Heu-Heu - Henry Rider Haggard - ebook
Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1924

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About
Author's Note
Chapter 1 - THE STORM

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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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.


Chapter 1 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.