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Allan's Wife by H. Rider Haggard

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"This, Macumazahn. When are you going to trek towards the coast?"

"I don't know," I answered. "The Star is not fit to travel now, we
must wait awhile."

"No, Macumazahn, you must not wait, you must go, and the Star must
take her chance. She is strong. It is nothing. All will be well."

"Why do you say so? why must we go?"

"For this reason, Macumazahn," and he looked cautiously round and
spoke low. "The baboons have come back in thousands. All the mountain
is full of them."

"I did not know that they had gone," I said.

"Yes," he answered, "they went after the marriage, all but one or two;
now they are back, all the baboons in the world, I think. I saw a
whole cliff back with them."

"Is that all?" I said, for I saw that he had something behind. "I am
not afraid of a pack of baboons."

"No, Macumazahn, it is not all. The Babyan-frau, Hendrika, is with
them."

Now nothing had been heard or seen of Hendrika since her expulsion,
and though at first she and her threats had haunted me somewhat, by
degrees she to a great extent had passed out of my mind, which was
fully preoccupied with Stella and my father-in-law's illness. I
started violently. "How do you know this?" I asked.

"I know it because I saw her, Macumazahn. She is disguised, she is
dressed up in baboon skins, and her face is stained dark. But though
she was a long way off, I knew her by her size, and I saw the white
flesh of her arm when the skins slipped aside. She has come back,
Macumazahn, with all the baboons in the world, and she has come back
to do evil. Now do you understand why you should trek?"

"Yes," I said, "though I don't see how she and the baboons can harm
us, I think that it will be better to go. If necessary we can camp the
waggons somewhere for a while on the journey. Hearken, Indaba-zimbi:
say nothing of this to the Star; I will not have her frightened. And
hearken again. Speak to the headmen, and see that watchers are set all
round the huts and gardens, and kept there night and day. To-morrow we
will get the waggons ready, and next day we will trek."

He nodded his white lock and went to do my bidding, leaving me not a
little disturbed--unreasonably so, indeed. It was a strange story.
That this woman had the power of conversing with baboons I knew.[*]
That was not so very wonderful, seeing that the Bushmen claim to be
able to do the same thing, and she had been nurtured by them. But that
she had been able to muster them, and by the strength of her human
will and intelligence muster them in order to forward her ends of
revenge, seemed to me so incredible that after reflection my fears
grew light. Still I determined to trek. After all, a journey in an ox
waggon would not be such a very terrible thing to a strong woman
accustomed to roughing it, whatever her state of health. And when all
was said and done I did not like this tale of the presence of Hendrika
with countless hosts of baboons.

[*] For an instance of this, see Anderson's "Twenty-five Years in a
Waggon," vol. i. p. 262.--Editor.

So I went in to Stella, and without saying a word to her of the baboon
story, told her I had been thinking matters over, and had come to the
conclusion that it was our duty to follow her father's instructions to
the letter, and leave Babyan Kraals at once. Into all our talk I need
not enter, but the end of it was that she agreed with me, and declared
that she could quite well manage the journey, saying, moreover, that
now that her dear father was dead she would be glad to get away.

Nothing happened to disturb us that night, and on the following
morning I was up early making preparations. The despair of the people
when they learned that we were going to leave them was something quite
pitiable. I could only console them by declaring that we were but on a
journey, and would return the following year.

"They had lived in the shadow of their father, who was dead," they
declared; "ever since they were little they had lived in his shadow.
He had received them when they were outcasts and wanderers without a
mat to lie on, or a blanket to cover them, and they had grown fat in
his shadow. Then he had died, and the Star, their father's daughter,
had married me, Macumazahn, and they had believed that I should take
their father's place, and let them live in my shadow. What should they
do when there was no one to protect them? The tribes were kept from
attacking them by fear of the white man. If we went they would be
eaten up," and so on. Alas! there was but too much foundation for
their fears.

I returned to the huts at mid-day to get some dinner. Stella said that
she was going to pack during the afternoon, so I did not think it
necessary to caution her about going out alone, as I did not wish to
allude to the subject of Hendrika and the baboons unless I was obliged
to. I told her, however, that I would come back to help her as soon as
I could get away. Then I went down to the native kraals to sort out
such cattle as had belonged to Mr. Carson from those which belonged to
the Kaffirs, for I proposed to take them with us. It was a large herd,
and the business took an incalculable time. At length, a little before
sundown, I gave it up, and leaving Indaba-zimbi to finish the job, got
on my horse and rode homewards.

Arriving, I gave the horse to one of the stable boys, and went into
the central hut. There was no sign of Stella, though the things she
had been packing lay about the floor. I passed first into our sleeping
hut, thence one by one into all the others, but still saw no sign of
her. Then I went out, and calling to a Kaffir in the garden asked him
if he had seen his mistress.

He answered "yes." He had seen her carrying flowers and walking
towards the graveyard, holding the little white girl--my daughter--as
he called her, by the hand, when the sun stood "there," and he pointed
to a spot on the horizon where it would have been about an hour and a
half before. "The two dogs were with them," he added. I turned and ran
towards the graveyard, which was about a quarter of a mile from the
huts. Of course there was no reason to be anxious--evidently she had
gone to lay the flowers on her father's grave. And yet I was anxious.

When I got near the graveyard I met one of the natives, who, by my
orders, had been set round the kraals to watch the place, and noticed
that he was rubbing his eyes and yawning. Clearly he had been asleep.
I asked him if he had seen his mistress, and he answered that he had
not, which under the circumstances was not wonderful. Without stopping
to reproach him, I ordered the man to follow me, and went on to the
graveyard. There, on Mr. Carson's grave, lay the drooping flowers
which Stella had been carrying, and there in the fresh mould was the
spoor of Tota's veldschoon, or hide slipper. But where were they?

I ran from the graveyard and called aloud at the top of my voice, but
no answer came. Meanwhile the native was more profitably engaged in
tracing their spoor. He followed it for about a hundred yards till he
came to a clump of mimosa bush that was situated between the stream
and the ancient marble quarries just over the waterfall, and at the
mouth of the ravine. Here he stopped, and I heard him give a startled
cry. I rushed to the spot, passed through the trees, and saw this. The
little open space in the centre of the glade had been the scene of a
struggle. There, in the soft earth, were the marks of three pairs of
human feet--two shod, one naked--Stella's, Tota's, and /Hendrika's/.
Nor was this all. There, close by, lay the fragments of the two dogs--
they were nothing more--and one baboon, not yet quite dead, which had
been bitten in the throat by the dogs. All round was the spoor of
numberless baboons. The full horror of what had happened flashed into
my mind.

My wife and Tota had been carried off by the baboons. As yet they had
not been killed, for if so their remains would have been found with
those of the dogs. They had been carried off. The brutes, acting under
the direction of that woman-monkey, Hendrika, had dragged them away to
some secret den, there to keep them till they died--or kill them!

For a moment I literally staggered beneath the terror of the shock.
Then I roused myself from my despair. I bade the native run and alarm
the people at the kraals, telling them to come armed, and bring me
guns and ammunition. He went like the wind, and I turned to follow the
spoor. For a few yards it was plain enough--Stella had been dragged
along. I could see where her heels had struck the ground; the child
had, I presumed, been carried--at least there were no marks of her
feet. At the water's edge the spoor vanished. The water was shallow,
and they had gone along in it, or at least Hendrika and her victim
had, in order to obliterate the trail. I could see where a moss-grown
stone had been freshly turned over in the water-bed. I ran along the
bank some way up the ravine, in the vain hope of catching a sight of
them. Presently I heard a bark in the cliffs above me; it was answered
by another, and then I saw that scores of baboons were hidden about
among the rocks on either side, and were softly swinging themselves
down to bar the path. To go on unarmed as I was would be useless. I
should only be torn to pieces as the dogs had been. So I turned and
fled back towards the huts. As I drew near I could see that my
messenger had roused the settlement, for natives with spears and
kerries in their hands were running up towards the kraals. When I
reached the hut I met old Indaba-zimbi, who wore a very serious face.

"So the evil has fallen, Macumazahn," he said.

"It has fallen," I answered.

"Keep a good heart, Macumazahn," he said again. "She is not dead, nor
is the little maid, and before they die we shall find them. Remember
this, Hendrika loves her. She will not harm her, or allow the babyans
to harm her. She will try to hide her away from you, that is all."

"Pray God that we may find her," I groaned. "The light is going fast."

"The moon rises in three hours," he answered; "we will search by
moonlight. It is useless to start now; see, the sun sinks. Let us get
the men together, eat, and make things ready. /Hamba gachla/. Hasten
slowly, Macumazahn."

As there was no help, I took his advice. I could eat no food, but I
packed some up to take with us, and made ready ropes, and a rough kind
of litter. If we found them they would scarcely be able to walk. Ah!
if we found them! How slowly the time passed! It seemed hours before
the moon rose. But at last it did rise.

Then we started. In all we were about a hundred men, but we only
mustered five guns between us, my elephant roer and four that had
belonged to Mr. Carson.

CHAPTER XII

THE MAGIC OF INDABA-ZIMBI

We gained the spot by the stream where Stella had been taken. The
natives looked at the torn fragments of the dogs, and at the marks of
violence, and I heard them swearing to each other, that whether the
Star lived or died they would not rest till they had exterminated
every baboon on Babyan's Peak. I echoed the oath, and, as shall be
seen, we kept it.

We started on along the stream, following the spoor of the baboons as
we best could. But the stream left no spoor, and the hard, rocky banks
very little. Still we wandered on. All night we wandered through the
lonely moonlit valleys, startling the silence into a thousand echoes
with our cries. But no answer came to them. In vain our eyes searched
the sides of precipices formed of water-riven rocks fantastically
piled one upon another; in vain we searched through endless dells and
fern-clad crannies. There was nothing to be found. How could we expect
to find two human beings hidden away in the recesses of this vast
stretch of mountain ground, which no man yet had ever fully explored.
They were lost, and in all human probability lost for ever.

To and fro we wandered hopelessly, till at last dawn found us footsore
and weary nearly at the spot whence we had started. We sat down
waiting for the sun to rise, and the men ate of such food as they had
brought with them, and sent to the kraals for more.

I sat upon a stone with a breaking heart. I cannot describe my
feelings. Let the reader put himself in my position and perhaps he may
get some idea of them. Near me was old Indaba-zimbi, who sat staring
straight before him as though he were looking into space, and taking
note of what went on there. An idea struck me. This man had some
occult power. Several times during our adventures he had prophesied,
and in every case his prophecies had proved true. He it was who, when
we escaped from the Zulu Impi, had told me to steer north, because
there we should find the place of a white man who lived under the
shadow of a great peak that was full of baboons. Perhaps he could help
in this extremity--at any rate it was worth trying.

"Indaba-zimbi," I said, "you say that you can send your spirit through
the doors of space and see what we cannot see. At the least I know
that you can do strange things. Can you not help me now? If you can,
and will save her, I will give you half the cattle that we have here."

"I never said anything of the sort, Macumazahn," he answered. "I do
things, I do not talk about them. Neither do I seek reward for what I
do like a common witch-doctor. It is well that you have asked me to
use my wisdom, Macumazahn, for I should not have used it again without
being asked--no, not even for the sake of the Star and yourself, whom
I love, for if so my Spirit would have been angry. In the other
matters I had a part, for my life was concerned as well as yours; but
in this matter I have no part, and therefore I might not use my wisdom
unless you thought well to call upon my Spirit. However, it would have
been no good to ask me before, for I have only just found the herb I
want," and he produced a handful of the leaves of a plant that was
unfamiliar to me. It had prickly leaves, shaped very much like those
of the common English nettle.

"Now, Macumazahn," he went on, "bid the men leave us alone, and then
follow me presently to the little glade down there by the water."

I did so. When I reached the glade I found Indaba-zimbi kindling a
small fire under the shadow of a tree by the edge of the water.

"Sit there, Macumazahn," he said, pointing to a stone near the fire,
"and do not be surprised or frightened at anything you see. If you
move or call out we shall learn nothing."

I sat down and watched. When the fire was alight and burning brightly,
the old fellow stripped himself stark naked, and, going to the foot of
the pool, dipped himself in the water. Then he came back shivering
with the cold, and, leaning over the little fire, thrust leaves of the
plant I have mentioned into his mouth and began to chew them,
muttering as he chewed. Most of the remaining leaves he threw on to
the fire. A dense smoke rose from them, but he held his head in this
smoke and drew it down his lungs till I saw that he was exhibiting
every sign of suffocation. The veins in his throat and chest swelled,
he gasped loudly, and his eyes, from which tears were streaming,
seemed as though they were going to start from his head. Presently he
fell over on his side, and lay senseless. I was terribly alarmed, and
my first impulse was to run to his assistance, but fortunately I
remembered his caution, and sat quiet.

Indaba-zimbi lay on the ground like a person quite dead. His limbs had
all the utter relaxation of death. But as I watched I saw them begin
to stiffen, exactly as though /rigor mortis/ had set in. Then, to my
astonishment, I perceived them once more relax, and this time there
appeared upon his chest the stain of decomposition. It spread and
spread; in three minutes the man, to all appearance, was a livid
corpse.

I sat amazed watching this uncanny sight, and wondering if any further
natural process was about to be enacted. Perhaps Indaba-zimbi was
going to fall to dust before my eyes. As I watched I observed that the
discoloration was beginning to fade. First it vanished from the
extremities, then from the larger limbs, and lastly from the trunk.
Then in turn came the third stage of relaxation, the second stage of
stiffness or /rigor/, and the first stage of after-death collapse.
When all these had rapidly succeeded each other, Indaba-zimbi quietly
woke up.

I was too astonished to speak; I simply looked at him with my mouth
open.

"Well, Macumazahn," he said, putting his head on one side like a bird,
and nodding his white lock in a comical fashion, "it is all right; I
have seen her."

"Seen who?" I said.

"The Star, your wife, and the little maid. They are much frightened,
but unharmed. The Babyan-frau watches them. She is mad, but the
baboons obey her, and do not hurt them. The Star was sleeping from
weariness, so I whispered in her ear and told her not to be
frightened, for you would soon rescue her, and that meanwhile she must
seem to be pleased to have Hendrika near her."

"You whispered in her ear?" I said. "How could you whisper in her
ear?"

"Bah! Macumazahn. How could I seem to die and go rotten before your
eyes? You don't know, do you? Well, I will tell you one thing. I had
to die to pass the doors of space, as you call them. I had to draw all
the healthy strength and life from my body in order to gather power to
speak with the Star. It was a dangerous business, Macumazahn, for if I
had let things go a little further they must have stopped so, and
there would have been an end of Indaba-zimbi. Ah, you white men, you
know so much that you think you know everything. But you don't! You
are always staring at the clouds and can't see the things that lie at
your feet. You hardly believe me now, do you, Macumazahn? Well, I will
show you. Have you anything on you that the Star has touched or worn?"

I thought for a moment, and said that I had a lock of her hair in my
pocket-book. He told me to give it him. I did so. Going to the fire,
he lit the lock of hair in the flame, and let it burn to ashes, which
he caught in his left hand. These ashes he mixed up in a paste with
the juice of one of the leaves of the plant I have spoken of.

"Now, Macumazahn, shut your eyes," he said.

I did so, and he rubbed his paste on to my eyelids. At first it burnt
me, then my head swam strangely. Presently this effect passed off, and
my brain was perfectly clear again, but I could not feel the ground
with my feet. Indaba-zimbi led me to the side of the stream. Beneath
us was a pool of beautifully clear water.

"Look into the pool, Macumazahn," said Indaba-zimbi, and his voice
sounded hollow and far away in my ears.

I looked. The water grew dark; it cleared, and in it was a picture. I
saw a cave with a fire burning in it. Against the wall of the cave
rested Stella. Her dress was torn almost off her, she looked
dreadfully pale and weary, and her eyelids were red as though with
weeping. But she slept, and I could almost think that I saw her lips
shape my name in her sleep. Close to her, her head upon Stella's
breast, was little Tota; she had a skin thrown over her to keep out
the night cold. The child was awake, and appeared to be moaning with
fear. By the fire, and in such a position that the light fell full
upon her face, and engaged in cooking something in a rough pot shaped
from wood, sat the Baboon-woman, Hendrika. She was clothed in baboon
skins, and her face had been rubbed with some dark stain, which was,
however, wearing off it. In the intervals of her cooking she would
turn on Stella her wild eyes, in which glared visible madness, with an
expression of tenderness that amounted to worship. Then she would
stare at the child and gnash her teeth as though with hate. Clearly
she was jealous of it. Round the entrance arch of the cave peeped and
peered the heads of many baboons. Presently Hendrika made a sign to
one of them; apparently she did not speak, or rather grunt, in order
not to wake Stella. The brute hopped forward, and she gave it a second
rude wooden pot which was lying by her. It took it and went. The last
thing that I saw, as the vision slowly vanished from the pool, was the
dim shadow of the baboon returning with the pot full of water.

Presently everything had gone. I ceased to feel strange. There beneath
me was the pool, and at my side stood Indaba-zimbi, smiling.

"You have seen things," he said.

"I have," I answered, and made no further remark on the matter. What
was there to say?[*] "Do you know the path to the cave?" I added.

[*] For some almost equally remarkable instances of Kaffir magic the
reader is referred to a work named "Among the Zulus," by David
Leslie.--Editor.

He nodded his head. "I did not follow it all just now, because it
winds," he said. "But I know it. We shall want the ropes."

"Then let us be starting; the men have eaten."

He nodded his head again, and going to the men I told them to make
ready, adding that Indaba-zimbi knew the way. They said that was all
right, if Indaba-zimbi had "smelt her out," they should soon find the
Star. So we started cheerfully enough, and my spirits were so much
improved that I was able to eat a boiled mealie cob or two as we
walked.

We went up the valley, following the course of the stream for about a
mile; then Indaba-zimbi made a sudden turn to the right, along another
kloof, of which there were countless numbers in the base of the great
hill.

On we went through kloof after kloof. Indaba-zimbi, who led us, was
never at a loss, he turned up gulleys and struck across necks of hills
with the certainty of a hound on a hot scent. At length, after about
three hours' march, we came to a big silent valley on the northern
slope of the great peak. On one side of this valley was a series of
stony koppies, on the other rose a sheer wall of rock. We marched
along the wall for a distance of some two miles. Then suddenly Indaba-
zimbi halted.

"There is the place," he said, pointing to an opening in the cliff.
This opening was about forty feet from the ground, and ellipse-shaped.
It cannot have been more than twenty feet high by ten wide, and was
partially hidden by ferns and bushes that grew about it in the surface
of the cliff. Keen as my eyes were, I doubt if I should ever have
noticed it, for there were many such cracks and crannies in the rocky
face of the great mountain.

We drew near and looked carefully at the place. The first thing I
noticed was that the rock, which was not quite perpendicular, had been
worn by the continual passage of baboons; the second, that something
white was hanging on a bush near the top of the ascent.

It was a pocket-handkerchief.

Now there was no more doubt about the matter. With a beating heart I
began the ascent. For the first twenty feet it was comparatively easy,
for the rock shelved; the next ten feet was very difficult, but still
possible to an active man, and I achieved it, followed by Indaba-
zimbi. But the last twelve or fifteen feet could only be scaled by
throwing a rope over the trunk of a stunted tree, which grew at the
bottom of the opening. This we accomplished with some trouble, and the
rest was easy. A foot or two above my head the handkerchief fluttered
in the wind. Hanging to the rope, I grasped it. It was my wife's. As I
did so I noticed the face of a baboon peering at me over the edge of
the cleft, the first baboon we had seen that morning. The brute gave a
bark and vanished. Thrusting the handkerchief into my breast, I set my
feet against the cliff and scrambled up as hard as I could go. I knew
that we had no time to lose, for the baboon would quickly alarm the
others. I gained the cleft. It was a mere arched passage cut by water,
ending in a gulley, which led to a wide open space of some sort. I
looked through the passage and saw that the gulley was black with
baboons. On they came by the hundred. I unslung my elephant gun from
my shoulders and waited, calling to the men below to come up with all
possible speed. The brutes streamed on down the gloomy gulf towards
me, barking, grunting, and showing their huge teeth. I waited till
they were within fifteen yards. Then I fired the elephant gun, which
was loaded with slugs, right into the thick of them. In that narrow
place the report echoed like a cannon shot, but its sound was quickly
swallowed in the volley of piercing human-sounding groans and screams
that followed. The charge of heavy slugs had ploughed through the host
of baboons, of which at least a dozen lay dead or dying in the
passage. For a moment they hesitated, then they came on again with a
hideous clamour. Fortunately by this time Indaba-zimbi, who also had a
gun, was standing by my side, otherwise I should have been torn to
pieces before I could re-load. He fired both barrels into them, and
again checked the rush. But they came on again, and notwithstanding
the appearance of two other natives with guns, which they let off with
more or less success, we should have been overwhelmed by the great and
ferocious apes had I not by this time succeeded in re-loading the
elephant gun. When they were right on us, I fired, with even more
deadly effect than before, for at that distance every slug told on
their long line. The howls and screams of pain and rage were now
something inconceivable. One might have thought that we were doing
battle with a host of demons; indeed in that light--for the
overhanging arch of rock made it very dark--the gnashing snouts and
sombre glowing eyes of the apes looked like those of devils as they
are represented by monkish fancy. But the last shot was too much for
them; they withdrew, dragging some of their wounded with them, and
thus gave us time to get our men up the cliff. In a few minutes all
were there, and we advanced down the passage, which presently opened
into a rocky gulley with shelving sides. This gulley had a water-way
at the bottom of it; it was about a hundred yards long, and the slopes
on either side were topped by precipitous cliffs. I looked at these
slopes; they literally swarmed with baboons, grunting, barking,
screaming, and beating their breasts with their long arms, in fury. I
looked up the water-way; along it, accompanied by a mob, or, as it
were, a guard of baboons, ran Hendrika, her long hair flying, madness
written on her face, and in her arms was the senseless form of little
Tota.

She saw us, and a foam of rage burst from her lips. She screamed
aloud. To me the sound was a mere inarticulate cry, but the baboons
clearly understood it, for they began to roll rocks down on to us. One
boulder leaped past me and struck down a Kaffir behind; another fell
from the roof of the arch on to a man's head and killed him. Indaba-
zimbi lifted his gun to shoot Hendrika; I knocked it up, so that the
shot went over her, crying that he would kill the child. Then I
shouted to the men to open out and form a line from side to side of
the shelving gulley. Furious at the loss of their two comrades, they
obeyed me, and keeping in the water-way myself, together with Indaba-
zimbi and the other guns, I gave the word to charge.

Then the real battle began. It is difficult to say who fought the most
fiercely, the natives or the baboons. The Kaffirs charged along the
slopes, and as they came, encouraged by the screams of Hendrika, who
rushed to and fro holding the wretched Tota before her as a shield,
the apes bounded at them in fury. Scores were killed by the assegais,
and many more fell beneath our gun-shots; but still they came on. Nor
did we go scathless. Occasionally a man would slip, or be pulled over
in the grip of a baboon. Then the others would fling themselves upon
him like dogs on a rat, and worry him to death. We lost five men in
this way, and I myself received a bite through the fleshy part of the
left arm, but fortunately a native near me assegaied the animal before
I was pulled down.

At length, and all of a sudden, the baboons gave up. A panic seemed to
seize them. Notwithstanding the cries of Hendrika they thought no more
of fight, but only of escape; some even did not attempt to get away
from the assegais of the Kaffirs, they simply hid their horrible faces
in their paws, and, moaning piteously, waited to be slain.

Hendrika saw that the battle was lost. Dropping the child from her
arms, she rushed straight at us, a very picture of horrible insanity.
I lifted my gun, but could not bear to shoot. After all she was but a
mad thing, half ape, half woman. So I sprang to one side, and she
landed full on Indaba-zimbi, knocking him down. But she did not stay
to do any more. Wailing terribly, she rushed down the gulley and
through the arch, followed by a few of the surviving baboons, and
vanished from our sight.

CHAPTER XIII

WHAT HAPPENED TO STELLA

The fight was over. In all we had lost seven men killed, and several
more severely bitten, while but few had escaped without some tokens
whereby he might remember what a baboon's teeth and claws are like.
How many of the brutes we killed I never knew, because we did not
count, but it was a vast number. I should think that the stock must
have been low about Babyan's Peak for many years afterwards. From that
day to this, however, I have always avoided baboons, feeling more
afraid of them than any beast that lives.

The path was clear, and we rushed forward along the water-course. But
first we picked up little Tota. The child was not in a swoon, as I had
thought, but paralyzed by terror, so that she could scarcely speak.
Otherwise she was unhurt, though it took her many a week to recover
her nerve. Had she been older, and had she not remembered Hendrika, I
doubt if she would have recovered it. She knew me again, and flung her
little arms about my neck, clinging to me so closely that I did not
dare to give her to any one else to carry lest I should add to her
terrors. So I went on with her in my arms. The fears that pierced my
heart may well be imagined. Should I find Stella living or dead?
Should I find her at all? Well, we should soon know now. We stumbled
on up the stony watercourse; notwithstanding the weight of Tota I led
the way, for suspense lent me wings. Now we were through, and an
extraordinary scene lay before us. We were in a great natural
amphitheatre, only it was three times the size of any amphitheatre
ever shaped by man, and the walls were formed of precipitous cliffs,
ranging from one to two hundred feet in height. For the rest, the
space thus enclosed was level, studded with park-like trees, brilliant
with flowers, and having a stream running through the centre of it,
that, as I afterwards discovered, welled up from the ground at the
head of the open space.

We spread ourselves out in a line, searching everywhere, for Tota was
too overcome to be able to tell us where Stella was hidden away. For
nearly half an hour we searched and searched, scanning the walls of
rock for any possible openings to a cave. In vain, we could find none.
I applied to old Indaba-zimbi, but his foresight was at fault here.
All he could say was that this was the place, and that the "Star" was
hidden somewhere in a cave, but where the cave was he could not tell.
At last we came to the top of the amphitheatre. There before us was a
wall of rock, of which the lower parts were here and there clothed in
grasses, lichens, and creepers. I walked along it, calling at the top
of my voice.

Presently my heart stood still, for I thought I heard a faint answer.
I drew nearer to the place from which the sound seemed to come, and
again called. Yes, there was an answer in my wife's voice. It seemed
to come from the rock. I went up to it and searched among the
creepers, but still could find no opening.

"Move the stone," cried Stella's voice, "the cave is shut with a
stone."

I took a spear and prodded at the cliff whence the sound came.
Suddenly the spear sunk in through a mass of lichen. I swept the
lichen aside, revealing a boulder that had been rolled into the mouth
of an opening in the rock, which it fitted so accurately that, covered
as it was by the overhanging lichen, it might well have escaped the
keenest eye. We dragged the boulder out; it was two men's work to do
it. Beyond was a narrow, water-worn passage, which I followed with a
beating heart. Presently the passage opened into a small cave, shaped
like a pickle bottle, and coming to a neck at the top end. We passed
through and found ourselves in a second, much larger cave, that I at
once recognized as the one of which Indaba-zimbi had shown me a vision
in the water. Light reached it from above--how I know not--and by it I
could see a form half-sitting, half lying on some skins at the top end
of the cave. I rushed to it. It was Stella! Stella bound with strips
of hide, bruised, torn, but still Stella, and alive.

She saw me, she gave one cry, then, as I caught her in my arms, she
fainted. It was happy indeed that she did not faint before, for had it
not been for the sound of her voice I do not believe we should ever
have found that cunningly hidden cave, unless, indeed, Indaba-zimbi's
magic (on which be blessings) had come to our assistance.

We bore her to the open air, laid her beneath the shade of a tree, and
cut the bonds loose from her ankles. As we went I glanced at the cave.
It was exactly as I had seen it in the vision. There burnt the fire,
there were the rude wooden vessels, one of them still half full of the
water which I had seen the baboon bring. I felt awed as I looked, and
marvelled at the power wielded by a savage who could not even read and
write.

Now I could see Stella clearly. Her face was scratched, and haggard
with fear and weeping, her clothes were almost torn off her, and her
beautiful hair was loose and tangled. I sent for water, and we
sprinkled her face. Then I forced a little of the brandy which we
distilled from peaches at the kraals between her lips, and she opened
her eyes, and throwing her arms about me clung to me as little Tota
had done, sobbing, "Thank God! thank God!"

After a while she grew quieter, and I made her and Tota eat some food
from the store that we had brought with us. I too ate and was
thankful, for with the exception of the mealie cobs I had tasted
nothing for nearly four-and-twenty hours. Then she washed her face and
hands, and tidied her rags of dress as well as she was able. As she
did so by degrees I drew her story from her.

It seemed that on the previous afternoon, being wearied with packing,
she went out to visit her father's grave, taking Tota with her, and
was followed there by the two dogs. She wished to lay some flowers on
the grave and take farewell of the dust it covered, for as we had
expected to trek early on the morrow she did not know if she would
find a later opportunity. They passed up the garden, and gathering
some flowers from the orange trees and elsewhere, went on to the
little graveyard. Here she laid them on the grave as we had found
them, and then sitting down, fell into a deep and sad reverie, such as
the occasion would naturally induce. While she sat thus, Tota, who was
a lively child and active as a kitten, strayed away without Stella
observing it. With her went the dogs, who also had grown tired of
inaction; a while passed, and suddenly she heard the dogs barking
furiously about a hundred and fifty yards away. Then she heard Tota
scream, and the dogs also yelling with fear and pain. She rose and ran
as swiftly as she could towards the spot whence the sound came.
Presently she was there. Before her in the glade, holding the
screaming Tota in her arms, was a figure in which, notwithstanding the
rough disguise of baboon skins and colouring matter, she had no
difficulty in recognizing Hendrika, and all about her were numbers of
baboons, rolling over and over in two hideous heaps, of which the
centres were the unfortunate dogs now in process of being rent to
fragments.

"Hendrika," Stella cried, "what does this mean? What are you doing
with Tota and those brutes?"

The woman heard her and looked up. Then Stella saw that she was mad;
madness stared from her eyes. She dropped the child, which instantly
flew to Stella for protection. Stella clasped it, only to be herself
clasped by Hendrika. She struggled fiercely, but it was of no use--the
Babyan-frau had the strength of ten. She lifted her and Tota as though
they were nothing, and ran off with them, following the bed of the
stream in order to avoid leaving a spoor. Only the baboons who came
with her, minus the one the dogs had killed, would not take to the
water, but kept pace with them on the bank.

Stella said that the night which followed was more like a hideous
nightmare than a reality. She was never able to tell me all that
occurred in it. She had a vague recollection of being borne over rocks
and along kloofs, while around her echoed the horrible grunts and
clicks of the baboons. She spoke to Hendrika in English and Kaffir,
imploring her to let them go; but the woman, if I may call her so,
seemed in her madness to have entirely forgotten these tongues. When
Stella spoke she would kiss her and stroke her hair, but she did not
seem to understand what it was she said. On the other hand, she could,
and did, talk to the baboons, that seemed to obey her implicitly.
Moreover, she would not allow them to touch either Stella or the child
in her arms. Once one of them tried to do so, and she seized a dead
stick and struck it so heavily on the head that it fell senseless.
Thrice Stella made an attempt to escape, for sometimes even Hendrika's
giant strength waned and she had to set them down. But on each
occasion she caught them, and it was in these struggles that Stella's
clothes were so torn. At length before daylight they reached the
cliff, and with the first break of light the ascent began. Hendrika
dragged them up the first stages, but when they came to the
precipitous place she tied the strips of hide, of which she had a
supply wound round her waist, beneath Stella's arms. Steep as the
place was the baboons ascended it easily enough, springing from a
knock of rock to the trunk of the tree that grew on the edge of the
crevasse. Hendrika followed them, holding the end of the hide reim in
her teeth, one of the baboons hanging down from the tree to assist her
ascent. It was while she was ascending that Stella bethought of
letting fall her handkerchief in the faint hope that some searcher
might see it.

By this time Hendrika was on the tree, and grunting out orders to the
baboons which clustered about Stella below. Suddenly these seized her
and little Tota who was in her arms, and lifted her from the ground.
Then Hendrika above, aided by other baboons, put out all her great
strength and pulled the two of them up the rock. Twice Stella swung
heavily against the cliff. After the second blow she felt her senses
going, and was consumed with terror lest she should drop Tota. But she
managed to cling to her, and together they reached the cleft.

"From that time," Stella went on, "I remember no more till I woke to
find myself in a gloomy cave resting on a bed of skins. My legs were
bound, and Hendrika sat near me watching me, while round the edge of
the cave peered the heads of those horrible baboons. Tota was still in
my arms, and half dead from terror; her moans were pitiful to hear. I
spoke to Hendrika, imploring her to release us; but either she has
lost all understanding of human speech, or she pretends to have done
so. All she would do was to caress me, and even kiss my hands and
dress with extravagant signs of affection. As she did so, Tota shrunk
closer to me. This Hendrika saw and glared so savagely at the child
that I feared lest she was going to kill her. I diverted her attention
by making signs that I wanted water, and this she gave me in a wooden
bowl. As you saw, the cave was evidently Hendrika's dwelling-place.
There are stores of fruit in it and some strips of dried flesh. She
gave me some of the fruit and Tota a little, and I made Tota eat some.
You can never know what I went through, Allan. I saw now that Hendrika
was quite mad, and but little removed from the brutes to which she is
akin, and over which she has such unholy power. The only trace of
humanity left about her was her affection for me. Evidently her idea
was to keep me here with her, to keep me away from you, and to carry
out this idea she was capable of the exercise of every artifice and
cunning. In this way she was sane enough, but in every other way she
was mad. Moreover, she had not forgotten her horrible jealousy.
Already I saw her glaring at Tota, and knew that the child's murder
was only a matter of time. Probably within a few hours she would be
killed before my eyes. Of escape, even if I had the strength, there
was absolutely no chance, and little enough of our ever being found.
No, we should be kept here guarded by a mad thing, half ape, half
woman, till we perished miserably. Then I thought of you, dear, and of
all that you must be suffering, and my heart nearly broke. I could
only pray to God that I might either be rescued or die swiftly.

"As I prayed I dropped into a kind of doze from utter weariness, and
then I had the strangest dream. I dreamed that Indaba-zimbi stood over
me nodding his white lock, and spoke to me in Kaffir, telling me not
to be frightened, for you would soon be with me, and that meanwhile I
must humour Hendrika, pretending to be pleased to have her near me.
The dream was so vivid that I actually seemed to see and hear him, as
I see and hear him now."

Here I looked up and glanced at old Indaba-zimbi, who was sitting
near. But it was not till afterwards that I told Stella of how her
vision was brought about.

"At any rate," she went on, "when I awoke I determined to act on my
dream. I took Hendrika's hand, and pressed it. She actually laughed in
a wild kind of way with happiness, and laid her head upon my knee.
Then I made signs that I wanted food, and she threw wood on the fire,
which I forgot to tell you was burning in the cave, and began to make
some of the broth that she used to cook very well, and she did not
seem to have forgotten all about it. At any rate the broth was not
bad, though neither Tota nor I could drink much of it. Fright and
weariness had taken away our appetites.

"After the meal was done--and I prolonged it as much as possible--I
saw Hendrika was beginning to get jealous of Tota again. She glared at
her and then at the big knife which was tied round her own body. I
knew the knife again, it was the one with which she had tried to
murder you, dear. At last she went so far as to draw the knife. I was
paralyzed with fear, then suddenly I remembered that when she was our
servant, and used to get out of temper and sulk, I could always calm
her by singing to her. So I began to sing hymns. Instantly she forgot
her jealousy and put the knife back into its sheath. She knew the
sound of the singing, and sat listening to it with a rapt face; the
baboons, too, crowded in at the entrance of the cave to listen. I must
have sung for an hour or more, all the hymns that I could remember. It
was so very strange and dreadful sitting there singing to mad Hendrika
and those hideous man-like apes that shut their eyes and nodded their
great heads as I sang. It was a horrible nightmare; but I believe that
the baboons are almost as human as the Bushmen.

"Well, this went on for a long time till my voice was getting
exhausted. Then suddenly I heard the baboons outside raise a loud
noise, as they do when they are angry. Then, dear, I heard the boom of
your elephant gun, and I think it was the sweetest sound that ever
came to my ears. Hendrika heard it too. She sprang up, stood for a
moment, then, to my horror, swept Tota into her arms and rushed down
the cave. Of course I could not stir to follow her, for my feet were
tied. Next instant I heard the sound of a rock being moved, and
presently the lessening of the light in the cave told me that I was
shut in. Now the sound even of the elephant gun only reached me very
faintly, and presently I could hear nothing more, straining my ears as
I would.

"At last I heard a faint shouting that reached me through the wall of
rock. I answered as loud as I could. You know the rest; and oh, my
dear husband, thank God! thank God!" and she fell weeping into my
arms.

CHAPTER XIV

FIFTEEN YEARS AFTER

Both Stella and Tota were too weary to be moved, so we camped that
night in the baboons' home, but were troubled by no baboons. Stella
would not sleep in the cave; she said the place terrified her, so I
made her up a kind of bed under a thorn-tree. As this rock-bound
valley was one of the hottest places I ever was in, I thought that
this would not matter; but when at sunrise on the following morning I
saw a veil of miasmatic mist hanging over the surface of the ground, I
changed my opinion. However, neither Stella nor Tota seemed the worse,
so as soon as was practical we started homewards. I had already on the
previous day sent some of the men back to the kraals to fetch a
ladder, and when we reached the cliff we found them waiting for us
beneath. With the help of the ladder the descent was easy. Stella
simply got out of her rough litter at the top of the cliff, for we
found it necessary to carry her, climbed down the ladder, and got into
it again at the bottom.

Well, we reached the kraals safely enough, seeing nothing more of
Hendrika, and, were this a story, doubtless I should end it here with
--"and lived happily ever after." But alas! it is not so. How am I to
write it?

My dearest wife's vital energy seemed completely to fail her now that
the danger was past, and within twelve hours of our return I saw that
her state was such as to necessitate the abandonment of any idea of
leaving Babyan Kraals at present. The bodily exertion, the anguish of
mind, and the terror which she had endured during that dreadful night,
combined with her delicate state of health, had completely broken her
down. To make matters worse, also, she was taken with an attack of
fever, contracted no doubt in the unhealthy atmosphere of that
accursed valley. In time she shook the fever off, but it left her
dreadfully weak, and quite unfit to face the trial before her.

I think she knew that she was going to die; she always spoke of my
future, never of /our/ future. It is impossible for me to tell how
sweet she was; how gentle, how patient and resigned. Nor, indeed, do I
wish to tell it, it is too sad. But this I will say, I believe that if
ever a woman drew near to perfection while yet living on the earth,
Stella Quatermain did so.

The fatal hour drew on. My boy Harry was born, and his mother lived to
kiss and bless him. Then she sank. We did what we could, but we had
little skill, and might not hold her back from death. All through one
weary night I watched her with a breaking heart.

The dawn came, the sun rose in the east. His rays falling on the peak
behind were reflected in glory upon the bosom of the western sky.
Stella awoke from her swoon and saw the light. She whispered to me to
open the door of the hut. I did so, and she fixed her dying eyes on
the splendour of the morning sky. She looked on me and smiled as an
angel might smile. Then with a last effort she lifted her hand, and,
pointing to the radiant heavens, whispered:

"/There, Allan, there!/"

It was done, and I was broken-hearted, and broken-hearted I must
wander to the end. Those who have endured my loss will know my sorrow;
it cannot be written. In such peace and at such an hour may I also
die!

Yes, it is a sad story, but wander where we will about the world we
can never go beyond the sound of the passing bell. For me, as for my
father before me, and for the millions who have been and who shall be,
there is but one word of comfort. "The Lord hath given, and the Lord
hath taken away." Let us, then, bow our heads in hope, and add with a
humble heart, "Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I buried her by her father's side, and the weeping of the people who
had loved her went up to heaven. Even Indaba-zimbi wept, but I could
weep no more.

On the second night from her burial I could not sleep. I rose, dressed
myself, and went out into the night. The moon was shining brightly,
and by its rays I shaped my course towards the graveyard. I drew near
silently, and as I came I thought that I heard a sound of moaning on
the further side of the wall. I looked over it. Crouched by Stella's
grave, and tearing at its sods with her hands, as though she would
unearth that which lay within, was /Hendrika/. Her face was wild and
haggard, her form was so emaciated that when the pelts she wore
slipped aside, the shoulder-blades seemed to project almost through
her skin. Suddenly she looked up and saw me. Laughing a dreadful
maniac laugh, she put her hand to her girdle and drew her great knife
from it. I thought that she was about to attack me, and prepared to
defend myself as I best could, for I was unarmed. But she made no
effort to do so. Lifting the knife on high, for a moment she held it
glittering in the moonlight, then plunged it into her own breast, and
fell headlong to the ground.

I sprang over the wall and ran to her. She was not yet dead. Presently
she opened her eyes, and I saw that the madness had gone out of them.

"Macumazahn," she said, speaking in English and in an thick difficult
voice like one who half forgot and half remembered--"Macumazahn, I
remember now. I have been mad. Is she really dead, Macumazahn?"

"Yes," I said, "she is dead, and you killed her."

"I killed her!" the dying woman faltered, "and I loved her. Yes, yes,
I know now. I became a brute again and dragged her to the brutes, and
now once more I am a woman, and she is dead, and I killed her--because
I loved her so. I killed her who saved me from the brutes. I am not
dead yet, Macumazahn. Take me and torture me to death, slowly, very
slowly. It was jealousy of you that drove me mad, and I have killed
her, and now she never can forgive me."

"Ask forgiveness from above," I said, for Hendrika had been a
Christian, and the torment of her remorse touched me.

"I ask no forgiveness," she said. "May God torture me for ever,
because I killed her; may I become a brute for ever till she comes to
find me and forgives me! I only want her forgiveness." And wailing in
an anguish of the heart so strong that her bodily suffering seemed to
be forgotten, Hendrika, the Baboon-woman, died.

I went back to the kraals, and, waking Indaba-zimbi, told him what had
happened, asking him to send some one to watch the body, as I proposed
to give it burial. But next morning it was gone, and I found that the
natives, hearing of the event, had taken the corpse and thrown it to
the vultures with every mark of hate. Such, then, was the end of
Hendrika.

A week after Hendrika's death I left Babyan Kraals. The place was
hateful to me now; it was a haunted place. I sent for old Indaba-zimbi
and told him that I was going. He answered that it was well. "The
place has served your turn," he said; "here you have won that joy
which it was fated you should win, and have suffered those things that
it was fated you should suffer. Yes, and though you know it not now,
the joy and the suffering, like the sunshine and the storm, are the
same thing, and will rest at last in the same heaven, the heaven from
which they came. Now go, Macumazahn."

I asked him if he was coming with me.

"No," he answered, "our paths lie apart henceforth, Macumazahn. We met
together for certain ends. Those ends are fulfilled. Now each one goes
his own way. You have still many years before you, Macumazahn; my
years are few. When we shake hands here it will be for the last time.
Perhaps we may meet again, but it will not be in this world.
Henceforth we have each of us a friend the less."

"Heavy words," I said.

"True words," he answered.

Well, I have little heart to write the rest of it. I went, leaving
Indaba-zimbi in charge of the place, and making him a present of such
cattle and goods as I did not want.

Tota, I of course took with me. Fortunately by this time she had
almost recovered the shock to her nerves. The baby Harry, as he was
afterwards named, was a fine healthy child, and I was lucky in getting
a respectable native woman, whose husband had been killed in the fight
with the baboons, to accompany me as his nurse.

Slowly, and followed for a distance by all the people, I trekked away
from Babyan Kraals. My route towards Natal was along the edge of the
Bad Lands, and my first night's outspan was beneath that very tree
where Stella, my lost wife, had found us as we lay dying of thirst.

I did not sleep much that night. And yet I was glad that I had not
died in the desert about eleven months before. I felt then, as from
year to year I have continued to feel while I wander through the
lonely wilderness of life, that I had been preserved to an end. I had
won my darling's love, and for a little while we had been happy
together. Our happiness was too perfect to endure. She is lost to me
now, but she is lost to be found again.

Here on the following morning I bade farewell to Indaba-zimbi.

"Good-bye, Macumazahn," he said, nodding his white lock at me. "Good-
bye for a while. I am not a Christian; your father could not make me
that. But he was a wise man, and when he said that those who loved
each other shall meet again, he did not lie. And I too am a wise man
in my way, Macumazahn, and I say it is true that we shall meet again.
All my prophecies to you have come true, Macumazahn, and this one
shall come true also. I tell you that you shall return to Babyan
Kraals and shall not find me. I tell you that you shall journey to a
further land than Babyan Kraals and shall find me. Farewell!" and he
took a pinch of snuff, turned, and went.

Of my journey down to Natal there is little to tell. I met with many
adventures, but they were of an every-day kind, and in the end arrived
safely at Port Durban, which I now visited for the first time. Both
Tota and my baby boy bore the journey well. And here I may as well
chronicle the destiny of Tota. For a year she remained under my
charge. Then she was adopted by a lady, the wife of an English
colonel, who was stationed at the Cape. She was taken by her adopted
parents to England, where she grew up a very charming and pretty girl,
and ultimately married a clergyman in Norfolk. But I never saw her
again, though we often wrote to each other.

Before I returned to the country of my birth, she too had been
gathered to the land of shadows, leaving three children behind her. Ah
me! all this took place so long ago, when I was young who now am old.

Perhaps it may interest the reader to know the fate of Mr. Carson's
property, which should of course have gone to his grandson Harry. I
wrote to England to claim the estate on his behalf, but the lawyer to
whom the matter was submitted said that my marriage to Stella, not
having been celebrated by an ordained priest, was not legal according
to English law, and therefore Harry could not inherit. Foolishly
enough I acquiesced in this, and the property passed to a cousin of my
father-in-law's; but since I have come to live in England I have been
informed that this opinion is open to great suspicion, and that there
is every probability that the courts would have declared the marriage
perfectly binding as having been solemnly entered into in accordance
with the custom of the place where it was contracted. But I am now so
rich that it is not worth while to move in the matter. The cousin is
dead, his son is in possession, so let him keep it.

Once, and once only, did I revisit Babyan Kraals. Some fifteen years
after my darling's death, when I was a man in middle life, I undertook
an expedition to the Zambesi, and one night outspanned at the mouth of
the well-known valley beneath the shadow of the great peak. I mounted
my horse, and, quite alone, rode up the valley, noticing with a
strange prescience of evil that the road was overgrown, and, save for
the music of the waterfalls, the place silent as death. The kraals
that used to be to the left of the road by the river had vanished. I
rode towards their site; the mealie fields were choked with weeds, the
paths were dumb with grass. Presently I reached the place. There,
overgrown with grass, were the burnt ashes of the kraals, and there
among the ashes, gleaming in the moonlight, lay the white bones of
men. Now it was clear to me. The settlement had been fallen on by some
powerful foe, and its inhabitants put to the assegai. The forebodings
of the natives had come true; Babyan Kraals were peopled by memories
alone.

I passed on up the terraces. There shone the roofs of the marble huts.
They would not burn, and were too strong to be easily pulled down. I
entered one of them--it had been our sleeping hut--and lit a candle
which I had with me. The huts had been sacked; leaves of books and
broken mouldering fragments of the familiar furniture lay about. Then
I remembered that there was a secret place hollowed in the floor and
concealed by a stone, where Stella used to hide her little treasures.
I went to the stone and dragged it up. There was something within
wrapped in rotting native cloth. I undid it. It was the dress my wife
had been married in. In the centre of the dress were the withered
wreath and flowers she had worn, and with them a little paper packet.
I opened it; it contained a lock of my own hair!

I remembered then that I had searched for this dress when I came away
and could not find it, for I had forgotten the secret recess in the
floor.

Taking the dress with me, I left the hut for the last time. Leaving my
horse tied to a tree, I walked to the graveyard, through the ruined
garden. There it was a mass of weeds, but over my darling's grave grew
a self-sown orange bush, of which the scented petals fell in showers
on to the mound beneath. As I drew near, there was a crash and a rush.
A great baboon leapt from the centre of the graveyard and vanished
into the trees. I could almost believe that it was the wraith of
Hendrika doomed to keep an eternal watch over the bones of the woman
her jealous rage had done to death.

I tarried there a while, filled with such thoughts as may not be
written. Then, leaving my dead wife to her long sleep where the waters
fall in melancholy music beneath the shadow of the everlasting
mountain, I turned and sought that spot where first we had told our
love. Now the orange grove was nothing but a tangled thicket; many of
the trees were dead, choked with creepers, but some still flourished.
There stood the one beneath which we had lingered, there was the rock
that had been our seat, and there on the rock sat the wraith of
/Stella/, the Stella whom I had wed! Ay! there she sat, and on her
upturned face was that same spiritual look which I saw upon it in the
hour when we first had kissed. The moonlight shone in her dark eyes,
the breeze wavered in her curling hair, her breast rose and fell, a
gentle smile played about her parted lips. I stood transfixed with awe
and joy, gazing on that lost loveliness which once was mine. I could
not speak, and she spoke no word; she did not even seem to see me. Now
her eyes fell. For a moment they met mine, and their message entered
into me.

Then she was gone. She was gone; nothing was left but the tremulous
moonlight falling where she had been, the melancholy music of the
waters, the shadow of the everlasting mountain, and, in my heart, the
sorrow and the hope.

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