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Heu-Heu by H. Rider Haggard


The Monster


subjects: Action & Adventure

series: Allan Quatermain (#9)

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This work is available for countries where copyright is Life+70 or less.


Allan Quatermain is confronted with the legend of the Heu-Heu, a monster who eats humans, while sheltering from a thunderstorm in the Drakensberg mountains. The legend appears to be reality as Quatermain is to find out after arriving in Zululand and being summond by Zikali, a Zulu Sangoma of indeterminate age. Together with his trusted companion, Hans, Quatermain is sent on a mission by Zikali. This mission is, firstly to procure a potent herb which Zikali needs and which happens to originate from a tree in the Heu-Heu’s garden. Secondly, it is to overthrow the Heu-Heu at the behest of Issicore, a noble from the tribe Walloo, the worshipers of Heu-Heu, who has travelled to Zikali to ask for assistance.

327 pages with a reading time of ~5 hours (81946 words), and first published in 1924. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Now I, the Editor, whose duty it has been as an executor or otherwise, to give to the world so many histories of, or connected with, the adventures of my dear friend, the late Allan Quatermain, or Macumazahn, Watcher-by-Night, as the natives in Africa used to call him, come to one of the most curious of them all. Here I should say at once that he told it to me many years ago at his house called “The Grange,” in Yorkshire, where I was staying, but a little while before he departed with Sir Henry Curtis and Captain Good upon his last expedition into the heart of Africa, whence he returned no more.

At the time I made very copious notes of a history that struck me as strange and suggestive, but the fact is that afterwards I lost them and could never trust my memory to reproduce even their substance with the accuracy which I knew my departed friend would have desired.

Only the other day, however, in turning out a box-room, I came upon a hand-bag which I recognized as one that I had used in the far past when I was practising, or trying to practise, at the Bar. With a certain emotion such as overtakes us when, after the lapse of many years, we are confronted by articles connected with the long-dead events of our youth, I took it to a window and with some difficulty opened its rusted catch. In the bag was a small collection of rubbish: papers connected with cases on which once I had worked as “devil” for an eminent and learned friend who afterwards became a judge, a blue pencil with a broken point, and so forth.

I looked through the papers and studied my own marginal notes made on points in causes which I had utterly forgotten, though doubtless these had been important enough to me at the time, and, with a sigh, tore them up and threw them on the floor. Then I reversed the bag to knock out the dust. As I was doing this there slipped from an inner pocket, a very thick notebook with a shiny black cover such as used to be bought for sixpence. I opened that book and the first thing that my eye fell upon was this heading:

“Summary of A. Q.’s Strange Story of the Monster-God, or Fetish, Heu-Heu, which He and the Hottentot Hans Discovered in Central South Africa.”

Instantly everything came back to me. I saw myself, a young man in those days, making those shorthand notes late one night in my bedroom at the Grange before the impression of old Allan’s story had become dim in my mind, also continuing them on the train upon my journey south on the morrow, and subsequently expanding them in my chambers at Elm Court in the Temple whenever I found time to spare.

I remembered, too, my annoyance when I discovered that this notebook was nowhere to be found, although I was aware that I had put it away in some place that I thought particularly safe. I can still see myself hunting for it in the little study of the house I had in a London suburb at the time, and at last giving up the quest in despair. Then the years went on and many things happened, so that in the end both notes and the story they outlined were forgotten. Now they have appeared again from the dust-heap of the past, reviving many memories, and I set out the tale of this particular chapter of the history of the adventurous life of my beloved friend, Allan Quatermain, who so long ago was gathered to the Shades that await us all.

One night, after a day’s shooting, we–that is, old Allan, Sir Henry Curtis, Captain Good, and I–were seated in the smoking room of Quatermain’s house, the Grange, in Yorkshire, smoking and talking of many things.

I happened to mention that I had read a paragraph, copied from an American paper, which stated that a huge reptile of an antediluvian kind had been seen by some hunters in a swamp of the Zambesi, and asked Allan if he believed the story. He shook his head and answered in a cautious fashion which suggested to me, I remember, his unwillingness to give his views as to the continued existence of such creatures on the earth, that Africa is a big place and it was possible that in its recesses prehistoric animals or reptiles lingered on.

“I know that this is the case with snakes,” he continued hurriedly as though to avoid the larger topic, “for once I came across one as large as the biggest Anaconda that is told of in South America, where occasionally they are said to reach a length of sixty feet or more. Indeed, we killed it–or rather my Hottentot servant, Hans, did–after it had crushed and swallowed one of our party. This snake was worshipped as a king of gods, and might have given rise to the tale of enormous reptiles. Also, to omit other experiences of which I prefer not to speak, I have seen an elephant so much above the ordinary in size that it might have belonged to a prehistoric age. This elephant has been known for centuries and was named Jana.

“Did you kill it?” inquired Good, peering at him through his eyeglasses in his quick, inquisitive way.