“Because the weak are still the pure and the wise, Baas, or so the old vrouw declared. Because they worship the good while the others worship the devil, and as your father the Predikant used to say, Good is the cock which always wins the fight at the last, Baas. Yes, when he seems to be dead he gets up again and kicks the devil in the stomach and stands on him and crows, Baas. Also these northern folk are mighty magicians. Through their Child-fetish they give rain and fat seasons and keep away sickness, whereas Jana gives only evil gifts that have to do with cruelty and war and so forth. Lastly, the priests who rule through the Child have the secrets of wealth and ancient knowledge, whereas the sultan and his followers have only the might of the spear. This was the song which the old woman sang to me, Baas.”
“Why did you not tell me of these matters when we were at Beza-Town and I could have talked with her myself, Hans?”
“For two reasons, Baas. The first was that I feared, if I told you, you would wish to go on to find these people, whereas I was tired of travelling and wanted to come to Natal to rest. The second was that on the night when the old woman finished telling me her story, she was taken sick and died, and therefore it would have been no use to bring you to see her. So I saved it up in my head until it was wanted. Moreover, Baas, all the Mazitu declared that old woman to be the greatest of liars.”
“She was not altogether a liar, Hans. Hear what I have learned,” and I told him of the magic of Harut and Marut and of the picture that I had seemed to see of the elephant Jana and of the prayer that Harut and Marut had made to me, to all of which he listened quite stolidly. It is not easy to astonish a Hottentot’s brain, which often draws no accurate dividing-line between the possible and what the modern world holds to be impossible.
“Yes, Baas,” he said when I had finished, “then it seems that the old woman was not such a liar after all. Baas, when shall we start after that hoard of dead ivory, and which way will you go? By Kilwa or through Zululand? It should be settled soon because of the seasons.”
After this we talked together for a long while, for with pockets as empty as mine were then, the problem seemed difficult, if not insoluble.
LORD RAGNALL’S STORY
That night Hans slept at my house, or rather outside of it in the garden, or upon the stoep, saying that he feared arrest if he went to the town, because of his quarrel with the white man. As it happened, however, the other party concerned never stirred further in the business, probably because he was too drunk to remember who had knocked him into the sluit or whether he had gravitated thither by accident.