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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe People Of The Mist - Chapter III - AFTER SEVEN YEARS
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The People Of The Mist - Chapter III - AFTER SEVEN YEARS Post by :jpetillo Category :Long Stories Author :H. Rider Haggard Date :March 2011 Read :2101

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The People Of The Mist - Chapter III - AFTER SEVEN YEARS

"What is the time, Leonard?"

"Eleven o'clock, Tom."

"Eleven--already? I shall go at dawn, Leonard. You remember Johnston
died at dawn, and so did Askew."

"For heaven's sake don't speak like that, Tom! If you think you are
going to die, you will die."

The sick man laughed a ghost of a laugh--it was half a death-rattle.

"It is no use talking, Leonard; I feel my life flaring and sinking
like a dying fire. My mind is quite clear now, but I shall die at dawn
for all that. The fever has burnt me up! Have I been raving, Leonard?"

"A little, old fellow," answered Leonard.

"What about?"

"Home mostly, Tom."

"Home! We have none, Leonard; it is sold. How long have we been away

"Seven years."

"Seven years! Yes. Do you remember how we said good-bye to the old
place on that winter night after the auction? And do you remember what
we resolved?"


"Repeat it."

"We swore that we would seek wealth enough to buy Outram back till we
won it or died, and that we would never return to England till it was
won. Then we sailed for Africa. For seven years we have sought and
done no more than earn a livelihood, much less a couple of hundred
thousand pounds or so."


"Yes, Tom?"

"You are sole heir to our oath now, and to the old name with it, or
you will be in a few hours. I have fulfilled my vow. I have sought
till I died. You will take up the quest till you succeed or die. The
struggle has been mine, may you live to win the Star. You will
persevere, will you not, Leonard?"

"Yes, Tom, I will."

"Give me your hand on it, old fellow."

Leonard Outram knelt down beside his dying brother, and they clasped
each other's hands.

"Now let me sleep awhile. I am tired. Do not be afraid, I shall wake
before the--end."

Hardly had the words passed his lips when his eyes closed and he sank
into stupor or sleep.

His brother Leonard sat down upon a rude seat, improvised out of an
empty gin-case. Without the tempest shrieked and howled, the great
wind shook the Kaffir hut of grass and wattle, piercing it in a
hundred places till the light of the lantern wavered within its glass,
and the sick man's hair was lifted from his clammy brow. From time to
time fierce squalls of rain fell like sheets of spray, and the water,
penetrating the roof of grass, streamed to the earthen floor. Leonard
crept on his hands and knees to the doorway of the hut, or rather to
the low arched opening which served as a doorway, and, removing the
board that secured it, looked out at the night. Their hut stood upon
the ridge of a great mountain; below was a sea of bush, and around it
rose the fantastic shapes of other mountains. Black clouds drove
across the dying moon, but occasionally she peeped out and showed the
scene in all its vast solemnity and appalling solitude.

Presently Leonard closed the opening of the doorway, and going back to
his brother's side he gazed upon him earnestly. Many years of toil and
privation had not robbed Thomas Outram's face of its singular beauty,
or found power to mar its refinement. But death was written on it.

Leonard sighed, then, struck by a sudden thought, sought for and found
a scrap of looking-glass. Holding it close to the light of the
lantern, he examined the reflection of his own features. The glass
mirrored a handsome bearded man, dark, keen-eyed like one who is
always on the watch for danger, curly-haired and broad-shouldered; not
very tall, but having massive limbs and a form which showed strength
in every movement. Though he was still young, there was little of
youth left about the man; clearly toil and struggle had done an evil
work with him, ageing his mind and hardening it as they had hardened
the strength and vigour of his body. The face was a good one, but most
men would have preferred to see friendship shining in those piercing
black eyes rather than the light of enmity. Leonard was a bad enemy,
and his long striving with the world sometimes led him to expect foes
where they did not exist.

Even now this thought was in his mind: "He is dying," he said to
himself, as he laid down the glass with the care of a man who cannot
afford to hazard a belonging however trivial, "and yet his face is not
so changed as mine is. My God! he is dying! My brother--the only man--
the only living creature I love in the world, except one perhaps, if
indeed I love her still. Everything is against us--I should say
against me now, for I cannot count him. Our father was our first
enemy; he brought us into the world, neglected us, squandered our
patrimony, dishonoured our name, and shot himself. And since then what
has it been but one continual fight against men and nature? Even the
rocks in which I dig for gold are foes--victorious foes--" and he
glanced at his hands, scarred and made unshapely by labour. "And the
fever, that is a foe. Death is the only friend, but he won't shake
hands with me. He takes my brother whom I love as he has taken the
others, but me he leaves."

Thus mused Leonard sitting sullenly on the red box, his elbow on his
knee, his rough hands held beneath his chin pushing forward the thick
black beard till it threw a huge shadow, angular and unnatural, on to
the wall of the hut, while without the tempest now raved, now lulled,
and now raved again. An hour--two--passed and still he sat not moving,
watching the face of the fever-stricken man that from time to time
flushed and was troubled, then grew pale and still. It seemed to him
as though by some strange harmony of nature the death-smitten blood
was striving to keep pace with the beat of the storm, knowing that
presently life and storm would pass together into the same domain of

At length Tom Outram opened his eyes and looked at him, but Leonard
knew that he did not see him as he was. The dying eyes studied him
indeed and were intelligent, but he could feel that they read
something on his face that was not known to himself, nor could be
visible to any other man--read it as though it were a writing.

So strange was this scrutiny, so meaningless and yet so full of a
meaning which he could not grasp, that Leonard shrank beneath it. He
spoke to his brother, but no answer came,--only the great hollow eyes
read on in that book which was printed upon his face; that book,
sealed to him, but to the dying man an open writing.

The sight of the act of death is always terrible; it is terrible to
watch the latest wax and ebb of life, and with the intelligence to
comprehend that these flickerings, this coming and this going, these
sinkings and these last recoveries are the trial flights of the
animating and eternal principle--call it soul or what you will--before
it trusts itself afar. Still more terrible is it under circumstances
of physical and mental desolation such as those present to Leonard
Outram in that hour.

But he had looked on death before, on death in many dreadful shapes,
and yet he had never been so much afraid. What was it that his
brother, or the spirit of his brother, read in his face? What learning
had he gathered in that sleep of his, the last before the last? He
could not tell--now he longed to know, now he was glad not to know,
and now he strove to overcome his fears.

"My nerves are shattered," he said to himself. "He is dying. How shall
I bear to see him die?"

A gust of wind shook the hut, rending the thatch apart, and through
the rent a little jet of rain fell upon his brother's forehead and ran
down his pallid cheeks like tears. Then the strange understanding look
passed from the wide eyes, and once more they became human, and the
lips were opened.

"Water," they murmured.

Leonard gave him to drink, with one hand holding the pannikin to his
brother's mouth and with the other supporting the dying head. Twice he
gulped at it, then with a brusque motion of his wasted arm he knocked
the cup aside, spilling the water on the earthen floor.

"Leonard," he said, "you will succeed."

"Succeed in what, Tom?"

"You will get the money and Outram--and found the family afresh--but
you will not do it alone. /A woman will help you/."

Then his mind wandered a little and he muttered, "How is Jane? Have
you heard from Jane?" or some such words.

At the mention of this name Leonard's face softened, then once more
grew hard and anxious.

"I have not heard of Jane for years, old fellow," he said; "probably
she is dead or married. But I do not understand."

"Don't waste time, Leonard," Tom answered, rousing himself from his
lethargy. "Listen to me. I am going fast. You know dying men see far--
sometimes. I dreamed it, or I read it in your face. I tell you--/you/
will die at Outram. Stay here a while after I am dead. Stay a while,

He sank back exhausted, and at that moment a gust of wind, fiercer
than any which had gone before, leapt down the mountain gorges,
howling with all the voices of the storm. It caught the frail hut and
shook it. A cobra hidden in the thick thatch awoke from its lethargy
and fell with a soft thud to the floor not a foot from the face of the
dying man--then erected itself and hissed aloud with flickering tongue
and head swollen by rage. Leonard started back and seized a crowbar
which stood near, but before he could strike, the reptile sank down
and, drawing its shining shape across his brother's forehead, once
more vanished into the thatch.

His eyes did not so much as close, though Leonard saw a momentary
reflection of the bright scales in the dilated pupils and shivered at
this added terror, shivered as though his own flesh had shrunk beneath
the touch of those deadly coils. It was horrible that the snake should
creep across his brother's face, it was still more horrible that his
brother, yet living, should not understand the horror. It caused him
to remember our invisible companion, that ancient enemy of mankind of
whom the reptile is an accepted type; it made him think of that long
sleep which the touch of such as this has no power to stir.

Ah! now he was going--it was impossible to mistake that change, the
last quick quiver of the blood, followed by an ashen pallor, and the
sob of the breath slowly lessening into silence. So the day had died
last night, with a little purpling of the sky--a little sobbing of the
wind--then ashen nothingness and silence. But the silence was broken,
the night had grown alive indeed--and with a fearful life. Hark! how
the storm yelled! those blasts told of torment, that rain beat like
tears. What if his brother---- He did not dare to follow the thought

Hark! how the storm yelled!--the very hut wrenched at its strong
supports as though the hands of a hundred savage foes were dragging
it. It lifted--by heaven it was gone!--gone, crashing down the rocks
on the last hurricane blast of the tempest, and there above them
lowered the sullen blue of the passing night flecked with scudding
clouds, and there in front of them, to the east and between the
mountains, flared the splendours of the dawn.

Something had struck Leonard heavily, so heavily that the blood ran
down his face; he did not heed it, he scarcely felt it; he only
clasped his brother in his arms and, for the first time for many
years, he kissed him on the brow, staining it with the blood from his

The dying man looked up. He saw the glory in the East. Now it ran
along the mountain sides, now it burned upon their summits, to each
summit a pillar of flame, a peculiar splendour of its own diversely
shaped; and now the shapes of fire leaped from earth to heaven,
peopling the sky with light. The dull clouds caught the light, but
they could not hold it all: back it fell to earth again, and the
forests lifted up their arms to greet it, and it shone upon the face
of the waters.

Thomas Outram saw--and staggering to his knees he stretched out his
arms towards the rising sun, muttering with his lips.

Then he sank upon Leonard's breast, and presently all his story was

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The People Of The Mist - Chapter IV - THE LAST VIGIL The People Of The Mist - Chapter IV - THE LAST VIGIL

The People Of The Mist - Chapter IV - THE LAST VIGIL
For a while Leonard sat by the body of his brother. The daylight grewand gathered about him, the round ball of the sun appeared above themountains.The storm was gone. Were it not for some broken fragments of thevanished hut, it would have been difficult to know even that it hadbeen. Insects began to chirrup, lizards ran from the crevices of therocks, yonder the rain-washed bud of a mountain lily opened before hiseyes. Still Leonard sat on, his face stony with grief, till at lengtha shadow fell upon him from above. He looked up--it was cast by avulture's wings, as they hurried

The People Of The Mist - Chapter II - THE SWEARING OF THE OATH The People Of The Mist - Chapter II - THE SWEARING OF THE OATH

The People Of The Mist - Chapter II - THE SWEARING OF THE OATH
Arthur Beach, Jane's brother, was standing in the hall waiting tospeak to Leonard, but he passed without a word, closing the hall doorbehind him. Outside snow was falling, though not fast enough toobscure the light of the moon which shone through the belt of firs.Leonard walked on down the drive till he neared the gate, whensuddenly he heard the muffled sound of feet pursuing him through thesnow. He turned with an exclamation, believing that the footsteps werethose of Arthur Beach, for at the moment he was in no mood for furtherconversation with any male member of that family. As it chanced,however,