Following the disappearance of his brother, Sir Henry Curtis tracks down Allan Quartermain, a trader and hunter who knows Africa as well as any white man. Curtis’s brother has taken an expedition into the uncharted interior of Africa in search of the fabled diamond mines of King Solomon, but has not returned. Quartermain possesses an ancient map drawn in blood purporting to show the way to the mines and agrees to mount a rescue in return for a share of the bounty. The expedition journeys over perilous mountains, through scorching deserts and tribal war, but upon reaching the mines Quartermain must face his toughest challenge: the evil and clever Gagaoola. Haggard’s Quatermain adventures have been used as the template for the Hollywood movies about Indiana Jones.
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 the way.