The final book of Haggard’s collected fantastic stories
H. Rider Haggard's ability to give his audience a good tale well told is not in question. He was one of the most popular authors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and some of his novels are well known—at least by title—to almost everyone. His story of Ayesha—'she who must be obeyed'— has been filmed and in its day was one of the best selling novels ever. King Solomon's Mines, introduced the public to the little, wiry, white hunter Allan Quatermain. It too became instantly popular and the character went on to feature in a host of different adventures on the dark continent as well as on the silver screen several times. Leonaur have gathered together several Haggard collections for modern readers to enjoy. There is, of course, the two volume Ayesha quartet, but also the Quatermain series, the African Adventures series, the Historical Adventure series and the series of adventures set in the Ancient World. Irrespective of his central theme Haggard was never one to shy away from elements of the supernatural or fantastical, witches, ghosts, familiar spirits, god gorillas and the like appear unquestioned in even the most realistic of his stories. So it is less than surprising that Haggard also produced a body of work that positions itself uncompromisingly in the realms of the incredible. This special four volume collection from Leonaur gathers together those stories—each book featuring one novel and one or more shorter works—in a satisfying four volume set for his many aficionados to collect and relish. Available in soft cover and hard back with dust jacket.
The final volume of this special collection, includes Love Eternal, a romance of two children who have an affinity with each other that goes far beyond earthly love—they are true soul mates able to commune in spirit. Later their parents oppose their marriage and they must live apart but always connected until every impediment to their union has vanished and they can be together in the physical world. The shorter work that accompanies it here is, Barbara Who Came Back, a fabulous and inspirational tale of love that survives the grave and reincarnation in which the author provides an interesting and reassuring vision of what he considers to be the afterlife.
“Let us sit round the table and talk,” said Madame Riennes.<br>
Thereon the whole party moved into the recess where was the flower-pot that has been mentioned, which Miss Ogilvy took away.<br>
They seated themselves round the little table upon which it had stood. Godfrey, lingering behind, found, whether by design or accident, that the only place left for him was the arm-chair which he hesitated to occupy.<br>
“Be seated, young monsieur,” said the formidable madame in bell-like tones, whereon he collapsed into the chair. “Sister Helen,” she went on, “draw the curtain, it is more private so; yes, and the blind that there may be no unholy glare.”<br>
Miss Ogilvy, who seemed to be entirely under madame’s thumb, obeyed. Now to all intents and purposes they were in a tiny, shadowed room cut off from the main apartment.<br>
“Take that talisman from your neck and give it to young Monsieur Knight,” commanded madame.<br>
“But I gave it to her, and do not want it back,” ventured Godfrey, who was growing alarmed.<br>
“Do what I say,” she said sternly, and he found himself holding the relic.<br>
“Now, young monsieur, look me in the eyes a little and listen. I request of you that holding that black, engraved stone in your hand, you will be so good as to throw your soul, do you understand, your soul, back, back, back and tell us where it come from, who have it, what part it play in their life, and everything about it.”<br>
“How am I to know?” asked Godfrey, with indignation.<br>
Then suddenly everything before him faded, and he saw himself standing in a desert by a lump of black rock, at which a brown man clad only in a waist cloth and a kind of peaked straw hat, was striking with an instrument that seemed to be half chisel and half hammer, fashioned apparently from bronze, or perhaps of greenish-coloured flint. Presently the brown man, who had a squint in one eye and a hurt toe that was bound round with something, picked up a piece of the black rock that he had knocked off, and surveyed it with evident satisfaction. Then the scene vanished.<br>
Godfrey told it with interest to the audience who were apparently also interested.
“The finding of the stone,” said madame. “Continue, young monsieur.”<br>
Another vision rose before Godfrey’s mind. He beheld a low room having a kind of veranda, roofed with reeds, and beyond it a little courtyard enclosed by a wall of grey-coloured mud bricks, out of some of which stuck pieces of straw. This courtyard opened onto a narrow street where many oddly-clothed people walked up and down, some of whom wore peaked caps. A little man, old and grey, sat with the fragment of black rock on a low table before him, which Godfrey knew to be the same stone that he had already seen. By him lay graving tools, and he was engaged in polishing the stone, now covered with figures and writing, by help of a stick, a piece of rough cloth and oil. A young man with a curly beard walked into the little courtyard, and to him the old fellow delivered the engraved stone with obeisances, receiving payment in some curious currency.<br>
Then followed picture upon picture in all of which the talisman appeared in the hands of sundry of its owners. Some of these pictures had to do with love, some with religious ceremonies, and some with war. One, too, with its sale, perhaps in a time of siege or scarcity, for a small loaf of black-looking bread, by an aged woman who wept at parting with it.<br>
After this he saw an Arab-looking man finding the stone amongst the crumbling remains of a brick wall that showed signs of having been burnt, which wall he was knocking down with a pick-axe to allow water to flow down an irrigation channel on his garden. Presently a person who wore a turban and was girt about with a large scimitar, rode by, and to him the man showed, and finally presented the stone, which the Saracen placed in the folds of his turban.<br>
The next scene was of this man engaged in battle with a knight clad in mail. The battle was a very fine one, which Godfrey described with much gusto. It ended in the knight killing the Eastern man and hacking off his head with a sword. This violent proceeding disarranged the turban out of which fell the black stone. The knight picked it up and hid it about him. Next Godfrey saw this same knight, grown into an old man and being borne on a bier to burial, clad in the same armour that he had worn in the battle. Upon his breast hung the black stone which had now a hole bored through the top of it.<br>
Lastly there came a picture of the old sexton finding the talisman among the bones of the knight, and giving it to himself, Godfrey, then a small boy, after which everything passed away.<br>
“I guess that either our young friend here has got the vision, or that he will make a first-class novelist,” said Colonel Josiah Smith. “Any way, if you care to part with that talisman, Miss Ogilvy, I will be glad to give you five hundred dollars for it on the chance of his integrity.”<br>
She smiled and shook her head, stretching out her hand to recover the Gnostic charm.
“Be silent, Brother Josiah Smith,” exclaimed Madame Riennes, angrily. “If this were imposture, should I not have discovered it? It is good vision—psychometry is the right term—though of a humbler order such as might be expected from a beginner. Still, there is hope, there is hope. Let us see, now. Young gentleman, be so good as to look me in the eye.”<br>
Much against his will Godfrey found himself bound to obey, and looked her “in the eye.” A few moments later he felt dizzy, and after that he remembered no more. <br>