H. Rider Haggard
Part 2 out of 7
"That's true," he replied, "I hope we shan't meet her later."
Then we went on as quickly as we could, which was not very fast,
for I feared lest the Basutos should change their minds and
follow us. As the risk of this became less our spirits rose,
since if we had lost the wagon and the oxen, at least we had
saved our lives, which was almost more than we could have
expected in the circumstances. At last we came to that glade
where we had killed the wildebeeste not a week before. There lay
its skeleton picked clean by the great brown kites that frequent
the bush-veld, some of which still sat about in the trees.
"Well, I suppose we must go on to Tampel," said Anscombe rather
faintly, for I could see that his wound was giving him a good
deal of pain.
As he spoke from round the tree whence he had first emerged,
appeared Mr. Marnham, riding the same horse and wearing the same
clothes. The only difference between his two entries was that
the first took place in the late evening and the second in the
"So here you are again," he said cheerfully.
"Yes," I answered, "and it is strange to meet you at the same
spot. Were you expecting us?"
"Not more than I expect many things," he replied with a shrewd
glance at me, adding, "I always rise with the sun, and thinking
that I heard a shot fired in the distance, came to see what was
happening. The Basutos attacked you at daybreak, did they not?"
"They did, but how did you know that, Mr. Marnham?"
"Your servants told me. I met them running to the house looking
very frightened. You are wounded, Mr. Anscombe?"
"Yes, a couple of days ago on the border of Sekukuni's country
where the natives tried to murder us."
"Ah!" he replied without surprise. "I warned you the trip was
dangerous, did I not? Well, come on home where my partner, Rodd,
who luckily has had medical experience, will attend to you. Mr.
Quatermain can tell me the story as we go."
So we went on up the long slope, I relating our adventures, to
which Mr. Marnham listened without comment.
"I expect that the Kaffirs will have looted the wagon and be on
the way home with your oxen by now," he said when I had finished.
"Are you not afraid that they will follow us here?" I asked.
"Oh no, Mr. Quatermain. We do business with these people, also
they sometimes come to be doctored by Rodd when they are sick, so
this place is sacred ground to them. They stopped hunting you
when they got to the Yellow-wood swamp where our land begins, did
"Yes, but now I want to hunt them. Can you give me any help?
Those oxen are tired out and footsore, so we might be able to
catch them up."
He shook his head. "We have very few people here, and by the
time that you could get assistance from the Camp at Barberton, if
the Commandant is able and willing to give you any, which I
rather doubt, they will be far away. Moreover," he added,
dropping his voice, "let us come to an understanding. You are
most welcome to any help or hospitality that I can offer, but if
you wish to do more fighting I must ask you to go elsewhere. As
I have told you, we are peaceful men who trade with these people,
and do not wish to be involved in a quarrel with them, which
might expose us to attack or bring us into trouble with the
British Government which has annexed but not conquered their
country. Do I make myself clear?"
"Perfectly. While we are with you we will do nothing, but
afterwards we hold ourselves at liberty to act as we think best."
"Quite so. Meanwhile I hope that you and Mr. Anscombe will make
yourselves comfortable with us for as long as you like."
In my own mind I came to the conclusion that this would be for
the shortest time possible, but I only said--
"It is most kind of you to take in complete strangers thus. No,
not complete," I added, looking towards Anscombe who was
following on the tired horse a few paces behind, "for you knew
his father, did you not?"
"His father?" he said, lifting his eyebrows. "No. Oh! I
remember, I said something to that effect the other night, but it
was a mistake. I mixed up two names, as one often does after a
lapse of many years."
"I understand," I answered, but remembering Anscombe's story I
reflected to myself that our venerable host was an excellent
liar. Or more probably he meant to convey that he wished the
subject of his youthful reminiscences to be taboo.
Just then we reached the house which had a pretty patch of
well-kept flower-garden in front of it, surrounded by a fence
covered with wire netting to keep out buck. By the gate squatted
our three retainers, looking very blown and rather ashamed of
"Your master wishes to thank you for your help in a dark hour,
Footsack, and I wish to congratulate you all upon the swiftness
of your feet," I said in Dutch.
"Oh! Baas, the Basutos were many and their spears are sharp," he
"Be silent, you running dog," I said, "and go help your master to
Then we went through the gate, Anscombe leaning on my shoulder
and on that of Mr. Marnham, and up the path which was bordered
with fences of the monthly rose, towards the house. Really this
was almost as charming to look at near at hand as it had been
from far away. Of course the whole thing was crude in detail.
Rough, half-shaped blocks of marble from the neighbouring quarry
had been built into walls and columns. Nothing was finished, and
considered bit by bit all was coarse and ugly. Yet the general
effect was beautiful because it was an effect of design, the
picture of an artist who did not fully understand the
technicalities of painting, the work of a great writer who had as
yet no proper skill in words. Never did I see a small building
that struck me more. But then what experience have I of
buildings, and, as Anscombe reminded me afterwards, it was but a
copy of something designed when the world was young, or rather
when civilization was young, and man new risen from the infinite
ages of savagery, saw beauty in his dreams and tried to symbolize
it in shapes of stone.
We came to the broad stoep, to which several rough blocks of
marble served as steps. On it in a long chair made of native
wood and seated with hide rimpis, sat or rather lolled a man in a
dressing-gown who was reading a book. He raised himself as we
came and the light of the sun, for the verandah faced to the
east, shone full upon his face, so that I saw him well. It was
that of a man of something under forty years of age, dark,
powerful, and weary--not a good face, I thought. Indeed, it gave
me the impression of one who had allowed the evil which exists in
the nature of all of us to become his master, or had even
encouraged it to do so.
In the Psalms and elsewhere we are always reading of the
righteous and the unrighteous until those terms grow wearisome.
It is only of late years that I have discovered, or think that I
have discovered, what they mean. Our lives cannot be judged by
our deeds; they must be judged by our desires or rather by our
moral attitude. It is not what we do so much as what we try to
do that counts in the formation of character. All fall short,
all fail, but in the end those who seek to climb out of the pit,
those who strive, however vainly, to fashion failure to success,
are, by comparison, the righteous, while those who are content to
wallow in our native mire and to glut themselves with the daily
bread of vice, are the unrighteous. To turn our backs thereon
wilfully and without cause, is the real unforgiveable sin against
the Spirit. At least that is the best definition of the problem
at which I in my simplicity can arrive.
Such thoughts have often occurred to me in considering the
character of Dr. Rodd and some others whom I have known; indeed
the germ of them arose in my mind which, being wearied at the
time and therefore somewhat vacant, was perhaps the more open to
external impressions, as I looked upon the face of this stranger
on the stoep. Moreover, as I am proud to record, I did not judge
him altogether wrongly. He was a blackguard who, under other
influences or with a few added grains of self-restraint and of
the power of recovery, might have become a good or even a saintly
man. But by some malice of Fate or some evil inheritance from an
unknown past, those grains were lacking, and therefore he went
not up but down the hill.
"Case for you, Rodd," called out Marnham.
"Indeed," he answered, getting to his feet and speaking in a full
voice, which, like his partner's, was that of an educated
Englishman. "What's the matter. Horse accident?"
Then we were introduced, and Anscombe began to explain his
"Um!" said the doctor, studying him with dark eyes. "Kaffir
bullet through the foot some days ago. Ought to be attended to
at once. Also you look pretty done, so don't tire yourself with
the story, which I can get from Mr. Quatermain. Come and lie
down and I'll have a look at you while they are cooking
Then he guided us to a room of which the double French windows
opened on to the stoep, a very pretty room with two beds in it.
Making Anscombe lie down on one of these he turned up his
trouser, undid my rough bandage and examined the wound.
"Painful?" he asked.
"Very," answered Anscombe, "right up to the thigh."
After this he drew off the nether garments and made a further
"Um," he said again, "I must syringe this out. Stay still while
I get some stuff."
I followed him from the room, and when we were out of hearing on
the stoep inquired what he thought. I did not like the look of
"It is very bad," he answered, "so bad that I am wondering If it
wouldn't be best to remove the limb below the knee and make it a
job. You can see for yourself that it is septic and the
inflammation is spreading up rapidly."
"Good Heavens!" I exclaimed, "do you fear mortification?"
He nodded. "Can't say what was on that slug or bit of old iron
and he hasn't had the best chance since. Mortification, or
tetanus, or both, are more than possible. Is he a temperate
"So far as I know," I answered, and stared at him while he
thought. Then he said with decision,
"That makes a difference. To lose a foot is a serious thing;
some might think almost as bad as death. I'll give him a chance,
but if those symptoms do not abate in twenty-four hours, I must
operate. You needn't be afraid, I was house surgeon at a London
Hospital--once, and I keep my hand in. Lucky you came straight
Having made his preparations and washed his hands, he returned,
syringed the wound with some antiseptic stuff, and dressed and
bandaged the leg up to the knee. After this he gave Anscombe hot
milk to drink, with two eggs broken into it, and told him to rest
a while as he must not eat anything solid at present. Then he
threw a blanket over him, and, signing to me to come away, let
down a mat over the window.
"I put a little something into that milk," he said outside,
"which will send him to sleep for a few hours. So we will leave
him quiet. Now you'll want a wash."
"Where are you going to take Mr. Quatermain?" asked Marnham who
was seated on the stoep.
"Into my room," he answered.
"Why? There's Heda's ready."
"Heda might return at any moment," replied the doctor. "Also Mr.
Quatermain had better sleep in Mr. Anscombe's room. He will very
likely want some one to look after him at night."
Marnham opened his mouth to speak again, then changed his mind
and was silent, as a servant is silent under rebuke. The
incident was quite trifling, yet it revealed to me the relative
attitude of these two men. Without a doubt Rodd was the master
of his partner, who did not even care to dispute with him about
the matter of the use of his daughter's bedroom. They were a
queer couple who, had it not been for my anxiety as to Anscombe's
illness, would have interested me very much, as indeed they were
destined to do.
Well, I went to tidy up in the doctor's room, and as he left me
alone while I washed, had the opportunity of studying it a
little. Like the rest of the house it was lined with native wood
which was made to serve as the backs of bookshelves and of
cupboards filled with medicines and instruments. The books
formed a queer collection. There were medical works,
philosophical works, histories, novels, most of them French, and
other volumes of a sort that I imagine are generally kept under
lock and key; also some that had to do with occult matters.
There was even a Bible. I opened it thoughtlessly, half in idle
curiosity, to see whether it was ever used, only to replace it in
haste. For at the very page that my eye fell on, I remember it
was one of my favourite chapters in Isaiah, was a stamp in violet
ink marked H. M.'s Prison--well, I won't say where.
I may state, however, that the clue enabled me in after years to
learn an episode in this man's life which had brought about his
ruin. There is no need to repeat it or to say more than that
gambling and an evil use of his medical knowledge to provide the
money to pay his debts, were the cause of his fall. The strange
thing is that he should have kept the book which had probably
been given to by the prison chaplain. Still everybody makes
mistakes sometimes. Or it may have had associations for him, and
of course he had never seen this stamp upon an unread page, which
happened to leap to my eye.
Now I was able to make a shrewd guess at his later career. After
his trouble he had emigrated and began to practise in South
Africa. Somehow his identity had been discovered; his past was
dragged up against him, possibly by rivals jealous of his skill;
his business went and he found it advisable to retire to the
Transvaal before the Annexation, at that time the home of sundry
people of broken repute. Even there he did not stop in a town,
but hid himself upon the edge of savagery. Here he foregathered
with another man of queer character, Marnham, and in his company
entered upon some doubtful but lucrative form of trade while
still indulging his love of medicine by doctoring and operating
upon natives, over whom he would in this way acquire great
influence. Indeed, as I discovered before the day was over, he
had quite a little hospital at the back of the house in which
were four or five beds occupied by Kaffirs and served by two male
native nurses whom he had trained. Also numbers of out-patients
visited him, some of whom travelled from great distances, and
occasionally, but not often, he attended white people who chanced
to be in the neighbourhood.
The three of us breakfasted in a really charming room from the
window of which could be studied a view as beautiful as any I
know. The Kaffirs who waited were well trained and dressed in
neat linen uniforms. The cooking was good; there was real silver
on the table, then a strange sight in that part of Africa, and
amongst engravings and other pictures upon the walls, hung an oil
portrait of a very beautiful young woman with dark hair and eyes.
"Is that your daughter, Mr. Marnham?" I asked.
"No," he replied rather shortly, "it is her mother."
Immediately afterwards he was called from the room to speak to
some one, whereon the doctor said--
"A foreigner as you see, a Hungarian; the Hungarian women are
very good looking and very charming."
"So I have understood," I answered, "but does this lady live
"Oh, no. She is dead, or I believe that she is dead. I am not
sure, because I make it a rule never to pry into people's private
affairs. All l know about her is that she was a beauty whom
Marnham married late in life upon the Continent when she was but
eighteen. As is common in such cases he was very jealous of her,
but it didn't last long, as she died, or I understand that she
died, within a year of her daughter's birth. The loss affected
him so much that he emigrated to South Africa with the child and
began life anew. I do not think that they correspond with
Hungary, and he never speaks of her even to his daughter, which
suggests that she is dead."
I reflected that all these circumstances might equally well
suggest several other things, but said nothing, thinking it
wisest not to pursue the subject. Presently Marnham returned and
informed me that a native had just brought him word that the
Basutos had made off homeward with our cattle, but had left the
wagon and its contents quite untouched, not even stealing the
spare guns and ammunition.
"That's luck," I said, astonished, "but extremely strange. How
do you explain it, Mr. Marnham?"
He shrugged his shoulders and answered--
"As every one knows, you are a much greater expert in native
habits and customs than I am, Mr. Quatermain.
"There are only two things that I can think of," I said. "One is
that for some reason or other they thought the wagon tagati,
bewitched you know, and that it would bring evil on them to touch
it, though this did not apply to the oxen. The other is that
they supposed it, but not the oxen, to belong to some friend of
their own whose property they did not wish to injure."
He looked at me sharply but said nothing, and I went on to tell
them the details of the attack that had been made upon us,
"The odd part of the affair is that one of those Basutos called
out to us that some infernal scoundrel of a white had warned
Sekukuni of our coming and that he had ordered them to take our
guns and cattle. This Basuto, who was wounded and praying for
mercy, was drowned before he could tell me who the white man
"A Boer, I expect," said Marnham quietly. "As you know they are
not particularly well affected towards us English just now. Also
I happen to be aware that some of them are intriguing with
Sekukuni against the British through Makurupiji, his 'Mouth' or
prime-minister, a very clever old scamp who likes to have two
stools to sit on."
"And doubtless will end by falling between them. Well, you see,
now that I think of it, the wounded Kaffir only said that they
were ordered to take our guns and oxen, and incidentally our
lives. The wagon was not mentioned."
"Quite so, Mr. Quatermain. I will send some of our boys to help
your servants to bring everything it contains up here."
"Can't you lend me a team of oxen," I asked, "to drag it to the
"No, we have nothing but young cattle left. Both red-water and
lung-sickness have been so bad this season that all the horned
stock have been swept out of the country. I doubt whether you
could beg, borrow or steal a team of oxen this side of Pretoria,
except from some of the Dutchmen who won't part."
"That's awkward. I hoped to be able to trek in a day or two."
"Your friend won't be able to trek for a good many days at the
best," broke in the doctor, who had been listening unconcernedly,
"but of course you could get away on the horse after it has
"You told me you left a span of oxen at Pretoria," said Marnham.
"Why not go and fetch them here, or if you don't like to leave
Mr. Anscombe, send your driver and the boys."
"Thanks for the idea. I will think it over," I answered.
That morning after Footsack and the voorlooper had been sent with
some of the servants from the Temple to fetch up the contents of
the wagon, for I was too tired to accompany them, having found
that Anscombe was still asleep, I determined to follow his
example. Finding a long chair on the stoep, I sat down and
slumbered in it sweetly for hours. I dreamt of all sorts of
things, then through my dreams it seemed to me that I heard two
voices talking, those of our Marnham and Rodd, not on the stoep,
but at a distance from it. As a matter of fact they were
talking, but so far away that in my ordinary waking state I could
never have heard them. My own belief is that the senses, and I
may add the semi-spiritual part of us, are much more acute when
we lie half bound in the bonds of sleep, than when we are what is
called wide awake. Doubtless when we are quite bound they attain
the limits of their power and, I think, sail at times to the
uttermost ends of being. But unhappily of their experiences we
remember nothing when we awake. In half sleep it is different;
then we do retain some recollection.
In this curious condition of mind it seemed to me that Rodd said
"Why have you brought these men here?"
"I did not bring them here," he answered. "Luck, Fate, Fortune,
God or the Devil, call it what you will, brought them here,
though if you had your wish, it is true they would never have
come. Still, as they have come, I am glad. It is something to
me, living in this hell, to get a chance of talking to English
gentlemen again before I die."
"English gentlemen," remarked Rodd reflectively, "Well, Anscombe
is of course, but how about that other hunter? After all, in
what way is he better than the scores of other hunters and Kaffir
traders and wanderers whom one meets in this strange land?"
"In what way indeed?" thought I to myself, in my dream.
"If you can't see, I can't explain to you. But as I happen to
know, the man is of blood as good as mine--and a great deal
better than yours," he added with a touch of insolence.
"Moreover, he has an honest name among white and black, which is
much in this country."
"Yes," replied the doctor in the same reflective voice, "I agree
with you, I let him pass as a gentleman. But I repeat, Why did
you bring them here when with one more word it would have been so
easy--" and he stopped.
"I have told you, it was not I. What are you driving at?"
"Do you think it is exactly convenient, especially when we are
under the British flag again, to have two people who, we both
admit, are English gentlemen, that is, clean, clear-eyed men,
considering us and our affairs for an indefinite period, just
because you wish for the pleasure of their society? Would it not
have been better to tell those Basutos to let them trek on to
"I don't know what would have been better. I repeat, what are
you driving at?
"Heda is coming home in a day or two; she might be here any
time," remarked Rodd as he knocked the ashes out of his pipe.
"Yes, because you made me write and say that I wanted her. But
what of that?"
"Nothing in particular, except that I am not sure that I wish her
to associate with 'an English gentleman' like this Anscombe."
Marnham laughed scornfully. "Ah! I understand," he said. "Too
clean and straight. Complications might ensue and the rest of
it. Well, I wish to God they would, for I know the Anscombes, or
used to, and I know the genus called Rodd."
"Don't be insulting; you may carry the thing too far one day, and
whatever I have done I have paid for. But you've not paid--yet."
"The man is very ill. You are a skilled doctor. If you're
afraid of him, why don't you kill him?" asked Marnham with bitter
"There you have me," replied Rodd. "Men may shed much, but most
of them never shed their professional honour. I shall do my
honest best to cure Mr. Anscombe, and I tell you that he will
take some curing."
Then I woke up, and as no one was in sight, wondered whether or
no I had been dreaming. The upshot of it was that I made up my
mind to send Footsack to Pretoria for the oxen, not to go myself.
A GAME OF CARDS
I slept in Anscombe's room that night and looked after him. He
was very feverish and the pain in his leg kept him awake a good
deal. He told me that he could not bear Dr. Rodd and wished to
get away at once. I had to explain to him that this was
impossible until his spare oxen arrived which I was going to send
for to Pretoria, but of other matters, including that of the
dangerous state of his foot, I said nothing. I was thankful when
towards two in the morning, he fell into a sound sleep and
allowed me to do the same.
Before breakfast time, just as I had finished dressing myself in
some of the clean things which had been brought from the wagon,
Rodd came and made a thorough and business-like examination of
his patient, while I awaited the result with anxiety on the
stoep. At length he appeared and said--
"Well, I think that we shall be able to save the foot, though I
can't be quite sure for another twenty-four hours. The worst
symptoms have abated and his temperature is down by two degrees.
Anyway he will have to stay in bed and live on light food till it
is normal, after which he might lie in a long chair on the stoep.
On no account must he attempt to stand."
I thanked him for his information heartily enough and asked him
if he knew where Marnham was, as I wanted to speak to him with
reference to the despatch of Footsack to fetch the oxen from
"Not up yet, I think," he answered. "I fancy that yesterday was
one of his 'wet' nights, excitement of meeting strangers and so
"Wet nights?" I queried, wishing for a clearer explanation.
"Yes, he is a grand old fellow, one of the best, but like most
other people he has his little weaknesses, and when the fit is on
him he can put away a surprising amount of liquor. I tell you so
that you should not be astonished if you notice anything, or try
to argue with him when he is in that state, as then his temper is
apt to be--well, lively. Now I must go and give him a pint of
warm milk; that is his favourite antidote, and in fact the best
I thought to myself that we had struck a nice establishment in
which to be tied, literally by the leg, for an indefinite period.
I was not particularly flush at the time, but I know I would have
paid a #100 to be out of it; before the end I should have been
glad to throw in everything that I had. But mercifully that was
hidden from me.
Rodd and I breakfasted together and discoursed of Kaffir customs,
as to which he was singularly well informed. Then I accompanied
him to see his native patients in the little hospital of which I
have spoken. Believing the man to be a thorough scamp as I did,
it was astonishing to me to note how gentle and forbearing he was
to these people. Of his skill I need say nothing, as that was
evident. He was going to perform an internal operation upon a
burly old savage, rather a serious one I believe; at any rate it
necessitated chloroform. He asked me if I would like to assist,
but I declined respectfully, having no taste for such things. So
I left him boiling his instruments and putting on what looked
like a clean nightgown over his clothes, and returned to the
Here I found Marnham, whose eyes were rather bloodshot, though
otherwise, except for a shaky hand, he seemed right enough. He
murmured something about having overslept himself and inquired
very politely, for his manners were beautiful, after Anscombe and
as to whether we were quite comfortable and so forth. After this
I consulted him as to the best road for our servants to travel by
to Pretoria, and later on despatched them, giving Footsack
various notes to ensure the delivery of the oxen to him. Also I
gave him some money to pay for their keep and told him with many
threats to get back with the beasts as quick as he could travel.
Then I sent him and the two other boys off, not without
misgivings, although he was an experienced man in his way and
promised faithfully to fulfil every injunction to the letter. To
me he seemed so curiously glad to go that I inquired the reason,
since after a journey like ours, it would have been more natural
if he had wished to rest.
"Oh! Baas," he said, "I don't think this Tampel very healthy for
coloured people. I am told of some who have died here. That man
Karl who gave me the diamond, I think he must have died also, at
least I saw his spook last night standing over me and shaking his
head, and the boys saw it too."
"Oh! be off with your talk of spooks," I said, "and come back
quickly with those oxen, or I promise you that you will die and
be a spook yourself."
"I will, Baas, I will!" he ejaculated and departed almost at a
run, leaving me rather uncomfortable.
I believed nothing of the tale of the spook of Karl, but I saw
that Footsack believed in it, and was afraid lest he might be
thereby prevented from returning. I would much rather have gone
myself, but it was impossible for me to leave Anscombe so ill in
the hands of our strange hosts. And there was no one else whom I
could send. I might perhaps have ridden to Pilgrim's Rest and
tried to find a white messenger there; indeed afterwards I
regretted not having done so, although it would have involved at
least a day's absence at a very critical time. But the truth is
I never thought of it until too late, and probably if I had, I
should not have been able to discover anyone whom I could trust.
As I walked back to the house, having parted from Footsack on
the top of a neighbouring ridge whence I could point out his path
to him, I met Marnham riding away. He pulled up and said that he
was going down to the Granite stream to arrange about setting
some one up to watch the wagon. I expressed sorrow that he
should have the trouble, which should have been mine if I could
have got away, whereon he answered that he was glad of the
opportunity for a ride, as it was something to do.
"How do you fill in your time here," I asked carelessly, "as you
"Oh! by trading," he replied, and with a nod set his horse to a
A queer sort of trading, thought I to myself, where there is no
store. Now what exactly does he trade in, I wonder?
As it happened I was destined to find out before I was an hour
older. Having given Anscombe a look and found that he was
comfortable, I thought that I would inspect the quarry whence the
marble came of which the house was built, as it had occurred to
me that if there was plenty of it, it might be worth exploiting
some time in the future. It had been pointed out to me in the
midst of some thorns in a gully that ran at right angles to the
main kloof not more than a few hundred yards from the house.
Following a path over which the stones had been dragged
originally, I came to the spot and discovered that a little
cavity had been quarried in what seemed to me to be a positive
mountain of pure white marble. I examined the place as
thoroughly as I could, climbing among some bushes that grew in
surface earth which had been washed down from the top, in order
to do so.
At the back of these bushes there was a hole large enough for a
man to creep through. I crept through with the object of
ascertaining whether the marble veins continued. To my surprise
I found a stout yellow-wood door within feet of the mouth of the
hole. Reflecting that no doubt it was here that the quarrymen
kept, or had kept tools and explosives, I gave it a push. I
suppose it had been left unfastened accidentally, or that
something had gone wrong with the lock; at any rate it swung
open. Pursuing my researches as to the depth of the marble I
advanced boldly and, the place being dark, struck a match.
Evidently the marble did continue, as I could see by the
glittering roof of a cavern, for such it was. But the floor
attracted my attention as well as the roof, for on it were
numerous cases not unlike coffins, bearing the stamp of a
well-known Birmingham firm, labelled "fencing iron" and
addressed to Messrs. Marnham & Rodd, Transvaal, _via_ Delagoa
I knew at once what they were, having seen the like before, but
if any doubt remained in my mind it was easy to solve, for as it
chanced one of the cases was open and half emptied. I slipped my
hand into it. As I thought it contained the ordinary Kaffir gun
of commerce, cost delivered in Africa, say 35s.; cost delivered
to native chief in cash or cattle, say #10, which, when the
market is eager, allows for a decent profit. Contemplating those
cases, survivors probably of a much larger stock, I understood
how it came about that Sekukuni had dared to show fight against
the Government. Doubtless it was hence that the guns had come
which sent a bullet through Anscombe's foot and nearly polished
off both of us.
Moreover, as further matches showed me, that cave contained other
stores--item, kegs of gunpowder; item, casks of cheap spirit;
item, bars of lead, also a box marked "bullet moulds" and another
marked "Percussion caps." I think, too, there were some innocent
bags full of beads and a few packages of Birmingham-made assegai
blades. There may have been other things, but if so I did not
wait to investigate them. Gathering up the ends of my matches
and, in case there should be any dust in the place that would
show footmarks, flapping the stone floor behind me with my pocket
handkerchief, I retired and continued my investigations of that
wonderful marble deposit from the bottom of the quarry, to which,
having re-arranged the bushes, I descended by another route,
leaping like a buck from stone to stone.
It was just as well that I did so, for a few minutes later Dr.
"Made a good job of your operation?" I asked cheerfully.
"Pretty fair, thanks," he answered, "although that Kaffir tried
to brain the nurse-man when he was coming out of the anesthetic.
But are you interested in geology?"
"A little," I replied, "that is if there is any chance of making
money out of it, which there ought to be here, as this marble
looks almost as good as that of Carrara. But flint instruments
are more my line, that is in an ignorant and amateur way, as I
think they are in yours, for I saw some in your room. Tell me,
what do you think of this. Is it a scraper?" and I produced a
stone out of my pocket which I had found a week before in the
At once he forgot his suspicions, of which I could see he arrived
very full indeed. This curious man, as it happened, was really
fond of flint instruments, of which he knew a great deal.
"Did you find this here?" he asked.
I led him several yards further from the mouth of the cave and
pointed out the exact spot where I said I had picked it up
amongst some quarry debris. Then followed a most learned
discussion, for it appeared that this was a flint instrument of
the rarest and most valuable type, one that Noah might have used,
or Job might have scraped himself with, and the question was how
the dickens had it come among that quarry debris. In the end we
left the problem undecided, and having presented the article to
Dr. Rodd, a gift for which he thanked me with real warmth, I
returned to the house filled with the glow that rewards one who
has made a valuable discovery.
Of the following three days I have nothing particular to say,
except that during them I was perhaps more acutely bored than
ever I had been in my life before. The house was beautiful in
its own fashion; the food was excellent; there was everything I
could want to drink, and Rodd announced that he no longer feared
the necessity of operation upon Anscombe's leg. His recovery was
now a mere matter of time, and meanwhile he must not use his foot
or let the blood run into it more than could be helped, which
meant that he must keep himself in a recumbent position. The
trouble was that I had nothing on earth do except study the
characters of our hosts, which I found disagreeable and
depressing. I might have gone out shooting, but nothing of the
sort was allowed upon the property in obedience to the wish of
Miss Heda, a mysterious young person who was always expected and
never appeared, and beyond it I was afraid to travel for fear of
Basutos. I might have gone to Pilgrim's Rest or Lydenburg to
make report of the nefarious deeds of the said Basutos, but at
best it would have taken one or two days, and possibly I should
have been detained by officials who never consider any one's time
except their own.
This meant that I should have been obliged to leave Anscombe
alone, which I did not wish to do, so I just sat still and, as I
have said, was intensely bored, hanging about the place and
smoking more than was good for me.
In due course Anscombe emerged on to the stoep, where he lay with
his leg up, and was also bored, especially after he had tried to
pump old Marnham about his past in the Guards and completely
failed. It was in this mood of utter dejection that we agreed to
play a game of cards one evening. Not that either of us cared
for cards; indeed, personally, I have always detested them
because, with various-coloured counters to represent money which
never passed, they had formed one of the afflictions of my youth.
It was so annoying if you won, to be handed a number of green
counters and be informed that they represented so many hundreds
or thousands of pounds, or vice-versa if you lost, for as it cost
no one anything, my dear father insisted upon playing for
enormous stakes. Never in any aspect of life have I cared for
fooling. Anscombe also disliked cards, I think because his
ancestors too had played with counters, such as some that I have
seen belonging to the Cocoa-Tree Club and other gambling places
of a past generation, marked as high as a thousand guineas, which
counters must next morning be redeemed in hard cash, whereby his
family had been not a little impoverished.
"I fancy you will find they are high-fliers," he said when the
pair had left to fetch a suitable table, for the night being very
hot we were going to play on the stoep by the light of the
hanging paraffin lamp and some candles. I replied to the effect
that I could not afford to lose large sums of money, especially
to men who for aught I knew might then be engaged in marking the
"I understand," he answered. "Don't you bother about that, old
fellow. This is my affair, arranged for my special amusement. I
shan't grumble if the fun costs something, for I am sure there
will be fun."
"All right," I said, "only if we should happen to win money, it's
yours, not mine."
To myself I reflected, however, that with these two opponents we
had about as much chance of winning as a snowflake has of
resisting the atmosphere of the lower regions.
Presently they returned with the table, which had a green cloth
over it that hung down half-way to the ground. Also one of the
native boys brought a tray with spirits, from which I judged by
various signs, old Marnham, who had already drunk his share at
dinner, had helped himself freely on the way. Soon we were
arranged, Anscombe, who was to be my partner, opposite to me in
his long chair, and the game began.
I forget what particular variant of cards it was we played,
though I know it admitted of high and progressive stakes. At
first, however, these were quite moderate and we won, as I
suppose we were meant to do. After half an hour or so Marnham
rose to help himself to brandy and water, a great deal of brandy
and very little water, while I took a nip of Hollands, and
Anscombe and Rodd filled their pipes.
"I think this is getting rather slow," said Rodd to Anscombe. "I
vote we put a bit more on."
"As much as you like," answered Anscombe with a little drawl and
twinkle of the eye, which always showed that he was amused.
"Both Quatermain and I are born gamblers. Don't look angry,
Quatermain, you know you are. Only if we lose you will have to
take a cheque, for I have precious little cash."
"I think that will be good enough," replied the doctor
quietly--"if you lose."
So the stakes were increased to an amount that made my hair stand
up stiffer even than usual, and the game went on. Behold! a
marvel came to pass. How it happened I do not know, unless
Marnham had brought the wrong cards by mistake or had grown too
fuddled to understand his partner's telegraphic signals, which I,
being accustomed to observe, saw him make, not once but often,
still we won! What is more, with a few set-backs, we went on
winning, till presently the sums written down to our credit, for
no actual cash passed, were considerable. And all the while, at
the end of each bout Marnham helped himself to more brandy, while
the doctor grew more mad in a suppressed-thunder kind of a way.
For my part I became alarmed, especially as I perceived that
Anscombe was on the verge of breaking into open merriment, and
his legs being up I could not kick him under the table.
"My partner ought to go to bed. Don't you think we should stop?"
"On the whole I do," replied Rodd, glowering at Marnham, who,
somewhat unsteadily, was engaged in wiping drops of brandy from
his long beard.
"D----d if I do," exclaimed that worthy. "When I was young and
played with gentlemen they always gave losers an opportunity of
"Then," replied Anscombe with a flash of his eyes, "let us try to
follow in the footsteps of the gentlemen with whom you played in
your youth. I suggest that we double the stakes."
"That's right! That's the old form!" said Marnham.
The doctor half rose from his chair, then sat down again.
Watching him, I concluded that he believed his partner, a
seasoned vessel, was not so drunk as he pretended to be, and
either in an actual or a figurative sense, had a card up his
sleeve. If so, it remained there, for again we won; all the luck
was with us.
"I am getting tired," drawled Anscombe. "Lemon and water are not
sustaining. Shall we stop?"
"By Heaven! no," shouted Marnham, to which Anscombe replied that
if it was wished, he would play another hand, but no more.
"All right," said Marnham, "but let it be for double or quits."
He spoke quite quietly and seemed suddenly to have grown sober.
Now I think that Rodd made up his mind that he really was acting
and that he really had that card up his sleeve. At any rate he
did not object. I, however, was of a different opinion, having
often seen drunken men succumb to an acces of sobriety under the
stress of excitement and remarked that it did not last long.
"Do you really mean that?" I said, speaking for the first time
and addressing myself to the doctor. "I don't quite know what
the sum involved is, but it must be large."
"Of course," he answered.
Then remembering that at the worst Anscombe stood to lose
nothing, I shrugged my shoulders and held my tongue. It was
Marnham's deal, and although he was somewhat in the shadow of the
hanging lamp and the candles had guttered out, I distinctly saw
him play some hocus-pocus with the cards, but in the
circumstances made no protest. As it chanced he must have
hocus-pocused them wrong, for though _his_ hand was full of
trumps, Rodd held nothing at all. The battle that ensued was
quite exciting, but the end of it was that an ace in the hand of
Anscombe, who really was quite a good player, did the business,
and we won again.
In the rather awful silence that followed Anscombe remarked in
his cheerful drawl--
"I'm not sure that my addition is quite right; we'll check that
in the morning, but I make out that you two gentlemen owe
Quatermain and myself #749 10s."
Then the doctor broke out.
"You accursed old fool," he hissed--there is no other word for
it--at Marnham. "How are you going to pay all this money that
you have gambled away, drunken beast that you are!"
"Easily enough, you felon," shouted Marnham. "So," and thrusting
his hand into his pocket he pulled out a number of diamonds which
he threw upon the table, adding, "there's what will cover it
twice over, and there are more where they came from, as you know
well enough, my medical jailbird."
"You dare to call me that," gasped the doctor in a voice laden
with fury, so intense that it had deprived him of his reason,
"you--you--murderer! Oh! why don't I kill you as I shall some
day?" and lifting his glass, which was half full, he threw the
contents into Marnham's face.
"That's a nice man for a prospective, son-in-law, isn't he?"
exclaimed the old scamp, as, seizing the brandy decanter, he
hurled it straight at Rodd's head, only missing him by an inch.
"Don't you think you had both better go to bed, gentlemen?" I
inquired. "You are saying things you might regret in the
Apparently they did think it, for without another word they rose
and marched off in different directions to their respective
rooms, which I heard both of them lock. For my part I collected
the I.O.U.'s; also the diamonds which still lay upon the table,
while Anscombe examined the cards.
"Marked, by Jove! he said. "Oh! my dear Quatermain, never have I
had such an amusing evening in all my life."
"Shut up, you silly idiot," I answered. "There'll be murder done
over this business, and I only hope it won't be on us."
It might be thought that after all this there would have been a
painful explanation on the following morning, but nothing of the
sort happened. After all the greatest art is the art of ignoring
things, without which the world could scarcely go on, even among
the savage races. Thus on this occasion the two chief actors in
the scene of the previous night pretended that they had forgotten
what took place, as I believe, to a large extent truly. The
fierce flame of drink in the one and of passion in the other had
burnt the web of remembrance to ashes. They knew that something
unpleasant had occurred and its main outlines; the rest had
vanished away; perhaps because they knew also that they were not
responsible for what they said and did, and therefore that what
occurred had no right to a permanent niche in their memories. It
was, as it were, something outside of their normal selves. At
least so I conjectured, and their conduct seemed to give colour
to my guess.
The doctor spoke to me of the matter first.
"I fear there was a row last night," he said; "it has happened
here before over cards, and will no doubt happen again until
matters clear themselves up somehow. Marnham, as you see,
drinks, and when drunk is the biggest liar in the world, and I, I
am sorry to say, am cursed with a violent temper. Don't judge
either of us too harshly. If you were a doctor you would know
that all these things come to us with our blood, and we didn't
fashion our own clay, did we? Have some coffee, won't you?"
Subsequently when Rodd wasn't there, Marnham spoke also and with
that fine air of courtesy which was peculiar to him.
"I owe a deep apology," he said, "to yourself and Mr. Anscombe.
I do not recall much about it, but I know there was a scene last
night over those cursed cards. A weakness overtakes me
sometimes. I will say no more, except that you, who are also a
man who perhaps have felt weaknesses of one sort or another,
will, I hope, make allowances for me and pay no attention to
anything that I may have said or done in the presence of guests;
yes, that is what pains me--in the presence of guests."
Something in his distinguished manner caused me to reflect upon
every peccadillo that I had ever committed, setting it in its
very worst light.
"Quite so," I answered, "quite so. Pray do not mention the
matter any more, although--" These words seemed to jerk
themselves out of my throat, "you did call each other by such
very hard names."
"I daresay," he answered with a vacant smile, "but if so they
"No, I understand, just like a lovers' quarrel. But look here,
you left some diamonds on the table which I took to keep the
Kaffirs out of temptation. I will fetch them."
"Did I? Well, probably I left some I.O.U.'s also which might
serve for pipelights. So suppose we set the one against the
other. I don't know the value of either the diamonds or the
pipelights, it may be less or more, but for God's sake don't let
me see the beastly things again. There's no need, I have
"I must speak to Anscombe," I answered. "The money at stake was
his, not mine."
"Speak to whom you will," he replied, and I noted that the
throbbing vein upon his forehead indicated a rising temper. "But
never let me see those diamonds again. Throw them into the
gutter if you wish, but never let me see them again, or there
will be trouble."
Then he flung out of the room, leaving his breakfast almost
Reflecting that this queer old bird probably did not wish to be
cross-questioned as to his possession of so many uncut diamonds,
or that they were worth much less than the sum he had lost, or
possibly that they were not diamonds at all but glass, I went to
report the matter to Anscombe. He only laughed and said that as
I had got the things I had better keep them until something
happened, for we had both got it into our heads that something
would happen before we had done with that establishment.
So I went to put the stones away as safely as I could. While I
was doing so I heard the rumble of wheels, and came out just in
time to see a Cape cart, drawn by four very good horses and
driven by a Hottentot in a smart hat and a red waistband, pull up
at the garden gate. Out of this cart presently emerged a neatly
dressed lady, of whom all I could see was that she was young,
slender and rather tall; also, as her back was towards me, that
she had a great deal of auburn hair.
"There!" said Anscombe. "I knew that something would happen.
Heda has happened. Quatermain, as neither her venerated parent
nor her loving fiance, for such I gather he is, seems to be
about, you had better go and give her a hand."
I obeyed with a groan, heartily wishing that Heda hadn't
happened, since some sense warned me that she would only add to
the present complications. At the gate, having given some
instructions to a very stout young coloured woman who, I took it,
was her maid, about a basket of flower roots in the cart, she
turned round suddenly and we came face to face with the gate
between us. For a moment we stared at each other, I reflecting
that she really was very pretty with her delicately-shaped
features, her fresh, healthy-looking complexion, her long dark
eyelashes and her lithe and charming figure. What she reflected
about me I don't know, probably nothing half so complimentary.
Suddenly, however, her large greyish eyes grew troubled and a
look of alarm appeared upon her face.
"Is anything wrong with my father?" she asked. "I don't see
"If you mean Mr. Marnham," I replied, lifting my hat, "I believe
that Dr. Rodd and he--"
"Never mind about Dr. Rodd," she broke in with a contemptuous
little jerk of her chin," how is my father?"
"I imagine much as usual. He and Dr. Rodd were here a little
while ago, I suppose that they have gone out" (as a matter of
fact they had, but in different directions).
"Then that's all right," she said with a sigh of relief. "You
see, I heard that he was very ill, which is why I have come
So, thought I to myself, she loves that old scamp and
she--doesn't love the doctor. There will be more trouble as sure
as five and two are seven. All we wanted was a woman to make the
pot boil over.
Then I opened the gate and took a travelling bag from her hand
with my politest bow.
"My name is Quatermain and that of my friend Anscombe. We are
staying here, you know," I said rather awkwardly.
"Indeed," she answered with a delightful smile, "what a very
strange place to choose to stay in."
"It is a beautiful house," I remarked.
"Not bad, although I designed it, more or less. But I was
alluding to its inhabitants."
This finished me, and I am sure she felt that I could think of
nothing nice to say about those inhabitants, for I heard her
sigh. We walked side by side up the rose-fringed path and
presently arrived at the stoep, where Anscombe, whose hair I had
cut very nicely on the previous day, was watching us from his
long chair. They looked at each other, and I saw both of them
colour a little, out of mere foolishness, I suppose.
"Anscombe," I said, "this is--" and I paused, not being quite
certain whether she also was called Marnham. "Heda Marnham," she
"Yes--Miss Heda Marnham, and this is the Honourable Maurice
"Forgive me for not rising, Miss Marnham," said Anscombe in his
pleasant voice (by the way hers was pleasant too, full and rather
low, with just a suggestion of something foreign about it). "A
shot through the foot prevents me at present."
"Who shot you?" she asked quickly.
"Oh! only a Kaffir."
"I am so sorry, I hope you will get well soon. Forgive me now, I
must go to look for my father."
"She is uncommonly pretty," remarked Anscombe, "and a lady into
the bargain. In reflecting on old Marnham's sins we must put it
to his credit that he has produced a charming daughter."
"Too pretty and charming by half," I grunted.
"Perhaps Dr. Rodd is of the same way of thinking. Great shame
that such a girl should be handed over to a medical scoundrel
like Dr. Rodd. I wonder if she cares for him?"
"Just about as much as a canary cares for a tom-cat. I have
found that out already."
"Really, Quatermain, you are admirable. I never knew anyone who
could make a better use of the briefest opportunity."
Then we were silent, waiting, not without a certain impatience,
for the return of Miss Heda. She did return with surprising
quickness considering that she had found time to search for her
parent, to change into a clean white dress, and to pin a single
hibiscus flower on to her bodice which gave just the touch of
colour that was necessary to complete her costume.
"I can't find my father," she said, "but the boys say he has gone
out riding. I can't find anybody. When you have been summoned
from a long way off and travelled post-haste, rather to your own
inconvenience, it is amusing, isn't it?"
"Wagons and carts in South Africa don't arrive like express
trains, Miss Marnham," said Anscombe, "so you shouldn't be
"I am not at all offended, Mr. Anscombe. Now that I know there
is nothing the matter with my father I'm--But, tell me, how did
you get your wound?"
So he told her with much amusing detail after his fashion. She
listened quietly with a puckered up brow and only made one
comment. It was,--
"I wonder what white man told those Sekukuni Kaffirs that you
"I don't know," he answered, "but he deserves a bullet through
him somewhere above the ankle."
"Yes, though few people get what they deserve in this wicked
"So I have often thought. Had it been otherwise, for example, I
should have been--"
"What would you have been?" she asked, considering him curiously.
"Oh! a better shot than Mr. Allan Quatermain, and as beautiful as
a lady I once saw in my youth."
"Don't talk rubbish before luncheon," I remarked sternly, and we
all laughed, the first wholesome laughter that I had heard at the
Temple. For this young lady seemed to bring happiness and
merriment with her. I remember wondering what it was of which
her coming reminded me, and concluding that it was like the sight
and smell of a peach orchard in full bloom stumbled on suddenly
in the black desert of the burnt winter veld.
After this we became quite friendly. She dilated on her skill in
having produced the Temple from an old engraving, which she
fetched and showed to us, at no greater an expense than it would
have cost to build an ordinary house.
"That is because the marble was at hand," said Anscombe.
"Quite so," she replied demurely. "Speaking in a general sense
one can do many things in life--if the marble is at hand. Only
most of us when we look for marble find sandstone or mud."
"Bravo!" said Anscombe, "I have generally lit upon the
"And I on the mud," she mused.
"And I on all three, for the earth contains marble and mud and
sandstone, to say nothing of gold and jewels," I broke in, being
tired of silence.
But neither of them paid much attention to me. Anscombe did say,
out of politeness, I suppose, that pitch and subterranean fires
should be added, or some such nonsense.
Then she began to tell him of her infantile memories of Hungary,
which were extremely faint; of how they came this place and lived
first of all in two large Kaffir huts, until suddenly they began
to grow rich; of her school days at Maritzburg; of the friends
with whom she had been staying, and I know not what, until at
last I got up and went out for a walk.
When I returned an hour or so later they were still talking, and
so continued to do until Dr. Rodd arrived upon the scene. At
first they did not see him, for he stood at an angle to them, but
I saw him and watched his face with a great deal of interest.
It, or rather its expression, was not pleasant; before now I have
seen something like it on that of a wild beast which thinks that
it is about to be robbed of its prey by a stronger wild beast, in
short, a mixture of hate, fear and jealousy--especially jealousy.
At the last I did not wonder, for these two seemed to be getting
on uncommonly well.
They were, so to speak, well matched. She, of course, was the
better looking of the two, a really pretty and attractive young
woman indeed, but the vivacity of Anscombe's face, the twinkle of
his merry blue eyes and its general refinement made up for what
he lacked--regularity of feature. I think he had just told her
one of his good stories which he always managed to make so
humorous by a trick of pleasing and harmless exaggeration, and
they were both laughing merrily. Then she caught sight of the
doctor and her merriment evaporated like a drop of water on a hot
shovel. Distinctly I saw her pull herself together and prepare
"How do you do?" she said rapidly, rising and holding out her
slim sun-browned hand. "But I need not ask, you look so well."
"How do you do, my dear," with a heavy emphasis on the "dear" he
answered slowly. "But I needn't ask, for I see that you are in
perfect health and spirits," and he bent forward as though to
Somehow or other she avoided that endearment or seal of
possession. I don't quite know how, as I turned my head away,
not wishing to witness what I felt to be unpleasant. When I
looked up again, however, I saw that she had avoided it, the
scowl on his face the demureness of hers and Anscombe's evident
amusement assured me of this. She was asking about her father;
he answered that he also seemed quite well.
"Then why did you write to tell me that I ought to come as he was
not at all well?" she inquired, with a lifting of her delicate
The question was never answered, for at that moment Marnham
"Oh! father," she said, and rushed into his arms, while he kissed
her tenderly on both cheeks.
So I was not mistaken, thought I to myself, she does really love
this moral wreck, and what is more, he loves her, which shows
that there must be good in him. Is anyone truly bad, I wondered,
or for the matter of that, truly good either? Is it not all a
question of circumstance and blood?
Neither then or at any other time have I found an answer to the
problem. At any rate to me there seemed something beautiful
about the meeting of these two.
The influence of Miss Heda in the house was felt at once. The
boys became smarter and put on clean clothes. Vases of flowers
appeared in the various rooms; ours was turned out and cleaned, a
disagreeable process so far as we were concerned. Moreover, at
dinner both Marnham and Rodd wore dress clothes with short
jackets, a circumstance that put Anscombe and myself to shame
since we had none. It was curious to see how with those dress
clothes, which doubtless awoke old associations within him,
Marnham changed his colour like a chameleon. Really he might
have been the colonel of a cavalry regiment rising to toast the
Queen after he had sent round the wine, so polite and polished
was his talk. Who could have identified the man with the dry old
ruffian of twenty-four hours before, he who was drinking claret
(and very good claret too) mixed with water and listening with a
polite interest to all the details of his daughter's journey?
Even the doctor looked a gentleman, which doubtless he was once
upon a time, in evening dress. Moreover, some kind of truce had
been arranged. He no longer called Miss Heda "My dear" or
attempted any familiarities, while she on more than one occasion
very distinctly called him Dr. Rodd.
So much for that night and for several others that followed. As
for the days they went by pleasantly and idly. Heda walked about
on her father's arm, conversed in friendly fashion with the
doctor, always watching him, I noticed, as a cat watches a dog
that she knows is waiting an opportunity to spring, and for the
rest associated with us as much as she could. Particularly did
she seem to take refuge behind my own insignificance, having, I
suppose, come to the conclusion that I was a harmless person who
might possibly prove useful. But all the while I felt that the
storm was banking up. Indeed Marnham himself, at any rate to a
great extent, played the part of the cloud-compelling Jove, for
soon it became evident to me, and without doubt to Dr. Rodd also,
that he was encouraging the intimacy between his daughter and
Anscombe by every means in his power.
In one way and another he had fully informed himself as to
Anscombe's prospects in life, which were brilliant enough.
Moreover he liked the man who, as the remnant of the better
perceptions of his youth told him, was one of the best class of
Englishmen, and what is more, he saw that Heda liked him also, as
much indeed as she disliked Rodd. He even spoke to me of the
matter in a round-about kind of fashion, saying that the young
woman who married Anscombe would be lucky and that the father who
had him for a son-in-law might go to his grave confident of his
child's happiness. I answered that I agreed with him, unless the
lady's affections had already caused her to form other ties.
"Affections!" he exclaimed, dropping all pretence, "there are
none involved in this accursed business, as you are quite sharp
enough to have seen for yourself."
"I understood that an engagement was involved," I remarked.
"On my part, perhaps, not on hers," he answered. "Oh! can't you
understand, Quatermain, that sometimes men find themselves forced
into strange situations against their will?"
Remembering the very ugly name that I had heard Rodd call Marnham
on the night of the card party, I reflected that I could
understand well enough, but I only said--
"After all marriage is a matter that concerns a woman even more
than it does her father, one, in short, of which she must be the
"Quite so, Quatermain, but there are some daughters who are
prepared to make great sacrifices for their fathers. Well, she
will be of age ere long, if only I can stave it off till then.
But how, how?" and with a groan he turned and left me.
That old gentleman's neck is in some kind of a noose, thought I
to myself, and his difficulty is to prevent the rope from being
drawn tight. Meanwhile this poor girl's happiness and future are
"Allan," said Anscombe to me a little later, for by now he called
me by my Christian name, "I suppose you haven't heard anything
about those oxen, have you?"
"No, I could scarcely expect to yet, but why do you ask?"
He smiled in his droll fashion and replied, "Because, interesting
as this household is in sundry ways, I think it is about time
that we, or at any rate that I, got out of it."
"Your leg isn't fit to travel yet, Anscombe, although Rodd says
that all the symptoms are very satisfactory."
"Yes, but to tell you the truth I am experiencing other symptoms
quite unknown to that beloved physician and so unfamiliar to
myself that I attribute them to the influences of the locality.
Altitude affects the heart, does it not, and this house stands
"Don't play off your jokes on me," I said sternly. "What do you
"I wonder if you find Miss Heda attractive, Allan, or if you are
too old. I believe there comes an age when the only beauties
that can move a man are those of architecture, or scenery, or
properly cooked food."
"Hang it all! I am not Methusaleh," I replied; "but if you mean
that you are falling in love with Heda, why the deuce don't you
say so, instead of wasting my time and your own?"
"Because time was given to us to waste. Properly considered it
is the best use to which it can be put, or at any rate the one
that does least mischief. Also because I wished to make you say
it for me that I might judge from the effect of your words
whether it is or is not true. I may add that I fear the former
to be the case."
"Well, if you are in love with the girl you can't expect one so
ancient as myself, who is quite out of touch with such follies,
to teach you how to act."
"No, Allan. Unfortunately there are occasions when one must
rely upon one's own wisdom, and mine, what there is of it, tells
me I had better get out of this. But I can't ride even if I took
the horse and you ran behind, and the oxen haven't come."
"Perhaps you could borrow Miss Marnham's cart in which to run
away from her," I suggested sarcastically.
"Perhaps, though I believe it would be fatal to my foot to sit up
in a cart for the next few days, and the horses seem to have been
sent off somewhere. Look here, old fellow," he went on, dropping
his bantering tone, "it's rather awkward to make a fool of
oneself over a lady who is engaged to some one else, especially
if one suspects that with a little encouragement she might begin
to walk the same road. The truth is I have taken the fever
pretty bad, worse than ever I did before, and if it isn't stopped
soon it will become chronic."
"Oh no, Anscombe, only intermittent at the worst, and African
malaria nearly always yields to a change of climate."
"How can I expect a cynic and a misogynist to understand the
simple fervour of an inexperienced soul--Oh! drat it all,
Quatermain, stop your acid chaff and tell me what is to be done.
Really I am in a tight place."
"Very; so tight that I rejoice to think, as you were kind enough
to point out, that my years protect me from anything of the sort.
I have no advice to give; I think you had better ask it of the
"Well, we did have a little conversation, hypothetical of course,
about some friends of ours who found themselves similarly
situated, and I regret to say without result."
"Indeed. I did not know you had any mutual acquaintances. What
did she say and do?"
"She said nothing, only sighed and looked as though she were
going to burst into tears, and all she did was to walk away. I'd
have followed her if I could, but as my crutch wasn't there it
was impossible. It seemed to me that suddenly I had come up
against a brick wall, that there was something on her mind which
she could not or would not let out.
"Yes, and if you want to know, I will tell you what it is. Rodd
has got a hold over Marnham of a sort that would bring him
somewhere near the gallows. As the price of his silence Marnham
has promised him his daughter. The daughter knows that her
father is in this man's power, though I think she does not know
in what way, and being a good girl--"
"An angel you mean--do call her by her right name, especially in
a place where angels are so much wanted."
"Well, an angel if you like--she has promised on her part to
marry a man she loathes in order to save her parent's bacon."
"Just what I concluded, from what we heard in the row. I wonder
which of that pair is the bigger blackguard. Well, Allan, that
settles it. You and I are on the side of the angel. You will
have to get her out of this scrape and--if she'll have me, I'll
marry her; and if she won't, why it can't be helped. Now that's
a fair division of labour. How are you going to do it? I haven't
an idea, and if I had, I should not presume to interfere with one
so much older and wiser than myself."
"I suppose that by the time you appeared in it, the game of heads
I win and tails you lose had died out of the world," I replied
with an indignant snort. "I think the best thing I can do will
be to take the horse and look for those oxen. Meanwhile you can
settle your business by the light of your native genius, and I
only hope you'll finish it without murder and sudden death."
"I say, old fellow," said Anscombe earnestly, "you don't really
mean to go off and leave me in this hideousness? I haven't
bothered much up to the present because I was sure that you would
find a way out, which would be nothing to a man of your intellect
and experience. I mean it honestly, I do indeed."
"Do you? Well, I can only say that my mind is a perfect blank,
but if you will stop talking I will try to think the matter over.
There's Miss Heda in the garden cutting flowers. I will go to
help her, which will be a very pleasant change."
And I went, leaving him to stare after me jealously.
When I reached Miss Heda she was collecting half-opened monthly
roses from the hedge, and not quite knowing what to say I made
the appropriate quotation. At least it was appropriate to my
thought, and, from her answer, to hers also.
"Yes," she said, "I am gathering them while I may," and she
sighed and, as I thought, glanced towards the verandah, though of
this I could not be sure because of the wide brim of the hat she
Then we talked a little on indifferent matters, while I pricked
my fingers helping to pluck the roses. She asked me if I thought
that Anscombe was getting on well, and how long it would be
before he could travel. I replied that Dr. Rodd could tell her
better than myself, but that I hoped in about a week.
"In a week!" she said, and although she tried to speak lightly
there was dismay in her voice.
"I hope you don't think it too long," I answered; "but even if he
is fit to go, the oxen have not come yet, and I don't quite know
when they will."
"Too long!" she exclaimed. "Too long! Oh! if you only knew what
it is to me to have such guests as you are in this place," and
her dark eyes filled with tears.
By now we had passed to the side of the house in search of some
other flower that grew in the shade, I think it was mignonette,
and were out of sight of the verandah and quite alone.
"Mr. Quatermain," she said hurriedly, "I am wondering whether to
ask your advice about something, if you would give it. I have no
one to consult here," she added rather piteously.
"That is for you to decide. If you wish to do so I am old enough
to be your father, and will do my best to help."
We walked on to an orange grove that stood about forty yards
away, ostensibly to pick some fruit, but really because we knew
that there we should be out of hearing and could see any one who
"Mr. Quatermain," she said presently in a low voice, I am in
great trouble, almost the greatest a woman can have. I am
engaged to be married to a man whom I do not care for.
"Then why not break it off? It may be unpleasant, but it is
generally best to face unpleasant things, and nothing can be so
bad as marrying a man whom you do
"Because I cannot--I dare not. I have to obey."
"How old are you, Miss Marnham?"
"I shall be of age in three months' time. You may guess that I
did not intend to return here until they were over, but I was,
well--trapped. He wrote to me that my father was ill and I
"At any rate when they are over you will not have to obey any
one. It is not long to wait."
"It is an eternity. Besides this is not so much a question of
obedience as of duty and of love. I love my father who, whatever
his faults, has always been very kind to me."
"And I am sure he loves you. Why not go to him and tell him your
"He knows it already, Mr. Quatermain, and hates this marriage
even more than I do, if that is possible. But he is driven to
it, as I am. Oh! I must tell the truth. The doctor has some
hold over him. My father has done something dreadful; I don't
know what and I don't want to know, but if it came out it would
ruin my father, or worse, worse. I am the price of his silence.
On the day of our marriage he will destroy the proofs. If I
refuse to marry him, they will be produced and then--"
"It is difficult," I said.
"It is more than difficult, it is terrible. If you could see all
there is in my heart, you would know how terrible."
"I think I can see, Miss Heda. Don't say any more now. Give me
time to consider. In case of necessity come to me again, and be
sure that I will protect you."
"But you are going in a week."
"Many things happen in a week. Sufficient to the day is its
evil. At the end of the week we will come to some decision
unless everything is already decided."
For the next twenty-four hours I reflected on this pretty problem
as hard as ever I did on anything in all my life. Here was a
young woman who must somehow protected from a scoundrel, but who
could not be protected because she herself had to protect another
scoundrel--to wit, her own father. Could the thing be faced out?
Impossible, for I was sure that Marnham had committed a murder,
or murders, of which Rodd possessed evidence that would hang him.
Could Heda be married to Anscombe at once? Yes, if both were
willing, but then Marnham would still be hung. Could they elope?
Possibly, but with the same result. Could I take her away and
put her under the protection of the Court at Pretoria? Yes, but
with the same result. I wondered what my Hottentot retainer,
Hans, would have advised, he who was named Light-in-Darkness, and
in his own savage way was the cleverest and most cunning man that
I have met. Alas! I could not raise him from the grave to tell
me, and yet I knew well what he would have answered.
"Baas," he would have said, "this is a rope which only the pale
old man (i.e. death) can cut. Let this doctor die or let the
father die, and the maiden will be free. Surely heaven is
longing for one or both of them, and if necessary, Baas, I
believe that I can point out a path to heaven!"
I laughed to myself at the thought, which was one that a white
man could not entertain even as a thought. And I felt that the
hypothetical Hans was right, death alone could cut this knot, and
the reflection made me shiver.
That night I slept uneasily and dreamed. I dreamed that once
more I was in the Black Kloof in Zululand, seated in front of the
huts at the end of the kloof. Before me squatted the old wizard,
Zikali, wrapped up in his kaross--Zikali, the
"Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born," whom I had not seen for
years. Near him were the ashes of a fire, by the help of which I
knew he had been practising divination. He looked up and laughed
one of his terrible laughs.
"So you are here again, Macumazahn," he said, "grown older, but
still the same; here at the appointed hour. What do you come to
seek from the Opener of Roads? Not Mameena as I think this time.
No, no, it is she who seeks you this time, Macumazahn. She found
you once, did she not? Far away to the north among a strange
people who worshipped an Ivory Child, a people of whom I knew in
my youth, and afterwards, for was not their prophet, Harut, a
friend of mine and one of our brotherhood? She found you beneath
the tusks of the elephant, Jana, whom Macumazahn the skilful
could not hit. Oh! do not look astonished."
"How do you know?" I asked in my dream.
"Very simply, Macumazahn. A little yellow man named Hans has
been with me and told me all the story not an hour ago, after
which I sent for Mameena to learn if it were true. She will be
glad to meet you, Macumazahn, she who has a hungry heart that
does not forget. Oh! don't be afraid. I mean here beneath the
sun, in the land beyond there will be no need for her to meet you
since she will dwell ever at your side."
"Why do you lie to me, Zikali?" I seemed to ask. "How can a dead
man speak to you and how can I meet a woman who is dead?"
"Seek the answer to that question in the hour of the battle when
the white men, your brothers, fall beneath assegai as weeds fall
before the hoe--or perhaps before it. But have done with
Mameena, since she who never grows more old can well afford to
wait. It is not of Mameena that you came to speak to me; it is
of a fair white woman named Heddana you would speak, and of the
man she loves, you, who will ever be mixing yourself up in
affairs of others, and therefore must bear their burdens with no
pay save that of honour. Hearken, for the time is short. When
the storm bursts upon them bring hither the fair maiden, Heddana,
and the white lord, Mauriti, and I will shelter them for your
sake. Take them nowhere else. Bring them hither if they would
escape trouble. I shall be glad to see you, Macumazahn, for at
last I am about to smite the Zulu House of Senzangacona, my foes,
with a bladder full of blood, and oh! it stains their doorposts
Then I woke up, feeling afraid, as one does after a nightmare,
and was comforted to hear Anscombe sleeping quietly on the other
side of the room.
"Mauriti. Why did Zikali call him Mauriti?" I wondered drowsily
to myself. "Oh! of course his name is Maurice, and it was a Zulu
corruption of a common sort as was Heddana of Heda." Then I
dozed off again, and by the morning had forgotten all about my
dream until it was brought back to me by subsequent events.
Still it was this and nothing else that put it into my head to
fly to Zululand on an emergency that was to arise ere long.*
[*--For the history of Zikali and Mameena see the book called
_Child of Storm_ by H. Rider Haggard.]
That evening Rodd was absent from dinner, and on inquiring where
he might be, I was informed that he had ridden to visit a Kaffir
headman, a patient of his who lived at a distance, and would very
probably sleep at the kraal, returning early next day. One of
the topics of conversation during dinner was as to where the
exact boundary line used to run between the Transvaal and the
country over which the Basuto chief, Sekukuni, claimed ownership
and jurisdiction. Marnham said that it passed within a couple of
miles of his house, and when we rose, the moon being very bright,
offered to show me where the beacons had been placed years before
by a Boer Commission. I accepted, as the night was lovely for a
stroll after the hot day. Also I was half conscious of another
undefined purpose in my mind, which perhaps may have spread to
that of Marnham. Those two young people looked very happy
together there on the stoep, and as they must part so soon it
would, I thought, be kind to give them the opportunity of a quiet
So off we went to the brow of the hill on which the Temple stood,
whence old Marnham pointed out to me a beacon, which I could not
see in the dim, silvery bush-veld below, and how the line ran
from it to another beacon somewhere else.
"You know the Yellow-wood swamp," he said. "It passes straight
through that. That is why those Basutos who were following you
pulled up upon the edge of the swamp, though as a matter of fact,
according to their ideas, they had a perfect right to kill you on
their side of the line which cuts through the middle."
I made some remark to the effect that I presumed that the line
had in fact ceased to exist at all, as the Basuto territory had
practically become British; after which we strolled back to the
house. Walking quietly between the tall rose hedges and without
speaking, for each of us was preoccupied with his own thoughts,
suddenly we came upon a very pretty scene.
We had left Anscombe and Heda seated side by side on the stoep.
They were still there, but much closer together. In fact his
arms were round her, and they were kissing each other in a
remarkably whole-hearted way. About this there could be no
mistake, since the rimpi-strung couch on which they sat was
immediately under the hanging lamp--a somewhat unfortunate
situation for such endearments. But what did they think of
hanging lamps or any other lights, save those of their own eyes,
they who were content to kiss and murmur words of passion as
though they were as much alone as Adam and Eve in Eden? What did
they think either of the serpent coiled about the bole of this
tree of knowledge whereof they had just plucked the ripe and
By a mutual instinct Marnham and I withdrew ourselves, very
gently indeed, purposing to skirt round the house and enter it
from behind, or to be seized with a fit of coughing at the gate,
or to do something to announce our presence at a convenient
distance. When we had gone a little way we heard a crash in the
"Another of those cursed baboons robbing the garden," remarked
"I think he is going to rob the house also," I replied, turning
to point to something dark that seemed to be leaping up on to the
Next moment we heard Heda utter a little cry of alarm, and a man
say in a low fierce voice-
"So I have caught you at last, have I!"
"The doctor has returned from his business rounds sooner than was
expected, and I think that we had better join the party," I
remarked, and made a bee line for the stoep, Marnham following
I think that I arrived just in time to prevent mischief. There,
with a revolver in his hand, stood Rodd, tall and formidable, his
dark face looking like that of Satan himself, a very monument of
rage and jealousy. There in front of him on the couch sat Heda,
grasping its edge with her fingers, her cheeks as pale as a sheet
and her eyes shining. By her side was Anscombe, cool and
collected as usual, I noticed, but evidently perplexed.
"If there is any shooting to be done," he was saying, "I think
you had better begin with me."
His calmness seemed to exasperate Rodd, who lifted the revolver.
But I too was prepared, for in that house I always went armed.
There was no time to get at the man, who was perhaps fifteen feet
away, and I did not want to hurt him. So I did the best I could;
that is, I fired at the pistol in his hand, and the light being
good, struck it near the hilt and knocked it off the barrel
before the he could press the trigger, if he really meant to
"That's a good shot," remarked Anscombe who had seen me, while
Rodd stared at the hilt which he still held.
"A lucky one," I answered, walking forward. "And now, Dr. Rodd,
will you be so good as to tell me what you mean by flourishing a
revolver, presumably loaded, in the faces of a lady and an
"What the devil is that to you," he asked furiously, "and what do
you mean by firing at me?"
"A great deal," I answered, "seeing that a young woman and my
friend are concerned. As for firing at you, had I done so you
would not be asking questions now. I fired at the pistol in your
hand, but if there is more trouble next time it shall be at the
holder," and I glanced at my revolver.
Seeing that I meant business he made no reply, but turned upon
Marnham who had followed me.
"This is your work, you old villain," he said in a low voice that
was heavy with hate. "You promised your daughter to me. She is
engaged to me, and now I find her in this wanderer's arms."
"What have I to do with it?" said Marnham. "Perhaps she has
changed her mind. You had better ask her."
"There is no need to ask me," interrupted Heda, who now seemed to
have got her nerve again. "I _have_ changed my mind. I never
loved you, Dr. Rodd, and I will not marry you. I love Mr.
Anscombe here, and as he has asked me to be his wife I mean to
"I see," he sneered, "you want to be a peeress one day, no doubt.
Well, you never shall if I can help it. Perhaps, too, this fine
gentleman of yours will not be so particularly anxious to marry
you when he learns that you are the daughter of a murderer."
That word was like a bombshell bursting among us. We looked at
each other as people, yet dazed with the shock, might on a
battlefield when the noise of the explosion has died and the
smoke cleared away, to see who is still alive. Anscombe spoke
"I don't know what you mean or to what you refer," he said
quietly. "But at any rate this lady who has promised to marry me
is innocent, and therefore if all her ancestors had been
murderers it would not in the slightest turn me from my purpose
of marrying her."
She looked at him, and all the gratitude in the world shone in
her frightened eyes. Marnham stepped, or rather staggered
forward, the blue vein throbbing on forehead.
"He lies," he said hoarsely, tugging at his long beard. "Listen
now and I will tell you the truth. Once, more than a year ago, I
was drunk and in a rage. In this state I fired at a Kaffir to
frighten him, and by some devil's chance shot him dead. That's
what he calls being a murderer."
"I have another tale," said Rodd, "with which I will not trouble
this company just now. Look here, Heda, either you fulfil your
promise and marry me, or your father swings."
She gasped and sank together on the seat as though she had been
shot. Then I took up my parable.
"Are you the man," I asked, "to accuse others of crime? Let us
see. You have spent several months in an English prison (I gave
the name) for a crime I won't mention."
"How do you know--" he began.
"Never mind, I do know and the prison books will show it.
Further, your business is that of selling guns and ammunition to
the Basutos of Sekukuni's tribe, who, although the expedition
against them has been temporarily recalled, are still the Queen's
enemies. Don't deny it, for I have the proofs. Further, it was
you who advised Sekukuni to kill us when we went down to his
country to shoot the other day, because you were afraid that we
should discover whence he got his guns." (This was a bow drawn
at a venture, but the arrow went home, for I saw his jaw drop.)
"Further, I believe you to be an illicit diamond buyer, and I
believe also that you have again been arranging with the Basutos
to make an end of us, though of these last two items at present I
lack positive proof. Now, Dr. Rodd, I ask you for the second
time whether you are a person to accuse others of crimes and
whether, should you do so, you will be considered a credible
witness when your own are brought to light?"
"If had been guilty of any of these things, which I am not, it is
obvious that my partner must have shared in all of them, except
the first. So if you inform against me, you inform against him,
and the father of Heda, whom your friend wishes to marry, will,
according to your showing, be proved a gun-runner, a thief and a
would-be murderer of his guests. I should advise you to leave
that business alone, Mr. Quatermain."
The reply was bold and clever, so much so that I regarded this
blackguard with a certain amount of admiration, as I answered--
"I shall take your advice if you take mine to leave another
business alone, that of this young lady and her father, but not
"Then spare your breath and do your worst; only careful, sharp as
you think yourself, that your meddling does not recoil on your
own head. Listen, Heda, either you make up your mind to marry me
at once and arrange that this young gentleman, who as a doctor I
assure you is now quite fit to travel without injury to his
health, leaves this house to-morrow with the spy Quatermain--you
might lend him the Cape cart to go in--or I start with the proofs
to lay a charge of murder against your father. I give you till
to-morrow morning to have a family council to think it over.
"Good-night," I answered as he passed me, "and please be careful
that none of us see your face again before to-morrow morning. As
you may happen to have heard, my native name means
Watcher-by-Night," and I looked at the revolver in my hand.
When he had vanished I remarked in as cheerful voice as I could
command, that I thought it was bedtime, and as nobody stirred,
added, "Don't be afraid, young lady. If you feel lonely, you
must tell that stout maid of yours to sleep in your room. Also,
as the night is so hot I shall take my nap on the stoep, there,
just opposite your window. No, don't let us talk any more now.
There will be plenty of time for that to-morrow."
She rose, looked at Anscombe, looked at me, looked at her father
very pitifully; then with a little exclamation of despair passed
into her room by the French window, where presently I heard her
call the native maid and tell her that she was to sleep with her.
Marnham watched her depart. Then he too went with his head bowed
and staggering a little in his walk. Next Anscombe rose and
limped off into his room, I following him.
"Well, young man," I said, "you have put us all in the soup now
and no mistake."
"Yes, Allan, I am afraid I have. But on the whole don't you
think it rather interesting soup--so many unexpected ingredients,
"Interesting soup! Unexpected ingredients!" I repeated after
him, adding, "Why not call it hell's broth at once?"
Then he became serious, dreadfully serious.
"Look here," he said, "I love Heda, and whatever her family
history may be I mean to marry her and face the row at home."
"You could scarcely do less in all the circumstances, and as for
rows, that young lady would soon fit herself into any place that
you can give her. But the question is, how can you marry her?"
"Oh! something will happen," he replied optimistically.
"You are quite right there. Something will certainly happen, but
the point is--what? Something was very near happening when I
turned up on that stoep, so near that I think it was lucky for
you, or for Miss Heda, or both, that I have learned how to handle
a pistol. Now let me see your foot, and don't speak another word
to me about all this business to-night. I'd rather tackle it
when I am clear-headed in the morning."
"Well, I examined his instep and leg very carefully and found
that Rodd was right. Although it still hurt him to walk, the
wound was quite healed and all inflammation had gone from the
limb. Now it was only a question of time for the sinews to right
themselves. While I was thus engaged he held forth on the
virtues and charms of Heda, I making no comment.
"Lie down and get to sleep, if you can," I said when I had
finished. "The door is locked and I am going on to the stoep, so
you needn't be afraid of the windows. Good-night."
I went out and sat myself down in such a position that by the
light of the hanging lamp, which still burned, I could make sure
that no one could approach either Heda's or my room without my
seeing him. For the rest, all my life I have been accustomed to
night vigils, and the loaded revolver hung from my wrist by a
loop of hide. Moreover, never had I felt less sleepy. There I
sat hour after hour, thinking.
The substance of my thoughts does not matter, since the events
that followed make them superfluous to the story. I will merely
record, therefore, that towards dawn a great horror took hold of
me. I did not know of what I was afraid, but I was much afraid
of something. Nothing was passing in either Heda's or our room,
of that I made sure by personal examination. Therefore it would
seem that my terrors were unnecessary, and yet they grew and
grew. I felt sure that something was happening somewhere, a
dread occurrence which it was beyond my power to prevent, though
whether it were in this house or at the other end of Africa I did
The mental depression increased and culminated. Then of a sudden
it passed completely away, and as I mopped the sweat from off my
brow I noticed that dawn was breaking. It was a tender and
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