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Child of Storm H. Rider Haggard

VIII. The King's Daughter

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"Bayete! As the King pleases," said Saduko.

"And I give you leave to become a kehla--a wearer of the head-ring--although, as you have said, you are still but a boy, and with it a place upon my Council."

"Bayete! As the King pleases," said Saduko, still apparently unmoved by the honours that were being heaped upon him.

"And, Son of Matiwane," went on Panda, "you are still unmarried, are you not?"

Now, for the first time, Saduko's face changed. "Yes, Black One," he said hurriedly, "but--"

Here he caught my eye, and, reading some warning in it, was silent.

"But," repeated Panda after him, "doubtless you would like to be? Well, it is natural in a young man who wishes to found a House, and therefore I give you leave to marry."

"Yebo, Silo!" (Yes, O Wild Beast!) I thank the King, but--"

Here I sneezed loudly, and he ceased.

"But," repeated Panda, "of course, you do not know where to find a wife between the time the hawk stoops and the rat squeaks in its claws. How should you who have never thought of the matter? Also," he continued, with a smile, "it is well that you have not thought of it, since she whom I shall give to you could not live in the second hut in your kraal and call another "Inkosikazi" [that is, head lady or chieftainess]. Umbelazi, my son, go fetch her of whom we have thought as a bride for this boy."

Now Umbelazi rose, and went with a broad smile upon his face, while Panda, somewhat fatigued with all his speech-making--for he was very fat and the day was very hot--leaned his head back against the hut and closed his eyes.

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"O Black One! O thou who consumeth with rage! [Dhlangamandhla]" broke out Saduko, who, I could see, was much disturbed. "I have something to say to you."

"No doubt, no doubt," answered Panda drowsily, "but save up your thanks till you have seen, or you will have none left afterwards," and he snored slightly.

Now I, perceiving that Saduko was about to ruin himself, thought it well to interfere, though what business of mine it was to do so I cannot say. At any rate, if only I had held my tongue at this moment, and allowed Saduko to make a fool of himself, as he wished to do--for where Mameena was concerned he never could be wise--I verily believe that all the history of Zululand would have run a different course, and that many thousands of men, white and black, who are now dead would be alive to-day. But Fate ordered it otherwise. Yes, it was not I who spoke, but Fate. The Angel of Doom used my throat as his trumpet.

Seeing that Panda dozed, I slipped behind Saduko and gripped him by the arm.

"Are you mad?" I whispered into his ear. "Will you throw away your fortune, and your life also?"

"But Mameena," he whispered back. "I would marry none save Mameena."

"Fool! " I answered. "Mameena has betrayed and spat upon you. Take what the Heavens send you and give thanks. Would you wear Masapo's soiled blanket?"

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Child of Storm
H. Rider Haggard

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