“Murderer,” mocked Sihamba in answer, “I see Death standing behind you, and with him shadows of the Fear to come. But I would speak with these chiefs and not with an outcast half-breed. Tell me, chiefs, why do you come up against my stronghold with so great a force?”
“Because that ‘Elephant whose tread shakes the earth,’ our master, Dingaan the king, has sent us,” answered the spokesman of the captains.
“Say, now, on what errand, chief?”
“On this errand; to take your stronghold and cattle, to burn your kraal, and to kill your people, all of them save the marriageable girls and such children as are old enough to travel, who must be brought with the cattle to Dingaan. But you yourself and the white woman who is called Swallow who rules with you are to be handed over to Bull-Head here to do with as he will, for that is the bargain between him and the king.”
“And why are these things to come upon us who have done no wrong?” asked Sihamba.
“Why, little woman!” answered the chief, “because you have dared to steal cattle from the king’s herd, even the royal white cattle; yes, and they have been traced to your mountain and seen among your oxen.”
“It is true that the cattle are here,” said Sihamba, “but it is not true that we have stolen them, seeing that they were lifted by the white man, Bull-Head, and mixed up with our herds to bring us into trouble with the king.”
“A fit tale for the king’s ears,” replied the captain, laughing. “Why it was Bull-Head who told the king of the theft; but let that pass. Dingaan the king is merciful, and he makes you this offer through my mouth: If you will return the cattle together with all your own by way of fine, and hand over your councillors and head men to be killed, then he will grant the rest their lives. But all the young men and the girls must come with me to pass into the service of the king, the married women and the children going where they will. Perhaps Bull-Head here will take them with yourself and White Swallow. What is your word, little chieftainess?”
“My word is that we will have none of such mercy. It is better that we should die together, but I tell you, men of Dingaan, that these rocks will be white with your bones before ever you drive our cattle and maidens back to Dingaan.”
“As you will, little chieftainess. We captains of the Zulus have heard many such proud words in our time, but ah! where are those who spoke them? Ask the jackals and the vultures, little chieftainess.”