The Lost Continent, by Cutcliffe Hyne, , at sacred-texts.com
NOW it would be tedious to tell how, with a handful of highly trained fighting men, I charged and recharged, and finally broke up that horde of rebels which outnumbered us by fifteen times. It must be remembered that they grew suddenly panic-stricken in finding that of all those who went in under the city walls by the mine on which they had set such great store none came back, and that the sounds of panic which had first broken out within the city soon gave way to cries of triumph and joy. And it must be carried in memory also that these wretched rebels were without training worthy of the name, were for the most part weaponed very vilely, and, seeing that their silly principles made each the equal of his neighbor, were practically without heads or leaders also.
So when the panic began it spread like a malignant murrain through all their ragged ranks, and there were none to rally the flying, none to direct those of more desperate bravery who stayed and fought.
My scheme of attack was simple. I hunted them without a halt. I and my fellows never stopped to play the defensive. We turned one flank, and charged through a centre, and then we were harrying
the other flank, and once more hacking our passage through the solid mass. And so by constantly keeping them on the run, and in ignorance of whence would come the next attack, panic began to grow among them and ferment, till presently those in the outer lines commenced to scurry away towards the forests and the spoiled corn-lands of the country, and those in the inner packs were only wishful for a chance to follow them.
It was no feat of arms, this breaking up of the rebel leaguer, and no practised soldier would wish to claim it as such. It was simply taking advantage of the chances of the moment, and as such it was successful. Given an open battle on their own ground, these desperate rebels would have fought till none could stand, and by sheer ferocious numbers would have pulled down any trained troops that the city could have sent against them, whether they had advanced in phalanx or what formation you will. For it must be remembered they were far removed from cowards, being Atlantean all, just as were those within the city, and were, moreover, spurred to extraordinary savageness and desperation by the oppression under which they had groaned and the wrongs they had been forced to endure.
Still, as I say, the poor creatures were scattered, and the siege was raised from that moment; and it was plain to see that the rebellion might be made to end if no unreasonable harshness was used for its final suppression. Too great severity, though perhaps it may be justly their portion, only drives such malcontents to further desperations.
Now following up these fugitives to make sure that there was no halt in their retreat, and to send the lesson of panic thoroughly home to them, had led us a long distance from the city walls; and as we had fought all through the burning heat of the day and my men were heavily wearied, I decided to halt where we were for the night among some half-ruined houses which would make a temporary fortification. Fortunately a drove of little cloven-hoofed horses which had been scared by some of the rebels in their flight happened to blunder into our lines, and as we killed five before they were clear again, there was a soldier's supper for us, and quickly the fires were lit and cooking it.
Sentries paced the outskirts and made their cries to one another, and the wounded sat by the fires and dressed their hurts; and with the officers I talked over the engagements of the day, and the methods of each charge, and the other details of the fighting. It is the special perquisite of soldiers to dally over these matters with gusto, though they are entirely without interest for laymen.
The hour drew on for sleep, and snores went up from every side. It was clear that all my officers were wearied out, and only continued the talk through deference to their commander. Yet I had a feverish dread of being left alone again with my thoughts, and pressed them on with conversation remorselessly. But in the end they were saved the rudeness of dropping off into unconsciousness during my talk. A sentry came up and saluted. "My lord," he reported, "there is a woman come up from the city
whom we have caught trying to come into the bivouac."
"How is she named?"
"She will not say."
"Has she business?"
"She will say none. She demands only to see my lord."
"Bring her here to the fire," I ordered, and then on second thoughts remembering that the woman, whoever she might be, had news likely enough for my private ear (or otherwise she would not have come to so uncouth a rendezvous), I said to the sentry: "Stay," and got up from the ground beside the fire, and went with him to the outer line.
"Where is she?" I asked.
"My comrades are holding her. She might be a wench belonging to these rebels, with designs to put a knife into my lord's heart, and then we sentries would suffer. The Empress," he added, simply, "seems to set good store upon my lord at present, and we know the cleverness of her tormentors."
"Your thoughtfulness is frank," I said, and then he showed me the woman. She was muffled up in hood and cloak, but one who loved Naïs as I loved could not mistake the form of Ylga, her twin and sister, because of mere swathings. So I told the sentries to release her without asking her for speech, and then led her out from the bivouac beyond earshot of their lines.
"It is something of the most pressing that has brought you out here, Ylga?"
"You know me, then? There must be something
warmer than the ordinary between us two, Deucalion, if you could guess who walked beneath all these mufflings."
I let that pass. "But what's your errand, girl?"
"Aye," she said, bitterly, "there's my reward. All your concern's for the message, none for the carrier. Well, good my lord, you are husband to the dainty Phorenice no longer."
"This is news."
"And true enough, too. She will have no more of you, divorces you, spurns you, thrusts you from her, and, after the first splutter of wrath is done, then comes pains and penalties."
"The Empress can do no wrong. I will have you speak respectful words of the Empress."
"Oh, be done with that old fable! It sickens me. The woman was mad for love of you, and now she's mad with jealousy. She knows that you gave Naïs some of your priest's magic, and that she sleeps till you choose to come and claim her, even though the day be a century from this. And if you wish to know the method of her enlightenment, it is simple. There is another air-shaft next the one down which you did your cooing and billing, and that leads to another cell in which lay another prisoner. The wretch heard all that passed, and thought to buy enlargement by telling it.
"But his news came a trifle stale. It seems that with the pressure of the morning's ceremonies they forgot to bring him a ration, and when at last his gaoler did remember him, it was rather late, seeing that by then Phorenice had tied herself publicly to
a husband, and poor Naïs had doubtless eaten her green drug. However, the fool must needs try and barter his tale for what it would fetch; and, as was natural, had such a silly head chopped off for his pains; and after that your Phorenice behaved as you may guess. And now you may thank me, sir, for coming to warn you not to go back to Atlantis."
"But I shall go back. And if the Empress chooses to cut my head also from its proper column, that is as the High Gods will."
"You are more sick of life than I thought. But I think, sir, our Phorenice judges your case very accurately. It was permitted me to hear the out-bursting of this lady's rage. 'Shall I hew off his head?' said she. 'Pah! Shall I give him over to my tormentors, and stand by while they do their worst? He would not wrinkle his brow at their fiercest efforts. No; he must have a heavier punishment than any of these, and one also which will endure. I shall lop off his right hand and his left foot, so that he may be a fighting man no longer, and then I shall drive him forth crippled into the dangerous lands, where he may learn fear. The beasts shall hunt him, the fires of the ground shall spoil his rest. He shall know hunger, and he shall breathe bad air. And all the while he shall remember that I have Naïs near me, living and locked in her coffin of stone, to play with as I choose, and to give over to what insults may come to my fancy.' That is what she said, Deucalion. Now I ask you again will you go back to meet her vengeance?"
"No," I said, "it is no part of my plan to be mutilated and left to live."
"So, being a woman of some sense, I judged. And, moreover, having some small kindness still left for you, I have taken it upon myself to make a plan for your further movement which may fall in with your whim. Does the name of Tob come back to your memory?"
"One who was captain of Tatho's navy?"
"That same Tob. A gruff, rude fellow, and smelling vile of tar, but seeming to have a sturdy honesty of his own. Tob sails away this night for parts unknown, presumably to found a kingdom with Tob for king. It seems he can find little enough to earn at his craft in Atlantis these latter days, and has scruples at seeing his wife and young ones hungry. He told me this at the harbor-side when I put my neck under the axe by saying I wanted carriage for you, sir; and so having me under his thumb, he was perhaps more loose-lipped than usual. You seem to have made a fine impression on Tob, Deucalion. He said—I repeat his hearty disrespect—you were just the recruit he wanted, but whether you joined him or not, he would go to the nether Gods to do you service."
"By the fellow's side I gained some experience in fighting the greater sea beasts."
"Nell, go and do it again. Believe me, sir, it is your only chance. It would grieve me much to hear the searing-iron hiss on your stumps. I bargained with Tob to get clear of the harbor forts before the chain was up for the night, and as he is a very daring
fellow, with no fear of navigating under the darkness, he himself said he would come to a point of the shore which we agreed upon, and there await you. Come, Deucalion, let me lead you to the place."
"My girl," I said, "I see I owe you many thanks for what you have done on my poor behalf."
"Oh, your thanks!" she said, "you may keep them. I did not come out here in the dark and the dangers for mere thanks, though I knew well enough there would be little else offered." She plucked at my sleeve. "Now show me your walking pace, sir. They will begin to want your countenance in the camp directly, and we need hanker after no too narrow inquiries for what's along."
So thereon we set off, Ylga and I, leaving the lights of the bivouac behind us, and she showed the way, while I carried my weapons ready to ward off attacks whether from beasts or from men. Few words were passed between us, except those which had concern with the dangers natural to the way. Once only did we touch one another, and that was where a tree-trunk bridged a rivulet of scalding water which flowed from a boil-spring towards the sea.
"Are you sure of footing?" I asked, for the night was dark, and the heat of the water would peel the flesh from the bones if one slipped into it.
"No," she said, "I am not," and reached out and took my hand. I helped her over, and then loosed my grip, and she sighed, and slowly slipped her hand away. Then on again we went in silence, side by side, hour after hour, and league after league.
But at last we topped a rise, and below us through
the trees I could see the gleam of the great estuary on which the city of Atlantis stands. The ground was soggy and wet beneath us, the trees were full of barbs and spines, the way was monstrous hard. Ylga's breath was beginning to come in labored pants. But when I offered to take her arm and help her, as some return against what she had done for me, she repulsed me rudely enough. "I am no poor weakling," said she, "if that is your only reason for wanting to touch me."
Presently, however, we came out through the trees, and the roughest part of our journey was done. We saw the ship riding to her anchors inshore a mile away, and a weird enough object she was under the faint starlight. We made our way to her along the level beaches.
Tob was keeping a keen watch. We were challenged the moment we came within stone or arrow shot, and bidden to halt and recite our business; but he was civil enough when he heard we were those whom he expected. He called a crew and slacked out his anchor-rope till his ship ground against the shingle, and then thrust out his two steering-oars to help us clamber aboard.
I turned to Ylga with words of thanks and farewell. "I will never forget what you have done for me this night; and should the High Gods see fit to bring me back to Atlantis and power, you shall taste my gratitude."
"I do not want to return. I am sick of this old life here."
"But you have your place in the city, and your
servants and your wealth, and Phorenice will not disturb you from their possession."
"Oh, as for that, I could go back and be fan-girl to-morrow. But I do not want to go back."
"Let me tell you it is no time for a gently nurtured lady like yourself to go forward. I have been viceroy of Yucatan, Ylga, and know somewhat of making a foothold in these new countries. And that was nothing compared with what this will be. I tell you it entails hardships and privations and sufferings which you could not guess at. Few survive who go to colonize in the beginning, and those only of the hardiest, and they earn new scars and new batterings every day."
"I do not care; and, besides, I can share the work. I can cook, I can shoot a good arrow, and I can make garments—yes, though they were cut from the skins of beasts and had to be sewn with back-bone sinews. Because you despise fine clothes, and because you have seen me only decked out as fan-girl, you think I am useless. Bah, Deucalion! never let people prate to me about your perfections. You know less about a woman than a boy new from school."
"I have learned all I care to know about one woman, and because of the memory of her I could not presume to ask her sister to come with me now."
"Aye," she said, bitterly, "kick my pride. I knew well enough it was only second place to Naïs I could get all the time I was wanting to come. Yet no one but a boor would have reminded me of it. Gods! and to think that half the men in Atlantis have courted me, and now I am arrived at this!"
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“‘SHE FLUNG HER ARMS ABOUT MY NECK’”
"I must go alone. It would have made me happier to take your esteem with me. But as it is, I suppose I shall carry only your hate."
"That is the most humiliating thing of all; I cannot bring myself to hate you. I ought to, I know, after the brutal way you have scorned me. But Î do not, and there is the truth. I seem to grow the fonder of you, and if I thought there was a way of keeping you alive and unmutilated here in Atlantis, I do not think I should point out that Tob is tired of waiting, and will probably be off without you." She flung her arms suddenly about my neck and kissed me hotly on the mouth. " There, that is for good-bye, dear. You see I am reckless. I care not what I do now, knowing that you cannot despise me more than you have done all along for my forwardness."
She ran back from me into the edge of the trees.
"But this is foolishness," I said. "I must take you through the dangers that lie between here and some gate of the city, and then come back to the ship."
"You need not fear for me. The unhappy are always safe. And, besides, I have a way. It is my solace to know that you will remember me now. You will never forget that kiss."
"Fare you well, Ylga," I cried. "May the High Gods keep you entirely in their holy care."
But no reply came back. She had gone off into the forest. And so I turned down to the beach, and plashed into the water, and climbed on board the ship up the steering-oars. Tob gave the word to haul to the anchor and get her away from the beach.
"Greeting, my lord," said he, "but I'd have been pleased to see you earlier. We've small enough force and slow enough heels in this vessel, and it's my idea that the sooner we're away from here and beyond range of pursuit the safer it will be for my woman and brats who are in that hutch of an aftercastle. It's long enough since I sailed in such a small, old-fashioned ship as this. She's no machines, and she's not even a steering manikin. Look at the meanness of her furniture, and (in your ear) I've suspicions that there's rottenness in her bottom. But she's the best I'd the means to buy, and if she reaches the place at the farther end I've got my eye on, we shall have to make a home there, or be content to die, for she'll never have strength to carry us farther or back. She's been a ship in the Egypt trade, and you know what that is for getting worm and rot in the wood."
"You'd enough hands for your scheme before I came?"
"Oh yes. I've fifty stout lads and eight women packed in the ship somehow, and trouble enough I had to get them away from the city. That thief of a port-captain wellnigh skinned us clean before he could see it lawful that so many useful fighting men might go out of harbor. Times are not what they were, I tell you, and the sea trade's about done. All sailor men of any skill have taken a woman or two and gone out in companies to try their fortunes in other lands. Why, I'd trouble enough to get half a score to help me work this ship. All my balance are just landsmen raw and simple, and if I land half
of them alive at the other end, we shall be doing well."
"Still, with luck and a few good winds it should not take long to get across to Europe."
Tob slapped his leg. "No savage Europe for me, my lord. Now see the advantage of being a mariner. I found once some islands to the north of Europe, separated from the main by a strait, which I called the Tin Islands, seeing that tin ore litters many of the beaches. I was driven there by storm, and said no word of the find when I got back, and here, you see, it comes in useful. There's no one in all Atlantis but me knows of those Tin Islands to-day, and we'll go and fight honestly for our ground, and build a town and a kingdom on it."
"With Tob for king?"
"Well, I have figured it out as such for many a day, but I know when I meet my better, and I'm content to serve under Deucalion. My lord would have done wiser to bring a wife with him, though, and I thought it was understood by the good lady that spoke to me down at the harbor, or I'd have mentioned it earlier. The savages in my Tin Islands go naked and stain themselves blue with woad, and are very filthy and brutish to look upon. They are sturdy, and should make good slaves, but one would have to get blunted in the taste before one could wish to be father to their children."
"I am still husband to Phorenice."
Tob grinned. "The Gods give you joy of her. But it is part of a mariner's creed—and you will grow to be a mariner here—that wedlock does not
hold across the seas. However, that matter may rest. But, coming to my Tin Islands again: they'll delight you. And I tell you, a kingdom will not be so hard to carve out as it was in Egypt, or as you found in Yucatan. There are beasts there, of course, and no one who can hunt need ever go hungry. But the greater beasts are few. There are cave-bears and cave-tigers in small numbers, to be sure, and some river-horses and great snakes. But the greater lizards seem to avoid the land; and as for birds, there is rarely seen one that can hurt a grown man. Oh, I tell you, it will be a most desirable kingdom."
"Tob seems to have imagined himself king of the Tin Islands with much reality."
He sighed a little. "In truth I did, and there is no denying it; and I tell you plain, there is not another man living that I would have broken this voyage for but Deucalion. But don't think I regret it, and don't think I want to push myself above my place. This breeze and the ebb are taking the old ship finely along her ways. See those fire-baskets on the harbor forts? We're abreast of them now. We'll have dropped them and the city out of sight by daylight, and the flood will not begin to run up till then. But I fear unless the wind hardens down with the dawn we'll have to bring up to an anchor when the flood makes. Tides run very hard in these narrow seas. Aye, and there are some shrewdish tide-rips round my Tin Islands, as you shall see when we reach them."
There were many fearful glances backward when day came and showed the waters, and the burning
mountains that hemmed them in beyond the shores. All seemed to expect some navy of Phorenice to come surging up to take them back to servitude and starvation in the squalid wards of the city; and I confess ingenuously that I was with them in all truth when they swore they would fight the ship till she sank beneath them before they would obey another of the commands of Phorenice. However, their brave heroics were displayed to small purpose. For the full flow of the tide we hung in our place, barely moving past the land, but yet not seeing either oar or sail; and then, when the tide turned, away we went once more with speed, mightily comforted.
Tob's woman must needs bring drink on deck, and bid all pour libations to her as a future queen. But Tob cuffed her back into the aftercastle, slamming to the hatch behind her heels, and bidding the crew send the liquor down their dusty throats. "We are done with that foolery," said he. "My lord Deucalion will be king of this new kingdom we shall build in the Tin Islands, and a right proper king he'll make, as you untravelled ones would know if you'd sailed the outer seas with him as I have done." Beneath which I read a regret, but said nothing, having made my plans from the moment of stepping on board, as will appear on a later sheet.
So on down the great estuary we made our way, and though it pleasured the others on board when they saw that the seas were desolate of sails, it saddened me when I recalled how once the waters had been whitened with the glut of shipping.
They had started off on their voyage with a bare
two days’ provision in their equipment, and so, of necessity even after leaving the great estuary, we were forced to voyage coastwise, putting into every likely river and sheltered beach to slay fish and meat for future victualling. "And when the winter comes," said Tob, "as its gales will be heavier than this old ship can stomach, I had determined to haul up and make a permanent camp ashore, and get a crop of grain grown and threshed before setting sail again. It is the usual custom in these voyages. And I shall do it still, subject to my lord's better opinion."
So here, having by this time completed a two-months’ leisurely journey from the city, I saw my opportunity to speak what I had always carried in my mind. "Tob," I said, "I am a poor, weak, defenceless man, and I am quite at your mercy; but what if I do not voyage all the way to the Tin Islands and oust you of this kingship?"
He brightened perceptibly. "Aye," he grunted, "you are very weak, my lord, and mighty defenceless. We know all about that. But what's else? You must tell all your meaning plain. I'm a common mariner, and understand little of your fancy talk."
"Why, this. That it is not my wish to leave the continent of Atlantis. If you will put me down on any part of this side that faces Europe, I will commend you strongly to the Gods. I would I could give you money, or (better still) articles that would be useful to you in your colonizing; but as it is, you see me destitute."
"As to that, you owe me nothing, having done
vastly more than your share each time we have put inshore for the hunting. But it will not do, this plan of yours. I will shamedly confess that the sound of that kingship in my Tin Islands sounds sweet to me. But no, my lord, it will not do. You are no mariner yet, and understand little of geography, but I must tell you that the part of Atlantis there"—he jerked his thumb towards the line of trees and the mountains that lay beyond the fringe of surf—"is called the Dangerous Lands, and a man must needs be a salamander and be learned in magic (so I am told) before he can live there."
I laughed. "We of the Priests’ Clan have some education, Tob, though it may not be on the same lines as your own. In fact, I may say I was taught in the colleges concerning the boundaries and the contents of our continent with a nicety that would surprise you. And once ashore, my fate will still be under the control of the most High Gods."
He muttered something in his profane seaman's way about preferring to keep his own fate under control of his own most strong right arm, but saying that he would keep the matter in his thoughts, he excused himself hurriedly to go and see to somewhat concerning the working of the ship, and there left me.
But I think the sweets of kingly rule were a strong argument in favor of letting me have my way (which I should have had otherwise if it had not been given peacefully), and on the third day after our talk he put the ship in-shore again for revictualling. We lurched into a river-mouth, half swamped over a roaring bar, and ran up against the bank and made fast
there to trees, but booming ourselves a safe distance off with oars and poles, so that no beast could leap on board out of the thicket.
Fish-spearing and meat-hunting were set about with promptitude, and on the second day we were happy enough to slay a yearling river-horse, which gave provisions in all sufficiency. A space was cleared on the bank, fires lit, and the meat hung over the smoke in strips; and when as much was cured as the ship would carry, the shipmen made a final gorge on what remained, filled up a great stack of hollow reeds with drinking water, and were ready to continue the voyage.
With sturdy generosity did Tob again attempt to make me sail on with them as their future king, and as steadfastly did I make refusal; and at last I stood alone on the bank among the gnawed bones of their feast, with my weapons to bear me company, and he and his men and the women stood in the little old ship, ready to drop down river with the current.
"At least," said Tob, "we'll carry your memory with us, and make it big in the Tin Islands for everlasting."
"Forget me," I said; "I am nothing. I am merely an incident that has come in your way. But if you want to carry some memory with you that shall endure, preserve the cult of the most High Gods as it was taught to you when you were children here in Atlantis. And afterwards, when your colony grows in power, and has come to sufficient magnificence, you may send to the old country for a priest."
"We want no priest, except one we shall make ourselves,
and that will be me. And as for the old Gods—well, I have laid my ideas before the fellows here, and they agree to this: We are done with those old Gods for always. They seem worn out, if one may judge from Their present lack of usefulness in. Atlantis; and, anyway, there will be no room for Them on the Tin Islands. Let go those warps there aft, and shove her head out. We are under way now, my lord, and beyond recall, and so I am free to tell you what we have decided upon for our religious exercises. We shall set up the memory of a living Hero on earth and worship that. And when in years to come the picture of his face grows dim, we shall doubtless make an image of him, as accurate as our art permits, and build him a temple for shelter, and bring there our offerings and prayers. And as I say, my lord, I shall be priest, and when I am dead, the sons of my body shall be priests after me, and the eldest a king also."
"Let me plead with you," I said. "This must not be."
The ship was drifting rapidly away with the current, and they were hoisting sail. Tob had to shout to make himself heard. "Aye, but it shall be. For I, too, am a strong man after my kind, and I have ordered it so. And if you want the name of our Hero that some day shall be God, you wear it on yourself. Deucalion shall be God for our children."
"This is blasphemy!" I cried. "Have a care, fool, or this impiety will sink you!"
"We will risk it," he bawled back, "and consider the odds against us are small. Regard! Here is
the last horn of wine on the ship, and my woman has treasured it against this moment. Regard, all men, together with Those above and Those below! I pour this wine as a libation to Deucalion, great lord that is to-day, Hero that shall be to-morrow, God that will be in time to come!" And then all those on the ship joined in the acclaim till they were beyond the reach of my voice, and were battling their way out to the sea through the roaring breakers of the bar.
Solitary I stood at the brink of the forest, looking after them and musing sadly. Tob, despite his lowly station, was a man I cared for more than many. Like all seamen, I knew that he paid his devotions to one of the obscurer Gods, but till then I had supposed him devout in his worship. His new avowal came to me as a desolating shock. If a man like Tob could forsake all the older Gods to set up on high some poor mortal who had momentarily caught his fancy, what could be expected from the mere thoughtless mob when swayed by such a brilliant tongue as Phorenice's? It seemed I was to begin my exile with a new dreariness added to all the other adverse prospects of Atlantis.
But then behind me I heard the rustle of some great beast that had scented me, and was coming to attack through the thicket, and so I had other matters to think upon. I had to let Tob and his ship go out over the rim of the horizon unwatched.