The 1914 children's adventure story that inspired the young Ayn Rand to become a writer! First translation into English!
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In a 1962 magazine interview, Ayn Rand recalled
The first thing that impressed me, very much—and I am not emotionally indifferent to this day—was an adventure story in a French children’s magazine called “The Mysterious Valley.” I don’t even remember the name of the author. It had an enormous influence on me because it presented in complete form the sort of man I could admire. It was just an adventure—British officers in India—but written in a very heroic way. I mean heroic in my sense: not brutes, but men of ingenuity and intelligence. No work of literature has ever impressed me quite that much.3
This thrilling 1914 novel by Maurice Champagne (1868-1951) has now been discovered, and translated into English!
Men are mysteriously disappearing, on the wild frontier of northeastern India ... carried off by tigers. Among the missing is daring, intrepid British officer Cyrus Paltons, a man of indomitable will.
But strangely, no bodies are ever found. Two of Cyrus's friends set out to investigate ... only to discover a hidden valley where, possibly, their comrades might still be found alive. But countless perils await them ... deadly cobras, perilous descents, man-eating gavials, bloodthirsty natives ...
His weapon! It was his weapon!
With a cry of triumph he stood up, shouldered and fired. All that didn’t take three seconds.
But his aim was off: he missed the beast, which continued on its way with enormous bounds, still carrying its prey.
Then Multon realized that unless he gained control of his nerves and mastered his agitation, his friend would be lost forever.
“Now, then,” he muttered to himself, “be calm, be calm!”
It took tremendous effort, but he succeeded in steeling himself and mastering his nerves.
Deliberately, forcing himself to avoid all haste, he crouched down, shouldered the gun, and slowly took aim.
The tiger was there, at the end of his rifle barrel, he had it, he was sure of it.
Then why didn’t he pull the trigger?
Why did fate decree that at that very moment the thought occurred to him that he might kill his friend?
Who can explain it?
It’s true that he regained control of himself immediately, telling himself that even if he missed the beast and hit the doctor, death by a bullet would be better for Hobson than being torn apart and eaten alive.
But, alas! however fast his thoughts had been, lasting certainly no more than a fraction of a second, that was enough time for the situation to change.
When he shot the tiger was no longer in the line of fire, and with a formidable bound, as though the doctor it carried in its teeth weighed it down not at all, it disappeared among the tall grass.
For Multon it was like a nightmare vision.
For a moment, stunned, he remained in his place.
It seemed to him that his heart was going to stop beating, that he would collapse on the spot and fall in a heap.
But no, no, he mustn’t fall, he had to save and rescue his friend, deliver him from the ghastly death that awaited him—or perish with him, if need be.
So staggering like a madman, stumbling over roots, falling, getting up again, he threw himself after the beast, shouting desperately, at the top of his voice:
“Hobson! ... Hobson! ... Help! Help! ...”
And he went on running like that until, at the end of his strength, his knees bloodied, his hands torn, his forehead cut by a violent fall against the angle of a rock, he felt he couldn’t go any further, couldn’t take even one more step.
Besides, what good would it do? What direction would he follow?
He had lost the cat’s trail several minutes ago, and he was going on blindly, choosing his course at random.
No matter how terrible it might be, he had to face facts, and give up this mad and now utterly useless pursuit.
Hobson was dead! ...
Like Paltons, like Deaps, like the others, he had already perished, and Multon would never see him again.
Then, panting and standing there, grim-faced and hideous, the young man looked around with a demented look. Something like a red fog clouded his vision, his lips curled in a sort of terrible rictus, his voice was heart-rending.
“Hobson! ... William! ... Hobson!” he cried again.
Finally the cry died in his throat, and he fell in a heap, face forward in the tall grass.
Nature, stronger than he, had vanquished him.
Before giving up the pursuit Multon, one might say, had pushed himself not merely to the limit of his strength, but even beyond.
Now he fell to the ground, inert, unconscious, while down there, somewhere in some hidden corner, the solitary monster tranquilly tore apart and devoured its victim.
Translation copyright (c) 1994 by Bill Bucko