The Lost Continent, by Cutcliffe Hyne, , at sacred-texts.com
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 harbor 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 ten-slave galley.
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 viceroyalty, 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 to line."
"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; while without it you may be tripped up and trodden down irrevocably at the first puny reverse."
"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 viceroyalty. 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 body-guard. 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 he 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 savor 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 wasted."
"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 harbor, 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 labors; 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 harbors, 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 territory.
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 stare 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 harbor, they put out beyond the walls, and began their voyage eastward over the hill and dale of that 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 adverse.
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 harbor 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 flavor with shore folk, and here they make sacrifice with clamor and lavish outlay. And, finally, there follows a feast in honor of the God, and they arrive back on board, and put to sea for the most part drunken, and all heavy and evil-humored with gluttony and their other excesses.
The voyage was very different to my previous seagoing. 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 sign-posts 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 those 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 power of 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
aftercastle, 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 awning.
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 one 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 physical sickness.
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 lords, unchecked.
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 Wince 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 recognized 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 satisfied.
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 that 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 different play.
The eyes of these lizards are small, and set deep in a bony socket, but I judged them to be vulnerable,
Click to enlarge
“‘I DROVE IN THE LANCE AT ITS OOZY EYE’”
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 manœuvre.
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.