Part 2 out of 6
"I say, old fellow," said Scroope, "you must have been pretty clever
to get all that in, for your eyes weren't shut for more than ten
"Then I wonder what you would say if I repeated everything," I
answered, for I still felt dreamy and not quite myself.
"You see elephant Jana?" asked Harūt. "He kill woman and child, eh?
Well, he do that every night. Well, that why people of White Kendah
want you to kill /him/ and take all that ivory which they no dare
touch because it in holy place and Black Kendah not let them. So he
live still. That what we wish know. Thank you much, Macumazana. You
very good look through-distance man. Just what I think. Kendah 'bacco
smoke work very well in you. Now, beautiful lady," he added turning to
Miss Holmes, "you like look too? Better look. Who knows what you see?"
Miss Holmes hesitated a moment, studying me with an inquiring eye. But
I made no sign, being in truth very curious to hear /her/ experience.
"Yes," she said.
"I would prefer, Luna, that you left this business alone," remarked
Lord Ragnall uneasily. "I think it is time that you ladies went to
"Here is a match," said Miss Holmes to Harūt who was engaged in
putting more tobacco into the bowl, the suspicion of a smile upon his
grave and statuesque countenance. Harūt received the match with a low
bow and fired the stuff as before. Then he handed the bowl, from which
once again the blue smoke curled upwards, to Miss Holmes, and gently
and gracefully let the antimacassar fall over it and her head, which
it draped as a wedding veil might do. A few seconds later she threw
off the antimacassar and cast the bowl, in which the fire was now out,
on to the floor. Then she stood up with wide eyes, looking wondrous
lovely and, notwithstanding her lack of height, majestic.
"I have been in another world," she said in a low voice as though she
spoke to the air, "I have travelled a great way. I found myself in a
small place made of stone. It was dark in the place, the fire in that
bowl lit it up. There was nothing there except a beautiful statue of a
naked baby which seemed to be carved in yellow ivory, and a chair made
of ebony inlaid with ivory and seated with string. I stood in front of
the statue of the Ivory Child. It seemed to come to life and smile at
me. Round its neck was a string of red stones. It took them from its
neck and set them upon mine. Then it pointed to the chair, and I sat
down in the chair. That was all."
Harūt followed her words with an interest that I could see was
intense, although he attempted to hide it. Then he asked me to
translate them, which I did.
As their full sense came home to him, although his face remained
impassive, I saw his dark eyes shine with the light of triumph.
Moreover I heard him whisper to Marūt words that seemed to mean,
"The Sacred Child accepts the Guardian. The Spirit of the White Kendah
finds a voice again."
Then as though involuntarily, but with the utmost reverence, both of
them bowed deeply towards Miss Holmes.
A babel of conversation broke out.
"What a ridiculous dream," I heard Lord Ragnall say in a vexed voice.
"An ivory child that seemed to come to life and to give you a
necklace. Whoever heard such nonsense?"
"Whoever heard such nonsense?" repeated Miss Holmes after him, as
though in polite acquiescence, but speaking as an automaton might
"I say," interrupted Scroope, addressing Miss Manners, "this is a
drawing-room entertainment and a half, isn't it, dear?"
"I don't know," answered Miss Manners, doubtfully, "it is rather too
queer for my taste. Tricks are all very well, but when it comes to
magic and visions I get frightened."
"Well, I suppose the show is over," said Lord Ragnall. "Quatermain,
would you mind asking your conjurer friends what I owe them?"
Here Harūt, who had understood, paused from packing up his properties
"Nothing, O great Lord, nothing. It is we owe you much. Here we learn
what we want know long time. I mean if elephant Jana still kill people
of Kendah. Kendah 'bacco no speak to us. Only speak to new spirit. You
got great gift, lady, and you too, Macumazana. You not like smoke more
Kendah 'bacco and look into past, eh? Better look! Very full, past,
learn much there about all us; learn how things begin. Make you
understand lot what seem odd to-day. No! Well, one day you look
p'raps, 'cause past pull hard and call loud, only no one hear what it
say. Good night, O great Lord. Good night, O beautiful lady. Good
night, O Macumazana, till we meet again when you come kill elephant
Jana. Blessing of the Heaven-Child, who give rain, who protect all
danger, who give food, who give health, on you all."
Then making many obeisances they walked backwards to the door where
they put on their long cloaks.
At a sign from Lord Ragnall I accompanied them, an office which,
fearing more snakes, Mr. Savage was very glad to resign to me.
Presently we stood outside the house amidst the moaning trees, and
very cold it was there.
"What does all this mean, O men of Africa?" I asked.
"Answer the question yourself when you stand face to face with the
great elephant Jana that has in it an evil spirit, O Macumazana,"
replied Harūt. "Nay, listen. We are far from our home and we sought
tidings through those who could give it to us, and we have won those
tidings, that is all. We are worshippers of the Heavenly Child that is
eternal youth and all good things, but of late the Child has lacked a
tongue. Yet to-night it spoke again. Seek to know no more, you who in
due season will know all things."
"Seek to know no more," echoed Marūt, "who already, perhaps, know too
much, lest harm should come to you, Macumazana."
"Where are you going to sleep to-night?" I asked.
"We do not sleep here," answered Harūt, "we walk to the great city and
thence find our way to Africa, where we shall meet you again. You know
that we are no liars, common readers of thought and makers of tricks,
for did not Dogeetah, the wandering white man, speak to you of the
people of whom he had heard who worshipped the Child of Heaven? Go in,
Macumazana, ere you take harm in this horrible cold, and take with you
this as a marriage gift from the Child of Heaven whom she met
to-night, to the beautiful lady stamped with the sign of the young
moon who is about to marry the great lord she loves."
Then he thrust a little linen-wrapped parcel into my hand and with his
companion vanished into the darkness.
I returned to the drawing-room where the others were still discussing
the remarkable performance of the two native conjurers.
"They have gone," I said in answer to Lord Ragnall, "to walk to London
as they said. But they have sent a wedding-present to Miss Holmes,"
and I showed the parcel.
"Open it, Quatermain," he said again.
"No, George," interrupted Miss Holmes, laughing, for by now she seemed
to have quite recovered herself, "I like to open my own presents."
He shrugged his shoulders and I handed her the parcel, which was
neatly sewn up. Somebody produced scissors and the stitches were cut.
Within the linen was a necklace of beautiful red stones, oval-shaped
like amber beads and of the size of a robin's egg. They were roughly
polished and threaded on what I recognized at once to be hair from an
elephant's tail. From certain indications I judged these stones, which
might have been spinels or carbuncles, or even rubies, to be very
ancient. Possibly they had once hung round the neck of some lady in
old Egypt. Indeed a beautiful little statuette, also of red stone,
which was suspended from the centre of the necklace, suggested that
this was so, for it may well have been a likeness of one of the great
gods of the Egyptians, the infant Horus, the son of Isis.
"That is the necklace I saw which the Ivory Child gave me in my
dream," said Miss Holmes quietly.
Then with much deliberation she clasped it round her throat.
The sequel to the events of this evening may be told very briefly and
of it the reader can form his own judgment. I narrate it as it
That night I did not sleep at all well. It may have been because of
the excitement of the great shoot in which I found myself in
competition with another man whom I disliked and who had defrauded me
in the past, to say nothing of its physical strain in cold and heavy
weather. Or it may have been that my imagination was stirred by the
arrival of that strange pair, Harūt and Marūt, apparently in search of
myself, seven thousand miles away from any place where they can have
known aught of an insignificant individual with a purely local repute.
Or it may have been that the pictures which they showed me when under
the influence of the fumes of their "tobacco"--or of their hypnotism--
took an undue possession of my brain.
Or lastly, the strange coincidence that the beautiful betrothed of my
host should have related to me a tale of her childhood of which she
declared she had never spoken before, and that within an hour the two
principal actors in that tale should have appeared before my eyes and
hers (for I may state that from the beginning I had no doubt that they
were the same men), moved me and filled me with quite natural
foreboding. Or all these things together may have tended to a
concomitant effect. At any rate the issue was that I could not sleep.
For hour after hour I lay thinking and in an irritated way listening
for the chimes of the Ragnall stable-clock which once had adorned the
tower of the church and struck the quarters with a damnable
reiteration. I concluded that Messrs. Harūt and Marūt were a couple of
common Arab rogues such as I had seen performing at the African ports.
Then a quarter struck and I concluded that the elephants' cemetery
which I beheld in the smoke undoubtedly existed and that I meant to
collar those thousands of pounds' worth of ivory before I died. Then
after another quarter I concluded that there was no elephants'
cemetery--although by the way my old friend, Dogeetah or Brother John,
had mentioned such a thing to me--but that probably there was a tribe,
as he had also mentioned, called the Kendah, who worshipped a baby, or
rather its effigy.
Well now, as had already occurred to me, the old Egyptians, of whom I
was always fond of reading when I got a chance, also worshipped a
child, Horus the Saviour. And that child had a mother called Isis
symbolized in the crescent moon, the great Nature goddess, the
mistress of mysteries to whose cult ten thousand priests were sworn--
do not Herodotus and others, especially Apuleius, tell us all about
her? And by a queer coincidence Miss Holmes had the mark of a crescent
moon upon her breast. And when she was a child those two men, or
others very like them, had pointed out that mark to each other. And I
had seen them staring hard at it that night. And in her vapour-invoked
dream the "Heavenly Child," /alias/ Horus, or the double of Horus, the
/Ka/, I think the Egyptians called it, had awakened at the sight of
her and kissed her and given her the necklace of the goddess, and--all
the rest. What did it mean?
I went to sleep at last wondering what on earth it /could/ mean, till
presently that confounded clock woke me up again and I must go through
the whole business once more.
By degrees, this was towards dawn, I became aware that all hope of
rest had vanished from me utterly; that I was most painfully awake,
and what is more, oppressed by a curious fear to the effect that
something was going to happen to Miss Holmes. So vivid did this fear
become that at length I arose, lit a candle and dressed myself. As it
happened I knew where Miss Holmes slept. Her room, which I had seen
her enter, was on the same corridor as mine though at the other end of
it near the head of a stair that ran I knew not whither. In my
portmanteau that had been sent over from Miss Manners's house, amongst
other things was a small double-barrelled pistol which from long habit
I always carried with me loaded, except for the caps that were in a
little leather case with some spare ammunition attached to the pistol
belt. I took it out, capped it and thrust it into my pocket. Then I
slipped from the room and stood behind a tall clock in the corridor,
watching Miss Holmes's door and reflecting what a fool I should look
if anyone chanced to find me.
Half an hour or so later by the light of the setting moon which
struggled through a window, I saw the door open and Miss Holmes emerge
in a kind of dressing-gown and still wearing the necklace which Harūt
and Marūt had given her. Of this I was sure for the light gleamed upon
the red stones.
Also it shone upon her face and showed me without doubt that she was
walking in her sleep.
Gliding as silently as a ghost she crossed the corridor and vanished.
I followed and saw that she had descended an ancient, twisting
stairway which I had noted in the castle wall. I went after her, my
stockinged feet making no noise, feeling my way carefully in the
darkness of the stair, for I did not dare to strike a match. Beneath
me I heard a noise as of someone fumbling with bolts. Then a door
creaked on its hinges and there was some light. When I reached the
doorway I caught sight of the figure of Miss Holmes flitting across a
hollow garden that was laid out in the bottom of the castle moat which
had been drained. The garden, as I had observed when we walked through
it on the previous day on our way to the first covert that we shot,
was bordered by a shrubbery through which ran paths that led to the
back drive of the castle.
Across the garden glided the figure of Miss Holmes and after it went
I, crouching and taking cover behind every bush as though I were
stalking big game, which indeed I was. She entered the shrubbery,
moving much more swiftly now, for as she went she seemed to gather
speed, like a stone which is rolled down a hill. It was as though
whatever might be attracting her, for I felt sure that she was being
drawn by something, acted more strongly upon her sleeping will as she
drew nearer to it. For a while I lost sight of her in the shadow of
the tall trees. Then suddenly I saw her again, standing quite still in
an opening caused by the blowing down in the gale of one of the avenue
of elms that bordered the back drive. But now she was no longer alone,
for advancing towards her were two cloaked figures in whom I
recognized Harūt and Marūt.
There she stood with outstretched arms, and towards her, stealthily as
lions stalking a buck, came Harūt and Marūt. Moreover, between the
naked boughs of the fallen elm I caught sight of what looked like the
outline of a closed carriage standing upon the drive. Also I heard a
horse stamp upon the frosty ground. Round the edge of the little glade
I ran, keeping in the dark shadow, as I went cocking the pistol that
was in my pocket. Then suddenly I darted out and stood between Harūt
and Marūt and Miss Holmes.
Not a word passed between us. I think that all three of us
subconsciously were anxious not to awake the sleeping woman, knowing
that if we did so there would be a terrible scene. Only after
motioning to me to stand aside, of course in vain, Harūt and Marūt
drew from their robes curved and cruel-looking knives and bowed, for
even now their politeness did not forsake them. I bowed back and when
I straightened myself those enterprising Easterns found that I was
covering the heart of Harūt with my pistol. Then with that perception
which is part of the mental outfit of the great, they saw that the
game was up since I could have shot them both before a knife touched
"You have won this time, O Watcher-by-Night," whispered Harūt softly,
"but another time you will lose. That beautiful lady belongs to us and
the People of the White Kendah, for she is marked with the holy mark
of the young moon. The call of the Child of Heaven is heard in her
heart, and will bring her home to the Child as it has brought her to
us to-night. Now lead her hence still sleeping, O brave and clever
one, so well named Watcher-by-Night."
Then they were gone and presently I heard the sound of horses being
driven rapidly along the drive.
For a moment I hesitated as to whether I would or would not run in and
shoot those horses. Two considerations stayed me. The first was that
if I did so my pistol would be empty, or even if I shot one horse and
retained a barrel loaded, with it I could only kill a single man,
leaving myself defenceless against the knife of the other. The second
consideration was that now as before I did not wish to wake up Miss
I crept to her and not knowing what else to do, took hold of one of
her outstretched hands. She turned and came with me at once as though
she knew me, remaining all the while fast asleep. Thus we went back to
the house, through the still open door, up the stairway straight to
her own room, on the threshold of which I loosed her hand. The room
was dark and I could see nothing, but I listened until I heard a sound
as of a person throwing herself upon the bed and drawing up the
blankets. Then knowing that she was safe for a while, I shut the door,
which opened outwards as doors of ancient make sometimes do, and set
against it a little table that stood in the passage.
Next, after reflecting for a minute, the circumstances being awkward
in many ways, I went to my room and lit a candle. Obviously it was my
duty to inform Lord Ragnall of what had happened and that as soon as
possible. But I had no idea in what part of that huge building his
sleeping place might be, nor, for patent reasons, was it desirable
that I should disturb the house and so create talk. In this dilemma I
remembered that Lord Ragnall's confidential servant, Mr. Savage, when
he conducted me to my room on the previous night, which he made a
point of doing perhaps because he wished to talk over the matter of
the snakes that had found their way into his pockets, had shown me a
bell in it which he said rang outside his door. He called it an
"emergency bell." I remarked idly that it was improbable that I should
have any occasion for its use.
"Who knows, sir?" said Mr. Savage prophetically. "There are folk who
say that this old castle is haunted, which after what I have seen
to-night I can well believe. If you should chance to meet a ghost
looking, let us say, like those black villains, Harum and Scarum, or
whatever they call themselves--well, sir, two's better company than
I considered that bell but was loath to ring it for the reasons I have
given. Then I went outside the room and looked. As I had hoped might
be the case, there ran the wire on the face of the wall connected
along its length by other wires with the various rooms it passed.
I set to work and followed that wire. It was not an easy job; indeed
once or twice it reminded me of that story of the old Greek hero who
found his way through a labyrinth by means of a silken thread. I
forget whether it were a bull or a lady he was looking for, but with
care and perseverance he found one or the other, or it may have been
Down staircases and various passages I went with my eye glued upon the
wire, which occasionally got mixed up with other wires, till at length
it led me through a swing door covered with red baize into what
appeared to be a modern annexe to the castle. Here at last it
terminated on the spring of an alarming-looking and deep-throated bell
that hung immediately over a certain door.
On this door I knocked, hoping that it might be that of Mr. Savage and
praying earnestly that it did not enclose the chaste resting-place of
the cook or any other female. Too late, I mean after I had knocked, it
occurred to me that if so my position would be painful to a degree.
However in this particular Fortune stood my friend, which does not
always happen to the virtuous. For presently I heard a voice which I
recognized as that of Mr. Savage, asking, not without a certain quaver
in its tone,
"Who the devil is that?"
"Me," I replied, being flustered.
"'Me' won't do," said the voice. 'Me' might be Harum or it might be
Scarum, or it might be someone worse. Who's 'Me'?"
"Allan Quatermain, you idiot," I whispered through the keyhole.
"Anna who? Well, never mind. Go away, Hanna. I'll talk to you in the
Then I kicked the door, and at length, very cautiously, Mr. Savage
"Good heavens, sir," he said, "what are you doing here, sir? Dressed
too, at this hour, and with the handle of a pistol sticking out of
your pocket--or is it--the head of a snake?" and he jumped back, a
strange and stately figure in a long white nightshirt which apparently
he wore over his underclothing.
I entered the room and shut the door, whereon he politely handed me a
"Is it ghosts, sir, or are you ill, or is it Harum and Scarum, of whom
I have been thinking all night? Very cold too, sir, being afraid to
pull up the bedclothes for fear lest there might be more reptiles in
them." He pointed to his dress-coat hanging on the back of another
chair with both the pockets turned inside out, adding tragically, "To
think, sir, that this new coat has been a nest of snakes, which I have
hated like poison from a child, and me almost a teetotaller!"
"Yes," I said impatiently, "it's Harum and Scarum as you call them.
Take me to Lord Ragnall's bedroom at once."
"Ah! sir, burgling, I suppose, or mayhap worse," he exclaimed as he
threw on some miscellaneous garments and seized a life-preserver which
hung upon a hook. "Now I'm ready, only I hope they have left their
snakes behind. I never could bear the sight of a snake, and they seem
to know it--the brutes."
In due course we reached Lord Ragnall's room, which Mr. Savage
entered, and in answer to a stifled inquiry exclaimed,
"Mr. Allan Quatermain to see you, my lord."
"What is it, Quatermain?" he asked, sitting up in bed and yawning.
"Have you had a nightmare?"
"Yes," I answered, and Savage having left us and shut the door, I told
him everything as it is written down.
"Great heavens!" he exclaimed when I had finished. "If it had not been
for you and your intuition and courage----"
"Never mind me," I interrupted. "The question is--what should be done
now? Are you going to try to arrest these men, or will you--hold your
tongue and merely cause them to be watched?"
"Really I don't know. Even if we can catch them the whole story would
sound so strange in a law-court, and all sorts of things might be
"Yes, Lord Ragnall, it would sound so strange that I beg you will come
at once to see the evidences of what I tell you, before rain or snow
obliterates them, bringing another witness with you. Lady Longden,
"Lady Longden! Why one might as well write to /The Times/. I have it!
There's Savage. He is faithful and can be silent."
So Savage was called in and, while Lord Ragnall dressed himself
hurriedly, told the outline of his story under pain of instant
dismissal if he breathed a word. Really to watch his face was as good
as a play. So astonished was he that all he could ejaculate was--
"The black-hearted villains! Well, they ain't friendly with snakes for
Then having made sure that Miss Holmes was still in her room, we went
down the twisting stair and through the side doorway, locking the door
after us. By now the dawn was breaking and there was enough light to
enable me in certain places where the snow that fell after the gale
remained, to show Lord Ragnall and Savage the impress of the little
bedroom slippers which Miss Holmes wore, and of my stockinged feet
In the plantation things were still easier, for every detail of the
movements of the four of us could be traced. Moreover, on the back
drive was the spoor of the horses and the marks of the wheels of the
carriage that had been brought for the purposes of the abduction. Also
my great good fortune, for this seemed to prove my theory, we found a
parcel wrapped in native linen that appeared to have fallen out of the
carriage when Harūt and Marūt made their hurried escape, as one of the
wheels had gone over it. It contained an Eastern woman's dress and
veil, intended, I suppose, to be used in disguising Miss Holmes, who
thence-forward would have appeared to be the wife or daughter of one
of the abductors.
Savage discovered this parcel, which he lifted only to drop it with a
yell, for underneath it lay a torpid snake, doubtless one of those
that had been used in the performance.
Of these discoveries and many other details, on our return to the
house, Lord Ragnall made full notes in a pocket-book, that when
completed were signed by all three of us.
There is not much more to tell, that is of this part of the story. The
matter was put into the hands of detectives who discovered that the
Easterns had driven to London, where all traces of the carriage which
conveyed them was lost. They, however, embarked upon a steamer called
the /Antelope/, together with two native women, who probably had been
provided to look after Miss Holmes, and sailed that very afternoon for
Egypt. Thither, of course, it was useless to follow them in those
days, even if it had been advisable to do so.
To return to Miss Holmes. She came down to breakfast looking very
charming but rather pale. Again I sat next to her and took some
opportunity to ask her how she had rested that night.
She replied, Very well and yet very ill, since, although she never
remembered sleeping more soundly in her life, she had experienced all
sorts of queer dreams of which she could remember nothing at all, a
circumstance that annoyed her much, as she was sure that they were
most interesting. Then she added,
"Do you know, Mr. Quatermain, I found a lot of mud on my dressing-gown
this morning, and my bedroom slippers were also a mass of mud and wet
through. How do you account for that? It is just as though I had been
walking about outside in my sleep, which is absurd, as I never did
such a thing in my life."
Not feeling equal to the invention of any convincing explanation of
these phenomena, I upset the marmalade pot on to the table in such a
way that some of it fell upon her dress, and then covered my retreat
with profuse apologies. Understanding my dilemma, for he had heard
something of this talk, Lord Ragnall came to my aid with a startling
statement of which I forget the purport, and thus that crisis passed.
Shortly after breakfast Scroope announced to Miss Manners that her
carriage was waiting, and we departed. Before I went, as it chanced, I
had a few private words with my host, with Miss Holmes, and with the
magnificent Mr. Savage. To the last, by the way, I offered a tip which
he refused, saying that after all we had gone through together he
could not allow "money to come between us," by which he meant, to pass
from my pocket to his. Lord Ragnall asked me for both my English and
my African addresses, which he noted in his pocket-book. Then he said,
"Really, Quatermain, I feel as though I had known you for years
instead of three days; if you will allow me I will add that I should
like to know a great deal more of you." (He was destined to do so,
poor fellow, though neither of us knew it at the time.) "If ever you
come to England again I hope you will make this house your
"And if ever you come to South Africa, Lord Ragnall, I hope you will
make my four-roomed shanty on the Berea at Durban your headquarters.
You will get a hearty welcome there and something to eat, but little
"There is nothing I should like better, Quatermain. Circumstances have
put me in a certain position in this country, still to tell you the
truth there is a great deal about the life of which I grow very tired.
But you see I am going to be married, and that I fear means an end of
travelling, since naturally my wife will wish to take her place in
society and the rest."
"Of course," I replied, "for it is not every young lady who has the
luck to become an English peeress with all the etceteras, is it? Still
I am not so sure but that Miss Holmes will take to travelling some
day, although I /am/ sure that she would do better to stay at home."
He looked at me curiously, then asked,
"You don't think there is anything really serious in all this
business, do you?"
"I don't know what to think," I answered, "except that you will do
well to keep a good eye upon your wife. What those Easterns tried to
do last night and, I think, years ago, they may try again soon, or
years hence, for evidently they are patient and determined men with
much to win. Also it is a curious coincidence that she should have
that mark upon her which appeals so strongly to Messrs. Harūt and
Marūt, and, to be brief, she is in some ways different from most young
women. As she said to me herself last night, Lord Ragnall, we are
surrounded by mysteries; mysteries of blood, of inherited spirit, of
this world generally in which it is probable that we all descended
from quite a few common ancestors. And beyond these are other
mysteries of the measureless universe to which we belong, that may
already be exercising their strong and secret influences upon us, as
perhaps, did we know it, they have done for millions of years in the
Infinite whence we came and whither we go."
I suppose I spoke somewhat solemnly, for he said,
"Do you know you frighten me a little, though I don't quite understand
what you mean." Then we parted.
With Miss Holmes my conversation was shorter. She remarked,
"It has been a great pleasure to me to meet you. I do not remember
anybody with whom I have found myself in so much sympathy--except one
of course. It is strange to think that when we meet again I shall be a
"I do not suppose we shall ever meet again, Miss Holmes. Your life is
here, mine is in the wildest places of a wild land far away."
"Oh! yes, we shall," she answered. "I learned this and lots of other
things when I held my head in that smoke last night."
Then we also parted.
Lastly Mr. Savage arrived with my coat. "Goodbye, Mr. Quatermain," he
said. "If I forget everything else I shall never forget you and those
villains, Harum and Scarum and their snakes. I hope it won't be my lot
ever to clap eyes on them again, Mr. Quatermain, and yet somehow I
don't feel so sure of that."
"Nor do I," I replied, with a kind of inspiration, after which
followed the episode of the rejected tip.
THE BONA FIDE GOLD MINE
Fully two years had gone by since I bade farewell to Lord Ragnall and
Miss Holmes, and when the curtain draws up again behold me seated on
the stoep of my little house at Durban, plunged in reflection and very
sad indeed. Why I was sad I will explain presently.
In that interval of time I had heard once or twice about Lord Ragnall.
Thus I received from Scroope a letter telling of his lordship's
marriage with Miss Holmes, which, it appeared, had been a very fine
affair indeed, quite one of the events of the London season. Two
Royalties attended the ceremony, a duke was the best man, and the
presents according to all accounts were superb and of great value,
including a priceless pearl necklace given by the bridegroom to the
bride. A cutting from a society paper which Scroope enclosed dwelt at
length upon the splendid appearance of the bridegroom and the sweet
loveliness of the bride. Also it described her dress in language which
was Greek to me. One sentence, however, interested me intensely.
It ran: "The bride occasioned some comment by wearing only one
ornament, although the Ragnall family diamonds, which have not seen
the light for many years, are known to be some of the finest in the
country. It was a necklace of what appeared to be large but rather
roughly polished rubies, to which hung a small effigy of an Egyptian
god also fashioned from a ruby. It must be added that although of an
unusual nature on such an occasion this jewel suited her dark beauty
well. Lady Ragnall's selection of it, however, from the many she
possesses was the cause of much speculation. When asked by a friend
why she had chosen it, she is reported to have said that it was to
bring her good fortune."
Now why did she wear the barbaric marriage gift of Harūt and Marūt in
preference to all the other gems at her disposal, I wondered. The
thing was so strange as to be almost uncanny.
The second piece of information concerning this pair reached me
through the medium of an old /Times/ newspaper which I received over a
year later. It was to the effect that a son and heir had been born to
Lord Ragnall and that both mother and child were doing well.
So there's the end to a very curious little story, thought I to
Well, during those two years many things befell me. First of all, in
company with my old friend Sir Stephen Somers, I made the expedition
to Pongoland in search of the wonderful orchid which he desired to add
to his collection. I have already written of that journey and our
extraordinary adventures, and need therefore allude to it no more
here, except to say that during the course of it I was sorely tempted
to travel to the territory north of the lake in which the Pongos
dwelt. Much did I desire to see whether Messrs. Harūt and Marūt would
in truth appear to conduct me to the land where the wonderful elephant
which was supposed to be animated by an evil spirit was waiting to be
killed by my rifle. However, I resisted the impulse, as indeed our
circumstances obliged me to do. In the end we returned safely to
Durban, and here I came to the conclusion that never again would I
risk my life on such mad expeditions.
Owing to circumstances which I have detailed elsewhere I was now in
possession of a considerable sum of cash, and this I determined to lay
out in such a fashion as to make me independent of hunting and trading
in the wilder regions of Africa. As usual when money is forthcoming,
an opportunity soon presented itself in the shape of a gold mine which
had been discovered on the borders of Zululand, one of the first that
was ever found in those districts. A Jew trader named Jacob brought it
to my notice and offered me a half share if I would put up the capital
necessary to work the mine. I made a journey of inspection and
convinced myself that it was indeed a wonderful proposition. I need
not enter into the particulars nor, to tell the truth, have I any
desire to do so, for the subject is still painful to me, further than
to say that this Jew and some friends of his panned out visible gold
before my eyes and then revealed to me the magnificent quartz reef
from which, as they demonstrated, it had been washed in the bygone
ages of the world. The news of our discovery spread like wildfire, and
as, whatever else I might be, everyone knew that I was honest, in the
end a small company was formed with Allan Quatermain, Esq., as the
chairman of the Bona Fide Gold Mine, Limited.
Oh! that company! Often to this day I dream of it when I have
Our capital was small, £10,000, of which the Jew, who was well named
Jacob, and his friends, took half (for nothing of course) as the
purchase price of their rights. I thought the proportion large and
said so, especially after I had ascertained that these rights had cost
them exactly three dozen of square-face gin, a broken-down wagon, four
cows past the bearing age and £5 in cash. However, when it was pointed
out to me that by their peculiar knowledge and genius they had located
and provided the value of a property of enormous potential worth,
moreover that this sum was to be paid to them in scrip which would
only be realizable when success was assured and not in money, after a
night of anxious consideration I gave way.
Personally, before I consented to accept the chairmanship, which
carried with it a salary of £100 a year (which I never got), I bought
and paid for in cash, shares to the value of £1,000 sterling. I
remember that Jacob and his friends seemed surprised at this act of
mine, as they had offered to give me five hundred of their shares for
nothing "in consideration of the guarantee of my name." These I
refused, saying that I would not ask others to invest in a venture in
which I had no actual money stake; whereon they accepted my decision,
not without enthusiasm. In the end the balance of £4,000 was
subscribed and we got to work. Work is a good name for it so far as I
was concerned, for never in all my days have I gone through so
harrowing a time.
We began by washing a certain patch of gravel and obtained results
which seemed really astonishing. So remarkable were they that on
publication the shares rose to 10s. premium. Jacob and Co. took
advantage of this opportunity to sell quite half of their bonus
holding to eager applicants, explaining to me that they did so not for
personal profit, which they scorned, but "to broaden the basis of the
undertaking by admitting fresh blood."
It was shortly after this boom that the gravel surrounding the rich
patch became very gravelly indeed, and it was determined that we
should buy a small battery and begin to crush the quartz from which
the gold was supposed to flow in a Pactolian stream. We negotiated for
that battery through a Cape Town firm of engineers--but why follow the
melancholy business in all its details? The shares began to decrease
in value. They shrank to their original price of £1, then to 15s.,
then to 10s. Jacob, he was managing director, explained to me that it
was necessary to "support the market," as he was already doing to an
enormous extent, and that I as chairman ought to take a "lead in this
good work" in order to show my faith in the concern.
I took a lead to the extent of another £500, which was all that I
could afford. I admit that it was a shock to such trust in human
nature as remained to me when I discovered subsequently that the 1,000
shares which I bought for my £500 had really been the property of
Jacob, although they appeared to be sold to me in various other names.
The crisis came at last, for before that battery was delivered our
available funds were exhausted, and no one would subscribe another
halfpenny. Debentures, it is true, had been issued and taken up to the
extent of about £1,000 out of the £5,000 offered, though who bought
them remained at the time a mystery to me. Ultimately a meeting was
called to consider the question of liquidating the company, and at
this meeting, after three sleepless nights, I occupied the chair.
When I entered the room, to my amazement I found that of the five
directors only one was present besides myself, an honest old retired
sea captain who had bought and paid for 300 shares. Jacob and the two
friends who represented his interests had, it appeared, taken ship
that morning for Cape Town, whither they were summoned to attend
various relatives who had been seized with illness.
It was a stormy meeting at first. I explained the position to the best
of my ability, and when I had finished was assailed with a number of
questions which I could not answer to the satisfaction of myself or of
anybody else. Then a gentleman, the owner of ten shares, who had
evidently been drinking, suggested in plain language that I had
cheated the shareholders by issuing false reports.
I jumped up in a fury and, although he was twice my size, asked him to
come and argue the question outside, whereon he promptly went away.
This incident excited a laugh, and then the whole truth came out. A
man with coloured blood in him stood up and told a story which was
subsequently proved to be true. Jacob had employed him to "salt" the
mine by mixing a heavy sprinkling of gold in the gravel we had first
washed (which the coloured man swore he did in innocence), and
subsequently had defrauded him of his wages. That was all. I sank back
in my chair overcome. Then some good fellow in the audience, who had
lost money himself in the affair and whom I scarcely knew, got up and
made a noble speech which went far to restore my belief in human
He said in effect that it was well known that I, Allan Quatermain,
after working like a horse in the interests of the shareholders, had
practically ruined myself over this enterprise, and that the real
thief was Jacob, who had made tracks for the Cape, taking with him a
large cash profit resulting from the sale of shares. Finally he
concluded by calling for "three cheers for our honest friend and
fellow sufferer, Mr. Allan Quatermain."
Strange to say the audience gave them very heartily indeed. I thanked
them with tears in my eyes, saying that I was glad to leave the room
as poor as I had ever been, but with a reputation which my conscience
as well as their kindness assured me was quite unblemished.
Thus the winding-up resolution was passed and that meeting came to an
end. After shaking hands with my deliverer from a most unpleasant
situation, I walked homewards with the lightest heart in the world. My
money was gone, it was true; also my over-confidence in others had led
me to make a fool of myself by accepting as fact, on what I believed
to be the evidence of my eyes, that which I had not sufficient expert
knowledge to verify. But my honour was saved, and as I have again and
again seen in the course of life, money is nothing when compared with
honour, a remark which Shakespeare made long ago, though like many
other truths this is one of which a full appreciation can only be
gained by personal experience.
Not very far from the place where our meeting had been held I passed a
side street then in embryo, for it had only one or two houses situated
in their gardens and a rather large and muddy sluit of water running
down one side at the edge of the footpath. Save for two people this
street was empty, but that pair attracted my attention. They were a
white man, in whom I recognized the stout and half-intoxicated
individual who had accused me of cheating the company and then
departed, and a withered old Hottentot who at that distance, nearly a
hundred yards away, much reminded me of a certain Hans.
This Hans, I must explain, was originally a servant of my father, who
was a missionary in the Cape Colony, and had been my companion in many
adventures. Thus in my youth he and I alone escaped when Dingaan
murdered Retief and his party of Boers,[*] and he had been one of my
party in our quest for the wonderful orchid, the record of which I
have written down in "The Holy Flower."
[*] See the book called "Marie."--Editor.
Hans had his weak points, among which must be counted his love of
liquor, but he was a gallant and resourceful old fellow as indeed he
had amply proved upon that orchid-seeking expedition. Moreover he
loved me with a love passing the love of women. Now, having acquired
some money in a way I need not stop to describe--for is it not written
elsewhere?--he was settled as a kind of little chief on a farm not
very far from Durban, where he lived in great honour because of the
fame of his deeds.
The white man and Hans, if Hans it was, were engaged in violent
altercation whereof snatches floated to me on the breeze, spoken in
the Dutch tongue.
"You dirty little Hottentot!" shouted the white man, waving a stick,
"I'll cut the liver out of you. What do you mean by nosing about after
me like a jackal?" And he struck at Hans, who jumped aside.
"Son of a fat white sow," screamed Hans in answer (for the moment I
heard his voice I knew that it was Hans), "did you dare to call the
Baas a thief? Yes, a thief, O Rooter in the mud, O Feeder on filth and
worms, O Hog of the gutter--the Baas, the clipping of whose nail is
worth more than you and all your family, he whose honour is as clear
as the sunlight and whose heart is cleaner than the white sand of the
"Yes, I did," roared the white man; "for he got my money in the gold
"Then, hog, why did you run away. Why did you not wait to tell him so
outside that house?"
"I'll teach you about running away, you little yellow dog," replied
the other, catching Hans a cut across the ribs.
"Oh! you want to see me run, do you?" said Hans, skipping back a few
yards with wonderful agility. "Then look!"
Thus speaking he lowered his head and charged like a buffalo. Fair in
the middle he caught that white man, causing him to double up, fly
backwards and land with a most resounding splash in the deepest part
of the muddy sluit. Here I may remark that, as his shins are the
weakest, a Hottentot's head is by far the hardest and most dangerous
part of him. Indeed it seems to partake of the nature of a cannon
ball, for, without more than temporary disturbance to its possessor, I
have seen a half-loaded wagon go over one of them on a muddy road.
Having delivered this home thrust Hans bolted round a corner and
disappeared, while I waited trembling to see what happened to his
adversary. To my relief nearly a minute later he crept out of the
sluit covered with mud and dripping with water and hobbled off slowly
down the street, his head so near his feet that he looked as though he
had been folded in two, and his hands pressed upon what I believe is
medically known as the diaphragm. Then I also went upon my way roaring
with laughter. Often I have heard Hottentots called the lowest of
mankind, but, reflected I, they can at any rate be good friends to
those who treat them well--a fact of which I was to have further proof
By the time I reached my house and had filled my pipe and sat myself
down in the dilapidated cane chair on the veranda, that natural
reaction set in which so often follows rejoicing at the escape from a
great danger. It was true that no one believed I had cheated them over
that thrice-accursed gold mine, but how about other matters?
I mused upon the Bible narrative of Jacob and Esau with a new and very
poignant sympathy for Esau. I wondered what would become of my Jacob.
Jacob, I mean the original, prospered exceedingly as a result of his
deal in porridge, and, as thought I, probably would his artful
descendant who so appropriately bore his name. As a matter of fact I
do not know what became of him, but bearing his talents in mind I
think it probable that, like Van Koop, under some other patronymic he
has now been rewarded with a title by the British Government. At any
rate I had eaten the porridge in the shape of worthless but dearly
purchased shares, after labouring hard at the chase of the golden
calf, while brother Jacob had got my inheritance, or rather my money.
Probably he was now counting it over in sovereigns upon the ship and
sniggering as he thought of the shareholders' meeting with me in the
chair. Well, he was a thief and would run his road to whatever end is
appointed for thieves, so why should I bother my head more about him?
As I had kept my honour--let him take my savings.
But I had a son to support, and now what was I to do with scarcely
three hundred pounds, a good stock of guns and this little Durban
property left to me in the world? Commerce in all its shapes I
renounced once and for ever. It was too high--or too low--for me; so
it would seem that there remained to me only my old business of
professional hunting. Once again I must seek those adventures which I
had forsworn when my evil star shone so brightly over a gold mine.
What was it to be? Elephants, I supposed, since these are the only
creatures worth killing from a money point of view. But most of my old
haunts had been more or less shot out. The competition of younger
professionals, of wandering backveld Boers and even of poaching
natives who had obtained guns, was growing severe. If I went at all I
should have to travel farther afield.
Whilst I meditated thus, turning over the comparative advantages or
disadvantages of various possible hunting grounds in my mind, my
attention was caught by a kind of cough that seemed to proceed from
the farther side of a large gardenia bush. It was not a human cough,
but rather resembled that made by a certain small buck at night,
probably to signal to its mate, which of course it could not be as
there were no buck within several miles. Yet I knew it came from a
human throat, for had I not heard it before in many an hour of
difficulty and danger?
"Draw near, Hans," I said in Dutch, and instantly out of a clump of
aloes that grew in front of the pomegranate hedge, crept the withered
shape of the old Hottentot, as a big yellow snake might do. Why he
should choose this method of advance instead of that offered by the
garden path I did not know, but it was quite in accordance with his
secretive nature, inherited from a hundred generations of ancestors
who spent their lives avoiding the observation of murderous foes.
He squatted down in front of me, staring in a vacant way at the fierce
ball of the westering sun without blinking an eyelid, just as a
"You look to me as though you had been fighting, Hans," I said. "The
crown of your hat is knocked out; you are splashed with mud and there
is the mark of a stick upon your left side."
"Yes, Baas. You are right as usual, Baas. I had a quarrel with a man
about sixpence that he owed me, and knocked him over with my head,
forgetting to take my hat off first. Therefore it is spoiled, for
which I am sorry, as it was quite a new hat, not two years old. The
Baas gave it me. He bought it in a store at Utrecht when we were
coming back from Pongoland."
"Why do you lie to me?" I asked "You have been fighting a white man
and for more than sixpence. You knocked him into a sluit and the mud
splashed up over you."
"Yes, Baas, that is so. Your spirit speaks truly to you of the matter.
Yet it wanders a little from the path, since I fought the white man
for less than sixpence. I fought him for love, which is nothing at
"Then you are even a bigger fool than I took you for, Hans. What do
you want now?"
"I want to borrow a pound, Baas. The white man will take me before the
magistrate, and I shall be fined a pound, or fourteen days in the
/trunk/ (i.e. jail). It is true that the white man struck me first,
but the magistrate will not believe the word of a poor old Hottentot
against his, and I have no witness. He will say, 'Hans, you were drunk
again. Hans, you are a liar and deserve to be flogged, which you will
be next time. Pay a pound and ten shillings more, which is the price
of good white justice, or go to the /trunk/ for fourteen days and make
baskets there for the great Queen to use.' Baas, I have the price of
the justice which is ten shillings, but I want to borrow the pound for
"Hans, I think that just now you are better able to lend me a pound
than I am to lend one to you. My bag is empty, Hans."
"Is it so, Baas? Well, it does not matter. If necessary I can make
baskets for the great white Queen to put her food in, for fourteen
days, or mats on which she will wipe her feet. The /trunk/ is not such
a bad place, Baas. It gives time to think of the white man's justice
and to thank the Great One in the Sky, because the little sins one did
not do have been found out and punished, while the big sins one did
do, such as--well, never mind, Baas--have not been found out at all.
Your reverend father, the Predikant, always taught me to have a
thankful heart, Baas, and when I remember that I have only been in the
/trunk/ for three months altogether who, if all were known, ought to
have been there for years, I remember his words, Baas."
"Why should you go to the /trunk/ at all, Hans, when you are rich and
can pay a fine, even if it were a hundred pounds?"
"A month or two ago it is true I was rich, Baas, but now I am poor. I
have nothing left except ten shillings."
"Hans," I said severely, "you have been gambling again; you have been
drinking again. You have sold your property and your cattle to pay
your gambling debts and to buy square-face gin."
"Yes, Baas, and for no good it seems; though it is not true that I
have been drinking. I sold the land and the cattle for £650, Baas, and
with the money I bought other things."
"What did you buy?" I said.
He fumbled first in one pocket of his coat and then in the other, and
ultimately produced a crumpled and dirty-looking piece of paper that
resembled a bank-note. I took and examined this document and next
minute nearly fainted. It certified that Hans was the proprietor of I
know not how many debentures or shares, I forget which they were, in
the Bona Fide Gold Mine, Limited, that same company of which I was the
unlucky chairman, in consideration for which he had paid a sum of over
six hundred and fifty pounds.
"Hans," I said feebly, "from whom did you buy this?"
"From the baas with the hooked nose, Baas. He who was named Jacob,
after the great man in the Bible of whom your father, the Predikant,
used to tell us, that one who was so slim and dressed himself up in a
goatskin and gave his brother mealie porridge when he was hungry,
after he had come in from shooting buck, Baas, and got his farm and
cattle, Baas, and then went to Heaven up a ladder, Baas."
"And who told you to buy them, Hans?"
"Sammy, Baas, he who was your cook when we went to Pongoland, he who
hid in the mealie-pit when the slavers burned Beza-Town and came out
half cooked like a fowl from the oven. The Baas Jacob stopped at
Sammy's hotel, Baas, and told him that unless he bought bits of paper
like this, of which he had plenty, you would be brought before the
magistrate and sent to the /trunk/, Baas. So Sammy bought some, Baas,
but not many for he had only a little money, and the Baas Jacob paid
him for all he ate and drank with other bits of paper. Then Sammy came
to me and showed me what it was my duty to do, reminding me that your
reverend father, the Predikant, had left you in my charge till one of
us dies, whether you were well or ill and whether you got better or
got worse--just like a white wife, Baas. So I sold the farm and the
cattle to a friend of the Baas Jacob's, at a very low price, Baas, and
that is all the story."
I heard and, to tell the honest truth, almost I wept, since the
thought of the sacrifice which this poor old Hottentot had made for my
sake on the instigation of a rogue utterly overwhelmed me.
"Hans," I asked recovering myself, "tell me what was that new name
which the Zulu captain Mavovo gave you before he died, I mean after
you had fired Beza-Town and caught Hassan and his slavers in their own
Hans, who had suddenly found something that interested him extremely
out at sea, perhaps because he did not wish to witness my grief,
turned round slowly and answered:
"Mavovo named me Light-in-Darkness, and by that name the Kafirs know
me now, Baas, though some of them call me Lord-of-the-Fire."
"Then Mavovo named you well, for indeed, Hans, you shine like a light
in the darkness of my heart. I whom you think wise am but a fool,
Hans, who has been tricked by a /vernuker/, a common cheat, and he has
tricked you and Sammy as well. But as he has shown me that man can be
very vile, you have shown me that he can be very noble; and, setting
the one against the other, my spirit that was in the dust rises up
once more like a withered flower after rain. Light-in-Darkness,
although if I had ten thousand pounds I could never pay you back--
since what you have given me is more than all the gold in the world
and all the land and all the cattle--yet with honour and with love I
will try to pay you," and I held out my hand to him.
He took it and pressed it against his wrinkled old forehead, then
"Talk no more of that, Baas, for it makes me sad, who am so happy. How
often have you forgiven me when I have done wrong? How often have you
not flogged me when I should have been flogged for being drunk and
other things--yes, even when once I stole some of your powder and sold
it to buy square-face gin, though it is true I knew it was bad powder,
not fit for you to use? Did I thank you then overmuch? Why therefore
should you thank me who have done but a little thing, not really to
help you but because, as you know, I love gambling, and was told that
this bit of paper would soon be worth much more than I gave for it. If
it had proved so, should I have given you that money? No, I should
have kept it myself and bought a bigger farm and more cattle."
"Hans," I said sternly, "if you lie so hard, you will certainly go to
hell, as the Predikant, my father, often told you."
"Not if I lie for you, Baas, or if I do it doesn't matter, except that
then we should be separated by the big kloof written of in the Book,
especially as there I should meet the Baas Jacob, as I very much want
to do for a reason of my own."
Not wishing to pursue this somewhat unchristian line of thought, I
inquired of him why he felt happy.
"Oh! Baas," he answered with a twinkle in his little black eyes,
"can't you guess why? Now you have very little money left and I have
none at all. Therefore it is plain that we must go somewhere to earn
money, and I am glad of that, Baas, for I am tired of sitting on that
farm out there and growing mealies and milking cows, especially as I
am too old to marry, Baas, as you are tired of looking for gold where
there isn't any and singing sad songs in that house of meeting yonder
like you did this afternoon. Oh! the Great Father in the skies knew
what He was about when He sent the Baas Jacob our way. He beat us for
our good, Baas, as He does always if we could only understand."
I reflected to myself that I had not often heard the doctrine of the
Church better or more concisely put, but I only said:
"That is true, Hans, and I thank you for the lesson, the second you
have taught me to-day. But where are we to go to, Hans? Remember, it
must be elephants."
He suggested some places; indeed he seemed to have come provided with
a list of them, and I sat silent making no comment. At length he
finished and squatted there before me, chewing a bit of tobacco I had
given him, and looking up at me interrogatively with his head on one
side, for all the world like a dilapidated and inquisitive bird.
"Hans," I said, "do you remember a story I told you when you came to
see me a year or more ago, about a tribe called the Kendah in whose
country there is said to be a great cemetery of elephants which travel
there to die from all the land about? A country that lies somewhere to
the north-east of the lake island on which the Pongo used to dwell?"
"And you said, I think, that you had never heard of such a people."
"No, Baas, I never said anything at all. I have heard a good deal
"Then why did you not tell me so before, you little idiot?" I asked
"What was the good, Baas? You were hunting gold then, not ivory. Why
should I make you unhappy, and waste my own breath by talking about
beautiful things which were far beyond the reach of either of us, far
as that sky?"
"Don't ask fool's questions but tell me what you know, Hans. Tell me
"This, Baas: When we were up at Beza-Town after we came back from
killing the gorilla-god, and the Baas Stephen your friend lay sick,
and there was nothing else to do, I talked with everyone I could find
worth talking to, and they were not many, Baas. But there was one very
old woman who was not of the Mazitu race and whose husband and
children were all dead, but whom the people in the town looked up to
and feared because she was wise and made medicines out of herbs, and
told fortunes. I used to go to see her. She was quite blind, Baas, and
fond of talking with me--which shows how wise she was. I told her all
about the Pongo gorilla-god, of which already she knew something. When
I had done she said that he was as nothing compared with a certain god
that she had seen in her youth, seven tens of years ago, when she
became marriageable. I asked her for that story, and she spoke it
"Far away to the north and east live a people called the Kendah, who
are ruled over by a sultan. They are a very great people and inhabit a
most fertile country. But all round their country the land is desolate
and manless, peopled only by game, for the reason that they will
suffer none to dwell there. That is why nobody knows anything about
them: he that comes across the wilderness into that land is killed and
never returns to tell of it.
"She told me also that she was born of this people, but fled because
their sultan wished to place her in his house of women, which she did
not desire. For a long while she wandered southwards, living on roots
and berries, till she came to desert land and at last, worn out, lay
down to die. Then she was found by some of the Mazitu who were on an
expedition seeking ostrich feathers for war-plumes. They gave her food
and, seeing that she was fair, brought her back to their country,
where one of them married her. But of her own land she uttered only
lying words to them because she feared that if she told the truth the
gods who guard its secrets would be avenged on her, though now when
she was near to death she dreaded them no more, since even the Kendah
gods cannot swim through the waters of death. That is all she said
about her journey because she had forgotten the rest."
"Bother her journey, Hans. What did she say about her god and the
"This, Baas: that the Kendah have not one god but two, and not one
ruler but two. They have a good god who is a child-fetish" (here I
started) "that speaks through the mouth of an oracle who is always a
woman. If that woman dies the god does not speak until they find
another woman bearing certain marks which show that she holds the
spirit of the god. Before the woman dies she always tells the priests
in what land they are to look for her who is to come after her; but
sometimes they cannot find her and then trouble falls because 'the
Child has lost its tongue,' and the people become the prey of the
other god that never dies."
"And what is that god, Hans?"
"That god, Baas, is an elephant" (here I started again), "a very bad
elephant to which human sacrifice is offered. I think, Baas, that it
is the devil wearing the shape of an elephant, at least that is what
she said. Now the sultan is a worshipper of the god that dwells in the
elephant Jana" (here I positively whistled) "and so are most of the
people, indeed all those among them who are black. For once far away
in the beginning the Kendah were two peoples, but the lighter-coloured
people who worshipped the Child came down from the north and conquered
the black people, bringing the Child with them, or so I understood
her, Baas, thousands and thousands of years ago when the world was
young. Since then they have flowed on side by side like two streams in
the same channel, never mixing, for each keeps its own colour. Only,
she said, that stream which comes from the north grows weaker and that
from the south more strong."
"Then why does not the strong swallow up the weak?"
"Because the weak are still the pure and the wise, Baas, or so the old
vrouw declared. Because they worship the good while the others worship
the devil, and as your father the Predikant used to say, Good is the
cock which always wins the fight at the last, Baas. Yes, when he seems
to be dead he gets up again and kicks the devil in the stomach and
stands on him and crows, Baas. Also these northern folk are mighty
magicians. Through their Child-fetish they give rain and fat seasons
and keep away sickness, whereas Jana gives only evil gifts that have
to do with cruelty and war and so forth. Lastly, the priests who rule
through the Child have the secrets of wealth and ancient knowledge,
whereas the sultan and his followers have only the might of the spear.
This was the song which the old woman sang to me, Baas."
"Why did you not tell me of these matters when we were at Beza-Town
and I could have talked with her myself, Hans?"
"For two reasons, Baas. The first was that I feared, if I told you,
you would wish to go on to find these people, whereas I was tired of
travelling and wanted to come to Natal to rest. The second was that on
the night when the old woman finished telling me her story, she was
taken sick and died, and therefore it would have been no use to bring
you to see her. So I saved it up in my head until it was wanted.
Moreover, Baas, all the Mazitu declared that old woman to be the
greatest of liars."
"She was not altogether a liar, Hans. Hear what I have learned," and I
told him of the magic of Harūt and Marūt and of the picture that I had
seemed to see of the elephant Jana and of the prayer that Harūt and
Marūt had made to me, to all of which he listened quite stolidly. It
is not easy to astonish a Hottentot's brain, which often draws no
accurate dividing-line between the possible and what the modern world
holds to be impossible.
"Yes, Baas," he said when I had finished, "then it seems that the old
woman was not such a liar after all. Baas, when shall we start after
that hoard of dead ivory, and which way will you go? By Kilwa or
through Zululand? It should be settled soon because of the seasons."
After this we talked together for a long while, for with pockets as
empty as mine were then, the problem seemed difficult, if not
LORD RAGNALL'S STORY
That night Hans slept at my house, or rather outside of it in the
garden, or upon the stoep, saying that he feared arrest if he went to
the town, because of his quarrel with the white man. As it happened,
however, the other party concerned never stirred further in the
business, probably because he was too drunk to remember who had
knocked him into the sluit or whether he had gravitated thither by
On the following morning we renewed our discussion, debating in detail
every possible method of reaching the Kendah people by help of such
means as we could command. Like that of the previous night it proved
somewhat abortive. Obviously such a long and hazardous expedition
ought to be properly financed and--where was the money? At length I
came to the conclusion that if we went at all it would be best, in the
circumstances, for Hans and myself to start alone with a Scotch cart
drawn by oxen and driven by a couple of Zulu hunters, which we could
lade with ammunition and a few necessaries.
Thus lightly equipped we might work through Zululand and thence
northward to Beza-Town, the capital of the Mazitu, where we were sure
of a welcome. After that we must take our chance. It was probable that
we should never reach the district where these Kendah were supposed to
dwell, but at least I might be able to kill some elephants in the wild
country beyond Zululand.
While we were talking I heard the gun fired which announced the
arrival of the English mail, and stepping to the end of the garden,
saw the steamer lying at anchor outside the bar. Then I went indoors
to write a few business letters which, since I had become immersed in
the affairs of that unlucky gold mine, had grown to be almost a daily
task with me. I had got through several with many groanings, for none
were agreeable in their tenor, when Hans poked his head through the
window in a silent kind of a way as a big snake might do, and said:
"Baas, I think there are two baases out on the road there who are
looking for you. Very fine baases whom I don't know."
"Shareholders in the Bona Fide Gold Mine," thought I to myself, then
added as I prepared to leave through the back door: "If they come here
tell them I am not at home. Tell them I left early this morning for
the Congo River to look for the sources of the Nile."
"Yes, Baas," said Hans, collapsing on to the stoep.
I went out through the back door, sorrowing that I, Allan Quatermain,
should have reached a rung in the ladder of life whence I shrank from
looking any stranger in the face, for fear of what he might have to
say to me. Then suddenly my pride asserted itself. After all what was
there of which I should be ashamed? I would face these irate
shareholders as I had faced the others yesterday.
I walked round the little house to the front garden which was planted
with orange trees, and up to a big moonflower bush, I believe /datura/
is its right name, that grew near the pomegranate hedge which
separated my domain from the road. There a conversation was in
progress, if so it may be called.
"/Ikona/" (that is: "I don't know"), "/Inkoosi/" (i.e. "Chief"), said
some Kafir in a stupid drawl.
Thereon a voice that instantly struck me as familiar, answered:
"We want to know where the great hunter lives."
"/Ikona/," said the Kafir.
"Can't you remember his native name?" asked another voice which was
also familiar to me, for I never forget voices though I am unable to
place them at once.
"The great hunter, Here-come-a-zany," said the first voice
triumphantly, and instantly there flashed back upon my mind a vision
of the splendid drawing-room at Ragnall Castle and of an imposing
majordomo introducing into it two white-robed, Arab-looking men.
"Mr. Savage, by the Heavens!" I muttered. "What in the name of
goodness is he doing here?"
"There," said the second voice, "your black friend has bolted, and no
wonder, for who can be called by such a name? If you had done what I
told you, Savage, and hired a white guide, it would have saved us a
lot of trouble. Why will you always think that you know better than
"Seemed an unnecessary expense, my lord, considering we are travelling
incog., my lord."
"How long shall we travel 'incog.' if you persist in calling me my
lord at the top of your voice, Savage? There is a house beyond those
trees; go in and ask where----"
By this time I had reached the gate which I opened, remarking quietly,
"How do you do, Lord Ragnall? How do you do, Mr. Savage? I thought
that I recognized your voices on the road and came to see if I was
right. Please walk in; that is, if it is I whom you wish to visit."
As I spoke I studied them both, and observed that while Savage looked
much the same, although slightly out of place in these strange
surroundings, the time that had passed since we met had changed Lord
Ragnall a good deal. He was still a magnificent-looking man, one of
those whom no one that had seen him would ever forget, but now his
handsome face was stamped with some new seal of suffering. I felt at
once that he had become acquainted with grief. The shadow in his dark
eyes and a certain worn expression about the mouth told me that this
"Yes, Quatermain," he said as he took my hand, "it is you whom I have
travelled seven thousand miles to visit, and I thank God that I have
been so fortunate as to find you. I feared lest you might be dead, or
perhaps far away in the centre of Africa where I should never be able
to track you down."
"A week later perhaps you would not have found me, Lord Ragnall," I
answered, "but as it happens misfortune has kept me here."
"And misfortune has brought me here, Quatermain."
Then before I had time to answer Savage came up and we went into the
"You are just in time for lunch," I said, "and as luck will have it
there is a good rock cod and a leg of oribé buck for you to eat. Boy,
set two more places."
"One more place, if you please, sir," said Savage. "I should prefer to
take my food afterwards."
"You will have to get over that in Africa," I muttered. Still I let
him have his way, with the result that presently the strange sight was
seen of the magnificent English majordomo standing behind my chair in
the little room and handing round the square-face as though it were
champagne. It was a spectacle that excited the greatest interest in my
primitive establishment and caused Hans with some native hangers-on to
gather at the window. However, Lord Ragnall took it as a matter of
course and I thought it better not to interfere.
When we had finished we went on to the stoep to smoke, leaving Savage
to eat his dinner, and I asked Lord Ragnall where his luggage was. He
replied that he had left it at the Customs. "Then," I said, "I will
send a native with Savage to arrange about getting it up here. If you
do not mind my rough accommodation there is a room for you, and your
man can pitch a tent in the garden."
After some demur he accepted with gratitude, and a little later Savage
and the native were sent off with a note to a man who hired out a
"Now," I said when the gate had shut behind them, "will you tell me
why you have come to Africa?"
"Disaster," he replied. "Disaster of the worst sort."
"Is your wife dead, Lord Ragnall?"
"I do not know. I almost hope that she is. At any rate she is lost to
An idea leapt to my mind to the effect that she might have run away
with somebody else, a thing which often happens in the world. But
fortunately I kept it to myself and only said,
"She was nearly lost once before, was she not?"
"Yes, when you saved her. Oh! if only you had been with us,
Quatermain, this would never have happened. Listen: About eighteen
months ago she had a son, a very beautiful child. She recovered well
from the business and we were as happy as two mortals could be, for we
loved each other, Quatermain, and God has blessed us in every way; we
were so happy that I remember her telling me that our great good
fortune made her feel afraid. One day last September when I was out
shooting, she drove in a little pony cart we had, with the nurse, and
the child but no man, to call on Mrs. Scroope who also had been
recently confined. She often went out thus, for the pony was an old
animal and quiet as a sheep.
"By some cursed trick of fate it chanced that when they were passing
through the little town which you may remember near Ragnall, they met
a travelling menagerie that was going to some new encampment. At the
head of the procession marched a large bull elephant, which I
discovered afterwards was an ill-tempered brute that had already
killed a man and should never have been allowed upon the roads. The
sight of the pony cart, or perhaps a red cloak which my wife was
wearing, as she always liked bright colours, for some unknown reason
seems to have infuriated this beast, which trumpeted. The pony
becoming frightened wheeled round and overturned the cart right in
front of the animal, but apparently without hurting anybody. Then"--
here he paused a moment and with an effort continued--"that devil in
beast's shape cocked its ears, stretched out its long trunk, dragged
the baby from the nurse's arms, whirled it round and threw it high
into the air, to fall crushed upon the kerb. It sniffed at the body of
the child, feeling it over with the tip of its trunk, as though to
make sure that it was dead. Next, once more it trumpeted triumphantly,
and without attempting to harm my wife or anybody else, walked quietly
past the broken cart and continued its journey, until outside the town
it was made fast and shot."
"What an awful story!" I said with a gasp.
"Yes, but there is worse to follow. My poor wife went off her head,
with the shock I suppose, for no physical injury could be found upon
her. She did not suffer in health or become violent, quite the reverse
indeed for her gentleness increased. She just went off her head. For
hours at a time she would sit silent and smiling, playing with the
stones of that red necklace which those conjurers gave her, or rather
counting them, as a nun might do with the beads of her rosary. At
times, however, she would talk, but always to the baby, as though it
lay before her or she were nursing it. Oh! Quatermain, it was pitiful,
"I did everything I could. She was seen by three of the greatest
brain-doctors in England, but none of them was able to help. The only
hope they gave was that the fit might pass off as suddenly as it had
come. They said too that a thorough change of scene would perhaps be
beneficial, and suggested Egypt; that was in October. I did not take
much to the idea, I don't know why, and personally should not have
acceded to it had it not been for a curious circumstance. The last
consultation took place in the big drawing-room at Ragnall. When it
was over my wife remained with her mother at one end of the room while
I and the doctors talked together at the other, as I thought quite out
of her earshot. Presently, however, she called to me, saying in a
perfectly clear and natural voice:
"'Yes, George, I will go to Egypt. I should like to go to Egypt.' Then
she went on playing with the necklace and talking to the imaginary
"Again on the following morning as I came into her room to kiss her,
"'When do we start for Egypt? Let it be soon.'
"With these sayings the doctors were very pleased, declaring that they
showed signs of a returning interest in life and begging me not to
thwart her wish.
"So I gave way and in the end we went to Egypt together with Lady
Longden, who insisted upon accompanying us although she is a wretched
sailor. At Cairo a large dahabeeyah that I had hired in advance,
manned by an excellent crew and a guard of four soldiers, was awaiting
us. In it we started up the Nile. For a month or more all went well;
also to my delight my wife seemed now and again to show signs of
returning intelligence. Thus she took some interest in the sculptures
on the walls of the temples, about which she had been very fond of
reading when in health. I remember that only a few days before the--
the catastrophe, she pointed out one of them to me, it was of Isis and
the infant Horus, saying, 'Look, George, the holy Mother and the holy
Child,' and then bowed to it reverently as she might have done to an
altar. At length after passing the First Cataract and the Island of
Philę we came to the temple of Abu Simbel, opposite to which our boat
was moored. On the following morning we explored the temple at
daybreak and saw the sun strike upon the four statues which sit at its
farther end, spending the rest of that day studying the colossal
figures of Rameses that are carved upon its face and watching some
cavalcades of Arabs mounted upon camels travelling along the banks of
"My wife was unusually quiet that afternoon. For hour after hour she
sat still upon the deck, gazing first at the mouth of the rock-hewn
temple and the mighty figures which guard it and then at the
surrounding desert. Only once did I hear her speak and then she said,
'Beautiful, beautiful! Now I am at home.' We dined and as there was no
moon, went to bed rather early after listening to the Sudanese singers
as they sang one of their weird chanties.
"My wife and her mother slept together in the state cabin of the
dahabeeyah, which was at the stern of the boat. My cabin, a small one,
was on one side of this, and that of the trained nurse on the other.
The crew and the guard were forward of the saloon. A gangway was fixed
from the side to the shore and over it a sentry stood, or was supposed
to stand. During the night a Khamsin wind began to blow, though
lightly as was to be expected at this season of the year. I did not
hear it for, as a matter of fact, I slept very soundly, as it appears
did everyone else upon the dahabeeyah, including the sentry as I
"The first thing I remember was the appearance of Lady Longden just at
daybreak at the doorway of my cabin and the frightened sound of her
voice asking if Luna, that is my wife, was with me. Then it transpired
that she had left her cabin clad in a fur cloak, evidently some time
before, as the bed in which she had been lying was quite cold.
Quatermain, we searched everywhere; we searched for four days, but
from that hour to this no trace whatever of her has been found."
"Have you any theory?" I asked.
"Yes, or at least all the experts whom we consulted have a theory. It
is that she slipped down the saloon in the dark, gained the deck and
thence fell or threw herself into the Nile, which of course would have
carried her body away. As you may have heard, the Nile is full of
bodies. I myself saw two of them during that journey. The Egyptian
police and others were so convinced that this was what had happened
that, notwithstanding the reward of a thousand pounds which I offered
for any valuable information, they could scarcely be persuaded to
continue the search."
"You said that a wind was blowing and I understand that the shores are
sandy, so I suppose that all footprints would have been filled in?"
He nodded and I went on. "What is your own belief? Do you think she
He countered my query with another of:
"What do /you/ think?"
"I? Oh! although I have no right to say so, I don't think at all. I am
quite sure that she was /not/ drowned; that she is living at this
"As to that you had better inquire of our friends, Harūt and Marūt," I
"What have you to go on, Quatermain? There is no clue."
"On the contrary I hold that there are a good many clues. The whole
English part of the story in which we were concerned, and the threats
those mysterious persons uttered are the first and greatest of these
clues. The second is the fact that your hiring of the dahabeeyah
regardless of expense was known a long time before your arrival in
Egypt, for I suppose you did so in your own name, which is not exactly
that of Smith or Brown. The third is your wife's sleep-walking
propensities, which would have made it quite easy for her to be drawn
ashore under some kind of mesmeric influence. The fourth is that you
had seen Arabs mounted on camels upon the banks of the Nile. The fifth
is the heavy sleep you say held everybody on board that particular
night, which suggests to me that your food may have been drugged. The
sixth is the apathy displayed by those employed in the search, which
suggests to me that some person or persons in authority may have been
bribed, as is common in the East, or perhaps frightened with threats
of bewitchment. The seventh is that a night was chosen when a wind
blew which would obliterate all spoor whether of men or of swiftly
travelling camels. These are enough to begin with, though doubtless if
I had time to think I could find others. You must remember too that
although the journey would be long, this country of the Kendah can
doubtless be reached from the Sudan by those who know the road, as
well as from southern or eastern Africa."
"Then you think that my wife has been kidnapped by those villains,
Harūt and Marūt?"
"Of course, though villains is a strong term to apply to them. They
might be quite honest men according to their peculiar lights, as
indeed I expect they are. Remember that they serve a god or a fetish,
or rather, as they believe, a god /in/ a fetish, who to them doubtless
is a very terrible master, especially when, as I understand, that god
is threatened by a rival god."
"Why do you say that, Quatermain?"
By way of answer I repeated to him the story which Hans said he had
heard from the old woman at Beza, the town of the Mazitu. Lord Ragnall
listened with the deepest interest, then said in an agitated voice:
"That is a very strange tale, but has it struck you, Quatermain, that
if your suppositions are correct, one of the most terrible
circumstances connected with my case is that our child should have
chanced to come to its dreadful death through the wickedness of an
"That curious coincidence has struck me most forcibly, Lord Ragnall.
At the same time I do not see how it can be set down as more than a
coincidence, since the elephant which slaughtered your child was
certainly not that called Jana. To suppose because there is a war
between an elephant-god and a child-god somewhere in the heart of
Africa, that therefore another elephant can be so influenced that it
kills a child in England, is to my mind out of all reason."
That is what I said to him, as I did not wish to introduce a new
horror into an affair that was already horrible enough. But,
recollecting that these priests, Harūt and Marūt, believed the mother
of this murdered infant to be none other than the oracle of their
worship (though how this chanced passed my comprehension), and
therefore the great enemy of the evil elephant-god, I confess that at
heart I felt afraid. If any powers of magic, black or white or both,
were mixed up with the matter as my experiences in England seemed to
suggest, who could say what might be their exact limits? As, however,
it has been demonstrated again and again by the learned that no such
thing as African magic exists, this line of thought appeared to be too
foolish to follow. So passing it by I asked Lord Ragnall to continue.
"For over a month," he went on, "I stopped in Egypt waiting till
emissaries who had been sent to the chiefs of various tribes in the
Sudan and elsewhere, returned with the news that nothing whatsoever
had been seen of a white woman travelling in the company of natives,
nor had they heard of any such woman being sold as a slave. Also
through the Khedive, on whom I was able to bring influence to bear by
help of the British Government, I caused many harems in Egypt to be
visited, entirely without result. After this, leaving the inquiry in
the hands of the British Consul and a firm of French lawyers, although
in truth all hope had gone, I returned to England whither I had
already sent Lady Longden, broken-hearted, for it occurred to me as
possible that my wife might have drifted or been taken thither. But
here, too, there was no trace of her or of anybody who could possibly
answer to her description. So at last I came to the conclusion that
her bones must lie somewhere at the bottom of the Nile, and gave way
"Always a foolish thing to do," I remarked.
"You will say so indeed when you hear the end, Quatermain. My
bereavement and the sleeplessness which it caused prayed upon me so
much, for now that the child was dead my wife was everything to me,
that, I will tell you the truth, my brain became affected and like Job
I cursed God in my heart and determined to die. Indeed I should have
died by my own hand, had it not been for Savage. I had procured the
laudanum and loaded the pistol with which I proposed to shoot myself
immediately after it was swallowed so that there might be no mistake.
One night only a couple of months or so ago, Quatermain, I sat in my
study at Ragnall, with the doors locked as I thought, writing a few
final letters before I did the deed. The last of them was just
finished about twelve when hearing a noise, I looked up and saw Savage
standing before me. I asked him angrily how he came there (I suppose
he must have had another key to one of the other doors) and what he
wanted. Ignoring the first part of the question he replied:
"'My lord, I have been thinking over our trouble'--he was with us in
Egypt--'I have been thinking so much that it has got a hold of my
sleep. To-night as you said you did not want me any more and I was
tired, I went to bed early and had a dream. I dreamed that we were
once more in the shrubbery, as happened some years ago, and that the
little African gent who shot like a book, was showing us the traces of
those two black men, just as he did when they tried to steal her
ladyship. Then in my dream I seemed to go back to bed and that beastly
snake which we found lying under the parcel in the road seemed to
follow me. When I had got to sleep again, all in the dream, there it
was standing on its tail at the end of the bed, hissing till it woke
me. Then it spoke in good English and not in African as might have
"'"Savage," it said, "get up and dress yourself and go at once and
tell his lordship to travel to Natal and find Mr. Allan Quatermain"
(you may remember that was the African gentleman's name, my lord,
which, with so many coming and going in this great house, I had quite
forgotten, until I had the dream). "Find Mr. Allan Quatermain," that
slimy reptile went on, opening and shutting its mouth for all the
world like a Christian making a speech, "for he will have something to
tell him as to that which has made a hole in his heart that is now
filled with the seven devils. Be quick, Savage, and don't stop to put
on your shirt or your tie"--I have not, my lord, as you may see. "He
is shut up in the study, but you know how to get into it. If he will
not listen to you let him look round the study and he will see
something which will tell him that this is a true dream."
"'Then the snake vanished, seeming to wriggle down the left bottom
bed-post, and I woke up in a cold sweat, my lord, and did what it had
"Those were his very words, Quatermain, for I wrote them down
afterwards while they were fresh in my memory, and you see here they
are in my pocket-book.
"Well, I answered him, rather brusquely I am afraid, for a crazed man
who is about to leave the world under such circumstances does not show
at his best when disturbed almost in the very act, to the edge of
which long agony has brought him. I told him that all his dream of
snakes seemed ridiculous, which obviously it was, and was about to
send him away, when it occurred to me that the suggestion it conveyed
that I should put myself in communication with you was not ridiculous
in view of the part you had already played in the story."
"Very far from ridiculous," I interpolated.
"To tell the truth," went on Lord Ragnall, "I had already thought of
doing the same thing, but somehow beneath the pressure of my imminent
grief the idea was squeezed out of my mind, perhaps because you were
so far away and I did not know if I could find you even if I tried.
Pausing for a moment before I dismissed Savage, I rose from the desk
at which I was writing and began to walk up and down the room thinking
what I would do. I am not certain if you saw it when you were at
Ragnall, but it is a large room, fifty feet long or so though not very
broad. It has two fireplaces, in both of which fires were burning on
this night, and it was lit by four standing lamps besides that upon my
desk. Now between these fireplaces, in a kind of niche in the wall,
and a little in the shadow because none of the lamps was exactly
opposite to it, hung a portrait of my wife which I had caused to be
painted by a fashionable artist when first we became engaged."
"I remember it," I said. "Or rather, I remember its existence. I did
not see it because a curtain hung over the picture, which Savage told
me you did not wish to be looked at by anybody but yourself. At the
time I remarked to him, or rather to myself, that to veil the likeness
of a living woman in such a way seemed to me rather an ill-omened
thing to do, though why I should have thought it so I do not quite
"You are quite right, Quatermain. I had that foolish fancy, a lover's
freak, I suppose. When we married the curtain was removed although the
brass rod on which it hung was left by some oversight. On my return to
England after my loss, however, I found that I could not bear to look
upon this lifeless likeness of one who had been taken from me so
cruelly, and I caused it to be replaced. I did more. In order that it
might not be disturbed by some dusting housemaid, I myself made it
fast with three or four tin-tacks which I remember I drove through the
velvet stuff into the panelling, using a fireiron as a hammer. At the
time I thought it a good job although by accident I struck the nail of
the third finger of my left hand so hard that it came off. Look, it
has not quite finished growing again," and he showed the finger on
which the new nail was still in process of formation.
"Well, as I walked up and down the room some impulse caused me to look
towards the picture. To my astonishment I saw that it was no longer
veiled, although to the best of my belief the curtain had been drawn
over it as lately as that afternoon; indeed I could have sworn that
this was so. I called to Savage to bring the lamp that stood upon my
table, and by its light made an examination. The curtain was drawn
back, very tidily, being fastened in its place clear of the little
alcove by means of a thin brass chain. Also along one edge of it, that
which I had nailed to the panelling, the tin-tacks were still in their
places; that is, three of them were, the fourth I found afterwards
upon the floor.
"'She looks beautiful, doesn't she, my lord,' said Savage, 'and please
God so we shall still find her somewhere in the world.'
"I did not answer him, or even remark upon the withdrawal of the
curtain, as to which indeed I never made an inquiry. I suppose that it
was done by some zealous servant while I was pretending to eat my
dinner--there were one or two new ones in the house whose names and
appearance I did not know. What impressed itself upon my mind was that
the face which I had never expected to see again on the earth, even in
a picture, was once more given to my eyes, it mattered not how. This,
in my excited state, for laudanum waiting to be swallowed and a pistol
at full cock for firing do not induce calmness in a man already almost
mad, at any rate until they have fulfilled their offices, did in truth
appear to me to be something of the nature of a sign such as that
spoken of in Savage's idiotic dream, which I was to find if 'I looked
round the study.'
"'Savage,' I said, 'I don't think much of your dreams about snakes
that talk to you, but I do think that it might be well to see Mr.
Quatermain. To-day is Sunday and I believe that the African mail sails
on Friday. Go to town early to-morrow and book passages.'
"Also I told him to see various gunsmiths and bid them send down a
selection of rifles and other weapons for me to choose from, as I did
not know whither we might wander in Africa, and to make further
necessary arrangements. All of these things he did, and--here we are."
"Yes," I answered reflectively, "here you are. What is more, here is
your luggage of which there seems to be enough for a regiment," and I
pointed to a Scotch cart piled up with baggage and followed by a long
line of Kafirs carrying sundry packages upon their heads that,
marshalled by Savage, had halted at my gate.
That evening when the baggage had been disposed of and locked up in my
little stable and arrangements were made for the delivery of some
cases containing tinned foods, etc., which had proved too heavy for
the Scotch cart, Lord Ragnall and I continued our conversation. First,
however, we unpacked the guns and checked the ammunition, of which
there was a large supply, with more to follow.
A beautiful battery they were of all sorts from elephant guns down,
the most costly and best finished that money could buy at the time. It
made me shiver to think what the bill for them must have been, while
their appearance when they were put together and stood in a long line
against the wall of my sitting-room, moved old Hans to a kind of
ecstasy. For a long while he contemplated them, patting the stocks one
after the other and giving to each a name as though they were all
alive, then exclaimed:
"With such weapons as these the Baas could kill the devil himself.
Still, let the Baas bring Intombi with him"--a favourite old rifle of
mine and a mere toy in size, that had however done me good service in
the past, as those who have read what I have written in "Marie" and
"The Holy Flower" may remember. "For, Baas, after all, the wife of
one's youth often proves more to be trusted than the fine young ones a
man buys in his age. Also one knows all her faults, but who can say
how many there may be hidden up in new women however beautifully they
are tattooed?" and he pointed to the elaborate engraving upon the
I translated this speech to Lord Ragnall. It made him laugh, at which
I was glad for up till then I had not seen him even smile. I should
add that in addition to these sporting weapons there were no fewer
than fifty military rifles of the best make, they were large-bore
Sniders that had just then been put upon the market, and with them,
packed in tin cases, a great quantity of ammunition. Although the
regulations were not so strict then as they are now, I met with a
great deal of difficulty in getting all this armament through the
Customs. Lord Ragnall however had letters from the Colonial Office to
such authorities as ruled in Natal, and on our giving a joint
undertaking that they were for defensive purposes only in unexplored
territory and not for sale, they were allowed through. Fortunate did
it prove for us in after days that this matter was arranged.
That night before we went to bed I narrated to Lord Ragnall all the
history of our search for the Holy Flower, which he seemed to find
very entertaining. Also I told him of my adventures, to me far more
terrible, as chairman of the Bona Fide Gold Mine and of their
"The lesson of which is," he remarked when I had finished, "that
because a man is master of one trade, it does not follow that he is
master of another. You are, I should judge, one of the finest shots in
the world, you are also a great hunter and explorer. But when it comes
to companies, Quatermain----! Still," he went on, "I ought to be
grateful to that Bona Fide Gold Mine, since I gather that had it not
been for it and for your rascally friend, Mr. Jacob, I should not have
found you here."
"No," I answered, "it is probable that you would not, as by this time
I might have been far in the interior where a man cannot be traced and
letters do not reach him."
Then he made a few pointed inquiries about the affairs of the mine,
noting my answers down in his pocket-book. I thought this odd but
concluded that he wished to verify my statements before entering into
a close companionship with me, since for aught he knew I might be the
largest liar in the world and a swindler to boot. So I said nothing,
even when I heard through a roundabout channel on the morrow that he
had sought an interview with the late secretary of the defunct
A few days later, for I may as well finish with this matter at once,
the astonishing object of these inquiries was made clear to me. One
morning I found upon my table a whole pile of correspondence, at the
sight of which I groaned, feeling sure that it must come from duns and
be connected with that infernal mine. Curiosity and a desire to face
the worst, however, led me to open the first letter which as it
happened proved to be from that very shareholder who had proposed a
vote of confidence in me at the winding-up meeting. By the time that
it was finished my eyes were swimming and really I felt quite faint.
"Honoured Sir,--I knew that I was putting my money on the right
horse when I said the other day that you were one of the
straightest that ever ran. Well, I have got the cheque sent me by
the lawyer on your account, being payment in full for every
farthing I invested in the Bona Fide Gold Mine, and I can only say
that it is uncommonly useful, for that business had pretty well
cleaned me out. God bless you, Mr. Quatermain."
I opened another letter, and another, and another. They were all to
the same effect. Bewildered I went on to the stoep, where I found Hans
with an epistle in his hand which he requested me to be good enough to
read. I read it. It was from a well-known firm of local lawyers and
"On behalf of Allan Quatermain, Esq., we beg to enclose a draft for
the sum of £650, being the value of the interest in the Bona Fide
Gold Company, Limited (in liquidation), which stands in your name
on the books of the company. Please sign enclosed receipt and
return same to us."
Yes, and there was the draft for £650 sterling!
I explained the matter to Hans, or rather I translated the document,
"You see you have got your money back again. But Hans, I never sent
it; I don't know where it comes from."
"Is it money, Baas?" asked Hans, surveying the draft with suspicion.
"It looks very much like the other bit of paper for which I paid
Again I explained, reiterating that I knew nothing of the transaction.
"Well, Baas," he said, "if you did not send it someone did--perhaps
your father the reverend Predikant, who sees that you are in trouble
and wishes to wash your name white again. Meanwhile, Baas, please put
that bit of paper in your pocket-book and keep it for me, for
otherwise I might be tempted to buy square-face with it."
"No," I answered, "you can now buy your land back, or some other land,
and there will be no need for you to come with me to the country of
Hans thought a moment and then very deliberately began to tear up the
draft; indeed I was only just in time to save it from destruction.
"If the Baas is going to turn me off because of this paper," he said,
"I will make it small and eat it."
"You silly old fool," I said as I possessed myself of the cheque.
Then the conversation was interrupted, for who should appear but
Sammy, my old cook, who began in his pompous language:
"The perfect rectitude of your conduct, Mr. Quatermain, moves me to
the deepest gratitude, though indeed I wish that I had put something
into the food of the knave Jacob who beguiled us all, that would have
caused him internal pangs of a severe if not of a dangerous order. My
holding in the gold mine was not extensive, but the unpaid bill of the
said Jacob and his friends----"
Here I cut him short and fled, since I saw yet another shareholder
galloping to the gate, and behind him two more in a spider. First I
took refuge in my room, my idea being to put away that pile of
letters. In so doing I observed that there was one still unopened.
Half mechanically I took it from the envelope and glanced at its
contents. They were word for word identical with those of that
addressed to "Mr. Hans, Hottentot," only my name was at the bottom of
it instead of that of Hans and the cheque was for £1,500, the amount I
had paid for the shares I held in the venture.
Feeling as though my brain were in a melting-pot, I departed from the
house into a patch of native bush that in those days still grew upon
the slope of the hill behind. Here I sat myself down, as I had often
done before when there was a knotty point to be considered, aimlessly
watching a lovely emerald cuckoo flashing, a jewel of light, from tree
to tree, while I turned all this fairy-godmother business over in my
Of course it soon became clear to me. Lord Ragnall in this case was
the little old lady with the wand, the touch of which could convert
worthless share certificates into bank-notes of their face value. I
remembered now that his wealth was said to be phenomenal and after all
the cash capital of the company was quite small. But the question was
--could I accept his bounty?
I returned to the house where the first person whom I met was Lord
Ragnall himself, just arrived from some interview about the fifty
Snider rifles, which were still in bond. I told him solemnly that I
wished to speak to him, whereon he remarked in a cheerful voice,
"Advance, friend, and all's well!"
I don't know that I need set out the details of the interview. He
waited till I had got through my halting speech of mingled gratitude
and expostulation, then remarked:
"My friend, if you will allow me to call you so, it is quite true that
I have done this because I wished to do it. But it is equally true
that to me it is a small thing--to be frank, scarcely a month's
income; what I have saved travelling on that ship to Natal would pay
for it all. Also I have weighed my own interest in the matter, for I
am anxious that you should start upon this hazardous journey of ours