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.
That night Noot my master came to bid farewell to me.<br>
"I go north as I have been commanded—as to how the command came, let that be—hoping thereby to preserve the temples of our worship and those who serve in them. I know not if I shall return, or when, and therefore, Daughter of my spirit, it grieves me to part from you in these troublous times. Yet the command said that you must not accompany me but bide here. For your comfort, learn two things: first, that no harm shall come to you, as I have told you before; and secondly, though that hour be far away, even in the flesh we shall meet again. Wait then till my word comes to you."<br>
I bowed my head in obedience and asked whether he was unattended.<br>
"Nay, Daughter," he answered. "I take with me certain of our fellowship, and among them that Greek Kallikrates who has asked leave to accompany me. Being a man of war, as you have seen, he may perchance prove of service upon such a mission. How he learned that I was going I cannot say," he added, looking at me curiously.<br>
"I told him. Ask no more, Master."<br>
"There is little need, I think," he answered, smiling. "It may please you to learn," he added bitterly, "that the traitor who was Pharaoh, flies up Nile to-morrow ere the dawn. Already they lade his ship with the chests of Egypt's treasure, many of them, that should have gone to pay his soldiers and strengthen his allies."<br>
"May the counting of them comfort him in his honourable exile among the Ethiopians! Yet, my Master, I think that he will need to count quickly, unless it pleased the gods to send a false vision to me when I prophesied in the palace yonder, ere this shameless Nectanebes gave the Daughter of Isis to Tenes the Sidonian."<br>
"If so, Ayesha, the gods sent a false vision to me also. How will he face them, I wonder, with the blood of Egypt on his hands, and with what voice will he tell them of their desecrated shrines?"<br>
"I know not, Master, yet it was written that because of her apostasies and sins Egypt must fall. Can the gods, then, be wroth with their own instrument?"
Noot pondered awhile, shaking his head, then answered,<br>
"Go ask that question of the Sphinx who sits yonder in the sand by the pyramids of the ancient kings brooding, as the legend says, over the secrets of earth and heaven. Or," he added slowly, "when your own days are done, Ayesha, ask it of your soul. Perchance then some god will make clear the riddle of the world below, but here on earth it cannot be answered, since he who could read it would know all things and be himself a god. Sin must come, and to sin, sinners are necessary. But to what sin is necessary, I do not know, unless it be that from it good is born at last. At least the sinner can plead that he is but an arrow on the bow of Destiny and that the arrow must fly where the shooter aims, even though it drinks innocent blood, widows women, and makes children fatherless."<br>
"Mayhap, my Master, it will be answered to this arrow that it fashioned itself to deal out death; that it grew the wood and forged the barb and bound upon its shaft the feathers of desire; which wood, had it chosen otherwise, here or elsewhere might have flourished—a tree bearing fruits—or as seasoned wood, shaped itself to be a staff to lean upon or a rod of justice in the hands of kings."<br>
"You are wise, Ayesha, nor have I instructed you in vain," he replied with a gentle smile. "Yet I repeat, when for the last time you watch the sun sink and your soul prepares to follow it over the edge of the world, then again propound to it this riddle and hear the answer of that invisible Sphinx which broods in the heaven above, on the earth below, and in the breast of every child it bears."<br>
Thus he spoke and waved his hand, making an end of that debate. Nor have I ever forgotten it, or his words, and now when sometimes I feel or hope soon I, even I, the half-immortal, may see the sun sink for the last time, once more, as Noot commanded, I ask this riddle of the Sphinx that broods within my instructed spirit, and wait its answer. For alas and alas! how am I better than Nectanebes? He betrayed the gods. Have I not betrayed the gods who were nearer to me than ever they came to his coarse and gluttonous soul? He shed blood to satisfy his rage and lust. Have I not shed blood and shall I not perchance shed more of it before all is done, when my unconquerable appetites are on me and there is a dear prize that I would win? He fled with the treasures of Egypt to waste them in the desert sand. Have I not fled with the treasures that were given me—with the jewelled crowns of my wisdom, with the golden talents of my heaped-up learning, with the alabaster vessel of my beauty, with the perfumes of my power and my eloquence—that drilled, ordered, and massed together, and added to the greatest gift of all, my length of undying days, might have reformed the world and led it into peace?<br>
Have I, Ayesha, not fled with all these countless splendours clasped upon my breast, and buried them in the wilderness, as did Nectanebes with Egypt's wealth, before the barbarians slew him? Have I not done these things because of a great desire and because, robbed of that desire, the world I should have guided was gall to my tongue and gravel to my teeth? Yet was I to blame? Was not that blind man I loved to blame who could not see with his darkened, fleshy eyes the glory that lay within his grasp and thus stirred my soul to madness? Was not the woman to blame also who darkened those eyes of his by arts the evil gods had given her? <br>
Oh! I know not. Perchance they too can put up a tale before the Judgment Seat which I shall find it hard to answer, for they too are as they were made, or as they made themselves, shaping their own arrows from the wood of circumstance that grew I know not where. And now my desire has drawn near to me again; it gleams, a glittering fruit, upon the Tree of Life, and I stretch out my hand to pluck it. Yes, I stand on tiptoe and almost reach it with my finger-tips. Yet what if it prove a corruption? What if it crumble into dust, rotted by the great sun of my spirit, withered at the fingering of my undying hand?