“I know, I know! We witch-doctors read hearts. But do not weep, Little Flower. Why should you for such as I, a black man, a mere savage cheat, as your father named me? Yet I have not been altogether a cheat, O Imba, though sometimes I used tricks like other doctors, for I have a strength of my own which your white people will never understand, because they are too young to understand. It only comes to the old folk who have been since the beginning of the world, and remain as they were at the beginning. I have been wicked, Little Flower, according to your white law. I have killed men and done many other things that are according to the law of my own people, and by that law I look for judgment. Yet, O Imba, I will say this–that I believe your law to be higher and better than my law. Has it not been shown to-day, since of all that were gathered on the rock yonder I alone was struck down and in the hour of my victory? The strongest law must be the best law, is it not so? Tell me, Little Flower, would it please you if I died a Christian?”
“Yes, very much,” said Tabitha, fixing upon this point at once and by instinct avoiding all the other very doubtful disputations. “I will bring my father.”
“Nay, nay, Little Flower. Your father, the Teacher Tombool, swore in his wrath that he would not come to visit me even if I lay dying, and now that I am dying he shall keep his oath and repent of it day by day till he too is dying. If I am to die a Christian, you must make me one this moment; _you_ and no other. Otherwise I go hence a heathen as I have lived. If you bring your father here I will die at once before he can touch me, as I have power to do.”
Then Tabitha, who although so young had strength and understanding and knew, if she thwarted him, that Menzi would do as he threatened, took water and made a certain Sign upon the brow of that old witch-doctor, uttering also certain words that she had often heard used in church at baptisms.
Perhaps she was wrong; perhaps she transgressed and took too much upon her. Still, being by nature courageous, she ran the risk and did these things as afterwards Ivana testified to the followers of Menzi.
“Thank you, Little Flower,” said Menzi. “I do not suppose that this Christian magic will do me any good, but that you wished it is enough. It will be a rope to tie us together, Little Flower. Also I have another thought. When it is known that I became a Christian at the last then, if _you_ bid them, Little Flower, the ‘heathen-herd’ will follow where the bull Menzi went before them. They are but broken sherds and scorched sticks” (i.e. rubbish) “but they will follow and that will please you, Little Flower, and your father also.”
Here Menzi’s breath failed, but recovering it, he continued:
“Hearken! O Imba! I give my people into your hand; now let your hand bend the twig as you would have it grow. Make them Christian if you will, or leave them heathen if you will; I care nothing. They are yours to drive upon whatever path you choose to set their feet, _yours_, O Imba, not Tombool’s. Also, I, who lack heirs, give you my cattle, all of them. Ivana, make known my words, and with them the curse of Menzi, the King’s child, the _Umazisi_, the Seer, on any who dare to disobey. Say to those of my House and to my people that henceforth the Maiden Imba is their lady and their mother.”
Again he paused a little, then went on:
“Now I charge my Spirit to watch over you, Little Flower, till you die and we come to talk over these matters otherwhere, and my Spirit as it departs tells me that it will watch well, and that you will be a very happy woman, Little Flower.”
He shut his eyes and lay still a while. Then he opened them again and said:
“O Imba, tell your father, the Teacher Tombool, from me that he does not understand us black people, whom he thinks so common, as you understand us, Little Flower, and that he would be wise to go to minister to white ones.”
After this, once more he smiled at Tabitha and then shut his eyes again for the last time, and that was the end of the witch-doctor Menzi.
It may be added that after he had rebuilt the church for the second time, and numbered all the “Menzi-herd” among his congregation, which he did now that “the bull of the herd” was dead, as Menzi had foretold that he would, if Tabitha, whom he had “wrapped with his blanket,” decreed it, Thomas took the sage advice of his departed enemy.
Now, in the after years, he is the must respected if somewhat feared bishop of white settlers in a remote Dominion of the Crown.
Thomas to-day knows more than he used to know, but one thing he has never learned, namely that it was the hand of a maid, yes, the little hidden hand of Tabitha, that drove all “Menzi’s herd” into the gates of the “Heavenly Kraal,” as some of them named his church.
For Tabitha knew when to be silent. Perhaps the Kaffirs, whose minds she could read as an open book, taught her this; or perhaps it was one of the best gifts to her of old Menzi’s “Spirit,” into whose care he passed her with so much formality.
This is the story of the great fight between Thomas Bull the missionary and Menzi the witch-doctor, who was led by his love of a little child whither he never wished to go; not for his own soul’s sake, but just because of that little child.
Menzi did not care about his soul, but, being so strange a man, for some reason that he never explained, for Tabitha, his “Little Flower,” he cared very much indeed. That was why he became a Christian at the last, since in his darkened, spell-bound heart he believed that if he did not, when she too “went down” he would never find her again.