After spending a week in Cape Town, South Africa, Allan Quatermain has decided to go back to Natal. So he heads down to the docks to board the Dunkeld, which is waiting for another ship, the Edinburgh Castle, to come in before setting off its next voyage. Quatermain takes his berth aboard ship, and the Dunkeld heads out to sea.
A number of passengers who've come aboard have piqued Quatermain's curiosity. There's one man in particular whose appearance is notably striking: a large man of about thirty with yellow hair and a thick yellow beard. The man reminds Quatermain of an ancient Dane; all he needs is a horn-mug and a battleax and the look would be complete.
As it turns out, the man is not a Dane, but a Briton. He's Sir Henry Curtis, an aristocrat and traveler, who in due course will accompany Quatermain on his next epic adventure. As it turns out, Quatermain can be forgiven for thinking that Sir Henry was a Dane, as he has Danish blood coursing through his veins.
When Quatermain first sees him, Sir Henry is talking to a man whom Quatermain immediately suspects to be a naval officer. This time, Quatermain's instincts are correct. For Sir Henry is in conversation with his friend Captain John Good, who was indeed an officer of the Royal Navy, but who was dismissed upon receiving the rank of Commander.