HUNTER QUATERMAIN'S STORY
by H. Rider Haggard
Sir Henry Curtis, as everybody acquainted with him knows, is one of the
most hospitable men on earth. It was in the course of the enjoyment of his
hospitality at his place in Yorkshire the other day that I heard the
hunting story which I am now about to transcribe. Many of those who read
it will no doubt have heard some of the strange rumours that are flying
about to the effect that Sir Henry Curtis and his friend Captain Good,
R.N., recently found a vast treasure of diamonds out in the heart of
Africa, supposed to have been hidden by the Egyptians, or King Solomon, or
some other antique people. I first saw the matter alluded to in a
paragraph in one of the society papers the day before I started for
Yorkshire to pay my visit to Curtis, and arrived, needless to say, burning
with curiosity; for there is something very fascinating to the mind in the
idea of hidden treasure. When I reached the Hall, I at once asked Curtis
about it, and he did not deny the truth of the story; but on my pressing
him to tell it he would not, nor would Captain Good, who was also staying
in the house.
"You would not believe me if I did," Sir Henry said, with one of the
hearty laughs which seem to come right out of his great lungs. "You must
wait till Hunter Quatermain comes; he will arrive here from Africa
to-night, and I am not going to say a word about the matter, or Good
either, until he turns up. Quatermain was with us all through; he has
known about the business for years and years, and if it had not been for
him we should not have been here to-day. I am going to meet him
I could not get a word more out of him, nor could anybody else, though we
were all dying of curiosity, especially some of the ladies. I shall never
forget how they looked in the drawing-room before dinner when Captain Good
produced a great rough diamond, weighing fifty carats or more, and told
them that he had many larger than that. If ever I saw curiosity and envy
printed on fair faces, I saw them then.
It was just at this moment that the door was opened, and Mr. Allan
Quatermain announced, whereupon Good put the diamond into his pocket, and
sprang at a little man who limped shyly into the room, convoyed by Sir
Henry Curtis himself.
"Here he is, Good, safe and sound," said Sir Henry, gleefully. "Ladies and
gentlemen, let me introduce you to one of the oldest hunters and the very
best shot in Africa, who has killed more elephants and lions than any
other man alive."
Everybody turned and stared politely at the curious-looking little lame
man, and though his size was insignificant, he was quite worth staring at.
He had short grizzled hair, which stood about an inch above his head like
the bristles of a brush, gentle brown eyes, that seemed to notice
everything, and a withered face, tanned to the colour of mahogany from
exposure to the weather. He spoke, too, when he returned Good's
enthusiastic greeting, with a curious little accent, which made his speech
It so happened that I sat next to Mr. Allan Quatermain at dinner, and, of
course, did my best to draw him; but he was not to be drawn. He admitted
that he had recently been a long journey into the interior of Africa with
Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good, and that they had found treasure, and
then politely turned the subject and began to ask me questions about
England, where he had never been before—that is, since he came to
years of discretion. Of course, I did not find this very interesting, and
so cast about for some means to bring the conversation round again.
Now, we were dining in an oak-panelled vestibule, and on the wall opposite
to me were fixed two gigantic elephant tusks, and under them a pair of
buffalo horns, very rough and knotted, showing that they came off an old
bull, and having the tip of one horn split and chipped. I noticed that
Hunter Quatermain's eyes kept glancing at these trophies, and took an
occasion to ask him if he knew anything about them.
"I ought to," he answered, with a little laugh; "the elephant to which
those tusks belonged tore one of our party right in two about eighteen
months ago, and as for the buffalo horns, they were nearly my death, and
were the end of a servant of mine to whom I was much attached. I gave them
to Sir Henry when he left Natal some months ago;" and Mr. Quatermain
sighed and turned to answer a question from the lady whom he had taken
down to dinner, and who, needless to say, was also employed in trying to
pump him about the diamonds.
Indeed, all round the table there was a simmer of scarcely suppressed
excitement, which, when the servants had left the room, could no longer be
"Now, Mr. Quatermain," said the lady next him, "we have been kept in an
agony of suspense by Sir Henry and Captain Good, who have persistently
refused to tell us a word of this story about the hidden treasure till you
came, and we simply can bear it no longer; so, please, begin at once."
"Yes," said everybody, "go on, please."
Hunter Quatermain glanced round the table apprehensively; he did not seem
to appreciate finding himself the object of so much curiosity.
"Ladies and gentlemen," he said at last, with a shake of his grizzled
head, "I am very sorry to disappoint you, but I cannot do it. It is this
way. At the request of Sir Henry and Captain Good I have written down a
true and plain account of King Solomon's Mines and how we found them, so
you will soon be able to learn all about that wonderful adventure for
yourselves; but until then I will say nothing about it, not from any wish
to disappoint your curiosity, or to make myself important, but simply
because the whole story partakes so much of the marvellous, that I am
afraid to tell it in a piecemeal, hasty fashion, for fear I should be set
down as one of those common fellows of whom there are so many in my
profession, who are not ashamed to narrate things they have not seen, and
even to tell wonderful stories about wild animals they have never killed.
And I think that my companions in adventure, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain
Good, will bear me out in what I say."
"Yes, Quatermain, I think you are quite right," said Sir Henry. "Precisely
the same considerations have forced Good and myself to hold our tongues.
We did not wish to be bracketed with—well, with other famous
There was a murmur of disappointment at these announcements.
"I believe you are all hoaxing us," said the young lady next Mr.
Quatermain, rather sharply.
"Believe me," answered the old hunter, with a quaint courtesy and a little
bow of his grizzled head; "though I have lived all my life in the
wilderness, and amongst savages, I have neither the heart, nor the want of
manners, to wish to deceive one so lovely."
Whereat the young lady, who was pretty, looked appeased.
"This is very dreadful," I broke in. "We ask for bread and you give us a
stone, Mr. Quatermain. The least that you can do is to tell us the story
of the tusks opposite and the buffalo horns underneath. We won't let you
off with less."
"I am but a poor story-teller," put in the old hunter, "but if you will
forgive my want of skill, I shall be happy to tell you, not the story of
the tusks, for that is part of the history of our journey to King
Solomon's Mines, but that of the buffalo horns beneath them, which is now
ten years old."
"Bravo, Quatermain!" said Sir Henry. "We shall all be delighted. Fire
away! Fill up your glass first."
The little man did as he was bid, took a sip of claret, and began:—"About
ten years ago I was hunting up in the far interior of Africa, at a place
called Gatgarra, not a great way from the Chobe River. I had with me four
native servants, namely, a driver and voorlooper, or leader, who were
natives of Matabeleland, a Hottentot named Hans, who had once been the
slave of a Transvaal Boer, and a Zulu hunter, who for five years had
accompanied me upon my trips, and whose name was Mashune. Now near
Gatgarra I found a fine piece of healthy, park-like country, where the
grass was very good, considering the time of year; and here I made a
little camp or head-quarter settlement, from whence I went expeditions on
all sides in search of game, especially elephant. My luck, however, was
bad; I got but little ivory. I was therefore very glad when some natives
brought me news that a large herd of elephants were feeding in a valley
about thirty miles away. At first I thought of trekking down to the
valley, waggon and all, but gave up the idea on hearing that it was
infested with the deadly 'tsetse' fly, which is certain death to all
animals, except men, donkeys, and wild game. So I reluctantly determined
to leave the waggon in the charge of the Matabele leader and driver, and
to start on a trip into the thorn country, accompanied only by the
Hottentot Hans, and Mashune.
"Accordingly on the following morning we started, and on the evening of
the next day reached the spot where the elephants were reported to be. But
here again we were met by ill luck. That the elephants had been there was
evident enough, for their spoor was plentiful, and so were other traces of
their presence in the shape of mimosa trees torn out of the ground, and
placed topsy-turvy on their flat crowns, in order to enable the great
beasts to feed on their sweet roots; but the elephants themselves were
conspicuous by their absence. They had elected to move on. This being so,
there was only one thing to do, and that was to move after them, which we
did, and a pretty hunt they led us. For a fortnight or more we dodged
about after those elephants, coming up with them on two occasions, and a
splendid herd they were—only, however, to lose them again. At length
we came up with them a third time, and I managed to shoot one bull, and
then they started off again, where it was useless to try and follow them.
After this I gave it up in disgust, and we made the best of our way back
to the camp, not in the sweetest of tempers, carrying the tusks of the
elephant I had shot.
"It was on the afternoon of the fifth day of our tramp that we reached the
little koppie overlooking the spot where the waggon stood, and I confess
that I climbed it with a pleasurable sense of home-coming, for his waggon
is the hunter's home, as much as his house is that of the civilized
person. I reached the top of the koppie, and looked in the direction where
the friendly white tent of the waggon should be, but there was no waggon,
only a black burnt plain stretching away as far as the eye could reach. I
rubbed my eyes, looked again, and made out on the spot of the camp, not my
waggon, but some charred beams of wood. Half wild with grief and anxiety,
followed by Hans and Mashune, I ran at full speed down the slope of the
koppie, and across the space of plain below to the spring of water, where
my camp had been. I was soon there, only to find that my worst suspicions
"The waggon and all its contents, including my spare guns and ammunition,
had been destroyed by a grass fire.
"Now before I started, I had left orders with the driver to burn off the
grass round the camp, in order to guard against accidents of this nature,
and here was the reward of my folly: a very proper illustration of the
necessity, especially where natives are concerned, of doing a thing one's
self if one wants it done at all. Evidently the lazy rascals had not burnt
round the waggon; most probably, indeed, they had themselves carelessly
fired the tall and resinous tambouki grass near by; the wind had driven
the flames on to the waggon tent, and there was quickly an end of the
matter. As for the driver and leader, I know not what became of them:
probably fearing my anger, they bolted, taking the oxen with them. I have
never seen them from that hour to this.
"I sat down on the black veldt by the spring, and gazed at the charred
axles and disselboom of my waggon, and I can assure you, ladies and
gentlemen, I felt inclined to weep. As for Mashune and Hans they cursed
away vigorously, one in Zulu and the other in Dutch. Ours was a pretty
position. We were nearly 300 miles away from Bamangwato, the capital of
Khama's country, which was the nearest spot where we could get any help,
and our ammunition, spare guns, clothing, food, and everything else, were
all totally destroyed. I had just what I stood in, which was a flannel
shirt, a pair of 'veldt-schoons,' or shoes of raw hide, my eight-bore
rifle, and a few cartridges. Hans and Mashune had also each a Martini
rifle and some cartridges, not many. And it was with this equipment that
we had to undertake a journey of 300 miles through a desolate and almost
uninhabited region. I can assure you that I have rarely been in a worse
position, and I have been in some queer ones. However, these things are
the natural incidents of a hunter's life, and the only thing to do was to
make the best of them.
"Accordingly, after passing a comfortless night by the remains of my
waggon, we started next morning on our long journey towards civilization.
Now if I were to set to work to tell you all the troubles and incidents of
that dreadful journey I should keep you listening here till midnight; so I
will, with your permission, pass on to the particular adventure of which
the pair of buffalo horns opposite are the melancholy memento.
"We had been travelling for about a month, living and getting along as
best we could, when one evening we camped some forty miles from
Bamangwato. By this time we were indeed in a melancholy plight, footsore,
half starved, and utterly worn out; and, in addition, I was suffering from
a sharp attack of fever, which half blinded me and made me weak as a babe.
Our ammunition, too, was exhausted; I had only one cartridge left for my
eight-bore rifle, and Hans and Mashune, who were armed with Martini
Henrys, had three between them. It was about an hour from sundown when we
halted and lit a fire—for luckily we had still a few matches. It was
a charming spot to camp, I remember. Just off the game track we were
following was a little hollow, fringed about with flat-crowned mimosa
trees, and at the bottom of the hollow, a spring of clear water welled up
out of the earth, and formed a pool, round the edges of which grew an
abundance of watercresses of an exactly similar kind to those which were
handed round the table just now. Now we had no food of any kind left,
having that morning devoured the last remains of a little oribÚ antelope,
which I had shot two days previously. Accordingly Hans, who was a better
shot than Mashune, took two of the three remaining Martini cartridges, and
started out to see if he could not kill a buck for supper. I was too weak
to go myself.
"Meanwhile Mashune employed himself in dragging together some dead boughs
from the mimosa trees to make a sort of 'skerm,' or shelter for us to
sleep in, about forty yards from the edge of the pool of water. We had
been greatly troubled with lions in the course of our long tramp, and only
on the previous night have very nearly been attacked by them, which made
me nervous, especially in my weak state. Just as we had finished the
skerm, or rather something which did duty for one, Mashune and I heard a
shot apparently fired about a mile away.
"'Hark to it!' sung out Mashune in Zulu, more, I fancy, by way of keeping
his spirits up than for any other reason—for he was a sort of black
Mark Tapley, and very cheerful under difficulties. 'Hark to the wonderful
sound with which the "Maboona" (the Boers) shook our fathers to the ground
at the Battle of the Blood River. We are hungry now, my father; our
stomachs are small and withered up like a dried ox's paunch, but they will
soon be full of good meat. Hans is a Hottentot, and an "umfagozan," that
is, a low fellow, but he shoots straight—ah! he certainly shoots
straight. Be of a good heart, my father, there will soon be meat upon the
fire, and we shall rise up men.'
"And so he went on talking nonsense till I told him to stop, because he
made my head ache with his empty words.
"Shortly after we heard the shot the sun sank in his red splendour, and
there fell upon earth and sky the great hush of the African wilderness.
The lions were not up as yet, they would probably wait for the moon, and
the birds and beasts were all at rest. I cannot describe the intensity of
the quiet of the night: to me in my weak state, and fretting as I was over
the non-return of the Hottentot Hans, it seemed almost ominous—as
though Nature were brooding over some tragedy which was being enacted in
"It was quiet—quiet as death, and lonely as the grave.
"'Mashune,' I said at last, 'where is Hans? my heart is heavy for him.'
"'Nay, my father, I know not; mayhap he is weary, and sleeps, or mayhap he
has lost his way.'
"'Mashune, art thou a boy to talk folly to me?' I answered. 'Tell me, in
all the years thou hast hunted by my side, didst thou ever know a
Hottentot to lose his path or to sleep upon the way to camp?'
"'Nay, Macumazahn' (that, ladies, is my native name, and means the man who
'gets up by night,' or who 'is always awake'), 'I know not where he is.'
"But though we talked thus, we neither of us liked to hint at what was in
both our minds, namely, that misfortunate had overtaken the poor
"'Mashune,' I said at last, 'go down to the water and bring me of those
green herbs that grow there. I am hungered, and must eat something.'
"'Nay, my father; surely the ghosts are there; they come out of the water
at night, and sit upon the banks to dry themselves. An Isanusi[*] told it
[*] Isanusi, witch-finder.
"Mashune was, I think, one of the bravest men I ever knew in the daytime,
but he had a more than civilized dread of the supernatural.
"'Must I go myself, thou fool?' I said, sternly.
"'Nay, Macumazahn, if thy heart yearns for strange things like a sick
woman, I go, even if the ghosts devour me.'
"And accordingly he went, and soon returned with a large bundle of
watercresses, of which I ate greedily.
"'Art thou not hungry?' I asked the great Zulu presently, as he sat eyeing
"'Never was I hungrier, my father.'
"'Then eat,' and I pointed to the watercresses.
"'Nay, Macumazahn, I cannot eat those herbs.'
"'If thou dost not eat thou wilt starve: eat, Mashune.'
"He stared at the watercresses doubtfully for a while, and at last seized
a handful and crammed them into his mouth, crying out as he did so, 'Oh,
why was I born that I should live to feed on green weeds like an ox?
Surely if my mother could have known it she would have killed me when I
was born!' and so he went on lamenting between each fistful of
watercresses till all were finished, when he declared that he was full
indeed of stuff, but it lay very cold on his stomach, 'like snow upon a
mountain.' At any other time I should have laughed, for it must be
admitted he had a ludicrous way of putting things. Zulus do not like green
"Just after Mashune had finished his watercress, we heard the loud 'woof!
woof!' of a lion, who was evidently promenading much nearer to our little
skerm than was pleasant. Indeed, on looking into the darkness and
listening intently, I could hear his snoring breath, and catch the light
of his great yellow eyes. We shouted loudly, and Mashune threw some sticks
on the fire to frighten him, which apparently had the desired effect, for
we saw no more of him for a while.
"Just after we had had this fright from the lion, the moon rose in her
fullest splendour, throwing a robe of silver light over all the earth. I
have rarely seen a more beautiful moonrise. I remember that sitting in the
skerm I could with ease read faint pencil notes in my pocket-book. As soon
as the moon was up game began to trek down to the water just below us. I
could, from where I sat, see all sorts of them passing along a little
ridge that ran to our right, on their way to the drinking place. Indeed,
one buck—a large eland—came within twenty yards of the skerm,
and stood at gaze, staring at it suspiciously, his beautiful head and
twisted horns standing out clearly against the sky. I had, I recollect,
every mind to have a pull at him on the chance of providing ourselves with
a good supply of beef; but remembering that we had but two cartridges
left, and the extreme uncertainty of a shot by moonlight, I at length
decided to refrain. The eland presently moved on to the water, and a
minute or two afterwards there arose a great sound of splashing, followed
by the quick fall of galloping hoofs.
"'What's that, Mashune?' I asked.
"'That dam lion; buck smell him,' replied the Zulu in English, of which he
had a very superficial knowledge.
"Scarcely were the words out of his mouth before we heard a sort of whine
over the other side of the pool, which was instantly answered by a loud
coughing roar close to us.
"'By Jove!' I said, 'there are two of them. They have lost the buck; we
must look out they don't catch us.' And again we made up the fire, and
shouted, with the result that the lions moved off.
"'Mashune,' I said, 'do you watch till the moon gets over that tree, when
it will be the middle of the night. Then wake me. Watch well, now, or the
lions will be picking those worthless bones of yours before you are three
hours older. I must rest a little, or I shall die.'
"'Koos!' (chief), answered the Zulu. 'Sleep, my father, sleep in peace; my
eyes shall be open as the stars; and like the stars watch over you.'
"Although I was so weak, I could not at once follow his advice. To begin
with, my head ached with fever, and I was torn with anxiety as to the fate
of the Hottentot Hans; and, indeed, as to our own fate, left with sore
feet, empty stomachs, and two cartridges, to find our way to Bamangwato,
forty miles off. Then the mere sensation of knowing that there are one or
more hungry lions prowling round you somewhere in the dark is disquieting,
however well one may be used to it, and, by keeping the attention on the
stretch, tends to prevent one from sleeping. In addition to all these
troubles, too, I was, I remember, seized with a dreadful longing for a
pipe of tobacco, whereas, under the circumstances, I might as well have
longed for the moon.
"At last, however, I fell into an uneasy sleep as full of bad dreams as a
prickly pear is of points, one of which, I recollect, was that I was
setting my naked foot upon a cobra which rose upon its tail and hissed my
name, 'Macumazahn,' into my ear. Indeed, the cobra hissed with such
persistency that at last I roused myself.
"'Macumazahn, nanzia, nanzia!' (there, there!) whispered Mashune's
voice into my drowsy ears. Raising myself, I opened my eyes, and I saw
Mashune kneeling by my side and pointing towards the water. Following the
line of his outstretched hand, my eyes fell upon a sight that made me
jump, old hunter as I was even in those days. About twenty paces from the
little skerm was a large ant-heap, and on the summit of the ant-heap, her
four feet rather close together, so as to find standing space, stood the
massive form of a big lioness. Her head was towards the skerm, and in the
bright moonlight I saw her lower it and lick her paws.
"Mashune thrust the Martini rifle into my hands, whispering that it was
loaded. I lifted it and covered the lioness, but found that even in that
light I could not make out the foresight of the Martini. As it would be
madness to fire without doing so, for the result would probably be that I
should wound the lioness, if, indeed, I did not miss her altogether, I
lowered the rifle; and, hastily tearing a fragment of paper from one of
the leaves of my pocket-book, which I had been consulting just before I
went to sleep, I proceeded to fix it on to the front sight. But all this
took a little time, and before the paper was satisfactorily arranged,
Mashune again gripped me by the arm, and pointed to a dark heap under the
shade of a small mimosa tree which grew not more than ten paces from the
"'Well, what is it?' I whispered; 'I can see nothing.'
"'It is another lion,' he answered.
"'Nonsense! thy heart is dead with fear, thou seest double;' and I bent
forward over the edge of the surrounding fence, and stared at the heap.
"Even as I said the words, the dark mass rose and stalked out into the
moonlight. It was a magnificent, black-maned lion, one of the largest I
had ever seen. When he had gone two or three steps he caught sight of me,
halted, and stood there gazing straight towards us;—he was so close
that I could see the firelight reflected in his wicked, greenish eyes.
"'Shoot, shoot!' said Mashune. 'The devil is coming—he is going to
"I raised the rifle, and got the bit of paper on the foresight, straight
on to a little path of white hair just where the throat is set into the
chest and shoulders. As I did so, the lion glanced back over his shoulder,
as, according to my experience, a lion nearly always does before he
springs. Then he dropped his body a little, and I saw his big paws spread
out upon the ground as he put his weight on them to gather purchase. In
haste I pressed the trigger of the Martini, and not a moment too soon;
for, as I did so, he was in the act of springing. The report of the rifle
rang out sharp and clear on the intense silence of the night, and in
another second the great brute had landed on his head within four feet of
us, and rolling over and over towards us, was sending the bushes which
composed our little fence flying with convulsive strokes of his great
paws. We sprang out of the other side of the 'skerm,' and he rolled on to
it and into it and then right through the fire. Next he raised himself and
sat upon his haunches like a great dog, and began to roar. Heavens! how he
roared! I never heard anything like it before or since. He kept filling
his lungs with air, and then emitting it in the most heart-shaking volumes
of sound. Suddenly, in the middle of one of the loudest roars, he rolled
over on to his side and lay still, and I knew that he was dead. A lion
generally dies upon his side.
"With a sigh of relief I looked up towards his mate upon the ant-heap. She
was standing there apparently petrified with astonishment, looking over
her shoulder, and lashing her tail; but to our intense joy, when the dying
beast ceased roaring, she turned, and, with one enormous bound, vanished
into the night.
"Then we advanced cautiously towards the prostrate brute, Mashune droning
an improvised Zulu song as he went, about how Macumazahn, the hunter of
hunters, whose eyes are open by night as well as by day, put his hand down
the lion's stomach when it came to devour him and pulled out his heart by
the roots, &c., &c., by way of expressing his satisfaction, in his
hyperbolical Zulu way, at the turn events had taken.
"There was no need for caution; the lion was as dead as though he had
already been stuffed with straw. The Martini bullet had entered within an
inch of the white spot I had aimed at, and travelled right through him,
passing out at the right buttock, near the root of the tail. The Martini
has wonderful driving power, though the shock it gives to the system is,
comparatively speaking, slight, owing to the smallness of the hole it
makes. But fortunately the lion is an easy beast to kill.
"I passed the rest of that night in a profound slumber, my head reposing
upon the deceased lion's flank, a position that had, I thought, a
beautiful touch of irony about it, though the smell of his singed hair was
disagreeable. When I woke again the faint primrose lights of dawn were
flushing in the eastern sky. For a moment I could not understand the chill
sense of anxiety that lay like a lump of ice at my heart, till the feel
and smell of the skin of the dead lion beneath my head recalled the
circumstances in which we were placed. I rose, and eagerly looked round to
see if I could discover any signs of Hans, who, if he had escaped
accident, would surely return to us at dawn, but there were none. Then
hope grew faint, and I felt that it was not well with the poor fellow.
Setting Mashune to build up the fire I hastily removed the hide from the
flank of the lion, which was indeed a splendid beast, and cutting off some
lumps of flesh, we toasted and ate them greedily. Lions' flesh, strange as
it may seem, is very good eating, and tastes more like veal than anything
"By the time we had finished our much-needed meal the sun was getting up,
and after a drink of water and a wash at the pool, we started to try and
find Hans, leaving the dead lion to the tender mercies of the hyŠnas. Both
Mashune and myself were, by constant practice, pretty good hands at
tracking, and we had not much difficulty in following the Hottentot's
spoor, faint as it was. We had gone on in this way for half-an-hour or so,
and were, perhaps, a mile or more from the site of our camping-place, when
we discovered the spoor of a solitary bull buffalo mixed up with the spoor
of Hans, and were able, from various indications, to make out that he had
been tracking the buffalo. At length we reached a little glade in which
there grew a stunted old mimosa thorn, with a peculiar and overhanging
formation of root, under which a porcupine, or an ant-bear, or some such
animal, had hollowed out a wide-lipped hole. About ten or fifteen paces
from this thorn-tree there was a thick patch of bush.
"'See, Macumazahn! see!' said Mashune, excitedly, as we drew near the
thorn; 'the buffalo has charged him. Look, here he stood to fire at him;
see how firmly he planted his feet upon the earth; there is the mark of
his crooked toe (Hans had one bent toe). Look! here the bull came like a
boulder down the hill, his hoofs turning up the earth like a hoe. Hans had
hit him: he bled as he came; there are the blood spots. It is all written
down there, my father—there upon the earth.'
"'Yes,' I said; 'yes; but where is Hans?'
"Even as I said it Mashune clutched my arm, and pointed to the stunted
thorn just by us. Even now, gentlemen, it makes me feel sick when I think
of what I saw.
"For fixed in a stout fork of the tree some eight feet from the ground was
Hans himself, or rather his dead body, evidently tossed there by the
furious buffalo. One leg was twisted round the fork, probably in a dying
convulsion. In the side, just beneath the ribs, was a great hole, from
which the entrails protruded. But this was not all. The other leg hung
down to within five feet of the ground. The skin and most of the flesh
were gone from it. For a moment we stood aghast, and gazed at this
horrifying sight. Then I understood what had happened. The buffalo, with
that devilish cruelty which distinguishes the animal, had, after his enemy
was dead, stood underneath his body, and licked the flesh off the pendant
leg with his file-like tongue. I had heard of such a thing before, but had
always treated the stories as hunters' yarns; but I had no doubt about it
now. Poor Hans' skeleton foot and ankle were an ample proof.
"We stood aghast under the tree, and stared and stared at this awful
sight, when suddenly our cogitations were interrupted in a painful manner.
The thick bush about fifteen paces off burst asunder with a crashing
sound, and uttering a series of ferocious pig-like grunts, the bull
buffalo himself came charging out straight at us. Even as he came I saw
the blood mark on his side where poor Hans' bullet had struck him, and
also, as is often the case with particularly savage buffaloes, that his
flanks had recently been terribly torn in an encounter with a lion.
"On he came, his head well up (a buffalo does not generally lower his head
till he does so to strike); those great black horns—as I look at
them before me, gentlemen, I seem to see them come charging at me as I did
ten years ago, silhouetted against the green bush behind;—on, on!"
"With a shout Mashune bolted off sideways towards the bush. I had
instinctively lifted my eight-bore, which I had in my hand. It would have
been useless to fire at the buffalo's head, for the dense horns must have
turned the bullet; but as Mashune bolted, the bull slewed a little, with
the momentary idea of following him, and as this gave me a ghost of a
chance, I let drive my only cartridge at his shoulder. The bullet struck
the shoulder-blade and smashed it up, and then travelled on under the skin
into his flank; but it did not stop him, though for a second he staggered.
"Throwing myself on to the ground with the energy of despair, I rolled
under the shelter of the projecting root of the thorn, crushing myself as
far into the mouth of the ant-bear hole as I could. In a single instant
the buffalo was after me. Kneeling down on his uninjured knee—for
one leg, that of which I had broken the shoulder, was swinging helplessly
to and fro—he set to work to try and hook me out of the hole with
his crooked horn. At first he struck at me furiously, and it was one of
the blows against the base of the tree which splintered the tip of the
horn in the way that you see. Then he grew more cunning, and pushed his
head as far under the root as possible, made long semicircular sweeps at
me, grunting furiously, and blowing saliva and hot steamy breath all over
me. I was just out of reach of the horn, though every stroke, by widening
the hole and making more room for his head, brought it closer to me, but
every now and again I received heavy blows in the ribs from his muzzle.
Feeling that I was being knocked silly, I made an effort and seizing his
rough tongue, which was hanging from his jaws, I twisted it with all my
force. The great brute bellowed with pain and fury, and jerked himself
backwards so strongly, that he dragged me some inches further from the
mouth of the hole, and again made a sweep at me, catching me this time
round the shoulder-joint in the hook of his horn.
"I felt that it was all up now, and began to holloa.
"'He has got me!' I shouted in mortal terror. 'Gwasa, Mashune, gwasa!'
('Stab, Mashune, stab!').
"One hoist of the great head, and out of the hole I came like a periwinkle
out of his shell. But even as I did so, I caught sight of Mashune's
stalwart form advancing with his 'bangwan,' or broad stabbing assegai,
raised above his head. In another quarter of a second I had fallen from
the horn, and heard the blow of the spear, followed by the indescribable
sound of steel shearing its way through flesh. I had fallen on my back,
and, looking up, I saw that the gallant Mashune had driven the assegai a
foot or more into the carcass of the buffalo, and was turning to fly.
"Alas! it was too late. Bellowing madly, and spouting blood from mouth and
nostrils, the devilish brute was on him, and had thrown him up like a
feather, and then gored him twice as he lay. I struggled up with some wild
idea of affording help, but before I had gone a step the buffalo gave one
long sighing bellow, and rolled over dead by the side of his victim.
"Mashune was still living, but a single glance at him told me that his
hour had come. The buffalo's horn had driven a great hole in his right
lung, and inflicted other injuries.
"I knelt down beside him in the uttermost distress, and took his hand.
"'Is he dead, Macumazahn?' he whispered. 'My eyes are blind; I cannot
"'Yes, he is dead.'
"'Did the black devil hurt thee, Macumazahn?'
"'No, my poor fellow, I am not much hurt.'
"'Ow! I am glad.'
"Then came a long silence, broken only by the sound of the air whistling
through the hole in his lung as he breathed.
"'Macumazahn, art thou there? I cannot feel thee.'
"'I am here, Mashune.'
"'I die, Macumazahn—the world flies round and round. I go—I go
out into the dark! Surely, my father, at times in days to come—thou
wilt think of Mashune who stood by thy side—when thou killest
elephants, as we used—as we used——'
"They were his last words, his brave spirit passed with him. I dragged his
body to the hole under the tree, and pushed it in, placing his broad
assegai by him, according to the custom of his people, that he might not
go defenceless on his long journey; and then, ladies—I am not
ashamed to confess—I stood alone there before it, and wept like a