Part 5 out of 5
the place we should have been stifled or poisoned when we first came
in. Let us have a look."
It was wonderful what a change this mere spark of hope wrought in us.
In a moment we were all three groping about on our hands and knees,
feeling for the slightest indication of a draught. Presently my ardour
received a check. I put my hand on something cold. It was dead
For an hour or more we went on feeling about, till at last Sir Henry
and I gave it up in despair, having been considerably hurt by
constantly knocking our heads against tusks, chests, and the sides of
the chamber. But Good still persevered, saying, with an approach to
cheerfulness, that it was better than doing nothing.
"I say, you fellows," he said presently, in a constrained sort of
voice, "come here."
Needless to say we scrambled towards him quickly enough.
"Quatermain, put your hand here where mine is. Now, do you feel
"I /think/ I feel air coming up."
"Now listen." He rose and stamped upon the place, and a flame of hope
shot up in our hearts. /It rang hollow./
With trembling hands I lit a match. I had only three left, and we saw
that we were in the angle of the far corner of the chamber, a fact
that accounted for our not having noticed the hollow sound of the
place during our former exhaustive examination. As the match burnt we
scrutinised the spot. There was a join in the solid rock floor, and,
great heavens! there, let in level with the rock, was a stone ring. We
said no word, we were too excited, and our hearts beat too wildly with
hope to allow us to speak. Good had a knife, at the back of which was
one of those hooks that are made to extract stones from horses' hoofs.
He opened it, and scratched round the ring with it. Finally he worked
it under, and levered away gently for fear of breaking the hook. The
ring began to move. Being of stone it had not rusted fast in all the
centuries it had lain there, as would have been the case had it been
of iron. Presently it was upright. Then he thrust his hands into it
and tugged with all his force, but nothing budged.
"Let me try," I said impatiently, for the situation of the stone,
right in the angle of the corner, was such that it was impossible for
two to pull at once. I took hold and strained away, but no results.
Then Sir Henry tried and failed.
Taking the hook again, Good scratched all round the crack where we
felt the air coming up.
"Now, Curtis," he said, "tackle on, and put your back into it; you are
as strong as two. Stop," and he took off a stout black silk
handkerchief, which, true to his habits of neatness, he still wore,
and ran it through the ring. "Quatermain, get Curtis round the middle
and pull for dear life when I give the word. /Now./"
Sir Henry put out all his enormous strength, and Good and I did the
same, with such power as nature had given us.
"Heave! heave! it's giving," gasped Sir Henry; and I heard the muscles
of his great back cracking. Suddenly there was a grating sound, then a
rush of air, and we were all on our backs on the floor with a heavy
flag-stone upon the top of us. Sir Henry's strength had done it, and
never did muscular power stand a man in better stead.
"Light a match, Quatermain," he said, so soon as we had picked
ourselves up and got our breath; "carefully, now."
I did so, and there before us, Heaven be praised! was the /first step
of a stone stair./
"Now what is to be done?" asked Good.
"Follow the stair, of course, and trust to Providence."
"Stop!" said Sir Henry; "Quatermain, get the bit of biltong and the
water that are left; we may want them."
I went, creeping back to our place by the chests for that purpose, and
as I was coming away an idea struck me. We had not thought much of the
diamonds for the last twenty-four hours or so; indeed, the very idea
of diamonds was nauseous, seeing what they had entailed upon us; but,
reflected I, I may as well pocket some in case we ever should get out
of this ghastly hole. So I just put my fist into the first chest and
filled all the available pockets of my old shooting-coat and trousers,
topping up--this was a happy thought--with a few handfuls of big ones
from the third chest. Also, by an afterthought, I stuffed Foulata's
basket, which, except for one water-gourd and a little biltong, was
empty now, with great quantities of the stones.
"I say, you fellows," I sang out, "won't you take some diamonds with
you? I've filled my pockets and the basket."
"Oh, come on, Quatermain! and hang the diamonds!" said Sir Henry. "I
hope that I may never see another."
As for Good, he made no answer. He was, I think, taking his last
farewell of all that was left of the poor girl who had loved him so
well. And curious as it may seem to you, my reader, sitting at home at
ease and reflecting on the vast, indeed the immeasurable, wealth which
we were thus abandoning, I can assure you that if you had passed some
twenty-eight hours with next to nothing to eat and drink in that
place, you would not have cared to cumber yourself with diamonds
whilst plunging down into the unknown bowels of the earth, in the wild
hope of escape from an agonising death. If from the habits of a
lifetime, it had not become a sort of second nature with me never to
leave anything worth having behind if there was the slightest chance
of my being able to carry it away, I am sure that I should not have
bothered to fill my pockets and that basket.
"Come on, Quatermain," repeated Sir Henry, who was already standing on
the first step of the stone stair. "Steady, I will go first."
"Mind where you put your feet, there may be some awful hole
underneath," I answered.
"Much more likely to be another room," said Sir Henry, while he
descended slowly, counting the steps as he went.
When he got to "fifteen" he stopped. "Here's the bottom," he said.
"Thank goodness! I think it's a passage. Follow me down."
Good went next, and I came last, carrying the basket, and on reaching
the bottom lit one of the two remaining matches. By its light we could
just see that we were standing in a narrow tunnel, which ran right and
left at right angles to the staircase we had descended. Before we
could make out any more, the match burnt my fingers and went out. Then
arose the delicate question of which way to go. Of course, it was
impossible to know what the tunnel was, or where it led to, and yet to
turn one way might lead us to safety, and the other to destruction. We
were utterly perplexed, till suddenly it struck Good that when I had
lit the match the draught of the passage blew the flame to the left.
"Let us go against the draught," he said; "air draws inwards, not
We took this suggestion, and feeling along the wall with our hands,
whilst trying the ground before us at every step, we departed from
that accursed treasure chamber on our terrible quest for life. If ever
it should be entered again by living man, which I do not think
probable, he will find tokens of our visit in the open chests of
jewels, the empty lamp, and the white bones of poor Foulata.
When we had groped our way for about a quarter of an hour along the
passage, suddenly it took a sharp turn, or else was bisected by
another, which we followed, only in course of time to be led into a
third. And so it went on for some hours. We seemed to be in a stone
labyrinth that led nowhere. What all these passages are, of course I
cannot say, but we thought that they must be the ancient workings of a
mine, of which the various shafts and adits travelled hither and
thither as the ore led them. This is the only way in which we could
account for such a multitude of galleries.
At length we halted, thoroughly worn out with fatigue and with that
hope deferred which maketh the heart sick, and ate up our poor
remaining piece of biltong and drank our last sup of water, for our
throats were like lime-kilns. It seemed to us that we had escaped
Death in the darkness of the treasure chamber only to meet him in the
darkness of the tunnels.
As we stood, once more utterly depressed, I thought that I caught a
sound, to which I called the attention of the others. It was very
faint and very far off, but it /was/ a sound, a faint, murmuring
sound, for the others heard it too, and no words can describe the
blessedness of it after all those hours of utter, awful stillness.
"By heaven! it's running water," said Good. "Come on."
Off we started again in the direction from which the faint murmur
seemed to come, groping our way as before along the rocky walls. I
remember that I laid down the basket full of diamonds, wishing to be
rid of its weight, but on second thoughts took it up again. One might
as well die rich as poor, I reflected. As we went the sound became
more and more audible, till at last it seemed quite loud in the quiet.
On, yet on; now we could distinctly make out the unmistakable swirl of
rushing water. And yet how could there be running water in the bowels
of the earth? Now we were quite near it, and Good, who was leading,
swore that he could smell it.
"Go gently, Good," said Sir Henry, "we must be close." /Splash!/ and a
cry from Good.
He had fallen in.
"Good! Good! where are you?" we shouted, in terrified distress. To our
intense relief an answer came back in a choky voice.
"All right; I've got hold of a rock. Strike a light to show me where
Hastily I lit the last remaining match. Its faint gleam discovered to
us a dark mass of water running at our feet. How wide it was we could
not see, but there, some way out, was the dark form of our companion
hanging on to a projecting rock.
"Stand clear to catch me," sung out Good. "I must swim for it."
Then we heard a splash, and a great struggle. Another minute and he
had grabbed at and caught Sir Henry's outstretched hand, and we had
pulled him up high and dry into the tunnel.
"My word!" he said, between his gasps, "that was touch and go. If I
hadn't managed to catch that rock, and known how to swim, I should
have been done. It runs like a mill-race, and I could feel no bottom."
We dared not follow the banks of the subterranean river for fear lest
we should fall into it again in the darkness. So after Good had rested
a while, and we had drunk our fill of the water, which was sweet and
fresh, and washed our faces, that needed it sadly, as well as we
could, we started from the banks of this African Styx, and began to
retrace our steps along the tunnel, Good dripping unpleasantly in
front of us. At length we came to another gallery leading to our
"We may as well take it," said Sir Henry wearily; "all roads are alike
here; we can only go on till we drop."
Slowly, for a long, long while, we stumbled, utterly exhausted, along
this new tunnel, Sir Henry now leading the way. Again I thought of
abandoning that basket, but did not.
Suddenly he stopped, and we bumped up against him.
"Look!" he whispered, "is my brain going, or is that light?"
We stared with all our eyes, and there, yes, there, far ahead of us,
was a faint, glimmering spot, no larger than a cottage window pane. It
was so faint that I doubt if any eyes, except those which, like ours,
had for days seen nothing but blackness, could have perceived it at
With a gasp of hope we pushed on. In five minutes there was no longer
any doubt; it /was/ a patch of faint light. A minute more and a breath
of real live air was fanning us. On we struggled. All at once the
tunnel narrowed. Sir Henry went on his knees. Smaller yet it grew,
till it was only the size of a large fox's earth--it was /earth/ now,
mind you; the rock had ceased.
A squeeze, a struggle, and Sir Henry was out, and so was Good, and so
was I, dragging Foulata's basket after me; and there above us were the
blessed stars, and in our nostrils was the sweet air. Then suddenly
something gave, and we were all rolling over and over and over through
grass and bushes and soft, wet soil.
The basket caught in something and I stopped. Sitting up I halloed
lustily. An answering shout came from below, where Sir Henry's wild
career had been checked by some level ground. I scrambled to him, and
found him unhurt, though breathless. Then we looked for Good. A little
way off we discovered him also, hammed in a forked root. He was a good
deal knocked about, but soon came to himself.
We sat down together, there on the grass, and the revulsion of feeling
was so great that really I think we cried with joy. We had escaped
from that awful dungeon, which was so near to becoming our grave.
Surely some merciful Power guided our footsteps to the jackal hole,
for that is what it must have been, at the termination of the tunnel.
And see, yonder on the mountains the dawn we had never thought to look
upon again was blushing rosy red.
Presently the grey light stole down the slopes, and we saw that we
were at the bottom, or rather, nearly at the bottom, of the vast pit
in front of the entrance to the cave. Now we could make out the dim
forms of the three Colossi who sat upon its verge. Doubtless those
awful passages, along which we had wandered the livelong night, had
been originally in some way connected with the great diamond mine. As
for the subterranean river in the bowels of the mountain, Heaven only
knows what it is, or whence it flows, or whither it goes. I, for one,
have no anxiety to trace its course.
Lighter it grew, and lighter yet. We could see each other now, and
such a spectacle as we presented I have never set eyes on before or
since. Gaunt-cheeked, hollow-eyed wretches, smeared all over with dust
and mud, bruised, bleeding, the long fear of imminent death yet
written on our countenances, we were, indeed, a sight to frighten the
daylight. And yet it is a solemn fact that Good's eye-glass was still
fixed in Good's eye. I doubt whether he had ever taken it out at all.
Neither the darkness, nor the plunge in the subterranean river, nor
the roll down the slope, had been able to separate Good and his eye-
Presently we rose, fearing that our limbs would stiffen if we stopped
there longer, and commenced with slow and painful steps to struggle up
the sloping sides of the great pit. For an hour or more we toiled
steadfastly up the blue clay, dragging ourselves on by the help of the
roots and grasses with which it was clothed. But now I had no more
thought of leaving the basket; indeed, nothing but death should have
At last it was done, and we stood by the great road, on that side of
the pit which is opposite to the Colossi.
At the side of the road, a hundred yards off, a fire was burning in
front of some huts, and round the fire were figures. We staggered
towards them, supporting one another, and halting every few paces.
Presently one of the figures rose, saw us and fell on to the ground,
crying out for fear.
"Infadoos, Infadoos! it is we, thy friends."
He rose; he ran to us, staring wildly, and still shaking with fear.
"Oh, my lords, my lords, it is indeed you come back from the dead!--
come back from the dead!"
And the old warrior flung himself down before us, and clasping Sir
Henry's knees, he wept aloud for joy.
Ten days from that eventful morning found us once more in our old
quarters at Loo; and, strange to say, but little the worse for our
terrible experience, except that my stubbly hair came out of the
treasure cave about three shades greyer than it went in, and that Good
never was quite the same after Foulata's death, which seemed to move
him very greatly. I am bound to say, looking at the thing from the
point of view of an oldish man of the world, that I consider her
removal was a fortunate occurrence, since, otherwise, complications
would have been sure to ensue. The poor creature was no ordinary
native girl, but a person of great, I had almost said stately, beauty,
and of considerable refinement of mind. But no amount of beauty or
refinement could have made an entanglement between Good and herself a
desirable occurrence; for, as she herself put it, "Can the sun mate
with the darkness, or the white with the black?"
I need hardly state that we never again penetrated into Solomon's
treasure chamber. After we had recovered from our fatigues, a process
which took us forty-eight hours, we descended into the great pit in
the hope of finding the hole by which we had crept out of the
mountain, but with no success. To begin with, rain had fallen, and
obliterated our spoor; and what is more, the sides of the vast pit
were full of ant-bear and other holes. It was impossible to say to
which of these we owed our salvation. Also, on the day before we
started back to Loo, we made a further examination of the wonders of
the stalactite cave, and, drawn by a kind of restless feeling, even
penetrated once more into the Chamber of the Dead. Passing beneath the
spear of the White Death we gazed, with sensations which it would be
quite impossible for me to describe, at the mass of rock that had shut
us off from escape, thinking the while of priceless treasures beyond,
of the mysterious old hag whose flattened fragments lay crushed
beneath it, and of the fair girl of whose tomb it was the portal. I
say gazed at the "rock," for, examine as we could, we could find no
traces of the join of the sliding door; nor, indeed, could we hit upon
the secret, now utterly lost, that worked it, though we tried for an
hour or more. It is certainly a marvellous bit of mechanism,
characteristic, in its massive and yet inscrutable simplicity, of the
age which produced it; and I doubt if the world has such another to
At last we gave it up in disgust; though, if the mass had suddenly
risen before our eyes, I doubt if we should have screwed up courage to
step over Gagool's mangled remains, and once more enter the treasure
chamber, even in the sure and certain hope of unlimited diamonds. And
yet I could have cried at the idea of leaving all that treasure, the
biggest treasure probably that in the world's history has ever been
accumulated in one spot. But there was no help for it. Only dynamite
could force its way through five feet of solid rock.
So we left it. Perhaps, in some remote unborn century, a more
fortunate explorer may hit upon the "Open Sesame," and flood the world
with gems. But, myself, I doubt it. Somehow, I seem to feel that the
tens of millions of pounds' worth of jewels which lie in the three
stone coffers will never shine round the neck of an earthly beauty.
They and Foulata's bones will keep cold company till the end of all
With a sigh of disappointment we made our way back, and next day
started for Loo. And yet it was really very ungrateful of us to be
disappointed; for, as the reader will remember, by a lucky thought, I
had taken the precaution to fill the wide pockets of my old shooting
coat and trousers with gems before we left our prison-house, also
Foulata's basket, which held twice as many more, notwithstanding that
the water bottle had occupied some of its space. A good many of these
fell out in the course of our roll down the side of the pit, including
several of the big ones, which I had crammed in on the top in my coat
pockets. But, comparatively speaking, an enormous quantity still
remained, including ninety-three large stones ranging from over two
hundred to seventy carats in weight. My old shooting coat and the
basket still held sufficient treasure to make us all, if not
millionaires as the term is understood in America, at least
exceedingly wealthy men, and yet to keep enough stones each to make
the three finest sets of gems in Europe. So we had not done so badly.
On arriving at Loo we were most cordially received by Ignosi, whom we
found well, and busily engaged in consolidating his power, and
reorganising the regiments which had suffered most in the great
struggle with Twala.
He listened with intense interest to our wonderful story; but when we
told him of old Gagool's frightful end he grew thoughtful.
"Come hither," he called, to a very old Induna or councillor, who was
sitting with others in a circle round the king, but out of ear-shot.
The ancient man rose, approached, saluted, and seated himself.
"Thou art aged," said Ignosi.
"Ay, my lord the king! Thy father's father and I were born on the same
"Tell me, when thou wast little, didst thou know Gagaoola the witch
"Ay, my lord the king!"
"How was she then--young, like thee?"
"Not so, my lord the king! She was even as she is now and as she was
in the days of my great grandfather before me; old and dried, very
ugly, and full of wickedness."
"She is no more; she is dead."
"So, O king! then is an ancient curse taken from the land."
"/Koom!/ I go, Black Puppy, who tore out the old dog's throat.
"Ye see, my brothers," said Ignosi, "this was a strange woman, and I
rejoice that she is dead. She would have let you die in the dark
place, and mayhap afterwards she had found a way to slay me, as she
found a way to slay my father, and set up Twala, whom her black heart
loved, in his place. Now go on with the tale; surely there never was
After I had narrated all the story of our escape, as we had agreed
between ourselves that I should, I took the opportunity to address
Ignosi as to our departure from Kukuanaland.
"And now, Ignosi," I said, "the time has come for us to bid thee
farewell, and start to see our own land once more. Behold, Ignosi,
thou camest with us a servant, and now we leave thee a mighty king. If
thou art grateful to us, remember to do even as thou didst promise: to
rule justly, to respect the law, and to put none to death without a
cause. So shalt thou prosper. To-morrow, at break of day, Ignosi, thou
wilt give us an escort who shall lead us across the mountains. Is it
not so, O king?"
Ignosi covered his face with his hands for a while before answering.
"My heart is sore," he said at last; "your words split my heart in
twain. What have I done to you, Incubu, Macumazahn, and Bougwan, that
ye should leave me desolate? Ye who stood by me in rebellion and in
battle, will ye leave me in the day of peace and victory? What will ye
--wives? Choose from among the maidens! A place to live in? Behold,
the land is yours as far as ye can see. The white man's houses? Ye
shall teach my people how to build them. Cattle for beef and milk?
Every married man shall bring you an ox or a cow. Wild game to hunt?
Does not the elephant walk through my forests, and the river-horse
sleep in the reeds? Would ye make war? My Impis wait your word. If
there is anything more which I can give, that will I give you."
"Nay, Ignosi, we want none of these things," I answered; "we would
seek our own place."
"Now do I learn," said Ignosi bitterly, and with flashing eyes, "that
ye love the bright stones more than me, your friend. Ye have the
stones; now ye would go to Natal and across the moving black water and
sell them, and be rich, as it is the desire of a white man's heart to
be. Cursed for your sake be the white stones, and cursed he who seeks
them. Death shall it be to him who sets foot in the place of Death to
find them. I have spoken. White men, ye can go."
I laid my hand upon his arm. "Ignosi," I said, "tell us, when thou
didst wander in Zululand, and among the white people of Natal, did not
thine heart turn to the land thy mother told thee of, thy native
place, where thou didst see the light, and play when thou wast little,
the land where thy place was?"
"It was even so, Macumazahn."
"In like manner, Ignosi, do our hearts turn to our land and to our own
Then came a silence. When Ignosi broke it, it was in a different
"I do perceive that now as ever thy words are wise and full of
reason, Macumazahn; that which flies in the air loves not to run along
the ground; the white man loves not to live on the level of the black
or to house among his kraals. Well, ye must go, and leave my heart
sore, because ye will be as dead to me, since from where ye are no
tidings can come to me.
"But listen, and let all your brothers know my words. No other white
man shall cross the mountains, even if any man live to come so far. I
will see no traders with their guns and gin. My people shall fight
with the spear, and drink water, like their forefathers before them. I
will have no praying-men to put a fear of death into men's hearts, to
stir them up against the law of the king, and make a path for the
white folk who follow to run on. If a white man comes to my gates I
will send him back; if a hundred come I will push them back; if armies
come, I will make war on them with all my strength, and they shall not
prevail against me. None shall ever seek for the shining stones: no,
not an army, for if they come I will send a regiment and fill up the
pit, and break down the white columns in the caves and choke them with
rocks, so that none can reach even to that door of which ye speak, and
whereof the way to move it is lost. But for you three, Incubu,
Macumazahn, and Bougwan, the path is always open; for, behold, ye are
dearer to me than aught that breathes.
"And ye would go. Infadoos, my uncle, and my Induna, shall take you by
the hand and guide you with a regiment. There is, as I have learned,
another way across the mountains that he shall show you. Farewell, my
brothers, brave white men. See me no more, for I have no heart to bear
it. Behold! I make a decree, and it shall be published from the
mountains to the mountains; your names, Incubu, Macumazahn, and
Bougwan, shall be "/hlonipa/" even as the names of dead kings, and he
who speaks them shall die.[*] So shall your memory be preserved in the
land for ever.
[*] This extraordinary and negative way of showing intense respect is
by no means unknown among African people, and the result is that
if, as is usual, the name in question has a significance, the
meaning must be expressed by an idiom or other word. In this way a
memory is preserved for generations, or until the new word utterly
supplants the old.
"Go now, ere my eyes rain tears like a woman's. At times as ye look
back down the path of life, or when ye are old and gather yourselves
together to crouch before the fire, because for you the sun has no
more heat, ye will think of how we stood shoulder to shoulder, in that
great battle which thy wise words planned, Macumazahn; of how thou
wast the point of the horn that galled Twala's flank, Bougwan; whilst
thou stood in the ring of the Greys, Incubu, and men went down before
thine axe like corn before a sickle; ay, and of how thou didst break
that wild bull Twala's strength, and bring his pride to dust. Fare ye
well for ever, Incubu, Macumazahn, and Bougwan, my lords and my
Ignosi rose and looked earnestly at us for a few seconds. Then he
threw the corner of his karross over his head, so as to cover his face
We went in silence.
Next day at dawn we left Loo, escorted by our old friend Infadoos, who
was heart-broken at our departure, and by the regiment of Buffaloes.
Early as was the hour, all the main street of the town was lined with
multitudes of people, who gave us the royal salute as we passed at the
head of the regiment, while the women blessed us for having rid the
land of Twala, throwing flowers before us as we went. It was really
very affecting, and not the sort of thing one is accustomed to meet
with from natives.
One ludicrous incident occurred, however, which I rather welcomed, as
it gave us something to laugh at.
Just before we reached the confines of the town, a pretty young girl,
with some lovely lilies in her hand, ran forward and presented them to
Good--somehow they all seemed to like Good; I think his eye-glass and
solitary whisker gave him a fictitious value--and then said that she
had a boon to ask.
"Speak on," he answered.
"Let my lord show his servant his beautiful white legs, that his
servant may look upon them, and remember them all her days, and tell
of them to her children; his servant has travelled four days' journey
to see them, for the fame of them has gone throughout the land."
"I'll be hanged if I do!" exclaimed Good excitedly.
"Come, come, my dear fellow," said Sir Henry, "you can't refuse to
oblige a lady."
"I won't," replied Good obstinately; "it is positively indecent."
However, in the end he consented to draw up his trousers to the knee,
amidst notes of rapturous admiration from all the women present,
especially the gratified young lady, and in this guise he had to walk
till we got clear of the town.
Good's legs, I fear, will never be so greatly admired again. Of his
melting teeth, and even of his "transparent eye," the Kukuanas wearied
more or less, but of his legs never.
As we travelled, Infadoos told us that there was another pass over the
mountains to the north of the one followed by Solomon's Great Road, or
rather that there was a place where it was possible to climb down the
wall of cliff which separates Kukuanaland from the desert, and is
broken by the towering shapes of Sheba's Breasts. It appeared, also,
that rather more than two years previously a party of Kukuana hunters
had descended this path into the desert in search of ostriches, whose
plumes are much prized among them for war head-dresses, and that in
the course of their hunt they had been led far from the mountains and
were much troubled by thirst. Seeing trees on the horizon, however,
they walked towards them, and discovered a large and fertile oasis
some miles in extent, and plentifully watered. It was by way of this
oasis that Infadoos suggested we should return, and the idea seemed to
us a good one, for it appeared that we should thus escape the rigours
of the mountain pass. Also some of the hunters were in attendance to
guide us to the oasis, from which, they stated, they could perceive
other fertile spots far away in the desert.[*]
[*] It often puzzled all of us to understand how it was possible that
Ignosi's mother, bearing the child with her, should have survived
the dangers of her journey across the mountains and the desert,
dangers which so nearly proved fatal to ourselves. It has since
occurred to me, and I give the idea to the reader for what it is
worth, that she must have taken this second route, and wandered
out like Hagar into the wilderness. If she did so, there is no
longer anything inexplicable about the story, since, as Ignosi
himself related, she may well have been picked up by some ostrich
hunters before she or the child was exhausted, was led by them to
the oasis, and thence by stages to the fertile country, and so on
by slow degrees southwards to Zululand.--A.Q.
Travelling easily, on the night of the fourth day's journey we found
ourselves once more on the crest of the mountains that separate
Kukuanaland from the desert, which rolled away in sandy billows at our
feet, and about twenty-five miles to the north of Sheba's Breasts.
At dawn on the following day, we were led to the edge of a very
precipitous chasm, by which we were to descend the precipice, and gain
the plain two thousand and more feet below.
Here we bade farewell to that true friend and sturdy old warrior,
Infadoos, who solemnly wished all good upon us, and nearly wept with
grief. "Never, my lords," he said, "shall mine old eyes see the like
of you again. Ah! the way that Incubu cut his men down in the battle!
Ah! for the sight of that stroke with which he swept off my brother
Twala's head! It was beautiful--beautiful! I may never hope to see
such another, except perchance in happy dreams."
We were very sorry to part from him; indeed, Good was so moved that he
gave him as a souvenir--what do you think?--an /eye-glass/; afterwards
we discovered that it was a spare one. Infadoos was delighted,
foreseeing that the possession of such an article would increase his
prestige enormously, and after several vain attempts he actually
succeeded in screwing it into his own eye. Anything more incongruous
than the old warrior looked with an eye-glass I never saw. Eye-glasses
do not go well with leopard-skin cloaks and black ostrich plumes.
Then, after seeing that our guides were well laden with water and
provisions, and having received a thundering farewell salute from the
Buffaloes, we wrung Infadoos by the hand, and began our downward
climb. A very arduous business it proved to be, but somehow that
evening we found ourselves at the bottom without accident.
"Do you know," said Sir Henry that night, as we sat by our fire and
gazed up at the beetling cliffs above us, "I think that there are
worse places than Kukuanaland in the world, and that I have known
unhappier times than the last month or two, though I have never spent
such queer ones. Eh! you fellows?"
"I almost wish I were back," said Good, with a sigh.
As for myself, I reflected that all's well that ends well; but in the
course of a long life of shaves, I never had such shaves as those
which I had recently experienced. The thought of that battle makes me
feel cold all over, and as for our experience in the treasure
Next morning we started on a toilsome trudge across the desert, having
with us a good supply of water carried by our five guides, and camped
that night in the open, marching again at dawn on the morrow.
By noon of the third day's journey we could see the trees of the oasis
of which the guides spoke, and within an hour of sundown we were
walking once more upon grass and listening to the sound of running
And now I come to perhaps the strangest adventure that happened to us
in all this strange business, and one which shows how wonderfully
things are brought about.
I was walking along quietly, some way in front of the other two, down
the banks of the stream which runs from the oasis till it is swallowed
up in the hungry desert sands, when suddenly I stopped and rubbed my
eyes, as well I might. There, not twenty yards in front of me, placed
in a charming situation, under the shade of a species of fig-tree, and
facing to the stream, was a cosy hut, built more or less on the Kafir
principle with grass and withes, but having a full-length door instead
of a bee-hole.
"What the dickens," said I to myself, "can a hut be doing here?" Even
as I said it the door of the hut opened, and there limped out of it a
/white man/ clothed in skins, and with an enormous black beard. I
thought that I must have got a touch of the sun. It was impossible. No
hunter ever came to such a place as this. Certainly no hunter would
ever settle in it. I stared and stared, and so did the other man, and
just at that juncture Sir Henry and Good walked up.
"Look here, you fellows," I said, "is that a white man, or am I mad?"
Sir Henry looked, and Good looked, and then all of a sudden the lame
white man with a black beard uttered a great cry, and began hobbling
towards us. When he was close he fell down in a sort of faint.
With a spring Sir Henry was by his side.
"Great Powers!" he cried, "/it is my brother George!/"
At the sound of this disturbance, another figure, also clad in skins,
emerged from the hut, a gun in his hand, and ran towards us. On seeing
me he too gave a cry.
"Macumazahn," he halloed, "don't you know me, Baas? I'm Jim the
hunter. I lost the note you gave me to give to the Baas, and we have
been here nearly two years." And the fellow fell at my feet, and
rolled over and over, weeping for joy.
"You careless scoundrel!" I said; "you ought to be well /sjambocked/"
--that is, hided.
Meanwhile the man with the black beard had recovered and risen, and he
and Sir Henry were pump-handling away at each other, apparently
without a word to say. But whatever they had quarrelled about in the
past--I suspect it was a lady, though I never asked--it was evidently
"My dear old fellow," burst out Sir Henry at last, "I thought you were
dead. I have been over Solomon's Mountains to find you. I had given up
all hope of ever seeing you again, and now I come across you perched
in the desert, like an old /assvögel/."[*]
"I tried to cross Solomon's Mountains nearly two years ago," was the
answer, spoken in the hesitating voice of a man who has had little
recent opportunity of using his tongue, "but when I reached here a
boulder fell on my leg and crushed it, and I have been able to go
neither forward nor back."
Then I came up. "How do you do, Mr. Neville?" I said; "do you remember
"Why," he said, "isn't it Hunter Quatermain, eh, and Good too? Hold on
a minute, you fellows, I am getting dizzy again. It is all so very
strange, and, when a man has ceased to hope, so very happy!"
That evening, over the camp fire, George Curtis told us his story,
which, in its way, was almost as eventful as our own, and, put
shortly, amounted to this. A little less than two years before, he had
started from Sitanda's Kraal, to try to reach Suliman's Berg. As for
the note I had sent him by Jim, that worthy lost it, and he had never
heard of it till to-day. But, acting upon information he had received
from the natives, he headed not for Sheba's Breasts, but for the
ladder-like descent of the mountains down which we had just come,
which is clearly a better route than that marked out in old Dom
Silvestra's plan. In the desert he and Jim had suffered great
hardships, but finally they reached this oasis, where a terrible
accident befell George Curtis. On the day of their arrival he was
sitting by the stream, and Jim was extracting the honey from the nest
of a stingless bee which is to be found in the desert, on the top of a
bank immediately above him. In so doing he loosened a great boulder of
rock, which fell upon George Curtis's right leg, crushing it
frightfully. From that day he had been so lame that he found it
impossible to go either forward or back, and had preferred to take the
chances of dying in the oasis to the certainty of perishing in the
As for food, however, they got on pretty well, for they had a good
supply of ammunition, and the oasis was frequented, especially at
night, by large quantities of game, which came thither for water.
These they shot, or trapped in pitfalls, using the flesh for food,
and, after their clothes wore out, the hides for clothing.
"And so," George Curtis ended, "we have lived for nearly two years,
like a second Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday, hoping against hope
that some natives might come here to help us away, but none have come.
Only last night we settled that Jim should leave me, and try to reach
Sitanda's Kraal to get assistance. He was to go to-morrow, but I had
little hope of ever seeing him back again. And now /you/, of all
people in the world, /you/, who, as I fancied, had long ago forgotten
all about me, and were living comfortably in old England, turn up in a
promiscuous way and find me where you least expected. It is the most
wonderful thing that I have ever heard of, and the most merciful too."
Then Sir Henry set to work, and told him the main facts of our
adventures, sitting till late into the night to do it.
"By Jove!" said George Curtis, when I showed him some of the diamonds:
"well, at least you have got something for your pains, besides my
Sir Henry laughed. "They belong to Quatermain and Good. It was a part
of the bargain that they should divide any spoils there might be."
This remark set me thinking, and having spoken to Good, I told Sir
Henry that it was our joint wish that he should take a third portion
of the diamonds, or, if he would not, that his share should be handed
to his brother, who had suffered even more than ourselves on the
chance of getting them. Finally, we prevailed upon him to consent to
this arrangement, but George Curtis did not know of it until some time
Here, at this point, I think that I shall end my history. Our journey
across the desert back to Sitanda's Kraal was most arduous, especially
as we had to support George Curtis, whose right leg was very weak
indeed, and continually threw out splinters of bone. But we did
accomplish it somehow, and to give its details would only be to
reproduce much of what happened to us on the former occasion.
Six months from the date of our re-arrival at Sitanda's, where we
found our guns and other goods quite safe, though the old rascal in
charge was much disgusted at our surviving to claim them, saw us all
once more safe and sound at my little place on the Berea, near Durban,
where I am now writing. Thence I bid farewell to all who have
accompanied me through the strangest trip I ever made in the course of
a long and varied experience.
P.S.--Just as I had written the last word, a Kafir came up my avenue
of orange trees, carrying a letter in a cleft stick, which he had
brought from the post. It turned out to be from Sir Henry, and as it
speaks for itself I give it in full.
October 1, 1884.
Brayley Hall, Yorkshire.
My Dear Quatermain,
I send you a line a few mails back to say that the three of us,
George, Good, and myself, fetched up all right in England. We got
off the boat at Southampton, and went up to town. You should have
seen what a swell Good turned out the very next day, beautifully
shaved, frock coat fitting like a glove, brand new eye-glass,
etc., etc. I went and walked in the park with him, where I met
some people I know, and at once told them the story of his
"beautiful white legs."
He is furious, especially as some ill-natured person has printed
it in a Society paper.
To come to business, Good and I took the diamonds to Streeter's to
be valued, as we arranged, and really I am afraid to tell you what
they put them at, it seems so enormous. They say that of course it
is more or less guess-work, as such stones have never to their
knowledge been put on the market in anything like such quantities.
It appears that (with the exception of one or two of the largest)
they are of the finest water, and equal in every way to the best
Brazilian stones. I asked them if they would buy them, but they
said that it was beyond their power to do so, and recommended us
to sell by degrees, over a period of years indeed, for fear lest
we should flood the market. They offer, however, a hundred and
eighty thousand for a very small portion of them.
You must come home, Quatermain, and see about these things,
especially if you insist upon making the magnificent present of
the third share, which does /not/ belong to me, to my brother
George. As for Good, he is /no good/. His time is too much
occupied in shaving, and other matters connected with the vain
adorning of the body. But I think he is still down on his luck
about Foulata. He told me that since he had been home he hadn't
seen a woman to touch her, either as regards her figure or the
sweetness of her expression.
I want you to come home, my dear old comrade, and to buy a house
near here. You have done your day's work, and have lots of money
now, and there is a place for sale quite close which would suit
you admirably. Do come; the sooner the better; you can finish
writing the story of our adventures on board ship. We have refused
to tell the tale till it is written by you, for fear lest we shall
not be believed. If you start on receipt of this you will reach
here by Christmas, and I book you to stay with me for that. Good
is coming, and George; and so, by the way, is your boy Harry
(there's a bribe for you). I have had him down for a week's
shooting, and like him. He is a cool young hand; he shot me in the
leg, cut out the pellets, and then remarked upon the advantages of
having a medical student with every shooting party!
Good-bye, old boy; I can't say any more, but I know that you will
come, if it is only to oblige
Your sincere friend,
P.S.--The tusks of the great bull that killed poor Khiva have now
been put up in the hall here, over the pair of buffalo horns you
gave me, and look magnificent; and the axe with which I chopped
off Twala's head is fixed above my writing-table. I wish that we
could have managed to bring away the coats of chain armour. Don't
lose poor Foulata's basket in which you brought away the diamonds.
To-day is Tuesday. There is a steamer going on Friday, and I really
think that I must take Quatermain at his word, and sail by her for
England, if it is only to see you, Harry, my boy, and to look after
the printing of this history, which is a task that I do not like to
trust to anybody else.