All was now ready for what we should call the operative part of the ceremony, though the ceremonial slaughter of the cattle provided for the feast would rather be that which, according to native ideas, would seal the marital relation. In the Native Code of Natal it is provided that a Marriage Officer appointed by Government must be present as official witness to legalise every native marriage. The object of this is not merely to obtain proper evidence of the marriage, but to protect the bride from being forced into a marriage against her will. In the present case Mhlola was a young man. He was marrying a girl of his tribe, with the intention of making her his Chief Wife ; and there can be little doubt it was a love-match. In his intention of making her his Chief Wife, however, he was reckon- ing without his host. He was marrying beneath his rank ; and by-and-by it is quite possible that the under-chiefs and nobles may require him to degrade her and to take a lady of princely status to be his Chief Wife. No doubt she knew the risk, and was prepared to run it.
Mhlola sat with his back to us, and his men spread out in long ranks behind him. The bride and her party, men and women, stood in similar fashion lower down the field, facing the chief and his men. The marriage officer (who was a native), advanced towards her and in a loud voice put the usual questions. When asked if she consented of her own free will to be married to Mhlola, she replied: "Ten head of cattle have been given for me." This was no answer. The question was therefore put again. Again she showed a woman's capacity for avoiding a direct reply, while conveying the necessary meaning. " I love him," was all she said. This appearing satisfactory, she advanced and spread a mat before him, praying him to be seated upon it. He complied, and she then put round his neck and his waist bead circlets which she herself had made for him. The presenta- tion of other gifts followed. It is said to be usual for the bride to present the bridegroom with things as civilised as a washing- basin and soap, "in token of her submission to him and her preparedness to attend to his needs." Whether this was done on the occasion in question I do not know, as the crowd around the chief was too great for me to see at the moment. The