“May I ask what your name is?” I said.
“Stella,” she answered.
“Stella what?” I said.
“Stella nothing,” she answered, in some pique; “Stella is my name; it is short and easy to remember at any rate. My father’s name is Thomas, and we live up there,” and she pointed round the base of the great peak. I looked at her astonished. “Have you lived there long?” I asked.
“Ever since I was seven years old. We came there in a waggon. Before that we came from England—from Oxfordshire; I can show you the place on a big map. It is called Garsingham.”
Again I thought I must be dreaming. “Do you know, Miss Stella,” I said, “it is very strange—so strange that it almost seems as though it could not be true—but I also came from Garsingham in Oxfordshire many years ago.”
She started up. “Are you an English gentleman?” she said. “Ah, I have always longed to see an English gentleman. I have never seen but one Englishman since we lived here, and he certainly was not a gentleman—no white people at all, indeed, except a few wandering Boers. We live among black people and baboons—only I have read about English people—lots of books—poetry and novels. But tell me what is your name? Macumazahn the black man called you, but you must have a white name, too.”
“My name is Allan Quatermain,” I said.
Her face turned quite white, her rosy lips parted, and she looked at me wildly with her beautiful dark eyes.
“It is wonderful,” she said, “but I have often heard that name. My father has told me how a little boy called Allan Quatermain once saved my life by putting out my dress when it was on fire—see!”—and she pointed to a faint red mark upon her neck—“here is the scar of the burn.”
“I remember it,” I said. “You were dressed up as Father Christmas. It was I who put out the fire; my wrists were burnt in doing so.”
Then for a space we sat silent, looking at each other, while Stella slowly fanned herself with her wide felt hat, in which some white ostrich plumes were fixed.
“This is God’s doing,” she said at last. “You saved my life when I was a child; now I have saved yours and the little girl’s. Is she your own daughter?” she added, quickly.
“No,” I answered; “I will tell you the tale presently.”
“Yes,” she said, “you shall tell me as we go home. It is time to be starting home, it will take us three hours to get there. Hendrika, Hendrika, bring the horses here!”
Hendrika obeyed, leading the horses to the side of the tree.
“Now, Mr. Allan,” said Stella, “you must ride on my horse, and the old black man must ride on the other. I will walk, and Hendrika will carry the child. Oh, do not be afraid, she is very strong, she could carry you or me.”
Hendrika grunted assent. I am sorry that I cannot express her method of speech by any more polite term. Sometimes she grunted like a monkey, sometimes she clicked like a Bushman, and sometimes she did both together, when she became quite unintelligible.