“This has happened, White-man,” answered Menzi, “the Floweret has been bitten by a hooded snake and is about to die. Look at her,” and he pointed to Tabitha, who notwithstanding the venom sucking and the grass tied round her blackened finger, sat huddled-up, shivering and half comatose.
“Let me pass, White-man, that I may save her if I can,” he went on.
“Get back,” said Thomas, “I will have none of your black magic practised on my daughter. If she is to live God will save her.”
“What medicines have you, White-man?” asked Menzi.
“None, at least not here. Faith is my medicine.”
Dorcas looked at Tabitha. She was turning blue and her teeth were chattering.
“Let the man do his best,” she said to Thomas. “There is no other hope.”
“He shan’t touch her,” replied her husband obstinately.
Then Dorcas fired up, meek-natured though she was and accustomed though she was to obey her husband’s will.
“I say that he shall,” she cried. “I know what he can do. Don’t you remember the goat? I will not see my child die as a sacrifice to your pride.”
“I have made up my mind,” answered Thomas. “If she dies it is so decreed, and the spells and filth of a heathen cannot save her.”
Dorcas tried to thrust him aside with her feeble strength, but big and burly, he stood in the path like a rock, blocking the way, with the stone entrance walls of the little pleasure-house on either side of him.
Suddenly the old Zulu, Menzi, became rather terrible; he drew himself up; he seemed to swell in size; his thin face grew set and fierce.
“Out of the path, White-man!” he said, “or by Chaka’s head I will kill you,” and from somewhere he produced a long, thin-bladed knife of native iron fixed on a buck’s horn.
“Kill on, Wizard,” shouted Thomas. “Kill if you can.”
“Listen,” said Dorcas. “If our daughter dies because of you, then I have done with you. We part for ever. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I understand,” he answered heavily. “So be it.”
Tabitha behind them made some convulsive noise. Thomas turned and looked at her; she was slowly sinking down upon her side. His face changed. All the rage and obstinacy went out of it.
“My child! Oh, my child!” he cried, “I cannot bear this. Love is stronger than all. When I come up for judgment, may it be remembered that love is stronger than all!”
Then he stepped out of the gateway, and sat down upon a stone hiding his eyes with his hand.
Menzi threw down the knife and leapt in, followed by his servant who bore his medicines, and the woman Ivana. He did his office; he uttered his spells and invocations, he rubbed _Dawa_ into the wound, and prising open the child’s clenched teeth, thrust more of it, a great deal more, down her throat, while all three of them rubbed her cold limbs.
About half an hour afterwards he came out of the place followed by Ivana, who carried Tabitha in her strong arms; Tabitha was very weak, but smiling, and with the colour returning to her cheeks. Of Thomas he took no notice, but to Dorcas he said:
“Lady, I give you back your daughter. She is saved. Let her drink milk and sleep.”
Then Thomas, whose judgment and charity were shaken for a while, spoke, saying:
“As a man and a father I thank you, Witch-doctor, but know that as a priest I swear that I will never have more to do with you, who, I am sure, by your arts, can command these reptiles to work your will and have planned all this to shame me. No, not even if you lay dying would I come to visit you.”
Thus stormed Thomas in his wrath and humiliation, believing that he had been the victim of a plot and not knowing that he would live bitterly to regret his words.
“I see that you hate me, Teacher,” said Menzi, “and though here I do not find the gentleness you preach, I do not wonder; it is quite natural. Were I you I should do the same. But you are Little Flower’s father–strange that she should have grown from such a seed–and though we fight, for that reason I cannot hate you. Be not disturbed. Perhaps it was the sucking of the wound and the grass tied round her finger which saved her, not my spells and medicine. No, no, I cannot hate you, although we fight for mastery, and you pelt me with vile words, saying that I charmed a deadly _immamba_ to bite Little Flower whom I love, that I might cure her and make a mock of you. Yet I do hate that snake which bit the maiden Imba of its own wickedness, the hooded _immamba_ that you believe to be my familiar, and it shall die. Man,” here he turned to his servant, “and you, Ivana and the others, pull down that wall.”
They leapt to do his bidding, and presently discovered the _ringhals_ in its hole. Heedless of its fangs and writhings, Menzi sprang at it with a Zulu curse, and seizing it, proceeded to kill it in a very slow and cruel fashion.