Hans Botha climbed on to the top of a waggon and roared out that they might answer that question themselves.
Then the herald called again, saying that he saw the cattle had been sent away.
“We shall go and find the cattle,” he said, “then we shall come and kill you, because without cattle you must stop where you are, but if we wait to kill you before we get the cattle, they may have trekked too far for us to follow. And if you try to run away we shall easily catch you white men!”
This struck me as a very odd speech, for the Zulus generally attack an enemy first and take his cattle afterwards; still, there was a certain amount of plausibility about it. While I was still wondering what it all might mean, the Zulus began to run past us in companies towards the river. Suddenly a shout announced that they had found the spoor of the cattle, and the whole Impi of them started down it at a run till they vanished over a rise about a quarter of a mile away.
We waited for half an hour or more, but nothing could we see of them.
“Now I wonder if the devils have really gone,” said Hans Botha to me. “It is very strange.”
“I will go and see,” said Indaba-zimbi, “if you will come with me, Macumazahn. We can creep to the top of the ridge and look over.”
At first I hesitated, but curiosity overcame me. I was young in those days and weary with suspense.
“Very well,” I said, “we will go.”
So we started. I had my elephant gun and ammunition. Indaba-zimbi had his medicine bag and an assegai. We crept to the top of the rise like sportsmen stalking a buck. The slope on the other side was strewn with rocks, among which grew bushes and tall grass.
“They must have gone down the Donga,” I said to Indaba-zimbi, “I can’t see one of them.”
As I spoke there came a roar of men all round me. From every rock, from every tuft of grass rose a Zulu warrior. Before I could turn, before I could lift a gun, I was seized and thrown.
“Hold him! Hold the White Spirit fast!” cried a voice. “Hold him, or he will slip away like a snake. Don’t hurt him, but hold him fast. Let Indaba-zimbi walk by his side.”
I turned on Indaba-zimbi. “You black devil, you have betrayed me!” I cried.
“Wait and see, Macumazahn,” he answered, coolly. “Now the fight is going to begin.”
THE END OF THE LAAGER
I gasped with wonder and rage. What did that scoundrel Indaba-zimbi mean? Why had I been drawn out of the laager and seized, and why, being seized, was I not instantly killed? They called me the “White Spirit.” Could it be that they were keeping me to make me into medicine? I had heard of such things being done by Zulus and kindred tribes, and my blood ran cold at the thought. What an end! To be pounded up, made medicine of, and eaten!