The second of a special Leonaur four volume collection of 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.
In volume two the first story is the novel, The Heart of the World. Somewhere, hidden and lost in the jungles of Central America is the Golden City occupied by a people separated from the modern world. Our heroes brave dangers and intrigues to find what remains of the Empire of the Aztecs. The second story, The Mahatma and the Hare, takes place on a spiritual plane in which the principal character understands and empathises with the lives, sufferings and struggles of the animal kingdom.
It was free gold, six or seven ounces of it, almost pure, and for the most part in small nuggets, that once were contained in a bag which had long since rotted away.<br>
Doubtless, after the mine was closed, some Aztec, who knew its secret, had made a practice of working there for his own benefit, till one day, as he was coming out, the rock fell upon him and crushed him, leaving his spirit to haunt the place for ever.<br>
“There is no doubt about this mine being rich,” whispered the señor; “but all the same I think that we had better get out of it. I hear odd noises and rumblings which frighten me. Come, Ignatio,” and he turned to lead the way towards the opening.<br>
Two paces farther I saw him strike his ankle against a piece of rock that stood up some six or eight inches from the floor-bed of the tunnel, and the pain of the blow was so sharp that, forgetting where he was, he called out loudly. The next instant there was a curious sound above me as of something being torn, and, lo! I lay upon my face on the rock, and upon me rested a huge mass of stone.
I say that it rested upon me, but this is not altogether true, for, had it been so, that stone would have killed me at once, as a beetle is killed beneath the foot of a man, instead of taking more than two-and-twenty years to do it. The greater part of its weight was borne by the piece of rock against which the señor had struck his leg, a point of the fallen boulder only pressing into my back and grinding me against the ground. Now we were in darkness, for the señor had been knocked down also, and his candle extinguished, and, in the midst of my tortures, it came into my mind that he must be dead.<br>
Presently, however, I heard his voice, saying, “Ignatio; do you live, Ignatio?”<br>
Now I thought for a moment. Even in my pain I remembered that more of the roof would surely give ere long, and that if my friend stayed here he must die with me. Nothing could save me, I was doomed to a slow death beneath the stone; and yet if I told him this I knew that he would not go. Therefore I answered as strongly as I could:<br>
“Fly, señor, I am safe, and do but stay to light a candle. I will follow you.”<br>
“You are lying to me,” he answered; “your voice comes from the level of the floor.” And as he spoke I heard the scratching sound of a match.<br>
So soon as he had found his candle and lit it, he knelt down and looked at me. Then he examined the roof above, and, following his glance with difficulty, I saw that next to the hole whence the boulder had fallen, hung a huge block of stone, that, surrounded by great cracks from which water dropped, trembled like a leaf whenever he moved or spoke.<br>
“For the love of God, fly,” I whispered. “In a few hours it will be over with me, and you cannot help me. I am a dead man, do not stop here to share my fate.”<br>
For a moment he seemed to hesitate, then his courage came back to him, and he answered hoarsely:<br>
“We entered this place together, friend, and we will go out together, or not at all. You must be fixed by the rock and not crushed, or you would not speak of living for hours. Let me look,” and he lay upon his breast and examined the fallen rock by the light of the candle. “Thank God! there is hope,” he said at last, “the boulder rests on the ground and upon the stone against which I struck my leg, for only one point of it is fixed in your back. Do you think that anything is broken, Ignatio?”<br>
“I cannot say, señor, my pain is great, and I am being slowly crushed to death; but I believe that as yet my bones are whole. Fly, I beg of you.”<br>
“I will not,” he answered sullenly, “I am going to roll this rock off you.”<br>
Then, lifting with all his strength, he strove to move the stone, but without avail, for it was beyond the power of mortal man to stir it, and all the while the black mass trembled above his head.
“I must go for help,” he said, presently.<br>
“Yes, yes, señor,” I answered, “go for help;” for I knew well that before he could return with any, more of the roof would have fallen, shutting me in to perish by inches, or perhaps crushing the life out of me in mercy. Then I remembered, and added:<br>
“Stay a moment before you go; you are noble, I will give you something. Feel here round my neck, there is a little chain—now, draw it over my head—so. You see a token hangs to it; if ever you are in trouble with the Indians, take their chief man apart and show him this, and he will die for you if need be.<br>
“Englishman, by this gift I have made you heir to the empire of the Aztecs in the heart of every Indian, and the master of the great brotherhood of Mexico. Molas, the messenger, will tell you all and bring you to those who can initiate you. Bid him lead you whither he would have led me. Farewell, and God go with you. Tell the Indians how I died, that they may not think that you have murdered me.”<br>
To these words of mine the señor made no answer, but thrust the token into his pocket without looking at it, like one who dreams. Then, taking the candle with him, he crept forward down the tunnel and vanished, and my heart sank as I saw him go, leaving me to my dreadful fate without a word of farewell. <br>