For a while I contemplated the roof and sides of the hut by the light
which entered it through the smoke-vent and the door-hole, wondering
whose it might be and how I came there.
Then I tried to sit up, and instantly was seized with agony in the
region of the ribs, which I found were bound about with broad strips of
soft tanned hide. Clearly they, or some of them, were broken.
What had broken them? I asked myself, and in a flash everything
came back to me. So I had escaped with my life, as the old dwarf,
"Opener-of-Roads," had told me that I should. Certainly he was an
excellent prophet; and if he spoke truth in this matter, why not in
others? What was I to make of it all? How could a black savage, however
ancient, foresee the future?
By induction from the past, I supposed; and yet what amount of induction
would suffice to show him the details of a forthcoming accident that
was to happen to me through the agency of a wild beast with a peculiarly
shaped horn? I gave it up, as before and since that day I have found it
necessary to do in the case of many other events in life. Indeed,
the question is one that I often have had cause to ask where Kafir
"witch-doctors" or prophets are concerned, notably in the instance of a
certain Mavovo, of whom I hope to tell one day, whose predictions saved
my life and those of my companions.
Just then I heard the sound of someone creeping through the bee-hole
of the hut, and half-closed my eyes, as I did not feel inclined for
conversation. The person came and stood over me, and somehow--by
instinct, I suppose--I became aware that my visitor was a woman. Very
slowly I lifted my eyelids, just enough to enable me to see her.
There, standing in a beam of golden light that, passing through the
smoke-hole, pierced the soft gloom of the hut, stood the most beautiful
creature that I had ever seen--that is, if it be admitted that a person
who is black, or rather copper-coloured, can be beautiful.
She was a little above the medium height, not more, with a figure that,
so far as I am a judge of such matters, was absolutely perfect--that of
a Greek statue indeed. On this point I had an opportunity of forming an
opinion, since, except for her little bead apron and a single string
of large blue beads about her throat, her costume was--well, that of
a Greek statue. Her features showed no trace of the negro type; on the
contrary, they were singularly well cut, the nose being straight and
fine and the pouting mouth that just showed the ivory teeth between,
very small. Then the eyes, large, dark and liquid, like those of a
buck, set beneath a smooth, broad forehead on which the curling, but not
woolly, hair grew low. This hair, by the way, was not dressed up in any
of the eccentric native fashions, but simply parted in the middle and
tied in a big knot over the nape of the neck, the little ears peeping
out through its tresses. The hands, like the feet, were very small and
delicate, and the curves of the bust soft and full without being coarse,
or even showing the promise of coarseness.