“Ancient cheat! I remember that is what Macumazahn yonder once told me I am, though afterwards—Perhaps he was right, for who in his heart knows whether or not he be a cheat, a cheat who deceives himself and through himself others. A stick that snaps in two when it is leant on! Some have thought me so and some have thought otherwise. Well, you would have answers which I know not how to give, being without medicine and in face of those who are quite ignorant and therefore cannot lend me their thoughts, as it sometimes happens that men do when workers of evil are sought out in the common fashion. For then, as you may have guessed, it is the evil-doer who himself tells the doctor of his crime, though he may not know that he is telling it. Yet there is another stone that I alone can throw, another plan that I alone can practise, and that not always. But of this I would not make use since it is terrible and might frighten you or even send you back to your huts raving so that your wives, yes, and the very dogs fled, from you.”
He stopped and for the first time did something to his fire, for I saw his hands going backwards and forwards, as though he warmed them at the flames.
At length an awed voice, I think it was that of Dabulamanzi, asked—
“What is this plan, Inyanga? Let us hear that we may judge.”
“The plan of calling one from the dead and hearkening to the voice of the dead. Is it your desire that I should draw water from this fount of wisdom, O King and Councillors?”
Now men began to whisper together and Goza groaned at my side.
“Rather would I look down a live lion’s throat than see the dead,” he murmured. But I, who was anxious to learn how far Zikali would carry his tricks, contemptuously told him to be silent.
Presently the king called me to him and said—
“Macumazahn, you white men are reported to know all things. Tell me now, is it possible for the dead to appear?”
“I am not sure,” I answered doubtfully; “some say that it is and some say that it is not possible.”
“Well,” said the king. “Have you ever seen one you knew in life after death?”
“No,” I replied, “that is—yes. That is—I do not know. When you will tell me, King, where waking ends and sleep begins, then I will answer.”
“Macumazahn,” he exclaimed, “just now I announced that you were no liar, who perceive that after all you are a liar, for how can you both have seen, and not seen, the dead? Indeed I remember that you lied long ago, when you gave it out that the witch Mameena was not your lover, and afterwards showed that she was by kissing her before all men, for who kisses a woman who is not his lover, or his mother? Return, since you will not tell me the truth.”
So I went back to my stool, feeling very small and yet indignant, for how was it possible to be definite about ghosts, or to explain the exact facts of the Mameena myth which clung to me like a Wait-a-bit thorn.