear in his eye,
for towards him Panda always had more affection than for any of his
"Cetewayo has behaved ill," he said at length; "and before a white man,
who will report the matter, which makes it worse. He has no right to
dictate to me to whom I shall or shall not give my daughters in
marriage. Moreover, I have spoken; nor do I change my word because he
threatens me. It is known throughout the land that I never change my
word; and the white men know it also, do they not, O Macumazana?"
I answered yes, they did. Also, this was true, for, like most weak men,
Panda was very obstinate, and honest, too, in his own fashion.
He waved his hand, to show that the subject was ended, then bade
Umbelazi go to the gate and send a messenger to bring in "the son of
Presently Saduko arrived, looking very stately and composed as he lifted
his right hand and gave Panda the "Bayete"--the royal salute.
"Be seated," said the King. "I have words for your ear."
Thereon, with the most perfect grace, without hurrying and without undue
delay, Saduko crouched himself down upon his knees, with one of his
elbows resting on the ground, as only a native knows how to do without
looking absurd, and waited.
"Son of Matiwane," said the King, "I have heard all the story of how,
with a small company, you destroyed Bangu and most of the men of the
Amakoba, and ate up their cattle every one."
"Your pardon, Black One," interrupted Saduko. "I am but a boy, I did
nothing. It was Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night, who sits yonder. His
wisdom taught me how to snare the Amakoba, after they were decoyed from
their mountain, and it was Tshoza, my uncle, who loosed the cattle from
the kraals. I say that I did nothing, except to strike a blow or two
with a spear when I must, just as a baboon throws stones at those who
would steal its young."
"I am glad to see that you are no boaster, Saduko," said Panda. "Would
that more of the Zulus were like you in that matter, for then I must not
listen to so many loud songs about little things. At least, Bangu was
killed and his proud tribe humbled, and, for reasons of state, I am glad
that this happened without my moving a regiment or being mixed up with
the business, for I tell you that there are some of my family who loved
Bangu. But I--I loved your father, Matiwane, whom Bangu butchered, for
we were brought up together as boys--yes, and served together in the
same regiment, the Amawombe, when the Wild One, my brother, ruled" (he
meant Chaka, for among the Zulus the names of dead kings are
hlonipa--that is, they must not be spoken if it can be avoided).
"Therefore," went on Panda, "for this reason, and for others, I am glad
that Bangu has been punished, and that, although vengeance has crawled
after him like a footsore bull, at length he has been tossed with its
horns and crushed with its knees."
"Yebo, Ngonyama!" (Yes, O Lion!) said Saduko.
"Now, Saduko," went on Panda, "because you are your father's son, and
because you have shown yourself a man, although you are still little in
the land, I am minded to advance you. Therefore I give to you the
chieftainship over those who remain of the Amakoba and over all of the
Amangwane blood whom you can gather."
"Bayete! As the King pleases," said Saduko.
"And I give you leave to become a kehla--a wearer of the
head-ring--although, as you have said, you are still but a boy, and with
it a place upon my Council."
"Bayete! As the King pleases," said Saduko, still apparently unmoved by
the honours that were being heaped upon him.
"And, Son of Matiwane," went on Panda, "you are still unmarried, are you
Now, for the first time, Saduko's face changed. "Yes, Black One," he
said hurriedly, "but--"
Here he caught my eye, and, reading some warning in it, was silent.
"But," repeated Panda after him, "doubtless you would like to be? Well,
it is natural in a young man who wishes to found a House, and therefore
I give you leave to marry."
"Yebo, Silo!" (Yes, O Wild Beast!) I thank the King, but--"
Here I sneezed loudly, and he ceased.
"But," repeated Panda, "of course, you do not know where to find a wife
between the time the hawk stoops and the rat squeaks in its claws. How
should you who have never thought of the matter? Also," he continued,
with a smile, "it is well that you have not thought of it, since she
whom I shall give to you could not live in the second hut in your kraal
and call another "Inkosikazi" [that is, head lady or chieftainess].
Umbelazi, my son, go fetch her of whom we have thought as a bride for
Now Umbelazi rose, and went with a broad smile upon his face, while
Panda, somewhat fatigued with all his speech-making--for he was very fat
and the day was very hot--leaned his head back against the hut and
closed his eyes.
"O Black One! O thou who consumeth with rage! [Dhlangamandhla]" broke
out Saduko, who, I could see, was much disturbed. "I have something to
say to you."
"No doubt, no doubt," answered Panda drowsily, "but save up your thanks
till you have seen, or you will have none left afterwards," and he
Now I, perceiving that Saduko was about to ruin himself, thought it well
to interfere, though what business of mine it was to do so I cannot say.
At any rate, if only I had held my tongue at this moment, and allowed
Saduko to make a fool of himself, as he wished to do--for where Mameena
was concerned he never could be wise--I verily believe that all the
history of Zululand would have run a different course, and that many
thousands of men, white and black, who are now dead would be alive
to-day. But Fate ordered it otherwise. Yes, it was not I who spoke,
but Fate. The Angel of Doom used my throat as his trumpet.
Seeing that Panda dozed, I slipped behind Saduko and gripped him by the
"Are you mad?" I whispered into his ear. "Will you throw away your
fortune, and your life also?"
"But Mameena," he whispered back. "I would marry none save Mameena."
"Fool! " I answered. "Mameena has betrayed and spat upon you. Take
what the Heavens send you and give thanks. Would you wear Masapo's
"Macumazahn," he said in a hollow voice, "I will follow your head, and
not my own heart. Yet you sow a strange seed, Macumazahn, or so you may
think when you see its fruit." And he gave me a wild look--a look that
There was something in this look which caused me to reflect that I might
do well to go away and leave Saduko, Mameena, Nandie, and the rest of
them to "dree their weirds," as the Scotch say, for, after all, what was
my finger doing in that very hot stew? Getting burnt, I thought, and
not collecting any stew.
Yet, looking back on these events, how could I foresee what would be the
end of the madness of Saduko, of the fearful machinations of Mameena,
and of the weakness of Umbelazi when she snared him in the net of her
beauty, thus bringing about his ruin, through the hate of Saduko and the
ambition of Cetewayo? How could I know that, at the back of all these
events, stood the old dwarf, Zikali the Wise, working night and day to
slake the enmity and fulfil the vengeance which long ago he had
conceived and planned against the royal House of Senzangakona and the
Zulu people over whom it ruled?
Yes, he stood there like a man behind a great stone upon the brow of a
mountain, slowly, remorselessly, with infinite skill, labour, and
patience, pushing that stone to the edge of the cliff, whence at length,
in the appointed hour, it would thunder down upon those who dwelt
beneath, to leave them crushed and no more a people. How could I guess
that we, the actors in this play, were all the while helping him to push
that stone, and that he cared nothing how many of us were carried with
it into the abyss, if only we brought about the triumph of his secret,
unutterable rage and hate?
Now I see and understand all these things, as it is easy to do, but then
I was blind; nor did the Voices reach my dull ears to warn me, as, how
or why I cannot tell, they did, I believe, reach those of Zikali.
Oh, what was the sum of it? Just this, I think, and nothing more--that,
as Saduko and the others were Mameena's tools, and as all of them and
their passions were Zikali's tools, so he himself was the tool of some
unseen Power that used him and us to accomplish its design. Which, I
suppose, is fatalism, or, in other words, all these things happened
because they must happen. A poor conclusion to reach after so much
thought and striving, and not complimentary to man and his boasted
powers of free will; still, one to which many of us are often driven,
especially if we have lived among savages, where such dramas work
themselves out openly and swiftly, unhidden from our eyes by the veils
and subterfuges of civilisation. At least, there is this comfort about
it--that, if we are but feathers blown by the wind, how can the
individual feather be blamed because it did not travel against, turn or
keep back the wind?
Well, let me return from these speculations to the history of the facts
that caused them.
Just as--a little too late--I had made up my mind that I would go after
my own business, and leave Saduko to manage his, through the fence
gateway appeared the great, tall Umbelazi leading by the hand a woman.
As I saw in a moment, it did not need certain bangles of copper,
ornaments of ivory and of very rare pink beads, called infibinga, which
only those of the royal House were permitted to wear, to proclaim her a
person of rank, for dignity and high blood were apparent in her face,
her carriage, her gestures, and all that had to do with her.
Nandie the Sweet was not a great beauty, as was Mameena, although her
figure was fine, and her stature like that of all the race of
Senzangakona--considerably above the average. To begin with, she was
darker in hue, and her lips were rather thick, as was her nose; nor were
her eyes large and liquid like those of an antelope. Further, she
lacked the informing mystery of Mameena's face, that at times was broken
and ]it up by flashes of alluring light and quick, sympathetic
perception, as a heavy evening sky, that seems to join the dim earth to
the dimmer heavens, is illuminated by pulsings of fire, soft and
many-hued, suggesting, but not revealing, the strength and splendour
that it veils. Nandie had none of these attractions, which, after all,
anywhere upon the earth belong only to a few women in each generation.
She was a simple, honest-natured, kindly, affectionate young woman of
high birth, no more; that is, as these qualities are understood and
expressed among her people.
Umbelazi led her forward into the presence of the King, to whom she
bowed gracefully enough. Then, after casting a swift, sidelong glance
at Saduko, which I found it difficult to interpret, and another of
inquiry at me, she folded her hands upon her breast and stood silent,
with bent head, waiting to be addressed.
The address was brief enough, for Panda was still sleepy.
"My daughter," he said, with a yawn, "there stands your husband," and he
jerked his thumb towards Saduko. "He is a young man and a brave, and
unmarried; also one who should grow great in the shadow of our House,
especially as he is a friend of your brother, Umbelazi. I understand
also that you have seen him and like him. Unless you have anything to
say against it, for as, not being a common father, the King receives no
cattle--at least in this case--I am not prejudiced, but will listen to
your words," and he chuckled in a drowsy fashion. "I propose that the
marriage should take place to-morrow. Now, my daughter, have you
anything to say? For if so, please say it at once, as I am tired. The
eternal wranglings between your brethren, Cetewayo and Umbelazi, have
worn me out."
Now Nandie looked about her in her open, honest fashion, her gaze
resting first on Saduko, then on Umbelazi, and lastly upon me.
"My Father," she said at length, in her soft, steady voice, "tell me, I
beseech you, who proposes this marriage? Is it the Chief Saduko, is it
the Prince Umbelazi, or is it the white lord whose true name I do not
know, but who is called Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night?"
"I can't remember which of them proposed it," yawned Panda. "Who can
keep on talking about things from night till morning? At any rate, I
propose it, and I will make your husband a big man among our people.
Have you anything to say against it?"
"I have nothing to say, my Father. I have met Saduko, and like him
well--for the rest, you are the judge. But," she added slowly, "does
Saduko like me? When he speaks my name, does he feel it here?" and she
pointed to her throat.
"I am sure I do not know what he feels in his throat," Panda replied
testily, "but I feel that mine is dry. Well, as no one says anything,
the matter is settled. To-morrow Saduko shall give the umqoliso [the Ox
of the Girl], that makes marriage--if he has not got one here I will
lend it to him, and you can take the new, big hut that I have built in
the outer kraal to dwell in for the present. There will be a dance, if
you wish it; if not, I do not care, for I have no wish for ceremony just
now, who am too troubled with great matters. Now I am going to sleep."
Then sinking from his stool on to his knees, Panda crawled through the
doorway of his great hut, which was close to him, and vanished.
Umbelazi and I departed also through the gateway of the fence, leaving
Saduko and the Princess Nandie alone together, for there were no
attendants present. What happened between them I am sure I do not know,
but I gather that, in one way or another, Saduko made himself
sufficiently agreeable to the princess to persuade her to take him to
husband. Perhaps, being already enamoured of him, she was not difficult
to persuade. At any rate, on the morrow, without any great feasting or
fuss, except the customary dance, the umqoliso, the "Ox of the Girl,"
was slaughtered, and Saduko became the husband of a royal maiden of the
House of Senzangakona.
Certainly, as I remember reflecting, it was a remarkable rise in life
for one who, but a few months before, had been without possessions or a
I may add that, after our brief talk in the King's kraal, while Panda
was dozing, I had no further words with Saduko on this matter of his
marriage, for between its proposal and the event he avoided me, nor did
I seek him out. On the day of the marriage also, I trekked for Natal,
and for a whole year heard no more of Saduko, Nandie, and Mameena;
although, to be frank, I must admit I thought of the last of these
persons more often, perhaps, than I should have done.
The truth is that Mameena was one of those women who sticks in a man's
mind even more closely than a "Wait-a-bit" thorn does in his coat.
A whole year had gone by, in which I did, or tried to do, various things
that have no connection with this story, when once more I found myself
in Zululand--at Umbezi's kraal indeed. Hither I had trekked in
fulfilment of a certain bargain, already alluded to, that was concerned
with ivory and guns, which I had made with the old fellow, or, rather,
with Masapo, his son-in-law, whom he represented in this matter. Into
the exact circumstances of that bargain I do not enter, since at the
moment I cannot recall whether I ever obtained the necessary permit to
import those guns into Zululand, although now that I am older I
earnestly hope that I did so, since it is wrong to sell weapons to
natives that may be put to all sorts of unforeseen uses.
At any rate, there I was, sitting alone with the Headman in his hut
discussing a dram of "squareface" that I had given to him, for the
"trade" was finished to our mutual satisfaction, and Scowl, my body
servant, with the hunters, had just carried off the ivory--a fine lot of
tusks--to my wagons.
"Well, Umbezi," I said, "and how has it fared with you since we parted a
year ago? Have you seen anything of Saduko, who, you may remember, left
you in some wrath?"
"Thanks be to my Spirit, I have seen nothing of that wild man,
Macumazahn," answered Umbezi, shaking his fat old head in a fashion
which showed great anxiety. "Yet I have heard of him, for he sent me a
message the other day to tell me that he had not forgotten what he owed
"Did he mean the sticks with which he promised to bray you like a green
hide?" I inquired innocently.
"I think so, Macumazahn--I think so, for certainly he owes me nothing
else. And the worst of it is that, there at Panda's kraal, he has grown
like a pumpkin on a dung heap--great, great!"
"And therefore is now one who can pay any debt that he owes, Umbezi," I
said, taking a pull at the "squareface" and looking at him over the top
of the pannikin.
"Doubtless he can, Macumazahn, and, between you and me, that is the real
reason why I--or rather Masapo--was so anxious to get those guns. They
were not for hunting, as he told you by the messenger, or for war, but
to protect us against Saduko, in case he should attack. Well, now I
hope we shall be able to hold our own."
"You and Masapo must teach your people to use them first, Umbezi. But I
expect Saduko has forgotten all about both of you now that he is the
husband of a princess of the royal blood. Tell me, how goes it with
"Oh, well, well, Macumazahn. For is she not the head lady of the
Amasomi? There is nothing wrong with her--nothing at all, except that
as yet she has no child; also that--," and he paused.
"That what?" I asked.
"That she hates the very sight of her husband, Masapo, and says that she
would rather be married to a baboon--yes, to a baboon--than to him,
which gives him offence, after he has paid so many cattle for her. But
what of this, Macumazahn? There is always a grain missing upon the
finest head of corn. Nothing is quite perfect in the world,
Macumazahn, and if Mameena does not chance to love her husband--" and he
shrugged his shoulders and drank some "squareface."
"Of course it does not matter in the least, Umbezi, except to Mameena
and her husband, who no doubt will settle down in time, now that Saduko
is married to a princess of the Zulu House."
"I hope so, Macumazahn, but, to tell the truth, I wish you had brought
more guns, for I live amongst a terrible lot of people. Masapo, who is
furious with Mameena because she will have none of him, and therefore
with me, as though I could control Mameena; Mameena, who is mad with
Masapo, and therefore with me, because I gave her in marriage to him;
Saduko, who foams at the mouth at the name of Masapo, because he has
married Mameena, whom, it is said, he still loves, and therefore at me,
because I am her father and did my best to settle her in the world. Oh,
give me some more of that fire-water, Macumazahn, for it makes me forget
all these things, and especially that my guardian spirit made me the
father of Mameena, with whom you would not run away when you might have
done so. Oh, Macumazahn, why did you not run away with Mameena, and
turn her into a quiet white woman who ties herself up in sacks, sings
songs to the 'Great-Great' in the sky--[that is, hymns to the Power
above us]--and never thinks of any man who is not her husband?"
"Because if I had done so, Umbezi, I should have ceased to be a quiet
white man. Yes, yes, my friend, I should have been in some such place
as yours to-day, and that is the last thing that I wish. And now,
Umbezi, you have had quite enough 'squareface,' so I will take the
bottle away with me. Good-night."
On the following morning I trekked very early from Umbezi's
kraal--before he was up indeed, for the "squareface" made him sleep
sound. My destination was Nodwengu, Panda's Great Place, where I hoped
to do some trading, but, as I was in no particular hurry, my plan was to
go round by Masapo's, and see for myself how it fared between him and
Mameena. Indeed, I reached the borders of the Amasomi territory,
whereof Masapo was chief, by evening, and camped there. But with the
night came reflection, and reflection told me that I should do well to
keep clear of Mameena and her domestic complications, if she had any.
So I changed my mind, and next morning trekked on to Nodwengu by the
only route that my guides reported to be practicable, one which took me
a long way round.
That day, owing to the roughness of the road--if road it could be
called--and an accident to one of the wagons, we only covered about
fifteen miles, and as night fell were obliged to outspan at the first
spot where we could find water. When the oxen had been unyoked I looked
about me, and saw that we were in a place that, although I had
approached it from a somewhat different direction, I recognised at once
as the mouth of the Black Kloof, in which, over a year before, I had
interviewed Zikali the Little and Wise. There was no mistaking the
spot; that blasted valley, with the piled-up columns of boulders and the
overhanging cliff at the end of it, have, so far as I am aware, no exact
counterparts in Africa.
I sat upon the box of the first wagon, eating my food, which consisted
of some biltong and biscuit, for I had not bothered to shoot any game
that day, which was very hot, and wondering whether Zikali were still
alive, also whether I should take the trouble to walk up the kloof and
find out. On the whole I thought that I would not, as the place
repelled me, and I did not particularly wish to hear any more of his
prophecies and fierce, ill-omened talk. So I just sat there studying
the wonderful effect of the red evening light pouring up between those
walls of fantastic rocks.
Presently I perceived, far away, a single human figure--whether it were
man or woman I could not tell--walking towards me along the path which
ran at the bottom of the cleft. In those gigantic surroundings it
looked extraordinarily small and lonely, although perhaps because of the
intense red light in which it was bathed, or perhaps just because it was
human, a living thing in the midst of all that still, inanimate
grandeur, it caught and focused my attention. I grew greatly interested
in it; I wondered if it were that of man or woman, and what it was doing
here in this haunted valley.
The figure drew nearer, and now I saw it was slender and tall, like that
of a lad or of a well-grown woman, but to which sex it belonged I could
not see, because it was draped in a cloak of beautiful grey fur. Just
then Scowl came to the other side of the wagon to speak to me about
something, which took off my attention for the next two minutes. When I
looked round again it was to see the figure standing within three yards
of me, its face hidden by a kind of hood which was attached to the fur
"Who are you, and what is your business?" I asked, whereon a gentle
"Do you not know me, O Macumazana?"
"How can I know one who is tied up like a gourd in a mat? Yet is it
not--is it not--"
"Yes, it is Mameena, and I am very pleased that you should remember my
voice, Macumazahn, after we have been separated for such a long, long
time," and, with a sudden movement, she threw back the kaross, hood and
all, revealing herself in all her strange beauty.
I jumped down off the wagon-box and took her hand.
"O Macumazana," she said, while I still held it--or, to be accurate,
while she still held mine--"indeed my heart is glad to see a friend
again," and she looked at me with her appealing eyes, which, in the red
light, I could see appeared to float in tears.
"A friend, Mameena! " I exclaimed. "Why, now you are so rich, and the
wife of a big chief, you must have plenty of friends."
"Alas! Macumazahn, I am rich in nothing except trouble, for my husband
saves, like the ants for winter. Why, he even grudged me this poor
kaross; and as for friends, he is so jealous that he will not allow me
"He cannot be jealous of women, Mameena!"
"Oh, women! Piff! I do not care for women; they are very unkind to me,
because--because--well, perhaps you can guess why, Macumazahn," she
answered, glancing at her own reflection in a little travelling
looking-glass that hung from the woodwork of the wagon, for I had been
using it to brush my hair, and smiled very sweetly.
"At least you have your husband, Mameena, and I thought that perhaps by
She held up her hand.
"My husband! Oh, I would that I had him not, for I hate him,
Macumazahn; and as for the rest--never! The truth is that I never cared
for any man except one whose name you may chance to remember,
"I suppose you mean Saduko--" I began.
"Tell me, Macumazahn," she inquired innocently, "are white people very
stupid? I ask because you do not seem as clever as you used to be. Or
have you perhaps a bad memory?"
Now I felt myself turning red as the sky behind me, and broke in
"If you did not like your husband, Mameena, you should not have married
him. You know you need not unless you wished."
"When one has only two thorn bushes to sit on, Macumazahn, one chooses
that which seems to have the fewest prickles, to discover sometimes that
they are still there in hundreds, although one did not see them. You
know that at length everyone gets tired of standing."
"Is that why you have taken to walking, Mameena? I mean, what are you
doing here alone?"
"I? Oh, I heard that you were passing this way, and came to have a talk
with you. No, from you I cannot hide even the least bit of the truth.
I came to talk with you, but also I came to see Zikali and ask him what
a wife should do who hates her husband."
"Indeed! And what did he answer you?"
"He answered that he thought she had better run away with another man,
if there were one whom she did not hate--out of Zululand, of course,"
she replied, looking first at me and then at my wagon and the two horses
that were tied to it.
"Is that all he said, Mameena?"
"No. Have I not told you that I cannot hide one grain of the truth from
you? He added that the only other thing to be done was to sit still and
drink my sour milk, pretending that it is sweet, until my Spirit gives
me a new cow. He seemed to think that my Spirit would be bountiful in
the matter of new cows--one day."
"Anything more?" I inquired.
"One little thing. Have I not told you that you shall have all--all the
truth? Zikali seemed to think also that at last every one of my herd of
cows, old and new, would come to a bad end. He did not tell me to what
She turned her head aside, and when she looked up again I saw that she
was weeping, really weeping this time, not just making her eyes swim, as
she did before.
"Of course they will come to a bad end, Macumazahn," she went on in a
soft, thick voice, "for I and all with whom I have to do were 'torn out
of the reeds' [i.e. created] that way. And that's why I won't tempt you
to run away with me any more, as I meant to do when I saw you, because
it is true, Macumazahn you are the only man I ever liked or ever shall
like; and you know I could make you run away with me if I chose,
although I am black and you are white--oh, yes, before to-morrow
morning. But I won't do it; for why should I catch you in my unlucky
web and bring you into all sorts of trouble among my people and your
own? Go you your road, Macumazahn, and I will go mine as the wind blows
me. And now give me a cup of water and let me be away--a cup of water,
no more. Oh, do not be afraid for me, or melt too much, lest I should
melt also. I have an escort waiting over yonder hill. There, thank you
for your water, Macumazahn, and good night. Doubtless we shall meet
again ere long, and-- I forgot; the Little Wise One said he would like
to have a talk with you. Good night, Macumazahn, good night. I trust
that you did a profitable trade with Umbezi my father and Masapo my
husband. I wonder why such men as these should have been chosen to be
my father and my husband. Think it over, Macumazahn, and tell me when
next we meet. Give me that pretty mirror, Macumazahn; when I look in it
I shall see you as well as myself, and that will please me--you don't
know how much. I thank you. Good night."
In another minute I was watching her solitary little figure, now wrapped
again in the hooded kaross, as it vanished over the brow of the rise
behind us, and really, as she went, I felt a lump rising in my throat.
Notwithstanding all her wickedness--and I suppose she was wicked--there
was something horribly attractive about Mameena.
When she had gone, taking my only looking-glass with her, and the lump
in my throat had gone also, I began to wonder how much fact there was in
her story. She had protested so earnestly that she told me all the
truth that I felt sure there must be something left behind. Also I
remembered she had said Zikali wanted to see me. Well, the end of it
was I took a moonlight walk up that dreadful gorge, into which not even
Scowl would accompany me, because he declared that the place was well
known to be haunted by imikovu, or spectres who have been raised from
the dead by wizards.
It was a long and disagreeable walk, and somehow I felt very depressed
and insignificant as I trudged on between those gigantic cliffs, passing
now through patches of bright moonlight and now through deep pools of
shadow, threading my way among clumps of bush or round the bases of tall
pillars of piled-up stones, till at length I came to the overhanging
cliffs at the end, which frowned down on me like the brows of some
Well, I got to the end at last, and at the gate of the kraal fence was
met by one of those fierce and huge men who served the dwarf as guards.
Suddenly he emerged from behind a stone, and having scanned me for a
moment in silence, beckoned to me to follow him, as though I were
expected. A minute later I found myself face to face with Zikali, who
was seated in the clear moonlight just outside the shadow of his hut,
and engaged, apparently, in his favourite occupation of carving wood
with a rough native knife of curious shape.
For a while he took no notice of me; then suddenly looked up, shaking
back his braided grey locks, and broke into one of his great laughs.
"So it is you, Macumazahn," he said. "Well, I knew you were passing my
way and that Mameena would send you here. But why do you come to see
the 'Thing-that-should-not-have-been-born'? To tell me how you fared
with the buffalo with the split horn, eh?"
"No, Zikali, for why should I tell you what you know already? Mameena
said you wished to talk with me, that was all."
"Then Mameena lied," he answered, "as is her nature, in whose throat
live four false words for every one of truth. Still, sit down,
Macumazahn. There is beer made ready for you by that stool; and give me
the knife and a pinch of the white man's snuff that you have brought for
me as a present."
I produced these articles, though how be knew that I had them with me I
cannot tell, nor did I think it worth while to inquire. The snuff, I
remember, pleased him very much, but of the knife he said that it was a
pretty toy, but he would not know how to use it. Then we fell to
"What was Mameena doing here?" I asked boldly.
"What was she doing at your wagons?" he asked. "Oh, do not stop to tell
me; I know, I know. That is a very good Snake of yours, Macumazahn,
which always just lets you slip through her fingers, when, if she chose
to close her hand-- Well, well, I do not betray the secrets of my
clients; but I say this to you--go on to the kraal of the son of
Senzangakona, and you will see things happen that will make you laugh,
for Mameena will be there, and the mongrel Masapo, her husband. Truly
she hates him well, and, after all, I would rather be loved than hated
by Mameena, though both are dangerous. Poor Mongrel! Soon the jackals
will be chewing his bones."
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"Only because Mameena tells me that he is a great wizard, and the
jackals eat many wizards in Zululand. Also he is an enemy of Panda's
House, is he not?"
"You have been giving her some bad counsel, Zikali," I said, blurting
out the thought in my mind.
"Perhaps, perhaps, Macumazahn; only I may call it good counsel. I have
my own road to walk, and if I can find some to clear away the thorns
that would prick my feet, what of it? Also she will get her pay, who
finds life dull up there among the Amasomi, with one she hates for a
hut-fellow. Go you and watch, and afterwards, when you have an hour to
spare, come and tell me what happens--that is, if I do not chance to be
there to see for myself."
"Is Saduko well?" I asked to change the subject, for I did not wish to
become privy to the plots that filled the air.
"I am told that his tree grows great, that it overshadows all the royal
kraal. I think that Mameena wishes to sleep in the shade of it. And
now you are weary, and so am I. Go back to your wagons, Macumazahn, for
I have nothing more to say to you to-night. But be sure to return and
tell me what chances at Panda's kraal. Or, as I have said, perhaps I
shall meet you there. Who knows, who knows?"
Now, it will be observed that there was nothing very remarkable in this
conversation between Zikali and myself. He did not tell me any deep
secrets or make any great prophecy. It may be wondered, indeed, when
there is so much to record, why I set it down at all.
My answer is, because of the extraordinary impression that it produced
upon me. Although so little was said, I felt all the while that those
few words were a veil hiding terrible events to be. I was sure that
some dreadful scheme had been hatched between the old dwarf and Mameena
whereof the issue would soon become apparent, and that he had sent me
away in a hurry after he learned that she had told me nothing, because
he feared lest I should stumble on its cue and perhaps cause it to fail.
At any rate, as I walked back to my wagons by moonlight down that
dreadful gorge, the hot, thick air seemed to me to have a physical taste
and smell of blood, and the dank foliage of the tropical trees that grew
there, when now and again a puff of wind stirred them, moaned like the
fabled imikovu, or as men might do in their last faint agony. The
effect upon my nerves was quite strange, for when at last I reached my
wagons I was shaking like a reed, and a cold perspiration, unnatural
enough upon that hot night, poured from my face and body.
Well, I took a couple of stiff tots of "squareface" to pull myself
together, and at length went to sleep, to awake before dawn with a
headache. Looking out of the wagon, to my surprise I saw Scowl and the
hunters, who should have been snoring, standing in a group and talking
to each other in frightened whispers. I called Scowl to me and asked
what was the matter.
"Nothing, Baas," he said with a shamefaced air; "only there are so many
spooks about this place. They have been passing in and out of it all
"Spooks, you idiot!" I answered. "Probably they were people going to
visit the Nyanga, Zikali."
"Perhaps, Baas; only then we do not know why they should all look like
dead people--princes, some of them, by their dress--and walk upon the
air a man's height from the ground."
"Pooh!" I replied. "Do you not know the difference between owls in the
mist and dead kings? Make ready, for we trek at once; the air here is
full of fever."
"Certainly, Baas," he said, springing off to obey; and I do not think I
ever remember two wagons being got under way quicker than they were that
I merely mention this nonsense to show that the Black Kloof could affect
other people's nerves as well as my own.
In due course I reached Nodwengu without accident, having sent forward
one of my hunters to report my approach to Panda. When my wagons
arrived outside the Great Place they were met by none other than my old
friend, Maputa, he who had brought me back the pills before our attack
"Greeting, Macumazahn," he said. "I am sent by the King to say that you
are welcome and to point you out a good place to outspan; also to give
you permission to trade as much as you will in this town, since he knows
that your dealings are always fair."
I returned my thanks in the usual fashion, adding that I had brought a
little present for the King which I would deliver when it pleased him to
receive me. Then I invited Maputa, to whom I also offered some trifle
which delighted him very much, to ride with me on the wagon-box till we
came to the selected outspan.
This, by the way, proved, to be a very good place indeed, a little
valley full of grass for the cattle--for by the King's order it had not
been grazed--with a stream of beautiful water running down it. Moreover
it overlooked a great open space immediately in front of the main gate
of the town, so that I could see everything that went on and all who
arrived or departed.
"You will be comfortable here, Macumazahn," said Maputa, "during your
stay, which we hope will be long, since, although there will soon be a
mighty crowd at Nodwengu, the King has given orders that none except
your own servants are to enter this valley."
"I thank the King; but why will there be a crowd, Maputa?"
"Oh!" he answered with a shrug of the shoulders, "because of a new
thing. All the tribes of the Zulus are to come up to be reviewed. Some
say that Cetewayo has brought this about, and some say that it is
Umbelazi. But I am sure that it is the work of neither of these, but of
Saduko, your old friend, though what his object is I cannot tell you. I
only trust," he added uneasily, "that it will not end in bloodshed
between the Great Brothers."
"So Saduko has grown tall, Maputa?"
"Tall as a tree, Macumazahn. His whisper in the King's ear is louder
than the shouts of others. Moreover, he has become a 'self-eater' [that
is a Zulu term which means one who is very haughty]. You will have to
wait on him, Macumazahn; he will not wait on you."
"Is it so? " I answered. "Well, tall trees are blown down sometimes."
He nodded his wise old head. "Yes, Macumazahn; I have seen plenty grow
and fall in my time, for at last the swimmer goes with the stream.
Anyhow, you will be able to do a good trade among so many, and, whatever
happens, none will harm you whom all love. And now farewell; I bear
your messages to the King, who sends an ox for you to kill lest you
should grow hungry in his house."
That same evening I saw Saduko and the others, as I shall tell. I had
been up to visit the King and give him my present, a case of English
table-knives with bone handles, which pleased him greatly, although he
did not in the least know how to use them. Indeed, without their
accompanying forks these are somewhat futile articles. I found the old
fellow very tired and anxious, but as he was surrounded by indunas, I
had no private talk with him. Seeing that he was busy, I took my leave
as soon as I could, and when I walked away whom should I meet but
I saw him while he was a good way off, advancing towards the inner gate
with a train of attendants like a royal personage, and knew very well
that he saw me. Making up my mind what to do at once, I walked straight
on to him, forcing him to give me the path, which he did not wish to do
before so many people, and brushed past him as though he were a
stranger. As I expected, this treatment had the desired effect, for
after we had passed each other he turned and said:
"Do you not know me, Macumazahn?"
"Who calls?" I asked. "Why, friend, your face is familiar to me. How
are you named?"
"Have you forgotten Saduko?" he said in a pained voice.
"No, no, of course not," I answered. "I know you now, although you seem
somewhat changed since we went out hunting and fighting together--I
suppose because you are fatter. I trust that you are well, Saduko?
Good-bye. I must be going back to my wagons. If you wish to see me you
will find me there."
These remarks, I may add, seemed to take Saduko very much aback. At any
rate, he found no reply to them, even when old Maputa, with whom I was
walking, and some others sniggered aloud. There is nothing that Zulus
enjoy so much as seeing one whom they consider an upstart set in his
Well, a couple of hours afterwards, just as the sun was sinking, who
should walk up to my wagons but Saduko himself, accompanied by a woman
whom I recognised at once as his wife, the Princess Nandie, who carried
a fine baby boy in her arms. Rising, I saluted Nandie and offered her
my camp-stool, which she looked at suspiciously and declined, preferring
to seat herself on the ground after the native fashion. So I took it
back again, and after I had sat down on it, not before, stretched out my
hand to Saduko, who by this time was quite humble and polite.
Well, we talked away, and by degrees, without seeming too much
interested in them, I was furnished with a list of all the advancements
which it had pleased Panda to heap upon Saduko during the past year. In
their way they were remarkable enough, for it was much as though some
penniless country gentleman in England had been promoted in that short
space of time to be one of the premier peers of the kingdom and endowed
with great offices and estates. When he had finished the count of them
he paused, evidently waiting for me to congratulate him. But all I said
"By the Heavens above I am sorry for you, Saduko! How many enemies you
must have made! What a long way there will be for you to fall one
night!"--a remark at which the quiet Nandie broke into a low laugh that
I think pleased her husband even less than my sarcasm. "Well," I went
on, "I see that you have got a baby, which is much better than all these
titles. May I look at it, Inkosazana?"
Of course she was delighted, and we proceeded to inspect the baby, which
evidently she loved more than anything on earth. Whilst we were
examining the child and chatting about it, Saduko sitting by meanwhile
in the sulks, who on earth should appear but Mameena and her fat and
sullen-looking husband, the chief Masapo.
"Oh, Macumazahn," she said, appearing to notice no one else, "how
pleased I am to see you after a whole long year!"
I stared at her and my jaw dropped. Then I recovered myself, thinking
she must have made a mistake and meant to say "week."
"Twelve moons," she went on, "and, Macumazahn, not one of them has gone
by but I have thought of you several times and wondered if we should
ever meet again. Where have you been all this while?"
"In many places," I answered; "amongst others at the Black Kloof, where
I called upon the dwarf, Zikali, and lost my looking-glass."
"The Nyanga, Zikali! Oh, how often have I wished to see him. But, of
course, I cannot, for I am told he will not receive any women."
"I don't know, I am sure," I replied, "but you might try; perhaps he
would make an exception in your favour."
"I think I will, Macumazahn," she murmured, whereon I collapsed into
silence, feeling that things were getting beyond me.
When I recovered myself a little it was to hear Mameena greeting Saduko
with much effusion, and complimenting him on his rise in life, which she
said she had always foreseen. This remark seemed to bowl out Saduko
also, for he made no answer to it, although I noticed that he could not
take his eyes off Mameena's beautiful face. Presently, however, he
seemed to become aware of Masapo, and instantly his whole demeanour
changed, for it grew proud and even terrible. Masapo tendered him some
greeting; whereon Saduko turned upon him and said:
"What, chief of the Amasomi, do you give the good-day to an umfokazana
and a mangy hyena? Why do you do this? Is it because the low
umfokazana has become a noble and the mangy hyena has put on a tiger's
coat?" And he glared at him like a veritable tiger.
Masapo made no answer that I could catch. Muttering some inaudible
words, he turned to depart, and in doing so--quite innocently, I
think--struck Nandie, knocking her over on to her back and causing the
child to fall out of her arms in such fashion that its tender head
struck against a pebble with sufficient force to cause it to bleed.
Saduko leapt at him, smiting him across the shoulders with the little
stick that he carried. For a moment Masapo paused, and I thought that
he was going to show fight. If he had any such intention, however, he
changed his mind, for without a word, or showing any resentment at the
insult which he had received, he broke into a heavy run and vanished
among the evening shadows. Mameena, who had observed all, broke into
something else, namely, a laugh.
"Piff! My husband is big yet not brave," she said, "but I do not think
he meant to hurt you, woman."
"Do you speak to me, wife of Masapo?" asked Nandie with gentle dignity,
as she gained her feet and picked up the stunned child. "If so, my name
and titles are the Inkosazana Nandie, daughter of the Black One and wife
of the lord Saduko."
"Your pardon," replied Mameena humbly, for she was cowed at once. "I
did not know who you were, Inkosazana."
"It is granted, wife of Masapo. Macumazahn, give me water, I pray you,
that I may bathe the head of my child."
The water was brought, and presently, when the little one seemed all
right again, for it had only received a scratch, Nandie thanked me and
departed to her own huts, saying with a smile to her husband as she
passed that there was no need for him to accompany her, as she had
servants waiting at the kraal gate. So Saduko stayed behind, and
Mameena stayed also. He talked with me for quite a long while, for he
had much to tell me, although all the time I felt that his heart was not
in his talk. His heart was with Mameena, who sat there and smiled
continually in her mysterious way, only putting in a word now and again,
as though to excuse her presence.
At length she rose and said with a sigh that she must be going back to
where the Amasomi were in camp, as Masapo would need her to see to his
food. By now it was quite dark, although I remember that from time to
time the sky was lit up by sheet lightning, for a storm was brewing. As
I expected, Saduko rose also, saying that he would see me on the morrow,
and went away with Mameena, walking like one who dreams.
A few minutes later I had occasion to leave the wagons in order to
inspect one of the oxen which was tied up by itself at a distance,
because it had shown signs of some sickness that might or might not be
catching. Moving quietly, as I always do from a hunter's habit, I
walked alone to the place where the beast was tethered behind some
mimosa thorns. Just as I reached these thorns the broad lightning shone
out vividly, and showed me Saduko holding the unresisting shape of
Mameena in his arms and kissing her passionately.
Then I turned and went back to the wagons even more quietly than I had
I should add that on the morrow I found out that, after all, there was
nothing serious the matter with my ox.
After these events matters went on quietly for some time. I visited
Saduko's huts--very fine huts--about the doors of which sat quite a
number of his tribesmen, who seemed glad to see me again. Here I
learned from the Lady Nandie that her babe, whom she loved dearly, was
none the worse for its little accident. Also I learned from Saduko
himself, who came in before I left, attended like a prince by several
notable men, that he had made up his quarrel with Masapo, and, indeed,
apologised to him, as he found that he had not really meant to insult
the princess, his wife, having only thrust her over by accident. Saduko
added indeed that now they were good friends, which was well for Masapo,
a man whom the King had no cause to like. I said that I was glad to
hear it, and went on to call upon Masapo, who received me with
enthusiasm, as also did Mameena.
Here I noted with pleasure that this pair seemed to be on much better
terms than I understood had been the case in the past, for Mameena even
addressed her husband on two separate occasions in very affectionate
language, and fetched something that he wanted without waiting to be
asked. Masapo, too, was in excellent spirits, because, as he told me,
the old quarrel between him and Saduko was thoroughly made up, their
reconciliation having been sealed by an interchange of gifts. He added
that he was very glad that this was the case, since Saduko was now one
of the most powerful men in the country, who could harm him much if he
chose, especially as some secret enemy had put it about of late that he,
Masapo, was an enemy of the King's House, and an evil-doer who practised
witchcraft. In proof of his new friendship, however, Saduko had
promised that these slanders should be looked into and their originator
punished, if he or she could be found.
Well, I congratulated him and took my departure, "thinking furiously,"
as the Frenchman says. That there was a tragedy pending I was sure;
this weather was too calm to last; the water ran so still because it was
preparing to leap down some hidden precipice.
Yet what could I do? Tell Masapo I had seen his wife being embraced by
another man? Surely that was not my business; it was Masapo's business
to attend to her conduct. Also they would both deny it, and I had no
witness. Tell him that Saduko's reconciliation with him was not
sincere, and that he had better look to himself? How did I know it was
not sincere? It might suit Saduko's book to make friends with Masapo,
and if I interfered I should only make enemies and be called a liar who
was working for some secret end.
Go to Panda and confide my suspicions to him? He was far too anxious
and busy about great matters to listen to me, and if he did, would only
laugh at this tale of a petty flirtation. No, there was nothing to be
done except sit still and wait. Very possibly I was mistaken, after
all, and things would smooth themselves out, as they generally do.
Meanwhile the "reviewing," or whatever it may have been, was in
progress, and I was busy with my own affairs, making hay while the sun
shone. So great were the crowds of people who came up to Nodwengu that
in a week I had sold everything I had to sell in the two wagons, that
were mostly laden with cloth, beads, knives and so forth. Moreover, the
prices I got were splendid, since the buyers bid against each other, and
before I was cleared out I had collected quite a herd of cattle, also a
quantity of ivory. These I sent on to Natal with one of the wagons,
remaining behind myself with the other, partly because Panda asked me to
do so--for now and again he would seek my advice on sundry
questions--and partly from curiosity.
There was plenty to be curious about up at Nodwengu just then, since no
one was sure that civil war would not break out between the princes
Cetewayo and Umbelazi, whose factions were present in force.
It was averted for the time, however, by Umbelazi keeping away from the
great gathering under pretext of being sick, and leaving Saduko and some
others to watch his interests. Also the rival regiments were not
allowed to approach the town at the same time. So that public cloud
passed over, to the enormous relief of everyone, especially of Panda the
King. As to the private cloud whereof this history tells, it was
As the tribes came up to the Great Place they were reviewed and sent
away, since it was impossible to feed so vast a multitude as would have
collected had they all remained. Thus the Amasomi, a small people who
were amongst the first to arrive, soon left. Only, for some reason
which I never quite understood, Masapo, Mameena and a few of Masapo's
children and headmen were detained there; though perhaps, if she had
chosen, Mameena could have given an explanation.
Well, things began to happen. Sundry personages were taken ill, and
some of them died suddenly; and soon it was noted that all these people
either lived near to where Masapo's family was lodged or had at some
time or other been on bad terms with him. Thus Saduko himself was taken
ill, or said he was; at any rate, he vanished from public gaze for three
days, and reappeared looking very sorry for himself, though I could not
observe that he had lost strength or weight. These catastrophes I pass
over, however, in order to come to the greatest of them, which is one of
the turning points of this chronicle.
After recovering from his alleged sickness Saduko gave a kind of
thanksgiving feast, at which several oxen were killed. I was present at
this feast, or rather at the last part of it, for I only put in what may
be called a complimentary appearance, having no taste for such native
gorgings. As it drew near its close Saduko sent for Nandie, who at
first refused to come as there were no women present--I think because he
wished to show his friends that he had a princess of the royal blood for
his wife, who had borne him a son that one day would be great in the
land. For Saduko, as I have said, had become a "self-eater," and this
day his pride was inflamed by the adulation of the company and by the
beer that he had drunk.
At length Nandie did come, carrying her babe, from which she never would
be parted. In her dignified, ladylike fashion (although it seems an odd
term to apply to a savage, I know none that describes her better) she
greeted first me and then sundry of the other guests, saying a few words
to each of them. At length she came opposite to Masapo, who had dined
not wisely but too well, and to him, out of her natural courtesy, spoke
rather longer than to the others, inquiring after his wife, Mameena, and
others. At the moment it occurred to me that she did this in order to
assure him that she bore no malice because of the accident of a while
before, and was a party to her husband's reconciliation with him.
Masapo, in a hazy way, tried to reciprocate these kind intentions.
Rising to his feet, his fat, coarse body swaying to and fro because of
the beer that he had drunk, he expressed satisfaction at the feast that
had been prepared in her house. Then, his eyes falling on the child, he
began to declaim about its size and beauty, until he was stopped by the
murmured protests of others, since among natives it is held to be not
fortunate to praise a young child. Indeed, the person who does so is
apt to be called an "umtakati", or bewitcher, who will bring evil upon
its head, a word that I heard murmured by several near to me. Not
satisfied with this serious breach of etiquette, the intoxicated Masapo
snatched the infant from its mother's arms under pretext of looking for
the hurt that had been caused to its brow when it fell to the ground at
my camp, and finding none, proceeded to kiss it with his thick lips.
Nandie dragged it from him, saying:
"Would you bring death upon my son, O Chief of the Amasomi?"
Then, turning, she walked away from the feasters, upon whom there fell a
Fearing lest something unpleasant should ensue, for I saw Saduko biting
his lips with rage not unmixed with fear, and remembering Masapo's
reputation as a wizard, I took advantage of this pause to bid a general
good night to the company and retire to my camp.
What happened immediately after I left I do not know, but just before
dawn on the following morning I was awakened from sleep in my wagon by
my servant Scowl, who said that a messenger had come from the huts of
Saduko, begging that I would proceed there at once and bring the white
man's medicines, as his child was very ill. Of course I got up and
went, taking with me some ipecacuanha and a few other remedies that I
thought might be suitable for infantile ailments.
Outside the huts, which I reached just as the sun began to rise, I was
met by Saduko himself, who was coming to seek me, as I saw at once, in a
state of terrible grief.
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"O Macumazana," he answered, "that dog Masapo has bewitched my boy, and
unless you can save him he dies."
"Nonsense," I said, "why do you utter wind? If the babe is sick, it is
from some natural cause."
"Wait till you see it," he replied.
Well, I went into the big hut, and there found Nandie and some other
women, also a native doctor or two. Nandie was seated on the floor
looking like a stone image of grief, for she made no sound, only pointed
with her finger to the infant that lay upon a mat in front of her.
A single glance showed me that it was dying of some disease of which I
had no knowledge, for its dusky little body was covered with red
blotches and its tiny face twisted all awry. I told the women to heat
water, thinking that possibly this might be a case of convulsions, which
a hot bath would mitigate; but before it was ready the poor babe uttered
a thin wail and died.
Then, when she saw that her child was gone, Nandie spoke for the first
"The wizard has done his work well," she said, and flung herself face
downwards on the floor of the hut.
As I did not know what to answer, I went out, followed by Saduko.
"What has killed my son, Macumazahn?" he asked in a hollow voice, the
tears running down his handsome face, for he had loved his firstborn.
"I cannot tell," I replied; "but had he been older I should have thought
he had eaten something poisonous, which seems impossible."
"Yes, Macumazahn, and the poison that he has eaten came from the breath
of a wizard whom you may chance to have seen kiss him last night. Well,
his life shall be avenged."
"Saduko," I exclaimed, "do not be unjust. There are many sicknesses
that may have killed your son of which I have no knowledge, who am not a
"I will not be unjust, Macumazahn. The babe has died by witchcraft,
like others in this town of late, but the evil-doer may not be he whom I
suspect. That is for the smellers-out to decide," and without more
words he turned and left me.
Next day Masapo was put upon his trial before a Court of Councillors,
over which the King himself presided, a very unusual thing for him to
do, and one which showed the great interest he took in the case.
At this court I was summoned to give evidence, and, of course, confined
myself to answering such questions as were put to me. Practically these
were but two. What had passed at my wagons when Masapo had knocked over
Nandie and her child, and Saduko had struck him, and what had I seen at
Saduko's feast when Masapo had kissed the infant? I told them in as few
words as I could, and after some slight cross-examination by Masapo,
made with a view to prove that the upsetting of Nandie was an accident
and that he was drunk at Saduko's feast, to both of which suggestions I
assented, I rose to go. Panda, however, stopped me and bade me describe
the aspect of the child when I was called in to give it medicine.
I did so as accurately as possible, and could see that my account made a
deep impression on the mind of the court. Then Panda asked me if I had
ever seen any similar case, to which I was obliged to reply:
"No, I have not."
After this the Councillors consulted privately, and when we were called
back the King gave his judgment, which was very brief. It was evident,
he said, that there had been events which might have caused enmity to
arise in the mind of Masapo against Saduko, by whom Masapo had been
struck with a stick. Therefore, although a reconciliation had taken
place, there seemed to be a possible motive for revenge. But if Masapo
killed the child, there was no evidence to show how he had done so.
Moreover, that infant, his own grandson, had not died of any known
disease. He had, however, died of a similar disease to that which had
carried off certain others with whom Masapo had been mixed up, whereas
more, including Saduko himself, had been sick and recovered, all of
which seemed to make a strong case against Masapo.
Still, he and his Councillors wished not to condemn without full proof.
That being so, they had determined to call in the services of some great
witch-doctor, one who lived at a distance and knew nothing of the
circumstances. Who that doctor should be was not yet settled. When it
was and he had arrived, the case would be re-opened, and meanwhile
Masapo would be kept a close prisoner. Finally, he prayed that the
white man, Macumazahn, would remain at his town until the matter was
So Masapo was led off, looking very dejected, and, having saluted the
King, we all went away.
I should add that, except for the remission of the case to the court of
the witch-doctor, which, of course, was an instance of pure Kafir
superstition, this judgment of the King's seemed to me well reasoned and
just, very different indeed from what would have been given by Dingaan
or Chaka, who were wont, on less evidence, to make a clean sweep not
only of the accused, but of all his family and dependents.
About eight days later, during which time I had heard nothing of the
matter and seen no one connected with it, for the whole thing seemed to
have become Zila--that is, not to be talked about--I received a summons
to attend the "smelling-out," and went, wondering what witch-doctor had
been chosen for that bloody and barbarous ceremony. Indeed, I had not
far to go, since the place selected for the occasion was outside the
fence of the town of Nodwengu, on that great open stretch of ground
which lay at the mouth of the valley where I was camped. Here, as I
approached, I saw a vast multitude of people crowded together, fifty
deep or more, round a little oval space not much larger than the pit of
a theatre. On the inmost edge of this ring were seated many notable
people, male and female, and as I was conducted to the side of it which
was nearest to the gate of the town, I observed among them Saduko,
Masapo, Mameena and others, and mixed up with them a number of soldiers,
who were evidently on duty.
Scarcely had I seated myself on a camp-stool, carried by my servant
Scowl, when through the gate of the kraal issued Panda and certain of
his Council, whose appearance the multitude greeted with the royal
salute of "Bayete", that came from them in a deep and simultaneous roar
of sound. When its echoes died away, in the midst of a deep silence
Panda spoke, saying:
"Bring forth the Nyanga [doctor]. Let the umhlahlo [that is, the
There was a long pause, and then in the open gateway appeared a solitary
figure that at first sight seemed to be scarcely human, the figure of a
dwarf with a gigantic head, from which hung long, white hair, plaited
into locks. It was Zikali, no other!
Quite unattended, and naked save for his moocha, for he had on him none
of the ordinary paraphernalia of the witch-doctor, he waddled forward
with a curious toad-like gait till he had passed through the Councillors
and stood in the open space of the ring. Halting there, he looked about
him slowly with his deep-set eyes, turning as he looked, till at length
his glance fell upon the King.
"What would you have of me, Son of Senzangakona?" he asked. "Many years
have passed since last we met. Why do you drag me from my hut, I who
have visited the kraal of the King of the Zulus but twice since the
'Black One' [Chaka] sat upon the throne--once when the Boers were killed
by him who went before you, and once when I was brought forth to see all
who were left of my race, shoots of the royal Dwandwe stock, slain
before my eyes. Do you bear me hither that I may follow them into the
darkness, O Child of Senzangakona? If so I am ready; only then I have
words to say that it may not please you to hear."
His deep, rumbling voice echoed into silence, while the great audience
waited for the King's answer. I could see that they were all afraid of
this man, yes, even Panda was afraid, for he shifted uneasily upon his
stool. At length he spoke, saying:
"Not so, O Zikali. Who would wish to do hurt to the wisest and most
ancient man in all the land, to him who touches the far past with one
hand and the present with the other, to him who was old before our
grandfathers began to be? Nay, you are safe, you on whom not even the
'Black One' dared to lay a finger, although you were his enemy and he
hated you. As for the reason why you have been brought here, tell it to
us, O Zikali. Who are we that we should instruct you in the ways of
When the dwarf heard this he broke into one of his great laughs.
"So at last the House of Senzangakona acknowledges that I have wisdom.
Then before all is done they will think me wise indeed."
He laughed again in his ill-omened fashion and went on hurriedly, as
though he feared that he should be called upon to explain his words:
"Where is the fee? Where is the fee? Is the King so poor that he
expects an old Dwandwe doctor to divine for nothing, just as though he
were working for a private friend?"
Panda made a motion with his hand, and ten fine heifers were driven into
the circle from some place where they had been kept in waiting.
"Sorry beasts!" said Zikali contemptuously, "compared to those we used
to breed before the time of Senzangakona"--a remark which caused a loud
"Wow!" of astonishment to be uttered by the multitude that heard it.
"Still, such as they are, let them be taken to my kraal, with a bull,
for I have none."
The cattle were driven away, and the ancient dwarf squatted himself down
and stared at the ground, looking like a great black toad. For a long
while--quite ten minutes, I should think--he stared thus, till I, for
one, watching him intently, began to feel as though I were mesmerised.
At length he looked up, tossing back his grey locks, and said:
"I see many things in the dust. Oh, yes, it is alive, it is alive, and
tells me many things. Show that you are alive, O Dust. Look!"
As he spoke, throwing his hands upwards, there arose at his very feet
one of those tiny and incomprehensible whirlwinds with which all who
know South Africa will be familiar. It drove the dust together; it
lifted it in a tall, spiral column that rose and rose to a height of
fifty feet or more. Then it died away as suddenly as it had come, so
that the dust fell down again over Zikali, over the King, and over three
of his sons who sat behind him. Those three sons, I remember, were
named Tshonkweni, Dabulesinye, and Mantantashiya. As it chanced, by a
strange coincidence all of these were killed at the great battle of the
Tugela of which I have to tell.
Now again an exclamation of fear and wonder rose from the audience, who
set down this lifting of the dust at Zikali's very feet not to natural
causes, but to the power of his magic. Moreover, those on whom it had
fallen, including the King, rose hurriedly and shook and brushed it from
their persons with a zeal that was not, I think, inspired by a mere
desire for cleanliness. But Zikali only laughed again in his terrible
fashion and let it lie on his fresh-oiled body, which it turned to the
dull, dead hue of a grey adder.
He rose and, stepping here and there, examined the new-fallen dust.
Then he put his hand into a pouch he wore and produced from it a dried
human finger, whereof the nail was so pink that I think it must have
been coloured--a sight at which the circle shuddered.
"Be clever," he said, "O Finger of her I loved best; be clever and write
in the dust as yonder Macumazana can write, and as some of the Dwandwe
used to write before we became slaves and bowed ourselves down before
the Great Heavens." (By this he meant the Zulus, whose name means the
Heavens.) "Be clever, dear Finger which caressed me once, me, the
'Thing-that-should-not-have-been-born,' as more will think before I die,
and write those matters that it pleases the House of Senzangakona to
know this day."
Then he bent down, and with the dead finger at three separate spots made
certain markings in the fallen dust, which to me seemed to consist of
circles and dots; and a strange and horrid sight it was to see him do
"I thank you, dear Finger. Now sleep, sleep, your work is done," and
slowly he wrapped the relic up in some soft material and restored it to
Then he studied the first of the markings and asked: "What am I here
for? What am I here for? Does he who sits upon the Throne desire to
know how long he has to reign?"
Now, those of the inner circle of the spectators, who at these
"smellings-out" act as a kind of chorus, looked at the King, and, seeing
that he shook his head vigorously, stretched out their right hands,
holding the thumb downwards, and said simultaneously in a cold, low
"Izwa!" (That is, "We hear you.")
Zikali stamped upon this set of markings.
"It is well," he said. "He who sits upon the Throne does not desire to
know how long he has to reign, and therefore the dust has forgotten and
shows it not to me."
Then he walked to the next markings and studied them.
"Does the Child of Senzangakona desire to know which of his sons shall
live and which shall die; aye, and which of them shall sleep in his hut
when he is gone?"
Now a great roar of "Izwa!" accompanied by the clapping of hands, rose
from all the outer multitude who heard, for there was no information
that the Zulu people desired so earnestly as this at the time of which I
But again Panda, who, I saw, was thoroughly alarmed at the turn things
were taking, shook his head vigorously, whereon the obedient chorus
negatived the question in the same fashion as before.
Zikali stamped upon the second set of markings, saying:
"The people desire to know, but the Great Ones are afraid to learn, and
therefore the dust has forgotten who in the days to come shall sleep in
the hut of the King and who shall sleep in the bellies of the jackals
and the crops of the vultures after they have 'gone beyond' by the
bridge of spears."
Now, at this awful speech (which, both because of all that it implied of
bloodshed and civil war and of the wild, wailing voice in which it was
spoken, that seemed quite different from Zikali's, caused everyone who
heard it, including myself, I am afraid, to gasp and shiver) the King
sprang from his stool as though to put a stop to such doctoring. Then,
after his fashion, he changed his mind and sat down again. But Zikali,
taking no heed, went to the third set of marks and studied them.
"It would seem," he said, "that I am awakened from sleep in my Black
House yonder to tell of a very little matter, that might well have been
dealt with by any common Nyanga born but yesterday. Well, I have taken
my fee, and I will earn it, although I thought that I was brought here
to speak of great matters, such as the death of princes and the fortunes
of peoples. Is it desired that my Spirit should speak of wizardries in
this town of Nodwengu?"
"Izwa!" said the chorus in a loud voice.
Zikali nodded his great head and seemed to talk with the dust, waiting
now and again for an answer.
"Good," he said; "they are many, and the dust has told them all to me.
Oh, they are very many"--and he glared around him--"so many that if I
spoke them all the hyenas of the hills would be full to-night--"
Here the audience began to show signs of great apprehension.
"But," looking down at the dust and turning his head sideways, "what do
you say, what do you say? Speak more plainly, Little Voices, for you
know I grow deaf. Oh! now I understand. The matter is even smaller
than I thought. Just of one wizard--"
"--just of a few deaths and some sicknesses."
"Just of one death, one principal death."
"Izwa!" (very loudly).
"Ah! So we have it--one death. Now, was it a man?"
"Izwa!" (very coldly).
"Izwa!" (still more coldly).
"Then a child? It must be a child, unless indeed it is the death of a
spirit. But what do you people know of spirits? A child! A child!
Ah! you hear me--a child. A male child, I think. Do you not say so, O
"A common child? A bastard? The son of nobody?"
"Izwa!" (very low).
"A well-born child? One who would have been great? O Dust, I hear, I
hear; a royal child, a child in whom ran the blood of the Father of the
Zulus, he who was my friend? The blood of Senzangakona, the blood of
the 'Black One,' the blood of Panda."
He stopped, while both from the chorus and from the thousands of the
circle gathered around went up one roar of "Izwa!" emphasised by a
mighty movement of outstretched arms and down-pointing thumbs.
Then silence, during which Zikali stamped upon all the remaining
"I thank you, O Dust, though I am sorry to have troubled you for so
small a matter. So, so," he went on presently, "a royal boy-child is
dead, and you think by witchcraft. Let us find out if he died by
witchcraft or as others die, by command of the Heavens that need them.
What! Here is one mark which I have left. Look! It grows red, it is
full of spots! The child died with a twisted face."
"Izwa! Izwa! Izwa!" (crescendo).
"This death was not natural. Now, was it witchcraft or was it poison?
Both, I think, both. And whose was the child? Not that of a son of the
King, I think. Oh, yes, you hear me, People, you hear me; but be
silent; I do not need your help. No, not of a son; of a daughter,
then." He turned and, looked about him till his eye fell upon a group of
women, amongst whom sat Nandie, dressed like a common person." Of a
daughter, a daughter--" He walked to the group of women. "Why, none of
these are royal; they are the children of low people. And yet--and yet
I seem to smell the blood of Senzangakona."
He sniffed at the air as a dog does, and as he sniffed drew ever nearer
to Nandie, till at last he laughed and pointed to her.
"Your child, Princess, whose name I do not know. Your firstborn
child, whom you loved more than your own heart."
"Yes, yes, Nyanga," she cried. "I am the Princess Nandie, and he was my
child, whom I loved more than my own heart."
"Haha!" said Zikali. "Dust, you did not lie to me. My Spirit, you did
not lie to me. But now, tell me, Dust--and tell me, my Spirit--who
killed this child?"
He began to waddle round the circle, an extraordinary sight, covered as
he was with grey grime, varied with streaks of black skin where the
perspiration had washed the dust away.
Presently he came opposite to me, and, to my dismay, paused, sniffing at
me as he had at Nandie.
"Ah! ah! O Macumazana," he said, "you have something to do with this
matter," a saying at which all that audience pricked their ears.
Then I rose up in wrath and fear, knowing my position to be one of some
"Wizard, or Smeller-out of Wizards, whichever you name yourself," I
called in a loud voice, "if you mean that I killed Nandie's child, you
"No, no, Macumazahn," he answered, "but you tried to save it, and
therefore you had something to do with the matter, had you not?
Moreover, I think that you, who are wise like me, know who did kill it.
Won't you tell me, Macumazahn? No? Then I must find out for myself.
Be at peace. Does not all the land know that your hands are white as
Then, to my great relief, he passed on, amidst a murmur of approbation,
for, as I have said, the Zulus liked me. Round and round he wandered,
to my surprise passing both Mameena and Masapo without taking any
particular note of them, although he scanned them both, and I thought
that I saw a swift glance of recognition pass between him and Mameena.
It was curious to watch his progress, for as he went those in front of
him swayed in their terror like corn before a puff of wind, and when he
had passed they straightened themselves as the corn does when the wind
has gone by.
At length he had finished his journey and returned to his
starting-point, to all appearance completely puzzled.
"You keep so many wizards at your kraal, King," he said, addressing
Panda, "that it is hard to say which of them wrought this deed. It
would have been easier to tell you of greater matters. Yet I have taken
your fee, and I must earn it--I must earn it. Dust, you are dumb. Now,
my Idhlozi, my Spirit, do you speak?" and, holding his head sideways, he
turned his left ear up towards the sky, then said presently, in a
curious, matter-of-fact voice:
"Ah! I thank you, Spirit. Well, King, your grandchild was killed by the
House of Masapo, your enemy, chief of the Amasomi."
Now a roar of approbation went up from the audience, among whom Masapo's
guilt was a foregone conclusion.
When this had died down Panda spoke, saying:
"The House of Masapo is a large house; I believe that he has several
wives and many children. It is not enough to smell out the House, since
I am not as those who went before me were, nor will I slay the innocent
with the guilty. Tell us, O Opener-of-Roads, who among the House of
Masapo has wrought this deed?"
"That's just the question," grumbled Zikali in a deep voice. "All that
I know is that it was done by poisoning, and I smell the poison. It is
Then he walked to where Mameena sat and cried out:
"Seize that woman and search her hair."
Executioners who were in waiting sprang forward, but Mameena waved them
"Friends," she said, with a little laugh, "there is no need to touch
me," and, rising, she stepped forward to the centre of the ring. Here,
with a few swift motions of her hands, she flung off first the cloak she
wore, then the moocha about her middle, and lastly the fillet that bound
her long hair, and stood before that audience in all her naked beauty--a
wondrous and a lovely sight.
"Now," she said, "let women come and search me and my garments, and see
if there is any poison hid there."
Two old crones stepped forward--though I do not know who sent them--and
carried out a very thorough examination, finally reporting that they had
found nothing. Thereon Mameena, with a shrug of her shoulders, resumed
such clothes as she wore, and returned lo her place.
Zikali appeared to grow angry. He stamped upon the ground with his big
feet; he shook his braided grey locks and cried out:
"Is my wisdom to be defeated in such a little matter? One of you tie a
bandage over my eyes."
Now a man--it was Maputa, the messenger--came out and did so, and I
noted that he tied it well and tight. Zikali whirled round upon his
heels, first one way and then another, and, crying aloud: "Guide me, my
Spirit!" marched forward in a zigzag fashion, as a blindfolded man does,
with his arms stretched out in front of him. First he went to the
right, then to the left, and then straight forward, till at length, to
my astonishment, he came exactly opposite the spot where Masapo sat and,
stretching out his great, groping hands, seized the kaross with which he
was covered and, with a jerk, tore it from him.
"Search this!" he cried, throwing it on the ground, and a woman
Presently she uttered an exclamation, and from among the fur of one of
the tails of the kaross produced a tiny bag that appeared to be made out
of the bladder of a fish. This she handed to Zikali, whose eyes had now
He looked at it, then gave it to Maputa, saying:
"There is the poison--there is the poison, but who gave it I do not say.
I am weary. Let me go."
Then, none hindering him, he walked away through the gate of the kraal.
Soldiers seized upon Masapo, while the multitude roared: "Kill the
Masapo sprang up, and, running to where the King sat, flung himself upon
his knees, protesting his innocence and praying for mercy. I also, who
had doubts as to all this business, ventured to rise and speak.
"O King," I said, "as one who has known this man in the past, I plead
with you. How that powder came into his kaross I know not, but
perchance it is not poison, only harmless dust."
"Yes, it is but wood dust which I use for the cleaning of my nails,"
cried Masapo, for he was so terrified I think he knew not what he said.
"So you own to knowledge of the medicine?" exclaimed Panda. "Therefore
none hid it in your kaross through malice."
Masapo began to explain, but what he said was lost in a mighty roar of
"Kill the wizard!"
Panda held up his hand and there was silence.
"Bring milk in a dish," commanded the King, and it, was brought, and, at
a further word from him, dusted with the powder.
"Now, O Macumazana," said Panda to me, "if you still think that yonder
man is innocent, will you drink this milk?"
"I do not like milk, O King," I answered, shaking my head, whereon all
who heard me laughed.
"Will Mameena, his wife, drink it, then?" asked Panda.
She also shook her head, saying:
"O King, I drink no milk that is mixed with dust."
Just then a lean, white dog, one of those homeless, mangy beasts that
stray about kraals and live upon carrion, wandered into the ring. Panda
made a sign, and a servant, going to where the poor beast stood staring
about it hungrily, set down the wooden dish of milk in front of it.
Instantly the dog lapped it up, for it was starving, and as it finished
the last drop the man slipped a leathern thong about its neck and held
Now all eyes were fixed upon the dog, mine among them. Presently the
beast uttered a long and melancholy howl which thrilled me through, for
I knew it to be Masapo's death warrant, then began to scratch the ground
and foam at the mouth. Guessing what would follow, I rose, bowed to the
King, and walked away to my camp, which, it will be remembered, was set
up in a little kloof commanding this place, at a distance only of a few
hundred yards. So intent was all the multitude upon watching the dog
that I doubt whether anyone saw me go. As for that poor beast, Scowl,
who stayed behind, told me that it did not die for about ten minutes,
since before its end a red rash appeared upon it similar to that which I
had seen upon Saduko's child, and it was seized with convulsions.
Well, I reached my tent unmolested, and, having lit my pipe, engaged
myself in making business entries in my note-book, in order to divert my
mind as much as I could, when suddenly I heard a most devilish clamour.
Looking up, I saw Masapo running towards me with a speed that I should
have thought impossible in so fat a man, while after him raced the
fierce-faced executioners, and behind came the mob.
"Kill the evil-doer!" they shouted.
Masapo reached me. He flung himself on his knees before me, gasping:
"Save me, Macumazahn! I am innocent. Mameena, the witch! Mameena--"
He got no farther, for the slayers had leapt on him like hounds upon a
buck and dragged him from me.
Then I turned and covered up my eyes.
Next morning I left Nodwengu without saying good-bye to anyone, for what
had happened there made me desire a change. My servant, Scowl, and one
of my hunters remained, however, to collect some cattle that were still
due to me.
A month or more later, when they joined me in Natal, bringing the
cattle, they told me that Mameena, the widow of Masapo, had entered the
house of Saduko as his second wife. In answer to a question which I put
to them, they added that it was said that the Princess Nandie did not
approve of this choice of Saduko, which she thought would not be
fortunate for him or bring him happiness. As her husband seemed to be
much enamoured of Mameena, however, she had waived her objections, and
when Panda asked if she gave her consent had told him that, although she
would prefer that Saduko should choose some other woman who had not been
mixed up with the wizard who killed her child, she was prepared to take
Mameena as her sister, and would know how to keep her in her place.
About eighteen months had gone by, and once again, in the autumn of the
year 1856, I found myself at old Umbezi's kraal, where there seemed to
be an extraordinary market for any kind of gas-pipe that could be called
a gun. Well, as a trader who could not afford to neglect profitable
markets, which are hard things to find, there I was.
Now, in eighteen months many things become a little obscured in one's
memory, especially if they have to do with savages, in whom, after all,
one takes only a philosophical and a business interest. Therefore I may
perhaps be excused if I had more or less forgotten a good many of the
details of what I may call the Mameena affair. These, however, came
back to me very vividly when the first person that I met--at some
distance from the kraal, where I suppose she had been taking a country
walk--was the beautiful Mameena herself. There she was, looking quite
unchanged and as lovely as ever, sitting under the shade of a wild
fig-tree and fanning herself with a handful of its leaves.
Of course I jumped off my wagon-box and greeted her.
"Siyakubona [that is, good morrow], Macumazahn," she said. "My heart is
glad to see you."
"Siyakubona, Mameena," I answered, leaving out all reference to my
heart. Then I added, looking at her: "Is it true that you have a new
"Yes, Macumazahn, an old lover of mine has become a new husband. You
know whom I mean--Saduko. After the death of that evil-doer, Masapo, he
grew very urgent, and the King, also the Inkosazana Nandie, pressed it
on me, and so I yielded. Also, to be honest, Saduko was a good match,
or seemed to be so."
By now we were walking side by side, for the train of wagons had gone
ahead to the old outspan. So I stopped and looked her in the face.
"'Seemed to be,'" I repeated. "What do you mean by 'seemed to be'? Are
you not happy this time?"
"Not altogether, Macumazahn," she answered, with a shrug of her
shoulders. "Saduko is very fond of me--fonder than I like indeed, since
it causes him to neglect Nandie, who, by the way, has another son, and,
although she says little, that makes Nandie cross. In short," she
added, with a burst of truth, "I am the plaything, Nandie is the great
lady, and that place suits me ill."
"If you love Saduko, you should not mind, Mameena."
"Love," she said bitterly. "Piff! What is love? But I have asked you
that question once before."
"Why are you here, Mameena?" I inquired, leaving it unanswered.
"Because Saduko is here, and, of course, Nandie, for she never leaves
him, and he will not leave me; because the Prince Umbelazi is coming;
because there are plots afoot and the great war draws near--that war in
which so many must die."
"Between Cetewayo and Umbelazi, Mameena?"
"Aye, between Cetewayo and Umbelazi. Why do you suppose those wagons of
yours are loaded with guns for which so many cattle must be paid? Not
to shoot game with, I think. Well, this little kraal of my father's is
just now the headquarters of the Umbelazi faction, the Isigqosa, as the
princedom of Gikazi is that of Cetewayo. My poor father!" she added,
with her characteristic shrug, "he thinks himself very great to-day, as
he did after he had shot the elephant--before I nursed you,
Macumazahn--but often I wonder what will be the end of it--for him and
for all of us, Macumazahn, including yourself."
"I!" I answered. "What have I to do with your Zulu quarrels?"
"That you will know when you have done with them, Macumazahn. But here
is the kraal, and before we enter it I wish to thank you for trying to
protect that unlucky husband of mine, Masapo."
"I only did so, Mameena, because I thought him innocent."
"I know, Macumazahn; and so did I, although, as I always told you, I
hated him, the man with whom my father forced me to marry. But I am
afraid, from what I have learned since, that he was not altogether
innocent. You see, Saduko had struck him, which he could not forget.
Also, he was jealous of Saduko, who had been my suitor, and wished to
injure him. But what I do not understand," she added, with a burst of
confidence, "is why he did not kill Saduko instead of his child."
"Well, Mameena, you may remember it was said he tried to do so."
"Yes, Macumazahn; I had forgotten that. I suppose that he did try, and
failed. Oh, now I see things with both eyes. Look, yonder is my
father. I will go away. But come and talk to me sometimes, Macumazahn,
for otherwise Nandie will be careful that I should hear nothing--I who
am the plaything, the beautiful woman of the House, who must sit and
smile, but must not think."
So she departed, and I went on to meet old Umbezi, who came gambolling
towards me like an obese goat, reflecting that, whatever might be the
truth or otherwise of her story, her advancement in the world did not
seem to have brought Mameena greater happiness and contentment.
Umbezi, who greeted me warmly, was in high spirits and full of
importance. He informed me that the marriage of Mameena to Saduko,
after the death of the wizard, her husband, whose tribe and cattle had
been given to Saduko in compensation for the loss of his son, was a most
fortunate thing for him.
I asked why.
"Because as Saduko grows great so I, his father-in-law, grow great with
him, Macumazahn, especially as he has been liberal to me in the matter
of cattle, passing on to me a share of the herds of Masapo, so that I,
who have been poor so long, am getting rich at last. Moreover, my kraal
is to be honoured with a visit from Umbelazi and some of his brothers
to-morrow, and Saduko has promised to lift me up high when the Prince is
declared heir to the throne."
"Which prince?" I asked.
"Umbelazi, Macumazahn. Who else? Umbelazi, who without doubt will
"Why without doubt, Umbezi? Cetewayo has a great following, and if he
should conquer I think that you will only be lifted up in the crops of
At this rough suggestion Umbezi's fat face fell.
"O Macumazana," he said, "if I thought that, I would go over to
Cetewayo, although Saduko is my son-in-law. But it is not possible,
since the King loves Umbelazi's mother most of all his wives, and, as I
chance to know, has sworn to her that he favours Umbelazi's cause, since
he is the dearest to him of all his sons, and will do everything that he
can to help him, even to the sending of his own regiment to his
assistance, if there should be need. Also, it is said that Zikali,
Opener-of-Roads, who has all wisdom, has prophesied that Umbelazi will
win more than he ever hoped for."
"The King!" I said, "a straw blown hither and thither between two great
winds, waiting to be wafted to rest by that which is strongest! The
prophecy of Zikali! It seems to me that it can be read two ways, if,
indeed, he ever made one. Well, Umbezi, I hope that you are right, for,
although it is no affair of mine, who am but a white trader in your
country, I like Umbelazi better than Cetewayo, and think that he has a
kinder heart. Also, as you have chosen his side, I advise you to stick
to it, since traitors to a cause seldom come to any good, whether it
wins or loses. And now, will you take count of the guns and powder
which I have brought with me?"
Ah! better would it have been for Umbezi if he had listened to my advice
and remained faithful to the leader he had chosen, for then, even if he
had lost his life, at least he would have kept his good name. But of
him presently, as they say in pedigrees.
Next day I went to pay my respects to Nandie, whom I found engaged in
nursing her new baby and as quiet and stately in her demeanour as ever.
Still, I think that she was very glad to see me, because I had tried to
save the life of her first child, whom she could not forget, if for no
other reason. Whilst I was talking to her of that sad matter, also of
the political state of the country, as to which I think she wished to
say something to me, Mameena entered the hut, without waiting to be
asked, and sat down, whereon Nandie became suddenly silent.
This, however, did not trouble Mameena, who talked away about anything
and everything, completely ignoring the head-wife. For a while Nandie
bore it with patience, but at length she took advantage of a pause in
the conversation to say in her firm, low voice:
"This is my hut, daughter of Umbezi, a thing which you remember well
enough when it is a question whether Saduko, our husband, shall visit
you or me. Can you not remember it now when I would speak with the
white chief, Watcher-by-Night, who has been so good as to take the
trouble to come to see me?"
On hearing these words Mameena leapt up in a rage, and I must say I
never saw her look more lovely.
"You insult me, daughter of Panda, as you always try to do, because you
are jealous of me."
"Your pardon, sister," replied Nandie. "Why should I, who am Saduko's
Inkosikazi, and, as you say, daughter of Panda, the King, be jealous of
the widow of the wizard, Masapo, and the daughter of the headman,
Umbezi, whom it has pleased our husband to take into his house to be the
companion of his leisure?"
"Why? Because you know that Saduko loves my little finger more than he
does your whole body, although you are of the King's blood and have
borne him brats," she answered, looking at the infant with no kindly
"It may be so, daughter of Umbezi, for men have their fancies, and
without doubt you are fair. Yet I would ask you one thing--if Saduko
loves you so much, how comes it he trusts you so little that you must
learn any matter of weight by listening at my door, as I found you doing
the other day?"
"Because you teach him not to do so, O Nandie. Because you are ever
telling him not to consult with me, since she who has betrayed one
husband may betray another. Because you make him believe my place is
that of his toy, not that of his companion, and this although I am
cleverer than you and all your House tied into one bundle, as you may
find out some day."
"Yes," answered Nandie, quite undisturbed, "I do teach him these things,
and I am glad that in this matter Saduko has a thinking head and listens
to me. Also I agree that it is likely I shall learn many more ill
things through and of you one day, daughter of Umbezi. And now, as it
is not good that we should wrangle before this white lord, again I say
to you that this is my hut, in which I wish to speak alone with my
"I go, I go!" gasped Mameena; "but I tell you that Saduko shall hear of
"Certainly he will hear of it, for I shall tell him when he comes
Another instant and Mameena was gone, having shot out of the hut like a
rabbit from its burrow.
"I ask your pardon, Macumazahn, for what has happened," said Nandie,
"but it had become necessary that I should teach my sister, Mameena,
upon which stool she ought to sit. I do not trust her, Macumazahn. I
think that she knows more of the death of my child than she chooses to
say, she who wished to be rid of Masapo for a reason you can guess. I
think also she will bring shame and trouble upon Saduko, whom she has
bewitched with her beauty, as she bewitches all men--perhaps even
yourself a little, Macumazahn. And now let us talk of other matters."
To this proposition I agreed cordially, since, to tell the truth, if I
could have managed to do so with any decent grace, I should have been
out of that hut long before Mameena. So we fell to conversing on the
condition of Zululand and the dangers that lay ahead for all who were
connected with the royal House--a state of affairs which troubled Nandie
much, for she was a clear-headed woman, and one who feared the future.
"Ah! Macumazahn," she said to me as we parted, "I would that I were the
wife of some man who did not desire to grow great, and that no royal
blood ran in my veins."
On the next day the Prince Umbelazi arrived, and with him Saduko and a
few other notable men. They came quite quietly and without any
ostensible escort, although Scowl, my servant, told me he heard that the
bush at a little distance was swarming with soldiers of the Isigqosa
party. If I remember rightly, the excuse for the visit was that Umbezi
had some of a certain rare breed of white cattle whereof the prince
wished to secure young bulls and heifers to improve his herd.
Once inside the kraal, however, Umbelazi, who was a very open-natured
man, threw off all pretence, and, after greeting me heartily enough,
told me with plainness that he was there because this was a convenient
spot on which to arrange the consolidation of his party.
Almost every hour during the next two weeks messengers--many of whom
were chiefs disguised--came and went. I should have liked to follow
their example--that is, so far as their departure was concerned--for I
felt that I was being drawn into a very dangerous vortex. But, as a
matter of fact, I could not escape, since I was obliged to wait to
receive payment for my stuff, which, as usual, was made in cattle.
Umbelazi talked with me a good deal at that time, impressing upon me how
friendly he was towards the English white men of Natal, as distinguished
from the Boers, and what good treatment he was prepared to promise to
them, should he ever attain to authority in Zululand. It was during one
of the earliest of these conversations, which, of course, I saw had an
ultimate object, that he met Mameena, I think, for the first time.
We were walking together in a little natural glade of the bush that
bordered one side of the kraal, when, at the end of it, looking like
some wood nymph of classic fable in the light of the setting sun,
appeared the lovely Mameena, clothed only in her girdle of fur, her
necklace of blue beads and some copper ornaments, and carrying upon her
head a gourd.
Umbelazi noted her at once, and, ceasing his political talk, of which he
was obviously tired, asked me who that beautiful intombi (that is, girl)
She is not an intombi, Prince," I answered. "She is a widow who is
again a wife, the second wife of your friend and councillor, Saduko, and
the daughter of your host, Umbezi."
"Is it so, Macumazahn? Oh, then I have heard of her, though, as it
chances, I have never met her before. No wonder that my sister Nandie
is jealous, for she is beautiful indeed."
"Yes," I answered, "she looks pretty against the red sky, does she not?"
By now we were drawing near to Mameena, and I greeted her, asking if she
"Nothing, Macumazahn," she answered in her delicate, modest way, for
never did I know anyone who could seem quite so modest as Mameena, and
with a swift glance of her shy eyes at the tall and splendid Umbelazi,
"nothing. Only," she added, "I was passing with the milk of one of the
few cows my father gave me, and saw you, and I thought that perhaps, as
the day has been so hot, you might like a drink of it."
Then, lifting the gourd from her head, she held it out to me.
I thanked her, drank some--who could do less?--and returned it to her,
whereon she made as though she would hasten to depart.
"May I not drink also, daughter of Umbezi?" asked Umbelazi, who could
scarcely take his eyes off her.
"Certainly, sir, if you are a friend of Macumazahn," she replied,
handing him the gourd.
"I am that, Lady, and more than that, since I am a friend of your
husband, Saduko, also, as you will know when I tell you that my name is
"I thought it must be so," she replied, "because of your--of your
stature. Let the Prince accept the offering of his servant, who one day
hopes to be his subject," and, dropping upon her knee, she held out the
gourd to him. Over it I saw their eyes meet. He drank, and as he
handed back the vessel she said:
"O Prince, may I be granted a word with you? I have that to tell which
you would perhaps do well to hear, since news sometimes reaches the ears
of humble women that escapes those of the men, our masters."
He bowed his head in assent, whereon, taking a hint which Mameena gave
me with her eyes, I muttered something about business and made myself
scarce. I may add that Mameena must have had a great deal to tell
Umbelazi. Fully an hour and a half had gone by before, by the light of
the moon, from a point of vantage on my wagon-box, whence, according to
my custom, I was keeping a lookout on things in general, I saw her slip
back to the kraal silently as a snake, followed at a little distance by
the towering form of Umbelazi.
Apparently Mameena continued to be the recipient of information which
she found it necessary to communicate in private to the prince. At any
rate, on sundry subsequent evenings the dullness of my vigil on the
wagon-box was relieved by the sight of her graceful figure gliding home
from the kloof that Umbelazi seemed to find a very suitable spot for
reflection after sunset. On one of the last of these occasions I
remember that Nandie chanced to be with me, having come to my wagon for
some medicine for her baby.
"What does it mean, Macumazahn?" she asked, when the pair had gone by,
as they thought unobserved, since we were standing where they could not
"I don't know, and I don't want to know," I answered sharply.
"Neither do I, Macumazahn; but without doubt we shall learn in time. If
the crocodile is patient and silent the buck always drops into its jaws
On the day after Nandie made this wise remark Saduko started on a
mission, as I understood, to win over several doubtful chiefs to the
cause of Indhlovu-ene-sihlonti (the Elephant-with-the-tuft-of-hair), as
the Prince Umbelazi was called among the Zulus, though not to his face.
This mission lasted ten days, and before it was concluded an important
event happened at Umbezi's kraal.
One evening Mameena came to me in a great rage, and said that she could
bear her present life no longer. Presuming on her rank and position as
head-wife, Nandie treated her like a servant--nay, like a little dog, to
be beaten with a stick. She wished that Nandie would die.
"It will be very unlucky for you if she does," I answered, "for then,
perhaps, Zikali will be summoned to look into the matter, as he was
What was she to do, she went on, ignoring my remark.
"Eat the porridge that you have made in your own pot, or break the pot"
(i.e. go away), I suggested. "There was no need for you to marry
Saduko, any more than there was for you to marry Masapo."
"How can you talk to me like that, Macumazahn," she answered, stamping
her foot, "when you know well it is your fault if I married anyone?
Piff! I hate them all, and, since my father would only beat me if I took
my troubles to him, I will run off, and live in the wilderness alone and
become a witch-doctoress."
"I am afraid you will find it very dull, Mameena," I began in a
bantering tone, for, to tell the truth, I did not think it wise to show
her too much sympathy while she was so excited.
Mameena never waited for the end of the sentence, but, sobbing out that
I was false and cruel, she turned and departed swiftly. Oh! little did
I foresee how and where we should meet again.
Next morning I was awakened shortly after sunrise by Scowl, whom I had
sent out with another man the night before to look for a lost ox.
"Well, have you found the ox?" I asked.
"Yes, Baas; but I did not waken you to tell you that. I have a message
for you, Baas, from Mameena, wife of Saduko, whom I met about four hours
ago upon the plain yonder."
I bade him set it out.
These were the words of Mameena, Baas: 'Say to Macumazahn, your master,
that Indhlovu-ene-sihlonti, taking pity on my wrongs and loving me with
his heart, has offered to take me into his House and that I have
accepted his offer, since I think it better to become the Inkosazana of
the Zulus, as I shall one day, than to remain a servant in the house of
Nandie. Say to Macumazahn that when Saduko returns he is to tell him
that this is all his fault, since if he had kept Nandie in her place I
would have died rather than leave him. Let him say to Saduko also that,
although from henceforth we can be no more than friends, my heart is
still tender towards him, and that by day and by night I will strive to
water his greatness, so that it may grow into a tree that shall shade
the land. Let Macumazahn bid him not to be angry with me, since what I
do I do for his good, as he would have found no happiness while Nandie
and I dwelt in one house. Above all, also let him not be angry with the
Prince, who loves him more than any man, and does but travel whither the
wind that I breathe blows him. Bid Macumazahn think of me kindly, as I
shall of him while my eyes are open.'"
I listened to this amazing message in silence, then asked if Mameena was
"No, Baas; Umbelazi and some soldiers were with her, but they did not
hear her words, for she stepped aside to speak with me. Then she
returned to them, and they walked away swiftly, and were swallowed up in
"Very good, Sikauli," I said. "Make me some coffee, and make it
I dressed and drank several cups of the coffee, all the while "thinking
with my head," as the Zulus say. Then I walked up to the kraal to see
Umbezi, whom I found just coming out of his hut, yawning.
"Why do you look so black upon this beautiful morning, Macumazahn?"
asked the genial old scamp. "Have you lost your best cow, or what?"
"No, my friend," I answered; "but you and another have lost your best
cow." And word for word I repeated to him Mameena's message. When I
had finished really I thought that Umbezi was about to faint.
"Curses be on the head of this Mameena!" he exclaimed. "Surely some
evil spirit must have been her father, not I, and well was she called
Child of Storm.* What shall I do now, Macumazahn? Thanks be to my
Spirit," he added, with an air of relief, "she is too far gone for me to
try to catch her; also, if I did, Umbelazi and his soldiers would kill
[*--That, if I have not said so already, was the meaning which the Zulus
gave to the word "Mameena", although as I know the language I cannot get
any such interpretation out of the name, I believe that it was given to
her, however, because she was born just before a terrible tempest, when
the wind wailing round the but made a sound like the word "Ma-mee-na".
"And what will Saduko do if you don't?" I asked.
"Oh, of course he will be angry, for no doubt he is fond of her. But,
after all, I am used to that. You remember how he went mad when she
married Masapo. At least, he cannot say that I made her run away with
Umbelazi. After all, it is a matter which they must settle between
"I think it may mean great trouble," I said, "at a time when trouble is
"Oh, why so, Macumazahn? My daughter did not get on with the Princess
Nandie--we could all see that--for they would scarcely speak to each
other. And if Saduko is fond of her--well, after all, there are other
beautiful women in Zululand. I know one or two of them myself whom I
will mention to Saduko--or rather to Nandie. Really, as things were, I
am not sure but that he is well rid of her."
"But what do you think of the matter as her father?" I asked, for I
wanted to see to what length his accommodating morality would stretch.
"As her father--well, of course, Macumazahn, as her father I am sorry,
because it will mean talk, will it not, as the Masapo business did?
Still, there is this to be said for Mameena," he added, with a
brightening face, "she always runs away up the tree, not down. When she
got rid of Masapo--I mean when Masapo was killed for his witchcraft--she
married Saduko, who was a bigger man--Saduko, whom she would not marry
when Masapo was the bigger man. And now, when she has got rid of
Saduko, she enters the hut of Umbelazi, who will one day be King of the
Zulus, the biggest man in all the world, which means that she will be
the biggest woman, for remember, Macumazahn, she will walk round and
round that great Umbelazi till whatever way he looks he will see her and
no one else. Oh, she will grow great, and carry up her poor old father
in the blanket on her back. Oh, the sun still shines behind the cloud,
Macumazahn, so let us make the best of the cloud, since we know that it
will break out presently."
"Yes, Umbezi; but other things besides the sun break out from clouds
sometimes--lightning, for instance; lightning which kills."
"You speak ill-omened words, Macumazahn; words that take away my
appetite, which is generally excellent at this hour. Well, if Mameena
is bad it is not my fault, for I brought her up to be good. After all,"
he added with an outburst of petulance, "why do you scold me when it is
your fault? If you had run away with the girl when you might have done
so, there would have been none of this trouble."
"Perhaps not," I answered; "only then I am sure I should have been dead
to-day, as I think that all who have to do with her will be ere long.
And now, Umbezi, I wish you a good breakfast."
On the following morning, Saduko returned and was told the news by
Nandie, whom I had carefully avoided. On this occasion, however, I was
forced to be present, as the person to whom the sinful Mameena had sent
her farewell message. It was a very painful experience, of which I do
not remember all the details. For a while after he learned the truth
Saduko sat still as a stone, staring in front of him, with a face that
seemed to have become suddenly old. Then he turned upon Umbezi, and in
a few terrible words accused him of having arranged the matter in order
to advance his own fortunes at the price of his daughter's dishonour.
Next, without listening to his ex-father-in-law's voluble explanations,
he rose and said that he was going away to kill Umbelazi, the evil-doer
who had robbed him of the wife he loved, with the connivance of all
three of us, and by a sweep of his hand he indicated Umbezi, the
Princess Nandie and myself.
This was more than I could stand, so I, too, rose and asked him what he
meant, adding in the irritation of the moment that if I had wished to
rob him of his beautiful Mameena, I thought I could have done so long
ago--a remark that staggered him a little.
Then Nandie rose also, and spoke in her quiet voice.
"Saduko, my husband," she said, "I, a Princess of the Zulu House,
married you who are not of royal blood because I loved you, and although
Panda the King and Umbelazi the Prince wished it, for no other reason
whatsoever. Well, I have been faithful to you through some trials, even
when you set the widow of a wizard--if, indeed, as I have reason to
suspect, she was not herself the wizard--before me, and although that
wizard had killed our son, lived in her hut rather than in mine. Now
this woman of whom you thought so much has deserted you for your friend
and my brother, the Prince Umbelazi--Umbelazi who is called the
Handsome, and who, if the fortune of war goes with him, as it may or may
not, will succeed to Panda, my father. This she has done because she
alleges that I, your Inkosikazi and the King's daughter, treated her as
a servant, which is a lie. I kept her in her place, no more, who, if
she could have had her will, would have ousted me from mine, perhaps by
death, for the wives of wizards learn their arts. On this pretext she
has left you; but that is not her real reason. She has left you because
the Prince, my brother, whom she has befooled with her tricks and
beauty, as she has befooled others, or tried to"--and she glanced at
me--"is a bigger man than you are. You, Saduko, may become great, as my
heart prays that you will, but my brother may become a king. She does
not love him any more than she loved you, but she does love the place
that may be his, and therefore hers--she who would be the first doe of
the herd. My husband, I think that you are well rid of Mameena, for I
think also that if she had stayed with us there would have been more
deaths in our House; perhaps mine, which would not matter, and perhaps
yours, which would matter much. All this I say to you, not from
jealousy of one who is fairer than I, but because it is the truth.
Therefore my counsel to you is to let this business pass over and keep
silent. Above all, seek not to avenge yourself upon Umbelazi, since I
am sure that he has taken vengeance to dwell with him in his own hut. I
That this moderate and reasoned speech of Nandie's produced a great
effect upon Saduko I could see, but at the time the only answer he made
to it was:
"Let the name of Mameena be spoken no more within hearing of my ears.
Mameena is dead."
So her name was heard no more in the Houses of Saduko and of Umbezi, and
when it was necessary for any reason to refer to her, she was given a
new name, a composite Zulu word, "O-we-Zulu", I think it was, which is
"Storm-child" shortly translated, for "Zulu" means a storm as well as
I do not think that Saduko spoke of her to me again until towards the
climax of this history, and certainly I did not mention her to him. But
from that day forward I noted that he was a changed man. His pride and
open pleasure in his great success, which had caused the Zulus to name
him the "Self-eater," were no longer marked. He became cold and silent,
like a man who is thinking deeply, but who shutters his thoughts lest
some should read them through the windows of his eyes. Moreover, he
paid a visit to Zikali the Little and Wise, as I found out by accident;
but what advice that cunning old dwarf gave to him I did not find
The only other event which happened in connection with this elopement
was that a message came from Umbelazi to Saduko, brought by one of the
princes, a brother of Umbelazi, who was of his party. As I know, for I
heard it delivered, it was a very humble message when the relative
positions of the two men are considered--that of one who knew that he
had done wrong, and, if not repentant, was heartily ashamed of himself.
"Saduko," it said, "I have stolen a cow of yours, and I hope you will
forgive me, since that cow did not love the pasture in your kraal, but
in mine she grows fat and is content. Moreover, in return I will give
you many other cows. Everything that I have to give, I will give to you
who are my friend and trusted councillor. Send me word, O Saduko, that
this wall which I have built between us is broken down, since ere long
you and I must stand together in war."
To this message Saduko's answer was:
"O Prince, you are troubled about a very little thing. That cow which
you have taken was of no worth to me, for who wishes to keep a beast
that is ever tearing and lowing at the gates of the kraal, disturbing
those who would sleep inside with her noise? Had you asked her of me, I
would have given her to you freely. I thank you for your offer, but I
need no more cows, especially if, like this one, they have no calves.
As for a wall between us, there is none, for how can two men who, if the
battle is to be won, must stand shoulder to shoulder, fight if divided
by a wall? O Son of the King, I am dreaming by day and night of the
battle and the victory, and I have forgotten all about the barren cow
that ran away after you, the great bull of the herd. Only do not be
surprised if one day you find that this cow has a sharp horn."
About six weeks later, in the month of November, 1856, I chanced to be
at Nodwengu when the quarrel between the princes came to a head.
Although none of the regiments was actually allowed to enter the
town--that is, as a regiment--the place was full of people, all of them
in a state of great excitement, who came in during the daytime and went
to sleep in the neighbouring military kraals at night. One evening, as
some of these soldiers--about a thousand of them, if I remember
right--were returning to the Ukubaza kraal, a fight occurred between
them, which led to the final outbreak.
As it happened, at that time there were two separate regiments stationed
at this kraal. I think that they were the Imkulutshana and the Hlaba,
one of which favoured Cetewayo and the other Umbelazi. As certain
companies of each of these regiments marched along together in parallel
lines, two of their captains got into dispute on the eternal subject of
the succession to the throne. From words they came to blows, and the
end of it was that he who favoured Umbelazi killed him who favoured
Cetewayo with his kerry. Thereon the comrades of the slain man, raising
a shout of "Usutu," which became the war-cry of Cetewayo's party, fell
upon the others, and a dreadful combat ensued. Fortunately the soldiers
were only armed with sticks, or the slaughter would have been very
great; but as it was, after an indecisive engagement, about fifty men
were killed and many more injured.
Now, with my usual bad luck, I, who had gone out to shoot a few birds
for the pot--pauw, or bustard, I think they were--was returning across
this very plain to my old encampment in the kloof where Masapo had been
executed, and so ran into the fight just as it was beginning. I saw the
captain killed and the subsequent engagement. Indeed, as it happened, I
did more. Not knowing where to go or what to do, for I was quite alone,
I pulled up my horse behind a tree and waited till I could escape the
horrors about me; for I can assure anyone who may ever read these words
that it is a very horrible sight to see a thousand men engaged in fierce
and deadly combat. In truth, the fact that they had no spears, and
could only batter each other to death with their heavy kerries, made it
worse, since the duels were more desperate and prolonged.
Everywhere men were rolling on the ground, hitting at each other's
heads, until at last some blow went home and one of them threw out his
arms and lay still, either dead or senseless. Well, there I sat
watching all this shocking business from the saddle of my trained
shooting pony, which stood like a stone, till presently I became aware
of two great fellows rushing at me with their eyes starting out of their
heads and shouting as they came:
"Kill Umbelazi's white man! Kill! Kill!"
Then, seeing that the matter was urgent and that it was a question of my
life or theirs, I came into action.
In my hand I held a double-barrelled shotgun loaded with what we used to
call "loopers," or B.B. shot, of which but a few went to each charge,
for I had hoped to meet with a small buck on my way to camp. So, as
these soldiers came, I lifted the gun and fired, the right barrel at one
of them and the left barrel at the other, aiming in each case at the
centre of the small dancing shields, which from force of habit they held
stretched out to protect their throats and breasts. At that distance,
of course, the loopers sank through the soft hide of the shields and
deep into the bodies of those who carried them, so that both of them
dropped dead, the left-hand man being so close that he fell against my
pony, his uplifted kerry striking me upon the thigh and bruising me.
When I saw what I had done, and that my danger was over for the moment,
without waiting to reload I dug the spurs into my horse's sides and
galloped off to Nodwengu, passing between the groups of struggling men.
On arriving unharmed at the town, I went instantly to the royal huts and
demanded to see the King, who sent word that I was to be admitted. On
coming before him I told him exactly what had happened--that I had
killed two of Cetewayo's men in order to save my own life, and on that
account submitted myself to his justice.
"O Macumazana," said Panda in great distress, "I know well that you are
not to blame, and already I have sent out a regiment to stop this
fighting, with command that those who caused it should be brought before
me to-morrow for judgment. I am glad indeed, Macumazahn, that you have
escaped without harm, but I must tell you that I fear henceforth your
life will be in danger, since all the Usutu party will hold it forfeit
if they can catch you. While you are in my town I can protect you, for
I will set a strong guard about your camp; but here you will have to
stay until these troubles are done with, since if you leave you may be
murdered on the road."
"I thank you for your kindness, King," I answered; "but all this is very
awkward for me, who hoped to trek for Natal to-morrow."
"Well, there it is, Macumazahn, you will have to stay here unless you
wish to be killed. He who walks into a storm must put up with the
So it came about that once again Fate dragged me into the Zulu
On the morrow I was summoned to the trial, half as a witness and half as
one of the offenders. Going to the head of the Nodwengu kraal, where
Panda was sitting in state with his Council, I found the whole great
space in front of him crowded with a dense concourse of fierce-faced
partisans, those who favoured Cetewayo--the Usutu--sitting on the right,
and those who favoured Umbelazi--the Isigqosa--sitting on the left. At
the head of the right-hand section sat Cetewayo, his brethren and chief
men. At the head of the left-hand section sat Umbelazi, his brethren
and his chief men, amongst whom I saw Saduko take a place immediately
behind the Prince, so that he could whisper into his ear.
To myself and my little band of eight hunters, who by Panda's express
permission, came armed with their guns, as I did also, for I was
determined that if the necessity arose we would sell our lives as dearly
as we could, was appointed a place almost in front of the King and
between the two factions. When everyone was seated the trial began,
Panda demanding to know who had caused the tumult of the previous night.
I cannot set out what followed in all its details, for it would be too
long; also I have forgotten many of them. I remember, however, that
Cetewayo's people said that Umbelazi's men were the aggressors, and that
Umbelazi's people said that Cetewayo's men were the aggressors, and that
each of their parties backed up these statements, which were given at
great length, with loud shouts.
"How am I to know the truth?" exclaimed Panda at last. "Macumazahn, you
were there; step forward and tell it to me."
So I stood out and told the King what I had seen, namely that the
captain who favoured Cetewayo had begun the quarrel by striking the
captain who favoured Umbelazi, but that in the end Umbelazi's man had
killed Cetewayo's man, after which the fighting commenced.
"Then it would seem that the Usutu are to blame," said Panda.
"Upon what grounds do you say so, my father? asked Cetewayo, springing
up. "Upon the testimony of this white man, who is well known to be the
friend of Umbelazi and of his henchman Saduko, and who himself killed
two of those who called me chief in the course of the fight?"
"Yes, Cetewayo," I broke in, "because I thought it better that I should
kill them than that they should kill me, whom they attacked quite
"At any rate, you killed them, little White Man," shouted Cetewayo, "for
which cause your blood is forfeit. Say, did Umbelazi give you leave to
appear before the King accompanied by men armed with guns, when we who
are his sons must come with sticks only? If so, let him protect you!"
"That I will do if there is need!" exclaimed Umbelazi.
"Thank you, Prince," I said; "but if there is need I will protect myself
as I did yesterday," and, cocking my double-barrelled rifle, I looked
full at Cetewayo.
"When you leave here, then at least I will come even with you,
Macumazahn!" threatened Cetewayo, spitting through his teeth, as was his
way when mad with passion.
For he was beside himself, and wished to vent his temper on someone,
although in truth he and I were always good friends.
"If so I shall stop where I am," I answered coolly, "in the shadow of
the King, your father. Moreover, are you so lost in folly, Cetewayo,
that you should wish to bring the English about your ears? Know that if
I am killed you will be asked to give account of my blood."
"Aye," interrupted Panda, "and know that if anyone lays a finger on
Macumazana, who is my guest, he shall die, whether he be a common man or
a prince and my son. Also, Cetewayo, I fine you twenty head of cattle,
to be paid to Macumazana because of the unprovoked attack which your men
made upon him when he rightly slew them."
"The fine shall be paid, my father," said Cetewayo more quietly, for he
saw that in threatening me he had pushed matters too far.
Then, after some more talk, Panda gave judgment in the cause, which
judgment really amounted to nothing. As it was impossible to decide
which party was most to blame, he fined both an equal number of cattle,
accompanying the fine with a lecture on their ill-behaviour, which was
listened to indifferently.
After this matter was disposed of the real business of the meeting
Rising to his feet, Cetewayo addressed Panda.
"My father," he said, "the land wanders and wanders in darkness, and you
alone can give light for its feet. I and my brother, Umbelazi, are at
variance, and the quarrel is a great one, namely, as to which of us is
to sit in your place when you are 'gone down,' when we call and you do
not answer. Some of the nation favour one of us and some favour the
other, but you, O King, and you alone, have the voice of judgment.
Still, before you speak, I and those who stand with me would bring this
to your mind. My mother, Umqumbazi, is your Inkosikazi, your head-wife,
and therefore, according to our law, I, her eldest son, should be your
heir. Moreover, when you fled to the Boers before the fall of him who
sat in your place before you [Dingaan], did not they, the white Amabunu,
ask you which amongst your sons was your heir, and did you not point me
out to the white men? And thereon did not the Amabunu clothe me in a
dress of honour because I was the King to be? But now of late the
mother of Umbelazi has been whispering in your ear, as have others"--and
he looked at Saduko and some of Umbelazi's brethren--"and your face has
grown cold towards me, so cold that many say that you will point out
Umbelazi to be King after you and stamp on my name. If this is so, my
father, tell me at once, that I may know what to do."
Having finished this speech, which certainly did not lack force and
dignity, Cetewayo sat down again, awaiting the answer in sullen silence.
But, making none, Panda looked at Umbelazi, who, on rising, was greeted
with a great cheer, for although Cetewayo had the larger following in
the land, especially among the distant chiefs, the Zulus individually
loved Umbelazi more, perhaps because of his stature, beauty and kindly
disposition--physical and moral qualities that naturally appeal to a
"My father," he said, "like my brother, Cetewayo, I await your word.
Whatever you may have said to the Amabunu in haste or fear, I do not
admit that Cetewayo was ever proclaimed your heir in the hearing of the
Zulu people. I say that my right to the succession is as good as his,
and that it lies with you, and you alone, to declare which of us shall
put on the royal kaross in days that my heart prays may be distant.
Still, to save bloodshed, I am willing to divide the land with Cetewayo"
(here both Panda and Cetewayo shook their heads and the audience roared
"Nay"), "or, if that does not please him, I am willing to meet Cetewayo
man to man and spear to spear and fight till one of us be slain."
"A safe offer!" sneered Cetewayo, "for is not my brother named
'Elephant,' and the strongest warrior among the Zulus? No, I will not
set the fortunes of those who cling to me on the chance of a single
stab, or on the might of a man's muscles. Decide, O father; say which
of the two of us is to sit at the head of your kraal after you have gone
over to the Spirits and are but an ancestor to be worshipped."
Now, Panda looked much disturbed, as was not wonderful, since, rushing
out from the fence behind which they had been listening, Umqumbazi,
Cetewayo's mother, whispered into one of his ears, while Umbelazi's
mother whispered into the other. What advice each of them gave I do not
know, although obviously it was not the same advice, since the poor man
rolled his eyes first at one and then at the other, and finally put his
hands over his ears that he might hear no more.
"Choose, choose, O King!" shouted the audience. "Who is to succeed you,
Cetewayo or Umbelazi?"
Watching Panda, I saw that he fell into a kind of agony; his fat sides
heaved, and, although the day was cold, sweat ran from his brow.
"What would the white men do in such a case?" he said to me in a hoarse,
low voice, whereon I answered, looking at the ground and speaking so
that few could hear me:
"I think, O King, that a white man would do nothing. He would say that
others might settle the matter after he was dead."
"Would that I could say so, too," muttered Panda; "but it is not
Then followed a long pause, during which all were silent, for every man
there felt that the hour was big with doom. At length Panda rose with
difficulty, because of his unwieldy weight, and uttered these fateful
words, that were none the less ominous because of the homely idiom in
which they were couched:
"When two young bulls quarrel they must fight it out."
Instantly in one tremendous roar volleyed forth the royal salute of
"Bayete", a signal of the acceptance of the King's word--the word that
meant civil war and the death of many thousands.
Then Panda turned and, so feebly that I thought he would fall, walked
through the gateway behind him, followed by the rival queens. Each of
these ladies struggled to be first after him in the gate, thinking that
it would be an omen of success for her son. Finally, however, to the
disappointment of the multitude, they only succeeded in passing it side
When they had gone the great audience began to break up, the men of each
party marching away together as though by common consent, without
offering any insult or molestation to their adversaries. I think that
this peaceable attitude arose, however, from the knowledge that matters
had now passed from the stage of private quarrel into that of public
war. It was felt that their dispute awaited decision, not with sticks
outside the Nodwengu kraal, but with spears upon some great battlefield,
for which they went to prepare.
Within two days, except for those regiments which Panda kept to guard
his person, scarcely a soldier was to be seen in the neighbourhood of
Nodwengu. The princes also departed to muster their adherents, Cetewayo
establishing himself among the Mandhlakazi that he commanded, and
Umbelazi returning to the kraal of Umbezi, which happened to stand
almost in the centre of that part of the nation which adhered to him.
Whether he took Mameena with him there I am not certain. I believe,
however, that, fearing lest her welcome at her birthplace should be
warmer than she wished, she settled herself at some retired and outlying
kraal in the neighbourhood, and there awaited the crisis of her fortune.
At any rate, I saw nothing of her, for she was careful to keep out of
With Umbelazi and Saduko, however, I did have an interview. Before they
left Nodwengu they called on me together, apparently on the best of
terms, and said in effect that they hoped for my support in the coming
I answered that, however well I might like them personally, a Zulu civil
war was no affair of mine, and that, indeed, for every reason, including
the supreme one of my own safety, I had better get out of the way at
They argued with me for a long while, making great offers and promises
of reward, till at length, when he saw that my determination could not
be shaken, Umbelazi said:
"Come, Saduko, let us humble ourselves no more before this white man.
After all, he is right; the business is none of his, and why should we
ask him to risk his life in our quarrel, knowing as we do that white men
are not like us; they think a great deal of their lives. Farewell,
Macumazahn. If I conquer and grow great you will always be welcome in
Zululand, whereas if I fail perhaps you will be best over the Tugela
Now, I felt the hidden taunt in this speech very keenly. Still, being
determined that for once I would be wise and not allow my natural
curiosity and love of adventure to drag me into more risks and trouble,
"The Prince says that I am not brave and love my life, and what he says
is true. I fear fighting, who by nature am a trader with the heart of a
trader, not a warrior with the heart of a warrior, like the great
Indhlovu-ene-Sihlonti"--words at which I saw the grave Saduko smile
faintly. "So farewell to you, Prince, and may good fortune attend you."
Of course, to call the Prince to his face by this nickname, which
referred to a defect in his person, was something of an insult; but I
had been insulted, and meant to give him "a Roland for his Oliver."
However, he took it in good part.
"What is good fortune, Macumazahn?" Umbelazi replied as he grasped my
hand. "Sometimes I think that to live and prosper is good fortune, and
sometimes I think that to die and sleep is good fortune, for in sleep
there is neither hunger nor thirst of body or of spirit. In sleep there
come no cares; in sleep ambitions are at rest; nor do those who look no
more upon the sun smart beneath the treacheries of false women or false
friends. Should the battle turn against me, Macumazahn, at least that
good fortune will be mine, for never will I live to be crushed beneath
Then he went. Saduko accompanied him for a little way, but, making some
excuse to the Prince, came back and said to me:
"Macumazahn, my friend, I dare say that we part for the last time, and
therefore I make a request to you. It is as to one who is dead to me.
Macumazahn, I believe that Umbelazi the thief"--these words broke from
his lips with a hiss--"has given her many cattle and hidden her away
either in the kloof of Zikali the Wise, or near to it, under his care.
Now, if the war should go against Umbelazi and I should be killed in it,
I think evil will fall upon that woman's head, I who have grown sure
that it was she who was the wizard and not Masapo the Boar. Also, as
one connected with Umbelazi, who has helped him in his plots, she will
be killed if she is caught. Macumazahn, hearken to me. I will tell you
the truth. My heart is still on fire for that woman. She has bewitched
me; her eyes haunt my sleep and I hear her voice in the wind. She is
more to me than all the earth and all the sky, and although she has
wronged me I do not wish that harm should come to her. Macumazahn, I
pray you if I die, do your best to befriend her, even though it be only
as a servant in your house, for I think that she cares more for you than
for anyone, who only ran away with him"--and he pointed in the direction
that Umbelazi had taken--"because he is a prince, who, in her folly, she
believes will be a king. At least take her to Natal, Macumazahn, where,
if you wish to be free of her, she can marry whom she will and will live
safe until night comes. Panda loves you much, and, whoever conquers in
the war, will give you her life if you ask it of him."
Then this strange man drew the back of his hand across his eyes, from
which I saw the tears were running, and, muttering, "If you would have
good fortune remember my prayer," turned and left me before I could
answer a single word.
As for me, I sat down upon an ant-heap and whistled a whole hymn tune
that my mother had taught me before I could think at all. To be left
the guardian of Mameena! Talk of a "damnosa hereditas," a terrible and
mischievous inheritance--why, this was the worst that ever I heard of.
A servant in my house indeed, knowing what I did about her! Why, I
had sooner share the "good fortune" which Umbelazi anticipated beneath
the sod. However, that was not in the question, and without it the
alternative of acting as her guardian was bad enough, though I comforted
myself with the reflection that the circumstances in which this would
become necessary might never arise. For, alas! I was sure that if they
did arise I should have to live up to them. True, I had made no promise
to Saduko with my lips, but I felt, as I knew he felt, that this promise
had passed from my heart to his.
"That thief Umbelazi!" Strange words to be uttered by a great vassal of
his lord, and both of them about to enter upon a desperate enterprise.
"A prince whom in her folly she believes will be a king." Stranger
words still. Then Saduko did not believe that he would be a king!
And yet he was about to share the fortunes of his fight for the throne,
he who said that his heart was still on fire for the woman whom
"Umbelazi the thief" had stolen. Well, if I were Umbelazi, thought I to
myself, I would rather that Saduko were not my chief councillor and
general. But, thank Heaven! I was not Umbelazi, or Saduko, or any of
them! And, thank Heaven still more, I was going to begin my trek from
Zululand on the morrow!
Man proposes but God disposes. I did not trek from Zululand for many a
long day. When I got back to my wagons it was to find that my oxen had
mysteriously disappeared from the veld on which they were accustomed to
graze. They were lost; or perhaps they had felt the urgent need of
trekking from Zululand back to a more peaceful country. I sent all the
hunters I had with me to look for them, only Scowl and I remaining at
the wagons, which in those disturbed times I did not like to leave
Four days went by, a week went by, and no sign of either hunters or
oxen. Then at last a message, which reached me in some roundabout
fashion, to the effect that the hunters had found the oxen a long way
off, but on trying to return to Nodwengu had been driven by some of the
Usutu--that is, by Cetewayo's party--across the Tugela into Natal,
whence they dared not attempt to return.
For once in my life I went into a rage and cursed that nondescript kind
of messenger, sent by I know not whom, in language that I think he will
not forget. Then, realising the futility of swearing at a mere tool, I
went up to the Great House and demanded an audience with Panda himself.
Presently the inceku, or household servant, to whom I gave my message,
returned, saying that I was to be admitted at once, and on entering the
enclosure I found the King sitting at the head of the kraal quite alone,
except for a man who was holding a large shield over him in order to
keep off the sun.
He greeted me warmly, and I told him my trouble about the oxen, whereon
he sent away the shield-holder, leaving us two together.
"Watcher-by-Night," he said, "why do you blame me for these events, when
you know that I am nobody in my own House? I say that I am a dead man,
whose sons fight for his inheritance. I cannot tell you for certain who
it was that drove away your oxen. Still, I am glad that they are gone,
since I believe that if you had attempted to trek to Natal just now you
would have been killed on the road by the Usutu, who believe you to be a
councillor of Umbelazi."
"I understand, O King," I answered, "and I dare say that the accident of
the loss of my oxen is fortunate for me. But tell me now, what am I to
do? I wish to follow the example of John Dunn [another white man in the
country who was much mixed up with Zulu politics] and leave the land.
Will you give me more oxen to draw my wagons?"
"I have none that are broken in, Macumazahn, for, as you know, we Zulus
possess few wagons; and if I had I would not lend them to you, who do
not desire that your blood should be upon my head."
"You are hiding something from me, O King," I said bluntly. "What is it
that you want me to do? Stay here at Nodwengu?"
"No, Macumazahn. When the trouble begins I want you to go with a
regiment of my own that I shall send to the assistance of my son,
Umbelazi, so that he may have the benefit of your wisdom. O Macumazana,
I will tell you the truth. My heart loves Umbelazi, and I fear me that
he is overmatched by Cetewayo. If I could I would save his life, but I
know not how to do so, since I must not seem to take sides too openly.
But I can send down a regiment as your escort, if you choose to go to
view the battle as my agent and make report to me. Say, will you not
"Why should I go?" I answered, "seeing that whoever wins I may be
killed, and that if Cetewayo wins I shall certainly be killed, and all
for no reward."
"Nay, Macumazahn; I will give orders that whoever conquers, the man that
dares to lift a spear against you shall die. In this matter, at least,
I shall not be disobeyed. Oh! I pray you, do not desert me in my
trouble. Go down with the regiment that I shall send and breathe your
wisdom into the ear of my son, Umbelazi. As for your reward, I swear to
you by the head of the Black One [Chaka] that it shall be great. I will
see to it that you do not leave Zululand empty-handed, Macumazahn."
Still I hesitated, for I mistrusted me of this business.
"O Watcher-by-Night," exclaimed Panda, "you will not desert me, will
you? I am afraid for the son of my heart, Umbelazi, whom I love above
all my children; I am much afraid for Umbelazi," and he burst into tears
It was foolish, no doubt, but the sight of the old King weeping for his
best-beloved child, whom he believed to be doomed, moved me so much that
I forgot my caution.
"If you wish it, O Panda," I said, "I will go down to the battle with
your regiment and stand there by the side of the Prince Umbelazi."
So I stayed on at Nodwengu, who, indeed, had no choice in the matter,
and was very wretched and ill at ease. The place was almost deserted,
except for a couple of regiments which were quartered there, the Sangqu
and the Amawombe. This latter was the royal regiment, a kind of
Household Guards, to which the Kings Chaka, Dingaan and Panda all
belonged in turn. Most of the headmen had taken one side or the other,
and were away raising forces to fight for Cetewayo or Umbelazi, and even
the greater part of the women and children had gone to hide themselves
in the bush or among the mountains, since none knew what would happen,
or if the conquering army would not fall upon and destroy them.
A few councillors, however, remained with Panda, among whom was old
Maputa, the general, who had once brought me the "message of the pills."
Several times he visited me at night and told me the rumours that were
flying about. From these I gathered that some skirmishes had taken
place and the battle could not be long delayed; also that Umbelazi had
chosen his fighting ground, a plain near the banks of the Tugela.
"Why has he done this," I asked, "seeing that then he will have a broad
river behind him, and if he is defeated water can kill as well as
"I know not for certain," answered Maputa; "but it is said because of a
dream that Saduko, his general, has dreamed thrice, which dream declares
that there and there alone Umbelazi will find honour. At any rate, he
has chosen this place; and I am told that all the women and children of
his army, by thousands, are hidden in the bush along the banks of the
river, so that they may fly into Natal if there is need."
"Have they wings," I asked, "wherewith to fly over the Tugela 'in
wrath,' as it well may be after the rains? Oh, surely his Spirit has
turned from Umbelazi!"
"Aye, Macumazahn," he answered, "I, too, think that ufulatewe idhlozi
[that is, his own Spirit] has turned its back on him. Also I think that
Saduko is no good councillor. Indeed, were I the prince," added the old
fellow shrewdly, "I would not keep him whose wife I had stolen as the
whisperer in my ear."
"Nor I, Maputa," I answered as I bade him good-bye.
Two days later, early in the morning, Maputa came to me again and said
that Panda wished to see me. I went to the head of the kraal, where I
found the King seated and before him the captains of the royal Amawombe
"Watcher-by-Night," he said, "I have news that the great battle between
my sons will take place within a few days. Therefore I am sending down
this, my own royal regiment, under the command of Maputa the skilled in
war to spy out the battle, and I pray that you will go with it, that you
may give to the General Maputa and to the captains the help of your
wisdom. Now these are my orders to you, Maputa, and to you, O
captains--that you take no part in the fight unless you should see that
the Elephant, my son Umbelazi, is fallen into a pit, and that then you
shall drag him out if you can and save him alive. Now repeat my words
So they repeated the words, speaking with one voice.
"Your answer, O Macumazana," he said when they had spoken.
"O King, I have told you that I will go--though I do not like war--and I
will keep my promise," I replied.
"Then make ready, Macumazahn, and be back here within an hour, for the
regiment marches ere noon."
So I went up to my wagons and handed them over to the care of some men
whom Panda had sent to take charge of them. Also Scowl and I saddled
our horses, for this faithful fellow insisted upon accompanying me,
although I advised him to stay behind, and got out our rifles and as
much ammunition as we could possibly need, and with them a few other
necessaries. These things done, we rode back to the gathering-place,
taking farewell of the wagons with a sad heart, since I, for one, never
expected to see them again.
As we went I saw that the regiment of the Amawombe, picked men every one
of them, all fifty years of age or over, nearly four thousand strong,
was marshalled on the dancing-ground, where they stood company by
company. A magnificent sight they were, with their white
fighting-shields, their gleaming spears, their otter-skin caps, their
kilts and armlets of white bulls' tails, and the snowy egret plumes
which they wore upon their brows. We rode to the head of them, where I
saw Maputa, and as I came they greeted me with a cheer of welcome, for
in those days a white man was a power in the land. Moreover, as I have
said, the Zulus knew and liked me well. Also the fact that I was to
watch, or perchance to fight with them, put a good heart into the
There we stood until the lads, several hundreds of them, who bore the
mats and cooking vessels and drove the cattle that were to be our
commissariat, had wended away in a long line. Then suddenly Panda
appeared out of his hut, accompanied by a few servants, and seemed to
utter some kind of prayer, as he did so throwing dust or powdered
medicine towards us, though what this ceremony meant I did not
When he had finished Maputa raised a spear, whereon the whole regiment,
in perfect time, shouted out the royal salute, "Bayete", with a sound
like that of thunder. Thrice they repeated this tremendous and
impressive salute, and then were silent. Again Maputa raised his spear,
and all the four thousand voices broke out into the Ingoma, or national
chant, to which deep, awe-inspiring music we began our march. As I do
not think it has ever been written down, I will quote the words. They
"Ba ya m'zonda,
Ba ya m'loyisa,
Ba zond', Inkoosi."*
[*--Literally translated, this famous chant, now, I think, published for
the first time, which, I suppose, will never again pass the lips of a
Zulu impi, means:
"They [i.e. the enemy] bear him [i.e. the King) hatred,
They call down curses on his head,
All of them throughout this land
Abhor our King."
The Ingoma when sung by twenty or thirty thousand men rushing down to
battle must, indeed, have been a song to hear. --EDITOR.]
The spirit of this fierce Ingoma, conveyed by sound, gesture and
inflection of voice, not the exact words, remember, which are very rude
and simple, leaving much to the imagination, may perhaps be rendered
somewhat as follows. An exact translation into English verse is almost
impossible--at any rate, to me:
"Loud on their lips is lying,
Red are their eyes with hate;
Rebels their King defying.
Lo! where our impis wait
There shall be dead and dying,
It was early on the morning of the 2nd of December, a cold, miserable
morning that came with wind and driving mist, that I found myself with
the Amawombe at the place known as Endondakusuka, a plain with some
kopjes in it that lies within six miles of the Natal border, from which
it is separated by the Tugela river.
As the orders of the Amawombe were to keep out of the fray if that were
possible, we had taken up a position about a mile to the right of what
proved to be the actual battlefield, choosing as our camping ground a
rising knoll that looked like a huge tumulus, and was fronted at a
distance of about five hundred yards by another smaller knoll. Behind
us stretched bushland, or rather broken land, where mimosa thorns grew
in scattered groups, sloping down to the banks of the Tugela about four
Shortly after dawn I was roused from the place where I slept, wrapped up
in some blankets, under a mimosa tree--for, of course, we had no
tents--by a messenger, who said that the Prince Umbelazi and the white
man, John Dunn, wished to see me. I rose and tidied myself as best I
could, since, if I can avoid it, I never like to appear before natives
in a dishevelled condition. I remember that I had just finished
brushing my hair when Umbelazi arrived.
I can see him now, looking a veritable giant in that morning mist.
Indeed, there was something quite unearthly about his appearance as he
arose out of those rolling vapours, such light as there was being
concentrated upon the blade of his big spear, which was well known as
the broadest carried by any warrior in Zululand, and a copper torque he
wore about his throat.
There he stood, rolling his eyes and hugging his kaross around him
because of the cold, and something in his anxious, indeterminate
expression told me at once that he knew himself to be a man in terrible
danger. Just behind him, dark and brooding, his arms folded on his
breast, his eyes fixed upon the ground, looking, to my moved
imagination, like an evil genius, stood the stately and graceful Saduko.
On his left was a young and sturdy white man carrying a rifle and
smoking a pipe, whom I guessed to be John Dunn, a gentleman whom, as it
chanced, I had never met, while behind were a force of Natal Government
Zulus, clad in some kind of uniform and armed with guns, and with them a
number of natives, also from Natal--"kraal Kafirs," who carried stabbing
assegais. One of these led John Dunn's horse.
Of those Government men there may have been thirty or forty, and of the
"kraal Kafirs" anything between two and three hundred.
I shook Umbelazi's hand and gave him good-day.
"That is an ill day upon which no sun shines, O Macumazana," he
answered--words that struck me as ominous. Then he introduced me to
John Dunn, who seemed glad to meet another white man. Next, not knowing
what to say, I asked the exact object of their visit, whereon Dunn began
to talk. He said that he had been sent over on the previous afternoon
by Captain Walmsley, who was an officer of the Natal Government
stationed across the border, to try to make peace between the Zulu
factions, but that when he spoke of peace one of Umbelazi's brothers--I
think it was Mantantashiya--had mocked at him, saying that they were
quite strong enough to cope with the Usutu--that was Cetewayo's party.
Also, he added, that when he suggested that the thousands of women and
children and the cattle should be got across the Tugela drift during the
previous night into safety in Natal, Mantantashiya would not listen, and
Umbelazi being absent, seeking the aid of the Natal Government, he could
"Quem Deus vult perdere prius dementat" [whom God wishes to destroy, He
first makes mad], quoted I to myself beneath my breath. This was one of
the Latin tags that my old father, who was a scholar, had taught me, and
at that moment it came back to my mind. But as I suspected that John
Dunn knew no Latin, I only said aloud:
"What an infernal fool!" (We were talking in English.) "Can't you get
Umbelazi to do it now?" (I meant, to send the women and children across
"I fear it is too late, Mr. Quatermain," he answered. "The Usutu are in
sight. Look for yourself." And he handed me a telescope which he had
I climbed on to some rocks and scanned the plain in front of us, from
which just then a puff of wind rolled away the mist. It was black with
advancing men! As yet they were a considerable distance away--quite two
miles, I should think--and coming on very slowly in a great half-moon
with thin horns and a deep breast; but a ray from the sun glittered upon
their countless spears. It seemed to me that there must be quite twenty
or thirty thousand of them in this breast, which was in three divisions,
commanded, as I learned afterwards, by Cetewayo, Uzimela, and by a young
Boer named Groening.
"There they are, right enough," I said, climbing down from my rocks.
"What are you going to do, Mr. Dunn?"
"Obey orders and try to make peace, if I can find anyone to make peace
with; and if I can't--well, fight, I suppose. And you, Mr.
"Oh, obey orders and stop here, I suppose. Unless," I added doubtfully,
"these Amawombe take the bit between their teeth and run away with me."
"They'll do that before nightfall, Mr. Quatermain, if I know anything
of the Zulus. Look here, why don't you get on your horse and come off
with me? This is a queer place for you."
"Because I promised not to," I answered with a groan, for really, as I
looked at those savages round me, who were already fingering their
spears in a disagreeable fashion, and those other thousands of savages
advancing towards us, I felt such little courage as I possessed sinking
into my boots.
"Very well, Mr. Quatermain, you know your own business best; but I hope
you will come out of it safely, that is all."
"Same to you," I replied.
Then John Dunn turned, and in my hearing asked Umbelazi what he knew of
the movements of the Usutu and of their plan of battle.
The Prince replied, with a shrug of his shoulders:
"Nothing at present, Son of Mr. Dunn, but doubtless before the sun is
high I shall know much."
As he spoke a sudden gust of wind struck us, and tore the nodding
ostrich plume from its fastening on Umbelazi's head-ring. Whilst a
murmur of dismay rose from all who saw what they considered this very
ill-omened accident, away it floated into the air, to fall gently to the
ground at the feet of Saduko. He stooped, picked it up, and reset it in
its place, saying as he did so, with that ready wit for which some
Kafirs are remarkable:
"So may I live, O Prince, to set the crown upon the head of Panda's
This apt speech served to dispel the general gloom caused by the
incident, for those who heard it cheered, while Umbelazi thanked his
captain with a nod and a smile. Only I noted that Saduko did not
mention the name of "Panda's favoured son" upon whose head he hoped to
live to set the crown. Now, Panda had many sons, and that day would
show which of them was favoured.
A minute or two later John Dunn and his following departed, as he said,
to try to make peace with the advancing Usutu. Umbelazi, Saduko and
their escort departed also towards the main body of the host of the
Isigqosa, which was massed to our left, "sitting on their spears," as
the natives say, and awaiting the attack. As for me, I remained alone
with the Amawombe, drinking some coffee that Scowl had brewed for me,
and forcing myself to swallow food.
I can say honestly that I do not ever remember partaking of a more
unhappy meal. Not only did I believe that I was looking on the last sun
I should ever see--though by the way, there was uncommonly little of
that orb visible--but what made the matter worse was that, if so, I
should be called upon to die alone among savages, with not a single
white face near to comfort me. Oh, how I wished I had never allowed
myself to be dragged into this dreadful business. Yes, and I was even
mean enough to wish that I had broken my word to Panda and gone off with
John Dunn when he invited me, although now I thank goodness that I did
not yield to that temptation and thereby sacrifice my self-respect.
Soon, however, things grew so exciting that I forgot these and other
melancholy reflections in watching the development of events from the
summit of our tumulus-like knoll, whence I had a magnificent view of the
whole battle. Here, after seeing that his regiment made a full meal, as
a good general should, old Maputa joined me, whom I asked whether he
thought there would be any fighting for him that day.
"I think so, I think so," he answered cheerfully. "It seems to me that
the Usutu greatly outnumber Umbelazi and the Isigqosa, and, of course,
as you know, Panda's orders are that if he is in danger we must help
him. Oh, keep a good heart, Macumazahn, for I believe I can promise you
that you will see our spears grow red to-day. You will not go hungry
from this battle to tell the white people that the Amawombe are cowards
whom you could not flog into the fight. No, no, Macumazahn, my Spirit
looks towards me this morning, and I who am old and who thought that I
should die at length like a cow, shall see one more great fight--my
twentieth, Macumazahn; for I fought with this same Amawombe in all the
Black One's big battles, and for Panda against Dingaan also."
"Perhaps it will be your last," I suggested.
"I dare say, Macumazahn; but what does that matter if only I and the
royal regiment can make an end that shall be spoken of? Oh, cheer up,
cheer up, Macumazahn; your Spirit, too, looks towards you, as I promise
that we all will do when the shields meet; for know, Macumazahn, that we
poor black soldiers expect that you will show us how to fight this day,
and, if need be, how to fall hidden in a heap of the foe."
"Oh!" I replied, "so this is what you Zulus mean by the 'giving of
counsel,' is it?--you infernal, bloodthirsty old scoundrel," I added in
But I think Maputa never heard me. At any rate, he only seized my arm
and pointed in front, a little to the left, where the horn of the great
Usutu army was coming up fast, a long, thin line alive with twinkling
spears; their moving arms and legs causing them to look like spiders, of
which the bodies were formed by the great war shields.
"See their plan?" he said. "They would close on Umbelazi and gore him
with their horns and then charge with their head. The horn will pass
between us and the right flank of the Isigqosa. Oh! awake, awake,
Elephant! Are you asleep with Mameena in a hut? Unloose your spears,
Child of the King, and at them as they mount the slope. Behold!" he
went on, "it is the Son of Dunn that begins the battle! Did I not tell
you that we must look to the white men to show us the way? Peep through
your tube, Macumazahn, and tell me what passes."
So I "peeped," and, the telescope which John Dunn had kindly left with
me being good though small, saw everything clearly enough. He rode up
almost to the point of the left horn of the Usutu, waving a white
handkerchief and followed by his small force of police and Natal Kafirs.
Then from somewhere among the Usutu rose a puff of smoke. Dunn had
been fired at.
He dropped the handkerchief and leapt to the ground. Now he and his
police were firing rapidly in reply, and men fell fast among the Usutu.
They raised their war shout and came on, though slowly, for they feared
the bullets. Step by step John Dunn and his people were thrust back,
fighting gallantly against overwhelming odds. They were level with us,
not a quarter of a mile to our left. They were pushed past us. They
vanished among the bush behind us, and a long while passed before ever I
heard what became of them, for we met no more that day.
Now, the horns having done their work and wrapped themselves round
Umbelazi's army as the nippers of a wasp close about a fly (why did not
Umbelazi cut off those horns, I wondered), the Usutu bull began his
charge. Twenty or thirty thousand strong, regiment after regiment,
Cetewayo's men rushed up the slope, and there, near the crest of it,
were met by Umbelazi's regiments springing forward to repel the
onslaught and shouting their battle-cry of "Laba! Laba! Laba! Laba!"
The noise of their meeting shields came to our ears like that of the
roll of thunder, and the sheen of their stabbing-spears shone as shines
the broad summer lightning. They hung and wavered on the slope; then
from the Amawombe ranks rose a roar of
Watching intently, we saw the Usutu giving back. Down the slope they
went, leaving the ground in front of them covered with black spots which
we knew to be dead or wounded men.
"Why does not the Elephant charge home?" said Maputa in a perplexed
voice. "The Usutu bull is on his back! Why does he not trample him?"
"Because he is afraid, I suppose," I answered, and went on watching.
There was plenty to see, as it happened. Finding that they were not
pursued, Cetewayo's impi reformed swiftly at the bottom of the slope, in
preparation for another charge. Among that of Umbelazi, above them,
rapid movements took place of which I could not guess the meaning, which
movements were accompanied by much noise of angry shouting. Then
suddenly, from the midst of the Isigqosa army, emerged a great body of
men, thousands strong, which ran swiftly, but in open order, down the
slope towards the Usutu, holding their spears reversed. At first I
thought that they were charging independently, till I saw the Usutu
ranks open to receive them with a shout of welcome.
"Treachery!" I said. "Who is it?"
"Saduko, with the Amakoba and Amangwane soldiers and others. I know
them by their head-dresses," answered Maputa in a cold voice.
"Do you mean that Saduko has gone over to Cetewayo with all his
following?" I asked excitedly.
"What else, Macumazahn? Saduko is a traitor: Umbelazi is finished," and
he passed his hand swiftly across his mouth--a gesture that has only one
meaning among the Zulus.
As for me, I sat down upon a stone and groaned, for now I understood
Presently the Usutu raised fierce, triumphant shouts, and once again
their impi, swelled with Saduko's power, began to advance up the slope.
Umbelazi, and those of the Isigqosa party who clung to him--now, I
should judge, not more than eight thousand men--never stayed to wait the
onslaught. They broke! They fled in a hideous rout, crashing through
the thin, left horn of the Usutu by mere weight of numbers, and passing
behind us obliquely on their road to the banks of the Tugela. A
messenger rushed up to us, panting.
"These are the words of Umbelazi," he gasped. "O Watcher-by-Night and O
Maputa, Indhlovu-ene-sihlonti prays that you will hold back the Usutu,
as the King bade you do in case of need, and so give to him and those
who cling to him time to escape with the women and children into Natal.
His general, Saduko, has betrayed him, and gone over with three
regiments to Cetewayo, and therefore we can no longer stand against the
thousands of the Usutu."
"Go tell the prince that Macumazahn, Maputa, and the Amawombe regiment
will do their best," answered Maputa calmly. "Still, this is our advice
to him, that he should cross the Tugela swiftly with the women and the
children, seeing that we are few and Cetewayo is many."
The messenger leapt away, but, as I heard afterwards, he never found
Umbelazi, since the poor man was killed within five hundred yards of
where we stood.
Then Maputa gave an order, and the Amawombe formed themselves into a
triple line, thirteen hundred men in the first line, thirteen hundred
men in the second line, and about a thousand in the third, behind whom
were the carrier boys, three or four hundred of them. The place
assigned to me was in the exact centre of the second line, where, being
mounted on a horse, it was thought, as I gathered, that I should serve
as a convenient rallying-point.
In this formation we advanced a few hundred yards to our left, evidently
with the object of interposing ourselves between the routed impi and the
pursuing Usutu, or, if the latter should elect to go round us, with that
of threatening their flank. Cetewayo's generals did not leave us long
in doubt as to what they would do. The main body of their army bore
away to the right in pursuit of the flying foe, but three regiments,
each of about two thousand five hundred spears, halted. Five minutes
passed perhaps while they marshalled, with a distance of some six
hundred yards between them. Each regiment was in a triple line like our
To me that seemed a very long five minutes, but, reflecting that it was
probably my last on earth, I tried to make the best of it in a fashion
that can be guessed. Strange to say, however, I found it impossible to
keep my mind fixed upon those matters with which it ought to have been
filled. My eyes and thoughts would roam. I looked at the ranks of the
veteran Amawombe, and noted that they were still and solemn as men about
to die should be, although they showed no sign of fear. Indeed, I saw
some of those near me passing their snuffboxes to each other. Two
grey-haired men also, who evidently were old friends, shook hands as
people do who are parting before a journey, while two others discussed
in a low voice the possibility of our wiping out most of the Usutu
before we were wiped out ourselves.
"It depends," said one of them, "whether they attack us regiment by
regiment or all together, as they will do if they are wise."
Then an officer bade them be silent, and conversation ceased. Maputa
passed through the ranks giving orders to the captains. From a distance
his withered old body, with a fighting shield held in front of it,
looked like that of a huge black ant carrying something in its mouth.
He came to where Scowl and I sat upon our horses.
"Ah! I see that you are ready, Macumazahn," he said in a cheerful voice.
"I told you that you should not go away hungry, did I not?"
"Maputa," I said in remonstrance, "what is the use of this? Umbelazi is
defeated, you are not of his impi, why send all these"--and I waved my
hand--"down into the darkness? Why not go to the river and try to save
the women and children?"
"Because we shall take many of those down into the darkness with us,
Macumazahn," and he pointed to the dense masses of the Usutu. "Yet," he
added, with a touch of compunction, "this is not your quarrel. You and
your servant have horses. Slip out, if you will, and gallop hard to the
lower drift. You may get away with your lives."
Then my white man's pride came to my aid.
"Nay," I answered, "I will not run while others stay to fight."
"I never thought you would, Macumazahn, who, I am sure, do not wish to
earn a new and ugly name. Well, neither will the Amawombe run to become
a mock among their people. The King's orders were that we should try to
help Umbelazi, if the battle went against him. We obey the King's
orders by dying where we stand. Macumazahn, do you think that you could
hit that big fellow who is shouting insults at us there? If so, I
should be obliged to you, as I dislike him very much," and he showed me
a captain who was swaggering about in front of the lines of the first of
the Usutu regiments, about six hundred yards away.
"I will try," I answered, "but it's a long shot." Dismounting, I
climbed a pile of stones and, resting my rifle on the topmost of them,
took a very full sight, aimed, held my breath, and pressed the trigger.
A second afterwards the shouter of insults threw his arms wide, letting
fall his spear, and pitched forward on to his face.
A roar of delight rose from the watching Amawombe, while old Maputa
clapped his thin brown hands and grinned from ear to ear.
"Thank you, Macumazahn. A very good omen! Now I am sure that, whatever
those Isigqosa dogs of Umbelazi's may do, we King's men shall make an
excellent end, which is all that we can hope. Oh, what a beautiful
shot! It will be something to think of when I am an idhlozi, a
spirit-snake, crawling about my own kraal. Farewell, Macumazahn," and
he took my hand and pressed it. "The time has come. I go to lead the
charge. The Amawombe have orders to defend you to the last, for I wish
you to see the finish of this fight. Farewell."
Then off he hurried, followed by his orderlies and staff-officers.
I never saw him again alive, though I think that once in after years I
did meet his idhlozi in his kraal under strange circumstances. But that
has nothing to do with this history.
As for me, having reloaded, I mounted my horse again, being afraid lest,
if I went on shooting, I should miss and spoil my reputation. Besides,
what was the use of killing more men unless I was obliged? There were
plenty ready to do that.
Another minute, and the regiment in front of us began to move, while the
other two behind it ostentatiously sat themselves down in their ranks,
to show that they did not mean to spoil sport. The fight was to begin
with a duel between about six thousand men.
"Good!" muttered the warrior who was nearest me. "They are in our bag."
"Aye," answered another, "those little boys" (used as a term of
contempt) "are going to learn their last lesson."
For a few seconds there was silence, while the long ranks leant forward
between the hedges of lean and cruel spears. A whisper went down the
line; it sounded like the noise of wind among trees, and was the signal
to prepare. Next a far-off voice shouted some word, which was repeated
again and again by other voices before and behind me. I became aware
that we were moving, quite slowly at first, then more quickly. Being
lifted above the ranks upon my horse I could see the whole advance, and
the general aspect of it was that of a triple black wave, each wave
crowned with foam--the white plumes and shields of the Amawombe were the
foam--and alive with sparkles of light--their broad spears were the
We were charging now--and oh! the awful and glorious excitement of that
charge! Oh, the rush of the bending plumes and the dull thudding of
eight thousand feet! The Usutu came up the slope to meet us. In
silence we went, and in silence they came. We drew near to each other.
Now we could see their faces peering over the tops of their mottled
shields, and now we could see their fierce and rolling eyes.
Then a roar--a rolling roar such as at that time I had never heard: the
thunder of the roar of the meeting shields--and a flash--a swift,
simultaneous flash, the flash of the lightning of the stabbing spears.
Up went the cry of:
"Kill, Amawombe, kill!" answered by another cry of:
"Toss, Usutu, toss!"
After that, what happened? Heaven knows alone--or at least I do not.
But in later years Mr. Osborn, afterwards the resident magistrate at
Newcastle, in Natal, who, being young and foolish in those days, had
swum his horse over the Tugela and hidden in a little kopje quite near
to us in order to see the battle, told me that it looked as though some
huge breaker--that breaker being the splendid Amawombe--rolling in
towards the shore with the weight of the ocean behind it, had suddenly
struck a ridge of rock and, rearing itself up, submerged and hidden it.
At least, within three minutes that Usutu regiment was no more. We had
killed them every one, and from all along our lines rose a fierce
hissing sound of "S'gee, S'gee" ("Zhi" in the Zulu) uttered as the
spears went home in the bodies of the conquered.
That regiment had gone, taking nearly a third of our number with it, for
in such a battle as this the wounded were as good as dead. Practically
our first line had vanished in a fray that did not last more than a few
minutes. Before it was well over the second Usutu regiment sprang up
and charged. With a yell of victory we rushed down the slope towards
them. Again there was the roar of the meeting shields, but this time
the fight was more prolonged, and, being in the front rank now, I had my
share of it. I remember shooting two Usutu who stabbed at me, after
which my gun was wrenched from my hand. I remember the melee swinging
backwards and forwards, the groans of the wounded, the shouts of victory
and despair, and then Scowl's voice saying:
"We have beat them, Baas, but here come the others."
The third regiment was on our shattered lines. We closed up, we fought
like devils, even the bearer boys rushed into the fray. From all sides
they poured down upon us, for we had made a ring; every minute men died
by hundreds, and, though their numbers grew few, not one of the Amawombe
yielded. I was fighting with a spear now, though how it came into my
hand I cannot remember for certain. I think, however, I wrenched it
from a man who rushed at me and was stabbed before he could strike. I
killed a captain with this spear, for as he fell I recognised his face.
It was that of one of Cetewayo's companions to whom I had sold some
cloth at Nodwengu. The fallen were piled up quite thick around me--we
were using them as a breastwork, friend and foe together. I saw Scowl's
horse rear into the air and fall. He slipped over its tail, and next
instant was fighting at my side, also with a spear, muttering Dutch and
English oaths as he struck.
"Beetje varm! [a little hot] Beetje varm, Baas!" I heard him say. Then
my horse screamed aloud and something hit me hard upon the head--I
suppose it was a thrown kerry--after which I remember nothing for a
while, except a sensation of passing through the air.
I came to myself again, and found that I was still on the horse, which
was ambling forward across the veld at a rate of about eight miles an
hour, and that Scowl was clinging to my stirrup leather and running at
my side. He was covered with blood, so was the horse, and so was I. It
may have been our own blood, for all three were more or less wounded, or
it may have been that of others; I am sure I do not know, but we were a
terrible sight. I pulled upon the reins, and the horse stopped among
some thorns. Scowl felt in the saddlebags and found a large flask of
Hollands gin and water--half gin and half water--which he had placed
there before the battle. He uncorked and gave it to me. I took a long
pull at the stuff, that tasted like veritable nectar, then handed it to
him, who did likewise. New life seemed to flow into my veins. Whatever
teetotallers may say, alcohol is good at such a moment.
"Where are the Amawombe?" I asked.
"All dead by now, I think, Baas, as we should be had not your horse
bolted. Wow! but they made a great fight--one that will be told of!
They have carried those three regiments away upon their spears."
"That's good," I said. "But where are we going?"
"To Natal, I hope, Baas. I have had enough of the Zulus for the
present. The Tugela is not far away, and we will swim it. Come on,
before our hurts grow stiff."
So we went on, till presently we reached the crest of a rise of ground
overlooking the river, and there saw and heard dreadful things, for
beneath us those devilish Usutu were massacring the fugitives and the
camp-followers. These were being driven by the hundred to the edge of
the water, there to perish on the banks or in the stream, which was
black with drowned or drowning forms.
And oh! the sounds! Well, these I will not attempt to describe.
"Keep up stream," I said shortly, and we struggled across a kind of
donga, where only a few wounded men were hidden, into a somewhat denser
patch of bush that had scarcely been entered by the flying Isigqosa,
perhaps because here the banks of the river were very steep and
difficult; also, between them its waters ran swiftly, for this was above
For a while we went on in safety, then suddenly I heard a noise. A
great man plunged past me, breaking through the bush like a buffalo, and
came to a halt upon a rock which overhung the Tugela, for the floods had
eaten away the soil beneath.
"Umbelazi!" said Scowl, and as he spoke we saw another man following as
a wild dog follows a buck.
"Saduko!" said Scowl.
I rode on. I could not help riding on, although I knew it would be
safer to keep away. I reached the edge of that big rock. Saduko and
Umbelazi were fighting there.
In ordinary circumstances, strong and active as he was, Saduko would
have had no chance against the most powerful Zulu living. But the
prince was utterly exhausted; his sides were going like a blacksmith's
bellows, or those of a fat eland bull that has been galloped to a
standstill. Moreover, he seemed to me to be distraught with grief, and,
lastly, he had no shield left, nothing but an assegai.
A stab from Saduko's spear, which he partially parried, wounded him
slightly on the head, and cut loose the fillet of his ostrich plume,
that same plume which I had seen blown off in the morning, so that it
fell to the ground. Another stab pierced his right arm, making it
helpless. He snatched the assegai with his left hand, striving to
continue the fight, and just at that moment we came up.
"What are you doing, Saduko?" I cried. "Does a dog bite his own
He turned and stared at me; both of them stared at me.
"Aye, Macumazahn," he answered in an icy voice, "sometimes when it is
starving and that full-fed master has snatched away its bone. Nay,
stand aside, Macumazahn" (for, although I was quite unarmed, I had
stepped between them), "lest you should share the fate of this
"Not I, Saduko," I cried, for this sight made me mad, "unless you murder
Then Umbelazi spoke in a hollow voice, sobbing out his words:
"I thank you, White Man, yet do as this snake bids you--this snake that
has lived in my kraal and fed out of my cup. Let him have his fill of
vengeance because of the woman who bewitched me--yes, because of the
sorceress who has brought me and thousands to the dust. Have you heard,
Macumazahn, of the great deed of this son of Matiwane? Have you heard
that all the while he was a traitor in the pay of Cetewayo, and that he
went over, with the regiments of his command, to the Usutu just when the
battle hung upon the turn? Come, Traitor, here is my heart--the heart
that loved and trusted you. Strike--strike hard!"
"Out of the way, Macumazahn!" hissed Saduko. But I would not stir.
He sprang at me, and, though I put up the best fight that I could in my
injured state, got his hands about my throat and began to choke me.
Scowl ran to help me, but his wound--for he was hurt--or his utter
exhaustion took effect on him. Or perhaps it was excitement. At any
rate, he fell down in a fit. I thought that all was over, when again I
heard Umbelazi's voice, and felt Saduko's grip loosen at my throat, and
"Dog," said the Prince, "where is your assegai? And as he spoke he
threw it from him into the river beneath, for he had picked it up while
we struggled, but, as I noted, retained his own. "Now, dog, why do I
not kill you, as would have been easy but now? I will tell you.
Because I will not mix the blood of a traitor with my own. See!" He
set the haft of his broad spear upon the rock and bent forward over the
blade. "You and your witch-wife have brought me to nothing, O Saduko.
My blood, and the blood of all who clung to me, is on your head. Your
name shall stink for ever in the nostrils of all true men, and I whom
you have betrayed--I, the Prince Umbelazi--will haunt you while you
live; yes, my spirit shall enter into you, and when you die--ah! then
we'll meet again. Tell this tale to the white men, Macumazahn, my
friend, on whom be honour and blessings."
He paused, and I saw the tears gush from his eyes--tears mingled with
blood from the wound in his head. Then suddenly he uttered the
battle-cry of "Laba! Laba!" and let his weight fall upon the point of
It pierced him through and through. He fell on to his hands and knees.
He looked up at us--oh, the piteousness of that look!--and then rolled
sideways from the edge of the rock.
A heavy splash, and that was the end of Umbelazi the Fallen--Umbelazi,
about whom Mameena had cast her net.
A sad story in truth. Although it happened so many years ago I weep as
I write it--I weep as Umbelazi wept.
After this I think that some of the Usutu came up, for it seemed to me
that I heard Saduko say:
"Touch not Macumazahn or his servant. They are my prisoners. He who
harms them dies, with all his House."
So they put me, fainting, on my horse, and Scowl they carried away upon
When I came to I found myself in a little cave, or rather beneath some
overhanging rocks, at the side of a kopje, and with me Scowl, who had
recovered from his fit, but seemed in a very bewildered condition.
Indeed, neither then nor afterwards did he remember anything of the
death of Umbelazi, nor did I ever tell him that tale. Like many others,
he thought that the Prince had been drowned in trying to swim the
"Are they going to kill us?" I asked of him, since, from the triumphant
shouting without, I knew that we must be in the midst of the victorious
"I don't know, Baas," he answered. "I hope not; after we have gone
through so much it would be a pity. Better to have died at the
beginning of the battle."
I nodded my head in assent, and just at that moment a Zulu, who had very
evidently been fighting, entered the place carrying a dish of toasted
lumps of beef and a gourd of water.
"Cetewayo sends you these, Macumazahn," he said, "and is sorry that
there is no milk or beer. When you have eaten a guard waits without to
escort you to him." And he went.
"Well," I said to Scowl, "if they were going to kill us, they would
scarcely take the trouble to feed us first. So let us keep up our
hearts and eat."
"Who knows?" answered poor Scowl, as he crammed a lump of beef into his
big mouth. "Still, it is better to die on a full than on an empty
So we ate and drank, and, as we were suffering more from exhaustion than
from our hurts, which were not really serious, our strength came back to
us. As we finished the last lump of meat, which, although it had been
only half cooked upon the point of an assegai, tasted very good, the
Zulu put his head into the mouth of the shelter and asked if we were
ready. I nodded, and, supporting each other, Scowl and I limped from
the place. Outside were about fifty soldiers, who greeted us with a
shout that, although it was mixed with laughter at our pitiable
appearance, struck me as not altogether unfriendly. Amongst these men
was my horse, which stood with its head hanging down, looking very
depressed. I was helped on to its back, and, Scowl clinging to the
stirrup leather, we were led a distance of about a quarter of a mile to
We found him seated, in the full blaze of the evening sun, on the
eastern slope of one of the land-waves of the veld, with the open plain
in front of him. It was a strange and savage scene. There sat the
victorious prince, surrounded by his captains and indunas, while before
him rushed the triumphant regiments, shouting his titles in the most
extravagant language. Izimbongi also--that is, professional
praisers--were running up and down before him dressed in all sorts of
finery, telling his deeds, calling him "Eater-up-of-the-Earth," and
yelling out the names of those great ones who had been killed in the
Meanwhile parties of bearers were coming up continually, carrying dead
men of distinction upon shields and laying them out in rows, as game is
laid out at the end of a day's shooting in England. It seems that
Cetewayo had taken a fancy to see them, and, being too tired to walk
over the field of battle, ordered that this should be done. Among
these, by the way, I saw the body of my old friend, Maputa, the general
of the Amawombe, and noted that it was literally riddled with spear
thrusts, every one of them in front; also that his quaint face still
wore a smile.
At the head of these lines of corpses were laid six dead, all men of
large size, in whom I recognised the brothers of Umbelazi, who had
fought on his side, and the half-brothers of Cetewayo. Among them were
those three princes upon whom the dust had fallen when Zikali, the
prophet, smelt out Masapo, the husband of Mameena.
Dismounting from my horse, with the help of Scowl, I limped through and
over the corpses of these fallen royalties, cut in the Zulu fashion to
free their spirits, which otherwise, as they believed, would haunt the
slayers, and stood in front of Cetewayo.
"Siyakubona, Macumazahn," he said, stretching out his hand to me, which
I took, though I could not find it in my heart to wish him "good day."
"I hear that you were leading the Amawombe, whom my father, the King,
sent down to help Umbelazi, and I am very glad that you have escaped
alive. Also my heart is proud of the fight that they made, for you
know, Macumazahn, once, next to the King, I was general of that
regiment, though afterwards we quarrelled. Still, I am pleased that
they did so well, and I have given orders that every one of them who
remains alive is to be spared, that they may be officers of a new
Amawombe which I shall raise. Do you know, Macumazahn, that you have
nearly wiped out three whole regiments of the Usutu, killing many more
people than did all my brother's army, the Isigqosa? Oh, you are a
great man. Had it not been for the loyalty"--this word was spoken with
just a tinge of sarcasm--"of Saduko yonder, you would have won the day
for Umbelazi. Well, now that this quarrel is finished, if you will stay
with me I will make you general of a whole division of the King's army,
since henceforth I shall have a voice in affairs."
"You are mistaken, O Son of Panda," I answered; "the splendour of the
Amawombe's great stand against a multitude is on the name of Maputa, the
King's councillor and the induna of the Black One [Chaka], who is gone.
He lies yonder in his glory," and I pointed to Maputa's pierced body.
"I did but fight as a soldier in his ranks."
"Oh, yes, we know that, we know all that, Macumazahn; and Maputa was a
clever monkey in his way, but we know also that you taught him how to
jump. Well, he is dead, and nearly all the Amawombe are dead, and of my
three regiments but a handful is left; the vultures have the rest of
them. That is all finished and forgotten, Macumazahn, though by good
fortune the spears went wide of you, who doubtless are a magician, since
otherwise you and your servant and your horse would not have escaped
with a few scratches when everyone else was killed. But you did escape,
as you have done before in Zululand; and now you see here lie certain
men who were born of my father. Yet one is missing--he against whom I
fought, aye, and he whom, although we fought, I loved the best of all of
them. Now, it has been whispered in my ear that you alone know what
became of him, and, Macumazahn, I would learn whether he lives or is
dead; also, if he is dead, by whose hand he died, who would reward that
Now, I looked round me, wondering whether I should tell the truth or
hold my tongue, and as I looked my eyes met those of Saduko, who, cold
and unconcerned, was seated among the captains, but at a little distance
from any of them--a man apart; and I remembered that he and I alone knew
the truth of the end of Umbelazi.
Why, I do not know, but it came into my mind that I would keep the
secret. Why should I tell the triumphant Cetewayo that Umbelazi had
been driven to die by his own hand; why should I lay bare Saduko's
victory and shame? All these matters had passed into the court of a
different tribunal. Who was I that I should reveal them or judge the
actors of this terrible drama?
"O Cetewayo," I said, "as it chanced I saw the end of Umbelazi. No
enemy killed him. He died of a broken heart upon a rock above the
river; and for the rest of the story go ask the Tugela into which he
For a moment Cetewayo hid his eyes with his hand.
"Is it so?" he said presently. "Wow! I say again that had it not been
for Saduko, the son of Matiwane, yonder, who had some quarrel with
Indhlovu-ene-Sihlonti about a woman and took his chance of vengeance, it
might have been I who died of a broken heart upon a rock above the
river. Oh, Saduko, I owe you a great debt and will pay you well; but
you shall be no friend of mine, lest we also should chance to quarrel
about a woman, and I should find myself dying of a broken heart on a
rock above a river. O my brother Umbelazi, I mourn for you, my brother,
for, after all, we played together when we were little and loved each
other once, who in the end fought for a toy that is called a throne,
since, as our father said, two bulls cannot live in the same yard, my
brother. Well, you are gone and I remain, yet who knows but that at the
last your lot may be happier than mine. You died of a broken heart,
Umbelazi, but of what shall I die, I wonder?"*
[*--That history of Cetewayo's fall and tragic death and of Zikali's
vengeance I hope to write one day, for in these events also I was
destined to play a part.--A. Q.]
I have given this interview in detail, since it was because of it that
the saying went abroad that Umbelazi died of a broken heart.
So in truth he did, for before his spear pierced it his heart was
Now, seeing that Cetewayo was in one of his soft moods, and that he
seemed to look upon me kindly, though I had fought against him, I
reflected that this would be a good opportunity to ask his leave to
depart. To tell the truth, my nerves were quite shattered with all I
had gone through, and I longed to be away from the sights and sounds of
that terrible battlefield, on and about which so many thousand people
had perished this fateful day, as I had seldom longed for anything
before. But while I was making up my mind as to the best way to
approach him, something happened which caused me to lose my chance.
Hearing a noise behind me, I looked round, to see a stout man arrayed in
a very fine war dress, and waving in one hand a gory spear and in the
other a head-plume of ostrich feathers, who was shouting out:
"Give me audience of the son of the King! I have a song to sing to the
Prince. I have a tale to tell to the conqueror, Cetewayo."
I stared. I rubbed my eyes. It could not be--yes, it was--Umbezi,
"Eater-up-of-Elephants," the father of Mameena. In a few seconds,
without waiting for leave to approach, he had bounded through the line
of dead princes, stopping to kick one of them on the head and address
his poor clay in some words of shameful insult, and was prancing about
before Cetewayo, shouting his praises.
"Who is this umfokazana?" [that is, low fellow] growled the Prince.
"Bid him cease his noise and speak, lest he should be silent for ever."
"O Calf of the Black Cow, I am Umbezi, 'Eater-up-of-Elephants,' chief
captain of Saduko the Cunning, he who won you the battle, father of
Mameena the Beautiful, whom Saduko wed and whom the dead dog, Umbelazi,
stole away from him."
"Ah!" said Cetewayo, screwing up his eyes in a fashion he had when he
meant mischief, which among the Zulus caused him to be named the
"Bull-who-shuts-his-eyes-to-toss, "and what have you to tell me,
'Eater-up-of-Elephants' and father of Mameena, whom the dead dog,
Umbelazi, took away from your master, Saduko the Cunning?"
"This, O Mighty One; this, O Shaker of the Earth, that well am I named
'Eater-up-of-Elephants,' who have eaten up Indhlovu-ene-Sihlonti--the
Now Saduko seemed to awake from his brooding and started from his place;
but Cetewayo sharply bade him be silent, whereon Umbezi, the fool,
noting nothing, continued his tale.
"O Prince, I met Umbelazi in the battle, and when he saw me he fled from
me; yes, his heart grew soft as water at the sight of me, the warrior
whom he had wronged, whose daughter he had stolen."
"I hear you," said Cetewayo. "Umbelazi's heart turned to water at the
sight of you because he had wronged you--you who until this morning,
when you deserted him with Saduko, were one of his jackals. Well, and
what happened then?"
"He fled, O Lion with the Black Mane; he fled like the wind, and I, I
flew after him like--a stronger wind. Far into the bush he fled, till
at length he came to a rock above the river and was obliged to stand.
Then there we fought. He thrust at me, but I leapt over his spear
thus," and he gambolled into the air. "He thrust at me again, but I
bent myself thus," and he ducked his great head. "Then he grew tired
and my time came. He turned and ran round the rock, and I, I ran after
him, stabbing him through the back, thus, and thus, and thus, till
he fell, crying for mercy, and rolled off the rock into the river; and
as he rolled I snatched away his plume. See, is it not the plume of the
dead dog Umbelazi?"
Cetewayo took the ornament and examined it, showing it to one or two of
the captains near him, who nodded their heads gravely.
"Yes," he said, "this is the war plume of Umbelazi, beloved of the King,
strong and shining pillar of the Great House; we know it well, that war
plume at the sight of which many a knee has loosened. And so you killed
him, 'Eater-up-of-Elephants,' father of Mameena, you who this morning
were one of the meanest of his jackals. Now, what reward shall I give
you for this mighty deed, O Umbezi?"
"A great reward, O Terrible One," began Umbezi, but in an awful voice
Cetewayo bade him be silent.
"Yes," he said, "a great reward. Hearken, Jackal and Traitor. Your own
words bear witness against you. You, you have dared to lift your hand
against the blood-royal, and with your foul tongue to heap lies and
insults upon the name of the mighty dead."
Now, understanding at last, Umbezi began to babble excuses, yes, and to
declare that all his tale was false. His fat cheeks fell in, he sank to
But Cetewayo only spat towards the man, after his fashion when enraged,
and looked round him till his eye fell upon Saduko.
"Saduko," he said, "take away this slayer of the Prince, who boasts that
he is red with my own blood, and when he is dead cast him into the river
from that rock on which he says he stabbed Panda's son."
Saduko looked round him wildly and hesitated.
"Take him away," thundered Cetewayo, "and return ere dark to make report
Then, at a sign from the Prince, soldiers flung themselves upon the
miserable Umbezi and dragged him thence, Saduko going with them; nor was
the poor liar ever seen again. As he passed by me he called to me, for
Mameena's sake, to save him; but I could only shake my head and bethink
me of the warning I had once given to him as to the fate of traitors.
It may be said that this story comes straight from the history of Saul
and David, but I can only answer that it happened. Circumstances that
were not unlike ended in a similar tragedy, that is all. What David's
exact motives were, naturally I cannot tell; but it is easy to guess
those of Cetewayo, who, although he could make war upon his brother to
secure the throne, did not think it wise to let it go abroad that the
royal blood might be lightly spilt. Also, knowing that I was a witness
of the Prince's death, he was well aware that Umbezi was but a boastful
liar who hoped thus to ingratiate himself with an all-powerful
Well, this tragic incident had its sequel. It seems--to his honour, be
it said--that Saduko refused to be the executioner of his father-in-law,
Umbezi; so those with him performed this office and brought him back a
prisoner to Cetewayo.
When the Prince learned that his direct order, spoken in the accustomed
and fearful formula of "Take him away," had been disobeyed, his rage
was, or seemed to be, great. My own conviction is that he was only
seeking a cause of quarrel against Saduko, who, he thought, was a very
powerful man, who would probably treat him, should opportunity arise, as
he had treated Umbelazi, and perhaps now that the most of Panda's sons
were dead, except himself and the lads M'tonga, Sikota and M'kungo, who
had fled into Natal, might even in future days aspire to the throne as
the husband of the King's daughter. Still, he was afraid or did not
think it politic at once to put out of his path this master of many
legions, who had played so important a part in the battle. Therefore he
ordered him to be kept under guard and taken back to Nodwengu, that the
whole matter might be investigated by Panda the King, who still ruled
the land, though henceforth only in name. Also he refused to allow me
to depart into Natal, saying that I, too, must come to Nodwengu, as
there my testimony might be needed.
So, having no choice, I went, it being fated that I should see the end
of the drama.
When I reached Nodwengu I was taken ill and laid up in my wagon for
about a fortnight. What my exact sickness was I do not know, for I had
no doctor at hand to tell me, as even the missionaries had fled the
country. Fever resulting from fatigue, exposure and excitement, and
complicated with fearful headache--caused, I presume, by the blow which
I received in the battle--were its principal symptoms.
When I began to get better, Scowl and some Zulu friends who came to see
me informed me that the whole land was in a fearful state of disorder,
and that Umbelazi's adherents, the Isigqosa, were still being hunted out
and killed. It seems that it was even suggested by some of the Usutu
that I should share their fate, but on this point Panda was firm.
Indeed, he appears to have said publicly that whoever lifted a spear
against me, his friend and guest, lifted it against him, and would be
the cause of a new war. So the Usutu left me alone, perhaps because
they were satisfied with fighting for a while, and thought it wisest to
be content with what they had won.
Indeed, they had won everything, for Cetewayo was now supreme--by right
of the assegai--and his father but a cipher. Although he remained the
"Head" of the nation, Cetewayo was publicly declared to be its "Feet,"
and strength was in these active "Feet," not in the bowed and sleeping
"Head." In fact, so little power was left to Panda that he could not
protect his own household. Thus one day I heard a great tumult and
shouting proceeding apparently from the Isigodhlo, or royal enclosure,
and on inquiring what it was afterwards, was told that Cetewayo had come
from the Amangwe kraal and denounced Nomantshali, the King's wife, as
"umtakati", or a witch. More, in spite of his father's prayers and
tears, he had caused her to be put to death before his eyes--a dreadful
and a savage deed. At this distance of time I cannot remember whether
Nomantshali was the mother of Umbelazi or of one of the other fallen
[*--On re-reading this history it comes back to me that she was the
mother of M'tonga, who was much younger than Umbelazi. --A. Q.]
A few days later, when I was up and about again, although I had not
ventured into the kraal, Panda sent a messenger to me with a present of
an ox. On his behalf this man congratulated me on my recovery, and told
me that, whatever might have happened to others, I was to have no fear
for my own safety. He added that Cetewayo had sworn to the King that
not a hair of my head should be harmed, in these words:
"Had I wished to kill Watcher-by-Night because he fought against me, I
could have done so down at Endondakusuka; but then I ought to kill you
also, my father, since you sent him thither against his will with your
own regiment. But I like him well, who is brave and who brought me good
tidings that the Prince, my enemy, was dead of a broken heart.
Moreover, I wish to have no quarrel with the White House [the English]
on account of Macumazahn, so tell him that he may sleep in peace."
The messenger said further that Saduko, the husband of the King's
daughter, Nandie, and Umbelazi's chief induna, was to be put upon his
trial on the morrow before the King and his council, together with
Mameena, daughter of Umbezi, and that my presence was desired at this
I asked what was the charge against them. He replied that, so far as
Saduko was concerned, there were two: first, that he had stirred up
civil war in the land, and, secondly, that having pushed on Umbelazi
into a fight in which many thousands perished, he had played the
traitor, deserting him in the midst of the battle, with all his
following--a very heinous offence in the eyes of Zulus, to whatever
party they may belong.
Against Mameena there were three counts of indictment. First, that it
was she who had poisoned Saduko's child and others, not Masapo, her
first husband, who had suffered for that crime. Secondly, that she had
deserted Saduko, her second husband, and gone to live with another man,
namely, the late Prince Umbelazi. Thirdly, that she was a witch, who
had enmeshed Umbelazi in the web of her sorceries and thereby caused him
to aspire to the succession to the throne, to which he had no right, and
made the isililo, or cry of mourning for the dead, to be heard in every
kraal in Zululand.
"With three such pitfalls in her narrow path, Mameena will have to walk
carefully if she would escape them all," I said.
"Yes, Inkoosi, especially as the pitfalls are dug from side to side of
the path and have a pointed stake set at the bottom of each of them.
Oh, Mameena is already as good as dead, as she deserves to be, who
without doubt is the greatest umtakati north of the Tugela."
I sighed, for somehow I was sorry for Mameena, though why she should
escape when so many better people had perished because of her I did not
know; and the messenger went on:
"The Black One [that is, Panda] sent me to tell Saduko that he would be
allowed to see you, Macumazahn, before the trial, if he wished, for he
knew that you had, been a friend of his, and thought that you might be
able to give evidence in his favour."
"And what did Saduko say to that?" I asked.
"He said that he thanked the King, but that it was not needful for him
to talk with Macumazahn, whose heart was white like his skin, and whose
lips, if they spoke at all, would tell neither more nor less than the
truth. The Princess Nandie, who is with him--for she will not leave him
in his trouble, as all others have done--on hearing these words of
Saduko's, said that they were true, and that for this reason, although
you were her friend, she did not hold it necessary to see you either."
Upon this intimation I made no comment, but "my head thought," as the
natives say, that Saduko's real reason for not wishing to see me was
that he felt ashamed to do so, and Nandie's that she feared to learn
more about her husband's perfidies than she knew already.
"With Mameena it is otherwise," went on the messenger, "for as soon as
she was brought here with Zikali the Little and Wise, with whom, it
seems, she has been sheltering, and learned that you, Macumazahn, were
at the kraal, she asked leave to see you--"
"And is it granted?" I broke in hurriedly, for I did not at all wish for
a private interview with Mameena.
"Nay, have no fear, Inkoosi," replied the messenger with a smile; "it is
refused, because the King said that if once she saw you she would
bewitch you and bring trouble on you, as she does on all men. It is for
this reason that she is guarded by women only, no man being allowed to
go near to her, for on women her witcheries will not bite. Still, they
say that she is merry, and laughs and sings a great deal, declaring that
her life has been dull up at old Zikali's, and that now she is going to
a place as gay as the veld in spring, after the first warm rain, where
there will be plenty of men to quarrel for her and make her great and
happy. That is what she says, the witch who knows perhaps what the
Place of Spirits is like."
Then, as I made no remarks or suggestions, the messenger departed,
saying that he would return on the morrow to lead me to the place of
Next morning, after the cows had been milked and the cattle loosed from
their kraals, he came accordingly, with a guard of about thirty men, all
of them soldiers who had survived the great fight of the Amawombe.
These warriors, some of whom had wounds that were scarcely healed,
saluted me with loud cries of "Inkoosi!" and "Baba" as I stepped out of
the wagon, where I had spent a wretched night of unpleasant
anticipation, showing me that there were at least some Zulus with whom I
remained popular. Indeed, their delight at seeing me, whom they looked
upon as a comrade and one of the few survivors of the great adventure,
was quite touching. As we went, which we did slowly, their captain told
me of their fears that I had been killed with the others, and how
rejoiced they were when they learned that I was safe. He told me also
that, after the third regiment had attacked them and broken up their
ring, a small body of them, from eighty to a hundred only, managed to
cut a way through and escape, running, not towards the Tugela, where so
many thousands had perished, but up to Nodwengu, where they reported
themselves to Panda as the only survivors of the Amawombe.
"And are you safe now?" I asked of the captain.
"Oh, yes," he answered. "You see, we were the King's men, not
Umbelazi's, so Cetewayo bears us no grudge. Indeed, he is obliged to
us, because we gave the Usutu their stomachs full of good fighting,
which is more than did those cows of Umbelazi's. It is towards Saduko
that he bears a grudge, for you know, my father, one should never pull a
drowning man out of the stream--which is what Saduko did, for had it not
been for his treachery, Cetewayo would have sunk beneath the water of
Death--especially if it is only to spite a woman who hates him. Still,
perhaps Saduko will escape with his life, because he is Nandie's
husband, and Cetewayo fears Nandie, his sister, if he does not love her.
But here we are, and those who have to watch the sky all day will be
able to tell of the evening weather" (in other words, those who live
As he spoke we passed into the private enclosure of the isi-gohlo,
outside of which a great many people were gathered, shouting, talking
and quarrelling, for in those days all the usual discipline of the Great
Place was relaxed. Within the fence, however, that was strongly guarded
on its exterior side, were only about a score of councillors, the King,
the Prince Cetewayo, who sat upon his right, the Princess Nandie,
Saduko's wife, a few attendants, two great, silent fellows armed with
clubs, whom I guessed to be executioners, and, seated in the shade in a
corner, that ancient dwarf, Zikali, though how he came to be there I did
Obviously the trial was to be quite a private affair, which accounted
for the unusual presence of the two "slayers." Even my Amawombe guard
was left outside the gate, although I was significantly informed that if
I chose to call upon them they would hear me, which was another way of
saying that in such a small gathering I was absolutely safe.
Walking forward boldly towards Panda, who, though he was as fat as ever,
looked very worn and much older than when I had last seen him, I made my
bow, whereon he took my hand and asked after my health. Then I shook
Cetewayo's hand also, as I saw that it was stretched out to me. He
seized the opportunity to remark that he was told that I had suffered a
knock on the head in some scrimmage down by the Tugela, and he hoped
that I felt no ill effects. I answered: No, though I feared that there
were a few others who had not been so fortunate, especially those who
had stumbled against the Amawombe regiment, with whom I chanced to be
travelling upon a peaceful mission of inquiry.
It was a bold speech to make, but I was determined to give him a quid
pro quo, and, as a matter of fact, he took it in very good part,
laughing heartily at the joke.
After this I saluted such of the councillors present as I knew, which
was not many, for most of my old friends were dead, and sat down upon
the stool that was placed for me not very far from the dwarf Zikali, who
stared at me in a stony fashion, as though he had never seen me before.
There followed a pause. Then, at some sign from Panda, a side gate in
the fence was opened, and through it appeared Saduko, who walked proudly
to the space in front of the King, to whom he gave the salute of
"Bayete," and, at a sign, sat himself down upon the ground. Next,
through the same gate, to which she was conducted by some women, came
Mameena, quite unchanged and, I think, more beautiful than she had ever
been. So lovely did she look, indeed, in her cloak of grey fur, her
necklet of blue beads, and the gleaming rings of copper which she wore
upon her wrists and ankles, that every eye was fixed upon her as she
glided gracefully forward to make her obeisance to Panda.
This done, she turned and saw Nandie, to whom she also bowed, as she did
so inquiring after the health of her child. Without waiting for an
answer, which she knew would not be vouchsafed, she advanced to me and
grasped my hand, which she pressed warmly, saying how glad she was to
see me safe after going through so many dangers, though she thought I
looked even thinner than I used to be.
Only of Saduko, who was watching her with his intent and melancholy
eyes, she took no heed whatsoever. Indeed, for a while I thought that
she could not have seen him. Nor did she appear to recognise Cetewayo,
although he stared at her hard enough. But, as her glance fell upon the
two executioners, I thought I saw her shudder like a shaken reed. Then
she sat down in the place appointed to her, and the trial began.
The case of Saduko was taken first. An officer learned in Zulu
law--which I can assure the reader is a very intricate and
well-established law--I suppose that he might be called a kind of
attorney-general, rose and stated the case against the prisoner. He
told how Saduko, from a nobody, had been lifted to a great place by the
King and given his daughter, the Princess Nandie, in marriage. Then he
alleged that, as would be proved in evidence, the said Saduko had urged
on Umbelazi the Prince, to whose party he had attached himself, to make
war upon Cetewayo. This war having begun, at the great battle of
Endondakusuka, he had treacherously deserted Umbelazi, together with
three regiments under his command, and gone over to Cetewayo, thereby
bringing Umbelazi to defeat and death.
This brief statement of the case for the prosecution being finished,
Panda asked Saduko whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty.
"Guilty, O King," he answered, and was silent.
Then Panda asked him if he had anything to say in excuse of his conduct.
"Nothing, O King, except that I was Umbelazi's man, and when you, O
King, had given the word that he and the Prince yonder might fight, I,
like many others, some of whom are dead and some alive, worked for him
with all my ten fingers that he might have the victory."
"Then why did you desert my son the Prince in the battle?" asked Panda.
"Because I saw that the Prince Cetewayo was the stronger bull and wished
to be on the winning side, as all men do--for no other reason," answered
Now, everyone present stared, not excepting Cetewayo. Panda, who, like
the rest of us, had heard a very different tale, looked extremely
puzzled, while Zikali, in his corner, set up one of his great laughs.
After a long pause, at length the King, as supreme judge, began to pass
sentence. At least, I suppose that was his intention, but before three
words had left his lips Nandie rose and said:
"My Father, ere you speak that which cannot be unspoken, hear me. It is
well known that Saduko, my husband, was my brother Umbelazi's general
and councillor, and if he is to be killed for clinging to the Prince,
then I should be killed also, and countless others in Zululand who still
remain alive because they were not in or escaped the battle. It is well
known also, my Father, that during that battle Saduko went over to my
brother Cetewayo, though whether this brought about the defeat of
Umbelazi I cannot say. Why did he go over? He tells you because he
wished to be on the winning side. It is not true. He went over in
order to be revenged upon Umbelazi, who had taken from him yonder
witch"--and she pointed with her finger at Mameena--"yonder witch, whom
he loved and still loves, and whom even now he would shield, even though
to do so he must make his own name shameful. Saduko sinned; I do not
deny it, my Father, but there sits the real traitress, red with the
blood of Umbelazi and with that of thousands of others who have
'tshonile'd' [gone down to keep him company among the ghosts].
Therefore, O King, I beseech you, spare the life of Saduko, my husband,
or, if he must die, learn that I, your daughter, will die with him. I
have spoken, O King."
And very proudly and quietly she sat herself down again, waiting for the
But those words were not spoken, since Panda only said: "Let us try the
case of this woman, Mameena."
Thereon the law officer rose again and set out the charges against
Mameena, namely, that it was she who had poisoned Saduko's child, and
not Masapo; that, after marrying Saduko, she had deserted him and gone
to live with the Prince Umbelazi; and that finally she had bewitched the
said Umbelazi and caused him to make civil war in the land.
"The second charge, if proved, namely, that this woman deserted her
husband for another man, is a crime of death," broke in Panda abruptly
as the officer finished speaking; "therefore, what need is there to hear
the first and the third until that is examined. What do you plead to
that charge, woman?"
Now, understanding that the King did not wish to stir up these other
matters of murder and witchcraft for some reason of his own, we all
turned to hear Mameena's answer.
"O King," she said in her low, silvery voice, "I cannot deny that I left
Saduko for Umbelazi the Handsome, any more than Saduko can deny that he
left Umbelazi the beaten for Cetewayo the conqueror."
"Why did you leave Saduko?" asked Panda.
"O King, perhaps because I loved Umbelazi; for was he not called the
Handsome? Also you know that the Prince, your son, was one to be
loved." Here she paused, looking at poor Panda, who winced. "Or,
perhaps, because I wished to be great; for was he not of the Blood
Royal, and, had it not been for Saduko, would he not one day have been a
king? Or, perhaps, because I could no longer bear the treatment that
the Princess Nandie dealt out to me; she who was cruel to me and
threatened to beat me, because Saduko loved my hut better than her own.
Ask Saduko; he knows more of these matters than I do," and she gazed at
him steadily. Then she went on: "How can a woman tell her reasons, O
King, when she never knows them herself?"--a question at which some of
her hearers smiled.
Now Saduko rose and said slowly:
"Hear me, O King, and I will give the reason that Mameena hides. She
left me for Umbelazi because I bade her to do so, for I knew that
Umbelazi desired her, and I wished to tie the cord tighter which bound
me to one who at that time I thought would inherit the Throne. Also, I
was weary of Mameena, who quarrelled night and day with the Princess
Nandie, my Inkosikazi."
Now Nandie gasped in astonishment (and so did I), but Mameena laughed
"Yes, O King, those were the two real reasons that I had forgotten. I
left Saduko because he bade me, as he wished to make a present to the
Prince. Also, he was tired of me; for many days at a time he would
scarcely speak to me, because, however kind she might be, I could not
help quarrelling with the Princess Nandie. Moreover, there was another
reason which I have forgotten: I had no child, and not having any child
I did not think it mattered whether I went or stayed. If Saduko
searches, he will remember that I told him so, and that he agreed with
Again she looked at Saduko, who said hurriedly:
"Yes, yes, I told her so; I told her that I wished for no barren cows in
Now some of the audience laughed outright, but Panda frowned.
"It seems," he said, "that my ears are being stuffed with lies, though
which of these two tells them I cannot say. Well, if the woman left the
man by his own wish, and that his ends might be furthered, as he says,
he had put her away, and therefore the fault, if any, is his, not hers.
So that charge is ended. Now, woman, what have you to tell us of the
witchcraft which it is said you practised upon the Prince who is gone,
thereby causing him to make war in the land?"
"Little that you would wish to hear, O King, or that it would be seemly
for me to speak," she answered, drooping her head modestly. "The only
witchcraft that ever I practised upon Umbelazi lies here"--and she
touched her beautiful eyes--"and here"--and she touched her curving
lips--"and in this poor shape of mine which some have thought so fair.
As for the war, what had I to do with war, who never spoke to Umbelazi,
who was so dear to me"--and she looked up with tears running down her
face--"save of love? O King, is there a man among you all who would
fear the witcheries of such a one as I; and because the Heavens made me
beautiful with the beauty that men must follow, am I also to be killed
as a sorceress?"
Now, to this argument neither Panda nor anyone else seemed to find an
answer, especially as it was well known that Umbelazi had cherished his
ambition to the succession long before he met Mameena. So that charge
was dropped, and the first and greatest of the three proceeded with;
namely, that it was she, Mameena, and not her husband, Masapo, who had
murdered Nandie's child.
When this accusation was made against her, for the first time I saw a
little shade of trouble flit across Mameena's soft eyes.
"Surely, O King," she said, "that matter was settled long ago, when the
Ndwande, Zikali, the great Nyanga, smelt out Masapo the wizard, he who
was my husband, and brought him to his death for this crime. Must I
then be tried for it again?"
"Not so, woman," answered Panda. "All that Zikali smelt out was the
poison that wrought the crime, and as some of that poison was found upon
Masapo, he was killed as a wizard. Yet it may be that it was not he who
used the poison."
"Then surely the King should have thought of that before he died,"
murmured Mameena. "But I forget: It is known that Masapo was always
hostile to the House of Senzangakona."
To this remark Panda made no answer, perhaps because it was
unanswerable, even in a land where it was customary to kill the supposed
wizard first and inquire as to his actual guilt afterwards, or not at
all. Or perhaps he thought it politic to ignore the suggestion that he
had been inspired by personal enmity. Only, he looked at his daughter,
Nandie, who rose and said:
"Have I leave to call a witness on this matter of the poison, my
Panda nodded, whereon Nandie said to one of the councillors:
"Be pleased to summon my woman, Nahana, who waits without."
The man went, and presently returned with an elderly female who, it
appeared, had been Nandie's nurse, and, never having married, owing to
some physical defect, had always remained in her service, a person well
known and much respected in her humble walk of life.
"Nahana," said Nandie, "you are brought here that you may repeat to the
King and his council a tale which you told to me as to the coming of a
certain woman into my hut before the death of my first-born son, and
what she did there. Say first, is this woman present here?"
"Aye, Inkosazana," answered Nahana, "yonder she sits. Who could mistake
her?" and she pointed to Mameena, who was listening to every word
intently, as a dog listens at the mouth of an ant-bear hole when the
beast is stirring beneath.
"Then what of the woman and her deeds?" asked Panda.
"Only this, O King. Two nights before the child that is dead was taken
ill, I saw Mameena creep into the hut of the lady Nandie, I who was
asleep alone in a corner of the big hut out of reach of the light of the
fire. At the time the lady Nandie was away from the hut with her son.
Knowing the woman for Mameena, the wife of Masapo, who was on friendly
terms with the Inkosazana, whom I supposed she had come to visit, I did
not declare myself; nor did I take any particular note when I saw her
sprinkle a little mat upon which the babe, Saduko's son, was wont to be
laid, with some medicine, because I had heard her promise to the
Inkosazana a powder which she said would drive away insects. Only, when
I saw her throw some of this powder into the vessel of warm water that
stood by the fire, to be used for the washing of the child, and place
something, muttering certain words that I could not catch, in the straw
of the doorway, I thought it strange, and was about to question her when
she left the hut. As it happened, O King, but a little while
afterwards, before one could count ten tens indeed, a messenger came to
the hut to tell me that my old mother lay dying at her kraal four days'
journey from Nodwengu, and prayed to see me before she died. Then I
forgot all about Mameena and the powder, and, running out to seek the
Princess Nandie, I craved her leave to go with the messenger to my
mother's kraal, which she granted to me, saying that I need not return
until my mother was buried.
"So I went. But, oh! my mother took long to die. Whole moons passed
before I shut her eyes, and all this while she would not let me go; nor,
indeed, did I wish to leave her whom I loved. At length it was over,
and then came the days of mourning, and after those some more days of
rest, and after them again the days of the division of the cattle, so
that in the end six moons or more had gone by before I returned to the
service of the Princess Nandie, and found that Mameena was now the
second wife of the lord Saduko. Also I found that the child of the lady
Nandie was dead, and that Masapo, the first husband of Mameena, had been
smelt out and killed as the murderer of the child. But as all these
things were over and done with, and as Mameena was very kind to me,
giving me gifts and sparing me tasks, and as I saw that Saduko my lord
loved her much, it never came into my head to say anything of the matter
of the powder that I saw her sprinkle on the mat.
"After she had run away with the Prince who is dead, however, I did tell
the lady Nandie. Moreover, the lady Nandie, in my presence, searched in
the straw of the doorway of the hut and found there, wrapped in soft
hide, certain medicines such as the Nyangas sell, wherewith those who
consult them can bewitch their enemies, or cause those whom they desire
to love them or to hate their wives or husbands. That is all I know of
the story, O King."
"Do my ears hear a true tale, Nandie?" asked Panda. "Or is this woman a
liar like others?"
"I think not, my Father; see, here is the muti [medicine] which Nahana
and I found hid in the doorway of the hut that I have kept unopened till
And she laid on the ground a little leather bag, very neatly sewn with
sinews, and fastened round its neck with a fibre string.
Panda directed one of the councillors to open the bag, which the man did
unwillingly enough, since evidently he feared its evil influence,
pouring out its contents on to the back of a hide shield, which was then
carried round so that we might all look at them. These, so far as I
could see, consisted of some withered roots, a small piece of human
thigh bone, such as might have come from the skeleton of an infant, that
had a little stopper of wood in its orifice, and what I took to be the
fang of a snake.
Panda looked at them and shrank away, saying:
"Come hither, Zikali the Old, you who are skilled in magic, and tell us
what is this medicine."
Then Zikali rose from the corner where he had been sitting so silently,
and waddled heavily across the open space to where the shield lay in
front of the King. As he passed Mameena, she bent down over the dwarf
and began to whisper to him swiftly; but he placed his hands upon his
big head, covering up his ears, as I suppose, that he might not hear her
"What have I to do with this matter, O King?" he asked.
"Much, it seems, O Opener-of-Roads," said Panda sternly, "seeing that
you were the doctor who smelt out Masapo, and that it was in your kraal
that yonder woman hid herself while her lover, the Prince, my son, who
is dead, went down to the battle, and that she was brought thence with
you. Tell us, now, the nature of this muti, and, being wise, as you
are, be careful to tell us truly, lest it should be said, O Zikali, that
you are not a Nyanga only, but an umtakati as well. For then," he added
with meaning, and choosing his words carefully, "perchance, O Zikali, I
might be tempted to make trial of whether or no it is true that you
cannot be killed like other men, especially as I have heard of late that
your heart is evil towards me and my House."
For a moment Zikali hesitated--I think to give his quick brain time to
work, for he saw his great danger. Then he laughed in his dreadful
fashion and said:
"Oho! the King thinks that the otter is in the trap," and he glanced at
the fence of the isi-gohlo and at the fierce executioners, who stood
watching him sternly. "Well, many times before has this otter seemed to
be in a trap, yes, ere your father saw light, O Son of Senzangakona, and
after it also. Yet here he stands living. Make no trial, O King, of
whether or no I be mortal, lest if Death should come to such a one as I,
he should take many others with him also. Have you not heard the saying
that when the Opener-of-Roads comes to the end of his road there will be
no more a King of the Zulus, as when he began his road there was no King
of the Zulus, since the days of his manhood are the days of all the
Thus he spoke, glaring at Panda and at Cetewayo, who shrank before his
"Remember," he went on, "that the Black One who is 'gone down' long ago,
the Wild Beast who fathered the Zulu herd, threatened him whom he named
the 'Thing-that-should-not-have-been-born,' aye, and slew those whom he
loved, and afterwards was slain by others, who also are 'gone down,' and
that you alone, O Panda, did not threaten him, and that you alone, O
Panda, have not been slain. Now, if you would make trial of whether I
die as other men die, bid your dogs fall on, for Zikali is ready," and
he folded his arms and waited.
Indeed, all of us waited breathlessly, for we understood that the
terrible dwarf was matching himself against Panda and Cetewayo and
defying them both. Presently it became obvious that he had won the
game, since Panda only said:
"Why should I slay one whom I have befriended in the past, and why do
you speak such heavy words of death in my ears, O, Zikali the Wise,
which of late have heard so much of death?" He sighed, adding: "Be
pleased now, to tell us of this medicine, or, if you will not, go, and I
will send for other Nyangas."
"Why should I not tell you, when you ask me softly and without threats,
O King? See"--and Zikali took up some of the twisted roots--"these are
the roots of a certain poisonous herb that blooms at night on the tops
of mountains, and woe be to the ox that eats thereof. They have been
boiled in gall and blood, and ill will befall the hut in which they are
hidden by one who can speak the words of power. This is the bone of a
babe that has never lived to cut its teeth--I think of a babe that was
left to die alone in the bush because it was hated, or because none
would father it. Such a bone has strength to work ill against other
babes; moreover, it is filled with a charmed medicine. Look!" and,
pulling out the plug of wood, he scattered some grey powder from the
bone, then stopped it up again. "This," he added, picking up the fang,
"is the tooth of a deadly serpent, that, after it has been doctored, is
used by women to change the heart of a man from another to herself. I
And he turned to go.
"Stay!" said the King. "Who set these foul charms in the doorway of
"How can I tell, O King, unless I make preparation and cast the bones
and smell out the evil-doer? You have heard the story of the woman
Nahana. Accept it or reject it as your heart tells you."
"If that story be true, O Zikali, how comes it that you yourself smelt
out, not Mameena, the wife of Masapo, but Masapo, her husband, himself,
and caused him to be slain because of the poisoning of the child of
"You err, O King. I, Zikali, smelt out the House of Masapo. Then I
smelt out the poison, searching for it first in the hair of Mameena, and
finding it in the kaross of Masapo. I never smelt out that it was
Masapo who gave the poison. That was the judgment of you and of your
Council, O King. Nay, I knew well that there was more in the matter,
and had you paid me another fee and bade me to continue to use my
wisdom, without doubt I should have found this magic stuff hidden in the
hut, and mayhap have learned the name of the hider. But I was weary,
who am very old; and what was it to me if you chose to kill Masapo or
chose to let him go? Masapo, who, being your secret enemy, was a man
who deserved to die--if not for this matter, then for others."
Now, all this while I had been watching Mameena, who sat, in the Zulu
fashion, listening to this deadly evidence, a slight smile upon her
face, and without attempting any interruption or comment. Only I saw
that while Zikali was examining the medicine, her eyes were seeking the
eyes of Saduko, who remained in his place, also silent, and, to all
appearance, the least interested of anyone present. He tried to avoid
her glance, turning his head uneasily; but at length her eyes caught his
and held them. Then his heart began to beat quickly, his breast heaved,
and on his face there grew a look of dreamy content, even of happiness.
From that moment forward, till the end of the scene, Saduko never took
his eyes off this strange woman, though I think that, with the exception
of the dwarf, Zikali, who saw everything, and of myself, who am trained
to observation, none noted this curious by-play of the drama.
The King began to speak. "Mameena," he said, "you have heard. Have you
aught to say? For if not it would seem that you are a witch and a
murderess, and one who must die."
"Yea, a little word, O King," she answered quietly. "Nahana speaks
truth. It is true that I entered the hut of Nandie and set the medicine
there. I say it because by nature I am not one who hides the truth or
would attempt to throw discredit even upon a humble serving-woman," and
she glanced at Nahana.
"Then from between your own teeth it is finished," said Panda.
"Not altogether, O King. I have said that I set the medicine in the
hut. I have not said, and I will not say, how and why I set it there.
That tale I call upon Saduko yonder to tell to you, he who was my
husband, that I left for Umbelazi, and who, being a man, must therefore
hate me. By the words he says I will abide. If he declares that I am
guilty, then I am guilty, and prepared to pay the price of guilt. But
if he declares that I am innocent, then, O King and O Prince Cetewayo,
without fear I trust myself to your justness. Now speak, O Saduko;
speak the whole truth, whatever it may be, if that is the King's will."
"It is my will," said Panda.
"And mine also," added Cetewayo, who, I could see, like everyone else,
was much interested in this matter.
Saduko rose to his feet, the same Saduko that I had always known, and
yet so changed. All the life and fire had gone from him; his pride in
himself was no more; none could have known him for that ambitious,
confident man who, in his day of power, the Zulus named the
"Self-Eater." He was a mere mask of the old Saduko, informed by some
new, some alien, spirit. With dull, lack-lustre eyes fixed always upon
the lovely eyes of Mameena, in slow and hesitating tones he began his
"It is true, O Lion," he said, "that Mameena spread the poison upon my
child's mat. It is true that she set the deadly charms in the doorway
of Nandie's hut. These things she did, not knowing what she did, and it
was I who instructed her to do them. This is the case. From the
beginning I have always loved Mameena as I have loved no other woman and
as no other woman was ever loved. But while I was away with Macumazahn,
who sits yonder, to destroy Bangu, chief of the Amakoba, he who had
killed my father, Umbezi, the father of Mameena, he whom the Prince
Cetewayo gave to the vultures the other day because he had lied as to
the death of Umbelazi, he, I say, forced Mameena, against her will, to
marry Masapo the Boar, who afterwards was executed for wizardry. Now,
here at your feast, when you reviewed the people of the Zulus, O King,
after you had given me the lady Nandie as wife, Mameena and I met again
and loved each other more than we had ever done before. But, being an
upright woman, Mameena thrust me away from her, saying:
"'I have a husband, who, if he is not dear to me, still is my husband,
and while he lives to him I will be true.' Then, O King, I took counsel
with the evil in my heart, and made a plot in myself to be rid of the
Boar, Masapo, so that when he was dead I might marry Mameena. This was
the plot that I made--that my son and Princess Nandie's should be
poisoned, and that Masapo should seem to poison him, so that he might be
killed as a wizard and I marry Mameena."
Now, at this astounding statement, which was something beyond the
experience of the most cunning and cruel savage present there, a gasp of
astonishment went up from the audience; even old Zikali lifted his head
and stared. Nandie, too, shaken out of her usual calm, rose as though
to speak; then, looking first at Saduko and next at Mameena, sat herself
down again and waited. But Saduko went on again in the same cold,
"I gave Mameena a powder which I had bought for two heifers from a great
doctor who lived beyond the Tugela, but who is now dead, which powder I
told her was desired by Nandie, my Inkosikazi, to destroy the little
beetles than ran about the hut, and directed her where she was to spread
it. Also, I gave her the bag of medicine, telling her to thrust it into
the doorway of the hut, that it might bring a blessing upon my House.
These things she did ignorantly to please me, not knowing that the
powder was poison, not knowing that the medicine was bewitched. So my
child died, as I wished it to die, and, indeed, I myself fell sick
because by accident I touched the powder.
"Afterwards Masapo was smelt out as a wizard by old Zikali, I having
caused a bag of the poison to be sewn in his kaross in order to deceive
Zikali, and killed by your order, O King, and Mameena was given to me as
a wife, also by your order, O King, which was what I desired. Later on,
as I have told you, I wearied of her, and wishing to please the Prince
who has wandered away, I commanded her to yield herself to him, which
Mameena did out of her love for me and to advance my fortunes, she who
is blameless in all things."
Saduko finished speaking and sat down again, as an automaton might do
when a wire is pulled, his lack-lustre eyes still fixed upon Mameena's
"You have heard, O King," said Mameena. "Now pass judgment, knowing
that, if it be your will, I am ready to die for Saduko's sake."
But Panda sprang up in a rage.
"Take him away!" he said, pointing to Saduko. "Take away that dog who
is not fit to live, a dog who eats his own child that thereby he may
cause another to be slain unjustly and steal his wife."
The executioners leapt forward, and, having something to say, for I
could bear this business no longer, I began to rise to my feet. Before
I gained them, however, Zikali was speaking.
"O King," he said, "it seems that you have killed one man unjustly on
this matter, namely, Masapo. Would you do the same by another?" and he
pointed to Saduko.
"What do you mean?" asked Panda angrily. "Have you not heard this low
fellow, whom I made great, giving him the rule over tribes and my
daughter in marriage, confess with his own lips that he murdered his
child, the child of my blood, in order that he might eat a fruit which
grew by the roadside for all men to nibble at?" and he glared at
"Aye, Child of Senzangakona," answered Zikali, "I heard Saduko say this
with his own lips, but the voice that spoke from the lips was not the
voice of Saduko, as, were you a skilled Nyanga like me, you would have
known as well as I do, and as well as does the white man,
Watcher-by-Night, who is a reader of hearts.
"Hearken now, O King, and you great ones around the King, and I will
tell you a story. Matiwane, the father of Saduko, was my friend, as he
was yours, O King, and when Bangu slew him and his people, by leave of
the Wild Beast [Chaka], I saved the child, his son, aye, and brought him
up in my own House, having learned to love him. Then, when he became a
man, I, the Opener-of-Roads, showed him two roads, down either of which
he might choose to walk--the Road of Wisdom and the Road of War and
Women: the white road that runs through peace to knowledge, and the red
road that runs through blood to death.
"But already there stood one upon this red road who beckoned him, she
who sits yonder, and he followed after her, as I knew he would. From
the beginning she was false to him, taking a richer man for her husband.
Then, when Saduko grew great, she grew sorry, and came to ask my
counsel as to how she might be rid of Masapo, whom she swore she hated.
I told her that she could leave him for another man, or wait till her
Spirit moved him from her path; but I never put evil into her heart,
seeing that it was there already.
"Then she and no other, having first made Saduko love her more than
ever, murdered the child of Nandie, his Inkosikazi; and so brought about
the death of Masapo and crept into Saduko's arms. Here she slept a
while, till a new shadow fell upon her, that of the
'Elephant-with-the-tuft-of-hair,' who will walk the woods no more. Him
she beguiled that she might grow great the quicker, and left the house
of Saduko, taking his heart with her, she who was destined to be the
doom of men.
"Now, into Saduko's breast, where his heart had been, entered an evil
spirit of jealousy and of revenge, and in the battle of Endondakusuka
that spirit rode him as a white man rides a horse. As he had arranged
to do with the Prince Cetewayo yonder--nay, deny it not, O Prince, for
I know all; did you not make a bargain together, on the third night
before the battle, among the bushes, and start apart when the buck leapt
out between you?" (Here Cetewayo, who had been about to speak, threw the
corner of his kaross over his face.) "As he had arranged to do, I say,
he went over with his regiments from the Isigqosa to the Usutu, and so
brought about the fall of Umbelazi and the death of many thousands.
Yes, and this he did for one reason only--because yonder woman had left
him for the Prince, and he cared more for her than for all the world
could give him, for her who had filled him with madness as a bowl is
filled with milk. And now, O King, you have heard this man tell you a
story, you have heard him shout out that he is viler than any man in all
the land; that he murdered his own child, the child he loved so well, to
win this witch; that afterwards he gave her to his friend and lord to
buy more of his favour, and that lastly he deserted that lord because he
thought that there was another lord from whom he could buy more favour.
Is it not so, O King?"
"It is so," answered Panda, "and therefore must Saduko be thrown out to
"Wait a while, O King. I say that Saduko has spoken not with his own
voice, but with the voice of Mameena. I say that she is the greatest
witch in all the land, and that she has drugged him with the medicine of
her eyes, so that he knows not what he says, even as she drugged the
Prince who is dead."
"Then prove it, or he dies!" exclaimed the King.
Now the dwarf went to Panda and whispered in his ear, whereon Panda
whispered in turn into the ears of two of his councillors. These men,
who were unarmed, rose and made as though to leave the isi-gohlo. But
as they passed Mameena one of them suddenly threw his arms about her,
pinioning her arms, the other tearing off the kaross he wore--for the
weather was cold--flung it over her head and knotted it behind her so
that she was hidden except for her ankles and feet. Then, although she
did not move or struggle, they caught hold of her and stood still.
Now Zikali hobbled to Saduko and bade him rise, which he did. Then he
looked at him for a long while and made certain movements with his hands
before his face, after which Saduko uttered a great sigh and stared
"Saduko," said Zikali, "I pray you tell me, your foster-father, whether
it is true, as men say, that you sold your wife, Mameena, to the Prince
Umbelazi in order that his favour might fall on you like heavy rain?"
"Wow! Zikali," said Saduko, with a start of rage, "If were you as others
are I would kill you, you toad, who dare to spit slander on my name.
She ran away with the Prince, having beguiled him with the magic of her
"Strike me not, Saduko," went on Zikali, "or at least wait to strike
until you have answered one more question. Is it true, as men say, that
in the battle of Endondakusuka you went over to the Usutu with your
regiments because you thought that Indhlovu-ene-Sihlonti would be
beaten, and wished to be on the side of him who won?"
"What, Toad! More slander?" cried Saduko. "I went over for one reason
only--to be revenged upon the Prince because he had taken from me her
who was more to me than life or honour. Aye, and when I went over
Umbelazi was winning; it was because I went that he lost and died, as I
meant that he should die, though now," he added sadly, "I would that I
had not brought him to ruin and the dust, who think that, like myself,
he was but wet clay in a woman's fingers.
"O King," he added, turning to Panda, "kill me, I pray you, who am not
worthy to live, since to him whose hand is red with the blood of his
friend, death alone is left, who, while he breathes, must share his
sleep with ghosts that watch him with their angry eyes."
Then Nandie sprang up and said:
"Nay, Father, listen not to him who is mad, and therefore holy.* What
he has done, he has done, who, as he has said, was but a tool in
another's hand. As for our babe, I know well that he would have died
sooner than harm it, for he loved it much, and when it was taken away,
for three whole days and nights he wept and would touch no food. Give
this poor man to me, my Father--to me, his wife, who loves him--and let
us go hence to some other land, where perchance we may forget."
[*--The Zulus suppose that insane people are inspired.--A. Q.]
"Be silent, daughter," said the King; "and you, O Zikali, the Nyanga, be
They obeyed, and, after thinking awhile, Panda made a motion with his
hand, whereon the two councillors lifted the kaross from off Mameena,
who looked about her calmly and asked if she were taking part in some
"Aye, woman," answered Panda, "you are taking part in a great game, but
not, I think, such as is played by children--a game of life and death.
Now, have you heard the tale of Zikali the Little and Wise, and the
words of Saduko, who was once your husband, or must they be repeated to
"There is no need, O King; my ears are too quick to be muffled by a fur
bag, and I would not waste your time."
"Then what have you to say, woman?"
"Not much," she answered with a shrug of her shoulders, "except that I
have lost in this game. You will not believe me, but if you had left me
alone I should have told you so, who did not wish to see that poor fool,
Saduko, killed for deeds he had never done. Still, the tale he told you
was not told because I had bewitched him; it was told for love of me,
whom he desired to save. It was Zikali yonder; Zikali, the enemy of
your House, who in the end will destroy your House, O Son of
Senzangakona, that bewitched him, as he has bewitched you all, and
forced the truth out of his unwilling heart.
"Now, what more is there to say? Very little, as I think. I did the
things that are laid to my charge, and worse things which have not been
stated. Oh, I played for great stakes, I, who meant to be the
Inkosazana of the Zulus, and, as it chances, by the weight of a hair I
have lost. I thought that I had counted everything, but the hair's
weight which turned the balance against me was the mad jealousy of this
fool, Saduko, upon which I had not reckoned. I see now that when I left
Saduko I should have left him dead. Thrice I had thought of it. Once I
mixed the poison in his drink, and then he came in, weary with his
plottings, and kissed me ere he drank; and my woman's heart grew soft
and I overset the bowl that was at his lips. Do you not remember,
"So, so! For that folly alone I deserve to die, for she who would
reign"--and her beautiful eyes flashed royally--"must have a tiger's
heart, not that of a woman. Well, because I was too kind I must die;
and, after all is said, it is well to die, who go hence awaited by
thousands upon thousands that I have sent before me, and who shall be
greeted presently by your son, Indhlovu-ene-Sihlonti, and his warriors,
greeted as the Inkosazana of Death, with red, lifted spears and with the
"Now, I have spoken. Walk your little road, O King and Prince and
Councillors, till you reach the gulf into which I sink, that yawns for
all of you. O King, when you meet me again at the bottom of that gulf,
what a tale you will have to tell me, you who are but the shadow of a
king, you whose heart henceforth must be eaten out by a worm that is
called Love-of-the-Lost. O Prince and Conqueror Cetewayo, what a tale
you will have to tell me when I greet you at the bottom of that gulf,
you who will bring your nation to a wreck and at last die as I must
die--only the servant of others and by the will of others. Nay, ask me
not how. Ask old Zikali, my master, who saw the beginning of your House
and will see its end. Oh, yes, as you say, I am a witch, and I know, I
know! Come, I am spent. You men weary me, as men have always done,
being but fools whom it is so easy to make drunk, and who when drunk are
so unpleasing. Piff! I am tired of you sober and cunning, and I am
tired of you drunken and brutal, you who, after all, are but beasts of
the field to whom Mvelingangi, the Creator, has given heads which can
think, but which always think wrong.
"Now, King, before you unchain your dogs upon me, I ask one moment. I
said that I hated all men, yet, as you know, no woman can tell the
truth--quite. There is a man whom I do not hate, whom I never hated,
whom I think I love because he would not love me. He sits there," and
to my utter dismay, and the intense interest of that company, she
pointed at me, Allan Quatermain!
"Well, once by my 'magic,' of which you have heard so much, I got the
better of this man against his will and judgment, and, because of that
soft heart of mine, I let him go; yes, I let the rare fish go when he
was on my hook. It is well that I should have let him go, since, had I
kept him, a fine story would have been spoiled and I should have become
nothing but a white hunter's servant, to be thrust away behind the door
when the white Inkosikazi came to eat his meat--I, Mameena, who never
loved to stand out of sight behind a door. Well, when he was at my feet
and I spared him, he made me a promise, a very small promise, which yet
I think he will keep now when we part for a little while. Macumazahn,
did you not promise to kiss me once more upon the lips whenever and
wherever I should ask you?"
"I did," I answered in a hollow voice, for in truth her eyes held me as
they had held Saduko.
"Then come now, Macumazahn, and give me that farewell kiss. The King
will permit it, and since I have now no husband, who take Death to
husband, there is none to say you nay."
I rose. It seemed to me that I could not help myself. I went to her,
this woman surrounded by implacable enemies, this woman who had played
for great stakes and lost them, and who knew so well how to lose. I
stood before her, ashamed and yet not ashamed, for something of her
greatness, evil though it might be, drove out my shame, and I knew that
my foolishness was lost in a vast tragedy.
Slowly she lifted her languid arm and threw it about my neck; slowly she
bent her red lips to mine and kissed me, once upon the mouth and once
upon the forehead. But between those two kisses she did a thing so
swiftly that my eyes could scarcely follow what she did. It seemed to
me that she brushed her left hand across her lips, and that I saw her
throat rise as though she swallowed something. Then she thrust me from
"Farewell, O Macumazana, you will never forget this kiss of mine; and
when we meet again we shall have much to talk of, for between now and
then your story will be long. Farewell, Zikali. I pray that all your
plannings may succeed, since those you hate are those I hate, and I bear
you no grudge because you told the truth at last. Farewell, Prince
Cetewayo. You will never be the man your brother would have been, and
your lot is very evil, you who are doomed to pull down a House built by
One who was great. Farewell, Saduko the fool, who threw away your
fortune for a woman's eyes, as though the world were not full of women.
Nandie the Sweet and the Forgiving will nurse you well until your
haunted end. Oh! why does Umbelazi lean over your shoulder, Saduko, and
look at me so strangely? Farewell, Panda the Shadow. Now let loose
your slayers. Oh! let them loose swiftly, lest they should be balked of
Panda lifted his hand and the executioners leapt forward, but ere ever
they reached her, Mameena shivered, threw wide her arms and fell
back--dead. The poisonous drug she had taken worked well and swiftly.
Such was the end of Mameena, Child of Storm.
A deep silence followed, a silence of awe and wonderment, till suddenly
it was broken by a sound of dreadful laughter. It came from the lips of
Zikali the Ancient, Zikali, the
That evening at sunset, just as I was about to trek, for the King had
given me leave to go, and at that time my greatest desire in life seemed
to be to bid good-bye to Zululand and the Zulus--I saw a strange,
beetle-like shape hobbling up the hill towards me, supported by two big
men. It was Zikali.
He passed me without a word, merely making a motion that I was to follow
him, which I did out of curiosity, I suppose, for Heaven knows I had
seen enough of the old wizard to last me for a lifetime. He reached a
flat stone about a hundred yards above my camp, where there was no bush
in which anyone could hide, and sat himself down, pointing to another
stone in front of him, on which I sat myself down. Then the two men
retired out of earshot, and, indeed, of sight, leaving us quite alone.
"So you are going away, O Macumazana?" he said.
"Yes, I am," I answered with energy, "who, if I could have had my will,
would have gone away long ago."
"Yes, yes, I know that; but it would have been a great pity, would it
not? If you had gone, Macumazahn, you would have missed seeing the end
of a strange little story, and you, who love to study the hearts of men
and women, would not have been so wise as you are to-day."
"No, nor as sad, Zikali. Oh! the death of that woman!" And I put my
hand before my eyes.
"Ah! I understand, Macumazahn; you were always fond of her, were you
not, although your white pride would not suffer you to admit that black
fingers were pulling at your heartstrings? She was a wonderful witch,
was Mameena; and there is this comfort for you--that she pulled at other
heartstrings as well. Masapo's, for instance; Saduko's, for instance;
Umbelazi's, for instance, none of whom got any luck from her
pulling--yes, and even at mine."
Now, as I did not think it worth while to contradict his nonsense so far
as I was concerned personally, I went off on this latter point.
"If you show affection as you did towards Mameena to-day, Zikali, I pray
my Spirit that you may cherish none for me," I said.
He shook his great head pityingly as he answered:
"Did you never love a lamb and kill it afterwards when you were hungry,
or when it grew into a ram and butted you, or when it drove away your
other sheep, so that they fell into the hands of thieves? Now, I am
very hungry for the fall of the House of Senzangakona, and the lamb,
Mameena, having grown big, nearly laid me on my back to-day within the
reach of the slayer's spear. Also, she was hunting my sheep, Saduko,
into an evil net whence he could never have escaped. So, somewhat
against my will, I was driven to tell the truth of that lamb and her
"I daresay," I exclaimed; "but, at any rate, she is done with, so what
is the use of talking about her?"
"Ah! Macumazahn, she is done with, or so you think, though that is a
strange saying for a white man who believes in much that we do not know;
but at least her work remains, and it has been a great work. Consider
now. Umbelazi and most of the princes, and thousands upon thousands of
the Zulus, whom I, the Dwande, hate, dead, dead! Mameena's work,
Macumazahn! Panda's hand grown strengthless with sorrow and his eyes
blind with tears. Mameena's work, Macumazahn! Cetewayo, king in all
but name; Cetewayo, who shall bring the House of Senzangakona to the
dust. Mameena's work, Macumazahn! Oh! a mighty work. Surely she has
lived a great and worthy life, and she died a great and worthy death!
And how well she did it! Had you eyes to see her take the poison which
I gave her--a good poison, was it not?--between her kisses, Macumazahn?"
"I believe it was your work, and not hers," I blurted out, ignoring his
mocking questions. "You pulled the strings; you were the wind that
caused the grass to bend till the fire caught it and set the town in
flames--the town of your foes."
"How clever you are, Macumazahn! If your wits grow so sharp, one day
they will cut your throat, as, indeed, they have nearly done several
times already. Yes, yes, I know how to pull strings till the trap
falls, and to blow grass until the flame catches it, and how to puff at
that flame until it burns the House of Kings. And yet this trap would
have fallen without me, only then it might have snared other rats; and
this grass would have caught fire if I had not blown, only then it might
have burnt another House. I did not make these forces, Macumazahn; I
did but guide them towards a great end, for which the White House [that
is, the English] should thank me one day." He brooded a while, then
went on: "But what need is there to talk to you of these matters,
Macumazahn, seeing that in a time to come you will have your share in
them and see them for yourself? After they are finished, then we will
"I do not wish to talk of them," I answered. "I have said so already.
But for what other purpose did you take the trouble to come here?"
"Oh, to bid you farewell for a little while, Macumazahn. Also to tell
you that Panda, or rather Cetewayo, for now Panda is but his Voice,
since the Head must go where the Feet carry it, has spared Saduko at the
prayer of Nandie and banished him from the land, giving him his cattle
and any people who care to go with him to wherever he may choose to live
from henceforth. At least, Cetewayo says it was at Nandie's prayer, and
at mine and yours, but what he means is that, after all that has
happened, he thought it wise that Saduko should die of himself."
"Do you mean that he should kill himself, Zikali?"
"No, no; I mean that his own idhlozi, his Spirit, should be left to kill
him, which it will do in time. You see, Macumazahn, Saduko is now
living with a ghost, which he calls the ghost of Umbelazi, whom he
"Is that your way of saying he is mad, Zikali?"
"Oh, yes, he lives with a ghost, or the ghost lives in him, or he is
mad--call it which you will. The mad have a way of living with ghosts,
and ghosts have a way of sharing their food with the mad. Now you
understand everything, do you not?"
"Of course," I answered; "it is as plain as the sun."
"Oh! did I not say you were clever, Macumazahn, you who know where
madness ends and ghosts begin, and why they are just the same thing?
Well, the sun is no longer plain. Look, it has sunk; and you would be
on your road who wish to be far from Nodwengu before morning. You will
pass the plain of Endondakusuka, will you not, and cross the Tugela by
the drift? Have a look round, Macumazahn, and see if you can recognise
any old friends. Umbezi, the knave and traitor, for instance; or some
of the princes. If so, I should like to send them a message. What!
You cannot wait? Well, then, here is a little present for you, some of
my own work. Open it when it is light again, Macumazahn; it may serve
to remind you of the strange little tale of Mameena with the Heart of
Fire. I wonder where she is now? Sometimes, sometimes--" And he
rolled his great eyes about him and sniffed at the air like a hound.
"Farewell till we meet again. Farewell, Macumazahn. Oh! if you had
only run away with Mameena, how different things might have been
I jumped up and fled from that terrible old dwarf, whom I verily
believe-- No; where is the good of my saying what I believe? I fled
from him, leaving him seated on the stone in the shadows, and as I fled,
out of the darkness behind me there arose the sound of his loud and
Next morning I opened the packet which he had given me, after wondering
once or twice whether I should not thrust it down an ant-bear hole as it
was. But this, somehow, I could not find the heart to do, though now I
wish I had. Inside, cut from the black core of the umzimbiti wood, with
just a little of the white sap left on it to mark the eyes, teeth and
nails, was a likeness of Mameena. Of course, it was rudely executed,
but it was--or rather is, for I have it still--a wonderfully good
portrait of her, for whether Zikali was or was not a wizard, he was
certainly a good artist. There she stands, her body a little bent, her
arms outstretched, her head held forward with the lips parted, just as
though she were about to embrace somebody, and in one of her hands, cut
also from the white sap of the umzimbiti, she grasps a human
heart--Saduko's, I presume, or perhaps Umbelazi's.
Nor was this all, for the figure was wrapped in a woman's hair, which I
knew at once for that of Mameena, this hair being held in place by the
necklet of big blue beads she used to wear about her throat.
* * * * *
Some five years had gone by, during which many things had happened to me
that need not be recorded here, when one day I found myself in a rather
remote part of the Umvoti district of Natal, some miles to the east of a
mountain called the Eland's Kopje, whither I had gone to carry out a big
deal in mealies, over which, by the way, I lost a good bit of money.
That has always been my fate when I plunged into commercial ventures.
One night my wagons, which were overloaded with these confounded
weevilly mealies, got stuck in the drift of a small tributary of the
Tugela that most inopportunely had come down in flood. Just as darkness
fell I managed to get them up the bank in the midst of a pelting rain
that soaked me to the bone. There seemed to be no prospect of lighting
a fire or of obtaining any decent food, so I was about to go to bed
supperless when a flash of lightning showed me a large kraal situated
upon a hillside about half a mile away, and an idea entered my mind.
"Who is the headman of that kraal?" I asked of one of the Kafirs who had
collected round us in our trouble, as such idle fellows always do.
"Tshoza, Inkoosi," answered the man.
"Tshoza! Tshoza!" I said, for the name seemed familiar to me. "Who is
"Ikona [I don't know], Inkoosi. He came from Zululand some years ago
with Saduko the Mad."
Then, of course, I remembered at once, and my mind flew back to the
night when old Tshoza, the brother of Matiwane, Saduko's father, had cut
out the cattle of the Bangu and we had fought the battle in the pass.
"Oh!" I said, "is it so? Then lead me to Tshoza, and I will give you a
'Scotchman.'" (That is, a two-shilling piece, so called because some
enterprising emigrant from Scotland passed off a vast number of them
among the simple natives of Natal as substitutes for half-crowns.)
Tempted by this liberal offer--and it was very liberal, because I was
anxious to get to Tshoza's kraal before its inhabitants went to bed--the
meditative Kafir consented to guide me by a dark and devious path that
ran through bush and dripping fields of corn. At length we arrived--for
if the kraal was only half a mile away, the path to it covered fully two
miles--and glad enough was I when we had waded the last stream and found
ourselves at its gate.
In response to the usual inquiries, conducted amid a chorus of yapping
dogs, I was informed that Tshoza did not live there, but somewhere else;
that he was too old to see anyone; that he had gone to sleep and could
not be disturbed; that he was dead and had been buried last week, and so
"Look here, my friend," I said at last to the fellow who was telling me
all these lies, "you go to Tshoza in his grave and say to him that if he
does not come out alive instantly, Macumazahn will deal with his cattle
as once he dealt with those of Bangu."
Impressed with the strangeness of this message, the man departed, and
presently, in the dim light of the rain-washed moon, I perceived a
little old man running towards me; for Tshoza, who was pretty ancient at
the beginning of this history, had not been made younger by a severe
wound at the battle of the Tugela and many other troubles.
"Macumazahn," he said, "is that really you? Why, I heard that you were
dead long ago; yes, and sacrificed an ox for the welfare of your
"And ate it afterwards, I'll be bound," I answered.
"Oh! it must be you," he went on, "who cannot be deceived, for it is
true we ate that ox, combining the sacrifice to your Spirit with a
feast; for why should anything be wasted when one is poor? Yes, yes, it
must be you, for who else would come creeping about a man's kraal at
night, except the Watcher-by-Night? Enter, Macumazahn, and be welcome."
So I entered and ate a good meal while we talked over old times.
"And now, where is Saduko?" I asked suddenly as I lit my pipe.
"Saduko?" he answered, his face changing as he spoke. "Oh! of course he
is here. You know I came away with him from Zululand. Why? Well, to
tell the truth, because after the part we had played--against my will,
Macumazahn--at the battle of Endondakusuka, I thought it safer to be
away from a country where those who have worn their karosses inside out
find many enemies and few friends."
"Quite so," I said. "But about Saduko?"
"Oh, I told you, did I not? He is in the next hut, and dying!"
"Dying! What of, Tshoza?"
"I don't know," he answered mysteriously; "but I think he must be
bewitched. For a long while, a year or more, he has eaten little and
cannot bear to be alone in the dark; indeed, ever since he left Zululand
he has been very strange and moody."
Now I remembered what old Zikali had said to me years before to the
effect that Saduko was living with a ghost which would kill him.
"Does he think much about Umbelazi, Tshoza?" I asked.
"O Macumazana, he thinks of nothing else; the Spirit of Umbelazi is in
him day and night."
"Indeed," I said. "Can I see him?"
"I don't know, Macumazahn. I will go and ask the lady Nandie at once,
for, if you can, I believe there is no time to lose." And he left the
Ten minutes later he returned with a woman, Nandie the Sweet herself,
the same quiet, dignified Nandie whom I used to know, only now somewhat
worn with trouble and looking older than her years.
"Greeting, Macumazahn," she said. "I am pleased to see you, although it
is strange, very strange, that you should come here just at this time.
Saduko is leaving us--on a long journey, Macumazahn."
I answered that I had heard so with grief, and wondered whether he would
like to see me.
"Yes, very much, Macumazahn; only be prepared to find him different from
the Saduko whom you knew. Be pleased to follow me."
So we went out of Tshoza's hut, across a courtyard to another large hut,
which we entered. It was lit with a good lamp of European make; also a
bright fire burned upon the hearth, so that the place was as light as
day. At the side of the hut a man lay upon some blankets, watched by a
woman. His eyes were covered with his hand, and he was moaning:
"Drive him away! Drive him away! Cannot he suffer me to die in peace?"
"Would you drive away your old friend, Macumazahn, Saduko?" asked Nandie
very gently, "Macumazahn, who has come from far to see you?"
He sat up, and, the blankets falling off him, showed me that he was
nothing but a living skeleton. Oh! how changed from that lithe and
handsome chief whom I used to know. Moreover, his lips quivered and his
eyes were full of terrors.
"Is it really you, Macumazahn?" he said in a weak voice. "Come, then,
and stand quite close to me, so that he may not get between us," and he
stretched out his bony hand.
I took the hand; it was icy cold.
"Yes, yes, it is I, Saduko," I said in a cheerful voice; "and there is
no man to get between us; only the lady Nandie, your wife, and myself
are in the hut; she who watched you has gone."
"Oh, no, Macumazahn, there is another in the hut whom you cannot see.
There he stands," and he pointed towards the hearth. "Look! The spear
is through him and his plume lies on the ground!"
"Through whom, Saduko?"
"Whom? Why, the Prince Umbelazi, whom I betrayed for Mameena's sake."
"Why do you talk wind, Saduko?" I asked. "Years ago I saw
"Die, Macumazahn! We do not die; it is only our flesh that dies. Yes,
yes, I have learned that since we parted. Do you not remember his last
words: 'I will haunt you while you live, and when you cease to live, ah!
then we shall meet again'? Oh! from that hour to this he has haunted
me, Macumazahn--he and the others; and now, now we are about to meet as
Then once more he hid his eyes and groaned.
"He is mad," I whispered to Nandie.
"Perhaps. Who knows?" she answered, shaking her head.
Saduko uncovered his eyes.
"Make 'the-thing-that-burns' brighter," he gasped, "for I do not
perceive him so clearly when it is bright. Oh! Macumazahn, he is
looking at you and whispering. To whom is he whispering? I see! to
Mameena, who also looks at you and smiles. They are talking. Be
silent. I must listen."
Now, I began to wish that I were out of that hut, for really a little of
this uncanny business went a long way. Indeed, I suggested going, but
Nandie would not allow it.
"Stay with me till the end," she muttered. So I had to stay, wondering
what Saduko heard Umbelazi whispering to Mameena, and on which side of
me he saw her standing.
He began to wander in his mind.
"That was a clever pit you dug for Bangu, Macumazahn; but you would not
take your share of the cattle, so the blood of the Amakoba is not on
your head. Ah! what a fight was that which the Amawombe made at
Endondakusuka. You were with them, you remember, Macumazahn; and why
was I not at your side? Oh! then we would have swept away the Usutu as
the wind sweeps ashes. Why was I not at your side to share the glory?
I remember now--because of the Daughter of Storm. She betrayed me for
Umbelazi, and I betrayed Umbelazi for her; and now he haunts me, whose
greatness I brought to the dust; and the Usutu wolf, Cetewayo, curls
himself up in his form and grows fat on his food. And--and, Macumazahn,
it has all been done in vain, for Mameena hates me. Yes, I can read it
in her eyes. She mocks and hates me worse in death than she did in
life, and she says that--that it was not all her fault--because she
loves--because she loves--"
A look of bewilderment came upon his face--his poor, tormented face;
then suddenly Saduko threw his arms wide, and sobbed in an
"All--all done in vain! Oh! Mameena, Ma--mee--na, Ma--meena!" and
fell back dead.
"Saduko has gone away," said Nandie, as she drew a blanket over his
face. "But I wonder," she added with a little hysterical smile, "oh!
how I wonder who it was the Spirit of Mameena told him that she
loved--Mameena, who was born without a heart?"
I made no answer, for at that moment I heard a very curious sound, which
seemed to me to proceed from somewhere above the hut. Of what did it
remind me? Ah! I knew. It was like the sound of the dreadful laughter
of Zikali, Opener-of-Roads--Zikali, the
Doubtless, however, it was only the cry of some storm-driven night bird.
Or perhaps it was an hyena that laughed--an hyena that scented death.