H. Rider Haggard
Part 3 out of 7
beautiful dawn, and in a dim way I took it as a good omen. Of
course it was nothing but the daily resurrection of the sun, and
yet it brought to me comfort and hope. The night was past with
all its fears; the light had come with all its joys. From that
moment I was certain that we should triumph over these
difficulties and that the end of them would be peace.
So sure was I that I ventured to take a nap, knowing that the
slightest movement or sound would wake me. I suppose I slept
until six o'clock, when I was aroused by a footfall. I sprang
up, and saw before me one of our native servants. He was
trembling and his face was ashen beneath the black. Moreover he
could not speak. All he did was to put his head on one side,
like a dead man, and keep on pointing downwards. Then with his
mouth open and starting eyes he beckoned to me to follow him.
RODD'S LAST CARD
The man led me to Marnham's room, which I had never entered
before. All I could see at first, for the shutters were closed,
was that the place seemed large, as bedchambers go in South
Africa. When my eyes grew accustomed to the light, I made out
the figure of a man seated in a chair with his head bent forward
over a table that was placed at the foot of the bed almost in the
centre of the room. I threw open the shutters and the morning
light poured in. The man was Marnham. On the table were writing
materials, also a brandy bottle with only a dreg of spirit in it.
I looked for the glass and found it by his side on the floor,
shattered, not merely broken.
"Drunk," I said aloud, whereon the servant, who understood me,
spoke for the first time, saying in a frightened voice in Dutch--
"No, Baas, dead, half cold. I found him so just now."
I bent down and examined Marnham, also felt his face. Sure
enough, he was dead, for his jaw had fallen; also his flesh was
chill, and from him came a horrible smell of brandy. I thought
for a moment, then bade the boy fetch Dr. Rodd and say nothing
to any one else, He went, and now for the first time I noticed a
large envelope addressed "Allan Quatermain, Esq." in a somewhat
shaky hand. This I picked up and slipped into my pocket.
Rodd arrived half dressed.
"What's the matter now?" he growled.
I pointed to Marnham, saying--
"That is a question for you to answer.
"Oh! drunk again, I suppose," he said. Then he did as I had
done, bent down and examined him. A few seconds later he stepped
or reeled back, looking as frightened as a man could be, and
"Dead as a stone, by God! Dead these three hours or more."
"Quite so," I answered, "but what killed him?"
"How should I know?" he asked savagely. "Do you suspect me of
"My mind is open," I replied; "but as you quarrelled so bitterly
last night, others might."
The bolt went home; he saw his danger.
"Probably the old sot died in a fit, or of too much brandy. How
can one know without a post-mortem? But that mustn't be made by
me. I'm off to inform the magistrate and get hold of another
doctor. Let the body remain as it is until I return.
I reflected quickly. Ought I to let him go or not? If he had
any hand in this business, doubtless he intended to escape.
Well, supposing this were so and he did escapee, that would be a
good thing for Heda, and really it was no affair of mine to bring
the fellow to justice. Moreover there was nothing to show that
he was guilty; his whole manner seemed to point another way,
though of course he might be acting.
"Very well," I replied, "but return as quickly as possible."
He stood for a few seconds like a man who is dazed. It occurred
to me that it might have come into his mind with Marnham's death
that he had lost his hold over Heda. But if so he said nothing
of it, but only asked--
"Will you go instead of me?"
"On the whole I think not," I replied, "and if I did, the story I
should have to tell might not tend to your advantage.
"That's true, damn you!" he exclaimed and left the room.
Ten minutes later he was galloping towards Pilgrim's Rest.
Before I departed from the death chamber I examined the place
carefully to see if I could find any poison or other deadly
thing, but without success. One thing I did discover, however.
Turning the leaf of a blotting-book that was by Marnham's elbow,
I came upon a sheet of paper on which were written these words in
his hand, "Greater love hath no man than this--" that was all.
Either he had forgotten the end of the quotation or changed his
mind, or was unable through weakness to finish the sentence.
This paper also I put in my pocket. Bolting the shutters and
locking the door I returned to the stoep, where I was alone, for
as yet no one else was stirring. Then I remembered the letter in
my pocket and opened it. It ran--
"Dear Mr. Quatermain,--
"I have remembered that those who quarrel with Dr. Rodd are apt
to die soon and suddenly; at any rate life at my age is always
uncertain. Therefore, as I know you to be an honest man, I am
enclosing my will that it may be in safe keeping and purpose to
send it to your room to-morrow morning. Perhaps when you return
to Pretoria you will deposit it in the Standard Bank there, and
if I am still alive, forward me the receipt. You will see that I
leave everything to my daughter whom I dearly love, and that
there is enough to keep the wolf from her door, besides my share
in this property, if it is ever realized.
"After all that has passed to-night I do not feel up to writing a
long letter, so
"Remain sincerely yours,
"H. A. Marnham."
"PS.--I should like to state clearly upon paper that my earnest
hope and wish are that Heda may get clear of that black-hearted,
murderous, scoundrel Rodd and marry Mr. Anscombe, whom I like and
who, I am sure, would make her a good husband."
Thinking to myself this did not look very like the letter of a
suicide, I glanced through the will, as the testator seemed to
have wished that I should do so. It was short, but properly
drawn, signed, and witnessed, and bequeathed a sum of #9,000,
which was on deposit at the Standard Bank, together with all his
other property, real and personal, to Heda for her own sole use,
free from the debts and engagements of her husband, should she
marry. Also she was forbidden to spend more than #1,000 of the
capital. In short the money was strictly tied up. With the will
were some other papers that apparently referred to certain
property in Hungary to which Heda might become entitled, but
about these I did not trouble.
Replacing these documents in a safe inner pocket in the lining of
my waistcoat, I went into our room and woke up Anscombe who was
sleeping soundly, a fact that caused an unreasonable irritation
in my mind. When at length he was thoroughly aroused I said to
"You are in luck's way, my friend. Marnham is dead."
"Oh! poor Heda," he exclaimed, "she loved him. It will half
break her heart."
"If it breaks half of her heart," I replied, "it will mend the
other half, for now her filial affection can't force her to marry
Rodd, and that is where you are in luck's way."
Then I told him all the story.
"Was he murdered or did he commit suicide?" he asked when I had
"I don't know, and to tell you the truth I don't want to know;
nor will you if you are wise, unless knowledge is forced upon
you. It is enough that he is dead, and for his daughter's sake
the less the circumstances of his end are examined into the
"Poor Heda!" he said again, "who will tell her? I can't. _You_
found him, Allan."
"I expected that job would be my share of the business, Anscombe.
Well, the sooner it is over the better. Now dress yourself and
come on to the stoep."
Then I left him and next minute met Heda's fat, half-breed maid,
a stupid but good sort of a woman who was called Kaatje, emerging
from her mistress's room with a jug, to fetch hot water, I
"Kaatje," I said, "go back and tell the Missie Heda that I want
to speak to her as soon as I can. Never mind the hot water, but
stop and help her to dress."
She began to grumble a little in a good-natured way, but
something in my eye stopped her and she went back into the room.
Ten minutes later Heda was by my side.
"What is it, Mr. Quatermain?" she asked. "I feel sure that
something dreadful has happened."
"It has, my dear," I answered, "that is, if death is dreadful.
Your father died last night."
"Oh!" she said, "oh!" and sank back on to the seat.
"Bear up," I went on, "we must all die one day, and he had
reached the full age of man."
"But I loved him," she moaned. "He had many faults I know, still
I loved him."
"It is the lot of life, Heda, that we should lose what we love.
Be thankful, therefore, that you have some one left to love."
"Yes, thank God! that's true. If it had been him--no, it's
wicked to say that."
Then I told her the story, and while I was doing so, Anscombe
joined us, walking by aid of his stick. Also I showed them both
Marnham's letter to me and the will, but the other bit of paper I
did not speak of or show.
She sat very pale and quiet and listened till I had done. Then
"I should like to see him."
"Perhaps it is as well," I answered. "If you can bear it, come
at once, and do you come also, Anscombe."
We went to the room, Anscombe and Heda holding each other by the
hand. I unlocked the door and, entering, threw open a shutter.
There sat the dead man as I had left him, only his head had
fallen over a little. She gazed at him, trembling, then advanced
and kissed his cold forehead, muttering,
"Good-bye, father. Oh! good-bye, father."
A thought struck me, and I asked--
"Is there any place here where your father locked up things? As I
have shown you, you are his heiress, and if so it might be as
well in this house that you should possess yourself of his
"There is a safe in the corner," she answered, "of which he
always kept the key in his trouser pocket."
"Then with your leave I will open it in your presence."
Going to the dead man I searched his pocket and found in it a
bunch of keys. These I withdrew and went to the safe over which
a skin rug was thrown. I unlocked it easily enough. Within were
two bags of gold, each marked #100; also another larger bag
marked "My wife's jewelry. For Heda"; also some papers and a
miniature of the lady whose portrait hung in the sitting-room;
also some loose gold.
"Now who will take charge of these?" I asked. "I do not think it
safe to leave them here."
"You, of course," said Anscombe, while Heda nodded.
So with a groan I consigned all these valuables to my capacious
pockets. Then I locked up the empty safe, replaced the keys
where I had found them on Marnham, fastened the shutter and left
the room with Anscombe, waiting for a while outside till Heda
joined us, sobbing a little. After this we got something to eat,
insisting on Heda doing the same.
On leaving the table I saw a curious sight, namely, the patients
whom Rodd was attending in the little hospital of which I have
spoken, departing towards the bush-veld, those of them who could
walk well and the attendants assisting the others. They were
already some distance away, too far indeed for me to follow, as I
did not wish to leave the house. The incident filled me with
suspicion, and I went round to the back to make inquiries, but
could find no one. As I passed the hospital door, however, I
heard a voice calling in Sisutu--
"Do not leave me behind, my brothers."
I entered and saw the man on whom Rodd had operated the day of
our arrival, lying in bed and quite alone. I asked him where the
others had gone. At first he would not answer, but when I
pretended to leave him, called out that it was back to their own
country. Finally, to cut the story short, I extracted from him
that they had left because they had news that the Temple was
going to be attacked by Sekukuni and did not wish to be here when
I and Anscombe were killed. How the news reached him he refused,
or could not, say; nor did he seem to know anything of the death
of Marnham. When I pressed him on the former point, he only
groaned and cried for water, for he was in pain and thirsty. I
asked him who had told Sekukuni's people to kill us, but he
refused to speak.
"Very well," I said, "then you shall lie here alone and die of
thirst," and again I turned towards the door.
At this he cried out--
"I will tell you. It was the white medicine-man who lives here;
he who cut me open. He arranged it all a few days ago because he
hates you. Last night he rode to tell the impi when to come."
"When is it to come?" I asked, holding the jug of water towards
"To-night at the rising of the moon, so that it may get far away
before the dawn. My people are thirsty for your blood and for
that of the other white chief, because you killed so many of them
by the river. The others they will not harm."
"How did you learn all this?" I asked him again, but without
result, for he became incoherent and only muttered something
about being left alone because the others could not carry him.
So I gave him some water, after which he fell asleep, or
pretended to do so, and I left him, wondering whether he was
delirious, or spoke truth. As I passed the stables I saw that my
own horse was there, for in this district horses are always shut
up at night to keep them from catching sickness, but that the
four beasts that had brought Heda from Natal in the Cape cart
were gone, though it was evident that they had been kraaled here
till within an hour or two. I threw my horse a bundle of forage
and returned to the house by the back entrance. The kitchen was
empty, but crouched by the door of Marnham's room sat the boy who
had found him dead. He had been attached to his master and
seemed half dazed. I asked him where the other servants were, to
which he replied that they had all run away. Then I asked him
where the horses were. He answered that the Baas Rodd had
ordered them to be turned out before he rode off that morning. I
bade him accompany me to the stoep, as I dared not let him out of
my sight, which he did unwillingly enough.
There I found Anscombe and Heda. They were seated side by side
upon the couch. Tears were running down her face and he, looking
very troubled, held her by the hand. Somehow that picture of
Heda has always remained fixed in my mind. Sorrow becomes some
women and she was one of them. Her beautiful dark grey eyes did
not grow red with weeping; the tears just welled up in them and
fell like dewdrops from the heart of a flower.
She sat very upright and very still, as he did, looking straight
in front of her, while a ray of sunshine, falling on her head,
showed the chestnut-hued lights in her waving hair, of which she
had a great abundance.
Indeed the pair of them, thus seated side by side, reminded me of
an engraving I had seen somewhere of the statues of a husband and
wife in an old Egyptian tomb. With just such a look did the
woman of thousands of years ago sit gazing in patient hope into
the darkness of the future. Death had made her sad, but it was
gone by, and the little wistful smile about her lips seemed to
suggest that in this darkness her sorrowful eyes already saw the
stirring of the new life to be. Moreover, was not the man she
loved the companion of her hopes as he had been of her woes.
Such was the fanciful thought that sprang up in my mind, even in
the midst of those great anxieties, like a single flower in a
stony wilderness of thorns or one star on the blackness of the
In a moment it had gone and I was telling them of what I had
learned. They listened till I had finished. Then Anscombe said
"Two of us can't hold this house against an impi. We must get
out of it."
"Both your conclusions seem quite sound," I remarked, "that is if
yonder old Kaffir is telling the truth. But the question
is--how? We can't all three of us ride on one nag, as you are
still a cripple."
"There is the Cape cart," suggested Heda.
"Yes, but the horses have been turned out, and I don't know where
to look for them. Nor dare I send that boy alone, for probably
he would bolt like the others. I think that you had better get
on my horse and ride for it, leaving us to take our chance. I
daresay the whole thing is a lie and that we shall be in no
danger," I added by way of softening the suggestion.
"That I will never do," she replied with so much quiet conviction
that I saw it was useless to pursue the argument.
I thought for a moment, as the position was very difficult. The
boy was not to be trusted, and if I went with him I should be
leaving these two alone and, in Anscombe's state, almost
defenceless. Still it seemed as though I must. Just then I
looked up, and there at the garden gate saw Anscombe's driver,
Footsack, the man whom I had despatched to Pretoria to fetch his
oxen. I noted that he looked frightened and was breathless, for
his eyes started out of his head. Also his hat was gone and he
bled a little from his face.
Seeing us he ran up the path and sat down as though he were
"Where are the oxen?" I asked.
"Oh! Baas," he answered, "the Basutos have got them. We heard
from an old black woman that Sekukuni had an impi out, so we
waited on the top of that hill about an hour's ride away to see
if it was true. Then suddenly the doctor Baas appeared riding,
and I ran out and asked him if it were safe to go on. He knew me
again and answered--
"'Yes, quite safe, for have I not just ridden this road without
meeting so much as a black child. Go on, man; your masters will
be glad to have their oxen, as they wish to trek, or will by
nightfall.' Then he laughed and rode away.
"So we went on, driving the oxen. But when we came to the belt
of thorns at the bottom of the hill, we found that the doctor
Baas had either lied to us or he had not seen. For there
suddenly the tall grass on either side of the path grew spears;
yes, everywhere were spears. In a minute the two voorloopers
were assegaied. As for me, I ran forward, not back, since the
Kaffirs were behind me, across the path, Baas, driving off the
oxen. They sprang at me, but I jumped this way and that way and
avoided them. Then they threw assegais--see, one of them cut my
cheek, but the rest missed. They had guns in their hands also,
but none shot. I think they did not wish to make a noise. Only
one of them shouted after me--
"'Tell Macumazahn that we are going to call on him tonight when
he cannot see to shoot. We have a message for him from our
brothers whom he killed at the drift of the Oliphant's River.'
"Then I ran on here without stopping, but I saw no more Kaffirs.
That is all, Baas."
Now I did not delay to cross-examine the man or to sift the true
from the false in his story, since it was clear to me that he had
run into a company of Basutos, or rather been beguiled thereto by
Rodd, and lost our cattle, also his companions, who were either
killed as he said, or had escaped some other way.
"Listen, man," I said. "I am going to fetch some horses. Do you
stay here and help the Missie to pack the cart and make the
harness ready. If you disobey me or run away, then I will find
you and you will never run again. Do you understand?"
He vowed that he did and went to get some water, while I
explained everything to Anscombe and Heda, pointing out that all
the information we could gather seemed to show that no attack was
to be made upon the house before nightfall, and that therefore we
had the day before us. As this was so I proposed to go to look
for the horses myself, since otherwise I was sure we should never
find them. Meanwhile Heda must pack and make ready the cart with
the help of Footsack, Anscombe superintending everything, as he
could very well do since he was now able to walk leaning on a
Of course neither of them liked my leaving them, but in view of
our necessities they raised no objection. So off I went, taking
the boy with me. He did not want to go, being, as I have said,
half dazed with grief or fear, or both, but when I had pointed
out to him clearly that I was quite prepared to shoot him if he
played tricks, he changed his mind. Having saddled my mare that
was now fresh and fat, we started, the boy guiding me to a
certain kloof at the foot of which there was a small plain of
good grass where he said the horses were accustomed to graze.
Here sure enough we found two of them, and as they had been
turned out with their headstalls on, were able to tie them to
trees with the riems which were attached to the headstalls. But
the others were not there, and as two horses could not drag a
heavy Cape cart, I was obliged to continue the search. Oh! what
a hunt those beasts gave me. Finding themselves free, for as
Rodd's object was that they should stray, he had ordered the
stable-boy not to kneel-halter them, after filling themselves
with grass they had started off for the farm where they were
bred, which, it seemed, was about fifty miles away, grazing as
they went. Of course I did not know this at the time, so for
several hours I rode up and down the neighbouring kloofs, as the
ground was too hard for me to hope to follow them by their spoor.
It occurred to me to ask the boy where the horses came from, a
question that he happened to be able to answer, as he had brought
them home when they were bought the year before. Having learned
in what direction the place lay I rode for it at an angle, or
rather for the path that led to it, making the boy run alongside,
holding to my stirrup leather. About three o'clock in the
afternoon I struck this path, or rather track, at a point ten or
twelve miles away from the Temple, and there, just mounting a
rise, met the two horses quietly walking towards me. Had I been
a quarter of an hour later they would have passed and vanished
into a sea of thorn-veld. We caught them without trouble and
once more headed homewards, leading them by their riems.
Reaching the glade where the other two were tied up, we collected
them also and returned to the house, where we arrived at five
o'clock. As everything seemed quiet I put my mare into the
stable, slipped its bit and gave it some forage. Then I went
round the house, and to my great joy found Anscombe and Heda
waiting anxiously, but with nothing to report, and with them
Footsack. Very hastily I swallowed some food, while Footsack
inspanned the horses. In a quarter of an hour all was ready.
Then suddenly, in an inconsequent female fashion, Heda developed
a dislike to leaving her father unburied.
"My dear young lady," I said, "it seems that you must choose
between that and our all stopping to be buried with him."
She saw the point and compromised upon paying him a visit of
farewell, which I left her to do in Anscombe's company, while I
fetched my mare. To tell the truth I felt as though I had seen
enough of the unhappy Marnham, and not for #50 would I have
entered that room again. As l passed the door of the hospital,
leading my horse, I heard the old Kaffir screaming within and
sent the boy who was with me to find out what was the matter with
him. That was the last I saw of either of them, or ever shall
see this side of kingdom come. I wonder what became of them?
When I got back to the front of the house I found the cart
standing ready at the gate, Footsack at the head of the horses
and Heda with Anscombe at her side. It had been neatly packed
during the day by Heda with such of her and our belongings as it
would hold, including our arms and ammunition. The rest, of
course, we were obliged to abandon. Also there were two baskets
full of food, some bottles of brandy and a good supply of
overcoats and wraps. I told Footsack to take the reins, as I
knew him to be a good driver, and helped Anscombe to a seat at
his side, while Heda and the maid Kaatje got in behind in order
to balance the vehicle. I determined to ride, at any rate for
"Which way, Baas?" asked Footsack.
"Down to the Granite Stream where the wagon stands," I answered.
"That will be through the Yellow-wood Swamp. Can't we take the
other road to Pilgrim's Rest and Lydenburg, or to Barberton?"
asked Anscombe in a vague way, and as I thought, rather
"No," I answered, "that is unless you wish to meet those Basutos
who stole the oxen and Dr. Rodd returning, if he means to
"Oh! let us go through the Yellow-wood," exclaimed Heda, who, I
think, would rather have met the devil than Dr. Rodd.
"Ah! if I had but known that we were heading straight for that
person, sooner would I have faced the Basutos twice over. But I
did what seemed wisest, thinking that he would be sure to return
with another doctor or a magistrate by the shorter and easier
path which he had followed in the morning. It just shows once
more how useless are all our care and foresight, or how strong is
Fate, have it which way you will.
So we started down the slope, and I, riding behind, noted poor
Heda staring at the marble house, which grew ever more beautiful
as it receded and the roughness of its building disappeared,
especially at that part of it which hid the body of her old scamp
of a father whom still she loved. We came down to the glen and
once more saw the bones of the blue wildebeeste that we had
shot--oh! years and years ago, or so it seemed. Then we struck
out for the Granite Stream.
Before we reached the patch of Yellow-wood forest where I knew
that the cart must travel very slowly because of the trees and
the swampy nature of the ground, I pushed on ahead to
reconnoitre, fearing lest there might be Basutos hidden in this
cover. Riding straight through it I went as far as the deserted
wagon at a sharp canter, seeing nothing one. Once indeed,
towards the end of the wood where it was more dense, I thought
that I heard a man cough and peered about me through the gloom,
for here the rays of the sun, which was getting low in the
heavens, scarcely penetrated. As I could perceive no one I came
to the conclusion that I must have been deceived by my fancy. Or
perhaps it was some baboon that coughed, though it was strange
that a baboon should have come to such a low-lying spot where
there was nothing for it to eat.
The place was eerie, so much so that I bethought me of tales of
the ghosts whereby it was supposed to be haunted. Also, oddly
enough, of Anscombe's presentiment which he had fulfilled by
killing a Basuto. Look! There lay his grinning skull with some
patches of hair still on it, dragged away from the rest of the
bones by a hyena. I cantered on down the slope beyond the wood
and through the scattered thorns to the stream on the banks of
which the wagon should be. It had gone, and by the freshness of
the trail, within an hour or two. A moment's reflection told me
what had happened. Having stolen our oxen the Basutos drove them
to the wagon, inspanned them and departed with their loot. On
the whole I was glad to see this, since it suggested that they
had retired towards their own country, leaving our road open.
Turning my horse I rode back again to meet the cart. As I
reached the edge of the wood at the top of the slope I heard a
whistle blown, a very shrill whistle, of which the sound would
travel for a mile or two on that still air. Also I heard the
sound of men's voices in altercation and caught words, such
as--"Let go, or by Heaven--!" then a furious laugh and other
words which seemed to be--"In five minutes the Kaffirs will be
here. In ten you will be dead. Can I help it if they kill you
after I have warned you to turn back?" Then a woman's scream.
Rodd's voice, Anscombe's voice and Kaatje's scream--not Heda's
Then as I rode furiously round the last patch of intervening
trees the sound of a pistol shot. I was out of them now and saw
everything. There was the cart on the further side of a swamp.
The horses were standing still and snorting. Holding the rein of
one of the leaders was Rodd, whose horse also stood close by. He
was rocking on his feet and as I leapt from my mare and ran up, I
saw his face. it was horrible, full of pain and devilish rage.
With his disengaged hand he pointed to Anscombe sitting in the
cart and grasping a pistol that still smoked.
"You've killed me," he said in a hoarse, choking voice, for he
was shot through the lung, "to get her," and he waved his hand
towards Heda who was peering at him between the heads of the two
men. "You are a murderer, as her father was, and as David was
before you. Well, I hope you won't keep her long. I hope you'll
die as I do and break her false heart, you damned thief."
All of this he said in a slow voice, pausing between the words
and speaking ever more thickly as the blood from his wound choked
him. Then of a sudden it burst in a stream from his lips, and
still pointing with an accusing finger at Anscombe, he fell
backwards into the slimy pool behind him and there vanished
without a struggle.
So horrible was the sight that the driver, Footsack, leapt from
the cart, uttering a kind of low howl, ran to Rodd's horse,
scrambled into the saddle and galloped off, striking it with his
fist, where to I do not know. Anscombe put his hand before his
eyes, Heda sank down on the seat in a heap, and the coloured
woman, Kaatje, beat her breast and said something in Dutch about
being accursed or bewitched. Luckily I kept my wits and went to
the horses' heads, fearing lest they should start and drag the
trap into the pool. "Wake up," I said. "That fellow has only
got what he deserved, and you were quite right to shoot him."
"I am glad you think so," answered Anscombe absently. "It was so
like murder. Don't you remember I told you I should kill a man
in this place and about a woman?"
"I remember nothing," I answered boldly, "except that if we stop
here much longer we shall have those Basutos on us. That brute
was whistling to them and holding the horses till they came to
kill us. Pull yourself together, take the reins and follow me."
He obeyed, being a skilful whip enough who, as he informed me
afterwards, had been accustomed to drive a four-in-hand at home.
Mounting my horse, which stood by, I guided the cart out of the
wood and down the slope beyond, till at length we came to our old
outspan where I proposed to turn on to the wagon track which ran
to Pilgrim's Rest. I say proposed, for when I looked up it I
perceived about five hundred yards away a number of armed Basutos
running towards us, the red light of the sunset shining on their
spears. Evidently the scout or spy to whom Rodd whistled, had
called them out of their ambush which they had set for us on the
Pilgrim's Rest road in order that they might catch us if we tried
to escape that way.
Now there was only one thing to be done. At this spot a native
track ran across the little stream and up a steepish slope
beyond. On the first occasion of our outspanning here I had the
curiosity to mount this slope, reflecting as I did so that
although rough it would be quite practicable for a wagon. At the
top of it I found a wide flat plain, almost high-veld, for the
bushes were very few, across which the track ran on. On
subsequent inquiry I discovered that it was one used by the
Swazis and other natives when they made their raids upon the
Basutos, or when bodies of them went to work in the mines.
"Follow me," I shouted and crossed the stream which was shallow
between the little pools, then led the way up the stony slope.
The four horses negotiated it very well and the Cape cart, being
splendidly built, took no harm. At the top I looked back and saw
that the Basutos were following us.
"Flog the horses!" I cried to Anscombe, and off we went at a hand
gallop along the native track, the cart swaying and bumping upon
the rough veld. The sun was setting now, in half an hour it
would be quite dark.
Could we keep ahead of them for that half hour?
The sun sank in a blaze of glory. Looking back by the light of
its last rays I saw a single native silhouetted against the red
sky. He was standing on a mound that we had passed a mile or
more behind us, doubtless waiting for his companions whom he had
outrun. So they had not given up the chase. What was to be
done? Once it was completely dark we could not go on. We should
lose our way; the horses would get into ant-bear holes and break
their legs. Perhaps we might become bogged in some hollow,
therefore we must wait till the moon rose, which would not be for
a couple of hours.
Meanwhile those accursed Basutos would be following us even in
the dark. This would hamper them, no doubt, but they would keep
the path, with which they were probably familiar, beneath their
feet, and what is more, the ground being soft with recent rain,
they could feel the wheel spoor with their fingers. I looked
about me. Just here another track started off in a nor'-westerly
direction from that which we were following. Perhaps it ran to
Lydenburg; I do not know. To our left, not more than a hundred
yards or so away, the higher veld came to an end and sloped in an
easterly direction down to bush-land below.
Should I take the westerly road which ran over a great plain?
No, for then we might be seen for miles and cut off. Moreover,
even if we escaped the natives, was it desirable should plunge
into civilization just now and tell all our story, as in that
case we must do. Rodd's death was quite justified, but it had
happened on Transvaal territory and would require a deal of
explanation. Fortunately there was no witness of it, except
ourselves. Yes, there was though--the driver Footsack, if he had
got away, which, being mounted, would seem probable, a man who,
for my part, I would not trust for a moment. It would be an ugly
thing to see Anscombe in the dock charged with murder and
possibly myself, with Footsack giving evidence against us before
a Boer jury who might be hard on Englishmen. Also there was the
body with a bullet in it.
Suddenly there came into my mind a recollection of the very vivid
dream of Zikali which had visited me, and I reflected that in
Zululand there would be little need to trouble about the death of
Rodd. But Zululand was a long way off, and if we were to avoid
the Transvaal, there was only one way of going there, namely
through Swaziland. Well, among the Swazis we should be quite
safe from the Basutos, since the two peoples were at fierce
enmity. Moreover I knew the Swazi chiefs and king very well,
having traded there, and could explain that I came to collect
debts owing to me.
There was another difficulty. I had heard that the trouble
between the English Government and Cetewayo, the Zulu king, was
coming to a head, and that the High Commissioner, Sir Bartle
Frere, talked of presenting him with an ultimatum. It would be
awkward if this arrived while we were in the country, though even
so, being on such friendly terms with the Zulus of all classes, I
did not think that I, or any with me, would run great risks.
All these thoughts rushed through my brain while I considered
what to do. At the moment it was useless to ask the opinion of
the others who were but children in native matters. I and I
alone must take the responsibility and act, praying that I might
do so aright. Another moment and I had made up my mind.
Signing to Anscombe to follow me, I rode about a hundred yards or
more down the nor'-westerly path. Then I turned sharply along a
rather stony ridge of ground, the cart following me all the time,
and came back across our own track, our my object being of course
to puzzle any Kaffirs who might spoor us. Now we were on the
edge of the gentle slope that led down to the bush-veld. Over
this I rode towards a deserted cattle kraal built of stones, in
the rich soil of which grew sundry trees; doubtless one of those
which had been abandoned when Mosilikatze swept all this country
on his way north about the year 1838. The way to it was easy,
since the surrounding stones had been collected to build the
kraal generations before. As we passed over the edge of the
slope in the gathering gloom, Heda cried--
"Look!" and pointed in the direction whence we came. Far away a
sheet of flame shot upwards.
"The house is burning," she exclaimed.
"Yes," I said, "it can be nothing else;" adding to myself, "a
good job too, for now there will be no postmortem on old
Who fired the place I never learnt. It may have been the
Basutos, or Marnham's body-servant, or Footsack, or a spark from
the kitchen fire. At any rate it blazed merrily enough
notwithstanding the marble walls, as a wood-lined and thatched
building of course would do. On the whole I suspected the boy,
who may very well have feared lest he should be accused of having
had a hand in his master's death. At least it was gone, and
watching the distant flames I bethought me that with it went all
Heda's past. Twenty-four hours before her father was alive, the
bondservant of Rodd and a criminal. Now he was ashes and Rodd
was dead, while she and the man she loved were free, with all the
world before them. I wished that I could have added that they
were safe. Afterwards she told me that much the same ideas
passed through her own mind.
Dismounting I led the horses into the old kraal through the gap
in the wall which once had been the gateway. It was a large
kraal that probably in bygone days had held the cattle of some
forgotten head chief whose town would have stood on the brow of
the rise; so large that notwithstanding the trees I have
mentioned, there was plenty of room for the cart and horses in
its centre. Moreover, on such soil the grass grew so richly that
after we had slipped their bits, the horses were able to fill
themselves without being unharnessed. Also a little stream from
a spring on the brow ran within a few yards whence, with the help
of Kaatje, a strong woman, I watered them with the bucket which
hung underneath the cart. Next we drank ourselves and ate some
food in the darkness that was now complete. Then leaving Kaatje
to stand at the head of the horses in case they should attempt
any sudden movement, I climbed into the cart, and we discussed
things in low whispers.
It was a curious debate in that intense gloom which, close as our
faces were together, prevented us from seeing anything of each
other, except once when a sudden flare of summer lightning
revealed them, white and unnatural as those of ghosts. On our
present dangers I did not dwell, putting them aside lightly,
though I knew they were not light. But of the alternative as to
whether we should try to escape to Lydenburg and civilization, or
to Zululand and savagery, I felt it to be my duty to speak.
"To put it plainly," said Anscombe in his slow way when I had
finished, "you mean that in the Transvaal I might be tried as a
murderer and perhaps convicted, whereas if we vanish into
Zululand the probability is that this would not happen."
"I mean," I whispered back, "that we might both be tried and, if
Footsack should chance to appear and give evidence, find
ourselves in an awkward position. Also there is another
witness--Kaatje, and for the matter of that, Heda herself. Of
course her evidence would be in our favour, but to make it
understood by a jury she would have to explain a great deal of
which she might prefer not to speak. Further, at the best, the
whole business would get into the English papers, which you and
your relatives might think disagreeable, especially in view of
the fact that, as I understand, you and Heda intend to marry."
"Still I think that I would rather face it out," he said in his
outspoken way, "even if it should mean that I could never return
to England. After all, of what have I to be afraid? I shot this
scoundrel because I was obliged to do so."
"Yes, but it is of this that you may have to convince a jury who
might possibly find a motive in Rodd's past, and your present,
relationship to the same lady. But what has she to say?"
"I have to say," whispered Heda, "that for myself I care nothing,
but that I could never bear to see all these stories about my
poor father raked up. Also there is Maurice to be considered.
It would be terrible if they put him in prison--or worse. Let us
go to Zululand, Mr. Quatermain, and afterwards get out of Africa.
Don't you agree, Maurice?"
"What does Mr. Quatermain think himself?" he answered. "He is
the oldest and by far the wisest of us and I will be guided by
Now I considered and said--
"There is such a thing as flying from present troubles to others
that may be worse, the 'ills we know not of.' Zululand is
disturbed. If war broke out there we might all be killed. On
the other hand we might not, and it ought to be possible for you
to work up to Delagoa Bay and there get some ship home, that is
if you wish to keep clear of British law. I cannot do so, as I
must stay in Africa. Nor can I take the responsibility of
settling what you are to do, since if things went wrong, it would
be on my head. However, if you decide for the Transvaal or Natal
and we escape, I must tell you that I shall go to the first
magistrate we find and make a full deposition of all that has
happened. It is not possible for me to live with the charge of
having been concerned in the shooting of a white man hanging over
me that might be brought up at any time, perhaps when no one was
left in the country to give evidence on my behalf, for then, even
if I were acquitted my name would always be tarnished. In
Zululand, on the other hand, there are no magistrates before whom
I could depose, and if this business should come out, I can
always say that we went there to escape from the Basutos. Now I
am going to get down to see if the horses are all right. Do you
two talk the thing over and make up your minds. Whatever you
agree on, I shall accept and do my best to carry through." Then,
without waiting for an answer, I slipped from the cart.
Having examined the horses, who were cropping all the grass
within reach of them, I crept to the wall of the kraal so as to
be quite out of earshot. The night was now pitch dark, dark as
it only knows how to be in Africa. More, a thunderstorm was
coming up of which that flash of sheet lightning had been a
presage. The air was electric. From the vast bush-clad valley
beneath us came a wild, moaning sound caused, I suppose, by wind
among the trees, though here I felt none; far away a sudden spear
of lightning stabbed the sky. The brooding trouble of nature
spread to my own heart. I was afraid, and not of our present
dangers, though these were real enough, so real that in a few
hours we might all be dead.
To dangers I was accustomed; for years they had been my daily
food by day and by night, and, as I think I have said elsewhere,
I am a fatalist, one who knows full well that when God wants me
He will take me; that is if He can want such a poor, erring
creature. Nothing that I did or left undone could postpone or
hasten His summons for a moment, though of course I knew it to be
my duty to fight against death and to avoid it for as long as I
might, because that I should do so was a portion of His plan.
For we are all part of a great pattern, and the continuance or
cessation of our lives re-acts upon other lives, and therefore
life is a trust.
No, it was of greater things that I felt afraid, things terrible
and imminent which I could not grasp and much less understand. I
understand them now, but who would have guessed that on the issue
of that whispered colloquy in the cart behind me, depended the
fate of a people and many thousands of lives? As I was to learn
in days to come, if Anscombe and Heda had determined upon heading
for the Transvaal, there would, as I believe, have been no Zulu
war, which in its turn meant that there would have been no Boer
Rebellion and that the mysterious course of history would have
I shook myself together and returned to the cart.
"Well," I whispered, but there was no answer. A moment later
there came another flash of lightning.
"There," said Heda, "how many do you make it?
"Ninety-eight," he answered.
"I counted ninety-nine," she said, "but anyway it was within the
hundred. Mr. Quatermain, we will go to Zululand, if you please,
if you will show us the way there."
"Right," I answered, "but might I ask what that has to do with
your both counting a hundred?"
"Only this," she said, "we could not make up our minds. Maurice
was for the Transvaal, I was for Zululand. So you see we agreed
that if another flash came before we counted a hundred, we would
go to Zululand, and if it didn't, to Pretoria. A very good way
of settling, wasn't it?"
"Excellent!" I replied, "quite excellent for those who could
think of such a thing."
As a matter of fact I don't know which of them thought of it
because I never inquired. But I did remember afterwards how
Anscombe had tossed with a lucky penny when it was a question
whether we should or should not run for the wagon during our
difficulty by the Oliphant's River; also when I asked him the
reason for this strange proceeding he answered that Providence
might inhabit a penny as well as anything else, and that he
wished to give it--I mean Providence--a chance. How much more
then, he may have argued, could it inhabit a flash of lightning
which has always been considered a divine manifestation from the
time of the Roman Jove, and no doubt far before him.
Forty or fifty generations ago, which is not long, our ancestors
set great store by the behaviour of lightning and thunder, and
doubtless the instinct is still in our blood, in the same way
that all our existing superstitions about the moon come down to
us from the time when our forefathers worshipped her. They did
this for tens of hundreds or thousands of years, and can we
expect a few coatings of the veneer that we politely call
civilization, which after all is only one of our conventions that
vanish in any human stress such as war, to kill out the human
impulse it seems to hide? I do not know, though I have my own
opinion, and probably these young people never reasoned the
matter out. They just acted on an intuition as ancient as that
which had attracted them to each other, namely a desire to
consult the ruling fates by omens or symbols. Or perhaps
Anscombe thought that as his experience with the penny had proved
so successful, he would give Providence another "chance." If so
it took it and no mistake. Confound it! I don't know what he
thought; I only dwell on the matter because of the great results
which followed this consultation of the Sybilline books of
As it happened my speculations, if I really indulged in any at
that time, were suddenly extinguished by the bursting of the
storm. It was of the usual character, short but very violent.
Of a sudden the sky became alive with lightnings and the
atmosphere with the roar of winds. One flash struck a tree quite
near the kraal, and I saw that tree seem to melt in its fiery
embrace, while about where it had been, rose a column of dust
from the ground beneath. The horses were so frightened that
luckily they stood quite quiet, as I have often known animals to
do in such circumstances. Then came the rain, a torrential rain
as I, who was out in it holding the horses, became painfully
aware. It thinned after a while, however, as the storm rolled
Suddenly in a silence between the tremendous echoes of the
passing thunder I thought that I heard voices somewhere on the
brow of the slope, and as the horses were now quite calm, I crept
through the trees to that part of the enclosure which I judged to
be nearest to them.
Voices they were sure enough, and of the Basutos who were
pursuing us. What was more, they were coming down the slope.
The top of the old wall reached almost to my chin. Taking off my
hat I thrust my head forward between two loose stones, that I
might hear the better.
The men were talking together in Sisutu. One, whom I took to be
their captain, said to the others--
"That white-headed old jackal, Macumazahn, has given us the slip
again. He doubled on his tracks and drove the horses down the
hillside to the lower path in the valley. I could feel where the
wheels went over the edge."
"It is so, Father," answered another voice, "but we shall catch
him and the others at the bottom if we get there before the moon
rises, since they cannot have moved far in this rain and
darkness. Let me go first and guide you who know every tree and
stone upon this slope where I used to herd cattle when I was a
"Do so," said the captain. "I can see nothing now the lightning
has gone, and were it not that I have sworn to dip my spear in
the blood of Macumazahn who has fooled us again, I would give up
"I think it would be better to give it up in any case," said a
third voice, "since it is known throughout the land that no luck
has ever come to those who tried to trap the Watcher-by-Night.
Oh! he is a leopard who springs and is gone again. How many are
the throats in which his fangs have met. Leave him alone, I say,
lest our fate should be that of the white doctor in the
Yellow-wood Swamp, he who set us on this hunt. We have his wagon
and his cattle; let us be satisfied."
"I will leave him alone when he sleeps for the last time, and not
before," answered the captain, "he who shot my brother in the
drift the other day. What would Sekukuni say if we let him
escape to bring the Swazis on us? Moreover, we want that white
maiden for a hostage in case the English should attack us again.
Come, you who know the road, and lead us."
There was some disturbance as this man passed to the front. Then
I heard the line move forward. Presently they were going by the
wall within a foot or two of me. Indeed by ill-luck just as we
were opposite to each other the captain stumbled and fell against
"There is an old cattle kraal here," he said. "What if those
white rats have hidden in it?"
I trembled as I heard the words. If a horse should neigh or make
any noise that could be heard above the hiss of the rain! I did
not dare to move for fear lest I should betray myself. There I
stood so close to the Kaffirs that I could smell them and hear
the rain pattering on their bodies. Only very stealthily I drew
my hunting knife with my right hand. At that moment the
lightning, which I thought had quite gone by, flashed again for
the last time, revealing the fat face of the Basuto captain
within a foot of my own, for he was turned towards the wall on
which one of his hands rested. Moreover, the blue and ghastly
light revealed mine to him thrust forward between the two stones,
my eyes glaring at him.
"The head of a dead man is set upon the wall!" he cried in
terror. "It is the ghost of--"
He got no further, for as the last word passed his lips I drove
the knife at him with all my strength deep into his throat. He
fell back into the arms of his followers, and next instant I
heard the sound of many feet rushing in terror down the hill.
What became of him I do not know, but if he still lives, probably
he agrees with his tribesman that Macumazahn--Watcher-by-Night,
or his ghost "is a leopard who springs and kills and is gone
again"; also, that those who try to trap him meet with no luck.
I say, or his ghost--because I am sure he thought that I was a
spirit of the dead; doubtless I must have looked like one with my
white, rain-drowned face appearing there between the stones and
made ghastly and livid by the lightning.
Well, they had gone, the whole band of them, not less than thirty
or forty men, so I went also, back to the cart where I found the
others very comfortable indeed beneath the rainproof tilt.
Saying nothing of what had happened, of which they were as
innocent as babes, I took a stiff tot of brandy, for I was
chilled through by the wet, and while waiting for the moon to
rise, busied myself with getting the bits back into the horses'
mouths--an awkward job in the dark. At length it appeared in a
clear sky, for the storm had quite departed and the rain ceased.
As soon as there was light enough I took the near leader by the
bridle and led the cart to the brow of the hill, which was not
easy under the conditions, making Kaatje follow with my horse.
Then, as there were no signs of any Basutos, we started on again,
I riding about a hundred yards ahead, keeping a sharp look-out
for a possible ambush. Fortunately, however, the veld was bare
and open, consisting of long waves of ground. One start I did
get, thinking that I saw men's heads just on the crest of a wave,
which turned out to be only a herd of springbuck feeding among
the tussocks of grass. I was very glad to see them, since their
presence assured me that no human being had recently passed that
All night long we trekked, following the Kaffir path for as could
see it, and after that going by my compass. I knew whereabouts
the drift of the Crocodile River should be, as I had crossed it
twice before in my life, and kept my eyes open for a certain tall
koppie which stood within half a mile it on the Swazi side of the
river. Ultimately to my joy I caught sight of this hill faintly
outlined against the sky and headed for it. Half a mile further
on I struck a wagon-track made by Boers trekking into Swazi-Land
to trade or shoot. Then I knew that the drift was straight ahead
of us, and called to Anscombe to flog up the weary horses.
We reached the river just before the dawn. To my horror it was
very full, so full that the drift looked dangerous, for it had
been swollen by the thunder-rain of the previous night. Indeed
some wandering Swazis on the further bank shouted to us that we
should be drowned if we tried to cross.
"Which means that the only thing to do is to stay until the water
runs down," I said to Anscombe, for the two women, tired out,
"I suppose so," he answered, "unless those Basutos--"
I looked back up the long slope down which we had come and saw no
one. Then I raised myself in my stirrups and looked along
another track that joined the road just here, leading from the
bush-veld, as ours led from the high-veld. The sun was rising
now, dispersing the mist that hung about the trees after the wet.
Searching among these with my eyes, presently I perceived the
light gleaming upon what I knew must be the points of spears
projecting above the level of the ground vapour.
"Those devils are after us by the lower road," I said to
Anscombe, adding, "I heard them pass the old cattle kraal last
night. They followed our spoor over the edge of the hill, but in
the dark lost it among the stones."
He whistled and asked what was to be done.
"That is for you to decide," I answered. "For my part I'd rather
risk the river than the Basutos," and I looked at the slumbering
"Can we bolt back the way we came, Allan?"
"The horses are very spent and we might meet more Basutos," and
again I looked at Heda.
"A hard choice, Allan. It is wonderful how women complicate
everything in life, because they are life, I suppose." He
thought a moment and went on, "Let's try the river. If we fail,
it will be soon over, and it is better to drown than be speared."
"Or be kept alive by savages who hate us," I exclaimed, with my
eyes still fixed upon Heda.
Then I got to business. There were hide riems on the bridles of
the leaders. I undid these and knotted their loose ends firmly
together. To them I made fast the riem of my own mare, slipping
a loop I tied in it, over my right hand and saying--
"Now I will go first, leading the horses. Do you drive after me
for all you are worth, even if they are swept off their feet. I
can trust my beast to swim straight, and being a mare, I hope
that the horses will follow her as they have done all night.
Wake up Heda and Kaatje."
He nodded, and looking very pale, said--
"Heda my dear, I am sorry to disturb you, but we have to get over
a river with a rough bottom, so you and Kaatje must hang on and
sit tight. Don't be frightened, you are as safe as a church."
"God forgive him for that lie," thought I to myself as, having
tightened the girths, I mounted my mare. Then gripping the riem
I kicked the beast to a canter, Anscombe flogging up the team as
we swung down the bank to the edge of the foaming torrent, on the
further side of which the Swazis shouted and gesticulated to us
to go back.
We were in it now, for, as I had hoped, the horses followed the
mare without hesitation. For the first twenty yards or so all
went well, I heading up the stream. Then suddenly I felt that
the mare was swimming.
"Flog the horses and don't let them turn," I shouted to Anscombe.
Ten more yards and I glanced over my shoulder. The team was
swimming also, and behind them the cart rocked and bobbed like a
boat swinging in a heavy sea. There came a strain on the riem;
the leaders were trying to turn! I pulled hard and encouraged
them with my voice, while Anscombe, who drove splendidly, kept
their heads as straight as he could. Mercifully they came round
again and struck out for the further shore, the water-logged cart
floating after them. Would it turn over? That was the question
in my mind. Five seconds; ten seconds and it was still upright.
Oh! it was going. No, a fierce back eddy caught it and set it
straight again. My mare touched bottom and there was hope. It
struggled forward, being swept down the stream all the time. Now
the horses in the cart also found their footing and we were
No, the wet had caused the knot of one of the riems to slip
beneath the strain, or perhaps it broke--I don't know. Feeling
the pull slacken the leaders whipped round on to the wheelers.
There they all stood in a heap, their heads and part of their
necks above water, while the cart floated behind them on its
side. Kaatje screamed and Anscombe flogged. I leapt from my
mare and struggled to the leaders, the water up to my chin.
Grasping their bits I managed to keep them from turning further.
But I could do no more and death came very near to us. Had it
not been for some of those brave Swazis on the bank it would have
found us, every one. But they plunged in, eight of them, holding
each other's hands, and half-swimming, half-wading, reached us.
They got the horses by the head and straightened them out, while
Anscombe plied his whip. A dash forward and the wheels were on
the bottom again.
Three minutes later we were safe on the further bank, which my
mare had already reached, where I lay gasping on my face,
ejaculating prayers of thankfulness and spitting out muddy water.
The Swazis, shivering, for all these people hate cold, and
shaking themselves like a dog when he comes to shore, gathered
round, examining me.
"Why!" said one of them, an elderly man who seemed to be their
leader, "this is none other than Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night,
the old friend of all us black people. Surely the spirits of our
fathers have been with us who might have risked our lives to save
a Boer or a half-breed." (The Swazis, I may explain, did not like
the Boers for reasons they considered sound.)
"Yes," I said, sitting up, "it is I, Macumazahn."
"Then why," asked the man, "did you, whom all know to be wise,
show yourself to have suddenly become a fool?" and he pointed to
the raging river.
"And why," I asked, "do you show yourself a fool by supposing
that I, whom you know to be none, am a fool? Look across the
water for your answer."
He looked and saw the Basutos, fifty or more of them, arriving,
just too late.
"Who are these?" he asked.
"They are the people of Sekukuni whom you should know well
enough. They have hunted us all night, yes, and before, seeking
to murder us; also they have stolen our oxen, thirty-two fine
oxen which I give to your king if he can take them back. Now
perhaps you understand why we dared the Crocodile River in its
At the name of Sekukuni the man, who it seemed was the captain of
some border guards, stiffened all over like a terrier which
perceives a rat. "What!" he exclaimed, "do these dirty Basuto
dogs dare to carry spears so near our country? Have they not yet
learned their lesson?"
Then he rushed into the water, shaking an assegai he had snatched
up, and shouted,
"Bide a while, you fleas from the kaross of Sekukuni, till I can
come across and crack you between my thumb and finger. Or at the
least wait until Macumazahn has time to get his rifle. No, put
down those guns of yours; for every shot you fire I swear that I
will cut ten Basuto throats when we come to storm your koppies,
as we shall do ere long."
"Be silent," I said, "and let me speak."
Then I, too, called across the river, asking where was that fat
captain of theirs, as I would talk with him. One of the men
shouted back that he had stopped behind, very sick, because of a
ghost that he had seen.
"Ah!" I answered, "a ghost who pricked him in the throat. Well,
I was that ghost, and such are the things that happen to those
who would harm Macumazahn and his friends. Did you not say last
night that he is a leopard who leaps out in the dark, bites and
is gone again?"
"Yes," the man shouted back, "and it is true, though had we
known, O Macumazahn, that you were the ghost hiding in those
stones, you should never have leapt again. Oh! that white
medicine-man who is dead has sent us on a mad errand."
"So you will think when I come to visit you among your koppies.
Go home and take a message from Macumazahn to Sekukuni, who
believes that the English have run away from him. Tell him that
they will return again and these Swazis with them, and that then
he will cease to live and his town will be burnt and his tribe
will no more be a tribe. Away now, more swiftly than you came,
since the water by which you thought to trap us is falling, and a
Swazi impi gathers to make an end of every one of you."
The man attempted no answer, nor did his people so much as fire
on us. They turned tail and crept off like a pack of frightened
jackals--pursued by the mocking of the Swazis.
Still in a way they had the laugh of us, seeing that they gave us
a terrible fright and stole our wagon and thirty-two oxen. Well,
a year or two later I helped to pay them back for that fright and
even recovered some of the oxen.
When they had gone the Swazis led us to a kraal about two miles
from the river, sending on a runner with orders to make huts and
food ready for us. It was just as much as we could do to reach
it, for we were all utterly worn out, as were the horses. Still
we did get there at last, the hot sun warming us as we went.
Arrived at the kraal I helped Heda and Kaatje from the cart--the
former could scarcely walk, poor dear--and into the guest hut
which seemed clean, where food of a sort and fur karosses were
brought to them in which to wrap themselves while their clothes
Leaving them in charge of two old women, I went to see to
Anscombe, who as yet could not do much for himself, also to the
outspanning of the horses which were put into a cattle kraal,
where they lay down at once without attempting to eat the green
forage which was given to them. After this I gave our goods into
the charge of the kraal-head, a nice old fellow whom I had never
met before, and he led Anscombe to another hut close to that
where the women were. Here we drank some maas, that is curdled
milk, ate a little mutton, though we were too fatigued to be very
hungry, and stripping off our wet clothes, threw them out into
the sun to dry.
"That was a close shave," said Anscombe as he wrapped up in the
"Very," I answered. "So close that I think you must have been
started in life with an extra strong guardian angel well
accustomed to native ways."
"Yes," he replied, "and, old fellow, I believe that on earth he
goes by the name of Allan Quatermain."
After this I remember no more, for I went to sleep, and so
remained for about twenty-four hours. This was not wonderful,
seeing that for two days and nights practically I had not rested,
during which time I went through much fatigue and many emotions.
When at length I did wake up, the first thing I saw was Anscombe
already dressed, engaged in cleaning my clothes with a brush from
his toilet case. I remember thinking how smart and incongruous
that dressing-bag, made appropriately enough of crocodile hide,
looked in this Kaffir hut with its silver-topped bottles and its
"Time to get up, Sir. Bath ready, Sir," he said in his jolly,
drawling voice, pointing to a calabash full of hot water. "Hope
you slept as well as I did, Sir."
"You appear to have recovered your spirits," I remarked as I rose
and began to wash myself.
"Yes, Sir, and why not? Heda is quite well, for I have seen her.
These Swazis are very good people, and as Kaatje understands
their language, bring us all we want. Our troubles seem to be
done with. Old Marnham is dead, and doubtless cremated; Rodd is
dead and, let us hope, in heaven; the Basutos have melted away,
the morning is fine and warm and a whole kid is cooking for
"I wish there were two, for I am ravenous," I remarked.
"The horses are getting rested and feeding well, though some of
their legs have filled, and the trap is little the worse, for I
have walked to look at them, or rather hopped, leaning on the
shoulder of a very sniffy Swazi boy. Do you know, old fellow, I
believe there never were any Basutos; also that the venerable
Marnham and the lurid Todd had no real existence, that they were
but illusions, a prolonged nightmare--no more. Here is your
shirt. I am sorry that I have not had time to wash it, but it
has cooked well in the sun, which, being flannel, is almost as
"At any rate Heda remains," I remarked, cutting his nonsense
short, "and I suppose she is not a nightmare or a delusion."
"Yes, thank God! she remains," he replied with earnestness. "Oh!
Allan, I thought she must drown in that river, and if I had lost
her, I think I should have gone mad. Indeed, at the moment I
felt myself going mad while I dragged and flogged at those
"Well, you didn't lose her, and if she had drowned, you would
have drowned also. So don't talk any more about it. She is
safe, and now we have got to keep her so, for you are not married
yet, my boy, and there are generally more trees in a wood than
one can see. Still we are alive and well, which is more than we
had any right to expect, and, as you say, let us thank God for
Then I put on my coat and my boots which Anscombe had greased as
he had no blacking, and crept from the hut.
There, only a few yards away, engaged in setting the breakfast in
the shadow of another hut on a tanned hide that served for a
tablecloth while Kaatje saw to the cooking close by, I found
Heda, still a little pale and sorrowful but otherwise quite well
and rested. Moreover, she had managed to dress herself very
nicely, I suppose by help of spare clothes in the cart, and
therefore looked as charming as she always did. I think that her
perfect manners were one of her greatest attractions. Thus on
this morning her first thought was to thank me very sweetly for
all she was good enough to say I had done for her and Anscombe,
thereby, as she put it, saving their lives several times over.
"My dear young lady," I answered as roughly as I could, "don't
flatter yourself on that point; it was my own life of which I was
But she only smiled and, shaking her head in a fascinating way
that was peculiar to her, remarked that I could not deceive her
as I did the Kaffirs. After this the solid Kaatje brought the
food and we breakfasted very heartily, or at least I did.
Now I am not going to set out all the details of our journey
through Swazi-Land, for though in some ways it was interesting
enough, also as comfortable as a stay among savages can be, for
everywhere we were kindly received, to do so would be too long,
and I must get on with my story. At the king's kraal, which we
did not reach for some days as the absence of roads and the
flooded state of the rivers, also the need of sparing our horses,
caused us to travel very slowly, I met a Boer who I think was
He told me that things were really serious in Zululand, so
serious that he thought there was a probability of immediate war
between the English and the Zulus. He said also that Cetewayo,
the Zulu king, had sent messengers to stir up the Basutos and
other tribes against the white men, with the result that Sekukuni
had already made a raid towards Pilgrim's Rest and Lydenburg.
I expressed surprise and asked innocently if he had done any
harm. The Boer replied he understood that they had stolen some
cattle, killed two white men, if not more, and burnt their house.
He added, however, that he was not sure whether the white men had
been killed by the Kaffirs or by other white men with whom they
had quarrelled. There was a rumour to this effect, and he
understood that the magistrate of Barberton had gone with some
mounted police and armed natives to investigate the matter.
Then we parted, as, having got his concession to which the king
Umbandine had put his mark when he was drunk on brandy that the
Boer himself had brought with him as a present, he was anxious to
be gone before he grew sober and revoked it. Indeed, he was in
so great a hurry that he never stopped to inquire what I was
doing in Swazi-Land, nor do I think he realized that I was not
alone. Certainly he was quite unaware that I had been mixed up
in these Basuto troubles. Still his story as to the
investigation concerning the deaths of Marnham and Rodd made me
uneasy, since I feared lest he should hear something on his
journey and put two and two together, though as a matter of fact
I don't think he ever did either of these things.
The Swazis told me much the same story as to the brewing Zulu
storm. In fact an old Induna or councillor, whom I knew,
informed me that Cetewayo had sent messengers to them, asking for
their help if it should come to fighting with the white men, but
that the king and councillors answered that they had always been
the Queen's children (which was not strictly true, as they were
never under English rule) and did not wish to "bite her feet if
she should have to fight with her hands." I replied that I hoped
they would always act up to these fine words, and changed the
Now once more the question arose as to whether we should make for
Natal or press on to Zululand. The rumour of coming war
suggested that the first would be our better course, while the
Boer's story as to the investigation of Rodd's death pointed the
other way. Really I did not know which to do, and as usual
Anscombe and Heda seemed inclined to leave the decision to me. I
think that after all Natal would have gained the day had it not
been for a singular circumstance, not a flash of lightning this
time. Indeed, I had almost made up my mind to risk trouble and
inquiry as to Rodd's death, remembering that in Natal these two
young people could get married, which, being in loco parentis, I
thought it desirable they should do as soon as possible, if only
to ease me of my responsibilities. Also thence I could attend to
the matter of Heda's inheritance and rid myself of her father's
will that already had been somewhat damaged in the Crocodile
River, though not as much as it might have been since I had taken
the precaution to enclose it in Anscombe's sponge bag before we
left the house.
The circumstance was this: On emerging from the cart one morning,
where I slept to keep an eye upon the valuables, for it will be
remembered that we had a considerable sum in gold with us, also
Heda's jewels, a Swazi informed me that a messenger wished to see
me. I asked what messenger and whence did he come. He replied
that the messenger was a witch-doctoress named Nombe, and that
she came from Zululand and said that I knew her father.
I bade the man bring her to me, wondering who on earth she could
be, for it is not usual for the Zulus to send women as
messengers, and from whom she came. However, I knew exactly what
she would be like, some hideous old hag smelling horribly of
grease and other abominations, with a worn snake skin and some
human bones tied about her.
Presently she came, escorted by the Swazi who was grinning, for I
think he guessed what I expected to see. I stared and rubbed my
eyes, thinking that I must still be asleep, for instead of a fat
old Isanusi there appeared a tall and graceful young woman,
rather light-coloured, with deep and quiet eyes and a by no means
ill-favoured face, remarkable for a fixed and somewhat mysterious
smile. She was a witch-doctoress sure enough, for she wore in
her hair the regulation bladders and about her neck the circlet
of baboon's teeth, also round her middle a girdle from which hung
little bags of medicines.
She contemplated me gravely and I contemplated her, waiting till
she should choose to speak. At length, having examined me inch
by inch, she saluted by raising her rounded arm and tapering
hand, and remarked in a soft, full voice--
"All is as the picture told. I perceive before me the lord
I thought this a strange saying, seeing that I could not
recollect having given my photograph to any one in Zululand.
"You need no magic to tell you that, doctoress," I remarked, "but
where did you see my picture?"
"In the dust far away," she replied.
"And who showed it to you?"
"One who knew you, O Macumazahn, in the years before I came out
of the Darkness, one named Opener of Roads, and with him another
who also knew you in those years, one who has gone down to the
Now for some occult reason I shrank from asking the name of this
"one who had gone down to the Darkness,' although I was sure that
she was waiting for the question. So I merely remarked, without
"So Zikali still lives, does he? He should have been dead long
"You know well that he lives, Macumazahn, for how could he die
till his work was accomplished? Moreover, you will remember that
he spoke to you when last moon was but just past her full--in a
dream, Macumazahn. I brought that dream, although you did not
"Pish!" I exclaimed. "Have done with your talk of dreams. Who
thinks anything of dreams?"
"You do," she replied even more placidly than before, "you whom
that dream has brought hither--with others."
"You lie," I said rudely. "The Basutos brought me here."
"The Watcher-by-Night is pleased to say that I lie, so doubtless
I do lie," she answered, her fixed smile deepening a little.
Then she folded her arms across her breast and remained silent.
"You are a messenger, O seer of pictures in the dust and bearer
of the cup of dreams," I said with sarcasm. "Who sends a message
by your lips for me, and what are the words of the message?"
"My Lords the Spirits spoke the message by the mouth of the
master Zikali. He sends it on to you by the lips of your
servant, the doctoress Nombe."
"Are you indeed a doctoress, being so young?" I asked, for
somehow I wished to postpone the hearing of that message.
"O Macumazahn, I have heard the call, I have felt the pain in my
back, I have drunk of the black medicine and of the white
medicine, yes, for a whole year. I have been visited by the
multitude of Spirits and seen the shades of those who live and of
those who are dead. I have dived into the river and drawn my
snake from its mud; see, its skin is about me now," and opening
the mantle she wore she showed what looked like the skin of a
black mamba, fastened round her slender body. "I have dwelt in
the wilderness alone and listened to its voices. I have sat at
the feet of my master, the Opener of Roads, and looked down the
road and drunk of his wisdom. Yes, I am in truth a doctoress."
"Well, after all this, you should be as wise as you are pretty."
"Once before, Macumazahn, you told a maid of my people that she
was pretty and she came to no good end; though to one that was
great. Therefore do not say to me that I am pretty, though I am
glad that you should think so who can compare me with so many
whom you have known," and she dropped her eyes, looking a little
It was the first human touch I had seen about her, and I was glad
to have found a weak spot in her armour. Moreover, from that
moment she was always my friend.
"As you will, Nombe. Now for your message."
"My Lords the Spirits, speaking through Zikali as one who makes
music speak through a pipe of reeds, say--"
"Never mind what the spirits say. Tell me what Zikali says," I
"So be it, Macumazahn. These are the words of Zikali: 'O
Watcher-by-Night, the time draws on when the
Thing-who-should-never-have-been-born will be as though he never
had been born, whereat he rejoices. But first there is much for
him to do, and as he told you nearly three hundred moons ago, in
what must be done you will have your part. Of that he will speak
to you afterwards. Macumazahn, you dreamed a dream, did you not,
lying asleep in the house that was built of white stone which now
is black with fire? I, Zikali, sent you that dream through the
arts of a child of mine who is named Nombe, she to whom I have
given a Spirit to guide her feet. You did well to follow it,
Macumazahn, for had you tried the other path, which would have
led you back to the towns of the white men, you and those with
you must have been killed, how it does not matter. Now by the
mouth of Nombe I say to you, do not follow the thought that is in
your mind as she speaks to you and go to Natal, since if you do
so, you and those with you will come to much shame and trouble
that to you would be worse than death, over the matter of the
killing of a certain white doctor in a swamp where grow
yellow-wood trees. For there in Natal you will be taken, all of
you, and sent back to the Transvaal to be tried before a man who
wears upon his head horse's hair stained white. But if you come
to Zululand this shadow shall pass away from you, since great
things are about to happen which will cause so small a matter to
be forgot. Moreover, I Zikali, who do not lie, promise this:
That however great may be their dangers here in Zululand, those
half-fledged ones whom you, the old night-hawk, cover with your
wings, shall in the end suffer no harm; those of whom I spoke to
you in your dream, the white lord, Mauriti, and the white lady,
Heddana, who stretch out their arms one to another. I wait to
welcome you, here at the Black Kloof, whither my daughter Nombe
will guide you. Cetewayo, the king, also will welcome you, and
so will another whose name I do not utter. Now choose. I have
Having delivered her message Nombe stood quite still, smiling as
before, and apparently indifferent as to its effect.
"How do I know that you come from Zikali?" I asked. "You may be
but the bait set upon a trap."
From somewhere within her robe she produced a knife and handed it
to me, remarking--
"The Master says you will remember this, and by it know that the
message comes from him. He bade me add that with it was carved a
certain image that once he gave to you at Panda's kraal, wrapped
round with a woman's hair, which image you still have."
I looked at the knife and did remember it, for it was one of
those of Swedish make with a wooden handle, the first that I had
ever seen in Africa. I had made a present of it to Zikali when I
returned to Zululand before the war between the Princes. The
image, too, I still possessed. It was that of the woman called
Mameena who brought about the war, and the wrapping which covered
it was of the hair that once grew upon her head.
"The words are Zikali's," I said, returning her the knife, "but
why do you call yourself the child of one who is too old to be a
"The Master says that my great-grandmother was his daughter and
that therefore I am his child. Now, Macumazahn, I go to eat with
my people, for I have servants with me. Then I must speak with
the Swazi king, for whom I also have a message, which I cannot do
at present because he is still drunk with the white man's liquor.
After that I shall be ready to return with you to Zululand."
"I never said that I was going to Zululand, Nombe."
"Yet your heart has gone there already, Macumazahn, and you must
follow your heart. Does not the image which was carved with the
knife you gave, hold a white heart in its hand, and although it
seems to be but a bit of Umzimbeete wood, is it not alive and
bewitched, which perhaps is why you could never make up your mind
to burn it, Macumazahn?"
"I wish I had," I replied angrily; but having thrown this last
spear, with a flash of her unholy eyes Nombe had turned and gone.
A clever woman and thoroughly coached, thought I. Well, Zikali
was never one to suffer fools, and doubtless she is another of
the pawns whom he uses on his board of policy. Oh! she, or
rather he was right; my heart was in Zululand, though not in the
way he thought, and I longed to see the end of that great game
played by a wizard against a despot and his hosts.
So we went to Zululand because after talking it over we all came
to the conclusion that this was the best thing to do, especially
as there we seemed to be sure of a welcome. For later in the day
Nombe repeated to Anscombe and Heda the invitation which she had
delivered to me, assuring them also that in Zululand they would
come to no harm.
It was curious to watch the meeting between Heda and Nombe. The
doctoress appeared just as we had risen from breakfast, and Heda,
turning round, came face to face with her.
Is this your witch, Mr. Quatermain?" she asked me in her
vivacious way. "Why, she is different from what I expected,
quite good-looking and, yes, impressive. I am not sure that she
does not frighten me a little."
"What does the Inkosikaasi (i.e., the chieftainess) say
concerning me, Macumazahn?" asked Nombe.
"Only what I said, that you are young who she thought would be
old, and pretty who she thought would be ugly."
"To grow old we must first be young, Macumazahn, and in due
season all of us will become ugly, even the Inkosikaasi. But I
thought she said also that she feared me."
"Do you know English, Nombe?"
"Nay, but I know how to read eyes, and the Inkosikaasi has eyes
that talk. Tell her that she has no reason to fear me who would
be her friend, though I think that she will bring me little
It was scarcely necessary, so far as Heda was concerned, but I
translated, leaving out the last sentence.
"Say to her that I am grateful who have few friends, and that I
will fear her no more," said Heda.
Again I translated, whereon Nombe stretched out her hand,
"Let her not scorn to take it, it is clean. It has brought no
man to his death--" Here she looked at Heda meaningly.
"Moreover, though she is white and I am black, I like herself am
of high blood and come of a race of warriors who did nothing
small, and lastly, we are of an age, and if she is beautiful, I
am wise and have gifts great as her own."
Once more I interpreted for the benefit of Anscombe, for Heda
understood Zulu well enough, although she had pretended not to do
so, after which the two shook hands, to Anscombe's amusement and
my wonder. For I felt this scene to be strained and one that
hid, or presaged, something I did not comprehend.
"This is the Chief she loves?" said Nombe to me, studying
Anscombe with her steady eyes after Heda had gone. "Well, he is
no common man and brave, if idle; one, too, who may grow tall in
the world, should he live, when he has learned to think. But,
Macumazahn, if she met you both at the same time why did she not
"Just now you said you were wise, Nombe," I replied laughing,
"but now I see that, like most of your trade, you are but a vain
boaster. Is there a hat upon my head that you cannot see the
colour of my hair, and is it natural that youth should turn to
"Sometimes if the mind is old, Macumazahn, which is why I love
the Spirits only who are more ancient than the mountains, and
with them Zikali their servant, who was young before the Zulus
were a people, or so he says, and still year by year gathers
wisdom as the bee gathers honey. Inspan your horses, Macumazahn,
for I have done my business and am ready to start."
Ten days had gone by when once more I found myself drawing near
to the mouth of the Black Kloof where dwelt Zikali the Wizard.
Our journey in Zululand had been tedious and uneventful. It
seemed to me that we met extraordinarily few people; it was as
though the place had suddenly become depopulated, and I even
passed great kraals where there was no one to be seen. I asked
Nombe what was the meaning of this, for she and three silent men
she had with her were acting as our guides. Once she answered
that the people had moved because of lack of food, as the season
had been one of great scarcity owing to drought, and once that
they had been summoned to a gathering at the king's kraal near
Ulundi. At any rate they were not there, and the few who did
appear stared at us strangely.
Moreover, I noticed that they were not allowed to speak to us.
Also Heda was kept in the cart and Nombe insisted that the rear
canvas curtain should be closed and a blanket fastened behind
Anscombe who drove, evidently with the object that she should not
be seen. Further, on the plea of weariness, from the time that
we entered Zulu territory Nombe asked to be allowed to ride in
the cart with Kaatje and Heda, her real reason, as I was sure,
being that she might keep a watch on them. Lastly we travelled
by little-frequented tracks, halting at night in out-of-the-way
places, where, however, we always found food awaiting us,
doubtless by arrangement.
With one man whom I had known in past days and who recognized me,
I did manage to have a short talk. He asked me what I was doing
in Zululand at that time. I replied that I was on a visit to
Zikali, whereon he said I should be safer with him than with any
Our conversation went no further, for just then one of Nombe's
servants appeared and made some remark to the man of which I
could not catch the meaning, whereon he promptly turned and
deported, leaving me wondering and uneasy.
Evidently we were being isolated, but when I remonstrated with
Nombe she only answered with her most unfathomable smile--
"O Macumazahn, you must ask Zikali of all these things. I am no
one and know nothing, who only do what the Master tells me is for
"I am minded to turn and depart from Zululand," I said angrily,
"for in this low veld whither you have led us there is fever and
the horses will catch sickness or be bitten by the tsetse fly and
"I cannot say, Macumazahn, who only travel by the road the Master
pointed out. Yet if you will be guided by me, you will not try
to leave Zululand."
"You mean that I am in a trap, Nombe."
"I mean that the country is full of soldiers and that all white
men have fled from it. Therefore, even if you were allowed to
pass because the Zulus love you, Macumazahn, it might well happen
that those with you would stay behind, sound asleep, Macumazahn,
for which, like you, I should be sorry."
After this I said no more, for I knew that she meant to warn me.
We had entered on this business and must see it through to its
end, sweet or bitter.
As for Anscombe and Heda their happiness seemed to be complete.
The novelty of the life charmed them, and of its dangers they
took no thought, being content to leave me, in whom they had a
blind faith, to manage everything. Moreover, Heda, who in the
joy of her love was beginning to forget the sorrow of her
father's death and the other tragic events through which she had
just passed, took a great fancy to the young witch-doctoress who
conversed with her in Zulu, a language of which, having lived so
long in Natal, Heda knew much already. Indeed, when I suggested
to her that to be over-trusting was not wise, she fired up and
replied that she had been accustomed to natives all her life and
could judge them, adding that she had every confidence in Nombe.
After this I held my tongue and said no more of my doubts. What
was the use since Heda would not listen to them, and at that time
Anscombe was nothing but her echo?
So this, for me, very dull journey continued, till at length,
after being held up for a couple of days by a flooded river where
there was nothing to do but sit and smoke, as Nombe requested me
not to make a noise by shooting at the big game that abounded, we
began to emerge from the bush-veld on to the lovely uplands in
the neighbourhood of Nongoma. Leaving these on our right we
headed for a place called Ceza, a natural stronghold consisting
of a flat plain on the top of a mountain, which plain is
surrounded by bush. It is at the foot of this stronghold that
the Black Kloof lies, being one of the ravines that run up into
So thither we came at last. It was drawing towards sunset, a
tremendous and stormy sunset, as we approached the place, and lo!
it looked exactly as it had done when first I saw it more than a
score of years before, forbidding as the mouth of hell, vast and
lonesome. There stood the columns of boulders fantastically
piled one upon another; there grew the sparse trees upon its
steep sides, mingled with aloes that looked like the shapes of
men; there was the granite bottom swept almost clean by floods in
some dim age, and the little stream that flowed along it. There,
too, was the spot where once I had outspanned my wagons on the
night when my servants swore that they saw the Imikovu, or
wizard-raised spectres, floating past them on the air in the
shapes of the Princes and others who were soon to fall at the
battle of the Tugela. Up it we went, I riding and Nombe, who had
descended from the cart that followed, walking by my side and
"You seem sad, Macumazahn," she said at length.
"Yes, Nombe, I am sad. This place makes me so."
"Is it the place, Macumazahn, or is it the thought of one whom
once you met in the place, one who is dead?"
I looked at her, pretending not to understand, and she went on--
"I have the gift of vision, Macumazahn, which comes at times to
those of my trade, and now and again, amongst others, I have
seemed to see the spirit of a certain woman haunting this kloof
as though she were waiting for some one."
"Indeed, and what may that woman be like?" I inquired carelessly.
As it chances I can see her now gliding backwards in front of you
just there, and therefore am able to answer your question,
Macumazahn. She is tall and slender, beautifully made, and
light-coloured for one of us black people. She has large eyes
like a buck, and those eyes are full of fire that does not come
from the sun but from within. Her face is tender yet proud, oh!
so proud that she makes me afraid. She wears a cloak of grey
fur, and about her neck there is a circlet of big blue beads with
which her fingers play. A thought comes from her to me. These
are the words of the thought: 'I have waited long in this dark
place, watching by day and night till you, the Watcher-by-Night,
return to meet me here. At length you have come, and in this
enchanted place my hungry spirit can feed upon your spirit for a
while. I thank you for coming, who now am no more lonely. Fear
nothing, Macumazahn, for by a certain kiss I swear to you that
till the appointed hour when you become as I am, I will be a
shield upon your arm and a spear in your hand.' Such are the
words of her thought, Macumazahn, but she has gone away and I
hear no more. It was as though your horse rode over her and she
passed through you."
Then, like one who wished to answer no questions, Nombe turned
and went back to the cart, where she began to talk indifferently
with Heda, for as soon as we entered the kloof her servants had
drawn back the curtains and let fall the blanket. As for me, I
groaned, for of course I knew that Zikali, who was well
acquainted with the appearance of Mameena, had instructed Nombe
to say all this to me in order to impress my mind for some reason
of his own. Yet he had done it cleverly, for such words as those
Mameena might well have uttered could her great spirit have need
to walk the earth again. Was such a thing possible, I wondered?
No, it was not possible, yet it was true that her atmosphere
seemed to cling about this place and that my imagination, excited
by memory and Nombe's suggestions, seemed to apprehend her
As I reflected the horse advanced round the little bend in the
ever-narrowing cliffs, and there in front of me, under the
gigantic mass of overhanging rock, appeared the kraal of Zikali
surrounded by its reed fence, The gate of the fence was open, and
beyond it, on his stool in front of the large hut, sat Zikali.
Even at that distance it was impossible to mistake his figure,
which was like no other that I had known in the world. A
broad-shouldered dwarf with a huge head, deep, sunken eyes and
snowy hair that hung upon his shoulders; the whole frame and face
pervaded with an air of great antiquity, and yet owing to the
plumpness of the flesh and that freshness of skin which is
sometimes seen in the aged, comparatively young-looking.
Such was the great wizard Zikali, known throughout the land for
longer than any living man could remember as "Opener of Roads," a
title that referred to his powers of spiritual vision, also as
the "Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born," a name given to him
by Chaka, the first and greatest of the Zulu kings, because of
There he sat silent, impassive, staring open-eyed at the red ball
of the setting sun, looking more like some unshapely statue than
a man. His silent, fierce-faced servants appeared. To me they
looked like the same men whom I had seen here three and twenty
years before, only grown older. Indeed, I think they were, for
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