Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Child of Storm by H. Rider Haggard

Part 2 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download Child of Storm pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Macumazahn, the clever white man, will show us how, for where is the
buffalo that he fears!"

Of course, after this there was nothing else to be done, so, having
summoned the scratched Scowl, who seemed to have no heart in the
business, we started on the spoor of the herd, which was as easy to
track as a wagon road.

"Never mind, Baas," said Scowl, "they are two hours' march off by now."

"I hope so," I answered; but, as it happened, luck was against me, for
before we had covered half a mile some over-zealous fellow struck a
blood spoor.

I marched on that spoor for twenty minutes or so, till we came to a
patch of bush that sloped downwards to a river-bed. Right to this river
I followed it, till I reached the edge of a big pool that was still full
of water, although the river itself had gone dry. Here I stood looking
at the spoor and consulting with Saduko as to whether the beast could
have swum the pool, for the tracks that went to its very verge had
become confused and uncertain. Suddenly our doubts were ended, since
out of a patch of dense bush which we had passed--for it had played the
common trick of doubling back on its own spoor--appeared the buffalo, a
huge bull, that halted on three legs, my bullet having broken one of its
thighs. As to its identity there was no doubt, since on, or rather
from, its right horn, which was cleft apart at the top, hung the remains
of Umbezi's moocha.

"Oh, beware, Inkoosi," cried Saduko in a frightened voice. _"It is the
buffalo with the cleft horn!_"

I heard him; I saw. All the scene in the hut of Zikali rose before
me--the old dwarf, his words, everything. I lifted my rifle and fired
at the charging beast, but knew that the bullet glanced from its skull.
I threw down the gun--for the buffalo was right on me--and tried to jump

Almost I did so, but that cleft horn, to which hung the remains of
Umbezi's moocha, scooped me up and hurled me off the river bank
backwards and sideways into the deep pool below. As I departed thither
I saw Saduko spring forward and heard a shot fired that caused the bull
to collapse for a moment. Then with a slow, sliding motion it followed
me into the pool.

Now we were together, and there was no room for both, so after a certain
amount of dodging I went under, as the lighter dog always does in a
fight. That buffalo seemed to do everything to me which a buffalo could
do under the circumstances. It tried to horn me, and partially
succeeded, although I ducked at each swoop. Then it struck me with its
nose and drove me to the bottom of the pool, although I got hold of its
lip and twisted it. Then it calmly knelt on me and sank me deeper and
deeper into the mud. I remember kicking it in the stomach. After this
I remember no more, except a kind of wild dream in which I rehearsed all
the scene in the dwarf's hut, and his request that when I met the
buffalo with the cleft horn in the pool of a dried river, I should
remember that he was nothing but a "poor old Kafir cheat."

After this I saw my mother bending over a little child in my bed in the
old house in Oxfordshire where I was born, and then--blackness!

I came to myself again and saw, instead of my mother, the stately figure
of Saduko bending over me upon one side, and on the other that of Scowl,
the half-bred Hottentot, who was weeping, for his hot tears fell upon my

"He is gone," said poor Scowl; "that bewitched beast with the split horn
has killed him. He is gone who was the best white man in all South
Africa, whom I loved better than my father and all my relatives."

"That you might easily do, Bastard," answered Saduko, "seeing that you
do not know who they are. But he is not gone, for the 'Opener-of-Roads'
said that he would live; also I got my spear into the heart of that
buffalo before he had kneaded the life out of him, as fortunately the
mud was soft. Yet I fear that his ribs are broken"; and he poked me
with his finger on the breast.

"Take your clumsy hand off me," I gasped.

"There!" said Saduko, "I have made him feel. Did I not tell you that he
would live?"

After this I remember little more, except some confused dreams, till I
found myself lying in a great hut, which I discovered subsequently was
Umbezi's own, the same, indeed, wherein I had doctored the ear of that
wife of his who was called "Worn-out-old-Cow."



For a while I contemplated the roof and sides of the hut by the light
which entered it through the smoke-vent and the door-hole, wondering
whose it might be and how I came there.

Then I tried to sit up, and instantly was seized with agony in the
region of the ribs, which I found were bound about with broad strips of
soft tanned hide. Clearly they, or some of them, were broken.

What had broken them? I asked myself, and in a flash everything came
back to me. So I had escaped with my life, as the old dwarf,
"Opener-of-Roads," had told me that I should. Certainly he was an
excellent prophet; and if he spoke truth in this matter, why not in
others? What was I to make of it all? How could a black savage,
however ancient, foresee the future?

By induction from the past, I supposed; and yet what amount of induction
would suffice to show him the details of a forthcoming accident that was
to happen to me through the agency of a wild beast with a peculiarly
shaped horn? I gave it up, as before and since that day I have found it
necessary to do in the case of many other events in life. Indeed, the
question is one that I often have had cause to ask where Kafir
"witch-doctors" or prophets are concerned, notably in the instance of a
certain Mavovo, of whom I hope to tell one day, whose predictions saved
my life and those of my companions.

Just then I heard the sound of someone creeping through the bee-hole of
the hut, and half-closed my eyes, as I did not feel inclined for
conversation. The person came and stood over me, and somehow--by
instinct, I suppose--I became aware that my visitor was a woman. Very
slowly I lifted my eyelids, just enough to enable me to see her.

There, standing in a beam of golden light that, passing through the
smoke-hole, pierced the soft gloom of the hut, stood the most beautiful
creature that I had ever seen--that is, if it be admitted that a person
who is black, or rather copper-coloured, can be beautiful.

She was a little above the medium height, not more, with a figure that,
so far as I am a judge of such matters, was absolutely perfect--that of
a Greek statue indeed. On this point I had an opportunity of forming an
opinion, since, except for her little bead apron and a single string of
large blue beads about her throat, her costume was--well, that of a
Greek statue. Her features showed no trace of the negro type; on the
contrary, they were singularly well cut, the nose being straight and
fine and the pouting mouth that just showed the ivory teeth between,
very small. Then the eyes, large, dark and liquid, like those of a
buck, set beneath a smooth, broad forehead on which the curling, but not
woolly, hair grew low. This hair, by the way, was not dressed up in any
of the eccentric native fashions, but simply parted in the middle and
tied in a big knot over the nape of the neck, the little ears peeping
out through its tresses. The hands, like the feet, were very small and
delicate, and the curves of the bust soft and full without being coarse,
or even showing the promise of coarseness.

A lovely woman, truly; and yet there was something not quite pleasing
about that beautiful face; something, notwithstanding its childlike
outline, which reminded me of a flower breaking into bloom, that one
does not associate with youth and innocence. I tried to analyse what
this might be, and came to the conclusion that without being hard, it
was too clever and, in a sense, too reflective. I felt even then that
the brain within the shapely head was keen and bright as polished steel;
that this woman was one made to rule, not to be man's toy, or even his
loving companion, but to use him for her ends.

She dropped her chin till it hid the little, dimple-like depression
below her throat, which was one of her charms, and began not to look at,
but to study me, seeing which I shut my eyes tight and waited.
Evidently she thought that I was still in my swoon, for now she spoke to
herself in a low voice that was soft and sweet as honey.

"A small man," she said; "Saduko would make two of him, and the
other"--who was he, I wondered--"three. His hair, too, is ugly; he cuts
it short and it sticks up like that on a cat's back. Iya!" (i.e.
Piff!), and she moved her hand contemptuously, "a feather of a man. But
white--white, one of those who rule. Why, they all of them know that he
is their master. They call him 'He-who-never-Sleeps.' They say that he
has the courage of a lioness with young--he who got away when Dingaan
killed Piti [Retief] and the Boers; they say that he is quick and
cunning as a snake, and that Panda and his great indunas think more of
him than of any white man they know. He is unmarried also, though they
say, too, that twice he had a wife, who died, and now he does not turn
to look at women, which is strange in any man, and shows that he will
escape trouble and succeed. Still, it must be remembered that they are
all ugly down here in Zululand, cows, or heifers who will be cows.
Piff! no more."

She paused for a little while, then went on in her dreamy, reflective

"Now, if he met a woman who is not merely a cow or a heifer, a woman
cleverer than himself, even if she were not white, I wonder--"

At this point I thought it well to wake up. Turning my head I yawned,
opened my eyes and looked at her vaguely, seeing which her expression
changed in a flash from that of brooding power to one of moved and
anxious girlhood; in short, it became most sweetly feminine.

"You are Mameena?" I said; "is it not so?"

"Oh, yes, Inkoosi," she answered, "that is my poor name. But how did
you hear it, and how do you know me?"

"I heard it from one Saduko"--here she frowned a little--"and others,
and I knew you because you are so beautiful"--an incautious speech at
which she broke into a dazzling smile and tossed her deer-like head.

"Am I?" she asked. "I never knew it, who am only a common Zulu girl to
whom it pleases the great white chief to say kind things, for which I
thank him"; and she made a graceful little reverence, just bending one
knee. "But," she went on quickly, "whatever else I be, I am of no
knowledge, not fit to tend you who are hurt. Shall I go and send my
oldest mother?"

"Do you mean her whom your father calls the 'Worn-out-old-Cow,' and
whose ear he shot off?"

"Yes, it must be she from the description," she answered with a little
shake of laughter, "though I never heard him give her that name."

"Or if you did, you have forgotten it," I said dryly. "Well, I think
not, thank you. Why trouble her, when you will do quite as well? If
there is milk in that gourd, perhaps you will give me a drink of it."

She flew to the bowl like a swallow, and next moment was kneeling at my
side and holding it to my lips with one hand, while with the other she
supported my head.

"I am honoured," she said. "I only came to the hut the moment before
you woke, and seeing you still lost in swoon, I wept--look, my eyes are
still wet [they were, though how she made them so I do not know]--for I
feared lest that sleep should be but the beginning of the last."

"Quite so," I said; "it is very good of you. And now, since your fears
are groundless--thanks be to the heavens--sit down, if you will, and
tell me the story of how I came here."

She sat down, not, I noted, as a Kafir woman ordinarily does, in a kind
of kneeling position, but on a stool.

"You were carried into the kraal, Inkoosi," she said, "on a litter of
boughs. My heart stood still when I saw that litter coming; it was no
more heart; it was cold iron, because I thought the dead or injured man
was--" And she paused.

"Saduko?" I suggested.

"Not at all, Inkoosi--my father."

"Well, it wasn't either of them," I said, "so you must have felt happy."

"Happy! Inkoosi, when the guest of our house had been wounded, perhaps
to death--the guest of whom I have heard so much, although by misfortune
I was absent when he arrived."

"A difference of opinion with your eldest mother?" I suggested.

"Yes, Inkoosi; my own is dead, and I am not too well treated here. She
called me a witch."

"Did she?" I answered. "Well, I do not altogether wonder at it; but
please continue your story."

"There is none, Inkoosi. They brought you here, they told me how the
evil brute of a buffalo had nearly killed you in the pool; that is all."

"Yes, yes, Mameena; but how did I get out of the pool?"

"Oh, it seems that your servant, Sikauli, the bastard, leapt into the
water and engaged the attention of the buffalo which was kneading you
into the mud, while Saduko got on to its back and drove his assegai down
between its shoulders to the heart, so that it died. Then they pulled
you out of the mud, crushed and almost drowned with water, and brought
you to life again. But afterwards you became senseless, and so lay
wandering in your speech until this hour."

"Ah, he is a brave man, is Saduko."

"Like others, neither more nor less," she replied with a shrug of her
rounded shoulders. "Would you have had him let you die? I think the
brave man was he who got in front of the bull and twisted its nose, not
he who sat on its back and poked at it with a spear."

At this period in our conversation I became suddenly faint and lost
count of things, even of the interesting Mameena. When I awoke again
she was gone, and in her place was old Umbezi, who, I noticed, took down
a mat from the side of the hut and folded it up to serve as a cushion
before he sat himself upon the stool.

"Greeting, Macumazahn," he said when he saw that I was awake; "how are

"As well as can be hoped," I answered; "and how are you, Umbezi?"

"Oh, bad, Macumazahn; even now I can scarcely sit down, for that bull
had a very hard nose; also I am swollen up in front where Sikauli struck
me when he tumbled out of the tree. Also my heart is cut in two because
of our losses."

"What losses, Umbezi?"

"Wow! Macumazahn, the fire that those low fellows of mine lit got to our
camp and burned up nearly everything--the meat, the skins, and even the
ivory, which it cracked so that it is useless. That was an unlucky
hunt, for although it began so well, we have come out of it quite naked;
yes, with nothing at all except the head of the bull with the cleft
horn, that I thought you might like to keep."

"Well, Umbezi, let us be thankful that we have come out with our
lives--that is, if I am going to live," I added.

"Oh, Macumazahn, you will live without doubt, and be none the worse.
Two of our doctors--very clever men--have looked at you and said so.
One of them tied you up in all those skins, and I promised him a heifer
for the business, if he cured you, and gave him a goat on account. But
you must lie here for a month or more, so he says. Meanwhile Panda has
sent for the hides which he demanded of me to be made into shields, and
I have been obliged to kill twenty-five of my beasts to provide
them--that is, of my own and of those of my headmen."

"Then I wish you and your headmen had killed them before we met those
buffalo, Umbezi," I groaned, for my ribs were paining me very much.
"Send Saduko and Sikauli here; I would thank them for saving my life."

So they came, next morning, I think, and I thanked them warmly enough.

"There, there, Baas," said Scowl, who was literally weeping tears of joy
at my return from delirium and coma to the light of life and reason; not
tears of Mameena's sort, but real ones, for I saw them running down his
snub nose, that still bore marks of the eagle's claws. "There, there,
say no more, I beseech you. If you were going to die, I wished to die,
too, who, if you had left it, should only have wandered through the
world without a heart. That is why I jumped into the pool, not because
I am brave."

When I heard this my own eyes grew moist. Oh, it is the fashion to
abuse natives, but from whom do we meet with more fidelity and love than
from these poor wild Kafirs that so many of us talk of as black dirt
which chances to be fashioned to the shape of man?

"As for myself, Inkoosi," added Saduko, "I only did my duty. How could
I have held up my head again if the bull had killed you while I walked
away alive? Why, the very girls would have mocked at me. But, oh, his
skin was tough. I thought that assegai would never get through it."

Observe the difference between these two men's characters. The one,
although no hero in daily life, imperils himself from sheer, dog-like
fidelity to a master who had given him many hard words and sometimes a
flogging in punishment for drunkenness, and the other to gratify his
pride, also perhaps because my death would have interfered with his
plans and ambitions in which I had a part to play. No, that is a hard
saying; still, there is no doubt that Saduko always first took his own
interests into consideration, and how what he did would reflect upon his
prospects and repute, or influence the attainment of his desires. I
think this was so even when Mameena was concerned--at any rate, in the
beginning--although certainly he always loved her with a single-hearted
passion that is very rare among Zulus.

Presently Scowl left the hut to prepare me some broth, whereon Saduko at
once turned the talk to this subject of Mameena.

He understood that I had seen her. Did I not think her very beautiful?

"Yes, very beautiful," I answered; "indeed, the most beautiful Zulu
woman I have ever seen."

And very clever--almost as clever as a white?

"Yes, and very clever--much cleverer than most whites."

And--anything else?

"Yes; very dangerous, and one who could turn like the wind and blow hot
and blow cold."

"Ah!" he said, thought a while, then added: "Well, what do I care how
she blows to others, so long as she blows hot to me."

"Well, Saduko, and does she blow hot for you?"

"Not altogether, Macumazahn." Another pause. "I think she blows rather
like the wind before a great storm."

"That is a biting wind, Saduko, and when we feel it we know that the
storm will follow."

"I dare say that the storm will follow, Inkoosi, for she was born in a
storm and storm goes with her; but what of that, if she and I stand it
out together? I love her, and I had rather die with her than live with
any other woman."

"The question is, Saduko, whether she would rather die with you than
live with any other man. Does she say so?"

"Inkoosi, Mameena's thought works in the dark; it is like a white ant in
its tunnel of mud. You see the tunnel which shows that she is thinking,
but you do not see the thought within. Still, sometimes, when she
believes that no one beholds or hears her"--here I bethought me of the
young lady's soliloquy over my apparently senseless self--"or when she
is surprised, the true thought peeps out of its tunnel. It did so the
other day, when I pleaded with her after she had heard that I killed the
buffalo with the cleft horn.

"'Do I love you?' she said. 'I know not for sure. How can I tell? It
is not our custom that a maiden should love before she is married, for
is she did so most marriages would be things of the heart and not of
cattle, and then half the fathers of Zululand would grow poor and refuse
to rear girl-children who would bring them nothing. You are brave, you
are handsome, you are well-born; I would sooner live with you than with
any other man I know--that is, if you were rich and, better still,
powerful. Become rich and powerful, Saduko, and I think that I shall
love you.'

"'I will, Mameena,' I answered; 'but you must wait. The Zulu nation was
not fashioned from nothing in a day. First Chaka had to come.'

"'Ah!' she said, and, my father, her eyes flashed. 'Ah! Chaka! There
was a man! Be another Chaka, Saduko, and I will love you more--more
than you can dream of--thus and thus,' and she flung her arms about me
and kissed me as I was never kissed before, which, as you know, among us
is a strange thing for a girl to do. Then she thrust me from her with a
laugh, and added: 'As for the waiting, you must ask my father of that.
Am I not his heifer, to be sold, and can I disobey my father?' And she
was gone, leaving me empty, for it seemed as though she took my vitals
with her. Nor will she talk thus any more, the white ant who has gone
back into its tunnel."

"And did you speak to her father?"

"Yes, I spoke to him, but in an evil moment, for he had but just killed
the cattle to furnish Panda's shields. He answered me very roughly. He
said: 'You see these dead beasts which I and my people must slay for the
king, or fall under his displeasure? Well, bring me five times their
number, and we will talk of your marriage with my daughter, who is a
maid in some request.'

"I answered that I understood and would try my best, whereon he became
more gentle, for Umbezi has a kindly heart.

"'My son,' he said, 'I like you well, and since I saw you save
Macumazahn, my friend, from that mad wild beast of a buffalo I like you
better than before. Yet you know my case. I have an old name and am
called the chief of a tribe, and many live on me. But I am poor, and
this daughter of mine is worth much. Such a woman few men have bred.
Well, I must make the best of her. My son-in-law must be one who will
prop up my old age, one to whom, in my need or trouble, I could always
go as to a dry log,* to break off some of its bark to make a fire to
comfort me, not one who treads me into the mire as the buffalo did to
Macumazahn. Now I have spoken, and I do not love such talk. Come back
with the cattle, and I will listen to you, but meanwhile understand that
I am not bound to you or to anyone; I shall take what my spirit sends
me, which, if I may judge the future by the past, will not be much. One
word more: Do not linger about this kraal too long, lest it should be
said that you are the accepted suitor of Mameena. Go hence and do a
man's work, and return with a man's reward, or not at all.'"

[*--In Zululand a son-in-law is known as "isigodo so mkwenyana", the
"son-in-law log," for the reason stated in the text.--EDITOR.]

"Well, Saduko, that spear has an edge on it, has it not?" I answered.
"And now, what is your plan?"

"My plan is, Macumazahn," he said, rising from his seat, "to go hence
and gather those who are friendly to me because I am my father's son and
still the chief of the Amangwane, or those who are left of them,
although I have no kraal and no hoof of kine. Then, within a moon, I
hope, I shall return here to find you strong again and once more a man,
and we will start out against Bangu, as I have whispered to you, with
the leave of a High One, who has said that, if I can take any cattle, I
may keep them for my pains."

"I don't know about that, Saduko. I never promised you that I would
make war upon Bangu--with or without the king's leave."

"No, you never promised, but Zikali the Dwarf, the Wise Little One, said
that you would--and does Zikali lie? Ask yourself, who will remember a
certain saying of his about a buffalo with a cleft horn, a pool and a
dry river-bed. Farewell, O my father Macumazahn; I walk with the dawn,
and I leave Mameena in your keeping."

"You mean that you leave me in Mameena's keeping," I began, but already
he was crawling through the hole in the hut.

Well, Mameena kept me very comfortably. She was always in evidence, yet
not too much so.

Heedless of her malice and abuse, she headed off the "Worn-out-old-Cow,"
whom she knew I detested, from my presence. She saw personally to my
bandages, as well as to the cooking of my food, over which matter she
had several quarrels with the bastard, Scowl, who did not like her, for
on him she never wasted any of her sweet looks. Also, as I grew
stronger, she sat with me a good deal, talking, since, by common
consent, Mameena the fair was exempted from all the field, and even the
ordinary household labours that fall to the lot of Kafir women. Her
place was to be the ornament and, I may add, the advertisement of her
father's kraal. Others might do the work, and she saw that they did it.

We discussed all sorts of things, from the Christian and other religions
and European policy down, for her thirst for knowledge seemed to be
insatiable. But what really interested her was the state of affairs in
Zululand, with which she knew I was well acquainted, as a person who had
played a part in its history and who was received and trusted at the
Great House, and as a white man who understood the designs and plans of
the Boers and of the Governor of Natal.

Now, if the old king, Panda, should chance to die, she would ask me,
which of his sons did I think would succeed him--Umbelazi or Cetewayo,
or another? Or, if he did not chance to die, which of them would he
name his heir?

I replied that I was not a prophet, and that she had better ask Zikali
the Wise.

"That is a very good idea," she said, "only I have no one to take me to
him, since my father would not allow me to go with Saduko, his ward."
Then she clapped her hands and added: "Oh, Macumazahn, will you take me?
My father would trust me with you."

"Yes, I dare say," I answered; "but the question is, could I trust
myself with you?"

"What do you mean?" she asked. "Oh, I understand. Then, after all, I
am more to you than a black stone to play with?"

I think it was that unlucky joke of mine which first set Mameena
thinking, "like a white ant in its tunnel," as Saduko said. At least,
after it her manner towards me changed; she became very deferential; she
listened to my words as though they were all wisdom; I caught her
looking at me with her soft eyes as though I were quite an admirable
object. She began to talk to me of her difficulties, her troubles and
her ambitions. She asked me for my advice as to Saduko. On this point
I replied to her that, if she loved him, and her father would allow it,
presumably she had better marry him.

"I like him well enough, Macumazahn, although he wearies me at times;
but love-- Oh, tell me, _what_ is love?" Then she clasped her slim
hands and gazed at me like a fawn.

"Upon my word, young woman," I replied, "that is a matter upon which I
should have thought you more competent to instruct me."

"Oh, Macumazahn," she said almost in a whisper, and letting her head
droop like a fading lily, "you have never given me the chance, have
you?" And she laughed a little, looking extremely attractive.

"Good gracious!"--or, rather, its Zulu equivalent--I answered, for I
began to feel nervous. "What do you mean, Mameena? How could I--"
There I stopped.

"I do not know what I mean, Macumazahn," she exclaimed wildly, "but I
know well enough what you mean--that you are white as snow and I am
black as soot, and that snow and soot don't mix well together."

"No," I answered gravely, "snow is good to look at, and so is soot, but
mingled they make an ugly colour. Not that you are like soot," I added
hastily, fearing to hurt her feelings. "That is your hue"--and I
touched a copper bangle she was wearing--"a very lovely hue, Mameena,
like everything else about you."

"Lovely," she said, beginning to weep a little, which upset me very
much, for if there is one thing I hate, it is to see a woman cry. "How
can a poor Zulu girl be lovely? Oh, Macumazahn, the spirits have dealt
hardly with me, who have given me the colour of my people and the heart
of yours. If I were white, now, what you are pleased to call this
loveliness of mine would be of some use to me, for then-- then-- Oh,
cannot you guess, Macumazahn?"

I shook my head and said that I could not, and next moment was sorry,
for she proceeded to explain.

Sinking to her knees--for we were quite alone in the big hut and there
was no one else about, all the other women being engaged on rural or
domestic tasks, for which Mameena declared she had no time, as her
business was to look after me--she rested her shapely head upon my knees
and began to talk in a low, sweet voice that sometimes broke into a sob.

"Then I will tell you--I will tell you; yes, even if you hate me
afterwards. I could teach you what love is very well, Macumazahn; you
are quite right--because I love you." (Sob.) "No, you shall not stir
till you have heard me out." Here she flung her arms about my legs and
held them tight, so that without using great violence it was absolutely
impossible for me to move. "When I saw you first, all shattered and
senseless, snow seemed to fall upon my heart, and it stopped for a
little while and has never been the same since. I think that something
is growing in it, Macumazahn, that makes it big." (Sob.) "I used to
like Saduko before that, but afterwards I did not like him at all--no,
nor Masapo either--you know, he is the big chief who lives over the
mountain, a very rich and powerful man, who, I believe, would like to
marry me. Well, as I went on nursing you my heart grew bigger and
bigger, and now you see it has burst." (Sob.) "Nay, stay still and do
not try to speak. You _shall_ hear me out. It is the least you can do,
seeing that you have caused me all this pain. If you did not want me to
love you, why did you not curse at me and strike me, as I am told white
men do to Kafir girls?" She rose and went on:

"Now, hearken. Although I am the colour of copper, I am comely. I am
well-bred also; there is no higher blood than ours in Zululand, both on
my father's and my mother's side, and, Macumazahn, I have a fire in me
that shows me things. I can be great, and I long for greatness. Take
me to wife, Macumazahn, and I swear to you that in ten years I will make
you king of the Zulus. Forget your pale white women and wed yourself to
that fire which burns in me, and it shall eat up all that stands between
you and the Crown, as flame eats up dry grass. More, I will make you
happy. If you choose to take other wives, I will not be jealous,
because I know that I should hold your spirit, and that, compared to me,
they would be nothing in your thought--"

"But, Mameena," I broke in, "I don't want to be king of the Zulus."

"Oh, yes, yes, you do, for every man wants power, and it is better to
rule over a brave, black people--thousands and thousands of them--than
to be no one among the whites. Think, think! There is wealth in the
land. By your skill and knowledge the amabuto [regiments] could be
improved; with the wealth you would arm them with guns--yes, and
'by-and-byes' also with the throat of thunder" (that is, or was, the
Kafir name for cannon).* "They would be invincible. Chaka's kingdom
would be nothing to ours, for a hundred thousand warriors would sleep on
their spears, waiting for your word. If you wished it even you could
sweep out Natal and make the whites there your subjects, too. Or
perhaps it would be safer to let them be, lest others should come across
the green water to help them, and to strike northwards, where I am told
there are great lands as rich and fair, in which none would dispute our

[*--Cannon were called "by-and-byes" by the natives, because when
field-pieces first arrived in Natal inquisitive Kafirs pestered the
soldiers to show them how they were fired. The answer given was always
"By-and-bye!" Hence the name.--EDITOR]

"But, Mameena," I gasped, for this girl's titanic ambition literally
overwhelmed me, "surely you are mad! How would you do all these

"I am not mad," she answered; "I am only what is called great, and you
know well enough that I can do them, not by myself, who am but a woman
and tied with the ropes that bind women, but with you to cut those ropes
and help me. I have a plan which will not fail. But, Macumazahn," she
added in a changed voice, "until I know that you will be my partner in
it I will not tell it even to you, for perhaps you might talk--in your
sleep, and then the fire in my breast would soon go out--for ever."

"I might talk now, for the matter of that, Mameena."

"No; for men like you do not tell tales of foolish girls who chance to
love them. But if that plan began to work, and you heard say that kings
or princes died, it might be otherwise. You might say, 'I think I know
where the witch lives who causes these evils'--in your sleep,

"Mameena," I said, "tell me no more. Setting your dreams on one side,
can I be false to my friend, Saduko, who talks to me day and night of

"Saduko! Piff!" she exclaimed, with that expressive gesture of her

"And can I be false," I continued, seeing that Saduko was no good card
to play, "to my friend, Umbezi, your father?"

"My father! " she laughed. "Why, would it not please him to grow great
in your shadow? Only yesterday he told me to marry you, if I could, for
then he would find a stick indeed to lean on, and be rid of Saduko's

Evidently Umbezi was a worse card even than Saduko, so I played another.

"And can I help you, Mameena, to tread a road that at the best must be
red with blood?"

"Why not," she asked, "since with or without you I am destined to tread
that road, the only difference being that with you it will lead to glory
and without you perhaps to the jackals and the vultures? Blood! Piff!
What is blood in Zululand?"

This card also having failed, I tabled my last.

"Glory or no glory, I do not wish to share it, Mameena. I will not make
war among a people who have entertained me hospitably, or plot the
downfall of their Great Ones. As you told me just now, I am
nobody--just one grain of sand upon a white shore--but I had rather be
that than a haunted rock which draws the heavens' lightnings and is
drenched with sacrifice. I seek no throne over white or black, Mameena,
who walk my own path to a quiet grave that shall perhaps not be without
honour of its own, though other than you seek. I will keep your
counsel, Mameena, but, because you are so beautiful and so wise, and
because you say you are fond of me--for which I thank you--I pray you
put away these fearful dreams of yours that in the end, whether they
succeed or fail, will send you shivering from the world to give account
of them to the Watcher-on-high."

"Not so, O Macumazana," she said, with a proud little laugh. "When your
Watcher sowed my seed--if thus he did--he sowed the dreams that are a
part of me also, and I shall only bring him back his own, with the
flower and the fruit by way of interest. But that is finished. You
refuse the greatness. Now, tell me, if I sink those dreams in a great
water, tying about them the stone of forgetfulness and saying: 'Sleep
there, O dreams; it is not your hour'--if I do this, and stand before
you just a woman who loves and who swears by the spirits of her fathers
never to think or do that which has not your blessing--will you love me
a little, Macumazahn?"

Now I was silent, for she had driven me to the last ditch, and I knew
not what to say. Moreover, I will confess my weakness--I was strangely
moved. This beautiful girl with the "fire in her heart," this woman who
was different from all other women that I had ever known, seemed to have
twisted her slender fingers into my heart-strings and to be drawing me
towards her. It was a great temptation, and I bethought me of old
Zikali's saying in the Black Kloof, and seemed to hear his giant laugh.

She glided up to me, she threw her arms about me and kissed me on the
lips, and I think I kissed her back, but really I am not sure what I did
or said, for my head swam. When it cleared again she was standing in
front of me, looking at me reflectively.

"Now, Macumazahn," she said, with a little smile that both mocked and
dazzled, "the poor black girl has you, the wise, experienced white man,
in her net, and I will show you that she can be generous. Do you think
that I do not read your heart, that I do not know that you believe I am
dragging you down to shame and ruin? Well, I spare you, Macumazahn,
since you have kissed me and spoken words which already you may have
forgotten, but which I do not forget. Go your road, Macumazahn, and I
go mine, since the proud white man shall not be stained with my black
touch. Go your road; but one thing I forbid you--to believe that you
have been listening to lies, and that I have merely played off a woman's
arts upon you for my own ends. I love you, Macumazahn, as you will
never be loved till you die, and I shall never love any other man,
however many I may marry. Moreover, you shall promise me one
thing--that once in my life, and once only, if I wish it, you shall kiss
me again before all men. And now, lest you should be moved to folly and
forget your white man's pride, I bid you farewell, O Macumazana. When
we meet again it will be as friends only."

Then she went, leaving me feeling smaller than ever I felt in my life,
before or since--even smaller than when I walked into the presence of
old Zikali the Wise. Why, I wondered, had she first made a fool of me,
and then thrown away the fruits of my folly? To this hour I cannot
quite answer the question, though I believe the explanation to be that
she did really care for me, and was anxious not to involve me in trouble
and her plottings; also she may have been wise enough to see that our
natures were as oil and water and would never blend.



It may be thought that, as a sequel to this somewhat remarkable scene in
which I was absolutely bowled over--perhaps bowled out would be a better
term--by a Kafir girl who, after bending me to her will, had the genius
to drop me before I repented, as she knew I would do so soon as her back
was turned, thereby making me look the worst of fools, that my relations
with that young lady would have been strained. But not a bit of it.
When next we met, which was on the following morning, she was just her
easy, natural self, attending to my hurts, which by now were almost
well, joking about this and that, inquiring as to the contents of
certain letters which I had received from Natal, and of some newspapers
that came with them--for on all such matters she was very curious--and
so forth.

Impossible, the clever critic will say--impossible that a savage could
act with such finish. Well, friend critic, that is just where you are
wrong. When you come to add it up there's very little difference in all
main and essential matters between the savage and yourself.

To begin with, by what exact right do we call people like the Zulus
savages? Setting aside the habit of polygamy, which, after all, is
common among very highly civilised peoples in the East, they have a
social system not unlike our own. They have, or had, their king, their
nobles, and their commons. They have an ancient and elaborate law, and
a system of morality in some ways as high as our own, and certainly more
generally obeyed. They have their priests and their doctors; they are
strictly upright, and observe the rites of hospitality.

Where they differ from us mainly is that they do not get drunk until the
white man teaches them so to do, they wear less clothing, the climate
being more genial, their towns at night are not disgraced by the sights
that distinguish ours, they cherish and are never cruel to their
children, although they may occasionally put a deformed infant or a twin
out of the way, and when they go to war, which is often, they carry out
the business with a terrible thoroughness, almost as terrible as that
which prevailed in every nation in Europe a few generations ago.

Of course, there remain their witchcraft and the cruelties which result
from their almost universal belief in the power and efficiency of magic.
Well, since I lived in England I have been reading up this subject, and
I find that quite recently similar cruelties were practised throughout
Europe--that is in a part of the world which for over a thousand years
has enjoyed the advantages of the knowledge and profession of the
Christian faith.

Now, let him who is highly cultured take up a stone to throw at the
poor, untaught Zulu, which I notice the most dissolute and drunken
wretch of a white man is often ready to do, generally because he covets
his land, his labour, or whatever else may be his.

But I wander from my point, which is that a clever man or woman among
the people whom we call savages is in all essentials very much the same
as a clever man or woman anywhere else.

Here in England every child is educated at the expense of the Country,
but I have not observed that the system results in the production of
more really able individuals. Ability is the gift of Nature, and that
universal mother sheds her favours impartially over all who breathe.
No, not quite impartially, perhaps, for the old Greeks and others were
examples to the contrary. Still, the general rule obtains.

To return. Mameena was a very able person, as she chanced to be a very
lovely one, a person who, had she been favoured by opportunity, would
doubtless have played the part of a Cleopatra with equal or greater
success, since she shared the beauty and the unscrupulousness of that
famous lady and was, I believe, capable of her passion.

I scarcely like to mention the matter since it affects myself, and the
natural vanity of man makes him prone to conclude that he is the
particular object of sole and undying devotion. Could he know all the
facts of the case, or cases, probably he would be much undeceived, and
feel about as small as I did when Mameena walked, or rather crawled, out
of the hut (she could even crawl gracefully). Still, to be honest--and
why should I not, since all this business "went beyond" so long ago?--I
do believe that there was a certain amount of truth in what she
said--that, for Heaven knows what reason, she did take a fancy to me,
which fancy continued during her short and stormy life. But the reader
of her story may judge for himself.

Within a fortnight of the day of my discomfiture in the hut I was quite
well and strong again, my ribs, or whatever part of me it was that the
buffalo had injured with his iron knees, having mended up. Also, I was
anxious to be going, having business to attend to in Natal, and, as no
more had been seen or heard of Saduko, I determined to trek homewards,
leaving a message that he knew where to find me if he wanted me. The
truth is that I was by no means keen on being involved in his private
war with Bangu. Indeed, I wished to wash my hands of the whole matter,
including the fair Mameena and her mocking eyes.

So one morning, having already got up my oxen, I told Scowl to inspan
them--an order which he received with joy, for he and the other boys
wished to be off to civilisation and its delights. Just as the
operation was beginning, however, a message came to me from old Umbezi,
who begged me to delay my departure till after noon, as a friend of his,
a big chief, had come to visit him who wished much to have the honour of
making my acquaintance. Now, I wished the big chief farther off, but,
as it seemed rude to refuse the request of one who had been so kind to
me, I ordered the oxen to be unyoked but kept at hand, and in an
irritable frame of mind walked up to the kraal. This was about half a
mile from my place of outspan, for as soon as I was sufficiently
recovered I had begun to sleep in my wagon, leaving the big hut to the

There was no particular reason why I should be irritated, since time in
those days was of no great account in Zululand, and it did not much
matter to me whether I trekked in the morning or the afternoon. But the
fact was that I could not get over the prophecy of Zikali, "the Little
and Wise," that I was destined to share Saduko's expedition against
Bangu, and, although he had been right about the buffalo and Mameena, I
was determined to prove him wrong in this particular.

If I had left the country, obviously I could not go against Bangu, at
any rate at present. But while I remained in it Saduko might return at
any moment, and then, doubtless, I should find it hard to escape from
the kind of half-promise that I had given to him.

Well, as soon as I reached the kraal I saw that some kind of festivity
was in progress, for an ox had been killed and was being cooked, some of
it in pots and some by roasting; also there were several strange Zulus
present. Within the fence of the kraal, seated in its shadow, I found
Umbezi and some of his headmen, and with them a great, brawny "ringed"
native, who wore a tiger-skin moocha as a mark of rank, and some of
_his_ headmen. Also Mameena was standing near the gate, dressed in her
best beads and holding a gourd of Kafir beer which, evidently, she had
just been handing to the guests.

"Would you have run away without saying good-bye to me, Macumazahn?" she
whispered to me as I came abreast of her. "That is unkind of you, and I
should have wept much. However, it was not so fated."

"I was going to ride up and bid farewell when the oxen were inspanned,"
I answered. "But who is that man?"

"You will find out presently, Macumazahn. Look, my father is beckoning
to us."

So I went on to the circle, and as I advanced Umbezi rose and, taking me
by the hand, led me to the big man, saying:

"This is Masapo, chief of the Amansomi, of the Quabe race, who desires
to know you, Macumazahn."

"Very kind of him, I am sure," I replied coolly, as I threw my eye over
Masapo. He was, as I have said, a big man, and of about fifty years of
age, for his hair was tinged with grey. To be frank, I took a great
dislike to him at once, for there was something in his strong, coarse
face, and his air of insolent pride, which repelled me. Then I was
silent, since among the Zulus, when two strangers of more or less equal
rank meet, he who speaks first acknowledges inferiority to the other.
Therefore I stood and contemplated this new suitor of Mameena, waiting
on events.

Masapo also contemplated me, then made some remark to one of his
attendants, that I did not catch, which caused the fellow to laugh.

"He has heard that you are an ipisi" (a great hunter), broke in Umbezi,
who evidently felt that the situation was growing strained, and that it
was necessary to say something.

"Has he?" I answered. "Then he is more fortunate than I am, for I have
never heard of him or what he is." This, I am sorry to say, was a fib,
for it will be remembered that Mameena had mentioned him in the hut as
one of her suitors, but among natives one must keep up one's dignity
somehow. "Friend Umbezi," I went on, "I have come to bid you farewell,
as I am about to trek for Durban."

At this juncture Masapo stretched out his great hand to me, but without
rising, and said:

"Siyakubona [that is, good-day], White Man."

"Siyakubona, Black Man," I answered, just touching his fingers, while
Mameena, who had come up again with her beer, and was facing me, made a
little grimace and tittered.

Now I turned on my heel to go, whereon Masapo said in a coarse, growling

"O Macumazana, before you leave us I wish to speak with you on a certain
matter. Will it please you to sit aside with me for a while?"

"Certainly, O Masapo." And I walked away a few yards out of hearing,
whither he followed me.

"Macumazahn," he said (I give the gist of his remarks, for he did not
come to the point at once), "I need guns, and I am told that you can
provide them, being a trader."

"Yes, Masapo, I dare say that I can, at a price, though it is a risky
business smuggling guns into Zululand. But might I ask what you need
them for? is it to shoot elephants?"

"Yes, to shoot elephants," he replied, rolling his big eyes round him.
"Macumazahn, I am told that you are discreet, that you do not shout from
the top of a hut what you hear within it. Now, hearken to me. Our
country is disturbed; we do not all of us love the seed of Senzangakona,
of whom the present king, Panda, is one. For instance, you may know
that we Quabies--for my tribe, the Amansomi, are of that race--suffered
at the spear of Chaka. Well, we think that a time may come when we who
live on shrubs like goats may again browse on tree-tops like giraffes,
for Panda is no strong king, and he has sons who hate each other, one of
whom may need our spears. Do you understand?"

"I understand that you want guns, O Masapo," I answered dryly. "Now, as
to the price and place of delivery."

Then we bargained for a while, but the details of that business
transaction of long ago will interest no one. Indeed, I only mention
the matter to show that Masapo was plotting to bring trouble on the
ruling house, whereof Panda was the representative at that time.

When we had concluded our rather nefarious negotiations, which were to
the effect that I was to receive so many cattle in return for so many
guns, if I could deliver them at a certain spot, namely, Umbezi's kraal,
I returned to the circle where Umbezi, his followers and guests were
sitting, purposing to bid him farewell. By now, however, meat had been
served, and as I was hungry, having had little breakfast that morning, I
stayed to eat. When I had finished my meal, and washed it down with a
draught of tshwala (that is, Kafir beer), I rose to go, but just at that
moment who should walk through the gate but Saduko?

"Piff!" said Mameena, who was standing near me, speaking in a voice that
none but I could hear. "When two bucks meet, what happens, Macumazahn?"

"Sometimes they fight and sometimes one runs away. It depends very much
on the doe," I answered in the same low voice, looking at her.

She shrugged her shoulders, folded her arms beneath her breast, nodded
to Saduko as he passed, then leaned gracefully against the fence and
awaited events.

"Greeting, Umbezi," said Saduko in his proud manner. "I see that you
feast. Am I welcome here?"

"Of course you are always welcome, Saduko," replied Umbezi uneasily,
"although, as it happens, I am entertaining a great man." And he looked
towards Masapo.

"I see," said Saduko, eyeing the strangers. "But which of these may be
the great man? I ask that I may salute him."

"You know well enough, umfokazana" (that is, low fellow), exclaimed
Masapo angrily.

"I know that if you were outside this fence, Masapo, I would cram that
word down your throat at the point of my assegai," replied Saduko in a
fierce voice. "Oh, I can guess your business here, Masapo, and you can
guess mine," and he glanced towards Mameena. "Tell me, Umbezi, is this
little chief of the Amansomi your daughter's accepted suitor?"

"Nay, nay, Saduko," said Umbezi; "no one is her accepted suitor. Will
you not sit down and take food with us? Tell us where you have been,
and why you return here thus suddenly, and--uninvited?"

"I return here, O Umbezi, to speak with the white chief, Macumazahn. As
to where I have been, that is my affair, and not yours or Masapo's."

"Now, if I were chief of this kraal," said Masapo, "I would hunt out of
it this hyena with a mangy coat and without a hole who comes to devour
your meat and, perhaps," he added with meaning, "to steal away your

"Did I not tell you, Macumazahn, that when two bucks met they would
fight?" whispered Mameena suavely into my ear.

"Yes, Mameena, you did--or rather I told you. But you did not tell me
what the doe would do."

"The doe, Macumazahn, will crouch in her form and see what happens--as
is the fashion of does," and again she laughed softly.

"Why not do your own hunting, Masapo?" asked Saduko. "Come, now, I will
promise you good sport. Outside this kraal there are other hyenas
waiting who call me chief--a hundred or two of them--assembled for a
certain purpose by the royal leave of King Panda, whose House, as we all
know, you hate. Come, leave that beef and beer and begin your hunting
of hyenas, O Masapo."

Now Masapo sat silent, for he saw that he who thought to snare a baboon
had caught a tiger.

"You do not speak, O Chief of the little Amansomi," went on Saduko, who
was beside himself with rage and jealousy. "You will not leave your
beef and beer to hunt the hyenas who are captained by an umfokazana!
Well, then, the umfokazana will speak," and, stepping up to Masapo, with
the spear he carried poised in his right hand, Saduko grasped his
rival's short beard with his left.

"Listen, Chief," he said. "You and I are enemies. You seek the woman I
seek, and, mayhap, being rich, you will buy her. But if so, I tell you
that I will kill you and all your House, you sneaking, half-bred dog!"

With these fierce words he spat in his face and tumbled him backwards.
Then, before anyone could stop him, for Umbezi, and even Masapo's
headmen, seemed paralysed with surprise, he stalked through the kraal
gate, saying as he passed me:

"Inkoosi, I have words for you when you are at liberty."

"You shall pay for this," roared Umbezi after him, turning almost green
with rage, for Masapo still lay upon his broad back, speechless, "you
who dare to insult my guest in my own house."

"Somebody must pay," cried back Saduko from the gate, "but who it is
only the unborn moons will see."

"Mameena," I said as I followed him, "you have set fire to the grass,
and men will be burned in it."

"I meant to, Macumazahn," she answered calmly. "Did I not tell you that
there was a flame in me, and it will break out sometimes? But,
Macumazahn, it is you who have set fire to the grass, not I. Remember
that when half Zululand is in ashes. Farewell, O Macumazana, till we
meet again, and," she added softly, "whoever else must burn, may the
spirits have _you_ in their keeping."

At the gate, remembering my manners, I turned to bid that company a
polite farewell. By now Masapo had gained his feet, and was roaring out
like a bull:

"Kill him! Kill the hyena! Umbezi, will you sit still and see me, your
guest--me, Masapo--struck and insulted under the shadow of your own hut?
Go forth and kill him, I say!"

"Why not kill him yourself, Masapo," asked the agitated Umbezi, "or bid
your headmen kill him? Who am I that I should take precedence of so
great a chief in a matter of the spear?" Then he turned towards me,
saying: "Oh, Macumazahn the crafty, if I have dealt well by you, come
here and give me your counsel."

"I come, Eater-up-of-Elephants," I answered, and I did.

"What shall I do--what shall I do?" went on Umbezi, brushing the
perspiration off his brow with one hand, while he wrung the other in his
agitation. "There stands a friend of mine"--he pointed to the
infuriated Masapo--"who wishes me to kill another friend of mine," and
he jerked his thumb towards the kraal gate. "If I refuse I offend one
friend, and if I consent I bring blood upon my hands which will call for
blood, since, although Saduko is poor, without doubt he has those who
love him."

"Yes," I answered, "and perhaps you will bring blood upon other parts of
yourself besides your hands, since Saduko is not one to sit still like a
sheep while his throat is cut. Also did he not say that he is not quite
alone? Umbezi, if you will take my advice, you will leave Masapo to do
his own killing."

"It is good; it is wise!" exclaimed Umbezi. "Masapo," he called to that
warrior, "if you wish to fight, pray do not think of me. I see nothing,
I hear nothing, and I promise proper burial to any who fall. Only you
had best be swift, for Saduko is walking away all this time. Come, you
and your people have spears, and the gate stands open."

"Am I to go without my meat in order to knock that hyena on the head?"
asked Masapo in a brave voice. "No, he can wait my leisure. Sit still,
my people. I tell you, sit still. Tell him, you Macumazahn, that I am
coming for him presently, and be warned to keep yourself away from him,
lest you should tumble into his hole."

"I will tell him," I answered, "though I know not who made me your
messenger. But listen to me, you Speaker of big words and Doer of small
deeds, if you dare to lift a finger against me I will teach you
something about holes, for there shall be one or more through that great
carcass of yours."

Then, walking up to him, I looked him in the face, and at the same time
tapped the handle of the big double-barrelled pistol I carried.

He shrank back muttering something.

"Oh, don't apologise," I said, "only be more careful in future. And now
I wish you a good dinner, Chief Masapo, and peace upon your kraal,
friend Umbezi."

After this speech I marched off, followed by the clamour of Masapo's
furious attendants and the sound of Mameena's light and mocking

"I wonder which of them she will marry?" I thought to myself, as I set
out for the wagons.

As I approached my camp I saw that the oxen were being inspanned, as I
supposed by the order of Scowl, who must have heard that there was a row
up at the kraal, and thought it well to be ready to bolt. In this I was
mistaken, however, for just then Saduko strolled out of a patch of bush
and said:

"I ordered your boys to yoke up the oxen, Inkoosi."

"Have you? That's cool!" I answered. "Perhaps you will tell me why."

"Because we must make a good trek to the northward before night,

"Indeed! I thought that I was heading south-east."

"Bangu does not live in the south or the east," he replied slowly.

"Oh, I had almost forgotten about Bangu," I said, with a rather feeble
attempt at evasion.

"Is it so?" he answered in his haughty voice. "I never knew before that
Macumazahn was a man who broke a promise to his friend."

"Would you be so kind as to explain your meaning, Saduko?"

"Is it needful?" he answered, shrugging his shoulders. "Unless my ears
played me tricks, you agreed to go up with me against Bangu. Well, I
have gathered the necessary men--with the king's leave--they await us
yonder," and he pointed with his spear towards a dense patch of bush
that lay some miles beneath us. "But," he added, "if you desire to
change your mind I will go alone. Only then, I think, we had better bid
each other good-bye, since I love not friends who change their minds
when the assegais begin to shake."

Now, whether Saduko spoke thus by design I do not know. Certainly,
however, he could have found no better way to ensure my companionship
for what it was worth, since, although I had made no actual promise in
this case, I have always prided myself on keeping even a half-bargain
with a native.

"I will go with you," I said quietly, "and I hope that, when it comes to
the pinch, your spear will be as sharp as your tongue, Saduko. Only do
not speak to me again like that, lest we should quarrel."

As I said this I saw a look of relief appear on his face, of very great

"I pray your pardon, my lord Macumazahn," he said, seizing my hand,
"but, oh! there is a hole in my heart. I think that Mameena means to
play me false, and now that has happened with yonder dog, Masapo, which
will make her father hate me."

"If you will take my advice, Saduko," I replied earnestly, "you will let
this Mameena fall out of the hole in your heart; you will forget her
name; you will have done with her. Ask me not why."

"Perhaps there is no need, O Macumazana. Perhaps she has been making
love to you, and you have turned her away, as, being what you are, and
my friend, of course you would do." (It is rather inconvenient to be
set upon such a pedestal at times, but I did not attempt to assent or to
deny anything, much less to enter into explanations.)

"Perhaps all this has happened," he continued, "or perhaps it is she who
has sent for Masapo the Hog. I do not ask, because if you know you will
not tell me. Moreover, it matters nothing. While I have a heart,
Mameena will never drop out of it; while I can remember names, hers will
never be forgotten by me. Moreover, I mean that she shall be my wife.
Now, I am minded to take a few men and spear this hog, Masapo, before we
go up against Bangu, for then he, at any rate, will be out of my road."

"If you do anything of the sort, Saduko, you will go up against Bangu
alone, for I trek east at once, who will not be mixed up with murder."

"Then let it be, Inkoosi; unless he attacks me, as my Snake send that he
may, the Hog can wait. After all, he will only be growing a little
fatter. Now, if it pleases you order the wagons to trek. I will show
the road, for we must camp in that bush to-night where my people wait
me, and there I will tell you my plans; also you will find one with a
message for you."



We had reached the bush after six hours' downhill trek over a pretty bad
track made by cattle--of course, there were no roads in Zululand at this
date. I remember the place well. It was a kind of spreading woodland
on a flat bottom, where trees of no great size grew sparsely. Some were
mimosa thorns, others had deep green leaves and bore a kind of plum with
an acid taste and a huge stone, and others silver-coloured leaves in
their season. A river, too, low at this time of the year, wound through
it, and in the scrub upon its banks were many guinea-fowl and other
birds. It was a pleasing, lonely place, with lots of game in it, that
came here in the winter to eat the grass, which was lacking on the
higher veld. Also it gave the idea of vastness, since wherever one
looked there was nothing to be seen except a sea of trees.

Well, we outspanned by the river, of which I forget the name, at a spot
that Saduko showed us, and set to work to cook our food, that consisted
of venison from a blue wildebeest, one of a herd of these wild-looking
animals which I had been fortunate enough to shoot as they whisked past
us, gambolling in and out between the trees.

While we were eating I observed that armed Zulus arrived continually in
parties of from six to a score of men, and as they arrived lifted their
spears, though whether in salutation to Saduko or to myself I did not
know, and sat themselves down on an open space between us and the
river-bank. Although it was difficult to say whence they came, for they
appeared like ghosts out of the bush, I thought it well to take no
notice of them, since I guessed that their coming was prearranged.

"Who are they?" I whispered to Scowl, as he brought me my tot of

"Saduko's wild men," he answered in the same low voice, "outlaws of his
tribe who live among the rocks."

Now I scanned them sideways, while pretending to light my pipe and so
forth, and certainly they seemed a remarkably savage set of people.
Great, gaunt fellows with tangled hair, who wore tattered skins upon
their shoulders and seemed to have no possessions save some snuff, a few
sleeping-mats, and an ample supply of large fighting shields, hardwood
kerries or knob-sticks, and broad ixwas, or stabbing assegais. Such was
the look of them as they sat round us in silent semicircles, like
aas-vogels--as the Dutch call vultures--sit round a dying ox.

Still I smoked on and took no notice.

At length, as I expected, Saduko grew weary of my silence and spoke.
"These are men of the Amangwane tribe, Macumazahn; three hundred of
them, all that Bangu left alive, for when their fathers were killed, the
women escaped with some of the children, especially those of the
outlying kraals. I have gathered them to be revenged upon Bangu, I who
am their chief by right of blood."

"Quite so," I answered. "I see that you have gathered them; but do they
wish to be revenged on Bangu at the risk of their own lives?"

"We do, white Inkoosi," came the deep-throated answer from the three

"And do they acknowledge you, Saduko, to be their chief?"

"We do," again came the answer. Then a spokesman stepped forward, one
of the few grey-haired men among them, for most of these Amangwane were
of the age of Saduko, or even younger.

"O Watcher-by-Night," he said, "I am Tshoza, the brother of Matiwane,
Saduko's father, the only one of his brothers that escaped the slaughter
on the night of the Great Killing. Is it not so?"

"It is so," exclaimed the serried ranks behind him.

"I acknowledge Saduko as my chief, and so do we all," went on Tshoza.

"So do we all," echoed the ranks.

"Since Matiwane died we have lived as we could, O Macumazana; like
baboons among the rocks, without cattle, often without a hut to shelter
us; here one, there one. Still, we have lived, awaiting the hour of
vengeance upon Bangu, that hour which Zikali the Wise, who is of our
blood, has promised to us. Now we believe that it has come, and one and
all, from here, from there, from everywhere, we have gathered at the
summons of Saduko to be led against Bangu and to conquer him or to die.
Is it not so, Amangwane?"

"It is, it is so!" came the deep, unanimous answer, that caused the
stirless leaves to shake in the still air.

"I understand, O Tshoza, brother of Matiwane and uncle of Saduko the
chief," I replied. "But Bangu is a strong man, living, I am told, in a
strong place. Still, let that go; for have you not said that you come
out to conquer or to die, you who have nothing to lose; and if you
conquer, you conquer; and if you die, you die and the tale is told. But
supposing that you conquer. What will Panda, King of the Zulus, say to
you, and to me also, who stir up war in his country?"

Now the Amangwane looked behind them, and Saduko cried out:

"Appear, messenger from Panda the King!"

Before his words had ceased to echo I saw a little, withered man
threading his way between the tall, gaunt forms of the Amangwane. He
came and stood before me, saying:

"Hail, Macumazahn. Do you remember me?"

"Aye," I answered, "I remember you as Maputa, one of Panda's indunas."

"Quite so, Macumazahn; I am Maputa, one of his indunas, a member of his
Council, a captain of his impis [that is, armies], as I was to his
brothers who are gone, whose names it is not lawful that I should name.
Well, Panda the King has sent me to you, at the request of Saduko there,
with a message."

"How do I know that you are a true messenger?" I asked. "Have you
brought me any token?"

"Aye," he answered, and, fumbling under his cloak, he produced something
wrapped in dried leaves, which he undid and handed to me, saying:

"This is the token that Panda sends to you, Macumazahn, bidding me to
tell you that you will certainly know it again; also that you are
welcome to it, since the two little bullets which he swallowed as you
directed made him very ill, and he needs no more of them."

I took the token, and, examining it in the moonlight, recognised it at

It was a cardboard box of strong calomel pills, on the top of which was
written: "Allan Quatermain, Esq.: One _only_ to be taken as directed."
Without entering into explanations, I may state that I had taken "one as
directed," and subsequently presented the rest of the box to King Panda,
who was very anxious to "taste the white man's medicine."

"Do you recognise the token, Macumazahn?" asked the induna.

"Yes," I replied gravely; "and let the King return thanks to the spirits
of his ancestors that he did not swallow three of the balls, for if he
had done so, by now there would have been another Head in Zululand.
Well, speak on, Messenger."

But to myself I reflected, not for the first time, how strangely these
natives could mix up the sublime with the ridiculous. Here was a matter
that must involve the death of many men, and the token sent to me by the
autocrat who stood at the back of it all, to prove the good faith of his
messenger, was a box of calomel pills! However, it served the purpose
as well as anything else.

Maputa and I drew aside, for I saw that he wished to speak with me

"O Macumazana," he said, when we were out of hearing of the others,
"these are the words of Panda to you: 'I understand that you,
Macumazahn, have promised to accompany Saduko, son of Matiwane, on an
expedition of his against Bangu, chief of the Amakoba. Now, were anyone
else concerned, I should forbid this expedition, and especially should I
forbid you, a white man in my country, to share therein. But this dog
of a Bangu is an evil-doer. Many years ago he worked on the Black One
who went before me to send him to destroy Matiwane, my friend, filling
the Black One's ears with false accusations; and thereafter he did
treacherously destroy him and all his tribe save Saduko, his son, and
some of the people and children who escaped. Moreover, of late he has
been working against me, the King, striving to stir up rebellion against
me, because he knows that I hate him for his crimes. Now I, Panda,
unlike those who went before me, am a man of peace who do not wish to
light the fire of civil war in the land, for who knows where such fires
will stop, or whose kraals they will consume? Yet I do wish to see
Bangu punished for his wickedness, and his pride abated. Therefore I
give Saduko leave, and those people of the Amangwane who remain to him,
to avenge their private wrongs upon Bangu if they can; and I give you
leave, Macumazahn, to be of his party. Moreover, if any cattle are
taken, I shall ask no account of them; you and Saduko may divide them as
you wish. But understand, O Macumazana, that if you or your people are
killed or wounded, or robbed of your goods, I know nothing of the
matter, and am not responsible to you or to the white House of Natal; it
is your own matter. These are my words. I have spoken.'"

"I see," I answered. "I am to pull Panda's hot iron out of the fire and
to extinguish the fire. If I succeed I may keep a piece of the iron
when it gets cool, and if I burn my fingers it is my own fault, and I or
my House must not come crying to Panda."

"O Watcher-by-Night, you have speared the bull in the heart," replied
Maputa, the messenger, nodding his shrewd old head. "Well, will you go
up with Saduko?"

"Say to the King, O Messenger, that I will go up with Saduko because I
promised him that I would, being moved by the tale of his wrongs, and
not for the sake of the cattle, although it is true that if I hear any
of them lowing in my camp I may keep them. Say to Panda also that if
aught of ill befalls me he shall hear nothing of it, nor will I bring
his high name into this business; but that he, on his part, must not
blame me for anything that may happen afterwards. Have you the

"I have it word for word; and may your Spirit be with you, Macumazahn,
when you attack the strong mountain of Bangu, which, were I you," Maputa
added reflectively, "I think I should do just at the dawn, since the
Amakoba drink much beer and are heavy sleepers."

Then we took a pinch of snuff together, and he departed at once for
Nodwengu, Panda's Great Place.

Fourteen days had gone by, and Saduko and I, with our ragged band of
Amangwane, sat one morning, after a long night march, in the hilly
country looking across a broad vale, which was sprinkled with trees like
an English park, at that mountain on the side of which Bangu, chief of
the Amakoba, had his kraal.

It was a very formidable mountain, and, as we had already observed, the
paths leading up to the kraal were amply protected with stone walls in
which the openings were quite narrow, only just big enough to allow one
ox to pass through them at a time. Moreover, all these walls had been
strengthened recently, perhaps because Bangu was aware that Panda looked
upon him, a northern chief dwelling on the confines of his dominions,
with suspicion and even active enmity, as he was also no doubt aware
Panda had good cause to do.

Here in a dense patch of bush that grew in a kloof of the hills we held
a council of war.

So far as we knew our advance had been unobserved, for I had left my
wagons in the low veld thirty miles away, giving it out among the local
natives that I was hunting game there, and bringing on with me only
Scowl and four of my best hunters, all well-armed natives who could
shoot. The three hundred Amangwane also had advanced in small parties,
separated from each other, pretending to be Kafirs marching towards
Delagoa Bay. Now, however, we had all met in this bush. Among our
number were three Amangwane who, on the slaughter of their tribe, had
fled with their mothers to this district and been brought up among the
people of Bangu, but who at his summons had come back to Saduko. It was
on these men that we relied at this juncture, for they alone knew the
country. Long and anxiously did we consult with them. First they
explained, and, so far as the moonlight would allow, for as yet the dawn
had not broken, pointed out to us the various paths that led to Bangu's

"How many men are there in the town?" I asked.

"About seven hundred who carry spears," they answered, "together with
others in outlying kraals. Moreover, watchmen are always set at the
gateways in the walls."

"And where are the cattle?" I asked again.

"Here, in the valley beneath, Macumazahn," answered the spokesman. "If
you listen you will hear them lowing. Fifty men, not less, watch them
at night--two thousand head of them, or more."

"Then it would not be difficult to get round these cattle and drive them
off, leaving Bangu to breed up a new herd?"

"It might not be difficult," interrupted Saduko, "but I came here to
kill Bangu, as well as to seize his cattle, since with him I have a
blood feud."

"Very good," I answered; "but that mountain cannot be stormed with three
hundred men, fortified as it is with walls and schanzes. Our band would
be destroyed before ever we came to the kraal, since, owing to the
sentries who are set everywhere, it would be impossible to surprise the
place. Also you have forgotten the dogs, Saduko. Moreover, even if it
were possible, I will have nothing to do with the massacre of women and
children, which must happen in an assault. Now, listen to me, O Saduko.
I say let us leave the kraal of Bangu alone, and this coming night send
fifty of our men, under the leadership of the guides, down to yonder
bush, where they will lie hid. Then, after moonrise, when all are
asleep, these fifty must rush the cattle kraal, killing any who may
oppose them, should they be seen, and driving the herd out through
yonder great pass by which we have entered the land. Bangu and his
people, thinking that those who have taken the cattle are but common
thieves of some wild tribe, will gather and follow the beasts to
recapture them. But we, with the rest of the Amangwane, can set an
ambush in the narrowest part of the pass among the rocks, where the
grass is high and the euphorbia trees grow thick, and there, when they
have passed the Nek, which I and my hunters will hold with our guns, we
will give them battle. What say you?"

Now, Saduko answered that he would rather attack the kraal, which he
wished to burn. But the old Amangwane, Tshoza, brother of the dead
Matiwane, said:

"No, Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night, is wise. Why should we waste our
strength on stone walls, of which none know the number or can find the
gates in the darkness, and thereby leave our skulls to be set up as
ornaments on the fences of the accursed Amakoba? Let us draw the
Amakoba out into the pass of the mountains, where they have no walls to
protect them, and there fall on them when they are bewildered and settle
the matter with them man to man. As for the women and children, with
Macumazahn I say let them go; afterwards, perhaps, they will become
_our_ women and children."

"Aye," answered the Amangwane, "the plan of the white Inkoosi is good;
he is clever as a weasel; we will have his plan and no other."

So Saduko was overruled and my counsel adopted.

All that day we rested, lighting no fires and remaining still as the
dead in the dense bush. It was a very anxious day, for although the
place was so wild and lonely, there was always the fear lest we should
be discovered. It was true that we had travelled mostly by night in
small parties, to avoid leaving a spoor, and avoided all kraals; still,
some rumour of our approach might have reached the Amakoba, or a party
of hunters might stumble on us, or those who sought for lost cattle.

Indeed, something of this sort did happen, for about midday we heard a
footfall, and perceived the figure of a man, whom by his head-dress we
knew for an Amakoba, threading his way through the bush. Before he saw
us he was in our midst. For a moment he hesitated ere he turned to fly,
and that moment was his last, for three of the Amangwane leapt on him
silently as leopards leap upon a buck, and where he stood there he died.
Poor fellow! Evidently he had been on a visit to some witch-doctor,
for in his blanket we found medicine and love charms. This doctor
cannot have been one of the stamp of Zikali the Dwarf, I thought to
myself; at least, he had not warned him that he would never live to dose
his beloved with that foolish medicine.

Meanwhile a few of us who had the quickest eyes climbed trees, and
thence watched the town of Bangu and the valley that lay between us and
it. Soon we saw that so far, at any rate, Fortune was playing into our
hands, since herd after herd of kine were driven into the valley during
the afternoon and enclosed in the stock-kraals. Doubtless Bangu
intended on the morrow to make his half-yearly inspection of all the
cattle of the tribe, many of which were herded at a distance from his

At length the long day drew to its close and the shadows of the evening
thickened. Then we made ready for our dreadful game, of which the stake
was the lives of all of us, since, should we fail, we could expect no
mercy. The fifty picked men were gathered and ate food in silence.
These men were placed under the command of Tshoza, for he was the most
experienced of the Amangwane, and led by the three guides who had dwelt
among the Amakoba, and who "knew every ant-heap in the land," or so they
swore. Their duty, it will be remembered, was to cross the valley,
separate themselves into small parties, unbar the various cattle kraals,
kill or hunt off the herdsmen, and drive the beasts back across the
valley into the pass. A second fifty men, under the command of Saduko,
were to be left just at the end of this pass where it opened out into
the valley, in order to help and reinforce the cattle-lifters, or, if
need be, to check the following Amakoba while the great herds of beasts
were got away, and then fall back on the rest of us in our ambush nearly
two miles distant. The management of this ambush was to be my charge--a
heavy one indeed.

Now, the moon would not be up till midnight. But two hours before that
time we began our moves, since the cattle must be driven out of the
kraals as soon as she appeared and gave the needful light. Otherwise
the fight in the pass would in all probability be delayed till after
sunrise, when the Amakoba would see how small was the number of their
foes. Terror, doubt, darkness--these must be our allies if our
desperate venture was to succeed.

All was arranged at last and the time had come. We, the three captains
of our divided force, bade each other farewell, and passed the word down
the ranks that, should we be separated by the accidents of war, my
wagons were the meeting-place of any who survived.

Tshoza and his fifty glided away into the shadow silently as ghosts and
were gone. Presently the fierce-faced Saduko departed also with his
fifty. He carried the double-barrelled gun I had given him, and was
accompanied by one of my best hunters, a Natal native, who was also
armed with a heavy smooth-bore loaded with slugs. Our hope was that the
sound of these guns might terrify the foe, should there be occasion to
use them before our forces joined up again, and make them think they had
to do with a body of raiding Dutch white men, of whose roers--as the
heavy elephant guns of that day were called--all natives were much

So Saduko went with his fifty, leaving me wondering whether I should
ever see his face again. Then I, my bearer Scowl, the two remaining
hunters, and the ten score Amangwane who were left turned and soon were
following the road by which we had come down the rugged pass. I call it
a road, but, in fact, it was nothing but a water-washed gully strewn
with boulders, through which we must pick our way as best we could in
the darkness, having first removed the percussion cap from the nipple of
every gun, for fear lest the accidental discharge of one of them should
warn the Amakoba, confuse our other parties, and bring all our deep-laid
plans to nothing.

Well, we accomplished that march somehow, walking in three long lines,
so that each man might keep touch with him in front, and just as the
moon began to rise reached the spot that I had chosen for the ambush.

Certainly it was well suited to that purpose. Here the track or gully
bed narrowed to a width of not more than a hundred feet, while the steep
slopes of the kloof on either side were clothed with scattered bushes
and finger-like euphorbias which grew among stones. Behind these stones
and bushes we hid ourselves, a hundred men on one side and a hundred on
the other, whilst I and my three hunters, who were armed with guns, took
up a position under shelter of a great boulder nearly five feet thick
that lay but a little to the right of the gully itself, up which we
expected the cattle would come. This place I chose for two reasons:
first, that I might keep touch with both wings of my force, and,
secondly, that we might be able to fire straight down the path on the
pursuing Amakoba.

These were the orders that I gave to the Amangwane, warning them that he
who disobeyed would be punished with death. They were not to stir until
I, or, if I should be killed, one of my hunters, fired a shot; for my
fear was lest, growing excited, they might leap out before the time and
kill some of our own people, who very likely would be mixed up with the
first of the pursuing Amakoba. Secondly, when the cattle had passed and
the signal had been given, they were to rush on the Amakoba, throwing
themselves across the gully, so that the enemy would have to fight
upwards on a steep slope.

That was all I told them, since it is not wise to confuse natives by
giving too many orders. One thing I added, however--that they must
conquer or they must die. There was no mercy for them; it was a case of
death or victory. Their spokesman--for these people always find a
spokesman--answered that they thanked me for my advice; that they
understood, and that they would do their best. Then they lifted their
spears to me in salute. A wild lot of men they looked in the moonlight
as they departed to take shelter behind the rocks and trees and wait.

That waiting was long, and I confess that before the end it got upon my
nerves. I began to think of all sorts of things, such as whether I
should live to see the sun rise again; also I reflected upon the
legitimacy of this remarkable enterprise. What right had I to involve
myself in a quarrel between these savages?

Why had I come here? To gain cattle as a trader? No, for I was not at
all sure that I would take them if gained. Because Saduko had twitted
me with faithlessness to my words? Yes, to a certain extent; but that
was by no means the whole reason. I had been moved by the recital of
the cruel wrongs inflicted upon Saduko and his tribe by this Bangu, and
therefore had not been loath to associate myself with his attempted
vengeance upon a wicked murderer. Well, that was sound enough so far as
it went; but now a new consideration suggested itself to me. Those
wrongs had been worked many years ago; probably most of the men who had
aided and abetted them by now were dead or very aged, and it was their
sons upon whom the vengeance would be wreaked.

What right had I to assist in visiting the sins of the fathers upon the
sons? Frankly I could not say. The thing seemed to me to be a part of
the problem of life, neither less nor more. So I shrugged my shoulders
sadly and consoled myself by reflecting that very likely the issue would
go against me, and that my own existence would pay the price of the
venture and expound its moral. This consideration soothed my conscience
somewhat, for when a man backs his actions with the risk of his life,
right or wrong, at any rate he plays no coward's part.

The time went by very slowly and nothing happened. The waning moon
shone brightly in a clear sky, and as there was no wind the silence
seemed peculiarly intense. Save for the laugh of an occasional hyena
and now and again for a sound which I took for the coughing of a distant
lion, there was no stir between sleeping earth and moonlit heaven in
which little clouds floated beneath the pale stars.

At length I thought that I heard a noise, a kind of murmur far away. It
grew, it developed.

It sounded like a thousand sticks tapping upon something hard, very
faintly. It continued to grow, and I knew the sound for that of the
beating hoofs of animals galloping. Then there were isolated noises,
very faint and thin; they might be shouts; then something that I could
not mistake--shots fired at a distance. So the business was afoot; the
cattle were moving, Saduko and my hunter were firing. There was nothing
for it but to wait.

The excitement was very fierce; it seemed to consume me, to eat into my
brain. The sound of the tapping upon the rocks grew louder until it
merged into a kind of rumble, mixed with an echo as of that of very
distant thunder, which presently I knew to be not thunder, but the
bellowing of a thousand frightened beasts.

Nearer and nearer came the galloping hoofs and the rumble of bellowings;
nearer and nearer the shouts of men, affronting the stillness of the
solemn night. At length a single animal appeared, a koodoo buck that
somehow had got mixed up with the cattle. It went past us like a flash,
and was followed a minute or so later by a bull that, being young and
light, had outrun its companions. That, too, went by, foam on its lips
and its tongue hanging from its jaws.

Then the herd appeared--a countless herd it seemed to me--plunging up
the incline--cows, heifers, calves, bulls, and oxen, all mixed together
in one inextricable mass, and every one of them snorting, bellowing, or
making some other kind of sound. The din was fearful, the sight
bewildering, for the beasts were of all colours, and their long horns
flashed like ivory in the moonlight. Indeed, the only thing in the
least like it which I have ever seen was the rush of the buffaloes from
the reed camp on that day when I got my injury.

They were streaming past us now, a mighty and moving mass so closely
packed that a man might have walked upon their backs. In fact, some of
the calves which had been thrust up by the pressure were being carried
along in this fashion. Glad was I that none of us were in their path,
for their advance seemed irresistible. No fence or wall could have
saved us, and even stout trees that grew in the gully were snapped or
thrust over.

At length the long line began to thin, for now it was composed of
stragglers and weak or injured beasts, of which there were many. Other
sounds, too, began to dominate the bellowings of the animals, those of
the excited cries of men. The first of our companions, the
cattle-lifters, appeared, weary and gasping, but waving their spears in
triumph. Among them was old Tshoza. I stepped upon my rock, calling to
him by name. He heard me, and presently was lying at my side panting.

"We have got them all!" he gasped. "Not a hoof is left save those that
are trodden down. Saduko is not far behind with the rest of our
brothers, except some that have been killed. All the Amakoba tribe are
after us. He holds them back to give the cattle time to get away."

"Well done!" I answered. "It is very good. Now make your men hide
among the others that they may find their breath before the fight."

So he stopped them as they came. Scarcely had the last of them vanished
into the bushes when the gathering volume of shouts, amongst which I
heard a gun go off, told us that Saduko and his band and the pursuing
Amakoba were not far away. Presently they, too, appeared--that is the
handful of Amangwane did--not fighting now, but running as hard as they
could, for they knew they were approaching the ambush and wished to pass
it so as not to be mixed up with the Amakoba. We let them go through
us. Among the last of them came Saduko, who was wounded, for the blood
ran down his side, supporting my hunter, who was also wounded, more
severely as I feared.

I called to him.

"Saduko," I said, "halt at the crest of the path and rest there so that
you may be able to help us presently."

He waved the gun in answer, for he was too breathless to speak, and went
on with those who were left of his following--perhaps thirty men in
all--in the track of the cattle. Before he was out of sight the Amakoba
arrived, a mob of five or six hundred men mixed up together and
advancing without order or discipline, for they seemed to have lost
their heads as well as their cattle. Some of them had shields and some
had none, some broad and some throwing assegais, while many were quite
naked, not having stayed to put on their moochas and much less their war
finery. Evidently they were mad with rage, for the sounds that issued
from them seemed to concentrate into one mighty curse.

The moment had come, though to tell the truth I heartily wished that it
had not. I wasn't exactly afraid, although I never set up for great
courage, but I did not quite like the business. After all we were
stealing these people's cattle, and now were going to kill as many of
them as we could. I had to recall Saduko's dreadful story of the
massacre of his tribe before I could make up my mind to give the signal.
That hardened me, and so did the reflection that after all they
outnumbered us enormously and very likely would prove victors in the
end. Anyhow it was too late to repent. What a tricky and uncomfortable
thing is conscience, that nearly always begins to trouble us at the
moment of, or after, the event, not before, when it might be of some

I raised myself upon the rock and fired both barrels of my gun into the
advancing horde, though whether I killed anyone or no I cannot say. I
have always hoped that I did not; but as the mark was large and I am a
fair shot, I fear that is scarcely possible. Next moment, with a howl
that sounded like that of wild beasts, from either side of the gorge the
fierce Amangwane free-spears--for that is what they were--leapt out of
their hiding-places and hurled themselves upon their hereditary foes.
They were fighting for more than cattle; they were fighting for hate and
for revenge since these Amakoba had slaughtered their fathers and their
mothers, their sisters and their brothers, and they alone remained to
pay them back blood for blood.

Great heaven! how they did fight, more like devils than human beings.
After that first howl which shaped itself to the word "Saduko," they
were silent as bulldogs. Though they were so few, at first their
terrible rush drove back the Amakoba. Then, as these recovered from
their surprise, the weight of numbers began to tell, for they, too, were
brave men who did not give way to panic. Scores of them went down at
once, but the remainder pushed the Amangwane before them up the hill. I
took little share in the fight, but was thrust backward with the others,
only firing when I was obliged to save my own life. Foot by foot we
were pushed back till at length we drew near to the crest of the pass.

Then, while the issue hung in the balance, there was another shout of
"Saduko!" and that chief himself, followed by his thirty, rushed upon
the Amakoba.

This charge decided the battle, for not knowing how many more were
coming, those who were left of the Amakoba turned and fled, nor did we
pursue them far.

We mustered on the hill-top, not more than two hundred of us now, the
rest were fallen or desperately wounded, my poor hunter, whom I had lent
to Saduko, being among the dead. Although wounded, he died fighting to
the last, then fell down, shouting to me:

"Chief, have I done well?" and expired.

I was breathless and spent, but as in a dream I saw some Amangwane drag
up a gaunt old savage, crying:

"Here is Bangu, Bangu the Butcher, whom we have caught alive."

Saduko stepped up to him.

"Ah! Bangu," be said, "now say, why should I not kill you as you would
have killed the little lad Saduko long ago, had not Zikali saved him?
See, here is the mark of your spear."

"Kill," said Bangu. "Your Spirit is stronger than mine. Did not Zikali
foretell it? Kill, Saduko."

"Nay," answered Saduko. "If you are weary I am weary, too, and wounded
as well. Take a spear, Bangu, and we will fight."

So they fought there in the moonlight, man to man; fought fiercely while
all watched, till presently I saw Bangu throw his arms wide and fall

Saduko was avenged. I have always been glad that he slew his enemy
thus, and not as it might have been expected that he would do.



We reached my wagons in the early morning of the following day, bringing
with us the cattle and our wounded. Thus encumbered it was a most
toilsome march, and an anxious one also, for it was always possible that
the remnant of the Amakoba might attempt pursuit. This, however, they
did not do, for very many of them were dead or wounded, and those who
remained had no heart left in them. They went back to their mountain
home and lived there in shame and wretchedness, for I do not believe
there were fifty head of cattle left among the tribe, and Kafirs without
cattle are nothing. Still, they did not starve, since there were plenty
of women to work the fields, and we had not touched their corn. The end
of them was that Panda gave them to their conqueror, Saduko, and he
incorporated them with the Amangwane. But that did not happen until
some time afterwards.

When we had rested a while at the wagons the captured beasts were
mustered, and on being counted were found to number a little over twelve
hundred head, not reckoning animals that had been badly hurt in the
flight, which we killed for beef. It was a noble prize, truly, and,
notwithstanding the wound in his thigh, which hurt him a good deal now
that it had stiffened, Saduko stood up and surveyed them with glistening
eyes. No wonder, for he who had been so poor was now rich, and would
remain so even after he had paid over whatever number of cows Umbezi
chose to demand as the price of Mameena's hand. Moreover, he was sure,
and I shared his confidence, that in these changed circumstances both
that young woman and her father would look upon his suit with very
favourable eyes. He had, so to speak, succeeded to the title and the
family estates by means of a lawsuit brought in the "Court of the
Assegai," and therefore there was hardly a father in Zululand who would
shut his kraal gate upon him. We forgot, both of us, the proverb that
points out how numerous are the slips between the cup and the lip,
which, by the way, is one that has its Zulu equivalents. One of them,
if I remember right at the moment, is: "However loud the hen cackles,
the housewife does not always get the egg."

As it chanced, although Saduko's hen was cackling very loudly just at
this time, he was not destined to find the coveted egg. But of that
matter I will speak in its place.

I, too, looked at those cattle, wondering whether Saduko would remember
our bargain, under which some six hundred head of them belonged to me.
Six hundred head! Why, putting them at #5 apiece all round--and as oxen
were very scarce just at that time, they were worth quite as much, if
not more--that meant #3,000, a larger sum of money than I had ever owned
at one time in all my life. Truly the paths of violence were
profitable! But would he remember? On the whole I thought probably
not, since Kafirs are not fond of parting with cattle.

Well, I did him an injustice, for presently he turned and said, with
something of an effort:

"Macumazahn, half of all these belong to you, and truly you have earned
them, for it was your cunning and good counsel that gained us the
victory. Now we will choose them beast by beast."

So I chose a fine ox, then Saduko chose one; and so it went on till I
had eight of my number driven out. As the eighth was taken I turned to
Saduko and said:

"There, that will do. These oxen I must have to replace those in my
teams which died on the trek, but I want no more."

"Wow!" said Saduko, and all those who stood with him, while one of them
added--I think it was old Tshoza:

"He refuses six hundred cattle which are fairly his! He must be mad!"

"No friends," I answered, "I am not mad, but neither am I bad. I
accompanied Saduko on this raid because he is dear to me and stood by me
once in the hour of danger. But I do not love killing men with whom I
have no quarrel, and I will not take the price of blood."

"Wow!" said old Tshoza again, for Saduko seemed too astonished to speak,
"he is a spirit, not a man. He is _holy!_"

"Not a bit of it," I answered. "If you think that, ask Mameena"--a dark
saying which they did not understand. "Now, listen. I will not take
those cattle because I do not think as you Kafirs think. But as they
are mine, according to your law, I am going to dispose of them. I give
ten head to each of my hunters, and fifteen head to the relations of him
who was killed. The rest I give to Tshoza and to the other men of the
Amangwane who fought with us, to be divided among them in such
proportions as they may agree, I being the judge in the event of any
quarrel arising."

Now these men raised a great cry of "Inkoosi!" and, running up, old
Tshoza seized my hand and kissed it.

"Your heart is big," he cried; "you drop fatness! Although you are so
small, the spirit of a king lives in you, and the wisdom of the

Thus he praised me, while all the others joined in, till the din was
awful. Saduko thanked me also in his magnificent manner. Yet I do not
think that he was altogether pleased, although my great gift relieved
him from the necessity of sharing up the spoil with his companions. The
truth was, or so I believe, that he understood that henceforth the
Amangwane would love me better than they loved him. This, indeed,
proved to be the case, for I am sure that there was no man among all
those wild fellows who would not have served me to the death, and to
this day my name is a power among them and their descendants. Also it
has grown into something of a proverb among all those Kafirs who know
the story. They talk of any great act of liberality in an idiom as "a
gift of Macumazana," and in the same way of one who makes any remarkable
renunciation, as "a wearer of Macumazana's blanket," or as "he who has
stolen Macumazana's shadow."

Thus did I earn a great reputation very cheaply, for really I could not
have taken those cattle; also I am sure that had I done so they would
have brought me bad luck. Indeed, one of the regrets of my life is that
I had anything whatsoever to do with the business.

Our journey back to Umbezi's kraal--for thither we were heading--was
very slow, hampered as we were with wounded and by a vast herd of
cattle. Of the latter, indeed, we got rid after a while, for, except
those which I had given to my men, and a hundred or so of the best
beasts that Saduko took with him for a certain purpose, they were sent
away to a place which he had chosen, in charge of about half of his
people, under the command of his uncle, Tshoza, there to await his

Over a month had gone by since the night of the ambush when at last we
outspanned quite close to Umbezi's, in that bush where first I had met
the Amangwane free-spears. A very different set of men they looked on
this triumphant day to those fierce fellows who had slipped out of the
trees at the call of their chief. As we went through the country Saduko
had bought fine moochas and blankets for them; also head-dresses had
been made with the long black feathers of the sakabuli finch, and
shields and leglets of the hides and tails of oxen. Moreover, having
fed plentifully and travelled easily, they were fat and well-favoured,
as, given good food, natives soon become after a period of abstinence.

The plan of Saduko was to lie quiet in the bush that night, and on the
following morning to advance in all his grandeur, accompanied by his
spears, present the hundred head of cattle that had been demanded, and
formally ask his daughter's hand from Umbezi. As the reader may have
gathered already, there was a certain histrionic vein in Saduko; also
when he was in feather he liked to show off his plumage.

Well, this plan was carried out to the letter. On the following
morning, after the sun was well up, Saduko, as a great chief does, sent
forward two bedizened heralds to announce his approach to Umbezi, after
whom followed two other men to sing his deeds and praises. (By the way,
I observed that they had clearly been instructed to avoid any mention of
a person called Macumazahn.) Then we advanced in force. First went
Saduko, splendidly apparelled as a chief, carrying a small assegai and
adorned with plumes, leglets and a leopard-skin kilt. He was attended
by about half a dozen of the best-looking of his followers, who posed as
"indunas" or councillors. Behind these I walked, a dusty, insignificant
little fellow, attended by the ugly, snub-nosed Scowl in a very greasy
pair of trousers, worn-out European boots through which his toes peeped,
and nothing else, and by my three surviving hunters, whose appearance
was even more disreputable. After us marched about four score of the
transformed Amangwane, and after them came the hundred picked cattle

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest