English Literature

Black Heart and White Heart by H. Rider Haggard

Black Heart and White Heart by H. Rider Haggard.jpg



At the date of our introduction to him, Philip Hadden was a transport-rider and trader in “the Zulu.” Still on the right side of forty, in appearance he was singularly handsome; tall, dark, upright, with keen eyes, short-pointed beard, curling hair and clear-cut features. His life had been varied, and there were passages in it which he did not narrate even to his most intimate friends. He was of gentle birth, however, and it was said that he had received a public school and university education in England. At any rate he could quote the classics with aptitude on occasion, an accomplishment which, coupled with his refined voice and a bearing not altogether common in the wild places of the world, had earned for him among his rough companions the soubriquet of “The Prince.”

However these things may have been, it is certain that he had emigrated to Natal under a cloud, and equally certain that his relatives at home were content to take no further interest in his fortunes. During the fifteen or sixteen years which he had spent in or about the colony, Hadden followed many trades, and did no good at any of them. A clever man, of agreeable and prepossessing manner, he always found it easy to form friendships and to secure a fresh start in life. But, by degrees, the friends were seized with a vague distrust of him; and, after a period of more or less application, he himself would close the opening that he had made by a sudden disappearance from the locality, leaving behind him a doubtful reputation and some bad debts.

Before the beginning of this story of the most remarkable episodes in his life, Philip Hadden was engaged for several years in transport-riding—that is, in carrying goods on ox waggons from Durban or Maritzburg to various points in the interior. A difficulty such as had more than once confronted him in the course of his career, led to his temporary abandonment of this means of earning a livelihood. On arriving at the little frontier town of Utrecht in the Transvaal, in charge of two waggon loads of mixed goods consigned to a storekeeper there, it was discovered that out of six cases of brandy five were missing from his waggon. Hadden explained the matter by throwing the blame upon his Kaffir “boys,” but the storekeeper, a rough-tongued man, openly called him a thief and refused to pay the freight on any of the load. From words the two men came to blows, knives were drawn, and before anybody could interfere the storekeeper received a nasty wound in his side. That night, without waiting till the matter could be inquired into by the landdrost or magistrate, Hadden slipped away, and trekked back into Natal as quickly as his oxen would travel. Feeling that even here he was not safe, he left one of his waggons at Newcastle, loaded up the other with Kaffir goods—such as blankets, calico, and hardware—and crossed into Zululand, where in those days no sheriff’s officer would be likely to follow him.

Being well acquainted with the language and customs of the natives, he did good trade with them, and soon found himself possessed of some cash and a small herd of cattle, which he received in exchange for his wares. Meanwhile news reached him that the man whom he had injured still vowed vengeance against him, and was in communication with the authorities in Natal. These reasons making his return to civilisation undesirable for the moment, and further business being impossible until he could receive a fresh supply of trade stuff, Hadden like a wise man turned his thoughts to pleasure. Sending his cattle and waggon over the border to be left in charge of a native headman with whom he was friendly, he went on foot to Ulundi to obtain permission from the king, Cetywayo, to hunt game in his country. Somewhat to his surprise, the Indunas or headmen, received him courteously—for Hadden’s visit took place within a few months of the outbreak of the Zulu war in 1878, when Cetywayo was already showing unfriendliness to the English traders and others, though why the king did so they knew not.

On the occasion of his first and last interview with Cetywayo, Hadden got a hint of the reason. It happened thus. On the second morning after his arrival at the royal kraal, a messenger came to inform him that “the Elephant whose tread shook the earth” had signified that it was his pleasure to see him. Accordingly he was led through the thousands of huts and across the Great Place to the little enclosure where Cetywayo, a royal-looking Zulu seated on a stool, and wearing a kaross of leopard skins, was holding an indaba, or conference, surrounded by his counsellors. The Induna who had conducted him to the august presence went down upon his hands and knees, and, uttering the royal salute of Bayéte, crawled forward to announce that the white man was waiting.

“Let him wait,” said the king angrily; and, turning, he continued the discussion with his counsellors.

Now, as has been said, Hadden thoroughly understood Zulu; and, when from time to time the king raised his voice, some of the words he spoke reached his ear.

“What!” Cetywayo said, to a wizened and aged man who seemed to be pleading with him earnestly; “am I a dog that these white hyenas should hunt me thus? Is not the land mine, and was it not my father’s before me? Are not the people mine to save or to slay? I tell you that I will stamp out these little white men; my impis shall eat them up. I have said!”

Again the withered aged man interposed, evidently in the character of a peacemaker. Hadden could not hear his talk, but he rose and pointed towards the sea, while from his expressive gestures and sorrowful mien, he seemed to be prophesying disaster should a certain course of action be followed.

For a while the king listened to him, then he sprang from his seat, his eyes literally ablaze with rage.

“Hearken,” he cried to the counsellor; “I have guessed it for long, and now I am sure of it. You are a traitor. You are Sompseu’s[*] dog, and the dog of the Natal Government, and I will not keep another man’s dog to bite me in my own house. Take him away!”

     [*] Sir Theophilus Shepstone’s.

A slight involuntary murmur rose from the ring of indunas, but the old man never flinched, not even when the soldiers, who presently would murder him, came and seized him roughly. For a few seconds, perhaps five, he covered his face with the corner of the kaross he wore, then he looked up and spoke to the king in a clear voice.

“O King,” he said, “I am a very old man; as a youth I served under Chaka the Lion, and I heard his dying prophecy of the coming of the white man. Then the white men came, and I fought for Dingaan at the battle of the Blood River. They slew Dingaan, and for many years I was the counsellor of Panda, your father. I stood by you, O King, at the battle of the Tugela, when its grey waters were turned to red with the blood of Umbulazi your brother, and of the tens of thousands of his people. Afterwards I became your counsellor, O King, and I was with you when Sompseu set the crown upon your head and you made promises to Sompseu—promises that you have not kept. Now you are weary of me, and it is well; for I am very old, and doubtless my talk is foolish, as it chances to the old. Yet I think that the prophecy of Chaka, your great-uncle, will come true, and that the white men will prevail against you and that through them you shall find your death. I would that I might have stood in one more battle and fought for you, O King, since fight you will, but the end which you choose is for me the best end. Sleep in peace, O King, and farewell. Bayéte!”[*]

     [*] The royal salute of the Zulus.

For a space there was silence, a silence of expectation while men waited to hear the tyrant reverse his judgment. But it did not please him to be merciful, or the needs of policy outweighed his pity.

“Take him away,” he repeated. Then, with a slow smile on his face and one word, “Good-night,” upon his lips, supported by the arm of a soldier, the old warrior and statesman shuffled forth to the place of death.

Hadden watched and listened in amazement not unmixed with fear. “If he treats his own servants like this, what will happen to me?” he reflected. “We English must have fallen out of favour since I left Natal. I wonder whether he means to make war on us or what? If so, this isn’t my place.”

Just then the king, who had been gazing moodily at the ground, chanced to look up. “Bring the stranger here,” he said.

Hadden heard him, and coming forward offered Cetywayo his hand in as cool and nonchalant a manner as he could command.

Somewhat to his surprise it was accepted. “At least, White Man,” said the king, glancing at his visitor’s tall spare form and cleanly cut face, “you are no ‘umfagozan’ (low fellow); you are of the blood of chiefs.”

“Yes, King,” answered Hadden, with a little sigh, “I am of the blood of chiefs.”

“What do you want in my country, White Man?”

“Very little, King. I have been trading here, as I daresay you have heard, and have sold all my goods. Now I ask your leave to hunt buffalo, and other big game, for a while before I return to Natal.”

“I cannot grant it,” answered Cetywayo, “you are a spy sent by Sompseu, or by the Queen’s Induna in Natal. Get you gone.”

“Indeed,” said Hadden, with a shrug of his shoulders; “then I hope that Sompseu, or the Queen’s Induna, or both of them, will pay me when I return to my own country. Meanwhile I will obey you because I must, but I should first like to make you a present.”

“What present?” asked the king. “I want no presents. We are rich here, White Man.”

“So be it, King. It was nothing worthy of your taking, only a rifle.”

“A rifle, White Man? Where is it?”

“Without. I would have brought it, but your servants told me that it is death to come armed before the ‘Elephant who shakes the Earth.’”

Cetywayo frowned, for the note of sarcasm did not escape his quick ear.

“Let this white man’s offering be brought; I will consider the thing.”

Instantly the Induna who had accompanied Hadden darted to the gateway, running with his body bent so low that it seemed as though at every step he must fall upon his face. Presently he returned with the weapon in his hand and presented it to the king, holding it so that the muzzle was pointed straight at the royal breast.

“I crave leave to say, O Elephant,” remarked Hadden in a drawling voice, “that it might be well to command your servant to lift the mouth of that gun from your heart.”

“Why?” asked the king.

“Only because it is loaded, and at full cock, O Elephant, who probably desires to continue to shake the Earth.”

At these words the “Elephant” uttered a sharp exclamation, and rolled from his stool in a most unkingly manner, whilst the terrified Induna, springing backwards, contrived to touch the trigger of the rifle and discharge a bullet through the exact spot that a second before had been occupied by his monarch’s head.

“Let him be taken away,” shouted the incensed king from the ground, but long before the words had passed his lips the Induna, with a cry that the gun was bewitched, had cast it down and fled at full speed through the gate.

“He has already taken himself away,” suggested Hadden, while the audience tittered. “No, King, do not touch it rashly; it is a repeating rifle. Look——” and lifting the Winchester, he fired the four remaining shots in quick succession into the air, striking the top of a tree at which he aimed with every one of them.

Wow, it is wonderful!” said the company in astonishment.

“Has the thing finished?” asked the king.

“For the present it has,” answered Hadden. “Look at it.”

Cetywayo took the repeater in his hand, and examined it with caution, swinging the muzzle horizontally in an exact line with the stomachs of some of his most eminent Indunas, who shrank to this side and that as the barrel was brought to bear on them.

“See what cowards they are, White Man,” said the king with indignation; “they fear lest there should be another bullet in this gun.”

“Yes,” answered Hadden, “they are cowards indeed. I believe that if they were seated on stools they would tumble off them just as it chanced to your Majesty to do just now.”

“Do you understand the making of guns, White Man?” asked the king hastily, while the Indunas one and all turned their heads, and contemplated the fence behind them.

“No, King, I cannot make guns, but I can mend them.”

“If I paid you well, White Man, would you stop here at my kraal, and mend guns for me?” asked Cetywayo anxiously.

“It might depend on the pay,” answered Hadden; “but for awhile I am tired of work, and wish to rest. If the king gives me the permission to hunt for which I asked, and men to go with me, then when I return perhaps we can bargain on the matter. If not, I will bid the king farewell, and journey to Natal.”

“In order to make report of what he has seen and learned here,” muttered Cetywayo.

At this moment the talk was interrupted, for the soldiers who had led away the old Induna returned at speed, and prostrated themselves before the king.

“Is he dead?” he asked.

“He has travelled the king’s bridge,” they answered grimly; “he died singing a song of praise of the king.”

“Good,” said Cetywayo, “that stone shall hurt my feet no more. Go, tell the tale of its casting away to Sompseu and to the Queen’s Induna in Natal,” he added with bitter emphasis.

Baba! Hear our Father speak. Listen to the rumbling of the Elephant,” said the Indunas taking the point, while one bolder than the rest added: “Soon we will tell them another tale, the white Talking Ones, a red tale, a tale of spears, and the regiments shall sing it in their ears.”

At the words an enthusiasm caught hold of the listeners, as the sudden flame catches hold of dry grass. They sprang up, for the most of them were seated on their haunches, and stamping their feet upon the ground in unison, repeated:—

     Indaba ibomwu—indaba ye mikonto
     Lizo dunyiswa nge impi ndhlebeni yaho.
     (A red tale! A red tale! A tale of spears,
     And the impis shall sing it in their ears.)

One of them, indeed, a great fierce-faced fellow, drew near to Hadden and shaking his fist before his eyes—fortunately being in the royal presence he had no assegai—shouted the sentences at him.

The king saw that the fire he had lit was burning too fiercely.

“Silence,” he thundered in the deep voice for which he was remarkable, and instantly each man became as if he were turned to stone, only the echoes still answered back: “And the impis shall sing it in their ears—in their ears.”

“I am growing certain that this is no place for me,” thought Hadden; “if that scoundrel had been armed he might have temporarily forgotten himself. Hullo! who’s this?”

Just then there appeared through the gate of the fence a splendid specimen of the Zulu race. The man, who was about thirty-five years of age, was arrayed in a full war dress of a captain of the Umcityu regiment. From the circlet of otter skin on his brow rose his crest of plumes, round his middle, arms and knees hung the long fringes of black oxtails, and in one hand he bore a little dancing shield, also black in colour. The other was empty, since he might not appear before the king bearing arms. In countenance the man was handsome, and though just now they betrayed some anxiety, his eyes were genial and honest, and his mouth sensitive. In height he must have measured six foot two inches, yet he did not strike the observer as being tall, perhaps because of his width of chest and the solidity of his limbs, that were in curious contrast to the delicate and almost womanish hands and feet which so often mark the Zulu of noble blood. In short the man was what he seemed to be, a savage gentleman of birth, dignity and courage.

In company with him was another man plainly dressed in a moocha and a blanket, whose grizzled hair showed him to be over fifty years of age. His face also was pleasant and even refined, but the eyes were timorous, and the mouth lacked character.

“Who are these?” asked the king.

The two men fell on their knees before him, and bowed till their foreheads touched the ground—the while giving him his sibonga or titles of praise.

“Speak,” he said impatiently.

“O King,” said the young warrior, seating himself Zulu fashion, “I am Nahoon, the son of Zomba, a captain of the Umcityu, and this is my uncle Umgona, the brother of one of my mothers, my father’s youngest wife.”

Cetywayo frowned. “What do you here away from your regiment, Nahoon?”

“May it please the king, I have leave of absence from the head captains, and I come to ask a boon of the king’s bounty.”

“Be swift, then, Nahoon.”

“It is this, O King,” said the captain with some embarrassment: “A while ago the king was pleased to make a keshla of me because of certain service that I did out yonder——” and he touched the black ring which he wore in the hair of his head. “Being now a ringed man and a captain, I crave the right of a man at the hands of the king—the right to marry.”

“Right? Speak more humbly, son of Zomba; my soldiers and my cattle have no rights.”

Nahoon bit his lip, for he had made a serious mistake.

“Pardon, O King. The matter stands thus: My uncle Umgona here has a fair daughter named Nanea, whom I desire to wife, and who desires me to husband. Awaiting the king’s leave I am betrothed to her and in earnest of it I have paid to Umgona a lobola of fifteen head of cattle, cows and calves together. But Umgona has a powerful neighbour, an old chief named Maputa, the warden of the Crocodile Drift, who doubtless is known to the king, and this chief also seeks Nanea in marriage and harries Umgona, threatening him with many evils if he will not give the girl to him. But Umgona’s heart is white towards me, and towards Maputa it is black, therefore together we come to crave this boon of the king.”

“It is so; he speaks the truth,” said Umgona.

“Cease,” answered Cetywayo angrily. “Is this a time that my soldiers should seek wives in marriage, wives to turn their hearts to water? Know that but yesterday for this crime I commanded that twenty girls who had dared without my leave to marry men of the Undi regiment, should be strangled and their bodies laid upon the cross-roads and with them the bodies of their fathers, that all might know their sin and be warned thereby. Ay, Umgona, it is well for you and for your daughter that you sought my word before she was given in marriage to this man. Now this is my award: I refuse your prayer, Nahoon, and since you, Umgona, are troubled with one whom you would not take as son-in-law, the old chief Maputa, I will free you from his importunity. The girl, says Nahoon, is fair—good, I myself will be gracious to her, and she shall be numbered among the wives of the royal house. Within thirty days from now, in the week of the next new moon, let her be delivered to the Sigodhla, the royal house of the women, and with her those cattle, the cows and the calves together, that Nahoon has given you, of which I fine him because he has dared to think of marriage without the leave of the king.”


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