The Ancient Allan
H. Rider Haggard
Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by Dagny, email@example.com
and John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
THE ANCIENT ALLAN
By H. Rider Haggard
First Published 1920.
THE ANCIENT ALLAN
H. RIDER HAGGARD
THE ANCIENT ALLAN
AN OLD FRIEND
Now I, Allan Quatermain, come to the weirdest (with one or two
exceptions perhaps) of all the experiences which it has amused me to
employ my idle hours in recording here in a strange land, for after
all England is strange to me. I grow elderly. I have, as I suppose,
passed the period of enterprise and adventure and I should be well
satisfied with the lot that Fate has given to my unworthy self.
To begin with, I am still alive and in health when by all the rules I
should have been dead many times over. I suppose I ought to be
thankful for that but, before expressing an opinion on the point, I
should have to be quite sure whether it is better to be alive or dead.
The religious plump for the latter, though I have never observed that
the religious are more eager to die than the rest of us poor mortals.
For instance, if they are told that their holy hearts are wrong, they
spend time and much money in rushing to a place called Nauheim in
Germany, to put them right by means of water-drinking, thereby
shortening their hours of heavenly bliss and depriving their heirs of
a certain amount of cash. The same thing applies to Buxton in my own
neighbourhood and gout, especially when it threatens the stomach or
the throat. Even archbishops will do these things, to say nothing of
such small fry as deans, or stout and prominent lay figures of the
From common sinners like myself such conduct might be expected, but in
the case of those who are obviously poised on the topmost rungs of the
Jacobean--I mean, the heavenly--ladder, it is legitimate to inquire
why they show such reluctance in jumping off. As a matter of fact the
only persons that, individually, I have seen quite willing to die,
except now and again to save somebody else whom they were so foolish
as to care for more than they did for themselves, have been not those
"upon whom the light has shined" to quote an earnest paper I chanced
to read this morning, but, to quote again, "the sinful heathen
wandering in their native blackness," by which I understand the writer
to refer to their moral state and not to their sable skins wherein for
the most part they are also condemned to wander, that is if they
happen to have been born south of a certain degree of latitude.
To come to facts, the staff of Faith which each must shape for
himself, is often hewn from unsuitable kinds of wood, yes, even by the
very best among us. Willow, for instance, is pretty and easy to cut,
but try to support yourself with it on the edge of a precipice and see
where you are. Then of a truth you will long for ironbark, or even
homely oak. I might carry my parable further, some allusions to the
proper material of which to fashion the helmet of Salvation suggest
themselves to me for example, but I won't.
The truth is that we fear to die because all the religions are full of
uncomfortable hints as to what may happen to us afterwards as a reward
for our deviations from their laws and we half believe in something,
whereas often the savage, not being troubled with religion, fears
less, because he half believes in nothing. For very few inhabitants of
this earth can attain either to complete belief or to its absolute
opposite. They can seldom lay their hands upon their hearts, and say
they /know/ that they will live for ever, or sleep for ever; there
remains in the case of most honest men an element of doubt in either
That is what makes this story of mine so interesting, at any rate to
me, since it does seem to suggest that whether or no I have a future,
as personally I hold to be the case and not altogether without
evidence, certainly I have had a past, though, so far as I know, in
this world only; a fact, if it be a fact, from which can be deduced
all kinds of arguments according to the taste of the reasoner.
And now for my experience, which it is only fair to add, may after all
have been no more than a long and connected dream. Yet how was I to
dream of lands, events and people where of I have only the vaguest
knowledge, or none at all, unless indeed, as some say, being a part of
this world, we have hidden away somewhere in ourselves an acquaintance
with everything that has ever happened in the world. However, it does
not much matter and it is useless to discuss that which we cannot
Here at any rate is the story.
In a book or a record which I have written down and put away with
others under the title of "The Ivory Child," I have told the tale of a
certain expedition I made in company with Lord Ragnall. Its object was
to search for his wife who was stolen away while travelling in Egypt
in a state of mental incapacity resulting from shock caused by the
loss of her child under tragic and terrible circumstances. The thieves
were the priests of a certain bastard Arab tribe who, on account of a
birthmark shaped like the young moon which was visible above her
breast, believed her to be the priestess or oracle of their worship.
This worship evidently had its origin in Ancient Egypt since, although
they did not seem to know it, the priestess was nothing less than a
personification of the great goddess Isis, and the Ivory Child, their
fetish, was a statue of the infant Horus, the fabled son of Isis and
Osiris whom the Egyptians looked upon as the overcomer of Set or the
Devil, the murderer of Osiris before his resurrection and ascent to
Heaven to be the god of the dead.
I need not set down afresh all that happened to us on this remarkable
adventure. Suffice it to say that in the end we recovered the lady and
that her mind was restored to her. Before she left the Kendah country,
however, the priesthood presented her with two ancient rolls of
papyrus, also with a quantity of a certain herb, not unlike tobacco in
appearance, which by the Kendah was called /Taduki/. Once, before we
took our great homeward journey across the desert, Lady Ragnall and I
had a curious conversation about this herb whereof the property is to
cause the person who inhales its fumes to become clairvoyant, or to
dream dreams, whichever the truth may be. It was used for this purpose
in the mystical ceremonies of the Kendah religion when under its
influence the priestess or oracle of the Ivory Child was wont to
announce divine revelations. During her tenure of this office Lady
Ragnall was frequently subjected to the spell of the /Taduki/ vapour,
and said strange things, some of which I heard with my own ears. Also
myself once I experienced its effects and saw a curious vision,
whereof many of the particulars were afterwards translated into facts.
Now the conversation which I have mentioned was shortly to the effect,
that she, Lady Ragnall, believed a time would come when she or I or
both of us, were destined to imbibe these /Taduki/ fumes and see
wonderful pictures of some past or future existence in which we were
both concerned. This knowledge, she declared, had come to her while
she was officiating in an apparently mindless condition as the
priestess of the Kendah god called the Ivory Child.
At the time I did not think it wise to pursue so exciting a subject
with a woman whose mind had been recently unbalanced, and afterwards
in the stress of new experiences, I forgot all about the matter, or at
any rate only thought of it very rarely.
Once, however, it did recur to me with some force. Shortly after I
came to England to spend my remaining days far from the temptations of
adventure, I was beguiled into becoming a steward of a Charity dinner
and, what was worse, into attending the said dinner. Although its
objects were admirable, it proved one of the most dreadful functions
in which I was ever called upon to share. There was a vast number of
people, some of them highly distinguished, who had come to support the
Charity or to show off their Orders, I don't know which, and others
like myself, not at all distinguished, just common subscribers, who
had no Orders and stood about the crowded room like waiters looking
for a job.
At the dinner, which was very bad, I sat at a table so remote that I
could hear but little of the interminable speeches, which was perhaps
fortunate for me. In these circumstances I drifted into conversation
with my neighbour, a queer, wizened, black-bearded man who somehow or
other had found out that I was acquainted with the wilder parts of
Africa. He proved to be a wealthy scientist whose passion it was to
study the properties of herbs, especially of such as grow in the
interior of South America where he had been travelling for some years.
Presently he mentioned a root named Yagé, known to the Indians which,
when pounded up into a paste and taken in the form of pills, had the
effect of enabling the patient to see events that were passing at a
distance. Indeed he alleged that a vision thus produced had caused him
to return home, since in it he saw that some relative of his, I think
a twin-sister, was dangerously ill. In fact, however, he might as well
have stayed away, as he only arrived in London on the day after her
As I saw that he was really interested in the subject and observed
that he was a very temperate man who did not seem to be romancing, I
told him something of my experiences with /Taduki/, to which he
listened with a kind of rapt but suppressed excitement. When I
affected disbelief in the whole business, he differed from me almost
rudely, asking why I rejected phenomena simply because I was too dense
to understand them. I answered perhaps because such phenomena were
inconvenient and upset one's ideas. To this he replied that all
progress involved the upsetting of existent ideas. Moreover he
implored me, if the chance should ever come my way, to pursue
experiments with /Taduki/ fumes and let him know the results.
Here our conversation came to an end for suddenly a band that was
braying near by, struck up "God save the Queen," and we hastily
exchanged cards and parted. I only mention it because, had it not
occurred, I think it probable that I should never have been in a
position to write this history.
The remarks of my acquaintance remained in my mind and influenced it
so much that when the occasion came, I did as a kind of duty what,
however much I was pressed, I am almost sure I should never have done
for any other reason, just because I thought that I ought to take an
opportunity of trying to discover what was the truth of the matter. As
it chanced it was quick in coming.
Here I should explain that I attended the dinner of which I have
spoken not very long after a very lengthy absence from England,
whither I had come to live when King Solomon's Mines had made me rich.
Therefore it happened that between the conclusion of my Kendah
adventure some years before and this time I saw nothing and heard
little of Lord and Lady Ragnall. Once a rumour did reach me, however,
I think through Sir Henry Curtis or Captain Good, that the former had
died as a result of an accident. What the accident was my informant
did not know and as I was just starting on a far journey at the time,
I had no opportunity of making inquiries. My talk with the botanical
scientist determined me to do so; indeed a few days later I discovered
from a book of reference that Lord Ragnall was dead, leaving no heir;
also that his wife survived him.
I was working myself up to write to her when one morning the postman
brought me here at the Grange a letter which had "Ragnall Castle"
printed on the flap of the envelope. I did not know the writing which
was very clear and firm, for as it chanced, to the best of my
recollection, I had never seen that of Lady Ragnall. Here is a copy of
the letter it contained:
"My dear Mr. Quatermain,--Very strangely I have just seen at a
meeting of the Horticultural Society, a gentleman who declares
that a few days ago he sat next to you at some public dinner.
Indeed I do not think there can be any doubt for he showed me your
card which he had in his purse with a Yorkshire address upon it.
"A dispute had arisen as to whether a certain variety of Crinum
lily was first found in Africa, or Southern America. This
gentleman, an authority upon South American flora, made a speech
saying that he had never met with it there, but that an
acquaintance of his, Mr. Quatermain, to whom he had spoken on the
subject, said that he had seen something of the sort in the
interior of Africa." (This was quite true for I remembered the
incident.) "At the tea which followed the meeting I spoke to this
gentleman whose name I never caught, and to my astonishment learnt
that he must have been referring to you whom I believed to be
dead, for so we were told a long time ago. This seemed certain,
for in addition to the evidence of the name, he described your
personal appearance and told me that you had come to live in
"My dear friend, I can assure you it is long since I heard anything
which rejoiced me so much. Oh! as I write all the past comes back,
flowing in upon me like a pent-up flood of water, but I trust that
of this I shall soon have an opportunity of talking to you. So let
it be for a while.
"Alas! my friend, since we parted on the shores of the Red Sea,
tragedy has pursued me. As you will know, for both my husband and
I wrote to you, although you did not answer the letters" (I never
received them), "we reached England safely and took up our old
life again, though to tell you the truth, after my African
experiences things could never be quite the same to me, or for the
matter of that to George either. To a great extent he changed his
pursuits and certain political ambitions which he once cherished,
seemed no longer to appeal to him. He became a student of past
history and especially of Egyptology, which under all the
circumstances you may think strange, as I did. However it suited
me well enough, since I also have tastes that way. So we worked
together and I can now read hieroglyphics as well as most people.
One year he said that he would like to go to Egypt again, if I
were not afraid. I answered that it had not been a very lucky
place for us, but that personally I was not in the least afraid
and longed to return there. For as you know, I have, or think I
have, ties with Egypt and indeed with all Africa. Well, we went
and had a very happy time, although I was always expecting to see
old Harût come round the corner.
"After this it became a custom with us who, since George
practically gave up shooting and attending the House of Lords, had
nothing to keep us in England, to winter in Egypt. We did this for
five years in succession, living in a bungalow which we built at a
place in the desert, not far from the banks of the Nile, about
half way between Luxor which was the ancient Thebes, and Assouan.
George took a great fancy to this spot when first he saw it, and
so in truth did I, for, like Memphis, it attracted me so much that
I used to laugh and say I believed that once I had something to do
"Now near to our villa that we called 'Ragnall' after this house,
are the remains of a temple which were almost buried in the sand.
This temple George obtained permission to excavate. It proved to
be a long and costly business, but as he did not mind spending the
money, that was no obstacle. For four winters we worked at it,
employing several hundred men. As we went on we discovered that
although not one of the largest, the temple, owing to its having
been buried by the sand during, or shortly after the Roman epoch,
remained much more perfect than we had expected, because the early
Christians had never got at it with their chisels and hammers.
Before long I hope to show you pictures and photographs of the
various courts, etc., so I will not attempt to describe them now.
"It is a temple to Isis--built, or rather rebuilt over the remains
of an older temple on a site that seems to have been called Amada,
at any rate in the later days, and so named after a city in Nubia,
apparently by one of the Amen-hetep Pharaohs who had conquered it.
Its style is beautiful, being of the best period of the Egyptian
Renaissance under the last native dynasties.
"At the beginning of the fifth winter, at length we approached the
sanctuary, a difficult business because of the retaining walls
that had to be built to keep the sand from flowing down as fast as
it was removed, and the great quantities of stuff that must be
carried off by the tramway. In so doing we came upon a shallow
grave which appeared to have been hastily filled in and roughly
covered over with paving stones like the rest of the court, as
though to conceal its existence. In this grave lay the skeleton of
a large man, together with the rusted blade of an iron sword and
some fragments of armour. Evidently he had never been mummified,
for there were no wrappings, canopic jars, /ushapti/ figures or
funeral offerings. The state of the bones showed us why, for the
right forearm was cut through and the skull smashed in; also an
iron arrow-head lay among the ribs. The man had been buried
hurriedly after a battle in which he had met his death. Searching
in the dust beneath the bones we found a gold ring still on one of
the fingers. On its bezel was engraved the cartouche of 'Peroa,
beloved of Ra.' Now Peroa probably means Pharaoh and perhaps he
was Khabasha who revolted against the Persians and ruled for a
year or two, after which he is supposed to have been defeated and
killed, though of his end and place of burial there is no record.
Whether these were the remnants of Khabasha himself, or of one of
his high ministers or generals who wore the King's cartouche upon
his ring in token of his office, of course I cannot say.
"When George had read the cartouche he handed me the ring which I
slipped upon the first finger of my left hand, where I still wear
it. Then leaving the grave open for further examination, we went
on with the work, for we were greatly excited. At length, this was
towards evening, we had cleared enough of the sanctuary, which was
small, to uncover the shrine that, if not a monolith, was made of
four pieces of granite so wonderfully put together that one could
not see the joints. On the curved architrave as I think it is
called, was carved the symbol of a winged disc, and beneath in
hieroglyphics as fresh as though they had only been cut yesterday,
an inscription to the effect that Peroa, Royal Son of the Sun,
gave this shrine as an 'excellent eternal work,' together with the
statues of the Holy Mother and the Holy Child to the 'emanations
of the great Goddess Isis and the god Horus,' Amada, Royal Lady,
being votaress or high-priestess.
"We only read the hieroglyphics very hurriedly, being anxious to
see what was within the shrine that, the cedar door having rotted
away, was filled with fine, drifted sand. Basketful by basketful
we got it out and then, my friend, there appeared the most
beautiful life-sized statue of Isis carved in alabaster that ever
I have seen. She was seated on a throne-like chair and wore the
vulture cap on which traces of colour remained. Her arms were held
forward as though to support a child, which perhaps she was
suckling as one of the breasts was bare. But if so, the child had
gone. The execution of the statue was exquisite and its tender and
mystic face extraordinarily beautiful, so life-like also that I
think it must have been copied from a living model. Oh! my friend,
when I looked upon it, which we did by the light of the candles,
for the sun was sinking and shadows gathered in that excavated
hole, I felt--never mind what I felt--perhaps /you/ can guess who
know my history.
"While we stared and stared, I longing to go upon my knees, I knew
not why, suddenly I felt a faint trembling of the ground. At the
same moment, the head overseer of the works, a man called Achmet,
rushed up to us, shouting out--'Back! Back! The wall has burst.
The sand runs!'
"He seized me by the arm and dragged me away beside of and behind
the grave, George turning to follow. Next instant I saw a kind of
wave of sand, on the crest of which appeared the stones of the
wall, curl over and break. It struck the shrine, overturned and
shattered it, which makes me think it was made of four pieces, and
shattered also the alabaster statue within, for I saw its head
strike George upon the back and throw him forward. He reeled and
fell into the open grave which in another moment was filled and
covered with the débris that seemed to grip me to my middle in its
flow. After this I remembered nothing more until hours later I
found myself lying in our house.
"Achmet and his Egyptians had done nothing; indeed none of them
could be persuaded to approach the place till the sun rose
because, as they said, the old gods of the land whom they looked
upon as devils, were angry at being disturbed and would kill them
as they had killed the Bey, meaning George. Then, distracted as I
was, I went myself for there was no other European there, to find
that the whole site of the sanctuary was buried beneath hundreds
of tons of sand, that, beginning at the gap in the broken wall,
had flowed from every side. Indeed it would have taken weeks to
dig it out, since to sink a shaft was impracticable and so
dangerous that the local officials refused to allow it to be
attempted. The end of it was that an English bishop came up from
Cairo and consecrated the ground by special arrangement with the
Government, which of course makes it impossible that this part of
the temple should be further disturbed. After this he read the
Burial Service over my dear husband.
"So there is the end of a very terrible story which I have written
down because I do not wish to have to talk about it more than is
necessary when we meet. For, dear Mr. Quatermain, we shall meet,
as I always knew that we should--yes, even after I heard that you
were dead. You will remember that I told you so years ago in
Kendah Land and that it would happen after a great change in my
life, though what that change might be I could not say. . . ."
This is the end of the letter except for certain suggested dates for
the visit which she took for granted I should make to Ragnall.
When I had finished reading this amazing document I lit my pipe and
set to work to think it over. The hypothetical inquirer might ask why
I thought it amazing. There was nothing odd in a dilettante Englishman
of highly cultivated mind taking to Egyptology and, being, as it
chanced, one of the richest men in the kingdom, spending a fraction of
his wealth in excavating temples. Nor was it strange that he should
have happened to die by accident when engaged in that pursuit, which I
can imagine to be very fascinating in the delightful winter climate of
Egypt. He was not the first person to be buried by a fall of sand.
Why, only a little while ago the same fate overtook a nursery-
governess and the child in her charge who were trying to dig out a
martin's nest in a pit in this very parish. Their operations brought
down a huge mass of the overhanging bank beneath which the sand-vein
had been hollowed by workmen who deserted the pit when they saw that
it had become unsafe. Next day I and my gardeners helped to recover
their bodies, for their whereabouts was not discovered until the
following morning, and a sad business it was.
Yet, taken in conjunction with the history of this couple, the whole
Ragnall affair was very strange. When but a child Lady Ragnall, then
the Hon. Miss Holmes, had been identified by the priests of a remote
African tribe as the oracle of their peculiar faith, which we
afterwards proved to be derived from old Egypt, in short the worship
of Isis and Horus. Subsequently they tried to steal her away and
through the accident of my intervention, failed. Later on, after her
marriage when shock had deprived her of her mind, these priests
renewed the attempt, this time in Egypt, and succeeded. In the end we
rescued her in Central Africa, where she was playing the part of the
Mother-goddess Isis and even wearing her ancient robes. Next she and
her husband came home with their minds turned towards a branch of
study that took them back to Egypt. Here they devote themselves to
unearthing a temple and find out that among all the gods of Egypt, who
seem to have been extremely numerous, it was dedicated to Isis and
Horus, the very divinities with whom they recently they had been so
intimately concerned if in traditional and degenerate forms.
Moreover that was not the finish of it. They come to the sanctuary.
They discover the statue of the goddess with the child gone, as their
child was gone. A disaster occurs and both destroys and buries Ragnall
so effectually that nothing of him is ever seen again: he just
vanishes into another man's grave and remains there.
A common sort of catastrophe enough, it is true, though people of
superstitious mind might have thought that it looked as though the
goddess, or whatever force was behind the goddess, was working
vengeance on the man who desecrated her ancient shrine. And, by the
way, though I cannot remember whether or no I mentioned it in "The
Ivory Child," I recall that the old priest of the Kendah, Harût, once
told me he was sure Ragnall would meet with a violent death. This
seemed likely enough in that country under our circumstances there,
still I asked him why. He answered,
"Because he has laid hands on that which is holy and not meant for
man," and he looked at Lady Ragnall.
I remarked that all women were holy, whereon he replied that he did
not think so and changed the subject.
Well, Ragnall, who had married the lady who once served as the last
priestess of Isis upon earth, was killed, whereas she, the priestess,
was almost miraculously preserved from harm. And--oh! the whole story
was deuced odd and that is all. Poor Ragnall! He was a great English
gentleman and one whom when first I knew him, I held to be the most
fortunate person I ever met, endowed as he was with every advantage of
mind, body and estate. Yet in the end this did not prove to be the
case. Well, while he lived he was a good friend and a good fellow and
none can hope for a better epitaph in a world where all things are
And now, what was I to do? To tell the truth I did not altogether
desire to reopen this chapter in past history, or to have to listen to
painful reminiscences from the lips of a bereaved woman. Moreover,
beautiful as she had been, for doubtless she was /passée/ now, and
charming as of course she remained--I do not think I ever knew anyone
who was quite so charming--there was something about Lady Ragnall
which alarmed me. She did not resemble any other woman. Of course no
woman is ever quite like another, but in her case the separateness, if
I may so call it, was very marked. It was as though she had walked out
of a different age, or even world, and been but superficially clothed
with the attributes of our own. I felt that from the first moment I
set eyes upon her and while reading her letter the sensation returned
with added force.
Also for me she had a peculiar attraction and not one of the ordinary
kind. It is curious to find oneself strangely intimate with a person
of whom after all one does not know much, just as if one really knew a
great deal that was shut off by a thin but quite impassable door. If
so, I did not want to open that door for who could tell what might be
on the other side of it? And intimate conversations with a lady in
whose company one has shared very strange experiences, not
infrequently lead to the opening of every kind of door.
Further I had made up my mind some time ago to have no more
friendships with women who are so full of surprises, but to live out
the rest of my life in a kind of monastery of men who have few
surprises, being creatures whose thoughts are nearly always open and
whose actions can always be foretold.
Lastly there was that /Taduki/ business. Well, there at any rate I was
clear and decided. No earthly power would induce me to have anything
more to do with /Taduki/ smoke. Of course I remembered that Lady
Ragnall once told me kindly but firmly that I would if she wished. But
that was just where she made a mistake. For the rest it seemed unkind
to refuse her invitation now when she was in trouble, especially as I
had once promised that if ever I could be of help, she had only to
command me. No, I must go. But if that word--/Taduki/--were so much as
mentioned I would leave again in a hurry. Moreover it would not be,
for doubtless she had forgotten all about the stuff by now, even if it
were not lost.
The end of it was that as I did not wish to write a long letter
entering into all that Lady Ragnall had told me, I sent her a
telegram, saying that if convenient to her, I would arrive at the
Castle on the following Saturday evening and adding that I must be
back here on the Tuesday afternoon, as I had guests coming to stay
with me on that day. This was perfectly true as the season was mid-
November and I was to begin shooting my coverts on the Wednesday
morning, a function that once fixed, cannot be postponed.
In due course an answer arrived--"Delighted, but hoped that you would
have been able to stay longer."
Behold me then about six o'clock on the said Saturday evening being
once more whirled by a splendid pair of horses through the gateway
arch of Ragnall Castle. The carriage stopped beneath the portico, the
great doors flew open revealing the glow of the hall fire and lights
within, the footman sprang down from the box and two other footmen
descended the steps to assist me and my belongings out of the
carriage. These, I remember, consisted of a handbag with my dress
clothes and a yellow-backed novel.
So one of them took the handbag and the other had to content himself
with the novel, which made me wish I had brought a portmanteau as
well, if only for the look of the thing. The pair thus burdened,
escorted me up the steps and delivered me over to the butler who
scanned me with a critical eye. I scanned him also and perceived that
he was a very fine specimen of his class. Indeed his stately presence
so overcame me that I remarked nervously, as he helped me off with my
coat, that when last I was here another had filled his office.
"Indeed, Sir," he said, "and what was his name, Sir?"
"Savage," I replied.
"And where might he be now, Sir?"
"Inside a snake!" I answered. "At least he was inside a snake but now
I hope he is waiting upon his master in Heaven."
The man recoiled a little, pulling off my coat with a jerk. Then he
coughed, rubbed his bald head, stared and recovering himself with an
"Indeed, Sir! I only came to this place after the death of his late
lordship, when her ladyship changed all the household. Alfred, show
this gentleman up to her ladyship's boudoir, and William, take his--
baggage--to the blue room. Her ladyship wishes to see you at once,
Sir, before the others come."
So I went up the big staircase to a part of the Castle that I did not
remember, wondering who "the others" might be. Almost could I have
sworn that the shade of Savage accompanied me up those stairs; I could
feel him at my side.
Presently a door was thrown open and I was ushered into a room
somewhat dimly lit and full of the scent of flowers. By the fire near
a tea-table, stood a lady clad in some dark dress with the light
glinting on her rich-hued hair. She turned and I saw that she still
wore the necklace of red stones, and beneath it on her breast a single
red flower. For this was Lady Ragnall; about that there was no doubt
at all, so little doubt indeed that I was amazed. I had expected to
see a stout, elderly woman whom I should only know by the colour of
her eyes and her voice, and perhaps certain tricks of manner. But,
this was the mischief of it, I could not perceive any change, at any
rate in that light. She was just the same! Perhaps a little fuller in
figure, which was an advantage; perhaps a little more considered in
her movements, perhaps a little taller or at any rate more stately,
and that was all.
These things I learned in a flash. Then with a murmured "Mr.
Quatermain, my Lady," the footman closed the door and she saw me.
Moving quickly towards me with both her hands outstretched, she
exclaimed in that honey-soft voice of hers,
"Oh! my dear friend----" stopped and added, "Why, you haven't changed
"Fossils wear well," I replied, "but that is just what I was thinking
"Then it is very rude of you to call me a fossil when I am only
approaching that stage. Oh! I am glad to see you. I /am/ glad!" and
she gave me both the outstretched hands.
Upon my word I felt inclined to kiss her and have wondered ever since
if she would have been very angry. I am not certain that she did not
divine the inclination. At any rate after a little pause she dropped
my hands and laughed. Then she said,
"I must tell you at once. A most terrible catastrophe has
Instantly it occurred to me that she had forgotten having informed me
by letter of all the details of her husband's death. Such things
chance to people who have once lost their memory. So I tried to look
as sympathetic as I felt, sighed and waited.
"It's not so bad as all that," she said with a little shake of her
head, reading my thought as she always had the power to do from the
first moment we met. "We can talk about /that/ afterwards. It's only
that I hoped we were going to have a quiet two days, and now the
Atterby-Smiths are coming, yes, in half an hour. Five of them!"
"The Atterby-Smiths!" I exclaimed, for somehow I too felt
disappointed. "Who are the Atterby-Smiths?"
"Cousins of George's, his nearest relatives. They think he ought to
have left them everything. But he didn't, because he could never bear
the sight of them. You see his property was unentailed and he left it
all to me. Now the entire family is advancing to suggest that I should
leave it to them, as perhaps I might have done if they had not chosen
to come just now."
"Why didn't you put them off?" I asked.
"Because I couldn't," she answered with a little stamp of her foot,
"otherwise do you suppose they would have been here? They were far too
clever. They telegraphed after lunch giving the train by which they
were to arrive, but no address save Charing Cross. I thought of moving
up to the Berkeley Square house, but it was impossible in the time,
also I didn't know how to catch you. Oh! it's /most/ vexatious."
"Perhaps they are very nice," I suggested feebly.
"Nice! Wait till you have seen them. Besides if they had been angels I
did not want them just now. But how selfish I am! Come and have some
tea. And you can stop longer, that is if you live through the Atterby-
Smiths who are worse than both the Kendah tribes put together. Indeed
I wish old Harût were coming instead. I should like to see Harût
again, wouldn't you?" and suddenly the mystical look I knew so well,
gathered on her face.
"Yes, perhaps I should," I replied doubtfully. "But I must leave by
the first train on Tuesday morning; it goes at eight o'clock. I looked
"Then the Atterby-Smiths leave on Monday if I have to turn them out of
the house. So we shall get one evening clear at any rate. Stop a
minute," and she rang the bell.
The footman appeared as suddenly as though he had been listening at
"Alfred," she said, "tell Moxley" (he, I discovered, was the butler)
"that when Mr. and Mrs. Atterby-Smith, the two Misses Atterby-Smith
and the young Mr. Atterby-Smith arrive, they are to be shown to their
rooms. Tell the cook also to put off dinner till half-past eight, and
if Mr. and Mrs. Scroope arrive earlier, tell Moxley to tell them that
I am sorry to be a little late, but that I was delayed by some parish
business. Now do you understand?"
"Yes, my Lady," said Alfred and vanished.
"He doesn't understand in the least," remarked Lady Ragnall, "but so
long as he doesn't show the Atterby-Smiths up here, in which case he
can go away with them on Monday, I don't care. It will all work out
somehow. Now sit down by the fire and let's talk. We've got nearly an
hour and twenty minutes and you can smoke if you like. I learnt to in
Egypt," and she took a cigarette from the mantelpiece and lit it.
That hour and twenty minutes went like a flash, for we had so much to
say to each other that we never even got to the things we wanted to
say. For instance, I began to tell her about King Solomon's Mines,
which was a long story; and she to tell me what happened after we
parted on the shores of the Red Sea. At least the first hour and a
quarter went, when suddenly the door opened and Alfred in a somewhat
frightened voice announced--"Mr. and Mrs. Atterby-Smith, the Misses
Atterby-Smith and Mr. Atterby-Smith junior."
Then he caught sight of his mistress's eye and fled.
I looked and felt inclined to do likewise if only there had been
another door. But there wasn't and that which existed was quite full.
In the forefront came A.-S. senior, like a bull leading the herd.
Indeed his appearance was bull-like as my eye, travelling from the
expanse of white shirt-front (they were all dressed for dinner) to his
red and massive countenance surmounted by two horn-like tufts of
carroty hair, informed me at a glance. Followed Mrs. A.-S., the
British matron incarnate. Literally there seemed to be acres of her;
black silk below and white skin above on which set in filigree floated
big green stones, like islands in an ocean. Her countenance too,
though stupid was very stern and frightened me. Followed the progeny
of this formidable pair. They were tall and thin, also red haired. The
girls, whose age I could not guess in the least, were exactly like
each other, which was not strange as afterwards I discovered that they
were twins. They had pale blue eyes and somehow reminded me of fish.
Both of them were dressed in green and wore topaz necklaces. The young
man who seemed to be about one or two and twenty, had also pale blue
eyes, in one of which he wore an eye-glass, but his hair was sandy as
though it had been bleached, parted in the middle and oiled down flat.
For a moment there was a silence which I felt to be dreadful. Then in
a big, pompous voice A.-S. /père/ said,
"How do you do, my dear Luna? As I ascertained from the footman that
you had not yet gone to dress, I insisted upon his leading us here for
a little private conversation after we have been parted for so many
years. We wished to offer you our condolences in person on your and
our still recent loss."
"Thank you," said Lady Ragnall, "but I think we have corresponded on
the subject which is painful to me."
"I fear that we are interrupting a smoking party, Thomas," said Mrs.
A.-S. in a cold voice, sniffing at the air for all the world like a
suspicious animal, whereon the five of them stared at Lady Ragnall's
cigarette which she held between her fingers.
"Yes," said Lady Ragnall. "Won't you have one? Mr. Quatermain, hand
Mrs. Smith the box, please."
I obeyed automatically, proffering it to the lady who nearly withered
me with a glance, and then to each to each in turn. To my relief the
young man took one.
"Archibald," said his mother, "you are surely not going to make your
sisters' dresses smell of tobacco just before dinner."
Archibald sniggered and replied,
"A little more smoke will not make any difference in this room, Ma."
"That is true, darling," said Mrs. A.-S. and was straightway seized
with a fit of asthma.
After this I am sure I don't know what happened, for muttering
something about its being time to dress, I rushed from the room and
wandered about until I could find someone to conduct me to my own
where I lingered until I heard the dinner-bell ring. But even this
retreat was not without disaster, for in my hurry I trod upon one of
the young lady's dresses; I don't know whether it was Dolly's or
Polly's (they were named Dolly and Polly) and heard a dreadful crack
about her middle as though she were breaking in two. Thereon Archibald
giggled again and Dolly and Polly remarked with one voice--they always
To complete my misfortunes I missed my way going downstairs and
strayed to and fro like a lost lamb until I found myself confronted by
a green baize door which reminded me of something. I stood staring at
it till suddenly a vision arose before me of myself following a bell
wire through that very door in the darkness of the night when in
search for the late Mr. Savage upon a certain urgent occasion. Yes,
there could be no doubt about it, for look! there was the wire, and
strange it seemed to me that I should live to behold it again.
Curiosity led me to push the door open just to ascertain if my memory
served me aright about the exact locality of the room. Next moment I
regretted it for I fell straight into the arms of either Polly or
"Oh!" said she, "I've just been sewn up."
I reflected that this was my case also in another sense, but asked
feebly if she knew the way downstairs.
She didn't; neither of us did, till at length we met Mrs. Smith coming
to look for her.
If I had been a burglar she could not have regarded me with graver
suspicions. But at any rate /she/ knew the way downstairs. And there
to my joy I found my old friend Scroope and his wife, both of them
grown stout and elderly, but as jolly as ever, after which the Smith
family ceased to trouble me.
Also there was the rector of the parish, Dr. Jeffreys and an absurdly
young wife whom he had recently married, a fluffy-headed little thing
with round eyes and a cheerful, perky manner. The two of them together
looked exactly like a turkey-cock and a chicken. I remembered him well
enough and to my astonishment he remembered me, perhaps because Lady
Ragnall, when she had hastily invited him to meet the Smith family,
mentioned that I was coming. Lastly there was the curate, a dark,
young man who seemed to be always brooding over the secrets of time
and eternity, though perhaps he was only thinking about his dinner or
the next day's services.
Well, there we stood in that well-remembered drawing-room in which
first I had made the acquaintance of Harût and Marût; also of the
beautiful Miss Holmes as Lady Ragnall was then called. The Scroopes,
the Jeffreys and I gathered in one group and the Atterby-Smiths in
another like a force about to attack, while between the two, brooding
and indeterminate, stood the curate, a neutral observer.
Presently Lady Ragnall arrived, apologizing for being late. For some
reason best known to herself she had chosen to dress as though for a
great party. I believe it was out of mischief and in order to show
Mrs. Atterby-Smith some of the diamonds she was firmly determined that
family should never inherit. At any rate there she stood glittering
and lovely, and smiled upon us.
Then came dinner and once more I marched to the great hall in her
company; Dr. Jeffreys got Mrs. Smith; Papa Smith got Mrs. Jeffreys who
looked like a Grecian maiden walking into dinner with the Minotaur;
Scroope got one of the Miss Smiths, she who wore a pink bow, the
gloomy curate got the other with a blue bow, and Archibald got Mrs.
Scroope who departed making faces at us over his shoulder.
"You look very grand and nice," I said to Lady Ragnall as we followed
the others at a discreet distance.
"I am glad," she answered, "as to the nice, I mean. As for the grand,
that dreadful woman is always writing to me about the Ragnall
diamonds, so I thought that she should see some of them for the first
and last time. Do you know I haven't worn these things since George
and I went to Court together, and I daresay shall never wear them
again, for there is only one ornament I care for and I have got /that/
on under my dress."
I stared and her and with a laugh said that she was very mischievous.
"I suppose so," she replied, "but I detest those people who are
pompous and rude and have spoiled my party. Do you know I had half a
mind to come down in the dress that I wore as Isis in Kendah Land. I
have got it upstairs and you shall see me in it before you go, for old
time's sake. Only it occurred to me that they might think me mad, so I
didn't. Dr. Jeffreys, will you say grace, please?"
Well, it was a most agreeable dinner so far as I was concerned, for I
sat between my hostess and Mrs. Scroope and the rest were too far off
for conversation. Moreover as Archibald developed an unexpected
quantity of small talk, and Scroope on the other side amused himself
by filling pink-bow Miss Smith's innocent mind with preposterous
stories about Africa, as had happened to me once before at this table,
Lady Ragnall and I were practically left undisturbed.
"Isn't it strange that we should find ourselves sitting here again
after all these years, except that you are in my poor mother's place?
Oh! when that scientific gentleman convinced me the other day that you
whom I had heard were dead, were not only alive and well but actually
in England, really I could have embraced him."
I thought of an answer but did not make it, though as usual she read
my mind for I saw her smile.
"The truth is," she went on, "I am an only child and really have no
friends, though of course being--well, you know," and she glanced at
the jewels on her breast, "I have plenty of acquaintances."
"And suitors," I suggested.
"Yes," she replied blushing, "as many as Penelope, not one of whom
cares twopence about me any more than I care for them. The truth is,
Mr. Quatermain, that nobody and nothing interest me, except a spot in
the churchyard yonder and another amid ruins in Egypt."
"You have had sad bereavements," I said looking the other way.
"Very sad and they have left life empty. Still I should not complain
for I have had my share of good. Also it isn't true to say that
nothing interests me. Egypt interests me, though after what has
happened I do not feel as though I could return there. All Africa
interests me and," she added dropping her voice, "I can say it because
I know you will not misunderstand, you interest me, as you have always
done since the first moment I saw you."
"/I!/" I exclaimed, staring at my own reflection in a silver plate
which made me look--well, more unattractive than usual. "It's very
kind of you to say so, but I can't understand why I should. You have
seen very little of me, Lady Ragnall, except in that long journey
across the desert when we did not talk much, since you were otherwise
"I know. That's the odd part of it, for I feel as though I had seen
you for years and years and knew everything about you that one human
being can know of another. Of course, too, I do know a good lot of
your life through George and Harût."
"Harût was a great liar," I said uneasily.
"Was he? I always thought him painfully truthful, though how he got at
the truth I do not know. Anyhow," she added with meaning, "don't
suppose I think the worse of you because others have thought so well.
Women who seem to be all different, generally, I notice, have this in
common. If one or two of them like a man, the rest like him also
because something in him appeals to the universal feminine instinct,
and the same applies to their dislike. Now men, I think, are different
in that respect."
"Perhaps because they are more catholic and charitable," I suggested,
"or perhaps because they like those who like them."
She laughed in her charming way, and said,
"However these remarks do not apply to you and me, for as I think I
told you once before in that cedar wood in Kendah Land where you
feared lest I should catch a chill, or become--odd again, it is
another you with whom something in me seems to be so intimate."
"That's fortunate for your sake," I muttered, still staring at and
pointing to the silver plate.
Again she laughed. "Do you remember the /Taduki/ herb?" she asked. "I
have plenty of it safe upstairs, and not long ago I took a whiff of
it, only a whiff because you know it had to be saved."
"And what did you see?"
"Never mind. The question is what shall we /both/ see?"
"Nothing," I said firmly. "No earthly power will make me breathe that
unholy drug again."
"Except me," she murmured with sweet decision. "No, don't think about
leaving the house. You can't, there are no Sunday trains. Besides you
won't if I ask you not."
"'In vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird,'" I replied,
firm as a mountain.
"Is it? Then why are so many caught?"
At that moment the Bull of Bashan--I mean Smith, began to bellow
something at his hostess from the other end of the table and our
conversation came to an end.
"I say, old chap," whispered Scroope in my ear when we stood up to see
the ladies out. "I suppose you are thinking of marrying again. Well,
you might do worse," and he glanced at the glittering form of Lady
Ragnall vanishing through the doorway behind her guests.
"Shut up, you idiot!" I replied indignantly.
"Why?" he asked with innocence. "Marriage is an honourable estate,
especially when there is lots of the latter. I remember saying
something of the sort to you years ago and at this table, when as it
happened you also took in her ladyship. Only there was George in the
wind then; now it has carried him away."
Without deigning any reply I seized my glass and went to sit down
between the canon and the Bull of Bashan.
ALLAN GIVES HIS WORD
Mr. Atterby-Smith proved on acquaintance to be even worse than unfond
fancy painted him. He was a gentleman in a way and of good family
whereof the real name was Atterby, the Smith having been added to
secure a moderate fortune left to him on that condition. His
connection with Lord Ragnall was not close and through the mother's
side. For the rest he lived in some south-coast watering-place and
fancied himself a sportsman because he had on various occasions hired
a Scottish moor or deer forest. Evidently he had never done anything
nor earned a shilling during all his life and was bringing his family
up to follow in his useless footsteps. The chief note of his character
was that intolerable vanity which so often marks men who have nothing
whatsoever about which to be vain. Also he had a great idea of his
rights and what was due to him, which he appeared to consider
included, upon what ground I could not in the least understand, the
reversal of all the Ragnall properties and wealth. I do not think I
need say any more about him, except that he bored me to extinction,
especially after his fourth glass of port.
Perhaps, however, the son was worse, for he asked questions without
number and when at last I was reduced to silence, lectured me about
shooting. Yes, this callow youth who was at Sandhurst, instructed me,
Allan Quatermain, how to kill elephants, he who had never seen an
elephant except when he fed it with buns at the Zoo. At last Mr.
Smith, who to Scroope's great amusement had taken the end of the table
and assumed the position of host, gave the signal to move and we
adjourned to the drawing-room.
I don't know what had happened but there we found the atmosphere
distinctly stormy. The ample Mrs. Smith sat in a chair fanning
herself, which caused the barbaric ornaments she wore to clank upon
her fat arm. Upon either side of her, pale and indeterminate, stood
Polly and Dolly each pretending to read a book. Somehow the three of
them reminded me of a coat-of-arms seen in a nightmare, British Matron
/sejant/ with Modesty and Virtue as supporters. Opposite, on the other
side of the fire and evidently very angry, stood Lady Ragnall,
"Do I understand you to say, Luna," I heard Mrs. A.-S. ask in resonant
tones as I entered the room, "that you actually played the part of a
heathen goddess among these savages, clad in a transparent bed-robe?"
"Yes, Mrs. Atterby-Smith," replied Lady Ragnall, "and a nightcap of
feathers. I will put it on for you if you won't be shocked. Or perhaps
one of your daughters----"
"Oh!" said both the young ladies together, "please be quiet. Here come
After this there was a heavy silence broken only by the stifled
giggles in the background of Mrs. Scroope and the canon's fluffy-
headed wife, who to do her justice had some fun in her. Thank goodness
the evening, or rather that part of it did not last long, since
presently Mrs. Atterby-Smith, after studying me for a long while with
a cold eye, rose majestically and swept off to bed followed by her
Afterwards I ascertained from Mrs. Scroope that Lady Ragnall had been
amusing herself by taking away my character in every possible manner
for the benefit of her connections, who were left with a general
impression that I was the chief of a native tribe somewhere in Central
Africa where I dwelt in light attire surrounded by the usual
accessories. No wonder, therefore, that Mrs. A.-S. thought it best to
remove her "Twin Pets," as she called them, out of my ravening reach.
Then the Scroopes went away, having arranged for me to lunch with them
on the morrow, an invitation that I hastily accepted, though I heard
Lady Ragnall mutter--"Mean!" beneath her breath. With them departed
the canon and his wife and the curate, being, as they said, "early
birds with duties to perform." After this Lady Ragnall paid me out by
going to bed, having instructed Moxley to show us to the smoking room,
"where," she whispered as she said good night, "I hope you will enjoy
Over the rest of the night I draw a veil. For a solid hour and three-
quarters did I sit in that room between this dreadful pair, being
alternately questioned and lectured. At length I could stand it no
longer and while pretending to help myself to whiskey and soda,
slipped through the door and fled upstairs.
I arrived late to breakfast purposely and found that I was wise, for
Lady Ragnall was absent upstairs, recovering from "a headache." Mr.
A.-Smith was also suffering from a headache downstairs, the result of
champagne, port and whisky mixed, and all his family seemed to have
pains in their tempers. Having ascertained that they were going to the
church in the park, I departed to one two miles away and thence walked
straight on to the Scroopes' where I had a very pleasant time,
remaining till five in the afternoon. I returned to tea at the Castle
where I found Lady Ragnall so cross that I went to church again, to
the six o'clock service this time, only getting back in time to dress
for dinner. Here I was paid out for I had to take in Mrs. Atterby-
Smith. Oh! what a meal was that. We sat for the most part in solemn
silence broken only by requests to pass the salt. I observed with
satisfaction, however, that things were growing lively at the other
end of the table where A.-Smith /père/ was drinking a good deal too
much wine. At last I heard him say,
"We had hoped to spend a few days with you, my dear Luna. But as you
tell us that your engagements make this impossible"--and he paused to
drink some port, whereon Lady Ragnall remarked inconsequently,
"I assure you the ten o'clock train is far the best and I have ordered
the carriage at half-past nine, which is not very early."
"As your engagements make this impossible," he repeated, "we would ask
for the opportunity of a little family conclave with you to-night."
Here all of them turned and glowered at me.
"Certainly," said Lady Ragnall, "'the sooner 'tis over the sooner to
sleep.' Mr. Quatermain, I am sure, will excuse us, will you not? I
have had the museum lit up for you, Mr. Quatermain. You may find some
Egyptian things there that will interest you."
"Oh, with pleasure!" I murmured, and fled away.
I spent a very instructive two hours in the museum, studying various
Egyptian antiquities including a couple of mummies which rather
terrified me. They looked so very corpse-like standing there in their
wrappings. One was that of a lady who was a "Singer of Amen," I
remember. I wondered where she was singing now and what song.
Presently I came to a glass case which riveted my attention, for above
it was a label bearing the following words: "Two Papyri given to Lady
Ragnall by the priests of the Kendah Tribe in Africa." Within were the
papyri unrolled and beneath each of the documents, its translation, so
far as they could be translated for they were somewhat broken. No. 1,
which was dated, "In the first year of Peroa," appeared to be the
official appointment of the Royal Lady Amada, to be the prophetess to
the temple of Isis and Horus the Child, which was also called Amada,
and situated on the east bank of the Nile above Thebes. Evidently this
was the same temple of which Lady Ragnall had written to me in her
letter, where her husband had met his death by accident, a coincidence
which made me start when I remembered how and where the document had
come into her hands and what kind of office she filled at the time.
The second papyrus, or rather its translation, contained a most
comprehensive curse upon any man who ventured to interfere with the
personal sanctity of this same Royal Lady of Amada, who, apparently in
virtue of her office, was doomed to perpetual celibacy like the vestal
virgins. I do not remember all the terms of the curse, but I know that
it invoked the vengeance of Isis the Mother, Lady of the Moon, and
Horus the Child upon anyone who should dare such a desecration, and in
so many words doomed him to death by violence "far from his own
country where first he had looked on Ra," (i.e. the sun) and also to
certain spiritual sufferings afterwards.
The document gave me the idea that it was composed in troubled days to
protect that particularly sacred person, the Prophetess of Isis whose
cult, as I have since learned, was rising in Egypt at the time, from
threatened danger, perhaps at the hands of some foreign man. It
occurred to me even that this Princess, for evidently she was a
descendant of kings, had been appointed to a most sacred office for
that very purpose. Men who shrink from little will often fear to incur
the direct curse of widely venerated gods in order to obtain their
desires, even if they be not their own gods. Such were my conclusions
about this curious and ancient writing which I regret I cannot give in
full as I neglected to copy it at the time.
I may add that it seemed extremely strange to me that it and the other
which dealt with a particular temple in Egypt should have passed into
Lady Ragnall's hands over two thousand years later in a distant part
of Africa, and that subsequently her husband should have been killed
in her presence whilst excavating the very temple to which they
referred, whence too in all probability they were taken. Moreover,
oddly enough Lady Ragnall had herself for a while filled the rôle of
Isis in a shrine whereof these two papyri had been part of the sacred
appurtenances for unknown ages, and one of her official titles there
was Prophetess and Lady of the Moon, whose symbol she wore upon her
Although I have always recognized that there are a great many more
things in the world than are dreamt of in our philosophy, I say with
truth and confidence that I am not a superstitious man. Yet I confess
that these papers and the circumstances connected with them, made me
Also they made me wish that I had not come to Ragnall Castle.
Well, the Atterby-Smiths had so far effectually put a stop to any talk
of such matters and even if Lady Ragnall should succeed in getting rid
of them by that morning train, as to which I was doubtful, there
remained but a single day of my visit during which it ought not to be
hard to stave off the subject. Thus I reflected, standing face to face
with those mummies, till presently I observed that the Singer of Amen
who wore a staring, gold mask, seemed to be watching me with her
oblong painted eyes. To my fancy a sardonic smile gathered in them and
spread to the mouth.
"That's what /you/ think," this smile seemed to say, "as once before
you thought that Fate could be escaped. Wait and see, my friend. Wait
"Not in this room any way," I remarked aloud, and departed in a hurry
down the passage which led to the main staircase.
Before I reached its end a remarkable sight caused me to halt in the
shadow. The Atterby-Smith family were going to bed /en bloc/. They
marched in single file up the great stair, each of them carrying a
hand candle. Papa led and young Hopeful brought up the rear. Their
countenances were full of war, even the twins looked like angry lambs,
but something written on them informed me that they had suffered
defeat recent and grievous. So they vanished up the stairway and out
of my ken for ever.
When they had gone I started again and ran straight into Lady Ragnall.
If her guests had been angry, it was clear that /she/ was furious,
almost weeping with rage, indeed. Moreover, she turned and rent me.
"You are a wretch," she said, "to run away and leave me all day long
with those horrible people. Well, they will never come here again, for
I have told them that if they do the servants have orders to shut the
door in their faces."
Not knowing what to say I remarked that I had spent a most instructive
evening in the museum, which seemed to make her angrier than ever. At
any rate she whisked off without even saying "good night" and left me
standing there. Afterwards I learned that the A.-S.'s had calmly
informed Lady Ragnall that she had stolen their property and demanded
that "as an act of justice" she should make a will leaving everything
she possessed to them, and meanwhile furnish them with an allowance of
£4,000 a year. What I did not learn were the exact terms of her
Next morning Alfred, when he called me, brought me a note from his
mistress which I fully expected would contain a request that I should
depart by the same train as her other guests. Its real contents,
however, were very different.
"My dear Friend," it ran, "I am so ashamed of myself and so sorry
for my rudeness last night, for which I deeply apologise. If you
knew all that I had gone through at the hands of those dreadful
mendicants, you would forgive me.--L.R."
"P.S.--I have ordered breakfast at 10. Don't go down much before,
for your own sake."
Somewhat relieved in my mind, for I thought she was really angry with
me, not altogether without cause, I rose, dressed and set to work to
write some letters. While I was doing so I heard the wheels of a
carriage beneath and opening my window, saw the Atterby-Smith family
in the act of departing in the Castle bus. Smith himself seemed to be
still enraged, but the others looked depressed. Indeed I heard the
wife of his bosom say to him,
"Calm yourself, my dear. Remember that Providence knows what is best
for us and that beggars on horseback are always unjust and
To which her spouse replied,
"Hold your infernal tongue, will you," and then began to rate the
servants about the luggage.
Well, off they went. Glaring through the door of the bus, Mr. Smith
caught sight of me leaning out of the window, seeing which I waved my
hand to him in adieu. His only reply to this courtesy was to shake his
fist, though whether at me or at the Castle and its inhabitants in
general, I neither know nor care.
When I was quite sure that they had gone and were not coming back
again to find something they had forgotten, I went downstairs and
surprised a conclave between the butler, Moxley, and his satellites,
reinforced by Lady Ragnall's maid and two other female servants.
"Gratuities!" Moxley was exclaiming, which I thought a fine word for
tips, "not a smell of them! His gratuities were--'Damn your eyes, you
fat bottle-washer,' being his name for butler. /My/ eyes, mind you,
Ann, not Alfred's or William's, and that because he had tumbled over
his own rugs. Gentleman! Why, I name him a hog with his litter."
"Hogs don't have litters, Mr. Moxley," observed Ann smartly.
"Well, young woman, if there weren't no hogs, there'd be no litters,
so there! However, he won't root about in this castle no more, for I
happened to catch a word or two of what passed between him and her
Ladyship last night. He said straight out that she was making love to
that little Mr. Quatermain who wanted her money, and probably not for
the first time as they had forgathered in Africa. A gentleman, mind
you, Ann, who although peculiar, I like, and who, the keeper Charles
tells me, is the best shot in the whole world."
"And what did she say to that?" asked Ann.
"What did she say? What didn't she say, that's the question. It was
just as though all the furniture in the room got up and went for them
Smiths. Well, having heard enough, and more than I wanted, I stepped
off with the tray and next minute out they all come and grab the
bedroom candlesticks. That's all and there's her Ladyship's bell.
Alfred, don't stand gaping there but go and light the hot-plates."
So they melted away and I descended from the landing, indignant but
laughing. No wonder that Lady Ragnall lost her temper!
Ten minutes later she arrived in the dining-room, waving a lighted
ribbon that disseminated perfume.
"What on earth are you doing?" I asked.
"Fumigating the house," she said. "It is unnecessary as I don't think
they were infectious, but the ceremony has a moral significance--like
incense. Anyway it relieves my feelings."
Then she laughed and threw the remains of the ribbon into the fire,
"If you say a word about those people I'll leave the room."
I think we had one of the jolliest breakfasts I ever remember. To
begin with we were both hungry since our miseries of the night before
had prevented us from eating any dinner. Indeed she swore that she had
scarcely tasted food since Saturday. Then we had such a lot to talk
about. With short intervals we talked all that day, either in the
house or while walking through the gardens and grounds. Passing
through the latter I came to the spot on the back drive where once I
had saved her from being abducted by Harût and Marût, and as I
recognized it, uttered an exclamation. She asked me why and the end of
it was that I told her all that story which to this moment she had
never heard, for Ragnall had thought well to keep it from her.
She listened intently, then said,
"So I owe you more than I knew. Yet, I'm not sure, for you see I was
abducted after all. Also if I had been taken there, probably George
would never have married me or seen me again, and that might have been
better for him."
"Why?" I asked. "You were all the world to him."
"Is any woman ever all the world to a man, Mr. Quatermain?"
I hesitated, expecting some attack.
"Don't answer," she went on, "it would be too long and you wouldn't
convince me who have been in the East. However, he was all the world
to me. Therefore his welfare was what I wished and wish, and I think
he would have had more of it if he had never married me."
"Why?" I asked again.
"Because I brought him no good luck, did I? I needn't go through all
the story as you know it. And in the end it was through me that he was
killed in Egypt."
"Or through the goddess Isis," I broke in rather nervously.
"Yes, the goddess Isis, a part I have played in my time, or something
like it. And he was killed in the temple of the goddess Isis. And
those papyri of which you read the translations in the museum, which
were given to me in Kendah Land, seem to have come from that same
temple. And--how about the Ivory Child? Isis in the temple evidently
held a child in her arms, but when we found her it had gone. Supposing
this child was the same as that of which I was guardian! It might have
been, since the papyri came from that temple. What do you think?"
"I don't think anything," I answered, "except that it is all very odd.
I don't even understand what Isis and the child Horus represent. They
were not mere images either in Egypt or Kendah Land. There must be an
idea behind them somewhere."
"Oh! there was. Isis was the universal Mother, Nature herself with all
the powers, seen and unseen, that are hidden in Nature; Love
personified also, although not actually the queen of Love like Hathor,
her sister goddess. The Horus child, whom the old Egyptians called
Heru-Hennu, signified eternal regeneration, eternal youth, eternal
strength and beauty. Also he was the Avenger who overthrew Set, the
Prince of Darkness, and thus in a way opened the Door of Life to men."
"It seems to me that all religions have much in common," I said.
"Yes, a great deal. It was easy for the old Egyptians to become
Christian, since for many of them it only meant worshipping Isis and
Horus under new and holier names. But come in, it grows cold."
We had tea in Lady Ragnall's boudoir and after it had been taken away
our conversation died. She sat there on the other side of the fire
with a cigarette between her lips, looking at me through the perfumed
smoke till I began to grow uncomfortable and to feel that a crisis of
some sort was at hand. This proved perfectly correct, for it was.
Presently she said,
"We took a long journey once together, Mr. Quatermain, did we not?"
"Undoubtedly," I answered, and began to talk of it until she cut me
short with a wave of her hand, and went on,
"Well, we are going to take a longer one together after dinner
"What! Where! How!" I exclaimed much alarmed.
"I don't know where, but as for how--look in that box," and she
pointed to a little carved Eastern chest made of rose or sandal wood,
that stood upon a table between us.
With a groan I rose and opened it. Inside was another box made of
silver. This I opened also and perceived that within lay bundles of
dried leaves that looked like tobacco, from which floated an
enervating and well-remembered scent that clouded my brain for a
moment. Then I shut down the lids and returned to my seat.
"/Taduki/," I murmured.
"Yes, /Taduki/, and I believe in perfect order with all its virtue
"Virtue!" I exclaimed. "I don't think there is any virtue about that
hateful and magical herb which I believe grew in the devil's garden.
Moreover, Lady Ragnall, although there are few things in the world
that I would refuse you, I tell you at once that nothing will induce
me to have anything more to do with it."
She laughed softly and asked why not.
"Because I find life so full of perplexities and memories that I have
no wish to make acquaintance with any more, such as I am sure lie hid
by the thousand in that box."
"If so, don't you think that they might clear up some of those which
surround you to-day?"
"No, for in such things there is no finality, since whatever one saw
would also require explanation."
"Don't let us argue," she replied. "It is tiring and I daresay we
shall need all our strength to-night."
I looked at her speechless. Why could she not take No for an answer?
As usual she read my thought and replied to it.
"Why did not Adam refuse the apple that Eve offered him?" she inquired
musingly. "Or rather why did he eat it after many refusals and learn
the secret of good and evil, to the great gain of the world which
thenceforward became acquainted with the dignity of labour?"
"Because the woman tempted him," I snapped.
"Quite so. It has always been her business in life and always will be.
Well, I am tempting you now, and not in vain."
"Do you remember who was tempting the woman?"
"Certainly. Also that he was a good school-master since he caused the
thirst for knowledge to overcome fear and thus laid the foundation-
stone of all human progress. That allegory may be read two ways, as
one of a rise from ignorance instead of a fall from innocence."
"You are too clever for me with your perverted notions. Also, you said
we were not to argue. I have therefore only to repeat that I will not
eat your apple, or rather, breathe your /Taduki/."
"Adam over again," she replied, shaking her head. "The same old
beginning and the same old end, because you see at last you will do
exactly what Adam did."
Here she rose and standing over me, looked me straight in the eyes
with the curious result that all my will power seemed to evaporate.
Then she sat down again, laughing softly, and remarked as though to
"Who would have thought that Allan Quatermain was a moral coward!"
"Coward," I repeated. "Coward!"
"Yes, that's the right word. At least you were a minute ago. Now
courage has come back to you. Why, it's almost time to dress for
dinner, but before you go, listen. I have some power over you, my
friend, as you have some power over me, for I tell you frankly if you
wished me very much to do anything, I should have to do it; and the
same applies conversely. Now, to-night we are, as I believe, going to
open a great gate and to see wonderful things, glorious things that
will thrill us for the rest of our lives, and perhaps suggest to us
what is coming after death. You will not fail me, will you?" she
continued in a pleading voice. "If you do I must try alone since no
one else will serve, and then I /know/--how I cannot say--that I shall
be exposed to great danger. Yes, I think that I shall lose my mind
once more and never find it again this side the grave. You would not
have that happen to me, would you, just because you shrink from
digging up old memories?"
"Of course not," I stammered. "I should never forgive myself."
"Yes, of course not. There was really no need for me to ask you. Then
you promise you will do all I wish?" and once more she looked at me,
adding, "Don't be ashamed, for you remember that I have been in touch
with hidden things and am not quite as other women are. You will
recollect I told you that which I have never breathed to any other
living soul, years ago on that night when first we met."
"I promise," I answered and was about to add something, I forget what,
when she cut me short, saying,
"That's enough, for I know your word is rather better than your bond.
Now dress as quickly as you can or the dinner will be spoiled."
THROUGH THE GATES
Short as was the time at my disposal before the dinner-gong sounded,
it proved ample for reflection. With every article of attire that I
discarded went some of that boudoir glamour till its last traces
vanished with my walking-boots. I was fallen indeed. I who had come to
this place so full of virtuous resolutions, could now only reflect
upon the true and universal meaning of our daily prayer that we might
be kept from temptation. And yet what had tempted me? For my life's
sake I could not say. The desire to please a most charming woman and
to keep her from making solitary experiments of a dangerous nature, I
suppose, though whether they should be less dangerous carried out
jointly remained to be seen. Certainly it was not any wish to eat of
her proffered apple of Knowledge, for already I knew a great deal more
than I cared for about things in general. Oh! the truth was that woman
is the mightiest force in the world, at any rate where the majority of
us poor men is concerned. She commanded and I must obey.
I grew desperate and wondered if I could escape. Perhaps I might slip
out of the back door and run for it, without my great coat or hat
although the night was so cold and I should probably be taken up as a
lunatic. No, it was impossible for I had forged a chain that might not
be broken. I had passed my word of honour. Well, I was in for it and
after all what was there of which I need be afraid that I should
tremble and shrink back as though I were about to run away with
somebody's wife, or rather to be run away with quite contrary to my
own inclination? Nothing at all. A mere nonsensical ordeal much less
serious than a visit to the dentist.
Probably that stuff had lost its strength by now--that is, unless it
had grown more powerful by keeping, as is the case with certain sorts
of explosives. And if it had not, the worst to be expected was a silly
dream, followed perhaps by headache. That is, unless I did not chance
to wake up again at all in this world, which was a most unpleasant
possibility. Another thing, suppose I woke and she didn't! What should
I say then? Of a certainty I should find myself in the dock. Yes, and
there were further dreadful eventualities, quite conceivable, every
one of them, the very thought of which plunged me into a cold
perspiration and made me feel so weak that I was obliged to sit down.
Then I heard the gong; to me it sounded like the execution bell to a
prisoner under sentence of death. I crept downstairs feebly and found
Lady Ragnall waiting for me in the drawing-room, clothed with gaiety
as with a garment. I remember that it made me most indignant that she
could be so happy in such circumstances, but I said nothing. She
looked me up and down and remarked,
"Really from your appearance you might have seen the Ragnall ghost, or
be going to be married against your will, or--I don't know what. Also
you have forgotten to fasten your tie."
I looked in the glass. It was true, for there hung the ends down my
shirt front. Then I struggled with the wretched thing until at last
she had to help me, which she did laughing softly. Somehow her touch
gave me confidence again and enabled me to say quite boldly that I
only wanted my dinner.
"Yes," she replied, "but you are not to eat much and you must only
drink water. The priestesses in Kendah Land told me that this was
necessary before taking /Taduki/ in its strongest form, as we are
going to do to-night. You know the prophet Harût only gave us the
merest whiff in this room years ago."
I groaned and she laughed again.
That dinner with nothing to drink, although to avoid suspicion I let
Moxley fill my glass once or twice, and little to eat for my appetite
had vanished, went by like a bad dream. I recall no more about it
until I heard Lady Ragnall tell Moxley to see that there was a good
fire in the museum where we were going to study that night and must
not be disturbed.
Another minute and I was automatically opening the door for her. As
she passed she paused to do something to her dress and whispered,
"Come in a quarter of an hour. Mind--no port which clouds the
"I have none left to cloud," I remarked after her.
Then I went back and sat by the fire feeling most miserable and
staring at the decanters, for never in my life do I remember wanting a
bottle of wine more. The big clock ticked and ticked and at last
chimed the quarter, jarring on my nerves in that great lonely
banqueting hall. Then I rose and crept upstairs like an evil-doer and
it seemed to me that the servants in the hall looked on me with
suspicion, as well they might.
I reached the museum and found it brilliantly lit, but empty except
for the cheerful company of the two mummies who also appeared to
regard me with gleaming but doubtful eyes. So I sat down there in
front of the fire, not even daring to smoke lest tobacco should
Presently I heard a low sound of laughter, looked up and nearly fell
backwards, that is, metaphorically, for the chair prevented such a
It was not wonderful since before me, like a bride of ancient days
adorned for her husband, stood the goddess Isis--white robes,
feathered headdress, ancient bracelets, gold-studded sandals on bare
feet, scented hair, ruby necklace and all the rest. I stared, then
there burst from me words which were the last I meant to say,
"Great Heavens! how beautiful you are."
"Am I?" she asked. "I am glad," and she glided across the room and
locked the door.
"Now," she said, returning, "we had better get to business, that is
unless you would like to worship the goddess Isis a little first, to
bring yourself into a proper frame of mind, you know."
"No," I replied, my dignity returning to me. "I do not wish to worship
any goddess, especially when she isn't a goddess. It was not a part of
"Quite so," she said, nodding, "but who knows what you will be
worshipping before an hour is over? Oh! forgive me for laughing at
you, but I can't help it. You are so evidently frightened."
"Who wouldn't be frightened?" I answered, looking with gloomy
apprehension at the sandal-wood box which had appeared upon a case
full of scarabs. "Look here, Lady Ragnall," I added, "why can't you
leave all this unholy business alone and let us spend a pleasant
evening talking, now that those Smith people have gone? I have lots of
stories about my African adventures which would interest you."
"Because I want to hear my own African adventures, and perhaps yours
too, which I am sure will interest me a great deal more," she
exclaimed earnestly. "You think it is all foolishness, but it is not.
Those Kendah priestesses told me much when I seemed to be out of my
mind. For a long time I did not remember what they said, but of late
years, especially since George and I began to excavate that temple,
plenty has come back to me bit by bit, fragments, you know, that make
me desire to learn the rest as I never desired anything else on earth.
And the worst of it has always been that from the beginning I have
known--and know--that this can only happen with you and through you,
why I cannot say, or have forgotten. That's what sent me nearly wild
with joy when I heard that you were not only alive, but in this
country. You won't disappoint me, will you? There is nothing I can
offer you which would have any value for you, so I can only beg you
not to disappoint me--well, because I am your friend."
I turned away my head, hesitating, and when I looked up again I saw
that her beautiful eyes were full of tears. Naturally that settled the
matter, so I only said,
"Let us get on with the affair. What am I to do? Stop a bit. I may as
well provide against eventualities," and going to a table I took a
sheet of notepaper and wrote:
"Lady Ragnall and I, Allan Quatermain, are about to make an
experiment with an herb which we discovered some years ago in
Africa. If by any chance this should result in accident to either
or both of us, the Coroner is requested to understand that it is
not a case of murder or of suicide, but merely of unfortunate
This I dated, adding the hour, 9.47 P.M., and signed, requesting her
to do the same.
She obeyed with a smile, saying it was strange that one who had lived
a life of such constant danger as myself, should be so afraid to die.
"Look here, young lady," I replied with irritation, "doesn't it occur
to you that /I/ may be afraid lest /you/ should die--and /I/ be hanged
for it," I added by an afterthought.
"Oh! I see," she answered, "that is really very nice of you. But, of
course, you would think like that; it is your nature."
"Yes," I replied. "Nature, not merit."
She went to a cupboard which formed the bottom of one of the mahogany
museum cases, and extracted from it first of all a bowl of ancient
appearance made of some black stone with projecting knobs for handles
that were carved with the heads of women wearing ceremonial wigs; and
next a low tripod of ebony or some other black wood. I looked at these
articles and recognized them. They had stood in front of the sanctuary
in the temple in Kendah Land, and over them I had once seen this very
woman dressed as she was to-night, bend her head in the magic smoke
before she had uttered the prophecy of the passing of the Kendah god.
"So you brought these away too," I said.
"Yes," she replied with solemnity, "that they might be ready at the
appointed hour when we needed them."
Then she spoke no more for a while, but busied herself with certain
rather eerie preparations. First she set the tripod and its bowl in an
open space which I was glad to note was at some distance from the
fire, since if either of us fell into that who would there be to take
us off before cremation ensued? Then she drew up a curved settee with
a back and arms, a comfortable-looking article having a seat that
sloped backwards like those in clubs, and motioned to me to sit down.
This I did with much the same sensations that are evoked by taking
one's place upon an operation-table.
Next she brought that accursed /Taduki/ box, I mean the inner silver
one, the contents of which I heartily wished I had thrown upon the
fire, and set it down, open, near the tripod. Lastly she lifted some
glowing embers of wood from the grate with tongs, and dropped them
into the stone bowl.
"I think that's all. Now for the great adventure," she said in a voice
that was at once rapt and dreamy.
"What am I to do?" I asked feebly.
"That is quite simple," she replied, as she sat herself down beside me
well within reach of the /Taduki/ box, the brazier being between us
with its tripod stand pressed against the edge of the couch, and in
its curve, so that we were really upon each side of it. "When the
smoke begins to rise thickly you have only to bend your head a little
forward, with your shoulders still resting against the settee, and
inhale until you find your senses leaving you, though I don't know
that this is necessary for the stuff is subtle. Then throw your head
back, go to sleep and dream."
"What am I to dream about?" I inquired in a vacuous way, for my senses
were leaving me already.
"You will dream, I think, of past events in which both of us played a
part, at least I hope so. I dreamt of them before in Kendah Land, but
then I was not myself, and for the most part they are forgotten.
Moreover, I learned that we can only see them all when we are
together. Now speak no more."
This command, by the way, at once produced in me an intense desire for
prolonged conversation. It was not to be gratified, however, for at
that moment she stood up again facing the tripod and me, and began to
sing in a rich and thrilling voice. What she sang I do not know for I
could not understand the language, but I presume it was some ancient
chant that she learned in Kendah Land. At any rate, there she stood, a
lovely and inspired priestess clad in her sacerdotal robes, and sang,
waving her arms and fixing her eyes upon mine. Presently she bent
down, took a little of the /Taduki/ weed and with words of
incantation, dropped it upon the embers in the bowl. Twice she did
this, then sat herself upon the couch and waited.
A clear flame sprang up and burned for thirty seconds or so, I suppose
while it consumed the volatile oils in the weed. Then it died down and
smoke began to come, white, rich and billowy, with a very pleasant
odour resembling that of hot-house flowers. It spread out between us
like a fan, and though its veil I heard her say,
"The gates are wide. Enter!"
I knew what she meant well enough, and though for a moment I thought
of cheating, there is no other word for it, knew also that she had
detected the thought and was scorning me in her mind. At any rate I
felt that I must obey and thrust my head forward into the smoke, as a
green ham is thrust into a chimney. The warm vapour struck against my
face like fog, or rather steam, but without causing me to choke or my
eyes to smart. I drew it down my throat with a deep inhalation--once,
twice, thrice, then as my brain began to swim, threw myself back as I
had been instructed to do. A deep and happy drowsiness stole over me,
and the last thing I remember was hearing the clock strike the first
two strokes of the hour of ten. The third stroke I heard also, but it
sounded like to that of the richest-throated bell that ever boomed in
all the world. I remember becoming aware that it was the signal for
the rolling up of some vast proscenium, revealing behind it a stage
that was the world--nothing less.
What did I see? What did I see? Let me try to recall and record.
First of all something chaotic. Great rushes of vapour driven by
mighty winds; great seas, for the most part calm. Then upheavals and
volcanoes spouting fire. Then tropic scenes of infinite luxuriance.
Terrific reptiles feeding on the brinks of marshes, and huge elephant-
like animals moving between palms beyond. Then, in a glade, rough huts
and about them a jabbering crowd of creatures that were only half
human, for sometimes they stood upright and sometimes ran on their
hands and feet. Also they were almost covered with hair which was all
they had in the way of clothes, and at the moment that I met them,
were terribly frightened by the appearance of a huge mammoth, if that
is the right name for it, which walked into the glade and looked at
us. At any rate it was a beast of the elephant tribe which I judged to
be nearly twenty feet high, with enormous curving tusks.
The point of the vision was that I recognized myself among those hairy
jabberers, not by anything outward and visible, but by something
inward and spiritual. Moreover, I was being urged by a female of the
race, I can scarcely call her a woman, to justify my existence by
tackling the mammoth in her particular interest, or to give her up to
someone who would. In the end I tackled it, rushing forward with a
weapon, I think it was a sharp stone tied to a stick, though how I
could expect to hurt a beast twenty feet high with such a thing is
more than I can understand, unless perhaps the stone was poisoned.
At any rate the end was sudden. I threw the stone, whereat a great
trunk shot out from between the tusks and caught me. Round and round I
went in the air, reflecting as I did so, for I suppose at the time my
normal consciousness had not quite left me, that this was my first
encounter with the elephant Jana, also that it was very foolish to try
to oblige a female regardless of personal risk. . . .
All became dark, as no doubt it would have done, but presently, that
is after a lapse of a great many thousands of years, or so it appeared
to me, light grew again. This time I was a black man living in
something not unlike a Kaffir kraal on the top of a hill.
There was shouting below and enemies attacked us; a woman rushed out
of a hut and gave me a spear and a shield, the latter made of wood
with white spots on it, and pointed to the path of duty which ran down
the hill. I followed in company with others, though without
enthusiasm, and presently met a roaring giant of a man at the bottom.
I stuck my spear into him and he stuck his into me, through the
stomach, which hurt me most abominably. After this I retired up the
hill where the woman pulled the spear out and gave it to another man.
I remember no more.
Then followed a whole maze of visions, but really I cannot disentangle
them. Nor is it worth while doing so since after all they were only of
the nature of an overture, jumbled incidents of former lives, real or
imaginary, or so I suppose, having to do, all of them, with elementary
things, such as hunger and wounds and women and death.
At length these broken fragments of the past were swept away out of my
consciousness and I found myself face to face with something connected
and tangible, not too remote or unfamiliar for understanding. It was
the beginning of the real story.
I, please remember always that I knew it was I, Allan, and no one
else, that is, the same personality or whatever it may be which makes
each man different from any other man, saw myself in a chariot drawn
by two horses with arched necks and driven by a charioteer who sat on
a little seat in front. It was a highly ornamented, springless vehicle
of wood and gilded, something like a packing-case with a pole, or as
we should call it in South Africa, a disselboom, to which the horses
were harnessed. In this cart I stood arrayed in flowing robes fastened
round my middle by a studded belt, with strips of coloured cloth wound
round my legs and sandals on my feet. To my mind the general effect of
the attire was distinctly feminine and I did not like it at all.
I was glad to observe, however, that the I of those days was anything
but feminine. Indeed I could never have believed that once I was so
good-looking, even over two thousand years ago. I was not very tall
but extremely stalwart, burly almost, with an arm that as I could
observe, since it projected from the sleeve of my lady's gown, would
have done no discredit to a prize-fighter, and a chest like a bull.
The face also I admired very much. The brow was broad; the black eyes
were full and proud-looking, the features somewhat massive but well-
cut and highly intelligent; the mouth firm and shapely, with lips that
were perhaps a trifle too thick; the hair--well, there was rather a
failure in the hair, at least according to modern ideas, for it curled
so beautifully as to suggest that one of my ancestors might have
fallen in love with a person of negroid origin. However there was lots
of it, hanging down almost to the shoulders and bound about the brow
by a very neat fillet of blue cloth with silver studs. The colour of
my skin, I was glad to note, was by no means black, only a light and
pleasing brown such as might have been produced by sunburn. My age, I
might add, was anywhere between five and twenty and five and thirty,
perhaps nearer the latter than the former, at any rate, the very prime
For the rest, I held in my left hand a very stout, long bow of black
wood which seemed to have seen much service, with a string of what
looked like catgut, on which was set a broad-feathered, barbed arrow.
This I kept in place with the fingers of my right hand, on one of
which I observed a handsome gold ring with strange characters carved
upon the bezel.
Now for the charioteer.
He was black as night, black as a Sunday hat, with yellow rolling eyes
set in a countenance of extraordinary ugliness and I may add,
extraordinary humour. His big, wide mouth with thick lips ran up the
left side of his face towards an ear that was also big and projecting.
His hair, that had a feather stuck in it, was real nigger wool
covering a skull like a cannon ball and I should imagine as hard. This
head, by the way, was set plumb upon the shoulders, as though it had
been driven down between them by a pile hammer. They were very broad
shoulders suggesting enormous strength, but the gaily-clad body
beneath, which was supported by two bowed legs and large, flat feet,
was that of a dwarf who by the proportions of his limbs Nature first
intended for a giant; yes, an Ethiopian dwarf.
Looking through this remarkable exterior, as it were, I recognized
that inside of it was the soul, or animating principle, of--whom do
you think? None other than my beloved old servant and companion, the
Hottentot Hans whose loss I had mourned for years! Hans himself who
died for me, slaying the great elephant, Jana, in Kendah Land, the
elephant I could not hit, and thereby saving my life. Oh! although I
had been obliged to go back to the days of I knew not what ancient
empire to do so in my trance, or whatever it was, I could have wept
with joy at finding him again, especially as I knew by instinct that
as he loved the Allan Quatermain of to-day, so he loved this Egyptian
in a wheeled packing-case, for I may as well say at once that such was
my nationality in the dream.
Now I looked about me and perceived that my chariot was the second of
a cavalcade. Immediately in front of it was one infinitely more
gorgeous in which stood a person who even if I had not known it, I
should have guessed to be a king, and who, as a matter of fact, was
none other than the King of kings, at that time the absolute master of
most of the known world, though what his name may have been, I have no
notion. He wore a long flowing robe of purple silk embroidered with
gold and bound in at the waist by a jewelled girdle from which hung
the private, sacred seal; the little "White Seal" that, as I learned
afterwards, was famous throughout the earth.
On his head was a stiff cloth cap, also purple in colour, round which
was fastened a fillet of light blue stuff spotted with white. The best
idea that I can give of its general appearance is to liken it to a
tall hat of fashionable shape, without a brim, slightly squashed in so
that it bulged at the top, and surrounded by a rather sporting
necktie. Really, however, it was the /kitaris/ or headdress of these
monarchs worn by them alone. If anyone else had put on that hat, even
by mistake in the dark, well, his head would have come off with it,
that is all.
This king held a bow in his hand with an arrow set upon its string,
just as I did, for we were out hunting, and as I shall have to narrate
presently, lions are no respecters of persons. By his side, leaning
against the back of the chariot, was a tall, sharp-pointed wand of
cedar wood with a knob of some green precious stone, probably an
emerald, fashioned to the likeness of an apple. This was the royal
sceptre. Immediately behind the chariot walked several great nobles.
One of them carried a golden footstool, another a parasol, furled at
the moment; another a spare bow and a quiver of arrows, and another a
jewelled fly-whisk made of palm fibre.
The king, I should add, was young, handsome with a curled beard and
clear-cut, high-bred looking features; his face, however, was bad,
cruel and stamped with an air of weariness, or rather, satiety, which
was emphasized by the black circles beneath his fine dark eyes.
Moreover pride seemed to emanate from him and yet there was something
in his bearing and glances which suggested fear. He was a god who
knows that he is mortal and is therefore afraid lest at any moment he
may be called upon to lose his godship in his mortality.
Not that he dreaded the perils of the chase; he was too much of a man
for that. But how could he tell lest among all that crowd of crawling
nobles, there was not one who had a dagger ready for his back, or a
phial of poison to mix with his wine or water? He with all the world
in the hollow of his hand, was filled with secret terrors which as I
learned since first I seemed to see him thus, fulfilled themselves at
the appointed time. For this man of blood was destined to die in
blood, though not by murder.
The cavalcade halted. Presently a fat eunuch glittering in his gold-
wrought garments like some bronzed beetle in the sunlight, came
waddling back towards me. He was odious and I knew that we hated each
"Greeting, Egyptian," he said, mopping his brow with his sleeve for
the sun was hot. "An honour for you! A great honour! The King of kings
commands your presence. Yes, he would speak with you with his own
lips, and with that abortion of a servant of yours also. Come! Come
"Swift as an arrow, Houman," I answered laughing, "seeing that for
three moons I, like an arrow, have rested upon the string and flown no
nearer to his Majesty."
"Three moons!" screeched the eunuch. "Why, many wait three years and
many go to the grave still waiting; bigger men than you, Egyptian,
though I hear you do claim to be of royal blood yonder on the Nile.
But talk not of arrows flying towards the most High, for surely it is
ill-omened and might earn you another honour, that of the string," and
he made a motion suggestive of a cord encircling his throat. "Man,
leave your bow behind! Would you appear before the King armed? Yes,
and your dagger also."
"Perchance a lion might appear before the King and he does not leave
his claws and teeth behind," I answered drily as I divested myself of
Then we started, the three of us, leaving the chariot in charge of a
"Draw your sleeves over your hands," said the eunuch. "None must
appear before the King showing his hands, and, dwarf, since you have
no sleeves, thrust yours into your robe."
"What am I to do with my feet?" he answered in a thick, guttural
voice. "Will it offend the King of kings to see my feet, most noble
"Certainly, certainly," answered Houman, "since they are ugly enough
to offend even me. Hide them as much as possible. Now we are near,
down on your faces and crawl forward slowly on your knees and elbows,
as I do. Down, I say!"
So down I went, though with anger in my heart, for be it remembered
that I, the modern Allan Quatermain, knew every thought and feeling
that passed through the mind of my prototype.
It was as though I were a spectator at a play, with this difference. I
could read the motives and reflections of this former /ego/ as well as
observe his actions. Also I could rejoice when he rejoiced, weep when
he wept and generally feel all that he felt, though at the same time I
retained the power of studying him from my own modern standpoint and
with my own existing intelligence. Being two we still were one, or
being one we still were two, whichever way you like to put it. Lastly
I lacked these powers with reference to the other actors in the piece.
Of these I knew just as much, or as little as my former self knew,
that is if he ever really existed. There was nothing unnatural in my
faculties where they were concerned. I had no insight into their souls
any more than I have into those of the people about me to-day. Now I
hope that I have made clear my somewhat uncommon position with
reference to these pages from the Book of the Past.
Well, preceded by the eunuch and followed by the dwarf, I crawled
though the sand in which grew some thorny plants that pricked my knees
and fingers, towards the person of the Monarch of the World. He had
descended from his chariot by help of a footstool, and was engaged in
drinking from a golden cup, while his attendants stood around in
various attitudes of adoration, he who had handed him the cup being
upon his knees. Presently he looked up and saw us.
"Who are these?" he asked in a high voice that yet was not unmusical,
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