Maurice Sellon, an Englishman seeking fortune in South Africa, arrives lost and nearly dead of thirst at the remote farm of Renshaw Fanning. There he finds Fanning delirious and suffering from malaria, and as Sellon nurses him back to health, he hears him rave of the treasures to be found in the "Valley of the Eye."
After Fanning recovers, the two men embark on a quest through the hostile African terrain in search of untold riches. But if they are to reach the treasure, they will have to survive savage animals, bloodthirsty natives armed with poisoned arrows, and-perhaps most terrifying of all-each other. After all, in the lonely and desolate desert, who would ever know if one of the men decided to do away with the other and keep the entire treasure for himself?
On one level, Renshaw Fanning's Quest (1894) is an African treasure quest tale in the tradition of H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines (1885). But Mitford's novel is not a simple story of adventure. In Renshaw Fanning's Quest-a novel drawing on his own experiences in South Africa-Mitford subtly explores the dark side of human nature when confronted by the most hostile and dangerous of situations. And on another level, the novel is a depiction of a way of life filled with high adventure and limitless possibility-a way of life that at the turn of the 20th century was rapidly disappearing.