At length we came to the ford of the Tugela, and as fortunately the water was just low enough, bade farewell to our escort before crossing to the Natal side. My parting with Goza was quite touching, for we felt that it partook of the nature of a deathbed adieu, which indeed it did. I told him and the others that I hoped their ends be easy, and that whether they met them by bullets or by bayonet thrusts, the wounds would prove quickly mortal so that they might not linger in discomfort or pain. Recognizing my kind thought for their true welfare they thanked me for it, though with no enthusiasm. Indudu, however, filled with the spirit of repartee, or rather of “tu quoque”, said in his melancholy fashion that if he and I came face to face in war, he would be sure to remember my words and to cut me up in the best style, since he could not bear to think of me languishing on a bed of sickness without my wife Kaatje to nurse me (they knew I was touchy about Kaatje). Then we shook hands and parted. Kaatje, hung round with paraphernalia like the White Knight in “Alice through the Looking-glass,” clinging to a cooking-pot and weeping tears of terror, faced the foaming flood upon the mare, while I grasped its tail.
When we were as I judged out of assegai shot, I turned, with the water up to my armpits, and shouted some valedictory words.
“Tell your king,” I said, “that he is the greatest fool in the world to fight the English, since it will bring his country to destruction and himself to disgrace and death, as at last, in the words of your proverb, ‘the swimmer goes down with the stream.’”
Here, as it happened, I slipped off the stone on which I was standing and nearly went down with the stream myself.
Emerging with my mouth full of muddy water I waited till they had done laughing and continued—
“Tell that old rogue, Zikali, that I know he has murdered my friends and that when we meet again he and all who were in the plot shall pay for it with their lives.”
Now an irritated Zulu flung an assegai, and as the range proved to be shorter than I thought, for it went through Kaatje’s dress, causing her to scream with alarm, I ceased from eloquence, and we struggled on to the further bank, where at length we were safe.
Thus ended this unlucky trip of mine to Zululand.
We had crossed the Tugela by what is known as the Middle Drift. A mile or so on the further side of it I was challenged by a young fellow in charge of some mounted natives, and found that I had stumbled into what was known as No. 2 Column, which consisted of a rocket battery, three battalions of the Native Contingent and some troops of mounted natives, all under the command of Colonel Durnford, R.E.
After explanations I was taken to this officer’s head-quarter tent. He was a tall, nervous-looking man with a fair, handsome face and long side-whiskers. One of his arms, I remember, was supported by a sling, I think it had been injured in some Kaffir fighting. When I was introduced to him he was very busy, having, I understood from some one on his staff, just received orders to “operate against Matshana.”