FoundAND now I come to perhaps the strangest thing that happened to us in all that strange business, and one which shows how wonderfully things are brought about.
I was walking quietly along, some way in front of the other two, down the banks of the stream which ran from the oasis till it was swallowed up in the hungry desert sands, when suddenly I stopped and rubbed my eyes, as well I might. There, not twenty yards in front, placed in a charming situation, under the shade of a species of fig-tree, and facing to the stream, was a cosey hut, built more or less on the Kaffir principle of grass and withes, only with a full-length door instead of a bee-hole.
"What the dickens," said I to myself, "can a hut be doing here?" Even as I said it, the door of the hut opened, and there limped out of it a white man clothed in skins, and with an enormous black beard. I thought that I must have got a touch of the sun. It was impossible. No hunter ever came to such a place as this. Certainly no hunter would ever settle in it. I stared and stared, and so did the other man, and just at that juncture Sir Henry and Good came up.
"Look here, you fellows," I said, "is that a white man, or am I mad?"
Sir Henry looked, and Good looked, and then all of a sudden the lame white man with the black beard gave a great cry, and came hobbling towards us. When he got close he fell down in a sort of faint.
With a spring Sir Henry was by his side.
"Great Powers!" he cried, "it is my brother George!"
At the sound of the disturbance another figure, also clad in skins, emerged from the hut with a gun in his hand, and came running towards us. On seeing me he too gave a cry.
"Macumazahn," he hallooed, "don't you know me, Baas? I'm Jim, the hunter. I lost the note you gave me to give to the Baas, and we have been here nearly two years." And the fellow fell at my feet and rolled over and over, weeping for joy.
"You careless scoundrel!" I said; "you ought to be well hided."
Meanwhile the man with the black beard had recovered and got up, and he and Sir Henry were pump- handling away at each other, apparently without a word to say. But whatever they had quarrelled about in the past (I suspect it was a lady, though I never asked), it was evidently forgotten now.
"My dear old fellow," burst out Sir Henry at last, "I thought that you were dead. I have been over Solomon's Mountains to find you, and now I come across you perched in the desert, like an old Aasvögel (vulture)."
"I tried to go over Solomon's Mountains nearly two years ago," was the answer, spoken in the hesitating voice of a man who has had little recent opportunity of using his tongue, "but when I got here, a boulder fell on my leg and crushed it, and I have been able to go neither forward nor back."
Then I came up. "How do you do, Mr. Neville?" I said; "do you remember me?"
"Why," he said, "isn't it Quatermain, eh, and Good, too? Hold on a minute, you fellows, I am getting dizzy again. It is all so very strange, and, when a man has ceased to hope, so very happy."
That evening, over the camp-fire, George Curtis told us his story, which, in its way, was almost as eventful as our own, and amounted, shortly, to this. A little short of two years before, he had started from Sitanda's Kraal, to try and reach the mountains. As for the note I had sent him by Jim, that worthy had lost it, and he had never heard of it till to-day. But, acting upon information he had received from the natives, he made, not for Sheba's breasts, but for the ladder-like descent of the mountains down which we had just come, which was clearly a better route than that marked out in old Don Silvestra's plan. In the desert he and Jim suffered great hardships, but finally they reached this oasis, where a terrible accident befell
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