King Solomon's Mines
I Meet Sir Henry Curtis
It is a curious thing that at my age--fifty-five last birthday--I should find myself taking up
a pen to try to write a history. I wonder what sort of a history it will be when I have
finished it, if ever I come to the end of the trip! I have done a good many things in my
life, which seems a long one to me, owing to my having begun work so young, perhaps.
At an age when other boys are at school I was earning my living as a trader in the old
Colony. I have been trading, hunting, fighting, or mining ever since. And yet it is only
eight months ago that I made my pile. It is a big pile now that I have got it--I don't yet
know how big--but I do not think I would go through the last fifteen or sixteen months
again for it; no, not if I knew that I should come out safe at the end, pile and all. But then
I am a timid man, and dislike violence; moreover, I am almost sick of adventure. I
wonder why I am going to write this book: it is not in my line. I am not a literary man,
though very devoted to the Old Testament and also to the "Ingoldsby Legends." Let me
try to set down my reasons, just to see if I have any.
First reason: Because Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good asked me.
Second reason: Because I am laid up here at Durban with the pain in my left leg. Ever
since that confounded lion got hold of me I have been liable to this trouble, and being
rather bad just now, it makes me limp more than ever. There must be some poison in a
lion's teeth, otherwise how is it that when your wounds are healed they break out again,
generally, mark you, at the same time of year that you got your mauling? It is a hard thing
when one has shot sixty-five lions or more, as I have in the course of my life, that the
sixty-sixth should chew your leg like a quid of tobacco. It breaks the routine of the thing,
and putting other considerations aside, I am an orderly man and don't like that. This is by
Third reason: Because I want my boy Harry, who is over there at the hospital in London
studying to become a doctor, to have something to amuse him and keep him out of
mischief for a week or so. Hospital work must sometimes pall and grow rather dull, for
even of cutting up dead bodies there may come satiety, and as this history will not be
dull, whatever else it may be, it will put a little life into things for a day or two while
Harry is reading of our adventures.
Fourth reason and last: Because I am going to tell the strangest story that I remember. It
may seem a queer thing to say, especially considering that there is no woman in it--except
Foulata. Stop, though! there is Gagaoola, if she was a woman, and not a fiend. But she
was a hundred at least, and therefore not marriageable, so I don't count her. At any rate, I
can safely say that there is not a petticoat in the whole history.
Well, I had better come to the yoke. It is a stiff place, and I feel as though I were bogged
up to the axle. But, "sutjes, sutjes," as the Boers say--I am sure I don't know how they
spell it--softly does it. A strong team will come through at last, that is, if they are not too
poor. You can never do anything with poor oxen. Now to make a start.
I, Allan Quatermain, of Durban, Natal, Gentleman, make oath and say-- That's how I
headed my deposition before the magistrate about poor Khiva's and Ventvogel's sad
deaths; but somehow it doesn't seem quite the right way to begin a book. And, besides,
am I a gentleman? What is a gentleman? I don't quite know, and yet I have had to do with