Allan and the Holy Flower
by
H. Rider Haggard

Part 7 out of 7



this attempt, they rushed back along the lane with the intention of
escaping at the north-gate. But before ever they reached the head of
the market-place the roaring, wind-swept flames, leaping from hut to
hut, had barred their path. They could not face that awful furnace.

Now they took another counsel and in a great confused body charged
down the market-place to break out at the south gate, and our turn
came. How we raked them as they sped across the open, an easy mark! I
know that I fired as fast as I could using two rifles, swearing the
while at Hans because he was not there to load for me. Stephen was
better off in this respect, for, looking round, to my astonishment I
saw Hope, who had left her mother on the other side of the hill, in
the act of capping his second gun. I should explain that during our
stay in Beza Town we had taught her how to use a rifle.

I called to him to send her away, but again she would not go, even
after a bullet had pierced her dress.

Still, all our shooting could not stop that rush of men, made
desperate by the fear of a fiery death. Leaving many stretched out
behind them, the first of the Arabs drew near to the south gate.

"My father," said Mavovo in my ear, "now the real fighting is going to
begin. The gate will soon be down. /We/ must be the gate."

I nodded, for if the Arabs once got through, there were enough of them
left to wipe us out five times over. Indeed, I do not suppose that up
to this time they had actually lost more than forty men. A few words
explained the situation to Stephen and Brother John, whom I told to
take his daughter to her mother and wait there with them. The Mazitu I
ordered to throw down their guns, for if they kept these I was sure
they would shoot some of us, and to accompany us, bringing their
spears only.

Then we rushed down the slope and took up our position in a little
open space in front of the gate, that now was tottering to its fall
beneath the blows and draggings of the Arabs. At this time the sight
was terrible and magnificent, for the flames had got hold of the two
half-circles of huts that embraced the market-place, and, fanned by
the blast, were rushing towards us like a thing alive. Above us swept
a great pall of smoke in which floated flakes of fire, so thick that
it hid the sky, though fortunately the wind did not suffer it to sink
and choke us. The sounds also were almost inconceivable, for to the
crackling roar of the conflagration as it devoured hut after hut, were
added the coarse, yelling voices of the half-bred Arabs, as in mingled
rage and terror they tore at the gateway or each other, and the
reports of the guns which many of them were still firing, half at
hazard.

We formed up before the gate, the Zulus with Stephen and myself in
front and the thirty picked Mazitu, commanded by no less a person than
Bausi, the king, behind. We had not long to wait, for presently down
the thing came and over it and the mound of earth and stones we had
built beyond, began to pour a mob of white-robed and turbaned men
whose mixed and tumultuous exit somehow reminded me of the pips and
pulp being squeezed out of a grenadilla fruit.

I gave the word, and we fired into that packed mass with terrible
effect. Really I think that each bullet must have brought down two or
three of them. Then, at a command from Mavovo, the Zulus threw down
their guns and charged with their broad spears. Stephen, who had got
hold of an assegai somehow, went with them, firing a Colt's revolver
as he ran, while at their backs came Bausi and his thirty tall Mazitu.

I will confess at once that I did not join in this terrific onslaught.
I felt that I had not weight enough for a scrimmage of the sort, also
that I should perhaps be better employed using my wits outside and
watching for a chance to be of service, like a half-back in a football
field, than in getting my brains knocked out in a general row. Or
mayhap my heart failed me and I was afraid. I dare say, for I have
never pretended to great courage. At any rate, I stopped outside and
shot whenever I got the chance, not without effect, filling a humble
but perhaps a useful part.

It was really magnificent, that fray. How those Zulus did go in. For
quite a long while they held the narrow gateway and the mound against
all the howling, thrusting mob, much as the Roman called Horatius and
his two friends held the entrance to some bridge or other long ago at
Rome against a great force of I forget whom. They shouted their Zulu
battle-cry of /Laba! Laba!/ that of their regiment, I suppose, for
most of them were men of about the same age, and stabbed and fought
and struggled and went down one by one.

Back the rest of them were swept; then, led by Mavovo, Stephen and
Bausi, charged again, reinforced with the thirty Mazitu. Now the
tongues of flame met almost over them, the growing fence of prickly
pear and cacti withered and crackled, and still they fought on beneath
that arch of fire.

Back they were driven again by the mere weight of numbers. I saw
Mavovo stab a man and go down. He rose and stabbed another, then fell
again for he was hard hit.

Two Arabs rushed to kill him. I shot them both with a right and left,
for fortunately my rifle was just reloaded. He rose once more and
killed a third man. Stephen came to his support and grappling with an
Arab, dashed his head against the gate-post so that he fell. Old
Bausi, panting like a grampus, plunged in with his remaining Mazitu
and the combatants became so confused in the dark gloom of the
overhanging smoke that I could scarcely tell one from the other. Yet
the maddened Arabs were winning, as they must, for how could our small
and ever-lessening company stand against their rush?

We were in a little circle now of which somehow I found myself the
centre, and they were attacking us on all sides. Stephen got a knock
on the head from the butt end of a gun, and tumbled against me, nearly
upsetting me. As I recovered myself I looked round in despair.

Now it was that I saw a very welcome sight, namely Hans, yes, the lost
Hans himself, with his filthy hat whereof I noticed even then the
frayed ostrich feathers were smouldering, hanging by a leather strap
at the back of his head. He was shambling along in a sly and silent
sort of way, but at a great rate with his mouth open, beckoning over
his shoulder, and behind him came about one hundred and fifty Mazitu.

Those Mazitu soon put another complexion upon the affair, for charging
with a roar, they drove back the Arabs, who had no space to develop
their line, straight into the jaws of that burning hell. A little
later the rest of the Mazitu returned with Babemba and finished the
job. Only quite a few of the Arabs got out and were captured after
they had thrown down their guns. The rest retreated into the centre of
the market-place, whither our people followed them. In this crisis the
blood of these Mazitu told, and they stuck to the enemy as Zulus
themselves would certainly have done.

It was over! Great Heaven! it was over, and we began to count our
losses. Four of the Zulus were dead and two others were badly wounded
--no, three, including Mavovo. They brought him to me leaning on the
shoulder of Babemba and another Mazitu captain. He was a shocking
sight, for he was shot in three places, and badly cut and battered as
well. He looked at me a little while, breathing heavily, then spoke.

"It was a very good fight, my father," he said. "Of all that I have
fought I can remember none better, although I have been in far greater
battles, which is well as it is my last. I foreknew it, my father, for
though I never told it you, the first death lot that I drew down
yonder in Durban was my own. Take back the gun you gave me, my father.
You did but lend it me for a little while, as I said to you. Now I go
to the Underworld to join the spirits of my ancestors and of those who
have fallen at my side in many wars, and of those women who bore my
children. I shall have a tale to tell them there, my father, and
together we will wait for you--till you, too, die in war!"

Then he lifted up his arm from the neck of Babemba, and saluted me
with a loud cry of /Baba! Inkosi!/ giving me certain great titles
which I will not set down, and having done so sank to the earth.

I sent one of the Mazitu to fetch Brother John, who arrived presently
with his wife and daughter. He examined Mavovo and told him straight
out that nothing could help him except prayer.

"Make no prayers for me, Dogeetah," said the old heathen; "I have
followed my star," (i.e. lived according to my lights) "and am ready
to eat the fruit that I have planted. Or if the tree prove barren,
then to drink of its sap and sleep."

Waving Brother John aside he beckoned to Stephen.

"O Wazela!" he said, "you fought very well in that fight; if you go on
as you have begun in time you will make a warrior of whom the Daughter
of the Flower and her children will sing songs after you have come to
join me, your friend. Meanwhile, farewell! Take this assegai of mine
and clean it not, that the red rust thereon may put you in mind of
Mavovo, the old Zulu doctor and captain with whom you stood side by
side in the Battle of the Gate, when, as though they were winter
grass, the fire burnt up the white-robed thieves of men who could not
pass our spears."

Then he waved his hand again, and Stephen stepped aside muttering
something, for he and Mavovo had been very intimate and his voice
choked in his throat with grief. Now the old Zulu's glazing eye fell
upon Hans, who was sneaking about, I think with a view of finding an
opportunity of bidding him a last good-bye.

"Ah! Spotted Snake," he cried, "so you have come out of your hole now
that the fire has passed it, to eat the burnt frogs in the cinders. It
is a pity that you who are so clever should be a coward, since our
lord Macumazana needed one to load for him on the hill and would have
killed more of the hyenas had you been there."

"Yes, Spotted Snake, it is so," echoed an indignant chorus of the
other Zulus, while Stephen and I and even the mild Brother John looked
at him reproachfully.

Now Hans, who generally was as patient under affront as a Jew, for
once lost his temper. He dashed his hat upon the ground, and danced on
it; he spat towards the surviving Zulu hunters; he even vituperated
the dying Mavovo.

"O son of a fool!" he said, "you pretend that you can see what is hid
from other men, but I tell you that there is a lying spirit in your
lips. You called me a coward because I am not big and strong as you
were, and cannot hold an ox by the horns, but at least there is more
brain in my stomach than in all your head. Where would all of you be
now had it not been for poor Spotted Snake the 'coward,' who twice
this day has saved every one of you, except those whom the Baas's
father, the reverend Predikant, has marked upon the forehead to come
and join him in a place that is even hotter and brighter than that
burning town?"

Now we looked at Hans, wondering what he meant about saving us twice,
and Mavovo said:

"Speak on quickly, O Spotted Snake, for I would hear the end of your
story. How did you help us in your hole?"

Hans began to grub about in his pockets, from which finally he
produced a match-box wherein there remained but one match.

"With this," he said. "Oh! could none of you see that the men of
Hassan had all walked into a trap? Did none of you know that fire
burns thatched houses, and that a strong wind drives it fast and far?
While you sat there upon the hill with your heads together, like sheep
waiting to be killed, I crept away among the bushes and went about my
business. I said nothing to any of you, not even to the Baas, lest he
should answer me, 'No, Hans, there may be an old woman sick in one of
those huts and therefore you must not fire them.' In such matters who
does not know that white people are fools, even the best of them, and
in fact there were several old women, for I saw them running for the
gateway. Well, I crept up by the green fence which I knew would not
burn and I came to the north gate. There was an Arab sentry left there
to watch.

"He fired at me, look! Well for Hans his mother bore him short"; and
he pointed to a hole in the filthy hat. "Then before that Arab could
load again, poor coward Hans got his knife into him from behind.
Look!" and he produced a big blade, which was such as butchers use,
from his belt and showed it to us. "After that it was easy, since fire
is a wonderful thing. You make it small and it grows big of itself,
like a child, and never gets tired, and is always hungry, and runs
fast as a horse. I lit six of them where they would burn quickest.
Then I saved the last match, since we have few left, and came through
the gate before the fire ate me up; me, its father, me the Sower of
the Red Seed!"

We stared at the old Hottentot in admiration, even Mavovo lifted his
dying head and stared. But Hans, whose annoyance had now evaporated,
went on in a jog-trot mechanical voice:

"As I was returning to find the Baas, if he still lived, the heat of
the fire forced me to the high ground to the west of the fence, so
that I saw what was happening at the south gate, and that the Arab men
must break through there because you who held it were so few. So I ran
down to Babemba and the other captains very quickly, telling them
there was no need to guard the fence any more, and that they must get
to the south gate and help you, since otherwise you would all be
killed, and they, too, would be killed afterwards. Babemba listened to
me and started sending out messengers to collect the others and we got
here just in time. Such is the hole I hid in during the Battle of the
Gate, O Mavovo. That is all the story which I pray that you will tell
to the Baas's reverend father, the Predikant, presently, for I am sure
that it will please him to learn that he did not teach me to be wise
and help all men and always to look after the Baas Allan, to no
purpose. Still, I am sorry that I wasted so many matches, for where
shall we get any more now that the camp is burnt?" and he gazed
ruefully at the all but empty box.

Mavovo spoke once more in a slow, gasping voice.

"Never again," he said, addressing Hans, "shall you be called Spotted
Snake, O little yellow man who are so great and white of heart.
Behold! I give you a new name, by which you shall be known with honour
from generation to generation. It is 'Light in Darkness.' It is 'Lord
of the Fire.'"

Then he closed his eyes and fell back insensible. Within a few minutes
he was dead. But those high names with which he christened Hans with
his dying breath, clung to the old Hottentot for all his days. Indeed
from that day forward no native would ever have ventured to call him
by any other. Among them, far and wide, they became his titles of
honour.

The roar of the flames grew less and the tumult within their fiery
circle died away. For now the Mazitu were returning from the last
fight in the market-place, if fight it could be called, bearing in
their arms great bundles of the guns which they had collected from the
dead Arabs, most of whom had thrown down their weapons in a last wild
effort to escape. But between the spears of the infuriated savages on
the one hand and the devouring fire on the other what escape was there
for them? The blood-stained wretches who remained in the camps and
towns of the slave-traders, along the eastern coast of Africa, or in
the Isle of Madagascar, alone could tell how many were lost, since of
those who went out from them to make war upon the Mazitu and their
white friends, none returned again with the long lines of expected
captives. They had gone to their own place, of which sometimes that
flaming African city has seemed to me a symbol. They were wicked men
indeed, devils stalking the earth in human form, without pity, without
shame. Yet I could not help feeling sorry for them at the last, for
truly their end was awful.

They brought the prisoners up to us, and among them, his white robe
half-burnt off him, I recognised the hideous pock-marked Hassan-ben-
Mohammed.

"I received your letter, written a while ago, in which you promised to
make us die by fire, and, this morning, I received your message,
Hassan," I said, "brought by the wounded lad who escaped from you when
you murdered his companions, and to both I sent you an answer. If none
reached you, look around, for there is one written large in a tongue
that all can read."

The monster, for he was no less, flung himself upon the ground,
praying for mercy. Indeed, seeing Mrs. Eversley, he crawled to her and
catching hold of her white robe, begged her to intercede for him.

"You made a slave of me after I had nursed you in the spotted
sickness," she answered, "and tried to kill my husband for no fault.
Through you, Hassan, I have spent all the best years of my life among
savages, alone and in despair. Still, for my part, I forgive you, but
oh! may I never see your face again."

Then she wrenched herself free from his grasp and went away with her
daughter.

"I, too, forgive you, although you murdered my people and for twenty
years made my time a torment," said Brother John, who was one of the
truest Christians I have ever known. "May God forgive you also"; and
he followed his wife and daughter.

Then the old king, Bausi, who had come through that battle with a
slight wound, spoke, saying:

"I am glad, Red Thief, that these white people have granted you what
you asked--namely, their forgiveness--since the deed is greatly to
their honour and causes me and my people to think them even nobler
than we did before. But, O murderer of men and woman and trafficker in
children, I am judge here, not the white people. Look on your work!"
and he pointed first to the lines of Zulu and Mazitu dead, and then to
his burning town. "Look and remember the fate you promised to us who
have never harmed you. Look! Look! Look! O Hyena of a man!"

At this point I too went away, nor did I ever ask what became of
Hassan and his fellow-captives. Moreover, whenever any of the natives
or Hans tried to inform me, I bade them hold their tongues.



EPILOGUE

I have little more to add to this record, which I fear has grown into
quite a long book. Or, at any rate, although the setting of it down
has amused me during the afternoons and evenings of this endless
English winter, now that the spring is come again I seem to have grown
weary of writing. Therefore I shall leave what remains untold to the
imagination of anyone who chances to read these pages.



We were victorious, and had indeed much cause for gratitude who still
lived to look upon the sun. Yet the night that followed the Battle of
the Gate was a sad one, at least for me, who felt the death of my
friend the foresighted hero, Mavovo, of the bombastic but faithful
Sammy, and of my brave hunters more than I can say. Also the old
Zulu's prophecy concerning me, that I too should die in battle,
weighed upon me, who seemed to have seen enough of such ends in recent
days and to desire one more tranquil.

Living here in peaceful England as I do now, with no present prospect
of leaving it, it does not appear likely that it will be fulfilled.
Yet, after my experience of the divining powers of Mavovo's "Snake"--
well, those words of his make me feel uncomfortable. For when all is
said and done, who can know the future? Moreover, it is the improbable
that generally happens[*]

[*] As the readers of "Allan Quatermain" will be aware, this prophecy
of the dying Zulu was fulfilled. Mr. Quatermain died at Zuvendis
as a result of the wound he received in the battle between the
armies of the rival Queens.--Editor.

Further, the climatic conditions were not conducive to cheerfulness,
for shortly after sunset it began to rain and poured for most of the
night, which, as we had little shelter, was inconvenient both to us
and to all the hundreds of the homeless Mazitu.

However, the rain ceased in due time, and on the following morning the
welcome sun shone out of a clear sky. When we had dried and warmed
ourselves a little in its rays, someone suggested that we should visit
the burned-out town where, except for some smouldering heaps that had
been huts, the fire was extinguished by the heavy rain. More from
curiosity than for any other reason I consented and accompanied by
Bausi, Babemba and many of the Mazitu, all of us, except Brother John,
who remained behind to attend to the wounded, climbed over the debris
of the south gate and walked through the black ruins of the huts,
across the market-place that was strewn with dead, to what had been
our own quarters.

These were a melancholy sight, a mere heap of sodden and still smoking
ashes. I could have wept when I looked at them, thinking of all the
trade goods and stores that were consumed beneath, necessities for the
most part, the destruction of which must make our return journey one
of great hardship.

Well, there was nothing to be said or done, so after a few minutes of
contemplation we turned to continue our walk through what had been the
royal quarters to the north gate. Hans, who, I noted, had been
ferreting about in his furtive way as though he were looking for
something, and I were the last to leave. Suddenly he laid his hand
upon my arm and said:

"Baas, listen! I hear a ghost. I think it is the ghost of Sammy asking
us to bury him."

"Bosh!" I answered, and then listened as hard as I could.

Now I also seemed to hear something coming from I knew not where,
words which were frequently repeated and which seemed to be:

"/O Mr. Quatermain, I beg you to be so good as to open the door of
this oven./"

For a while I thought I must be cracked. However, I called back the
others and we all listened. Of a sudden Hans made a pounce, like a
terrier does at the run of a mole that he hears working underground,
and began to drag, or rather to shovel, at a heap of ashes in front of
us, using a bit of wood as they were still too hot for his hands. Then
we listened again and this time heard the voice quite clearly coming
from the ground.

"Baas," said Hans, "it is Sammy in the corn-pit!"

Now I remembered that such a pit existed in front of the huts which,
although empty at the time, was, as is common among the Bantu natives,
used to preserve corn that would not immediately be needed. Once I
myself went through a very tragic experience in one of these pits, as
any who may read the history of my first wife, that I have called
/Marie/, can see for themselves.

Soon we cleared the place and had lifted the stone, with ventilating
holes in it--well was it for Sammy that those ventilating holes
existed; also that the stone did not fit tight. Beneath was a bottle-
shaped and cemented structure about ten feet deep by, say, eight wide.
Instantly through the mouth of this structure appeared the head of
Sammy with his mouth wide open like that of a fish gasping for air. We
pulled him out, a process that caused him to howl, for the heat had
made his skin very tender, and gave him water which one of the Mazitu
fetched from a spring. Then I asked him indignantly what he was doing
in that hole, while we wasted our tears, thinking that he was dead.

"Oh! Mr. Quatermain," he said, "I am a victim of too faithful service.
To abandon all these valuable possessions of yours to a rapacious
enemy was more than I could bear. So I put every one of them in the
pit, and then, as I thought I heard someone coming, got in myself and
pulled down the stone. But, Mr. Quatermain, soon afterwards the enemy
added arson to murder and pillage, and the whole place began to blaze.
I could hear the fire roaring above and a little later the ashes
covered the exit so that I could no longer lift the stone, which
indeed grew too hot to touch. Here, then, I sat all night in the most
suffocating heat, very much afraid, Mr. Quatermain, lest the two kegs
of gunpowder that were with me should explode, till at last, just as I
had abandoned hope and prepared to die like a tortoise baked alive by
a bushman, I heard your welcome voice. And Mr. Quatermain, if there is
any soothing ointment to spare, I shall be much obliged, for I am
scorched all over."

"Ah! Sammy, Sammy," I said, "you see what comes of cowardice? On the
hill with us you would not have been scorched, and it is only by the
merest chance of owing to Hans's quick hearing that you were not left
to perish miserably in that hole."

"That is so, Mr. Quatermain. I plead guilty to the hot impeachment.
But on the hill I might have been shot, which is worse than being
scorched. Also you gave me charge of your goods and I determined to
preserve them even at the risk of personal comfort. Lastly, the angel
who watches me brought you here in time before I was quite cooked
through. So all's well that ends well, Mr. Quatermain, though it is
true that for my part I have had enough of bloody war, and if I live
to regain civilized regions I propose henceforth to follow the art of
food-dressing in the safe kitchen of an hotel; that is, if I cannot
obtain a berth as an instructor in the English tongue!"

"Yes," I answered, "all's well that ends well, Sammy my boy, and at
any rate you have saved the stores, for which we should be thankful to
you. So go along with Mr. Stephen and get doctored while we haul them
out of that grain-pit."

Three days later we bid farewell to old Bausi, who almost wept at
parting with us, and the Mazitu, who were already engaged in the re-
building of their town. Mavovo and the other Zulus who died in the
Battle of the Gate, we buried on the ridge opposite to it, raising a
mound of earth over them that thereby they might be remembered in
generations to come, and laying around them the Mazitu who had fallen
in the fight. As we passed that mound on our homeward journey, the
Zulus who remained alive, including two wounded men who were carried
in litters, stopped and saluted solemnly, praising the dead with loud
songs. We white people too saluted, but in silence, by raising our
hats.

By the why, I should add that in this matter also Mavovo's "Snake" did
not lie. He had said that six of his company would be killed upon our
expedition, and six were killed, neither more nor less.

After much consulting we determined to take the overland route back to
Natal, first because it was always possible that the slave-trading
fraternity, hearing of their terrible losses, might try to attack us
again on the coast, and secondly for the reason that even if they did
not, months or perhaps years might pass before we found a ship at
Kilwa, then a port of ill repute, to carry us to any civilized place.
Moreover, Brother John, who had travelled it, knew the inland road
well and had established friendly relations with the tribes through
whose country we must pass, till we reached the brothers of Zululand,
where I was always welcome. So as the Mazitu furnished us with an
escort and plenty of bearers for the first part of the road and,
thanks to Sammy's stewardship in the corn-pit, we had ample trade
goods left to hire others later on, we made up our minds to risk the
longer journey.

As it turned out this was a wise conclusion, since although it took
four weary months, in the end we accomplished it without any accident
whatsoever, if I except a slight attack of fever from which both Miss
Hope and I suffered for a while. Also we got some good shooting on the
road. My only regret was that this change of plan obliged us to
abandon the tusks of ivory we had captured from the slavers and buried
where we alone could find them.

Still, it was a dull time for me, who, for obvious reasons, of which I
have already spoken, was literally a fifth wheel to the coach. Hans
was an excellent fellow, and, as the reader knows, quite a genius in
his own way, but night after night in Hans's society began to pall on
me at last, while even his conversation about my "reverend father,"
who seemed positively to haunt him, acquired a certain sameness. Of
course, we had other subjects in common, especially those connected
with Retief's massacre, whereof we were the only two survivors, but of
these I seldom cared to speak. They were and still remain too painful.

Therefore, for my part I was thankful when at last, in Zululand, we
fell in with some traders whom I knew, who hired us one of their
wagons. In this vehicle, abandoning the worn-out donkeys and the white
ox, which we presented to a chief of my acquaintance, Brother John and
the ladies proceeded to Durban, Stephen attending them on a horse that
we had bought, while I, with Hans, attached myself to the traders.

At Durban a surprise awaited us since, as we trekked into the town,
which at that time was still a small place, whom should we meet but
Sir Alexander Somers, who, hearing that wagons were coming from
Zululand, had ridden out in the hope of obtaining news of us. It
seemed that the choleric old gentleman's anxiety concerning his son
had so weighed on his mind that at length he made up his mind to
proceed to Africa to hunt for him. So there he was. The meeting
between the two was affectionate but peculiar.

"Hullo, dad!" said Stephen. "Whoever would have thought of seeing you
here?"

"Hullo, Stephen," said his father. "Whoever would have expected to
find you alive and looking well--yes, very well? It is more than you
deserve, you young ass, and I hope you won't do it again."

Having delivered himself thus, the old boy seized Stephen by the hair
and solemnly kissed him on the brow.

"No, dad," answered his son, "I don't mean to do it again, but thanks
to Allan there we've come through all right. And, by the way, let me
introduce you to the lady I am going to marry, also to her father and
mother."

Well, all the rest may be imagined. They were married a fortnight
later in Durban and a very pleasant affair it was, since Sir
Alexander, who by the way, treated me most handsomely from a business
point of view, literally entertained the whole town on that festive
occasion. Immediately afterwards Stephen, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs.
Eversley and his father, took his wife home "to be educated," though
what that process consisted of I never heard. Hans and I saw them off
at the Point and our parting was rather sad, although Hans went back
the richer by the 500 which Stephen had promised him. He bought a
farm with the money, and on the strength of his exploits, established
himself as a kind of little chief. Of whom more later--as they say in
the pedigree books.

Sammy, too, was set up as the proprietor of a small hotel, where he
spent most of his time in the bar dilating to the customers in
magnificent sentences that reminded me of the style of a poem called
"The Essay on Man" (which I once tried to read and couldn't), about
his feats as a warrior among the wild Mazitu and the man-eating,
devil-worshipping Pongo tribes.

Two years or less afterwards I received a letter, from which I must
quote a passage:


"As I told you, my father has given a living which he owns to Mr.
Eversley, a pretty little place where there isn't much for a
parson to do. I think it rather bores my respected parents-in-law.
At any rate, 'Dogeetah' spends a lot of his time wandering about
the New Forest, which is near by, with a butterfly-net and trying
to imagine that he is back in Africa. The 'Mother of the Flower'
(who, after a long course of boot-kissing mutes, doesn't get on
with English servants) has another amusement. There is a small
lake in the Rectory grounds in which is a little island. Here she
has put up a reed fence round a laurustinus bush which flowers at
the same time of year as did the Holy Flower, and within this reed
fence she sits whenever the weather will allow, as I believe going
through 'the rites of the Flower.' At least when I called upon her
there one day, in a boat, I found her wearing a white robe and
singing some mystical native song."


Many years have gone by since then. Both Brother John and his wife
have departed to their rest and their strange story, the strangest
almost of all stories, is practically forgotten. Stephen, whose father
has also departed, is a prosperous baronet and rather heavy member of
Parliament and magistrate, the father of many fine children, for the
Miss Hope of old days has proved as fruitful as a daughter of the
Goddess of Fertility, for that was the "Mother's" real office, ought
to be.

"Sometimes," she said to me one day with a laugh, as she surveyed a
large (and noisy) selection of her numerous offspring, "sometimes, O
Allan"--she still retains that trick of speech--"I wish that I were
back in the peace of the Home of the Flower. Ah!" she added with
something of a thrill in her voice, "never can I forget the blue of
the sacred lake or the sight of those skies at dawn. Do you think that
I shall see them again when I die, O Allan?"

At the time I thought it rather ungrateful of her to speak thus, but
after all human nature is a queer thing and we are all of us attached
to the scenes of our childhood and long at times again to breathe our
natal air.

I went to see Sir Stephen the other day, and in his splendid
greenhouses the head gardener, Woodden, an old man now, showed me
three noble, long-leaved plants which sprang from the seed of the Holy
Flower that I had saved in my pocket.

But they have not yet bloomed.

Somehow I wonder what will happen when they do. It seems to me as
though when once more the glory of that golden bloom is seen of the
eyes of men, the ghosts of the terrible god of the Forest, of the
hellish and mysterious Motombo, and perhaps of the Mother of the
Flower herself, will be there to do it reverence. If so, what gifts
will they bring to those who stole and reared the sacred seed?



P.S.--I shall know ere long, for just as I laid down my pen a
triumphant epistle from Stephen was handed to me in which he writes
excitedly that at length two of the three plants are /showing for
flower/.

Allan Quatermain.






 


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