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The First Book of Ayesha

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The First Book of Ayesha
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): H. Rider Haggard
Date Published: 2009/07
Page Count: 536
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-721-9
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-722-6

All four classic novels of She—who must be obeyed—in two special volumes

Rider Haggard's fantastic tales out of Africa have few peers. His first novel of She is possibly one of the best known and has become one of the most popular novels ever. Yet She is just the first of four exciting adventures of mysticism, intrigue, love, war and power that feature the beautiful and immortal Ayesha. The first two novels collected in this special Leonaur volume, the first of a two book set of all four novels, are She and Ayesha, the Return of She. Both feature Cambridge professor Horace Holly and his ward Leo Vincey. The third novel, in the second volume, unites two of Haggard's most beloved characters—Allan Quatermain—the little, indestructible consummate ‘white man in Africa’—trader, explorer and big game hunter and of course Ayesha herself in what is essentially a prequel to She. The final novel in volume two is Wisdom's Daughter. Of course all four novels are, true to the Haggard tradition, roller-coaster rides of action and thrills a-plenty to please his many aficionados. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.

This second room was lighted and warmed like the first, moreover, heated water stood in basins of metal and on the beds were laid clean linen garments and dark-coloured hooded robes, lined with rich fur. Also upon a little table were ointments, bandages, and splints, a marvellous thing to see, for it told me that the very nature of my hurt had been divined. But I asked no more questions; I was too weary; moreover, I knew that it would be useless. <br>
Now the priest Oros helped me to remove my tattered robe, and, undoing the rough bandages upon my arm, washed it gently with warm water, in which he mixed some spirit, and examined it with the skill of a trained doctor.<br>
“The fangs rent deep,” he said, “and the small bone is broken, but you will take no harm, save for the scars which must remain.” Then, having treated the wounds with ointment, he wrapped the limb with such a delicate touch that it scarcely pained me, saying that by the morrow the swelling would have gone down and he would set the bone. This indeed happened.<br>
After it was done he helped me to wash and to clothe myself in the clean garments, and put a sling about my neck to serve as a rest for my arm. Meanwhile Leo had also dressed himself, so that we left the chamber together very different men to the foul, blood-stained wanderers who had entered there. In the outer room we found food prepared for us, of which we ate with a thankful heart and without speaking. Then, blind with weariness, we returned to the other chamber and, having removed our outer garments, flung ourselves upon the beds and were soon plunged in sleep.<br>
At some time in the night I awoke suddenly, at what hour I do not know, as certain people wake, I among them, when their room is entered, even without the slightest noise. Before I opened my eyes I felt that some one was with us in the place. Nor was I mistaken. A little lamp still burned in the chamber, a mere wick floating in oil, and by its light I saw a dim, ghost-like form standing near the door. Indeed I thought almost that it was a ghost, till presently I remembered, and knew it for our corpse-like guide, who appeared to be looking intently at the bed on which Leo lay, or so I thought, for the head was bent in that direction.<br>
At first she was quite still, then she moaned aloud, a low and terrible moan, which seemed to well from the very heart.<br>
So the thing was not dumb, as I had believed. Evidently it could suffer, and express its suffering in a human fashion. Look! it was wringing its padded hands as in an excess of woe. Now it would seem that Leo began to feel its influence also, for he stirred and spoke in his sleep, so low at first that I could only distinguish the tongue he used, which was Arabic. Presently I caught a few words.<br>
“Ayesha,” he said, “Ayesha!”<br>
The figure glided towards him and stopped. He sat up in the bed still fast asleep, for his eyes were shut. He stretched out his arms, as though seeking one whom he would embrace, and spoke again in a low and passionate voice—”Ayesha, through life and death I have sought thee long. Come to me, my goddess, my desired.”<br>
The figure glided yet nearer, and I could see that it was trembling, and now its arms were extended also.<br>
At the bedside she halted, and Leo laid himself down again. Now the coverings had fallen back, exposing his breast, where lay the leather satchel he always wore, that which contained the lock of Ayesha’s hair. He was fast asleep, and the figure seemed to fix its eyes upon this satchel. Presently it did more, for, with surprising deftness those white-wrapped fingers opened its clasp, yes, and drew out the long tress of shining hair. Long and earnestly she gazed at it, then gently replaced the relic, closed the satchel and for a little while seemed to weep. While she stood thus the dreaming Leo once more stretched out his arms and spoke, saying, in the same passion-laden voice—”Come to me, my darling, my beautiful, my beautiful!”<br>
At those words, with a little muffled scream, like that of a scared night-bird, the figure turned and flitted through the doorway.<br>
When I was quite certain that she had gone, I gasped aloud.<br>
What might this mean, I wondered, in a very agony of bewilderment. This could certainly be no dream: it was real, for I was wide awake. Indeed, what did it all mean? Who was the ghastly, mummy-like thing which had guided us unharmed through such terrible dangers; the Messenger that all men feared, who could strike down a brawny savage with a motion of its hand? Why did it creep into the place thus at dead of night, like a spirit revisiting one beloved? Why did its presence cause me to awake and Leo to dream? Why did it draw out the tress; indeed, how knew it that this tress was hidden there? And why—oh! why, at those tender and passionate words did it flit away at last like some scared bat?<br>
The priest Oros had called our guide Minister, and Sword, that is, one who carries out decrees. But what if they were its own decrees? What if this thing should be she whom we sought, Ayesha herself? Why should I tremble at the thought, seeing that if so, our quest was ended, we had achieved? Oh! it must be because about this being there was something terrible, something un-human and appalling. If Ayesha lived within those mummy-cloths, then it was a different Ayesha whom we had known and worshipped. Well could I remember the white-draped form of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, and how, long before she revealed her glorious face to us, we guessed the beauty and the majesty hidden beneath that veil by which her radiant life and loveliness incarnate could not be disguised.<br>
But what of this creature? I would not pursue the thought. I was mistaken. Doubtless she was what the priest Oros had said—some half-supernatural being to whom certain powers were given, and, doubtless, she had come to spy on us in our rest that she might make report to the giver of those powers.<br>
Comforting myself thus I fell asleep again, for fatigue overcame even such doubts and fears. In the morning, when they were naturally less vivid, I made up my mind that, for various reasons, it would be wisest to say nothing of what I had seen to Leo. Nor, indeed, did I do so until some days had gone by.