King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard
Part 4 out of 5
Ignosi, I thought to myself, might well be a proud man that day, for
no Roman emperor ever had such a salutation from gladiators "about to
Ignosi acknowledged this magnificent act of homage by lifting his
battle-axe, and then the Greys filed off in a triple-line formation,
each line containing about one thousand fighting men, exclusive of
officers. When the last companies had advanced some five hundred
yards, Ignosi put himself at the head of the Buffaloes, which regiment
was drawn up in a similar three-fold formation, and gave the word to
march, and off we went, I, needless to say, uttering the most
heartfelt prayers that I might emerge from that entertainment with a
whole skin. Many a queer position have I found myself in, but never
before in one quite so unpleasant as the present, or one in which my
chance of coming off safe was smaller.
By the time that we reached the edge of the plateau the Greys were
already half-way down the slope ending in the tongue of grass land
that ran up into the bend of the mountain, something as the frog of a
horse's foot runs up into the shoe. The excitement in Twala's camp on
the plain beyond was very great, and regiment after regiment was
starting forward at a long swinging trot in order to reach the root of
the tongue of land before the attacking force could emerge into the
plain of Loo.
This tongue, which was some four hundred yards in depth, even at its
root or widest part was not more than six hundred and fifty paces
across, while at its tip it scarcely measured ninety. The Greys, who,
in passing down the side of the hill and on to the tip of the tongue,
had formed into a column, on reaching the spot where it broadened out
again, reassumed their triple-line formation, and halted dead.
Then we--that is, the Buffaloes--moved down the tip of the tongue and
took our stand in reserve, about one hundred yards behind the last
line of the Greys, and on slightly higher ground. Meanwhile we had
leisure to observe Twala's entire force, which evidently had been
reinforced since the morning attack, and could not now,
notwithstanding their losses, number less than forty thousand, moving
swiftly up towards us. But as they drew near the root of the tongue
they hesitated, having discovered that only one regiment could advance
into the gorge at a time, and that there, some seventy yards from the
mouth of it, unassailable except in front, on account of the high
walls of boulder-strewn ground on each side, stood the famous regiment
of Greys, the pride and glory of the Kukuana army, ready to hold the
way against their power as the three Romans once held the bridge
They hesitated, and finally stopped their advance; there was no
eagerness to cross spears with these three grim ranks of warriors who
stood so firm and ready. Presently, however, a tall general, wearing
the customary head-dress of nodding ostrich plumes, appeared, attended
by a group of chiefs and orderlies, being, I thought, none other than
Twala himself. He gave an order, and the first regiment, raising a
shout, charged up towards the Greys, who remained perfectly still and
silent till the attacking troops were within forty yards, and a volley
of /tollas/, or throwing-knives, came rattling among their ranks.
Then suddenly with a bound and a roar, they sprang forward with
uplifted spears, and the regiment met in deadly strife. Next second
the roll of the meeting shields came to our ears like the sound of
thunder, and the plain seemed to be alive with flashes of light
reflected from the shimmering spears. To and fro swung the surging
mass of struggling, stabbing humanity, but not for long. Suddenly the
attacking lines began to grow thinner, and then with a slow, long
heave the Greys passed over them, just as a great wave heaves up its
bulk and passes over a sunken ridge. It was done; that regiment was
completely destroyed, but the Greys had but two lines left now; a
third of their number were dead.
Closing up shoulder to shoulder, once more they halted in silence and
awaited attack; and I was rejoiced to catch sight of Sir Henry's
yellow beard as he moved to and fro arranging the ranks. So he was yet
Meanwhile we moved on to the ground of the encounter, which was
cumbered by about four thousand prostrate human beings, dead, dying,
and wounded, and literally stained red with blood. Ignosi issued an
order, which was rapidly passed down the ranks, to the effect that
none of the enemy's wounded were to be killed, and so far as we could
see this command was scrupulously carried out. It would have been a
shocking sight, if we had found time to think of such things.
But now a second regiment, distinguished by white plumes, kilts, and
shields, was moving to the attack of the two thousand remaining Greys,
who stood waiting in the same ominous silence as before, till the foe
was within forty yards or so, when they hurled themselves with
irresistible force upon them. Again there came the awful roll of the
meeting shields, and as we watched the tragedy repeated itself.
But this time the issue was left longer in doubt; indeed, it seemed
for awhile almost impossible that the Greys should again prevail. The
attacking regiment, which was formed of young men, fought with the
utmost fury, and at first seemed by sheer weight to be driving the
veterans back. The slaughter was truly awful, hundreds falling every
minute; and from among the shouts of the warriors and the groans of
the dying, set to the music of clashing spears, came a continuous
hissing undertone of "/S'gee, s'gee/," the note of triumph of each
victor as he passed his assegai through and through the body of his
But perfect discipline and steady and unchanging valour can do
wonders, and one veteran soldier is worth two young ones, as soon
became apparent in the present case. For just when we thought that it
was all over with the Greys, and were preparing to take their place so
soon as they made room by being destroyed, I heard Sir Henry's deep
voice ringing out through the din, and caught a glimpse of his
circling battle-axe as he waved it high above his plumes. Then came a
change; the Greys ceased to give; they stood still as a rock, against
which the furious waves of spearmen broke again and again, only to
recoil. Presently they began to move once more--forward this time; as
they had no firearms there was no smoke, so we could see it all.
Another minute and the onslaught grew fainter.
"Ah, these are /men/, indeed; they will conquer again," called out
Ignosi, who was grinding his teeth with excitement at my side. "See,
it is done!"
Suddenly, like puffs of smoke from the mouth of a cannon, the
attacking regiment broke away in flying groups, their white head-
dresses streaming behind them in the wind, and left their opponents
victors, indeed, but, alas! no more a regiment. Of the gallant triple
line, which forty minutes before had gone into action three thousand
strong, there remained at most some six hundred blood-spattered men;
the rest were under foot. And yet they cheered and waved their spears
in triumph, and then, instead of falling back upon us as we expected,
they ran forward, for a hundred yards or so, after the flying groups
of foemen, took possession of a rising knoll of ground, and, resuming
their triple formation, formed a threefold ring around its base. And
there, thanks be to Heaven, standing on the top of the mound for a
minute, I saw Sir Henry, apparently unharmed, and with him our old
friend Infadoos. Then Twala's regiments rolled down upon the doomed
band, and once more the battle closed in.
As those who read this history will probably long ago have gathered, I
am, to be honest, a bit of a coward, and certainly in no way given to
fighting, though somehow it has often been my lot to get into
unpleasant positions, and to be obliged to shed man's blood. But I
have always hated it, and kept my own blood as undiminished in
quantity as possible, sometimes by a judicious use of my heels. At
this moment, however, for the first time in my life, I felt my bosom
burn with martial ardour. Warlike fragments from the "Ingoldsby
Legends," together with numbers of sanguinary verses in the Old
Testament, sprang up in my brain like mushrooms in the dark; my blood,
which hitherto had been half-frozen with horror, went beating through
my veins, and there came upon me a savage desire to kill and spare
not. I glanced round at the serried ranks of warriors behind us, and
somehow, all in an instant, I began to wonder if my face looked like
theirs. There they stood, the hands twitching, the lips apart, the
fierce features instinct with the hungry lust of battle, and in the
eyes a look like the glare of a bloodhound when after long pursuit he
sights his quarry.
Only Ignosi's heart, to judge from his comparative self-possession,
seemed, to all appearances, to beat as calmly as ever beneath his
leopard-skin cloak, though even /he/ still ground his teeth. I could
bear it no longer.
"Are we to stand here till we put out roots, Umbopa--Ignosi, I mean--
while Twala swallows our brothers yonder?" I asked.
"Nay, Macumazahn," was the answer; "see, now is the ripe moment: let
us pluck it."
As he spoke a fresh regiment rushed past the ring upon the little
mound, and wheeling round, attacked it from the hither side.
Then, lifting his battle-axe, Ignosi gave the signal to advance, and,
screaming the wild Kukuana war-cry, the Buffaloes charged home with a
rush like the rush of the sea.
What followed immediately on this it is out of my power to tell. All I
can remember is an irregular yet ordered advance, that seemed to shake
the ground; a sudden change of front and forming up on the part of the
regiment against which the charge was directed; then an awful shock, a
dull roar of voices, and a continuous flashing of spears, seen through
a red mist of blood.
When my mind cleared I found myself standing inside the remnant of the
Greys near the top of the mound, and just behind no less a person than
Sir Henry himself. How I got there I had at the moment no idea, but
Sir Henry afterwards told me that I was borne up by the first furious
charge of the Buffaloes almost to his feet, and then left, as they in
turn were pressed back. Thereon he dashed out of the circle and
dragged me into shelter.
As for the fight that followed, who can describe it? Again and again
the multitudes surged against our momentarily lessening circle, and
again and again we beat them back.
"The stubborn spearmen still made good
The dark impenetrable wood,
Each stepping where his comrade stood
The instant that he fell,"
as someone or other beautifully says.
It was a splendid thing to see those brave battalions come on time
after time over the barriers of their dead, sometimes lifting corpses
before them to receive our spear-thrusts, only to leave their own
corpses to swell the rising piles. It was a gallant sight to see that
old warrior, Infadoos, as cool as though he were on parade, shouting
out orders, taunts, and even jests, to keep up the spirit of his few
remaining men, and then, as each charge rolled on, stepping forward to
wherever the fighting was thickest, to bear his share in its repulse.
And yet more gallant was the vision of Sir Henry, whose ostrich plumes
had been shorn off by a spear thrust, so that his long yellow hair
streamed out in the breeze behind him. There he stood, the great Dane,
for he was nothing else, his hands, his axe, and his armour all red
with blood, and none could live before his stroke. Time after time I
saw it sweeping down, as some great warrior ventured to give him
battle, and as he struck he shouted "/O-hoy! O-hoy!/" like his
Berserkir forefathers, and the blow went crashing through shield and
spear, through head-dress, hair, and skull, till at last none would of
their own will come near the great white "/umtagati/," the wizard, who
killed and failed not.
But suddenly there rose a cry of "/Twala, y' Twala/," and out of the
press sprang forward none other than the gigantic one-eyed king
himself, also armed with battle-axe and shield, and clad in chain
"Where art thou, Incubu, thou white man, who slewest Scragga my son--
see if thou canst slay me!" he shouted, and at the same time hurled a
/tolla/ straight at Sir Henry, who fortunately saw it coming, and
caught it on his shield, which it transfixed, remaining wedged in the
iron plate behind the hide.
Then, with a cry, Twala sprang forward straight at him, and with his
battle-axe struck him such a blow upon the shield that the mere force
and shock of it brought Sir Henry, strong man as he is, down upon his
But at this time the matter went no further, for that instant there
rose from the regiments pressing round us something like a shout of
dismay, and on looking up I saw the cause.
To the right and to the left the plain was alive with the plumes of
charging warriors. The outflanking squadrons had come to our relief.
The time could not have been better chosen. All Twala's army, as
Ignosi predicted would be the case, had fixed their attention on the
bloody struggle which was raging round the remnant of the Greys and
that of the Buffaloes, who were now carrying on a battle of their own
at a little distance, which two regiments had formed the chest of our
army. It was not until our horns were about to close upon them that
they had dreamed of their approach, for they believed these forces to
be hidden in reserve upon the crest of the moon-shaped hill. And now,
before they could even assume a proper formation for defence, the
outflanking /Impis/ had leapt, like greyhounds, on their flanks.
In five minutes the fate of the battle was decided. Taken on both
flanks, and dismayed at the awful slaughter inflicted upon them by the
Greys and Buffaloes, Twala's regiments broke into flight, and soon the
whole plain between us and Loo was scattered with groups of running
soldiers making good their retreat. As for the hosts that had so
recently surrounded us and the Buffaloes, they melted away as though
by magic, and presently we were left standing there like a rock from
which the sea has retreated. But what a sight it was! Around us the
dead and dying lay in heaped-up masses, and of the gallant Greys there
remained but ninety-five men upon their feet. More than three thousand
four hundred had fallen in this one regiment, most of them never to
"Men," said Infadoos calmly, as between the intervals of binding a
wound on his arm he surveyed what remained to him of his corps, "ye
have kept up the reputation of your regiment, and this day's fighting
will be well spoken of by your children's children." Then he turned
round and shook Sir Henry Curtis by the hand. "Thou art a great
captain, Incubu," he said simply; "I have lived a long life among
warriors, and have known many a brave one, yet have I never seen a man
like unto thee."
At this moment the Buffaloes began to march past our position on the
road to Loo, and as they went a message was brought to us from Ignosi
requesting Infadoos, Sir Henry, and myself to join them. Accordingly,
orders having been issued to the remaining ninety men of the Greys to
employ themselves in collecting the wounded, we joined Ignosi, who
informed us that he was pressing on to Loo to complete the victory by
capturing Twala, if that should be possible. Before we had gone far,
suddenly we discovered the figure of Good sitting on an ant-heap about
one hundred paces from us. Close beside him was the body of a Kukuana.
"He must be wounded," said Sir Henry anxiously. As he made the remark,
an untoward thing happened. The dead body of the Kukuana soldier, or
rather what had appeared to be his dead body, suddenly sprang up,
knocked Good head over heels off the ant-heap, and began to spear him.
We rushed forward in terror, and as we drew near we saw the brawny
warrior making dig after dig at the prostrate Good, who at each prod
jerked all his limbs into the air. Seeing us coming, the Kukuana gave
one final and most vicious dig, and with a shout of "Take that,
wizard!" bolted away. Good did not move, and we concluded that our
poor comrade was done for. Sadly we came towards him, and were
astonished to find him pale and faint indeed, but with a serene smile
upon his face, and his eyeglass still fixed in his eye.
"Capital armour this," he murmured, on catching sight of our faces
bending over him. "How sold that beggar must have been," and then he
fainted. On examination we discovered that he had been seriously
wounded in the leg by a /tolla/ in the course of the pursuit, but that
the chain armour had prevented his last assailant's spear from doing
anything more than bruise him badly. It was a merciful escape. As
nothing could be done for him at the moment, he was placed on one of
the wicker shields used for the wounded, and carried along with us.
On arriving before the nearest gate of Loo we found one of our
regiments watching it in obedience to orders received from Ignosi. The
other regiments were in the same way guarding the different exits to
the town. The officer in command of this regiment saluted Ignosi as
king, and informed him that Twala's army had taken refuge in the town,
whither Twala himself had also escaped, but he thought that they were
thoroughly demoralised, and would surrender. Thereupon Ignosi, after
taking counsel with us, sent forward heralds to each gate ordering the
defenders to open, and promising on his royal word life and
forgiveness to every soldier who laid down his arms, but saying that
if they did not do so before nightfall he would certainly burn the
town and all within its gates. This message was not without its
effect. Half an hour later, amid the shouts and cheers of the
Buffaloes, the bridge was dropped across the fosse, and the gates upon
the further side were flung open.
Taking due precautions against treachery, we marched on into the town.
All along the roadways stood thousands of dejected warriors, their
heads drooping, and their shields and spears at their feet, who,
headed by their officers, saluted Ignosi as king as he passed. On we
marched, straight to Twala's kraal. When we reached the great space,
where a day or two previously we had seen the review and the witch
hunt, we found it deserted. No, not quite deserted, for there, on the
further side, in front of his hut, sat Twala himself, with but one
It was a melancholy sight to see him seated, his battle-axe and shield
by his side, his chin upon his mailed breast, with but one old crone
for companion, and notwithstanding his crimes and misdeeds, a pang of
compassion shot through me as I looked upon Twala thus "fallen from
his high estate." Not a soldier of all his armies, not a courtier out
of the hundreds who had cringed round him, not even a solitary wife,
remained to share his fate or halve the bitterness of his fall. Poor
savage! he was learning the lesson which Fate teaches to most of us
who live long enough, that the eyes of mankind are blind to the
discredited, and that he who is defenceless and fallen finds few
friends and little mercy. Nor, indeed, in this case did he deserve
Filing through the kraal gate, we marched across the open space to
where the ex-king sat. When within about fifty yards of him the
regiment was halted, and accompanied only by a small guard we advanced
towards him, Gagool reviling us bitterly as we came. As we drew near,
Twala, for the first time, lifted his plumed head, and fixed his one
eye, which seemed to flash with suppressed fury almost as brightly as
the great diamond bound round his forehead, upon his successful
"Hail, O king!" he said, with bitter mockery; "thou who hast eaten of
my bread, and now by the aid of the white man's magic hast seduced my
regiments and defeated mine army, hail! What fate hast thou in store
for me, O king?"
"The fate thou gavest to my father, whose throne thou hast sat on
these many years!" was the stern answer.
"It is good. I will show thee how to die, that thou mayest remember it
against thine own time. See, the sun sinks in blood," and he pointed
with his battle-axe towards the setting orb; "it is well that my sun
should go down in its company. And now, O king! I am ready to die, but
I crave the boon of the Kukuana royal House[*] to die fighting. Thou
canst refuse it, or even those cowards who fled to-day will hold thee
[*] It is a law amongst the Kukuanas that no man of the direct royal
blood can be put to death, unless by his own consent, which is,
however, never refused. He is allowed to choose a succession of
antagonists, to be approved by the king, with whom he fights, till
one of them kills him.--A.Q.
"It is granted. Choose--with whom wilt thou fight? Myself I cannot
fight with thee, for the king fights not except in war."
Twala's sombre eye ran up and down our ranks, and I felt, as for a
moment it rested on myself, that the position had developed a new
horror. What if he chose to begin by fighting /me/? What chance should
I have against a desperate savage six feet five high, and broad in
proportion? I might as well commit suicide at once. Hastily I made up
my mind to decline the combat, even if I were hooted out of
Kukuanaland as a consequence. It is, I think, better to be hooted than
to be quartered with a battle-axe.
Presently Twala spoke.
"Incubu, what sayest thou, shall we end what we began to-day, or shall
I call thee coward, white--even to the liver?"
"Nay," interposed Ignosi hastily; "thou shalt not fight with Incubu."
"Not if he is afraid," said Twala.
Unfortunately Sir Henry understood this remark, and the blood flamed
up into his cheeks.
"I will fight him," he said; "he shall see if I am afraid."
"For Heaven's sake," I entreated, "don't risk your life against that
of a desperate man. Anybody who saw you to-day will know that you are
"I will fight him," was the sullen answer. "No living man shall call
me a coward. I am ready now!" and he stepped forward and lifted his
I wrung my hands over this absurd piece of Quixotism; but if he was
determined on this deed, of course I could not stop him.
"Fight not, my white brother," said Ignosi, laying his hand
affectionately on Sir Henry's arm; "thou hast fought enough, and if
aught befell thee at his hands it would cut my heart in twain."
"I will fight, Ignosi," was Sir Henry's answer.
"It is well, Incubu; thou art a brave man. It will be a good fray.
Behold, Twala, the Elephant is ready for thee."
The ex-king laughed savagely, and stepping forward faced Curtis. For a
moment they stood thus, and the light of the sinking sun caught their
stalwart frames and clothed them both in fire. They were a well-
Then they began to circle round each other, their battle-axes raised.
Suddenly Sir Henry sprang forward and struck a fearful blow at Twala,
who stepped to one side. So heavy was the stroke that the striker half
overbalanced himself, a circumstance of which his antagonist took a
prompt advantage. Circling his massive battle-axe round his head, he
brought it down with tremendous force. My heart jumped into my mouth;
I thought that the affair was already finished. But no; with a quick
upward movement of the left arm Sir Henry interposed his shield
between himself and the axe, with the result that its outer edge was
shorn away, the axe falling on his left shoulder, but not heavily
enough to do any serious damage. In another moment Sir Henry got in a
second blow, which was also received by Twala upon his shield.
Then followed blow upon blow, that were, in turn, either received upon
the shields or avoided. The excitement grew intense; the regiment
which was watching the encounter forgot its discipline, and, drawing
near, shouted and groaned at every stroke. Just at this time, too,
Good, who had been laid upon the ground by me, recovered from his
faint, and, sitting up, perceived what was going on. In an instant he
was up, and catching hold of my arm, hopped about from place to place
on one leg, dragging me after him, and yelling encouragements to Sir
"Go it, old fellow!" he hallooed. "That was a good one! Give it him
amidships," and so on.
Presently Sir Henry, having caught a fresh stroke upon his shield, hit
out with all his force. The blow cut through Twala's shield and
through the tough chain armour behind it, gashing him in the shoulder.
With a yell of pain and fury Twala returned the blow with interest,
and, such was his strength, shore right through the rhinoceros' horn
handle of his antagonists battle-axe, strengthened as it was with
bands of steel, wounding Curtis in the face.
A cry of dismay rose from the Buffaloes as our hero's broad axe-head
fell to the ground; and Twala, again raising his weapon, flew at him
with a shout. I shut my eyes. When I opened them again it was to see
Sir Henry's shield lying on the ground, and Sir Henry himself with his
great arms twined round Twala's middle. To and fro they swung, hugging
each other like bears, straining with all their mighty muscles for
dear life, and dearer honour. With a supreme effort Twala swung the
Englishman clean off his feet, and down they came together, rolling
over and over on the lime paving, Twala striking out at Curtis' head
with the battle-axe, and Sir Henry trying to drive the /tolla/ he had
drawn from his belt through Twala's armour.
It was a mighty struggle, and an awful thing to see.
"Get his axe!" yelled Good; and perhaps our champion heard him.
At any rate, dropping the /tolla/, he snatched at the axe, which was
fastened to Twala's wrist by a strip of buffalo hide, and still
rolling over and over, they fought for it like wild cats, drawing
their breath in heavy gasps. Suddenly the hide string burst, and then,
with a great effort, Sir Henry freed himself, the weapon remaining in
his hand. Another second and he was upon his feet, the red blood
streaming from the wound in his face, and so was Twala. Drawing the
heavy /tolla/ from his belt, he reeled straight at Curtis and struck
him in the breast. The stab came home true and strong, but whoever it
was who made that chain armour, he understood his art, for it
withstood the steel. Again Twala struck out with a savage yell, and
again the sharp knife rebounded, and Sir Henry went staggering back.
Once more Twala came on, and as he came our great Englishman gathered
himself together, and swinging the big axe round his head with both
hands, hit at him with all his force.
There was a shriek of excitement from a thousand throats, and, behold!
Twala's head seemed to spring from his shoulders: then it fell and
came rolling and bounding along the ground towards Ignosi, stopping
just as his feet. For a second the corpse stood upright; then with a
dull crash it came to the earth, and the gold torque from its neck
rolled away across the pavement. As it did so Sir Henry, overpowered
by faintness and loss of blood, fell heavily across the body of the
In a second he was lifted up, and eager hands were pouring water on
his face. Another minute, and the grey eyes opened wide.
He was not dead.
Then I, just as the sun sank, stepping to where Twala's head lay in
the dust, unloosed the diamond from the dead brows, and handed it to
"Take it," I said, "lawful king of the Kukuanas--king by birth and
Ignosi bound the diadem upon his brows. Then advancing, he placed his
foot upon the broad chest of his headless foe and broke out into a
chant, or rather a pĉan of triumph, so beautiful, and yet so utterly
savage, that I despair of being able to give an adequate version of
his words. Once I heard a scholar with a fine voice read aloud from
the Greek poet Homer, and I remember that the sound of the rolling
lines seemed to make my blood stand still. Ignosi's chant, uttered as
it was in a language as beautiful and sonorous as the old Greek,
produced exactly the same effect on me, although I was exhausted with
toil and many emotions.
"Now," he began, "now our rebellion is swallowed up in victory, and
our evil-doing is justified by strength.
"In the morning the oppressors arose and stretched themselves; they
bound on their harness and made them ready to war.
"They rose up and tossed their spears: the soldiers called to the
captains, 'Come, lead us'--and the captains cried to the king, 'Direct
thou the battle.'
"They laughed in their pride, twenty thousand men, and yet a twenty
"Their plumes covered the valleys as the plumes of a bird cover her
nest; they shook their shields and shouted, yea, they shook their
shields in the sunlight; they lusted for battle and were glad.
"They came up against me; their strong ones ran swiftly to slay me;
they cried, 'Ha! ha! he is as one already dead.'
"Then breathed I on them, and my breath was as the breath of a wind,
and lo! they were not.
"My lightnings pierced them; I licked up their strength with the
lightning of my spears; I shook them to the ground with the thunder of
"They broke--they scattered--they were gone as the mists of the
"They are food for the kites and the foxes, and the place of battle is
fat with their blood.
"Where are the mighty ones who rose up in the morning?
"Where are the proud ones who tossed their spears and cried, 'He is as
a man already dead'?
"They bow their heads, but not in sleep; they are stretched out, but
not in sleep.
"They are forgotten; they have gone into the blackness; they dwell in
the dead moons; yea, others shall lead away their wives, and their
children shall remember them no more.
"And I--! the king--like an eagle I have found my eyrie.
"Behold! far have I flown in the night season, yet have I returned to
my young at the daybreak.
"Shelter ye under the shadow of my wings, O people, and I will comfort
you, and ye shall not be dismayed.
"Now is the good time, the time of spoil.
"Mine are the cattle on the mountains, mine are the virgins in the
"The winter is overpast with storms, the summer is come with flowers.
"Now Evil shall cover up her face, now Mercy and Gladness shall dwell
in the land.
"Rejoice, rejoice, my people!
"Let all the stars rejoice in that this tyranny is trodden down, in
that I am the king."
Ignosi ceased his song, and out of the gathering gloom came back the
"/Thou art the king!/"
Thus was my prophecy to the herald fulfilled, and within the forty-
eight hours Twala's headless corpse was stiffening at Twala's gate.
GOOD FALLS SICK
After the fight was ended, Sir Henry and Good were carried into
Twala's hut, where I joined them. They were both utterly exhausted by
exertion and loss of blood, and, indeed, my own condition was little
better. I am very wiry, and can stand more fatigue than most men,
probably on account of my light weight and long training; but that
night I was quite done up, and, as is always the case with me when
exhausted, that old wound which the lion gave me began to pain. Also
my head was aching violently from the blow I had received in the
morning, when I was knocked senseless. Altogether, a more miserable
trio than we were that evening it would have been difficult to
discover; and our only comfort lay in the reflection that we were
exceedingly fortunate to be there to feel miserable, instead of being
stretched dead upon the plain, as so many thousands of brave men were
that night, who had risen well and strong in the morning.
Somehow, with the assistance of the beautiful Foulata, who, since we
had been the means of saving her life, had constituted herself our
handmaiden, and especially Good's, we managed to get off the chain
shirts, which had certainly saved the lives of two of us that day. As
I expected, we found that the flesh underneath was terribly contused,
for though the steel links had kept the weapons from entering, they
had not prevented them from bruising. Both Sir Henry and Good were a
mass of contusions, and I was by no means free. As a remedy Foulata
brought us some pounded green leaves, with an aromatic odour, which,
when applied as a plaster, gave us considerable relief.
But though the bruises were painful, they did not give us such anxiety
as Sir Henry's and Good's wounds. Good had a hole right through the
fleshy part of his "beautiful white leg," from which he had lost a
great deal of blood; and Sir Henry, with other hurts, had a deep cut
over the jaw, inflicted by Twala's battle-axe. Luckily Good is a very
decent surgeon, and so soon as his small box of medicines was
forthcoming, having thoroughly cleansed the wounds, he managed to
stitch up first Sir Henry's and then his own pretty satisfactorily,
considering the imperfect light given by the primitive Kukuana lamp in
the hut. Afterwards he plentifully smeared the injured places with
some antiseptic ointment, of which there was a pot in the little box,
and we covered them with the remains of a pocket-handkerchief which we
Meanwhile Foulata had prepared us some strong broth, for we were too
weary to eat. This we swallowed, and then threw ourselves down on the
piles of magnificent karrosses, or fur rugs, which were scattered
about the dead king's great hut. By a very strange instance of the
irony of fate, it was on Twala's own couch, and wrapped in Twala's own
particular karross, that Sir Henry, the man who had slain him, slept
I say slept; but after that day's work, sleep was indeed difficult. To
begin with, in very truth the air was full
"Of farewells to the dying
And mournings for the dead."
From every direction came the sound of the wailing of women whose
husbands, sons, and brothers had perished in the battle. No wonder
that they wailed, for over twelve thousand men, or nearly a fifth of
the Kukuana army, had been destroyed in that awful struggle. It was
heart-rending to lie and listen to their cries for those who never
would return; and it made me understand the full horror of the work
done that day to further man's ambition. Towards midnight, however,
the ceaseless crying of the women grew less frequent, till at length
the silence was only broken at intervals of a few minutes by a long
piercing howl that came from a hut in our immediate rear, which, as I
afterwards discovered, proceeded from Gagool "keening" over the dead
After that I got a little fitful sleep, only to wake from time to time
with a start, thinking that I was once more an actor in the terrible
events of the last twenty-four hours. Now I seemed to see that warrior
whom my hand had sent to his last account charging at me on the
mountain-top; now I was once more in that glorious ring of Greys,
which made its immortal stand against all Twala's regiments upon the
little mound; and now again I saw Twala's plumed and gory head roll
past my feet with gnashing teeth and glaring eye.
At last, somehow or other, the night passed away; but when dawn broke
I found that my companions had slept no better than myself. Good,
indeed, was in a high fever, and very soon afterwards began to grow
light-headed, and also, to my alarm, to spit blood, the result, no
doubt, of some internal injury, inflicted during the desperate efforts
made by the Kukuana warrior on the previous day to force his big spear
through the chain armour. Sir Henry, however, seemed pretty fresh,
notwithstanding his wound on the face, which made eating difficult and
laughter an impossibility, though he was so sore and stiff that he
could scarcely stir.
About eight o'clock we had a visit from Infadoos, who appeared but
little the worse--tough old warrior that he was--for his exertions in
the battle, although he informed us that he had been up all night. He
was delighted to see us, but much grieved at Good's condition, and
shook our hands cordially. I noticed, however, that he addressed Sir
Henry with a kind of reverence, as though he were something more than
man; and, indeed, as we afterwards found out, the great Englishman was
looked on throughout Kukuanaland as a supernatural being. No man, the
soldiers said, could have fought as he fought or, at the end of a day
of such toil and bloodshed, could have slain Twala, who, in addition
to being the king, was supposed to be the strongest warrior in the
country, in single combat, shearing through his bull-neck at a stroke.
Indeed, that stroke became proverbial in Kukuanaland, and any
extraordinary blow or feat of strength was henceforth known as
Infadoos told us also that all Twala's regiments had submitted to
Ignosi, and that like submissions were beginning to arrive from chiefs
in the outlying country. Twala's death at the hands of Sir Henry had
put an end to all further chance of disturbance; for Scragga had been
his only legitimate son, so there was no rival claimant to the throne
I remarked that Ignosi had swum to power through blood. The old chief
shrugged his shoulders. "Yes," he answered; "but the Kukuana people
can only be kept cool by letting their blood flow sometimes. Many are
killed, indeed, but the women are left, and others must soon grow up
to take the places of the fallen. After this the land would be quiet
for a while."
Afterwards, in the course of the morning, we had a short visit from
Ignosi, on whose brows the royal diadem was now bound. As I
contemplated him advancing with kingly dignity, an obsequious guard
following his steps, I could not help recalling to my mind the tall
Zulu who had presented himself to us at Durban some few months back,
asking to be taken into our service, and reflecting on the strange
revolutions of the wheel of fortune.
"Hail, O king!" I said, rising.
"Yes, Macumazahn. King at last, by the might of your three right
hands," was the ready answer.
All was, he said, going well; and he hoped to arrange a great feast in
two weeks' time in order to show himself to the people.
I asked him what he had settled to do with Gagool.
"She is the evil genius of the land," he answered, "and I shall kill
her, and all the witch doctors with her! She has lived so long that
none can remember when she was not very old, and she it is who has
always trained the witch-hunters, and made the land wicked in the
sight of the heavens above."
"Yet she knows much," I replied; "it is easier to destroy knowledge,
Ignosi, than to gather it."
"That is so," he said thoughtfully. "She, and she only, knows the
secret of the 'Three Witches,' yonder, whither the great road runs,
where the kings are buried, and the Silent Ones sit."
"Yes, and the diamonds are. Forget not thy promise, Ignosi; thou must
lead us to the mines, even if thou hast to spare Gagool alive to show
"I will not forget, Macumazahn, and I will think on what thou sayest."
After Ignosi's visit I went to see Good, and found him quite
delirious. The fever set up by his wound seemed to have taken a firm
hold of his system, and to be complicated with an internal injury. For
four or five days his condition was most critical; indeed, I believe
firmly that had it not been for Foulata's indefatigable nursing he
must have died.
Women are women, all the world over, whatever their colour. Yet
somehow it seemed curious to watch this dusky beauty bending night and
day over the fevered man's couch, and performing all the merciful
errands of a sick-room swiftly, gently, and with as fine an instinct
as that of a trained hospital nurse. For the first night or two I
tried to help her, and so did Sir Henry as soon as his stiffness
allowed him to move, but Foulata bore our interference with
impatience, and finally insisted upon our leaving him to her, saying
that our movements made him restless, which I think was true. Day and
night she watched him and tended him, giving him his only medicine, a
native cooling drink made of milk, in which was infused juice from the
bulb of a species of tulip, and keeping the flies from settling on
him. I can see the whole picture now as it appeared night after night
by the light of our primitive lamp; Good tossing to and fro, his
features emaciated, his eyes shining large and luminous, and jabbering
nonsense by the yard; and seated on the ground by his side, her back
resting against the wall of the hut, the soft-eyed, shapely Kukuana
beauty, her face, weary as it was with her long vigil, animated by a
look of infinite compassion--or was it something more than compassion?
For two days we thought that he must die, and crept about with heavy
Only Foulata would not believe it.
"He will live," she said.
For three hundred yards or more around Twala's chief hut, where the
sufferer lay, there was silence; for by the king's order all who lived
in the habitations behind it, except Sir Henry and myself, had been
removed, lest any noise should come to the sick man's ears. One night,
it was the fifth of Good's illness, as was my habit, I went across to
see how he was doing before turning in for a few hours.
I entered the hut carefully. The lamp placed upon the floor showed the
figure of Good tossing no more, but lying quite still.
So it had come at last! In the bitterness of my heart I gave something
like a sob.
"Hush--h--h!" came from the patch of dark shadow behind Good's head.
Then, creeping closer, I saw that he was not dead, but sleeping
soundly, with Foulata's taper fingers clasped tightly in his poor
white hand. The crisis had passed, and he would live. He slept like
that for eighteen hors; and I scarcely like to say it, for fear I
should not be believed, but during the entire period did this devoted
girl sit by him, fearing that if she moved and drew away her hand it
would wake him. What she must have suffered from cramp and weariness,
to say nothing of want of food, nobody will ever know; but it is the
fact that, when at last he woke, she had to be carried away--her limbs
were so stiff that she could not move them.
After the turn had once been taken, Good's recovery was rapid and
complete. It was not till he was nearly well that Sir Henry told him
of all he owed to Foulata; and when he came to the story of how she
sat by his side for eighteen hours, fearing lest by moving she should
wake him, the honest sailor's eyes filled with tears. He turned and
went straight to the hut where Foulata was preparing the mid-day meal,
for we were back in our old quarters now, taking me with him to
interpret in case he could not make his meaning clear to her, though I
am bound to say that she understood him marvellously as a rule,
considering how extremely limited was his foreign vocabulary.
"Tell her," said Good, "that I owe her my life, and that I will never
forget her kindness to my dying day."
I interpreted, and under her dark skin she actually seemed to blush.
Turning to him with one of those swift and graceful motions that in
her always reminded me of the flight of a wild bird, Foulata answered
softly, glancing at him with her large brown eyes--
"Nay, my lord; my lord forgets! Did he not save /my/ life, and am I
not my lord's handmaiden?"
It will be observed that the young lady appeared entirely to have
forgotten the share which Sir Henry and myself had taken in her
preservation from Twala's clutches. But that is the way of women! I
remember my dear wife was just the same. Well, I retired from that
little interview sad at heart. I did not like Miss Foulata's soft
glances, for I knew the fatal amorous propensities of sailors in
general, and of Good in particular.
There are two things in the world, as I have found out, which cannot
be prevented: you cannot keep a Zulu from fighting, or a sailor from
falling in love upon the slightest provocation!
It was a few days after this last occurrence that Ignosi held his
great "indaba," or council, and was formally recognised as king by the
"indunas," or head men, of Kukuanaland. The spectacle was a most
imposing one, including as it did a grand review of troops. On this
day the remaining fragments of the Greys were formally paraded, and in
the face of the army thanked for their splendid conduct in the battle.
To each man the king made a large present of cattle, promoting them
one and all to the rank of officers in the new corps of Greys which
was in process of formation. An order was also promulgated throughout
the length and breadth of Kukuanaland that, whilst we honoured the
country by our presence, we three were to be greeted with the royal
salute, and to be treated with the same ceremony and respect that was
by custom accorded to the king. Also the power of life and death was
publicly conferred upon us. Ignosi, too, in the presence of his
people, reaffirmed the promises which he had made, to the effect that
no man's blood should be shed without trial, and that witch-hunting
should cease in the land.
When the ceremony was over we waited upon Ignosi, and informed him
that we were now anxious to investigate the mystery of the mines to
which Solomon's Road ran, asking him if he had discovered anything
"My friends," he answered, "I have discovered this. It is there that
the three great figures sit, who here are called the 'Silent Ones,'
and to whom Twala would have offered the girl Foulata as a sacrifice.
It is there, too, in a great cave deep in the mountain, that the kings
of the land are buried; there ye shall find Twala's body, sitting with
those who went before him. There, also, is a deep pit, which, at some
time, long-dead men dug out, mayhap for the stones ye speak of, such
as I have heard men in Natal tell of at Kimberley. There, too, in the
Place of Death is a secret chamber, known to none but the king and
Gagool. But Twala, who knew it, is dead, and I know it not, nor know I
what is in it. Yet there is a legend in the land that once, many
generations gone, a white man crossed the mountains, and was led by a
woman to the secret chamber and shown the wealth hidden in it. But
before he could take it she betrayed him, and he was driven by the
king of that day back to the mountains, and since then no man has
entered the place."
"The story is surely true, Ignosi, for on the mountains we found the
white man," I said.
"Yes, we found him. And now I have promised you that if ye can come to
that chamber, and the stones are there--"
"The gem upon thy forehead proves that they are there," I put in,
pointing to the great diamond I had taken from Twala's dead brows.
"Mayhap; if they are there," he said, "ye shall have as many as ye can
take hence--if indeed ye would leave me, my brothers."
"First we must find the chamber," said I.
"There is but one who can show it to thee--Gagool."
"And if she will not?"
"Then she must die," said Ignosi sternly. "I have saved her alive but
for this. Stay, she shall choose," and calling to a messenger he
ordered Gagool to be brought before him.
In a few minutes she came, hurried along by two guards, whom she was
cursing as she walked.
"Leave her," said the king to the guards.
So soon as their support was withdrawn, the withered old bundle--for
she looked more like a bundle than anything else, out of which her two
bright and wicked eyes gleamed like those of a snake--sank in a heap
on to the floor.
"What will ye with me, Ignosi?" she piped. "Ye dare not touch me. If
ye touch me I will slay you as ye sit. Beware of my magic."
"Thy magic could not save Twala, old she-wolf, and it cannot hurt me,"
was the answer. "Listen; I will this of thee, that thou reveal to us
the chamber where are the shining stones."
"Ha! ha!" she piped, "none know its secret but I, and I will never
tell thee. The white devils shall go hence empty-handed."
"Thou shalt tell me. I will make thee tell me."
"How, O king? Thou art great, but can thy power wring the truth from a
"It is difficult, yet will I do so."
"How, O king?"
"Nay, thus; if thou tellest not thou shalt slowly die."
"Die!" she shrieked in terror and fury; "ye dare not touch me--man, ye
know not who I am. How old think ye am I? I knew your fathers, and
your fathers' fathers' fathers. When the country was young I was here;
when the country grows old I shall still be here. I cannot die unless
I be killed by chance, for none dare slay me."
"Yet will I slay thee. See, Gagool, mother of evil, thou art so old
that thou canst no longer love thy life. What can life be to such a
hag as thou, who hast no shape, nor form, nor hair, nor teeth--hast
naught, save wickedness and evil eyes? It will be mercy to make an end
of thee, Gagool."
"Thou fool," shrieked the old fiend, "thou accursed fool, deemest thou
that life is sweet only to the young? It is not so, and naught thou
knowest of the heart of man to think it. To the young, indeed, death
is sometimes welcome, for the young can feel. They love and suffer,
and it wrings them to see their beloved pass to the land of shadows.
But the old feel not, they love not, and, /ha! ha!/ they laugh to see
another go out into the dark; /ha! ha!/ they laugh to see the evil
that is done under the stars. All they love is life, the warm, warm
sun, and the sweet, sweet air. They are afraid of the cold, afraid of
the cold and the dark, /ha! ha! ha!/" and the old hag writhed in
ghastly merriment on the ground.
"Cease thine evil talk and answer me," said Ignosi angrily. "Wilt thou
show the place where the stones are, or wilt thou not? If thou wilt
not thou diest, even now," and he seized a spear and held it over her.
"I will not show it; thou darest not kill me, darest not! He who slays
me will be accursed for ever."
Slowly Ignosi brought down the spear till it pricked the prostrate
heap of rags.
With a wild yell Gagool sprang to her feet, then fell again and rolled
upon the floor.
"Nay, I will show thee. Only let me live, let me sit in the sun and
have a bit of meat to suck, and I will show thee."
"It is well. I thought that I should find a way to reason with thee.
To-morrow shalt thou go with Infadoos and my white brothers to the
place, and beware how thou failest, for if thou showest it not, then
thou shalt slowly die. I have spoken."
"I will not fail, Ignosi. I always keep my word--/ha! ha! ha!/ Once
before a woman showed the chamber to a white man, and behold! evil
befell him," and here her wicked eyes glinted. "Her name was Gagool
also. Perchance I was that woman."
"Thou liest," I said, "that was ten generations gone."
"Mayhap, mayhap; when one lives long one forgets. Perhaps it was my
mother's mother who told me; surely her name was Gagool also. But
mark, ye will find in the place where the bright things are a bag of
hide full of stones. The man filled that bag, but he never took it
away. Evil befell him, I say, evil befell him! Perhaps it was my
mother's mother who told me. It will be a merry journey--we can see
the bodies of those who died in the battle as we go. Their eyes will
be gone by now, and their ribs will be hollow. /Ha! ha! ha!/"
THE PLACE OF DEATH
It was already dark on the third day after the scene described in the
previous chapter when we camped in some huts at the foot of the "Three
Witches," as the triangle of mountains is called to which Solomon's
Great Road runs. Our party consisted of our three selves and Foulata,
who waited on us--especially on Good--Infadoos, Gagool, who was borne
along in a litter, inside which she could be heard muttering and
cursing all day long, and a party of guards and attendants. The
mountains, or rather the three peaks of the mountain, for the mass was
evidently the result of a solitary upheaval, were, as I have said, in
the form of a triangle, of which the base was towards us, one peak
being on our right, one on our left, and one straight in front of us.
Never shall I forget the sight afforded by those three towering peaks
in the early sunlight of the following morning. High, high above us,
up into the blue air, soared their twisted snow-wreaths. Beneath the
snow-line the peaks were purple with heaths, and so were the wild
moors that ran up the slopes towards them. Straight before us the
white ribbon of Solomon's Great Road stretched away uphill to the foot
of the centre peak, about five miles from us, and there stopped. It
was its terminus.
I had better leave the feelings of intense excitement with which we
set out on our march that morning to the imagination of those who read
this history. At last we were drawing near to the wonderful mines that
had been the cause of the miserable death of the old Portuguese Dom
three centuries ago, of my poor friend, his ill-starred descendant,
and also, as we feared, of George Curtis, Sir Henry's brother. Were we
destined, after all that we had gone through, to fare any better? Evil
befell them, as that old fiend Gagool said; would it also befall us?
Somehow, as we were marching up that last stretch of beautiful road, I
could not help feeling a little superstitious about the matter, and so
I think did Good and Sir Henry.
For an hour and a half or more we tramped on up the heather-fringed
way, going so fast in our excitement that the bearers of Gagool's
hammock could scarcely keep pace with us, and its occupant piped out
to us to stop.
"Walk more slowly, white men," she said, projecting her hideous
shrivelled countenance between the grass curtains, and fixing her
gleaming eyes upon us; "why will ye run to meet the evil that shall
befall you, ye seekers after treasure?" and she laughed that horrible
laugh which always sent a cold shiver down my back, and for a while
quite took the enthusiasm out of us.
However, on we went, till we saw before us, and between ourselves and
the peak, a vast circular hole with sloping sides, three hundred feet
or more in depth, and quite half a mile round.
"Can't you guess what this is?" I said to Sir Henry and Good, who were
staring in astonishment at the awful pit before us.
They shook their heads.
"Then it is clear that you have never seen the diamond diggings at
Kimberley. You may depend on it that this is Solomon's Diamond Mine.
Look there," I said, pointing to the strata of stiff blue clay which
were yet to be seen among the grass and bushes that clothed the sides
of the pit, "the formation is the same. I'll be bound that if we went
down there we should find 'pipes' of soapy brecciated rock. Look,
too," and I pointed to a series of worn flat slabs of stone that were
placed on a gentle slope below the level of a watercourse which in
some past age had been cut out of the solid rock; "if those are not
tables once used to wash the 'stuff,' I'm a Dutchman."
At the edge of this vast hole, which was none other than the pit
marked on the old Dom's map, the Great Road branched into two and
circumvented it. In many places, by the way, this surrounding road was
built entirely out of blocks of stone, apparently with the object of
supporting the edges of the pit and preventing falls of reef. Along
this path we pressed, driven by curiosity to see what were the three
towering objects which we could discern from the hither side of the
great gulf. As we drew near we perceived that they were Colossi of
some sort or another, and rightly conjectured that before us sat the
three "Silent Ones" that are held in such awe by the Kukuana people.
But it was not until we were quite close to them that we recognised
the full majesty of these "Silent Ones."
There, upon huge pedestals of dark rock, sculptured with rude emblems
of the Phallic worship, separated from each other by a distance of
forty paces, and looking down the road which crossed some sixty miles
of plain to Loo, were three colossal seated forms--two male and one
female--each measuring about thirty feet from the crown of its head to
The female form, which was nude, was of great though severe beauty,
but unfortunately the features had been injured by centuries of
exposure to the weather. Rising from either side of her head were the
points of a crescent. The two male Colossi, on the contrary, were
draped, and presented a terrifying cast of features, especially the
one to our right, which had the face of a devil. That to our left was
serene in countenance, but the calm upon it seemed dreadful. It was
the calm of that inhuman cruelty, Sir Henry remarked, which the
ancients attributed to beings potent for good, who could yet watch the
sufferings of humanity, if not without rejoicing, at least without
sorrow. These three statues form a most awe-inspiring trinity, as they
sit there in their solitude, and gaze out across the plain for ever.
Contemplating these "Silent Ones," as the Kukuanas call them, an
intense curiosity again seized us to know whose were the hands which
had shaped them, who it was that had dug the pit and made the road.
Whilst I was gazing and wondering, suddenly it occurred to me--being
familiar with the Old Testament--that Solomon went astray after
strange gods, the names of three of whom I remembered--"Ashtoreth, the
goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh, the god of the Moabites, and
Milcom, the god of the children of Ammon"--and I suggested to my
companions that the figures before us might represent these false and
"Hum," said Sir Henry, who is a scholar, having taken a high degree in
classics at college, "there may be something in that; Ashtoreth of the
Hebrews was the Astarte of the Phnicians, who were the great traders
of Solomon's time. Astarte, who afterwards became the Aphrodite of the
Greeks, was represented with horns like the half-moon, and there on
the brow of the female figure are distinct horns. Perhaps these
Colossi were designed by some Phnician official who managed the
mines. Who can say?"[*]
[*] Compare Milton, "Paradise Lost," Book i.:--
"With these in troop
Came Ashtoreth, whom the Phnicians called
Astarté, Queen of Heaven, with crescent horns;
To whose bright image nightly by the moon
Sidonian virgins paid their vows and songs."
Before we had finished examining these extraordinary relics of remote
antiquity, Infadoos came up, and having saluted the "Silent Ones" by
lifting his spear, asked us if we intended entering the "Place of
Death" at once, or if we would wait till after we had taken food at
mid-day. If we were ready to go at once, Gagool had announced her
willingness to guide us. As it was not later than eleven o'clock--
driven to it by a burning curiosity--we announced our intention of
proceeding instantly, and I suggested that, in case we should be
detained in the cave, we should take some food with us. Accordingly
Gagool's litter was brought up, and that lady herself assisted out of
it. Meanwhile Foulata, at my request, stored some "biltong," or dried
game-flesh, together with a couple of gourds of water, in a reed
basket with a hinged cover. Straight in front of us, at a distance of
some fifty paces from the backs of the Colossi, rose a sheer wall of
rock, eighty feet or more in height, that gradually sloped upwards
till it formed the base of the lofty snow-wreathed peak, which soared
into the air three thousand feet above us. As soon as she was clear of
her hammock, Gagool cast one evil grin upon us, and then, leaning on a
stick, hobbled off towards the face of this wall. We followed her till
we came to a narrow portal solidly arched that looked like the opening
of a gallery of a mine.
Here Gagool was waiting for us, still with that evil grin upon her
"Now, white men from the Stars," she piped; "great warriors, Incubu,
Bougwan, and Macumazahn the wise, are ye ready? Behold, I am here to
do the bidding of my lord the king, and to show you the store of
bright stones. /Ha! ha! ha!/"
"We are ready," I said.
"Good, good! Make strong your hearts to bear what ye shall see. Comest
thou too, Infadoos, thou who didst betray thy master?"
Infadoos frowned as he answered--
"Nay, I come not; it is not for me to enter there. But thou, Gagool,
curb thy tongue, and beware how thou dealest with my lords. At thy
hands will I require them, and if a hair of them be hurt, Gagool,
be'st thou fifty times a witch, thou shalt die. Hearest thou?"
"I hear Infadoos; I know thee, thou didst ever love big words; when
thou wast a babe I remember thou didst threaten thine own mother. That
was but the other day. But, fear not, fear not, I live only to do the
bidding of the king. I have done the bidding of many kings, Infadoos,
till in the end they did mine. /Ha! ha!/ I go to look upon their faces
once more, and Twala's also! Come on, come on, here is the lamp," and
she drew a large gourd full of oil, and fitted with a rush wick, from
under her fur cloak.
"Art thou coming, Foulata?" asked Good in his villainous Kitchen
Kukuana, in which he had been improving himself under that young
"I fear, my lord," the girl answered timidly.
"Then give me the basket."
"Nay, my lord, whither thou goest there I go also."
"The deuce you will!" thought I to myself; "that may be rather awkward
if we ever get out of this."
Without further ado Gagool plunged into the passage, which was wide
enough to admit of two walking abreast, and quite dark. We followed
the sound of her voice as she piped to us to come on, in some fear and
trembling, which was not allayed by the flutter of a sudden rush of
"Hullo! what's that?" halloed Good; "somebody hit me in the face."
"Bats," said I; "on you go."
When, so far as we could judge, we had gone some fifty paces, we
perceived that the passage was growing faintly light. Another minute,
and we were in perhaps the most wonderful place that the eyes of
living man have beheld.
Let the reader picture to himself the hall of the vastest cathedral he
ever stood in, windowless indeed, but dimly lighted from above,
presumably by shafts connected with the outer air and driven in the
roof, which arched away a hundred feet above our heads, and he will
get some idea of the size of the enormous cave in which we found
ourselves, with the difference that this cathedral designed by nature
was loftier and wider than any built by man. But its stupendous size
was the least of the wonders of the place, for running in rows adown
its length were gigantic pillars of what looked like ice, but were, in
reality, huge stalactites. It is impossible for me to convey any idea
of the overpowering beauty and grandeur of these pillars of white
spar, some of which were not less than twenty feet in diameter at the
base, and sprang up in lofty and yet delicate beauty sheer to the
distant roof. Others again were in process of formation. On the rock
floor there was in these cases what looked, Sir Henry said, exactly
like a broken column in an old Grecian temple, whilst high above,
depending from the roof, the point of a huge icicle could be dimly
Even as we gazed we could hear the process going on, for presently
with a tiny splash a drop of water would fall from the far-off icicle
on to the column below. On some columns the drops only fell once in
two or three minutes, and in these cases it would be an interesting
calculation to discover how long, at that rate of dripping, it would
take to form a pillar, say eighty feet by ten in diameter. That the
process, in at least one instance, was incalculably slow, the
following example will suffice to show. Cut on one of these pillars we
discovered the crude likeness of a mummy, by the head of which sat
what appeared to be the figure of an Egyptian god, doubtless the
handiwork of some old-world labourer in the mine. This work of art was
executed at the natural height at which an idle fellow, be he
Phnician workman or British cad, is in the habit of trying to
immortalise himself at the expense of nature's masterpieces, namely,
about five feet from the ground. Yet at the time that we saw it, which
/must/ have been nearly three thousand years after the date of the
execution of the carving, the column was only eight feet high, and was
still in process of formation, which gives a rate of growth of a foot
to a thousand years, or an inch and a fraction to a century. This we
knew because, as we were standing by it, we heard a drop of water
Sometimes the stalagmites took strange forms, presumably where the
dropping of the water had not always been on the same spot. Thus, one
huge mass, which must have weighed a hundred tons or so, was in the
shape of a pulpit, beautifully fretted over outside with a design that
looked like lace. Others resembled strange beasts, and on the sides of
the cave were fanlike ivory tracings, such as the frost leaves upon a
Out of the vast main aisle there opened here and there smaller caves,
exactly, Sir Henry said, as chapels open out of great cathedrals. Some
were large, but one or two--and this is a wonderful instance of how
nature carries out her handiwork by the same unvarying laws, utterly
irrespective of size--were tiny. One little nook, for instance, was no
larger than an unusually big doll's house, and yet it might have been
a model for the whole place, for the water dropped, tiny icicles hung,
and spar columns were forming in just the same way.
We had not, however, enough time to examine this beautiful cavern so
thoroughly as we should have liked to do, since unfortunately, Gagool
seemed to be indifferent as to stalactites, and only anxious to get
her business over. This annoyed me the more, as I was particularly
anxious to discover, if possible, by what system the light was
admitted into the cave, and whether it was by the hand of man or by
that of nature that this was done; also if the place had been used in
any way in ancient times, as seemed probable. However, we consoled
ourselves with the idea that we would investigate it thoroughly on our
way back, and followed on at the heels of our uncanny guide.
On she led us, straight to the top of the vast and silent cave, where
we found another doorway, not arched as the first was, but square at
the top, something like the doorways of Egyptian temples.
"Are ye prepared to enter the Place of Death, white men?" asked
Gagool, evidently with a view to making us feel uncomfortable.
"Lead on, Macduff," said Good solemnly, trying to look as though he
was not at all alarmed, as indeed we all did except Foulata, who
caught Good by the arm for protection.
"This is getting rather ghastly," said Sir Henry, peeping into the
dark passageway. "Come on, Quatermain--/seniores priores/. We mustn't
keep the old lady waiting!" and he politely made way for me to lead
the van, for which inwardly I did not bless him.
/Tap, tap,/ went old Gagool's stick down the passage, as she trotted
along, chuckling hideously; and still overcome by some unaccountable
presentiment of evil, I hung back.
"Come, get on, old fellow," said Good, "or we shall lose our fair
Thus adjured, I started down the passage, and after about twenty paces
found myself in a gloomy apartment some forty feet long, by thirty
broad, and thirty high, which in some past age evidently had been
hollowed, by hand-labour, out of the mountain. This apartment was not
nearly so well lighted as the vast stalactite ante-cave, and at the
first glance all I could discern was a massive stone table running
down its length, with a colossal white figure at its head, and life-
sized white figures all round it. Next I discovered a brown thing,
seated on the table in the centre, and in another moment my eyes grew
accustomed to the light, and I saw what all these things were, and was
tailing out of the place as hard as my legs could carry me.
I am not a nervous man in a general way, and very little troubled with
superstitions, of which I have lived to see the folly; but I am free
to own that this sight quite upset me, and had it not been that Sir
Henry caught me by the collar and held me, I do honestly believe that
in another five minutes I should have been outside the stalactite
cave, and that a promise of all the diamonds in Kimberley would not
have induced me to enter it again. But he held me tight, so I stopped
because I could not help myself. Next second, however, /his/ eyes
became accustomed to the light, and he let go of me, and began to mop
the perspiration off his forehead. As for Good, he swore feebly, while
Foulata threw her arms round his neck and shrieked.
Only Gagool chuckled loud and long.
It /was/ a ghastly sight. There at the end of the long stone table,
holding in his skeleton fingers a great white spear, sat /Death/
himself, shaped in the form of a colossal human skeleton, fifteen feet
or more in height. High above his head he held the spear, as though in
the act to strike; one bony hand rested on the stone table before him,
in the position a man assumes on rising from his seat, whilst his
frame was bent forward so that the vertebrĉ of the neck and the
grinning, gleaming skull projected towards us, and fixed its hollow
eye-places upon us, the jaws a little open, as though it were about to
"Great heavens!" said I faintly, at last, "what can it be?"
"And what are /those things/?" asked Good, pointing to the white
company round the table.
"And what on earth is /that thing/?" said Sir Henry, pointing to the
brown creature seated on the table.
"/Hee! hee! hee!/" laughed Gagool. "To those who enter the Hall of the
Dead, evil comes. /Hee! hee! hee! ha! ha!/"
"Come, Incubu, brave in battle, come and see him thou slewest;" and
the old creature caught Curtis' coat in her skinny fingers, and led
him away towards the table. We followed.
Presently she stopped and pointed at the brown object seated on the
table. Sir Henry looked, and started back with an exclamation; and no
wonder, for there, quite naked, the head which Curtis' battle-axe had
shorn from the body resting on its knees, was the gaunt corpse of
Twala, the last king of the Kukuanas. Yes, there, the head perched
upon the knees, it sat in all its ugliness, the vertebrĉ projecting a
full inch above the level of the shrunken flesh of the neck, for all
the world like a black double of Hamilton Tighe.[*] Over the surface
of the corpse there was gathered a thin glassy film, that made its
appearance yet more appalling, for which we were, at the moment, quite
unable to account, till presently we observed that from the roof of
the chamber the water fell steadily, /drip! drop! drip!/ on to the
neck of the corpse, whence it ran down over the entire surface, and
finally escaped into the rock through a tiny hole in the table. Then I
guessed what the film was--/Twala's body was being transformed into a
[*] "Now haste ye, my handmaidens, haste and see
How he sits there and glowers with his head on his knee."
A look at the white forms seated on the stone bench which ran round
that ghastly board confirmed this view. They were human bodies indeed,
or rather they had been human; now they were /stalactites/. This was
the way in which the Kukuana people had from time immemorial preserved
their royal dead. They petrified them. What the exact system might be,
if there was any, beyond the placing of them for a long period of
years under the drip, I never discovered, but there they sat, iced
over and preserved for ever by the siliceous fluid.
Anything more awe-inspiring than the spectacle of this long line of
departed royalties (there were twenty-seven of them, the last being
Ignosi's father), wrapped, each of them, in a shroud of ice-like spar,
through which the features could be dimly discovered, and seated round
that inhospitable board, with Death himself for a host, it is
impossible to imagine. That the practice of thus preserving their
kings must have been an ancient one is evident from the number, which,
allowing for an average reign of fifteen years, supposing that every
king who reigned was placed here--an improbable thing, as some are
sure to have perished in battle far from home--would fix the date of
its commencement at four and a quarter centuries back.
But the colossal Death, who sits at the head of the board, is far
older than that, and, unless I am much mistaken, owes his origin to
the same artist who designed the three Colossi. He is hewn out of a
single stalactite, and, looked at as a work of art, is most admirably
conceived and executed. Good, who understands such things, declared
that, so far as he could see, the anatomical design of the skeleton is
perfect down to the smallest bones.
My own idea is, that this terrific object was a freak of fancy on the
part of some old-world sculptor, and that its presence had suggested
to the Kukuanas the idea of placing their royal dead under its awful
presidency. Or perhaps it was set there to frighten away any marauders
who might have designs upon the treasure chamber beyond. I cannot say.
All I can do is to describe it as it is, and the reader must form his
Such, at any rate, was the White Death and such were the White Dead!
SOLOMON'S TREASURE CHAMBER
While we were engaged in recovering from our fright, and in examining
the grisly wonders of the Place of Death, Gagool had been differently
occupied. Somehow or other--for she was marvellously active when she
chose--she had scrambled on to the great table, and made her way to
where our departed friend Twala was placed, under the drip, to see,
suggested Good, how he was "pickling," or for some dark purpose of her
own. Then, after bending down to kiss his icy lips as though in
affectionate greeting, she hobbled back, stopping now and again to
address the remark, the tenor of which I could not catch, to one or
other of the shrouded forms, just as you or I might welcome an old
acquaintance. Having gone through this mysterious and horrible
ceremony, she squatted herself down on the table immediately under the
White Death, and began, so far as I could make out, to offer up
prayers. The spectacle of this wicked creature pouring out
supplications, evil ones no doubt, to the arch enemy of mankind, was
so uncanny that it caused us to hasten our inspection.
"Now, Gagool," said I, in a low voice--somehow one did not dare to
speak above a whisper in that place--"lead us to the chamber."
The old witch promptly scrambled down from the table.
"My lords are not afraid?" she said, leering up into my face.
"Good, my lords;" and she hobbled round to the back of the great
Death. "Here is the chamber; let my lords light the lamp, and enter,"
and she placed the gourd full of oil upon the floor, and leaned
herself against the side of the cave. I took out a match, of which we
had still a few in a box, and lit a rush wick, and then looked for the
doorway, but there was nothing before us except the solid rock. Gagool
grinned. "The way is there, my lords. /Ha! ha! ha!/"
"Do not jest with us," I said sternly.
"I jest not, my lords. See!" and she pointed at the rock.
As she did so, on holding up the lamp we perceived that a mass of
stone was rising slowly from the floor and vanishing into the rock
above, where doubtless there is a cavity prepared to receive it. The
mass was of the width of a good-sized door, about ten feet high and
not less than five feet thick. It must have weighed at least twenty or
thirty tons, and was clearly moved upon some simple balance principle
of counter-weights, probably the same as that by which the opening and
shutting of an ordinary modern window is arranged. How the principle
was set in motion, of course none of us saw; Gagool was careful to
avoid this; but I have little doubt that there was some very simple
lever, which was moved ever so little by pressure at a secret spot,
thereby throwing additional weight on to the hidden counter-balances,
and causing the monolith to be lifted from the ground.
Very slowly and gently the great stone raised itself, till at last it
had vanished altogether, and a dark hole presented itself to us in the
place which the door had filled.
Our excitement was so intense, as we saw the way to Solomon's treasure
chamber thrown open at last, that I for one began to tremble and
shake. Would it prove a hoax after all, I wondered, or was old Da
Silvestra right? Were there vast hoards of wealth hidden in that dark
place, hoards which would make us the richest men in the whole world?
We should know in a minute or two.
"Enter, white men from the Stars," said Gagool, advancing into the
doorway; "but first hear your servant, Gagool the old. The bright
stones that ye will see were dug out of the pit over which the Silent
Ones are set, and stored here, I know not by whom, for that was done
longer ago than even I remember. But once has this place been entered
since the time that those who hid the stones departed in haste,
leaving them behind. The report of the treasure went down indeed among
the people who lived in the country from age to age, but none knew
where the chamber was, nor the secret of the door. But it happened
that a white man reached this country from over the mountains--
perchance he too came 'from the Stars'--and was well received by the
king of that day. He it is who sits yonder," and she pointed to the
fifth king at the table of the Dead. "And it came to pass that he and
a woman of the country who was with him journeyed to this place, and
that by chance the woman learnt the secret of the door--a thousand
years might ye search, but ye should never find that secret. Then the
white man entered with the woman, and found the stones, and filled
with stones the skin of a small goat, which the woman had with her to
hold food. And as he was going from the chamber he took up one more
stone, a large one, and held it in his hand."
Here she paused.
"Well," I asked, breathless with interest as we all were, "what
happened to Da Silvestra?"
The old hag started at the mention of the name.
"How knowest thou the dead man's name?" she asked sharply; and then,
without waiting for an answer, went on--
"None can tell what happened; but it came about that the white man was
frightened, for he flung down the goat-skin, with the stones, and fled
out with only the one stone in his hand, and that the king took, and
it is the stone which thou, Macumazahn, didst take from Twala's brow."
"Have none entered here since?" I asked, peering again down the dark
"None, my lords. Only the secret of the door has been kept, and every
king has opened it, though he has not entered. There is a saying, that
those who enter there will die within a moon, even as the white man
died in the cave upon the mountain, where ye found him, Macumazahn,
and therefore the kings do not enter. /Ha! ha!/ mine are true words."
Our eyes met as she said it, and I turned sick and cold. How did the
old hag know all these things?
"Enter, my lords. If I speak truth, the goat-skin with the stones will
lie upon the floor; and if there is truth as to whether it is death to
enter here, that ye will learn afterwards. /Ha! ha! ha!/" and she
hobbled through the doorway, bearing the light with her; but I confess
that once more I hesitated about following.
"Oh, confound it all!" said Good; "here goes. I am not going to be
frightened by that old devil;" and followed by Foulata, who, however,
evidently did not at all like the business, for she was shivering with
fear, he plunged into the passage after Gagool--an example which we
A few yards down the passage, in the narrow way hewn out of the living
rock, Gagool had paused, and was waiting for us.
"See, my lords," she said, holding the light before her, "those who
stored the treasure here fled in haste, and bethought them to guard
against any who should find the secret of the door, but had not the
time," and she pointed to large square blocks of stone, which, to the
height of two courses (about two feet three), had been placed across
the passage with a view to walling it up. Along the side of the
passage were similar blocks ready for use, and, most curious of all, a
heap of mortar and a couple of trowels, which tools, so far as we had
time to examine them, appeared to be of a similar shape and make to
those used by workmen to this day.
Here Foulata, who had been in a state of great fear and agitation
throughout, said that she felt faint and could go no farther, but
would wait there. Accordingly we set her down on the unfinished wall,
placing the basket of provisions by her side, and left her to recover.
Following the passage for about fifteen paces farther, we came
suddenly to an elaborately painted wooden door. It was standing wide
open. Whoever was last there had either not found the time to shut it,
or had forgotten to do so.
/Across the threshold of this door lay a skin bag, formed of a goat-
skin, that appeared to be full of pebbles./
"/Hee! hee!/ white men," sniggered Gagool, as the light from the lamp
fell upon it. "What did I tell you, that the white man who came here
fled in haste, and dropped the woman's bag--behold it! Look within
also and ye will find a water-gourd amongst the stones."
Good stooped down and lifted it. It was heavy and jingled.
"By Jove! I believe it's full of diamonds," he said, in an awed
whisper; and, indeed, the idea of a small goat-skin full of diamonds
is enough to awe anybody.
"Go on," said Sir Henry impatiently. "Here, old lady, give me the
lamp," and taking it from Gagool's hand, he stepped through the
doorway and held it high above his head.
We pressed in after him, forgetful for the moment of the bag of
diamonds, and found ourselves in King Solomon's treasure chamber.
At first, all that the somewhat faint light given by the lamp revealed
was a room hewn out of the living rock, and apparently not more than
ten feet square. Next there came into sight, stored one on the other
to the arch of the roof, a splendid collection of elephant-tusks. How
many of them there were we did not know, for of course we could not
see to what depth they went back, but there could not have been less
than the ends of four or five hundred tusks of the first quality
visible to our eyes. There, alone, was enough ivory to make a man
wealthy for life. Perhaps, I thought, it was from this very store that
Solomon drew the raw material for his "great throne of ivory," of
which "there was not the like made in any kingdom."
On the opposite side of the chamber were about a score of wooden
boxes, something like Martini-Henry ammunition boxes, only rather
larger, and painted red.
"There are the diamonds," cried I; "bring the light."
Sir Henry did so, holding it close to the top box, of which the lid,
rendered rotten by time even in that dry place, appeared to have been
smashed in, probably by Da Silvestra himself. Pushing my hand through
the hole in the lid I drew it out full, not of diamonds, but of gold
pieces, of a shape that none of us had seen before, and with what
looked like Hebrew characters stamped upon them.
"Ah!" I said, replacing the coin, "we shan't go back empty-handed,
anyhow. There must be a couple of thousand pieces in each box, and
there are eighteen boxes. I suppose this was the money to pay the
workmen and merchants."
"Well," put in Good, "I think that is the lot; I don't see any
diamonds, unless the old Portuguese put them all into his bag."
"Let my lords look yonder where it is darkest, if they would find the
stones," said Gagool, interpreting our looks. "There my lords will
find a nook, and three stone chests in the nook, two sealed and one
Before translating this to Sir Henry, who carried the light, I could
not resist asking how she knew these things, if no one had entered the
place since the white man, generations ago.
"Ah, Macumazahn, the watcher by night," was the mocking answer, "ye
who dwell in the stars, do ye not know that some live long, and that
some have eyes which can see through rock? /Ha! ha! ha!/"
"Look in that corner, Curtis," I said, indicating the spot Gagool had
"Hullo, you fellows," he cried, "here's a recess. Great heavens! see
We hurried up to where he was standing in a nook, shaped something
like a small bow window. Against the wall of this recess were placed
three stone chests, each about two feet square. Two were fitted with
stone lids, the lid of the third rested against the side of the chest,
which was open.
"/See!/" he repeated hoarsely, holding the lamp over the open chest.
We looked, and for a moment could make nothing out, on account of a
silvery sheen which dazzled us. When our eyes grew used to it we saw
that the chest was three-parts full of uncut diamonds, most of them of
considerable size. Stooping, I picked some up. Yes, there was no doubt
of it, there was the unmistakable soapy feel about them.
I fairly gasped as I dropped them.
"We are the richest men in the whole world," I said. "Monte Christo
was a fool to us."
"We shall flood the market with diamonds," said Good.
"Got to get them there first," suggested Sir Henry.
We stood still with pale faces and stared at each other, the lantern
in the middle and the glimmering gems below, as though we were
conspirators about to commit a crime, instead of being, as we thought,
the most fortunate men on earth.
"/Hee! hee! hee!/" cackled old Gagool behind us, as she flitted about
like a vampire bat. "There are the bright stones ye love, white men,
as many as ye will; take them, run them through your fingers, /eat/ of
them, /hee! hee! drink/ of them, /ha! ha!/"
At that moment there was something so ridiculous to my mind at the
idea of eating and drinking diamonds, that I began to laugh
outrageously, an example which the others followed, without knowing
why. There we stood and shrieked with laughter over the gems that were
ours, which had been found for /us/ thousands of years ago by the
patient delvers in the great hole yonder, and stored for /us/ by
Solomon's long-dead overseer, whose name, perchance, was written in
the characters stamped on the faded wax that yet adhered to the lids
of the chest. Solomon never got them, nor David, or Da Silvestra, nor
anybody else. /We/ had got them: there before us were millions of
pounds' worth of diamonds, and thousands of pounds' worth of gold and
ivory only waiting to be taken away.
Suddenly the fit passed off, and we stopped laughing.
"Open the other chests, white men," croaked Gagool, "there are surely
more therein. Take your fill, white lords! /Ha! ha!/ take your fill."
Thus adjured, we set to work to pull up the stone lids on the other
two, first--not without a feeling of sacrilege--breaking the seals
that fastened them.
Hoorah! they were full too, full to the brim; at least, the second one
was; no wretched burglarious Da Silvestra had been filling goat-skins
out of that. As for the third chest, it was only about a fourth full,
but the stones were all picked ones; none less than twenty carats, and
some of them as large as pigeon-eggs. A good many of these bigger
ones, however, we could see by holding them up to the light, were a
little yellow, "off coloured," as they call it at Kimberley.
What we did /not/ see, however, was the look of fearful malevolence
that old Gagool favoured us with as she crept, crept like a snake, out
of the treasure chamber and down the passage towards the door of solid
Hark! Cry upon cry comes ringing up the vaulted path. It is Foulata's
"/Oh, Bougwan! help! help! the stone falls!/"
"Leave go, girl! Then--"
"/Help! help! she has stabbed me!/"
By now we are running down the passage, and this is what the light
from the lamp shows us. The door of the rock is closing down slowly;
it is not three feet from the floor. Near it struggle Foulata and
Gagool. The red blood of the former runs to her knee, but still the
brave girl holds the old witch, who fights like a wild cat. Ah! she is
free! Foulata falls, and Gagool throws herself on the ground, to twist
like a snake through the crack of the closing stone. She is under--ah!
god! too late! too late! The stone nips her, and she yells in agony.
Down, down it comes, all the thirty tons of it, slowly pressing her
old body against the rock below. Shriek upon shriek, such as we have
never heard, then a long sickening /crunch/, and the door was shut
just as, rushing down the passage, we hurled ourselves against it.
It was all done in four seconds.
Then we turned to Foulata. The poor girl was stabbed in the body, and
I saw that she could not live long.
"Ah! Bougwan, I die!" gasped the beautiful creature. "She crept out--
Gagool; I did not see her, I was faint--and the door began to fall;
then she came back, and was looking up the path--I saw her come in
through the slowly falling door, and caught her and held her, and she
stabbed me, and /I die/, Bougwan!"
"Poor girl! poor girl!" Good cried in his distress; and then, as he
could do nothing else, he fell to kissing her.
"Bougwan," she said, after a pause, "is Macumazahn there? It grows so
dark, I cannot see."
"Here I am, Foulata."
"Macumazahn, be my tongue for a moment, I pray thee, for Bougwan
cannot understand me, and before I go into the darkness I would speak
to him a word."
"Say on, Foulata, I will render it."
"Say to my lord, Bougwan, that--I love him, and that I am glad to die
because I know that he cannot cumber his life with such as I am, for
the sun may not mate with the darkness, nor the white with the black.
"Say that, since I saw him, at times I have felt as though there were
a bird in my bosom, which would one day fly hence and sing elsewhere.
Even now, though I cannot lift my hand, and my brain grows cold, I do
not feel as though my heart were dying; it is so full of love that it
could live ten thousand years, and yet be young. Say that if I live
again, mayhap I shall see him in the Stars, and that--I will search
them all, though perchance there I should still be black and he would
--still be white. Say--nay, Macumazahn, say no more, save that I love
--Oh, hold me closer, Bougwan, I cannot feel thine arms--/oh! oh!/"
"She is dead--she is dead!" muttered Good, rising in grief, the tears
running down his honest face.
"You need not let that trouble you, old fellow," said Sir Henry.
"Eh!" exclaimed Good; "what do you mean?"
"I mean that you will soon be in a position to join her. /Man, don't
you see that we are buried alive?/"
Until Sir Henry uttered these words I do not think that the full
horror of what had happened had come home to us, preoccupied as we
were with the sight of poor Foulata's end. But now we understood. The
ponderous mass of rock had closed, probably for ever, for the only
brain which knew its secret was crushed to powder beneath its weight.
This was a door that none could hope to force with anything short of
dynamite in large quantities. And we were on the wrong side!
For a few minutes we stood horrified, there over the corpse of
Foulata. All the manhood seemed to have gone out of us. The first
shock of this idea of the slow and miserable end that awaited us was
overpowering. We saw it all now; that fiend Gagool had planned this
snare for us from the first.
It would have been just the jest that her evil mind would have
rejoiced in, the idea of the three white men, whom, for some reason of
her own, she had always hated, slowly perishing of thirst and hunger
in the company of the treasure they had coveted. Now I saw the point
of that sneer of hers about eating and drinking the diamonds. Probably
somebody had tried to serve the poor old Dom in the same way, when he
abandoned the skin full of jewels.
"This will never do," said Sir Henry hoarsely; "the lamp will soon go
out. Let us see if we can't find the spring that works the rock."
We sprang forward with desperate energy, and, standing in a bloody
ooze, began to feel up and down the door and the sides of the passage.
But no knob or spring could we discover.
"Depend on it," I said, "it does not work from the inside; if it did
Gagool would not have risked trying to crawl underneath the stone. It
was the knowledge of this that made her try to escape at all hazards,
"At all events," said Sir Henry, with a hard little laugh,
"retribution was swift; hers was almost as awful an end as ours is
likely to be. We can do nothing with the door; let us go back to the
We turned and went, and as we passed it I perceived by the unfinished
wall across the passage the basket of food which poor Foulata had
carried. I took it up, and brought it with me to the accursed treasure
chamber that was to be our grave. Then we returned and reverently bore
in Foulata's corpse, laying it on the floor by the boxes of coin.
Next we seated ourselves, leaning our backs against the three stone
chests which contained the priceless treasure.
"Let us divide the food," said Sir Henry, "so as to make it last as
long as possible." Accordingly we did so. It would, we reckoned, make
four infinitesimally small meals for each of us, enough, say, to
support life for a couple of days. Besides the "biltong," or dried
game-flesh, there were two gourds of water, each of which held not
more than a quart.
"Now," said Sir Henry grimly, "let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we
We each ate a small portion of the "biltong," and drank a sip of
water. Needless to say, we had but little appetite, though we were
sadly in need of food, and felt better after swallowing it. Then we
got up and made a systematic examination of the walls of our prison-
house, in the faint hope of finding some means of exit, sounding them
and the floor carefully.
There was none. It was not probable that there would be any to a
The lamp began to burn dim. The fat was nearly exhausted.
"Quatermain," said Sir Henry, "what is the time--your watch goes?"
I drew it out, and looked at it. It was six o'clock; we had entered
the cave at eleven.
"Infadoos will miss us," I suggested. "If we do not return to-night he
will search for us in the morning, Curtis."
"He may search in vain. He does not know the secret of the door, nor
even where it is. No living person knew it yesterday, except Gagool.
To-day no one knows it. Even if he found the door he could not break
it down. All the Kukuana army could not break through five feet of
living rock. My friends, I see nothing for it but to bow ourselves to
the will of the Almighty. The search for treasure has brought many to
a bad end; we shall go to swell their number."
The lamp grew dimmer yet.
Presently it flared up and showed the whole scene in strong relief,
the great mass of white tusks, the boxes of gold, the corpse of the
poor Foulata stretched before them, the goat-skin full of treasure,
the dim glimmer of the diamonds, and the wild, wan faces of us three
white men seated there awaiting death by starvation.
Then the flame sank and expired.
WE ABANDON HOPE
I can give no adequate description of the horrors of the night which
followed. Mercifully they were to some extent mitigated by sleep, for
even in such a position as ours wearied nature will sometimes assert
itself. But I, at any rate, found it impossible to sleep much. Putting
aside the terrifying thought of our impending doom--for the bravest
man on earth might well quail from such a fate as awaited us, and I
never made any pretensions to be brave--the /silence/ itself was too
great to allow of it. Reader, you may have lain awake at night and
thought the quiet oppressive, but I say with confidence that you can
have no idea what a vivid, tangible thing is perfect stillness. On the
surface of the earth there is always some sound or motion, and though
it may in itself be imperceptible, yet it deadens the sharp edge of
absolute silence. But here there was none. We were buried in the
bowels of a huge snow-clad peak. Thousands of feet above us the fresh
air rushed over the white snow, but no sound of it reached us. We were
separated by a long tunnel and five feet of rock even from the awful
chamber of the Dead; and the dead make no noise. Did we not know it
who lay by poor Foulata's side? The crashing of all the artillery of
earth and heaven could not have come to our ears in our living tomb.
We were cut off from every echo of the world--we were as men already
in the grave.
Then the irony of the situation forced itself upon me. There around us
lay treasures enough to pay off a moderate national debt, or to build
a fleet of ironclads, and yet we would have bartered them all gladly
for the faintest chance of escape. Soon, doubtless, we should be
rejoiced to exchange them for a bit of food or a cup of water, and,
after that, even for the privilege of a speedy close to our
sufferings. Truly wealth, which men spend their lives in acquiring, is
a valueless thing at the last.
And so the night wore on.
"Good," said Sir Henry's voice at last, and it sounded awful in the
intense stillness, "how many matches have you in the box?"
"Strike one and let us see the time."
He did so, and in contrast to the dense darkness the flame nearly
blinded us. It was five o'clock by my watch. The beautiful dawn was
now blushing on the snow-wreaths far over our heads, and the breeze
would be stirring the night mists in the hollows.
"We had better eat something and keep up our strength," I suggested.
"What is the good of eating?" answered Good; "the sooner we die and
get it over the better."
"While there is life there is hope," said Sir Henry.
Accordingly we ate and sipped some water, and another period of time
elapsed. Then Sir Henry suggested that it might be well to get as near
the door as possible and halloa, on the faint chance of somebody
catching a sound outside. Accordingly Good, who, from long practice at
sea, has a fine piercing note, groped his way down the passage and set
to work. I must say that he made a most diabolical noise. I never
heard such yells; but it might have been a mosquito buzzing for all
the effect they produced.
After a while he gave it up and came back very thirsty, and had to
drink. Then we stopped yelling, as it encroached on the supply of
So we sat down once more against the chests of useless diamonds in
that dreadful inaction which was one of the hardest circumstances of
our fate; and I am bound to say that, for my part, I gave way in
despair. Laying my head against Sir Henry's broad shoulder I burst
into tears; and I think that I heard Good gulping away on the other
side, and swearing hoarsely at himself for doing so.
Ah, how good and brave that great man was! Had we been two frightened
children, and he our nurse, he could not have treated us more
tenderly. Forgetting his own share of miseries, he did all he could to
soothe our broken nerves, telling stories of men who had been in
somewhat similar circumstances, and miraculously escaped; and when
these failed to cheer us, pointing out how, after all, it was only
anticipating an end which must come to us all, that it would soon be
over, and that death from exhaustion was a merciful one (which is not
true). Then, in a diffident sort of way, as once before I had heard
him do, he suggested that we should throw ourselves on the mercy of a
higher Power, which for my part I did with great vigour.
His is a beautiful character, very quiet, but very strong.
And so somehow the day went as the night had gone, if, indeed, one can
use these terms where all was densest night, and when I lit a match to
see the time it was seven o'clock.
Once more we ate and drank, and as we did so an idea occurred to me.
"How is it," said I, "that the air in this place keeps fresh? It is
thick and heavy, but it is perfectly fresh."
"Great heavens!" said Good, starting up, "I never thought of that. It
can't come through the stone door, for it's air-tight, if ever a door
was. It must come from somewhere. It there were no current of air in
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