Part 2 out of 3
slay them, or when one goes too close to their camp. But
seldom do they hunt us, for they find what food they need
among the deer and wild cattle, and, too, we make them
gifts, for are we not intruders in their country? Really we
live upon good terms with them, though I should not care to
meet one were there not many spears in my party."
"I should like to visit this Camp of the Lions," I said.
"Oh, no, you must not!" cried the girl. "That would be
terrible. They would eat you." For a moment, then, she
seemed lost in thought, but presently she turned upon me
with: "You must go now, for any minute Buckingham may come
in search of me. Long since should they have learned that I
am gone from the camp--they watch over me very closely--and
they will set out after me. Go! I shall wait here until
they come in search of me."
"No," I told her. "I'll not leave you alone in a land
infested by lions and other wild beasts. If you won't let
me go as far as your camp with you, then I'll wait here
until they come in search of you."
"Please go!" she begged. "You have saved me, and I would
save you, but nothing will save you if Buckingham gets his
hands on you. He is a bad man. He wishes to have me for
his woman so that he may be king. He would kill anyone who
befriended me, for fear that I might become another's."
"Didn't you say that Buckingham is already the king?" I
"He is. He took my mother for his woman after he had killed
Wettin. But my mother will die soon--she is very old--and
then the man to whom I belong will become king."
Finally, after much questioning, I got the thing through my
head. It appears that the line of descent is through the
women. A man is merely head of his wife's family--that is
all. If she chances to be the oldest female member of the
"royal" house, he is king. Very naively the girl explained
that there was seldom any doubt as to whom a child's mother
This accounted for the girl's importance in the community
and for Buckingham's anxiety to claim her, though she told
me that she did not wish to become his woman, for he was a
bad man and would make a bad king. But he was powerful, and
there was no other man who dared dispute his wishes.
"Why not come with me," I suggested, "if you do not wish to
"Where would you take me?" she asked.
Where, indeed! I had not thought of that. But before I
could reply to her question she shook her head and said,
"No, I cannot leave my people. I must stay and do my best,
even if Buckingham gets me, but you must go at once. Do not
wait until it is too late. The lions have had no offering
for a long time, and Buckingham would seize upon the first
stranger as a gift to them."
I did not perfectly understand what she meant, and was about
to ask her when a heavy body leaped upon me from behind, and
great arms encircled my neck. I struggled to free myself
and turn upon my antagonist, but in another instant I was
overwhelmed by a half dozen powerful, half-naked men, while
a score of others surrounded me, a couple of whom seized the
I fought as best I could for my liberty and for hers, but
the weight of numbers was too great, though I had the
satisfaction at least of giving them a good fight.
When they had overpowered me, and I stood, my hands bound
behind me, at the girl's side, she gazed commiseratingly at
"It is too bad that you did not do as I bid you," she said,
"for now it has happened just as I feared--Buckingham has
"Which is Buckingham?" I asked.
"I am Buckingham," growled a burly, unwashed brute,
swaggering truculently before me. "And who are you who
would have stolen my woman?"
The girl spoke up then and tried to explain that I had not
stolen her; but on the contrary I had saved her from the men
from the "Elephant Country" who were carrying her away.
Buckingham only sneered at her explanation, and a moment
later gave the command that started us all off toward the
west. We marched for a matter of an hour or so, coming at
last to a collection of rude huts, fashioned from branches
of trees covered with skins and grasses and sometimes
plastered with mud. All about the camp they had erected a
wall of saplings pointed at the tops and fire hardened.
This palisade was a protection against both man and beasts,
and within it dwelt upward of two thousand persons, the
shelters being built very close together, and sometimes
partially underground, like deep trenches, with the poles
and hides above merely as protection from the sun and rain.
The older part of the camp consisted almost wholly of
trenches, as though this had been the original form of
dwellings which was slowly giving way to the drier and
airier surface domiciles. In these trench habitations I saw
a survival of the military trenches which formed so famous a
part of the operation of the warring nations during the
The women wore a single light deerskin about their hips, for
it was summer, and quite warm. The men, too, were clothed
in a single garment, usually the pelt of some beast of prey.
The hair of both men and women was confined by a rawhide
thong passing about the forehead and tied behind. In this
leathern band were stuck feathers, flowers, or the tails of
small mammals. All wore necklaces of the teeth or claws of
wild beasts, and there were numerous metal wristlets and
anklets among them.
They wore, in fact, every indication of a most primitive
people--a race which had not yet risen to the heights of
agriculture or even the possession of domestic animals.
They were hunters--the lowest plane in the evolution of the
human race of which science takes cognizance.
And yet as I looked at their well shaped heads, their
handsome features, and their intelligent eyes, it was
difficult to believe that I was not among my own. It was
only when I took into consideration their mode of living,
their scant apparel, the lack of every least luxury among
them, that I was forced to admit that they were, in truth,
but ignorant savages.
Buckingham had relieved me of my weapons, though he had not
the slightest idea of their purpose or uses, and when we
reached the camp he exhibited both me and my arms with every
indication of pride in this great capture.
The inhabitants flocked around me, examining my clothing,
and exclaiming in wonderment at each new discovery of
button, buckle, pocket, and flap. It seemed incredible that
such a thing could be, almost within a stone's throw of the
spot where but a brief two centuries before had stood the
greatest city of the world.
They bound me to a small tree that grew in the middle of one
of their crooked streets, but the girl they released as soon
as we had entered the enclosure. The people greeted her
with every mark of respect as she hastened to a large hut
near the center of the camp.
Presently she returned with a fine looking, white-haired
woman, who proved to be her mother. The older woman carried
herself with a regal dignity that seemed quite remarkable in
a place of such primitive squalor.
The people fell aside as she approached, making a wide way
for her and her daughter. When they had come near and
stopped before me the older woman addressed me.
"My daughter has told me," she said, "of the manner in which
you rescued her from the men of the elephant country. If
Wettin lived you would be well treated, but Buckingham has
taken me now, and is king. You can hope for nothing from
such a beast as Buckingham."
The fact that Buckingham stood within a pace of us and was
an interested listener appeared not to temper her
expressions in the slightest.
"Buckingham is a pig," she continued. "He is a coward. He
came upon Wettin from behind and ran his spear through him.
He will not be king for long. Some one will make a face at
him, and he will run away and jump into the river."
The people began to titter and clap their hands. Buckingham
became red in the face. It was evident that he was far from
"If he dared," went on the old lady, "he would kill me now,
but he does not dare. He is too great a coward. If I could
help you I should gladly do so. But I am only queen--the
vehicle that has helped carry down, unsullied, the royal
blood from the days when Grabritin was a mighty country."
The old queen's words had a noticeable effect upon the mob
of curious savages which surrounded me. The moment they
discovered that the old queen was friendly to me and that I
had rescued her daughter they commenced to accord me a more
friendly interest, and I heard many words spoken in my
behalf, and demands were made that I not be harmed.
But now Buckingham interfered. He had no intention of being
robbed of his prey. Blustering and storming, he ordered the
people back to their huts, at the same time directing two of
his warriors to confine me in a dugout in one of the
trenches close to his own shelter.
Here they threw me upon the ground, binding my ankles
together and trussing them up to my wrists behind. There
they left me, lying upon my stomach--a most uncomfortable
and strained position, to which was added the pain where the
cords cut into my flesh.
Just a few days ago my mind had been filled with the
anticipation of the friendly welcome I should find among the
cultured Englishmen of London. Today I should be sitting in
the place of honor at the banquet board of one of London's
most exclusive clubs, feted and lionized.
The actuality! Here I lay, bound hand and foot, doubtless
almost upon the very site of a part of ancient London, yet
all about me was a primeval wilderness, and I was a captive
of half-naked wild men.
I wondered what had become of Delcarte and Taylor and
Snider. Would they search for me? They could never find
me, I feared, yet if they did, what could they accomplish
against this horde of savage warriors?
Would that I could warn them. I thought of the girl--
doubtless she could get word to them, but how was I to
communicate with her? Would she come to see me before I was
killed? It seemed incredible that she should not make some
slight attempt to befriend me; yet, as I recalled, she had
made no effort to speak with me after we had reached the
village. She had hastened to her mother the moment she had
been liberated. Though she had returned with the old queen,
she had not spoken to me, even then. I began to have my
Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was absolutely
friendless except for the old queen. For some unaccountable
reason my rage against the girl for her ingratitude rose to
For a long time I waited for some one to come to my prison
whom I might ask to bear word to the queen, but I seemed to
have been forgotten. The strained position in which I lay
became unbearable. I wriggled and twisted until I managed
to turn myself partially upon my side, where I lay half
facing the entrance to the dugout.
Presently my attention was attracted by the shadow of
something moving in the trench without, and a moment later
the figure of a child appeared, creeping upon all fours, as,
wide-eyed, and prompted by childish curiosity, a little girl
crawled to the entrance of my hut and peered cautiously and
I did not speak at first for fear of frightening the little
one away. But when I was satisfied that her eyes had become
sufficiently accustomed to the subdued light of the
interior, I smiled.
Instantly the expression of fear faded from her eyes to be
replaced with an answering smile.
"Who are you, little girl?" I asked.
"My name is Mary," she replied. "I am Victory's sister."
"And who is Victory?"
"You do not know who Victory is?" she asked, in
I shook my head in negation.
"You saved her from the elephant country people, and yet you
say you do not know her!" she exclaimed.
"Oh, so she is Victory, and you are her sister! I have not
heard her name before. That is why I did not know whom you
meant," I explained. Here was just the messenger for me.
Fate was becoming more kind.
"Will you do something for me, Mary?" I asked.
"If I can."
"Go to your mother, the queen, and ask her to come to me," I
said. "I have a favor to ask."
She said that she would, and with a parting smile she left
For what seemed many hours I awaited her return, chafing
with impatience. The afternoon wore on and night came, and
yet no one came near me. My captors brought me neither food
nor water. I was suffering considerable pain where the
rawhide thongs cut into my swollen flesh. I thought that
they had either forgotten me, or that it was their intention
to leave me here to die of starvation.
Once I heard a great uproar in the village. Men were
shouting--women were screaming and moaning. After a time
this subsided, and again there was a long interval of
Half the night must have been spent when I heard a sound in
the trench near the hut. It resembled muffled sobs.
Presently a figure appeared, silhouetted against the lesser
darkness beyond the doorway. It crept inside the hut.
"Are you here?" whispered a childlike voice.
It was Mary! She had returned. The thongs no longer hurt
me. The pangs of hunger and thirst disappeared. I realized
that it had been loneliness from which I suffered most.
"Mary!" I exclaimed. "You are a good girl. You have come
back, after all. I had commenced to think that you would
not. Did you give my message to the queen? Will she come?
Where is she?"
The child's sobs increased, and she flung herself upon the
dirt floor of the hut, apparently overcome by grief.
"What is it?" I asked. "Why do you cry?"
"The queen, my mother, will not come to you," she said,
between sobs. "She is dead. Buckingham has killed her.
Now he will take Victory, for Victory is queen. He kept us
fastened up in our shelter, for fear that Victory would
escape him, but I dug a hole beneath the back wall and got
out. I came to you, because you saved Victory once before,
and I thought that you might save her again, and me, also.
Tell me that you will."
"I am bound and helpless, Mary," I replied. "Otherwise I
would do what I could to save you and your sister."
"I will set you free!" cried the girl, creeping up to my
side. "I will set you free, and then you may come and slay
"Gladly!" I assented.
"We must hurry," she went on, as she fumbled with the hard
knots in the stiffened rawhide, "for Buckingham will be
after you soon. He must make an offering to the lions at
dawn before he can take Victory. The taking of a queen
requires a human offering!"
"And I am to be the offering?" I asked.
"Yes," she said, tugging at a knot. "Buckingham has been
wanting a sacrifice ever since he killed Wettin, that he
might slay my mother and take Victory."
The thought was horrible, not solely because of the hideous
fate to which I was condemned, but from the contemplation it
engendered of the sad decadence of a once enlightened race.
To these depths of ignorance, brutality, and superstition
had the vaunted civilization of twentieth century England
been plunged, and by what? War! I felt the structure of
our time-honored militaristic arguments crumbling about me.
Mary labored with the thongs that confined me. They proved
refractory--defying her tender, childish fingers. She
assured me, however, that she would release me, if "they"
did not come too soon.
But, alas, they came. We heard them coming down the trench,
and I bade Mary hide in a corner, lest she be discovered and
punished. There was naught else she could do, and so she
crawled away into the Stygian blackness behind me.
Presently two warriors entered. The leader exhibited a
unique method of discovering my whereabouts in the darkness.
He advanced slowly, kicking out viciously before him.
Finally he kicked me in the face. Then he knew where I was.
A moment later I had been jerked roughly to my feet. One of
the fellows stopped and severed the bonds that held my
ankles. I could scarcely stand alone. The two pulled and
hauled me through the low doorway and along the trench. A
party of forty or fifty warriors were awaiting us at the
brink of the excavation some hundred yards from the hut.
Hands were lowered to us, and we were dragged to the
surface. Then commenced a long march. We stumbled through
the underbrush wet with dew, our way lighted by a score of
torchbearers who surrounded us. But the torches were not to
light the way--that was but incidental. They were carried
to keep off the huge Carnivora that moaned and coughed and
roared about us.
The noises were hideous. The whole country seemed alive
with lions. Yellow-green eyes blazed wickedly at us from
out the surrounding darkness. My escort carried long, heavy
spears. These they kept ever pointed toward the beast of
prey, and I learned from snatches of the conversation I
overheard that occasionally there might be a lion who would
brave even the terrors of fire to leap in upon human prey.
It was for such that the spears were always couched.
But nothing of the sort occurred during this hideous death
march, and with the first pale heralding of dawn we reached
our goal--an open place in the midst of a tangled wildwood.
Here rose in crumbling grandeur the first evidences I had
seen of the ancient civilization which once had graced fair
Albion--a single, time-worn arch of masonry.
"The entrance to the Camp of the Lions!" murmured one of the
party in a voice husky with awe.
Here the party knelt, while Buckingham recited a weird,
prayer-like chant. It was rather long, and I recall only a
portion of it, which ran, if my memory serves me, somewhat
Lord of Grabritin, we Fall on our knees to
thee, This gift to bring. Greatest of kings
are thou! To thee we humbly bow! Peace to
our camp allow. God save thee, king!
Then the party rose, and dragging me to the crumbling arch,
made me fast to a huge, corroded, copper ring which was
dangling from an eyebolt imbedded in the masonry.
None of them, not even Buckingham, seemed to feel any
personal animosity toward me. They were naturally rough and
brutal, as primitive men are supposed to have been since the
dawn of humanity, but they did not go out of their way to
With the coming of dawn the number of lions about us seemed
to have greatly diminished--at least they made less noise--
and as Buckingham and his party disappeared into the woods,
leaving me alone to my terrible fate, I could hear the
grumblings and growlings of the beasts diminishing with the
sound of the chant, which the party still continued. It
appeared that the lions had failed to note that I had been
left for their breakfast, and had followed off after their
But I knew the reprieve would be but for a short time, and
though I had no wish to die, I must confess that I rather
wished the ordeal over and the peace of oblivion upon me.
The voices of the men and the lions receded in the distance,
until finally quiet reigned about me, broken only by the
sweet voices of birds and the sighing of the summer wind in
It seemed impossible to believe that in this peaceful
woodland setting the frightful thing was to occur which must
come with the passing of the next lion who chanced within
sight or smell of the crumbling arch.
I strove to tear myself loose from my bonds, but succeeded
only in tightening them about my arms. Then I remained
passive for a long time, letting the scenes of my lifetime
pass in review before my mind's eye.
I tried to imagine the astonishment, incredulity, and horror
with which my family and friends would be overwhelmed if,
for an instant, space could be annihilated and they could
see me at the gates of London.
The gates of London! Where was the multitude hurrying to
the marts of trade after a night of pleasure or rest? Where
was the clang of tramcar gongs, the screech of motor horns,
the vast murmur of a dense throng?
Where were they? And as I asked the question a lone, gaunt
lion strode from the tangled jungle upon the far side of the
clearing. Majestically and noiselessly upon his padded feet
the king of beasts moved slowly toward the gates of London
and toward me.
Was I afraid? I fear that I was almost afraid. I know that
I thought that fear was coming to me, and so I straightened
up and squared my shoulders and looked the lion straight in
the eyes--and waited.
It is not a nice way to die--alone, with one's hands fast
bound, beneath the fangs and talons of a beast of prey. No,
it is not a nice way to die, not a pretty way.
The lion was halfway across the clearing when I heard a
slight sound behind me. The great cat stopped in his
tracks. He lashed his tail against his sides now, instead
of simply twitching its tip, and his low moan became a
As I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the thing that had
aroused the fury of the beast before me, it sprang through
the arched gateway and was at my side--with parted lips and
heaving bosom and disheveled hair--a bronzed and lovely
vision to eyes that had never harbored hope of rescue.
It was Victory, and in her arms she clutched my rifle and
revolver. A long knife was in the doeskin belt that
supported the doeskin skirt tightly about her lithe limbs.
She dropped my weapons at my feet, and, snatching the knife
from its resting place, severed the bonds that held me. I
was free, and the lion was preparing to charge.
"Run!" I cried to the girl, as I bent and seized my rifle.
But she only stood there at my side, her bared blade ready
in her hand.
The lion was bounding toward us now in prodigious leaps. I
raised the rifle and fired. It was a lucky shot, for I had
no time to aim carefully, and when the beast crumpled and
rolled, lifeless, to the ground, I went upon my knees and
gave thanks to the God of my ancestors.
And, still upon my knees, I turned, and taking the girl's
hand in mine, I kissed it. She smiled at that, and laid her
other hand upon my head.
"You have strange customs in your country," she said.
I could not but smile at that when I thought how strange it
would seem to my countrymen could they but see me kneeling
there on the site of London, kissing the hand of England's
"And now," I said, as I rose, "you must return to the safety
of your camp. I will go with you until you are near enough
to continue alone in safety. Then I shall try to return to
"I will not return to the camp," she replied.
"But what shall you do?" I asked.
"I do not know. Only I shall never go back while Buckingham
lives. I should rather die than go back to him. Mary came
to me, after they had taken you from the camp, and told me.
I found your strange weapons and followed with them. It
took me a little longer, for often I had to hide in the
trees that the lions might not get me, but I came in time,
and now you are free to go back to your friends."
"And leave you here?" I exclaimed.
She nodded, but I could see through all her brave front that
she was frightened at the thought. I could not leave her,
of course, but what in the world I was to do, cumbered with
the care of a young woman, and a queen at that, I was at a
loss to know. I pointed out that phase of it to her, but
she only shrugged her shapely shoulders and pointed to her
It was evident that she felt entirely competent to protect
As we stood there we heard the sound of voices. They were
coming from the forest through which we had passed when we
had come from camp.
"They are searching for me," said the girl. "Where shall we
I didn't relish hiding. But when I thought of the
innumerable dangers which surrounded us and the
comparatively small amount of ammunition that I had with me,
I hesitated to provoke a battle with Buckingham and his
warriors when, by flight, I could avoid them and preserve my
cartridges against emergencies which could not be escaped.
"Would they follow us there?" I asked, pointing through the
archway into the Camp of the Lions.
"Never," she replied, "for, in the first place, they would
know that we would not dare go there, and in the second they
themselves would not dare."
"Then we shall take refuge in the Camp of the Lions," I
She shuddered and drew closer to me.
"You dare?" she asked.
"Why not?" I returned. "We shall be safe from Buckingham,
and you have seen, for the second time in two days, that
lions are harmless before my weapons. Then, too, I can find
my friends easiest in this direction, for the River Thames
runs through this place you call the Camp of the Lions, and
it is farther down the Thames that my friends are awaiting
me. Do you not dare come with me?"
"I dare follow wherever you lead," she answered simply.
And so I turned and passed beneath the great arch into the
city of London.
As we entered deeper into what had once been the city, the
evidences of man's past occupancy became more frequent. For
a mile from the arch there was only a riot of weeds and
undergrowth and trees covering small mounds and little
hillocks that, I was sure, were formed of the ruins of
stately buildings of the dead past.
But presently we came upon a district where shattered walls
still raised their crumbling tops in sad silence above the
grass-grown sepulchers of their fallen fellows. Softened
and mellowed by ancient ivy stood these sentinels of sorrow,
their scarred faces still revealing the rents and gashes of
shrapnel and of bomb.
Contrary to our expectations, we found little indication
that lions in any great numbers laired in this part of
ancient London. Well-worn pathways, molded by padded paws,
led through the cavernous windows or doorways of a few of
the ruins we passed, and once we saw the savage face of a
great, black-maned lion scowling down upon us from a
shattered stone balcony.
We followed down the bank of the Thames after we came upon
it. I was anxious to look with my own eyes upon the famous
bridge, and I guessed, too, that the river would lead me
into the part of London where stood Westminster Abbey and
Realizing that the section through which we had been passing
was doubtless outlying, and therefore not so built up with
large structures as the more centrally located part of the
old town, I felt sure that farther down the river I should
find the ruins larger. The bridge would be there in part,
at least, and so would remain the walls of many of the great
edifices of the past. There would be no such complete ruin
of large structures as I had seen among the smaller
But when I had come to that part of the city which I judged
to have contained the relics I sought I found havoc that had
been wrought there even greater than elsewhere.
At one point upon the bosom of the Thames there rises a few
feet above the water a single, disintegrating mound of
masonry. Opposite it, upon either bank of the river, are
tumbled piles of ruins overgrown with vegetation.
These, I am forced to believe, are all that remain of London
Bridge, for nowhere else along the river is there any other
slightest sign of pier or abutment.
Rounding the base of a large pile of grass-covered debris,
we came suddenly upon the best preserved ruin we had yet
discovered. The entire lower story and part of the second
story of what must once have been a splendid public building
rose from a great knoll of shrubbery and trees, while ivy,
thick and luxuriant, clambered upward to the summit of the
In many places the gray stone was still exposed, its
smoothly chiseled face pitted with the scars of battle. The
massive portal yawned, somber and sorrowful, before us,
giving a glimpse of marble halls within.
The temptation to enter was too great. I wished to explore
the interior of this one remaining monument of civilization
now dead beyond recall. Through this same portal, within
these very marble halls, had Gray and Chamberlin and
Kitchener and Shaw, perhaps, come and gone with the other
great ones of the past.
I took Victory's hand in mine.
"Come!" I said. "I do not know the name by which this great
pile was known, nor the purposes it fulfilled. It may have
been the palace of your sires, Victory. From some great
throne within, your forebears may have directed the
destinies of half the world. Come!"
I must confess to a feeling of awe as we entered the rotunda
of the great building. Pieces of massive furniture of
another day still stood where man had placed them centuries
ago. They were littered with dust and broken stone and
plaster, but, otherwise, so perfect was their preservation I
could hardly believe that two centuries had rolled by since
human eyes were last set upon them.
Through one great room after another we wandered, hand in
hand, while Victory asked many questions and for the first
time I began to realize something of the magnificence and
power of the race from whose loins she had sprung.
Splendid tapestries, now mildewed and rotting, hung upon the
walls. There were mural paintings, too, depicting great
historic events of the past. For the first time Victory saw
the likeness of a horse, and she was much affected by a huge
oil which depicted some ancient cavalry charge against a
battery of field guns.
In other pictures there were steamships, battleships,
submarines, and quaint looking railway trains--all small and
antiquated in appearance to me, but wonderful to Victory.
She told me that she would like to remain for the rest of
her life where she could look at those pictures daily.
From room to room we passed until presently we emerged into
a mighty chamber, dark and gloomy, for its high and narrow
windows were choked and clogged by ivy. Along one paneled
wall we groped, our eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the
darkness. A rank and pungent odor pervaded the atmosphere.
We had made our way about half the distance across one end
of the great apartment when a low growl from the far end
brought us to a startled halt.
Straining my eyes through the gloom, I made out a raised
dais at the extreme opposite end of the hall. Upon the dais
stood two great chairs, highbacked and with great arms.
The throne of England! But what were those strange forms
Victory gave my hand a quick, excited little squeeze.
"The lions!" she whispered.
Yes, lions indeed! Sprawled about the dais were a dozen
huge forms, while upon the seat of one of the thrones a
small cub lay curled in slumber.
As we stood there for a moment, spellbound by the sight of
those fearsome creatures occupying the very thrones of the
sovereigns of England, the low growl was repeated, and a
great male rose slowly to his feet.
His devilish eyes bored straight through the semi-darkness
toward us. He had discovered the interloper. What right
had man within this palace of the beasts? Again he opened
his giant jaws, and this time there rumbled forth a warning
Instantly eight or ten of the other beasts leaped to their
feet. Already the great fellow who had spied us was
advancing slowly in our direction. I held my rifle ready,
but how futile it appeared in the face of this savage horde.
The foremost beast broke into a slow trot, and at his heels
came the others. All were roaring now, and the din of their
great voices reverberating through the halls and corridors
of the palace formed the most frightful chorus of thunderous
savagery imaginable to the mind of man.
And then the leader charged, and upon the hideous
pandemonium broke the sharp crack of my rifle, once, twice,
thrice. Three lions rolled, struggling and biting, to the
floor. Victory seized my arm, with a quick, "This way!
Here is a door," and a moment later we were in a tiny
antechamber at the foot of a narrow stone staircase.
Up this we backed, Victory just behind me, as the first of
the remaining lions leaped from the throne room and sprang
for the stairs. Again I fired, but others of the ferocious
beasts leaped over their fallen fellows and pursued us.
The stairs were very narrow--that was all that saved us--for
as I backed slowly upward, but a single lion could attack me
at a time, and the carcasses of those I slew impeded the
rushes of the others.
At last we reached the top. There was a long corridor from
which opened many doorways. One, directly behind us, was
tight closed. If we could open it and pass into the chamber
behind we might find a respite from attack.
The remaining lions were roaring horribly. I saw one
sneaking very slowly up the stairs toward us.
"Try that door," I called to Victory. "See if it will
She ran up to it and pushed.
"Turn the knob!" I cried, seeing that she did not know how
to open a door, but neither did she know what I meant by
I put a bullet in the spine of the approaching lion and
leaped to Victory's side. The door resisted my first
efforts to swing it inward. Rusted hinges and swollen wood
held it tightly closed. But at last it gave, and just as
another lion mounted to the top of the stairway it swung in,
and I pushed Victory across the threshold.
Then I turned to meet the renewed attack of the savage foe.
One lion fell in his tracks, another stumbled to my very
feet, and then I leaped within and slammed the portal to.
A quick glance showed me that this was the only door to the
small apartment in which we had found sanctuary, and, with a
sigh of relief, I leaned for a moment against the panels of
the stout barrier that separated us from the ramping demons
Across the room, between two windows, stood a flat-topped
desk. A little pile of white and brown lay upon it close to
the opposite edge. After a moment of rest I crossed the
room to investigate. The white was the bleached human
bones--the skull, collar bones, arms, and a few of the upper
ribs of a man. The brown was the dust of a decayed military
cap and blouse. In a chair before the desk were other
bones, while more still strewed the floor beneath the desk
and about the chair. A man had died sitting there with his
face buried in his arms--two hundred years ago.
Beneath the desk were a pair of spurred military boots,
green and rotten with decay. In them were the leg bones of
a man. Among the tiny bones of the hands was an ancient
fountain pen, as good, apparently, as the day it was made,
and a metal covered memoranda book, closed over the bones of
an index finger.
It was a gruesome sight--a pitiful sight--this lone
inhabitant of mighty London.
I picked up the metal covered memoranda book. Its pages
were rotten and stuck together. Only here and there was a
sentence or a part of a sentence legible. The first that I
could read was near the middle of the little volume:
"His majesty left for Tunbridge Wells today, he . . . jesty
was stricken . . . terday. God give she does not die . . .
am military governor of Lon . . ."
And farther on:
"It is awful . . . hundred deaths today . . . worse than the
bombardm . . ."
Nearer the end I picked out the following:
"I promised his maj . . . e will find me here when he ret .
. . alone."
The most legible passage was on the next page:
"Thank God we drove them out. There is not a single . . .
man on British soil today; but at what awful cost. I tried
to persuade Sir Phillip to urge the people to remain. But
they are mad with fear of the Death, and rage at our
enemies. He tells me that the coast cities are packed . . .
waiting to be taken across. What will become of England,
with none left to rebuild her shattered cities!"
And the last entry:
". . . alone. Only the wild beasts . . . A lion is roaring
now beneath the palace windows. I think the people feared
the beasts even more than they did the Death. But they are
gone, all gone, and to what? How much better conditions
will they find on the continent? All gone--only I remain. I
promised his majesty, and when he returns he will find that
I was true to my trust, for I shall be awaiting him. God
save the King!"
That was all. This brave and forever nameless officer died
nobly at his post--true to his country and his king. It was
the Death, no doubt, that took him.
Some of the entries had been dated. From the few legible
letters and figures which remained I judge the end came some
time in August, 1937, but of that I am not at all certain.
The diary has cleared up at least one mystery that had
puzzled me not a little, and now I am surprised that I had
not guessed its solution myself--the presence of African and
Asiatic beasts in England.
Acclimated by years of confinement in the zoological
gardens, they were fitted to resume in England the wild
existence for which nature had intended them, and once free,
had evidently bred prolifically, in marked contrast to the
captive exotics of twentieth century Pan-America, which had
gradually become fewer until extinction occurred some time
during the twenty-first century.
The palace, if such it was, lay not far from the banks of
the Thames. The room in which we were imprisoned overlooked
the river, and I determined to attempt to escape in this
To descend through the palace was out of the question, but
outside we could discover no lions. The stems of the ivy
which clambered upward past the window of the room were as
large around as my arm. I knew that they would support our
weight, and as we could gain nothing by remaining longer in
the palace, I decided to descend by way of the ivy and
follow along down the river in the direction of the launch.
Naturally I was much handicapped by the presence of the
girl. But I could not abandon her, though I had no idea
what I should do with her after rejoining my companions.
That she would prove a burden and an embarrassment I was
certain, but she had made it equally plain to me that she
would never return to her people to mate with Buckingham.
I owed my life to her, and, all other considerations aside,
that was sufficient demand upon my gratitude and my honor to
necessitate my suffering every inconvenience in her service.
Too, she was queen of England. But, by far the most potent
argument in her favor, she was a woman in distress--and a
young and very beautiful one.
And so, though I wished a thousand times that she was back
in her camp, I never let her guess it, but did all that lay
within my power to serve and protect her. I thank God now
that I did so.
With the lions still padding back and forth beyond the
closed door, Victory and I crossed the room to one of the
windows. I had outlined my plan to her, and she had assured
me that she could descend the ivy without assistance. In
fact, she smiled a trifle at my question.
Swinging myself outward, I began the descent, and had come
to within a few feet of the ground, being just opposite a
narrow window, when I was startled by a savage growl almost
in my ear, and then a great taloned paw darted from the
aperture to seize me, and I saw the snarling face of a lion
within the embrasure.
Releasing my hold upon the ivy, I dropped the re-maining
distance to the ground, saved from laceration only because
the lion's paw struck the thick stem of ivy.
The creature was making a frightful racket now, leaping back
and forth from the floor at the broad window ledge, tearing
at the masonry with his claws in vain attempts to reach me.
But the opening was too narrow, and the masonry too solid.
Victory had commenced the descent, but I called to her to
stop just above the window, and, as the lion reappeared,
growling and snarling, I put a .33 bullet in his face, and
at the same moment Victory slipped quickly past him,
dropping into my upraised arms that were awaiting her.
The roaring of the beasts that had discovered us, together
with the report of my rifle, had set the balance of the
fierce inmates of the palace into the most frightful uproar
I have ever heard.
I feared that it would not be long before intelligence or
instinct would draw them from the interiors and set them
upon our trail, the river. Nor had we much more than
reached it when a lion bounded around the corner of the
edifice we had just quitted and stood looking about as
though in search of us.
Following, came others, while Victory and I crouched in
hiding behind a clump of bushes close to the bank of the
river. The beasts sniffed about the ground for a while, but
they did not chance to go near the spot where we had stood
beneath the window that had given us escape.
Presently a black-maned male raised his head, and, with
cocked ears and glaring eyes, gazed straight at the bush
behind which we lay. I could have sworn that he had
discovered us, and when he took a few short and stately
steps in our direction I raised my rifle and covered him.
But, after a long, tense moment he looked away, and turned
to glare in another direction.
I breathed a sigh of relief, and so did Victory. I could
feel her body quiver as she lay pressed close to me, our
cheeks almost touching as we both peered through the same
small opening in the foliage.
I turned to give her a reassuring smile as the lion
indicated that he had not seen us, and as I did so she, too,
turned her face toward mine, for the same purpose,
doubtless. Anyway, as our heads turned simultaneously, our
lips brushed together. A startled expression came into
Victory's eyes as she drew back in evident confusion.
As for me, the strangest sensation that I have ever
experienced claimed me for an instant. A peculiar, tingling
thrill ran through my veins, and my head swam. I could not
account for it.
Naturally, being a naval officer and consequently in the
best society of the federation, I have seen much of women.
With others, I have laughed at the assertions of the savants
that modern man is a cold and passionless creation in
comparison with the males of former ages--in a word, that
love, as the one grand passion, had ceased to exist.
I do not know, now, but that they were more nearly right
than we have guessed, at least in so far as modern civilized
woman is concerned. I have kissed many women--young and
beautiful and middle aged and old, and many that I had no
business kissing--but never before had I experienced that
remarkable and altogether delightful thrill that followed
the accidental brushing of my lips against the lips of
The occurrence interested me, and I was tempted to
experiment further. But when I would have essayed it
another new and entirely unaccountable force restrained me.
For the first time in my life I felt embarrassment in the
presence of a woman.
What further might have developed I cannot say, for at that
moment a perfect she-devil of a lioness, with keener eyes
than her lord and master, discovered us. She came trotting
toward our place of concealment, growling and baring her
I waited for an instant, hoping that I might be mistaken,
and that she would turn off in some other direction. But
no--she increased her trot to a gallop, and then I fired at
her, but the bullet, though it struck her full in the
breast, didn't stop her.
Screaming with pain and rage, the creature fairly flew
toward us. Behind her came other lions. Our case looked
hopeless. We were upon the brink of the river. There
seemed no avenue of escape, and I knew that even my modern
automatic rifle was inadequate in the face of so many of
these fierce beasts.
To remain where we were would have been suicidal. We were
both standing now, Victory keeping her place bravely at my
side, when I reached the only decision open to me.
Seizing the girl's hand, I turned, just as the lioness
crashed into the opposite side of the bushes, and, dragging
Victory after me, leaped over the edge of the bank into the
I did not know that lions are not fond of water, nor did I
know if Victory could swim, but death, immediate and
terrible, stared us in the face if we remained, and so I
took the chance.
At this point the current ran close to the shore, so that we
were immediately in deep water, and, to my intense
satisfaction, Victory struck out with a strong, overhand
stroke and set all my fears on her account at rest.
But my relief was short-lived. That lioness, as I have said
before, was a veritable devil. She stood for a moment
glaring at us, then like a shot she sprang into the river
and swam swiftly after us.
Victory was a length ahead of me.
"Swim for the other shore!" I called to her.
I was much impeded by my rifle, having to swim with one hand
while I clung to my precious weapon with the other. The
girl had seen the lioness take to the water, and she had
also seen that I was swimming much more slowly than she, and
what did she do? She started to drop back to my side.
"Go on!" I cried. "Make for the other shore, and then
follow down until you find my friends. Tell them that I
sent you, and with orders that they are to protect you. Go
on! Go on!"
But she only waited until we were again swimming side by
side, and I saw that she had drawn her long knife, and was
holding it between her teeth.
"Do as I tell you!" I said to her sharply, but she shook her
The lioness was overhauling us rapidly. She was swimming
silently, her chin just touching the water, but blood was
streaming from between her lips. It was evident that her
lungs were pierced.
She was almost upon me. I saw that in a moment she would
take me under her forepaws, or seize me in those great jaws.
I felt that my time had come, but I meant to die fighting.
And so I turned, and, treading water, raised my rifle above
my head and awaited her.
Victory, animated by a bravery no less ferocious than that
of the dumb beast assailing us, swam straight for me. It
all happened so swiftly that I cannot recall the details of
the kaleidoscopic action which ensued. I knew that I rose
high out of the water, and, with clubbed rifle, dealt the
animal a terrific blow upon the skull, that I saw Victory,
her long blade flashing in her hand, close, striking, upon
the beast, that a great paw fell upon her shoulder, and that
I was swept beneath the surface of the water like a straw
before the prow of a freighter.
Still clinging to my rifle, I rose again, to see the lioness
struggling in her death throes but an arm's length from me.
Scarcely had I risen than the beast turned upon her side,
struggled frantically for an instant, and then sank.
Victory was nowhere in sight. Alone, I floated upon the
bosom of the Thames. In that brief instant I believe that I
suffered more mental anguish than I have crowded into all
the balance of my life before or since. A few hours before,
I had been wishing that I might be rid of her, and now that
she was gone I would have given my life to have her back
Wearily I turned to swim about the spot where she had
disappeared, hoping that she might rise once at least, and I
would be given the opportunity to save her, and, as I
turned, the water boiled before my face and her head shot up
before me. I was on the point of striking out to seize her,
when a happy smile illumined her features.
"You are not dead!" she cried. "I have been searching the
bottom for you. I was sure that the blow she gave you must
have disabled you," and she glanced about for the lioness.
"She has gone?" she asked.
"Dead," I replied.
"The blow you struck her with the thing you call rifle
stunned her," she explained, "and then I swam in close
enough to get my knife into her heart."
Ah, such a girl! I could not but wonder what one of our own
Pan-American women would have done under like circumstances.
But then, of course, they have not been trained by stern
necessity to cope with the emergencies and dangers of savage
Along the bank we had just quitted, a score of lions paced
to and fro, growling menacingly. We could not return, and
we struck out for the opposite shore. I am a strong
swimmer, and had no doubt as to my ability to cross the
river, but I was not so sure about Victory, so I swam close
behind her, to be ready to give her assistance should she
She did not, however, reaching the opposite bank as fresh,
apparently, as when she entered the water. Victory is a
wonder. Each day that we were together brought new proofs
of it. Nor was it her courage or vitality only which amazed
me. She had a head on those shapely shoulders of hers, and
dignity! My, but she could be regal when she chose!
She told me that the lions were fewer upon this side of the
river, but that there were many wolves, running in great
packs later in the year. Now they were north somewhere, and
we should have little to fear from them, though we might
meet with a few.
My first concern was to take my weapons apart and dry them,
which was rather difficult in the face of the fact that
every rag about me was drenched. But finally, thanks to the
sun and much rubbing, I succeeded, though I had no oil to
We ate some wild berries and roots that Victory found, and
then we set off again down the river, keeping an eye open
for game on one side and the launch on the other, for I
thought that Delcarte, who would be the natural leader
during my absence, might run up the Thames in search of me.
The balance of that day we sought in vain for game or for
the launch, and when night came we lay down, our stomachs
empty, to sleep beneath the stars. We were entirely
unprotected from attack from wild beasts, and for this
reason I remained awake most of the night, on guard. But
nothing approached us, though I could hear the lions roaring
across the river, and once I thought I heard the howl of a
beast north of us--it might have been a wolf.
Altogether, it was a most unpleasant night, and I determined
then that if we were forced to sleep out again that I should
provide some sort of shelter which would protect us from
attack while we slept.
Toward morning I dozed, and the sun was well up when Victory
aroused me by gently shaking my shoulder.
"Antelope!" she whispered in my ear, and, as I raised my
head, she pointed up-river. Crawling to my knees, I looked
in the direction she indicated, to see a buck standing upon
a little knoll some two hundred yards from us. There was
good cover between the animal and me, and so, though I might
have hit him at two hundred yards, I preferred to crawl
closer to him and make sure of the meat we both so craved.
I had covered about fifty yards of the distance, and the
beast was still feeding peacefully, so I thought that I
would make even surer of a hit by going ahead another fifty
yards, when the animal suddenly raised his head and looked
away, up-river. His whole attitude proclaimed that he was
startled by something beyond him that I could not see.
Realizing that he might break and run and that I should then
probably miss him entirely, I raised my rifle to my
shoulder. But even as I did so the animal leaped into the
air, and simultaneously there was a sound of a shot from
beyond the knoll.
For an instant I was dumbfounded. Had the report come from
down-river, I should have instantly thought that one of my
own men had fired. But coming from up-river it puzzled me
considerably. Who could there be with firearms in primitive
England other than we of the Coldwater?
Victory was directly behind me, and I motioned for her to
lie down, as I did, behind the bush from which I had been
upon the point of firing at the antelope. We could see that
the buck was quite dead, and from our hiding place we waited
to discover the identity of his slayer when the latter
should approach and claim his kill.
We had not long to wait, and when I saw the head and
shoulders of a man appear above the crest of the knoll, I
sprang to my feet, with a heartfelt cry of joy, for it was
At the sound of my voice, Delcarte half raised his rifle in
readiness for the attack of an enemy, but a moment later he
recognized me, and was coming rapidly to meet us. Behind
him was Snider. They both were astounded to see me upon the
north bank of the river, and much more so at the sight of my
Then I introduced them to Victory, and told them that she
was queen of England. They thought, at first, that I was
joking. But when I had recounted my adventures and they
realized that I was in earnest, they believed me.
They told me that they had followed me inshore when I had
not returned from the hunt, that they had met the men of the
elephant country, and had had a short and one-sided battle
with the fellows. And that afterward they had returned to
the launch with a prisoner, from whom they had learned that
I had probably been captured by the men of the lion country.
With the prisoner as a guide they had set off up-river in
search of me, but had been much delayed by motor trouble,
and had finally camped after dark a half mile above the spot
where Victory and I had spent the night. They must have
passed us in the dark, and why I did not hear the sound of
the propeller I do not know, unless it passed me at a time
when the lions were making an unusually earsplitting din
upon the opposite side.
Taking the antelope with us, we all returned to the launch,
where we found Taylor as delighted to see me alive again as
Delcarte had been. I cannot say truthfully that Snider
evinced much enthusiasm at my rescue.
Taylor had found the ingredients for chemical fuel, and the
distilling of them had, with the motor trouble, accounted
for their delay in setting out after me.
The prisoner that Delcarte and Snider had taken was a
powerful young fellow from the elephant country.
Notwithstanding the fact that they had all assured him to
the contrary, he still could not believe that we would not
He assured us that his name was Thirty-six, and, as he could
not count above ten, I am sure that he had no conception of
the correct meaning of the word, and that it may have been
handed down to him either from the military number of an
ancestor who had served in the English ranks during the
Great War, or that originally it was the number of some
famous regiment with which a forbear fought.
Now that we were reunited, we held a council to determine
what course we should pursue in the immediate future.
Snider was still for setting out to sea and returning to
Pan-America, but the better judgment of Delcarte and Taylor
ridiculed the suggestion--we should not have lived a
To remain in England, constantly menaced by wild beasts and
men equally as wild, seemed about as bad. I suggested that
we cross the Channel and ascertain if we could not discover
a more enlightened and civilized people upon the continent.
I was sure that some trace of the ancient culture and
greatness of Europe must remain. Germany, probably, would
be much as it was during the twentieth century, for, in
common with most Pan-Americans, I was positive that Germany
had been victorious in the Great War.
Snider demurred at the suggestion. He said that it was bad
enough to have come this far. He did not want to make it
worse by going to the continent. The outcome of it was that
I finally lost my patience, and told him that from then on
he would do what I thought best--that I proposed to assume
command of the party, and that they might all consider
themselves under my orders, as much so as though we were
still aboard the Coldwater and in Pan-American waters.
Delcarte and Taylor immediately assured me that they had not
for an instant assumed anything different, and that they
were as ready to follow and obey me here as they would be
upon the other side of thirty.
Snider said nothing, but he wore a sullen scowl. And I
wished then, as I had before, and as I did to a much greater
extent later, that fate had not decreed that he should have
chanced to be a member of the launch's party upon that
memorable day when last we quitted the Coldwater.
Victory, who was given a voice in our councils, was all for
going to the continent, or anywhere else, in fact, where she
might see new sights and experience new adventures.
"Afterward we can come back to Grabritin," she said, "and if
Buckingham is not dead and we can catch him away from his
men and kill him, then I can return to my people, and we can
all live in peace and happiness."
She spoke of killing Buckingham with no greater concern than
one might evince in the contemplated destruction of a sheep;
yet she was neither cruel nor vindictive. In fact, Victory
is a very sweet and womanly woman. But human life is of
small account beyond thirty--a legacy from the bloody days
when thousands of men perished in the trenches between the
rising and the setting of a sun, when they laid them
lengthwise in these same trenches and sprinkled dirt over
them, when the Germans corded their corpses like wood and
set fire to them, when women and children and old men were
butchered, and great passenger ships were torpedoed without
Thirty-six, finally assured that we did not intend slaying
him, was as keen to accompany us as was Victory.
The crossing to the continent was uneventful, its monotony
being relieved, however, by the childish delight of Victory
and Thirty-six in the novel experience of riding safely upon
the bosom of the water, and of being so far from land.
With the possible exception of Snider, the little party
appeared in the best of spirits, laughing and joking, or
interestedly discussing the possibilities which the future
held for us: what we should find upon the continent, and
whether the inhabitants would be civilized or barbarian
Victory asked me to explain the difference between the two,
and when I had tried to do so as clearly as possible, she
broke into a gay little laugh.
"Oh," she cried, "then I am a barbarian!"
I could not but laugh, too, as I admitted that she was,
indeed, a barbarian. She was not offended, taking the
matter as a huge joke. But some time thereafter she sat in
silence, apparently deep in thought. Finally she looked up
at me, her strong white teeth gleaming behind her smiling
"Should you take that thing you call 'razor,'" she said,
"and cut the hair from the face of Thirty-six, and exchange
garments with him, you would be the barbarian and Thirty-six
the civilized man. There is no other difference between
you, except your weapons. Clothe you in a wolfskin, give
you a knife and a spear, and set you down in the woods of
Grabritin--of what service would your civilization be to
Delcarte and Taylor smiled at her reply, but Thirty-six and
Snider laughed uproariously. I was not surprised at Thirty-
six, but I thought that Snider laughed louder than the
occasion warranted. As a matter of fact, Snider, it seemed
to me, was taking advantage of every opportunity, however
slight, to show insubordination, and I determined then that
at the first real breach of discipline I should take action
that would remind Snider, ever after, that I was still his
I could not help but notice that his eyes were much upon
Victory, and I did not like it, for I knew the type of man
he was. But as it would not be necessary ever to leave the
girl alone with him I felt no apprehension for her safety.
After the incident of the discussion of barbarians I thought
that Victory's manner toward me changed perceptibly. She
held aloof from me, and when Snider took his turn at the
wheel, sat beside him, upon the pretext that she wished to
learn how to steer the launch. I wondered if she had
guessed the man's antipathy for me, and was seeking his
company solely for the purpose of piquing me.
Snider was, too, taking full advantage of his opportunity.
Often he leaned toward the girl to whisper in her ear, and
he laughed much, which was unusual with Snider.
Of course, it was nothing at all to me; yet, for some
unaccountable reason, the sight of the two of them sitting
there so close to one another and seeming to be enjoying
each other's society to such a degree irritated me
tremendously, and put me in such a bad humor that I took no
pleasure whatsoever in the last few hours of the crossing.
We aimed to land near the site of ancient Ostend. But when
we neared the coast we discovered no indication of any human
habitations whatever, let alone a city. After we had
landed, we found the same howling wilderness about us that
we had discovered on the British Isle. There was no
slightest indication that civilized man had ever set a foot
upon that portion of the continent of Europe.
Although I had feared as much, since our experience in
England, I could not but own to a feeling of marked
disappointment, and to the gravest fears of the future,
which induced a mental depression that was in no way
dissipated by the continued familiarity between Victory and
I was angry with myself that I permitted that matter to
affect me as it had. I did not wish to admit to myself that
I was angry with this uncultured little savage, that it made
the slightest difference to me what she did or what she did
not do, or that I could so lower myself as to feel personal
enmity towards a common sailor. And yet, to be honest, I
was doing both.
Finding nothing to detain us about the spot where Ostend
once had stood, we set out up the coast in search of the
mouth of the River Rhine, which I purposed ascending in
search of civilized man. It was my intention to explore the
Rhine as far up as the launch would take us. If we found no
civilization there we would return to the North Sea,
continue up the coast to the Elbe, and follow that river and
the canals of Berlin. Here, at least, I was sure that we
should find what we sought--and, if not, then all Europe had
reverted to barbarism.
The weather remained fine, and we made excellent progress,
but everywhere along the Rhine we met with the same
disappointment--no sign of civilized man, in fact, no sign
of man at all.
I was not enjoying the exploration of modern Europe as I had
anticipated--I was unhappy. Victory seemed changed, too. I
had enjoyed her company at first, but since the trip across
the Channel I had held aloof from her.
Her chin was in the air most of the time, and yet I rather
think that she regretted her friendliness with Snider, for I
noticed that she avoided him entirely. He, on the contrary,
emboldened by her former friendliness, sought every
opportunity to be near her. I should have liked nothing
better than a reasonably good excuse to punch his head; yet,
paradoxically, I was ashamed of myself for harboring him any
ill will. I realized that there was something the matter
with me, but I did not know what it was.
Matters remained thus for several days, and we continued our
journey up the Rhine. At Cologne, I had hoped to find some
reassuring indications, but there was no Cologne. And as
there had been no other cities along the river up to that
point, the devastation was infinitely greater than time
alone could have wrought. Great guns, bombs, and mines must
have leveled every building that man had raised, and then
nature, unhindered, had covered the ghastly evidence of
human depravity with her beauteous mantle of verdure.
Splendid trees reared their stately tops where splendid
cathedrals once had reared their domes, and sweet wild
flowers blossomed in simple serenity in soil that once was
drenched with human blood.
Nature had reclaimed what man had once stolen from her and
defiled. A herd of zebras grazed where once the German
kaiser may have reviewed his troops. An antelope rested
peacefully in a bed of daisies where, perhaps, two hundred
years ago a big gun belched its terror-laden messages of
death, of hate, of destruction against the works of man and
We were in need of fresh meat, yet I hesitated to shatter
the quiet and peaceful serenity of the view with the crack
of a rifle and the death of one of those beautiful creatures
before us. But it had to be done--we must eat. I left the
work to Delcarte, however, and in a moment we had two
antelope and the landscape to ourselves.
After eating, we boarded the launch and continued up the
river. For two days we passed through a primeval
wilderness. In the afternoon of the second day we landed
upon the west bank of the river, and, leaving Snider and
Thirty-six to guard Victory and the launch, Delcarte,
Taylor, and I set out after game.
We tramped away from the river for upwards of an hour before
discovering anything, and then only a small red deer, which
Taylor brought down with a neat shot of two hundred yards.
It was getting too late to proceed farther, so we rigged a
sling, and the two men carried the deer back toward the
launch while I walked a hundred yards ahead, in the hope of
bagging something further for our larder.
We had covered about half the distance to the river, when I
suddenly came face to face with a man. He was as primitive
and uncouth in appearance as the Grabritins--a shaggy,
unkempt savage, clothed in a shirt of skin cured with the
head on, the latter surmounting his own head to form a
bonnet, and giving to him a most fearful and ferocious
The fellow was armed with a long spear and a club, the
latter dangling down his back from a leathern thong about
his neck. His feet were incased in hide sandals.
At sight of me, he halted for an instant, then turned and
dove into the forest, and, though I called reassuringly to
him in English he did not return nor did I again see him.
The sight of the wild man raised my hopes once more that
elsewhere we might find men in a higher state of
civilization--it was the society of civilized man that I
craved--and so, with a lighter heart, I continued on toward
the river and the launch.
I was still some distance ahead of Delcarte and Taylor, when
I came in sight of the Rhine again. But I came to the
water's edge before I noticed that anything was amiss with
the party we had left there a few hours before.
My first intimation of disaster was the absence of the
launch from its former moorings. And then, a moment later--
I discovered the body of a man lying upon the bank. Running
toward it, I saw that it was Thirty-six, and as I stopped
and raised the Grabritin's head in my arms, I heard a faint
moan break from his lips. He was not dead, but that he was
badly injured was all too evident.
Delcarte and Taylor came up a moment later, and the three of
us worked over the fellow, hoping to revive him that he
might tell us what had happened, and what had become of the
others. My first thought was prompted by the sight I had
recently had of the savage native. The little party had
evidently been surprised, and in the attack Thirty-six had
been wounded and the others taken prisoners. The thought
was almost like a physical blow in the face--it stunned me.
Victory in the hands of these abysmal brutes! It was
frightful. I almost shook poor Thirty-six in my efforts to
I explained my theory to the others, and then Delcarte
shattered it by a single movement of the hand. He drew
aside the lion's skin that covered half of the Grabritin's
breast, revealing a neat, round hole in Thirty-six's chest--
a hole that could have been made by no other weapon than a
"Snider!" I exclaimed. Delcarte nodded. At about the same
time the eyelids of the wounded man fluttered, and raised.
He looked up at us, and very slowly the light of
consciousness returned to his eyes.
"What happened, Thirty-six?" I asked him.
He tried to reply, but the effort caused him to cough,
bringing about a hemorrhage of the lungs and again he fell
back exhausted. For several long minutes he lay as one
dead, then in an almost inaudible whisper he spoke.
"Snider--" He paused, tried to speak again, raised a hand,
and pointed down-river. "They--went--back," and then he
shuddered convulsively and died.
None of us voiced his belief. But I think they were all
alike: Victory and Snider had stolen the launch, and
We stood there, grouped about the body of the dead
Grabritin, looking futilely down the river to where it made
an abrupt curve to the west, a quarter of a mile below us,
and was lost to sight, as though we expected to see the
truant returning to us with our precious launch--the thing
that meant life or death to us in this unfriendly, savage
I felt, rather than saw, Taylor turn his eyes slowly toward
my profile, and, as mine swung to meet them, the expression
upon his face recalled me to my duty and responsibility as
The utter hopelessness that was reflected in his face must
have been the counterpart of what I myself felt, but in that
brief instant I determined to hide my own misgivings that I
might bolster up the courage of the others.
"We are lost!" was written as plainly upon Taylor's face as
though his features were the printed words upon an open
book. He was thinking of the launch, and of the launch
alone. Was I? I tried to think that I was. But a greater
grief than the loss of the launch could have engendered in
me, filled my heart--a sullen, gnawing misery which I tried
to deny--which I refused to admit--but which persisted in
obsessing me until my heart rose and filled my throat, and I
could not speak when I would have uttered words of
reassurance to my companions.
And then rage came to my relief--rage against the vile
traitor who had deserted three of his fellow countrymen in
so frightful a position. I tried to feel an equal rage
against the woman, but somehow I could not, and kept
searching for excuses for her--her youth, her inexperience,
My rising anger swept away my temporary helplessness. I
smiled, and told Taylor not to look so glum.
"We will follow them," I said, "and the chances are that we
shall overtake them. They will not travel as rapidly as
Snider probably hopes. He will be forced to halt for fuel
and for food, and the launch must follow the windings of the
river; we can take short cuts while they are traversing the
detour. I have my map--thank God! I always carry it upon my
person--and with that and the compass we will have an
advantage over them."
My words seemed to cheer them both, and they were for
starting off at once in pursuit. There was no reason why we
should delay, and we set forth down the river. As we
tramped along, we discussed a question that was uppermost in
the mind of each--what we should do with Snider when we had
captured him, for with the action of pursuit had come the
optimistic conviction that we should succeed. As a matter
of fact, we had to succeed. The very thought of remaining
in this utter wilderness for the rest of our lives was
We arrived at nothing very definite in the matter of
Snider's punishment, since Taylor was for shooting him,
Delcarte insisting that he should be hanged, while I,
although fully conscious of the gravity of his offense,
could not bring myself to give the death penalty.
I fell to wondering what charm Victory had found in such a
man as Snider, and why I insisted upon finding excuses for
her and trying to defend her indefensible act. She was
nothing to me. Aside from the natural gratitude I felt for
her since she had saved my life, I owed her nothing. She
was a half-naked little savage--I, a gentleman, and an
officer in the world's greatest navy. There could be no
close bonds of interest between us.
This line of reflection I discovered to be as distressing as
the former, but, though I tried to turn my mind to other
things, it persisted in returning to the vision of an oval
face, sun-tanned; of smiling lips, revealing white and even
teeth; of brave eyes that harbored no shadow of guile; and
of a tumbling mass of wavy hair that crowned the loveliest
picture on which my eyes had ever rested.
Every time this vision presented itself I felt myself turn
cold with rage and hate against Snider. I could forgive the
launch, but if he had wronged her he should die--he should
die at my own hands; in this I was determined.
For two days we followed the river northward, cutting off
where we could, but confined for the most part to the game
trails that paralleled the stream. One afternoon, we cut
across a narrow neck of land that saved us many miles, where
the river wound to the west and back again.
Here we decided to halt, for we had had a hard day of it,
and, if the truth were known, I think that we had all given
up hope of overtaking the launch other than by the merest
We had shot a deer just before our halt, and, as Taylor and
Delcarte were preparing it, I walked down to the water to
fill our canteens. I had just finished, and was
straightening up, when something floating around a bend
above me caught my eye. For a moment I could not believe
the testimony of my own senses. It was a boat.
I shouted to Delcarte and Taylor, who came running to my
"The launch!" cried Delcarte; and, indeed, it was the
launch, floating down-river from above us. Where had it
been? How had we passed it? And how were we to reach it
now, should Snider and the girl discover us?
"It's drifting," said Taylor. "I see no one in it."
I was stripping off my clothes, and Delcarte soon followed
my example. I told Taylor to remain on shore with the
clothing and rifles. He might also serve us better there,
since it would give him an opportunity to take a shot at
Snider should the man discover us and show himself.
With powerful strokes we swam out in the path of the
oncoming launch. Being a stronger swimmer than Delcarte, I
soon was far in the lead, reaching the center of the channel
just as the launch bore down upon me. It was drifting
broadside on. I seized the gunwale and raised myself
quickly, so that my chin topped the side. I expected a blow
the moment that I came within the view of the occupants, but
no blow fell.
Snider lay upon his back in the bottom of the boat alone.
Even before I had clambered in and stooped above him I knew
that he was dead. Without examining him further, I ran
forward to the control board and pressed the starting
button. To my relief, the mechanism responded--the launch
was uninjured. Coming about, I picked up Delcarte. He was
astounded at the sight that met his eyes, and immediately
fell to examining Snider's body for signs of life or an
explanation of the manner in which he met his death.
The fellow had been dead for hours--he was cold and still.
But Delcarte's search was not without results, for above
Snider's heart was a wound, a slit about an inch in length--
such a slit as a sharp knife would make, and in the dead
fingers of one hand was clutched a strand of long brown
hair--Victory's hair was brown.
They say that dead men tell no tales, but Snider told the
story of his end as clearly as though the dead lips had
parted and poured forth the truth. The beast had attacked
the girl, and she had defended her honor.
We buried Snider beside the Rhine, and no stone marks his
last resting place. Beasts do not require headstones.
Then we set out in the launch, turning her nose upstream.
When I had told Delcarte and Taylor that I intended
searching for the girl, neither had demurred.
"We had her wrong in our thoughts," said Delcarte, "and the
least that we can do in expiation is to find and rescue
We called her name aloud every few minutes as we motored up
the river, but, though we returned all the way to our former
camping place, we did not find her. I then decided to
retrace our journey, letting Taylor handle the launch, while
Delcarte and I, upon opposite sides of the river, searched
for some sign of the spot where Victory had landed.
We found nothing until we had reached a point a few miles
above the spot where I had first seen the launch drifting
down toward us, and there I discovered the remnants of a
recent camp fire.
That Victory carried flint and steel I was aware, and that
it was she who built the fire I was positive. But which way
had she gone since she stopped here?
Would she go on down the river, that she might thus bring
herself nearer her own Grabritin, or would she have sought
to search for us upstream, where she had seen us last?
I had hailed Taylor, and sent him across the river to take
in Delcarte, that the two might join me and discuss my
discovery and our future plans.
While waiting for them, I stood looking out over the river,
my back toward the woods that stretched away to the east
behind me. Delcarte was just stepping into the launch upon
the opposite side of the stream, when, without the least
warning, I was violently seized by both arms and about the
waist--three or four men were upon me at once; my rifle was
snatched from my hands and my revolver from my belt.
I struggled for an instant, but finding my efforts of no
avail, I ceased them, and turned my head to have a look at
my assailants. At the same time several others of them
walked around in front of me, and, to my astonishment, I
found myself looking upon uniformed soldiery, armed with
rifles, revolvers, and sabers, but with faces as black as
Delcarte and Taylor were now in mid-stream, coming toward
us, and I called to them to keep aloof until I knew whether
the intentions of my captors were friendly or otherwise. My
good men wanted to come on and annihilate the blacks. But
there were upward of a hundred of the latter, all well
armed, and so I commanded Delcarte to keep out of harm's
way, and stay where he was till I needed him.
A young officer called and beckoned to them. But they
refused to come, and so he gave orders that resulted in my
hands being secured at my back, after which the company
marched away, straight toward the east.
I noticed that the men wore spurs, which seemed strange to
me. But when, late in the afternoon, we arrived at their
encampment, I discovered that my captors were cavalrymen.
In the center of a plain stood a log fort, with a block-
house at each of its four corners. As we approached, I saw
a herd of cavalry horses grazing under guard outside the
walls of the post. They were small, stocky horses, but the
telltale saddle galls proclaimed their calling. The flag
flying from a tall staff inside the palisade was one which I
had never before seen nor heard of.
We marched directly into the compound, where the company was
dismissed, with the exception of a guard of four privates,
who escorted me in the wake of the young officer. The
latter led us across a small parade ground, where a battery
of light field guns was parked, and toward a log building,
in front of which rose the flagstaff.
I was escorted within the building into the presence of an
old negro, a fine looking man, with a dignified and military
bearing. He was a colonel, I was to learn later, and to him
I owe the very humane treatment that was accorded me while I
remained his prisoner.
He listened to the report of his junior, and then turned to
question me, but with no better results than the former had
accomplished. Then he summoned an orderly, and gave some
instructions. The soldier saluted, and left the room,
returning in about five minutes with a hairy old white man--
just such a savage, primeval-looking fellow as I had
discovered in the woods the day that Snider had disappeared
with the launch.
The colonel evidently expected to use the fellow as
interpreter, but when the savage addressed me it was in a
language as foreign to me as was that of the blacks. At
last the old officer gave it up, and, shaking his head, gave
instructions for my removal.
From his office I was led to a guardhouse, in which I found
about fifty half-naked whites, clad in the skins of wild
beasts. I tried to converse with them, but not one of them
could understand Pan-American, nor could I make head or tail
of their jargon.
For over a month I remained a prisoner there, working from
morning until night at odd jobs about the headquarters
building of the commanding officer. The other prisoners
worked harder than I did, and I owe my better treatment
solely to the kindliness and discrimination of the old
What had become of Victory, of Delcarte, of Taylor I could
not know; nor did it seem likely that I should ever learn.
I was most depressed. But I whiled away my time in
performing the duties given me to the best of my ability and
attempting to learn the language of my captors.
Who they were or where they came from was a mystery to me.
That they were the outpost of some pow-erful black nation
seemed likely, yet where the seat of that nation lay I could
They looked upon the whites as their inferiors, and treated
us accordingly. They had a literature of their own, and
many of the men, even the common soldiers, were omnivorous
readers. Every two weeks a dust-covered trooper would trot
his jaded mount into the post and deliver a bulging sack of
mail at headquarters. The next day he would be away again
upon a fresh horse toward the south, carrying the soldiers'
letters to friends in the far off land of mystery from
whence they all had come.
Troops, sometimes mounted and sometimes afoot, left the post
daily for what I assumed to be patrol duty. I judged the
little force of a thousand men were detailed here to
maintain the authority of a distant government in a
conquered country. Later, I learned that my surmise was
correct, and this was but one of a great chain of similar
posts that dotted the new frontier of the black nation into
whose hands I had fallen.
Slowly I learned their tongue, so that I could understand
what was said before me, and make myself understood. I had
seen from the first that I was being treated as a slave--
that all whites that fell into the hands of the blacks were
Almost daily new prisoners were brought in, and about three
weeks after I was brought in to the post a troop of cavalry
came from the south to relieve one of the troops stationed
there. There was great jubilation in the encampment after
the arrival of the newcomers, old friendships were renewed
and new ones made. But the happiest men were those of the
troop that was to be relieved.
The next morning they started away, and as they were forced
upon the parade ground we prisoners were marched from our
quarters and lined up before them. A couple of long chains
were brought, with rings in the links every few feet. At
first I could not guess the purpose of these chains. But I
was soon to learn.
A couple of soldiers snapped the first ring around the neck
of a powerful white slave, and one by one the rest of us
were herded to our places, and the work of shackling us neck
to neck commenced.
The colonel stood watching the procedure. Presently his
eyes fell upon me, and he spoke to a young officer at his
side. The latter stepped toward me and motioned me to
follow him. I did so, and was led back to the colonel.
By this time I could understand a few words of their strange
language, and when the colonel asked me if I would prefer to
remain at the post as his body servant, I signified my
willingness as emphatically as possible, for I had seen
enough of the brutality of the common soldiers toward their
white slaves to have no desire to start out upon a march of
unknown length, chained by the neck, and driven on by the
great whips that a score of the soldiers carried to
accelerate the speed of their charges.
About three hundred prisoners who had been housed in six
prisons at the post marched out of the gates that morning,
toward what fate and what future I could not guess. Neither
had the poor devils themselves more than the most vague
conception of what lay in store for them, except that they
were going elsewhere to continue in the slavery that they
had known since their capture by their black conquerors--a
slavery that was to continue until death released them.
My position was altered at the post. From working about the
headquarters office, I was transferred to the colonel's
living quarters. I had greater freedom, and no longer slept
in one of the prisons, but had a little room to myself off
the kitchen of the colonel's log house.
My master was always kind to me, and under him I rapidly
learned the language of my captors, and much concerning them
that had been a mystery to me before. His name was Abu
Belik. He was a colonel in the cavalry of Abyssinia, a
country of which I do not remember ever hearing, but which
Colonel Belik assured me is the oldest civilized country in
Colonel Belik was born in Adis Abeba, the capital of the
empire, and until recently had been in command of the
emperor's palace guard. Jealousy and the ambition and
intrigue of another officer had lost him the favor of his
emperor, and he had been detailed to this frontier post as a
mark of his sovereign's displeasure.
Some fifty years before, the young emperor, Menelek XIV, was
ambitious. He knew that a great world lay across the waters
far to the north of his capital. Once he had crossed the
desert and looked out upon the blue sea that was the
northern boundary of his dominions.
There lay another world to conquer. Menelek busied himself
with the building of a great fleet, though his people were
not a maritime race. His army crossed into Europe. It met
with little resistance, and for fifty years his soldiers had
been pushing his boundaries farther and farther toward the
"The yellow men from the east and north are contesting our
rights here now," said the colonel, "but we shall win--we
shall conquer the world, carrying Christianity to all the
benighted heathen of Europe, and Asia as well."
"You are a Christian people?" I asked.
He looked at me in surprise, nodding his head affirmatively.
"I am a Christian," I said. "My people are the most
powerful on earth."
He smiled, and shook his head indulgently, as a father to a
child who sets up his childish judgment against that of his
Then I set out to prove my point. I told him of our cities,
of our army, of our great navy. He came right back at me
asking for figures, and when he was done I had to admit that