Allan and the Ice Gods - Henry Rider Haggard - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1927

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Henry Rider Haggard

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About

Chapter 1 - ALLAN REFUSES A FORTUNE

About Haggard:

Henry Rider Haggard was born at Bradenham, Norfolk, to Sir William Meybohm Rider Haggard, a barrister, and Ella Doveton, an author and poet. He was the eighth of ten children. He was initially sent to Garsington Rectory in Oxfordshire to study under the Reverend H.J. Graham but, unlike his older brothers who graduated from various Public Schools, he ended up attending Ipswich Grammar School. This was because his father, who regarded him as somebody who was not going to amount to much, could no longer afford to maintain his expensive private education. After failing his army entrance exam he was sent to a private ‘crammer’ in London to prepare for the entrance exam for the British Foreign Office, which in the end he never sat. Instead Haggard’s father sent him to Africa in an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor of Natal, Sir Henry Bulwer. It was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria for the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. In fact, Haggard raised the Union Flag and was forced to read out much of the proclamation following the loss of voice of the official originally entrusted with the duty. As a young man, Haggard fell deeply in love with Lilith Jackson, whom he intended to marry once he obtained paid employment in South Africa. In 1878 he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal, but when he sent his father a letter telling him that he intended to return to England in order to marry Lilith Jackson his father replied that he forbade it until he had made a career for himself. In 1879 he heard that Lilith had married someone else. When he eventually returned to England he married a friend of his sister, Mariana Louisa Margitson and brought her back to Africa. Later they had a son named Jock (who died of measles at the age of 10) and three daughters. Returning again to England in 1882, the couple settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk. Later he lived in Kessingland and had connections with the church in Bungay, Suffolk. He turned to the study of law and was called to the bar in 1884. His practice of law was somewhat desultory, and much of his time was taken up by the writing of novels. Heavily influenced by the larger-than-life adventurers he met in Colonial Africa, most notably Frederick Selous and Frederick Russell Burnham, the great mineral wealth discovered in Africa, and the ruins of ancient lost civilizations in Africa such as Great Zimbabwe, Haggard created his Allan Quatermain adventures. Three of his books, The Wizard (1896), Elissa; the doom of Zimbabwe (1899), and Black Heart and White Heart; a Zulu idyll (1900) are dedicated to Burnham's daughter, Nada, the first white child born in Bulawayo, herself named after Haggard's 1892 book: Nada the Lily. Years later, when Haggard was a successful novelist, he was contacted by his former love, Lilith Jackson. She had been deserted by her husband, who had left her penniless and infected her with syphilis, from which she eventually died. It was Haggard who paid her medical bills. These details were not generally known until the publication of Haggard's 1983 biography by D. S. Higgins. Haggard was heavily involved in agricultural reform and was a member of many Commissions on land use and related affairs, work that involved several trips to the Colonies and Dominions. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1912, and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919. He stood unsuccessfully for parliament as a candidate for the Conservative Party. Source: Wikipedia

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A fire mist and a planet,—

A crystal and a cell,—

A jellyfish and a saurian

And caves where the cave men dwell;

Then a sense of law and beauty,

And a face turned from the clod,—

Some call it Evolution

And others call it God.

 

From "Each In His Own Tongue," by William Herbert Carruth


Chapter 1 ALLAN REFUSES A FORTUNE

Had I the slightest qualification for the task, I, Allan Quatermain, would like to write an essay on Temptation.

This, of course, comes to all, in one shape or another, or at any rate to most, for there are some people so colourless, so invertebrate that they cannot be tempted—or perhaps the subtle powers which surround and direct, or misdirect, us do not think them worth an effort. These cling to any conditions, moral or material, in which they may find themselves, like limpets to a rock; or perhaps float along the stream of circumstance like jellyfish, making no effort to find a path for themselves in either case, and therefore die as they have lived—quite good because nothing has ever moved them to be otherwise—the objects of the approbation of the world, and, let us hope, of Heaven also.

The majority are not so fortunate; something is always egging their living personalities along this or that road of mischief. Materialists will explain to us that this something is but the passions inherited from a thousand generations of unknown progenitors who, departing, left the curse of their blood behind them. I, who am but a simple old fellow, take another view, which, at any rate, is hallowed by many centuries of human opinion. Yes, in this matter, as in sundry others, I put aside all the modern talk and theories and am plumb for the good, old-fashioned, and most efficient Devil as the author of our woes. No one else could suit the lure so exactly to the appetite as that old fisherman in the waters of the human soul, who knows so well how to bait his hooks and change his flies so that they may be attractive not only to all fish but to every mood of each of them.

Well, without going further with the argument, rightly or wrongly, that is my opinion.

Thus, to take a very minor matter—for if the reader thinks that these words are the prelude to telling a tale of murder or other great sins he is mistaken—I believe that it was Satan himself, or, at any rate, one of his agents, who caused my late friend, Lady Ragnall, to bequeath to me the casket of the magical herb called Taduki, in connection with which already we had shared certain remarkable adventures.[1]

Now, it may be argued that to make use of this Taduki and on its wings to be transported, in fact or in imagination, to some far-away state in which one appears for a while to live and move and have one's being is no crime, however rash the proceeding. Nor is it, since, if we can find new roads to knowledge, or even to interesting imaginings, why should we not take them? But to break one's word is a crime, and because of the temptation of this stuff, which, I confess, for me has more allurement than anything else on earth, at any rate, in these latter days, I have broken my word.

For, after a certain experience at Ragnall Castle, did I not swear to myself and before Heaven that no power in the world, not even that of Lady Ragnall herself, would induce me again to inhale those time- dissolving fumes and look upon that which, perhaps designedly, is hidden from the eyes of man; namely, revealments of his buried past, or mayhap of his yet unacted future? What do I say? This business is one of dreams—no more; though I think that those dreams are best left unexplored, because they suggest too much and yet leave the soul unsatisfied. Better the ignorance in which we are doomed to wander than these liftings of corners of the veil; than these revelations which excite delirious hopes that, after all, may be but marsh lights which, when they vanish, will leave us in completer blackness.

Now I will get on to the story of my fall; of how it came about and the revelations to which it led, and which I found interesting enough, whatever others may think of them.

Elsewhere I have told how, years after our joint adventure into Central Africa, once again I came into touch with the widowed Lady Ragnall and allowed myself to be persuaded in her company to inhale the charmed smoke of the Taduki herb, with which she became familiar when, in a state of mental collapse, she fell into the hands of the priests of some strange African faith. Under its influence, the curtain of time seemed to swing aside, and she and I saw ourselves playing great parts as inhabitants of Egypt in the days of the Persian domination. In that life, if the tale were true, we had been very intimate, but before this intimacy culminated in actual union, the curtain fell and we reawoke to our modern world.

Next morning, I went away, much confused and very frightened, nor did I ever again set eyes upon the stately and beautiful Lady Ragnall. After all that we had learned or dreamed, I felt that further meetings would be awkward. Also, to tell the truth, I did not like the story of the curse which was said to hang over the man who had to do with her who, in it, was named Amada and filled the role of priestess of Isis, the goddess whom she betrayed, in whatever generation might be born, or perchance reborn. Of course, such ancient maledictions are the merest nonsense. And yet—well, the truth is that in our separate fashions we are all superstitious, and really the fate of Lord Ragnall, who had married this lady, was most unpleasant and suggestive; too much so to encourage anyone else to follow his example. Further, I had come to a time of life when I did not wish for more adventures in which women were mixed up, even in dreams; since such, I have observed, however entrancing at the moment, lead to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.

Thus it came about that when Lady Ragnall wrote asking me to stay with her—as she did on two subsequent occasions—I put her off with excuses which were perfectly valid, although at this moment I forget what they may have been, it being my firm intention never again to place myself within reach of her beauteous and commanding personality. You see, in that dream we dreamed together, the story came to an end just as I was about to marry the Princess and High Priestess Amada, who was, or appeared to be, Lady Ragnall's prototype. Indeed, on regaining her senses, she, whose vision lasted a second or two longer than did mine, let it slip that we actually had been married in some primitive Egyptian fashion, and I could see clearly enough, although I knew it to be nonsense, she believed that this event had happened.

Now, even when the scene was laid a long while ago, it is extremely awkward to foregather with an imperial woman who is firmly convinced that she was once your wife, so awkward that, in the end, it might have proved necessary to resume what she considered to be an established, if an interrupted, relationship.

This, for sundry reasons, I was determined not to do, not the least of them being that certainly I should have been set down as a fortune hunter; also, as I have said, there was always the curse in the background, which I hoped fondly would recognize my self-denial and not operate in my direction. And yet—although to think of it makes me feel cold down the back—if perchance that dream were true, already it was incurred. Already I, Allan, the Shabaka of former days, am doomed "to die by violence far from my own country where first I had looked upon the sun," as its terms, recorded in the papyrus from Kandah-land, of which I read a translation at the Castle, provide, with antique directness and simplicity, as the lot of all and sundry who have ever ventured to lay hands or lips upon the person of Amada, High Priestess of Isis.

To return. In reply to my second letter of excuse, I received a quaint little epistle from the lady to whom it had been written. It ran thus:

Shabaka, why do you seek to escape the net of Fate when already you are enveloped in its meshes? You think that never more, seated side by side, shall we see the blue Taduki smoke rise up toward us, or feel its subtle strength waft our souls afar.

Perhaps this is so, though assuredly even here you are doomed to acknowledge its dominion, how often I do not know, and will you find it less to be feared alone than in my company? Moreover, from that company you never can escape, since it has been with you from time immemorial, if not continuously, and will be with you when there is no more sun.

Yet, as it is your wish, until we meet again in the past or in the future, farewell, O Shabaka.

Amada.

When I had finished reading this very peculiar note, of which the envelope, by the way, was sealed with the ancient Egyptian ring that my late friend Lord Ragnall had found and given to his wife just before his terrible fate overtook him, literally I felt faint and lay back in my chair to recover myself. Really, she was an ominous and, in her way, rather creepy woman, one unlike all others, one who seemed to be in touch with that which, doubtless by intention, is hidden from mankind. Now it came back to me that, when first I met her as the Hon. Luna Holmes and was so interested in her at the Ragnall Castle dinner party before her marriage, I was impressed with this ominous quality which seemed to flow from her, as, had he been more sensitive, her future husband would have been also.

During our subsequent association in Africa, too, it had always been with me, and, of course, it was in full force through our joint experience with the Taduki herb. Now again it flowed up in me like an unsealed fountain and drowned my judgment, washing the ordered reason on which I prided myself from its foundations. Also, in this confusion, another truth emerged, namely, that from the first moment I set my eyes on her I had always been attracted by and, in a kind of hidden way, "in love" with her. It was not a violent and passionate sort of affection, but then the same man can love sundry women in different ways, all of which are real enough.

Yet I knew that it was permanent. For a little while her phantasies got a hold upon me, and I began to believe that we always had been and always should be mixed up together; also that, in some undeclared fashion, I was under deep obligations to her, that she had stood my friend, not once but often, and so would stand while our personalities continued to endure. True, she had been Ragnall's wife, yet—and this through no personal vanity, since Heaven knows that this vice is lacking in me—of a sudden I became convinced that it was to me that her nature really turned and not to Ragnall. I did not seek it, I did not even hope that it was so, for surely she was his possession, not mine, and I wanted to rob no man. Yet in that moment there the fact loomed before me large and solid as a mountain, a calm, immovable mountain, a snow-capped volcano, apparently extinct, that still, one day, might break into flames and overwhelm me, taking me as its possession upon wings of fire.

Such were my reflections during the moments of weakness which followed the shock I had received from that remarkable letter, outwardly and visibly so final, yet inwardly and spiritually opening up vast avenues of unexpected possibilities. Presently, they passed with the faintness and I was my own man again. Whatever she might or might not be, so far as I was concerned, there was an end to my active association with Lady Ragnall—at any rate, until I was certain that she was rid of her store of Taduki. As she admitted in her curiously worded communication, that book was closed for our lives, and any speculations concerning the past and the future, when we were not in being, remained so futile that about them it was unnecessary to trouble.

A little while later, I read in a newspaper, under the head of "Fashionable Intelligence," that Lady Ragnall had left England to spend the winter in Egypt, and, knowing all her associations with that country, I marvelled at her courage. What had taken her there, I wondered; then shrugged my shoulders and let the matter be.

Six weeks or so afterward, I was out shooting driven partridges. A covey came over me, of which I got two. As I thrust new cartridges into my gun, I saw approaching me, flying very fast and high, a couple of wild duck that I suppose had been disturbed from some pond by the distant beaters. I closed the gun and lifted it, being particularly anxious to bag those wild duck, which were somewhat rare in the neighbourhood, especially at that season of the year. At that moment I was smitten by a most extraordinary series of impressions that had to do with Egypt and Lady Ragnall, the last things I had been thinking of a minute before.

I seemed to see a desert and ruins that I knew to be those of a temple, and Lady Ragnall herself seated among them, holding up a sunshade which suddenly fell onto the sand. This illusion passed, to be followed by another; namely, that she was with me, talking to me very earnestly but in a joyful, vigorous voice, only in a language of which I could not understand one word. Yet the burden of her speech seemed to reach my mind; it was to the effect that now we should always be near to each other, as we had been in the past.

Then all was gone, nor can those impressions have endured for long, seeing that, when they began, I was pointing my gun at the wild duck, and they left me before the dead birds touched the ground for, automatically, I went on with the business at hand, nor did my accustomed skill desert me.

Setting down the fancy as once of those queer mental pranks that cannot be explained—unless, in this instance, it was due to something I had eaten at lunch—I thought no more about it for two whole days. Then I thought a great deal, for, on opening my newspaper, which reached the Grange about three o'clock, that is exactly forty-eight hours after my telepathic experience, or whatever it may have been, the first thing that my eye fell on among the foreign telegrams was the following from Cairo:

A message has been received here conveying the sad intelligence of the sudden death yesterday of Lady Ragnall, the widow of the late Lord Ragnall, who, as a famous Egyptologist, was very well known in Egypt, where he came to a tragic end some years ago. Lady Ragnall, who was noted for her wealth and beauty, was visiting the ruins of a temple of Isis which stands a little way back from the east bank of the Nile between Luxor and Assouan, where her husband met with his fatal accident while engaged in its excavation. Indeed, she was seated by the monument erected on the sand which entombed him so deeply that his body was never recovered, when suddenly she sank back and expired. The English medical officer from Luxor certified heart disease as the cause of death and she has been buried where she died, this ground having been consecrated at the time of the decease of Lord Ragnall.

If I had felt queer when I received Lady Ragnall's mystical letter before she left for Egypt, now I felt much queerer. Then I was perplexed; now I was terrified, and, what is more, greatly moved. Again that conviction came to me that, deep down in my being, I was attached, unchangeably attached, to this strange and charming woman, and that with hers my destiny was intertwined. If this were not so, indeed, why had her passing become known to me, of all people and in so incongruous a fashion, for, although the hour of her death was not stated, I had little doubt that it occurred at the very moment when I shot the wild duck.

Now I wished that I had not refused to visit her, and even that I had given her some proof of my regard by asking her to marry me, notwithstanding her great wealth, the fact that I had been her husband's friend, and all the rest. No doubt, she would have refused; still, the quiet devotion of even so humble an individual as myself might have pleased her. However, regrets came too late; she was dead and all between us at an end.

A few weeks later, I discovered that here I was mistaken, for, after a preliminary telegram inquiring whether I was in residence at the Grange, which I answered on a prepaid form to the address of some unknown lawyers in London, there arrived at lunch time on the following day a gentleman of the name of Mellis, evidently one of the firm of Mellis & Mellis who had sent me the telegram. He was shown in and, without waiting for luncheon, said:

"I believe I am addressing Mr. Allan Quatermain."

I bowed and he went on:

"I come upon a strange errand, Mr. Quatermain, so strange that I doubt whether, in the course of your life, which as I have heard has been full of adventure, you have ever known its equal. You were, I believe, well acquainted with our late client, Lord Ragnall, also with his wife, Lady Ragnall, formerly the Hon. Luna Holmes, of whose recent sad death you may perhaps have heard."

I said that this was so, and the lawyer went on in his dry precise way, watching my face as he spoke:

"It would appear, Mr. Quatermain, that Lady Ragnall must have been much attached to you, since, a while ago, after a visit that you paid to her at Ragnall Castle, she came to our office and made a will, a thing I may add that we had never been able to persuade her to do. Under that will—as you will see presently, for I have brought a copy with me—she left everything she possessed, that is, all the great Ragnall property and accumulated personalty of which she had the power to dispose at her unfettered discretion, to—ahem—to you."

"Great heavens!" I exclaimed, and sank back into a chair.

"As I do not sail under false colours," went on Mr. Mellis with a dry smile, "I may as well tell you at once that both I and my partner protested vehemently against the execution of such a will, for reasons that seemed good to us but which I need not set out. She remained firm as a rock.

"'You think I am mad,' she said. 'Foreseeing this, I have taken the precaution of visiting two eminent London specialists to whom I told all my history, including that of the mental obscuration from which I suffered for a while as the result of shock. Each of these examined me carefully and subjected me to tests with the result—but here are their certificates and you can judge for yourselves.'

"I, or rather we, read the certificates, which, of course, we have preserved. To be brief, they stated that her ladyship was of absolutely sound and normal mind, although certain of her theories might be thought unusual, but not more so than those of thousands of others, some of them eminent in various walks of life. In face of these documents, which were entirely endorsed by our own observation, there was but one thing to do, namely, to prepare the will in accordance with our client's clear and definite instructions. While we were writing these down, she said suddenly:

"'Something has occurred to me. I shall never change my mind, nor shall I remarry, but, from my knowledge of Mr. Quatermain, I think it possible and even probable that he will refuse this great inheritance' —a statement, sir, which struck us as so incredible that we made no comment.

"'In that event,' she continued, 'I wish all the real property to be realized and together with the personalty, except certain legacies, to be divided among the societies, institutions, and charities that are written down upon this list,' and she handed us a document, 'unless indeed Mr. Quatermain, whom, should he survive me, I leave my sole executor, should disapprove of any of them.'

"Do you now understand the situation, sir?"

"Quite," I answered. "That is, no doubt I shall when I have read the will. Meanwhile, I suggest that you must be hungry after your journey and that we should have lunch."

So we lunched, talking of indifferent matters while the servants were in the room, and afterward returned to my study, where the documents were read and expounded to me by Mr. Mellis. To cut the story short, it seemed that my inheritance was enormous; I am afraid to state from memory at what figure it was provisionally valued. Subject to certain reservations, such as an injection that no part of the total, either in land or in money, was to be alienated in favour of Mr. Atterby- Smith, a relative of Lord Ragnall whom the testatrix held in great dislike, or any member of his family, and that, for part of the year, I must inhabit Ragnall Castle, which might not be sold during my lifetime, or even let. All this vast fortune was left at my absolute disposal, both during my life and after my death. Failure to observe these trusts might, it seemed, invalidate the will. In the event of my renouncing the inheritance, however, Ragnall Castle, with a suitable endowment, was to become a county hospital, and the rest of the estate was to be divided in accordance with the list that I have mentioned—a very admirable list, but one which excluded any society or institution of a sectarian nature.

"Now I think that I have explained everything," said Mr. Mellis at length, "except a minor and rather peculiar provision as to your acceptance of certain relics, particularly described by the testatrix in a sealed letter which I will hand to you presently. So it only remains for me, Mr. Quatermain, to ask you to sign a document which I have already prepared and brought with me, to enable me to deal with these great matters on your behalf. That is," he added with a bow, "should you propose to continue that confidence in our firm with which the family of the late Lord Ragnall has honoured it for several generations."

While he was hunting in his bag for this paper, explaining, as he did so, that I must be prepared to face an action brought by Mr. Atterby- Smith, who had been raging round his office "like a wild animal," suddenly I made up my mind.

"Don't bother about that paper, Mr. Mellis," I said, "because Lady Ragnall was right in her supposition. I have no intention of accepting this inheritance. The estate must go for division to the charities, etcetera, set down in her list."

The lawyer heard, and stared at me.

"In my life," he gasped at last, "I have known mad testators and mad heirs, but never before have I come across a case where both the testator and the heir were mad. Perhaps, sir, you will be pleased to explain."

"With pleasure," I said when I had finished lighting my pipe. "In the first place, I am already what is called a rich man and I do not want to be bothered with more money and property."

"But, Mr. Quatermain," he interrupted, "you have a son who, with such wealth behind him, might rise to anything—yes, anything." (This was true, for, at that time, my boy Harry was living.)

"Yes, but, as it chances, Mr. Mellis, I have ideas upon this matter which you may think peculiar. I do not wish my son to begin life with enormous resources, or even the prospect of them. I wish him to fight his own way in the world. He is going to be a doctor. When he has succeeded in his profession and learned what it means to earn one's own bread, it will be time for him to come into other people's money. Already I have explained this to him with reference to my own, and being a sensible youth, he agrees with me."

"I daresay," groaned the lawyer. "Such—well, failings—as yours, are often hereditary."

"Another thing is," I went on, "that I do not wish to be bothered by a lawsuit with Mr. Atterby-Smith. Further, I cannot bind myself to live half the year in Ragnall Castle in a kind of ducal state. Very likely, before all is done, I might want to return to Africa, which then I could not do. In short, it comes to this: I accept the executorship and my out-of-pocket expenses, and shall ask your firm to act for me in the matter. The fortune I positively and finally refuse, as you observe Lady Ragnall thought it probable I should do."

Mr. Mellis rose and looked at the clock. "If you will allow me to order the dogcart," he said, "I think there is just time for me to catch the afternoon train up to town. Meanwhile, I propose to leave you a copy of the will and of the other documents to study at your leisure, including the sealed letter which you have not yet read. Perhaps after taking independent advice, from your own solicitors and friends, you will write me your views in a few days' time. Until then, this conversation of ours goes for nothing. I consider it entirely preliminary and without prejudice."

The dogcart came round—indeed, it was already waiting—and thus this remarkable interview ended. From the doorstep I watched the departure of Mr. Mellis and saw him turn, look at me, and shake his head solemnly. Evidently he thought that the right place for me was a lunatic asylum.

"Thank goodness, that's done with!" I said to myself. "Now I'll order a trap and go and tell Curtis and Good about all the business. No, I won't; they'll only think me mad as that lawyer does, and argue with me. I'll take a walk and mark those oaks that have to come down next spring. But first I had better put away these papers."

Thus I reflected and began to collect the documents. Lifting the copy of the will, I saw lying beneath it the sealed letter of which Mr. Mellis had spoken, addressed to me and marked

To be delivered after my death, or in the event of Mr. Quatermain pre-deceasing me, to be burned unread.

The sight of that well-known writing and the thought that she who penned it was now departed from the world and that nevermore would my eyes behold her, moved me. I laid the letter down, then took it up again, broke the seal, seated myself, and read as follows:

My dear friend, my dearest friend, for so I may call you, knowing as I do that if ever you see these words we shall no longer be fellow citizens of the world. They are true words, because between you and me there is a closer tie than you imagine, at any rate, at present. You thought our Egyptian vision to be a dream—no more; I believe it, on the other hand, at least in essentials, to be a record of facts that have happened in bygone ages. Moreover, I will tell you now that my revelation went further than your own. Shabaka and Amada were married and I saw them as man and wife leading a host southward to found a new empire somewhere in Central Africa, of which perchance the Kendah tribe were the last remnant. Then the darkness fell.

Moreover, I am certain that this was not the first time that we had been associated upon the earth, as I am almost certain that it will not be the last. This mystery I cannot understand or explain, yet it is so. In some of our manifold existences we have been bound together by the bonds of destiny, as in some we may have been bound to others, and so, I suppose, it will continue to happen, perhaps for ever and ever.

Now, as I know that you hate long letters, I will tell you why I write. I am going to make a will, leaving you practically everything I possess—which is a great deal. As there is no relationship or other tie between us, this may seem a strange thing to do, but after all, why not? I am alone in the world, without a relative of any kind. Nor had my late husband any except some distant cousins, those Atterby-Smiths whom you may remember, and these he detested even more than I do, which is saying much. On one point I am determined—that they shall never inherit, and that is why I make this will in such a hurry, having just received a warning that my own life may not be much prolonged.

Now, I do not deceive myself. I know you to be no money-hunter and I think it highly probable that you will shrink from the responsibilities of this fortune which, if it came to you, you would feel it your duty to administer it for the good of many to the weariness of your own flesh and spirit. Nor would you like the gossip in which it would involve you, or the worry of the actions- at-law which the Atterby-Smiths, and perhaps others unknown, would certainly bring against you. Therefore, it seems possible that you will refuse my gift, a contingency for which I have provided by alternative depositions. If a widowed lady without connections chooses to dispose of her goods in charity or for the advancement of science, etc., no one can complain. But even in this event I warn you that you will not altogether escape, since I am making you my soul executor, and although I have jotted down a list of the institutions which I propose to benefit, you will be given an absolute discretion concerning them with power to vary the amounts, and add to, or lessen, their number. In return for this trouble, should you yourself renounce the inheritance, I am leaving you an executor's fee of 5,000 pounds, which I beg that you will not renounce, as the mere thought of your doing so offends me. Also, as a personal gift, I ask you to accept all that famous set of Caroline silver which was used on grand occasions at Ragnall, that I remember you admired so much, and any other objects of art that you may choose.

Lastly—and this is the really important thing—together with the Egyptian collection, I pass on to you the chest of Taduki herb with the Kendah brazier, etc., enjoining you most strictly, if ever you held me in any friendship, to take it, and above all to keep it sacred.

In this, Friend, you will not fail me. Observe, I do not direct you to make further experiments with the Taduki. To begin with, it is unnecessary, since, although you have recently refused to do so in my company—perhaps because you were afraid of complications —sooner or later you will certainly breathe it by yourself, knowing that it would please me much, and, perhaps, when I am dead, hoping that through it you may see more of me than you did when I was alive. You know the dead often increase in value at compound interest, and I am vain enough to hope that this may be so in my case.

I have no more to say. Farewell—for a little while.

Luna Ragnall.

P.S. You can burn this letter if you like; it does not in the least matter, as you will never forget its contents. How interesting it will be to talk it over with you one day.