Part 1 out of 6
C. J. Cutliffe Hyne
PREFATORY: THE LEGATEES OF DEUCALION
1 MY RECALL
2 BACK TO ATLANTIS
3 A RIVAL NAVY
4 THE WELCOME OF PHORENICE
5 ZAEMON'S CURSE
6 THE BITERS OF THE CITY WALLS
7 THE BITERS OF THE WALLS
8 THE PREACHER FROM THE MOUNTAINS
9 PHORENICE, GODDESS
10 A WOOING
11 AN AFFAIR WITH THE BARBAROUS FISHERS
12 THE DRUG OF OUR LADY THE MOON
13 THE BURYING ALIVE OF NAIS
14 AGAIN THE GODS MAKE CHANGE
15 ZAEMON'S SUMMONS
16 SIEGE OF THE SACRED MOUNTAIN
17 NAIS THE REGAINED
18 STORM OF THE SACRED MOUNTAIN
19 DESTRUCTION OF THE ATLANTIS
20 ON THE BOSOM OF THE DEEP
THE LEGATEES OF DEUCALION
We were both of us not a little stiff as the result of
sleeping out in the open all that night, for even in Grand Canary
the dew-fall and the comparative chill of darkness are not to be
trifled with. For myself on these occasions I like a bit of a run
as an early refresher. But here on this rough ground in the middle
of the island there were not three yards of level to be found, and
so as Coppinger proceeded to go through some sort of dumb-bell
exercises with a couple of lumps of bristly lava, I followed his
example. Coppinger has done a good deal of roughing it in his
time, but being a doctor of medicine amongst other things--he takes
out a new degree of some sort on an average every other year--he is
great on health theories, and practises them like a religion.
There had been rain two days before, and as there was still a
bit of stream trickling along at the bottom of the barranca, we
went down there and had a wash, and brushed our teeth. Greatest
luxury imaginable, a toothbrush, on this sort of expedition.
"Now," said Coppinger when we had emptied our pockets,
"there's precious little grub left, and it's none the better for
being carried in a local Spanish newspaper."
"Yours is mostly tobacco ashes."
"It'll get worse if we leave it. We've a lot more bad
scrambling ahead of us."
That was obvious. So we sat down beside the stream there at
the bottom of the barranca, and ate up all of what was left. It
was a ten-mile tramp to the fonda at Santa Brigida, where we had
set down our traps; and as Coppinger wanted to take a lot more
photographs and measurements before we left this particular group
of caves, it was likely we should be pretty sharp set before we got
our next meal, and our next taste of the PATRON'S splendid
old country wine. My faith! If only they knew down in the English
hotels in Las Palmas what magnificent wines one could get--with
diplomacy--up in some of the mountain villages, the old vintage
would become a thing of the past in a week.
Now to tell the truth, the two mummies he had gathered already
quite satisfied my small ambition. The goatskins in which they
were sewn up were as brittle as paper, and the poor old things
themselves gave out dust like a puffball whenever they were
touched. But you know what Coppinger is. He thought he'd come
upon traces of an old Guanche university, or sacred college, or
something of that kind, like the one there is on the other side of
the island, and he wouldn't be satisfied till he'd ransacked every
cave in the whole face of the cliff. He'd plenty of stuff left for
the flashlight thing, and twenty-eight more films in his kodak, and
said we might as well get through with the job then as make a
return journey all on purpose. So he took the crowbar, and I
shouldered the rope, and away we went up to the ridge of the cliff,
where we had got such a baking from the sun the day before.
Of course these caves were not easy to come at, or else they
would have been raided years before. Coppinger, who on principle
makes out he knows all about these things, says that in the old
Guanche days they had ladders of goatskin rope which they could
pull up when they were at home, and so keep out undesirable
callers; and as no other plan occurs to me, perhaps he may be
right. Anyway the mouths of the caves were in a more or less level
row thirty feet below the ridge of the cliff, and fifty feet above
the bottom; and Spanish curiosity doesn't go in much where it
Now laddering such caves from below would have been cumbersome,
but a light knotted rope is easily carried, and though it would
have been hard to climb up this, our plan was to descend on
each cave mouth from above, and then slip down to the foot of
the cliffs, and start again AB INITIO for the next.
Coppinger is plucky enough, and he has a good head on a height,
but there is no getting over the fact that he is portly and
nearer fifty than forty-five. So you can see he must have been
pretty keen. Of course I went first each time, and got into the
cave mouth, and did what I could to help him in; but when you have
to walk down a vertical cliff face fly-fashion, with only a thin
bootlace of a rope for support, it is not much real help the man
below can give, except offer you his best wishes.
I wanted to save him as much as I could, and as the first three
caves I climbed to were small and empty, seeming to be merely
store-places, I asked him to take them for granted, and save
himself the rest. But he insisted on clambering down to each one
in person, and as he decided that one of my granaries was a prison,
and another a pot-making factory, and another a schoolroom for
young priests, he naturally said he hadn't much reliance on my
judgment, and would have to go through the whole lot himself. You
know what these thorough-going archaeologists are for imagination.
But as the day went on, and the sun rose higher, Coppinger began
clearly to have had enough of it, though he was very game, and
insisted on going on much longer than was safe. I must say I
didn't like it. You see the drop was seldom less than eighty feet
from the top of the cliffs. However, at last he was forced to give
it up. I suggested marching off to Santa Brigida forthwith, but he
wouldn't do that. There were three more cave-openings to be looked
into, and if I wouldn't do them for him, he would have to make
another effort to get there himself. He tried to make out he was
conferring a very great favour on me by offering to take a report
solely from my untrained observation, but I flatly refused to look
at it in that light. I was pretty tired also; I was soaked with
perspiration from the heat; my head ached from the violence of the
sun; and my hands were cut raw with the rope.
Coppinger might be tired, but he was still enthusiastic. He
tried to make me enthusiastic also. "Look here," he said, "there's
no knowing what you may find up there, and if you do lay hands on
anything, remember it's your own. I shall have no claim whatever."
"Very kind of you, but I've got no use for any more mummies done
up in goatskin bags."
"Bah! That's not a burial cave up there. Don't you know the
difference yet in the openings? Now, be a good fellow. It doesn't
follow that because we have drawn all the rest blank, you won't
stumble across a good find for yourself up there."
"Oh, very well," I said, as he seemed so set on it; and away I
stumbled over the fallen rocks, and along the ledge, and then
scrambled up by that fissure in the cliff which saved us the
two-mile round which we had had to take at first. I wrenched out
the crowbar, and jammed it down in a new place, and then away I
went over the side, with hands smarting worse at every new grip of
the rope. It was an awkward job swinging into the cave mouth
because the rock above overhung, or else (what came to the same
thing) it had broken away below; but I managed it somehow, although
I landed with an awkward thump on my back, and at the same time I
didn't let go the rope. It wouldn't do to have lost the rope then:
Coppinger couldn't have flicked it into me from where he was below.
Now from the first glance I could see that this cave was of
different structure to the others. They were for the most part
mere dens, rounded out anyhow; this had been faced up with cutting
tools, so that all the angles were clean, and the sides smooth and
flat. The walls inclined inwards to the roof, reminding me of an
architecture I had seen before but could not recollect where, and
moreover there were several rooms connected up with passages. I
was pleased to find that the other cave-openings which Coppinger
wanted me to explore were merely the windows or the doorways of two
of these other rooms.
Of inscriptions or markings on the walls there was not a trace,
though I looked carefully, and except for bats the place was
entirely bare. I lit a cigarette and smoked it through--Coppinger
always thinks one is slurring over work if it is got through too
quickly--and then I went to the entrance where the rope was, and
leaned out, and shouted down my news.
He turned up a very anxious face. "Have you searched it
thoroughly?" he bawled back.
"Of course I have. What do you think I've been doing all this
"No, don't come down yet. Wait a minute. I say, old man, do
wait a minute. I'm making fast the kodak and the flashlight
apparatus on the end of the rope. Pull them up, and just make me
half a dozen exposures, there's a good fellow."
"Oh, all right," I said, and hauled the things up, and got them
inside. The photographs would be absolutely dull and
uninteresting, but that wouldn't matter to Coppinger. He rather
preferred them that way. One has to be careful about halation in
photographing these dark interiors, but there was a sort of ledge
like a seat by the side of each doorway, and so I lodged the camera
on that to get a steady stand, and snapped off the flashlight from
behind and above.
I got pictures of four of the chambers this way, and then came
to one where the ledge was higher and wider. I put down the
camera, wedged it level with scraps of stone, and then sat down
myself to recharge the flashlight machine. But the moment my
weight got on that ledge, there was a sharp crackle, and down I
went half a dozen inches.
Of course I was up again pretty sharply, and snapped up the
kodak just as it was going to slide off to the ground. I will
confess, too, I was feeling pleased. Here at any rate was a
Guanche cupboard of sorts, and as they had taken the trouble to
hermetically seal it with cement, the odds were that it had
something inside worth hiding. At first there was nothing to be
seen but a lot of dust and rubble, so I lit a bit of candle and
cleared this away. Presently, however, I began to find that I was
shelling out something that was not cement. It chipped away, in
regular layers, and when I took it to the daylight I found that
each layer was made up of two parts. One side was shiny staff that
looked like talc, and on this was smeared a coating of dark toffee-
coloured material, that might have been wax. The toffee-coloured
surface was worked over with some kind of pattern.
Now I do not profess to any knowledge on these matters, and as
a consequence took what Coppinger had told me about Guanche habits
and acquirements as more or less true. For instance, he had
repeatedly impressed upon me that this old people could not write,
and having this in my memory, I did not guess that the patterns
scribed through the wax were letters in some obsolete character,
which, if left to myself, probably I should have done. But still
at the same time I came to the conclusion that the stuff was worth
looting, and so set to work quarrying it out with the heel of my
boot and a pocket-knife.
The sheets were all more or less stuck together, and so I did not
go in for separating them farther. They fitted exactly to the
cavity in which they were stored, but by smashing down its front I
was able to get at the foot of them, and then I hacked away through
the bottom layers with the knife till I got the bulk out in one
solid piece. It measured some twenty inches by fifteen, by
fifteen, but it was not so heavy as it looked, and when I had taken
the remaining photographs, I lowered it down to Coppinger on the
end of the rope.
There was nothing more to do in the caves then, so I went down
myself next. The lump of sheets was on the ground, and Coppinger
was on all fours beside it. He was pretty nearly mad with
"What is it?" I asked him.
"I don't know yet. But it is the most valuable find ever made
in the Canary Islands, and it's yours, you unappreciative beggar;
at least what there is left of it. Oh, man, man, you've smashed up
the beginning, and you've smashed up the end of some history that
is probably priceless. It's my own fault. I ought to have known
better than set an untrained man to do important exploring work."
"I should say it's your fault if anything's gone wrong. You
said there was no such thing as writing known to these ancient
Canarios, and I took your word for it. For anything I knew the
stuff might have been something to eat."
"It isn't Guanche work at all," said he testily. "You ought to
have known that from the talc. Great heavens, man, have you no
eyes? Haven't you seen the general formation of the island? Don't
you know there's no talc here?"
"I'm no geologist. Is this imported literature then?"
"Of course. It's Egyptian: that's obvious at a glance. Though
how it's got here I can't tell yet. It isn't stuff you can read
off like a newspaper. The character's a variant on any of those
that have been discovered so far. And as for this waxy stuff
spread over the talc, it's unique. It's some sort of a mineral, I
think: perhaps asphalt. It doesn't scratch up like animal wax.
I'll analyse that later. Why they once invented it, and then let
such a splendid notion drop out of use, is just a marvel. I could
stay gloating over this all day."
"Well," I said, "if it's all the same for you, I'd rather gloat
over a meal. It's a good ten miles hard going to the fonda,
and I'm as hungry as a hawk already. Look here, do you know it is
four o'clock already? It takes longer than you think climbing down
to each of these caves, and then getting up again for the next."
Coppinger spread his coat on the ground, and wrapped the lump
of sheets with tender care, but would not allow it to be tied with
a rope for fear of breaking more of the edges. He insisted on
carrying it himself too, and did so for the larger part of the way
to Santa Brigida, and it was only when he was within an ace of
dropping himself with sheer tiredness that he condescended to let
me take my turn. He was tolerably ungracious about it too. "I
suppose you may as well carry the stuff," he snapped, "seeing that
after all it's your own."
Personally, when we got to the fonda, I had as good a dinner
as was procurable, and a bottle of that old Canary wine, and turned
into bed after a final pipe. Coppinger dined also, but I have
reason to believe he did not sleep much. At any rate I found him
still poring over the find next morning, and looking very heavy-
eyed, but brimming with enthusiasm.
"Do you know," he said, "that you've blundered upon the most
valuable historical manuscript that the modern world has ever yet
seen? Of course, with your clumsy way of getting it out, you've
done an infinity of damage. For instance, those top sheets you
shelled away and spoiled, contained probably an absolutely unique
account of the ancient civilisation of Yucatan."
"Where's that, anyway?"
"In the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. It's all ruins to-day,
but once it was a very prosperous colony of the Atlanteans."
"Never heard of them. Oh yes, I have though. They were the
people Herodotus wrote about, didn't he? But I thought they were
"They were very real, and so was Atlantis, the continent where
they lived, which lay just north of the Canaries here."
"What's that crocodile sort of thing with wings drawn in the
"Some sort of beast that lived in those bygone days. The pages
are full of them. That's a cave-tiger. And that's some sort
of colossal bat. Thank goodness he had the sense to illustrate
fully, the man who wrote this, or we should never have been able to
reconstruct the tale, or at any rate we could not have understood
half of it. Whole species have died out since this was written,
just as a whole continent has been swept away and three
civilisations quenched. The worst of it is, it was written by a
highly-educated man who somewhat naturally writes a very bad fist.
I've hammered at it all the night through, and have only managed to
make out a few sentences here and there"--he rubbed his hands
appreciatively. "It will take me a year's hard work to translate
"Every man to his taste. I'm afraid my interest in the thing
wouldn't last as long as that. But how did it get there? Did your
ancient Egyptian come to Grand Canary for the good of his lungs,
and write it because he felt dull up in that cave?"
"I made a mistake there. The author was not an Egyptian. It
was the similarity of the inscribed character which misled me. The
book was written by one Deucalion, who seems to have been a priest
or general--or perhaps both--and he was an Atlantean. How it got
there, I don't know yet. Probably that was told in the last few
pages, which a certain vandal smashed up with his pocketknife, in
getting them away from the place where they were stowed."
"That's right, abuse me. Deucalion you say? There was a
Deucalion in the Greek mythology. He was one of the two who
escaped from the Flood: their Noah, in fact."
"The swamping of the continent of Atlantis might very well
correspond to the Flood."
"Is there a Pyrrha then? She was Deucalion's wife."
"I haven't come across her yet. But there's a Phorenice, who
may be the same. She seems to have been the reigning Empress, as
far as I can make out at present."
I looked with interest at illustrations in the margin. They
were quite understandable, although the perspective was all wrong.
"Weird beasts they seem to have had knocking about the country in
those days. Whacking big size too, if one may judge. By Jove,
that'll be a cave-tiger trying to puff down a mammoth. I shouldn't
care to have lived in those days."
"Probably they had some way of fighting the creatures.
However, that will show itself as I get along with the
translation." He looked at his watch--"I suppose I ought to be
ashamed of myself, but I haven't been to bed. Are you going out?"
"I shall drive back to Las Palmas. I promised a man to have a
round at golf this afternoon."
"Very well, see you at dinner. I hope they've sent back my dress
shirts from the wash. O, lord! I am sleepy."
I left him going up to bed, and went outside and ordered a
carriage to take me down, and there I may say we parted for a
considerable time. A cable was waiting for me in the hotel at Las
Palmas to go home for business forthwith, and there was a Liverpool
boat in the harbour which I just managed to catch as she was
steaming out. It was a close thing, and the boatmen made a small
fortune out of my hurry.
Now Coppinger was only an hotel acquaintance, and as I was up to
the eyes in work when I got back to England, I'm afraid I didn't
think very much more about him at the time. One doesn't with
people one just meets casually abroad like that. And it must have
been at least a year later that I saw by a paragraph in one of the
papers, that he had given the lump of sheets to the British Museum,
and that the estimated worth of them was ten thousand pounds at the
Well, this was a bit of revelation, and as he had so repeatedly
impressed on me that the things were mine by right of discovery,
I wrote rather a pointed note to him mentioning that he seemed to
have been making rather free with my property. Promptly came
back a stilted letter beginning, "Doctor Coppinger regrets" and so
on, and with it the English translation of the wax-upon-talc
MSS. He "quite admitted" my claim, and "trusted that the profits
of publication would be a sufficient reimbursement for any damage
Now I had no idea that he would take me unpleasantly like this,
and wrote back a pretty warm reply to that effect; but the only
answer I got to this was through a firm of solicitors, who stated
that all further communications with Dr. Coppinger must be made
I will say here publicly that I regret the line he has taken
over the matter; but as the affair has gone so far, I am disposed
to follow out his proposition. Accordingly the old history is here
printed; the credit (and the responsibility) of the translation
rests with Dr. Coppinger; and whatever revenue accrues from
readers, goes to the finder of the original talc-upon-wax sheets,
If there is a further alteration in this arrangement, it will
be announced publicly at a later date. But at present this appears
to be most unlikely.
1. MY RECALL
The public official reception was over. The sentence had been
read, the name of Phorenice, the Empress, adored, and the new
Viceroy installed with all that vast and ponderous ceremonial which
had gained its pomp and majesty from the ages. Formally, I had
delivered up the reins of my government; formally, Tatho had seated
himself on the snake-throne, and had put over his neck the chain of
gems which symbolised the supreme office; and then, whilst the
drums and the trumpets made their proclamation of clamour, he had
risen to his feet, for his first state progress round that gilded
council chamber as Viceroy of the Province of Yucatan.
With folded arms and bended head, I followed him between the
glittering lines of soldiers, and the brilliant throng of
courtiers, and chiefs, and statesmen. The roof-beams quivered to
the cries of "Long Live Tatho!" "Flourish the Empress!" which came
forth as in duty bound, and the new ruler acknowledged the welcome
with stately inclinations of the head. In turn he went to the
three lesser thrones of the lesser governors--in the East, the
North, and the South, and received homage from each as the ritual
was; and I, the man whom his coming had deposed, followed with the
prescribed meekness in his train.
It was a hard task, but we who hold the higher offices learn
to carry before the people a passionless face. Once, twenty years
before, these same fine obeisances had been made to me; now the
Gods had seen fit to make fortune change. But as I walked bent and
humbly on behind the heels of Tatho, though etiquette forbade noisy
salutations to myself, it could not inhibit kindly glances, and
these came from every soldier, every courtier, and every chief who
stood there in that gilded hall, and they fell upon me very
gratefully. It is not often the fallen meet such tender looks.
The form goes, handed down from immemorial custom, that on
these great ceremonial days of changing a ruler, those of the
people being present may bring forward petitions and requests; may
make accusations against their retiring head with sure immunity
from his vengeance; or may state their own private theories for the
better government of the State in the future. I think it may be
pardoned to my vanity if I record that not a voice was raised
against me, or against any of the items of my twenty years of rule.
Nor did any speak out for alterations in the future. Yes, even
though we made the circuit for the three prescribed times, all
present showed their approval in generous silence.
Then, one behind the other, the new Viceroy and the old, we
marched with formal step over golden tiles of that council hall
beneath the pyramid, and the great officers of state left their
stations and joined in our train; and at the farther wall we came
to the door of those private chambers which an hour ago had been
Ah, well! I had no home now in any of those wondrous cities
of Yucatan, and I could not help feeling a bitterness, though in
sooth I should have been thankful enough to return to the Continent
of Atlantis with my head still in its proper station.
Tatho gave his formal summons of "Open ye to the Viceroy,"
which the ritual commands, and the slaves within sent the massive
stone valves of the door gaping wide. Tatho entered, I at his
heels; the others halted, sending valedictions from the threshold;
and the valves of the door clanged on the lock behind us. We
passed on to the chamber beyond, and then, when for the first time
we were alone together, and the forced etiquette of courts was
behind us, the new Viceroy turned with meekly folded arms, and
bowed low before me.
"Deucalion," he said, "believe me that I have not sought this
office. It was thrust upon me. Had I not accepted, my head would
have paid forfeit, and another man--your enemy--would have been
sent out as viceroy in your place. The Empress does not permit
that her will shall ever be questioned."
"My friend," I made answer, "my brother in all but blood,
there is no man living in all Atlantis or her territories to whom
I had liefer hand over my government. For twenty years now have I
ruled this country of Yucatan, and Mexico beyond, first under the
old King, and then as minister to this new Empress. I know my
colony like a book. I am intimate with all her wonderful cities,
with their palaces, their pyramids, and their people. I have
hunted the beasts and the savages in the forests. I have built
roads, and made the rivers so that they will carry shipping. I
have fostered the arts and crafts like a merchant; I have
discoursed, three times each day, the cult of the Gods with mine
own lips. Through evil years and through good have I ruled here,
striving only for the prosperity of the land and the strengthening
of Atlantis, and I have grown to love the peoples like a father.
To you I bequeath them, Tatho, with tender supplications for their
"It is not I that can carry on Deucalion's work with Deucalion's
power, but rest content, my friend, that I shall do my humble
best to follow exactly on in your footsteps. Believe me, I came
out to this government with a thousand regrets, but I would have
died sooner than take your place had I known how vigorously the
supplanting would trouble you."
"We are alone here," I said, "away from the formalities of formal
assemblies, and a man may give vent to his natural self without
fear of tarnishing a ceremony. Your coming was something of the
suddenest. Till an hour ago, when you demanded audience, I had
thought to rule on longer; and even now I do not know for what
cause I am deposed."
"The proclamation said: 'We relieve our well-beloved Deucalion
of his present service, because we have great need of his powers at
home in our kingdom of Atlantis.'"
"A mere formality."
Tatho looked uneasily round the hangings of the chamber, and
drew me with him to its centre, and lowered his voice.
"I do not think so," he whispered. "I believe she has need of
you. There are troublous times on hand, and Phorenice wants the
ablest men in the kingdom ready to her call."
"You may speak openly," I said, "and without fear of
eavesdroppers. We are in the heart of the pyramid here, built in
every way by a man's length of solid stone. Myself, I oversaw the
laying of every course. And besides, here in Yucatan, we have not
the niceties of your old world diplomacy, and do not listen,
because we count it shame to do so."
Tatho shrugged his shoulders. "I acted only according to mine
education. At home, a loose tongue makes a loose head, and there
are those whose trade it is to carry tales. Still, what I say is
this: The throne shakes, and Phorenice sees the need of sturdy
props. So she has sent this proclamation."
"But why come to me? It is twenty years since I sailed to
this colony, and from that day I have not returned to Atlantis
once. I know little of the old country's politics. What small
parcel of news drifts out to us across the ocean, reads with
slender interest here. Yucatan is another world, my dear Tatho, as
you in the course of your government will learn, with new
interests, new people, new everything. To us here, Atlantis is
only a figment, a shadow, far away across the waters. It is for
this new world of Yucatan that I have striven through all these
"If Deucalion has small time to spare from his government for
brooding over his fatherland, Atlantis, at least, has found leisure
to admire the deeds of her brilliant son. Why, sir, over yonder at
home, your name carries magic with it. When you and I were lads
together, it was the custom in the colleges to teach that the men
of the past were the greatest this world has ever seen; but to-day
this teaching is changed. It is Deucalion who is held up as the
model and example. Mothers name their sons Deucalion, as the most
valuable birth-gift they can make. Deucalion is a household word.
Indeed, there is only one name that is near to it in familiarity."
"You trouble me," I said, frowning. "I have tried to do my
duty for its own sake, and for the country's sake, not for the
pattings and fondlings of the vulgar. And besides, if there are
names to be in every one's mouth, they should be the names of the
Tatho shrugged his shoulders. "The Gods? They occupy us very
little these latter years. With our modern science, we have grown
past the tether of the older Gods, and no new one has appeared.
No, my Lord Deucalion, if it were merely the Gods who were your
competitors on men's lips, your name would be a thousand times the
"Of mere human names," I said, "the name of this new Empress
should come first in Atlantis, our lord the old King being now
"She certainly would have it so," replied Tatho, and there was
something in his tone which made me see that more was meant behind
the words. I drew him to one of the marble seats, and bent myself
familiarly towards him. "I am speaking," I said, "not to the new
Viceroy of Yucatan, but to my old friend Tatho, a member of the
Priests' Clan, like myself, with whom I worked side by side in a
score of the smaller home governments, in hamlets, in villages, in
smaller towns, in greater towns, as we gained experience in war and
knowledge in the art of ruling people, and so tediously won our
promotion. I am speaking in Tatho's private abode, that was mine
own not two hours since, and I would have an answer with that
plainness which we always then used to one another."
The new Viceroy sighed whimsically. "I almost forget how to
speak in plain words now," he said. "We have grown so polished in
these latter days, that mere bald truth would be hissed as
indelicate. But for the memory of those early years, when we
expended as much law and thought over the ownership of a hay-byre
as we should now over the fate of a rebellious city, I will try and
speak plain to you even now, Deucalion. Tell me, old friend, what
"What of this new Empress?"
He frowned. "I might have guessed your subject," he said.
"Then speak upon it. Tell me of all the changes that have
been made. What has this Phorenice done to make her throne
unstable in Atlantis?"
Tatho frowned still. "If I did not know you to be as honest
as our Lord the Sun, your questions would carry mischief with them.
Phorenice has a short way with those who are daring enough to
discuss her policies for other purpose than politely to praise
"You can leave me ignorant if you wish," I said with a touch
of chill. This Tatho seemed to be different from the Tatho I had
known at home, Tatho my workmate, Tatho who had read with me in the
College of Priests, who had run with me in many a furious charge,
who had laboured with me so heavily that the peoples under us might
prosper. But he was quick enough to see my change of tone.
"You force me back to my old self," he said with a half smile,
"though it is hard enough to forget the caution one has learned
during the last twenty years, even when speaking with you. Still,
whatever may have happened to the rest of us, it is clear to see
that you at least have not changed, and, old friend, I am ready to
trust you with my life if you ask it. In fact, you do ask me that
very thing when you tell me to speak all I know of Phorenice."
I nodded. This was more like the old times, when there was
full confidence between us. "The Gods will it now that I return to
Atlantis," I said, "and what happens after that the Gods alone
know. But it would be of service to me if I could land on her
shores with some knowledge of this Phorenice, for at present I am
as ignorant concerning her as some savage from Europe or
"What would you have me tell?"
"Tell all. I know only that she, a woman, reigns, whereby the
ancient law of the land, a man should rule; that she is not even of
the Priestly Clan from which the law says all rulers must be drawn;
and that, from what you say, she has caused the throne to totter.
The throne was as firm as the everlasting hills in the old King's
"History has moved with pace since then, and Phorenice has
spurred it. You know her origin?"
"I know only the exact little I have told you."
"She was a swineherd's daughter from the mountains, though
this is never even whispered now, as she has declared herself to be
a daughter of the Gods, with a miraculous birth and upbringing. As
she has decreed it a sacrilege to question this parentage, and has
ordered to be burnt all those that seem to recollect her more
earthly origin, the fable passes current for truth. You see the
faith I put in you, Deucalion, by telling you what you wish to
"There has always been trust between us."
"I know; but this habit of suspicion is hard to cast off, even
with you. However, let me put your good faith between me and the
torture further. Zaemon, you remember, was governor of the
swineherd's province, and Zaemon's wife saw Phorenice and took her
away to adopt and bring up as her own. It is said that the
swineherd and his woman objected; perhaps they did; anyway, I know
they died; and Phorenice was taught the arts and graces, and
brought up as a daughter of the Priestly Clan."
"But still she was an adopted daughter only," I objected.
"The omission of the 'adopted' was her will at an early age,"
said Tatho dryly, "and she learnt early to have her wishes carried
into fact. It was notorious that before she had grown to fifteen
years she ruled not only the women of the household, but Zaemon
also, and the province that was beyond Zaemon."
"Zaemon was learned," I said, "and a devout follower of the
Gods, and searcher into the higher mysteries; but, as a ruler, he
was always a flabby fellow."
"I do not say that opportunities have not come usefully in
Phorenice's way, but she has genius as well. For her to have
raised herself at all from what she was, was remarkable. Not one
woman out of a thousand, placed as she was, would have grown to be
aught higher than a mere wife of some sturdy countryman, who was
sufficiently simple to care nothing for pedigree. But look at
Phorenice: it was her whim to take exercise as a man-at-arms and
practise with all the utensils of war; and then, before any one
quite knows how or why it happened, a rebellion had broken out in
the province, and here was she, a slip of a girl, leading Zaemon's
"Zaemon, when I knew him, was a mere derision in the field."
"Hear me on. Phorenice put down the rebellion in masterly
fashion, and gave the conquered a choice between sword and service.
They fell into her ranks at once, and were faithful to her from
that moment. I tell you, Deucalion, there is a marvellous
fascination about the woman."
"Her present historian seems to have felt it."
"Of course I have. Every one who sees her comes under her
spell. And frankly, I am in love with her also, and look upon my
coming here as detestable exile. Every one near to Phorenice, high
and low, loves her just the same, even though they know it may be
her whim to send them to execution next minute."
Perhaps I let my scorn of this appear.
"You feel contempt for our weakness? You were always a strong
"At any rate you see me still unmarried. I have found no time
to palter with the fripperies of women."
"Ah, but these colonists here are crude and unfascinating.
Wait till you see the ladies of the court, my ascetic."
"It comes to my mind," I said dryly, "that I lived in Atlantis
before I came out here, and at that time I used to see as much of
court life as most men. Yet then, also, I felt no inducement to
Tatho chuckled. "Atlantis has changed so that you would hardly
know the country to-day. A new era has come over everything,
especially over the other sex. Well do I remember the women of
the old King's time, how monstrous uncomely they were, how
little they knew how to walk or carry themselves, how painfully
barbaric was their notion of dress. I dare swear that your ladies
here in Yucatan are not so provincial to-day as ours were then.
But you should see them now at home. They are delicious. And
above all in charm is the Empress. Oh, Deucalion, you shall see
Phorenice in all her glorious beauty and her magnificence one of
these fine days soon, and believe me you will go down on your knees
"I may see, and (because you say so) I may alter my life's
ways. The Gods make all things possible. But for the present I
remain as I am, celibate, and not wishful to be otherwise; and so
in the meantime I would hear the continuance of your history."
"It is one long story of success. She deposed Zaemon from his
government in name as well as in fact, and the news was spread, and
the Priestly Clan rose in its wrath. The two neighbouring
governors were bidden join forces, take her captive, and bring her
for execution. Poor men! They tried to obey their orders; they
attacked her surely enough, but in battle she could laugh at them.
She killed both, and made some slaughter amongst their troops; and
to those that remained alive and became her prisoners, she made her
usual offer--the sword or service. Naturally they were not long
over making their choice: to these common people one ruler is much
the same as another: and so again her army was reinforced.
"Three times were bodies of soldiery sent against her, and three
times was she victorious. The last was a final effort. Before,
it had been customary to despise this adventuress who had sprung
up so suddenly. But then the priests began to realise their
peril; to see that the throne itself was in danger; and to know
that if she were to be crushed, they would have to put forth their
utmost. Every man who could carry arms was pressed into the
service. Every known art of war was ordered to be put into
employment. It was the largest army, and the best equipped army
that Atlantis then had ever raised, and the Priestly Clan saw fit
to put in supreme command their general, Tatho."
"You!" I cried.
"Even myself, Deucalion. And mark you, I fought my utmost.
I was not her creature then; and when I set out (because they
wanted to spur me to the uttermost) the High Council of the priests
pointed out my prospects. The King we had known so long, was
ailing and wearily old; he was so wrapped up in the study of the
mysteries, and the joy of closely knowing them, that earthly
matters had grown nauseous to him; and at any time he might decide
to die. The Priestly Clan uses its own discretion in the election
of a new king, but it takes note of popular sentiment; and a
general who at the critical time could come home victorious from a
great campaign, which moreover would release a harassed people from
the constant application of arms, would be the idol of the moment.
These things were pointed out to me solemnly and in the full
"What! They promised you the throne?"
"Even that. So you see I set out with a high stake before me.
Phorenice I had never seen, and I swore to take her alive, and give
her to be the sport of my soldiery. I had a fine confidence in my
own strategy then, Deucalion. But the old Gods, in whom I trusted
then, remained old, taught me no new thing. I drilled and
exercised my army according to the forms you and I learnt together,
old comrade, and in many a tough fight found to serve well; I armed
them with the choicest weapons we knew of then, with sling and
mace, with bow and spear, with axe and knife, with sword and the
throwing fire; their bodies I covered with metal plates; even their
bellies I cared for, with droves of cattle driven in the rear of
the fighting troops.
"But when the encounter came, they might have been men of
straw for all the harm they did. Out of her own brain Phorenice
had made fire-tubes that cast a dart which would kill beyond two
bowshots, and the fashion in which she handled her troops dazzled
me. They threatened us on one flank, they harassed us on the
other. It was not war as we had been accustomed to. It was a
newer and more deadly game, and I had to watch my splendid army
eaten away as waves eat a sandhill. Never once did I get a chance
of forcing close action. These new tactics that had come from
Phorenice's invention, were beyond my art to meet or understand.
We were eight to her one, and our close-packed numbers only made us
so much the more easy for slaughter. A panic came, and those who
could fled. Myself, I had no wish to go back and earn the axe that
waits for the unsuccessful general. I tried to die there fighting
where I stood. But death would not come. It was a fine melee,
Deucalion, that last one."
"And so she took you?"
"I stood with three others back to back, with a ring of dead round
us, and a ring of the enemy hemming us in. We taunted them to
come on. But at hand-to-hand courtesies we had shown we could hold
our own, and so they were calling for fire-tubes with which they
could strike us down in safety from a distance. Then up came
Phorenice. 'What is this to-do?' says she. 'We seek to kill Lord
Tatho, who led against you,' say they. 'So that is Tatho?' says
she. 'A fine figure of a man indeed, and a pretty fighter
seemingly, after the old manner. Doubtless he is one who would
acquire the newer method. See now Tatho,' says she, 'it is my
custom to offer those I vanquish either the sword (which, believe
me, was never nearer your neck than now) or service under my
banner. Will you make a choice?'
"'Woman,' I said, 'fairest that ever I saw, finest general the
world has ever borne, you tempt me sorely by your qualities, but
there is a tradition in our Clan, that we should be true to the
salt we eat. I am the King's man still, and so I can take no
service from you.'
"'The King is dead,' says she. 'A runner has just brought the
tidings, meaning them to have fallen into your hands. And I am the
"'Who made you Empress?' I asked.
"'The same most capable hand that has given me this battle,'
says she. 'It is a capable hand, as you have seen: it can be a
kind hand also, as you may learn if you choose. With the King
dead, Tatho is a masterless man now. Is Tatho in want of a
"'Such a glorious mistress as you,' I said, 'Yes.' And from
that moment, Deucalion, I have been her slave. Oh, you may frown;
you may get up from this seat and walk away if you will. But I ask
you this: keep back your worst judgment of me, old friend, till
after you have seen Phorenice herself in the warm and lovely flesh.
Then your own ears and your own senses will be my advocates, to win
me back your old esteem."
2. BACK TO ATLANTIS
The words of Tatho were no sleeping draught for me that night.
I began to think that I had made somewhat a mistake in wrapping
myself up so entirely in my government of Yucatan, and not
contriving to keep more in touch with events that were passing at
home in Atlantis. For many years past it had been easy to see that
the mariner folk who did traffic across the seas spoke with
restraint, and that only what news the Empress pleased was allowed
to ooze out beyond her borders. But, as I say, I was fully
occupied with my work in the colony, and had no curiosity to pull
away a veil intentionally placed. Besides, it has always been
against my principles to put to the torture men who had received
orders for silence from their superiors, merely that they shall
break these orders for my private convenience.
However, the iron discipline of our Priestly Clan left me no
choice of procedure. As was customary, I had been deprived of my
office at a moment's notice. From that time on, all papers and
authority belonged to my successor, and, although by courtesy I
might be permitted to remain as a guest in the pyramid that had so
recently been mine, to see another sunrise, it was clearly enjoined
that I must leave the territory then at the topmost of my speed and
hasten to report in Atlantis.
Tatho, to give him credit, was anxious to further my interests
to the utmost in his power. He was by my side again before the
dawn, putting all his resources at my disposal.
I had little enough to ask him. "A ship to take me home," I
said, "and I shall be your debtor."
The request seemed to surprise him. "That you may certainly
have if you wish it. But my ships are foul with the long passage,
and are in need of a careen. If you take them, you will make a
slow voyage of it to Atlantis. Why do you not take your own navy?
The ships are in harbour now, for I saw them there when we came in.
Brave ships they are too."
"But not mine. That navy belongs to Yucatan."
"Well, Deucalion, you are Yucatan; or, rather, you were
yesterday, and have been these twenty years."
I saw what he meant, and the idea did not please me. I answered
stiffly enough that the ships were owned by private merchants,
or belonged to the State, and I could not claim so much as a
Tatho shrugged his shoulders. "I suppose you know your own
policies best," he said, "though to me it seems but risky for a man
who has attained to a position like yours and mine not to have
provided himself with a stout navy of his own. One never knows
when a recall may be sent, and, through lack of these precautions,
a life's earnings may very well be lost in a dozen hours."
"I have no fear for mine," I said coldly.
"Of course not, because you know me to be your friend. But
had another man been appointed to this vice-royalty, you might have
been sadly shorn, Deucalion. It is not many fellows who can resist
a snug hoard ready and waiting in the very coffers they have come
"My Lord Tatho," I said, "it is clear to me that you and I
have grown to be of different tastes. All of the hoard that I have
made for myself in this colony, few men would covet. I have the
poor clothes you see me in this moment, and a box of drugs such as
I have found useful to the stomach. I possess also three slaves,
two of them scribes and the third a sturdy savage from Europe, who
cooks my victual and fills for me the bath. For my maintenance
during my years of service, here, I have bled the State of a
soldier's ration and nothing beyond; and if in my name any man has
mulcted a creature in Yucatan of so much as an ounce of bronze, I
request you as a last service to have that man hanged for me as a
liar and a thief."
Tatho looked at me curiously. "I do not know whether I admire
you most or whether I pity. I do not know whether to be astonished
or to despise. We had heard of much of your uprightness over
yonder in Atlantis, of your sternness and your justice, but I swear
by the old Gods that no soul guessed you carried your fancy so far
as this. Why, man, money is power. With money and the resources
money can buy, nothing could stop a fellow like you; whilst without
it you may be tripped up and trodden down irrevocably at the first
"The Gods will choose my fate."
"Possibly; but for mine, I prefer to nourish it myself. I
tell you with frankness that I have not come here to follow in the
pattern you have made for a vice-royalty. I shall govern Yucatan
wisely and well to the best of my ability; but I shall govern it
also for the good of Tatho, the viceroy. I have brought with me
here my navy of eight ships and a personal bodyguard. There is my
wife also, and her women and her slaves. All these must be
provided for. And why indeed should it be otherwise? If a people
is to be governed, it should be their privilege to pay handsomely
for their prince."
"We shall not agree on this. You have the power now, and can
employ it as you choose. If I thought it would be of any use, I
should like to supplicate you most humbly to deal with lenience
when you come to tax these people who are under you. They have
grown very dear to me."
"I have disgusted you with me, and I am grieved for it. But
even to retain your good opinion, Deucalion--which I value more
than that of any man living--I cannot do here as you have done. It
would be impossible, even if I wished it. You must not judge all
other men by your own strong standard: a Tatho is by no means a
colossus like a Deucalion. And besides, I have a wife and
children, and they must be provided for, even if I neglect myself."
"Ah, there," I said, "it does seem that I possess the
advantage. I have no wife, to clog me."
He caught up my word quickly. "It seems to me you have
nothing that makes life worth living. You have neither wife,
children, riches, cooks, retinue, dresses, nor anything else in
proportion to your station. You will pardon my saying it, old
comrade, but you are plaguey ignorant about some matters. For
example, you do not know how to dine. During every day of a very
weary voyage, I have promised myself when sitting before the meagre
sea victual, that presently the abstinence would be more than
repaid by Deucalion's welcoming feast. Oh, I tell you that feast
was one of the vividest things that ever came before my eyes. And
then when we get to the actuality, what was it? Why, a country
farmer every day sits down to more delicate fare. You told me how
it was prepared. Well, your savage from Europe may be lusty, and
perchance is faithful, but be is a devil-possessed cook. Gods! I
have lived better on a campaign.
"I know this is a colony here, without any of the home
refinements; but if in the days to come, the deer of the forest,
the fish of the stream, and the other resources of the place are
not put to better use than heretofore, I shall see it my duty as
ruler to fry some of the kitchen staff alive in grease so as to
encourage better cookery. Gods! Deucalion, have you forgotten
what it is to have a palate? And have you no esteem for your own
dignity? Man, look at your clothes. You are garbed like a
herdsman, and you have not a gaud or a jewel to brighten you."
"I eat," I said coldly, "when my hunger bids me, and I carry
this one robe upon my person till it is worn out and needs
replacement. The grossness of excessive banqueting, and the
effeminacy of many clothes are attainments that never met my fancy.
But I think we have talked here over long, and there seems little
chance of our finding agreement. You have changed, Tatho, with the
years, and perhaps I have changed also. These alterations creep
imperceptibly into one's being as time advances. Let us part now,
and, forgetting these present differences, remember only our
friendship of twenty years agone. That for me, at any rate, has
always had a pleasant savour when called up into the memory."
Tatho bowed his head. "So be it," he said.
"And I would still charge myself upon your bounty for that
ship. Dawn cannot be far off now, and it is not decent that the
man who has ruled here so long, should walk in daylight through the
streets on the morning after his dismissal."
"So be it," said Tatho. "You shall have my poor navy. I
could have wished that you had asked me something greater."
"Not the navy, Tatho; one small ship. Believe me, more is
"Now, there," said Tatho, "I shall act the tyrant. I am
viceroy here now, and will have my way in this. You may go naked
of all possessions: that I cannot help. But depart for Atlantis
unattended, that you shall not."
And so, in fine, as the choice was set beyond me, it was in
the "Bear," Tatho's own private ship, with all the rest of his navy
sailing in escort, that I did finally make my transit.
But the start was not immediate. The vessels lay moored
against the stone quays of the inner harbour, gutted of their
stores, and with crews exhausted, and it would have been suicide to
have forced them out then and there to again take the seas.
So the courtesies were fulfilled by the craft whereon I abode
hauling out into the entrance basin, and anchoring there in the
swells of the fairway; and forthwith she and her consorts took in
wood and water, cured meat and fish ashore, and refitted in all
needful ways, with all speed attainable.
For myself there came then, as the first time during twenty
busy years, a breathing space from work. I had no further
connection with the country of my labours; indeed, officially, I
had left it already. Into the working of the ship it was contrary
to rule that I should make any inspection or interest, since all
sea matters were the exclusive property of the Mariners' Guild,
secured to them by royal patent, and most jealously guarded.
So there remained to me in my day, hours to gaze (if I would)
upon the quays, the harbours, the palaces, and the pyramids of the
splendid city before me which I had seen grow stone by stone from
its foundations; or to roam my eye over the pastures and the grain
lands beyond the walls, and to look longingly at the dense forests
behind, from which field by field we had so tediously ripped our
Would Tatho continue the work so healthily begun? I trusted
so, even in spite of his selfish words. And at all hours, during
the radiance of our Lord the Sun, or under the stars of night, I
was free to pursue that study of the higher mysteries, on which we
of the Priests' Clan are trained to set our minds, without aid of
book or instrument, of image or temple.
The refitting of the navy was gone about with speed. Never,
it is said, had ships been reprovisioned and caulked, and remanned
with greater speed for the over-ocean voyage. Indeed, it was
barely over a month from the day that they brought up in the
harbour, they put out beyond the walls, and began their voyage
eastward over the hills and dale of the ocean.
Rowing-slaves from Europe for this long passage of sea are not
taken now, owing to the difficulty in provisioning them, for modern
humanity forbids the practice of letting them eat one another
according to the home custom of their continent; sails alone are
but an indifferent stand by; but modern science has shown how to
extract force from the Sun, when He is free from cloud, and this
(in a manner kept secret by mariners) is made to draw sea-water at
the forepart of the vessel, and eject it with such force at the
stern that she is appreciably driven forward, even with the wind
In another matter also has navigation vastly improved. It is
not necessary now, as formerly, to trust wholly to a starry night
(when beyond sight of land) to find direction. A little image has
been made, and is stood balanced in the forepart of every vessel,
with an arm outstretched, pointing constantly to the direction
where the Southern Cross lies in the Heavens. So, by setting an
angle, can a just course be correctly steered. Other instruments
have they also for finding a true position on the ocean wastes, for
the newer mariner, when he is at sea, puts little trust in the
Gods, and confides mightily in his own thews and wits.
Still, it is amusing to see these tarry fellows, even in this
modern day, take their last farewell of the harbour town. The ship
is stowed, and all ready for sea, and they wash and put on all
their bravery of attire. Ashore they go, their faces long with
piety, and seek some obscure temple whose God has little flavour
with shore folk, and here they make sacrifice with clamour and
lavish outlay. And, finally, there follows a feast in honour of
the God, and they arrive back on board, and put to sea for the most
part drunken, and all heavy and evil-humoured with gluttony and
their other excesses.
The voyage was very different to my previous sea-going. There
was no creeping timorously along in touch with the coasts. We
stood straight across the open gulf in the direction of home, came
up with the band of the Carib Islands, and worked confidently
through them, as though they had been signposts to mark the sea
highway; and stopped only twice to replenish with wood, water, and
fruit. These commodities, too, the savages brought us freely, so
great was their subjection, and in neither place did we have even
the semblance of a fight. It was a great certificate of the
growing power of Atlantis and her finest over-sea colony.
Then boldly on we went across the vast ocean beyond, with
never a sacrifice to implore the Gods that they should help our
direction. One might feel censure towards these rugged mariners
for their impiety, but one could not help an admiration for their
lusty skill and confidence.
The dangers of the desolate sea are dealt out as the Gods will,
and man can only take them as they come. Storms we encountered,
and the mariners fought them with stubborn endurance; twice a
blazing stone from Heaven hissed into the sea beside us, though
without injuring any of our ships; and, as was unavoidable, the
great beasts of the sea hunted us with their accustomed
savagery. But only once did we suffer material loss from these
last, and that was when three of the greater sea lizards attacked
the "Bear," the ship whereon I travelled, at one and the same time.
The hour of their onset was during the blazing midday heat,
and the Sun being at the full of His power, our machines were
getting full force from Him. The vessel was travelling forward
faster than a man on dry land could walk. But for the power escape
she might as well have been standing still when the beasts sighted
her. There were three of them, as I have said, and we saw them
come up over the curve of the horizon, beating the sea into foam
with their flappers, and waving their great necks like masts as
they swam. Our navy was spread out in a long line of ships, and in
olden days each of the beasts would have selected a separate prey,
and proceeded for it; but, like man, these beasts have learned the
necessities of warfare, and they hunt in pack now and do not
separate their forces.
It was plain they were making for our ship, and Tob, the
captain, would have had me go into the after-castle, and there be
secure from their marauding. He was responsible to the Lord Tatho,
he said, for my safe conduct; it was certain that the beasts would
contrive to seize some of the ship's company before they were
satiated; and if the hap came to the Lord Deucalion, he (the
captain) would have to give himself voluntarily to the beasts then,
to escape a very painful death at Tatho's hands later on.
However, my mind was set. A man can never have too much
experience in fighting enemies, whether human or bestial, and the
attack of these creatures was new to me, and I was fain to learn
its method. So I gave the captain a letter to Tatho, saying how
the matter lay (and for which, it may be mentioned, the rude fellow
seemed little enough grateful), and stayed in my chair under the
The beasts surged up to us with champing jaws, and all the
shipmen stood armed on their defence. They came up alongside, two
females (the smaller) on the flank of the ship, the giant male by
himself on the other. Their great heads swooped about, as high as
the yards that held the sails, and the reek from them gave one
The shipmen faced the monsters with a sturdy courage. Arrows
were useless against the smooth, bull-like hides. Even the
throwing fire could not so much as singe them; nothing but twenty
axe blows delivered on an attacking head together could beat it
back, and even these succeeded only through sheer weight of metal,
and did not make so much as the scratch of a wound.
During all time beasts have disputed with man the mastery of
the earth, and it is only in Atlantis and Egypt and Yucatan that
man has dared to hold his own, and fight them with a mind made
strong by many previous victories. In Europe and mid-Africa the
greater beasts hold full dominion, and man admits his puny number
and force, and lives in earth crannies and the higher tree-tops, as
a fugitive confessed. And upon the great oceans, the beasts are
Still here, upon this desolate sea, although the giant lizards
were new to me, it was a pleasure to pit my knowledge of war
against their brute strength and courage. Ever since the first men
did their business upon the great waters, they fulfilled their
instincts in fighting the beasts with desperation. Hiding
coward-like in a hold was useless, for if this enemy could not find
men above decks to glut them, they would break a ship with their
paddles, and so all would be slain. And so it was recognised that
the fight should go forward as desperately as might be, and that it
could only end when the beasts had got their prey and had gone away
It was in a one-sided conflict after this fashion then, that
I found myself, and felt the joy once more to have my thews in
action. But after my axe had got in some dozen lusty blows, which,
for all the harm they did, might have been delivered against some
city wall, or, indeed, against the ark of the Mysteries itself, I
sought about me till I found a lance, and with that made very
The eyes of these lizards are small, and set deep in a bony
socket, but I judged them to be vulnerable, and it was upon the
eyes of the beast that I made my attack. The decks were slippery
with the horrid slime of them. The crew surged about in their
battling, and, moreover, constantly offered themselves as a rampart
before me by reason of Tob, the captain's threats. But I gave a
few shrewd progues with the lance to show that I did not choose my
will to be overridden, and presently was given room for manoeuvre.
Deliberately I placed myself in the sight of one of the
lizards, and offered my body to its attack. The challenge was
accepted. It swooped like a dropping stone, and I swerved and
drove in the lance at its oozy eye.
I thanked the Gods then that I had been trained with the lance
till certain aim was a matter of instinct with me. The blade went
true to its mark and stuck there, and the shaft broke in my hand.
The beast drew off, blinded and bellowing, and beating the sea with
its paddles. In a great cataract of foam I saw it bend its great
long neck, and rub its head (with the spear still fixed) against
its back, thereby enduring new agonies, but without dislodging the
weapon. And then presently, finding this of no avail, it set off
for the place from which it came with extraordinary quickness, and
rapidly grew smaller against the horizon.
The male and the other female lizard had also left us, but not
in similar plight. Tob, the captain, seeing my resolve to take
hazards, deliberately thrust a shipman into the jaws of each of the
others, so that they might be sated and get them gone. It was
clear that Tob dreaded very much for his own skin if I came by
harm, and I thought with a warming heart of the threats that Tatho
must have used in his kind anxiety for my safety. It is pleasant
when one's old friends do not omit to pay these little attentions.
3. A RIVAL NAVY
Now, when we came up with the coasts of Atlantis, though Tob,
with the aid of his modern instruments, had made his landfall with
most marvellous skill and nearness, there still remained some ten
days' more journey in which we had to retrace our course, till we
came to that arm of the sea up which lies the great city of
Atlantis, the capital.
The sight of the land, and the breath of earth and herbage
which came off from it with the breezes, were, I believe, under the
Gods, the means of saving the lives of all of us. For, as is
necessary with long cross-ocean voyages, many of our ships'
companies had died, and still more were sick with scurvy through
the unnatural tossing, or (as some have it) through the salt,
unnatural food inseparable from shipboard. But these last, the
sight and the smells of land heartened up in extraordinary fashion,
and from being helpless logs, unable to move even under blows of
the scourge, they became active again, able to help in the
shipwork, and lusty (when the time came) to fight for their lives
and their vessels.
From the moment that I was deposed in Yucatan, despite Tatho's
assurances, there had been doubts in my mind as to what nature
would be my reception in Atlantis. But I had faced this event of
the future without concern: it was in the hands of the Gods. The
Empress Phorenice might be supreme on earth; she might cause my
head to be lopped from its proper shoulders the moment I set foot
ashore; but my Lord the Sun was above Phorenice, and if my head
fell, it would be because He saw best that it should be so. On
which account, therefore, I had not troubled myself about the
matter during the voyage, but had followed out my calm study of the
higher mysteries with an unloaded mind.
But when our navy had retraced sufficiently the course that
had been overrun, and came up with the two vast headlands which
marked the entrance to the inland waters, there, a bare two days
from the Atlantis capital, we met with another navy which was,
beyond doubt, waiting to give us a reception. The ships were
riding at anchor in a bay which lent them shelter, but they had
scouts on the high land above, who cried the alarm of our approach,
and when we rounded the headland, they were standing out to dispute
Of us there were now but five ships, the rest having been lost
in storms, or fallen behind because all their crews were dead from
the scurvy; and of the strangers there were three fine ships, and
three galleys of many oars apiece. They were clean and bright and
black; our ships were storm-ragged and weather-worn, and had
bottoms that were foul with trailing ocean weed. Our ships hung
out the colours and signs of Tatho and Deucalion openly and without
shame, so that all who looked might know their origin and errand;
but the other navy came on without banner or antient, as though
they were some low creatures feeling shame for their birth.
Clear it seemed also that they would not let us pass without
a fight, and in this there was nothing uncommon; for no law carries
out over the seas, and a brother in one ship feels quite free to
harry his brother in another vessel if he meets him out of earshot
of the beach--more especially if that other brother be coming home
laden from foray or trading tour. So Tob, with system and method,
got our vessel into fighting trim, and the other four captains did
the like with theirs, and drew close in to us to form a compact
squadron. They had no wish to smell slavery, now that the voyage
had come so near to its end.
Our Lord the Sun shone brilliantly, giving full speed to the
machines, as though He was fully willing for the affair to proceed,
and the two navies approached one another with quickness, the three
galleys holding back to stay in line with their consorts. But when
some bare hundred ship-lengths separated us, the other navy halted,
and one of the galleys, drawing ahead, flew green branches from her
masts, seeking for a parley.
The course was unusual, but we, in our sea-battered state,
were no navy to invite a fight unnecessarily. So in hoarse
sea-bawls word was passed, and we too halted, and Tob hoisted a
withered stick (which had to do duty for greenery), to show that we
were ready for talk, and would respect the person of an ambassador.
The galley drew on, swung round, and backed till its stern
rasped on our shield rail, and one of her people clambered up and
jumped down upon our decks. He was a dandily rigged-out fellow,
young and lusty, and all healthy from the land and land victual,
and he looked round him with a sneer at our sea-tatteredness, and
with a fine self-confidence. Then, seeing Tob, he nodded as one
meets an acquaintance. "Old pot-mate," he said, "your woman waits
for you up by the quay-side in Atlantis yonder, with four
youngsters at her heels. I saw her not half a month ago."
"You didn't come out here to tell me home news," said Tob;
"that I'll be sworn. I've drunk enough pots with you, Dason, to
know your pleasantries thoroughly."
"I wanted to point out to you that your home is still there,
with your wife and children ready to welcome you."
"I am not a man that ever forgets it," said Tob grimly; "and
because I've got them always at the back of my mind, I've sailed
this ship over the top of more than one pirate, when, if I'd been
a single man, I might have been e'en content to take the hap of
"Oh, I know you're a desperate enough fellow," said Dason,
"and I'm free to confess that if it does come to blows we are like
to lose a few men before we get you and your cripples here, and
your crazy ships comfortably sunk. Our navy has its orders to
carry out, and the cause of my embassage is this: we wish to see if
you will act the sensible part and give us what we want, and so be
permitted to go on your way home, with a skin that is unslit and
"You have come to the wrong bird here for a plucking," said
Tob with a heavy laugh. "We took no treasure or merchandise on
board in Yucatan. We stayed in harbour long enough to cure our sea
victual and fill with food and water, and no longer. We sail back
as we sailed out, barren ships. You will not believe me, of
course; I would not have believed you had our places been changed;
but you may go into the holds and search if you choose. You will
find there nothing but a few poor sailormen half in pieces with the
scurvy. No, you can steal nothing here but blows, Dason, and we
will give you those with but little asking."
"I am glad to see that you state your cargo at such slender
value," said the envoy, "for it is the cargo I must take back with
me on the galley, if you are to earn your safe conduct to home."
Tob knit his brows. "You had better speak more plain," he
said. "I am a common sailor, and do not understand fancy talk."
"It is clear to see," said Dason, "that you have been set to
bring Deucalion back to Atlantis as a prop for Phorenice. Well, we
others find Phorenice hard enough to fight against without further
reinforcements, and so we want Deucalion in our own custody to deal
with after our own fashion."
"And if I do the miser, and deny you this piece of my freight?"
The spruce envoy looked round at the splintered ship, and the
battered navy beside her. "Why, then, Tob, we shall send you all
to the fishes in very short time, and instead of Deucalion standing
before the Gods alone, he will go down with a fine ragged company
limping at his heels."
"I doubt it," said Tob, "but we shall see. As for letting you
have my Lord Deucalion, that is out of the question. For see here,
pot-mate Dason; in the first place, if I went to Atlantis without
Deucalion, my other lord, Tatho, would come back one of these days,
and in his hands I should die by the slowest of slow inches; in the
second, I have seen my Lord Deucalion kill a great sea lizard, and
he showed himself such a proper man that day that I would not give
him up against his will, even to Tatho himself; and in the third
place, you owe me for your share in our last wine-bout ashore, and
I'll see you with the nether Gods before I give you aught till
you've settled that score."
"Well, Tob, I hope you'll drown easy. As for that wife of yours,
I've always had a fancy for her myself, and I shall know how to
find a use for the woman."
"I'll draw your neck for that, you son of a European," said
Tob; "and if you do not clear off this deck I'll draw it here.
Go," he cried, "you father of monkey children! Get away, and let
me fight you fairly, or by my honour I'll stamp the inwards out of
you, and make your silly crew wear them as necklaces."
Upon which Dason went to his galley.
Promptly Tob set going the machine on our own "Bear," and
bawled his orders right and left to the other ships. The crew
might be weak with scurvy, but they were quick to obey. Instantly
the five vessels were all started, and because our Lord the Sun was
shining brightly, got soon to the full of their pace. The whole of
our small navy converged, singling out one ship of their opponents,
and she, not being ready for so swift an attack, got flurried, and
endeavoured to turn and run for room, instead of trying to meet us
bows on. As a consequence, the whole of our five ships hit her
together on the broadside, tearing her planking with their
underwater beaks, and sinking her before we had backed clear from
But if we thus brought the enemy's number down to five, and so
equal to our own, the advantage did not remain with us for long.
The three nimble galleys formed into line: their boatswains' whips
cracked as the slaves bent to their oars, and presently one of our
own ships was gored and sunk, the men on her being killed in the
water without hope of rescue.
And then commenced a tight-locked melee that would have warmed
the heart of the greatest warrior alive. The ships and the galleys
were forced together and lay savagely grinding one another upon the
swells, as though they had been sentient animals. The men on board
them shot their arrows, slashed with axes, thrust and hacked with
swords, and hurled the throwing fire. But in every way the fight
converged upon the "Bear." It was on her that the enemy spent the
fiercest of their spite; it was to the "Bear," that the other crews
of Tatho's navy rallied as their own vessels caught fire, or were
sunk or taken.
Battle is an old acquaintance with us of the Priestly Clan,
and for those of us who have had to carve out territories for the
new colonies, it comes with enough frequency to cloy even the most
chivalrous appetite. So I can speak here as a man of experience.
Up till that time, for half a life-span, I had heard men shout
"Deucalion" as a battlecry, and in my day had seen some lusty
encounters. But this sea-fight surprised even me in its savage
fierceness. The bleak, unstable element which surrounded us; the
swaying decks on which we fought; the throwing fire, which burnt
flesh and wood alike with its horrid flame; the great gluttonous
man-eating birds that hovered in the sky overhead; the man-eating
fish that swarmed up from the seas around, gnawing and quarrelling
over those that fell into the waters, all went to make up a
circumstance fit to daunt the bravest men-at-arms ever gathered for
But these tarry shipmen faced it all with an indomitable
courage, and never a cry of quailing. Life on the seas is so hard,
and (from the beasts that haunt the great waters) so full of savage
dangers, that Death has lost half his terrors to them through sheer
familiarity. They were fellows who from pure lust for a fray would
fight to a finish amongst themselves in the taverns ashore; and so
here, in this desperate sea-battle, the passion for killing burned
in them, as a fire stone from Heaven rages in a forest; and they
took even their death-wounds laughing.
On our side the battle-cry was "Tob!" and the name of this
obscure ship-captain seemed to carry a confidence with it for our
own crews that many a well-known commander might have envied. The
enemy had a dozen rallying cries, and these confused them. But as
their other ship-commanders one by one were killed, and Dason
remained, active with mischief, "Dason!" became the shout which was
thrown back at us in response to our "Tob!"
However, I will not load my page with farther long account of
this obscure sea-fight, whose only glory was its ferocity. One by
one all the ships of either side were sunk or lay with all their
people killed, till finally only Dason's galley and our own "Bear"
were left. For the moment we were being mastered. We had a score
of men remaining out of all those that manned the navy when it
sailed from Yucatan, and the enemy had boarded us and made the
decks of the "Bear" the field of battle. But they had been over
busy with the throwing fire, and presently, as we raged at one
another, the smoke and the flame from the sturdy vessel herself let
us very plainly know that she was past salvation.
But Tob was nothing daunted. "They may stay here and fry if they
choose," he shouted with his great boisterous laugh, "but for
ourselves the galley is good enough now. Keep a guard on
Deucalion, and come with me, shipmates!"
"Tob!" our fellows shouted in their ecstasy of fighting
madness, and I too could not forbear sending out a "Tob!" for my
battle-cry. It was a change for me not to be leader, but it was a
luxury for once to fight in the wake of this Tob, despite his
uncouthness of mien and plan. There was no stopping this new rush,
though progress still was slow. Tob with his bloody axe cut the
road in front, and we others, with the lust of battle filling us to
the chin, raged like furies in his wake. Gods! but it was a fight.
Ten of us won to the galley, with the flames and the smoke from
the poor "Bear" spurting at our heels. We turned and stabbed
madly at all who tried to follow, and hacked through the grapples
that held the vessels to their embrace. The sea-swells spurned the
The slaves chained to the rowing-galley's benches had interest
neither one way nor the other, and looked on the contest with dull
concern, save when some stray missile found a billet amongst them.
But a handful of the fighting men had scrambled desperately on
board the galley after us, preferring any fate to a fiery death on
the "Bear," and these had to be dealt with promptly. Three, with
their fighting fury still red-hot in them, had most wastefully to
be killed out of mischief's way; five, who had pitched their
weapons into the sea, were chained to oar looms, in place of slaves
who were dead; and there remained only Dason to have a fate
The fight had cooled out of him, and he had thrown his arms to
the sea, and stood sullenly ready for what might befall; and to him
Tob went up with an exulting face.
"Ho, pot-mate Dason," cried he, "you made a lot of talk an
hour ago about that woman of mine, who lives with her brats on the
quay-side in Atlantis yonder. Now, I'll give you a pleasant
choice; either I'll take you along home, and tell her what you said
before the whole ship's company (that are for the most part dead
now, poor souls!), and I'll leave her to perform on your carcase as
she sees fit by way of payment; or, as the other choice, I'll deal
with you here now myself."
"I thank you for the chance," said Dason, and knelt and offered
his neck to the axe. So Tob cut off his head, sticking it
on the galley's beak as an advertisement of what had been done.
The body he threw over the side, and one of the great man-eating
birds that hovered near, picked it up and flew away with it to its
nest amongst the crags. And so we were free to get a meal of the
fruits and the fresh meats which the galley offered, whilst the
oar-slaves sent the galley rushing onwards towards the capital.
There was a wine-skin in the after-castle, and I filled a horn
and poured some out at Tob's feet in salutation. "My man," I said,
"you have shown me a fight."
"Thanks," said he, "and I know you are a judge. 'Twas pretty
whilst it lasted; and, seeing that my lads were, for the most,
scurvy-rotten, I will say they fought with credit. I have lost my
Lord Tatho's navy, but I think Phorenice will see me righted there.
If those that are against her took so much trouble to kill my Lord
Deucalion before he could come to her aid, I can fancy she will not
be niggard in her joy when I put Deucalion safe, if somewhat dented
and blood-bespattered, on the quay."
"The Gods know," I said, for it is never my custom to discuss
policies with my inferiors, even though etiquette be for the moment
loosened, as ours was then by the thrill of battle. "The Gods will
decide what is best for you, Tob, even as they have decided that it
is best that I should go on to Atlantis."
The sailor held a horn filled from the wine-skin in his hand,
and I think was minded to pour a libation at my feet, even as I had
done at his. But he changed his mind, and emptied it down his
throat instead. "It is thirsty work, this fighting," he said, "and
that drink comes very useful."
I put my hand on his blood-smeared arm. "Tob," I said,
"whether I step into power again, or whether I go to the block
to-morrow, is another matter which the Gods alone know, but hear me
tell you now, that if a chance is given me of showing my gratitude,
I shall not forget the way you have served me in this voyage, and
the way you have fought this day."
Tob filled another brimming horn from the wine-skin and
splashed it at my feet. "That's good enough surety for me," he
said, "that my woman and brats never want from this day onward.
The Lord Deucalion for the block, indeed!"
4. THE WELCOME OF PHORENICE
Now I can say it with all truth that, till the rival navy met
us in the mouth of the gulf, I had thought little enough of my
importance as a recruit for the Empress. But the laying in wait
for us of those ships, and the wild ferocity with which they fought
so that I might fall into their hands, were omens which the
blindest could not fail to read. It was clear that I was expected
to play a lusty part in the fortunes of the nation.
But if our coming had been watched for by enemies it seemed
that Phorenice also had her scouts; and these saw us from the
mountains, and carried news to the capital. The arm of the sea at
the head of which the vast city of Atlantis stands, varies greatly
in width. In places where the mountains have over-boiled, and sent
their liquid contents down to form hard stone below, the channel
has barely a river's wideness, and then beyond, for the next
half-day's sail it will widen out into a lake, with the sides
barely visible. Moreover, its course is winding, and so a runner
who knows his way across the flats, and the swamps, and between the
smoking hills which lie along the shore, and did not get overcome
by fire-streams, or water, or wandering beasts, could carry news
overland from seacoast to capital far speedier than even the most
shrewdly whipped of galleys could ferry it along the water.
Of course there were heavy risks that a lone traveller would
not make a safe passage by this land route, if he were bidden to
sacrifice all precautions to speed. But Phorenice was no niggard
with her couriers. She sent a corps of twenty to the headland that
overlooks the sea-entrance to the straits; they started with the
news, each on his own route; and it says much for their speed and
cleverness, that no fewer than seven of these agile fellows came
through scathless with their tidings, and of the others it was said
that quite three were known to have survived.
Still, about this we had no means of knowing at the time, and
pushed on in fancy that our coming was quite unheralded. The
slaves on the galley's row-banks were for the most part savages
from Europe, and the smell of them was so offensive that the voyage
lost all its pleasures; and as, moreover, the wind carried with it
an infinite abundance of small grit from some erupting fire
mountain, we were anxious to linger as little as possible.
Besides, if I may confess to such a thing without being unduly
degraded, although by my priestly training I had been taught
stoicism, and knew that all the future was in the hands of the
Gods, I was frailly human still to have a very vast curiosity as to
what would be the form of my own reception at Atlantis. I could
imagine myself taken a formal prisoner on landing, and set on a
formal trial to answer for my cure of the colony of Yucatan; I
could imagine myself stepping ashore unknown and unnoticed, and
after a due lapse, being sent for by the Empress to take up new
duties; but the manner of my real welcome was a thing I did not
even guess at.
We came in sight of the peak of the sacred mountain, with its
glare of eternal fires which stand behind the city, one morning
with the day's break, and the whips of the boatswains cracked more
vehemently, so that those offensive slaves should give the galley
a final spurt. The wind was adverse, and no sail could be spread,
but under oars alone we made a pretty pace, and the sides of the
sacred mountain grew longer, and presently the peaks of the
pyramids in the city, the towers of the higher buildings, began to
show themselves as though they floated upon the gleaming water. It
was twenty years since I had seen Atlantis last, and my heart
glowed with the thought of treading again upon her paving-stones.
The splendid city grew out of the sea as we approached, and to
every throb of the oars, the shores leaped nearer. I saw the
temple where I had been admitted first to manhood; I saw the
pyramid in whose heart I had been initiated to the small mysteries;
and then (as the lesser objects became discernible) I made out the
house where a father and a mother had reared me, and my eyes became
dim as the memories rose.
We drew up outside the white walls of the harbour, as the law
was, and the slaves panted and sobbed in quietude over the
oar-looms. For vessels thus stationed there is, generally, a
sufficiency of waiting, for a port-captain is apt to be so
uncertain of his own dignity, that he must e'en keep folks waiting
to prove it to them. But here for us it might have been that the
port-captain's boat was waiting. The signal was sounded from the
two castles at the harbour's entrance, the chain which hung between
them was dropped, and a ten-oared boat shot out from behind the
walls as fast as oars could drive her. She raced up alongside and
the questions were put:
"That should be Dason's galley?"
"It was," said Tob.
"Oh, I saw Dason's head on your beak," said the port-captain.
"You were Tatho's captain?"
"And am still. Tatho's fleet was sent by Dason and his friends
to the sea-floor, and so we took this stinking galley to finish
the voyage in, seeing that it was the only craft left afloat."
The port-captain was roving his eye over the group of us who
stood on the after-deck. "I fear me, captain, that you'll have but
a dangerous reception. I do not see my Lord Deucalion. Or does he
come with some other navy? Gods, captain, if you have let him get
killed whilst under your charge, the Empress will have the skin
torn slowly off you living."
"What with Phorenice and Tatho both so curious for his
welfare," said Tob, "my Lord Deucalion seems but a dangerous
passenger. But I shall save my hide this voyage." He jerked at me
with his thumb. "He's there to put in a word for me himself."
The port-captain stared for a moment, as if unbelieving, and
then, as though satisfied, made obeisance like a fellow well used
to ceremonial. "I trust my lord, in his infinite strength, will
pardon my sin in not knowing him by his nobleness before. But
truth to tell, I had looked to see my lord more suitably
"Pish," I said; "if I choose to dress simply, I cannot object
to being mistaken for a simple man. It is not my pleasure to
advertise my quality by the gauds on my garb. If you think amends
are due to me, I pray of your charity that this inquisition may
The fellow was all bows and obsequiousness. "I am the humblest
of my lord's servants," he said. "It will be my exceeding
honour to pilot my lord's galley into the berth appointed in
The boat shot ahead, and our galley-slaves swung into stroke
again. Tob watched me with a dry smile as he stood directing the
men at the helms.
"Well," I said, humouring his whim, "what is it?"
"I'm thinking," said Tob, "that my Lord Deucalion will remember
me only as a very rude fellow when he steps ashore amongst all
this fine gentility."
"You don't think," said I, "anything of the kind."
"Then I must prove my refinement," said Tob, "and not
contradict." He picked up my hand in his huge, hard fist, and
pressed it. "By the Gods, Deucalion, you may be a great prince,
but I've only known you as a man. You're the finest fighter of
beasts and men that walks this world to-day, and I love you for it.
That spear-stroke of yours on the lizard is a thing the singers in
the taverns shall make chaunts about."
We drew rapidly into the harbour, the soldiers in the entrance
castle blowing their trumpets in welcome as we passed between them.
The captain of the port had run up my banner to the masthead of his
boat, having been provided with one apparently for this purpose of
announcement, and from the quays, across the vast basin of the
harbour, there presently came to us the noises of musicians, and
the pale glow of welcoming fires, dancing under the sunlight. I
was almost awed to think that an Empress of Atlantis had come to
such straits as to feel an interest like this in any mere returning
It was clear that nothing was to be done by halves. The
port-captain's boat led, and we had no choice but to follow. Our
galley was run up alongside the royal quay and moored to its posts
and rings of gold, all of which are sacred to the reigning house.
"If Dason could only have foreseen this honour," said Tob, with
grisly jest, "I'm sure he'd have laid in a silken warp to make
fast on the bollards instead of mere plebeian hemp. I'm sure
there'd be a frown on Dason's head this minute, if the sun
hadn't scorched it stiff. My Lord Deucalion, will you pick your
way with niceness over this common ship and tread on the genteel
carpet they've spread for you on the quay yonder?"
The port-captain heard Tob's rude banter and looked up with a
face of horror, and I remembered, with a small sigh, that colonial
freedom would have no place here in Atlantis. Once more I must
prepare myself for all the dignity of rank, and make ready to tread
the formalities of vast and gorgeous ceremonial.
But, be these things how they may, a self-respecting man must
preserve his individuality also, and though I consented to enter a
pavilion of crimson cloth, specially erected to shelter me till the
Empress should deign to arrive, there my complaisance ended. Again
the matter of clothes was harped upon. The three gorgeously
caparisoned chamberlains, who had inducted me to the shelter, laid
before me changes of raiment bedecked with every imaginable kind of
frippery, and would have me transform myself into a popinjay in
fashion like their own.
Curtly enough, I refused to alter my garb, and when one of
them stammeringly referred to the Empress's tastes I asked him with
plainness if he had got any definite commands on this paltry matter
from her mightiness.
Of course, he had to confess that there were none.
Upon which I retorted that Phorenice had commanded Deucalion,
the man, to attend before her, and had sent no word of her pleasure
as to his outer casing.
"This dress," I said, "suits my temper well. It shields my
poor body from the heat and the wind, and, moreover, it is clean.
It seems to me, sirs," I added, "that your interfering savours
somewhat of an impertinence."
With one accord the chamberlains drew their swords and pushed
the hilts towards me.
"It would be a favour," said their spokesman, "if the great
Lord Deucalion would take his vengeance now, instead of delivering
us to the tormentors hereafter."
"Poof," I said, "the matter is forgotten. You make too much
of a little."
Nevertheless, their action gave me some enlightenment. They
were perfectly in earnest in offering me the swords, and I
recognised that this was a different Atlantis that I had come home
to, where a man had dread of the torture for a mere difference
concerning the cut of a coat.
There was a bath in the pavilion, and in that I regaled myself
gladly, though there was some paltry scent added to the water that
took away half its refreshing power; and then I set myself to wait
with all outward composure and placidity. The chamberlains were
too well-bred to break into my calm, and I did not condescend to
small talk. So there we remained, the four of us, I sitting, they
standing, with our Lord the Sun smiting heavily on the scarlet roof
of the pavilion, whilst the music blared, and the welcoming fires
dispersed their odours from the great paved square without, which
faced upon the quay.
It has been said that the great should always collect dignity
by keeping those of lesser degree waiting their pleasure, though
for myself I must say I have always thought the stratagem paltry
and beneath me. Phorenice also seemed of this opinion, for (as she
herself told me later) at the moment that Tob's galley was reported
as having its flank against the marble of the royal quay, at that
precise moment did she start out from the palace. The gorgeous
procession was already marshalled, bedecked, and waiting only for
its chiefest ornament, and as soon as she had mounted to her steed,
trumpets gave the order, and the advance began.
Sitting in the doorway of the pavilion, I saw the soldiery who
formed the head of this vast concourse emerge from the great broad
street where it left the houses. They marched straight across to
give me the salute, and then ranged themselves on the farther side
of the square. Then came the Mariners' Guild, then more soldiers,
all making obeisance in their turn, and passing on to make room for
others. Following were the merchants, the tanners, the
spear-makers and all the other acknowledged Guilds, deliberately
attired (so it seemed to me) that they might make a pageant; and
whilst most walked on foot, there were some who proudly rode on
beasts which they had tamed into rendering them this menial
But presently came the two wonders of all that dazzling
spectacle. From out of the eclipse of the houses there swung into
the open no less a beast than a huge bull mammoth. The sight had
sufficient surprise in it almost to make me start. Many a time
during my life had I led hunts to kill the mammoth, when a herd of
them had raided some village or cornland under my charge. I had
seen the huge brutes in the wild ground, shaggy, horrid, monstrous;
more fierce than even the cave-tiger or the cave-bear; most
dangerous beast of all that fight with man for dominion of the
earth, save only for a few of the greater lizards. And here was
this creature, a giant even amongst mammoths, yet tame as any
well-whipped slave, and bearing upon its back a great half-castle
of gold, stamped with the outstretched hand, and bedecked with
silver snakes. Its murderous tusks were gilded, its hairy neck was
garlanded with flowers, and it trod on in the procession as though
assisting at such pageantry was the beginning and end of its
existence. Its tameness seemed a fitting symbol of the masterful
strength of this new ruler of Atlantis.
Simultaneously with the mammoth, there came into sight that
other and greater wonder, the mammoth's mistress, the Empress
Phorenice. The beast took my eye at the first, from its very
uncouth hugeness, from its show of savage power restrained; but the
lady who sat in the golden half-castle on its lofty back quickly
drew away my gaze, and held it immovable from then onwards with an
I stood to my feet when the people first shouted at Phorenice's
approach, and remained in the porchway of my scarlet pavilion
till her vast steed had halted in the centre of the square,
and then I advanced across the pavement towards her.
"On your knees, my lord," said one of the chamberlains behind
me, in a scared whisper.
"At least with bent head," urged another.
But I had my own notions of what is due to one's own
self-respect in these matters, and I marched across the bare open
space with head erect, giving the Empress gaze for gaze. She was
clearly summing me up. I was frankly doing the like by her. Gods!
but those few short seconds made me see a woman such as I never
imagined could have lived.
I know I have placed it on record earlier in this writing
that, during all the days of a long official life, women have had
no influence over me. But I have been quick to see that they often
had a strong swaying power over the policies of others, and as a
consequence I have made it my business to study them even as I have
studied men. But this woman who sat under the sacred snakes in her
golden half-castle on the mammoth's back, fairly baffled me. Of
her thoughts I could read no single syllable. I could see a body
slight, supple, and beautifully moulded; in figure rather small.
Her face was a most perfect book of cleverness, yet she was fair,
too, beyond belief, with hair of a lovely ruddiness, cut short in
the new fashion, and bunching on her shoulders. And eyes! Gods!
who could plumb the depths of Phorenice's eyes, or find in mere
tint a trace of their heaven-made colour?
It was plain, also, that she in her turn was searching me down
to my very soul, and it seemed that her scrutiny was not without
its satisfaction. She moved her head in little nods as I drew
near, and when I did the requisite obeisance permitted to my rank,
she bade me in a voice loud and clear enough for all at hand to
hear, never to put forehead on the ground again on her behalf so
long as she ruled in Atlantis.
"For others," she said, "it is fitting that they should do so,
once, twice, or several times, according to their rank and station,
for I am Empress, and they are all so far beneath me; but you are
Deucalion, my lord, and though till to-day I knew you only from
pictures drawn with tongues, I have seen you now, and have judged
for myself. And so I make this decree: Deucalion is above all
other men in Atlantis, and if there is one who does not render him
obedience, that man is enemy also of Phorenice, and shall feel her
She made a sign, and a stair was brought, and then she called
to me, and I mounted and sat beside her in the golden half-castle
under the canopy of royal snakes. The girl who stood behind in
attendance fanned us both with perfumed feathers, and at a word
from Phorenice the mammoth was turned, bearing us back towards the
royal pyramid by the way through which it had come. At the same
time also all the other machinery of splendour was put in motion.
The soldiers and the gaudily bedecked civil traders fell into
procession before and behind, and I noted that a body of troops,
heavily armed, marched on each of the mammoth's flanks.
Phorenice turned to me with a smile. "You piqued me," she
said, "at first."
"Your Majesty overwhelms me with so much notice."
"You looked at my steed before you looked at me. A woman finds
it hard to forgive a slight like that."
"I envied you the greatest of your conquests, and do still.
I have fought mammoths myself, and at times have killed, but I
never dared even to think of taking one alive and bringing it into
"You speak boldly," she said, still smiling, "and yet you can
turn a pretty compliment. Faugh! Deucalion, the way these people
fawn on me gives me a nausea. I am not of the same clay as they
are, I know; but just because I am the daughter of Gods they must
needs feed me on the pap of insincerity."
So Tatho was right, and the swineherd was forgotten. Well, if
she chose to keep up the fiction she had made, it was not my part
to contradict her. Rightly or wrongly I was her servant.
"I have been pining this long enough for a stronger meat than
they can give," she went on, "and at last I have sent for you. I
have been at some pains to procure my tongue-pictures of you,