“Eric Brighteyes” — Dedicated to the Empress Frederick — Correspondence with her — Lang’s letters about Eric — Letters from R. L. S. — Poem by him — “Beatrice” — Marie Corelli — Lady Florence Dixie — Cordy Jeaffreson again — Criticism of “Beatrice” — “Nada the Lily” — “Epic of a dying people” — Last letters from Sir Theophilus Shepstone — Dedication of “Nada” to him — Vale, Sompseu, Vale — Savile Club — Sir Ian Hamilton — His experiences at Majuba — Rudyard Kipling — Sir Henry Thompson — Michael Fairless at Bungay — Sir E. W. Budge — His anecdotes.
I began to write “Eric Brighteyes,” the saga which was the result of my visit to Iceland, on August 29, 1888, as the manuscript shows, and I finished it on Christmas Day, 1888. It was dedicated to the late Empress Frederick, under the circumstances which are shown in the following correspondence.
My brother William wrote to me from the British embassy at Athens, where I think he was First Secretary at the time, on October 30, 1889:
It may interest you to hear that the Empress Frederick told me the other night that the last pleasure that her husband had on earth was reading your books, which he continued to do through his last days, and that he used to express the hope that he might live to make your acquaintance. I replied that I knew the pleasure that it would give you to know you had soothed the dying moments of such a man, whereupon she begged me to write and tell you. She was very much affected in speaking of this and of her husband, and I had subsequently a very interesting conversation with her about him and the rest of her family. . . . You will be glad to hear that the Prince of Wales and his family read “Cleopatra” on their way out here, and think it your best book.
On December 3, 1889, I wrote to the Empress as follows:
Madam, — My brother has written to me from Athens, saying that your Majesty is disposed to honour me by accepting the dedication of my romance, “Eric Brighteyes.”
In a letter to him — which I believe your Majesty has seen — I have set out the reasons which caused me to make this offer. Therefore I will not trouble your Majesty by repeating them any further than to say how deeply honoured I shall be should you finally decide to accept my dedication.
I now enclose for your Majesty’s consideration that which I have written to this end. Should I be so fortunate as to win approval for my draft dedication, would it be too much to ask that one of the enclosed copies may be returned to me signed by your Majesty’s hand, or that a written approval may be conveyed to me in some other way? I ask this in order to protect myself from any possible future charge of having presumed to write what I have written without full permission.
Next comes a letter from the Empress to my brother William.
Naples, Grand Hotel: December 13, 1889.
The Empress Frederick has received a few days ago a letter from Mr. Haggard’s brother on the subject of the dedication of his romance, “Eric Brighteyes.”
The Empress will have the greatest pleasure in accepting the dedication, and begs Mr. Haggard to tell his brother so, and also to convey her grateful thanks to him in her name, for his letter and for the drafts of his dedication, to which the Empress would suggest a small alteration, which has been inserted in one copy.
It is indeed true that the Emperor Frederick while at San Remo — during those months of anxiety, of alternate hopes and fears, which he bore with a fortitude, patience and gentleness never to be forgotten — found great pleasure in reading Mr. Rider Haggard’s books. He as well as the Empress especially admired “Jess,” of which she read out a great part to him aloud. How pleasant were the hours so spent — and how bitter it is to look back on the last happiness of days never to return — can easily be imagined.
Mr. Rider Haggard says in his letter that he leaves for Greece on the 13th: so the Empress sends this on to Athens. The Empress hopes the slight change she suggests in one passage of the dedication — which she thinks charming — will not annoy the author, and she is anxiously looking forward to reading the book itself, which will now have a special interest for her! The Empress regrets exceedingly that Mr. Haggard’s brother was not at Athens during her stay there, and that she thus lost the pleasure of making his acquaintance, but hopes she may be more fortunate another time.
On January 19, 1890, the Empress sent me a registered holograph letter from Berlin, which is now bound up with the manuscript of the book. it runs as follows:
The Empress Frederick thanks Mr. Rider Haggard for his letter of the 27th December, and greatly regrets the long delay in answering.
Mr. R. Haggard no doubt has heard of the sad circumstances which caused so hurried a departure from Rome. Since arriving here many unavoidable duties have completely taken up the Empress’s time.
Mr. R. Haggard will understand this all the better as he and his family have so recently sustained a sad loss of the same kind — for which the Empress takes this opportunity of offering her sincere condolences. The Empress encloses the printed draft of the dedication with a suggestion for a slight alteration; and begs Mr. R. Haggard to accept her best thanks for the copy of “Jess” and the collection of stories just published, which she is looking forward to reading when she has a little leisure.
With this letter are two copies of the dedication, annotated in the hand of the Empress, for it seems that it was sent to her twice before it was finally settled as it appears in the book. A few years later, when I was at Homburg for my health, the Empress Frederick asked me to lunch, and I had a long and interesting conversation with her. As I kept no notes, however, I forget its details. She impressed me as a singularly charming and able lady.
“Eric” commended itself very much to Lang. Here is the first thing I can find about it in his letters.
“Eric” begins A1. I don’t know what about the public, but I love a saga but even too well, especially if it be a bloody one delicately narrated, or a very affectionate thing indeed but brutally set down, as Shakespeare says. I have only read Chapter I, but it’s the jockey for me.
P.S. — I have read four chapters, including Golden Falls. I think it is the best thing you have done, but of course I am saga-fain! I didn’t think anyone could do it.
Next letter, dated Saturday.
I have got Eric into Swanhild’s toils, and I don’t think I have come to a dull page yet. I don’t want to flatter, but it literally surprises me that anyone should write such a story nowadays. Charles Kingsley would have spoiled it by maundering and philosophising. I have hardly seen a line which is not in keeping yet. Also the plot is a good natural plot and the characters, except Gudruda, sympathetic. I think she might be a little less feminine and ill-willy. As literature I really think it is a masterpiece so far as I have gone. I’d almost as soon have expected more Homer as more saga. I don’t think much of the boy who can lay it down till it is finished; women of course can’t be expected to care for it. Surely it should come out before the “Bow,” which is such a flukey thing, whereas, whatever reviews and people may say, “Eric” is full of the best qualities of poetic [? word doubtful] fiction.
Next letter, undated.
The more I consider “Eric,” the more I think that except “Cleopatra,” which you can’t keep back, I’d publish no novel before “Eric.” It is so very much the best of the lot in all ways. Probably you don’t agree, and the public probably won’t stop to consider, but it is. I’d like to suggest one or two remarks for a preface — if any. The discovery of the dead mother and the dialogue with the Carline struck me very much. Clearly Swanhild needed no witchcraft, and as certainly her natural magic would have been interpreted so — at the time and much later. Perhaps the final bust-up might be less heavy in the supernatural, but more distinctly represented as the vision of fay men — subjective. Oddly enough, I found a Zulu parallel today: “I have made me a mat of men to lie on,” says the Zulu berserk when he had killed twenty and the assegais in his body were “like reeds in a marsh.” He is in Callaway. . . . It is worth an infinite number of Cleopatras, partly because you are at home in the North. I wouldn’t let anyone peddle it about, or show people, but stick to someone like Longman, if it were mine.
I suppose Ingram must see it,17, but I wish it could appear tomorrow in a book. Comparisons are odious, and I understand your preferring “Cleopatra.” People inevitably prefer what gives them most serious labour. But it’s a natural gift that really does the trick. I bet a pound George Eliot preferred “Romola” and “Daniel Deronda” to “Scenes of Clerical Life.” I have a hideous conscience which knows that a ballad or a leading article are the best things I’ve done, though I’d prefer to prefer “Helen of Troy.” But she’s a bandbox.
17 From the Illustrated London News. — Ed.
The last letter that I can find of Lang’s which has to do with “Eric Brighteyes” was evidently written in answer to one from myself in which I must have shown depression at certain criticisms that he made verbally or otherwise upon the book.
Bosh! It is a rattling good story! But I am trying to read it as critically as I can, and I am rather fresh from saga-reading. This makes me see more clearly than other people the immense difficulty in combining a saga with a story of love, which, except in the “Volsunga,” where the man was one of the foremost geniuses in the world, they never attempted. Other people won’t read it like that, and it is not right that it should be read in that way. Done in my way it would be rather pedantry than literature, but I am a born pedant. It is chock full of things nobody else could have done: indeed nobody else could have done any of it. The Saevuna part is excellent: I only doubted whether, for effect, her cursing speech should not be terser. I never read the very end, as it had affected me quite enough before I came to that. The scene on shipboard is not too like the Wanderer bit [in “The World’s Desire” — H. R. H.], because it is worked out and credible. The cloak, however, would suffice and be all right, without the replacing of the bonds, which, under the cloak, would be needless. The other bit, the seduction, is all right in itself: but it is one of the passages which the sages would have slurred, as not interesting to their bloodthirsty public. I think it may be none the worse for what you have done to it. Don’t “time heart” about it because of my pedantries. It is because it is good that I want it to be best. Skallagrim is always worth his weight in wadmal, whatever wadmal may be. The death of Groa fetches me less, I don’t know why. However, if you once don’t think well of it, in the nature of man it is certain to be more excellent, just as one always did well in examinations where one despaired. It is a queer fact, but it is so. The style is capital, but I rather think that of “Nada” is still better. I hope I shall live to review it, or rather that I shall review it if I live. For heaven’s sake, don’t be disgusted with it, or me because I look at it through a microscope. If I didn’t my looking at it would be of little use. None of my things are worth the lens, and the trouble, so I don’t.
“Eric” came out in due course, and did well enough. Indeed as a book it found, and still continues to find, a considerable body of readers. My recollection is, however, that it was reviewed simply as a rather spirited and sanguinary tale. Lang was quite right. The gentlemen who dispense praise and blame to us poor authors have not, for the most part, made a study of the sagas or investigated the lands where these were enacted. I wonder if it has ever occurred to the average reader how much the writer of a book which he looks at for an hour or two and throws aside must sometimes need to know, and what long months or years of preparation that knowledge has cost him? Probably not. My extended experience of the average reader is that he thinks the author produces these little things in his leisure moments, say when he, the reader, would be smoking his cigarettes, and this without the slightest effort.
To return to “The World’s Desire.” This work also came out in due course, and was violently attacked: so I gather from Lang’s letters, for I have none of the reviews. All that I remember about them is the effort of its assailants to discriminate between that part of the work which was written by Lang and that part which was written by myself — an effort, I may add, that invariably failed. However, all these things have long gone by, and the book remains and — is read, by some with enthusiasm.
Here is another note from Lang from Scotland, headed Ravensheugh, Selkirk, Friday.
Stevenson says he is “thrilled and chilled” by Meriamun. He thinks much of it “too steep,” bars Od(ysseus) killing so many enemies — exactly what Longinus says of Homer — and fears Meriamun is likely to play down Helen. He is kind enough to say “the style is all right,” and adds a poem on Odysseus. I’ll send you the letter presently.
I suppose that Lang did send this letter, and that I returned it to him. I believe that subsequently he lost both the letter and the poem. Luckily, however, I took the trouble to keep a copy of the latter, and here it is.
Your conduc’ is vicious,
Your tale is suspicious
Ye ancient sea-roamer,
Ye dour auld beach-comber,
Frae Haggard to Homer
Sic veerin’ and steerin’!
What port are ye neerin’
As frae Egypt to Erin
Ye ancient auld blackguard,
Just see whaur ye’re staggered
From Homer to Haggard
In stunt and in strife
To gang seeking a wife —
At your time o’ life
It was wrang.
An’ see! Fresh afflictions
Into Haggard’s descriptions
An’ the plagues o’ the Egyptians
The folk ye’re now in wi’
Are ill to begin wi’
Or to risk a hale skin wi’
In breeks —
They’re blacker and hetter —
(Just ask your begetter)
And far frae bein’ better
Ther’s your Meriamun:
She’ll mebbe can gammon
That auld-furrand salmon
An’ Moses and Aaron
Will gie ye your fairin’
Wi’ fire an’ het airn
I refuse to continue longer. I had an excellent half-verse there, but couldn’t get the necessary pendant, and anyway there’s no end to such truck.
R. L. S.
Now I will turn to my modern novel, “Beatrice.” Oddly enough, Lang liked it, although he says somewhere that he “infinitely prefers” Umslopogaas and Skallagrim.
I have read your chapters of “Beatrice.” Sursum corda: it moves, it has go and plenty of it. . . . I fear it is a deal more popular line than “The World’s Desire.”
I have read “Beatrice,” and if she interests the public as much as she does me, she’ll do. But I have marked it a good deal, and would be glad to go through it with you, looking over the scribbled suggestions. It is too late, but what a good character some male Elizabeth would have been: nosing for dirt, scandal, spite and lies. He might easily have been worked in, I think. . . . They [i.e. the hero and heroine] are a good deal more in love than Odysseus, Laertes’ son, and Mrs. Menelaus! It is odd: usually you “reflect” too much, and yet in this tale, I think, a few extra reflections might have been in place. I feel a Thackerayan desire to moralise.
Here is another allusion.
A letter I wrote anent B. was never posted. I said I did not quite think Geoffrey gave the sense of power, etc.; and that his rudeness to B. was overdone and cubbish, which you notice yourself. I think, in volume shape, that might yet be amended.
Miss Marie Corelli writes on June 12, 1890:
If you are still in town, and you would favour me with a call on Sunday afternoon next, about five o’clock, I should be so pleased to renew the acquaintance made some months past, when your kindly words made me feel more happy and encouraged me in my uphill clamber! I saw you from the gallery at the Literary Fund Dinner, and wished I had had the chance of speaking to you. Your book “Beatrice” is beautiful — full of poetry and deep thought — but I don’t believe the public — that with obstinate pertinacity look to you for a continuation ad infinitum of “King Solomon’s Mines” and “She” — will appreciate it as they ought and as it deserves. Whenever I see a World and Pall Mall Gazette vulgarly sneering at a work of literature, I conclude that it must be good — exceptionally so! — and this is generally a correct estimate: it certainly was so concerning “Beatrice.”
Trusting you will come and see me (we are very quiet people and don’t give crushes!),
Very sincerely yours,
Here is a letter from the late Lady Florence Dixie, whom I first met years before in South Africa, which is interesting as showing that in the year 1890 she held views that since then have become very common. In short, she was a proto-suffragette.
You will, I hope, excuse this letter, and not misunderstand me in what I say. I have just finished reading your “Beatrice,” and have put it down with a feeling that it is only another book in the many which proclaims the rooted idea in men’s minds that women are born to suffer and work for men, to hide all their natural gifts that man may rule alone.
Does it not strike you that Beatrice — if she had been given equal chances with Geoffrey — would have made a name as great, aye, greater than his? Yet because she is a woman you will give her no such chance. You leave her to her useless, aimless, curtailed and wretched life which ends in suicide. Think you not that Beatrice in Geoffrey’s shoes might have made a great name for good? Forgive me — but as you can write, why not use your pen to upraise woman, to bid her become a useful member of society — the true companion and co-mate of man, and they working together shall help to make impossible such miserable victims of a false and unnatural bringing up as Elizabeth and Lady Honoria? You hold such women up to scorn. Yet are they the fruit of unnatural laws which men have wrongfully imposed on womankind. Greatly and in many ways does woman err in all paths of life — but is she entirely to blame? You men have made her your plaything and slave: she is regarded more in the light of a brood mare than anything else; and if within her narrow sphere she errs, who is to blame? Not her, believe me, but the false laws that made her what she is.
I have just published a new book, “Gloriana; or, The Revolution of 1900.”
Will you give me the pleasure of accepting a copy if I send you one? If you read it, you will not misunderstand this letter I hope.
P.S. — I hope you will excuse me for sending you some papers which will show you that there are some women, and men too, who feel that the cruel position of woman is unbearable.
Alas! 1900 has come and gone years ago, and the Revolution is still to seek. But perhaps it is at hand. At any rate Lady Florence strove manfully for her cause in those early days, if in the circumstances “manfully” is the right word to use.
I find a letter dealing with “Beatrice” from Cordy Jeaffreson, from which I quote an extract:
. . . It is a fine, stirring, effective story; but with all its power and dexterity it is not the book which will determine your eventual place in the annals of literature. You will write that book some ten years hence, when I shall be resting under the violets; and when you are enjoying the fullness of your triumph, you will perhaps give me a kindly thought and say, “The old man was right.” In a line, it is no small thing to have thrown off “Beatrice,” but you will do something much greater when “you’ve come to forty year.” The story strengthens my confidence in you, though it falls short of all I hoped for you. This is not damning with faint praise.
J. C. J.
Alas! that wondrous work of fiction which Cordy Jeaffreson anticipated never was and never will be written by me. Be it good or be it bad, the best that I can do in the lines of romance and novel-writing is to be found among the first dozen or so of the books that I wrote, say between “King Solomon’s Mines” and “Montezuma’s Daughter.” Also I would add this. A man’s mind does not always remain the same. People are apt to say of any individual writer that he has gone off, whereas the truth may be merely that he has changed, and that his abilities are showing themselves in another form. Now, as it happens in my own case, in the year 1891 I received a great shock; also subsequently for a long period my health was bad. Although from necessity I went on with the writing of stories, and do so still, it has not been with the same zest. Active rather than imaginative life has appealed to me more, and resulted in the production of such works as “Rural England,” “A Farmer’s Year,” and others. Moreover, I have never really cared for novel-writing: romance has always made a greater appeal to me.
Here is a letter from Lang, to whom I had evidently shown that from Mr. Jeaffreson which is quoted above.
I don’t agree much with Jeaffreson. The book is a compromise, by its nature, and rather contains good things than is very good, to my taste, but it is only taste, not reason. Lord knows what you may write, or anybody read, in ten years. More than sufficient to the day is the evil thereof. The character of Geoffrey goes against my grain, but what he should have been, to satisfy me, I don’t know.
I imagine you missed your tip, by not being born nine hundred years ago. I might have been a monk of Ely, and you might have flayed me and composed a saga at first hand. It would have been a good saga, but I could not stand being flayed, I know. I am worried and sad and seedy, and far from a successful correspondent. . . . Jeaff. is very kind, however, though not a prophet nor a critic, I think. The former quality is much better.
Some years after “Beatrice” was published I was horrified to receive two anonymous or semi-anonymous letters from ladies who alleged that their husbands, or the husbands of someone connected with them — one of them a middle-aged clergyman — after reading “Beatrice,” had made advances to young ladies of that name; or perhaps the young ladies had made advances to them which they more or less reciprocated — I forget the exact facts. Also I heard that a gentleman and a lady had practised the sleep-walking scene, with different results from those recorded in the book. These stories troubled me so much — since I had never dreamed of such an issue to a tale with a different moral — that I wished to suppress the book, and wrote to Charles Longman suggesting that this should be done; also I took counsel with Lang and other friends. They thought me extremely foolish, and were rather indignant about the business. Longman’s views are expressed in such of his letters as I can find dealing with the matter, only he added that, even if there had been any reason for it, it was not possible to suppress a book so widely known, especially after it had been pirated in America. Lang’s letters I have not time to find at present, but I remember that they were to the same effect. Here are those from Longman, or as much of them as is pertinent.
39 Paternoster Row:
November 28, 1894.
My dear Rider, — I will get hold of the Saturday Review and Spectator reviews of “Beatrice.” I have not heard anything from Liverpool yet about that person, but I will let you hear as soon as I can. I will not write fully yet on the subject, but I may say that the idea that the character of Beatrice could lead someone into vice is preposterous. Still less is the example of Bingham likely to throw an unnatural glamour over seduction: in the first place, he was man enough to resist temptation; in the next place, both he and Beatrice were most unmercifully punished. Do not let this matter worry you. I assure you there is nothing you need regret.
Longman also wrote:
Christmas Day, 1894.
I like the Preface to “Beatrice” much better as amended. Lang is quite right: your feelings in the matter did infinite credit to your heart, but you disturbed yourself unnecessarily. I am glad we inquired into that Liverpool story and pricked the bubble. I will send you a review of the Preface. I return Lang’s letter.
I have now found this letter of Lang’s to which Longman refers. It is dated from St. Andrews on December 20th, and begins:
You Confounded Ass. The thing is Rot. Don’t take it au serieux. At least that is how it strikes me. If you must say something, say what I leave in. The novel seems to me perfectly devoid of moral harm. There are sill hopes here that the Samoan story is a lie [this refers to the death of Stevenson]. It has caused me sincere grief, but, at fifty, one seems rather case-hardened. However, don’t you go and leave the world before me. R. L. S. had as much pluck, and as kind a heart, as any man that ever lived, and extraordinary charm.
The “Liverpool story” to which Longman refers was, I believe, one of those detailed in the anonymous letters. Evidently he caused it to be inquired into and found that it was baseless.
The end of the matter was that I went through the tale carefully, modified or removed certain passages that might be taken to suggest that holy matrimony is not always perfect in its working, etc., and wrote a short preface which may now be read in all the copies printed since that date.
As I have said, the incident disturbed me a good deal, and more or less set me against the writing of novels of modern life. It is very well to talk about art with a large A, but I have always felt that the author of books which go anywhere and everywhere has some responsibilities. Therefore I have tried to avoid topics that might inflame even minds which are very ready to be set on fire.
The charge has been brought against me that my pages have breathed war. I admit it, and on this point am quite unrepentant. Personally I may say that I have a perfect horror of war, and hope that I may not live to see another in which my country is involved, for it seems to me terrible that human beings should destroy each other, often enough from motives that do not bear examination. Yet there is such a thing as righteous war, and if my land were invaded I should think poorly of anyone, myself included, who did not fight like a wild-cat. I am not even sure that I would not poison the wells if I were unable to get rid of the enemy in any other way. What is the difference between killing a man with a drug and killing him with a bomb or by hunger and thirst? Patriotism is the first duty, and the thing is to be rid of him somehow and save your country. However, this is a question on which I will not enter.
For the rest war brings forth many noble actions, and there can be no harm in teaching the young that their hands were given to them to defend their flag and their heads. If once a nation forgets to learn that lesson it will very soon be called upon to write Finis beneath its history. I fear that we, or some of us, are in that way now — or so I judge from the horror expressed upon every side at the doctrine that men should not grudge a year or so of their lives to be spent in learning the art of war. If God gave us our homes, I presume that He meant for us to protect them!
I think that the next book I wrote after “Eric,” or at any rate the next that was printed, was “Nada the Lily,” which I began upon June 27, 1889, and finished on January 15, 1890. It is pure Zulu story, and, as I believe I have said, I consider it my best or one of my best books. At any rate, the following letter from my friend Rudyard Kipling seems to show that this story has one claim on the gratitude of the world.
October 20, 1895.
Dear Haggard, — Watt has just forwarded me a letter addressed to you from a bee-keeping man who wanted to quote something of a jungle tale of mine. I dare say it didn’t amuse you, but it made me chuckle a little and reminded me, incidentally, that the man was nearer the mark than he knew: for it was a chance sentence of yours in “Nada the Lily” that started me off on a track that ended in my writing a lot of wolf stories. You remember in your tale where the wolves leaped up at the feet of a dead man sitting on a rock? Somewhere on that page I got the notion. It’s curious how things come back again, isn’t it? I meant to tell you when we met; but I don’t remember that I ever did.
Yours always sincerely,
Here are some extracts from Lang’s letters on the subject of “Nada.”
I read right through to Chaka’s death. It is admirable, the epic of a dying people, but it wants relief. Massacre palls. The old boy (i.e. the narrator of the story, Mopo) would have given no relief, naturally, but an idyll or two seem needed. The style is as good as it can be, an invention. I think a word or two more in the preface might be useful. I have made a slight suggestion or so. I like “Eric” better, but this is perhaps more singular. How any white man can have such a natural gift of savagery, I don’t know. The Wolves are astonishing.
The next letter is undated, but was probably written within a day or two of that just quoted.
I’ve finished “Nada.” If all the reviewers in the world denied it, you can do the best sagas that have been done yet: except “Njala” perhaps. Poor Nada! I hope it will be done into Zulu. The old wolf Death-grip was a nice wolf.
Many thanks for the book. You know exactly what I think of “B.” [“Beatrice”], but I like your natural novels better a long way than your modern ones at the best, which this probably is. Beatrice is all right when anything flares up, and all right when in the open air, but the Lady Honorias of this world are not in your beat nor mine. . . . But, oh, how much I prefer Galazi and Skallagrim to these moderns!
St. Andrews: January 18th.
I’ll return “Nada” tomorrow. The Wolves are the best thing of yours I know. Indeed the unity of tone and savagery throughout are unique. But there will be rows about the endless massacres. I have no doubt a Zulu epic would be like this, but reviewers are not Zulus, worse luck. I think that it is excellent, and quite alone in literature as a picture of a strange life. But one knows the public. It is far more veracious than “Eric,” and far less modern: also far less rhetorical. Chaka is a masterpiece. But I am a voice clamantis in eremo: people won’t understand. The realien are awfully well done, no appearance of cram about them.
Lang was quite right about the reviewers. They for the most part, not having mixed with savages, and never having heard of Chaka and only dimly of the Zulus — for by this time our war with that people was forgotten — saw little in the book except unnecessary bloodshed. But there it is: a picture, as Lang says, “of a dying people.” I hope that hundreds of years hence the highly educated descendants of the Zulu race may read it and learn therefrom something of the spirit of their own savage ancestors.
I cannot find many letters about “Nada.” Here, however, is one from Charles Longman, dated May 14, 1890.
“Nada” strikes me with wonder and awe. It is in some ways the greatest feat you have performed: I mean because you have constructed a story in which the dramatis personae are all savages and yet you have kept the interest going throughout. There will of course be a terrible outcry about gore. I never read such a book. It is frightful, and the only justification for it is the fact that it is history, not imagination. Wherever it is possible I would tone down the effect rather than heighten it, so as to avoid the charge of wallowing or gloating as far as possible. The wolves and the wolf brethren are delightful; I wish you could have given us more of them. I was very glad to meet our old friend Umslopogaas as a boy.
These two letters are from Sir Theophilus Shepstone to whom the work was dedicated. The first is headed Durban, Natal, August 18, 1891.
My dear Haggard, — I was very, very glad to see your handwriting again in a note addressed to me. For I know not how long past, I have never thought of you without a pang of conscience; and I need not say that I have often and often thought of you, and felt proud of you, and rejoiced at your success.
The truth is that for a time I had always the intention in my mind of writing to you, but I thought that a short note would not be worth sending, so the doing of it was postponed from one time to another until at last the difficulty became insuperable apparently, for I could scarcely hope that after so long a silence and seeming indifference any letter from me could be welcome. Your kind note and still kinder proposal, however, clear all that uncomfortable feeling away, and I am pleased accordingly to find that after all you bear no ill-will. Of course I shall take it as a great compliment and a gracious and christian way of turning the other cheek to be smitten if you carry out your proposal to dedicate your new Zulu novel to me. If I had known that you were engaged upon such a work I might have helped you with materials. . . . But when I saw that you were oscillating between the North and South Poles, calling at Cairo and dallying a bit at the Equator in your erratic course I concluded that your interest in these parts had ceased . . . .
I have been for some time past very unwell, and two months ago they sent me down here for change of air. I am not to go back till the end of this month or the beginning of next. Meanwhile the change is doing me great good, and I feel better and stronger than I have felt for several years. I had begun to lose a great deal of interest in passing events, and felt unable to enjoy much of life, but all this has now changed for the better, I am glad to say. . . . If ever you have a moment to spare I should be glad, so glad, to hear how the friends are who were so kind to me at your good old father’s house. I am glad you had an opportunity of talking to old Osborn. He is expected to arrive here in a day or two, and I shall have the chance of hearing from him all about you. I am very proud of my Transvaal colleagues; every one of them has distinguished himself in one way or another. Captain James and Fynney, poor fellows, have, as the Zulus say, “gone beyond.” I always feel indebted to you all for your loyal support and zealous fellow-working in the Transvaal. This mail brought me with your letter one from the editor of Greater Britain, calling my attention to an article in the July number of that periodical entitled “Many Lands, One People” and asking my views upon it. I shall write him a very short answer, for I am sorry to say I am as yet unable to see anything practical in the proposals of Imperial Federation. I am afraid you will think me old-fashioned and heterodox, but I cannot as yet see anything stronger than the bond which ties the members of a family together. Love to you both from yours always sincerely,
In due course the dedication was finished and sent. Charles Longman always thought it one of the best things I had ever written, and, when I told him the other day that I was engaged upon this task, he especially asked me to insert it here. Therefore I do so.
For I will call you by the name that for fifty years has been honoured by every tribe between the Zambesi and Cape Agulhas, — I greet you!
Sompseu, my father, I have written a book that tells of men and matters of which you know the most of any who still look upon the light; therefore, I set your name within that book and, such as it is, I offer it to you.
If you knew not Chaka, you and he have seen the same suns shine, you knew his brother Panda and his captains, and perhaps even that very Mopo who tells this tale, his servant, who slew him with the Princes. You have seen the circle of the witch-doctors and the unconquerable Zulu impis rushing to war; you have crowned their kings and shared their counsels, and with your son’s blood you have expiated a statesman’s error and a general’s fault.
Sompseu, a song has been sung in my ears of how first you mastered this people of the Zulu. Is it not true, my father, that for long hours you lay silent and alone, while three thousand warriors shouted for your life? And when they grew weary, did you not stand and say, pointing towards the ocean: “Kill me if you wish, men of Cetywayo, but I tell you that for every drop of my blood a hundred avengers shall rise from yonder sea!”
Then, so it was told me, the regiments turned staring towards the Black Water, as though the day of Ulundi had already come and they saw the white slayers creeping across the plains.
Thus, Sompseu, your name became great among the people of the Zulu, as already it was great among many another tribe, and their nobles did you homage, and they gave you the Bayete, the royal salute, declaring by the mouth of their Council that in you dwelt the spirit of Chaka.
Many years have gone by since then, and now you are old, my father. It is many years even since I was a boy, and followed you when you went up among the Boers and took their country for the Queen.
Why did you do this, my father? I will answer, who know the truth. You did it because, had it not been done, the Zulus would have stamped out the Boers. Were not Cetywayo’s impis gathered against the land, and was it not because it became the Queen’s land that at your word he sent them murmuring to their kraals? To save bloodshed you annexed the country beyond the Vaal. Perhaps it had been better to leave it, since “Death chooses for himself,” and after all there was killing — of our own people, and with the killing, shame. But in those days we did not guess what we should live to see, and of Majuba we thought only as a little hill.
Enemies have borne false witness against you on this matter, Sompseu, you who never erred except through over kindness. Yet what does that avail? When you have “gone beyond” it will be forgotten, since the sting of ingratitude passes and lies must wither like the winter veldt. Only your name will not be forgotten; as it was heard in life so it shall be heard in story, and I pray that, however humbly, mine may pass down with it. Chance has taken me by another path, and I must leave the ways of action that I love and bury myself in books, but the old days and friends are in my mind, nor while I have memory shall I forget them and you.
Therefore, though it be for the last time, from far across the seas I speak to you, and lifting my hand I give you your “Sibonga”18 and that royal salute, to which, now that its kings are gone and the “People of Heaven” are no more a nation, with Her Majesty you are alone entitled:
Bayete! Baba, Nkosi ya makosi!
Ngonyama! Indhlovu ai pendulwa!
Wen’ o wa vela wasi pata!
Wen’ o was hlul’ izizwe zonke za patwa nguive!
Wa geina nge la Mabun’ o wa ba hlul’ u yedwa!
Umsizi we zintandane e zihlupekayo!
Si ya kuleka Baba!
H. Rider Haggard.
To Sir Theophilus Shepstone, K.C.M.G., Natal.
13th September 1891.
18 Titles of praise.
19 Bayete, Father, Chief of Chiefs!
Lion! Elephant that is not turned!
You who nursed us from of old!
You who overshadowed all peoples and took charge of them,
And ended by mastering the Boers with your single strength!
Help of the fatherless when in trouble!
Salutation to you, Father!
Bayete, O Sompseu!
Here is the touching letter in which Sir Theophilus acknowledges it. It is bound up with the manuscript of “Nada,” and is the last that I ever received from him, for he died during the following year.
Durban, Natal: July 13, 1892.
My dear Haggard, — Your gift reached me when I was very seedy and unable to do much in the writing way. I have come down here for change from the cold of Maritzburg, and am much better.
I need not say how gratifying to me that gift was; nor how deeply touching to me the kind words of the Dedication were. Indeed you give far more credit than I am entitled to. Your kindly expressions, however, vividly brought to mind a whole chapter of the pleasant past between us, the exact counterpart of which will, I suppose, never occur to any other two. I feel extremely grateful to you for your affectionate remembrances, and for your plucky avowal of them, for I do not think that at present it is fashionable to look either upon myself or my work with much approval.
I cannot, however, help thinking that if some of my views and advice had been acted on we should have avoided both the national disaster and disgrace that took place after the “pleasant past” that you and I spent together in the Transvaal.
The Boers did not really want to fight, and we are always pusillanimous enough before we make up our minds to begin, so we did not want to fight either; but it appears that the Home Government did want to undo the annexation. Nothing could have been done more easily, or have looked more gracious to those concerned. Why not have plainly told me their wish and authorised me to carry it out? We should have parted with embraces and the best of mutual good feeling; as it is we have earned the contempt as well as the hatred of the Boers, and very much puzzled the native races, who from considering us their staunchest and most powerful protectors have come to look upon us as the most unreliable of friends. And very good cause they have for their change of view: look at the last twelve or fourteen years’ history of Zululand. But I did not want to go into polemics. As the Zulus would say, it is only my way of thinking.
I hope the good little wife and all the children are well; my love to her, please. I was much interested the other day by an account of you all that appeared in the Strand Magazine, which someone sent me from England. The pictures were, I thought, very good indeed, and reminded me strongly of my visit to Ditchingham, when I had the pleasure of spending a few days with you.
Please remember me kindly to all the members of your family. They were all so extremely kind to me.
These were his last words to me — words which, I think, will be read with interest in the future, seeing that they sum up his views of his Transvaal policy as he held them just before his death. But I will not attempt to reopen that matter, upon which I have already said my say.
Vale, Sompseu, Vale!
I used to know a good many interesting people during those years when I lived in London.
Lord Goschen, then Mr. Goschen, dined with me at a dinner I gave at the Savile Club, and we always remained friendly till his death. He was a most able and agreeable man; also there was something rather attractive about the low, husky voice in which he addressed one, his head held slightly forward as though he wished to be very confidential. Besides a number of literary men, Mr. Balfour was my guest at that dinner, and I think Lord Lytton also. I remember that it was a most pleasant feast, at which seventeen or eighteen people were present, and one that, to my great relief, went off without a hitch.
It was Lang who introduced me to Mr. Balfour. Of this circumstance I was reminded the other day when I met Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander-inChief of the British forces in the Mediterranean stations, on the Orient liner Otway when I was returning from Egypt (April 1912). He asked me if I remembered a little dinner that Lang gave at the Oxford and Cambridge Club somewhere about 1886 or 1887, at which Balfour, he, and I were the only guests. Then it all came back to me. Lang asked me to meet Mr. Balfour because he knew that already I wished to escape from novel-writing and re-enter the public service, a matter in which he thought Mr. Balfour might be of assistance. Ian Hamilton, his cousin, he asked because he had escaped from Majuba, and I also knew a great deal about Majuba.
By the way, General Hamilton, whom I had not met from that day to this, gave me, while we were on the ship together, a long and full account of his experiences and sufferings in that dreadful rout; but as these tally very closely with what I have written in this book and elsewhere, I will not repeat them in all their painful detail. He was shot through the wrist and struck on the head with splinters of stone. The Boers dismissed him, telling him that he would “probably die.” He passed a night in the cold, and, had it not been for a kindly Boer who found him and bound up his wrist — I think he said with a piece of tin for a splint — he would probably have perished. That Boer, Sir Ian Hamilton — who, by the way, is now the only officer in the British Army who was present at Majuba — met at Bloemfontein the other day. Naturally they were the best of friends, and Sir Ian has sent him a souvenir of the event. Finally, as he lay unable to move, he was found by a British search-party and taken back to camp, where in due course he recovered.
I see that in “Cetywayo and his White Neighbours” I stated that Majuba was attacked by two or three hundred Boers, adding that I did not believe the story which the Boers told me, that they rushed the mountain with not more than a hundred men — a version which subsequently I adopted in “Jess.” Sir Ian told me, however, that the smaller figure was quite correct. He even put it somewhat lower. A dreadful story, in truth!
Talking of the Boer War reminds me of Sir Redvers Buller. I knew him and his wife, Lady Audrey, very well. We used to dine at their house, where we met a number of distinguished people, among whom I remember Lord Coleridge, the Chief Justice. He was a brilliant conversationalist with a marvellous memory. I have heard him tell story after story without stopping, till at length I began to hope that the stock was running low. Sir Redvers was always very kind to me, but he was not a man to cross in argument. Once, at his own table, I heard him differ from the late Lord Justice Bowen in a way that made me glad that I was not Lord Justice Bowen. What struck me was the extraordinary patience with which the Judge submitted to the scolding. He must have had a very sweet nature; indeed I always thought that this was so.
It was about this time that I first made the acquaintance of Mr. Rudyard Kipling, who had recently arrived in England, I suppose from India. He was then a young fellow about five-and-twenty, and in appearance and manner very much what he is today. I cannot recall under what circumstance we first met. Perhaps it was at a dinner-party I gave at my house, 24 Redcliffe Square, to some literary friends. I remember that Kipling arrived late and explained the reason by pointing to a cut upon his temple. Whilst he was driving towards my house his hansom collided with a van in Piccadilly, and there was a smash in which he had a narrow escape. From that time forward we have always liked each other, perhaps because on many, though not on all, matters we find no point of difference.
Another man very well known in his day with whom I was acquainted was the great and accomplished doctor, Sir Henry Thompson, by birth an East Anglian like myself. Once I was present at one of his famous octave dinners. If I remember right, we were received in a room hung round with beautiful pictures by Etty, as were others in the house. It had a couch in it on which Sir Henry slept, or rather tried to sleep, at nights. He suffered terribly from insomnia, and told me that one of his plans to induce slumber was to count thousands of imaginary sheep running through a phantom gate. Also he would rise and walk about the streets to cause weariness.
A very interesting gentlemen whom I knew was the late Mr. Meredith Townsend. He was one of the editors and part owner of the Spectator, out of which journal he told me he drew a comfortable 5000 pounds a year. His conversation was particularly delightful and informing, especially when he spoke of India.
I have before me a letter that he wrote to me before I visited Iceland, in which he says:
It would be worth living to read your account of a Berserk, a white Umslopogaas, with a vein of pity in him for women only. . . . You are aware that the Berserks when they left their Aryan home on the northern slope of the Hindoo Koosh took with them hemp and the dangerous knowledge of its quality of producing the temporary fury of battle. The secret still remains in India, and natives who mean killing swallow bhang.
I think that this hint gave me the idea of my Norse character, Skallagrim. Mr. Townsend told me that he would live to be eighty, which he did. I, he said, should die at sixty, as by then my highly strung temperament would have worn me out. “Quien sabe?” as the Mexicans say.
Another person whom I knew very well was Miss Marjorie Barber, who has since become famous on the strength of her delicately written and arresting booklet, “The Roadmender,” which was published after her death.
My intimacy with Marjorie was brought about by the fact that her sister Agnes — a woman with as fine a literary sense and more all-round ability, although circumstances and a family have allowed her but little time to make use of them — became my sister-inlaw as I have said, and, before that event, for some years lived in our house. While she was here, or shortly afterwards, Mrs. Barber, her mother, and Marjorie came to live at Bungay, a mile away, so that I saw plenty of the latter. She was a tall and pretty girl, very pleasant, very witty — I think one of the most amusing afternoons I ever had in my life I spent with her alone in the British Museum; it was our last meeting, I believe — and with all the eccentricity that so usually accompanies a touch of genius.
At the time of her residence in Bungay she was under the sway of a Low Church mania, and used to appear dressed as a deaconess and with a large Bible pressed against her middle. Nor was she above laughing at herself when the ludicrous aspect of her get-up was pointed out to her. Subsequently, with a swing of the mental pendulum she became equally High Church, and modelled crucifixes and saints extremely well. I think it was between these periods that she was with difficulty restrained from starting off alone to become a missionary in China. I remember well that when her sister Mabel, now also dead, was informed of one of these phases she wrote back: “Oh! for goodness’ sake leave Marjorie alone, for if it wasn’t that, it would be ‘Captain Happy Eliza’ with a tambourine!”
In her later days, after her mother’s death at Bungay, Marjorie met a lady doctor who, I think, treated her for some illness. To this lady and her husband she became so much attached that not only did she go to live with them, but also formally adopted their family name and, when she died, left them everything she possessed. I believe that these adopted parents were very kind to her, and nursed her well during her last painful and complicated illness, which I was told was tuberculosis in its origin.
It was only during her last years that Marjorie took to writing, which, seeing how great were her abilities in this direction, is unfortunate. It is, however, quite possible, judging from what I know of her disposition, that if she had begun earlier she would have wearied of the business and cast it aside. As it was, she showed great perseverance under distressing circumstances, for, when she became unable to use her right hand, she taught herself to write with the left and in all sorts of strange attitudes made necessary by her complaint. Personally I prefer “Brother Hilarius” to all her few other literary efforts, not excluding the much-praised “Roadmender,” perhaps because of its charming pictures of the scenery of this neighbourhood.
Marjorie had considerable psychic powers. Thus her sister Agnes told me only the other day that she had actually known her, when lying helpless in bed, to read a newly opened letter held in a person’s hand at the other end of a long room far beyond her reach of vision, without, of course, any acquaintance with the contents of the letter. Her sister told me also — she was present at the time — she believed that she really died some days before the breath actually left her. In this connection she exampled the conduct of a little dog in the house — I think it was a fox-terrier — which was much attached to Marjorie and for long weeks at a time could scarcely be got away from her bedside. A few days before her actual breathing ceased, however, this dog suddenly left the room, and could not by any means be prevailed upon to return there. Such at least is the story as it came to me.
I am sorry not to have seen more of Marjorie during her last years, but in truth she vanished away from kith and kin and friends.
Another of my early friends, who, I am glad to say, still survives, is Dr. Wallis Budge,20 the head of the Egyptian Department of the British Museum, to whom not long ago I dedicated my book “Morning Star,” an attention that pleased him very much. I really think that Budge is both the most industrious and the most learned man of my acquaintance. How he can compass all the work he gets through — and such work! — is to me one of the marvels of the age. As might be expected, he is a great believer in the Old Egyptians; indeed, as I told him not long ago, he has been so long of their company in spirit that almost he has become one of them. Budge seems to be of opinion that the ancient thinkers among this people discovered all that we can learn of the mysteries which relate to the life of the soul, the resurrection, etc. In times that passed away before history began — when, as he says, men had leisure for reflection — they found out much that we think now. Afterwards, he remarked to me, the medicine-man and the paid priest arose and overlaid the truth with all the fantasies and formulas and ridiculous details of symbolical worship which it was to their advantage to imagine and maintain. If I understand him right, he holds that religion pure and undefiled wells up spontaneously in the heart of man, and that afterwards it is smothered, and even killed, with the dross of ritual and controversy where professional theologians pitch their camps.
There has been much talk of late of a painted board on which a face is carved, which once rested on the mummy of a priestess of Amen who lived about 1500 B.C. It has been supposed to bring misfortune to those who had anything to do with it, or who even looked upon it.
One day in the autumn of 1889 a gentleman was shown into Dr. Budge’s room in the British Museum and, producing a photograph of the painted board, asked him to tell what the object represented was. Budge saw at once that it was an object of which the Museum had few examples, and that it was in a good state of preservation, and also an antica of considerable value. The visitor said, “Do you want it?” Budge said, “Yes, but we have no money.” Visitor: “I don’t want money. I’ll give it to you.” Budge: “Very handsome of you. Please give me your name and address, and I will report your generous gift to the Trustees.” The visitor did so, but lingered, and after a time said, “Could you send for it today?” There was difficulty, it then being three o’clock, in getting a van and men, but they were got and sent for the board. The visitor asked if he might remain till the board came, and Budge gave him books to look at. In due course the board arrived and the men brought it upstairs, and the visitor got up and thanked Budge profusely. Said Budge, “The thanks are due to you from us.” Whereupon the visitor took Budge by the hand and said words to this effect: “Thank God you have taken the damned thing! There is an evil spirit in it which appears in its eyes. It was brought home by a friend of mine who was travelling with Douglas Murray, and he lost all his money when a bank in China broke, and his daughter died. I took the board into my house. The eyes frightened my daughter into a sickness. I moved it to another room, and it threw down a china cabinet and smashed a lot of Sevres china in it. The cook saw it and fainted, and the other servants saw flashes of fire come from the eyes, and ran away from the house. A friend suggested the giving it to the Museum, and, thank God! you have accepted it. I want no thanks. I shall be ever in your debt.” With these words he left the room and Budge saw him no more. The board was put into the mummy room, and Douglas Murray and W. T. Stead came and examined it and said it possessed psychic powers — that a soul in torment was chained up in the board, and so on. All this got into the papers, and much nonsense besides. Budge said that the board had given them no trouble, and published it in one of his books.
A certain mummy had many weird stories attached to it. It was bought by “Midge” Ingram of the Illustrated London News and brought to London. Budge was sent to report upon it by his chief, Dr. Birch, and he said it belonged to the Ptolemaic Period and came from Akhmim in Upper Egypt. Ingram bought it in Luxor, and was said to have carried it off without paying what the native wanted for it. The native ran after the boat along the bank for miles, and cursed Ingram with all his might in the name of Allah. Among the inscriptions on the coffin were extracts from a funerary work, and the copy of it in the British Museum had a curse attached. The curse declared that the man who stole the work, or burnt it, or buried it, or drowned it, should be blotted out, his body and seed destroyed for ever, etc. During a shooting tour in Somaliland Ingram shot at a huge she-elephant with buck-shot and enraged the beast. He fired again, and the elephant pursued him among the palms, and finally caught him with her trunk and lifted him into the air and dashed him limb from limb. Then she found the trunk and trod it with her feet to a pulp. Sir Henry Meux, who was of the party, collected the remains, put them in a box and buried them, but a few days later the box was washed out of its bed, and the party decided to carry it to the sea-coast. Before Ingram left England he gave the mummy — which he had agreed to sell to the British Museum — to Lady Meux of Theobalds Park, who placed it in her Egyptian collection. There it lay for several years, and Lady Meux used to go the museum every day and pray by the side of the case containing it. Budge published a full description of the mummy and coffin, and a splendid collotype reproduction of the coffin, in the “Catalogue” of the Meux Collection which he made for Lady Meux. The collection was bequeathed to the British Museum by Lady Meux, but her conditions were such that the proposed gift could not be accepted. The collection was then sold by auction and dispersed.
I asked Budge if he believed in the efficacy of curses. He hesitated to answer. At length he said that in the East men believed that curses took effect, and that he had always avoided driving a native to curse him. A curse launched into the air was bound to have an effect if coupled with the name of God, either on the person cursed or on the curser. Budge mentioned the case of Palmer, who cursed an Arab of Sinai, and the natives turned the curse on him by throwing him and his companions down a precipice, and they were dashed to pieces. Budge added, “I have cursed the fathers and female ancestors of many a man, but I have always feared to curse a man himself.”
Two other stories of Budge’s are worth preserving.
When he was at Cambridge Dr. Peile of Christ’s offered him an exhibition if he would be examined in Assyrian, and as Budge’s funds were exiguous he was very anxious to get the exhibition. An examiner, Professor Sayce of Oxford, was found to set the papers — four in all — and the days for the examination were fixed. The night before the day of the examination Budge dreamed a dream in which he saw himself seated in a room that he had never seen before — a room rather like a shed with a skylight in it. The tutor came in with a long envelope in his hand, and took from it a batch of green papers, and gave one of these to Budge for him to work at that morning. The tutor locked him in and left him. When he looked at the paper he saw it contained questions and extracts from bilingual Assyrian and Akkadian texts for translation. The questions he could answer, but he could not translate the texts, though he knew them by sight, and his emotions were so great that he woke up in a fright. At length he fell asleep, but the dream repeated itself twice, and he woke up in a greater fright than before. He then got up — it was about 2 A.M. — went downstairs to his room, lighted a fire, and, finding the texts in the second volume of Rawlinson’s great work, found the four texts and worked at them till breakfast-time, when he was able to make passable renderings of them. He went to College at nine, and was informed that there was no room in the Hall, it being filled by a classical examination, and that he must go into a side room near the kitchens. His tutor led him to the room, which was the duplicate, skylight and all, of the one he had seen in his dream. The tutor took from his breast pocket a long envelope, and from it drew out several sheets of green paper similar to that of the dream, and gave Budge the examination paper for that morning, saying that it was green because Sayce, on account of delicate eyesight, was obliged to use green paper when writing cuneiform. The tutor then turned, said he would come back at twelve, and, going out, locked the door behind him as Budge saw him do in the dream. When he sat down at the table and looked at the paper he saw written on it the questions and four pieces of text for translation, and the texts were line for line those which he had seen in his dream. Surprise at his good fortune prevented him from writing steadily, but at length he got to work and had finished the paper before the tutor appeared and unlocked the door at noon. The three other papers were easier, and Budge got the exhibition — for him a very vital matter.
I asked Budge if he could explain the matter, or account for it in any way, and he said, “No. My mother and maternal grandmother both had dreams of this sort from time to time when they were in any kind of difficulty, and in their dreams they were either shown what to do or were in some way helped. Being very pious folk, they regarded these dreams as the work of Divine Providence, who wished for some reason to help them out of trouble or difficulty. For myself, I could never imagine Providence troubling about any examination, but I was quite overcome for a time with astonishment at my good luck.”
There is one story. Let the reader make of it what he can, for it is beyond my powers of interpretation.
In the second story Budge was only indirectly concerned. He was at Cairo waiting for a boat to England, and he was wandering down Kamil Street when two ladies, mother and daughter, stopped him and greeted him with warmth and affection. They had been telegraphing to several places in the Sudan to find him, and were glad to meet him. Budge had known both mother and daughter for several years, and asked them if they wanted to go to the Egyptian Museum. The daughter said “Yes.” The mother said “No,” and then went on to tell him that she wanted to have her fortune told by a really good Egyptian fortune-teller. There was such a man in Cairo at the time, and Budge had talked astral lore and zodiacal influences and such stuff with him, and went and found him and introduced him to the lady. A retired quarter of a balcony was found, and the three of them, Budge and the two women, sat on chairs, while the native — a Parsi, by the way — squatted on the ground. Budge told him that his gratuity would depend on the excellence of the fortune he brought to the lady. He took out of his bosom a small brass astrolabe — which Budge has to this day — and a turquoise tablet with figures of the planets, etc., on it, when Budge said, “Put those away and read the lady’s fortune from her face.” He put them away, and sat and looked steadily into the lady’s face. Presently he said, “Madame is —— years, —— months, and —— days old,” and his statement was correct. Next he said, “Madame has been ill since her husband died.” Budge did not know of the death, but the man was correct. After a pause he said, “Madame drinks too much strong water.” Budge was furious, but the lady said, “It is true: I tried to drown my sorrow.” Another pause, and then, “Madame is thinking of making a contract about a house. I see the house in a very large garden. Let not madame take that house, for if she does she will lose money, will become ill in it, very ill.” Budge asked the lady of this was true, and she said, “Yes; I have the lawyer’s letter in my pocket,” and produced it. At this point Budge insisted on withdrawing out of earshot of the conversation between the fortune-teller and the lady, and sat where he could watch the proceedings. After a full half-hour the lady jumped up from her chair, turned the contents of her money-bag into the man’s lap, and then rushed in almost speechless fury to where Budge was and upbraided him and called him a false friend. She said words to this effect: “You have told that man everything about my life, and you are in league with him. You are both blackguards, and I will never speak to you or see you again. That scoundrel has insulted me, and he dared to tell me to watch my daughter, because she would poison me and kill me. That shows what you are!” The lady rushed off to her rooms, and Budge never saw her again.
The end of the story as Budge gave it to me is this: The lady took the house, which was large and in a fashionable West End quarter, spent a good deal of money on the lease and in furniture, and then fell seriously ill. The illness increased, the doctors ordered her to the seaside, and the house was sold at a great loss, and much of the furniture. Her illness increased, and one night, when in acute pain, she asked her daughter to give her a dose of medicine containing morphia because she could not rest. The daughter took up the small bottle which her mother pointed out to her and, seeing no instructions written upon the label, poured the whole of its contents into a glass and gave it to her. The sick lady, dazed with pain, took the glass and drank all that was in it. She never spoke or moved again. Reports of the proceedings which took place appeared in many papers, and the absence of instructions on the label of the bottle was somehow explained.
There is the story, and I leave the reader to ponder over it.20
20 I have Sir E. W. Budge’s permission to say that he has seen and consents to the publication of the above stories. — Ed.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55