Part 4 out of 5
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.
THE SIN OF UMBELAZI
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."
UMBELAZI THE FALLEN
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.