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King Solomon's Mines

by H. Ryder Haggard

CHAPTER I--I MEET SIR HENRY CURTIS

IT is a curious thing that at my age--fifty-
five last birthday--I should find myself
taking up a pen to try and write a
history. I wonder what sort of a history it
will be when I have done it, if I ever come
to the end of the trip! I have done a good
many things in my life, which seems a
long one to me, owing to my having
begun so young, perhaps. At an age when
other boys are at school I was earning
my living as a trader in the old Colony. I
have been trading, hunting, fighting, or
mining ever since. And yet it is only
eight months ago that I made my pile. It
is a big pile now I have got it--I don't yet
know how big--but I don't think I would
go through the last fifteen or sixteen
months again for it; no, not if I knew that
I should come out safe at the end, pile
and all. But then, I am a timid man, and
don't like violence, and am pretty sick of
adventure. I wonder why I am going to
write this book; it is not in my line. I am
not a literary man, though very devoted
to the Old Testament and also to the
"Ingoldsby Legends." Let me try and set
down my reasons, just to see if I have
any.

First reason: Because Sir Henry Curtis
and Captain John Good asked me to.

Second reason: Because I am laid up here
at Durban with the pain and trouble in
my left leg. Ever since that confounded
lion got hold of me I have been liable to
it, and its being rather bad just now
makes me limp more than ever. There
must be some poison in a lion's teeth,
otherwise how is it that when your
wounds are healed they break out again,
generally, mark you, at the same time of
year that you got your mauling? It is a
hard thing that when one has shot sixty-
five lions, as I have in the course of my
life, that the sixty-sixth should chew your
leg like a quid of tobacco. It breaks the
routine of the thing, and, putting other
considerations aside, I am an orderly
man and don't like that. This is by the
way.

Third reason: Because I want my boy
Harry, who is over there at the hospital
in London studying to become a doctor,
to have something to amuse him and
keep him out of mischief for a week or
so. Hospital work must sometimes pall
and get rather dull, for even of cutting-
up dead bodies there must come satiety,
and as this history won't be dull,
whatever else it may be, it may put a
little life into things for a day or two
while he is reading it.

Fourth reason and last: Because I am
going to tell the strangest story that I
know of. It may seem a queer thing to say
that, especially considering that there is
no woman in it except Foulata. Stop,
though! there is Gagaoola, if she was a
woman and not a fiend. But she was a
hundred at least, and therefore not
marriageable, so I don't count her. At any
rate, I can safely say that there is not a
_i_ petticoat _i_ in the whole history.
Well, I had better come to the yoke. It's a
stiff place, and I feel as though I were
bogged up to the axle. But "sutjes, sutjes,"
as the Boers say (I'm sure I don't know
how they spell it), softly does it. A strong
team will come through at last, that is if
they ain't too poor. You will never do
anything with poor oxen. Now, to begin.

I, Allan Quatermain, of Durban, Natal,
Gentleman, make oath and say--That's
how I began my deposition before the
magistrate about poor Khiva's and
Ventvo"gel's sad deaths; but somehow it
doesn't seem quite the right way to begin
a book. And, besides, am I a gentleman?
What is a gentleman? I don't quite know,
and yet I have had to do with niggers--
no, I'll scratch that word "niggers" out,
for I don't like it. I've known natives who
_i_ are _i_, and so you'll say, Harry, my
boy, before you're done with this tale,
and I have known mean whites with lots
of money and fresh out from home, too,
who _ i_ ain't _i_. Well, at any rate I was
born a gentleman, though I've been
nothing but a poor travelling trader and
hunter all my life. Whether I have
remained so I know not; you must judge
of that. Heaven knows I've tried. I've
killed many men in my time, but I have
never slain wantonly or stained my hand
in innocent blood, only in self-defence.
The Almighty gave us our lives, and I
suppose he meant us to defend them; at
least I have always acted on that, and I
hope it won't be brought up against me
when my clock strikes. There, there; it is
a cruel and a wicked world, and, for a
timid man, I have been mixed up in a
deal of slaughter. I can't tell the rights of
it, but at any rate I have never stolen,
though I once cheated a Kaffir out of a
herd of cattle. But then, he had done me
a dirty turn, and it has troubled me ever
since into the bargain.

Well, it's eighteen months or so ago since
I first met Sir Henry Curtis and Captain
Good, and it was in this way. I had been
up elephant hunting beyond
Bamangwato, and had had bad luck.
Everything went wrong that trip, and to
top up with I got the fever badly. So soon
as I was well enough I trekked down to
the Diamond Fields, sold such ivory as I
had, and also my wagon and oxen,
discharged my hunters, and took the
post-cart to the Cape. After spending a
week in Cape Town, finding that they
overcharged me at the hotel, and having
seen everything there was to see,
including the botanical gardens, which
seem to me likely to confer a great
benefit on the country, and the new
Houses of Parliament, which I expect will
do nothing of the sort, I determined to go
on back to Natal by the _i_ Dunkeld _i_,
then lying in the docks waiting for the
_i_ Edinburgh Castle _i_ due in from
England. I took my berth and went
aboard, and that afternoon the Natal
passengers from the _i_ Edinburgh
Castle _i_ transhipped, and we weighed
anchor and put out to sea.

Among the passengers who came on
board there were two who excited my
curiosity. One, a man of about thirty, was
one of the biggest-chested and longest-
armed men I ever saw. He had yellow
hair, a big yellow beard, clear-cut
features, and large gray eyes set deep
into his head. I never saw a finer-looking
man, and somehow he reminded me of
an ancient Dane. Not that I know much of
ancient Danes, though I remember a
modern Dane who did me out of ten
pounds; but I remember once seeing a
picture of some of those gentry, who, I
take it, were a kind of white Zulus. They
were drinking out of big horns, and their
long hair hung down their backs, and as
I looked at my friend standing there by
the companion-ladder, I thought that if
one only let his hair grow a bit, put one
of those chain shirts on to those great
shoulders of his, and gave him a big
battle-axe and a horn mug, he might
have sat as a model for that picture. And,
by the way, it is a curious thing, and just
shows how the blood will show out, I
found out afterwards that Sir Henry
Curtis, for that was the big man's name,
was of Danish blood. He also reminded
me strongly of somebody else, but at the
time I could not remember who it was.

The other man, who stood talking to Sir
Henry, was short, stout, and dark, and of
quite a different cut. I suspected at once
that he was a naval officer. I don't know
why, but it is difficult to mistake a navy
man. I have gone shooting trips with
several of them in the course of my life,
and they have always been just the best
and bravest and nicest fellows I ever met,
though given to the use of profane
language.

I asked, a page or two back, what is a
gentleman? I'll answer it now: a royal
naval officer is, in a general sort of a
way, though, of course, there may be a
black sheep among them here and there.
I fancy it is just the wide sea and the
breath of God's winds that washes their
hearts and blows the bitterness out of
their minds and makes them what men
ought to be. Well, to return, I was right
again; I found out that he _i_ was _i_ a
naval officer, a lieutenant of thirty-one,
who, after seventeen years service, had
been turned out of her majesty s employ
with the barren honor of a commander's
rank, because it was impossible that he
should be promoted. This is what people
who serve the queen have to expect: to be
shot out into the cold world to find a
living just when they are beginning to
really understand their work, and to get
to the prime of life. Well, I suppose they
don t mind it, but for my part I had
rather earn my bread as a hunter. One's
half-pence are as scarce, perhaps, but
you don t get so many kicks. His name I
found out--by referring to the
passengers' list--was Good--Captain John
Good. He was broad, of medium height,
dark, stout, and rather a curious man to
look at. He was so very neat and so very
clean shaved, and he always wore an eye-
glass in his right eye. It seemed to grow
there, for it had no string, and he never
took it out except to wipe it. At first I
thought he used to sleep in it, but I
afterwards found that this was a mistake.
He put it in his trousers pocket when he
went to bed, together with his false teeth,
of which he had two beautiful sets that
have often, my own being none of the
best, caused me to break the tenth
Commandment. But I am anticipating.

Soon after we had got under way evening
closed in, and brought with it very dirty
weather. A keen breeze sprang up off
land, and a kind of aggravated Scotch
mist soon drove everybody from the
deck. And as for that _i_ Dunkeld _i_,
she is a flat-bottomed punt, and, going
up light as she was, she rolled very
heavily. It almost seemed as though she
would go right over, but she never did. It
was quite impossible to walk about, so I
stood near the engines, where it was
warm, and amused myself with watching
the pendulum, which was fixed opposite
to me, swinging slowly backward and
forward as the vessel rolled, and marking
the angle she touched at each lurch.

"That pendulum's wrong; it is not
properly weighted," suddenly said a
voice at my shoulder, somewhat testily.
Looking round I saw the naval officer I
had noticed when the passengers came
aboard.

"Indeed; now what makes you think so?"
I asked.

"Think so. I don't think at all. Why there"
as she righted herself after a roll--"if the
ship had really rolled to the degree that
thing pointed to then she would never
have rolled again, that's all. But it is just
like these merchant skippers, they
always are so confoundedly careless."

Just then the dinner-bell rang, and I was
not sorry, far it is a dreadful thing to
have to listen to an officer of the Royal
Navy when he gets on to that subject. I
only know one worse thing, and that is to
hear a merchant skipper express his
candid opinion of officers of the Royal
Navy.

Captain Good and I went down to dinner
together, and there we found Sir Henry
Curtis already seated. He and Captain
Good sat together, and I sat opposite to
them. The captain and I soon got into
talk about shooting and what not, he
asking me many questions, and I
answering as well as I could. Presently he
got on to elephants.

"Ah, sir," called out somebody who was
sitting near me, "you've got to the right
man for that; Hunter Quatermain should
be able to tell you about elephants if
anybody can."

Sir Henry, who had been sitting quite
quiet listening to our talk, started visibly.

"Excuse me, sir," he said, leaning forward
across the table, and speaking in a low,
deep voice, a very suitable voice, it
seemed to me, to come out of those great
lungs. "Excuse me, sir, but is your name
Allan Quatermain?"

I said it was.

The big man made no further remark,
but I heard him mutter "fortunate" into
his beard.

Presently dinner came to an end, and as
we were leaving the saloon Sir Henry
came up and asked me if I would come
into his cabin and smoke a pipe. I
accepted, and he led the way to the _i_
Dunkeld _i_ deck cabin, and a very good
cabin it was. It had been two cabins, but
when Sir Garnet, or one of those big
swells, went down the coast in the _i_
Dunkeld _i_ they had knocked away the
partition and never put it up again.
There was a sofa in the cabin, and a little
table in front of it. Sir Henry sent the
steward for a bottle of whiskey, and the
three of us sat down and lit our pipes.

"Mr. Quatermain," said Sir Henry Curtis,
when the steward had brought the
whiskey and lit the lamp, "the year
before last, about this time, you were, I
believe, at a place called Bamangwato, to
the north of the Transvaal."

"I was," I answered, rather surprised that
this gentleman should be so well
acquainted with my movements, which
were not, so far as I was aware,
considered of general interest.

"You were trading there, were you not?"
put in Captain Good, in his quick way.

"I was. I took up a wagon-load of goods
and made a camp outside the settlement,
and stopped till I had sold them."

Sir Henry was sitting opposite to me in a
Madeira chair, his arms leaning on the
table. He now looked up, fixing his large
gray eyes full upon my face. There was a
curious anxiety in them, I thought.

"Did you happen to meet a man called
Neville there?"

"Oh, yes; he outspanned alongside of me
for a fortnight, to rest his oxen before
going on to the interior. I had a letter
from a lawyer, a few months back, asking
me if I knew what had become of him,
which I answered to the best of my
ability at the time."

"Yes," said Sir Henry, "your letter was
forwarded to me. You said in it that the
gentleman called Neville left
Bamangwato in the beginning of May, in
a wagon, with a driver, a voorlooper, and
a Kaffir hunter called Jim, announcing
his intention of trekking, if possible, as
far as Inyati, the extreme trading post in
the Matabele country, where he would
sell his wagon and proceed on foot. You
also said that he did sell his wagon, for,
six months afterwards, you saw the
wagon in the possession of a Portuguese
trader, who told you that he had bought
it at Inyati from a white man whose name
he had forgotten, and that the white
man, with a native servant, had started
off for the interior on a shooting trip, he
believed."

"Yes."

Then came a pause.

"Mr. Quatermain," said Sir Henry,
suddenly, "I suppose you know or can
guess nothing more of the reasons of my-
--of Mr. Neville's journey to the
northward, or as to what point that
journey was directed?"

"I heard something," I answered, and
stopped. The subject was one which I did
not dare to discuss.

Sir Henry and Captain Good looked at
each other, and Captain Good nodded.

"Mr. Quatermain," said the former, "I am
going to tell you a story, and ask your
advice, and perhaps your assistance. The
agent who forwarded me your letter told
me that I might implicitly rely upon it, as
you were," he said, "well known and
universally respected in Natal, and
especially noted for your discretion."

I bowed, and drank some whiskey-and-
water to hide my confusion, for I am a
modest man; and Sir Henry went on.

"Mr. Neville was my brother."

"Oh," I said, starting; for now I knew who
Sir Henry had reminded me of when I
first saw. him. His brother was a much
smaller man and had a dark beard, but,
now I thought of it, he possessed eyes of
the same shade of gray and with the
same keen look in them, and the
features, too, were not unlike.

"He was," went on Sir Henry, "my only
and younger brother, and till five years
ago I do not suppose we were ever a
month away from each other. But just
about five years ago a misfortune befell
us, as sometimes does happen in
families. We had quarrelled bitterly, and
I behaved very unjustly to my brother in
my anger." Here Captain Good nodded
his head vigorously to himself. The ship
gave a big roll just then, so that the
looking-glass, which was fixed opposite
us to starboard, was for a moment nearly
over our heads, and as I was sitting with
my hands in my pockets and staring
upward, I could see him nodding like
anything.

"As I dare say you know," went on Sir
Henry, "if a man dies intestate, and has
no property but land--real property it is
called in England--it all descends to his
eldest son. It so happened that just at the
time when we quarrelled our father died
intestate. He had put off making his will
until it was too late. The result was that
my brother, who had not been brought
up to any profession, was left without a
penny. Of course it would have been my
duty to provide for him, but at the time
the quarrel between us was so bitter that
I did not --to my shame I say it (and he
sighed deeply)---offer to do anything. It
was not that I grudged him anything, but
I waited for him to make advances, and
he made none. I am sorry to trouble you
with all this, Mr. Quatermain, but I must,
to make things clear; eh, Good?

"Quite so, quite so," said the captain. "Mr.
Quatermain will, I am sure, keep this
history to himself."

"Of course," said I, for I rather pride
myself on my discretion.

"Well," went on Sir Henry, "my brother
had a few hundred pounds to his account
at the time, and without saying anything
to me he drew out this paltry sum, and,
having adopted the name of Neville,
started off for South Africa in the wild
hope of making a fortune. This I heard
afterwards. Some three years passed, and
I heard. nothing of my brother, though I
wrote several times. Doubtless the letters
never reached him. But as time went on I
grew more and more troubled about him.
I found out, Mr. Quatermain, that blood
is thicker than water."

"That's true," said I, thinking of my boy
Harry.

"I found out, Mr. Quatermain, that I
would have given half my fortune to
know that my brother George, the only
relation I have, was safe and well, and
that I should see him again."

"But you never did, Curtis," jerked out
Captain Good, glancing at the big man's
face.

"Well, Mr. Quatermain, as time went on I
became more and more anxious to find
out if my brother was alive or dead, and,
if alive, to get him home again. I set
inquiries on foot, and your letter was one
of the results. So far as it went it was
satisfactory, for it showed that till lately
George was alive; but it did not go far
enough. So, to cut a long story short, I
made up my mind to come out and look
for him myself, and Captain Good was so
kind as to come with me."

"Yes," said the captain; "nothing else to
do, you see. Turned out by my lords of
the admiralty to starve on half-pay. And
now, perhaps, sir, you will tell us what
you know or have heard of the
gentleman called Neville."

CHAPTER II--THE LEGEND OF SOLOMON'S
MINES

"WHAT was it that you heard about my
brother's journey at Bamangwato?" said
Sir Henry, as I paused to fill my pipe
before answering Captain Good.

"I heard this," I answered, "and I have
never mentioned it to a soul till to-day. I
heard that he was starting for Solomon's
Mines."

"Solomon's Mines!" ejaculated both my
hearers at once. "Where are they?"

"I don't know," I said; "I know where they
are said to be. I once saw the peaks of the
mountains that border them, but there
was a hundred and thirty miles of desert
between me and them, and I am not
aware that any white man ever got across
it, save one. But perhaps the best thing I
can do is to tell you the legend of
Solomon's Mines as I know it, you
passing your word not to reveal anything
I tell you without my permission. Do you
agree to that? I have my reasons for
asking it."

Sir Henry nodded, and Captain Good
replied, "Certainly, certainly."

"Well," I began, "as you may guess, in a
general way elephant-hunters are a
rough set of men, and don't trouble
themselves with much beyond the facts
of life and the ways of Kaffirs. But here
and there you meet a man who takes the
trouble to collect traditions from the
natives, and tries to make out a little
piece of the history of this dark land. It
was such a man as this who first told me
the legend of Solomon's Mines, now a
matter of nearly thirty years ago. It was
when I was on my first elephant hunt in
the Matabele country. His name was
Evans, and he was killed next year, poor
fellow, by a wounded buffalo, and lies
buried near the Zambesi Falls. I was
telling Evans one night, I remember, of
some wonderful workings I had found
while hunting koodoo and eland in what
is now the Lydenburg district of the
Transvaal. I see they have come across
these workings again lately in
prospecting for gold, but I knew of them
years ago. There is a great wide wagon-
road cut out of the solid rock, and
leading to the mouth of the working or
gallery. Inside the mouth of this gallery
are stacks of gold quartz piled up ready
for crushing, which shows that the
workers, whoever they were, must have
left in a hurry, and about twenty paces in
the gallery is built across, and a beautiful
bit of masonry it is.

" 'Ay,' said Evans, 'but I will tell you a
queerer thing than that;' and he went on
to tell me how he had found in the far
interior a ruined city, which he believed
to be the Ophir of the Bible--and, by the
way, other more learned men have said
the same long since poor Evans's time. I
was, I remember, listening open-eared to
all these wonders, for I was young at the
time, and this story of an ancient
civilization, and of the treasure which
those old Jewish or Phoenician
adventurers used to extract from a
country long since lapsed into the
darkest barbarism, took a great hold
upon my imagination, when suddenly he
said to me, 'Lad, did you ever hear of the
Suliman Mountains up to the northwest
of the Mashukulumbwe country?' I told
him I never had. 'Ah, well,' he said, 'that
was where Solomon really had his mines-
-his diamond mines, I mean.'

"'How do you know that?' I asked.

" 'Know it? why, what is "Suliman" but a
corruption of Solomon? and, besides, an
old Isanusi (witch doctor) up in the
Manica country told me all about it. She
said that the people who lived across
those mountains were a branch of the
Zulus, speaking a dialect of Zulu, but
finer and bigger men even; that there
lived among them great wizards, who
had learned their art from white men
when "all the world was dark," and who
had the secret of a wonderful mine of
"bright stones." '

"Well, I laughed at this story at the time,
though it interested me, for the diamond
fields were not discovered then, and poor
Evans went off and got killed, and for
twenty years I never thought any more of
the matter. But just twenty years
afterwards--and that is a long time,
gentlemen; an elephant-hunter does not
often live for twenty years at his
business--I heard something more
definite about Suliman's Mountains and
the country which lies beyond them. I
was up beyond the Manica country at a
place called Sitanda's Kraal, and a
miserable place it was, for one could get
nothing to eat there, and there was but
little game about. I had an attack of
fever, and was in a bad way generally,
when one day a Portugee arrived with a
single companion--a half-breed. Now I
know your Delagoa Portugee well. There
is no greater devil unhung, in a general
way, battening as he does upon human
agony and flesh in the shape of slaves.
But this was quite a different type of man
to the low fellows I had been accustomed
to meet; he reminded me more of the
polite dons I have read about. He was tall
and thin, with large dark eyes and
curling gray mustache. We talked
together a little, for he could speak
broken English, and I understood a little
Portugee, and he told me that his name
was Jose' Silvestre, and that he had a
place near Delagoa Bay; and when he
went on next day, with his half-breed
companion, he said, 'Good-bye,' taking
off his hat quite in the old style. 'Good-
bye, senor,' he said; 'if ever we meet
again I shall be the richest man in the
world, and I will remember you.' I
laughed a little--I was too weak to laugh
much--and watched him strike out for
the great desert to the west, wondering if
he was mad, or what he thought he was
going to find there.

"A week passed, and I got the better of
my fever. One evening I was sitting on
the ground in front of the little tent I had
with me, chewing the last leg of a
miserable fowl I had bought from a
native for a bit of cloth worth twenty
fowls, and staring at the hot, red sun
sinking down into the desert, when
suddenly I saw a figure, apparently that
of a European, for it wore a coat, on the
slope of the rising ground opposite to
me, about three hundred yards away.
The figure crept along on its hands and
knees, then it got up and staggered along
a few yards on its legs, only to fall and
crawl along again. Seeing that it must be
somebody in distress, I sent one of my
hunters to help him, and presently he
arrived, and who do you suppose it
turned out to be?"

"Jose' Silvestre, of course," said Captain
Good.

"Yes, Jose' Silvestre, or rather his
skeleton and a little skin. His face was
bright yellow With bilious fever, and his
large, dark eyes stood nearly out of his
head, for all his flesh had gone. There
was nothing but yellow, parchment-like
skin, white hair, and the gaunt bones
sticking up beneath.

"'Water! for the sake of Christ, water!' he
moaned. I saw that his lips were cracked,
and his tongue, which protruded between
them, was swollen and blackish.

"I gave him water with a little milk in it,
and he drank it in great gulps, two quarts
or more, without stopping. I would not let
him have any more. Then the fever took
him again, and he fell down and began to
rave about Suliman's Mountains, and the
diamonds, and the desert. I took him into
the tent and did what I could for him,
which was little enough; but I saw how it
must end. About eleven o'clock he got
quieter, and I lay down for a little rest
and went to sleep. At dawn I woke again,
and saw him in the half light sitting up, a
strange, gaunt form, and gazing out
towards the desert. Presently the first ray
of the sun shot right across the wide
plain before us till it reached the faraway
crest of one of the tallest of the Suliman
Mountains, more than a hundred miles
away.

" 'There it is" cried the dying man in
Portuguese, stretching out his long, thin
arm, 'but I shall never reach it, never. No
one will ever reach it!'

"Suddenly he paused, and seemed to take
a resolution. 'Friend,' he said, turning
towards me, 'are you there? My eyes grow
dark.'

"Yes," I said, "yes, lie down now, and
rest."

" 'Ay,' he answered, 'I shall rest soon; I
have time to rest-all eternity. Listen, I am
dying! You have been good to me. I will
give you the paper. Perhaps you will get
there if you can live through the desert,
which has killed my poor servant and
me.'

"Then he groped in his shirt and brought
out what I thought was a Boer tobacco-
pouch of the skin of the Swartvet-pens
(sable antelope). It was fastened with a
little strip of hide, what we call a rimpi,
and this he tried to untie, but could not.
He handed it to me. 'Untie it,' he said. I
did so, and extracted a bit of torn yellow
linen, on which something was written in
rusty letters. Inside was a paper.

"Then he went on feebly, for he was
growing weak: 'The paper has it all, that
is on the rag. It took me years to read.
Listen: my ancestor, a political refugee
from Lisbon and one of the first
Portuguese who landed on these shores,
wrote that when he was dying on those
mountains which no white foot ever
pressed before or since. His name was
Jose' da Silvestra, and he lived three
hundred years ago. His slave, who waited
for him on this side the mountains,
found him dead, and brought the writing
home to Delagoa. It has been in the
family ever since, but none have cared to
read it till at last I did. And I have lost my
life over it, but another may succeed, and
become the richest man in the world--the
richest man in the world. Only give it to
no one; go yourself!' Then he began to
wander again, and in an hour it was all
over.

"God rest him! he died very quietly, and I
buried him deep, with big boulders on
his breast; so I do not think that the
jackals can have dug him up. And then I
came away."

"Ay, but the document," said Sir Henry,
in a tone of deep interest.

"Yes, the document; What was in it?"
added the captain.

"Well, gentlemen, if you like I will tell
you. I have never showed it to anybody
yet except my dear wife, who is dead, and
she thought it was all nonsense, and a
drunken old Portuguese trader who
translated it for me, and had forgotten
all about it next morning. The original
rag is at my home in Durban, together
with poor Don Jose's translation, but I
have the English rendering in my
pocketbook, and a facsimile of the map,
if it can be called a map. Here it is."

"I, Jose' da Silvestra, who am now dying
of hunger in the little cave where no
snow is on the north side of the nipple of
the southernmost of the two mountains I
have named Sheba's Breasts, write this in
the year 1590 with a cleft bone upon a
remnant of my raiment, my blood being
the ink. If my slave should find it when
he comes, and should bring it to Delagoa,
let my friend (name illegible) bring the
matter to the knowledge of the king, that
he may send an army which, if they live
through the desert and the mountains,
and can overcome the brave Kukuanes
and their devilish arts, to which end
many priests should be brought, will
make him the richest king since
Solomon. With my own eyes have I seen
the countless diamonds stored in
Solomon's treasure chamber behind the
white Death; but through the treachery
of Gagool the witch-finder I might bring
nought away; scarcely my life. Let him
who comes follow the map, and climb the
snow of Sheba's left breast till he comes
to the nipple, on the north side of which
is the great road Solomon made, from
whence three days' journey to the King's
Place. Let him kill Gagool. Pray for my
soul. Farewell.

Jose' DA SILVESTRA."

When I had finished reading the above
and shown the copy of the map, drawn
by the dying hand of the old don with
his blood for ink, there followed a silence
of astonishment.

"Well," said Captain Good, "I have been
round the world twice, and put in at most
ports, but may I be hung if I ever heard a
yarn like that out of a story-book, or in it
either, for the matter of that."

"It's a queer story, Mr. Quatermain," said
Sir Henry. "I suppose you are not
hoaxing us? It is, I how, sometimes
thought allowable to take a greenhorn
in."

"If you think that, Sir Henry," I said,
much put out, and pocketing my paper,
for I do not like to be thought one of
those silly fellows who consider it witty
to tell lies, and who are forever boasting
to new-comers of extraordinary hunting
adventures which never happened, "why
there is an end of the matter," and I rose
to go.

Sir Henry laid his large hand upon my
shoulder. "Sit down, Mr. Quatermain," he
said, "I beg your pardon; I see very well
you do not wish to deceive us, but the
story sounded so extraordinary that I
could hardly believe it."

"You shall see the original map and
writing when we reach Durban," I said,
somewhat mollified; for really, when I
came to consider, the matter, it was
scarcely wonderful that he should doubt
my good faith. "But I have not told you
about your brother. I knew the man Jim
who was with him. He was a Bechuana by
birth, a good hunter, and, for a native, a
very clever man. The morning Mr.
Neville was starting, I saw Jim standing
by my wagon and cutting up tobacco on
the disselboom.

" 'Jim,' said I, 'where are you off to this
trip? Is it elephants?'

"'No, Baas,' he answered, 'we are after
something worth more than ivory.'

"'And what might that be?' I said; for I
was curious. 'Is it gold?'

"'No, Baas, something worth more than
gold,' and he grinned.

"I did not ask any more questions, for I
did not like to lower my dignity by
seeming curious, but I was puzzled.
Presently Jim finished cutting his
tobacco.

"'Baas,' said he.

"I took no notice.

" 'Baas,' said he again.

"'Eh, boy, what is it?' said I.

" 'Baas, we are going after diamonds.'

" 'Diamonds! why, then, you are going in
the wrong direction; you should head for
the Fields.'

" 'Baas, have you ever heard of Suliman's
Berg?' (Solomon's Mountains.)

" 'Have you ever heard of the diamonds
there?'

" 'I have heard a foolish story, Jim.'

" 'It is no story, Baas. I once knew a
woman who came from there, and got to
Natal with her child. She told me; she is
dead now.'

" 'Your master will feed the assvogels
(vultures), Jim, if he tries to reach
Suliman's country; and so will you, if
they can get any pickings off your
worthless old carcass,' said I.

"He grinned. 'Mayhap, Baas. Man must
die; I'd rather like to try a new country
myself; the elephants are getting worked
out about here.'

" 'Ah! my boy,' I said, 'you wait till the
"pale old man" (death) gets a grip of
your yellow throat, and then we'll hear
what sort of a tune you sing.'

"Half an hour after that I saw Neville's
wagon move off. Presently Jim came
running back. 'Good-bye, Baas,' he said. 'I
didn't like to start without bidding you
good-bye, for I dare say you are right,
and we shall never come back again.'

" 'Is your master really going to
Suliman's Berg, Jim, or are you lying?'

" 'No,' says he; 'he is going. He told me he
was bound to make his fortune somehow,
or try to; so he might as well try the
diamonds.'

" 'Oh!' said I; 'wait a bit, Jim; will you take
a note to your master, Jim, and promise
not to give it to him until you reach
Inyati?' (which was some hundred miles
off).

" 'Yes,' said he.

"So I took a scrap of paper and wrote on
it, 'Let him who comes climb the snow of
Sheba's left breast, till he comes to the
nipple, on the north side of which is
Solomon's great road.'

" 'Now, Jim,' I said, 'when you give this to
your master, tell him he had better
follow the advice implicitly. You are not
to give it to him now, because I don't
want him back asking me questions
which I won't answer. Now be off, you
idle fellow, the wagon is nearly out of
sight.'

"Jim took the note and went, and that is
all I know about your brother, Sir Henry;
but I am much afraid--"

"Mr. Quatermain," said Sir Henry, "I am
going to look for my brother; I am going
to trace him to Suliman's Mountains, and
over them, if necessary, until I find him,
or until I know that he is dead. Will you
come with me?"

I am, as I think I have said, a cautious
man, indeed a timid one, and I shrank
from such an idea. It seemed to me that
to start on such a journey would be to go
to certain death, and, putting other
things aside, as I had a son to support, I
could not afford to die just then.

"No, thank you, Sir Henry, I think I had
rather not," I answered. "I am too old for
wild-goose chases of that sort, and we
should only end up like my poor friend
Silvestre. I have a son dependent on me,
so cannot afford to risk my life."

Both Sir Henry and Captain Good looked
very disappointed.

"Mr. Quatermain," said the former, "I am
well off, and I am bent upon this
business You may put the remuneration
for your services at whatever figure you
like, in reason, and it shall be paid over
to you before we start. Moreover, I will,
before we start, arrange that in the event
of anything happening to us or to you,
your son shall be suitably provided for.
You will see from this how necessary I
think your presence. Also, if by any
chance we should reach this place, and
find diamonds, they shall belong to you
and Good equally. I do not want them.
But of course the chance is as good as
nothing, though the same thing would
apply to any ivory we might get. You may
pretty well make your own terms with
me, Mr. Quatermain; of course I shall pay
all expenses."

"Sir Henry," said I, "this is the most
liberal offer I ever had, and one not to be
sneezed at by a poor hunter and trader.
But the job is the biggest I ever came
across, and I must take time to think it
over. I will give you my answer before we
get to Durban."

"Very good," answered Sir Henry, and
then I said good-night and turned in, and
dreamed about poor, long-dead Silvestre
and the diamonds.

CHAPTER III--UMBOPA ENTERS OUR
SERVICE

IT takes from four to five days,
according to the vessel and the state of
the weather, to run up from the Cape - to
Durban. Sometimes, if the landing is bad
at East London, where they have not yet
got that wonderful harbor they talk so
much of and sink such a mint of money
in, one is delayed for twenty-four hours
before the cargo boats can get out to take
the goods off. But on this occasion we
had not to wait at all, for there were no
breakers on the bar to speak of, and the
tugs came out at once with their long
strings of ugly, flat-bottomed boats, into
which the goods were bundled with a
crash. It did not matter what they were,
over they went, slap-bang! whether they
were china or woollen goods they met
with the same treatment. I saw one case
containing four dozen of champagne
smashed all to bits, and there was the
champagne fizzing and boiling about in
the bottom of the dirty cargo-boat. It was
a wicked waste, and so evidently the
Kaffirs in the boat thought, for they
found a couple of unbroken bottles, and
knocking the tops off drank the contents.
But they had not allowed for the
expansion caused by the fizz in the wine,
and feeling themselves swelling, rolled
about in the bottom of the boat, calling
out that the good liquor was "tagati"
(bewitched). I spoke to them from the
vessel, and told them that it was the
white man's strongest medicine, and that
they were as good as dead men. They
went on to the shore in a very great
fright, and I do not think that they will
touch champagne again.

Well, all the time we were running up to
Natal I was thinking over Sir Henry
Curtis's offer. We did not speak any more
on the subject for a day or two, though I
told them many hunting yarns, all true
ones. There is no need to tell lies about
hunting, for so many curious things
happen within the knowledge of a man
whose business it is to hunt; but this is
by the way.

At last, one beautiful evening in January,
which is our hottest month, we steamed
along the coast of Natal, expecting to
make Durban Point by sunset. It is a
lovely coast all along from East London,
with its red sandhills and wide sweeps of
vivid green, dotted here and there with
Kaffir kraals, and bordered by a ribbon
of white surf which spouts up in pillars
of foam where it hits the rocks. But just
before you get to Durban there is a
peculiar richness about it. There are the
deep kloofs cut in the hills by the
rushing rains of centuries, down which
the rivers sparkle; there is the deepest
green of the bush, growing as God
planted it, and the other greens of the
mealie-gardens and the sugar-patches,
while here and there a white house,
smiling out at the placid sea, puts a
finish and gives an air of homeliness to
the scene. For to my mind, however
beautiful a view may be, it requires the
presence of man to make it complete, but
perhaps that is because I have lived so
much in the wilderness, and therefore
know the value of civilization, though, to
be sure, it drives away the game. The
Garden of Eden, no doubt, was fair before
man was, but I always think it must have
been fairer when Eve was walking about
it. But we had miscalculated a little, and
the sun was well down before we
dropped anchor off the Point, and heard
the gun which told the good folk that the
English mail was in. It was too late to
think of getting over the bar that night,
so we went down comfortably to dinner,
after seeing the mail carried off in the
lifeboat.

When we came up again the moon was
up, and shining so brightly over sea and
shore that she almost paled the quick,
large flashes from the lighthouse. From
the shore floated sweet spicy odors that
always remind me of hymns and
missionaries, and in the windows of the
houses on the Berea sparkle a hundred
lights. From a large brig lying near came
the music of the sailors as they worked at
getting the anchor up to be ready for the
wind. Altogether it was a perfect night,
such a night as you only get in southern
Africa, and it threw a garment of peace
over everybody as the moon threw a
garment of silver over everything. Even
the great bulldog, belonging to a sporting
passenger, seemed to yield to the gentle
influences, and, giving up yearning to
come to close quarters with the baboon
in a cage on the fo'k'sle, snored happily
in the door of the cabin, dreaming, no
doubt, that he had finished him, and
happy in his dream.

We all--that is, Sir Henry Curtis, Captain
Good, and myself--went and sat by the
wheel, and were quiet for a while.

"Well, Mr. Quatermain," said Sir Henry,
presently, "have you been thinking about
my proposals?"

"Ay," echoed Captain Good, "what do you
think of them, Mr. Quatermain? I hope
you are going to give us the pleasure of
your company as far as Solomon's Mines,
or wherever the gentleman you knew as
Neville may have got to."

I rose and knocked out my pipe before I
answered. I had not made up my mind,
and wanted the additional moment to
complete it. Before the burning tobacco
had fallen into the sea it was completed;
just that little extra second did the trick.
It is often the way when you have been
bothering a long time over a thing.

"Yes, gentlemen," I said, sitting down
again, "I will go, and by your leave I will
tell you why and on what terms. First, for
the terms which I ask.

"1. You are to pay all expenses, and any
ivory or other valuables we may get is to
be divided between Captain Good and
myself.

"2. That you pay me #500 for my service
on the trip before we start, I undertaking
to serve you faithfully till you choose to
abandon the enterprise, or tell we
succeed, or disaster overtakes us.

"3. That before we start you execute a
deed agreeing in the event of my death
or disablement, to pay my boy Harry,
who is studying medicine over there in
London at Guy's Hospital, a sum of #200
a year for five years, by which time he
ought to be able to earn a living for
himself. That is all, I think, and I dare
say you will say quite enough, too."

"No," answered Sir Henry, "I accept them
gladly. I am bent upon this project, and
would pay more than that for your help,
especially considering the peculiar
knowledge you possess."

"Very well. And now that I have made my
terms I will tell you my reasons for
making up my mind to go. First of all,
gentlemen, I have been observing you
both for the last few days, and if you will
not think me impertinent I will say that I
like you, and think that we shall come up
well to the yoke together. That is
something, let me tell you, when one has
a long journey like this before one.

"And now as to the journey itself, I tell
you flatly, Sir Henry and Captain Good,
that I do not think it probable that we
can come out of it alive, that is, if we
attempt to cross the Suliman Mountains.
What was the fate of the old Don da
Silvestra three hundred years ago? What
was the fate of his descendant twenty
years ago? What has been your brother's
fate? I tell you frankly, gentlemen, that as
their fate was so I believe ours will be."

I paused to watch the effect of my words.
Captain Good looked a little
uncomfortable; but Sir Henry's face did
not change.

"We must take our chance," he said.

"You may perhaps wonder," I went on,
"why, if I think this, I, who am, as I told
you, a timid man, should undertake such
a journey. It is for two reasons. First, I am
a fatalist, and believe that my time is
appointed to come quite independently
of my own movements, and that if I am
to go to Suliman Mountains to be killed, I
shall go there and shall be killed there.
God Almighty, no doubt, knows his mind
about me, so I need not trouble on that
account. Secondly, I am a poor man. For
forty years I have hunted and but I have
never made more than a living. Well,
gentlemen, I don't know if you are aware
that the average life of an elephant-
hunter from the time he takes to the
trade is from four to five years. So you
see I have lived through about seven
generations of my class and I should
think that my time cannot be far off, any
way. Now, if anything were to happen to
me in the course of business, by the time
my debts were paid there would be

nothing left to support my son Harry
while he was getting in the way of
earning a living, whereas now he would
be provided for for five years. There is
whole affair in a nutshell."

"Mr. Quatermain," said Sir Henry, who
had been giving me the most serious
attention, "your motives for undertaking
an enterprise which you believe can only
end in disaster reflect a great deal of
credit on you. Whether or not you are
right, time and the event, of course,
alone can show. But whether you are
right or wrong, I may as well tell you at
once that I am going through with it to
the end, sweet or bitter. If we are going to
be knocked on the head, all that I have to
say is that I hope we shall get a little
shooting first--eh, Good?"

"Yes, yes," put in the captain. "We have
all three of us been accustomed to face
danger, and hold our lives in our hands
in various ways, so it is no good turning
back now."

"And now I vote we go down to the
saloon and take an observation, just for
luck, you know." And we did--through
the bottom of a tumbler.

Next day we went ashore, and I put Sir
Henry and Captain Good up at the little
shanty I have 0n the Berea, and which I
call my home. There are only three
rooms and a kitchen in it, and it is built
of green brick with a galvanized iron
roof, but there is a good garden, with the
best loquot-trees in it that I know, and
some nice young mangoes; of which I
hope great things. The curator of the
botanical gardens gave them to me. It is
looked after by an old hunter of mine,
named Jack, whose thigh was so badly
broken by a buffalo cow in Sikukuni's
country that he will never hunt again.
But he can potter about and garden,
being a Griqua by birth. You can never
get your Zulu to take much interest in
gardening. It is a peaceful art, and
peaceful arts are
not in his line.

Sir Henry and Good slept in a tent
pitched in my little grove of orange trees
at the end of the garden (for there was
no room for them in the house), and
what with the smell of the bloom and the
sight of the green and golden fruit--for in
Durban you will see all three on the tree
together--I dare say it is a pleasant place
enough (for we have few mosquitoes here
unless there happens to come an
unusually heavy rain).

Well, to get on--for unless I do you will
be tired of my story before ever we fetch
up at Suliman's Mountains-having once
made up my mind to go, I set about
making the necessary preparations. First
I got the deed from Sir Henry, providing
for my boy in case of accidents. There
was some little difficulty about getting
this legally executed, as Sir Henry was a
stranger here, and the property to be
charged was over the water; but it was
ultimately got over with the help of a
lawyer, who charged #20 for the job--a
price that I thought outrageous. Then I
got my check for #500. Having paid this
tribute to my bump of caution, I bought a
wagon and a span of oxen on Sir Henry's
behalf, and beauties they were. It was a
twenty-two foot wagon with iron axles,
very strong, very light, and built
throughout of stink-wood. It was not
quite a new one, having been to the
Diamond Fields and back, but in my
opinion it was all the better for that, for
one could see that the wood was well-
seasoned. If anything is going to give in a
wagon, or if there is green wood in it, it
will show out on the first trip. It was what
we call a "half-tented" wagon--that is to
say, it was only covered in over the after
twelve feet, leaving all the front part free
for the necessaries we had to carry with
us. In this after part was a hide "cattle,"
or bed, on which two people could sleep,
also racks for rifles, and many other little
conveniences. I gave #125 for it, and
think it was cheap at the price. Then I
bought a beautiful team of twenty salted
Zulu oxen, which I had had my eye on for
a year or two. Sixteen oxen are the usual
number for a team, but I had four extra
to allow for casualties. These Zulu oxen
are small and light, not more than half
the size of the Afrikaner oxen, which are
generally used for transport purposes;
but they will live where the Afrikaner
will starve, and with a light load will
make five miles a day better going, being
quicker and not so liable to get footsore.
What is more, this lot were thoroughly
"salted"--that is, they had worked all
over South Africa, and so had become
proof (comparatively speaking) against
red water, which so frequently destroys
whole teams of oxen when they get on to
strange "veldt" (grass country). As for
"lung sick," which is a dreadful form of
pneumonia, very prevalent in this
country, they had all been inoculated
against it. This is done by cutting a slit in
the tail of an ox, and binding in a piece
of the diseased lung of an animal which
has died of the sickness. The result is
that the ox sickens, takes the disease in a
mild form, which causes its tail to drop
off, as a rule about a foot from the root,
and becomes proof against future
attacks. It seems cruel to rob the animal
of his tail, especially in a country where
there are so many flies, but it is better to
sacrifice the tail and keep the ox than to
lose both tail and ox, for a tail without an
ox is not much good except to dust with.
Still it does look odd to trek along behind
twenty stumps, where there ought to be
tails. It seems as though nature had made
a trifling mistake, and stuck the stem
ornaments of a lot of prize bulldogs on to
the rumps of the oxen.

Next came the question of provisioning
and medicines, one which required the
most careful consideration, for what one
had to do was to avoid lumbering the
wagon up, and yet take everything
absolutely necessary. Fortunately, it
turned out that Good was a bit of a
doctor, having at some period in his
previous career managed to pass through
a course of medical and surgical
instruction, which he had more or less
kept up. He was not, of course, qualified,
but he knew more about it than many a
man who could write M.D. after his name,
as we found out afterwards, and he had a
splendid-travelling medicine-chest and a
set of instruments. While we were at
Durban he cut off a Kaffir's big toe in a
way which it was a pleasure to see. But he
was quite flabbergasted when the Kaffir,
who had sat stolidly watching the
operation, asked him to put on another,
saying that a "white one" would do at a
pinch.

There remained, when these questions
were satisfactorily settled, two further
important points for consideration,
namely, that of arms and that of
servants. As to the arms I cannot do
better than put down a list of those we
finally decided on from among the ample
store that Sir Henry had brought with
him from England, and those which I
had. I copy it from my pocket-book,
where I made the entry at the time:

"Three heavy-breech loading double
eight elephant guns, weighing about
fifteen pounds each, with a charge of
eleven drachms of black powder." Two of
these were by a well-known London firm,
most excellent makers, but I do not know
by whom mine, which was not so highly
finished, was made. I had used it on
several trips, and shot a good many
elephants with it, and it had always
proved a most superior weapon,
thoroughly to be relied on.

"Three double 500 expresses,
constructed to carry a charge of six
drachms," sweet weapons, and admirable
for medium-sized game, such as eland or
sable antelope, or for men, especially in
an open country and with the semi-
hollow bullet.

"One double No. 12 central-fire Keeper's
shotgun, full choke both barrels." This
gun. proved of the greatest service to us
afterwards in shooting game for the pot.

"Three Winchester repeating rifles (not
carbines), spare guns.

"Three single-action Colt's revolvers,
with the heavier pattern of cartridge."

This was our total armament, and the
reader will doubtless observe that the
weapons of each class were of the same
make and calibre, so that the cartridges
were interchangeable, a very important
point. I make no apology for detailing it
at length, for every experienced hunter
will know how vital a proper supply of
guns and ammunition is to the success of
an expedition.

Now as to the men who were to go with
us. After much consultation we decided
that their number should be limited to
five, namely, a driver, a leader, and three
servants.

The driver and leader I got without much
difficulty, two Zulus, named respectively
Goza and Tom; but the servants were a
more difficult matter. It was necessary
that they should be thoroughly
trustworthy and brave men, as in a
business of this sort our lives might
depend upon their conduct. At last I
secured two, one a Hottentot called
Ventvo"gel (wind-bird), and one a little
Zulu named Khiva, who had the merit of
speaking English perfectly. Ventvo"gel I
had known before; he was one of the
most perfect "spoorers"--(game trackers)
I ever had to do with and tough as
whipcord. He never seemed to tire. But he
had one failing, so common with his
race, drink. Put him within reach of a
bottle of grog and you could not trust
him. But as we were going beyond the
region of grog-shops this little weakness
of his did not so much matter.

Having got these two men I looked in
vain for a third to suit my purpose, so we
determined to start without one, trusting
to luck to find a suitable man on our way
up country. But on the evening before
the day we had fixed for our departure
the Zulu Khiva informed me that a man
was waiting to see me. Accordingly when
we had done dinner, for we were at table
at the time, I told him to bring him in.
Presently a very tall, handsome-looking
man, somewhere about thirty years of
age, and very light-colored for a Zulu,
entered, and, lifting his knob-stick by
way of salute, squatted himself down in
the corner on his haunches and sat
silent. I did not take any notice of him
for a while, fop it is a great mistake to do
so. If you rush into conversation at once
a Zulu is apt to think you a person of
little dignity or consideration.

I observed, however, that he was a
"Keshla" (ringed man), that is, that he
wore on his head the black ring, made of
a species of gum polished with fat and
worked in with the hair, usually assumed
by Zulus on attaining a certain age or
dignity. Also it struck me that his face
was familiar to me.

"Well," I said at last, "what is your
name?"

"Umbopa," answered the man, in a slow,
deep voice.

"I have seen your face before."

"Yes; the lnkoosi (chief) saw my face at
the place of the Little Hand
(Isandhlwana) the day before the battle."

Then I remembered. I had been one of
Lord Chelmsford's guides in that unlucky
Zulu war, and had had the good fortune
to leave the camp in charge of some
wagons the day before the battle. While I
had been waiting for the cattle to be
inspanned I had fallen into conversation
with this man, who held some small
command among the native auxiliaries,
and he had expressed to me his doubts of
the safety of the camp. At the time I had
told him to hold his tongue, and leave
such matters to wiser heads; but
afterwards I thought of his words.

"I remember," I said; "what is it you
want?"

"It is this, 'Macumazahn' (that is my
Kaffir name, and means the man who
gets up in the middle of the night; or, in
vulgar English, he who keeps his eyes
open). I hear that you go on a great
expedition far into the north with the
white chiefs from over the water. Is it a
true word?"

"It is."

"I hear that you-go even to the Lukanga
River, a moon's journey beyond the
Manica country. Is this so also,
'Macumazahn'?"

"Why do you ask whither we go? What is
it to thee?" I answered, suspiciously, for
the objects of our journey had been kept
a dead secret.

"It is this, O white men, that if indeed you
travel so far I would travel with you."

There was a certain assumption of
dignity in the man's mode of speech, and
especially in his use of the words "O
white men," instead of "O Inkosis"
(chiefs), which struck me.

"You forget yourself a little," I said: "Your
words come out unawares. That is not the
way to speak. What is your name, and
where, is your kraal? Tell us, that we may
know with whom we have to deal."

"My name is Umbopa. I am of the Zulu
people, yet not of, them. The house of my
tribe is in the far north, it was left behind
when the Zulus came down here a
'thousand years ago,' long before Chaka
reigned in Zululand. I have no kraal. I
have wandered for many years. I came
from the north as a child to Zululand, I
was Cetywayo's man in the Nkomabakosi
regiment. I ran away from Zululand and
came to Natal because I wanted to see the
white man's ways. Then I served against
Cetywayo in the war. Since then I have
been working in Natal. Now I am tired,
and would go north again. Here is not my
place. I want no money, but I am a brave
man, and am worth my place and meat. I
have spoken."

I was rather puzzled at this man and his
way of speech. It was evident to me from
his manner that he was in the main
telling the truth, but he was somehow
different from the. ordinary run of Zulus,
and I rather mistrusted his offer to come
without pay. Being in a difficulty, I
translated his words to Sir Henry and
Good, and asked them their opinion. Sir
Henry told me to ask him to stand up.
Umbopa did so, at the same time slipping
off the long military great-coat he wore,
and revealing himself naked except for
the, moocha round his centre and a
necklace of lions' claws. He certainly was
a. magnificent-looking man; I never saw
a finer native. Standing about six foot
three high, he was broad in proportion,
and very shapely. In that light, too, his
skin looked scarcely more than dark,
except here and there where deep, black
scars marked old assegai wounds. Sir
Henry walked up to him and looked into
his proud, handsome face.

"They make a good pair, don't they?"
said Good; "one as big as the other."

"I like your looks, Mr. Umbopa, and I will
take you as my servant," said Sir Henry
in English.

Umbopa evidently understood for he
answered in Zulu, "It is well"; and then,
with a glance at the white man's great
stature and breadth, "we are men, you
and I."

CHAPTER IV--AN ELEPHANT HUNT

Now I do not propose to narrate at full
length all the incidents of our long
journey up to Sitanda's Kraal, near the
junction of the Lukanga and Kalukwe
rivers, a journey of more than a
thousand miles from Durban, the last
three hundred or so of which, owing to
the frequent presence of the dreadful
"tsetse" fly, whose bite is fatal to all
animals except donkeys and men, we had
to make on foot.

We left Durban at the end of January,
and it was in the second week of May
that we camped near Sitanda's Kraal. Our
adventures on the way were many and
various, but as they were of the sort
which befall every African hunter, I shall
not--with one exception to be presently
detailed---set them down here, lest I
should render this history too
wearisome.

At Inyati, the outlying trading station in
the Matabele country; of which
Lobengula (a great scoundrel) is king, we
with many regrets parted from our
comfortable wagon. Only twelve oxen
remained to us out of the beautiful span
of twenty which I had bought at Durban.
One we had lost from the bite of a cobra,
three had perished from poverty and the
want of water, one had been lost, and the
other three had died from eating the
poisonous herb called "tulip." Five more
sickened from this cause, but we
managed to cure them with doses of an
infusion made by boiling down the tulip-
leaves. If administered in time this is a
very effective antidote. The wagon and
oxen we left in the immediate charge of
Goza and Tom, the driver and leader,
both of them trustworthy boys,
requesting a worthy Scotch missionary
who lived in this wild place to keep an
eye to it. Then, accompanied by Umbopa,
Khiva, Ventvo"gel, and half a dozen
bearers whom we hired on the spot, we
started off on foot upon our wild quest. I
remember we were all a little silent on
the occasion of that departure, and I
think that each of us was wondering if we
should ever see that wagon again; for my
part I never expected to. For a while we
tramped on in silence, till Umbopa, who
was marching in front, broke into a Zulu
chant about how some brave men, tired
of life and the tameness of things, started
off into a great wilderness to find new
things or die, and how, lo, and behold!
when they had got far into the
wilderness, they found it was not a
wilderness at all, but a beautiful place
full of young wives and fat cattle, of
game to hunt and enemies to kill.

Then we all laughed and took it for a
good omen. He was a cheerful savage,
was Umbopa, in a dignified sort of way,
when he had not got one of his fits of
brooding, and had a wonderful trick of
keeping one's spirits up. We all got very
fond of him.

And now for the one adventure I am
going to treat myself to, for I do heartily
love a hunting yam.

About a fortnight's march from Inyati we
came across a peculiarly beautiful bit of
fairly-watered wooded country: The
kloofs in the hills were covered with
dense bush, "idoro" bush as the natives
call it, and in some places with the
"wacht-een-beche" (wait-a-little) thorn,
and there were great quantities of the
beautiful "machabell" tree, laden with
refreshing yellow fruit with enormous
stones. This tree is the elephant's favorite
food, and there were not wanting signs
that the great brutes were about, for not
only was their spoor frequent, but in
many places the trees were broken down
and even uprooted. The elephant is a
destructive feeder.

One evening, after a long day's march,
we came to a spot of peculiar loveliness.
At the foot of a bush-clad hill was a dry
river-bed, in which, however, were to be
found pools of crystal water all trodden
round with the hoof-prints of game.
Facing this hill was a park like plain,
where grew clumps of flat-topped
mimosa, varied with occasional glossy
leaved machabells, and all round was the
great sea of pathless, silent bush.

As we emerged into this river-bed path
we suddenly started a troop of tall
giraffes, who galloped, or, rather, sailed
off, with their strange gait, their tails
screwed up over their backs, and their
hoofs rattling like castanets. They were
about three hundred yards from us, and
therefore practically out of shot, but
Good, who was walking ahead and had
an express loaded with solid ball in his
hand, could not resist, but upped gun
and let drive at the last, a young cow. By
some extraordinary chance the ball
struck it full on the back of the neck,
shattering the spinal column, and that
giraffe went rolling head over heels just
like a rabbit. I never saw a more curious
thing.

"Curse it!" said Good--for I am sorry to
say he had a habit of using strong
language when excited--contracted no
doubt, in the course of his nautical
career; "curse it, I've killed him."

"Ou, Bougwan," ejaculated the Kaffirs;
"ou! ou!"

They called Good "Bougwan" (glass eye)
because of his eyeglass.

"Oh! 'Bougwan' !" re-echoed Sir Henry
and I; and from that day Good's
reputation as a marvelous shot was
established, at any rate among the
Kaffirs. Really he was a bad one, but
whenever he missed we overlooked it for
the sake of that giraffe.

Having set some of the "boys" to cut off
the best of the giraffe meat, we went to
work to build a "scherm" near one of the
pools about a hundred yards to the right
of it. This is done by cutting a quantity of
thorn bushes and laying them in the
shape of a circular hedge. Then the space
enclosed is smoothed, and dry tambouki
grass, if obtainable, is made into a bed in
the centre, and a fire or fires lighted.

By the time the "scherm" was finished
the moon was coming up, and our dinner
of giraffe steaks and roasted marrow-
bones was ready. How we enjoyed those
marrow-bones, though it was rather a job
to crack them! I know no greater luxury
than giraffe marrow, unless it is
elephant's heart, and we had that on the
morrow. We ate our simple meal, pausing
at times to thank Good for his wonderful
shot, by the light of the full moon, and
then we began to smoke and yarn, and a
curious picture we must have made
squatted there round the fire. I, with my
short grizzled hair sticking up straight,
and Sir Henry with his yellow locks,
which were getting rather long, were
rather a contrast, especially as I am thin
and short and dark, weighing only nine
stone and a half, and Sir Henry is tall
and broad and fair, and weighs fifteen.
But perhaps the most curious-looking of
the three, taking all the circumstances of
the case into consideration, was Captain
John Good, R.N. There he sat upon a
leather bag, looking just as though he
had come in from a comfortable day's
shooting in a civilized country,
absolutely clean, tidy, and well-dressed.
He had on a shooting-suit of brown
tweed, with a hat to match, and neat
gaiters. He was, as usual, beautifully
shaven, his eyeglass and his false teeth
appeared to be in perfect order, and
altogether he was the nearest man I ever
had to do with in the wilderness. He even
had on a collar, of which he had a
supply, made of white gutta-percha.

"You see, they weigh so little," he said to
me, innocently, when I expressed my
astonishment at the fact; "I always liked
to look like a gentleman."

Well, there we all sat yarning away in the
beautiful moonlight, and watching the
Kaffirs a few yards off sucking their
intoxicating "daccha" in a pipe of which
the mouthpiece was made of the horn of
an eland, till they one by one rolled
themselves up in their blankets and went
to sleep by the fire, that is, all except
Umbopa, who sat a little apart (I noticed
he never mixed much with the other
hairs), his chin resting on his hand
apparently thinking deeply;

Presently, from the depths of the bush
behind us came a loud "woof! woof!"

"That's a lion," said I, and we all started
up to listen. Hardly had we done so,
when from the pool, about a hundred
yards off. came the strident trumpeting
of an elephant. "Unkungunklovo!
Unkungunklovo!" (elephant! elephant!)
whispered the Kaffirs; and a few minutes
afterwards we saw a succession of vast
shadowy forms moving slowly from the
direction of the water towards the bush.
Up jumped Good, burning for slaughter,
and thinking, perhaps, that it was as easy
to kill elephant as he had found it to
shoot giraffe, but I caught him by the
arm and pulled him down.

"It's no good," I said, "let them go."

"It seems that we are in a paradise of
game. I vote we stop here a day or two,
and have a go at them," said Sir Henry,
presently.

I was rather surprised, for hitherto Sir
Henry had always been for pushing on as
fast as possible, more especially since we
had ascertained at Inyati that about two
years ago an Englishman of the name of
Neville had sold his wagon there, and
gone on up country; but I suppose his
hunter instincts had got the better of
him.

Good jumped at the idea, for he was
longing to have a go at those elephants;
and so, to speak the truth, did I, for it
went against my conscience to let such a
herd as that escape without having a pull
at them.

"All right, my hearties," said I. "I think
we want a little recreation. And now let's
turn in, for we ought to be off by dawn,
and then perhaps we may catch them
feeding before they move on."

The others agreed, and we proceeded to
make preparations. Good took off his
clothes, shook them, put his eyeglass and
his false teeth into his trousers pocket,
and, folding them all up neatly, placed
them out of the dew under a comer of his
mackintosh sheet. Sir Henry and I
contented ourselves with rougher
arrangements, and were soon curled up
in our blankets and dropping off into the
dreamless sleep that rewards the
traveller.

Going, going, go--What was that?
Suddenly from the direction of the water
came a sound of violent scuffling, and
next instant there broke upon our ears a
succession of the most awful roars. There
was no mistaking what they came from;
only a lion could make such a noise as
that. We all jumped up and looked
towards the water, in the direction of
which we saw a confused mass, yellow
and black in color, staggering and
struggling towards us. We seized our
rifles, and, slipping on our veldtschoons
(shoes made of untanned hide), ran out
of the scherm towards it. By this time it
had fallen, and was rolling over and over
on the ground, and by the time we
reached it it struggled no longer, but was
quite still.

And this was what it was. On the grass
there lay a sable antelope bull--the most
beautiful of all the African antelopes--
quite dead, and transfixed by its great
curved horns was a magnificent black-
maned lion, also dead. What had
happened, evidently, was this. The sable
antelope had come down to drink at the
pool, where the lion--no doubt the same
we had heard--had been lying in wait.
While the antelope was drinking the lion
had sprung upon him, but was received
upon the sharp, curved horns and
transfixed. I once saw the same thing
happen before. The lion, unable to free
himself, had torn and beaten at the back
and neck of the bull, which, maddened
with fear and pain, had rushed on till it
dropped dead.

As soon as we had sufficiently examined
the dead beasts we called the Kaffirs, and
between us managed to drag their
carcasses up to the scherm. Then we
went in and laid down, to wake no more
till dawn.

With the first light we were up and
making ready for the fray. We took with
us the three eight-bore rifles, a good
supply of ammunition, and our large
water-bottles filled with weak, cold tea,
which I have always found the best stuff
to shoot on. After swallowing a little
breakfast we stared. Umbopa, Khiva, and
Ventvo"gel accompanying us. The other
Kaffirs we left with instructions to skin
the lion and the sable antelope, and cut
up the latter.

We had no difficulty in finding the broad
elephant trail, which Ventvo"gel, after
examination, pronounced to have been
made by between twenty and thirty
elephants, most of them full-grown bulb.
But the herd had moved on some way
during the night, and it was nine o'clock,
and already very hot, before, from the
broken trees, bruised leaves and bark,
and smoking dung, we knew we could not
be far off them.

Presently we caught sight of the herd,
numbering, as Ventvo"gel had said,
between twenty and thirty, standing in a
hollow, having finished their morning
meal, and flapping their great ears. It was
a splendid sight.

They were about two hundred yards
from us. Taking a handful of dry grass I
threw it into the air to see how the wind
was; for if once they winded us I knew
they would be off before we could get a
shot. Finding that, if anything, it blew
from the elephants to us, we crept
stealthily on, and, thanks to the cover,
managed to get within forty yards or so
of the great brutes. Just in front of us and
broadside on stood three splendid bulls,
one of them with enormous tusks. I
whispered to the others that I would take
the middle one; Sir Henry covered the
one to the left, and Good the bull with
the big tusks.

"Now," I whispered.

Boom! boom! boom! went the three heavy
rifles, and down went Sir Henry's
elephant, dead as a hammer, shot right
through the heart. Mine fell on to its
knees, and I thought he was going to die,
but in another moment he was up and
off, tearing along straight past me. As he
went I gave him the second barrel in his
ribs, and this brought down in good
earnest. Hastily slipping in two fresh
cartridges, I ran up close to him, and a
ball through the brain put an end to the
poor brute's struggles. Then I turned to
see how Good had fared with the big bull,
which I had heard screaming with rage
and pain as I gave mine its quietus. On
reaching the captain I found him in a
great state of excitement. It appeared that
on receiving the bullet the bull had
turned and come straight for his
assailant, who had barely time to get out
of his way, and then charged blindly on
past him, in the direction of our
encampment. Meanwhile the herd had
crashed off in wild alarm in the other
direction.

For a while we debated whether to go
after the wounded bull or follow the
herd, and finally decided for the latter
alternative, and departed thinking that
we had seen the last of those big tusks. I
have often wished since that we had. It
was easy work to follow the elephants,
for they had left a. trail like a carriage-
road behind them, crushing down the
thick bush in their furious flight as
though it were tambouki grass. But to
come up with them was another matter,
and we had struggled on under a broiling
sun for over two hours before we found
them. They were, with the exception of
one bull, standing together, and I could
see, from their unquiet way and the
manner in which they kept lifting their
trunks to test the air, that they were on
the lookout for mischief. The solitary
bull stood fifty yards or so this side of
the herd, over which he was evidently
keeping sentry, and about sixty yards
from us. Thinking that he would see or
wind us, and that it would probably start
them all off again if we tried to get
nearer, especially as the ground was
rather open, we all aimed at this bull
and, at my whispered word, fired. All
three shots took effect, and down he
went, dead. Again the herd started on,
but, unfortunately for them, about a
hundred yards farther on was a nullah,
or dried water-track, with steep banks, a
place very much resembling the one the
Prince Imperial was killed in in Zululand.
Into this the elephants plunged, and
when we reached the edge we found
them struggling in wild confusion to get
up the other bank, and filling the air
with their screams, and trumpeting as
they pushed one another aside in their
selfish panic, just like so many human
beings. Now was our opportunity, and,
firing away as quick as we could load, we
killed five of the poor beasts, and no
doubt should have bagged the whole
herd had they not suddenly given up
their attempts to climb the bank and
rushed headlong down the nullah. We
were too tired to follow them, and
perhaps also a little sick of slaughter,
eight elephants being a pretty good bag
for one day.

So, after we had rested a little and the
Kaffirs had cut out the hearts of two of
the dead elephants for supper, we started
homeward, very well pleased with
ourselves, having made up our minds to
send the bearers on the morrow to chop
out the tusks.

Shortly after we had passed the spot
where Good had wounded the patriarchal
bull we came across a herd of eland, but
did not shoot at them, as we had already
plenty of meat. They trotted past us, and
then stopped behind a little patch of
bush about a hundred yards away and
wheeled round to look at us. As Good was
anxious to get a near view of them, never
having seen an eland close, he handed
his rifle to Umbopa, and, followed by
Khiva, strolled up to the patch of bush.
We sat down and waited for him, not
sorry of the excuse for a little rest.

The sun was just going down in its
reddest glory, and Sir Henry and I were
admiring the lovely scene, when
suddenly we heard an elephant scream,
and saw its huge and charging form with
uplifted trunk and tail silhouetted
against the great red globe of the sun.
Next second we saw something else, and
that was Good and Khiva tearing back
towards us with the wounded bull (for it
was he) charging after them. For a
moment we did not dare to fire--though
it would have been little use if we had at
that distance--for fear of hitting one of
them, and the next a dreadful thing
happened: Good fell a victim to his
passion for civilized dress. Had he
consented to discard his trousers and
gaiters as we had, and hunt in a flannel
shirt and a pair of veldtschoons, it would
have been all right, but as it was his
trousers cumbered him in that desperate
race, and presently, when he was about
sixty yards from us, his boot, polished by
the dry grass, slipped, and down he went
on his face right in front of the elephant.

We gave a gasp, for we knew he must die,
and ran as hard as we could towards
him. In three seconds it had ended, but
not as we thought. Khiva, the Zulu boy,
had seen his master fall, and, brave lad
that he was, had turned and flung his
assegai straight into the elephant's face.
It stuck in his trunk.

With a scream of pain the brute seized
the poor Zulu, hurled him to the earth,
and, placing his huge foot on to his body
about the middle, twined his trunk round
his upper part and _i_ tore him in two
_i_.

We rushed up, mad with horror, and
fired again and again, and presently the
elephant fell upon the fragments of the
Zulu.

As for Good, he got up and wrung his
hands over the brave man who had given
his life to save him; and myself, though
an old hand, I felt a lump in my throat.
Umbopa stood and contemplated the
huge dead elephant and the mangled
remains of poor Khiva.

"Ah, well," he said, presently, "he is dead,
but he died like a man."

CHAPTER V--OUR MARCH INTO THE
DESERT

WE had killed nine elephants, and it took
us two days to cut out the tusks and get
them home and bury them carefully in
the sand under a large tree, which made
a conspicuous mark for miles round. It
was a wonderfully fine lot of ivory. I
never saw a better, averaging as it did
between forty and fifty pounds a tusk.
The tusks of the great bull that killed
poor Khiva scaled one hundred and
seventy-pounds the pair, as nearly as we
could judge.

As for Khiva himself, we buried what
remained of him in an ant-bear hole,
together with an assegai to protect
himself with on his journey to a better
world. On the third day we started on,
hoping that we might one day return to
dig up our buried ivory, and in due
course, after a long and wearisome
tramp, and many adventures which I
have not space to detail, reached
Sitanda's Kraal, near the Lukanga River,
the real starting-point of our expedition.
Very well do I recoiled our arrival at that
place. To the right was a scattered native
settlement with a few stone cattle kraals
and some cultivated lands down by the
water, where these savages grew their
scanty supply of grain, and beyond it
great tracts of waving "veldt" covered
with tall grass, over which herds of the
smaller game were wandering To the left
was the vast desert. This spot appeared
to be the outpost of the fertile country,
and it would be difficult to say to what
natural causes such an abrupt change in
the character of the soil was due. But so it
was. Just below our encampment flowed
a little stream, on the farther side of
which was a stony slope, the same down
which I had twenty years before seen
poor Silvestre creeping back after his
attempt to reach Solomon's Mines, and
beyond that slope began the waterless
desert covered with a species of karoo
shrub. It was evening when we pitched
our camp, and the great fiery ball of the
sun was sinking into the desert, sending
glorious rays of many-colored light
flying over all the vast expanse. Leaving
Good to superintend the arrangement of
our little camp; I took Sir Henry with me,
and we walked to the top of the slope
opposite and gazed out across the desert.
The air was very clear, and far, far away I
could distinguish the faint blue outlines,
here and there capped with white, of the
great Suliman Berg.

"There," I said, "there is the wall of
Solomon's Mines, but God knows if we
shall ever climb it."

"My brother should be there, and if he is
I shall reach him somehow," said Sir
Henry, in that tone of quiet confidence
which marked the man.

"I hope so," I answered, and turned to go
back to the camp, when I saw that we
were not alone. Behind us, also gazing
earnestly towards the far-off mountains,
was the great Zulu, Umbopa.

The Zulu spoke when he saw that I had
observed him, but addressed himself to
Sir Henry, to whom he had attached
himself.

"Is it to that land that thou wouldst
journey, 'Incubu?" (a native word
meaning, I believe, an elephant, and the
name given to Sir Henry by the Kaffirs)
he said, pointing towards the mountains
with his broad assegai.

I asked him sharply what he meant by
addressing his master in that familiar
way. It is very well for natives to have a
name for one among themselves, but it is
not decent that they should call one by
their heathenish appellations to one's
face. The man laughed a quiet little laugh
which angered me.

"How dost thou know that I am not the
equal of the Inkosi I serve?" he said. "He
is of a royal house, no doubt; one can see
it in his size and in his eye; so, mayhap,
am I. At least I am as great a man. Be my
mouth, oh, Macumazahn, and say my
words to the Inkoos Incubu, my master,
for I would speak to him and to thee."

I was. angry with the man, for I am not
accustomed to be talked to in that way by
Kaffirs but somehow he impressed me,
and besides I was curious to know what
he had to say, so I translated, expressing
my opinion at the same time that he was
an impudent fellow, and that his swagger
was outrageous.

"Yes, Umbopa," answered Sir Henry, "I
would journey there."

"The desert is wide and there is no water;
the mountains are high and covered with
snow, and man cannot say what is
beyond them behind the place where the
sun sets; how shalt thou come thither,
Incubu, and wherefore dost thou go?"

I translated again.

"Tell him," answered Sir Henry, "that I go
because I believe that a man of my blood,
my brother, has gone there before me,
and I go to seek him."

"That is so, Incubu; a man I met on the
road told me that a white man went out
into the desert two years ago towards
those mountains with one servant, a
hunter. They never came back."

"How do you know it was my brother?"
asked Sir Henry.

"Nay, I know not. But the man, when I
asked what the white man was like, said
that he had your eyes and a black beard.
He said, too, that the name of the hunter
with him was Jim, that he was a
Bechuana hunter and wore clothes."

"There is no doubt about it," said I; "I
knew Jim well."

Sir Henry nodded. "I was sure of it," he
said. "If George set his mind upon a thing
he generally did it. It was always so from
his boyhood. If he meant to cross the
Suliman Berg he has crossed it, unless
some accident has overtaken him, and we
must look for him on the other side."

Umbopa understood English, though he
rarely spoke it.

"It is a far journey, Incubi," he put in,
and I translated his remark.

"Yes," answered Sir Henry, "it is far. But
there is no journey upon this earth that a
man may not make if he sets his heart to
it. There is nothing, Umbopa, that he
cannot do, there are no mountains he
may not climb, there are no deserts he
cannot cross, save a mountain and a
desert of which you are spared the
knowledge, if love leads him, and he
holds his life in his hand counting it as
nothing, ready to keep it or to lose it as
Providence may order." I translated.

"Great words, my father," answered the
Zulu (I always called him a Zulu, though
he was not really one), "great, swelling
words, fit to fill the mouth of a man.
Thou art right, my father Incubu. Listen!
what is life? It is a feather; it is the seed
of the grass, blown hither and thither,
sometimes multiplying itself and dying
in the act, sometimes carried away into
the heavens. But if the seed be good and
heavy it may perchance travel a little
way on the road it will. It is well to try
and journey one's road and to fight with
the air. Man must die. At the worst he
can but die a little sooner. I will go with
thee across the desert and over the
mountains, unless perchance I fall to the
ground on the way, my father."

He paused awhile, and then went on with
one of those strange bursts of rhetorical
eloquence which Zulus sometimes
indulge in, and which, to my mind, full
as they are of vain repetitions, show that
the race is by no means devoid of poetic
instinct and of intellectual power.

"What is life? Tell me, O white men, who
are wise, who know the secrets of the
world, and the world of stars, and the
world that lies above and around the
stars; who flash their words from afar
without a voice; tell me, white men, the
secret of our life--whither it goes and
whence it comes!

"Ye cannot answer; ye know not. Listen, I
will answer. Out of the dark we came,
into the dark we go. Like a storm-driven
bird at night we fly out of the Nowhere;
for a moment our wings are seen in the
light of the fire, and, lo! we are gone
again into the Nowhere. Life is nothing.
Life is all. It is the hand with which we
hold off death. It is the glow-worm that
shines in the night-time and is black in
the morning; it is the white breath of the
oxen in winter; it is the little shadow that
runs across the grass and loses itself at
sunset."

"You are a strange man," said. Sir Henry,
when he ceased.

Umbopa laughed. "It seems to me that we
are much alike, Incubu. Perhaps I seek a
brother over the mountains."

I looked at him suspiciously. "What dost
thou mean?" I asked; "what dost thou
know of the mountains?"

"A little; a very little. There is a strange
land there, a land of witchcraft and
beautiful things; a land of brave people
and of trees and streams and white
mountains and of a great white road. I
have heard of it. But what is the good of
talking? it grows dark. Those who live to
see will see."

Again I looked at him doubtfully. The
man knew too much.

"Ye need not fear me, Macumazahn," he
said, interpreting my look. "I dig no
holes for ye to fall in. I make no plots. If
ever we cross those mountains behind
the sun, I will tell what I know. But death
sits upon them. Be wise, and turn back.
Go and hunt elephant. I have spoken."

And without another word he lifted his
spear in salutation and returned towards
the camp, where shortly afterwards we
found him cleaning a gun like any other
Kaffir.

"That is an odd man," said Sir Henry.

"Yes," answered I, "too odd by half. I
don't like his little ways. He knows
something, and won't speak out. But I
suppose. it is no use quarrelling with
him. We are in for a curious trip, and a
mysterious Zulu won't make much
difference one way or another."

Next day we made our arrangements for
starting. Of course it was impossible to
drag our heavy elephant rifles and other
kit with us across the desert, so,
dismissing our bearers, we made an
arrangement with an old native who had
a kraal close by to take care of them till
we returned. It went to my heart to leave
such things as those sweet tools to the
tender mercies of an old thief, of a
savage whose greedy eyes I could see
gloating over them. But I took some
precautions.

First of all I loaded all the rifles, and
informed him that if he touched them
they would go off. He instantly tried the
experiment with my eight-bore, and it
did go off, and blew a hole right through
one of his oxen, which were just then
being driven up to the kraal, to say
nothing of knocking him head over heels
with the recoil. He got up considerably
startled, and not at all pleased at the loss
of the ox, which he had the impudence to
ask me to pay for, and nothing would
induce him to touch them again.

"Put the live devils up there in the
thatch," he said, "out of the way, or they
will kill us all."

Then I told him that if, when we came
back, one of those things was missing I
would kill him and all his people by
witchcraft; and if we died and he tried to
steal the things, I would come and haunt
him and turn his cattle mad and his milk
sour till life was a weariness, and make
the devils in the guns come out and talk
to him in a way he would not like, and
generally gave him a good idea of
judgment to come. After that he swore he
would look after them as though they
were his father's spirit. He was a very
superstitious old Kaffir and a great
villain.

Having thus disposed of our superfluous
gear we arranged the kit we five --Sir
Henry, Good, myself, Umbopa, and the
Hottentot Ventvo"gel--were to take with
us on our journey. It was small enough,
but do what we would we could not get it
down under about forty pounds a man.
This is what it consisted of:

The three express rifles and two hundred
rounds of ammunition.

The two Winchester repeating rifles (for
Umbopa and Ventvo"gel), with two
hundred rounds of cartridge.

Three "Colt" revolvers and sixty rounds
of cartridge.

Five Cochrane's water-bottles, each
holding four pints.

Five blankets.

Twenty-five pounds' weight of biltong
(sun-dried game flesh).

Ten pounds' weight of best mixed beads
for gifts.

A selection of medicine, including an
ounce of quinine, and one or two small
surgical instruments.

Our knives, a few sundries, such as a
compass, matches, a pocket-filter,
tobacco, a trowel, a bottle of brandy, and
the clothes we stood in.

This was our total equipment, a small
one, indeed, for such a venture, but we
dared not attempt to carry more. As it
was, that load was a heavy one per man
to travel across the burning desert with,
for in such places every additional ounce
tells upon one. But try as we would we
could not see our way to reducing-it.
There was nothing but what was
absolutely necessary.

With great difficulty, and by the promise
of a present of a good hunting knife
each, I succeeded in persuading three
wretched natives from the village to
come with us for the first stage, twenty
miles, and to carry each a large gourd
holding a gallon of water. My object was
to enable us to refill our water-bottles
after the first night's march, for we
determined to start in the cool of the
night. I gave out to these natives that we
were going to shoot ostriches, with which
the desert abounded. They jabbered and
shrugged their shoulders, and said we
were mad and should perish of thirst,
which I must say seemed very probable;
but being desirous of obtaining the
knives, which were almost unknown
treasures up there, they consented to
come, having probably reflected that,
after all, our subsequent extinction
would be no affair of theirs.

All next day we rested and slept, and at
sunset ate a hearty meal of fresh beef
washed down with tea, the last, as Good
sadly remarked, we were likely to drink
for many a long day. Then, having made
our final preparations, we lay down and
waited for the moon to rise. At last, about
nine o'clock, up she came in all her
chastened glory, flooding the wild
country with silver light, and, throwing a
weird sheen on the vast expanse of
rolling desert before us, which looked as
solemn and quiet and as alien to man as
the star-studded firmament above. We
rose up, and in a few minutes were ready,
and yet we hesitated a little, as human
nature is prone to hesitate on the
threshold of an irrevocable step. We
three white men stood there by
ourselves. Umbopa, assegai in hand and
the rifle across his shoulders, a few paces
ahead of us, looked out fixedly across the
desert, the three hired natives, with the
gourds of water, and Ventvo"gel were
gathered in a little knot behind.

"Gentlemen." said Sir Henry, presently,
in his low, deep voice, "we are going on.
about as strange a journey as men can
make in this world. It is very doubtful if
we can succeed in it. But we are three
men who will stand together for good or
for evil to the last. And now before we
start let us for a moment pray to the
Power Who shapes the destinies of men,
and who ages since has marked out our
paths, that it may please him to direct
our steps in accordance with his will."

Taking off his hat he, for the space of a
minute or so, covered his face with his
hands, and Good and I did likewise.

I do not say that I am a first-rate praying-
man; few hunters are; and as for Sir
Henry, I never heard him speak like that
before, and only once since, though deep
down in his heart I believe he is very
religious. Good, too, is pious, though very
apt to swear. Anyhow I do not think I
ever, excepting on one single occasion,
put in a better prayer in my life than I
did during that minute, and somehow I
felt the happier for it. Our future was so
completely unknown, and I think the
unknown and the awful always bring a
man nearer to his Maker.

"And now," said Sir Hay, "trek."

So we started.

We had nothing to guide ourselves by
except the distant mountains and old
Jose' da Silvestra's chart, which,
considering that it was drawn by a dying
and half distraught man on a fragment of
linen three centuries ago, was not a very
satisfactory sort of thing to work on. Still,
such as it was, our little hope of success
depended on it. If we failed in finding
that pool of bad water which the old don
marked as being situated in the middle
of the desert, about sixty miles from our
starting-point and as far from the
mountains, we must in all probability
perish miserably of thirst. And to my
mind the chances of our finding it in that
great sea of sand and karoo scrub
seemed almost infinitesimal. Even
supposing Da Silvestra had marked it
right, what was there to prevent its
having been generations ago dried up by
the sun, or trampled in by game, or filled
with drifting sand?

On we tramped silently as shades
through the night and in the heavy sand.
The karoo bushes caught our shins and
retarded us, and the sand got into our
veldtschoons and Good's shooting-boots,
so that every few miles we had to stop
and empty them; but still the night was
fairly cool, though the atmosphere was
thick and heavy, giving a sort of creamy
feel to the air, and we made fair progress.
It was very still and lonely there in the
desert, oppressively so indeed. Good felt
this, and once began to whistle the "Girl I
left behind me," but the notes sounded
lugubrious in that vast place, and he
gave it up. Shortly afterwards a little
incident occurred which, though it made
us jump at the time, gave rise to a laugh.
Good, as the holder of the compass,
which, being a sailor, of course he
thoroughly understood, was leading, and
we were toiling along in single file
behind him, when suddenly we heard the
sound of an exclamation, and he
vanished. Next second there arose all
round us a most extraordinary hubbub,
snorts, groans, wild sounds of rushing
feet. In the faint light,-too; we could
descry dim, galloping forms half hidden
by wreaths of sand. The natives threw
down their loads and prepared to bolt,
but, remembering that there was
nowhere to bolt to, cast themselves upon
the ground and howled out that it was
the devil. As for Sir Henry and myself, we
stood amazed; nor was our amazement
lessened when we perceived the form of
Good careering off in the direction of the
mountains, apparently mounted on the
back of a horse and halloing like mad. In
another second he threw up his arms,
and we heard him come to the earth with
a thud. Then I saw what had happened:
we had stumbled right on to a herd of
sleeping quagga, on to the back of one of
which Good had actually fallen, and the
brute had naturally enough got up and
made off with him. Singing out to the
others that it was all right, I ran towards
Good, much afraid lest he should be hurt,
but to my great relief found him sitting
in the sand, his eye-glass still fixed
firmly in his eye, rather shaken and very
much startled, but not in any way
injured.

After this we travelled on without any
further misadventure till after one
o'clock, when we called a halt, and
having drunk a little water, not much, for
water was precious, and rested for half
an hour, started on again.

On, on we went till at last the east began
to blush like the cheek of a girl. Then
there came faint rays of primrose light
that changed presently to golden bars,
through which the dawn glided out
across the desert. The stars grew pale
and paler still till at last they vanished;
the golden moon waxed wan, and her
mountain ridges stood out clear against
her sickly face like the bones on the face
of a dying man; then came spear upon
spear of glorious light flashing far away
across the boundless wilderness, piercing
and firing the veils of mist till the desert
was draped in a tremulous golden glow,
and it was day.

Still we did not halt, though by this time
we should have been glad. enough to do
so, for We knew that when once the sun
was fully up it would be almost
impossible for us to travel in it. At
length, about six o'clock, we spied a little
pile of rocks rising out of the plain, and
to this we dragged ourselves. As luck
would have it, here we found an
overhanging slab of rock carpeted
beneath with smooth sand, which
afforded a most grateful shelter from the
heat. Underneath this we crept, and
having drank some water each and eaten
a bit of biltong, we lay down and were
soon sound asleep.

It was three o'clock in the afternoon
before we woke, to find our three bearers
preparing to return. They had already
had enough of the desert, and no
number of knives would have tempted
them to come a step farther. So we had a
hearty drink, and, having emptied our
water-bottles, filled them up again from
the gourds they had brought with them,
and then watched them depart on their
twenty miles' tramp home.

At half-past four we also started on. It
was lonely and desolate work, for, with
the exception of a few ostriches, there
was not a single living creature to be
seen on all the vast expanse of sandy
plain. It was evidently too dry for game,
and, with the exception of a deadly
looking cobra or two, we saw no reptiles.
One insect, however, was abundant, and
that was the common or house fly. There
they came, "not as single spies, but in
battalions," as I think the Old Testament
says somewhere. He is an extraordinary
animal, is the house fly. Go where you
will you find him, and so it must always
have been. I have seen him enclosed in
amber which must, I was told, have been
half a million years old, looking exactly
like his descendant of today, and I have
little doubt that when the last man lies
dying on the earth he will be buzzing
round--if that event should happen to
occur in summer--watching for an
opportunity to settle on his nose.

At sunset we halted, waiting for the moon
to rise. At ten she came up beautiful and
serene as ever, and, with one halt about
two o'clock in the morning, we trudged
wearily on through the night, till at last
the welcome sun put a period to our
labors. We drank a little and flung
ourselves down, thoroughly tired out, on
the sand, and were soon all asleep. There
was no need to set a watch, for we had
nothing to fear from anybody or
anything in that vast, untenanted plain.
Our only enemies were heat, thirst, and
flies, but far rather would I have faced
any danger from man or beast than that
awful trinity. This time we were not so
lucky as to find a sheltering rock to
guard us from the glare of the sun, with
the result that about seven o'clock we
woke up experiencing the exact
sensations one would attribute to a
beefsteak on a gridiron. We were literally
being baked through and through. The
burning sun seemed to be sucking our
very blood out of us. We sat up. and
gasped.

"Phew!" said I, grabbing at the halo of
flies which buzzed cheerfully round my
head. The heat did not affect them.

"My word," said Sir Henry.

"It _i_ is _i_ hot!" said Good.

It was hot, indeed, and there was not a
bit of shelter to be had. Look where we
would there was no rock or tree; nothing
but an unending glare, rendered dazzling
by the hot air which danced over the
surface of the desert as it does over a
red-hot stove.

"What is to be done?" asked Sir Henry;
"we can't stand this for long." We looked
at each other blankly.

"I have it," said Good; "we must dig a
hole and get into it, and cover ourselves
with the karoo bushes."

It did not seem a very promising
suggestion, but at least it was better than
nothing, so we set to work, and, with the
trowel we had brought with us and our
hands, succeeded in about an hour in
delving out a patch of ground about ten
feet long by twelve wide to the depth of
two feet. Then we cut a quantity of low
scrub with our hunting knives, and,
creeping into the hole, pulled it over us
all, with the exception of Ventvo"gel, on
whom, being a Hottentot, the sun had no
particular effect. This gave us some slight
shelter from the burning rays of the sun,
but the heat in that amateur grave can be
better imagined than described. The
Black Hole of Calcutta must have been a
fool to it; indeed, to this moment; I do
not know how we lived through the day.
There we lay panting, and every now and
again moistening our lips from our
scanty supply of water. Had we followed
our inclinations we should have finished
off all we had in the first two hours, but
we had to exercise the most rigid care,
for if our water failed us we knew that we
must quickly perish miserably.

But everything has an end, if only you
live long enough to see it, and somehow
that miserable day wore on towards
evening. About three o'clock in the
afternoon we determined that we could
stand it no longer. It would be better to
die walking than to be slowly killed by
heat and thirst in that dreadful hole. So,
taking each of. us a little drink from our
fast diminishing supply of water now
heated to about the same temperature as
a man's blood, we staggered on.

We had now covered some fifty miles of
desert. If my reader will refer to the
rough copy and translation of old Da
Silvestra's map he will see that the desert
is marked as being forty leagues across,
and the "pan bad water" is set down as
being about in the middle of it. Now,
forty leagues is one hundred and twenty
miles; consequently, we ought at the
most to be. within twelve or fifteen miles
of the water, if any should really exist.

Through the. afternoon we crept slowly
and painfully along, scarcely doing more
than a mile and a half an hour. At sunset
we again rested, waiting for the moon,
and, after drinking a little, managed to
get some sleep.

Before we lay down Umbopa pointed out
to us a slight and indistinct hillock on
the flat surface of the desert about eight
miles away. At the distance it looked like
an ant-hill, and as I was dropping off to
sleep I fell to wondering what it could be.

With the moon we started on again,
feeling dreadfully exhausted, and
suffering tortures from thirst and prickly
heat. Nobody who has not felt it can
know what we went through. We no
longer walked, we staggered, now and
again falling from exhaustion, and being
obliged to call a halt every hour or so.
We had scarcely energy left in us to
speak. Up to now Good had chatted and
joked, for he was a merry fellow; but now
he had not a joke left in him.

At last, about two o'clock, utterly worn
out in body and mind, we came to the
foot of this queer hill, or sand koppie,
which did at first sight resemble a
gigantic ant-heap about a hundred feet
high, and covering at the base nearly a
morgen (two acres) of ground.

Here we halted, and, driven by our
desperate thirst, sucked down our last
drops of water. We had but half a pint a
head, and we could each have drank a
gallon.

Then we lay down. Just as I was dropping
off to sleep I heard Umbopa remark to
himself in Zulu,

"If we cannot find water we shall all be
dead before the moon rises morrow."

I shuddered, hot as it was. The near
prospect of such an awful death is not
pleasant, but even the thought of it could
not keep me from sleeping.

CHAPTER VI--WATER! WATER!

IN two hours' time, about four o'clock, I
woke up. As soon as the first heavy
demand of bodily fatigue had been
satisfied the torturing thirst from which I
was suffering asserted itself. I could sleep
no more. I had been dreaming that I was
bathing in a running stream with green
banks, and trees upon them, and I awoke
to find myself in that arid wilderness,
and to remember that, as Umbopa had
said, if we did not find water that day we
must certainly perish miserably. No
human creature could live long without
water in that heat. I sat up and rubbed
my grimy face with my dry and horny
hands. My lips and eyelids were stuck.
together, and it was only after some
rubbing and with an effort that I was
able to open them. It was not far off the
dawn, but there was none of the bright
feel of dawn in the air, which was thick
with a hot murkiness I cannot describe.
The others were still sleeping. Presently
it began to grow light enough to read, so
I drew out a little pocket copy of the
"Ingoldsby Legends" I had brought with
me, and read the. "Jackdaw of Rheims."
When I got to where

"A nice little boy held a golden ewer,

Embossed, and filled with water as pure

As any that flows between Rheims and
Namur,"

I literally smacked my cracked lips, or,
rather, tried to smack them. The mere
thought of that pure water made me mad.
If the cardinal had been there with his
bell, book, and candle, I would have
whipped in and drank his water up, yes,
even if he had already filled it with the
suds of soap worthy of washing the
hands of the pope, and I knew that the
whole concentrated curse of the Catholic
Church should fall upon me for so doing.
I almost think I must have been a little
light-headed with thirst and weariness
and want of food; for I fell to thinking
how astonished the cardinal and his nice
little boy and the jackdaw would have
looked to see a burned-up brown-eyed,
grizzled-haired little elephant-hunter
suddenly bound in and put his dirty face
into the basin and swallow every drop of
the precious water. The idea amused me
so that I laughed or rather cackled aloud,
which woke the others up, and they
began to rub _i_ their _i_ dirty faces and
get _i_ their _i_ gummed-up lips and
eyelids apart.

As soon as we were all well awake we fell
to discussing the situation, which was
serious enough. Not a drop of water was
left. We turned the water-bottles upside
down and licked the tops, but it was a
failure; they were as dry as a bone. Good,
who had charge of the bottle of brandy,
got it out and looked at it longingly; but
Sir Henry promptly took it away from
him, for to drink raw spirit would only
have been to precipitate the end.

"If we do not find water we shall die," he
said.

"If we can trust to the old don's map
there should be some about," I said; but
nobody seemed to derive much
satisfaction from that remark, it was so
evident that no great faith could be put
in the map. It was now gradually growing
light, and as we sat blankly staring at
each other I observed the Hottentot
Ventvo"gel rise and begin to walk about
with his eyes on the ground. Presently he
stopped short and, uttering a guttural
exclamation, pointed to the earth.

"What is it?" we exclaimed, and
simultaneously rose and went to where
he was standing pointing at the ground.

"Well," I said, "it is pretty fresh
Springbok spoor; what of it?"

"Springboks do not go far from water,"
he answered in Dutch.

"No," I answered, "I forgot; and thank
God for it." This little discovery put new
life into us; it is wonderful how, when
one is in a desperate position, one
catches at the slightest hope, and feels
almost happy in it. On a dark night a
single star is better than nothing.

Meanwhile Ventvo"gel was lifting his
snub nose, and sniffing the hot air for all
the world like an old Impala ram who
scents danger. Presently he spoke again.

"I _i_ smell _i_ water," he said.

Then we felt quite jubilant, for we knew
what a wonderful instinct these wild-bred
men possess.

Just at that moment the sun came up
gloriously and revealed so grand a sight
to our astonished eyes that for a moment
or two we forgot even our thirst.

For there, not more than forty or fifty
miles from us, glittering like silver in the
early rays of the morning sun, were
Sheba's breasts; and stretching away for
hundreds of miles on each side of them
was the great Suliman Berg. Now that I,
sitting here, attempt to describe the
extraordinary grandeur and beauty of
that sight, language seems to fail me. I
am impotent even before its memory.
There, straight before us, were two
enormous mountains, the like of which
are not, I believe, to be seen in Africa, if,
indeed, there are any other such in the
world, measuring each at least fifteen
thousand feet in height, standing not
more than a dozen miles apart,
connected by a precipitous cliff of rock,
and towering up in awful white solemnity
straight into the sky. These mountains
standing thus, like the pillars of a
gigantic gateway, are shaped exactly like
a woman's breasts. Their bases swelled
gently up from the plain, looking, at that
distance, perfectly round and smooth;
and on the top of each was a vast round
hillock covered with snow, exactly
corresponding to the nipple on the
female breast. The stretch of cliff which
connected them appeared to be some
thousand feet in height, and perfectly
precipitous, and on each side of them, as
far as the eye could reach, extended
similar lines of cliff, broken only here
and there by flat, table-topped
mountains, something like the world
famed one at Cape Town; a formation, by
the way, very common in Africa.

To describe the grandeur of the whole
view is beyond my powers. There was
something so inexpressibly solemn and
overpowering about those huge
volcanoes-for doubtless they are extinct
volcanoes--that it fairly took our breath
away. For a while the morning lights
played upon the snow and the brown
and swelling masses beneath, and then,
as though to veil the majestic sight from
our curious eyes, strange mists and
clouds gathered and increased around
them, till presently we could only trace
their pure and gigantic outline swelling
ghostlike through the fleecy envelope.
Indeed, as we afterwards discovered, they
were normally wrapped in this curious
gauzy mist, which doubtless accounted
for one not having made them out more
clearly before.

Scarcely had the mountains vanished
into cloud-clad privacy before our thirst
--literally a burning question--reasserted
itself.

It was all very well for Ventvo"gel to say
he smelled water, but look which way we
would we could see no signs of it. So far
as the eye could reach there was nothing
but arid, sweltering sand and karoo
scrub. We walked round the hillock and
gazed about anxiously on the other side,
but it was the same story, not a drop of
water was to be seen; there was no
indication of a pan, a pool, or a spring.

"You are a fool," I said, angrily, to
Ventvo"gel; "there is no water."

But still he lifted his ugly snub nose and
sniffed.

"I smell it, Baas" (master), he answered;
"it is somewhere in the air."

"Yes," I said, "no doubt it is in the clouds,
and about two months hence it will fall
and wash our bones."

Sir Henry stroked his yellow beard
thoughtfully. "Perhaps it is on the top of
the hill," he suggested.

"Rot," said Good; "who ever heard of
water being found on the top of a hill?"

"Let us go and look," I put in, and
hopelessly enough we scrambled up the
sandy sides of the hillock, Umbopa
leading. Presently he stopped as though
he were petrified.

"Nanzia manzie!" (here is water), he
cried, with a loud voice.

We rushed up to him, and there, sure
enough, in a deep cup or indentation on
the very top of the sand-koppie, was an
undoubted pool of water. How it came to
be in such a strange place we did not
stop to inquire, nor did we hesitate at its
black and uninviting appearance. It was
water, or a good imitation of it, and that
was enough for us. We gave a bound and
a rush, and in another second were all
down on our stomachs sucking up the
uninviting fluid as though it were nectar
fit for the gods. Heavens, how we did
drink! Then, when we had done drinking,
we tore off our clothes and sat down in it,
absorbing the moisture through our
parched skins. You, my reader, who have
only to turn on a couple of taps and
summon "hot" and "cold" from an
unseen, vasty boiler, can have little idea
of the luxury of that muddy wallow in
brackish, tepid water.

After a while we arose from it, refreshed
indeed, and fell to on our biltong, of
which we had scarcely been able to touch
a mouthful for twenty-four hours, and
ate our fill. Then we smoked a pipe, and
lay down by the side of that blessed pool
under the overhanging shadow of the
bank and slept till mid-day.

All that day we rested there by the water,
thanking our stars that we had been
lucky enough to find it, bad as it was,
and not forgetting to render a due share
of gratitude to the shade of the long-
departed Da Silvestra, who had corked it
down so accurately on the tail of his
shirt. The wonderful thing to us was that
it should have lasted so long, and the
only way that I can account for it is by
the supposition that it is fed by some
spring deep down in the sand.

Having filled both ourselves and our
water-bottles as full as possible, in far
better spirits we started off again with
the moon. That night we covered nearly
five-and-twenty miles, but, needless to
say, found no more water, though we
were lucky enough on the following day
to get a little shade behind some ant-
heaps. When the sun rose and, for a
while, cleared away the mysterious mists,
Suliman's Berg and the two majestic
breasts, now only about twenty miles off,
seemed to be towering right above us,
and looked grander than ever. At the
approach of evening we started on again,
and, to cut a long story short, by daylight
next morning found ourselves upon the
lowest slopes of Sheba's left breast, for
which we had been steadily steering. By
this time our water was again exhausted
and we were suffering severely from
thirst, nor indeed could we see any
chance of relieving it till we reached the
snow line, far, far above us. After resting
an hour or two, driven to it by our
torturing thirst, we went on again, toiling
painfully in the burning heat up the lava
slopes, for we found that the huge base
of the mountain was composed entirely
of lava beds belched out in some far-past
age.

By eleven o'clock we were utterly
exhausted, and were, generally speaking,
in a very bad way indeed. The lava
clinker, over which we had to make our
way, though comparatively smooth
compared with some clinker I have heard
of, such as that on the island of
Ascension, for instance, was yet rough
enough to make our feet very sore, and
this, together with our other miseries,
had pretty well finished us. A few
hundred yards above us were some large
lumps of lava, and towards these we
made with the intention of lying down
beneath their shade. We reached them,
and to our surprise, so far as we had a
capacity for surprise left in us, on a little
plateau or ridge close by we saw that the
lava was covered with a dense green
growth. Evidently soil formed from
decomposed lava had rested there, and
in due course had become the receptacle
of seeds deposited by birds. But we did
not take much further interest in the
green growth, for one cannot live on
grass, like Nebuchadnezzar. That
requires a special dispensation of
Providence and peculiar digestive organs.
So we sat down under the rocks and
groaned, and I, for one, heartily wished
that we had never started on this fool's
errand. As we were siring there I saw
Umbopa get up and hobble off towards
the patch of green, and a few minutes
afterwards, to my great astonishment, I
perceived that usually uncommonly
dignified individual dancing and
shouting like a maniac, and waving
something green. Off we all scrambled
towards him as fast as our wearied limbs
would carry us, hoping that he had
found water.

"What is it, Umbopa, son of a fool?" I
shouted in Zulu.

"It is food and water, Macumazahn," and
again he waved the green thing.

Then I saw what he had got. It was a
melon. We had hit upon a patch of wild
melons, thousands of them, and dead
ripe.

"Melons!" I yelled to Good, who was next
me; and in another second he had his
false teeth fixed in one.

I think we ate about six each before we
had done, and, poor fruit as they were, I
doubt if I ever thought anything nicer.

But melons are not very satisfying, and
when we had satisfied our thirst with
their pulpy substance, and set a stock to
cool by the simple process of cutting
them in two and setting them end on in
the hot sun to get cold by evaporation,
we began to feel exceedingly hungry. We
had still some biltong left but our
stomachs turned from biltong, and,
besides, we. had to be very sparing of it,
for we could not say when we should get
more food. Just at this moment a lucky
thing happened. Looking towards the
desert I saw a flock of about ten large
birds flying straight towards us.

"Skit, Baas, skit!" (shoot, master, shoot),
whispered the Hottentot, throwing
himself on his face, an example which we
all followed.

Then I saw that the birds were a flock of
pauw (bustards), and that they would
pass within fifty yards of my head.
Taking one of the repeating Winchesters,
I waited till they were nearly over us, and
then jumped on to my feet. On seeing me
the pauw bunched up together, as I
expected they would, and I fired two
shots straight into the thick of them, and,
as luck would have it, brought one down,
a fine fellow, that weighed about twenty
pounds. In half an hour we had a fire
made of dry melon-stalks, and he was
toasting over it, and we had such a feed
as we had not had for a week. We ate that
pauw --nothing was left of him but his
bones and his beak--and felt not a little
the better afterwards.

That night we again went on with the
moon, carrying as many melons as we
could with us. As we got higher up we
found the air get cooler and cooler,
which was a great relief to us, and at
dawn, so far as we could judge, were not
more than about a dozen miles from the
snow-line. Here we found more melons,
so had no longer any anxiety about
water, for we knew that we should soon
get plenty of snow. But the ascent had
now become very precipitous, and we
made but slow progress, not more than a
mile an hour. Also that night we ate our
last morsel of biltong. As yet, with the
exception of the pauw, we had seen no
living thing on the mountain, nor had we
come across a single spring or stream of
water, which struck us as very odd,
considering all the snow above us, which
must, we thought, melt sometimes. But as
we afterwards discovered, owing to some
cause, which it is quite beyond my power
to explain, all the streams flowed down
upon the north side of the mountains.

We now began to grow very anxious
about food. We had escaped death by
thirst, but it seemed probable that it was
only to die of hunger. The events of the
next three miserable days are best
described by copying the entries made at
the time in my note-book.

21st May. Started 11 A.M, finding the
atmosphere quite cold enough to travel
by day, carrying some watermelons with
us. Struggled on all day, but saw no more
melons, having, evidently, passed out of
their district. Saw no game of any sort.
Halted for the night at sundown, having
had no food for many hours. Suffered
much during the night from cold.

22d.--Started at sunrise again, feeling
very faint and weak. Only made five
miles all day; found some patches of
snow, of which we ate, but nothing else.
Camped at night under the edge of a
great plateau. Cold bitter. Drank a little
brandy each, and huddled ourselves
together, each wrapped up in our blanket
to keep ourselves alive. Are now suffering
frightfully from starvation and
weariness. Thought that Ventvo"gel
would have died during the night.

23d.---Struggled forward once more as
soon as the sun was well up, and had
thawed our limbs a little. We are now in a
dreadful plight, and I fear that unless we
get food this will be our last day's
journey. But little brandy left. Good, Sir
Henry, and Umbopa bear up wonderfully,
but Ventvo"gel is in a very bad way. Like
most Hottentots, he cannot stand cold.
Pangs of hunger not so bad, but have a
sort of numb feeling about the stomach.
Others say the same. We are now on a
level with the precipitous chain, or wall
of lava, connecting the two breasts, and
the view is glorious. Behind us the great
glowing desert rolls away to the horizon,
and before us lies mile upon mile of
smooth, hard snow almost level, but
swelling gently upward, out of the centre
of which the nipple of the mountain,
which appears to be some miles in
circumference, rises about four thousand
feet into the sky. Not a living thing is to
be seen. God help us, I fear our time has
come.

And now I will drop the journal, partly
because it is not very interesting reading,
and partly because what follows requires
perhaps rather more accurate telling.

All that day (the 23d May) we struggled
slowly on up the incline of snow, lying
down. from time to time to rest. A
strange, gaunt crew we must have looked,
as, laden as we were, we dragged our
weary feet over the dazzling plain,
glaring round us with hungry eyes. Not
that there was much use in glaring, for
there was nothing to eat. We did not do
more than seven miles that day. Just
before sunset we found ourselves right
under the nipple of Sheba's left breast,
which towered up thousands of feet-into
the air above us, a vast, smooth hillock of
frozen snow. Bad as we felt, we could not
but appreciate the wonderful scene,
made even more wonderful by the flying
rays of light from the setting sun, which
here and there stained the snow blood
red, and crowned the towering mass
above us with a diadem of glory.

"I say," gasped Good, presently, "we
ought to be somewhere near the cave the
old gentleman wrote about."

"Yes," said I, "if there is a cave."

"Come, Quatermain," groaned Sir Henry,
"don't talk like that; I have every faith in
the don; remember the water. We shall
find the place soon."

"If we don't find it before dark we are
dead men, that is all about it," was my
consolatory reply.

For the next ten minutes we trudged on
in silence, when suddenly Umbopa, who
was marching along beside me, wrapped
up in his blanket and with a leather belt
strapped so tight round his stomach, to
"make his hunger small," as he said, that
his waist looked like a girl's, caught me
by the arm.

"Look!" he said, pointing towards the
springing slope of the nipple.

I followed his glance, and perceived,
some two hundred yards from us, what
appeared to be a hole in the snow.

"It is the cave," said Umbopa.

We made the best of our way to the spot,
and found, sure enough, that the hole
was the mouth of a cave, no doubt the
same as that of which Da Silvestra wrote.
We were none too soon, for just as we
reached shelter the sun went down with
startling rapidity, leaving the whole
place nearly dark. In these latitudes
there is but little twilight. We crept into
the cave, which did not appear to be very
big, and, huddling ourselves together for
warmth, swallowed what remained of our
brandy--barely a mouthful each---and
tried to forget our miseries in sleep. But
this the cold was too intense to allow us
to do. I am convinced that at that great
altitude the thermometer cannot have
been less than fourteen or fifteen degrees
below freezing-point. What this meant to
us, enervated as we were by hardship,
want of food, and the great heat of the
desert, my reader can imagine better
than I can describe. Suffice it to say that
it was something as near death from
exposure as I have ever felt. There we sat
hour after hour through the bitter night,
feeling the frost wander round and nip
us now in the finger, now in the foot, and
now in the face. In vain did we huddle up
closer and closer; there was no warmth
in our miserable, starved carcasses.
Sometimes one of us would drop into an
uneasy slumber for a few minutes, but we
could not sleep long, and perhaps it was
fortunate, for I doubt if we should ever
have woke again. I believe it was only by
force of will that we kept ourselves alive
at all.

Not very long before dawn I heard the
Hottentot Ventvo"gel, whose teeth had
been chattering all night like castanets,
give a deep sigh, and then his teeth
stopped chattering. I did not think
anything of it at the time, concluding
that he had gone to sleep. His back was
resting against mine, and it seemed to
grow colder, and colder, till at last it was
like ice.

At length the air began to grow gray with
light, then swift golden arrows came
flashing across the snow, and at last the
glorious sun peeped up above the lava
wall and looked in upon our half-frozen
forms and upon Ventvo"gel, sitting there
among us stone dead. No wonder his
back had felt cold, poor fellow. He had
died when I heard him sigh, and was now
almost frozen stiff. Shocked beyond
measure, we dragged ourselves from the
corpse (strange the horror we all have of
the companionship of a dead body), and
left it still sitting there, with its arms
clasped round its knees.

By this time the sunlight was pouring its
cold rays (for here they were cold)
straight in at the mouth of the cave.
Suddenly I heard an exclamation of fear
from some one, and turned my head
down the cave.

And this was what I saw. Sitting at the
end of it, for it was not more than twenty
feet long, was another form, of which the
head rested on the chest and the long
arms hung down. I stared at it, and saw
that it, too, was a _i_ dead man _i_, and
what was more, a white man.

The others saw it, too, and the sight
proved too much for our shattered
nerves. One and all we scrambled out of
the cave as fast as our half-frozen limbs
would allow.

CHAPTER VII--SOLOMON'S ROAD

Outside the cave we halted, feeling rather
foolish.

"I am going back," said Sir Henry. "Why?"
asked Good. "Because it has struck me
that--what we saw--may be my brother."

This was a new idea, and we reentered
the cave to put it to the proof, After the
bright light outside our eyes, weak as
they were with stating at the snow, could
not for a while pierce the gloom of the
cave. Presently, however, we grew
accustomed to the semi-darkness, and
advanced on to the dead form.

Sir Henry knelt down and peered into its
face.

"Thank God," he said, with a sigh of
relief, "it is not my brother."

Then I went and looked. The corpse was
that of a tall man in middle life, with
aquiline features, grizzled hair, and a
long black mustache. The skin was
perfectly yellow, and stretched tightly
over the bones. Its clothing, with the
exception of what seemed to be the
remains of a pair of woollen hose, had
been removed, leaving the skeleton-like
frame naked. Round the neck hung a
yellow ivory crucifix. The corpse was
frozen perfectly stiff.

"Who on earth can it be?" said I.

"Can't you guess?" asked Good.

I shook my head.

"Why, the old don, Jose' da Silvestra, of
course--who else?"

"Impossible," I gasped, "he died three
hundred years ago."

"And what is there to prevent his lasting
for three thousand years in this
atmosphere I should like to know?" asked
Good. "If only the air is cold enough
flesh and blood will keep as fresh as New
Zealand mutton forever, and Heaven
knows it is cold enough here. The sun
never gets in here; no animal comes here
to tear or destroy. No doubt his slave, of
whom he speaks on the map, took off his
clothes and left him. He could not have
buried him alone. Look here," he went.
on, stooping down and picking up a
queer-shaped bone scraped at the end
into a sharp point, "here is the 'cleft-
bone' that he used to draw the map
with."

We gazed astonished for a moment,
forgetting our own miseries in the
extraordinary and, as it seemed to us,
semi-miraculous sight.

"Ay," said "Sir Henry, "and here is where
he got his ink from," and he pointed to a
small wound on the dead man's left arm.
"Did ever man see such a thing before?"

There was no longer any doubt about the
matter, which I confess, for my own part,
perfectly appalled me. There he sat, the
dead man, whose directions, written
some ten generations ago, bad led us to
this spot. There in my own hand was the
rude pen with which he had written
them, and there round his neck was the
crucifix his dying lips had kissed. Gazing
at him my imagination could reconstruct
the whole scene: the traveller dying of
cold and starvation, and yet striving to
convey the great secret he had
discovered to the world; the awful
loneliness of his death, of which the
evidence sat before us. It even seemed to
me that I could trace in his strongly-
marked features a likeness to those of my
poor friend Silvestre, his descendant,
who had died twenty years ago in my
arms, but perhaps that was fancy. At any
rate, there he sat, a sad memento of the
fate that so often overtakes those who
would penetrate into the unknown; and
there probably he will still sit, crowned
with the dread majesty of death, for
centuries yet unborn, to startle the eyes
of wanderers like ourselves, if any such
should ever come again to invade his
loneliness. The thing overpowered us,
already nearly done to death as we were
with cold and hunger.

"Let us go," said Sir Henry, in a low voice;
"stay, we will give him a companion,"
and, lifting up the dead body of the
Hottentot Ventvo"gel, he placed it near
that of the old don. Then he stooped
down and with a jerk broke the rotten
string of the crucifix round his neck, for
his fingers were too cold to attempt to
unfasten it. I believe that he still has it. I
took the pen, and it is before me as I
write--sometimes I sign my name with it.

Then, leaving those two, the proud white
man of a past age and the poor Hottentot,
to keep their eternal vigil in the midst of
the eternal snows, we crept out of the
cave into the welcome sunshine and
resumed our path, wondering in our
hearts how many hours it would be
before we were even as they are.

When we had gone about half a mile we
came to the edge of the plateau, for the
nipple of the mountain did not rise out
of its exact centre, though from the
desert side it seemed to do so. What lay
below us we could not see, for the
landscape was wreathed in billows of
morning mist. Presently, however, the
higher layers of mist cleared a little, and
revealed, some five hundred yards
beneath us, at the end of a long slope of
snow, a patch of green grass, through
which a stream was running. Nor was
this all. By the stream, basking in the
morning sun, stood and lay a group of
from ten to fifteen _i_ large antelopes
_i_ at that distance we could not see
what they were.

The sight filled us with an unreasoning
joy. There was food in plenty if only we
could get it. But the question was how to
get it. The beasts were fully six hundred
yards off, a very long shot, and one not
to be depended on when one's life hung
on the results.

Rapidly we discussed the advisability of
trying to stalk the game, but finally
reluctantly dismissed it. To begin with,
the wind was not favorable, and further,
we should be certain to be perceived,
however careful we were, against the
blinding background of snow which we
should be obliged to traverse.

"Well, we must have a try from where we
are," said Sir Henry. "Which shall it be,
Quatermain, the repeating rifles or the
expresses?"

Here again was a question. The
Winchester repeaters---of which we had
two, Umbopa carrying poor Ventvo"gel's
as well as his own--were sighted up to a
thousand yards, whereas the expresses
were only sighted to three hundred and
fifty, beyond which distance shooting
with them was more or less guess-work.
On the other hand, if they did hit, the
express bullets, being expanding, were
much more likely to bring the game
down. It was a knotty point, but I made
up my mind that we must risk it and use
the expresses.

"Let each of us take the buck opposite to
him. Aim well at the point of the
shoulder, and high up," said I; "and
Umbopa, do you give the word, so that
we may all fire together."

Then came a pause, each man aiming his
level best, as indeed one is likely to do
when one knows that life itself depends
upon the shot.

"Fire!" said Umbopa, in Zulu, and at
almost the same instant the three rifles
rang out loudly; three clouds of smoke
hung for a moment before us, and a
hundred echoes went flying away over
the silent snow. Presently the smoke
cleared, and revealed--oh, joy--a great
buck lying on its back and kicking
furiously in its death agony. We gave a
yell of triumph; we were saved, we
should not starve. Weak as we were, we
rushed down the intervening slope of
snow, and in ten minutes from the time
of firing the animal's heart and liver
were lying smoking before us. But now a
new difficulty arose; we had no fuel, and
therefore could make no fire to cook
them at. We gazed at each other in
dismay.

"Starving men must not be fanciful," said
Good; "we must eat raw meat."

There was no other way out of the
dilemma, and our gnawing hunger made
the proposition less distasteful than it
would otherwise have been. So we took
the heart and liver and buried them for a
few minutes in a patch of snow to cool
them off. Then we washed them in the
ice-cold water of the stream, and lastly
ate them greedily. It sounds horrible
enough, but, honestly, I never tasted
anything so good as that raw meat. In a
quarter 0f an hour we were changed
men. Our life and our vigor came back to
us, our feeble pulses grew strong again,
and the blood went coursing through our
veins. But, mindful of the results of over-
feeding on starving stomachs, we were
careful not to eat too much, stopping
while we were still hungry.

"Thank God!" said Sir Henry; "that brute
has saved our lives. What is it,
Quatermain ?"

I rose and went to look at the antelope,
for I was not certain. It was about the size
of a donkey, with large, curved horns. I
had never seen one like it before, the
species was new to me. It was brown, with
faint red stripes and a thick coat. I
afterwards discovered that the natives of
that wonderful country called the species
"Inco." It was very rare, and only found
at a great altitude, where no other game
would live. The animal was fairly shot
high up in the shoulder, though whose
bullet it was that brought it down we
could not, of course, discover. I believe
that Good, mindful of his marvellous
shot at the giraffe, secretly set it down to
his own prowess, and we did not
contradict him.

We had been so busy satisfying our
starving stomachs that we had hitherto
not found time to look about us. But now,
having set Umbopa to cut off as much of
the best meat as we were likely to be able
to carry, we began to inspect our
surroundings. The mist had now cleared
away, for it was eight o'clock, and the
sun had sucked it up, so we were able to
take in all the country before us at a
glance. I know not how to describe the
glorious panorama which unfolded itself
to our enraptured gaze. I have never seen
anything like it before, nor shall, I
suppose, again.

Behind and over us towered Sheba's
snowy breasts, and below some five
thousand feet beneath where we stood,
lay league on league of the most lovely
champaign country. Here were dense
patches of lofty forest, there a great river
wound its silvery way. To the left
stretched a vast expanse of rich,
undulating veldt or grass land, on which
we could just make out countless herds of
game or cattle, at that distance we could
not tell which. This expanse appeared to
be ringed in by a wall of distant
mountains. To the right the country was
more or less mountainous, that is,
solitary hills stood up from its level, with
stretches of cultivated lands between,
among which we could distinctly see
groups of dome-shaped huts. The
landscape lay before us like a map, in
which rivers flashed like silver snakes,
and Alpine peaks crowned with wildly
twisted snow-wreaths rose in solemn
grandeur, while over all was the glad
sunlight and the wide breath of Nature's
happy life.

Two curious things struck us as we gazed.
First, that the country before us must lie
at least five thousand feet higher than
the desert we had crossed, and, secondly,
that all the rivers flowed from south to
north. As we had painful reason to know,
there was no water at all on the southern
side of the vast range on which we stood,
but on the northern side were many
streams, most of which appeared to.
unite with the great river we could trace
winding away farther than we could
follow it.

We sat down for a while and gazed in
silence at this wonderful view. Presently
Sir Henry spoke.

"Isn't there something on the map about
Solomon's Great Road?" he said.

I nodded, my eyes still looking out over
the far country.

"Well, look; there it is!" and he pointed a
little to our fight.

Good and I looked accordingly, and
there, winding away towards the plain,
was what appeared to be a wide turnpike
road. We had not seen it at first because
it, on reaching the plain, turned behind
some broken country. We did not say
anything, at least not much; we were
beginning to lose the sense of wonder.
Somehow it did not seem particularly
unnatural that we should find a sort of
Roman road in this strange land. We
accepted the fact, that was all.

"Well," said Good, "it must be quite near
us if we cut off to the right. Hadn't we
better be making a start?"

This was sound advice, and so soon us we
had washed our faces and hands in the
stream we acted on it. For a mile or so we
made our way over boulders and across
patches of snow, till suddenly, on
reaching the top of the little rise, there
lay the road at our feet. It was a splendid
road cut out of the solid rock, at least
fifty feet wide, and apparently well kept;
but the odd thing about it was that it
seemed to begin there. We walked down
and stood on it, but one single hundred
paces behind us, in the direction of
Sheba's breasts, it vanished--the whole
surface of the mountain being strewed
with boulders interspersed with patches
of snow.

"What do you make of that,
Quatermain?" asked Sir Henry.

I shook my head, I could make nothing of
it.

"I have it!" said Good; "the road no doubt
ran right over the range and across the
desert the other side, but the sand of the
desert has covered it up, and above us it
has been obliterated by some volcanic
eruption of molten lava."

This seemed a good suggestion; at any
rate, we accepted it, and proceeded down
the mountain. It was a very different
business travelling along down hill on
that magnificent pathway with full
stomachs, to what it had been travelling
up hill over the snow quite starved and
almost frozen. Indeed, had it not been for
melancholy recollections of poor
Ventvo"gel's sad fate, and of that grim
cave where he kept company with the old
don, we should have been positively
cheerful, notwithstanding the sense of
unknown dangers before us. Every mile
we walked the atmosphere grew softer
and balmier, and the country before us
shone with a yet more luminous beauty.
As for the road itself, I never saw such an
engineering work, though Sir Henry said
that the great road over the St. Gothard
in Switzerland was very like it.

No difficulty had been too great for the
Old World engineer who designed it. At
one place we came to a great ravine three
hundred feet broad and at least a
hundred deep. This vast gulf was actually
filled in, apparently with huge blocks of
dressed stone, with arches pierced at the
bottom for a water-way, over which the
road went sublimely on. At another place
it was cut in zigzags out of the side of a
precipice five hundred feet deep, and in
a third it tunnelled right through the
base of an intervening ridge a space of
thirty yards or more.

Here we noticed that the sides of the
tunnel were covered with quaint
sculptures, mostly of mailed figures
driving in chariots. One, which was
exceedingly beautiful, represented a
whole battle scene with a convoy of
captives being marched off in the
distance.

"Well," said Sir Henry, after inspecting
this ancient work of art, "it is very well to
call this Solomon's Road, but my humble
opinion is that the Egyptians have been
here before Solomon's people ever set a
foot on it. If that isn't Egyptian
handiwork, all I have to say is it is very
like it."

By midday we had advanced sufficiently
far down the mountain to reach the
region where wood was to be met with.
First we came to scattered bushes which
grew more and more frequent, till at last
we found the road winding through a
vast grove of silver-trees similar to those
which are to be seen on the slopes of
Table Mountain at Cape Town. I had
never before met with them in all my
wanderings, except at the Cape, and their
appearance here astonished me greatly.

"Ah!" said Good, surveying these shining-
leaved trees with evident enthusiasm,
"here is lots of wood, let us stop and cook
some dinner; I have about digested that
raw meat."

Nobody objected to this, so, leaving the
road, we made our way to a stream which
was babbling away not far off, and soon
had a goodly fire of dry boughs blazing.
Cutting off some substantial hunks from
the flesh of the inco which we had
brought with us, we proceeded to toast
them on the ends of sharp sticks, as one
sees the Kaffirs do, and ate them with
relish. After filling ourselves, we lit our
pipes and gave ourselves up to
enjoyment, which, compared to the
hardships we had recently undergone,
seemed almost heavenly.

The brook, of which the banks were
clothed with dense masses of a gigantic
species of maidenhair fern interspersed
with feathery tufts of wild asparagus,
babbled away merrily at our side, the
soft air murmured through the leaves of
the silver-trees, doves cooed around, and
bright-winged birds flashed like living
gems from bough to bough. It was like
Paradise.

The magic of the place, combined with
the overwhelming sense of dangers left
behind and of the promised land reached
at last, seemed to charm us into silence.
Sir Henry and Umbopa sat conversing in,
a mixture of broken English and Kitchen
Zulu in a low voice, but earnestly
enough, and I lay, with my eyes half
shut, upon that fragrant bed of fern and
watched-them. Presently I missed Good,
and looked to see what had become of
him. As I did so I observed him sitting by
the bank of the stream, in which he had
been bathing. He had nothing on but his
flannel shirt, and, his natural habits of
extreme neatness having reasserted
themselves, was actively employed in
making a most elaborate toilet. He had
washed his gutta-percha collar,
thoroughly shaken out his trousers, coat,
and waistcoat, and was now folding them
up neatly till he was ready to put them
on, shaking his head sadly as he did so
over the numerous rents and tears in
them which had naturally resulted from
our frightful journey. Then he took his
boots, scrubbed them with a handful of
fern, and finally rubbed them over with a
piece of fat which he had carefully saved
from the inco meat, till they looked,
comparatively speaking, respectable.
Having inspected them judiciously
through his eye-glass, he put them on
and began a fresh operation. From a little
bag he carried he produced a pocket-
comb in which was fixed a tiny looking-
glass and in this surveyed himself.
Apparently he was not satisfied, for he
proceeded to do his hair with great care.
Then came a pause while he again
contemplated the effect; still it was not
satisfactory. He felt his chin, on which
was now the accumulated scrub of a ten
days' beard. "Surely," thought I; "he is
not going to try and shave." But so it was.
Taking the piece of fat with which he had
greased his boots, he washed it carefully
in the stream. Then diving again into the
hag, he brought out a little pocket razor
with a guard to it, such as are sold to
people afraid of cutting themselves, or to
those about to undertake a sea voyage.
Then he vigorously scrubbed his face
and chin with the fat and began. But it
was evidently a painful process, for he
groaned very much over it, and I was
convulsed with inward laughter as I
watched him struggling with that stubbly
beard. It seemed so very odd that a man
should take the trouble to shave himself
with a piece of fat in such a place and
under such circumstances. At last he
succeeded in getting the worst of the
scrub off the right side of his face and
chin, when suddenly I, who was
watching, became aware of a flash of
light that passed just by his head.

Good sprang up with a profane
exclamation (if it had not been a safety
razor he would certainly have cut his
throat), and so did I, without the
exclamation, and this was what I saw.
Standing there, not more than twenty
paces from where I was, and ten from
Good, was a group of men. They were
very tall and copper-colored, and some
of them wore great plumes of black
feathers and short cloaks of leopard
skins; this-was all I noticed at the
moment. In front of them stood a youth
of about seventeen, his hand still raised
and his body bent forward in the attitude
of a Grecian statue of a spear thrower.
Evidently the flash of light had been a
weapon, and he had thrown it.

As I looked an old, soldier-like looking
man stepped forward out of the group,
and catching the youth by the arm said
something to him. Then they advanced
upon us.

Sir Henry, Good, and Umbopa had by
this time seized their rifles and lifted
them threateningly. The party of natives
still came on. It struck me that they could
not know what rifles were, or they would
not have treated them with such
contempt.

"Put down your guns!" I hallooed to the
others, seeing that our only chance of
safety in conciliation. They obeyed, and,
walking to the front, I addressed the
elderly man who had checked the youth.

"Greeting," I said, in Zulu, not knowing
what language to use. To my surprise I
was understood.

"Greeting," answered the man, not,
indeed, in the same tongue, but in a
dialect so closely allied to it that neither
Umbopa nor myself had any difficulty in
understanding it. Indeed, as we
afterwards found out, the language
spoken by this people was an old-
fashioned form of the Zulu tongue,
bearing about the same relationship to it
that the English of Chaucer does to the
English of the nineteenth century.

"Whence come ye?" he went on, "what
are ye? and why are the faces of three of
ye white, and the face of the fourth as the
face of our mother's sons?" and he
pointed to Umbopa. I looked at Umbopa
as he said it, and it flashed across me
that he was right. Umbopa was like the
faces of the men before me; so was his
great form. But I had not time to reflect-
on this coincidence.

"We are strangers, and come in peace," I
answered, speaking very slow, so that he
might understand me, "and this man is
our servant."

"Ye lie," he answered, "no strangers can
cross the mountains where all things die.
But what do your lies matter; if ye are
strangers then ye must die, for no
strangers may live in the land of the
Kukuanas. It is the king's law. Prepare
then to die, O strangers!"

I was slightly staggered at this, more
especially as I saw the hands of some of
the party of men steal down to their
sides, where hung on each what looked
to me like a large and heavy knife.

"What does that beggar say?" asked
Good.

"He says we are going to be scragged," I
answered, grimly.

"Oh, Lord," groaned Good; and, as was
his way when perplexed, put his hand to
his false teeth, dragging the top set down
and allowing them to fly back to his jaw
with a snap. It was a most fortunate
move, for next second the dignified
crowd of Kukuanas gave a simultaneous
yell of horror, and bolted back some
yards.

"What's up?" said I.

"It's his teeth," whispered Sir Henry,
excitedly. "He moved them. Take them
out, Good, take them out!"

He obeyed, slipping the set into the
sleeve of his flannel shirt.

In another second curiosity had
overcome fear, and the men advanced
slowly. Apparently they had now
forgotten their amiable intentions of
doing for us.

"How is it, O strangers," asked the old
man, solemnly, "that the teeth of the
man" (pointing to Good, who had
nothing on but a flannel shirt, and had
only half finished his shaving) "whose
body is clothed, and whose legs are bare,
who grows hair on one side of his sickly
face and not on the other, and who has
one shining and transparent eye, move
of themselves, coming away from the
jaws and returning of their own will?"

"Open your mouth," I said to Good, who
promptly curled up his lips and grinned
at the old gentleman like an angry dog,
revealing to their astonished gaze two
thin red lines of gum as utterly innocent
of ivories as a new-born elephant. His
audience gasped.

"Where are his teeth?" they shouted;
"with our eyes we saw them."

Turning his head slowly and with a
gesture of ineffable contempt, Good
swept his hand across his mouth. Then
he grinned again, and lo! there were two
rows of lovely teeth.

The young man who had flung the knife
threw himself down on the grass and
gave vent to a prolonged howl of terror;
and as for the old gentleman, his knees
knocked together with fear.

"I see that ye are spirits," he said,
falteringly; "did ever man born of woman
have hair on one side of his face and not
on the other, or a round and transparent
eye, or teeth which moved and melted
away and grew again? Pardon us, O my
lords."

Here was luck indeed, and, needless to
say, I jumped at the chance.

"It is granted," I said, with an imperial
smile. "Nay, ye shall know the truth. We
come from another world, though we are
men such as ye; we come," I went on,
"from the biggest star that shines at
night."

"Oh! oh!" groaned the chorus of
astonished aborigines.

"Yes," I went on, "we do, indeed;" and I
again smiled benignly as I uttered that
amazing lie. "We come to stay with you a
little while, and bless you by our sojourn.
Ye will see, O friends, that I have
prepared myself by learning your
language."

"It is so, it is so," said the chorus. "Only,
my lord," put in the old gentleman, "thou
hast learned it very badly."

I cast an indignant glance at him and he
quailed.

"Now, friends," I continued, "ye might
think that after so long a journey we
should find it in our hearts to avenge
such a reception, mayhap to strike cold
in death the impious hand that--that, in
short--threw a knife at the head of him
whose teeth come and go."

"Spare him, my lords," said the old man,
in supplication; "he is the king's son, and
I am his uncle. If anything befalls him his
blood will be required at my hands."

"Yes, that is certainly so," put in the
young man with great emphasis.

"You may perhaps doubt our power to
avenge," I went on, heedless of this by-
play. "Stay, I will show you. Here, you
dog and slave" (addressing Umbopa in a
savage tone), "give me the magic tube
that speaks;" and I tipped a wink towards
my express rifle.

Umbopa rose to the occasion, and with
something as nearly resembling a grin as
I have ever seen on his dignified face,
handed me the rifle.

"It is here, O lord of lords," he said, with
a deep obeisance.

Now, just before I asked for the rifle I had
perceived a little klipspringer antelope
standing on a mass of rock about seventy
yards away, and determined to risk a
shot at it.

"Ye see that buck," I said, pointing the
animal out to the party before me. "Tell
me, is it possible for man, born of
woman, to kill it from here with a noise?"

"It is not possible, my lord," answered
the old man.

"Yet shall I kill it," I said, quietly.

The old man smiled. "That my lord
cannot do," he said.

I raised the rifle, and covered the buck. It
was a small animal, and one which one
might well be excused for missing, but I
knew that it would not do to miss.

I drew a deep breath, and slowly pressed
on the trigger. The buck stood still as
stone.

"Bang! thud!" The buck sprang into the
air and fell on the rock dead as a door-
nail.

A groan of terror burst from the group
before us.

"If ye want meat," I remarked, coolly, "go
fetch that buck."

The old man made a sign and one of his
followers departed, and presently
returned bearing the klipspringer. I
noticed, with satisfaction, that I had hit it
fairly behind the shoulder. They
gathered round the poor creature's body,
gazing at the bullet-hole in
consternation.

"Ye see," I said, "I do not speak empty
words."

There was no answer.

"If ye yet doubt our power," I went on,
"let one of ye go stand upon that rock,
that I may make him as this buck."

None of them seemed at all inclined to
take the hint, till at last the king's son
spoke.

"It is well said. Do thou, my uncle, go
stand upon the rock. It is but a buck that
the magic has killed. Surely it cannot kill
a man."

The old gentleman did not take the
suggestion in good part. Indeed, he
seemed hurt.

"No! no!" he ejaculated, hastily; "my old
eyes have seen enough. These are
wizards, indeed. Let us bring them to the
king. Yet if any should wish a further
proof, let _i_ him _i_ stand upon the
rock, that the magic tube may speak with
him."

There was a most general and hasty
expression of dissent.

"Let not good magic be wasted on our
poor bodies," said one, "we are satisfied.
All the witchcraft of our people cannot
show the like of this."

"It is so," remarked the old gentleman, in
a tone of intense relief; "without any
doubt it is so. Listen, children of the
stars, children of the shining eye and the
movable teeth, who roar out in thunder
and slay from afar. I am Infadoos, son of
Kafa, once king of the Kukuana people.
This youth is Scragga."

"He nearly scragged me," murmured
Good.

"Scragga, son of Twala, the great king --
Twala, husband of a thousand wives,
chief and lord paramount of the
Kukuanas, keeper of the great road,
terror of his enemies, student of the
Black Arts, leader of an hundred
thousand warriors; Twala the One-eyed,
the Black, the Terrible."

"So," said I, superciliously, "lead us then
to Twala. We do not talk with low people
and underlings."

"It is well, my lords, we will lead you, but
the way is long. We are hunting three
days' journey from the place of the king.
But let my lords have patience, and we
will lead them?

"It is well," I said, carelessly, "all time is
before us, for we do not die. We are
ready; lead on. But Infadoos, and thou,
Scragga, beware! Play us no tricks, make
for us no snares, for before your brains
of mud have thought of them we shall
know them and avenge them. The light
from the transparent eye of him with the
bare legs and the half-haired face (Good)
shall destroy you, and go through your
land; his vanishing teeth shall fix
themselves fast in you and eat you up,
you and your wives and children; the
magic tubes shall talk with you loudly,
and make you as sieves. Beware!"

This magnificent address did not fail of
its effect; indeed, it was hardly needed,
so deeply were our friends already
impressed with our powers.

The old man made a deep obeisance, and
murmured the word "Koom, koom,"
which I afterwards discovered was their
royal salute, corresponding to the Bayete
of the Zulus, and, turning, addressed his
followers. These at once proceeded to lay
hold of all our goods and chattels, in
order to bear them for us, excepting only
the guns, which they would on no
account touch. They even seized Good's
clothes, which were, as the reader may
remember, neatly folded up beside him.

He at once made a dive for them, and a
loud altercation ensued.

"Let not my lord of the transparent eye
and the melting teeth touch them," said
the old man. "Surely his slaves shall
carry the things."

"But I want to put 'em on!" roared Good,
in nervous English.

Umbopa translated.

"Nay, my lord." put in Infadoos, "would
my lord cover up his beautiful white legs
(although he was so dark Good had a
singularly white skin) from the eyes of
his servants? Have we offended my lord
that he should do such a thing?"

Here I nearly exploded with laughing;
and meanwhile, one of the men started
on with the garments.

"Damn it!" roared Good, "that black
villain has got my trousers."

"Look here, Good," said Sir Henry, "you
have appeared in this country in a
certain character, and you must live up
to it. It will never do for you to put on
trousers again. Henceforth you must live
in a flannel shirt, a pair of boots, and an
eye-glass."

"Yes," I said, "and with whiskers on one
side of your face and not on the other. If
you change any of these things they will
think that we are impostors. I am very
sorry for you, but, seriously, you must do
it. If once they begin to suspect us, our
lives will not be worth a brass farthing."

"Do you really think so?" said Good,
gloomily.

"I do, indeed. Your 'beautiful white legs'
and your eye-glass are now _i_ the _i_
feature of our party, and, as Sir Henry
says, you must live up to them. Be
thankful that you have got your boots
on, and that the air is warm."

Good sighed, and said no more, but it
took him a fortnight to get accustomed to
his attire.

CHAPTER VIII--WE ENTER KUKUANALAND

ALL that afternoon we travelled on along
the magnificent roadway, which headed
steadily in a northwesterly direction.
Infadoos and Scragga walked with us, but
their followers marched about one
hundred paces ahead.

"Infadoos," I said at length, "who made
this road?"

"It was made, my lord, of old time, none
knew how or when, not even the wise
woman, Gagool, who has lived for
generations. We are not old enough to
remember its making. None can make
such roads now, but the king lets no
grass grow upon it."

"And whose are the writings on the walls
of the caves through which we have
passed on the road?" I asked, referring to
the Egyptian-like Sculptures we had seen.

"My lord, the hands that made the road
wrote the wonderful writings. We know
not who wrote. them."

"When did the Kukuana race come into
this country?"

"My lord, the race came down here like
the breath of a storm ten thousand
thousand moons ago, from the great
lands which lie there beyond," and he
pointed to the north. "They could travel
no farther, so say the old voices of our
fathers that have come down to us, the
children, and so says Gagool, the wise
woman, the smeller-out of witches;
because of the great mountains which
ring in the land," and he pointed to the
snow-clad peaks. "The country, too, was
good, so they settled here and grew
strong and powerful, and now our
numbers are like the sea sand, and when
Twala the king calls up his regiments
their plumes cover the plain as far as the
eye of man can reach."

"And if the land is walled in with
mountains, who is there for the
regiments to fight with?"

"Nay, my lord, the country is open
there," and again he pointed towards the
north, "and now and again warriors
sweep down upon us in clouds from a
land we know not, and we slay them. It is
the third part of the life of a man since
there was a war. Many thousands died in
it, but we destroyed those who came to
eat us up. So, since then there has been
no war."

"Your warriors must grow weary of
resting on their spears."

"My lord, there was one war, just after we
destroyed the people that came down
upon us, but it was a civil war--dog eat
dog."

"How was that?"

"My lord, the king, my half-brother, had
a brother born at the same birth and of
the same woman. It is not our custom, my
lord, to let twins live; the weakest must
always die. But the mother of the king
hid away the weakest child, which was
born the last, for her heart yearned over
it, and the child is Twala the king. I am
his younger brother born of another
wife."

"My lord, Kafa, our father, died when we
came to manhood, and my brother Imotu
was made king in his place, and for a
space reigned and had a son by his
favorite wife. When the babe was three
years old, just after the great war, during
which no man could sow or reap, a
famine came upon the land, and the
people murmured because of the famine,
and looked round like a starved lion for
something to rend. Then it was that
Gagool, the wise and terrible woman,
who does not die, proclaimed to the
people, saying, 'The king Imotu is no
king.' And at the time Imotu was sick
with a wound, and lay in his hut not able
to move.

"Then Gagool went into a hut and led out
Twala, my half-brother, and the twin
brother of the king, whom she had
hidden since he was born among the
caves and rocks, and, stripping the
'moocha' (waist-cloth) off his loins,
showed the people of the Kukuanas the
mark of the sacred snake coiled round
his waist, wherewith the eldest son of the
king is marked at birth, and cried out
loud, 'Behold, your king, whom I have
saved for you even to this day!' And the
people, being mad with hunger and
altogether. bereft of reason and the
knowledge of truth. cried out, '_i_ The
king! The king! _i_' but I knew that it was
not so, for Imotu, my brother, was the
elder of the twins, and was the lawful
king. And just as the tumult was at its
height Imotu the king, though he was
very sick, came crawling from his hut
holding his wife by the hand, and
followed by his little son Ignosi (the
lightning).

"'What is this noise?' he asked; 'Why cry
ye '_i_ The king! The king! _i_'

"Then Twala, his own brother, born of
the same woman and in the same hour,
ran to him, and, taking him by the hair,
stabbed him through the heart with his
knife. And the people, being fickle, and
ever ready to worship the rising sun,
clapped their hands and cried, '_i_ Twala
is king! _i_ Now we know that Twala is
king!'"

"And what became of his wife and her
son Ignosi? Did Twala kill them too?"

"Nay, my lord. When she saw that her
lord was dead she seized the child with a
cry, and ran away. Two days afterwards
she came to a kraal very hungry, and
none would give her milk or food, now
that her lord the king was dead, for all
men hate the unfortunate. But at
nightfall a little child, a girl, crept out
and brought her to eat, and she blessed
the child, and went on towards the
mountains with her boy before the sun
rose again, where she must have
perished, for none have seen her since,
nor the child Ignosi."

"Then if this child Ignosi had lived, he
would be the true king of the Kukuana
people?"

"That is so, my lord; the sacred snake is
round his middle. If he lives he is the
king; but alas! he is long dead."

"See, my lord," and he pointed to a vast
collection of huts surrounded with a
fence, which was in its turn surrounded
by a great ditch, that lay on the plain
beneath us. "That is the kraal where the
wife of Imotu was last seen with the child
Ignosi. It is there that we shall sleep to-
night, if, indeed," he added, doubtfully,
"my lords sleep at all upon this earth."

"When we are among the Kukuanas, my
good friend Infadoos, we do as the
Kukuanas do," I said, majestically, and I
turned round suddenly to address Good,
who was tramping along sullenly behind,
his mind fully occupied with
unsatisfactory attempts to. keep his
flannel shirt from flapping up in the
evening breeze, and to my astonishment
butted into Umbopa, who was walking
along immediately behind me, and had
very evidently been listening with the
greatest interest to my conversation with
Infadoos. The expression on his face was
most curious, and gave the idea of a man
who was struggling with partial success
to bring something long ago forgotten
back into his mind.

All this while we had been pressing on at
a good rate down towards the undulating
plain beneath. The mountains we had
crossed now loomed high above us, and
Sheba's breasts were modestly veiled in
diaphanous wreaths of mist.

As we went on the country grew more
and more lovely. The vegetation was
luxuriant without being tropical; the sun
was bright and warm, but not burning,
and a gracious breeze blew softly along
the odorous slopes of the mountains.
And, indeed, this new land was little less.
than an earthly paradise; in beauty, in
natural wealth, and in climate I have
never seen its like. The Transvaal is a
fine country, but it is nothing to
Kukuanaland.

So soon as we started, Infadoos had
despatched a runner on to warn the
people of the kraal, which, by the way,
was in his military command, of our
arrival. This man had departed at an
extraordinary speed, which Infadoos had
informed me he would keep up all the
way, as running was an exercise much
practised among his people.

The result of this message now became
apparent. When we got within two miles
of the kraal, we could see that company
after company of men was issuing from
its gates and marching towards us.

Sir Henry laid his hand upon my arm,
and remarked that it looked as though
we were going to meet with a warm
reception. Something in his tone
attracted Infadoos's attention.

"Let not my lords be afraid," he said,
hastily, "for in my breast there dwells no
guile. This regiment is one under my
command, and comes out by my orders
to greet you."

I nodded easily, though I was not quite
easy in my mind.

About half a mile from the gates of the
kraal was a long stretch of rising ground
sloping gently upward from the road,
and on this the companies formed. It was
a splendid sight to see them, each
company about three hundred strong,
charging swiftly up the slope, with
flashing spears and waving plumes, and
taking their appointed place. By the time
we came to the slope twelve such
companies, or in all three thousand six
hundred men, had passed out and taken
up their positions along the road.

Presently we came to the first company,
and were able to gaze in astonishment on
the most magnificent set of men I have
ever seen. They were all men of mature
age, mostly veterans of about forty, and
not one of them was under six feet in
height, while many were six feet three or
four. They wore upon their heads heavy
black plumes of Sacaboola feathers, like
those which adorned our guides. Round
their waists and also beneath the right
knee were bound circlets of white ox-
tails, and in their left hands were round
shields about twenty inches across. These
shields were very curious. The
framework consisted of an iron plate
beaten out thin, over which was
stretched milk-white ox-hide. The
weapons that each man bore were
simple, but most effective, consisting of a
short and very heavy two-edged spear
with a wooden shaft, the blade being
about six inches across at the widest part.
These spears were not used for throwing,
but, like the Zulu "bangwan," or stabbing
assegai, were for close quarters only,
when the wound inflicted by them was
terrible. In addition to these bangwans
each man also carried three large and
heavy knives, each knife weighing about
two pounds. One knife was fixed in the
oxtail girdle, and the other two at the
back of the round shield. These knives,
which are called "tollas" by the
Kukuanas, take the place of the throwing
assegai of the Zulus. A Kukuana warrior
can throw them with great accuracy at a
distance of fifty yards, and it is their
custom on charging to hurl a volley of
them at the enemy as they come to close
quarters.

Each company stood like a collection of
bronze statues till we were opposite to it,
when, at a signal given by its
commanding officer, who, distinguished
by a leopard-skin cloak, stood some
paces in front, every spear was raised
into the air, and from three hundred
throats sprang forth with a sudden roar
the royal salute of "_i_ Koom! _i_" Then,
when we had passed, the company
formed behind us and followed us
towards the kraal, till at last the whole
regiment of the "Grays" (so called from
their white shields), the crack corps of
the Kukuana people, was marching
behind us with a tread that shook the
ground. At length, branching off from
Solomon's Great. Road, we came to the
wide fosse surrounding the kraal, which
was at least a mile round and fenced with
a strong palisade of piles formed of the
trunks of trees. At the gateway this fosse
was spanned by a primitive drawbridge
which was let down by the guard to allow
us to pass in. The kraal was exceedingly
well laid out. Through the centre ran a
wide pathway intersected at right angles
by other pathways so arranged as to cut
the huts into square blocks, each block
being the quarters of a company. The
huts were dome shaped, and built, like
those of the Zulus, of a framework of
wattle beautifully thatched with grass;
but, unlike the Zulu huts, they had
doorways through which one could walk.
Also they were much larger, and
surrounded with a veranda about six feet
wide, beautifully paved with powdered
lime trodden hard. All along each side of
the wide pathway that pierced the kraal
were ranged hundreds of women,
brought out by curiosity to look at us.
These women are, for a native race,
exceedingly handsome. They are tall and
graceful, and their figures are
wonderfully fine. The hair, though short,
is rather curly than woolly, the features
are frequently aquiline, and the lips are
not unpleasantly thick, as is the case in
most African races. But what struck us
most was their exceeding quiet, dignified
air. They were as well-bred in their way
as the _i_ habitue' _i_ of a fashionable
drawing-room, and in this respect differ
from Zulu women, and their cousins, the
Masai, who inhabit the district behind
Zanzibar. Their curiosity had brought
them out to see us, but they allowed no
rude expression of wonder or savage
criticism to pass their lips as we trudged
wearily in front of them. Not even when
old Infadoos with a surreptitious motion
of the hand pointed out the crowning
wonder of poor Good's "beautiful white
legs," did they allow the feeling of
intense admiration which evidently
mastered their minds to find expression.
They fixed their dark eyes upon their
snowy loveliness (Good's skin is
exceedingly white) and that was all. But
this was quite enough for Good, who is
modest by nature.

When we got to the centre of the kraal
Infadoos halted at the door of a large
hut, which was surrounded at a distance
by a circle of smaller ones.

"Enter, sons of the stars," he. said, in a
magniloquent voice, "and deign to rest
awhile in our humble habitations. A little
food shall be brought to you, so that ye
shall have no need to draw your belts
tight from hunger; some honey and some
milk, and an ox or two, and a few sheep;
not much, my lords, but still a little
food."

"It is good," said I, "Infadoos, we are
weary with travelling through realms of
air; now let us rest."

Accordingly we entered into the hut,
which we found amply prepared for our
comfort. Couches of tanned skins were
spread for us to rest on, and water was
placed for us to wash in.

Presently we heard a shouting outside,
and, stepping to the door, saw a line of
damsels bearing milk and roasted
mealies and honey in a pot. Behind these
were some youths driving a fat young ox.
We received the gifts, and then one of the
young men took the knife from his girdle
and dexterously cut the ox's throat. In
ten minutes it was dead, skinned, and cut
up. The best of the meat was then cut off
for us, and the rest I, in the name of our
party, presented to the warriors round
us, who took it off and distributed the
"white men's gift."

Umbopa set to work, with the assistance
of an extremely prepossessing young
woman, to boil our portion in a huge
earthenware pot over a fire which was
built outside the hut, and when it was
nearly ready we sent a message to
Infadoos, and asked him, and Scragga the
king's son, to join us.

Presently they came, and, sitting down
upon little stools, of which there were
several about the hut (for the Kukuanas
do not in general squat upon their
haunches like the Zulus), helped us to get
through our dinner. The old gentleman
was most affable and polite, but it struck
us that the young one regarded us with
suspicion. He had, together with the rest
of the party, been overawed by our white
appearance and by our magic properties;
but it seemed to me that on discovering
that we ate, drank, and slept like other
mortals, his awe was beginning to wear
off and be replaced by a sullen suspicion,
which made us feel rather
uncomfortable.

In the course of our meal Sir Henry
suggested to me that it might be well to
try and discover if our hosts knew
anything of his brother's fate, or if they
had ever seen or heard of him; but, on
the whole, I thought that it would be
wiser to say nothing of the matter at that
time.

After supper we filled our pipes and lit
them; a proceeding which filled Infadoos
and Scragga with astonishment. The
Kukuanas were evidently unacquainted
with the divine uses of tobacco-smoke.
The herb was grown among them
extensively; but, like the Zulus, they only
used it for snuff, and quite failed to
identify it in its new form.

Presently I asked Infadoos when we were
to proceed on our journey, and was
delighted to learn that preparations had
been made for us to leave on the
following morning, messengers having
already left to inform Twala, the king, of
our coming. It appeared that Twala was
at his principal place, known as Loo,
making ready for the great annual feast
which was held in the first week of June.
At this gathering all the regiments, with
the exception of certain detachments left
behind for garrison purposes, were
brought up and paraded before the king,
and the great annual witch-hunt, of
which more by and by, was held.

We were to start at dawn; and Infadoos,
who was to accompany us, expected that
we should, unless we were detained by
accident or by swollen rivers, reach Loo
on the night of the second day.

When they had given us this information
our visitors bade us good-night; and,
having arranged to watch turn and turn
about, three of us flung ourselves down
and slept the sweet sleep of the weary,
while the fourth sat up on the lookout for
possible treachery.

CHAPTER IX--TWALA, THE KING

IT will not be necessary for me to detail
at length the incidents of our journey to
Loo. It took two good days' travelling.
along Solomon's Great Road, which
pursued its even course right into the
heart of Kukuanaland. Suffice it to say
that as we went the country seemed to
grow richer and richer, and the kraals,
with their wide surrounding belts of
cultivation, more and more numerous.
They were all built upon the same
principles as the first one we had
reached, and were guarded by ample
garrisons of troops. Indeed, in
Kukuanaland, as among the Germans,
the Zulus, and the Masai, every able-
bodied man is a soldier, so that the
whole force of the nation is available for
its wars, offensive or defensive. As we
travelled along we were overtaken by
thousands of warriors hurrying up to Loo
to be present at the great annual review
and festival, and a grander series of
troops I never saw. At sunset on the
second day we stopped to rest awhile
upon the summit of some heights over
which the road ran, and there, on a
beautiful and fertile plain before us, was
Loo itself. For a native town it was an
enormous place, quite five miles round, I
should say, with outlying kraals jutting
out from it, which served on grand
occasions as cantonments for the
regiments, and a curious horseshoe-
shaped hill, with which we were destined
to become better acquainted, about two
miles to the north. It was beautifully
situated, and through the centre of the
kraal, dividing it into two portions, ran a
river, which appeared to be bridged at
several places, the same, perhaps, that we
had seen from the slopes of Sheba's
breasts. Sixty or seventy miles away three
great snowcapped mountains, placed like
the points of a triangle, started up out of
the level plain. The conformation of
these mountains was unlike that of
Sheba's breasts, being sheer and
precipitous, instead of smooth and
rounded.

Infadoos saw us looking at them and
volunteered a remark:

"The road ends there," he said, pointing
to the mountains, known among the
Kukuanas as the "Three Witches."

"Why does it end?" I asked.

"Who knows?" he answered, with a shrug;
"the mountains are full of caves, and
there is a great pit between them. It is
there that the wise men of old time used
to go to get whatever it was they came to
this country for, and it is there now that
our kings are buried in the Place of
Death."

"What was it they came for?" I asked,
eagerly.

"Nay, I know not. My lords who come
from the stars should know," he
answered, with a quick look. Evidently he
knew more than he chose to say.

"Yes," I went on, "you are right; in the
stars we know many things. I have heard,
for instance, that the wise men of old
came to those mountains to get bright
stones, pretty playthings, and yellow
iron."

"My lord is wise," he answered, coldly; "I
am but a child and cannot talk with my
lord on such things. My lord must speak
with Gagool the old, at the king's place,
who is wise even as my lord," and he
turned away.

As soon as he was gone I turned to the
others and pointed out the mountains.
"There are Solomon's diamond mines," I
said.

Umbopa was standing with them,
apparently plunged in one of the fits of
abstraction which were common to him,
and caught my words.

"Yes, Macumazahn," he put in, in Zulu,
"the diamonds are surely there, and you
shall have them, since you white men are
so fond of toys and money."

"How dost thou know that, Umbopa?" I
asked, sharply, for I did not like his
mysterious ways.

He laughed; "I dreamed it in the night,
white men," and then he, too, turned
upon his heel and went.

"Now what," said Sir Henry, "is our black
friend at? He knows more than he
chooses to say, that is clear. By the way,
Quatermain, has he heard anything of---
of my brother?"

"Nothing; he has asked every one he has
got friendly with, but they all declare no
white man has ever been seen in the
country before."

"Do you suppose he ever got. here at all?"
suggested Good; "we have only reached
the place by a miracle; is it likely he
could have reached it at all without the
map?"

"I don't know," said Sir Henry, gloomily,
"but somehow I think that I shall find
him."

Slowly the sun sank, and then suddenly
darkness rushed down on the land like a
tangible thing. There was no breathing-
place between the day and the night, no
soft transformation scene, for in these
latitudes twilight does not exist. The
change from day to night is as quick and
as absolute as the change from life to
death. The sun sank and the world was
wreathed in shadows. But not for long,
for see, in the east there is a glow, then a
bent edge of silver light, and at last the
full bow of the crescent moon peeps
above the plain and shoots its gleaming
arrows far and wide, filling the earth
with a faint refulgence, as the glow of a
good man's deeds shines for a while
upon his little world after his sun has set,
lighting the fainthearted travellers who
follow on towards a fuller dawn.

We stood and watched the lovely sight,
while the stars grew pale before this
chastened majesty, and felt our hearts
lifted up in the presence of a beauty we
could not realize, much less describe.
Mine has been a rough life, my reader,
but there are a few things I am thankful
to have lived for, and one of them is to
have seen that moon rise over
Kukuanaland. Presently our meditations
were broken in upon by our polite friend
Infadoos.

"If my lords are ready we will journey on
to Loo, where a hut is made ready for my
lords to-night. The moon is now bright,
so that we shall not fall on the way."

We assented, and in an hour's time were
at the outskirts of the town, of which the
extent, mapped out as it was by
thousands of camp-fires, appeared
absolutely endless. Indeed, Good, who
was always fond of a bad joke, christened
it "Unlimited Loo." Presently we came to
a moat with a drawbridge, where we were
met by the rattling of arms and the
hoarse challenge of a sentry. Infadoos
gave some password that I could not
catch, which was met with a salute, and
we passed on through the central street
of the great grass city. After nearly half
an hour's tramp past endless lines of
huts, Infadoos at last halted at the gate of
a little group of huts which surrounded a
small courtyard of powdered limestone,
and informed us that these were to be
our "poor" quarters.

We entered, and found that a hut had
been assigned to each of us. These huts
were superior to any which we had yet
seen, and in each was a most comfortable
bed made of tanned skins spread upon
mattresses of aromatic grass. Food, too,
was ready for us, and as soon as we had
washed ourselves with water, which
stood ready in earthenware jars, some
young women of handsome appearance
brought us roasted meat and mealie cobs
daintily served on wooden platters, and
presented it to us with deep obeisances.

We ate and drank, and then, the beds
having by our request been all moved
into one hut, a precaution at which the
amiable young ladles smiled, we flung
ourselves down to sleep, thoroughly
wearied out with our long journey.

When we woke, it was to find that the sun
was high in the heavens, and that the
female attendants, who did not seem to
be troubled by any false shame, were
already standing inside the hut, having
been ordered to attend and help us to
"make ready."

"Make ready, indeed," growled Good;
"when one has only a flannel shirt and a
pair of boots, that does not take long. I
wish you would ask them for my
trousers."

I asked accordingly, but was informed
that those sacred relics had already been
taken to the king, who would see us in
the forenoon.

Having, somewhat to their astonishment
and disappointment, requested the
young ladies to step outside, we
proceeded to make the best toilet that the
circumstances admitted of. Good even
went the length of again shaving the
right side of his face; the left, on which
now appeared a very fair crop of
whiskers, we impressed upon him he
must on no account touch. As for
ourselves, we were contented with a good
wash and combing our hair. Sir Henry's
yellow locks were now almost down to
his shoulders, and he looked more like
an ancient Dane than ever, while my
grizzled scrub was fully an inch long,
instead of half an inch, which in a
general way I considered my maximum
length.

By the time that we had eaten our
breakfast and smoked a pipe, a message
was brought to us by no less a personage
than Infadoos himself that Twala, the
king, was ready to see us, if we would be
pleased to come.

We remarked in reply that we should
prefer to wait until the sun was a little
higher, we were yet weary with our
journey, etc. It is always well, when
dealing with uncivilized people, not to be
in too great a hurry. They are apt to
mistake politeness for awe or servility.
So, although we were quite as anxious to
see Twala as Twala could be to see us, we
sat down and waited for an hour,
employing the interval in preparing such
presents as our slender stock of goods
permitted--namely, the Winchester rifle
which had been used by poor Ventvo"gel,
and some beads. The rifle and
ammunition we determined to present to
his royal highness, and the beads were
for his wives and courtiers. We had
already given a few to Infadoos and
Scragga, and found that they were
delighted with them, never having seen
anything like them before. At length we
declared that we were ready, and, guided
by Infadoos, started off to the leve'e,
Umbopa carrying the rifle and beads.

After walking a few hundred yards we
came to an enclosure, something like
that which surrounded the huts that had
been allotted to us, only fifty times as
big. It could not have been less than six
or seven acres in extent. All round the
outside fence was a row of huts, which
were the habitations of the king's wives.
Exactly opposite the gateway, on the
farther side of the open space, was a very
large hut, which stood by itself, in which
his majesty resided. All the rest was open
ground; that is to say, it would have been
open had it not been filled by company
after company of warriors, who were
mustered there to the number of seven
or eight thousand. These men stood still
as statues as we advanced through them,
and it would be impossible to give an
idea of the grandeur of the spectacle
which they presented, in their waving
plumes, their glancing spears, and iron-
backed ox-hide shields.

The space in front of the large hut was
empty, but before it were placed several
stools. On three of these, at a sign from
Infadoos, we seated ourselves, Umbopa
standing behind us. As for Infadoos, he
took up a position by the door of the hut.
So we waited for ten minutes or more in
the midst of a dead silence, but conscious
that we were the object of the
concentrated gaze of some eight
thousand pairs of eyes. It was a
somewhat trying ordeal, but we carried it
off as best we could. At length the door of
the hut opened, and a gigantic figure,
with a splendid tiger-skin karross flung
over its shoulders, stepped out, followed
by the boy Scragga, and what appeared
to us to be a withered-up monkey
wrapped in a fur cloak. The figure seated
itself upon a stool, Scragga took his stand
behind it, and the withered-up monkey
crept on all fours into the shade of the
hut and squatted down. Still there was
silence.

Then the gigantic figure slipped off the
karross and stood up before us, a truly
alarming spectacle. It was that of an
enormous man with the most entirely
repulsive countenance we had ever
beheld. The lips were as thick as a
negro's, the nose was flat, it had but one
gleaming black eye (for the other was
represented by a hollow in the face), and
its whole expression was cruel and
sensual to a degree. From the large head
rose a magnificent plume of white ostrich
feathers, the body was clad in a shirt of
shining chain armor, while round the
waist and right knee was the usual
garnish of white ox-tails. In the right
hand was a huge spear. Round the neck
was a thick torque of gold, and bound on
to the forehead was a single and
enormous uncut diamond.

Still there was silence; but not for long.
Presently the figure, whom we rightly
guessed to be the king, raised the great
spear in his hand. Instantly eight
thousand spears were raised in answer,
and from eight thousand throats rang
out the royal salute of "_i_ Koom _i_!"
Three times this was repeated, and each
time the earth shook with the noise, that
can only be compared to the deepest
notes of thunder.

"Be humble, O people," piped out a thin
voice which seemed to come from the
monkey in the shade; "it is the king."

"_i_ It is the king _i_," boomed out eight
thousand throats, in answer. "_i_ Be
humble, O people; it is the king. _i_"

Then there was silence again--dead
silence. Presently, however, it was
broken. A soldier on our left dropped his
shield, which fell with a clatter on the
limestone flooring.

Twala turned his one cold eye in the
direction of the noise.

"Come. hither, thou," he said, in a voice
of thunder.

A fine young man stepped out of the
ranks, and stood before him.

"It was thy shield that fell, thou awkward
dog. Wilt thou make me a reproach in the
eyes of strangers from the stars? What
hast thou to say?"

And then we saw the poor fellow turn
pale under his dusky skin.

"It was by chance, O calf of the black
cow," he murmured.

"Then it is a chance for which thou must
pay. Thou hast made me foolish; prepare
for death."

"I am the king's ox," was the low answer.

"Scragga," roared the king, "let me see
how thou canst use thy spear. Kill me
this awkward dog."

Scragga stepped forward with an ill-
favored grin, and lifted his spear. The
poor victim covered his eyes with his
hand and stood still. As for us, we were
petrified with horror.

"Once, twice," he waved the spear and
then struck, ah, God! right home--the
spear stood out a foot behind the
soldier's back. He flung up his hands and
dropped dead. From the multitude
around rose something like a murmur, it
rolled round and round, and died away.
The tragedy was finished; there lay the
corpse, and we had not yet realized that
it had been enacted. Sir Henry sprang up
and swore a great oath, then,
overpowered by the sense of silence, sat
down again.

"The thrust was a good one," said the
king; "take him away."

Four men stepped out of the ranks, and,
lifting the body of the murdered man,
carried it away.

"Cover up the blood-stains, cover them
up," piped out the thin voice from the
monkey-like figure; "the king's word is
spoken, the king's doom is done."

Thereupon a girl came. forward from
behind the hut, bearing a jar filled with
powdered lime, which she scattered over
the red mark, blotting it from sight.

Sir Henry meanwhile was boiling with
rage at what had happened; indeed, it
was with difficulty that we could keep
him still.

"Sit down, for Heaven's sake," I
whispered; "our lives depend on it."

He yielded and remained quiet. Twala sat
still until the traces of the tragedy had
been removed, then he addressed us.

"White people," he said, "who come
hither, whence I know not, and why I
know not, greeting."

"Greeting, Twala, king of the Kukuanas,"
I answered.

"White people, whence come ye, and
what seek ye?"

"We come from the stars, ask us not how.
We come to see this land."

"Ye come from far to see a little thing.
And that man with ye," pointing to
Umbopa, "does he too come from the
stars?"

"Even so; there are people of thy color in
the heavens above; but ask not of matters
too high for thee, Twala, the king."

"Ye speak with a loud voice, people of the
stars," Twala answered, in a tone which I
scarcely liked. "Remember that the stars
are far off, and ye are here. How if I make
ye as him whom they bare away?"

I laughed out loud, though there was
little laughter in my heart.

"0 king," I said, "be careful; walk warily
over hot stones, lest thou shouldst burn
thy feet; hold the spear by the handle,
lest thou shouldst cut thy hands. Touch
but one hair of our heads, and
destruction shall come upon thee. What,
have not these," pointing to Infadoos and
Scragga (who, young villain that he was,
was employed in cleaning the blood of
the soldier off his spear), "told thee what
manner of men we are? Hast thou ever
seen the like of us?" and I pointed to
Good, feeling quite sure that he had
never seen anybody before who looked
in the least like _i_ him _i_ as he then
appeared.

"It is true, I have not," said the king.

"Have they not told thee how we strike
with death from afar?" I went on.

"They have told me, but I believe them
not. Let me see you kill. Kill me a man
among those who stand yonder" --and he
pointed to the opposite side of the kraal--
"and I will believe."

"Nay," I answered; "we shed no blood of
man except in just punishment; but if
thou wilt see, bid thy servants drive in an
ox through the kraal gates, and before he
has run twenty paces I will strike him
dead."

"Nay," laughed the. king, "kill me a man,
and I will believe."

"Good, O king, so be it," I answered,
coolly; "do thou walk across the open
space, and before thy feet reach the gate
thou shalt be dead; or, if thou wilt not,
send thy son Scragga" (whom at that
moment it would have given me much
pleasure to shoot).

On hearing this suggestion Scragga gave
a sort of howl, and bolted into the hut.

Twala frowned majestically; the
suggestion did not please him.

"Let a young ox be driven in," he said.

Two men at once departed, running
swiftly.

"Now, Sir Henry," said I, "do you shoot. I
want to show this ruffian that I am not
the only magician of the party."

Sir Henry accordingly took the "express,"
and made ready.

"I hope I shall make a good shot," he
groaned.

"You must," I answered. "If you miss with
the first barrel, let him have the second.
Sight for one hundred and fifty yards,
and wait till the beast turns broadside
on."

Then came a pause, till presently we
caught sight of an ox running straight for
the kraal gate. It came on through the
gate, and then, catching sight of the vast
concourse of people, stopped stupidly,
turned round, and bellowed.

"Now's your time," I whispered.

Up went the rifle.

Bang! thud! and the ox was kicking on his
back, shot in the ribs: The semi-hollow
bullet had done its work well, and a sigh
of astonishment went up from the
assembled thousands.

I turned coolly round--

"Have I lied, O king?"

"Nay, white man, it is a truth," was the
somewhat awed answer.

"Listen, Twala," I went on. "Thou hast
seen. Now know we come in peace, not in
war. See here" (and I held up the
Winchester repeater); "here is a hollow
staff that shall enable you to kill even as
we kill, only this charm I lay upon it,
thou shalt kill no man with it. If thou
liftest it against a man, it shall kill thee.
Stay, I will show thee. Bid a man step
forty paces and place the shaft of a spear.
in the ground so that the flat blade looks
towards us."

In a few seconds it was done.

"Now, see, I will break the spear."

Taking a careful sight, I fired. The bullet
struck the flat of the spear and broke the
blade into fragments.

Again the sigh of astonishment went up.

"Now, Twala" (handing him the rifle),
"this magic tube we give to thee, and by
and by I will show thee how to use it; but
beware how thou usest the magic of the
stars against a man of earth," and I
handed him the rifle. He took it very
gingerly, and hid it down at his feet. As
he did so I observed the wizened,
monkey-like figure creeping up from the
shadow of the hut. It crept on all fours,
but when it reached the place where the
king sat it rose upon its feet, and,
throwing the furry covering off its face,
revealed a most extraordinary and weird
countenance. It was (apparently) that of
a woman of great age, so shrunken that
in size it was no larger than that of a
year-old child, and was made up of a
collection of deep, yellow wrinkles. Set in
the wrinkles was a sunken slit that
represented the mouth, beneath which
the chin curved outward to a point.
There was no nose to speak of; indeed,
the whole countenance might have been
taken for that of a sun-dried corpse had
it not been for a pair of large black eyes,
still full of fire and intelligence, which
gleamed and played under the snow-
white eyebrows and the projecting
parchment-colored skull, like jewels in a
charnel-house. As for the skull itself, it
was perfectly bare, and yellow in hue,
while its wrinkled scalp moved and
contracted like the hood of a cobra.

The figure to whom this fearful
countenance, which caused a shiver of
fear to pass through us as we gazed on it,
belonged stood still for a moment, and
then suddenly projected a skinny claw
armed with nails nearly an inch long,
and laid it on the shoulder of Twala, the
king, and began to speak in a thin,
piercing voice:

"Listen, O king! Listen, O people! Listen, O
mountains and plains and rivers, home
of the Kukuana race! Listen, O skies and
sun, O rain and storm and mist! Listen,
all things that live and must die! Listen,
all dead things that must live again--
again to die! Listen, the spirit of life is in
me, and I prophesy. I prophesy! I
prophesy!"

The words died away in a faint wall, and
terror seemed to seize upon the hearts of
all who heard them, including ourselves.
The old woman was very terrible.

"_i_ Blood! blood! blood! _i_ rivers of
blood; blood everywhere. I see it, I smell
it, I taste it--it is salt; it runs red upon the
ground, it rains down from the skies.

"_i_ Footsteps! footsteps! footsteps! _i_
the tread of the white man coming from
afar. It shakes the earth; the earth
trembles before her master.

"Blood is good, the red blood is bright;
there is no smell like the smell of new-
shed blood. The lions shall lap it and
roar, the vultures shall wash their wings
in it and shriek in joy.

"I am old! I am old! I have seen much
blood; but I shall see more ere I die, and
be merry. How old am I, think ye? Your
fathers knew me, and their fathers hew
me, and their fathers' fathers. I have seen
the white man, and how his desires. I am
old, but the mountains are older than I.
Who made the great road, tell me? Who
wrote in pictures on the rocks, tell me?
Who reared up the three silent ones
yonder, who gaze across the pit, tell me?"
(And she pointed towards the three
precipitous mountains we had noticed on
the previous night.)

"Ye know not, but I know. It was a white
people who were before ye were, who
shall be when ye. are not, who shall eat
ye up and destroy ye. Yea! yea! yea!

"And what came they for, the white ones,
the terrible ones, the skilled in magic
and all learning, the strong, the
unswerving? What is that bright stone
upon thy forehead, O king? Whose hands
made the iron garments upon thy breast,
O king? Ye know not, but I know. I the old
one, I the wise one, I the Isanusi!" (witch
doctress.)

Then she turned her bald, vulture head
towards us.

"What seek ye, white men of the stars?
Ah, yes, of the stars! Do ye seek a lost
one? Ye shall not find him here. He is not
here. Never for ages upon ages has a
white foot pressed this land; never but
once, and he left it but to die. Ye come
for bright stones; I know it--I know it; ye
shall find them when the blood is dry;
but shall ye return whence ye came, or
shall ye stop with me? Ha! ha! ha!

"And thou--thou with the dark skin and
the proud beating" (pointing her skinny
finger at Umbopa), "who art _i_ thou _i_,
and what seekest _i_ thou _i_ ? Not
stones that shine; not yellow metal that
gleams; that thou leavest to 'white men
from the stars.' Methinks I know thee;
methinks I can smell the smell of the
blood in thy veins. Strip off the girdle--"

Here the features of this extraordinary
creature became convulsed, and she fell
to the ground foaming in an epileptic fit
and was carried off into the hut.

The king rose up trembling, and waved
his hand. Instantly the regiments began
to file off, and in ten minutes, save for
ourselves, the king, and a few attendants,
the great space was left clear.

"White people," he said, "it passes in my
mind to kill ye. Gagool has spoken
strange words. What say ye?"

I laughed. ',Be careful, O king, we are not
easy to slay. Thou hast seen the fate of
the ox; wouldst thou be as the ox?"

The king frowned. "It is not well to
threaten a king."

"We threaten not, we speak what is true.
Try to kill us, O king, and learn."

The great man put his hand to his
forehead.

"Go in peace," he said, at length. "To-
night is the great dance. Ye shall see it.
Fear not that I shall set a snare for ye.
To-morrow I shall think."

"It is well, O king," I answered,
unconcernedly, and then, accompanied
by Infadoos, we rose and went back to
our kraal.

CHAPTER X--THE WITCH-HUNT

ON reaching our hut, I motioned to
Infadoos to enter with us.

"Now, Infadoos," I said, "we would speak
with thee."

"Let my lords say on."

"It seems to us, Infadoos, that Twala, the
king, is a cruel man."

"It is so, my lords. Alas! the land cries out
with his cruelties. To-night ye will see. It
is the great witch-hunt, and many will be
smelt out as wizards and slain. No man's
life is safe. If the king covets a man's
cattle or a man's life, or if he fears a man
that he should excite a rebellion against
him, then Gagool, whom ye saw, or some
of the witch-finding women whom she
has taught, will smell that man out as a
wizard, and he will be killed. Many will
die before the moon grows pale tonight.
It is ever so. Perhaps I too shall be killed.
As yet I have been spared, because I am
skilled in war and beloved by the
soldiers; but I know not how long I shall
live. The land groans at the cruelties of
Twala, the king; it is wearied of him and
his red ways."

"Then why is it, Infadoos, that the people
do not cast him down?"

"Nay, my lords, he is the king, and if he
were killed Scragga would reign in his
place, and the heart of Scragga is blacker
than the heart of Twala, his father. If
Scragga were king the yoke upon our
neck would be heavier than the yoke of
Twala. If Imotu had never been slain, or
if Ignosi, his son, had lived, it had been
otherwise; but they are both dead."

"How know you that Ignosi is dead?" said
a voice behind us. We looked round with
astonishment to see who spoke. It was
Umbopa.

"What meanest thou, boy?" asked
Infadoos; "who told thee to speak?"

"Listen, Infadoos," was the answer, "and I
will tell thee a story. Years ago the king
Imotu was killed in this country, and his
wife fled with the boy Ignosi. Is it not
so?"

"It is so."

"It was said that the woman and the boy

died upon the mountains. Is it not so?"

"It is even so."

"Well, it came to pass that the mother
and the boy Ignosi did not die. They
crossed the mountains, and were led by a
tribe of wandering desert men across the
sands beyond, till at last they came to
water and grass and trees again."

"How knowest thou?"

"Listen. They travelled on and on, many
months' journey, till they reached a land
where a people called the Amazulu, who
too are of the Kukuana stock, live by war,
and with them they tarried many years,
till at length the mother died. Then the
son, Ignosi, again became a wanderer,
and went on into a land of wonders,
where white people live, and for many
more years learned the wisdom of the
white people,"

"It is a pretty story," said Infadoos,
incredulously.

"For many years he lived there working
as a servant and a soldier, but holding in
his heart all that his mother had told
him of his own place, and casting about
in his mind to find how he might get
back there to see his own people and his
father's house before he died. For many
years he lived and waited, and at last the
time came, as it ever comes to him who
can wait for it, and he met some white
men who would seek this unknown land,
and joined himself to them. The white
men started and journeyed on and on,
seeking for one who is lost. They crossed
the burning desert, they crossed the
snow-clad mountains, and reached the
land of the Kukuanas, and there they met
thee, oh Infadoos."

"Surely thou art mad to talk thus," said
the astonished old soldier.

"Thou thinkest so; see, I will show thee, O
my uncle. _i_ I am Ignosi, rightful king of
the Kukuanas _i_!"

Then, with a single movement, he slipped
off the "moocha," or girdle round his
middle, and stood naked before us.

"Look," he said; "what is this?" and he
pointed to the mark of a great snake
tattooed in blue round his middle, its tail
disappearing in its open mouth just
above where the thighs are set into the
body.

Infadoos looked, his eyes starting nearly
out of his head, and then fell upon his
knees.

"_i_ Koom! Koom! _i_" he ejaculated; "it
is my brother's son; it is the king."

"Did I not tell thee so, my uncle? Rise; I
am not yet the king, but with thy help,
and with the help of these brave white
men, who are my friends, I shall be. But
the old woman Gagool was right; the land
shall run with blood first, and hers shall
run with it, for she killed my father with
her words, and drove my mother forth.
And now, Infadoos, choose thou. Wilt
thou put thy hands between my hands
and be my man? Wilt thou share the
dangers that lie before me, and help me
to overthrow this tyrant and murderer,
or wilt thou not? Choose thou?"

The old man put his hand to his head
and thought. Then he rose, and,
advancing to where Umbopa, or rather
Ignosi stood, knelt before him and took
his hand.

"Ignosi, rightful king of the Kukuanas, I
put my hand between thy hands, and am
thy man till death. When thou wast a
babe I dandled thee upon my knee; now
shall my old arm strike for thee and
freedom."

"It is well, Infadoos, if I conquer, thou
shalt be the greatest man in the kingdom
after the king. If I fail, thou canst only
die, and death is not far off for thee. Rise,
my uncle.

"And ye, white men, will ye help me?
What have I to offer ye! The white stones,
if I conquer and you can find them, ye
shall have as many as ye can carry
hence. Will that suffice ye?" I translated
this remark.

"Tell him," answered Sir Henry, "that he
mistakes an Englishman. Wealth is good,
and if it comes in our way we will take it;
but a gentleman does not sell himself for
wealth. But, speaking for myself, I say
this: I have always liked Umbopa, and so
far as in me we will stand by him in this
business. It will be very pleasant to me to
try and square matters with that cruel
devil, Twala. What do you say, Good, and
you, Quatermain?"

"Well," said Good, "to adopt the language
of hyperbole, in which all these people
seem to indulge, you can tell him that a
row is surely good, and warms the
cockles of the heart, and that, so far as I
am concerned, I'm his boy. My only
stipulation is that he allows me to wear
trousers."

I translated these answers.

"It is well, my friends," said Ignosi, late
Umbopa; "and what say you,
Macumazahn; art thou too with me, old
hunter, cleverer than a wounded
buffalo?"

I thought awhile and scratched my head.

"Umbopa, or Ignosi," I said, "I don't like
revolutions. I am a man of peace, and a
bit of a coward" (here Umbopa smiled),
"but, on the other hand, I stick to my
friends, Ignosi. You have stuck to us and
played the part of a man, and I will stick
to you. But, mind you, I am a trader, and
have to make my living; so I accept your
offer about those diamonds, in case we
should ever be in a position to avail
ourselves of it. Another thing: we came,
as you know, to look for Incubi's (Sir
Henry's) lost brother. You must help us
to find him."

"That will I do," answered Ignosi. "Stay,
Infadoos; by the sign of the snake round
my middle, tell me the truth. Has any
white man to thy knowledge set his foot
within the land?"

"None, O Ignosi."

"If any white man had been seen or
heard of, wouldst thou have known it?"

"I should certainly have known."

"Thou hearest, Incubu?" said Ignosi to Sir
Henry; "he has not been here."

"Well, well," said Sir Henry, with a sigh;
"there it is; I suppose he never got here.
Poor fellow, poor fellow! So it has all
been for nothing. God's will be done."

"Now for business," I put in, anxious to
escape from a painful subject. "It is very
well to be a king by right divine, Ignosi,
but how dost thou propose to become a
king indeed?"

"Nay, I know not. Infadoos, hast thou a
plan?"

"Ignosi, son of the lightning," answered
his uncle, "to-night is the great dance
and witch-hunt. Many will be smelt out
and perish, and in the hears of many
others there will be grief and anguish
and anger against the king Twala. When
the dance is over, then will I speak to
some of the great chiefs, who in turn, if I
can win them over, shall speak to their
regiments. I shall speak to the chiefs
softly at first, and bring them to see that
thou art indeed the king, and I think that
by to-morrow's light thou shalt have
twenty thousand spears at thy command.
And now must I go and think and hear
and make ready. After the dance is done
I will, if I am yet alive, and we are all
alive, meet thee here, and we will talk. At
the best there will be war."

At this moment our conference was
interrupted by the cry that messengers
had come from the king. Advancing to
the door of the hut, we ordered that they
should be admitted, and presently three
men entered, each bearing a shining
shirt of chain-armor and a magnificent
battle-axe.

"The gifts of my lord, the king, to the
white men from the stars!" exclaimed a
herald who had come with them.

"We thank the king," I answered;
"withdraw."

The men went, and we examined the
armor with great interest. It was the most
beautiful chain-work we had ever seen. A
whole coat fell together so closely that it
formed a mass of links scarcely too big to
be covered with both hands.

"Do you make these things in this
country; Infadoos?" I asked; "they are
very beautiful."

"Nay, my. lord; they come down to us
from our forefathers. We know not who
made them, and there are but few left.
None but those of royal blood may wear
them. They are magic coats through
which no spear can pass. He who wears
them is well-nigh safe in the battle. The
king is well pleased or much afraid, or he
would not have sent them. Wear them
tonight, my lords."

The rest of the day we spent quietly
resting and talking over the situation,
which was sufficiently exciting. At last
the sun went down, the thousand watch-
fires glowed out, and through the
darkness we heard the tramp of many
feet and the clashing of hundreds of
spears as the regiments passed to their
appointed places to be ready for the
great dance. About ten the full moon
came up in splendor, and as we stood
watching her ascent Infadoos arrived,
clad in full war toggery, and
accompanied by a guard of twenty men
to escort us to the dance. We had
already, as he recommended, donned the
shirts of chain armor which the king had
sent us, putting them on under our
ordinary clothing, and finding to our
surprise that they were neither very
heavy nor uncomfortable. These steel
shirts, which had evidently been made
for men of a very large stature, hung
somewhat loosely upon Good and myself,
but Sir Henry's fitted his magnificent
frame like a glove. Then, strapping our
revolvers round our waists, and taking
the battle-axes which the king had sent
with the armor in our hands, we started.

On arriving at the great kraal where we
had that morning been interviewed by
the king, we found that it was closely
packed with some twenty thousand men
arranged in regiments round it. The
regiments were in turn divided into
companies, and between each company
was a little path to allow free passage to
the witch-finders to pass up and down.
Anything more imposing than the sight
that was presented by this vast and
orderly concourse of armed men it is
impossible for one to conceive. There
they stood perfectly silent, and the
moonlight poured its light upon the
forest of their raised spears, upon their
majestic forms, waving plumes, and the
harmonious shading of their various-
colored shields. Wherever we looked was
line upon line of set faces surmounted by
range upon range of glittering spears.

"Surely," I said to Infadoos, "the whole
army is here?"

"Nay, Macumazahn," he answered, "but a
third part of it. One third part is present
at this dance each year, another third
part is mustered outside in case there
should be trouble when the killing
begins, ten thousand more garrison the
outposts round Loo, and the rest watch at
the kraals in the country. Thou seest it is
a very great people."

"They are very silent," said Good; and,
indeed, the intense stillness among such
a vast concourse of living men was
almost overpowering.

"What says Bougwan?" asked Infadoos.

I translated.

"Those over whom the shadow of death
is hovering are silent," he answered,
grimly.

"Will many be killed?"

"Very many."

"It seems," I said to the others, "that we
are going to assist at a gladiatorial show
arranged regardless of expense."

Sir Henry shivered, and Good said that
he wished that we could get out of it.

"Tell me," I asked Infadoos, "are we in
danger?"

"I know not, my lords--I trust not; but do
not seem afraid. If ye live through the
night all may go well. The soldiers
murmur against the king."

All this while we had been advancing
steadily towards. the centre of the open
space, in the midst of which were placed
some stools. As we proceeded we
perceived another small party coming
from the direction of the royal hut.

"'It is the king, Twala, and Scragga his
son, and Gagool the old, and see, with
them are those who slay," and he pointed
to a little group of about a dozen gigantic
and savage-looking men, armed with
spears in one hand and heavy kerries in
the other.

The king seated himself upon the centre
stool, Gagool crouched at his feet, and
the others stood behind.

"Greeting, white lords," he cried, as we
came up; "be seated, waste not the
precious time---the night is all too short
for the deeds that must be done. Ye come
in a good hour, and shall see a glorious
show. Look round white lords; look
round," and he rolled his one wicked eye
from regiment to regiment. "Can the
stars show ye such a sight as this? See
how they shake in their wickedness, all
those who have evil in their hearts and
fear the judgment of 'Heaven above.' "

"_i_ Begin! begin! _i_" cried out Gagool,
in her thin, piercing voice; "the hyenas
are hungry, they howl for food. _i_
Begin! begin! _i_" Then for a moment
there was intense stillness, made horrible
by a presage of what was to come.

The king lifted his spear, and suddenly
twenty thousand feet were raised, as
though they belonged to one man, and
brought down with a stamp upon the
earth. This was repeated three times,
causing the solid ground to shake and
tremble. Then from a far point of the
circle a solitary voice began a wailing
song, of which the refrain ran something
as follows:

_i_ "What is the lot of man born of
woman?" _i_

Back came the answer rolling out from
every throat in that vast company:

_i_ "Death!" _i_

Gradually, however, the song was taken
up by company after company, till the
whole armed multitude were singing it,
and I could no longer follow the words,
except in so far as they appeared to
represent various phases of human
passions, fears, and joys. Now it seemed
to be a love-song, now a majestic swelling
war-chant, and. last of all a death-dirge,
ending suddenly in one heartbreaking
wail that went echoing and rolling away
in a volume of bloodcurdling sound.
Again the silence fell upon the place, and
again it was broken by the king lifting up
his hand. Instantly there was a pattering
of feet, and from out of the masses of the
warriors strange and awful figures came
running towards us. As they drew near
we saw that they were those of women,
most of them aged, for their white hair,
ornamented with small bladders taken
from fish, streamed out behind them.
Their faces were painted in stripes of
white and yellow; down their backs hung
snakeskins, and round their waists
rattled circlets of human bones, while
each held in her shrivelled hand a small
forked wand. In all there were ten of
them. When they arrived in front of us
they halted, and one of them, pointing
with her wand towards the crouching
figure of Gagool, cried out:

"Mother, old mother, we are here."

_i_ "Good! good! good _i_!" piped out
that aged iniquity. "Are your eyes keen,
Isanusis"(witch doctresses), "ye seers in
dark places?"

"Mother, they are keen?"

" _i_ Good! good! good! _i_ Are your ears
open, Isanusis, ye who hear words that
come not from the tongue?"

"Mother, they are open."

"_i_ Good! good! good! _i_ Are your
senses awake, Isanusis--can ye smell
blood, can ye purge the land of the
wicked ones who compass evil against
the king and against their neighbors? Are
ye ready to do the justice of 'Heaven
above,' ye whom I have taught, who have
eaten of the bread of, my wisdom and
drunk of the water. of my magic?"

"Mother, we can."

"Then go! Tarry not, ye vultures; see the
slayers"--pointing to the ominous group
of executioners behind---"make sharp
their spears; the white men from afar are
hungry to see. Go."

With a wild yell the weird party broke
away in every direction, like fragments
from the shell, and, the dry bones round
their waists rattling as they ran, made
direct for various points of the dense
human circle. We could not watch them
all, so fixed our eyes upon the Isanusi
nearest us. When she came with a few
paces of the warriors, she halted and
began to dance wildly, turning round
and round with an almost incredible
rapidity, and shrieking out sentences
such as "I smell him, the evil-doer!" "He
is near, he who poisoned his mother!" "I
hear the thoughts of him who thought
evil of the king!"

Quicker and quicker she danced, till she
lashed herself into such a frenzy of
excitement that the foam flew in flecks
from her gnashing jaws, her eyes seemed
to start from her head, and her flesh to
quiver visibly. Suddenly she stopped
dead, and stiffened all over, like a
pointer dog when he scents game, and
then with-outstretched wand began to
creep stealthily towards the soldiers
before her. It seemed to us that as she
came their stoicism gave way, and that
they shrank from her. As for ourselves,
we followed her movements with a
horrible fascination. Presently, still
creeping and crouching like a dog, she
was before them. Then she stopped and
pointed, and then again crept on a pace
or two.

Suddenly the end came. With a shriek
she sprang in and touched a tall warrior
with the forked wand. Instantly two of
his comrades, those standing
immediately next to him, seized the
doomed man, each by one arm, and
advanced with him towards the, king.

He did not resist, but we saw that he
dragged his limbs as though they were
paralyzed, and his fingers, from which
the spear had fallen, were limp as those
of a man newly dead.

As he came, two of the villainous
executioners stepped forward to meet
him. Presently they met, and the
executioners turned round towards the
king as though for orders.

"_i_ Kill! _i_" said the king.

"_i_ Kill! _i_" squeaked Gagool.

"_i_ Kill! _i_" re-echoed Scragga, with a
hollow chuckle.

Almost before the words were uttered,
the horrible deed was done. One man
had driven his spear into the victim's
heart, and, to make assurance doubly
sure, the other had dashed out his brains
with his great club.

" _i_ One, _i_" counted Twala, the king,
just like a black Madame Defarge, as
Good said, and the body was dragged a
few paces away and stretched out.

Hardly was this done before another
poor wretch was brought up, like an ox to
the slaughter. This time we could see,
from the leopard-skin cloak, that the
man was a person of rank. Again the
awful syllables were spoken, and the
victim fell dead.

"_i_ Two, _i_" counted the king.

And so the deadly game went on, till
some hundred bodies were stretched in
rows behind us. I have heard of the
gladiatorial shows of the Caesars, and of
the Spanish bull-fights, but I take the
liberty of doubting if they were either of
them half as horrible as this Kukuana
witch-hunt. Gladiatorial shows and
Spanish bull-fights, at any rate,
contributed to the public amusement,
which certainly was not the case here.
The most confirmed sensation-monger
would fight shy of sensation if he knew
that it was well on the cards that he
would, in his own proper person, be the
subject of the next "event."

Once we rose and tried to remonstrate,
but were sternly repressed by Twala.

"Let the law take its course, white men.
These dogs are magicians and evildoers;
it is well that they should die," was the
only answer vouchsafed to us.

About midnight there was a pause. The
witch-finders gathered themselves
together, apparently exhausted with their
bloody work, and we thought that the
whole performance was done with. But it
was not so, for presently, to our surprise,
the old woman, Gagool, rose from her
crouching position, and, supporting
herself with a stick, staggered off into the
open space. It was an extraordinary sight
to see this frightful, vulture-headed old
creature, bent nearly double with
extreme age, gather strength by degrees
till at last she rushed about almost as
actively as her ill-omened pupils. To and
fro she ran, chanting to herself, till
suddenly she made a dash at a tall man
standing in front of one of the regiments,
and touched him. As she did so a sort of
groan went up from the regiment, which
he evidently commanded. But all the
same two of its members seized him and
brought him up for execution. We
afterwards learned that he was a man of
great wealth and importance, being,
indeed, a cousin of the king's.

He was slain, and the king counted one
hundred and three. Then Gagool again
sprang to and fro, gradually drawing
nearer and nearer to ourselves.

"Hang me if I don't believe she is going to
try her games on us," ejaculated Good, in
horror.

"Nonsense!" said Sir Henry.

As for myself, as I saw that old fiend
dancing nearer and nearer, my heart
positively sank into my boots. I glanced
behind us at the long rows of corpses,
and shivered.

Nearer and nearer waltzed Gagool,
looking for all the world like an
animated crooked stick, her horrid eyes
gleaming and glowing with a most
'unholy' lustre.

Nearer she came, and nearer yet, every
pair of eyes in that vast assemblage
watching her movements with intense
anxiety. At last she stood still and
pointed.

"Which is it to be?" asked Sir Henry, to
himself.

In a moment all doubts were set at rest,
for the old woman had rushed in and
touched Umbopa, alias Ignosi, on the
shoulder.

"I smell him out," she shrieked. "Kill him,
kill him, He is full-of evil; kill him, the
stranger, before blood flows for him. Slay
him, O king."

There was a pause, which I instantly took
advantage of.

"0 king," I called out, rising from my
seat, "this man is the servant of thy
guests, he is their dog; whosoever sheds
the blood of our dog sheds our blood. By
the sacred law of hospitality I claim
protection for him."

"Gagool, mother of the witch doctors, has
smelled him out; he must die, white
men," was the sullen answer.

"Nay, he shall not die," I replied; "he who
tries to touch him shall die indeed."

"Seize him!" roared Twala, to the
executioners, who stood around red to
the eyes with the blood of their victims.

They advanced towards us, and then
hesitated. As for Ignosi, he raised his
spear, and raised it as though
determined to sell his life dearly.

"Stand back, ye dogs," I shouted, "if ye
would see to-morrow's light. Touch one
hair of his head and your king dies," and
I covered Twala with my revolver. Sir
Henry and Good also drew their pistols,
Sir Henry pointing his at the leading
executioner, who was advancing to carry
out the sentence, and Good taking a
deliberate aim at Gagool.

Twala winced perceptibly, as my barrel
came in a line with his broad chest.

"Well," I said, "what is it to be, Twala?"

Then he spoke.

"Put away your magic tubes," he said; "ye
have adjured me in the name of
hospitality, and for that reason, but not
from fear of what ye can do, I spare him.
Go in peace."

"It is well," I answered, unconcernedly;
"we are weary of slaughter, and would
sleep. Is the dance ended?"

"It is ended," Twala answered, sulkily.
"Let these dogs," pointing to the long
rows of corpses, "be flung out to the
hyenas and the vultures," and he lifted
his spear.

Instantly the regiments began in perfect
silence to defile off through the kraal
gateway, a fatigue party only remaining
behind to drag away the corpses of those
who had been sacrificed.

Then we too rose, and, making our
salaam to his majesty, which he hardly
deigned to acknowledge, departed to our
kraal.

"Well," said Six Henry, as we sat down,
having first lit a lamp of the sort used by
the Kukuanas, of which the wick is made
of the fibre of a species of palm leaf and
the oil of clarified hippopotamus fat,
"well, I feel uncommonly inclined to be
sick."

"If I had any doubts about helping
Umbopa to rebel against that infernal
blackguard," put in Good, "they are gone
now. It was as much as I could do to sit
still while that slaughter was going on. I
tried to keep my eyes shut, but they
would open just at the wrong time. I
wonder where Infadoos is. Umbopa, my
friend, you ought to be grateful to us;
your skin came near to having an air-
hole made in it."

"I am grateful, Bougwan," was Umbopa's
answer, when I had translated, "and I
shall not forget. As for Infadoos, he will
be here by and by. We must wait."

So we lit our pipes and waited.

 

CHAPTER XI--WE GIVE A SIGN

FOR a long while--two hours, I should
think--we sat there in silence, for we were
too overwhelmed by the recollection of
the horrors we had seen to talk. At last,
just as we were thinking of turning in--
for already there were faint streaks of
light in the eastern sky--we heard the
sound of steps. Then came the challenge
of the sentry who was posted at the kraal
gate, which was apparently answered,
though not in an audible tone, for the
steps came on; and in another second
Infadoos had entered the hut, followed
by some half a dozen stately looking
chiefs.

"My lords," he said, "I have come,
according to my word. My lords and
Ignosi, rightful king of the Kukuanas, I
have brought with me these men,"
pointing to the row of chiefs, "who are
great men among us, having each one of
them the command of three thousand
soldiers, who live but to do their bidding,
under the king's. I have told them of
what I have seen, and what my ears have
heard. Now let them also see the sacred
snake around thee, and hear thy story,
Ignosi, that they may say whether or no
they will make cause with thee against
Twala the king."

For answer, Ignosi again stripped off his
girdle and exhibited the snake tattooed
around him. Each chief in turn drew near
and examined it by the dim light of the
lamp, and without saying a word passed
on to the other side.

Then Ignosi resumed his moocha and,
addressing them, repeated the history he
had detailed in the morning.

"Now ye have heard, chiefs," said
Infadoos, when he had done, "what say
ye; will ye stand by this man and help
him to his father's throne, or will ye not?
The land cries out against Twala, and the
blood of the people flows like the waters
in spring. Ye have seen tonight. Two
other chiefs there were with whom I had
it in my mind to speak, and where are
they now? The hyenas howl over their
corpses. Soon will ye be as they are if ye
strike not. Choose, then, my brothers."

The eldest of the six men, a short, thick-
set warrior, with white hair, stepped
forward a pace and answered,

"Thy words are true, Infadoos; the land
cries out. "My own brother is among
those who died to-night; but this is a
great matter, and the thing is hard to
believe. How know we that if we lift our
spears it may not be for an impostor? It
is a great matter, I say, and none may see
the end of it. For of this be sure, blood
will flow in rivers before the deed is
done; many will still cleave to the king,
for men worship the sun that still shines
bright in the heavens, and not that which
has not risen. These white men from the
stars, their magic is great, and Ignosi is
under the cover of their wing. If he be
indeed the rightful king, let them give us
a sign, and let the people have a sign,
that all may see. So shall men cleave to
us, knowing that the white man's magic
is with them."

"Ye have the sign of the snake," I
answered.

"My lord, it is not enough. The snake
may have been placed there since the
man's birth. Show us a sign. We will not
move without a sign." The others gave a
decided assent, and I turned in
perplexity to Sir Henry and Good, and
explained the situation.

"I think I have it," said Good, exultingly;
"ask them to give us a moment to think."
I did so, and the chiefs withdrew. As
soon as they were gone, Good went to
the little box in which his medicines
were, unlocked it, and took out a note
book, in the front of which was an
almanac. "Now, look here, you fellows,
isn't to-morrow the fourth of June?" We
had kept a careful note of the days, so
were able to answer that it was. "Very
good; then here we have it '4 June, total
eclipse of the sun commences at 11.15
Greenwich time, visible in these islands,
Africa, etc.' There's a sign for you. Tell
them that you will darken the sun to-
morrow."

The idea was a splendid one; indeed, the
only fear about it was a fear lest Good's
almanac might be incorrect. If we made a
false prophecy on such a subject, our
prestige would be gone forever, and so
would Ignosi's chance of the throne of
the Kukuanas.

"Suppose the almanac is wrong?"
suggested Sir Henry to Good, who was
busily employed in working out
something on the fly-leaf of the book.

"I don't see any reason to suppose
anything of the sort," was his answer.
"Eclipses always come up to time; at least,
that is my experience of them, and it
especially states that it will be visible in
Africa. I have worked out the reckonings
as well as I can without knowing our
exact position; and I make out that the
eclipse should begin here about one
o'clock to-morrow, and last till half-past
two. For half an hour or more there
should be total darkness."

"Well," said Sir Henry, "I suppose we had
better risk it."

I acquiesced, though doubtfully, for
eclipses are queer cattle to deal with, and
sent Umbopa to summon the chiefs back.
Presently they came, and I addressed
them thus:

"Great men of the Kukuanas, and thou,
Infadoos, listen. We are not fond of
showing our powers, since to do so is to
interfere with the course of nature, and
plunge the world into fear and confusion;
but as this matter is a great one, and as
we are angered against the king because
of the slaughter we have seen, and
because of the act of the Isanusi Gagool,
who would have put our friend Ignosi to
death, we have determined to do so, and
to give such a sign as all men may see.
Come thither," and I led them to the door
of the hut and pointed to the fiery ball of
the rising sun; "what see ye there?"

"We see the rising sun," answered the
spokesman of the party.

"It is so. Now tell me, can any mortal man
put out that sun, so that night comes
down on the land at midday?"

The chief laughed a little. "No, my lord,
that no man can do. The sun is stronger
than man who looks on him."

"Ye say so. Yet I tell you that this day,
one hour after midday, will we put out
that sun for a space of an hour, and
darkness shall cover the earth, and it
shall be for a sign that we are indeed
men of honor, and that Ignosi is indeed
king of the Kukuanas. If we do this thing
will it satisfy ye?"

"Yea, my lords," answered the old chief
with a smile, which was reflected on the
faces of his companions; "_i_ if _i_ ye do
this thing we will be satisfied indeed."

"It shall be done: we three, Incubu the
Elephant, Bougwan the clear-eyed, and
Macumazahn, who watches in the night,
have said it, and it shall be done. Dost
thou hear, Infadoos?"

"I hear, my lord, but it is a wonderful
thing that ye promise, to put out the sun,
the father of all things, who shines
forever."

"Yet shall we do it, Infadoos."

"It is well, my lords. To-day, a little after
midday, will Twala send for my lords to
witness the girls dance, and one hour
after the dance begins shall the girl
whom Twala thinks the fairest be killed
by Scragga, the king's son, as a sacrifice
to the silent stone ones, who sit and keep
watch by the mountains yonder," and he
pointed to the three strange looking
peaks where Solomon's Road was
supposed to end. "Then let my lords
darken the sun, and save the maiden's
life and the people will indeed believe."

"Ay," said the old chief, still smiling a
little, "the. people will believe, indeed."

"Two miles from Loo," went on Infadoos,
"there is a hill curved like the new moon,
a stronghold, where my regiment, and
three other regiments which these men
command, are stationed. This morning
we will make a plan whereby other
regiments, two or three, may be moved
there also. Then, if my lords can indeed.
darken the sun, in the darkness I will
take my lords by the hand and lead them
out of Loo to this place, where they shall
be safe, and thence can we make war
upon Twala, the king."

"It is good," said I. "Now leave us to sleep
awhile and make ready our magic."

Infadoos rose, and, having saluted us,
departed with the chiefs.

"My friends," said Ignosi, as soon as they
were gone, "can ye indeed do this
wonderful thing, or were ye speaking
empty words to the men?"

"We believe that we can do it, Umbopa--
Ignosi, I mean."

"It is strange;" he answered, "and had ye
not been Englishmen I would not have
believed it; but English 'gentlemen' tell
no lies. If we live through the matter, be
sure I will repay ye!"

"Ignosi," said Sir Henry, "promise me one
thing."

"I will promise, Incubu, my friend, even
before I hear it," answered the big man
with a smile. "What is it?"

"This: that if you ever come to be king of
this people you will do away with the
smelling out of witches such as we have
seen last night; and that the killing of
men without trial shall not take place in
the land."

Ignosi thought for a moment, after I had
translated this, and then answered:

"The ways of black people are not as the
ways of white men, Incubu, nor do we
hold life so high as ye. Yet will I promise
it. If it be in my power to hold them back,

the witch-finders shall hunt no more, nor
shall any more die the death without
judgment.''

"That's a bargain, then," said Sir Henry;
"and now let us get a little rest."

Thoroughly wearied out; we were soon
sound asleep, and slept till Ignosi woke
us about eleven o'clock. Then we got up,
washed, and ate a hearty breakfast, not
knowing when we should get any more
food. After that we went outside the hut
and stared at the sun, which we were
distressed to observe presented a
remarkably healthy appearance, without
a sign of an eclipse anywhere about it.

"I hope it will come off," said Sir Henry,
doubtfully. "False prophets often find
themselves in painful positions."

"If it does not, it will soon be up with us,"
I answered, mournfully; "for so sure as
we are living men, some of those chiefs
will tell the whole story to the king, and
then there will be another sort of eclipse,
and one that we shall not like."

Returning to the hut, we dressed
ourselves, putting on the mail shirts
which the king had sent us as before.
Scarcely had we done so when a
messenger came from Twala to bid us to
the great annual "dance of girls" which
was about to be celebrated.

Taking our rifles and ammunition with
us so as to have them handy in case we
had to fly, as suggested by Infadoos, we
started boldly enough, though with
inward fear and trembling. The great
space in front of the king's kraal
presented a very different appearance
from what it had done on the previous
evening. In the place of the grim ranks of
serried warriors were company after
company of Kukuana girls, not
overdressed, so far as clothing went, but
each crowned with a wreath of flowers,
and holding a palm leaf in one hand and
a tall white lily (the arum) in the other.
In the centre of the open space sat Twala,
the king, with old Gagool at his feet,
attended by Infadoos, the boy Scragga,
and about a dozen guards. There were
also present about a score of chiefs,
among whom I recognized most of our
friends of the night before.

Twala greeted us with much apparent
cordiality, though I saw him fix his one
eye viciously on Umbopa.

"Welcome, white men from the stars," he
said; "this is a different sight from what
your eyes gazed on by the light of last
night's moon, but it is not so good a
sight. Girls are pleasant, and were it not
for such as these" (and he pointed round
him) "we should none of us be here to-
day; but men are better. Kisses and the
tender words of women are sweet, but the
sound of the clashing of men's spears,
and the smell of men's blood, are sweeter
far! Would ye have wives from among
our people, white men? If so, choose the
fairest here, and ye shall have them, as
many as ye will;" and he paused for an
answer.

As the prospect did not seem to be
without attractions to Good, who was,
like most sailors, of a susceptible nature,
I, being elderly and wise, and foreseeing
the endless complications that anything
of the sort would involve (for women
bring trouble as surely as the night
follows the day), put in a hasty answer:

"Thanks, O king, but we white men wed
only with white women like ourselves.
Your maidens are fair, but they are not
for us!"

The king laughed. "It is well. In our land
there is a proverb which says, 'Woman's
eyes are always bright, whatever the
color,' and another which says, 'Love her
who is present, for be sure she who is
absent is false to thee;' but perhaps these
things are not so in the stars. In a land
where men are white all things are
possible. So be it, white men; the girls
will not go begging! Welcome again; and
welcome, too, thou black one; if Gagool
here had had her way thou wouldst have
been stiff and cold now. It is lucky that
thou, too, camest from the stars; ha! ha!"

"I can kill thee before thou killest me, O
king," was Ignosi's calm answer, "and
thou shalt be stiff before my limbs cease
to bend."

Twala started. "Thou speakest boldly,
boy," he replied, angrily; "presume not
too far."

"He may well be bold in whose lips are
truth. The truth is a sharp spear which
flies home and fails not. It is a message
from 'the stars,' O king!"

Twala scowled, and his one eye gleamed
fiercely, but he said nothing more.

"Let the dance begin," he cried, and next
second the flower-crowned girls sprang
forward in companies, singing a sweet
song and waving the delicate palms and
white flowers. On they danced, now
whirling round and round, now meeting
in mimic warfare, swaying, eddying here
and there, coming forward, falling back
in an ordered confusion delightful to
witness. At last they paused, and a
beautiful young woman sprang out of the
ranks and began to pirouette in front of
us with a grace and vigor which would
have put most ballet-girls to shame. At
length she fell back exhausted, and
another took her place, then another and
another, but none of them, either in
grace, skill, or personal attractions, came
up to the first.

At length the king lifted his hand.

"Which think ye the fairest, white men?"
he asked.

"The first," said I, unthinkingly. Next
second I regretted it, for I remembered
that Infadoos had said that the fairest
woman was offered as a sacrifice.

"Then is my mind as your minds, and my
eyes as your eyes. She is the fairest; and
a sorry thing it is for her, for she must
die!"

"_i_ Ay, must die! _i_" piped out Gagool,
casting a glance from her quick eyes in
the direction of the poor girl, who, as yet
ignorant of the awful fate in store for
her, was standing some twenty yards off
in front of a company of girls, engaged in
nervously picking a flower from her
wreath to pieces, petal by petal.

"Why, O king?" said I, restraining my
indignation with difficulty; "the girl has
danced well and pleased us; she is fair,
too; it would be hard to reward her with
death."

Twala laughed as he answered:

"It is our custom, and the figures who sit
in stone yonder" (and he pointed
towards the three distant peaks) "must
have their due. Did I fail to put the fairest
girl to death to-day misfortune would fall
upon me and my house. Thus runs the
prophecy of my people: 'If the king offer
not a sacrifice of a fair girl on the day of
the dance of maidens to the old ones who
sit and watch on the mountains, then
shall he fall and his house.' Look ye,
white men, my brother who reigned
before me offered not the sacrifice,
because of the tears of the woman, and
he fell, and his house, and I reign in his
stead. It is finished; she must die!" Then,
turning to the guards --"Bring her hither;
Scragga, make sharp thy spear."

Two of the men stepped forward, and as
they did so the girl, for the first time
realizing her impending fate, screamed
aloud and turned to fly. But the strong
hands caught her fist, and brought her,
struggling and weeping, up before us.

"What is thy name, girl?" piped Gagool.
"What! wilt thou not answer; shall the
king's son do his work at once?"

At this hint, Scragga, looking more evil
than ever, advanced a step and lifted his
great spear, and as he did so I saw Good's
hand creep to his revolver. The poor girl
caught the glint of the cold steel through
her tears, and it sobered her anguish.
She ceased struggling, but merely clasped
her hands convulsively, and stood
shuddering from head to foot.

"See," cried Scragga, in high glee, "she
shrinks from the sight of my little
plaything even before she has tasted it,"
and he tapped the broad blade of the
spear.

"If I ever get the chance, you shall pay
for that, you young hound!" I heard Good
mutter beneath his breath.

"Now that thou art quiet, give us thy
name, my dear. Come, speak up, and fear
not," said Gagool in mockery.

"Oh, mother," answered the girl in
trembling accents, "my name is Foulata,
of the house of Suko. Oh, mother, why
must I die? I have done no wrong!"

"Be comforted," went on the old woman,
in her hateful tone of mockery. "Thou
must die, indeed, as a sacrifice to the old
ones who sit yonder" (and she pointed to
the peaks); "but it is better to sleep in the
night than to toil in the day-time; it is
better to die than to live, and thou shalt
die by the royal hand of the king's own
son."

The girl Foulata wrung her hands in
anguish, and cried out aloud: "Oh, cruel;
and I so young! What have I done that I
should never again see the sun rise out
of the night, or the stars come following
on his track in the evening: that I should
no more gather the flowers when the dew
is heavy, or listen to the laughing of the
waters! Woe is me, that I shall never see
my father's hut again, nor feel my
mother's kiss, nor tend the kid that is
sick! Woe is me, that no lover shall put
his arm around me and look into my
eyes, nor shall men-children be born of
me! Oh, cruel, cruel!" and again she
wrung her hands and turned her tear-
stained, flower crowned face to heaven,
looking so lovely in her despair--for she
was indeed a beautiful woman--that it
would assuredly have melted the hears of
any one less cruel than the three fiends
before us. Prince Arthur's appeal to the
ruffians who came to blind him was not
more touching than this savage girl's.

But it did not move Gagool or Gagool's
master, though I saw signs of pity among
the guard behind and on the faces of the
chiefs; and as for Good, he gave a sort of
snort of indignation, anal made a motion
as though to go to her. With all a
woman's quickness, the doomed girl
interpreted what was passing in his
mind, and with a sudden movement
flung herself before him, and clasped his
"beautiful white legs" with her hands.

"Oh, white father from the stars!" she
cried, "throw over me the mantle of thy
protection; let me creep into the shadow
of thy strength, that I may be saved. Oh,
keep me from these cruel men and from
the mercies of Gagool!"

"All right, my hearty, I'll look after you,"
sang out Good, in nervous Saxon. "Come,
get up, there's a good girl," and he
stooped and caught her hand.

Twala turned and motioned to his son,
who advanced with his spear lifted.

"Now's your time," whispered Sir Henry
to me; "what are you waiting for?"

"I am waiting for the eclipse," I answered;
"I have had my eye on the sun for the
last half-hour, and I never saw it look
healthier."

"Well, you must risk it now or the girl
will be killed. Twala is losing patience."

Recognizing the force of the argument,
having cast one more despairing look at
the bright face of the sun, for never did
the most ardent astronomer with a
theory to prove await a celestial event
with such anxiety, I stepped, with all the
dignity I could command, between the
prostrate girl and the advancing spear of
Scragga.

"King," I said; "this shall not be; we will
not tolerate such a thing; let the girl go
in safety."

Twala rose from his seat in his wrath and
astonishment, and from the chiefs and
serried ranks of girls, who had slowly
closed in upon us in anticipation of the
tragedy, came a murmur of amazement.

"_i_ Shall not be, _i_ thou white dog,
who yaps at the lion in his cave; _i_ shall
not be! _i_ Art thou mad? Be careful lest
this chicken's fate overtake thee and
those with thee. How canst thou prevent
it? Who art thou, that thou standest
between me and my will? Withdraw, I
say. Scragga, kill her. Ho, guards! seize
these men."

At his cry armed men came running
swiftly from behind the hut, where they
had evidently been placed beforehand.

Sir Henry, Good, and Umbopa ranged
themselves alongside of me and lifted
their rifles.

"Stop!" I shouted, boldly, though at the
moment my heart was in my boots. "Stop!
we, the white men from the stars, say
that it shall not be. Come but one pace
nearer and we will put out the sun and
plunge the land in darkness. Ye shall
taste of our magic."

My threat produced an effect; the men
halted, and Scragga stood still before us,
his spear lifted.

"Hear him! hear him!" piped Gagool;
"hear the liar who says he will put out
the sun like a lamp. Let him do it and the
girl shall be spared. Yes, let him do it, or
die with the girl, he and those with him."

I glanced up at the sun, and, to my
intense joy and relief, saw that we had
made no mistake. On the edge of its
brilliant surface was a faint rim of
shadow.

I lifted my hand solemnly towards the
sky, an example which Sir Henry and
Good followed, and quoted a line or two
of the "Ingoldsby Legends" at it in the
most impressive tones I could command:
Sir Henry followed suit with a verse out
of the Old Testament, while Good
addressed the king of day in a volume of
the most classical bad language that he
could think of.

Slowly the dark rim crept on over the
blazing surface, and as it did so I heard a
deep gasp of fear rise from the multitude
around.

"Look, O king! Look, Gagool! Look, chiefs
and people and women, and see if the
white men from the stars keep their
word, or if they be but empty liars !

"The sun grows dark before your eyes;
soon there will be night--ay, night in the
noon-time. Ye have asked for a sign; it is
given to ye. Grow dark, O sun! withdraw
thy light, thou bright one; bring the
proud heart to the dust, and eat up the
world with shadows."

A groan of terror rose from the on
lookers. Some stood petrified with fear,
others threw themselves upon their
knees and cried out. As for the king, he
sat still and turned pale beneath his
dusky skin. Only Gagool kept her
courage. "It will pass," she cried; "I have
seen the like before; no man can put out
the sun; lose not heart; sit still--the
shadow will pass."

"Wait, and ye shall see," I replied,
hopping with excitement.

"Keep it up, Good; I can't remember any
more poetry. Curse away! there's a good
fellow."

Good responded nobly to the tax upon
his inventive faculties. Never before had I
the faintest conception of the breadth
and depth and height of a naval officer's
objurgatory powers. For ten minutes he
went on without stopping, and he
scarcely ever repeated himself.

Meanwhile the dark ring crept on.
Strange and unholy shadows encroached
upon the sunlight, an ominous quiet
filled the place, the birds chirped out
frightened notes and then were still; only
the cocks began to crow.

On, yet on, crept the ring of darkness; it
was now more than half over the
reddening orb. The air grew thick and
dusky. On, yet on, till we could scarcely
see the fierce faces of the group before
us. No sound now rose from the
spectators, and Good stopped swearing.

"The sun is dying--the wizards have
killed the sun," yelled out the boy
Scragga at last. "We shall all die in the
dark," and, animated by fear or fury, or
both, he lifted his spear and drove it with
all his force at Sir Henry's broad chest.
But he had forgotten the mail shirts that
the king had given us, and which we
wore beneath our clothing. The steel
rebounded harmless, and before he
could repeat the blow Sir Henry had
snatched the spear from his hand and
sent it straight through him. He dropped
dead.

At the sight, and driven mad with fear at
the gathering gloom, the companies of
girls broke up in wild confusion and ran
screeching for the gateways. Nor did the
panic stop there. The king himself,
followed by the guard, some of the chiefs,
and Gagool, who hobbled away after
them with marvellous alacrity, fled for
the huts, so that in another minute or so
ourselves, the would-be victim, Foulata,
Infadoos, and some of the chiefs who had
interviewed us on the previous night,
were left alone upon the scene with the
dead body of Scragga.

"Now, chiefs," I said, "we have given you
the sign. If ye are satisfied, let us fly
swiftly to the place ye spoke of. The
charm cannot now be stopped. It will
work for an hour. Let us take advantage
of the darkness."

"Come," said Infadoos, turning to go, an
example which was followed by the awed
chiefs, ourselves, and the girl Foulata,
whom Good took by the hand.

Before we reached the gate of the kraal
the sun went out altogether.

Holding each other by the hand we
stumbled on through the darkness.

CHAPTER XII--BEFORE THE BATTLE

LUCKILY for us, Infadoos and the chiefs
knew all the pathways of the great town
perfectly, so that, notwithstanding the
intense gloom, we made fair progress.

For an hour or more we journeyed on, till
at length the eclipse began to pass, and
that edge of the sun which had
disappeared the first became again
visible. In another five minutes there was
sufficient light to see our whereabouts,
and we then discovered that we were
clear of the town of Loo, and
approaching a large, flat-topped hill,
measuring some two miles in
circumference. This hill, which was of a
formation very common in Southern
Africa, was not very high; indeed, its
greatest elevation was not more than two
hundred feet, but it was shaped like a
horseshoe, and its sides were rather
precipitous and strewn with boulders. On
the grass table-land at the top was ample
camping-ground, which had been
utilized as a military cantonment of no
mean strength. Its ordinary garrison was
one regiment of three thousand. men,
but as we toiled up the steep side of the
hill in the returning daylight we
perceived that there were many more
warriors than that upon it.

Reaching the table-land at last, we found
crowds of men huddled together in the
utmost consternation at the natural
phenomenon which they were
witnessing. Passing through these
without a word, we gained a hut in the
centre of the ground, where we were
astonished to find two men waiting,
laden with our few goods and chattels,
which, of course, we had been obliged to
leave behind in our hasty flight.

"I sent for them," explained Infadoos;
"also for these," and he lifted up Good's
long-lost trousers.

With an exclamation of rapturous delight
Good sprang at them, and instantly
proceeded to put them on.

"Surely my lord will not hide his
beautiful white legs!" exclaimed lnfadoos,
regretfully.

But Good persisted, and once only did
the Kukuana people get the chance of
seeing his beautiful legs again. Good is a
very modest man. Henceforward they
had to satisfy their aesthetic longings
with one whisker, his transparent eye,
and his movable teeth.

Still gazing with fond remembrance at
Good's trousers, Infadoos next informed
us that he had summoned the regiments
to explain to them fully the rebellion
which was decided on by the chiefs, and
to introduce to them the rightful heir to
the throne, Ignosi.

In half an hour the troops, in all nearly
twenty thousand men, constituting the
flower of the Kukuana army, were
mustered on a large, open space, to
which we proceeded. The men were
drawn up in three sides of a dense
square, and presented a magnificent
spectacle. We took our station on the
open side of the square, and were
speedily surrounded by all the principal
chiefs and. officers.

These, after silence had been proclaimed,
Infadoos proceeded to address. He
narrated to them in vigorous and
graceful language---for, like most
Kukuanas of high rank, he was a born
orator--the history of Ignosi's father, how
he had been basely murdered by Twala,
the king, and his wife and child driven
out to starve. Then he pointed out how
the land suffered and groaned under
Twala's cruel rule, instancing the
proceedings of the previous night, when,
under pretence of their being evil-doers,
many of the noblest in the land had been
hauled forth and cruelly done to death.
Next he went on to say that the white
lords from the stars, looking down on the
land, had perceived its trouble, and
determined, at great personal
inconvenience, to alleviate its lot; how
they had accordingly taken the real king
of the country, Ignosi, who was
languishing in exile, by the hand and led
him over the mountains; how they had
seen the wickedness of Twala's doings,
and for a sign to the wavering, and to
save the life of the girl Foulata, had
actually, by the exercise of their high
magic, put out the sun and slain the
young fiend, Scragga; and how they were
prepared to stand by them, and assist
them to overthrow Twala, and set up the
rightful king-- Ignosi, in his place.

He finished his discourse amid a murmur
of approbation, and then Ignosi stepped
forward and began to speak. Having
reiterated all that Infadoos, his uncle,
had said, he concluded a powerful speech
in these words:

"0 chiefs, captains, soldiers, and people,
ye have heard my words. Now must ye
make choice between me and him who
sits upon my throne, the uncle who killed
his brother, and hunted his brother's
child forth to die in the cold and the
night. That I am indeed the king these"--
pointing to the chiefs--"can tell ye, for
they have seen the snake about my
middle. If I were not the king, would
these white men be on my side, with all
their magic? Tremble, chiefs, captains,
soldiers, and people! Is not the darkness
they have brought upon the land to
confound Twala, and cover our flight, yet
before your eyes?"

"It is," answered the soldiers.

"I am the king; I say to ye, I am the king,"
went on Ignosi, drawing up his great
stature to its full, and lifting his broad-
bladed battle-axe above his head. "If
there be any man among ye who says
that it is not so, let him stand forth, and I
will fight him now, and his blood shall be
a red token that I tell ye true. Let him
stand forth, I say"; and he shook the
great axe till it flashed in the sunlight.

As nobody seemed inclined to respond to
this heroic version of "Dilly, Dilly, come
and be killed," our late henchman
proceeded with his address.

"I am indeed the king, and if ye do stand
by my side in the battle, if I win the day
ye shall go with me to victory and honor.
I will give ye oxen and wives, and ye
shall take place of all the regiments; and
if ye fall I will fall with ye.

"And behold, this promise do I give ye,
that when I sit upon the seat of my
fathers, bloodshed shall cease in the
land. No longer shall ye cry for justice to
find slaughter, no longer shall the witch-
finder hunt ye out so that ye be slain
without a cause. No man shall die save he
who offendeth against the laws. The
"eating up" of your kraals shall cease;
each shall sleep secure in his own hut
and fear not, and justice shall walk blind
throughout the land. Have ye chosen,
chiefs, captains, soldiers, and people?"

"We have chosen, O king," came back the
answer.

"It is well. Turn your heads and see how
Twala's messengers go forth from the
great town, east and west, and north and
south, to gather a mighty army to slay
me and ye, and these my friends and my
protectors. To-morrow, or perchance the
next day, will he come with all who are
faithful to him. Then shall I see the man
who is indeed my man, the man who
fears not to die for his cause; and I tell ye
he shall not be forgotten in the time of
spoil. I have spoken, O chiefs, captains,
soldiers, and people. Now go to your huts
and make you ready for war."

There was a pause, and then one of the
chiefs lifted his hand, and out rolled the
royal salute, " _i_ Koom! _i_" It was a
sign that the regiments accepted Ignosi
as their king. Then they marched off in
battalions.

Half an hour afterwards we held a
council of war, at which all the
commanders of regiments were present,
It was evident to us that before very long
we should be attacked in overwhelming
force. Indeed, from our point of vantage
on the hill we could see troops
mustering, and messengers. going forth
from Loo in every direction, doubtless to
summon regiments to the king's
assistance. We had on our side about
twenty thousand men, composed of
seven of the best regiments in the
country. Twala had, so Infadoos and the
chiefs calculated, at least thirty to thirty-
five thousand on whom he could rely at
present assembled in Loo, and they
thought that by midday on the morrow
he would be able to gather another five
thousand or more to his aid.

It was, of course, possible that some of
his troops would desert and come over to
us, but it was not a contingency that
could be reckoned on. Meanwhile, it was
clear that active preparations were being
made to subdue us. Already strong
bodies of armed men were patrolling
round and round the foot of the hill, and
there were other signs of a coming
attack.

Infadoos and the chiefs, however, were of
opinion that no attack would take place
that night, which would be devoted to
preparation and to the removal by every
possible means of the moral effect
produced upon the minds of the soldiery
by the supposed magical darkening of
the sun. The attack would be on the
morrow, they said, and they proved to be
right.

Meanwhile, we set to work to strengthen
the position as much as possible. Nearly
the entire force was turned out, and in
the two hours which yet remained to
sundown wonders were done. The paths
up the hill--which was rather a
sanitarium than a fortress, being used
generally as the camping place of
regiments suffering from recent service
in unhealthy portions of the country--
were carefully blocked with masses of
stones, and every other possible
approach was made as impregnable as
time would allow. Piles of boulders were
collected at various spots to be rolled
down upon advancing enemy-stations
were appointed to the different
regiments, and every other preparation
which our joint ingenuity could suggest
was taken.

Just before sundown we perceived a
small company of men advancing
towards us from the direction of Loo, one
of whom bore a palm leaf in his hand as
a sign that he came as a herald.

As he came, Ignosi, Infadoos, one or two
chiefs, and ourselves went down to the
foot of the mountain to meet him. He was
a gallant-looking fellow, with the
regulation leopard-skin cloak.

"Greeting!" he cried as he came near;
"the king's greeting to those who make
unholy war against the king; the lion's
greeting to the jackals who snarl around
his heels."

"Speak," I said.

"These are the king's words. Surrender to
the king's mercy ere a worse thing befall
ye. Already the shoulder has been torn
from the black bull, and the king drives
him bleeding about the Camp."

"What are Twala's terms?" I asked, for
curiosity.

"His terms are merciful, worthy of a great
king. These are the words of Twala, the
one-eyed, the mighty, the husband of a
thousand wives, lord of the Kukuanas,
keeper of the great road (Solomon's
Road), beloved of the strange ones who
sit in silence at the mountains yonder
(the Three Witches), calf of the black
cow, elephant whose tread shakes the
earth, terror of the evil-doer, ostrich
whose feet devour the desert, huge one,
black one, wise one, king from
generation to generation! these are the
words of Twala: 'I will have mercy and be
satisfied with a little blood. One in every
ten shall die, the rest shall go free; but
the white man Incubu, who slew Scragga,
my son, and Infadoos, my brother, who
brews rebellion against me, these shall
die by torture as an offering to the silent
ones.' Such are the merciful words of
Twala." After consulting with the others a
little I answered him in a loud voice, so
that the soldiers might hear, thus:

"Go back, thou dog, to Twala, who sent
thee, and say that we, Ignosi, veritable
king of the Kukuanas, Incubu, Bougwan,
and Macumazahn, the wise white ones
from the stars who make dark the sun,
Infadoos, of the royal house, and the
chiefs, captains, and people here
gathered, make answer and say, 'That we
will not surrender; that before the sun
has twice gone down Twala's corpse shall
stiffen at Twala's gate, and Ignosi, whose
father Twala slew, shall reign in his
stead.' Now go, ere we whip thee away,
and beware how ye lift a hand against
such as we."

The herald laughed loud. "Ye frighten
not men with such swelling words," he
cried out. "Show yourselves as bold
tomorrow, O ye who darken the sun. Be
bold, fight, and be merry, before the
crows pick your bones till they are whiter
than your faces. Farewell; perhaps we
may meet in the fight; wait for me, I pray,
white men." And with this shaft of
sarcasm he retired, and almost
immediately the sun sank.

That night was a busy one for us, for, as
far as was possible by the moonlight, all
preparations for the morrow's. fight were
continued. Messengers were constantly
coming and going from the place where
we sat in council. At last, about an hour
after midnight, everything that could be
done was done, and the camp, save for
the occasional challenge of a sentry, sank
into sleep. Sir Henry and I, accompanied
by Ignosi and one of the chiefs,
descended the hill and made the round
of the vedettes. As we went, suddenly,
from all sorts of unexpected places,
spears gleamed out in the moonlight,
only to vanish again as we uttered the
password. It was clear to us that none
were sleeping at their posts. Then we
returned, picking our way through
thousands of sleeping warriors, many of
whom were taking their last earthly rest.

The moonlight flickered along their
spears, and played upon their features
and made them ghastly; the chilly night
wind tossed their tall and hearse like
plumes. There they lay in wild confusion,
with arms outstretched and twisted
limbs; their stern, stalwart forms looking
weird and unhuman in the moonlight.

"How many of these do you suppose will
be alive at this time to-morrow?" asked
Sir Henry.

I shook my head and looked again at the
sleeping men, and to my tired and yet
excited imagination it seemed as though
death had already touched them. My
mind's eye singled out those who were
sealed to slaughter, and there rushed in
upon my heart a great sense of the
mystery of human life, and an
overwhelming sorrow at its futility and
sadness. To-night these thousands slept
their healthy sleep; to-morrow they, and
many others with them, ourselves
perhaps among them, would be stiffening
in the cold; their wives would be widows,
their children fatherless, and their place
know them no more forever. Only the old
moon would shine serenely on, the night
wind would stir the grasses, and the wide
earth would take its happy rest, even as
it did aeons before these were, and will
do aeons after they have been forgotten.

Yet man dies not while the world, at once
his mother and his monument, remains.
His name is forgotten, indeed, but the
breath he breathed yet stirs the pine-tops
on the mountains, the sound of the
words he spoke yet echoes on through
space; the thoughts his brain gave birth
to we have inherited to-day; his passions
are our cause of life; the joys and sorrows
that he felt are our familiar friends--the
end from which he fled aghast will surely
overtake us also.

Truly the universe is full of ghosts; not
sheeted, churchyard spectres, but the
inextinguishable and immortal elements
of life, which, having once been, can
never _i_ die _i_, though they blend and
change and change again forever.

All sorts of reflections of this sort passed
through my mind--for as I get older I
regret to say that a detestable habit of
thinking seems to be getting a hold of
me---while I stood and stared at those
grim yet fantastic lines of warriors
sleeping, as their saying goes, "upon
their spears."

"Curtis," I said to Sir Henry, !"I am in a
condition of pitiable funk."

Sir Henry stroked his yellow beard and
laughed, as he answered:

"I've heard you make that sort of remark
before, Quatermain."

"Well, I mean it now. Do you know, I very
much doubt if one of us will be alive to-
morrow night. We shall be attacked in
overwhelming force, and it is exceedingly
doubtful if we can hold this place."

"We'll give a good account of some of
them, at any rate. Look here, Quatermain,
the business is a nasty one, and one with
which, properly speaking, we ought not
to be mixed up; but we are in for it, so we
must make the best of it. Speaking
personally, I had rather be killed fighting
than any other way, and now that there
seems little chance of finding my poor
brother, it makes the idea easier to me.
But fortune favors the brave, and we may
succeed. Anyway, the slaughter will be
awful, and as we. have a reputation to
keep up, we shall have to be in the thick
of it."

Sir Henry made this last remark in a
mournful voice, but there was a gleam in
his eye which belied it. I have a sort of
idea that Sir Henry Curtis actually likes
fighting.

After this we went and slept for a couple
of hours.

Just about dawn we were awakened by
Infadoos, who came to say that great
activity was to be observed in too, and
that parties of the king's skirmishers
were driving in our vedettes.

We got up and dressed ourselves for the
fray, each putting on his chain armor
shirt, for which at the present juncture
we felt exceedingly thankful. Sir Henry
went the whole length about the matter,
and dressed himself like a native warrior.
"When you are in Kukuanaland, do as
the Kukuanas do," he remarked, as he
drew the shining steel over his broad
shoulders, which it fitted like a glove.
Nor did he stop there. At his request,
Infadoos had provided him with a
complete set of war uniform. Round his
throat he fastened the leopard-skin cloak
of a commanding officer, on his brows he
bound the plume of black ostrich
feathers worn only by generals of high
rank, and round his centre a magnificent
moocha of white oxtail. A pair of sandals,
a leglet of goat's hair, a heavy battle-axe
with a rhinoceros-horn handle, a round
iron shield covered with white ox-hide,
and the regulation number of tollas, or
throwing-knives, made up his equipment,
to which, however, he added his revolver.
The dress was, no doubt, a savage one;
but I am bound to say I never saw a finer
sight than Sir Henry Curtis presented in
this guise. It showed off his magnificent
physique to the greatest advantage, and
when Ignosi arrived, presently, arrayed
in similar costume, I thought to myself
that I never before saw two such splendid
men. As for Good and myself, the chain
armor did not suit us nearly so well. To
begin with, Good insisted upon keeping
on his trousers, and a stout, short
gentleman with an eye-glass, and one
half of his face shaved, arrayed in a mail
shirt carefully tucked into a very seedy
pair of corduroys, looks more striking
than imposing. As for myself, my chain
shirt being too big for me, I put it on over
all my clothes, which caused it to bulge
out in a somewhat ungainly fashion. I
discarded my trousers, however,
determined to go into battle with bare
legs, in order to be the lighter in case it.
became necessary to retire quickly,
retaining only my veldtschoons. This, a
spear, a shield, which I did not know how
to use, a couple of tollas, a revolver, and
a huge plume, which I pinned into the
top of my shooting-hat in order to give a
bloodthirsty finish to my appearance,
completed my modest equipment. In
addition to all these articles, of course we
had our rifles, but as ammunition was
scarce, and they would be useless in case
of a charge, we had arranged to have
them carried behind us by bearers.

As soon as we had equipped ourselves we
hastily swallowed some food, and then
started out to see how things were
progressing. At one point in the
tableland of the mountain there was a
little koppie of brown stone, which
served for the double purpose of
headquarters and a conning tower. Here
we found Infadoos surrounded, by his
own regiment, the Grays, which was
undoubtedly the finest in the Kukuana
army, and the same which we had first
seen at the outlying kraal. This regiment,
now three thousand five hundred strong,
was being held in reserve, and the men
were lying down on the grass in
companies, and watching the king's
forces creep out of Lo o in long, ant-like
columns. There seemed to be no end to
those columns--three in all, and each
numbering at least eleven or twelve
thousand men.

As soon as they were clear of the town,
they formed up. Then one body marched
off to the right, one to the left, and the
third came slowly on towards us.

"Ah," said Infadoos, "they are going to
attack us on three sides at once."

This was rather serious news, for as our
position on the top of the mountain,
which was at least a mile and a half in
circumference, was an extended one, it
was important to us to concentrate our
comparatively small defending force as
much as possible. But, as it was
impossible for us to dictate in what way
we should be attacked, we had to make
the best of it, and accordingly sent
orders to the various regiments to
prepare to receive the separate
onslaughts.

CHAPTER XIII THE ATTACK

Slowly, and without the slightest
appearance of haste or excitement, the
three columns crept on. When within
about five hundred yards of us, the main
or centre column halted at the root of a
tongue of open plain which ran up into
the hill, to enable the other two to
circumvent our position, which was
shaped more or less in the form of a
horseshoe, the two points being towards
the town of too, their object being, no
doubt, that the threefold assault should
be delivered simultaneously.

"Oh, for a gatling!" groaned Good, as he
contemplated the serried phalanxes
beneath us. "I would clear the plain in
twenty minutes.

"We have not got one, so it is no use
yearning for it; but suppose you try a
shot, Quatermain; see how near you can
go to that tall fellow who appears to be in
command. Two to one you miss him, and
an even sovereign, to be honestly paid if
ever we get out of this, that you don't
drop the ball within ten yards."

This piqued me, so, loading the express
with solid ball, I waited till my friend
walked some ten yards out from his
force, in order to get a better view of our
position, accompanied only by an
orderly, and then lying down and resting
the express upon a rock, I covered him.
The rifle, like all expresses, was only
sighted to three hundred and fifty yards,
so, to allow for the drop in trajectory,
took him half-way down the neck, which
ought, I calculated, to find him in the
chest. He stood quite still and gave me
every opportunity, but whether it was the
excitement or the wind, or the fact of the
man being a long shot, I don't know, but
this was what happened. Getting dead on,
as I thought, a fine sight, I pressed, and
when the puff of smoke had cleared away
I, to my disgust, saw my man standing
unharmed, while his orderly, who was at
least three paces to the left, was stretched
upon the ground, apparently dead.
Turning swiftly, the officer I had aimed
at began to run towards his force, in
evident alarm.

"Bravo, Quatermain!" sang out Good;
"you've frightened him."

This made me very angry, for if possible
to avoid it, I hate to miss in public. When
one can only do one thing well, one likes
to keep up one's reputation in that thing.
Moved quite out of myself at my failure, I
did a rash thing. Rapidly covering the
general as he ran, I let drive with the
second barrel. The poor man threw up
his arms and fell forward on his face.
This time I had made no mistake; and--I
say it as a proof of how little we think of
others when our own pride or reputation
are in question--I was brute enough to
feel delighted at the sight.

The regiments who had seen the feat
cheered wildly at this exhibition of the
white man's magic, which they took as an
omen of success, while the force to which
the general had belonged--which, indeed,
as we afterwards ascertained, he had
commanded--began to fall back in
confusion. Sir Henry and Good now took
up their rifles and began to fire, the
latter industriously "browning" the dense
mass before him with a Winchester
repeater, and I also had another shot or
two, with the result that, so far as we
could judge, we put some eight or ten
men _i_ ho^rs de combat _i_ before they
got out of range.

Just as we stopped firing there came an
ominous roar from our far right, then a
similar roar from our left. The two other
divisions were engaging us.

At the sound the mass of men before us
opened out a little, and came on towards
the hill up the spit of bare grass-land at a
slow trot, singing a deep throated song as
they advanced. We kept up a steady fire
from our rifles as they came, Ignosi
joining in occasionally, and accounted
for several men, but of course produced
no more effect upon that mighty rush of
armed humanity than he who throws
pebbles does on the advancing wave.

On they came, with a shout and the
clashing of spears; now they were driving
in the outposts we had placed among the
rocks at the foot of the hill. After that the
advance was a little slower, for though as
yet we had offered no serious opposition,
the attacking force had to come up hill,
and came slowly to save their breath. Our
first line of defence was about half-way
up the side, our second fifty yards
farther back, while our third occupied
the edge of the plain.

On they came, shouting their war-

_i_ Twala! Twala! Chiele'! Chiele'! _i_
(Twala! Twala! Smite! smite!). _i_
"Ignosi! Ignosi! Chiele'! Chiele'! _i_"
answered our people. They were quite
close now, and the tollas, or throwing
knives, began to flash backward and
forward, and now with an awful yell the
battle closed in.

To and fro swayed the mass of struggling
warriors, men falling thick as leaves in
an autumn wind; but before long the
superior weight of the attacking force
began to tell, and our first line of defence
was slowly pressed back, till it merged
into the second. Here the struggle was
very fierce, but again our people were
driven back and up, till at length, within
twenty minutes of the commencement of
the fight, our third line came into action.

But by this time the assailants were much
exhausted, and had, besides, lost many
men killed and wounded, and to break
through that third impenetrable hedge of
spears proved beyond their powers. For a
while the dense mass of struggling
warriors swung backward and forward in
the fierce ebb and flow of battle, and the
issue was doubtful. Sir Henry watched
the desperate struggle with a kindling
eye, and then without a word he rushed
off, followed by Good, and flung himself
into the hottest of the fray. As for myself,
I stopped where I was.

The soldiers caught sight of his tall form
as he plunged into the battle, and there
rose a cry of--

"Nanzig Incubu!" (Here is the Elephant! )
_i_ "Chiele'! Chiele'! _i_

>From that moment the issue was no
longer in doubt. Inch by inch, fighting
with desperate gallantry, the attacking
force was pressed hack down the hillside,
till at last it retreated upon its reserves in
something like confusion. At that
moment, too, a messenger arrived to say
that the left attack had been repulsed,
and I was just beginning to congratulate
myself that the affair was over for the
present, when, to our horror, we
perceived our men who had been
engaged in the right defence being
driven towards us across the plain,
followed by swarms of the enemy, who
had evidently succeeded at this point.

Ignosi, who was standing by me, took in
the situation at a glance, and issued a
rapid order. Instantly the reserve
regiment round us (the Grays) extended
itself.

Again Ignosi gave a word of command,
which was taken up and repeated by the
captains, and in another second, to my
intense disgust, I found myself involved
in a furious onslaught upon the
advancing foe. Getting as much as I could
behind Ignosi's huge frame, I made the
best of a bad job, and toddled along to be
killed, as though I liked it. In a minute or
two--the time seemed all too short to me-
-we were plunging through the flying
groups of our men, who at once began to
re-form behind us, and then I am sure I
do not know what happened. All I can
remember is a dreadful rolling noise of
the meeting of shields, and the sudden
apparition of a huge ruffian, whose eyes
seemed literally to be starting out of his
head, making straight at me with a
bloody spear. But --I say it with pride---I
rose to the occasion. It was an occasion
before which most people would have
collapsed once and for all. Seeing that if I
stood where I was I must be done for, I--
as the horrid apparition came, flung
myself down in front of him--so cleverly
that, being unable to stop himself, he
took a header right over my prostrate
form. Before he could rise again I had
risen and settled the matter from behind
with my revolver.

Shortly after this somebody knocked me
down, and I remember no more of the
charge.

When I came to I found myself back at
the koppie, with Good bending over me
with some water in a gourd.

"How do you feel, old fellow?" he asked,
anxiously.

I got up and shook myself before
answering.

"Pretty well, thank you," I answered.

"Thank Heaven! when I saw them carry
you in I felt quite sick; I thought you
were done for."

"Not this time, my boy. I fancy I only got
a rap on the head, which knocked me out
of time. How has it ended?"

"They are repulsed at every point for the
time. The loss is dreadfully heavy; we
have lost quite two thousand killed and
wounded, and they must have lost three.
Look, there's a sight!" and he pointed to
long lines of men advancing by fours. In
the centre of, and being borne by, each
group of four was a kind of hide tray, of
which a Kukuana force always carried a
quantity, with a loop for a handle at each
corner. On these trays--and their number
seemed endless--lay wounded men, who
as they arrived were hastily examined by
the medicine-men, of whom ten were
attached to each regiment. If the wound
was not of a fatal character, the sufferer
was taken away and attended to as
carefully as circumstances would allow.
But if, on the other hand, the wounded
man's condition was hopeless, what
followed was very dreadful, though
doubtless it was the truest mercy. One of
the doctors, under pretence of carrying
out an examination, swiftly opened an
artery with a sharp knife, and in a
minute or two the sufferer expired
painlessly. There were many cases that
day in which this was done. In fact, it was
done in most cases when the wound was
in the body, for the gash made by the
entry of the enormously broad spears
used by the Kukuanas generally
rendered recovery hopeless. In most
cases the sufferers were already tin,
conscious, and in others the fatal "nick"
of the artery was done so swiftly and
painlessly that they did not seem to
notice it. Still it was a ghastly sight, and
one from which we were glad to escape;
indeed, I never remember one which
affected me more than seeing those
gallant soldiers thus put out of pain by
the red-handed medicine-men, except,
indeed, on an occasion when, after an
attack, I saw a force of Swazis burying
their hopelessly wounded _i_ alive _i_.

Hurrying from this dreadful scene to the
farther side of the koppie, we found Sir
Henry (who still held a bloody battle-axe
in his hand), Ignosi, Infadoos, and one or
two of the chiefs in deep consultation.

"Thank heavens, here you are,
Quatermain! I can't make out what Ignosi
wants to do. It seems that, though we
have beaten off the attack, Twala is now
receiving large reinforcements, and is
showing a disposition to invest us, with a
view of starving us out."

"That's awkward."

"yes; especially as Infadoos says that the
water supply has given out."

"My lord, that is so," said Infadoos; "the
spring cannot supply the wants of so
great a multitude, and is failing rapidly.
Before night we shall all be thirsty.
Listen, Macumazahn--Thou art wise, and
hast doubtless seen many wars in the
lands from whence thou camest --that is
if, indeed,--they make wars in the stars.
Now tell us, what shall we do? Twala has
brought up many fresh men to take the
place of those who have fallen. But Twala
has learned a lesson; the hawk did not
think to find the heron ready; but our
beak has pierced his breast; he will not
strike at us again. We, too, are wounded,
and he will wait for us to die; he will
wind himself round us like a snake
round a buck, and fight the fight of sit
down."

"I hear you," I said.

"So, Macumazahn, thou seest we have no
water here, and but a little food, and we
must choose between these three things--
to languish like a starving lion in his
den, or to strive to break away towards
the north, or"--and here he rose and
pointed towards the dense mass of our
foes--"to launch ourselves straight at
Twala's throat. Incubu, the great warrior-
-for to-day he fought like a buffalo in a
net, and Twala's soldiers went down
before his axe like corn before the hail;
with these eyes I saw it --Incubu says
'charge'; but the Elephant is ever prone
to charge. Now what says Macumazahn,
the wily old fox, who has seen much and
loves to bite his enemy from behind? The
last word is in Ignosi, the king, for it is a
king's right to speak of war; but let us
hear thy voice, O Macumazahn, who
watchest by night, and the voice too of
him of the transparent eye."

"What sayest thou, Ignosi?"' I asked.

"Nay, my father," answered our
quondam servant, who now, clad as he
was in the full panoply of savage war,
looked every inch a warrior king, "do
thou speak, and let me, who am but a
child in wisdom beside thee, hearken to
thy words."

Thus abjured, I, after taking hasty
counsel with Good and Sir Henry,
delivered my opinion briefly to the effect
that, being trapped, our best chance,
especially in view of the failure of our
water supply, was to initiate an attack
upon Twala's forces, and then I
recommended that the attack should be
delivered at once, "before our wounds
grew stiff," and also before the sight of
Twala's overpowering force caused the
hearts of our soldiers "to wax small like
fat before a fire." Otherwise, I pointed
out, some of the captains might change
their minds, and, making peace with
Twala, desert to him, or even betray us
into his hands.

This expression of opinion seemed, on
the whole, to be favorably received;
indeed, among the Kukuanas my
utterances met with a respect which has
never been accorded to them before or
since. But the real decision as to our
course lay with Ignosi, who, since he had
been recognized as rightful king, could
exercise the almost unbounded rights of
sovereignty, including, of course, the
final decision on matters of generalship,
and it was to him that all eyes were now
turned.

At length, after a pause, during which he
appeared to be thinking deeply, he
spoke:

"Incubu, Macumazahn, and Bougwan,
brave white men, and my friends;
Infadoos, my uncle, and chiefs; my heart
is fixed. I will strike at Twala this day,
and set my fortunes on the blow, ay, and
my life; my life and your lives also.
Listen: thus will I strike. Ye see how the
hill curves round like the half-moon, and
how the plain runs like a green tongue
towards us within the curve?"

"We see," I answered.

"Good; it is now midday, and the men eat
and rest after the toil of battle. When the
sun has turned and travelled a little way
towards the dark, let thy regiment, my
uncle, advance with one other down to
the green tongue. And it shall be that
when Twala sees it he shall hurl his force
at it to crush it. But the spot is narrow,
and the regiments can come against thee
one at a time only; so shall they be
destroyed one by one, and the eyes of all
Twala's army shall be fixed upon a
struggle the like of which has not been
seen by living man. And with thee, my
uncle, shall go Incubu, my friend, that
when Twala sees his battle-axe flashing
in the first rank of the 'Grays' his heart
may grow faint. And I will come with the
second regiment, that which follows thee,
so that if ye are destroyed, as it may
happen, there may yet be a king left to
fight for; and with me shall come
Macumazahn the wise."

"It is well, O King," said Infadoos,
apparently contemplating the certainty
of the complete annihilation of his
regiment with perfect calmness. Truly
these Kukuanas are a wonderful people.
Death has no terrors for them when it is
incurred in the course of duty.

"And while the eyes of the multitude of
Twala's regiments are thus fixed upon
the fight," went on Ignosi, "behold, one
third of the men who are left alive to us"
(i.e., about six thousand) "shall creep
along the right horn of the hill and fall
upon the left flank of Twala's force, and
one third shall creep along the left horn
and fall upon Twala's right flank. And
when I see that the horns are ready to
toss Twala, then will I, with the men who
are left to me, charge home in Twala's
face, and if fortune goes with us the day
will be ours, and before Night drives her
horses from the mountains to the
mountains we shall sit in peace at Loo.
And now let us. eat and make ready; and,
Infadoos, do thou prepare, that the plan
be carried out; and stay, let my white
father, Bougwan go with the right horn,
that his shining eye may give courage to
the men."

The arrangements for the attack thus
briefly indicated were set in motion with
a rapidity that spoke well for the
perfection of the Kukuana military
system. Within little more than an hour
rations had been served out to the men
and devoured, the three divisions were
formed, the plan of attack explained to
the leaders, and the whole force, with the
exception of a guard left with the
wounded, now numbering about eighteen
thousand men in all, was ready to be put
in motion.

Presently Good came up and shook
hands with Sir Henry and myself.

"Good-bye, you fellows," he said, "I am
off with the right wing, according to
orders; and so I have come to shake
hands in case we should not meet again,
you know," he added, significantly/

We shook hands in silence, and not
without the exhibition of as much
emotion as Englishmen are wont to show.

"It is a queer business," said Sir Henry,
his deep voice shaking a little, "and I
confess I never expect to see to-morrow's
sun. As far as I can make out, the Grays,
with whom I am to go, are to fight until
they are wiped out in order to enable the
wings to slip round unawares and
outflank Twala. Well, so be it; at any rate,
it will be a man's death! Good-bye, old
fellow. God bless you! I hope you will pull
through and live to collar the diamonds;
but if you do, take my advice and don't
have anything more to do with
pretenders!"

In another second Good had wrung us
both by the hand and gone; and then
Infadoos came up and led off Sir Henry
to his place in the forefront of the Grays,
while, with many misgivings, I departed
with Ignosi to my station in the second
attacking regiment.

CHAPTER XIV--
THE LAST STAND OF THE GRAYS

In a few more minutes the regiments
destined to carry out the flanking
movements had tramped off in silence,
keeping carefully under the lee of the
rising ground in order to conceal the
movement from the keen eyes of Twala's
scouts.

Half an hour or more was allowed to
elapse between the setting-out of the
horns or wings of the army before any
movement was made by the Grays and
the supporting regiments, known as the
Buffaloes, which formed its chest, and
which were destined to bear the brunt of
the battle.

Both of these regiments were almost
perfectly fresh, and of full strength, the
Grays having been in reserve in the
morning, and having lost but a small
number of men in sweeping back that
part of the attack which had proved
successful in breaking the line of defence
on the occasion when I charged with
them and got knocked silly for my pains.
As for the Buffaloes, they had formed the
third line of defence on the left, and as
the attacking force at that point had not
succeeded in breaking through the
second, had scarcely come into action at
all.

Infadoos, who was a wary old general,
and knew the absolute importance of
keeping up the spirits of his men on the
eve of such a desperate encounter,
employed the pause in addressing his
own regiment, the Grays, in poetical
language; in explaining to them the
honor that they were receiving in being
put thus in the forefront of the battle,
and in having the great white warrior
from the stars to fight with them in their
ranks, and in promising large rewards of
cattle and promotion to all who survived
in the event of Ignosi's arms being
successful.

I looked down the long lines of waving
black plumes and stern faces beneath
them, and sighed to think that within
one short. hour most, if not all, of those
magnificent veteran warriors, not a man
of whom was under forty years of age,
would be laid dead or dying in the dust.
It could not be otherwise; they were
being condemned, with that wise
recklessness of human life that marks the
great general, and often saves his forces
and attains his ends, to certain slaughter,
in order to give the cause and the
remainder of the army a chance of
success. They were foredoomed to die,
and they knew it. It was to be their task
to engage regiment after regiment of
Twala's army on the narrow strip of
green beneath us, till they were
exterminated, or till the wings found a
favorable opportunity for their
onslaught. And yet they. never hesitated,
nor could I detect a sign of fear upon the
face of a single warrior. There they were-
-going to certain death, about to quit the
blessed light of day forever, and yet able
to contemplate their doom without a
tremor. I could not, even at that moment,
help contrasting their state of mind with
my own, which was far from comfortable,
and breathing a sigh of envy and
admiration. Never before had I seen such
an absolute devotion to the idea of duty,
and such a complete indifference to its
bitter fruits.

"Behold your king!" ended old Infadoos,
pointing to Ignosi; "go fight and fall for
him, as is the duty of brave men, and
cursed and shameful forever be the name
of him who shrinks from death for his
king, or who turns his back to his enemy.
Behold your king! chiefs, captains, and
soldiers; now do your homage to the
sacred snake, and then follow on, that
Incubu and I may show ye the road to the
heart of Twala's forces."

There was a moment's pause, then
suddenly there rose from the serried
phalanxes before us a murmur, like the
distant whisper of the sea, caused by the
gentle tapping of the handles of six
thousand spears against their holders'
shields. Slowly it swelled, till its growing
volume deepened and widened into a
roar of rolling noise, that echoed like
thunder against the mountains, and
filled the air with heavy waves of sound.
Then it decreased and slowly died away
into nothing, and suddenly out crashed
the royal salute.

Ignosi, I thought to myself, might well be
a proud man that day, for no Roman
emperor ever had such a salutation from
gladiators "about to-die."

Ignosi acknowledged this magnificent act
of homage by lifting his battle-axe, and
then the Grays filed off in a triple line
formation, each line containing about
one thousand fighting men, exclusive of
officers. When the last line had gone
some five hundred yards, Ignosi put
himself at the head of the Buffaloes,
which regiment was drawn up in a
similar three-line formation, and gave
the word to march, and off we went, I,
needless to say, uttering the most
heartfelt prayers that I might come out of
that job with a whole skin. Many a queer
position have I found myself in, but
never before in one quite so unpleasant
as the present, or one in which my
chance of coming off safe was so small.

By the time that we reached the edge of
the plateau the Grays were already half-
way down the slope ending in the tongue
of grass-land that ran up into the bend of
the mountain, something as the frog of a
horse's foot runs up into the shoe. The
excitement in Twala's camp on the plain
beyond was very great, and regiment
after regiment was starting forward at a
long swinging trot in order to reach the
root of the tongue of land before the
attacking force could emerge into the
plain of Loo.

This tongue of land, which was some
three hundred yards in depth, was, even
at its root or widest part, not more than
three hundred and fifty paces across,
while at its tip it scarcely measured
ninety. The Grays, who, in passing down
the side of the hill and on to the tip of
the tongue, had formed in column, on
reaching the spot where it broadened out
again reassumed their triple-line
formation and halted dead.

Then we--that is, the Buffaloes-moved
down the tip of the tongue and took our
stand in reserve, about one hundred
yards behind the last line of the Grays,
and on slightly higher ground.
Meanwhile we had leisure to observe
Twala's entire force, which had evidently
been reinforced since the morning
attack, and could not now,
notwithstanding their losses, number less
than forty thousand, moving swiftly up
towards us. But as they drew near the
root of the tongue they hesitated, having
discovered that only one regiment could
advance into the gorge at a time, and
that there, some seventy yards from the
mouth of it, unassailable except in front,
on account of the high walls of boulder-
strewn ground on either side, stood the
famous regiment of Grays, the pride and
glory of the Kukuana army, ready to hold
the way against their forces as the three
Romans once held the bridge against
thousands. They hesitated, and finally
stopped their advance; there was no
eagerness to cross spears with those
three lines of grim warriors who stood so
firm and ready. Presently, however, a tall
general, with the customary head-dress
of nodding ostrich plumes, came running
up, attended by a group of chiefs and
orderlies, being, I thought, none other
than Twala himself, and gave an order,
and the first regiment raised a shout, and
charged up towards the Grays, who
remained perfectly still and silent until
the attacking troops were within forty
yards, and a volley of tollas, or throwing-
knives, came rattling among their ranks.

Then suddenly, with a bound and a roar,
they sprang forward with uplifted spears,
and the two regiments met in deadly
strife. Next second the roll of the meeting
shields came to our ears like the sound of
thunder and the whole plain seemed to
be alive with flashes of light reflected
from the stabbing spears. To and fro
swung the heaving mass of struggling,
stabbing humanity, but not for long.
Suddenly the attacking lines seemed to
grow thinner, and then with a slow, long
heave the Grays passed over them, just as
a great wave heaves up and passes over a
sunken ridge. It was done; that regiment
was completely destroyed, but the Grays
had but two lines left now; a third of
their number were dead.

Closing up shoulder to shoulder once
more, they halted in silence and awaited
attack; and I was rejoiced to catch sight
of Sir Henry's yellow beard as he moved
to and fro, arranging the ranks. So he
was yet alive!

Meanwhile we moved up on to the
ground of the encounter, which was
cumbered by about four thousand
prostrate human beings, dead, dying,
and wounded, and literally stained red
with blood. Ignosi issued an order, which
was rapidly passed down the ranks, to
the effect that none of the enemy's
wounded were to be killed, and, so far as
we could see, this order was scrupulously
carried out. It would have been a
shocking sight, if we had had time to
think of it.

But now a second regiment, distinguished
by white plumes, kilts, and shields, was
moving up to the attack of the two
thousand remaining Grays, who stood
waiting in the same ominous silence as
before, till the foe was within forty yards
or so, when they hurled themselves with
irresistible force upon them. Again there
came the awful roll of the meeting
shields, and as we watched, the grim
tragedy repeated itself. But this time the
the issue was left longer in doubt;
indeed it seemed for a while almost
impossible that the Grays should again
prevail. The attacking regiment, which
was one formed of young men, fought
with the utmost fury, and at first seemed
by sheer weight to be driving the
veterans back. The slaughter was
something awful, hundreds falling every
minute; and from among the shouts of
the warriors and the groans of the dying,
set to the clashing music of meeting
spears, came a continuous hissing
undertone of " _i_ S'gee, s'gee, _i_" the
note of triumph of each victor as he
passed his spear through and through
the body of his fallen foe.

But perfect discipline and steady and
unchanging valor can do wonders, and
one veteran soldier is worth two young
ones, as soon became apparent in the
present case. For just as we thought that
it was all up with the Grays, and were
preparing to take their place so soon as
they made room by being destroyed, I
heard Sir Henry's deep voice ringing out
above the din, and caught a glimpse of
his circling battle-axe as he waved it high
above his plumes. Then came a change;
the Grays ceased to give; they stood still
as a rock, against which the furious
waves of spearmen broke again and
again, only to recoil. Presently they
began to move again--forward this time;
as they had no firearms there was no
smoke, so we could see it all. Another
minute and the onslaught grew fainter.

"Ah, they are _i_ men _i_ indeed; they
will conquer again," called out Ignosi,
who was grinding his teeth with
excitement at my side. "See, it is done!"

Suddenly, like puffs of smoke from the
mouth of a cannon, the attacking
regiment broke away in flying groups,
their white head-dresses streaming
behind them in the wind, and left their
opponents victors, indeed, but, alas! no
more a regiment. Of the gallant triple
line, which, forty minutes before, had
gone into action three thousand strong,
there remained at most some six
hundred blood-bespattered men; the rest
were under foot. And yet they cheered
and waved their spears in triumph, and
then, instead of falling back upon us as
we expected, they ran forward, for a
hundred yards or so, after the flying
groups of foemen, took possession of a
gently rising knoll of ground, and,
resuming the old triple formation,
formed a three-fold ring around it. And
then, thanks be to God, standing on the
top of a mound for a minute, I saw Sir
Henry, apparently unharmed, and with
him our old friend Infadoos. Then
Twala's regiments rolled down upon the
doomed band, and once more the battle
closed in.

As those who read this history will
probably long ago have gathered, I am,
to be honest, a bit of a coward, and
certainly in no way given to fighting,
though, somehow, it has often been my
lot to get into unpleasant positions, and
to be obliged to shed man's blood. But I
have always hated it, and kept my own
blood as undiminished in quantity as
possible, sometimes by a judicious use of
my heels. At this moment, however, for
the first time in my life, I felt my bosom
burn with martial ardor. War-like
fragments from the "Ingoldsby Legends,"
together with numbers of sanguinary
verses from the Old Testament, sprang
up in my brain like mushrooms in the
dark; my blood, which hitherto had been
half-frozen with horror, went beating
through my veins, and there came upon
me a savage desire to kill and spare not. I
glanced round at the serried ranks of
warriors behind us, and somehow, all in
an instant, began to wonder if my face
looked like theirs. There they stood, their
heads craned forward over their shields,
the hands twitching, the lips apart, the
fierce features instinct with the hungry
lust of battle, and in the eyes a look like
the glare of a bloodhound when he sights
his quarry.

Only Ignosi's heart seemed, to judge from
his comparative self-possession, to all
appearance, to beat as calmly as ever
beneath his leopard-skin cloak, though
even he still kept on grinding his teeth. I
could stand it no longer.

"Are we to stand here till we put out
roots, Umbopa--Ignosi, I mean--while
Twala swallows our brothers yonder?" I
asked;

"Nay, Macumazahn," was the answer;
"see, now is the ripe moment; let us pluck
it."

As he spoke a fresh regiment rushed past
the ring upon the little mound, and,
wheeling round, attacked it from the
hither side.

'Then, lifting his battle-axe, Ignosi gave
the signal to advance, and, raising the
Kukuana battle-cry, the Buffaloes
charged home with a rush like the rush
of the sea.

What followed immediately on this it is
out of my power to tell. All I can
remember is a wild yet ordered rushing,
that seemed to shake the ground; a
sudden change of front and forming up
on the part of the regiment against which
the charge was directed; then the awful
shock, a dull roar of voices, and a
continuous flashing of spears, seen
through a red mist of blood.

When my mind cleared I found. myself
standing inside the remnant of the Grays
near the top of the mound, and just
behind no less a person than Sir Henry
himself. How I got there I had, at the
moment, no idea, but Sir Henry
afterwards told me that I was borne up
by the first furious charge of the
Buffaloes almost to his feet, and then left,
as they in turn were pressed back.
Thereon he dashed out of the circle and
dragged me into it.

As for the fight that followed, who can
describe it? Again and again the
multitudes surged up against our
momentarily lessening circle, and again
and again we beat them back.

"The stubborn spearsmen still made
good

The dark impenetrable wood;

Each stepping where his comrade stood

The instant that he fell,"

as I think the "Ingoldsby Legends"
beautifully puts it.

It was a splendid thing to see those brave
battalions come on time. after time over
the barriers of their dead, sometimes
holding corpses before them to receive
our spear-thrusts, only to leave their own
corpses to swell the rising piles. It was a
gallant sight to see that sturdy old
warrior, Infadoos, as cool as though he
were on parade, shouting out orders,
taunts, and even jests, to keep up the
spirit of his few remaining men, and
then, as each charge rolled up, stepping
forward to wherever the fighting was
thickest, to bear his share in repelling it.
And yet more gallant was the vision of
Sir Henry, whose ostrich plumes had
been torn off by a spear-stroke, so that
his long yellow hair streamed out in the
breeze behind him.

There he stood, the great Dane, for he
was nothing else, his hands, his axe, and
his armor all red with blood, and none
could live before his stroke. Time after
time I saw it come sweeping down, as
some great warrior ventured to give him
battle, and as he struck he shouted, "_i_
Oh-hoy! O-hoy! _i_" like his Bersekir
forefathers, and the blow went crashing
through shield and spear, through
headdress, hair, and skull, till at last
none would of their own will come near
the great white "tagati" (wizard), who
killed and failed not.

But suddenly there rose a cry of "_i_
Twala, y' Twala _i_" and out of the press
sprang forward none other than the
gigantic one-eyed king himself, also
armed with battle-axe and shield, and
clad in chain armor.

"Where art thou, Incubu, thou white man,
who slew Scragga, my son--see if thou
canst kill me!" he shouted, and at the
same time hurled a tolla straight at Sir
Henry, who, fortunately, saw it coming,
and caught it on his shield, which
transfixed it, remaining wedged in the
iron plate behind the hide.

Then with a cry, Twala sprang forward
straight at him, and with his battle-axe
struck him such a blow upon the shield
that the mere force and shock of it
brought Sir Henry, strong man as he was,
down upon his knees.

But at the time the matter went no
further, for at that instant there rose
from the regiments pressing round us
something like a shout of dismay, and on
looking up I saw the cause.

To the right and to the left the plain was
alive with the plumes of charging
warriors. The outflanking squadrons had
come to our relief. The time could not
have been better chosen. All Twala's
army had, as Ignosi had predicted would
be the case, fixed their attention on the
bloody struggle which was raging round
the remnant of the Grays and the
Buffaloes, who were now carrying on a
battle of their own at a little distance,
which two regiments had formed the
chest of our army. It was not until the
horns were about to close upon them
that they had dreamed of their approach.
And now, before they could even assume
a proper formation for defence, the
outflanking Impis had leaped, like
greyhounds, on their flanks.

In five minutes the fate of the battle was
decided. Taken on both flanks, and
dismayed by the awful slaughter inflicted
upon them by the Grays and Buffaloes,
Twala's regiments broke into flight, and
soon the whole plain between us and Loo
was scattered with groups of flying
soldiers, making good their retreat. As
for the forces that had so recently
surrounded us and the Buffaloes, they
melted away as though by magic, and
presently we were left standing there like
a rock from which the sea has retreated.
But what a sight it was! Around us the
dead and dying lay in heaped-up masses,
and of the gallant Grays there remained
alive but ninety-five men. More than two
thousand nine hundred had fallen in this
one regiment, most of them never to rise
again.

"Men," said Infadoos, calmly, as between
the intervals of binding up a wound in
his arm he surveyed what remained to
him of his corps, "ye have kept up the
reputation of your regiment, and this
day's fighting will be spoken of by your
children's children." Then he turned
round and shook Sir Henry Curtis by the
hand. "Thou art a great man, Incubu," he
said, simply; "I have lived a long life
among warriors, and known. many a
brave one, yet have I never seen a man
like thee."

At this moment the Buffaloes began to
march past our position on the road to
Loo, and as they did so a message was
brought to us from Ignosi requesting
Infadoos, Sir Henry, and myself to join
him. Accordingly, orders having been
issued to the remaining ninety men of
the Grays to employ themselves in
collecting the wounded, we joined Ignosi,
who informed us that he was pressing on
to Loo to complete the victory by
capturing Twala, if that should be
possible. Before we had gone far we
suddenly discovered the figure of Good
sitting on an ant-heap about one
hundred paces from us. Close beside him
was the body of a Kukuana.

"He must be wounded," said Sir Henry,
anxiously. As he made the remark, an
untoward thing happened. The dead
body of the Kukuana soldier, or rather
what had appeared to be his dead body,
suddenly sprang up, knocked Good head
over heels off the ant-heap, and began to
spear him. We rushed forward in terror,
and as we drew near we saw the brawny
warrior making dig after dig at the
prostrate Good, who at each prod jerked
all his limbs into the air. Seeing us
coming, the Kukuana gave one final most
vicious dig, and with a shout of "Take
that, wizard," bolted off. Good did not
move, and we concluded that our poor
comrade was done for. Sadly we came
towards him, and were indeed astonished
to find him pale and faint indeed, but
with a serene smile upon his face, and
his eyeglass still fixed in his eye.

"Capital armor this," he murmured, on
catching sight of our faces bending over
him. "How sold he must have been," and
then he fainted. On examination we
discovered that he had been seriously
wounded in the leg by a tolla in the
course of the pursuit, but that the chain-
armor had prevented his last assailant's
spear from doing anything more than
bruise him badly. It was a merciful
escape. As nothing could be done for him
at the moment, he was placed on one of
the wicker shields used for the wounded,
and carried along with us.

On arriving before the nearest gate of
Loo we found one of our regiments
watching it in obedience to orders
received from Ignosi. The remaining
regiments were in the same way watching
the other exits to the town. The officer in
command of this regiment coming up,
saluted lgnosi as king, and informed him
that Twala's army had taken refuge in
the town, whither Twala himself had also
escaped, but that he thought they were
thoroughly demoralized, and. would
surrender. Thereupon lgnosi, after taking
counsel with us, sent forward heralds to
each gate ordering the defenders to
open, and promising on his royal word
life and forgiveness to every soldier who
laid down his arms. The message was not
without its effect. Presently, amid the
shouts and cheers of the Buffaloes, the
bridge was dropped across the fosse, and
the gates upon the farther side flung
open.

Taking due precautions against
treachery, we marched on into the
town. All along the roadways stood
dejected warriors, their heads
drooping and their shields and spears
at their feet, who, as Ignosi passed,
saluted him as king. On we marched,
straight to Twala's kraal. When we
reached the great space, where a day
or two previously we had seen the
review and the witch-hunt, we found it
deserted. No, not quite deserted, for
there, on the farther side, in front of
his hut, sat Twala himself, with but one
attendant--Gagool.

It was a melancholy sight to see him
seated there, his battle-axe and shield
by his side, his chin upon his mailed
breast, with but one old crone for
companion, and, notwithstanding his
cruelties and misdeeds, a pang of
compassion shot through me as I saw
him thus "fallen from his high estate."
Not a soldier of all his armies, not a
courtier out of the hundreds who had
cringed round him, not even a solitary
wife, remained to share his fate or
halve the bitterness of his fall. Poor
savage! he was learning the lesson that
fate teaches to most who live long
enough, that the eyes of mankind are
blind to the discredited, and that he
who is defenceless and fallen finds few
friends and little mercy. Nor, indeed,
in this case did he deserve any.

Filing through the kraal gate, we
marched straight across the open
space to where the ex-king sat. When
within about fifty yards the regiment
was halted, and, accompanied only by
a small guard, we advanced towards
him, Gagool reviling us bitterly as we
came. As we drew near, Twala, for the
first time, lifted up his plumed head,
and fixed his one eye, which seemed to
flash with suppressed fury almost as
brightly as the great diadem bound
round his forehead, upon his
successful rival --Ignosi.

"Hail, O king!" he said, with bitter
mockery; "thou who hast eaten of my
bread, and now by the aid of the white
man's magic hast seduced my
regiments and defeated mine army,
hail! what fate hast thou for me, O
king?"

"The fate thou gavest to my father,
whose throne thou hast sat on these
many years!" was the stern answer.

"It is well. I will show thee how to die,
that thou mayest remember it against
thine own time. See, the sun sinks in
blood," and he pointed with his red
battle-axe towards the fiery orb now
going down; "it is well that my sun
should sink with it. And now, O king! I
am ready to die, but I crave the boon
of the Kukuana royal house to die
fighting. Thou canst not refuse it, or
even those cowards who fled to-day
will hold thee shamed."

"It is granted. Choose--with whom wilt
thou fight? Myself, I cannot fight with
thee, for the king fights not except in
war."

Twala's sombre eye ran up and down
our ranks, and I felt, as for a moment it
rested on myself, that the position had
developed a new horror. What if he
chose to begin by fighting me? What
chance should I have against a
desperate savage six feet five high, and
broad in proportion? I might as well
commit suicide at once. Hastily I made
up my mind to decline the combat,
even if I were hooted out of
Kukuanaland as a consequence. It is, I
think, better to be hooted than to be
quartered with a battle-axe.

Presently he spoke.

"Incubu, what sayest thou, shall we end
what we began to-day, or shall I call
thee coward, white--even to the liver?"

"Nay," interposed Ignosi, hastily; "thou
shalt not fight with Incubu."

"Not if he is afraid," said Twala.

Unfortunately Sir Henry understood
this remark, and the blood flamed up
into his cheeks.

"I will fight him." he said; "he shall see
if I am afraid."

"For God's sake," I entreated, "don't
risk your life against that of a
desperate man. Anybody who saw you
to-day will know that you are not a
coward."

"I will fight him," was the sullen
answer. "No living man shall call me a
coward. I am ready now!" and he
stepped forward and lifted his axe.

I wrung my hands over this absurd
piece of Quixotism; but if he was
determined on fighting, of course I
could not stop him.

"Fight not, my white brother," said
Ignosi, laying his hand affectionately
on Sir Henry's arm; "thou hast fought
enough, and if aught befell thee at his
hands it would cut my heart in twain."

"I will fight, Ignosi," was Sir Henry's
answer.

"It is well, Incubu; thou art a brave
man. It will be a good fight. Behold.
Twala, the Elephant is ready for thee,"

The ex-king laughed savagely, and
stepped forward and faced Curtis. For a
moment they stood thus, and the
setting sun caught their stalwart
frames and clothed them both in fire.
They were a well-matched pair.

Then they began to circle round each
other, their battle-axes raised.

Suddenly Sir Henry sprang forward
and struck a fearful blow at Twala, who
stepped to one side. So heavy was the
stroke that the striker half
overbalanced himself, a circumstance
of which his antagonist took a prompt
advantage. Circling his heavy battle-
axe round his head he brought it down
with tremendous force. My heart
jumped into my mouth; I thought the
affair was already finished. But no;
with a quick upward movement of the
left arm Sir Henry interposed his
shield between himself and the axe,
with the result that its outer edge was
shorn clean off, the axe falling on his
left shoulder, but not heavily enough
to do any serious damage. In another
second Sir Henry got in another blow,
which was also received by Twala upon
his shield. Then followed blow upon
blow, which were in turn, either
received upon the shield or avoided.
The excitement grew intense; the
regiment which was watching the
encounter forgot its discipline, and,
drawing near, shouted and groaned at
every stroke. Just at this time, too.
Good, who had been lad upon the
ground by me, recovered from his
faint, and. sitting up. perceived what
was going on. In an instant he was up,
and, catching hold of my arm, hopped
about from place to place on one leg,
dragging me after him, yelling out
encouragements to Sir Henry--

"Go it, old fellow!" he hallooed. "That
was a good one! Give it him
amidships," and so on.

Presently Sir Henry having caught a
fresh stroke upon his shield, hit out
with all his force. The stroke cut
through Twala's shield and through
the tough chain armor behind it,
gashing him in the shoulder. With a
yell of pain and fury Twala returned
the stroke with interest, and, such was
his strength, shore right through the
rhinoceros-horn handle of his
antagonist's battle-axe, strengthened
as it was with bands of steel wounding
Curtis in the face.

A cry of dismay rose from the Buffaloes
as our hero's broad axe-head fell to the
ground; and Twala, again raising his
weapon, flew at him with a shout. I
shut my eyes. When I opened them
again, it was to see Sir Henry's shield
lying on the ground, and Sir Henry
himself with his great arms twined
round Twala's middle. To and fro they
swung, hugging each other like bears,
straining with all their mighty muscles
for dear life and dearer honor. With a
supreme effort Twala swung the
Englishman clean off his feet, and
down they came together, rolling over
and over on the lime paving, Twala
striking out at Curtis's head with the
battle-axe, and Sir Henry trying to
drive the tolla he had drawn from his
belt through Twala's armor.

It was a mighty struggle and an awful
thing to see.

"Get his axe!" yelled Good; and
perhaps our champion heard him.

At any rate, dropping the tolla, he
made a grab at the axe, which was
fastened to Twala's wrist by a strip of
buffalo-hide, and, still rolling over and
over, they fought for it like wildcats,
drawing their breath in heavy gasps.
Suddenly the hide string burst, and
then, with a great effort, Sir Henry
freed himself, the weapon remaining in
his grasp. Another second and he was
up on his feet, the red blood streaming
from the wound in his face, and so was
Twala. Drawing the heavy tolla from
his belt, he staggered straight at Curtis
and struck him upon the breast. The
blow came home true and strong, but
whoever it was made that chain armor
understood his art, for it withstood the
steel. Again Twala struck out with a
savage yell, and again the heavy knife
rebounded and Sir Henry went
staggering back. Once more Twala
came on, and as he came our great
Englishman gathered himself together,
and, swinging the heavy axe round his
head, hit at him with all his force.
There was a shriek of excitement from
a thousand throats, and behold!
Twala's head seemed to spring from
his shoulders, and then fell and came
rolling and bounding along the ground
towards Ignosi, stopping just at his
feet. For a second the corpse stood
upright, the blood spouting in
fountains from the severed arteries;
then with a dull crash it fell to the
earth, and the gold torque from the
neck went rolling away across the
pavement. As it did so Sir Henry,
overpowered by faintness and loss of
blood, fell heavily across it.

In a second he was lifted up, and eager
hands were pouring water on his face.
Another minute, and the great gray
eyes opened wide. He was not dead.

Then I, just as the sun sank, stepping
to where Twala's head lay in the dust,
unloosed the diamond from the dead
brows and handed it to Ignosi.

"Take it," I said, "lawful king of the
Kukuanas."

Ignosi bound the diadem upon his
brows, and then advancing placed his
foot upon the broad chest of his
headless foe and broke out into a
chant, or rather a paean of victory, so
beautiful, and yet so utterly savage,
that I despair of being able to give an
adequate idea of it. I once heard a
scholar with a fine voice read aloud
from the Greek poet Homer, and I
remember that the sound of the rolling
lines seemed to make my blood stand
still. Ignosi's chant, uttered as it was in
a language as beautiful and sonorous
as the old Greek, produced exactly the
same effect on me, although I was
exhausted with toil and many
emotions.

"Now," he began, "now is our rebellion
swallowed up in victory, and our evil-
doing justified by strength.

"In the morning the oppressors rose up
and shook themselves; they bound on
their plumes and made them ready for
war.

"They rose up and grasped their
spears; the soldiers called to the
captains, 'Come, lead us and the
captains cried to the king, 'Direct thou
the battle.'

"They rose up in their pride, twenty
thousand men, and yet a twenty
thousand.

"Their plumes covered the earth as the
plumes of a bird cover her nest; they
shook their spears and shouted, yea,
they hurled their spears into the
sunlight; they lusted for the battle and
were glad.
"They came up against me; their
strong ones came running swiftly to
crush me; they cried, 'Ha! ha! he is as
one already dead.'

"Then breathed I on them, and my
breath was as the breath of a storm,
and lo! they were not.

"My lightnings pierced them; I licked
up their strength with the lightning of
my spears; I shook them to the earth
with the thunder of my shouting.

"They broke--they scattered--they were
gone as the mists of the morning.

"They are food for the crows and the
foxes, and the place of battle is fat with
their blood.

"Where are the mighty ones who rose
up in the morning?

"Where are the proud ones who tossed
their plumes and cried, 'He is as one
already dead'?

"They bow their heads, but not in
sleep; they are stretched out, but not in
sleep.

"They are forgotten; they have gone
into the blackness, and shall not
return; yea, others shall lead away
their wives, and their children shall
remember them no more.

"And I--I! the king--like an eagle have I
found my eyrie.

"Behold! far have I wandered in the
night-time, yet have I returned to my
little ones at the daybreak.

"Creep ye under the shadow of my
wings, O people, and I will comfort ye,
and ye shall not be dismayed.

"Now is the good time, the time of
spoil.

"Mine are the cattle in the valleys, the
virgins in the kraals are mine also.

"The winter is overpast, the summer is
at hand.

"Now shall Evil cover up her face, and
prosperity shall bloom in the land like
a lily.

"Rejoice, rejoice, my people! let all the
land rejoice in that the tyranny is
trodden down, in that I am the king."

He paused, and out of the gathering
gloom there came back the deep
deeply:

"Thou art the king."

Thus it was that my prophecy to the
herald came true, and within the forty-
eight hours Twala's headless corpse
was stiffening at Twala's gate.

 

CHAPTER XV--GOOD FALLS SICK

 

 

AFTER the fight was ended Sir Henry
and Good were carried into Twala's
hut, where I joined them. They were
both utterly exhausted by exertion and
loss of blood, and, indeed, my own
condition was little better. I am very
wiry, and can stand more fatigue than
most men, probably on account of my
light weight and long training; but that
night I was fairly done up, and, as is
always the case with me when
exhausted, that old wound the lion
gave me began to pain me. Also my.
head was aching violently from the
blow I had received in the morning,
when I was knocked senseless.
Altogether, a more miserable trio than
we were that evening it would have
been difficult to discover; and our only
comfort lay in the reflection that we
were exceedingly fortunate to be there
to feel miserable, instead of being
stretched dead upon the plain, as so
many thousands of brave men were
that night, who had risen well and
strong in the morning. Somehow, with
the assistance of the beautiful Foulata,
who, since we had been the means of
saving her life, had constituted herself
our handmaiden, and especially
Good's, we managed to get off the
chain shirts, which had certainly saved
the lives of two of us that day, when we
found that the flesh underneath was
terribly bruised, for though the steel
links had prevented the weapons from
entering, they had not prevented them
from bruising. Both Sir Henry and
Good were a mass of bruises, and I was
by no means free. As a remedy Foulata
brought us some pounded green leaves
with an aromatic odor, which, when
applied as a plaster, gave us
considerable relief. But though the
bruises were painful, they did not give
us such anxiety as Sir Henry's and
Good's wounds. Good had a hole right
through the fleshy part of his
"beautiful white leg," from which he
had lost a great deal of blood; and Sir
Henry had a deep cut over the jaw,
inflicted by Twala's battle-axe. Luckily
Good was a very decent surgeon, and
as soon as his small box of medicines
was forthcoming, he, having
thoroughly cleansed the wounds,
managed to stitch up first Sir Henry's
and then his own pretty satisfactorily,
considering the imperfect light given
by the primitive Kukuana lamp in the
hut. Afterwards he plentifully smeared
the wounds with some antiseptic
ointment, of which there was a pot in
the little box, and we covered them
with the remains of a pocket-
handkerchief which we possessed.

Meanwhile Foulata had prepared us
some strong broth, for we were too
weary to eat. This we swallowed, and
then threw ourselves down on the piles
of magnificent karosses, or fur rags,
which were scattered about the dead
king's great hut. By a very strange
instance of the irony of fate, it was on
Twala's own couch, and wrapped in
Twala's own particular kaross, that Sir
Henry, the man who had slain him,
slept that night.

I say slept; but after that day's work
sleep was indeed difficult. To begin
with, in very truth the air was full

"Of farewells to the dying

And mournings for the dead."

>From every direction came the sound
of the wailing of women whose
husbands, sons, and brothers had
perished in the fight. No wonder that
they wailed, for over twenty thousand
men, or nearly a third of the Kukuana
army, had been destroyed in that awful
struggle. It was heart-rending to lie
and listen to their cries for those who
would never return; and it made one
realize the full horror of the work done
that day to further man's ambition.
Towards midnight, however, the
ceaseless crying of the women grew
less frequent, till at length the silence
was only broken at intervals of a few
minutes by a long, piercing howl that
came from a hut in our immediate
rear, and which I afterwards
discovered proceeded from Gagool
wailing for the dead king, Twala.

After that I got a little fitful sleep, only
to awake from time to time with a start,
thinking that I was once more an actor
in the terrible events of the last
twenty-four hours. Now I seemed to see
that warrior, whom my hand had sent
to his last account, charging at me on
the mountain-top; now I was once
more in that glorious ring of Grays,
which made its immortal stand against
all Twala's regiments, upon the little
mound; and now again I saw Twala's
plumed and gory head roll past my
feet with gnashing teeth and glaring
eye. At last, somehow or other, the
night passed away; but when dawn
broke I found that my companions had
slept no better than myself. Good,
indeed, was in a high fever, and very
soon afterwards began to grow light-
headed, and also, to my alarm, to spit
blood, the result, no doubt, of some
internal injury inflicted by the
desperate efforts made by the Kukuana
warrior on the previous day to get his
big spear through the chain armor. Sir
Henry, however, seemed pretty fresh,
notwithstanding the wound on his
face, which made eating difficult and
laughter an impossibility, though he
was so sore and stiff that he could
scarcely stir.

About eight o'clock we had a visit from
Infadoos, who seemed but little the
worse--tough old warrior that he was
for his exertions on the previous day,
though he informed us he had been up
all night. He was delighted to see us,
though much grieved at Good's
condition, and shook hands cordially;
but I noticed that he addressed Sir
Henry with a kind of reverence, as
though he were something more than
man; and indeed, as we afterwards
found out, the great Englishman was
looked on throughout Kukuanaland as
a supernatural being. No man, the
soldiers said, could have fought as he
fought, or could, at the end of a day of
such toil and bloodshed, have slain
Twala, who, in addition to being the
king, was supposed to be the strongest
warrior in Kukuanaland, in single
combat, sheering through his bull-neck
at a stroke. Indeed, that stroke became
proverbial in Kukuanaland, and any
extraordinary blow or feat of strength
was thenceforth known as "Incubu's
blow."

Infadoos told us also that all Twala's
regiments had submitted to Ignosi, and
that like submissions were beginning
to arrive from chiefs in the country.
Twala's death at the hands of Sir Henry
had put an end to all further chance of
disturbance; for Scragga had been his,
only son, and there was no rival
claimant left alive.

I remarked that Ignosi had swum to the
throne through blood. The old chief
shrugged his shoulders. "Yes," he
answered; "but the Kukuana people
can only be kept cool by letting the
blood flow sometimes. Many were
killed, indeed, but the women were left,
and others would soon grow up to take
the places of the fallen. After this the
land would be quiet for a while."

Afterwards, in the course of the
morning, we had a short visit from
Ignosi, on whose brows the royal
diadem was now bound. As I
contemplated him advancing with
kingly dignity, an obsequious guard
following his steps, I could not help
recalling to my mind the tall Zulu who
had presented himself to us at Durban
some few months back, asking to be
taken into our service, and reflecting
on the strange revolutions of the wheel
of fortune.

"Hail, O king!" I said, rising.

"YES, Macumazahn. King at last, by the
grace of your three right hands," was
the ready answer.

All was, he said, going on well; and he
hoped to arrange a great feast in two
weeks' time, in order to show himself
to the people.

I asked him what he had settled to do
with Gagool.

"She is the evil genius of the land," he
answered, "and I shall kill her, and all
the witch-doctors with her! She has
lived so long that none can remember
when she was not old, and always she
it is who has trained the witch-hunters,
and made the land evil in the sight of
the heavens above."

"Yet she knows much," I replied; "it is
easier to destroy knowledge, Ignosi,
than to gather it."

"It is so," he said, thoughtfully. "She,
and she only, knows the secret of the
'Three Witches' yonder, whither the
great road runs, where the kings were
buried, and the silent ones sit."

"Yes, and the diamonds are. Forget not
thy promise, Ignosi; thou must lead us
to the mines, even if thou hast to spare
Gagool alive to show the way."

"I will not forget, Macumazahn, and I
will think on what thou sayest."

After Ignosi's visit I went to see Good,
and found him quite delirious. The
fever from his wound seemed to have
taken a firm hold of his system, and to
be complicated by an internal injury.
For four or five days his condition was
most critical; indeed, I firmly believe
that had it not been for Foulata's
indefatigable nursing he must have
died.

Women are women, all the world over,
whatever their color. Yet somehow it
seemed curious to watch this dusky
beauty bending night and day over the
fevered man's couch, and performing
all the merciful errands of the sick-
room as swiftly, gently, and with as
fine an instinct as a trained hospital
nurse. For the first night or two I tried
to help her, and so did Sir Henry so
soon as his stiffness allowed him to
move, but she bore our interference
with impatience, and finally insisted
upon our leaving him to her, saying
that our movements made him restless,
which I think was true. Day and night
she watched and tended him, giving
him his only medicine, a native cooling
drink made of milk, in which was
infused the juice of the bulb of a
species of tulip, and keeping the flies
from settling on him. I can see the
whole picture now as it appeared night
after night by the light of our primitive
lamp, Good tossing to and fro, his
features emaciated, his eyes shining
large and luminous, and jabbering
nonsense by the yard; and seated on
the ground by his side, her back
resting against the wall of the hut, the
soft-eyed, shapely Kukuana beauty,
her whole face, weary as it was,
animated by a look of infinite
compassion --or was it something more
than compassion?

For two days we thought that he must
die, and crept about with heavy hearts.

Only Foulata would not believe it.

"He will live," she said.

For three hundred yards or more
around Twala's chief hut, where the
sufferer lay, there was silence; for by
the king's order all who lived in the
habitations behind it had, except Sir
Henry and myself, been removed, lest
any noise should come to the sick
man's ear. One night, it was the fifth
night of his illness, as was my habit I
went across to see how he was getting
on before turning in for a few hours.

I entered the hut carefully. The lamp
placed upon the floor showed the
figure of Good, tossing no more, but
lying quite still.

So it had come at last! and in the
bitterness of my heart I gave
something like a sob.

"Hush--h--h!" came from the patch of
dark shadow behind Good's head.

Then, creeping closer; I saw that he
was not dead, but sleeping soundly,
with Foulata's taper fingers clasped
tightly in his poor white hand, The
crisis had passed, and he would live.
He slept like that for eighteen hours;
and I scarcely like to say it, for fear I
should not be believed, but during that
entire period did that devoted girl sit
by him, fearing that if she moved and
drew away her hand it would wake
him. What she must have suffered from
cramp, stiffness, and weariness, to say
nothing of want of food, nobody will
ever know; but it is a fact that, when at
last he woke, she had to be carried
away--her limbs were so stiff that she
could not move them.

After the turn had once been taken,
Good's recovery was rapid and
complete. It was not till he was nearly
well that Sir Henry told him of all he
owed to Foulata; and when he came to
the story of how she sat by his side for
eighteen hours fearing lest by moving
she should wake him, the honest
sailor's eyes filled with tears. He turned
and went straight to the hut where
Foulata was preparing the midday
meal (we were back in our old quarters
now), taking me with him to interpret
in case he could not make his meaning
clear to her, though I am bound to say
she understood him marvellously as a
rule, considering how extremely
limited was his foreign vocabulary.

"Tell her," said Good, "that I owe her
my life, and that I will never forget her
kindness."

I interpreted, and under her dark skin
she actually seemed to blush.

Turning to him with one of those swift
and graceful motions that in her
always reminded me of the flight of a
wild bird, she answered softly,
glancing at him with her large brown
eyes:

"Nay, my lord; my lord forgets! Did he
not save my life, and am I not my
lord's handmaiden?"

It will be observed that the young lady
appeared to have entirely forgotten the
share which Sir Henry and myself had
had in her preservation from Twala's
clutches. But that is the way of women!
I remember my dear wife was just the
same. I retired from that little
interview sad at heart. I did not like
Miss Foulata's soft glances, for I knew
the fatal amorous propensities of
sailors in general, and Good in
particular.

There are two things in the world, as I
have found it, which cannot be
prevented: you cannot keep a Zulu
from fighting, or a sailor from falling
in love upon the slightest provocation!

It was a few days after this last
occurrence that Ignosi held his great
"indaba" (council), and was formally
recognized as king by the "indunas"
(head men) of Kukuanaland. The
spectacle was a most imposing one,
including, as it did, a great review of
troops. On this day the remaining
fragment of the Grays were formally
paraded, and in the face of the army
thanked for their splendid conduct in
the great battle. To each man the king
made a large present of cattle,
promoting them one and all to the
rank of officers in the new corps of
Grays which was in process of
formation. An order was also
promulgated throughout the length
and breadth of Kukuanaland that,
while we honored the country with our
presence, we three were to be greeted
with the royal salute, to be treated with
the same ceremony and respect that
was by custom accorded to the king,
and the power of life and death was
publicly conferred upon us. Ignosi, too,
in the presence of his people,
reaffirmed the promises that he had
made, to the effect that no man's blood
should be shed without trial, and that
witch-hunting should cease in the
land.

When the ceremony was over we
waited upon Ignosi, and informed him
that we were now anxious to
investigate the mystery of the mines to
which Solomon's Road ran, asking him
if he had discovered anything about
them.

"My friends," he answered, "this have I
discovered. It is there that the three
great figures sit, who here are called
the 'Silent Ones,' and to whom Twala
would have offered the girl, Foulata, as
a sacrifice. It is there, too, in a great
cave deep in the mountain, that the
kings of the land are buried; there ye
shall find Twala's body, sitting with
those who went before him. There, too,
is a great pit which, at some time, long
dead men dug out, mayhap for the
stones ye speak of, such as I have
heard men in Natal speak of at
Kimberley. There, too, in the Place of
Death is a secret chamber, known to
none but the king and Gagool. But
Twala, who knew it, is dead, and I
know it not, nor know I what is in it.
But there is a legend in the land that
once, many generations gone, a white
man crossed the mountains, and was
led by a woman to the secret chamber
and shown the wealth, but before he
could take it she betrayed him, and he
was driven by the king of the day back
to the mountains, and since then no
man has entered the chamber."

"The story is surely true, Ignosi, for on
the mountain we found the white
man," I said.

"Yes, we found him. And now I have
promised ye that if ye can find that
chamber, and the stones are there--"

"The, stone upon thy forehead proves
that they are there," I put in, pointing
to the great diamond I had taken from
Twala's dead brows.

"Mayhap; if they are there," he said,
"ye shall have as many as ye can take
hence--if, indeed, ye would leave me,
my brothers."
"First we must find the chamber," said
I.

"There is but one who can show it to
thee--Gagool.',

"And if she will not?"

"Then shall she die," said Ignosi,
sternly. "I have saved her alive but for
this. Stay, she shall choose," and,
calling to a messenger, he ordered
Gagool to be brought.

In a few minutes she came, hurried
along by two guards, whom she was
cursing as she walked.

"Leave her," said the king to the
guards.

As soon as their support was
withdrawn the withered old bundle, for
she looked more like a bundle than
anything else, sank into a heap on the
floor out of which her two bright,
wicked eyes gleamed like a snake's.

"What will ye with me, Ignosi?" she
piped. "Ye dare not touch me. If ye
touch me I will blast ye as ye sit.
Beware of my magic."

"Thy magic could not save Twala, old
she-wolf, and it cannot hurt me." was
the answer. "Listen: I will this of thee,
that thou reveal where is the chamber
where are the shining stones."

"Ha! ha!" she piped, "none know but I,
and I will never tell thee. The white
devils shall go hence empty-handed."

"Thou wilt tell me. I will make thee tell
me."

"How, O king? Thou art great, but can
thy power wring the truth from a
woman?"

"It is difficult, yet will I do it."

"How, O king?"

"Nay, thus; if thou tellest not thou shalt
slowly die."

"Die!" she shrieked, in terror and fury;
"ye dare not touch me man, ye know
not who I am. How old think ye am I? I
knew your fathers, and your fathers'
fathers' fathers. When the country was
young I was here, when the country
grows old I shall still be here. I cannot
die unless I be killed by chance, for
none dare slay me."

"Yet will I slay thee. See, Gagool,
mother of evil, thou art so old thou
canst no longer love thy life: What can
life be to such a hag as thee, who hast
no shape, nor form, nor hair, nor teeth
--hast naught, save wickedness and evil
eyes? It will be mercy to slay thee,
Gagool."

"Thou fool," shrieked the old fiend,
"thou accursed fool, thinkest thou that
life is sweet only to the young? It is not
so, and naught thou knowest of the
heart of man to think it. To the young,
indeed, death is sometimes welcome,
for the young can feel. They love and
suffer, and it wrings them to see their
beloved pass to the land of shadows.
But the old feel not, they love not, and,
ha! they laugh to see another go out
into the dark; ha! ha! they laugh to see
the evil that is done under the sun. All
they love is life, the warm, warm sun,
and the sweet, sweet air. They are
afraid of the cold; afraid of the cold
and the dark, ha! ha! ha!" and the old
hag writhed in ghastly merriment on
the ground.

"Cease thine evil talk and answer me,"
said Ignosi, angrily. "Wilt thou show
the place where the stones are, or wilt
thou not? If thou wilt not, thou diest,
even now," and he seized a spear and
held it over her.

"I will not show it; thou darest not kill
me, darest not. He who slays me. will
be accursed forever."

Slowly Ignosi brought down the spear
till it pricked the prostrate heap of
rags.

With a wild yell she sprang to her feet,
and then again fell and rolled upon the
floor.

"Nay; I will show it. Only let me live, let
me sit in the sun and have a bit of
meat to suck, and I will show thee."

"It is well. I thought I should find a way
to reason with thee. To-morrow shalt
thou go with Infadoos and my white
brothers to the place, and beware how
thou failest, for if thou showest it not,
then shalt thou slowly die. I have
spoken."

"1 will not fail, Ignosi. I always keep
my word: _i_ ha! ha! ha! _i_ Once a
woman showed the place to a white
man before, and behold evil befell
him," and here her wicked eyes
glinted. "Her name was Gagool, too.
Perchance I was that woman."

"Thou liest," I said, "that was ten
generations gone."

"Mayhap, mayhap; when one lives long
one forgets. Perhaps it was my
mother's mother who told me; surely
her name was Gagool, also, But mark,
ye will find in the place where the
bright playthings are a bag of hide full
of stones. The man filled that bag, but
he never took it away. Evil befell him, I
say; evil befell him! Perhaps it was my
mother's mother who told me. It will be
a merry journey--we can see the bodies
of those who died in the battle as we
go. Their eyes will be gone by now, and
their ribs will be hollow. Ha! ha! ha!"

 

 

CHAPTER XVI--THE PLACE OF DEATH

 

 

IT was already dark on the third day
after the scene described in the
previous chapter, when we camped in
some huts at the foot of the "Three
Witches," as the triangle of mountains
was called to which Solomon's Great
Road ran. Our party consisted of our
three selves and Foulata, who waited
on us---especially on Good--Infadoos,
Gagool, who was borne along in a
litter, inside which she could be heard
muttering and cursing all day long,
and a party of guards and attendants.
The mountains, or rather the three
peaks of the mountains, for the whole
mass evidently consisted of a solitary
upheaval, were, as I have said, in the
form of a triangle, of which the base
was towards us, one peak being on our
right, one on our left, and one straight
in front of us. Never shall I forget the
sight afforded by those three towering
peaks in the early sunlight of the
following morning. High, high above
us, up into the blue air, soared their
twisted snow-wreaths. Beneath the
snow the peaks were purple with
heath, and so were the wild moors that
ran up the slopes towards them.
Straight before us the white ribbon of
Solomon's Great Road stretched away
up-hill to the foot of the centre peak,
about five miles from us, and then
stopped. It was its terminus.

I had better leave the feelings of
intense excitement with which we set
out on our march that morning to the
imagination of those who read this
history. At last we were drawing near
to the wonderful mines that had been
the cause of the miserable death of the
old Portuguese don, three centuries
ago, of my poor friend, his ill-starred
descendant, and also, as we feared, of
George Curtis, Sir Henry's brother.
Were we destined, after all that we had
gone through, to fare any better? Evil
befell them, as that old fiend, Gagool,
said; would it also befall us? Somehow,
as we were marching up that last
stretch of beautiful road, I could not
help feeling a little superstitious about
the matter, and so, I think, did Good
and Sir Henry.

For an hour and a half or more we
tramped on up the heather-fringed
road, going so fast in our excitement
that the bearers with Gagool's
hammock could scarcely keep pace
with us, and its occupant piped out to
us to stop.

"Go more slowly, white men," she said,
projecting her hideous, shrivelled
countenance between the curtains, and
fixing her gleaming eyes upon us; "why
will ye run to meet the evil that shall
befall ye, ye seekers after treasure?"
and she laughed that horrible laugh
which always sent a cold shiver down
my back, and which for a while quite
took the enthusiasm out of us.

However, on we went, till we saw before
us, and between ourselves and the
peak, a vast circular hole with sloping
sides, three hundred feet or more in
depth, and quite half a mile round.

"Can't you guess what this is?" I said to
Sir Henry and Good, who were staring
in astonishment down into the awful
pit before us.

They shook their heads.

"Then it is clear that you have never
seen the diamond mines at Kimberley.
You may depend on it that this is
Solomon's diamond mine; look there,"
I said, pointing to the stiff blue clay
which was yet to be seen among the
grass and bushes which clothed the
sides of the pit, "the formation is the
same. I'll be bound that if we went
down there we should find 'pipes' of
soapy, brecciated rock. Look, too," and
I pointed to a series of worn, flat slabs
of rock which were placed on a gentle
slope below the level of a watercourse
which had in some past age been cut
out of the solid rock; "if those are not
tables once used to wash the 'stuff,' I'm
a Dutchman."

At the edge of this vast hole, which was
the pit marked on the old don's map,
the great road branched into two and
circumvented it. In many places this
circumventing road was built entirely
of vast blocks of stone, apparently with
the object of supporting the edges of
the pit and preventing falls of reef.
Along this road we pressed, driven by
curiosity to see what the three
towering objects were which we could
discern from the hither side of the
great hole. As we got nearer we
perceived that they were colossi of
some sort or another, and rightly
conjectured that these were the three
"Silent Ones" that were held in such
awe by the Kukuana people. But it was
not until we got quite close that we
recognized the full majesty of these
"Silent Ones."

There, upon huge pedestals of dark
rock, sculptured in unknown
characters, twenty paces between each;
and looking down the road which
crossed some sixty miles of plain to
Loo, were three colossal seated forms--
two males and one female--each
measuring about twenty feet from the
crown of the head to the pedestal.

The female form which was nude, was
of great though severe beauty, but
unfortunately the features were
injured by centuries of exposure to the
weather. Rising from each side of her
head were the points of a crescent. The
two male colossi were, on the contrary,
draped, and presented a terrifying cast
of features, especially the one to. our
right, which had the face of a devil.
That to our left was serene in
countenance, but the calm upon it was
dreadful. It was the calm of inhuman
cruelty, the cruelty, Sir Henry
remarked, that the ancients attributed
to beings potent for good, who could
yet watch the sufferings of humanity, if
not with rejoicing, at least without
suffering themselves. The three formed
a most awe-inspiring trinity, as they
sat there in their solitude and gazed
out across the plain forever.
Contemplating these "Silent Ones," as
the Kukuanas called them, an intense
curiosity again seized us to know
whose were the hands that had shaped
them, who was it that had dug the pit
and made the road. While I was gazing
and wondering, it suddenly occurred
to me (being familiar with the Old
Testament) that Solomon went astray
after strange gods, the names of three
of whom I remembered--"Ashtoreth the
goddess of the Zidovians, Chemosh the
god of the Moabites, and Milcom the
god of the children of Ammon"---and I
suggested to my companions that the
three figures before us might represent
these false divinities.

"Hum," said Sir Henry, who was a
scholar, having taken a high degree in
classics at college, "there may be
something in that; Ashtoreth of the
Hebrews was the Astarte of the
Phoenicians, who were the great
traders of Solomon's time. Astarte, who
afterwards was the Aphrodite of the
Greeks, was represented with horns
like the half-moon, and there on the
brow of the female figure are distinct
horns. Perhaps these colossi were
designed by some Phoenician official
who managed the mines. Who can
say?"

Before we had finished examining
these extraordinary relics of remote
antiquity, Infadoos came up, and,
having saluted the "Silent Ones" by
lifting his spear, asked us if we
intended entering the "Place of Death"
at once, or if we would wait till after we
had taken food at midday. If we were
ready to go at once, Gagool had
announced her willingness to guide us.
As it was not more than eleven o'clock,
we--driven to it by a burning curiosity-
-announced our intention of
proceeding at once, and I suggested
that, in case we should be detained in
the cave, we should take some food
with us. Accordingly Gagool's litter was
brought up, and that lady herself
assisted out of it; and meanwhile
Foulata, at my request, stored some
biltong, or dried game flesh, together
with a couple of gourds of water in a
reed basket. Straight in front of us, at a
distance of some fifty paces from the
hacks of the colossi, rose a sheer wall
of rock, eighty feet or more in height,
that gradually sloped up till it formed
the base of the lofty snow wreathed
peak which soared up into the air
three thousand feet above us. As soon
as she was clear of her hammock
Gagool cast one evil grin upon us, and
then, leaning on a stick, hobbled off
towards the sheer face of the rock. We
followed her till we came to a narrow
portal solidly arched, that looked like
the opening of a gallery of a mine.

Here Gagool was waiting for us, still
with that evil grin upon her horrid
face.

"Now, white men from the stars," she
piped; "great warriors, Incubu,
Bougwan, and Macumazahn the wise,
are ye ready? Behold, I am here to do
the bidding of my lord the king, and to
show ye the store of bright stones."

"We are ready," I said.

"Good! good! Make strong your hearts
to bear what ye shall see. Comes, thou
too, Infadoos, who betrayed thy
master?"

Infadoos frowned as he answered:
"Nay, I come not; it is not for me to
enter there. But thou, Gagool, curb thy
tongue, and beware how thou dealest
with my lords. At thy hands will I
require them, and if a hair of them be
hurt, Gagool, be thou fifty times a
witch, thou shalt die. Hearest, thou?"

"I hear, Infadoos; I know thee, thou
didst ever love big words; when thou
wast a babe I remember thou didst
threaten thine own mother. That was
but the other day. But fear not, fear
not; I live but to do the bidding of the
king. I have done the bidding of many
kings, Infadoos, till in the end they did
mine. Ha! ha! I go to look upon their
faces once more, and Twala's, too!
Come on, come on, here is the lamp,"
and she drew a great gourd full of off,
and fitted with a rush wick, from under
her fur cloak.

"Art thou coming, Foulata?" asked
Good in his villainous kitchen
Kukuana in which he had been
improving himself under that lady's
tuition.

"I fear, my lord," the girl answered,
timidly.

"Then give me the basket."

"Nay, my lord, whither thou goest,
there will I go also."

"The deuce you will" thought I to
myself; "that will be rather awkward if
ever we get out of this."

Without further ado Gagool plunged
into the passage, which was wide
enough to admit of two walking
abreast, and quite dark, we following
her voice as she piped to us to come
on, in some fear and trembling, which
was not allayed by the sound of a
sudden rush of wings.

"Hallo! what's that?" hallooed Good;
"somebody hit me in the face."

"Bats," said I; "'on you go."

When we had, as far as we could judge,
gone some fifty paces we perceived
that the passage was growing faintly
light. Another minute, and we stood in
the most wonderful place that the eyes
of living man ever lit on.

Let the reader picture to himself the
hail of the vastest cathedral he ever
stood in, windowless, indeed, but dimly
lighted from above (presumably by
shafts connected with the outer air and
driven in the roof, which arched away
a hundred feet above our heads), and
he will get some idea of the size of the
enormous cave in which we stood, with
the difference that this cathedral
designed of nature was loftier and
wider than any built by man. But its
stupendous size was the least of the
wonders of the place, for, running in
rows down its length were gigantic
pillars of what looked like ice, but
were, in reality, huge stalactites. It is
impossible for me to convey any idea
of the overpowering beauty and
grandeur of these pillars of white spar,
some of which were not less than
twenty feet in diameter at the base,
and sprang up in lofty and yet delicate
beauty sheer to the distant roof. Others
again were in process of formation. On
the rock floor there was in these cases
what looked, Sir Henry said, exactly
like a broken column in an old Grecian
temple, while high above, depending
from the roof, the point of a huge icicle
could be dimly seen. And even as we
gazed we could hear the process going
on, for presently with a tiny splash a
drop of water would fall from the far-
off icicle on to the column below. On
some columns the drops only fell once
in two or three minutes, and in these
cases it would form an interesting
calculation to discover how long, at
that rate of dripping, it would take to
form a pillar, say eighty feet high by
ten in diameter. That the process was,
in at least one instance, incalculably
slow, the following instance will suffice
to show. Cut on one of these pillars we
discovered a rude likeness of a
mummy, by the head of which sat what
appeared to be one of the Egyptian
gods, doubtless the handiwork of some
old-world laborer in the mine. This
work of art was executed at about the
natural height at which an idle fellow,
be he Phoenician workman or British
cad, is in the habit of trying to
immortalize himself at the expense of
nature's masterpieces, namely, about
five feet from the ground; yet at the
time that we saw it, which _i_ must _i_
have been nearly three thousand years
after the date of the execution of the
drawing, the column was only eight
feet high, and was still in process of
formation, which gives a rate of growth
of a foot to a thousand years, or an
inch and a fraction to a century. This
we knew because, as we were standing
by it, we heard a drop of water fall.

Sometimes the stalactites took strange
forms, presumably where the dropping
of the water had not always been on
the same spot. Thus, one huge mass,
which must have weighed a hundred
tons or so, was in the form of a pulpit,
beautifully fretted over outside with
what looked like lace. Others
resembled strange beasts, and on the
sides of the cave were fan-like ivory
tracings, such as the frost leaves upon
a pane.

Out of the vast main aisle there opened
here and there smaller caves, exactly,
Sir Henry said, as chapels open out of
great cathedrals. Some were large, but
one or two---and this is a wonderful
instance of how Nature carries out her
handiwork by the same unvarying
laws, utterly irrespective of size--were
tiny. One little nook, for instance, was
no larger than an unusually big doll's
house, and yet it might have been the
model of the whole place, for the water
dropped, the tiny icicles hung, and the
spar columns were forming in just the
same way.

We had not time, however, to examine
this beautiful place as thoroughly as
we should have liked to do, for
unfortunately Gagool seemed to be
indifferent to stalactites, and only
anxious to get her business over. This
annoyed me the more, as I was
particularly anxious to discover, if
possible, by what system the light was
admitted into the place, and whether it
was by the hand of man or of nature
that this was done; also if it had been
used in any way in ancient times, as
seemed probable. However, we
consoled ourselves with the idea that
we would examine it thoroughly on our
return, and followed on after our
uncanny guide.

On she led us, straight to the top of the
vast and silent cave, where we found
another doorway, not arched as the
first was, but square at the top,
something like the doorways of
Egyptian temples.

"Are ye prepared to enter the Place of
Death?" asked Gagool, evidently with a
view to making us feel uncomfortable.

"Lead on, Macduff," said Good,
solemnly, trying to look as though he
was not at all alarmed, as indeed did
we all except Foulata, who caught Good
by the arm for protection.

"This is getting rather ghastly," said Sir
Henry, peeping into the dark doorway.
"Come on, Quatermain--_i_ seniores
priores _i_. Don't keep the old lady
waiting!" and he politely made way for
me to lead the van, for which I
inwardly did not bless him.

Tap, tap, went old Gagool's stick down
the passage, as she trotted along,
chuckling hideously; and, still
overcome by some unaccountable
presentiment of evil, I hung back.

"Come, get on, old fellow," said Good,
"or we shall lose our fair guide."

Thus adjured, I started down the
passage, and after about twenty paces
found myself in a gloomy apartment
some forty feet long by thirty broad
and thirty high, which in some past
age had evidently been hollowed, by
hand-labor, out of the mountain. This
apartment was not nearly so well
lighted as the vast stalactite ante-cave,
and at the first glance all I could make
out was a massive stone table running
its length, with a colossal white figure
at its head, and life-sized white figures
all round it. Next I made out a brown
thing, seated on the table in the centre,
and in another moment my eyes grew
accustomed to the light, and I saw what
all these things were, and I was tailing
out of it as hard as my legs would
carry me. I am not a nervous man, in a
general way, and very little troubled
with superstitions, of which I have
lived to see the folly; but I am free to
own that that sight quite upset me, and
had it not been that Sir Henry caught
me by the collar and held me, I do
honestly believe that in another five
minutes I should have been outside
that stalactite cave, and that the
promise of all the diamonds in
Kimberley would not have induced me
to enter it again. But he held me tight,
so I stopped because I could not help
myself. But next second his eyes got
accustomed to the light, too, and he let
go of me and began to mop the
perspiration off his forehead. As for
Good, he swore feebly, and Foulata
threw her arms round his neck and
shrieked.

Only Gagool chuckled loud and long.

It _i_ was _i_ a ghastly sight. There at
the end of the long stone table, holding
in his skeleton fingers a great white
spear, sat _i_ Death _i_ himself,
shaped in the form of a colossal
human skeleton, fifteen feet or more in
height. High above his head he held
the spear, as though in the act of
striking; one bony hand rested on the
stone table before him, in the position
a man assumes on rising from his seat,
while his frame was bent forward so
that the vertebrae of the neck and the
grinning, gleaming skull projected
towards us and fixed its hollow eye-
places upon us, the jaws a little open,
as though it were about to speak.

"Great heavens!" said I, faintly, at last,
"what can it be?"

"And what are _i_ those things _i_?"
said Good, pointing to the white
company round the table.

"And what on earth is _i_ that thing
_i_?" said Sir Henry, pointing to the
brown creature seated on the table.

"Hee! hee! hee!" laughed Gagool. "To
those who enter the Hall of the Dead,
evil comes. Hee! hee! hee! ha!"

"Come, Incubu, brave in battle, come
and see him thou slewest;" and the old
creature caught his coat in her skinny
fingers, and led him away towards the
table. We followed.

Presently she stopped and pointed at
the brown object seated on the table.
Sir Henry looked, and started back
with an exclamation; and no wonder,
for there, seated, quite naked, on the
table, the head which Sir Henry's
battle-axe had shorn from the body
resting on its knees, was the gaunt
corpse of Twala, last king of the
Kukuanas. Yes, there, the head perched
upon the knees, it sat in all its ugliness,
the vertebrae projecting a full inch
above the level of the shrunken flesh
of the neck, for all the world like a
black double of Hamilton Tighe. Over
the whole surface of the corpse there
was gathered a thin, glassy film, which
made its appearance yet more
appalling and for which, we were, at
the moment, quite unable to account,
till we presently observed that from
the roof of the chamber the water fell
steadily, _i_ drip! drip! drip! _i_ onto
the neck of the corpse, from whence it
ran down over the entire surface, and
finally escaped into the rock through a
tiny hole in the table. Then I guessed
what it was--_i_ Twala's body was
being transformed into a stalactite _i_.

A look at the white forms seated on the
stone bench that ran around that
ghastly board confirmed this view.
They were human forms, indeed, or
rather had been human forms; now
they were _i_ stalactites _i_. This was
the way in which the Kukuana people
had from time immemorial preserved
their royal dead. They petrified them.
What the exact system was, if there was
any beyond placing them for a. long
period of years under the drip, I never
discovered, but there they sat iced over
and preserved forever by the silicious
fluid. Anything more awe-inspiring
than the spectacle of this long line of
departed royalties, wrapped in a
shroud of ice-like spar, through which
the features could be dimly made out
(there were twenty-seven of them, the
last being Ignosi's father), and seated
round that inhospitable board, with
Death himself for a host, it is
impossible to imagine. That the
practice of thus preserving their kings
must have been an ancient one is
evident from the number, which,
allowing for an average reign of fifteen
years, would, supposing that every
king who reigned was placed here--an
improbable thing, as some are sure to
have perished in battle far from home-
-fix the date of its commencement at
four and a quarter centuries back. But
the colossal. Death Who sits at the
head of the board is far older than
that, and, unless I am much mistaken,
owes his origin to the same artist who
designed the three colossi. He was
hewn out of a single stalactite, and,
looked at as a work of art, was most
admirably conceived and executed.
Good, who understood anatomy,
declared that, so far as he could see,
the anatomical design of the skeleton
was perfect down to the smallest
bones.

My own idea is that this terrific object
was a freak of fancy on the part of
some old-world sculptor, and that its
presence had suggested to the
Kukuanas the idea of placing their
royal dead under its awful presidency.
Or perhaps it was placed there to
frighten away any marauders who
might have designs upon the treasure-
chamber beyond. I cannot say. All I
can do is to describe it as it is, and the
reader must form his own conclusion.

Such, at any rate, was the white Death
and such were the white dead!

 

 

CHAPTER XVII--
SOLOMON'S TREASURE-CHAMBER

While we had been engaged in getting
over our fright, and in examining the
grisly wonders of the place, Gagool had
been differently occupied. Somehow or
other--for she was marvellously active
when she chose--she had scrambled on
to the great table and made her way to
where our departed friend Twala was
placed under the drip, to see,
suggested Good, how he was "pickling,"
or for some dark purpose of her own.
Then she came hobbling back,
stopping now and again. to address a
remark (the tenor of which I could not
catch) to one or other of the shrouded
forms, just as you or I might greet an
old acquaintance. Having gone through
this mysterious and horrible
ceremony, she squatted herself down
on the table immediately under the
white Death, and began, so far as I
could make. out, to offer up prayers to
it. The spectacle of this wicked old
creature pouring out supplications
(evil ones, no doubt) to the arch-
enemy of mankind was so uncanny
that it caused us to hasten our
inspection.

"Now, Gagool," said I, in a low voice --
somehow one did not dare to speak
above a whisper in that place--"lead us
to the chamber."

The old creature promptly scrambled
down off the table.

"My lords are not afraid?" she said,
leering up into my face.

"Lead on."

"Good, my lords;" and she hobbled
great Death.

"Here is the chamber; let my lords light
she placed the gourd full of oil upon
the floor, and leaned herself against
the side of the cave. I took out a match,
of which we still had a few in a box,
and lit the rush wick and then looked
for the doorway, but there was nothing
before us but the solid rock.

Gagool grinned. "The way is there, my
lords."

"Do not jest with us," I said, sternly.

"I jest not, my lords. See!" and she
pointed at the rock.

As she did so, on holding up the lamp
we perceived that a mass of stone was
slowly rising from the floor and
vanishing into the rock above, where
doubtless there was a cavity prepared
to receive it. The mass was of the width
of a good-sized door, about ten feet'
high and not less than five feet thick. It
must have weighed at least twenty or
thirty tons, and was clearly moved
upon some simple balance principle,
probably the same as that upon which
the opening and shutting of an
ordinary modern window is arranged.
How the principle was set in motion, of
course none of us saw; Gagool was
careful to avoid that; but I have little
doubt that there was some very simple
lever, which was moved ever so. little
by pressure on a secret spot, thereby
throwing additional weight on to the
hidden counterbalances, and causing
the whole huge mass to be lifted from
the ground. Very slowly and gently the
great stone raised itself, till at last it
had vanished altogether, and a dark
hole presented itself to us in the place
which it had filled.

Our excitement was so intense, as we
saw the way to Solomon's treasure
chamber at last thrown open, that I for
one began to tremble and shake.
Would it prove a hoax after all, I
wondered, or was old Da Silvestra
right? and were there vast hoards of
wealth stored in that dark place,
hoards which would make us the
richest men in the whole world? We
should know in a minute or two.

"Enter, white men from the stars," said
Gagool, advancing into the doorway;
"but first hear your servant, Gagaoola
the old. The bright stones that ye will
see were dug out of the pit over which
the Silent Ones are set, and stored
here, I know not by whom. But once
has this place been entered since the
time that those who stored the stones
departed in haste, leaving them
behind. The report of the treasure
went down among the people who
lived in the country from age to age,
but none knew where the chamber
was, nor the secret of the door. But it
happened that a white man reached
this country from over the mountains,
perchance he too came 'from the stars,'
and was well received of the king of
the day. He it is who sits yonder, and
she pointed to the fifth king at the
table of the dead. And it came to pass
that he and a woman of the country
who was with him came to this place,
and that by chance the woman learned
the secret of the door--a thousand
years might ye search, but ye should
never find it. Then the white man
entered with the woman and found the
stones, and filled with stones the skin
of a small goat, which the woman had
with her to hold food. And as he was
going from the chamber he took up
one more stone, a large one, and held
it in his hand." Here she paused.

"Well," I asked, breathless with
interest, as we all were, "what
happened to Da Silvestra?"

The old hag started at the mention of
the name.

"How knowest thou the dead man's
name?" she asked, sharply; and then,
without waiting for an answer, went
on--

"None knew what happened; but it
came about that the white man was
frightened, for he flung down the
goatskin with the stones, and fled out
with only the one stone in his hand,
and that the king took, and it is the
stone that thou, Macumazahn, didst
take from Twala's brows."

"Have none entered here since?" I
asked, peering again down the dark
passage.

"None, my lords. Only the secret of the
door hath been kept, and every king
hath opened it, though he hath not
entered. There is a saying, that those
who enter there will die within a moon,
even as the white man died in the cave
upon the mountain, where ye found
him, Macumazahn. Ha! ha! mine are
true words."

Our eyes met as she said it, and I
turned sick and cold. How did the old
hag know all these things?

"Enter, my lords. If I speak truth the
goat-skin with the stones will lie upon
the floor; and if there is truth as to
whether it is death to enter here, that
will ye learn afterwards. Ha! ha! ha!"
And she hobbled through the doorway,
bearing the light with her; but I confess
that once more I hesitated about
following.

"Oh, confound it all!" said Good, "here
goes. I am not going to be frightened
by that old devil;" and, followed by
Foulata, who, however, evidently did
not at all like the job, for she was
shivering with fear, he plunged into
the passage after Gagool's example
which we quickly followed.

A few yards down the passage, in the
narrow way hewn out of the living
rock, Gagool had paused, and was
waiting. for us.

"See, my lords," she said, holding the
light before her, "those who stored the
treasure here fled in haste, and
bethought them to guard against any
who should find the secret of the door,
but had not the time," and she pointed
to large square blocks of stone, which
had, to the height of two courses
(about two feet three), been placed
across the passage with a view to
walling it up. Along the side of the
passage were similar blocks ready for
use, and, most curious of all, a heap of
mortar and a couple of trowels, which,
so far as we had time to examine them,
appeared to be of a similar shape and
make to those used by workmen of this
day.

Here Foulata, who had throughout
been in a state of great fear and
agitation, said that she felt faint and
could go no farther, but would wait
there. Accordingly we set her down on
the unfinished wall, placing the basket
of provisions by her side, and left her
to recover.

Following the passage for about fifteen
paces farther, we suddenly came to an
elaborately painted wooden door. It
was standing wide open. Whoever was
last there had either not had the time,
or had forgotten to shut it.

_i_
Across the threshold lay a skin bag,
formed of a goat-skin, that appeared to
be lull o! pebbles.
_i_
"Hee! hee! white men," sniggered
Gagool, as the light from the lamp fell
upon it. "What did I tell ye, that the
white man who came here fled in
haste, and dropped the woman's bag-
behold it!"

Good stooped down and lifted it. It was
heavy and jingled.

"By Jove! I believe it's full of
diamonds," he said, in an awed
whisper; and, indeed, the idea of a
small goatskin full of diamonds is
enough to awe anybody.

"Go on," said Sir Henry, impatiently.
"Here, old lady, give me the lamp,"
and, taking it from Gagool's hand, he
stepped through the doorway and held
it high above his head. "

We pressed in after him, forgetful, for
the moment, of the bag of diamonds,
and found ourselves in Solomon's
treasure-chamber.

At first, all that the somewhat faint
light given by the lamp revealed was a
room hewn out of the living rock, and
apparently not more than ten feet
square. Next there came into sight,
stored one on the other as high as the
roof, a splendid collection of elephant
tusk. How many of them there were we
did not know, for of course we could
not see how far they went back, but
there could not have been less than the
ends of four or five hundred tusks of
the first quality visible to our eyes.
There, alone, was enough ivory before
us to make a man wealthy for life.
Perhaps, I thought, it was from this
very store that Solomon drew his
material for his "great throne of ivory,"
of which there was not the like made in
any kingdom.

On the opposite side of the chamber
were about a score of wooden boxes,
something like Martini-Henry
ammunition boxes, only rather larger,
and painted red.

"There are the diamonds" cried I;
"bring the light."

Sir Henry did so, holding it. close to
the top box, of which the lid, rendered
rotten by time even in that dry place,
appeared to have been smashed in,
probably by Da Silvestra himself.
Pushing my hand through the hole in
the lid I drew it out full, not of
diamonds, but of gold pieces, of a
shape that none of us had seen before,
and with what looked like Hebrew
characters stamped upon them.

"Ah!" I said, replacing the coin, "we
sha'n't go back empty-handed,
anyhow. There must be a couple of
thousand pieces in each box, and there
are eighteen boxes. I suppose it was the
money to pay the workmen and
merchants."

"Well," put in Good, "I think that is the
lot; I don't see any diamonds, unless
the old Portuguese put them all into
this bag."

"Let my lords look yonder where it is
darkest, if they would find the stones,"
said Gagool, interpreting our looks.
"There my lords will find a nook, and
three stone chests in the nook two
sealed and one open."

Before interpreting this to Sir Henry,
who had the light, I could not resist
asking how she knew these things, if
no one had entered the plaice since the
white man, generations ago.

"Ah, Macumazahn, who watchest by
night," was the mocking answer, "ye
who live in the stars, do ye not know
that some have eyes that can see
through rock?"

"Look in that corner, Curtis," I said,
indicating the spot. Gagool had
pointed out.

"Hallo, you fellows," he said, "here's a
recess. Great heavens! look here."

We hurried up to where he was
standing in a nook, something like a
small bow-window. Against the wall of
this recess were placed three stone
chests, each about two feet square. Two
were fitted with stone lids, the lid of
the third rested against: the side of the
chest, which was open.

"_i_ Look! _i_" he repeated, hoarsely,
holding the lamp over the open chest.
We looked, and for a moment could
make nothing out, on account of a
silvery sheen that dazzled us. When
our eyes got used to it we saw that the
chest was three-parts full of uncut
diamonds, most of them of
considerable size. Stooping, I picked
some up. Yes, there was no mistake
about. it, there was the unmistakable
soapy feel about them.

I fairly gasped as I dropped them.

"We are the richest men in the whole
world," I said. "Monte Cristo is a fool to
us."

"We shall flood the market with
diamonds," said Good.

"Got to get them there first?" suggested
Sir Henry.

And we stood with pale faces and
stared at each other, with the lantern
in the middle, and the glimmering
gems below, as though we were
conspirators about to commit a crime,
instead of being, as we thought, the
three most fortunate men on earth.

"Hee! hee! hee!" went old Gagool
behind us, as she flitted about like a
vampire bat. "There are the bright
stones that ye love, white men, as
many as ye will; take them, run them
through your fingers, _i_ eat _i_ of
them, hee! hee! _i_ drink _i_ of them,
ha! ha!"

There was something so ridiculous at
that moment to my mind in the idea of
eating and drinking diamonds that I
began to laugh outrageously, an
example which the others, followed,
without knowing why. There we stood
and shrieked with laughter over the
gems which were ours, which had been
found for us thousands of years ago by
the patient delvers in the great hole
yonder, and stored for us by Solomon's
long-dead overseer, whose name,
perchance, was written in the
characters stamped on the faded wax
that yet adhered to the lids of the
chest. Solomon never got them, nor
David, nor Da Silvestra, nor anybody
else. _i_ We _i_ had got them; there
before us were millions of pounds'
worth of diamonds, and thousands of
pounds' worth of gold and ivory, only
waiting to be taken away.

Suddenly the fit passed off, and we
stopped laughing. "Open the other
chests, white men," croaked Gagool,
"there are surely more therein. Take
your fill, white lords!"

Thus adjured, we set to work to pull up
the stone lids on the other two, first --
not without a feeling of sacrilege-
breaking the seals that fastened them.

Hoorah! they were full too, full to the
brim; at least the second one was; no
wretched Da Silvestra had been filling
goat-skins out of that. As for the third
chest, it was only about a fourth full,
but the stones were all picked ones;
none less than twenty carats, and some
of them as large as pigeon-eggs. Some
of these biggest ones, however, we
could see by holding them up to the
light, were a little yellow, "off colored,"
as they call it at Kimberley.

What we did not see, however, was the
look of fearful malevolence that old
Gagool favored us with as she crept,
crept like a snake, out of the treasure
chamber and down the passage
towards the massive door of solid rock.

 

 

Hark! Cry upon cry comes ringing up
the vaulted path. It is Foulata's voice!

_i_
"Oh, Bougwan! Help! help! the rock
falls!"
_i_

"Leave go, girl! Then--"

_i_
"Help! Help! she has stabbed me!
_i_

By now we are running down the
passage, and this is what the light from
the lamp falls on. The door of rock is
slowly closing down; it is not three feet
from the floor. Near it struggle. Foulata
and Gagool. The red blood of the
former runs to her knees but still the
brave girl holds the old witch, who
fights like a wildcat. Ah! she is free!
Foulata fails, and Gagool throws
herself on the ground, to twist. herself
like a snake through the crack of the
closing stone, She is under--ah, God!
too late! too late! The stone nips her,
and she yells in agony. Down, down, it
comes, all the thirty tons of it, slowly
pressing her old body against the rock
below. Shriek upon shriek, such as we
never heard, then a long, sickening _i_
crunch _i_, and the door was shut just
as we, rushing down the passage,
hurled ourselves against it. It was all
done in four seconds.

Then we turned to Foulata. The poor
girl was stabbed in the body, and could
not, I saw, live long.

"Ah! Bougwan, I die!" gasped the
beautiful creature. "She crept out-
Gagool; I did not see her, I was faint-
and the door began to fall; then she
came back, and was looking up the
path --and I saw her come in through
the slowly falling door, and caught her
and held her, and she stabbed me, and
I die, Bougwan.

"Poor girl! poor girl!" Good cried; and
then, as he could do nothing else, he
fell to kissing her.

"Bougwan," she said, after a pause, "is
Macumazahn there? it grows so dark, I
cannot see."

"Here I am, Foulata."

"Macumazahn, be my tongue for a
moment, I pray thee, for Bougwan
cannot understand me, and before I go
into the darkness--I would speak a
word."

"Say on, Foulata, I will render it."

"Say to my lord, Bougwan, that--I love
him, and that I am glad to die because I
know that he cannot cumber his life
with such as me, for the sun cannot
mate with the darkness, nor the white
with the black.

"Say that at times I have felt as though
there were a bird in my bosom, which
would one day fly hence and sing
elsewhere; even now, though I cannot
lift my hand, and my brain grows cold,
I do not feel as though my heart were
dying; it is so full of love that could
live a thousand years, and yet be
young. Say that if I live again, mayhap
I shall see him in the stars, and that--I
will search them all, though perchance
I should there still be black and he
would --still be white. Say--nay,
Macumazahn, say no more, save that I
love-Oh, hold me closer, Bougwan, I
cannot feel thine arms--_i_ oh! oh!
_i_"

"She is dead---she is dead!" said Good,
rising in grief, the tears running down
his honest face.

"You need not let that trouble you, old
fellow," said Sir Henry.

"Eh!" said Good; "what do you mean?"

"I mean that you will soon be in a
position to join her. _i_ Man, don't you
see that we are buried alive? _i_"

Until Sir Henry uttered these words, I
do not think the full horror of what
had happened had come home to us,
preoccupied as we were with the sight
of poor Foulata's end. But now we
understood. The ponderous mass of
rock had closed, probably forever, for
the only brain which knew its secret
was crushed to powder beneath it. This
was a door that none could hope to
force with anything short of dynamite
in large quantities. And we were the
wrong side of it!

For a few minutes we stood horrified
there over the corpse of Foulata. All
the manhood seemed to have gone out
of us. The first shock of this idea of the
slow and miserable end that awaited us
was overpowering. We saw it all now;
that fiend, Gagool, had planned this
snare for us from the first. It would
have been just the jest that her evil
mind would have rejoiced in, the idea;
of the three white men, whom, for
some. reason of her own, she had
always hated, slowly perishing of thirst
am hunger in the company of the
treasure, they had coveted. I saw the
point of that sneer of hers about eating
and drinking the diamonds now.
Perhaps somebody had tried to serve
the poor old don in the same way,
when he abandoned the skin full of
jewels.

"This will never do," said Sir Henry
hoarsely; "the lamp will soon go out
Let us see if we can't find the spring
that works the rock."

We sprang forward with desperate
energy, and, standing in a bloody ooze
began to feel up and down the door
and the sides of the passage. But no
knob or spring could we discover.

"Depend on it," I said, "it does not
work from the inside; if it did Gagool
would not have risked trying to crawl
underneath the stone. It was the
knowledge of this that made her try to
escape at all hazard, curse her."

"At all events," said Sir Henry, with a
hard little laugh, "retribution was
swift; hers was almost as awful an end
as ours is likely to be. We can do
nothing with the door; let us go back to
the treasure-room." We turned and
went, and as we did so I perceived by
the unfinished wall across the passage
the basket of food which poor Foulata
had carried. I took it up and brought it
with me back to that accursed treasure-
chamber that was to be our grave.
Then we went back and reverently
bore in Foulata's corpse, laying it on
the floor by the boxes of coin.

Next we seated ourselves, leaning our
backs against the three stone chests of
priceless treasures.

 

 

"Let us divide the food," said Sir Henry,
"so as to make it last as long as
possible." Accordingly we did so. I
would, we reckoned, make four
infinitesimally small meals for each of
us enough, say, to support life for a
couple of days. Besides the biltong, or
dried game-flesh, there were two
gourds of water, each holding about a
quart.

"Now," said Sir Henry, "let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die."

We each ate a small portion of the
biltong, and drank a sip of water. We
had, needless to say, but little appetite:
though we were sadly in need of food:
and felt better after swallowing it.
Then we got up and made a systematic
examination of the walls of our prison-
house, in the faint hope of finding
some. means of exit, sounding them
and the roof carefully.

There was none. It was not probable
that there would be one to a treasure
chamber.

The lamp began to burn dim. The fat
was nearly exhausted.

"Quatermain," said Sir Henry, "what is
the time--your watch goes?"

I drew it out and looked at it. It was six
o'clock; we had entered the cave at
eleven.

"Infadoos will miss us," I suggested. "If
we do not return to-night he will
search for us in the morning, Curtis."

"He may search in vain. He does not
know the secret of the door, nor even
where it is. No living person knew it
yesterday, except Gagool. To-day no
one knows it. Even if he found the door
he could not break it down. All the
Kukuana army could not break
through five feet of living rock. My
friends, I see nothing for it but to bow
ourselves to the will of the Almighty.
The search for treasure has brought
many to a bad end; we shall go to swell
their number."

The lamp grew dimmer yet.

Presently it flared up and showed the
whole scene, in strong relief, the great
mass of white tusk, the boxes furl of
gold, the corpse of poor Foulata
stretched before them, the goat-skin
full of treasure, the dim glimmer of the
diamonds, and the wild, wan faces of
us three white men seated there
awaiting death by starvation.

Suddenly it sank, and expired.

 

 

CHAPTER XVIII--WE ABANDON HOPE

 

 

I CAN give no adequate description of
the horrors of the night which
followed. Mercifully they were to some
extent mitigated by sleep, for even in
such a position as ours wearied nature
will sometimes assert itself. But I, at
any rate, found it impossible to sleep
much. Putting aside the terrifying
thought of our impending doom--for
the bravest man on earth might well
quail from such a fate as awaited us,
and I never had any great pretensions
to be brave--the _i_ silence _i_ itself
was too great to allow of it. Reader, you
may have lain awake at night and
thought the silence oppressive, but I
say with confidence that you can have
no idea what a vivid, tangible thing
perfect silence really is. On the surface
of the earth there is always some
sound or motion, and though it may in
itself be imperceptible, yet does it
deaden the sharp edge of absolute
silence. But here there was none. We
were buried in the bowels of a huge,
snow-clad peak. Thousands of feet
above us the fresh air rushed over the
white snow, but no sound of it reached
us. We were separated by a long tunnel
and five feet of rock even from the
awful chamber of the. dead; and the
dead make no noise. The crashing of
all the artillery of earth and heaven
could not have come to our ears in our
living tomb. We were cut off from all
echoes of the world--we were as
already dead.

And then the irony of the-situation
forced itself upon me. There around us
lay treasures enough to pay off a
moderate national debt, or to build a
fleet of iron-clads, and yet we would
gladly have bartered them all for the
faintest chance of escape. Soon,
doubtless, we should be glad to
exchange them for a bit of food or a
cup of water, and, after that, even for
the speedy close to our sufferings.
Truly wealth, which men spend all
their lives in acquiring, is a valueless
thing at the last.

And so the night wore on.

"Good," said Sir Henry's voice at last,
and it sounded awful in the intense
stillness, "how many matches have you
in the box?"

"Eight, Curtis"

"Strike one, and let us see the time." He
did so, and in contrast to the dense
darkness the flame nearly blinded us.
It was five o'clock by my watch. The
beautiful dawn was now blushing on
the snow-wreaths far over our heads,
and the breeze would be stirring the
night mists in the hollows.

"We had better eat something and keep
up our strength," said I.

"What is the good of eating?" answered
Good; "the sooner we die and get it
over the better."

"While there is life there is hope," said
Sir Henry.

Accordingly we ate and sipped some
water, and another period of time
passed, when somebody suggested that
it might be as well to get as near to the
door as possible and hallo, on the faint
chance of somebody catching a sound
outside. Accordingly Good, who, from
long practice at sea, has a fine,
piercing note, groped his way down the
passage and began, and I must say he
made a most diabolical noise. I never
heard such yells; but it might have
been a mosquito buzzing for all axe
effect it produced.

After a while he gave it up, and came
back very thirsty, and had to have
some water. After that we gave up
yelling, as it encroached on the supply
of water.

So we all sat down once more against
our chests of useless diamonds in that
dreadful inaction which was one of the
hardest circumstances of our fate; and
I am bound to say that, for my part, I
gave way in despair. Laying my head
against Sir Henry's broad shoulder, I
burst into tears; and I think I heard
Good gulping away on the other side,
and swearing hoarsely at himself for
doing so.

Ah, how good and brave that great
man was! Had we been two frightened
children, and he our nurse, he could
not have treated us more tenderly.
Forgetting his own share of miseries,
he did all he could to soothe our
broken nerves, telling stories of men
who had been in somewhat similar
circumstances and miraculously
escaped; and when these failed to
cheer us, pointing out how, after all, it
was only anticipating an end that must
come to us all, that it would soon be
over, and that death from exhaustion
was a merciful one (which is not true).
Then, in a diffident sort of a way, as I
had once before heard him do, he
suggested that we should throw
ourselves on the mercy of a higher
Power, which, for my part, I did with
great vigor.

His is a beautiful character, very quiet,
but very strong.

And so somehow the day went as the
night had gone (if, indeed, one can use
the terms where all was densest night),
and when I lit a match to see the time
it was seven o'clock.

Once more we ate and drank, and as
we did so an idea occurred to me.

"How is it," said I, "that the air in this
place keeps fresh? It is thick and
heavy, but it is perfectly fresh."

"Great heavens!" said Good, starting
up, "I never thought of that. It can't
come through the stone door, for it is
air-tight, if ever a door was. It must
come from somewhere. If there were no
current of air in the place we should
have been stifled when we first came
in. Let us have a look."

It was wonderful what a change this
mere spark of hope wrought in us. In a
moment we were. all three groping
about the place on our hands and
knees, feeling for the slightest
indication of a draught. Presently my
ardor received a check. I put my hand
on something cold. It was poor
Foulata's dead face.

For an hour or more we went on
feeling about, till at last Sir Henry and
I gave it up in despair, having got
considerably hurt by constantly
knocking our heads against tusks,
chests, and the sides of the chamber.
But Good still persevered, saying, with
an approach to cheerfulness, that it
was better than doing nothing.

"I say, you fellows," he said, presently,
in a constrained sort of voice, "come
here."

Needless to say we scrambled over
towards him quick enough.

"Quatermain, put your hand here
where mine is. Now, do you feel
anything?"

"I _i_ think _i_ I feel air coming up."

"Now listen." He rose and stamped
upon the place, and a flame of hope
shot up in our hearts. _i_ It rang
hollow _i_.

With trembling hands I lit a match. I
had only three left, and we saw that we
were in the angle of the far corner of
the chamber, a fact that accounted for
our not having noticed the hollow ring
of the place during our former
exhaustive examination. As the match
burned we scrutinized the spot. There
was a join in the solid rock floor, and,
great heavens! there, let in level with
the rock, was a stone ring. We said no
word; we were too excited, and our
hearts beat too wildly with hope to
allow us to speak. Good had a knife, at
the back of which was one of those
hooks that are made to extract stones
from horses' hoofs. He opened it, and
scratched away at the ring with it.
Finally he got it under, and levered
away gently for fear of breaking the
hook. The ring began to move. Being of
stone, it had not got set fast in all the
centuries it had lain there, as would
have been the case had it been of iron.

Presently it was upright. Then he got
his hands into it and tugged with all
his force, but nothing budged.

"Let me try," I said, impatiently, for the
situation of the stone, right in the
angle of the corner, was such that it
was impossible for two to pull at once.
I got hold and strained away, but with
no results.

Then Sir Henry tried and failed. Taking
the hook again, Good scratched all
round the crack where we felt the air
coming up.

"Now, Curtis," he said, "tackle on, and
put your back into it; you are as strong
as two. Stop," and he took off a stout
black silk handkerchief, which, true to
his habits of neatness, he still wore,
and ran it through the ring.
"Quatermain, get Curtis round the
middle and pull for dear life when I
give the word. _i_ Now! _i_

Sir Henry put out all his enormous
strength, and Good and I did the same,
with such power as nature had given
us.

"Heave! heave! it's giving," gasped Sir
Henry; and I heard the muscles of his
great back cracking. Suddenly there
came a parting sound, then a rush of
air, and we were all on our backs on
the floor with a great flag-stone on the
top of us. Sir Henry's strength had
done it, and never did muscular power
stand a man in better stead.

"Light a match, Quatermain," he said,
as soon as we had picked ourselves up
and got one breath; "carefully now."

I did so, and there before us was, God
be praised! the _i_ first step of a stone
stair _i_.

"Now what is to be done?" asked Good.

"Follow the stair, of course, and trust to
Providence."

 

 

"Stop!" said Sir Henry; "Quatermain,
get the bit of biltong and the water that
is left; we may want them."

I went creeping back to our place by
the chests for that purpose, and as I
was coming away an idea struck me.
We had not thought much of the
diamonds for the last twenty-four
hours or so; indeed, the idea of
diamonds was nauseous, seeing what
they had entailed upon us; but,
thought I, I may as well pocket a few in
case we ever should get out of this
ghastly hole. So I just stuck my fist into
the first chest and filled all the
available pockets of my shooting coat,
tapping up---this was a happy thought-
--with a couple of handfuls of big ones
out of the third chest.

"I say, you fellows," I sung out, "won't
you take some diamonds with you? I've
filled my pockets."

"Oh! hang the diamonds!" said Sir
Henry. "I hope that I may never see
another."

As for Good, he made no answer. He
was, I think, taking a last farewell of all
that was left of the poor girl who loved
him so well. And, curious as it may
seem to you, my reader, sitting at
home at ease and reflecting on the
vast, indeed, the immeasurable, wealth
which we were thus abandoning, I can
assure you that if you had passed some
twenty-eight hours with next to
nothing to eat and drink in that place,
you would not have cared to cumber
yourself with diamonds while plunging
down into the unknown bowels of the
earth, in the wild hope of escape from
an agonizing death. If it had not, from
the habits of a lifetime, become a sort
of second nature with me never to
leave anything worth having behind if
there was the slightest chance of my
being able to carry it away, I am sure I
should not have bothered to fill my
pockets.

"Come on, Quatermain," said Sir
Henry, who was already standing on
the first step of the stone stair. "Steady,
I will go first."

"Mind where you put your feet; there
may be some awful hole underneath,"
said I.

"Much more likely to be another
room," said Sir Henry, as he slowly
descended, counting the steps as he
went.

When he got to "fifteen" he stopped.
"Here's the bottom," he said. "Thank
goodness! I think it's a passage. Come
on down!"

Good descended next, and I followed
last, and on reaching the bottom lit
one of the two remaining matches. By
its light we could just see that we were
standing in a narrow tunnel, which ran
right and left at right angles to the
staircase we had descended. Before we
could make out any more the match
burned my fingers and went out. Then
arose the delicate question of which
way to turn. Of course it was
impossible to know what the tunnel
was or where it ran to, and yet to turn
one way might lead us to safety, and
the other to destruction. We were
utterly perplexed, till suddenly it
struck Good that when I had lit the
match the draught of the passage blew
the flame to the left.

"Let us go against the draught," he
said; "air draws inward, not. outward."

We took this suggestion, and, feeling
along the wall with the hand, while
trying the ground before at every step,
we departed from that accursed
treasure chamber on our terrible
quest. If ever it should be entered
again by living man, which I do not
think it will be, he will find a token of
our presence in the open chests of
jewels, the empty lamp, and the white
bones of poor Foulata. When we had
groped our way for about a quarter of
an hour-along the passage it suddenly
took a sharp turn, or else was bisected
by another, which we followed, only in
course of time to be led into a third.
And so it went on for some hours. We
seemed to be in a stone labyrinth
which led nowhere. What all these
passages are, of course I cannot say,
but we thought that they must be the
ancient workings of a mine, of which
the various shafts travelled hither and
thither as the ore led them. This is the
only way in which we could account
for such a multitude of passages. At
length we halted, thoroughly worn out
with fatigue, and with that hope
deferred which maketh the heart sick,
and ate up our poor remaining piece of
biltong, and drank our last sip of
water, for our throats were like lime
kilns. It seemed to us that we had
escaped Death in the darkness of the
chamber only to meet him in the
darkness of the tunnels. As we stood,
once more utterly depressed, I thought
I caught a sound, to which I aired the
attention of the others. It was very
faint and very far off, but it was a
sound, a faint, murmuring sound, for
the others heard it then, and no words
can describe the blessedness of it after
all those hours of utter, awful stillness.

"By Heaven! it's running water," said
Good.

"Come on."

Off we started again in the direction
from which the faint murmur seemed
to come, groping our way as before
along the rocky walls. As we went it got
more and more audible, till at last it
seemed quite loud in the quiet. On, yet
on, now one could distinctly make out
the unmistakable swirl of rushing
water. And yet how could there be
running water in the bowels of the
earth? Now we were quite near to it,
and Good, who was leading, swore that
he could smell it.

"Go gently, Good," said Sir Henry, "we
must he close." _i_ Splash! _i_ and a
cry from Good.

He had fallen in.

"Good! Good! where are you?" we
shouted, in terrified distress. To our
intense relief, an answer came back in
a choky voice.

"All right; I've got hold of a rock. Strike
a light to show me where you are."

Hastily I lit the last remaining match.
Its faint gleam discovered to us a dark
mass of water running at our feet. How
wide it was we could not see, but there,
some way out, was the dark form of
our companion hanging on to a
projecting rock.

"Stand dear to catch me," sung out
Good. "'I must swim for it."

Then we heard a splash and a great
struggle. Another minute and he had
grabbed at and caught Sir Henry's
outstretched hand, and we had pulled
him up high and dry into the tunnel.

"My word!" he said, between his gasps,
"that was touch and go. If I hadn't
caught that rock, and known how to
swim, I should have been done. It runs
like a mill-race, and I could feel no
bottom."'

It was clear that this would not do; so
after Good had rested a little, and we
had drunk our fill from the water of
the subterranean river, which was
sweet and fresh, and washed our faces,
which really needed it, as well as we
could, we started from the banks of
this African Styx, and began to retrace
our steps along the tunnel, Good
dripping unpleasantly in front of us. At
length we came to another tunnel
leading to our right.

"We may as well take it," said Sir
Henry, wearily; "all roads are alike
here; we can only go on till we drop."

Slowly, for a long, long while, we
stumbled, utterly weary, along this new
tunnel, Sir Henry leading now.

Suddenly he stopped, and we bumped
up against him.

"Look!" he whispered, "is my brain
going, or is that light?"

We stared with all our eyes, and there,
yes, there, far ahead of us, was a faint
glimmering spot, no larger than a
cottage window-pane. It was so faint
that I doubt if any eyes, except those
which, like ours, had for days seen
nothing but blackness, could have
perceived it at all.

With a sort of gasp of hope we pushed
on. In five minutes there was no longer
any doubt: it _i_ was _i_ a patch of
faint light. A minute more and a breath
of real live air was fanning us. On we
struggled. All at once the tunnel
narrowed. Sir Henry went on his knees.
Smaller yet it grew, till it was only the
size of a large fox's earth--it was _i_
earth _i_ now, mind you; the rock had
ceased.

A squeeze, a struggle, and Sir Henry
was out, and so was Good, and so was I,
and there above us were the blessed
stars, and in our nostrils was the sweet
air; then suddenly something gave,
and we were all rolling over and over
and over through grass and bushes
and soft, wet soil.

I caught at something and stopped.
Sitting up, I hallooed lustily. An
answering shout came from just below,
where Sir Henry's wild career had been
stopped by some level ground. I
scrambled to him, and found him
unhurt, though breathless. Then we
looked for Good. A little way off we
found him, too, jammed in a forked
root. He was a good deal knocked
about, but soon came to.

We sat down together there on the
grass, and the revulsion of feeling was
so great that I really think we cried for
joy. We had escaped from that awful
dungeon, that was so near to becoming
our grave. Surely some merciful Power
must have guided our footsteps to the
jackal-hole at the termination of the
tunnel (for that is what it must have
been). And see, there on the
mountains, the dawn we had never
thought to look upon again was
blushing rosy red.

Presently the gray light stole down the
slopes, and we saw that we were at the
bottom, or, rather, nearly at the
bottom, of the vast pit in front of the
entrance to the cave. Now we could
make out the dim forms of the three
colossi who sat upon its verge.
Doubtless those awful passages, along
which we had wandered the livelong
night, had originally been, in some
way, connected with the great diamond
mine. As for the subterranean river in
the bowels of the mountain, Heaven
only knows what it was, or whence it
flows, or whither it goes. I, for one,
have no anxiety to trace its course.

Lighter it grew, and lighter yet. We
could see each other now, and such a
spectacle as we presented I have never
set eyes on before or since. Gaunt-
cheeked, hollow-eyed wretches,
smeared all over with dust and mud,
bruised, bleeding, the long fear of
imminent death yet written on our
countenance, we were, indeed, a sight
to frighten the daylight. And yet it is a
solemn fact that Good's eye-glass was
still fixed in Good's eye. I doubt
whether he had ever taken it out at all.
Neither the darkness, nor the plunge in
the subterranean river, nor the roll
down the slope, had been able to
separate Good and his eyeglass.

Presently we rose, fearing that our
limbs would stiffen if we stopped there
longer, and commenced with slow and
painful steps to struggle up the sloping
sides of the great pit. For an hour or
more we toiled steadfastly up the blue
clay, dragging ourselves on by the help
of the roots and grasses with which it
was clothed.

At last it was done, and we stood on
the great road, on the side of the pit
opposite to the colossi.

By the side of the road, a hundred
yards off, a fire was burning in front of
some huts, and round the fire were
figures. We made towards them,
supporting one another, and halting
every few paces. Presently, one of the
figures rose, saw us, and fell on to the
ground; crying out for fear.

"Infadoos, Infadoos! it is us, thy
friends."

We rose; he ran to us, staring wildly,
and still shaking with fear.

"Oh, my lords, my lords, it is indeed
you come back from the dead!--come
back from the dead!"

And the old warrior flung himself
down before us, and clasped Sir
Henry's knees, and wept aloud for joy.

 

 

CHAPTER XIX--IGNOSI'S FAREWELL

 

 

TEN days from that eventful morning
found us once more in our old quarters
at Loo; and, strange to say, but little
the worse for our terrible experience,
except that my stubbly hair came out
of that cave about three shades grayer
than it went in, and that Good never
was quite the same after Foulata's
death, which seemed to move him very
greatly. I am bound to say that, looking
at the thing from the point of view of
an oldish man of the world, I consider
her removal was a fortunate
occurrence, since, otherwise,
complications would have been sure to
ensue. The poor creature was no
ordinary native girl, but a person of
great, I had almost said stately, beauty,
and of considerable refinement of
mind. But no amount of beauty or
refinement could have made an
entanglement between Good and
herself a desirable occurrence; for, as
she herself put it, "Can the sun mate
with the darkness, or the white with
the black?"

I need hardly state that. we never
again penetrated into Solomon's
treasure-chamber. After we had
recovered from our fatigues, a process
which took us forty-eight hours, we
descended into the great pit in the
hope of finding the hole by which we
had crept out of the mountain, but
with no success. To begin with, rain
had fallen, and obliterated our spoor;
and what is more, the sides of the vast
pit were full of ant-bear and other
holes. It was impossible to say t which
of these we owed our salvation. We
also, on the day before we started.
back to Loo, made a further
examination of the wonders of the
stalactite cave, and, drawn by a kind of
restless feeling, even penetrated once
more into the Chamber of the Dead;
and, passing beneath the spear of the
white Death gazed, with sensations
which it would be quite impossible for
me to describe at the mass of rock
which had shut us! off from escape,
thinking, the while, of the priceless
treasures beyond, of the mysterious
old hag whose flattened fragments lay
crushed beneath it, and of the fair girl
of whose tomb it was the portal. I say
gazed at the "rock," for examine as we
would we could find no traces of the
join of the sliding door; nor, indeed,
could we hit upon the secret, now
utterly lost, that worked it, though we
tried for an hour or more. It was
certainly a marvellous bit of
mechanism, characteristic, in its
massive and yet inscrutable simplicity,
of the age which produced it; and I
doubt if the world has such another to
show.

At last we gave it up in disgust; though,
if the mass had suddenly risen before
our eyes, I doubt if we should have
screwed up courage to step over
Gagool's mangled remains and once
more enter the treasure-chamber, even
in the sure and certain hope of
unlimited diamonds. And yet I could
have cried at the idea of leaving all
that treasure, the biggest treasure
probably that has ever in the world's
history been accumulated in one spot.
But there was no help for it. Only
dynamite could force its way through
five feet of solid rock. And so we left it.
Perhaps, in some remote unborn
century, a more fortunate explorer
may hit upon the "Open Sesame," and
flood the world with gems. But, myself,
I doubt it. Somehow, I seem to feel that
the millions of pounds' worth of gems
that lie in the three stone coffers will
never shine round the neck of an
earthly beauty. They and Foulata's
bones will keep cold company till the
end of all things.

With a sigh of disappointment we
made our way back, and next day
started for Loo. And yet it was really
very ungrateful of us to be
disappointed; for, as the reader will
remember, I had, by a lucky thought,
taken the precaution to fill the pockets
of my old shooting-coat with gems
before we left our prison-house. A good
many of these fell out in the course of
our roll down the side of the pit,
including most of the big ones, which I
had crammed in on the top. But,
comparatively speaking, an enormous
quantity still remained, including
eighteen large stones ranging from
about one hundred to thirty carats in
weight. My old shooting-coat still held
enough treasure to make us all, if not
millionaires, at least exceedingly
wealthy men, and yet to keep enough
stones' each to make the three finest
sets of gems in Europe. So we had not
done so badly.

On arriving at Loo we were most
cordially received by Ignosi, whom we
found well, and busily engaged in
consolidating his power and
reorganizing the regiments which had
suffered most in the great struggle with
Twala.

He listened with breathless interest to
our wonderful story; but when we told
him of old Gagool's frightful end, he
grew thoughtful.

"Come hither," he called, to a very old
Induna (councillor), who was sitting
with others in a circle round the king,
but out of ear-shot. The old man rose,
approached, saluted, and seated
himself.

"Thou art old," said Ignosi.

"Ay, my lord the king!"

"Tell me? when thou was little, didst
thou know Gagaoola, the witch
doctress?"

"Ay, my lord the king!"

"How was she then--young, like thee?"

"Not so, my lord the king! She was even
as now; old and dried, very ugly, and
full of wickedness."

"She is no more; she is dead."

"So, O king! then is a curse taken from
the land."

"Go!"

"_i_ Koom! _i_ I go, black puppy, who
tore out the old dog's throat. _i_ Koom!
_i_"

"Ye see, my brothers," said Ignosi, "this
was a strange woman, and I rejoice that
she is dead. She would have let ye die
in the dark place, and mayhap
afterwards she had found a way to slay
me, as she found a way to slay my
father and set up Twala, whom her
heart loved, in his place. Now go on
with the tale; surely there never was
the like?

After I had narrated all the story of our
escape, I, as we had agreed between
ourselves that I should, took the
opportunity to address Ignosi as to our
departure from Kukuanaland.

"And now, Ignosi, the time has come
for us to bid thee farewell, and start to
seek once more our own land. Behold,
Ignosi, with us thou camest a servant,
and now we leave thee a mighty king.
If thou art grateful to us, remember to
do even as thou didst promise; to rule
justly, to respect the law, and to put
none to death without a cause. So shalt
thou prosper. To-morrow, at break of
day, Ignosi, wilt thou give us an escort
who shall lead us across the
mountains? Is it not so, O king?"

Ignosi covered his face with his hands
for a while before answering.

"My heart is sore," he said at last;
"your words split my heart in twain.
What have I done to ye, Incubu,
Macumazahn, and Bougwan, that ye
should leave me desolate? Ye who
stood by me in rebellion and battle,
will ye leave me in the day of peace
and victory? What will ye: wives?
Choose from out the land! A place to
live in? Behold, the land is yours as far
as ye can see. The white man's houses?
Ye shall teach my people how to build
them. Cattle for beef and milk? Every
married man shall bring ye an ox or a
cow. Wild game to hunt? Does not the
elephant walk through my forests, and
the river-horse sleep in the reeds?
Would ye make war? My Impis
(regiments) wait your word. If there is
anything more that I can give, that will
I give ye."

"Nay, Ignosi, we want not these things,"
I answered; "we would seek our own
place."

"Now do I perceive," said Ignosi,
bitterly, and with flashing eyes, "that it
is the bright stones that ye love more
than me, your friend. Ye have the
stones; now would ye go to Natal and
across the black water and sell them,
and be rich, as it is the desire of a
white man's heart to be. Cursed for
your sake be the stones, and cursed he
who seeks them. Death shall it be to
him who sets foot in the Place of Death
to seek them. I have spoken, white
men; ye can go."

I laid my hand upon his arm. "Ignosi,"
I said, "tell us, when thou didst wander
in Zululand, and among the white men
in Natal, did not thine heart turn to the
land thy mother told thee of, thy
native land, where thou didst see the
light, and play when thou wast little,
the land where thy place was?"

"It was even so, Macumazahn."

"Then thus does our heart turn to our
land and to our own place."

Then came a pause. When Ignosi broke
it, it was in a different voice.

"I do perceive that thy words are, now
as ever, wise and full of reason,
Macumazahn; that which flies in the
air loves not to run along the ground;
the white man loves not to live on the
level of the black. Well, ye must go,
and leave my heart sore, because ye
will be as dead to me, since from where
ye will be no tidings can come to me.

"But listen, and let all the white men
know my words. No other white man
shall cross the mountains, even if any
may live to come so far. I will see no
traders with their guns and rum. My
people shall fight with the spear and
drink water, like their forefathers
before them. I will have no praying-
men to put fear of death into men's
hearts, to stir them up against the king,
and make a path for the white men
who follow to run on. If a white man
comes to my gates I will send him back;
if a hundred come, I will push them
back; if an army comes, I will make war
on them with all my strength, and they
shall not prevail against me. None
shall ever come for the shining stones;
no, not an army, for if they come I will
send a regiment and fill up the pit, and
break down the white columns in the
caves and fill them with rocks, so that
none can come even to that door of
which ye speak, and whereof the way
to move it is lost. But for ye three,
Incubu, Macumazahn, and Bougwan,
the path is always open; for behold, ye
are dearer to me than aught that
breathes.

"And ye would go. Infadoos, my uncle,
and my Induna, shall take thee by the
hand and guide thee, with a regiment.
There is, as I have learned, another
way across the mountains that he shall
show ye. Farewell, my brothers, brave
white men. See me no more, for I have
no heart to bear it. Behold, I make a
decree, and it shall be published from
the mountains to the mountains, your
names, Incubu, Macumazahn, and
Bougwan, shall be as the names of
dead kings, and he who speaks them
shall die. So shall your memory be
preserved in the land forever.

"Go, now, ere my eyes rain tears like a
woman's. At times when ye look back
down the path of life, or when ye are
old and gather yourselves together to
crouch before the fire, because the sun
has no more heat, ye will think of how
we stood shoulder to shoulder in that
great battle that thy wise words
planned, Macumazahn; of how thou
wast the point of that horn that galled
Twala's flank, Bougwan; whilst thou
stoodst in the ring of the Grays,
Incubu, and men went down before
thine axe like corn before a sickle; ay,
and of how thou didst break the wild
bull's (Twala's) strength, and bring his
pride to dust. Fare ye well forever,
Incubu, Macumazahn, and Bougwan,
my lords and my friends."

He rose, looked earnestly at us for a
few seconds, and then threw the corner
of his kaross over his head, so as to
cover his face from us. We went in
silence.

Next day at dawn we left Loo, escorted
by our old friend Infadoos who was
heart-broken at our departure, and the
regiment of Buffaloes. Early as the
hour was, all the main street of the
town was lined with multitudes of
people, who gave us the royal salute as
we passed at the head of the regiment,
while the women blessed us as having
rid the land of Twala, throwing flowers
before us as we went. It really was very
affecting, and not the sort of thing one
is accustomed to meet with from
natives.

One very ludicrous incident occurred,
however, which I rather welcomed, as
it gave us something to laugh at.

Just before we got to the confines of
the town a pretty young girl, with some
beautiful lilies in her hand, came
running forward and presented them
to Good (somehow they all seemed to
like Good; I think his eye-glass and
solitary whisker gave him a fictitious
value), and then said she had a boon
to ask.

"Speak on."

"Let my lord show his servant his
beautiful white legs, that his servant
may look on them, and remember
them all her days, and tell of them to
her children; his servant has travelled
four days' journey to see them, for the
fame of them has gone throughout the
land."

"I'll be hanged if I do!" said Good,
excitedly.

"Come, come, my dear fellow," said Sir
Henry, "you can't refuse to oblige a
lady."

"I won't," said Good, obstinately; "it is
positively indecent."

However, in the end he consented to
draw up his trousers to the knee,
amidst notes of rapturous admiration
from all the women present, especially
the gratified young lady, and in this
guise he had to walk till we got clear of
the town.

 

 

Good's legs will, I fear, never be so
greatly admired again. Of his melting
teeth, and even of his "transparent
eye," they wearied more or less, but of
his legs, never.

As we travelled, Infadoos told us that
there was another pass over the
mountains to the north of the one
followed by Solomon's Great Road, or
rather that there was a place where it
was possible to climb down the wall of
cliff that separated Kukuanaland from
the desert, and was broken by the
towering shapes of Sheba's breasts. It
appeared, too, that rather more than
two years previously a party of
Kukuana hunters had descended this
path into the desert in search of
ostriches, whose plumes were much
prized among them for war
headdresses, and that in the course of
their hunt they had been led far from
the mountains, and were much
troubled by thirst. Seeing, however,
trees on the horizon, they made
towards them, and discovered a large
and fertile oasis of some miles in
extent, and plentifully watered. It was
by way of this oasis that he suggested
that we should return, and the idea
seemed to us a good one, as it
appeared that we should escape the
rigors of the mountain pass, and as
some of the hunters were in
attendance to guide us to the oasis,
from which they stated, they could
perceive more fertile spots far away in
the desert.

Travelling easily, on the night of the
fourth day's journey we found
ourselves: once more on the crest of
the mountain! that separate
Kukuanaland from the desert, which
rolled away in sandy billows at our
feet, and about twenty-five miles to the
north of Sheba's breasts.

At dawn on the following day we were
led to the commencement of a
precipitous descent, by which we were
to descend the precipice, and gain the
desert two thousand and more feet
below.

Here we bade farewell to that true
friend and sturdy old warrior,
Infadoos, who solemnly wished all
good upon us, and nearly wept with
grief. "Never, my lords," he said, "shall
mine old eyes see the like of ye again.
Ah! the way that Incubu cut his men
down in the battle! Ah! for the sight of
that stroke with which he swept off my
brother Twala's head! It was beautiful--
beautiful! I may never hope to see such
another, except perchance in happy
dreams."

We were very sorry to part from him;
indeed, Good was so moved that he
gave him as a souvenir--what do you
think?--_i_ an eye-glass _i_.
(Afterwards we discovered that it was a
spare one.) Infadoos was delighted,
foreseeing that the possession of such
an article would enormously increase
his prestige, and after several vain
attempts actually succeeded in
screwing it into his own eye. Anything
more incongruous than the old
Warrior looked with an eye-glass I
never saw. Eye-glasses don't go well
with leopard-skin cloaks and black
ostrich plumes.

Then, having seen that our guides were
well laden with water and provisions,
and having received a thundering
farewell salute from the Buffaloes, we
wrung the old warrior's hand, and
began our downward climb. A very
arduous business it proved to be, but
somehow that evening we found
ourselves at the bottom without
accident.

"Do you know," said Sir Henry that
night, as we sat by our fire and gazed
up at the beetling cliffs above us, "I
think that there are worse places than
Kukuanaland in the world, and that I
have spent unhappier times than the
last month or two, though I have never
spent such queer ones. Eh ! you
fellows?"

"I almost wish I were back," said Good,
with a sigh.

As for myself, I reflected that all's well
that ends well; but in the course of a
long life of shaves I never had such
shaves as those I had recently
experienced. The thought of that battle
still makes me feel cold all over, and as
for our experience in the treasure
chamber--!

Next morning we started on a toilsome
march across the desert, having with
us a good supply of water carried by
our five guides, and camped that night
in the open, starting again at dawn on
the morrow.

By midday of the third day's journey
we could see the trees of the oasis of
which the guides spoke, and by an
hour before sundown we were once
more walking upon grass and listening
to the sound of running water.

 

 

CHAPTER XX--FOUND

 

 

AND now I come to perhaps the
strangest thing that happened to us in
all that strange business, and one
which shows how wonderfully things
are brought about.

I was walking quietly along, some way
in front of the other two, down the
banks of the stream which ran from
the oasis till it was swallowed up in the
hungry desert sands, when suddenly I
stopped and rubbed my eyes, as well I
might. There, not twenty yards in
front, placed in a charming situation,
under the shade of a species of fig-tree,
and facing to the stream, was a cosey
hut, built more or less on the Kaffir
principle of grass and withes, only with
a full-length door instead of a bee-
hole.

"What the dickens," said I to myself,
"can a hut be doing here?" Even as I
said it, the door of the hut opened, and
there limped out of it a _i_ white man
_i_ clothed in skins, and with an
enormous black beard. I thought that I
must have got a touch of the sun. It
was impossible. No hunter ever came
to such a place as this. Certainly no
hunter would ever settle in it. I stared
and stared, and so did the other man,
and just at that juncture Sir Henry and
Good came up.

"Look here, you fellows," I said, "is that
a white man, or am I mad?"

Sir Henry looked, and Good looked,
and then all of a sudden the lame
white man with the black beard gave a
great cry, and came hobbling towards
us. When he got close he fell down in a
sort of faint.

With a spring Sir Henry was by his
side.

"Great Powers!" he cried, "_i_ it is my
brother George! _i_"

At the sound of the disturbance
another figure, also clad in skins,
emerged from the hut with a gun in his
hand, and came running towards us.
On seeing me he too gave a cry.

"Macumazahn," he hallooed, "don't
you know me, Baas? I'm Jim, the
hunter. I lost the note you gave me to
give to the Baas, and we have been
here nearly two years." And the fellow
fell at my feet and rolled over and
over, weeping for joy.

"You careless scoundrel!" I said; "you
ought to be well hided."

Meanwhile the man with the black
beard had recovered and got up, and
he and Sir Henry were pump-handling
away at each other, apparently without
a word to say. But whatever they had
quarrelled about in the past (I suspect
it was a lady, though I never asked), it
was evidently forgotten now.

"My dear old fellow," burst out Sir
Henry at last, "I thought that you were
dead. I have been over Solomon's
Mountains to find you, and now I come
across you perched in the desert, like
an old Aasvo"gel (vulture)."

"I tried to go over Solomon's
Mountains nearly two years ago," was
the answer, spoken in the hesitating
voice of a man who has had little
recent opportunity of using his tongue,
"but when I got here, a boulder fell on
my leg and crushed it, and I have been
able to go neither forward nor back."

Then I came up. "How do you do, Mr.
Neville?" I said; "do you remember
me?"

"Why," he said, "isn't it Quatermain,
eh, and Good, too? Hold on a minute,
you fellows, I am getting dizzy again. It
is all so very strange, and, when a man
has ceased to hope, so very happy."

That evening, over the camp-fire,
George Curtis told us his story, which,
in its way, was almost as eventful as
our own, and amounted, shortly, to
this. A little short of two years before,
he had started from Sitanda's Kraal, to
try and reach the mountains. As for
the note I had sent him by Jim, that
worthy had lost it, and he had never
heard of it till to-day. But, acting upon
information he had received from the
natives, he made, not for Sheba's
breasts, but for the ladder-like descent
of the mountains down which we had
just come, which was clearly a better
route than that marked out in old Don
Silvestra's plan. In the desert he and
Jim suffered great hardships, but
finally they reached this oasis, where a
terrible accident befell George Curtis.
On the day of their arrival he was
sitting by the stream, and Jim was
extracting the honey from the nest of a
stingless bee, which is to be found in
the desert, on the top of the bank
immediately above him. In so doing he
loosed a great boulder of rock, which
fell upon George Curtis's right leg,
crushing it frightfully. From that day
he had been so dreadfully lame that he
had found it impossible to go either
forward or back, and had preferred to
take the chances of dying on the oasis
to the certainty of perishing in the
desert.

As for food, however, they had got on
pretty well, for they had a good supply.
of ammunition, and the oasis was
frequented, especially at night, by
large quantities of game, which came
thither for water. These they shot, or
trapped in pitfalls, using their flesh for
food and, after their clothes wore out,
their hides for covering.

"And so," he ended, "we have lived for
nearly two years, like a second
Robinson Crusoe and his man Friday,
hoping against hope that some natives
might come here and help us away, but
none have come. Only last night we
settled that Jim should leave me and
try to reach Sitanda's Kraal and get
assistance. He was to go to-morrow, but
I had little hope of ever seeing him
back again. And now _i_ you, _i_ of all
the people in the world, _i_ you _i_
who I fancied had long ago forgotten
all about me, and were living
comfortably in old England, turn up in
a promiscuous way and find me where
you least expected. It is the most
wonderful thing I ever heard of, and
the most merciful, too."

Then Sir Henry set to work and told
him the main facts of our adventures,
sitting till late into the night to do it.

"By Jove!" he said, when I showed him
some of the diamonds; "well, at least
you have got something for your pains,
besides my worthless self."

Sir Henry laughed. "They belong to
Quatermain and Good. It was part of
the bargain that they should share any
spoils there might be."

This remark set me thinking, and,
having spoken to Good, I told Sir
Henry that it was our unanimous wish
that he should take a third share of the
diamonds, or, if he would not, that his
share should be handed to his brother,
who had suffered even more than
ourselves on the chance of getting
them. Finally, we prevailed upon him
to consent to this arrangement, but
George Curtis did not know of it till
some time afterwards.

 

 

And here, at this point, I think I shall
end this history. Our journey across
the desert back to Sitanda's Kraal was
most arduous, especially as we had to
support George Curtis, whose right leg
was very weak indeed, and continually
throwing out splinters of bone; but we
did accomplish it, somehow, and to
give its details would only be to
reproduce much of what happened to
us on the former occasion.

 

 

Six months from the date of our
rearrival at Sitanda's, where we found
our guns and other goods quite safe,
though the old scoundrel in charge
was much disgusted at our surviving to
claim them, saw us all once more safe
and sound at my little place on the
Berea, near Durban, where I am now
writing, and whence I bid farewell to
all who have accompanied me
throughout the strangest trip I ever
made in the course of a long and
varied experience.

 

 

Just as I had written the last word a
Kaffir came up my avenue of orange
trees, with a letter in a cleft stick,
which he had brought from the post. It
turned out to be from Sir Henry, and,
as it speaks for itself, I give it in full.

 

 

"BRAYLEY HALL, YORKSHIRE.

"MY DEAR QUATERMAIN,--

I sent you a line a few mails back to
say that the three of us, George, Good,
and myself, fetched up all right in
England. We got off the boat at
Southampton, and went up to town.
You should have seen what a swell
Good turned out the very next day,
beautifully shaved, frock coat fitting
like a glove, brand-new eyeglass, etc.,
etc. I went and walked in the park with
him, where I met some people I know,
and at once told them the story of his
'beautiful white legs.'

"He is furious, especially as some ill-
natured person has printed it in a
society paper.

"To come to business, Good and I took
the diamonds to Streeter's to be
valued, as we arranged, and I am really
afraid to tell you what they put them
at, it seems so enormous. They say that
of course it is more or less guess-work,
as such stones have never to their
knowledge been put on the market in
anything like such quantities. It
appears that they are (with the
exception of one or two of the largest)
of the finest water, and equal in every
way to the best Brazilian stones. I
asked them if they would buy them,
but they said that it was beyond their
power to do so, and recommended us
to sell by degrees, for fear we should
flood the market. They offer, however,
a hundred and eighty thousand for a
small portion of them.

"You must come home, Quatermain,
and see about these things, especially
if you insist upon making the
magnificent present of the third share,
which does _i_ not _i_ belong to me,
to my brother George. As for Good, he
is _i_ no good _i_. His time is too
much occupied in shaving, and other
matters connected with the vain
adorning of his body. But I think he is
still down on his luck about Foulata. He
told me that since he had been home
he hadn't seen a woman to touch her,
either as regards her figure or the
sweetness of her expression.

"I want you to come home, my dear old
comrade, and buy a place near here.
You have done your day's work, and
have lots of money now, and there is a
place for sale quite close which would
suit you admirably. Do come; the
sooner the better; you can finish
writing the story of our adventures on
board ship. We have refused to tell the
story till it is written by you, for fear
that we shall not be believed. If you
start on receipt of this you will reach
here by Christmas, and I book you to
stay with me for that. Good is coming,
and George, and so, by the way, is your
boy Harry (there's a bribe for you). I
have had him down for a week's
shooting and like him. He is a cool
young hand; he shot me in the leg, cut
out the pellets, and then remarked
upon the advantage of having a
medical student in every shooting-
party.

"Good-bye, old boy; I can't say any
more, but I know that you will come, if
it is only to oblige your sincere friend,

HENRY CURTIS.

 

 

"P.S.--The tusks of the great bull that
killed poor Khiva have now been put
up in the hall here, over the pair of
buffalo-horns you gave me, and look
magnificent; and the axe with which I
chopped off Twala's head is stuck up
over my writing-table. I wish we could
have managed. to bring away the coats
of chain armor. H.C."

 

 

To-day is Tuesday. There is a steamer
going on Friday, and I really think I
must take Curtis at his word, and sail
by her for England, if it is only to see
my boy Harry and see about the
printing of this history, which is a task
I do not like to trust to anybody else.

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