I believe it was the old Egyptians, a very wise people, probably
indeed much wiser than we know, for in the leisure of their ample
centuries they had time to think out things, who declared that each
individual personality is made up of six or seven different
elements, although the Bible only allows us three, namely, body,
soul, and spirit. The body that the man or woman wore, if I
understand their theory aright which perhaps I, an ignorant person,
do not, was but a kind of sack or fleshly covering containing these
different principles. Or mayhap it did not contain them all, but
was simply a house as it were, in which they lived from time to
time and seldom all together, although one or more of them was
present continually, as though to keep the place warmed and
This is but a casual illustrative suggestion, for what right
have I, Allan Quatermain, out of my little reading and probably
erroneous deductions, to form any judgment as to the theories of
the old Egyptians? Still these, as I understand them, suffice to
furnish me with the text that man is not one, but many, in which
connection it may be remembered that often in Scripture he is
spoken of as being the home of many demons, seven, I think. Also,
to come to another far-off example, the Zulus talk of their
witch-doctors as being inhabited by "a multitude of spirits."
Anyhow of one thing I am quite sure, we are not always the same.
Different personalities actuate us at different times. In one hour
passion of this sort or the other is our lord; in another we are
reason itself. In one hour we follow the basest appetites; in
another we hate them and the spirit arising through our mortal murk
shines within or above us like a star. In one hour our desire is to
kill and spare not; in another we are filled with the holiest
compassion even towards an insect or a snake, and are ready to
forgive like a god. Everything rules us in turn, to such an extent
indeed, that sometimes one begins to wonder whether we really rule
Now the reason of all this homily is that I, Allan, the most
practical and unimaginative of persons, just a homely,
half-educated hunter and trader who chances to have seen a good
deal of the particular little world in which his lot was cast, at
one period of my life became the victim of spiritual longings.
I am a man who has suffered great bereavements in my time such
as have seared my soul, since, perhaps because of my rather
primitive and simple nature, my affections are very strong. By day
or night I can never forget those whom I have loved and whom I
believe to have loved me.
For you know, in our vanity some of us are apt to hold that
certain people with whom we have been intimate upon the earth,
really did care for us and, in our still greater vanity—or should
it be called madness?—to imagine that they still care for us after
they have left the earth and entered on some new state of society
and surroundings which, if they exist, inferentially are much more
congenial than any they can have experienced here. At times,
however, cold doubts strike us as to this matter, of which we long
to know the truth. Also behind looms a still blacker doubt, namely
whether they live at all.
For some years of my lonely existence these problems haunted me
day by day, till at length I desired above everything on earth to
lay them at rest in one way or another. Once, at Durban, I met a
man who was a spiritualist to whom I confided a little of my
perplexities. He laughed at me and said that they could be settled
with the greatest ease. All I had to do was to visit a certain
local medium who for a fee of one guinea would tell me everything I
wanted to know. Although I rather grudged the guinea, being more
than usually hard up at the time, I called upon this person, but
over the results of that visit, or rather the lack of them, I draw
My queer and perhaps unwholesome longing, however, remained with
me and would not be abated. I consulted a clergyman of my
acquaintance, a good and spiritually-minded man, but he could only
shrug his shoulders and refer me to the Bible, saying, quite
rightly I doubt not, that with what it reveals I ought to be
contented. Then I read certain mystical books which were
recommended to me. These were full of fine words, undiscoverable in
a pocket dictionary, but really took me no forwarder, since in them
I found nothing that I could not have invented myself, although
while I was actually studying them, they seemed to convince me. I
even tackled Swedenborg, or rather samples of him, for he is very
copious, but without satisfactory results. [Ha!— JB]
Then I gave up the business.
Some months later I was in Zululand and being near the Black
Kloof where he dwelt, I paid a visit to my acquaintance of whom I
have written elsewhere, the wonderful and ancient dwarf, Zikali,
known as "The-Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born," also more
universally among the Zulus as "Opener-of-Roads." When we had
talked of many things connected with the state of Zululand and its
politics, I rose to leave for my waggon, since I never cared for
sleeping in the Black Kloof if it could be avoided.
"Is there nothing else that you want to ask me, Macumazahn?"
asked the old dwarf, tossing back his long hair and looking at—I
had almost written through—me.
I shook my head.
"That is strange, Macumazahn, for I seem to see something
written on your mind—something to do with spirits."
Then I remembered all the problems that had been troubling me,
although in truth I had never thought of propounding them to
"Ah! it comes back, does it?" he exclaimed, reading my thought.
"Out with it, then, Macumazahn, while I am in a mood to answer, and
before I grow tired, for you are an old friend of mine and will so
remain till the end, many years hence, and if I can serve you, I
I filled my pipe and sat down again upon the stool of carved
red-wood which had been brought for me.
"You are named 'Opener-of-Roads,' are you not, Zikali?" I
"Yes, the Zulus have always called me that, since before the
days of Chaka. But what of names, which often enough mean nothing
"Only that I want to open a road, Zikali, that which
runs across the River of Death."
"Oho!" he laughed, "it is very easy," and snatching up a little
assegai that lay beside him, he proffered it to me, adding, "Be
brave now and fall on that. Then before I have counted sixty the
road will be wide open, but whether you will see anything on it I
cannot tell you."
Again I shook my head and answered,
"It is against our law. Also while I still live I desire to know
whether I shall meet certain others on that road after my time has
come to cross the River. Perhaps you who deal with spirits, can
prove the matter to me, which no one else seems able to do."
"Oho!" laughed Zikali again. "What do my ears hear? Am I, the
poor Zulu cheat, as you will remember once you called me,
Macumazahn, asked to show that which is hidden from all the wisdom
of the great White People?"
"The question is," I answered with irritation, "not what you are
asked to do, but what you can do."
"That I do not know yet, Macumazahn. Whose spirits do you desire
to see? If that of a woman called Mameena is one of them, I think
that perhaps I whom she loved——"
"She is not one of them, Zikali. Moreover, if she loved
you, you paid back her love with death."
"Which perhaps was the kindest thing I could do, Macumazahn, for
reasons that you may be able to guess, and others with which I will
not trouble you. But if not hers, whose? Let me look, let me look!
Why, there seems to be two of them, head-wives, I mean, and I
thought that white men only took one wife. Also a multitude of
others; their faces float up in the water of your mind. An old man
with grey hair, little children, perhaps they were brothers and
sisters, and some who may be friends. Also very clear indeed that
Mameena whom you do not wish to see. Well, Macumazahn, this is
unfortunate, since she is the only one whom I can show you, or
rather put you in the way of finding. Unless indeed there are other
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I mean, Macumazahn, that only black feet travel on the road
which I can open; over those in which ran white blood I have no
"Then it is finished," I said, rising again and taking a step or
two towards the gate.
"Come back and sit down, Macumazahn. I did not say so. Am I the
only ruler of magic in Africa, which I am told is a big
I came back and sat down, for my curiosity, a great failing with
me, was excited.
"Thank you, Zikali," I said, "but I will have no dealings with
more of your witch-doctors."
"No, no, because you are afraid of them; quite without reason,
Macumazahn, seeing that they are all cheats except myself. I am the
last child of wisdom, the rest are stuffed with lies, as Chaka
found out when he killed every one of them whom he could catch. But
perhaps there might be a white doctor who would have rule over
"If you mean missionaries——" I began hastily.
"No, Macumazahn, I do not mean your praying men who are cast in
one mould and measured with one rule, and say what they are taught
to say, not thinking for themselves."
"Some of them think, Zikali."
"Yes, and then the others fall on them with big sticks. The real
priest is he to whom the Spirit comes, not he who feeds upon its
wrappings, and speaks through a mask carved by his father's
fathers. I am a priest like that, which is why all my fellowship
have hated me."
"If so, you have paid back their hate, Zikali, but cease to cast
round the lion, like a timid hound, and tell me what you mean. Of
whom do you speak?"
"That is the trouble, Macumazahn. I do not know. This lion, or
rather lioness, lies hid in the caves of a very distant mountain
and I have never seen her—in the flesh."
"Then how can you talk of what you have never seen?"
"In the same way, Macumazahn, that your priests talk of what
they have never seen, because they, or a few of them, have
knowledge of it. I will tell you a secret. All seers who live at
the same time, if they are great, commune with each other because
they are akin and their spirits meet in sleep or dreams. Therefore
I know of a mistress of our craft, a very lioness among jackals,
who for thousands of years has lain sleeping in the northern caves
and, humble though I am, she knows of me."
"Quite so," I said, yawning, "but perhaps, Zikali, you will come
to the point of the spear. What of her? How is she named, and if
she exists will she help me?"
"I will answer your question backwards, Macumazahn. I think that
she will help you if you help her, in what way I do not know,
because although witch-doctors sometimes work without pay, as I am
doing now, Macumazahn, witch-doctoresses never do. As for her name,
the only one that she has among our company is 'Queen,' because she
is the first of all of them and the most beauteous among women. For
the rest I can tell you nothing, except that she has always been
and I suppose, in this shape or in that, will always be while the
world lasts, because she has found the secret of life
"You mean that she is immortal, Zikali," I answered with a
"I do not say that, Macumazahn, because my little mind cannot
shape the thought of immortality. But when I was a babe, which is
far ago, she had lived so long that scarce would she knew the
difference between then and now, and already in her breast was all
wisdom gathered. I know it, because although, as I have said, we
have never seen each other, at times we walk together in our sleep,
for thus she shares her loneliness, and I think, though this may be
but a dream, that last night she told me to send you on to her to
seek an answer to certain questions which you would put to me
to-day. Also to me she seemed to desire that you should do her a
service; I know not what service."
Now I grew angry and asked,
"Why does it please you to fool me, Zikali, with such talk as
this? If there is any truth in it, show me where the woman called
Queen lives and how I am to come to her."
The old wizard took up the little assegai which he had offered
to me and with its blade raked our ashes from the fire that always
burnt in front of him. While he did so, he talked to me, as I
thought in a random fashion, perhaps to distract my attention, of a
certain white man whom he said I should meet upon my journey and of
his affairs, also of other matters, none of which interested me
much at the time. These ashes he patted down flat and then on them
drew a map with the point of his spear, making grooves for streams,
certain marks for bush and forest, wavy lines for water and swamps
and little heaps for hills.
When he had finished it all he bade me come round the fire and
study the picture across which by an after-thought he drew a
wandering furrow with the edge of the assegai to represent a river,
and gathered the ashes in a lump at the northern end to signify a
"Look at it well, Macumazahn," he said, "and forget nothing,
since if you make this journey and forget, you die. Nay, no need to
copy it in that book of yours, for see, I will stamp it on your
Then suddenly he gathered up the warm ashes in a double handful
and threw them into my face, muttering something as he did so and
"There, now you will remember."
"Certainly I shall," I answered, coughing, "and I beg that you
will not play such a joke upon me again."
As a matter of fact, whatever may have been the reason, I never
forgot any detail of that extremely intricate map.
"That big river must be the Zambesi," I stuttered, "and even
then the mountain of your Queen, if it be her mountain, is far
away, and how can I come there alone?"
"I don't know, Macumazahn, though perhaps you might do so in
company. At least I believe that in the old days people used to
travel to the place, since I have heard a great city stood there
once which was the heart of a mighty empire."
Now I pricked up my ears, for though I believed nothing of
Zikali's story of a wonderful Queen, I was always intensely
interested in past civilisations and their relics. Also I knew that
the old wizard's knowledge was extensive and peculiar, however he
came by it, and I did not think that he would lie to me in this
matter. Indeed to tell the truth, then and there I made up my mind
that if it were in any way possible, I would attempt this
"How did people travel to the city, Zikali?"
"By sea, I suppose, Macumazahn, but I think that you will be
wise not to try that road, since I believe that on the sea side the
marshes are now impassable and you will be safer on your feet."
"You want me to go on this adventure, Zikali. Why? I know you
never do anything without motive."
"Oho! Macumazahn, you are clever and see deeper into the trunk
of a tree than most. Yes, I want you to go for three reasons.
First, that you may satisfy your soul on certain matters and I
would help you to do so. Secondly, because I want to satisfy mine,
and thirdly, because I know that you will come back safe to be a
prop to me in things that will happen in days unborn. Otherwise I
would have told you nothing of this story, since it is necessary to
me that you should remain living beneath the sun."
"Have done, Zikali. What is it that you desire?"
"Oh! a great deal that I shall get, but chiefly two things, so
with the rest I will not trouble you. First I desire to know to
know whether these dreams of mine of a wonderful white
witch-doctoress, or witch, and of my converse with her are indeed
more than dreams. Next I would learn whether certain plots of mine
at which I have worked for years, will succeed."
"What plots, Zikali, and how can my taking a distant journey
tell you anything about them?"
"You know them well enough, Macumazahn; they have to do with the
overthrow of a Royal House that has worked me bitter wrong. As to
how your journey can help me, why, thus. You shall promise to me to
ask of this Queen whether Zikali, Opener-of-Roads, shall triumph or
be overthrown in that on which he has set his heart."
"As you seem to know this witch so well, why do you not ask her
"To ask is one thing, Macumazahn. To get an answer is another. I
have asked in the watches of the night, and the reply was, 'Come
hither and perchance I will tell you.' 'Queen,' I said, 'how can I
come save in the spirit, who am an ancient and a crippled dwarf
scarcely able to stand upon my feet?'
"'Then send a messenger, Wizard, and be sure that he is white,
for of black savages I have seen more than enough. Let him bear a
token also that he comes from you and tell me of it in your sleep.
Moreover let that token be something of power which will protect
him on the journey.'
"Such is the answer that comes to me in my dreams,
"Well, what token will you give me, Zikali?"
He groped about in his robe and produced a piece of ivory of the
size of a large chessman, that had a hole in it, through which ran
a plaited cord of the stiff hairs from an elephant's tail. On this
article, which was of a rusty brown colour, he breathed, then
having whispered to it for a while, handed it to me.
I took the talisman, for such I guessed it to be, idly enough,
held it to the light to examine it, and started back so violently
that almost I let it fall. I do not quite know why I started, but I
think it was because some influence seemed to leap from it to me.
Zikali started also and cried out,
"Have a care, Macumazahn. Am I young that I can bear bring
dashed to the ground?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, still staring at the thing which I
perceived to be a most wonderfully fashioned likeness of the old
dwarf himself as he appeared before me crouched upon the ground.
There were the deepset eyes, the great head, the toad-like shape,
the long hair, all.
"It is a clever carving, is it not, Macumazahn? I am skilled in
that art, you know, and therefore can judge of carving."
"Yes, I know," I answered, bethinking me of another statuette of
his which he had given to me on the morrow of the death of her from
whom it was modelled. "But what of the thing?"
"Macumazahn, it has come down to me through the ages. As you may
have heard, all great doctors when they die pass on their wisdom
and something of their knowledge to another doctor of spirits who
is still living on the earth, that nothing may be lost, or as
little as possible. Also I have learned that to such likenesses as
these may be given the strength of him or her from whom they were
Now I bethought me of the old Egyptians and their Ka
statues of which I had read, and that these statues, magically
charmed and set in the tombs of the departed, were supposed to be
inhabited everlastingly by the Doubles of the dead endued with more
power even than ever these possessed in life. But of this I said
nothing to Zikali, thinking that it would take too much
explanation, though I wondered very much how he had come by the
"When that ivory is hung over your heart, Macumazahn, where you
must always wear it, learn that with it goes the strength of
Zikali; the thought that would have been his thought and the wisdom
that is his wisdom, will be your companions, as much as though he
walked at your side and could instruct you in every peril. Moreover
north and south and east and west this image is known to men who,
when they see it, will bow down and obey, opening a road to him who
wears the medicine of the Opener-of-Roads."
"Indeed," I said, smiling, "and what is this colour on the
"I forget, Macumazahn, who have had it a great number of years,
ever since it descended to me from a forefather of mine, who was
fashioned in the same mould as I am. It looks like blood, does it
not? It is a pity that Mameena is not still alive, since she whose
memory was so excellent might have been able to tell you," and as
he spoke, with a motion that was at once sure and swift, he threw
the loop of elephant hair over my head.
Hastily I changed the subject, feeling that after his wont this
old wizard, the most terrible man whom ever I knew, who had been so
much concerned with the tragic death of Mameena, was stabbing at me
in some hidden fashion.
"You tell me to go on this journey," I said, "and not alone. Yet
for companion you give me only an ugly piece of ivory shaped as no
man ever was," here I got one back at Zikali, "and from the look of
it, steeped in blood, which ivory, if I had my way, I would throw
into the camp fire. Who, then, am I to take with me?"
"Don't do that, Macumazahn—I mean throw the ivory into the fire—
since I have no wish to burn before my time, and if you do, you who
have worn it might burn with me. At least certainly you would die
with the magic thing and go to acquire knowledge more quickly than
you desire. No, no, and do not try to take it off your neck, or
rather try if you will."
I did try, but something seemed to prevent me from accomplishing
my purpose of giving the carving back to Zikali as I wished to do.
First my pipe got in the way of my hand, then the elephant hairs
caught in the collar of my coat; then a pang of rheumatism to which
I was accustomed from an old lion-bite, developed of a sudden in my
arm, and lastly I grew tired of bothering about the thing.
Zikali, who had been watching my movements, burst out into one
of his terrible laughs that seemed to fill the whole kloof and to
re-echo from its rocky walls. It died away and he went on, without
further reference to the talisman or image.
"You asked whom you were to take with you, Macumazahn. Well, as
to this I must make inquiry of those who know. Man, my
From the shadows in the hut behind darted out a tall figure
carrying a great spear in one hand and in the other a catskin bag
which with a salute he laid down at the feet of his master. This
salute, by the way, was that of a Zulu word which means "Lord" or
"Home" of Ghosts.
Zikali groped in the bag and produced from it certain
"A common method," he muttered, "such as every vulgar wizard
uses, but one that is quick and, as the matter concerned is small,
will serve my turn. Let us see now, whom you shall take with you,
Then he breathed upon the bones, shook them up in his thin hands
and with a quick turn of the wrist, threw them into the air. After
this he studied them carefully, where they lay among the ashes
which he had raked out of the fire, those that he had used for the
making of his map.
"Do you know a man named Umslopogaas, Macumazahn, the chief of a
tribe that is called The People of the Axe, whose titles of praise
are Bulalio or the Slaughterer, and Woodpecker, the latter from the
way he handles his ancient axe? He is a savage fellow, but one of
high blood and higher courage, a great captain in his way, though
he will never come to anything, save a glorious death—in your
company, I think, Macumazahn." (Here he studied the bones again for
a while.) "Yes, I am sure, in your company, though not upon this
"I have heard of him," I answered cautiously. "It is said in the
land that he is a son of Chaka, the great king of the Zulus."
"Is it, Macumazahn? And is it said also that he was the slayer
of Chaka's brother, Dingaan, also the lover of the fairest woman
that the Zulus have ever seen, who was called Nada the Lily? Unless
indeed a certain Mameena, who, I seem to remember, was a friend of
yours, may have been even more beautiful?"
"I know nothing of Nada the Lily," I answered.
"No, no, Mameena, 'the Waiting Wind,' has blown over her fame,
so why should you know of one who has been dead a long while? Why
also, Macumazahn, do you always bring women into every business? I
begin to believe that although you are so strict in a white man's
fashion, you must be too fond of them, a weakness which makes for
ruin to any man. Well, now, I think that this wolf-man, this
axe-man, this warrior, Umslopogaas should be a good fellow to you
on your journey to visit the white witch, Queen—another woman by
the way, Macumazahn, and therefore one of whom you should be
careful. Oh! yes, he will come with you—because of a man called
Lousta and a woman named Monazi, a wife of his who hates him and
does—not hate Lousta. I am almost sure that he will come with you,
so do not stop to ask questions about him."
"Is there anyone else?" I inquired.
Zikali glanced at the bones again, poking them about in the
ashes with his toe, then replied with a yawn,
"You seem to have a little yellow man in your service, a clever
snake who knows how to creep through grass, and when to strike and
when to lie hidden. I should take him too, if I were you."
"You know well that I have such a man, Zikali, a Hottentot named
Hans, clever in his way but drunken, very faithful too, since he
loved my father before me. He is cooking my supper in the waggon
now. Are there to be any others?"
"No, I think you three will be enough, with a guard of soldiers
from the People of the Axe, for you will meet with fighting and a
ghost or two. Umslopogaas has always one at his elbow named Nada,
and perhaps you have several. For instance, there was a certain
Mameena whom I always seem to feel about me when you are near,
"Why, the wind is rising again, which is odd on so still an
evening. Listen to how it wails, yes, and stirs your hair, though
mine hangs straight enough. But why do I talk of ghosts, seeing
that you travel to seek other ghosts, white ghosts, beyond my ken,
who can only deal with those who were black?
"Good-night, Macumazahn, good-night. When you return from
visiting the white Queen, that Great One beneath those feet I,
Zikali, who am also great in my way, am but a grain of dust, come
and tell me her answer to my question.
"Meanwhile, be careful always to wear that pretty little image
which I have given you, as a young lover sometimes wears a lock of
hair cut from the head of some fool-girl that he thinks is fond of
him. It will bring you safety and luck, Macumazahn, which, for the
most part, is more than the lock of hair does to the lover. Oh! it
is a strange world, full of jest to those who can see the strings
that work it. I am one of them, and perhaps, Macumazahn, you are
another, or will be before all is done—or begun.
"Good-night, and good fortune to you on your journeyings, and,
Macumazahn, although you are so fond of women, be careful not to
fall in love with that white Queen, because it would make others
jealous; I mean some who you have lost sight of for a while, also I
think that being under a curse of her own, she is not one whom you
can put into your sack. Oho! Oho-ho! Slave, bring me my
blanket, it grows cold, and my medicine also, that which protects
me from the ghosts, who are thick to-night. Macumazahn brings them,
I think. Oho-ho!"
I turned to depart but when I had gone a little way Zikali
called me back again and said, speaking very low,
"When you meet this Umslopogaas, as you will meet him, he who is
called the Woodpecker and the Slaughterer, say these words to
"'A bat has been twittering round the hut of the
Opener-of-Roads, and to his ears it squeaked the name of a certain
Lousta and the name of a woman called Monazi. Also it twittered
another greater name that may not be uttered, that of an elephant
who shakes the earth, and said that this elephant sniffs the air
with his trunk and grows angry, and sharpens his tusks to dig a
certain Woodpecker out of his hole in a tree that grows near the
Witch Mountain. Say, too, that the Opener-of- Roads thinks that
this Woodpecker would be wise to fly north for a while in the
company of one who watches by night, lest harm should come to a
bird that pecks at the feet of the great and chatters of it in his
Then Zikali waved his hand and I went, wondering into what plot
I had stumbled.