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Title:      Heu-Heu, or the Monster
Author:     H. Rider Haggard
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0200191.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted: March 2002
Date most recently updated: March 2002

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Title:      Heu-Heu, or the Monster
Author:     H. Rider Haggard






AUTHOR'S NOTE

  The author wishes to state that this tale was written in its
  present form some time before the discovery in Rhodesia of the
  fossilized and immeasurably ancient remains of the proto-human
  person who might well have been one of the Heuheua, the "Hairy
  Wood-Folk," of which it tells through the mouth of Allan
  Quatermain.

  1923.




CHAPTER I



THE STORM


Now I, the Editor, whose duty it has been as an executor or otherwise,
to give to the world so many histories of, or connected with, the
adventures of my dear friend, the late Allan Quatermain, or
Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night, as the natives in Africa used to call
him, come to one of the most curious of them all. Here I should say at
once that he told it to me many years ago at his house called "The
Grange," in Yorkshire, where I was staying, but a little while before
he departed with Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good upon his last
expedition into the heart of Africa, whence he returned no more.

At the time I made very copious notes of a history that struck me as
strange and suggestive, but the fact is that afterwards I lost them
and could never trust my memory to reproduce even their substance with
the accuracy which I knew my departed friend would have desired.

Only the other day, however, in turning out a box-room, I came upon a
hand-bag which I recognized as one that I had used in the far past
when I was practising, or trying to practise, at the Bar. With a
certain emotion such as overtakes us when, after the lapse of many
years, we are confronted by articles connected with the long-dead
events of our youth, I took it to a window and with some difficulty
opened its rusted catch. In the bag was a small collection of rubbish:
papers connected with cases on which once I had worked as "devil" for
an eminent and learned friend who afterwards became a judge, a blue
pencil with a broken point, and so forth.

I looked through the papers and studied my own marginal notes made on
points in causes which I had utterly forgotten, though doubtless these
had been important enough to me at the time, and, with a sigh, tore
them up and threw them on the floor. Then I reversed the bag to knock
out the dust. As I was doing this there slipped from an inner pocket,
a very thick notebook with a shiny black cover such as used to be
bought for sixpence. I opened that book and the first thing that my
eye fell upon was this heading:


 "Summary of A. Q.'s Strange Story of the Monster-God, or Fetish,
  Heu-Heu, which He and the Hottentot Hans Discovered in Central
  South Africa."


Instantly everything came back to me. I saw myself, a young man in
those days, making those shorthand notes late one night in my bedroom
at the Grange before the impression of old Allan's story had become
dim in my mind, also continuing them on the train upon my journey
south on the morrow, and subsequently expanding them in my chambers at
Elm Court in the Temple whenever I found time to spare.

I remembered, too, my annoyance when I discovered that this notebook
was nowhere to be found, although I was aware that I had put it away
in some place that I thought particularly safe. I can still see myself
hunting for it in the little study of the house I had in a London
suburb at the time, and at last giving up the quest in despair. Then
the years went on and many things happened, so that in the end both
notes and the story they outlined were forgotten. Now they have
appeared again from the dust-heap of the past, reviving many memories,
and I set out the tale of this particular chapter of the history of
the adventurous life of my beloved friend, Allan Quatermain, who so
long ago was gathered to the Shades that await us all.



One night, after a day's shooting, we--that is, old Allan, Sir Henry
Curtis, Captain Good, and I--were seated in the smoking room of
Quatermain's house, the Grange, in Yorkshire, smoking and talking of
many things.

I happened to mention that I had read a paragraph, copied from an
American paper, which stated that a huge reptile of an antediluvian
kind had been seen by some hunters in a swamp of the Zambesi, and
asked Allan if he believed the story. He shook his head and answered
in a cautious fashion which suggested to me, I remember, his
unwillingness to give his views as to the continued existence of such
creatures on the earth, that Africa is a big place and it was possible
that in its recesses prehistoric animals or reptiles lingered on.

"I know that this is the case with snakes," he continued hurriedly as
though to avoid the larger topic, "for once I came across one as large
as the biggest Anaconda that is told of in South America, where
occasionally they are said to reach a length of sixty feet or more.
Indeed, we killed it--or rather my Hottentot servant, Hans, did--after
it had crushed and swallowed one of our party. This snake was
worshipped as a king of gods, and might have given rise to the tale of
enormous reptiles. Also, to omit other experiences of which I prefer
not to speak, I have seen an elephant so much above the ordinary in
size that it might have belonged to a prehistoric age. This elephant
has been known for centuries and was named Jana.

"Did you kill it?" inquired Good, peering at him through his
eyeglasses in his quick, inquisitive way.

Allan coloured beneath his tan and wrinkles, and said, rather sharply
for him, who was so gentle and hard to irritate,

"Have you not learned, Good, that you should never ask a hunter, and
above all a professional hunter, whether he did or did not kill a
particular head of game unless he volunteers the information? However,
if you want to know, I did not kill that elephant; it was Hans who
killed it and thereby saved my life. I missed it with both barrels at
a distance of a few yards!"

"Oh, I say, Quatermain!" ejaculated the irrepressible Good. "Do you
mean to tell us that /you/ missed a particularly big elephant that was
only a few yards off? You must have been in a pretty fright to do
that."

"Have I not said that I missed it, Good? For the rest, perhaps you are
right, and I was frightened, for as you know, I never set myself up as
a person remarkable for courage. In the circumstances of the encounter
with this beast, Jana, any one might have been frightened; indeed,
even you yourself, Good. Or, if you choose to be charitable, you may
conclude that there were other reasons for that disgraceful--yes,
disgraceful exhibition of which I cannot bear to think and much less
to talk, seeing that in the end it brought about the death of old Hans
--whom I loved."

Now Good was about to answer again, for argument was as the breath of
his nostrils, but I saw Sir Henry stretch out his long leg and kick
him on the shin, after which he was silent.

"To return," said Allan hastily, as one does who desires to escape
from an unpleasant subject, "in the course of my life I did once meet,
not with a prehistoric reptile, but with a people who worshipped a
Monster-god, or fetish, of which perhaps the origin may have been a
survival from the ancient world."

He stopped with the air of one who meant to say no more, and I asked
eagerly: "What was it, Allan?"

"To answer that would involve a long story, my friend," he replied,
"and one that, if I told it, Good, I am sure, would not believe; also,
it is getting late and might bore you. Indeed, I could not finish it
to-night."

"There are whisky, soda, and tobacco, and whatever Curtis and Good may
do, here, fortified by these, I remain between you and the door until
you tell me that tale, Allan. You know it is rude to go to bed before
your guests, so please get on with it at once," I added, laughing.

The old boy hummed and hawed and looked cross, but as we all sat round
him in an irritating silence which seemed to get upon his nerves, he
began at last:



Well, if you will have it, many years ago, when by comparison I was a
young man, I camped one day well up among the slopes of the
Drakensberg. I was going up Pretoria way with a load of trade goods
which I hoped to dispose of among the natives beyond, and when I had
done so to put in a month or two game-shooting towards the north. As
it happened, when we were in an open space of ground between two of
the foothills of the Berg, we got caught in a most awful thunderstorm,
one of the worst that ever I experienced. If I remember right, it was
about mid-January and you, my friend [this was addressed to me], know
what Natal thunderstorms can be at that hot time of the year. It
seemed to come upon us from two quarters of the sky, the fact being
that it was a twin storm of which the component parts were travelling
towards each other.

The air grew thick and dense; then came the usual moaning, icy wind
followed by something like darkness, although it was early in the
afternoon. On the peaks of the mountains around us lightnings were
already playing, but as yet I heard no thunder, and there was no rain.
In addition to the driver and voorlooper of the wagon I had with me
Hans, of whom I was speaking just now, a little wrinkled Hottentot
who, from my boyhood, had been the companion of my journeys and
adventures. It was he who came with me as my after-rider when as a
very young man I accompanied Piet Retief on that fatal embassy to
Dingaan, the Zulu king, of whom practically all except Hans and myself
were massacred.

He was a curious, witty little fellow of uncertain age and of his sort
one of the cleverest men in Africa. I never knew his equal in resource
or in following a spoor, but, like all Hottentots, he had his faults;
thus, whenever he got the chance, he would drink like a fish and
become a useless nuisance. He had his virtues, also, since he was
faithful as a dog and--well, he loved me as a dog loves the master
that has reared it from a blind puppy. For me he would do anything--
lie or steal or commit murder, and think it no wrong, but rather a
holy duty. Yes, and any day he was prepared to die for me, as in the
end he did.

Allan paused, ostensibly to knock out his pipe, which was unnecessary,
as he had only just filled it, but really, I think, to give himself a
chance of turning towards the fire in front of which he was standing,
and thus to hide his face. Presently he swung round upon his heel in
the light, quick fashion that was one of his characteristics, and went
on:



I was walking in front of the wagon, keeping a lookout for bad places
and stones in what in those days was by courtesy called the road,
though in fact it was nothing but a track twisting between the
mountains, and just behind, in his usual place--for he always stuck to
me like a shadow--was Hans. Presently I heard him cough in a hollow
fashion, as was his custom when he wanted to call my attention to
anything, and asked over my shoulder,

"What is it, Hans?"

"Nothing, Baas," he answered, "only that there is a big storm coming
up. Two storms, Baas, not one, and when they meet they will begin to
fight and there will be plenty of spears flying about in the sky, and
then both those clouds will weep rain or perhaps hail."

"Yes," I said, "there is, but as I don't see anywhere to shelter,
there is nothing to be done."

Hans came up level with me and coughed again, twirling his dirty
apology for a hat in his skinny fingers, thereby intimating that he
had a suggestion to make.

"Many years ago, Baas," he said, pointing with his chin towards a mass
of tumbled stones at the foot of a mountain slope about a mile to our
left, "there used to be a big cave yonder, for once when I was a boy I
sheltered in it with some Bushmen. It was after the Zulus had cleaned
out Natal and there was nothing to eat in the land, so that the people
who were left fed upon one another."

"Then how did the Bushmen live, Hans?"

"On slugs and grasshoppers, for the most part, Baas, and buck when
they were lucky enough to kill any with their poisoned arrows. Fried
caterpillars are not bad, Baas, nor are locusts when you can get
nothing else. I remember that I, who was starving, grew fat on them."

"You mean that we had better make for this cave of yours, Hans, if you
are sure it's there?"

"Yes, Baas, caves can't run away, and though it is many years ago, I
don't forget a place where I have lived for two months."

I looked at those advancing clouds and reflected. They were uncommonly
black and evidently there was going to be the devil of a storm.
Moreover, the situation was not pleasant for we were crossing a patch
of ironstone on which, as I knew from experience, lightning always
strikes, and a wagon and a team of oxen have an attraction for
electric flashes.

While I was reflecting a party of Kaffirs came up from behind, running
for all they were worth, no doubt to seek shelter. They were dressed
in their finery--evidently people going to or returning from a
wedding-feast, young men and girls, most of them--and as they went by
one of them shouted to me, whom evidently he knew, as did most of the
natives in those parts, "Hurry, hurry, Macumazahn!" as you know the
Zulus called me. "Hurry, this place is beloved of lightnings," and he
pointed with his dancing stick first to the advancing tempest and then
to the ground where the ironstone cropped up.

That decided me, and running back to the wagon I told the voorlooper
to follow Hans, and the driver to flog up the oxen. Then I scrambled
in behind and off we went, turning to the left and heading for the
place at the foot of the slope where Hans said the cave was. Luckily
the ground was fairly flat and open--hard, too; moreover, although he
had not been there for so many years, Hans's memory of the spot was
perfect. Indeed, as he said, it was one of his characteristics never
to forget any place that he had once visited.

Thus, from the driving box to which I had climbed, suddenly I saw him
direct the voorlooper to bear sharply to the right and could not
imagine why, as the surface there seemed similar to that over which we
were travelling. As we passed it, however, I perceived the reason, for
here was a ground spring which turned a large patch of an acre or more
into a swamp, where certainly we should have been bogged. It was the
same with other obstacles that I need not detail.

By now a great stillness pervaded the air and the gloom grew so thick
that the front oxen looked shadowy; also it became very cold. The
lightning continued to play upon the mountain crests, but still there
was no thunder. There was something frightening and unnatural in the
aspect of nature; even the cattle felt it, for they strained at the
yokes and went off very fast indeed, without the urgings of whips or
shouts, as though they too knew they were flying from peril. Doubtless
they did, since instinct has its voices which speak to everything that
breathes. For my part, my nerves became affected and I hoped earnestly
that we should soon reach that cave.

Presently I hoped it still more, for at length those clouds met and
from their edges as they kissed each other came an awful burst of fire
--perhaps it was a thunderbolt--that rushed down and struck the earth
with a loud detonation. At any rate, it caused the ground to shake and
me to wish that I were anywhere else, for it fell within fifty yards
of the wagon, exactly where we had been a minute or so before.
Simultaneously there was a most awful crash of thunder, showing that
the tempest now lay immediately overhead.

This was the opening of the ball; the first sudden burst of music.
Then the dance began with sheets and forks of flame for dancers and
the great sky for the floor upon which they performed.

It is difficult to describe such a hellish tempest because, as you, my
friend, who have seen them, will know, they are beyond description.
Lightnings, everywhere lightnings; flash upon flash of them of all
shapes--one, I remember, looked like a crown of fire encircling the
brow of a giant cloud. Moreover, they seemed to leap upwards from the
earth as well as downwards from the heaven, to the accompaniment of
one continuous roar of thunder.

"Where the deuce is your cave?" I yelled into the ear of Hans, who had
climbed on to the driving box beside me.

He shrieked something in answer which I could not catch because of the
tumult, and pointed to the base of the mountain slope, now about two
hundred yards away.

The oxen /skrecked/ and began to gallop, causing the wagon to bump and
sway so that I thought it would overset, and the voorlooper to leave
hold of the /reim/ and run alongside of them for fear lest he should
be trodden to death, guiding them as best he could, which was not
well. Luckily, however, they ran in the right direction.

On we tore, the driver plying his whip to keep the beasts straight,
and as I could see from the motion of his lips, swearing his hardest
in Dutch and Zulu, though not a word reached my ears. At length they
were brought to a halt by the steep slope of the mountain and
proceeded to turn round and tie themselves into a kind of knot after
the fashion of frightened oxen that for any reason can no longer pull
their load.

We leapt down and began to outspan them, getting the yokes off as
quickly as we could--no easy job, I can tell you, both because of the
mess in which they were and for the reason that it must be carried out
literally under fire, since the flashes were falling all about us.
Momentarily I expected that one of them would catch the wagon and make
an end of us and our story. Indeed, I was so frightened that I was
sorely tempted to leave the oxen to their fate and bolt to the cave,
if cave there were--for I could see none.

However, pride came to my aid, for if I ran away, how could I ever
expect my Kaffirs to stand again in a difficulty? Be as much afraid as
you like, but never show fear before a native; if you do, your
influence over him is gone. You are no longer the great White Chief of
higher blood and breeding; you are just a common fellow like himself;
inferior to himself, indeed, if he chances to be a brave specimen of a
people among whom most of the men are brave.

So I pretended to take no heed of the lightnings, even when one struck
a thorn tree not more than thirty paces away. I happened to be looking
in that direction and saw the thorn in the flare, every bough of it.
Next second all I saw was a column of dust; the thorn had gone and one
of its splinters hit my hat.

With the others I tugged and kicked at the oxen, getting the thongs
off the /yoke-skeis/ as best I could, till at length all were loose
and galloping away to seek shelter under overhanging rocks or where
they could in accordance with their instincts. The last two, the pole
oxen--valuable beasts--were particularly difficult to free, as they
were trying to follow their brethren and strained at the yokes so much
that in the end I had to cut the /rimpis/, as I could not get them out
of the notches of the /yoke-skeis/. Then they tore off after the
others, but did not get far, poor brutes, for presently I saw both of
them--they were running together--go down as though they were shot
through the heart. A flash had caught them; one of them never stirred
again; the other lay on its back kicking for a few seconds and then
grew as still as its yoke-mate.



"And what did you say?" inquired Good in a reflective voice.

"What would you have said, Good?" asked Allan severely, "if you had
lost your best two oxen in such a fashion, and happened not to have a
sixpence with which to buy others? Well, we all know your command of
strong language, so I do not think I need ask you to answer."

"I should have said----" began Good, bracing himself to the occasion,
but Allan cut him short with a wave of his hand.

"Something about /Jupiter Tonans/, no doubt," he said.

Then he went on.



Well, what I said was only overheard by the recording angel, though
perhaps Hans guessed it, for he screamed at me,

"It might have been /us/, Baas. When the sky is angry, it will have
/something/; better the oxen than us, Baas."

"The cave, you idiot!" I roared. "Shut your mouth and take us to the
cave, if there is one, for here comes the hail."

Hans grinned and nodded, then hastened by a large hailstone which hit
him on the head, began to skip up the hill at a surprising rate,
beckoning to the rest of us to follow. Presently we came to a tumbled
pile of rocks through which we dodged and scrambled in the gloom that
now, when the hail had begun to fall, was denser than ever between the
flashes. At the back of the biggest of these rocks Hans dived among
some bushes, dragging me after him between two stones that formed a
kind of natural gateway to a cavity beyond.

"This is the place, Baas," he said, wiping the blood that ran down his
forehead from a cut in the head made by the hailstone.

As he spoke, a particularly vivid flash showed me that we were in the
mouth of a cavern of unknown size. That it must be large, however, I
guessed from the echoes of the thunder that followed the flash, which
seemed to reverberate in that hollow place from unmeasured depths in
the bowels of the mountain.




CHAPTER II



THE PICTURE IN THE CAVE


We did not reach the cave too soon, for as the boys scrambled into it
after us the hail began to come down in earnest, and you fellows know,
or at any rate have heard, what African hail can be, especially among
the mountains of the Berg. I have known it to go through sheets of
galvanized iron like rifle bullets, and really I believe that some of
the stones which fell on this occasion would have pierced two of them
put together, for they were as big as flints and jagged at that. If
anybody had been caught in that particular storm on the open veldt
without a wagon to creep under or a saddle to put over his head, I
doubt whether he would have lived to see a clear sky again.

The driver, who was already almost weeping with distress over the loss
of Kaptein and Deutchmann, as the two pole oxen were named, grew
almost crazed because he thought that the hail would kill the others,
and actually wanted to run out into it with the wild idea of herding
them into some shelter. I told him to sit still and not be a fool,
since we could do nothing to help them. Hans, who had a habit of
growing religious when there was lightning about, remarked
sententiously that he had no doubt that the "Great-Great" in the sky
would look after the cattle since my Reverend Father (who had
converted him to the peculiar faith, or mixture of faiths, which, with
Hans, passed for Christianity) had told him that the cattle on a
thousand hills were His especial property, and, here in the Berg, were
they not among the thousand hills? The Zulu driver who had not "found
religion," but was just a raw savage, replied with point that if that
were so the "Great-Great" might have protected Kaptein and Deutchmann,
which He had clearly neglected to do. Then, after the fashion of some
furious woman, by way of relieving his nerves, he fell to abusing
Hans, whom he called "a yellow jackal," adding that the tail of the
worst of the oxen was of more value than his whole body, and that he
wished his worthless skin were catching the hailstones instead of
their inestimable hides.

These nasty remarks about his personal appearance irritated Hans, who
drew up his lips as does an angry dog, and replied in suitable
language, which involved reflections upon that Zulu's family, and
especially on his mother. In short, had I not intervened there would
have been a very pretty row that might have ended in a blow from a
kerry or a knife thrust. This, however, I did with vigour, saying that
he who spoke another word should be kicked out of the cave to keep
company with the hail and the lightning, after which peace was
restored.

That storm went on for a long while, for after it had seemed to go
away it returned again, travelling in a circle as such tempests
sometimes do, and when the hail was finished, it was followed by
torrential rain. The result was that by the time the thunder had
ceased to roar and echo among the mountain-tops darkness was at hand,
so it became evident that we must stop where we were for the night,
especially as the boys, who had gone out to look for the oxen,
reported that they could not find them. This was not pleasant, as the
cave was uncommonly cold and the wagon was too soaked with the rain to
sleep in.

Here, however, once more Hans's memory came in useful. Having borrowed
my matches, he crept off down the cave and presently returned,
dragging a quantity of wood after him, dusty and worm-eaten-looking
wood, but dry and very suitable for firing.

"Where did you get that?" I asked.

"Baas," he replied, "when I lived in this place with the Bushmen, long
before those black children" (this insult referred to the driver and
the voorlooper, Mavoon and Induka by name) "were begotten of their
unknown fathers, I hid away a great stock of wood for the winter, or
in case I should ever come back here, and there it is still, covered
with stones and dust. The ants that run about the ground do the same
thing, Baas, that their children may have food when they are dead. So
now if those Kaffirs will help me to get the wood we may have a good
fire and be warm."

Marvelling at the little Hottentot's foresight that was bred into his
blood by the necessities of a hundred generations of his forefathers,
I bade the others to accompany him to the cache, which they did,
glowering, with the result that presently we had a glorious fire. Then
I fetched some food, for luckily I had killed a Duiker buck that
morning, the flesh of which we toasted on the embers, and with it a
bottle of Square-face from the wagon, so that soon we were eating a
splendid dinner. I know that there are many who do not approve of
giving spirits to natives, but for my part I have found that when they
are chilled and tired a "tot" does them no harm and wonderfully
improves their tempers. The trouble was to prevent Hans from getting
more than one, to do which I made a bedfellow of that bottle of
Square-face.

When we were filled I lit my pipe and began to talk with Hans, whom
the grog had made loquacious and therefore interesting. He asked me
how old the cave was, and I told him that it was as old as the
mountains of the Berg. He answered that he had thought so because
there were footprints stamped in the rock floor farther down it, and
turned to stone, which were not made by any beasts that he had ever
heard of or seen, which footprints he would show me on the morrow if I
cared to look at them. Further, that there were queer bones lying
about, also turned to stone, that he thought must have belonged to
giants. He believed that he could find some of these bones when the
sun shone into the cave in the early morning.

Then I explained to Hans and the Kaffirs how once, thousands of
thousands of years ago, before there were any men in the world, great
creatures had lived there, huge elephants and reptiles as large as a
hundred crocodiles made into one, and, as I had been told, enormous
apes, much bigger than any gorilla. They were very interested, and
Hans said that it was quite true about the apes, since he had seen a
picture of one of them, or of a giant that looked like an ape.

"Where?" I asked. "In a book?"

"No, Baas, here in this cave. The Bushman made it ten thousand years
ago." By which he meant at some indefinite time in the past.

Now I bethought me of a fabulous creature called the /Ngoloko/ which
was said to inhabit an undefined area of swamps on the East Coast and
elsewhere. This animal, in which, I may add, I did not in the least
believe, for I set it down as a native bogey, was supposed to be at
least eight feet high, to be covered with gray hair and to have a claw
in the place of toes. My chief authority for it was a strange old
Portuguese hunter whom I had once known, who swore that he had seen
its footprints in the mud, also that it had killed one of his men and
twisted the head off his body. I asked Hans if he had ever heard of
it. He replied that he had, under another name, that of /Milhoy/, I
think, but that the devil painted in the cave was larger than that.

Now I thought that he was pitching me a yarn, as natives will, and
said that if so he had better show me the picture forthwith.

"Best wait until the sun shines in the morning, Baas," he replied,
"for then the light will be good. Also this devil is not nice to look
at at night."

"Show it me," I repeated with asperity; "we have lanterns from the
wagon."

So, somewhat unwillingly, Hans led the way up the cave for fifty paces
or more, for the place was very big, he carrying one lantern and I
another, while the two Zulus followed with candles in their hands. As
we went I saw that on the walls there were many Bushmen paintings,
also one or two of the carvings of this strange people. Some of these
paintings seemed quite fresh, while others were faded or perhaps the
ochre used by the primitive artist had flaked off. They were of the
usual character, drawings of elands and other buck being hunted by men
who shot at them with arrows; also of elephants and a lion charging at
some spearmen.

One, however, which oddly enough was the best preserved of any of the
collection, excited me enormously. It represented men whose faces were
painted white and who seemed to wear a kind of armour and queer
pointed caps upon their heads, of the sort that I believe are known as
Phrygian, attacking a native kraal of which the reed fence was clearly
indicated, as were the round huts behind. Moreover, to the left some
of these men were dragging away women to what from a series of wavy
lines, looked like a rude representation of the sea.

I stared and gasped, for surely here before me was a picture of
Phoenicians carrying out one of their women-hunting raids, as ancient
writers tell us it was their habit to do. And if so, that picture must
have been painted by a Bushman who lived at least two thousand years
ago, and possibly more. The thing was amazing. Hans, however, did not
seem to be interested, but pushed on as though to finish a
disagreeable task, and I was obliged to follow him, fearing lest I
should be lost in the recesses of that vast cave.

Presently he came to a crevice in the side of the cavern which I
should have passed unnoticed, as it was exactly like many others.

"Here is the place, Baas," he said, "just as it used to be. Now follow
me and be careful where you step, for there are cracks in the floor."

So I squeezed myself into the opening where, although I am not very
large, there was barely room for me to pass. Within its lips was a
narrow tunnel, either cut out by water or formed by the rush of
explosive gases hundreds of thousands of years ago--I think the
latter, as the roof, which was not more than eight or nine feet from
the floor, had sharp points and roughnesses that showed no water-wear.
But as I have not the faintest idea how these great African caves were
formed, I will not attempt to discuss the matter. This floor, however,
was quite smooth, as though for many generations it had been worn by
the feet of men, which no doubt was the case.

When we had crept ten or twelve paces down the tunnel, Hans called to
me to stand quite still--not to move on any account. I obeyed him,
wondering, and by the light of my lantern saw him lift his own, which
had a loop of hide fastened through the tin eye at the top of it for
convenience in hanging it up in the wagon, and set it, or rather the
hide loop, round his neck, so that it hung upon his back. Then he
flattened himself against the side of the cavern with his face to the
wall as though he did not wish to see what was behind him, and
cautiously crept forward with sidelong steps, gripping the roughnesses
in the rock with his hands. When he had gone some twenty or thirty
feet in this crab-like fashion, he turned and said,

"Now, Baas, you must do as I did."

"Why?" I asked.

"Hold down the lantern and you will see, Baas."

I did so, and perceived that a pace or two farther on there was a
great chasm in the floor of the tunnel of unknown depth, since the
lamplight did not penetrate to its bottom. Also I noted that the ledge
at the side that formed the bridge by which Hans had passed, was
nowhere more than twelve inches, and in some places less than six
inches wide.

"Is it deep?" I asked.

By way of answer Hans found a bit of broken rock and threw it into the
gulf. I listened, and it was quite a long while before I heard it
strike below.

"I told the Baas," said Hans in a superior tone, "that he had better
wait until to-morrow when some light comes down this hole, but the
Baas would not listen to me and doubtless he knows best. Now would the
Baas like to go back to bed, as I think wisest, and return to-morrow?"

If the truth were known there was nothing that I should have liked
better, for the place was detestable. But I was in such a rage with
Hans for playing me this trick that even if I thought that I was going
to break my neck I would not give him the pleasure of mocking me in
his sly way.

"No," I answered quietly, "I will go to bed when I have seen this
picture you talk about, and not before."

Now Hans grew alarmed and begged me in good earnest not to try to
cross the gulf, which reminded me vaguely of the parable of Abraham
and Dives in the Bible, with myself playing the part of Dives, except
that I was not thirsty, and Hans did not in any way resemble Abraham.

"I see how it is," I said, "there is not any picture and you are
simply playing one of your monkey tricks on me. Well, I'm coming to
look, and if I find you have been telling lies I'll make you sorry for
yourself."

"The picture is there or was when I was young," answered Hans
sullenly, "and for the rest, the Baas knows best. If he breaks every
bone in his body presently, don't let him blame me, and I pray that he
will tell the truth, all of it, to his Reverend Father in the sky who
left him in my charge, saying that Hans begged him not to come but
that because of his evil temper he would not listen. Meanwhile, the
Baas had better take off his boots, since the feet of those Bushmen
whose spooks I feel all about me have made the ledge very slippery."

In silence I sat down and removed my boots, thinking to myself that I
would gladly give all my savings that were on deposit in the bank at
Durban, to be spared this ordeal. What a strange thing is the white
man's pride, especially if he be of the Anglo-Saxon breed, or what
passes by that name. There was no need for me to take this risk, yet,
rather than be secretly mocked at by Hans and those Kaffirs, here I
was about to do so just for pride's sake. In my heart I cursed Hans
and the cave and the hole and the picture and the thunderstorm that
brought me there, and everything else I could remember. Then, as it
had no strap like that of Hans, although it smelt horribly, I took the
tin loop of my lantern in my teeth because it seemed the only thing to
do, put up a silent but most earnest prayer, and started as though I
liked the job.

To tell the truth, I remember little of that journey except that it
seemed to take about three hours instead of under a minute, and the
voices of woe and lamentation from the two Zulus behind, who insisted
upon bidding me a tender farewell as I proceeded, amidst other
demonstrations of affection, calling me their father and their mother
for four generations.

Somehow I wriggled myself along that accursed ridge, shoving my
stomach as hard as I could against the wall of the passage as though
this organ possessed some prehensile quality, and groping for knobs of
rock on which I broke two of my nails. However, I did get over all
right, although just towards the end one of my feet slipped and I
opened my mouth to say something, with the result that the lantern
fell into the abyss, taking with it a loose front tooth. But Hans
stretched out his skinny hand, and, meaning to catch me by the coat
collar, got hold of my left ear, and, thus painfully supported, I came
to firm ground and cursed him into heaps. Although some might have
thought my language pointed, he did not resent it in the least, being
too delighted at my safe arrival.

"Never mind the tooth, Baas," he said. "It is best that it should be
gone without knowing it, as it were, because you see you can now eat
crusts and hard biltong again, which you have not been able to do for
months. The lantern, however, is another matter, though perhaps we can
get a new one at Pretoria or wherever we go."

Recovering myself, I peered over the edge of the abyss. There, far,
far below, I saw my lantern, which was a sort that burns oil, flaring
upon a bed of something white, for the container had burst and all the
oil was on fire.

"What is that white stuff down there?" I asked. "Lime?"

"No, Baas, it is the broken bones of men. Once when I was young, with
the help of the Bushmen I let myself down by a rope that we twisted
out of rushes and buckskins, just to look, Baas. There is another cave
underneath this one, Baas, but I didn't go into it because I was
frightened."

"And how did all those bones come there, Hans? Why, there must be
hundreds of them!"

"Yes, Baas, many hundreds, and they came this way. Since the beginning
of the world the Bushmen lived in this cave and set a trap here by
laying branches over the hole and covering them with dust so that they
looked like rock, just as one makes a game pit, Baas--yes, they did
this until the last of them were killed not so long ago by the Boers
and Zulus, whose sheep and beasts they stole. Then when their enemies
attacked them, which was often, for it has always been right to kill
Bushmen--they would run down the cave and into the cleft and creep
along the narrow edge of rock, which they could do with their eyes
shut. But the silly Kaffirs, or whoever it might be, running after
them to kill them would fall through the branches and get killed
themselves. They must have done this quite often, Baas, since there
are such a lot of their skulls down there, many of them quite black
with age and turned to stone.

"One might have thought that the Kaffirs would have grown wiser,
Hans."

"Yes, Baas, but the dead keep their wisdom to themselves, for I
believe that when all the attackers were in the passage, then other
Bushmen, who had been hiding in the cave, came up behind and shot them
with poisoned arrows and drove them on into the hole so that none went
back; indeed, the Bushmen told me that this used to be their father's
plan. Also, if any did escape, in a generation or two all was
forgotten, and the same thing happened again because, Baas, there are
always plenty of fools in the world and the fool who comes after is
just as big as the fool who went before. Death spills the water of
wisdom upon the sand, Baas, and sand is thirsty stuff that soon grows
dry again. If it were not so, Baas, men would soon stop falling in
love with women, and yet even great ones--like you, Baas--fall in
love."

Having delivered this thrust, in order to prevent the possibility of
answer Hans began to chat with the driver and the voorlooper on the
other side of the gulf.

"Be quick and come over, you brave Zulus there," he said, "for you are
keeping your Chief waiting and me also."

The Zulus, holding their candles forward, peered into the pit below.

"/Ow!/" said one of them, "are we bats that we can fly over a hole
like that or baboons that we can climb on a shelf no wider than a
spear, or flies that we can walk upon a wall? /Ow!/ we are not coming,
we will wait here. That road is only for yellow monkeys like you or
for those who have the white man's magic like the Inkoos Macumazahn."

"No," replied Hans reflectively, "you are none of these creatures
which are all of them good in their way. You are just a couple of low-
born Kaffir cowards, black skins blown up to look like men. I, the
'yellow jackal,' can walk the gulf, and the Baas can walk the gulf,
but you, Windbags, cannot even float over it for fear lest you should
burst in the middle. Well, Windbags, float back to the wagon and fetch
the coil of small rope that is in the /voorkissie/, for we may want
it."

One of them replied in a humbled voice that they did not take orders
from him, a Hottentot, whereon I said,

"Go and fetch the rope and return at once."

So they went with a dejected air, for Hans's winged words had gone
home, and again they learned that at the end he always got the best of
a quarrel. The truth is that they were as brave as men can be, but no
Zulu is any good underground and least of all in the dark in a place
that he thinks haunted.

"Now, Baas," said Hans, "we will go and look at the picture--that is,
unless you are quite sure I am lying and that there is no picture, in
which case it is not worth while to take the trouble, and you had
better sit here and cut your broken nails until Mavoon and Induka come
back with the rope."

"Oh, get on, you poisonous little vermin!" I said, exasperated by his
jeers, emphasizing my words with a tremendous kick.

Here, however, I made a great mistake, since I had forgotten that at
the moment I lacked boots, and either Hans carried a collection of
hard articles in the seat of his filthy trousers or his posterior was
of a singularly stonelike nature. In short, I hurt my toes most
abominably and him not at all.

"Ah, Baas," said Hans with a sweet smile, "you should remember what
your Reverend Father taught me: always to put on your boots before you
kick against the thorn pricks. I have a gimlet and some nails in my
pistol pocket, Baas, that I was using this morning to mend that box of
yours."

Then he bolted incontinently lest I should experiment on his head and
see if there were nails in that also, and as he had the only lantern,
I was obliged to limp, or rather to hop, after him.

The passage, of which the floor was still worn smooth by thousands of
dead feet, went on straight for eight or ten paces and then bent to
the right. When we came to this elbow in it I saw a light ahead of me
which I could not understand till presently I found myself standing in
a kind of pit or funnel--it may have measured some thirty feet
across--that rose from the level at which we stood, right through the
strata to the mountain-side eighty or a hundred feet above us. What
had formed it thus I cannot conceive, but there it was--a funnel, as I
have said, in shape exactly like those that are used when beer is
poured into barrels or port wine into a decanter, the place on which
we were, being, of course, its narrower end. The light that I had seen
came, therefore, from the sky, which, now that the tempest had passed
away, was clean-washed and beautiful, sown with stars also, for at the
moment a dense black cloud remaining from the storm hid the moon, now
just past its full.

For a little way, perhaps five-and-twenty feet, the sides of this
tunnel were almost sheer, after which they sloped outwards steeply to
the mouth of the pit in the mountain flank. One other peculiarity I
noticed--namely, that on the western face of the tunnel which, as it
chanced, was in front of us as we stood, just where it began to
expand, projected a sloping ridge of rock like to the roof of a lean-
to shed, which ridge ran right across this face.

"Well, Hans," I said, when I had inspected this strange natural
cavity, "where is your picture? I don't see it."

"/Wacht een beetje/" (that is, "Wait a bit"), "Baas. The moon is
climbing up that cloud; presently she will get to the top of it and
then you will see the picture, unless someone has rubbed it out since
I was young."

I turned to look at the cloud and to witness a sight of which I never
have grown tired: the uprising of the glorious African moon out of her
secret halls of blackness. Already silver rays of light were shooting
across the vastness of the firmament, causing the stars to pale. Then
suddenly her bent edge appeared and with extraordinary swiftness grew
and grew till the whole splendid orb emerged from a bed of inky vapour
and for a while rested on its marge, perfect, wonderful! In an instant
our hole was filled with light so strong and clear that by it I could
have read a letter.

For a few moments I stood thrilled with the beauty of the scene, and
forgetting all else in its contemplation, till Hans said with a hoarse
cackle,

"Now turn round, Baas, and look at the pretty picture."

I did so, and followed the line of his outstretched hand, which
pointed to that face of the rock with the pent roof that looked
towards the east. Next second--my friends, I am not exaggerating--I
nearly fell backwards. Have any of you fellows ever had a nightmare in
which you dreamed you were in hell and suddenly met the devil tete-a-
tete, all by your little selves? At any rate, I have, and there in
front of me was the devil, only much worse than fond fancy can paint
him even with the brush of the acutest indigestion.

Imagine a monster double life size--that is to say, eleven or twelve
feet high--brilliantly portrayed in the best ochres of which these
Bushmen have always had the secret, namely, white, red, black, and
yellow, and with eyes formed apparently of polished lumps of rock
crystal. Imagine this thing as a huge ape to which the biggest gorilla
would be but a child, and yet not an ape but a man, and yet not a man,
but a fiend.

It was covered with hair like an ape, long gray hair that grew in
tufts. It had a great, red, bushy beard like a man; its limbs were
tremendous, the arms being of abnormal length like to the arms of a
gorilla, but, mark this, it had no fingers, only a great claw where
the thumb should be. The rest of the hand was all grown together into
one piece like a duck's foot, although what should have been the
finger part was flexible and could grip like fingers, as shall be
seen.

At least, that is what the picture suggested, though it occurred to me
afterwards that it might represent the creature as wearing fingerless
gloves such as men in this country use when cutting fences. The feet
however, which were certainly shown as bare, were the same; I mean
that there were no toes, only one terrible claw where the big toe
should be. The carcass was enormous; supposing it to have been drawn
from life, the original, I should guess, would have weighed at least
thirty stone; the chest was vast, indicating strength, and the paunch
beneath wrinkled and protuberant. But--and here came one of the human
touches--about its middle the thing wore a moocha or, rather, a hide
tied round it by the leg skins, which hide seemed to have been
dressed.

So much for the body. Now for the head and face. These I know not how
to describe, but I will try. The neck was as that of a bull, and
perched horribly on the top of it was quite a small head, which--
notwithstanding the great red beard whereof I have spoken that grew
upon the chin, and a wide mouth from whose upper jaw projected yellow
tusks like to those of a baboon that hung over the lower lip--was
curiously feminine in appearance; indeed, that of an old, old she-
devil with an aquiline nose. The brow, however, was disproportionate
to the rest of the face, being prominent, massive, and not
unintellectual, while set deep in it and unnaturally far apart were
those awful glaring crystal eyes.

That was not all, for the creature seemed to be laughing cruelly, and
the drawing showed by it laughed. One of its feet was set upon the
body of a man into which the great claw was driven deep. One of its
hands held the head of the man, that evidently it had just twisted
from the body. The other hand grasped by the hair a living naked girl
badly drawn, as though this detail had not interested the artist, whom
apparently it was about to drag away.



"Isn't it a pretty picture, Baas?" sniggered Hans. "Now the Baas will
not say that I tell lies, no, not for quite a week."




CHAPTER III



THE OPENER-OF-ROADS


I stared and stared, then was overcome with faintness and sat down
upon the ground.

I see you laughing at me, young man [this was addressed to me, the
recorder of the tale] who no doubt have already decided that this
drawing was the work of some imaginative Bushman who had gone mad and
set down upon the rock the hellish dream of a mind diseased. Of
course, that was the conclusion I came to myself next morning, but at
the time it did not strike me like that.

The place was lonesome and eerie, a horrible place with the pit full
of bones near by; heavily silent also except for a distant hyena or
jackal howling at the moon, and I had gone through some trials that
day--the passage of the death-pit, for instance, which reminded me of
the oubliettes in ancient Norman castles that I have read of down
which prisoners were hurled to doom. Also, as you may have observed,
even in your short career, moonlight differs from sunlight and we, or
some of us, are much more affected by horrible things at night than we
are by day. At any rate, I sat down because I felt faint and thought
that I was going to be ill.

"What is it, Baas?" queried the observant Hans, still mocking. "If you
want to be sick, Baas, please don't mind me, for I'll turn my back. I
remember that I was sick myself when first I saw Heu-Heu--just there,"
he added reminiscently, pointing to a certain spot.

"Why do you call that thing 'Heu-Heu,' Hans?" I asked, trying to
master the reflex action of my interior arrangements.

"Because that is his nice name, Baas, given him by his Mammie when he
was little, perhaps."

(Here I nearly /was/ sick, the idea of that creature with a mother
almost finished me--like the sight and smell of a bit of fat bacon in
a gale at sea.)

"How do you know that?" I gurgled.

"Because the Bushmen told me, Baas. They said that their fathers, a
thousand years ago, knew this Heu-Heu far away, and that they left
that part of the country because of him as they never slept well at
night there, just like a Boer when another Boer comes and builds a
house within six miles of him, Baas. I think they meant that they
heard Heu-Heu when he talked, for they told me that their great-great-
grandfathers could hear him doing it and beating his breast when he
was miles away. But I daresay they lied, for I don't believe they
really knew anything about Heu-Heu, or who painted his portrait on the
rock, Baas."

"No," I answered, "nor do I. Well, Hans, I think I have had enough of
your friend Heu-Heu for this evening, and should like to go back to
bed."

"Yes, Baas, so should I, Baas. Still, take another good look at him
before you leave. You don't see a picture like that every night, Baas,
and you know you wanted to come."

Now I would have kicked Hans again, but luckily I remembered those
nails in his pocket in time, so, after one lingering glance, I only
rose and loftily motioned to him to lead on.

This was the last that I saw of the likeness of Heu-Heu or Beelzebub,
or whoever the monster may have been. Somehow, although I intended to
return to examine it more closely by the light of day, when morning
came I thought that I would not risk another scramble over that ledge
but would be satisfied with the memory of first impressions. These
they say, are always the best--like first kisses, as Hans added when I
explained this to him.

Not that I could forget Heu-Heu; on the contrary, it is not too much
to say that this devilish creature haunted me. I could not dismiss
that picture as some mere flight of distorted savage imagination. From
a hundred characteristics I knew or thought I knew it, erroneously as
I now believe, to be Bushmen's work and was certain that no Bushman,
even if he had /delirium tremens/--not a complaint from which these
people ever suffered, because they lacked the opportunity of doing so,
could have evolved this monstrous creation out of his own soul--if a
Bushman has a soul. No, Bushman or not, that artist was drawing
something that he had seen, or thought that he had seen.

Of this there were several indications. Thus, on Heu-Heu's right arm
the elbow joint was much swollen as though he had once suffered an
injury there. Again, the claw of one of his horrible hands--the left,
I think--was broken and divided at the point. Further, there was a
wart or protuberance upon the brow, just beneath where the long iron-
gray tufts of hair parted in the middle and hung down on each side of
the demoniacal, womanish face. Now the painter must have remembered
these blemishes and set them down faithfully, copying from some
original, real or imagined. Certainly, I reflected, he would not have
invented them.

Where, then, did he get his model? I have mentioned that I had heard
rumours of creatures called /Ngolokos/, which I took it, if they
existed at all, were peculiarly terrific apes of an unknown variety.
Heu-Heu, then, might be a most distinguished and improved specimen of
these apes. Yet that could scarcely be, for this beast was more man
than monkey, notwithstanding his huge claws where the thumbs and big
toes should be. Or perhaps I should say that he was more devil than
either.

Another idea occurred to me: he might have been the god of these
Bushmen, only I never heard that they had any god except their own
stomaches. Afterwards I questioned Hans on this point but he replied
that he did not know, as the Bushmen he lived with in the cave had
never told him anything to that effect. It was true, however, that
they did not go to the place where the picture was except through fear
of enemies, and that when they did they would not look or speak about
it more than they could help. Perhaps, he suggested with his usual
shrewdness, Heu-Heu might be the god of some other people with whom
the Bushmen had nothing to do.

Another question--when was this work executed? Owing to its sheltered
position the colours were still fairly bright, but it must have been a
long while ago. Hans said that the Bushmen told him that they did not
know who painted it or what it represented, but that it was "/old,
old, old!/" which might mean anything or nothing, since to a people
without writing five or six generations become remote antiquity. One
thing was certain, however, that another of the paintings in the cave
was undoubtedly old, that of the Phoenicians raiding a kraal of which I
have spoken, which can scarcely have been executed since the time of
Christ. Of this I am sure, for I examined it carefully on the
following morning and it was not more faded than that of the Monster.
Further, in this picture a piece of the rock had scaled off just above
the left knee, and I had noticed that the surface thus exposed seemed
as much weathered as that of the surrounding rock outside the limits
of the painting.

On the other hand, it must be remembered that the Phoenician picture
was under cover, while that of Heu-Heu was exposed to the air and
would therefore age more rapidly.

Well, all that night I dreamed of this horrid Heu-Heu, dreamed that he
was alive and challenging me to fight him, dreamed that someone was
calling to me to rescue her--it was certainly her--not him--from the
power of the beast; dreamed that I did fight him and that he got me
down and was about to twist my head off as he had done to the man in
the picture, when something happened--I do not know what--and I woke
up covered with perspiration and in a most pitiable fright.



Now at the time I visited this cave I was not far from the borders of
Zululand on one of my trading expeditions, the wagon being laden with
blankets, beads, iron pots, knives, hoes, and such other articles as
the simple savage loves, or in those days loved to pay for in cattle.
Before the storm overtook us, however, I was contemplating leaving the
Zulus alone on this trip and trying to break new ground somewhere
north of Pretoria among less sophisticated natives who might put a
higher value on my wares. After seeing Heu-Heu, as it chanced, I
changed my mind for two reasons. The first of these was that the
lightning had killed my two best oxen and I thought that I could
replace these without cash expenditure in Zululand, where debts were
owing to me that I might collect in kind. The second was connected
with that confounded and obsessing Heu-Heu. I felt convinced that only
one man in the world could tell me about this monster, if, indeed,
there were anything to tell, namely, old Zikali, the wizard of the
Black Kloof, the /Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born/, as Chaka,
the great Zulu king, named him.

I think that I have told you all about Zikali before, but in case I
have not, I will say that he was the greatest witch doctor who ever
lived in Zululand and the most terrible. No one knew when he was born,
but undoubtedly he was very ancient and under his native name of
"Opener-of-Roads" had been known and dreaded in the land for some
generations. For many years, since my boyhood, indeed, he and I had
been friends in a fashion, though of course I was aware that from the
first he was using me for his own ends, as, indeed, became very clear
before all was done and he had triumphed over and brought about the
fall of the Zulu Royal House, which he hated.

However, Zikali, like a wise merchant, always paid those who served
him with a generous hand, in one coin or another, as he paid those he
hated. My coin was information, either historical or concerning the
hidden secrets of the strange land of Africa, of which, for all our
knowledge, we white men really understand so little. If any one could
give information about the picture in the cave and its origin, it
would be Zikali, and therefore to Zikali I would go. Curiosity about
such matters, as perhaps you have guessed, was always one of my
besetting sins.



We had great trouble in recovering our remaining fourteen oxen since
some of them had wandered far to find cover from the storm. At last,
however, they were found uninjured except for some bruises from the
hailstones, for it is wonderful, if they are left alone, how cattle
manage to protect themselves against the forces of nature. In Africa,
however, they seldom take shelter beneath trees during a thunderstorm,
as is their habit here in England, perhaps because, such tempests
being so frequent, they have inherited from their progenitors an
instinctive knowledge that lightning strikes trees and kills anything
that happens to be underneath them. At least, that is my experience.

Well, we inspanned and trekked away from that remarkable cave. Many
years afterwards, by the way, when Hans was dead, I tried to find it
again and could not. I thought that I reached the same mountain slope
in which it was, but I suppose that I must have been mistaken, since
in that neighbourhood there are multitudes of such slopes and on the
one that I identified I could discover no trace of the cave.

Perhaps this was because there had been a landslide and, with the
funnel-like shaft in the mountain side down which the moonlight poured
on to the picture of Heu-Heu, the orifice that, it will be remembered,
was very small, had been covered up with rocks. Or it may be that I
was searching the wrong slope, not having taken my bearings
sufficiently when I visited the place at a time of tempest and hurry.

Further, I was pressed and, desiring to reach a certain outspan before
night fell, could only give about an hour to the quest and when it
failed was obliged to get on. Nor have I ever met any one who was
acquainted with this cave, so I suppose that it must have been known
to the Bushmen and Hans only, dead now all of them, which is a pity
because of the wonderful paintings that it contains or contained.

You will remember I told you that just before the storm broke we were
overtaken by a party of Kaffirs going to or returning from some feast.
When we had gone about half a mile we found one of those Kaffirs again
quite dead, but whether he (the body was that of a young man) had been
killed by the lightning or by the hail, I was not sure. Evidently his
companions were so frightened that they had left him where he lay,
proposing, I suppose, to return and bury him later. So you will see
that when it gave us shelter, this cave did us a good turn.



Now I will skip all the details of my trek into Zululand, which was as
are other treks, only slower, because it was a hard job to get that
heavily laden wagon along with but fourteen oxen. Once, indeed, we
stuck in a river, the White Umfolozi, quite near to the Nongela Rock
or Cliff which frowns above a pool of the river. I shall never forget
that accident because it caused me to be the unwilling witness of a
very dreadful sight.

Whilst we were fast in the drift a party of men appeared upon the brow
of this Nongela Rock, about two hundred and fifty yards away, dragging
with them two young women. Studying them through my glasses, I came to
the conclusion from the way they moved their heads and stared wildly
about them, that these young women were blind or had been blinded. As
I looked at them, wondering what to do, the men seized the women by
the arms and hurled them over the edge of the cliff. With a piteous
wail the poor creatures rolled down the stratified rock into the deep
pool below and there the crocodiles got them, for distinctly I saw the
rush of the reptiles. Indeed, in this pool they were always on the
look-out, as it was a favourite place of execution under the Zulu
kings.

When their horrible business was finished the party of "slayers"--
there were about fifteen of them--came down to the ford to interview
us. At first I thought there might be trouble, and to tell the truth,
should not have been sorry, for the sight of this butchery had made me
furious and reckless. As soon as they found out, however, that the
wagon belonged to me, Macumazahn, they were all amiability, and wading
into the water, tackled on to the wheels, with the result that by
their help we came safe to the farther bank.

There I asked their leader who the two murdered girls might be. He
replied that they were the daughters of Panda, the King. I did not
question this statement although, knowing Panda's kindly character, I
doubted very much whether they were actually his children. Then I
asked why they were blind, and what crime they had committed. The
captain replied that they had been blinded by the order of Prince
Cetywayo, who even then was the real ruler of Zululand, because "they
had looked where they should not."

Further inquiry elicited the fact that these unhappy girls had fallen
in love with two young men, and run away with them against the King's
orders, or Cetywayo's, which was the same thing. The party were
overtaken before they could reach the Natal border, where they would
have been safe; the young men were killed at once and the girls
brought up for judgment, with the result that I have described. Such
was the end of their honeymoon!

Moreover, the captain informed me cheerfully that a body of soldiers
had been sent out to kill the fathers and mothers of the young men and
all who could be found in their kraals. This kind of free love must be
put a stop to, he said, as there had been too much of it going on;
indeed, he did not know what had come to the young people in Zululand,
who had grown very independent of late, contaminated, no doubt, by the
example of the Zulus in Natal, where the white men allowed them to do
what they liked without punishment.

Then with a sigh over the degeneracy of the times, this crusted old
conservative took a pinch of snuff, bade me a hearty farewell, and
departed, singing a little song which I think he must have invented,
as it was about the love of children for their parents. If it had been
safe I should have liked to let him have a charge of shot behind to
take away as a souvenir, but it was not. Also, after all, he was but
an executive officer, a product of the iron system of Zululand in the
day of the kings.

Well, I trekked on, trading as I went, and getting paid in cows and
heifers, which I sent back to Natal, but could come by no oxen that
were fit for the yoke, and much less any that had been broken in,
since in those days such were almost unknown in Zululand. However, I
did hear of some that had been left behind by a white trader because
they were sick or footsore, I forget which, who took young cattle in
exchange for them. These were said now to be fat again, but no one
seemed to know exactly where they were. One friendly chief told me,
however, that the "Opener-of-Roads," that is, old Zikali, might be
able to do so, as he knew everything and the oxen had been traded away
in his district.

Now by this time, although I was still obsessed about Heu-Heu, I had
almost made up my mind to abandon the idea of visiting Zikali on this
trip, because I had noticed that whenever I did so, always I became
involved in arduous and unpleasant adventures as an immediate
consequence. Being, however, badly in need of more oxen, for, not to
mention the two that were dead, others of my team seemed never to have
recovered from the effects of the hailstorm and one or two showed
signs of sickness, this news caused me to revert to my original plan.
So after consultation with Hans, who also thought it the best thing to
be done, I headed for the Black Kloof, which was only two short days'
trek away.

Arriving at the mouth of that hateful and forbidding gulf on the
afternoon of the second day, I outspanned by the spring and, leaving
the cattle in charge of Mavoon and Induka, walked up it accompanied by
Hans.

The place, of course, was just as it had always been, and yet, as it
ever did, struck me with a fresh sense of novelty and amazement. In
all Africa I scarcely know a gorge that is so eerie and depressing.
Those towering cliffsides that look as though they are about to fall
in upon the traveller, the stunted, melancholy aloe plants which grow
among the rocks; the pale vegetation; the jackals and hyaenas that
start away at the sound of voices or echoing footsteps; the dense dark
shadows; the whispering winds that seem to wail about one even when
the air is still over-head, draughts, I suppose, that are drawing
backwards and forwards through the gulley; all of these are peculiar
to it. The ancients used to declare that particular localities had
their own genii or spirits, but whether these were believed to be
evolved by the locality or to come thither because it suited their
character and nature, I do not know.

In the Black Kloof and some other spots to which I have wandered, I
have often thought of this fable and almost found myself accepting it
as true. But, then, what kind of a spirit would it be that chose to
inhabit this dreadful gorge? I think some embodiment--no, that word is
a contradiction--some impalpable essence of Tragedy, some doomed soul
whereof the head was bowed and the wings were leaded with a weight of
ineffable and unrepented crime.

Well, what need was there to fly to fable and imagine such an
invisible inhabitant when Zikali, the /Thing-that-should-never-have-
been-born/, was, and for uncounted years had been, the Dweller in this
tomb-like gulf? Surely he was Tragedy personified, and that hoary head
of his was crowned with ineffable and unrepented crime. How many had
this hideous dwarf brought down to doom and how many were yet destined
to perish in the snares that year by year he wove for them? And yet
this sinner had been sinned against and did but pay back his
sufferings in kind, he whose wives and children had been murdered and
whose tribe had been stamped flat beneath the cruel feet of Chaka,
whose House he hated and lived on to destroy. Even for Zikali
allowances could be made; he was not altogether bad. Is any man
/altogether/ bad, I wonder.

Musing thus, I tramped on up the gorge, followed by the dejected Hans,
whom the place always depressed, even more than it did myself.

"Baas," he said presently, in a hollow whisper, for here he did not
dare to speak aloud, "Baas, do you think that the Opener-of-Roads was
once Heu-Heu himself who has now shrunk to a dwarf with age, or at any
rate, that Heu-Heu's spirit lives in him?"

"No, I don't," I answered, "for he has fingers and toes like the rest
of us, but I do think that if there is any Heu-Heu he may be able to
tell us where to find him."

"Then, Baas, I hope that he has forgotten, or that Heu-Heu has gone to
heaven where the fires go on burning of themselves without the need
for wood. For, Baas, I do not want to meet Heu-Heu; the thought of him
turns my stomach cold."

"No, you would rather go to Durban and meet a gin bottle that would
turn your stomach warm, Hans, and your head, too, and land you in the
Trunk for seven days," I replied, improving the occasion.

Then we turned the corner and came upon Zikali's kraal. As usual, I
appeared to be expected, for one of his great silent body servants was
waiting, who saluted me with uplifted spear. I suppose that Zikali
must have had a look-out man stationed somewhere who watched the plain
beneath and told him who was approaching. Or possibly he had other
methods of obtaining information. At any rate, he always knew of my
advent and often enough why I came and whence, as, indeed, he did on
this occasion.

"The Father of Spirits awaits you, Lord Macumazahn," said the body
servant. "He bids the little yellow man who is named Light-in-
Darkness, to accompany you and will see you at once."

I nodded and the man led me to the gate of the fence that surrounded
Zikali's great hut, on which he tapped with the handle of his spear.
It was opened, by whom I did not see, and we entered, whereon someone
slipped out of the shadows and closed the gate behind us, then
vanished. There in front of the door of his hut, with a fire burning
before him, crouched the dwarf wrapped in a fur kaross, his huge head,
on either side of which the gray locks fell down much as they did in
the picture of Heu-Heu, bent forward, and the light of the fire into
which he was staring shining in his cavernous eyes. We advanced across
the shiny beaten floor of the courtyard and stood in front of him, but
for half a minute or more he took no notice of our presence. At
length, without looking up, he spoke in that hollow, resounding voice
which was unlike to any other I ever heard, saying:

"Why do you always come so late, Macumazahn, when the sun is off the
hut and it grows cold in the shadows? You know I hate the cold, as the
aged always do, and I was minded not to receive you."

"Because I could not get here before, Zikali," I answered.

"Then you might have waited until to-morrow morning unless, perhaps,
you thought that I should die in the night, which I shall not do. No,
nor for many nights. Well, here you are, little white Wanderer who
hops from place to place like a flea."

"Yes, here I am," I replied, nettled, "to visit you who do not wander
but sit in one spot like a toad in a stone, Zikali."

"Ho, ho, ho!" he laughed--that wonderful laugh of his which echoed
from the rocks and always made me feel cold down the back, "Ho, ho,
ho! how easy it is to make you angry. Keep your temper, Macumazahn,
lest it should run away with you as your oxen did before the storm in
the mountains the other day. What do you want? You only come here when
you want something from him whom once you named the Old Cheat. So I
don't wander, don't I, but sit like a toad in a stone? How do you know
that? Is it only the body that wanders? Cannot the spirit wander also,
far, oh, far, even to the 'Heaven Above' sometimes, and perhaps to
that land which is under the earth, the place where they say the dead
are to be found again? Well, what do you want? Stay, and I will tell
you, who explain yourself so badly, who, although you think that you
speak Zulu like a native, have never really learned it properly
because to do that you must think in it and not in your own stupid
tongue, that has no words for many things. Man, my medicines."

A figure darted out of the hut, set down a cat-skin bag before him,
and was gone again. Zikali plunged his claw-like hand into the bag and
drew out a number of knuckle bones, polished, but yellow with age,
which he threw carelessly on to the ground in front of him, then
glanced at them.

"Ha," he said, "something about cattle, I see; yes, you want to get
oxen, broken oxen, not wild ones, and think that I can tell you where
to do it cheap. By the way, what present have you brought for me? Is
it a pound of your white man's snuff?" (As a matter of fact, it was a
quarter of a pound.) "Now am I right about the oxen?"

"Yes," I replied, rather amazed.

"That astonishes you. It is wonderful, isn't it, that the poor Old
Cheat should know what you want? Well, I'll tell you how it is done.
You lost two oxen by lightning, did you not? You therefore, naturally
would want others, especially as some of those which remain"--here he
glanced at the bones once more--"were hurt, yes, by hailstones, very
large hailstones, and others are showing signs of sickness, red-water,
I think. Therefore, it isn't strange that the poor Old Cheat should
guess that you needed oxen, is it? Only a silly Zulu would put such a
thing down to magic. About the snuff, too, which I see you have taken
from your pocket--a very little parcel, by the way. You've brought me
snuff before, haven't you? Therefore, it isn't strange that I should
guess that you would do so again, is it? No magic there."

"None, Zikali, but how did you learn of the lightning killing the
cattle and of the hailstorm?"

"How did I learn that the lightning killed your pole-oxen, Kaptein and
Deutchmann? Why, are you not a very great man in whom all are
interested, and is it wonderful that I should be told of accidents
that happen a hundred miles or so away? You met a party going to a
wedding, did you not, just before the storm, and found one of them
dead afterwards? By the way, he wasn't killed either by lightning or
by hail. The flash fell near and stunned him, but really he died of
the cold during the night. I thought that you might like to know that,
as you are curious on the point. Of course, those Kaffirs would have
told me about it, would they not? No magic, again you see. That's how
we poor witch doctors gain repute, just by keeping our eyes and ears
open. When you are old you might set up in the trade yourself,
Macumazahn, since you do the same thing, even at night, they say."

Now while he went on mocking me he had gathered up the bones out of
the dust and suddenly threw them again with a curious spiral twist
that caused them to fall in a little heap, perched on one another. He
looked at them, and said,

"Why, what do these silly things remind me of? They are some of the
tools of my trade, you know, Macumazahn, used to impress the fools
that come to see us witch doctors, who think that they will tell us
secrets, and to take off their attention while we read their hearts.
Somehow or other they remind me of rocks piled one on another as on a
mountain slope, and look! there is a hollow in the middle like the
mouth of a cave.

"Did you chance to take refuge from that storm in a cave, Macumazahn?
Oh, you did! Well, see how cleverly I guessed it. No magic there
again, only just a guess. Isn't it likely that you would go to a cave
to escape from such a tempest, leaving the wagon outside? Look at that
bone there, lying a little distance off the others, that's what made
me think of the wagon being outside. But the question is, what did you
see in the cave? Anything out of the way, I wonder? The bones can't
tell me that, can they? I must guess that somehow else, mustn't I?
Well, I'll try to do so, just to give you, the wise white man, another
lesson in the manner that we poor rascals of witch doctors do our work
and take in fools. But won't you tell me, Macumazahn?"

"No, I won't," I answered crossly, who knew that the old dwarf was
making a butt of me.

"Then I suppose that I must try to discover for myself, but how, how?
Come here, you little yellow monkey of a man, and sit between me and
the fire so that its light shines through you, for then perchance I
may be able to see something of what is going on in that thick head of
yours, Light-in-Darkness, as you are called, and get some light in my
darkness."

Hans advanced unwillingly enough and squatted down at the spot that
Zikali indicated with his bony finger, being very careful that none of
the magic bones should touch any portion of his anatomy, for fear lest
they should bewitch him, I suppose. There he sat, holding his ragged
felt hat upon the pit of his stomach as though to ward off the gimlet-
like glances of Zikali's burning eyes.

"Ho-ho! Yellow Man," said the dwarf after a few seconds of inspection,
which caused Hans to wriggle uncomfortably and even to colour beneath
his wrinkled skin, like a young woman being studied by her prospective
husband, who desires to ascertain whether she will or will not do for
a fifth wife. "Ho-ho! it seems to me that you knew this cave before
you went there in the storm, but of course I should guess that, for
how otherwise would you have found it in such a hurry; also that it
had something to do with Bushmen, as most caves have in this land.

"The question is, what was in it? No, don't tell me. I want to find
out for myself. It is strange that the thought comes to me of
pictures. No, it isn't strange, since the Bushmen often used to paint
pictures in caves. Now, you shouldn't nod your head, Yellow Man,
because it makes the riddle too easy. Just stare at me and think of
nothing at all. Pictures, lots of them, but one principal picture, I
think; something that was difficult to come at. Yes, dangerous, even.
Was it perchance a picture of yourself that a Bushman drew long ago
when you were young and handsome, Yellow Man?

"There, again you are shaking your head. Keep it quite still, will
you, so that the thoughts in it don't ripple like water beneath a
wind. At least it was a picture of something hideous, but much bigger
than you. Ah! it grows and grows. I am getting it now. Macumazahn,
come and stand by me, and you, Yellow Man, turn your back so that you
face the fire. Bah! it burns badly, does it not, and the air is so
cold, so cold! I must make it brighter.

"Are you there, Macumazahn? Yes. Now look at this stuff of mine; see
what a fine blaze it causes," and putting his hand into the bag, he
drew out some kind of powder, only a little of it, which he threw on
to the embers. Then he stretched his skinny fingers over them as
though for warmth, and slowly lifted his arms high into the air. It is
a fact that after him the flames sprang up to a height of three or
four feet. He dropped his arms again and the flames sank down. He
lifted them once more and once more they rose, only this time much
higher. A third time he repeated this performance, and now the sheet
of flame sprang fully fifteen feet into the air and so remained
burning steadily, like the flame of a lamp.

"Look at that fire, Macumazahn, and you also, Yellow Man," he said, in
a strange new voice, a sort of dreamy far-off voice, "and tell me if
you see anything in it, for I can't--I can't."

I looked, and for a moment perceived nothing. Then some shape began to
grow upon the blazing background. It wavered; it changed; it became
fixed and definite, yes, clear and real. There before me, etched in
flame, I saw Heu-Heu--Heu-Heu as he had been in the painting on the
cave wall, only, as it seemed to me, alive, for his eyes blinked--Heu-
Heu, looking like a devil in hell. I gasped but stood firm. As for
Hans, he ejaculated in his vile Dutch,

"/Allemaghte! Da is die leeliker auld deil!/" (that is, "Almighty!
There is the ugly old devil!") and having said this, rolled over on to
his back and lay still, frozen with terror.

"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed Zikali. "Ho, ho, ho!" and from a dozen places
the walls of the kloof echoed back, "Ho, ho, ho!"




CHAPTER IV



THE LEGEND OF HEU-HEU


Zikali stopped laughing and contemplated us with his hollow eyes.

"Who was it who first said that all men are fools?" he asked. "I do
not know, but I think it must have been a woman, a pretty woman who
played with them and found that it was so. If so, she was wise, as all
women are in their narrow way, which the saying shows, since they are
left out of it. Well, I will add to the proverb; all men are cowards
also in one matter or another, though in the rest they may be brave
enough. Further, they are all the same, for what is the difference
between you, Macumazahn, wise White Man who have dared death a hundred
times, and yonder little yellow ape?" Here he pointed to Hans lying
upon his back, with rolling eyes and muttering prayers to a variety of
gods between his chattering teeth. "Both of you are afraid, one as
much as the other; the only difference being that the White Lord tries
to conceal his fear, whilst the Yellow Monkey chatters it out, as
monkeys do.

"Why are you so frightened? Just because by a common trick I show to
your eyes a picture of that which is in the minds of both of you. Mark
you again, not by magic but by a common trick which any child could
learn, if somebody taught it to him. I hope that you will not behave
like this when you see Heu-Heu himself, for if you do I shall be
disappointed in you and soon there will be two more skulls in that
cave of his. But then, perhaps, you will be brave; yes, I think so, I
think so, since never would you like to die remembering how long and
loud I should laugh when I heard of it."

Thus the old wizard rambled on, as was his fashion when he wished to
combine his acrid mockery with the desire to gain space for thought,
till presently he grew silent and took some of the snuff which I had
brought him, for he had been engaged in opening the packet while he
talked, all the while continuing to watch us as though he would search
out our very souls.

Now, because I thought that I must say something, if only to show that
he had not frightened me with his accursed manifestations, or whatever
they were, I answered,

"You are right, Zikali, when you say that all men are fools, seeing
that you are the first and biggest fool among them."

"I have often thought it, Macumazahn, for reasons that I keep to
myself. But why do you say so? Let me hear, who would learn whether
yours are the same as my own."

"First, because you talk as though there were such a creature as Heu-
Heu, which, as you know well, does not live and never did; and
secondly, because you speak as though Hans and I would meet it face to
face, which we shall never do. So cease from such nonsense and show us
how to make pictures in the fire--an art, you tell us, any child could
learn."

"If they are taught, Macumazahn, /if/ they are taught how. But were I
to do this, I should indeed be the first of fools. Do you think that I
wish to establish two rival cheats--you see, between ourselves, I give
myself my right name--in the land to trade against me? No, no, let
each keep the knowledge he has gained for himself, for if it becomes
common to all, who will pay for it? But why do you believe that you
will never stand face to face with Heu-Heu except in pictures on rock
or fire?"

"Because he doesn't exist," I answered with irritation; "and if he
does, I suppose his home is a long way off and I cannot trek without
fresh oxen."

"Ah!" said Zikali, "that reminds me of how you refuged in the cave
from the storm and the rest said that you wanted more oxen. So,
knowing that you would be in as great a hurry to get to Heu-Heu as a
young man is to find his first wife, I made ready. The story you heard
was quite true. A white trader did leave a very fine team of footsore
oxen in this neighbourhood, salted, every one of them, which after
three moons' rest, are now fat and sound. I will have them driven up
to-morrow morning and take care of yours while you are away."

"I have no money to pay for more oxen," I said.

"Is not the promise of Macumazahn better than any money, even the red
English gold? Does not the whole land know it? Moreover," he added
slowly, "when you return from visiting Heu-Heu you ought to have
plenty of money--or, rather, of diamonds, which is the same thing--and
perhaps of ivory, though of that I am not so sure. No, I am not sure
whether you will be able to carry the ivory. If I do not speak truth I
will pay for the oxen myself."

Now at the word "diamonds" I pricked up my ears, for just then all
Africa was beginning to talk about these stones; even Hans rose from
the ground and began once more to take interest in earthly things.

"That's a fair offer," I said, "but stop blowing dust" (i.e. talking
nonsense) "and tell me straight out what you mean before it grows
dark. I hate this kloof in the dark. Who is Heu-Heu? And if he or it
lives, or lived, where is Heu-Heu, dead or alive? Also, supposing that
there was or is a Heu-Heu, why do you, Zikali, wish me to find him, as
I perceive you do, who always have a reason for what you wish?"

"I will answer the last question first, Macumazahn, who, as you say,
always have a reason for what I want you or others to do."

Here he stopped and clapped his hands, whereon instantly one of his
great serving men appeared from the hut behind, to whom he gave some
order. The man darted away and presently was back with more of the
skin bags such as witch doctors use to carry their medicines. Zikali
opened one of these and showed me that it was almost empty, there
being in it but a pinch of brown powder.

"This stuff, Macumazahn," he said, "is the most wonderful of all
drugs, even more wonderful than the herb called /taduki/ that can open
the paths of the past, with which herb you will become acquainted one
day. By means of it--I speak not of /taduki/, but of the powder in the
bag--I do most of my tricks. For instance, it was with a dust of it
that I was able to show you and the little yellow man the picture of
Heu-Heu in the flames just now."

"You mean that it is a poison, I suppose."

"Oh, yes, among other things, by adding another powder it can be made
into a very deadly poison; so deadly that as little of it as will lie
upon the point of a thorn will kill the strongest man and leave no
trace. But it has other properties also that have to do with the mind
and the spirit; never mind what they are; if I tried to tell you, you
would not understand. Well, the Tree of Visions from the leaves of
which this medicine is ground grows only in the garden of Heu-Heu and
nowhere else in Africa, and I got my last supply of it thence many
years ago, long before you were born, indeed, Macumazahn; never mind
how.

"Now I must have more, of those leaves, or what these Zulus call my
magic, which wise white men like you know to be but my tricks, will
fail me, and the world will say that the Opener-of-Roads has lost his
strength and turn to seek wiser doctors."

"Then why do you not send and get some, Zikali?"

"Whom can I send that would dare to enter the land of Heu-Heu and rob
his garden? No one but yourself, Macumazahn. Ah! I read your mind. You
are wondering now if that be so, why I do not order that the leaves
should be brought to me from the place of Heu-Heu. For this reason,
Macumazahn. The dwellers there may not leave their hidden land; it is
against their law. Moreover, if they might they would not part even
with a handful of that drug, except at a great price. Once, a hundred
years ago" (by which, I suppose, he meant a long time), "I paid such a
price and bought a quantity of the stuff of which you see the last in
that bag. But that is an old story with which I will not trouble you.
Oh! many went and but two returned, and they mad, as those are apt to
be who have looked on Heu-Heu and left him living. If ever you see
Heu-Heu, Macumazahn, be sure to destroy him and all that is his, lest
his curse should follow you for the rest of your days. Fallen, he will
be powerless, but standing, his hate is very strong and reaches far,
or that of his priests does, which is the same thing."

"Rubbish!" I said. "If there is any Heu-Heu, he is but a big ape, and
living or dead, I am not afraid of any ape."

"I am glad to hear that, Macumazahn, and hope that you will always be
of the same mind. Doubtless it is only his picture painted on rock or
in the fire that frightens you, just as a dream is more terrible than
anything real. Some day you shall tell me which was the worse, Heu-
Heu's picture or Heu-Heu himself. But you asked me other questions.
The first of them was, Who is Heu-Heu?

"Well, I do not know. The legend tells that once, in the beginning,
there was a people white, or almost white, who lived far away to the
north. This people, says the old tale, were ruled over by a giant,
very cruel and very terrible; a great wizard also, or cheat, as you
would call him. So cruel and terrible was he, indeed, that his people
rose against him, and strong as he might be, forced him to fly
southwards with some who clung to him or could not escape him.

"So south he came with them, thousands of miles, until he found a
secret place that suited him to dwell in. That place is beneath the
shadow of a mountain of a sort that I have heard spouted out fire when
the world was young, which even now smokes from time to time. Here
this people, who are named Walloo, built them a town after their
northern fashion out of the black stone which flowed from the mountain
in past ages. But their king, the giant wizard, continued his
cruelties to them forcing them to labour night and day at his city and
Great House and a cave in which he was worshipped as a god, till at
last they could bear no more and murdered him by night.

"Before he died, however, which he took long to do because of his
magic, he mocked them, telling them that not thus would they be rid of
him since he would come back in a worse shape than before and still
rule over them from generation to generation. Moreover, he prophesied
disaster to them and laid this curse upon them, that if they strove to
leave the land that he had chosen, and to cross the ring of mountains
by which it is enclosed, they should die, every one of them. This,
indeed, happened, or so I have heard, since if even one of them
travels down the river, by which alone that country can be approached
from the desert, and sets foot in the desert, he dies, sometimes by
sudden sickness, or sometimes by the teeth of lions and other wild
beasts that live in the great swamp where the river enters the desert,
whither the elephants and other game come to drink from hundreds of
miles around."

"Perhaps fever kills them," I suggested.

"Maybe so, or poison, or a curse. At least, soon or late they die, and
therefore it comes about that now none of them leaves that land."

"And what happened to the Walloos after they had finished off this
kind king of theirs?" I asked, for Zikali's romantic fable interested
me. Of course, I knew that it was a fable, but in such tales,
magnified by native rumour, there is sometimes a grain of truth. Also
Africa is a great country, and in it there are very queer places and
peoples.

"Something very bad happened, Macumazahn, for scarcely was their king
dead when the mountain began to belch out fire and hot ashes, which
killed many of them and caused the rest to fly in boats across the
lake that makes an island of the mountain, to the forest lands that
lie around. There they live to this day upon the banks of the river
which flows through the forest, the same that passes through the gorge
of the mountains into the swamp, and there loses itself in the desert
sands. So, at least, my messengers told me a hundred years ago, when
they brought me the medicine that grows in Heu-Heu's garden."

"I suppose that they were afraid to go back to their town after the
eruption was over," I said.

"Yes, they were afraid, at which you will not wonder when you see it,
for when the mountain blew up the gases killed very many of them and
what is more, turned them to stone. Aye, there they sit, Macumazahn,
to this day, turned to stone, and with them their dogs and cattle."

Now at this amazing tale I burst out laughing, and even Hans grinned.

"I have noted, Macumazahn," said Zikali, "that in the beginning it is
you who always laugh at me, while in the end it is I who laugh at you,
and so I believe it will be in this case also. I tell you that there
those people sit turned to stone, and if it is not so, you need not
pay me for the oxen that I bought from the white man even should you
come back with your pockets full of diamonds."

Now I bethought me of what happened at Pompeii, and ceased to laugh.
After all, the thing was possible.

"That is one reason why they did not return to their town, even when
the mountain went to sleep again, but there was another, Macumazahn,
that was stronger still. Soon they found that it was haunted."

"Haunted! By what? By the stone men?"

"No, they are quiet enough, though what their spirits may be I cannot
tell you. Haunted by their king who they had killed, turned into a
gigantic ape, turned into Heu-Heu."

Now at this statement I did not laugh, although at first sight it
seemed much more absurd than that of the dead people who had been
petrified. For this reason: as I knew well, it is the commonest of
beliefs among savages, and especially those of Central Africa, that
dead chiefs, notably if they have been tyrants during their life, are
metamorphosed into some terrible animal, which thenceforward
persecutes them from generation to generation. The animal may be a
rogue elephant or a man-killing lion, or perhaps a very poisonous
snake. But whatever shape it takes, it always has this characteristic,
that it does not die and cannot be killed--at any rate, by any of
those whom it afflicts. Indeed, in my own experience I have come
across sundry examples of this belief among natives. Therefore, it did
not strike me as strange that these people should imagine their
country to be cursed by the spirit of a legendary tyrant turned into a
monster.

Only in the monster itself I put no faith. If it existed at all
probably it would resolve itself into a large ape, or perhaps a
gorilla living upon an island in the lake where it had become
marooned, or drifted upon a tree in a flood.

"And what does this spirit do?" I asked Zikali incredulously. "Throw
nuts or stones at people?"

"No, Macumazahn. According to what I have been told, it does much
more. At times it crosses to the mainland--some say on a log, some say
by swimming, some say as spirits can. There, if it meets any one, it
twists off his or her head" (here I bethought me of the picture in the
cave), "for no man can fight against its strength, or woman either,
because if she be old and ugly, it serves her in the same fashion, but
if she be young and well favoured, then it carries her away. The
island is said to be full of such women who cultivate the garden of
Heu-Heu. Moreover, it is reported that they have children who cross
the lake and live in the forest--terrible, hairy creatures that are
half human, for they can make fire and use clubs and bows and arrows.
These savage people are named Heuheua. They dwell in the forests, and
between them and the Walloos there is perpetual war."

"Anything else?" I asked.

"Yes, one thing. At a certain time of the year the Walloos must take
their fairest and best-born maiden and tie her to an appointed rock
upon the shore of the island upon a night of full moon. Then they go
away and leave her alone, returning at sunrise."

"And what do they find?"

"One of two things, Macumazahn; either that the maiden has gone, in
which case they are well pleased, except those of them to whom she is
related, or that she has been torn to pieces, having been rejected by
Heu-Heu, in which case they weep and groan, not for her but for
themselves."

"Why do they rejoice, and why do they weep, Zikali?"

"For this reason. If the maiden has been taken, Heu-Heu, or his
servants, the Heuheua, will spare them and his priests for that year.
Moreover, their crops will prosper and they be free from sickness. If
she has been killed, he or his servants haunt them, snatching away
other women, and they will have bad harvests; also fever and other
ills fall upon them. Therefore, the Offering of the Maiden is their
great ceremony, which, should she be taken, is followed by the Feast
of Rejoicing, and should she be rejected and slain, by the Fast of
Lamentation and the sacrifice of her parents or others."

"A pleasant religion, Zikali. Tell me, is it one that pleases these
Walloos?"

"Does any religion please any man, Macumazahn, and do tears, want,
sickness, bereavement, and death please those who are born into the
world? For example, like the rest of us, you white people suffer these
things, or so I have heard; also you have your own Heu-Heu or devil
who claims such sacrifices and yet avenges himself upon you. You are
not pleased with him, still you go on making your sacrifices of war
and blood and all wickedness in return for what he did to you, thereby
binding yourselves to him afresh and confirming his power over you,
and as you do, so do we all. Yet if you and the rest of us would but
stand up against him, perhaps his strength might be broken, or he
might be slain. Why, then, do we continue to sacrifice our maidens of
virtue, truth, and purity to him, and how are we better than those who
worship Heu-Heu, who do so to save their lives?"

I considered his argument, which was subtle for a savage, however old
and instructed, to have evolved from his limited opportunities of
observation, and answered rather humbly,

"I do not suppose that we are better at all." Then to change the
subject to something more practical, I added, "But what about those
diamonds?"

"The diamonds! Oho! the diamonds, which, by the way, I believe are one
of the offerings that you white people make to your own Heu-Heu. Well,
these people seem to have plenty of them. Of course, they are useless
to them, as they do not trade. Still, the women know that they are
pretty, and fasten them about themselves in little nets of hair after
polishing them upon stone, because they do not know how to make holes
in them, being so hard, and cannot set them in metals. Also they stick
them in the clay of their eating dishes before these are dried, making
pretty patterns with them. It seems that these stones and others that
are red, are washed down by the river from some desert across which it
flows above, through a tunnel in the mountains, I believe. At any
rate, they find them in plenty in the gravel on its banks, which they
set the children to sift in a closely woven sieve of human hair, or in
some such fashion. Stay, I will show you what they are like, for my
messengers brought me a fistful or two many years ago," and he clapped
his hands.

Instantly, as before, one of his servants appeared, to whom he gave
certain instructions. The man went, and presently returned with a
little packet of ancient, wrinkled skin that looked like a bit of an
old glove. This he untied and gave to me. Within were a quantity of
small stones that looked and felt like diamonds, very good diamonds,
as I judged from their colour, though none of them were large. Also
among them was a sprinkling of other stones that might have been
rubies, though of this I could not be sure. At a guess I should have
estimated the value of the parcel at 200  or 300 pounds. When I had
examined them, I offered them back to Zikali, but he waved his hand
and said:

"Keep them, Macumazahn, keep them. They are no good to me, and when
you come to the land of Heu-Heu, compare them with those you will find
there, just to show yourself that in this matter I do not lie."

"When I come to the land of Heu-Heu!" I exclaimed indignantly. "Where,
then, is this land, and how am I to reach it?"

"That I propose to tell you to-morrow, Macumazahn, not to-night, since
it would be useless to waste time and breath upon the business until I
know two things: first, whether you will go there, and secondly,
whether the Walloos will receive you if you do go."

"When I have heard the answer to the second question, we will talk of
the first, Zikali. But why do you try to make a fool of me? These
Walloos and the savage Heuheuas with whom they fight, I understand,
dwell far away. How, then, can you have the answer by to-morrow?"

"There are ways, there are ways," he answered dreamily, then seemed to
go into a kind of doze with his great head sunk upon his breast.

I stared at him for a while, till, growing weary of the occupation, I
looked about me and noted that of a sudden it was growing dusk. Whilst
I did so I began to hear screechings in the air: sharp, thin
screechings such as are made by rats.

"Look, Baas," whispered Hans in a frightened voice, "his spirits
come," and he pointed upwards.

I did look, and far above, as though they were descending from the
sky, saw some wide-winged, flittering shapes, three of them. They
descended in circles very swiftly, and I perceived that they were
bats, enormous and evil-looking bats. Now they were wheeling about us
so closely that twice their outstretched wings touched my face,
sending a horrid thrill through me; and each time that a creature
passed, it screeched in my ear, setting my teeth on edge.

Hans tried to beat away one of them from investigating him, whereon it
clung to his hand and bit his finger, or so I judged from the yell he
gave, after which he dragged his hat down over his head and plunged
his hands into his pockets. Then the bats concentrated their attention
upon Zikali. Round and round him they went in a dizzy whirl which grew
closer and closer, till at last two of them settled on his shoulders
just by his ears, and began to twitter in them, while the third hung
itself on to his chin and thrust its hideous head against his lips.

At this point in the proceedings Zikali seemed to wake up, for his
eyes opened and grew bright, also with his skinny hands he stroked the
bats upon his shoulders as though they were pet birds. More, he seemed
to speak with the creature that hung to his chin, talking in a
language which I could not understand, while it twittered back the
answers in its slate-pencil notes. Then suddenly he waved his arms and
all three of them took flight again, wheeling outwards and upwards,
till presently they vanished in the gloom.

"I tame bats and these are quite fond of me," he said by way of
explanation, then added, "Come back to-morrow morning, Macumazahn, and
perhaps I shall be able to tell you whether the Walloos wish for a
visit from you, and if so, to show you a road to their country."

So we went, glad enough to get away, since the Opener-of-Roads, with
his peculiar talk and manifestations, as I believe they call them in
spiritualistic circles, was a person who soon got upon one's nerves,
especially at nightfall. As we stumbled down that hateful gorge in the
gloom, Hans asked,

"What were those things that hung to Zikali's shoulders and chin?"

"Bats, very large bats. What else?" I answered.

"I think a great deal else, Baas. I think that they are his familiars
whom he is sending to those Walloos, just as he said."

"Do you believe in the Walloos and the Heuheua then, Hans? I don't."

"Yes, I do, Baas, and what is more, I believe that we shall visit
them, because Zikali means that we should, and who is there that can
fight against the will of the Opener-of-Roads?"




CHAPTER V



ALLAN MAKES A PROMISE


I never could sleep well in the neighbourhood of the Black Kloof. It
always seemed to me to give out evil and disturbing emanations, nor
was this night any exception to the rule. For hour after hour,
cogitating the old wizard's marvellous tale of the Walloos and Heu-
Heu, their devil-ghost, I lay in the midst of the intense silence of
that lonely place which was broken only by the occasional scream of a
night-hawk, or perhaps of the prey that it gripped, or the echoing
bark of some baboon among the rocks.

The story was foolishness. And yet--and yet there were so many strange
peoples hidden away in the vast recesses of Africa, and some of them
had these extremely queer beliefs or superstitions. Indeed, I began to
wonder whether it is not possible for these superstitions, persisted
in through ages, to produce something concrete, at any rate to the
minds of those whom they affect.

Also there were odd circumstances connected with this tale or romance
that might, in a way, be called corroborative. For instance, the
picture of Heu-Heu in the cave which Zikali, by his infernal arts or
tricks, reproduced in the flame of fire; for instance, the diamonds
and rubies, or crystals and spinels, whichever they might be, that at
present reposed in the pocket of my shooting coat. These, presuming
them to be the former, must have come from some very far-off or hidden
spot, since I had never seen or heard of such in any place that I had
visited, as they were entirely unlike those which, at that time, they
were beginning to find at Kimberley, being, for one thing, much more
water-worn.

Still, the presence of diamonds in a certain district had nothing to
do with the possible existence of a Heu-Heu. Therefore, they proved
nothing, one way or the other.

And if there were a Heu-Heu, did I wish to meet him face to face? In
one sense, not at all, but in another, very much indeed. My curiosity
was always great, and it would be wonderful to behold that which no
white man's eyes had ever seen, and still more wonderful also to
struggle with and kill such a monster. A vision rose before my eyes of
Heu-Heu stuffed in the British Museum with a large painted placard
underneath:


    Shot in Central Africa by
    Allan Quatermain, Esq.


Why, then I, the most humble and unknown of persons, would become
famous and have my likeness published in the /Graphic/, and probably
the /Illustrated London News/ also, perhaps with my foot set upon the
breast of the prostrate Heu-Heu.

That, indeed, would be glory! Only Heu-Heu looked a very nasty
customer, and the story might have a wrong ending; his foot might be
set upon /my/ breast, and he might be twisting off my head, as in the
cave picture. Well, in that case the illustrated papers would publish
nothing about it.

Then there was the story of the town full of petrified men and
animals. This must either be true or false, since it lacked ghostly
implications. Although I had never heard of anything of the sort,
there might be such a place, and if so, it would be splendid to be its
discoverer.

Oh, of what was I thinking? Zikali's yarn must be nonsense, and rank
fiction. Yet it reminded me of something I had once heard in my youth,
which for a long while I could not recall. At last, in a flash, it
came back to me. My old father, who was a learned scholar, had a book
of Grecian legends, and one of these about a lady called Andromeda,
the daughter of a king who, in obedience to popular pressure and in
order to avert calamities from his country, tied her up to a rock, to
be carried off by a monster that rose out of the sea. Then a magically
aided hero of the name of Perseus arrived at the critical moment,
killed the monster and took away the lady to be his wife.

Why, this Heu-Heu story was the same thing over again. The maiden was
tied to a rock; the monster came out of the sea, or rather, the lake,
and carried her off, whereby calamities were duly averted. So similar
was it, indeed, that I began to wonder whether it were not an echo of
the ancient myth that somehow had found its way into Africa. Only
hitherto there had been no Perseus in Heuheua Land. That role,
apparently, was reserved for me. And if so, what should I do with the
maiden? Restore her to a grateful family, I suppose, for certainly I
had no intention of marrying her. Oh, I was growing silly with
thinking! I would go to sleep; I /would/, I /wo/----



A minute or two later, or so it seemed, I woke up thinking, not of
Andromeda, but of the prophet Samuel, and for a while wondered what on
earth could have put this austere patriarch and priest into my head.
Then, being a great student of the Old Testament, I remembered that
autocratic seer's indignation when he heard the lowing of the oxen
which Saul spared from the general "eating up" of the Amalekites, as
the Zulus would describe it, by divine command. (What was the use of
cutting the throats of all that good stock, personally, I could never
understand.)

Well, in my ears also was the lowing of oxen, which, of course, formed
the connecting link. I marvelled what they could be, for our own were
grazing at a little distance, and poked my head out under the wagon-
hood to perceive a really beautiful team of trek cattle, eighteen of
them, for there were two spare beasts, which had just been driven up
to my camp by two strange Kaffirs. Then, of course, I remembered about
the oxen which Zikali had promised to sell me upon easy terms, or
under certain circumstances to give me, and thought to myself that in
this matter, at any rate, he had proved a wizard of his word.

Slipping on my trousers, I descended from the wagon to examine them,
and with the most satisfactory results. They had quite recovered from
their poverty and footsoreness that had caused their former owner to
leave them behind in Zikali's charge, and were now as fat as butter,
looking as though they would pull anything anywhere. Indeed, even the
critical Hans expressed his unqualified approval of the beasts which,
as he pointed out from various indications, really seemed to be
"salted," and inoculated also, some of them, as could be seen from the
loss of the ends of their tails.

Having sent them to graze in charge of the Kaffirs who had brought
them, for I did not wish them to mix with my own beasts, which showed
signs of sickness, I breakfasted in excellent spirits, as wherever I
might go I was now set up with draught beasts, and then bethought me
of my undertaking to revisit Zikali. Hans tried to excuse himself from
accompanying me, saying that he wanted to study the new oxen which
those strange Zulus might steal, etc.; the fact being, of course, that
he was afraid of the old wizard, and would not go near him again
unless he were obliged. However, I made him come, since his memory was
first rate, and four ears were better than two when Zikali was
concerned.

Off we trudged up the kloof, and as before, without delay, were
admitted within the fence surrounding the witch doctor's hut, to find
the Opener-of-Roads seated in front of it, as usual with a fire
burning before him. However hot the weather, he always kept that fire
going.

"What do you think of the oxen, Macumazahn?" he asked abruptly.

I replied with caution that I would tell him after I had proved them.

"Cunning as ever," said Zikali. "Well, you must make the best of them,
Macumazahn, and as I told you, you can pay me when you get back."

"Get back from where?" I asked.

"From wherever you are going, which at present you do not know."

"No, I don't, Zikali," I said, and was silent.

He also was silent for a long while, so long that at last he outwore
my patience, and I inquired sarcastically whether he had heard from
his friend Heu-Heu, by bat-post.

"Yes, yes, I have heard, or think that I have heard--not by bats, but
perchance by dreams or visions. Oho! Macumazahn, I have caught you
again. Why do you always walk into my snare so easily? You see some
bats, which in truth, as I told you, are but creatures that I have
tamed by feeding them for many years, flitter about me and fly away,
and you half believe that I have sent them a thousand miles to carry a
message and bring back an answer, which is impossible.

"Now I will tell the truth. Not thus do I communicate with those who
are afar. Nay, I send out my thought and it flies everywhere to the
ends of the earth, so that the whole earth might read it if it could.
Yet perchance it is attuned to one mind only among the millions, by
which it can be caught and interpreted. But for the vulgar--yes, and
even for the wise White Man who cannot understand--there remains the
symbol of the bats and their message. Why will you always seek the aid
of magic to explain natural things, Macumazahn?"

Now I reflected that my idea of nature and Zikali's differed, but
knowing that he was mocking me after his custom, and declining to
enter into argument as though it were beneath me, I said,

"All this is so plain that I wonder you waste breath in setting it
out. I only desired to know if you have any answer to your message,
however it was sent, and if so--what answer."

"Yes, Macumazahn, as it happens I have; it came to me just as I was
waking this morning. This is its substance; that the chief of the
Walloos, with whom my heart talked, and, as he believes, most of his
people, will be very glad to welcome you in their land, though, as he
believes again, the priests of Heu-Heu, who worship him as a god and
are sworn to his service, will not be glad. Should you choose to come,
the chief will give you all that you desire of the river diamonds or
aught else that he possesses, and you can carry away with you, also,
the medicine that /I/ desire. Further, he will protect you from
dangers so far as he is able. Yet for these gifts he requires
payment."

"What payment, Zikali?"

"The overthrow of Heu-Heu at your hands."

"And if I cannot overthrow Heu-Heu, Zikali?"

"Then certainly you will be overthrown and the bargain will fall to
the ground."

"Is it so? Well, if I go, shall I be killed, Zikali?"

"Who am I that I should dispense life or death, Macumazahn? Yet," he
added slowly, separating his words by deliberate pinches of snuff--
"yet I do not think that you will be killed. If I did I should not
trust you to pay me for those oxen on your return. Also I believe that
you have much work left to do in the world--my work, some of it,
Macumazahn, that could not be carried out without you. This being so,
the last thing I should wish would be to send you to your death."

I reflected that probably this was true, since always the old wizard
was hinting of some great future enterprise in which we should be
mixed up together; also I knew that he had a regard for me in his own
strange way, and therefore wished me no evil. Moreover, of a sudden a
great longing seized me to undertake this adventure in which perchance
I might see remarkable new things--I who was wearying of the old ones.
However, I hid this, if anything could be hid from Zikali, and asked
in a businesslike fashion,

"Where do you want me to go, how far off is it, and if I went, how
should I get there?"

"Now we begin to handle our assegais, Macumazahn" (by which he meant
that we were coming to business). "Hearken, and I will tell you."

Tell me he did indeed for over an hour, but I will not trouble you
fellows with all that he said, since geographical details are
wearisome and I want to get on with my story. You, my friend [this was
addressed to me, the Editor], are only stopping here over to-morrow
night, and it will take me all that time to finish it--that is, if you
wish to hear the end.

It is enough to say, therefore, that I had to trek about three hundred
miles north, cross the Zambesi, and then trek another three hundred
miles west. After this I must travel nor'west for a rather indefinite
distance till I came to a gorge in certain hills. Here I must leave
the wagon, if by this time I had any wagon, and tramp for two days
through a waterless patch of desert till I came to a swamp-like oasis.
Here the river of which Zikali had spoken lost itself in the sands of
the desert, whence I could see on a clear day the smoke of the volcano
of which he had also spoken. Crossing the swamp, or making my way
round it, I must steer for this slope, till at length I came to a
second gorge in the mountains, through which the river ran from
Heuheua Land out into the desert. There, according to Zikali, I should
find a party of Walloos waiting for me with canoes or boats, who would
take me on into their country, where things would go as they were
fated.

Before you leave, my friend, I will give you a map[*] of the route,
which I drew after travelling it, in case you or anybody else should
like to form a company and go to look for diamonds and fossilized men
in Heuheua Land, stipulating, however, that you do not ask me to take
shares in the venture.

[*] If Allan ever gave me this map, of which, after the lapse of so
    many years, I am not sure, I have put it away so carefully that it
    is entirely lost, nor do I propose to hunt for it amidst the
    accumulated correspondence of some five-and-thirty years.
    Moreover, if it were found and published, it might lead to foolish
    speculation and probable loss of money among maiden ladies, the
    clergy, and other venturesome persons.--Editor.

"So that's the trek," I said, when at last Zikali had finished. "Well,
I tell you straight out that I am not going to make it through unknown
country. How could I ever find my way without a guide? I'm off to
Pretoria with your oxen or without them."

"Is it so, Macumazahn? I begin to think that I am very clever. I
thought that you would talk like that and therefore have made ready by
finding a man who will lead you straight to the House of Heu-Heu.
Indeed, he is here, and I will send for him," and he summoned a
servant in his usual way and gave an order.

"Whence does he come, who is he, and how long has he been here?" I
asked.

"I don't quite know who he is, Macumazahn, for he does not talk much
about himself, but I understand that he comes from the neighbourhood
of Heuheua Land, or out of it, for aught I know, and he has been here
long enough for me to be able to teach him something of our Zulu
language, though that does not matter much since you know Arabic well,
do you not?"

"I can talk it, Zikali, and so can Hans, a little."

"Well, that is his tongue, Macumazahn, or so I believe, which will
make things easier. I may tell you at once that he is a strange sort
of man, not in the least like any one you would expect, but of that
you will judge for yourself."

I made no answer, but Hans whispered to me that doubtless he was one
of the children of the Heu-Heu and just like a great monkey. Although
he spoke in a low voice, and at a distance Zikali seemed to overhear
him, for he remarked,

"Then you will feel as though you had found a new brother, is it not
so, Light-in-Darkness?" which, if I have not said so before, was a
title that Hans had earned upon a certain honourable occasion.

Thereon Hans grew silent, since he dared not show his resentment of
this comparison of himself to a monkey to the mighty Opener-of-Roads.
I, too, was silent, being occupied with my own reflections, for now,
in a flash, as it were, I saw the whole trick laid bare of its
mysterious and pseudo-magical trappings. A messenger from some strange
and distant country had come to Zikali, demanding his help for reasons
that I did not know.

This he had determined to give through me, whom he thought suited to
the purpose. Hence his bribe of the oxen, the news of which he had
conveyed to me while I was still far off, having in some way become
acquainted with my dilemma. Indeed, it looked as though everything had
been part of a plan, though of course this was not possible, since
Zikali could not have arranged that I should take shelter in a
particular cave during a thunderstorm.

The sum of it was, however, that I should serve his turn, though what
exactly that might be I did not know. He said that he wanted to obtain
the leaves of a certain tree, which perhaps was true, but I felt sure
that there was more behind.

Possibly his curiosity was excited and he desired information about a
distant, secret people, since for knowledge of every kind he had a
perfect lust. Or perhaps in some occult fashion this Heu-Heu, if there
were a Heu-Heu, might be a rival who stood between him and his plans,
and therefore was one to be removed.

Allowing ninety per cent. of Zikali's supernatural powers to be pure
humbug, without doubt the remaining ten per cent. were genuine.
Certainly he lived and moved and had his being upon a different plane
from that of ordinary mortals, and was in touch with things and powers
of which we are ignorant. Also as I have reason to know, though I do
not trouble you with instances, he was in touch with others of the
same class or hierarchy throughout Africa--yes, thousands of miles
distant--of whom some may have been his friends and some his enemies
but all were mighty in their way.

While I was reflecting thus and old Zikali was reading my thoughts--as
I am sure he did, for I saw him smile in his grim manner and nod his
great head as though in approval of my acumen--the servant returned
from somewhere, ushering in a tall figure picturesquely draped in a
fur kaross that covered his head as well as his body. Arrived in front
of us, this person threw off the kaross and bowed in salutation, first
to Zikali and then to myself. Indeed, so great was his politeness that
he even honoured Hans in the same way, but with a slighter bow.

I looked at him in amazement, as well I might, since before me stood
the most beautiful man that I had ever seen. He was tall, something
over six feet high, and superbly shaped, having a deep chest, a sinewy
form, and hands and feet that would have done credit to a Greek
statue. His face, too, was wonderful, if rather sombre, perfectly
chiselled and almost white in colour, with great dark eyes, and there
was something about it that suggested high and ancient blood. He
looked, indeed, as though he had just stepped straight out of the
bygone ages. He might have been an inhabitant of the lost continent of
Atlantis or a sun-burned old Greek, for his hair, which was chestnut
brown, curled tightly, even where it hung down upon his shoulders,
though none grew upon his chin or about the curved lips. Perhaps he
was shaven. In short, he was a glorious specimen of mankind, differing
from any other I had seen.

His costume, too, was striking and peculiar, although dilapidated;
indeed, it might have been rifled from the body of an Egyptian
Pharaoh. It consisted of a linen robe that seemed to be twisted about
him, which was broidered at the edges with faded purple, a tall and
battered linen headdress shaped like the lower half of a soda-water
bottle reversed and coming to a point, a leather apron narrow at the
top but broadening towards the knees, also broidered, and sandals of
the same material.

I stared at him amazed, wondering whether he belonged to some people
unknown to me, or was another of Zikali's illusions, and so did Hans,
for his muddy little eyes nearly fell out of his head and he asked me
in a whisper,

"Is he a man, Baas, or a spirit?"

For the rest the stranger wore a plain torque or necklet apparently of
gold, and about him was girdled a cross-hilted sword with an ivory
handle and a red sheath.

For a while this remarkable person stood before us, his hands folded
and his head bent in a humble fashion, though it was really I who
should have been humble, owing to the physical contrast between us.
Apparently he did not think it proper to speak first, while Zikali
squatted there grimly, not helping me at all. At last, seeing that
something must be done, I rose from the stool upon which I was seated
and held out my hand. After a moment's hesitation the splendid
stranger took it, but not to shake in the usual fashion, for he bent
his head and gently touched my fingers with his lips, as though he
were a French courtier and I a pretty lady. I bowed again with the
best grace I could command, then putting my hand in my trouser pocket,
said, "How do you do?" and as he did not seem to understand, repeated
it in the Zulu word, "/Sakubona/." This also failing, I greeted him in
the name of the Prophet in my best Arabic.

Here I struck oil, as an American friend of mine named Brother John
used to say, for he replied in the same tongue, or something like it.
Speaking in a soft and pleasing voice, but without alluding to the
Prophet, he addressed me as "Great Lord Macumazahn, whose fame and
prowess echo across the earth," and a lot of other nonsense, with
which I could see that Zikali had stuffed him, that may be omitted.

"Thank you," I cut in, "thank you, Mr. ----?" and I paused.

"My name is Issicore," he said.

"And a very nice name, too, though I never heard one like it," I
replied. "Well, Issicore, what can I do for you?" An inadequate
remark, I admit, but I wanted to come to the facts.

"Everything," he answered fervently, pressing his hands to his breast.
"You can save from death a most beautiful lady who will love you."

"Will she?" I exclaimed. "Then I will have nothing to do with that
business, which always leads to trouble."

Here Zikali broke in for the first time, speaking very slowly to
Issicore in Zulu, which I remembered he said he had been teaching him,
and saying,

"The Lord Macumazahn is already full of woman's love and has no room
for more. Speak not to him of love, O Issicore, lest you should anger
the ghost of one who haunts this spot, a certain royal Mameena whom
once he knew too well."

Now I turned upon Zikali, promising to give him a piece of my mind,
when Issicore, smiling a little, repeated,

"Who will love you--as a brother."

"That's better," I said, "though I don't know that I want to take on a
sister at my time of life, but I suppose you mean that she will be
much obliged?"

"That is so, O Lord. Also the reward will be great."

"Ah!" I replied, really interested. "Now be so good as to tell me
exactly what you want."

Well, to cut a long story short, with variations he repeated Zikali's
tale. I was to travel to his remote land, bring about the destruction
of a nebulous monster, or fetish, or system of religion, and in
payment to be given as many diamonds as I could carry.

"But why can't you get rid of your own devil?" I asked. "You look a
warrior and are big and strong."

"Lord," he replied gently, spreading out his hands in an appealing
fashion, "I am strong and I trust that I am brave, but it cannot be.
No man of my people can prevail against the god of my people, if so he
may be called. Even to revile him openly would bring a curse upon us;
moreover, his priests would murder us----"

"So he has priests?" I interrupted.

"Yes, Lord, the god has priests sworn to his service, evil men as he
is evil. O Lord, come, I beseech you, and save Sabeela the beautiful."

"Why are you so interested in this lady?" I asked.

"Lord, because she loves me--not as a brother--and I love her. She,
the great Lady of my land and my cousin, is my betrothed and, if the
god is not overthrown, as the fairest of all our maidens she will be
taken by the god." Here emotion seemed to overcome him, very real
emotion, which touched me, for he bowed his head and I saw tears
trickle down from his dark eyes.

"Hearken, Lord," he went on, "there is an ancient prophecy in my land
that this god of ours, whose hideous shape hides the spirit of a long-
dead chief, can only be destroyed by one of another race who can see
in the night, some man of great valour destined to be born in due
season. Now through our dream-doctors I caused enquiry to be made of
this Master of Spirits, who is named Zikali, for I was in despair and
knew what must happen at the appointed time. From him I learned that
there lived in the south such a man as is spoken of in the prophecy
and that his name meant Watcher-by-Night. Then I dared the journey and
the curse and came to seek you, and lo! I have found you."

"Yes," I answered, "you have found one whose native name means
Watcher-by-Night, but who cannot see in the dark better than any one
else, and is not a hero or very brave, but only a trader and a hunter
of wild beasts. Yet I tell you, Issicore, that I do not wish to
interfere with your gods and priests and tribal matters, or to give
battle to some great ape, if it exists, on the chance of earning a
pocketful of bright stones should I live to take them away, and of
getting a bundle of leaves that this doctor desires. You had better
seek some other white man with eyes like a cat's and more strength and
courage, Issicore."

"How can I see another when, without doubt, you are the one appointed,
Lord? If you will not come, then I return to die with Sabeela, and all
is finished."

He paused a few moments, and continued, "Lord, I can offer you little,
but is not a good deed its own reward, and will not the memory of it
feed your heart through life and death? Because you are noble I
beseech you to come, not for what you may gain, but just because you
are noble and will save others from cruelty and wrong. I have spoken
--choose."

"Why did you not bring Zikali his accursed leaves yourself?" I asked
furiously.

"Lord, I could not come to the place where that tree grows in the
garden of Heu-Heu; nor, indeed, did I know that this Master of Spirits
needed that medicine. Lord, be noble according to your nature, which
is known afar."

Now I tell you fellows when I heard this I felt flattered. We all
think that we are noble at times, but there are precious few who tell
us so, and therefore the thing came as a pleasant surprise from this
extraordinarily dignified, handsome and, if it would appear in his own
fashion, well-educated son of Ham--if he were a son of Ham. To my
mind, he looked more like a prince in disguise, somebody of unknown
but highly distinguished race who had walked out of a fairy book. But
when I came to think of it, that was exactly what he said he was.
Anyway, he was a most discriminating person with a singular insight
into character. (It did not occur to me at the moment that Zikali was
also a discriminating person with an insight into character which had
induced him to bring us two together for secret purposes of his own.
Or that, in order to impress me, he had stuffed Issicore with the
story of a predestined white man, told of in prophecy, who could see
in the dark, as, without doubt, he had done.)

Also the adventure proposed was of an order so wild and unusual that
it drew me like a magnet. Supposing that I lived to old age, could I,
Allan Quatermain, bear to look back and remember that I had turned
down an opportunity of that sort and was departing into the grave
without knowing if there was or was not a Heu-Heu who snatched away
lovely Andromedas--I mean Sabeelas--off rocks, and combined in his
hideous personality the qualities of a god or fetish, a ghost, a
devil, and a super-gorilla?

Could I bury my two humble talents of adventure and straight shooting
in that fashion? Really, I thought not, for if I did, how could I face
my own conscience in those last failing years? And yet there was so
much to be said on the other side into which I need not enter. In the
end, being unable to make up my mind, I fell into weakness and
determined to refer the matter to fate. Yes, I determined to toss up,
using Hans for the spinning coin.

"Hans," I said in Dutch, a tongue which neither of the other two
understood, "shall we travel to this man's country, or shall we stay
in our own? You have heard all; speak and I will accept your judgment.
Do you understand?"

"Yes, Baas," said Hans, twirling his hat in his vacant fashion, "I
understand that the Baas, as is usual when he is in a deep pit, seeks
the wisdom of Hans to get him out--of Hans who has brought him up from
a child and taught him most of what he knows; of Hans upon whom his
Reverend Father, the Predikant, used to lean as upon a staff, that is,
after he had made him into a good Christian. But the matter is
important, and before I give my judgment that will settle it one way
or another, I would ask a few questions."

Then he wheeled round, and, addressing the patient Issicore in his
vile Arabic, said,

"Long Baas with a hooked nose, tell me, do you know the way back to
this country of yours, and if so, how much of it can be travelled in a
wagon?"

"I do," answered Issicore, "and all of it can be travelled in a wagon
until the first range of hills is reached. Also along it there is
plenty of game and water, except in the desert of which you have been
told. The journey should take about three moons, though, myself alone,
I accomplished it in two."

"Good, and if my Baas, Macumazahn, comes to your country, how will he
be received?"

"Well by most of the people, but not well by the priests of Heu-Heu,
if they think he comes to harm the god, and certainly not well by the
Hairy Folk who live in the forest, who are called the Children of the
god. With these he must be prepared to war, though the prophecy says
that he will conquer all of them."

"Is there plenty to eat in your country, and is there tobacco, and
something better than water to drink, Long Baas?"

"There is plenty of all these things. There is wealth of every kind, O
Counsellor of the White Lord, and all of them shall be his and yours,
though," he added with meaning, "those who have to deal with the
priests of the god and the Hairy Folk would do well to drink water,
lest they should be found asleep."

"Have you guns there?" Hans asked, pointing to my rifle.

"No, our weapons are swords and spears, and the Hairy Folk shoot with
arrows from bows."

Hans ceased from his questions and began to yawn as though he were
tired, as he did so, staring up at the sky where some vultures were
wheeling.

"Baas," he said, "how many vultures do you see up there? Is it seven
or eight? I have not counted them but I think there are seven."

"No, Hans, there are eight; one, the highest, was hid behind a cloud."

"You are quite sure that there are eight, Baas?"

"Quite," I answered angrily. "Why do you ask such silly questions when
you can count for yourself?"

Hans yawned again and said, "Then we will go with this fine, hook-
nosed Baas to the country of Heu-Heu. That is settled."

"What the deuce do you mean, Hans? What on earth has the number of
vultures got to do with the matter?"

"Everything, Baas. You see, the burden of this choice was too heavy
for my shoulders, so I lifted my eyes and put up a prayer to your
Reverend Father to help me, and in doing so saw the vultures. Then
your Reverend Father in the heaven above seemed to say to me, 'If
there are an even number of vultures, Hans, then go; if an odd number,
then stop where you are. But, Hans, do not count the vultures. Make my
son, the Baas Allan, count them, for then he will not be able to
grumble at you if things turn out badly whether you go or whether you
stay behind, and say that you counted wrong or cheated.' And now,
Baas, I have had enough of this, and should like to return to our
outspan and examine those new oxen."

I looked at Hans, speechless with indignation. In my cowardice I had
left it to his cunning and experience to decide this matter, virtually
tossing up, as I have said. And what had the little rascal done? He
had concocted one of his yarns about my poor old father and tossed up
in his turn, going odd or even on the number of the vultures which he
made /me/ count! So angry was I that I lifted my foot with meaning,
whereon Hans, who had been expecting something of the sort, bolted,
and I did not see him again until I got back to the camp.

"Oho! Oho!" laughed Zikali, "Oho!" while the dignified Issicore
studied the scene with mild astonishment.

Then I turned on Zikali, saying, "A cheat I have called you before,
and a cheat I call you again, with all your nonsense about bat-
messengers and the tale you have taught to this man as to a prophecy
of his people, and the rest. /There/ is the bat who brought the
message, or the dream, or the vision, or whatever you like to call it,
and all the while he was hidden beneath your eaves," and I pointed to
Issicore. "And now I have been tricked into saying that I will go upon
this fool's errand, and as I do not turn my back upon my word, go I
must."

"Have you, Macumazahn?" asked Zikali innocently. "You talked with
Light-in-Darkness in Dutch, which neither I nor this man understood,
and therefore we did not know what you said. But, as out of the
honesty of your heart you have told us, we understand now, and of
course we know, as everyone knows, that your word once spoken is worth
all the writings of the white men put together, and that only death or
sickness will prevent you from accompanying Issicore to his own
country. Oho ho! It has all come about as I would have it, for reasons
with which I will not trouble you, Macumazahn."

Now I saw that I was doubly tricked, hit, as it were, with the right
barrel by Hans and with the left by Zikali. To tell the truth, I had
quite forgotten that he did not understand Dutch, although I
remembered it when I began to use that tongue, and that therefore it
did not in the least matter what I had said privately to Hans. But if
Zikali did not understand Dutch, of which after all I am not so sure,
at any rate he understood human nature, and could read thoughts, for
he went on:

"Do not boil within yourself, like a pot with a stone on its lid,
Macumazahn, because your crafty foot has slipped and you have repeated
publicly in one tongue what you had already said secretly in another,
and therefore made a promise to both of us. For all the while,
Macumazahn, you had made that promise and your white heart would not
have suffered you to swallow it again just because we could not hear
it with our ears. No, that great white heart of yours would have risen
in your throat and shut it fast. So kick away the burning sticks from
beneath the water of your anger and let it cease from boiling, and go
forth as you have promised, to see wonderful things and do wonderful
deeds and snatch the pure and innocent out of the hands of evil gods
or men."

"Yes, and burn my fingers, scooping your porridge out of the blazing
pot, Zikali," I said with a snort.

"Perhaps, Macumazahn, perhaps, for if I had no porridge to be saved,
should I have taken all this trouble? But what does that matter to
you, to the brave White Lord who seeks the truth as a thrown spear
seeks the heart of the foe? You will find plenty of truth yonder,
Macumazahn, new truth, and what does it matter if the spear is a
little red after it has reached the heart of things? It can be cleaned
again, Macumazahn, it can be cleaned, and amidst many other services,
you will have done one to your old friend, Zikali the Cheat."



Here Allan glanced at the clock and stopped.

"I say--do you know what time it is?" he said. "Twenty minutes past
one--by the head of Chaka. If you fellows want to finish the story
to-night, you can do so for yourselves according to taste. I'm off, or
out shooting to-morrow I shan't hit a haystack sitting."




CHAPTER VI



THE BLACK RIVER


On the following evening, pleasantly tired after a capital day's
shooting and a good dinner, once more the four of us--Curtis, Good,
myself (the Editor) and old Allan--were gathered round the fire in his
comfortable den at "The Grange."

"Now then, Allan," I said, "get on with your tale."

"What tale?" he asked, pretending to forget, for he was always a bad
starter where his own reminiscences were concerned.

"That about the monkey-man and the fellow who looked like Apollo,"
answered Good. "I dreamt about it all night, and that I rescued the
lady--a dark girl dressed in blue--and that just as I was about to
receive a well-earned kiss of thanks, she changed her mind and turned
into stone."

"Which is just what she would have done if she had any sense in her
head and you were concerned, Good," said Allan severely, adding,
"Perhaps it was your dream that made you shoot more vilely than usual
to-day. I saw you miss eight cock pheasants in succession at that last
corner."

"And I saw you kill eighteen in succession at the first," replied Good
cheerily, "so you see the average was all right. Now then, get on with
the romance. I like romance in the evening after a dose of the hard
facts of life in the shape of impossible cock pheasants."

"Romance!" began Allan indignantly. "Am I romantic? Pray do not
confuse me with yourself, Good."

Here I intervened imploring him not to waste time in arguing with
Good, who was unworthy of his notice, and at last, mollified, he
began.



Now I am in a hurry and want to be done with this job that dries up my
throat--who, having lived so much alone, am not used to talking like a
politician--and makes me drink more whisky and water than I ought. You
are in a hurry, too, all of you, especially Good, who wants to get to
the end of the story in order that he may argue about it and try to
show that he would have managed much better, and you, my friend,
because you have to leave to-morrow morning early and must see to your
packing before you get to bed. Therefore, I am going to skip a lot,
all about our journey, for instance, although, in fact, it was one of
the most interesting treks I ever made, and for much of the way
through a country that was quite new to me, about which one might
write a book.

I will simply say, therefore, that in due course after some necessary
delay to re-pack the wagon, leaving behind all articles that were not
wanted in Zikali's charge, we trekked from the Black Kloof. The oxen
that I had bought--on credit--from Zikali were in the yokes, and we
drove with us his two extra beasts as well as four of the best of my
old team to serve as spares.

Also I took, in addition to my own driver and voorlooper, Mavoon and
Induka, two other Zulus, Zikali's servants, who I knew would be
faithful because they feared their terrible master, although I knew
also that they would spy upon me and, if ever they returned alive,
make report of everything to him.

Well, leaving out all the details of this remarkable trek in which we
met with no fighting, disasters, or great troubles and always had
plenty to eat, game being numerous throughout, I will take up the tale
on our arrival, safe and sound, at the first line of hills that I show
upon the map, of which Zikali had spoken as bordering the desert. Here
we were obliged to leave the wagon, for it was impossible to get it
over the hills or through the desert beyond.

This, fortunately, we were able to do at a little village of peaceable
folk who lived in a charming and well-watered situation, and, having
no near neighbours, were able to cultivate their lands unmolested. I
placed it in the charge of Mavoon and Induka, whom I could trust and
who would not run away, also the oxen, of which, by good fortune, we
had only lost three. With them, as Issicore declared that we must go
on alone, I left Zikali's servants, knowing that they would keep an
eye on my men, and my men on them, and promised the headman of the
village a good present if we found everything safe on our return.

He said that he would do his best, but added impressively--he was a
melancholy person--that if we were going to the country of Heu-Heu we
never should return, as it was a land of devils. In that event he
asked what was to happen to the wagon and goods. I replied that I had
given orders that if I did not reappear within a year, it was to trek
back to whence we came and announce that we were gone, but that he
need not be afraid as, being a great magician, I knew that we should
be back long before that time.

He shrugged his shoulders, looking doubtfully at Issicore, and there
the conversation ended. However, I persuaded him to lend us three of
his people to guide us across the mountains and to carry water through
the desert on the understanding that they should be allowed to return
as soon as we sighted the swamp. Nothing would induce them to go
nearer to the country of Heu-Heu.



So in due course off we started, leaving Mavoon and Induka almost in
tears, for the gloom of the headman had spread to them and they too
believed that they would see us no more. Hans, it is true, they never
would have missed, since they hated him as he hated them, but in my
case the matter was different because they loved me in their own way.

Our baggage was light: rifles (I took a double-barrelled Express), as
much ammunition as we could manage, some medicines, blankets, etc., a
few spare clothes and boots for myself, a couple of revolvers and as
many vessels of one sort or another as possible to carry water,
including two paraffin tins slung at either end of a piece of wood
after the fashion of a milkman's yoke. Also we had tobacco, a good
supply of matches, candles, and a bundle of dried biltong to eat in
case we found no game. It doesn't sound much, but before we got across
that desert I felt inclined to throw away half of it; indeed, I don't
think we could have got the stuff over the mountain pass, which proved
to be precipitous, without the assistance of the three water-bearers.

It took us twelve hours to reach and cross that mountain's crest, just
beneath which we camped, and another six to descend the other side
next day. At its foot was thin, tussocky grass with occasional thorn
trees growing in a barren veldt that by degrees merged into desert. By
the last water we camped for the second night; then, having filled up
all our vessels, started out into the arid, sandy wilderness.

Now, you fellows know what an African desert is, for we went through a
worse one than this on our journey to Solomon's Mines. Still, the
particular specimen I am speaking of was pretty bad. To begin with,
the heat was tremendous. Then, in parts, it consisted of rolling
slopes or waves of sand, up which we must scramble and down which we
must slide--a most exhausting process. Further, there grew in it a
variety of thick-leaved plant with sharp spines that, if touched,
caused a painful soreness, which abominable and useless growths made
it impossible to travel at night, or even if the light were low, when
they could not be seen and avoided.

We spent three days crossing that wretched desert, that had another
peculiarity. Here and there in its waste, columns of stones, polished
by blowing sand, stood up like obelisks, sometimes in one piece,
monoliths, and sometimes in several, piled on each other. I suppose
that they were the remains of strata: hard cores that had resisted the
action of wind and water, which in the course of thousands or millions
of years had worn away the softer rock, grinding it to dust.

Those obelisk-like columns gave a very strange appearance to that
wilderness, suggesting the idea of monuments; also, incidentally, they
were useful, since it was by them that our water-bearing guides, who
were accustomed to haunt the place to kill ostriches or to steal their
eggs, steered their path. Of these ostriches we saw a good number,
which showed that the desert could not be so very wide, since in it
there seemed to be nothing for them to live on, unless they ate the
prickly plants. There was no other life in the place.

Fortunately, by dint of economy and self-denial, our water held out,
until on the afternoon of the third day, as we trudged along parched
and weary, from the crest of one of the sand waves we saw far off a
patch of dense green that marked the end, or, rather, the beginning,
of the swamp. Now our agreement with the guides was that when they
came in sight of this swamp they should return, for which purpose we
had saved some of the water for them to drink on their homeward
journey.

After a brief consultation, however, they determined to come on with
us, and when I asked why, wheeled round and pointed to dense clouds
that were gathering in the heavens behind us. These clouds, they
explained, foretold a sand tempest in which no man could live in the
desert. Therefore they urged us forward at all speed; indeed,
exhausted as we were, we covered the last three miles between us and
the edge of the swamp at a run. As we reached the reeds the storm
burst, but still we plunged forward through them, till we came to a
spot where they grew densely and where, by digging pits in the mud
with our hands, we could get water which, thick as it was, we drank
greedily. Here we crouched for hours while the storm raged.

It was a terrific sight, for now the face of the desert behind was
hidden by clouds of driven sand, which even among the reeds fell upon
us thickly, so that occasionally we had to rise to shake its weight
off us. Had we still been in the desert, we should have been buried
alive. As it was we escaped, though half choked and with our skins
fretted by the wear of the particles of sand.

So we squatted all night till before dawn the storm ceased and the sun
rose in a perfectly clear sky. Having drunk more water, of which we
seemed to need enormous quantities, we struggled back to the edge of
the swamp and from the crest of a sand wave looked about us. Issicore
stretched out his arm towards the north and touched me on the
shoulder. I looked, and far away, staining the delicate blue of the
heavens, perceived a dark, mushroom-shaped patch of vapour.

"It is a cloud," I said. "Let us go back to the reeds; the storm is
returning."

"No, Lord," he answered, "it is the smoke from the Fire Mountain of my
country."

I studied it and said nothing, reflecting, however, that in this
particular, at any rate, Zikali had not lied. If so, was it not
possible that he had spoken truth about other matters also? If there
existed a volcano as yet unreported by any explorer, might there not
also be a buried city filled with petrified people, and even a Heu-
Heu? No, in Heu-Heu I could not believe.

Here, after they had filled themselves and their gourds with water,
the three natives from the village left us, saying that they would go
no farther and that they could now depart safely as the sandstorm
would not return for some weeks. They added that our magic must be
very strong, since had we delayed even for a few hours we should
certainly all have been killed.

So they departed, and we camped by the reeds, hoping to rest after our
exhausting journey. In this, however, we were disappointed, for as
soon as the sun went down we became aware that this vast area of
swampy land was the haunt of countless game that came thither, I
suppose, from all the country round in order to drink and to fill
themselves with its succulent growths.

By the light of the moon I saw great herds of elephants appearing out
of the shadows and marching majestically towards the water. Also there
were troops of buffalo, some of which broke out of the reeds showing
that they had hidden there during the day, and almost every kind of
antelope in plenty, while in the morass itself we could hear sea cows
wallowing and grunting, and great splashes which I suppose were caused
by frightened crocodiles leaping into pools.

Nor was this all, since so much animal life upon which they could prey
attracted many lions that coughed and roared and slew according to
their nature. Whenever one of them sprang on to some helpless buck, a
stampede of all the game in the neighbourhood would follow. The noise
they made crashing through the reeds was terrific, so much so that
sleep was impossible. Moreover, there was always a possibility that
the lions might be tempted to try a change of diet and eat us,
especially as we had no bushes with which to form a /boma/, or fence.
So we made a big fire of dry, last year's reeds, of which,
fortunately, there were many standing near, and kept watch.

Once or twice I saw the long shape of a lion pass us, but I did not
fire for fear lest I should wound the beast only and perhaps cause it
to charge. In short, the place was a veritable sportsman's paradise,
and yet quite useless from a hunter's point of view, since, if he
killed elephants, it would be impossible to carry the ivory across the
desert, and only a boy desires to slaughter game in order to leave it
to rot. At dawn, it is true, I did shoot a reed buck for food, which
was the only shot I fired.

As amidst all this hubbub the idea of sleep must be abandoned, I took
the opportunity to question Issicore about his country and what lay
before us there. During our journey I had not talked much to him on
the matter, since he seemed very silent and reserved, all his energies
being concentrated upon pushing forward as quickly as possible; also,
there was no object in doing so while we were still far away. Now,
however, I thought that the time had come for a talk.

In answer to my queries, he said that if we travelled hard, by
marching round the narrow western end of the swamp, in three days we
should arrive at the mouth of the gorge down which the river ran that
flowed through the mountains surrounding his country. These mountains,
I should add, we had sighted as a black line in the distance almost as
soon as we entered the desert, which showed that they were high. Here,
if we reached it without accident, he hoped to find a boat waiting in
which we could be paddled to his town, though why anybody should be
expecting us I could not elicit from him.

Leaving that question unsolved, I asked him about this town and its
inhabitants. He replied that it was large and contained a great number
of people, though not so many as it used to do in bygone generations.
The race was dwindling, partly from intermarriage and partly because
of the terror in which they lived, that made the women unwilling to
bear children lest these should be snatched away by the Hairy Folk who
dwelt in the surrounding forest, or perhaps sacrificed to the god
himself. I inquired whether he really believed that there was such a
god, and he replied with earnestness that certainly he did, as once he
had seen him, though from some way off, and he was so awful that
description was impossible. I must judge of him for myself when we met
--an occasion that I began to wish might be avoided.

I cross-examined him persistently about this god, but with small
result, for the subject seemed to be one on which he did not care to
dwell. I gathered, however, that he, Issicore, had been in a canoe
when he saw Heu-Heu on a rock at dawn, surrounded by women, upon the
occasion of some sacrifice, and that he had not looked much at him
because he was afraid to do so. He noted, however, that he was taller
than a man and walked stiffly. He added that Heu-Heu never came to the
mainland, though his priests did.

Then, dropping the subject of Heu-Heu, he went on to tell me of the
system of government amongst the Walloos, which, it appeared, was an
hereditary chieftainship that could be held either by men or women.
The present chief, an old man, like the people was named Walloo, as
indeed were all the chiefs of the tribe in succession, for "Walloo"
was really a title which he thought had come with them from whatever
land they inhabited in the dark, forgotten ages. He had but one child
living, a daughter, the lady Sabeela, of whom he had spoken to me at
the hut of the Opener-of-Roads, she who was doomed to sacrifice. He,
Issicore, was her second cousin, being descended from the brother of
her grandfather, and therefore of the pure Walloo blood.

"Then if this lady died, I suppose you would be the chief, Issicore?"
I said.

"Yes, Lord, by descent," he answered; "yet perhaps not so. There is
another power in the land greater than that of the kings or chiefs--
the power of the priests of Heu-Heu. It is their purpose, Lord, should
Sabeela die, to seize the chieftainship for themselves. A certain
Dacha, who is also of the pure Walloo blood, is the chief priest, and
he has sons to follow him."

"Then it is to this Dacha's interest that Sabeela should die?"

"It is to his interest, Lord, that she should die and I also, or,
better still, both of us together, for then his part would be clear."

"But what of her father, the Walloo? He cannot desire the death of his
only child."

"Nay, Lord, he loves her much and desires that she should marry me.
But, as I have said, he is an old man and terror-haunted. He fears
the god, who already has taken one of his daughters; he fears the
priests, who are the oracles of the god, and, it is said, murdered
his son as they have striven to murder me. Therefore, being frozen by
fear, he is powerless, and without his leadership none can act, since
all must be done in the name of the Walloo and by his authority. Yet
it was he also who sent me to seek for help from the great wizard of
the South with whom he and his fathers have had dealings in bygone
years. Yes, because of the ancient prophecy that the god could only be
overthrown and the tyranny of the priests be broken by a white man
from the South, he sent me, who am the betrothed of his daughter,
secretly and without the knowledge of Dacha, and because of Sabeela I
dared the curse and went, for which deed perchance I must pay dearly.
He it is also who watches for my return."

"And if he exists, which you have not proved to me, how am I to kill
this god, Issicore? By shooting him?"

"I do not know, Lord. It is believed that he cannot be harmed by
weapons, over whom only fire and water have power, since legend tells
that he came out of the fire and certainly he lives surrounded by
water. The prophecy does not say how he will be killed by the stranger
from the South."

Now, listening to this weird talk in that wild-beast-peopled
wilderness from the mouth of a man who evidently was very frightened,
and wearied as I was, I confess that I grew frightened also, and
wished most heartily that I had never been beguiled into this
adventure. Probably the terrible god, of whom I could learn no
details, question as I would, was nothing but an invention of the
priests, or perhaps one of their number disguised. But, however this
might be, no doubt I was travelling to a fetish-ridden land in which
witchcraft and murder were rampant; in short, one of Satan's peculiar
possessions. Yes, I, Allan Quatermain, was brought here to play the
part of a modern Hercules and clean out this Augean stable of
bloodshed and superstitions, to say nothing of fighting the lion in
the shape of Heu-Heu, always supposing that there was a Heu-Heu, a
creature taller than a man that "walked stiffly," whom Issicore
believed he had once seen from a distance at dawn.

However, I was in for it, and to show fear would be as useless as it
was undignified, since, unless I turned and ran back into the desert,
which my pride would never suffer me to do, I could see no escape.
Having put my hand to the plough I must finish the furrow. So I sat
silent, making no comment upon Issicore's rather nebulous information.
Only after a while I asked him casually when this sacrifice was to
take place, to which he replied with evident agitation,

"On the night of the full harvest moon, which is this moon, fourteen
days from now; wherefore we must hurry, since at best it will take us
five days to reach the town of Walloo, three in travelling round the
swamp and two upon the river. Do not delay, Lord, I pray you do not
delay, lest we should be too late and find Sabeela gone."

"No," I answered, "I shall not be late, and I can assure you, my
friend Issicore, that the sooner I am through with this business one
way or another, the better I shall be pleased. And now that all those
beasts in the swamp seem to have grown a little quieter I will try to
go to sleep."

Happily I was successful in this effort and obtained several hours'
sound rest, which I needed sorely, before the sun appeared and Hans
woke me. I rose, and, taking my rifle, shot a fat reed-buck, which I
selected out of a number which stood quite close by, a young female
off which we breakfasted, for, as you know, if the meat of antelopes
is cooked before it grows cold it is often as tender as though it had
been hung for a week. The odd thing was that the sound of the shot did
not seem to disturb the other beasts at all; evidently they had never
heard anything of the sort before, and thought that their companion
was just lying down.

An hour later we started on our long tramp round the edge of that
swamp. I did not like to march before for fear lest we should get into
complications with the herds of elephants and other animals that were
trekking out of it in all directions with the light, though where they
went to feed I am sure I do not know. In all my life I never saw such
quantities of game as had collected in this place, which probably
furnished the only water for many miles round.

However, as I have said, it was of no use to us, and therefore our
object was to keep as clear of it as possible. Even then we stumbled
right on to a sleeping white rhinoceros with the longest horn that
ever I saw. It must have measured nearly six feet, and anywhere else
would have been a great prize. Fortunately the wind was blowing from
it to us, so it did not smell us and charged off in another direction,
for, as you know, the rhinoceros is almost blind.

Now I am not going to give all the details of that interminable trudge
through sand, for in the mud of the swamp we could not walk at all.
During the day we were scorched by the heat and at night we were
tormented by mosquitoes and disturbed by the noise of the game and the
roaring of lions, which fortunately, being so full fed, never molested
us. By the third night, bearing always to the right, we had come quite
close to the mountain range, which, although it was not so very lofty,
seemed to be absolutely precipitous, faced, indeed, by sheer cliffs
that rose to a height of from five to eight hundred feet. To what
extraordinary geological conditions these black cliffs and the desert
by which they were surrounded owe their origin, I am sure I do not
know, but there they were, and no doubt are.

Before sunset on this third day, by Issicore's direction, we collected
a huge pile of dried reeds, which we set upon the crest of a sand
mound, and after dark fired them, so that for a quarter of an hour or
so they burned in a bright column of flame. Issicore gave no
explanation of this proceeding, but as Hans remarked, doubtless it was
a signal to his friends. Next morning, at his request, we started on
before the dawn, taking our chances of meeting with elephants or
buffaloes, and at sunrise found ourselves right under the cliffs.

An hour later, following a little bay in them where there was no
swamp, because here the ground rose, of a sudden we turned a corner
and perceived a tall, white-robed man with a big spear standing upon a
rock, evidently keeping a look-out. As soon as he saw us he leapt down
from his rock with the agility of a /klip-springer/ and came towards
us.

After one curious glance at me he went straight to Issicore, knelt
down and, taking his hand, pressed it to his forehead, which showed me
that our guide was a venerated person. Then they conversed together in
low tones, after which Issicore came to me and said that so far all
was well, as our fire had been seen and a big canoe awaited us. We
went on, guided by the sentry, and after one turn suddenly came on
quite a large river, which had been hidden by the reeds. To the left
appeared this deep, slow-flowing river; to the right, within a hundred
paces, indeed, it changed into swamp or morass, of which the pools
were fringed with very tall and beautiful papyrus plants, such open
water as there was being almost covered by every kind of wild fowl
that rose in flocks with a deafening clamour. This stream, the Black
River, as the Walloos called it, was bordered on either side by
precipices through which I suppose it had cut its way in the course of
millenniums, so high and impending that they seemed almost to meet
above, leaving the surface of the water nearly dark. It was a stream
gloomy as the Roman Styx, and, glancing at it, I half expected to see
Charon and his boat approaching to row us to the Infernal fields.
Indeed, into my mind there floated a memory of the poet's lines, which
I hope I quote correctly:


    In Kubla Khan a river ran
    Through caverns measureless to man,
    Down to a sunless sea.


I confess honestly that the aspect of the place filled me with fear:
it was forbidding--indeed, unholy--and I marvelled what kind of a
sunless sea lay beyond this hell gate. Had I been alone, or with Hans
only, I admit that I should have turned tail and marched back round
that swamp, upon which, at any rate, the sun shone, and, if I could,
across the desert beyond to where I had left the wagon. But in the
presence of the stately Issicore and his myrmidon, this I could not
do because of my white man's pride. No, I must go on to the end,
whatever it might be.

If I was frightened, Hans was much more so, for his teeth began to
chatter with terror.

"Oh, Baas," he said, "if this is the door, what will the house beyond
be like?"

"That we shall learn in due course," I answered, "so there is no good
in thinking about it."

"Follow me, Lord," said Issicore, after some further talk with his
companion.

I did so, accompanied by Hans, who stuck to me as closely as possible.
We advanced round the rock and discovered a little indent in the bank
of the river where a great canoe, hollowed apparently from a single
huge tree, or rather its prow, was drawn up on the sandy shore. In
this canoe sat sixteen rowers or paddle-men--I remember there were
sixteen of them because at the time Hans remarked that the number was
the same as that of a wagon team and subsequently called these
paddlers "water oxen."

As we approached they lifted their paddles in salute, apparently of
Issicore, since of me and my companion, except by swift, surreptitious
glances, they took no notice.

With a kind of silent, unobtrusive haste Issicore caused our small
baggage, which consisted chiefly of cartridge bags, to be stowed away
in the prow of the canoe that for a few feet was hollowed out in such
a fashion that it made a kind of cupboard roofed with solid wood, and
showed us where to sit. Next he entered it himself, while the lookout
man ran down the canoe and took hold of the steering oar.

Then at a word all the paddlers back-watered and the craft slid off
the sandy beach into the river which was full to the banks, almost in
flood indeed. It seemed that here the rain had been nearly incessant
for some months and the lowering sky showed that ere long there was
much more to come.




CHAPTER VII



THE WALLOO


In perfect stillness, except for the sound of the dipping of the
paddles in the water, we glided away very swiftly up the placid river.
I think that nothing upon this strange journey, or at any rate during
the first part of it, struck me more than its quietness. The water was
still, flowing peacefully between its rocky walls towards the desert
in which it would be lost, just as the life of some good man flows
towards death. The rocky precipices on either side were still; they
were so steep that on them nothing which breathed could find a
footing, except bats, perhaps, that do not stir in the daytime. The
riband of grey sky above us was still, though occasionally a draught
of air blew between the cliffs with a moaning noise, such as one might
imagine to be caused by the passing wind of spiritual wings. But
stillest of all were those rowers who for hour after hour laboured at
their task in silence, and with a curious intentness, or, if speak
they must, did so only in a whisper.

Gradually an impression of nightmare stole over me; I felt as though I
were a sleeper taking part in the drama of a dream. Perhaps, in fact,
this was so, since I was very tired, having rested but little for a
good many nights and laboured hard during the day trudging through the
sand with a heavy rifle and a load of cartridges upon my back. So
really I may have been in a doze, such as is easily induced in any
circumstances by the sound of lapping water. If so, it was not a
pleasant dream, for the titanic surroundings in which I found myself
and the dread possibilities of the whole enterprise oppressed my
spirit with a sensation of departure from the familiar things of life
into something unholy and unknown.

Soon the cliffs grew so high and the light so faint that I could only
just see the stern, handsome faces of the rowers appearing as they
bent forward to their ordered stroke, and vanishing into the gloom as
they leant back after it was accomplished. The very regularity of the
effort produced a kind of mesmeric effect which was unpleasant. The
faces looked to me like those of ghosts peeping at one through cracks
of the curtains round a bed, then vanishing, continually to return and
peep again.

I suppose that at last I went to sleep in good earnest. It was a
haunted sleep, however, for I dreamed that I was entering into some
dim Hades where all realities had been replaced by shadows,
strengthless but alarming.

At length I was awakened by the voice of Issicore, saying that we had
come to the place where we must rest for the night, as it was
impossible to travel in the dark and the rowers were weary. Here the
cliffs widened out a little, leaving a strip of shore upon either side
of the river, upon which we landed. By the last light that struggled
to us from the line of sky above we ate such food as we had,
supplemented by biscuits of a sort that were carried in the canoe, for
no fire was lighted. Before we had finished, dense darkness fell upon
us, for the moonbeams were not strong enough to penetrate into that
place, so that there was nothing to be done except lie down upon the
sand and sleep with the wailing of the night air between the cliffs
for lullaby.

The night passed somehow. It seemed so long that I began to think or
dream that I must be dead and waiting for my next incarnation, and
when occasionally I half woke up, was only reassured by hearing Hans
at my side muttering prayers in his sleep to my old father, of which
the substance was that he should be provided with a half-gallon bottle
of gin! At last a star that shone in the black riband far above
vanished and the riband turned blue, or, rather, grey, which showed
that it was dawn. We rose and stumbled into the canoe, for it was
impossible to see where to place our feet, and started. Within a few
hundred yards of our sleeping place suddenly the cliffs that hemmed in
the river widened out, so that now they rose at a distance of a mile
or more from either bank of flat, water-levelled land.

These banks, which here were steep, were clothed with great, dark-
coloured, spreading trees of which the boughs projected far over the
water and cut off the light almost as much as the precipices had done
lower down the stream. Thus we travelled in gloom, especially as the
sun was not yet up. Presently through this gloom, to which my trained
eyes had grown accustomed, I thought that I caught sight of tall,
dark-hued figures moving between the trees. Sometimes these figures
seemed to stand upright and walk upon their feet, and sometimes to run
swiftly upon all fours.

"Look, Hans," I whispered--everyone whispered in that place--"there
are baboons!"

"Baboons, Baas!" he answered. "Were ever baboons such a size? No, they
are devils."

Now from behind me Issicore also whispered,

"They are the Hairy Men who dwell in the forest, Lord. Be silent, I
pray you, lest they should attack us."

Then he began to consult with the rowers in low tones, apparently as
to whether we should go on or turn back. Finally we went on, paddling
at a double pace. A moment later a sound arose in that dim forest, a
sound of indescribable weirdness that was half an animal grunt and
half a human cry, which to my ears shaped itself into the syllables,
"/Heu-Heu!/" In an instant it was taken up upon all sides, and from
everywhere came this wail of "/Heu-Heu!/" which was so horrid to hear
that my hair stood up even straighter than usual. Listening to it, I
understood whence came the name of the god I had travelled so far to
visit.

Nor was this all, for there followed heavy splashes in the water, like
to those made by plunging crocodiles, and in the deep shadow beneath
the spreading trees I saw hideous heads swimming towards us.

"The Hairy Folk have smelt us," whispered Issicore again, in a voice
that I thought perturbed. "Do nothing, Lord; they are very curious.
Perhaps when they have looked they will go away."

"And if they don't?" I asked--a question to which he returned no
answer.

The canoe was steered over towards the left bank and driven forward at
great speed with all the strength of the rowers. Now in the space of
open water, upon which the light began to shine more strongly, I saw a
beast-like, bearded head that yet undoubtedly was human, yellow-eyed,
thick-lipped, with strong, gleaming teeth, coming towards us at the
speed of a very strong swimmer, for it had entered the water above us
and was travelling downstream. It reached us, lifted up a powerful arm
that was completely covered with brown hair like to that of a monkey,
caught hold of the gunwale of the boat just opposite to where I sat,
and reared its shoulders out of the water, thereby showing me that its
great body was for the most part also covered with long hair.

Now its other hand was also on the gunwale, and it stood in the water,
resting on its arms, the hideous head so close to me that its stinking
breath blew into my face. Yes, there it stood and jabbered at me. I
confess that I was terrified who never before had seen a creature like
this. Still, for a while I sat quiet.

Then of a sudden I felt that I could bear no more, who believed that
the brute was about to get into the boat, or perhaps to drag me out of
it. I lost control of myself, and drawing my heavy hunting-knife--the
one you see on the wall there, friends--I struck at the hand that was
nearest. The blow fell upon the fingers and cut one of them right off
so that it fell into the canoe. With an appalling yell the man or
beast let go and plunged into the water, where I saw him waving his
bleeding hand above his head.

Issicore began to say something to me in frightened tones, but just
then Hans ejaculated,

"/Allemaghter!/ here's another!" and a second huge head and body
reared itself up, this time on his side.

"Do nothing!" I heard Issicore exclaim. But the appearance of the
creature was too much for Hans, who drew his revolver and fired two
shots in rapid succession into its body. It also tumbled back into the
water, where it began to wallow, screaming, but in a thinner voice. I
thought, and rightly, that it must be female.

Before the echo of the shots had died away there rose another hideous
chorus of /Heu-Heus/ and other cries, all of them savage and terrible.
From both banks more of the creatures precipitated themselves into the
water, but luckily not to attack us because they were too much
occupied with the plight of their companion. They congregated round
her and dragged her to the shore. Yes, I saw them lift the body out of
the stream, for by this time I was sure from its hanging arms and legs
that it was dead, an act which showed me that although they had the
shape and the covering of beasts, in fact they were human.



"Elephants will do as much," interrupted Curtis.

"Yes," said Allan, "that is true. Sometimes they will; I have seen it
twice. But everything about the behaviour of those Hairy Men was
human. For instance, their wailing over the dead, which was dreadful
and reminded me of the tales of banshees. Moreover, I had not far to
look for proof. At my feet lay the finger that I had cut off. It was a
human finger, only very thick, short, and covered with hair, having
the nail worn down, too, doubtless in climbing trees and grubbing for
roots."



Even then with a shock I realized that I had stumbled on the Missing
Link, or something that resembled it very strongly. Here in this
unknown spot still survived a people such as were our forefathers
hundreds of thousands or millions of years ago. Also I reflected that
I ought to be proud, for I had made a great discovery, although, to
tell the truth, just then I should have been quite willing to resign
its glory to someone else.

After this I began to reflect upon other things, for a large jagged
stone whizzed within an inch of my head, and presently was followed by
a rude arrow tipped with fish bone that stuck in the side of the
canoe.

Amidst a shower of these missiles, which fortunately, beyond a bruise
or two, did us no harm, we headed out into mid-stream again where they
could not reach us, and as no more of the Hairy People swam from the
banks to cut us off, soon were pursuing our way in peace. For once,
however, the imperturbable Issicore was much disturbed. He came
forward and sat by me and said:

"A very evil thing has happened, Lord. You have declared war upon the
Hairy Men and the Hairy Men never forget. It will be war to the end."

"I can't help it," I answered feebly, for I was sick with the sight
and sound of those creatures. "Are there many of them, and are they
all over your country?"

"A good many, perhaps a thousand or more, Lord, but they only live in
the forests. You must never go into the forest, Lord, at any rate, not
alone; or on to the island where Heu-Heu lives, for he is their king
and keeps some of them about him."

"I have no present intention of doing so," I answered.

Now, as we went, the cliffs receded farther and farther from the
river, till at length they ceased altogether. We were through the lip
of the mountains, if I may so call it, and had entered a stretch of
unbroken virgin forest, a veritable sea of great trees that occupied
the rich land of the plain and grew to an enormous size and tallness.
Moreover, before us appeared clearly the cone of the volcano, broad
but of no great height, over which hung the mushroom-shaped cloud of
smoke.

All day long we travelled up this tranquil river, rejoicing in the
comparative brightness in its centre, although, of course, the trees
upon either edge overhung it much.

Late in the afternoon a bend of the banks brought us within sight of a
great sheet of water from which apparently the river issued, although,
as I learned afterwards, it flowed into it upon the other side, from I
know not whence. This lake--for it was a big lake many miles in
circumference--surrounded an island of considerable size, in the
centre of which rose the volcano, now a mere grey-hued mountain that
looked quite harmless, although over it hung that ominous cloud of
smoke which, oddly enough, one could not see issuing from its crest. I
suppose that it must have gone up in steam and condensed into smoke
above. At the foot of the mountain, upon a plain between it and the
lake, with the help of my glasses I could see what looked like
buildings of some size, constructed of black stone or lava.

"They are ruins," said Issicore, who had observed that I was examining
them. "Once the great city of my forefathers stood yonder until the
fire from the mountain destroyed it."

"Then does nobody live on the island now?" I asked.

"The priests of Heu-Heu live there, Lord. Also Heu-Heu himself lives
there in a great cave upon the farther side of the mountain, or so it
is said, for none of us has ever visited that cave, and with him some
of the Hairy People who are his servants. My grandfather did so,
however, and saw him there. Indeed, as I have told you, once I saw him
myself; but what he looked like you must not ask me, Lord, for I do
not remember," he added hastily. "In front of the cave is his garden,
where grows the magic tree of which the Master of Spirits yonder in
the South desires leaves to mix with his medicines; the tree that
gives dreams with long life and vision."

"Does Heu-Heu eat of this tree?" I asked.

"I do not know, but I know that he eats the flesh of beasts, because
of these we must make offerings to him, and sometimes of men, or so it
is said. Near the foot of the garden burn the eternal fires, and
between them is the rock upon which the offerings are made."

Now I thought to myself I should much like to see this place of which
it was evident that Issicore knew or would tell very little, where
there was a great cave in which dwelt a reputed demon with his slaves
and hierophants; and where too grew a tree supposed to be magical,
flanked by eternal fires. What were these eternal fires, I wondered. I
could only suppose that they had something to do with the volcano.

As it happened, however, whilst I was preparing to question Issicore
upon the subject, we passed round a tree-clad headland, for here the
river had widened into a kind of estuary, and on the shore of the bay
beyond it discovered a town of considerable size, covering several
hundred acres of ground. The houses of this town, most of which stood
in their own gardens, though some of the smaller ones were arranged in
streets, had an Eastern appearance, inasmuch as they were low and
flat-roofed.

Only there was this difference: Eastern houses of the primitive sort
as a rule are whitewashed, but these were all black, being built of
lava, as I discovered afterwards. All round the town also, except on
the lake side, ran a high wall likewise of black stone, the presence
of which excited my curiosity and caused me to inquire its object.

"It is to defend us from the Hairy Folk who attack by night," answered
Issicore. "In the daylight they never come, and therefore our fields
beyond are not walled," and he pointed to a great stretch of
cultivated land that I suppose had been cleared of trees, which
extended for miles into the surrounding forest.

Then he went on to explain that they laboured there while the sun was
up and at nightfall returned to the town, except certain of them who
slept in forts or blockhouses to guard the crops and cattle kraals.

Now I looked at this place and thought to myself that never in my life
had I seen one more gloomy, especially in the late afternoon under a
sullen, rain-laden sky. The black houses, the high black walls that
reminded me of a prison, the black waters of the lake, the outlook on
to the black volcano and the black mass of the forest behind, all
contributed to this effect.

"Oh, Baas, if I lived here I should soon go mad!" said Hans, and upon
my word, I agreed with him.

Now we paddled towards the shore, and presently ran alongside a little
jetty formed of stones loosely thrown together, on which we landed.
Evidently our approach had been observed, for a number of people--
forty or fifty of them, perhaps--were collected at the shore end of
the jetty awaiting us. A glance showed me that although of varying
ages and both sexes, in type they all resembled our guide, Issicore.
That is to say, they were tall, well-shaped, light-coloured and
extremely handsome, also clothed in white robes, while some of the men
wore hats of the Pharaonic type that I have described. The women's
headdress, however, consisted of a close-fitting linen cap with
lappets hanging down on either side, and was extraordinarily becoming
to their severe cast of beauty. From what race could this people have
sprung, I wondered. I had not the faintest idea; to me they looked
like the survivals of some ancient civilization.

Conducted by Issicore, we advanced, carrying our scanty baggage, a
forlorn and battered little company. As we drew near, the crowd
separated into two lines, men to the right and women to the left, like
the congregation in a very high church, and stood quite silent,
watching us intently with their large, melancholy eyes. Never a word
did they say as we passed between them, only watched and watched till
I felt quite nervous. They did not even offer any greeting to
Issicore, although it seemed to me that he had earned one after his
long and dangerous journey.

I observed, however, although at the time I took little notice of the
matter, and afterwards forgot all about it until Hans brought the
circumstance back to my mind, that a certain dark man of austere
countenance, clothed rather differently from the rest, approached
Issicore, addressed him, and thrust something into his hand. Issicore
glanced at this object, whatever it might be, and distinctly I saw him
tremble and turn pale. Then he hid it away, saying nothing.

Turning to the right, we marched along a roadway that bordered the
lake, which was constructed about twelve feet above its level, perhaps
to serve as a protection against inundation, till we came to a wall in
which was a door built of solid balks of wood. This door opened as we
approached, and, passing it, we found ourselves in a large garden
cultivated with taste and refinement, for in it were beds of flowers,
the only cheerful thing I ever saw in this town that, it appeared, was
named Walloo after the tribe or its ruler. At the end of the garden
stood a long, solid, flat-roofed house built of the prevailing lava
rock.

Entering, we found ourselves in a spacious room which, as dusk was
gathering, was lit with cresset-like lamps of elegant shape placed
upon pedestals cut from great tusks of ivory.

In the centre of this room were two large chairs made of ebony and
ivory with high backs and footstools, and in these chairs sat a man
and a woman who were well worth seeing. The man was old, for his
silver hair hung down upon his shoulders, and his fine, sad face was
deeply wrinkled.

At a glance I saw that he must be the king or chief, because of his
dignified if somewhat senile appearance. Moreover, his robes, with
their purple borders, had a royal look, and about his neck he wore a
heavy chain of what seemed to be gold, while in his hand was a black
staff tipped with gold, no doubt his sceptre. For the rest, his eyes
had a rather frightened air, and his whole aspect gave an idea of
weakness and indecision.

The woman sat in the other chair with the light from one of the lamps
shining full upon her, and I knew at once that she must be the Lady
Sabeela, the love of Issicore. No wonder that he loved her, for she
was beautiful exceedingly; tall, well developed, straight as a reed,
great-eyed, with chiselled features that were yet rounded and womanly,
and wonderfully small hands and feet. She, too, wore purple-bordered
robes. About her waist hung a girdle thickly sewn with red stones that
I took to be rubies, and upon her shapely head, serving as a fillet
for her abundant hair, which flowed down her in long waving strands of
a rich and ruddy hue of brown or chestnut, was a simple golden band.
Except for a red flower on her breast she wore no other ornament,
perhaps because she knew that none was needed.

Leaving us by the door of the chamber, Issicore advanced and knelt
before the old man, who first touched him with his staff and then laid
a hand upon his head. Presently he rose, went to the lady and knelt
before her also, whereon she stretched out her fingers for him to
kiss, while a look of sudden hope and joy, which even at that distance
I could distinguish, gathered on her face. He whispered to her for a
while, then turned and began to speak earnestly to her father. At
length he crossed the room, came to me and led me forward, followed by
Hans at my heels.

"O Lord Macumazahn," he said, "here sit the Walloo, the Prince of my
people, and his daughter, the Lady Sabeela. O Prince my cousin, this
is the white noble famous for his skill and courage, whom the Wizard
of the South made known to me and who at my prayer, out of the
goodness of his heart, has come to help us in our peril."

"I thank him," said the Walloo in the same dialect of Arabic that was
used by Issicore. "I thank him in my own name, in that of my daughter
who now alone is left to me, and in the name of my people."

Here he rose from his seat and bowed to me with a strange and foreign
courtesy such as I had not known in Africa, while the lady also rose
and bowed, or rather curtseyed. Seating himself again, he said,

"Without doubt you are weary and would rest and eat, after which
perchance we may talk."

Then we were led away through a door at the end of the great room into
another room that evidently had been prepared for me. Also there was a
place beyond for Hans, a kind of alcove. Here water, which I noticed
had been warmed--an unusual thing in Africa--was brought in a large
earthenware vessel by two quiet women of middle age, and with it an
undershirt of beautiful fine linen which was laid upon a bed, or
cushioned couch, that was arranged upon the floor and covered by fur
rugs.

I washed myself, pouring the warm water into a stone basin that was
set upon a stand, and put on the shirt, also the change of clothes
that I had with me, and, with the help of Hans and a pair of pocket
scissors, trimmed my beard and hair. Scarcely had I finished when the
women reappeared, bringing food on wooden platters--roast lamb, it
seemed to be--and with it drink in jars of earthenware that were of
elegant shape and powdered all over with the little rough diamonds of
which Zikali had given me specimens, that evidently had been set in it
in patterns before the clay dried. This drink, by the way was a kind
of native beer, sweet to the taste but pleasant and rather strong, so
that I had to be careful lest Hans should take too much of it.

After we had finished our meal, which was very welcome, for we had
eaten no properly cooked food since we left the wagon, Issicore
arrived and took us back to the large room, where we found the Walloo
and his daughter seated as before, with several old men squatting
about them on the ground. A stool having been set for me the talk
began.

I need not enter into all its details, since in substance they set out
what I had already heard from Issicore; namely, that there dwelt
Something or Somebody on the island in the lake who required annually
the sacrifice of a beautiful virgin. This was demanded through the
head priest of a college, also established on the island which
acknowledged the being, real or imaginary, that lived there as its god
or fetish. Further, that creature (if he existed) was said to be the
king of all the Hairy Folk who inhabited the forest. Lastly, there was
a legend that he was the reincarnation of some ancient monarch of the
Walloo folk, who had come to a bad end at the hands of his indignant
subjects at some date undefined. Walloo, it seemed, was their correct
name, that of Heuheua applying only to the Hairy Men of the woods.

This story I dismissed at once, being quite convinced that it was only
a variant of a very common African fable. Doubtless Heu-Heu, if there
really were a Heu-Heu, was the ruler of the savage hairy aboriginals
of the place that once in the far past had been conquered by the
invading Walloo, who poured into the country from the north or west,
being themselves the survivors of some civilized but forgotten people.
This conclusion, I may add, I never found any reason to doubt. Africa
is a very ancient land, and in it once lived many races that have
vanished, or survive only in a debased condition, dwindling from
generation to generation until the day of their extinction comes.

Here I may state briefly the final opinions at which I have arrived
about this people.

Almost certainly these Walloos were such a dying race, hailing, as
names among them seemed to suggest from some region in West Africa,
where their forefathers had been highly civilized. Thus, although they
could not write, they had traditions of writing and even inscriptions
graven upon stones, of which I saw several in a character that I did
not know, though to me it had the look of Egyptian hieroglyphics. Also
they still had knowledge of certain cultured arts such as the weaving
of fine linen, the carving of wood and marble, the making of pottery,
and the smelting of metals with which their land abounded, including
gold that they found in little nuggets in the gravel of the streams.

Most of these crafts, however, were dying out except those that were
necessary to life, such as the moulding of pottery and the building of
houses and walls, and particularly agriculture, in which they were
very proficient. When I saw them all the higher arts were practised
only by the very old men. As they never intermarried with any other
blood, their hereditary beauty, which was truly remarkable, remained
to them, but owing to the causes I have mentioned already, the stock
was dwindling, the total population being now not more than half of
what it was within the memory of the fathers of their oldest men.
Their melancholy, which now had become constitutional, doubtless was
induced by their gloomy surroundings and the knowledge that as a race
they were doomed to perish at the hands of the savage aboriginals who
once had been their slaves.

Lastly, although they retained traces of some higher religion, since
they made prayer to a Great Spirit, they were fetish-ridden and
believed that they could continue to exist only by making sacrifice to
a devil who, if they neglected to do so, would crush them with
misfortunes and give them over to destruction at the hands of the
dreadful Forest-dwellers. Therefore they, or a section of them, became
the priests of this devil called Heu-Heu, and thereby kept peace
between them and the Hairy Men.

Nor was this the end of their troubles, since, as Issicore had told
me, these priests, after the fashion of priests all the world over,
now aspired to the absolute rule of the race, and for this reason
plotted the extinction of the hereditary chief and all his family.

Such, in substance, was the lugubrious story that the unhappy Walloo
poured into my ears that night, ending it in these words:

"Now you will understand, O Lord Macumazahn, why in our extremity and
in obedience to the ancient prophecy, which has come down to us from
our fathers, we communicated with the great Wizard of the South, with
whom we had been in touch in ancient days, praying him to send us the
helper of the prophecy. Behold, he has sent you and now I implore you
to save my daughter from the fate that awaits her. I understand that
you will require payment in white and red stones, also in gold and
ivory. Take as much as you want. Of the stones there are jars full
hidden away and the fences of some of my courtyards at the back of
this house are made of tusks of ivory, though it is black with age,
and I know not how you would carry it hence. Also there is a quantity
of gold melted into bars, which my grandfather caused to be collected,
whereof we make little use except now and again for women's ornaments,
but that, too, would be heavy to carry across the desert. Still, it is
all yours. Take it. Take everything you wish, only save my daughter."

"We will talk of the reward afterwards," I said, for my heart was
touched at the sight of the old man's grief. "Meanwhile, let me hear
what can be done."

"Lord, I do not know," he answered, wringing his hands. "The third
night from this is that of full moon, the full moon which marks the
beginning of harvest. On that night we must carry my daughter, on whom
the lot has fallen, to the island in the lake where stands the smoking
mountain and bind her to the pillar upon the Rock of Offering that is
set between the two undying fires. There we must leave her, and at the
dawn, so it is said, Heu-Heu himself seizes her and carries her into
his cavern, where she vanishes for ever. Or, if he does not come, his
priests do, to drag her to the god, and we see her no more."

"Then why do you take her to the island? Why do you not call your
people together and fight and kill this god or his priest?"

"Lord, because not one man among us, save perhaps Issicore yonder, who
can do nothing alone, would lift a hand to save her. They believe that
if they did the mountain would break into flames, as happened in the
bygone ages, turning all upon whom the ashes fell into stone; also,
that the waters would rise and destroy the crops, so that we must die
of starvation, and that any who escaped the fire and the water and the
want would perish at the hands of the cruel Wood-devils. Therefore, if
I ask the Walloos to save the maiden from Heu-Heu, they will kill me
and give her up in accordance with the law."

"I understand," I said, and was silent.

"Lord," went on the old Walloo presently, "here with me you are safe,
for none of my people will harm you or those with you. But I learn
from Issicore that you have stabbed a Hairy Man with a knife, and that
your servant slew one of their women with the strange weapons that you
carry. Therefore, from the Wood-devils you are not safe, for, if they
can, they will kill you both and feast upon your bodies."

"That's cheerful," I thought to myself, but made no further answer,
for I did not know what to say.

Just then the Walloo rose from his chair, saying that he must go to
pray to the spirits of his ancestors to help him, but that we would
talk again upon the morrow. After this he bade us good-night and
departed without another word, followed by the old men, who all this
while had sat silent, only nodding their heads from time to time like
porcelain images of Chinese mandarins.




CHAPTER VIII



THE HOLY ISLE


When the door had closed behind him, I turned to Issicore and asked
him straight out if he had any plan to suggest. He shook his noble-
looking head and answered, "None," as it was impossible to resist both
the will of the people and the law of the priests.

"Then what is the use of your having brought me all this way?" I
inquired with indignation. "Cannot you think of some scheme? For
instance, would it not be possible for you and this lady to fly with
us down the river and escape to a land which is not full of demons?"

"It would not be possible," he answered in a melancholy voice. "Day
and night we are watched and would be seized before we had travelled a
mile. Moreover, could she leave her father, and could I leave all my
relations to be murdered in payment for our sacrilege?"

"Have you no thought in your mind at all?" I asked again. "Is there
nothing that would save the Lady Sabeela?"

"Nothing, Lord, except the end of Heu-Heu and his priests. It is to
you, great Lord, that we look to find a way to destroy them, as the
prophecy declares will be done by the White Deliverer from the South."

"Oh, dash the prophecy! I never knew prophecies to help anybody yet,"
I ejaculated in English, as I contemplated that beautiful but helpless
pair. Then I added in Arabic, "I am tired and am going to bed. I hope
that I shall find more wisdom in my dreams than I do in you,
Issicore," I added, staring at the man in whom I seemed to detect some
subtle change, some access of fatalistic helplessness, even of
despair.

Now Sabeela, seeing that I was angry, broke in,

"O Lord, be not wrath, for we are but flies in the spider's web, and
the threads of that web are the priests of Heu-Heu, and the posts to
which it is fixed are the beliefs of my people, and Heu-Heu himself is
the spider, and in my breast his claws are fixed."

Now, listening to her allegory, I thought to myself that a better one
might have been drawn from a snake and a bird, for really, like the
rest of them, this poor girl seemed to be mesmerized with terror and
to have made up her mind to sit still waiting to be struck by the
poisoned fangs.

"Lord," she went on, "we have done all we could. Did not Issicore make
a great journey to find you? Yes, did he not even dare the curse which
falls upon the heads of those who try to leave our country, and travel
south to seek the counsel of the Great Wizard, who once sent
messengers here to obtain the leaves of the tree that grows in Heu-
Heu's garden, the tree that makes men drunk and gives them visions?"

"Yes," I answered, "he did that, Lady, and might I say to you that his
health seems none the worse. Those curses of which you speak have not
yet hurt him."

"It is true they have not hurt his body--yet," she said in a musing
voice, as though a new thought had struck her.

"Well, if that is true, Sabeela, may it not be true also that all this
talk about the power of Heu-Heu is nonsense? Tell me, have you ever
spoken with or seen Heu-Heu?"

"No, Lord, no, though unless you can save me I shall soon see him."

"Well, and has any one else?"

"No, Lord, no one has ever spoken with him, except, of course, his
priests, such as my distant cousin, Dacha, who is the head of them,
but whom I used to know before he was chosen by Heu-Heu to be one of
their company."

"Oh! So no one has seen him? Then he must be a very secret kind of god
who does not take exercise, but lives, I understand, in a cave with
priests."

"I did not say that no one had ever seen Heu-Heu, Lord. Many say that
they have seen him, as Issicore has done, when he came out of the cave
on a Night of Offering, but of what they saw it is death to speak. Ask
me and Issicore no more of Heu-Heu, Lord I pray you, lest the curse
should fall. It is not lawful that we should tell you of him, whose
secrets are sacred even to his priests," she added with agitation.

Then in despair I gave up asking questions about Heu-Heu and inquired
how many priests he had.

"About twenty, I believe, Lord," she answered, ceasing from evasions,
"not counting their wives and families, and it is said that they do
not live with Heu-Heu in the cave, but in houses outside of it."

"And what do they do when they are not worshipping Heu-Heu, Sabeela?"

"Oh, they cultivate the land and they rule the Wild People of the
Woods, who, it is believed, are all Heu-Heu's children. Also they come
here and spy on us."

"Do they indeed?" I remarked. "And is it true that they hope to rule
over you Walloos also?"

"Yes, I believe that it is true. At least, should my father die and I
die, it is said that Dacha means to make war upon the Walloos and take
the chieftainship, setting aside or killing my cousin and betrothed
Issicore. For Dacha was always one who desired to be first."

"So you used to know Dacha pretty well, Lady?"

"Yes, Lord, when I was quite young before he became a priest. Also,"
she added, colouring, "I have seen him since he became a priest."

"And what did he say to you?"

"He said that if I would take him for a husband perhaps I should
escape from Heu-Heu."

"And what did you answer, Lady?"

"Lord, I answered that I would rather go to Heu-Heu."

"Why?"

"Because Dacha, it is reported, has many wives already. Also I hate
him. Also from Heu-Heu at the last I can always escape."

"How?"

"By death, Lord. We have swift poison in this country, and I carry
some of it hidden in my hair," she added with emphasis.

"Quite so. I understand. But, Lady Sabeela, as you have been so good
as to ask my advice about these matters, I will give you some. It is
that you should not taste that poison till all else has failed and
there is no escape. While we breathe there is hope, and all that
seems lost still may be won, but the dead do not live again, Lady
Sabeela."

"I hear and will obey you, Lord," she answered, weeping. "Yet sleep is
better than Dacha or Heu-Heu."

"And life is better than all three of them put together," I replied,
"especially life with love."

Then I bowed myself off to bed, followed by Hans, also bowing--like a
monkey for pennies on a barrel-organ. At the door I looked back, and
saw these two poor people in each other's arms, thinking, doubtless,
that we were already out of sight of them. Yes, her head was upon
Issicore's shoulder, and from the convulsive motions of her form I
guessed that she was sobbing, while he tried to console her in the
ancient, world-wide fashion. I only hope that she got more comfort
from Issicore than I did. To me he now seemed to be but a singularly
unresourceful member of a played-out race, though it is true that he
had courage, since otherwise he would not have attempted the journey
to Zululand. Also, as I have said, quite suddenly he had changed in
some subtle fashion.

When we were in our own room with the door bolted (it had no windows,
light and ventilation being provided by holes in the roof) I gave Hans
some tobacco and bade him sit down on the other side of the lamp,
where he squatted upon the floor like a toad.

"Now, Hans," I said, "tell me all the truth of this business and what
we are to do to help this pretty lady and the old chief, her father."

Hans looked at the roof and looked at the wall; then he spat upon the
floor, for which I reproved him.

"Baas," he said at length, "I think the best thing we can do is to
find out where those bright stones are, fill our pockets with them,
and escape from this country which is full of fools and devils. I am
sure that Beautiful One would be better off with the priest Dacha, or
even with Heu-Heu, than with Issicore, who now has become but a carved
and painted lump of wood made to look like a man."

"Possibly, Hans, but the tastes of women are curious, and she likes
this lump of wood, who, after all, is brave, except where ghosts and
spirits are concerned. Otherwise he would not have journeyed so far
for her sake. Moreover, we have a bargain to keep. What should we say
to the Opener-of-Roads if we returned, having run away and without his
medicine? No, Hans, we must play out this game."

"Yes, Baas, I thought that the Baas would say that because of his
foolishness. Had I been alone, by now, or a little later, I should
have been in that canoe going down-stream. However, the Baas has
settled that we must save the lady and give her to the Lump of Wood
for a wife. So now I think I will go to sleep, and to-morrow or the
next day the Baas can save her. I don't think very much of the beer in
this country, Baas--it is too sweet; and all these handsome fools who
talk about devils and priests weary me. Also, it is a bad climate and
very damp. I think it is going to rain again, Baas."

Having nothing else at hand, I threw my tobacco-pouch at Hans's head.
He caught it deftly, and in an absent-minded fashion, put it into his
own pocket.

"If the Baas really wishes to know what I think," he said, yawning,
"it is that the medicine man named Dacha wants the pretty lady for
himself; also to rule alone over all these dull people. As for Heu-
Heu, I don't know anything about him, but perhaps he is one of those
Hairy Men who came here at the beginning of the world. I think that
the best thing we can do, Baas, would be to take a boat to-morrow
morning and go to that island, where we can find out the truth for
ourselves. Perhaps the Lump of Wood and some of his men can row us
there. And now I have nothing more to say, so, if the Baas does not
mind, I will go to sleep. Keep your pistol ready, Baas, in case any of
the Hairy People wish to call upon us--just to talk about the one I
shot."

Then he retired to a corner, rolling himself up in a skin rug, and
presently was snoring, though, as I knew well enough, with one eye
open all the time. No Hairy Man, or any one else, would have come near
that place without Hans hearing him, for his sleep was like to that of
a dog who watches his master.

As I prepared to follow his example, I reflected that his remarks,
casual as they seemed, were full of wisdom. These folk were
superstition-riddled fools and useless; probably the only ones that
had wits among them became priests. But the Hairy aboriginals were an
ugly fact, as the priests knew, since apparently they had obtained
rule over them. For the rest, the only thing to do was to visit the
Holy Island and find out the truth for ourselves, as Hans had said. It
would be dangerous, no doubt, but at the least it would also be
exciting.

Next morning I rose after an excellent night's rest and found my way
into the garden, where I amused myself by examining the shrubs and
flowers, some of which were strange to me. Also I studied the sky,
which was heavy and lowering, and seemed full of rain. I could study
nothing else because the high wall cut off the view upon every side so
that little was to be seen except the top of the volcano, which rose
from the lake at a distance of several miles, for it was a large sheet
of water. Presently the door of the garden opened and Issicore
appeared, looking weary and somewhat bewildered. It occurred to me
that he had been sitting up late with Sabeela. As they were to be
parted so soon, naturally they would see as much as they could of each
other. Or for aught I knew, he might have been praying to his
ancestral spirits and trying to make up his mind what to do, no doubt
a difficult process under the circumstances. I went to the point at
once.

"Issicore," I said, "as soon as possible after breakfast, will you
have a canoe ready to take me and Hans to the island in the lake?"

"To the island in the lake, Lord!" he exclaimed, amazed. "Why, it is
holy!"

"I daresay, but I am holy also, so that if I go there it will be
holier."

Then he advanced all kinds of objections, and even brought out the
Walloo and his grey-heads to reinforce his arguments. Hans and Sabeela
also joined the party; the latter, I noted, looking even more
beautiful by day than she did in the lamplight. Sabeela, indeed,
proved my only ally, for presently, when the others had talked
themselves hoarse, she said,

"The White Lord has been brought hither that we, who are bewildered
and foolish, may drink of the cup of his wisdom. If his wisdom bids
him visit the Holy Isle, let him do so, my father."

As no one seemed to be convinced, I stood silent, not knowing what
more to say. Then Hans took up his parable, speaking in his bad coast-
Arabic:

"Baas, Issicore, although he is so big and strong, and all these
others are afraid of Heu-Heu and his priests. But we, who are good
Christians, are not afraid of any devils because we know how to deal
with them. Also we can paddle, therefore let the Chief give us quite a
small canoe and show us which way to row, and we will go to the island
by ourselves."

In sporting parlance, this shot hit the bull in the eye, and Issicore,
who, as I have said, was a brave man at bottom, fired up and answered,

"Am I a coward that I should listen to such words from your servant,
Lord Macumazahn? I and some others whom I can find will row you to the
island, though on it we will not set our foot because it is not lawful
for us to do so. Only, Lord, if you come back no more, blame me not."

"Then that is settled," I replied quietly, "and now, if we may, let us
eat, for I am hungry."



About two hours later we started from the quay, taking with us all our
small possessions, down to some spare powder in flasks which we had
brought to reload fired cartridge cases, for Hans refused to leave
anything behind with no one to watch it. The canoe which was given to
us was much smaller than that in which we had come up the river,
though, like it, hollowed from a single log; and its crew consisted of
Issicore, who steered, and four other Walloos, who paddled, stout and
determined-looking fellows, all of them. The island was about five
miles away, but we made a wide circuit to the south, I suppose in the
hope of avoiding observation, and therefore it took us the best part
of two hours to reach its southern shore.

As we approached I examined the place carefully through my glasses,
and observed that it was much larger than I had thought--several miles
in circumference, indeed, for in addition to the central volcanic cone
there was a great stretch of low-lying land all round its base, which
land seemed not to rise more than a foot or two above the level of the
lake. In character, except on these flats by the lake, it was stony
and barren, being, in fact, strewn with lumps of lava ejected from the
volcano during the last eruption.

Issicore informed me, however, that the northern part of the island
where the priests lived, which had not been touched by the lava
stream, was very fertile. I should add that the crater of the volcano
seemed to bear out his statement as to the direction of the flow,
since on the south it was blown away to a great depth, whereas the
northern segment rose in a high and perfect wall of rock.

The day was very misty--a circumstance which favoured our approach--
and the sky, which, as I have said, was black and pregnant with coming
rain, seemed almost to touch the crest of the mountain. These
conditions, until we were quite close, prevented us from seeing that a
stream of glowing lava, not very broad, was pouring down the mountain-
side. When they discovered this, the Walloos grew much alarmed, and
Issicore told me that such a thing had not been known "for a hundred
years," and that he thought it portended something unusual, as the
mountain was supposed to be "asleep."

"It is awake enough to smoke, anyway," I answered, and continued my
examination.

Among the stones, and sometimes half-buried by them, I saw what
appeared to be the remains of those buildings of which I have spoken.
There, Issicore said, had once been part of the city of his
forefathers, adding that, as he had been told, in some of them the
said forefathers were still to be seen turned to stone, which, you
will remember, exactly bore out Zikali's story.

Anything more desolate and depressing than the aspect of this place
seen on that grey day and beneath the brooding sky cannot be imagined.
Still I burned to examine it, for this tale of fossilized people
excited me, who have always loved the remains of antiquity and strange
sights.

Forgetting all about Heu-Heu and his priests for the moment, I told
the Walloos to paddle to the shore, and, after a moment of mute
protest, they obeyed, running into a little bay. Hans and I stepped
easily on to the rocks and, carrying our bags and rifles, started on
our search. First, however, we arranged with Issicore that he should
await our return and then row us back round the island so that we
might have a view of the priests' settlement. With a sigh he promised
to do so, and at once paddled out to about a hundred yards from the
shore, where the canoe was anchored by means of a pierced stone tied
to a cord.

Off went Hans and I towards the nearest group of ruins. As we
approached them, Hans said,

"Look out, Baas! There's a dog between those rocks."

I stared at the spot he indicated, and there, sure enough, saw a large
grey dog with a pointed muzzle, which seemed to be fast asleep. We
drew nearer, and as it did not stir, Hans threw a stone and hit it on
the back. Still it did not stir, so we went up and examined it.

"It is a stone dog," I said. "The people who lived here must have made
statues," for as yet I did not believe the stories I had heard about
petrified creatures, which, after all, must be very legendary.

"If so, Baas, they put bones into their carvings. Look," and he
touched one of the dog's front paws which was broken off. There, in
the middle of it, appeared the bone fossilized. Then I understood.

The animal had been fleeing away to the shore when the poisonous gases
overcame it at the time of the eruption. After this, I suppose, some
rain of petrifying fluid had fallen on it and turned it into stone. It
was a marvellous thing, but I could not doubt the evidence of my own
eyes. All the tale was true, and I had made a great discovery.

We hurried on to the houses, which, of course, now were roofless, and
in some instances choked with lava, though the outer walls, being
strongly built of rock, still stood. On certain of these walls were
the faint remains of frescoes; one of people sitting at a feast,
another of a hunting scene, and so forth.

We passed on to a second group of buildings standing at some distance
against the flank of the mountain and more or less protected by an
overhanging ledge or shelf of stone. These appeared to have been a
palace or a temple, for they were large, with stone columns that
supported the roofs. We went on through the great hall to the rooms
behind, and in the furthermost, which was under the ledge of rock and
probably had been used as a store chamber, we saw an extraordinary
sight.

There, huddled together, and in some instances clasping each other,
were a number of people, twenty or thirty of them--men, women, and
children--all turned to stone. Doubtless the petrifying fluid had
flowed into the chamber through the cracks in the rock above and done
its office on them. They were naked, every one, which suggested that
their clothing had either been burnt off them or had rotted away
before the process was complete. The former hypothesis seemed to be
borne out by the fact that none of them had any hair left upon their
heads. The features were not easy to distinguish, but the general type
of the bodies was certainly very similar to that of the Walloos.

Speechless with amazement, we emerged from that death chamber and
wandered about the place. Here and there we found the bodies of others
who had perished in the great catastrophe and once came across an arm
projecting from a mass of lava, which seemed to show that many more
were buried underneath. Also we found a number of fossilized goats in
a kraal. What a place to dig in! I thought to myself. Given some
spades, picks, and blasting-powder, what might one not find in these
ruins?

All the relics of a past civilization, perhaps--its inscriptions, its
jewellery, the statues of its gods; even, perhaps, its domestic
furniture buried beneath the lava and the dust, though probably this
had rotted. Here, certainly, was another Pompeii, and perhaps beneath
that another Herculaneum.

Whilst I mused thus over glories passed away and wondered when they
had passed, Hans dug me in the ribs and, in his horrible Boer Dutch,
ejaculated a single word, "/Kek!/" which, as perhaps you know, means
"Look!" at the same time nodding towards the lake.

I did look, and saw our canoe paddling off for all it was worth, going
"hell for leather," as my old father used to say, towards the Walloo
shore.

"Now why is it doing that?" I asked.

"I expect because something is behind it, Baas," he replied with
resignation, then sat down on a rock, pulled out his pipe, filled it,
and lit a match.

As usual, Hans was right, for presently from round the curve of the
island there appeared two other canoes, very large canoes, rowing
after ours with great energy and determination, and, as I guessed,
with malignant intent.

"I think those priests have seen our boat and mean to catch it, if
they can," remarked Hans, spitting reflectively, "though as Issicore
has got a long start, perhaps they won't. And now, Baas, what are we
to do? We can't live here with dead men, and stone goat is not good to
eat."

I considered the situation, and my heart sank into my boots, for the
position seemed desperate. A moment before I had been filled with
enthusiasm over this ruined city and its fossilized remains. Now I
hated the very thought of them, and wished that they were at the
bottom of the lake. Thus do circumstances alter cases, and our poor
variable human moods. Then an idea came to me, and I said boldly,

"Do! Why, there is only one thing to do. We must go to call on Heu-
Heu, or his priests."

"Yes, Baas. But the Baas remembers the picture in the cave on the
Berg. If it is a true picture, Heu-Heu knows how to twist off men's
heads!"

"I don't believe there is a Heu-Heu," I said stoutly. "You will have
noticed, Hans, that we have heard all sorts of stories about Heu-Heu,
but that no one seems to have seen him clearly enough to give us an
accurate description of what he is like or what he does--not even
Zikali. He showed us a picture of the beast on his fire, but after all
it was only what we had seen on the wall of the cave, and I think that
he got it out of our own minds. At any rate, it is just as well to die
quickly without a head, as slowly with an empty stomach, since I am
sure those Walloos will never come back to look for us."

"Yes, Baas, I think so, too. Issicore used to have courage, but he
seems to have changed, as though something had happened to him since
he got back into his own country. And now, if the Baas is ready, I
think we had better be trekking, unless, indeed, he would like to look
at a few more stone men first. It is beginning to rain, Baas, and we
have been much longer here than the Baas thinks, since it is a slow
business crawling about these old houses. Therefore, if we are to get
to the other side of the island before nightfall, it is time to go."

So off we went, keeping to the western side of the volcano, since
there it did not seem to project so far into the flat lands. A while
later we turned round and looked at the lake. There in the far
distance our canoe appeared a mere speck, with two other specks, those
of the pursuers, close upon its heels. As we watched, out of the mists
on the Walloo shore came yet other specks, which were doubtless Walloo
boats paddling to the rescue, for the priests' canoes gave up the
chase and turned homewards.

"Issicore will have a very nice story to tell to the Lady Sabeela,"
said Hans; "but perhaps she will not kiss him after she has heard it."

"He was quite wise to go. What good could he have done by staying?" I
answered, as we trudged on, adding, "Still, you are right, Hans,
Issicore has changed."

It was a hard walk over rough ground, at least at first, for so soon
as we got round the shoulder of the volcano the character of the
country altered and we found ourselves in fertile, cultivated land
that appeared to be irrigated.

"These fields must lie very low, Baas," said Hans, "since otherwise
how do they get the lake water on to them?"

"I don't know," I replied crossly, for I was thinking of the sky
water, which was beginning to descend in a steady drizzle upon
ourselves. But all the same, the remark stuck in my mind and was
useful afterwards. On we marched, till at length we entered a grove of
palm trees that was traversed by a road.

Presently we came to the end of the road and found ourselves in a
village of well-built stone houses, with one very large house in the
middle of it, of which the back was set almost against the foot of the
mountain. As there was nothing else to be done, we walked on into the
village, at first without being observed, for everybody was under
cover because of the rain. Soon, however, dogs began to bark, and a
woman, looking out of the doorway of one of the houses, caught sight
of us and screamed. A minute later men with shaven heads and wearing
white, priestly-looking robes, appeared and ran towards us flourishing
big spears.

"Hans," I said, "keep your rifle ready, but don't shoot unless you are
obliged. In this case, words may serve us better than bullets."

"Yes, Baas, though I don't believe that either will serve us much."

Then he sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree that lay by the
roadside, and waited, and I followed his example, taking the
opportunity to light my pipe.




CHAPTER IX



THE FEAST


When they were within a few paces of us the men halted, apparently
astonished at our appearance, which certainly did not compare
favourably with their own, for they were all of the splendid Walloo
type. Evidently what astonished them still more was the match with
which I was lighting my pipe, and indeed the pipe itself, for although
these people grew tobacco, they only took it in the form of snuff.

That match went out and I struck another, and at the sight of the
sudden appearance of fire they stepped back a pace or two. At length
one of them, pointing to the burning match, asked in the same tongue
that was used by the Walloos,

"What is that, O Stranger?"

"Magic fire," I answered, adding by an inspiration, "which I am
bringing as a present to the great god Heu-Heu."

This information seemed to mollify them, for, lowering their spears,
they turned to speak to another man who at this moment arrived upon
the scene. He was a stout, fine-looking man of considerable presence,
with a hooked nose and flashing black eyes. Also he wore a priestly
cap upon his head and his white robes were broidered.

"Very big fellow, this, Baas," Hans whispered to me, and I nodded,
observing as I did so that the other priests bowed as they addressed
him.

"Dacha in person," thought I to myself, and sure enough Dacha it was.

He advanced and, looking at the wax match, said:

"Where does the magic fire of which you speak live, Stranger?"

"In this case covered with holy secret writing," I replied, holding
before his eyes a box labelled "Wax Vestas, Made in England," and
adding solemnly, "Woe be to him that touches it or him that bears it
without understanding, for it will surely leap forth and consume that
foolish man, O Dacha."

Now Dacha followed the example of his companions and stepped back a
little way, remarking,

"How do you know my name, and who sends this present of self-
conceiving fire to Heu-Heu?"

"Is not the name of Dacha known to the ends of the earth?" I asked--a
remark which seemed to please him very much; "yes, as far as his
spells can travel, which is the sky and back again. As to who sends
the magic fire, it is a great one, a wizard of the best, if not quite
so good as Dacha, who is named Zikali, who is named the 'Opener-of-
Roads,' who is named 'the Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born.'"

"We have heard of him," said Dacha. "His messengers were here in our
father's day. And what does Zikali want of us, O Stranger?"

"He wants leaves of a certain tree that grows in Heu-Heu's garden,
that is called the Tree of Visions, that he may mix them with his
medicines."

Dacha nodded and so did the other priests. Evidently they knew all
about the Tree of Visions, as I, or rather Zikali, had named it.

"Then why did he not come for them himself?"

"Because he is old and infirm. Because he is detained by great
affairs. Because it was easier for him to send me, who, being a lover
of that which is holy, was anxious to do homage to Heu-Heu and to make
the acquaintance of the great Dacha."

"I understand," the priest replied, highly gratified, as his face
shewed. "But how are you named, O Messenger of Zikali?"

"I am named 'Blowing-Wind,' because I pass where I would, none seeing
me come or go, and therefore am the best and swiftest of messengers.
And this little one, this small but great-souled one with me"--here I
pointed to the smirking Hans, who by now was quite alive to the
humours of the situation and to its advantages from our point of view
--"is named 'Lord-of-the-Fire' and 'Light-in-Darkness'" (this was true
enough and worked in very well) "because it is he who is guardian of
the magic fire" (also true, for he had half a dozen spare boxes in his
pockets that he had stolen at one time or another) "of which, if he is
offended, he can make enough to burn up all this island and everyone
thereon; yes, more than is hidden in the womb of that mountain."

"Can he, by Heu-Heu!" said Dacha, regarding Hans with great respect.

"Certainly he can. Mighty though I be, I must be careful not to anger
him lest myself I should be burnt to cinders."

At this moment a doubt seemed to strike Dacha, for he asked:

"Tell me, O Blowing-Wind and O Lord-of-Fire, how you came to this
island? We observed a canoe manned with some of our rebellious
subjects who serve that old usurper the Walloo, which is being hunted
that they may be killed for the sacrilege in approaching this holy
place. Were you perchance in that canoe?"

"We were," I answered boldly. "When we arrived at yonder town I met a
lady, a very beautiful lady, named Sabeela, and asked her where dwelt
the great Dacha. She said here--more, that she knew you and that you
were the most beautiful and noblest of men, as well as the wisest. She
said also that with some of her servants, including a stupid fellow
called Issicore, of whom she never can be rid wherever she goes, she
herself would paddle us to the island on the chance of seeing your
face again." (I may explain to you fellows that this lie was perfectly
safe, as I knew Issicore and his people had escaped.) "So she brought
us here and landed us that we might look at the ruined city before
coming on to see you. But then your people roughly hunted her away, so
that we were obliged to walk to your town. That is all."

Now Dacha became agitated. "I pray Heu-Heu," he said, "that those
fools may not have caught and killed her with the others."

"I pray so also, since she is too fair to die," I answered, "who would
be a lovely wife for any man. But stay, I will tell you what has
chanced. Lord-of-the-Fire, make fire."

Hans produced a match and lit it on the seat of his trousers, which
was the only part of him that was not damp. He held it in his joined
hands and I stared at the flame, muttering. Then he whispered:

"Be quick, Baas, it is burning my fingers!"

"All is well," I said solemnly. "The canoe with Sabeela the Beautiful
escaped your people, since other canoes, seven--no, eight of them," I
corrected, studying the ashes of the match, also the blister on Hans's
finger, "came out from the town and drove yours away just as they were
overtaking the Lady Sabeela."

This was a most fortunate stroke, for at that moment a messenger
arrived and gave Dacha exactly the same intelligence, which he
punctuated with many bows.

"Wonderful!" said the priest. "Wonderful! Here we have magicians
indeed!" and he stared at us with much awe. Then again a doubt struck
him.

"Lord," he said, "Heu-Heu is the ruler of the savage Hairy People who
live in the woods and are named Heuheuas after him. Now a tale has
reached us that one of these people has been mysteriously killed with
a noise by some strangers. Had you aught to do with her death, Lord?"

"Yes," I answered. "She annoyed the Lord-of-the-Fire with her
attentions, so he slew her, as was right and proper. I cut off the
finger of another who wished to shake hands with me when I had told
him to go away."

"But how did he slay her, Lord?"

Now I may explain that there was one inhabitant of this place that
greeted us with no cordiality at all, namely a large and particularly
ferocious dog, that all this while had been growling round us and
finally had got hold of Hans's coat, which it held between its teeth,
still growling.

"/Scheet!/ Hans, /scheet seen dood!/" ("Shoot! Hans, shoot him dead!")
I whispered, and Hans, who was always quick to catch an idea, put his
hand into his pocket where he kept his pistol, and pressing the muzzle
against the brute's head, fired through the cloth, with the result
that this dog went wherever bad dogs go.

Then there was consternation. Indeed, one of the priests fell down
with fear and the others turned tail, all of them except Dacha, who
stood his ground.

"A little of the magic fire!" I remarked airily, "and there is plenty
more where that came from," at the same time, as though by accident,
slapping Hans's pocket, which I saw was smouldering. "And now, noble
Dacha, it is setting in wet and we are hungry. Be pleased to give us
shelter and food."

"Certainly, Lord, certainly!" he exclaimed, and started off with us,
keeping me well between himself and Hans, while the others, who had
returned, followed with the dead dog.

Presently, recovering from his fear, he asked me whether the Lady
Sabeela had said anything more about him.

"Only one thing," I answered: "that it was a pity that a maiden should
be obliged to marry a god when there were such men as you in the
world."

Here I stopped and watched the effect of my shot out of the corner of
my eye.

His coarse but handsome face grew cunning, and he smacked his lips.

"Yes, Lord, yes," he said hurriedly. "But who knows? Things are not
always what they seem, Lord, and I have noted that sometimes the
faithful servant tithes the master's offering."

"By Jingo! I've got it!" thought I to myself. "/You/, my friend, are
Heu-Heu, or at any rate his business part." But aloud, glancing at the
redoubtable Hans, I only remarked something to the effect that Dacha's
powers of observation were keen and that, like the Lord-of-the-Fire
himself, as he said truly, things were not always what they seemed.

We crossed a bare platform of rock, to the right of which, beyond a
space of garden, I observed the mouth of a large cave. At the edge of
this platform a strange sight was to be seen, for here, just on the
borders of the lake, at a distance of about twenty paces from each
other, burned two columns of flame which hitherto had been hidden from
us by the lie of the ground and trees, between which columns was a
pillar or post of stone.

"The 'eternal fires,'" thought I to myself, and then inquired casually
what they were.

"They are flames which have always burned in that place from the
beginning; we do not know why," Dacha replied indifferently. "No rain
puts them out."

"Ah!" I reflected, "natural gas coming from the volcano, such as I
have heard of in Canada."

Then we turned to the right along the outer wall of the garden I have
mentioned, and came to some fine houses, that, to my fancy, had a kind
of collegiate appearance, all one-storied and built against the rock
of the mountain. As a matter of fact, I was right, for these were the
dwellings of the priests of Heu-Heu and their numerous female
belongings. These priests, I should say, had their privileges, for
whereas the people on the mainland for the most part married only one
wife, they were polygamous, the ladies being supplied to them through
spiritual pressure put upon the unfortunate Walloos, or, if that
failed, by the simple and ancient expedient of kidnapping. Once,
however, they had arrived upon the island and thus became dedicated to
the god, they vanished so far as their kinsfolk were concerned, and
never afterwards were they allowed to cross the water or even to
attempt any communication with them. In short, those who became alive
in Heu-Heu, became also dead to the world.

Hans and I were led to the largest of this group of houses, that
abutting immediately on to the garden wall, the inhabitants of which
apparently had already been advised of our coming by messenger, since
we found them in a bustle of preparation. Thus I saw handsome, white-
robed women flitting about and heard hurried orders being given. We
were taken to a room where a driftwood fire had been lighted on the
hearth because the night was damp and chill, at which we warmed and
dried ourselves after we had washed. A while later a priest summoned
us to eat and then retired outside the door awaiting our convenience.

"Hans," I said, "all has gone well so far; we are accepted as the
friends of Heu-Heu, not as his enemies."

"Yes, Baas, thanks to the cleverness of the Baas about the matches and
the rest. But what has the Baas in his mind?"

"This, Hans; that all must continue to go well, for remember what is
our duty, namely, to save the lady Sabeela, if we can, as we have
sworn to do. Now if we are to bring this about we must keep our eyes
open and our wits sharp. Hans, I daresay that they have strange
liquors in this place which will be offered to us to make us talk. But
while we are here we must drink nothing but water. Do you understand,
Hans?"

"Yes, Baas, I understand."

"And do you swear, Hans?"

Hans rubbed his middle reflectively, and replied:

"My stomach is cold, Baas, and I should like a glass of something more
warming than water after all this damp and the sight of those stone
men. Yet, Baas, I swear. Yes, I swear by your Reverend Father that I
will only drink water, or coffee if they make it, which, of course,
they don't."

"That is all right, Hans. You know that if you break your oath my
Reverend Father will certainly come even with you, and so shall I in
this world or the next."

"Yes, Baas. But will the Baas please remember that a gin bottle is not
the only bait that the devil sets upon his hook. Different men have
different tastes, Baas. Now if some pretty lady were to come and tell
the Baas that he was oh! so beautiful and that she loved him, oh! ever
so much, someone like that Mameena, for instance, of whom old Zikali
is always talking as having been a friend of yours, will the Baas
swear by his Reverend Father----"

"Cease from folly and be silent," I said majestically. "Is this the
time and place to chatter of pretty women?"

Nevertheless, in myself I appreciated the shrewdness of Hans's
repartee, and as a matter of fact an attempt was made to play off that
trick on me, though if I am to get to the end of this story, I shall
have no time to tell you about it.

Our compact sealed, we went through the door and found the priest
waiting outside. He led us down a passage into a fine hall plentifully
lit with lamps for now the night had fallen. Here several tables were
spread, but we were taken to one at the head of the hall where we were
welcomed by Dacha dressed in grand robes, and some other priests; also
by women, all of them handsome and beautifully arrayed in their wild
fashion, whom I took to be the wives of these worthies. One of them, I
noticed, had a singular resemblance to the Lady Sabeela, although she
appeared to be her elder by some years.

We sat down at the table in curious, carved chairs, and I found myself
between Dacha and this lady, whose name, I discovered, was Dramana.
The feast began, and I may say at once that it was a very fine feast,
for it appeared that we had arrived upon a day of festival. Indeed, I
had not eaten such a meal for years.

Of course, it was barbaric in its way. Thus the food was served in
great earthenware dishes, already cut up; there were no knives or
forks, the fingers of the eaters taking their place, and the plates
consisted of the tough green leaves of some kind of waterlily that
grew in the lake, which were removed after each course and replaced by
fresh ones.

Of its sort, however, it was excellent and included fish of a good
flavour, kid cooked with spices, wild fowl, and a kind of pudding
made of ground corn and sweetened with honey. Also, there was plenty
of the strong native beer, which was handed round in ornamented
earthenware cups that were, however, inlaid not with small diamonds
and rubies, but with pearls found, I was informed, in the shells of
fresh-water mussels, and set in the clay when damp.

These pearls were irregular in shape and for the most part not large,
but the effect of them thus employed, was very pretty. Still, some
attained to a considerable size, since Dramana and other women wore
necklaces of them bored and strung upon fibres. Without going into
further details, I may say that this feast and its equipment convinced
me more than ever that these people had once belonged to some unknown
but highly civilized race which was now dying out in its last home and
sinking into barbarism before it died.

In pursuance of our agreement Hans, who squatted on a stool behind me,
for he would not sit at the table, and I, saying that we were bound by
a vow to touch nothing else, drank water only, although I heard him
groan each time the beer cups went round. I may add that this happened
frequently, and the amount of liquor consumed was considerable, as
became evident by the behaviour of the drinkers, many of whom grew
more or less intoxicated, with the usual unpleasant results that I
need not describe. Also they grew affectionate, for they threw their
arms about the women and began to kiss them in a way which I
considered improper. I observed, however, that the lady called Dramana
drank but little. Also, as she sat between me and an extremely deaf
priest who became sleepy in his cups, she was, of course, freed from
any such unwelcome attentions.

All these circumstances, and especially the fact that Dacha was much
occupied with a handsome female on his left, gave Dramana and myself
opportunities of conversation which I think were welcome to her. After
a few general remarks, presently she said in a low voice:

"I hear, Lord, that you have seen Sabeela, the daughter of the Walloo,
chief of the mainland. Tell me of her, for she is my sister on whom I
have not looked for a long while, for we never visit the mainland, and
those who dwell there never visit us--unless they are obliged," she
added significantly.

"She is beautiful but lives in great terror because she, who desires
to be married to a man, must be married to a god," I answered.

"She does well to be afraid, Lord, for by you sits that god," and with
a shiver of disgust and the slightest possible motion of her head, she
indicated Dacha, who had become quite drunken and at the moment was
engaged in embracing the lady on his left, who also seemed to be
somewhat the worse for alcoholic wear, or to put it plainly, "half
seas over."

"Nay," I answered, "the god I mean is called Heu-Heu, not Dacha."

"Heu-Heu, Lord! You will learn all about Heu-Heu before the night is
over. It is Dacha whom she must marry."

"But Dacha is your husband, lady."

"Dacha is the husband of many, Lord," and she glanced at several of
the most handsome women present, "for the god is liberal to his high
priest. Since I was bound between the eternal fires there have been
eight such marriages, though some of the brides have been handed on to
others or sacrificed for crimes against the god, or attempting to
escape, or for other reasons.

"Lord," she went on, dropping her voice till I could scarcely catch
what she said, although my hearing is keen, "be warned by me. Unless
you are indeed a god greater than Heu-Heu, and your companion also,
whatever you may see or hear, lift neither voice nor hand. If you do,
you will be rent to pieces without helping any one and perhaps bring
about the death of many, my own among them. Hush! Speak of something
else. He is beginning to watch us. Yet, O Lord, help me if you can.
Yes, save me and my sister if you can."

I glanced round. Dacha, who had ceased embracing the lady, was looking
at us suspiciously, as though he had caught some word. Perhaps Hans
thought so as well, for he managed to make a great clatter, either by
tumbling off his stool or dropping his drinking cup, I know not which,
that drew away Dacha's half-drunken attention from us and prevented
him from hearing anything.

"You see to find the Lady Dramana pleasant, O Lord Blowing-Wind,"
sneered Dacha. "Well, I am not jealous and I would give such guests of
the best I have, especially when the god is going to be so good to me.
Also the Lady Dramana knows better than to tell secrets and what
happens here to those who do. So talk to her as much as you like,
little Blowing-Wind, before you blow yourself away," and he leered at
me in a manner that made me feel very uncomfortable.

"I was asking the Lady Dramana about the sacred tree of which the
great wizard, Zikali, desires some of the leaves for his medicine," I
said, pretending not to understand.

"Oh!" he answered, with a change of manner which suggested that his
suspicions were in course of being dissipated, "oh, were you? I
thought you were asking of other things. Well, there is no secret
about that, and she shall show it to you to-morrow, if you like; also
anything else you wish, for I and my brethren will be otherwise
engaged. Meanwhile, here comes the Cup of Illusions that is brewed
from the fruit of the tree of which you must taste though you be a
water-drinker, yes, and the yellow dwarf, Lord-of-the-Fire, also, for
in it we pledge the god into whose presence we must enter very soon."

I answered hurriedly that I was weary and would not trouble the god by
paying my respects to him at present.

"All who come here must pass the god, Lord Blowing-Wind," he answered,
glaring at me, and adding: "Either they must pass the god living, or,
if they prefer it, they may pass him dead. Did not Zikali tell you
that, O Blowing-Wind? Choose, then. Will you wait upon the god living,
or will you wait upon him dead?"

Now I thought it was time to assert myself, and looking this ill-
conditioned brute in the eyes, I said slowly:

"Who is this that talks to me of death, not knowing perchance that I
am a lord of death? Does he seek such a fate as that which befell the
hound without your doors? Learn, O Priest of Heu-Heu, that it is
dangerous to use ill-omened words to me or to the Lord-of-the-Fire,
lest we should answer them with lightnings."

I suppose that these remarks, or something in my eye, impressed him.
At any rate, his manner became humble, almost servile indeed,
especially as Hans had risen and stood at my side, holding in his
extended hand the box of matches, at which all stared suspiciously.
Well they might have stared, had they known that his other hand,
innocently buried in his pocket, grasped the butt of an excellent Colt
revolver. I should have told you, by the way, that as we could not
bring them with us to the feast we had left our rifles hidden in our
beds, loaded and full clocked, so that they would be sure to go off if
any thief began to finger them.

"Pardon, Lord, pardon," said Dacha. "Could I wish to insult one so
powerful? If I said aught to offend, why, this beer is strong."

I bowed benignantly, but remembered the old Latin saying to the effect
that drink digs out the truth. Then, by way of changing the subject,
he pointed to the end of the room. Here appeared two pretty women
dressed in exceedingly light attire and with wreaths upon their heads,
who bore between them a large bowl of liquor in which floated red
flowers. (The whole scene, I should say, much resembled some picture I
had seen of an ancient Roman--or perhaps it was Egyptian feast taken
from a fresco.) They brought the bowl to Dacha, and with a
simultaneous movement of their graceful forms lifted it up, whereon
all of the company who were not too drunk rose, bowed towards the bowl
and twice cried out together:

"The Cup of Illusions! The Cup of Illusions!"

"Drink," said Dacha to me. "Drink to the glory of Heu-Heu." Then
observing that I hesitated, he added: "Nay, I will drink first to show
that it is not poisoned," and muttering, "O Spirit of Heu-Heu, descend
upon thy priest!" drink he did, a considerable quantity.

Then the women brought the bowl, which reminded me of the loving-cup
at a Lord Mayor's feast, and held it to my lips. I took a pull at it,
making motions of my throat as though it were a long one, though in
reality I only swallowed a sip. Next it was handed to Hans to whom I
murmured one Boer Dutch word over my shoulder. It was "/Beetje/,"
which means "little," and as I turned my head to watch him, I think he
took the advice.

After this the bowl, in which, I should add, the liquor was of a
greenish colour and tasted something like Chartreuse, was taken from
one to another till all present had drunk of it, the girls who bore it
finishing up the little that was left.

This I saw, but after it I did not see much else for a while, for,
small as had been my draught, the stuff went to my head and seemed to
cloud my brain. Moreover, all kinds of queer visions, some of them not
too desirable, sprang up in my mind, and with them a sense of vastness
that was peopled by innumerable forms; beautiful forms, grotesque
forms, forms of folk that I had known, now long dead, forms of others
whom I had never seen, all of whom had this peculiarity, that they
seemed to be staring at me with a strange intentness. Also these forms
grouped themselves together and began to enact dramas of one kind or
another, dramas of war and love and death that had all the vividness
of a nightmare.

Presently, however, these illusions passed away and I remained filled
with a great calm and a wonderful sense of well-being, also with my
powers of observation rendered most acute.

Looking about me, I noted that all who had drunk seemed to be
undergoing similar experiences. At first they showed signs of
excitement; then they grew very still and sat like statues with their
eyes fixed on vacancy, speaking not a word, moving not a muscle.

This state lasted quite a long time, till at length those who had
drunk first appeared to awake, for they began to talk to each other in
low tones. I noted that every sign of drunkenness had vanished; one
and all they looked as sober as a whole Bench of Judges; moreover,
their faces had grown solemn and their eyes seemed to be filled with
some cold and fateful purpose.




CHAPTER X



THE SACRIFICE


After a solemn pause, Dacha rose and said in an icy voice:

"I hear the god calling us. Let us pass into the presence of the god
and make offering of the yearly sacrifice."

Then a procession was formed. Dacha and Dramana went first, Hans and I
followed next, and after us came all who had been at the feast, to a
total of about fifty people.

"Baas," whispered Hans, "after I had drunk that stuff, which was so
nice and warming that I wished you had let me have more of it, your
Reverend Father came and talked to me."

"And what did he say to you, Hans?"

"He said, Baas, that we were going into very queer company and had
better keep our eyes skinned. Also that it would be wise not to
interfere in matters that did not concern us."

I reflected to myself that within an hour I had received advice of the
same sort from a purely terrestrial source, which was an odd
coincidence, unless indeed Hans had overheard or absorbed it
subconsciously. To him I only observed, however, that such mandates
must be obeyed, and that whatever chanced he would do well to sit
quite still, keeping his pistol ready, but only use it in case of
absolute necessity to save ourselves from death.

The procession left the hall by a back entrance behind the table at
which we had sat, and entered a kind of tunnel that was lit with
lamps, though whether this was hollowed in the rock or built of blocks
of stone I am not sure. After walking for about fifty paces down this
tunnel, suddenly we found ourselves in a great cavern, also dimly lit
with lamps, mere spots of light in the surrounding blackness.

Here all the priests, including Dacha, left us; at least, peering
about, I could not see any of them. The women alone remained in the
cave, where they knelt down singly and at a distance from each other
like scattered worshippers in a dimly lit cathedral when no service is
in progress.

Dramana, to whose charge we seemed to have been consigned, led us to a
stone bench upon which she took her seat with us. I noted that she did
not kneel and worship like the others. For a while we remained thus in
silence, staring at the blackness in front where no lamps burned. It
was an eerie business in such surroundings that I confess began to get
upon my nerves. At length I could bear it no longer, and in a whisper
asked Dramana whether anything was about to happen, and if so, what.

"The sacrifice is about to happen," she whispered back. "Be silent,
for here the ears of the god are everywhere."

I obeyed, thinking it safer, and another ten minutes or so went by in
an intolerable stillness.

"When does the play begin, Baas?" muttered Hans in my ear. (Once I had
taken him to a theatre in Durban to improve his mind, and he thought
that this was another, as indeed it was, if of an unusual sort.)

I kicked him on the shins to keep him quiet, and just then at a
distance I heard the sound of chanting. It was a weird and melancholy
music that seemed to swing backwards and forwards between two bands of
singers, each strophe and antistrophe, if those are the right words,
ending in a kind of wail or cry of despair which turned my blood cold.
When this had gone on for a little while, I thought that I saw figures
moving through the gloom in front of us. So did Hans, for he
whispered:

"The Hairy People are here, Baas."

"Can you see them?" I asked in the same low voice.

"I think so, Baas. At any rate, I can smell them."

"Then keep your pistol ready," I answered.

A moment later I saw a lighted torch floating in the air in front of
us, though the bearer of it I could not see. The torch was bent
downwards, and I heard the sound of kindling taking fire. A little
flame sprang up revealing a pile of logs arranged for burning, and
beyond it the tall form of Dacha wearing a strange headdress and
white, priestlike robes, different from those in which he had been
clad at the feast. Between his hands, which he held in front of him,
was a white human skull reversed, I mean that its upper part was
towards the floor.

"Burn, Dust of Illusion, burn," he cried, "and show us our desires,"
and out of the skull he emptied a quantity of powder on to the pile of
wood.

A dense, penetrating smoke arose which seemed to fill the cave, vast
though it was, and blot out everything. It passed away and was
followed by a blaze of brilliant flame that lit up all the place and
revealed a terrific spectacle.

Behind the fire, at a distance of ten paces or so, was an awful
object, an appalling black figure at least twelve feet in height, a
figure of Heu-Heu as we had seen him depicted in the Cave of the Berg,
only there his likeness was far too flattering. For this was the very
image of the devil as he might have been imagined by a mad monk, and
from his eyes shot a red light.

As I have said before, the figure was like to that of a huge gorilla
and yet no ape but a man, and yet no man but a fiend. There was the
long gray hair growing in tufts about the body. There was the great,
red, bushy beard. There were the enormous limbs and the long arms and
the hands with claws on them where the thumbs should be, and the
webbed fingers. The bull neck on the top of which sat the small head
that somehow resembled an old woman's with a hooked nose; the huge
mouth from which the baboon-like tusks protruded, the round, massive,
able-looking brow, the deepest glaring eyes, now alight with red fire,
the cruel smile--all were there intensified. There, too, was the shape
of a dead man into the breast of which the clawed foot was driven, and
in the left hand the head that had been twisted from the man's body.

Oh! evidently the painter of the picture in the Berg can have been no
Bushman as once I had supposed, but some priest of Heu-Heu whom fate
or chance had brought thither in past ages, and who had depicted it to
be the object of his private worship. When I saw the thing I gasped
aloud and felt as though I should fall to the ground through fear, so
hellish was it. But Hans gripped my arm and said:

"Baas, be not afraid. It is not alive; it is but a thing of stone and
paint with fire set within."

I stared again; he was right.

/Heu-Heu was but an idol! Heu-Heu did not live except in the hearts of
his worshippers!/

Only out of what Satanic mind had this image sprung?

I sighed with relief as this knowledge came home to me, and began to
observe details. There were plenty to be seen. For instance, on either
side of the statue stood a line of the hideous Hairy Folk, men to the
right and women to the left, with white cloths tied about their
middles. In front of this line behind their high priest, Dacha, were
the other priests, Heu-Heu's clergy, and on a raised table behind them
just at the foot of the base of the statue, which I now saw stood upon
a kind of pedestal so as to make it more dominant, lay a dead body,
that of one of the Hairy women, as the clear light of the flame
revealed.

"Baas," said Hans again, "I believe that is the gorilla-woman I shot
in the river. I seem to know her pretty face."

"If so, I hope we shall not join her on that table presently," I
answered.

After this suddenly I went mad; everybody went mad. I suppose that the
vapour from that accursed powder had got into our brains. Had not
Dacha called it the "Dust of Illusions"? Certainly, of illusions there
were plenty, most of them bad, like those of a nightmare.

Still, before they possessed me completely, I had the sense to
understand what was happening to me and to grip hold of Hans, who I
saw was going mad also, and command him to sit quiet. Then came the
illusions which really I can't describe to you. You fellows have read
of the effects of opium smoking; well, it was that kind of thing, only
worse.

I dreamed that Heu-Heu got off his pedestal and came dancing down the
hall, also that he bent over me and kissed me on the forehead. In
fact, I think it was Dramana who kissed me, for she, too, had gone
mad. Everything that I had done bad in my life re-enacted itself in my
mind and, all put together, seemed to make me a sinner indeed, because
you see the good was entirely omitted. The Hairy Folk began an
infernal dance before the statue; the women round us raved and shouted
with extraordinary expressions upon their faces; the priests waved
their arms and set up yells of adoration as did those of Baal in the
Old Testament. In short, literally there was the devil to pay.

Yet strangely enough it was all wildly, deliriously exciting and
really I seemed to enjoy it. It shows how wicked we must be at bottom.
A sight of hell while you remain on the /terra firma/ of our earth is
not uninteresting, even though you be temporarily affected by its
atmosphere.

Presently the nightmare came to an end, suddenly as it had commenced,
and I woke to find my head on Dramana's shoulder, or hers on mine, I
forget which, with Hans engaged in kissing my boot under the
impression that it was the chaste brow of some black maiden whom he
had known about thirty years before. I kicked him on his snub nose,
whereon he rose and apologized, remarking that this was the strongest
/dacca/--the hemp which the natives smoke with intoxicating effects--
that he had ever tasted.

"Yes," I answered, "and now I understand where Zikali's magic comes
from. No wonder he wants more of the leaves of that tree and thought
it worth while to send us so far to get them."

Then I ceased talking, for something in the atmosphere of the place
absorbed my attention. A sudden chill seemed to have fallen upon it
and its occupants who, in strange contrast to their recent excesses,
now appeared to be possessed by the very spirit of Mrs. Grundy. There
they stood, exuding piety at every pore and gazing with rapt
countenance at the hideous image of their god. Only to me those
countenances had grown very cruel. It was as though they awaited the
consummation of some dreadful drama with a kind of cold joy, which, of
course, may have been an aftermath of their unholy intoxication. It
was the scene at the feast repeated but with a difference. There they
had been drunken with liquor and sobered by the potent stuff they had
swallowed after it; now they had been made drunken with fumes and were
sobered by I knew not what. Their master Satan, perhaps!

The fire still burnt brightly though it gave off no more of these
fumes, being fed I suppose with natural fuel, and by the light of it I
saw that Dacha was addressing the image with impassioned gestures.
What he said I do not know, for my ears were still buzzing and of it I
could hear nothing. But presently he turned and pointed to us and then
began to beckon.

"What is it he wants us to do?" I asked of Dramana who now was seated
at my side, a perfect model of propriety.

"He says that you must come up and make your offering to the god."

"What offering?" I asked, thinking that perhaps it would be of a
painful nature.

"The offering of the sacred fire that the Lord of Fire," and she
pointed to Hans, "bears about with him."

I was puzzled for a moment till Hans remarked:

"I think she means the matches, Baas."

Then I understood, and bade him produce a new box of Best Wax Vestas
and hold it out in his hand. Thus armed we advanced and, passing round
the fire, bowed, as the Bible potentate whom the Prophet cured
bargained he should be allowed to do in the House of Rimmon, to the
beastly effigy of Heu-Heu. Then in obedience to the muttered
directions of Dacha, Hans solemnly deposited the box of matches upon
the stone table, after which we were allowed to retreat.

Anything more ridiculous than this scene it is impossible to imagine.
I suppose that its intense absurdity was caused, or at any rate
accentuated by its startling and indeed horrible contrasts. There was
the towering and demoniacal idol; there were the rogue priests, their
faces alight with a fierce fanaticism; there, looking only half human,
were the long lines of savage Hairy Folk; there was the burning fire
reflecting itself to the farthest recesses of the cavern and showing
the forms of the scattered worshippers.

Finally there was myself, a bronzed and tattered individual, and the
dirty, abject-looking Hans holding in his hand that absurd box of
matches which finally he deposited in the exact middle of the stone
table about six inches from the swollen body of the aboriginal whom he
had shot in the river. In those vast surroundings this box looked so
lonely and so small that the sight of it moved me to internal
convulsions. Shaking with hysterical laughter I returned to my seat as
quickly as I could, dragging Hans after me, for I saw that his case
was the same, although fortunately it is not the custom of Hottentots
to burst into open merriment.

"What will Heu-Heu do with the matches, Baas?" asked Hans. "Surely
there must be plenty of fire where he is, Baas."

"Yes, lots," I replied with energy, "but perhaps of another sort."

Then I observed that Dacha was pointing to the right and that the eyes
of all present were fixed in that direction.

"The sacrifice comes," murmured Dramana, and as she spoke a woman
appeared, a tall woman covered with a white robe or veil, who was led
forward by two of the Hairy People. She was brought to the front of
the table on which lay the body and the matches, and there stood quite
still.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Last year's bride, with whom the priest has done and passes on into
the keeping of the god," answered Dramana with a stony smile.

"Do you mean that they are going to kill the poor thing?" I said,
horrified.

"The god is about to take her into his keeping," she replied
enigmatically.

At this moment one of the savage attendants snatched away the veil
which draped the victim, revealing a very beautiful woman clad in a
white kirtle which was cut low upon her breast and reached to her
knees. Tall and stately, she stood quite still before us, her black
hair streaming down upon her shoulders. Then, as though at some
signal, all the women in the audience stood up and screamed:

"Wed her to the god! Wed her to the god and let us drink of the cup
that through her unites us to the god!"

Two of the Hairy Folk drew near to the girl, each of whom had
something in his hand, though what it was at the moment I could not
see, and stood still, as though waiting for a sign. Then followed a
pause during which I glanced about me at the faces of the women, made
hideous by the unholy passions that raged within them, who stood with
outstretched arms pointing at the victim. They looked horrible, and I
hated them, all except Dramana, who, I noted with relief, had not
cried aloud and did not stretch out her hands like the rest.

What was I about to see? Some dreadful act of voodooism such as
negroes practise in Haiti and on the West Coast? Perhaps. If so, I
could not bear it. Whatever the risk might be I could not bear it;
almost automatically my hand grasped the stock of my revolver.

Dacha seemed as though he were about to say something, a word of doom
mayhap. I measured the distance between me and himself with my eyes,
calculating where I should aim to put a bullet through his large head
and give the god a sacrifice which it did not expect. Indeed, had he
spoken such a word, without doubt I should have done it, for as you
fellows know I am handy with a pistol, and probably, as a result,
never have lived to tell you this story.

As this juncture, however, the victim waved her arms and said in a
loud, clear voice:

"I claim the ancient right to make my prayer to the god before I am
given to the god."

"Speak on," said Dacha, "and be swift."

She turned and curtseyed to the hideous idol, then wheeled about again
and addressed it in form although really she was speaking to the
audience.

"O Fiend Heu-Heu," she said in a voice filled with awful scorn and
bitterness, "whom my people worship to their ruin, I who was stolen
from my people come to thee because I would have none of yonder high-
priest and therefore must pay the price in blood. So be it, but ere I
come I have something to tell these priests who grow fat in
wickedness. Hearken! A spirit is in me, giving me sight. I see this
place a sea of water, I see flames bursting through the water, turning
thy hideous effigy to dust and burning up thy evil servants, so that
not one of them remains. The Prophecy! The Prophecy! Let all who hear
me bethink them of the ancient prophecy, for at length its hour is
fulfilled!"

Then she stared towards Hans and myself, waving her arms, and I
thought was about to address us. If so, she changed her mind and did
not.

So far the priests and the congregation had listened in the silence of
amazement, or perhaps of fear. Now, however, a howl of furious
execration broke from them, and when it died down I heard Dacha
shouting:

"Let this blaspheming witch be slain. Let the sacrifice be
accomplished!"

The two savages stepped towards her, and now I saw that what they held
in their hands were coils of rope with which doubtless she was to be
bound. If so, she was too swift for them, for with a great bound she
sprang upon the table where lay the body of the Hairy woman and the
box of matches. Next instant I saw a knife flashing in her hand; I
suppose it had been concealed somewhere in her dress. She lifted it
and plunged it to her heart, crying as she did so:

"My blood be on you, Priests of Heu-Heu!"

Then she fell down there upon the table and was still.

In the hush that followed I heard Hans say:

"That was a brave lady, Baas, and doubtless all she said will come
true. May I shoot that priest, Baas, or will you?"

"No," I began, but before I could get out another word my voice was
overwhelmed by a tumult of shouts,

"The god has been robbed of his sacrifice and is hungry. Let the
strangers be offered to the god."

These and other like things said the shouts.

Dacha looked towards us, hesitating, and I saw that it was time to
act. Rising, I called out:

"Know, O Dacha, that before one hand is laid upon us I will make you
as my companion, Lord-of-the-Fire, made the dog without your doors."

Evidently Dacha believed me, for he grew quiet humble. "Have no fear,
Lords," he said. "Are you not our honoured guests and the messengers
of a Great One? Go in peace and safety."

Then at his command or sign the brightly burning fire was scattered,
so that the cave grew almost dark, especially as some of the lights
had gone out.

"Follow me swiftly--swiftly," said Dramana, and taking my hand she led
me away through the gloom.

Presently we found ourselves in the passage, though for aught I know
it was another passage; at any rate, it led to the hall where we had
feasted. This was now empty, although in it lights still burned.
Crossing it, Dramana conducted us back to the house, where a hasty
examination shewed us that our rifles were just as we had left them;
nothing had been touched. Here, seeing that we were quite alone, for
all had gone to the sacrifice, I spoke to her.

"Lady Dramana," I said, "does my heart tell me truly or do I only
dream that you desire to depart from out of the shadow of Heu-Heu?"

She glanced about her cautiously, then answered in a low voice: "Lord,
there is nothing that I desire so much--unless perchance it be death,"
she added with a sigh. "Hearken! Seven years ago I was bound upon the
Rock of Offering, where my sister will stand to-morrow, having been
chosen by the god and dedicated to him by the mad terror of my people,
which means, Lord, that I had been chosen by Dacha and dedicated to
Dacha."

"Why, then, do you still live?" I asked, "seeing that she who was
chosen last year must be sacrificed this year?"

"Lord, am I not the daughter of the Walloo, the ruler of the people of
the Mainland, and might not the title to that rule be acquired through
me while I breathe? It is not the best of titles, it is true, because
I was born of a lesser wife of my father, the Walloo, whereas my
sister Sabeela is born of the great wife. Still, at a pinch, it might
serve. That is why I still live."

"What then is Dacha's plan, Lady Dramana?

"It stands thus, Lord. Hitherto for many generations, it is said since
the great fire burned upon the island and destroyed the city, there
have been two governments in this land: that of the priests of Heu-
Heu, who govern the minds of its people, also the wild Wood Folk, and
that of the Walloos, who govern their bodies and are kings by ancient
right. Now Dacha, who, when he is not lost in drink or other follies,
is farseeing and ambitious, purposes to rule both minds and bodies and
it may be to bring in new blood from outside our country and once more
to build up a great people, such as tradition tells we were in the
beginning, when we came here from the north or from the west. He does
but wait until he has married my sister, the lawful heiress to the
Walloo, my father, who by now must be an old and feeble man, to strike
his blow, and in her name to seize the government and power.

"The priests, as you have seen, are but few and cannot do this of
their own strength, but they command all the savage folk who are
called the Children of Heu-Heu. Now these people are very angry
because the other day one of their women was killed upon the river,
she who lay on the altar before the god, and this they think was done
by the Walloo, not understanding that it was your servant, the yellow
man there, who slew her. Or if they understand, they believe that he
did so by the order of Issicore who, we hear, is betrothed to my
sister Sabeela.

"Therefore they wish to make a great war upon the Walloo under the
guidance of the priests of Heu-Heu, whom they call their Father,
because his image is like to them. Already their mankind are gathering
on the island, rowing themselves hither upon logs or bundles of reeds,
and by to-morrow night all will be collected. Then, after what is
called the Holy Marriage, when my sister Sabeela has been brought as
an offering by the Walloo and bound to the pillar between the
Everlasting Fires, led by Dacha they will attack the city on the
mainland, which they dare not do alone. It will surrender to them, and
Dacha will kill my old father and the lord Issicore who stands next to
him, and any of the ancient blood who cling to him, and cause himself
to be declared Walloo. After this his purpose is to poison the Forest
Folk as he well knows how to do and as I have told you, perhaps to
bring new blood into the land which is rich and wide, and found a
kingdom."

"A big scheme," I said, not without admiration, for on hearing it, to
tell the truth, I began to conceive a certain respect for that villain
Dacha, who, at any rate, had ideas and presented a striking contrast
to the helpless and superstition-ridden inhabitants of the mainland.

"But, Lady," I went on, "what is to happen to me and to my companion
who is named Lord-of-the-Fire?"

"I do not know, Lord, who have had little talk with Dacha since you
came, or with any to whom he reveals his secrets. I think, however,
that he is afraid of you, believing you to be magicians, or in league
with the greatest of magicians, the prophet Zikali, who dwells in the
south, with whom the priests of Heu-Heu communicate from time to time.
Also it is probable that he holds that you may be able to help him to
build up a nation and that therefore he would wish to keep you in his
service in this country, only killing you if you try to escape. On the
other hand, when the Wood Folk come to understand that it was really
you, or one of you, who killed the woman, they may clamour for your
lives. Then, if he thinks it wisest to please them, at the great feast
which is called the finishing of the Holy Marriage, you may be tied
upon the altar as a Sacrifice while the blood is drained from you, to
be drunk by the priests with the lips of Heu-Heu. Perhaps that matter
will be settled at the Council of the Priests to-morrow, Lord."

"Thank you," I said, "never mind the details."

"Meanwhile," she went on, "for the present you are safe. Indeed I, who
by my rank am the Mistress of Households, have been commanded to
honour you in every way, and to-morrow, when the priests are engaged
in preparations for the Holy Marriage, to show you all that you would
see, also to provide you with boughs from the Tree of Illusions which
Zikali the prophet desires."

"Thank you," I said again, "we shall be most happy to take a walk with
you, even if it rains, as I think from the sounds upon the roof it is
doing at present. Meanwhile, I understand that you wish to get out of
this place and to save your sister. Well, I may as well tell you at
once, Lady Dramana, that my companion, who chooses to assume the shape
of a yellow dwarf, and I, who choose to be as I am, /are/ in fact
great magicians with much more power than we seem to possess.
Therefore, it is quite possible that we may be able to help you in all
ways, and to do other things more remarkable. Yet we may need your
aid, since generally that which is mighty works through that which is
small, and what I want to know is whether we can count upon it."

"To the death, Lord," she answered.

"So be it, Dramana, for know that if you fail us certainly you will
die."




CHAPTER XI



THE SLUICE GATE


All that night it poured, not merely in the usual tropical torrent,
but positively in waterspouts. Seldom in my life have I heard such
rain as that which fell upon the roof of the house where we were,
which must have been wonderfully well built, for otherwise it would
have given away. When we rose in the morning and went to the door to
look out, all the place was swimming and a solid wall of water seemed
to stretch from heaven to earth.

"I think there will be a flood after this, Baas," remarked Hans.

"I think so, too," I answered, "and if we were not here I wish that it
might be deep enough to drown every human brute upon this island."

"It cannot do that, Baas, because at the worst they would climb up the
mountain, though it might get into the cave and give Heu-Heu a washing
--which he needs."

"If it got into the cave, it would probably get into the mountain as
well," I began--then stopped, for an idea occurred to me.

I had noticed that this cave sloped downwards somewhat steeply, I mean
into the base of the mountain and towards its centre. Probably, in its
origin it was a vent blown through the rock at some time in the past
when the volcano was very active, which, for aught I knew, remained
unblocked, or only slightly blocked. Suppose now that a great volume
of water ran down that cave and vanished into the interior of the
mountain, was it not probable that something unusual would happen? The
volcano was still alive--this I knew from the smoke that hung above
it, also by the stream of red-hot lava that we had seen trickling down
its southern face--and fire and water do not agree well together. They
make steam, and steam expands. This thought took such a persistent
hold on me that I began to wonder whether it did not partake of the
nature of an inspiration. However, I said nothing of it to Hans, who,
being a savage, did not understand such matters.

A little later food was brought to us by one of the serving priests.
With it came a message from Dacha to the effect that he grieved he
could not wait on us that day as he had many matters to which he must
attend, but that the Lady Dramana would do so shortly and show us all
there was to be seen, if the rain permitted.

In due course she arrived--alone, as I had hoped she would--and at
once began to talk of the rainfall of the previous night, which she
said was such as had never been known in their country. She added that
all the priests had been out that morning, dragging the great stone
sluice gate into its place so as to keep out the water of the lake,
lest the arable land should be flooded and the crops destroyed.

I told her that I was much interested in such matters, and asked
questions about this sluice which she could not answer as she knew
little of its working. She said, however, that she would show it to me
so that I might study the system.

I thanked her and inquired whether the lake had risen much. She
answered, Not yet, but that probably it would do so during the day and
the following night when it became filled with the water brought down
by the flooded river which ran into it from the country to the north.
At any rate, this was feared, and it had been thought best to set the
sluice in place, a difficult task because of its weight. Indeed, a
woman who had gone to help out of curiosity had been caught by a lever
--I understood that was what she meant--and killed. She still lay by
the sluice, since it was not lawful for the priests of Heu-Heu or
their servants to touch a dead body between the Feast of Illusions,
which had been held on the previous night, and the Feast of Marriage,
which would be held on the night of the morrow, when, she added
significantly, they often touched plenty.

"It is a Feast of Blood, then?" I said.

"Yes, Lord, a Feast of Blood, and I pray that it may not be of your
blood also."

"Have no fear of that," I answered airily, though in truth I felt much
depressed. Then I asked her to tell me exactly what was going to
happen as to the delivery of the "Holy Bride."

"This, Lord," she said. "Before midnight, when the moon should be at
its fullest, a canoe comes, bringing the bride from the City of the
Walloos. Priests receive her and tie her to the pillar that stands on
the Rock of Offerings between the Everlasting Fires. Then the canoe
goes and waits at a distance. The priests go also and leave the bride
alone. I know it all, Lord, for I have been that bride. So she stands
until the first ray of the rising sun strikes upon her. Then from the
mouth of the cave comes out the high priest dressed in skins to
resemble the image of the god, and followed by women and some of the
Hairy savage folk shouting in triumph. He looses the bride, and they
bear her in the cave, and there, Lord, she vanishes."

"Do you think that she will be brought at all, Dramana?"

"Certainly she will be brought, since if my father, the Walloo, or
Issicore, or any refused to send her, they would be killed by their
own people, who believe that then disaster would overtake them. Unless
you can save her by your arts, Lord, my sister Sabeela must become the
wife of Heu-Heu, which means the wife of Dacha."

"I will think the matter over," I said. "But if I make up my mind to
help, am I right in understanding that you also desire to escape from
this island?"

"Lord, I have told you so already, and I will only add this. Dacha
hates me and when I have served his purpose and he has in his hands
Sabeela, the true heiress to the chieftainship over our people unless
first I tread her road, certainly it will be my lot to stand where
that poor woman stood last night, who slew herself to escape worse
things. Oh, Lord, save me if you can!"

"I will save you--if I can," I replied, and I meant it--almost as much
as I meant to save myself.

Then I impressed upon her that she must obey me in all things without
question, and this she swore to do. Also I asked her if she could
provide us with a canoe.

"It is impossible," she replied. "Dacha is clever; he has bethought
him that you might depart in a canoe. Therefore, every one of them has
been moved round to the other side of the island where they are kept
under watch of the Savage Folk. That is why he gives you leave to roam
about the place, because he knows that you cannot leave it, unless you
have wings, for the lake is too wide for any man to swim, and if it
were not, the Walloo shore is haunted by crocodiles."

Now, my friends, as you may guess, this was a blow indeed. However, I
kept my countenance and said that as this was the case something else
must be arranged, only asking casually if there were any crocodiles
about this part of the island coast. She answered that there were
none, because, as she supposed, the flames of the Everlasting Fires,
or some smell from the smoke of the mountain, frightened them away.

Next, as the torrents of rain had ceased, at any rate for a while, I
suggested that we should go out, and we did so. Also I did not mind
much about the weather, as to protect us from it she had brought with
her for our use and her own three of the strangest waterproofs that
ever I saw. These consisted of two giant leaves from some kind of
waterlily that grew on the borders of the lake, sewn together, with a
hole at the top of the leaves, where the stalk comes, for the wearer's
head to go through, and two openings left for his arms. For the rest
no mackintosh ever turned wet so well as did these leaves, the only
drawback about them, as I was informed, being that they must be
renewed once in every three days.

Arrayed in these queer garments we went out in rain that here we
should call fairly heavy, though it was but the merest drizzle
compared to what had gone before. This rain I may explain, had great
advantages so far as we were concerned, seeing that in it not even the
most curious woman put her nose outside her own door. So it came about
that we were able to examine the village of the priests of Heu-Heu
quite unobserved and at our leisure.

This settlement was small since there were never more than fifty
priests in the college, if so it may be called, to whom, of course,
must be added their wives and women, on an average, perhaps, of three
or four per man.

The odd thing was that there seemed to be no children and no old
people. Either offspring did not arrive and folk died young upon the
island, or in both cases they were made away with, perhaps as
sacrifices to Heu-Heu. I am sorry to say that in the pressure of great
dangers I do not remember making any inquiry upon the point, or if I
did I cannot recall the answer given. It was only afterwards that I
reflected upon this strange circumstance. The fact remains that on the
island there were no young and no aged. Another possible explanation,
by the way, is that both may have been exported to the mainland.

Here I will add that with the exception of Dramana and a few discarded
wives who may have been doomed to sacrifice, the women were fiercer
bigots and more cruel votaries of Heu-Heu than were the men
themselves. So, indeed, I had observed when I sat among them at the
Feast of Illusions in the cave.

For the rest they all lived in dwellings such as that which was given
to us, and were waited upon by servants or slaves from the savage race
that was called Heuheua. Low as these Heuheua were and disgusting as
might be their appearance, like our South African Bushmen, they were
clever in their way, and, when trained, could do many things. Also
they were faithful to the commands of their god Heu-Heu, or rather to
those of his priests, though they hated the Walloos, from whom these
priests sprang, and waged continual war against them.

Soon we had left the houses and were among the cultivated lands, all
of which Dramana informed us were worked by the Heuheua slaves. These
laboured here in gangs for a year at a time, and then were returned to
their women in the forests on the mainland, for, except as servants,
none of them were allowed upon the island. Those lands were
extraordinarily fertile, as was shewn by the crops on them, which,
although much beaten down by the torrential rain, were now ready for
harvest. They were enclosed by a kind of sea wall built of blocks of
lava and must at some time have been reclaimed from the muddy shallows
of the lake, which accounted for their richness. Everywhere about them
ran irrigation channels that were used in the dry sowing season and
controlled by the sluice gate that has been mentioned. That is all I
have to say about the gardens, except that the existence of this
irrigation system is to my mind another proof that these Walloos
sprang originally from some highly civilized race. Their fields
extended to that extremity of the island which was nearest to the
Walloo coast, and I know not how far in the other direction, for I did
not go there.

Standing upon this point we saw in the distance a number of moving
specks upon the water. I asked Dramana if they were hippopotami, and
she answered:

"No, Lord, they are the Hairy Folk who, in obedience to the summons of
the god, cross the lake upon bundles of reeds that they may be ready
to fight in the coming war against the Walloo. Already there are
hundreds of them gathered upon the farther side of the mountain, and
by to-night all their able-bodied men will have come, leaving only the
females, the aged, and the children hidden away in the depths of the
forests. On the third day from now they will paddle back across the
lake, led by the priests under the command of Dacha, and attack
Walloo."

"A great deal may happen in three days," I said, and dropped the
subject.

We walked back towards the village and the cave mouth by the sea wall,
upon the top of which ran a path, and thus at last came to the Rock of
Offering, upon each side of which burned the two curious columns of
flame that, I took it, were fed with natural gas generated in the womb
of the volcano. They were not very large fires--at any rate, when I
saw them--the flame may have been about eight or ten feet high, no
more. But there they burned, and had done so, Dramana said, from the
beginning of things. Between them, at a little distance, stood a post
of stone with rings also of stone, to which the bride was bound. I
noted that from these rings hung new ropes placed there to serve as
the bonds of Sabeela during the coming night.

Having seen all there was to see on this Rock of Offering, including
the steps by which the victim was landed, we went on to a long shed
with a steep reed roof, which contained the machinery, if so I can
call it, that regulated the irrigation sluice. It had a heavy wooden
door which Dramana unlocked with an odd-shaped stone key that she
produced from a bag she was wearing. This key, she told us, had been
given to her by Dacha with strict orders that she was to return it
after we had examined the place, should we wish to do so.

As it happened there was a good deal to examine. Near one end of the
shed the main irrigation canal, which may have been twelve feet wide,
passed beneath it. Here, under the centre of the roof, was a pit of
which the water that stood in it prevented us from seeing the depth.
On either side of this pit were perpendicular grooves cut in the solid
rock, very deep grooves that were exactly filled by a huge slab of
dressed stone six or seven inches thick. When this stone, or the upper
part of it, was lifted out of the rock floor of the channel, where
normally it stood in its niche, forming part of the bed of the
channel, it entirely cut off the inflow of water from the lake, and
was, moreover, tall enough to stop any possible additional inflow at a
time of flood.

Perhaps I can make the thing clear in this way. When Good and I were
last in London together we went to Madame Tussaud's and saw the famous
guillotine that was used in the French Revolution. The knife of that
guillotine, you will remember, was raised between uprights, and when
brought into action, let fall again to the bottom of the apparatus,
severing the neck of the victim in its course. Now imagine that those
uprights were the rock walls of the pit, and that the knife, instead
of being but a narrow thing, were a great sheet of steel, or rather
stone. Then, when it was drawn to the top of the uprights from the
niche at the bottom, it would entirely fill the space to the head of
the grooves, and none of the water that normally passed over it could
flow between the uprights, or rather walls, because the sheet of stone
barred its passage. Now do you understand?



As Good, who was stupid about such matters, looked doubtful, Allan
went on:

"Perhaps a better illustration would be that of a portcullis; even
you, Good, have seen a portcullis, which, by the way, must mean a door
in a groove. Imagine a subterranean or rather subaqueous, portcullis
that, when it was desired to shut it, rose in its grooves from below
instead of falling from above, and you will have an exact idea of the
water door of the priests of Heu-Heu. I'd draw it for you if it wasn't
so late."

"I see now," said Good, "and I suppose they wound the thing up with a
windlass."

"Why not say with a donkey engine at once, Good? Windlasses had not
occurred to the Walloos. No, they acted on a simpler and more ancient
plan. They lifted it with a lever. Near the top of this slab of rock,
or water door, was drilled a hole. Through this hole passed a bolt of
stone, of which the ends went into the cut-out base of the lever, thus
forming a kind of hinge. The lever itself was a bar of stone--
evidently they would not trust to wood which rots--massive and about
twenty feet long, so as to obtain the best possible purchase. When the
door was quite down in its niche at the bottom of the bed of the
channel, the end of the lever naturally rose high into the air, almost
to the top of the pitched roof of the shed, indeed."



When it was desired to raise the door so as to regulate the amount of
water passing into the irrigation channel beyond, or to cut if off
altogether in case of flood, the lever was pulled down by ropes that
were tied to its end by the strength of a number of men and that end
was passed into, or rather under, one or other of half a dozen hooks
of stone hollowed into a face of solid rock. Here, of course, it
remained immovable until it was released, again by the united strength
of a number of men, and flew back to the roof, letting the portcullis
slab drop into its bed or groove at the bottom of the channel, thus
admitting the lake water.

On the present occasion, as a great flood was anticipated, this slab
was raised to its full extent, and when I saw it, the top of it stood
five or six feet above the level of the water, while the end of the
handle of the lever was made fast beneath the lowest hook of rock
within a foot of the floor.

Hans and I examined this primitive but effective apparatus for
preventing inundations very carefully. Supposing, thought I, that any
one wanted to release that lever so that the door fell and water
rushed in over it, how could it be done? Answer: it could only be done
by the application of the united force of a great number of men
pressing on the end of the lever till it was pushed clear of the point
of the hook, when naturally it would fly upwards and the door would
fall. Or, secondly, by breaking the lever in two, when, of course, the
same thing would happen. Now two men, that is Hans and myself, could
not possibly release this beam of stone from its hook; indeed, I doubt
whether ten men could have done it. Nor could two men possibly break
that beam of stone. Perhaps, if they had suitable marble saws, such as
workers in stone use, and plenty of time, they might cut it in two,
although it seemed to be made of a kind of rock that was as hard as
iron. But we had no saw. Therefore, so far as we were concerned the
task was impossible; that idea must be dismissed.

Still, there is a way out of most difficulties if only it can be hit
upon. My own mental resources were exhausted, it is true, but Hans
remained, and possibly he might have some suggestion of value to make.
He was a curious creature, Hans, and often his concentrated primitive
instincts led him more directly to the mark than did all my civilized
reasonings.

So speaking without emphasis in Dutch, for I did not wish Dramana to
guess my internal excitement, I put the problem to Hans in these
words:

"Supposing and you and I, Hans, with none to help, except perhaps this
woman, found it necessary to break that bar of stone and cause the
water gate to fall, so as to let in the lake flood over it, how could
we do it with such means as we have in this place?"

Hans stared about him, twiddling his hat in his usual vacuous fashion,
and remarked,

"I don't know, Baas."

"Then find out, for I want to learn if your conclusions agree with my
own," I answered.

"I think that if they agree with the Baas's, they will agree with
nothing at all," said Hans, delivering this shrewd and perfectly
accurate shot with such a wooden expression of utter stupidity that I
could have kicked him.

Next, without more words, he removed himself from my neighbourhood and
began to examine the lever in a casual fashion, especially the hook of
rock which held it in its place. Presently he remarked in Arabic, so
that Dramana might understand, that he wanted to see how deep the pit
was, which we could not do from the floor of the shed, and instantly
climbed up the slope of the beam-like lever with all the agility of a
monkey, and sat himself, cross-legged, on the top of it, just below
the stone hinge that I have described. Here he remained for a while,
apparently staring into the darkness of the hole or pit on the farther
side of the stone slab, where, of course, it was almost empty, as the
door cut off the water from the irrigation channel on the island side.

"That hole is too dark to see into," he said, presently, and swarmed
down the shaft again. Then he called my attention to the body of the
dead woman who Dramana had told us was struck by the lever and killed
while it was being dragged into place, which lay almost out of sight
in the shadow by the wall of the shed. We went to look at her. She was
a tall woman, handsome, like all these people, and young. Outwardly
she showed no signs of injury, for her long white robe was unstained.
I suppose that she had been crushed between the lever and the hook, or
perhaps struck in the side of the head as it was being swung into
place. Whilst we were examining the corpse of this unfortunate, Hans
said to me, still speaking in Dutch,

"Does the Baas remember that we have two pound tins of the best rifle
powder in our bag and that he scolded me because I did not take them
out when we left the house of the Walloo, saying that it was foolish
to bring them with us as they would be quite useless to us on the
island?"

I replied that I had some recollection of the incident, and that, as a
matter of fact, they had been heavy to carry. Then Hans proceeded to
set a riddle in his irritating and sententious way, asking,

"Who does the Baas think knows most about things that are to happen--
the Baas or the Baas's Reverend Father in Heaven?"

"My father, I presume, Hans," I replied airily.

"The Baas is right. The Baas's father in the sky knows much more than
the Baas, but sometimes I think that Hans knows better than either, at
any rate, here on the earth."

I stared at the little wretch, rendered speechless by his irreverent
impudence, but he went on unabashed:

"I did not forget to leave that powder behind, Baas; I brought it with
me thinking that it might be useful, because with powder you can blow
up men and other things. Also, I did not wish it to stay where we
might never see it again."

"Well, what about the powder?" I asked.

"Nothing much, Baas. At least, only this. These Walloo do not bore
stones very well; they make the holes too big for what has to go
through them. That in the water gate is so large that there would be
room to put two pound flasks of powder beneath the pin, so that the
strain lifts it up to the top of the hole."

"And what would be the use of putting two flasks of powder in such a
place?" I inquired carelessly, for at the moment I was thinking about
the dead woman.

"None at all, Baas; none at all. Only I thought the Baas asked me how
we could loose that stone arm. If two pounds of powder were put into
the hole, covered with a little mud, and fired, I think that they
would blow out the bit of rock at the top of the hole, or break the
pin, or both. Then, as there would be nothing to hold it, the stone
door would fall down and the lake would come in and water the fields
of the priests of Heu-Heu, if in his wisdom and kindness the Baas
thinks they want it at harvest time, and after so much rain."

"You little wretch," I said; "you infernal, clever little wretch! Hang
me if I don't think you have got hold of the right end of the stick
this time. Only the business will take a lot of thinking out and
arrangement."

"Yes, Baas, and we had better do that in the house, which, as the Baas
knows, is quite close, only about a hundred paces away. Let us get out
of this place, Baas, before the lady begins to smell rats; only, as
you go, take a good squint at that hole in the top of the stone door
and the rock pin that goes through it."

Then Hans, who all this while had been staring at the body of the
woman and apparently talking about her, bowed towards it, remarking in
Arabic, "Allah, I mean Heu-Heu, receive her into his bosom," and
retreated reverentially.

So we went away, but I, lingering behind, examined the hole and the
pin very carefully.

Hans was quite right: there was just room left in the former to
accommodate two tin flasks of powder, also, there were not more than
three inches of rock on the topside of the hole. Surely two pounds of
powder would suffice to blow out this ring of stone and perhaps to
shatter the pin as well.




CHAPTER XII



THE PLOT


We left the shed and, after she had locked its door very carefully and
returned the stone key to her pouch, were taken by Dramana to see the
famous Tree of Illusions, of which the juice and leaves, if powdered
and burnt, could produce such strange dreams and intoxicating effects.
It grew in a large walled space that was called Heu-Heu's Garden,
though nothing else was planted there. Dramana assured us indeed that
this tree had a poisonous effect upon all other vegetation.

Passing the wall by a door of which she also produced some kind of key
out of her bag, we found ourselves standing in front of the famous
tree, if so it can be called, for its growth was shrub-like and its
topmost twigs were not more than twenty feet above the ground. On the
other hand, it covered a great area and had a trunk two or three feet
thick from which projected a vast number of branches whereof the
extremities lay upon the soil, and I think rooted there, after the
manner of wild figs, though of this I am not certain.

It was an unholy product of nature, inasmuch as it had no real
foliage, only dark green, euphorbia-like and flesh fingers--indeed, I
think it must have been some variety of euphorbia. At the extremities
of these green fingers appeared purple-coloured blooms with a most
evil smell that reminded me of the odour of something dead; also down
their sides--for, like the orange, the tree appeared to have the
property of flowering and fruiting at the same time--were yellow seed
vessels about the size of those of a prickly pear. Except that the
trunk was covered with corrugated gray bark and that the finger-like
leaves were full of resinous white milk like those of other
euphorbias, there is nothing more to say about it. I should add,
however, that Dramana told us no other specimen existed, either on the
mainland or the island, and that to attempt its propagation elsewhere
was a capital offence. In short, the Tree of Illusions was a monopoly
of the priests.

Hans set to work and cut a large faggot of the leaves, or fingers,
which he tied up with a piece of string he had in his pocket, to be
conveyed to Zikali, though there seemed to be such a small prospect of
their ever reaching him. It was not an agreeable job, for when it was
cut the white juice of the tree spurted out, and if it fell upon the
flesh, burned like caustic.

I was glad when it came to an end because of the stench of the
flowers, but before I left I took the opportunity, when Dramana was
not looking, of picking some of the ripest of the fruits and putting
them in my pocket, with the idea of planting the seeds should we ever
escape from that country. I am sorry to say, however, that I never did
so, as the sharp spines that grew upon the fruits wore a hole in the
lining of my pocket, which already was thin from use, and they tumbled
out unobserved. Evidently the Tree of Illusions did not intend to be
reproduced elsewhere; at least, that was Hans's explanation.

On our way back to the house we had to pass round a lava boulder on
the lake side of the sluice shed, crossing by a little bridge the
water channel that ran beneath it, near to a flight of landing steps
that were used by fishermen. I examined this channel which pierced the
sea wall and here, outside the sluice gate, was about twenty feet
wide. At the side of it, built into the wall, was a slab of stone on
which were marks, cut there, no doubt, to indicate the height of the
water level and the rate at which it rose. I noticed that the topmost
of these marks was already covered, and that during the little while I
stood and watched, it vanished altogether, showing that the water was
rising rapidly.

Seeing that I was interested, Dramana remarked that the priests said
that tradition never told of the water having reached that topmost
mark before, even during the greatest rains. She added that she
supposed it had done so now owing to the unprecedented wetness of the
summer and great tempests farther up the river that fed the lake, of
which we were experiencing the last.

"It is fortunate that you have such a strong door to keep out the
water," I said.

"Yes, Lord," she answered, "since if it broke all this side of the
island would be flooded. If you look you will see that already the
lake stands higher than the cultivated lands and even than the mouth
of the Cave of Heu-Heu. It is told in tradition that when first,
hundreds of years ago, these lands were reclaimed from the mud of the
lake and the wall was built to protect them, the priests of Heu-Heu
trusted to the rain for their crops. Then came many dry seasons, and
they cut a way through the wall and let in water to irrigate them,
making the sluice gate that you have seen to keep it out if it rose
too high. An old priest of that time said that this was madness and
would one day prove their destruction, but they laughed at him and
made the sluice. He was wrong also, since thenceforward their crops
were doubled, and the gate is so well-fashioned that no floods,
however great, have ever passed through or over it; nor can they do
so, because the top of the stone gate rises to the height of a child
above the level of the water wall which separates the lake from the
reclaimed land."

"The lake might come over the crest of the wall," I suggested.

"No, Lord. If you look you will see that the wall is raised far above
its level, to a height that no flood could ever reach."

"Then safety depends upon the gate, Dramana?"

"Yes, Lord. If the flood were high enough, which it never has been
within the memory of man, the safety of the town would depend upon the
gate, and that of the Cave of Heu-Heu also. Before the mountain broke
into flame and destroyed the city of our ancestors, the new mouth was
made on the level, for formerly, it is said, it was entered from the
slope above. Moreover, there is no danger, because if any accident
happened and the flood broke through, all could flee up the mountain.
Only then the cultivated land would be ruined for a time and there
might be scarcity, during which people must obtain corn from the
mainland or draw it from that which is stored in pits in the hillside,
to be used in case of war or siege."

I thanked her for her explanation of these interesting hydraulic
problems, and after another glance at the scale rock, on which the
marks had now vanished completely, showing me that the lake was still
rising rapidly, we went to the house to rest and eat.

Here Dramana left us, saying that she would return at sundown. I
begged her to do so without fail. This I did for her own sake, a fact
that I did not explain. Personally, I was indifferent as to whether
she came back or not, having learned all she could teach us, but as I
was planning catastrophe, I was anxious, should it come, to give her
any chance of escape that might offer for ourselves. After all, she
had been a good friend to us and was one who hated Dacha and Heu-Heu
and loved her sister Sabeela.

Hans led her to the door and in an awkward fashion made much ado in
helping her to put on her leaf raincoat, which she had discarded and
was carrying. For now suddenly the rain, which had almost ceased while
we walked, had begun to fall again in torrents.

When we had eaten and were left alone within closed doors, Hans and I
took counsel together.

"What is to be done, Hans?" I asked, wishing to hear his views.

"This, I think, Baas," he answered. "When it draws near to midnight we
must go to hide near the steps, there by the Rock of Offerings, not
the smaller ones near the sluice gate. Then when the canoe comes and
lands the Lady Sabeela to be married, as soon as she has been taken
and tied to the post we must swim out to it, get aboard, and go back
to Walloo-town."

"But that would not save the Lady Sabeela, Hans."

"No, Baas, I was not troubling my head about the Lady Sabeela who I
hope will be happy with Heu-Heu, but it would save /us/, though
perhaps we shall have to leave some of our things behind. If Issicore
and the rest wish to save Lady Sabeela, they had better cease from
being cowards who are afraid of a stone statue and a handful of
priests, and do so for themselves."

"Listen, Hans," I said. "We came here to get a bundle of stinking
leaves for Zikali and to save the Lady Sabeela who is the victim of
folly and wickedness. The first we have got, the second remains to be
done. I mean to save that unfortunate woman, or to die in the
attempt."

"Yes, Baas. I thought the Baas would say that, since we are all fools
in our different ways, and how can any one dig out of his heart the
folly that his mother put there before he was born? Therefore, since
the Baas is a fool, or in love with Lady Sabeela because she is so
pretty--I don't know which--we must make another plan and try to get
ourselves killed in carrying it out."

"What plan?" I asked, disregarding his crude satire.

"I don't know, Baas," he said, staring at the roof. "If I had
something to drink, I might be able to think of one, as all this wet
has filled my head with fog, just as my stomach is full of water.
Still, Baas, do I understand the Baas to say that if that stone gate
were broken the lake would flow in and flood this place, also the Cave
of Heu-Heu, where all the priests and their wives will be gathered
worshipping him?"

"Yes, Hans, so I believe, and very quickly. As soon as the water began
to run it would tear away the wall on either side of the sluice and
enter in a mighty flood; especially now as the rain is again falling
heavily."

"Then, Baas, we must let the stone fall, and as we are not strong
enough to do it ourselves, we must ask this to help us," and he
produced from his bag the two pounds of powder done up in stout flasks
of soldered tin as it had left the maker in England. "As I am called
Lord-of-the-Fire, the priests of Heu-Heu will think it quite natural,"
he added with a grin.

"Yes, Hans," I said, nodding, "but the question is--how?"

"I think like this, Baas. We must pack these two tins tight into that
hole in the rock door beneath the pin with the help of little stones,
and cover them over thickly with mud to give the powder time to work
before the tins are blown out of the hole. But first we must bore
holes in the tins and make slow matches and put the ends of them into
the holes. Only how are we to make these slow matches?"

I looked about me. There on a shelf in the room stood the clay lamps
with which it was lighted at night, and by them lay a coil of the wick
which these people used, made of fine and dry plaited rushes, many
feet of it.

"There's the very stuff!" I said.

We got it down, we soaked it in a mixture of the native oil, mixed
with gunpowder that I extracted from a cartridge, and behold! in half
an hour we had two splendid slow matches that by experiment I reckoned
would take quite five minutes to burn before the fire reached the
powder. That was all we could do for the moment.

"Now, Baas," said Hans, when we had finished our preparations and
hidden the matches away to dry, "all this is very nice, but supposing
that the stone falls and the water runs in and everything goes softly,
how are we to get off the island? If we drown the priests of Heu-Heu--
though I do not think we shall drown them because they will bolt up
the mountain-side like rock rabbits--we drown ourselves also, and
travel in their company to the Place of Fires of which your Reverend
Father was so fond of talking. It will be very nice to try to drown
the priests of Heu-Heu, Baas, but we shall be no better off, nor will
the Lady Sabeela if we leave her tied to that post."

"We shall not leave her, Hans, that is if things go as I hope; we
shall leave someone else."

Hans saw light and his face brightened.

"Oh, Baas, now I understand! You mean that you will tie to the post
the Lady Dramana, who is older and not quite so nice-looking as the
Lady Sabeela, which is why you told her she must stay with us all the
time after she comes back? That is quite a good plan, especially as it
will save us trouble with her afterwards. Only, Baas, it will be
necessary to give her a little knock on the head first lest she should
make a noise and betray us in her selfishness."

"Hans, you are a brute to think that I mean anything of the sort," I
said indignantly.

"Yes, Baas, of course I am a brute who think of you and myself before
I do of others. But then /who/ will the Baas leave? Surely he does not
mean to leave /me/ dressed up in a bride's robe?" he added in genuine
alarm.

"Hans, you are a fool as well as a brute, for, silly as you may be,
how could I get on without you? I do not mean to leave any one living.
I mean to leave that dead woman in the gate house."

He stared at me in evident admiration and answered,

"The Baas is growing quite clever. For once he has thought of
something that I have not thought of first. It is a good plan--if we
can carry her there without any one seeing us, and the Lady Sabeela
does not betray us by making a noise, laughing and crying both
together like stupid women do. But suppose that it all happens, there
will be four of us, and how are we to get into that canoe, Baas, if
those cowardly Walloos wait so long?"

"Thus, Hans. When the canoe lands the Lady Sabeela and she has been
tied to the post, if Dramana speaks truth, it waits for the dawn at a
little distance. While it is waiting you must swim out to it, taking
your pistol with you, which you will hold above your head with one
hand to keep the cartridges dry, but leaving everything else behind.
Then you must get into the boat, telling the Walloo and Issicore, or
whoever is there, who you are. Later, when all is quiet, the Lady
Dramana and I will carry the dead woman to the post and tie her there
in place of Sabeela. After this you will bring the canoe to the
landing steps--the small landing steps by the big boulder which we saw
near to the sluice mouth on the lake wall, those that Dramana told us
were used by fishermen, because it is not lawful for them to set foot
upon the Rock of Offerings. You remember them?"

"Yes, Baas. You mean the ones at the end of a little pier which
Dramana also said was built to keep mud from the lake from drifting
into the sluice mouth and blocking it."

"When I see you coming, Hans, I shall fire the slow matches and we
will run down to the pier and get into the canoe. I hope that the
priests and their women in the cave, which is at a distance, will not
hear the powder explode beneath that shed, and that when they come out
of the cave they will find the water running in and swamping them.
This might give them something else to do besides pursuing us, as
doubtless they would otherwise, for I am sure they have canoes hidden
away somewhere near by, although Dramana may not know where they are.
Now do you understand?"

"Oh, yes, Baas. As I said, the Baas has grown quite clever all of a
sudden. I think it must be that Wine of Dreams he drank last night
that has woke up his mind. But the Baas has missed one thing.
Supposing that I get into the canoe safely, how am I to make those
people row in to the landing steps and take you off? Probably they
will be afraid, Baas, or say that it is against their custom, or that
Heu-Heu will catch them if they do, or something of the sort."

"You will talk to them gently, Hans, and if they will not listen, then
you will talk to them with your pistol. Yes, if necessary, you will
shoot one or more of them, Hans, after which I think the rest will
obey you. But I hope that this will not be necessary, since if
Issicore is there, certainly he will desire to win back Sabeela from
Heu-Heu. Now we have settled everything, and I am going to sleep for a
while, with the slow matches under me to dry them, as I advise you to
do also. We had little rest last night, and to-night we shall have
none at all, so we may as well take some while we can. But first bring
that mat and tie up the twigs from the stinking tree for Zikali, on
whom be every kind of curse for sending us on this job."

"Settled everything!" I repeated to myself with inward sarcasm as I
lay down and shut my eyes. In truth, nothing at all was ever less
settled, since success in such a desperate adventure depended upon a
string of hypotheses long enough to reach from where we were to
Capetown. Our case was an excellent example of the old proverb:


    If ifs and ands made pots and pans,
    There'd be no work for tinkers' hands.


/If/ the canoe came; /if/ it waited off the rock; /if/ Hans could swim
out to it without being observed and get aboard; /if/ he could
persuade those fetish-ridden Walloos to come to take us off; /if/ we
could carry out our little game about the powder undetected; /if/ the
powder went off all right and broke up the sluice-handle as per our
plan; /if/ we could free Sabeela from the post; /if/ she did not play
the fool in some female fashion; /if/ blackguards of sorts did not
manage to cut our throats during all these operations, and a score of
other "ifs," why, then our pots and pans would be satisfactorily
manufactured and perhaps the priests of Heu-Heu would be
satisfactorily frightened away or drowned. As it was, it looked to me
as though, so far from not getting any rest that night, we should
slumber more soundly than ever we did before--in the last long sleep
of all.

Well, it could not be helped, so I just fell back upon my favourite
fatalism, said my prayers and went off to sleep, which, thank God, I
can do at any time and under almost any circumstances. Had it not been
for that gift I should have been dead long ago.

When I woke up it was dark, and I found Dramana standing over me;
indeed, it was her entry that roused me. I looked at my watch and
discovered to my surprise that it was past ten o'clock at night.

"Why did you not wake me before?" I said to Hans.

"What was the use, Baas, seeing that there was nothing to be done and
it is dull to be idle without a drop to drink?"

That's what he said, but the fact was that he had been fast asleep
himself. Well, I was thankful, as thus we got rid of many weary hours
of waiting.

Suddenly I made up my mind to tell Dramana everything, and did so.
There was something about this woman that made me trust her; also,
obviously, she was mad with desire to escape from Dacha, whom she
hated and who hated her and had determined to murder her as soon as he
had obtained possession of Sabeela.

She listened and stared at me, amazed at the boldness of my plans.

"It may all end well," she said, "though there is the magic of the
priests to be feared which may tell them things that their eyes do not
see."

"I will risk the magic," I said.

"There is also another thing," she went on. "We cannot get into the
place where the stone gate is which you would destroy. As I was
bidden, when I went back to the cave, I gave up the bag in which I
carried the key and that of Heu-Heu's Garden to Dacha, and he has put
it away, I know not where. The door is very strong, Lord, and cannot
be broken down, and if I went to ask Dacha for the key again he would
guess all, especially as the water is rising more fast than it ever
rose before in the memory of man, and priests have been to make sure
that the stone gate is fixed so that it cannot be moved--yes, and
bound down the handle with ropes."

Now I sat still, not knowing what to say, for I had overlooked this
matter of the key. While I did so I heard Hans chuckling idiotically.

"What are you laughing at, you little donkey?" I asked. "Is it a time
to laugh when all our plans have come to nothing?"

"No, Baas, or rather, yes, Baas. You see, Baas, I guessed that
something of this sort might happen, so, just in case it should, I
took the key out of the Lady Dramana's bag and put in a stone of about
the same weight in place of it. Here it is," and from his pocket he
produced that ponderous and archaic lock-opening instrument.

"That was wise. Only you say, Dramana, that the priests have been to
the shed. How did they get in without the key?" I asked.

"Lord, there are two keys. He who is called the Watcher of the Gate
has one of his own. According to his oath he carries it about him all
day at his girdle and sleeps with it at night. The key I had was that
of the high priest, who uses it, and others that he may look into all
things when he pleases, though this he does seldom, if ever."

"So far so good, then, Dramana. Have you aught to tell us?"

"Yes, Lord. You will do well to escape from this island to-night, if
you can, since at to-day's council an oracle has gone forth from Heu-
Heu that you and your companion are to be sacrificed at the bridal
feast to-morrow. It is an offering to the Wood-dwellers, who now know
that the woman was killed by you on the river and say that if you are
allowed to live they will not fight against the Walloos. I think also
that I am to be sacrificed with you."

"Are we indeed?" I said, reflecting to myself that any scruples I
might have had as to attempting to drown out these fanatical brutes
were now extinct for reasons which quite satisfied my conscience. I
did not intend to be sacrificed if I could help it, then or at any
future time, and evidently the best way to prevent this would be to
give the prospective sacrificers a dose of their own medicine. From
that moment I became as ruthless as Hans himself.

Now I understood why we were being treated with so much courtesy and
allowed to see everything we wished. It was to lull our suspicions.
What did it matter how much we learned, if within a few hours we were
to be sent to a land whence we could communicate it to no one else?

I asked more particularly about this oracle, but only got answers from
Dramana that I could not understand. It appeared, however, that as she
said, it had undoubtedly been issued in reply to prayers from the
savage Hairy Folk, who demanded satisfaction for the death of their
countrywoman on the river, and threatened rebellion if it were not
granted. This explained everything, and really the details did not
matter.

Having collected all the information I could, we sat down to supper,
during which Dramana told us incidentally that it had been arranged
that our arms, which were known "to spit out fire," should be stolen
from us while we slept before dawn, so as to make us helpless when we
were seized.

So it came to this: if we were to act at all, it must be at once.

I ate as much as I was able, because food gives strength, and Hans did
the same. Indeed, I am sure that he would have made an excellent meal
even in sight of the noose which his neck was about to occupy. Eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die, would have been Hans's favourite motto if
he had known it, as perhaps he did. Indeed, we did drink also of some
of the native liquor which Dramana had brought with her, since I
thought that a moderate amount of alcohol would do us both good,
especially Hans, who had the prospect of a cold swim before him.
Immediately I had swallowed the stuff I regretted it, since it
occurred to me that it might be drugged. However, it was not; Dramana
had seen to that.

When we had finished our food we packed up our small belongings in the
most convenient way we could. One half of these I gave to Dramana to
carry, as she was a strong woman, and, of course, as he had to swim,
Hans could be burdened with nothing except his pistol and the bundle
of twigs from the Tree of Illusions, which we thought might help both
to support and to conceal him in the water.

Then about eleven o'clock we started, throwing over our heads goatskin
rugs that had served for coverings on our beds, to make us resemble
those animals if that were possible.




CHAPTER XIII



THE TERRIBLE NIGHT


Leaving the house very softly, we found that the torrential rain had
dwindled to a kind of heavy drizzle which thickened the air, while on
the surface of the lake and the low-lying cultivated land there hung a
heavy mist. This, of course, was very favourable to us, since even if
there were watchers about they could not see us unless we stumbled
right into them.

As a matter of fact I think that there was none, all the population of
the place being collected at the ceremony in the cave. We neither saw
nor heard anybody; not even a dog barked, for these animals, of which
there were few on the island, were sleeping in the houses out of the
wet and cold. Above the mist, however, the great full moon shone in a
clear sky which suggested that the weather was mending, as in fact
proved to be the case, the tempest of rain, which we learned
afterwards had raged for months with some intervals of fine weather,
having worn itself out at last.

We reached the sluice house, and to our surprise found that the door
was unlocked. Supposing that it had been left thus through
carelessness by the inspecting priests, we entered softly and closed
it behind us. Then I lit a candle, some of which I always carried with
me, and held it up that we might look about us. Next moment I stepped
back horror-struck, for there on the coping of the water shaft sat a
man with a great spear in his hand.

Whilst I wondered what to do, staring at this man, who seemed to be
half asleep and even more frightened than I was myself, with the
greater quickness of the savage, Hans acted. He sprang at the fellow
as a leopard springs. I think he drew his knife, but I am not sure. At
any rate, I heard a blow and then the light of the candle shone upon
the soles of the man's feet as he vanished backwards into the pit of
water. What happened to him there I do not know; so far as we were
concerned he vanished for ever.

"How is this? You told us no one would be here," I said to Dramana
savagely, for I suspected a trap.

She fell upon her knees, thinking, probably, that I was going to kill
her with the man's spear which I had picked up, and answered,

"Lord, I do not know. I suppose that the priests grew suspicious and
set one of their number to watch. Or it may have been because of the
great flood which is rising fast."

Believing her explanations, I told her to rise, and we set to work.
Having fastened the door from within, Hans climbed up the lever, and
by the light of the candle, which could not betray us, as there were
no windows to the shed, fixed the two flasks of powder in the hole in
the stone gate immediately beneath the pin of the lever. Then, as we
had arranged, he wedged them tight with pebbles that we had brought
with us.

This done, I procured a quantity of the sticky clay with which the
walls of the shed were plastered, taking it from a spot where the damp
had come through and made it moist. This clay we stuck all over the
flasks and the stones to a thickness of several inches. Only
immediately beneath the pin we left an opening, hoping thereby to
concentrate the force of the explosion on it and on the upper rim of
the hole that was bored through the sluice gate. The slow matches,
which now were dry, we inserted in the holes we had made in the
flasks, bringing them out through the clay encased in two long, hollow
reeds that we had drawn from the roof of our house where we lodged,
hoping thus to keep the damp away from them.

Thus arranged, their ends hung to within six feet of the ground, where
they could easily be lighted, even in a hurry.

By now it was a quarter past eleven, and the most terrible and
dangerous part of our task must be faced. Lifting the corpse of the
dead woman who had been killed, presumably, by a blow from the lever
that morning, Hans and I--Dramana would not touch her--bore her out of
the shed. Followed by Dramana with all our goods, for we dared not
leave them behind, as our retreat might be cut off, we carried her
with infinite labour, for she was very heavy, some fifty yards to a
spot I had noted during our examination in the morning at the edge of
the Rock of Offering, which spot, fortunately, rose to a height of six
feet or rather less above the level of the surrounding ground. Here
there was a little hollow in the rock face washed out by the action of
water; a small, roofless cavity large enough to shelter the three of
us and the corpse as well.

In this place we hid, for there, fortunately, the shape of the
surrounding rock cut off the glare from the two eternal fires, which
in so much wet seemed to be burning dully and with a good deal of
smoke, the nearer of them at a distance of not more than a dozen paces
from us. The post to which the victim was to be tied was perhaps the
length of a cricket pitch away.

In this hiding hole we could scarcely be discovered unless by ill
fortune someone walked right on to the top of us or approached from
behind. We crouched down and waited. A while later, shortly before
midnight, in the great stillness we heard a sound of paddles on the
lake. The canoe was coming! A minute afterwards we distinguished the
voices of men talking quite close to us.

Lifting my head, I peered very cautiously over the top of the rock. A
large canoe was approaching the landing steps, or rather, where these
had been, for now, except the topmost, they were under water because
of the flood. On the rock itself four priests, clad in white and
wearing veils over their faces with eyeholes cut in them, which made
them look like monks in old pictures of the Spanish Inquisition, were
marching towards these steps. As they reached them, so did the canoe.
Next, from its prow was thrust a tall woman, entirely draped in a
white cloak that covered both head and body, who from her height might
very well be Sabeela.

The priests received her without a word, for all this drama was
enacted in utter silence, and half led, half carried her to the stone
post between the fires, where, so far as I could see through the mist
--that night I blessed the mist, as we do in church in one of the
psalms--no, it is the mist that blesses the Lord, but it does not
matter--they bound her to the post. Then, still in utter silence, they
turned and marched away down the sloping rock to the mouth of the
cave, where they vanished. The canoe also paddled backwards a few
yards--not far, I judged from the number of strokes taken--and there
floated quietly.

So far all had happened as Dramana told us that it must. In a whisper
I asked her if the priests would return. She answered no; no one would
come on to the rock till sunrise, when Heu-Heu, accompanied by women,
would issue from the cave to take his bride. She swore that this was
true, since it was the greatest of crimes for any one to look upon the
Holy Bride between the time that she was bound to the rock and the
appearance of the sun above the horizon.

"Then the sooner we get to business the better," I said, setting my
teeth, and without stopping to ask her what she meant by saying that
Heu-Heu would come with the women, when, as we knew well, there was no
such person.

"Come on, Hans, while the mist still lies thick; it may lift at any
moment," I added.

Swiftly, desperately, we clambered on to the rock, dragging the dead
woman after us. Staggering round the nearer fire with our awful
burden, we arrived with it behind the post--it seemed to take an age.
Here by the mercy of Providence the smoky reek from the fire propelled
by a slight breath of air, combined with the hanging fog to make us
almost invisible. On the farther side of the post stood Sabeela,
bound, her head dropping forward as though she were fainting. Hans
swore that it was Sabeela because he knew her "by her smell," which
was just like him, but I could not be sure, being less gifted in that
way. However, I risked it and spoke to her, though doubtfully, for I
did not like the look of her. To tell the truth, I rather feared lest
she should have acted on her threat that as a last resource she would
take the poison which she said she carried hidden in her hair.

"Sabeela, do not start or cry out. Sabeela, it is we, the Lord
Watcher-by-Night and he who is named Light-in-Darkness, come to save
you," I said, and waited anxiously, wondering whether I should ever
hear an answer.

Presently I gave a sigh of relief, for she moved her head slightly and
murmured,

"I dream! I dream!"

"Nay," I answered, "you do not dream, or if you do, cease from
dreaming, lest we should all sleep for ever."

Then I crept round the post and bade her tell me where was the knot by
which the rope about her was fastened. She nodded downwards with her
head; with her hands she could not point, because they were tied, and
muttered in a shaken voice,

"At my feet, Lord."

I knelt down and found the knot, since if I cut the rope we should
have nothing with which to tie the body to the post. Fortunately, it
was not drawn tight because this was thought unnecessary, as no Holy
Bride had ever been known to attempt to escape. Therefore, although my
hands were cold, I was able to loose it without much difficulty. A
minute later Sabeela was free and I had cut the lashings which bound
her arms. Next came a more difficult matter, that of setting the dead
woman in her place, for, being dead, all her weight came upon the
rope. However, Hans and I managed it somehow, having first thrown
Sabeela's cloak and veil over her icy form and face.

"Hope Heu-Heu will think her nice!" whispered Hans as we cast an
anxious look at our handiwork.

Then, all being done, we retreated as we had come, bending low to keep
our bodies in the layer of the mist which now was thinning and hung
only about three feet above the ground like an autumn fog on an
England marsh. We reached our hole, Hans bundling Sabeela over its
edge unceremoniously, so that she fell on to the back of her sister,
Dramana, who crouched in it terrified. Never, I think, did two
tragically separated relations have a stranger meeting. I was the last
of our party, and as I was sliding into the hollow I took a good look
round.

This is what I saw. Out of the mouth of the cave emerged two priests.
They ran swiftly up the gentle slope of rock till they reached the two
columns of burning natural gas or petroleum or whatever it was, one of
them halting by each column. Here they wheeled round and through the
holes in their masks or veils stared at the victim bound to the post.
Apparently what they saw satisfied them, for after one glance they
wheeled about and ran back to the cave as swiftly as they had come,
but in a methodical manner which showed no surprise or emotion.

"What does this mean, Dramana?" I exclaimed. "You told me that it was
against the law for any one to look upon the Holy Bride until the
moment of sunrise."

"I don't know, Lord," she answered. "Certainly it is against the law.
I suppose that the diviners must have felt that something was wrong
and sent out messengers to report. As I have told you, the priests of
Heu-Heu are masters of magic, Lord."

"Then they are bad masters, for they have found out nothing," I
remarked indifferently.

But in my heart I was more thankful than words can tell that I had
persisted in the idea of lashing the dead woman to the post in place
of Sabeela. Whilst we were dragging her from the shed, and again when
we were lifting her out of the hole on to the rock, Hans had suggested
that this was unnecessary, since Dramana had vowed that no man ever
looked upon the Holy Bride between her arrival upon the rock and the
moment of sunrise, and that all we needed to do was to loose Sabeela.

Fortunately some providence warned me against giving way. Had I done
so all would have been discovered and humanly speaking we must have
perished. Probably this would have happened even had I not remembered
to run back and pick up the pieces of cord that I had cut from
Sabeela's wrists and left lying on the rock, since the messengers
might have seen them and guessed a trick. As it was, so far we were
safe.

"Now, Hans," I said, "the time has come for you to swim to the canoe,
which you must do quickly, for the mist seems to be melting beneath
the moon and otherwise you may be seen."

"No, Baas, I shall not be seen, for I shall put that bundle from the
Tree of Dreams on my head, which will make me look like floating
weeds, Baas. But would not the Baas like, perhaps, to go himself? He
swims better than I do and does not mind cold so much; also he is
clever and the Walloo fools in the boat will listen to him more than
they will to me; and if it comes to shooting, he is a better shot. I
think, too, that I can look after the Lady Sabeela and the other lady
and know how to fire a slow match as well as he can."

"No," I answered, "it is too late to change our plans, though I wish I
were going to get into that boat instead of you, for I should feel
happier there."

"Very good, Baas. The Baas knows best," he replied resignedly. Then,
quite indifferent to conventions, Hans stripped himself, placing his
dirty clothes inside the mat in which was wrapped the bundle of twigs
from the Tree of Illusions, because, as he said, it would be nice to
have dry things to put on when he reached the boat, or the next world,
he did not know which.

These preparations made, having fastened the bundle on to his head by
the help of the bonds which we had cut off Sabeela's hands, that I
tied for him beneath his armpits, he started, shivering, a hideous,
shrivelled, yellow object. First, however, he kissed my hand and asked
me whether I had any message for my Reverend Father in the Place of
Fires, where, he remarked, it would be, at any rate, warmer than it
was here. Also he declared that he thought that the Lady Sabeela was
not worth all the trouble we were taking about her, especially as she
was going to marry someone else. Lastly he said with emphasis that if
ever we got out of this country, he intended to get drunk for two
whole days at the first town we came to where gin could be brought--a
promise, I remember, that he kept very faithfully. Then he sneaked
down the side of the rock and holding his revolver and little buckskin
cartridge case above his head, glided into the water as silently as
does an otter.

By now, as I have said, the mist was varnishing rapidly, perhaps before
a draught of air which drew out of the east, as I have noticed it
often does in those parts of Africa between midnight and sunrise, even
on still nights. On the face of the water it still hung, however, so
that through it I could only discover the faint outline of the canoe
about a hundred yards away.

Presently, with a beating heart, I observed that something was
happening there, since the canoe seemed to turn round and I thought
that I heard astonished voices speaking in it, and saw people standing
up. Then there was a splash and once more all became still and silent.
Evidently Hans reached the boat safely, though whether he had entered
it I could not tell. I could only wonder and hope.

As we could do no good by remaining in our present most dangerous
position, I set out to return to the sluice shed where other matters
pressed, carrying all our gear as before, but, thank goodness! without
the encumbrance of the corpse. Sabeela seemed to be still half dazed,
so at present I did not try to question her. Dramana took her left arm
and I her right and, supporting her thus, we ran, doubled up, back to
the shed and entered it in safety. Leaving the two women here, I went
out on to the little pier and crouched at the top of the fishermen's
steps, watching and waiting for the coming of Hans with the canoe to
take us off, for, as you may remember, the arrangement was that I was
not to fire the slow matches until it had arrived.

No canoe appeared. During all the long hours--they seemed an eternity
--before the breaking of the dawn did I wait and watch, returning now
and again to the shed to make sure that Dramana and Sabeela were safe.
On one of these visits I learned that both her father, the Walloo, and
Issicore were in the canoe, which made its non-arrival not to be
explained, that is, if Hans reached it safely. But if he had not, or
perhaps had been killed or met with some other accident in attempting
to board it, then the explanation was easy enough, as her crew would
not know our plight or that we were waiting to be rescued. Lastly they
might have refused to make the attempt--for religious reasons.

The problem was agonizing. Before long there would be light and
without doubt we should be discovered and killed, perhaps by torture.
On the other hand, if I fired the powder the noise of the explosion
would probably be heard, in which case also we should be discovered.
Yet there was an argument for doing this, since then, if things went
well, the water would rush in and give those priests something to
think about that would take their minds off hunting for and capturing
us.

I looked about me. The canoe was invisible in the mist. It might be
there or it might be gone, only if it were gone and Hans were still
alive, I was certain that, as arranged, to advise me he would have
fired his pistol, which, to keep the cartridges dry, he had carried
above his head in his left hand. Indeed, I thought it probable that,
rather than desert me thus, he would have swum back to the island, so
that we might see the business through together. The longer I pondered
all these and other possibilities, the more confused I grew and the
more despairing. Evidently something had happened, but what--what?

The water continued to rise; now all the steps were covered and it was
within an inch or two of the surface of the pier on which I must
crouch. It was a mighty flood that looked as though presently it would
begin to flow over the top of the sea wall, in which case the sluice
shed would undoubtedly be inundated and made uninhabitable.

As I think I told you, a few yards to our right, rising above the top
of the sea wall to a height of seven or eight feet, was a great rock
that had the appearance of a boulder ejected at some time from the
crater of the volcano, which rock would be easy to climb and was large
enough to accommodate the three of us. Moreover, no flood could reach
its top, since to do so it must cover the land beyond to a depth of
many feet. Considering it and everything else, suddenly I came to a
conclusion, so suddenly indeed and so fixedly that I felt as though it
were inspired by some outside influence.

I would bring the women out and make them lie down upon the top of
that boulder, trusting to Dramana's dark cloak to hide them from
observation even in that brilliant moonlight. Then I would return to
the shed and set light to the match, and, after I had done this, join
them upon the rock whence we could see all that happened, and watch
for the canoe, though of this I had begun to despair.

Abandoning all doubts and hesitations, I set to work to carry out this
scheme with cold yet frantic energy. I fetched the two sisters, who,
imagining that relief was in sight, came readily enough, made them
clamber up the rock and lie down there on their faces, throwing
Dramana's large dark cloak over both of them and our belongings. Then
I went back to the shed, struck a light, and applied it to the ends of
the slow matches, that began to smoulder well and clearly. Rushing
from the shed, I locked the heavy door and sped back to the rock,
which I climbed.

Five minutes passed, and just as I was beginning to think that the
matches had failed in some way, I heard a heavy thud. It was not very
loud; indeed, at a distance of even fifty yards I doubted whether any
one would have noticed it unless his attention were on the strain.
That shed was well built and roofed and smothered sounds. Also this
one had nothing of the crack of a rifle about it, but rather resembled
that which is caused by something heavy falling to the ground.

After this for a while nothing particular happened. Presently,
however, looking down from my rock I saw that the water in the sluice,
which, being retained by the stone door in the shed, hitherto had been
still, was now running like a mill race, and with a thrill of triumph
learned that I had succeeded.

/The sluice was down and the flood was rushing over it!/

Watching intently, a minute or so later I observed a stone fall from
the coping of the channel, for it was full to the brim, then another,
and another, till presently the whole work seemed to melt away. Where
it had been was now a great and ever-growing gap in the sea wall
through which the swollen waters of the lake poured ceaselessly and
increasingly. Next instant the shed vanished like a card house, its
foundations being washed out, and I perceived that over its site, and
beyond it, a veritable river, on the face of which floated portions of
its roof, was fast inundating the low-lying lands behind that had been
protected by the wall.

I looked at the east; it was lightening, for now the blackness of the
sky where it seemed to meet the great lake, had turned to grey. The
dawn was at hand.

With a steady roar, through the gap in the sea wall which grew wider
every moment, the waters rushed in, remorseless, inexhaustible; the
aspect of them was terrifying. Now our rock was a little island
surrounded by a sea, and now in the east appeared the first ray from
the unrisen sun stabbing the rain-washed sky like a giant spear. It
was a wondrous spectacle and, thinking that probably it was the last I
should ever witness upon earth, I observed it with great interest.

By this time the women at my side were sobbing with terror, believing
that they were going to be drowned. As I was of the same opinion, for
I felt our rock trembling beneath us as though it were about to turn
over or, washed from its foundations, to sink into some bottomless
gulf, and could do nothing to help them, I pretended to take no notice
of their terror, but only stared towards the east.



It was just then that, emerging out of the mist on the face of the
waters within a few yards of us, I saw the canoe. Hear the sound of
the paddles I could not, because of the roar of the rushing water. In
it at the stern, with his pistol held to the head of the steersman,
stood Hans.

I rose up, and he saw me. Then I made signs to him which way he should
come, keeping the canoe straight over the crest of the broken wall
where the water was shallow. It was a dangerous business, for every
moment I thought it would overset or be sucked into the torrent
beyond, where the sluice channel had been; but those Walloos were
clever with their paddles, and Hans's pistol gave them much
encouragement.

Now the prow of the canoe grated against the rock, and Hans, who had
scrambled forward, threw me a rope. I held it with one hand and with
the other thrust down the shrinking women. He seized them and bundled
them into the canoe like sacks of corn. Next I threw in our gear and
then sprang wildly myself, for I felt our stone turning. I half fell
into the water, but Hans and someone else gripped me and I was dragged
in over the gunwale. Another instant and the rock had vanished beneath
the yellow, yeasty flood!

The canoe oscillated and began to spin round; happily it was large and
strong, with at least a score of rowers, being hollowed from a single,
huge tree. Hans shrieked directions and the paddlers paddled as never
they had done before. For quite a minute our fate hung doubtful, for
the torrent was sucking at us and we did not seem to gain an inch. At
last, however, we moved forward a little, towards the Rock of
Sacrifice this time, and with sixty seconds were safe and out of the
reach of the landward rush of the water.

"Why did you not come before, Hans?" I asked.

"Oh, Baas, because these fools would not move until they saw the first
light, and when the Walloo and Issicore wanted to, told them that they
would kill them. They said it was against their law, Baas."

"Curse them all for ten generations!" I exclaimed, then was silent,
for what was the use of arguing with such a superstition-ridden set?

Superstition is still king of most of the world, though often it calls
itself Religion. These Walloos thought themselves very religious
indeed.



Thus ended that terrible night.




CHAPTER XIV



THE END OF HEU-HEU


Opposite to the Rock of Offering the canoe came to a standstill quite
close to the edge of the rock. I inquired why, and the old Walloo, who
sat in the middle of the boat draped in wondrous and imperial garments
and a headdress, that, having worked itself to one side in the course
of our struggles, made him look as though he were drunk, answered
feebly:

"Because it is our law, Lord. Our law bids us wait till the sun
appears and the glory of Heu-Heu comes forth to take the Holy Bride."

"Well," I answered, "as the Holy Bride is sitting in this boat with
her head upon my knee" (this was true, because Sabeela had insisted
upon sticking to me as the only person upon whom she could rely, and
so, for the matter of that, had Dramana, for /her/ head was on my
other knee), "I should recommend the glory of Heu-Heu, whatever that
may be, not to come here to look for her. Unless, indeed, it wants a
hole as big as my fist blown through it," I added with emphasis,
tapping my double-barrelled Express which was by my side, safe in its
waterproof case.

"Yet we must wait, Lord," answered the Walloo humbly, "for I see that
there is still a Holy Bride tied to the post, and until she is loosed
our law says that we may not go away."

"Yes," I exclaimed, "the holiest of all brides, for she is stone dead
and all the dead are holy. Well, wait if you like, for I want to see
what happens, and I think they can't get at us here."

So we hung upon our oars, or rather paddles, and waited, till
presently the rim of the red sun appeared and revealed the strangest
of scenes. The water of the lake, swollen by weeks of continuous rain
and the recent tempest, flowing in with a steady rush that somehow
reminded me of the ordered advance of an infinite army, through the
great gap in the lake wall that was broadening minute by minute
beneath its devouring bite--is there anything so mighty as water in
the world, I wonder--had now flooded most of the cultivated land to a
depth of several feet.

As yet, however, it had not reached the houses built against the
mountain, in one of which we had been lodged. Nor had it overflowed
the great Rock of Offering, which, you will remember, stood about the
height of a man above the level of the plain, being in fact a large
slab of consolidated lava that once had flowed from the crater into
the lake in a glacier-like stream of limited breadth. It is true that
the circumstance that the rock sloped downwards to the cave mouth
seemed to contradict that theory, but this I attribute to some
subsequent subsidence at its base, such as often happens in volcanic
areas where hidden forces are at work beneath the surface of the
earth.

Well, I repeat, the rock was not yet flooded, and so it came about
that, at the proper moment, as had happened on this day, perhaps for
hundreds of years, Heu-Heu emerged from the cave "to claim his Holy
Bride."



"How could he do that?" asked Good triumphantly, thinking, I suppose
that he had caught Allan tripping. "You said that Heu-Heu was a
statue, so how could he come out of the cave?"

"Does not it occur to you, Good," asked Allan, "that a statue is
sometimes carried? However, in this case it was not so, for Heu-Heu
himself walked out of that cave, followed by a number of women, with
some of the Hairy Folk behind them, and looking at him as he stalked
along, hideous and gigantic, I understood two things. The first of
these was, how it came about that Sabeela had vowed to me that many
had seen Heu-Heu with their eyes, as Issicore also declared he had
done himself, 'walking stiffly.' The second, why it was a law that the
canoe which brought the Holy Bride should wait until she was removed
at dawn; namely in order that those in it might behold Heu-Heu and go
back to their land to testify to his bodily existence, even if they
were not allowed to give details as to his appearance, because to
speak of this would, they believed, bring a 'curse' upon them."

"But there wasn't a Heu-Heu," objected Good again.

"Good," said Allan, "really you are what Hans called me--quite clever.
With extraordinary acumen you have arrived at the truth. There wasn't
a Heu-Heu. But, Good, if you live long enough," he went on with a
gentle sarcasm which showed that he was annoyed, "yes, if you live
long enough, you will learn that this world is full of deceptions, and
that the Tree of Illusions does not, or rather did not, grow only in
Heu-Heu's Garden. As you say, no Heu-Heu existed, but there did exist
an excellent copy of him made up with a skill worthy of a high-class
pantomime artist; so excellent indeed that from fifty yards or so
away, it was impossible to tell the difference between it and the
great original as depicted in the cave."



There in all his hairy, grinning horror, "walking stiffly," marched
Heu-Heu, eleven or twelve feet high. Or to come to the facts, there
marched Dacha on stilts, artistically draped in dyed skins and wearing
on the top of or over his head a wickerwork and canvas or cloth mask
beautifully painted to resemble the features of his amiable god.

The pious crew of our boat saw him, and bowed their classic heads in
reverence to the divinity. Even Issicore bowed, a performance that I
observed caused Dramana, yes, and the loving Sabeela herself, to
favour him with glances of indignation, not unmixed with contempt. At
least this was certainly the case with Dramana, who had lived behind
the scenes, but Sabeela may have been moved by other reflections.
Perhaps /she/ still believed that there was a Heu-Heu, and that
Issicore would have done better to show himself less devoted to these
religious observances and less willing to surrender her to the god's
divine attentions. You may all have noticed that however piously
disposed, there is a point at which the majority of women become very
practical indeed.

Meanwhile Heu-Heu stalked forward with a gait that might very
literally be called stilted, and the bevy of white-robed ladies
followed after him apparently singing a bridal song, while behind
these, "moping and mowing," came their hairy attendants. By the aid of
my glasses, however, I could see that these ladies, at any rate, were
not enjoying the entertainment, whatever may have been the case with
Dacha inside his paste boards. They stared at the rising water and one
of them turned to run but was dragged back into place by her
companions, for probably on this solemn occasion flight was a capital
offence. So on they came till they reached the post to which we had
tied the dead woman, whereon according to custom, the bridesmaids
skipped up to release her, while the Hairy Folk ranged themselves
behind.

Next moment I saw the first of these bridesmaids suddenly stand still
and stare; then she emitted a yell so terrific that it echoed all over
the lake like the blast of a train. The others stared also and in
their turn began to yell. Then Heu-Heu himself ambled round and
apparently had a look, a good look, for by now someone had torn away
the veil which I had thrown over the corpse's head. He did not look
long, for next moment he was legging, or rather stilting, back to the
cave as fast as he could go.

This was too much for me. By my side was my double-barrelled Express
rifle loaded with expanding bullets. I drew it from its case, lifted
it, and got a bead on to Heu-Heu just above where I guessed the head
of the man within to be, for I did not want to kill the brute but only
to frighten him. By now the light was good and so was my aim, for a
moment later the expanding bullet hit in the appointed spot and
cleared away all that top hamper of wicker and baboon skins, or
whatever it may have been. Never before was there such a sudden
disrobement of an ecclesiastical dignitary draped in all his
trappings.

Everything seemed to come off at once, as did Dacha from his stilts,
for he went a most imperial crowner that must have flattened his
hooked nose upon that lava rock. There he lay a moment, then, leaving
his stilts behind him, he rose and fled after the screaming women and
their ape-like attendants back into the cave.

"Now," I remarked oracularly to the old Walloo and the others who were
terrified at the report of the rifle, "now, my friends, you see what
your god is made of."

The Walloo attempted no reply, apparently he was too astonished--
disillusionment is often painful, you know--but one of his company who
seemed to be a kind of official timekeeper, said that the sun being up
and the Holy Bridal being accomplished, though strangely, it was
lawful for them to return home.

"No, you don't," I answered. "I have waited here a long time for you
and now you shall wait a little while for me, as I want to see what
happens."

The timekeeper, however, a man of routine, if one devoid of curiosity,
dipped his paddle into the water as a signal to the other rowers to do
likewise, whereon Hans hit him hard over the fingers with the butt of
his revolver, and then held its barrel to his head.

This argument convinced him that obedience was best, and he drew in
the paddle, as did the others, making polite apologies to Hans.

So we remained where we were and watched.

There was lots to see, for by now the water was beginning to run over
the rock. It reached the eternal fires with the result that they
ceased to be eternal, for they went out in clouds of smoke and steam.
Three minutes later it was pouring in a cataract down the slope into
the mouth of the cave. Before I could count a hundred, people began to
come out of that cave in the greatest of hurries, as wasps do if you
stir up their nest with a stick. Among them I recognised Dacha, who
had a very good idea of looking after himself.

He and the first of those who followed, wading through the water, got
clear and began to scramble up the mountainside behind. But the rest
were not so fortunate, for by now the stream was several feet deep and
they could not fight it. For a moment they appeared struggling amid
the foam and bubbles. Then they were swept back into the mouth of the
cave and gathered to the breast of Heu-Heu for the last time. Next, as
though at a signal, all the houses, including that in which we had
been lodged, crumbled away together. They just collapsed and vanished.

Everything seemed finished and I wondered whether I would put a bullet
into Dacha, who now was standing on a ridge of rock and wringing his
hands as he watched the destruction of his temple, his god, his town,
his women, and his servants. Concluding that I would not, for
something seemed to tell me to leave this wicked rascal to destiny, I
was about to give the order to paddle away when Hans called to me to
look at the mountain top.

I did so, and observed that from it was rushing a great cloud of
steam, such as comes from a railway engine when it is standing still
with too much heat in its boiler, but multiplied a millionfold.
Moreover, as the engine screams in such circumstances, so did the
mountain scream, or rather roar, emitting a volume of sound that was
awful to hear.

"What's up now, Hans?" I shouted.

"Don't know, Baas. Think that water and fire are having a talk
together inside that mountain, Baas, and saying they hate each other,
just like badly married man and woman who quarrel in a small hut,
Baas, and can't get out. Hiss, spit, go woman; pop, bang, go man----"
Here he paused from his nonsense, staring at the mountain top with all
his eyes, then repeated in a slow voice, "Yes, pop, bang, go man! Just
/look/ at him, Baas!"

At this moment, with an amazing noise like to that of a magnified
thunderclap, the volcano seemed to split in two and the crest of it to
fly off into space.

"Baas," said Hans, "I am called Lord-of-the-Fire, am I not? Well, I am
not Lord of that fire and I think that the farther off we get from it,
the safer we shall be. /Allemagter!/ Look there," and he pointed to a
huge mass of flaming lava which appeared to descend from the clouds
and plunge into the lake about a couple of hundred yards away, sending
up a fountain of steam and foam, like a torpedo when it bursts.

"Paddle for your lives!" I shouted to the Walloos, who began to get
the canoe about in a very great hurry.

As she came round--it seemed to take an age--I saw a strange and in a
way a terrible sight. Dacha had left his ledge and was running down
into the lake, followed by a stream of molten lava, dancing while he
ran, as though with pain, probably because the stream had scorched
him. He plunged into the water, and just then a great wave formed,
driven outwards doubtless by some subterranean explosion. It rushed
towards us, and on its very crest was Dacha.

"I think that priest wants us to give him a row, Baas," said Hans. "He
has had enough of his happy island home, and wishes to live on the
mainland."

"Does he?" I replied. "Well, there is no room in the canoe," and I
drew my pistol.

The wave bore Dacha quite close to us. He reared himself in the water,
or more probably was lifted up by the pressure underneath, so that
almost he appeared to be standing on the crest of the wave. He saw us,
he shouted curses upon us and shook his fists, apparently at Sabeela
and Issicore. It was a horrible sight.

Hans, however, was not affected, for by way of reply he pointed first
to me, then to Sabeela and lastly to himself, after which, such was
his unconquerable vulgarity, he put his thumb to his nose and as
schoolboys say "cocked a snook" at the struggling high priest.

The wave became a hollow and Dacha disappeared "to look for Heu-Heu,"
as Hans remarked. That was the end of this cruel but able man.

"I am glad," said Hans after reflection, "that the Predikant Dacha
should have learned who sent him down to Heu-Heu before he went there,
which he knew well enough or he would not have been so cross, Baas.
Has it occurred to the Baas what clever people we are, all of whose
plans have succeeded so nicely? At one time I thought that things were
going wrong. It was after I scrambled into this canoe and those fools
would not move to fetch you and the women, because they said it was
against their law. While I was putting on my clothes, which got here
quite dry because I was so careful, Baas, for I had asked them to
paddle to fetch you while I was still naked and been told that they
would not, I wondered whether I should try to make them do so by
shooting one of them. Only I thought that I had better wait a while,
Baas, and see what happened, because if I shot one, the others might
have become more stupid and obstinate than before, and perhaps have
paddled away after they had killed me. So I waited, which the Baas
will admit was the best thing to do, and everything came right in the
end, having doubtless been arranged by your Reverend Father, watching
us in the sky."

"Yes, Hans, but if you had made up your mind otherwise, whom would you
have shot?" I asked. "The Walloo?"

"No, Baas, because he is old and stupid as a dead owl. I should have
shot Issicore because he tires me so much and I should like to save
the Lady Sabeela from being made weary for many years. What is the
good of a man, Baas, who, when he thinks his girl is being given over
to a devil, sits in a boat and groans and says that ancient laws must
not be broken lest a curse should follow? He did that, Baas, when I
asked him to order the men to row to the steps."

"I don't know, Hans. It is a matter for them to settle between them,
isn't it?"

"Yes, Baas, and when the lady has got her mind again and at last that
hour comes, as it always does when there is something to pay, Baas, I
shall be sorry for Issicore, for I don't think he will look so pretty
when she has done with him. No, I think that when he says 'Kiss!
Kiss!' she will answer, 'Smack! Smack!' on both sides of his head,
Baas. Look, she has turned her back on him already. Well, Baas, it
doesn't matter to me, or to you either, who have the Lady Dramana
there to deal with. She isn't turning her back, Baas, she is eating
you up with her eyes and saying in her heart that at last she has
found a Heu-Heu worth something, even though he be small and withered
and ugly, with hair that sticks up. It is what is in a man that
matters, Baas, not what he looks like outside, as women often used to
say to me when I was young, Baas."

Here with an exclamation that I need not repeat, for none of us really
like to have our personal appearance reflected upon by a candid
friend, however faithful, I lifted the butt of my rifle, purposing to
drop it gently on Hans's toes. At that point, however, my attention
was diverted from this rubbish, which was Hans's way of showing his
joy at our escape, by another blazing boulder which fell quite near to
the canoe, and immediately afterwards by the terrific spectacle of the
final dissolution of the volcano.

I don't know exactly what happened, but sheets of wavering flame and
clouds of steam ascended high into the heavens. These were accompanied
by earth-shaking rumblings and awful explosions that resounded like
the loudest thunder, each of them followed by the ejection of showers
of blazing stones and the rushing out of torrents of molten lava which
ran into the lake, making it hiss and boil. After this came tidal
waves that caused our canoe to rock perilously, dense clouds of ashes
and a kind of hot rain which darkened the air so much that for a while
we could see nothing, no, not for a yard before our noses. Altogether,
it was a most terrifying exhibition of the forces of nature which, by
some connection of ideas, made me think of the Day of Judgment.

"Heu-Heu avenges himself upon us!" wailed the old Walloo, "because we
have robbed him of his Holy Bride."

Here his speech came to an end, for a good reason, since a large hot
stone fell upon his head, and, as Hans who was next to him explained
through the fog, "squashed him like a beetle."

When from the outcry of his followers Sabeela realized that her father
was dead, for he never moved or spoke again, she seemed to wake up in
good earnest, just as though she felt that the mantle of authority had
fallen upon her.

"Throw that hot coal out of the boat," she said, "lest it burn through
the bottom and we sink."

With the help of a paddle Issicore obeyed her, and, the body of the
Walloo having been covered up with a cloak, we rowed on desperately.
By good fortune about this time a strong wind began to blow from the
shore towards the island which kept back or drove away the hot rain
and pumice dust, so that we could once more see about us. Now our only
danger was from the rocks, such as that which had killed the Walloo,
that fell into the water all around, sending up spouts of foam. It was
just as though we were under heavy bombardment, but happily no more of
them hit the canoe, and as we got farther off the island the risk
became less. As we found afterwards, however, some of them were thrown
as far as the mainland.

Still, there was one more peril to be passed, for suddenly we ran into
a whole fleet of rude canoes, or rather bundles of reed and brushwood,
or sometimes logs sharpened at both ends by fire, on each of which one
of the Hairy savages sat astride directing it with a double-bladed
paddle.

I presume that these people must have been a contingent of the
aboriginal Wood-folk who had started for the island in obedience to
the summons of Heu-Heu, where, as I have told, a great number of them
were already gathered preparatory to attacking the town of Walloo. Or
they may have been escaping from the island; really I do not know. One
thing was clear; however low they may have been in the scale of
humanity, they were sharp enough to connect us with the awful, natural
catastrophe that was happening, for squeaking and jabbering like so
many great apes, they pointed to that vision of hell, the flaming
volcano now sinking to dissolution, and to us.

Then with their horrible yells of /Heu-Heu! Heu-Heu!/ they set to work
to attack us.

There was only one thing to be done--open fire on them, which Hans and
I did with effect, and meanwhile try to escape by our superior speed.
I am bound to say that those hideous and miserable creatures showed
the greatest courage, for undeterred by the sight of the death of
their companions whom our bullets struck, they tried to close upon us
with the object, no doubt, of oversetting the canoe and drowning us
all.

Hans and I fired as rapidly as possible, but we could deal with only a
tithe of them, so that speed and manoeuvring were our principal hope.
Sabeela stood up in the boat and cried directions to the paddlers,
while Hans and I shot, first with the rifles and then with our
revolvers.

Still, one huge gorilla-like fellow, whose hair grew down to his
beetling eyebrows, got hold of the gunwale and began to pull the canoe
over. We could not shoot him because both rifles and revolvers were
empty; nor did our blows make him loosen his grip. The canoe rocked
from side to side increasingly, and began to take in water.

Just as I feared that the end had come, for more hairy men were almost
on to us, Sabeela saved the situation in a bold and desperate fashion.
By her side lay the broad spear of that priest whom Hans had killed in
the sluice shed, knocking him backwards into the water pit. She seized
it and with amazing strength stabbed the great beast-like creature who
had hold of the canoe and was putting all his weight on it to force
the gunwale under water. He let go and sank. By skilful steering we
avoided the others, and in three minutes were clear of them, since
they could not keep pace with us on their rude craft.

"Plenty to do to-night, Baas!" soliloquized Hans, wiping his brow.
"Perhaps if a crocodile does not swallow us between here and the
shore, or these fools do not sacrifice us to the ghost of Heu-Heu, or
we are not killed by lightning, the Baas will let me drink some of
that native beer when we get back to the town. All this fire about has
made me very thirsty."



Well, we arrived there at last--a generation seemed to have passed
since I left that quay, which we found crowded with the entire terror-
stricken population of the place. They received the body of the Walloo
in respectful silence, but it seemed to me without any particular
grief. Indeed, these people appeared to have outworn the acuter human
emotions. All such extremes, I suppose, had been smoothed away from
their characters by time, and by the degrading action of the vile
fetishism under which they lived. In short, they had become mere
handsome, human automata who walked about with their ears cocked
listening for the voice of the god and catching it in every natural
sound. To tell the truth, however interesting may have been their
origin, in their decadence they filled me with contempt.

The reappearance of Sabeela astonished them very much but seemed to
cause no delight.

"She is the god's wife," I heard one of them say. "It is because she
has run away from the god that all these misfortunes have happened."
She heard it also and rounded on them with spirit, having by now quite
recovered her nerve, or so it seemed, which is more than could be said
of Issicore, who, although he should have been wild with joy, remained
depressed and almost silent.

"What misfortunes?" she asked. "My father is dead, it is true, killed
by a hot stone that fell upon him and I weep for him. Still, he was a
very old man who must soon have passed away. For the rest, is it a
misfortune that through the courage and power of these strangers I,
his daughter and heiress, have been freed from the clutches of Dacha?
I tell you that Dacha was the god; Heu-Heu whom you worship was but a
painted idol. If you do not believe it, ask the White Lord here, and
ask my sister Dramana whom you seem to have forgotten, who in past
years was given to him as a Holy Bride. Is it a misfortune that Dacha
and his priests have been destroyed, and with him the most of the
savage hairy Wood-folk, our enemies? Is it a misfortune that the
hateful smoking mountain should have melted away in fire, as it is
doing now, and with it the cave of mysteries, out of which came so
many oracles of terror, thus fulfilling the prophecy that we should be
delivered from our burdens by a white lord from the south?"

At these vigorous words the frightened crowd grew silent and hung
their heads. Sabeela looked about her for a little while, then went
on:

"Issicore, my betrothed, come forward and tell the people you rejoice
that these things have happened. To save me from Heu-Heu, at my prayer
you travelled far to ask succour of the great Magician of the South.
He has sent the succour and I have been saved. Yet you helped to row
the boat which took me to the sacrifice. For that I do not blame you,
because you must do so, being of the rank you are, or be cursed under
the ancient law. Now I have been saved, though not by you, who,
thinking the White Lord dead upon the Holy Isle, consented to my
surrender to the god, and the law is at an end with the destruction of
Heu-Heu and his priests, slain by the wisdom and might of that White
Lord and his companion. Tell them, therefore, how greatly you rejoice
that you have not journeyed in vain, and they did not listen in vain
to your petition for help; that I stand before them here also free and
undefiled, and that henceforth the land is rid of the curse of Heu-
Heu. Yes, tell the people these things and give thanks to the noble-
hearted strangers who brought them to pass and saved me with Dramana
my sister."

Now, tired out as I was, I watched Issicore not without excitement,
for I was curious to hear what he had to say. Well, after a pause, he
came forward and answered in a hesitating voice,

"I do rejoice, Beloved, that you have returned safe, though I hoped
when I led the White Lord from the South, that he would have saved you
in some fashion other than by working sacrilege and killing the
priests of the god with fire and water, men who from the beginning
have been known to be divine. You, the Lady Sabeela, declare that Heu-
Heu is dead, but how know we that he is dead? He is a spirit, and can
a spirit die? Was it a dead god who threw the stone that killed the
Walloo, and will he not perhaps throw other stones that will kill us,
and especially you, Lady, who have stood upon the Rock of Offerings,
wearing the robe of the Holy Bride?"

"Baas," inquired Hans reflectively, in the silence which followed
these timorous queries, "do you think that Issicore is really a man,
or is he in truth but made of wood and painted to look like one, as
Dacha was painted to look like Heu-Heu?"

"I thought that he was a man yonder in the Black Kloof, Hans," I
answered, "but then he was long way off Heu-Heu. Now I am not so sure.
But perhaps he is only very frightened and will come to himself by and
by."

Meanwhile Sabeela was looking her extremely handsome lover up and
down; up and down she looked him, and never a word did she say--at
least, to him. Presently, however, she spoke to the crowd in a
commanding voice, thus:

"Take notice that my father being dead, I am now the Walloo, and one
to be obeyed. Go about your tasks fearing nothing, since Heu-Heu is no
more and the most of the Hairy Folk are slain. I depart to rest,
taking with me these, my guests and deliverers," and she pointed to me
and Hans. "Afterwards I will talk with you, and with you also, my lord
Issicore. Bear the late Walloo, my father, to the burial place of the
Walloos."

Then she turned and, followed by us and the members of her household,
went to her home.

Here she bade us farewell for a while, since we were all half dead
with fatigue and sorely needed rest. As we parted, she took my hand
and kissed it, thanking me with tears welling from her beautiful eyes
for all that I had done, and Dramana did likewise.

"How comes it, Baas," said Hans as we ate food and drank of the native
beer before we lay down to sleep, "that those ladies did not kiss my
hand, seeing that I too have done something to help them?"

"Because they were too tired, Hans," I answered, "and made one kiss
serve for both of us."

"I see, Baas, but I expect that to-morrow they will still be too tired
to kiss poor old Hans."

Then he filled the cup out of which he had been drinking with the last
of the liquor from the jar and emptied it at a swallow. "There, Baas,"
he said; "that's only right; you may take all the kisses, so long as I
get the beer."

Exhausted as I was I could not help laughing, although to tell the
truth, I should have liked another glass myself. Then I tumbled on to
the couch and instantly went to sleep.



It is a fact that we slept all the rest of that day and all the
following night, waking only when the first rays of the sun shone into
our room through the window place. At least, I did, for when I opened
my eyes, feeling a different creature and blessing Heaven for its gift
of sleep to man, Hans was already up and engaged in cleaning the
rifles and revolvers.

I looked at the ugly little Hottentot, reflecting how wonderful it was
that so much courage, cunning, and fidelity should be packed away
within his yellow skin and projecting skull. Had it not been for Hans,
without a doubt I should now be dead, and the women also. It was he
who had conceived the idea of letting down the sluice gate by
exploding gunpowder beneath the pin of the lever. I had racked my
brain for expedients, but this, the only one possible, escaped me. How
tremendous had been the results of that inspiration--all of them due
to Hans.

Although certain ideas had occurred to me, the most that I had hoped
to do was to flood the low-lying lands, and perhaps the cave, in order
to divert the attention of the priests while we were attempting
escape. As it was we had loosed the forces of nature with the most
fearful results. The water had run down the vent-holes of the eternal
fires and into the bowels of the volcano, there to generate steam in
enormous volumes, of which the imprisoned strength had been so great
that it had rent the mountain like a rotten rag and destroyed the home
of Heu-Heu for ever, and with it all his votaries.

It was a fearful event in which I thought I saw the mind of Providence
acting through Hans. Yes, the cunning of the Hottentot had been used
by the Powers above to sweep from the earth a vile tyranny and to
destroy a blood-soaked idol and its worshippers.

Without a doubt--or so I believe in my simple faith--this had been
designed from the beginning. When some escaped follower of Heu-Heu
painted the picture in the Bushmen's cave, probably hundreds of years
ago, it was already designed. So was Zikali's desire for a certain
medicine, or his insatiable thirst for knowledge, or whatever it was
that caused him to persuade me to undertake this mission, and so was
all the rest of the story.

Again, with what wonderful judgment Hans had acted after his brave
swim to the canoe!

Had he tried to force those fetish-ridden cravens to come to our
rescue at once, as I directed him to do, the probability was that,
fearing to break their silly law, they would have resisted, or perhaps
have rowed right away, leaving us to our fate, after knocking him on
the head with a paddle. But he had the patience to wait, although, as
he told me afterwards, his heart was torn in two with anxiety for my
sake. Balancing everything in his artful and experienced mind he had
found patience to wait until the conditions of their "law" were
fulfilled, when they came willingly enough.

From Hans my thoughts turned to Issicore. How was it that this man's
character had changed so completely since he arrived in his native
country? His journey to seek aid made alone over hundreds of miles,
was a really remarkable performance, showing great courage and
determination. Also as a guide, although silent and abstracted, he had
never lacked for resource or energy. But from the day that he arrived
home, morally he had gone to pieces. It was with the greatest
difficulty that he could be persuaded to row us to the island, where
at the first sign of danger he had left us to our fate and fled away.

Again, he had meekly helped to conduct Sabeela, whom, when he was at
the Black Kloof evidently he loved to desperation, to her doom without
lifting a finger to save her from a hideous destiny. Lastly, only a
few hours ago, he had made a pusillanimous and contemptible speech,
which I could see shocked and disgusted his betrothed, who, for her
part, after her rescue and the death of her father, seemed to have
gained the courage that he had lost, and more.

It was inexplicable, at any rate to me, and in my bewilderment I
referred the problem to Hans.

He listened while I set out the case as it appeared to me, then
answered,

"The Baas does not keep his eyes open--at any rate, in the daytime,
when he thinks everything is safe. If he did, he would understand why
Issicore has become soft as a heated bar of iron. What makes men soft,
Baas?"

"Love," I suggested.

"Yes. At times love makes some men soft--I mean men like the Baas. And
what else, Baas?"

"Drink," I answered savagely, getting it back on Hans.

"Yes, at times drink makes some men soft. Men like me, Baas, who know
that now and again it is wise to cease from being wise, lest Heaven
should grow jealous of our wisdom and want to share it. But what makes
all men soft?"

"I don't know."

"Then once more I must teach the Baas, as his Reverend Father, the
Predikant, told me to do when I saw that the Baas had used up all his
wits, saying to me before he died, 'Hans, whenever you perceive that
my son Allan, who does not always look where he is going, walks into
water and gets out of his depth, swim in and pull him out, Hans.'"

"You little liar!" I ejaculated, but taking no notice, Hans went on,

"Baas, it is /fear/ that makes all men soft. Issicore is bending about
like a heated ramrod because within him burns the fire of fear."

"Fear of what, Hans?"

"As I have said, if the Baas had kept his eyes open, he would know.
Did not the Baas notice a tall, dark-faced priest before whom the
crowd parted, who came up to Issicore when first we landed on the quay
here?"

"Yes, I saw such a man. He bowed politely and I thought was greeting
Issicore and making him some present."

"And did the Baas see what kind of a present he made him and hear his
words of wisdom? The Baas shakes his head. Well, I did. The present he
gave to Issicore was a little skull carved out of black ivory or
shell, or it may have been of polished lava rock. And the words of
welcome were, 'The gift of Heu-Heu to the lord Issicore, that gift
which Heu-Heu sends to all who break the law and dare to leave the
Land of the Walloos.' Those were the words, for standing near by, I
heard them, though I kept them from the Baas, waiting to see what
would happen afterwards.

"Then the priest went away, and what Issicore did with the little
black skull I do not know. Perhaps he wears it round his neck, as he
hasn't got a watch chain, just as the Baas used to wear things that
ladies had given him, or their pictures in a little silver brandy
flask."

"Well, and what about this skull, Hans? What does it mean?"

"Baas, I made inquiries of an old man in that canoe, to pass the time
away, Baas, as Issicore was at the other end and could not hear me. It
means /death/, Baas. Does not the Baas remember how we were told at
the Black Kloof that those who dared to leave the Land of Heu-Heu were
always smitten with some sickness and died? Well, Baas, Issicore got
out all right and left the sickness behind him, I expect because the
priests did not know that he was going. But he made a mistake, Baas,
that of coming back again, being drawn by his love of Sabeela, just as
a fish is drawn by the bait on the hook, Baas. And now the hook is
fast in his mouth, for the priests knew of his return well enough,
Baas, and of course were waiting for him."

"What do you mean, Hans? How can the priests hurt Issicore, especially
when they are all dead?"

"Yes, Baas, they are all dead and can harm no one, but Issicore is
right when he says that Heu-Heu is not dead, because the devil never
dies, Baas. His priests are dead, but Heu-Heu could kill the old
Walloo, and so he can kill Issicore. There is a great deal in this
fetish business, Baas, that good Christians like you and I do not
understand. It won't work on Christians, Baas, which is why Heu-Heu
can't kill us, but those who worship the Black One, at last the Black
One takes by the throat."

I thought to myself that here Hans, although he did not know it, was
enunciating one of the profoundest and most fundamental of truths,
since those who bow the knee to Baal are Baal's servants and live
under his law, even to the death, and what is Baal but Heu-Heu, or
Satan? The fruit is always the same, by whatever name the tree may be
called. However, I did not enter upon this argument with Hans, whom it
would have bewildered, but only asked him what he meant and what he
imagined was going to happen to Issicore. He answered,

"I mean just what I have said, Baas; I mean that Issicore is going to
die. That old man told me that those who 'receive the Black Skull,'
always die within the month, and often more quickly. From the look of
him, I should think that Issicore will not last more than a week.
Although so handsome, he is really very dull, Baas, so it does not
much matter, especially as the Lady Sabeela will get over it quite
soon. That is why Issicore has changed, Baas. It is because the fear
of death is upon him. In the same way Sabeela has changed because the
fear of death and what to her, perhaps, is worse, has passed away."

"Bosh!" I exclaimed, but internally I had my doubts. I knew something
of this fetish business, although I believed it to be the greatest of
rubbish, I was sure that it is extremely dangerous rubbish. The secret
soul of man, especially of savage, or primitive and untaught man, or
the sub-conscious self, or whatever you choose to call it, is a
terrible entity when brought into action by the hereditary
superstitions that are born in his blood. In nine cases out of ten, if
the victim of those superstitions is told with the accustomed
ceremonies by the oracle of the god or devil from which they flow,
that he will die, he does die. Nothing kills him, but he commits a
kind of moral suicide. As Hans had said--Fear makes him soft. Then
some kind of nervous disease penetrates his system and at the
appointed hour withers up his physical life and causes him to pass
away.



Such, as it proved, was to be the fate of that Apollo-like person, the
unhappy Issicore.




CHAPTER XV



SABEELA'S FAREWELL


Now of this story there is little left to tell, and as it is very late
and I see that you are all yawning, my friends [this was not true, for
we were deeply interested, especially over the moral or spiritual
problem of Issicore], I will cut that little as short as I can. It
shall be a mere footnote.

After we had eaten that morning, we went to see Sabeela, whom we found
very agitated. This was natural enough, considering all she had gone
through, as after mental strain and the passing of great perils, a
nervous reaction invariably follows. Also, in a sudden and terrible
fashion, she had lost her father, to whom she was attached. But the
real cause of her distress was different.

Issicore, it seemed, had been taken very ill. Nobody knew what was the
matter with him, but Sabeela was persuaded that he had been poisoned.
She begged me to visit him at once and cure him--a request that made
me indignant. I explained to her that I was no authority on their
native poisons, if he suffered from anything of the sort, and had few
medicines with me, the only one of which that dealt with poisons was
an antidote to snake bites. However, as she was very insistent, I said
that I would go and see what I could do, which would probably be
nothing.

So, together with Hans, I was conducted by some of the old headmen, or
councillors of the Walloo, such people as in Zululand we should call
/Indunas/, to the house of Issicore, a rather fine building of its
sort at the other end of the town. We walked by the road that ran
along the edge of the lake, which gave us an opportunity to observe
the island, or rather what had been the island.

Now it was nothing but a low, dark mass, over which hung dense clouds
of steam. When the winds stirred these clouds, I saw that beneath them
were red streams of lava that ran into the lake. There were no more
eruptions and the volcano appeared to have vanished away. Much dust
was still falling. It lay thick upon the roadway and all the trees and
other vegetation were covered with it, turning the landscape to a hue
of ashen grey. Otherwise no damage had been done on the mainland,
except that here and there boulders had fallen and some of the lower-
lying fields were inundated by the great flood, which was now abating,
although the river still overflowed its banks.

We reached the house of Issicore and were shown into his chamber,
where he lay upon a couch of skins, attended by some women who, I
understood, were his relatives. When Hans and I entered, these women
bowed and went out, leaving us alone with the patient. A glance told
me that he was a dying man. His fine eyes were fixed on vacancy; he
breathed in gasps; his fingers clasped and unclasped themselves
automatically, and from time to time he was taken with violent
shiverings. These I thought must be due to some form of fever until I
had tested his temperature with the thermometer I had in my little
medicine case and found that it was two degrees below normal. On being
questioned, he said that he had no pain and suffered only from great
weakness and from a whirling of the head, by which I suppose meant
giddiness.

I asked him to what he attributed his condition. He answered,

"To the curse of Heu-Heu, Lord Macumazahn. Heu-Heu is killing me."

I inquired why, for to argue about the folly of the business was
futile, and he replied,

"For two reasons, Lord: first, because I left the land without his
leave, and secondly, because I rowed you and the yellow man called
Light-in-Darkness to the Holy Isle, to visit which unsummoned is the
greatest of crimes. For this cause I must die more quickly than
otherwise I should have done, but in any case my doom was certain,
because I left the land to seek help for Sabeela. Here is the proof of
it," and from somewhere about his person he produced the little black
Death's Head which Hans had described to me. Then, without allowing me
to touch the horrid thing, he hid it away again.

I tried to laugh him out of this idea, but he only smiled sadly and
said,

"I know that you must have thought me a coward, Lord, because of the
way I have borne myself since we reached this town of Walloo, but it
was the curse of Heu-Heu working within me that changed my spirit. I
pray you to explain this to Sabeela, whom I love, but who I think also
believes me a coward, for yesterday I read it in her eyes. Now while I
have still strength I would speak to you. First, I thank you and the
yellow man, Light-in-Darkness, who by courage or by magic--I know not
which--have saved Sabeela from Heu-Heu, and have destroyed his House
and his priests and, I am told, his image. Heu-Heu, it is true, lives
on since he cannot die, but henceforward here he is without a home or
a shape or a worshipper, and therefore his power over the souls and
bodies of men is gone, and among the Walloos, in time his worship will
die out. Perhaps no more of my people will perish by the curse of Heu-
Heu, Lord."

"But why should you die, Issicore?"

"Because the curse fell on me first, Lord, while Heu-Heu reigned over
the Walloos, as he has done from the beginning, he who was once their
earthly king."

I began to combat this nonsense, but he waved his hand in protest, and
went on:

"Lord, my time is short and I would say something to you. Soon I shall
be no more and forgotten, even by Sabeela, whose husband I had hoped
to become. I pray, therefore, that you will marry Sabeela."

Here I gasped, but held my peace till he had finished.

"Already I have caused her to be informed that such is my last wish.
Also I have caused all the elders of the Walloos to be informed, and
at a meeting held this morning they decided that this marriage would
be right and wise, and have sent a messenger to tell me to die as
quickly as I can, in order that it may be arranged at once."

"Great Heavens!" I exclaimed, but again he motioned to me to be
silent, and went on:

"Lord, although she is not of your race, Sabeela is very beautiful,
very wise also, and with you for her husband she may be able once more
to build up the Walloos into a great people, as tradition says they
were in the old days before there fell upon them the curse of Heu-Heu,
which is now broken. For you, too, are wise and bold, and know many
things which we do not know, and the people will serve you as a god
and perhaps come to worship you in place of Heu-Heu, so that you found
a mighty dynasty. At first this thought may seem strange to you, but
soon you will come to see that it is great and good. Moreover, even if
you were unwilling, things must come about as I have said."

"Why?" I asked, unable to contain myself any longer.

"Because, Lord, here in this land you must spend the rest of your
life, for in it now you are a prisoner, nor with all your courage can
you escape, since none will row you down the river, nor can you force
a way, for it will be watched. Moreover, when you return to the house
of the Walloo you will find that your cartridges have been taken, so
that except for a few that you have about you, you are weaponless.
Therefore, as here you must live, it is better that you should do so
with Sabeela rather than with any other woman, since she is the
fairest and the cleverest of them all. Also by right of blood she is
the ruler, and through her you will become Walloo, as I should have
done according to our custom."

At this point he closed his eyes and for a while appeared to become
senseless. Presently he opened them again and, staring at me, lifted
his feeble hands and cried:

"Greeting to the Walloo! Long life and glory to the Walloo!"

Nor was this all, for, to my horror, from the other side of the
partition that divided the house I heard the women whom I have
mentioned echo the salutation:

"Greeting to the Walloo! Long life and glory to the Walloo!"

Then again Issicore became senseless; at least, nothing I said seemed
to reached his understanding. So after waiting for a time Hans and I
went away, thinking that all was over. This, however, was not so,
since he lived till nightfall and, I was told, recovered his senses
for some hours before the end, during which time Sabeela visited him,
accompanied by certain of the notables or elders. It was then, as I
suppose, that this ill-fated but most unselfish Issicore, the
handsomest man whom ever I beheld, to his own satisfaction, if not to
mine, settled everything for what he conceived to be the welfare of
his country and his ladylove.



"Well, Baas," said Hans when we were outside the house, "I suppose we
had better go home. It is /your/ home now, isn't it, Baas? No, Baas,
it is no use looking at that river, for you see these Walloos are so
kind that they have already provided you with a chief's escort."

I looked. It was true enough. In place of the one man who had guided
us to the house there were now twenty great fellows armed with spears
who saluted me in a most reverential manner and insisted upon sticking
close to my heels, I presume in case I should try to take to them. So
back we went, the guard of twenty marching in a soldierlike fashion
immediately behind, while Hans declaimed at me:

"It is just what I expected, Baas, for of course if a man is very fond
of women, in his inside, Baas, they know it and like him--no need to
tell them in so many words, Baas--and being kind-hearted, are quite
ready to be fond of him. That is what has happened here, Baas. From
the moment that the lady Sabeela saw you, she didn't care a pinch of
snuff for Issicore, although he was so good-looking and had walked
such a long way to help her. No, Baas, she perceived something in you
which she couldn't find in two yards and a bit of Issicore, who after
all was an empty kind of drum, Baas, and only made a noise when you
hit him--a little noise for a small tap, Baas, and a big noise for a
bang. Moreover, whatever he was, he is done now, so it is no use
wasting time talking about him.

"Well, this won't be such a bad country to live in now that the most
of those Heuheua are dead--look! there are some of their bodies lying
on the shore--and no doubt the beer can be brewed stronger, and there
is tobacco. So it will be all right till we get tired of it, Baas,
after which, perhaps, we shall be able to run away. Still, I am glad
none of them wish to marry me, Baas, and make me work like a whole
team of oxen to drag them out of their mudholes."

Thus he went on pouring out his bosh by the yard, and literally I was
so crushed that I couldn't find a word in answer. Truly, it is the
unexpected that always happens. During the last few days I had
foreseen many dangers and dealt with some. But this was one of which I
had never dreamed. What a fate! To be kept a prisoner in a kind of
gilded cage and made to labour for my living too, like a performing
monkey. Well, I would find a way between the bars or my name wasn't
Allan Quatermain. Only what way? At the time I could see none, for
those bars seemed to be thick and strong. Moreover, there were those
gentlemen with the spears behind.

In due course we arrived at the Walloo's house without incident and
went straight to our room where, after investigation in a corner, Hans
called out:

"Issicore was quite right, Baas. All the cartridges have gone and the
rifles also. Now we have only got our pistols and twenty-four rounds
of ammunition between us."

I looked. It was so! Then I stared out of the window-place, and
behold! there in the garden were the twenty men already engaged in
marking out ground for the erection of a guard-hut.

"They mean to settle there, so as to be nice and handy in case the
Baas wants them--or they want the Baas," said Hans significantly,
adding, "I believe that wherever he goes the Walloo always has an
escort of twenty men!"



Now for the next few days I saw nothing of Sabeela, or of Dramana
either, since they were engaged in the ceremonious obsequies, first of
the Walloo and next of the unlucky Issicore, to which for some
religious reason or other, I was not invited.

Certain headmen or Indunas, however, were always waiting to pounce on
me. Whenever I put my nose out-of-doors they appeared, bowing humbly,
and proceeded to take the occasion to instruct me in the history and
customs of the Walloo people, till I thought that my boyhood had
returned and I was once more reading "Sandford and Merton" and
acquiring knowledge through the art of conversation. Those old
gentlemen bored me stiff. I tried to get rid of them by taking long
walks at a great pace, but they responded nobly, being ready to trot
by my side till they dropped, talking, talking, talking. Moreover, if
I could outwalk those ancient councillors, the guard of twenty who
formed a kind of chorus on these expeditions, were excellent hands
with their legs, as an Irishman might say, and never turned a hair.
Sometimes they turned me, however, if they thought I was going where I
should not, since then half of them would dart ahead and politely bar
the way.

At length, on the third or fourth day, all the ceremonies were
finished and I was summoned into Sabeela's presence.

As Hans said afterwards, it was all very fine. Indeed, I thought it
pathetic with its somewhat tawdry conditions of ancient, almost
forgotten ceremonial inherited from a highly civilized race that was
now sinking into barbarism. There was the Lady Sabeela, very beautiful
to see, for she was a lovely woman and grandly dressed in a half-wild
fashion, who played the part of a queen and not without dignity, as
perhaps her ancestresses had done thousands of years before on some
greater stage. Here too were her white-haired attendants or Indunas,
the same who bored me out walking, representing the councillors and
high officials of forgotten ages.

Yet the Queen was no longer a queen; she was merging into the savage
chieftainess, as the councillors were into the chattering mob that
surrounds such a person in a thousand kraals or towns of Africa. The
proceedings, too, were very long, for each of these councillors or
elders made a speech in which he repeated all that the others had said
before, narrating with variations everything that happened in the land
since I had set foot within it, together with fancy accounts of what
Hans and I had done upon the island.

From these speeches, however, I learned one thing, namely, that most
of the wild Hairy Folk, who were named Heuheua, had perished in the
great catastrophe of the blowing up of the mountain, only a few,
together with the old men, the children and the females, being left to
carry on the race. Therefore, they said, the Walloos were safe from
attack, at any rate, for a couple of generations to come, as might be
learned from the wailings which arose in the forest at night--that, as
a matter of fact, I had heard myself--pathetic and horrible sounds of
almost animal grief. This, said these merciless sages, gave the
Walloos a great opportunity, for now was the time to hunt down and
kill the Wood-folk to the last woman and child--a task which they
considered I was eminently fitted to carry out!

When they had all spoken, Sabeela's turn came. She rose from her
throne-like chair and addressed us with real eloquence. First of all
she pointed out that she was a woman suffering from a double grief--
the death of her father and that of the man to whom she had been
affianced, losses that made her heart heavy. Then, very touchingly,
she thanked Hans and myself for all we had done to save her. But for
us, she said, either she would now have been dead or nothing but a
degraded slave in the house of Heu-Heu, which we had destroyed
together with Heu-Heu himself, with the result that she and the land
were free once more. Next she announced in words which evidently had
been prepared, that this was no time for her to think of past sorrows
or love, who now must look to the future. For a man like myself there
was but one fitting reward, and that was the rule over the Walloo
people, and with it the gift of her own person.

Therefore, by the wish of her Councillors, she had decreed that we
were to be wed on the fourth morning from that of the present day,
after which, by right of marriage, I was publicly to be declared the
Walloo. Meanwhile, she summoned me to her side (where an empty chair
had been set in preparation for this event) that we might exchange the
kiss of betrothal.

Now, as may be imagined, I hung back; indeed, never have I felt more
firmly fixed to a seat than at that fearsome moment. I did not know
what to say, and my tongue seemed glued to the roof of my mouth. So I
just sat still with all those old donkeys staring at me, Sabeela
watching me out of the corners of her eyes and waiting. The silence
grew painful, and in its midst Hans coughed in his husky fashion, then
delivered himself thus.

"Get up, Baas," he whispered, "and go through with it. It isn't half
as bad as it looks, and indeed, some people would like it very much.
It is better to kiss a pretty lady than to have your throat cut, Baas,
for that is what I think will happen if you don't, because a woman
whom you don't kiss, after she has asked you in public, /always/ turns
nasty, Baas."

I felt that there was force in this argument, and, to cut a long story
short, I went up into that chair and did--well--all that was required.
Lord! what a fool I felt while those idiots cheered and Hans below
grinned at me like a whole cageful of baboons. However, it was but
ceremonial, a mere formality, just touching the brow of the fair
Sabeela with my lips and receiving an acknowledgment in kind.

After this we sat a while side by side listening to those old Walloo
Councillors chanting a ridiculous song, something about the marriage
of a hero to a goddess, which I presume they must have composed for
the occasion. Under cover of the noise, which was great, for they had
excellent lungs, Sabeela spoke to me in a low voice and without
turning her face or looking at me.

"Lord," she said, "try to look less unhappy, lest these people should
suspect something and listen to what we are saying. The law is that we
should meet no more till the marriage day, but I must see you alone
to-night. Have no fear," she added with a rather sarcastic smile,
"for, although I must be alone, you can bring your companion with you,
since what I have to say concerns you both. Meet me in the passage
that runs from this chamber to your own, at midnight when all sleep.
It has no window places and its walls are thick, so that there we can
be neither seen nor heard. Be careful to bolt the door behind you, as
I will that of this chamber. Do you understand?"

Clapping my hands hilariously to show my delight in the musical
performance, I whispered back that I did.

"Good. When the singing comes to an end, announce that you have a
request to make of me. Ask that to-morrow you may be given a canoe and
paddlers to row to the island to learn what has happened there and to
discover whether any of the Wood-folk are still alive upon its shores.
Say that if so measures must be taken to make an end of them, lest
they should escape. Now speak no more."

At length the song was finished, and with it the ceremony. To show
that this was over, Sabeela rose from her chair and curtseyed to me,
whereon I also rose and returned the compliment with my best bow.
Thus, then, we bade a public farewell of each other until the happy
marriage morn. Before we parted, however, I asked as a favour in a
loud voice that I might be permitted to visit the island, or, at any
rate, to row round it, giving the reasons she had suggested. To this
she answered, "Let it be as my Lord wishes," and before any one could
raise objections, withdrew herself, followed by some serving woman and
by Dramana, who I thought did not seem too pleased at the turn events
had taken.



I pass on to that midnight interview. At the appointed time, or rather
a little before it, I went into the passage accompanied by Hans, who
was most unwilling to come for reasons which he gave in a Dutch
proverb to the effect of our own; that two's company and three's none.
Here we stood in the dark and waited. A few minutes later the door at
the far end of it opened--it was a very long passage--and walking down
it appeared Sabeela, clad in white and bearing in her hand a naked
lamp. Somehow in this garb and in these surroundings, thus illumined,
she looked more beautiful than I had ever seen her, almost spirit-like
indeed. We met, and without any greeting she said to me,

"Lord Watcher-by-Night, I find you watching by night according to my
prayer. It may have seemed a strange prayer to you, but hearken to its
reason. I cannot think that you believe me to desire this marriage,
which I know to be hateful to you, seeing that I am of another race to
yourself and that you only look upon me as a half-savage woman whom it
has been your fortune to save from shame or death. Nay, contradict me
not, I beseech you, since at times the truth is good. Because it is so
good I will add to it, telling you the reason why I also do not desire
this marriage, or rather the greatest reason; namely, that I loved
Issicore, who from childhood had been my playmate until he became more
than playmate."

"Yes," I interrupted, "and I know that he loved you. Only then why was
it that on his deathbed he himself urged on this matter?"

"Because, Lord, Issicore had a noble heart. He thought you the
greatest man whom he had ever known, half a god indeed, for he told me
so. He held also that you would make me happy and rule this country
well, lifting it up again out of its long sleep. Lastly, he knew that
if you did not marry me, you and your companion would be murdered. If
he judged wrongly in these matters, it must be remembered, moreover,
that his mind was blotted with the poison that had been given to him,
for myself I am sure that he did not die of fear alone."

"I understand. All honour be to him," I said.

"I thank you. Now, Lord, know that, although I am ignorant I believe
that we live again beyond the gate of Death. Perhaps that faith has
come down to me from my forefathers when they worshipped other gods
besides the devil Heu-Heu; at least, it is mine. My hope is,
therefore, that when I have passed that gate, which perhaps will be
before so very long, on its farther side I shall once more find
Issicore--Issicore as he was before the curse of Heu-Heu fell upon him
and he drank the poison of the priests--and for this reason I desire
to wed no other man."

"All honour be to you also," I murmured.

"Again, I thank you, Lord. Now let us turn to other matters. To-morrow
after midday a canoe will be ready, and in it you will find your
weapons that have been stolen and all that is yours. It will be manned
by four rowers; men known to be spies of the priests of Heu-Heu,
stationed here upon the mainland to watch the Walloos, who in time
would themselves have become priests. Therefore, now that Heu-Heu has
fallen they are doomed to die, not at once but after a while, perhaps,
as it will seem, by sickness or accident, because if they live, the
Walloo Councillors fear lest they should re-establish the rule of Heu-Heu.
They know this well, and therefore they desire above all things
to escape the land while their life is yet in them."

"Have you seen these men, Sabeela?"

"Nay, but Dramana has seen them. Now, Lord, I will tell you something,
if you have not guessed it for yourself, though I do this not without
shame. Dramana does not desire our marriage, Lord. You saved Dramana
as well as myself, and Dramana, like Issicore, has come to look on you
as half a god. Need I say more, save that, of course, for this reason
she does desire your escape, since she would rather that you went free
and were lost to both of us than that you should bide here and marry
me. Have I said enough?"

"Plenty," I answered, knowing that she spoke truth.

"Then what is there to add, save that I trust all will go well, and
that by the dawn of the day that follows this, you and the yellow man,
your servant, will be safely out of this accursed land. If that comes
about, as I believe it will, for after the dusk has fallen and before
the moon rises those who guide the canoe will bring it, not to the
quay, but into the mouth of the river down which you must paddle by
the moonlight; then I pray of you at times in your own country to
think of Sabeela, the broken-hearted chieftainess of a doomed people,
as day by day, when she rises and lays herself down to sleep, she will
think of you who saved her and all of us from ruin. My Lord, farewell,
and to you, Light-in-Darkness, also farewell."

Then she took my hand, kissed it, and, without another word, glided
away as she had come.



This was the last that ever I saw or heard of Sabeela the Beautiful. I
wonder whether she lived long. Somehow I do not think so; that night I
seemed to see death in her eyes.




CHAPTER XVI



THE RACE FOR LIFE


Now, like a Scotch parson, I have come to "lastly"--that inspiring
word at which the sleepiest congregation awakes. The morning following
this strange midnight meeting, Hans and I spent in our room, for it
appeared to be the ancient Walloo etiquette that, save by special
permission, the prospective bridegroom should not go out for several
days before the marriage, I suppose because of some primitive idea
that his affections might be diverted by the sight of alien beauty.

At midday we ate, or, so far as I was concerned, pretended to eat, for
anxiety took away my appetite. A little while afterwards, to my
intense relief, the captain of our prison-warders, for that is what
they were, appeared and said that he was commanded to conduct us to
the canoe which was to paddle us to inspect what remained of the
island. I replied that we would graciously consent to go. So taking
all our small possessions with us, including a bundle containing our
spare clothes and the twigs from the Tree of Illusions, we departed
and were escorted to the quay by our guards, of whose faces I was
heartily tired. Here we found a small canoe awaiting us, manned by
four secret-faced men, strong fellows all of them, who raised their
paddles in salute. Apparently the place had been cleared of loiterers,
since there was only one other person present, a woman wrapped in a
long cloak that hid her face.

As we were about to enter the canoe this woman approached us and
lifted her head. She was Dramana.

"Lord," she said, "I have been sent by my sister, the new Walloo, to
tell you that you will find the iron tubes which spit out fire and all
that belongs to them under a mat in the prow of the canoe. Also she
bids me wish you a prosperous journey to the island that aforetime was
named Holy, which island she wishes never to see again."

I thanked her and bade her convey my greeting to the Walloo, my bride
to be, adding in a loud voice, that I hoped ere long to be able to do
this in person when her "veil fell down."

Then I turned to enter the canoe.

"Lord," said Dramana with a convulsive movement of her hands, "I make
a prayer to you. It is that you will take me with you to look my last
upon that isle where I dwelt so long a slave, which I desire to see
once more--now that I am free."

Instinctively I felt that a crisis had arisen which demanded firm and
even brutal treatment.

"Nay, Dramana," I answered, "it is always unlucky for an escaped slave
to revisit his prison, lest once more its bars should close about that
slave."

"Lord," she said, "the loosed prisoner is sometimes dazed by freedom,
so that the heart cries again for its captivity. Lord, I am a good
slave and a loving. Will you not take me with you?"

"Nay, Dramana," I answered as I sprang into the canoe. "This boat is
fully loaded. It would not be for your welfare or for mine. Farewell!"

She gazed at me earnestly with a pitiful countenance that grew
wrathful by degrees, as might well happen in the case of a woman
scorned: then, muttering something about being "cast off," burst into
angry tears and turned away. For my part I motioned to the oarsmen to
loose the craft and departed, feeling like a thief and traitor. Yet I
was not to blame, for what else could I do? Dramana, it is true, had
been a good friend to us, and I liked her. But we had repaid her help
by saving her from Heu-Heu, and for the rest, one must draw the line
somewhere. If once she had entered that canoe, metaphorically
speaking, she would never have got out of it again.

Presently we were out on the open lake where the wavelets danced and
the sun shone brightly, and glad I was to be clear of all those
painful complications and once more in the company of pure and natural
things. We paddled away to the island and made the land, or rather
drew near to it, at the spot where the ancient city had stood in which
we had found the petrified men and animals. But we did not set foot on
it, for everywhere little streams of glowing lava trickled down into
the lake and the ruins had vanished beneath a sea of ashes. I do not
think that any one will ever again behold those strange relics of a
past I know not how remote.

Turning, we paddled on slowly round the island till we came to the
place where the Rock of Offering had been, upon which I had
experienced so terrible an adventure. It had vanished, and with it the
cave mouth, the garden of Heu-Heu, its Tree of Illusions, and all the
rich cultivated land. The waters of the lake, turbid and steaming, now
beat against the face of a stony hillock which was all that remained
of the Holy Isle. The catastrophe was complete; the volcano was but a
lump of lava from the dying heart of which its life-blood of flame
still palpitated in red and ebbing streams. I wonder whether its
smothered fires will ever break out again elsewhere. For aught I know
they may have done so already somewhere on the mainland.

By the time that we had completed our journey round the place on which
no living creature now was left, though once or twice we saw the
bloated body of a Heuheua savage bobbing about in the water, the sun
was setting, and it was dark before we were again off the town of the
Walloos. While any light remained by which we could be seen, we headed
straight for the landing place, that which we had left when we started
for the island.

The moment that its last rays faded, however, there was a whispered
conference between our four paddlemen, the ex-neophytes of Heu-Heu.
Then the direction of the canoe was altered, and instead of making for
the main land, we rowed on parallel with it till we came to the mouth
of the Black River. It was so dark that I could not discern the exact
time at which we left the lake and entered the stream; indeed, I did
not know that we were in it until the increased current told me so.
This current was now running very strongly after the great flood and
bore us along at a good pace. My fear was lest in the gloom we should
be dashed against rocks on the banks, or caught by the overhanging
branches of trees or strike a snag, but those four men seemed to know
every yard of the river and managed to keep us in its centre, probably
by following the current where it ran most swiftly.

So we went on, not paddling very fast for fear of accidents, until the
moon rose, which, as she was only a few days past her full, gave us
considerable light even in that dark place. So soon as her rays
reached us our paddlers gave way with a will, and we shot down the
flooded stream as a great speed.

"I think we are all right now, Baas," said Hans, "for with so good a
start those Walloos could scarcely catch us, even if they try. We are
lucky, too, for you have left behind you two ladies who between them
would have torn you into pieces, and I have left a place where the
fools who live in it wearied me so much that I should soon have died."

He paused for a moment, then added in a horrified voice:

"/Allemagter!/ we are not so lucky after all; we have forgotten
something."

"What?" I asked anxiously.

"Why, Baas, those red and white stones we came to fetch, of which,
before Heu-Heu dropped a red-hot rock upon his head, that old
/kraansick/" (that is, mad) "Walloo, promised us as many as we wished.
Sabeela would have filled the boat with them if we had only asked her,
and we should never have had to work any more, but could have sat in
fine houses and drunk the best gin from morning to night."

At these words I felt positively sick. It was too true. Amongst other
pressing matters, concerning life, death, marriage, and liberty, I had
forgotten utterly all about the diamonds and gold. Still when I came
to think of it, although perhaps Hans might have done so, in view of
the manner of our parting, I did not quite see how I could have asked
Sabeela for them. It would have been an anticlimax and might have left
a nasty taste in her mouth. How could she continue to look upon a man
as--well, something quite out of the ordinary, who called her back to
remind her that there was a little pecuniary matter to be settled and
a fee to be paid for services rendered? Further, the sight of us
bearing sacks of treasure might have excited suspicion; unless,
indeed, Sabeela had caused them to be placed in the boat as she did in
the case of the guns. Also they would have been heavy and inconvenient
to carry, as I explained to Hans. Yet I did feel sick, for once more
my hopes of wealth, or, at any rate, of a solid competence for the
rest of my days, had vanished into thin air.

"Life is more than gold," I said sententiously to Hans, "and great
honour is better than both."

It sounded like something out of the Book of Proverbs, but somehow I
had not got it quite right though I reflected that fortunately Hans
would not know the difference. However, he knew more than I thought,
for he answered,

"Yes, Baas, your Reverend Father used to talk like that. Also he said
that it was better to live on watercresses with an easy mind, however
angry they might make your stomach, than to dwell in a big hut with a
couple of cross women, which is what would have happened to you, Baas,
if you had stopped at Walloo. Besides, we are quite safe now, even if
we haven't got the gold and diamonds, which, as you say, are heavy
things, so safe that I think I shall go to sleep, Baas. /Allemagter!/
Baas, /what's that?/"

"Only those poor hairy women howling over their dead in the forest," I
answered rather carelessly, for their cries, which were very
distressing in the silence of the river, still echoed in my ears. Also
I was still thinking of the lost diamonds.

"I wish it were, Baas. They might howl till their heads fell off for
all I care. But it isn't. It's paddles. /The Walloos are hunting us,
Baas./ Listen!"

I did listen, and to my horror heard the regular stroke of paddles
striking the water at a distance behind us, a great number of them,
fifty I should say. One of the big canoes must be on our track.

"Oh, Baas!" said Hans, "it is your fault again. Without doubt that
lady Dramana loves you so much that she can't make up her mind to part
with you and has ordered out a big canoe to fetch you back. Unless,
indeed," he added with an access of hopefulness, "it is the Lady
Sabeela sending a farewell gift of jewels after us, having remembered
that we should like some to make us think of her afterwards."

"It is those confounded Walloos sending a gift of spears," I answered
gloomily, adding, "Get the rifles ready, Hans, for I'm not going to be
taken alive."

Whatever the cause, it was clear that we were being pursued, and in my
heart I did wonder whether Dramana had anything to do with it. No
doubt I had treated her rudely because I could not help it, also
Dramana had been badly trained among those rascally priests. But I
hoped, and still hope, that she was innocent of this treachery. The
truth of the matter I never learned.

Our crew of escaping priestly spies had also heard the paddles, for I
saw the frightened look they gave to each other and the fierce energy
with which they bent themselves to their work. Good heavens! how they
paddled, who knew that their lives hung upon the issue. For hour after
hour away we flew down that flooded, rushing river, while behind us,
drawing nearer minute by minute, sounded the beat of those insistent
paddles. Our canoe was swift, but how could we hope to escape from one
driven by fifty men when we had but four?

It was just as we passed the place where we had slept on our inward
journey--for now we had left the forest behind and were between the
cliffs, travelling quite twice as fast as we had done up stream--that
I caught sight of the pursuing boat, perhaps half a mile behind us,
and saw that it was one of the largest of the Walloo fleet. After
this, owing to the position of the moon, that in this narrow place
left the surface of the water quite dark, I saw it no more for several
hours. But I heard it drawing nearer, ever nearer, like some sure and
deadly bloodhound following on the spoor of a fleeing slave.

Our men began to tire. Hans and I took the paddles of two of them to
give the pair a rest and time to eat; then for a spell the paddles of
the other two, while they did likewise. This, however, caused us to
lose way, since we were not experts at the game, though here after the
flood the river rushed so fast that our lack of skill made little
difference.

At length the daylight came and gathered till at last the glimmer of
it reached us in our cleft, and by that faint, uncertain light I saw
the pursuing canoe not a hundred yards behind. In its way it was a
very weird and impressive spectacle. There were the precipitous,
towering cliffs, between or rather above which appeared a line of blue
sky. There was the darksome, flood-filled, foaming river, and there on
its surface was our tiny boat propelled by four weary and perspiring
men, while behind came the great war canoe whose presence could just
be detected in a dim outline and by the white of the water where its
oarsmen smote it into froth.

"They are coming up fast, Baas, and we still have a long way to go.
Soon they will catch us, Baas," said Hans.

"Then we must try to stop them for a while," I answered grimly. "Give
me the Express rifle, Hans, and do you take the Winchester."

Then, lying down in the canoe and resting the rifles on its stern, we
waited our opportunity. Presently we came to a place where at some
time there had been a cliff-slide, for here the debris of it narrowed
the river, turning it, now that it was so full, into something like a
torrent. At this spot, also, because of the enlargement of the cleft,
more light reached us, so that we could see our pursuers, who were
about fifty yards away, not clearly indeed, but well enough for our
purpose.

"Aim low and pump it into them, Hans," I said, and next instant
discharged both barrels of the Express at the foremost rowers.

Hans followed suit, but, as the Winchester held five cartridges, went
on firing after I had ceased.

The result was instantaneous. Some men sank down, some paddles fell
into the water--I could not tell how many--and a great cry arose from
the smitten or their companions. He who steered or captained the canoe
from the prow apparently was among the hit. She veered round and for a
while was broadside on to the current, exposing her bottom and
threatening to turn over. Into this, having loaded, I sent two
expanding bullets, hoping to spring a leak in her, though I was not
certain if I should succeed, as the wood of these canoes is thick. I
think I did, however, since even when she had got on her course again
she came more slowly, and I thought that once I saw a man bailing.

On we went, making the most of the advantage that this check gave to
us. But by now our men were very tired and their hands were raw from
blisters, so that only the terror of death forced them to continue
paddling. Indeed, at the last our progress grew very slow, and in fact
was due more to the current than to our own efforts. Therefore the
following canoe, which as was customary in Walloo boats of that size,
probably carried spare paddle men, once more gained upon us.

Hereabouts the river wound between its cliffs so that we only got
sight of it from time to time. Whenever we did so I took the
Winchester and fired, no doubt inflicting some damage and checking its
advance.

At length the winding ceased and we reached the last stretch, a clear
run of a mile or so before the river ended in the swamp that I have
described.

By this time pursuers and pursued, both of us, were going but slowly,
drifting rather than paddling, since all were exhausted. Whenever I
could get a sight I fired away, but still with a sullen determination
and in utter silence our assailants came up, till now they were
scarcely twenty paces from us, and some of them threw spears, one of
which stuck in the bottom of our canoe, just missing my foot. At this
spot the cliffs drew so near together at the top that I ceased
shooting, as I could not see to aim, and, having no cartridges to
waste, decided to keep those that remained for the emergency of the
last attack.

Now we were in the ultimate reach of the river, and now at last we
grounded upon the first mudbank of the swamp. Those who remained
unhurt of the following Walloos made a final effort to overtake us; by
the strong light that flowed from the open land beyond us I could see
their glaring eyeballs and their tongues hanging from their jaws with
exhaustion. I yelled an order.

"Seize everything we have and run for it!" I cried, grabbing at my
rifle and such other articles as were within reach, including the
remaining cartridges.

The others did likewise--I do not think that anything was left in that
canoe except the paddles. Then I leapt on to the shore and ran to the
right, following the edge of the swamp, the rest coming after me.
Fifty yards or more away I sank down upon a little ridge from sheer
exhaustion and because my cramped legs would no longer carry me, and
watched to see what would happen. Indeed, I was so worn out that I
felt I would rather die where I was than try to flee farther.

We grouped ourselves together, awaiting the crisis, for I thought that
surely we should be attacked. But we were not. At the mudbank the
pursuing Walloos ceased from their efforts. For a little while they
sat dejectedly in their craft till they had recovered breath.

Then for the first time those mute hunting-hounds gave tongue, for
they shouted maledictions on us, and especially on our four paddlers,
the neophytes of Heu-Heu, telling these that although to follow them
farther was not lawful, they would die, as Issicore died who left the
land. One of our men, stung into repartee, retaliated in words to the
effect that some of them had died in attempting to keep us in the
land, as they would find if they counted their oarsmen.

To this obvious truth the pursuers made no answer, nor did they inform
us who sent them on the chase. Securing our small canoe, they laid in
it certain dead men who had fallen beneath the bullets of Hans and
myself, and departed slowly up stream, towing it after them. This was
the last that I saw of their handsome, fanatical faces and of their
confounded country in which I went so near to death, or to becoming a
prisoner for life, that might have been worse.

"Baas," said Hans, lighting his pipe, "that was a great journey and
one which it will be nice to think about, now that it is over, though
I wish that we had killed more of those Walloo men-stealers."

"I don't, Hans; I hated being obliged to shoot them," I answered; "nor
do I wish to think any more of that race for our lives, unless it
comes back in a nightmare when I can't help doing so."

"Don't you, Baas? I find such thoughts pleasant when the danger is
past and we who might have been dead are alive, and the others who
were alive are dead and telling the tale to Heu-Heu."

"Each to his taste; yours isn't mine," I muttered.

Hans puffed at his pipe for a while, and went on,

"It's funny, Baas, that those /carles/ did not get out of their canoe
and come to kill us with their spears. I suppose they were afraid of
the rifles."

"No, Hans," I answered, "they are brave men who would not have stopped
because of the bullets. They were afraid of more than these: they
feared the Curse which says that those who leave their land will die
and go to hell. Heu-Heu has done us a good turn there, Hans."

"Yes, Baas, no doubt he has become a Christian in the Place of Fires
and is repaying good for evil, turning the other cheek, Baas. I felt
like that myself when I thought those Walloos were going to catch us,
but now I feel quite different. Baas, you remember how your Reverend
Father used to say that if you love Heaven, Heaven looks after you and
pulls you out of every kind of mudhole. That's why I'm sitting here
smoking, Baas, instead of making meat for crocodiles. If it wasn't for
our forgetting about those jewels, it has looked after us very well,
but there are so many up there that perhaps Heaven forgot them also."

"No, Hans," I said, "Heaven remembered that if we had tried to carry
bags of stones out of that boat, as well as Zikali's medicine and the
rest, the Walloos would have caught us before we got away. They were
quite close, Hans."

"Yes, Baas, I see, and that was very nice of Heaven. And now, Baas, I
think we had better be moving. Those Walloos might forget about the
curse for a little while and come back to look for us. Heaven is a
queer thing, Baas. Sometimes it changes its face all of a sudden and
grows angry--just like the lady Dramana did when you said that you
wouldn't take her with you in the canoe yesterday."



Allan paused to help himself to a little weak whisky and water, then
said in his jerky fashion,

"Well, that's the end of the story, of which I am glad, whatever you
may be, for my throat is dry with talking. We got back to the wagon
all right after sundry difficulties and a tiring march across the
desert, and it was time we did so, for when we arrived we had only
three rifle cartridges left between us. You see we were obliged to
fire such a lot at the Heuheua, when they attacked us on the lake, and
afterwards at those Walloos to prevent them from catching us that
night. However, there were more in the wagon, and I shot four
elephants with them going home. They had very large tusks, which
afterwards I sold for about enough to cover the expenses of the
journey."

"Did old Zikali make you pay for those oxen?" I asked.

"No, he did not, because I told him that if he tried it on I would not
give him his bundle of /mouti/ that we cut from the Tree of Illusions
and carried safely all that way. So as he was very keen on the
medicine, he made me a present of the oxen. Also I found my own there
grown fat and strong again. It was a curious thing, but the old
scoundrel seemed to know most of what had happened to us before ever I
told him a word. Perhaps he learned it all from one of those acolytes
of Heu-Heu who fled with us because they feared that they would be
murdered if they stayed in their own land. I forgot to tell you that
these men--most uncommunicative persons--melted away upon our homeward
journey. Suddenly they were missing. I presume that they departed to
set up as witch doctors on their own account. If so, very possibly one
or more of them may have come into touch with Zikali, the head of the
craft in that part of Africa, and before I reached the Black Kloof.

"The first thing he asked me was: 'Why did you not bring any gold and
diamonds away with you? Had you done so, you might have become rich
who now remain poor, Macumazahn.'

"'Because I forgot to ask for them,' I said.

"'Yes, I know you forgot to ask for them. You were thinking so much of
the pain of saying goodbye to that beautiful lady whose name I have
not learned that you forgot to ask for them. It is just like you,
Macumazahn. /Oho! Oho!/ it is just like you.'

"Then he stared at his fire for a while, in front, of which, as usual,
he was sitting, and added: 'Yet somehow I think that diamonds will
make you rich one day, when there is no woman left to say good-bye to,
Macumazahn.'

"It was a good shot of his, for, as you fellows know, that came about
at King Solomon's mines, didn't it? when there was 'no woman left to
say good-bye to.'"

Here Good turned his head away, and Allen went on hurriedly, I think
because he remembered Foulata, and saw that his thoughtless remark had
given pain.

"Zikali was very interested in all our story and made me stop at the
Black Kloof for some days to tell him every detail.

"'/I/ knew that Heu-Heu was an idol,' he said, 'though I wanted you to
find it out for yourself, and therefore told you nothing about it,
just as I knew that handsome man, Issicore, would die. But I didn't
tell him anything about that either, because, if I had, you see he
might have died before he had shown you the way to his country, and
then I shouldn't have got my /mouti/, which is necessary to me, for
without it how should I paint more pictures on my fire? Well, you
brought me a good bundle of leaves which will last my time, and as the
Tree of Illusions is burned and there is no other left in the world,
there will be no more of it. I am glad that it is burned, for I do not
wish that any wizard should arise in the land who will be as great as
was Zikali, Opener-of-Roads. While that tree grew the high priest of
Heu-Heu was almost as great, but now he is dead and his tree is
burned, and I, Zikali, reign alone. That is what I desired,
Macumazahn, and that is why I sent you to Heuheua Land.'

"'You cunning old villain!' I exclaimed.

"'Yes, Macumazahn, I am cunning just as you are simple, and my heart
is black like my skin, just as yours is white like your skin. That is
why I am great, Macumazahn, and wield power over thousands and
accomplish my desires, whereas you are small and have no power and
will die with all your desires unaccomplished. Yet, in the end, who
knows, who knows? Perhaps in the land beyond it may be otherwise. Heu-
Heu was great also and where is Heu-Heu to-day?'

"'There never was a Heu-Heu,' I said.

"'No, Macumazahn, there never was a Heu-Heu, but there were priests of
Heu-Heu. Is it not so with many of the gods men set up? They are not
and never were, but their priests /are/ and shake the spear of power
and pierce the hearts of men with terrors. What, then, does it matter
about the gods whom no man sees, when the priest is there shaking the
spear of power and piercing the hearts of their worshippers? The god
is the priest or the priest is the god--have it which way you like,
Macumazahn.'

"'Not always, Zikali.' Then, as I did not wish to enter into argument
with him on such a subject, I asked, 'Who carved the statue of Heu-Heu
in the Cave of Illusions? The Walloos did not know.'

"'Nor do I, Macumazahn,' he answered. 'The world is very old and there
have been peoples in it of whom we have heard nothing, or so my Spirit
tells me. Without doubt one of those peoples carved it thousands of
years ago, an invading people, the last of their race, who had been
driven out elsewhere and coming south, those who were left of them,
hid themselves away from their enemies in this secret place amid a
horde of savages so hideous that it was reported to be haunted by
demons. There, in a cave in the midst of a lake where they could not
be come at, they carved an image of their god, or perhaps of the god
of the savages, whom it seems that it resembled.

"'Mayhap the savages took their name from Heu-Heu, or mayhap Heu-Heu
took his name from them. Who can tell? At any rate, when men seek a
god, Macumazahn, they make one like themselves, only larger, uglier,
and more evil, at least in this land, for what they do elsewhere I
know not. Also, often they say that this god was once their king,
since at the bottom all worship their ancestors who gave them life, if
they worship anything at all, and often, too, because they gave them
life, they think that they must have been devils. Great ancestors were
the first gods, Macumazahn, and if they had not been evil they would
never have been great. Look at Chaka, the Lion of the Zulus. He is
called great because he was so wicked and cruel, and so it was and is
with others if they succeed, though, if they fail, men speak otherwise
of them.'

"'That is not a pretty faith, Zikali,' I said.

"'No, Macumazahn, but then little in the world is pretty, except the
world itself. The Heuheua are not pretty, or rather were not, for I
think that you killed most of them when you blew up the mountain,
which is a good thing. Heu-Heu was not pretty, nor were his priests.
Only the Walloos, and especially their women, remain pretty because of
the old blood that runs in them, the high old blood that Heu-Heu
sucked from their veins.'

"'Well, Heu-Heu has gone, Zikali, and now what will become of the
Walloos?'

"'I cannot say, Macumazahn, but I expect they will follow Heu-Heu, who
has taken hold of their souls and will drag them after him. If so, it
does not matter, since they are but the rotting stump of a tree that
once was tall and fair. The dust of Time hides many such stumps,
Macumazahn. But what of that? Other fine trees are growing which also
will become stumps in their season, and so on for ever.'



"Thus Zikali held forth, though of what he said I forget much. I
daresay that he spoke truth, but I remember that his melancholy and
pessimistic talk depressed me, and that I cut it as short as I could.
Also it did not really explain anything, since he could not tell me
who the Walloos or the Hairy Folk were, or why they worshipped Heu-
Heu, or what was their beginning, or what would be their end.

"All these things remained and remain lost in mystery, since I have
never heard anything more of them, and if any subsequent travellers
have visited the district where they live, which is not probable, they
did not succeed in ascending the river, or if they did, they never
descended it again. So if you want to know more of the story, you must
go and find it out for yourselves. Only, as I think I said, I won't go
with you."



"Well," said Captain Good, "it is a wonderful yarn. Hang me, if I
could have told it better myself!"

"No, Good," answered Allan, as he lit a hand candle, "I am quite sure
that you could not, because, you see, facts are one thing and what you
call 'yarns' are another. Good-night to you all, good-night."

Then he went off to bed.



THE END





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