Chapter 1 Summary
Allan Quatermain, a hunter and trader now more than sixty years of age, recently has made a great deal of money through his adventures. Although he is no writer, he decides to tell his story at the request of his two companions, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good.
Since he is laid up with a bad leg from the bite of a lion, he decides he might as well take them up on it. Also his son Harry, who is in London studying to become a physician, would be amused by his father’s adventures as a means of passing the time away from his studies. But most importantly, Quatermain has the strangest story to tell, even though there are no women in it.
Quatermain relates that he was born a gentleman but has been nothing but a traveling trader and hunter all his life. Although he has killed many men, none of them have been of innocent blood.
Eighteen months previously, he had been hunting elephant but had run into a lot of bad luck. He decides to return to his home in Natal by boat. He sees another passenger, who is about thirty with blond hair, reminding him of an ancient Dane. He is talking to a stout, dark man who Quatermain immediately decides must be a naval officer, which indeed he turns out to be.
After the boat gets underway, the dark man complains to Quatermain that the pendulum near the engines was not properly weighted. He introduces himself as Captain John Good, a retired naval officer as Quatermain had guessed he must be. Captain Good and Quatermain dine together, meeting Sir Henry Curtis at a nearby table. As the captain and Quatermain talk, Sir Henry interrupts and asks if he is indeed Allan Quatermain, the hunter. When Quatermain assures him that he is, Sir Henry mumbles that it is “fortunate.”
After dinner, Sir Henry invites Quatermain and Captain Good to his quarters. Sir Henry seems to know of Quatermain’s recent travels, asking him if he met a man called Neville. When Quatermain explains that he met him heading into the interior of the continent, Sir Henry explains that Neville is really his brother George. They had had a quarrel, followed by their father’s death.
Sir Henry wants to find his lost brother, from whom nothing has been heard for a long time, because George, who has no profession, might be in a desperate situation. Sir Henry has come to Africa along with Captain Good to seek out Quatermain, who is the last person to have seen the missing man, and to discover where his brother might be.