Allan and the Ice-Gods. A Tale of Beginnings - H. Rider Haggard - ebook

Allan and the Ice-Gods. A Tale of Beginnings ebook

H. Rider Haggard

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Opis

Many people want to have a drug in their hands that can change our appearance. Our hero was in the hands of just such a drug. Quatermain takes the hallucinogenic drug taduki, after which he transforms into an incomprehensible creature. He falls in prehistoric times, in cave times. Such an adventure will be definitely interesting.

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Liczba stron: 496

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Contents

Chapter 1. Allan Refuses A Fortune

Chapter 2. Back To The Past

Chapter 3. Wi Seeks A Sign

Chapter 4. The Tribe

Chapter 5. The Axe That Pag Made

Chapter 6. The Death Of Henga

Chapter 7. The Oath Of Wi

Chapter 8. Pag Traps The Wolves

Chapter 9. Wi Meets The Tiger

Chapter 10. The Boat And Its Burden

Chapter 11. Laleela

Chapter 12. The Mother Of The Cast-Outs

Chapter 13. The Lesson Of The Wolf Mother

Chapter 14. The Red-Beards

Chapter 15. Wi Kisses Laleela

Chapter 16. The Aurochs And The Star

Chapter 17. Wi Defies The Gods

Chapter 18. The Sacrifice

Chapter 19. Which?

Chapter 20. The Sum Of The Matter

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.[*]

[*] See the books The Ivory Child and The Ancient Allan.

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.

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