Part 2 out of 5
one o'clock, when we called a halt, and having drunk a little water,
not much, for water was precious, and rested for half an hour, we
On, on we went, till at last the east began to blush like the cheek of
a girl. Then there came faint rays of primrose light, that changed
presently to golden bars, through which the dawn glided out across the
desert. The stars grew pale and paler still, till at last they
vanished; the golden moon waxed wan, and her mountain ridges stood out
against her sickly face like the bones on the cheek of a dying man.
Then came spear upon spear of light flashing far away across the
boundless wilderness, piercing and firing the veils of mist, till the
desert was draped in a tremulous golden glow, and it was day.
Still we did not halt, though by this time we should have been glad
enough to do so, for we knew that when once the sun was fully up it
would be almost impossible for us to travel. At length, about an hour
later, we spied a little pile of boulders rising out of the plain, and
to this we dragged ourselves. As luck would have it, here we found an
overhanging slab of rock carpeted beneath with smooth sand, which
afforded a most grateful shelter from the heat. Underneath this we
crept, and each of us having drunk some water and eaten a bit of
biltong, we lay down and soon were sound asleep.
It was three o'clock in the afternoon before we woke, to find our
bearers preparing to return. They had seen enough of the desert
already, and no number of knives would have tempted them to come a
step farther. So we took a hearty drink, and having emptied our water-
bottles, filled them up again from the gourds that they had brought
with them, and then watched them depart on their twenty miles' tramp
At half-past four we also started. It was lonely and desolate work,
for with the exception of a few ostriches there was not a single
living creature to be seen on all the vast expanse of sandy plain.
Evidently it was too dry for game, and with the exception of a deadly-
looking cobra or two we saw no reptiles. One insect, however, we found
abundant, and that was the common or house fly. There they came, "not
as single spies, but in battalions," as I think the Old Testament[*]
says somewhere. He is an extraordinary insect is the house fly. Go
where you will you find him, and so it must have been always. I have
seen him enclosed in amber, which is, I was told, quite half a million
years old, looking exactly like his descendant of to-day, and I have
little doubt but that when the last man lies dying on the earth he
will be buzzing round--if this event happens to occur in summer--
watching for an opportunity to settle on his nose.
[*] Readers must beware of accepting Mr. Quatermain's references as
accurate, as, it has been found, some are prone to do. Although
his reading evidently was limited, the impression produced by it
upon his mind was mixed. Thus to him the Old Testament and
Shakespeare were interchangeable authorities.--Editor.
At sunset we halted, waiting for the moon to rise. At last she came
up, beautiful and serene as ever, and, with one halt about two o'clock
in the morning, we trudged on wearily through the night, till at last
the welcome sun put a period to our labours. We drank a little and
flung ourselves down on the sand, thoroughly tired out, and soon were
all asleep. There was no need to set a watch, for we had nothing to
fear from anybody or anything in that vast untenanted plain. Our only
enemies were heat, thirst, and flies, but far rather would I have
faced any danger from man or beast than that awful trinity. This time
we were not so lucky as to find a sheltering rock to guard us from the
glare of the sun, with the result that about seven o'clock we woke up
experiencing the exact sensations one would attribute to a beefsteak
on a gridiron. We were literally being baked through and through. The
burning sun seemed to be sucking our very blood out of us. We sat up
"Phew," said I, grabbing at the halo of flies which buzzed cheerfully
round my head. The heat did not affect /them/.
"My word!" said Sir Henry.
"It is hot!" echoed Good.
It was hot, indeed, and there was not a bit of shelter to be found.
Look where we would there was no rock or tree, nothing but an unending
glare, rendered dazzling by the heated air that danced over the
surface of the desert as it dances over a red-hot stove.
"What is to be done?" asked Sir Henry; "we can't stand this for long."
We looked at each other blankly.
"I have it," said Good, "we must dig a hole, get in it, and cover
ourselves with the karoo bushes."
It did not seem a very promising suggestion, but at least it was
better than nothing, so we set to work, and, with the trowel we had
brought with us and the help of our hands, in about an hour we
succeeded in delving out a patch of ground some ten feet long by
twelve wide to the depth of two feet. Then we cut a quantity of low
scrub with our hunting-knives, and creeping into the hole, pulled it
over us all, with the exception of Ventvögel, on whom, being a
Hottentot, the heat had no particular effect. This gave us some slight
shelter from the burning rays of the sun, but the atmosphere in that
amateur grave can be better imagined than described. The Black Hole of
Calcutta must have been a fool to it; indeed, to this moment I do not
know how we lived through the day. There we lay panting, and every now
and again moistening our lips from our scanty supply of water. Had we
followed our inclinations we should have finished all we possessed in
the first two hours, but we were forced to exercise the most rigid
care, for if our water failed us we knew that very soon we must perish
But everything has an end, if only you live long enough to see it, and
somehow that miserable day wore on towards evening. About three
o'clock in the afternoon we determined that we could bear it no
longer. It would be better to die walking that to be killed slowly by
heat and thirst in this dreadful hole. So taking each of us a little
drink from our fast diminishing supply of water, now warmed to about
the same temperature as a man's blood, we staggered forward.
We had then covered some fifty miles of wilderness. If the reader will
refer to the rough copy and translation of old da Silvestra's map, he
will see that the desert is marked as measuring forty leagues across,
and the "pan bad water" is set down as being about in the middle of
it. Now forty leagues is one hundred and twenty miles, consequently we
ought at the most to be within twelve or fifteen miles of the water if
any should really exist.
Through the afternoon we crept slowly and painfully along, scarcely
doing more than a mile and a half in an hour. At sunset we rested
again, waiting for the moon, and after drinking a little managed to
get some sleep.
Before we lay down, Umbopa pointed out to us a slight and indistinct
hillock on the flat surface of the plain about eight miles away. At
the distance it looked like an ant-hill, and as I was dropping off to
sleep I fell to wondering what it could be.
With the moon we marched again, feeling dreadfully exhausted, and
suffering tortures from thirst and prickly heat. Nobody who has not
felt it can know what we went through. We walked no longer, we
staggered, now and again falling from exhaustion, and being obliged to
call a halt every hour or so. We had scarcely energy left in us to
speak. Up to this Good had chatted and joked, for he is a merry
fellow; but now he had not a joke in him.
At last, about two o'clock, utterly worn out in body and mind, we came
to the foot of the queer hill, or sand koppie, which at first sight
resembled a gigantic ant-heap about a hundred feet high, and covering
at the base nearly two acres of ground.
Here we halted, and driven to it by our desperate thirst, sucked down
our last drops of water. We had but half a pint a head, and each of us
could have drunk a gallon.
Then we lay down. Just as I was dropping off to sleep I heard Umbopa
remark to himself in Zulu--
"If we cannot find water we shall all be dead before the moon rises
I shuddered, hot as it was. The near prospect of such an awful death
is not pleasant, but even the thought of it could not keep me from
Two hours later, that is, about four o'clock, I woke up, for so soon
as the first heavy demand of bodily fatigue had been satisfied, the
torturing thirst from which I was suffering asserted itself. I could
sleep no more. I had been dreaming that I was bathing in a running
stream, with green banks and trees upon them, and I awoke to find
myself in this arid wilderness, and to remember, as Umbopa had said,
that if we did not find water this day we must perish miserably. No
human creature could live long without water in that heat. I sat up
and rubbed my grimy face with my dry and horny hands, as my lips and
eyelids were stuck together, and it was only after some friction and
with an effort that I was able to open them. It was not far from dawn,
but there was none of the bright feel of dawn in the air, which was
thick with a hot murkiness that I cannot describe. The others were
Presently it began to grow light enough to read, so I drew out a
little pocket copy of the "Ingoldsby Legends" which I had brought with
me, and read "The Jackdaw of Rheims." When I got to where
"A nice little boy held a golden ewer,
Embossed, and filled with water as pure
As any that flows between Rheims and Namur,"
literally I smacked my cracking lips, or rather tried to smack them.
The mere thought of that pure water made me mad. If the Cardinal had
been there with his bell, book, and candle, I would have whipped in
and drunk his water up; yes, even if he had filled it already with the
suds of soap "worthy of washing the hands of the Pope," and I knew
that the whole consecrated curse of the Catholic Church should fall
upon me for so doing. I almost think that I must have been a little
light-headed with thirst, weariness and the want of food; for I fell
to thinking how astonished the Cardinal and his nice little boy and
the jackdaw would have looked to see a burnt up, brown-eyed, grizzly-
haired little elephant hunter suddenly bound between them, put his
dirty face into the basin, and swallow every drop of the precious
water. The idea amused me so much that I laughed or rather cackled
aloud, which woke the others, and they began to rub /their/ dirty
faces and drag /their/ gummed-up lips and eyelids apart.
As soon as we were all well awake we began to discuss the situation,
which was serious enough. Not a drop of water was left. We turned the
bottles upside down, and licked their tops, but it was a failure; they
were dry as a bone. Good, who had charge of the flask of brandy, got
it out and looked at it longingly; but Sir Henry promptly took it away
from him, for to drink raw spirit would only have been to precipitate
"If we do not find water we shall die," he said.
"If we can trust to the old Dom's map there should be some about," I
said; but nobody seemed to derive much satisfaction from this remark.
It was so evident that no great faith could be put in the map. Now it
was gradually growing light, and as we sat staring blankly at each
other, I observed the Hottentot Ventvögel rise and begin to walk about
with his eyes on the ground. Presently he stopped short, and uttering
a guttural exclamation, pointed to the earth.
"What is it?" we exclaimed; and rising simultaneously we went to where
he was standing staring at the sand.
"Well," I said, "it is fresh Springbok spoor; what of it?"
"Springbucks do not go far from water," he answered in Dutch.
"No," I answered, "I forgot; and thank God for it."
This little discovery put new life into us; for it is wonderful, when
a man is in a desperate position, how he catches at the slightest
hope, and feels almost happy. On a dark night a single star is better
Meanwhile Ventvögel was lifting his snub nose, and sniffing the hot
air for all the world like an old Impala ram who scents danger.
Presently he spoke again.
"I /smell/ water," he said.
Then we felt quite jubilant, for we knew what a wonderful instinct
these wild-bred men possess.
Just at that moment the sun came up gloriously, and revealed so grand
a sight to our astonished eyes that for a moment or two we even forgot
There, not more than forty or fifty miles from us, glittering like
silver in the early rays of the morning sun, soared Sheba's Breasts;
and stretching away for hundreds of miles on either side of them ran
the great Suliman Berg. Now that, sitting here, I attempt to describe
the extraordinary grandeur and beauty of that sight, language seems to
fail me. I am impotent even before its memory. Straight before us,
rose two enormous mountains, the like of which are not, I believe, to
be seen in Africa, if indeed there are any other such in the world,
measuring each of them at least fifteen thousand feet in height,
standing not more than a dozen miles apart, linked together by a
precipitous cliff of rock, and towering in awful white solemnity
straight into the sky. These mountains placed thus, like the pillars
of a gigantic gateway, are shaped after the fashion of a woman's
breasts, and at times the mists and shadows beneath them take the form
of a recumbent woman, veiled mysteriously in sleep. Their bases swell
gently from the plain, looking at that distance perfectly round and
smooth; and upon the top of each is a vast hillock covered with snow,
exactly corresponding to the nipple on the female breast. The stretch
of cliff that connects them appears to be some thousands of feet in
height, and perfectly precipitous, and on each flank of them, so far
as the eye can reach, extent similar lines of cliff, broken only here
and there by flat table-topped mountains, something like the world-
famed one at Cape Town; a formation, by the way, that is very common
To describe the comprehensive grandeur of that view is beyond my
powers. There was something so inexpressibly solemn and overpowering
about those huge volcanoes--for doubtless they are extinct volcanoes--
that it quite awed us. For a while the morning lights played upon the
snow and the brown and swelling masses beneath, and then, as though to
veil the majestic sight from our curious eyes, strange vapours and
clouds gathered and increased around the mountains, till presently we
could only trace their pure and gigantic outlines, showing ghostlike
through the fleecy envelope. Indeed, as we afterwards discovered,
usually they were wrapped in this gauze-like mist, which doubtless
accounted for our not having seen them more clearly before.
Sheba's Breasts had scarcely vanished into cloud-clad privacy, before
our thirst--literally a burning question--reasserted itself.
It was all very well for Ventvögel to say that he smelt water, but we
could see no signs of it, look which way we would. So far as the eye
might reach there was nothing but arid sweltering sand and karoo
scrub. We walked round the hillock and gazed about anxiously on the
other side, but it was the same story, not a drop of water could be
found; there was no indication of a pan, a pool, or a spring.
"You are a fool," I said angrily to Ventvögel; "there is no water."
But still he lifted his ugly snub nose sniffed.
"I smell it, Baas," he answered; "it is somewhere in the air."
"Yes," I said, "no doubt it is in the clouds, and about two months
hence it will fall and wash our bones."
Sir Henry stroked his yellow beard thoughtfully. "Perhaps it is on the
top of the hill," he suggested.
"Rot," said Good; "whoever heard of water being found at the top of a
"Let us go and look," I put in, and hopelessly enough we scrambled up
the sandy sides of the hillock, Umbopa leading. Presently he stopped
as though he was petrified.
"/Nanzia manzie/!" that is, "Here is water!" he cried with a loud
We rushed up to him, and there, sure enough, in a deep cut or
indentation on the very top of the sand koppie, was an undoubted pool
of water. How it came to be in such a strange place we did not stop to
inquire, nor did we hesitate at its black and unpleasant appearance.
It was water, or a good imitation of it, and that was enough for us.
We gave a bound and a rush, and in another second we were all down on
our stomachs sucking up the uninviting fluid as though it were nectar
fit for the gods. Heavens, how we did drink! Then when we had done
drinking we tore off our clothes and sat down in the pool, absorbing
the moisture through our parched skins. You, Harry, my boy, who have
only to turn on a couple of taps to summon "hot" and "cold" from an
unseen, vasty cistern, can have little idea of the luxury of that
muddy wallow in brackish tepid water.
After a while we rose from it, refreshed indeed, and fell to on our
"biltong," of which we had scarcely been able to touch a mouthful for
twenty-four hours, and ate our fill. Then we smoked a pipe, and lay
down by the side of that blessed pool, under the overhanging shadow of
its bank, and slept till noon.
All that day we rested there by the water, thanking our stars that we
had been lucky enough to find it, bad as it was, and not forgetting to
render a due share of gratitude to the shade of the long-departed da
Silvestra, who had set its position down so accurately on the tail of
his shirt. The wonderful thing to us was that the pan should have
lasted so long, and the only way in which I can account for this is on
the supposition that it is fed by some spring deep down in the sand.
Having filled both ourselves and our water-bottles as full as
possible, in far better spirits we started off again with the moon.
That night we covered nearly five-and-twenty miles; but, needless to
say, found no more water, though we were lucky enough the following
day to get a little shade behind some ant-heaps. When the sun rose,
and, for awhile, cleared away the mysterious mists, Suliman's Berg
with the two majestic Breasts, now only about twenty miles off, seemed
to be towering right above us, and looked grander than ever. At the
approach of evening we marched again, and, to cut a long story short,
by daylight next morning found ourselves upon the lowest slopes of
Sheba's left breast, for which we had been steadily steering. By this
time our water was exhausted once more, and we were suffering severely
from thirst, nor indeed could we see any chance of relieving it till
we reached the snow line far, far above us. After resting an hour or
two, driven to it by our torturing thirst, we went on, toiling
painfully in the burning heat up the lava slopes, for we found that
the huge base of the mountain was composed entirely of lava beds
belched from the bowels of the earth in some far past age.
By eleven o'clock we were utterly exhausted, and, generally speaking,
in a very bad state indeed. The lava clinker, over which we must drag
ourselves, though smooth compared with some clinker I have heard of,
such as that on the Island of Ascension, for instance, was yet rough
enough to make our feet very sore, and this, together with our other
miseries, had pretty well finished us. A few hundred yards above us
were some large lumps of lava, and towards these we steered with the
intention of lying down beneath their shade. We reached them, and to
our surprise, so far as we had a capacity for surprise left in us, on
a little plateau or ridge close by we saw that the clinker was covered
with a dense green growth. Evidently soil formed of decomposed lava
had rested there, and in due course had become the receptacle of seeds
deposited by birds. But we did not take much further interest in the
green growth, for one cannot live on grass like Nebuchadnezzar. That
requires a special dispensation of Providence and peculiar digestive
So we sat down under the rocks and groaned, and for one I wished
heartily that we had never started on this fool's errand. As we were
sitting there I saw Umbopa get up and hobble towards the patch of
green, and a few minutes afterwards, to my great astonishment, I
perceived that usually very dignified individual dancing and shouting
like a maniac, and waving something green. Off we all scrambled
towards him as fast as our wearied limbs would carry us, hoping that
he had found water.
"What is it, Umbopa, son of a fool?" I shouted in Zulu.
"It is food and water, Macumazahn," and again he waved the green
Then I saw what he had found. It was a melon. We had hit upon a patch
of wild melons, thousands of them, and dead ripe.
"Melons!" I yelled to Good, who was next me; and in another minute his
false teeth were fixed in one of them.
I think we ate about six each before we had done, and poor fruit as
they were, I doubt if I ever thought anything nicer.
But melons are not very nutritious, and when we had satisfied our
thirst with their pulpy substance, and put a stock to cool by the
simple process of cutting them in two and setting them end on in the
hot sun to grow cold by evaporation, we began to feel exceedingly
hungry. We had still some biltong left, but our stomachs turned from
biltong, and besides, we were obliged to be very sparing of it, for we
could not say when we should find more food. Just at this moment a
lucky thing chanced. Looking across the desert I saw a flock of about
ten large birds flying straight towards us.
"/Skit, Baas, skit!/" "Shoot, master, shoot!" whispered the Hottentot,
throwing himself on his face, an example which we all followed.
Then I saw that the birds were a flock of /pauw/ or bustards, and that
they would pass within fifty yards of my head. Taking one of the
repeating Winchesters, I waited till they were nearly over us, and
then jumped to my feet. On seeing me the /pauw/ bunched up together,
as I expected that they would, and I fired two shots straight into the
thick of them, and, as luck would have it, brought one down, a fine
fellow, that weighed about twenty pounds. In half an hour we had a
fire made of dry melon stalks, and he was toasting over it, and we
made such a feed as we had not tasted for a week. We ate that /pauw/;
nothing was left of him but his leg-bones and his beak, and we felt
not a little the better afterwards.
That night we went on again with the moon, carrying as many melons as
we could with us. As we ascended we found the air grew cooler and
cooler, which was a great relief to us, and at dawn, so far as we
could judge, we were not more than about a dozen miles from the snow
line. Here we discovered more melons, and so had no longer any anxiety
about water, for we knew that we should soon get plenty of snow. But
the ascent had now become very precipitous, and we made but slow
progress, not more than a mile an hour. Also that night we ate our
last morsel of biltong. As yet, with the exception of the /pauw/, we
had seen no living thing on the mountain, nor had we come across a
single spring or stream of water, which struck us as very odd,
considering the expanse of snow above us, which must, we thought, melt
sometimes. But as we afterwards discovered, owing to a cause which it
is quite beyond my power to explain, all the streams flowed down upon
the north side of the mountains.
Now we began to grow very anxious about food. We had escaped death by
thirst, but it seemed probable that it was only to die of hunger. The
events of the next three miserable days are best described by copying
the entries made at the time in my note-book.
"21st May.--Started 11 a.m., finding the atmosphere quite cold enough
to travel by day, and carrying some water-melons with us. Struggled on
all day, but found no more melons, having evidently passed out of
their district. Saw no game of any sort. Halted for the night at
sundown, having had no food for many hours. Suffered much during the
night from cold.
"22nd.--Started at sunrise again, feeling very faint and weak. Only
made about five miles all day; found some patches of snow, of which we
ate, but nothing else. Camped at night under the edge of a great
plateau. Cold bitter. Drank a little brandy each, and huddled
ourselves together, each wrapped up in his blanket, to keep ourselves
alive. Are now suffering frightfully from starvation and weariness.
Thought that Ventvögel would have died during the night.
"23rd.--Struggled forward once more as soon as the sun was well up,
and had thawed our limbs a little. We are now in a dreadful plight,
and I fear that unless we get food this will be our last day's
journey. But little brandy left. Good, Sir Henry, and Umbopa bear up
wonderfully, but Ventvögel is in a very bad way. Like most Hottentots,
he cannot stand cold. Pangs of hunger not so bad, but have a sort of
numb feeling about the stomach. Others say the same. We are now on a
level with the precipitous chain, or wall of lava, linking the two
Breasts, and the view is glorious. Behind us the glowing desert rolls
away to the horizon, and before us lie mile upon mile of smooth hard
snow almost level, but swelling gently upwards, out of the centre of
which the nipple of the mountain, that appears to be some miles in
circumference, rises about four thousand feet into the sky. Not a
living thing is to be seen. God help us; I fear that our time has
And now I will drop the journal, partly because it is not very
interesting reading; also what follows requires telling rather more
All that day--the 23rd May--we struggled slowly up the incline of
snow, lying down from time to time to rest. A strange gaunt crew we
must have looked, while, laden as we were, we dragged our weary feet
over the dazzling plain, glaring round us with hungry eyes. Not that
there was much use in glaring, for we could see nothing to eat. We did
not accomplish more than seven miles that day. Just before sunset we
found ourselves exactly under the nipple of Sheba's left Breast, which
towered thousands of feet into the air, a vast smooth hillock of
frozen snow. Weak as we were, we could not but appreciate the
wonderful scene, made even more splendid by the flying rays of light
from the setting sun, which here and there stained the snow blood-red,
and crowned the great dome above us with a diadem of glory.
"I say," gasped Good, presently, "we ought to be somewhere near that
cave the old gentleman wrote about."
"Yes," said I, "if there is a cave."
"Come, Quatermain," groaned Sir Henry, "don't talk like that; I have
every faith in the Dom; remember the water! We shall find the place
"If we don't find it before dark we are dead men, that is all about
it," was my consolatory reply.
For the next ten minutes we trudged in silence, when suddenly Umbopa,
who was marching along beside me, wrapped in his blanket, and with a
leather belt strapped so tightly round his stomach, to "make his
hunger small," as he said, that his waist looked like a girl's, caught
me by the arm.
"Look!" he said, pointing towards the springing slope of the nipple.
I followed his glance, and some two hundred yards from us perceived
what appeared to be a hole in the snow.
"It is the cave," said Umbopa.
We made the best of our way to the spot, and found sure enough that
the hole was the mouth of a cavern, no doubt the same as that of which
da Silvestra wrote. We were not too soon, for just as we reached
shelter the sun went down with startling rapidity, leaving the world
nearly dark, for in these latitudes there is but little twilight. So
we crept into the cave, which did not appear to be very big, and
huddling ourselves together for warmth, swallowed what remained of our
brandy--barely a mouthful each--and tried to forget our miseries in
sleep. But the cold was too intense to allow us to do so, for I am
convinced that at this great altitude the thermometer cannot have
marked less than fourteen or fifteen degrees below freezing point.
What such a temperature meant to us, enervated as we were by hardship,
want of food, and the great heat of the desert, the reader may imagine
better than I can describe. Suffice it to say that it was something as
near death from exposure as I have ever felt. There we sat hour after
hour through the still and bitter night, feeling the frost wander
round and nip us now in the finger, now in the foot, now in the face.
In vain did we huddle up closer and closer; there was no warmth in our
miserable starved carcases. Sometimes one of us would drop into an
uneasy slumber for a few minutes, but we could not sleep much, and
perhaps this was fortunate, for if we had I doubt if we should have
ever woke again. Indeed, I believe that it was only by force of will
that we kept ourselves alive at all.
Not very long before dawn I heard the Hottentot Ventvögel, whose teeth
had been chattering all night like castanets, give a deep sigh. Then
his teeth stopped chattering. I did not think anything of it at the
time, concluding that he had gone to sleep. His back was resting
against mine, and it seemed to grow colder and colder, till at last it
felt like ice.
At length the air began to grow grey with light, then golden arrows
sped across the snow, and at last the glorious sun peeped above the
lava wall and looked in upon our half-frozen forms. Also it looked
upon Ventvögel, sitting there amongst us, /stone dead/. No wonder his
back felt cold, poor fellow. He had died when I heard him sigh, and
was now frozen almost stiff. Shocked beyond measure, we dragged
ourselves from the corpse--how strange is that horror we mortals have
of the companionship of a dead body--and left it sitting there, its
arms clasped about its knees.
By this time the sunlight was pouring its cold rays, for here they
were cold, straight into the mouth of the cave. Suddenly I heard an
exclamation of fear from someone, and turned my head.
And this is what I saw: Sitting at the end of the cavern--it was not
more than twenty feet long--was another form, of which the head rested
on its chest and the long arms hung down. I stared at it, and saw that
this too was a /dead man/, and, what was more, a white man.
The others saw also, and the sight proved too much for our shattered
nerves. One and all we scrambled out of the cave as fast as our half-
frozen limbs would carry us.
Outside the cavern we halted, feeling rather foolish.
"I am going back," said Sir Henry.
"Why?" asked Good.
"Because it has struck me that--what we saw--may be my brother."
This was a new idea, and we re-entered the place to put it to the
proof. After the bright light outside, our eyes, weak as they were
with staring at the snow, could not pierce the gloom of the cave for a
while. Presently, however, they grew accustomed to the semi-darkness,
and we advanced towards the dead man.
Sir Henry knelt down and peered into his face.
"Thank God," he said, with a sigh of relief, "it is /not/ my brother."
Then I drew near and looked. The body was that of a tall man in middle
life with aquiline features, grizzled hair, and a long black
moustache. The skin was perfectly yellow, and stretched tightly over
the bones. Its clothing, with the exception of what seemed to be the
remains of a woollen pair of hose, had been removed, leaving the
skeleton-like frame naked. Round the neck of the corpse, which was
frozen perfectly stiff, hung a yellow ivory crucifix.
"Who on earth can it be?" said I.
"Can't you guess?" asked Good.
I shook my head.
"Why, the old Dom, José da Silvestra, of course--who else?"
"Impossible," I gasped; "he died three hundred years ago."
"And what is there to prevent him from lasting for three thousand
years in this atmosphere, I should like to know?" asked Good. "If only
the temperature is sufficiently low, flesh and blood will keep fresh
as New Zealand mutton for ever, and Heaven knows it is cold enough
here. The sun never gets in here; no animal comes here to tear or
destroy. No doubt his slave, of whom he speaks on the writing, took
off his clothes and left him. He could not have buried him alone.
Look!" he went on, stooping down to pick up a queerly-shaped bone
scraped at the end into a sharp point, "here is the 'cleft bone' that
Silvestra used to draw the map with."
We gazed for a moment astonished, forgetting our own miseries in this
extraordinary and, as it seemed to us, semi-miraculous sight.
"Ay," said Sir Henry, "and this is where he got his ink from," and he
pointed to a small wound on the Dom's left arm. "Did ever man see such
a thing before?"
There was no longer any doubt about the matter, which for my own part
I confess perfectly appalled me. There he sat, the dead man, whose
directions, written some ten generations ago, had led us to this spot.
Here in my own hand was the rude pen with which he had written them,
and about his neck hung the crucifix that his dying lips had kissed.
Gazing at him, my imagination could reconstruct the last scene of the
drama, the traveller dying of cold and starvation, yet striving to
convey to the world the great secret which he had discovered:--the
awful loneliness of his death, of which the evidence sat before us. It
even seemed to me that I could trace in his strongly-marked features a
likeness to those of my poor friend Silvestre his descendant, who had
died twenty years before in my arms, but perhaps that was fancy. At
any rate, there he sat, a sad memento of the fate that so often
overtakes those who would penetrate into the unknown; and there
doubtless he will still sit, crowned with the dread majesty of death,
for centuries yet unborn, to startle the eyes of wanderers like
ourselves, if ever any such should come again to invade his
loneliness. The thing overpowered us, already almost perished as we
were with cold and hunger.
"Let us go," said Sir Henry in a low voice; "stay, we will give him a
companion," and lifting up the dead body of the Hottentot Ventvögel,
he placed it near to that of the old Dom. Then he stooped, and with a
jerk broke the rotten string of the crucifix which hung round da
Silvestra's neck, for his fingers were too cold to attempt to unfasten
it. I believe that he has it still. I took the bone pen, and it is
before me as I write--sometimes I use it to sign my name.
Then leaving these two, the proud white man of a past age, and the
poor Hottentot, to keep their eternal vigil in the midst of the
eternal snows, we crept out of the cave into the welcome sunshine and
resumed our path, wondering in our hearts how many hours it would be
before we were even as they are.
When we had walked about half a mile we came to the edge of the
plateau, for the nipple of the mountain does not rise out of its exact
centre, though from the desert side it had seemed to do so. What lay
below us we could not see, for the landscape was wreathed in billows
of morning fog. Presently, however, the higher layers of mist cleared
a little, and revealed, at the end of a long slope of snow, a patch of
green grass, some five hundred yards beneath us, through which a
stream was running. Nor was this all. By the stream, basking in the
bright sun, stood and lay a group of from ten to fifteen /large
antelopes/--at that distance we could not see of what species.
The sight filled us with an unreasoning joy. If only we could get it,
there was food in plenty. But the question was how to do so. The
beasts were fully six hundred yards off, a very long shot, and one not
to be depended on when our lives hung on the results.
Rapidly we discussed the advisability of trying to stalk the game, but
in the end dismissed it reluctantly. To begin with, the wind was not
favourable, and further, we must certainly be perceived, however
careful we were, against the blinding background of snow, which we
should be obliged to traverse.
"Well, we must have a try from where we are," said Sir Henry. "Which
shall it be, Quatermain, the repeating rifles or the expresses?"
Here again was a question. The Winchester repeaters--of which we had
two, Umbopa carrying poor Ventvögel's as well as his own--were sighted
up to a thousand yards, whereas the expresses were only sighted to
three hundred and fifty, beyond which distance shooting with them was
more or less guess-work. On the other hand, if they did hit, the
express bullets, being "expanding," were much more likely to bring the
game down. It was a knotty point, but I made up my mind that we must
risk it and use the expresses.
"Let each of us take the buck opposite to him. Aim well at the point
of the shoulder and high up," said I; "and Umbopa, do you give the
word, so that we may all fire together."
Then came a pause, each of us aiming his level best, as indeed a man
is likely to do when he knows that life itself depends upon the shot.
"Fire," said Umbopa in Zulu, and at almost the same instant the three
rifles rang out loudly; three clouds of smoke hung for a moment before
us, and a hundred echoes went flying over the silent snow. Presently
the smoke cleared, and revealed--oh, joy!--a great buck lying on its
back and kicking furiously in its death agony. We gave a yell of
triumph--we were saved--we should not starve. Weak as we were, we
rushed down the intervening slope of snow, and in ten minutes from the
time of shooting, that animal's heart and liver were lying before us.
But now a new difficulty arose, we had no fuel, and therefore could
make no fire to cook them. We gazed at each other in dismay.
"Starving men should not be fanciful," said Good; "we must eat raw
There was no other way out of the dilemma, and our gnawing hunger made
the proposition less distasteful than it would otherwise have been. So
we took the heart and liver and buried them for a few minutes in a
patch of snow to cool them. Then we washed them in the ice-cold water
of the stream, and lastly ate them greedily. It sounds horrible
enough, but honestly, I never tasted anything so good as that raw
meat. In a quarter of an hour we were changed men. Our life and vigour
came back to us, our feeble pulses grew strong again, and the blood
went coursing through our veins. But mindful of the results of over-
feeding on starved stomachs, we were careful not to eat too much,
stopping whilst we were still hungry.
"Thank Heaven!" said Sir Henry; "that brute has saved our lives. What
is it, Quatermain?"
I rose and went to look at the antelope, for I was not certain. It was
about the size of a donkey, with large curved horns. I had never seen
one like it before; the species was new to me. It was brown in colour,
with faint red stripes, and grew a thick coat. I afterwards discovered
that the natives of that wonderful country call these bucks "/inco/."
They are very rare, and only found at a great altitude where no other
game will live. This animal was fairly hit high up in the shoulder,
though whose bullet brought it down we could not, of course, discover.
I believe that Good, mindful of his marvellous shot at the giraffe,
secretly set it down to his own prowess, and we did not contradict
We had been so busy satisfying our hunger that hitherto we had not
found time to look about us. But now, having set Umbopa to cut off as
much of the best meat as we were likely to be able to carry, we began
to inspect our surroundings. The mist had cleared away, for it was
eight o'clock, and the sun had sucked it up, so we were able to take
in all the country before us at a glance. I know not how to describe
the glorious panorama which unfolded itself to our gaze. I have never
seen anything like it before, nor shall, I suppose, again.
Behind and over us towered Sheba's snowy Breasts, and below, some five
thousand feet beneath where we stood, lay league on league of the most
lovely champaign country. Here were dense patches of lofty forest,
there a great river wound its silvery way. To the left stretched a
vast expanse of rich, undulating veld or grass land, whereon we could
just make out countless herds of game or cattle, at that distance we
could not tell which. This expanse appeared to be ringed in by a wall
of distant mountains. To the right the country was more or less
mountainous; that is, solitary hills stood up from its level, with
stretches of cultivated land between, amongst which we could see
groups of dome-shaped huts. The landscape lay before us as a map,
wherein rivers flashed like silver snakes, and Alp-like peaks crowned
with wildly twisted snow wreaths rose in grandeur, whilst over all was
the glad sunlight and the breath of Nature's happy life.
Two curious things struck us as we gazed. First, that the country
before us must lie at least three thousand feet higher than the desert
we had crossed, and secondly, that all the rivers flowed from south to
north. As we had painful reason to know, there was no water upon the
southern side of the vast range on which we stood, but on the northern
face were many streams, most of which appeared to unite with the great
river we could see winding away farther than our eyes could follow.
We sat down for a while and gazed in silence at this wonderful view.
Presently Sir Henry spoke.
"Isn't there something on the map about Solomon's Great Road?" he
I nodded, for I was still gazing out over the far country.
"Well, look; there it is!" and he pointed a little to our right.
Good and I looked accordingly, and there, winding away towards the
plain, was what appeared to be a wide turnpike road. We had not seen
it at first because, on reaching the plain, it turned behind some
broken country. We did not say anything, at least, not much; we were
beginning to lose the sense of wonder. Somehow it did not seem
particularly unnatural that we should find a sort of Roman road in
this strange land. We accepted the fact, that was all.
"Well," said Good, "it must be quite near us if we cut off to the
right. Hadn't we better be making a start?"
This was sound advice, and so soon as we had washed our faces and
hands in the stream we acted on it. For a mile or more we made our way
over boulders and across patches of snow, till suddenly, on reaching
the top of the little rise, we found the road at our feet. It was a
splendid road cut out of the solid rock, at least fifty feet wide, and
apparently well kept; though the odd thing was that it seemed to begin
there. We walked down and stood on it, but one single hundred paces
behind us, in the direction of Sheba's Breasts, it vanished, the
entire surface of the mountain being strewn with boulders interspersed
with patches of snow.
"What do you make of this, Quatermain?" asked Sir Henry.
I shook my head, I could make nothing of the thing.
"I have it!" said Good; "the road no doubt ran right over the range
and across the desert on the other side, but the sand there has
covered it up, and above us it has been obliterated by some volcanic
eruption of molten lava."
This seemed a good suggestion; at any rate, we accepted it, and
proceeded down the mountain. It proved a very different business
travelling along down hill on that magnificent pathway with full
stomachs from what it was travelling uphill over the snow quite
starved and almost frozen. Indeed, had it not been for melancholy
recollections of poor Ventvögel's sad fate, and of that grim cave
where he kept company with the old Dom, we should have felt positively
cheerful, notwithstanding the sense of unknown dangers before us.
Every mile we walked the atmosphere grew softer and balmier, and the
country before us shone with a yet more luminous beauty. As for the
road itself, I never saw such an engineering work, though Sir Henry
said that the great road over the St. Gothard in Switzerland is very
similar. No difficulty had been too great for the Old World engineer
who laid it out. At one place we came to a ravine three hundred feet
broad and at least a hundred feet deep. This vast gulf was actually
filled in with huge blocks of dressed stone, having arches pierced
through them at the bottom for a waterway, over which the road went on
sublimely. At another place it was cut in zigzags out of the side of a
precipice five hundred feet deep, and in a third it tunnelled through
the base of an intervening ridge, a space of thirty yards or more.
Here we noticed that the sides of the tunnel were covered with quaint
sculptures, mostly of mailed figures driving in chariots. One, which
was exceedingly beautiful, represented a whole battle scene with a
convoy of captives being marched off in the distance.
"Well," said Sir Henry, after inspecting this ancient work of art, "it
is very well to call this Solomon's Road, but my humble opinion is
that the Egyptians had been here before Solomon's people ever set a
foot on it. If this isn't Egyptian or Phnician handiwork, I must say
that it is very like it."
By midday we had advanced sufficiently down the mountain to search the
region where wood was to be met with. First we came to scattered
bushes which grew more and more frequent, till at last we found the
road winding through a vast grove of silver trees similar to those
which are to be seen on the slopes of Table Mountain at Cape Town. I
had never before met with them in all my wanderings, except at the
Cape, and their appearance here astonished me greatly.
"Ah!" said Good, surveying these shining-leaved trees with evident
enthusiasm, "here is lots of wood, let us stop and cook some dinner; I
have about digested that raw heart."
Nobody objected to this, so leaving the road we made our way to a
stream which was babbling away not far off, and soon had a goodly fire
of dry boughs blazing. Cutting off some substantial hunks from the
flesh of the /inco/ which we had brought with us, we proceeded to
toast them on the end of sharp sticks, as one sees the Kafirs do, and
ate them with relish. After filling ourselves, we lit our pipes and
gave ourselves up to enjoyment that, compared with the hardships we
had recently undergone, seemed almost heavenly.
The brook, of which the banks were clothed with dense masses of a
gigantic species of maidenhair fern interspersed with feathery tufts
of wild asparagus, sung merrily at our side, the soft air murmured
through the leaves of the silver trees, doves cooed around, and
bright-winged birds flashed like living gems from bough to bough. It
was a Paradise.
The magic of the place combined with an overwhelming sense of dangers
left behind, and of the promised land reached at last, seemed to charm
us into silence. Sir Henry and Umbopa sat conversing in a mixture of
broken English and Kitchen Zulu in a low voice, but earnestly enough,
and I lay, with my eyes half shut, upon that fragrant bed of fern and
Presently I missed Good, and I looked to see what had become of him.
Soon I observed him sitting by the bank of the stream, in which he had
been bathing. He had nothing on but his flannel shirt, and his natural
habits of extreme neatness having reasserted themselves, he was
actively employed in making a most elaborate toilet. He had washed his
gutta-percha collar, had thoroughly shaken out his trousers, coat and
waistcoat, and was now folding them up neatly till he was ready to put
them on, shaking his head sadly as he scanned the numerous rents and
tears in them, which naturally had resulted from our frightful
journey. Then he took his boots, scrubbed them with a handful of fern,
and finally rubbed them over with a piece of fat, which he had
carefully saved from the /inco/ meat, till they looked, comparatively
speaking, respectable. Having inspected them judiciously through his
eye-glass, he put the boots on and began a fresh operation. From a
little bag that he carried he produced a pocket-comb in which was
fixed a tiny looking-glass, and in this he surveyed himself.
Apparently he was not satisfied, for he proceeded to do his hair with
great care. Then came a pause whilst he again contemplated the effect;
still it was not satisfactory. He felt his chin, on which the
accumulated scrub of a ten days' beard was flourishing.
"Surely," thought I, "he is not going to try to shave." But so it was.
Taking the piece of fat with which he had greased his boots, Good
washed it thoroughly in the stream. Then diving again into the bag he
brought out a little pocket razor with a guard to it, such as are
bought by people who are afraid of cutting themselves, or by those
about to undertake a sea voyage. Then he rubbed his face and chin
vigorously with the fat and began. Evidently it proved a painful
process, for he groaned very much over it, and I was convulsed with
inward laughter as I watched him struggling with that stubbly beard.
It seemed so very odd that a man should take the trouble to shave
himself with a piece of fat in such a place and in our circumstances.
At last he succeeded in getting the hair off the right side of his
face and chin, when suddenly I, who was watching, became conscious of
a flash of light that passed just by his head.
Good sprang up with a profane exclamation (if it had not been a safety
razor he would certainly have cut his throat), and so did I, without
the exclamation, and this was what I saw. Standing not more than
twenty paces from where I was, and ten from Good, were a group of men.
They were very tall and copper-coloured, and some of them wore great
plumes of black feathers and short cloaks of leopard skins; this was
all I noticed at the moment. In front of them stood a youth of about
seventeen, his hand still raised and his body bent forward in the
attitude of a Grecian statue of a spear-thrower. Evidently the flash
of light had been caused by a weapon which he had hurled.
As I looked an old soldier-like man stepped forward out of the group,
and catching the youth by the arm said something to him. Then they
advanced upon us.
Sir Henry, Good, and Umbopa by this time had seized their rifles and
lifted them threateningly. The party of natives still came on. It
struck me that they could not know what rifles were, or they would not
have treated them with such contempt.
"Put down your guns!" I halloed to the others, seeing that our only
chance of safety lay in conciliation. They obeyed, and walking to the
front I addressed the elderly man who had checked the youth.
"Greeting," I said in Zulu, not knowing what language to use. To my
surprise I was understood.
"Greeting," answered the old man, not, indeed, in the same tongue, but
in a dialect so closely allied to it that neither Umbopa nor myself
had any difficulty in understanding him. Indeed, as we afterwards
found out, the language spoken by this people is an old-fashioned form
of the Zulu tongue, bearing about the same relationship to it that the
English of Chaucer does to the English of the nineteenth century.
"Whence come you?" he went on, "who are you? and why are the faces of
three of you white, and the face of the fourth as the face of our
mother's sons?" and he pointed to Umbopa. I looked at Umbopa as he
said it, and it flashed across me that he was right. The face of
Umbopa was like the faces of the men before me, and so was his great
form like their forms. But I had not time to reflect on this
"We are strangers, and come in peace," I answered, speaking very
slowly, so that he might understand me, "and this man is our servant."
"You lie," he answered; "no strangers can cross the mountains where
all things perish. But what do your lies matter?--if ye are strangers
then ye must die, for no strangers may live in the land of the
Kukuanas. It is the king's law. Prepare then to die, O strangers!"
I was slightly staggered at this, more especially as I saw the hands
of some of the men steal down to their sides, where hung on each what
looked to me like a large and heavy knife.
"What does that beggar say?" asked Good.
"He says we are going to be killed," I answered grimly.
"Oh, Lord!" groaned Good; and, as was his way when perplexed, he put
his hand to his false teeth, dragging the top set down and allowing
them to fly back to his jaw with a snap. It was a most fortunate move,
for next second the dignified crowd of Kukuanas uttered a simultaneous
yell of horror, and bolted back some yards.
"What's up?" said I.
"It's his teeth," whispered Sir Henry excitedly. "He moved them. Take
them out, Good, take them out!"
He obeyed, slipping the set into the sleeve of his flannel shirt.
In another second curiosity had overcome fear, and the men advanced
slowly. Apparently they had now forgotten their amiable intention of
"How is it, O strangers," asked the old man solemnly, "that this fat
man (pointing to Good, who was clad in nothing but boots and a flannel
shirt, and had only half finished his shaving), whose body is clothed,
and whose legs are bare, who grows hair on one side of his sickly face
and not on the other, and who wears one shining and transparent eye--
how is it, I ask, that he has teeth which move of themselves, coming
away from the jaws and returning of their own will?"
"Open your mouth," I said to Good, who promptly curled up his lips and
grinned at the old gentleman like an angry dog, revealing to his
astonished gaze two thin red lines of gum as utterly innocent of
ivories as a new-born elephant. The audience gasped.
"Where are his teeth?" they shouted; "with our eyes we saw them."
Turning his head slowly and with a gesture of ineffable contempt, Good
swept his hand across his mouth. Then he grinned again, and lo, there
were two rows of lovely teeth.
Now the young man who had flung the knife threw himself down on the
grass and gave vent to a prolonged howl of terror; and as for the old
gentleman, his knees knocked together with fear.
"I see that ye are spirits," he said falteringly; "did ever man born
of woman have hair on one side of his face and not on the other, or a
round and transparent eye, or teeth which moved and melted away and
grew again? Pardon us, O my lords."
Here was luck indeed, and, needless to say, I jumped at the chance.
"It is granted," I said with an imperial smile. "Nay, ye shall know
the truth. We come from another world, though we are men such as ye;
we come," I went on, "from the biggest star that shines at night."
"Oh! oh!" groaned the chorus of astonished aborigines.
"Yes," I went on, "we do, indeed"; and again I smiled benignly, as I
uttered that amazing lie. "We come to stay with you a little while,
and to bless you by our sojourn. Ye will see, O friends, that I have
prepared myself for this visit by the learning of your language."
"It is so, it is so," said the chorus.
"Only, my lord," put in the old gentleman, "thou hast learnt it very
I cast an indignant glance at him, and he quailed.
"Now friends," I continued, "ye might think that after so long a
journey we should find it in our hearts to avenge such a reception,
mayhap to strike cold in death the imperious hand that--that, in short
--threw a knife at the head of him whose teeth come and go."
"Spare him, my lords," said the old man in supplication; "he is the
king's son, and I am his uncle. If anything befalls him his blood will
be required at my hands."
"Yes, that is certainly so," put in the young man with great emphasis.
"Ye may perhaps doubt our power to avenge," I went on, heedless of
this by-play. "Stay, I will show you. Here, thou dog and slave
(addressing Umbopa in a savage tone), give me the magic tube that
speaks"; and I tipped a wink towards my express rifle.
Umbopa rose to the occasion, and with something as nearly resembling a
grin as I have ever seen on his dignified face he handed me the gun.
"It is here, O Lord of Lords," he said with a deep obeisance.
Now just before I had asked for the rifle I had perceived a little
/klipspringer/ antelope standing on a mass of rock about seventy yards
away, and determined to risk the shot.
"Ye see that buck," I said, pointing the animal out to the party
before me. "Tell me, is it possible for man born of woman to kill it
from here with a noise?"
"It is not possible, my lord," answered the old man.
"Yet shall I kill it," I said quietly.
The old man smiled. "That my lord cannot do," he answered.
I raised the rifle and covered the buck. It was a small animal, and
one which a man might well be excused for missing, but I knew that it
would not do to miss.
I drew a deep breath, and slowly pressed on the trigger. The buck
stood still as a stone.
"Bang! thud!" The antelope sprang into the air and fell on the rock
dead as a door nail.
A groan of simultaneous terror burst from the group before us.
"If you want meat," I remarked coolly, "go fetch that buck."
The old man made a sign, and one of his followers departed, and
presently returned bearing the /klipspringer/. I noticed with
satisfaction that I had hit it fairly behind the shoulder. They
gathered round the poor creature's body, gazing at the bullet-hole in
"Ye see," I said, "I do not speak empty words."
There was no answer.
"If ye yet doubt our power," I went on, "let one of you go stand upon
that rock that I may make him as this buck."
None of them seemed at all inclined to take the hint, till at last the
king's son spoke.
"It is well said. Do thou, my uncle, go stand upon the rock. It is but
a buck that the magic has killed. Surely it cannot kill a man."
The old gentleman did not take the suggestion in good part. Indeed, he
"No! no!" he ejaculated hastily, "my old eyes have seen enough. These
are wizards, indeed. Let us bring them to the king. Yet if any should
wish a further proof, let /him/ stand upon the rock, that the magic
tube may speak with him."
There was a most general and hasty expression of dissent.
"Let not good magic be wasted on our poor bodies," said one; "we are
satisfied. All the witchcraft of our people cannot show the like of
"It is so," remarked the old gentleman, in a tone of intense relief;
"without any doubt it is so. Listen, children of the Stars, children
of the shining Eye and the movable Teeth, who roar out in thunder, and
slay from afar. I am Infadoos, son of Kafa, once king of the Kukuana
people. This youth is Scragga."
"He nearly scragged me," murmured Good.
"Scragga, son of Twala, the great king--Twala, husband of a thousand
wives, chief and lord paramount of the Kukuanas, keeper of the great
Road, terror of his enemies, student of the Black Arts, leader of a
hundred thousand warriors, Twala the One-eyed, the Black, the
"So," said I superciliously, "lead us then to Twala. We do not talk
with low people and underlings."
"It is well, my lords, we will lead you; but the way is long. We are
hunting three days' journey from the place of the king. But let my
lords have patience, and we will lead them."
"So be it," I said carelessly; "all time is before us, for we do not
die. We are ready, lead on. But Infadoos, and thou Scragga, beware!
Play us no monkey tricks, set for us no foxes' snares, for before your
brains of mud have thought of them we shall know and avenge. The light
of the transparent eye of him with the bare legs and the half-haired
face shall destroy you, and go through your land; his vanishing teeth
shall affix themselves fast in you and eat you up, you and your wives
and children; the magic tubes shall argue with you loudly, and make
you as sieves. Beware!"
This magnificent address did not fail of its effect; indeed, it might
almost have been spared, so deeply were our friends already impressed
with our powers.
The old man made a deep obeisance, and murmured the words, "/Koom
Koom/," which I afterwards discovered was their royal salute,
corresponding to the /Bayéte/ of the Zulus, and turning, addressed his
followers. These at once proceeded to lay hold of all our goods and
chattels, in order to bear them for us, excepting only the guns, which
they would on no account touch. They even seized Good's clothes, that,
as the reader may remember, were neatly folded up beside him.
He saw and made a dive for them, and a loud altercation ensued.
"Let not my lord of the transparent Eye and the melting Teeth touch
them," said the old man. "Surely his slave shall carry the things."
"But I want to put 'em on!" roared Good, in nervous English.
"Nay, my lord," answered Infadoos, "would my lord cover up his
beautiful white legs (although he is so dark Good has a singularly
white skin) from the eyes of his servants? Have we offended my lord
that he should do such a thing?"
Here I nearly exploded with laughing; and meanwhile one of the men
started on with the garments.
"Damn it!" roared Good, "that black villain has got my trousers."
"Look here, Good," said Sir Henry; "you have appeared in this country
in a certain character, and you must live up to it. It will never do
for you to put on trousers again. Henceforth you must exist in a
flannel shirt, a pair of boots, and an eye-glass."
"Yes," I said, "and with whiskers on one side of your face and not on
the other. If you change any of these things the people will think
that we are impostors. I am very sorry for you, but, seriously, you
must. If once they begin to suspect us our lives will not be worth a
"Do you really think so?" said Good gloomily.
"I do, indeed. Your 'beautiful white legs' and your eye-glass are now
/the/ features of our party, and as Sir Henry says, you must live up
to them. Be thankful that you have got your boots on, and that the air
Good sighed, and said no more, but it took him a fortnight to become
accustomed to his new and scant attire.
WE ENTER KUKUANALAND
All that afternoon we travelled along the magnificent roadway, which
trended steadily in a north-westerly direction. Infadoos and Scragga
walked with us, but their followers marched about one hundred paces
"Infadoos," I said at length, "who made this road?"
"It was made, my lord, of old time, none know how or when, not even
the wise woman Gagool, who has lived for generations. We are not old
enough to remember its making. None can fashion such roads now, but
the king suffers no grass to grow upon it."
"And whose are the writings on the wall of the caves through which we
have passed on the road?" I asked, referring to the Egyptian-like
sculptures that we had seen.
"My lord, the hands that made the road wrote the wonderful writings.
We know not who wrote them."
"When did the Kukuana people come into this country?"
"My lord, the race came down here like the breath of a storm ten
thousand thousand moons ago, from the great lands which lie there
beyond," and he pointed to the north. "They could travel no further
because of the high mountains which ring in the land, so say the old
voices of our fathers that have descended to us the children, and so
says Gagool, the wise woman, the smeller out of witches," and again he
pointed to the snow-clad peaks. "The country, too, was good, so they
settled here and grew strong and powerful, and now our numbers are
like the sea sand, and when Twala the king calls up his regiments
their plumes cover the plain so far as the eye of man can reach."
"And if the land is walled in with mountains, who is there for the
regiments to fight with?"
"Nay, my lord, the country is open there towards the north, and now
and again warriors sweep down upon us in clouds from a land we know
not, and we slay them. It is the third part of the life of a man since
there was a war. Many thousands died in it, but we destroyed those who
came to eat us up. So since then there has been no war."
"Your warriors must grow weary of resting on their spears, Infadoos."
"My lord, there was one war, just after we destroyed the people that
came down upon us, but it was a civil war; dog ate dog."
"How was that?"
"My lord the king, my half-brother, had a brother born at the same
birth, and of the same woman. It is not our custom, my lord, to suffer
twins to live; the weaker must always die. But the mother of the king
hid away the feebler child, which was born the last, for her heart
yearned over it, and that child is Twala the king. I am his younger
brother, born of another wife."
"My lord, Kafa, our father, died when we came to manhood, and my
brother Imotu was made king in his place, and for a space reigned and
had a son by his favourite wife. When the babe was three years old,
just after the great war, during which no man could sow or reap, a
famine came upon the land, and the people murmured because of the
famine, and looked round like a starved lion for something to rend.
Then it was that Gagool, the wise and terrible woman, who does not
die, made a proclamation to the people, saying, 'The king Imotu is no
king.' And at the time Imotu was sick with a wound, and lay in his
kraal not able to move.
"Then Gagool went into a hut and led out Twala, my half-brother, and
twin brother to the king, whom she had hidden among the caves and
rocks since he was born, and stripping the '/moocha/' (waist-cloth)
off his loins, showed the people of the Kukuanas the mark of the
sacred snake coiled round his middle, wherewith the eldest son of the
king is marked at birth, and cried out loud, 'Behold your king whom I
have saved for you even to this day!'
"Now the people being mad with hunger, and altogether bereft of reason
and the knowledge of truth, cried out--'/The king! The king!/' but I
knew that it was not so, for Imotu my brother was the elder of the
twins, and our lawful king. Then just as the tumult was at its height
Imotu the king, though he was very sick, crawled from his hut holding
his wife by the hand, and followed by his little son Ignosi--that is,
by interpretation, the Lightning.
"'What is this noise?' he asked. 'Why cry ye /The king! The king!/'
"Then Twala, his twin brother, born of the same woman, and in the same
hour, ran to him, and taking him by the hair, stabbed him through the
heart with his knife. And the people being fickle, and ever ready to
worship the rising sun, clapped their hands and cried, '/Twala is
king!/ Now we know that Twala is king!'"
"And what became of Imotu's wife and her son Ignosi? Did Twala kill
"Nay, my lord. When she saw that her lord was dead the queen seized
the child with a cry and ran away. Two days afterward she came to a
kraal very hungry, and none would give her milk or food, now that her
lord the king was dead, for all men hate the unfortunate. But at
nightfall a little child, a girl, crept out and brought her corn to
eat, and she blessed the child, and went on towards the mountains with
her boy before the sun rose again, and there she must have perished,
for none have seen her since, nor the child Ignosi."
"Then if this child Ignosi had lived he would be the true king of the
"That is so, my lord; the sacred snake is round his middle. If he
lives he is king; but, alas! he is long dead."
"See, my lord," and Infadoos pointed to a vast collection of huts
surrounded by a fence, which was in its turn encircled by a great
ditch, that lay on the plain beneath us. "That is the kraal where the
wife of Imotu was last seen with the child Ignosi. It is there that we
shall sleep to-night, if, indeed," he added doubtfully, "my lords
sleep at all upon this earth."
"When we are among the Kukuanas, my good friend Infadoos, we do as the
Kukuanas do," I said majestically, and turned round quickly to address
Good, who was tramping along sullenly behind, his mind fully occupied
with unsatisfactory attempts to prevent his flannel shirt from
flapping in the evening breeze. To my astonishment I butted into
Umbopa, who was walking along immediately behind me, and very
evidently had been listening with the greatest interest to my
conversation with Infadoos. The expression on his face was most
curious, and gave me the idea of a man who was struggling with partial
success to bring something long ago forgotten back into his mind.
All this while we had been pressing on at a good rate towards the
undulating plain beneath us. The mountains we had crossed now loomed
high above our heads, and Sheba's Breasts were veiled modestly in
diaphanous wreaths of mist. As we went the country grew more and more
lovely. The vegetation was luxuriant, without being tropical; the sun
was bright and warm, but not burning; and a gracious breeze blew
softly along the odorous slopes of the mountains. Indeed, this new
land was little less than an earthly paradise; in beauty, in natural
wealth, and in climate I have never seen its like. The Transvaal is a
fine country, but it is nothing to Kukuanaland.
So soon as we started Infadoos had despatched a runner to warn the
people of the kraal, which, by the way, was in his military command,
of our arrival. This man had departed at an extraordinary speed, which
Infadoos informed me he would keep up all the way, as running was an
exercise much practised among his people.
The result of this message now became apparent. When we arrived within
two miles of the kraal we could see that company after company of men
were issuing from its gates and marching towards us.
Sir Henry laid his hand upon my arm, and remarked that it looked as
though we were going to meet with a warm reception. Something in his
tone attracted Infadoos' attention.
"Let not my lords be afraid," he said hastily, "for in my breast there
dwells no guile. This regiment is one under my command, and comes out
by my orders to greet you."
I nodded easily, though I was not quite easy in my mind.
About half a mile from the gates of this kraal is a long stretch of
rising ground sloping gently upwards from the road, and here the
companies formed. It was a splendid sight to see them, each company
about three hundred strong, charging swiftly up the rise, with
flashing spears and waving plumes, to take their appointed place. By
the time we reached the slope twelve such companies, or in all three
thousand six hundred men, had passed out and taken up their positions
along the road.
Presently we came to the first company, and were able to gaze in
astonishment on the most magnificent set of warriors that I have ever
seen. They were all men of mature age, mostly veterans of about forty,
and not one of them was under six feet in height, whilst many stood
six feet three or four. They wore upon their heads heavy black plumes
of Sakaboola feathers, like those which adorned our guides. About
their waists and beneath the right knees were bound circlets of white
ox tails, while in their left hands they carried round shields
measuring about twenty inches across. These shields are very curious.
The framework is made of an iron plate beaten out thin, over which is
stretched milk-white ox-hide.
The weapons that each man bore were simple, but most effective,
consisting of a short and very heavy two-edged spear with a wooden
shaft, the blade being about six inches across at the widest part.
These spears are not used for throwing but like the Zulu "/bangwan/,"
or stabbing assegai, are for close quarters only, when the wound
inflicted by them is terrible. In addition to his /bangwan/ every man
carried three large and heavy knives, each knife weighing about two
pounds. One knife was fixed in the ox-tail girdle, and the other two
at the back of the round shield. These knives, which are called
"/tollas/" by the Kukuanas, take the place of the throwing assegai of
the Zulus. The Kukuana warriors can cast them with great accuracy to a
distance of fifty yards, and it is their custom on charging to hurl a
volley of them at the enemy as they come to close quarters.
Each company remained still as a collection of bronze statues till we
were opposite to it, when at a signal given by its commanding officer,
who, distinguished by a leopard skin cloak, stood some paces in front,
every spear was raised into the air, and from three hundred throats
sprang forth with a sudden roar the royal salute of "/Koom/." Then, so
soon as we had passed, the company formed up behind us and followed us
towards the kraal, till at last the whole regiment of the "Greys"--so
called from their white shields--the crack corps of the Kukuana
people, was marching in our rear with a tread that shook the ground.
At length, branching off from Solomon's Great Road, we came to the
wide fosse surrounding the kraal, which is at least a mile round, and
fenced with a strong palisade of piles formed of the trunks of trees.
At the gateway this fosse is spanned by a primitive drawbridge, which
was let down by the guard to allow us to pass in. The kraal is
exceedingly well laid out. Through the centre runs a wide pathway
intersected at right angles by other pathways so arranged as to cut
the huts into square blocks, each block being the quarters of a
company. The huts are dome-shaped, and built, like those of the Zulus,
of a framework of wattle, beautifully thatched with grass; but, unlike
the Zulu huts, they have doorways through which men could walk. Also
they are much larger, and surrounded by a verandah about six feet
wide, beautifully paved with powdered lime trodden hard.
All along each side of this wide pathway that pierces the kraal were
ranged hundreds of women, brought out by curiosity to look at us.
These women, for a native race, are exceedingly handsome. They are
tall and graceful, and their figures are wonderfully fine. The hair,
though short, is rather curly than woolly, the features are frequently
aquiline, and the lips are not unpleasantly thick, as is the case
among most African races. But what struck us most was their
exceedingly quiet and dignified air. They were as well-bred in their
way as the /habituées/ of a fashionable drawing-room, and in this
respect they differ from Zulu women and their cousins the Masai who
inhabit the district beyond Zanzibar. Their curiosity had brought them
out to see us, but they allowed no rude expressions of astonishment or
savage criticism to pass their lips as we trudged wearily in front of
them. Not even when old Infadoos with a surreptitious motion of the
hand pointed out the crowning wonder of poor Good's "beautiful white
legs," did they suffer the feeling of intense admiration which
evidently mastered their minds to find expression. They fixed their
dark eyes upon this new and snowy loveliness, for, as I think I have
said, Good's skin is exceedingly white, and that was all. But it was
quite enough for Good, who is modest by nature.
When we reached the centre of the kraal, Infadoos halted at the door
of a large hut, which was surrounded at a distance by a circle of
"Enter, Sons of the Stars," he said, in a magniloquent voice, "and
deign to rest awhile in our humble habitations. A little food shall be
brought to you, so that ye may have no need to draw your belts tight
from hunger; some honey and some milk, and an ox or two, and a few
sheep; not much, my lords, but still a little food."
"It is good," said I. "Infadoos; we are weary with travelling through
realms of air; now let us rest."
Accordingly we entered the hut, which we found amply prepared for our
comfort. Couches of tanned skins were spread for us to lie on, and
water was placed for us to wash in.
Presently we heard a shouting outside, and stepping to the door, saw a
line of damsels bearing milk and roasted mealies, and honey in a pot.
Behind these were some youths driving a fat young ox. We received the
gifts, and then one of the young men drew the knife from his girdle
and dexterously cut the ox's throat. In ten minutes it was dead,
skinned, and jointed. The best of the meat was then cut off for us,
and the rest, in the name of our party, I presented to the warriors
round us, who took it and distributed the "white lords' gift."
Umbopa set to work, with the assistance of an extremely prepossessing
young woman, to boil our portion in a large earthenware pot over a
fire which was built outside the hut, and when it was nearly ready we
sent a message to Infadoos, and asked him and Scragga, the king's son,
to join us.
Presently they came, and sitting down upon little stools, of which
there were several about the hut, for the Kukuanas do not in general
squat upon their haunches like the Zulus, they helped us to get
through our dinner. The old gentleman was most affable and polite, but
it struck me that the young one regarded us with doubt. Together with
the rest of the party, he had been overawed by our white appearance
and by our magic properties; but it seemed to me that, on discovering
that we ate, drank, and slept like other mortals, his awe was
beginning to wear off, and to be replaced by a sullen suspicion--which
made me feel rather uncomfortable.
In the course of our meal Sir Henry suggested to me that it might be
well to try to discover if our hosts knew anything of his brother's
fate, or if they had ever seen or heard of him; but, on the whole, I
thought that it would be wiser to say nothing of the matter at this
time. It was difficult to explain a relative lost from "the Stars."
After supper we produced our pipes and lit them; a proceeding which
filled Infadoos and Scragga with astonishment. The Kukuanas were
evidently unacquainted with the divine delights of tobacco-smoke. The
herb is grown among them extensively; but, like the Zulus, they use it
for snuff only, and quite failed to identify it in its new form.
Presently I asked Infadoos when we were to proceed on our journey, and
was delighted to learn that preparations had been made for us to leave
on the following morning, messengers having already departed to inform
Twala the king of our coming.
It appeared that Twala was at his principal place, known as Loo,
making ready for the great annual feast which was to be held in the
first week of June. At this gathering all the regiments, with the
exception of certain detachments left behind for garrison purposes,
are brought up and paraded before the king; and the great annual
witch-hunt, of which more by-and-by, is held.
We were to start at dawn; and Infadoos, who was to accompany us,
expected that we should reach Loo on the night of the second day,
unless we were detained by accident or by swollen rivers.
When they had given us this information our visitors bade us good-
night; and, having arranged to watch turn and turn about, three of us
flung ourselves down and slept the sweet sleep of the weary, whilst
the fourth sat up on the look-out for possible treachery.
TWALA THE KING
It will not be necessary for me to detail at length the incidents of
our journey to Loo. It took two full days' travelling along Solomon's
Great Road, which pursued its even course right into the heart of
Kukuanaland. Suffice it to say that as we went the country seemed to
grow richer and richer, and the kraals, with their wide surrounding
belts of cultivation, more and more numerous. They were all built upon
the same principles as the first camp which we had reached, and were
guarded by ample garrisons of troops. Indeed, in Kukuanaland, as among
the Germans, the Zulus, and the Masai, every able-bodied man is a
soldier, so that the whole force of the nation is available for its
wars, offensive or defensive. As we travelled we were overtaken by
thousands of warriors hurrying up to Loo to be present at the great
annual review and festival, and more splendid troops I never saw.
At sunset on the second day, we stopped to rest awhile upon the summit
of some heights over which the road ran, and there on a beautiful and
fertile plain before us lay Loo itself. For a native town it is an
enormous place, quite five miles round, I should say, with outlying
kraals projecting from it, that serve on grand occasions as
cantonments for the regiments, and a curious horseshoe-shaped hill,
with which we were destined to become better acquainted, about two
miles to the north. It is beautifully situated, and through the centre
of the kraal, dividing it into two portions, runs a river, which
appeared to be bridged in several places, the same indeed that we had
seen from the slopes of Sheba's Breasts. Sixty or seventy miles away
three great snow-capped mountains, placed at the points of a triangle,
started out of the level plain. The conformation of these mountains is
unlike that of Sheba's Breasts, being sheer and precipitous, instead
of smooth and rounded.
Infadoos saw us looking at them, and volunteered a remark.
"The road ends there," he said, pointing to the mountains known among
the Kukuanas as the "Three Witches."
"Why does it end?" I asked.
"Who knows?" he answered with a shrug; "the mountains are full of
caves, and there is a great pit between them. It is there that the
wise men of old time used to go to get whatever it was they came for
to this country, and it is there now that our kings are buried in the
Place of Death."
"What was it they came for?" I asked eagerly.
"Nay, I know not. My lords who have dropped from the Stars should
know," he answered with a quick look. Evidently he knew more than he
chose to say.
"Yes," I went on, "you are right, in the Stars we learn many things. I
have heard, for instance, that the wise men of old came to these
mountains to find bright stones, pretty playthings, and yellow iron."
"My lord is wise," he answered coldly; "I am but a child and cannot
talk with my lord on such matters. My lord must speak with Gagool the
old, at the king's place, who is wise even as my lord," and he went
So soon as he was gone I turned to the others, and pointed out the
mountains. "There are Solomon's diamond mines," I said.
Umbopa was standing with them, apparently plunged in one of the fits
of abstraction which were common to him, and caught my words.
"Yes, Macumazahn," he put in, in Zulu, "the diamonds are surely there,
and you shall have them, since you white men are so fond of toys and
"How dost thou know that, Umbopa?" I asked sharply, for I did not like
his mysterious ways.
He laughed. "I dreamed it in the night, white men;" then he too turned
on his heel and went.
"Now what," said Sir Henry, "is our black friend driving at? He knows
more than he chooses to say, that is clear. By the way, Quatermain,
has he heard anything of--of my brother?"
"Nothing; he has asked everyone he has become friendly with, but they
all declare that no white man has ever been seen in the country
"Do you suppose that he got here at all?" suggested Good; "we have
only reached the place by a miracle; is it likely he could have
reached it without the map?"
"I don't know," said Sir Henry gloomily, "but somehow I think that I
shall find him."
Slowly the sun sank, then suddenly darkness rushed down on the land
like a tangible thing. There was no breathing-space between the day
and night, no soft transformation scene, for in these latitudes
twilight does not exist. The change from day to night is as quick and
as absolute as the change from life to death. The sun sank and the
world was wreathed in shadows. But not for long, for see in the west
there is a glow, then come rays of silver light, and at last the full
and glorious moon lights up the plain and shoots its gleaming arrows
far and wide, filling the earth with a faint refulgence.
We stood and watched the lovely sight, whilst the stars grew pale
before this chastened majesty, and felt our hearts lifted up in the
presence of a beauty that I cannot describe. Mine has been a rough
life, but there are a few things I am thankful to have lived for, and
one of them is to have seen that moon shine over Kukuanaland.
Presently our meditations were broken in upon by our polite friend
"If my lords are rested we will journey on to Loo, where a hut is made
ready for my lords to-night. The moon is now bright, so that we shall
not fall by the way."
We assented, and in an hour's time were at the outskirts of the town,
of which the extent, mapped out as it was by thousands of camp fires,
appeared absolutely endless. Indeed, Good, who is always fond of a bad
joke, christened it "Unlimited Loo." Soon we came to a moat with a
drawbridge, where we were met by the rattling of arms and the hoarse
challenge of a sentry. Infadoos gave some password that I could not
catch, which was met with a salute, and we passed on through the
central street of the great grass city. After nearly half an hour's
tramp, past endless lines of huts, Infadoos halted at last by the gate
of a little group of huts which surrounded a small courtyard of
powdered limestone, and informed us that these were to be our "poor"
We entered, and found that a hut had been assigned to each of us.
These huts were superior to any that we had yet seen, and in each was
a most comfortable bed made of tanned skins, spread upon mattresses of
aromatic grass. Food too was ready for us, and so soon as we had
washed ourselves with water, which stood ready in earthenware jars,
some young women of handsome appearance brought us roasted meats, and
mealie cobs daintily served on wooden platters, and presented them to
us with deep obeisances.
We ate and drank, and then, the beds having been all moved into one
hut by our request, a precaution at which the amiable young ladies
smiled, we flung ourselves down to sleep, thoroughly wearied with our
When we woke it was to find the sun high in the heavens, and the
female attendants, who did not seem to be troubled by any false shame,
already standing inside the hut, having been ordered to attend and
help us to "make ready."
"Make ready, indeed," growled Good; "when one has only a flannel shirt
and a pair of boots, that does not take long. I wish you would ask
them for my trousers, Quatermain."
I asked accordingly, but was informed that these sacred relics had
already been taken to the king, who would see us in the forenoon.
Somewhat to their astonishment and disappointment, having requested
the young ladies to step outside, we proceeded to make the best toilet
of which the circumstances admitted. Good even went the length of
again shaving the right side of his face; the left, on which now
appeared a very fair crop of whiskers, we impressed upon him he must
on no account touch. As for ourselves, we were contented with a good
wash and combing our hair. Sir Henry's yellow locks were now almost
upon his shoulders, and he looked more like an ancient Dane than ever,
while my grizzled scrub was fully an inch long, instead of half an
inch, which in a general way I considered my maximum length.
By the time that we had eaten our breakfast, and smoked a pipe, a
message was brought to us by no less a personage than Infadoos himself
that Twala the king was ready to see us, if we would be pleased to
We remarked in reply that we should prefer to wait till the sun was a
little higher, we were yet weary with our journey, &c., &c. It is
always well, when dealing with uncivilised people, not to be in too
great a hurry. They are apt to mistake politeness for awe or
servility. So, although we were quite as anxious to see Twala as Twala
could be to see us, we sat down and waited for an hour, employing the
interval in preparing such presents as our slender stock of goods
permitted--namely, the Winchester rifle which had been used by poor
Ventvögel, and some beads. The rifle and ammunition we determined to
present to his royal highness, and the beads were for his wives and
courtiers. We had already given a few to Infadoos and Scragga, and
found that they were delighted with them, never having seen such
things before. At length we declared that we were ready, and guided by
Infadoos, started off to the audience, Umbopa carrying the rifle and
After walking a few hundred yards we came to an enclosure, something
like that surrounding the huts which had been allotted to us, only
fifty times as big, for it could not have covered less than six or
seven acres of ground. All round the outside fence stood a row of
huts, which were the habitations of the king's wives. Exactly opposite
the gateway, on the further side of the open space, was a very large
hut, built by itself, in which his majesty resided. All the rest was
open ground; that is to say, it would have been open had it not been
filled by company after company of warriors, who were mustered there
to the number of seven or eight thousand. These men stood still as
statues as we advanced through them, and it would be impossible to
give an adequate idea of the grandeur of the spectacle which they
presented, with their waving plumes, their glancing spears, and iron-
backed ox-hide shields.
The space in front of the large hut was empty, but before it were
placed several stools. On three of these, at a sign from Infadoos, we
seated ourselves, Umbopa standing behind us. As for Infadoos, he took
up a position by the door of the hut. So we waited for ten minutes or
more in the midst of a dead silence, but conscious that we were the
object of the concentrated gaze of some eight thousand pairs of eyes.
It was a somewhat trying ordeal, but we carried it off as best we
could. At length the door of the hut opened, and a gigantic figure,
with a splendid tiger-skin karross flung over its shoulders, stepped
out, followed by the boy Scragga, and what appeared to us to be a
withered-up monkey, wrapped in a fur cloak. The figure seated itself
upon a stool, Scragga took his stand behind it, and the withered-up
monkey crept on all fours into the shade of the hut and squatted down.
Still there was silence.
Then the gigantic figure slipped off the karross and stood up before
us, a truly alarming spectacle. It was that of an enormous man with
the most entirely repulsive countenance we had ever beheld. This man's
lips were as thick as a Negro's, the nose was flat, he had but one
gleaming black eye, for the other was represented by a hollow in the
face, and his whole expression was cruel and sensual to a degree. From
the large head rose a magnificent plume of white ostrich feathers, his
body was clad in a shirt of shining chain armour, whilst round the
waist and right knee were the usual garnishes of white ox-tail. In his
right hand was a huge spear, about the neck a thick torque of gold,
and bound on the forehead shone dully a single and enormous uncut
Still there was silence; but not for long. Presently the man, whom we
rightly guessed to be the king, raised the great javelin in his hand.
Instantly eight thousand spears were lifted in answer, and from eight
thousand throats rang out the royal salute of "/Koom/." Three times
this was repeated, and each time the earth shook with the noise, that
can only be compared to the deepest notes of thunder.
"Be humble, O people," piped out a thin voice which seemed to come
from the monkey in the shade, "it is the king."
"/It is the king/," boomed out the eight thousand throats in answer.
"/Be humble, O people, it is the king./"
Then there was silence again--dead silence. Presently, however, it was
broken. A soldier on our left dropped his shield, which fell with a
clatter on to the limestone flooring.
Twala turned his one cold eye in the direction of the noise.
"Come hither, thou," he said, in a cold voice.
A fine young man stepped out of the ranks, and stood before him.
"It was thy shield that fell, thou awkward dog. Wilt thou make me a
reproach in the eyes of these strangers from the Stars? What hast thou
to say for thyself?"
We saw the poor fellow turn pale under his dusky skin.
"It was by chance, O Calf of the Black Cow," he murmured.
"Then it is a chance for which thou must pay. Thou hast made me
foolish; prepare for death."
"I am the king's ox," was the low answer.
"Scragga," roared the king, "let me see how thou canst use thy spear.
Kill me this blundering fool."
Scragga stepped forward with an ill-favoured grin, and lifted his
spear. The poor victim covered his eyes with his hand and stood still.
As for us, we were petrified with horror.
"Once, twice," he waved the spear, and then struck, ah! right home--
the spear stood out a foot behind the soldier's back. He flung up his
hands and dropped dead. From the multitude about us rose something
like a murmur, it rolled round and round, and died away. The tragedy
was finished; there lay the corpse, and we had not yet realised that
it had been enacted. Sir Henry sprang up and swore a great oath, then,
overpowered by the sense of silence, sat down again.
"The thrust was a good one," said the king; "take him away."
Four men stepped out of the ranks, and lifting the body of the
murdered man, carried it thence.
"Cover up the blood-stains, cover them up," piped out the thin voice
that proceeded from the monkey-like figure; "the king's word is
spoken, the king's doom is done!"
Thereupon a girl came forward from behind the hut, bearing a jar
filled with powdered lime, which she scattered over the red mark,
blotting it from sight.
Sir Henry meanwhile was boiling with rage at what had happened;
indeed, it was with difficulty that we could keep him still.
"Sit down, for heaven's sake," I whispered; "our lives depend on it."
He yielded and remained quiet.
Twala sat silent until the traces of the tragedy had been removed,
then he addressed us.
"White people," he said, "who come hither, whence I know not, and why
I know not, greeting."
"Greeting, Twala, King of the Kukuanas," I answered.
"White people, whence come ye, and what seek ye?"
"We come from the Stars, ask us not how. We come to see this land."
"Ye journey from far to see a little thing. And that man with you,"
pointing to Umbopa, "does he also come from the Stars?"
"Even so; there are people of thy colour in the heavens above; but ask
not of matters too high for thee, Twala the king."
"Ye speak with a loud voice, people of the Stars," Twala answered in a
tone which I scarcely liked. "Remember that the Stars are far off, and
ye are here. How if I make you as him whom they bore away?"
I laughed out loud, though there was little laughter in my heart.
"O king," I said, "be careful, walk warily over hot stones, lest thou
shouldst burn thy feet; hold the spear by the handle, lest thou should
cut thy hands. Touch but one hair of our heads, and destruction shall
come upon thee. What, have not these"--pointing to Infadoos and
Scragga, who, young villain that he was, was employed in cleaning the
blood of the soldier off his spear--"told thee what manner of men we
are? Hast thou seen the like of us?" and I pointed to Good, feeling
quite sure that he had never seen anybody before who looked in the
least like /him/ as he then appeared.
"It is true, I have not," said the king, surveying Good with interest.
"Have they not told thee how we strike with death from afar?" I went
"They have told me, but I believe them not. Let me see you kill. Kill
me a man among those who stand yonder"--and he pointed to the opposite
side of the kraal--"and I will believe."
"Nay," I answered; "we shed no blood of men except in just punishment;
but if thou wilt see, bid thy servants drive in an ox through the
kraal gates, and before he has run twenty paces I will strike him
"Nay," laughed the king, "kill me a man and I will believe."
"Good, O king, so be it," I answered coolly; "do thou walk across the
open space, and before thy feet reach the gate thou shalt be dead; or
if thou wilt not, send thy son Scragga" (whom at that moment it would
have given me much pleasure to shoot).
On hearing this suggestion Scragga uttered a sort of howl, and bolted
into the hut.
Twala frowned majestically; the suggestion did not please him.
"Let a young ox be driven in," he said.
Two men at once departed, running swiftly.
"Now, Sir Henry," said I, "do you shoot. I want to show this ruffian
that I am not the only magician of the party."
Sir Henry accordingly took his "express," and made ready.
"I hope I shall make a good shot," he groaned.
"You must," I answered. "If you miss with the first barrel, let him
have the second. Sight for 150 yards, and wait till the beast turns
Then came a pause, until presently we caught sight of an ox running
straight for the kraal gate. It came on through the gate, then,
catching sight of the vast concourse of people, stopped stupidly,
turned round, and bellowed.
"Now's your time," I whispered.
Up went the rifle.
Bang! /thud/! and the ox was kicking on his back, shot in the ribs.
The semi-hollow bullet had done its work well, and a sigh of
astonishment went up from the assembled thousands.
I turned round coolly--
"Have I lied, O king?"
"Nay, white man, it is the truth," was the somewhat awed answer.
"Listen, Twala," I went on. "Thou hast seen. Now know we come in
peace, not in war. See," and I held up the Winchester repeater; "here
is a hollow staff that shall enable thee to kill even as we kill, only
I lay this charm upon it, thou shalt kill no man with it. If thou
liftest it against a man, it shall kill thee. Stay, I will show thee.
Bid a soldier step forty paces and place the shaft of a spear in the
ground so that the flat blade looks towards us."
In a few seconds it was done.
"Now, see, I will break yonder spear."
Taking a careful sight I fired. The bullet struck the flat of the
spear, and shattered the blade into fragments.
Again the sigh of astonishment went up.
"Now, Twala, we give this magic tube to thee, and by-and-by I will
show thee how to use it; but beware how thou turnest the magic of the
Stars against a man of earth," and I handed him the rifle.
The king took it very gingerly, and laid it down at his feet. As he
did so I observed the wizened monkey-like figure creeping from the
shadow of the hut. It crept on all fours, but when it reached the
place where the king sat it rose upon its feet, and throwing the furry
covering from its face, revealed a most extraordinary and weird
countenance. Apparently it was that of a woman of great age so
shrunken that in size it seemed no larger than the face of a year-old
child, although made up of a number of deep and yellow wrinkles. Set
in these wrinkles was a sunken slit, that represented the mouth,
beneath which the chin curved outwards to a point. There was no nose
to speak of; indeed, the visage might have been taken for that of a
sun-dried corpse had it not been for a pair of large black eyes, still
full of fire and intelligence, which gleamed and played under the
snow-white eyebrows, and the projecting parchment-coloured skull, like
jewels in a charnel-house. As for the head itself, it was perfectly
bare, and yellow in hue, while its wrinkled scalp moved and contracted
like the hood of a cobra.
The figure to which this fearful countenance belonged, a countenance
so fearful indeed that it caused a shiver of fear to pass through us
as we gazed on it, stood still for a moment. Then suddenly it
projected a skinny claw armed with nails nearly an inch long, and
laying it on the shoulder of Twala the king, began to speak in a thin
and piercing voice--
"Listen, O king! Listen, O warriors! Listen, O mountains and plains
and rivers, home of the Kukuana race! Listen, O skies and sun, O rain
and storm and mist! Listen, O men and women, O youths and maidens, and
O ye babes unborn! Listen, all things that live and must die! Listen,
all dead things that shall live again--again to die! Listen, the
spirit of life is in me and I prophesy. I prophesy! I prophesy!"
The words died away in a faint wail, and dread seemed to seize upon
the hearts of all who heard them, including our own. This old woman
was very terrible.
"/Blood! blood! blood!/ rivers of blood; blood everywhere. I see it, I
smell it, I taste it--it is salt! it runs red upon the ground, it
rains down from the skies.
"/Footsteps! footsteps! footsteps!/ the tread of the white man coming
from afar. It shakes the earth; the earth trembles before her master.