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|King Solomon's Mines||H. Rider Haggard|
Twala The King
|Page 5 of 9||
"Be humble, O people," piped out a thin voice which seemed to come from the monkey in the shade, "it is the king."
"It is the king," boomed out the eight thousand throats in answer. "Be humble, O people, it is the king."
Then there was silence again--dead silence. Presently, however, it was broken. A soldier on our left dropped his shield, which fell with a clatter on to the limestone flooring.
Twala turned his one cold eye in the direction of the noise.
"Come hither, thou," he said, in a cold voice.
A fine young man stepped out of the ranks, and stood before him.
"It was thy shield that fell, thou awkward dog. Wilt thou make me a reproach in the eyes of these strangers from the Stars? What hast thou to say for thyself?"
We saw the poor fellow turn pale under his dusky skin.
"It was by chance, O Calf of the Black Cow," he murmured.
"Then it is a chance for which thou must pay. Thou hast made me foolish; prepare for death."
"I am the king's ox," was the low answer.
"Scragga," roared the king, "let me see how thou canst use thy spear. Kill me this blundering fool."
Scragga stepped forward with an ill-favoured grin, and lifted his spear. The poor victim covered his eyes with his hand and stood still. As for us, we were petrified with horror.
"Once, twice," he waved the spear, and then struck, ah! right home-- the spear stood out a foot behind the soldier's back. He flung up his hands and dropped dead. From the multitude about us rose something like a murmur, it rolled round and round, and died away. The tragedy was finished; there lay the corpse, and we had not yet realised that it had been enacted. Sir Henry sprang up and swore a great oath, then, overpowered by the sense of silence, sat down again.
"The thrust was a good one," said the king; "take him away."
Four men stepped out of the ranks, and lifting the body of the murdered man, carried it thence.
"Cover up the blood-stains, cover them up," piped out the thin voice that proceeded from the monkey-like figure; "the king's word is spoken, the king's doom is done!"
Thereupon a girl came forward from behind the hut, bearing a jar filled with powdered lime, which she scattered over the red mark, blotting it from sight.
Sir Henry meanwhile was boiling with rage at what had happened; indeed, it was with difficulty that we could keep him still.
"Sit down, for heaven's sake," I whispered; "our lives depend on it."
He yielded and remained quiet.
Twala sat silent until the traces of the tragedy had been removed, then he addressed us.
"White people," he said, "who come hither, whence I know not, and why I know not, greeting."
"Greeting, Twala, King of the Kukuanas," I answered.
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|King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard
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