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To return to old Magepa. I had known him for many years. The first time we met was in the battle of the Tugela. I was fighting for the king’s son, Umbelazi the Handsome, in the ranks of the Tulwana regiment–I mean to write all that story, for it should not be lost. Well, as I have told you before, the Tulwana were wiped out; of the three thousand or so of them I think only about fifty remained alive after they had annihilated the three of Cetewayo’s regiments that set upon them. But as it chanced Magepa was one who survived.
20 pages, with a reading time of ~0.5 hours (5,182 words), and first published in 1879. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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In a preface to a story of the early life of the late Allan Quatermain, known in Africa as Macumazahn, which has been published under the name of “Marie,” Mr. Curtis, the brother of Sir Henry Curtis, tells of how he found a number of manuscripts that were left by Mr. Quatermain in his house in Yorkshire. Of these “Marie” was one, but in addition to it and sundry other completed records I, the Editor to whom it was directed that these manuscripts should be handed for publication, have found a quantity of unclassified notes and papers. Some of these deal with matters that have to do with sport and game, or with historical events, and some are memoranda of incidents connected with the career of the writer, or with remarkable occurrences that he had witnessed of which he does not speak elsewhere.
One of these notes–it is contained in a book much soiled and worn that evidently its owner had carried about with him for years–reminds me of a conversation that I had with Mr. Quatermain long ago when I was his guest in Yorkshire. The note itself is short; I think that he must have jotted it down within an hour or two of the event to which it refers. It runs thus:–
“I wonder whether in the ‘Land Beyond’ any recognition is granted for acts of great courage and unselfish devotion–a kind of spiritual Victoria Cross. If so I think it ought to be accorded to that poor old savage, Magepa, as it would be if I had any voice in the matter. Upon my word he has made me feel proud of humanity. And yet he was nothing but a ‘nigger,’ as so many call the Kaffirs.”
For a while I, the Editor, wondered to what this entry could allude. Then of a sudden it all came back to me. I saw myself, as a young man, seated in the hall of Quatermain’s house one evening after dinner. With me were Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good. We were smoking, and the conversation had turned upon deeds of heroism. Each of us detailed such acts as he could remember which had made the most impression on him. When we had finished, old Allan said:–
“With your leave I’ll tell you a story of what I think was one of the bravest things I ever saw. It happened at the beginning of the Zulu War, when the troops were marching into Zululand. Now at that time, as you know, I was turning an honest penny transport-riding for the Government, or rather for the military authorities. I hired them three wagons with the necessary voorloopers and drivers, sixteen good salted oxen to each wagon, and myself in charge of the lot. They paid me, well, never mind how much–I am rather ashamed to mention the amount. The truth is that the Imperial officers bought in a dear market during that Zulu War; moreover, things were not always straight. I could tell you stories of folk, not all of them Colonials, who got rich quicker than they ought, commissions and that kind of thing. But perhaps these are better forgotten. As for me, I asked a good price for my wagons, or rather for the hire of them, of a very well-satisfied young gentleman in uniform who had been exactly three weeks in the country, and to my surprise, got it. But when I went to those in command and warned them what would happen if they persisted in their way of advance, then in their pride they would not listen to the old hunter and transport-rider, but politely bowed me out. If they had, there would have been no Isandhlwana disaster.”
He brooded awhile, for, as I knew, this was a sore subject with him, one on which he would rarely talk. Although he escaped himself, Quatermain had lost friends on that fatal field. He went on:–
“To return to old Magepa. I had known him for many years. The first time we met was in the battle of the Tugela. I was fighting for the king’s son, Umbelazi the Handsome, in the ranks of the Tulwana regiment–I mean to write all that story, for it should not be lost. Well, as I have told you before, the Tulwana were wiped out; of the three thousand or so of them I think only about fifty remained alive after they had annihilated the three of Cetewayo’s regiments that set upon them. But as it chanced Magepa was one who survived.
“I met him afterwards at old King Panda’s kraal and recognised him as having fought by my side. Whilst I was talking to him the Prince Cetewayo came by; to me he was civil enough, for he knew how I chanced to be in the battle, but he glared at Magepa, and said:
“‘Why, Macumazahn, is not this man one of the dogs with which you tried to bite me by the Tugela not long ago? He must be a cunning dog also, one who can run fast, for how comes it that he lives to snarl when so many will never bark again? Ow! if I had my way I would find a strip of hide to fit his neck.’
“‘Not so,’ I answered, ‘he has the King’s peace and he is a brave man –braver than I am, anyway, Prince, seeing that I ran from the ranks of the Tulwana, while he stood where he was.’