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Chapter 4

  • It was during the morning of July 6, 2137, that we entered the mouth of th_hames—to the best of my knowledge the first Western keel to cut thos_istoric waters for two hundred and twenty-one years!
  • But where were the tugs and the lighters and the barges, the lightships an_he buoys, and all those countless attributes which went to make up the myria_ife of the ancient Thames?
  • Gone! All gone! Only silence and desolation reigned where once the commerce o_he world had centered.
  • I could not help but compare this once great water-way with the waters abou_ur New York, or Rio, or San Diego, or Valparaiso. They had become what the_re today during the two centuries of the profound peace which we of the nav_ave been prone to deplore. And what, during this same period, had shorn th_aters of the Thames of their pristine grandeur?
  • Militarist that I am, I could find but a single word of explanation—war!
  • I bowed my head and turned my eyes downward from the lonely and depressin_ight, and in a silence which none of us seemed willing to break, we proceede_p the deserted river.
  • We had reached a point which, from my map, I imagined must have been about th_ormer site of Erith, when I discovered a small band of antelope a shor_istance inland. As we were now entirely out of meat once more, and as I ha_iven up all expectations of finding a city upon the site of ancient London, _etermined to land and bag a couple of the animals.
  • Assured that they would be timid and easily frightened, I decided to stal_hem alone, telling the men to wait at the boat until I called to them to com_nd carry the carcasses back to the shore.
  • Crawling carefully through the vegetation, making use of such trees and bushe_s afforded shelter, I came at last almost within easy range of my quarry, when the antlered head of the buck went suddenly into the air, and then, a_hough in accordance with a prearranged signal, the whole band moved slowl_ff, farther inland.
  • As their pace was leisurely, I determined to follow them until I came agai_ithin range, as I was sure that they would stop and feed in a short time.
  • They must have led me a mile or more at least before they again halted an_ommenced to browse upon the rank, luxuriant grasses. All the time that I ha_ollowed them I had kept both eyes and ears alert for sign or sound that woul_ndicate the presence of Felis tigris; but so far not the slightest indicatio_f the beast had been apparent.
  • As I crept closer to the antelope, sure this time of a good shot at a larg_uck, I suddenly saw something that caused me to forget all about my prey i_onderment.
  • It was the figure of an immense grey-black creature, rearing its colossa_houlders twelve or fourteen feet above the ground. Never in my life had _een such a beast, nor did I at first recognize it, so different in appearanc_s the live reality from the stuffed, unnatural specimens preserved to us i_ur museums.
  • But presently I guessed the identity of the mighty creature as Elepha_fricanus, or, as the ancients commonly described it, African elephant.
  • The antelope, although in plain view of the huge beast, paid not the slightes_ttention to it, and I was so wrapped up in watching the mighty pachyderm tha_ quite forgot to shoot at the buck and presently, and in quite a startlin_anner, it became impossible to do so.
  • The elephant was browsing upon the young and tender shoots of some low bushes, waving his great ears and switching his short tail. The antelope, scarc_wenty paces from him, continued their feeding, when suddenly, from clos_eside the latter, there came a most terrifying roar, and I saw a great, tawn_ody shoot, from the concealing verdure beyond the antelope, full upon th_ack of a small buck.
  • Instantly the scene changed from one of quiet and peace to indescribabl_haos. The startled and terrified buck uttered cries of agony. His fellow_roke and leaped off in all directions. The elephant raised his trunk, and, trumpeting loudly, lumbered off through the wood, crushing down small tree_nd trampling bushes in his mad flight.
  • Growling horribly, a huge lion stood across the body of his prey—such _reature as no Pan-American of the twenty- second century had ever behel_ntil my eyes rested upon this lordly specimen of "the king of beasts." Bu_hat a different creature was this fierce-eyed demon, palpitating with lif_nd vigor, glossy of coat, alert, growling, magnificent, from the dingy, moth- eaten replicas beneath their glass cases in the stuffy halls of our publi_useums.
  • I had never hoped or expected to see a living lion, tiger, or elephant—usin_he common terms that were familiar to the ancients, since they seem to m_ess unwieldy than those now in general use among us—and so it was wit_entiments not unmixed with awe that I stood gazing at this regal beast as, above the carcass of his kill, he roared out his challenge to the world.
  • So enthralled was I by the spectacle that I quite forgot myself, and th_etter to view him, the great lion, I had risen to my feet and stood, no_ifty paces from him, in full view.
  • For a moment he did not see me, his attention being directed toward th_etreating elephant, and I had ample time to feast my eyes upon his splendi_roportions, his great head, and his thick black mane.
  • Ah, what thoughts passed through my mind in those brief moments as I stoo_here in rapt fascination! I had come to find a wondrous civilization, an_nstead I found a wild- beast monarch of the realm where English kings ha_uled. A lion reigned, undisturbed, within a few miles of the seat of one o_he greatest governments the world has ever known, his domain a howlin_ilderness, where yesterday fell the shadows of the largest city in the world.
  • It was appalling; but my reflections upon this depressing subject were doome_o sudden extinction. The lion had discovered me.
  • For an instant he stood silent and motionless as one of the mangy effigies a_ome, but only for an instant. Then, with a most ferocious roar, and withou_he slightest hesitancy or warning, he charged upon me.
  • He forsook the prey already dead beneath him for the pleasures of th_electable tidbit, man. From the remorselessness with which the grea_arnivora of modern England hunted man, I am constrained to believe that, whatever their appetites in times past, they have cultivated a gruesome tast_or human flesh.
  • As I threw my rifle to my shoulder, I thanked God, the ancient God of m_ncestors, that I had replaced the hard- jacketed bullets in my weapon wit_oft-nosed projectiles, for though this was my first experience with Feli_eo, I knew the moment that I faced that charge that even my wonderfull_erfected firearm would be as futile as a peashooter unless I chanced to plac_y first bullet in a vital spot.
  • Unless you had seen it you could not believe credible the speed of a chargin_ion. Apparently the animal is not built for speed, nor can he maintain it fo_ong. But for a matter of forty or fifty yards there is, I believe, no anima_n earth that can overtake him.
  • Like a bolt he bore down upon me, but, fortunately for me, I did not lose m_ead. I guessed that no bullet would kill him instantly. I doubted that _ould pierce his skull. There was hope, though, in finding his heart throug_is exposed chest, or, better yet, of breaking his shoulder or foreleg, an_ringing him up long enough to pump more bullets into him and finish him.
  • I covered his left shoulder and pulled the trigger as he was almost upon me.
  • It stopped him. With a terrific howl of pain and rage, the brute rolled ove_nd over upon the ground almost to my feet. As he came I pumped two mor_ullets into him, and as he struggled to rise, clawing viciously at me, I pu_ bullet in his spine.
  • That finished him, and I am free to admit that I was mighty glad of it. Ther_as a great tree close behind me, and, stepping within its shade, I leane_gainst it, wiping the perspiration from my face, for the day was hot, and th_xertion and excitement left me exhausted.
  • I stood there, resting, for a moment, preparatory to turning and retracing m_teps to the launch, when, without warning, something whizzed through spac_traight toward me. There was a dull thud of impact as it struck the tree, an_s I dodged to one side and turned to look at the thing I saw a heavy spea_mbedded in the wood not three inches from where my head had been.
  • The thing had come from a little to one side of me, and, without waiting t_nvestigate at the instant, I leaped behind the tree, and, circling it, peere_round the other side to get a sight of my would-be murderer.
  • This time I was pitted against men—the spear told me that all too plainly—bu_o long as they didn't take me unawares or from behind I had little fear o_hem.
  • Cautiously I edged about the far side of the trees until I could obtain a vie_f the spot from which the spear must have come, and when I did I saw the hea_f a man just emerging from behind a bush.
  • The fellow was quite similar in type to those I had seen upon the Isle o_ight. He was hairy and unkempt, and as he finally stepped into view I sa_hat he was garbed in the same primitive fashion.
  • He stood for a moment gazing about in search of me, and then he advanced. A_e did so a number of others, precisely like him, stepped from the concealin_erdure of nearby bushes and followed in his wake. Keeping the trees betwee_hem and me, I ran back a short distance until I found a clump of underbrus_hat would effectually conceal me, for I wished to discover the strength o_he party and its armament before attempting to parley with it.
  • The useless destruction of any of these poor creatures was the farthest ide_rom my mind. I should have liked to have spoken with them, but I did not car_o risk having to use my high-powered rifle upon them other than in the las_xtremity.
  • Once in my new place of concealment, I watched them as they approached th_ree. There were about thirty men in the party and one woman—a girl whos_ands seemed to be bound behind her and who was being pulled along by two o_he men.
  • They came forward warily, peering cautiously into every bush and haltin_ften. At the body of the lion, they paused, and I could see from thei_esticulations and the higher pitch of their voices that they were muc_xcited over my kill.
  • But presently they resumed their search for me, and as they advanced I becam_uddenly aware of the unnecessary brutality with which the girl's guards wer_reating her. She stumbled once, not far from my place of concealment, an_fter the balance of the party had passed me. As she did so one of the men a_er side jerked her roughly to her feet and struck her across the mouth wit_is fist.
  • Instantly my blood boiled, and forgetting every consideration of caution, _eaped from my concealment, and, springing to the man's side, felled him wit_ blow.
  • So unexpected had been my act that it found him and his fellow unprepared; bu_nstantly the latter drew the knife that protruded from his belt and lunge_iciously at me, at the same time giving voice to a wild cry of alarm.
  • The girl shrank back at sight of me, her eyes wide in astonishment, and the_y antagonist was upon me. I parried his first blow with my forearm, at th_ame time delivering a powerful blow to his jaw that sent him reeling back; but he was at me again in an instant, though in the brief interim I had tim_o draw my revolver.
  • I saw his companion crawling slowly to his feet, and the others of the part_acing down upon me. There was no time to argue now, other than with th_eapons we wore, and so, as the fellow lunged at me again with the wicked- looking knife, I covered his heart and pulled the trigger.
  • Without a sound, he slipped to the earth, and then I turned the weapon upo_he other guard, who was now about to attack me. He, too, collapsed, and I wa_lone with the astonished girl.
  • The balance of the party was some twenty paces from us, but coming rapidly. _eized her arm and drew her after me behind a nearby tree, for I had seen tha_ith both their comrades down the others were preparing to launch thei_pears.
  • With the girl safe behind the tree, I stepped out in sight of the advancin_oe, shouting to them that I was no enemy, and that they should halt an_isten to me. But for answer they only yelled in derision and launched _ouple of spears at me, both of which missed.
  • I saw then that I must fight, yet still I hated to slay them, and it was onl_s a final resort that I dropped two of them with my rifle, bringing th_thers to a temporary halt. Again, I appealed to them to desist. But they onl_istook my solicitude for them for fear, and, with shouts of rage an_erision, leaped forward once again to overwhelm me.
  • It was now quite evident that I must punish them severely, or—myself—die an_elinquish the girl once more to her captors. Neither of these things had _he slightest notion of doing, and so I again stepped from behind the tree, and, with all the care and deliberation of target practice, I commence_icking off the foremost of my assailants.
  • One by one the wild men dropped, yet on came the others, fierce and vengeful, until, only a few remaining, these seemed to realize the futility of combatin_y modern weapon with their primitive spears, and, still howling wrathfully, withdrew toward the west.
  • Now, for the first time, I had an opportunity to turn my attention toward th_irl, who had stood, silent and motionless, behind me as I pumped death int_y enemies and hers from my automatic rifle.
  • She was of medium height, well formed, and with fine, clear- cut features. He_orehead was high, and her eyes both intelligent and beautiful. Exposure t_he sun had browned a smooth and velvety skin to a shade which seemed t_nhance rather than mar an altogether lovely picture of youthful femininity.
  • A trace of apprehension marked her expression—I cannot call it fear since _ave learned to know her—and astonishment was still apparent in her eyes. Sh_tood quite erect, her hands still bound behind her, and met my gaze wit_evel, proud return.
  • "What language do you speak?" I asked. "Do you understand mine?"
  • "Yes," she replied. "It is similar to my own. I am Grabritin. What are you?"
  • "I am a Pan-American," I answered. She shook her head. "What is that?"
  • I pointed toward the west. "Far away, across the ocean."
  • Her expression altered a trifle. A slight frown contracted her brow. Th_xpression of apprehension deepened.
  • "Take off your cap," she said, and when, to humor her strange request, I di_s she bid, she appeared relieved. Then she edged to one side and leaned ove_eemingly to peer behind me. I turned quickly to see what she discovered, bu_inding nothing, wheeled about to see that her expression was once mor_ltered.
  • "You are not from there?" and she pointed toward the east. It was a hal_uestion. "You are not from across the water there?"
  • "No," I assured her. "I am from Pan-America, far away to the west. Have yo_ver heard of Pan-America?"
  • She shook her head in negation. "I do not care where you are from," sh_xplained, "if you are not from there, and I am sure you are not, for the me_rom there have horns and tails."
  • It was with difficulty that I restrained a smile.
  • "Who are the men from there?" I asked.
  • "They are bad men," she replied. "Some of my people do not believe that ther_re such creatures. But we have a legend—a very old, old legend, that once th_en from there came across to Grabritin. They came upon the water, and unde_he water, and even in the air. They came in great numbers, so that the_olled across the land like a great gray fog. They brought with them thunde_nd lightning and smoke that killed, and they fell upon us and slew our peopl_y the thousands and the hundreds of thousands. But at last we drove them bac_o the water's edge, back into the sea, where many were drowned. Some escaped, and these our people followed—men, women, and even children, we followed the_ack. That is all. The legend says our people never returned. Maybe they wer_ll killed. Maybe they are still there. But this, also, is in the legend, tha_s we drove the men back across the water they swore that they would return, and that when they left our shores they would leave no human being aliv_ehind them. I was afraid that you were from there."
  • "By what name were these men called?" I asked.
  • "We call them only the 'men from there,'" she replied, pointing toward th_ast. "I have never heard that they had another name."
  • In the light of what I knew of ancient history, it was not difficult for me t_uess the nationality of those she described simply as "the men from ove_here." But what utter and appalling devastation the Great War must hav_rought to have erased not only every sign of civilization from the face o_his great land, but even the name of the enemy from the knowledge an_anguage of the people.
  • I could only account for it on the hypothesis that the country had bee_ntirely depopulated except for a few scattered and forgotten children, who, in some marvelous manner, had been preserved by Providence to re-populate th_and. These children had, doubtless, been too young to retain in thei_emories to transmit to their children any but the vaguest suggestion of th_ataclysm which had overwhelmed their parents.
  • Professor Cortoran, since my return to Pan-America, has suggested anothe_heory which is not entirely without claim to serious consideration. He point_ut that it is quite beyond the pale of human instinct to desert littl_hildren as my theory suggests the ancient English must have done. He is mor_nclined to believe that the expulsion of the foe from England was synchronou_ith widespread victories by the allies upon the continent, and that th_eople of England merely emigrated from their ruined cities and thei_evastated, blood-drenched fields to the mainland, in the hope of finding, i_he domain of the conquered enemy, cities and farms which would replace thos_hey had lost.
  • The learned professor assumes that while a long-continued war had strengthene_ather than weakened the instinct of paternal devotion, it had also dulle_ther humanitarian instincts, and raised to the first magnitude the law of th_urvival of the fittest, with the result that when the exodus took place th_trong, the intelligent, and the cunning, together with their offspring, crossed the waters of the Channel or the North Sea to the continent, leavin_n unhappy England only the helpless inmates of asylums for the feebleminde_nd insane.
  • My objections to this, that the present inhabitants of England are mentall_it, and could therefore not have descended from an ancestry of undilute_unacy he brushes aside with the assertion that insanity is not necessaril_ereditary; and that even though it was, in many cases a return to natura_onditions from the state of high civilization, which is thought to hav_nduced mental disease in the ancient world, would, after several generations, have thoroughly expunged every trace of the affliction from the brains an_erves of the descendants of the original maniacs.
  • Personally, I do not place much stock in Professor Cortoran's theory, though _dmit that I am prejudiced. Naturally one does not care to believe that th_bject of his greatest affection is descended from a gibbering idiot and _aving maniac.
  • But I am forgetting the continuity of my narrative—a continuity which I desir_o maintain, though I fear that I shall often be led astray, so numerous an_aried are the bypaths of speculation which lead from the present day story o_he Grabritins into the mysterious past of their forbears.
  • As I stood talking with the girl I presently recollected that she still wa_ound, and with a word of apology, I drew my knife and cut the rawhide thong_hich confined her wrists at her back.
  • She thanked me, and with such a sweet smile that I should have been ampl_epaid by it for a much more arduous service.
  • "And now," I said, "let me accompany you to your home and see you safely agai_nder the protection of your friends."
  • "No," she said, with a hint of alarm in her voice; "you must not come wit_e—Buckingham will kill you."
  • Buckingham. The name was famous in ancient English history. Its survival, wit_any other illustrious names, is one of the strongest arguments in refutal o_rofessor Cortoran's theory; yet it opens no new doors to the past, and, o_he whole, rather adds to than dissipates the mystery.
  • "And who is Buckingham," I asked, "and why should he wish to kill me?"
  • "He would think that you had stolen me," she replied, "and as he wishes me fo_imself, he will kill any other whom he thinks desires me. He killed Wettin _ew days ago. My mother told me once that Wettin was my father. He was king.
  • Now Buckingham is king."
  • Here, evidently, were a people slightly superior to those of the Isle o_ight. These must have at least the rudiments of civilized government sinc_hey recognized one among them as ruler, with the title, king. Also, the_etained the word father. The girl's pronunciation, while far from identica_ith ours, was much closer than the tortured dialect of the Eastenders of th_sle of Wight. The longer I talked with her the more hopeful I became o_inding here, among her people, some records, or traditions, which migh_ssist in clearing up the historic enigma of the past two centuries. I aske_er if we were far from the city of London, but she did not know what I meant.
  • When I tried to explain, describing mighty buildings of stone and brick, broa_venues, parks, palaces, and countless people, she but shook her head sadly.
  • "There is no such place near by," she said. "Only the Camp of the Lions ha_laces of stone where the beasts lair, but there are no people in the Camp o_he Lions. Who would dare go there!" And she shuddered.
  • "The Camp of the Lions," I repeated. "And where is that, and what?"
  • "It is there," she said, pointing up the river toward the west. "I have see_t from a great distance, but I have never been there. We are much afraid o_he lions, for this is their country, and they are angry that man has come t_ive here.
  • "Far away there," and she pointed toward the south-west, "is the land o_igers, which is even worse than this, the land of the lions, for the tiger_re more numerous than the lions and hungrier for human flesh. There wer_igers here long ago, but both the lions and the men set upon them and drov_hem off."
  • "Where did these savage beasts come from?" I asked.
  • "Oh," she replied, "they have been here always. It is their country."
  • "Do they not kill and eat your people?" I asked.
  • "Often, when we meet them by accident, and we are too few to slay them, o_hen one goes too close to their camp. But seldom do they hunt us, for the_ind what food they need among the deer and wild cattle, and, too, we mak_hem gifts, for are we not intruders in their country? Really we live upo_ood terms with them, though I should not care to meet one were there not man_pears in my party."
  • "I should like to visit this Camp of the Lions," I said.
  • "Oh, no, you must not!" cried the girl. "That would be terrible. They woul_at you." For a moment, then, she seemed lost in thought, but presently sh_urned upon me with: "You must go now, for any minute Buckingham may come i_earch of me. Long since should they have learned that I am gone from th_amp—they watch over me very closely—and they will set out after me. Go! _hall wait here until they come in search of me."
  • "No," I told her. "I'll not leave you alone in a land infested by lions an_ther wild beasts. If you won't let me go as far as your camp with you, the_'ll wait here until they come in search of you."
  • "Please go!" she begged. "You have saved me, and I would save you, but nothin_ill save you if Buckingham gets his hands on you. He is a bad man. He wishe_o have me for his woman so that he may be king. He would kill anyone wh_efriended me, for fear that I might become another's."
  • "Didn't you say that Buckingham is already the king?" I asked.
  • "He is. He took my mother for his woman after he had killed Wettin. But m_other will die soon—she is very old—and then the man to whom I belong wil_ecome king."
  • Finally, after much questioning, I got the thing through my head. It appear_hat the line of descent is through the women. A man is merely head of hi_ife's family—that is all. If she chances to be the oldest female member o_he "royal" house, he is king. Very naively the girl explained that there wa_eldom any doubt as to whom a child's mother was.
  • This accounted for the girl's importance in the community and for Buckingham'_nxiety to claim her, though she told me that she did not wish to become hi_oman, for he was a bad man and would make a bad king. But he was powerful, and there was no other man who dared dispute his wishes.
  • "Why not come with me," I suggested, "if you do not wish to becom_uckingham's?"
  • "Where would you take me?" she asked.
  • Where, indeed! I had not thought of that. But before I could reply to he_uestion she shook her head and said, "No, I cannot leave my people. I mus_tay and do my best, even if Buckingham gets me, but you must go at once. D_ot wait until it is too late. The lions have had no offering for a long time, and Buckingham would seize upon the first stranger as a gift to them."
  • I did not perfectly understand what she meant, and was about to ask her when _eavy body leaped upon me from behind, and great arms encircled my neck. _truggled to free myself and turn upon my antagonist, but in another instant _as overwhelmed by a half dozen powerful, half-naked men, while a score o_thers surrounded me, a couple of whom seized the girl.
  • I fought as best I could for my liberty and for hers, but the weight o_umbers was too great, though I had the satisfaction at least of giving them _ood fight.
  • When they had overpowered me, and I stood, my hands bound behind me, at th_irl's side, she gazed commiseratingly at me.
  • "It is too bad that you did not do as I bid you," she said, "for now it ha_appened just as I feared—Buckingham has you."
  • "Which is Buckingham?" I asked.
  • "I am Buckingham," growled a burly, unwashed brute, swaggering truculentl_efore me. "And who are you who would have stolen my woman?"
  • The girl spoke up then and tried to explain that I had not stolen her; but o_he contrary I had saved her from the men from the "Elephant Country" who wer_arrying her away.
  • Buckingham only sneered at her explanation, and a moment later gave th_ommand that started us all off toward the west. We marched for a matter of a_our or so, coming at last to a collection of rude huts, fashioned fro_ranches of trees covered with skins and grasses and sometimes plastered wit_ud. All about the camp they had erected a wall of saplings pointed at th_ops and fire hardened.
  • This palisade was a protection against both man and beasts, and within i_welt upward of two thousand persons, the shelters being built very clos_ogether, and sometimes partially underground, like deep trenches, with th_oles and hides above merely as protection from the sun and rain.
  • The older part of the camp consisted almost wholly of trenches, as though thi_ad been the original form of dwellings which was slowly giving way to th_rier and airier surface domiciles. In these trench habitations I saw _urvival of the military trenches which formed so famous a part of th_peration of the warring nations during the twentieth century.
  • The women wore a single light deerskin about their hips, for it was summer, and quite warm. The men, too, were clothed in a single garment, usually th_elt of some beast of prey. The hair of both men and women was confined by _awhide thong passing about the forehead and tied behind. In this leather_and were stuck feathers, flowers, or the tails of small mammals. All wor_ecklaces of the teeth or claws of wild beasts, and there were numerous meta_ristlets and anklets among them.
  • They wore, in fact, every indication of a most primitive people—a race whic_ad not yet risen to the heights of agriculture or even the possession o_omestic animals. They were hunters—the lowest plane in the evolution of th_uman race of which science takes cognizance.
  • And yet as I looked at their well shaped heads, their handsome features, an_heir intelligent eyes, it was difficult to believe that I was not among m_wn. It was only when I took into consideration their mode of living, thei_cant apparel, the lack of every least luxury among them, that I was forced t_dmit that they were, in truth, but ignorant savages.
  • Buckingham had relieved me of my weapons, though he had not the slightest ide_f their purpose or uses, and when we reached the camp he exhibited both m_nd my arms with every indication of pride in this great capture.
  • The inhabitants flocked around me, examining my clothing, and exclaiming i_onderment at each new discovery of button, buckle, pocket, and flap. I_eemed incredible that such a thing could be, almost within a stone's throw o_he spot where but a brief two centuries before had stood the greatest city o_he world.
  • They bound me to a small tree that grew in the middle of one of their crooke_treets, but the girl they released as soon as we had entered the enclosure.
  • The people greeted her with every mark of respect as she hastened to a larg_ut near the center of the camp.
  • Presently she returned with a fine looking, white-haired woman, who proved t_e her mother. The older woman carried herself with a regal dignity tha_eemed quite remarkable in a place of such primitive squalor.
  • The people fell aside as she approached, making a wide way for her and he_aughter. When they had come near and stopped before me the older woma_ddressed me.
  • "My daughter has told me," she said, "of the manner in which you rescued he_rom the men of the elephant country. If Wettin lived you would be wel_reated, but Buckingham has taken me now, and is king. You can hope fo_othing from such a beast as Buckingham."
  • The fact that Buckingham stood within a pace of us and was an intereste_istener appeared not to temper her expressions in the slightest.
  • "Buckingham is a pig," she continued. "He is a coward. He came upon Wetti_rom behind and ran his spear through him. He will not be king for long. Som_ne will make a face at him, and he will run away and jump into the river."
  • The people began to titter and clap their hands. Buckingham became red in th_ace. It was evident that he was far from popular.
  • "If he dared," went on the old lady, "he would kill me now, but he does no_are. He is too great a coward. If I could help you I should gladly do so. Bu_ am only queen—the vehicle that has helped carry down, unsullied, the roya_lood from the days when Grabritin was a mighty country."
  • The old queen's words had a noticeable effect upon the mob of curious savage_hich surrounded me. The moment they discovered that the old queen wa_riendly to me and that I had rescued her daughter they commenced to accord m_ more friendly interest, and I heard many words spoken in my behalf, an_emands were made that I not be harmed.
  • But now Buckingham interfered. He had no intention of being robbed of hi_rey. Blustering and storming, he ordered the people back to their huts, a_he same time directing two of his warriors to confine me in a dugout in on_f the trenches close to his own shelter.
  • Here they threw me upon the ground, binding my ankles together and trussin_hem up to my wrists behind. There they left me, lying upon my stomach—a mos_ncomfortable and strained position, to which was added the pain where th_ords cut into my flesh.
  • Just a few days ago my mind had been filled with the anticipation of th_riendly welcome I should find among the cultured Englishmen of London. Toda_ should be sitting in the place of honor at the banquet board of one o_ondon's most exclusive clubs, feted and lionized.
  • The actuality! Here I lay, bound hand and foot, doubtless almost upon the ver_ite of a part of ancient London, yet all about me was a primeval wilderness, and I was a captive of half-naked wild men.
  • I wondered what had become of Delcarte and Taylor and Snider. Would the_earch for me? They could never find me, I feared, yet if they did, what coul_hey accomplish against this horde of savage warriors?
  • Would that I could warn them. I thought of the girl—doubtless she could ge_ord to them, but how was I to communicate with her? Would she come to see m_efore I was killed? It seemed incredible that she should not make some sligh_ttempt to befriend me; yet, as I recalled, she had made no effort to spea_ith me after we had reached the village. She had hastened to her mother th_oment she had been liberated. Though she had returned with the old queen, sh_ad not spoken to me, even then. I began to have my doubts.
  • Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was absolutely friendless except fo_he old queen. For some unaccountable reason my rage against the girl for he_ngratitude rose to colossal proportions.
  • For a long time I waited for some one to come to my prison whom I might ask t_ear word to the queen, but I seemed to have been forgotten. The straine_osition in which I lay became unbearable. I wriggled and twisted until _anaged to turn myself partially upon my side, where I lay half facing th_ntrance to the dugout.
  • Presently my attention was attracted by the shadow of something moving in th_rench without, and a moment later the figure of a child appeared, creepin_pon all fours, as, wide-eyed, and prompted by childish curiosity, a littl_irl crawled to the entrance of my hut and peered cautiously and fearfully in.
  • I did not speak at first for fear of frightening the little one away. But whe_ was satisfied that her eyes had become sufficiently accustomed to th_ubdued light of the interior, I smiled.
  • Instantly the expression of fear faded from her eyes to be replaced with a_nswering smile.
  • "Who are you, little girl?" I asked.
  • "My name is Mary," she replied. "I am Victory's sister."
  • "And who is Victory?"
  • "You do not know who Victory is?" she asked, in astonishment.
  • I shook my head in negation.
  • "You saved her from the elephant country people, and yet you say you do no_now her!" she exclaimed.
  • "Oh, so she is Victory, and you are her sister! I have not heard her nam_efore. That is why I did not know whom you meant," I explained. Here was jus_he messenger for me. Fate was becoming more kind.
  • "Will you do something for me, Mary?" I asked.
  • "If I can."
  • "Go to your mother, the queen, and ask her to come to me," I said. "I have _avor to ask."
  • She said that she would, and with a parting smile she left me.
  • For what seemed many hours I awaited her return, chafing with impatience. Th_fternoon wore on and night came, and yet no one came near me. My captor_rought me neither food nor water. I was suffering considerable pain where th_awhide thongs cut into my swollen flesh. I thought that they had eithe_orgotten me, or that it was their intention to leave me here to die o_tarvation.
  • Once I heard a great uproar in the village. Men were shouting—women wer_creaming and moaning. After a time this subsided, and again there was a lon_nterval of silence.
  • Half the night must have been spent when I heard a sound in the trench nea_he hut. It resembled muffled sobs. Presently a figure appeared, silhouette_gainst the lesser darkness beyond the doorway. It crept inside the hut.
  • "Are you here?" whispered a childlike voice.
  • It was Mary! She had returned. The thongs no longer hurt me. The pangs o_unger and thirst disappeared. I realized that it had been loneliness fro_hich I suffered most.
  • "Mary!" I exclaimed. "You are a good girl. You have come back, after all. _ad commenced to think that you would not. Did you give my message to th_ueen? Will she come? Where is she?"
  • The child's sobs increased, and she flung herself upon the dirt floor of th_ut, apparently overcome by grief.
  • "What is it?" I asked. "Why do you cry?"
  • "The queen, my mother, will not come to you," she said, between sobs. "She i_ead. Buckingham has killed her. Now he will take Victory, for Victory i_ueen. He kept us fastened up in our shelter, for fear that Victory woul_scape him, but I dug a hole beneath the back wall and got out. I came to you, because you saved Victory once before, and I thought that you might save he_gain, and me, also. Tell me that you will."
  • "I am bound and helpless, Mary," I replied. "Otherwise I would do what I coul_o save you and your sister."
  • "I will set you free!" cried the girl, creeping up to my side. "I will set yo_ree, and then you may come and slay Buckingham."
  • "Gladly!" I assented.
  • "We must hurry," she went on, as she fumbled with the hard knots in th_tiffened rawhide, "for Buckingham will be after you soon. He must make a_ffering to the lions at dawn before he can take Victory. The taking of _ueen requires a human offering!"
  • "And I am to be the offering?" I asked.
  • "Yes," she said, tugging at a knot. "Buckingham has been wanting a sacrific_ver since he killed Wettin, that he might slay my mother and take Victory."
  • The thought was horrible, not solely because of the hideous fate to which _as condemned, but from the contemplation it engendered of the sad decadenc_f a once enlightened race. To these depths of ignorance, brutality, an_uperstition had the vaunted civilization of twentieth century England bee_lunged, and by what? War! I felt the structure of our time-honore_ilitaristic arguments crumbling about me.
  • Mary labored with the thongs that confined me. They proved refractory—defyin_er tender, childish fingers. She assured me, however, that she would releas_e, if "they" did not come too soon.
  • But, alas, they came. We heard them coming down the trench, and I bade Mar_ide in a corner, lest she be discovered and punished. There was naught els_he could do, and so she crawled away into the Stygian blackness behind me.
  • Presently two warriors entered. The leader exhibited a unique method o_iscovering my whereabouts in the darkness. He advanced slowly, kicking ou_iciously before him. Finally he kicked me in the face. Then he knew where _as.
  • A moment later I had been jerked roughly to my feet. One of the fellow_topped and severed the bonds that held my ankles. I could scarcely stan_lone. The two pulled and hauled me through the low doorway and along th_rench. A party of forty or fifty warriors were awaiting us at the brink o_he excavation some hundred yards from the hut.
  • Hands were lowered to us, and we were dragged to the surface. Then commenced _ong march. We stumbled through the underbrush wet with dew, our way lighte_y a score of torchbearers who surrounded us. But the torches were not t_ight the way—that was but incidental. They were carried to keep off the hug_arnivora that moaned and coughed and roared about us.
  • The noises were hideous. The whole country seemed alive with lions. Yellow- green eyes blazed wickedly at us from out the surrounding darkness. My escor_arried long, heavy spears. These they kept ever pointed toward the beast o_rey, and I learned from snatches of the conversation I overheard tha_ccasionally there might be a lion who would brave even the terrors of fire t_eap in upon human prey. It was for such that the spears were always couched.
  • But nothing of the sort occurred during this hideous death march, and with th_irst pale heralding of dawn we reached our goal—an open place in the midst o_ tangled wildwood. Here rose in crumbling grandeur the first evidences I ha_een of the ancient civilization which once had graced fair Albion—a single, time-worn arch of masonry.
  • "The entrance to the Camp of the Lions!" murmured one of the party in a voic_usky with awe.
  • Here the party knelt, while Buckingham recited a weird, prayer-like chant. I_as rather long, and I recall only a portion of it, which ran, if my memor_erves me, somewhat as follows:
  • Lord of Grabritin, we
  • Fall on our knees to thee,
  • This gift to bring.
  • Greatest of kings are thou!
  • To thee we humbly bow!
  • Peace to our camp allow.
  • God save thee, king!
  • Then the party rose, and dragging me to the crumbling arch, made me fast to _uge, corroded, copper ring which was dangling from an eyebolt imbedded in th_asonry.
  • None of them, not even Buckingham, seemed to feel any personal animosit_oward me. They were naturally rough and brutal, as primitive men are suppose_o have been since the dawn of humanity, but they did not go out of their wa_o maltreat me.
  • With the coming of dawn the number of lions about us seemed to have greatl_iminished—at least they made less noise—and as Buckingham and his part_isappeared into the woods, leaving me alone to my terrible fate, I could hea_he grumblings and growlings of the beasts diminishing with the sound of th_hant, which the party still continued. It appeared that the lions had faile_o note that I had been left for their breakfast, and had followed off afte_heir worshippers instead.
  • But I knew the reprieve would be but for a short time, and though I had n_ish to die, I must confess that I rather wished the ordeal over and the peac_f oblivion upon me.
  • The voices of the men and the lions receded in the distance, until finall_uiet reigned about me, broken only by the sweet voices of birds and th_ighing of the summer wind in the trees.
  • It seemed impossible to believe that in this peaceful woodland setting th_rightful thing was to occur which must come with the passing of the next lio_ho chanced within sight or smell of the crumbling arch.
  • I strove to tear myself loose from my bonds, but succeeded only in tightenin_hem about my arms. Then I remained passive for a long time, letting th_cenes of my lifetime pass in review before my mind's eye.
  • I tried to imagine the astonishment, incredulity, and horror with which m_amily and friends would be overwhelmed if, for an instant, space could b_nnihilated and they could see me at the gates of London.
  • The gates of London! Where was the multitude hurrying to the marts of trad_fter a night of pleasure or rest? Where was the clang of tramcar gongs, th_creech of motor horns, the vast murmur of a dense throng?
  • Where were they? And as I asked the question a lone, gaunt lion strode fro_he tangled jungle upon the far side of the clearing. Majestically an_oiselessly upon his padded feet the king of beasts moved slowly toward th_ates of London and toward me.
  • Was I afraid? I fear that I was almost afraid. I know that I thought that fea_as coming to me, and so I straightened up and squared my shoulders and looke_he lion straight in the eyes—and waited.
  • It is not a nice way to die—alone, with one's hands fast bound, beneath th_angs and talons of a beast of prey. No, it is not a nice way to die, not _retty way.
  • The lion was halfway across the clearing when I heard a slight sound behin_e. The great cat stopped in his tracks. He lashed his tail against his side_ow, instead of simply twitching its tip, and his low moan became a thunderou_oar.
  • As I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the thing that had aroused the fur_f the beast before me, it sprang through the arched gateway and was at m_ide—with parted lips and heaving bosom and disheveled hair—a bronzed an_ovely vision to eyes that had never harbored hope of rescue.
  • It was Victory, and in her arms she clutched my rifle and revolver. A lon_nife was in the doeskin belt that supported the doeskin skirt tightly abou_er lithe limbs. She dropped my weapons at my feet, and, snatching the knif_rom its resting place, severed the bonds that held me. I was free, and th_ion was preparing to charge.
  • "Run!" I cried to the girl, as I bent and seized my rifle. But she only stoo_here at my side, her bared blade ready in her hand.
  • The lion was bounding toward us now in prodigious leaps. I raised the rifl_nd fired. It was a lucky shot, for I had no time to aim carefully, and whe_he beast crumpled and rolled, lifeless, to the ground, I went upon my knee_nd gave thanks to the God of my ancestors.
  • And, still upon my knees, I turned, and taking the girl's hand in mine, _issed it. She smiled at that, and laid her other hand upon my head.
  • "You have strange customs in your country," she said.
  • I could not but smile at that when I thought how strange it would seem to m_ountrymen could they but see me kneeling there on the site of London, kissin_he hand of England's queen.
  • "And now," I said, as I rose, "you must return to the safety of your camp. _ill go with you until you are near enough to continue alone in safety. Then _hall try to return to my comrades."
  • "I will not return to the camp," she replied.
  • "But what shall you do?" I asked.
  • "I do not know. Only I shall never go back while Buckingham lives. I shoul_ather die than go back to him. Mary came to me, after they had taken you fro_he camp, and told me. I found your strange weapons and followed with them. I_ook me a little longer, for often I had to hide in the trees that the lion_ight not get me, but I came in time, and now you are free to go back to you_riends."
  • "And leave you here?" I exclaimed.
  • She nodded, but I could see through all her brave front that she wa_rightened at the thought. I could not leave her, of course, but what in th_orld I was to do, cumbered with the care of a young woman, and a queen a_hat, I was at a loss to know. I pointed out that phase of it to her, but sh_nly shrugged her shapely shoulders and pointed to her knife.
  • It was evident that she felt entirely competent to protect herself.
  • As we stood there we heard the sound of voices. They were coming from th_orest through which we had passed when we had come from camp.
  • "They are searching for me," said the girl. "Where shall we hide?"
  • I didn't relish hiding. But when I thought of the innumerable dangers whic_urrounded us and the comparatively small amount of ammunition that I had wit_e, I hesitated to provoke a battle with Buckingham and his warriors when, b_light, I could avoid them and preserve my cartridges against emergencie_hich could not be escaped.
  • "Would they follow us there?" I asked, pointing through the archway into th_amp of the Lions.
  • "Never," she replied, "for, in the first place, they would know that we woul_ot dare go there, and in the second they themselves would not dare."
  • "Then we shall take refuge in the Camp of the Lions," I said.
  • She shuddered and drew closer to me.
  • "You dare?" she asked.
  • "Why not?" I returned. "We shall be safe from Buckingham, and you have seen, for the second time in two days, that lions are harmless before my weapons.
  • Then, too, I can find my friends easiest in this direction, for the Rive_hames runs through this place you call the Camp of the Lions, and it i_arther down the Thames that my friends are awaiting me. Do you not dare com_ith me?"
  • "I dare follow wherever you lead," she answered simply.
  • And so I turned and passed beneath the great arch into the city of London.