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She and Allan

She and Allan

Author:H. Rider Haggard


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...
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  I believe it was the old Egyptians, a very wise people, probably indeedmuch wiser than we know, for in the leisure of their ample centuriesthey had time to think out things, who declared that each individualpersonality is made up of six or seven different elements, although theBible only allows us three, namely, body, soul, and spirit. The bodythat the man or woman wore, if I understand their theory aright whichperhaps I, an ignorant person, do not, was but a kind of sack or fleshlycovering containing these different principles. Or mayhap it did notcontain them all, but was simply a house as it were, in which they livedfrom time to time and seldom all together, although one or more of themwas present continually, as though to keep the place warmed and aired.

  This is but a casual illustrative suggestion, for what right haveI, Allan Quatermain, out of my little reading and probably erroneousdeductions, to form any judgment as to the theories of the oldEgyptians? Still these, as I understand them, suffice to furnish me withthe text that man is not one, but many, in which connection it may beremembered that often in Scripture he is spoken of as being the home ofmany demons, seven, I think. Also, to come to another far-off example,the Zulus talk of their witch-doctors as being inhabited by “a multitudeof spirits.”

  Anyhow of one thing I am quite sure, we are not always the same.Different personalities actuate us at different times. In one hourpassion of this sort or the other is our lord; in another we are reasonitself. In one hour we follow the basest appetites; in another we hatethem and the spirit arising through our mortal murk shines within orabove 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 aninsect or a snake, and are ready to forgive like a god. Everythingrules us in turn, to such an extent indeed, that sometimes one begins towonder whether we really rule anything.

  Now the reason of all this homily is that I, Allan, the most practicaland unimaginative of persons, just a homely, half-educated hunter andtrader who chances to have seen a good deal of the particular littleworld in which his lot was cast, at one period of my life became thevictim of spiritual longings.

  I am a man who has suffered great bereavements in my time such as haveseared my soul, since, perhaps because of my rather primitive and simplenature, my affections are very strong. By day or night I can neverforget 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 certainpeople with whom we have been intimate upon the earth, really didcare for us and, in our still greater vanity--or should it be calledmadness?--to imagine that they still care for us after they have leftthe earth and entered on some new state of society and surroundingswhich, if they exist, inferentially are much more congenial than anythey can have experienced here. At times, however, cold doubts strike usas to this matter, of which we long to know the truth. Also behind loomsa still blacker doubt, namely whether they live at all.

  For some years of my lonely existence these problems haunted me day byday, till at length I desired above everything on earth to lay themat rest in one way or another. Once, at Durban, I met a man who was aspiritualist to whom I confided a little of my perplexities. He laughedat me and said that they could be settled with the greatest ease. AllI had to do was to visit a certain local medium who for a fee of oneguinea would tell me everything I wanted to know. Although I rathergrudged the guinea, being more than usually hard up at the time, Icalled upon this person, but over the results of that visit, or ratherthe lack of them, I draw a veil.

  My queer and perhaps unwholesome longing, however, remained with me andwould not be abated. I consulted a clergyman of my acquaintance, a goodand spiritually-minded man, but he could only shrug his shoulders andrefer me to the Bible, saying, quite rightly I doubt not, that with whatit reveals I ought to be contented. Then I read certain mysticalbooks 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 convinceme. I even tackled Swedenborg, or rather samples of him, for he is verycopious, but without satisfactory results. [Ha!--JB]

  Then I gave up the business.

  Some months later I was in Zululand and being near the Black Kloofwhere he dwelt, I paid a visit to my acquaintance of whom I havewritten elsewhere, the wonderful and ancient dwarf, Zikali, known as“The-Thing-that-should-never-have-been-born,” also more universallyamong the Zulus as “Opener-of-Roads.” When we had talked of many thingsconnected with the state of Zululand and its politics, I rose to leavefor my waggon, since I never cared for sleeping in the Black Kloof if itcould be avoided.

  “Is there nothing else that you want to ask me, Macumazahn?” askedthe old dwarf, tossing back his long hair and looking at--I had almostwritten through--me.

  I shook my head.

  “That is strange, Macumazahn, for I seem to see something written onyour mind--something to do with spirits.”

  Then I remembered all the problems that had been troubling me, althoughin truth I had never thought of propounding them to Zikali.

  “Ah! it comes back, does it?” he exclaimed, reading my thought. “Outwith it, then, Macumazahn, while I am in a mood to answer, and beforeI grow tired, for you are an old friend of mine and will so remain tillthe end, many years hence, and if I can serve you, I will.”

  I filled my pipe and sat down again upon the stool of carved red-woodwhich had been brought for me.

  “You are named ‘Opener-of-Roads,’ are you not, Zikali?” I said.

  “Yes, the Zulus have always called me that, since before the days ofChaka. But what of names, which often enough mean nothing at all?”

  “Only that _I_ want to open a road, Zikali, that which runs across theRiver of Death.”

  “Oho!” he laughed, “it is very easy,” and snatching up a little assegaithat lay beside him, he proffered it to me, adding, “Be brave now andfall on that. Then before I have counted sixty the road will be wideopen, 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 whetherI shall meet certain others on that road after my time has come to crossthe River. Perhaps you who deal with spirits, can prove the matter tome, which no one else seems able to do.”

  “Oho!” laughed Zikali again. “What do my ears hear? Am I, the poor Zulucheat, as you will remember once you called me, Macumazahn, askedto show that which is hidden from all the wisdom of the great WhitePeople?”

  “The question is,” I answered with irritation, “not what you are askedto 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 Iwhom she loved----“[*]

  [*] For the history of Mameena see the book called “Child ofStorm.”--Editor.

  “She is _not_ one of them, Zikali. Moreover, if she loved you, you paidback her love with death.”

  “Which perhaps was the kindest thing I could do, Macumazahn, for reasonsthat you may be able to guess, and others with which I will not troubleyou. But if not hers, whose? Let me look, let me look! Why, there seemsto be two of them, head-wives, I mean, and I thought that white men onlytook one wife. Also a multitude of others; their faces float up in thewater of your mind. An old man with grey hair, little children, perhapsthey were brothers and sisters, and some who may be friends. Also veryclear 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 otherKaffir women----”

  “What do you mean?” I asked.

  “I mean, Macumazahn, that only black feet travel on the road which I canopen; over those in which ran white blood I have no power.”

  “Then it is finished,” I said, rising again and taking a step or twotowards the gate.

  “Come back and sit down, Macumazahn. I did not say so. Am I the onlyruler of magic in Africa, which I am told is a big country?”

  I came back and sat down, for my curiosity, a great failing with me, wasexcited.

  “Thank you, Zikali,” I said, “but I will have no dealings with more ofyour 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 lastchild of wisdom, the rest are stuffed with lies, as Chaka found out whenhe killed every one of them whom he could catch. But perhaps there mightbe a white doctor who would have rule over white spirits.”

  “If you mean missionaries----” I began hastily.

  “No, Macumazahn, I do not mean your praying men who are cast in onemould 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 priestis he to whom the Spirit comes, not he who feeds upon its wrappings, andspeaks through a mask carved by his father’s fathers. I am a priest likethat, which is why all my fellowship have hated me.”

  “If so, you have paid back their hate, Zikali, but cease to cast roundthe lion, like a timid hound, and tell me what you mean. Of whom do youspeak?”

  “That is the trouble, Macumazahn. I do not know. This lion, or ratherlioness, lies hid in the caves of a very distant mountain and I havenever 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 havenever seen, because they, or a few of them, have knowledge of it. Iwill tell you a secret. All seers who live at the same time, if they aregreat, commune with each other because they are akin and their spiritsmeet in sleep or dreams. Therefore I know of a mistress of our craft, avery lioness among jackals, who for thousands of years has lain sleepingin the northern caves and, humble though I am, she knows of me.”

  “Quite so,” I said, yawning, “but perhaps, Zikali, you will come to thepoint of the spear. What of her? How is she named, and if she existswill she help me?”

  “I will answer your question backwards, Macumazahn. I think that shewill help you if you help her, in what way I do not know, becausealthough witch-doctors sometimes work without pay, as I am doing now,Macumazahn, witch-doctoresses never do. As for her name, the only onethat she has among our company is ‘Queen,’ because she is the first ofall of them and the most beauteous among women. For the rest I can tellyou nothing, except that she has always been and I suppose, in thisshape or in that, will always be while the world lasts, because she hasfound the secret of life unending.”

  “You mean that she is immortal, Zikali,” I answered with a smile.

  “I do not say that, Macumazahn, because my little mind cannot shape thethought of immortality. But when I was a babe, which is far ago, she hadlived so long that scarce would she knew the difference between thenand 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, attimes 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 meto send you on to her to seek an answer to certain questions which youwould put to me to-day. Also to me she seemed to desire that you shoulddo 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? Ifthere is any truth in it, show me where the woman called _Queen_ livesand how I am to come to her.”

  The old wizard took up the little assegai which he had offered to me andwith its blade raked out ashes from the fire that always burnt in frontof him. While he did so, he talked to me, as I thought in a randomfashion, perhaps to distract my attention, of a certain white man whomhe said I should meet upon my journey and of his affairs, also of othermatters, none of which interested me much at the time. These asheshe patted down flat and then on them drew a map with the point of hisspear, 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 thepicture across which by an after-thought he drew a wandering furrow withthe edge of the assegai to represent a river, and gathered the ashes ina lump at the northern end to signify a large mountain.

  “Look at it well, Macumazahn,” he said, “and forget nothing, since ifyou make this journey and forget, you die. Nay, no need to copy it inthat book of yours, for see, I will stamp it on your mind.”

  Then suddenly he gathered up the warm ashes in a double handful andthrew them into my face, muttering something as he did so and addingaloud,

  “There, now you will remember.”

  “Certainly I shall,” I answered, coughing, “and I beg that you will notplay such a joke upon me again.”

  As a matter of fact, whatever may have been the reason, I never forgotany detail of that extremely intricate map.

  “That big river must be the Zambesi,” I stuttered, “and even then themountain of your Queen, if it be her mountain, is far away, and how canI come there alone?”

  “I don’t know, Macumazahn, though perhaps you might do so in company. Atleast 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 ofa mighty empire.”

  Now I pricked up my ears, for though I believed nothing of Zikali’sstory of a wonderful Queen, I was always intensely interested in pastcivilisations and their relics. Also I knew that the old wizard’sknowledge was extensive and peculiar, however he came by it, and I didnot think that he would lie to me in this matter. Indeed to tell thetruth, then and there I made up my mind that if it were in any waypossible, I would attempt this journey.

  “How did people travel to the city, Zikali?”

  “By sea, I suppose, Macumazahn, but I think that you will be wise not totry that road, since I believe that on the sea side the marshes are nowimpassable and you will be safer on your feet.”

  “You want me to go on this adventure, Zikali. Why? I know you never doanything without motive.”

  “Oho! Macumazahn, you are clever and see deeper into the trunk of a treethan most. Yes, I want you to go for three reasons. First, that youmay 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 knowthat you will come back safe to be a prop to me in things that willhappen in days unborn. Otherwise I would have told you nothing of thisstory, since it is necessary to me that you should remain living beneaththe sun.”

  “Have done, Zikali. What is it that you desire?”

  “Oh! a great deal that I shall get, but chiefly two things, so withthe rest I will not trouble you. First I desire to know whetherthese dreams of mine of a wonderful white witch-doctoress, or witch, andof my converse with her are indeed more than dreams. Next I would learnwhether certain plots of mine at which I have worked for years, willsucceed.”

  “What plots, Zikali, and how can my taking a distant journey tell youanything about them?”

  “You know them well enough, Macumazahn; they have to do with theoverthrow of a Royal House that has worked me bitter wrong. As to howyour journey can help me, why, thus. You shall promise to me to askof this Queen whether Zikali, Opener-of-Roads, shall triumph or beoverthrown in that on which he has set his heart.”

  “As you seem to know this witch so well, why do you not ask heryourself, Zikali?”

  “To ask is one thing, Macumazahn. To get an answer is another. I haveasked in the watches of the night, and the reply was, ‘Come hither andperchance I will tell you.’ ‘Queen,’ I said, ‘how can I come save in thespirit, who am an ancient and a crippled dwarf scarcely able to standupon my feet?’

  “‘Then send a messenger, Wizard, and be sure that he is white, for ofblack savages I have seen more than enough. Let him bear a token alsothat he comes from you and tell me of it in your sleep. Moreover letthat token be something of power which will protect him on the journey.’

  “Such is the answer that comes to me in my dreams, Macumazahn.”

  “Well, what token will you give me, Zikali?”

  He groped about in his robe and produced a piece of ivory of the sizeof a large chessman, that had a hole in it, through which ran a plaitedcord of the stiff hairs from an elephant’s tail. On this article, whichwas of a rusty brown colour, he breathed, then having whispered to itfor a while, handed it to me.

  I took the talisman, for such I guessed it to be, idly enough, held itto the light to examine it, and started back so violently that almostI let it fall. I do not quite know why I started, but I think it wasbecause some influence seemed to leap from it to me. Zikali started alsoand cried out,

  “Have a care, Macumazahn. Am I young that I can bear being dashed to theground?”

  “What do you mean?” I asked, still staring at the thing which Iperceived to be a most wonderfully fashioned likeness of the old dwarfhimself as he appeared before me crouched upon the ground. There werethe 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 thatart, you know, and therefore can judge of carving.”

  “Yes, I know,” I answered, bethinking me of another statuette of hiswhich he had given to me on the morrow of the death of her from whom itwas modelled. “But what of the thing?”

  “Macumazahn, it has come down to me through the ages. As you mayhave heard, all great doctors when they die pass on their wisdom andsomething of their knowledge to another doctor of spirits who is stillliving 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 thestrength of him or her from whom they were shaped.”

  Now I bethought me of the old Egyptians and their _Ka_ statues of whichI had read, and that these statues, magically charmed and set in thetombs of the departed, were supposed to be inhabited everlastingly bythe Doubles of the dead endued with more power even than ever thesepossessed in life. But of this I said nothing to Zikali, thinking thatit would take too much explanation, though I wondered very much how hehad come by the same idea.

  “When that ivory is hung over your heart, Macumazahn, where you mustalways wear it, learn that with it goes the strength of Zikali; thethought that would have been his thought and the wisdom that is hiswisdom, will be your companions, as much as though he walked at yourside and could instruct you in every peril. Moreover north and south andeast and west this image is known to men who, when they see it, willbow down and obey, opening a road to him who wears the medicine of theOpener-of-Roads.”

  “Indeed,” I said, smiling, “and what is this colour on the ivory?”

  “I forget, Macumazahn, who have had it a great number of years, eversince it descended to me from a forefather of mine, who was fashioned inthe same mould as I am. It looks like blood, does it not? It is a pitythat Mameena is not still alive, since she whose memory was so excellentmight have been able to tell you,” and as he spoke, with a motion thatwas at once sure and swift, he threw the loop of elephant hair over myhead.

  Hastily I changed the subject, feeling that after his wont this oldwizard, the most terrible man whom ever I knew, who had been so muchconcerned with the tragic death of Mameena, was stabbing at me in somehidden fashion.

  “You tell me to go on this journey,” I said, “and not alone. Yet forcompanion you give me only an ugly piece of ivory shaped as no man everwas,” here I got one back at Zikali, “and from the look of it, steepedin blood, which ivory, if I had my way, I would throw into the campfire. Who, then, am I to take with me?”

  “Don’t do that, Macumazahn--I mean throw the ivory into the fire--sinceI have no wish to burn before my time, and if you do, you who have wornit might burn with me. At least certainly you would die with the magicthing 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 mypurpose of giving the carving back to Zikali as I wished to do. Firstmy pipe got in the way of my hand, then the elephant hairs caught in thecollar of my coat; then a pang of rheumatism to which I was accustomedfrom an old lion-bite, developed of a sudden in my arm, and lastly Igrew tired of bothering about the thing.

  Zikali, who had been watching my movements, burst out into one of histerrible laughs that seemed to fill the whole kloof and to re-echo fromits rocky walls. It died away and he went on, without further referenceto the talisman or image.

  “You asked whom you were to take with you, Macumazahn. Well, as to thisI must make inquiry of those who know. Man, my medicines!”

  From the shadows in the hut behind darted out a tall figure carryinga great spear in one hand and in the other a catskin bag which with asalute 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 knuckle-bones.

  “A common method,” he muttered, “such as every vulgar wizard uses, butone that is quick and, as the matter concerned is small, will serve myturn. Let us see now, whom you shall take with you, Macumazahn.”

  Then he breathed upon the bones, shook them up in his thin hands andwith a quick turn of the wrist, threw them into the air. After thishe studied them carefully, where they lay among the ashes which he hadraked 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 tribethat is called The People of the Axe, whose titles of praise are Bulalioor the Slaughterer, and Woodpecker, the latter from the way he handleshis ancient axe? He is a savage fellow, but one of high blood andhigher courage, a great captain in his way, though he will never come toanything, save a glorious death--in your company, I think, Macumazahn.”

Here he studied the bones again for a while.

“Yes, I am sure, in yourcompany, though not upon this journey.”

  “I have heard of him,” I answered cautiously. “It is said in the landthat 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 ofChaka’s brother, Dingaan, also the lover of the fairest woman that theZulus have ever seen, who was called Nada the Lily? Unless indeed acertain Mameena, who, I seem to remember, was a friend of yours, mayhave been even more beautiful?”

  “I know nothing of Nada the Lily,” I answered.

  “No, no, Mameena, ‘the Waiting Wind,’ has blown over her fame, sowhy 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 tobelieve that although you are so strict in a white man’s fashion, youmust 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 thewhite witch, Queen--another woman by the way, Macumazahn, andtherefore one of whom you should be careful. Oh! yes, he will come withyou--because of a man called Lousta and a woman named Monazi, a wife ofhis who hates him and does--not hate Lousta. I am almost sure that hewill 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 withhis toe, then replied with a yawn,

  “You seem to have a little yellow man in your service, a clever snakewho knows how to creep through grass, and when to strike and when to liehidden. 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 myfather before me. He is cooking my supper in the waggon now. Are thereto be any others?”

  “No, I think you three will be enough, with a guard of soldiers from thePeople 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 haveseveral. For instance, there was a certain Mameena whom I always seem tofeel about me when you are near, Macumazahn.

  “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 hangsstraight enough. But why do I talk of ghosts, seeing that you travel toseek other ghosts, white ghosts, beyond my ken, who can only deal withthose who were black?

  “Good-night, Macumazahn, good-night. When you return from visiting thewhite Queen, that Great One beneath those feet I, Zikali, who am alsogreat in my way, am but a grain of dust, come and tell me her answer tomy question.

  “Meanwhile, be careful always to wear that pretty little image which Ihave given you, as a young lover sometimes wears a lock of hair cut fromthe head of some fool-girl that he thinks is fond of him. It will bringyou safety and luck, Macumazahn, which, for the most part, is more thanthe lock of hair does to the lover. Oh! it is a strange world, full ofjest 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 isdone--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 inlove with that white Queen, because it would make others jealous; I meansome who you have lost sight of for a while, also I think that beingunder a curse of her own, she is not one whom you can put into yoursack. _Oho! Oho-ho!_ Slave, bring me my blanket, it grows cold, and mymedicine also, that which protects me from the ghosts, who are thickto-night. Macumazahn brings them, I think. _Oho-ho!_”

  I turned to depart but when I had gone a little way Zikali called meback again and said, speaking very low,

  “When you meet this Umslopogaas, as you will meet him, he who is calledthe Woodpecker and the Slaughterer, say these words to him,

  “‘A bat has been twittering round the hut of the Opener-of-Roads, andto his ears it squeaked the name of a certain Lousta and the name of awoman called Monazi. Also it twittered another greater name that may notbe uttered, that of an elephant who shakes the earth, and said that thiselephant sniffs the air with his trunk and grows angry, and sharpens histusks to dig a certain Woodpecker out of his hole in a tree that growsnear the Witch Mountain. Say, too, that the Opener-of-Roads thinks thatthis Woodpecker would be wise to fly north for a while in the company ofone who watches by night, lest harm should come to a bird that pecks atthe feet of the great and chatters of it in his nest.’”

  Then Zikali waved his hand and I went, wondering into what plot I hadstumbled.