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Umtagati
by [?]

“The great witch-doctor has come, and all
Sit trembling with cold and fear
As they list to the words from his lips that fall,–
The words all shrink to hear.
Lo! look at the seer as he whirls and leaps
The awestruck circle within,
Where each one shudders, and silence keeps
As he thinks of the untold sin.

“On his head is a cap of dark brown hair,–
The skin of a bear-baboon,
And the tigers’ teeth on his throat, else bare,
Jangle a horrible tune;
The serpents’ skins and the jackals’ tails,
Hang full around his hips,
And a living snake from his girdle trails,
And around each bare limb slips.”

The Witch-Doctor.

I.

THE motive and controlling factors of great issues are not always recognised by those most interested, neither does honour nor yet reward always fall to those who best deserve or earn them. In proof of the foregoing propositions the following narrative is adduced.

Teddy’s full name was Edmund Mortimer Morton. He was a Government official holding the appointment of clerk to the Resident Magistrate of Mount Loch, which district, as everybody knows, is situated in the territory of Bantuland East, and just on the border of Pondoland.

Vooda was a native Police Constable attached to the Mount Loch establishment.

Teddy’s age was twenty-six, but he looked several years younger. He was a pleasant-looking little chap, about five feet four inches in height, slightly built, with blue eyes, yellow hair and an incipient moustache upon which he bestowed a great deal of attention. His hobby was popular chemistry. This he indulged in, greatly to the entertainment of his friends and the detriment of his hands, which were generally discoloured in a manner that defied soap. He lived in a little hut just outside the village. This hut consisted of one room, and was shaped like a round pagoda. It had a pointed roof and projecting eaves made of Tambookie grass. The walls were of sod-work, plastered over and white-washed. Here Teddy dwelt–taking his meals elsewhere–and experimented in parlour-magic to his heart’s content.

Vooda was a constable. He was a short, stout man, with a deep, although not wide knowledge of human nature; not wide only for lack of experience. He had dwelt all his life amongst the natives surrounding Mount Loch, and he could read them like so many books of Standard I. He could, moreover, tell by looking at a witness in court, whether that witness were speaking truth or lying, and the magistrate recognised and utilised this faculty. Vooda and Teddy were great friends, Vooda taking a lively and intelligent interest in Teddy’s experiments.

Every one knows that in the early part of 1894, Pondoland, the last independent native State south of Natal, was annexed to Cape Colony. Much to the general surprise, the annexation was effected peacefully, but for some months afterwards the greatest care had to be exercised in dealing with the Pondos. The people generally were glad of the change from the harsh, arbitrary, and irresponsible rule of the native chiefs to the settled and equitable conditions of civilised government; but the chiefs gave trouble. They naturally would not, without struggling and agitating, submit to the loss of power and prestige which they sustained, and they bitterly resented being no longer permitted to “eat up” those who annoyed them. Now, the instincts of clannishness and loyalty are so strong amongst the Kafirs, that even against what they well know to be their own vital interests, they will follow the most cruel and rapacious tyrant, so long as he is their hereditary tribal chieftain, into rebellion.

Now, the Kwesa clan of Pondos dwelt just on the boundary of Mount Loch, and within thirty miles of the Magistracy. The head of this clan, a chief named Sololo, had not objected to the annexation, and was consequently looked upon as well-affected towards the Government. But within a few months after the annexation, a serious difficulty arose between the authorities and this man. One of his followers quarrelled with another, and after the time-honoured local custom, assuaged his feelings by means of a spear-thrust, which had a fatal result. The murdered man was one whom Sololo disliked, whereas, on the other hand, the murderer was one whom the chief delighted to honour. Consequently, when the magistrate demanded the surrender of the culprit for the purpose of dealing with him according to law, Sololo refused delivery, and couched his refusal in an extremely insolent and rebellious message.