Part 5 out of 7
"Has she got away?" he muttered. "Some of them have gone, I know, the
accursed, cowardly fools. No, it is not possible, the watch was too good,
unless she is really a spirit, and has melted, as spirits do. I hope not,
for if so she will haunt me, and I want her company in the flesh, not in
the spirit. I ought to have it too, for it has cost me pretty dear. She
must have bewitched me, or why should I risk everything for her, just one
white woman who hates the sight of me? The devil is at the back of it.
This was his road from the first."
So he went on until Rachel could bear it no more, the thing was too
"Yes, yes," she said from the top of the hut, "his road from the first,
and it ends not far away, at the red gates of Hell, Night-prowler."
The man below gasped, and fell against the fence.
"Whose voice is that? Where are you?" he asked of the air.
Then as there was no answer, he added: "It sounded like Rachel, but it
spoke above me. I suppose that she has killed herself. I thought she
might, but better that she should be dead than belong to that fellow. Only
then why does she speak?"
He started to feel his way towards the hut, perhaps to fetch the lamp,
when suddenly the skies behind were illumined in a blaze of light, a broad
slow blaze that endured for several seconds. By it the eyes of Rachel,
made quick with madness, saw many things. From her perch on the top of the
hut she saw the town of Mafooti. On the plain to the west she saw a number
of black dots, which she took to be people and cattle travelling away from
the town. In the nek to the east she saw more dots, each of them crested
with white, and carrying something white. Surely it was a Zulu impi
marching! Some of these dots had come to the wall of the town; yes, and
some of them were on the crest of it, while yet others were creeping down
its main street not a hundred yards away.
Also these caught sight of something, for they paused and seemed to fall
together as though in fear. Lastly, just before the light went out, she
perceived Ishmael in the yard below, glaring up at her, for he, too, had
seen her. Seen her standing above him in the air, the spear in her hand,
and in her eyes fire. But of the dots to the east and of the dots to the
west he had seen nothing. He appeared to fall to his knees and remain
there muttering. Then the Heavens blazed again, for the storm was coming
up, and by the flare of them he read the truth. This was no ghost, but the
"Oh!" he said, recovering himself, "that's where you've got to, is it?
Come down, Rachel, and let us talk."
She made no answer, none at all, she who was so curious to see what he
would do. For quite a long while he harangued her from below, walking
round and round the hut. Then at length in despair he began to climb it.
But in that darkness which now and again turned to dazzling light, unlike
Rachel, he found the task difficult, and once, missing his hold, he fell
to the ground heavily. Finding his feet he rushed at the hut with an oath,
and clutching the straw and the grass strings that bound it, struggled
almost to the top, to be met by the point of Rachel's spear held in his
face. There then he hung, looking like a toad on the slope of a rock,
unable to advance because of that spear, and unwilling to go down, lest
his labour must be begun again.
"Rachel," he said, "come down, Rachel. Whatever I have done has been for
your sake, come down and tell me that you forgive me."
She laughed out loud, a wild, screaming laugh, for really he looked most
ridiculous, sprawling there on the bend of the hut, and the lightning
showed her all sorts of pictures in his eyes.
"Did Richard Darrien forgive you?" she asked. "And what did you mix that
poison with? Milk? The milk of human kindness! It was a very good poison,
Toad, so good that I think you must have drawn it from your own blood.
When you are dead all the Bushmen should come and dip their arrows in you,
for then even crocodiles and the big snakes would die at a scratch."
He made no answer, so she went on.
"Have your people forgiven you? If so, why do they flee away, carrying
that white thing which was a man? Have my father and mother forgiven you?
Do you hear what they are saying to me--that judgment is the Lord's? Have
the Zulus forgiven you, the Zulus who believe that judgment is the
King's--and the Inkosazana's? Turn now, and ask them, for here they are,"
and she pointed over his head with her spear. "Turn, Toad, and set out
your case and I will stand above and try it, the case of Dingaan against
Ibubesi, and one by one I will call up all those who died through you, and
they shall give their evidence, and I, the Judge, will sum it up to a jury
of sharp spears. See, here come the spears. Look at the wall, Toad, _look
at the wall!_"
As she raved on and pointed with her assegai, the lightning blazed out,
and Ishmael, who had looked round at her bidding, saw Zulu warriors
leaping down from the crest of the wall, and Zulu captains rushing in by
the opened door. At this terrible sight he slid to the ground purposing to
reach his gun which he had left there, and defend or kill himself, who
knows which? But before ever he could lay a hand upon it, those fierce men
had pounced upon him like leopards on a goat. Now they held him fast, and
a voice--it was that of Tamboosa, called through the darkness,
"Hail to thee! Inkosazana. Come down now and pass judgment on this wild
beast who would have harmed thee."
"Tamboosa," she cried, "the Inkosazana has fled away, only the white woman
in whom she dwelt remains; her spirit hangs in wrath over the people of
the Zulus, as an eagle hangs above a hare. Tamboosa, there is blood
between the Inkosazana and the people of the Zulus, the blood of those who
gave her the body that she wore, who lie slain by them upon the bed at
Kamah. Tamboosa, there is blood between her and Ibubesi, the blood of the
white man who loved the body that she wore, and whom she loved, the white
lord whom Ibubesi did to death this day because she who was the Inkosazana
would not give herself to him. Tamboosa, the Inkosazana has suffered much
from this Ibubesi, many an insult, many a shame, and when she called upon
the Zulus, out of all their thousand thousands there was not a single
spear to help her, because they were too busy killing those holy ones whom
she called her father and her mother. And so, Tamboosa, the spirit of the
Inkosazana departed like a bird from the egg, leaving but this shell
behind, that is full or sorrows and of dreams. Yet, Tamboosa, she still
speaks through these lips of mine, and she says that from the seed of
blood that they have sown, her people, the Zulus, must harvest woe upon
woe, as while she dwelt among them, she warned them that it would be if
ill came to those she loved. Tamboosa, this is her command--that ye shield
the breast in which she hid from the wild beast, Ibubesi and all evil men,
and that ye lead this shape to Noie, the daughter of Seyapi, whom Ibubesi
brought to death, for with Noie it would dwell."
Thus she wailed through the deep darkness, while the soldiers who packed
the space below groaned in their grief and terror because the soul of the
Inkosazana had been made a wanderer by their sins, and the curse of the
Inkosazana had fallen on their land.
Again the lightning flared, and in it they saw her standing on the crest
of the hut. She had let drop the spear as though she needed it no more,
and her arms were outstretched to the Heavens, and her beautiful face was
upturned, and her long hair floated in the wind. Seen thus by that quick,
white light, which shone in the madness of her eyes, she seemed no woman
but what they had fabled her to be, a queen of Spirits, and at the vision
of her they groaned again, while some of them fell to the earth and hid
their faces with their hands.
The darkness fell once more, and a man went into the hut to bring out the
lamp that burned there. When he returned Rachel stood among them; they had
not seen or heard her descend. Ishmael saw her also, and feeling his doom
in the fierce eyes that glowered at him, stretched out his hand and caught
her by the robe, praying for pity.
At his touch she uttered a wild scream, which pierced like a knife through
the hearts of all that heard it.
"Suffer it not," she cried, "oh! my people, suffer not that I be thus
They rent him from her with blows and execrations, looking up to their
chief for his word to tear him to pieces.
"No," said Tamboosa, grimly, "he shall to the King to tell this story ere
"Save me, Rachel, save me," he moaned. "You don't know what they mean. I
was mad with love for you, do not judge me harshly and send me to be
This appeal of his seemed to pierce the darkness of her brain, and for a
little while her face grew human.
"I judge not," she answered in Zulu; "pray to the Great One above who
judges. Oh! man, man," she went on in a kind of eerie whisper, "what have
I done to you that you should treat me thus? Why did you command the
soldiers to kill my father and my mother? Why did you poison my lover? Why
did you drive away my soul, and fill me with this madness? Take me away
from this accursed town, Tamboosa, before Heaven's vengeance falls on it,
and let me see that face no more."
Then some of them made a guard about her and led her thence, along the
central street, and through the barricaded gates, that they broke down for
her passage. They led her to a little cave in the slope of the opposing
hill, for although no rain fell, the gathered storm was breaking; the
lightning flashed thick and fast, the thunder groaned and bellowed, and a
wild wind beat the screeching trees.
Here in the mouth of this cave Rachel sat herself down and looked at the
kraal, Mafooti, awaiting she knew not what, while the impi pillaged the
town, and Ishmael, already half dead with fear, remained bound to the
roof-tree of the hut that had been her prison.
Whilst she waited thus, and watched, of a sudden one of the outer huts
began to burn, though whether the lightning or some soldier had fired it
none could tell. Then, in an instant, as it seemed, driven by the raging
wind, the flame leapt from roof to roof till Mafooti was but a sheet of
fire. The soldiers at their work of pillage saw, and rushed hither and
thither, confusedly, for they did not know the paths, and were tangled in
A figure appeared running down the central street, a figure of flame, for
his clothes burned on him, and those by Rachel said,
"See, see, _Ibubesi!_"
He could not reach the gate, for a blazing hut fell across his path.
Turning he sped to the edge of a cliff that rose near by, where, because
of its steepness, there was no wall. Here for a while he ran up and down
till the wind-driven fire from new-lit huts at its brink leapt out upon
him like thin, scarlet tongues. He threw himself to the ground, he rose
again, beating his head with his hand, for his long hair was ablaze. Then
in his torment and despair, of a sudden he threw himself backwards into
the dark gulf beneath. Fifty feet and more he fell to the rocks below, and
where he fell there he lay till he died, and on the morrow the Zulus found
and buried him.
Thus did Ishmael depart out of the life of Rachel to the end which he had
Nor did he go alone, for of the Zulus in the town many were caught by the
fire, and perished, so many that when the regiment mustered at dawn, that
same regiment which had escorted the Inkosazana to the banks of the
Tugela, fifty and one men were missing, whilst numbers of others appeared
burned and blistered.
"Ah!" said Tamboosa as he surveyed the injured and counted the dead, "the
curse is quickly at work among us, and I think that this is but the
beginning of evil. Well, I expected it, no less."
As for the town of Mafooti it was utterly destroyed. To this day the place
is a wilderness where the grass grows rank between the crumbling,
fire-blackened walls. For the people of Ibubesi who had fled, returned
thither no more, nor would others build where it had been, since still
they swear that the spot is haunted by the figure of a white man who, in
times of thunder, rushes across it wrapped in fire, and plunges blazing
into the gulf upon its northern side.
After the storm came the rain which poured all night long, a steady sheet
of water reaching from earth to heaven. Rachel watched it vacantly for a
while, then went to the head of the little cave and lay down wrapped in
karosses that they had made ready for her. Moreover, she slept as a child
sleeps until the sun shone bright on the morrow, then she woke and asked
But the impi did not sleep. All night long the soldiers stood in huddled
groups beneath such shelter as the trees and rocks would give to them,
while the water poured on them pitilessly till their teeth chattered and
their limbs were frozen. Some died of the cold that night, and afterwards
many others fell sick of agues and fevers of the lungs which killed a
number of them.
In the morning when the storm was past and the sun shone hotly Tamboosa
called the Council of the captains together, and consulted with them as to
whether they should follow after the people of Mafooti who had fled, and
destroy them, or return straight to Zululand. Most of the captains
answered that of Mafooti and its people they had seen enough. Ibubesi was
dead, slain by the vengeance of Heaven; the Inkosazana they had rescued,
alive, though filled with madness; the white lord, Dario, had been
murdered by Ibubesi, it was said with poison, and doubtless his body was
burned in the fire. As for the people of Mafooti themselves, it would seem
that most of them were innocent as they had fled the place, deserting
their chief. To these arguments other captains answered that the people of
Mafooti were not innocent inasmuch as they had helped Ibubesi to carry off
the Inkosazana and the white lord, Dario, from Ramah, and consented to
their imprisonment and to the death of one of them, only flying when they
had tidings that the impi was on the way. Moreover the command was that
every one of these dogs should be killed, whereas they had killed none of
them, but only taken those cattle which were left behind in their flight.
At length the dispute growing fierce, the captains being unable to come to
an agreement, decided that they would lay the matter before the
Inkosazana, and be guided by the words that fell from her, if they could
So Tamboosa went into the cave with one other man, and talked to Rachel,
who sat staring at him with stony eyes as though she understood nothing.
When at length he ceased, however, she cried:
"Lead me to Noie at the Great Place. Lead me to Noie," nor would she say
So, as the people of Mafooti had fled they knew not where, and they had
secured some of the cattle, and as many of the soldiers were sick from the
cold and burns received in the fire, Tamboosa told the regiment that it
was the will of the Inkosazana that they should return to Zululand.
A while later they started, those of them who were so badly burned that
they could not travel, being carried on shields. But Rachel would not be
carried, choosing to walk alone surrounded at a distance by a ring of
soldiers who guarded her. For hours she walked thus, showing no sign of
weariness, but now and again bursting out into shrill laughter, as though
she saw things that moved her to merriment. Only the regiment that
listened was not merry, for it had heard the words that the Inkosazana
spoke in the town of Mafooti, foretelling evil to the Zulus because of the
blood that was between them and her. They thought that she laughed over
the misfortunes that were to come, and over those that had already
befallen them in the fire and in the rain.
About midday they halted to eat, and as before Rachel took food in plenty,
for now that her mind was wandering her body seemed to call for
sustenance. When their meal was finished they moved down to the banks of
the Buffalo River, which ran near by, to find that it was in great flood
after the heavy rain and that it was not safe to try the ford. So they
determined to camp there on the banks, murmuring among themselves that all
went ill with them upon this journey, as was to be expected, and that they
would have done better if they had spent the time in hunting down the
people of Mafooti, instead of sitting idle like tired storks upon the
banks of a river. Yet bad as things might seem, they were destined to be
worse, for while some of them were cutting boughs and grass to make a hut
for the Inkosazana, Rachel, who stood watching them with empty eyes, of a
sudden laughed in her mad fashion, and sped like a swallow to the lip of
the foaming ford. Here, before they could come up with her, she threw off
the outer cloak she wore and rushed into the water till the current bore
her from her feet. Then while the whole regiment shouted in dismay, she
began to swim, striking out for the further bank, and being swept
downwards by the stream. Now Tamboosa, who was almost crazed with fear
lest she should drown, called out that where the Inkosazana went, they
must follow, even to their deaths.
"It is so!" answered the soldiers, as each man locking his arms round the
middle of him who stood in front, company by company, they plunged into
the water in a fourfold chain, hoping thus to bridge it from bank to bank.
Meanwhile Rachel swam on in the strength of her madness as a woman has
seldom swum before. Again and again the muddy waters broke over her head
and the soldiers groaned, thinking that she was drowned. But always that
golden hair reappeared above them. A great tree swept down upon her but
she dived beneath it. She was dashed against a tall rock, but she warded
herself away from it with her hands and still swam on, till at length with
a shout of joy the Zulus saw her find her feet and struggle slowly to the
further bank. Yes, and up it till she reached its crest where she stood
and watched them idly as though unconscious of the danger she had passed,
and of the water that ran from her hair and breast.
"Where a woman can go, we can follow," said some, but others answered:
"She is not a woman, but a spirit. Death himself cannot kill her."
Now the fourfold chain was near the centre of the ford, when suddenly
those at the tip of it were lifted from their feet as Rachel had been, nor
could those behind hold on to them. They were torn from their grasp and
swept away, the most of them never to be seen again, for of these men but
few could swim. Thrice this happened until strong swimmers were sent to
the front, and at length these men won across as Rachel had done, and
caught hold of the stones on the further side, thus forming a living chain
from bank to bank, whereof the centre floated and was bent outwards by the
weight of the water as the back of a bow bends when the string is drawn.
By the help of this human rope thus formed the companies began to come
over, supporting themselves against it, till presently the strain and the
push of them and of the angry river overcame its strength, and the chain
burst in the middle so that many were borne down the stream and drowned.
Yet with risk and toil and loss it joined itself together again and held
fast until every man was over, save the sick and some lads who were left
to tend them and the cattle on the further bank. Then that cable of brave
warriors began to struggle forward like a great snake dragging its tail
after it, and, so by degrees drew itself to safety and gasping out foam
and water saluted the Inkosazana where she stood.
Many were drowned, and others were bruised by rocks, but of this they
thought little since she was safe and they had found her again, to have
lost whom would have been a shame from generation to generation. She
watched the captains reckoning up the number of the dead, and when
Tamboosa and some of them came to make report of it to her, a shadow as of
pity floated across her stony eyes.
"Not on my head," she cried, "not on my head! There is blood between the
Inkosazana and her people of the Zulus, and that blood avenges itself in
blood," and she laughed her eerie laugh.
"It is true, it is just, O Queen," answered Tamboosa solemnly; "the nation
must pay for the sin of its children as the wild beast, Ibubesi, has paid
for his sins."
Then as they could travel no further that day, they built a hut, and lit a
great fire by which Rachel sat and dried herself, nor did she take any
harm from the water, for as the Zulus had said, it seemed as though
nothing could harm her now.
The soldiers also lit fires and despatched messengers to neighbouring
kraals commanding them to bring food, and to send maidens to attend on the
Inkosazana, while others went to a mountain to call all this ill-tidings
from hill to hill till it came to the Great Place of the King.
THE CURSE OF THE INKOSAZANA
That night the regiment and Rachel slept upon the bank of the river, and
nothing happened save that lions carried off two soldiers, while two more
who had been injured against the rocks, died. Also others fell sick. On
the following morning food arrived in plenty from the neighbouring kraals,
and with it some girls of high birth to attend upon the Inkosazana.
But with these Rachel would have nothing to do, and when they came near to
her only said:
"Where is Noie, daughter of Seyapi? Lead me to Noie."
So they began their march again, Rachel walking as before in the centre of
a ring of soldiers, and that night slept at a kraal upon a hill. Here
messengers from the King met them charged with many fine words, to which
Rachel listened without understanding them, and then scared them away with
her laughter. Also they brought a beautiful cloak made of the skins of a
rare white monkey, and this she took and wrapped herself in it, for she
seemed to understand that her clothes were ragged.
That day they passed through fertile country, where much corn was grown.
Here they saw a strange sight, for as they went clouds seemed to arise in
the sky from behind them, which presently were seen to be not clouds, but
tens of millions of great winged grasshoppers that lit upon the corn,
devouring it and every other green thing. Within a few hours nothing was
left except the roots and bare branches, while the women of that land ran
to and fro wailing, knowing that next winter they and their children must
starve, and the cattle lowed about them hungrily, for the locusts had
devoured all the grass. Moreover, having eaten everything, these insects
themselves began to die in myriads so that soon the air was poisoned. The
waters were also poisoned with their dead bodies, and at once sickness
came which presently grew into a pestilence.
Now the men of the country sent a deputation to the Inkosazana, praying
her to remove the curse, but when they had spoken she only repeated the
words she had used upon the banks of the Buffalo River.
"Not on my head, not on my head! There is blood between the Inkosazana and
her people of the Zulus. Famine and war and death upon the people of the
Zulus because they have shed the holy blood!"
Then the men grew afraid and went away, and the regiment marched on
accompanied by the myriads of the locusts that wasted all the land through
which they passed.
At length, followed by a wail of misery, they came to the Great Place and
entered it, preceded by the locusts which already were heaped up in the
streets like winter leaves, and for lack of other provender gnawed at the
straw of the huts, and the shields and moochas of the soldiers. It was a
strange sight to see the men trying to stamp them to death, and the women
and children rushing to and fro shrieking and brushing them from their
Amid such scenes as these they passed through the town of Umgugundhlovu
into which Rachel had been brought in order that the people might see that
their Inkosazana had returned, and on to that kraal upon the hill, where
she had spent all those weary weeks until Richard came. She reached it as
the sun was setting, and although she did not seem to know any of them was
received with joy and adoration by the women who had been her attendants.
Here she slept that night, for they thought that she must be too weary to
see the King at once; moreover, he desired first to receive the reports of
Tamboosa and the captains, and to learn all that had happened in this
Next morning, whilst Rachel sat by the pool in which, once she had seen
the vision of Richard, Tamboosa and an escort came to bring her to
Dingaan. When they told her this, she said neither yea nor nay, but,
refusing to enter a litter they had brought, walked at the head of them,
back to the Great Place, and, watched by thousands, through the
locust-strewn streets to the Intunkulu, the House of the King. Here, in
front of his hut, and surrounded by his Council, sat Dingaan and the
indunas who rose to greet her with the royal salute. She advanced towards
them slowly, looking more beautiful than ever she had done, but with wild,
wandering eyes. They set a stool for her, and she sat down on the stool,
staring at the ground. Then as she said nothing, Dingaan, who seemed very
sad and full of fear, commanded Tamboosa to report all that had happened
in the ears of the Council, and he took up his tale.
He told of the journey to the Tugela, and of how the Inkosazana and the
white lord, Dario, had crossed the river alone but a few hours after
Ibubesi, ordering him to follow next day, also alone, with the white ox
that bore her baggage. He told how he had done so, and on reaching Ramah
had found the white Umfundusi and his wife lying dead in their room, and
on the floor of it a Zulu of the men who had been sent with Ibubesi, also
dead, and in the garden of the house a man of the people of Ibubesi,
dying, who, with his last breath narrated to him the story of the taking
of the Inkosazana and the white lord, by Ibubesi. He told of how he had
run to the town of Mafooti, to find out the truth, and of the message that
he had sent by the herd boy to Ibubesi and his people. Lastly he told all
the rest of that story, of how he had come back to Zululand "as though he
had wings," and finding the regiment that had escorted the Inkosazana
still in camp near the river, had returned with them to attack Mafooti,
which they discovered to be deserted by its people.
While he described how by the flare of the lightning they saw the
Inkosazana standing on the roof of a hut, how they captured the wild
beast, Ibubesi, how they learned that the Spirit of the Inkosazana was
"wandering," and the dreadful words she said, the burning of Mafooti, and
the fearful death of Ibubesi by fire, all the Council listened in utter
silence. Thus they listened also whilst he showed how evil after evil had
fallen upon the regiment, evil by fire and water and sickness, as evil had
fallen upon the land also by the plague of locusts.
At length Tamboosa's story was finished, and certain men were brought
forward bound, who had been the captains of the band that went with
Ishmael, among them those who had killed, or caused to die, the white
teacher and his wife.
Upon the stern command of the King these men also told their story, saying
that they had not meant to kill the white man and that what they did was
done at the word of Ibubesi, whom they were ordered to obey in all things,
but who, as they now understood, had dared to lay a plot to capture the
Inkosazana for himself. When they had finished the King rose and poured
out his wrath on them, because through their deeds the Spirit of the
Inkosazana had been driven away, and her curse laid upon the land, where
already it was at work. Then he commanded that they should be led thence,
all of them, and put to a terrible death, and with them those captains of
the regiment who had spoken against the following of the people of
Mafooti, who should, he said, have been destroyed, every one.
At his words executioners rushed in to seize these wretched men, and then
it was that Rachel, who all this while had sat as though she heard
nothing, lifted her head and spoke, for the first time.
"Set them free, set them, free!" she commanded. "Vengeance is from Heaven,
and Heaven will pour it out in plenty. Not on my hands, not on my hands
shall be the blood of those who sent the Spirit of the Inkosazana to
wander in the skies. Who was it that bade an impi run to Ramah, and what
did they there in the house of those who gave me birth? When the Master
calls, the dogs must search and kill. Set them free, lest there be more
blood between the Inkosazana and her people of the Zulus."
When he heard these words, spoken in a strange, wailing voice, Dingaan
trembled, for he knew that it was he who had bidden his dogs to run.
"Let them go," he said, "and let the land see them no more for ever."
So those men went thankfully enough, and the land saw them no more. As
they passed the gate other men entered, starved and hungry-looking men,
whose bones almost pierced their skins, and who carried in their hands
remnants of shields that looked as though they had been gnawed by rats.
They saluted the King with feeble voices, and squatted down upon the
"Who are those skeletons," he asked angrily, "who dare to break in upon my
"King," answered their spokesman, "we are captains of the Nobambe, the
Nodwenge, and the Isangu regiments whom thou didst send to destroy the
chief, Madaku and his people, who dwell far away in the swamp land to the
north near where the Great River runs into the sea. King, we could not
come at this chief because he fled away on rafts and in boats, he and his
people, and we lost our path among the reeds where again and again we were
ambushed, and many of us sank in the swamps and were drowned. Also, we
found no food, and were forced to live upon our shields," and he held up a
gnawed fragment in his hand. "So we perished by hundreds, and of all who
went forth but twenty-one times ten remain alive."
When Dingaan heard this he groaned, for his arms had been defeated and
three of his best regiments destroyed. But Rachel laughed aloud, the
terrible laugh at which all who heard it shivered.
"Did I not say," she asked, "that Heaven would pour out its vengeance in
plenty because of the blood that runs between the Spirit of the Inkosazana
and her people of the Zulus?"
"Truly this curse works fast and well," exclaimed Dingaan. Then, turning
to the men, he shouted: "Be gone, you starved rats, you cowards who do not
know how to fight, and be thankful that the Great Elephant (Chaka) is
dead, for surely he would have fed you upon shields until you perished."
So these captains crept away also.
Ere they were well gone a man appeared craving audience, a fat man who
wore a woeful countenance, for tears ran down his bloated cheeks. Dingaan
knew him well, for every week he saw him, and sometimes oftener.
"What is it, Movo, keeper of the kine," he asked anxiously, "that you
break in on me thus at my Council?"
"O King," answered the fat man, "pardon me, but, O King, my tidings are so
sad that I availed myself of my privilege, and pushed past the guards at
"Those who bear ill news ever run quickly," grunted the King. "Stop that
weeping and out with it, Movo."
"Shaker of the Earth! Eater up of Enemies!" said Movo, "thou thyself art
eaten up, or at least thy cattle are, the cattle that I love. A sore
sickness has fallen on the great herd, the royal herd, the white herd with
the twisted horns, and," here he paused to sob, "a thousand of them are
dead, and many more are sick. Soon there will be no herd left," and he
Now Dingaan leapt up in his wrath and struck the man so sharply with the
shaft of the spear he held that it broke upon his head.
"Fat fool that you are," he exclaimed. "What have you done to my cattle?
Speak, or you shall be slain for an evil-doer who has bewitched them."
"Is it a crime to be fat, O King," answered the indignant Movo, rubbing
his skull, "when others are so much fatter?" and he looked reproachfully
at Dingaan's enormous person. "Can I help it if a thousand of thy oxen are
now but hides for shields?"
"Will you answer, or will you taste the other end of the spear?" asked
Dingaan, grasping the broken shaft just above the blade. "What have you
done to my cattle?"
"O King, I have done nothing to them. Can I help it if those accursed
beasts choose to eat dead locusts instead of grass, and foam at the mouth
and choke? Can the cattle help it if all the grass has become locusts so
that there is nothing else for them to eat? I am not to blame, and the
cattle are not to blame. Blame the Heavens above, to whom thou, or
rather," he added hastily, "some wicked wizard must have given offence,
for no such thing as this has been known before in Zululand."
Again Rachel broke in with her wild laughter, and said:
"Did I not tell thee that vengeance would be poured down in plenty, poured
down like the rain, O Dingaan? Vengeance on the King, vengeance on the
people, vengeance on the soldiers, vengeance on the corn, vengeance on the
kine, vengeance on the whole land, because blood runs between the Spirit
of the Inkosazana and the race of the Amazulu, whom once she loved!"
"It is true, it is true, White One, but why dost thou say it so often?"
groaned the maddened Dingaan. "Why show the whip to those who must feel
the blow? Now, you Movo, have you done?"
"Not quite, O King," answered the melancholy Movo, still rubbing his head.
"The cattle of all the kraals around are dying of this same sickness, and
the crops are quite eaten, so that next winter everyone must perish of
"Is that all, O Movo?"
"Not quite, O King, since messengers have come to me, as head keeper of
the kine, to say that all the other royal herds within two days' journey
are also stricken, although if I understand them right, of some other
pest. Also, which I forgot to add--"
"Hunt out this bearer of ill-tidings," roared Dingaan, "hunt him out, and
send orders that his own cattle be taken to fill up the holes in my
Now some attendants sprang on the luckless Movo and began to beat him with
their sticks. Still, before he reached the gates he succeeded in turning
round weeping in good earnest and shouted:
"It is quite useless, O King, all my cattle are dead, too. They will find
nothing but the horns and the hoofs, for I have sold the hides to the
Then they thrust him forth.
He was gone, and for a while there was silence, for despair filled the
hearts of the King and his Councillors, as they gazed at Rachel dismayed,
wondering within themselves how they might be rid of her and of the evils
which she had brought upon them because of the blood of her people which
lay at her doors.
Whilst they still stared thus in silence yet another messenger came
running through the gate like one in great haste.
"Now I am minded to order this fellow to be killed before he opens his
mouth," said Dingaan, "for of a surety he also is a bearer of
"Nay, O King," cried out the man in alarm, "my news is only that an
embassy awaits without."
"From whom?" asked Dingaan anxiously. "The white Amaboona?"
"Nay, O King, from the queen of the Ghost-people to whom thou didst
dispatch Noie, daughter of Seyapi, a while ago."
Hearing the name Noie, Rachel lifted her head, and for the first time her
face grew human.
"I remember," said Dingaan. "Admit the embassy."
Then followed a long pause. At length the gate opened and through it
appeared Noie herself, clad in a garb of spotless white, and somewhat
travel-worn, but beautiful as ever. She was escorted by four gigantic men
who were naked except for their moochas, but wore copper ornaments on
their wrists and ankles, and great rings of copper in their ears. After
her came three litters whereof the grass curtains were tightly drawn,
carried by bearers of the same size and race, and after these a bodyguard
of fifty soldiers of a like stature. This strange and barbarous-looking
company advanced slowly, whilst the Council stared at them wondering, for
never before had they seen people so huge, and arriving in front of the
King set down the litters, staring back in answer with their great round
As they came Rachel rose from her stool and turned slowly so that she and
Noie, who walked in front of the embassy, stood face to face. For a moment
they gazed at each other, then Noie, running forward, knelt before Rachel
and kissed the hem of her robe, but Rachel bent down and lifted her up in
her strong arms, embracing her as a mother embraces a child.
"Where hast thou been, Sister?" she asked. "I have sought thee long."
"Surely on thy business, Zoola," answered Noie, scanning her curiously.
"Dost thou not remember?"
"Nay, I remember naught, Noie, save that I have sought thee long. My
Spirit wanders, Noie."
"Lady," she said, "my people told me that it was so. They told me many
terrible things, they who can see afar, they for whom distance has no
gates, but I did not believe them. Now I see with my own eyes. Be at
peace, Lady, my people will give thee back thy Spirit, though perchance
thou must travel to find it, for in their land all spirits dwell. Be at
peace and listen."
"With thee, Noie, I am at peace," replied Rachel, and still holding her
hand, she reseated herself upon the stool.
"Where are the messengers?" asked Dingaan. "I see none."
"King," answered Noie, "they shall appear."
Then she made signs to the escort of giants, some of whom came forward and
drew the curtains of the litters, whilst others opened huge umbrellas of
split cane which they carried in their hands.
"Now what weapons are these?" asked Dingaan. "Daughter of Seyapi, you know
that none may appear before the King armed."
"Weapons against the sun, O King, which my people hate."
"And who are the wizards that hate the sun?" queried Dingaan again in an
astonished voice. Then he was silent, for out of the first litter came a
little man, pale as the shoot from a bulb that has grown in darkness, with
large, soft eyes like the eyes of an owl, that blinked in the light, and
long hair out of which all the colour seemed to have faded.
As the man, who, like Noie, was dressed in a white robe, and in size
measured no more than a twelve-year-old child, set his sandalled feet upon
the ground, one of the huge guards sprang forward to shield him with the
umbrella, but being awkward, struck his leg against the pole of the litter
and stumbled against him, nearly knocking him to the ground, and in his
efforts to save himself, letting fall the umbrella. The little man turned
on him furiously, and holding one hand above his head as though to shield
himself from the sun, with the other pointed at him, speaking in a low
sibilant voice that sounded like the hiss of a snake. Thereon the guard
fell to his knees, and bending down with outstretched arms, beat his
forehead on the earth as though in prayer for mercy. The sight of this
giant making supplication to one whom he could have killed with a blow,
was so strange that Dingaan, unable to restrain his curiosity, asked Noie
if the dwarf was ordering the other to be killed.
"Nay, King," answered Noie, "for blood is hateful to these people. He is
saying that the soldier has offended many times. Therefore he curses him
and tells him that he shall wither like a plucked leaf and die without
seeing his home again."
"And will he die?" asked Dingaan.
"Certainly, King; those upon whom the Ghost-people lay their curse must
obey the curse. Moreover, this man deserves his doom, for on the journey
he killed another to take his food."
"Of a truth a terrible people!" said Dingaan uneasily. "Bid them lay no
curse on me lest they should see more blood than they wish for."
"It is foolish to threaten the Great Ones of the Ghost-folk, King, for
they hear even what they seem not to understand," answered Noie quietly.
"Wow!" exclaimed the King; "let my words be forgotten. I am sorry that I
troubled them to come so far to visit me."
Meanwhile the offender had crept back upon his hands and knees, looking
like a great beaten dog, whilst another soldier, taking his umbrella, held
it over the angry dwarf. Also from the other litters two more dwarfs had
descended, so like to the first that it was difficult to tell them apart,
and were in the same fashion sheltered by guards with umbrellas. Mats were
brought for them also, and on these they sat themselves down at right
angles to Dingaan, and to Rachel, whose stool was set in front of the
King, whilst behind them stood three of their escort, each holding an
umbrella over the head of one of them with the left hand, while with the
right they fanned them with small branches upon which the leaves, although
they were dead, remained green and shining.
With Dingaan and his Council the three dwarfs did not seem to trouble
themselves, but at Rachel they peered earnestly. Then one of them made a
sign and muttered something, whereon a soldier of the escort stepped
forward with a fourth umbrella, which he opened over the heads of Rachel,
and of Noie who stood at her side.
"Why does he do that?" asked Dingaan. "The Inkosazana is not a bat that
she fears the sun."
"He does it," answered Noie, "that the Inkosazana may sit in the shade of
the wisdom of the Ghost-people, and that her heart which is hot with many
wrongs, may grow cool in the shade."
"What does he know about the Inkosazana and her wrongs?" asked Dingaan
again, but Noie only shrugged her shoulders and made no answer.
Now one of the dwarfs made another sign, whereon more guards advanced,
carrying small bowls of polished wood. These bowls they set upon the
ground before the three dwarfs, one before each of them, filling them to
the brim with water from a gourd.
"If your people are thirsty, Noie," exclaimed the King, "I have beer for
them to drink, for at least the locusts have left me that. Bid them throw
away the water, and I will give them beer."
"It is not water, King," she answered, "but dew gathered from certain
trees before sunrise, and it is their spirits that are thirsty for
knowledge, not their bodies, for in this dew they read the truth."
"Then the Inkosazana must be of their family, Noie, for she read of the
coming of the white chief Dario in water, or so they say."
"Perhaps, O King, if it is so these prophets will know it and acknowledge
Now for a long while there was silence, so long a while indeed that
Dingaan and his Councillors began to move uneasily, for they felt as
though the dwarf men were fingering their heart-strings. At length the
three dwarfs lifted their wrinkled faces that were bleached to the colour
of half-ripe corn, and gazed at each other with their round, owl-like
eyes; then as though with one accord they said to each other:
"What seest thou, Priest?" and at same sign from them Noie translated the
words into Zulu.
Now the first of them, he who had cursed the soldier, spoke in his low
hissing voice, a voice like to the whisper of leaves in the wind, Noie
rendering his words.
"I see two maidens standing by a house that moves when cattle draw it. One
of them is dark-skinned, it is she," and he pointed to Noie, "the other is
fair-skinned, it is she," and he pointed to Rachel. "They cast, each of
them, a hair from her head into the air. The black hair falls to the
ground, but a spirit catches the hair of gold and bears it northward. It
is the spirit of Seyapi whom the Zulus slew. Northwards he bears it, and
lays it in the hand of the Mother of the Trees, and with it a message."
"Yes, with it a message," repeated the other two nodding their heads.
Then one of them drew a little package wrapped in leaves from his robe,
and motioned to Noie that she should give it to Rachel. Noie obeyed, and
the man said:
"Let us see if she has vision. Tell us, thou White One, what lies within
Rachel, who had been sitting like a person in a dream, took the packet,
and, without looking at it, answered:
"Many other leaves, and within the last of them a hair from this head of
mine. I see it, but three knots have been tied therein. They are three
"Open," said the dwarf to Noie, who cut the fibre binding the packet, and
unfolded many layers of leaves. Within the last leaf was a golden hair,
and in it were tied three knots.
Noie laid the hair upon the head of Rachel--it was hers. Then she showed
it to the King and his Council, who stared at the knots not knowing what
to say, and after they had looked at it, refolded it in the leaves and
returned the packet to the dwarf.
Now the dwarf who had read the picture in his bowl turned to him who sat
nearest and asked:
"What seest thou, Priest?"
The man stared at the limpid water and answered:
"I see this place at night. I see yonder King and his Councillors talking
to a white man with evil eyes and the face of a hawk, who has been wounded
on the head and foot. I read their lips. They bargain together; it is of
the bringing of an old prophet and his wife hither by force. I see the
prophet and his wife in a house, and with them Zulus. By the command of
the white man with the evil eyes the Zulus kill the prophet whose head is
bald, and his wife dies upon the bed. Before they kill the prophet he
slays one of the Zulus with smoke that comes from an iron tube."
When he heard all this Dingaan groaned, but the dwarf who had spoken,
taking no heed of him, said to the third dwarf:
"What seest thou, Priest?" to which that dwarf answered:
"I see the White One yonder standing on a hut, but her Spirit has fled
from her, it has fled from her to haunt the Trees. In her hand is a spear,
and below is the white man with, the evil eyes, held by Zulus. I read her
words: she says that there is blood," and he shivered as he said the word,
"yes, blood between her Spirit and the people of the Zulus. She prophesies
evil to them. I see the ill; I see many burnt in a great fire. I see many
drowned in an angry river. I see the demons of sickness lay hold of many.
I see her Spirit call up the locusts from the coast land. I see it bring
disaster on their arms; I see it scatter plague among their cattle; I see
a dim shape that it summons striding towards this land. It travels fast
over a winter veld, and the head of it is the head of a skull, and the
name of it is Famine."
As he ended his words the three dwarfs bent forward, and with one movement
seized their bowls and emptied them on to the ground, saying:
"Earth, Earth, drink, drink and bear record of these visions!"
Now the Council was much disturbed, for, although there were great witch
doctors among them, none had known magic like to this. Only Dingaan stared
down brooding. Then he looked up, and his fat body shook with hoarse
"You play pretty tricks, little men," he said, "with your giants and your
boughs and your huts that open, and your bowls of water. But for all that
they are only tricks, since Noie, or others have told you of these things
that happened in the past. Now if you are wizards indeed, read me the
riddle of the words of the Inkosazana that she spoke before her Spirit
left her because of the evil acts of the wolf, Ibubesi. Show me the answer
to them in your bowls of water, little men, or be driven hence as cheats
and liars. Also tell us your names by which we may know you."
When Noie had translated this speech the three dwarfs gathered themselves
under one umbrella, and spoke to each other; then they slid back to their
places, and the first of them, he who had cursed the soldier, said:
"King of the Zulus, I am Eddo, this on my right is Pani, and that on my
left is Hana. We are children of the Mother of the Trees; we are
high-priests of the Grey-people, the Dream-people, who rule by dreams and
wisdom, not by spears as thou dost, O King. We are the Ghost-kings whom
the ghosts obey, we are the masters of the dead, and the readers of
hearts. Those are our names and titles, O King. We have travelled hither
because thou sentest a messenger of our own blood who whispered a strange
tale in the ear of the Mother of the Trees, a tale of one of whom we knew
already but desired to see," and all three of them nodded towards Rachel
seated on her stool. "We will read thy riddle, O King, but first thou must
fix the fee."
"What do you demand, Ghost-people?" asked Dingaan. "Cattle are somewhat
scarce here just now, and wives, I think, would be of little use to you.
What is there, then, that you desire, and I can give?"
They looked at each other, then Eddo said, pointing with his thin hand
upon which the nails grew long:
"We ask for the White One who sits there. We think that her Spirit dwells
with us already, and we ask her body that we may join it to the Spirit
Now the Council murmured, but Dingaan replied:
"Once we sought to keep her in whom dwelt the Inkosazana of the Zulus. But
things have gone amiss, and she brings curses on us. If shape and spirit
were joined together again, mayhap the curses would be taken off our
heads. Yet we dare not give her to you, unless she gives herself of her
own will. Moreover, first the divination, then the pay. Is that enough?"
"It is enough," they answered, speaking all together. "Set out the matter,
King of the Zulus, and we will see what we can do."
Then Dingaan beckoned to a man with a withered hand who sat close to him,
listening and noting all things, but saying nothing, and said:
"Stand forth, thou Mopo, and tell the tale."
So Mopo rose and began his story. He told how he alone among the people of
the Zulus had thrice seen the spirit of the Inkosazana in the days of the
"Black-One-who-was-gone." He told how many moons ago the white man,
Ibubesi, had come to the Great Place speaking of a beautiful white maiden
who was known by the name of the Inkosazana-y-Zoola, a maiden who ruled
the lightning, and was not as other maidens are, and how he had been sent
to see her, and found that as was the Spirit of the Inkosazana which he
knew, so was this maiden.
"_Wow_!" he added, "save that the one walked on air and the other on
earth, they are the same."
Moreover, as a spirit she seemed wise. He told of the trapping of Noie,
and of the decoying of Rachel into Zululand, and of the interview between
her and the King by moonlight when she smelt out Noie. Now he was going on
to speak of the question put by Dingaan to the Inkosazana, and the answer
that she gave to him, when one of the little men who all this while sat as
though they were asleep, blinking their eyes in the light--it was
"Surely thou forgettest something. Tongue of the King, thou who are named
Mopo, or Umbopa, Son of Makedama; thou forgettest certain words which the
Inkosazana whispered to thee when she threw her cloak about thy head ere
thou fleddest away from the Council of the King. Of course, we do not know
the words, but why dost thou not repeat them, Tongue of the King?"
Mopo stared at them, and his teeth chattered, then he answered:
"Because they have nothing to do with the story, Ghost-men; because they
were of my own death, which is a little matter."
The three dwarfs turned their heads towards each other and said, each to
"Hearest thou, Priest, and hearest thou, Priest, and hearest thou, Priest?
He says that the words were of his own death and have nothing to do with
the story," and they smiled and nodded, and appeared to go to sleep again.
Now Mopo went on with his tale. He told of the question of the King, how
he had asked the Inkosazana whether he should fall upon the Boers or let
them be; of how she had searched the Heavens with her eyes; of how the
meteor had travelled before them, and burst over the kraal, Umgugundhlovu,
that star which she said was thrown by the hand of the Great-Great, the
Umkulunkulu, and of how she had sworn that she also heard the feet of a
people travelling over plain and mountain, and saw the rivers behind them
running red with blood. Lastly, he told of how she had refused to add to
or take from her words, or to set out their meaning.
Then Mopo sat himself down again in the circle of the Councillors, and
watched and hearkened like a hungry wolf.
"Ye have heard, Ghost-men," said the King. "Now, if ye are really wise,
interpret to us the meaning of this saying of the Inkosazana, and of the
running star which none can read."
The priests awoke and consulted with each other, then Eddo said:
"This matter is too high for us, King of the Zulus."
Dingaan heard, and laughed angrily.
"I thought it, I thought it!" he cried. "Ye are but cheats after all who,
like any common doctor, repeat the gossip that ye have heard, and pretend
that it is a message from Heaven. Now why should I not whip you from my
town with rods till ye see that red blood which ye so greatly fear?"
At the mention of the word blood, the little men seemed to curl up like
cut grass before fire; then Eddo smiled, a sickly smile, and answered:
"Be gentle, King, walk softly, King. We are but poor cheats, yet we will
do our best, we, or another for us. A new bowl, a big bowl, a red bowl for
the red King, and fill it to the brink with dew."
As he piped out the words a man from among their company appeared with a
vessel much larger than those into which they had gazed, and made of
beautiful, polished, blood-hued wood that gleamed in the sunlight. Eddo
took it in his hand and another slave filled it with water from the gourd;
the last drop of the water filled it to the brim. Then the three of them
muttered invocations over it, and Eddo, beckoning to Noie, bade her bear
it to the Inkosazana that she might gaze therein.
Rachel received it and looked; as she looked all the emptiness left her
eyes which grew quick and active and full of horror.
"Thou seest something, Maiden?" queried Eddo.
"Aye," answered Rachel, "I see much. Must I speak?"
"Nay, nay! Breathe on the water thrice and fix the visions. Now bear the
bowl to yonder King and let him look. Perchance he also will see
Rachel breathed on the water thrice, rose like one in a trance, and
advancing to Dingaan placed the brimming bowl upon his knees.
"Look, King, look," cried Eddo, "and tell us if in what thou seest lies an
answer to the oracle of the Inkosazana."
Dingaan stared at the water, angrily at first, as one who smells a trick.
Then his face changed.
"By the head of the Black One," he said, "I see people fighting in this
kraal, white men and Zulus, and the white men are mastered and the Zulus
drag them out to death. The Zulus conquer, O my people. It is as I thought
that it would be--that is the meaning of the riddle of the Inkosazana."
"Good, good," said the Council. "Doubtless it shall come to pass."
But the dwarf Eddo only smiled again and waved his hand.
"Look once more, King," he said in his low, hissing voice, and Dingaan
Now his face darkened. "I see fire," he said. "Yes, in this kraal.
Umgugundhlovu burns, my royal House burns, and yonder come the white men
riding upon horses. Oh! they are gone."
Eddo waved his hand, saying:
"Look again and tell us what thou seest, King."
Unwillingly enough, but as though he could not resist, Dingaan looked and
"I see a mountain whereof the top is like the shape of a woman, and
between her knees is the mouth of a cave. Beneath the floor of that cave I
see bodies, the body of a great man and the body of a girl; she must have
been fair, that girl."
Now when he heard this the Councillor who was named Mopo, he with the
withered hand, started up, then sat down again, but all were so intent
upon listening to Dingaan that none noticed his movements save Noie and
the priests of the ghosts.
"I see a man, a fat man come out of the cave," went on Dingaan. "He seems
to be wounded and weary, also his stomach is sunken as though with hunger.
Two other men seize him, a tall warrior with muscles that stand out on his
legs, and another that is thin and short. They drag him up the mountain to
a great cleft that is between the breasts of her who sits thereon. They
speak with him, but I cannot see their faces, for they are wrapped in
mist, or the face of the fat man, for that also is wrapped in mist. They
hale him to the edge of the cleft, they hurl him over, he falls headlong,
and the mist is swept from his face. Ah! _it is my own face!_" [Footnote:
See "Nada the Lily," CHAPTER XXXV.]
"Priest," whispered each of the little men to his fellow in the dead
silence that followed, "Priest, this King says that he sees his own face.
Priest, tell me now, has not the spirit of the Inkosazana interpreted the
oracle of the Inkosazana? Will not yonder King be hurled down this cleft?
Is _he_ not the star that falls?"
And they nodded and smiled at each other.
But Dingaan leapt up in his rage and terror, and with him leapt up the
Councillors and witch doctors, all save he who was named Mopo, son of
Makedama, who sat still gazing at the ground. Dingaan leapt up, and
seizing the bowl hurled it from him so that the water in it fell over
Rachel like rain from the clouds. He leapt up, and he cursed the
Ghost-priests as evil wizards, bidding them begone from his land. He raved
at them, he threatened them, he cursed them again and again. The little
men sat still and smiled till he grew weary and ceased. Then they spoke to
each other, saying:
"He has sprinkled the White One with the dew of out Trees, and henceforth
she belongs to the Trees. Is it not so, Priest?"
They nodded in assent, and Eddo rose and addressed the King in a new
voice, a shrill commanding voice, saying:
"O man, thou that art called a King and causest much blood to flow, thou
are but a bubble on a river of blood, thou slayer that shalt be slain,
thou thrower of spears upon whom the spear shall fall, thou who shalt look
upon the Face of Stone that knows not pity, thou whom the earth shall
swallow, thou who shalt perish at the hands of--"
"The faces of the slayers were veiled, Priest," broke in the other two
dwarfs, peeping up at him from beneath the shadow of their umbrellas;
"surely the faces of those slayers were veiled, O Priest."
"Thou who shalt perish at the hands of avengers whose faces are veiled,
thy riddle is read for thee as the Mother of the Trees decreed that it
should be read. It is well read, it is truly read, it shall befall in its
season. Now give to thy servants their reward and let them depart in
peace. Give to them, that White One whose lost Spirit spoke to thee from
"Take her," roared Dingaan, "take her and begone, for to the Zulus she and
Noie, the witch, bring naught but ill."
But one of the Council cried:
"The Inkosazana cannot be sent away with these magicians unless it is her
will to go."
Then the little men nodded to Noie, and Noie whispered in the ear of
Rachel listened and answered: "Whither thou goest, Noie, thither I go with
thee, I who seek my Spirit."
So Noie took Rachel by the hand and led her from the Council-place of the
King, and as she went, followed by the Ghost-priests and their escort, for
the last time all the Councillors rose up and gave to her the royal
salute. Only Dingaan sat upon the ground and beat it with his fists in
Thus did the Inkosazana-y-Zoola depart from the Great Place of the King of
the Zulus, and Mopo, the son of Makedama, shading his eyes with his hand,
watched her go from between his withered fingers.
RACHEL FINDS HER SPIRIT
Northward, ever northward, journeyed Rachel with the Ghost-priests; for
days and weeks they journeyed, slowly, and for the most part at night,
since these people dreaded the glare of the sun. Sometimes she was borne
along in a litter with Noie upon the shoulders of the huge slaves, but
more often she walked between the litters in the midst of a guard of
soldiers, for now she was so strong that she never seemed to weary, nor
even in the fever swamps where many fell ill, did any sickness touch her.
Also this labour of the body seemed to soothe her wandering and tormented
mind, as did the touch of Noie's hand and the sound of Noie's voice. At
times, however, her madness got hold of her and she broke out into those
bursts of wild laughter which had scared the Zulus. Then Eddo would
descend from his litter and lay his long fingers on her forehead and look
into her eyes in such a fashion that she went to sleep and was at peace.
But if Noie spoke to her in these sleeps, she answered her questions, and
even talked reasonably as she had done before the people of Mafooti laid
the body of Richard at her feet, and she stood upon the roof of the hut
which Ishmael strove to climb.
Thus it was that Noie came to learn all that had happened to her since
they parted, for though she had gathered much from them, the Zulus could
not, or would not tell her everything. In past days she had heard from
Rachel of the lad, Richard Darrien, who had been her companion years
before through that night of storm on the island in the river, and now she
understood that her lady loved this Richard, and that it was because of
his murder by the wild brute, Ibubesi, that she had become mad.
Yes, she was mad, and for that reason Noie rejoiced that the dwarf people
were taking her to their home, since if she could be cured at all, they
were able to heal her, they the great doctors. Moreover, if these priests
and the Zulus would have let her go, whither else could she have gone
whose parents and lover were dead, except to the white people on the
coast, who did not reverence the insane, as do all black folk, but would
have locked her up in a house with others like her until she died. No
although she knew that there were dangers before them, many and great
dangers, Noie rejoiced that things had befallen thus.
Also in her tender care already Rachel improved much, and Noie believed
that one day she would be herself again. Only she wished that she and her
lady were alone together; that there were no priests with them, and above
all no Eddo. For Eddo as she knew well was jealous of her authority over
Rachel; jealous too of the love that they bore one to the other. He wished
to use this crazed white chieftainess who had been accepted as their
Inkosazana by the great Zulu people, for his own purposes. This had been
clear from the beginning, and that was why when he first heard of her he
had consented to go on the embassy to Dingaan, since by his magic he could
foresee much of the future that was dark to Noie, whose blood was mixed
and who had not all the gifts of the Ghost-kings.
Moreover, the Mother of the Trees was Noie's great aunt, being the sister
of her grandfather, or of his father, Noie was not sure which, for she had
dwelt among them but a few days, and never thought to inquire of the
matter. But of one thing she was sure, that Eddo the first priest, hated
this Mother of the Trees, who was named Nya, and desired that "when her
tree fell" the next mother should be his servant, which Nya was not.
Perhaps, reflected Noie, it was in his mind that her lady would fill this
part, and being mad, obey him in all things.
Still she kept a watch upon her words, and even on her thoughts, for Eddo
and his fellow-priests, Pani and Hana, were able to peer into human
hearts, and read their secrets. Also she protected Rachel from him as much
as she was able, never leaving her side for a moment, however weary she
might be, for she feared lest he should become the master of her will.
Only when the fits of madness fell upon her mistress, she was forced to
allow Eddo to quell them with his touch and eye, since herself she lacked
this power, nor dared she call the others to her help, for they were under
the hand of Eddo.
Northward, ever northward. First they passed through the Zulus and their
subject tribes who knew of them and of the Inkosazana. All of these were
suffering from the curse that lay upon the land because, as they believed,
there was blood between the Inkosazana and her people. The locusts
devoured their crops and the plague ravaged their cattle, so that they
were terrified of her, and of the little Grey-folk with whom she
travelled, the wizards who had shown fearful things to Dingaan and left
him sick with dread. They fled at their approach, only leaving a few of
their old people to prostrate themselves before this Inkosazana who
wandered in search of her own Spirit, and the Dream-men who dwelt with the
ghosts in the heart of a forest, and to pray her and them to lift this
cloud of evil from the land, bringing gifts of such things as were left to
At length all the Zulus were passed, and they entered into the territories
of other tribes, wild, wandering tribes.
But even these knew of the Ghost-kings, and attempted nothing against
them, as they had attempted nothing against Noie and her escort when she
travelled through this land on her embassy to the People of the Trees.
Indeed, some of their doctors would visit them at their camps and ask an
oracle, or an interpretation of dreams, or a charm against their enemies,
or a deadly poison, offering great gifts in return. At times Eddo and his
fellow-priests would listen, and the giants would bring a tiny bowl filled
with dew into which they gazed, telling them the pictures they saw there,
though this they did but seldom, as the supply of dew which they had
brought with them from their own country ran low, and since it could not
be used twice they kept it for their own purposes.
Next they came to a country of vast swamps, where dwelt few men and many
wild beasts, a country full of fevers and reeds and pools, in which lived
snakes and crocodiles. Yet no harm came to them from these things, for the
Ghost-priests had medicines that warded off sickness, and charms that
protected them from all evil creatures, and in their bowls they read what
road to take and how dangers could be avoided. So they passed the swamps
safely; only here that slave whom Eddo had cursed at the kraal of Dingaan,
and who from that day onward had wasted till he seemed to be nothing but a
great skeleton, sickened and died.
"Did I not tell you that it should be so?" said Eddo to the other slaves,
who trembled before him as reeds tremble in the wind. "Be warned, ye
fools, who think that the strength of men lies in their bodies and their
spears." Then he kicked the corpse of the dead giant gently with his
sandalled foot, and bade his brothers throw him into a pool for the
crocodiles to eat.
Having passed the swamps and many rivers, at length they turned westward,
travelling for days over grassy uplands like to those of Natal, among
which wandered pastoral tribes with their herds of cattle. On these plains
were multitudes of game and many lions, especially in the bush-clad slopes
of great isolated mountains that rose up here and there. These lions
roared round them at night, but the priests did not seem to be afraid, for
when the brutes became overbold they placed deadly poison in the carcases
of buck that the nomad tribes brought them as offerings, of which the
lions ate and died in numbers. Also they sold some of the poison to the
tribe for a great price in cattle, as to the delivery of which cattle they
gave minute directions, for they knew that none dared to cheat the Mother
of the Trees and her prophets.
After the plains were left behind, they reached a vast, fertile and
low-lying country that sloped upwards for miles and miles, which, as Noie
explained to Rachel, when she would listen, was the outer territory of the
Ghost-people, for here dwelt the race of the Umkulus, or Great Ones, who
were their slaves, that folk to which the soldiers of their escort
belonged. Of these there were thousands and tens of thousands who earned
their living by agriculture, since although they were so huge and
fierce-looking, they did not fight unless they were attacked. The chiefs
of this people had their dwellings in vast caves in the sides of cliffs
which, if need be, could be turned into impregnable fortresses, but their
real ruler was the Mother of the Trees, and their office was to protect
the country of the Trees and furnish it with food, since the Tree-people
were dreamers who did little work.
While they travelled through this land all the headmen of the Umkulus
accompanied them, and every morning a council was held at which these made
report to the priests of all that had chanced of late, and laid their
causes before them for judgment. These causes Eddo and his fellow-priests
heard and settled as seemed best to them, nor did any dare to dispute
their rulings. Indeed, even when they deposed a high chief and set another
in his place, the man who had lost all knelt before them and thanked them
for their goodness. Also they tried criminals who had stolen women or
committed murder, but they never ordered such men to be slain outright.
Sometimes Eddo would look at them dreamily and curse them in his slow,
hissing voice, bidding them waste in body and in mind, as he had done to
the soldier at Umgugundhlovu, and die within one year, or two, or three,
as the case might be. Or sometimes, if the crime was very bad, he would
command that they should be sent to "travel in the desert," that is,
wander to and fro without food or water until death found them. Now and
again miserable-looking men, mere skeletons, with hollow cheeks, and eyes
that seemed to start from their heads, would appear at their camps weeping
and imploring that the curse which had been laid upon them in past days
should be taken off their heads. At such people Eddo and his
brother-priests, Pani and Hana, would laugh softly, asking them how they
throve upon the wrath of the Mother of the Trees, and whether they thought
that others who saw them would be encouraged to sin as they had done. But
when the poor wretches prayed that they might be killed outright with the
spear, the priests shrank up in horror beneath their umbrellas, and asked
if they were mad that they should wish them to "sprinkle their trees with
One morning a number of these bewitched Umkulus, men, women and children,
appeared, and when the three priests mocked them, as was their wont, and
the guards, some of whom were their own relatives, sought to beat them
away with sticks, threw themselves upon the ground and burst into weeping.
Rachel, who was camped at a little distance with Noie, in a reed tent that
the guard had made for her, which they folded up and carried as they did
the umbrellas, heard the sound of this lamentation, and came out followed
by Noie. For a space she stood contemplating their misery with a troubled
air, then asked Noie why these people seemed so starved and why they wept.
Noie told her that when she was on her embassy the head of their kraal, an
enormous man of middle age, whom she pointed out to Rachel, had sought to
detain her because she was beautiful, and he wished to make her his wife,
although he knew well that she was on an embassy to the Mother of the
Trees. She had escaped, but it was for this reason that the curse of which
they were perishing had been laid upon him and his folk.
Now Rachel went on to where the three priests sat beneath their umbrellas
dozing away the hours of sunlight, beckoning to the doomed family to
"Wake, priests," she cried in a loud voice, and they looked up astonished,
rubbing their eyes, and asked what was the matter.
"This," said Rachel. "I command you to lift the weight of your malediction
off the head of these people who have suffered enough."
"Thou commandest us!" exclaimed Eddo astonished. "And if we will not,
Beautiful One, what then?"
"Then," answered Rachel, "_I_ will lift it and set it on to your heads,
and you shall perish as they are perishing. Oh! you think me mad, you
priests, who kill more cruelly than did the Zulus, and mad I am whose
Spirit wanders. Yet I tell you that new powers grow within me, though
whence they come I know not, and what I say I can perform."
Now they stared at her muttering together, and sending for a wooden bowl,
peeped into it. Whatever it was they saw there did not please them, for at
length Eddo addressed the crowd of suppliants, saying:
"The Mother of the Trees forgives; the knot she tied she looses; the tree
she planted she digs up. You are forgiven. Bones, put on strength; mouths,
receive food; eyes, forget your blindness, and feet, your wanderings. Grow
fat and laugh; increase and multiply; for the curse we give you a
blessing, such is the will of the Mother of the Trees."
"Nay, nay," cried Rachel, when she understood their words, "believe him
not, ye starvelings. Such is the will of the Inkosazana of the Zulus, she
who has lost her Spirit and another's, and travels all this weary way to
Then her madness seemed to come upon her again, for she tossed her arms on
high and burst into one of her wild fits of laughter. But those whom she
had redeemed heeded it not, for they ran to her, and since they dared not
touch her, or even her robe, kissed the ground on which she had stood and
blessed her. Moreover from that moment they began to mend, and within a
few days were changed folk. This Noie knew, for they followed up Rachel to
the confines of the desert, and she saw it with her eyes. Also the fame of
the deed spread among the Umkulu people who groaned under the cruel rule
of the Ghost-kings, and mad or sane, from that day forward they adored
Rachel even more than the Zulus had done, and like the Zulus believed her
to be a Spirit. No mere human being, they declared, could have lifted off
the curse of the Mother of the Trees from those upon whom it had fallen.
Thenceforward Eddo, Pani, and Hana hid their judgments from Rachel, and
would not suffer such suppliants to approach the camp. Also when they
seized a number of men because these had conspired together to rebel
against the Ghost-people, and brought them on towards their own country
for a certain purpose, they forced them to act as bearers like the others,
so that Rachel might not guess their doom. For now, with all their power,
they also were afraid of this white Inkosazana, as Dingaan had been
So they travelled up this endless slope of fertile land, leaving all the
kraals of the giant Umkulus behind them, and one morning at the dawn
camped upon the edge of a terrible desert; a place of dry sands and
sun-blasted rocks, that looked like the bottom of a drained ocean, where
nothing lived save the fire lizards and certain venomous snakes that
buried themselves in the sand, all except their heads, and only crawled
out at night. After the people of the Umkulus this horrible waste was the
great defence of the Ghost-kings, whose country it ringed about, since
none could pass it without guides and water. Indeed, Noie had been forced
to stay here for days with her escort, until the Mother of the Trees,
learning of her coming in some strange fashion, had sent priests and
guards to bring her to her land. But the Zulus who were with her they did
not bring, except one witch-doctor to bear witness to her words. These
they left among the Umkulus till she should return, nor were those Zulus
sorry who had already heard enough of the magic of the Ghost-kings, and
feared to come face to face with them.
But it is true that they also feared the Umkulus, whom, because of their
great size and the fierceness of their air, the Zulus took to be evil
spirits, though if this were so, they could not understand why they should
obey a handful of grey dwarfs who lived far from them beyond the desert.
Still these Umkulus did them no harm, for on her return Noie found them
all safe and well.
That afternoon Rachel and the dwarfs plunged into the dreadful wilderness,
heading straight for the ball of the sinking sun. Here, although she
wished to do so, she was not allowed to walk, for fear lest the serpents
should bite her, said Eddo, but must journey in the litter with Noie. So
they entered it, and were borne forward at a great pace, the bearers
travelling at a run, and being often changed. Also many other bearers came
with them, and on the shoulders of each of them was strapped a hide bag of
water. Of this they soon discovered the reason, for the sand of that
wilderness was white with salt; the air also seemed to be full of salt, so
that the thirst of those who travelled there was sharp and constant, and
if it could not be satisfied they died.
It was a very strange journey, and although she did not seem to take much
note of them at the time, its details and surroundings burned themselves
deeply into Rachel's mind. The hush of the infinite desert, the white
moonlight gleaming upon the salt, white sand; the tall rocks which stood
up here and there like unfinished obelisks and colossal statues, the snowy
clouds of dust that rose beneath the feet of the company; the hoarse
shouts of the guides, the close heat, the halts for water which was
greedily swallowed in great gulps; the occasional cry and confusion when a
man fell out exhausted, or because he had been bitten by one of the
serpents--all these things, amongst others, were very strange.
Once Rachel asked vaguely what became of these outworn and snake-poisoned
men, and Noie only shook her head in answer, for she did not think fit to
tell her that they were left to find their way back, or to perish, as
All that night and for the first hours of the day that followed, they went
forward swiftly, camping at last to eat and sleep in the shadow of a mass
of rock that looked like a gigantic castle with walls and towers. Here
they remained in the burning heat until the sun began to sink once more,
and then went on again, leaving some of the bearers behind them, because
there was no longer water for so many. There the great men sat in patient
resignation and watched them go, they who knew that having little or no
water, few of them could hope to see their homes again. Still, so great
was their dread of the Ghost-priests, that they never dared to murmur, or
to ask that any of the store of water should be given to them, they who
were but cattle to be used until they died.
The second night's journey was like the first, for this desert never
changed, its aspect, and on the following morning they halted beneath
another pile of fantastic, sand-burnished rocks, from some of which hung
salt like icicles. Here one of the bearers who had been denied water as a
punishment for laziness, although in truth he was sick, began to suck the
salt-icicles. Suddenly he went raving mad, and rushing with a knife at
Eddo, Pani, and Hana where they sat under their cane umbrellas that, for
the sake of coolness, were damped with this precious water, he tried to
Then as they saw the knife gleaming, all their imperturbable calm departed
from these dwarfs. They squeaked in terror with thin voices as rats speak;
they rolled upon the ground yelling to the slaves to save them from a "red
death." The man was seized and, though he fought with all his giant
strength, held down and choked in the sand. Once, however, he twisted his
head free, howling a curse at them. Also he managed to hurl his knife at
Eddo, and the point of it scratched him on the hand, causing the pale
blood to flow, a sight at which Eddo and the other priests broke into
tears and lamentations, that continued long after the Umkulu was dead.
"Why are they such cowards?" asked Rachel, dreamily, for she had not seen
the murder of the slave, and thought that Eddo had only scratched himself.
"Because they fear the sight of blood, Zoola," answered Noie, "which is a
very evil omen to them. Death they do not fear who are already among
ghosts, but if it is a red death, their souls are spilt with their life,
or so they believe."
Towards noon that day the sky banked up with lurid-coloured clouds; the
sun which should have shone so hotly, went out, and a hush that was almost
fearful in its heat and intensity, fell upon the desert. The Umkulu
bearers became disturbed, and gathered together into knots, talking in low
tones. Eddo and his brother priests who, either because of the adventure
of the morning or the oppressive air, could not sleep, as was usual with
them, were also disturbed. They crept from beneath their umbrellas which,
as the sun had vanished, were of no use to them, and stood together
staring at the salty plain, which under that leaden and lowering sky
looked white as snow, and at the brooding clouds above. They even sent for
their bowls to read in them pictures of what was about to happen, but
there was no dew left, so these could not be used.
Then they consulted with the captains of the bearers, who told then what
no magic was needed to guess that a mighty storm was gathering, and that
if it overtook them in the desert, they would be buried beneath the
drifting sand. Now this was a "white death" which the dwarfs did not seem
to desire, so they ordered an instant departure, instead of delaying the
start until sunset, as they had intended, for then, if all went well, they
would have arrived at their homes by dawn, and not in the middle of the
night. So that litters were made ready, and they went forward through the
overpowering heat, that caused the bearers to hang out their tongues and
reel as they walked.
Towards evening the storm began to stir. Little wandering puffs of wind
blew upon them and died away, and lightnings flickered intermittently.
Then a hot breeze sprang up that gradually increased in strength until the
sand rolled and rippled before it, now one way and now another, for this
breeze seemed to blow in turn from every quarter of the heavens. Suddenly,
however, after trying them all, it settled in the west, and drove straight
into their faces with ever increasing force. Now Eddo thrust out his head
between the curtains of his litter and called to the bearers to hurry, as
they had but a little distance of desert left to pass, after which came
the grass country where there would be no danger from the sand. They heard
and obeyed, changing the pole gangs frequently, as those who carried the
litters became exhausted.
But the storm was quicker than they; it burst upon them while they were
still in the waste, though not in its full strength. Then the darkness
came, utter darkness, for no moon or stars could be seen, and salt and
sand drove down on them like hail. Through it all, the bearers fought on,
though how they found their way Noie, who was watching them, could not
guess, since no landmarks were left to guide them. They fought on,
blinded, choked with the salt sand that drove into their eyes and lungs,
till man after man, they fell down and perished. Others took their places,
and yet they fought on.
It must have been near to midnight when the company, or those who were
left of them, staggered to the edge of that dreadful wilderness which was
but a vast plain of stone and sand, bordered on the west as on the east by
slopes of fertile soil. For a while the fierce tempest lifted a little,
and the light of the stars which struggled through breaks in the clouds
showed that they were marching down a steep descent of grassland. Thus
they went on for several more hours, till at length the bearers of the
litter in which were Rachel and Noie, who for a long time had been
staggering to and fro like drunken men, came to a halt, and litter and
all, sank to the ground, utterly exhausted.
Rachel and Noie disentangled themselves from the litter, for they were
unhurt, and stood by it, not knowing where to go, till presently two other
litters containing the priests came up, for the third had been abandoned,
and its occupant crowded in with Eddo. Now a great clamour arose in the
darkness, the priests hissing commands to the surviving bearers to take up
the litter and proceed. But great as was their strength, this the poor men
could not do. There they lay upon the ground answering that Eddo might
curse them if he wished, or even kill them as their brothers had been
killed, but they were unable to stir another step until they had rested
and drunk. Where they were, there they must lie until rain fell. Then the
priests wished Rachel to enter one of their litters, leaving Noie to walk,
which they were afraid to do themselves. But when she understood, Rachel
cut the matter short by answering,
"Not so, I will walk," and picking up the spear of one of the fallen
Umkulu to serve as a staff, she took Noie by the hand and started forward
down the hill.
One of the priests clasped her robe to draw her back, but she turned on
him with the spear, whereon he shrank back into his litter like a snail
into his shell and left her alone. So following the steep path they
marched on, and after them came the two litters with the priests, carried
by all the bearers who could still stand, for these old men weighed no
more than children. From far below them rose a mighty sound as of an angry
"What is that noise?" called Rachel into the ear of Noie, for the gale was
"The sound of wind in the forest where the Tree-folk dwell," she answered.
Then the dawn broke, an awful, blood-red dawn, and by degrees they saw.
Beneath them ran a shallow river, and beyond it, stretching for league
upon league farther than the eye could see, lay the mighty forest whereof
the trees soared two hundred feet or more into the air; the dark
illimitable forest that rolled as the sea rolls beneath the pressure of
the gale, and indeed, seen from above, looked like a green and tossing
ocean. At the sight of the water Rachel and Noie began to run towards it
hand in hand, for they were parched with thirst whose mouths were full of
the salt dust of the desert. The bearers of the litters in which were the
three priests ran also, paying no heed to the cries of the dwarfs within.
At length it was reached, and throwing themselves down they drank until
that raging thirst of theirs was satisfied; even Eddo and his companions
crawled out of their litters and drank. Then having washed their hands and
faces in the cool water, they forded the fleet stream, and, filled with a
new life, followed the road that ran beyond towards the forest. Scarcely
had they set foot upon the farther bank when the heart of the tempest,
which had been eddying round them all night long, burst over them in its
fury. The lightnings blazed, the thunder rolled, and the wild wind grew to
a hurricane, so fierce that the litters in which were Eddo, Pani, and Hana
were torn from the grasp of the bearers and rolled upon the ground. From
the wreck of them, for they were but frail things, the little grey priests
emerged trembling, or rather were dragged by the hands of their giant
bearers, to whom they clung as a frightened infant clings to its mother.
Rachel saw them and, laughed.
"Look at the Masters of Magic!" she cried to Noie, "those who kill with a
curse, those who rule the Ghosts," and she pointed to the tiny,
contemptible figures with fluttering robes being dragged along by those
giants whom but a little while before they had threatened with death.
"I see them," answered Noie into her ear. "Their spirits are strong when
they are at peace, but in trouble they fear doom more than others. Now, if
I were those Umkulu, I would make an end of them while they can."
But these great, patient men did otherwise; indeed, when the dwarfs, worn
out and bewildered by the hurricane, could walk no more, they took them up
and carried them as a woman carries a babe.
Now they were passing a belt of open land between the river and the forest
in which terrified mobs of cattle rushed to and fro, while their herds,
slave-men of large size like the Umkulu, tried to drive them to some place
where they would be safe from the tempest In this belt also grew broad
fields of grain, which furnished food for the Tree-folk. At last they came
to the confines of the forest, and Rachel, looking round her with
wondering eyes, saw at the foot of each great tree a tiny hut shaped like
a tent, and in front of the hut a dwarf seated on the ground staring into
a bowl of water, and beating his breast with his hands.
"What do they?" she asked of Noie.
"They strive to read their fates, Lady, and weep because the wind ripples
the dew in their bowls, so that they can see nothing, and cannot be sure
whether their tree will stand or fall. Follow me, follow me; I know the
way, here we are not safe."
The hurricane was at its height; the huge trees about them rocked and bent
like reeds, great boughs came crashing down; one of them fell upon a
praying dwarf and crushed him to a pulp. Those around him saw it and
uttered a wild shrill scream; Eddo, Pani, and Hana saw it and screamed
also, in the arms of their bearers, for this sight of blood was terrible
to them. The forest was alive with the voices of the storm, it seemed to
howl and groan, and the lightnings illumined its gloomy aisles. The
grandeur and the fearfulness of the scene excited Rachel; she waved the
spear she carried, and began to laugh in the wild fashion of her madness,
so that even the grey dwarfs, seated each at the foot of his tree, ceased
from his prayers to glance at her askance.
On they went, expecting death at every step, but always escaping it, until
they reached a wide clearing in the forest. In the centre of this clearing
grew a tree more huge than any that Rachel had ever dreamed of, the bole
of it, that sprang a hundred feet without a branch, was thicker than
Dingaan's Great Hut, and its topmost boughs were lost in the scudding
clouds. In front of this tree was gathered a multitude of people, men,
women, and children, all dwarfs, and all of them on their knees engaged in
prayer. At its bole, by a tent-shaped house, stood a little figure, a
woman whose long grey hair streamed upon the wind.
"The Mother of the Trees," cried Noie through the screaming gale. "Come to
her, she will shelter us," and she gripped Rachel's arm to lead her
Scarcely had they gone a step when the lightning blazed above them
fearfully, and with it came an awful rush of wind. Perhaps that flash fell
upon the tree, or perhaps the wind snapped its roots. At least its mighty
trunk burst in twain, and with a crash that for a moment seemed to master
even the roar of the volleying thunder, down it came to earth. Two huge
limbs fell on either side of Rachel and Noie, but they were not touched. A
bough struck the Umkulu slave who was carrying Eddo, and swept off his
head, leaving the dwarf unharmed. Another bough fell upon Pani and his
bearer, and buried them in the earth beneath its bulk, so that they were
never seen again. As it chanced the most of the worshippers were beyond
the reach of the falling branches, but some of these that were torn loose
in the fall, or shattered by the lightning, the wind caught and hurled
among them, slaying several and wounding others.
In ten seconds the catastrophe had come and gone, the Queen-Tree that had
ruled the forest for a thousand years was down, a stack of green leaves,
through which the shattered branches showed like bones, and a prostrate,
splintered trunk. The shock threw Noie and Rachel to the ground, but
Rachel, rising swiftly, pulled Noie to her feet after her; then, acting
upon some impulse, leapt forward, and climbing on to the trunk where it
forked, ran down it till she almost reached its base, and stood there
against the great shield of earth that had been torn up with the roots.
After that last fearful outburst a stillness fell, the storm seemed to
have exhausted itself, at any rate for a while. Rachel was able to get her
breath and look about her.
All around were lines of enormous trees, solemn aisles that seemed to lead
up to the Queen of the Trees, and down these aisles, piercing the shadows
cast by the interlacing branches overhead, shone the lights of that lurid
morning. Rachel saw, and something struggled in the darkness of her brain,
as the light struggled in the darkness of the forest aisles. She
remembered--oh! what was it she remembered? Now she knew. It was the dream
she had dreamed upon the island in the river, years and years ago, a dream
of such trees as these, and of little grey people like to these, and of
the boy, Richard, grown to manhood, lashed to the trunk of one of the
trees. What had happened to her? She could recall nothing since she saw
the body of Richard upon its bier in the kraal Mafooti.
But this was not the kraal Mafooti, nor had Noie, who stood at her side,
been with her there, Noie, who had gone on an embassy to her father's
folk, the dwarf people. Ah! these people were dwarfs. Look at them running
to and fro screaming like little monkeys. She must have been dreaming a
long, bad dream, whereof the pictures had escaped her. Doubtless she was
still dreaming and presently would awake. Well, the torment had gone out
of it, and the fear, only the wonder remained. She would stand still and
see what happened. Something was happening now. A little thin hand
appeared, gripping the rough bark at the side of the fallen tree.
She peeped over the swell of it and saw an old dwarf woman with long white
hair, whose feet were set in a cleft of the shattered bole, and who hung
to it as an ape hangs. Beneath her to the ground was a fall of full thirty
feet, for the base of the bole was held high up by the roots, so that the
little woman's hair hung down straight towards the ground, whither she
must presently fall and be killed. Rachel wondered how she had come there,
if she had clung to the trunk when it fell, or been thrown up by the
shock, or lifted by a bough. Next she wondered how long it would be before
she was obliged to leave go, and whether her white head or her back would
first strike the earth all that depth beneath. Then it occurred to her
that she might be saved.
"Hold my feet," she said to Noie, who had followed her along the trunk,
speaking in her own natural voice, at the sound of which Noie looked at
her in joyful wonder. "Hold my feet; I think I can reach that old woman,"
and without waiting for an answer she laid herself down upon the bole, her
body hanging over the curve of it.
Now Noie saw her purpose, and seating herself with her heels set against
the roughness of the bark, grasped her by the ankles. Supporting some of
her weight on one hand, with the other Rachel reached downwards all the
length of her long arm, and just as the grasp of the old woman below was
slackening, contrived to grip her by the wrist. The dwarf swung loose,
hanging in the air, but she was very light, of the weight of a
five-year-old child, perhaps, no more, and Rachel was very strong. With an
effort she lifted her up till the monkey-like fingers gripped the rough
bark again. Another effort and the little body was resting on the round of
the tree, one more and she was beside her.
Now Rachel rose to her feet again and laughed, but it was not the mad
laughter that had scared Ishmael and the Zulus; it was her own laughter,
that of a healthy, cultured woman.
The little creature, crouching on hands and knees at Rachel's feet, lifted
her head and stared with her round eyes. At that moment, too, the sun
broke out, and its rays, shining where they had never shone for ages, fell
upon Rachel, upon her bright hair, and the white robes in which the dwarfs
had clothed her, and the gleaming spear in her hand, causing her to look
like some ancient statue of a goddess upon a temple roof.
"Who art thou," said the dwarf woman in the hissing voice of her race,
"thou Beautiful One? I know! I know! Thou art that Inkosazana of the Zulus
of whom we have had many visions, she for whom I sent. But the Inkosazana
was mad, she had lost her Spirit; it has been seen here. Beautiful One,
_thou_ art not mad."
"What does she say, Noie?" asked Rachel. "I can only understand some
Noie told her, and Rachel hid her eyes in her hand. Presently she let it
"She is right. I lost my Spirit for a while; it went away with another
Spirit. But I think that I have found it again. Tell her, Noie, that I
have travelled far to seek my Spirit, and that I have found it again."
Noie, who could scarcely take her eyes from Rachel's face, obeyed, but the
old woman hardly seemed to heed her words; a grief had got hold of her.
She rocked herself to and fro like a monkey that has lost its young, and
"My tree has fallen, the tree of my House, which stood from the beginning
of the world, has fallen, but that of Eddo still stands," and she pointed
to another giant of the forest that soared up, unharmed, at a little
distance. "Nya's tree has fallen--Eddo's tree still stands. His magic has
prevailed against me, his magic has prevailed against me!"
As she spoke a man appeared scrambling along the bole towards them; it
was Eddo himself. His round eyes shone, on his pale face there was a look
of triumph, for whoever might be lost, the danger had passed him by.
"Nya," he piped, tapping her on the shoulder, "thy Ghost has deserted
thee, old woman, thy tree is down. See, I spit upon it," and he did so.
"Thou art no longer Mother of the Trees; thou art only the old woman Nya.
The Ghost people, the Dream people, the little Grey people, have a new
queen, and I am her minister, for I rule her Spirit. Yonder she stands,"
and he pointed at the tall and glittering Rachel. "Now, thou new-born
Mother of the Trees, who wast the Inkosazana of the Zulus, obey me. Give
death to this old woman, the Red Death, that her spirit may be spilt with
her blood, and lost for ever. Give it to her with that spear in thy hand,
while I hide my eyes, and reign thou in her place through me," and he
bowed his head and waited.
"Not the Red Death, not the Red Death," wailed Nya. "Give me the White
Death and save my soul, Beautiful One, and in return I will give thee
something that thou desirest, who am still the wisest of them all,
although my Tree is down."
Noie whispered for a while in Rachel's ear. Then while all the dwarf
people gathered beneath them, watching, Rachel bent forward, and putting
her arms about the trembling creature, lifted her up as though she were a
child, and held her to her bosom.
"Mother," she said, "I give thee no death, red or white; I give thee love.
Thy tree is down; sit thou in my shadow and be safer On him who harms
thee"--and she looked at Eddo--"on him shall the Red Death fall."
THE MOTHER OF THE TREES
When Eddo understood these words he lifted his head and stared at Rachel
"This is thy doing, Bastard," he said savagely, addressing Noie, who had
translated them. "I have felt thee fighting against me for long, and now
thou causest this Inkosazana to defy me. It was thou who didst work upon
that old woman, thine aunt, to command that the white witch should be
brought hither, and because as yet I dared not disobey, I made a terrible
journey to bring her. Yes, and I did this gladly, for when my eyes fell
upon her, there in the town of Dingaan, I saw that she was great and
beautiful, but that her Spirit had gone, and I knew that I could make her
mouth to speak my words, and her pure eyes to see things that are denied
to mine, even the future as, when I bade her, she saw it yonder in the
court of Dingaan. But now it seems that her Spirit has returned to her, so
that there is no room for mine in her heart, and she speaks her own words,
not my words. And thou hast done this thing, O Bastard."
"Perhaps," answered Noie unconcernedly.
"Thou thinkest," went on Eddo, in his fury beating the bole on which he
sat, "thou thinkest to protect that old hag, Nya, because her blood runs
in thee. But, fool, it is in vain, for her tree is down, her tree is down,
and as its leaves wither, and its sap dries up, so must she wither and her
blood dry up until she dies, she who thought to live on for many years."
"What does that matter?" asked Noie, "seeing that then she will only join
the great company of the ghosts with whom she longs to be, and return with
them to torment thee, Eddo, until thou, too, art one of them, and lookest
on the face of Judgment."
"Thou thinkest," screamed the dwarf, ignoring this ominous suggestion,
"thou thinkest, when she is gone, to be queen in her place, or to rule as
high priestess through this White One."
"If I do, that will be a bad hour for thee, Eddo," replied Noie.
"It shall not be, woman. No bastard shall reign here as Mother of the
Trees while the nations round cringe before her feet. I have spells; I
have poisons; I have slaves who can shoot with arrows."
"Then use them if thou canst, thou evil-doer," said "Noie contemptuously.
"Aye, I will use them all, and not on thee only, but on that white witch
whom thou lovest. She shall never pass living from this land that is
ringed in by the desert and the forest. She shall choose me to reign
through her as her high priest, or she shall die--die miserably. For a
little while that old hag, Nya, may protect her with her wisdom, but when
she passes, as she must, and quickly, for I will light fires beneath this
fallen tree of hers, then I tell thee the Beautiful One shall choose
between my rule and doom."
Now Noie would hear no more.
"Dog," she cried, "filthy night-bird, darest thou speak thus of the
Inkosazana? Another word and I will offer that heart of thine to the sun
thou hatest," and snatching the spear from Rachel's hand, she charged at
him, holding it aloft.
Eddo saw her come. With a scream of fear he leapt to his feet, and ran
swiftly along the bole till he reached the mass of the fallen branches.
Into these he sprang, swinging himself from bough to bough like an ape
until he vanished amongst the dark green foliage. Then, having quite lost
sight of him, Noie returned laughing to Rachel, by whom stood the old
Mother of the Trees who had slid from her arms, and gave her back the
spear, saying in the dwarf language:
"This Eddo speaks great words, but he is also a great coward."
"Yes, yes," answered the old woman, "he is a great coward, because like
all our folk he fears the Red Death; but, child, I tell thee he is
terrible. He hates me because I rule through the white art, not the black,
but while my tree stood he must obey me, and I was safe. Now it is down,
and he may kill me if he can, according to the custom of my land, and set
up another to be queen, she at whose feet my tree bowed itself and fell by
the will of the Heavens, and whom, therefore, the people will accept.
Through her he will wield all the power of the Ghost-kings, over whom no
man may rule, but a woman only. Come, Child, and thou, White One, come
also. I know where we may hide. Lady, the power that was mine is thine;
protect me till I die, and in payment I will give thee whatever thy heart
"I ask no payment," Rachel answered wearily, when she understood the
words; "and I think that it is I who need protection from that wicked
Then, guided by Nya, who clung to Rachel's hand, they walked down the bole
of the tree and along a great branch, till at length they reached a place
whence they could climb to the ground. Before they were clear of the
boughs the dethroned Mother, from whose round eyes the tears fell, turned
and kissed the bark of one of them, wailing aloud.
"Farewell, thou mighty one, under whose shade I, and the queens of my race
before me, have dreamed for centuries. Thou art fallen beneath the stroke
of Heaven, and great was thy fall, and I am fallen with thee. Save me from
the Red Death, O Spirit of my tree, that in the land of ghosts I still may
sleep beneath thy shade for ever."
Then she ran to the very point of the tree and broke off its topmost twig,
which was covered with narrow and shining green leaves, and holding it in
her hand, returned to Rachel.
"I will plant it," she said, "and perchance it will grow to be the house
of queens unborn. Come, now, come," and she turned her face towards the
The thunder had rolled away, and from time to time the sun shone fiercely,
so fiercely that, unable to bear its rays, all the dwarfs who were
gathered about the fallen tree had retreated into the shadow of the other
trees around the open space. There they stood and sat watching the three
of them go by. Men, women and children, they all watched, and Rachel they
saluted with their raised hands; but to her who had been their mother for
unknown years they did no reverence. Only one hideous little man ran up to
her and called out:
"Thou didst punish me once, old woman, now why should I not kill thee in
payment? Thy tree is down at last."
Nya looked at him sadly, and answered:
"I remember. Thou shouldst have died, for thy sin was great, but I laid a
lesser burden on thee. Man, thou canst not kill me yet; my tree is down,
but it is not dead."
She held up the green bough in her hand and looked at him from beneath it,
then went on slowly: "Man, my wisdom remains within me, and I tell thee
that before I die thou shalt die, and not as thou desirest. Remember my
words, people of the Ghosts."
Then she walked on with the others, leaving the dwarf staring after her
with a face wherein hate struggled with fear.
"Thou liest," he screamed after her; "thy power is gone with thy tree."
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when they heard a crash which
caused them to look round. A bough, broken by the storm, had fallen from
on high. It had fallen on to the head of the dwarf, and there he lay
crushed and dead.
"Ah!" piped the other dwarfs, pointing towards the corpse with their
fingers, and closing their eyes to shut out the sight of blood, "ah! Nya
is right; she still has power. Those who would kill her must wait till her
Taking no heed of what had happened, Nya walked on into the forest. For a
while Rachel noted the little huts built, each of them, at the foot of a
tree. There were hundreds of these huts that they could see, showing that
the people were many, but by degrees they grew fewer, only one was visible
here and there, set beneath some particularly vigorous and handsome
timber. At last they ceased altogether; they had passed through that city,
the strangest city in the world.
Trees--everywhere trees, hundreds of trees, tens of thousands of trees
soaring up to heaven, making a canopy of their interlacing boughs,
shutting out the light so that beneath them was a deep oppressive gloom.
There was silence also, for if any beasts or birds dwelt there the
hurricane had scared them away, silence only broken from time to time by
the crash of some giant of the forest that, its length of days fulfilled
at last, sank suddenly to ruin, to be buried in a tomb of brushwood whence
in due course its successor would arise.
"Another life gone," said the old woman, Nya, flitting before them like a
little grey ghost, every time that this weird sound struck upon their
ears; "whose was it, I wonder? I will look in my bowl, I will look in my
For, as Rachel discovered afterwards, these people believed that the
spirit of each tree of the forest is attached to the spirit of a human
being, although that being may dwell in other lands, far away, which dies
when the tree dies, sometimes slowly by disease, and sometimes in swift
collapse, so that they pass together into the world of ghosts.
On they flitted through the gloom, on for mile after mile. Although the
leaf-strewn ground showed no traces of it, evidently they were following
some kind of path, for no fallen trunks barred their progress, nor were
there any creepers or brushwood, although to right and left of them all
these could be seen in plenty. At last, quite of a sudden, for the bole of
a tree at the end of the path had hidden it from them, they came upon a
clearing in the forest. It seemed to be a natural, or, at any rate, a very
ancient clearing, since in it no stumps were visible, nor any scrub, or
creepers, only tall grass and flowering plants. In the centre of this
place, covering a quarter of it, perhaps, was a vast circular wall, fifty
feet or more in height, and clothed with ferns. This wall, they noted, was
built of huge blocks of stone, so huge indeed that it seemed wonderful
that they could have been moved by human beings. At the sight of that
marvellous wall Rachel and Noie halted involuntarily, and Noie asked:
"Who made it, Mother?"
"The giants who lived when the world was young. Can our hands lift such