by H. Rider Haggard
My Dear Macumazahn,
It was your native name which I borrowed at the christening
of that Allen who has become as well known to me as any
other friend I have. It is therefore fitting that I should
dedicate to you this, his last tale—the story of his wife,
and the history of some further adventures which befell him.
They will remind you of many an African yarn—that with the
baboons may recall an experience of your own which I did not
share. And perhaps they will do more than this. Perhaps they
will bring back to you some of the long past romance of days
that are lost to us. The country of which Allan Quatermain
tells his tale is now, for the most part, as well known and
explored as are the fields of Norfolk. Where we shot and
trekked and galloped, scarcely seeing the face of civilized
man, there the gold-seeker builds his cities. The shadow of
the flag of Britain has, for a while, ceased to fall on the
Transvaal plains; the game has gone; the misty charm of the
morning has become the glare of day. All is changed. The
blue gums that we planted in the garden of the "Palatial"
must be large trees by now, and the "Palatial" itself has
passed from us. Jess sat in it waiting for her love after we
were gone. There she nursed him back to life. But Jess is
dead, and strangers own it, or perhaps it is a ruin.
For us too, Macumazahn, as for the land we loved, the
mystery and promise of the morning are outworn; the mid-day
sun burns overhead, and at times the way is weary. Few of
those we knew are left. Some are victims to battle and
murder, their bones strew the veldt; death has taken some in
a more gentle fashion; others are hidden from us, we know
not where. We might well fear to return to that land lest we
also should see ghosts. But though we walk apart to-day, the
past yet looks upon us with its unalterable eyes. Still we
can remember many a boyish enterprise and adventure, lightly
undertaken, which now would strike us as hazardous indeed.
Still we can recall the long familiar line of the Pretoria
Horse, the face of war and panic, the weariness of midnight
patrols; aye, and hear the roar of guns echoed from the
To you then, Macumazahn, in perpetual memory of those
eventful years of youth which we passed together in the
African towns and on the African veldt, I dedicate these
pages, subscribing myself now as always,
Your sincere friend,
To Arthur H. D. Cochrane, Esq.
It may be remembered that in the last pages of his diary, written just before his death, Allan Quatermain makes allusion to his long dead wife, stating that he has written of her fully elsewhere.
When his death was known, his papers were handed to myself as his literary executor. Among them I found two manuscripts, of which the following is one. The other is simply a record of events wherein Mr. Quatermain was not personally concerned—a Zulu novel, the story of which was told to him by the hero many years after the tragedy had occurred. But with this we have nothing to do at present.
I have often thought (Mr. Quatermain's manuscript begins) that I would set down on paper the events connected with my marriage, and the loss of my most dear wife. Many years have now passed since that event, and to some extent time has softened the old grief, though Heaven knows it is still keen enough. On two or three occasions I have even begun the record. Once I gave it up because the writing of it depressed me beyond bearing, once because I was suddenly called away upon a journey, and the third time because a Kaffir boy found my manuscript convenient for lighting the kitchen fire.
But now that I am at leisure here in England, I will make a fourth attempt. If I succeed, the story may serve to interest some one in after years when I am dead and gone; before that I should not wish it to be published. It is a wild tale enough, and suggests some curious reflections.
I am the son of a