I slipped through the gate and shut it fast.
“I say, Allan,” said Stephen, when we had retreated to a little distance, “did you see her?”
“Her? Who? Which?” I asked.
“The young lady in the white clothes. She is lovely.”
“Hold your tongue, you donkey!” I answered. “Is this a time to talk of female looks?”
Then I went away behind the wall and literally wept for joy. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, for how seldom things happen as they should!
Also I wanted to put up a little prayer of my own, a prayer of thankfulness and for strength and wit to overcome the many dangers that yet awaited us.
THE HOME OF THE HOLY FLOWER
Half an hour or so passed, during which I was engaged alternately in thinking over our position and in listening to Stephen’s rhapsodies. First he dilated on the loveliness of the Holy Flower that he had caught a glimpse of when he climbed the wall, and secondly, on the beauty of the eyes of the young lady in white. Only by telling him that he might offend her did I persuade him not to attempt to break into the sacred enclosure where the orchid grew. As we were discussing the point, the gate opened and she appeared.
“Sirs,” she said, with a reverential bow, speaking slowly and in the drollest halting English, “the mother and the father—yes, the father —ask, will you feed?”
We intimated that we would “feed” with much pleasure, and she led the way to the house, saying:
“Be not astonished at them, for they are very happy too, and please forgive our unleavened bread.”
Then in the politest way possible she took me by the hand, and followed by Stephen, we entered the house, leaving Mavovo and Hans to watch outside.
It consisted of but two rooms, one for living and one for sleeping. In the former we found Brother John and his wife seated on a kind of couch gazing at each other in a rapt way. I noted that they both looked as though they had been crying—with happiness, I suppose.
“Elizabeth,” said John as we entered, “this is Mr. Allan Quatermain, through whose resource and courage we have come together again, and this young gentleman is his companion, Mr. Stephen Somers.”
She bowed, for she seemed unable to speak, and held out her hand, which we shook.
“What be ’resource and courage’?” I heard her daughter whisper to Stephen, “and why have you none, O Stephen Somers?”
“It would take a long time to explain,” he said with his jolly laugh, after which I listened to no more of their nonsense.
Then we sat down to the meal, which consisted of vegetables and a large bowl of hard-boiled ducks’ eggs, of which eatables an ample supply was carried out to Hans and Mavovo by Stephen and Hope. This, it seemed, was the name that her mother had given to the girl when she was born in the hour of her black despair.