Maiwa's Revenge The War of the Little Hand
H. Rider Haggard
Part 2 out of 2
"When we reached the projecting angle all the loads were over, but the
tusks still had to be passed up, and owing to their weight and the
smoothness of their surface, this was a very difficult task. Of course
I ought to have abandoned the tusks; often and often have I since
reproached myself for not doing so. Indeed, I think that my obstinacy
about them was downright sinful, but I was always obstinate about such
things, and I could not bear the idea of leaving those splendid tusks
which had cost me so much pains and danger to come by. Well, it nearly
cost me my life also, and did cost poor Gobo his, as will be seen
shortly, to say nothing of the loss inflicted by my rifle on the
enemy. When I reached the projection I found that the men, with their
usual stupidity, were trying to hand up the tusks point first. Now the
result of this was that those above had nothing to grip except the
round polished surface of the ivory, and in the position in which they
were, this did not give them sufficient hold to enable them to lift
the weight. I told them to reverse the tusks and push them up, so that
the rough and hollow ends came to the hands of the men above. This
they did, and the first two were dragged up in safety.
"At this point, looking behind me, I saw the Matukus streaming up the
slope in a rough extended order, and not more than a hundred yards
away. Cocking the Winchester I turned and opened fire on them. I don't
quite know how many I missed, but I do know that I never shot better
in my life. I had to keep shifting myself from one enemy to the other,
firing almost without getting a sight, that is, by the eye alone,
after the fashion of the experts who break glass balls. But quick as
the work was, men fell thick, and by the time that I had emptied the
carbine of its twelve cartridges, for the moment the advance was
checked. I rapidly pushed in some more cartridges, and hardly had I
done so when the enemy, seeing that we were about to escape them
altogether, came on once more with a tremendous yell. By this time the
two halves of the single tusk of the great bull alone remained to be
passed up. I fired and fired as effectively as before, but
notwithstanding all that I could do, some men escaped my hail of
bullets and began to ascend the cliff. Presently my rifle was again
empty. I slung it over my back, and, drawing my revolver, turned to
run for it, the attackers being now quite close. As I did so, a spear
struck the cliff close to my head.
"The last half of the tusk was now vanishing over the rock, and I sung
out to Gobo and the other man who had been pushing it up to vanish
after it. Gobo, poor fellow, required no second invitation; indeed,
his haste was his undoing. He went at the projecting rock with a
bound. The end of the tusk was still hanging over, and instead of
grasping the rock he caught at it. It twisted in his hand--he slipped
--he fell; with one wild shriek he vanished into the abyss beneath,
his falling body brushing me as it passed. For a moment we stood
aghast, and presently the dull thud of his fall smote heavily upon our
ears. Poor fellow, he had met the Fate which, as he declared, walked
about loose in Wambe's country. Then with an oath the remaining man
sprung at the rock and clambered over it in safety. Aghast at the
awfulness of what had happened, I stood still, till I saw the great
blade of a Matuku spear pass up between my feet. That brought me to my
senses, and I began to clamber up the rock like a cat. I was half way
round it. Already I had clasped the hand of that brave girl Maiwa, who
came down to help me, the men having scrambled forward with the ivory,
when I felt some one seize my ankle.
"'Pull, Maiwa, pull,' I gasped, and she certainly did pull. Maiwa was
a very muscular woman, and never before did I appreciate the
advantages of the physical development of females so keenly. She
tugged at my left arm, the savage below tugged at my right leg, till I
began to realize that something must give way ere long. Luckily I
retained my presence of mind, like the man who threw his mother-in-law
out of the window, and carried the mattress down-stairs, when a fire
broke out in his house. My right hand was still free, and in it I held
my revolver, which was secured to my wrist by a leather thong. The
pistol was cocked, and I simply pointed it downwards and fired. The
result was instantaneous--and so far as I am concerned, most
satisfactory. The bullet hit the man beneath me somewhere, I am sure I
don't know where; at any rate, he let go of my leg and plunged
headlong into the gulf beneath to join Gobo. In another moment I was
on the top of the rock, and going up the remaining steps like a
lamplighter. A single other soldier appeared in pursuit, but one of my
boys at the top fired my elephant gun at him. I don't know if he hit
him or only frightened him; at any rate, he vanished whence he came. I
do know, however, that he very nearly hit /me/, for I felt the wind of
"Another thirty seconds, and I and the woman Maiwa were at the top of
the cliff panting, but safe.
"My men, being directed thereto by Maiwa, had most fortunately rolled
up some big boulders which lay about, and with these we soon managed
to block the passage through the overhanging ridge of rock in such
fashion that the soldiers below could not possibly climb over it.
Indeed, so far as I could see, they did not even try to do so--their
heart was turned to fat, as the Zulus say.
"Then having rested a few moments we took up the loads, including the
tusks of ivory that had cost us so dear, and in silence marched on for
a couple of miles or more, till we reached a patch of dense bush. And
here, being utterly exhausted, we camped for the night, taking the
precaution, however, of setting a guard to watch against any attempt
THE PLAN OF CAMPAIGN
"Notwithstanding all that we had gone through, perhaps indeed on
account of it, for I was thoroughly worn out, I slept that night as
soundly as poor Gobo, round whose crushed body the hyŠnas would now be
prowling. Rising refreshed at dawn we went on our way towards Nala's
kraal, which we reached at nightfall. It is built on open ground after
the Zulu fashion, in a ring fence and with beehive huts. The cattle
kraal is behind and a little to the left. Indeed, both from their
habits and their talk it was easy to see that these Butiana belong to
that section of the Bantu people which, since T'Chaka's time, has been
known as the Zulu race. We did not see the chief Nala that night. His
daughter Maiwa went on to his private huts as soon as we arrived, and
very shortly afterwards one of his head men came to us bringing a
sheep and some mealies and milk with him. 'The chief sent us
greeting,' he said, 'and would see us on the morrow.' Meanwhile he was
ordered to bring us to a place of resting, where we and our goods
should be safe and undisturbed. Accordingly he led the way to some
very good huts just outside Nala's private enclosure, and here we
"On the morrow about eight o'clock the head man came again, and said
that Nala requested that I would visit him. I followed him into the
private enclosure and was introduced to the chief, a fine-looking man
of about fifty, with very delicately-shaped hands and feet, and a
rather nervous mouth. The chief was seated on a tanned ox-hide outside
his hut. By his side stood his daughter Maiwa, and squatted on their
haunches round him were some twenty head men or Indunas, whose number
was continually added to by fresh arrivals. These men saluted me as I
entered, and the chief rose and took my hand, ordering a stool to be
brought for me to sit on. When this was done, with much eloquence and
native courtesy he thanked me for protecting his daughter in the
painful and dangerous circumstances in which she found herself placed,
and also complimented me very highly upon what he was pleased to call
the bravery with which I had defended the pass in the rocks. I
answered in appropriate terms, saying that it was to Maiwa herself
that thanks were due, for had it not been for her warning and
knowledge of the country we should not have been here to-day; while as
to the defence of the pass, I was fighting for my life, and that put
heart into me.
"These courtesies concluded, Nala called upon his daughter Maiwa to
tell her tale to the head men, and this she did most simply and
effectively. She reminded them that she had gone as an unwilling bride
to Wambe--that no cattle had been paid for her, because Wambe had
threatened war if she was not sent as a free gift. Since she had
entered the kraal of Wambe her days had been days of heaviness and her
nights nights of weeping. She had been beaten, she had been neglected
and made to do the work of a low-born wife--she, a chief's daughter.
She had borne a child, and this was the story of the child. Then
amidst a dead silence she told them the awful tale which she had
already narrated to me. When she had finished, her hearers gave a loud
ejaculation. '/Ou!/' they said, '/ou!/ Maiwa, daughter of Nala!'
"'Ay,' she went on with flashing eyes, 'ay, it is true; my mouth is as
full of truth as a flower of honey, and for tears my eyes are like the
dew upon the grass at dawn. It is true I saw the child die--here is
the proof of it, councillors,' and she drew forth the little dead hand
and held it before them.
"'/Ou!/' they said again, '/ou!/ it is the dead hand!'
"'Yes,' she continued, 'it is the dead hand of my dead child, and I
bear it with me that I may never forget, never for one short hour,
that I live that I may see Wambe die, and be avenged. Will you bear
it, my father, that your daughter and your daughter's child should be
so treated by a Matuku? Will ye bear it, men of my own people?'
"'No,' said an old Induna, rising, 'it is not to be borne. Enough have
we suffered at the hands of these Matuku dogs and their loud-tongued
chief; let us put it to the issue.'
"'It is not to be borne indeed,' said Nala; 'but how can we make head
against so great a people?'
"'Ask of him--ask of Macumazahn, the wise white man,' said Maiwa,
pointing at me.
"'How can we overcome Wambe, Macumazahn the hunter?'
"'How does the jackal overreach the lion, Nala?'
"'By cleverness, Macumazahn.'
"'So shall you overcome Wambe, Nala.'
"At this moment an interruption occurred. A man entered and said that
messengers had arrived from Wambe.
"'What is their message?' asked Nala.
"'They come to ask that thy daughter Maiwa be sent back, and with her
the white hunter.'
"'How shall I make answer to this, Macumazahn?' said Nala, when the
man had withdrawn.
"'Thus shalt thou answer,' I said after reflection; 'say that the
woman shall be sent and I with her, and then bid the messengers be
gone. Stay, I will hide myself here in the hut that the men may not
see me,' and I did.
"Shortly afterwards, through a crack in the hut, I saw the messengers
arrive, and they were great truculent-looking fellows. There were four
of them, and evidently they had travelled night and day. They entered
with a swagger and squatted down before Nala.
"'Your business?' said Nala, frowning.
"'We come from Wambe, bearing the orders of Wambe to Nala his
servant,' answered the spokesman of the party.
"'Speak,' said Nala, with a curious twitch of his nervous-looking
"'These are the words of Wambe: "Send back the woman, my wife, who has
run away from my kraal, and send with her the white man who has dared
to hunt in my country without my leave, and to slay my soldiers."
These are the words of Wambe.'
"'And if I say I will not send them?' asked Nala.
"'Then on behalf of Wambe we declare war upon you. Wambe will eat you
up. He will wipe you out; your kraals shall be stamped flat--so,' and
with an expressive gesture he drew his hand across his mouth to show
how complete would be the annihilation of that chief who dared to defy
"'These are heavy words,' said Nala. 'Let me take counsel before I
"Then followed a little piece of acting that was really very
creditable to the untutored savage mind. The heralds withdrew, but not
out of sight, and Nala went through the show of earnestly consulting
his Indunas. The girl Maiwa too flung herself at his feet, and
appeared to weep and implore his protection, while he wrung his hands
as though in doubt and tribulation of mind. At length he summoned the
messengers to draw near, and addressed them, while Maiwa sobbed very
realistically at his side.
"'Wambe is a great chief,' said Nala, 'and this woman is his wife,
whom he has a right to claim. She must return to him, but her feet are
sore with walking, she cannot come now. In eight days from this day
she shall be delivered at the kraal of Wambe; I will send her with a
party of my men. As for the white hunter and his men, I have nought to
do with them, and cannot answer for their misdeeds. They have wandered
hither unbidden by me, and I will deliver them back whence they came,
that Wambe may judge them according to his law; they shall be sent
with the girl. For you, go your ways. Food shall be given you without
the kraal, and a present for Wambe in atonement of the ill-doing of my
daughter. I have spoken.'
"At first the heralds seemed inclined to insist upon Maiwa's
accompanying them then and there, but on being shown the swollen
condition of her feet, ultimately they gave up the point and departed.
"When they were well out of the way I emerged from the hut, and we
went on to discuss the situation and make our plans. First of all, as
I was careful to explain to Nala, I was not going to give him my
experience and services for nothing. I heard that Wambe had a stockade
round his kraal made of elephant tusks. These tusks, in the event of
our succeeding in the enterprise, I should claim as my perquisite,
with the proviso that Nala should furnish me with men to carry them
down to the coast.
"To this modest request Nala and the head men gave an unqualified and
hearty assent, the more hearty perhaps because they never expected to
get the ivory.
"The next thing I stipulated was, that if we conquered, the white man
John Every should be handed over to me, together with any goods which
he might claim. His cruel captivity was, I need hardly say, the only
reason that induced me to join in so hair-brained an expedition, but I
was careful from motives of policy to keep this fact in the
background. Nala accepted this condition. My third stipulation was
that no women or children should be killed. This being also agreed to,
we went on to consider ways and means. Wambe, it appeared, was a very
powerful petty chief, that is, he could put at least six thousand
fighting men into the field, and always had from three to four
thousand collected about his kraal, which was supposed to be
impregnable. Nala, on the contrary, at such short notice could not
collect more than from twelve to thirteen hundred men, though, being
of the Zulu stock, they were of much better stuff for fighting
purposes than Wambe's Matukus.
"These odds, though large, under the circumstances were not
overwhelming. The real obstacle to our chance of success was the
difficulty of delivering a crushing assault against Wambe's strong
place. This was, it appeared, fortified all round with schanses or
stone walls, and contained numerous caves and koppies in the hill-side
and at the foot of the mountain which no force had ever been able to
capture. It is said that in the time of the Zulu monarch Dingaan, a
great impi of that king's having penetrated to this district, had
delivered an assault upon the kraal then owned by a forefather of
Wambe's, and been beaten back with the loss of more than a thousand
"Having thought the question over, I interrogated Maiwa closely as to
the fortifications and the topographical peculiarities of the spot,
and not without results. I discovered that the kraal was indeed
impregnable to a front attack, but that it was very slightly defended
to the rear, which ran up a slope of the mountain, indeed only by two
lines of stone walls. The reason of this was that the mountain is
quite impassable except by one secret path supposed to be known only
to the chief and his councillors, and this being so, it had not been
considered necessary to fortify it.
"'Well,' I said, when she had done, 'and now as to this secret path of
thine--knowest thou aught of it?'
"'Ay,' she answered, 'I am no fool, Macumazahn. Knowledge learned is
power earned. I won the secret of that path.'
"'And canst thou guide an impi thereon so that it shall fall upon the
town from behind?'
"'Yes, I can do this, if only Wambe's people know not that the impi
comes, for if they know, then they can block the way.'
"'So then here is my plan. Listen, Nala, and say if it be good, or if
thou hast a better, show it forth. Let messengers go out and summon
all thy impi, that it be gathered here on the third day from now. This
being done, let the impi, led by Maiwa, march on the morrow of the
fourth day, and crossing the mountains let it travel along on the
other side of the mountains till it come to the place on the further
side of which is the kraal of Wambe; that shall be some three days'
journey in all.[*] Then on the night of the third day's journey, let
Maiwa lead the impi in silence up the secret path, so that it comes to
the crest of the mountain that is above the strong place, and here let
it hide among the rocks.
[*] About one hundred and twenty miles.--Editor.
"'Meanwhile on the sixth day from now let one of thy Indunas, Nala,
bring with him two hundred men that have guns, and lead me and my men
as prisoners, and take also a girl from among the Butiana people, who
by form and face is like unto Maiwa, and bind her hands, and pass by
the road on which we came and through the cutting in the cliff on to
the kraal of Wambe. But the men shall take no shields or plumes with
them, only their guns and one short spear, and when they meet the
people of Wambe they shall say that they come to give up the woman and
the white man and his party to Wambe, and to make atonement to Wambe.
So shall they pass in peace. And travelling thus, on the evening of
the seventh day we shall come to the gates of the place of Wambe, and
nigh the gates there is, so says Maiwa, a koppie very strong and full
of rocks and caves, but having no soldiers on it except in time of
war, or at the worst but a few such as can easily be overpowered.
"'This being done, at the dawn of day the impi on the mountain behind
the town must light a fire and put wet grass on it, so that the smoke
goes up. Then at the sight of the smoke we in the koppie will begin to
shoot into the town of Wambe, and all the soldiers will run to kill
us. But we will hold our own, and while we fight the impi shall charge
down the mountain side and climb the schanses, and put those who
defend them to the assegai, and then falling upon the town shall
surprise it, and drive the soldiers of Wambe as a wind blows the dead
husks of corn. This is my plan. I have spoken.'
"'/Ou!/' said Nala, 'it is good, it is very good. The white man is
cleverer than a jackal. Yes, so shall it be; and may the snake of the
Butiana people stand up upon its tail and prosper the war, for so
shall we be rid of Wambe and the tyrannies of Wambe.'
"After that the girl Maiwa stood up, and once more producing the
dreadful little dried hand, made her father and several of his head
councillors swear by it and upon it that they would carry out the war
of vengeance to the bitter end. It was a very curious sight to see.
And by the way, the fight that ensued was thereafter known among the
tribes of that district as the War of the Little Hand.
"The next two days were busy ones for us. Messengers were sent out,
and every available man of the Butiana tribe was ordered up to 'a
great dance.' The country was small, and by the evening of the second
day, some twelve hundred and fifty men were assembled with their
assegais and shields, and a fine hardy troop they were. At dawn of the
following day, the fourth from the departure of the heralds, the main
impi, having been doctored in the usual fashion, started under the
command of Nala himself, who, knowing that his life and chieftainship
hung upon the issue of the struggle, wisely determined to be present
to direct it. With them went Maiwa, who was to guide them up the
secret path. Of course we were obliged to give them two days' start,
as they had more than a hundred miles of rough country to pass,
including the crossing of the great mountain range which ran north and
south, for it was necessary that the impi should make a wide dÚtour in
order to escape detection.
"At length, however, at dawn on the sixth day, I took the road,
accompanied by my most unwilling bearers, who did not at all like the
idea of thus putting their heads into the lion's mouth. Indeed, it was
only the fear of Nala's spears, together with a vague confidence in
myself, that induced them to accept the adventure. With me also were
about two hundred Butianas, all armed with guns of various kinds, for
many of these people had guns, though they were not very proficient in
the use of them. But they carried no shields and wore no head-dress or
armlets; indeed, every warlike appearance was carefully avoided. With
our party went also a sister of Maiwa's, though by a different mother,
who strongly resembled her in face and form, and whose mission it was
to impersonate the runaway wife.
"That evening we camped upon the top of the cliff up which we had so
barely escaped, and next morning at the first breaking of the light we
rolled away the stones with which we had blocked the passage some days
before, and descended to the hill-side beneath. Here the bodies, or
rather the skeletons of the men who had fallen before my rifle, still
lay about. The Matuku soldiers had left their comrades to be buried by
the vultures. I descended the gully into which poor Gobo had fallen,
and searched for his body, but in vain, although I found the spot
where he and the other man had struck, together with the bones of the
latter, which I recognized by the waist-cloth. Either some beast of
prey had carried Gobo off, or the Matuku people had disposed of his
remains, and also of my express rifle which he carried. At any rate, I
never saw or heard any more of him.
"Once in Wambe's country, we adopted a very circumspect method of
proceeding. About fifty men marched ahead in loose order to guard
against surprise, while as many more followed behind. The remaining
hundred were gathered in a bunch between, and in the centre of these
men I marched, together with the girl who was personating Maiwa, and
all my bearers. We were disarmed, and some of my men were tied
together to show that we were prisoners, while the girl had a blanket
thrown over her head, and moved along with an air of great dejection.
We headed straight for Wambe's place, which was at a distance of about
twenty-five miles from the mountain-pass.
"When we had gone some five miles we met a party of about fifty of
Wambe's soldiers, who were evidently on the look-out for us. They
stopped us, and their captain asked where we were going. The head man
of our party answered that he was conveying Maiwa, Wambe's runaway
wife, together with the white hunter and his men, to be given up to
Wambe in accordance with his command. The captain then wanted to know
why we were so many, to which our spokesman replied that I and my men
were very desperate fellows, and that it was feared that if we were
sent with a smaller escort we should escape, and bring disgrace and
the wrath of Wambe upon their tribe. Thereon this gentleman, the
Matuku captain, began to amuse himself at my expense, and mock me,
saying that Wambe would make me pay for the soldiers whom I had
killed. He would put me into the 'Thing that bites,' in other words,
the lion trap, and leave me there to die like a jackal caught by the
leg. I made no answer to this, though my wrath was great, but
pretended to look frightened. Indeed there was not much pretence about
it, I was frightened. I could not conceal from myself that ours was a
most hazardous enterprise, and that it was very possible that I might
make acquaintance with that lion trap before I was many days older.
However, it seemed quite impossible to desert poor Every in his
misfortune, so I had to go on, and trust to Providence, as I have so
often been obliged to do before and since.
"And now a fresh difficulty arose. Wambe's soldiers insisted upon
accompanying us, and what is more, did all they could to urge us
forward, as they were naturally anxious to get to the chief's place
before evening. But we, on the other hand, had excellent reasons for
not arriving till night was closing in, since we relied upon the gloom
to cover our advance upon the koppie which commanded the town.
Finally, they became so importunate that we were obliged to refuse
flatly to move faster, alleging as a reason that the girl was tired.
They did not accept this excuse in good part, and at one time I
thought that we should have come to blows, for there is no love lost
between Butianas and Matukus. At last, however, either from motives of
policy, or because they were so evidently outnumbered, they gave in
and suffered us to go our own pace. I earnestly wished that they would
have added to the obligation by going theirs, but this they declined
absolutely to do. On the contrary, they accompanied us every foot of
the way, keeping up a running fire of allusions to the 'Thing that
bites' that jarred upon my nerves and discomposed my temper.
"About half-past four in the afternoon we came to a neck or ridge of
stony ground, whence we could see Wambe's town plainly lying some six
or seven miles away, and three thousand feet beneath us. The town is
built in a valley, with the exception of Wambe's own kraal, that is
situated at the mouth of some caves upon the slope of the opposing
mountains, over which I hoped to see our impi's spears flashing in the
morrow's light. Even from where we stood, it was easy to see how
strongly the place was fortified with schanses and stone walls, and
how difficult of approach. Indeed, unless taken by surprise, it seemed
to me quite impregnable to a force operating without cannon, and even
cannon would not make much impression on rocks and stony koppies
filled with caves.
"Then came the descent of the pass, and an arduous business it was,
for the path--if it may be called a path--is almost entirely composed
of huge water-worn boulders, from the one to the other of which we
must jump like so many grasshoppers. It took us two hours to climb
down, and, travelling through that burning sun, when at last we did
reach the bottom, I for one was nearly played out. Shortly afterwards,
just as it was growing dark, we came to the first line of
fortifications, which consisted of a triple stone wall pierced by a
gateway, so narrow that a man could hardly squeeze through it. We
passed this without question, being accompanied by Wambe's soldiers.
Then, came a belt of land three hundred paces or more in width, very
rocky and broken, and having no huts upon it. Here in hollows in this
belt the cattle were kraaled in case of danger. On the further side
were more fortifications and another small gateway shaped like a V,
and just beyond and through it I saw the koppie we had planned to
seize looming up against the line of mountains behind.
"As we went I whispered my suggestions to our captain, with the result
that at the second gateway he halted the cavalcade, and addressing the
captain of Wambe's soldiers, said that we would wait here till we
received Wambe's word to enter the town. The other man said that this
was well, only he must hand over the prisoners to be taken up to the
chief's kraal, for Wambe, was 'hungry to begin upon them,' and his
'heart desired to see the white man at rest before he closed his eyes
in sleep,' and as for his wife, 'surely he would welcome her.' Our
leader replied that he could not do this thing, because his orders
were to deliver the prisoners to Wambe at Wambe's own kraal, and they
might not be broken. How could he be responsible for the safety of the
prisoners if he let them out of his hand? No, they would wait there
till Wambe's word was brought.
"To this, after some demur, the other man consented, and went away,
remarking that he would soon be back. As he passed me he called out
with a sneer, pointing as he did so to the fading red in the western
sky--'Look your last upon the light, White Man, for the "Thing that
bites" lives in the dark.'
"Next day it so happened that I shot this man, and, do you know, I
think that he is about the only human being who has come to harm at my
hands for whom I do not feel sincere sorrow and, in a degree, remorse.
"Just where we halted ran a little stream of water. I looked at it,
and an idea struck me: probably there would be no water on the koppie.
I suggested this to our captain, and, acting on the hint, he directed
all the men to drink what they could, and also to fill the seven or
eight cooking pots which we carried with us with water. Then came the
crucial moment. How were we to get possession of the koppie? When the
captain asked me, I said that I thought that we had better march up
and take it, and this accordingly we went on to do. When we came to
the narrow gateway we were, as I expected stopped by two soldiers who
stood on guard there and asked our business. The captain answered that
we had changed our minds, and would follow on to Wambe's kraal. The
soldiers said no, we must now wait.
"To this we replied by pushing them to one side and marching in single
file through the gateway, which was not distant more than a hundred
yards from the koppie. While we were getting through, the men we had
pushed away ran towards the town calling for assistance, a call that
was promptly responded to, for in another minute we saw scores of
armed men running hard in our direction. So we ran too, for the
koppie. As soon as they understood what we were after, which they did
not at first, owing to the dimness of the light, they did their best
to get there before us. But we had the start of them, and with the
exception of one unfortunate man who stumbled and fell, we were well
on to the koppie before they arrived. This man they captured, and when
fighting began on the following morning, and he refused to give any
information, they killed him. Luckily they had no time to torture him,
or they would certainly have done so, for these Matuku people are very
fond of torturing their enemies.
"When we reached the koppie, the base of which covers about half an
acre of ground, the soldiers who had been trying to cut us off halted,
for they knew the strength of the position. This gave us a few minutes
before the light had quite vanished to reconnoitre the place. We found
that it was unoccupied, fortified with a regular labyrinth of stone
walls, and contained three large caves and some smaller ones. The next
business was to post the soldiers to such advantage as time would
allow. My own men I was careful to place quite at the top. They were
perfectly useless from terror, and I feared that they might try to
escape and give information of our plans to Wambe. So I watched them
like the apple of my eye, telling them that should they dare to stir
they would be shot.
"Then it grew quite dark, and presently out of the darkness I heard a
voice--it was that of the leader of the soldiers who had escorted us--
calling us to come down. We replied that it was too dark to move, we
should hit our feet against the stones. He insisted upon our
descending, and we flatly refused, saying that if any attempt was made
to dislodge us we would fire. After that, as they had no real
intention of attacking us in the dark, the men withdrew, but we saw
from the fires which were lit around that they were keeping a strict
watch upon our position.
"That night was a wearing one, for we never quite knew how the
situation was going to develop. Fortunately we had some cooked food
with us, so we did not starve. It was lucky, however, that we drunk
our fill before coming up, for, as I had anticipated, there was not a
drop of water on the koppie.
"At length the night wore away, and with the first tinge of light I
began to go my rounds, and stumbling along the stony paths, to make
things as ready as I could for the attack, which I felt sure would be
delivered before we were two hours older. The men were cramped and
cold, and consequently low-spirited, but I exhorted them to the best
of my ability, bidding them remember the race from which they sprang,
and not to show the white feather before a crowd of Matuku dogs. At
length it began to grow light, and presently I saw long columns of men
advancing towards the koppie. They halted under cover at a distance of
about a hundred and fifty yards, and just as the dawn broke a herald
came forward and called to us. Our captain stood up upon a rock and
"'These are the words of Wambe,' the herald said. 'Come forth from the
koppie, and give over the evil-doers, and go in peace, or stay in the
koppie and be slain.'
"'It is too early to come out as yet,' answered our man in fine
diplomatic style. 'When the sun sucks up the mist then we will come
out. Our limbs are stiff with cold.'
"'Come forth even now,' said the herald.
"'Not if I know it, my boy,' said I to myself; but the captain replied
that he would come out when he thought proper, and not before.
"'Then make ready to die,' said the herald, for all the world like the
villain of a transpontine piece, and majestically stalked back to the
"I made my final arrangements, and looked anxiously at the mountain
crest a couple of miles or so away, from which the mist was now
beginning to lift, but no column of smoke could I see. I whistled, for
if the attacking force had been delayed or made any mistake, our
position was likely to grow rather warm. We had barely enough water to
wet the mouths of the men, and when once it was finished we could not
hold the place for long in that burning heat.
"At length, just as the sun rose in glory over the heights behind us,
the Matuku soldiers, of whom about fifteen hundred were now assembled,
set up a queer whistling noise, which ended in a chant. Then some
shots were fired, for the Matuku had a few guns, but without effect,
though one bullet passed just by a man's head.
"'Now they are going to begin,' I thought to myself, and I was not far
wrong, for in another minute the body of men divided into three
companies, each about five hundred strong, and, heralded by a running
fire, charged at us on three sides. Our men were now all well under
cover, and the fire did us no harm. I mounted on a rock so as to
command a view of as much of the koppie and plain as possible, and
yelled to our men to reserve their fire till I gave the word, and then
to shoot low and load as quickly as possible. I knew that, like all
natives, they were sure to be execrable shots, and that they were
armed with weapons made out of old gas-pipes, so the only chance of
doing execution was to let the enemy get right on to us.
"On they came with a rush; they were within eighty yards now, and as
they drew near the point of attack, I observed that they closed their
ranks, which was so much the better for us.
"'Shall we not fire, my father?' sung out the captain.
"'No, confound you!' I answered.
"'Sixty yards--fifty--forty--thirty. Fire, you scoundrels!' I yelled,
setting the example by letting off both barrels of my elephant gun
into the thickest part of the company opposite to me.
"Instantly the place rang out with the discharge of two hundred and
odd guns, while the air was torn by the passage of every sort of
missile, from iron pot legs down to slugs and pebbles coated with
lead. The result was very prompt. The Matukus were so near that we
could not miss them, and at thirty yards a lead-coated stone out of a
gas-pipe is as effective as a Martini rifle, or more so. Over rolled
the attacking soldiers by the dozen, while the survivors, fairly
frightened, took to their heels. We plied them with shot till they
were out of range--I made it very warm for them with the elephant gun,
by the way--and then we loaded up in quite a cheerful frame of mind,
for we had not lost a man, whereas I could count more than fifty dead
and wounded Matukus. The only thing that damped my ardour was that,
stare as I would, I could see no column of smoke upon the mountain
"Half an hour elapsed before any further steps were taken against us.
Then the attacking force adopted different tactics. Seeing that it was
very risky to try to rush us in dense masses, they opened out into
skirmishing order and ran across the open space in lots of five and
six. As it happened, right at the foot of the koppie the ground broke
away a little in such fashion that it was almost impossible for us to
search it effectually with our fire. On the hither side of this dip
Wambe's soldiers were now congregating in considerable numbers. Of
course we did them as much damage as we could while they were running
across, but this sort of work requires good shots, and that was just
what we had not got. Another thing was, that so many of our men would
insist upon letting off the things they called guns at every little
knot of the enemy that ran across. Thus, the first few lots were
indeed practically swept away, but after that, as it took a long while
to load the gas-pipes and old flint muskets, those who followed got
across in comparative safety. For my own part, I fired away with the
elephant gun and repeating carbine till they grew almost too hot to
hold, but my individual efforts could do nothing to stop such a rush,
or perceptibly to lessen the number of our enemies.
"At length there were at least a thousand men crowded into the dip of
ground within a few yards of us, whence those of them who had guns
kept up a continued fusillade upon the koppie. They killed two of my
bearers in this way, and wounded a third, for being at the top of the
koppie these men were most exposed to the fire from the dip at its
base. Seeing that the situation was growing most serious, at length,
by the dint of threats and entreaties, I persuaded the majority of our
people to cease firing useless shots, to reload, and prepare for the
rush. Scarcely had I done so when the enemy came for us with a roar. I
am bound to say that I should never have believed that Matukus had it
in them to make such a determined charge. A large party rushed round
the base of the koppie, and attacked us in flank, while the others
swarmed wherever they could get a foothold, so that we were taken on
"'/Fire!/' I cried, and we did with terrible effect. Many of their men
fell, but though we checked we could not stop them. They closed up and
rushed the first fortification, killing a good number of its
defenders. It was almost all cold steel work now, for we had no time
to reload, and that suited the Butiana habits of fighting well enough,
for the stabbing assegai is a weapon which they understand. Those of
our people who escaped from the first line of walls took refuge in the
second, where I stood myself, encouraging them, and there the fight
raged fiercely. Occasionally parties of the enemy would force a
passage, only to perish on the hither side beneath the Butiana spears.
But still they kept it up, and I saw that, fight as we would, we were
doomed. We were altogether outnumbered, and to make matters worse,
fresh bodies of soldiers were pouring across the plain to the
assistance of our assailants. So I made up my mind to direct a retreat
into the caves, and there expire in a manner as heroic as
circumstances would allow; and while mentally lamenting my hard fate
and reflecting on my sins I fought away like a fiend. It was then, I
remember, that I shot my friend the captain of our escort of the
previous day. He had caught sight of me, and making a vicious dig at
my stomach with a spear (which I successfully dodged), shouted out, or
rather began to shout out, one of his unpleasant allusions to the
'Thing that----' He never got as far as 'bites,' because I shot him
"Well, the game was about up. Already I saw one man throw down his
spear in token of surrender--which act of cowardice cost him his life,
by the way--when suddenly a shout arose.
"'Look at the mountain,' they cried; 'there is an impi on the mountain
"I glanced up, and there sure enough, about half-way down the
mountain, nearing the first fortification, the long-plumed double line
of Nala's warriors was rushing down to battle, the bright light of the
morning glancing on their spears. Afterwards we discovered that the
reason of their delay was that they had been stopped by a river in
flood, and could not reach the mountain crest by dawn. When they did
reach it, however, they saw instantly that the fight was already going
on, was 'in flower,' as they put it, and so advanced at once without
waiting to light signal-fires.
"Meanwhile they had been observed from the town, and parties of
soldiers were charging up the steep side of the hill, to occupy the
schanses, and the second line of fortifications behind them. The first
line they did not now attempt to reach or defend; Nala pressed them
too close. But they got to the schanses or pits protected with stone
walls, and constructed to hold from a dozen to twenty men, and soon
began to open fire from them, and from isolated rocks. I turned my
eyes to the gates of the town, which were placed to the north and
south. Already they were crowded with hundreds of fugitive women and
children flying to the rocks and caves for shelter from the foe.
"As for ourselves, the appearance of Nala's impi produced a wonderful
change for the better in our position. The soldiers attacking us
turned, realizing that the town was being assailed from the rear, and
clambering down the koppie streamed off to protect their homes against
this new enemy. In five minutes there was not a man left except those
who would move no more, or were too sorely wounded to escape. I felt
inclined to ejaculate '/Saved!/' like the gentleman in the play, but
did not because the occasion was too serious. What I did do was to
muster all the men and reckon up our losses. They amounted to fifty-
one killed and wounded, sixteen men having been killed outright. Then
I sent men with the cooking-pots to the stream of water, and we drank.
This done I set my bearers, being the most useless part of the
community, from a fighting point of view, to the task of attending the
injured, and turned to watch the fray.
"By this time Nala's impi had climbed the first line of fortifications
without opposition, and was advancing in a long line upon the schanses
or pits which were scattered about between it and the second line,
singing a war chant as it came. Presently puffs of smoke began to
start from the schanses, and with my glasses I could see several of
our men falling over. Then as they came opposite a schanse that
portion of the long line of warriors would thicken up and charge it
with a wild rush. I could see them leap on to the walls and vanish
into the depths beneath, some of their number falling backward on each
occasion, shot or stabbed to death.
"Next would come another act in the tragedy. Out from the hither side
of the schanse would pour such of its defenders as were left alive,
perhaps three or four and perhaps a dozen, running for dear life, with
the war dogs on their tracks. One by one they would be caught, then up
flashed the great spear and down fell the pursued--dead. I saw ten of
our men leap into one large schanse, but though I watched for some
time nobody came out. Afterwards we inspected the place and found
these men all dead, together with twenty-three Matukus. Neither side
would give in, and they had fought it out to the bitter end.
"At last they neared the second line of fortifications, behind which
the whole remaining Matuku force, numbering some two thousand men, was
rapidly assembling. One little pause to get their breath, and Nala's
men came at it with a rush and a long wild shout of '/Bulala Matuku/'
(kill the Matuku) that went right through me, thrilling every nerve.
Then came an answering shout, and the sounds of heavy firing, and
presently I saw our men retreating, somewhat fewer in numbers than
they had advanced. Their welcome had been a warm one for the Matuku
fight splendidly behind walls. This decided me that it was necessary
to create a diversion; if we did not do so it seemed very probable
that we should be worsted after all. I called to the captain of our
little force, and rapidly put the position before him.
"Seeing the urgency of the occasion, he agreed with me that we must
risk it, and in two minutes more, with the exception of my own men,
whom I left to guard the wounded, we were trotting across the open
space and through the deserted town towards the spot where the
struggle was taking place, some seven hundred yards away. In six or
eight minutes we reached a group of huts--it was a head man's kraal,
that was situated about a hundred and twenty yards behind the
fortified wall, and took possession of it unobserved. The enemy was
too much engaged with the foe in front of him to notice us, and
besides, the broken ground rose in a hog-back shape between. There we
waited a minute or two and recovered our breath, while I gave my
directions. So soon as we heard the Butiana impi begin to charge
again, we were to run out in a line to the brow of the hogback and
pour our fire into the mass of defenders behind the wall. Then the
guns were to be thrown down and we must charge with the assegai. We
had no shields, but that could not be helped; there would be no time
to reload the guns, and it was absolutely necessary that the enemy
should be disconcerted at the moment when the main attack was
"The men, who were as plucky a set of fellows as ever I saw, and whose
blood was now thoroughly up, consented to this scheme, though I could
see that they thought it rather a large order, as indeed I did myself.
But I knew that if the impi was driven back a second time the game
would be played, and for me at any rate it would be a case of the
'Thing that bites,' and this sure and certain knowledge filled my
breast with valour.
"We had not long to wait. Presently we heard the Butiana war-song
swelling loud and long; they had commenced their attack. I made a
sign, and the hundred and fifty men, headed by myself, poured out of
the kraal, and getting into a rough line ran up the fifty or sixty
yards of slope that intervened between ourselves and the crest of the
hog-backed ridge. In thirty seconds we were there, and immediately
beyond us was the main body of the Matuku host waiting the onslaught
of the enemy with guns and spears. Even now they did not see us, so
intent were they upon the coming attack. I signed to my men to take
careful aim, and suddenly called out to them to fire, which they did
with a will, dropping thirty or forty Matukus.
"'/Charge!/' I shouted, again throwing down my smoking rifle and
drawing my revolver, an example which they followed, snatching up
their spears from the ground where they had placed them while they
fired. The men set up a savage whoop, and we started. I saw the Matuku
soldiers wheel around in hundreds, utterly taken aback at this new
development of the situation. And looking over them, before we had
gone twenty yards I saw something else. For of a sudden, as though
they had risen from the earth, there appeared above the wall hundreds
of great spears, followed by hundreds of savage faces shadowed with
drooping plumes. With a yell they sprang upon the wall shaking their
broad shields, and with a yell they bounded from it straight into our
"/Crash!/ we were in them now, and fighting like demons. /Crash!/ from
the other side. Nala's impi was at its work, and still the spears and
plumes appeared for a moment against the brown background of the
mountain, and then sprang down and rushed like a storm upon the foe.
The great mob of men turned this way and turned that way, astonished,
bewildered, overborne by doubt and terror.
"Meanwhile the slayers stayed not their hands, and on every side
spears flashed, and the fierce shout of triumph went up to heaven.
There too on the wall stood Maiwa, a white garment streaming from her
shoulders, an assegai in her hand, her breast heaving, her eyes
flashing. Above all the din of battle I could catch the tones of her
clear voice as she urged the soldiers on to victory. But victory was
not yet. Wambe's soldiers gathered themselves together, and bore our
men back by the sheer weight of numbers. They began to give, then once
more they rallied, and the fight hung doubtfully.
"'Slay, you war-whelps,' cried Maiwa from the wall. 'Are you afraid,
you women, you chicken-hearted women! Strike home, or die like dogs!
What--you give way! Follow me, children of Nala.' And with one long
cry she leapt from the wall as leaps a stricken antelope, and holding
the spear poised rushed right into the thickest of the fray. The
warriors saw her, and raised such a shout that it echoed like thunder
against the mountains. They massed together, and following the flutter
of her white robe crashed into the dense heart of the foe. Down went
the Matuku before them like trees before a whirlwind. Nothing could
stand in the face of such a rush as that. It was as the rush of a
torrent bursting its banks. All along their line swept the wild
desperate charge; and there, straight in the forefront of the battle,
still waved the white robe of Maiwa.
"Then they broke, and, stricken with utter panic, Wambe's soldiers
streamed away a scattered crowd of fugitives, while after them
thundered the footfall of the victors.
"The fight was over, we had won the day; and for my part I sat down
upon a stone and wiped my forehead, thanking Providence that I had
lived to see the end of it. Twenty minutes later Nala's warriors began
to return panting. 'Wambe's soldiers had taken to the bush and the
caves,' they said, 'where they had not thought it safe to follow
them,' adding significantly, that many had stopped on the way.
"I was utterly dazed, and now that the fight was over my energy seemed
to have left me, and I did not pay much attention, till presently I
was aroused by somebody calling me by my name. I looked up, and saw
that it was the chief Nala himself, who was bleeding from a flesh
wound in his arm. By his side stood Maiwa panting, but unhurt, and
wearing on her face a proud and terrifying air.
"'They are gone, Macumazahn,' said the chief; 'there is little to fear
from them, their heart is broken. But where is Wambe the chief?--and
where is the white man thou camest to save?'
"'I know not,' I answered.
"Close to where we stood lay a Matuku, a young man who had been shot
through the fleshy part of the calf. It was a trifling wound, but it
prevented him from running away.
"'Say, thou dog,' said Nala, stalking up to him and shaking his red
spear in his face, 'say, where is Wambe? Speak, or I slay thee. Was he
with the soldiers?'
"'Nay, lord, I know not,' groaned the terrified man, 'he fought not
with us; Wambe has no stomach for fighting. Perchance he is in his
kraal yonder, or in the cave behind the kraal,' and he pointed to a
small enclosure on the hillside, about four hundred yards to the right
of where we were.
"'Let us go and see,' said Nala, summoning his soldiers.
MAIWA IS AVENGED
"The impi formed up; alas, an hour before it had been stronger by a
third than it was now. Then Nala detached two hundred men to collect
and attend to the injured, and at my suggestion issued a stringent
order that none of the enemy's wounded, and above all no women or
children, were to be killed, as is the savage custom among African
natives. On the contrary, they were to be allowed to send word to
their women that they might come in to nurse them and fear nothing,
for Nala made war upon Wambe the tyrant, and not on the Matuku tribe.
"Then we started with some four hundred men for the chief's kraal.
Very soon we were there. It was, as I have said, placed against the
mountain side, but within the fortified lines, and did not at all
cover more than an acre and a half of ground. Outside was a tiny reed
fence, within which, neatly arranged in a semi-circular line, stood
the huts of the chief's principal wives. Maiwa of course knew every
inch of the kraal, for she had lived in it, and led us straight to the
entrance. We peeped through the gateway--not a soul was to be seen.
There were the huts and there was the clear open space floored with a
concrete of lime, on which the sun beat fiercely, but nobody could we
see or hear.
"'The jackal has gone to earth,' said Maiwa; 'he will be in the cave
behind his hut,' and she pointed with her spear towards another small
and semi-circular enclosure, over which a large hut was visible, that
had the cliff itself for a background. I stared at this fence; by
George! it was true, it was entirely made of tusks of ivory planted in
the ground with their points bending outwards. The smallest ones,
though none were small, were placed nearest to the cliff on either
side, but they gradually increased in size till they culminated in two
enormous tusks, which, set up so that their points met, something in
the shape of an inverted V, formed the gateway to the hut. I was
dumbfoundered with delight; and indeed, where is the elephant-hunter
who would not be, if he suddenly saw five or six hundred picked tusks
set up in a row, and only waiting for him to take them away? Of course
the stuff was what is known as 'black' ivory; that is, the exterior of
the tusks had become black from years or perhaps centuries of exposure
to wind and weather, but I was certain that it would be none the worse
for that. Forgetting the danger of the deed, in my excitement I
actually ran right across the open space, and drawing my knife
scratched vigorously at one of the great tusks to see how deep the
damage might be. As I thought, it was nothing; there beneath the black
covering gleamed the pure white ivory. I could have capered for joy,
for I fear that I am very mercenary at heart, when suddenly I heard
the faint echo of a cry for assistance. 'Help!' screamed a voice in
the Sisutu dialect from somewhere behind the hut; 'help! they are
"/I knew the voice/; it was John Every's. Oh, what a selfish brute was
I! For the moment that miserable ivory had driven the recollection of
him out of my head, and now--perhaps it was too late.
"Nala, Maiwa, and the soldiers had now come up. They too heard the
voice and interpreted its tone, though they had not caught the words.
"'This way,' cried Maiwa, and we started at a run, passing round the
hut of Wambe. Behind was the narrow entrance to a cave. We rushed
through it heedless of the danger of the ambush, and this is what we
saw, though very confusedly at first, owing to the gloom.
"In the centre of the cave, and with either end secured to the floor
by strong stakes, stood a huge double-springed lion trap edged with
sharp and grinning teeth. It was set, and beyond the trap, indeed
almost over it, a terrible struggle was in progress. A naked or almost
naked white man, with a great beard hanging down over his breast, in
spite of his furious struggles, was being slowly forced and dragged
towards the trap by six or eight women. Only one man was present, a
fat, cruel-looking man with small eyes and a hanging lip. It was the
chief Wambe, and he stood by the trap ready to force the victim down
upon it so soon as the women had dragged him into the necessary
"At this instant they caught sight of us, and there came a moment's
pause, and then, before I knew what she was going to do, Maiwa lifted
the assegai she still held, and whirled it at Wambe's head. I saw the
flash of light speed towards him, and so did he, for he stepped
backward to avoid it--stepped backward right into the trap. He yelled
with pain as the iron teeth of the 'Thing that bites' sprang up with a
rattling sound like living fangs and fastened into him--such a yell I
have not often heard. Now at last he tasted of the torture which he
had inflicted upon so many, and though I trust I am a Christian, I
cannot say that I felt sorry for him.
"The assegai sped on and struck one of the women who had hold of the
unfortunate Every, piercing through her arm. This made her leave go,
an example that the other women quickly followed, so that Every fell
to the ground, where he lay gasping.
"'Kill the witches,' roared Nala, in a voice of thunder, pointing to
the group of women.
"'Nay,' gasped Every, 'spare them. He made them do it,' and he pointed
to the human fiend in the trap. Then Maiwa waved her hand to us to
fall back, for the moment of her vengeance was come. We did so, and
she strode up to her lord, and flinging the white robe from her stood
before him, her fierce beautiful face fixed like stone.
"'Who am I?' she cried in so terrible a voice that he ceased his
yells. 'Am I that woman who was given to thee for wife, and whose
child thou slewest? Or am I an avenging spirit come to see thee die?
"'What is this?' she went on, drawing the withered baby-hand from the
pouch at her side.
"'Is it the hand of a babe? and how came that hand to be thus alone?
What cut it off from the babe? and where is the babe? Is it a hand? or
is it the vision of a hand that shall presently tear thy throat?
"'Where are thy soldiers, Wambe? Do they sleep and eat and go forth to
do thy bidding? or are they perchance dead and scattered like the
"He groaned and rolled his eyes while the fierce-faced woman went on.
"'Art thou still a chief, Wambe? or does another take thy place and
power, and say, Lord, what doest thou there? and what is that slave's
leglet upon thy knee?
"'Is it a dream, Wambe, great lord and chief? or'--and she lifted her
clenched hands and shook them in his face--'hath a woman's vengeance
found thee out and a woman's wit o'ermatched thy tyrannous strength?
and art thou about to slowly die in torments horrible to think on, oh,
thou accursed murderer of little children?'
"And with one wild scream she dashed the dead hand of the child
straight into his face, and then fell senseless on the floor. As for
the demon in the trap, he shrank back so far as its iron bounds would
allow, his yellow eyes starting out of his head with pain and terror,
and then once more began to yell.
"The scene was more than I could bear.
"'Nala,' I said, 'this must stop. That man is a fiend, but he must not
be left to die there. See thou to it.'
"'Nay," answered Nala, 'let him taste of the food wherewith he hath
fed so many; leave him till death shall find him.'
"'That I will not,' I answered. 'Let his end be swift; see thou to
"'As thou wilt, Macumazahn,' answered the chief, with a shrug of the
shoulders; 'first let the white man and Maiwa be brought forth.'
"So the soldiers came forward and carried Every and the woman into the
open air. As the former was borne past his tormentor, the fallen
chief, so cowardly was his wicked heart, actually prayed him to
intercede for him, and save him from a fate which, but for our
providential appearance, would have been Every's own.
"So we went away, and in another moment one of the biggest villains on
the earth troubled it no more. Once in the fresh air Every recovered
quickly. I looked at him, and horror and sorrow pierced me through to
see such a sight. His face was the face of a man of sixty, though he
was not yet forty, and his poor body was cut to pieces with stripes
and scars, and other marks of the torments which Wambe had for years
amused himself with inflicting on him.
"As soon as he recovered himself a little he struggled on to his
knees, burst into a paroxysm of weeping, and clasping my legs with his
emaciated arms, would have actually kissed my feet.
"'What are you about, old fellow?' I said, for I am not accustomed to
that sort of thing, and it made me feel uncomfortable.
"'Oh, God bless you?' he moaned, 'God bless you! If only you knew what
I have gone through; and to think that you should have come to help
me, and at the risk of your own life! Well, you were always a true
friend--yes, yes, a true friend.'
"'Bosh,' I answered testily; 'I'm a trader, and I came after that
ivory,' and I pointed to the stockade of tusks. 'Did you ever hear of
an elephant-hunter who would not have risked his immortal soul for
them, and much more his carcase?'
"But he took no notice of my explanations, and went on God blessing me
as hard as ever, till at last I bethought me that a nip of brandy, of
which I had a flask full, might steady his nerves a bit. I gave it
him, and was not disappointed in the result, for he brisked up
wonderfully. Then I hunted about in Wambe's hut, and found a kaross to
put over his poor bruised shoulders, and he was quite a man again.
"'Now,' I said, 'why did the late lamented Wambe want to put you in
"'Because as soon as they heard that the fight was going against them,
and that Maiwa was charging at the head of Nala's impi, one of the
women told Wambe that she had seen me write something on some leaves
and give them to Maiwa before she went away to purify herself. Then of
course he guessed that I had to do with your seizing the koppie and
holding it while the impi rushed the place from the mountain, so he
determined to torture me to death before help could come. Oh, heavens!
what a mercy it is to hear English again.'
"'How long have you been a prisoner here, Every?' I asked.
"'Six years and a bit, Quatermain; I have lost count of the odd months
lately. I came up here with Major Aldey and three other gentlemen and
forty bearers. That devil Wambe ambushed us, and murdered the lot to
get their guns. They weren't much use to him when he got them, being
breech-loaders, for the fools fired away all the ammunition in a month
or two. However, they are all in good order, and hanging up in the hut
there. They didn't kill me because one of them saw me mending a gun
just before they attacked us, so they kept me as a kind of armourer.
Twice I tried to make a bolt of it, but was caught each time. Last
time Wambe had me flogged very nearly to death--you can see the scars
upon my back. Indeed I should have died if it hadn't been for the girl
Maiwa, who nursed me by stealth. He got that accursed lion trap among
our things also, and I suppose he has tortured between one and two
hundred people to death in it. It was his favourite amusement, and he
would go every day and sit and watch his victim till he died.
Sometimes he would give him food and water to keep him alive longer,
telling him or her that he would let him go if he lived till a certain
day. But he never did let them go. They all died there, and I could
show you their bones behind that rock.'
"'The devil!' I said, grinding my teeth. 'I wish I hadn't interfered;
I wish I had left him to the same fate.'
"'Well, he got a taste of it any way,' said Every; 'I'm glad he got a
taste. There's justice in it, and now he's gone to hell, and I hope
there is another one ready for him there. By Jove! I should like to
have the setting of it.'
"And so he talked on, and I sat and listened to him, wondering how he
had kept his reason for so many years. But he didn't talk as I have
told it, in plain English. He spoke very slowly, and as though he had
got something in his mouth, continually using native words because the
English ones had slipped his memory.
"At last Nala came up and told us that food was made ready, and
thankful enough we were to get it, I can tell you. After we had eaten
we held a consultation. Quite a thousand of Wambe's soldiers were put
/hors de combat/, but at least two thousand remained hidden in the
bush and rocks, and these men, together with those in the outlying
kraals, were a source of possible danger. The question arose,
therefore, what was to be done--were they to be followed or left
alone? I waited till everybody had spoken, some giving one opinion and
some another, and then being appealed to I gave mine. It was to the
effect that Nala should take a leaf out of the great Zulu T'Chaka's
book, and incorporate the tribe, not destroy it. We had a good many
women among the prisoners. Let them, I suggested, be sent to the
hiding-places of the soldiers and make an offer. If the men would come
and lay down their arms and declare allegiance to Nala, they and their
town and cattle should be spared. Wambe's cattle alone would be seized
as the prize of war. Moreover, Wambe having left no children, his wife
Maiwa should be declared chieftainess of the tribe, under Nala. If
they did not accept this offer by the morning of the second day it
should be taken as a declaration that they wished to continue the war.
Their town should be burned, their cattle, which our men were already
collecting and driving in in great numbers, would be taken, and they
should be hunted down.
"This advice was at once declared to be wise, and acted on. The women
were despatched, and I saw from their faces that they never expected
to get such terms, and did not think that their mission would be in
vain. Nevertheless, we spent that afternoon in preparations against
possible surprise, and also in collecting all the wounded of both
parties into a hospital, which we extemporized out of some huts, and
there attending to them as best we could.
"That evening Every had the first pipe of tobacco that he had tasted
for six years. Poor fellow, he nearly cried with joy over it. The
night passed without any sign of attack, and on the following morning
we began to see the effect of our message, for women, children, and a
few men came in in little knots, and took possession of their huts. It
was of course rather difficult to prevent our men from looting, and
generally going on as natives, and for the matter of that white men
too, are in the habit of doing after a victory. But one man who after
warning was caught maltreating a woman was brought out and killed by
Nala's order, and though there was a little grumbling, that put a stop
to further trouble.
"On the second morning the head men and numbers of their followers
came in in groups, and about midday a deputation of the former
presented themselves before us without their weapons. They were
conquered, they said, and Wambe was dead, so they came to hear the
words of the great lion who had eaten them up, and of the crafty white
man, the jackal, who had dug a hole for them to fall in, and of Maiwa,
Lady of War, who had led the charge and turned the fate of the battle.
"So we let them hear the words, and when we had done an old man rose
and said, that in the name of the people he accepted the yoke that was
laid upon their shoulders, and that the more gladly because even the
rule of a woman could not be worse than the rule of Wambe. Moreover,
they knew Maiwa, the Lady of War, and feared her not, though she was a
witch and terrible to see in battle.
"Then Nala asked his daughter if she was willing to become
chieftainess of the tribe under him.
"Maiwa, who had been very silent since her revenge was accomplished,
answered yes, that she was, and that her rule should be good and
gentle to those who were good and gentle to her, but the froward and
rebellious she would smite with a rod of iron; which from my knowledge
of her character I thought exceedingly probable.
"The head man replied that that was a good saying, and they did not
complain at it, and so the meeting ended.
"Next day we spent in preparations for departure. Mine consisted
chiefly in superintending the digging up of the stockade of ivory
tusks, which I did with the greatest satisfaction. There were some
five hundred of them altogether. I made inquiries about it from Every,
who told me that the stockade had been there so long that nobody
seemed to know exactly who had collected the tusks originally. There
was, however, a kind of superstitious feeling about them which had
always prevented the chiefs from trying to sell this great mass of
ivory. Every and I examined it carefully, and found that although it
was so old its quality was really as good as ever, and there was very
little soft ivory in the lot. At first I was rather afraid lest, now
that my services had been rendered, Nala should hesitate to part with
so much valuable property, but this was not the case. When I spoke to
him on the subject he merely said, 'Take it, Macumazahn, take it; you
have earned it well,' and, to speak the truth, though I say it who
shouldn't, I think I had. So we pressed several hundred Matuku bearers
into our service, and next day marched off with the lot.
"Before we went I took a formal farewell of Maiwa, whom we left with a
bodyguard of three hundred men to assist her in settling the country.
She gave me her hand to kiss in a queenly sort of way, and then said,
"'Macumazahn, you are a brave man, and have been a friend to me in my
need. If ever you want help or shelter, remember that Maiwa has a good
memory for friend and foe. All I have is yours.
"And so I thanked her and went. She was certainly a very remarkable
woman. A year or two ago I heard that her father Nala was dead, and
that she had succeeded to the chieftainship of both tribes, which she
ruled with great justice and firmness.
"I can assure you that we ascended the pass leading to Wambe's town
with feelings very different from those with which we had descended it
a few days before. But if I was grateful for the issue of events, you
can easily imagine what poor Every's feelings were. When we got to the
top of the pass, before the whole impi he actually flopped down upon
his knees and thanked Heaven for his escape, the tears running down
his face. But then, as I have said, his nerves were shaken--though now
that his beard was trimmed and he had some sort of clothes on his
back, and hope in his heart, he looked a very different man from the
poor wretch whom we had rescued from death by torture.
"Well, we separated from Nala at the little stairway or pass over the
mountain--Every and I and the ivory going down the river which I had
come up a few weeks before, and the chief returning to his own kraal
on the further side of the mountain. He gave us an escort of a hundred
and fifty men, however, with instructions to accompany us for six
days' journey, and to keep the Matuku bearers in order and then
return. I knew that in six days we should be able to reach a district
where porters were plentiful, and whence we could easily get the ivory
conveyed to Delagoa Bay."
"And did you land it up safe?" I asked.
"Well no," said Quatermain, "we lost about a third of it in crossing a
river. A flood came down suddenly just as the men were crossing and
many of them had to throw down their tusks to save their lives. We had
no means of dragging it up, and so we were obliged to leave it, which
was very sad. However, we sold what remained for nearly seven thousand
pounds, so we did not do so badly. I don't mean that I got seven
thousand pounds out of it, because, you see, I insisted upon Every
taking a half share. Poor fellow, he had earned it, if ever a man did.
He set up a store in the old colony on the proceeds and did uncommonly
"And what did you do with the lion trap?" asked Sir Henry.
"Oh, I brought that away with me also, and when I reached Durban I put
it in my house. But really I could not bear to sit opposite to it at
nights as I smoked. Visions of that poor woman and the hand of her
dead child would rise up in my mind, and also of all the horrors of
which it had been the instrument. I began to dream at last that it
held me by the leg. This was too much for my nerves, so I just packed
it up and shipped it to its maker in England, whose name was stamped
upon the steel, sending him a letter at the same time to tell him to
what purpose the infernal machine had been put. I believe that he gave
it to some museum or other."
"And what became of the tusks of the three bulls which you shot! You
must have left them at Nala's kraal, I suppose."
The old gentleman's face fell at this question.
"Ah," he said, "that is a very sad story. Nala promised to send them
with my goods to my agent at Delagoa, and so he did. But the men who
brought them were unarmed, and, as it happened, they fell in with a
slave caravan under the command of a half-bred Portuguese, who seized
the tusks, and what is worse, swore that he had shot them. I paid him
out afterwards, however," he added with a smile of satisfaction, "but
it did not give me back my tusks, which no doubt have been turned into
hair brushes long ago;" and he sighed.
"Well," said Good, "that is a capital yarn of yours, Quatermain,
"But what?" he asked sharply, foreseeing a draw.
"But I don't think that it was so good as mine about the ibex--it
hasn't the same /finish/."
Mr. Quatermain made no reply. Good was beneath it.
"Do you know, gentlemen," he said, "it is half-past two in the
morning, and if we are going to shoot the big wood to-morrow we ought
to leave here at nine-thirty sharp."
"Oh, if you shoot for a hundred years you will never beat the record
of those three woodcocks," I said.
"Or of those three elephants," added Sir Henry.
And then we all went to bed, and I dreamed that I had married Maiwa,
and was much afraid of that attractive but determined lady.
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