THE MAGISTRACY AT KWABULAZI.
The magistracy buildings at Kwabulazi,
consisted of a roughly built thatched bungalow, a
red brick oblong which was the Court house, and various
groups of native huts which served to house the other
Court officials white and coloured and
the handful of mounted Police permanently quartered
there. Another red brick structure represented
the Post and Telegraph Office. The place was
situated at the foot of a great mountain whose wooded
slopes made, scenically, a fine background. In
front the veldt rolled gently away; quite open, and
sparsely dotted with mimosa; and for miles around,
at intervals, rose the smoke of native kraals;
for this was an important location.
Within the red brick oblong mentioned
above Elvesdon sat, administering justice. There
was not much to administer that day, for the cases
before him involved the settlement of a series of the
most petty and trivial disputes relating to cattle
or other property, protracted beyond about five times
their due length, as the way is with natives once they
get to law. Beyond the parties concerned there
was no audience to speak of. Three or four old
ringed men, squatted in a corner on the floor, drowsed
and blinked through the proceedings; while now and
again two or three natives would enter noiselessly,
listen for a few minutes and then as noiselessly depart.
The morning was drawing to an end,
for which Elvesdon was not sorry. It was very
hot, and the Court room was becoming unpleasantly redolent
of native humanity. He was about to adjourn,
when he became aware of the entrance of somebody.
Looking up he beheld Thornhill.
The latter stood leaning against the
wall just inside the door. Elvesdon, while putting
three or four final questions to a voluble and perspiring
witness, found himself wondering whether Thornhill
was alone, or whether his daughter, preferring the
shade and open air to the heat and stuffiness of the
Court room, was waiting for him outside. So he
sent down the witness and adjourned the Court straight
Thornhill crossed the room to shake
hands with the clerk, whom he knew, and who was gathering
up his papers, then he adjourned to the magistrate’s
Thither Elvesdon had gone straight
on leaving the bench. If he had one little weakness
it was well, a very adequate sense of his
official position, but only when not off duty and
this weakness suggested to him that it might impress
the other more if he received him there, instead of
going forward to greet him in the emptying Court room.
As a matter of fact Elvesdon did show to advantage
to the accompaniment of a tinge of officialdom, but,
we are careful to emphasise, only at the proper time
“Come in,” he called out
in response to a knock. “Ah, Mr Thornhill,
I’m so glad to see you,” and there was
no official stiffness now about his tone or his handshake.
“Anything I can do for you? But unless
it’s of first-rate importance it’ll keep
till after lunch, which you are going to take with
me. So let’s go and get it.”
They went out into the fierce noontide
glare, but even it was an improvement after the stuffiness
within. Elvesdon called to a native constable
to take Thornhill’s horse, and wondered if he
felt a twinge of disappointment as he saw there was
only one horse to be taken care of. Groups of
natives squatting about in the shade, fighting all
the points of evidence over again, saluted as they
The clerk joined them at table.
He was a thick-set stolid youth, with a shock of
light hair, and a countenance wooden and mask-like;
without much conversational ability, but a first-rate
man at his work. For living purposes, he inhabited
a couple of native huts, but messed with his official
chief: which in many cases was a bore, as the
latter subsequently explained to Thornhill; but Prior
had had the same arrangement with the former man,
and he couldn’t turn the poor devil out to feed
by himself, which in that eventuality he would have
had to do. Besides, he was a very decent fellow
even if a bit heavy on hand.
During lunch they talked about sport,
and the state of the country, and ordinary things.
Immediately afterwards the clerk went out.
“Well, I’m getting firm
into the saddle here, you see,” said Elvesdon,
as they lit their pipes. “And I’m
not sure that the situation isn’t going to turn
“Think so? Look here,
I haven’t exactly come to look you up officially,
still as my round took me rather near Kwabulazi, I
thought I’d give you a look in and mention a
“Well whatever the `little matter’
may be, I’m glad it had that effect. And
now what is it?”
Thornhill told him about the meeting
with Tongwana and his people, and the mysterious stranger
who was in their company. Told him too of the
outrageous impudence of the man in refusing to get
out of the way for him.
“It was all I could do to keep
my hands off him,” he said. “Nothing
but the thought that he’d certainly use his
assegais and I should have to shoot him dead in self
defence kept me from pounding him between the shoulders
with the butt of the gun as he swaggered along.”
“And this was quite near your house, you say?”
“Yes. Right bang on the
spot where you so pluckily saved my girl’s life,
Elvesdon. I’ve heard all full details now.”
Elvesdon reddened slightly, but he was secretly pleased.
“Oh, come now,” he protested.
“I don’t know that it requires much pluck
to crack a whip at a snake. And if it comes to
that, I think it was your daughter who showed the
pluck. I told her to cut and run while I drew
the brute off. D’you think she would?
Not a bit of it. She had picked up a whacking
big stone and was standing there ready to heave it.
I tell you it was a magnificent sight. Suggested
a sort of classical heroine up-to-date. But I
say. Do you think it’s altogether safe
for a girl to go about so much alone round here?”
“Round here I do. The
people have known her since she was a little thing
and take a sort of proprietary interest in her.
For the rest, she can use a six shooter and
that quickly and straight. I taught her.”
Elvesdon was on the point of observing
that she was not provided with that opportune weapon
at the critical moment of a few days previous, but
an instinctive warning that it might seem a little
too much like taking the other to task caused him
to refrain. But he said:
“What of that swaggering impudent
swine we were talking about? Supposing he were
to pay your place a visit in your absence?”
“There are four great kwai
dogs who’d pull down the devil himself at a
word from either of us you saw them, Elvesdon.
As an alternative Edala would drill him through and
through with no toy pistol, mind you, but
real business-like lead, if he made the slightest act
of aggression. Besides, a Zulu from beyond the
river, and a head-ringed one at that, wouldn’t.
So, you see, she’s pretty safe.”
“Oh, he’s a Zulu from beyond the river,
“So Tongwana said. And he looked like
“And he was carrying assegais?”
“Rather. Two small ones
and a big umkonto. I chaffed him, gave
him royal sibongo, and it made him mad.
You know, Elvesdon, how these chaps hate being chaffed.”
“Of course. But I think
I’ll have this one looked after. Anyway
he’s no business cutting about with assegais.
I don’t want to arrest him though, if it can
possibly be avoided. That sort of thing only
irritates the others, and does no good, unless of course
you can prove anything distinctly against them; which,
just now, you hardly ever can.” Then, raising
his voice, “Wa, Teliso!”
In obedience to the shout a man came
forward, emerging from behind the Court house.
He was a native detective attached to the magistracy.
Saluting, he stood and awaited orders.
Then those three the two
white men seated on the steps of the stoep
held a quarter of an hour’s conference, speaking
rapidly, and in the vernacular. Teliso thought
he knew the stranger. His name? No, that
he could not say as a matter of fact he
knew it perfectly. He might be able to find
it out given every facility. Was he
from beyond the border, and if so who was his chief?
Of this too, Teliso professed ignorance, though he
could find out, given time and every facility.
Here likewise, he was in a position to give perfectly
correct answers then and there, but Teliso was in
his humble way a Government official, and thoroughly
understood the art of “magnifying his office.”
He was not going to adopt any such undignified course
of procedure as to give a direct answer. He
looked forward to being sent on a secret mission,
with many days of pleasant sojourn among the kraals
of his countrymen, well regaled with plenty of beef
and beer, and other things. So he
reiterated his ability to find out all about the stranger
if entrusted with that delicate errand. At that,
for the time, he was dismissed.
“What sort of chap’s that,
Elvesdon?” said Thornhill re-lighting his pipe.
“Haven’t tried him yet. Why?”
“You may have to `try’
him yet, in another sense,” returned Thornhill,
drily, shading the third match with his hand.
“Look here. I don’t want to seem
to run your show for you, but I’ve been here
a goodish while, and I hear things. If
you’ll take a tip from me you’re
not obliged to, you know you won’t
trust everything to Teliso. Don’t mind
my saying that?”
“Certainly not. In fact,
I’m obliged to you. To my mind if there’s
anything idiotic in the world it’s making light
of the experience of men of experience.”
“Well, you can always command
mine on the quiet of course and
I shan’t be in the least put out if you don’t
agree with it. Now I can see you’re longing
to get back to your job, so I’ll saddle up.”
“Er the fact is,
I’ve got a lot of these tin-pot cases to worry
through so I’ll get you to excuse
me. By the way, Thornhill, I’m going to
take you at your word, and invade you on Sunday.
I’m beastly all-by-myself here when there’s
no work. How does that pan out?”
“Any number of ounces to the
ton. Come as early as you like, and, there’s
a bed for you, if you don’t want to get back
here till next morning. Good Lord, Elvesdon,
when I think of
“But, don’t `think of’,”
interrupted the other, hurriedly. “Very
well. So long till Sunday.”
Thornhill’s horse had been brought
round, and as he got into the saddle Elvesdon turned
away to the Court house. And the latter as he
got there, felt as if he was treading on air.
Yet why should he why the devil should
he? he kept unconsciously asking himself.
Thornhill, passing the clerk’s
quarters, saw the latter just coming out.
“Hallo, Prior!” he hailed. “Good-bye,
The young man came over to him.
“Good-bye, Mr Thornhill,”
he said. “You don’t often look us
up in these days.”
“You don’t often look me up, Prior, for
the matter of that.”
“Oh well, Mr Thornhill,”
said the other shamefacedly. “I should
like to, you know. Er may I come
and try for a bushbuck someday?”
“Why of course you may, man,
any mortal time you feel inclined, or can. By
the way, how do you like your new chief?”
“No end. He’s er he’s
such a gentleman.”
There was a world of admiration of
hero worship in the young man’s tone, and colonial
youth is by no means prone to such.
“Ah,” replied Thornhill.
“Well, I agree with you, Prior. Good-bye.”