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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAllan Quatermain - Chapter V - UMSLOPOGAAS MAKES A PROMISE
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Allan Quatermain - Chapter V - UMSLOPOGAAS MAKES A PROMISE Post by :cheemo Category :Long Stories Author :H. Rider Haggard Date :April 2011 Read :3303

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Allan Quatermain - Chapter V - UMSLOPOGAAS MAKES A PROMISE

Next morning at breakfast I missed Flossie and asked where she
was.

'Well,' said her mother, 'when I got up this morning I found a
note put outside my door in which-- But here it is, you can read
it for yourself,' and she gave me the slip of paper on which the
following was written: --

'DEAREST M--,--It is just dawn, and I am off to the hills to get
Mr Q--a bloom of the lily he wants, so don't expect me till you
see me. I have taken the white donkey; and nurse and a couple of
boys are coming with me--also something to eat, as I may be away
all day, for I am determined to get the lily if I have to go
twenty miles for it. --FLOSSIE.'

'I hope she will be all right,' I said, a little anxiously; 'I
never meant her to trouble after the flower.'

'Ah, Flossie can look after herself,' said her mother; 'she often
goes off in this way like a true child of the wilderness.' But
Mr Mackenzie, who came in just then and saw the note for the
first time, looked rather grave, though he said nothing.

After breakfast was over I took him aside and asked him whether
it would not be possible to send after the girl and get her back,
having in view the possibility of there still being some Masai
hanging about, at whose hands she might come to harm.

'I fear it would be of no use,' he answered. 'She may be fifteen
miles off by now, and it is impossible to say what path she has
taken. There are the hills;' and he pointed to a long range of
rising ground stretching almost parallel with the course followed
by the river Tana, but gradually sloping down to a dense
bush-clad plain about five miles short of the house.

Here I suggested that we might get up the great tree over the
house and search the country round with a spyglass; and this,
after Mr Mackenzie had given some orders to his people to try and
follow Flossie's spoor, we did.

The ascent of the mighty tree was rather an alarming performance,
even with a sound rope-ladder fixed at both ends to climb up, at
least to a landsman; but Good came up like a lamplighter.

On reaching the height at which the first fern-shaped boughs
sprang from the bole, we stepped without any difficulty upon a
platform made of boards, nailed from one bough to another, and
large enough to accommodate a dozen people. As for the view, it
was simply glorious. In ever direction the bush rolled away in
great billows for miles and miles, as far as the glass would
show, only here and there broken by the brighter green of patches
of cultivation, or by the glittering surface of lakes. To the
northwest, Kenia reared his mighty head, and we could trace the
Tana river curling like a silver snake almost from his feet, and
far away beyond us towards the ocean. It is a glorious country,
and only wants the hand of civilized man to make it a most
productive one.

But look as we would, we could see no signs of Flossie and her
donkey, so at last we had to come down disappointed. On reaching
the veranda I found Umslopogaas sitting there, slowly and lightly
sharpening his axe with a small whetstone he always carried with
him.

'What doest thou, Umslopogaas?' I asked.

'I smell blood,' was the answer; and I could get no more out of
him.

After dinner we again went up the tree and searched the
surrounding country with a spyglass, but without result. When we
came down Umslopogaas was still sharpening Inkosi-kaas, although
she already had an edge like a razor. Standing in front of him,
and regarding him with a mixture of fear and fascination, was
Alphonse. And certainly he did seem an alarming object--sitting
there, Zulu fashion, on his haunches, a wild look upon his
intensely savage and yet intellectual face, sharpening,
sharpening, sharpening at the murderous-looking axe.

'Oh, the monster, the horrible man!' said the little French cook,
lifting his hands in amazement. 'See but the hole in his head;
the skin beats on it up and down like a baby's! Who would nurse
such a baby?' and he burst out laughing at the idea.

For a moment Umslopogaas looked up from his sharpening, and a
sort of evil light played in his dark eyes.

'What does the little "buffalo-heifer"(so named by Umslopogaas,
on account of his mustachios and feminine characteristics) say?
Let him be careful, or I will cut his horns. Beware, little man
monkey, beware!'

Unfortunately Alphonse, who was getting over his fear of him,
went on laughing at 'ce drole d'un monsieur noir'. I was about
to warn him to desist, when suddenly the huge Zulu bounded off
the veranda on to the open space where Alphonse was standing, his
features alive with a sort of malicious enthusiasm, and began
swinging the axe round and round over the Frenchman's head.

'Stand still,' I shouted; 'do not move as you value your life--he
will not hurt you;' but I doubt if Alphonse heard me, being,
fortunately for himself, almost petrified with horror.

Then followed the most extraordinary display of sword, or rather
of axemanship, that I ever saw. First of all the axe went flying
round and round over the top of Alphonse's head, with an angry
whirl and such extraordinary swiftness that it looked like a
continuous band of steel, ever getting nearer and yet nearer to
that unhappy individual's skull, till at last it grazed it as it
flew. Then suddenly the motion was changed, and it seemed to
literally flow up and down his body and limbs, never more than an
eighth of an inch from them, and yet never striking them. It was
a wonderful sight to see the little man fixed there, having
apparently realized that to move would be to run the risk of
sudden death, while his black tormentor towered over him, and
wrapped him round with the quick flashes of the axe. For a
minute or more this went on, till suddenly I saw the moving
brightness travel down the side of Alphonse's face, and then
outwards and stop. As it did so a tuft of something black fell
to the ground; it was the tip of one of the little Frenchman's
curling mustachios.

Umslopogaas leant upon the handle of Inkosi-kaas, and broke into
a long, low laugh; and Alphonse, overcome with fear, sank into a
sitting posture on the ground, while we stood astonished at this
exhibition of almost superhuman skill and mastery of a weapon.
'Inkosi-kaas is sharp enough,' he shouted; 'the blow that clipped
the "buffalo-heifer's" horn would have split a man from the crown
to the chin. Few could have struck it but I; none could have
struck it and not taken off the shoulder too. Look, thou little
heifer! Am I a good man to laugh at, thinkest thou? For a space
hast thou stood within a hair's-breadth of death. Laugh not
again, lest the hair's-breadth be wanting. I have spoken.'

'What meanest thou by such mad tricks?' I asked of Umslopogaas,
indignantly. 'Surely thou art mad. Twenty times didst thou go
near to slaying the man.'

'And yet, Macumazahn, I slew not. Thrice as Inkosi-kaas flew the
spirit entered into me to end him, and send her crashing through
his skull; but I did not. Nay, it was but a jest; but tell the
"heifer" that it is not well to mock at such as I. Now I go to
make a shield, for I smell blood, Macumazahn--of a truth I smell
blood. Before the battle hast thou not seen the vulture grow of
a sudden in the sky? They smell the blood, Macumazahn, and my
scent is more keen than theirs. There is a dry ox-hide down
yonder; I go to make a shield.'

'That is an uncomfortable retainer of yours,' said Mr Mackenzie,
who had witnessed this extraordinary scene. 'He has frightened
Alphonse out of his wits; look!' and he pointed to the Frenchman,
who, with a scared white face and trembling limbs, was making his
way into the house. 'I don't think that he will ever laugh at
"le monsieur noir" again.'

'Yes,' answered I, 'it is ill jesting with such as he. When he
is roused he is like a fiend, and yet he has a kind heart in his
own fierce way. I remember years ago seeing him nurse a sick
child for a week. He is a strange character, but true as steel,
and a strong stick to rest on in danger.'

'He says he smells blood,' said Mr Mackenzie. 'I only trust he
is not right. I am getting very fearful about my little girl.
She must have gone far, or she would be home by now. It is
half-past three o'clock.'

I pointed out that she had taken food with her, and very likely
would not in the ordinary course of events return till nightfall;
but I myself felt very anxious, and fear that my anxiety betrayed
itself.

Shortly after this, the people whom Mr Mackenzie had sent out to
search for Flossie returned, stating that they had followed the
spoor of the donkey for a couple of miles and had then lost it on
some stony ground, nor could they discover it again. They had,
however, scoured the country far and wide, but without success.

After this the afternoon wore drearily on, and towards evening,
there still being no signs of Flossie, our anxiety grew very
keen. As for the poor mother, she was quite prostrated by her
fears, and no wonder, but the father kept his head wonderfully
well. Everything that could be done was done: people were sent
out in all directions, shots were fired, and a continuous outlook
kept from the great tree, but without avail.

And then it grew dark, and still no sign of fair-haired little
Flossie.

At eight o'clock we had supper. It was but a sorrowful meal, and
Mrs Mackenzie did not appear at it. We three also were very
silent, for in addition to our natural anxiety as to the fate of
the child, we were weighed down by the sense that we had brought
this trouble on the head of our kind host. When supper was
nearly at an end I made an excuse to leave the table. I wanted
to get outside and think the situation over. I went on to the
veranda and, having lit my pipe, sat down on a seat about a dozen
feet from the right-hand end of the structure, which was, as the
reader may remember, exactly opposite one of the narrow doors of
the protecting wall that enclosed the house and flower garden. I
had been sitting there perhaps six or seven minutes when I
thought I heard the door move. I looked in that direction and I
listened, but, being unable to make out anything, concluded that
I must have been mistaken. It was a darkish night, the moon not
having yet risen.

Another minute passed, when suddenly something round fell with a
soft but heavy thud upon the stone flooring of the veranda, and
came bounding and rolling along past me. For a moment I did not
rise, but sat wondering what it could be. Finally, I concluded
it must have been an animal. Just then, however, another idea
struck me, and I got up quick enough. The thing lay quite still
a few feet beyond me. I put down my hand towards it and it did
not move: clearly it was not an animal. My hand touched it. It
was soft and warm and heavy. Hurriedly I lifted it and held it
up against the faint starlight.

IT WAS A NEWLY SEVERED HUMAN HEAD!

I am an old hand and not easily upset, but I own that that
ghastly sight made me feel sick. How had the thing come there?
Whose was it? I put it down and ran to the little doorway. I
could see nothing, hear nobody. I was about to go out into the
darkness beyond, but remembering that to do so was to expose
myself to the risk of being stabbed, I drew back, shut the door,
and bolted it. Then I returned to the veranda, and in as
careless a voice as I could command called Curtis. I fear,
however, that my tones must have betrayed me, for not only Sir
Henry but also Good and Mackenzie rose from the table and came
hurrying out.

'What is it?' said the clergyman, anxiously.

Then I had to tell them.

Mr Mackenzie turned pale as death under his red skin. We were
standing opposite the hall door, and there was a light in it so
that I could see. He snatched the head up by the hair and held
it against the light.

'It is the head of one of the men who accompanied Flossie,' he
said with a gasp. 'Thank God it is not hers!'

We all stood and stared at each other aghast. What was to be
done?

Just then there was a knocking at the door that I had bolted, and
a voice cried, 'Open, my father, open!'

The door was unlocked, and in sped a terrified man. He was one
of the spies who had been sent out.

'My father,' he cried, 'the Masai are on us! A great body of
them have passed round the hill and are moving towards the old
stone kraal down by the little stream. My father, make strong
thy heart! In the midst of them I saw the white ass, and on it
sat the Water-lily (Flossie). An Elmoran (young warrior) led the
ass, and by its side walked the nurse weeping. The men who went
with her in the morning I saw not.'

'Was the child alive?' asked Mr Mackenzie, hoarsely.

'She was white as the snow, but well, my father. They passed
quite close to me, and looking up from where I lay hid I saw her
face against the sky.'

'God help her and us!' groaned the clergyman.

'How many are there of them?' I asked.

'More than two hundred--two hundred and half a hundred.'

Once more we looked one on the other. What was to be done? Just
then there rose a loud insistent cry outside the wall.

'Open the door, white man; open the door! A herald--a herald to
speak with thee.' Thus cried the voice.

Umslopogaas ran to the wall, and, reaching with his long arms to
the coping, lifted his head above it and gazed over.

'I see but one man,' he said. 'He is armed, and carries a basket
in his hand.'

'Open the door,' I said. 'Umslopogaas, take thine axe and stand
thereby. Let one man pass. If another follows, slay.'

The door was unbarred. In the shadow of the wall stood
Umslopogaas, his axe raised above his head to strike. Just then
the moon came out. There was a moment's pause, and then in
stalked a Masai Elmoran, clad in the full war panoply that I have
already described, but bearing a large basket in his hand. The
moonlight shone bright upon his great spear as he walked. He was
physically a splendid man, apparently about thirty-five years of
age. Indeed, none of the Masai that I saw were under six feet
high, though mostly quite young. When he got opposite to us he
halted, put down the basket, and stuck the spike of his spear
into the ground, so that it stood upright.

'Let us talk,' he said. 'The first messenger we sent to you
could not talk;' and he pointed to the head which lay upon the
paving of the stoep--a ghastly sight in the moonlight; 'but I
have words to speak if ye have ears to hear. Also I bring
presents;' and he pointed to the basket and laughed with an air
of swaggering insolence that is perfectly indescribable, and yet
which one could not but admire, seeing that he was surrounded by
enemies.

'Say on,' said Mr Mackenzie.

'I am the "Lygonani" (war captain) of a part of the Masai of the
Guasa Amboni. I and my men followed these three white men,' and
he pointed to Sir Henry, Good, and myself, 'but they were too
clever for us, and escaped hither. We have a quarrel with them,
and are going to kill them.'

'Are you, my friend?' said I to myself.

'In following these men we this morning caught two black men, one
black woman, a white donkey, and a white girl. One of the black
men we killed--there is his head upon the pavement; the other ran
away. The black woman, the little white girl, and the white ass
we took and brought with us. In proof thereof have I brought
this basket that she carried. Is it not thy daughter's basket?'

Mr Mackenzie nodded, and the warrior went on.

'Good! With thee and thy daughter we have no quarrel, nor do we
wish to harm thee, save as to thy cattle, which we have already
gathered, two hundred and forty head--a beast for every man's
father.' *{The Masai Elmoran or young warriors can own no
property, so all the booty they may win in battle belongs to
their fathers alone. --A. Q.}

Here Mr Mackenzie gave a groan, as he greatly valued this herd of
cattle, which he bred with much care and trouble.

'So, save for the cattle, thou mayst go free; more especially,'
he added frankly, glancing at the wall, 'as this place would be a
difficult one to take. But as to these men it is otherwise; we
have followed them for nights and days, and must kill them. Were
we to return to our kraal without having done so, all the girls
would make a mock of us. So, however troublesome it may be, they
must die.

'Now I have a proposition for thee. We would not harm the little
girl; she is too fair to harm, and has besides a brave spirit.
Give us one of these three men--a life for a life--and we will
let her go, and throw in the black woman with her also. This is
a fair offer, white man. We ask but for one, not for the three;
we must take another opportunity to kill the other two. I do not
even pick my man, though I should prefer the big one,' pointing
to Sir Henry; 'he looks strong, and would die more slowly.'

'And if I say I will not yield the man?' said Mr Mackenzie.

'Nay, say not so, white man,' answered the Masai, 'for then thy
daughter dies at dawn, and the woman with her says thou hast no
other child. Were she older I would take her for a servant; but
as she is so young I will slay her with my own hand--ay, with
this very spear. Thou canst come and see, an' thou wilt. I give
thee a safe conduct;' and the fiend laughed aloud as his brutal
jest.

Meanwhile I had been thinking rapidly, as one does in
emergencies, and had come to the conclusion that I would exchange
myself against Flossie. I scarcely like to mention the matter
for fear it should be misunderstood. Pray do not let any one be
misled into thinking that there was anything heroic about this,
or any such nonsense. It was merely a matter of common sense and
common justice. My life was an old and worthless one, hers was
young and valuable. Her death would pretty well kill her father
and mother also, whilst nobody would be much the worse for mine;
indeed, several charitable institutions would have cause to
rejoice thereat. It was indirectly through me that the dear
little girl was in her present position. Lastly, a man was
better fitted to meet death in such a peculiarly awful form than
a sweet young girl. Not, however, that I meant to let these
gentry torture me to death--I am far too much of a coward to
allow that, being naturally a timid man; my plan was to see the
girl safely exchanged and then to shoot myself, trusting that the
Almighty would take the peculiar circumstances of the case into
consideration and pardon the act. All this and more went through
my mind in very few seconds.

'All right, Mackenzie,' I said, 'you can tell the man that I will
exchange myself against Flossie, only I stipulate that she shall
be safely in this house before they kill me.'

'Eh?' said Sir Henry and Good simultaneously. 'That you don't.'

'No, no,' said Mr Mackenzie. 'I will have no man's blood upon my
hands. If it please God that my daughter should die this awful
death, His will be done. You are a brave man (which I am not by
any means) and a noble man, Quatermain, but you shall not go.'

'If nothing else turns up I shall go,' I said decidedly.

'This is an important matter,' said Mackenzie, addressing the
Lygonani, 'and we must think it over. You shall have our answer
at dawn.'

'Very well, white man,' answered the savage indifferently; 'only
remember if thy answer is late thy little white bud will never
grow into a flower, that is all, for I shall cut it with this,'
and he touched the spear. 'I should have thought that thou
wouldst play a trick and attack us at night, but I know from the
woman with the girl that your men are down at the coast, and that
thou hast but twenty men here. It is not wise, white man,' he
added with a laugh, 'to keep so small a garrison for you "boma"
(kraal). Well, good night, and good night to you also, other
white men, whose eyelids I shall soon close once and for all. At
dawn thou wilt bring me word. If not, remember it shall be as I
have said.' Then turning to Umslopogaas, who had all the while
been standing behind him and shepherding him as it were, 'Open
the door for me, fellow, quick now.'

This was too much for the old chief's patience. For the last ten
minutes his lips had been, figuratively speaking, positively
watering over the Masai Lygonani, and this he could not stand.
Placing his long hand on the Elmoran's shoulder he gripped it and
gave him such a twist as brought him face to face with himself.
Then, thrusting his fierce countenance to within a few inches of
the Masai's evil feather-framed features, he said in a low
growling voice: --

'Seest thou me?'

'Ay, fellow, I see thee.'

'And seest thou this?' and he held Inkosi-kaas before his eyes.

'Ay, fellow, I see the toy; what of it?'

'Thou Masai dog, thou boasting windbag, thou capturer of little
girls, with this "toy" will I hew thee limb from limb. Well for
thee that thou art a herald, or even now would I strew thy
members about the grass.'

The Masai shook his great spear and laughed loud and long as he
answered, 'I would that thou stoodst against me man to man, and
we would see,' and again he turned to go still laughing.

'Thou shalt stand against me man to man, be not afraid,' replied
Umslopogaas, still in the same ominous voice. 'Thou shalt stand
face to face with Umslopogaas, of the blood of Chaka, of the
people of the Amazulu, a captain in the regiment of the
Nkomabakosi, as many have done before, and bow thyself to
Inkosi-kaas, as many have done before. Ay, laugh on, laugh on!
tomorrow night shall the jackals laugh as they crunch thy ribs.'

When the Lygonani had gone, one of us thought of opening the
basket he had brought as a proof that Flossie was really their
prisoner. On lifting the lid it was found to contain a most
lovely specimen of both bulb and flower of the Goya lily, which I
have already described, in full bloom and quite uninjured, and
what was more a note in Flossie's childish hand written in pencil
upon a greasy piece of paper that had been used to wrap up some
food in: --

'DEAREST FATHER AND MOTHER,' ran the note, 'The Masai caught us
when we were coming home with the lily. I tried to escape but
could not. They killed Tom: the other man ran away. They have
not hurt nurse and me, but say that they mean to exchange us
against one of Mr Quatermain's party. I WILL HAVE NOTHING OF THE
SORT. Do not let anybody give his life for me. Try and attack
them at night; they are going to feast on three bullocks they
have stolen and killed. I have my pistol, and if no help comes
by dawn I will shoot myself. They shall not kill me. If so,
remember me always, dearest father and mother. I am very
frightened, but I trust in God. I dare not write any more as
they are beginning to notice. Goodbye. --FLOSSIE.'

Scrawled across the outside of this was 'Love to Mr Quatermain.
They are going to take the basket, so he will get the lily.'

When I read those words, written by that brave little girl in an
hour of danger sufficiently near and horrible to have turned the
brain of a strong man, I own I wept, and once more in my heart I
vowed that she should not die while my life could be given to
save her.

Then eagerly, quickly, almost fiercely, we fell to discussing the
situation. Again I said that I would go, and again Mackenzie
negatived it, and Curtis and Good, like the true men that they
are, vowed that, if I did, they would go with me, and die back to
back with me.

'It is,' I said at last, 'absolutely necessary that an effort of
some sort should be made before the morning.'

'Then let us attack them with what force we can muster, and take
our chance,' said Sir Henry.

'Ay, ay,' growled Umslopogaas, in Zulu; 'spoken like a man,
Incubu. What is there to be afraid of? Two hundred and fifty
Masai, forsooth! How many are we? The chief there (Mr
Mackenzie) has twenty men, and thou, Macumazahn, hast five men,
and there are also five white men--that is, thirty men in
all--enough, enough. Listen now, Macumazahn, thou who art very
clever and old in war. What says the maid? These men eat and
make merry; let it be their funeral feast. What said the dog
whom I hope to hew down at daybreak? That he feared no attack
because we were so few. Knowest thou the old kraal where the men
have camped? I saw it this morning; it is thus:' and he drew an
oval on the floor; 'here is the big entrance, filled up with
thorn bushes, and opening on to a steep rise. Why, Incubu, thou
and I with axes will hold it against an hundred men striving to
break out! Look, now; thus shall the battle go. Just as the
light begins to glint upon the oxen's horns--not before, or it
will be too dark, and not later, or they will be awakening and
perceive us--let Bougwan creep round with ten men to the top end
of the kraal, where the narrow entrance is. Let them silently
slay the sentry there so that he makes no sound, and stand ready.
Then, Incubu, let thee and me and one of the Askari--the one with
the broad chest--he is a brave man--creep to the wide entrance
that is filled with thorn bushes, and there also slay the sentry,
and armed with battleaxes take our stand also one on each side of
the pathway, and one a few paces beyond to deal with such as pass
the twain at the gate. It is there that the rush will come.
That will leave sixteen men. Let these men be divided into two
parties, with one of which shalt thou go, Macumazahn, and with
one the "praying man" (Mr Mackenzie), and, all armed with rifles,
let them make their way one to the right side of the kraal and
one to the left; and when thou, Macumazahn, lowest like an ox,
all shall open fire with the guns upon the sleeping men, being
very careful not to hit the little maid. Then shall Bougwan at
the far end and his ten men raise the war-cry, and, springing
over the wall, put the Masai there to the sword. And it shall
happen that, being yet heavy with food and sleep, and bewildered
by the firing of the guns, the falling of men, and the spears of
Bougwan, the soldiers shall rise and rush like wild game towards
the thorn-stopped entrance, and there the bullets from either
side shall plough through them, and there shall Incubu and the
Askari and I wait for those who break across. Such is my plan,
Macumazahn; if thou hast a better, name it.'

When he had done, I explained to the others such portions of his
scheme as they had failed to understand, and they all joined with
me in expressing the greatest admiration of the acute and skilful
programme devised by the old Zulu, who was indeed, in his own
savage fashion, the finest general I ever knew. After some
discussion we determined to accept the scheme, as it stood, it
being the only one possible under the circumstances, and giving
the best chance of success that such a forlorn hope would admit
of--which, however, considering the enormous odds and the
character of our foe, was not very great.

'Ah, old lion!' I said to Umslopogaas, 'thou knowest how to lie
in wait as well as how to bite, where to seize as well as where
to hang on.'

'Ay, ay, Macumazahn,' he answered. 'For thirty years have I been
a warrior, and have seen many things. It will be a good fight.
I smell blood--I tell thee, I smell blood.'

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Allan Quatermain - Chapter IV - ALPHONSE AND HIS ANNETTE Allan Quatermain - Chapter IV - ALPHONSE AND HIS ANNETTE

Allan Quatermain - Chapter IV - ALPHONSE AND HIS ANNETTE
After dinner we thoroughly inspected all the outbuildings andgrounds of the station, which I consider the most successful aswell as the most beautiful place of the sort that I have seen inAfrica. We then returned to the veranda we foundUmslopogaas taking advantage of this favourable opportunity toclean all the rifles thoroughly. This was the only WORK that heever did or was asked to do, for as a Zulu chief it was beneathhis dignity to work with his hands; but such as it was he did itvery well. It was a curious sight to see the great Zulu
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