Part 5 out of 7
At length the silver radiance of the moon spread itself on the
high curtain of the dark. Then the edge of her orb appeared
above the hill and an arrow of white light fell into the little
valley. It struck upon and about the jutting rock, revealing a
misshapen, white-headed figure squatted between its base and the
fire, the figure of Zikali.
THE GREAT COUNCIL
None had seen or heard him come, and though doubtless he had but
crept round the rock and taken his place in the darkness, there
appeared to be something mysterious about this sudden appearance
of Zikali. So the Zulu nobles thought at any rate, for they
uttered a low "Ow!" of fear and wonder.
There he sat like a huge ape staring at the sky, for the
firelight shone on his deep and burning eyes. The moonlight
increased, but now and again it was broken by little clouds which
caused strange shadows to appear about the rock. Some of these
shadows looked as though veiled figures were approaching the
wizard, bending over him and departing again, after giving him
their message or counsel.
"His Spirits visit him," whispered Goza, but I made no answer.
This went on for quite a long time, until the full round of the
moon appeared above the hill indeed, and, for the while, the
clouds had cleared away. Still Zikali sat silent and I, who was
acquainted with the habits of this people, knew that I was
witnessing a conflict between two they considered to be
respectively a spiritual and an earthly king. It is my belief
that unless he were first addressed, Zikali would have sat all
night without opening his lips. Possibly Cetewayo would have
done the same if the impatience of public opinion had allowed
him. At any was rate it was he who gave way.
"Makosi, master of many Spirits, on behalf of the Council and the
People of the Zulus I, the King, greet you here in the place that
you have chosen," said Cetewayo.
Zikali made no answer.
The silence went on as before, till at length, after a pause and
some whispering, Cetewayo repeated his salutation, adding--
"Has age made you deaf, O Opener of Roads, that you cannot hear
the voice of the King?"
Then at last Zikali answered in his low voice that yet seemed to
fill all the kloof--
"Nay, Child of Senzangacona, age has not made me deaf, but my
spirit in these latter days floats far from my body. It is like
a bladder filled with air that a child holds by a string, and
before I can speak I must draw it from the heavens to earth
again. What did you say about the place that I have chosen?
Well, what better place could I choose, seeing that it was here
in this very Vale of Bones that I met the first king of the
Zulus, Chaka the Wild Beast, who was your uncle? Why then should
I not choose it to meet the last king of the Zulus?"
Now I, listening, knew at once that this saying might be
understood in two ways, namely that Cetewayo was the reigning
king, or that he was the last king who would ever reign. But the
Council interpreted it in the latter and worse sense, for I saw a
quiver of fear go through them.
"Why should I not choose it," went on Zikali, "seeing also that
this place is holy to me? Here it was, O Son of Panda, that
Chaka brought my children to be killed and forced me, sitting
where you sit, to watch their deaths. There on the rock above me
they were killed, four of them, three sons and a daughter, and
the slayers--they came to an evil end, those slayers, as did
Chaka--laughed and cast them down from the rock before me. Yes,
and Chaka laughed, and I too laughed, for had not the king the
right to kill my children and to steal their mothers, and was I
not glad that they should be taken from the world and gathered
to that of Spirits whence they always talk to me, yes, even now?
That is why I did not hear you at first, King, because they were
talking to me."
He paused, turning one ear upwards, then continued in a new and
tender voice, "What is it you say to me, Noma, my dear little
Noma? Oh! I hear you, I hear you."
Now he shifted himself along the ground on his haunches some
paces to the right, and began to search about, groping with his
long fingers. "Where, where?" he muttered. "Oh, I understand,
further under the root, a jackal buried it, did it? Pah! how
hard is this soil. Ah! I have it, but look, Noma, a stone has
cut my finger. I have it, I have it," and from beneath the root
of some fallen tree he drew out the skull of a child and, holding
it in his right hand, softly rubbed the mould off it with his
"Yes, Noma, it might be yours, it is of the right size, but how
can I be sure? What is it you say? The teeth? Ah! now I
remember. Only the day before you were taken I pulled out that
front tooth, did I not, and beneath it was another that was
strangely split in two. If this skull was yours, it will be
there. Come to the fire, Noma, and let us look; the moonlight is
faint, is it not?"
Back to the fire he shifted himself, and bending towards the
blaze, made an examination.
"True, Noma, true! Here is the split tooth, white as when I saw
it all those years ago. Oh! dear child of my body, dear child of
my spirit, for we do not beget with the body alone, Noma, as you
know better than I do to-day, I greet you," and pressing the
skull to his lips, he kissed it, then set it down in front of him
between himself and the fire with the face part pointing to the
king, and burst into one of his eerie and terrible laughs.
A low moan went up from his audience, and I felt the skin of
Goza, who had shrunk against me, break into a profuse sweat.
Then suddenly Zikali's voice changed one more and became hard and
businesslike, if I may call it so, similar to that of other
"You have sent for me, O King, as those who went before you have
sent when great things were about to happen. What is the matter
on which you would speak to me?"
"You know well, Opener of Roads," answered Cetewayo, rather
shakily I thought. "The matter is one of peace or war. The
English threaten me and my people and make great demands on me;
amongst others that the army should be disbanded. I can set them
all out if you will. If I refuse to do as they bid me, then
within a few days they will invade Zululand; indeed their
soldiers are already gathered at the drifts."
"It is not needful, King," answered Zikali, "since I know what
all know, neither more nor less. The winds whisper the demands
of the white men, the birds sing them, the hyenas howl them at
night. Let us see how the matter stands. When your father died
Sompseu (Sir T. Shepstone), the great white chief, came from the
English Government to name you king. This he could not do
according to our law, since how can a stranger name the King of
the Zulus? Therefore the Council of the Nation and the doctors--I
was not among them, King--moved the spirit of Chaka the Lion into
the body of Sompseu and made him as Chaka was and gave him power
to name you to rule over the Zulus. So it came about that to the
English Queen through the spirit of Chaka you swore certain
things; that slaying for witchcraft should be abolished; that no
man should die without fair and open trial, and other matters."
He paused a while, then went on, "These oaths you have broken, O
King, as being of the blood you are and what you are, you must
Here there was disturbance among the Council and Cetewayo half
rose from his seat, then sat down again. Zikali, gazing at the
sky, waited till it had died away, then went on--
"Do any question my words? If so, then let them ask of the white
men whether they be true or no. Let them ask also of the spirits
of those who have died for witchcraft, and of the spirits of the
women who have been slain and whose bodies were laid at the
cross-roads because they married the men they chose and not the
soldiers to whom the king gave them."
"How can I ask the white men who are far away?" broke out
Cetewayo, ignoring the rest.
"Are the white men so far away, King? It is true that I see none
and hear none, yet I seem to smell one of them close at hand."
Here he took up the skull which he had laid down and whispered to
it. "Ah! I thank you, my child. It seems, King, that there is a
white man here hidden in this kloof, he who is named Macumazahn,
a good man and a truthful, known to many of us from of old, who
can tell you what his people think, though he is not one of their
indunas. If you question my words, ask him."
"We know what the white men think," said Cetewayo, "so there is
no need to ask Macumazahn to sing us an old song. The question
is--what must the Zulus do? Must they swallow their spears and,
ceasing to be a nation, become servants, or must they strike with
them and drive the English into the sea, and after them the
"Tell me first, King, who dwell far away and alone, knowing
little of what passes in the land of Life, what the Zulus desire
to do. Before me sits the Great Council of the Nation. Let it
Then one by one the members of the Council uttered their opinions
in order of rank or seniority. I do not remember the names of
all who were present, or what each of them said. I recall,
however, that Sigananda, a very old chief--he must have been over
ninety--spoke the first. He told them that he had been friend of
Chaka and one of his captains, and had fought in most of his
battles. That afterwards he had been a general of Dingaan's
until that king killed the Boers under Retief, when he left him
and finally sided with Panda in the civil war in which Dingaan
was killed with the help of the Boers. That he had been present
at the battle of the Tugela, though he took no actual part in the
fighting, and afterwards became a councillor of Panda's and then
of Cetewayo his son. It was a long and interesting historical
recital covering the whole period of the Zulu monarchy which
ended suddenly with these words--
"I have noted, O King and Councillors, that whenever the black
vulture of the Zulus was content to attack birds of his own
feather, he has conquered. But when it has met the grey eagles
of the white men, which come from over the sea, he has been
conquered, and my heart tells me that as it was in the past, so
it shall be in the future. Chaka was a friend of the English, so
was Panda, and so has Cetewayo been until this hour. I say,
therefore, let not the King tear the hand which fed him because
it seems weak, lest it should grow strong and clutch him by the
throat and choke him."
Next spoke Undabuko, Dabulamanzi and Magwenga, brothers of the
king, who all favoured war, though the two last were guarded in
their speech. After these came Uhamu, the king's uncle--he who
was said to be the son of a Spirit--who was strong for peace,
urging that the king should submit to the demands of the English,
making the best terms he could, that he "should bend like a reed
before the storm, so that after the storm had swept by, he might
stand up straight again, and with him all the other reeds of the
people of the Zulus."
So, too, said Seketwayo, chief of the Umdhlalosi, and more whom I
cannot recall, six or seven of them. But Usibebu and the induna
Untshingwayo, who afterwards commanded at Isandhlwana, were for
fighting, as were Sirayo, the husband of the two women who had
been taken on English territory and killed, and Umbilini, the
chief of Swazi blood whose surrender was demanded by Sir Bartle
Frere and who afterwards commanded the Zulus in the battle at
Ihlobane. Last of all spoke the Prime Minister, Umnyamana, who
declared fiercely that if the Zulu buffalo hid itself in the
swamp like a timid calf when the white bull challenged it on the
hills, the spirits of Chaka and all his forefathers would thrust
its head into the mud and choke it.
When all had finished Cetewayo spoke, saying--
"That is a bad council which has two voices, for to which of them
must the Captain listen when the impis of the foe gather in front
of him? Here I have sat while the moon climbs high and counted,
and what do I find? That one half of you, men of wisdom and
renown, say Yes, and that the other half of you, men of wisdom
and renown, say No. Which then is it to be, Yes or No? Are we
to fight the English, or are we to sit still?"
"That is for the king to decide," said a voice.
"See what it is to be a king," went on Cetewayo with passion.
"If I declare for war and we win, shall I be greater than I am?
If victory gives me more land, more subjects, more wives and more
cattle, what is the use of these things to me who already have
enough of all of them? And if defeat should take everything from
me, even my life perhaps, then what shall I have gained? I will
tell you--the curse of the Zulus upon my name from father to son
for ever. They will say, 'Cetewayo, son of Panda, pulled down a
House that once was great. Because of some small matter he
quarrelled with the English who were always the friends of our
people, and brought the Zulus to the dust.' Sintwangu, my
messenger, who brought heavy words from the Queen's induna which
we must answer with other words or with spears, says that the
English soldiers in Natal are few, so few that we Zulus can
swallow them like bits of meat and still be hungry. But are
these all the soldiers of the English? I am not sure. You are
one of that people, Macumazahn," he added, turning his massive
shape towards me, "tell us now, how many soldiers has your
"King," I answered, "I do not know for certain. But if the Zulus
can muster fifty thousand spears, the Queen, if there be need,
can send against them ten times fifty thousand, and if she grows
angry, another ten times fifty, every one armed with a rifle that
will fire five bullets a minute, and to accompany the soldiers,
hundreds of cannon whereof a single shot would give Ulundi to the
flames. Out of the sea they will come, shipload after shipload,
white men from where the sun sets and black men from where the
sun rises, so many that Zululand would not hold them."
Now at these words, which I delivered as grandly as I could,
something like a groan burst from the Council, though one man
"Do not listen to the white traitor, O King, who is sent here to
turn our hearts to water with his lies."
"Macumazahn may lie to us," went on Cetewayo, "though in the past
none in the land have ever known him to lie, but he was not sent
to do so, for I brought him here. For my part I do not believe
that he lies. I believe that these English are as many as the
pebbles in a river bed, and that to them Natal, yes, and all the
Cape is but as a single, outlying cattle kraal, one cattle kraal
out of a hundred. Did not Sompseu once tell us that they were
countless, on that day when he came many years ago after the
battle of the Tugela to name me to succeed my father Panda, the
day when my faction, the Usutu, roared round him for hours like a
river in flood, and he sat still like a rock in the centre of a
river? Also I am minded of the words that Chaka said when
Dingaan and Umbopa had stabbed him and he lay dying at the kraal
Duguza, that although the dogs of his own House whom his hand
fed, had eaten him up, he heard the sound of the running of the
feet of a great white people that should stamp them and the Zulus
He paused; and the silence was so intense that the crackling of
Zikali's fire, which kept on burning brightly although I saw no
fuel added to it, sounded quite loud. Presently it was broken,
first by a dog near at hand, howling horribly at the moon, and
next by the hooting of a great owl that flitted across the donga,
the shadow of its wide wings falling for a moment on the king.
"Listen!" exclaimed Cetewayo, "a dog that howls! Methinks that
it stands upon the roof of the House of Senzangacona. And an owl
that hoots. Methinks that owl has its nest in the world of
Spirits! Are these good omens, Councillors? I trow not. I say
that I will not decide this matter of peace or war. If there is
one of my own blood here who will do so, come, let him take my
place and let me go away to my own lordship of Gikazi that I had
when I was a prince before the witch Mameena who played with all
men and loved but one"--here everybody turned and stared towards
me, yes, even Zikali whom nothing else had seemed to move, till I
wished that the ground would swallow me up--"caused the war
between me and my brother Umbelazi whose blood earth will not
swallow nor suns dry--"
"How can that be, O King?" broke in Umnyamana the Prime Minister.
"How can any of your race sit in your seat while you still live?
Then indeed there would be war, war between tribe and tribe and
Zulu and Zulu till none were left, and the white hyenas from
Natal would come and chew our bones and with them the Boers that
have passed the Vaal. See now. Why is this Nyanga (i.e.
witch-doctor) here?" and he pointed to Zikali beyond the fire.
"Why has the Opener of Roads been brought from the Black Kloof
which he has not left for years? Is it not that he may give us
counsel in our need and show us a sign that his counsel is good,
whether it be for war or peace? Then when he has made divination
and given the counsel and shown the sign, then, O King, do you
speak the word of war or peace, and send it to the Queen by
yonder white man, and by that word we, the people, will abide."
At this suggestion, which I had no doubt was made by some secret
agreement between Umnyamana and Zikali, Cetewayo seemed to grasp.
Perhaps this was because it postponed for a little while the
dreadful moment of decision, or perhaps because he hoped that in
the eyes of the nation it would shift the responsibility from his
shoulders to those of the Spirits speaking through the lips of
their prophet. At any rate he nodded and answered--
"It is so. Let the Opener of Roads open us a road through the
forests and the swamps and the rocks of doubt, danger and fear.
Let him give us a sign that it is a good road on which we may
safely travel, and let him tell us whether I shall live to walk
that road and what I shall meet thereon. I promise him in return
the greatest fee that ever yet was paid to a doctor in Zululand."
Now Zikali lifted his big head, shook his grey locks, and opening
his wide mouth as though he expected manna to fall into it from
the sky, he laughed out loud.
"O-ho-ho," he laughed, "Oho-ho-ho-o, it is worth while to have
lived so long when life has brought me to such an hour as this.
What is it that my ears hear? That I, the Indwande dwarf, I whom
Chaka named 'The-Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born,' I, one
of the race conquered and despised by the Zulus, am here to speak
a word which the Zulus dare not utter, which the King of the
Zulus dares not utter. O-ho-ho-ho! And what does the King offer
to me? A fee, a great fee for the word that shall paint the
Zulus red with blood or white with the slime of shame. Nay, I
take no fee that is the price of blood or shame. Before I speak
that word unknown--for as yet my heart has not heard it, and what
the heart has not heard the lips cannot shape--I ask but one
thing. It is an oath that whatever follows on the word, while
there is a Zulu left living in the world, I, the Voice of the
Spirits, shall be safe from hurt or from reproach, I and those of
my House and those over whom I throw my blanket, be they black or
be they white. That is my fee, without which I am silent."
"Izwa! We hear you. We swear it on behalf of the people," said
every councillor in the semi-circle in front of him; yes, and the
king said it also, stretching out his hand.
"Good," said Zikali, "it is an oath, it is an oath, sworn here
upon the bones of the dead. Evil-doers you call them, but I say
to you that many of those who sit before me have more evil in
their hearts than had those dead. Well, let it be proclaimed, O
King, and with it this--that ill shall it go with him who breaks
the oath, with his family, with his kraal and all with whom he
has to do.
"Now what is it you ask of me? First of all, counsel as to
whether you should fight the English Queen, a matter on which
you, the Great Ones, are evenly divided in opinion, as is the
nation behind you. O King, Indunas, and Captains, who am I that
I should judge of such a matter which is beyond my trade, a
matter of the world above and of men's bodies, not of the world
below and of men's spirits? Yet there was one who made the Zulu
people out of nothing, as a potter fashions a vessel from clay,
as a smith fashions an assegai out of the ore of the hills, yes,
and tempers it with human blood.* Chaka the Lion, the Wild
Beast, the King among Kings, the Conqueror. I knew Chaka as I
knew his father, yes, and _his_ father. Others still living knew
him also, say you, Sigananda there for instance," and he pointed
to the old chief who had spoken first. "Yes, Sigananda knew him
as a boy knows a great man, as a soldier knows a general. But I
knew his heart, aye, I shaped his heart, I was its thought. Had
it not been for me he would never have been great. Then he
wronged me"--here Zikali took up the skull which he said was that
of his daughter, and stroked it--"and I left him.
[*--The old Zulu smiths dipped their choicest blades in the blood
of men.--A. Q.]
"He was not wise, he should have killed one whom he had wronged,
but perhaps he knew that I could not be killed; perhaps he had
tried and found that he was but throwing spears at the moon which
fell back on his own head. I forget. It is so long ago, and
what does it matter? At least I took away from him the prop of
my wisdom, and he fell--to rise no more. And so it has been with
others. So it has been with others. Yet while he was great I
knew his heart who lived in his heart, and therefore I ask
myself, had he been sitting where the King sits to-day, what
would Chaka have done? I will tell you. If not only the English
but the Boers also and with them the Pondos, the Basutos and all
the tribes of Africa had threatened him, he would have fought
them--yes, and set his heel upon their necks. Therefore,
although I give no counsel upon such a matter, I say to you that
the counsel of Chaka is--fight--and conquer. Hearken to it or
pass it by--I care not which."
He paused and a loud "Ow" of wonder and admiration rose from his
audience. Myself I nearly joined in it, for I thought this one
of the cleverest bits of statecraft that ever I had heard of or
seen. The old wizard had taken no responsibility and given no
answer to the demand for advice. All this he had thrust on to
the shoulders of a dead man, and that man one whose name was
magical to every Zulu, the king whose memory they adored, the
great General who had gorged them with victory and power.
Speaking as Chaka, after a long period of peace, he urged them
once more to lift their spears and know the joys of triumph,
thereby making themselves the greatest nation in Southern Africa.
From the moment I heard this cunning appeal, I know what the end
would be; all the rest was but of minor and semi-personal
interest. I knew also for the first time how truly great was
Zikali and wondered what he might have become had Fortune set him
in different circumstances among a civilized people.
Now he was speaking again, and quickly before the impression died
"Such is the word of Chaka spoken by me who was his secret
councillor, the Councillor who was seldom seen, and never heard.
Does not Sigananda yonder know the voice which amongst all those
present echoes in his ears alone?"
"I know it," cried the old chief. Then with his eyes starting
almost from his head, Sigananda leapt up and raising his hand,
gave the royal salute, the Bayete, to the spirit of Chaka, as
though the dead king stood before him.
I think that most of those there thought that it did stand before
him, for some of them also gave the Bayete and even Cetewayo
raised his arm.
Sigananda squatted down again and Zikali went on.
"You have heard. This captain of the Lion knows his voice. So,
that is done with. Now you ask of me something else--that I who
am a doctor, the oldest of all the doctors and, it is thought--I
know not--the wisest, should be able to answer. You ask of
me--How shall this war prosper, if it is made--and what shall
chance to the King during and after the war, and lastly you ask
of me a sign. What I tell to you is true, is it not so?"
"It is true," answered the Council.
"Asking is easy," continued Zikali in a grumbling voice, "but
answering is another matter. How can I answer without
preparation, without the needful medicines also that I have not
with me, who did not know what would be sought of me, who thought
that my opinion was desired and no more? Go away now and return
on the sixth night and I will tell you what I can do."
"Not so," cried the king. "We refuse to go, for the matter is
immediate. Speak at once, Opener of Roads, lest it should be
said in the land that after all you are but an ancient cheat, a
stick that snaps in two when it is leant on."
"Ancient cheat! I remember that is what Macumazahn yonder once
told me I am, though afterwards--Perhaps he was right, for who in
his heart knows whether or not he be a cheat, a cheat who
deceives himself and through himself others. A stick that snaps
in two when it is leant on! Some have thought me so and some
have thought otherwise. Well, you would have answers which I
know not how to give, being without medicine and in face of those
who are quite ignorant and therefore cannot lend me their
thoughts, as it sometimes happens that men do when workers of
evil are sought out in the common fashion. For then, as you may
have guessed, it is the evil-doer who himself tells the doctor of
his crime, though he may not know that he is telling it. Yet
there is another stone that I alone can throw, another plan that
I alone can practise, and that not always. But of this I would
not make use since it is terrible and might frighten you or even
send you back to your huts raving so that your wives, yes, and
the very dogs fled, from you."
He stopped and for the first time did something to his fire, for
I saw his hands going backwards and forwards, as though he warmed
them at the flames.
At length an awed voice, I think it was that of Dabulamanzi,
"What is this plan, Inyanga? Let us hear that we may judge."
"The plan of calling one from the dead and hearkening to the
voice of the dead. Is it your desire that I should draw water
from this fount of wisdom, O King and Councillors?"
Now men began to whisper together and Goza groaned at my side.
"Rather would I look down a live lion's throat than see the
dead," he murmured. But I, who was anxious to learn how far
Zikali would carry his tricks, contemptuously told him to be
Presently the king called me to him and said--
"Macumazahn, you white men are reported to know all things. Tell
me now, is it possible for the dead to appear?"
"I am not sure," I answered doubtfully; "some say that it is and
some say that it is not possible."
"Well," said the king. "Have you ever seen one you knew in life
"No," I replied, "that is--yes. That is--I do not know. When
you will tell me, King, where waking ends and sleep begins, then
I will answer."
"Macumazahn," he exclaimed, "just now I announced that you were
no liar, who perceive that after all you are a liar, for how can
you both have seen, and not seen, the dead? Indeed I remember
that you lied long ago, when you gave it out that the witch
Mameena was not your lover, and afterwards showed that she was by
kissing her before all men, for who kisses a woman who is not his
lover, or his mother? Return, since you will not tell me the
So I went back to my stool, feeling very small and yet indignant,
for how was it possible to be definite about ghosts, or to
explain the exact facts of the Mameena myth which clung to me
like a Wait-a-bit thorn.
Then after a little consultation Cetewayo said--
"It is our desire, O Opener of Roads, that you should draw wisdom
from the fount of Death, if indeed you can do so. Now let any
who are afraid depart and wait for us who are not afraid, alone
and in silence at the mouth of the kloof."
At this some of the audience rose, but after hesitating a little,
sat down again. Only Goza actually took a step forward, but on
my remarking that he would probably meet the dead coming up that
way, collapsed, muttering something about my pistol, for the fool
seemed to think I could shoot a spirit.
"If indeed I can do so," repeated Zikali in a careless fashion.
"That is to be proved, is it not? Perhaps, too, it may be better
for every one of you if I fail than if I succeed. Of one thing I
warn you, should the dead appear stir not, and above all touch
not, for he who does either of these things will, I think, never
live to look upon the sun again. But first let me try an easier
Then once again he took up the skull that he said had been his
daughter's, and whispered to it, only to lay it down presently.
"It will not serve," he said with a sigh and shaking his locks.
"Noma tells me that she died a child, one who had no knowledge of
war or matters of policy, and that in all these things of the
world she still remains a child. She says that I must seek some
one who thought much of them; one, too who still lives in the
heart of a man who is present here, if that be possible, since
from such a heart alone can the strength be drawn to enable the
dead to appear and speak. Now let there be silence--Let there be
silence, and woe to him that breaks it."
Silence there was indeed, and in it Zikali crouched himself down
till his head almost rested on his knee, and seemed to go to
sleep. He awoke again and chanted for half a minute or so in
some language I could not understand. Then voices began to
answer him, as it seemed to me from all over the kloof, also from
the sky or rock above. Whether the effect was produced by
ventriloquism or whether he had confederates posted at various
points, I do not know.
At any rate this lord of "multitudes of spirits" seemed to be
engaged in conversation with some of them. What is more, the
thing was extremely well done, since each voice differed from the
other; also I seemed to recognize some of them, Dingaan's for
instance, and Panda's, yes, and that of Umbelazi the Handsome,
the brother of the king whose death I witnessed down by the
You will ask me what they said. I do not know. Either the words
were confused or the events that followed have blotted them from
my brain. All I remember is that each of them seemed to be
speaking of the Zulus and their fate and to be very anxious to
refer further discussion of the matter to some one else. In
short they seemed to talk under protest, or that was my
impression, although Goza, the only person with whom I had any
subsequent debate upon the subject, appeared to have gathered one
that was different, though what it was I do not recall. The only
words that remained clear to me must, I thought, have come from
the spirit of Chaka, or rather from Zikali or one of his
myrmidons assuming that character. They were uttered in a deep
full voice, spiced with mockery, and received by the wizard with
"Sibonga," or titles of praise, which I who am versed in Zulu
history and idiom knew had only been given to the great king, and
indeed since his death had become unlawful, not to be used. The
"What, Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born, do you think
yourself a Thing-that-should-never-die, that you still sit
beneath the moon and weave witchcrafts as of old? Often have I
hunted for you in the Under-world who have an account to settle
with you, as you have an account to settle with me. So, so, what
does it matter since we must meet at last, even if you hide
yourself at the back of the furthest star? Why do you bring me
up to this place where I see some whom I would forget? Yes, they
build bone on bone and taking the red earth, mould it into flesh
and stand before me as last I saw them newly dead. Oh! your
magic is good, Spell-weaver, and your hate is deep and your
vengeance is keen. No, I have nothing to tell you to-day, who
rule a greater people than the Zulus in another land. Who are
these little men who sit before you? One of them has a look of
Dingaan, my brother who slew me, yes, and wears his armlet. Is
he the king? Answer not, for I do not care to know. Surely
yonder withered thing is Sigananda. I know his eye and the Iziqu
on his breast. Yes, I gave it to him after the great battle with
Zweede in which he killed five men. Does he remember it, I
wonder? Greeting, Sigananda; old as you are you have still
twenty and one years to live, and than we will talk of the battle
with Zweede. Let me begone, this place burns my spirit, and in
it there is a stench of mortal blood. Farewell, O Conqueror!"
These were the words that I thought I heard Chaka say, though I
daresay that I dreamt them. Indeed had it been otherwise, I mean
had they really been spoken by Zikali, there would surely have
been more in them, something that might have served his purpose,
not mere talk which had all the inconsequence of a dream. Also
no one else seemed to pay any particular attention to them,
though this may have been because so many voices were sounding
from different places at once, for as I have said, Zikali
arranged his performance very well, as well as any medium could
have done on a prepared stage in London.
In a moment, as though at a signal, the voices died away. Then
other things happened. To begin with I felt very faint, as
though all the strength were being taken out of me. Some queer
fancy got a hold of me. I don't quite know what it was, but it
had to do with the Bible story of Adam when he fell asleep and a
rib was removed from him and made into a woman. I reflected that
I felt as Adam must have done when he came out of his trance
after this terrific operation, very weak and empty. Also, as it
chanced, presently I saw Eve--or rather a woman. Looking at the
fire in a kind of disembodied way, I perceived that dense smoke
was rising from it, which smoke spread itself out like a fan. It
thinned by degrees, and through the veil of smoke I perceived
something else, namely, a woman very like one whom once I had
known. There she stood, lightly clad enough, her fingers playing
with the blue beads of her necklace, an inscrutable smile upon
her face and her large eyes fixed on nothingness.
Oh! Heaven, I knew her, or rather thought I did at the moment,
for now I am almost sure that it was Nombe dressed, or undressed,
for the part. That knowledge came with reflection, but then I
could have sworn, being deceived by the uncertain light, that the
long dead Mameena stood before us as she had seemed to stand
before me in the hut of Zikali, radiating a kind of supernatural
life and beauty.
A little wind arose, shaking the dry leaves of the aloes in the
kloof; l thought it whispered--_Hail, Mameena!_ Some of the
older men, too, among them a few who had seen her die, in
trembling voices murmured, "It is Mameena!" whereon Zikali
scowled at them and they grew silent.
As for the figure it stood there patient and unmoved, like one
who has all time at its disposal, playing with the blue beads. I
heard them tinkle against each other, which proves that it was
human, for how could a wraith cause beads to tinkle, although it
is true that Christmas-story ghosts are said to clank their
chains. Her eyes roved idly and without interest over the
semi-circle of terrified men before her. Then by degrees they
fixed themselves upon the tree behind which I was crouching,
whereon Goza sank paralyzed to the ground. She contemplated this
tree for a while that seemed to me interminable; it reminded me
of a setter pointing game it winded but could not see, for her
whole frame grew intent and alert. She ceased playing with the
beads and stretched out her slender hand towards me. Her lips
moved. She spoke in a sweet, slow voice, saying--
"O Watcher-by-Night, is it thus you greet her to whom you have
given strength to stand once more beneath the moon? Come hither
and tell me, have you no kiss for one from whom you parted with a
I heard. Without doubt the voice was the very voice of Mameena
(so well had Nombe been instructed). Still I determined not to
obey it, who would not be made a public laughing-stock for a
second time in my life. Also I confess this jesting with the
dead seemed to me somewhat unholy, and not on any account would I
take a part in it.
All the company turned and stared at me, even Goza lifted his
head and stared, but I sat still and contemplated the beauties of
"If it is the spirit of Mameena, he will come," whispered
Cetewayo to Umnyamana.
"Yes, yes," answered the Prime Minister, "for the rope of his
love will draw him. He who has once kissed Mameena, _must_ kiss
her again when she asks."
Hearing this I grew furiously indignant and was about to break
into explanations, when to my horror I found myself rising from
that stool. I tried to cling to it, but, as it only came into
the air with me, let it go.
"Hold me, Goza," I muttered, and he like a good fellow clutched
me by the ankle, whereon I promptly kicked him in the mouth, at
least my foot kicked him, not my will. Now I was walking towards
that Shape--shadow or woman--like a man in his sleep, and as I
came she stretched out her arms and smiled oh! as sweetly as an
angel, though I felt quite sure that she was nothing of the sort.
Now I stood opposite to her alongside the fire of which the smoke
smelt like roses at the dawn, and she seemed to bend towards me.
With shame and humiliation I perceived that in another moment
those arms would be about me. But somehow they never touched me;
I lost sight of them in the rose-scented smoke, only the sweet,
slow voice which I could have sworn was that of Mameena, murmured
in my ear--well, words known to her and me alone that I had never
breathed to any living being, though of course I am aware now
that they must also have been known to somebody else.
"Do you doubt me any longer?" went on the murmuring. "Say, am I
Nombe now? Or--or am I in truth that Mameena, whose kiss thrills
your lips and soul? Hearken, Macumazahn, for the time is short.
In the rout of the great battle that shall be, do not fly with
the white men, but set your face towards Ulundi. One who was
your friend will guard you, and whoever dies, no harm shall come
to you now that the fire which burns in my heart has set all
Zululand aflame. Hearken once more. Hans, the little yellow man
who was named Light-in-Darkness, he who died among the Kendah
people, sends you salutations and gives you praise. He bids me
tell you that now of his own accord he renders to me, Mameena,
the royal salute, because royal I must ever be; because also he
and I who are so far apart are yet one in the love that is our
The smoke blew into my face, causing me to reel back. Cetewayo
caught me by the arm, saying--
"Tell us, are the lips of the dead witch warm or cold?"
"I do not know," I groaned, "for I never touched her."
"How he lies! Oh! how he lies even about what our eyes saw,"
said Cetewayo reflectively as I blundered past him back to my
seat, on which I sank half swooning. When I got my wits again
the figure that pretended to be Mameena was speaking, I suppose
in answer to some question of Zikali's which I had not heard. It
"O Lord of the Spirits, you have called me from the land of
Spirits to make reply as to two matters which have not yet
happened upon the earth. These replies I will give but no
others, since the mortal strength that I have borrowed returns
whence it came. The first matter is, if there be war between the
White and Black, what will happen in that war? I see a plain
ringed round with hills and on it a strange-shaped mount. I see
a great battle; I see the white men go down like corn before a
tempest; I see the spears of the impis redden; I see the white
soldiers lie like leaves cut from a tree by frost. They are
dead, all dead, save a handful that have fled away. I hear the
ingoma of victory sung here at Ulundi. It is finished.
"The second matter is--what shall chance to the king? I see him
tossed on the Black Water; I see him in a land full of houses,
talking with a royal woman and her councillors. There, too, he
conquers, for they offer him tribute of many gifts. I see him
here, back here in Zululand, and hear him greeted with the royal
salute. Last of all I see him dead, as men must die, and hear
the voice of Zikali and the mourning of the women of his house.
It is finished. Farewell, King Cetewayo, I pass to tell Panda,
your father, how it fares with you. When last we parted did I
not prophesy to you that we should meet again at the bottom of a
gulf? Was it this gulf, think you, or another? One day you
shall learn. Farewell, or fare ill, as it may happen!"
Once more the smoke spread out like a fan. When it thinned and
drew together again, the Shape was gone.
Now I thought that the Zulus would be so impressed by this very
queer exhibition, that they would seek no more supernatural
guidance, but make up their minds for war at once. This,
however, was just what they did not do. As it happened, among
the assembled chiefs, was one who himself had a great repute as a
witch-doctor, and therefore burned with jealousy of Zikali who
appeared to be able to do things that he had never even
attempted. This man leapt up and declared that all which they
had seemed to hear and see was but cunning trickery, carried out
after long preparation by Zikali and his confederates. The
voices, he said, came from persons placed in certain spots, or
sometimes were produced by Zikali himself. As for the vision, it
was not that of a spirit but of a real woman, in proof of which
he called attention to certain anatomical details of the figure.
Finally, with much sense, he pointed out that the Council would
be mad to come to any decision upon such evidence, or to give
faith to prophecies, whereof the truth or falsity could only be
known in the future.
Now a fierce debate broke out, the war party maintaining that the
manifestations were genuine, the peace party that they were a
fraud. In the end, as neither side would give way and as Zikali,
when appealed to, sat silent as a stone, refusing any
explanation, the king said--
"Must we sit here talking, talking, till daylight? There is but
one man who can know the truth, that is Macumazahn. Let him deny
it as he will, he was the lover of this Mameena while she was
alive, for with my own eyes I saw him kiss her before she killed
herself. It is certain, therefore, that he knows if the woman we
seemed to see was Mameena or another, since there are things
which a man never forgets. I propose, therefore, that we should
question him and form our own judgment of his answer."
This advice, which seemed to promise a road out of a blind ally,
met with instant acceptance.
"Let it be so," they cried with one voice, and in another minute
I was once more conducted from behind my tree and set down upon
the stool in front of the Council, with my back to the fire and
Zikali, "that his eyes might not charm me."
"Now, Watcher-by-Night," said Cetewayo, "although you have lied
to us in a certain matter, of this we do not think much, since it
is one upon which both men and women always lie, as every judge
will know. Therefore we still believe you to be an honest man,
as your dealings have proved for many years. As an honest man,
therefore, we beg you to give us a true answer to a plain
question. Was the Shape we saw before us just now a woman or a
spirit, and if a spirit, was it the ghost of Mameena, the
beautiful witch who died near this place nearly the quarter of a
hundred years ago, she whom you loved, or who loved you, which is
just the same thing, since a man always loves a woman who loves
him, or thinks that he does?"
Now after reflection I replied in these words and as
conscientiously as I could--
"King and Councillors, I do not know if what we all saw was a
ghost or a living person, but, as I do not believe in ghosts, or
at any rate that they come back to the world on such errands, I
conclude that it was a living person. Still it may have been
neither, but only a mere picture produced before us by the arts
of Zikali. So much for the first question. Your second is--was
this spirit or woman or shadow, that of her whom I remember
meeting in Zululand many years ago? King and Councillors, I can
only say that it was very like her. Still one handsome young
woman often greatly resembles another of the same age and
colouring. Further, the moon gives an uncertain light,
especially when it is tempered by smoke from a fire. Lastly,
memory plays strange tricks with all of us, as you will know if
you try to think of the face of any one who has been dead for
more than twenty years. For the rest, the voice seemed similar,
the beads and ornaments seemed similar, and the figure repeated
to me certain words which I thought I alone had heard come from
the lips of her who is dead. Also she gave me a strange message
from another who is dead, referring to a matter which I believed
was known only to me and that other. Yet Zikali is very clever
and may have learned these things in some way unguessed by me,
and what he has learned, others may have learned also. King and
Councillors, I do not think that what we saw was the spirit of
Mameena. I think it a woman not unlike to her who had been
taught her lesson. I have nothing more to say, and therefore I
pray you not to ask me any further questions about Mameena of
whose name I grow weary."
At this point Zikali seemed to wake out of his indifference, or
his torpor, for he looked up and said darkly--
"It is strange that the cleverest are always those who first fall
into the trap. They go along, gazing at the stars at night, and
forget the pit which they themselves have dug in the morning.
Now the wrangling broke out afresh. The peace party pointed
triumphantly to the fact that I, the white man who ought to know,
put no faith in this apparition, which was therefore without
doubt a fraud. The war party on the other hand declared that I
was deceiving them for reasons of my own, one of which would be
that I did not wish to see the Zulus eat up my people. So fierce
grew the debate that I thought it would end in blows and perhaps
in an attack on myself or Zikali who all the while sat quite
careless and unmoved, staring at the moon. At length Cetewayo
shouted for silence, spitting, as was his habit when angry.
"Make an end," he cried, "lest I cause some of you to grow quiet
for ever," whereon the recriminations ceased. "Opener of Roads,"
he went on, "many of those who are present think like Macumazahn
here, that you are but an old cheat, though whether or no I be
one of these I will not say. They demand a sign of you that none
can dispute, and I demand it also before I speak the word of
peace or war. Give us then that sign or begone to whence you
came and show your face no more at Ulundi."
"What sign does the Council require, Son of Panda?" asked Zikali
quietly. "Let them agree on one together and tell me now at
once, for I who am old grow weary and would sleep. Then if it
can be given I will give it; and if I cannot give it, I will get
me back to my own house and show my face no more at Ulundi, who
do not desire to listen again to fools who babble like contending
waters round a stone and yet never stir the stone because they
run two ways at once."
Now the Councillors stared at each other, for none knew what sign
to ask. At length old Sigananda said--
"O King, it is well known that the Black One who went before you
had a certain little assegai handled with the royal red wood,
which drank the blood of many. It was with this assegai that
Mopo his servant, who vanished from the land after the death of
Dingaan, let out the life of the Black One at the kraal Duguza,
but what became of it afterwards none have heard for certain.
Some say that it was buried with the Black One, some that Mopo
stole it. Others that Dingaan and Umhlagana burned it. Still a
saying rose like a wind in the land that when that spear shall
fall from heaven at the feet of the king who reigns in the place
of the Black One, then the Zulus shall make their last great war
and win a victory of which all the world shall hear. Now let the
Opener of Roads give us this sign of the falling of the Black
One's spear and I shall be content."
"Would you know the spear if it fell?" asked Cetewayo.
"I should know it, O King, who have often held it in my hand.
The end of the haft is gnawed, for when he was angry the Black
One used to bite it. Also a thumb's length from the blade is a
black mark made with hot iron. Once the Black One made a bet
with one of his captains that at a distance of ten paces he would
throw the spear deeper into the body of a chief whom he wished to
kill, than the captain could. The captain threw first, for I saw
him with my eyes, and the spear sank to that place on the shaft
where the mark is, for the Black One burned it there. Then the
Black One threw and the spear went through the body of the chief
who, as he died, called to him that he too should know the feel
of it in his heart, as indeed he did."
I think that Cetewayo was about to assent to this suggestion,
since he who desired peace believed it impossible that Zikali
should suddenly cause this identical spear to fall from heaven.
But Umnyamana, the Prime Induna, interposed hurriedly--
"It is not enough, O King. Zikali may have stolen the spear, for
he was living and at the kraal Duguza at that time. Also he may
have put about the prophecy whereof Sigananda speaks, or at least
so men would say. Let him give us a greater sign than this that
all may be content, so that whether we make war or peace it may
be with a single mind. Now it is known that we Zulus have a
guardian spirit who watches over us from the skies, she who is
called Nomkubulwana, or by some the Inkosazana-y-Zulu, the
Princess of Heaven. It is known also that this Princess, who is
white of skin and ruddy-haired, appears always before great
things happen in our land. Thus she appeared before the Black
One died. Also she appeared to a number of children before the
battle of the Tugela. It is said, too, that but lately she
appeared to a woman near the coast and warned her to cross the
Tugela because there would be war, though this woman cannot now
be found. Let the Opener of Roads call down Nomkubulwana before
our eyes from heaven and we will admit, every man of us, that
this is a sign which cannot be questioned."
"And if he does this thing, which I hold no doctor in the world
can do, what shall it signify?" asked Cetewayo.
"O King," answered Umnyamana, "if he does so, it shall signify
war and victory. If he does not do so, it shall signify peace,
and we will bow our heads before the Amalungwana basi bodwe"
(i.e. "the little English," used as a term of derision).
"Do all agree?" asked Cetewayo.
"We agree," answered every man, stretching out his hand.
"Then, Opener of Roads, it stands thus: If you can call
Nomkubulwana, should there be such a spirit, to appear before our
eyes, the Council will take it as a sign that the Heavens direct
us to fight the English."
So spoke Cetewayo, and I noted a tone of triumph in his voice,
for his heart shrank from this war, and he was certain that
Zikali could do nothing of the sort. Still the opinion of the
nation, or rather of the army, was so strong in favour of it that
he feared lest his refusal might bring about his deposition, if
not his death. From this dilemma the supernatural test suggested
by the Prime Minister and approved by the Council that
represented the various tribes of people, seemed to offer a path
of escape. So I read the situation, as I think rightly.
Upon hearing these words for the first time that night Zikali
seemed to grow disturbed.
"What do my ears hear?" he exclaimed excitedly. "Am I the
Umkulukulu, the Great-Great (i.e. God) himself, that it should
be asked of me to draw the Princess of Heaven from beyond the
stars, she who comes and goes like the wind, but like the wind
cannot be commanded? Do they hear that if she will not come to
my beckoning, then the great Zulu people must put a yoke upon
their shoulders and be as slaves? Surely the King must have been
listening to the doctrines of those English teachers who wear a
white ribbon tied about their necks, and tell us of a god who
suffered himself to be nailed to a cross of wood, rather than
make war upon his foes, one whom they call the Prince of Peace.
Times have changed indeed since the days of the Black One. Yes,
generals have become like women; the captains of the impis are
set to milk the cows. Well, what have I to do with all this?
What does it matter to me who am so very old that only my head
remains above the level of the earth, the rest of me being buried
in the grave, who am not even a Zulu to boot, but a Dwandwe, one
of the despised Dwandwe whom the Zulus mocked and conquered?
"Hearken to me, Spirits of the House of Senzangacona"--here he
addressed about a dozen of Cetewayo's ancestors by name, going
back for many generations. "Hearken to me, O Princess of Heaven,
appointed by the Great-Great to be the guardian of the Zulu race.
It is asked that you should appear, should it be your wish to
signify to these your children that they must stand upon their
feet and resist the white men who already gather upon their
borders. And should it be your wish that they should lay down
their spears and go home to sleep with their wives and hoe the
gardens while the white men count the cattle and set each to his
work upon the roads, then that you should not appear. Do what
you will, O Spirits of the House of Senzangacona, do what you
will, O Princess of Heaven. What does it matter to the
Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born, who soon will be as
though he never had been born, whether the House of Senzangacona
and the Zulu people stand or fall?
"I, the old doctor, was summoned here to give counsel. I gave
counsel, but it passed over the heads of these wise ones like a
shadow of which none took note. I was asked to prophesy of what
would chance if war came. I called the dead from their graves;
they came in voices, and one of them put on the flesh again and
spoke from the lips of flesh. The white man to whom she spoke
denied her who had been his love, and the wise ones said that she
was a cheat, yes, a doll that I had dressed up to deceive them.
This spirit that had put on flesh, told of what would chance in
the war, if war there were, and what would chance to the King,
but they mock at the prophecy and now they demand a sign. Come
then. Nomkubulwana, and give them the sign if you will and let
there be war. Or stay away and give them no sign if you will,
and let there be peace. It is nought to me, nought to the
Thus he rambled on, as it occurred to me who watched and
listened, talking against time. For I observed that while he
spoke a cloud was passing over the face of the moon, and that
when he ceased speaking it was quite obscured by this cloud, so
that the Vale of Bones was plunged in a deep twilight that was
almost darkness. Further, in a nervous kind of way, he did
something more to his wizard's fire which again caused it to
throw out a fan of smoke that hid him and the execution rock in
front of which he sat.
The cloud floated by and the moon came out as though from an
eclipse; the smoke of the fire, too, thinned by degrees. As it
melted and the light grew again, I became aware that something
was materializing, or had appeared on the point of the rock above
us. A few seconds later, to my wonder and amazement, I perceived
that this something was the spirit-like form of a white woman
which stood quite still upon the very point of the rock. She was
clad in some garment of gleaming white cut low upon her breast,
that may have been of linen, but from the way it shone, suggested
that it was of glittering feathers, egrets' for instance. Her
ruddy hair was outspread, and in it, too, something glittered,
like mica or jewels. Her feet and milk-hued arms were bare and
poised in her right hand was a little spear.
Nor did I see alone, since a moan of fear and worship went up
from the Councillors. Then they grew silent stared and stared.
Suddenly Zikali lifted his head and looked at them through the
thin flame of the fire which made his eyes shine like those of a
tiger or of a cornered baboon.
"At what do you gaze so hard, King and Councillors?" he asked.
"I see nothing. At what then do you gaze so hard?"
"On the rock above you stands a white spirit in her glory. It is
the Inkosazana herself," muttered Cetewayo.
"Has she come then?" mocked the old wizard. "Nay, surely it is
but a dream, or another of my tricks; some black woman painted
white that I have smuggled here in my medicine bag, or rolled up
in the blanket on my back. How can I prove to you that this is
not another cheat like to that of the spirit of Mameena whom the
white man, her lover, did not know again? Go near to her you
must not, even if you could, seeing that if by chance she should
_not_ be a cheat, you would die, every man of you, for woe to him
whom Nomkubulwana touches. How then, how? Ah! I have it.
Doubtless in his pocket Macumazahn yonder hides a little gun,
Macumazahn who with such a gun can cut a reed in two at thirty
paces, or shave the hair from the chin of a man, as is well known
in the land. Let him then take his little gun and shoot at that
which you say stands upon the rock. If it be a black woman
painted white, doubtless she will fall down dead, as so many have
fallen from that rock. But if it be the Princess of Heaven, then
the bullet will pass through her or turn aside and she will take
no harm, though whether Macumazahn will take any harm is more
than I can say."
Now when they heard this many remained silent, but some of the
peace party began to clamour that I should be ordered to shoot at
the apparition. At length Cetewayo seemed to give way to this
pressure. I say seemed, because I think he wished to give way.
Whether or not a spirit stood before him, he knew no more than
the rest, but he did know that unless the vision were proved to
be mortal he would be driven into war with the English.
Therefore he took the only chance that remained to him.
"Macumazahn," he said, "I know you have your pistol on you, for
only the other day you brought it into my presence, and through
light and darkness you nurse it as a mother does her firstborn.
Now since the Opener of Roads desires it, I command you to fire
at that which seems to stand above us. If it be a mortal woman,
she is a cheat and deserves to die. If it be a spirit from
heaven it can take no harm. Nor can you take harm who only do
that which you must."
"Woman or spirit, I will not shoot, King," I answered.
"Is it so? What! do you defy me, White Man? Do so if you will,
but learn that then your bones shall whiten here in this Vale of
Bones. Yes, you shall be the first of the English to go below,"
and turning, he whispered something to two of the Councillors.
Now I saw that I must either obey or die. For a moment my mind
grew confused in face of this awful alternative. I did not
believe that I saw a spirit. I believed that what stood above me
was Nombe cunningly tricked out with some native pigments which
at that distance and in that light made her look like a white
woman. For oddly enough at that time the truth did not occur to
me, perhaps because I was too surprised. Well, if it were Nombe,
she deserved to be shot for playing such a trick, and what is
more her death, by revealing the fraud of Zikali, would perhaps
avert a great war. But then why did he make the suggestion that
I should be commanded to fire at this figure? Slowly I drew out
my pistol and brought it to the full cock, for it was loaded.
"I will obey, King," I said, "to save myself from being murdered.
But on your head be all that may follow from this deed."
Then it was for the first time that a new idea struck me so
clearly that I believe it was conveyed direct from Zikali's brain
to my own. _I might shoot, but there was no need for me to hit._
After that everything grew plain.
"King," I said, "if yonder be a mortal, she is about die. Only a
spirit can escape my aim. Watch now the centre of her forehead,
for there the bullet will strike!"
I lifted the pistol and appeared to cover the figure with much
care. As I did so, even from that distance I thought I saw a
look of terror in its eyes. Then I fired, with a little jerk of
the wrist sending the ball a good yard above her head.
"She is unharmed," cried a voice. "Macumazahn missed her."
"Macumazahn does not miss," I replied loftily. "If that at which
he aimed is unharmed, it is because it cannot be hit."
"O-ho-o!" laughed Zikali, "the White Man who does not know the
taste of his own love's lips, says that he has fired at that
which cannot be hit. Let him try again. No, let him choose
another target. The Spirit is the Spirit, but he who summoned
her may still be a cheat. There is another bullet in your little
gun, White Man; see if it can pierce the heart of Zikali, that
the King and Council may learn whether he be a true prophet, the
greatest of all the prophets that ever was, or whether he be but
a common cheat."
Now a sudden rage filled me against this old rascal. I
remembered how he had brought Mameena to her death, when he
thought that it would serve him, and since then filled the land
with stories concerning her and me, which met me whatever way I
turned. I remembered that for years he had plotted to bring
about the destruction of the Zulus, and to further his dark ends,
was now engaged in causing a fearful war which would cost the
lives of thousands. I remembered that he had trapped me into
Zululand and then handed me over to Cetewayo, separating me from
my friends who were in my charge, and for aught I knew, giving
them to death. Surely the world would be well rid of him.
"Have your will," I shouted and covered him with the pistol.
Then there came into my mind a certain saying--"Judge not that ye
be not judged." Who and what was I that I should dare to arraign
and pass sentence upon this man who after all had suffered many
wrongs? As I was about to fire I caught sight of some bright
object flashing towards the king from above, and instantaneously
shifted my aim and pressed the trigger. The thing, whatever it
might be, flew in two. One part of it fell upon Zikali, the
other part travelled on and struck Cetewayo upon the knee.
There followed a great confusion and a cry of "The king is
stabbed!" I ran forward to look and saw the blade of a little
assegai lying on the ground and on Cetewayo's knee a slight cut
from which blood trickled.
"It is nothing," I said, "a scratch, no more, though had not the
spear been stopped in its course it might have been otherwise."
"Yes," cried Zikali, "but what was it that caused the cut? Take
this, Sigananda, and tell me what it may be," and he threw
towards him a piece of red wood.
Sigananda looked at it. "It is the haft of the Black One's
spear," he exclaimed, "which the bullet of Macumazahn has severed
from the blade."
"Aye," said Zikali, "and the blade has drawn the blood of the
Black One's child. Read me this omen, Sigananda; or ask it of
her who stands above you."
Now all looked to the rock, but it was empty. The figure had
"Your word, King," said Zikali. "Is it for peace or war?"
Cetewayo looked at the assegai, looked at the blood trickling
from his knee, looked at the faces of the councillors.
"Blood calls for blood," he moaned. "My word is--_War!_"
KAATJE BRINGS NEWS
Zikali burst into one of his peals of laughter, so unholy that
it caused the blood in me to run cold.
"The King's word is _war_," he cried. "Let Nomkubulwana take
that word back to heaven. Let Macumazahn take it to the White
Men. Let the captains cry it to the regiments and let the world
grow red. The King has chosen, though mayhap, had I been he, I
should have chosen otherwise; yet what am I but a hollow reed
stuck in the ground up which the spirits speak to men? It is
finished, and I, too, am finished for a while. Farewell, O King!
Where shall we meet again, I wonder? On the earth or under it?
Farewell, Macumazahn, I know where we shall meet, though you do
not. O King, I return to my own place, I pray you to command
that none come near me or trouble me with words, for I am spent."
"It is commanded," said Cetewayo.
As he spoke the fire went out mysteriously, and the wizard rose
and hobbled off at a surprising pace round the corner of the
"Stay!" I called, "I would speak with you;" but although I am
sure he heard me, he did not stop or look round.
I sprang up to follow him, but at some sign from Cetewayo two
indunas barred my way.
"Did you not hear the King's command, White Man?" one of them
asked coldly, and the tone of his question told me that war
having been declared, I was now looked upon as a foe. I was
about to answer sharply when Cetewayo himself addressed me.
"Macumazahn," he said, "you are now my enemy, like all your
people, and from sunrise to-morrow morning your safe-conduct here
ends, for if you are found at Ulundi two hours after that time,
it will be lawful for any man to kill you. Yet as you are still
my guest, I will give you an escort to the borders of the land.
Moreover, you shall take a message from me to the Queen's
officers and captains. It is--that I will send an answer to
their demands upon the point of an assegai. Yet add this, that
not I but the English, to whom I have always been a friend,
sought this war. If Sompseu had suffered me to fight the Boers
as I wished to do, it would never have come about. But he threw
the Queen's blanket over the Transvaal and stood upon it, and now
he declares that lands which were always the property of the
Zulus, belong to the Boers. Therefore I take back all the
promises which I made to him when he came hither to call me King
in the Queen's name, and no more do I call him my father. As for
the disbanding of my impis, let the English disband them if they
can. I have spoken.
"And I have heard," I answered, "and will deliver your words
faithfully, though I hold, King, that they come from the lips of
one whom the Heavens have made mad."
At this bold speech some of the Councillors started up with
threatening gestures. Cetewayo waved them back and answered
quietly, "Perhaps it was the Queen of Heaven who stood on yonder
rock who made me mad. Or perhaps she made me wise, as being the
Spirit of our people she should surely do. That is a question
which the future will decide, and if ever we should meet after it
is decided, we will talk it over. Now, hamba gachle! (go in
"I hear the king and I will go, but first I would speak with
"Then, White Man, you must wait till this war is finished or till
you meet him in the Land of Spirits. Goza, lead Macumazahn back
to his hut and set a guard about it. At the dawn a company of
soldiers will be waiting with orders to take him to the border.
You will go with him and answer for his safety with your life.
Let him be well treated on the road as my messenger."
Then Cetewayo rose and stood while all present gave him the royal
salute, after which he walked away down the kloof. I remained
for a moment, making pretence to examine the blade of the little
assegai that had been thrown by the figure on the rock, which I
had picked from the ground. This historical piece of iron which
I have no doubt is the same that Chaka always carried, wherewith,
too, he is said to have killed his mother, Nandie, by the way I
still possess, for I slipped it into my pocket and none tried to
take it from me.
Really, however, I was wondering whether I could in any way gain
access to Zikali, a problem that was settled for me by a sharp
request to move on, uttered in a tone which admitted of no
Well, I trudged back to my hut in the company of Goza, who was so
overcome by all the wonders he had seen that he could scarcely
speak. Indeed, when I asked him what he thought of the figure
that had appeared upon the rock, he replied petulantly that it
was not given to him to know whence spirits came or of what stuff
they were made, which showed me that he at any rate believed in
its supernatural origin and that it had appeared to direct the
Zulus to make war. This was all I wanted to find out, so I said
nothing more, but gave up my mind to thought of my own position
Here I was, ordered on pain of death to depart from Ulundi at the
dawn. And yet how could I obey without seeing Zikali and
learning from him what had happened to Anscombe and Heda, or at
any rate without communicating with him? Once more only did I
break silence, offering to give Goza a gun if he would take a
message from me to the great wizard. But with a shake of his big
head, he answered that to do so would mean death, and guns were
of no good to a dead man since, as I had shown myself that night,
they had no power to shoot a spirit.
This closed the business on which I need not have troubled to
enter, since an answer to all my questionings was at hand.
We reached the hut where Goza gave me over to the guard of
soldiers, telling their officer that none were to be permitted to
enter it save myself and that I was not to be to permitted to
come out of it until he, Goza, came to fetch me a little before
The officer asked if any one else was to be permitted to come
out, a question that surprised me, though vaguely, for I was
thinking of other things. Then Goza departed, remarking that he
hoped I should sleep better than he would, who "felt spirits in
his bones and did not wish to kiss them as I seemed to like to
do." I replied facetiously, thinking of the bottle of brandy,
that ere long I meant to feel them in my stomach, whereat he
shook his head again with the air of one whom nothing connected
with me could surprise, and vanished.
I crawled into the hut and put the board over the bee-hole-like
entrance behind me. Then I began to hunt for the matches in my
pocket and pricked my finger with the point of Chaka's historical
assegai. While I was sucking it to my amazement I heard the
sound of some one breathing on the further side of the hut. At
first I thought of calling the guard, but on reflection found the
matches and lit the candle, which stood by the blankets that
served me as a bed. As soon as it burned up I looked towards the
sound, and to my horror perceived the figure of a sleeping woman,
which frightened me so much that I nearly dropped the candle.
To tell the truth, so obsessed was I with Zikali and his ghosts
that for a few moments it occurred to me that this might be the
Shape with which I had talked an hour or two before. I mean that
which had seemed to resemble the long-dead lady Mameena, or
rather the person made up to her likeness, come here to continue
our conversation. At any rate I was sure, and rightly, that here
was more of the handiwork of Zikali who wished to put me in some
dreadful position for reasons of his own.
Pulling myself together I advanced upon the lady, only to find
myself no wiser, since she was totally covered by a kaross. Now
what was to be done? To escape, of which of course I had thought
at once, was impossible since it meant an assegai in my ribs. To
call to the guard for help seemed indiscreet, for who knew what
those fools might say? To kick or shake her would undoubtedly be
rude and, if it chanced to be the person who had played Mameena,
would certainly provoke remarks that I should not care to face.
There seemed to be only one resource, to sit down and wait till
she woke up.
This I did for quite a long time, till at last the absurdity of
the position and, I will admit, my own curiosity overcame me,
especially as I was very tired and wanted to go to sleep. So
advancing most gingerly, I turned down the kaross from over the
head of the sleeping woman, much wondering whom I should see, for
what man is there that a veiled woman does not interest? Indeed,
does not half the interest of woman lie in the fact that her
nature is veiled from man, in short a mystery which he is always
seeking to solve at his peril, and I might add, never succeeds in
Well, I turned down that kaross and next instant stepped back
amazed and, to tell the truth, somewhat disappointed, for there,
with her mouth open, lay no wondrous and spiritual Mameena, but
the stout, earthly and most prosaic--Kaatje!
"Confound the woman!" thought I to myself. "What is she doing
Then I remembered how wrong it was to give way to a sense of
romantic disappointment at such a time, though as a matter of
fact it is always in a moment of crisis or of strained nerves
that we are most open to the insidious advances of romance. Also
that there was no one on earth, or beyond it, whom I ought more
greatly to have rejoiced to see. I had left Kaatje with Anscombe
and Heda; therefore Kaatje could tell me what had become of them.
And at this thought my heart sank--why was she here in this most
inappropriate meeting-place, alone? Feeling that these were
questions which must be answered at once, I prodded Kaatje in the
ribs with my toe until, after a good deal of prodding, she awoke,
sat up and yawned, revealing an excellent set of teeth in her
cavernous, quarter-cast mouth. Then perceiving a man she opened
that mouth even wider, as I thought with the idea of screaming
for help. But here I was first with her, for before a sound
could issue I had filled it full with the corner of the kaross,
exclaiming in Dutch as I did so--
"Idiot of a woman, do you not know the Heer Quatermain when you
"Oh! Baas," she answered, "I thought you were some wicked Zulu
come to do me a mischief." Then she burst into tears and sobs
which I could not stop for at least three minutes.
"Be quiet, you fat fool!" I cried exasperated, "and tell me,
where are your mistress and the Heer Anscombe?"
"I don't know, Baas, but I hope in heaven" (Kaatje was some kind
of a Christian), she replied between her sobs.
"In heaven! What do you mean?" I asked, horrified.
"I mean, Baas, that I hope they are in heaven, because when last
I saw them they were both dead, and dead people must be either in
heaven or hell, and heaven, they say, is better than hell."
"_Dead!_ Where did you see them dead?"
"In that Black Kloof, Baas, some days after you left us and went
away. The old baboon man who is called Zikali gave us leave
through the witch-girl, Nombe, to go also. So the Baas Anscombe
set to work to inspan the horses, the Missie Heda helping him,
while I packed the things. When I had nearly finished Nombe
came, smiling like a cat that has caught two mice, and beckoned
to me to follow her. I went and saw the cart inspanned with the
four horses all looking as though they were asleep, for their
heads hung down. Then after she had stared at me for a long
while Nombe led me past the horses into the shadow of the
overhanging cliff. There I saw my mistress and the Baas Anscombe
lying side by side quite dead."
"How do you know that they were dead?" I gasped. "What had
"I know that they were dead because they _were_ dead, Baas.
Their mouths and eyes were open and they lay upon their backs
with their arms stretched out. The witch-girl, Nombe, said some
Kaffirs had come and strangled them and then gone away again, or
so I understood who cannot speak Zulu so very well. Who the
Kaffirs were or why they came she did not say."
"Then what did you do?" I asked.
I ran back to the hut, Baas, fearing lest I should be strangled
also, and wept there till I grew hungry. When I came out of it
again they were gone. Nombe showed me a place under a tree where
the earth was disturbed. She said that they were buried there by
order of her master, Zikali. I don't know what became of the
horses or the cart."
"And what happened to you afterwards?"
"Baas, I was kept for several days, I cannot remember how many,
and only allowed out within the fence round the huts. Nombe came
to see me once, bringing this," and she produced a package sewn
up in a skin. "She said that I was to give it to you with a
message that those whom you loved were quite safe with One who is
greater than any in the land, and therefore that you must not
grieve for them whose troubles were over. I think it was two
nights after this that four Zulus came, two men and two women,
and led me away, as I thought to kill me. But they did not kill
me; indeed they were very kind to me, although when I spoke to
them they pretended not to understand. They took me a long
journey, travelling for the most part in the dark and sleeping in
the day. This evening when the sun set they brought me through a
Kaffir town and thrust me into the hut where I am without
speaking to any one. Here, being very tired, I went to sleep,
and that is all."
And quite enough too, thought I to myself. Then I put her
through a cross-examination, but Kaatje was a stupid woman
although a good and faithful servant, and all her terrible
experiences had not sharpened her intelligence. Indeed, when I
pressed her she grew utterly confused, began to cry, thereby
taking refuge in the last impregnable female fortification, and
snivelled out that she could not bear to talk of her dear
mistress any more. So I gave it up, and two minutes later she
was literally snoring, being very tired, poor thing.
Now I tried to think matters out as well as this disturbance
would allow, for nothing hinders thought so much as snores. But
what was the use of thinking? There was her story to take or to
leave, and evidently the honest creature believed what she said.
Further, how could she be deceived on such a point? She swore
that she had seen Anscombe and Heda dead and afterwards had seen
Moreover, there was confirmation in Nombe's message which could
not well have been invented, that spoke of their being well in
the charge of a "Great One," a term by which the Zulus designate
God, with all their troubles finished. The reason and manner of
their end were left unrevealed. Zikali might have murdered them
for his own purposes, or the Zulus might have killed them in
obedience to the king's order that no white people in the land
were to be allowed to live. Or perhaps the Basutos from
Sekukuni's country, with whom the Zulus had some understanding,
had followed and done them to death; indeed the strangling
sounded more Basuto than Zulu--if they were really strangled.
Almost overcome though I was, I bethought me of the package and
opened it, only to find another apparent proof of their end, for
it contained Heda's jewels as I had found them in the bag in the
safe; also a spare gold watch belonging to Anscombe with his
coat-of-arms engraved upon it. That which he wore was of silver
and no doubt was buried with him, since for superstitious reasons
the natives would not have touched anything on his person after
death. This seemed to me to settle the matter, presumptively at
any rate, since to show that robbery was not the cause of their
murder, their most valuable possessions which were not upon their
persons had been sent to me, their friend.
So this was the end of all my efforts to secure the safety and
well-being of that most unlucky pair. I wept when I thought of
it there in the darkness of the hut, for the candle had burned
out, and going on to my knees, put up an earnest prayer for the
welfare of their souls; also that I might be forgiven my folly in
leading them into such danger. And yet I did it for the best,
trying to judge wisely in the light of such experience of the
world as I possessed.
Now alas! when I am old I have come to the conclusion that those
things which one tries to do for the best one generally does
wrong, because nearly always there is some tricky fate at hand to
mar them, which in this instance was named Zikali. The fact is,
I suppose, that man who thinks himself a free agent, can scarcely
be thus called, at any rate so far as immediate results are
concerned. But that is a dangerous doctrine about which I will
say no more, for I daresay that he is engaged in weaving a great
life-pattern of which he only sees the tiniest piece.
One thing comforted me a little. If these two were dead I could
now leave Zululand without qualms. Of course I was obliged to
leave in any case, or die, but somehow that fact would not have
eased my conscience. Indeed I think that had I believed they
still lived, in this way or in that I should have tried not to
leave, because I should have thought it for the best to stay to
help them, whereby in all human probability I should have brought
about my own death without helping them at all. Well, it had
fallen out otherwise and there was an end. Now I could only hope
that they had gone to some place where there are no more
troubles, even if, at the worst, it were a place of rest too deep
Musing thus at last I dozed off, for I was so tired that I think
I should have slept although execution awaited me at the dawn
instead of another journey. I did not sleep well because of that
snoring female on the other side of the hut whose presence
outraged my sense of propriety and caused me to be invaded by
prophetic dreams of the talk that would ensue among those
scandalmongering Zulus. Yes, it was of this I dreamed, not of
the great dangers that threatened me or of the terrible loss of
my friends, perhaps because to many men, of whom I suppose I am
one, the fear of scandal or of being the object of public notice,
is more than the fear of danger or the smart of sorrow.
So the night wore away, till at length I woke to see the gleam of
dawn penetrating the smoke-hole and dimly illuminating the
recumbent form of Kaatje, which to me looked most unattractive.
Presently I heard a discreet tapping on the doorboard of the hut
which I at once removed, wriggling swiftly through the hole,
careless in my misery as to whether I met an assegai the other
side of it or not. Without a guard of eight soldiers was
standing, and with them Goza, who asked me if I were ready to
"Quite," I answered, "as soon as I have saddled my horse," which
by the way had been led up to the hut.
Very soon this was done, for I brought out most of my few
belongings with me and the bag of jewels was in my pocket. Then
it was that the officer of the guard, a thin and
melancholy-looking person, said in a hollow voice, addressing
himself to Goza--
"The orders are that the White Man's wife is to go with him.
Where is she?"
"Where a man's wife should be, in his hut I suppose," answered
Rage filled me at the words. Seldom do I remember being so
"Yes," I said, "if you mean that Half-cast whom someone has
thrust upon me, she is in there. So if she is to come with us,
perhaps you will get her out."
Thus adjured the melancholy-looking captain, who was named
Indudu, perhaps because he or his father had longed to the Dudu
regiment, crawled into the hut, whence presently emerged sounds
not unlike those which once I heard when a ringhals cobra
followed a hare that I had wounded into a hole, a muffled sound
of struggling and terror. These ended in the sudden and violent
appearance of Kaatje's fat and dishevelled form, followed by that
of the snakelike Indudu.
Seeing me standing there before a bevy of armed Zulus, she
promptly fell upon my neck with a cry for help, for the silly
woman thought she was going to be killed by them. Gripping me as
an octopus grips its prey, she proceeded to faint, dragging me to
my knees beneath the weight of eleven stone of solid flesh.
"Ah!" said one of the Zulus not unkindly, "she is much afraid for
her husband whom she loves."
Well, I disentangled myself somehow, and seizing what I took to
be a gourd of water in that dim light, poured it over her head,
only to discover too late that it was not water but clotted milk.
However the result was the same, for presently she sat up, made a
dreadful-looking object by this liberal application of curds and
whey, whereon I explained matters to her to the best of my power.
The end of it was that after Indudu and Goza had wiped her down
with tufts of thatch dragged from the hut and I had collected her
gear with the rest of my own, we set her on the horse
straddlewise, and started, the objects of much interest among
such Zulus as were already abroad.
At the gate of the town there was a delay which made me nervous,
since in such a case as mine delay might always mean a
death-warrant. I knew that it was quite possible Cetewayo had
changed, or been persuaded to change his mind and issue a command
that I should be killed as one who had seen and knew too much.
Indeed this fear was my constant companion during all the long
journey to the Drift of the Tugela, causing me to look askance at
every man we met or who overtook us, lest he should prove to be a
messenger of doom.
Nor were these doubts groundless, for as I learned in the after
days, the Prime Minister, Umnyamana, and others had urged
Cetewayo strongly to kill me, and what we were waiting for at the
gate were his final orders on the subject. However, in this
matter, as in more that I could mention, the king played the part
of a man of honour, and although he seemed to hesitate for
reasons of policy, never had any intention of allowing me to be
harmed. On the contrary the command brought was that any one who
harmed Macumazahn, the king's guest and messenger, should die
with all his House.
Whilst we tarried a number of women gathered round us whose
conversation I could not help overhearing. One of them said to
"Look at the white man, Watcher-by-Night, who can knock a fly off
an ox's horn with a bullet from further away than we could see
it. He it was who loved and was loved by the witch Mameena,
whose beauty is still famous in the land. They say she killed
herself for his sake, because she declared that she would never
live to grow old and ugly, so that he turned away from her. My
mother told me all about it only last night."
Then you have a liar for a mother, thought I to myself, for to
contradict such a one openly would have been undignified.
"Is it so?" asked one of her friends, deeply interested. "Then
the lady Mameena must have had a strange taste in men, for this
one is an ugly little fellow with hair like the grey ash of
stubble and a wrinkled face of the colour of a flayed skin that
has lain unstretched in the sun. However, I have been told that
witches always love those who look unnatural."
"Yes," said Number one," but you see now that he is old he has to
be satisfied with a different sort of wife. She is not
beautiful, is she, although she has dipped her head in milk to
make herself look white?"
So it went on till at length a runner arrived and whispered
something to Indudu who saluted, showing me that it was a royal
message, and ordered us to move. Of this I was glad, for had I
stopped there much longer, I think I should have personally
assaulted those gossiping female idiots.
Of our journey through Zululand there is nothing particular to
say. We saw but few people, since most of the men had been
called up to the army, and many of the kraals seemed to be
deserted by the women and children who perhaps were hidden away
with the cattle. Once, however, we met an impi about five
thousand strong, that seemed to cover the hillside like a herd of
game. It consisted of the Nodwengu and the Nokenke regiments,
both of which afterwards fought at Isandhlwana. Some of their
captains with a small guard came to see who we were, fine,
fierce-looking men. They stared at me curiously, and with one of
them, whom I knew, I had a little talk. He said that I was the
last white man in Zululand and that I was lucky to be alive, for
soon these, and he pointed to the hordes of warriors who were
streaming past, would eat up the English to "the last bone." I
answered that this remained to be seen, as the English were also
great eaters, whereat he laughed, replying, that it was true that
the white men had already taken the first bite--a very little
one, from which I gathered that some small engagement had
"Well, farewell, Macumazahn," he said, as he turned to go, "I
hope that we shall meet in the battle, for I want to see if you
can run as well as you can shoot."
This roused my temper and I answered him--
"I hope for your sake that we shall not meet, for if we do I
promise that before I run I will show you what you never saw
before, the gateway of the world of Spirits."
I mention this conversation because by some strange chance it
happened at Isandhlwana that I killed this man, who was named
During all those days of trudging through hot suns and
thunderstorms, for I had to give up the mare to Kaatje who was
too fat to walk, or said she was, I was literally haunted by
thoughts of my murdered friends. Heaven knows how bitterly I
reproached myself for having brought them into Zululand. It
seemed so terribly sad that these young people who loved each
other and had so bright a future before them, should have escaped
from a tragic past merely to be overwhelmed by such a fate.
Again and again I questioned that lump Kaatje as to the details
of their end and of all that went before and followed after the
But it was quite useless; indeed, as time went on she seemed to
become more nebulous on the point as though a picture were fading
from her mind. But as to one thing she was always quite clear,
that she had seen them dead and had seen their new-made grave.
This she swore "by God in Heaven," completing the oath with an
outburst of tears in a way that would have carried conviction to
any jury, as it did to me.
And after all, what was more likely in the circumstances? Zikali
had killed them, or caused them to be killed; or possibly they
were killed in spite of him in obedience to the express, or
general, order of the king, if the deed was not done by the
Basutos. And yet an idea occurred to me. How about the woman on
the rock that the Zulus thought was their Princess of the
Heavens? Obviously this must be nonsense, since no such deity
existed, therefore the person must either have been a white woman
or one painted up to resemble a white woman; seen from a distance
in moonlight it was impossible to say which. Now, if it were a
white woman, she might, from her shape and height and the colour
of her hair, be Heda herself. Yet it seemed incredible that
Heda, whom Kaatje had seen dead some days before, could be
masquerading in such a part and make no sign of recognition to
me, even when I covered her with my pistol, whereas that Nombe
would play it was likely enough.
Only then Nombe must be something of a quick-change artist since
but a little while before she was beyond doubt personating the
dead Mameena. If it were not so I must have been suffering from
illusions, for certainly I seemed to see some one who looked like
Mameena, and only Zikali, and through him Nombe, had sufficient
knowledge to enable her to fill that role with such success.
Perhaps the whole business was an illusion, though if so Zikali's
powers must be great indeed. But then how about the assegai that
Nomkubulwana, or rather her effigy, had seemed to hold and throw,
whereof the blade was at present in my saddle-bag. That at any
rate was tangible and real, though of course there was nothing to
prove that it had really been Chaka's famous weapon.
Another thing that tormented me was my failure to see Zikali. I
felt as though I had committed a crime in leaving Zululand
without doing this and hearing from his own lips--well, whatever
he chose to tell me. I forget if I said that while we were
waiting at the gate where those silly women talked so much
nonsense about Mameena and Kaatje, that I made another effort
through Goza to get into touch with the wizard, but quite without
avail. Goza only answered what he said before, that if I wished
to die at once I had better take ten steps towards the Valley of
Bones, whence, he added parenthetically, the Opener of Roads had
already departed on his homeward journey. This might or might
not be true; at any rate I could find no possible way of coming
face to face with him, or even of getting a message to his ear.
No, I was not to blame; I had done all I could, and yet in my
heart I felt guilty. But then, as cynics would, say, failure is
At length we came to the ford of the Tugela, and as fortunately
the water was just low enough, bade farewell to our escort before
crossing to the Natal side. My parting with Goza was quite
touching, for we felt that it partook of the nature of a deathbed
adieu, which indeed it did. I told him and the others that I
hoped their ends be easy, and that whether they met them by
bullets or by bayonet thrusts, the wounds would prove quickly
mortal so that they might not linger in discomfort or pain.
Recognizing my kind thought for their true welfare they thanked
me for it, though with no enthusiasm. Indudu, however, filled
with the spirit of repartee, or rather of "tu quoque", said in
his melancholy fashion that if he and I came face to face in war,
he would be sure to remember my words and to cut me up in the
best style, since he could not bear to think of me languishing on
a bed of sickness without my wife Kaatje to nurse me (they knew I
was touchy about Kaatje). Then we shook hands and parted.
Kaatje, hung round with paraphernalia like the White Knight in
"Alice through the Looking-glass," clinging to a cooking-pot and
weeping tears of terror, faced the foaming flood upon the mare,
while I grasped its tail.
When we were as I judged out of assegai shot, I turned, with the
water up to my armpits, and shouted some valedictory words.
"Tell your king," I said, "that he is the greatest fool in the
world to fight the English, since it will bring his country to
destruction and himself to disgrace and death, as at last, in the
words of your proverb, 'the swimmer goes down with the stream.'"
Here, as it happened, I slipped off the stone on which I was
standing and nearly went down with the stream myself.
Emerging with my mouth full of muddy water I waited till they had
done laughing and continued--
"Tell that old rogue, Zikali, that I know he has murdered my
friends and that when we meet again he and all who were in the
plot shall pay for it with their lives."
Now an irritated Zulu flung an assegai, and as the range proved
to be shorter than I thought, for it went through Kaatje's dress,
causing her to scream with alarm, I ceased from eloquence, and we
struggled on to the further bank, where at length we were safe.
Thus ended this unlucky trip of mine to Zululand.
We had crossed the Tugela by what is known as the Middle Drift.
A mile or so on the further side of it I was challenged by a
young fellow in charge of some mounted natives, and found that I
had stumbled into what was known as No. 2 Column, which consisted
of a rocket battery, three battalions of the Native Contingent
and some troops of mounted natives, all under the command of
Colonel Durnford, R.E..
After explanations I was taken to this officer's head-quarter
tent. He was a tall, nervous-looking man with a fair, handsome
face and long side-whiskers. One of his arms, I remember, was
supported by a sling, I think it had been injured in some Kaffir
fighting. When I was introduced to him he was very busy, having,
I understood from some one on his staff, just received orders to
"operate against Matshana."
Learning that I had come from Zululand and was acquainted with
the Zulus, he at once began to cross-examine me about Matshana, a
chief of whom he seemed to know very little indeed. I told him
what I could, which was not much, and before I could give him any
information of real importance, was shown out and most hospitably
entertained at luncheon, a meal of which I partook with gratitude
in some garments that I had borrowed from one of the officers,
while my own were set in the sun to dry. Well can I recall how
much I enjoyed the first whisky and soda that I had tasted since
I left "the Temple," and the good English food by which it was
Presently I remembered Kaatje, whom I had left outside with some
native women, and went to see what had happened to her. I found
her finishing a hearty meal and engaged in conversation with a
young gentleman who was writing in a notebook. Afterwards I
discovered that he was a newspaper correspondent. What she told
him and what he imagined, I do not know, but I may as well state
the results at once. Within a few days there appeared in one of
the Natal papers and, for aught I know, all over the earth, an
announcement that Mr. Allan Quatermain, a well-known hunter in
Zululand, after many adventures, had escaped from that country,
"together with his favourite native wife, the only survivor of
his extensive domestic establishment." Then followed some wild
details as to the murder of my other wives by a Zulu wizard
called "Road Mender, or Sick Ass" (i.e. Opener of Roads, or
Zikali), and so on.
I was furious and interviewed the editor, a mild and apologetic
little man, who assured me that the despatch was printed exactly
as it had been received, as though that bettered the case. After
this I commenced an action for libel, but as I was absent through
circumstances over which I had no control when it came on for
trial, the case was dismissed. I suppose the truth was that they
mixed me up with a certain well-known white man in Zululand, who
had a large "domestic establishment," but however this may be, it
was a long while before I heard the last of that "favourite
Later in the day I and Kaatje, who stuck to me like a burr,
departed from the camp.
The rest of our journey was uneventful, except for more
misunderstandings about Kaatje, one of which, wherein a clergyman
was concerned, was too painful to relate. At last we reached
Maritzburg, where I deposited Kaatje in a boarding-house kept by
another half-cast, and with a sigh of relief betook myself to the
Plough Hotel, which was a long way off her.
Subsequently she obtained a place as a cook at Howick, and for a
while I saw her no more.
At Maritzburg, as in duty bound, I called upon various persons in
authority and delivered Cetewayo's message, leaving out all
Zikali's witchcraft which would have sounded absurd. It did not
produce much impression as, hostilities having already occurred,
it was superfluous. Also no one was inclined to pay attention to
the words of one who was neither an official nor a military
officer, but a mere hunter supposed to have brought a native wife
out of Zululand.
I did, however, report the murder of Anscombe and Heda, though in
such times this caused no excitement, especially as they were not
known to the officials concerned with such matters. Indeed the
occurrence never so much as got into the papers, any more than
did the deaths of Rodd and Marnham on the borders of Sekukuni's