Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard

Part 2 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.7 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

to literally flow up and down his body and limbs, never more
than an eighth of an inch from them, and yet never striking them.
It was a wonderful sight to see the little man fixed there,
having apparently realized that to move would be to run the risk
of sudden death, while his black tormentor towered over him,
and wrapped him round with the quick flashes of the axe. For
a minute or more this went on, till suddenly I saw the moving
brightness travel down the side of Alphonse's face, and then
outwards and stop. As it did so a tuft of something black fell
to the ground; it was the tip of one of the little Frenchman's
curling mustachios.

Umslopogaas leant upon the handle of Inkosi-kaas, and broke into
a long, low laugh; and Alphonse, overcome with fear, sank into
a sitting posture on the ground, while we stood astonished at
this exhibition of almost superhuman skill and mastery of a weapon.
'Inkosi-kaas is sharp enough,' he shouted; 'the blow that clipped
the "buffalo-heifer's" horn would have split a man from the crown
to the chin. Few could have struck it but I; none could have
struck it and not taken off the shoulder too. Look, thou little
heifer! Am I a good man to laugh at, thinkest thou? For a space
hast thou stood within a hair's-breadth of death. Laugh not
again, lest the hair's-breadth be wanting. I have spoken.'

'What meanest thou by such mad tricks?' I asked of Umslopogaas,
indignantly. 'Surely thou art mad. Twenty times didst thou
go near to slaying the man.'

'And yet, Macumazahn, I slew not. Thrice as Inkosi-kaas flew
the spirit entered into me to end him, and send her crashing
through his skull; but I did not. Nay, it was but a jest; but
tell the "heifer" that it is not well to mock at such as I.
Now I go to make a shield, for I smell blood, Macumazahn -- of
a truth I smell blood. Before the battle hast thou not seen
the vulture grow of a sudden in the sky? They smell the blood,
Macumazahn, and my scent is more keen than theirs. There is
a dry ox-hide down yonder; I go to make a shield.'

'That is an uncomfortable retainer of yours,' said Mr Mackenzie,
who had witnessed this extraordinary scene. 'He has frightened
Alphonse out of his wits; look!' and he pointed to the Frenchman,
who, with a scared white face and trembling limbs, was making
his way into the house. 'I don't think that he will ever laugh
at "le monsieur noir" again.'

'Yes,' answered I, 'it is ill jesting with such as he. When
he is roused he is like a fiend, and yet he has a kind heart
in his own fierce way. I remember years ago seeing him nurse
a sick child for a week. He is a strange character, but true
as steel, and a strong stick to rest on in danger.'

'He says he smells blood,' said Mr Mackenzie. 'I only trust
he is not right. I am getting very fearful about my little girl.
She must have gone far, or she would be home by now. It is
half-past three o'clock.'

I pointed out that she had taken food with her, and very likely
would not in the ordinary course of events return till nightfall;
but I myself felt very anxious, and fear that my anxiety betrayed
itself.

Shortly after this, the people whom Mr Mackenzie had sent out
to search for Flossie returned, stating that they had followed
the spoor of the donkey for a couple of miles and had then lost
it on some stony ground, nor could they discover it again. They
had, however, scoured the country far and wide, but without success.

After this the afternoon wore drearily on, and towards evening,
there still being no signs of Flossie, our anxiety grew very
keen. As for the poor mother, she was quite prostrated by her
fears, and no wonder, but the father kept his head wonderfully
well. Everything that could be done was done: people were sent
out in all directions, shots were fired, and a continuous outlook
kept from the great tree, but without avail.

And then it grew dark, and still no sign of fair-haired little
Flossie.

At eight o'clock we had supper. It was but a sorrowful meal,
and Mrs Mackenzie did not appear at it. We three also were very
silent, for in addition to our natural anxiety as to the fate
of the child, we were weighed down by the sense that we had brought
this trouble on the head of our kind host. When supper was nearly
at an end I made an excuse to leave the table. I wanted to get
outside and think the situation over. I went on to the veranda
and, having lit my pipe, sat down on a seat about a dozen feet
from the right-hand end of the structure, which was, as the reader
may remember, exactly opposite one of the narrow doors of the
protecting wall that enclosed the house and flower garden. I
had been sitting there perhaps six or seven minutes when I thought
I heard the door move. I looked in that direction and I listened,
but, being unable to make out anything, concluded that I must
have been mistaken. It was a darkish night, the moon not having
yet risen.

Another minute passed, when suddenly something round fell with
a soft but heavy thud upon the stone flooring of the veranda,
and came bounding and rolling along past me. For a moment I
did not rise, but sat wondering what it could be. Finally, I
concluded it must have been an animal. Just then, however, another
idea struck me, and I got up quick enough. The thing lay quite
still a few feet beyond me. I put down my hand towards it and
it did not move: clearly it was not an animal. My hand touched
it. It was soft and warm and heavy. Hurriedly I lifted it and
held it up against the faint starlight.

_It was a newly severed human head!_

I am an old hand and not easily upset, but I own that that ghastly
sight made me feel sick. How had the thing come there? Whose
was it? I put it down and ran to the little doorway. I could
see nothing, hear nobody. I was about to go out into the darkness
beyond, but remembering that to do so was to expose myself to
the risk of being stabbed, I drew back, shut the door, and bolted it.
Then I returned to the veranda, and in as careless a voice as
I could command called Curtis. I fear, however, that my tones
must have betrayed me, for not only Sir Henry but also Good and
Mackenzie rose from the table and came hurrying out.

'What is it?' said the clergyman, anxiously.

Then I had to tell them.

Mr Mackenzie turned pale as death under his red skin. We were
standing opposite the hall door, and there was a light in it
so that I could see. He snatched the head up by the hair and
held it against the light.

'It is the head of one of the men who accompanied Flossie,' he
said with a gasp. 'Thank God it is not hers!'

We all stood and stared at each other aghast. What was to be done?

Just then there was a knocking at the door that I had bolted,
and a voice cried, 'Open, my father, open!'

The door was unlocked, and in sped a terrified man. He was one
of the spies who had been sent out.

'My father,' he cried, 'the Masai are on us! A great body of
them have passed round the hill and are moving towards the old
stone kraal down by the little stream. My father, make strong
thy heart! In the midst of them I saw the white ass, and on
it sat the Water-lily [Flossie]. An Elmoran [young warrior]
led the ass, and by its side walked the nurse weeping. The men
who went with her in the morning I saw not.'

'Was the child alive?' asked Mr Mackenzie, hoarsely.

'She was white as the snow, but well, my father. They passed
quite close to me, and looking up from where I lay hid I saw
her face against the sky.'

'God help her and us!' groaned the clergyman.

'How many are there of them?' I asked.

'More than two hundred -- two hundred and half a hundred.'

'Once more we looked one on the other. What was to be done?
Just then there rose a loud insistent cry outside the wall.

'Open the door, white man; open the door! A herald -- a herald
to speak with thee.' Thus cried the voice.

Umslopogaas ran to the wall, and, reaching with his long arms
to the coping, lifted his head above it and gazed over.

'I see but one man,' he said. 'He is armed, and carries a basket
in his hand.'

'Open the door,' I said. 'Umslopogaas, take thine axe and stand
thereby. Let one man pass. If another follows, slay.'

The door was unbarred. In the shadow of the wall stood Umslopogaas,
his axe raised above his head to strike. Just then the moon
came out. There was a moment's pause, and then in stalked a
Masai Elmoran, clad in the full war panoply that I have already
described, but bearing a large basket in his hand. The moonlight
shone bright upon his great spear as he walked. He was physically
a splendid man, apparently about thirty-five years of age. Indeed,
none of the Masai that I saw were under six feet high, though
mostly quite young. When he got opposite to us he halted, put
down the basket, and stuck the spike of his spear into the ground,
so that it stood upright.

'Let us talk,' he said. 'The first messenger we sent to you
could not talk;' and he pointed to the head which lay upon the
paving of the stoep -- a ghastly sight in the moonlight; 'but
I have words to speak if ye have ears to hear. Also I bring
presents;' and he pointed to the basket and laughed with an air
of swaggering insolence that is perfectly indescribable, and
yet which one could not but admire, seeing that he was surrounded
by enemies.

'Say on,' said Mr Mackenzie.

'I am the "Lygonani" [war captain] of a part of the Masai of
the Guasa Amboni. I and my men followed these three white men,'
and he pointed to Sir Henry, Good, and myself, 'but they were
too clever for us, and escaped hither. We have a quarrel with
them, and are going to kill them.'

'Are you, my friend?' said I to myself.

'In following these men we this morning caught two black men,
one black woman, a white donkey, and a white girl. One of the
black men we killed -- there is his head upon the pavement; the
other ran away. The black woman, the little white girl, and
the white ass we took and brought with us. In proof thereof
have I brought this basket that she carried. Is it not thy
daughter's basket?'

Mr Mackenzie nodded, and the warrior went on.

'Good! With thee and thy daughter we have no quarrel, nor do
we wish to harm thee, save as to thy cattle, which we have already
gathered, two hundred and forty head -- a beast for every man's
father.' {Endnote 6}

Here Mr Mackenzie gave a groan, as he greatly valued this herd
of cattle, which he bred with much care and trouble.

'So, save for the cattle, thou mayst go free; more especially,'
he added frankly, glancing at the wall, 'as this place would
be a difficult one to take. But as to these men it is otherwise;
we have followed them for nights and days, and must kill them.
Were we to return to our kraal without having done so, all the
girls would make a mock of us. So, however troublesome it
may be, they must die.

'Now I have a proposition for thee. We would not harm the
little girl; she is too fair to harm, and has besides a brave spirit.
Give us one of these three men -- a life for a life -- and we
will let her go, and throw in the black woman with her also.
This is a fair offer, white man. We ask but for one, not for
the three; we must take another opportunity to kill the other
two. I do not even pick my man, though I should prefer the big
one,' pointing to Sir Henry; 'he looks strong, and would die
more slowly.'

'And if I say I will not yield the man?' said Mr Mackenzie.

'Nay, say not so, white man,' answered the Masai, 'for then thy
daughter dies at dawn, and the woman with her says thou hast
no other child. Were she older I would take her for a servant;
but as she is so young I will slay her with my own hand -- ay,
with this very spear. Thou canst come and see, an' thou wilt.
I give thee a safe conduct;' and the fiend laughed aloud as
his brutal jest.

Meanwhile I had been thinking rapidly, as one does in emergencies,
and had come to the conclusion that I would exchange myself against
Flossie. I scarcely like to mention the matter for fear it should
be misunderstood. Pray do not let any one be misled into thinking
that there was anything heroic about this, or any such nonsense.
It was merely a matter of common sense and common justice.
My life was an old and worthless one, hers was young and valuable.
Her death would pretty well kill her father and mother also,
whilst nobody would be much the worse for mine; indeed, several
charitable institutions would have cause to rejoice thereat.
It was indirectly through me that the dear little girl was in
her present position. Lastly, a man was better fitted to meet
death in such a peculiarly awful form than a sweet young girl.
Not, however, that I meant to let these gentry torture me to
death -- I am far too much of a coward to allow that, being naturally
a timid man; my plan was to see the girl safely exchanged and
then to shoot myself, trusting that the Almighty would take the
peculiar circumstances of the case into consideration and pardon
the act. All this and more went through my mind in very few
seconds.

'All right, Mackenzie,' I said, 'you can tell the man that I
will exchange myself against Flossie, only I stipulate that she
shall be safely in this house before they kill me.'

'Eh?' said Sir Henry and Good simultaneously. 'That you don't.'

'No, no,' said Mr Mackenzie. 'I will have no man's blood upon
my hands. If it please God that my daughter should die this
awful death, His will be done. You are a brave man (which I
am not by any means) and a noble man, Quatermain, but you shall
not go.'

'If nothing else turns up I shall go,' I said decidedly.

'This is an important matter,' said Mackenzie, addressing the
Lygonani, 'and we must think it over. You shall have our answer
at dawn.'

'Very well, white man,' answered the savage indifferently; 'only
remember if thy answer is late thy little white bud will never
grow into a flower, that is all, for I shall cut it with this,'
and he touched the spear. 'I should have thought that thou wouldst
play a trick and attack us at night, but I know from the woman
with the girl that your men are down at the coast, and that thou
hast but twenty men here. It is not wise, white man,' he added
with a laugh, 'to keep so small a garrison for you "boma" [kraal].
Well, good night, and good night to you also, other white men,
whose eyelids I shall soon close once and for all. At dawn thou
wilt bring me word. If not, remember it shall be as I have said.'
Then turning to Umslopogaas, who had all the while been standing
behind him and shepherding him as it were, 'Open the door for
me, fellow, quick now.'

This was too much for the old chief's patience. For the last
ten minutes his lips had been, figuratively speaking, positively
watering over the Masai Lygonani, and this he could not stand.
Placing his long hand on the Elmoran's shoulder he gripped it
and gave him such a twist as brought him face to face with himself.
Then, thrusting his fierce countenance to within a few inches
of the Masai's evil feather-framed features, he said in a low
growling voice: --

'Seest thou me?'

'Ay, fellow, I see thee.'

'And seest thou this?' and he held Inkosi-kaas before his eyes.

'Ay, fellow, I see the toy; what of it?'

'Thou Masai dog, thou boasting windbag, thou capturer of little
girls, with this "toy" will I hew thee limb from limb. Well
for thee that thou art a herald, or even now would I strew thy
members about the grass.'

The Masai shook his great spear and laughed loud and long as
he answered, 'I would that thou stoodst against me man to man,
and we would see,' and again he turned to go still laughing.

'Thou shalt stand against me man to man, be not afraid,' replied
Umslopogaas, still in the same ominous voice. 'Thou shalt stand
face to face with Umslopogaas, of the blood of Chaka, of the
people of the Amazulu, a captain in the regiment of the Nkomabakosi,
as many have done before, and bow thyself to Inkosi-kaas, as
many have done before. Ay, laugh on, laugh on! tomorrow night
shall the jackals laugh as they crunch thy ribs.'

When the Lygonani had gone, one of us thought of opening the
basket he had brought as a proof that Flossie was really their
prisoner. On lifting the lid it was found to contain a most
lovely specimen of both bulb and flower of the Goya lily, which
I have already described, in full bloom and quite uninjured,
and what was more a note in Flossie's childish hand written in
pencil upon a greasy piece of paper that had been used to wrap
up some food in: --

'Dearest Father and Mother,' ran the note, 'The Masai caught
us when we were coming home with the lily. I tried to escape
but could not. They killed Tom: the other man ran away. They
have not hurt nurse and me, but say that they mean to exchange
us against one of Mr Quatermain's party. _I will have nothing
of the sort_. Do not let anybody give his life for me. Try and
attack them at night; they are going to feast on three bullocks
they have stolen and killed. I have my pistol, and if no help
comes by dawn I will shoot myself. They shall not kill me.
If so, remember me always, dearest father and mother. I am very
frightened, but I trust in God. I dare not write any more as
they are beginning to notice. Goodbye. -- Flossie.'

Scrawled across the outside of this was 'Love to Mr Quatermain.
They are going to take the basket, so he will get the lily.'

When I read those words, written by that brave little girl in
an hour of danger sufficiently near and horrible to have turned
the brain of a strong man, I own I wept, and once more in my
heart I vowed that she should not die while my life could be
given to save her.

Then eagerly, quickly, almost fiercely, we fell to discussing
the situation. Again I said that I would go, and again Mackenzie
negatived it, and Curtis and Good, like the true men that they
are, vowed that, if I did, they would go with me, and die back
to back with me.

'It is,' I said at last, 'absolutely necessary that an effort
of some sort should be made before the morning.'

'Then let us attack them with what force we can muster, and take
our chance,' said Sir Henry.

'Ay, ay,' growled Umslopogaas, in Zulu; 'spoken like a man, Incubu.
What is there to be afraid of? Two hundred and fifty Masai,
forsooth! How many are we? The chief there [Mr Mackenzie] has
twenty men, and thou, Macumazahn, hast five men, and there are
also five white men -- that is, thirty men in all -- enough,
enough. Listen now, Macumazahn, thou who art very clever and
old in war. What says the maid? These men eat and make merry;
let it be their funeral feast. What said the dog whom I hope
to hew down at daybreak? That he feared no attack because we
were so few. Knowest thou the old kraal where the men have camped?
I saw it this morning; it is thus:' and he drew an oval on the
floor; 'here is the big entrance, filled up with thorn bushes,
and opening on to a steep rise. Why, Incubu, thou and I with
axes will hold it against an hundred men striving to break out!
Look, now; thus shall the battle go. Just as the light begins
to glint upon the oxen's horns -- not before, or it will be too
dark, and not later, or they will be awakening and perceive us
-- let Bougwan creep round with ten men to the top end of the
kraal, where the narrow entrance is. Let them silently slay
the sentry there so that he makes no sound, and stand ready.
Then, Incubu, let thee and me and one of the Askari -- the one
with the broad chest -- he is a brave man -- creep to the wide
entrance that is filled with thorn bushes, and there also slay
the sentry, and armed with battleaxes take our stand also one
on each side of the pathway, and one a few paces beyond to deal
with such as pass the twain at the gate. It is there that the
rush will come. That will leave sixteen men. Let these men
be divided into two parties, with one of which shalt thou go,
Macumazahn, and with one the "praying man" [Mr Mackenzie], and,
all armed with rifles, let them make their way one to the right
side of the kraal and one to the left; and when thou, Macumazahn,
lowest like an ox, all shall open fire with the guns upon the
sleeping men, being very careful not to hit the little maid.
Then shall Bougwan at the far end and his ten men raise the
war-cry, and, springing over the wall, put the Masai there to
the sword. And it shall happen that, being yet heavy with food
and sleep, and bewildered by the firing of the guns, the falling
of men, and the spears of Bougwan, the soldiers shall rise and
rush like wild game towards the thorn-stopped entrance, and there
the bullets from either side shall plough through them, and there
shall Incubu and the Askari and I wait for those who break across.
Such is my plan, Macumazahn; if thou hast a better, name it.'

When he had done, I explained to the others such portions of
his scheme as they had failed to understand, and they all joined
with me in expressing the greatest admiration of the acute and
skilful programme devised by the old Zulu, who was indeed, in
his own savage fashion, the finest general I ever knew. After
some discussion we determined to accept the scheme, as it stood,
it being the only one possible under the circumstances, and giving
the best chance of success that such a forlorn hope would admit
of -- which, however, considering the enormous odds and the character
of our foe, was not very great.

'Ah, old lion!' I said to Umslopogaas, 'thou knowest how to lie
in wait as well as how to bite, where to seize as well as where
to hang on.'

'Ay, ay, Macumazahn,' he answered. 'For thirty years have I
been a warrior, and have seen many things. It will be a good fight.
I smell blood -- I tell thee, I smell blood.'

CHAPTER VI
THE NIGHT WEARS ON

As may be imagined, at the very first sign of a Masai the entire
population of the Mission Station had sought refuge inside the
stout stone wall, and were now to be seen -- men, women, and
countless children -- huddled up together in little groups, and
all talking at once in awed tones of the awfulness of Masai manners
and customs, and of the fate that they had to expect if those
bloodthirsty savages succeeded in getting over the stone wall.

Immediately after we had settled upon the outline of our plan
of action as suggested by Umslopogaas, Mr Mackenzie sent for
four sharp boys of from twelve to fifteen years of age, and despatched
them to various points where they could keep an outlook upon
the Masai camp, with others to report from time to time what
was going on. Other lads and even women were stationed at intervals
along the wall in order to guard against the possibility of surprise.

After this the twenty men who formed his whole available fighting
force were summoned by our host into the square formed by the
house, and there, standing by the bole of the great conifer,
he earnestly addressed them and our four Askari. Indeed, it
formed a very impressive scene -- one not likely to be forgotten
by anybody who witnessed it. Immediately by the tree stood the
angular form of Mr Mackenzie, one arm outstretched as he talked,
and the other resting against the giant bole, his hat off, and
his plain but kindly face clearly betraying the anguish of his
mind. Next to him was his poor wife, who, seated on a chair,
had her face hidden in her hand. On the other side of her was
Alphonse, looking exceedingly uncomfortable, and behind him stood
the three of us, with Umslopogaas' grim and towering form in
the background, resting, as usual, on his axe. In front stood
and squatted the group of armed men -- some with rifles in their
hands, and others with spears and shields -- following with eager
attention every word that fell from the speaker's lips. The
white light of the moon peering in beneath the lofty boughs threw
a strange wild glamour over the scene, whilst the melancholy
soughing of the night wind passing through the millions of pine
needles overhead added a sadness of its own to what was already
a sufficiently tragic occasion.

'Men,' said Mr Mackenzie, after he had put all the circumstances
of the case fully and clearly before them, and explained to them
the proposed plan of our forlorn hope -- 'men, for years I have
been a good friend to you, protecting you, teaching you, guarding
you and yours from harm, and ye have prospered with me. Ye have
seen my child -- the Water-lily, as ye call her -- grow year
by year, from tenderest infancy to tender childhood, and from
childhood on towards maidenhood. She has been your children's
playmate, she has helped to tend you when sick, and ye have loved
her.'

'We have,' said a deep voice, 'and we will die to save her.'

'I thank you from my heart -- I thank you. Sure am I that now,
in this hour of darkest trouble; now that her young life is like
to be cut off by cruel and savage men -- who of a truth "know
not what they do" -- ye will strive your best to save her, and
to save me and her mother from broken hearts. Think, too, of
your own wives and children. If she dies, her death will be
followed by an attack upon us here, and at the best, even if
we hold our own, your houses and gardens will be destroyed, and
your goods and cattle swept away. I am, as ye well know, a man
of peace. Never in all these years have I lifted my hand to
shed man's blood; but now I say strike, strike, in the name of
God, Who bade us protect our lives and homes. Swear to me,'
he went on with added fervour -- 'swear to me that whilst a man
of you remains alive ye will strive your uttermost with me and
with these brave white men to save the child from a bloody and
cruel death.'

'Say no more, my father,' said the same deep voice, that belonged
to a stalwart elder of the Mission; 'we swear it. May we and
ours die the death of dogs, and our bones be thrown to the jackals
and the kites, if we break the oath! It is a fearful thing to
do, my father, so few to strike at so many, yet will we do it
or die in the doing. We swear!'

'Ay, thus say we all,' chimed in the others.

'Thus say we all,' said I.

'It is well,' went on Mr Mackenzie. 'Ye are true men and not
broken reeds to lean on. And now, friends -- white and black
together -- let us kneel and offer up our humble supplication
to the Throne of Power, praying that He in the hollow of Whose
hand lie all our lives, Who giveth life and giveth death, may
be pleased to make strong our arms that we may prevail in what
awaits us at the morning's light.'

And he knelt down, an example that we all followed except Umslopogaas,
who still stood in the background, grimly leaning on Inkosi-kaas.
The fierce old Zulu had no gods and worshipped nought, unless
it were his battleaxe.

'Oh God of gods!' began the clergyman, his deep voice, tremulous
with emotion, echoing up in the silence even to the leafy roof;
'Protector of the oppressed, Refuge of those in danger, Guardian
of the helpless, hear Thou our prayer! Almighty Father, to Thee
we come in supplication. Hear Thou our prayer! Behold, one
child hast Thou given us -- an innocent child, nurtured in Thy
knowledge -- and now she lies beneath the shadow of the sword,
in danger of a fearful death at the hands of savage men. Be
with her now, oh God, and comfort her! Save her, oh Heavenly
Father! Oh God of battle, Who teacheth our hands to war and
our fingers to fight, in Whose strength are hid the destinies
of men, be Thou with us in the hour of strife. When we go forth
into the shadow of death, make Thou us strong to conquer. Breathe
Thou upon our foes and scatter them; turn Thou their strength
to water, and bring their high-blown pride to nought; compass
us about with Thy protection; throw over us the shield of Thy
power; forget us not now in the hour of our sore distress; help
us now that the cruel man would dash our little ones against
the stones! Hear Thou our prayer! And for those of us who,
kneeling now on earth in health before Thee, shall at the sunrise
adore Thy Presence on the Throne, hear our prayer! Make them
clean, oh God; wash away their offences in the blood of the Lamb;
and when their spirits pass, oh receive Thou them into the haven
of the just. Go forth, oh Father, go forth with us into the
battle, as with the Israelites of old. Oh God of battle, hear
Thou our prayer!'

He ceased, and after a moment's silence we all rose, and then
began our preparations in good earnest. As Umslopogaas said,
it was time to stop 'talking' and get to business. The men who
were to form each little party were carefully selected, and still
more carefully and minutely instructed as to what was to be done.
After much consideration it was agreed that the ten men led
by Good, whose duty it was to stampede the camp, were not to
carry firearms; that is, with the exception of Good himself,
who had a revolver as well as a short sword -- the Masai 'sime'
which I had taken from the body of our poor servant who was murdered
in the canoe. We feared that if they had firearms the result
of three cross-fires carried on at once would be that some of
our own people would be shot; besides, it appeared to all of
us that the work they had to do would best be carried out with
cold steel -- especially to Umslopogaas, who was, indeed, a great
advocate of cold steel. We had with us four Winchester repeating
rifles, besides half a dozen Martinis. I armed myself with one
of the repeaters -- my own; an excellent weapon for this kind
of work, where great rapidity of fire is desirable, and fitted
with ordinary flap-sights instead of the cumbersome sliding mechanism
which they generally have. Mr Mackenzie took another, and the
two remaining ones were given to two of his men who understood
the use of them and were noted shots. The Martinis and some
rifles of Mr Mackenzie's were served out, together with a plentiful
supply of ammunition, to the other natives who were to form the
two parties whose duty it was to be to open fire from separate
sides of the kraal on the sleeping Masai, and who were fortunately
all more or less accustomed to the use of a gun.

As for Umslopogaas, we know how he was armed -- with an axe.
It may be remembered that he, Sir Henry, and the strongest of
the Askari were to hold the thorn-stopped entrance to the kraal
against the anticipated rush of men striving to escape. Of course,
for such a purpose as this guns were useless. Therefore Sir
Henry and the Askari proceeded to arm themselves in like fashion.
It so happened that Mr Mackenzie had in his little store a selection
of the very best and English-made hammer-backed axe-heads. Sir
Henry selected one of these weighing about two and a half pounds
and very broad in the blade, and the Askari took another a size
smaller. After Umslopogaas had put an extra edge on these two
axe-heads, we fixed them to three feet six helves, of which Mr
Mackenzie fortunately had some in stock, made of a light but
exceedingly tough native wood, something like English ash, only
more springy. When two suitable helves had been selected with
great care and the ends of the hafts notched to prevent the hand
from slipping, the axe-heads were fixed on them as firmly as
possible, and the weapons immersed in a bucket of water for half
an hour. The result of this was to swell the wood in the socket
in such a fashion that nothing short of burning would get it
out again. When this important matter had been attended to by
Umslopogaas, I went into my room and proceeded to open a little
tin-lined deal case, which contained -- what do you think? --
nothing more or less than four mail shirts.

It had happened to us three on a previous journey that we had
made in another part of Africa to owe our lives to iron shirts
of native make, and remembering this, I had suggested before
we started on our present hazardous expedition that we should
have some made to fit us. There was a little difficulty about
this, as armour-making is pretty well an extinct art, but they
can do most things in the way of steel work in Birmingham if
they are put to it and you will pay the price, and the end of
it was that they turned us out the loveliest steel shirts it
is possible to see. The workmanship was exceedingly fine, the
web being composed of thousands upon thousands of stout but tiny
rings of the best steel made. These shirts, or rather steel-sleeved
and high-necked jerseys, were lined with ventilated wash leather,
were not bright, but browned like the barrel of a gun; and mine
weighed exactly seven pounds and fitted me so well that I found
I could wear it for days next to my skin without being chafed.
Sir Henry had two, one of the ordinary make, viz. a jersey with
little dependent flaps meant to afford some protection to the
upper part of the thighs, and another of his own design fashioned
on the pattern of the garments advertised as 'combinations' and
weighing twelve pounds. This combination shirt, of which the
seat was made of wash-leather, protected the whole body down
to the knees, but was rather more cumbersome, inasmuch as it
had to be laced up at the back and, of course, involved some
extra weight. With these shirts were what looked like four brown
cloth travelling caps with ear pieces. Each of these caps was,
however, quilted with steel links so as to afford a most valuable
protection for the head.

It seems almost laughable to talk of steel shirts in these days
of bullets, against which they are of course quite useless; but
where one has to do with savages, armed with cutting weapons
such as assegais or battleaxes, they afford the most valuable
protection, being, if well made, quite invulnerable to them.
I have often thought that if only the English Government had
in our savage wars, and more especially in the Zulu war, thought
fit to serve out light steel shirts, there would be many a man
alive today who, as it is, is dead and forgotten.

To return: on the present occasion we blessed our foresight in
bringing these shirts, and also our good luck, in that they had
not been stolen by our rascally bearers when they ran away with
our goods. As Curtis had two, and after considerable deliberation,
had made up his mind to wear his combination one himself -- the
extra three or four pounds' weight being a matter of no account
to so strong a man, and the protection afforded to the thighs
being a very important matter to a fighting man not armed with
a shield of any kind -- I suggested that he should lend the other
to Umslopogaas, who was to share the danger and the glory of
his post. He readily consented, and called the Zulu, who came
bearing Sir Henry's axe, which he had now fixed up to his satisfaction,
with him. When we showed him the steel shirt, and explained
to him that we wanted him to wear it, he at first declined, saying
that he had fought in his own skin for thirty years, and that
he was not going to begin now to fight in an iron one. Thereupon
I took a heavy spear, and, spreading the shirt upon the floor,
drove the spear down upon it with all my strength, the weapon
rebounding without leaving a mark upon the tempered steel. This
exhibition half converted him; and when I pointed out to him
how necessary it was that he should not let any old-fashioned
prejudices he might possess stand in the way of a precaution
which might preserve a valuable life at a time when men were
scarce, and also that if he wore this shirt he might dispense
with a shield, and so have both hands free, he yielded at once,
and proceeded to invest his frame with the 'iron skin'. And
indeed, although made for Sir Henry, it fitted the great Zulu
like a skin. The two men were almost of a height; and, though
Curtis looked the bigger man, I am inclined to think that the
difference was more imaginary than real, the fact being that,
although he was plumper and rounder, he was not really bigger,
except in the arm. Umslopogaas had, comparatively speaking,
thin arms, but they were as strong as wire ropes. At any rate,
when they both stood, axe in hand, invested in the brown mail,
which clung to their mighty forms like a web garment, showing
the swell of every muscle and the curve of every line, they formed
a pair that any ten men might shrink from meeting.

It was now nearly one o'clock in the morning, and the spies reported
that, after having drunk the blood of the oxen and eaten enormous
quantities of meat, the Masai were going to sleep round their
watchfires; but that sentries had been posted at each opening
of the kraal. Flossie, they added, was sitting not far from
the wall in the centre of the western side of the kraal, and
by her were the nurse and the white donkey, which was tethered
to a peg. Her feet were bound with a rope, and warriors were
lying about all round her.

As there was absolutely nothing further that could be done then
we all took some supper, and went to lie down for a couple of
hours. I could not help admiring the way in which old Umslopogaas
flung himself upon the floor, and, unmindful of what was hanging
over him, instantly sank into a deep sleep. I do not know how
it was with the others, but I could not do as much. Indeed,
as is usual with me on these occasions, I am sorry to say that
I felt rather frightened; and, now that some of the enthusiasm
had gone out of me, and I began to calmly contemplate what we
had undertaken to do, truth compels me to add that I did not
like it. We were but thirty men all told, a good many of whom
were no doubt quite unused to fighting, and we were going to
engage two hundred and fifty of the fiercest, bravest, and most
formidable savages in Africa, who, to make matters worse, were
protected by a stone wall. It was, indeed, a mad undertaking,
and what made it even madder was the exceeding improbability
of our being able to take up our positions without attracting
the notice of the sentries. Of course if we once did that --
and any slight accident, such as the chance discharge of a gun,
might do it -- we were done for, for the whole camp would be
up in a second, and our only hope lay in surprise.

The bed whereon I lay indulging in these uncomfortable reflections
was near an open window that looked on to the veranda, through
which came an extraordinary sound of groaning and weeping. For
a time I could not make out what it was, but at last I got up
and, putting my head out of the window, stared about. Presently
I saw a dim figure kneeling on the end of the veranda and beating
his breast -- in which I recognized Alphonse. Not being able
to understand his French talk or what on earth he was at, I called
to him and asked him what he was doing.

'Ah, monsieur,' he sighed, 'I do make prayer for the souls of
those whom I shall slay tonight.'

'Indeed,' I said, 'then I wish that you would do it a little
more quietly.'

Alphonse retreated, and I heard no more of his groans. And so
the time passed, till at length Mr Mackenzie called me in a whisper
through the window, for of course everything had now to be done
in the most absolute silence. 'Three o'clock,' he said: 'we
must begin to move at half-past.'

I told him to come in, and presently he entered, and I am bound
to say that if it had not been that just then I had not got a
laugh anywhere about me, I should have exploded at the sight
he presented armed for battle. To begin with, he had on a clergyman's
black swallow-tail and a kind of broad-rimmed black felt hat,
both of which he had donned on account, he said, of their dark
colour. In his hand was the Winchester repeating rifle we had
lent him; and stuck in an elastic cricketing belt, like those
worn by English boys, were, first, a huge buckhorn-handled carving
knife with a guard to it, and next a long-barrelled Colt's revolver.

'Ah, my friend,' he said, seeing me staring at his belt, 'you
are looking at my "carver". I thought it might come in handy
if we came to close quarters; it is excellent steel, and many
is the pig I have killed with it.'

By this time everybody was up and dressing. I put on a light
Norfolk jacket over my mail shirt in order to have a pocket handy
to hold my cartridges, and buckled on my revolver. Good did
the same, but Sir Henry put on nothing except his mail shirt,
steel-lined cap, and a pair of 'veldt-schoons' or soft hide shoes,
his legs being bare from the knees down. His revolver he strapped
on round his middle outside the armoured shirt.

Meanwhile Umslopogaas was mustering the men in the square under
the big tree and going the rounds to see that each was properly
armed, etc. At the last moment we made one change. Finding
that two of the men who were to have gone with the firing parties
knew little or nothing of guns, but were good spearsmen, we took
away their rifles, supplied them with shields and long spears
of the Masai pattern, and took them off to join Curtis, Umslopogaas,
and the Askari in holding the wide opening; it having become
clear to us that three men, however brave and strong, were too
few for the work.

CHAPTER VII
A SLAUGHTER GRIM AND GREAT

Then there was a pause, and we stood there in the chilly silent
darkness waiting till the moment came to start. It was, perhaps,
the most trying time of all -- that slow, slow quarter of an
hour. The minutes seemed to drag along with leaden feet, and
the quiet, the solemn hush, that brooded over all -- big, as
it were, with a coming fate, was most oppressive to the spirits.
I once remember having to get up before dawn to see a man hanged,
and I then went through a very similar set of sensations, only
in the present instance my feelings were animated by that more
vivid and personal element which naturally appertains rather
to the person to be operated on than to the most sympathetic
spectator. The solemn faces of the men, well aware that the
short passage of an hour would mean for some, and perhaps all
of them, the last great passage to the unknown or oblivion; the
bated whispers in which they spoke; even Sir Henry's continuous
and thoughtful examination of his woodcutter's axe and the fidgety
way in which Good kept polishing his eyeglass, all told the same
tale of nerves stretched pretty nigh to breaking-point. Only
Umslopogaas, leaning as usual upon Inkosi-kaas and taking an
occasional pinch of snuff, was to all appearance perfectly and
completely unmoved. Nothing could touch his iron nerves.

The moon went down. For a long while she had been getting nearer
and nearer to the horizon. Now she finally sank and left the
world in darkness save for a faint grey tinge in the eastern
sky that palely heralded the dawn.

Mr Mackenzie stood, watch in hand, his wife clinging to his arm
and striving to stifle her sobs.

'Twenty minutes to four,' he said, 'it ought to be light enough
to attack at twenty minutes past four. Captain Good had better
be moving, he will want three or four minutes' start.'

Good gave one final polish to his eyeglass, nodded to us in a
jocular sort of way -- which I could not help feeling it must
have cost him something to muster up -- and, ever polite, took
off his steel-lined cap to Mrs Mackenzie and started for his
position at the head of the kraal, to reach which he had to make
a detour by some paths known to the natives.

Just then one of the boys came in and reported that everybody
in the Masai camp, with the exception of the two sentries who
were walking up and down in front of the respective entrances,
appeared to be fast asleep. Then the rest of us took the road.
First came the guide, then Sir Henry, Umslopogaas, the Wakwafi
Askari, and Mr Mackenzie's two mission natives armed with long
spears and shields. I followed immediately after with Alphonse
and five natives all armed with guns, and Mr Mackenzie brought
up the rear with the six remaining natives.

The cattle kraal where the Masai were camped lay at the foot
of the hill on which the house stood, or, roughly speaking, about
eight hundred yards from the Mission buildings. The first five
hundred yards of this distance we traversed quietly indeed, but
at a good pace; after that we crept forward as silently as a
leopard on his prey, gliding like ghosts from bush to bush and
stone to stone. When I had gone a little way I chanced to look
behind me, and saw the redoubtable Alphonse staggering along
with white face and trembling knees, and his rifle, which was
at full cock, pointed directly at the small of my back. Having
halted and carefully put the rifle at 'safety', we started again,
and all went well till we were within one hundred yards or so
of the kraal, when his teeth began to chatter in the most aggressive way.

'If you don't stop that I will kill you,' I whispered savagely;
for the idea of having all our lives sacrificed to a tooth-chattering
cook was too much for me. I began to fear that he would betray
us, and heartily wished we had left him behind.

'But, monsieur, I cannot help it,' he answered, 'it is the cold.'

Here was a dilemma, but fortunately I devised a plan. In the
pocket of the coat I had on was a small piece of dirty rag that
I had used some time before to clean a gun with. 'Put this in
your mouth,' I whispered again, giving him the rag; 'and if I
hear another sound you are a dead man.' I knew that that would
stifle the clatter of his teeth. I must have looked as if I
meant what I said, for he instantly obeyed me, and continued
his journey in silence.

Then we crept on again.

At last we were within fifty yards of the kraal. Between us
and it was an open space of sloping grass with only one mimosa
bush and a couple of tussocks of a sort of thistle for cover.
We were still hidden in fairly thick bush. It was beginning
to grow light. The stars had paled and a sickly gleam played
about the east and was reflected on the earth. We could see
the outline of the kraal clearly enough, and could also make
out the faint glimmer of the dying embers of the Masai camp-fires.
We halted and watched, for the sentry we knew was posted at
the opening. Presently he appeared, a fine tall fellow, walking
idly up and down within five paces of the thorn-stopped entrance.
We had hoped to catch him napping, but it was not to be. He
seemed particularly wide awake. If we could not kill that man,
and kill him silently, we were lost. There we crouched and watched
him. Presently Umslopogaas, who was a few paces ahead of me,
turned and made a sign, and next second I saw him go down on
his stomach like a snake, and, taking an opportunity when the
sentry's head was turned, begin to work his way through the grass
without a sound.

The unconscious sentry commenced to hum a little tune, and Umslopogaas
crept on. He reached the shelter of the mimosa bush unperceived
and there waited. Still the sentry walked up and down. Presently
he turned and looked over the wall into the camp. Instantly
the human snake who was stalking him glided on ten yards and
got behind one of the tussocks of the thistle-like plant, reaching
it as the Elmoran turned again. As he did so his eye fell upon
this patch of thistles, and it seemed to strike him that it did
not look quite right. He advanced a pace towards it -- halted,
yawned, stooped down, picked up a little pebble and threw it
at it. It hit Umslopogaas upon the head, luckily not upon the
armour shirt. Had it done so the clink would have betrayed us.
Luckily, too, the shirt was browned and not bright steel, which
would certainly have been detected. Apparently satisfied that
there was nothing wrong, he then gave over his investigations
and contented himself with leaning on his spear and standing
gazing idly at the tuft. For at least three minutes did he stand
thus, plunged apparently in a gentle reverie, and there we lay
in the last extremity of anxiety, expecting every moment that
we should be discovered or that some untoward accident would
happen. I could hear Alphonse's teeth going like anything on
the oiled rag, and turning my head round made an awful face at
him. But I am bound to state that my own heart was at much the
same game as the Frenchman's castanets, while the perspiration
was pouring from my body, causing the wash-leather-lined shirt
to stick to me unpleasantly, and altogether I was in the pitiable
state known by schoolboys as a 'blue fright'.

At last the ordeal came to an end. The sentry glanced at the
east, and appeared to note with satisfaction that his period
of duty was coming to an end -- as indeed it was, once and for
all -- for he rubbed his hands and began to walk again briskly
to warm himself.

The moment his back was turned the long black snake glided on
again, and reached the other thistle tuft, which was within a
couple of paces of his return beat.

Back came the sentry and strolled right past the tuft, utterly
unconscious of the presence that was crouching behind it. Had
he looked down he could scarcely have failed to see, but he did
not do so.

He passed, and then his hidden enemy erected himself,
and with outstretched hand followed in his tracks.

A moment more, and, just as the Elmoran was about to turn, the
great Zulu made a spring, and in the growing light we could see
his long lean hands close round the Masai's throat. Then followed
a convulsive twining of the two dark bodies, and in another second
I saw the Masai's head bent back, and heard a sharp crack, something
like that of a dry twig snapping, and he fell down upon the ground,
his limbs moving spasmodically.

Umslopogaas had put out all his iron strength and broken the
warrior's neck.

For a moment he knelt upon his victim, still gripping his throat
till he was sure that there was nothing more to fear from him,
and then he rose and beckoned to us to advance, which we did
on all fours, like a colony of huge apes. On reaching the kraal
we saw that the Masai had still further choked this entrance,
which was about ten feet wide -- no doubt in order to guard against
attack -- by dragging four or five tops of mimosa trees up to
it. So much the better for us, I reflected; the more obstruction
there was the slower would they be able to come through. Here
we separated; Mackenzie and his party creeping up under the shadow
of the wall to the left, while Sir Henry and Umslopogaas took
their stations one on each side of the thorn fence, the two spearmen
and the Askari lying down in front of it. I and my men crept
on up the right side of the kraal, which was about fifty paces
long.

When I was two-thirds up I halted, and placed my men at distances
of four paces from one another, keeping Alphonse close to me,
however. Then I peeped for the first time over the wall. It
was getting fairly light now, and the first thing I saw was the
white donkey, exactly opposite to me, and close by it I could
make out the pale face of little Flossie, who was sitting as
the lad had described, some ten paces from the wall. Round her
lay many warriors, sleeping. At distances all over the surface
of the kraal were the remains of fires, round each of which slept
some five-and-twenty Masai, for the most part gorged with food.
Now and then a man would raise himself, yawn, and look at the
east, which was turning primrose; but none got up. I determined
to wait another five minutes, both to allow the light to increase,
so that we could make better shooting, and to give Good and his
party -- of whom we could see or hear nothing -- every opportunity
to make ready.

The quiet dawn began to throw her ever-widening mantle over plain
and forest and river -- mighty Kenia, wrapped in the silence
of eternal snows, looked out across the earth -- till presently
a beam from the unrisen sun lit upon his heaven-kissing crest
and purpled it with blood; the sky above grew blue, and tender
as a mother's smile; a bird began to pipe his morning song, and
a little breeze passing through the bush shook down the dewdrops
in millions to refresh the waking world. Everywhere was peace
and the happiness of arising strength, everywhere save in the
heart of cruel man!

Suddenly, just as I was nerving myself for the signal, having
already selected my man on whom I meant to open fire -- a great
fellow sprawling on the ground within three feet of little Flossie
-- Alphonse's teeth began to chatter again like the hoofs of
a galloping giraffe, making a great noise in the silence. The
rag had dropped out in the agitation of his mind. Instantly
a Masai within three paces of us woke, and, sitting up, gazed
about him, looking for the cause of the sound. Moved beyond
myself, I brought the butt-end of my rifle down on to the pit
of the Frenchman's stomach. This stopped his chattering; but,
as he doubled up, he managed to let off his gun in such a manner
that the bullet passed within an inch of my head.

There was no need for a signal now. From both sides of the kraal
broke out a waving line of fire, in which I myself joined, managing
with a snap shot to knock over my Masai by Flossie, just as he
was jumping up. Then from the top end of the kraal there rang
an awful yell, in which I rejoiced to recognize Good's piercing
notes rising clear and shrill above the din, and in another second
followed such a scene as I have never seen before nor shall again.
With an universal howl of terror and fury the brawny crowd of
savages within the kraal sprang to their feet, many of them to
fall again beneath our well-directed hail of lead before they
had moved a yard. For a moment they stood undecided, and then
hearing the cries and curses that rose unceasingly from the top
end of the kraal, and bewildered by the storm of bullets, they
as by one impulse rushed down towards the thorn-stopped entrance.
As they went we kept pouring our fire with terrible effect into
the thickening mob as fast as we could load. I had emptied my
repeater of the ten shots it contained and was just beginning
to slip in some more when I bethought me of little Flossie.
Looking up, I saw that the white donkey was lying kicking, having
been knocked over either by one of our bullets or a Masai spear-thrust.
There were no living Masai near, but the black nurse was on
her feet and with a spear cutting the rope that bound Flossie's
feet. Next second she ran to the wall of the kraal and began
to climb over it, an example which the little girl followed.
But Flossie was evidently very stiff and cramped, and could
only go slowly, and as she went two Masai flying down the kraal
caught sight of her and rushed towards her to kill her. The
first fellow came up just as the poor little girl, after a desperate
effort to climb the wall, fell back into the kraal. Up flashed
the great spear, and as it did so a bullet from my rifle found
its home in the holder's ribs, and over he went like a shot rabbit.
But behind him was the other man, and, alas, I had only that
one cartridge in the magazine! Flossie had scrambled to her
feet and was facing the second man, who was advancing with raised
spear. I turned my head aside and felt sick as death. I could
not bear to see him stab her. Glancing up again, to my surprise
I saw the Masai's spear lying on the ground, while the man himself
was staggering about with both hands to his head. Suddenly I
saw a puff of smoke proceeding apparently from Flossie, and the
man fell down headlong. Then I remembered the Derringer pistol
she carried, and saw that she had fired both barrels of it at
him, thereby saving her life. In another instant she had made
an effort, and assisted by the nurse, who was lying on the top,
had scrambled over the wall, and I knew that she was, comparatively
speaking, safe.

All this takes time to tell, but I do not suppose that it took
more than fifteen seconds to enact. I soon got the magazine
of the repeater filled again with cartridges, and once more opened
fire, not on the seething black mass which was gathering at the
end of the kraal, but on fugitives who bethought them to climb
the wall. I picked off several of these men, moving down towards
the end of the kraal as I did so, and arriving at the corner,
or rather the bend of the oval, in time to see, and by means
of my rifle to assist in, the mighty struggle that took place
there.

By this time some two hundred Masai -- allowing that we had up
to the present accounted for fifty -- had gathered together in
front of the thorn-stopped entrance, drive thither by the spears
of Good's men, whom they doubtless supposed were a large force
instead of being but ten strong. For some reason it never occurred
to them to try and rush the wall, which they could have scrambled
over with comparative ease; they all made for the fence, which
was really a strongly interwoven fortification. With a bound
the first warrior went at it, and even before he touched the
ground on the other side I saw Sir Henry's great axe swing up
and fall with awful force upon his feather head-piece, and he
sank into the middle of the thorns. Then with a yell and a crash
they began to break through as they might, and ever as they came
the great axe swung and Inkosi-kaas flashed and they fell dead
one by one, each man thus helping to build up a barrier against
his fellows. Those who escaped the axes of the pair fell at
the hands of the Askari and the two Mission Kaffirs, and those
who passed scatheless from them were brought low by my own and
Mackenzie's fire.

Faster and more furious grew the fighting. Single Masai would
spring upon the dead bodies of their comrades, and engage one
or other of the axemen with their long spears; but, thanks chiefly
to the mail shirts, the result was always the same. Presently
there was a great swing of the axe, a crashing sound, and another
dead Masai. That is, if the man was engaged with Sir Henry.
If it was Umslopogaas that he fought with the result indeed
would be the same, but it would be differently attained. It
was but rarely that the Zulu used the crashing double-handed
stroke; on the contrary, he did little more than tap continually
at his adversary's head, pecking at it with the pole-axe end
of the axe as a woodpecker {Endnote 7} pecks at rotten wood.
Presently a peck would go home, and his enemy would drop down
with a neat little circular hole in his forehead or skull, exactly
similar to that which a cheese-scoop makes in a cheese. He never
used the broad blade of the axe except when hard pressed, or
when striking at a shield. He told me afterwards that he did
not consider it sportsmanlike.

Good and his men were quite close by now, and our people had
to cease firing into the mass for fear of killing some of them
(as it was, one of them was slain in this way). Mad and desperate
with fear, the Masai by a frantic effort burst through the thorn
fence and piled-up dead, and, sweeping Curtis, Umslopogaas, and
the other three before them, into the open. And now it was that
we began to lose men fast. Down went our poor Askari who was
armed with the axe, a great spear standing out a foot behind
his back; and before long the two spearsmen who had stood with
him went down too, dying fighting like tigers; and others of
our party shared their fate. For a moment I feared the fight
was lost -- certainly it trembled in the balance. I shouted
to my men to cast down their rifles, and to take spears and throw
themselves into the melee. They obeyed, their blood being now
thoroughly up, and Mr Mackenzie's people followed their example.

This move had a momentary good result, but still the fight hung
in the balance.

Our people fought magnificently, hurling themselves upon the
dark mass of Elmoran, hewing, thrusting, slaying, and being slain.
And ever above the din rose Good's awful yell of encouragement
as he plunged to wherever the fight was thickest; and ever, with
an almost machine-like regularity, the two axes rose and fell,
carrying death and disablement at every stroke. But I could
see that the strain was beginning to tell upon Sir Henry, who
was bleeding from several flesh wounds: his breath was coming
in gasps, and the veins stood out on his forehead like blue and
knotted cords. Even Umslopogaas, man of iron that he was, was
hard pressed. I noticed that he had given up 'woodpecking',
and was now using the broad blade of Inkosi-kaas, 'browning'
his enemy wherever he could hit him, instead of drilling scientific
holes in his head. I myself did not go into the melee, but hovered
outside like the swift 'back' in a football scrimmage, putting
a bullet through a Masai whenever I got a chance. I was more
use so. I fired forty-nine cartridges that morning, and I did
not miss many shots.

Presently, do as we would, the beam of the balance began to rise
against us. We had not more than fifteen or sixteen effectives
left now, and the Masai had at least fifty. Of course if they
had kept their heads, and shaken themselves together, they could
soon have made an end of the matter; but that is just what they
did not do, not having yet recovered from their start, and some
of them having actually fled from their sleeping-places without
their weapons. Still by now many individuals were fighting with
their normal courage and discretion, and this alone was sufficient
to defeat us. To make matters worse just then, when Mackenzie's
rifle was empty, a brawny savage armed with a 'sime', or sword,
made a rush for him. The clergyman flung down his gun, and drawing
his huge carver from his elastic belt (his revolver had dropped
out in the fight), they closed in desperate struggle. Presently,
locked in a close embrace, missionary and Masai rolled on the
ground behind the wall, and for some time I, being amply occupied
with my own affairs, and in keeping my skin from being pricked,
remained in ignorance of his fate or how the duel had ended.

To and fro surged the fight, slowly turning round like the vortex
of a human whirlpool, and the matter began to look very bad for
us. Just then, however, a fortunate thing happened. Umslopogaas,
either by accident or design, broke out of the ring and engaged
a warrior at some few paces from it. As he did so, another man
ran up and struck him with all his force between his shoulders
with his great spear, which, falling on the tough steel shirt,
failed to pierce it and rebounded. For a moment the man stared
aghast -- protective armour being unknown among these tribes
-- and then he yelled out at the top of his voice --

'_They are devils -- bewitched, bewitched!_' And seized by a
sudden panic, he threw down his spear, and began to fly. I cut
short his career with a bullet, and Umslopogaas brained his man,
and then the panic spread to the others.

'_Bewitched, bewitched!_' they cried, and tried to escape in every
direction, utterly demoralized and broken-spirited, for the most
part even throwing down their shields and spears.

On the last scene of that dreadful fight I need not dwell. It
was a slaughter great and grim, in which no quarter was asked
or given. One incident, however, is worth detailing. Just as
I was hoping that it was all done with, suddenly from under a
heap of slain where he had been hiding, an unwounded warrior
sprang up, and, clearing the piles of dying dead like an antelope,
sped like the wind up the kraal towards the spot where I was
standing at the moment. But he was not alone, for Umslopogaas
came gliding on his tracks with the peculiar swallow-like motion
for which he was noted, and as they neared me I recognized in
the Masai the herald of the previous night. Finding that, run
as he would, his pursuer was gaining on him, the man halted and
turned round to give battle. Umslopogaas also pulled up.

'Ah, ah,' he cried, in mockery, to the Elmoran, 'it is thou whom
I talked with last night -- the Lygonani! the Herald! the capturer
of little girls -- he who would kill a little girl! And thou
didst hope to stand man to man and face to face with Umslopogaas,
an Induna of the tribe of the Maquilisini, of the people of the
Amazulu? Behold, thy prayer is granted! And I didst swear to
hew thee limb from limb, thou insolent dog. Behold, I will do
it even now!'

The Masai ground his teeth with fury, and charged at the Zulu
with his spear. As he came, Umslopogaas deftly stepped aside,
and swinging Inkosi-kaas high above his head with both hands,
brought the broad blade down with such fearful force from behind
upon the Masai's shoulder just where the neck is set into the
frame, that its razor edge shore right through bone and flesh
and muscle, almost severing the head and one arm from the body.

'_Ou!_' ejaculated Umslopogaas, contemplating the corpse of his foe;
'I have kept my word. It was a good stroke.'

CHAPTER VIII
ALPHONSE EXPLAINS

And so the fight was ended. On returning from the shocking scene
it sudden struck me that I had seen nothing of Alphonse since
the moment, some twenty minutes before -- for though this fight
has taken a long while to describe, it did not take long in reality
-- when I had been forced to hit him in the wind with the result
of nearly getting myself shot. Fearing that the poor little
man had perished in the battle, I began to hunt among the dead
for his body, but, not being able either to see or hear anything
of it, I concluded that he must have survived, and walked down
the side of the kraal where we had first taken our stand, calling
him by name. Now some fifteen paces back from the kraal wall
stood a very ancient tree of the banyan species. So ancient
was it that all the inside had in the course of ages decayed
away, leaving nothing but a shell of bark.

'Alphonse,' I called, as I walked down the wall. 'Alphonse!'

'Oui, monsieur,' answered a voice. 'Here am I.'

I looked round but could see nobody. 'Where?' I cried.

'Here am I, monsieur, in the tree.'

I looked, and there, peering out of a hole in the trunk of the
banyan about five feet from the ground, I saw a pale face and
a pair of large mustachios, one clipped short and the other as
lamentably out of curl as the tail of a newly whipped pug. Then,
for the first time, I realized what I had suspected before --
namely, that Alphonse was an arrant coward. I walked up to him.
'Come out of that hole,' I said.

'Is it finished, monsieur?' he asked anxiously; 'quite finished?
Ah, the horrors I have undergone, and the prayers I have uttered!'

'Come out, you little wretch,' I said, for I did not feel amiable;
'it is all over.'

'So, monsieur, then my prayers have prevailed? I emerge,'
and he did.

As we were walking down together to join the others, who were
gathered in a group by the wide entrance to the kraal, which
now resembled a veritable charnel-house, a Masai, who had escaped
so far and been hiding under a bush, suddenly sprang up and charged
furiously at us. Off went Alphonse with a howl of terror, and
after him flew the Masai, bent upon doing some execution before
he died. He soon overtook the poor little Frenchman, and would
have finished him then and there had I not, just as Alphonse
made a last agonized double in the vain hope of avoiding the
yard of steel that was flashing in his immediate rear, managed
to plant a bullet between the Elmoran's broad shoulders, which
brought matters to a satisfactory conclusion so far as the Frenchman
was concerned. But just then he tripped and fell flat, and the
body of the Masai fell right on the top of him, moving convulsively
in the death struggle. Thereupon there arose such a series of
piercing howls that I concluded that before he died the savage
must have managed to stab poor Alphonse. I ran up in a hurry
and pulled the Masai off, and there beneath him lay Alphonse
covered with blood and jerking himself about like a galvanized
frog. Poor fellow! thought I, he is done for, and kneeling down
by him I began to search for his wound as well as his struggles
would allow.

'Oh, the hole in my back!' he yelled. 'I am murdered. I am
dead. Oh, Annette!'

I searched again, but could see no wound. Then the truth dawned
on me -- the man was frightened, not hurt.

'Get up!' I shouted, 'Get up. Aren't you ashamed of yourself?
You are not touched.'

Thereupon he rose, not a penny the worse. 'But, monsieur, I
thought I was,' he said apologetically; 'I did not know that
I had conquered.' Then, giving the body of the Masai a kick,
he ejaculated triumphantly, 'Ah, dog of a black savage, thou
art dead; what victory!'

Thoroughly disgusted, I left Alphonse to look after himself,
which he did by following me like a shadow, and proceeded to
join the others by the large entrance. The first thing that
I saw was Mackenzie, seated on a stone with a handkerchief twisted
round his thigh, from which he was bleeding freely, having, indeed,
received a spear-thrust that passed right through it, and still
holding in his hand his favourite carving knife now bent nearly
double, from which I gathered that he had been successful in
his rough and tumble with the Elmoran.

'Ah, Quatermain!' he sang out in a trembling, excited voice,
'so we have conquered; but it is a sorry sight, a sorry sight;'
and then breaking into broad Scotch and glancing at the bent
knife in his hand, 'It fashes me sair to have bent my best carver
on the breastbone of a savage,' and he laughed hysterically.
Poor fellow, what between his wound and the killing excitement
he had undergone his nerves were much shaken, and no wonder!
It is hard upon a man of peace and kindly heart to be called
upon to join in such a gruesome business. But there, fate puts
us sometimes into very comical positions!

At the kraal entrance the scene was a strange one. The slaughter
was over by now, and the wounded men had been put out of their
pain, for no quarter had been given. The bush-closed entrance
was trampled flat, and in place of bushes it was filled with
the bodies of dead men. Dead men, everywhere dead men -- they
lay about in knots, they were flung by ones and twos in every
position upon the open spaces, for all the world like the people
on the grass in one of the London parks on a particularly hot
Sunday in August. In front of this entrance, on a space which
had been cleared of dead and of the shields and spears which
were scattered in all directions as they had fallen or been thrown
from the hands of their owners, stood and lay the survivors of
the awful struggle, and at their feet were four wounded men.
We had gone into the fight thirty strong, and of the thirty
but fifteen remained alive, and five of them (including Mr Mackenzie)
were wounded, two mortally. Of those who held the entrance,
Curtis and the Zulu alone remained. Good had lost five men killed,
I had lost two killed, and Mackenzie no less than five out of
the six with him. As for the survivors they were, with the exception
of myself who had never come to close quarters, red from head
to foot -- Sir Henry's armour might have been painted that colour
-- and utterly exhausted, except Umslopogaas, who, as he grimly
stood on a little mound above a heap of dead, leaning as usual
upon his axe, did not seem particularly distressed, although
the skin over the hole in his head palpitated violently.

'Ah, Macumazahn!' he said to me as I limped up, feeling very
sick, 'I told thee that it would be a good fight, and it has.
Never have I seen a better, or one more bravely fought. As
for this iron shirt, surely it is "tagati" [bewitched]; nothing
could pierce it. Had it not been for the garment I should have
been _there_,' and he nodded towards the great pile of dead men
beneath him.

'I give it thee; thou art a brave man,' said Sir Henry, briefly.

'Koos!' answered the Zulu, deeply pleased both at the gift and
the compliment. 'Thou, too, Incubu, didst bear thyself as a
man, but I must give thee some lessons with the axe; thou dost
waste thy strength.'

Just then Mackenzie asked about Flossie, and we were all greatly
relieved when one of the men said he had seen her flying towards
the house with the nurse. Then bearing such of the wounded as
could be moved at the moment with us, we slowly made our way
towards the Mission-house, spent with toil and bloodshed, but
with the glorious sense of victory against overwhelming odds
glowing in our hearts. We had saved the life of the little maid,
and taught the Masai of those parts a lesson that they will not
forget for ten years -- but at what a cost!

Painfully we made our way up the hill which, just a little more
than an hour before, we had descended under such different circumstances.
At the gate of the wall stood Mrs Mackenzie waiting for us.
When her eyes fell upon us, however, she shrieked out, and covered
her face with her hands, crying, 'Horrible, horrible!' Nor were
her fears allayed when she discovered her worthy husband being
borne upon an improvized stretcher; but her doubts as to the
nature of his injury were soon set at rest. Then when in a few
brief words I had told her the upshot of the struggle (of which
Flossie, who had arrived in safety, had been able to explain
something) she came up to me and solemnly kissed me on the forehead.

'God bless you all, Mr Quatermain; you have saved my child's
life,' she said simply.

Then we went in and got our clothes off and doctored our wounds;
I am glad to say I had none, and Sir Henry's and Good's were,
thanks to those invaluable chain shirts, of a comparatively harmless
nature, and to be dealt with by means of a few stitches and sticking-
plaster. Mackenzie's, however, were serious, though fortunately
the spear had not severed any large artery. After that we had
a bath, and what a luxury it was! And having clad ourselves
in ordinary clothes, proceeded to the dining-room, where breakfast
was set as usual. It was curious sitting down there, drinking
tea and eating toast in an ordinary nineteenth-century sort of
way just as though we had not employed the early hours in a regular
primitive hand-to-hand Middle-Ages kind of struggle. As Good
said, the whole thing seemed more as though one had had a bad
nightmare just before being called, than as a deed done. When
we were finishing our breakfast the door opened, and in came
little Flossie, very pale and tottery, but quite unhurt. She
kissed us all and thanked us. I congratulated her on the presence
of mind she had shown in shooting the Masai with her Derringer
pistol, and thereby saving her own life.

'Oh, don't talk of it!' she said, beginning to cry hysterically;
'I shall never forget his face as he went turning round and round,
never -- I can see it now.'

I advised her to go to bed and get some sleep, which she did,
and awoke in the evening quite recovered, so far as her strength
was concerned. It struck me as an odd thing that a girl who
could find the nerve to shoot a huge black ruffian rushing to
kill her with a spear should have been so affected at the thought
of it afterwards; but it is, after all, characteristic of the
sex. Poor Flossie! I fear that her nerves will not get over
that night in the Masai camp for many a long year. She told
me afterwards that it was the suspense that was so awful, having
to sit there hour after hour through the livelong night utterly
ignorant as to whether or not any attempt was to be made to rescue
her. She said that on the whole she did not expect it, knowing
how few of us, and how many of the Masai -- who, by the way,
came continually to stare at her, most of them never having seen
a white person before, and handled her arms and hair with their
filthy paws. She said also that she had made up her mind that
if she saw no signs of succour by the time the first rays of
the rising sun reached the kraal she would kill herself with
the pistol, for the nurse had heard the Lygonani say that they
were to be tortured to death as soon as the sun was up if one
of the white men did not come in their place. It was an awful
resolution to have to take, but she meant to act on it, and I
have little doubt but what she would have done so. Although
she was at an age when in England girls are in the schoolroom
and come down to dessert, this 'child of the wilderness' had
more courage, discretion, and power of mind than many a woman
of mature age nurtured in idleness and luxury, with minds carefully
drilled and educated out of any originality or self-resource
that nature may have endowed them with.

When breakfast was over we all turned in and had a good sleep,
only getting up in time for dinner; after which meal we once
more adjourned, together with all the available population --
men, women, youths, and girls -- to the scene of the morning's
slaughter, our object being to bury our own dead and get rid
of the Masai by flinging them into the Tana River, which ran
within fifty yards of the kraal. On reaching the spot we disturbed
thousands upon thousands of vultures and a sort of brown bush
eagle, which had been flocking to the feast from miles and miles
away. Often have I watched these great and repulsive birds,
and marvelled at the extraordinary speed with which they arrive
on a scene of slaughter. A buck falls to your rifle, and within
a minute high in the blue ether appears a speck that gradually
grows into a vulture, then another, and another. I have heard
many theories advanced to account for the wonderful power of
perception nature has given these birds. My own, founded on
a good deal of observation, is that the vultures, gifted as they
are with powers of sight greater than those given by the most
powerful glass, quarter out the heavens among themselves, and
hanging in mid-air at a vast height -- probably from two to three
miles above the earth -- keep watch, each of them, over an enormous
stretch of country. Presently one of them spies food, and instantly
begins to sink towards it. Thereon his next neighbour in the
airy heights sailing leisurely through the blue gulf, at a distance
perhaps of some miles, follows his example, knowing that food
has been sighted. Down he goes, and all the vultures within
sight of him follow after, and so do all those in sight of them.
In this way the vultures for twenty miles round can be summoned
to the feast in a few minutes.

We buried our dead in solemn silence, Good being selected to
read the Burial Service over them (in the absence of Mr Mackenzie,
confined to bed), as he was generally allowed to possess the
best voice and most impressive manner. It was melancholy in
the extreme, but, as Good said, it might have been worse, for
we might have had 'to bury ourselves'. I pointed out that this
would have been a difficult feat, but I knew what he meant.

Next we set to work to load an ox-wagon which had been brought
round from the Mission with the dead bodies of the Masai, having
first collected the spears, shields, and other arms. We loaded
the wagon five times, about fifty bodies to the load, and emptied
it into the Tana. From this it was evident that very few of
the Masai could have escaped. The crocodiles must have been
well fed that night. One of the last bodies we picked up was
that of the sentry at the upper end. I asked Good how he managed
to kill him, and he told me that he had crept up much as Umslopogaas
had done, and stabbed him with his sword. He groaned a good
deal, but fortunately nobody heard him. As Good said, it was
a horrible thing to have to do, and most unpleasantly like
cold-blooded murder.

And so with the last body that floated away down the current
of the Tana ended the incident of our attack on the Masai camp.
The spears and shields and other arms we took up to the Mission,
where they filled an outhouse. One incident, however, I must
not forget to mention. As we were returning from performing
the obsequies of our Masai friends we passed the hollow tree
where Alphonse had secreted himself in the morning. It so happened
that the little man himself was with us assisting in our unpleasant
task with a far better will than he had shown where live Masai
were concerned. Indeed, for each body that he handled he found
an appropriate sarcasm. Alphonse throwing Masai into the Tana
was a very different creature from Alphonse flying for dear life
from the spear of a live Masai. He was quite merry and gay,
he clapped his hands and warbled snatches of French songs as
the grim dead warriors went 'splash' into the running waters
to carry a message of death and defiance to their kindred a hundred
miles below. In short, thinking that he wanted taking down a
peg, I suggested holding a court-martial on him for his conduct
in the morning.

Accordingly we brought him to the tree where he had hidden, and
proceeded to sit in judgment on him, Sir Henry explaining to
him in the very best French the unheard-of cowardice and enormity
of his conduct, more especially in letting the oiled rag out
of his mouth, whereby he nearly aroused the Masai camp with
teeth-chattering and brought about the failure of our plans:
ending up with a request for an explanation.

But if we expected to find Alphonse at a loss and put him to
open shame we were destined to be disappointed. He bowed and
scraped and smiled, and acknowledged that his conduct might at
first blush appear strange, but really it was not, inasmuch as
his teeth were not chattering from fear -- oh, dear no! oh, certainly
not! he marvelled how the 'messieurs' could think of such a thing
-- but from the chill air of the morning. As for the rag, if
monsieur could have but tasted its evil flavour, being compounded
indeed of a mixture of stale paraffin oil, grease, and gunpowder,
monsieur himself would have spat it out. But he did nothing
of the sort; he determined to keep it there till, alas! his stomach
'revolted', and the rag was ejected in an access of involuntary
sickness.

'And what have you to say about getting into the hollow tree?'
asked Sir Henry, keeping his countenance with difficulty.

'But, monsieur, the explanation is easy; oh, most easy! it was
thus: I stood there by the kraal wall, and the little grey monsieur
hit me in the stomach so that my rifle exploded, and the battle
began. I watched whilst recovering myself from monsieur's cruel
blow; then, messieurs, I felt the heroic blood of my grandfather
boil up in my veins. The sight made me mad. I ground my teeth!
Fire flashed from my eyes! I shouted "En avant!" and longed
to slay. Before my eyes there rose a vision of my heroic grandfather!
In short, I was mad! I was a warrior indeed! But then in my
heart I heard a small voice: "Alphonse," said the voice, "restrain
thyself, Alphonse! Give not way to this evil passion! These
men, though black, are brothers! And thou wouldst slay them?
Cruel Alphonse!" The voice was right. I knew it; I was about
to perpetrate the most horrible cruelties: to wound! to massacre!
to tear limb from limb! And how restrain myself? I looked round;
I saw the tree, I perceived the hole. "Entomb thyself," said
the voice, "and hold on tight! Thou wilt thus overcome temptation
by main force!" It was bitter, just when the blood of my heroic
grandfather boiled most fiercely; but I obeyed! I dragged my
unwilling feet along; I entombed myself! Through the hole I
watched the battle! I shouted curses and defiance on the foe!
I noted them fall with satisfaction! Why not? I had not robbed
them of their lives. Their gore was not upon my head. The blood
of my heroic --'

'Oh, get along with you, you little cur!' broke out Sir Henry,
with a shout of laughter, and giving Alphonse a good kick which
sent him flying off with a rueful face.

In the evening I had an interview with Mr Mackenzie, who was
suffering a good deal from his wounds, which Good, who was a
skilful though unqualified doctor, was treating him for. He
told me that this occurrence had taught him a lesson, and that,
if he recovered safely, he meant to hand over the Mission to
a younger man, who was already on his road to join him in his
work, and return to England.

'You see, Quatermain,' he said, 'I made up my mind to it, this
very morning, when we were creeping down those benighted savages.
"If we live through this and rescue Flossie alive," I said to
myself, "I will go home to England; I have had enough of savages."
Well, I did not think that we should live through it at the
time; but thanks be to God and you four, we have lived through
it, and I mean to stick to my resolution, lest a worse thing
befall us. Another such time would kill my poor wife. And besides,
Quatermain, between you and me, I am well off; it is thirty thousand
pounds I am worth today, and every farthing of it made by honest
trade and savings in the bank at Zanzibar, for living here costs
me next to nothing. So though it will be hard to leave this
place, which I have made to blossom like a rose in the wilderness,
and harder still to leave the people I have taught, I shall go.'

'I congratulate you on your decision,' answered I, 'for two reasons.
The first is, that you owe a duty to your wife and daughter,
and more especially to the latter, who should receive some education
and mix with girls of her own race, otherwise she will grow up
wild, shunning her kind. The other is, that as sure as I am
standing here, sooner or later the Masai will try to avenge the
slaughter inflicted on them today. Two or three men are sure
to have escaped the confusion who will carry the story back to
their people, and the result will be that a great expedition
will one day be sent against you. It might be delayed for a
year, but sooner or later it will come. Therefore, if only for
that reason, I should go. When once they have learnt that you
are no longer here they may perhaps leave the place alone.'
{Endnote 8}

'You are quite right,' answered the clergyman. 'I will turn
my back upon this place in a month. But it will be a wrench,
it will be a wrench.'

CHAPTER IX
INTO THE UNKNOWN

A week had passed, and we all sat at supper one night in the
Mission dining-room, feeling very much depressed in spirits,
for the reason that we were going to say goodbye to our kind
friends, the Mackenzies, and depart upon our way at dawn on the
morrow. Nothing more had been seen or heard of the Masai, and
save for a spear or two which had been overlooked and was rusting
in the grass, and a few empty cartridges where we had stood outside
the wall, it would have been difficult to tell that the old cattle
kraal at the foot of the slope had been the scene of so desperate
a struggle. Mackenzie was, thanks chiefly to his being so temperate
a man, rapidly recovering from his wound, and could get about
on a pair of crutches; and as for the other wounded men, one
had died of gangrene, and the rest were in a fair way to recovery.
Mr Mackenzie's caravan of men had also returned from the coast,
so that the station was now amply garrisoned.

Under these circumstances we concluded, warm and pressing as
were the invitations for us to stay, that it was time to move
on, first to Mount Kenia, and thence into the unknown in search
of the mysterious white race which we had set our hearts on discovering.
This time we were going to progress by means of the humble but
useful donkey, of which we had collected no less than a dozen,
to carry our goods and chattels, and, if necessary, ourselves.
We had now but two Wakwafis left for servants, and found it
quite impossible to get other natives to venture with us into
the unknown parts we proposed to explore -- and small blame to
them. After all, as Mr Mackenzie said, it was odd that three
men, each of whom possessed many of those things that are supposed
to make life worth living -- health, sufficient means, and position,
etc. -- should from their own pleasure start out upon a wild-goose
chase, from which the chances were they never would return.
But then that is what Englishmen are, adventurers to the backbone;
and all our magnificent muster-roll of colonies, each of which
will in time become a great nation, testify to the extraordinary
value of the spirit of adventure which at first sight looks like
a mild form of lunacy. 'Adventurer' -- he that goes out to meet
whatever may come. Well, that is what we all do in the world
one way or another, and, speaking for myself, I am proud of the
title, because it implies a brave heart and a trust in Providence.
Besides, when many and many a noted Croesus, at whose feet the
people worship, and many and many a time-serving and word-coining
politician are forgotten, the names of those grand-hearted old
adventurers who have made England what she is, will be remembered
and taught with love and pride to little children whose unshaped
spirits yet slumber in the womb of centuries to be. Not that
we three can expect to be numbered with such as these, yet have
we done something -- enough, perhaps, to throw a garment over
the nakedness of our folly.

That evening, whilst we were sitting on the veranda, smoking
a pipe before turning in, who should come up to us but Alphonse,
and, with a magnificent bow, announce his wish for an interview.
Being requested to 'fire away', he explained at some length
that he was anxious to attach himself to our party -- a statement
that astonished me not a little, knowing what a coward the little
man was. The reason, however, soon appeared. Mr Mackenzie was
going down to the coast, and thence on to England. Now, if he
went down country, Alphonse was persuaded that he would be seized,
extradited, sent to France, and to penal servitude. This was
the idea that haunted him, as King Charles's head haunted Mr
Dick, and he brooded over it till his imagination exaggerated
the danger ten times. As a matter of fact, the probability is
that his offence against the laws of his country had long ago
been forgotten, and that he would have been allowed to pass unmolested
anywhere except in France; but he could not be got to see this.
Constitutional coward as the little man was, he infinitely preferred
to face the certain hardships and great risks and dangers of
such an expedition as ours, than to expose himself, notwithstanding
his intense longing for his native land, to the possible scrutiny
of a police officer -- which is after all only another exemplification
of the truth that, to the majority of men, a far-off foreseen
danger, however shadowy, is much more terrible than the most
serious present emergency. After listening to what he had to
say, we consulted among ourselves, and finally agreed, with Mr
Mackenzie's knowledge and consent, to accept his offer. To begin
with, we were very short-handed, and Alphonse was a quick, active
fellow, who could turn his hand to anything, and cook -- ah,
he _could_ cook! I believe that he would have made a palatable
dish of those gaiters of his heroic grandfather which he was
so fond of talking about. Then he was a good-tempered little
man, and merry as a monkey, whilst his pompous, vainglorious
talk was a source of infinite amusement to us; and what is more,
he never bore malice. Of course, his being so pronounced a coward
was a great drawback to him, but now that we knew his weakness
we could more or less guard against it. So, after warning him
of the undoubted risks he was exposing himself to, we told him
that we would accept his offer on condition that he would promise
implicit obedience to our orders. We also promised to give him
wages at the rate of ten pounds a month should he ever return
to a civilized country to receive them. To all of this he agreed
with alacrity, and retired to write a letter to his Annette,
which Mr Mackenzie promised to post when he got down country.
He read it to us afterwards, Sir Henry translating, and a wonderful
composition it was. I am sure the depth of his devotion and
the narration of his sufferings in a barbarous country, 'far,
far from thee, Annette, for whose adored sake I endure such sorrow,'
ought to have touched the feelings of the stoniest-hearted chambermaid.

Well, the morrow came, and by seven o'clock the donkeys were
all loaded, and the time of parting was at hand. It was a melancholy
business, especially saying goodbye to dear little Flossie.
She and I were great friends, and often used to have talks together
-- but her nerves had never got over the shock of that awful
night when she lay in the power of those bloodthirsty Masai.
'Oh, Mr Quatermain,' she cried, throwing her arms round my neck
and bursting into tears, 'I can't bear to say goodbye to you.
I wonder when we shall meet again?'

'I don't know, my dear little girl,' I said, 'I am at one end
of life and you are at the other. I have but a short time before
me at best, and most things lie in the past, but I hope that
for you there are many long and happy years, and everything lies
in the future. By-and-by you will grow into a beautiful woman,
Flossie, and all this wild life will be like a far-off dream
to you; but I hope, even if we never do meet again, that you
will think of your old friend and remember what I say to you
now. Always try to be good, my dear, and to do what is right,
rather than what happens to be pleasant, for in the end, whatever
sneering people may say, what is good and what is happy are the
same. Be unselfish, and whenever you can, give a helping hand
to others -- for the world is full of suffering, my dear, and
to alleviate it is the noblest end that we can set before us.
If you do that you will become a sweet and God-fearing woman,
and make many people's lives a little brighter, and then you
will not have lived, as so many of your sex do, in vain. And
now I have given you a lot of old-fashioned advice, and so I
am going to give you something to sweeten it with. You see this
little piece of paper. It is what is called a cheque. When
we are gone give it to your father with this note -- not before,
mind. You will marry one day, my dear little Flossie, and it
is to buy you a wedding present which you are to wear, and your
daughter after you, if you have one, in remembrance of Hunter
Quatermain.

Poor little Flossie cried very much, and gave me a lock of her
bright hair in return, which I still have. The cheque I gave
her was for a thousand pounds (which being now well off, and
having no calls upon me except those of charity, I could well
afford), and in the note I directed her father to invest it for
her in Government security, and when she married or came of age
to buy her the best diamond necklace he could get for the money
and accumulated interest. I chose diamonds because I think that
now that King Solomon's Mines are lost to the world, their price
will never be much lower than it is at present, so that if in
after-life she should ever be in pecuniary difficulties, she
will be able to turn them into money.

Well, at last we got off, after much hand-shaking, hat-waving,
and also farewell saluting from the natives, Alphonse weeping
copiously (for he has a warm heart) at parting with his master
and mistress; and I was not sorry for it at all, for I hate those
goodbyes. Perhaps the most affecting thing of all was to witness
Umslopogaas' distress at parting with Flossie, for whom the grim
old warrior had conceived a strong affection. He used to say
that she was as sweet to see as the only star on a dark night,
and was never tired of loudly congratulating himself on having
killed the Lygonani who had threatened to murder her. And that
was the last we saw of the pleasant Mission-house -- a true oasis
in the desert -- and of European civilization. But I often think
of the Mackenzies, and wonder how they got down country, and
if they are now safe and well in England, and will ever see these
words. Dear little Flossie! I wonder how she fares there where
there are no black folk to do her imperious bidding, and no sky-piercing
snow-clad Kenia for her to look at when she gets up in the morning.
And so goodbye to Flossie.

After leaving the Mission-house we made our way, comparatively
unmolested, past the base of Mount Kenia, which the Masai call
'Donyo Egere', or the 'speckled mountain', on account of the
black patches of rock that appear upon its mighty spire, where
the sides are too precipitous to allow of the snow lying on them;
then on past the lonely lake Baringo, where one of our two remaining
Askari, having unfortunately trodden on a puff-adder, died of
snake-bite, in spite of all our efforts to save him. Thence
we proceeded a distance of about a hundred and fifty miles to
another magnificent snow-clad mountain called Lekakisera, which
has never, to the best of my belief, been visited before by a
European, but which I cannot now stop to describe. There we
rested a fortnight, and then started out into the trackless and
uninhabited forest of a vast district called Elgumi. In this
forest alone there are more elephants than I ever met with or
heard with before. The mighty mammals literally swarm there
entirely unmolested by man, and only kept down by the natural
law that prevents any animals increasing beyond the capacity
of the country they inhabit to support them. Needless to say,
however, we did not shoot many of them, first because we could
not afford to waste ammunition, of which our stock was getting
perilously low, a donkey loaded with it having been swept away
in fording a flooded river; and secondly, because we could not
carry away the ivory, and did not wish to kill for the mere sake
of slaughter. So we let the great beasts be, only shooting one
or two in self-protection. In this district, the elephants,
being unacquainted with the hunter and his tender mercies, would
allow one to walk up to within twenty yards of them in the open,
while they stood, with their great ears cocked for all the world
like puzzled and gigantic puppy-dogs, and stared at that new
and extraordinary phenomenon -- man. Occasionally, when the
inspection did not prove satisfactory, the staring ended in a
trumpet and a charge, but this did not often happen. When it
did we had to use our rifles. Nor were elephants the only wild
beasts in the great Elgumi forest. All sorts of large game abounded,
including lions -- confound them! I have always hated the sight
of a lion since one bit my leg and lamed me for life. As a consequence,
another thing that abounded was the dreadful tsetse fly, whose
bite is death to domestic animals. Donkeys have, together with
men, hitherto been supposed to enjoy a peculiar immunity from
its attacks; but all I have to say, whether it was on account
of their poor condition, or because the tsetse in those parts
is more poisonous than usual, I do not know, but ours succumbed
to its onslaught. Fortunately, however, that was not till two
months or so after the bites had been inflicted, when suddenly,
after a two days' cold rain, they all died, and on removing the
skins of several of them I found the long yellow streaks upon
the flesh which are characteristic of death from bites from the
tsetse, marking the spot where the insect had inserted his proboscis.
On emerging from the great Elgumi forest, we, still steering
northwards, in accordance with the information Mr Mackenzie had
collected from the unfortunate wanderer who reached him only
to die so tragically, struck the base in due course of the large
lake, called Laga by the natives, which is about fifty miles
long by twenty broad, and of which, it may be remembered, he
made mention. Thence we pushed on nearly a month's journey over
great rolling uplands, something like those in the Transvaal,
but diversified by patches of bush country.

All this time we were continually ascending at the rate of about
one hundred feet every ten miles. Indeed the country was on
a slope which appeared to terminate at a mass of snow-tipped
mountains, for which we were steering, and where we learnt the
second lake of which the wanderer had spoken as the lake without
a bottom was situated. At length we arrived there, and, having
ascertained that there _was_ a large lake on top of the mountains,
ascended three thousand feet more till we came to a precipitous
cliff or edge, to find a great sheet of water some twenty miles
square lying fifteen hundred feet below us, and evidently occupying
an extinct volcanic crater or craters of vast extent. Perceiving
villages on the border of this lake, we descended with great
difficulty through forests of pine trees, which now clothed the
precipitous sides of the crater, and were well received by the
people, a simple, unwarlike folk, who had never seen or even
heard of a white man before, and treated us with great reverence
and kindness, supplying us with as much food and milk as we could
eat and drink. This wonderful and beautiful lake lay, according
to our aneroid, at a height of no less than 11,450 feet above
sea-level, and its climate was quite cold, and not at all unlike
that of England. Indeed, for the first three days of our stay
there we saw little or nothing of the scenery on account of an
unmistakable Scotch mist which prevailed. It was this rain that
set the tsetse poison working in our remaining donkeys, so that
they all died.

This disaster left us in a very awkward position, as we had now
no means of transport whatever, though on the other hand we had
not much to carry. Ammunition, too, was very short, amounting
to but one hundred and fifty rounds of rifle cartridges and some
fifty shot-gun cartridges. How to get on we did not know; indeed
it seemed to us that we had about reached the end of our tether.
Even if we had been inclined to abandon the object of our search,
which, shadow as it was, was by no means the case, it was ridiculous
to think of forcing our way back some seven hundred miles to
the coast in our present plight; so we came to the conclusion
that the only thing to be done was to stop where we were -- the
natives being so well disposed and food plentiful -- for the
present, and abide events, and try to collect information as
to the countries beyond.

Accordingly, having purchased a capital log canoe, large enough
to hold us all and our baggage, from the headman of the village
we were staying in, presenting him with three empty cold-drawn
brass cartridges by way of payment, with which he was perfectly
delighted, we set out to make a tour of the lake in order to
find the most favourable place to make a camp. As we did not
know if we should return to this village, we put all our gear
into the canoe, and also a quarter of cooked water-buck, which
when young is delicious eating, and off we set, natives having
already gone before us in light canoes to warn the inhabitants
of the other villages of our approach.

As we were puddling leisurely along Good remarked upon the extraordinary
deep blue colour of the water, and said that he understood from
the natives, who were great fishermen -- fish, indeed, being
their principal food -- that the lake was supposed to be wonderfully
deep, and to have a hole at the bottom through which the water
escaped and put out some great fire that was raging below.

I pointed out to him that what he had heard was probably a legend
arising from a tradition among the people which dated back to
the time when one of the extinct parasitic volcanic cones was
in activity. We saw several round the borders of the lake which
had no doubt been working at a period long subsequent to the
volcanic death of the central crater which now formed the bed
of the lake itself. When it finally became extinct the people
would imagine that the water from the lake had run down and put
out the big fire below, more especially as, though it was constantly
fed by streams running from the snow-tipped peaks about, there
was no visible exit to it.

The farther shore of the lake we found, on approaching it, to
consist of a vast perpendicular wall of rock, which held the
water without any intermediate sloping bank, as elsewhere. Accordingly
we paddled parallel with this precipice, at a distance of about
a hundred paces from it, shaping our course for the end of the
lake, where we knew that there was a large village.

As we went we began to pass a considerable accumulation of floating
rushes, weed, boughs of trees, and other rubbish, brought, Good
supposed, to this spot by some current, which he was much puzzled
to account for. Whilst we were speculating about this, Sir Henry
pointed out a flock of large white swans, which were feeding
on the drift some little way ahead of us. Now I had already
noticed swans flying about this lake, and, having never come
across them before in Africa, was exceedingly anxious to obtain
a specimen. I had questioned the natives about them, and learnt
that they came from over the mountain, always arriving at certain
periods of the year in the early morning, when it was very easy
to catch them, on account of their exhausted condition. I also
asked them what country they came from, when they shrugged their
shoulders, and said that on the top of the great black precipice
was stony inhospitable land, and beyond that were mountains with
snow, and full of wild beasts, where no people lived, and beyond
the mountains were hundreds of miles of dense thorn forest, so
thick that even the elephants could not get through it, much
less men. Next I asked them if they had ever heard of white
people like ourselves living on the farther side of the mountains
and the thorn forest, whereat they laughed. But afterwards a
very old woman came and told me that when she was a little girl
her grandfather had told her that in his youth _his_ grandfather
had crossed the desert and the mountains, and pierced the thorn
forest, and seen a white people who lived in stone kraals beyond.
Of course, as this took the tale back some two hundred and fifty
years, the information was very indefinite; but still there it
was again, and on thinking it over I grew firmly convinced that
there was some truth in all these rumours, and equally firmly
determined to solve the mystery. Little did I guess in what
an almost miraculous way my desire was to be gratified.

Well, we set to work to stalk the swans, which kept drawing,
as they fed, nearer and nearer to the precipice, and at last
we pushed the canoe under shelter of a patch of drift within
forty yards of them. Sir Henry had the shot-gun, loaded with
No. 1, and, waiting for a chance, got two in a line, and, firing
at their necks, killed them both. Up rose the rest, thirty or
more of them, with a mighty splashing; and, as they did so, he
gave them the other barrel. Down came one fellow with a broken
wing, and I saw the leg of another drop and a few feathers start
out of his back; but he went on quite strong. Up went the swans,
circling ever higher till at last they were mere specks level
with the top of the frowning precipice, when I saw them form
into a triangle and head off for the unknown north-east. Meanwhile
we had picked up our two dead ones, and beautiful birds they
were, weighing not less than about thirty pounds each, and were
chasing the winged one, which had scrambled over a mass of driftweed
into a pool of clear water beyond. Finding a difficulty in forcing
the canoe through the rubbish, I told our only remaining Wakwafi
servant, whom I knew to be an excellent swimmer, to jump over,
dive under the drift, and catch him, knowing that as there were
no crocodiles in this lake he could come to no harm. Entering
into the fun of the thing, the man obeyed, and soon was dodging
about after the winged swan in fine style, getting gradually
nearer to the rock wall, against which the water washed as he
did so.

Presently he gave up swimming after the swan, and began to cry
out that he was being carried away; and, indeed, we saw that,
though he was swimming with all his strength towards us, he was
being drawn slowly to the precipice. With a few desperate strokes
of our paddles we pushed the canoe through the crust of drift
and rowed towards the man as hard as we could, but, fast as we
went, he was drawn faster to the rock. Suddenly I saw that before
us, just rising eighteen inches or so above the surface of the
lake, was what looked like the top of the arch of a submerged
cave or railway tunnel. Evidently, from the watermark on the

Book of the day: