But Imbozwi was not to be disposed of so easily, for presently, with the help of sundry myrmidons, minor witch-doctors, he scrambled out of the grave, cursing and covered with mud, for it was wet down there. After that I took no more heed of him or of much else. Seeing that I had only half an hour to live, as may be imagined, I was otherwise engaged.
THE COMING OF DOGEETAH
The sunset that day was like the sunrise, particularly fine, although as in the case of the tea, I remembered little of it till afterwards. In fact, thunder was about, which always produces grand cloud effects in Africa.
The sun went down like a great red eye, over which there dropped suddenly a black eyelid of cloud with a fringe of purple lashes.
There’s the last I shall see of you, my old friend, thought I to myself, unless I catch you up presently.
The gloom began to gather. The king looked about him, also at the sky overhead, as though he feared rain, then whispered something to Babemba, who nodded and strolled up to my post.
“White lord,” he said, “the Elephant wishes to know if you are ready, as presently the light will be very bad for shooting?”
“No,” I answered with decision, “not till half an hour after sundown as was agreed.”
Babemba went to the king and returned to me.
“White lord, the king says that a bargain is a bargain, and he will keep to his word. Only you must not then blame him if the shooting is bad, since of course he did not know that the night would be so cloudy, which is not usual at this time of year.”
It grew darker and darker, till at length we might have been lost in a London fog. The dense masses of the people looked like banks, and the archers, flitting to and fro as they made ready, might have been shadows in Hades. Once or twice lightning flashed and was followed after a pause by the distant growling of thunder. The air, too, grew very oppressive. Dense silence reigned. In all those multitudes no one spoke or stirred; even Sammy ceased his howling, I suppose because he had become exhausted and fainted away, as people often do just before they are hanged. It was a most solemn time. Nature seemed to be adapting herself to the mood of sacrifice and making ready for us a mighty pall.
At length I heard the sound of arrows being drawn from their quivers, and then the squeaky voice of Imbozwi, saying:
“Wait a little, the cloud will lift. There is light behind it, and it will be nicer if they can see the arrows coming.”
The cloud did begin to lift, very slowly, and from beneath it flowed a green light like that in a cat’s eye.
“Shall we shoot, Imbozwi?” asked the voice of the captain of the archers.
“Not yet, not yet. Not till the people can watch them die.”