King Solomon's Mines
We Give A Sign
For a long while--two hours, I should think--we sat there in silence, being too much
overwhelmed by the recollection of the horrors we had seen to talk. At last, just as we
were thinking of turning in--for the night drew nigh to dawn--we heard a sound of steps.
Then came the challenge of a sentry posted at the kraal gate, which apparently was
answered, though not in an audible tone, for the steps still advanced; and in another
second Infadoos had entered the hut, followed by some half-dozen stately-looking chiefs.
"My lords," he said, "I have come according to my word. My lords and Ignosi, rightful
king of the Kukuanas, I have brought with me these men," pointing to the row of chiefs,
"who are great men among us, having each one of them the command of three thousand
soldiers, that live but to do their bidding, under the king's. I have told them of what I have
seen, and what my ears have heard. Now let them also behold the sacred snake around
thee, and hear thy story, Ignosi, that they may say whether or no they will make cause
with thee against Twala the king."
By way of answer Ignosi again stripped off his girdle, and exhibited the snake tattooed
about him. Each chief in turn drew near and examined the sign by the dim light of the
lamp, and without saying a word passed on to the other side.
Then Ignosi resumed his moocha, and addressing them, repeated the history he had
detailed in the morning.
"Now ye have heard, chiefs," said Infadoos, when he had done, "what say ye: will ye
stand by this man and help him to his father's throne, or will ye not? The land cries out
against Twala, and the blood of the people flows like the waters in spring. Ye have seen
to-night. Two other chiefs there were with whom I had it in my mind to speak, and where
are they now? The hyaenas howl over their corpses. Soon shall ye be as they are if ye
strike not. Choose then, my brothers."
The eldest of the six men, a short, thick-set warrior, with white hair, stepped forward a
pace and answered--
"Thy words are true, Infadoos; the land cries out. My own brother is among those who
died to-night; but this is a great matter, and the thing is hard to believe. How know we
that if we lift our spears it may not be for a thief and a liar? It is a great matter, I say, of
which none can see the end. For of this be sure, blood will flow in rivers before the deed
is done; many will still cleave to the king, for men worship the sun that still shines bright
in the heavens, rather than that which has not risen. These white men from the Stars, their
magic is great, and Ignosi is under the cover of their wing. If he be indeed the rightful
king, let them give us a sign, and let the people have a sign, that all may see. So shall men
cleave to us, knowing of a truth that the white man's magic is with them."
"Ye have the sign of the snake," I answered.
"My lord, it is not enough. The snake may have been placed there since the man's
childhood. Show us a sign, and it will suffice. But we will not move without a sign."