MISSION LIFE AMONG THE ZULUS.*
THERE is really- very little to be said about this book in the way of comment. It is the simple record of a simple life, told for the most part in familiar letters, and presenting scarcely any features of novelty. The sameness of life among uncultivated people has not been sufficiently noted. Yet it must force itself most strongly on those who read or hear accounts of missionary enterprise, as the reception of Christianity always produces the same kind of -effect on savages. We always find that sort of wonder which cannot discriminate between the truths of the new faith and the accidents of its introduction. These things are most natural in the religious youth of a nation, and they have an endearing effect on the missionaries themselves. But they often tend to blind the missionaries to the fact that what theyare introducing is not so much .Christianity as their own form of Christian civilization. They re- cognize to a certain extent that their hearers are babes in the word, and must be fed with milk, not with meat; and with .this view they bring out the milk in hermetically sealed tins from one of the great manufactories. Sometimes, however, the tin has been wrongly labelled. The manufactory does not confine itself to work- ing for the mission field ; it has other objects nearer home, and one of those objects is controversial. And thus it happens that a tin of the essence of controversial soup, intended for the hardest digestions, is put up, as missionary milk, and plays havoc with the wreak stomach of a reclaimed cannibal.
Then, too, the difficulties of home controversy reflect themselves
in the most puzzling way on the work of missionary teaching. They seem straightforward and open to argument when you are reading in your English study, or wrestling with an English antagonist, or preaching to an English congregation. But when you have to explain them to people of such different ideas, you And that you were indebted to your adversary for half your view, and that when you cannot take his half to piece with yours, your own half, though it may have been better than his, is not equal to the whole. The sailor who sees the masts of a ship that is hull -down, can very often. tell her distance off from the height of the masts, and can even make a guess at her nationality. But when the ship is actually out of sight, and some freak of refraction makes her appear on the horizon with her masts inverted, she is taken for a phantom. The untaught native's mind is in another plane from yours, and what to you is certain though distant, is quite beyond his power of conception. If it is hard to cultivated minds to define exactly where their reason ends and their faith begins, and if in the best minds there is a constant process of action and reaction between faith and reason, it must be doubly hard to exert your reason for an unreasoning child of nature, and make his faith itself supply him with those aids which yours receives from its auxiliary.
Doubts such as these never seem to have entered the mind of the subject of this volume. And it is well they never did. Nothing could have kept up the wife of a missionary in Zululand against the hardships of her life and a body scarcely fitted to bear them, but simplicity of mind and religions fervour. The book, made up of her letters and edited by a sister of Bishop Mackenzie, professes to be " put forward as a sample of a quiet, hardworking, missionary life, in the belief that it will help to show both what the labour is, and how it may be performed in a spirit of true love and self-devotion." As such it will commend itself to a very large class of readers. We shall be glad if our recommendation of it adds to the number.
Although such a book is scarcely to be criticized, it may be well to let it speak for itself in some measure. It adds several traits to the familiar portrait of the noble savage who was as free as nature first made man, and who ran wild in woods before the base laws of servitude began. This romantic picture can best be appreciated by scrutinizing the actual romance of such people. We have two very good specimens in the book before us. One is a story of a pretty girl of eighteen, who had been promised in marriage some years before to-an old polygamist. Forgetting her engagement as
* Minion Life amoseg me Zulu Hafts. Memorials of Henrietta Robertson. Edited by Aune Mackenzie. Cambridge: Deighton and Bell. 1866.
time went on, she had the audacity to fall in love with a young man of her own age. Meanwhile the old polygamist had been gradually collecting the number of cows demanded as the price of the girl, and having got them together, came to pay his 'addresses :-
"Umandumela called together his family and neighbours, and in their presence informed his daughter that she was forthwith to make this man her husband. As if electrified, she sprang up, striking her head violently against the intsika (post in the hut), and said she would never do that. None but the son of Umfukuzele should ever marry her ; and she became so excited that it was considered best to let the matter drop just then, not to give it up. This was in the morning. In the after- noon Umandumela whilst at work in the garden, heard a cry, ' Intom- bazana izamuka! ' (The girl is just gone). He ran out, but, he was too late, and the Intombazana and two others were off. He and Ujojo pursued, but could not find them, as it was then getting dark. After some consultation Umandumela and Ujojo determined to follow them to the young man's kraal. They reached it about midnight, and in answer to their inquiries received equivocating replies, which the Kafirs are so good at giving ; and were just leaving when they heard a suppressed laugh in one of the huts, which they knew to be the voice of one of the young women who helped Miss Umandumela. They turned back at once, and looking in found the young lady and a number of others enjoying themselves. Umandumela made her come out, but just as she had got outside the kraal away she bounded like a buck among the bushes, where she was soon lost- in the darkness, and Umandumela trudged home without her ! For three days they hid her, Umandumela trying to get her away, and would probably have hid her until now, had not Umandumela consented to her marrying the Insizwa (young man)."
In the other story the father consents to his daughter's marriage with the lover she has chosen, if the lover can pay her value in cattle. But when the lover is visited by misfortune the father retracts,- and makes his daughter marry a man old enough to be her grandfather. But after the marriage ceremony has taken place the girl bullies the old man so that he is glad to let her go, and she elopes with her lover. A compromise is at length effected, by which the father is to have ten head of cattle, costing 7s. 6€1. each, down on the marriage, and ten more before three years have elapsed. We might almost think ourselves in the land of settlements. Even in that blest country we have heard of parents giving their daughters to old men, and of daughters preferring husbands of their own age, even where the number of cows was insufficient.
The trials for murder are even more significant, as we learn from a story too long to quote, but the pith of which, can be- condensed into a few lines. Death is generally taken as a sign of witchcraft, and a meeting of witch doctors is held to discover the guilty person. This is generally some one who does not give the witch doctors• a cow, and when they have pitched upon him they search• his hut, till they find something which they can say is the poison he has used, In the case cited they carried this to such a pitch that they made an innocent man confess himself guilty for fear of being brought before an English magistrate. " Can-you believe," writes Mrs. Robertson, " that among this apparently kindly, hospitable people the habit of secret poisoning is such a known thing, that the more nearly they are related the m ore they dread each other, and that the custom of the host drinking himself or tasting the food himself before he gives it to a guest is really necessary, to assure him that it is safe to take it ; that the mere wish to have a neighbour's garden, or something that is a brother's, his cows, for instance, is temptation enough to resort to poisoning, and then- it it is visited on a supposed Umtakati' (wizard) thronghthe agency of these witch doctors?" The incantations practised before the Zulu King were of much the same character as these gyrations of the witch doctors :- "In the afternoon detachments from the seven regiments arrived, amounting to about 4,000 men, and a great dance took place. After a time a large black bull with sharp pointed horns was driven into the midst of them. The people rushed, some seizing it by the tail, others by the legs, others by the horns or the bead, and having thrown it on its back, dragged it—sometimes actually carrying it for a distance of about half a mile—into the cattle kraal at the head of the parade-ground, whenit was despatched by cutting the spinal marrow in the neck. After this the State doctor cut open its stomach, and extracted certain portions, which were burnt in a crucible with a number of medicinal herbs, to be administered medically (perhaps it would be more proper to say religiously) to the King. The whole was then burnt with fire along with a goat. The wood with which these animals were burnt was brought by the soldiers in the morning, each carrying one stick and throwing it into the enclo- sure as he marched past, Daring all this time the troops were assem- bling, marching up and down the great enclosure. At length the King made his appearance, and they all formed in line in front of him. Some speeches were made, and then the King was wheeled close. np to the smoking bull, when the doctors and greatmen administered the po wder from the crucible, rubbing it upon the King's person, and upon an old spear, the blade of which was a yard long, and always used on these occasions. A decoction of bitter herbs was also made, Which the King took into his mouth and squirted in all directions. Then he was supplied with sea water, which he- sprinkled• upon the soldiers near, and a young pumpkin was brought to him, with which he struck the shield of one of- his great men. After being cooked with medicinal herbs, the pumpkin was administered totheltmg, and then the bull and' the goat
were finally consumed by fire. All this time the troops were chanting their songs outside, and when the ceremony was over, all dispersed, and the King returned to his hut."
We have italicized the most comical piece of this description, but was such a thing never seen among the nations of Europe? What is Carlyle's account of Louis.XV.'s washings ?
When the Kafirs emerge from their primitive barbarism, we begin to notice those features of simplicity which we mentioned at the outset of this paper. The amusing question of an old man, whether God lived in England, is the best commentary on our view of missionary labours. Then the story about the choice of names for a new believer shows how easily the best intentions may lead to incongruities. With a view of conveying a lesson in a name, that of Inheritor was chosen, to recall the sentence in the 'Catechism about being made an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven. But the literal meaning of the word " inheritor " to the Kafirs is one that eats by death, who succeeds, that is, to the food made available for him by the death of another. And un- fortunately the new convert was an enormous eater, so that some other name had to be found which would not expose him to so much ridicule. At a Kafir wedding, again, English notions came into collision with those of the natives. "Just as we wished to have the coffee served at the cutting of the wedding cake, we were told there was no water in the kettles ; it had all been used in washing the plates we would have washed, they told us reproach- fully." And even, the attempt at teaching frugality did not .always produce the best results :—
" A still more amusing incident occurred on my brother's first visit. He was to occupy a Kafir but built expressly for himself, with a high • -door, but otherwise looking like a gigantic beehive. When it was ready a day was appointed when he was to come out and take possession of it. it happened to be very rainy, so Mr. Robertson did not expect him. The day before he and Mrs. R. had been pleased with their Christian Kafiri' for buying a cow, which they wished to make into sausages and .salt, instead of, according to Kafir custom, making a feast, and gorging it at one meal. But great was the lady's horror when the Archdeacon arrived, and she was introducing him to his hut, to find it preoccupied by the cow hanging up preparatory to being cut up. It was immediately -dismissed, but the next morning it was found in the bath, the Kafirs saying there was no other place for it. So the old truth was forced upon her that there is no unmixed good upon earth, and that if the Kafirs are to eat salted beef, instead of devouring a whole cow at once, she must suffer some inconvenience."
We have quoted more largely than is our wont, and we have mot attempted any general analysis of the book, or a sketch of the 'life and character of the writer. But the first is hardly called for, and the second would be somewhat out of place in our pages. Simple stories carry their own moral, and the teaching of some lives is weakened by being enforced directly.