THE SIN OF UMBELAZI
About eighteen months had gone by, and once again, in the autumn of the year 1856, I found myself at old Umbezi’s kraal, where there seemed to be an extraordinary market for any kind of gas-pipe that could be called a gun. Well, as a trader who could not afford to neglect profitable markets, which are hard things to find, there I was.
Now, in eighteen months many things become a little obscured in one’s memory, especially if they have to do with savages, in whom, after all, one takes only a philosophical and a business interest. Therefore I may perhaps be excused if I had more or less forgotten a good many of the details of what I may call the Mameena affair. These, however, came back to me very vividly when the first person that I met—at some distance from the kraal, where I suppose she had been taking a country walk—was the beautiful Mameena herself. There she was, looking quite unchanged and as lovely as ever, sitting under the shade of a wild fig-tree and fanning herself with a handful of its leaves.
Of course I jumped off my wagon-box and greeted her.
“Siyakubona [that is, good morrow], Macumazahn,” she said. “My heart is glad to see you.”
“Siyakubona, Mameena,” I answered, leaving out all reference to my heart. Then I added, looking at her: “Is it true that you have a new husband?”
“Yes, Macumazahn, an old lover of mine has become a new husband. You know whom I mean—Saduko. After the death of that evil-doer, Masapo, he grew very urgent, and the King, also the Inkosazana Nandie, pressed it on me, and so I yielded. Also, to be honest, Saduko was a good match, or seemed to be so.”
By now we were walking side by side, for the train of wagons had gone ahead to the old outspan. So I stopped and looked her in the face.
“‘Seemed to be,’” I repeated. “What do you mean by ‘seemed to be’? Are you not happy this time?”
“Not altogether, Macumazahn,” she answered, with a shrug of her shoulders. “Saduko is very fond of me—fonder than I like indeed, since it causes him to neglect Nandie, who, by the way, has another son, and, although she says little, that makes Nandie cross. In short,” she added, with a burst of truth, “I am the plaything, Nandie is the great lady, and that place suits me ill.”
“If you love Saduko, you should not mind, Mameena.”
“Love,” she said bitterly. “Piff! What is love? But I have asked you that question once before.”
“Why are you here, Mameena?” I inquired, leaving it unanswered.
“Because Saduko is here, and, of course, Nandie, for she never leaves him, and he will not leave me; because the Prince Umbelazi is coming; because there are plots afoot and the great war draws near—that war in which so many must die.”
“Between Cetewayo and Umbelazi, Mameena?”