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