Project Canterbury  

Charles Johnson of Zululand

By A. W. Lee

[no place:] The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1930.

Chapter XIII. War

MUCH of Charles Johnson's life was passed amid the turmoils and anxieties caused by war. Having regard to the state of South Africa during the greater part of his life this was inevitable. He himself took part only once in actual fighting, as is recorded in an earlier chapter of this book, but from the time of the Langalibalele rebellion in Natal, in which he played the part of a combatant, until the close of the great war, he was sadly familiar with the havoc which a state of war is able to play in the life of an ordinary citizen.

The result of the Zulu war with the Government of Great Britain brought him into Zululand. The turmoils of civil strife in Zululand during the whole decade between 1880 and 1890 prevented him from developing his work in the Nqutu district. The Anglo-Boer war of 1897 involved him in its troubles.

He was in England when war broke out between the two Dutch republics and Great Britain, but he hurried back to South Africa at once in order to be at his post through the troubles which he knew must follow. It does not fall within the purpose of this record to follow the history of the fighting between the two forces, but it would be impossible to pass over in silence the results upon his work which the fighting brought about. Before allowing the archdeacon to speak for himself, it will be well to say a word or two as to his own feelings in the quarrel. From first to last his attitude towards the South African Dutch was that of any other representative Natalian. Of his loyalty to and deep love of the British connexion there was no question. He loved England, and all for which England stands, with that unquestioning, unwavering affection characteristic of what is best in colonial life. But this supreme loyalty to and love of the empire in no way warped his regard for his fellow South Africans of Dutch descent. He was always more than willing to live with them, to work with them when they would allow it, and to plan with them a great future for his and their country. Whenever he came into contact with the Dutch farmers, who lived all round the borders of Zululand, his relations with them were cordial and friendly. He liked and understood them. He had much in common with them. He shared much of their patriarchal attitude towards the native. Their deep love of the soil, and of the animals which live directly from the soil, found an echo in his heart. He spoke their language a little and was always resolving to learn to speak it better. But he was not naturally quick at acquiring languages, and his busy life left him with so little leisure to devote to extraneous matters that these resolves never came to anything.

Feeling as he did about the South African Dutch, he regarded the Boer War as an unmixed tragedy. This attitude was characteristic of that of most good South Africans of British extraction. In spite of the evidence which the troubled politics of South Africa seem to afford of variance and hatred between British and Dutch, the truth is that the former have always been willing to live at peace and to co-operate with the Dutch in building up the country, but have all too seldom been allowed by the latter to do so. The Dutch Afrikander has all through his national life been obliged to struggle for political freedom. The British Afrikander has, on the other hand, inherited a tradition of freedom of such long duration that he has ceased to regard politics as a means to securing that state of affairs. Politics are, therefore, to the former the very breath of his nostrils, while to the latter they are merely a necessary evil. This fundamental difference in outlook is responsible for many of the political ills to which the South African State is heir. It is one of the reasons, moreover, of the misunderstanding which continues to this day to divide the two sections of the population. The Dutch Afrikander regards with suspicion the plentiful lack of interest taken by the British population in the politics of the country. He sees in it evidence of a lack of the true South African spirit, and is disinclined to co-operate in the development of the country with those whom he still regards as uitlanders. South Africa seems to him to be his country in a much more real sense than it is that of the man of British extraction. If this theory is a true one, it accounts for the political unfriendliness of the Dutch for the British in South Africa. But this unfriendliness is largely onesided, and will tend to disappear.

The archdeacon's attitude, then, is very clearly shown in his letters, extracts from which are now given, written during the war:--

Since writing last at Christmas time, that which we had been fearing has happened--the Boers have attacked and taken the British laager here, taking the magistrate and all defenders of the fort prisoners to Pretoria. Of course we all knew that if the Boers brought artillery to the attack, the laager would be forced to capitulate, for, although strongly built of stone and on high ground, it is dominated by higher mountains a little distance off. We had been hoping that the Boers would not consider it worth their while to bring artillery and attack a fort here in Zululand, for there is little or nothing to be gained by it, and always a danger of the natives becoming restless at having a foreign armed force in their country. There had been many rumours that the Boers were coming to attack, which had hitherto always proved a false alarm, so much so that at last, when they did come, we felt somewhat surprised. The excitement was very great. I had been up to the fort or laager some short time before the attack, and had heard that they were expecting to be attacked that day; but as I had heard the same often before, I did not think much of it. As it happened, on the very day that the Boers took the fort we had a big "function" here: the people had come in from some of the out-stations, and there were a large number of adults to be baptized, and others to be admitted catechumens; and it was just as we were putting on our surplices that we heard the first shots of the attack, and a native came running in great excitement, saying that a large force of the enemy was closing in round the laager, and that they had a large force of artillery.

All through the solemn service my thoughts would fly off to that little force of British and native nouqoyi surrounded and hopeless. We could at least pray for them, that God would protect them, and that he would "take the cause into his own hand." It was a very solemn service, and our hearts were heavy with anxiety, and we did not know but what it would be our last service for some time at least in this place I took the opportunity to speak strongly to the natives about keeping "perfectly quiet, and keeping the young men quiet unless actually attacked; that if they took up arms and commenced to raid, it would really not help the British Government, but it would only add more trouble and anxiety, and it would be drawing the native people into trouble." After the service they all quietly dispersed to their homes. By about 3 p.m. the British laager had capitulated, and the garrison of Natal Mounted Police and native nouqoyi and the magistrate and his assistants, as well as the civilians who had come for refuge to the laager, had all been made prisoners and were to be taken off to Pretoria. It was a very anxious night for us here, as we did not know what our position would be. The next morning, after our early celebration, and just as we were sitting down to breakfast, a native came saying that a large force of Boers were on their way here. Shortly after a lot of my own native friends came to ask me to hide myself until the Boers had been and gone; that I should be taken prisoner, etc., etc.; and what would they do? etc., etc. I quieted them as best I could, and in their own line of argument, which I think generally sounds so conclusive: "My heart does not tell me there is danger, therefore I cannot hide." While we were at breakfast the force came in sight; the commandant with an attendant came up to our gate, where we met him. His first words in Boer Dutch (the Taal) sounded very foolish: "Are you for war or peace?" I answered, "I am a man of peace--I am a missionary." They then dismounted and came close, and explained that I should not be interfered with for the present; but I was not to leave home; and I was to keep clear of all political matters connected with the country. They said that they had taken North Zululand over, and had annexed it to the Transvaal 1 I held my peace, and only answered the questions put to me; and I was very glad I was not forbidden to correspond or send letters away or receive any. No allusion was made to the subject at all, and I was agreeably surprised. They then commandeered a horse. I went with them to the stable to show what horses I had, and all the natives about the place, who had been eagerly watching my meeting with the Boers, immediately thought that they--the Boers--were taking me to the stable to get my horse, and that I was a prisoner and being taken away, which created a commotion. My brave wife with some of my children kept close by me all the time. I think we were all rather relieved when the commander and his aide-de-camp mounted their horses, and, followed by an attendant leading the horse they had commandeered from me, rode away rapidly to overtake their troop, which was still in sight, winding along under the mountain towards Helpmakaar; and thus ended our annexation to the Transvaal.

I am thankful to say I have been treated with courtesy ever since. Famine had already commenced when the Boers took the country--the young crops we had been hoping would relieve the hungry people, had failed in consequence of the prolonged drought, and the government wagons bringing maize for the people had either been stopped or captured by the Boers. Crowds of natives came up every day crying for food. We commenced to feed as many as we possibly could, especially old people and women and children, but our stock of mealies was not large. Thanks to my wife's forethought, while I was on my way out from England, she had got in a stock of mealies and other necessary food, enough for our household, or we should have been in a terrible plight at this time, cut off from all communication with the outside world, and in the midst of a sore famine. As crowds of hungry natives came crying for food, and the few mealies I had left I was reserving for the native catechists and lay readers, I mustered up courage to apply to the general in command of the Boer forces for a "permit" to bring mealies into the country for the starving natives. It was with considerable trepidation that I applied, but I think the Boers were beginning to see how serious the situation was becoming, for the hungry natives were beginning to make raids over the border into the Transvaal to steal sheep and cattle for food, and there was no knowing what trouble these secret raiding parties might lead to; anyhow, the commandant readily granted me the permit I asked for, and I set about trying to get food into the district as well as I could with the very limited funds at my command. There is one district, about fifty or sixty miles from here, where I had heard there was plenty of grain, but the natives of the place were afraid to bring it forth lest the Boers should take it; armed with my permit I sent messengers to invite them to bring their grain here for sale, and I guaranteed them good prices and safety while selling. This was very successful for a time, while our people's money and sheep and goats lasted, but there were crowds of natives, whose numbers were growing larger every day, who had nothing whatever; their cattle had all died in the rinderpest, and what few goats and money they had been possessed of had come to an end. By order of the Natal government they were not to go and work for the Boers. What were they to do? Just at this juncture Mr. Saunders, chief commissioner for Zululand at Eshowe, sent up money at a great risk, to purchase mealies to be distributed to the starving natives on credit, each head of a house promising to pay back the purchase price as soon as the country became settled and he and his sons could go out to the centres of labour with safety. I think this a good plan, and all are satisfied with it. It was a strange experience that on the very day the commissioner's money arrived the drought broke up, and we began to have some small hope that part of the younger crops might recover, and so there was rejoicing. The rain, and the provision made by the Zululand commissioner for grain, combined with efforts made by the headmen, have stopped the dangerous raiding over the border into the Transvaal. There are, I expect, a good many cases that I do not know of where single individuals slip across the border in the night and get a sheep or so, and kill it there and then for food, but it is not now openly done.

One great fact has been proved during this war, viz., the loyalty of the natives up here: in this part of Zululand their confidence in the might of England is very remarkable under the circumstances. Here we are annexed by the Boers, the British magistrate has been taken prisoner--the British magistrate, who to them is England's might personified--and the Boers have before their eyes conquered the whole of the northern part of Natal and Zululand; but notwithstanding all this their confidence is not shaken in the least; they have grasped the situation in a wonderfully clear way, and say, "Ah, the nipisi (hyena) has driven the lion's whelp away by suddenly pouncing on it from the back, thinking it was a tiger-cat, but what will the nipisi do when the mother lion hears the cry of the child?" A very remarkable thing happened, greatly to the credit of the natives about here. A large force of armed Boers came to the store of the trader close here. The trader, a Mr. Hall, left some time ago, leaving a native in charge. The Boers, on taking over the country, came to loot this store, and they commandeered a lot of the local natives to carry their loot up to their camp, and paid them in goods--blankets, etc.--from the looted things. The natives were afraid to say a word, but about thirty of them came the next day and the day after, bringing the looted goods the Boers had given them, and delivered them over to me to be delivered back again to the owner of the store on his return: some of the headmen came to say they could not rest while the goods given by the Boers were in their huts. Some of the heathen from a distance kept the loot given them, but all about this district brought it here to me; and the motive for bringing it was, I think, good: "While the looted goods given to the young are in our kraals it would seem as though we belonged to the Boers. We will have nothing to do with what they have looted, no, not as friends or children of theirs."

We have been keeping all the mission-schools in the district going. I have not been able to visit them since I was told to "keep at home," but as my assistant native priest, Titus Mtembu, is kept on the move, constantly going from out-station to out-station, and the native catechists and lay workers come constantly in here to me in any difficulty, I am glad to say no great difficulty has arisen in any one place of a serious character. At the Ukandi out-station, on the extreme north border, the people took fright when the Boers first carne over, and commenced to run away and sleep on the hills, but it was only for a few days, as I soon restored order, and since then all the schools and classes have gone on with the same regularity as though there was no war raging all around us. I felt that by insisting on this, and allowing no irregularity, we were doing something to keep the district quiet, and at each centre all over the district prayers, morning and evening, have been, and are now, offered up that he, the Almighty God, "would take the cause into his own hands," and give victory to our troops. The Boers take little or no notice of the native services as a rule, but they have been enquiring at certain of the out-stations as to whether they are praying for or against them.

We are not getting on very well with the church: the Boers' coming has stopped us bringing the material for the roof here. We are still wanting £500 to finish the church; may God raise up helpers who shall assist us to complete it. One strange thing happened a few days ago. A looting party of Boers looted all the church furniture at Nondwe"ni: organ, chairs, altar plate, etc.--everything. As soon as I was informed of it by a native--for the European congregation had all left--I in great trepidation applied to the commandant to have the things returned, as they were furniture belonging to the House of God, and I thought God's House ought to be respected. And I am glad and thankful to say I have recovered, as far as I know, everything taken. We have a great deal to be thankful for in the midst of hardship and war.

We are once more our own masters, and may write freely and openly without danger of being "sent over the border."

Ngudu was relieved a couple of weeks ago by the column under Col. Bethune, "Brigadier-General Bethune" I believe now. It was quite an epoch in the history of Rorke's Drift--a time full of excitement and also of pain.

On the Thursday evening, as we were coming out of evening prayers, a large Boer commando with artillery commenced to pass, and we stood and watched them and speculated as to where they were going at that time of the evening. The Boer commandant and his officers all raised their hats as they passed us standing by the church door, and so did a great many of the men. It was bright moonlight before they had all finished passing. When we got to the gate of our garden we found two Boers standing holding their horses by the bridle waiting for us. They were part of the Boer force, but they were Germans, and they were very communicative. Their column, they said, had received orders to move up to Helpmakaar to strengthen the Boer force there, as the British attack, under General Buller, had already commenced on the Biggarsberg position. They did not seem very sanguine of success in opposing General Buller's advance. These two Germans had often been here at the house when on patrol, and had always treated us well, and, in fact, all the Boer forces either stationed here or passing, with one or two individual exceptions, have always treated us with great courtesy, and often with real kindness. For instance, during the Boer occupation meat was at times a great difficulty, and these very two Germans, early one Sunday morning, came carrying a great lump of beef each in front of his saddle, and left it at our house as they passed on their patrol round; and now they had come to tell us why their commando was passing so late in the evening and in such strong force. It was a beautiful, still, calm night, and it seemed difficult to realise that a big battle was imminent on the .peaceful mountain in front of us. We anxiously listened late into the night for any sound of the fight, but the perfect stillness remained undisturbed, so we went to bed. The real attack did not commence until Saturday evening, and on Sunday artillery was booming away sometimes near and then again farther away. The air was full of rumours brought by natives, but it was not until Monday morning that we could see that the Boers were in full retreat along the Biggarsberg, hotly pursued by our forces. The British artillery marked the progress made, and then the fighting passed away towards Dundee. The British loss in the whole battle was wonderfully small. On Monday night the Boer force that had passed us here a few evenings previous was scattered into small groups of twos and threes, and returned to the Ngudu Fort in great disorder, having lost their artillery. They only remained at the fort long enough to pack into their wagons such camp things as they could gather together, and next morning the Boer forces had crossed the border back again into Zululand, and we were once more free. My great fear was that the natives of the district, who were in a very excited state, might take advantage of the confusion and make a raid into the Transvaal, where I knew there were only women and children left at the Boer homesteads to mind the cattle and sheep, but I am most thankful to say that danger has now passed away. The blood shed in this war has been terrible, but how very much more terrible it would have been had the natives been drawn into it! They cannot understand the European clemency of sparing wounded and prisoners to live to fight another day, or why women and children are left unmolested, and the Zulus hate the Boers with a deep and strong hatred. The Boer occupation of this district was becoming more and more irritating to them. It was therefore with great joy we heard of their retirement over our border back into the Transvaal. On the Wednesday evening we set to work to make a Union Jack, and our intention was on Thursday afternoon to go and hoist the flag over the now deserted fort at Ngudu, but before starting we heard that a strong British force had arrived at Vaut's Drift, about six miles from here. My friend and assistant, H. Hollingsworth, rode out early next morning to ascertain what force it was, and we were delighted about ten o'clock to see him return accompanied by two officers and a military escort. The officers were Brigadier-General Bethune, in command of the column, and his aide-de-camp, Captain Lord De La Warr. It was very nice to see those soldier-like English gentlemen sitting under our verandah, where we had for so long a time seen nothing but Boers.

I do not mean to say one word in disparagement of the Boers' kindness to us. But we were practically prisoners in our own house; none of us were allowed to go more than three hundred yards away from the house without a pass, and latterly I had been refused a pass to visit my out-stations. I have the commandant's letter, which I am keeping as a memento, wherein he says: "I am sorry I cannot grant you the pass you ask for to visit out-stations. My burghers object to you going to assemble Kaffirs together." So that it was with deep thankfulness and no small degree of excitement that we now realised we were free once more. Brigadier-General Bethune had sent his forces on to Ngudu, while he had kindly come round this way to see us. My wife and I accompanied them up to the Ngudu, carrying our Union Jack, and we hoisted it on the highest place in the fort, amidst the cheers of the British forces, whom we found had already arrived and had encamped near to the place; my wife then photographed them and the flag. General Bethune sent messengers off to all the chiefs of the district calling them to assemble together on the next day for an inddba, and he asked me to come and assist. I went on to visit some of the people at Nondweni, but I hastened back next morning and reached Engudu at 9.30, where I found most of the native chiefs had arrived with their headmen; General Bethune spoke to them, through me, a few manly, straightforward words, praising them for their loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen, and announcing to them the re-occupation now of Zululand by the British. He then said his force was a constantly moving body. They had finished their work in this district in driving the enemy out. Her Majesty's civil servants would follow shortly and they would take up again all the duties of government. After he had finished his address he gave the order to his forces to march, and we (the native chiefs and I) stood admiring each troop as it passed us. Bethune's Mounted Infantry are certainly a fine lot of men, and well mounted; they had some sharp work in front of them although they knew it not. It seems that a strong commando from Utrecht had been sent that very morning to oppose Bethune's advance. The Boers certainly have the one military gift (if military it is) of moving a strong mounted force suddenly and quickly and taking secretly a strong masked position in the line of march of a British force; and so on that eventful 20th May Bethune's column found the Boer commando apparently occupying a kopje and a broad ridge, but with another strong masked force hidden in a trench, quite invisible until within twenty yards; the scouts brought word that the Boers were in possession of the kopje and ridge. Our forces attacked and eventually drove them off the kopje, but with a heavy loss on our side from the masked force in the trench. In comparative safety themselves they mowed down nearly the whole of the first company of our brave fellows as they advanced to attack the ridge. We lost in about ten minutes three officers and twenty-seven men killed, and two officers (slightly) and thirty-one men wounded. I went over the battlefield two days afterwards, and, as I say, it was simply impossible to see the trench until within thirty yards of the spot. I went with a flag of truce (my handkerchief fastened to my whip) to read the burial service over the graves where our brave fellows had been laid to rest. The Boers had returned and were again in occupation of the place; they treated me very courteously when they heard the object of my visit. The whole Boer force turned out under arms to be present at the service; on reaching the three graves they all took off their hats (by order of their commandant) and remained bare-headed until the end of the service. Some of our wounded were terribly shattered; one poor fellow had eight Mauser bullets in him; another, Sergeant Melville, had six in him, and he was quite bright and cheerful; I hope to have a list of the names of those brave dead fellows in the new church we are building here, as the battle was fought close to one of my out-stations. I fear that I am writing a good deal about battles, and dead and wounded, and naturally so when we are in the midst of it; but notwithstanding the Boer occupation the mission work of the district has not been interrupted to any great extent.

We hope the bishop may be able to come up to us at the end of this month; there are seventy odd candidates ready for confirmation; oh! that our new church were finished and ready for this confirmation service. It will be held in the open air as usual. I hope we may have suitable weather.

The end of the Boer war found the archdeacon, though much impoverished as a result of the efforts he had made to feed the starving Zulus, as well as to finish the building of his great church, still hard at work and full of resolution to carry on.

The four years which followed the close of the war were amongst the most trying of all his experiences. The Zulus were in a state of unrest. They had borne much suffering during the war period. Their stock had been looted, their crops had failed, and, for the first time in their history, they had witnessed active warfare without being allowed to take part in it. But more than all these troubles they were weighed down by increasing taxation, and the final blow of all fell when they learned that various parts of their country were to be taken from them and given out to European occupation. It was these last two factors which led directly to Charles Johnson's next experience of war.

When, after the Zulu war of 1879, the country was finally settled, the Zulus were taxed by the British government, which decided that the people should pay a hut tax of fourteen shillings per hut each year. This tax the people paid with a fair amount of goodwill. When Zululand was added to the province of Natal to be governed by it the power to tax was transferred to the Natal government. For many years the hut tax was the only kind of levy demanded from the people. But in 1904 a poll tax of £l a head was imposed upon the younger men, those, namely, who did not come under the incidence of the hut tax. The levying of this tax was unfortunate. Hitherto the young men had always helped their fathers to pay the hut tax. This assistance was recognized by the younger men as a part of their obligation to the family. But the poll tax seemed to them to mean that they were now to be taxed as individuals and no longer as families. It therefore cut deeply at the roots of the family life of the nation. The older men resented very keenly what seemed to them to be a blow at their parental authority. When, as inevitably happened, the young men refused any longer to help their elders to pay the hut tax money, the elders were in a state of great indignation. The young men, also, naturally resented being made to pay "for their heads" as they termed it. The tax seemed to them to be a wanton attack upon their liberty. It was useless to point out to them the fact that all Europeans were also subject to the same tax. The obvious retort to this statement was that they would be willing to pay if they were allowed to receive for their labour the same amount that was paid to Europeans. The whole country was unsettled by rumours of other impending taxation. Some of these rumours were speedily verified when a dog tax of 55. an animal was also imposed. The country shook with mingled indignation and amusement. Were the white people so poor that they condescended to tax even the wretched curs which thronged the kraals of the people? they asked. No dog was worth 5s. alive or dead. If, indeed, such a tax was seriously meant there was an obvious method of avoiding it. The mortality amongst dogs during the first year of the tax's imposition was extremely heavy. Dogs big and little, good and bad, came to an untimely end in hundreds. But the incident left its mark upon the minds of the Zulus, and tended to swell that feeling of discontent with white rule always underlying African life. When, then, the country heard that some of the richest parts of its land were to be alienated and given over to Europeans, this discontent began to assume serious proportions.

It was, indeed, difficult to justify this spoliation of the Zulus' ancestral acres. A very large portion of their country had some years previously been taken over by the Dutch. Now a further large portion was to be removed from their control. They saw themselves being driven off land which their forefathers had lived and died upon. The very graves of their ancestors, spots sacred to the whole Zulu nation, were to be ploughed over and lost to memory. Their agricultural lands, their grazing grounds, the valleys wherein dwelt the game which had provided them with the joys of hunting, all were to pass into alien possession, and they were to be herded into the more remote and less fruitful parts of their country. The alternative was to remain upon their traditional family sites and to become serfs to the new white owners, an alternative which most of them emphatically refused to consider. The injustice of this action on the part of the government rankled yet the more when the older men recalled the promise which, they asserted, had been made to them by the representative of Queen Victoria at the settlement after the Zulu war, which was that so long as the sun shone upon Zululand no part of the country would be taken away from them.

They had seen in the imposition of the new poll tax a direct blow to their old communal life. This land-snatching was an even more drastic shock to the same instinct, so deep-rooted in the Bantu nature. Something, it was evident, must be done about it. Expostulation was tried but failed. Protests were made, but were ineffectual. Recourse, then, must be made to the age-long method of settling disagreements. They must fight for their threatened liberties. For three or four years plots were hatched, rebellions planned, murders of solitary Europeans contemplated. The authorities were warned by people, both black and white, who knew what was going on. But no notice was taken of such warnings. Officials went in peril of their lives to collect taxes. Outlying Europeans were uneasy. The Zulus, ordinarily so civil and obedient, became openly truculent and aggressive.

At length, in 1906, the storm broke. An errant chief in Natal, one Bambata, of the Zondi clan, broke into rebellion. He was a man of no importance or standing, especially in Zulu eyes, but the blow he struck galvanized into activity the whole nation. The blow fell first upon the Natal police, a semi-military force used to carry out ordinary police duties as well as to patrol the country. Quickly the alarm spread. Natal volunteer regiments were called out on military duty. Columns were despatched to deal with the trouble. Bambata escaped into the wild and broken country lying on the Zululand side of the Tugela river, and embracing parts of the Nkandhla and the Nqutu magisterial divisions. Here, in the fastnesses of the Amacube tribe, amid precipitous mountains and dense primeval forest, he made his stand, hoping to be reinforced by men from Dinuzulu, the son of Cetshwayo. Desultory fighting took place in that district for some months, during which time the whole land watched and waited for some movement from Dinuzulu. This, however, was not forthcoming. The Zulus greatly desired to fight, but whether, for once, discretion was the better part of valour, or whether Dinuzulu was more loyal to the government than was commonly supposed at the time, are questions to which there can be no answer. But, whatever the reason was, the result of this inaction proved fatal to the hopes of the rebels. After some sporadic outbursts in various parts of the country the rebellion was suppressed and its leaders either slain or arrested. The only Zulu of national standing who joined in the fighting was that old fighting-man Mehlokazulu ka Sihhayo, who has been mentioned before in this book as having taken part in the Zulu war of '79. He, with a small portion of his tribe, threw in his lot with Bambata and shared his fate at the battle of the Mome Gorge. As Mehlokazulu was an important chief in the Nqutu district, the whole of that part of the country was thrown into panic by his action. Men, women, and children left their homes each night to sleep in the rocks and caves with which the country-side abounds. It was daily expected that Mehlokazulu and Bambata would break north and sweep to destruction the whole of the law-abiding population which had refused to go into rebellion with them. After a distracting period of suspense, during which time the country was on its toes in panic, a column of mounted infantry mixed with loyal native troops was thrown into the district. Little fighting resulted, and the country quickly settled down again. The period of danger between the outbreak of rebellion and the coming of the military column tried the patience and tested the courage of all concerned. Work was, naturally, at a standstill. Travelling was impossible. The people ran aimlessly about hardly knowing which way to run for safety.

During this trying time archdeacon and Mrs. Johnson stayed quietly at home, doing their best to carry on. He felt that it was of the utmost importance to stay in spite of the very real danger they were in from straggling bands of desperate men. While they were there the Christian population surrounding them had a sense of protection from danger. If they had gone the whole surrounding district would most likely have stampeded. Alarms were frequent and highly disagreeable. One very dark night, for example, the archdeacon had been working late in his study, and, towards midnight, he stepped out into the open for a breath of fresh air. It was so dark that he could see nothing. But his heart jumped and missed a beat when he heard quite close at his side a stealthy shuffle and the unmistakable clink of an assegai upon steel.

"Ubani lo?" he called sharply. "Who is that?" There was no answer, and he thought for a moment of dashing back into the house for a weapon. But he knew that panic would not help, and he repeated his question in a peremptory voice.

"Yimi, mfundisi," the answer came to his demand ("It is I, teacher "), and out into the small patch of light from his study lamp stepped the inoffensive postman, armed, as he always was, with his assegai and kerry in defence of His Majesty's mails.

So amid fears and alarms the days passed on, until finally the rebels were routed and dispersed.

It was a great triumph for him when it was learned that out of the many thousands of Christians in his district only seven young men had joined the rebels. The temptation to do so must have been all but irresistible. They shared to the full the sense of injustice and outraged national feeling with their people. The new taxes and the loss of territory pressed as hardly upon them as upon any. But they had learned valuable lessons of self-control and loyalty to ideals which enabled them to stand firm against the foolishness of taking up arms in a hopeless struggle against well-armed and well-equipped white forces.

One result of this unhappy rebellion was to establish the influence of the archdeacon still more firmly in the country-side. While Mehlokazulu was still wavering between obedience to the government and the insistent call of his fighting blood, the archdeacon saw him several times and used all his eloquence and his authority to dissuade the Zulu from taking up arms. When, at last, he saw that the old instincts were to prevail, he solemnly warned the old chief of the consequences to him and to those he misled. These warnings came true. Mehlokazulu was killed, and the chieftainship was removed from his direct line to that of a younger cadet branch of his house. It is a strange fact that few things impress the Zulu so deeply as the power to foresee events which afterwards actually happen. He himself is little given to looking forward or to speculating upon the probable result of any action. The archdeacon's foresight in this matter seemed to his people almost super-human, and his prestige increased greatly amongst them.

The great war brought him anxieties which were at that period common to all the world. His five sons fought in the war on various fronts. In East and West Africa, in Palestine and Egypt, and in Flanders they did their parts. One son, Kenneth, now a priest, lost his leg in France, the others, fortunately, escaping unwounded. During the years of the war his work increased amazingly, the result of all the years of faithful work he had done. The numbers of people under instruction, of pupils in the schools, and of communicants grew larger each year, and the period was one of consolidation of all his work.

Project Canterbury