When Menzi and his company had departed, vanishing round the corner of the koppie, Thomas again asked the Chief where they were to sleep, an urgent matter as darkness was now approaching.
Kosa answered with his usual vagueness that he supposed in the hut where the late Teacher had died after the mission-house was burnt down. So they trekked on a little way, passing beneath the shelf of rock that has been mentioned as projecting from that side of the koppie which overhung the stream, where there was just room for a wagon to travel between the cliff and the water.
“What a dark road,” said Dorcas, and one of the Christian natives who understood some English, having been the body-servant of the late missionary–it was he with the accordion–replied in Zulu:
“Yes, Lady; this rock is called the Rock of Evildoers, because once those accused of witchcraft and others were thrown from it by the order of the King, to be eaten by the crocodiles in that pool. But,” he added, brightening up, “do not be afraid, for there are no more Zulu kings and we have hunted away the crocodiles, though it is true that there are still plenty of wizards who ought to be thrown from the rock,” and he looked over his shoulder in the direction Menzi had taken, adding in a low voice, “You have just seen the greatest of them, Lady.”
“How horrible!” said Dorcas for the second time.
A few yards farther on they emerged from this tunnel-like roadway and found themselves travelling along the northern face of the koppie. Here, surrounded by a fence, stood the Chief’s kraal, and just outside of it a large, thatched hut with one or two smaller huts at its back. It was a good hut of its sort, being built after the Basuto fashion with a projecting roof and a doorway, and having a kind of verandah floored with beaten lime.
“This was the Teacher’s house,” said Kosa as the wagon halted.
“I should like to look inside it at once,” remarked Dorcas doubtfully, adding, “Why, what’s that?” and she pointed to a suspicious-looking, oblong mound that was covered with weeds, over which she had almost stumbled.
“That is the grave of the late Teacher, Lady. We buried him here because Menzi’s people took up the bones of those who were in the churchyard and threw them into the river,” explained Kosa.
Dorcas looked as though she were going to faint, but Thomas, rising to the occasion, remarked:
“Come on, dear. The dead are always with us, and what better company could we have than the dust of our sainted predecessor.”
“I would rather have his room,” murmured Dorcas, and gathering herself together, proceeded to the hut.
Somebody opened the door with difficulty, and as it seemed to be very dark within Thomas struck a match, by the light of which Dorcas peered into the interior. Next second she fell back into his arms with a little scream.
“Take me away!” she said. “The place is full of rats.”
He stared; it was quite true. There, sitting up upon the dead missionary’s bed, was a singularly large rat that did not seem in the least frightened by their appearance, whilst other creatures of the same tribe scuttled about the floor and up the walls.
Dorcas slept, or did not sleep, that night in the wagon with Tabitha, while Thomas took his rest beneath it as well as a drizzling rain that was falling would allow.
Such was the beginning of the life of the Bull family in Sisa-Land, not an encouraging beginning, it will be admitted, though no worse and perhaps much better than that which many missionaries and their families are called upon to face in various regions of the earth. What horror is there that missionaries have not been called upon to endure? St. Paul tells us of his trials, but they are paralleled, if not surpassed, even in the present day.
Missionaries, however good, may not always be wise folk; the reader might even think the Rev. Thomas Bull to be no perfect embodiment of wisdom, sympathy or perhaps manners, but taking them as a class they are certainly heroic folks, who endure many things for small reward, as we reckon reward. In nothing perhaps do they show their heroism and faith more greatly than in their persistent habit of conveying women and young children into the most impossible places of the earth, there to suffer many things, not exclusive, occasionally, of martyrdom. At least the Protestant section of their calling does this; the Roman Catholics are wiser. In renouncing marriage these save themselves from many agonies, and having only their own lives and health at stake, are perhaps better fitted to face rough work in rough places.