Kosa replied that he was glad to hear it, because these needed saving, since most of the Sisa people were now servants of the devil. Since the last _Umfundisi_, or Teacher died, they had been walking the road to hell at a very great pace, marrying many wives, drinking gin and practising all kinds of witchcraft under the guidance of the _Isanusi_ or doctor, Menzi. This man, he added, had burned down the church and the mission-house by his magic, though these had seemed to be destroyed by lightning.
With a proud gesture Thomas announced that he would soon settle Menzi and all his works, and that meanwhile, as the darkness was coming on, he would be glad if Kosa would lead them to the place where they were to sleep.
So they started, the accordion-man, playing execrably, leading the way, and trekked for about a mile and a half till they came to the koppie in the centre of the plain, reaching it by following the left bank of the river that washed its western face.
Passing between a number of tumbled walls built of loose stones, that once in bygone generations had sheltered the cattle of Chaka and other Zulu kings, they reached a bay in the side of the koppie that may have covered four acres of ground. Here by the edge of the river, but standing a little above it, were the burnt-out ruins of a building that by its shape had evidently been a church, and near to it other ruins of a school and of a house which once was the mission-station.
As they approached they heard swelling from within those cracked and melancholy walls the sound of a fierce, defiant chant which Thomas guessed must be some ancient Zulu war-song, as indeed it was. It was a very impressive song, chanted by many people, which informed the listeners that those who sung it were the King’s oxen, born to kill the King’s enemies, and to be killed for the King, and so forth; a deep-noted, savage song that thrilled the blood, at the first sound of which the accordion gave a feeble wail and metaphorically expired.
“Isn’t that beautiful music, Father. I never heard anything like that before,” exclaimed Tabitha.
Before Thomas could answer, out from the ruined doorway of the Church issued a band of men–there might have been a hundred of them–clad in all the magnificent panoply of old-time Zulu warriors, with tall plumes upon their heads, large shields upon their arms, kilts about their middles, and fringes of oxtails hanging from their knees and elbows. They formed into a double line and advanced, waving broad-bladed assegais. Then at a signal they halted by the wagon and uttered a deep-throated salute.
In front of their lines was a little withered old fellow who carried neither shield nor spear, but only a black rod to which was bound the tail of a _wildebeeste_. Except for his _moocha_ he was almost naked, and into his grey hair was woven a polished ring of black gum, from which hung several little bladders. Upon his scraggy neck was a necklace of baboon’s teeth and amulets, whilst above the _moocha_ was twisted a snake that might have been either alive or stuffed.
His face, though aged and shrunken, was fine-featured and full of breeding, while his hands and feet were very small; his eyes were brooding, the eyes of a mystic, but when his interest was excited their glance was as sharp as a bradawl. Just now it was fixed on Thomas, who felt as if it were piercing him through and through. The owner of the eyes, as Thomas guessed at once, was Menzi, a witch-doctor very famous in those parts.
“Why are these men armed with spears? It is against the law for Kaffirs to carry spears,” he said to the Chief.
“This is Portuguese Territory; there is no law in Portuguese Territory,” answered Kosa with a vacant stare.
“Then we might be all murdered here and no notice taken,” exclaimed Thomas.
“Yes, Teacher. Many people have been murdered here: my father was murdered, and I dare say I shall be.”
Kosa made no answer, but his vacant eyes rested for a little while on Menzi.
“Good God! what a country,” said Thomas to himself, looking at Dorcas who was frightened. Then he turned to meet Menzi, who was advancing towards them.
Casting a glance of contempt at Kosa, of whom he took no further notice, Menzi saluted the new-comers by lifting his hand above his head. Then with the utmost politeness he drew a snuff-box fashioned from the tip of a buffalo-horn out of a slit in the lobe of his left ear, extracted the wooden stopper and offered Thomas some snuff.
“Thank you, but I do not take that nastiness,” said Thomas.