Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 9

Victory! She was here, a slave to these black conquerors.
Once more I started toward her, but better judgment held me
back--I could do nothing to help her other than by stealth.
Could I even accomplish aught by this means? I did not
know. It seemed beyond the pale of possibility, and yet I
should try.

"And you will not bend the knee to me?" continued Menelek,
after she had spoken. Victory shook her head in a most
decided negation.

"You shall be my first choice, then," said the emperor. "I
like your spirit, for the breaking of it will add to my
pleasure in you, and never fear but that it shall be broken--
this very night. Take her to my apartments," and he
motioned to an officer at his side

I was surprised to see Victory follow the man off in
apparent quiet submission. I tried to follow, that I might
be near her against some opportunity to speak with her or
assist in her escape. But, after I had followed them from
the throne room, through several other apartments, and down
a long corridor, I found my further progress barred by a
soldier who stood guard before a doorway through which the
officer conducted Victory.

Almost immediately the officer reappeared and started back
in the direction of the throne room. I had been hiding in a
doorway after the guard had turned me back, having taken
refuge there while his back was turned, and, as the officer
approached me, I withdrew into the room beyond, which was in
darkness. There I remained for a long time, watching the
sentry before the door of the room in which Victory was a
prisoner, and awaiting some favorable circumstance which
would give me entry to her.

I have not attempted to fully describe my sensations at the
moment I recognized Victory, because, I can assure you, they
were entirely indescribable. I should never have imagined
that the sight of any human being could affect me as had
this unexpected discovery of Victory in the same room in
which I was, while I had thought of her for weeks either as
dead, or at best hundreds of miles to the west, and as
irretrievably lost to me as though she were, in truth, dead.

I was filled with a strange, mad impulse to be near her. It
was not enough merely to assist her, or protect her--I
desired to touch her--to take her in my arms. I was
astounded at myself. Another thing puzzled me--it was my
incomprehensible feeling of elation since I had again seen
her. With a fate worse than death staring her in the face,
and with the knowledge that I should probably die defending
her within the hour, I was still happier than I had been for
weeks--and all because I had seen again for a few brief
minutes the figure of a little heathen maiden. I couldn't
account for it, and it angered me; I had never before felt
any such sensations in the presence of a woman, and I had
made love to some very beautiful ones in my time.

It seemed ages that I stood in the shadow of that doorway,
in the ill-lit corridor of the palace of Menelek XIV. A
sickly gas jet cast a sad pallor upon the black face of the
sentry. The fellow seemed rooted to the spot. Evidently he
would never leave, or turn his back again.

I had been in hiding but a short time when I heard the sound
of distant cannon. The truce had ended, and the battle had
been resumed. Very shortly thereafter the earth shook to
the explosion of a shell within the city, and from time to
time thereafter other shells burst at no great distance from
the palace. The yellow men were bombarding New Gondar
again.

Presently officers and slaves commenced to traverse the
corridor on matters pertaining to their duties, and then
came the emperor, scowling and wrathful. He was followed by
a few personal attendants, whom he dismissed at the doorway
to his apartments--the same doorway through which Victory
had been taken. I chafed to follow him, but the corridor
was filled with people. At last they betook themselves to
their own apartments, which lay upon either side of the
corridor.

An officer and a slave entered the very room in which I hid,
forcing me to flatten myself to one side in the darkness
until they had passed. Then the slave made a light, and I
knew that I must find another hiding place.

Stepping boldly into the corridor, I saw that it was now
empty save for the single sentry before the emperor's door.
He glanced up as I emerged from the room, the occupants of
which had not seen me. I walked straight toward the
soldier, my mind made up in an instant. I tried to simulate
an expression of cringing servility, and I must have
succeeded, for I entirely threw the man off his guard, so
that he permitted me to approach within reach of his rifle
before stopping me. Then it was too late--for him.

Without a word or a warning, I snatched the piece from his
grasp, and, at the same time struck him a terrific blow
between the eyes with my clenched fist. He staggered back
in surprise, too dumbfounded even to cry out, and then I
clubbed his rifle and felled him with a single mighty blow.

A moment later, I had burst into the room beyond. It was
empty!

I gazed about, mad with disappointment. Two doors opened
from this to other rooms. I ran to the nearer and listened.
Yes, voices were coming from beyond and one was a woman's,
level and cold and filled with scorn. There was no terror
in it. It was Victory's.

I turned the knob and pushed the door inward just in time to
see Menelek seize the girl and drag her toward the far end
of the apartment. At the same instant there was a deafening
roar just outside the palace--a shell had struck much nearer
than any of its predecessors. The noise of it drowned my
rapid rush across the room.

But in her struggles, Victory turned Menelek about so that
he saw me. She was striking him in the face with her
clenched fist, and now he was choking her.

At sight of me, he gave voice to a roar of anger.

"What means this, slave?" he cried. "Out of here! Out of
here! Quick, before I kill you!"

But for answer I rushed upon him, striking him with the butt
of the rifle. He staggered back, dropping Victory to the
floor, and then he cried aloud for the guard, and came at
me. Again and again I struck him; but his thick skull might
have been armor plate, for all the damage I did it.

He tried to close with me, seizing the rifle, but I was
stronger than he, and, wrenching the weapon from his grasp,
tossed it aside and made for his throat with my bare hands.
I had not dared fire the weapon for fear that its report
would bring the larger guard stationed at the farther end of
the corridor.

We struggled about the room, striking one another, knocking
over furniture, and rolling upon the floor. Menelek was a
powerful man, and he was fighting for his life. Continually
he kept calling for the guard, until I succeeded in getting
a grip upon his throat; but it was too late. His cries had
been heard, and suddenly the door burst open, and a score of
armed guardsmen rushed into the apartment.

Victory seized the rifle from the floor and leaped between
me and them. I had the black emperor upon his back, and
both my hands were at his throat, choking the life from him.

The rest happened in the fraction of a second. There was a
rending crash above us, then a deafening explosion within
the chamber. Smoke and powder fumes filled the room. Half
stunned, I rose from the lifeless body of my antagonist just
in time to see Victory stagger to her feet and turn toward
me. Slowly the smoke cleared to reveal the shattered
remnants of the guard. A shell had fallen through the
palace roof and exploded just in the rear of the detachment
of guardsmen who were coming to the rescue of their emperor.
Why neither Victory nor I were struck is a miracle. The
room was a wreck. A great, jagged hole was torn in the
ceiling, and the wall toward the corridor had been blown
entirely out.

As I rose, Victory had risen, too, and started toward me.
But when she saw that I was uninjured she stopped, and stood
there in the center of the demolished apartment looking at
me. Her expression was inscrutable--I could not guess
whether she was glad to see me, or not.

"Victory!" I cried. "Thank God that you are safe!" And I
approached her, a greater gladness in my heart than I had
felt since the moment that I knew the Coldwater must be
swept beyond thirty.

There was no answering gladness in her eyes. Instead, she
stamped her little foot in anger.

"Why did it have to be you who saved me!" she exclaimed. "I
hate you!"

"Hate me?" I asked. "Why should you hate me, Victory? I do
not hate you. I--I--" What was I about to say? I was very
close to her as a great light broke over me. Why had I
never realized it before? The truth accounted for a great
many hitherto inexplicable moods that had claimed me from
time to time since first I had seen Victory.

"Why should I hate you?" she repeated. "Because Snider told
me--he told me that you had promised me to him, but he did
not get me. I killed him, as I should like to kill you!"

"Snider lied!" I cried. And then I seized her and held her
in my arms, and made her listen to me, though she struggled
and fought like a young lioness. "I love you, Victory. You
must know that I love you--that I have always loved you, and
that I never could have made so base a promise."

She ceased her struggles, just a trifle, but still tried to
push me from her. "You called me a barbarian!" she said.

Ah, so that was it! That still rankled. I crushed her to
me.

"You could not love a barbarian," she went on, but she had
ceased to struggle.

"But I do love a barbarian, Victory!" I cried, "the dearest
barbarian in the world."

She raised her eyes to mine, and then her smooth, brown arms
encircled my neck and drew my lips down to hers.

"I love you--I have loved you always!" she said, and then
she buried her face upon my shoulder and sobbed. "I have
been so unhappy," she said, "but I could not die while I
thought that you might live."

As we stood there, momentarily forgetful of all else than
our new found happiness, the ferocity of the bombardment
increased until scarce thirty seconds elapsed between the
shells that rained about the palace.

To remain long would be to invite certain death. We could
not escape the way that we had entered the apartment, for
not only was the corridor now choked with debris, but beyond
the corridor there were doubtless many members of the
emperor's household who would stop us.

Upon the opposite side of the room was another door, and
toward this I led the way. It opened into a third apartment
with windows overlooking an inner court. From one of these
windows I surveyed the courtyard. Apparently it was empty,
and the rooms upon the opposite side were unlighted.

Assisting Victory to the open, I followed, and together we
crossed the court, discovering upon the opposite side a
number of wide, wooden doors set in the wall of the palace,
with small windows between. As we stood close behind one of
the doors, listening, a horse within neighed.

"The stables!" I whispered, and, a moment later, had pushed
back a door and entered. From the city about us we could
hear the din of great commotion, and quite close the sounds
of battle--the crack of thousands of rifles, the yells of
the soldiers, the hoarse commands of officers, and the blare
of bugles.

The bombardment had ceased as suddenly as it had commenced.
I judged that the enemy was storming the city, for the
sounds we heard were the sounds of hand-to-hand combat.

Within the stables I groped about until I had found saddles
and bridles for two horses. But afterward, in the darkness,
I could find but a single mount. The doors of the opposite
side, leading to the street, were open, and we could see
great multitudes of men, women, and children fleeing toward
the west. Soldiers, afoot and mounted, were joining the mad
exodus. Now and then a camel or an elephant would pass
bearing some officer or dignitary to safety. It was evident
that the city would fall at any moment--a fact which was
amply proclaimed by the terror-stricken haste of the fear-
mad mob.

Horse, camel, and elephant trod helpless women and children
beneath their feet. A common soldier dragged a general from
his mount, and, leaping to the animal's back, fled down the
packed street toward the west. A woman seized a gun and
brained a court dignitary, whose horse had trampled her
child to death. Shrieks, curses, commands, supplications
filled the air. It was a frightful scene--one that will be
burned upon my memory forever.

I had saddled and bridled the single horse which had
evidently been overlooked by the royal household in its
flight, and, standing a little back in the shadow of the
stable's interior, Victory and I watched the surging throng
without.

To have entered it would have been to have courted greater
danger than we were already in. We decided to wait until
the stress of blacks thinned, and for more than an hour we
stood there while the sounds of battle raged upon the
eastern side of the city and the population flew toward the
west. More and more numerous became the uniformed soldiers
among the fleeing throng, until, toward the last, the street
was packed with them. It was no orderly retreat, but a
rout, complete and terrible.

The fighting was steadily approaching us now, until the
crack of rifles sounded in the very street upon which we
were looking. And then came a handful of brave men--a
little rear guard backing slowly toward the west, working
their smoking rifles in feverish haste as they fired volley
after volley at the foe we could not see.

But these were pressed back and back until the first line of
the enemy came opposite our shelter. They were men of
medium height, with olive complexions and almond eyes. In
them I recognized the descendants of the ancient Chinese
race.

They were well uniformed and superbly armed, and they fought
bravely and under perfect discipline. So rapt was I in the
exciting events transpiring in the street that I did not
hear the approach of a body of men from behind. It was a
party of the conquerors who had entered the palace and were
searching it.

They came upon us so unexpectedly that we were prisoners
before we realized what had happened. That night we were
held under a strong guard just outside the eastern wall of
the city, and the next morning were started upon a long
march toward the east.

Our captors were not unkind to us, and treated the women
prisoners with respect. We marched for many days--so many
that I lost count of them--and at last we came to another
city--a Chinese city this time--which stands upon the site
of ancient Moscow.

It is only a small frontier city, but it is well built and
well kept. Here a large military force is maintained, and
here also, is a terminus of the railroad that crosses modern
China to the Pacific.

There was every evidence of a high civilization in all that
we saw within the city, which, in connection with the humane
treatment that had been accorded all prisoners upon the long
and tiresome march, encouraged me to hope that I might
appeal to some high officer here for the treatment which my
rank and birth merited.

We could converse with our captors only through the medium
of interpreters who spoke both Chinese and Abyssinian. But
there were many of these, and shortly after we reached the
city I persuaded one of them to carry a verbal message to
the officer who had commanded the troops during the return
from New Gondar, asking that I might be given a hearing by
some high official.

The reply to my request was a summons to appear before the
officer to whom I had addressed my appeal. A sergeant came
for me along with the interpreter, and I managed to obtain
his permission to let Victory accompany me--I had never left
her alone with the prisoners since we had been captured.

To my delight I found that the officer into whose presence
we were conducted spoke Abyssinian fluently. He was
astounded when I told him that I was a Pan-American. Unlike
all others whom I had spoken with since my arrival in
Europe, he was well acquainted with ancient history--was
familiar with twentieth century conditions in Pan-America,
and after putting a half dozen questions to me was satisfied
that I spoke the truth.

When I told him that Victory was Queen of England he showed
little surprise, telling me that in their recent
explorations in ancient Russia they had found many
descendants of the old nobility and royalty.

He immediately set aside a comfortable house for us,
furnished us with servants and with money, and in other ways
showed us every attention and kindness.

He told me that he would telegraph his emperor at once, and
the result was that we were presently commanded to repair to
Peking and present ourselves before the ruler.

We made the journey in a comfortable railway carriage,
through a country which, as we traveled farther toward the
east, showed increasing evidence of prosperity and wealth.

At the imperial court we were received with great kindness,
the emperor being most inquisitive about the state of modern
Pan-America. He told me that while he personally deplored
the existence of the strict regulations which had raised a
barrier between the east and the west, he had felt, as had
his predecessors, that recognition of the wishes of the
great Pan-American federation would be most conducive to the
continued peace of the world.

His empire includes all of Asia, and the islands of the
Pacific as far east as 175dW. The empire of Japan no longer
exists, having been conquered and absorbed by China over a
hundred years ago. The Philippines are well administered,
and constitute one of the most progressive colonies of the
Chinese empire.

The emperor told me that the building of this great empire
and the spreading of enlightenment among its diversified and
savage peoples had required all the best efforts of nearly
two hundred years. Upon his accession to the throne he had
found the labor well nigh perfected and had turned his
attention to the reclamation of Europe.

His ambition is to wrest it from the hands of the blacks,
and then to attempt the work of elevating its fallen peoples
to the high estate from which the Great War precipitated
them.

I asked him who was victorious in that war, and he shook his
head sadly as he replied:

"Pan-America, perhaps, and China, with the blacks of
Abyssinia," he said. "Those who did not fight were the only
ones to reap any of the rewards that are supposed to belong
to victory. The combatants reaped naught but annihilation.
You have seen--better than any man you must realize that
there was no victory for any nation embroiled in that
frightful war."

"When did it end?" I asked him.

Again he shook his head. "It has not ended yet. There has
never been a formal peace declared in Europe. After a while
there were none left to make peace, and the rude tribes
which sprang from the survivors continued to fight among
themselves because they knew no better condition of society.
War razed the works of man--war and pestilence razed man.
God give that there shall never be such another war!"

You all know how Porfirio Johnson returned to Pan-America
with John Alvarez in chains; how Alvarez's trial raised a
popular demonstration that the government could not ignore.
His eloquent appeal--not for himself, but for me--is
historic, as are its results. You know how a fleet was sent
across the Atlantic to search for me, how the restrictions
against crossing thirty to one hundred seventy-five were
removed forever, and how the officers were brought to
Peking, arriving upon the very day that Victory and I were
married at the imperial court.

My return to Pan-America was very different from anything I
could possibly have imagined a year before. Instead of
being received as a traitor to my country, I was acclaimed a
hero. It was good to get back again, good to witness the
kindly treatment that was accorded my dear Victory, and when
I learned that Delcarte and Taylor had been found at the
mouth of the Rhine and were already back in Pan-America my
joy was unalloyed.

And now we are going back, Victory and I, with the men and
the munitions and power to reclaim England for her queen.
Again I shall cross thirty, but under what altered
conditions!

A new epoch for Europe is inaugurated, with enlightened
China on the east and enlightened Pan-America on the west--
the two great peace powers whom God has preserved to
regenerate chastened and forgiven Europe. I have been
through much--I have suffered much, but I have won two great
laurel wreaths beyond thirty. One is the opportunity to
rescue Europe from barbarism, the other is a little
barbarian, and the greater of these is--Victory.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sorry, no summary available yet.