Queen shebas ring, p.1
Queen Sheba's Ring, p.1H. Rider Haggard
Produced by John Bickers; Emma Dudding; Dagny
QUEEN SHEBA'S RING
by H. Rider Haggard
THE COMING OF THE RING
Every one has read the monograph, I believe that is the right word,of my dear friend, Professor Higgs--Ptolemy Higgs to give him his fullname--descriptive of the tableland of Mur in North Central Africa, ofthe ancient underground city in the mountains which surrounded it,and of the strange tribe of Abyssinian Jews, or rather their mixeddescendants, by whom it is, or was, inhabited. I say every oneadvisedly, for although the public which studies such works is usuallyselect, that which will take an interest in them, if the character of alearned and pugnacious personage is concerned, is very wide indeed. Notto mince matters, I may as well explain what I mean at once.
Professor Higgs's rivals and enemies, of whom either the brilliancyof his achievements or his somewhat abrupt and pointed methods ofcontroversy seem to have made him a great many, have risen up, or ratherseated themselves, and written him down--well, an individual who strainsthe truth. Indeed, only this morning one of these inquired, in a letterto the press, alluding to some adventurous traveller who, I am told,lectured to the British Association several years ago, whether ProfessorHiggs did not, in fact, ride across the desert to Mur, not upon a camel,as he alleged, but upon a land tortoise of extraordinary size.
The innuendo contained in this epistle has made the Professor, who, asI have already hinted, is not by nature of a meek disposition, extremelyangry. Indeed, notwithstanding all that I could do, he left his Londonhouse under an hour ago with a whip of hippopotamus hide such as theEgyptians call a _koorbash_, purposing to avenge himself upon the personof his defamer. In order to prevent a public scandal, however, I havetaken the liberty of telephoning to that gentleman, who, bold andvicious as he may be in print, is physically small and, I should say,of a timid character, to get out of the way at once. To judge from theabrupt fashion in which our conversation came to an end, I imagine thatthe hint has been taken. At any rate, I hope for the best, and, asan extra precaution, have communicated with the lawyers of my justlyindignant friend.
The reader will now probably understand that I am writing this book, notto bring myself or others before the public, or to make money of which Ihave no present need, or for any purpose whatsoever, except to set downthe bare and actual truth. In fact, so many rumours are flying aboutas to where we have been and what befell us that this has becomealmost necessary. As soon as I laid down that cruel column of gibes andinsinuations to which I have alluded--yes, this very morning, beforebreakfast, this conviction took hold of me so strongly that I cabledto Oliver, Captain Oliver Orme, the hero of my history, if it hasany particular hero, who is at present engaged upon what must be anextremely agreeable journey round the world--asking his consent. Tenminutes since the answer arrived from Tokyo. Here it is:
"Do what you like and think necessary, but please alter all names, etcetera, as propose returning via America, and fear interviewers. Japanjolly place." Then follows some private matter which I need not insert.Oliver is always extravagant where cablegrams are concerned.
I suppose that before entering on this narration, for the reader'sbenefit I had better give some short description of myself.
My name is Richard Adams, and I am the son of a Cumberland yeoman whomarried a Welshwoman. Therefore I have Celtic blood in my veins, whichperhaps accounts for my love of roving and other things. I am now an oldman, near the end of my course, I suppose; at any rate, I was sixty-fivelast birthday. This is my appearance as I see it in the glass beforeme: tall, spare (I don't weigh more than a hundred and forty pounds--thedesert has any superfluous flesh that I ever owned, my lot having been,like Falstaff, to lard the lean earth, but in a hot climate); my eyesare brown, my face is long, and I wear a pointed white beard, whichmatches the white hair above.
Truth compels me to add that my general appearance, as seen in thatglass which will not lie, reminds me of that of a rather aged goat;indeed, to be frank, by the natives among whom I have sojourned, andespecially among the Khalifa's people when I was a prisoner there, Ihave often been called the White Goat.
Of my very commonplace outward self let this suffice. As for my record,I am a doctor of the old school. Think of it! When I was a student atBart.'s the antiseptic treatment was quite a new thing, and administeredwhen at all, by help of a kind of engine on wheels, out of whichdisinfectants were dispensed with a pump, much as the advanced gardenersprays a greenhouse to-day.
I succeeded above the average as a student, and in my early time asa doctor. But in every man's life there happen things which, whateverexcuses may be found for them, would not look particularly well in coldprint (nobody's record, as understood by convention and the Pharisee,could really stand cold print); also something in my blood made me itsservant. In short, having no strict ties at home, and desiring to seethe world, I wandered far and wide for many years, earning my livingas I went, never, in my experience, a difficult thing to do, for I wasalways a master of my trade.
My fortieth birthday found me practising at Cairo, which I mention onlybecause it was here that first I met Ptolemy Higgs, who, even then inhis youth, was noted for his extraordinary antiquarian and linguisticabilities. I remember that in those days the joke about him was that hecould swear in fifteen languages like a native and in thirty-two withcommon proficiency, and could read hieroglyphics as easily as a bishopreads the _Times_.
Well, I doctored him through a bad attack of typhoid, but as he hadspent every farthing he owned on scarabs or something of the sort, madehim no charge. This little kindness I am bound to say he never forgot,for whatever his failings may be (personally I would not trust him alonewith any object that was more than a thousand years old), Ptolemy is agood and faithful friend.
In Cairo I married a Copt. She was a lady of high descent, the traditionin her family being that they were sprung from one of the PtolemaicPharaohs, which is possible and even probable enough. Also, she was aChristian, and well educated in her way. But, of course, she remained anOriental, and for a European to marry an Oriental is, as I have tried toexplain to others, a very dangerous thing, especially if he continuesto live in the East, where it cuts him off from social recognition andintimacy with his own race. Still, although this step of mine forced meto leave Cairo and go to Assouan, then a little-known place, to practisechiefly among the natives, God knows we were happy enough together tillthe plague took her, and with it my joy in life.
I pass over all that business, since there are some things too dreadfuland too sacred to write about. She left me one child, a son, who, tofill up my cup of sorrow, when he was twelve years of age, was kidnappedby the Mardi's people.
This brings me to the real story. There is nobody else to writeit; Oliver will not; Higgs cannot (outside of anything learned andantiquarian, he is hopeless); so I must. At any rate, if it is notinteresting, the fault will be mine, not that of the story, which in allconscience is strange enough.
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