into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is

time:2023-12-07 04:13:19 source:Stately net author:system

password had proved true, and at any rate I should enter the cave.

into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is

In the darkness I could see nothing, but I judged that we stopped before the stone slab which, as I remembered, filled the extreme end of the gorge. My guide did something with the right-hand wall, and I felt myself being drawn into a kind of passage. It was so narrow that two could not go abreast, and so low that the creepers above scraped my hair. Something clicked behind me like the turnstile at the gate of a show.

into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is

Then we began to ascend steps, still in utter darkness, and a great booming fell on my ear. It was the falling river which had scared me on my former visit, and I marvelled that I had not heard it sooner. Presently we came out into a gleam of moonlight, and I saw that we were inside the gorge and far above the slab. We followed a narrow shelf on its left side (or 'true right', as mountaineers would call it) until we could go no farther. Then we did a terrible thing. Across the gorge, which here was at its narrowest, stretched a slab of stone. Far, far below I caught the moonlight on a mass of hurrying waters. This was our bridge, and though I have a good head for crags, I confess I grew dizzy as we turned to cross it. Perhaps it was broader than it looked; at any rate my guides seemed to have no fear, and strode across it as if it was a highway, while I followed in a sweat of fright. Once on the other side, I was handed over to a second pair of guides, who led me down a high passage running into the heart of the mountain.

into pools, where it subsides, and every now and then is

The boom of the river sank and rose as the passage twined. Soon I saw a gleam of light ahead which was not the moon. It grew larger, until suddenly the roof rose and I found myself in a gigantic chamber. So high it was that I could not make out anything of the roof, though the place was brightly lit with torches stuck round the wall, and a great fire which burned at the farther end. But the wonder was on the left side, where the floor ceased in a chasm. The left wall was one sheet of water, where the river fell from the heights into the infinite depth, below. The torches and the fire made the sheer stream glow and sparkle like the battlements of the Heavenly City. I have never seen any sight so beautiful or so strange, and for a second my breath stopped in admiration.

There were two hundred men or more in the chamber, but so huge was the place that they seemed only a little company. They sat on the ground in a circle, with their eyes fixed on the fire and on a figure which stood before it. The glow revealed the old man I had seen on that morning a month before moving towards the cave. He stood as if in a trance, straight as a tree, with his arms crossed on his breast. A robe of some shining white stuff fell from his shoulders, and was clasped round his middle by a broad circle of gold. His head was shaven, and on his forehead was bound a disc of carved gold. I saw from his gaze that his old eyes were blind.

'Who comes?'he asked as I entered.

'A messenger from the Inkulu,' I spoke up boldly. 'He follows soon with the white man, Henriques.'

Then I sat down in the back row of the circle to await events. I noticed that my neighbour was the fellow 'Mwanga whom I had kicked out of the store. Happily I was so dusty that he could scarcely recognize me, but I kept my face turned away from him. What with the light and the warmth, the drone of the water, the silence of the folk, and my mental and physical stress, I grew drowsy and all but slept.


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