???? by ????
H. Rider Haggard
???? ???? ????
Book Index ???? ???? ???? ????The People of the Mist ???? ????Heart of the World ???? ????Queen Sheba's Ring ???? ????When the World Shook ???? ???? ????
The People of the Mist
???? ???? ???? First Published 1894 ???? ???? ???????? DEDICATION ???? ???? ???? I DEDICATE THIS EFFORT OF "PRIMEVAL AND TROGLODYTE IMAGINATION" THIS RECORD OF BAREFACED AND FLAGRANT ADVENTURE ???? TO MY GODSONS ???? IN THE HOPE THAT THEREIN THEY MAY FIND SOME STORE OF HEALTHY AMUSEMENT. ???????? ????Ditchingham, 1894. ???? ???? ???? Contents ???? ???????? ????Author's Note ????I. The Sins of the Fathers are Visited on the Children ????II. The Swearing of the Oath ????III. After Seven Years ????IV. The Last Vigil ????V. Otter Gives Counsel ????VI. The Tale of Soa ????VII. Leonard Swears on the Blood of Soa ????VIII. The Start ????IX. The Yellow Devil's Nest ????X. Leonard Makes a Plan ????XI. That Hero Otter ????XII. A Choice Lot ????XIII. A Midnight Marriage
????XVII. The Death of Mavoom
????XVIII. Soa Shows Her Teeth
????XIX. The End of the Journey
????XX. The Coming of Aca
????XXI. The Folly of Otter
????XXII. The Temple of Jal
????XXIII. How Juanna Conquered Nam
????XXIV. Olfan Tells of the Rubies
????XXV. The Sacrifice After the New Order
????XXVI. The Last of the Settlement Men
????XXVII. Father and Daughter
????XXVIII. Juanna Prevaricates
????XXIX. The Trial of the Gods
????XXX. Francisco's Expiation
????XXXI. The White Dawn
????XXXII. How Otter Fought the Water Dweller
????XXXIV. Nam's Last Argument
????XXXV. Be Noble or Be Base
????XXXVI. How Otter Came Back
????XXXVII. "I am Repaid, Queen"
????XXXVIII. The Triumph of Nam
????XXXIX. The Passing of the Bridge
????XL. Otter's Farewell
????Envoi—The End of the Adventure
????On several previous occasions it has happened to this writer of romance to be justified ofhis romances by facts of startling similarity, subsequently brought to light and to hisknowledge. In this tale occurs an instance of the sort, a "double-barrelled" instance indeed,that to him seems sufficiently curious to be worthy of telling. The People of the Mist of hisadventure story worship a sacred crocodile to which they make sacrifice, but in the originaldraft of the book this crocodile was a snake—monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens. A friend of
the writer, an African explorer of great experience who read that draft, suggested that thesnake was altogether too unprecedented and impossible. Accordingly, also at his suggestion, acrocodile was substituted. Scarcely was this change effected, however, when Mr. R. T. Coryndon,the slayer of almost the last white rhinoceros, published in the African Review of February 17,
1894, an account of a huge and terrific serpent said to exist in the Dichwi district ofMashonaland, that in many particulars resembled the snake of the story, whose prototype, by theway, really lives and is adored as a divinity by certain natives in the remote province of
Chiapas in Mexico. Still, the tale being in type, the alteration was suffered to stand. Butnow, if the Zoutpansberg Review may be believed, the author can take credit for his crocodilealso, since that paper states that in the course of the recent campaign against Malaboch, achief living in the north of the Transvaal, his fetish or god was captured, and that god, acrocodile fashioned in wood, to which offerings were made. Further, this journal says thatamong these people (as with the ancient Egyptians), the worship of the crocodile is arecognised cult. Also it congratulates the present writer on his intimate acquaintance with themore secret manifestations of African folklore and beast worship. He must disclaim thecompliment in this instance as, when engaged in inventing the 'People of the Mist,' he wastotally ignorant that any of the Bantu tribes reverenced either snake or crocodile divinities.But the coincidence is strange, and once more shows, if further examples of the fact areneeded, how impotent are the efforts of imagination to vie with hidden truths—even with thehidden truths of this small and trodden world.
????September 20, 1894.
I. The Sins of the Father are Visited on the Children
????The January afternoon was passing into night, the air was cold and still, so still that nota single twig of the naked beech-trees stirred; on the grass of the meadows lay a thin whiterime, half frost, half snow; the firs stood out blackly against a steel-hued sky, and over thetallest of them hung a single star. Past these bordering firs there ran a road, on which, inthis evening of the opening of our story, a young man stood irresolute, glancing now to theright and now to the left.
????To his right were two stately gates of iron fantastically wrought, supported by stonepillars on whose summits stood griffins of black marble embracing coats of arms, and bannersinscribed with the device Per ardua ad astra. Beyond these gates ran a broad carriage drive,
lined on either side by a double row of such oaks as England alone can produce under the mostfavourable circumstances of soil, aided by the nurturing hand of man and three or fourcenturies of time.
????At the head of this avenue, perhaps half a mile from the roadway, although it looked nearerbecause of the eminence upon which it was placed, stood a mansion of the class that inauctioneers' advertisements is usually described as "noble." Its general appearance wasElizabethan, for in those days some forgotten Outram had practically rebuilt it; but a largepart of its fabric was far more ancient than the Tudors, dating back, so said tradition, to thetime of King John. As we are not auctioneers, however, it will be unnecessary to specify itsmany beauties; indeed, at this date, some of the tribe had recently employed their gift oflanguage on these attractions with copious fulness and accuracy of detail, since Outram Hall,for the first time during six centuries, was, or had been, for sale.
????Suffice it to say that, like the oaks of its avenue, Outram was such a house as can only befound in England; no mere mass of bricks and mortar, but a thing that seemed to have acquired alife and individuality of its own. Or, if this saying be too far-fetched and poetical, at theleast this venerable home bore some stamp and trace of the lives and individualities of manygenerations of mankind, linked together in thought and feeling by the common bond of blood.
????The young man who stood in the roadway looked long and earnestly towards the mass ofbuildings that frowned upon him from the crest of the hill, and as he looked an expression cameinto his face which fell little, if at all, short of that of agony, the agony which the youngcan feel at the shock of an utter and irredeemable loss. The face that wore such evidence of
trouble was a handsome one enough, though just now all the charm of youth seemed to have fadedfrom it. It was dark and strong, nor was it difficult to guess that in after-life it mightbecome stern. The form also was shapely and athletic, though not very tall, giving promise ofmore than common strength, and the bearing that of a gentleman who had not brought himself upto the belief that ancient blood can cover modern deficiencies of mind and manner. Such was theoutward appearance of Leonard Outram as he was then, in his twenty-third year.
????While Leonard watched and hesitated on the roadway, unable, apparently, to make up his mindto pass those iron gates, and yet desirous of doing so, carts and carriages began to appearhurrying down the avenue towards him.
????"I suppose that the sale is over," he muttered to himself. "Well, like death, it is a goodthing to have done with."
????Then he turned to go; but hearing the crunch of wheels close at hand, stepped back into theshadow of the gateway pillar, fearing lest he should be recognised on the open road. A carriagecame up, and, just as it reached the gates, something being amiss with the harness, a footmandescended from the box to set it right. From where he stood Leonard could see its occupants,the wife and daughter of a neighbouring squire, and overhear their conversation. He knew themwell; indeed, the younger lady had been one of his favourite partners at the county balls.
????"How cheap the things went, Ida! Fancy buying that old oak sideboard for ten pounds, andwith all those Outram quarterings on it too! It is as good as an historical document, and I amsure that it must be worth at least fifty. I shall sell ours and put it into the dining-room. Ihave coveted that sideboard for years."
????The daughter sighed and answered with some asperity.
????"I am so sorry for the Outrams that I should not care about the sideboard if you had got itfor twopence. What an awful smash! Just think of the old place being bought by a Jew! Tom andLeonard are utterly ruined, they say, not a sixpence left. I declare I nearly cried when I sawthat man selling Leonard's guns."
????"Very sad indeed," answered the mother absently; "but if he is a Jew, what does it matter?He has a title, and they say that he is enormously rich. I expect there will be plenty going onat Outram soon. By the way, my dear Ida, I do wish you would cure yourself of the habit ofcalling young men by their Christian names—not that it matters about these two, for we shallnever see any more of them."
????"I am sure I hope that we shall," said Ida defiantly, "and when we do I shall call them bytheir Christian names as much as ever. You never objected to it before the smash, and I love
both of them, so there! Why did you bring me to that horrid sale? You know I did not want togo. I shall be wretched for a week, I——" and the carriage swept on out of hearing.
????Leonard emerged from the shadow of the gateway and crossed the road swiftly. On the furtherside of it he paused, and looking after the retreating carriage said aloud, "God bless you foryour kind heart, Ida Hatherley. Good luck go with you! And now for the other business."
????A hundred yards or so down the road, was a second gate of much less imposing appearancethan those which led to the Outram Hall. Leonard passed through it and presently found himselfat the door of a square red brick house, built with no other pretensions than to those ofcomfort. This was the Rectory, now tenanted by the Reverend and Honourable James Beach, to whomthe living had been presented many years before by Leonard's father, Mr. Beach's old collegefriend.
????Leonard rang the bell, and as its distant clamour fell upon his ears a new fear struck him.What sort of reception would he meet with in this house? he wondered. Hitherto his welcome hadalways been so cordial that until this moment he had never doubted of it, but now circumstanceswere changed. He was no longer in the position of second son to Sir Thomas Outram of OutramHall. He was a beggar, an outcast, a wanderer, the son of a fraudulent bankrupt and suicide.The careless words of the woman in the carriage had let a flood of light into his mind, and byit he saw many things which he had never seen before. Now he remembered a little motto that he
had often heard, but the full force of which he did not appreciate until to-day. "Friendsfollow fortune," was the wording of this motto. He remembered also another saying that hadfrequently been read to him in church and elsewhere, and the origin of which precluded alldoubt as to its truth:—
????"Unto every one that hath shall be given, but from him that hath not shall be taken awayeven that which he hath."
????Now, as it chanced, Leonard, beggared as he was, had still something left which could betaken away from him, and that something the richest fortune which Providence can give to anyman in his youth, the love of a woman whom he also loved. The Reverend and Honourable JamesBeach was blessed with a daughter, Jane by name, who had the reputation, not undeserved, ofbeing the most beautiful and sweetest-natured girl that the country-side could show. Now, beingdark and fair respectively and having lived in close association since childhood, Leonard andJane, as might be expected from the working of the laws of natural economy, had gravitatedtowards each other with increasing speed ever since they had come to understand thepossibilities of the institution of marriage. In the end thus mutual gravitation led to a shockand confusion of individualities which was not without its charm; or, to put the matter moreplainly, Leonard proposed to Jane and had been accepted with many blushes and some tears andkisses.
????It was a common little romance enough, but, like everything else with which youth and loveare concerned, it had its elements of beauty. Such affairs gain much from being the first inthe series. Who is there among us that does not adore his first love and his first poem? Andyet when we see them twenty years after!
????Presently the Rectory door was opened and Leonard entered. At this moment it occurred tohim that he did not quite know why he had come. To be altogether accurate, he knew why he hadcome well enough. It was to see Jane, and arrive at an understanding with her father. Perhapsit may be well to explain that his engagement to that young lady was of the suppressed order.Her parents had no wish to suppress it, indeed; for though Leonard was a younger son, it waswell known that he was destined to inherit his mother's fortune of fifty thousand pounds moreor less. Besides, Providence had decreed a delicate constitution to his elder and only brotherThomas. But Sir Thomas Outram, their father, was reputed to be an ambitious man who looked tosee his sons marry well, and this marriage would scarcely have been to Leonard's advantage fromthe family lawyer point of view.
????Therefore, when the matter came to the ears of Jane's parents, they determined to foregothe outward expression of their pride and delight in the captive whom they owed to the bow andspear of their daughter's loveliness, at any rate for a while, say until Leonard had taken hisdegree. Often and often in the after-years did they have occasion to bless themselves for theircaution. But not the less on this account was Leonard's position as the affianced lover oftheir daughter recognised among them; indeed, the matter was no secret from anybody, exceptperhaps from Sir Thomas himself. For his part, Leonard took no pains to conceal it even fromhim; but the father and son met rarely, and the estrangement between them was so complete, thatthe younger man saw no advantage in speaking of a matter thus near to his heart until thereappeared to be a practical object in so doing.
????The Rev. James Beach was a stout person of bland and prepossessing appearance. Never had helooked stouter, more prepossessing, or blander than on this particular evening when Leonard wasushered into his presence. He was standing before the fire in his drawing-room holding a hugeand ancient silver loving-cup in both hands, and in such a position as to give the observer theidea that he had just drained its entire contents. In reality, it may be explained, he wasemployed in searching for a hall-mark on the bottom of the goblet, discoursing the while to hiswife and children—for Jane had a brother—upon its value and beauty. The gleam of the silvercaught Leonard's eye as he entered the room, and he recognised the cup as one of the heirloomsof his own family.
????Leonard's sudden and unlooked-for advent brought various emotions into active play. Therewere four people gathered round that comfortable fire—the rector, his wife, his son, and last,but not least, Jane herself. Mr. Beach dropped the cup sufficiently to allow himself to stareat his visitor along its length, for all the world as though he were covering him with a silverblunderbuss. His wife, an active little woman, turned round as if she moved upon wires,exclaiming, "Good gracious, who'd have thought it?" while the son, a robust young man of aboutLeonard's own age and his college companion, said "Hullo! old fellow, well, I never expected tosee you here to-day!"—a remark which, however natural it may have been, scarcely tended to sethis friend at ease.
????Jane herself, a tall and beautiful girl with bright auburn hair, who was seated on afootstool nursing her knees before the fire, and paying very little heed to her father'slecture upon ancient plate, did none of these things. On the contrary, she sprang up with theutmost animation, her lips apart and her lovely face red with blushes, or the heat of the fire,and came towards him exclaiming, "Oh, Leonard, dear Leonard!"
????Mr. Beach turned the silver blunderbuss upon his daughter and fired a single, but mosteffective shot.
????"Jane!" he said in a voice in which fatherly admonition and friendly warning were happilyblended.
????Jane stopped in full career was though in obedience to some lesson which momentarily shehad forgotten. Then Mr. Beach, setting down the flagon, advanced upon Leonard with an amplepitying smile and outstretched hand.
????"How are you, my dear boy, how are you?" he said. "We did not expect—"
????"To see me here under the circumstances," put in Leonard bitterly. "Nor would you have doneso, but Tom and I understood that it was only to be a three days' sale."
????"Quite right, Leonard. As first advertised the sale was for three days, but the auctioneerfound that he could not get through in the time. The accumulations of such an ancient house asOutram Hall are necessarily vast," and he waved his hand with a large gesture.
????"Yes," said Leonard.
????"Hum!" went on Mr. Beach, after a pause which was beginning to grow awkward. "Doubtless youwill find it a matter for congratulation that on the whole things sold well. It is not alwaysthe case, not by any means, for such collections as those of Outram, however interesting andvaluable they may have been to the family itself, do not often fetch their worth at a countryauction. Yes, they sold decidedly well, thanks chiefly to the large purchases of the new ownerof the estate. This tankard, for instance, which I have bought—hem—as a slight memento ofyour family, cost me ten shillings an ounce."
????"Indeed!" answered Leonard coldly; "I always understood that it was worth fifty."
????Then came another pause, during which all who were present, except Mr. Beach and himself,rose one by one and quitted the room. Jane was the last to go, and Leonard noticed, as shepassed him, that there were tears in her eyes.
????"Jane," said her father in a meaning voice when her hand was already on the door, "you willbe careful to be dressed in time for dinner, will you not, love? You remember that young Mr.Cohen is coming, and I should like somebody to be down to receive him."
????Jane's only answer to this remark was to pass through the door and slam it behind her.Clearly the prospect of the advent of this guest was not agreeable to her.
????"Well, Leonard," went on Mr. Beach when they were alone, in a tone that was meant to besympathetic but which jarred horribly on his listener's ears, "this is a sad business, verysad. But why are you not sitting down?"
????"Because no one asked me to," said Leonard as he took a chair.
????"Hem!" continued Mr. Beach; "by the way I believe that Mr. Cohen is a friend of yours, ishe not?"
????"An acquaintance, not a friend," said Leonard.
????"Indeed, I thought that you were at the same college."
????"Yes, but I do not like him."
????"Prejudice, my dear boy, prejudice. A minor sin indeed, but one against which you muststruggle. But there, there, it is natural that you should not feel warmly about the man whowill one day own Outram. Ah! as I said, this is all very sad, but it must be a greatconsolation to you to remember that when everything is settled there will be enough, so I amtold, to pay your unhappy father's debts. And now, is there anything that I can do for you oryour brother?"
????Leonard reflected that whatever may have been his father's misdeeds, and they were many andblack, it should scarcely have lain in the mouth of the Rev. James Beach, who owed nearlyeverything he had in the world to his kindness, to allude to them. But he could not defend hisfather's memory, it was beyond defence, and just now he must fight for his own hand.
????"Yes, Mr. Beach," he said earnestly, "you can help me very much. You know the cruelposition in which my brother and I are placed through no fault of our own: our old home issold, our fortunes have gone utterly, and our honourable name is tarnished. At the presentmoment I have nothing left in the world except the sum of two hundred pounds which I had savedfor a purpose of my own out of my allowance. I have no profession and cannot even take mydegree, because I am unable to afford the expense of remaining at college."
????"Black, I must say, very black," murmured Mr. Beach, rubbing his chin. "But under thesecircumstances what can I do to help you? You must trust in Providence, my boy; it never failsthe deserving."
????"This," answered Leonard, nervously; "you can show your confidence in me by allowing myengagement to Jane to be proclaimed." Here Mr. Beach waved his hand once more as though torepel some invisible force.
????"One moment," continued Leonard. "I know that it seems a great deal to ask, but listen.Although everything looks so dark, I have reliance on myself. With the stimulus which myaffection for your daughter will give me, and knowing that in order to win her I must first putmyself in a position to support her as she should be supported, I am quite convinced that Ishall be able to surmount all difficulties by my own efforts."
????"Really, I cannot listen to such nonsense any longer," broke in Mr. Beach angrily."Leonard, this is nothing less than an impertinence. Of course any understanding that may haveexisted between you and Jane is quite at an end. Engagement! I heard of no engagement. I knewthat there was some boy and girl folly between you indeed, but for my part I never gave thematter another thought."
????"You seem to forget, sir," said Leonard, keeping his temper with difficulty, "that not sixmonths ago you and I had a long conversation on this very subject, and decided that nothingshould be said to my father of the matter until I had taken my degree."
????"I repeat that it is an impertinence," answered Mr. Beach, but with a careful avoidance ofthe direct issue. "What! You, who have nothing in the world except a name which you fatherhas—well—tarnished—to use your own word, you ask me for my dear daughter's hand? You are soselfish that you wish not only to ruin her chances in life, but also to drag her into thedepths of your poverty. Leonard, I should never have thought it of you!"
????Then at last Leonard broke out.
????"You do not speak the truth. I did not ask you for your daughter's hand. I asked you forthe promise of it when I should have shown myself worthy of her. But now there is an end ofthat. I will go as you bid me but before I go I will tell you the truth. You wish to use Jane'sbeauty to catch this Jew with. Of her happiness you think nothing, provided only you can securehis money. She is not a strong character, and it is quite possible that you will succeed inyour plot, but I tell you it will not prosper. You, who owe everything to our family, now whentrouble has overtaken us, turn upon me and rob me of the only good that was left to me. By
putting an end to a connection of which everybody knew, you stamp me still deeper into themire. So be it, but of this I am sure, that such conduct will meet with a due reward, and thata time will come when you will bitterly regret the way in which you have dealt with yourdaughter and treated me in my misfortunes. Good-bye."
????And Leonard turned and left the room and the Rectory.
II. The Swearing of the Oath
????Arthur Beach, Jane's brother, was standing in the hall waiting to speak to Leonard, but hepassed without a word, closing the hall door behind him. Outside snow was falling, though notfast enough to obscure the light of the moon which shone through the belt of firs.
????Leonard walked on down the drive till he neared the gate, when suddenly he heard themuffled sound of feet pursuing him through the snow. He turned with an exclamation, believingthat the footsteps were those 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, he found himself faceto face not with Arthur, but with Jane herself, who perhaps had never looked more beautifulthan she did at this moment in the snow and the moonlight. Indeed, whenever Leonard thought ofher in after-years, and that was often, there arose in his mind a vision of a tall and lovelygirl, her auburn hair slightly powdered over with the falling flakes, her breast heaving withemotion, and her wide grey eyes gazing piteously upon him.
????"Oh! Leonard," she said nervously, "why do you go without saying good-bye to me?"
????He looked at her awhile before he answered, for something in his heart told him that thiswas the last sight which he should win of his love for many a year, and therefore his eyesdwelt upon her as we gaze upon one whom the grave is about to hide from us for ever.
????At last he spoke, and his words were practical enough.
????"You should not have come out in those thin shoes through the snow, Jane. You will catchcold."
????"I wish I could," she answered defiantly, "I wish that I could catch such a cold as wouldkill me; then I should be out of my troubles. Let us go into the summer-house; they will neverthink of looking for me there."
????"How will you get there?" asked Leonard; "it is a hundred yards away, and the snow alwaysdrifts in that path."
????"Oh! never mind the snow," she said.
????But Leonard did mind it, and presently he hit upon a solution of the difficulty. Havingfirst glanced up the drive to see that nobody was coming, he bent forward and withoutexplanation or excuse put his arms around Jane, and lifting her as though she were a child, hebore her down the path which led to the summer-house. She was heavy, but, sooth to say, hecould have wished the journey longer. Presently they were there, and very gently he laid her onher feet again, kissing her upon the lips as he did so. Then he took off his overcoat andwrapped it round her shoulders.
????All this while Jane had not spoken. Indeed, the poor girl felt so happy and so safe in herlover's arms that it seemed to her as though she never wished to speak, or to do anything forherself again. It was Leonard who broke the silence.
????"You ask me why I left without saying good-bye to you, Jane. It was because your father hasdismissed me from the house and forbidden me to have any more to do with you."
????"Oh, why?" asked the girl, lifting her hands despairingly.