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Historical Adventures: 2

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Historical Adventures: 2
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Author(s): H. Rider Haggard
Date Published: 2009/12
Page Count: 468
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-995-4
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-996-1

Two more adventures from the pages of history and pen of a great writer

There are few who have heard of H. Rider Haggard's novels who do not know his principal character—Allan Quatermain—the archetypal white man in Africa. Here was a hero who would take on a Zulu Impi, a charging rhinoceros, a giant gorilla God, a lost tribe, slavers, a magical eternal queen, malign spirits and still come back for more—bringing a host of readers with him. In short, Haggard knew what it took to write a good adventure which is why some of his books have been among the most popular in modern times. Haggard was a prolific author: aside from the Quatermain stories, he produced a sequence of novels concerning the ancient world, four featuring his other great character, Ayesha—'She who must be obeyed’—and a collection of adventure novels taking Africa as their stage but without the presence of Quatermain. All are excellent. In Haggard’s lifetime his public eagerly awaited his next book, but today, while many are aware of his reputation, that knowledge often applies to but a small proportion of the reading enjoyment his books have to offer. Fortunately Leonaur now publish most of these works in matching sets at great value by combining two or more novels in each volume. Now Leonaur is pleased to offer Haggard's historical adventure series. Predictably Haggard's inventive pen was able to create several more lead characters of the stamp of Quatermain and they populate many of the ages of history with gripping adventures set against momentous events in many lands.
In this, the second volume of Leonaur's collection of Haggard’s historical adventures—the third novel is The Virgin and the Sun. To the pleasure of his many aficionados Haggard rarely drew back from combining fact with fantastical and this classic tale concerns an imagined time long before the Conquistadors despoiled the mighty empire of the Incas of Peru. But was this the first time a European had walked among them? Apparently not! The second novel, and fourth in the series, is Fair Margaret. The action of this high adventure takes place in the England of Henry VII and the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella between 1491 and 1501. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.

Laying his finger on his lips he shut the door softly, then said in a low voice:<br>
“Master, there is a man up yonder with the lady.”<br>
“What man?” I asked.<br>
“That same lord, Master, who came here with her once before to buy jewels and borrow gold. Hearken. The feast being finished the guests went away at fall of night, but the wife-lady withdrew herself into the chamber that is called sun-room (the solar), that up the stairs, which looks out on the street. About one hour gone there came a knock at the door. I who was watching, opened, thinking it was you returned, and there stood that lord. He spoke to me, saying:<br>
“‘Moor-man, I know that your master is from home, but that the lady is here. I would speak with her.’<br>
“Now I would have turned him away, but at that moment the lady herself, who it seemed was watching, came down the stairs, looking very white, and said:<br>
“‘Kari, let the lord come in. I have matters of your master’s business about which I must talk with him.’ So, Master, knowing that you had lent money to this lord, I obeyed, though I liked it not, and having fetched the sword which I thought perchance might be needed, I waited.”<br>
This was the substance of what he said, though his talk was more broken since he never learned to speak English well and helped it out with words of his own tongue, of which, as I have told, he had taught me something.<br>
“I do not understand,” I exclaimed, when he had finished. “Doubtless it is little or nothing. Yet give me the sword, for who knows? and come with me.”<br>
Kari obeyed, and as I went up the stairs I buckled Wave-Flame about me. Also Kari brought two candles of Italian wax lighted upon their stands. Coming to the door of the solar I tried to open it, but it was bolted.<br>
“God’s truth!” I said, “this is strange,” and hammered on the panel with my fist.<br>
Presently it opened, but before entering it, for I feared some trick, I stood without and looked in. The room was lit by a hanging lamp and a fire burned brightly on the hearth, for the night was cold. In an oak chair by the fire and staring into it sat Blanche still as any statue. She glanced round and saw me in the light of the candles that Kari held, and again stared into the fire. Half-way between her and the door stood Deleroy, dressed as ever in fine clothes, though I noted that his cape was off and hung over a stool near the fire as though to dry. I noted also that he wore a sword and a dagger. I entered the room, followed by Kari, shut the door behind me and shot the bolt. Then I spoke, asking:<br>
“Why are you here with my wife, Lord Deleroy?”<br>
“It is strange, Master merchant,” he answered, “but I was about to put much the same question to you: namely, why is my wife in your house?”<br>
Now, while I reeled beneath these words, without turning her head, Blanche by the fire said:<br>
“He lies, Hubert. I am not his wife.”<br>
“Why are you here, my Lord Deleroy?” I repeated. <br>
“Well, if you would know, Master merchant, I bring a paper for you, or rather a copy of it, for the writ itself will be served on you to-morrow by the King’s officers. It commits you to the Tower under the royal seal for trading with the King’s enemies, a treason that can be proved against you, of which as you know, or will shortly learn, the punishment is death,” and as he spoke he threw a writing down upon a side table.<br>
“I see the plot,” I answered coldly. “The King’s unworthy favourite, forger and thief, uses the King’s authority to try to bring the King’s honest subject to bonds and death by a false accusation. It is a common trick in these days. But let that be. For the third time I ask you—why are you here with my new-wed wife and at this hour of the night?”<br>
“So courteous a question demands a courteous answer, Master merchant, but to give it I must trouble you to listen to a tale.”<br>
“Then let it be like my patience, brief,” I replied.<br>
“It shall,” he said with a mocking bow.<br>
Then very clearly and quietly he set out a dreadful story, giving dates and circumstances. Let that story be. The substance of it was that he had married Blanche soon after she reached womanhood and that she had borne him a child which died.<br>
“Blanche,” I said when he had done, “you have heard. Is this true?”<br>
“Much of it is true,” she answered in that strange, cold voice, still staring at the fire. “Only the marriage was a false one by which I was deceived. He who celebrated it was a companion of the Lord Deleroy tricked out as a priest.”<br>
“Do not let us wrangle of this matter,” said Deleroy. “A man who mixes with the world like yourself, Master merchant, will know that women in a trap rarely lack excuses. Still if it be admitted that this marriage did not fulfil all formalities, then so much the better for Blanche and myself. If she be your lawful wife and not mine, you, I learn, have signed a writing in her favour under which she will inherit your great wealth. That indenture I think you can find no opportunity to dispute, and if you do I have a promise that the property of a certain traitor shall pass to me, the revealer of his treachery. Let it console you in your last moments, Master merchant, to remember that the lady whom you have honoured with your fancy will pass her days in wealth and comfort in the company of him whom she has honoured with her love.”<br>
“Draw!” I said briefly as I unsheathed my sword.<br>
“Why should I fight with a base, trading usurer?” he asked, still mocking me, though I thought that there was doubt in his voice.<br>
“Answer your own question, thief. Fight if you will, or die without fighting if you will not. For know that until I am dead you do not leave this room living.”<br>
“Until I dead too, O Lord,” broke in Kari in his gentle voice, bowing in his courteous foreign fashion.<br>
As he did so with a sudden motion Kari shook the cloak back from his body and for the first time I saw that thrust through his leathern belt was a long weapon, half sword and half dagger, also that its sharpened steel was bare.<br>
“Oh!” exclaimed Deleroy, “now I understand that I am trapped and that when you told me, Blanche, that this man would not return to-night and that therefore we were safe together, you lied. Well, my Lady Blanche, you shall pay for this trick later.”<br>
Whilst he spoke thus, slowly, as though to gain time, he was looking about him, and as the last word left his lips, knowing that the door was locked, he dashed for the window, hoping, I suppose, to leap through the casement, or if that failed, to shout for help. But Kari, who had set the candles he bore on a side table, that where the writing lay, read his mind. With a movement more swift than that of a polecat leaping on its prey, the swiftest indeed that ever I saw, he sprang between him and the casement, so that Deleroy scarce escaped pinning himself upon the steel that he held in his long, outstretched arm. Indeed, I think it pricked his throat, for he checked himself with an oath and drew his sword, a double-edged weapon with a sharp point, as long as mine perhaps, but not so heavy.<br>
“I see that I must finish the pair of you. Perchance, Blanche, you will protect my back as a loving wife should do, until this lout is done with,” he said, swaggering to the last.<br>
“Kari,” I commanded, “hold the candles aloft that the light may be good, and leave this man to me.”
Kari bowed and took the copper taper stands, one in either hand, and held them aloft. But first he placed his long dagger, not back in his belt, but between his teeth with the handle towards his right hand. Even then in some strange fashion I noted how terrible looked this grim dark man holding the candles high with the knife gripped between his white teeth.<br>
Deleroy and I faced each other in the open space between the fire and the door. Blanche turned round upon her stool and watched, uttering no sound. But I laughed aloud for of the end I had no doubt. Had there been ten Deleroys I would have slain them all. Still presently I found there was cause to doubt, for when, parrying his first thrust, I drove at him with all my strength, instead of piercing him through and through the ancient sword, Wave-Flame, bent in my hand like a bow as it is strung, telling me that beneath his Joseph’s coat of silk Deleroy wore a shirt of mail.
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