Tabitha looked round for her goat, and perceiving it at a little distance, ran to fetch it, since the creature, being engaged in eating something to its taste, would not come at her call. She seized it by the neck to drag it away, with the result that its fore-feet, obstinately set upon the wall, overturned a large stone, revealing a great puff adder that was sleeping there.
The reptile thus disturbed instantly struck backwards after the fashion of its species, so that its fangs, just missing Tabitha’s hands, sank deep into the kid’s neck. She screamed and there was a great disturbance. A native ran forward and pinned down the puff-adder with his walking-stick of which the top was forked. The kid immediately fell on to its side, and lay there bleeding and bleating. Tabitha began to weep, calling out, “My goat is killed,” between her sobs.
Menzi, distinguishing her voice amid the tumult, asked what was the matter. Someone told him, whereon he commanded that the kid should be brought to him and the snake also. This was done, Tabitha following her dying pet with her mother, for by now Thomas had departed, taking no heed of these events, which perhaps he was too disturbed to notice.
“Save my goat! Save my goat, O Menzi!” implored Tabitha.
The old witch-doctor looked at the animal, also at the hideous puff-adder that had been dragged along the ground in the fork of the stick.
“It will be hard, Little Flower,” he said, “seeing that the goat is bitten in the neck and this snake is very poisonous. Still for your sake I will try, although I fear that it may prove but a waste of good medicine.”
Then he took one of his bags and from it selected a certain packet wrapped in a dried leaf, out of which he shook some grey powder. Seizing the kid, which seemed to be almost dead, he made an incision in its throat over the wound, and into it rubbed some of this powder. Next he spat upon more of the powder, thus turning it into a paste, and opening the kid’s mouth, thrust it down its throat, at the same time muttering an invocation or spell.
“Now we must wait,” he said, letting the kid fall upon the ground, where it lay to all appearance dead.
“Is that powder any good?” asked Dorcas rather aimlessly.
“Yes, it is very good, Lady; a medicine of power of which I alone have the secret, a magic medicine. See, I will show you. Except the _immamba_, the ring-snake that puffs out its head, this one is the most deadly in our country. Yet I do not fear it. Look!”
Leaning forward, he seized the puff-adder, and drawing it from beneath the fork, suffered it to strike him upon the breast, after which he deliberately killed it with a stone. Then he took some of the grey powder and rubbed it into the punctures; also put more of it into his mouth, which he swallowed.
“Oh!” exclaimed Dorcas, “he will die,” and some of the Christian Kaffirs echoed her remark.
But Menzi did not die at all. On the contrary, after shivering a few times he was quite himself, and, indeed, seemed rather brighter than before, like a jaded business man who has drunk a cocktail.
“No, Wife of Tombool,” he said, “I shall not die; every year I doctor myself with this magic medicine that is called _Dawa_, after which all the snakes in Sisa-Land–remember that they are many, Little Flower–may bite me if they like.”
“Is it your magic or is it the medicine that protects you?” asked Dorcas.
“Both, Lady. The medicine _Dawa_ is of no use without the magic words, and the magic words are of no use without the medicine. Therefore alone in all the land I can cure snake bites, who have both medicine and magic. Look at your goat, Little Flower. Look at your goat!”
Tabitha looked, as did everyone else. The kid was rising to its feet. It rose, it baa’d and presently began to frisk about its mistress, like Menzi apparently rather brighter than before.