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The Eumenides In Kafirland
by [?]

“Fate leadeth through the garden shews
The trees of Knowledge, Death, and Life;
On this, the wholesome apple grows,–
On that, fair fruit with poison rife.
Yet sometimes apples deadly be.
Whilst poison-fruits may nourish thee.”

SHAGBAG’S Advice to Beginners.

I.

THIS is how it all happened. They met at the canteen on Monday morning at eight o’clock–Jim Gubo, the policeman, and Kalaza, who had just been released from the convict station where, for five long years, he had been expiating a particularly cruel assault with violence upon a woman. ‘Ntsoba, the fat Fingo barman, leant lazily over the counter, but as the regular customers for the morning “nip” had all departed, and no one else had yet come, he went outside and sat in the sunshine, smoking his oily pipe with thorough enjoyment. He did not in the least mind leaving Jim Gubo in the canteen, because Jim and he had long since come to an understanding, and this with the full approval of the proprietor. Jim was, so to say, free of the house, and got his daily number of tots of poisonous “dop” brandy measured out in the thick glass tumbler, the massive exterior of which was quite out of proportion to the comparatively limited interior space. These tots (and an occasional bottle) were Jim’s reward for not exercising too severe a supervision over the canteen, and for always happening to be round the corner when a row took place. Moreover, the till, besides being as yet nearly empty, was well out of reach; the counter was high and broad, and the shelving, sparsely filled with filthy looking black bottles, was fixed well back, so as to be out of the way of the whirling kerries which were often in evidence, especially on Saturday afternoons. The great brown, poisonous looking hogsheads–suggestive of those very much swollen and unpleasant looking fecund female insects which are to be found in the nethermost chamber of the city of the termites, and which lay thousands of eggs daily–had safety taps, of which ‘Ntsoba’s master kept the keys.

Jim Gubo and Kalaza talked about many things–of life at the convict station, for Kalaza was the nephew of Jim’s father’s second wife, and Jim consequently knew all about his companion; of the decadence of the times, in which it was so difficult for a poor man to live without working; of the strictness with which the locations were managed; of how the inspectors inquired inconveniently as to strangers therein sojourning, and chiefly about the decline in Jim’s particular line of business.

“Son of my father,” said Jim, “times are very bad indeed. There is little or no stock-stealing going on. The farmers come to the office and report losses of sheep; we are sent to hunt for the thieves, but instead of catching them, we find that the sheep have simply strayed into some other farmer’s flock. Will you believe it; for two months we have not run in a single thief?”

“Mawo,” replied Kalaza, “how very discouraging.”

“Yes, and Government thinks we are not doing our duty, and my officer says we are no good.”

“But can you not make them steal, or make the magistrate think they do?” rejoined Kalaza, after a pause.

“Wait a bit, that is what I am coming to,” said Jim, in a low tone. “There is one man whom I know to be a thief, but though I have tried to, over and over again, I cannot catch him.”

“Who is that?”

“Maliwe, the son of Zangalele, the Kafir whose brother Tambiso gave evidence against you when you were tried by the judge.”

Here the beady eyes of Kalaza gave a kind of snap, and he leant forward with an appearance of increased interest.

“Tell me about Maliwe,” he said.

“Maliwe,” replied Jim, “is the shepherd of Gert Botha, whose farm is near the Gangili Hill, where the two rivers join.”