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“Blood calls for blood,” he moaned.  “My word is—­War!

CHAPTER XVII

KAATJE BRINGS NEWS

Zikali burst into one of his peals of laughter, so unholy that it caused the blood in me to run cold.

“The King’s word is war,” he cried.  “Let Nomkubulwana take that word back to heaven.  Let Macumazahn take it to the White Men.  Let the captains cry it to the regiments and let the world grow red.  The King has chosen, though mayhap, had I been he, I should have chosen otherwise; yet what am I but a hollow reed stuck in the ground up which the spirits speak to men?  It is finished, and I, too, am finished for a while.  Farewell, O King!  Where shall we meet again, I wonder?  On the earth or under it?  Farewell, Macumazahn, I know where we shall meet, though you do not.  O King, I return to my own place, I pray you to command that none come near me or trouble me with words, for I am spent.”

“It is commanded,” said Cetewayo.

As he spoke the fire went out mysteriously, and the wizard rose and hobbled off at a surprising pace round the corner of the projecting rock.

“Stay!” I called, “I would speak with you;” but although I am sure he heard me, he did not stop or look round.

I sprang up to follow him, but at some sign from Cetewayo two indunas barred my way.

“Did you not hear the King’s command, White Man?” one of them asked coldly, and the tone of his question told me that war having been declared, I was now looked upon as a foe.  I was about to answer sharply when Cetewayo himself addressed me.

“Macumazahn,” he said, “you are now my enemy, like all your people, and from sunrise to-morrow morning your safe-conduct here ends, for if you are found at Ulundi two hours after that time, it will be lawful for any man to kill you.  Yet as you are still my guest, I will give you an escort to the borders of the land.  Moreover, you shall take a message from me to the Queen’s officers and captains.  It is—­that I will send an answer to their demands upon the point of an assegai.  Yet add this, that not I but the English, to whom I have always been a friend, sought this war.  If Sompseu had suffered me to fight the Boers as I wished to do, it would never have come about.  But he threw the Queen’s blanket over the Transvaal and stood upon it, and now he declares that lands which were always the property of the Zulus, belong to the Boers.  Therefore I take back all the promises which I made to him when he came hither to call me King in the Queen’s name, and no more do I call him my father.  As for the disbanding of my impis, let the English disband them if they can.  I have spoken.”

“And I have heard,” I answered, “and will deliver your words faithfully, though I hold, King, that they come from the lips of one whom the Heavens have made mad.”

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