The Ghost Kings
H. Rider Haggard
Part 6 out of 7
stones?" Nya answered, as, bending down, she thrust the top shoot from her
fallen tree deep into the humid soil, then added: "On, child; there is
As she spoke something hissed through the air just above her head, and
stuck fast in the bark of a sapling. Noie sprang forward and plucked it
out. It was a little reed, feathered with grasses, and having a sharp
ivory point, smeared with some green substance.
"Touch it not," cried Nya, "it is deadly poison. Eddo's work, Eddo's work!
but my hour is not yet. Into the open before another comes."
So they ran forward, all three of them, seeing and bearing nothing of the
shooter of the arrow. As they approached the titanic wall they saw that it
enclosed a mound, on the top of which mound grew a cedar-like tree with
branches so wide that they seemed to overshadow half of the enclosure.
There were no gates to this wall, but while they wondered how it could be
entered, Nya led them to a kind of cleft in its stones, not more than two
feet in width, across which cleft were stretched strings of plaited grass.
She pressed herself against them, breaking them, and walked forward,
followed by Rachel and Noie. Suddenly they heard a noise above them, and,
looking up, saw white-robed dwarfs perched upon the stones of the cleft,
holding bent bows in their hands, whereof the arrows were pointed at their
breasts. Nya halted, beckoning to them, whereon, recognising her, they
dropped the arrows into the little quivers which they wore, and scrambled
off, whither Rachel could not see.
"These are the guardians of the Temple that cannot either speak or hear,
who were summoned by the breaking of the thread," said Nya, and went
Now to the right, and now to the left, ran the narrow path that wound its
way in the thickness of the mighty wall, which towered so high above them
that they walked almost in darkness, and at each turn of it were recesses;
and above these projecting stones, where archers could stand for its
defence. At length this path ended in a _cul-de-sac_, for in front of them
was nothing but blank masonry. Whilst Rachel and Noie stared at it
wondering whither they should go now, a large stone in this wall turned,
leaving a narrow doorway through which they passed, whereon it shut again
behind them, though by what machinery they could not see.
Thus they passed through the wall, emerging, however, at a different point
in its circumference to that at which they had entered. In the centre of
the enclosure rose the hill of earth that they had seen from without,
which evidently was kept free from weeds and swept, and on its crest grew
the huge cedar-like tree, the Tree of the Tribe. Between the base of this
hill and the foot of the wall was a wide ring of level ground, also swept
and weeded, and on this space, neatly arranged in lines, were hundreds of
little hillocks that resembled ant-heaps.
"The burying-place of the Ghost-priests, Lady," said Nya, nodding at the
hillocks. "Soon my bones will be added to them."
Walking across this strange cemetery, they came to the foot of the mound
that was entirely overshadowed by the cedar above, from the outspread
limbs of which hung long grey moss, that swayed ceaselessly in the wind.
Here dwarfs appeared from right and left, the same whom they had seen
within the thickness of the wall, or others like to them, some male and
some female; melancholy-eyed little creatures who bowed to Nya, and looked
with fear and wonder at the tall while Rachel. Evidently they were all of
them deaf mutes, for they made signs to Nya, who answered them with other
signs, the purport of which seemed to sadden and disturb them greatly.
"They have seen the fall of my tree in their bowls," explained Nya to
Noie, "and ask me if it is a true vision. I tell them that I am come here
to die and that is why they are sad. This is the place of dying of all the
Ghost-priests, whence they pass into the world of spirits, and here no
blood may be shed, no, not that of the most wicked evil-doer. If any one
of the family of the priests reaches this place living, the glory of the
White Death is won. Follow and see."
So they followed her up the mound, past what looked like the entrance to a
cave, until they reached a low fence of reeds whereof the gate stood open.
"The gate is open, but enter not there," whispered the old Mother of the
Trees, "for those who enter there live not long. Look, Lady, look."
Rachel peered through the gate, but so dense was the gloom in that holy
spot that at first she could only see the enormous red bole of the cedar,
and the ghostly, moss-clad branches which sprang from it at no great
height above the ground. Presently, however, her eyes, grown accustomed to
the light, distinguished several little white-robed figures seated upon
the earth at some distance from the trunk staring into vessels of wood
which were placed before them. These figures appeared to be those of both
men and women, while one was that of a child. Even as they watched, the
figure nearest to them fell forward over its bowl and lay quite still,
whereon those around it set up a feeble, piping cry, that yet had in it a
note of gladness. The dwarf-mutes who had accompanied them, and who alone
seemed to have a right of entry into this sad place, ran forward and
looked. Then very gently they lifted up the fallen figure and bore it out.
As it was carried past them Rachel noted that it was the body of quite a
young woman, whose little face, wasted to nothing, still looked sweet and
"Was she ill?" asked Rachel in an awed voice.
"Perhaps," answered the Mother, shaking her grey head, "or perhaps she was
very unhappy, and came here to die. What does it matter? She is happy
"Ask her, Noie, if all must die who sit beneath that tree," said Rachel.
"Aye," answered Nya, "all save these dumb people who have been priests of
the Tree from generation to generation. To touch its stem is to perish
soon or late, for it is the Tree of Life and Death, and in it dwells the
Spirit of the whole race."
"What then would happen if it fell down, or was destroyed like your tree,
"Then the race would perish also," answered Nya, "since their Spirit would
lack a home and depart to the world of Ghosts, whither they must follow.
When it dies of old age, if it should ever die, then the race will die
"And if someone should cut it down, Mother, what then?"
Now when Noie translated these words to her, the face of the old queen was
filled with horror, and as her face was, so was Noie's face.
"White Maiden," she gasped, "speak not such wickedness lest the very
thought of it should bring the curse upon us all. He who destroyed that
tree would bring ruin upon this people. They would fly away, every one of
them, far into the heart of the forest, and be seen no more by man.
Moreover, he who did this evil thing would perish and pass down to
vengeance among the ghosts, such vengeance as may not be spoken. Put that
thought from thy mind, I pray thee, and let it never pass thy lips again."
"Do you believe all this, Noie?" asked Rachel in English with a smile.
"Yes, Zoola," answered Noie, shuddering, "for it is true. My father told
me of it, and of what happened once to some wild men who broke into the
sanctuary, and shot arrows at the Tree. No, no, I will not tell the story;
it is dreadful."
"Yet it must be foolishness, Noie, for how can a tree have power over the
lives of men?"
"I do not know, but it has, it has! If I were but to cast a stone at it, I
should be dead in a day, and so would you--yes, even you--nothing could
save you. Oh!" she went on earnestly, "swear to me, Sister, that you will
never so much as touch that tree; I pray you, swear."
So Rachel swore, to please her, for she was tired of this tree and its
Then they went down the hill again, till they came to the mouth of the
"Enter, Lady," Nya said, "for this must be thy home a while until thou
goest to rule as Mother of the Trees after me, or, if it pleases thee
better, up yonder to die."
They went into the cave, having no choice. It was a great place lit dimly
by the outer light, and farther down its length with lamps. Looking round
her, Rachel saw that its roof was supported by white columns which she
knew to be stalactites, for as a child she had seen their like. At the end
of it, where the lamps burned and a fountain bubbled from the ground, rose
a very large column shaped like the trunk of a tree, with branches at the
top that looked like the boughs of a tree. Gazing at it Rachel understood
why these dwarfs, or some ancient people before them, had chosen this cave
as their temple.
"The ghost Tree of my race," said old Nya, pointing to it, "the only tree
that never falls, the Tree that lives and grows for ever. Yes, it grows,
for it is larger now than when my mother was a child."
As they drew near to this wondrous and ghostly looking object Rachel saw
piled around and beyond it many precious things. There was gold in dust
and heaps, and rings and nuggets; there were shining stones, red and green
and white, that she knew were jewels; there were tusks of ivory and
carvings in ivory; there were karosses and furs mouldering to decay; there
were grotesque gods, fetishes of wood and stone.
"Offerings," said Nya, "which all the nations that live in darkness bring
to the Mother of the Trees, and the priests of the Cave. Costly things
which they value, but we value them not, who prize power and wisdom only.
Yes, yes, costly things which they give to the Mother of the Trees, the
fools without a spirit, when they come here to ask her oracle. Look, there
are some of the gifts which were sent by Dingaan of the Zulus in payment
for the oracle of his death. Thou broughtest them, Noie, my child."
"Yes," answered Noie, "I brought them, and the Inkosazana here, she
delivered the oracle. Eddo gave her the bowl, and she saw pictures in the
bowl and showed them to Dingaan."
"Nay, nay," said the old woman testily, "it was I who saw the pictures,
and I showed them to Eddo and to this white virgin. You cannot understand,
but it was so, it was so. Eddo's gift of vision is small, mine is great.
None have ever had it as I have it, and that is why Eddo and the others
have suffered my tree to live so long, because the light of my wisdom has
shone about their heads and spoken through their tongues, and when I am
gone they will seek and find it not. In thee they might have found it,
Maiden, had thy heart remained empty, but now, it is full again and what
room is there for wisdom such as ours?--the wisdom of the ghosts, not the
wisdom of life and love and beating hearts."
Noie translated the words, but Rachel seemed to take no heed of them.
"Dingaan?" she asked. "Is Dingaan dead? He was well enough when--when
Richard came to Zululand, and since then I have seen nothing of him. How
did he die?"
"He did not die, Zoola," answered Noie, "though I think that ere long he
will die, for you told him so. It was you who died for a while, not
Dingaan. By-and-bye you shall learn all that story. Now you are very weary
and must rest."
"Yes," said Rachel with a sob, "I think I died when Richard died, but now
I seem to have come to life again--that is the worst of it. Oh!! Noie,
Noie, why did you not let me remain dead, instead of bringing me to life
again in this dreadful place?"
"Because it was otherwise fated, Sister," replied Noie. "No, do not begin
to laugh and cry; it was otherwise fated," and bending down she whispered
something into Nya's ear.
The old dwarf nodded, then, taking Rachel by the hand, led her to where
some skins were spread upon the floor.
"Lie down," she said, "and rest. Rest, beautiful White One, and wake up to
eat and be strong again," and she gazed into Rachel's eyes as Eddo had
done when the fits of wild laughter were on her, singing something as she
While she sang the madness that was gathering there again went out of
Rachel's eyes, the lids closed over them, and presently they were fast
shut in sleep, nor did she open them again for many hours.
Rachel awoke and sat up looking round her wonderingly. Then by the dim
light of the lamps she saw Noie seated at her side, and the old
dwarf-woman, who was called Mother of the Trees, squatted at a little
distance watching them both--and remembered.
"Thou hast had happy dreams, Lady, and thou art well again, is it not so?"
"Aye, Mother," she answered, "too happy, for they make my waking the more
sad. And I am well, I who desire to die."
"Then go up through the open gate which thou sawest not so long ago, and
satisfy thy desire, as it is easy to do," replied Nya grimly. "Nay," she
added in a changed voice, "go not up, thou art too young and fair, the
blood runs too red in those blue veins of thine. What hast thou to do with
ghosts and death, and the darkness of the trees, thou child of the air and
sunshine? Death for the dwarf-folk, death for the dealers in dreams, death
for the death-lovers, but for thee life--life."
"Tell her, Noie," said Rachel, "that my mother, who was fore-sighted,
always said that I should live out my days, and I fear that it is true,
who must live them out alone."
"Yes, yes, she was right, that mother of thine," answered Nya, "and for
the rest, who knows? But thou art hungry, eat; afterwards we will talk,"
and she pointed to a stool upon which was food.
Rachel tasted and found it very good, a kind of porridge, made of she knew
not what, and with it forest fruits, but no flesh. So she ate heartily,
and Noie ate with her. Nya ate also, but only a very little.
"Why should I trouble to eat?" she said, "I to whom death draws near?"
When they had finished eating, at some signal which Rachel did not
perceive, mutes came in who bore away the fragments of the meal. After
they had gone the three women washed themselves in the water of the
fountain. Then Noie combed out Rachel's golden hair, and clothed her again
in her robe of silken fur that she had cleansed, throwing over it a mantle
of snowy white fibre, such as the dwarfs wove into cloth, which she and
Nya had made ready while Rachel slept.
As Noie put it about her mistress and stepped back to see how it became
her beauty, two of the dwarf-mutes appeared creeping up the cave, and
squatting down before Nya began to make signs to her.
"What is it?" asked Rachel nervously.
"Eddo is without," answered the Mother, "and would speak with us."
"I fear Eddo and will not go," exclaimed Rachel.
"Nay, have no fear, Maiden, for here he can not harm thee or any of us; it
is the place of sanctuary. Come, let us see this priest; perhaps we may
learn something from him."
THE CITY OF THE DEAD
Nya led the way down the cave, followed by Rachel and Noie. Squatted in
its entrance, so as to be out of reach of the rays of the sun, sat Eddo,
looking like a malevolent toad, and with him were Hana and some other
priests. As Rachel approached they all rose and saluted, but to Nya and
Noie they gave no salute. Only to Nya Eddo said:
"Why art thou not within the Fence, old woman?" and he pointed with his
chin towards the place of death above. "Thy tree is down, and all last
night we were hacking off its branches that it may dry up the sooner. It
is time for thee to die."
"I die when my tree dies, not before, Priest," answered Nya. "I have still
some work to do before I die, also I have planted my tree again in good
soil, and it may grow."
"I saw," said Eddo; "it is without the wall there, but many a generation
must go by before a new Mother sits beneath its shade. Well, die when it
pleases you, it does not matter when, since thou art no more our Mother.
Moreover, learn that all have deserted thee, save a very few, most of whom
have just now passed within the Fence above that they may attend thee
amongst the ghosts."
"I thank them," said Nya simply, "and in that world we will rule
"The rest," went on Eddo, "have turned against thee, having heard how thou
didst bring one of us to the Red Death yesterday by thy evil magic, him
upon whom the bough fell."
"Who was it that strove to bring me to the Red Death before I reached the
sanctuary? Who shot the poisoned arrow, Priest?"
"I do not know," answered Eddo, "but it seems that he shot badly for thou
art still here. Now enough of thee, old woman. For many years we bore thy
rule, which was always foolish, and sometimes bad, because we could not
help it, for the tree of her who went before thee fell at thy feet, as thy
tree has fallen at the feet of the White Virgin there. For long thou and I
have struggled for the mastery, and now thou art dead and I have won, so
be silent, old woman, and since that arrow missed thee, go hence in peace,
for none need thee any more, who hast neither youth, nor comeliness, nor
"Aye," answered Nya, stung to fury by these insults, "I shall go hence in
peace, but thou shalt not abide in peace, thou traitor, nor those who
follow thee. When youth and comeliness fade then wisdom grows, and wisdom
is power, Eddo, true power. I tell thee that last night I looked in my
bowl and saw things concerning thee--aye, and all of our people, that are
hid from thy eyes, terrible things, things that have not befallen since
the Tree of the Tribe was a seed, and the Spirit of the Tribe came to
dwell within it."
"Speak them, then," said Eddo, striving to hide the fear which showed
through his round eyes.
"Nay, Priest, I speak them not. Live on and thou shalt discover them, thou
and thy traitors. Well have I served you all for many years, mercy have I
given to all, white magic have I practised and not black, none have died
that I could save, none have suffered whom I could protect, no, not even
the slave-peoples beneath our rule. All this have I done, knowing that ye
plotted against me, knowing that ye strove to kill my tree by spells,
knowing what the end must be. It has come at last, as come it must, and I
do not grieve. Fool, I knew that it would come, and I knew the manner of
its coming. It was I who sent for this virgin queen whom ye would set up
to rule over you, foreseeing that at her feet my tree would fall. The
ghost of Seyapi, who is of my blood, Seyapi whom years ago ye drove away
for no offence, to dwell in a strange land, told me of her and of this
Noie, his daughter, and of the end of it all. So she came; thou didst not
bring her as thou thoughtest, _I_ brought her, and my tree fell at her
feet as it was doomed to fall, and she saved me from the Red Death as she
was doomed to do, giving me love, not hate, as I gave her love not hate.
For the rest ye shall see--all of you. I am finished--I am dead--but I
live on elsewhere, and ye shall see."
Now Eddo would have answered, but the priest Hana, who appeared to be much
frightened by Nya's words, plucked at his sleeve, whispering in his ear,
and he was silent. Presently he spoke again, but to Rachel, bidding Noie
"Thou White Maid," he said, "who wast called Princess of the Zulus, pay no
heed to this old dotard, but listen to me. When thy Spirit wandered
yonder, even then I saw the seeds of greatness in thee, and begged thee
from the savage Dingaan. Also I and Pani, who is dead, and Hana, who
lives, read by our magic that at thy feet the tree of Nya would fall, and
that after her thou wast appointed to rule over us. All the Ghost-people
read it also, and now they have named thee their Mother, and chosen thee a
tree, a great tree, but young and strong, that shall stand for ages. Come
forth, then, and take thy seat beneath that tree, and be our queen."
"Why should I come?" asked Rachel. "It seems that you dwarfs bring your
queens to ill ends. Choose you another Mother."
"Inkosazana, we cannot if we would," answered Eddo, "for these matters are
not in our hands, but in those of our Spirit. Hearken, we will deal well
with thee; we will make thee great, and grow in thy greatness, for thou
shall give us of thy wisdom, that although thou knowest it not, thou hast
above all other women. We weary of little things, we would rule the world.
All the nations from sea to sea shall bow down before thee, and seek thine
oracle. Thou shall take their wealth, thou shalt drive them hither and
thither as the wind drives clouds. Thou shalt make war, thou shalt ordain
peace. At thy pleasure they shall rise up in life and lie down in death.
Their kings shall cower before thee, their princes shall bring thee
tribute, thou shalt reign a god."
"Until it shall please Eddo to bring thee to thine end, Lady, as it
pleases him to bring me to mine," muttered Nya behind her. "Be not
beguiled, Maiden; remain a woman and uncrowned, for so thou shalt find
"Thou meanest, Eddo," said Rachel, "that thou wilt rule and I do thy
bidding. Noie, tell him that I will have none of it. When I came here a
great sorrow had made me mad, and I knew nothing. Now I have found my
Spirit again, and presently I go hence."
At this answer Eddo grew very angry.
"One thing I promise thee, Zoola," he said; "in the name of all the
Ghost-people I promise it, that thou shalt not go hence alive. In this
sanctuary thou art safe indeed, seated in the shadow of the Death-tree
that is the Tree of Life, but soon or late a way will be found to draw
thee hence, and then thou shalt learn who is the stronger--thou or
Eddo--as the old woman behind thee has learned. Fare thee well for a
while. I will tell the people that thou art weary and restest, and
meanwhile I rule in thy name. Fare thee well, Inkosazana, till we meet
without the wall," and he rose and went, accompanied by Hana and the other
When he had gone a little way he turned, and pointing up the hill,
screamed back to Nya:
"Go and look within the Fence, old hag. There thou wilt see the best of
those that clung to thee, seeking for peace. Art thou a coward that thou
lingerest behind them?"
"Nay, Eddo," she answered, "thou art the coward that hast driven them to
death, because they are good and thou art evil. When my hour is ripe I
join them, not before. Nor shalt thou abide here long behind me. One short
day of triumph for thee, Eddo, and then night, black night for ever."
Eddo heard, and his yellow face grew white with rage, or fear. He stamped
upon the ground, he shook his small fat fists, and spat out curses as a
toad spits venom. Nya did not stay to listen to them, but walked up the
cave and sat herself down upon her mat.
"Why does he hate thee so, Mother?" asked Rachel.
"Because those that are bad hate those that are good, Maiden. For many a
year Eddo has sought to rule through me, and to work evil in the world,
but I have not suffered it. He would abandon our secret, ancient faith,
and reign a king, as Dingaan the Zulu reigns. He would send the
slave-tribes out to war and conquer the nations, and build him a great
house, and have many wives. But I held him fast, so that he could do few
of these things. Therefore he plotted against me, but my magic was greater
than his, and while my tree stood he could not prevail. At length it fell
at thy feet, as he knew that it was doomed to fall, for all these things
are fore-ordained, and at once he would have slain me by the Red Death,
but thou didst protect me, and for that blessed be thou for ever."
"And why does he wish to make me Mother in thy place, Nya?"
"Because my tree fell at thy feet, and all the people demand it. Because
he thinks that once the bond of the priesthood is tied between you, and
his blood runs in thee, thy pure spirit will protect his spirit from its
sins, and that thy wisdom, which he sees in thee, will make him greater
than any of the Ghost-people that ever lived. Yet consent not, for
afterwards if thou dost thwart him, he will find a way to bring down thy
tree, and with it thy life, and set another to rule in thy place. Consent
not, for know that here thou art safe from him."
"It may be so, Mother, but how can I dwell on in this dismal place?
Already my heart is broken with its sorrows, and soon, like those poor
folk, I should seek peace within the Fence."
"Tell me of those sorrows," said Nya gently. "Perhaps I do not know them
all, and perhaps I could help thee."
So Rachel sat herself down also, and Noie, interpreting for her, told all
her tale up to that point when she saw the body of Richard borne away, for
after this she remembered nothing until she found herself standing upon
the fallen tree in the land of the Ghost Kings. It was a long tale, and
before ever she finished it night fell, but throughout its telling the old
dwarf-woman said never a word, only watched Rachel's face with her kind,
soft eyes. At last it was done, and she said:
"A sad story. Truly there is much evil in the world beyond the country of
the Trees, for here at least we shed little blood. Now, Maiden, what is
"This is my desire," said Rachel, "to be joined again to him I love, whom
Ishmael slew; yes, and to my father and mother also, whom the Zulus slew
at the command of Ishmael."
"If they are all dead, how can that be, Maiden, unless thou seekest them
in death? Pass within the Fence yonder, and let the poison of the Tree of
the Tribe fall upon thee, and soon thou wilt find them."
"Nay, Mother, I may not, for it would be self-murder, and my faith knows
few greater crimes."
"Then thou must wait till death finds thee, and that road may be very
"Already it is long, Mother, so long that I know not how to travel it, who
am alone in the world without a friend save Noie here," and she began to
"Not so. Thou hast another friend," and she laid her hand upon Rachel's
heart, "though it is true that I may bide with thee but a little while."
After this they were all silent for a space, until Nya looked up at Rachel
and asked suddenly:
"Art thou brave?"
"The Zulus and others thought so, Mother; but what can courage avail me
"Courage of the body, nothing, Maiden; courage of the spirit much,
perhaps. If thou sawest this lover of thine, and knew for certain that he
lives on beneath the world awaiting thee, would it bring thee comfort?"
Rachel's breast heaved and her eyes sparkled with joy, as she answered:
"Comfort! What is there that could bring so much? But how can it be,
Mother, seeing that the last gulf divides us, a gulf which mortals may not
pass and live?"
"Thou sayest it; still I have great power, and thy spirit is white and
clean. Perhaps I could despatch it across that gulf and call it back to
earth again. Yet there are dangers, dangers to me of which I reck little,
and dangers to thee. Whither I sent thee, there thou mightest bide."
"I care not if I bide there, Mother, if only it be with him! Oh! send me
on this journey to his side, and living or dead I will bless thee."
Now Nya thought a while and answered:
"For thy sake I will try what I would try for none other who has breathed,
or breathes, for thou didst save me from the Red Death at the hands of
Eddo. Yes, I will try, but not yet--first thou must eat and rest. Obey, or
I do nothing."
So Rachel ate, and afterwards, feeling drowsy, even slept a while, perhaps
because she was still weary with her journeying and her new-found mind
needed repose, or perhaps because some drug had been mingled with her
drink. When she awoke Nya led her to the mouth of the cave. There they
stood awhile studying the stars. No breath of air stirred, and the silence
was intense, only from time to time the sound of trees falling in the
forest reached their ears. Sometimes it was quite soft, as though a fleece
of wool had been dropped to the earth, that was when the tree that died
had grown miles and miles away from them; and sometimes the crash was as
that of sudden thunder, that was when the tree which died had grown near
A sense of the mystery and wonder of the place and hour sank into Rachel's
heart. The stars above, the mighty entombing forest, in which the trees
fell unceasingly after their long centuries of life, the encircling wall,
built perhaps by hands that had ceased from their labours hundreds of
thousands of years before those trees began to grow; the huge moss-clad
cedar upon the mound beneath the shadow of whose branches day by day its
worshippers gave up their breath, that immemorial cedar whereof, as they
believed, the life was the life of the nation; the wizened little
witch-woman at her side with the seal of doom already set upon her brow
and the stare of farewell in her eyes; the sad, spiritual face of Noie,
who held her hand, the loving, faithful Noie, who in that light seemed
half a thing of air; the grey little dwarf-mutes who squatted on their
mats staring at the ground, or now and again passed down the hill from the
Fence of Death above, bearing between them a body to its burial; all were
mysterious, all were wonderful.
As she looked and listened, a new strength stirred in Rachel's heart. At
first she had felt afraid, but now courage flowed into her, and it seemed
to come from the old, old woman at her side, the mistress of mysteries,
the mother of magic, in whom was gathered the wisdom of a hundred
generations of this half human race.
"Look at the stars, and the night," she was saying in her soft voice, "for
soon thou shalt be beyond them all, and perchance thou shall never see
them more. Art thou fearful? If so, speak, and we will not try this
journey in search of one whom we may not find."
"No," answered Rachel; "but, Mother, whither go we?"
"We go to the Land, of Death. Come, then, the moment is at hand. It is
hard on midnight. See, yonder star stands above the holy Tree," and she
pointed to a bright orb that hung almost over the topmost bough of the
cedar, "it marks thy road, and if thou wouldst pass it, now is the hour."
"Mother," asked Noie, "may I come with her? I also have my dead, and where
my Sister goes I follow."
"Aye, if thou wilt, daughter of Seyapi, the path is wide enough for three,
and if I stay on high, perchance thou that art of my blood mayest find
strength to guide her earthwards through the wandering worlds."
Then Nya walked up the cave and sat herself down within the circle of the
lamps with her back to the stalactite that was shaped like a tree, bidding
Rachel and Noie be seated in front of her. Two of the dwarf-mutes
appeared, women both of them, and squatted to right and left, each gazing
into a bowl of limpid dew. Nya made a sign, and still gazing into their
bowls, these dwarfs began to beat upon little drums that gave out a
curious, rolling noise, while Nya sang to the sound of the drums a wild,
low song. With her thin little hands she grasped the right hand of Rachel
and of Noie and gazed into their eyes.
Things changed to Rachel. The dwarfs to right and left vanished away, but
the low murmuring of their drums grew to a mighty music, and the stars
danced to it. The song of Nya swelled and swelled till it filled all the
space between earth and heaven; it was the rush of the gale among the
forests, it was the beating of the sea upon an illimitable coast, it was
the shout of all the armies of the world, it was the weeping of all the
women of the world. It lessened again, she seemed to be passing away from
it, she heard it far beneath her, it grew tiny in its volume--tiny as if
it were an infinite speck or point of sound which she could still discern
for millions and millions of miles, till at length distance and vastness
overcame it, and it ceased. It ceased, this song of the earth, but a new
song began, the song of the rushing worlds. Far away she could hear it,
that ineffable music, far in the utter depths of space. Nearer it would
come and nearer, a ringing, glorious sound, a sound and yet a voice, one
mighty voice that sang and was answered by other voices as sun crossed the
path of sun, and caught up and re-echoed by the innumerable choir of the
They were falling past her, those vast, glowing suns, those rounded
planets that were now vivid with light, and now steeped in gloom, those
infinite showers of distant stars. They were gone, they and their music
together; she was far beyond them in a region where all life was
forgotten, beyond the rush of the uttermost comet, beyond the last glimmer
of the spies and outposts of the universe. One shape of light she sped
into the black bosom of fathomless space, and its solitude shrivelled up
her soul. She could not endure, she longed for some shore on which to set
her mortal feet.
Behold! far away a shore appeared, a towering, cliff-bound shore, upon
whose iron coasts all the black waves of space beat vainly and were
eternally rolled back. Here there was light, but no such light as she had
ever known; it did not fall from sun or star, but, changeful and radiant,
welled upward from that land in a thousand hues, as light might well from
a world of opal. In its dazzling, beautiful rays she saw fantastic palaces
and pyramids, she saw seas and pure white mountains, she saw plains and
new-hued flowers, she saw gulfs and precipices, and pale lakes pregnant
with wavering flame. All that she had ever conceived of as lovely or as
fearful, she beheld, far lovelier or a thousandfold more fearful.
Like a great rose of glory that world bloomed and changed beneath her.
Petal by petal its splendours fell away and were swallowed in the sea of
space, whilst from the deep heart of the immortal rose new splendours took
their birth, and fresh-fashioned, mysterious, wonderful, reappeared the
measureless city with its columns, its towers, and its glittering gates.
It endured a moment, or a million years, she knew not which, and lo! where
it had been, stood another city, different, utterly different, only a
hundred times more glorious. Out of the prodigal heart of the world-rose
were they created, into the black bosom of nothingness were they gathered;
whilst others, ever more perfect, pressed into their place. So, too,
changed the mountains, and so the trees, while the gulfs became a garden
and the fiery lakes a pleasant stream, and from the seed of the strange
flowers grew immemorial forests wreathed about with rosy mists and
bedecked in glimmering dew. With music they were born, on the wings of
music they fled away, and after them that sweet music wailed like
A hand took hers and drew her downwards, and up to meet her leapt myriads
of points of light, in every point a tiny face. They gazed at her with
their golden eyes; they whispered together concerning her, and the sound
of their whispering was the sound of a sea at peace. They accompanied her
to the very heart of the opal rose of life whence all these wonders
welled, they set her in a great grey hall roofed in with leaning cliffs,
and there they left her desolate.
Fear came upon her, the loneliness choked her, it held her by the throat
like a thing alive. She seemed about to die of it, when she became aware
that once more she was companioned. Shapes stood about her. She could not
see the shapes, save dimly now and again as they moved, but their eyes she
could see, their great calm, pitiful eyes, which looked down on her, as
the eye of a giant might look down upon a babe. They were terrible, but
she did not fear them so much as the loneliness, for at least they lived.
One of the shapes bent over her, for its holy eyes drew near to her, and
she heard a voice in her heart asking her for what great cause she had
dared to journey hither before the time. She answered, in her heart, not
with her lips, that she was bereaved of all she loved and came to seek
them. Then; still in her heart, she heard that voice command:
"Let all this Rachel's dead be brought before her."
Instantly doors swung open at the end of that grey hall, and through them
with noiseless steps, with shadowy wings, floated a being that bore in its
arms a child. Before her it stayed, and the light of its starry head
illumined the face of the child. She knew it at once--it was that baby
brother whose bones lay by the shore of the African sea. It awoke from its
sleep, it opened its eyes, it stretched out its arms and smiled at her.
Then it was gone.
Other Shapes appeared, each of them bearing its burden--a companion who
had died at school, friends of her youth and childhood whom she had
thought yet living, a young man who once had wished to marry her and who
was drowned, the soldier whom she had killed to save the life of Noie. At
the sight of him she shrank, for his blood was on her hands, but he only
smiled like the rest, and was borne away, to be followed by that
witch-doctoress whom the Zulus had slain because of her, who neither
smiled nor frowned but passed like one who wonders.
Then another shadow swept down the hall, and in its arms her mother--her
mother with joyful eyes, who held thin hands above her as though in
blessing, and to whom she strove to speak but strove in vain. She was
borne on still blessing her, and where she had been was her father, who
blessed her also, and whose presence seemed to shed peace upon her soul.
He pointed upwards and was gone, gazing at her earnestly, and lo! a form
of darkness cast something at her feet. It was Ishmael who knelt before
her, Ishmael whose tormented face gazed up at her as though imploring
A struggle rent her heart. Could she forgive? Oh! could she forgive him
who had slain them all? Now she was aware that the place was filled with
the points of light that were Spirits, and that every one of them looked
at her awaiting the free verdict of her heart. Rank upon rank, also, the
mighty Shapes gathered about her, and in their arms her dead, and all of
them looked and looked, awaiting the free verdict of her heart. Then it
arose within her, drawn how she knew not from every fibre of her infinite
being, it arose within her, that spirit of pity and of pardon. As the dead
had stretched out their arms above her, so she stretched out her arms over
the head of that tortured soul, and for the first time her lips were given
power to speak.
"As I hope for pardon, so I pardon," she said. "Go in peace!"
Voices and trumpets caught up the words, and through the grey hall they
rang and echoed, proclaimed for ever and as they died away he too was
gone, and with him went the myriad points of flame, in each of which
gleamed a tiny face. She looked about her seeking another Spirit, that
Spirit she had, travelled so far and dared so much to find. But there came
only a little dwarf that shambled alone down the great hall. She knew him
at once for Pani, the priest, he who had been crushed in the tempest,
Pani, the brother of Eddo. No Shape bore him, for he who on earth had been
half a ghost, could walk this ghost-world on his mortal feet, or so her
mind conceived. Past her he shuffled shamefaced, and was gone.
Now the great doors at the end of the hall closed; from far away she could
see them roll together like lightning-severed clouds, and once more that
awful loneliness overcame her. Her knees gave way beneath her, she sank
down upon the floor, one little spot of white in its expanse, wishing that
the roof of rock would fall and hide her. She covered her face with her
golden hair, and wept behind its veil. She looked up and saw two great
eyes gazing at her--no face, only two great, steady eyes. Then a voice
speaking in her heart asked her why she wept, whose desire had been
fulfilled, and she answered that it was because she could not find him
whom she sought, Richard Darrien. Instantly the tongues and trumpets took
up the name.
"Richard Darrien!" they cried, "Richard Darrien!"
But no Shape swept in bearing the spirit of Richard in its arms.
"He is not here," said the voice in her heart. "Go, seek him in some other
She grew angry.
"Thou mockest me," she answered, "He is dead, and this is the home of the
dead; therefore he must be here. Shadow, thou mockest me."
"I mock not," came the swift answer. "Mortal, look now and learn."
Again the doors burst open, and through them poured the infinite rout of
the dead. That hall would not hold them all, therefore it grew and grew
till her sight could scarcely reach from wall to wall. Shapes headed and
marshalled them by races and by generations, perhaps because thus only
could her human heart imagine them, but now none were borne in their arms.
They came in myriads and in millions, in billions and tens of billions,
men and women and children, kings and priests and beggars, all wearing the
garments of their age and country. They came like an ocean-tide, and their
floating hair was the foam on the tide, and their eyes gleamed like the
first shimmer of dawn above the snows. They came for hours and days and
years and centuries, they came eternally, and as they came every finger of
that host, compared to which all the sands of all the seas were but as a
handful, was pointed at her, and every mouth shaped the words:
"Is it I whom thou seekest?"
Million by million she scanned them all, but the face of Richard Darrien
was not there.
Now the dead Zulus were marching by. Down the stream of Time they marched
in their marshalled regiments. Chaka stood over her--she knew him by his
likeness to Dingaan--and threatened her with a little, red-handled spear,
asking her how she dared to sit upon the throne of the Spirit of his
nation. She began to tell him her story, but as she spoke the wide
receding walls of that grey hall fell apart and crumbled, and amidst a
mighty laughter the great-eyed Shapes rebuilt them to the fashion of the
cave in the mound beneath the tree of the dwarf-folk. The sound of the
trumpets died away, the shrill, sweet music of the spheres grew far and
Rachel opened her eyes. There in front of her sat Nya, crooning her low
song, and there, on either side crouched the mutes tapping upon their
little drums and gazing into their bowls of water, while against her
leaned Noie, who stirred like one awaking from sleep. Ages and ages ago
when she started on that dread journey, the dwarf to her left was
stretching out her hand to steady the bowl at her feet, and now it had but
just reached the bowl. A great moth had singed its wings in the lamp, and
was fluttering to the ground--it was still in mid-air. Noie was placing
her arm about her neck, and it had but begun to fall upon her shoulder!
IN THE SANCTUARY
Nya ceased her singing, and the dwarf women their beating on the drums.
"Hast thou been a journey, Maiden?" she asked, looking at Rachel
"Aye, Mother," she answered in a faint voice, "and a journey far and
"And thou, Noie, my niece?"
"Aye, Mother," she answered, shivering as though with cold or fear, "but I
went not with my Sister here, I went alone--for years and years."
"A far journey thou sayest, Inkosazana, and one that was for years and
years, thou sayest, Noie, yet the eyes of both of you have been shut for
so long only as it takes a burnt moth to fall from the lamp flame to the
ground. I think that you slept and dreamed a moment, that is all."
"Mayhap, Mother," replied Rachel, "but if so mine was a most wondrous
dream, such as has never visited me before, and as I pray, never may
again. For I was borne beyond the stars into the glorious cities of the
dead, and I saw all the dead, and those that I had known in life were
brought to me by Shapes and Powers whereof I could only see the eyes."
"And didst thou find him whom thou soughtest most of all?"
"Nay," she answered, "him alone I did not find. I sought him, I prayed the
Guardians of the dead to show him to me, and they called up all the dead,
and I scanned them every one, and they summoned him by his name, but he
was not of their number, and he came not. Only they spoke in my heart,
bidding me to look for him in some other world."
"Ah!" exclaimed Nya starting a little, "they said that to thee, did they?
Well, worlds are many, and such a search would be long." Then as though to
turn the subject, she added, "And what sawest thou, Noie?"
"I, Mother? I went not beyond the stars, I climbed down endless ladders
into the centre of the earth, my feet are still sore with them. I reached
vast caves full of a blackness that shone, and there many dead folk were
walking, going nowhere, and coming back from nowhere. They seemed
strengthless but not unhappy, and they looked at me and asked me tidings
of the upper world, but I could not answer them, for whenever I opened my
lips to speak a cold hand was laid upon my mouth. I wandered among them
for many moons, only there was no moon, nothing but the blackness that
shone like polished coal, wandered from cave to cave. At length I came to
a cave in which sat my father, Seyapi, and near to him my mother, and my
other mothers, his wives, and my brothers and sisters, all of whom the
Zulus killed, as the wild beast, Ibubesi, told them to do."
"I saw Ibubesi, and he prayed me for my pardon, and I granted it to him,"
broke in Rachel.
"I did not see him," went on Noie fiercely, "nor would I have pardoned him
if I had. Nor do I think that my father and his family pardon him; I think
that they wait to bear testimony against him before the Lord of the dead."
"Did Seyapi tell you so?" asked Rachel.
"Nay, he sat there beneath a black tree whereof I could not see the top,
and gazed into a bowl of black water, and in that bowl he showed me many
pictures of things that have been and things that are to come, but they
are secret, I may say nothing of them."
"And what was the end of it, my niece?" asked Nya, bending forward
"Mother, the end of it was that the black tree which was shaped like the
tree of our tribe above us, took fire and went up in a fierce flame. Then
the roofs of the caves fell in and all the people of the dwarfs flew
through the roofs, singing and rejoicing, into a place of light; only,"
she added slowly, "it seemed to me that I was left alone amidst the ruins
of the caves, I and the white ghost of the tree. Then a voice cried to me
to make my heart bold, to bear all things with patience, since to those
who dare much for love's sake, much will be forgiven. So I woke, but what
those words mean I cannot guess, seeing that I love no man, and never
shall," and she rested her chin upon her hand and sat there musing.
"No," replied Nya, "thou lovest no man, and therefore the riddle is hard,"
but as she spoke her eyes fell upon Rachel.
"Mother," said Rachel presently, "my heart is the hungrier for all that it
has fed upon. Can thy magic send me back to that country of the dead that
I may search for him again? If so, for his sake I will dare the journey."
"Not so," answered Nya shaking her head; "it is a road that very few have
travelled, and none may travel twice and live."
Now Rachel began to weep.
"Weep not, Maiden, there are other roads and perchance to-morrow thou
shall walk them. Now lie down and sleep, both of you, and fear no dreams."
So they laid themselves down and slept, but the old witch-wife, Nya, sat
waiting and watched them.
"I think I understand," she murmured to herself, as She gazed at the
slumbering Rachel, "for to her who is so pure and good, and who has
suffered such cruel wrong, the Guardians would not lie. I think that I
understand and that I can find a path. Sleep on, sweet maiden, sleep on in
Then she looked at Noie and shook her grey head.
"I do not understand," she muttered. "The black tree shaped like the Tree
of our Tribe, and Seyapi of the old blood seated beneath it. The tree that
went up in fire, and the maid of the old blood left alone with the ghost
of it, while the dwarf people fled into light and freedom. What does it
mean? Ah! that picture in the bowl! Now I can guess. 'Those who dare much
for love.' It did not say for love of man, and woman can love woman. But
would she dare a deed that none of our race could even dream? Well, the
Zulu blood is bold. Perhaps, perhaps. Oh! Eddo, thou black sorcerer,
whither art thou leading the Children of the Tree? On thy head be it,
Eddo, not on mine; on thy head for ever and for ever."
When Rachel awoke, refreshed, on the following day, she lay a while
thinking. Every detail of her vision was perfectly clear in her mind, only
now she was sure that it had been but a dream. Yet what a wonderful dream!
How, even in her sleep, had she found the imagination to conceive
circumstances so inconceivable? That magic rush beyond the stars; that
mighty world set round with black cliffs against which rolled the waves of
space; that changeful, wondrous world which unfolded itself petal by petal
like a rose, every petal lovelier and different from the last; that grey
hall roofed with tilted precipices; and then those dead, those multitudes
of the dead!
What power had been born in her that she could imagine such things as
these? Vision she had, like her mother, but not after this sort. Perhaps
it was but an aftermath of her madness, for into the minds of the mad
creep strange sights and sounds, and this place, and the people amongst
whom she sojourned, the Ghost-people, the grey Dwarf-people, the Dealers
in dreams, the Dwellers in the sombre forest, might well open new doors in
such a soul as hers. Or perhaps she was still mad. She did not know, she
did not greatly care. All she knew was that her poor heart ached with love
for a man who was dead, and yet whom she could not find even among the
dead. She had wished to die, but now she longed for death no more, fearing
lest after all there should be something in that vision which the magic of
Nya had summoned up, and that when she reached the further shore she might
not find him who dwelt in a different world. Oh! if only she could find
him, then she would be glad enough to go wherever it was that he had gone.
Now Noie was awake at her side, and they talked together.
"We must have dreamt dreams, Noie," she said. "Perhaps the Mother mingled
some drug with our food."
"I do not know, Zoola," answered Noie; "but, if so, I want no more of
those dreams which bode no good to me. Besides, who can tell what is dream
and what is truth? Mayhap this world is the dream, and the truth is such
things as we saw last night," and she would say no more on the matter.
Nothing happened within the Wall that day--that is, nothing out of the
common. A certain number of the privileged, priestly caste of the dwarfs
were carried or conducted into the holy place, and up to the Fence of
Death that they might die there, and a certain number were brought out for
burial. Some of those who came in were folk weary of life, or, in other
words, suicides, and these walked; and some were sick of various diseases,
and these were carried. But the end was the same, they always died, though
whether this result was really brought about by some poison distilled from
the tree, as Nya alleged, or whether it was the effect of a physical
collapse induced by that inherited belief, Rachel never discovered.
At least they died, some almost at once, and some within a day or two of
entering that deadly shade, and were borne away to burial by the mutes who
spent their spare time in the digging of little graves which they must
fill. Indeed, these mutes either knew, or pretended that they knew who
would be the occupant of each grave. At least they intimated by signs that
this was revealed to them in their bowls, and when the victims appeared
within the Wall, took pleasure in leading them to the holes they had
prepared, and showing to them with what care these had been dug to suit
their stature. For this service they received a fee that such moribund
persons brought with them, either of finely woven robes, or of mats, or of
different sorts of food, or sometimes of gold and copper rings
manufactured by the Umkulu or other subject savages, which they wore upon
their wrists and ankles.
Certain of these doomed folk, however, went to their fate with no light
hearts, which was not wonderful, as it seemed that these were neither ill
nor sought a voluntary euthanasia. They were political victims sent
thither by Eddo as an alternative to the terror of the Red Death, whereby
according to their strange and ancient creed, they would have risked the
spilling of their souls. For the most part the crime of these poor people
was that they had been adherents and supporters of the old Mother of the
Tree, Nya, over whom Eddo was at last triumphant. On their way up to the
Fence such individuals would stop to exchange a last few, sad words with
their dethroned priestess.
Then without any resistance they went on with the rest, but from them the
mutes received scant offerings, or none at all, with the result that they
were cast into the worst situated and most inconvenient graves, or even
tumbled two or three together into some shapeless corner hole. But, after
all, that mattered nothing to them so long as they received sepulchre
within the Wall, which was their birth-or, rather, their death-right.
The priest-mutes themselves were a strange folk, and, oddly enough, Rachel
observed, by comparison, quite cheerful in their demeanour, for when off
duty they would smile and gibber at each other like monkeys, and carry on
a kind of market between themselves. They lived in that part of the
circumference of the Wall which was behind the hill whereon grew the
sacred tree. Here no burials took place, and instead of graves appeared
their tiny huts arranged in neat streets and squares. In these they and
their forefathers had dwelt from time immemorial; indeed, each little hut
with a few yards of fenced-in ground about it ornamented with dwarf trees,
was a freehold that descended from father to son. For the mutes married,
and were given in marriage, like other folk, though their children were
few, a family of three being considered very large, while many of the
couples had none at all. But those who were born to them were all
deaf-mutes, although their other senses seemed to be singularly acute.
These mutes had their virtues; thus some of them were very kind to each
other, and especially to those from the outer forest world who came hither
to bid farewell to that world, and others, renouncing marriage and all
earthly joys, devoted their lives, which appeared to be long, to the
worship of the Spirit of the Tree. Also they had their vices, such as
theft, and the seducing away of the betrothed of others, but the chief of
them was jealousy, which sometimes led to murder by poisoning, an art
whereof they were great masters.
When such a crime was discovered, and a case of it happened during the
first days of Rachel's sojourn among them, the accused was put upon his
trial before the chief of the mutes, evidence for and against him being
given by signs which they all understood. Then if a case were established
against him, he was forced to drink a bowl of medicine. If he did this
with impunity he was acquitted, but if it disagreed with him his guilt was
held to be established. Now came the strange part of the matter. All his
life the evil-doer had been accustomed to go within the Fence about his
business and take no harm, but after such condemnation he was conducted
there with the usual ceremonies and very shortly perished like any other
uninitiated person. Whether this issue was due to magic or to mental
collapse, or to the previous administration of poison, no one seemed to
know, not even Nya herself. So, at least, she declared to Rachel.
At each new moon these mutes celebrated what Rachel was informed they
looked upon as a festival. That is, they climbed the Tree of the Tribe and
scattered themselves among its enormous branches, where for several hours
they mumbled and gibbered in the dark like a troop of baboons. Then they
came down, and mounting the huge, surrounding wall, crept around its
circumference. Occasionally this journey resulted in an accident, as one
of them would fall from the wall and be dashed to pieces, although it was
noticed that the unfortunate was generally a person who, although guilty
of no actual crime, chanced to be out of favour with the other priests and
priestesses. After the circuit of the wall had been accomplished, with or
without accidents, the dwarfs feasted round a fire, drinking some spirit
that threw them into a sleep in which wonderful visions appeared to them.
Such was their only entertainment, if so it could be called, since
doubtless the ceremony was of a religious character. For the rest they
seldom if ever left the holy place, which was known as "Within the Wall,"
most of them never doing so in the course of a long life.
Beyond the burial of the dead they did no work, as their food was brought
to them daily by outside people, who were called "the slaves of the Wall."
Their only method of conversation was by signs, and they seemed to desire
no other. Indeed, if, as occasionally happened, a child was born to any of
them who could hear or speak like other human beings, it was either given
over to the other dwarfs, or if the discovery was not made until it was
old enough to observe, it was sacrificed by being bound to the trunk of
the tribal tree "lest it should tell the secret of the Tree."
Such were the weird, half-human folk among whom Rachel was destined to
dwell. The Zulus had been bad and bloodthirsty, but compared to these
little wizards they seemed to her as angels. The Zulus at any rate had
left her her thoughts, but these stunted wretches, she was sure, pried
into them and read them with the help of their bowls, for often she caught
sight of them signing to each other about her as she passed, and pointing
with grins to pictures which they saw in the water.
It was night again, still, silent night made odorous with the heavy cedar
scents of the huge tree upon the mound. Rachel and Noie sat before Nya in
the cave beneath the burning lamp about which fluttered the big-winged,
"Thou didst not find him yonder among the Shades," said Nya suddenly, as
though she were continuing a conversation. "Say now, Maiden, art thou
satisfied, or wouldst thou seek for him again?"
"I would seek him through all the heavens and all the earths. Mother, my
soul burns for a sight of him, and if I cannot find him, then I must die,
and go perchance where he is not."
"Good," said Nya; "the effort wearies me, for I grow weak, yet for thy
sake I will try to help thee, who saved me from the Red Death."
Then the dwarf-women came in and beat upon their drums, and, as before,
the old Mother of the Trees began to sing, but Noie sat aside, for in this
night's play she would take no part. Again Rachel sank into sleep, and
again it seemed to her that she was swept from the earth into the region
of the stars and there searched world after world.
She saw many strange and marvellous things, things so wonderful that her
memory was buried beneath the mass of them, so that when she woke again
she could not recall their details. Only of Richard she saw nothing. Yet
as her life returned to her, it seemed to Rachel that for one brief moment
she was near to Richard. She could not see him, and she could not hear
him, yet certainly he was near her. Then her eyes opened, and Nya ceasing
from her song, asked:
"What tidings, Wanderer?"
"Little," she answered feebly, for she was very tired, and in a faint
voice she told her all.
"Good," said Nya, nodding her grey head. "This time he was not so far
away. To-morrow I will make thy spirit strong, and then perhaps he will
come to thee. Now rest."
So next night Nya laid her charm upon Rachel as before, and again her
spirit sought for Richard. This time it seemed to her that she did not
leave the earth, but with infinite pain, with terrible struggling,
wandered to and fro about it, bewildered by a multitude of faces, led
astray by myriads of footsteps. Yet in the end she found him. She heard
him not, she saw him not, she knew not where he was, but undoubtedly for a
while she was with him, and awoke again, exhausted, but very happy.
Nya heard her story, weighing every word of it but saying nothing. Then
she signed to the dwarfs to bring her a bowl of dew, and stared in it for
a long while. The dwarf-women also stared into their bowls, and afterwards
came to her, talking to her on their fingers, after which all three of
them upset the dew upon a rock, "breaking the pictures."
"Hast thou seen aught?" asked Rachel eagerly.
"Yes, Maiden," answered the mother. "I and these wise women have seen
something, the same thing, and therefore a true thing. But ask not what it
was, for we may not tell thee, nor would it help thee if we did. Only be
of a good courage, for this I say, there is hope for thee."
So Rachel went to sleep, pondering on these words, of which neither she
nor Noie could guess the meaning. The next night when she prayed Nya to
lay the spell upon her, the old Mother would not.
"Not so," she said. "Thrice have I rent thy soul from thy body and sent it
afar, and this I may do no more and keep thee living, nor could I if I
would, for I grow feeble. Neither is it necessary, seeing that although
thou knowest it not, that spirit of thine, having found him, is with him
wherever he may be, yes, at his side comforting him."
"Aye, but Where is he, Mother? Let me look in the bowl and see his face,
as I believe that thou hast done."
"Look if thou wilt," and she motioned to one of the dwarf-women to place a
bowl before her.
So Rachel looked long and earnestly, but saw nothing of Richard, only many
fantastic pictures, most of which she knew again for scenes from her own
past. At length, worn out, she thrust away the bowl, and asked in a bitter
voice why they mocked her, and how it came about that she who had seen the
coming of Richard in the pool in Zululand, and the fate of Dingaan the
King in the bowl of Eddo, could now see nothing of any worth.
"As regards the vision of the pool I cannot say, Maiden," replied Nya,
"for that was born of thine own heart, and had nothing to do with our
magic. As regards the visions in the bowl of Eddo, they were his visions,
not thine, or rather my visions that I saw before he started hence. I
passed them on to him, and he passed them on to thee, and thou didst pass
them on to King Dingaan. Far-sighted and pure-souled as thou art, yet not
having been instructed in their wizardry, thou wilt see nothing in the
bowls of the dwarfs unless their blood is mingled with thy blood."
"'Their blood mingled with my blood?' What dost thou mean, Mother?"
"What I say, neither more nor less. If Eddo has his will, thou wilt rule
after me here as Mother of the Trees. But first thy veins must be opened,
and the veins of Eddo must be opened, and Eddo's blood must be poured into
thee, and thy blood into him. Then thou wilt be able to read in the bowls
as we can, and Eddo will be thy master, and thou must do his bidding while
you both shall live."
"If so," answered Rachel, "I think that neither of us will live long."
That night Rachel felt too exhausted to sleep, though why this should be
she could not guess, as she had done nothing all day save watch the mutes
at their dreary tasks, and it was strange, therefore, that she should feel
as though she had made a long journey upon her feet. About an hour before
the dawn she saw Nya rise and glide past her towards the mouth of the
cave, carrying in her hand a little drum, like those used by the mute
women. Something impelled her to follow, and waking Noie at her side, she
bade her come also.
Outside of the cave by the faint starlight they saw the little shape of
Nya creeping down the mound, and thence across the open space towards the
wall, and went after her, thinking that she intended to pass the wall. But
this she did not do, for when she came to its foot Nya, notwithstanding
her feebleness, began to climb the rough stones as actively as any cat,
and though their ascent seemed perilous enough, reached the crest of the
wall sixty feet above in safety, and there sat herself down. Next they
heard her beating upon the drum she bore, single strokes always, but some
of them slow, and some rapid, with a pause between every five or ten
strokes, "as though she were spelling out words," thought Rachel.
After a while Nya ceased her beating, and in the utter silence of the
night, which was broken only, as always, by the occasional crash of
falling trees, for no breath of air stirred, and all the beasts of prey
had sought their lairs before light came, both she and Noie seemed to
hear, far, infinitely far away, the faint beat of an answering drum. It
would appear that Nya heard it also, for she struck a single note upon
hers as though in acknowledgement, after which the distant beating went
on, paused as though for a reply from some other unheard drum, and again
from time to time went on, perhaps repeating that reply.
For a long while this continued until the sky began to grow grey indeed,
when Nya beat for several minutes and was answered by a single, far-off
note. Then glancing at the heavens she prepared to descend the wall, while
Rachel and Noie slipped back to the cave and feigned to be asleep. Soon
she entered, and stood over them shaking her grey head and asking how it
came about that they thought that she, the Mother of the Trees, should be
so easily deceived.
"So thou sawest us," said Rachel, trying not to look ashamed.
"No; I saw you not with my eyes, either of you, but I felt both of you
following me, and heard in my heart what you were whispering to each
other. Well, Inkosazana, art thou the wiser for this journey?"
"No, Mother, but tell us if thou wilt what thou wast beating on that
"Gladly," she answered. "I was sending certain orders to the slave peoples
who still know me as Mother of the Trees, and obey my words. Perhaps thou
dost not believe that while I sat upon yonder wall I talked across the
desert to the chiefs of the marches upon the far border of the land of the
Umkulu, and that by now at my bidding they have sent out men upon an
errand of mine."
"What was the errand, Mother?" asked Rachel curiously.
"I said the errand was mine, not thine, Maiden. It is not pressing, but as
I do not know how long my strength will last, I thought it well that it
should be settled." Then without more words she coiled herself up on her
mat and seemed to go to sleep.
It was after this incident of the drums that Rachel experienced the
strangest days, or rather weeks of her life. Nya sent her into no more
trances, and to all outward seeming nothing happened. Yet within her much
did happen. Her madness had utterly left her and still she was not as
other women are, or as she herself had been in health. Her mind seemed to
wander and she knew not whither it wandered. Yet for long hours, although
she was awake and, so Noie said, talking or eating or walking as usual, it
was away from her, and afterwards she could remember nothing. Also this
happened at night as well as during the day, and ever more and more often.
She could remember nothing, yet out of this nothingness there grew upon
her a continual sense of the presence of Richard Darrien, a presence that
seemed to come nearer and nearer, closer and closer to her heart. It was
the assurance of this presence that made those long days so happy to her,
though when she was herself, she felt that it could be naught but a dream.
Yet why should a dream move her so strangely, and why should a dream weary
her so much? Why, after sleeping all night, should she awake feeling as
though she had journeyed all night? Why should her limbs ache and she grow
thin like one who travels without cease? Why should she seem time after
time to have passed great dangers, to have known cold, and heat and want
and struggle against waters and the battling against storms? Why should
her knowledge of this Richard, of the very heart and soul of Richard, grow
ever deeper till it was as though they were not twain, but one?
She could not answer these questions, and Noie could not answer them, and
when she asked Nya the old Mother shook her head and could not, or would
not answer. Only the dwarf-mutes seemed to know the answer, for when she
passed them they nudged each other, and grinned and thrust their little
woolly heads together staring, several of them, into one bowl. But if Noie
and Nya knew nothing of the cause of these things the effect of them
stirred them both, for they saw that Rachel, the tall and strong, grew
faint and weak and began to fade away as one fades upon whom deadly
sickness has laid its hand.
Thus three weeks or so went by, until one day in some fashion of her own
Nya caused to arise an the mind of Eddo a knowledge of her desire to speak
with him. Early the next morning Eddo arrived at the Holy Place
accompanied only by his familiar, Hana, and Nya met them alone in the
mouth of the cave.
"I see that thou art very white and thin, but still alive, old woman,"
sneered Eddo, adding: "All the thousands of the people yonder thought that
long ere this thou wouldst have passed within the Fence. May I take back
that good tidings to them?"
The ancient Mother of the Trees looked at him sternly.
"It is true, thou evil mocker," she said, "that I am white and thin. It is
true that I grow like to the skeleton of a rotted leaf, all ribs and
netted veins without substance. It is true that my round eyes start from
my head like to those of a bush plover, or the tree lizard, and that soon
I must pass within the Fence, as thou hast so long desired that I should
do that thou mayest reign alone over the thousands of the People of the
Dwarfs and wield their wisdom to increase thy power, thou poison-bloated
toad. All these things are true, Eddo, yet ere I go I have a word to say
to thee to which thou wilt do well to listen."
"Speak on," said Eddo. "Without doubt thou hast wisdom of a sort; honey
thou hast garnered during many years, and it is well that I should suck
the store before it is too late."
"Eddo," said Nya, "I am not the only one in this Holy Place who grows
white and thin. Look, there is another," and she nodded towards Rachel,
who walked past them aimlessly with dreaming eyes, attended by Noie, upon
whose arm she leant.
"I see," answered Eddo; "this haunted death-prison presses the life out of
her, also I think that thou hast sent her Spirit travelling, as thou
knowest how to do, and such journeys sap the strength of flesh and blood."
"Perhaps; but now before it is too late I would send her body travelling
also; only thou, who hast the power for a while, dost bar the road."
"I know," said Eddo, nodding his bead and looking at his companion. "We
all know, do we not, Hana? we who have heard certain beatings of drums in
the night, and studied dew drops beneath the trees at dawn. Thou wouldst
send her to meet another traveller."
"Yes, and if thou art wise thou wilt let her go."
"Why should I let her go," asked the priest passionately, "and with her
all my greatness? She must reign here after thee, for at her feet thy Tree
fell, and it is the will of the people, who weary of dwarf queens and
desire one that is tall and beautiful and white. Moreover, when my blood
has been poured into her, her wisdom will be great, greater than thine or
that of any Mother that went before thee, for she is '_Wensi_' the Virgin,
and her soul is purer than them all. I will not let her go. If she leaves
this Holy Place where none may do her harm, she shall die, and then her
Spirit may go to seek that other traveller."
"Thou art mad, Eddo, mad and blind with pride and folly. Let her be, and
choose another Mother. Now, there is Noie."
"Thy great-niece, Nya, who thinks as thou thinkest, and hates those whom
thou hatest. Nay, I will have none of that half-breed. Yonder white
Inkosazana shall be our queen and no other."
"Then, Eddo," whispered Nya, leaning forward and looking into his eyes,
"she shall be the last Mother of this people. Fool, there are those who
fight for her against whom thou canst not prevail. Thou knowest them not,
but I know them, and I tell thee that they make ready thy doom. Have thy
way, Eddo; it was not for her that I pleaded with thee, but for the sake
of the ancient People of the Ghosts, whose fate draws nigh to them. Fool,
have thy way, spin thy web, and be caught in it thyself. I tell thee,
Eddo, that thy death shall be redder than any thou hast ever dreamed, nor
shall it fall on thee alone. Begone now, and trouble me no more till in
another place all that is left of thee shall creep to my feet, praying me
for a pardon thou shalt not find. Begone, for the last leaf withers on my
Tree and to-morrow I pass within the Fence. Say to the people that their
Mother against whom they rebelled is dead, and that she bids them prepare
to meet the evil which, alive, she warded from their heads."
Now Eddo strove to answer, but could not, for there was something in the
flaming eyes of Nya which frightened him. He looked at Hana, and Hana
looked back at him, then taking each other's hand they slunk away towards
the wall, staggering blindly through the sunshine towards the shade.
THE DREAM IN THE NORTH
Richard Darrien remembered drinking a bowl of milk in the hut in which he
was imprisoned at Mafooti, and instantly feeling a cold chill run to his
heart and brain, after which he remembered no more for many a day. At
length, however, by slow degrees, and with sundry slips back into
unconsciousness, life and some share of his reason and memory returned to
him. He awoke to find himself lying in a hut roughly fashioned of
branches, and attended by a Kaffir woman of middle age.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"I am named Mami," she answered.
"Mami, Mami! I know the name, and I know the voice. Say, were you one of
the wives of Ibubesi, she who spoke with me through the fence?" and he
strove to raise himself on his arm to look at her, but fell back from
"Yes, Inkoos, I was one of his wives."
"Was? Then where is Ibubesi now?"
"Dead, Inkoos. The fire has burned him up with his kraal Mafooti."
"With the kraal Mafooti! Where, then, is the Inkosazana? Answer, woman,
and be swift," he cried in a hollow voice.
"Alas! Inkoos, alas! she is dead also, for she was in the kraal when the
fire swept it, and was seen standing on the top of a hut where she had
taken refuge, and after that she was seen no more."
"Then let me die and go to her," exclaimed Richard with a groan, as he
fell back upon his bed, where he lay almost insensible for three more
Yet he did not die, for he was young and very strong, and Mami poured milk
down his throat to keep the life in him. Indeed little by little something
of his strength came back, so that at last he was able to think and talk
with her again, and learned all the dreadful story.
He learned how the people of Mafooti, fearing the vengeance of Dingaan,
had fled away from their kraal, carrying what they thought to be his body
with them, lest it should remain in evidence against them, and taking all
the cattle that they could gather. Every one of them had fled that could
travel, only Ibubesi and a few sick, and certain folk who chanced to be
outside the walls, remaining behind. It was from two of these, who escaped
during the burning of the kraal by the Zulus, or by fire from the Heavens,
they knew not which, that they had heard of the awful end of Ibubesi, and
of his prisoner, the Inkosazana. As for themselves, they had travelled
night and day, till they reached a certain secret and almost inaccessible
place in the great Quathlamba Mountains, in which people had lived whom
Chaka wiped out, and there hidden themselves. In this place they remained,
hoping that Dingaan would not care to follow them so far, and purposing to
make it their home, since here they found good mealie lands, and
fortunately the most of their cattle remained alive. That was all the
story, there was nothing more to tell.
A day or two later Richard was able to creep out of the hut and see the
place. It was as Mami had said, very strong, a kind of tableland ringed
round with precipices that could only be climbed through a single narrow
nek, and overshadowed by the great Quathlamba range. The people, who were
engaged in planting their corn, gathered round him, staring at him as
though he were one risen from the dead, and greeted him with respectful
words. He spoke to several of them, including the two men who had seen the
burning of Mafooti, though from a little distance. But they could tell him
no more than Mami had done, except that they were sure that the Inkosazana
had perished in the flames, as had many of the Zulus, who broke into the
town. Richard was sure of it also--who would not have been?--and crept
back broken-hearted to his hut, he who had lost all, and longed that he
But he did not die, he grew strong again, and when he was well and fit to
travel, went to the headmen of the people, saying that now he desired to
leave them and return to his own place in the Cape Colony. The headmen
said No, he must not leave, for in their hearts they were sure that he
would go, not to the Cape Colony, but to Zululand, there to discover all
he could as to the death of the Inkosazana. So they told him that with
them he must bide, for then if the Zulus tracked them out they would be
able to produce him, who otherwise would be put to the spear, every man of
them, as his murderers. The sin of Ibubesi who had been their chief, clung
to them, and they knew well what Dingaan and Tamboosa had sworn should
happen to those who harmed the white chief, Dario, who was under the
mantle of their Inkosazana.
Richard reasoned with them, but it was of no use, they, would not let him
go. Therefore in the end he appeared to fall in with their humour, and
meanwhile began to plan escape. One dark night he tried it indeed, only to
be seized in the mouth of the nek, and brought back to his hut. Next
morning the headman spoke with him, telling him that he should only depart
thence over their dead bodies, and that they watched him night and day;
that the nek, moreover, was always guarded. Then they made an offer to
him. He was a white man, they said, and cleverer than they were; let them
come under his wing, let him be their chief, for he would know how to
protect them from the Zulus and any other enemies. He could take over the
wives of Ibubesi (at this proposition Richard shuddered), and they would
obey him in all things, only he must not attempt to leave them--which he
should never do alive.
Richard put the proposal by, but in the end, not because he wished it,
but by the mere weight of his white man's blood, and for the lack of
anything else to do, drifted into some such position. Only at the wives of
Ibubesi, or any other wives, he would not so much as look, a slight that
gave offence to those women, but made the others laugh.
So, for certain long weeks he sat in that secret nook in the mountains as
the chief of a little Kaffir tribe, occupying himself with the planting of
crops, the building of walls and huts, the drilling of men and the
settling of quarrels. All day he worked thus, but after the day came the
night when he did not work, and those nights he dreaded. For then the
languor, not of body, but of mind, which the poison the old
witch-doctoress had given to Ishmael had left behind it, would overcome
him, bringing with it black despair, and his grief would get a hold of
him, torturing his heart. For of the memory of Rachel he could never be
rid for a single hour, and his love for her grew deeper day by day. And
she was dead! Oh, she was dead, leaving him living.
One night he dreamed of Rachel, dreamed that she was searching for him and
calling him. It was a very vivid dream, but he woke up and it passed away
as such dreams do. Only all the day that followed he felt a strange
throbbing in his head, and found himself turning ever towards the north.
The next night he dreamed again of her, and heard her say, "The search has
been far and long, but I have found you, Richard. Open your eyes now, and
you will see my face." So he opened his eyes, and there, sure enough, in
the darkness he perceived the outline of her sweet, remembered face, about
which fell her golden hair. For one moment only he perceived it, then it
was gone, and after that her presence never seemed to leave him. He could
not see her, he could not touch her, and yet she was ever at his side. His
brain ached with the thought of her, her breath seemed to fan his hands
and hair. At night her face floated before him, and in his dreams her
voice called him, saying: _"Come to me, come to me, Richard. I am in need
of you. Come to me. I myself will be your guide."_
Then he would wake, and remembering that she was dead, grew sure and ever
surer that the Spirit of Rachel was calling him down to death. It called
him from the north, always from the north. Soon he could scarcely walk
southwards, or east or west, for ere he had gone many yards his feet
turned and set his face towards the north, that was to the narrow nek
between the precipices which the Kaffirs guarded night and day.
One evening he went to his hut to sleep, if sleep would come to him. It
came, and with it that face and voice, but the face seemed paler, and the
voice more insistent.
"Will you not listen to me," it said, "you who were my love? For how long
must I plead with you? Soon my power will leave me, the opportunity will
be passed, and then how will you find me, Richard, my lover? Rise up, rise
up and follow ere it be too late, for I myself will be your guide."
He awoke. He could bear it no more. Perhaps he was mad, and these were
visions of his madness, mocking visions that led him to his death. Well,
if so, he still would follow them. Perhaps her body was buried in the
north. If so, he would be buried there also; perhaps her Soul dwelt in the
north. If so, his soul would fly thither to join it. The Kaffirs would
kill him in the pass. Well, if so, he would die with his face set
northwards whither Rachel drew him.
He rose up and wrapped himself in a cloak of goatskins. He filled a hide
bag with sun-dried flesh and parched corn, and hung it about his shoulders
with a gourd of water, for after all he might live a little while and need
food and drink. As he had no gun he took a staff and a knife and a
broad-bladed spear, and leaving the hut, set his face northward and walked
towards the mouth of the nek. At the first step which he took the torment
in his head seemed to leave him, who fought no longer, who had seemed
obedient to that mysterious summons. Quietness and confidence possessed
him. He was going to his end, but what did it matter? The dream beckoned
and he must follow. The moon shone bright, but he took no trouble to hide
himself, it did not seem to be worth while.
Now he was in the nek and drawing near to the place where the guard was
stationed, still he marched on, boldly, openly. As he thought, they were
on the alert. They drew out from behind the rocks and barred his path.
"Whither goest thou, lord Dario?" asked their captain. "Thou knowest that
here thou mayest not pass."
"I follow a Ghost to the north," he answered, "and living or dead, I
"_Ow_!" said the captain. "He says that he follows a Ghost. Well, we have
nothing to do with ghosts. Take him, unharmed if possible, but take him."
So, urged thereto by their own fears, since for their safety's sake they
dared not let him go, the men sprang towards him. They sprang towards him
where he stood waiting the end, for give back he would not, and of a
sudden fell down upon their faces, hiding their heads among the stones.
Richard did not know what had happened to them that they behaved thus
strangely, nor did he care. Only seeing them fallen he walked on over
them, and pursued his way along the nek and down it to the plains beyond.
All that night he walked, looking behind him from time to time to see if
any followed, but none came. He was alone, quite alone, save for the dream
that led him towards the north. At sunrise he rested and slept a while,
then, awaking after midday, went on his road. He did not know the road,
yet never was he in doubt for a moment. It was always clear to him whither
he should go. That night he finished his food and again slept a while,
going forward at the dawn. In the morning he met some Kaffirs, who
questioned him, but he answered only that he was following a Dream to the
north. They stared at him, seemed to grow frightened and ran away. But
presently some of them came back and placed food in his path, which he
took and left them.
He came to the kraal Mafooti. It was utterly deserted, and he wandered
amidst its ashes. Here and there he found the bones of those who had
perished in the fire, and turned them over with his staff wondering
whether any of them had belonged to Rachel. In that place he slept a night
thinking that perhaps his journey was ended, and that here he would die
where he believed Rachel had died. But when he waked at the dawn, it was
to find that something within him still drew him towards the north, more
strongly indeed than ever before.
So he left what had been the town Mafooti. Walking along the edge of the
cleft into which Ishmael had leapt on fire, he climbed the walls built
with so much toil to keep out the Zulus, and at last came to the river
which Rachel had swum. It was low now, and wading it he entered Zululand.
Here the natives seemed to know of his approach, for they gathered in
numbers watching him, and put food in his path. But they would not speak
to him, and when he addressed them saying that he followed a Dream and
asking if they had seen the Dream, they cried out that he was _tagali_,
bewitched, and fled away.
He continued his journey, finding each night a hut prepared for him to
sleep in, and food for him to eat, till at length one evening he reached
the Great Place, Umgugundhlovu. Through its streets he marched with a set
face, while thousands stared at him in silence. Then a captain pointed out
a hut to him, and into it he entered, ate and slept. At dawn he rose, for
he knew that here he must not tarry; the spirit face of Rachel still hung
before him, the spirit voice still whispered--"_Forward, forward to the
north. I myself will be your guide_." In his path sat the King and his
Councillors, and around them a regiment of men. He walked through them
unheeding, till at length, when he was in front of the King, they barred
his road, and he halted.
"Who art thou and what is thy business?" asked an old Councillor with a
"I am Richard Darrien," he answered, "and here I have no business. I
journey to the north. Stay me not."
"We know thee," said the Councillor, "thou art the lord Dario that didst
dwell in the shadow of the Inkosazana. Thou art the white chief whom the
wild beast, Ibubesi, slew at the kraal Mafooti. Why does thy ghost come
hither to trouble us?"
"Living or dead, ghost or man, I travel to the north. Stay me not," he
"What seekest thou in the north, thou lord Dario?"
"I seek a Dream; a Spirit leads me to find a Dream. Seest thou it not, Man
with the withered hand?"
"Ah!" they repeated, "he seeks a Dream. A Spirit leads him to find a Dream
in the north."
"What is this Dream like?" asked Mopo of the withered hand.
"Come, stand at my side and look. There, dost thou see it floating in the
air before us, thou who hast eyes that can read a Dream?"
Mopo came and looked, then his knees trembled a little and he said:
"Aye, lord Dario, I see and I know that face."
"Thou knowest the face, old fool," broke in Dingaan angrily. "Then whose
"O King," answered Mopo, dropping his eyes, "it is not lawful to speak the
name, but the face is the face of one who sat where that wanderer stands,
and showed thee certain pictures in a bowl of water."
Now Dingaan trembled, for the memory of those visions haunted him night
and day; moreover he thought at times that they drew near to their
"The white man is mad," he said, "and thou, Mopo, art mad also. I have
often thought it, and that it would be well if thou wentest on a long
journey--for thy health. This Dario shall stay here a while. I will not
suffer him to wander through my land crazing the people with his tales of
dreams and visions. Take him and hold him; the Circle of the Doctors shall
inquire into the matter."
So Dingaan spoke, who in his heart was afraid lest this wild-eyed Dario
should learn that he had given the Inkosazana to the dwarf folk when she
was mad, to appease them after they had prophesied evil to him. Also he
remembered that it was because of the murders done by Ibubesi that the
Inkosazana had gone mad, and did not understand if Dario had been killed
at the kraal Mafooti how it could be that he now stood before him.
Therefore he thought that he would keep him a prisoner until he found out
all the truth of the matter, and whether he were still a man or a ghost or
a wizard clothed in the shape of the dead.
At the bidding of the King, guards sprang forward to seize Richard, but
the old Councillor, Mopo, shrunk away behind him hiding his eyes with his
withered hand. They sprang forward, and yet they laid no finger on him,
but fell oft to right and left, saying:
"Kill us, if thou wilt, Black One, we cannot!"
"The wizard has bewitched them," said Dingaan angrily. "Here, you Doctors,
you whose trade it is to catch wizards, take this white fellow and bind
Unwillingly enough the Doctors, of whom there were eight or ten sitting
apart, rose to do the King's bidding. They came on towards Richard, some
of them singing songs, and some muttering charms, and as they came he
laughed and said:
"Beware! you _Abangoma_, the Dream is looking at you very angrily." Then
they too broke away to right and left, crying out that this was a wizard
against whom they had no power.
Now Dingaan grew mad with wrath, and shouted to his soldiers to seize the
white man, and if he resisted them to kill him with their sticks, for of
witchcraft they had known enough in Zululand of late.
So thick as bees the regiment formed up in front of him, shouting and
waving their kerries, for here in the King's Place they bore no spears.
"Make way there," said Richard, "I can stay no longer, I must to the
The soldiers did not stir, only a captain stepped out bidding him give up
his spear and yield himself, or be killed. Richard walked forward and at a
sign from the captain, men sprang at him, lifting their kerries, to dash
out his brains. Then suddenly in front of Richard there appeared something
faint and white, something that walked before him. The soldiers saw it,
and the kerries fell from their hands. The regiment behind saw it, and
turning, burst away like a scared herd of cattle. They did not wait to
seek the gates, they burst through the fence of the enclosure, and were
gone, leaving it flat behind them. The King and his Councillors saw it
also, and more clearly than the rest.
_"The Inkosazana!"_ they cried. "It is the Inkosazana who walks before him
that she loved!" and they fell upon their faces. Only Dingaan remained
seated on his stool.
"Go," he said hoarsely to Richard, "go, thou wizard, north or south or
east or west, if only thou wilt take that Spirit with thee, for she bodes
evil to my land."
So Richard, who had seen nothing, marched away from the kraal
Umgugundhlovu, and once more set his face towards the north, the north
that drew him as it draws the needle of a compass.
The road that Rachel and the dwarfs had travelled he travelled also.
Although from day to day he knew not where his feet would lead him, still
he travelled it step by step. Nor did any hurt come to him. In the country
where men dwelt, being forewarned of his coming by messengers, they
brought him food and guarded him, and when he passed out into the
wilderness some other power guarded him. He had no fear at all. At night
he would lie down without a fire, and the lions would roar about him, but
they never harmed him. He would plunge into a swamp or a river and always
pass it safely. When water failed he would find it without search; when
there was no food, it would seem to be brought to him. Once an eagle
dropped a bustard at his feet. Once he found a buck fresh slain by
leopards. Once when he was very hungry he saw that he had laid down to
sleep by a nest of ostrich eggs, and this food he cooked, making fire
after the native fashion with sharp sticks, as he knew how to do.
At length all the swamps were passed and in the third week of his
journeyings he reached the sloping uplands, on the edge of which he awoke
one morning to find himself surrounded by a circle of great men, giants,
who stood staring at him. He arose, thinking that at last his hour had
come, as it seemed to him that they were about to kill him. But instead of
killing him these huge men saluted him humbly, and offered him food upon
their knees, and new hide shoes for his feet--for his own were worn
out--and cloaks and garments of skin, which things he accepted thankfully,
for by now he was almost naked. Then they brought a litter and wished him
to enter it, but this he refused. Heeding them no more, as soon as he had
eaten and filled his bag and water-bottle, he started on towards the
north. Indeed, he could not have stayed if he had wished; his brain seemed
to be full of one thought only, to travel till he reached his journey's
end, whatever it might be, and before his eyes he saw one thing only, the
spirit face of Rachel, that led him on towards that end. Sometimes it was
there for hours, then for hours again it would be absent. When it was
present he looked at it; when it was gone he dreamed of it, for him it was
the same. But one thing was ever with him, that magnet in his heart which
drew his feet towards the north, and from step to step showed him the road
that he should travel.
A number of the giant men accompanied him. He noticed it, but took no
heed. So long as they did not attempt to stay or turn him he was
indifferent whether they came or went away. As a result he travelled in
much more comfort, since now everything was made easy and ready for him.
Thus he was fed with the best that the land provided, and at night
shelters were built for him to sleep in. He discovered that a captain of
the giants could understand a few words of some native language which he
knew, and asked him why they helped him. The captain replied by order of
"Mother of Trees." Who or what "Mother of Trees" might be Richard was
unable to discover, so he gave up his attempts at talk and walked on.
They traversed the fertile uplands and reached the edge of the fearful
desert. It did not frighten him; he plunged into it as he would have
plunged into a sea, or a lake of fire, had it lain in his way. He was like
a bird whose instinct at the approach of summer or of winter leads it
without doubt or error to some far spot, beyond continents and oceans,
some land that it has never seen, leads it in surety and peace to its
appointed rest. A guard of the giant men came with him into the desert,
also carriers who bore skins of water. In that burning heat the journey
was dreadful, yet Richard accomplished it, wearing down all his escort,
until at its further lip but one man was left. There even he sank
exhausted and began to beat upon a little drum that he carried, which drum
had been passed on to him by those who were left behind. But Richard was
not exhausted. His strength seemed to be greater than it had ever been
before, or that which drew him forward had acquired more power. He
wondered vaguely why a man should choose such a place and time to play
upon a drum, and went on alone.
Before him, some miles away, he saw a forest of towering trees that
stretched further than his eye could reach. As he approached that forest
heading for a certain tall tree, why he knew not, the sunset dyed it red
as though it had been on fire, and he thought that he discerned little
shapes flitting to and fro amidst the boles of trees. Then he entered the
forest, whereof the boughs arched above him like the endless roof of a
cathedral borne upon innumerable pillars. There was deep gloom that grew
presently to darkness wherein here and there glow-worms shone faintly like
tapers dying before an altar, and winds sighed like echoes of evening
prayers. He could see to walk no longer, sudden weariness overcame him, so
according to his custom he laid himself down to sleep at the bole of a
A while had passed, he never knew how long, when Richard was awakened from
deep slumber by feeling many hands fiercely at work upon him. These hands
were small like those of children; this he could tell from the touch of
them, although the darkness was so dense that he was able to see nothing.
Two of them gripped him by the throat so as to prevent him from crying
out; others passed cords about his wrists, ankles and middle until he
could not stir a single limb. Then he was dragged back a few paces and
lashed to the bole of a tree, as he guessed, that under which he had been
sleeping. The hands let go of him, and his throat being free he called out
for help. But those vast forest aisles seemed to swallow up his voice. It
fell back on him from the canopy of huge boughs above, it was lost in the
immense silence. Only from close at hand he heard little peals of thin and
mocking laughter. So he too grew silent, for who was there to help him
here? He struggled to loose himself, for the impalpable power which had
guided him so far was now at work within him more strongly than ever
before. It called to him to come, it drew him onward, it whispered to him
that the goal was near. But the more he writhed and twisted the deeper did
the cruel cords or creepers cut into his flesh. Yet he fought on till,
utterly exhausted, his head fell forward, and he swooned away.
THE END AND THE BEGINNING
On the day following that when she had summoned Eddo to speak with her,
Nya sat at the mouth of the cave. It was late afternoon, and already the
shadows gathered so quickly that save for her white hair, her little
childlike shape, withered now almost to a skeleton, was scarcely visible
against the black rock. Walking to and fro in her aimless fashion, as she
would do for hours at a time, Rachel accompanied by Noie passed and
repassed her, till at length the old woman lifted her head and listened to
something which was quite inaudible to their ears. Then she beckoned to
Noie, who led Rachel to her.
"Maiden beloved," she said in a feeble voice, after they had sat down in
front of her, "my hour has come, I have sent for thee to bid thee farewell
till we meet again in a country where thou hast travelled for a little
while. Before the sun sets I pass within the Fence."
At this tidings Rachel began to weep, for she had learned to love this old
dwarf-woman who had been so kind to her in her misery, and she was now so
weak that she could not restrain her fears.
"Mother," she said, "for thee it is joy to go. I know it, and therefore
cannot wish that thou shouldst stay. Yet what shall I do when thou hast
left me alone amidst all these cruel folk? Tell me, what shall I do?"
"Perchance thou wilt seek another helper. Maiden, and perchance thou shall
find another to guard and comfort thee. Follow thy heart, obey thy heart,
and remember the last words of Nya--that no harm shall come to thee.
Nay--if I know it, I may tell thee no more, thou who couldst not hear what
the drums said to me but now. Farewell," and turning round she made a sign
to certain dwarf-mutes who were gathered behind her as though they awaited
"Hast thou no last word for me, Mother?" asked Noie.
"Aye, Child," she answered. "Thy heart is very bold, and thou also must
follow it. Though thy sin should be great, perchance thy greater love may
pay its price. At least thou art but an arrow set upon the string, and
that which must be, will be. I think that we shall meet again ere long.
Come hither and kneel at my side."
Noie obeyed, and for a little space Nya whispered in her ear, while as she
listened Rachel saw strange lights shining in Noie's eyes, lights of
terror and of pride, lights of hope and of despair.
"What did she say to you, Noie?" asked Rachel presently.
"I may not tell, Zoola," she answered. "Question me no more."
Now the mutes brought forward a slight litter woven of boughs on which the
withered leaves still hung, boughs from Nya's fallen tree. In this litter
they placed her, for she could no longer walk, and lifted it on to their
shoulders. For one moment she bade them halt, and calling Rachel and Noie
to her, kissed them upon the brow, holding up her thin child-like hands
over them in blessing. Then followed by them both, the bearers went
forward with their burden, taking the road that ran up the hill towards
the sacred tree. As the sun set they passed within the Fence, and laying
down the litter without a word by the bole of the tree, turned and
The darkness fell, and through it Rachel and Noie heard Nya singing for a
little while. The song ceased, and they descended the hill to the cave,
for there they feared to stay lest the Tree should draw them also. They
ate a little food whilst the two women mutes who had sat on each side of
Nya when she showed her magic, stared, now at them, and now into the bowls
of dew that were set before them, wherein they seemed to find something
that interested them much. Noie prayed Rachel to sleep, and she tried to
do so, and could not. For hour after hour she tossed and turned, and at
length sat up, saying to Noie:
"I have fought against it, and I can stay here no longer. Noie, I am
being drawn from this place out into the forest, and I must go."
"What draws thee, Sister?" asked Noie. "Is it Eddo?"
"No, I think not, nothing to do with Eddo. Oh! Noie, Noie, it is the
spirit of Richard Darrien. He is dead, but for days and weeks his spirit
has been with my spirit, and now it draws me into the forest to die and
"Then that is an evil journey thou wouldst take, Zoola?"
"Not so, Noie, it is the best and happiest of journeys. The thought of it
fills me with joy. What said Nya? Follow thy heart. So I follow it. Noie,
farewell, for I must go away."
"Nay," answered Noie, "if thou goest I go, who also was bidden to follow
my heart that is sister to thy heart."
Rachel reasoned with her, but she would not listen. The end of it was that
the two of them rose and threw on their cloaks; also Rachel took the great
Umkulu spear which she had used as a staff on her journey from the desert
to the forest. All this while the dwarf-women watched her, but did
nothing, only watched.
They left the cave and walked to the mouth of the zig-zag slit in the
great wall which was open.
"Perhaps the mutes will kill us in the heart of the wall," said Noie.
"If so the end will be soon and swift," answered Rachel.
Now they were in the cleft, following its slopes and windings. Above them
they could hear the movements of the guardians of the wall who sat amongst
the rough stones, but these did not try to stop them; indeed once or twice
when they did not know which way to turn in the darkness, little hands
took hold of Rachel's cloak and guided her. So they passed through the
wall in safety. Outside of it Rachel paused a moment, looking this way and
that. Then of a sudden she turned and walked swiftly towards the south.
It was dark, densely dark in the forest, yet she never seemed to lose her
path. Holding Noie by the hand she wound in and out between the
tree-trunks without stumbling or even striking her foot against a root.
For an hour or more they walked on this, the strangest of strange
journeys, till at length Rachel whispered;
"Something tells me to stay here," and she leaned against a tree and
stayed, while Noie, who was tired, sat down between the jutting roots of
It was a dead tree, and the top of it had been torn off in some hurricane
so that they could see the sky above them, and by the grey hue of it knew
that it was drawing near to dawn.
The sun rose, and its arrows, that even at midday could never pass the
canopy of foliage, shot straight and vivid between the tall bare trunks.
Oh! Rachel knew the place. It was that place which she had dreamed of as a
child in the island of the flooded river. Just so had the light of the
rising sun fallen on the boles of the great trees, and on her white cloak
and out-spread hair, fallen on her and on another. She strained her eyes
into the gloom. Now those rays pierced it also, and now by them she saw
the yellow-bearded, half-naked man of that long-dead dream leaning against
the tree. His eyes were shut, without doubt he was dead, this was but a
vision of him who had drawn her hither to share his death. It was the
spirit of Richard Darrien!
She drew a little nearer, and the eyes opened, gazing at her. Also from
that form of his was cast a long shadow--there it lay upon the dead
leaves. How came it, she wondered, that a spirit could throw a shadow, and
why was a spirit bound to a tree, as now she perceived he was? He saw her,
and in those grey eyes of his there came a wonderful look. He spoke.
"You have drawn me from far, Rachel, but I have never seen all of you
before, only your face floating in the air before me, although others saw
you. Now I see you also, so I suppose that my time has come. It will soon
be over. Wait a little there, where I can look at you, and presently we
shall be together again. I am glad."
Rachel could not speak. A lump rose in her throat and choked her. Betwixt
fear and hope her heart stood still. Only with the spear in her hand she
pointed at her own shadow thrown by the level rays of the rising sun. He
looked, and notwithstanding the straitness of his bonds she saw him start.
"If you are a ghost why have you a shadow?" he asked hoarsely. "And if you
are not a ghost, how did you come into this haunted place?"
Still Rachel did not seem to be able to speak. Only she glided up to him
and kissed him on the lips. Now at length he understood--they both
understood that they were still living creatures beneath the sky, not the
denizens of some dim world which lies beyond.
"Free me," he said in a faint voice, for his brain reeled. "I was bound
here in my sleep. They will be back presently."
Her intelligence awoke. With a few swift cuts of the spear she held Rachel
severed his bonds, then picked up his own assegai that lay at his feet she
thrust it into his numbed hand. As he took it the forest about them seemed
to become alive, and from behind the boles of the trees around appeared a
number of dwarfs who ran towards them, headed by Eddo. Noie sprang forward
also, and stood at their side. Rachel turned on Eddo swiftly as a startled
deer. She seemed to tower over him, the spear in her hand.
"What does this mean, Priest?" she asked.
"Inkosazana," he answered humbly, "it means that I have found a way to
tempt thee from within the Wall where none might break thy sanctuary. Thou
drewest this man to thee from far with the strength that old Nya gave
thee. We knew it all, we saw it all, and we waited. Day by day in our
bowls of dew we watched him coming nearer to thee. We heard the messages
of Nya on the drums, bidding the Umkulu meet and escort him; we heard the
last answering message from the borders of the desert, telling her that he
was nigh. Then while he followed his magic path through the darkness of
the forest we seized and bound him, knowing well that if he could not come
to thee, thou wouldst come to him. And thou hast come."
"I understand. What now, Eddo?"
"This, Inkosazana: Thou hast been named Mother of the Trees by the people
of the Dwarfs; be pleased to come with us that we may instal thee in thy
"This lord here," said Rachel, "is my promised husband. What of him?"
Eddo bowed and smiled, a fearful smile, and answered:
"The Mother of the Trees has no husband. Wisdom is her husband. He has
served his purpose, which was to draw thee from within the Wall, and for
this reason only we permitted him to enter the holy forest living. Now he
bides here to die, and since he has won thy love we will honour him with
the White Death. Bind him to the tree again."
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