H. Rider Haggard
Part 7 out of 7
people of the Zulus are stamped flat beneath the feet of the
great White People."
"I remember that prophecy, O King. Mopo told it to me within an
hour of the death of the Black One when he gave me the little
red-handled assegai that he snatched from the Black One's hand to
do the deed. It makes me almost young again to think of it,
although even then I was old," replied Zikali in a dreamy voice
like one who speaks to himself.
Hearing him from under my kaross I bethought me that he had
really grown old at last, who for the moment evidently forgot the
part which this very assegai had played a few months before in
the Vale of Bones. Well, even the greatest masters make such
slips at times when their minds are full of other things. But if
Zikali forgot, Cetewayo and his councillors remembered, as I
could see by the look of quick intelligence that flashed from
face to face.
"So! Mopo the murderer, he who vanished from the land after the
death of my uncle Dingaan, gave you the little red assegai, did
he, Opener of Roads! And but a few months ago that assegai,
which old Sigananda knew again, thrown by the hand of the
Inkosazana-y-Zulu, drew blood from my body after the white man,
Macumazahn, had severed its shaft with his bullet. Now tell me,
Opener of Roads, how did it pass from your keeping into that of
the spirit Nomkubulwana?"
At this question I distinctly saw a shiver shake the frame of
Zikali who realized too late the terrible mistake he had made.
Yet as only the great can do, he retrieved and even triumphed
over his error.
"Oho-ho!" he laughed, "who am I that I can tell how such things
happen? Do you not know, O King, that the Spirits leave what
they will and take what they will, whether it be but a blade of
grass, or the life of a man"--here he looked at Cetewayo--"or
even of a people? Sometimes they take the shadow and sometimes
the substance, since spirit or matter, all is theirs. As for the
little assegai, I lost it years ago. I remember that the last
time I saw it was in the hands of a woman named Mameena to whom I
showed it as a strange and bloody thing. After her death I found
that it was gone, so doubtless she took it with her to the
Under-world and there gave it to the Queen Nomkubulwana, with
whom you may remember this Mameena returned from that Under-world
yonder in the Bones."
"It may be so," said Cetewayo sullenly, "yet it was no spirit
iron that cut my thigh, but what do I know of the ways of
Spirits? Wizard, I would speak with you in your hut alone where
no ear can hear us."
"My hut is the King's," answered Zikali, "yet let the King
remember that those Spirits of which he does not know the ways,
can always hear, yes, even the thoughts of men, and on them do
"Fear not," said Cetewayo, "amongst many other things I remember
Then Zikali turned and crept into the hut, whispering as he
"Lie silent for your life." And Cetewayo having bidden his
retinue to depart outside the fence and await him there, followed
They sat them down on either side of the smouldering fire and
stared at each other through the thin smoke there in the gloom of
the hut. By turning my head that the foot of the king had
brushed as he passed, I could watch them both. Cetewayo spoke
the first in a hoarse, slow voice, saying--
"Wizard, I am in danger of my life and I have come to you who
know all the secrets of this land, that you may tell me in what
place I may hide where the white men cannot find me. It must be
told into my ear alone, since I dare not trust the matter to any
other, at any rate until I must. They are traitors every man of
them, yes, even those who seem to be most faithful. The fallen
man has no friends, least of all if he chances to be a king.
Only the dead will keep his counsel. Tell me of the place I
"Dingaan, who was before you, once asked this same thing of me, O
King, when he was flying from Panda your father, and the Boers.
I gave him advice that he did not take, but sought a refuge of
his own upon a certain Ghost-mountain. What happened to him
there that Mopo, of whom you spoke a while ago, can tell you if
he still lives."*
[*--See _Nada the Lily._--EDITOR.]
"Surely you are an ill-omened night-bird who thus croak to me
continually of the death of kings," broke in Cetewayo with
suppressed rage. Then calming himself with an effort added,
"Tell me now, where shall I hide?"
"Would you know, King? Then hearken. On the south slope of the
Ingome Range west of the Ibululwana River, on the outskirts of
the great forest, there is a kloof whereof the entrance, which
only one man can pass at a time, is covered by a thicket of
thorns and marked by a black rock shaped like a great toad with
an open mouth, or, as some say, like myself,
"The-Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born." Near to this rock
dwells an old woman, blind of one eye and lacking a hand, which
the Black One cut off shortly before his death, because when he
killed her father, she saw the future and prophesied a like death
to him, although then she was but a child. This woman is of our
company, being a witch-doctoress. I will send a Spirit to her,
if you so will it, to warn her to watch for you and your company,
O King, and show you the mouth of the kloof, where are some old
huts and water. There you will never be found unless you are
"Who can betray me when none know whither I am going?" asked
Cetewayo. "Send the Spirit, send it at once, that this one-armed
witch may make ready."
"What is the hurry, King, seeing that the forest is far away?
Yet be it as you will. Keep silence now, lest evil should befall
Then of a sudden Zikali seemed to go off into one of his trances.
His form grew rigid, his eyes closed, his face became fixed as
though in death, and foam appeared upon his lips. He was a
dreadful sight to look on, there in the gloomy hut.
Cetewayo watched him and shivered. Then he opened his blanket
and I perceived that fastened about him by a loop of hide in such
a fashion that it could be drawn out in a moment, was the blade
of a broad assegai, the shaft of which was shortened to about six
inches. His hand grasped this shaft, and I understood that he
was contemplating the murder of Zikali. Then it seemed to me
that he changed his mind and that his lips shaped the words--"Not
yet," though whether he really spoke them I do not know. At
least he withdrew his hand and closed the blanket.
Slowly Zikali opened his eyes, staring at the roof of the hut,
whence came a curious sound as of squeaking bats. He looked like
a dead man coming to life again. For a few moments he turned up
his ear as though he listened to the squealing, then said--
"It is well. The Spirit that I summoned has visited her of our
company who is named One-hand and returned with the answer. Did
you not hear it speaking in the thatch, O King?"
"I heard something, Wizard," answered Cetewayo in an awed voice.
"I thought it was a bat."
"A bat it is, O King, one with wide wings and swift. This bat
says that my sister, One-hand, will meet you on the third day
from now at this hour on the further side of the ford of the
Ibululwana, where three milk-trees grow together on a knoll. She
will be sitting under the centre milk-tree and will wait for two
hours, no more, to show you the secret entrance to the kloof."
"The road is rough and long, I shall have to hurry when worn out
with travelling," said Cetewayo.
"That is so, O King. Therefore my counsel is that you begin the
journey as soon as possible, especially as I seem to hear the
baying of the white dogs not far away."
"By Chaka's head! I will not," growled Cetewayo, "who thought to
sleep here in peace this night."
"As the King wills. All that I have is the King's. Only then
One-hand will not be waiting and some other place of hiding must
be found, since this is known to me only and to her; also that
Spirit which I sent will make no second journey, nor can I travel
to show it to the King."
"Yes, Wizard, it is known to you and to myself. Methinks it
would be better were it known to me alone. I have a spoonful of
snuff to share (i.e. a bone to pick) with you, Wizard. It would
seem that you set my feet and those of the Zulu people upon a
false road, yonder in the Vale of Bones, causing me to declare
war upon the white men and thereby bringing us all to ruin."
"Mayhap my memory grows bad, O King, for I do not remember that I
did these things. I remember that the spirit of a certain
Mameena whom I called up from the dead, prophesied victory to the
King, which victory has been his. Also it prophesied other
victories to the King in a far land across the water, which
victories doubtless shall be his in due season; for myself I gave
no 'counsel to the King or to his indunas and generals.'"
"You lie, Wizard," exclaimed Cetewayo hoarsely. "Did you not
summon the shape of the Princess of Heaven to be the sign of war,
and did she not hold in her hand that assegai of the Black One
which you have told me was in your keeping? How did it pass from
your keeping into the hand of a spirit?"
"As to that matter I have spoken, O King. For the rest, is
Nomkubulwana my servant to come and go at my bidding?"
"I think so," said Cetewayo coldly. "I think also that you who
know the place where I purpose to hide, would do well to forget
it. Surely you have lived too long, O Opener of Roads, and done
enough evil to the House of Senzangacona, which you ever hated."
So he spoke, and once more I saw his hand steal towards the
spearhead which was hidden beneath the blanket that he wore.
Zikali saw it also and laughed. "Oho!" he laughed, "forgetting
all my warnings, and that the day of my death will be his own,
the King thinks to kill me because I am old and feeble and alone
and unarmed. He thinks to kill me as the Black One thought, as
Dingaan thought, as even Panda thought, yet I live on to this
day. Well, I bear no malice since it is natural that the King
should wish to kill one who knows the secret of where he would
hide himself for his own life's sake. That spearhead which the
King is fingering is sharp, so sharp that my bare breast cannot
turn its edge. I must find me a shield! I must find me a
shield! Fire, you are not yet dead. Awake, make smoke to be my
shield!" and he waved his long, monkey-like arms over the embers,
from which instantly there sprang up a reek of thin white smoke
that appeared to take a vague and indefinite shape which
suggested the shadow of a man; for to me it seemed a nebulous and
wavering shadow, no more.
"What are you staring at, O King?" went on Zikali in a fierce and
thrilling voice. "Who is it that you see? Who has the fire sent
to be my shield? Ghosts are so thick here that I do not know. I
cannot tell one of them from the other. Who is it? Who, who of
all that you have slain and who therefore are your foes?"
"Umbelazi, my brother," groaned Cetewayo. "My brother Umbelazi
stands before me with spear raised; he whom I brought to his
death at the battle of the Tugela. His eyes flame upon me, his
spear is raised to strike. He speaks words I cannot understand.
Protect me, O Wizard! Lord of Spirits, protect me from the
spirit of Umbelazi."
Zikali laughed wildly and continued to wave his arms above the
fire from which smoke poured ever more densely, till the hut was
full of it.
When it cleared away again Cetewayo was gone!
"Saw you ever the like of that?" said Zikali, addressing the
kaross under which I was sweltering. "Tell me, Macumazahn."
"Yes," I answered, thrusting out my head as a tortoise does,
"when in this very hut you seemed to produce the shape, also out
of smoke, I think, of one whom I used to know. Say, how do you
do it, Zikali?"
"Do it. Who knows? Perchance I do nothing. Perchance I think
and you fools see, no more. Or perchance the spirits of the dead
who are so near to us, come at my call and take themselves bodies
out of the charmed smoke of my fire. You white men are wise,
answer your own question, Macumazahn. At least that smoke or
that ghost saved me from a spear thrust in the heart, wherewith
Cetewayo was minded to pay me for showing him a hiding-place
which he desired should be secret to himself alone. Well, well,
I can pay as well as Cetewayo and my count is longer. Now lie
you still, Macumazahn, for I go out to watch. He will not bide
long in this place which he deems haunted and ill-omened. He
will be gone ere sunset, that is within an hour, and sleep
Then he crept from the hut and presently, though I could see
nothing, for now the gate of the fence was shut, I heard voices
debating and finally that of Cetewayo say angrily--
"Have done! It is my will. You can eat your food outside of
this place which is bewitched; the girl will show us where are
the huts of which the wizard speaks."
A few minutes later Zikali crept back into the hut, laughing to
"All is safe," he said, "and you can come out of your hole, old
jackal. He who calls himself a king is gone, taking with him
those whom he thinks faithful, most of whom are but waiting a
chance to betray him. What did I say, a king? Nay, in all
Africa there is no slave so humble or so wretched as this broken
man. Oh! feather by feather I have plucked my fowl and by and by
I shall cut his throat. You will be there, Macumazahn, you will
"I trust not," I answered as I mopped my brow. "We have been
near enough to throat-cutting this afternoon to last me a long
while. Where has the king gone?"
"Not far, Macumazahn. I have sent Nombe to guide him to the huts
in the little dip five spear throws to the right of the mouth of
the kloof where live the old herdsman and his people who guard my
cattle. He and all the rest are away with the cattle that are
hidden in the Ceza Forest out of reach of the white men, so the
huts are empty. Oh! now I read what you are thinking. I do not
mean that he should be taken there. It is too near my house and
the king still has friends."
"Why did you send Nombe?" I asked.
"Because he would have no other guide, who does not trust my men.
He means to keep her with him for some days and then let her go,
and thus she will be out of mischief. Meanwhile you and your
friends can depart untroubled by her fancies, and join the white
men who are near. Tomorrow you shall start."
"That is good," I said with a sigh of relief. Then an idea
struck me and I added, "I suppose no harm will come to Nombe, who
might be thought to know too much?"
"I hope not," he replied indifferently, "but that is a matter for
her Spirit to decide. Now go, Macumazahn, for I am weary."
I also was weary after my prolonged seclusion under that very hot
skin rug. For be it remembered I was not yet strong again, and
although this was not the real reason why I had stopped behind
when the others went to the plateau, I still grew easily tired.
My real reason was that of Nombe--that I thought they preferred
to be alone. I looked about me and saw with relief that Cetewayo
and every man of his retinue were really gone. They had not even
waited to eat the ox that had been killed for them, but had
carried off the meat with other provisions to their
sleeping-place outside the kloof. Having made sure of this I
went to my hut and loosed Lost that fortunately enough had been
unable to gnaw through the thick buffalo-hide rien with which I
had fastened him to the pole.
He greeted me with rapture as though we had been parted for
years. Had he belonged to Ulysses himself he could not have been
more joyful. When one is despondent and lonesome, how grateful
is the whole-hearted welcome of a dog which, we are sometimes
tempted to think, is the only creature that really cares for us
in the world. Every other living thing has side interests of its
own, but that of a dog is centred in its master, though it is
true that it also dreams affectionately of dinner and rabbits.
Then with Lost at my feet I sat outside the hut smoking and
waiting for the return of Anscombe and Heda. Presently I caught
sight of them in the gloaming. Their arms were around one
another, and in some remarkable way they had managed to dispose
their heads, forgetting that the sky was still light behind them,
in such fashion that it was difficult to tell one from the other.
I reflected that it was a good thing that at last we were
escaping from this confounded kloof and country for one where
they could marry and make an end, and became afflicted with a
Heda asked where Nombe was and why supper was not ready, for
Nombe played the part of cook and parlourmaid combined. I told
her something of what had happened, whereon Heda, who did not
appreciate its importance in the least, remarked that she, Nombe,
might as well have put on the pot before she went and done sundry
other things which I forget. Ultimately we got something to eat
and turned in, Heda grumbling a little because she must sleep
alone, for she had grown used to the company of the ever-watchful
Nombe, who made her bed across the door-hole of the hut.
Anscombe was soon lost in dreams, if he did dream, but I could
not sleep well that night. I was fearful of I knew not what, and
so, I think, was Lost, for he fidgeted and kept poking me with
his nose. At last, I think it must have been about two hours
after midnight, he began to growl. I could hear nothing,
although my ears are sharp, but as he went on growling I crept to
the door-hole and drew aside the board. Lost slipped out and
vanished, while I waited, listening. Presently I thought I heard
a soft foot-fall and a whisper, also that I saw the shape of a
woman which reminded me of Nombe, shown faintly by the starlight.
It vanished in a moment and Lost returned wagging his tail, as he
might well have done if it were Nombe who was attached to the
dog. As nothing further happened I went back to bed, reflecting
that I was probably mistaken, since Nombe had been sent away for
some days by Zikali and would scarcely dare to return at once,
even if she could do so.
Shortly before daylight Lost began to growl again in a subdued
and thunderous fashion. This time I got up and dressed myself
more or less. Then I went out. The dawn was just breaking and
by its light I saw a strange scene. About fifty yards away in
the narrow nek that ran over some boulders to the site of our
huts, stood what seemed to be the goddess Nomkubulwana as I had
seen her on the point of rock in the Vale of Bones. She wore the
same radiant dress and in the dim glow had all the appearance of
a white woman. I stood amazed, thinking that I dreamt, when from
round the bend emerged a number of Zulus, creeping forward
stealthily with raised spears.
They caught sight of the supernatural figure which barred their
road, halted and whispered to each other. Then they turned to
fly, but before they went one of them, as it seemed to me through
sheer terror, hurled his assegai at the figure which remained
still and unmoved.
In thirty seconds they were gone; in sixty their footsteps had
died away. Then the figure wheeled slowly round and by the
strengthening light I perceived that a spear transfixed its
As it sank to the ground I ran up to it. It was Nombe with her
face and arms whitened and her life-blood running down the
glittering feather robe.
THE MADNESS OF NOMBE
The dog reached Nombe first and began to lick her face, its
tongue removing patches of the white which had not had time to
dry. She was lying, her back supported by one of the boulders.
With her left hand she patted the dog's head feebly and with her
right drew out the assegai from her body, letting it fall upon
the ground. Recognizing me she smiled in her usual mysterious
fashion and said--
"All is well, Macumazahn, all is very well. I have deserved to
die and I do not die in vain."
"Don't talk, let me see your wound," I exclaimed.
She opened her robe and pointed; it was quite a small gash
beneath the breast from which blood ebbed slowly.
"Let it be, Macumazahn," she said. "I am bleeding inside and it
is mortal. But I shall not die yet. Listen to me while I have
my mind. Yesterday when Mauriti and Heddana went up to the plain
I wished to go with them because I had news that Zulus were
wandering everywhere and thought that I might be able to protect
my mistress from danger. Mauriti spoke to me roughly, telling me
that I was not wanted. Of that I thought little, for to such
words I am accustomed from him; moreover, they are to be forgiven
to a man in love. But it did not end there, for my lady Heddana
also pierced me with her tongue, which hurt more than this spear
thrust does, Macumazahn, for I could see that her speech had been
prepared and that she took this chance to throw it at me. She
said that I did not know where I should sit; that I was a thorn
beneath her nail, and that whenever she wished to talk with
Mauriti, or with you, Macumazahn, I was ever there with my ear
open like the mouth of a gourd. She commanded me in future to
come only when I was called; all of which things I am sure
Mauriti had taught her, who in herself is too gentle even to
think them--unless you taught her, Macumazahn."
I shook my head and she went on--
"No, it was not you who also are too gentle, and having suffered
yourself, can feel for those who suffer, which Mauriti who has
never suffered cannot do. Still, you too thought me a trouble,
one that sticks in the flesh like a hooked thorn, or a tick from
the grass, and cannot be unfastened. You spoke to the Master
about it and he spoke to me."
This time I nodded in assent.
"I do not blame you, Macumazahn; indeed now I see that you were
wise, for what right has a poor black doctoress to seek the love,
or even to look upon the face of the great white lady whom for a
little while Fate has caused to walk upon the same path with her?
But yesterday I forgot that, Macumazahn, for you see we are all
of us, not one self, but many selves, and each self has its times
of rule. Nombe alive and well was one woman, Nombe dying is
another, and doubtless Nombe dead will be a third, unless, as she
prays, she should sleep for ever.
"Macumazahn, those words of Heddana's were to me what gall is to
sweet milk. My blood clotted and my heart turned sour. It was
not against her that I was angry, because that can never happen,
but against Mauriti and against you. My Spirit whispered in my
ear. It said, 'If Mauriti and Macumazahn were dead the lady
Heddana would be left alone in a strange land. Then she would
learn to rest upon you as upon a stick, and learn to love the
stick on which she rested, though it be so rough and homely.'
But how can I kill them, I asked of my Spirit, and myself escape
"'Poison is forbidden to you by the pact between us,' answered my
Spirit, 'yet I will show you a way, who am bound to serve you in
all things good or ill.'
"Then we nodded to each other in my breast, Macumazahn, and I
waited for what should happen who knew that my Spirit would not
lie. Yes, I waited for a chance to kill you both, forgetting, as
the wicked forget in their madness, that even if I were not found
out, soon or late Heddana would guess the truth and then, even if
she had learned to love me a thousand times more than she ever
could, would come to hate me as a mother hates a snake that has
slain her child. Or even if she never learned or guessed in
life, after death she would learn and hunt me and spit on me from
world to world as a traitoress and a murderer, one who has sinned
Here she seemed to grow faint and I turned to seek for help. But
she caught hold of my coat and said--
"Hear me out, Macumazahn, or I will run after you till I fall and
So thinking it best, I stayed and she went on--
"My Spirit, which must be an evil one since Zikali gave it me
when I was made a doctoress, dealt truly with me, for presently
the king and his people came. Moreover, my Spirit brought it
about that the king would have no other guide but me to lead him
to the kraal where he slept last night, and I went as though
unwillingly. At the kraal the king sent for me and questioned me
in a dark hut, pretending to be alone, but I who am a doctoress
knew that two other men were in that hut, taking note of all my
words. He asked me of the Inkosazana-y-Zulu who appeared in the
Vale of Bones and of the little assegai she held in her hand, and
of the magic of the Opener of Roads, and many other things. I
said that I knew nothing of the Inkosazana, but that without
doubt my Master was a great magician. He did not believe me. He
threatened that I should be tortured very horribly and was about
to call his servants to torment me till I told the truth. Then
my Spirit spoke in my heart saying, 'Now the door is open to you,
as, I promised. Tell the king of the two white men whom the
Master hides, and he will send to kill them, leaving the lady
Heddana and you alone together.' So I pretended to be afraid and
told him, whereon he laughed and answered--
"'For your sake I am glad, girl, that you have spoken the truth;
besides it is useless to torture a witch, since then the spirit
in her only vomits lies.'
"Next he called aloud and a man came, who it was I could not see
in the dark. The king commanded him to take me to one of the
other huts and tie me up there to the roof-pole. The man obeyed,
but he did not tie me up; he only blocked the hut with the
door-board, and sat with me there in the dark alone.
"Now I grew cunning and began to talk with him, spreading a net
of sweet words, as the fowler spreads a net for cranes from which
he would tear the crests. Soon by his talk I found out that the
king and his people knew more than I guessed. Macumazahn, they
had seen the cart which still stands under the overhanging rock
by the mouth of the cave. I asked him if that were all,
pretending that the cart belonged to my Master, to whom it had
been brought from the field of Isandhlwana, that he might be
drawn about in it, who was too weak to walk.
"The man said that if I would kiss him he would tell me
everything. I bade him tell me first, swearing that then I would
kiss him. Yes, Macumazahn, I, whom no man's lips have ever
touched, fell as low as this. So he grew foolish and told me.
He told me that they had also seen a kappje such as white women
wear, hanging on the hut fence, and I remembered that after
washing the headdress of my mistress I had set it there to dry in
the sun. He told me also that the King suspected that she who
wore that kappje was she who had played the part of the
Inkosazana in the Vale of Bones. I asked him what the king would
do about the matter, at the same time denying that there was any
white woman in the Black Kloof. He said that at dawn the king
would send and kill these foreign rats, whom the Opener of Roads
kept in the thatch of his hut. Now he drew near and asked his
pay. I gave it to him--with a knife-point, Macumazahn. Oh! that
was a good thrust. He never spoke again. Then I slipped away,
for all the others were asleep, and was here a little after
"I thought I saw you, Nombe," I said, "but was not sure, so I did
She smiled and answered--
"Ah! I was afraid that the Watcher-by-Night would be watching by
night; also the dog ran up to me, but he knew me and I sent him
back again. Now while I was coming home, thoughts entered my
heart. I saw, as one sees by a lightning flash, all that I had
done. The king and his people were not sure that the Master was
hiding white folk here and would never have sent back to kill
them on the chance. I had made them sure, as indeed, being mad,
I meant to do. Moreover, in throwing spears at the kites I had
killed my own dove, since it was on the false Inkosazana who had
caused them to declare war and brought the land to ruin, that
they wished to be avenged, and perchance on him who taught her
her part, not on one or two wandering white men. I saw that when
Cetewayo's people came, and there were many more of them outside,
several hundreds I think, they would shave the whole head and
burn the whole tree. Every one in the kloof would be killed.
"How could I undo the knot that I had tied and stamp out the fire
that I had lit? That was the question. I bethought me of coming
to you, but without arms how could you help? I bethought me of
going to the Master, but I was ashamed. Also, what could he do
with but a few servants, for the most of his people are away with
the cattle? He is too weak to climb the steep path to the plain
above, nor was there time to gather folk to carry him. Lastly,
even if there were time which there was not, and we went thither
they would track us out and kill us. For the rest I did not
care, nor for myself, but that the lady Heddana should be
butchered who was more to me than a hundred lives, and through my
treachery--ah! for that I cared.
I called on my Spirit to help me, but it would not come. My
Spirit was dead in me because now I would do good and not ill.
Yet another Spirit came, that of one Mameena whom once you knew.
She came angrily, like a storm, and I shrank before her. She
said, 'Vile witch, you have plotted to murder Macumazahn, and for
that you shall answer to me before another sun has set over this
earth of yours. Now you seek a way of escape from your own
wickedness. Well, it can be had, but at a price.'
"'What price, O Lady of Death?' I asked.
"'The price of your own life, Witch.'
"I laughed into that ghost face of hers and said--
"'Is this all? Be swift and show me the way, O Lady of Death,
and afterwards we will balance our account.'
"Then she whispered into the ear of my heart and was gone. I ran
on, for the dawn was near. I whitened myself with lime, I put on
the glittering cloak and powdered my hair with the sparkling
earth. I took a little stick in my hand since I could find no
spear and had no time to search, and just as day began to break,
I crept out and stood in the bend of the path. The slayers came,
twelve or so of them, but behind were many more. They saw the
Inkosazana-y-Zulu barring their way and were much afraid. They
fled, but out of his fright one of them threw a spear which went
home, as I knew it would. He watched to see if I should fall,
but I would not fall. Then he fled faster than the rest, knowing
himself accursed who had lifted steel against the Queen of
Heaven, and oh! I am glad, I am glad!"
She ceased, exhausted, yet with a great exultation in her
beautiful eyes; indeed at that moment she looked a most
triumphant creature. I stared at her, thrilled through and
through. She had been wicked, no doubt, but how splendid was her
end; and, thank Heaven! she was troubled with no thought of what
might befall her after that end, although I was sure she believed
that she would live again to face Mameena.
I knew not what to do. I did not like to leave her, especially
as no earthly power could help her case, since slowly but quite
surely she was bleeding to death from an internal wound. By now
the sun was up and Zikali's people were about. One of them
appeared suddenly and saw, then with a howl of terror turned to
"Fool! Fool!" I cried, "go summon the lady Heddana and the
Inkosi Mauriti. Bid them come swiftly if they would see the
doctoress Nombe before she dies."
The man leapt off like a buck, and within a few minutes I saw
Heda and Anscombe running towards us, half dressed, and went to
"What is it?" she gasped.
"I have only time to tell you this," I answered. "Nombe is
dying. She gave her life to save you, how I will explain
afterwards. The assegai that pierced her was meant for your
heart. Go, thank her, and bid her farewell. Anscombe, stop back
We stood still and watched from a little distance. Heda knelt
down and put her arms about Nombe. They whispered together into
each other's ears. Then they kissed.
It was at this moment that Zikali appeared, leaning on two of his
servants. By some occult art or instinct he seemed to know all
that had happened, and oh! he looked terrible. He crouched down
in front of the dying woman and, toadlike, spat his venom at her.
"You lost your Spirit, did you?" he said. "Well, it came back to
me laden with the black honey of your treachery, to me, its home,
as a bee comes to its hive. It has told me everything, and well
for you, Witch, it is that you are dying. But think not that you
shall escape me there in the world below, for thither I will
follow you. Curses on you, traitress, who would have betrayed me
and brought all my plans to naught. Ow! in a day to come I will
pay you back a full harvest for this seed of shame that you have
She opened her eyes and looked at him, then answered quite
"I think your chain is broken, O Zikali, no more, my master. I
think that love has cut your chain in two and I fear you never
more. Keep the spirit you lent to me; it is yours, but the rest
of me is my own, and in the house of my heart another comes to
Then once more she stretched out her arms towards Heda and
murmuring, "Sister, forget me not, Sister, who will await you for
a thousand years," she passed away.
It was a good ending to a bad business, and I confess I felt glad
when it was finished. Only afterwards I regretted very much that
I had not found an opportunity to ask her whether or no she had
masqueraded as Mameena in the Valley of Bones. Now it is too
We buried poor Nombe decently in her own little hut where she
used to practise her incantations. Zikali and his people wished
apparently to throw her to the vultures for some secret reason
that had to do with their superstitions. But Heda, who, now that
Nombe was dead, developed a great affection for her not unmixed
with a certain amount of compunction for which really she had no
cause, withstood him to his face and insisted upon a decent
interment. So she was laid to earth still plastered with the
white pigment and wrapped in the bloodstained feather robe. I
may add that on the following morning one of Zikali's servants
informed me solemnly that because of this she had been seen
during the night riding up and down the rocks on a baboon as Zulu
umtagati are supposed to do. I have small doubt that as soon as
we were gone they dug her up again and threw her to the vultures
and the jackals according to their first intention.
On this day we at length escaped from the Black Kloof, and in our
own cart, for during the night our horses arrived mysteriously
from somewhere, in good condition though rather wild. I went to
say good-bye to Zikali, who said little, except that we should
meet once more after many moons. Anscombe and Heda he would not
see at all, but only sent them a message, to the effect that he
hoped they would think kindly of him through the long years to
come, since he had kept his promise and preserved them safe
through many dangers. I might have answered that he had first of
all put them into the dangers, but considered it wise to hold my
tongue. I think, however, that he guessed my thought, if one can
talk of guessing in connection with Zikali, for he said that they
had no reason to thank him, since if he had served their turn
they had served his, adding--
"It will be strange in the times to be for the lady Heddana to
remember that it was she and no other who crumpled up the Zulus
like a frostbitten winter reed, since had she not appeared upon
the rock in the Valley of Bones, there would have been no war."
"She did not do this, you did it, Zikali," I said, "making her
your tool through love and fear."
"Nay, Macumazahn, I did not do it; it was done by what you call
God and I call Fate in whose hand I am the tool. Well, say to
the lady Heddana that in payment I will hold back the ghost of
Nombe from haunting her, if I can. Say also that if I had not
brought her and her lover to Zululand they would have been
So we went from that hateful kloof which I have never seen since
and hope I shall never see again, two of Zikali's men escorting
us until we got into touch with white people. To these we said
as little as possible. I think they believed that we were only
premature tourists who had made a dash into Zululand to visit
some of the battlefields. Indeed none of us ever reported our
strange adventures, and after my experience with Kaatje we were
particularly careful to say nothing in the hearing of any
gentleman connected with the Press. But as a matter of fact
there were so many people moving about and such a continual
coming and going of soldiers and their belongings, that after we
had managed to buy some decent clothes, which we did at the
little town of Newcastle, nobody paid any attention to us.
On our way to Maritzburg one amusing thing did happen. We met
Kaatje! It was about sunset that we were driving up a steep hill
not far from Howick. At least I was driving, but Anscombe and
Heda were walking about a hundred yards ahead of the cart, when
suddenly Kaatje appeared over a rise and came face to face with
them while taking an evening stroll, or as I concluded
afterwards, making some journey. She saw, she stared, she
uttered one wild yell, and suddenly bundled over the edge of the
road. Never would I have believed that such a fat woman could
have run so fast. In a minute she was down the slope and had
vanished into a dense kloof where, as night was closing in and we
were very tired, it was impossible for us to follow her. Nor did
subsequent inquiry in Howick tell us where she was living or
whence she came, for some months before she had left the place
she had taken there as a cook.
Such was the end of Kaatje so far as we were concerned.
Doubtless to her dying day she remained, or will remain, a firm
believer in ghosts.
Anscombe and Heda were married at Maritzburg as soon as the
necessary formalities had been completed. I could not attend the
ceremony, which was a disappointment to me and I hope to them,
but unfortunately I had a return of my illness and was laid up
for a week. Perhaps this was owing to the hot sun that struck me
on the neck one afternoon coming down the Town Hill where I was
obliged to hang on to the rear of the cart because the brakes had
given out. However I was able to send Heda a wedding gift in the
shape of her jewels and money that I recovered from the bank,
which she had never expected to see again; also to arrange
everything about her property.
They went down to Durban for their honeymoon and, some convenient
opportunity arising, sailed thence for England. I received an
affectionate letter from them both, which I still treasure,
thanking me very much for all I had done for them, that after all
was little enough. Also Anscombe enclosed a blank cheque,
begging me to fill it in for whatever sum I considered he was
indebted to me on the balance of account. I thought this very
kind of him and a great mark of confidence, but the cheque
I never saw either of them again, and though I believe that they
are both living, for the most part abroad--in Hungary I think--I
do not suppose that I ever shall. When I came to England some
years later after King Solomon's mines had made me rich, I wrote
Anscombe a letter. He never answered it, which hurt me at the
time. Afterwards I remembered that in their fine position it was
very natural that they should not wish to renew acquaintance with
an individual who had so intimate a knowledge of certain
incidents that they probably regarded as hateful, such as the
deaths of Marnham and Dr. Rodd, and all the surrounding
circumstances. If so, I daresay that they were wise, but of
course it may have been only carelessness. it is so easy for
busy and fashionable folk not to answer a rather troublesome
letter, or to forget to put that answer in the post. Or, indeed,
the letter may never have reached them--such things often go
astray, especially when people live abroad. At any rate, perhaps
through my own fault, we have drifted apart. I daresay they
believe that I am dead, or not to be found somewhere in Africa.
However, I always think of them with affection, for Anscombe was
one of the best travelling companions I ever had, and his wife a
most charming girl, and wonder whether Zikali's prophecy about
their children will come true. Good luck go with them!
As it chances, since then I passed the place where the Temple
stood, though at a little distance. I had the curiosity,
however, at some inconvenience, to ride round and examine the
spot. I suppose that Heda had sold the property, for a back-veld
Boer, who was absent at the time, had turned what used to be
Rodd's hospital into his house. Close by, grim and gaunt, stood
the burnt-out marble walls of the Temple. The verandah was still
roofed over, and standing on the spot whence I had shot the
pistol out of Rodd's hand, I was filled with many memories.
I could trace the whole plan of the building and visited that
part of it which had been Marnham's room. The iron safe that
stood in the corner had been taken away, but the legs of the
bedstead remained. Also not far from it, over grown with running
plants, was a little heap which I took to be the ashes of his
desk, for bits of burnt wood protruded. I grubbed among them
with my foot and riding crop and presently came across the
remains of a charred human skull. Then I departed in a hurry.
My way took me through the Yellow-wood grove, past the horns of
the blue wildebeeste which still lay there, past that mud-hole
also into which Rodd had fallen dead. Here, however, I made no
more search, who had seen enough of bones. To this day I do not
know whether he still lies beneath the slimy ooze, or was removed
Also I saw the site of our wagon camp where the Basutos attacked
us. But I will have done with these reminiscences which induce
melancholy, though really there is no reason why they should.
Tout lasse, tout casse, tout passe--everything wears out,
everything crumbles, everything vanishes--in the words of the
French proverb that my friend Sir Henry Curtis is so fond of
quoting, that at last I wrote it down in my pocket-book, only to
remember afterwards that when I was a boy I had heard it from the
lips of an old scamp of a Frenchman, of the name of Leblanc, who
once gave me and another lessons in the Gallic tongue. But of
him I have already written in _Marie,_ which is the first chapter
in the Book of the fall of the Zulus. That headed _Child of
Storm_ is the second. These pages form the third and last.
Ah! indeed, tout lasse, tout casse, tout passe!
THE KRAAL JAZI
Now I shall pass over all the Zulu record of the next four years,
since after all it has nothing to do with my tale and I do not
pretend to be writing a history.
Sir Garnet Wolseley set up his Kilkenny cat Government in
Zululand, or the Home Government did it for him, I do not know
which. In place of one king, thirteen chiefs were erected who
got to work to cut the throats of each other and of the people.
As I expected would be the case, Zikali informed the military
authorities of the secret hiding-place in the Ingome Forest where
he suggested to Cetewayo that he should refuge. The ex-king was
duly captured there and taken first to the Cape and then to
England, where, after the disgrace of poor Sir Bartle Frere, an
agitation had been set on foot on his behalf. Here he saw the
Queen and her ministers, once more conquering, as it had been
prophesied that he would by her who wore the shape of Mameena at
the memorable scene in the Valley of Bones when I was present.
Often I have thought of him dressed in a black coat and seated in
that villa in Melbury Road in the suburb of London which I
understand is populated by artists. A strange contrast truly to
the savage prince receiving the salute of triumph after the
Battle of the Tugela in which he won the kingship, or to the
royal monarch to whose presence I had been summoned at Ulundi.
However, he was brought back to Zululand again by a British
man-of-war, re-installed to a limited chieftainship by Sir
Theophilus Shepstone, and freed from the strangling embrace of
the black coat.
Then of course there was more fighting, as every one knew would
happen, except the British Colonial Office; indeed all Zululand
ran with blood. For in England Cetewayo and his rights, or
wrongs, had, like the Boers and their rights, or wrongs, become a
matter of Party politics to which everything else must give way.
Often I wonder whether Party politics will not in the end prove
the ruin of the British Empire. Well, thank Heaven, I shall not
live to learn.
So Cetewayo came back and fought and was defeated by those who
once had been his subjects. Now for the last scene, that is all
with which I need concern myself.
At the beginning of February, 1884, business took me to Zululand;
it had to do with a deal in cattle and blankets. As I was
returning towards the Tugela who should I meet but friend Goza,
he who had escorted me from the Black Kloof to Ulundi before the
outbreak of war, and who afterwards escorted me and that
unutterable nuisance, Kaatje, out of the country. At first I
thought that we came together by accident, or perhaps that he had
journeyed a little way to thank me for the blankets which I had
sent to him, remembering my ancient promise, but afterwards I
changed my opinion on this point.
Well, we talked over many matters, the war, the disasters that
had befallen Zululand, and so forth. Especially did we talk of
that night in the Valley of Bones and the things we had seen
there side by side. I asked him if the people still believed in
the Inkosazana-y-Zulu who then appeared in the moonlight on the
rock. He answered that some did and some did not. For his part,
he added, looking at me fixedly, he did not, since it was
rumoured that Zikali had dressed up a white woman to play the
part of the Spirit. Yet he could not be sure of the matter,
since it was also said that when some of Cetewayo's people went
to kill this white woman in the Black Kloof, Nomkubulwana, the
Princess of Heaven herself, rose before them and frightened them
I remarked that this was very strange, and then quite casually
asked him whom Zikali had dressed up to play the part of the dead
Mameena upon that same occasion, since this was a point upon
which I always thirsted for definite intelligence. He stared at
me and replied that I ought to be able to answer my own question,
since I had been much nearer to her who looked like Mameena than
any one else, so near indeed that all present distinctly saw her
kiss me, as it was well known she had liked to do while still
alive. I replied indignantly that they saw wrong and repeated my
question. Then he answered straight out--
"O Macumazahn, we Zulus believe that what we saw on that night
was not Nombe or another dressed up, but the spirit of the witch
Mameena itself. We believe it because we could see the light of
Zikali's fire through her, not always, but sometimes; also
because all that she said has come true, though everything is not
I could get no more out of him about the matter, for when I tried
to speak of it again, he turned the subject, telling me of his
wonderful escapes during the war. Presently he rose to go and
"Surely I grow old in these times of trouble, Macumazahn, for
thoughts slip through my head like water through the fingers.
Almost I had forgotten what I wished to say to you. The other
day I met Zikali, the Opener of Roads. He told me that you were
in Zululand and that I should meet you--he did not say where,
only that when I did meet you, I was to give you a message. This
was the message--that when on your way to Natal you came to the
kraal Jazi, you would find him there; also another whom you used
to know, and must be sure not to go away without seeing him,
since that was about to happen in which you must take your part."
"Zikali!" I exclaimed. "I have heard nothing of him since the
war. I thought that by now he was certainly dead."
"Oh! no, Macumazahn, he is certainly not dead, but just the same
as ever. Indeed it is believed that he and no other has kept all
this broth of trouble on the boil, some say for Cetewayo's sake,
and some say because he wishes to destroy Cetewayo. But what do
I know of such matters who only desire to live in peace under
whatever chief the English Queen sends to us, as she has a right
to do having conquered us in war? When you meet the Opener of
Roads at the kraal Jazi, ask him, Macumazahn."
"Where the devil is the kraal Jazi?" I inquired with irritation.
"I never heard of such a place."
"Nor did I, therefore I cannot tell you, Macumazahn. For aught I
can say it may be down beneath where dead men go. But wherever
it is there certainly you will meet the Opener of Roads. Now
farewell, Macumazahn. If it should chance that we never look
into each other's eyes again, I am sure you will think of me
sometimes, as I shall of you, and of all that we have seen
together, especially on that night in the Vale of Bones when the
ghost of the witch Mameena prophesied to us and kissed you before
us all. She must have been very beautiful, Macumazahn, as indeed
I have heard from those who remember her, and I don't wonder that
you loved her so much. Still for my part l had rather be kissed
by a living woman than by one who is dead, though doubtless it is
best to be kissed by none at all. Again, farewell, and be sure
to tell the Opener of Roads that I gave you his message, lest he
should lay some evil charm upon me, who have seen enough evil of
Thus talking Goza departed. I never saw him again, and do not
know if he is dead or alive. Well, he was a kindly old fellow,
if no hero.
I had almost forgotten the incident of this meeting when a while
later I found myself in the neighbourhood of the beautiful but
semi-tropical place called Eshowe, which since those days has
become the official home of the British Resident in Zululand.
Indeed, although the house was not then finished, if it had been
begun, Sir Melmoth Osborn already had an office there. I wished
to see him in order to give him some rather important
information, but when I reached a kraal of about fifty huts some
five hundred yards from the site of the present Residency, my
wagon stuck fast in the boggy ground. While l was trying to get
it out a quiet-faced Zulu, whose name, I remember, was Umnikwa,
informed me that Malimati, that is Sir Melmoth Osborn's native
name, was somewhere at a little distance from Eshowe, too far
away for me to get to him that night. I answered, Very well, I
would sleep where I was, and asked the name of the kraal.
He replied, Jazi, at which l started, but only said that it was a
strange name, seeing that it meant "Finished," or "Finished with
joy." Umnikwa answered, Yes, but that it had been so called
because the chief Umfokaki, or The Stranger, who married a sister
of the king, was killed at this kraal by his brother, Gundane, or
the Bat. I remarked that it was an ill-omened kind of name, to
which the man replied, Yes, and likely to become more so, since
the King Cetewayo who had been sheltering there "beneath the
armpit" of Malimati, the white lord, for some months, lay in it
dying. I asked him of what he was dying, and he replied that he
did not know, but that doubtless the father of the witch-doctors,
named Zikali, the Opener of Roads, would be able to tell me, as
he was attending on Cetewayo.
"He has sent me to bid you to come at once, O Macumazahn," he
added casually, "having had news that you were arriving here."
Showing no surprise, I answered that I would come, although
goodness knows I was surprised enough, and leaving my servants to
get my wagon out of the bog, I walked into the kraal with the
messenger. He took me to a large hut placed within a fence about
the gate of which some women were gathered, who all looked very
anxious and disturbed. Among them I saw Dabuko the king's
brother, whom I knew slightly. He greeted me and told me that
Cetewayo was at the point of death within the hut, but like
Umnikwa, professed ignorance of the cause of his illness.
For a long while, over an hour I should think, I sat there
outside the hut, or walked to and fro. Until darkness came I
could occupy myself with contemplating the scenery of the
encircling hills, which is among the most beautiful in Zululand
with its swelling contours and rich colouring. But after it had
set in only my thoughts remained, and these I found depressing.
At length I made up my mind that I would go away, for after all
what had I to do with this business of the death of Cetewayo, if
in truth he was dying? I wished to see no more of Cetewayo of
whom all my recollections were terrific or sorrowful. I rose to
depart, when suddenly a woman emerged from the hut. I could not
see who she was or even what she was like, because of the gloom;
also for the reason that she had the corner of her blanket thrown
over her face as though she wished to keep it hidden. For a
moment she stopped opposite to me and said--
"The king who is sick desires to see you, Macumazahn." Then she
pointed to the door-hole of the hut and vanished, shutting the
gate of the fence behind her. Curiosity overcame me and I
crawled into the hut, pushing aside the door-board in order to do
so and setting it up again when I was through.
Inside burned a single candle fixed in the neck of a bottle,
faintly illuminating that big and gloomy place. By its feeble
light I saw a low bedstead on the left of the entrance and lying
on it a man half covered by a blanket in whom I recognized
Cetewayo. His face was shrunken and distorted with pain, and his
great bulk seemed less, but still without doubt it was Cetewayo.
"Greeting, Macumazahn," he said feebly, "you find me in evil
case, but I heard that you were here and thought that I should
like to see you before I die, because I know that you are honest
and will report my words faithfully. I wish you to tell the
white men that my heart never really was against them; they have
always been the friends of my heart, but others forced me down a
road I did not wish to travel, of which now I have come to the
"What is the matter with you, King?" I asked.
"I do not know, Macumazahn, but I have been sick for some days.
The Opener of Roads who came to doctor me, because my wives
believed those white medicine-men wished me dead, says that I
have been poisoned and must die. If you had been here at first
you might perhaps have given me some medicine. But now it is too
late," he added with a groan.
"Who then poisoned you, King?"
"I cannot tell you, Macumazahn. Perhaps my enemies, perhaps my
brothers, perhaps my wives. All wish to have done with me, and
the Great One, who is no longer wanted, is soon dead. Be
thankful, Macumazahn, that you never were a king, for sad is the
lot of kings."
"Where, then, is the Opener of Roads? "I asked.
"He was here a little while ago. Perhaps he has gone out to take
the King's head" (i.e., to announce his death) "to Malimati and
the white men," he answered in a faint voice.
Just then I heard a shuffling noise proceeding from that part of
the hut where the shadow was deepest, and looking, saw an
emaciated arm projected into the circle of the light. It was
followed by another arm, then by a vast head covered with long
white hair that trailed upon the ground, then by a big, mishapen
body, so wasted that it looked like a skeleton covered with
corrugated black skin. Slowly, like a chameleon climbing a
bough, the thing crept forward, and I knew it for Zikali. He
reached the side of the bed and squatted down in his toad-like
fashion, then, again like a chameleon, without moving his head
turned his deep and glowing eyes towards me.
"Hail, O Macumazahn," he said in his low voice. "Did l not
promise you long ago that you should be with me at the last, and
are you not with me and another?"
"It seems so, Zikali," I answered. "But why do you not send for
the white doctors to cure the king?"
"All the doctors, white and black, in the whole world cannot cure
him, Macumazahn. The Spirits call him and he dies. At his call
I came fast and far, but even I cannot cure him--although because
of him I myself must die."
"Why?" I asked.
"Look at me, Macumazahn, and say if I am one who should travel.
Well, all come to their end at last, even the
Cetewayo lifted his head and looked at him, then said heavily--
"Perchance it would have been better for our House if that end
had been sooner. Now that I lie dying many sayings concerning
you come into my mind that I had forgotten. Moreover, Opener of
Roads, I never sent for you, whoever may have done so, and it was
not until after you came here that the great pain seized me. How
did it happen," he went on with gathering force, "that the white
men caught me in the secret place where you told me I should
hide? Who pointed out that hidden hole to the white men? But
what does it matter now?"
"Nothing at all, O Son of Panda," answered Zikali, "even less
than it matters how I escaped the spear-head hidden in your robe,
yonder in my hut in the Black Kloof where, had it not been for a
certain spirit that stood between you and me, you would have
murdered me. Tell me, Son of Panda, during these last three days
have you thought at all of your brother Umbelazi, and of certain
other brethren of yours whom you killed at the battle of the
Tugela, when the white man here led the charge of the Amawombe
against your regiments and ate up three of them?"
Cetewayo groaned but said nothing. I think he had become too
faint to speak.
"Listen, Son of Panda," went on Zikali in an intense and hissing
voice. "Many, many years ago, before Senzangacona, your
grandfather, saw the light--who knows how long before--a man was
born of high blood in the Dwandwe tribe, which man was a dwarf.
Chaka the Black One conquered the Dwandwe, but this man of high
blood was spared because he was a dwarf, an abortion, to whom
Chaka gave the name of the
'Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born,' keeping him about him
to be a mock in times of peace and safety, and because he was
wise and learned in magic, to be a counsellor in times of
trouble. Moreover, Chaka killed this man's wives and children
for his sport, save one whom he kept to be his 'sister.'
"Therefore for the sake of his people and his butchered wives and
children, this wizard swore an oath of vengeance against Chaka
and all his House. Working beneath the ground like a rat, he
undermined the throne of Chaka and brought him to his death by
the spears of his brethren and of Mopo his servant, whom Chaka
had wronged. Still working in the dark like a rat, he caused
Dingaan, who stabbed Chaka, to murder the Boer Retief and his
people, and thus called down upon his head the vengeance of the
Whites, and afterwards brought Dingaan to his death. Then Panda,
your father, arose, and his life this
'Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born' spared because once
Panda had done him a kindness. Only through the witch Mameena he
brought sorrow on him, causing war to arise between his children,
one of whom was named Cetewayo.
"Then this Cetewayo ruled, first with his father Panda and
afterwards in his place, and trouble arose between him and the
English. Son of Panda, you will remember that this Cetewayo was
in doubt whether to fight the English and demanded a sign of the
Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born. He gave the sign,
causing the Inkosazana-y-Zulu, the Princess of Heaven, to appear
before him and thereby lifting the spear of War. Son of Panda,
you know how that war went, how this Cetewayo was defeated and
came to the 'Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born' like a
hunted hyena, to learn of a hole where he might hide. You know,
too, how he strove to murder the poor old doctor who showed him
such a hole; how he was taken prisoner and sent across the water
and afterwards set up again in the land that had learned to hate
him, to bring its children to death by thousands. And you know
how at last he took refuge beneath the wing of the white chief,
here in the kraal Jazi, and lived, spat upon, an outcast, until
at length he fell sick, as such men are apt to do, and the
Thing-that-never-should-have-been-born was sent for to doctor
him. And you know also how he lies dying, within him an agony as
though he had swallowed a red hot spear, and before him a great
blackness peopled by the ghosts of those whom he has slain, and
of his forefathers whose House he has pulled down and burned."
Zikali ceased, and thrusting his hideous head to within an inch
or two of that of the dying man, he glowered at him with his
fierce and fiery eves. Then he began to whisper into the king's
ear, who quivered at his words, as the victim quivers beneath the
At that moment the end of the candle fell into the bottle which
was of clear white glass, and there burned for a little while
dully before it went out. Never shall I forget the scene
illumined by its blue and ghastly light. The dying man lying on
the low couch, rocking his head to and fro; the wizard bending
over him like some grey vampire bat sucking the life-blood from
his helpless throat. The terror in the eyes of the one, the
insatiable hate in the eyes of the other. Oh! it was awful!
"Macumazahn," gasped Cetewayo in a rattling whisper, "help me,
Macumazahn. I say that I am poisoned by this Zikali, who hates
me. Oh! drive away the ghosts! Drive them away!"
I looked at him and at his tormentor squatted by him like a
mocking fiend, and as I looked the candle went out.
Then my nerve broke, the cold sweat poured from my face and I
fled from the hut as a man might from a scene in hell, followed
by the low mocking laugh of Zikali.
Outside the women and others were gathered in the gloom. I told
them to go to the king, who was dying, and blundered up the slope
to search for some white man. No one was to be found, but a
Kaffir messenger by the office told me that Malimati was still
away and had been sent for. So I returned to my wagon and lay
down in it exhausted, for what more could I do?
It was a rough night. Thunder muttered and rain fell in driving
gusts. I dozed off, only to be awakened by a sound of wailing.
Then I knew that the king was dead, for this was the Isililo, the
cry of mourning. I wondered whether the murderers--for that he
was poisoned I had no doubt--were among those who wailed.
Towards dawn the storm rolled off and the night grew serene and
clear, for a waning moon was shining in the sky. The heat of
that stiffing place oppressed me; my blood seemed to be afire. I
knew that there was a stream in a gorge about half a mile away,
for it had been pointed out to me. I longed for a swim in cool
water, who, to tell truth, had found none for some days, and
bethought me that I would bathe in this stream before I trekked
from that hateful spot, for to me it had become hateful. Calling
my driver, who was awake and talking with the voorloopers, for
they knew what was passing at the kraal and were alarmed, I told
them to get the oxen ready to start as I would be back presently.
Then I set off for the stream and, after a longish walk,
scrambled down a steep ravine to its banks, following a path made
by Kaffir women going to draw water. Arrived there at last I
found that it was in flood and rising rapidly, at least so I
judged from the sound, for in that deep, tree-hung place the
light was too faint to allow me to see anything. So I sat down
waiting for the dawn and wishing that I had not come because of
At length it broke and the mists lifted, showing that the spot
was one of great beauty. Opposite to me was a waterfall twenty
or thirty feet high, over which the torrent rushed into a black
pool below. Everywhere grew tall ferns and beyond these graceful
trees, from whose leaves hung raindrops. In the centre of the
stream on the edge of the fall was a rock not a dozen feet away
from me, round which the water foamed. Something was squatted on
this rock, at first I could not see what because of the mist, but
thought that it was a grey-headed baboon, or some other animal,
and regretted that I had not brought a gun with me. Presently I
became aware that it must be a man, for, in a chanting voice, it
began to speak or pray in Zulu, and hidden behind a flowering
bush, I could hear the words. They were to this effect--
"O my Spirit, here where thou foundest me when I was young,
hundreds of years ago" (he said hundreds, but I suppose he meant
tens), "I come back to thee. In this pool I dived and beneath
the waters found thee, my Snake, and thou didst wind thyself
about my body and about my heart" (here I understood that the
speaker was alluding to his initiation as a witch-doctor which
generally includes, or used to include, the finding of a snake in
a river that coils itself about the neophyte). "About my body
and in my heart thou hast dwelt from that sun to this, giving me
wisdom and good and evil counsel, and that which thou hast
counselled, I have done. Now I return thee whence thou camest,
there to await me in the new birth.
"O Spirits of my fathers, toiling through many years I have
avenged you on the House of Senzangacona, and never again will
there be a king of the Zulus, for the last of them lies dead by
my hand. O my murdered wives and my children, I have offered up
to you a mighty sacrifice, a sacrifice of thousands upon
"O Umkulu-kulu, Great One of the heavens, who sentest me to
earth, I have done thy work upon the earth and bring back to thee
thy harvest of the seed that thou hast sown, a blood-red harvest,
O Umkulu-kulu. Be still, be still, my Snake, the sun arises, and
soon, soon shalt thou rest in the water that wast thine from the
beginning of the world!"
The voice ceased, and presently a spear of light piercing the
mists, lit upon the speaker. It was Zikali and about him was
wound a great yellow-bellied snake, of which the black head with
flickering tongue waved above his head and seemed from time to
time to lick him on the brow. (I suppose it had come to him from
the water, for its skin glittered as though with wet.) He stood
up on tottering feet, staring at the red eye of the rising sun,
then crying, _"Finished, finished with joy!"_ with a loud and
dreadful laughter, he plunged into the foaming pool beneath.
Such was the end of Zikali the Wizard, Opener of Roads, the
"Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born," and such was the
vengeance that he worked upon the great House of Senzangacona,
bringing it to naught and with it the nation of the Zulus.
Back to Full Books