There was a pause, of which I instantly took advantage.
“O king,” I called out, rising from my seat, “this man is the servant of thy guests, he is their dog; whosoever sheds the blood of our dog sheds our blood. By the sacred law of hospitality I claim protection for him.”
“Gagool, mother of the witch-finders, has smelt him out; he must die, white men,” was the sullen answer.
“Nay, he shall not die,” I replied; “he who tries to touch him shall die indeed.”
“Seize him!” roared Twala to the executioners; who stood round red to the eyes with the blood of their victims.
They advanced towards us, and then hesitated. As for Ignosi, he clutched his spear, and raised it as though determined to sell his life dearly.
“Stand back, ye dogs!” I shouted, “if ye would see to-morrow’s light. Touch one hair of his head and your king dies,” and I covered Twala with my revolver. Sir Henry and Good also drew their pistols, Sir Henry pointing his at the leading executioner, who was advancing to carry out the sentence, and Good taking a deliberate aim at Gagool.
Twala winced perceptibly as my barrel came in a line with his broad chest.
“Well,” I said, “what is it to be, Twala?”
Then he spoke.
“Put away your magic tubes,” he said; “ye have adjured me in the name of hospitality, and for that reason, but not from fear of what ye can do, I spare him. Go in peace.”
“It is well,” I answered unconcernedly; “we are weary of slaughter, and would sleep. Is the dance ended?”
“It is ended,” Twala answered sulkily. “Let these dead dogs,” pointing to the long rows of corpses, “be flung out to the hyaenas and the vultures,” and he lifted his spear.
Instantly the regiments began to defile through the kraal gateway in perfect silence, a fatigue party only remaining behind to drag away the corpses of those who had been sacrificed.
Then we rose also, and making our salaam to his majesty, which he hardly deigned to acknowledge, we departed to our huts.
“Well,” said Sir Henry, as we sat down, having first lit a lamp of the sort used by the Kukuanas, of which the wick is made from the fibre of a species of palm leaf, and the oil from clarified hippopotamus fat, “well, I feel uncommonly inclined to be sick.”
“If I had any doubts about helping Umbopa to rebel against that infernal blackguard,” put in Good, “they are gone now. It was as much as I could do to sit still while that slaughter was going on. I tried to keep my eyes shut, but they would open just at the wrong time. I wonder where Infadoos is. Umbopa, my friend, you ought to be grateful to us; your skin came near to having an air-hole made in it.”
“I am grateful, Bougwan,” was Umbopa’s answer, when I had translated, “and I shall not forget. As for Infadoos, he will be here by-and-by. We must wait.”
So we lit out pipes and waited.