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The Quest Of The Copper
by [?]

“A beast with horns that rend and gore
My army rushes through the world;
The white plumes flutter in the fore,
Like mists before a tempest whirled;
The roaring sea when storms are strong
Is not so fierce, the lion’s wrath
Is tame when swells the battle-song
That frights the clouds above my path!

“My beaten shields to thunder thrill,
My spears like lightning flash between,
Till raining blood their brightness kill,
Or dim to lurid red their sheen!
At morn and eve the splendid shine of burning clouds
I hail with joy–
The sky thus gives its son the sign
To rise up mighty, and destroy!”

Zulu Pictures. Tshaka.


TSHAKA, king of the Zulus, sat in state in his Royal Kraal one morning in the month of March, 1816. His throne was a log of white ironwood standing on its end, from the upper portion of which the stumps of three thick branches expanded, thus giving it the rough semblance of an arm-chair. The ends of the stumps were rounded and polished. The throne was standing upon the skin of a large, black-maned lion, and the king’s feet were resting upon the mane. A number of indunas, councilors, and officers stood around the king in respectful attitudes, or moved about quietly, and silently.

Tshaka’s mother, Mnande, sat on the ground some distance away, her ear strained to catch every word chat fell from her son’s lips. A few yards behind her five young girls crouched on their knees and elbows, each with an earthen pot of beer, or a skin of curdled milk before her. As each new-comer arrived within a certain distance of the throne, he flung his spear and shield to the ground, and then came forward. When he reached within about twenty paces of Tshaka, he held his right hand high over his head and called out “Bayete,” which is the Zulu royal salute. He then advanced and prostrated himself before the King’s feet.

Tshaka was a man of magnificent build. He sat perfectly naked except for a bunch of leopard tails slung from his waist, and a few charms fastened to a thin cord around his neck.

Kondwana, commander of the ‘Nyatele regiment, an induna of the Abambo tribe, was called before the king. He approached, under the customary obeisance, and then stood up.

“You will take,” said Tshaka, “what remains of the ‘Nyatele regiment (a regiment that had suffered very severely in a recent campaign from fever in the coast swamps above St. Lucia Bay, as well as from slaughter by the spear), and go to the country beyond the mountains of the Amaswazi, where the green and yellow stones from which the red metal (copper) is smelted, are dug out of the ground. You will bring back so much of these stones as will cover, when heaped up, the skins of three large oxen. You will return before the Summer rains have fallen. Go.”

Kondwana was a distinguished man. He had, years previously, fought against Tshaka, but since his tribe, the Abambo, had made submission, and had been incorporated into the Zulu nation, he had served his new master with faithfulness and zeal. But one of the awkward conditions of savagery is this, that whenever a subordinate shows any extraordinary capacity, and consequently attains to a position of influence, his master is apt to regard him with jealousy and fear, and will therefore often destroy him ruthlessly on the first shadow of a pretext. In jealousy and mistrust of capable subordinates, the average savage potentate resembles Louis the Fourteenth of France, of pious memory, who could never bear to have a really capable man near his throne in a position of trust. Kondwana happened to be under the ban of Tshaka’s suspicion, which, once roused, was never allayed. This is the explanation of his having been sent with his splendid regiment on a useless expedition through the deadly fever country just to the south of Delagoa Bay, between the Lebomba Mountains and the sea, and of his now having to go with the effective remnant of his veterans on a quest for copper to a hypothetical spot only vaguely rumoured of.