Then, making a gesture of despair, Thomas returned to his house, and with Dorcas and Tabitha watched the savage ceremony from the edge of the cliff that overhung the river, or rather what had been the river. He could not see much of it because they were too far away, but he perceived those apostate Christians prostrating themselves at Menzi’s order, probably, he reflected, to make prayers to the devil. In fact they were not doing this, but only repeating Menzi’s magical chants with appropriate gestures, as for countless ages their forefathers had done upon similar occasions.
Next an unfortunate black goat was dragged forward by the horns, a very thin black goat, and its throat was cut over a little fire, a sacrifice that suggested necromancy of the most Satanic sort.
After this Thomas and his family went back into the house and shut the windows, that they might not hear the unholy shoutings of the misguided mob. When they went out again Menzi had departed, and so had the others. The place was empty.
The following day was Sunday, and Thomas locked the church on the inner side, and read the service with Dorcas and Tabitha for sole congregation. It was a melancholy business, for some sense of evil seemed to hang over all three of them, also over everybody else, for the Christians went about with dejected looks and not one person spoke to them. Only Ivana came at night as usual to sleep with Tabitha, though even she said nothing.
Next morning they woke up to find the heavens black with clouds, heavy, ominous clouds; the truth being that the drought was drawing to its natural end. Thomas noted this, and reflected bitterly how hard it was that this end should not have come twenty-four hours earlier. But so events had been decreed and he was helpless.
By midday it began to rain, lightly at first, and from his rock he could see the people, looking unnatural and distorted in that strange gloom, for the clouds had descended almost to the earth, rushing about, holding out their hands as though to clasp the blessed moisture and talking excitedly one to the other. Soon they were driven into their huts, for the rain turned into a kind of waterspout. Never had such rain been known in Sisa-Land.
All that afternoon it poured, and all the night with ever-increasing violence; yes, and all the following morning, so that by noon Thomas’s rain-gauge showed that over twelve inches had fallen in about twenty-four hours, and it was still raining. Water rushed down from the koppie; even their well-built house could not keep out the wet, and, to the despair of Dorcas, several of the rooms were flooded and some of the new furniture was spoiled. The river beneath had become a raging torrent, and was rising every hour. Already it was over its banks, and the water had got into the huts of the Chief’s kraal and the village round it, so that their occupants were obliged to seek safety upon the lower rocks of the koppie, where they sat shivering in the wet.
Night came at last, and through the darkness they heard cries as of people in distress. The long hours wore away till dawn, a melancholy dawn, for still it rained, though more lightly now, and no sun could be seen.
“Father,” cried Tabitha, who, clad in oilskins, had gone a little way down the road, “come here and look.”
He went. The child pointed to the village below, or rather what had been the village, for now there was none. It had gone and with it Kosa’s kraal; the site was a pool, the huts had vanished, all of them, and some of the roofs lay upon the sides of the koppie, looking like overturned coracles. Only the church and the graveyard remained, for those stood on slightly higher ground by the banks of the river.
A little while later a miserable and dejected crowd arrived at the mission-house, wrapped up in blankets or anything else that they had managed to save.
“What do you want?” asked Thomas.
“Teacher,” replied the Chief Kosa, with twitching face and rolling eyes, “we want you to come down to the church and pray for us. Our houses are gone, our fields are washed away. We want you to come to pray for us, for more rain is gathering on the hills and we are afraid.”
“You mean that you are cold and wish to take refuge in the church, of which I have the key. You have sought rain and now you have got rain, such rain as you deserve. Why do you complain? Go to your witch-doctor and ask him to save you.”
“Teacher, come down to the church and pray for us,” they wailed.
In the end Thomas went, for his heart was moved to pity, and Dorcas and Tabitha went with him.
They entered the church, wading to it through several inches of water, and the service of intercession began, attended by every Christian in the place–except a few who were drowned–a miserable and heartily repentant crowd.