“Yes,” exclaimed one of the hunters with a note of anxiety in his voice, “but your Snake mentioned six of us to you, O doctor!”
“It did,” replied Mavovo, drawing a pinch of snuff up his uninjured nostril, “and our brother there was the first of the six. Be not afraid, the other five will certainly join him in due course, for my Snake must speak the truth. Still, if anyone is in a hurry,” and he glared round the little circle, “let him stop and talk with me alone. Perhaps I could arrange that his turn——” here he stopped, for they were all gone.
“Glad I didn’t pay a shilling to have my fortune told by Mavovo,” said Stephen, when we were back in the boma, “but why did they bury his pots and spears with him?”
“To be used by the spirit on its journey,” I answered. “Although they do not quite know it, these Zulus believe, like all the rest of the world, that man lives on elsewhere.”
THE MAGIC MIRROR
I did not sleep very well that night, for now that the danger was over I found that the long strain of it had told upon my nerves. Also there were many noises. Thus, the bearers who were shot had been handed over to their companions, who disposed of them in a simple fashion, namely by throwing them into the bush where they attracted the notice of hyenas. Then the four wounded men who lay near to me groaned a good deal, or when they were not groaning uttered loud prayers to their local gods. We had done the best we could for these unlucky fellows. Indeed, that kind-hearted little coward, Sammy, who at some time in his career served as a dresser in a hospital, had tended their wounds, none of which were mortal, very well indeed, and from time to time rose to minister to them.
But what disturbed me most was the fearful hubbub which came from the camp below. Many of the tropical African tribes are really semi-nocturnal in their habits, I suppose because there the night is cooler than the day, and on any great occasion this tendency asserts itself.
Thus every one of these freed slaves seemed to be howling his loudest to an accompaniment of clashing iron pots or stones, which, lacking their native drums, they beat with sticks.
Moreover, they had lit large fires, about which they flitted in an ominous and unpleasant fashion, that reminded me of some mediaeval pictures of hell, which I had seen in an old book.
At last I could stand it no longer, and kicking Hans who, curled up like a dog, slept at my feet, asked him what was going on. His answer caused me to regret the question.
“Plenty of those slaves cannibal men, Baas. Think they eat the Arabs and like them very much,” he said with a yawn, then went to sleep again.
I did not continue the conversation.