Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything
- Black Heart and White Heart - 2/12 -
Hadden watched and listened in amazement not unmixed with fear. "If he treats his own servants like this, what will happen to me?" he reflected. "We English must have fallen out of favour since I left Natal. I wonder whether he means to make war on us or what? If so, this isn't my place."
Just then the king, who had been gazing moodily at the ground, chanced to look up. "Bring the stranger here," he said.
Hadden heard him, and coming forward offered Cetywayo his hand in as cool and nonchalant a manner as he could command.
Somewhat to his surprise it was accepted. "At least, White Man," said the king, glancing at his visitor's tall spare form and cleanly cut face, "you are no '/umfagozan/' (low fellow); you are of the blood of chiefs."
"Yes, King," answered Hadden, with a little sigh, "I am of the blood of chiefs."
"What do you want in my country, White Man?"
"Very little, King. I have been trading here, as I daresay you have heard, and have sold all my goods. Now I ask your leave to hunt buffalo, and other big game, for a while before I return to Natal."
"I cannot grant it," answered Cetywayo, "you are a spy sent by Sompseu, or by the Queen's Induna in Natal. Get you gone."
"Indeed," said Hadden, with a shrug of his shoulders; "then I hope that Sompseu, or the Queen's Induna, or both of them, will pay me when I return to my own country. Meanwhile I will obey you because I must, but I should first like to make you a present."
"What present?" asked the king. "I want no presents. We are rich here, White Man."
"So be it, King. It was nothing worthy of your taking, only a rifle."
"A rifle, White Man? Where is it?"
"Without. I would have brought it, but your servants told me that it is death to come armed before the 'Elephant who shakes the Earth.'"
Cetywayo frowned, for the note of sarcasm did not escape his quick ear.
"Let this white man's offering be brought; I will consider the thing."
Instantly the Induna who had accompanied Hadden darted to the gateway, running with his body bent so low that it seemed as though at every step he must fall upon his face. Presently he returned with the weapon in his hand and presented it to the king, holding it so that the muzzle was pointed straight at the royal breast.
"I crave leave to say, O Elephant," remarked Hadden in a drawling voice, "that it might be well to command your servant to lift the mouth of that gun from your heart."
"Why?" asked the king.
"Only because it is loaded, and at full cock, O Elephant, who probably desires to continue to shake the Earth."
At these words the "Elephant" uttered a sharp exclamation, and rolled from his stool in a most unkingly manner, whilst the terrified Induna, springing backwards, contrived to touch the trigger of the rifle and discharge a bullet through the exact spot that a second before had been occupied by his monarch's head.
"Let him be taken away," shouted the incensed king from the ground, but long before the words had passed his lips the Induna, with a cry that the gun was bewitched, had cast it down and fled at full speed through the gate.
"He has already taken himself away," suggested Hadden, while the audience tittered. "No, King, do not touch it rashly; it is a repeating rifle. Look----" and lifting the Winchester, he fired the four remaining shots in quick succession into the air, striking the top of a tree at which he aimed with every one of them.
"/Wow/, it is wonderful!" said the company in astonishment.
"Has the thing finished?" asked the king.
"For the present it has," answered Hadden. "Look at it."
Cetywayo took the repeater in his hand, and examined it with caution, swinging the muzzle horizontally in an exact line with the stomachs of some of his most eminent Indunas, who shrank to this side and that as the barrel was brought to bear on them.
"See what cowards they are, White Man," said the king with indignation; "they fear lest there should be another bullet in this gun."
"Yes," answered Hadden, "they are cowards indeed. I believe that if they were seated on stools they would tumble off them just as it chanced to your Majesty to do just now."
"Do you understand the making of guns, White Man?" asked the king hastily, while the Indunas one and all turned their heads, and contemplated the fence behind them.
"No, King, I cannot make guns, but I can mend them."
"If I paid you well, White Man, would you stop here at my kraal, and mend guns for me?" asked Cetywayo anxiously.
"It might depend on the pay," answered Hadden; "but for awhile I am tired of work, and wish to rest. If the king gives me the permission to hunt for which I asked, and men to go with me, then when I return perhaps we can bargain on the matter. If not, I will bid the king farewell, and journey to Natal."
"In order to make report of what he has seen and learned here," muttered Cetywayo.
At this moment the talk was interrupted, for the soldiers who had led away the old Induna returned at speed, and prostrated themselves before the king.
"Is he dead?" he asked.
"He has travelled the king's bridge," they answered grimly; "he died singing a song of praise of the king."
"Good," said Cetywayo, "that stone shall hurt my feet no more. Go, tell the tale of its casting away to Sompseu and to the Queen's Induna in Natal," he added with bitter emphasis.
"/Baba!/ Hear our Father speak. Listen to the rumbling of the Elephant," said the Indunas taking the point, while one bolder than the rest added: "Soon we will tell them another tale, the white Talking Ones, a red tale, a tale of spears, and the regiments shall sing it in their ears."
At the words an enthusiasm caught hold of the listeners, as the sudden flame catches hold of dry grass. They sprang up, for the most of them were seated on their haunches, and stamping their feet upon the ground in unison, repeated:--
/Indaba ibomwu--indaba ye mikonto Lizo dunyiswa nge impi ndhlebeni yaho./ (A red tale! A red tale! A tale of spears, And the /impis/ shall sing it in their ears.)
One of them, indeed, a great fierce-faced fellow, drew near to Hadden and shaking his fist before his eyes--fortunately being in the royal presence he had no assegai--shouted the sentences at him.
The king saw that the fire he had lit was burning too fiercely.
"Silence," he thundered in the deep voice for which he was remarkable, and instantly each man became as if he were turned to stone, only the echoes still answered back: "And the /impis/ shall sing it in their ears--in their ears."
"I am growing certain that this is no place for me," thought Hadden; "if that scoundrel had been armed he might have temporarily forgotten himself. Hullo! who's this?"
Just then there appeared through the gate of the fence a splendid specimen of the Zulu race. The man, who was about thirty-five years of age, was arrayed in a full war dress of a captain of the Umcityu regiment. From the circlet of otter skin on his brow rose his crest of plumes, round his middle, arms and knees hung the long fringes of black oxtails, and in one hand he bore a little dancing shield, also black in colour. The other was empty, since he might not appear before the king bearing arms. In countenance the man was handsome, and though just now they betrayed some anxiety, his eyes were genial and honest, and his mouth sensitive. In height he must have measured six foot two inches, yet he did not strike the observer as being tall, perhaps because of his width of chest and the solidity of his limbs, that were in curious contrast to the delicate and almost womanish hands and feet which so often mark the Zulu of noble blood. In short the man was what he seemed to be, a savage gentleman of birth, dignity and courage.
In company with him was another man plainly dressed in a moocha and a blanket, whose grizzled hair showed him to be over fifty years of age. His face also was pleasant and even refined, but the eyes were timorous, and the mouth lacked character.
"Who are these?" asked the king.
The two men fell on their knees before him, and bowed till their foreheads touched the ground--the while giving him his /sibonga/ or titles of praise.
"Speak," he said impatiently.
"O King," said the young warrior, seating himself Zulu fashion, "I am Nahoon, the son of Zomba, a captain of the Umcityu, and this is my uncle Umgona, the brother of one of my mothers, my father's youngest wife."
Cetywayo frowned. "What do you here away from your regiment, Nahoon?"
"May it please the king, I have leave of absence from the head
Previous Page Next Page
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 10 12
Schulers Books Online
books - games - software - wallpaper - everything