Excerpt from King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard
McKinlay, Stone & Mackenzie, New York., pp. 213-217
When the ceremony was over we waited upon Ignosi,
and informed him that we were now anxious to investigate
the mystery of the mines to which Solomon’s Road ran,
asking him if he had discovered anything about them.
” My friends,” he answered, ” this have I discovered.
It is there that the three great figures sit, who here are
called the ‘Silent Ones,’ and to whom Twala would have
offered the girl, Foulata, as a sacrifice. It is there, too, in
the great cave deep in the mountain, that the kings of the
land are buried; there ye shall find Twala’s body, sitting
with those who went before him. There, too, is a great
pit which, at some time, long dead men dug out, mayhap
for the stones ye speak of, such as I have heard men in
Natal speak of at Kimberley. There, too, in the Place of
Death is a secret chamber, known to none but the king
and Gagool. But Twala, who knew it, is dead, and I
know it not, nor know I what is in it. But there is a
legend in the land that once, many generations gone, a
white man crossed the mountains, and was led by a wom-
an to the secret chamber and shown the wealth, but before
he could take it she betrayed him, and he was driven by
the king of the day back to the mountains, and since then
no man has entered the chamber.”
” The story is surely true, Ignosi, for on the mountains
we found the white man,” I said.
” Yes, we found him. And now I have promised ye that
if ye can find that chamber, and the stones are there – ”
” The stone upon thy forehead proves that they are
there,” I put in, pointing to the great diamond I had taken
from Twala’s dead brows.
” Mayhap; if they are there,” he said, ” ye shall have as
many as ye can take hence – if, indeed, ye would leave me,
” First we must find the chamber,” said I.
” There is but one that can show it to thee – Gagool.”
” And if she will not ?”
” Then she shall die,” said Ignosi, sternly. ” I have
saved her alive but for this. Stay, she shall choose,”
and, calling to a messenger, he ordered Gagool to be
In a few minutes she came, hurried along by two guards,
whom she was cursing as she walked.
” Leave her,” said the king to the guards.
As soon as their support was withdrawn the withered
old bundle, for she looked more like a bundle than any-
thing else, sank into a heap on the floor, out of which her
two bright, wicked eyes gleamed like a snake’s.
” What will ye with me, Ignosi ?” she piped. ” Ye dare
not touch me. If ye touch me I will blast ye as ye sit.
Beware of my magic.”
” Thy magic could not save Twala, old she-wolf, and it
cannot hurt me,” was the answer. ” Listen: I will this of
thee, that thou reveal where is the chamber where are the
” Ha ! ha !” she piped, ” none know but I, and I will
never tell thee. The white devils shall go hence empty-
” Thou wilt tell me. I will make thee tell me.”
” How, O king ?”
” Nay, thus; if thou tellest not thou shalt slowly die.”
” Die !” she shrieked, in terror and fury; ” ye dare not
touch me – man, ye know not who I am. How old think
ye am I ? I knew your fathers, and your fathers’ fathers’
fathers. When the country was young I was here, when
the country grows old I shall still be here. I cannot die
unless I be killed by chance, for none dare slay me.”
” Yet I will slay thee. See, Gagool, mother of evil, thou
art so old thou canst no longer love thy life. What can
life be to such a hag as thee, who hast no shape, nor form,
nor hair, nor teeth – hast naught, save wickedness and evil
eyes ? It will be mercy to slay thee, Gagool.”
” Thou fool,” shrieked the old fiend, ” thou accursed fool,
thinkest thou that life is sweet only to the young ? It is
not so, and naught thou knowest of the heart of man to
think it. To the young, indeed, death is sometimes wel-
come, for the young can feel. They love and suffer, and
it wrings them to see their beloved pass to the land of
shadows. But the old feel not, they love not, and, ha! ha!
they laugh to see another go out into the dark; ha ! ha !
they laugh to see the evil that is done under the sun. All
they love is life, the warm, warm sun, and the sweet, sweet
air. They are afraid of the cold; afraid of the cold and the
dark, ha ! ha ! ha !” and the old hag writhed in ghastly
merriment on the ground.
” Cease thine evil talk and answer me,” said Ignosi,
angrily. ” Wilt thou show the place where the stones are,
or wilt thou not? If thou wilt not, thou diest, even now,”
and he seized a spear and held it over her.
” I will not show it; thou darest not kill me, darest not.
He who slays me will be accursed forever.”
Slowly Ignosi brought down the spear till it pricked the
prostrate heap of rags.
With a wild yell she sprang to her feet, and then again
fell and rolled upon the floor.
” Nay; I will not show it. Only let me live, let me sit in the
sun and have a bit of meat to suck, and I will show thee.”
” It is well. I thought I should find a way to reason
with thee. To-morrow shalt thou go with Infadoos and
my white brothers to the place, and beware how thou
failest, for if thou showest it not, then shalt thou slowly
die. I have spoken.”
” I will not fail, Ignosi. I always keep my word: ha!
ha ! ha ! Once a woman showed the place to a white man
before, and behold, evil befell him,” and here her wicked
eyes glinted. ” Her name was Gagool, too. Perchance I
was that woman.”
“Thou liest,” I said, “that was ten generations gone.”
“Mayhap, mayhap; when one lives long one forgets.
Perhaps it was my mother’s mother who told me ; surely
her name was Gagool, also. But mark, ye will find in the
place where the bright playthings are a bag of hide full
of stones. The man filled that bag, but he never took it
away. Evil befell him, I say; evil befell him ! Perhaps
it was my mother’s mother who told me. It will be a
merry journey – we can see the bodies of those who died
in the battle as we go. Their eyes will be gone by now,
and their ribs will be hollow. Ha ! ha ! ha !”