Chapter 1.

A Tragedy and its Vendetta.

Two centuries ago the Bechuana tribes inhabited the extensive areas between Central Transvaal and the Kalahari Desert. Their entire world lay in the geography covered by the story in these pages.

In this domain they led their patriarchal life under their several Chiefs who owed no allegiance to any king or emperor. They raised their native corn which satisfied their simple wants, and, when not engaged in hunting or in pastoral duties, the peasants whiled away their days in tanning skins or sewing magnificent fur rugs. They also smelted iron and manufactured useful implements which to-day would be pronounced very crude by their semi-westernized descendants.

Cattle breeding was the rich man's calling, and hunting a national enterprise. Their cattle, which carried enormous horns, ran almost wild and multiplied as prolifically as the wild animals of the day. Work was of a perfunctory nature, for mother earth yielded her bounties and the maiden soil provided ample sustenance for man and beast.

But woman's work was never out of season. In the summer she cleared the cornfields of weeds and subsequently helped to winnow and garner the crops. In the winter she cut the grass and helped to renovate her

page 1
dwelling. In addition to the inevitable cooking, basket-making, and weaving, all the art-painting for mural decorations were done by women. Childless marriages were as rare as freaks, so, early and late in summer and winter, during years of drought and of plenty, every mother had to nourish her growing brood, besides fattening and beautifying her daughters for the competition of eligible swains.

Fulfilling these multifarious duties of the household was not regarded as a drudgery by any means, on the contrary, the women looked upon marriage as an art; the daughter of a well-to-do peasant, surrounded by all the luxuries of her mother's home, would be the object of commiseration if she were a long time finding a man. And the simple women of the tribes accepted wifehood and transacted their onerous duties with the same satisfaction and pride as an English artist would the job of conducting an orchestra.

Kunana, near the present boundary between Cape Colony and Western Transvaal was the capital city of the Barolong, the original stock of the several tribes, who also followed the humdrum yet interesting life of the other Bechuana Natives. They planted their stations in different directions over scores of miles, and it was often easier to kill wild animals nearer home than go to the cattle post for meat. Very often the big game ran thalala-motse  1  when there would be systematic slaughter of antelopes and orgies of wild-beef eating.

Barolong cattlemen at times attempted to create a new species of animal by cross-breeding between an eland and

page 2
an ox. One cattle-owner, named Motonosi, not very far from Kunana, raised two dozen calves all sired by a buffalo. The result proved so disastrous that Barolong tradition still holds up his achievement as a masterpiece of folly, and attempts at cross-breeding thereafter became taboo.

These peasants were content to love their monotonous lives, and thought nought of their oversea kinsmen who were making history on the plantations and harbours of Virginia and Mississippi at that time; nor did they know or care about the relations of the Hottentots and the Boers at Cape Town nearer home. The topography of the Cape Peninsula would have had no interest for them; and had anyone mentioned the beauty spots of the Cape and the glory of the silver trees on their own sub-continent they would have felt disappointed on hearing that they bore no edible fruit.

To them the limit of the world was Monomotapa  2  - a whiteman's country — which they had no ambition to see. Of monetary wealth they had none except their flocks and herds. A little bartering was done with neighbouring tribes in exchange for other commodities, and none could be so mean as to make a charge for supplying a fellow-tribesman with the necessaries of life. When the rainy season was good everyone had too much corn, and in years of drought the majority went short of porridge.

Strange to relate, these simple folk were perfectly happy without money and without silver watches. Abject poverty was practically unknown; they had no orphanages because there were no nameless babies. When a man had a couple of karosses to make he invited the neighbours to spend the day with him cutting, fitting in and sewing

page 3
together the sixty grey jackal pelts into two rugs, and there would be intervals of feasting throughout the day. On such an occasion, someone would announce a field day at another place where there was a dwelling to thatch; here too the guests might receive an invitation from a peasant who had a stockade to erect at a third homestead on a subsequent day; and great would be the expectation of the fat bullock to be slaughtered by the goodman, to say nothing of the good things to be prepared by the kind hostess. Thus a month's job would be accomplished in a day.

But the anomaly of this community life was that, while the many seams in a rich man's kaross carried all kinds of knittings — good, bad and indifferent — the wife of a poor man, who could not afford such a feast, was often gowned in flawless furs. It being the skilled handiwork of her own husband, the nicety of its seams seldom failed to evoke the admiration of experts.

Upon these peaceful regions over one hundred years ago there descended one Mzilikazi, king of a ferocious tribe called the Matebele, a powerful usurper of determined character who by his sword proclaimed himself ruler over all the land.

Mzilikazi's tribe originally was a branch of the Zulu nation which Chaka once ruled with an iron rod. Irritated by the stern rule of that monarch, Mzilikazi led out his own people who thereupon broke away from Chaka's rule and turned their faces westward.

Sweeping through the northern areas of Port Natal, they advanced along both banks of the Vaal River, driving terror into man and beast with whom they came in contact. They continued their march very much like a swarm of locusts; scattering the Swazies, terrifying the Basuto and

page 4
the Bapedi on their outposts, they drove them back to the mountains at the point of the assegai; and, trekking through the heart of the Transvaal, they eventually invaded Bechunanaland where they reduced the Natives to submission.

At length the Matebele established as their capital the city of Inzwinyani in Bahurutshe territory, the Bechuana inhabitants being permitted to remain on condition that their chiefs should pay tribute to Mzilikazi. Gradually enlarging their dominion, the Matebele enforced taxation first upon one and then another of the surrounding Bechuana clans, including the Barolong at Kunana, whose chief at the time was Tauana.

Perhaps the new administration might have worked well enough; but, unfortunately, the conquerors not only imported a fresh discipline but they also introduced manners that were extremely offensive even for these primitive people. For instance, the victorious soldiers were in the habit of walking about in their birthday garb thereby forcing the modest Bechuana women and children to retire on each appearance of Matebele men. This hide-and-seek life, which proved more inconvenient than accommodating, was ill calculated to inspire respect for the new authority. Needless to say, this outrage so shocking to local susceptibilities, was resented by the original population and became a perpetual source of discontent. Still, the new discipline was not stern; and as long as each chief paid taxes each spring time in acknowledgement of his fealty to Mzilikazi, the Bechuana were left in undisturbed possession of their old homes and haunts.

One of Tauana's righthand men was a wealthy chieftain, Notto by name. Besides his home in the capital he

page 5
owned three cattle stations and many cornfields in the country. His son, Ra-Thaga, minded one of the herds at a place called Mhuhucho.

One day, Notto set out to spend some time in the country with his son in order to fulfil his pastoral duties, such as ear-marking the lambs and calves and braying skins and rheims. One morning, while Notto was engaged in these occupations at the cattle-post, two men came from Kunana who walked like bearers of very important news. After greeting him they related this startling information:

“Two Matabele indunas, Bhoya and Bangela, had come to Kunana to gather the annual tribute. They duly announced the object of their visit and asked that six young men should be supplied to carry the Barolong tribute for them and lay it 'at the feet of Mzilikazi, ruler of earth and skies.'”

“Chief Tauana,” the messengers went on, “received the visitors with indifference and, without informing his counsellors in any way, he commanded some young men to take the two to the ravine and 'lose them,' which is equivalent to a death sentence. The tax collectors were dragged away without notice and almost before they realised their doom they were stabbed to death.

“I am told,” said the narrator, “that, before his death, Bhoya, with his hands manacled, gesticulated and cried: 'You dogs of a Western breed, you are going to suffer for this. You shall pay with your own blood and the blood of your children for laying your base hands on the courier of King Mzilikazi. A Matebele's blood never mingled with the earth without portending death and destruction. Kill me with your accursed hands, you menial descendants of mercenary hammersmiths, and you have sown the seed of your own doom. Do you hear me?'”

page 6

“He was still speaking when Rauwe stabbed him in the breast. He fell forward, gave a gasp and a groan, rolled up the whites of his large dull eyes, and after uttering a dread imprecation, sank back lifeless.

“You can well understand,” said the emissary, “that Mzilikazi is not going to take such treatment lying down; consequently the chief counsellors decided to take immediate steps to make amends. But as the chief would probably refuse to apologise, it was decided to summon home from the cattle posts all men of influence, to attend a tribal picho and arrange a settlement before it is too late.”

Accordingly, Notto issued word that all men of importance should leave their fields at once and accompany him to the city. Two days later, a contingent of men, some walking, others mounted on oxen, (young Ra-Thaga among them), might have been seen making their way in the direction of Kunana.

So, towards evening, about six miles from the city, the party was met by a large number of fleeing women. The fugitives told them that Kunana was being attacked, and the would-be interceders had to abandon peace and forthwith arm for the fight.

To speak the truth, Ra-Thaga and the other young bloods were glad. Old men liked to recount their wondrous deeds of valour in the wars they had fought, and young men were always pining for an opportunity to test their own strength in a really good fight.

The young people had been complaining that these Zulus from the East were having things too much their own way and should be checked. Hence their delight on hearing that the two nations were at grips. But it might be confessed that Notto held views of quite another character yet how little did they dream when the fight began

page 7
that evening in the twilight, that they were about to make their last stand together; or that Ra-Thaga would never again set his eyes upon the man who gave him life.

They all stood waiting for Notto's orders when a melancholy shout rent the evening air in the bush hard by. Not having reached the town, they were till then not aware that they were in the thick of the fight already; but women began to scream in the bush around and they could hear the Matabele swords at work. Notto gave the order to fall to, and they hurled themselves into the bush from which emanated the sickening wail. It was clear, from that moment, that the sun of the peace-maker had set, never to rise again, for, by the faint light of the new moon, they noticed with horror that the Matabele were not fighting men only; they were actually spearing fleeing women and children. Ra-Thaga saw one of them killing a woman, and, as she fell back, the man grasped her little baby and dashed its skull against the trunk of a tree. The sight almost took his breath away. The next moment a woman fell beside a tree, her fall hastened by a stab from behind. She carried her baby in a springbok skin, strapped to her back. The skin loosened as she fell, and a Matabele withdrawing the assegai from the mother's side, pierced her child with it, and held the baby transfixed in the air.

Maddened by these awful scenes, the Barolong hurled themselves against the enemy and fought like fiends possessed.

The bush, by this time, was a howling pandemonium, and what was seen and heard made the survivors almost delirious with grief. Looking away they saw the flames shooting up from hundreds of blazing huts at Kunana, and licking the air in a reddish glow that almost turned

page 8
the night into day. Then Ra-Thaga recognized his father in the turmoil, holding a number of assegais. He had evidently done much already for he was panting heavily.

“Charge and kill these beasts of prey!” the headman cried.

Just at that moment a woman ran past him and a Matabele from behind a tree, close by, speared her also. Ra-Thaga drove his assegai into his armpit; he could not pull it out again so he left him with it, saying as he did so, “Feel what these mothers have felt, you vampire, and may the spirits scorch your soul hereafter.”

“I couldn't tell,” he used to relate, “how long our struggle lasted, but eventually I found myself alone amongst a number of corpses, groaning men and expiring women.”

“At length I rose and searched through the field of carnage,” he said, “then came upon my father's body which lay lifeless between pools of blood. He was dead. 'My father, O my father,' I cried. 'I wonder where and how mother is.'”

“Not far from there lay a woman between two dead children. She was suffering frightful agonies, having fallen with her head bent down beneath her body and being too weak to straighten herself. I straightened her out which eased her pain a bit, and she lived just long enough to tell me what had happened; and that was the only story I ever heard of the massacre, and the conflagration in the city. It was clear that she was not far from the door of death; so, thinking of my mother and sisters, I decided to return to the burning city to learn something about them.

“On the way I heard two men coming from the opposite

page 9
direction, speaking in undertones, and so I knew they were not enemies. I spoke and they replied that they too were hurrying away to discover the fate of their women fold. 'Kunana is in ruins,' they said, 'the Barolong are wiped out and their home shall know them no more.' Nevertheless, I decided to risk a journey into the burning town. At the Chief's court, hordes of Matabele soldiers were dancing round a bonfire; evidently celebrating the avenging of Bhoya's death. The crossings and passages between the huts were full of dead bodies of friends and enemies, and many of our women and children. In our quarters, I saw none of our folk. The corn in the mud bin was still smouldering, so, removing the parched grain from the top, I took out from underneath some good sound corn, carried this in a knapsack, and left the hideous place as quickly and as quietly as I had entered it.”

Ra-Thaga then made for the cattle post which he and his father had left the day before. Arriving there next morning, he could hardly recognise the old place. The huts, the cattlefold, like the whole terrain from Kunana to Mhuhucho, bore gruesome traces of the ravages of the Matabele in the shape of dead bodies, burnt huts and destroyed crops. Up to that time he had seen no sign of a living being, only abundant evidences of death.

After pondering for a while among the ruins, he made for some adjacent kopje and surveyed the country from the crest of the highest hillock.

He saw parties of the victors reconnoitering on the plains, under the directions of others who were signalling from the hilltops. Now and again he observed a number of Barolong in full flight, and hordes of Matabele at their heels. It was not difficult to divine the result of such a chase.

page 10

Ra-Thaga travelled nearly two months without meeting a single soul. The loneliness was frightful. During his flight, and when he thought of the devastation of the country, he often wondered what had become of the chief. He fully believed that he, too, was killed with his wives and children and all his people.

page 11

Chapter 1.

A Tragedy and its Vendetta.

Two centuries ago the Bechuana tribes inhabited the extensive areas between Central Transvaal and the Kalahari Desert. Their entire world lay in the geography covered by the story in these pages.

In this domain they led their patriarchal life under their several Chiefs who owed no allegiance to any king or emperor. They raised their native corn which satisfied their simple wants, and, when not engaged in hunting or in pastoral duties, the peasants whiled away their days in tanning skins or sewing magnificent fur rugs. They also smelted iron and manufactured useful implements which to-day would be pronounced very crude by their semi-westernized descendants.

Cattle breeding was the rich man's calling, and hunting a national enterprise. Their cattle, which carried enormous horns, ran almost wild and multiplied as prolifically as the wild animals of the day. Work was of a perfunctory nature, for mother earth yielded her bounties and the maiden soil provided ample sustenance for man and beast.

But woman's work was never out of season. In the summer she cleared the cornfields of weeds and subsequently helped to winnow and garner the crops. In the winter she cut the grass and helped to renovate her dwelling. In addition to the inevitable cooking, basket-making, and weaving, all the art-painting for mural decorations were done by women. Childless marriages were as rare as freaks, so, early and late in summer and winter, during years of drought and of plenty, every mother had to nourish her growing brood, besides fattening and beautifying her daughters for the competition of eligible swains.

Fulfilling these multifarious duties of the household was not regarded as a drudgery by any means, on the contrary, the women looked upon marriage as an art; the daughter of a well-to-do peasant, surrounded by all the luxuries of her mother's home, would be the object of commiseration if she were a long time finding a man. And the simple women of the tribes accepted wifehood and transacted their onerous duties with the same satisfaction and pride as an English artist would the job of conducting an orchestra.

Kunana, near the present boundary between Cape Colony and Western Transvaal was the capital city of the Barolong, the original stock of the several tribes, who also followed the humdrum yet interesting life of the other Bechuana Natives. They planted their stations in different directions over scores of miles, and it was often easier to kill wild animals nearer home than go to the cattle post for meat. Very often the big game ran thalala-motse  1  when there would be systematic slaughter of antelopes and orgies of wild-beef eating.

Barolong cattlemen at times attempted to create a new species of animal by cross-breeding between an eland and an ox. One cattle-owner, named Motonosi, not very far from Kunana, raised two dozen calves all sired by a buffalo. The result proved so disastrous that Barolong tradition still holds up his achievement as a masterpiece of folly, and attempts at cross-breeding thereafter became taboo.

These peasants were content to love their monotonous lives, and thought nought of their oversea kinsmen who were making history on the plantations and harbours of Virginia and Mississippi at that time; nor did they know or care about the relations of the Hottentots and the Boers at Cape Town nearer home. The topography of the Cape Peninsula would have had no interest for them; and had anyone mentioned the beauty spots of the Cape and the glory of the silver trees on their own sub-continent they would have felt disappointed on hearing that they bore no edible fruit.

To them the limit of the world was Monomotapa  2  - a whiteman's country — which they had no ambition to see. Of monetary wealth they had none except their flocks and herds. A little bartering was done with neighbouring tribes in exchange for other commodities, and none could be so mean as to make a charge for supplying a fellow-tribesman with the necessaries of life. When the rainy season was good everyone had too much corn, and in years of drought the majority went short of porridge.

Strange to relate, these simple folk were perfectly happy without money and without silver watches. Abject poverty was practically unknown; they had no orphanages because there were no nameless babies. When a man had a couple of karosses to make he invited the neighbours to spend the day with him cutting, fitting in and sewing together the sixty grey jackal pelts into two rugs, and there would be intervals of feasting throughout the day. On such an occasion, someone would announce a field day at another place where there was a dwelling to thatch; here too the guests might receive an invitation from a peasant who had a stockade to erect at a third homestead on a subsequent day; and great would be the expectation of the fat bullock to be slaughtered by the goodman, to say nothing of the good things to be prepared by the kind hostess. Thus a month's job would be accomplished in a day.

But the anomaly of this community life was that, while the many seams in a rich man's kaross carried all kinds of knittings — good, bad and indifferent — the wife of a poor man, who could not afford such a feast, was often gowned in flawless furs. It being the skilled handiwork of her own husband, the nicety of its seams seldom failed to evoke the admiration of experts.

Upon these peaceful regions over one hundred years ago there descended one Mzilikazi, king of a ferocious tribe called the Matebele, a powerful usurper of determined character who by his sword proclaimed himself ruler over all the land.

Mzilikazi's tribe originally was a branch of the Zulu nation which Chaka once ruled with an iron rod. Irritated by the stern rule of that monarch, Mzilikazi led out his own people who thereupon broke away from Chaka's rule and turned their faces westward.

Sweeping through the northern areas of Port Natal, they advanced along both banks of the Vaal River, driving terror into man and beast with whom they came in contact. They continued their march very much like a swarm of locusts; scattering the Swazies, terrifying the Basuto and the Bapedi on their outposts, they drove them back to the mountains at the point of the assegai; and, trekking through the heart of the Transvaal, they eventually invaded Bechunanaland where they reduced the Natives to submission.

At length the Matebele established as their capital the city of Inzwinyani in Bahurutshe territory, the Bechuana inhabitants being permitted to remain on condition that their chiefs should pay tribute to Mzilikazi. Gradually enlarging their dominion, the Matebele enforced taxation first upon one and then another of the surrounding Bechuana clans, including the Barolong at Kunana, whose chief at the time was Tauana.

Perhaps the new administration might have worked well enough; but, unfortunately, the conquerors not only imported a fresh discipline but they also introduced manners that were extremely offensive even for these primitive people. For instance, the victorious soldiers were in the habit of walking about in their birthday garb thereby forcing the modest Bechuana women and children to retire on each appearance of Matebele men. This hide-and-seek life, which proved more inconvenient than accommodating, was ill calculated to inspire respect for the new authority. Needless to say, this outrage so shocking to local susceptibilities, was resented by the original population and became a perpetual source of discontent. Still, the new discipline was not stern; and as long as each chief paid taxes each spring time in acknowledgement of his fealty to Mzilikazi, the Bechuana were left in undisturbed possession of their old homes and haunts.

One of Tauana's righthand men was a wealthy chieftain, Notto by name. Besides his home in the capital he owned three cattle stations and many cornfields in the country. His son, Ra-Thaga, minded one of the herds at a place called Mhuhucho.

One day, Notto set out to spend some time in the country with his son in order to fulfil his pastoral duties, such as ear-marking the lambs and calves and braying skins and rheims. One morning, while Notto was engaged in these occupations at the cattle-post, two men came from Kunana who walked like bearers of very important news. After greeting him they related this startling information:

“Two Matabele indunas, Bhoya and Bangela, had come to Kunana to gather the annual tribute. They duly announced the object of their visit and asked that six young men should be supplied to carry the Barolong tribute for them and lay it 'at the feet of Mzilikazi, ruler of earth and skies.'”

“Chief Tauana,” the messengers went on, “received the visitors with indifference and, without informing his counsellors in any way, he commanded some young men to take the two to the ravine and 'lose them,' which is equivalent to a death sentence. The tax collectors were dragged away without notice and almost before they realised their doom they were stabbed to death.

“I am told,” said the narrator, “that, before his death, Bhoya, with his hands manacled, gesticulated and cried: 'You dogs of a Western breed, you are going to suffer for this. You shall pay with your own blood and the blood of your children for laying your base hands on the courier of King Mzilikazi. A Matebele's blood never mingled with the earth without portending death and destruction. Kill me with your accursed hands, you menial descendants of mercenary hammersmiths, and you have sown the seed of your own doom. Do you hear me?'”

“He was still speaking when Rauwe stabbed him in the breast. He fell forward, gave a gasp and a groan, rolled up the whites of his large dull eyes, and after uttering a dread imprecation, sank back lifeless.

“You can well understand,” said the emissary, “that Mzilikazi is not going to take such treatment lying down; consequently the chief counsellors decided to take immediate steps to make amends. But as the chief would probably refuse to apologise, it was decided to summon home from the cattle posts all men of influence, to attend a tribal picho and arrange a settlement before it is too late.”

Accordingly, Notto issued word that all men of importance should leave their fields at once and accompany him to the city. Two days later, a contingent of men, some walking, others mounted on oxen, (young Ra-Thaga among them), might have been seen making their way in the direction of Kunana.

So, towards evening, about six miles from the city, the party was met by a large number of fleeing women. The fugitives told them that Kunana was being attacked, and the would-be interceders had to abandon peace and forthwith arm for the fight.

To speak the truth, Ra-Thaga and the other young bloods were glad. Old men liked to recount their wondrous deeds of valour in the wars they had fought, and young men were always pining for an opportunity to test their own strength in a really good fight.

The young people had been complaining that these Zulus from the East were having things too much their own way and should be checked. Hence their delight on hearing that the two nations were at grips. But it might be confessed that Notto held views of quite another character yet how little did they dream when the fight began that evening in the twilight, that they were about to make their last stand together; or that Ra-Thaga would never again set his eyes upon the man who gave him life.

They all stood waiting for Notto's orders when a melancholy shout rent the evening air in the bush hard by. Not having reached the town, they were till then not aware that they were in the thick of the fight already; but women began to scream in the bush around and they could hear the Matabele swords at work. Notto gave the order to fall to, and they hurled themselves into the bush from which emanated the sickening wail. It was clear, from that moment, that the sun of the peace-maker had set, never to rise again, for, by the faint light of the new moon, they noticed with horror that the Matabele were not fighting men only; they were actually spearing fleeing women and children. Ra-Thaga saw one of them killing a woman, and, as she fell back, the man grasped her little baby and dashed its skull against the trunk of a tree. The sight almost took his breath away. The next moment a woman fell beside a tree, her fall hastened by a stab from behind. She carried her baby in a springbok skin, strapped to her back. The skin loosened as she fell, and a Matabele withdrawing the assegai from the mother's side, pierced her child with it, and held the baby transfixed in the air.

Maddened by these awful scenes, the Barolong hurled themselves against the enemy and fought like fiends possessed.

The bush, by this time, was a howling pandemonium, and what was seen and heard made the survivors almost delirious with grief. Looking away they saw the flames shooting up from hundreds of blazing huts at Kunana, and licking the air in a reddish glow that almost turned the night into day. Then Ra-Thaga recognized his father in the turmoil, holding a number of assegais. He had evidently done much already for he was panting heavily.

“Charge and kill these beasts of prey!” the headman cried.

Just at that moment a woman ran past him and a Matabele from behind a tree, close by, speared her also. Ra-Thaga drove his assegai into his armpit; he could not pull it out again so he left him with it, saying as he did so, “Feel what these mothers have felt, you vampire, and may the spirits scorch your soul hereafter.”

“I couldn't tell,” he used to relate, “how long our struggle lasted, but eventually I found myself alone amongst a number of corpses, groaning men and expiring women.”

“At length I rose and searched through the field of carnage,” he said, “then came upon my father's body which lay lifeless between pools of blood. He was dead. 'My father, O my father,' I cried. 'I wonder where and how mother is.'”

“Not far from there lay a woman between two dead children. She was suffering frightful agonies, having fallen with her head bent down beneath her body and being too weak to straighten herself. I straightened her out which eased her pain a bit, and she lived just long enough to tell me what had happened; and that was the only story I ever heard of the massacre, and the conflagration in the city. It was clear that she was not far from the door of death; so, thinking of my mother and sisters, I decided to return to the burning city to learn something about them.

“On the way I heard two men coming from the opposite direction, speaking in undertones, and so I knew they were not enemies. I spoke and they replied that they too were hurrying away to discover the fate of their women fold. 'Kunana is in ruins,' they said, 'the Barolong are wiped out and their home shall know them no more.' Nevertheless, I decided to risk a journey into the burning town. At the Chief's court, hordes of Matabele soldiers were dancing round a bonfire; evidently celebrating the avenging of Bhoya's death. The crossings and passages between the huts were full of dead bodies of friends and enemies, and many of our women and children. In our quarters, I saw none of our folk. The corn in the mud bin was still smouldering, so, removing the parched grain from the top, I took out from underneath some good sound corn, carried this in a knapsack, and left the hideous place as quickly and as quietly as I had entered it.”

Ra-Thaga then made for the cattle post which he and his father had left the day before. Arriving there next morning, he could hardly recognise the old place. The huts, the cattlefold, like the whole terrain from Kunana to Mhuhucho, bore gruesome traces of the ravages of the Matabele in the shape of dead bodies, burnt huts and destroyed crops. Up to that time he had seen no sign of a living being, only abundant evidences of death.

After pondering for a while among the ruins, he made for some adjacent kopje and surveyed the country from the crest of the highest hillock.

He saw parties of the victors reconnoitering on the plains, under the directions of others who were signalling from the hilltops. Now and again he observed a number of Barolong in full flight, and hordes of Matabele at their heels. It was not difficult to divine the result of such a chase.

Ra-Thaga travelled nearly two months without meeting a single soul. The loneliness was frightful. During his flight, and when he thought of the devastation of the country, he often wondered what had become of the chief. He fully believed that he, too, was killed with his wives and children and all his people.


Footnotes & References

#NoteDescription
1Thalala-motseWhen wild animals continued their frolics straight through a Native village.
2MonomotapaPortuguese East Africa