Part 6 out of 7
country. When people are expecting to be massacred themselves,
they do not trouble about the past killing of others far away.
Lastly, I posted Marnham's will to the Pretoria bank, advising
them that they had better keep it safely until some claim arose,
and deposited Heda's jewels and valuables in another branch of
the same bank in Maritzburg with a sealed statement as to how
they came into my possession.
These things done, I found it necessary to turn myself to the
eternal problem of earning my living. I am a very rich man now
as I write these reminiscences here in Yorkshire--King Solomon's
mines made me that--but up to the time of my journey to Kukuana
Land with my friends, Curtis and Good, although plenty of money
passed through my hands on one occasion and another, little of it
ever seemed to stick. In this way or that it was lost or melted;
also I was not born one to make the best of his opportunities in
the way of acquiring wealth. Perhaps this was good for me, since
if I had gained the cash early I should not have met with the
experiences, and during our few transitory years, experience is
of more real value than cash. It may prepare us for other things
beyond, whereas the mere possession of a bank balance can prepare
us for nothing in a land where gold ceases to be an object of
worship as it is here. Yet wealth is our god, not knowledge or
wisdom, a fact which shows that the real essence of Christianity
has not yet permeated human morals. It just runs over their
surface, no more, and for every eye that is turned towards the
divine Vision, a thousand are fixed night and day upon Mammon's
Now I owned certain wagons and oxen, and just then the demand for
these was keen. So I hired them out to the military authorities
for service in the war, and incidentally myself with them. I
drove what I considered a splendid bargain with an officer who
wrote as many letters after his name as a Governor-General, but
was really something quite humble. At least I thought it
splendid until outside his tent I met a certain transport rider
of my acquaintance whom I had always looked upon as a perfect
fool, who told me that not half an hour before he had got twenty
per cent. more for unsalted oxen and very rickety wagons.
However, it did not matter much in the end as the whole outfit
was lost at Isandhlwana, and owing to the lack of some formality
which I had overlooked, I never recovered more than a tithe of
their value. I think it was that I neglected to claim within a
certain specified time.
At last my wagons were laden with ammunition and other Government
goods and I trekked over awful roads to Helpmakaar, a place on
the Highlands not far from Rorke's Drift where No. 3 Column was
stationed. Here we were delayed awhile, I and my wagons having
moved to a ford of the Buffalo, together with many others. It
was during this time that I ventured to make very urgent
representations to certain highly placed officers, I will not
mention which, as to the necessity of laagering, that is, forming
fortified camps, as soon as Zululand was entered, since from my
intimate knowledge of its people I was sure that they would
attack in force. These warnings of mine were received with the
most perfect politeness and offers of gin to drink, which all
transport riders were supposed to love, but in effect were
treated with the contempt that they were held to deserve. The
subject is painful and one on which I will not dwell. Why should
I complain when I know that cautions from notable persons such as
Sir Melmoth Osborn, and J. J. Uys, a member of one the old Dutch
fighting families, met with a like fate.
By the way it was while I was waiting on the banks of the river
that I came across an old friend of mine, a Zulu named Magepa,
with whom I had fought at the battle of the Tugela. A few days
later this man performed an extraordinary feat in saving his
grandchild from death by his great swiftness in running, whereof
I have preserved a note somewhere or other.
Ultimately on January 11 we received our marching orders and
crossed the river by the drift, the general scheme of the
campaign being that the various columns were to converge upon
Ulundi. The roads, if so they can be called, were in such a
fearful state that it took us ten days to cover as many miles.
At length we trekked over a stony nek about five hundred yards in
width. To the right of us was a stony eminence and to our left,
its sheer brown cliffs of rock rising like the walls of some
cyclopean fortress, the strange, abrupt mount of Isandhlwana,
which reminded me of a huge lion crouching above the
hill-encircled plain beyond. At the foot of this isolated mount,
whereof the aspect somehow filled me with alarm, we camped on the
night of January 21, taking no precautions against attack by way
of laagering the wagons. Indeed the last thing that seemed to
occur to those in command was that there would be serious
fighting; men marched forward to their deaths as though they were
going on a shooting-party, or to a picnic. I even saw cricketing
bats and wickets occupying some of the scanty space upon the
Now I am not going to set out all the military details that
preceded the massacre of Isandhlwana, for these are written in
history. It is enough to say that on the night of January 21,
Major Dartnell, who was in command of the Natal Mounted Police
and had been sent out to reconnoitre the country beyond
Isandhlwana, reported a strong force of Zulus in front of us.
Thereon Lord Chelmsford, the General-in-Chief, moved out from the
camp at dawn to his support, taking with him six companies of the
24th regiment, together with four guns and the mounted infantry.
There were left in the camp two guns and about eight hundred
white and nine hundred native troops, also some transport riders
such as myself and a number of miscellaneous camp-followers. I
saw him go from between the curtains of one of my wagons where I
had made my bed on the top of a pile of baggage. Indeed I had
already dressed myself at the time, for that night I slept very
ill because I knew our danger, and my heart was heavy with fear.
About ten o'clock in the morning Colonel Durnford, whom I have
mentioned already, rode up with five hundred Natal Zulus, about
half of whom were mounted, and two rocket tubes which, of course,
were worked by white men. This was after a patrol had reported
that they had come into touch with some Zulus on the left front,
who retired before them. As a matter of fact these Zulus were
foraging in the mealie fields, since owing to the drought food
was very scarce in Zululand that year and the regiments were
hungry. I happened to see the meeting between Colonel Pulleine,
a short, stout man who was then in command of the camp, and
Colonel Durnford who, as his senior officer, took it over from
him, and heard Colonel Pulleine say that his orders were "to
defend the camp," but what else passed between them I do not
Presently Colonel Durnford saw and recognized me.
"Do you think the Zulus will attack us, Mr. Quatermain?" he said.
"I don't think so, Sir," I answered, "as it is the day of the new
moon which they hold unlucky. But to-morrow it may be
Then he gave certain orders, dispatching Captain George Shepstone
with a body of mounted natives along the ridge to the left, where
presently they came in contact with the Zulus about three miles
away, and making other dispositions. A little later he moved out
to the front with a strong escort, followed by the rocket
battery, which ultimately advanced to a small conical hill on the
left front, round which it passed, never to return again.
Just before he started Colonel Durnford, seeing me still standing
there, asked me if I would like to accompany him, adding that as
I knew the Zulus so well I might be useful. I answered,
Certainly, and called to my head driver, a man named Jan, to
bring me my mare, the same that I had ridden out of Zululand,
while I slipped into the wagon and, in addition to the beltful
that I wore, filled all my available pockets with cartridges for
my double-barrelled Express rifle.
As I mounted I gave Jan certain directions about the wagon and
oxen, to which he listened, and then to my astonishment held out
his hand to me, saying--
"Good-bye, Baas. You have been a kind master to me and I thank
"Why do you say that?" I asked.
"Because, Baas, all the Kaffirs declare that the great Zulu impi
will be on to us in an hour or two and eat up every man. I can't
tell how they know it, but so they swear."
"Nonsense," I answered, "it is the day of new moon when the Zulus
don't fight. Still if anything of the sort should happen, you
and the other boys had better slip away to Natal, since the
Government must pay for the wagons and oxen."
This I said half joking, but it was a lucky jest for Jan and the
rest of my servants, since they interpreted it in earnest and
with the exception of one of them who went back to get a gun, got
off before the Zulu horn closed round the camp, and crossed the
river in safety.
Next moment I was cantering away after Colonel Durnford, whom I
caught up about a quarter of a mile from the camp.
Now of course I did not see all of the terrible battle that
followed and can only tell of that part of it in which I had a
share. Colonel Durnford rode out about three and a half miles to
the left front, I really don't quite know why, for already we
were hearing firing on the top of the Nqutu Hills almost behind
us, where Captain Shepstone was engaging the Zulus, or so I
believe. Suddenly we met a trooper of the Natal Carabineers
whose name was Whitelaw, who had been out scouting. He reported
that an enormous impi was just ahead of us seated in an umkumbi,
or semi-circle, as is the fashion of the Zulus before they
charge. At least some of them, he said, were so seated, but
others were already advancing.
Presently these appeared over the crest of the hill, ten thousand
of them I should say, and amongst them I recognized the shields
of the Nodwengu, the Dududu, the Nokenke and the Ingoba-makosi
regiments. Now there was nothing to be done except retreat, for
the impi was attacking in earnest. The General Untshingwayo,
together with Undabuko, Cetewayo's brother, and the chief Usibebu
who commanded the scouts, had agreed not to fight this day for
the reason I have given, because it was that of the new moon, but
circumstances had forced their hand and the regiments could no
longer be restrained. So to the number of twenty thousand or
more, say one-third of the total Zulu army, they hurled
themselves upon the little English force that, owing to lack of
generalship, was scattered here and there over a wide front and
had no fortified base upon which to withdraw.
We fell back to a donga which we held for a little while, and
then as we saw that there we should presently be overwhelmed,
withdrew gradually for another two miles or so, keeping off the
Zulus by our fire. In so doing we came upon the remains of the
rocket battery near the foot of the conical hill I have
mentioned, which had been destroyed by some regiment that passed
behind us in its rush on the camp. There lay all the soldiers
dead, assegaied through and through, and I noticed that one young
fellow who had been shot through the head, still held a rocket in
Now somewhat behind and perhaps half a mile to the right of this
hill a long, shallow donga runs across the Isandhlwana plain.
This we gained, and being there reinforced by about fifty of the
Natal Carabineers under Captain Bradstreet, held it for a long
while, keeping off the Zulus by our terrible fire which cut down
scores of them every time they attempted to advance. At this
spot I alone killed from twelve to fifteen of them, for if the
big bullet from my Express rifle struck a man, he did not live.
Messengers were sent back to the camp for more ammunition, but
none arrived, Heaven knows why. My own belief is that the
reserve cartridges were packed away in boxes and could not be got
at. At last our supply began to run short, so there was nothing
to be done except retreat upon the camp which was perhaps half a
mile behind us.
Taking advantage of a pause in the Zulu advance which had lain
down while waiting for reserves, Colonel Durnford ordered a
retirement that was carried out very well. Up to that time we
had lost only quite a few men, for the Zulu fire was wild and
high and they had not been able to get at us with the assegai.
As we rode towards the mount I observed that firing was going on
in all directions, especially on the nek that connected it with
the Nqutu range where Captain Shepstone and his mounted Basutos
were wiped out while trying to hold back the Zulu right horn.
The guns, too, were firing heavily and doing great execution.
After this all grew confused. Colonel Durnford gave orders to
certain officers who came up to him, Captain Essex was one and
Lieutenant Cochrane another. Then his force made for their
wagons to get more ammunition. I kept near to the Colonel and a
while later found myself with him and a large, mixed body of men
a little to the right of the nek which we had crossed in our
advance from the river. Not long afterwards there was a cry of
"The Zulus are getting round us!" and looking to the left I saw
them pouring in hundreds across the ridge that joins Isandhlwana
Mountain to the Nqutu Range. Also they were advancing straight
on to the camp.
Then the rout began. Already the native auxiliaries were
slipping away and now the others followed. Of course this battle
was but a small affair, yet I think that few have been more
terrible, at any rate in modern times. The aspect of those
plumed and shielded Zulus as they charged, shouting their
war-cries and waving their spears, was awesome. They were mown
down in hundreds by the Martini fire, but still they came on, and
I knew that the game was up. A maddened horde of fugitives,
mostly natives, began to flow past us over the nek, making for
what was afterwards called Fugitives' Drift, nine miles away, and
with them went white soldiers, some mounted, some on foot.
Mingled with all these people, following them, on either side of
them, rushed Zulus, stabbing as they ran. Other groups of
soldiers formed themselves into rough squares, on which the
savage warriors broke like water on a rock, By degrees ammunition
ran out; only the bayonet remained. Still the Zulus could not
break those squares. So they took another counsel. Withdrawing
a few paces beyond the reach of the bayonets, they overwhelmed
the soldiers by throwing assegais, then rushed in and finished
This was what happened to us, among whom were men of the 24th,
Natal Carabineers and Mounted Police. Some had dismounted, but I
sat on my horse, which stood quite still, I think from fright,
and fired away so long as I had any ammunition. With my very
last cartridge I killed the Captain Indudu who had been in charge
of the escort that conducted me to the Tugela. He had caught
sight of me and called out--
"Now, Macumazahn, I will cut you up nicely as I promised."
He got no further in his speech, for at that moment I sent an
Express bullet through him and his tall, melancholy figure
doubled up and collapsed.
All this while Colonel Durnford had been behaving as a British
officer should do. Scorning to attempt flight, whenever I looked
round I caught sight of his tall form, easy to recognize by the
long fair moustaches and his arm in a sling, moving to and fro
encouraging us to stand firm and die like men. Then suddenly I
saw a Kaffir, who carried a big old smooth-bore gun, aim at him
from a distance of about twenty yards, and fire. He went down,
as I believe dead, and that was the end of a very gallant officer
and gentleman whose military memory has in my opinion been most
unjustly attacked. The real blame for that disaster does not
rest upon the shoulders of either Colonel Durnford or Colonel
After this things grew very awful. Some fled, but the most stood
and died where they were. Oddly enough during all this time I
was never touched. Men fell to my right and left and in front of
me; bullets and assegais whizzed past me, yet I remained quite
unhurt. It was as though some Power protected me, which no doubt
At length when nearly all had fallen and I had nothing left to
defend myself with except my revolver, I made up my mind that it
was time to go. My first impulse was to ride for the river nine
miles away. Looking behind me I saw that the rough road was full
of Zulus hunting down those who tried to escape. Still I thought
I would try it, when suddenly there flashed across my brain the
saying of whoever it was that personated Mameena in the Valley of
Bones, to the effect that in the great rout of the battle I was
not to join the flying but to set my face towards Ulundi and that
if I did so I should be protected and no harm would come to me.
I knew that all this prophecy was but a vain thing fondly
imagined, although it was true that the battle and the rout had
come. And yet I acted on it--why Heaven knows alone.
Setting the spurs to my horse I galloped off past Isandhlwana
Mount, on the southern slopes of which a body of the 24th were
still fighting their last fight, and heading for the Nqutu Range.
The plain was full of Zulus, reserves running up; also to the
right of me the Ulundi and Gikazi divisions were streaming
forward. These, or some of them, formed the left horn of the
impi, but owing to the unprepared nature of the Zulu battle, for
it must always be remembered that they did not mean to fight that
day, their advance had been delayed until it was too late for
them entirely to enclose the camp. Thus the road, if it can so
be called, to Fugitives' Drift was left open for a while, and by
it some effected their escape. It was this horn, or part of it,
that afterwards moved on and attacked Rorke's Drift, with results
disastrous to itself.
For some hundreds of yards I rode on thus recklessly, because
recklessness seemed my only chance. Thrice I met bodies of
Zulus, but on each occasion they scattered before me, calling out
words that I could not catch. It was as though they were
frightened of something they saw about me. Perhaps they thought
that I was mad to ride thus among them. Indeed I must have
looked mad, or perhaps there was something else. At any rate I
believed that I was going to win right through them when an
A bullet struck my mare somewhere in the back. I don't know
where it came from, but as I saw no Zulu shoot, I think it must
have been one fired by a soldier who was still fighting on the
slopes of the mount. The effect of it was to make the poor beast
quite ungovernable. Round she wheeled and galloped at headlong
speed back towards the peak, leaping over dead and dying and
breaking through the living as she went. In two minutes we were
rushing up its northern flank, which seemed to be quite
untenanted, towards the sheer brown cliff which rose above it,
for the fighting was in progress on the other side. Suddenly at
the foot of this cliff the mare stopped, shivered and sank down
dead, probably from internal bleeding.
I looked about me desperately. To attempt the plain on foot
meant death. What then was I to do? Glancing at the cliff I saw
that there was a gully in it worn by thousands of years of
rainfall, in which grew scanty bushes. Into this I ran, and
finding it practicable though difficult, began to climb upwards,
quite unnoticed by the Zulus who were all employed upon the
further side. The end of it was that I reached the very crest of
the mount, a patch of bare, brown rock, except at one spot on its
southern front where there was a little hollow in which at this
rainy season of the year herbage and ferns grew in the
accumulated soil, also a few stunted, aloe-like plants.
Into this patch I crept, having first slaked my thirst from a
little pool of rain water that lay in a cup-like depression of
the rock, which tasted more delicious than any nectar, and seemed
to give me new life. Then covering myself as well as I could
with grasses and dried leaves from the aloe plants, I lay still.
Now I was right on the brink of the cliff and had the best view
of the Isandhlwana plain and the surrounding country that can be
imagined. From my lofty eyrie some hundreds of feet in the air,
I could see everything that happened beneath. Thus I witnessed
the destruction of the last of the soldiers on the slopes below.
They made a gallant end, so gallant that I was proud to be of the
same blood with them. One fine young fellow escaped up the peak
and reached a plateau about fifty feet beneath me. He was
followed by a number of Zulus, but took refuge in a little cave
whence he shot three or four of them; then his cartridges were
exhausted and I heard the savages speaking in praise of
him--dead. I think he was the last to die on the field of
The looting of the camp began; it was a terrible scene. The oxen
and those of the horses that could be caught were driven away,
except certain of the former which were harnessed to the guns and
some of the wagons and, as I afterwards learned, taken to Ulundi
in proof of victory. Then the slain were stripped and Kaffirs
appeared wearing the red coats of the soldiers and carrying their
rifles. The stores were broken into and all the spirits drunk.
Even the medical drugs were swallowed by these ignorant men, with
the result that I saw some of them reeling about in agony and
others fall down and go to sleep.
An hour or two later an officer who came from the direction in
which the General had marched, cantered right into the camp where
the tents were still standing and even the flag was flying. I
longed to be able to warn him, but could not. He rode up to the
headquarters marquee, whence suddenly issued a Zulu waving a
great spear. I saw the officer pull up his horse, remain for a
moment as though indecisive, then turn and gallop madly away,
quite unharmed, though one or two assegais were thrown and many
shots fired at him. After this considerable movements of the
Zulus went on, of which the net result was, that they evacuated
Now I hoped that I might escape, but it was not to be, since on
every side numbers of them crept up Isandhlwana Mountain and hid
behind rocks or among the tall grasses, evidently for purposes of
observation. Moreover some captains arrived on the little
plateau where was the cave in which the soldier had been killed,
and camped there. At least at sundown they unrolled their mats
and ate, though they lighted no fire.
The darkness fell and in it escape for me from that guarded place
was impossible, since I could not see where to set my feet and
one false step on the steep rock would have meant my death. From
the direction of Rorke's Drift I could hear continuous firing;
evidently some great fight was going on there, I wondered
vaguely--with what result. A little later also I heard the
distant tramp of horses and the roll of gun wheels. The captains
below heard it too and said one to another that it was the
English soldiers returning, who had marched out of the camp at
dawn. They debated one with another whether it would be possible
to collect a force to fall upon them, but abandoned the idea
because the regiments who had fought that day were now at a
distance and too tired, and the others had rushed forward with
orders to attack the white men on and beyond the river.
So they lay still and listened, and I too lay still and listened,
for on that cloudy, moonless night I could see nothing. I heard
smothered words of command. I heard the force halt because it
could not travel further in the gloom. Then they lay down, the
living among the dead, wondering doubtless if they themselves
would not soon be dead, as of course must have happened had the
Zulu generalship been better, for if even five thousand men had
been available to attack at dawn not one of them could have
escaped. But Providence ordained it otherwise. Some were taken
and the others left.
About an hour before daylight l heard them stirring again, and
when its first gleams came all of them had vanished over the nek
of slaughter, with what thoughts in their hearts, I wondered, and
to what fate. The captains on the plateau beneath had gone also,
and so had the circle of guards upon the slopes of the mount, for
I saw these depart through the grey mist. As the light gathered,
however, I observed bodies of men collecting on the nek, or
rather on both neks, which made it impossible for me to do what I
had hoped, and run to overtake the English troops. From these I
was utterly cut off. Nor could I remain longer without food on
my point of rock, especially as I was sure that soon some Zulus
would climb there to use it as an outlook post. So while I was
still more or less hidden by the mist and morning shadows, I
climbed down it by the same road that I had climbed up, and thus
reached the plain. Not a living man, white or black, was to be
seen, only the dead, only the dead. l was the last Englishman to
stand upon the plain of Isandhlwana for weeks or rather months to
Of all my experiences this was, I think, the strangest, after
that night of hell, to find myself alone upon this field of
death, staring everywhere at the distorted faces which on the
previous morn I had seen so full of life. Yet my physical needs
asserted themselves. I was very hungry, who for twenty-four
hours had eaten nothing, faint with hunger indeed. I passed a
provision wagon that had been looted by the Zulus. Tins of bully
beef lay about, also, among a wreck of broken glass, some bottles
of Bass's beer which had escaped their notice. I found an
assegai, cleaned it in the ground which it needed, and opening
one of the tins, lay down in a tuft of grass by a dead man, or
rather between him and some Zulus whom he had killed, and
devoured its contents. Also I knocked the tops off a couple of
the beer bottles and drank my fill. While I was doing this a
large rough dog with a silver-mounted collar on its neck, I think
of the sort that is called an Airedale terrier, came up to me
whining. At first I thought it was an hyena, but discovering my
mistake, threw it some bits of meat which it ate greedily.
Doubtless it had belonged to some dead officer, though there was
no name on the collar. The poor beast, which I named Lost, at
once attached itself to me, and here I may say that I kept it
till its death, which occurred of jaundice at Durban not long
before I started on my journey to King Solomon's Mines. No man
ever had a more faithful friend and companion.
When I had eaten and drunk I looked about me, wondering what I
should do. Fifty yards away I saw a stout Basuto pony still
saddled and bridled, although the saddle was twisted out of its
proper position, which was cropping the grass as well as it could
with the bit in its mouth. Advancing gently I caught it without
trouble, and led it back to the plundered wagon. Evidently from
the marks upon the saddlery it had belonged to Captain
Shepstone's force of mounted natives.
Here I filled the large saddlebags made of buckskin with tins of
beef, a couple more bottles of beer and a packet of tandstickor
matches which I was fortunate enough to find. Also I took the
Martini rifle from a dead soldier, together with a score or so of
cartridges that remained in his belt, for apparently he must have
been killed rather early in the fight.
Thus equipped I mounted the pony and once more bethought me of
escaping to Natal. A look towards the nek cured me of that idea,
for coming over it I saw the plumed heads of a whole horde of
warriors. Doubtless these were returning from the unsuccessful
attack on Rorke's Drift, though of that I knew nothing at the
time. So whistling to the dog I bore to the left for the Nqutu
Hills, riding as fast as the rough ground would allow, and in
half an hour was out of sight of that accursed plain.
One more thing too I did. On its confines I came across a group
of dead Zulus who appeared to have been killed by a shell.
Dismounting I took the headdress of one of them and put it on,
for I forgot to say that I had lost my hat. It was made of a
band of otterskin from which rose large tufts of the black
feathers of the finch which the natives call "sakabula." Also I
tied his kilt of white oxtails about my middle, precautions to
which I have little doubt I owe my life, since from a distance
they made me look like a Kaffir mounted on a captured pony.
Then I started on again, whither I knew not.
Now I have no intention of setting down all the details of that
dreadful journey through Zululand, even if I could recall them,
which, for a reason to be stated, I cannot do. I remember that
at first I thought of proceeding to Ulundi with some wild idea of
throwing myself on the mercy of Cetewayo under pretence that I
brought him a message from Natal. Within a couple of hours,
however, from the top of a hill I saw ahead of me an impi and
with it captured wagons, which was evidently heading for the
king's kraal. So as I knew what kind of a greeting these
warriors would give me, I bore away in another direction with the
hope of reaching the border by a circuitous route. In this too I
had no luck, since presently I caught sight of outposts stationed
upon rocks, which doubtless belonged to another impi or regiment.
Indeed one soldier, thinking from my dress that I also was a
Zulu, called to me for news from about half a mile away, in that
peculiar carrying voice which Kaffirs can command. I shouted
back something about victory and that the white men were wiped
out, then put an end to the conversation by vanishing into a
patch of dense bush.
It is a fact that after this I have only the dimmest recollection
of what happened. I remember off-saddling at night on several
occasions. I remember being very hungry because all the food was
eaten and the dog, Lost, catching a bush buck fawn, some of which
I partially cooked on a fire of dead wood, and devoured. Next I
remember--I suppose this was a day or two later--riding at night
in a thunderstorm and a particularly brilliant flash of lightning
which revealed scenery that seemed to be familiar to me, after
which came a shock and total unconsciousness.
At length my mind returned to me. It was reborn very slowly and
with horrible convulsions, out of the womb of death and terror.
I saw blood flowing round me in rivers, I heard the cries of
triumph and of agony. I saw myself standing, the sole survivor,
on a grey field of death, and the utter loneliness of it ate into
my soul, so that with all its strength it prayed that it might be
numbered in this harvest. But oh! it was so strong, that soul
which could not, would not die or fly away. So strong, that
then, for the first time, I understood its immortality and that
it could _never_ die. This everlasting thing still clung for a
while to the body of its humiliation, the mass of clay and nerves
and appetites which it was doomed to animate, and yet knew its
own separateness and eternal individuality. Striving to be free
of earth, still it seemed to walk the earth, a spirit and a
shadow, aware of the hatefulness of that to which it was chained,
as we might imagine some lovely butterfly to be that is fated by
nature to suck its strength from carrion, and remains unable to
soar away into the clean air of heaven.
Something touched my hand and I reflected dreamily that if I had
been still alive, for in a way I believed that I was dead, I
should have thought it was a dog's tongue. With a great effort I
lifted my arm, opened my eyes and looked at the hand against the
light, for there was light, to see it was so thin that this light
shone through between the bones. Then I let it fall again, and
lo! it rested on the head of a dog which went on licking it.
A dog! What dog? Now I remembered; one that I had found on the
field of Isandhlwana. Then I must be still alive. The thought
made me cry, for I could feel the tears run down my cheeks, not
with joy but with sorrow. I did not wish to go on living. Life
was too full of struggle and of bloodshed and bereavement and
fear and all horrible things. I was prepared to exchange my part
in it just for rest, for the blessing of deep, unending sleep in
which no more dreams could come, no more cups of joy could be
held to thirsting lips, only to be snatched away.
I heard something shuffling towards me at which the dog growled,
then seemed to slink away as though it were afraid. I opened my
eyes again, looked, and closed them once more in terror, for what
I saw suggested that perhaps I was dead after all and had reached
that hell which a certain class of earnest Christian promises to
us as the reward of the failings that Nature and those who begat
us have handed on to us as a birth doom. It was something
unnatural, grey-headed, terrific--doubtless a devil come to
torment me in the inquisition vaults of Hades. Yet I had known
the like when I was alive. How had it been called? I
remembered, "The-thing-that-never-should-have-been-born." Hark!
It was speaking in that full deep voice which was unlike to any
"Greeting, Macumazahn," it said. "I see that you have come back
from among the dead with whom you have been dwelling for a moon
and more. It is not wise of you, Macumazahn, yet I am glad who
have matched my skill against Death and won, for now you will
have much to tell me about his kingdom."
So it was Zikali--Zikali who had butchered my friends.
"Away from me, murderer!" I said faintly, "and let me die, or
kill me as you did the others."
He laughed, but very softly, not in his usual terrific fashion,
repeating the word "murderer" two or three times. Then with his
great hand he lifted my head gently as a woman might, saying--
"Look before you, Macumazahn."
I looked and saw that I was in some kind of a cave. Outside the
sun was setting and against its brightness I perceived two
figures, a white man and a white woman who were walking hand in
hand and gazing into each other's eyes. They were Anscombe and
Heda passing the mouth of the cave.
"Behold the murdered, O Macumazahn, dealer of hard words."
"It is only a trick," I murmured. "Kaatje saw them dead and
"Yes, yes, I forgot. The fat fool-woman saw them dead and
buried. Well, sometimes the dead come to life again and for good
purpose, as you should know, Macumazahn, who followed the counsel
of a certain Mameena and wandered here instead of rushing onto
the Zulu spears."
I tried to think the thing out and could not, so only asked--
"How did I come? What happened to me?"
"I think the sun smote you first who had no covering on your head
and the lightning smote you afterwards. Yet all the while that
reason had left you, One led your horse and after the Heavens had
tried to kill you and failed, perhaps because my magic was too
strong for them, One sent that beast which you found, yes, sent
it here to lead us to where you lay. There you were discovered
and brought hither. Now sleep lest you should go further than
even I can fetch you back again."
He held his hands above my head, seeming to grow in stature till
his white hair touched the roof of the cave, and in an instant I
fancied that I was falling away, deep, deep into a gulf of
There followed another period of dreaming, in which dreams I
seemed to meet all sorts of people, dead and living, especially
Lady Ragnall, a friend of mine with whom I had been concerned in
a very strange adventure among the Kendah people* and with whom
in days to come I was destined to be concerned again, although of
course I knew nothing of this, in a still stranger adventure of
what I may call a spiritual order, which I may or may not try to
reduce to writing. It seemed to me that I was constantly dining
with her tete-a-tete and that she told me all sorts of queer
things between the courses. Doubtless these illusions occurred
when I was fed.
[*--See the book called _The Ivory Child._--EDITOR.]
At length I woke up again, feeling much stronger, and saw the
dog, Lost, watching me with its great tender eyes--oh! they talk
of the eyes of women, but are they ever as beautiful as those of
a loving dog? It lay by my low bed-stead, a rough affair
fashioned of poles and strung with rimpis or strings of raw hide,
and by it, stroking its head, sat the witch-doctoress, Nombe. I
remember how pleasing she looked, a perfect type of the eternal
feminine with her graceful, rounded shape and her continual,
mysterious smile which suggested so much more than any mortal
woman has to give.
"Good-day to you, Macumazahn," she said in her gentle voice, "you
have gone through much since last we met on the night before Goza
took you away to Ulundi."
Now remembering all, I was filled with indignation against this
"The last time we met, Nombe," I said, "was when you played the
part of a woman who is dead in the Vale of Bones by the king's
She regarded me with a kindly commiseration, and answered,
shaking her head--
"You have been very ill, Macumazahn, and your spirit still tricks
you. I played the part of no woman in any valley by the king's
kraal, nor were my eyes rejoiced with the sight of you there or
elsewhere till they brought you to this place, so changed that I
should scarcely have known you."
"You little liar!" I said rudely.
"Do the white people always name those liars who tell them true
things they cannot understand?" she inquired with a sweet
innocence. Then without waiting for an answer, she patted my
hand as though I were a fretful child and gave me some soup in a
gourd, saying, "Drink it, it is good. The lady Heddana made it
herself in the white man's fashion."
I drank the soup, which was very good, and as I handed back the
"Kaatje has told me that the lady Heddana is dead. Can the dead
She considered the point while she threw some bits of meat out of
the bottom of the gourd to the dog, Lost, then replied--
"I do not know, Macumazahn, or indeed whether the dead eat as we
do. Next time my Spirit visits me I will make inquiry and tell
you the answer. But I do know that it is very strange that you,
who always turn your back upon the truth, are so ready to accept
falsehoods. Why should you believe that the lady Heddana is dead
just because Kaatje told you so, when I who am still alive had
sworn to you that I would protect her with my life? Nay, speak
no more now. To-morrow if you are well enough you shall see and
judge for yourself."
She drew up the kaross over me, again patted my hand in her
motherly fashion and departed, still smiling, after which I went
to sleep again, so dreamlessly that I think there was some native
soporific in that soup.
On the following day two of Zikali's servants who did the rougher
work of my sick room, if I may so call it, arrived and said that
they were going to carry me out of the cave for a while, if that
were my will. I who longed to breathe the fresh air again, said
that it was very much my will, whereon they grasped the rough
bedstead which I have described by either end and very carefully
bore me down the cave and through its narrow entrance, where they
set the bedstead in the shadow of the overhanging rock without.
When I had recovered a little, for even that short journey tired
me, I looked about me and perceived that as I had expected, I was
in the Black Kloof, for there in front of me were the very huts
which we had occupied on our arrival from Swazi-Land.
I lay a while drawing in the sweet air which to me was like a
draught of nectar, and wondering whether I were not still in a
dream. For instance, I wondered if I had truly seen the figures
of Anscombe and Heda pass the mouth of the cave, on that day when
I awoke, or if these were but another of Zikali's illusions
imprinted on my weakened mind by his will power. For of what he
and Nombe told me I believed nothing. Thus marvelling I fell
into a doze and in my doze heard whisperings. I opened my eyes
and lo! there before me stood Anscombe and Heda. It was she who
spoke the first, for I was tongue-tied; I could not open my lips.
"Dear Mr. Quatermain, dear Mr. Quatermain!" she murmured in her
sweet voice, then paused.
Now at last words came to me. "I thought you were both dead," I
said. "Tell me, are you really alive?"
She bent down and kissed my brow, while Anscombe took my hand.
"Now you know," she answered. "We are both of us alive and
"Thank God!" I exclaimed. "Kaatje swore that she saw you dead
"One sees strange things in the Black Kloof," replied Anscombe
speaking for the first time, "and much has happened to us since
we were parted, to which you are not strong enough to listen now.
When you are better, then we will tell you all. So grow well as
soon as you can."
After this I think I fainted, for when I came to myself again I
was back in the cave.
Another ten days or so went by before I could even leave my bed,
for my recovery was very slow. Indeed for weeks I could scarcely
walk at all, and six whole months passed before I really got my
strength again and became as I used to be. During those days I
often saw Anscombe and Heda, but only for a few minutes at a
time. Also occasionally Zikali would visit me, speaking a
little, generally about past history, or something of the sort,
but never of the war, and go away. At length one day he said to
"Macumazahn, now I am sure you are going to live, a matter as to
which I was doubtful, even after you seemed to recover. For,
Macumazahn, you have endured three shocks, of which to-day I am
not afraid to talk to you. First there was that of the battle of
Isandhlwana where you were the last white man left alive."
"How do you know that, Zikali?" I asked.
"It does not matter. I do know. Did you not ride through the
Zulus who parted this way and that before you, shouting what you
could not understand? One of them you may remember even saluted
with his spear."
"I did, Zikali. Tell me, why did they behave thus, and what did
"I shall not tell you, Macumazahn. Think over it for the rest of
your life and conclude what you choose; it will not be so
wonderful as the truth. At least they did so, as a certain doll
I dressed up yonder in the Vale of Bones told you they would, she
whose advice you followed in riding towards Ulundi instead of
back to the river where you would have met your death, like so
many others of the white people."
"Who was that doll, Zikali?"
"Nay, ask me not. Perhaps it was Nombe, perhaps another. I have
forgotten. I am very old and my memory begins to play me strange
tricks. Still I recollect that she was a good doll, so like a
dead woman called Mameena that I could scarcely have known them
apart. Ah! that was a great game I played in the Vale of Bones,
was it not, Macumazahn?"
"Yes, Zikali, yet I do not understand why it was played."
"Being so young you still have the impatience of youth,
Macumazahn, although your hair grows white. Wait a while and you
will understand all. Well, you lay that night on the topmost
rock of Isandhlwana, and there you saw and heard strange things.
You heard the rest of the white soldiers come and lie down to
rest among their dead brothers, and depart again unharmed. Oh!
what fools are these Zulu generals nowadays. They send out an
impi to attack men behind walls, spears against rifles, and are
defeated. Had they kept that impi to fall on the rest of the
English when they walked into the trap, not a man of your people
would have been left alive. Would that have happened in the time
"I think not, Zikali. Still I am glad that it did happen."
"I think not too, Macumazahn, but small men, small wit. Also
like you I am glad that it did not happen, since it is the Zulus
I hate, not the English who have now learned a lesson and will
not be caught again. Oh! many a captain in Zululand is to-day
flat as a pricked bladder, and even their victory, as they call
it, cost them dear. For, mind you, Macumazahn, for every white
man they killed two of them died. So, so! In the morning you
left the hill--do not look astonished, Macumazahn. Perhaps those
captains on the rock beneath you let you go for their own
purposes, or because they were commanded, for though weak I can
still lift a stone or two, Macumazahn, and afterwards told me all
about it. Then you found yourself alone among the dead, like the
last man in the world, Macumazahn, and that dog at your side,
also a horse came to you. Perhaps I sent them, perhaps it was a
chance. Who knows? Not I myself, for as I have said, my memory
has grown so bad. That was your first shock, Macumazahn, the
shock of standing alone among the dead like the last man in the
world. You felt it, did you not?"
"As I hope I shall never feel anything again. It nearly drove me
mad," I answered.
"Very nearly indeed, though I have felt worse things and only
laughed, as I would tell you, had I the time. Well, then the sun
struck you, for at this season of the year it is very hot in
those valleys for a white man with no covering to his head, and
you went quite mad, though fortunately the dog and the horse
remained as Heaven had made them. That was the second shock.
Then the storm burst and the lightning fell. It ran down the
rifle that you still carried, Macumazahn. I will show it to you
and you will see that its stock is shattered. Perhaps I turned
the flash aside, for I am a great thunder-herd, or perhaps it was
One mightier than I. That was the third shock, Macumazahn. Then
yon were found, still living--how, the white man, your friend,
will tell you. But you should cherish that dog of yours,
Macumazahn, for many a man might have served you worse. And
being strong, though small, or perhaps because you still have
work left to do in the world before you leave it for a while, you
have lived through all these things and will in time recover,
though not yet."
"I hope so, Zikali, though on the whole I am not sure that I wish
"Yes, you do, Macumazahn, because the religion of you white men
makes you fear death and what may come after it. You think of
what you call your sins and are afraid lest you should be
tortured because of them, not understanding that the spirit must
be judged not by what the flesh has done but by what the spirit
desired to do, by _will_ not by _deed,_ Macumazahn. The evil man
is he who wishes to do evil, not he who wishes to do good and
falls now and again into evil. Oh! I have hearkened to your
white teachers and I know, I know."
"Then by your own standard you are evil, Zikali, since you wished
to bring about war, and not in vain."
"Oho! Macumazahn, you think that, do you, who cannot understand
that what seems to be evil is often good. I wished to bring
about war and brought it about, and maybe what bred the wish was
all that I have suffered in the past. But say you, who have seen
what the Zulu Power means, who have seen men, women and children
killed by the thousand to feed that Power, and who have seen,
too, what the English Power means, is it evil that I should wish
to destroy the House of the Zulu kings that the English House may
take its place and that in a time to come the Black people may be
"You are clever, Zikali, but it is of your own wrongs that you
think. How about that skull which you kissed in the Vale of
"Mayhap, Macumazahn, but my wrongs are the wrongs of a nation,
therefore I think of the nation, and at least I do not fear death
like you white men. Now hearken. Presently your friends will
tell you a story. The lady Heddana will tell you how I made use
of her for a certain purpose, for which purpose indeed I drew the
three of you into Zululand, because without her I could not have
brought about this war into which Cetewayo did not wish to enter.
When you have heard that story, do not judge me too hardly,
Macumazahn, who had a great end to gain."
"Yet whatever the story may be, I do judge you hardly, Zikali,
who tormented me with a false tale, causing the woman Kaatje to
lie to me and swear that she saw these two dead before her--how I
"She did not lie to you, Macumazahn. Has not such a one as I the
power to make a fat fool think that she saw what she did not see?
As to how! How did I make you think in yonder hut of mine that
you saw what you did not see--perhaps."
"But why did you mock me in this fashion, Zikali?"
"Truly, Macumazahn, you are blind as a bat in sunlight. When
your friends have told you the story, you will understand why.
Yet I admit to you that things went wrong. You should have heard
that tale _before_ Cetewayo brought you to the Vale of Bones.
But the fool-woman delayed and blundered, and when she reached
Ulundi the gates were shut against her as a spy, and not opened
till too late, so that you only found her when you returned from
the Council. I knew this, and that was why I dared to bid you
fire at that which stood upon the rock. Had you heard Kaatje's
tale you might have aimed straight, as also you would have
certainly shot straight at me, out of revenge for the deaths of
those you loved, Macumazahn, though whether you could have killed
me before all the game is played is another matter. As it was, I
was sure that you would not pierce the heart of one who _might_
be a certain white woman, sure also that you would not pierce my
heart whose death _might_ bring about her death and that of
"You are very subtle, Zikali," I said in astonishment.
"So you hold because I am very simple, who understand the spirit
of man--and some other things. For the rest, had you not
believed that these two were dead, you would never have left
Zululand. You would have tried to escape to get to them and have
been killed. Is it not so?"
"Yes, I think I should have tried, Zikali. But why did you keep
"For the same reason that I still keep them--and you--to hold
them back a while from the world of ghosts. Had I sent them away
after that night of the declaration of war, they would have been
killed before they had gone an hour's journey. Oh! I am not so
bad as you think, Macumazahn, and I never break my word. Now I
"How goes the war?" I asked as he shuffled to his feet.
"As it must go, very ill for the Zulus. They have driven back
the white men who gather strength from over the Black Water and
will come on presently and wipe them out. Umnyamana would have
had Cetewayo invade Natal and sweep it clean, as of course he
should have done. But I sent him word that if he did so
Nomkubulwana, yes, she and no other, had told me that all the
spirits would be against him, and he hearkened. When next you
think me wicked, remember that, Macumazahn. Now it is but a
matter of time, and here you must bide till all is finished.
That will be good for you who need rest, though the other two
find it wearisome. Still for them it is good also to watch the
fruit ripen on their tree of love. It will be the sweeter when
they eat it, Macumazahn, and teach them how to live together.
Oho! Oho-ho!" and he shambled off.
That evening when I was lying on my bed outside the cave, I heard
the tale of Anscombe and Heda. Up to a certain point he told it,
then she went on with the story.
"On the morning after our arrival at this place, Allan," said
Anscombe, "I woke up to find you gone from the hut. As you did
not come back I concluded that you were with Zikali, and walked
about looking for you. Then food was brought to us and Heda and
I breakfasted together, after which we went to where we heard the
horses neighing and found that yours was gone. Returning, much
frightened, we met Nombe, who gave me your note which explained
everything, and we inquired of her why this had been done and
what was to become of us. She smiled and answered that we had
better ask the first question of the king and the second of her
master Zikali, and in the meanwhile be at peace since we were
"I tried to see Zikali but could not. Then I went to inspan the
horses with the idea of following you, only to find that they
were gone. Indeed I have not seen them from that day to this.
Next we thought of starting on foot, for we were quite desperate.
But Nombe intervened and told us that if we ventured out of the
Black Kloof we should be killed. In short we were prisoners.
"This went on for some days, during which we were well treated
but could not succeed in seeing Zikali. At length one morning he
sent for us and we were taken to the enclosure in front of his
hut, Kaatje coming with us as interpreter. For a while he sat
still, looking very grim and terrible. Then he said--
"'White Chief and Lady, you think ill of me because Macumazahn
has gone and you are kept prisoners here, and before all is done
you will think worse. Yet I counsel you to trust me since
everything that happens is for your good.'
"At this point Heda, who, as you know, talked Zulu fairly well,
though not so well as she does now, broke in, and said some very
angry things to him."
"Yes," interrupted Heda. "I told him that he was a liar and I
believed that he had murdered you and meant to murder us."
"He listened stonily," continued Anscombe, "and answered, 'I
perceive, Lady Heddana, that you understand enough of our tongue
to enable me to talk to you; therefore I will send away this
half-breed woman, since what I have to say is secret.'
"Then he called servants by clapping his hands and ordered them
to remove Kaatje, which was done.
"'Now, Lady Heddana,' he said, speaking very slowly so that Heda
might interpret to me and repeating his words whenever she did
not understand, 'I have a proposal to make to you. For my own
ends it is necessary that you should play a part and appear
before the king and the Council as the goddess of this land who
is called the Chieftainess of Heaven, which goddess is always
seen as a white woman. Therefore you must travel with me to
Ulundi and there do those things which I shall tell you.'
"'And if I refuse to play this trick,' said Heda, 'what then?'
"'Then, Lady Heddana, this white lord whom you love and who is to
be your husband will--die--and after he is dead you must still do
what I desire of you, or--die also.'
"'Would he come with me to Ulundi?' asked Heda.
"'Not so, Lady. He would stay here under guard, but quite safe,
and you will be brought back to him, safe. Choose now, with
death on the one hand and safety on the other. I would sleep a
little. Talk the matter over in your own tongue and when it is
settled awaken me again,' and he shut his eyes and appeared to go
"So we discussed the situation, if you can call it discussion
when we were both nearly mad. Heda wished to go. I begged her
to let me be killed rather than trust herself into the hands of
this old villain. She pointed out that even if I were killed,
which she admitted might not happen, she would still be in his
hands whence she could only escape by her own death, whereas if
she went there was a chance that we might both continue to live,
and that after all death was easy to find. So in the end I gave
way and we woke up Zikali and told him so.
"He seemed pleased and spoke to us gently, saying, 'I was sure
that wisdom dwelt behind those bright eyes of yours, Lady, and
again I promise you that neither you nor the lord your lover
shall come to any harm. Also that in payment I and my child,
Nombe, will protect you even with our lives, and further, that I
will bring back your friend, Macumazahn, to you, though not yet.
Now go and be happy together. Nombe will tell the lady Heddana
when she is to start. Of all this say nothing on your peril to
the woman Kaatje, since if you do, it will be necessary that she
should be made silent. Indeed, lest she should learn something,
to-morrow I shall send her on to await you at Ulundi, therefore
be not surprised if you see her go, and take no heed of aught she
may say in going. Nombe, my child, will fill her place as
servant to the lady Heddana and sleep with her at night that she
may not be lonely or afraid.'
"Then he clapped his hands again and servants came and conducted
us back to the huts. And now, Allan, Heda will go on with the
"Well, Mr. Quatermain," she said, "nothing more happened that day
which we spent with bursting hearts. Kaatje did not question us
as to what the witch-doctor had said after she was sent away.
Indeed I noticed that she was growing very stupid and drowsy,
like a person who has been drugged, as I daresay she was, and
would insist upon beginning to pack up the things in a foolish
kind of way, muttering something about our trekking on the
following day. The night passed as usual, Kaatje sleeping very
heavily by my side and snoring so much" (here I groaned
sympathetically) "that I could get little rest. On the next
morning after breakfast as the huts were very hot, Nombe
suggested that we should sit under the shadow of the overhanging
rock, just where we are now. Accordingly we went, and being
tired out with all our troubles and bad nights, I fell into a
doze, and so, I think, did Maurice, Nombe sitting near to us and
singing all the while, a very queer kind of song.
"Presently, through my doze as it were, I saw Kaatje approaching.
Nombe went to meet her, still singing, and taking her hand, led
her to the cart, where they seemed to talk to the horses, which
surprised me as there were no horses. Then she brought her round
the cart and pointed to us, still singing. Now Kaatje began to
weep and throw her hands about, while Nombe patted her on the
shoulder. I tried to speak to her but could not. My tongue was
tied, why I don't know, but I suppose because I was really
asleep, and Maurice also was asleep and did not wake at all."
"Yes," said Anscombe, "I remember nothing of all this business."
"After a while Kaatje went away, still weeping, and then I fell
asleep in earnest and did not wake until the sun was going down,
when I roused Maurice and we both went back to the hut, where I
found that Nombe had cooked our evening meal. I looked for
Kaatje, but could not find her. Also in searching through my
things I missed the bag of jewels. I called to Nombe and asked
where Kaatje was, whereon she smiled and said that she had gone
away, taking the bag with her. This pained me, for I had always
found Kaatje quite honest--"
"Which she is," I remarked, "for those jewels are now in a bank
Heda nodded and went on, "I am glad to hear it; indeed,
remembering what Zikali had said, I never really suspected her of
being a thief, but thought it was all part of some plan. After
this things went on as before, except that Nombe took Kaatje's
place and was with me day and night. Of Kaatje's disappearance
she would say nothing. Zikali we did not see.
"On the third evening after the vanishing of Kaatje, Nombe came
and said that I must make ready for a journey, and while she
spoke men arrived with a litter that had grass mats hung round
it. Nombe brought out my long cape and put it over me, also a
kind of veil of white stuff which she threw over my head, so as
to hide my face. I think it was made out of one of our
travelling mosquito nets. Then she said I must say good-bye to
Maurice for a while. There was a scene as you may imagine. He
grew angry and said that he would come with me, whereon armed men
appeared, six of them, and pushed him away with the handles of
their spears. In another minute I was lifted into the litter
which Nombe entered with me, and so we were parted, wondering if
we should ever see each other more. At the mouth of the kloof I
saw another litter surrounded by a number of Zulus, which Nombe
said contained Zikali.
"We travelled all that night and two succeeding nights, resting
during the day in deserted kraals that appeared to have been made
ready for us. It was a strange journey, for although the armed
men flitted about us, neither they nor the bearers ever spoke,
nor did I see Zikali, or indeed any one else. Only Nombe
comforted me from time to time, telling me there was nothing to
fear. Towards dawn on the third night we travelled over some
hills and I was put into a new hut and told that my journey was
done as we had reached a place near Ulundi.
"I slept most of the following day, but after I had eaten towards
evening, Zikali crept into the hut, just as a great toad might
do, and squatted down in front of me.
"'Lady,' he said, 'listen. To-night, perhaps one hour after
sundown, perhaps two, perhaps three, Nombe will lead you, dressed
in a certain fashion, from this hut. See now, outside of it
there is a tongue of rock up which you may climb unnoted by the
little path that runs between those big stones. Look,' and he
showed me the place through the door-hole. 'The path ends on a
flat boulder at the end of the rock. There you will take your
stand, holding in your right hand a little assegai which will be
given to you. Nombe will not accompany you to the rock, but she
will crouch between the stones at the head of the path and
perhaps from time to time whisper to you what to do. Thus when
she tells you, you must throw the little spear into the air, so
that it falls among a number of men gathered in debate who will
be seated about twenty paces from the rock. For the rest you are
to stand quite still, saying nothing and showing no alarm
whatever you may hear or see. Among the men before you may be
your friend, Macumazahn, but you must not appear to recognize
him, and if he speaks to you, you must make no answer. Even if
he should seem to shoot at you, do not be afraid. Do you
understand? If so, repeat what I have told you.' I obeyed him
and asked what would happen if I did not do these things, or some
"He answered, 'You will be killed, Nombe will be killed, the lord
Mauriti your lover will be killed, and your friend Macumazahn
will be killed. Perhaps even I shall be killed and we will talk
the matter over in the land of ghosts.'
"On hearing this I said I would do my best to carry out his
orders, and after making me repeat them once more, he went away.
Later, Nombe dressed me up as you saw me, Mr. Quatermain, put
some glittering powder into my hair and touched me beneath the
eyes with a dark kind of pigment. Also she gave me the little
spear and made me practise standing quite still with it raised in
my right hand, telling me that when I heard her say the word
'Throw,' I was to cast it into the air. Then the moon rose and
we heard men talking at a distance. At last some one came to the
hut and whispered to Nombe, who led me out to the little path
between the rocks.
"This must have been nearly two hours after I heard the men begin
"Excuse me," I interrupted, "but where was Nombe all those two
"With me. She never left my side, Mr. Quatermain, and while I
was on the rock she was crouched within three paces of me between
two big stones at the mouth of the path."
"Indeed," I replied faintly, "this is very interesting. Please
continue--but one word, how was Nombe dressed? Did she wear a
necklace of blue beads?"
"Just as she always is, or rather less so, for she had nothing on
except her moocha, and certainly no blue beads. But why do you
"From curiosity merely. I mean, I will tell you afterwards, pray
"Well, I stepped forward on to the rock and at first saw nothing,
because at that moment the moon was hid by a cloud; indeed Nombe
had waited for the cloud to pass over its face, before she thrust
me forward. Also some smoke from a fire below was rising
straight in front of me. Presently the cloud passed, the smoke
thinned, and I saw the circle of those savage men seated beneath,
and in their centre a great chief wearing a leopard's skin cloak
who I guessed was the king. You I did not see, Mr. Quatermain,
because you were behind a tree, yet I felt that you were there, a
friend among all those foes. I stood still, as I had been taught
to do, and heard the murmur of astonishment and caught the gleam
of the moonlight from the white feathers that were sewn upon my
"Then I heard also the voice of Zikali speaking from beneath. He
called on you to come out to shoot at me, and the man whom I took
to be the king, ordered you to obey. You appeared from behind
the tree, and I was certain from the look upon your face that at
that distance you did not know who I was in my strange and
glittering raiment. You lifted the pistol and I was terribly
afraid, for I had seen you shoot with it before on the verandah
of the Temple and knew well that you do not miss. Very nearly I
screamed out to you, but remembered and was silent, thinking that
after all it did not much matter if I died, except for the sake
of Maurice here. Also by now I guessed that I was being used to
deceive those men before me into some terrible act, and that if I
died, at least they would be undeceived.
"I thought that an age passed between the time you pointed the
pistol and I saw the flash for which I was waiting."
"You need not have waited, Heda," I interposed, "for if I had
really aimed at you you would never have seen that flash, at
least so it is said. I too guessed enough to shoot above you,
although at the time I did not know that it was you on the rock;
indeed I thought it was Nombe painted up."
"Yes, I heard the bullet sing over me. Then I heard the voice of
Zikali challenging you to shoot him, and to tell the truth, hoped
that you would do so. Just before you fired for the second time,
Nombe whispered to me--'Throw' and I threw the little red-handled
spear into the air. Then as the pistol went off Nombe
whispered--'Come.' I slipped away down the path and back with
her into the hut, where she kissed me and said that I had done
well indeed, after which she took off my strange robe and helped
me to put on my own dress.
"That is all I know, except that some hours later I was awakened
from sleep and put into the litter where I went to sleep again,
for what I had gone through tired me very much. I need not
trouble you with the rest, for we journeyed here in the same way
that we had journeyed to Ulundi--by night. I did not see Zikali,
but in answer to my questions, Nombe told me that the Zulus had
declared war against the English. What part in the business I
had played, she would not tell me, and I do not know to this
hour, but I am sure that it was a great one.
"So we came back to the Black Kloof, where I found Maurice quite
well, and now he had better go on with the tale, for if I begin
to tell you of our meeting I shall become foolish."
"There isn't much more to tell," said Anscombe, "except about
yourself. While Heda was away I was kept a prisoner and watched
day and night by Zikali's people who would not let me stir a
yard, but otherwise treated me kindly. Then one day at sunrise,
or shortly after it, Heda re-appeared and told me all this story,
for the end of which, as you may imagine, I thanked God.
"After that we just lived on here, happily enough since we were
together, until one day Nombe told us that there had been a great
battle in which the Zulus had wiped out the English, killing
hundreds and hundreds of them, although for every soldier that
they killed, they had lost two. Of course this made us very sad,
especially as we were afraid you might be with our troops. We
asked Nombe if you were present at the battle. She answered that
she would inquire of her Spirit and went through some very
strange performances with ashes and knuckle bones, after which
she announced that you had been in the battle but were alive and
coming this way with a dog that had silver on it. We laughed at
her, saying that she could not possibly know anything of the
sort, also that dogs as a rule did not carry silver. Whereon she
only smiled and said--'Wait.'
"I think it was three days later that one night towards dawn I
was awakened by hearing a dog barking outside my hut, as though
it wished to call attention to its presence. It barked so
persistently and in a way so unlike a Kaffir dog, that at length
about dawn I went out of the hut to see what was the matter.
There, standing a few yards away surrounded by some of Zikali's
people, I saw Lost and knew at once that it was an English
Airedale, for I have had several of the breed. It looked very
tired and frightened, and while I was wondering whence on earth
it could have come, I noticed that it had a silver-mounted collar
and remembered Nombe and her talk about you and a dog that
carried silver on it. From that moment, Allan, I was certain
that you were somewhere near, especially as the beast ran up to
me--it would take no notice of the Kaffirs--and kept looking
towards the mouth of the kloof, as though it wished me to follow
it. Just then Nombe arrived, and on seeing the dog looked at me
"'I have a message for you from my master, Mauriti,' she said to
me through Heda, who by now had arrived upon the scene, having
also been aroused by Lost's barking. 'It is that if you wish to
take a walk with a strange dog you can do so, and bring back
anything you may find.'"
"The end of it was that after we had fed Lost with milk and meat,
I and six of Zikali's men started down the kloof, Lost going
ahead of us and now and again running back and whining. At the
mouth of the kloof it led us over a hill and down into a
bush-veld valley where the thorns grew very thick. When we had
gone along the valley for about two miles, one of the Kaffirs saw
a Basuto pony still saddled, and caught it. The dog went on past
the pony to a tree that had been shattered by lightning, and
there within a few yards of the tree we found you lying
senseless, Allan, or, as I thought at first, dead, and by your
side a Martini rifle of which the stock also seemed to have been
broken by lightning.
"Well, we put you on a shield and carried you here, meeting no
one, and that is all the story, Allan."
He stopped and we stared at each other. Then I called Lost and
patted its head, and the dear beast licked my hand as though it
understood that it was being thanked.
"A strange tale," I said, "but God Almighty has put much wisdom
into His creatures of which we know nothing. Let us thank Him,"
and in our hearts we did.
Thus was I rescued from death by the intelligence and fidelity of
a four-footed creature. Doubtless in my semi-conscious state
that resulted from shock, weariness and sun-stroke, I had all the
while headed sub-consciously and without any definite object for
the Black Kloof. When I was within a few miles of it I was
stunned by the lightning which ran down the rifle to the ground,
though not actually struck. Then the dog, which had escaped,
played its part, wandering about the country to find help for me,
and so I was saved.
Now of the long months that followed I have little to tell. They
were not unhappy in their way, for week by week I felt myself
growing stronger, though very slowly. There was a path, steep,
difficult and secret, which could be gained through one of the
caves in the precipice, not that in which I slept. This path ran
up a water-cut kloof through a patch of thorns to a flat
tableland that was part of the Ceza stronghold. By it, when I
had gained sufficient strength, sometimes we used to climb to the
plateau, and there take exercise, It was an agreeable change from
the stifling atmosphere of the Black Kloof. The days were very
dull, for we were as much out of the world as though we had been
marooned on a desert island. Still from time to time we heard of
the progress of the war through Nombe, for Zikali I saw but
She told of disasters to the English, of the death of a great
young Chief who was deserted by his companions and died fighting
bravely--afterwards I discovered that this was the Prince
Imperial of France--of the advance of our armies, of defeats
inflicted upon Cetewayo's impis, and finally of the destruction
of the Zulus on the battlefield of Ulundi, where they hurled
themselves by thousands upon the British square, to be swept away
by case-shot and the hail of bullets. This battle, by the way,
the Zulus call, not Ulundi or Nodwengu, for it was fought in
front of Panda's old kraal of that name, but Ocwecweni, which
means--"the fight of the sheet-iron fortress." I suppose they
give it this name because the hedge of bayonets, flashing in the
sunlight, reminded them of sheet-iron. Or it may be because
these proved as impenetrable as would have done walls of iron.
At any rate they dashed their naked bodies against the storm of
lead and fell in heaps, only about a dozen of our men being
killed, as the little graveyard in the centre of the square
entrenchment, about which still lie the empty cartridge cases,
There, then, on that plain perished the Zulu kingdom which was
built up by Chaka.
Now it was after this event that I saw Zikali and begged him to
let us go. I found him triumphant and yet strangely disturbed
and, as I thought, more apprehensive than I had ever seen him.
"So, Zikali," I said, "if what I hear is true, you have had your
way and destroyed the Zulu people. Now you should be happy."
"Is man ever happy, Macumazahn, when he has gained that which he
sought for years? The two out there sigh and are sad because
they cannot be married after their own white fashion, though what
there is to keep them apart I do not know. Well, in time they
will be married, only to find that they are not so happy as they
thought they would be. Oh! a day will come when they will talk
to each other and say--'Those moons which we spent waiting
together in the Black Kloof were the true moons of sweetness, for
then we had something to gain; now we have gained all--and what
"So it is with me, Macumazahn. Since the Zulus under Chaka
killed out my people, the Ndwandwe, year by year I have plotted
and waited to see them wedded to the assegai. Now it has come
about. You white men have stamped them flat upon the plain of
Ulundi; they are no more a nation. And yet I am not happy, for
after all it was the House of Senzangacona and not the people of
the Zulus, that harmed me and mine, and Cetewayo still lives.
While the queen bee remains there may be a hive again. While an
ember still glows in the dead ashes, the forest may vet be fired.
Perhaps when Cetewayo is dead, then I shall be happy. Only his
death and mine are set by Fate as close together as two sister
grains of corn upon the cob."
I turned the subject, again asking his leave to depart to Natal
or to join the English army.
"You cannot go yet," he answered sternly, "so trouble me no more.
The land is full of wandering bands of Zulus who would kill you
and your blood would be on my head. Moreover, if they saw a
white woman who had sheltered with me, might they not guess
something? To dress a doll for the part of the Inkosazana-y-Zulu
is the greatest crime in the world, Macumazahn, and what would
happen to the Opener of Roads and all his House if it were even
breathed that he had dressed that doll and thus brought about the
war which ruined them? When Cetewayo is killed and the dead are
buried and peace falls upon the land, the peace of death, then
you shall go, Macumazahn, and not before."
"At least, Zikali, send a message to the captains of the English
army and tell them that we are here."
"Send a message to the hyenas and tell them where the carcase is;
send a message to the hunters and tell them where the buck Zikali
crouches on its form! Hearken, Macumazahn, if you do this, or
even urge me again to do it, neither you nor your friends shall
ever leave the Black Kloof. I have spoken."
Then understanding that the case was hopeless, I left him and he
glowered after me, for fear had made him cruel. He had won the
long game and success had turned to ashes in his mouth. Or
rather, he had not won--yet--since his war was against the House
of Senzangacona from which he and his tribe had suffered cruel
wrong. To pull it down he must pull down the Zulu nation; it was
like burning a city to destroy a compromising letter. He had
burnt the city, but the letter still remained intact and might be
produced in evidence against him. In other words Cetewayo yet
lived. Therefore his vengeance remained quite unslaked and his
danger was as great, or perhaps greater than it had ever been
before. For was he not the prophet who by producing the Princess
of Heaven, the traditional goddess of the Zulus, before the eyes
of the king and Council, had caused them to decide for war? And
supposing it were so much as breathed that this spirit which they
seemed to see, had been but a trick and a fraud, what then? He
would be tortured to death if his dupes had time, or torn limb
from limb if they had not, that is if he could die like other
men--a matter as to which personally I had no doubts.
Shortly after I left Zikali Heda and I ate our evening meal
together. Anscombe, as it chanced, had gone by the secret path
to the tableland of which I have spoken, where he amused himself,
as of course we were not allowed to fire a gun, by catching
partridges, with the help of an ingenious system of grass nets
which he had invented. There were springs on this tableland that
formed little pools of water, at which the partridges, also
occasionally guineafowl and bush pheasants, came to drink at
sunrise and sunset. Here it was that he set his nets and retired
to work them at those hours by means of strings that he pulled
from hiding-places. So Heda and I were alone.
I told her of my ill success with Zikali, at which she was much
disappointed. Then by an afterthought I suggested that perhaps
she might try to do something in the way of getting a message
through to the English camp at Ulundi, or elsewhere, by help of
the witch-doctoress, Nombe, adding that I would speak to her
myself had I not observe that I seemed to be out of favour with
her of late. Heda shook her head and answered that she thought
it would be useless to try, also too dangerous. Remembering
Zikali's threat, on reflection I agreed with her.
"Tell me, Mr. Quatermain," she added, "is it possible for one
woman to be in love with another?"
I stared at her and replied that I did not understand what she
meant, since women, so far as I had observed them, were generally
in love either with a man or with themselves, perhaps more often
with the latter than the former. Rather a cheap joke I admit,
with just enough truth in it to make it acceptable--in the Black
"So I thought," she answered, "but really Nombe behaves in a most
peculiar way. As you know she took a fancy to me from the
beginning, perhaps because she had never had any other woman with
whom to associate, having, so far as I can make out, been brought
up here among men from a child. Indeed, her story is that she
was one of twins and therefore as the younger, was exposed to die
according to the Zulu superstition. Zikali, however, or a
servant of his who knew what was happening, rescued and reared
her, so practically I am the only female with whom she has ever
been intimate. At any rate her affection for me has grown and
grown until, although it seems ungrateful to say so, it has
become something of a nuisance. She has told me again and again
that she would die to protect me, and that if by chance anything
happened to me, she would kill herself and follow me into another
world. She is continually making divinations about my future,
and as these, in which she entirely believes, always show me as
living without her, she is much distressed and at times bursts
"Hysteria! It is very common among the Zulu women, and
especially those of them who practise magic arts," I answered.
"Perhaps, but as it results in the most intense jealousy, Nombe's
hysteria is awkward. For instance, she is horribly jealous of
"The instincts of a chaperone developed early," I suggested
"That won't quite do, Mr. Quatermain," answered Heda with a
laugh, "since she is even more jealous of you. With reference to
Maurice, she explains frankly that if we marry she might, as she
puts it, 'continue to sit outside the hut,' but that in your case
you live 'in my head,' where she cannot come between you and me."
"Mad," I remarked, "quite mad. Still madness has to be dealt
with in this world like other things, and Nombe, being an
abnormal person, may suffer from abnormal ideas. It just amounts
to this; she has conceived a passionate devotion to you, at which
I am sure neither Maurice nor I can wonder."
"Are those the kind of compliments you used to pay in your youth,
Mr. Quatermain? I expect so, and now that you are old you cannot
stop them. Well, I thank you all the same, because perhaps you
mean what you say. But what is to be done about Nombe? Hush!
here she comes. I will leave you to reason with her, if you get
the chance," and she departed in a hurry.
Nombe arrived, and something in her aspect told me that I was
going to get the chance. Her eternal smile was almost gone and
her dark, beautiful eyes flashed ominously. Still she began by
asking in a mild voice whether the lady Heddana had eaten her
supper with appetite. It will be observed that she was not
interested in my appetite or whether enough was left for Anscombe
when he returned. I replied that so far as I noted she had
consumed about half a partridge, with other things.
"I am glad," said Nombe, "since I was not here to attend upon
her, having been summoned to speak with the Master."
Then she sat down and looked at me like a thunder storm.
"I nursed you when you, were so ill, Macumazahn," she began, "but
now I learn that for the milk with which I fed you, you would
force me to drink bitter water that will poison me."
I replied I was well aware that without her nursing I should long
ago have been dead, which was what caused me to love her like my
own daughter. But would she kindly explain? This she did at
"You have been plotting to take away from me the lady Heddana who
to me is as mother and sister and child. It is useless to lie to
me, for the Master has told me all; moreover, I knew it for
myself, both through my Spirit and because I had watched you."
"I have no intention of lying to you, Nombe, about this or any
other matter, though I think that sometimes in the past you have
lied to me. Tell me, do you expect the Inkosi Mauriti, the lady
Heddana and myself to pass the rest of our lives in the Black
Kloof, when they wish to get married and go across the Black
Water to where their home will be, and I wish to attend to my
"I do not know what I expect, Macumazahn, but I do know that
never while I live will I be parted from the lady Heddana. At
last I have found some one to love, and you and the other would
steal her away from me."
I studied her for a while, then asked--
"Why do you not marry, Nombe, and have a husband, and children to
"Marry?" she replied. "I am married to my Spirit which does not
dwell beneath the sun, and my children are not of earth;
moreover, all men are hateful to me," and her eyes added,
"That is a calf with a dog's head," I replied in the words of the
native proverb, meaning that she said what was not natural.
"Well, Nombe, if you are so fond of the lady Heddana, you had
better arrange with her and the Inkosi Mauriti to go away with
"You know well I cannot, Macumazahn. I am tied to my Master by
ropes that are stronger than iron, and if I attempted to break
them my Spirit would wither and I should wither with it."
"Dear me! what a dreadful business. That is what comes of taking
to magic. Well, Nombe, I am afraid I have nothing to suggest,
nor, to tell you the truth, can I see what I have to do with the
Then she sprang up in a rage, saying--
"I understand that not only will you give me no help, but that
you also mock at me, Macumazahn. Moreover, as it is with you, so
it is with Mauriti, who pretends to love my lady so much, though
I love her more with my little finger than he does with all his
body and what he calls his soul. Yes, he too mocks at me. Now
if you were both dead," she added with sudden venom, "my lady
would not wish to go away. Be careful lest a spell should fall
upon you, Macumazahn," and without more words she turned and
At first I was inclined to laugh; the whole thing seemed so
absurd. On reflection, however, I perceived that in reality it
was very serious to people situated as we were. This woman was a
savage; more, a mystic savage of considerable powers of mind--a
formidable combination. Also there were no restraints upon her,
since public opinion had as little authority in the Black Kloof
as the Queen's Writ. Lastly, it was not unknown for women to
conceive these violent affections which, if thwarted, filled them
with something like madness. Thus I remembered a very terrible
occurrence of my youth which resulted in the death of one who was
most dear to me. I will not dwell on it, but this, too, was the
work of a passionate creature, woman I can scarcely call her, who
thought she was being robbed of one whom she adored.
The end of it was that I did not enjoy my pipe that night, though
luckily Anscombe returned after a successful evening's netting,
about which he was so full of talk that there was no need for me
to say much. So I put off any discussion of the problem until
THE KING VISITS ZIKALI
Next morning, as a result of my cogitations, I went to see
Zikali. I was admitted after a good deal of trouble and delay,
for although his retinue was limited and, with the exception of
Nombe, entirely male, this old prophet kept a kind of semi-state
and was about as difficult to approach as a European monarch. I
found him crouching over a fire in his hut, since at this season
of the year even in that hot place the air was chilly until
"What is it, Macumazahn?" he asked. "As to your going away, have
patience. I learn that he who was King of the Zulus is in full
flight, with the white men tracking him like a wounded buck.
When the buck is caught and killed, then you can go."
"It is about Nombe," I answered, and told him all the story,
which did not seem to surprise him at all.
"Now see, Macumazahn," he said, taking some snuff, "how hard it
is to dam up the stream of nature. This child, Nombe, is of my
blood, one whom I saved from death in a strange way, not because
she was of my blood but that I might make an experiment with her.
Women, as you who are wise and have seen much will know, are in
truth superior to men, though, because they are weaker in body,
men have the upper hand of them and think themselves their
masters, a state they are forced to accept because they must live
and cannot defend themselves. Yet their brains are keener, as an
assegai is keener than a hoe; they are more in touch with the
hidden things that shape out fate for people and for nations;
they are more faithful and more patient, and by instinct if not
by reason, more far-seeing, or at least the best of them are so,
and by their best, like men, they should be judged. Yet this is
the hole in their shield. When they love they become the slaves
of love, and for love's sake all else is brought to naught, and
for this reason they cannot be trusted. With men, as you know,
this is otherwise. They, too, love, by Nature's law, but always
behind there is something greater than love, although often they
do not understand what that may be. To be powerful, therefore, a
woman must be one who does not love too much. If she cannot love
at all, then she is hated and has no power, but she must not love
Once I thought that I had found such a woman; she was named
Mameena, whom all men worshipped and who played with all men, as
I played with her. But what was the end of it? Just as things
were going very well she learned to love too much some man of
strange notions, who would have thwarted me and brought
everything to nothing, and therefore I had to kill her, for which
I was sorry."
Here he paused to take some more snuff, watching me over the
spoon as he drew it up his great nostrils, but as I said nothing,
"Now after Mameena was dead I bethought me that I would rear up a
woman who could still love but should never love a man and
therefore never become mad or foolish, because I believed that it
was only man who in taking her heart from woman, would take her
wits also. This child, Nombe, came to my hand, and as I thought,
so I did. Never mind how I did it, by medicine perhaps, by magic
perhaps, by watering her pride and making it grow tall perhaps,
or by all three. At least it was done, and this I know of Nombe,
she will never care for any man except as a woman may care for a
"But now see what happens. She, the wise, the instructed, the
man-despiser, meets a woman of another race who is sweet and
good, and learns to love her, not as maids and mothers love, but
as one loves the Spirit that she worships. Yes, yes, to her she
is a goddess to be worshipped, one whom she desires to serve with
all her heart and strength, to bow down before, making offerings,
and at the end to follow into death. So it comes about that this
Nombe, whose mind I thought to make as the wings of a bird
floating on the air while it searches for its prey, has become
even madder than other women. It is a disappointment to me,
"It may be a disappointment to you, Zikali, and all that you say
is very interesting. But to us it is a danger. Tell me, will
you command Nombe to cease from her folly?"
"Will I forbid the mist to rise, or the wind to blow, or the
lightning to strike? As she is, she is. Her heart is filled
with black jealousy of Mauriti and of you, as a butcher's gourd
is filled with blood, for she is not one who desires that her
goddess should have other worshippers; she would keep her for
"Then in this way or in that the gourd must be emptied, Zikali,
lest we should be forced to drink from it and that black blood
should poison us."
"How, unless it be broken, Macumazahn? If Heddana departs and
leaves her, she will go mad, and accompany her she cannot, for
her Spirit dwells here," and he tapped his own breast. "It would
pull her back again and she would become a great trouble to me,
for then that Spirit of hers would not suffer me to sleep, with
its continual startings in search of what it had lost, and its
returnings empty-handed. Well, have no fear, for at the worst
the bowl can be broken and the blood poured upon the earth, as I
have broken finer bowls than this before; had I all the bits of
them they would make a heap so high, Macumazahn!" and he held out
his hand on a level with his head, a gesture that made my back
creep. "I will tell her this and it may keep her quiet for a
while. Of poison you need not be afraid, since unlike mine, her
Spirit hates it. Poison is not one of its weapons as it is with
mine. But of spells, beware, for her Spirit has some which are
Now I jumped up, filled with indignation, saying--
"I do not believe in Nombe's spells, and in any case how am I to
guard against them?"
"If you do not believe there is no need to guard, and if you do
believe, then it is for you to find out how to guard, Macumazahn.
Oh! I could tell you the story of a white teacher who did not
believe and would not guard--but never mind, never mind.
Good-bye, Macumazahn, I will speak with Nombe. Ask her for a
lock of her hair to wear upon your heart after she has enchanted
it. The charm is good against spells. O-ho--Oho-o! What fools
we are, white and black together! That is what Cetewayo is
After this Nombe became much more agreeable. That is to say she
was very polite, her smile was more fixed and her eyes more
unfathomable than ever. Evidently Zikali had spoken to her and
she had listened. Yet to tell the truth my distrust of this
handsome young woman grew deeper day by day. I recognized that
there was a great gulf between her and the normal, that she was a
creature fashioned by Zikali who had trained her as a gardener
trains a tree, nay, who had done more, who had grafted some
foreign growth of exotic and unnatural spiritualism on to her
primitive nature. The nature remained the same, but the graft or
grafts bore strange flowers and fruit, unholy flowers and
poisonous fruit. Therefore she was not to blame--sometimes I
wonder whether in this curious world, could one see their past
and their future, anybody is to blame for anything--but this did
not make her the less dangerous.
Some talks I had with her only increased my apprehensions, for I
found that in a way she had no conscience. Life, she told me,
was but a dream, and all its laws as evolved by man were but
illusions. The real life was elsewhere. There was the distant
lake on which the flower of our true existence floated. Without
this unseen lake of supernatural water the flower could not
float; indeed there would be no flower. Moreover, the flower did
not matter; sometimes it would have this shape and colour,
sometimes that. It was but a thing destined to grow and bloom
and rot, and during its day to be ugly or to be beautiful, to
smell sweet or ill, as it might chance, and ultimately to be
absorbed back into the general water of Life.
I pointed out to her that all flowers had roots which grew in
soil. Looking at an orchid-like plant that crept along the bough
of a tree, she answered that this was not true as some grew upon
air. But however this might be, the soil, or the moisture in the
air, was distilled from thousands of other flower lives that had
flourished in their day and been forgotten. It did not matter
when they died or how many other flowers they choked that they
might live. Yet each flower had its own spirit which always had
been and always would be.
I asked her of the end and the object of that spirit. She
answered darkly that she did not know and if she did, would not
say, but that these were very dreadful.
Such were some of her vague and figurative assertions which I
only record to indicate their uncomfortable and indeed but half
human nature. I forgot to add that she declared that every
flower or life had a twin flower or life, which in each
successive growth it was bound to find and bloom beside, or
wither to the root and spring again and that ultimately these two
would become one, and as one flourish eternally. Of all of which
I understood and understand little, except that she had grasped
the elements of some truth which she could not express in clear
and definite language.
One day I was seated in Zikali's hut whither by permission I had
come to ask the latest news, when suddenly Nombe appeared and
crouched down before him.
"Who gave you leave to enter here, and what is your business?" he
"Home of Spirits," she replied in a humble voice, "be not angry
with your servant. Necessity gave me leave, and my business is
to tell you that strangers approach."
"Who are they that dare to enter the Black Kloof unannounced?"
"Cetewayo the King is one of them, the others I do not know, but
they are many, armed all of them. They approach your gate;
before a man can count two hundred they will be here."
"Where are the white chief and the lady Heddana?" asked Zikali.
"By good fortune they have gone by the secret path to the
tableland and will not be back till sunset. They wished to be
alone, so I did not accompany them, and Macumazahn here said that
he was too weary to do so." (This was true. Also like Nombe I
thought that they wished to be alone.)
"Good. Go, tell the king that I knew of his coming and am
awaiting him. Bid my servants kill the ox which is in the kraal,
the fat ox that they thought is sick and therefore fit food for a
sick king," he added bitterly.
She glided away like a startled snake. Then Zikali turned to me
and said swiftly--
"Macumazahn, you are in great danger. If you are found here you
will be killed, and so will the others whom I will send to warn
not to return till this king has gone away. Go at once to join
them. No, it is too late, I hear the Zulus come. Take that
kaross, cover yourself with it and lie among the baskets and
beerpots here near the entrance of the hut in the deepest of the
shadows, so that if any enter, perchance you will not be found.
I too am in danger who shall be held to account for all that has
happened. Perhaps they will kill me, if I can be killed. If so,
get away with the others as best you can. Nombe will tell you
where your horses are hidden. In that case let Heddana take
Nombe with her, for when I am dead she will go, and shake her off
in Natal if she troubles her. Whatever chances, remember,
Macumazahn, that I have done my best to keep my word to you and
to protect you and your friends. Now I go to look on this
pricked bladder who was once a king."
He scrambled from the hut with slow, toad-like motions, while I
with motions that were anything but slow, grabbed the grey
catskin kaross and ensconced myself among the beerpots and mats
in such a position that my head, over which I set a three-legged
carved stool of Zikali's own cutting, was but a few inches to the
left of the door-hole and therefore in the deepest of the
shadows. Thence by stretching out my neck a little, I could see
through the hole, also hear all that passed outside. Unless a
deliberate search of the hut should be made I was fairly safe
from observation, even if it were entered by strangers. One fear
I had, however, it was lest the dog Lost should get into the
place and smell me out. I had left him tied to the centre pole
in my own hut, because he hated Zikali and always growled at him.
But suppose he gnawed through the cord, or any one let him loose!
Scarcely had Zikali seated himself in his accustomed place before
the hut, than the gate of the outer fence opened and approaching
through it I saw forty or fifty fierce and way-worn men. In
front of them, riding on a tired horse that was led by a servant,
was Cetewayo himself. He was assisted to dismount, or rather
threw his great bulk into the arms that were waiting to receive
Then after some words with his following and with one of Zikali's
people, followed by three or four indunas and leaning on the arm
of Umnyamana, the Prime Minister, he entered the enclosure, the
rest remaining without. Zikali, who sat as though asleep,
suddenly appeared to wake up and perceive him. Struggling to his
feet he lifted his right arm and gave the royal salute of Bayete,
and with it titles of praise, such as "Black One!" "Elephant!"
"Earth-Shaker!" "Conqueror!" "Eater-up of the White men!" "Child
of the Wild Beast (Chaka) whose teeth are sharper than the Wild
Beast's ever were!" and so on, until Cetewayo, growing
impatient, cried out--
"Be silent, Wizard. Is this a time for fine words? Do you not
know my case that you offend my ears with them? Give us food to
eat if you have it, after which I would speak with you alone. Be
swift also; here I may not stay for long, since the white dogs
are at my heels."
"I knew that you were coming, O King, to honour my poor house
with a visit," said Zikali slowly, "and therefore the ox is
already killed and the meat will soon be on the fire. Meanwhile
drink a sup of beer, and rest."
He clapped his hands, whereon Nombe and some servants appeared
with pots of beer, of which, after Zikali had tasted it to show
that it was not poisoned, the king and his people drank
thirstily. Then it was taken to those outside.
"What is this that my ears hear?" asked Zikali when Nombe and the
others had gone, "that the White Dogs are on the spoor of the
Cetewayo nodded heavily, and answered--
"My impis were broken to pieces on the plain of Ulundi; the
cowards ran from the bullets as children run from bees. My
kraals are burnt and I, the King, with but a faithful remnant fly
for my life. The prophecy of the Black One has come true. The