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Before there was Indiana Jones there was Allan Quartermain: the original explorer, treasure hunter, and adventurer. In this sequel to King Solomon’s Mines, Allan Quatermain and his companions once more set out for Africa, this time in search of a white race reputed to live north of Mount Kenya. They survive fierce encounters with Masai warriors, undergo a terrifying subterranean journey, and discover a lost civilization before being caught up in a passionate love-triangle that engulfs the country in a ferocious civil war. Haggard not only narrates his story with wonderfully dramatic and poetic touches, but also reveals many Victorian preoccupations with evolution and race, sexuality, and the `New Woman’.
A week had passed since the funeral of my poor boy Harry, and one evening I was in my room walking up and down and thinking, when there was a ring at the outer door. Going down the steps I opened it myself, and in came my old friends Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good, RN. They entered the vestibule and sat themselves down before the wide hearth, where, I remember, a particularly good fire of logs was burning.
‘It is very kind of you to come round,’ I said by way of making a remark; ‘it must have been heavy walking in the snow.’
They said nothing, but Sir Henry slowly filled his pipe and lit it with a burning ember. As he leant forward to do so the fire got hold of a gassy bit of pine and flared up brightly, throwing the whole scene into strong relief, and I thought, What a splendid–looking man he is! Calm, powerful face, clear–cut features, large grey eyes, yellow beard and hair — altogether a magnificent specimen of the higher type of humanity. Nor did his form belie his face. I have never seen wider shoulders or a deeper chest. Indeed, Sir Henry’s girth is so great that, though he is six feet two high, he does not strike one as a tall man. As I looked at him I could not help thinking what a curious contrast my little dried–up self presented to his grand face and form. Imagine to yourself a small, withered, yellow–faced man of sixty–three, with thin hands, large brown eyes, a head of grizzled hair cut short and standing up like a half–worn scrubbing–brush — total weight in my clothes, nine stone six — and you will get a very fair idea of Allan Quatermain, commonly called Hunter Quatermain, or by the natives ‘Macumazahn’ — Anglic/CHAR: e grave/, he who keeps a bright look–out at night, or, in vulgar English, a sharp fellow who is not to be taken in.