A WHOLE year had gone by, in which I did, or tried to do, various things that have no connection with this story, when once more I found myself in Zululand—at Umbezi’s kraal indeed. Hither I had trekked in fulfilment of a certain bargain, already alluded to, that was concerned with ivory and guns, which I had made with the old fellow, or, rather, with Masapo, his son-in-law, whom he represented in this matter. Into the exact circumstances of that bargain I do not enter, since at the moment I cannot recall whether I ever obtained the necessary permit to import those guns into Zululand, although now that I am older I earnestly hope that I did so, since it is wrong to sell weapons to natives that may be put to all sorts of unforeseen uses.
At any rate, there I was, sitting alone with the Headman in his hut discussing a dram of “squareface” that I had given to him, for the “trade” was finished to our mutual satisfaction, and Scowl, my body servant, with the hunters, had just carried off the ivory—a fine lot of tusks—to my wagons.
“Well, Umbezi,” I said, “and how has it fared with you since we parted a year ago? Have you seen anything of Saduko, who, you may remember, left you in some wrath?”
“Thanks be to my Spirit, I have seen nothing of that wild man, Macumazahn,” answered Umbezi, shaking his fat old head in a fashion which showed great anxiety. “Yet I have heard of him, for he sent me a message the other day to tell me that he had not forgotten what he owed me.”
“Did he mean the sticks with which he promised to bray you like a green hide?” I inquired innocently.
“I think so, Macumazahn—I think so, for certainly he owes me nothing else. And the worst of it is that, there at Panda’s kraal, he has grown like a pumpkin on a dung heap—great, great!”
“And therefore is now one who can pay any debt that he owes, Umbezi,” I said, taking a pull at the “squareface” and looking at him over the top of the pannikin.
“Doubtless he can, Macumazahn, and, between you and me, that is the real reason why I—or rather Masapo—was so anxious to get those guns. They were not for hunting, as he told you by the messenger, or for war, but to protect us against Saduko, in case he should attack. Well, now I hope we shall be able to hold our own.”
“You and Masapo must teach your people to use them first, Umbezi. But I expect Saduko has forgotten all about both of you now that he is the husband of a princess of the royal blood. Tell me, how goes it with Mameena?”
“Oh, well, well, Macumazahn. For is she not the head lady of the Amasomi? There is nothing wrong with her—nothing at all, except that as yet she has no child; also that——,” and he paused.
“That what?” I asked.
“That she hates the very sight of her husband, Masapo, and says that she would rather be married to a baboon—yes, to a baboon—than to him, which gives him offence, after he has paid so many cattle for her. But what of this, Macumazahn? There is always a grain missing upon the finest head of corn. Nothing is quite perfect in the world, Macumazahn, and if Mameena does not chance to love her husband—” and he shrugged his shoulders and drank some “squareface.”
“Of course it does not matter in the least, Umbezi, except to Mameena and her husband, who no doubt will settle down in time, now that Saduko is married to a princess of the Zulu House.”
“I hope so, Macumazahn, but, to tell the truth, I wish you had brought more guns, for I live amongst a terrible lot of people. Masapo, who is furious with Mameena because she will have none of him, and therefore with me, as though I could control Mameena; Mameena, who is mad with Masapo, and therefore with me, because I gave her in marriage to him; Saduko, who foams at the mouth at the name of Masapo, because he has married Mameena, whom, it is said, he still loves, and therefore at me, because I am her father and did my best to settle her in the world. Oh, give me some more of that fire-water, Macumazahn, for it makes me forget all these things, and especially that my guardian spirit made me the father of Mameena, with whom you would not run away when you might have done so. Oh, Macumazahn, why did you not run away with Mameena, and turn her into a quiet white woman who ties herself up in sacks, sings songs to the ‘Great-Great’ in the sky—[that is, hymns to the Power above us]—and never thinks of any man who is not her husband?”
“Because if I had done so, Umbezi, I should have ceased to be a quiet white man. Yes, yes, my friend, I should have been in some such place as yours to-day, and that is the last thing that I wish. And now, Umbezi, you have had quite enough ‘squareface,’ so I will take the bottle away with me. Good-night.”
On the following morning I trekked very early from Umbezi’s kraal—before he was up indeed, for the “squareface” made him sleep sound. My destination was Nodwengu, Panda’s Great Place, where I hoped to do some trading, but, as I was in no particular hurry, my plan was to go round by Masapo’s, and see for myself how it fared between him and Mameena. Indeed, I reached the borders of the Amasomi territory, whereof Masapo was chief, by evening, and camped there. But with the night came reflection, and reflection told me that I should do well to keep clear of Mameena and her domestic complications, if she had any. So I changed my mind, and next morning trekked on to Nodwengu by the only route that my guides reported to be practicable, one which took me a long way round.
That day, owing to the roughness of the road—if road it could be called—and an accident to one of the wagons, we only covered about fifteen miles, and as night fell were obliged to outspan at the first spot where we could find water. When the oxen had been unyoked I looked about me, and saw that we were in a place that, although I had approached it from a somewhat different direction, I recognised at once as the mouth of the Black Kloof, in which, over a year before, I had interviewed Zikali the Little and Wise. There was no mistaking the spot; that blasted valley, with the piled-up columns of boulders and the overhanging cliff at the end of it, have, so far as I am aware, no exact counterparts in Africa.
I sat upon the box of the first wagon, eating my food, which consisted of some biltong and biscuit, for I had not bothered to shoot any game that day, which was very hot, and wondering whether Zikali were still alive, also whether I should take the trouble to walk up the kloof and find out. On the whole I thought that I would not, as the place repelled me, and I did not particularly wish to hear any more of his prophecies and fierce, ill-omened talk. So I just sat there studying the wonderful effect of the red evening light pouring up between those walls of fantastic rocks.
Presently I perceived, far away, a single human figure—whether it were man or woman I could not tell—walking towards me along the path which ran at the bottom of the cleft. In those gigantic surroundings it looked extraordinarily small and lonely, although perhaps because of the intense red light in which it was bathed, or perhaps just because it was human, a living thing in the midst of all that still, inanimate grandeur, it caught and focused my attention. I grew greatly interested in it; I wondered if it were that of man or woman, and what it was doing here in this haunted valley.
The figure drew nearer, and now I saw it was slender and tall, like that of a lad or of a well-grown woman, but to which sex it belonged I could not see, because it was draped in a cloak of beautiful grey fur. Just then Scowl came to the other side of the wagon to speak to me about something, which took off my attention for the next two minutes. When I looked round again it was to see the figure standing within three yards of me, its face hidden by a kind of hood which was attached to the fur cloak.
“Who are you, and what is your business?” I asked, whereon a gentle voice answered:
“Do you not know me, O Macumazana?”
“How can I know one who is tied up like a gourd in a mat? Yet is it not—is it not——”
“Yes, it is Mameena, and I am very pleased that you should remember my voice, Macumazahn, after we have been separated for such a long, long time,” and, with a sudden movement, she threw back the kaross, hood and all, revealing herself in all her strange beauty.
I jumped down off the wagon-box and took her hand.
“O Macumazana,” she said, while I still held it—or, to be accurate, while she still held mine—“indeed my heart is glad to see a friend again,” and she looked at me with her appealing eyes, which, in the red light, I could see appeared to float in tears.
“A friend, Mameena!” I exclaimed. “Why, now you are so rich, and the wife of a big chief, you must have plenty of friends.”
“Alas! Macumazahn, I am rich in nothing except trouble, for my husband saves, like the ants for winter. Why, he even grudged me this poor kaross; and as for friends, he is so jealous that he will not allow me any.”
“He cannot be jealous of women, Mameena!”
“Oh, women! Piff! I do not care for women; they are very unkind to me, because—because—well, perhaps you can guess why, Macumazahn,” she answered, glancing at her own reflection in a little travelling looking-glass that hung from the woodwork of the wagon, for I had been using it to brush my hair, and smiled very sweetly.
“At least you have your husband, Mameena, and I thought that perhaps by this time——”
She held up her hand.
“My husband! Oh, I would that I had him not, for I hate him, Macumazahn; and as for the rest—never! The truth is that I never cared for any man except one whose name you may chance to remember, Macumazahn.”
“I suppose you mean Saduko——” I began.
“Tell me, Macumazahn,” she inquired innocently, “are white people very stupid? I ask because you do not seem as clever as you used to be. Or have you perhaps a bad memory?”
Now I felt myself turning red as the sky behind me, and broke in hurriedly:
“If you did not like your husband, Mameena, you should not have married him. You know you need not unless you wished.”
“When one has only two thorn bushes to sit on, Macumazahn, one chooses that which seems to have the fewest prickles, to discover sometimes that they are still there in hundreds, although one did not see them. You know that at length everyone gets tired of standing.”
“Is that why you have taken to walking, Mameena? I mean, what are you doing here alone?”
“I? Oh, I heard that you were passing this way, and came to have a talk with you. No, from you I cannot hide even the least bit of the truth. I came to talk with you, but also I came to see Zikali and ask him what a wife should do who hates her husband.”
“Indeed! And what did he answer you?”
“He answered that he thought she had better run away with another man, if there were one whom she did not hate—out of Zululand, of course,” she replied, looking first at me and then at my wagon and the two horses that were tied to it.
“Is that all he said, Mameena?”
“No. Have I not told you that I cannot hide one grain of the truth from you? He added that the only other thing to be done was to sit still and drink my sour milk, pretending that it is sweet, until my Spirit gives me a new cow. He seemed to think that my Spirit would be bountiful in the matter of new cows—one day.”
“Anything more?” I inquired.
“One little thing. Have I not told you that you shall have all—all the truth? Zikali seemed to think also that at last every one of my herd of cows, old and new, would come to a bad end. He did not tell me to what end.”
She turned her head aside, and when she looked up again I saw that she was weeping, really weeping this time, not just making her eyes swim, as she did before.
“Of course they will come to a bad end, Macumazahn,” she went on in a soft, thick voice, “for I and all with whom I have to do were ‘torn out of the reeds’ [i.e. created] that way. And that’s why I won’t tempt you to run away with me any more, as I meant to do when I saw you, because it is true, Macumazahn you are the only man I ever liked or ever shall like; and you know I could make you run away with me if I chose, although I am black and you are white—oh, yes, before to-morrow morning. But I won’t do it; for why should I catch you in my unlucky web and bring you into all sorts of trouble among my people and your own? Go you your road, Macumazahn, and I will go mine as the wind blows me. And now give me a cup of water and let me be away—a cup of water, no more. Oh, do not be afraid for me, or melt too much, lest I should melt also. I have an escort waiting over yonder hill. There, thank you for your water, Macumazahn, and good night. Doubtless we shall meet again ere long, and—I forgot; the Little Wise One said he would like to have a talk with you. Good night, Macumazahn, good night. I trust that you did a profitable trade with Umbezi my father and Masapo my husband. I wonder why such men as these should have been chosen to be my father and my husband. Think it over, Macumazahn, and tell me when next we meet. Give me that pretty mirror, Macumazahn; when I look in it I shall see you as well as myself, and that will please me—you don’t know how much. I thank you. Good night.”
In another minute I was watching her solitary little figure, now wrapped again in the hooded kaross, as it vanished over the brow of the rise behind us, and really, as she went, I felt a lump rising in my throat. Notwithstanding all her wickedness—and I suppose she was wicked—there was something horribly attractive about Mameena.
When she had gone, taking my only looking-glass with her, and the lump in my throat had gone also, I began to wonder how much fact there was in her story. She had protested so earnestly that she told me all the truth that I felt sure there must be something left behind. Also I remembered she had said Zikali wanted to see me. Well, the end of it was I took a moonlight walk up that dreadful gorge, into which not even Scowl would accompany me, because he declared that the place was well known to be haunted by imikovu, or spectres who have been raised from the dead by wizards.
It was a long and disagreeable walk, and somehow I felt very depressed and insignificant as I trudged on between those gigantic cliffs, passing now through patches of bright moonlight and now through deep pools of shadow, threading my way among clumps of bush or round the bases of tall pillars of piled-up stones, till at length I came to the overhanging cliffs at the end, which frowned down on me like the brows of some titanic demon.
Well, I got to the end at last, and at the gate of the kraal fence was met by one of those fierce and huge men who served the dwarf as guards. Suddenly he emerged from behind a stone, and having scanned me for a moment in silence, beckoned to me to follow him, as though I were expected. A minute later I found myself face to face with Zikali, who was seated in the clear moonlight just outside the shadow of his hut, and engaged, apparently, in his favourite occupation of carving wood with a rough native knife of curious shape.
For a while he took no notice of me; then suddenly looked up, shaking back his braided grey locks, and broke into one of his great laughs.
“So it is you, Macumazahn,” he said. “Well, I knew you were passing my way and that Mameena would send you here. But why do you come to see the ‘Thing-that-should-not-have-been-born’? To tell me how you fared with the buffalo with the split horn, eh?”
“No, Zikali, for why should I tell you what you know already? Mameena said you wished to talk with me, that was all.”
“Then Mameena lied,” he answered, “as is her nature, in whose throat live four false words for every one of truth. Still, sit down, Macumazahn. There is beer made ready for you by that stool; and give me the knife and a pinch of the white man’s snuff that you have brought for me as a present.”
I produced these articles, though how he knew that I had them with me I cannot tell, nor did I think it worth while to inquire. The snuff, I remember, pleased him very much, but of the knife he said that it was a pretty toy, but he would not know how to use it. Then we fell to talking.
“What was Mameena doing here?” I asked boldly.
“What was she doing at your wagons?” he asked. “Oh, do not stop to tell me; I know, I know. That is a very good Snake of yours, Macumazahn, which always just lets you slip through her fingers, when, if she chose to close her hand—Well, well, I do not betray the secrets of my clients; but I say this to you—go on to the kraal of the son of Senzangakona, and you will see things happen that will make you laugh, for Mameena will be there, and the mongrel Masapo, her husband. Truly she hates him well, and, after all, I would rather be loved than hated by Mameena, though both are dangerous. Poor Mongrel! Soon the jackals will be chewing his bones.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Only because Mameena tells me that he is a great wizard, and the jackals eat many wizards in Zululand. Also he is an enemy of Panda’s House, is he not?”
“You have been giving her some bad counsel, Zikali,” I said, blurting out the thought in my mind.
“Perhaps, perhaps, Macumazahn; only I may call it good counsel. I have my own road to walk, and if I can find some to clear away the thorns that would prick my feet, what of it? Also she will get her pay, who finds life dull up there among the Amasomi, with one she hates for a hut-fellow. Go you and watch, and afterwards, when you have an hour to spare, come and tell me what happens—that is, if I do not chance to be there to see for myself.”
“Is Saduko well?” I asked to change the subject, for I did not wish to become privy to the plots that filled the air.
“I am told that his tree grows great, that it overshadows all the royal kraal. I think that Mameena wishes to sleep in the shade of it. And now you are weary, and so am I. Go back to your wagons, Macumazahn, for I have nothing more to say to you to-night. But be sure to return and tell me what chances at Panda’s kraal. Or, as I have said, perhaps I shall meet you there. Who knows, who knows?”
Now, it will be observed that there was nothing very remarkable in this conversation between Zikali and myself. He did not tell me any deep secrets or make any great prophecy. It may be wondered, indeed, when there is so much to record, why I set it down at all.
My answer is, because of the extraordinary impression that it produced upon me. Although so little was said, I felt all the while that those few words were a veil hiding terrible events to be. I was sure that some dreadful scheme had been hatched between the old dwarf and Mameena whereof the issue would soon become apparent, and that he had sent me away in a hurry after he learned that she had told me nothing, because he feared lest I should stumble on its cue and perhaps cause it to fail.
At any rate, as I walked back to my wagons by moonlight down that dreadful gorge, the hot, thick air seemed to me to have a physical taste and smell of blood, and the dank foliage of the tropical trees that grew there, when now and again a puff of wind stirred them, moaned like the fabled imikovu, or as men might do in their last faint agony. The effect upon my nerves was quite strange, for when at last I reached my wagons I was shaking like a reed, and a cold perspiration, unnatural enough upon that hot night, poured from my face and body.
Well, I took a couple of stiff tots of “squareface” to pull myself together, and at length went to sleep, to awake before dawn with a headache. Looking out of the wagon, to my surprise I saw Scowl and the hunters, who should have been snoring, standing in a group and talking to each other in frightened whispers. I called Scowl to me and asked what was the matter.
“Nothing, Baas,” he said with a shamefaced air; “only there are so many spooks about this place. They have been passing in and out of it all night.”
“Spooks, you idiot!” I answered. “Probably they were people going to visit the Nyanga, Zikali.”
“Perhaps, Baas; only then we do not know why they should all look like dead people—princes, some of them, by their dress—and walk upon the air a man’s height from the ground.”
“Pooh!” I replied. “Do you not know the difference between owls in the mist and dead kings? Make ready, for we trek at once; the air here is full of fever.”
“Certainly, Baas,” he said, springing off to obey; and I do not think I ever remember two wagons being got under way quicker than they were that morning.
I merely mention this nonsense to show that the Black Kloof could affect other people’s nerves as well as my own.
In due course I reached Nodwengu without accident, having sent forward one of my hunters to report my approach to Panda. When my wagons arrived outside the Great Place they were met by none other than my old friend, Maputa, he who had brought me back the pills before our attack upon Bangu.
“Greeting, Macumazahn,” he said. “I am sent by the King to say that you are welcome and to point you out a good place to outspan; also to give you permission to trade as much as you will in this town, since he knows that your dealings are always fair.”
I returned my thanks in the usual fashion, adding that I had brought a little present for the King which I would deliver when it pleased him to receive me. Then I invited Maputa, to whom I also offered some trifle which delighted him very much, to ride with me on the wagon-box till we came to the selected outspan.
This, by the way, proved, to be a very good place indeed, a little valley full of grass for the cattle—for by the King’s order it had not been grazed—with a stream of beautiful water running down it. Moreover it overlooked a great open space immediately in front of the main gate of the town, so that I could see everything that went on and all who arrived or departed.
“You will be comfortable here, Macumazahn,” said Maputa, “during your stay, which we hope will be long, since, although there will soon be a mighty crowd at Nodwengu, the King has given orders that none except your own servants are to enter this valley.”
“I thank the King; but why will there be a crowd, Maputa?”
“Oh!” he answered with a shrug of the shoulders, “because of a new thing. All the tribes of the Zulus are to come up to be reviewed. Some say that Cetewayo has brought this about, and some say that it is Umbelazi. But I am sure that it is the work of neither of these, but of Saduko, your old friend, though what his object is I cannot tell you. I only trust,” he added uneasily, “that it will not end in bloodshed between the Great Brothers.”
“So Saduko has grown tall, Maputa?”
“Tall as a tree, Macumazahn. His whisper in the King’s ear is louder than the shouts of others. Moreover, he has become a ‘self-eater’ [that is a Zulu term which means one who is very haughty]. You will have to wait on him, Macumazahn; he will not wait on you.”
“Is it so?” I answered. “Well, tall trees are blown down sometimes.”
He nodded his wise old head. “Yes, Macumazahn; I have seen plenty grow and fall in my time, for at last the swimmer goes with the stream. Anyhow, you will be able to do a good trade among so many, and, whatever happens, none will harm you whom all love. And now farewell; I bear your messages to the King, who sends an ox for you to kill lest you should grow hungry in his house.”
That same evening I saw Saduko and the others, as I shall tell. I had been up to visit the King and give him my present, a case of English table-knives with bone handles, which pleased him greatly, although he did not in the least know how to use them. Indeed, without their accompanying forks these are somewhat futile articles. I found the old fellow very tired and anxious, but as he was surrounded by indunas, I had no private talk with him. Seeing that he was busy, I took my leave as soon as I could, and when I walked away whom should I meet but Saduko.
I saw him while he was a good way off, advancing towards the inner gate with a train of attendants like a royal personage, and knew very well that he saw me. Making up my mind what to do at once, I walked straight on to him, forcing him to give me the path, which he did not wish to do before so many people, and brushed past him as though he were a stranger. As I expected, this treatment had the desired effect, for after we had passed each other he turned and said:
“Do you not know me, Macumazahn?”
“Who calls?” I asked. “Why, friend, your face is familiar to me. How are you named?”
“Have you forgotten Saduko?” he said in a pained voice.
“No, no, of course not,” I answered. “I know you now, although you seem somewhat changed since we went out hunting and fighting together—I suppose because you are fatter. I trust that you are well, Saduko? Good-bye. I must be going back to my wagons. If you wish to see me you will find me there.”
These remarks, I may add, seemed to take Saduko very much aback. At any rate, he found no reply to them, even when old Maputa, with whom I was walking, and some others sniggered aloud. There is nothing that Zulus enjoy so much as seeing one whom they consider an upstart set in his place.
Well, a couple of hours afterwards, just as the sun was sinking, who should walk up to my wagons but Saduko himself, accompanied by a woman whom I recognised at once as his wife, the Princess Nandie, who carried a fine baby boy in her arms. Rising, I saluted Nandie and offered her my camp-stool, which she looked at suspiciously and declined, preferring to seat herself on the ground after the native fashion. So I took it back again, and after I had sat down on it, not before, stretched out my hand to Saduko, who by this time was quite humble and polite.
Well, we talked away, and by degrees, without seeming too much interested in them, I was furnished with a list of all the advancements which it had pleased Panda to heap upon Saduko during the past year. In their way they were remarkable enough, for it was much as though some penniless country gentleman in England had been promoted in that short space of time to be one of the premier peers of the kingdom and endowed with great offices and estates. When he had finished the count of them he paused, evidently waiting for me to congratulate him. But all I said was:
“By the Heavens above I am sorry for you, Saduko! How many enemies you must have made! What a long way there will be for you to fall one night!”—a remark at which the quiet Nandie broke into a low laugh that I think pleased her husband even less than my sarcasm. “Well,” I went on, “I see that you have got a baby, which is much better than all these titles. May I look at it, Inkosazana?”
Of course she was delighted, and we proceeded to inspect the baby, which evidently she loved more than anything on earth. Whilst we were examining the child and chatting about it, Saduko sitting by meanwhile in the sulks, who on earth should appear but Mameena and her fat and sullen-looking husband, the chief Masapo.
“Oh, Macumazahn,” she said, appearing to notice no one else, “how pleased I am to see you after a whole long year!”
I stared at her and my jaw dropped. Then I recovered myself, thinking she must have made a mistake and meant to say “week.”
“Twelve moons,” she went on, “and, Macumazahn, not one of them has gone by but I have thought of you several times and wondered if we should ever meet again. Where have you been all this while?”
“In many places,” I answered; “amongst others at the Black Kloof, where I called upon the dwarf, Zikali, and lost my looking-glass.”
“The Nyanga, Zikali! Oh, how often have I wished to see him. But, of course, I cannot, for I am told he will not receive any women.”
“I don’t know, I am sure,” I replied, “but you might try; perhaps he would make an exception in your favour.”
“I think I will, Macumazahn,” she murmured, whereon I collapsed into silence, feeling that things were getting beyond me.
When I recovered myself a little it was to hear Mameena greeting Saduko with much effusion, and complimenting him on his rise in life, which she said she had always foreseen. This remark seemed to bowl out Saduko also, for he made no answer to it, although I noticed that he could not take his eyes off Mameena’s beautiful face. Presently, however, he seemed to become aware of Masapo, and instantly his whole demeanour changed, for it grew proud and even terrible. Masapo tendered him some greeting; whereon Saduko turned upon him and said:
“What, chief of the Amasomi, do you give the good-day to an umfokazana and a mangy hyena? Why do you do this? Is it because the low umfokazana has become a noble and the mangy hyena has put on a tiger’s coat?” And he glared at him like a veritable tiger.
Masapo made no answer that I could catch. Muttering some inaudible words, he turned to depart, and in doing so—quite innocently, I think—struck Nandie, knocking her over on to her back and causing the child to fall out of her arms in such fashion that its tender head struck against a pebble with sufficient force to cause it to bleed.
Saduko leapt at him, smiting him across the shoulders with the little stick that he carried. For a moment Masapo paused, and I thought that he was going to show fight. If he had any such intention, however, he changed his mind, for without a word, or showing any resentment at the insult which he had received, he broke into a heavy run and vanished among the evening shadows. Mameena, who had observed all, broke into something else, namely, a laugh.
“Piff! My husband is big yet not brave,” she said, “but I do not think he meant to hurt you, woman.”
“Do you speak to me, wife of Masapo?” asked Nandie with gentle dignity, as she gained her feet and picked up the stunned child. “If so, my name and titles are the Inkosazana Nandie, daughter of the Black One and wife of the lord Saduko.”
“Your pardon,” replied Mameena humbly, for she was cowed at once. “I did not know who you were, Inkosazana.”
“It is granted, wife of Masapo. Macumazahn, give me water, I pray you, that I may bathe the head of my child.”
The water was brought, and presently, when the little one seemed all right again, for it had only received a scratch, Nandie thanked me and departed to her own huts, saying with a smile to her husband as she passed that there was no need for him to accompany her, as she had servants waiting at the kraal gate. So Saduko stayed behind, and Mameena stayed also. He talked with me for quite a long while, for he had much to tell me, although all the time I felt that his heart was not in his talk. His heart was with Mameena, who sat there and smiled continually in her mysterious way, only putting in a word now and again, as though to excuse her presence.
At length she rose and said with a sigh that she must be going back to where the Amasomi were in camp, as Masapo would need her to see to his food. By now it was quite dark, although I remember that from time to time the sky was lit up by sheet lightning, for a storm was brewing. As I expected, Saduko rose also, saying that he would see me on the morrow, and went away with Mameena, walking like one who dreams.
A few minutes later I had occasion to leave the wagons in order to inspect one of the oxen which was tied up by itself at a distance, because it had shown signs of some sickness that might or might not be catching. Moving quietly, as I always do from a hunter’s habit, I walked alone to the place where the beast was tethered behind some mimosa thorns. Just as I reached these thorns the broad lightning shone out vividly, and showed me Saduko holding the unresisting shape of Mameena in his arms and kissing her passionately.
Then I turned and went back to the wagons even more quietly than I had come.
I should add that on the morrow I found out that, after all, there was nothing serious the matter with my ox.