Chapter 6 Summary
Allan Quatermain awakens, dreaming that he was bathing in a running stream. When he becomes aware of his surroundings, he remembers Umbopa’s warning that they would die that day if they did not find water.
Dawn is breaking, so he pulls out a book of poems to read, but the subject of water in the poem is torture. When his companions wake up, they discuss their need for water. Captain Good starts to drink some of the brandy, but Sir Henry stops him, telling him that alcohol in his dehydrated state would finish him off.
The other servant, a Hottentot named Ventvogel, examines the ground and finds signs of a springbok, which do not go far from water. Ventvogel then says that he smells water and heads off in search of it. Before them, about forty or fifty miles in front of them, are Sheba’s Breasts, where a cave leading to the mines is supposed to be.
The group climbs up into the hills and finds a pool at the top. Quatermain surmises that there must be an underground spring feeding the hilltop water source. They refresh themselves and bathe in the pool, and once again climb up Sheba’s left Breast. They find some melons that provide liquid as well as food. Quatermain shoots a bird, providing them with some much-needed fresh meat.
The group continues to climb during the cool of the night, anxious that they will soon run out of food. They had escaped from dying of thirst but now they face the possibility of dying from hunger.
Ventvogel, unused to the high altitude, is suffering greatly from the cold. At last they see the cave near the top of the mountain. They enter the cave and huddle to get warm, drinking the last of the brandy. However, the temperature is several degrees below the freezing point, and they are unable to sleep. This is fortunate, speculates Quatermain, because they would freeze to death if they were to fall asleep.
Not long before dawn, Quatermain hears Ventvogel’s teeth chattering. Soon they stop, and Quatermain thinks nothing more about it. In the morning they find that Venvogel has frozen to death.
The men look toward the mouth of the cavern and see someone sitting there. When they approach, they find that it is the body of a white man. They race out of the cave in fear, not bothering to examine the corpse any more closely.