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Chapter 4

It was during the morning of July 6, 2137, that we entered
the mouth of the Thames--to the best of my knowledge the
first Western keel to cut those historic waters for two
hundred and twenty-one years!

But where were the tugs and the lighters and the barges, the
lightships and the buoys, and all those countless attributes
which went to make up the myriad life of the ancient Thames?

Gone! All gone! Only silence and desolation reigned where
once the commerce of the world had centered.

I could not help but compare this once great water-way with
the waters about our New York, or Rio, or San Diego, or
Valparaiso. They had become what they are today during the
two centuries of the profound peace which we of the navy
have been prone to deplore. And what, during this same
period, had shorn the waters 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 depressing sight, and in a silence which none of us
seemed willing to break, we proceeded up the deserted river.

We had reached a point which, from my map, I imagined must
have been about the former site of Erith, when I discovered
a small band of antelope a short distance inland. As we
were now entirely out of meat once more, and as I had given
up all expectations of finding a city upon the site of
ancient London, I determined to land and bag a couple of the
animals.

Assured that they would be timid and easily frightened, I
decided to stalk them alone, telling the men to wait at the
boat until I called to them to come and carry the carcasses
back to the shore.

Crawling carefully through the vegetation, making use of
such trees and bushes as 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, as
though in accordance with a prearranged signal, the whole
band moved slowly off, farther inland.

As their pace was leisurely, I determined to follow them
until I came again within 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 and commenced to browse upon the rank,
luxuriant grasses. All the time that I had followed them I
had kept both eyes and ears alert for sign or sound that
would indicate the presence of Felis tigris; but so far not
the slightest indication of the beast had been apparent.

As I crept closer to the antelope, sure this time of a good
shot at a large buck, I suddenly saw something that caused
me to forget all about my prey in wonderment.

It was the figure of an immense grey-black creature, rearing
its colossal shoulders twelve or fourteen feet above the
ground. Never in my life had I seen such a beast, nor did I
at first recognize it, so different in appearance is the
live reality from the stuffed, unnatural specimens preserved
to us in our museums.

But presently I guessed the identity of the mighty creature
as Elephas africanus, or, as the ancients commonly described
it, African elephant.

The antelope, although in plain view of the huge beast, paid
not the slightest attention to it, and I was so wrapped up
in watching the mighty pachyderm that I quite forgot to
shoot at the buck and presently, and in quite a startling
manner, 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, scarce twenty paces from him,
continued their feeding, when suddenly, from close beside
the latter, there came a most terrifying roar, and I saw a
great, tawny body shoot, from the concealing verdure beyond
the antelope, full upon the back of a small buck.

Instantly the scene changed from one of quiet and peace to
indescribable chaos. The startled and terrified buck
uttered cries of agony. His fellows broke and leaped off in
all directions. The elephant raised his trunk, and,
trumpeting loudly, lumbered off through the wood, crushing
down small trees and trampling bushes in his mad flight.

Growling horribly, a huge lion stood across the body of his
prey--such a creature as no Pan-American of the twenty-
second century had ever beheld until my eyes rested upon
this lordly specimen of "the king of beasts." But what a
different creature was this fierce-eyed demon, palpitating
with life and vigor, glossy of coat, alert, growling,
magnificent, from the dingy, moth-eaten replicas beneath
their glass cases in the stuffy halls of our public museums.

I had never hoped or expected to see a living lion, tiger,
or elephant--using the common terms that were familiar to
the ancients, since they seem to me less unwieldy than those
now in general use among us--and so it was with sentiments
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 the better to view him, the great lion, I had
risen to my feet and stood, not fifty paces from him, in
full view.

For a moment he did not see me, his attention being directed
toward the retreating elephant, and I had ample time to
feast my eyes upon his splendid proportions, his great head,
and his thick black mane.

Ah, what thoughts passed through my mind in those brief
moments as I stood there in rapt fascination! I had come to
find a wondrous civilization, and instead I found a wild-
beast monarch of the realm where English kings had ruled. A
lion reigned, undisturbed, within a few miles of the seat of
one of the greatest governments the world has ever known,
his domain a howling wilderness, where yesterday fell the
shadows of the largest city in the world.

It was appalling; but my reflections upon this depressing
subject were doomed to sudden extinction. The lion had
discovered me.

For an instant he stood silent and motionless as one of the
mangy effigies at home, but only for an instant. Then, with
a most ferocious roar, and without the slightest hesitancy
or warning, he charged upon me.

He forsook the prey already dead beneath him for the
pleasures of the delectable tidbit, man. From the
remorselessness with which the great Carnivora of modern
England hunted man, I am constrained to believe that,
whatever their appetites in times past, they have cultivated
a gruesome taste for human flesh.

As I threw my rifle to my shoulder, I thanked God, the
ancient God of my ancestors, that I had replaced the hard-
jacketed bullets in my weapon with soft-nosed projectiles,
for though this was my first experience with Felis leo, I
knew the moment that I faced that charge that even my
wonderfully perfected firearm would be as futile as a
peashooter unless I chanced to place my first bullet in a
vital spot.

Unless you had seen it you could not believe credible the
speed of a charging lion. Apparently the animal is not
built for speed, nor can he maintain it for long. But for a
matter of forty or fifty yards there is, I believe, no
animal on earth that can overtake him.

Like a bolt he bore down upon me, but, fortunately for me, I
did not lose my head. I guessed that no bullet would kill
him instantly. I doubted that I could pierce his skull.
There was hope, though, in finding his heart through his
exposed chest, or, better yet, of breaking his shoulder or
foreleg, and bringing 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 over and over upon the
ground almost to my feet. As he came I pumped two more
bullets into him, and as he struggled to rise, clawing
viciously at me, I put a bullet in his spine.

That finished him, and I am free to admit that I was mighty
glad of it. There was a great tree close behind me, and,
stepping within its shade, I leaned against it, wiping the
perspiration from my face, for the day was hot, and the
exertion and excitement left me exhausted.

I stood there, resting, for a moment, preparatory to turning
and retracing my steps to the launch, when, without warning,
something whizzed through space straight toward me. There
was a dull thud of impact as it struck the tree, and as I
dodged to one side and turned to look at the thing I saw a
heavy spear imbedded 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 to investigate at the instant, I leaped
behind the tree, and, circling it, peered around 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--but so long as they didn't take me unawares
or from behind I had little fear of them.

Cautiously I edged about the far side of the trees until I
could obtain a view of the spot from which the spear must
have come, and when I did I saw the head of a man just
emerging from behind a bush.

The fellow was quite similar in type to those I had seen
upon the Isle of Wight. He was hairy and unkempt, and as he
finally stepped into view I saw that he was garbed in the
same primitive fashion.

He stood for a moment gazing about in search of me, and then
he advanced. As he did so a number of others, precisely
like him, stepped from the concealing verdure of nearby
bushes and followed in his wake. Keeping the trees between
them and me, I ran back a short distance until I found a
clump of underbrush that would effectually conceal me, for I
wished to discover the strength of the party and its
armament before attempting to parley with it.

The useless destruction of any of these poor creatures was
the farthest idea from my mind. I should have liked to have
spoken with them, but I did not care to risk having to use
my high-powered rifle upon them other than in the last
extremity.

Once in my new place of concealment, I watched them as they
approached the tree. There were about thirty men in the
party and one woman--a girl whose hands seemed to be bound
behind her and who was being pulled along by two of the men.

They came forward warily, peering cautiously into every bush
and halting often. At the body of the lion, they paused,
and I could see from their gesticulations and the higher
pitch of their voices that they were much excited over my
kill.

But presently they resumed their search for me, and as they
advanced I became suddenly aware of the unnecessary
brutality with which the girl's guards were treating her.
She stumbled once, not far from my place of concealment, and
after the balance of the party had passed me. As she did so
one of the men at her side jerked her roughly to her feet
and struck her across the mouth with his fist.

Instantly my blood boiled, and forgetting every
consideration of caution, I leaped from my concealment, and,
springing to the man's side, felled him with a blow.

So unexpected had been my act that it found him and his
fellow unprepared; but instantly the latter drew the knife
that protruded from his belt and lunged viciously 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 then my antagonist was upon me. I parried
his first blow with my forearm, at the same 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 time to draw my revolver.

I saw his companion crawling slowly to his feet, and the
others of the party racing down upon me. There was no time
to argue now, other than with the weapons 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 upon the other guard, who was now about to attack
me. He, too, collapsed, and I was alone with the astonished
girl.

The balance of the party was some twenty paces from us, but
coming rapidly. I seized her arm and drew her after me
behind a nearby tree, for I had seen that with both their
comrades down the others were preparing to launch their
spears.

With the girl safe behind the tree, I stepped out in sight
of the advancing foe, shouting to them that I was no enemy,
and that they should halt and listen to me. But for answer
they only yelled in derision and launched a couple 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 only as a final resort that I dropped two
of them with my rifle, bringing the others to a temporary
halt. Again, I appealed to them to desist. But they only
mistook my solicitude for them for fear, and, with shouts of
rage and derision, leaped forward once again to overwhelm
me.

It was now quite evident that I must punish them severely,
or--myself--die and relinquish the girl once more to her
captors. Neither of these things had I the slightest notion
of doing, and so I again stepped from behind the tree, and,
with all the care and deliberation of target practice, I
commenced picking 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 combating my 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 the girl, who had stood, silent and
motionless, behind me as I pumped death into my enemies and
hers from my automatic rifle.

She was of medium height, well formed, and with fine, clear-
cut features. Her forehead was high, and her eyes both
intelligent and beautiful. Exposure to the sun had browned
a smooth and velvety skin to a shade which seemed to enhance
rather than mar an altogether lovely picture of youthful
femininity.

A trace of apprehension marked her expression--I cannot call
it fear since I have learned to know her--and astonishment
was still apparent in her eyes. She stood quite erect, her
hands still bound behind her, and met my gaze with level,
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. The expression of apprehension deepened.

"Take off your cap," she said, and when, to humor her
strange request, I did as she bid, she appeared relieved.
Then she edged to one side and leaned over seemingly to peer
behind me. I turned quickly to see what she discovered, but
finding nothing, wheeled about to see that her expression
was once more altered.

"You are not from there?" and she pointed toward the east.
It was a half question. "You are not from across the water
there?"

"No," I assured her. "I am from Pan-America, far away to
the west. Have you ever heard of Pan-America?"

She shook her head in negation. "I do not care where you
are from," she explained, "if you are not from there, and I
am sure you are not, for the men from 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 there are such creatures. But we have a
legend--a very old, old legend, that once the men from there
came across to Grabritin. They came upon the water, and
under the water, and even in the air. They came in great
numbers, so that they rolled across the land like a great
gray fog. They brought with them thunder and lightning and
smoke that killed, and they fell upon us and slew our people
by the thousands and the hundreds of thousands. But at last
we drove them back to 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 them
back. That is all. The legend says our people never
returned. Maybe they were all killed. Maybe they are still
there. But this, also, is in the legend, that as 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 alive behind 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 the east. "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 to guess the nationality of those she
described simply as "the men from over there." But what
utter and appalling devastation the Great War must have
wrought to have erased not only every sign of civilization
from the face of this great land, but even the name of the
enemy from the knowledge and language of the people.

I could only account for it on the hypothesis that the
country had been entirely depopulated except for a few
scattered and forgotten children, who, in some marvelous
manner, had been preserved by Providence to re-populate the
land. These children had, doubtless, been too young to
retain in their memories to transmit to their children any
but the vaguest suggestion of the cataclysm which had
overwhelmed their parents.

Professor Cortoran, since my return to Pan-America, has
suggested another theory which is not entirely without claim
to serious consideration. He points out that it is quite
beyond the pale of human instinct to desert little children
as my theory suggests the ancient English must have done.
He is more inclined to believe that the expulsion of the foe
from England was synchronous with widespread victories by
the allies upon the continent, and that the people of
England merely emigrated from their ruined cities and their
devastated, blood-drenched fields to the mainland, in the
hope of finding, in the domain of the conquered enemy,
cities and farms which would replace those they had lost.

The learned professor assumes that while a long-continued
war had strengthened rather than weakened the instinct of
paternal devotion, it had also dulled other humanitarian
instincts, and raised to the first magnitude the law of the
survival of the fittest, with the result that when the
exodus took place the strong, the intelligent, and the
cunning, together with their offspring, crossed the waters
of the Channel or the North Sea to the continent, leaving in
unhappy England only the helpless inmates of asylums for the
feebleminded and insane.

My objections to this, that the present inhabitants of
England are mentally fit, and could therefore not have
descended from an ancestry of undiluted lunacy he brushes
aside with the assertion that insanity is not necessarily
hereditary; and that even though it was, in many cases a
return to natural conditions from the state of high
civilization, which is thought to have induced mental
disease in the ancient world, would, after several
generations, have thoroughly expunged every trace of the
affliction from the brains and nerves of the descendants of
the original maniacs.

Personally, I do not place much stock in Professor
Cortoran's theory, though I admit that I am prejudiced.
Naturally one does not care to believe that the object of
his greatest affection is descended from a gibbering idiot
and a raving maniac.

But I am forgetting the continuity of my narrative--a
continuity which I desire to maintain, though I fear that I
shall often be led astray, so numerous and varied are the
bypaths of speculation which lead from the present day story
of the Grabritins into the mysterious past of their
forbears.

As I stood talking with the girl I presently recollected
that she still was bound, and with a word of apology, I drew
my knife and cut the rawhide thongs which confined her
wrists at her back.

She thanked me, and with such a sweet smile that I should
have been amply repaid by it for a much more arduous
service.

"And now," I said, "let me accompany you to your home and
see you safely again under the protection of your friends."

"No," she said, with a hint of alarm in her voice; "you must
not come with me--Buckingham will kill you."

Buckingham. The name was famous in ancient English history.
Its survival, with many other illustrious names, is one of
the strongest arguments in refutal of Professor Cortoran's
theory; yet it opens no new doors to the past, and, on the
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 for himself, he will kill any other whom he
thinks desires me. He killed Wettin a few 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 of Wight. These must have at least the rudiments
of civilized government since they recognized one among them
as ruler, with the title, king. Also, they retained the
word father. The girl's pronunciation, while far from
identical with ours, was much closer than the tortured
dialect of the Eastenders of the Isle of Wight. The longer
I talked with her the more hopeful I became of finding here,
among her people, some records, or traditions, which might
assist in clearing up the historic enigma of the past two
centuries. I asked her 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,
broad avenues, 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 has places of stone where the beasts lair, but
there are no people in the Camp of the 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 seen it from a great distance, but I have
never been there. We are much afraid of the lions, for this
is their country, and they are angry that man has come to
live here.

"Far away there," and she pointed toward the south-west, "is
the land of tigers, which is even worse than this, the land
of the lions, for the tigers are more numerous than the
lions and hungrier for human flesh. There were tigers here
long ago, but both the lions and the men set upon them and
drove them 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, or when one goes too close to their camp. But
seldom do they hunt us, for they find what food they need
among the deer and wild cattle, and, too, we make them
gifts, for are we not intruders in their country? Really we
live upon good terms with them, though I should not care to
meet one were there not many spears in my party."

"I should like to visit this Camp of the Lions," I said.

"Oh, no, you must not!" cried the girl. "That would be
terrible. They would eat you." For a moment, then, she
seemed lost in thought, but presently she turned upon me
with: "You must go now, for any minute Buckingham may come
in search of me. Long since should they have learned that I
am gone from the camp--they watch over me very closely--and
they will set out after me. Go! I shall wait here until
they come in search of me."

"No," I told her. "I'll not leave you alone in a land
infested by lions and other wild beasts. If you won't let
me go as far as your camp with you, then I'll wait here
until they come in search of you."

"Please go!" she begged. "You have saved me, and I would
save you, but nothing will save you if Buckingham gets his
hands on you. He is a bad man. He wishes to have me for
his woman so that he may be king. He would kill anyone who
befriended me, for fear that I might become another's."

"Didn't you say that Buckingham is already the king?" I
asked.

"He is. He took my mother for his woman after he had killed
Wettin. But my mother will die soon--she is very old--and
then the man to whom I belong will become king."

Finally, after much questioning, I got the thing through my
head. It appears that the line of descent is through the
women. A man is merely head of his wife's family--that is
all. If she chances to be the oldest female member of the
"royal" house, he is king. Very naively the girl explained
that there was seldom any doubt as to whom a child's mother
was.

This accounted for the girl's importance in the community
and for Buckingham's anxiety to claim her, though she told
me that she did not wish to become his woman, for he was a
bad man and would make a bad king. But he was powerful, and
there was no other man who dared dispute his wishes.

"Why not come with me," I suggested, "if you do not wish to
become Buckingham's?"

"Where would you take me?" she asked.

Where, indeed! I had not thought of that. But before I
could reply to her question she shook her head and said,
"No, I cannot leave my people. I must stay and do my best,
even if Buckingham gets me, but you must go at once. Do not
wait until it is too late. The lions have had no offering
for a long time, and Buckingham would seize upon the first
stranger as a gift to them."

I did not perfectly understand what she meant, and was about
to ask her when a heavy body leaped upon me from behind, and
great arms encircled my neck. I struggled to free myself
and turn upon my antagonist, but in another instant I was
overwhelmed by a half dozen powerful, half-naked men, while
a score of others surrounded me, a couple of whom seized the
girl.

I fought as best I could for my liberty and for hers, but
the weight of numbers was too great, though I had the
satisfaction at least of giving them a good fight.

When they had overpowered me, and I stood, my hands bound
behind me, at the girl's side, she gazed commiseratingly at
me.

"It is too bad that you did not do as I bid you," she said,
"for now it has happened just as I feared--Buckingham has
you."

"Which is Buckingham?" I asked.

"I am Buckingham," growled a burly, unwashed brute,
swaggering truculently before me. "And who are you who
would have stolen my woman?"

The girl spoke up then and tried to explain that I had not
stolen her; but on the contrary I had saved her from the men
from the "Elephant Country" who were carrying her away.

Buckingham only sneered at her explanation, and a moment
later gave the command that started us all off toward the
west. We marched for a matter of an hour or so, coming at
last to a collection of rude huts, fashioned from branches
of trees covered with skins and grasses and sometimes
plastered with mud. All about the camp they had erected a
wall of saplings pointed at the tops and fire hardened.

This palisade was a protection against both man and beasts,
and within it dwelt upward of two thousand persons, the
shelters being built very close together, and sometimes
partially underground, like deep trenches, with the poles
and hides above merely as protection from the sun and rain.

The older part of the camp consisted almost wholly of
trenches, as though this had been the original form of
dwellings which was slowly giving way to the drier and
airier surface domiciles. In these trench habitations I saw
a survival of the military trenches which formed so famous a
part of the operation of the warring nations during the
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 the pelt of some beast of prey.
The hair of both men and women was confined by a rawhide
thong passing about the forehead and tied behind. In this
leathern band were stuck feathers, flowers, or the tails of
small mammals. All wore necklaces of the teeth or claws of
wild beasts, and there were numerous metal wristlets and
anklets among them.

They wore, in fact, every indication of a most primitive
people--a race which had not yet risen to the heights of
agriculture or even the possession of domestic animals.
They were hunters--the lowest plane in the evolution of the
human race of which science takes cognizance.

And yet as I looked at their well shaped heads, their
handsome features, and their intelligent eyes, it was
difficult to believe that I was not among my own. It was
only when I took into consideration their mode of living,
their scant apparel, the lack of every least luxury among
them, that I was forced to admit that they were, in truth,
but ignorant savages.

Buckingham had relieved me of my weapons, though he had not
the slightest idea of their purpose or uses, and when we
reached the camp he exhibited both me and my arms with every
indication of pride in this great capture.

The inhabitants flocked around me, examining my clothing,
and exclaiming in wonderment at each new discovery of
button, buckle, pocket, and flap. It seemed incredible that
such a thing could be, almost within a stone's throw of the
spot where but a brief two centuries before had stood the
greatest city of the world.

They bound me to a small tree that grew in the middle of one
of their crooked streets, but the girl they released as soon
as we had entered the enclosure. The people greeted her
with every mark of respect as she hastened to a large hut
near the center of the camp.

Presently she returned with a fine looking, white-haired
woman, who proved to be her mother. The older woman carried
herself with a regal dignity that seemed quite remarkable in
a place of such primitive squalor.

The people fell aside as she approached, making a wide way
for her and her daughter. When they had come near and
stopped before me the older woman addressed me.

"My daughter has told me," she said, "of the manner in which
you rescued her from the men of the elephant country. If
Wettin lived you would be well treated, but Buckingham has
taken me now, and is king. You can hope for nothing from
such a beast as Buckingham."

The fact that Buckingham stood within a pace of us and was
an interested listener appeared not to temper her
expressions in the slightest.

"Buckingham is a pig," she continued. "He is a coward. He
came upon Wettin from behind and ran his spear through him.
He will not be king for long. Some one will make a face at
him, and he will run away and jump into the river."

The people began to titter and clap their hands. Buckingham
became red in the face. It was evident that he was far from
popular.

"If he dared," went on the old lady, "he would kill me now,
but he does not dare. He is too great a coward. If I could
help you I should gladly do so. But I am only queen--the
vehicle that has helped carry down, unsullied, the royal
blood from the days when Grabritin was a mighty country."

The old queen's words had a noticeable effect upon the mob
of curious savages which surrounded me. The moment they
discovered that the old queen was friendly to me and that I
had rescued her daughter they commenced to accord me a more
friendly interest, and I heard many words spoken in my
behalf, and demands were made that I not be harmed.

But now Buckingham interfered. He had no intention of being
robbed of his prey. Blustering and storming, he ordered the
people back to their huts, at the same time directing two of
his warriors to confine me in a dugout in one of the
trenches close to his own shelter.

Here they threw me upon the ground, binding my ankles
together and trussing them up to my wrists behind. There
they left me, lying upon my stomach--a most uncomfortable
and strained position, to which was added the pain where the
cords cut into my flesh.

Just a few days ago my mind had been filled with the
anticipation of the friendly welcome I should find among the
cultured Englishmen of London. Today I should be sitting in
the place of honor at the banquet board of one of London's
most exclusive clubs, feted and lionized.

The actuality! Here I lay, bound hand and foot, doubtless
almost upon the very site of a part of ancient London, yet
all about me was a primeval wilderness, and I was a captive
of half-naked wild men.

I wondered what had become of Delcarte and Taylor and
Snider. Would they search for me? They could never find
me, I feared, yet if they did, what could they accomplish
against this horde of savage warriors?

Would that I could warn them. I thought of the girl--
doubtless she could get word to them, but how was I to
communicate with her? Would she come to see me before I was
killed? It seemed incredible that she should not make some
slight attempt to befriend me; yet, as I recalled, she had
made no effort to speak with me after we had reached the
village. She had hastened to her mother the moment she had
been liberated. Though she had returned with the old queen,
she had not spoken to me, even then. I began to have my
doubts.

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I was absolutely
friendless except for the old queen. For some unaccountable
reason my rage against the girl for her ingratitude rose to
colossal proportions.

For a long time I waited for some one to come to my prison
whom I might ask to bear word to the queen, but I seemed to
have been forgotten. The strained position in which I lay
became unbearable. I wriggled and twisted until I managed
to turn myself partially upon my side, where I lay half
facing the entrance to the dugout.

Presently my attention was attracted by the shadow of
something moving in the trench without, and a moment later
the figure of a child appeared, creeping upon all fours, as,
wide-eyed, and prompted by childish curiosity, a little girl
crawled to the entrance of my hut and peered cautiously and
fearfully in.

I did not speak at first for fear of frightening the little
one away. But when I was satisfied that her eyes had become
sufficiently accustomed to the subdued light of the
interior, I smiled.

Instantly the expression of fear faded from her eyes to be
replaced with an answering smile.

"Who are you, little girl?" I asked.

"My name is Mary," she replied. "I am Victory's sister."

"And who is Victory?"

"You do not know who Victory is?" she asked, in
astonishment.

I shook my head in negation.

"You saved her from the elephant country people, and yet you
say you do not know her!" she exclaimed.

"Oh, so she is Victory, and you are her sister! I have not
heard her name before. That is why I did not know whom you
meant," I explained. Here was just the messenger for me.
Fate was becoming more kind.

"Will you do something for me, Mary?" I asked.

"If I can."

"Go to your mother, the queen, and ask her to come to me," I
said. "I have a favor to ask."

She said that she would, and with a parting smile she left
me.

For what seemed many hours I awaited her return, chafing
with impatience. The afternoon wore on and night came, and
yet no one came near me. My captors brought me neither food
nor water. I was suffering considerable pain where the
rawhide thongs cut into my swollen flesh. I thought that
they had either forgotten me, or that it was their intention
to leave me here to die of starvation.

Once I heard a great uproar in the village. Men were
shouting--women were screaming and moaning. After a time
this subsided, and again there was a long interval of
silence.

Half the night must have been spent when I heard a sound in
the trench near the hut. It resembled muffled sobs.
Presently a figure appeared, silhouetted against the lesser
darkness beyond the doorway. It crept inside the hut.

"Are you here?" whispered a childlike voice.

It was Mary! She had returned. The thongs no longer hurt
me. The pangs of hunger and thirst disappeared. I realized
that it had been loneliness from which I suffered most.

"Mary!" I exclaimed. "You are a good girl. You have come
back, after all. I had commenced to think that you would
not. Did you give my message to the queen? Will she come?
Where is she?"

The child's sobs increased, and she flung herself upon the
dirt floor of the hut, apparently overcome by grief.

"What is it?" I asked. "Why do you cry?"

"The queen, my mother, will not come to you," she said,
between sobs. "She is dead. Buckingham has killed her.
Now he will take Victory, for Victory is queen. He kept us
fastened up in our shelter, for fear that Victory would
escape him, but I dug a hole beneath the back wall and got
out. I came to you, because you saved Victory once before,
and I thought that you might save her again, and me, also.
Tell me that you will."

"I am bound and helpless, Mary," I replied. "Otherwise I
would do what I could to save you and your sister."

"I will set you free!" cried the girl, creeping up to my
side. "I will set you free, and then you may come and slay
Buckingham."

"Gladly!" I assented.

"We must hurry," she went on, as she fumbled with the hard
knots in the stiffened rawhide, "for Buckingham will be
after you soon. He must make an offering to the lions at
dawn before he can take Victory. The taking of a queen
requires a human offering!"

"And I am to be the offering?" I asked.

"Yes," she said, tugging at a knot. "Buckingham has been
wanting a sacrifice ever since he killed Wettin, that he
might slay my mother and take Victory."

The thought was horrible, not solely because of the hideous
fate to which I was condemned, but from the contemplation it
engendered of the sad decadence of a once enlightened race.
To these depths of ignorance, brutality, and superstition
had the vaunted civilization of twentieth century England
been plunged, and by what? War! I felt the structure of
our time-honored militaristic arguments crumbling about me.

Mary labored with the thongs that confined me. They proved
refractory--defying her tender, childish fingers. She
assured me, however, that she would release me, if "they"
did not come too soon.

But, alas, they came. We heard them coming down the trench,
and I bade Mary hide in a corner, lest she be discovered and
punished. There was naught else she could do, and so she
crawled away into the Stygian blackness behind me.

Presently two warriors entered. The leader exhibited a
unique method of discovering my whereabouts in the darkness.
He advanced slowly, kicking out viciously before him.
Finally he kicked me in the face. Then he knew where I was.

A moment later I had been jerked roughly to my feet. One of
the fellows stopped and severed the bonds that held my
ankles. I could scarcely stand alone. The two pulled and
hauled me through the low doorway and along the trench. A
party of forty or fifty warriors were awaiting us at the
brink of the excavation some hundred yards from the hut.

Hands were lowered to us, and we were dragged to the
surface. Then commenced a long march. We stumbled through
the underbrush wet with dew, our way lighted by a score of
torchbearers who surrounded us. But the torches were not to
light the way--that was but incidental. They were carried
to keep off the huge Carnivora that moaned and coughed and
roared about us.

The noises were hideous. The whole country seemed alive
with lions. Yellow-green eyes blazed wickedly at us from
out the surrounding darkness. My escort carried long, heavy
spears. These they kept ever pointed toward the beast of
prey, and I learned from snatches of the conversation I
overheard that occasionally there might be a lion who would
brave even the terrors of fire to leap in upon human prey.
It was for such that the spears were always couched.

But nothing of the sort occurred during this hideous death
march, and with the first pale heralding of dawn we reached
our goal--an open place in the midst of a tangled wildwood.
Here rose in crumbling grandeur the first evidences I had
seen of the ancient civilization which once had graced fair
Albion--a single, time-worn arch of masonry.

"The entrance to the Camp of the Lions!" murmured one of the
party in a voice husky with awe.

Here the party knelt, while Buckingham recited a weird,
prayer-like chant. It was rather long, and I recall only a
portion of it, which ran, if my memory serves me, somewhat
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 a huge, corroded, copper ring which was
dangling from an eyebolt imbedded in the masonry.

None of them, not even Buckingham, seemed to feel any
personal animosity toward me. They were naturally rough and
brutal, as primitive men are supposed to have been since the
dawn of humanity, but they did not go out of their way to
maltreat me.

With the coming of dawn the number of lions about us seemed
to have greatly diminished--at least they made less noise--
and as Buckingham and his party disappeared into the woods,
leaving me alone to my terrible fate, I could hear the
grumblings and growlings of the beasts diminishing with the
sound of the chant, which the party still continued. It
appeared that the lions had failed to note that I had been
left for their breakfast, and had followed off after their
worshippers instead.

But I knew the reprieve would be but for a short time, and
though I had no wish to die, I must confess that I rather
wished the ordeal over and the peace of oblivion upon me.

The voices of the men and the lions receded in the distance,
until finally quiet reigned about me, broken only by the
sweet voices of birds and the sighing of the summer wind in
the trees.

It seemed impossible to believe that in this peaceful
woodland setting the frightful thing was to occur which must
come with the passing of the next lion who chanced within
sight or smell of the crumbling arch.

I strove to tear myself loose from my bonds, but succeeded
only in tightening them about my arms. Then I remained
passive for a long time, letting the scenes of my lifetime
pass in review before my mind's eye.

I tried to imagine the astonishment, incredulity, and horror
with which my family and friends would be overwhelmed if,
for an instant, space could be annihilated and they could
see me at the gates of London.

The gates of London! Where was the multitude hurrying to
the marts of trade after a night of pleasure or rest? Where
was the clang of tramcar gongs, the screech of motor horns,
the vast murmur of a dense throng?

Where were they? And as I asked the question a lone, gaunt
lion strode from the tangled jungle upon the far side of the
clearing. Majestically and noiselessly upon his padded feet
the king of beasts moved slowly toward the gates of London
and toward me.

Was I afraid? I fear that I was almost afraid. I know that
I thought that fear was coming to me, and so I straightened
up and squared my shoulders and looked the lion straight in
the eyes--and waited.

It is not a nice way to die--alone, with one's hands fast
bound, beneath the fangs and talons of a beast of prey. No,
it is not a nice way to die, not a pretty way.

The lion was halfway across the clearing when I heard a
slight sound behind me. The great cat stopped in his
tracks. He lashed his tail against his sides now, instead
of simply twitching its tip, and his low moan became a
thunderous roar.

As I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the thing that had
aroused the fury of the beast before me, it sprang through
the arched gateway and was at my side--with parted lips and
heaving bosom and disheveled hair--a bronzed and lovely
vision to eyes that had never harbored hope of rescue.

It was Victory, and in her arms she clutched my rifle and
revolver. A long knife was in the doeskin belt that
supported the doeskin skirt tightly about her lithe limbs.
She dropped my weapons at my feet, and, snatching the knife
from its resting place, severed the bonds that held me. I
was free, and the lion was preparing to charge.

"Run!" I cried to the girl, as I bent and seized my rifle.
But she only stood there at my side, her bared blade ready
in her hand.

The lion was bounding toward us now in prodigious leaps. I
raised the rifle and fired. It was a lucky shot, for I had
no time to aim carefully, and when the beast crumpled and
rolled, lifeless, to the ground, I went upon my knees and
gave thanks to the God of my ancestors.

And, still upon my knees, I turned, and taking the girl's
hand in mine, I kissed it. She smiled at that, and laid her
other hand upon my head.

"You have strange customs in your country," she said.

I could not but smile at that when I thought how strange it
would seem to my countrymen could they but see me kneeling
there on the site of London, kissing the hand of England's
queen.

"And now," I said, as I rose, "you must return to the safety
of your camp. I will go with you until you are near enough
to continue alone in safety. Then I shall try to return to
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 should rather die than go back to him. Mary came
to me, after they had taken you from the camp, and told me.
I found your strange weapons and followed with them. It
took me a little longer, for often I had to hide in the
trees that the lions might not get me, but I came in time,
and now you are free to go back to your friends."

"And leave you here?" I exclaimed.

She nodded, but I could see through all her brave front that
she was frightened at the thought. I could not leave her,
of course, but what in the world I was to do, cumbered with
the care of a young woman, and a queen at that, I was at a
loss to know. I pointed out that phase of it to her, but
she only shrugged her shapely shoulders and pointed to her
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 the forest 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 which surrounded us and the
comparatively small amount of ammunition that I had with me,
I hesitated to provoke a battle with Buckingham and his
warriors when, by flight, I could avoid them and preserve my
cartridges against emergencies which could not be escaped.

"Would they follow us there?" I asked, pointing through the
archway into the Camp of the Lions.

"Never," she replied, "for, in the first place, they would
know that we would not dare go there, and in the second they
themselves would not dare."

"Then we shall take refuge in the Camp of the Lions," I
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 River Thames
runs through this place you call the Camp of the Lions, and
it is farther down the Thames that my friends are awaiting
me. Do you not dare come with me?"

"I dare follow wherever you lead," she answered simply.

And so I turned and passed beneath the great arch into the
city of London.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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