Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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THE sole reason for posting this novel about the discovery of the descendants of Atlantis beneath the sands of the Sahara is the wish to make the RGL collection of "lost world" stories as comprehensive as possible.
While Milton R. Peril's elaboration of the Atlantis theme has some intrinsic interest, the narrative reads like the work of an author who learned English as a second language, acquiring a large vocabulary without really understanding usage. The style is puerile and bombastic, and the book is replete with redundant hyperbole, malapropisms and unintentional catachreses.
Here are a few random examples:
"... a three-legged table which had once consisted of four extremities."
"... like a thunderclap every head dropped."
"... he dropped in a crevice next to the wall and exhaled horrible thoughts."
"His blood tore through his veins and arteries with shrieking hope..."
"... his slithering feet spoke volumes..."
"Their shrieks of rage cluttered up the room."
"...her presence made his every move heavy with weighty precision."
"A hoarse howl of horror throated from him..."
These and many other passages in the The Lost City justify the assertion that Milton R. Peril mangled prose in a manner similar to that in which the notorious Irish-Scottish writer William Topaz McGonagall mangled poetry—albeit with fewer unintentionally amusing results. To borrow a line from Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, he is as guilty as Eliza Doolittle of "the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue."
To make matters worse, the novel is blatantly and obnoxiously racist, pitting "superior" dominant white Atlanteans against an "inferior" subjugated and segregated black people.
In view of this story's abysmal quality it is surprising that Amazing Stories accepted it for publication as a three-part serial and printed it "as is" with no evident attempt at editorial improvement. Indeed, the editorial remarks at the beginning of each part are almost as badly written as the story itself.
Summa sumarum, the only literary significance of The Lost City is as a contribution, however minor, to the "lost world" genre.
This RGL e-book edition was built from digital image files of the issues of Amazing Stories in which the serial first appeared. Obvious typographical errors have been corrected without comment.
—Roy Glashan, 29 June 2020
This is not the first story which we have published with an Egyptian mise en scène. It leads to a very astonishing series of events, based in a degree upon the great Sphinx that asked the riddle famous in the history of ages; it holds one's attention and really preaches a sort of sermon, yet has quite a bit of excitement. Mr. Peril is a new author as far as our readers are concerned.
EL KASR is one of those ancient spots on the face of the earth that strives to acclimate itself with each fleeting generation. Its narrow and cobbled streets have been polished through the ages by the countless bare feet of the natives, who have long since returned to the dust of their creation. Only its slumbering eye can flash forth what it has seen, incoherent and indistinguishable. Yet, to one who can understand it, it speaks with astonishing and clarifying thought.
To Sir John Mansfield, the eminent archaeologist and Egyptologist, El Kasr was one place that held him spellbound, one effort of falling and rising civilization which spoke itself plainly to him. It was in his blood, those centuries-old dwellings of masonry, which squatted against a slithering desert to protect the pliable and susceptive body of man from the oppressive heat of the overhead sun. It was an answer to the constant quests of his mind, this arid sand of Egypt.
Years he had spent upon it, in it, trying, from the pieces he detached from its bosom, to set together those drifts of understanding into one orderly unit of human knowledge. And throughout the successive years his heart had not stifled one bit the thrill of discovery; rather, as the days rolled by, the more acute became his sense of desire. He knew Egypt; knew what potent powers it contained in its breast; knew what tremendous part it had played in the shaping up of the ensuing generations.
Yet, El Kasr was to him something indefinably clear. When his feet clicked against the hot and dusty stones, when his lungs breathed deeply of the afternoon atmosphere, it was almost as though he were transported back through the ages on some mental, invisible breath. Sun-baked was the land. But the very essence of material crumbling manifested the lurking mysteries! And the mysteries of this land—that feature quickened his blood!
THE dirty figure of a dried and twisted man lounged on the corner of a shabby thoroughfare this late afternoon, his glistening, dotty eyes glued on Mansfield's aimless ambling. His hand was beneath his tunic, a torn, greasy garment which accentuated his native disreputableness. Somehow, the scientist couldn't keep his eye off him. There was something faintly familiar about the fellow, but he couldn't place him. Probably he had seen him in El Kasr before; Mansfield was well known here.
The tall Englishman strolled slowly down to the intersection. Long seasons in the land had made him practically immune to the constant crush of the African sun. His healthy and tanned body had long overcome the discomforts of the brow-beating solar rays. The native on the corner left his lounging position and made for him.
This spot in El Kasr was noted for its ill-omened and gristly, evil characters, but Sir John had gone through it many times. Yet there was something about the advancing man that made him hesitate, and he clutched the stout stick in his hand more tightly. The manner in which the shabby fellow concealed his hand under the cloth of his tunic was mysteriously ominous.
Sir John whirled upon him, half-raising his cane. "What the devil do you mean by sneaking up on me like that?"
The other shrunk, his bony, discolored hand rising before him.
"Peace!" he whimpered, dropping still farther away. "I attempt no harm. Rather I come with good fortune for you." His right hand still remained under his tattered tunic.
"What good fortune could you bring?" Mansfield snapped at him in wonderment, eyeing the slinking fellow from head to foot.
"Please, Sir John. Don't you remember me? I'm Horda!"
The Englishman stared at him. Somewhere he had seen this man, that he was positive. But his name brought to him no connecting identification.
"Don't you know me, Sir John? I was with you in the Libyan desert excavations five years ago!"
Then it flashed through him. He was Horda el Abrim, the man who had been in charge of the motley group of men who had assisted him at that time. Mansfield softened somewhat as he took in the other's sad condition. What a metamorphosis in the man! He recalled Horda as being a stalwart, lean fellow.
And this—Probably, he mused, it was because he had found no other employment since then. Work was scarce in this land for one of Horda's type.
"So it's you, Horda?" he laughed. "You've changed. Well, why are you stealing up to me like that? Don't you know it is rather unhealthy?"
The dirty man opened his mouth in a grin, his yellow and rotten teeth protruding like fangs. He drew up closer and snatched out his hand. His fingers held something bulky.
Horda looked around cautiously, extended his hand. "Look at this, Sir John. I know you will be interested in it. Saved it for you. Maybe you can give me something for it?"
The sun of the dying afternoon glanced off the enlarged bones of his twisted hand. Gnarled and caked they were.
"What is it?" he demanded, taking the bundle.
The native shook his head. "Something old. Something you might give a few pounds for."
It was wrapped and secured with heavy twine, into an inordinate mass of stiff paper. He couldn't make it out.
Horda wheedled: "Come to the shop on the corner. There is another one of those there. You can take it apart and look at it. And then maybe you'll give——"
Sir John Mansfield pattered after him, holding ready his heavy stick. No telling how this might turn out, he told himself. It might be a trap of some sort.
These desperately needy characters down here might do anything to secure a few pounds.
At the corner they turned down beside a squatty, one-story building and Horda nodded at it. Prodding him forward, Mansfield followed down a littered flight of stone steps, picking himself in and out of the strewn, reeking debris. Horda pushed aside a filthy covering which served as a door and bade the scientist enter.
Mansfield glided in. The interior was a maze of shadows, no window to the entire place, and were it not for the flickering lamp upon the table in the corner it would have been a worthy hole for ambush. He crouched against the wall, sweeping the place with a quick, penetrative scrutiny.
In one corner leaned a three-legged table which had once consisted of four extremities; its top was shoved into a crevice in the wall to keep it on an even keel. The floor was without adornment of any kind save for more débris; the walls were bare of everything but ghostly shadows. Upon the table, however, was heaped a pile of odds and ends of every description.
WHAT surprised the Englishman was the nondescript figure of a white man slouched in a small ramshackle chair near the table. His face was covered with a straggly, frizzy beard and in his hand, as though just taking it away from his lips, reposed a bottle.
He blew a volume of odious breath from him, perhaps bent upon craftily neutralizing the stench already contained in the chamber, and grinned.
"Welcome, Sir John Mansfield."
His throat emitted a hollow laugh.
The scientist grasped his stick and raised it. There was something strange about all this, and the last thing he intended to do was to let himself be hoodwinked and caught unaware!
But the white man only sank deeper into the seat and dropped his head back for another swig at the bottle. It came away from his mouth to the accompaniment of deep, contented sighs. His hairy arm served as an efficient wiper. Bloated, leering eyes fixed on Mansfield.
"Need not worry, Sir John, need not worry! No danger here!" He coughed suddenly and it grew in intensity, rising deep from within his breast, until his inflated countenance was obscured by a purplish tinge. "No—no danger!"
Mansfield regarded him closely. It was easy to see that the fellow was on his last resources. That cough predicted a final stage of lung deterioration, and, from the manner in which he swung the bottle again and again to his lips, it seemed to be a powerful deadening influence. Probably some renegade, this chap. It wasn't the first one the Englishman had seen succumb to the merciless sun of the continent. It got them in the end. The windowless room was evidence of his fanatic desire for sunless days and nights.
The fellow wheezed, "Horda heard you were in town. Said he was going to look you up. He—we got something here we know is in your line. Had it for a long time, want to get rid of it now. Got to get some money. Can't get whiskey 'n' rum for nothing, you know!" He burst into a cackle.
Mansfield went closer. "What is this thing you have?" His eyes didn't leave either man.
The man of the bottle started to rise but halted. He turned to the table beside him and extracted from the disorderly stuff another bundle of paper wrapped with cord. It was similar to the one the scientist held.
"Here's the mate to the batch you got now!" Sir John caught it as it was flung to him, curiosity aroused, stepped into the feeble glare of the lamp and bent down, loosening the twine. He glared at the first sheet.
SIR JOHN MANSFIELD knew the thrill of discovery. His vast experience had thrown many thrills his way. There was the time, for instance, when he had been the first man to enter the twenty- century-old tomb of a Pharaoh of which little or nothing had ever been gleaned, and he had found the sarcophagus chamber just as though its contents had been put there yesterday. Prowling, maudlin vandals had not come upon this. The hieratic scripts were present in all their invaluable glory. That, indeed, had been a thrill!
But as Mansfield's eyes scanned the paper before him, under the pale illumination, an odd shiver crept down his spine. He couldn't diagnose the peculiar feeling. Long association with papyrus of the ancient Egyptians had sensitized his fingers; there was something about this odd grain which seemed to leap through his nerve-centers electrically.
This faded papyrus which he hold now was old—old! Old! The knowledge kept ringing through his brain like a clanging spirit His hot eyes were intent upon the small characters inscribed thereon. The treacherous light gave him no assistance, and he heaped an epithet upon it. Hastily he tore the cord from the other bundle, his pulse, quickening. Both were of the same material!
"Interesting—no?" broke in the scattered voice of the white man.
Mansfield shuffled the sheets. They were all hard and stiff with the weight of ages. In many places the paper had cracked and fallen away; time also had wreaked its toll and had faded large portions of the picture-writing. But the Englishman gnashed his teeth at the atrocious light. The fluttering shadows ridiculed every attempt to decipher anything!
He straightened up abruptly, assembling again the manuscript, carefully entwining the pages with the cord.
"Might be worth a couple of pounds, maybe?" the fellow sleazed greedily. "Or maybe ten—twenty—fifty?"
Mansfield glared at Horda and the decrepit man in the chair.
"Where did you get this?" he questioned slowly.
"Anything's fair in this man's country," the white man spat mirthlessly. "Dead man's graves carry things—things which people like to have."
"You mean it was taken from some tomb——"
"A man has to live, Sir John," Horda interrupted. "What is the difference?"
Mansfield considered the situation carefully. He didn't know as yet what matter of importance the manuscript contained, if any. But if an inherent feeling meant anything, if ever his heart had dictated an intuition, this script was something out of the ordinary. Still, he was a scientist to the core. He must know from whence this came. Already he gathered that these men had somehow plundered a tomb. There was a severe penalty for breaking into the sand-sealed burial grounds of centuries' existence. It was his duty as an Egyptologist, respected by the Egyptian government, to abide by its law and enforce it.
But the two men wouldn't talk. He threatened them, cajoled them, and once even stalked to the door with the bundles under his arm, to go to the proper authorities, but the white fellow angrily drew forth a pistol and pointed it at him. Mansfield perceived what highly strung impulses he was dealing with. The white man was crazed for the need of liquor; he'd get it through any means.
The bloated face loomed hideously in the shadowy gloom. The weapon was distorted until it appeared as large as a small cannon. He croaked; "You know it's valuable. I need money. Fair exchange. Come across!"
"How much?" Mansfield's mouth said grimly.
The tone of the other changed. "Only just enough to keep some life in a body. I'm not a criminal!"
The Englishman smiled wryly, shoving the manuscript into the sack pocket of his coat. He removed his wallet. He could do nothing else but acquiesce. Carefully he detached two ten pound notes.
"Here, Horda. Dole it out bit by bit so you don't drown the rascal." The native's eyes glistened at the sight of the money. Mansfield made for the door, swinging his stick vigorously; at the threshold he paused.
"In all probability this will find its way into the government's hands. When it does, you scoundrels beware! It will hound you to death!"
He brushed aside the grimy curtain which bore evidence of being the door, and departed. Outside, his feet carried him at a running pace to his lodgings.
IN his room he tossed aside the cane, yanked down the blinds and turned on full the lights. His pulse throbbed as he drew forth the manuscript and tenderly placed it upon the table. For a moment he was almost afraid to look at the sheets lest his enthusiasm be rudely jolted. Why did he feel this way about this unknown writing? What made him believe that it might be something of value? Was it his instinctive touch—the touch of one who had delved in such matters for years?
Did this give him inalienable right to rely upon his feelings?
He secured a magnifying glass and dropped upon the chair. He took the first sheet, spread it smooth and leaned over it. For a good five minutes he studied the hieroglyphs; then his brow furrowed into a frown. There was something strange here! Was it a jest of some sort directed toward him? Was a hoax being attempted?
His eyes dropped upon the paper once more in an intense scrutiny of the inscriptions. Presently he took another sheet of the papyrus. His eyes grew wide. Great heavens! His blood slowed down; such a thing was almost unbelievable!
Sir John Mansfield was one of the greatest of living Egyptologists; head of the Archaeology Department at Oxford; an authority unexcelled on the written word and lives of peoples long gone—specifically of those who had dwelled and pulsated through the land of Egypt centuries before. Any debate or argument on hieroglyphic, hieratic or demotic writing which could not be fully and justifiably answered, was tendered to him. It was a passion with him and the world of science knew and respected his knowledge.
Every scientist is suffused by an undercurrent of hope that at some time he will pierce the gloom and bring out a discovery which will obscure all others. But a true undeviating scientist, faced with that discovery, will pit it against every conceivable test for any possible weakness.
And that is what Mansfield did. He couldn't admit to himself that this manuscript was deceiving. No! He subjected it relentlessly to every examination his scientific knowledge knew, to bring out the possible fraudulent character. The paper itself underwent a microscopic scanning. Through the hours of the night he labored tirelessly, anxiously.
Dawn was creeping around the borders of the window-blinds when he arrived at the foregone conclusion that no living hand could have constructed the manuscript before him. No—and no hand within the past thousand years! The script was genuine, solemnly the evidence of intrinsic truth.
Beside him lay the littered sheets of his own handwriting, scribbled as he had deciphered the manuscript. Through the process he had worked slowly and painstakingly. The full interpretation was not yet evident, owing to the many sheets which were faded and not legible. But now he gathered together the notes and pieced them into an understandable whole.
Suddenly, with the realization before him, his body grew cold!
THE document was written about 2800-2700 B.C., the period corresponding with the reign of Cheops, one of the mighty Pharaohs of Egypt. But the thing, that made Sir John Mansfield's blood turn to ice, was the indisputable fact that the manuscript before him had not been written by a scribe of that period, not by some educated person, but by the majestic figure, the superciliously royal fingers of Cheops himself!
The knowledge in itself was enough to make him fall back in his chair and stare stupidly at the wall. It was unbelievable! But it was authentic! His eye saw that!
Within a half hour he had read and re-read everything he had written, and then his mind seemed to swell with the importance of the discovery. It was stupendous! Rapt eyes perused the information gleaned. Condensed, it read thus:
I, Cheops, ruler of the mightiest land, put this down on record. Only I know the contents and existence of it. But I must get it down, so that posterity, should it succeed in locating my tomb, will understand. It will be put near my sarcophagus in a hermetically-sealed container.
It was during a summer night that there was ushered into my presence a white man of great handsomeness, who desired private talk with me. I took him into the inner room behind the throne and he revealed an astonishing tale. He claimed that he was from the city of Atlantis!
Now I know, as do my scientists, that Atlantis is but a myth. I therefore became indignant at being secluded with a man insane, and was on the verge of calling for my executioner. But he rose to his feet, a powerfully imposing figure.
He wanted only to be proven! I took one guard with me and followed him, being led to the outskirts of the city, out upon the desert. There I envisioned a gash in the earth. And standing nearby was another man, tall and well-built.
The hole was an entrance of some sort and shortly we descended, and it took us to a vast domain underneath. It was with abated breath that..."
(A great portion of the script hereafter was faded.)
The friendship between the rulers of Atlantis and myself continued. Not one soul above knew of the existence of the lost race. The guard who followed me I had executed for conspiracy.
In order to conceal the entrance I ordered the construction of a massive edifice and image which would stand over the descent. It was a giant statue of a reposing body of an animal with a human head! In it I embodied Silence—one who knew everything and said nothing! So that it would not bring attention I caused to be made all over my dominion other massivities of solid rock, many in pyramidal shapes.
There is only one entrance. All others are false. To get in, one must get under the square slab directly under the face and mouth. A stout, flat knife must be driven in between the third and fourth slate until you feel a vibration. Then you must hasten with speed to the right paw and insert the knife under the slab at the farthest end. The huge mass of rock will slide gently back, displaying the entrance for a few moments.
From there the signs will lead you on the only route to the city of Atlantis...."
IT was some time before he finally digested the information thus divulged. For years be had been one of the most indefatigable of workers, trying to secure some archaeological clues concerning the supposed Atlantis. Legend had it that a highly civilized race once dwelt on a vast extension of land supposedly off Africa. where now the Atlantic Ocean rolls majestically on. It was thought that some cataclysmic disturbance of the earth at that point had submerged the land of Atlantis beneath the waters of the great ocean. Some scientists had asserted the belief that Atlantis had been a body of land existing between Africa and South America without interruption, and that, upon its being submerged, it had left a portion of its civilization upon the American continent. Evidence of the belief was cited in the Aztecs, the Incas.
Be that as it may, however, Mansfield had never secured anything of positive nature upon which to build a theory. But this seemed to be something very different. Atlantis underneath the Sahara desert? How could that be? It sounded preposterous. Yet, the very handwriting of Cheops himself had asserted the point clearly. After having existed for almost five thousand years this manuscript, mellowed with age, would be indeed farcical if it were anything but the truth! Sir John Mansfield shook his head abstractedly, his heart whispering that it couldn't be a travesty on a scientific hope.
And then there was the mystery of the mammoth Sphinx, which had never been solved. This fine piece of ancient art and man- power had long been a source of wonder to humanity. There had never been any reason found, which could explain the great thing of rock and masonry upon the wastes of the desert; no explanation for the pyramid erections. And such an answer as propounded in this ancient Egyptian script appeared plausible now.
But Mansfield wasn't one to jump at conclusions and let enthusiasm run amuck. He rose from his chair and paced the room nervously, going over every link, seeking flaws. At intervals he would turn abruptly and stare at the table laden with the papyrus and notes to make sure that it was not a dream. With every passing moment his blood seeped through the shackles of restraint.
The picture of the Great Sphinx rose up before him clearly and he studied it mentally. Time and again he had gone around it, and once he had even been up and over it But now, aware of its potency and meaning, he sought to bring together all threads of information concerning it which he knew.
THE squatting figure of Gizeh was carved out of solid rock excepting the paws, which were constructed of masonry; and was 150 feet long, its head feeing 30 feet in length. The ever- shifting sands of the desert had constantly sought to cover this mute creature and it had been a watchful job on the part of the Egyptians to keep the image from being obscured. Its face, though, had been mutilated vandalously by the superstitious Arabs who used it as a target for their rifles.
Why hadn't the entrance been discovered before? he wondered. He recalled the time when an American expedition had commented on a rumbling sound. No explanation had been forthcoming for that unknown noise, and as Sir John Mansfield thought of the manuscript of Cheops, he realized that in some manner one of the men must have hit the right spot under the face. What brink of discovery he had stood upon! And had walked away!
With shaking hands he bound the manuscript in oilskin, then dropped on the bed for a short sleep. When he arose he was wide awake and he gathered together his belongings. The fever of exploration was once more rising within him. He felt that anything else he would do would only rasp on his nerves.
IN Cairo he stopped at a hotel where he was well known, and to the manager he entrusted the safe-keeping of the oilskin-wrapped manuscript to be kept until it was called for. But nothing did he make known of the value of its contents.
It was a clear and star-bejeweled night when Mansfield moved around the Great Sphinx. His every movement threw shadows over the sandy blanket that gleamed dully and stretched away from the rock image into the abysmal void of night. He was garbed in khaki breeches and shirt. A revolver and a belt of cartridges were at his waist—for what reason he had taken these he couldn't tell, but he felt safer with them upon his person. Several electric torches were stuffed into his pockets, with an unlit one in his hand.
The movement in the slithering sand was precarious and he had to walk around cautiously. At one of the massive paws he paused, clutching the weather-beaten masonry to steady himself. Keen eyes inspected the distance to the main body from the outstretched pair of reposing legs, before he let himself into the rift.
The shaft of his now-lit torch swept the darkness of the shaded rocky breast and he proceeded slowly toward the up-flung mass of stone. From his belt he drew forth one of two long steely knives. Directly under the stern and set visage of the immobile animal he threw the light around.
The instructions of the manuscript were clear. He was to get under the face. Between the third and fourth slabs of rock he must wedge the knife until some response was got. The torch illumined the slabs and defined every crack in them clearly. But he was undecided where to begin. Time had forced itself too manifestly upon them. There were cracks and cracks, some of them extending from side to side, wide and deep, which had been formed long after the huge animal of stone had been put into impassive, inanimate existence.
He scrutinized the massive slabs with a sharp eye, until he felt that he could discern the original separations of the rock. They, too, seemed to have wilted and widened with age. Reaching a decision, he inserted the knife into one of the cracks, used it as a probe to discover its possible depth, and waited. But nothing happened.
For a long while he repeated the process at each split of the rock, running the black back and forth. Often, the end of the knife could not begin to probe the cavity which extended to an unfeelable depth, and the repeated failures irked him. But he couldn't let that indomitable urge within him succumb. He kept at it.
The writing of Cheops was imprinted lucidly upon his brain. "Right under the face," it said. And right under the face he tried again and again. Between the third and fourth slabs! Crevice after crevice felt the black of his knife; it was tedious and with no result.
His preoccupation suddenly snapped from its lethargy as he felt the black in his hand fall into a well-defined groove. The thin steel clicked into something!
Something seemed to whisper to him that he had found the objective. With nerves that couldn't be held from prickling into irresistible exaltation, he turned away for a moment. No use getting unduly enthusiastic over this, he reasoned. He must work slowly, carefully, examine everything properly.
Again, and with utmost attention, he slipped the instrument deep. Sure enough the point of the black fell into the groove again! Then, with a stifled breath, he started to slide the knife along the crack!
For about a foot it went smoothly, his eyes fixed upon the moving handle; then, with the same abruptness, it came to an obstruction with a stop! His face fell. Surely, this wasn't one of those false leads! Back and again he moved the black, with the same results.
Finally, with baffled rage at hitting the end of the groove as often as he had, he slammed the black violently against it. It was all so misleading. And then it happened!
As the knife struck the hidden barrier with force, something seemed to give way. His heart almost stopped beating. There was a slight movement from within the breast of the Sphinx! And then a hum grew in intensity, a low whirring noise which to him was a tolling, clanging ring of the dawn of success. He had found it! He had found it!
It held him breathless; he gaped at the hole in front of him, his hair whirling madly. As long as the reverberation continued, he stared stupidly at the rock. But soon it died away with a flutter and his countenance snapped back to normal. The manuscript flashed through his mind. This was but a part of the procedure. Distinctly he remembered that he must run toward the paw while the whir was still loud! He jammed the black into the groove again and like heavenly music the grating sound beat on his ears.
He ran and stumbled through the sand, to the stretched paw of the creature, but as he reached there the noise died softly away. He paid little attention to it, however, seeking the farthest end of the leg and feeling around it for an opening through which to slide the knife. This time he worked with fierce purpose; already he knew that he would find it somewhere; it would be only a matter of time until he struck the right spot.
The masonry of the paw confronted him with the same handicap the broad breast had. Fissures and fissures! He disregarded the crumbling holes in the stone which were not man-made and sought a thin line which might be the joining of two rocks. And he found it! Ordinarily it would have meant nothing, the insertion of the black into that perfect groove and its sudden stop at some hindrance, but with a snap of his wrist he heard an empty click and knew that it spoke volumes for him.
But he didn't return immediately to the gloomy spot beneath the breast. He threw the beam of his light toward it, speculatively measuring the distance from paw to main body, figuring the speed he would have to make to work both ends in time. The main whirring, he had discovered, continued uninterruptedly for about twenty seconds and during that period, he figured, he must have enough time to dash toward the paw.
So he returned, started the reverberation anew and ran pell- mell in a straight line. The unsteady sand under his feet slopped against his soles, retarding him, but he threw himself onward, stumbling, forcing his way. In a split second he located the groove and jabbed the black into it and shoved hard. The purring sound suddenly rose in volume to a high pitch. He watched everything about him breathlessly, his electric light playing brilliantly upon the massive paw.
The two slabs nearest him began to slide back ever so slowly, like a vast door to a vault, noiselessly!
There, before him, yawned a black pit and, as his torch flashed into it, he suddenly perceived that the slabs were starting to move back again. It galvanized him into action! He leaped into the hole, felt his feet strike a pair of stone steps—and then the huge portal closed upon his back!
Everything had occurred so spontaneously that he didn't have time to regard the consequences once he was inside, with the opening closed. It all came to him now as he stood within the Great Sphinx, his light playing upon the flight of steps, and he whirled upon the great door with his torch. The rays struck the barrier to freedom and bounded back at him with a sardonic chuckle, or so it seemed to him. There was nothing upon it which might be construed as a key for this exit. The only thing he saw was the hieroglyphic inscriptions which lined the wall!
He shoved and pushed but there was no result. Just as surely as if he had entered his own tomb alive, was he incarcerated here. For a moment his attempts became frenzied, then he laughed. Here he had hoped beyond hope to find an entrance to get in; now, that he was in, he was trying to get out!
He murmured with a chuckle to himself, "Afraid?"
THE torch fell upon the inscribed walls and he soon forgot everything about him. His scientific sense prevailed, and he stood there for the better part of an hour studying those writings, making out the pictures. He sent the beam down the steps and saw that as far as he could look the walls on all sides were marked. The place was chock full of the history of Egypt up to the time of Cheops! What a find! What a find!
His scientific mind swelled with the knowledge. What a sensation this would create when it would be made known! What first-hand information was contained here! For a short moment it seemed unreal to him—but there it was! It was overwhelming!
Under ordinary conditions he would have sat down, note-book and pencil in hand, forgot his environment for many hours, but he couldn't do this now. The steps went downward, straight away from him. He didn't know where he was at the present time. The hieroglyphs wouldn't ran away. The thing to do was to proceed.
The place was dry, dreadfully dry and dusty; breathing was hard. Below his feet was an accumulation of dust an inch thick and each step of his shot particles into the air. Soon he was sneezing and gasping for breath. And it got no better as he advanced. Rubbing his smarting eyes, he walked smack into a blank wall! It was at the bottom of the steps, at the end of the sloping corridor!
He flashed his light upward and met the blank musty stare of the stone roof atop. For a prowling moment he wondered whether this was one of those false headings Cheops had warned against. If it were, he shivered, it wouldn't help him any! That portal back there leered at him with sardonic staunchness!
But it couldn't be, he told himself. He had followed the ancient Pharaoh's instructions to the letter; this could be the only way. There must be some way of getting out. Two openless walls stared back at him, fore and aft. Slowly he retraced his steps until he once more stood at the barred opening, and minutely went over the walls and steps, trying with the knife which he had left in his belt—the other was sticking outside in the groove—to find some crevice which might be the key to it all. But he was unsuccessful. His lungs were beginning to pant, straining from the airless tunnel. Gradually he worked his way back to the other end of the sealed passage. Suddenly he flung himself backward with a cry and a shudder!
His light was fixed upon an object he had overlooked, which lay in the corner. It was the desiccated body of what had once been a human being! He bent over it. Curiously, as he touched it, it didn't fall apart as rapidly as he thought it mighty though the garment which clothed it crumbled up into fine dust! Its features were indistinguishable. Somehow this fellow had entered this approach and had been unable to proceed any farther! He had perished like a rodent in a closed box!
THE realization of that sent a prickly sweat over his body. The dire predicament which Mansfield had unfolded upon himself now lanced him every time he glanced at the thing at his feet. There was no exit from here. He, Sir John Mansfield, must perish in this hole just as this man had! It was inevitable. That sly old scoundrel of a Cheops had simply concocted the story of Atlantis, so that he might maintain some earthly power after his death!
It was a hard thing to bear. Mansfield gnashed his teeth in rage. No! He wasn't going to take this as final. Cheops couldn't be so cruel! There must be some way out of this. There had to be! This was—horrible!
The manuscript—what did it say? Every word was etched on his brain.
"The signs will lead..."
The Englishman's eyes were shot with grimness. He clutched his breast; it was becoming harder to breathe with each inhalation.
It was a miracle, an answer to his unuttered prayer, that turned his eyes upon a spot on the blank wall, a place he had somehow overlooked. His struggling heart leaped at the sight of a fine slit upon it; next to it, somewhat obscured, was an arrow which pointed toward it. The knife reached madly for it, the black quivering as it stuck in the hole.
The next moment there was another of those soft rumbles! And the blank wall swayed gently as though on a pivot, moving back upon an axle!
A genuine burst of relief fell from his gasping throat as a current of fresh air flowed into the passage. Mansfield leaped through the entrance, looking back with sympathy at the figure which lay upon the floor, and the door swung shut.
He didn't need to tell himself that he would have perished had he been forced to remain much longer in there. His lungs expanded to a delightful freshness that brought new life. This new chamber was not like the sealed one he had just quit; somewhere there crept through into it a stream of fresh air!
THE literary remains of ancient Egypt consist of papyrus manuscripts, sculptures and tablets found in tombs, temples and ruins. But the earliest characters used by these ancient people were the hieroglyphic inscriptions. Practically the earliest ones date as far back as twenty-five centuries before Christ. There had long been difficulty in reading those ancient symbols, but the fortunate find in the year 1799 of the Rosetta Stone, in the Rosetta delta of the Nile river, furnished the key for the unlocking of these treasures. The Rosetta Stone contained the equivalent inscriptions in hieroglyphics and in Greek letters; the meaning of the Greek being known, the symbols were possible of translation.
As Sir John Mansfield stood in this large room, his light picked out upon the walls a complete history that dated back further than any present day knowledge of the ancient land. The walls of the chamber gave an indelible print of a detailed recounting of human lives! It was far more valuable than any he had yet seen. Almost thirty centuries before Christ this had been written, and it contained data of centuries before that period! Happenings that meant more to archaeological science than anything else!
It was impossible to evade it. Silently his feet carried him around the four huge walls and the electric torch was flung up and down, lighting up the clear-cut writings. Time meant nothing to him now; hunger was a thing non-existent. From somewhere there circulated a thin breeze which assuaged his desire for water.
At every digestion of the knowledge confronted, he marveled at the many discrepancies which beset the twentieth century science. And this was authentically conclusive; nobody on earth would dare defy what was written hereon! Imagine what this meant, he exulted. And it was hours before he could calm himself down to face the situation at hand, though he felt he could stay with this lore always.
The chamber though vastly high at one end, turned out to be about twenty feet each way in rectangular shape. At one end the ceiling tapered down until it was only about ten feet from the ground.
The current of air came from somewhere, he reasoned; it wouldn't be hard to discover the source of entrance.
And then he noticed that, at the place where the ceiling came down, there were four metallic pegs in the wall, right under one another. He tried them in an effort to discover their probable intentions, shaking them, trying to loosen them from their bed in the wall. But they wouldn't come loose. Nothing moved when he hammered at them. Surely they were there for some purport, he said to himself, regarding them intently.
Near-by, right upon the opening through which he had come, he pounced upon another one of those fine slits and he applied his knife, only to discover that, when the slab-door pivoted back, it burst open upon the steps he had so gratefully left.
For hours he searched diligently for the source of the air, for some slit which would guide him outward. He realized now that there was bound to be one. It only demanded his constant exploring. And many times during those hours he lost himself studying those priceless inscriptions, that redundance of treasure of mankind, and nodded his head with a smile.
It was tiring effort which kept culminating in failure. The Englishman's knees felt shaky, strange. He removed a large bandanna and wiped his brow. The shirt was soaked, for all of the circulating air. Realizing his weariness, Mansfield sat down upon the floor, relaxing against the wall with a sigh. His legs slid forward and he laid down the torch. For a moment, he decided, he'd close his eyes for a bit of rest. His arms were awfully tired... tired...
HOW long he slept he didn't know. When he opened his eyes and stared blinkingly around him it was totally dark. The fog of Morpheus was just starting to fade from his brain and he sat up with a start, glancing around frantically at his invisible surroundings. For a good ten seconds he couldn't get his bearings. Where was he? This Stygian blackness, what was it?
His hand reached out and brushed the cold rocky walls. And then it came to him from out of the eerie interment which for a moment had seemed a hideous possibility. His fingers fell upon the floor and encountered the torch. With a relief he grasped it and snapped it on. But no beam of light radiated from the battery! He had forgotten to turn it off. Truly he had slumbered many hours! The battery had burned itself out!
For a moment panic seized him, then he laughed. There were still several in his pocket! It had been a fortunate foresight which had prompted him to add those to his equipment. Quickly he took one out and clicked it on. The bright powerful beam was the prettiest thing he had ever seen. The feeling of security reverberated through his entire body.
He arose, primed for anything. Distinctly it returned to him how his efforts to escape from this chamber had been futile. There seemed to be no way out of this underground vault. If he couldn't find some opening ahead, he'd have to go back to that passageway of steps and make a final effort to get out that way.
His light flashed its way around the room, up at the ceiling. And he saw the exit as dearly as though it had been pointed out to him! He grumbled at his sightlessness; probably due to his enthusiasm over the hieroglyphs.
The ceiling, as it fell from its great height, didn't touch the top of the shortest wall! He moved away into the center of the room to get a better view. Right over the place where the four bars of metal were imbedded in the rock and about two feet over the top one, was a narrow opening. The light of his torch flashed toward it but the angle barred a clear view.
How could he get up there? Then it dawned upon him that the spikes of metal were there for that purpose! What a fool he had been! He tested the lower one by putting his whole weight upon it; it budged not a fraction of an inch. Here was the solution. It was a form of ladder.
His fist wrapped around the next rung, and, repeating this, he dragged himself to the height of the wail, carefully guarding the torch, which he had clipped to his belt. At the top he gathered himself so that he rested on the topmost rung securely, affording his arm free motion, and he lanced the small aperture with the brilliant yellow rays. It appeared large enough for him to wedge himself through, and he forced himself into it and dragged his body along. The shelf was cushioned with a heavy layer of dust which rose around him, choking him.
Crawling as he did, he couldn't help but think. If this were the form of progress which Cheops had created, then surely that great personage must have bellied along here the same as he. It was a curious form of travel, Mansfield grinned. Perhaps the royal character had desired that others prostrate themselves ignobly in some such fashion. What a humorous king of Egypt!
HE reached out to support himself for the next wriggling process, but nothing was there. Feeling around, his fingers lodged on the rim of the narrow ledge. He had come to the end! The light flared out—into space. Downward he looked, perceiving the outlines of a vast room, and right beneath him were more of the metallic bolts. He leaned out, grasped the top one, worked a leg loose behind him and dropped on the metal. In a twinkling he was down, surveying the interior. And an exclamation fell from his lips!
The chamber was not like the cold and bare one he had slept in and just left. Its walls were streamed in gold and silver tapestries, fabric which looked as though it might have been draped resplendently a short time before. The illumination of his light brushed against it and ferreted out the brilliant and iridescent gems which were ingrained in the workings. Ruby- and amethyst- and emerald-colored stones sparkled back at him from their ancient repose, blinking at him with a new-born fire. It was a gorgeous blend of color which was cast everywhere.
In the middle of the room sprawled a long, low, ebony table piled high with dust. And upon it rested several massive chests of the same black wood. A half-dozen strangely fashioned seats squatted around the low-slung table.
He touched the fabricated walls. In the places where the tapestry was cloth he poked a hole right through. But they were few. It was mostly an artistic spinning of thready gold and silver, clinging together, defying the ravages of time. It was truly a masterful piece of human ingenuity. Nothing like this had ever been found before. The tombs which dotted the Sahara desert, which spoke after countless years the incomprehensive words of yore, crushed by that very weight what artistic messages were contained within them.
The chests on the table bore the inevitable inscriptions. Cheops! Cheops! The place reeked with the fellow! Here he had inscribed what he had segregated as the best of his art; vandalism could not extend to this spot. What a foresight he had possessed!
With abated breath he threw back one of the lids. The chest was filled to the brim with fancy and beautiful objets d'art, a craft which had never been evinced to any degree by any of the later dynasties of Egypt, or of any country. Benvenuto Cellini, the Italian master of the Renaissance, would have knelt at this shrine and wept with abandon. He would have shamefacedly ground into powder his humble offerings to the world.
MANSFIELD reverently picked one article out, a small urn carved from a precious gem; and it seemed to him as he stood there with the light focussed upon it, that it quivered like a thing coming into life, a word speaking from an animate heaven! It was completely translucent, woven and cut in a golden splendor that broke into thousands of prismatic pin-points. Never had he had the pleasure of holding in his hands an object so transcendingly beautiful!
He laid it away with utmost care and inspected the other superb articles of hand-wrought sculpture. They were priceless, beyond the craftsmanship of any living person. Museums all over the lands would have mortgaged their last asset to possess any one of these. Their monetary value—Sir John Mansfield gave it little thought. This aesthetic accumulation was too real a fact for him to think of anything else.
For the first time, a sharp pang assailed him and he sat down upon one of the odd chairs. He must have been down here for a long time. Why, he could move around here for days and days and not know the passing of time. The only thing which would bring it to him would be the emptiness of his stomach. His throat was terribly parched from the particles of dust, which had scattered from their dormant bed into his nostrils and mouth. For only one drink of cold, clear water—just one long gulp!
He glanced about the chamber which he had been the first mortal to have entered for almost five thousand years.
And at the far end he saw something dark and void-like; he stared at it keenly, leaping to his feet. Quickly he sped toward it.
It was an opening about four feet square. He got down on his knees, flashed his torch through it. It was a sloping descension. In a moment he had forced himself through, crawling, and then he swung upward the light. He could stand up! The roof was about ten feet above him.
There was nothing to keep him back now and he ran down the sharp grade. Straight down it led him, a passage that was kicked into dust as he left it behind him. Yet the current of air remained with him, coming from the unknown source; and that aided his discomfiture immeasurably. His pulse quickened as he thought of a goal near-by. Something seemed to tell him that he had left the hardest part behind him.
He stumbled upon something and paused to pick it up. It was a large gold ring, something which might have adorned a regal garment, etched in silver. Probably it had fallen from that majestic personage thousands of years ago, as he had gone through there. Mansfield dropped the ring into his shirt pocket.
The torch suddenly dimmed and gave out, and he was in total darkness again. "Confound it," he said impatiently; it was supposed to possess long life. Working the button with his thumb brought forth no answer, and he tossed it from him, snatching out his last one. He'd have to make haste now, that was plain. If this torch gave out as did the others, he would be caught down in this terrifying darkness and nothing under the sun would help then. He would never be able to find the slits which worked the movable slabs. He'd just flounder around until a benign hand saw fit to take him mercifully out of life.
SWIFTLY he ran. This passage had to end somewhere. It couldn't be far. And as he fled along, his light picked out something totally dark about fifteen feet ahead, just like the open mouth of an abyss and he gasped, throwing himself back. His momentum, aided by the grade, had been such that he slid almost to the very brink of disaster, and his right leg did tall over the chasm, before his bleeding fingers managed to hold him back. His breath was coming in spasmodic gulps.
Slowly he lifted himself and reached for the torch, which had fallen from his grasp. Thank God! It hadn't broken or fallen into that yawning hole!
He dropped to the edge and peered in. The sides were very smooth and they went downward to an unpenetrable depth. He couldn't make anything out. The hole was about ten feet square and was at the end of the passageway. Where to from here?
He spun the beam around the walls, feeling positive now that he knew Cheops' fondness for slits, that he would find it. And right near the pit he saw the thready arrow which pointed toward the groove! He pried the thin spot with his steel black.
There was a sudden grinding sound, much more intense than any of those he had listened to before, but he couldn't see anything occurring. He gazed with preoccupation upon the walls, gray and unmoving. They simply stared back at him coldly under the light of his torch.
There was something moving and he whirled. Something was coming up the pit near his feet Gradually he could make out a moving substance as it lifted toward him. It seemed to be a landing stage that was rising ever so slowly. Presently it reached the top, even with the floor of the passage, and stopped!
The void was completely closed up!
His brow furrowed into a puzzle to get the meaning of this. He stood with one foot firmly on this side of the stage and braced himself, trying with the other to discover whether the top of the movable slab would bear his weight. And it did. He stamped with both feet upon it, but it didn't move. He walked around it, inspecting the wall beyond it for what might lie there, but saw nothing. The knife was still protruding from the deep slit, and he contemplated it speculatively. The thing appeared to manage everything. Maybe it would help him out now. With both feet firmly standing on the stage he reached backward and shook the black. Instantly he felt himself dropping!
He flung backward to be in the middle of the slab of stone. Down, down it went! After about a hundred feet of slow dropping, it picked up acceleration and fell like a plummet. Mansfield was thrown to the rock with a force that knocked his head spinning!
He must have fallen six or seven hundred feet, but it took only a few seconds so great was the speed. Mansfield clung to the floor of he flashing vehicle, shaking his bruised bead. His breathless body felt a gradual cessation once more, his bleary eyes rising to watch the walls move up and past him.
Then, all of a sudden, he broke out into the open, into what looked like a million lights, and there rose before him the screeching and cheering voices of thousands of throats! Milling before his clouded eyes was a vast throng of men and women!
SIR JOHN MANSFIELD stood and gaped at the crowd. The clear, invigorating breath of air forced itself through his dust-coated, contracted lungs; he gasped and gasped. His head felt of a sudden so light and odd. There was a clutching, griping ache in his abdomen and head. He tottered on his feet as he left the elevator and stepped upon the ground. It was the last he knew as he pitched over on his face....
Some time later he stirred. A hand was trying to force water through his incredibly parched lips and down his throat. For a while he lay still and sought to acquaint himself with his environment.
A delightfully soft lounge was like balm to his tired and aching muscles, and its soothing miraculous salve crept over him as he lay relaxing. Even his eyelids were too weary to remain open, though he licked eagerly at the liquid which the hand was pressing through his swollen mouth. His lips smacked with the cool refreshment, each drop instilling him with a new-born strength.
Presently he opened his eyes, blinked them. He seemed to see two persons sitting near him. And then with a clarity he perceived that at the head of the lounge sat a girl with a dipper which occasionally brought more water from the bowl upon the table. Near by sat a tall haughty figure with his eyes fixed intently upon the Englishman.
Mansfield felt his head throbbing violently; he fingered it and found a large welt. That must have been some bump he had received. Probably it was that which made him feel so lethargic now. But this water was genuine strength! Every trickle brought a deeper breath.
The man who sat near him, he saw, wore a loin girdle that was made from some light metallic cloth which suggested a tenuousness as it fitted around his powerful hips. The peculiar thing about him was the milkiness of his skin, and, as he moved in his chair and rose to the sumptuously rugged floor, there rippled, from beneath that feminine-appearing flesh, a superb set of billowing muscles. His massive shoulders were the animate masonry upon which was perched a manly head of exquisite proportions, especially that blonde hair which was combed back with meticulous precision and neatness.
The room was built of some metal, Mansfield noticed, as were most everything else of solid nature within. But the beauty which was strewn about in the articles of furniture was of a strange design. He had never seen the type. A brilliant effulgence lit up the entire chamber.
AND then he turned on his side to take a glance behind him; a sharp breath fell from him. Up to now he had only seen the arms, but now he was astounded at the pure whiteness of the girl's skin, the immaculate beauty of her aquiline features. She was looking at him anxiously, a pair of bluish eyes like pools of liquid sapphire. Her hair was coiled at the nape of her head and it was blonde, the same as that of the man. Her garment fell from the soft contours of her throat and ended a little below her knees.
The man said to him, "How do you feel?"
Sir John Mansfield leaped from the lounge in one gesture, with a cry:
"Egyptian! The ancient tongue!" The man was speaking in the old lingua, with a metallic cadence!
There was surprise, too, upon the other's face; also upon the girl's. There seemed to be a fervent light in their eyes that Mansfield had been able to understand them. And he did. Not for years had he devoted himself to the study of this tongue without picking up, as he could, the conversing in it. The milky-skinned man, heartened by the response, talked to him, and though Mansfield couldn't get each word distinctively he managed to secure the trend of thought. It was a beautiful tongue! Mansfield's aesthetic heart beat appreciatively. He absorbed it greedily.
"Who are you? Where am I?" he managed to ask, realizing his incompatibleness before the mastery of this man.
"I am Yuxa, high priest of Atlantis! This is my daughter, Venia. You are at present in the chamber of the Temple of the Gods! My own upper chamber!"
Atlantis! Atlantis! He had almost forgotten that he had once upon a time set out for such a legendary objective. Then Cheops was right! That papyrus had stated the truth when it had declared the existence of Atlantis! It was here!
He fell back upon the lounge to gather his thoughts. For a long while his dilated eyes swung from the magnificent handsomeness of the man to the dazzling radiance of the girl, the high priest's daughter. Atlantis! It was hard to convince himself that this really existed. These superb creatures! It was almost impossible, yet he didn't have to pinch himself to know that he was in the midst of the truth!
THEY fell into a conversation, the high priest and the man from the outer world. It was an effort on the part of both to acquaint themselves with each other's discrepancies of speech, yet they soon fell into a clear understanding. Already Mansfield was finding this man, and the girl who said not one word, but sat by gazing raptly at him, different from any possible conception he had ever had of ancient Egyptian high priests. Still, he said to Yuxa, he couldn't understand why a man of Atlantis spoke the tongue of a land which had existed long after the disappearance of their own race—a supposedly fictitious race.
But the high priest's eyes were concentrated upon him in a strange manner.
"Sir John Mansfield," he said simply, "the people of Atlantis honor you. For ages and ages we have hoped beyond hope that from the world above would come some messenger who would conquer the signs of Cheops, our father, and come to us. We have yearned for word from above. Never has it come."
The scientist creased his brow. If it had been possible for him to get in, it stood to reason one might get out.
"I don't understand."
Yuxa raised a bejeweled hand. "You are the conqueror of time. Since Cheops was blessed to descend to us, since the time he conceived the idea of constructing the Great God of Silence upon the burning waste of the desert and thus closing up the only entrance to this wonderful land here, since the period in which he inscribed the papyrus with the only means of entering Atlantis—it has been since then that we have stood by with the knowledge that at some time a brilliant mind would come to us.
"In reverence to our holy father, Cheops, we kept his wish that at no time should the mechanism which controlled the slits above be neglected. For this mechanism is the only medium which permits one to operate the above openings in the Great God. At the very first move of your knife, our plate showed that someone had read the manuscript and was coming down to us! The people of Atlantis have been standing long at the landing stage, waiting for you. There were times when we thought you had succumbed up there, unable to proceed—like that other happening long ago."
Mansfield's head was in a whir, but he couldn't displace the picture of that shriveled body boxed and snuffed out in the steps-passageway. The revelation that a mechanism controlled those entrances and that it was actuated by the men of Atlantis far beneath, dazed him. It seemed hardly realistic, too fantastic, yet he did not doubt the word of the high priest for a moment.
Yuxa was continuing: "We hail you, my man. Your wish is to be humbly obeyed by us."
The scientist was on the verge of putting his previous question to the man, concerning the strange language which should not have been a part of them, when there sounded a click and a portion of the wall slid back, revealing two huge docile blacks, who entered and bowed obsequiously, carrying large silver platters of steaming food. The sight of the savory dishes made Sir John's mouth water. The food was not familiar to him but the odor drifting from the vapory concoctions sent a permeating desire scurrying through his body. It had been long since he had partaken of food! Yuxa and the girl moved their chairs closer.
"Eat, my friend. We shall do likewise."
The Englishman fell to like a starved creature. The warmth of the first dish, a soggy but extremely delectable substance, touched the right spot within him and he hurried on to the next. He drank deeply from the tinted goblet, which contained an exotic, bluish liquid that burned like fire as it touched his tongue, but which drifted down his throat with the potency of an elixir. His famished body absorbed the food avariciously. Yuxa sat by, eating sparingly, appreciating the other's persistence.
"Tell me, Yuxa, why do you call Cheops 'the father'?"
The high priest gave him a solemn look. "It would give an insight into the history of our race. I shall explain it to you. Long ago, our people were many. We lived on the face of the earth and were content. History has brought down to us, however, that some cataclysmic transition was being undergone by the earth. Great crevices appeared, vast stretches of land fell away into profound valleys, and many of them did disappear altogether beneath the countenance of the mighty waters. During one of those transformations, practically our entire race was lost beneath the sea.
"We were a mighty race, the absolute ruler of both white and black. When this convulsion had subsided we were left with but a pitiable handful of what had once been civilization and power. And then this remnant of people gradually found itself being forced back into the inland of the continent, and where there had previously stood mighty cities there now appeared the gloomy wastes of burning sand. Nature was making up its mind, apparently, to conquer us once and for all time.
"The men, women and children were soon quartered upon the earth in a spot about where we are now, and as time went on it was becoming terrifyingly evident that the land was falling, the prodigious plentiful land which produced our every want and filled every need. And slowly from the west there rose toward us the terribly destructive sand! It crept closer and closer until it finally threatened to make our entombment but a matter of time. Something must be done, and that quickly!
"You will probably understand our scope when I say that at the time we had developed an intricate system of tunnels, which extended underneath the land in far reaches. There we harbored the recalcitrant blacks, the slaves, and the tunnels were operated by them. There was metal in plenty in the earth's bowels, varieties of rock and earth, which we had learned to segregate into elements and recompose for other uses. The blacks were trained in this work. It was really in the underground that our pulse of existence was contained.
"We finally faced the alternative of creating a habitat below or to allow ourselves to be picked off by the metamorphosis above. So, we rounded up colonies of blacks for workers, and created this mighty city here. Our men of learning realized, though, that we must at no time be close to the face of the earth. There were too many dangers is that.
"But there was left one spot through which we might at some time go forth. That was the one through which you came. After ages of life here we sent several men through it, and then came Cheops. You know, I presume, of that. He met our high priests and scientists, who welcomed him like a long lost brother. He taught us the science of his own race. We were greatly superior to him, however. Nevertheless, he gradually acquired the sovereignty of Atlantis, gave unto us his own religions, organized us into a unified whole. We even speak the language of the Egyptians; the tongue of ancient Atlantis is no more.
"Cheops pointed out to us the principle which existed on the earth—the survival of the fittest. He told us that the people above were constantly warring amongst themselves, that greed was predominant. It would never do for us to leave our dwellings here and go above again. And we were glad of his intervention.
"True, we have our own turbulences here, but they are solely between the whites and the blacks. And the highly developed mind of the white men of Atlantis can at all times cope with the black evil. We keep the black colony sectioned off by the man-eating matter; those who are our servants are completely docile. They are under our hand and will."
Sir John Mansfield masticated his food slowly, absorbing the words of the speaker. The explanation given by Yuxa held him. Being a scientist, he readily understood the drastic step which had, been forced upon the remaining people overtaken by the predatory sand. It seemed quite plausible. It fully explained the foundation for those legendary rumors of a continent buried beneath the Atlantic Ocean. It seemed highly probable, now that he pondered it, that a remnant of that race had survived for ages and had had been injected with the fact; but the years of assimilation with the other rising peoples had induced forgetfulness and had perfected the fact into a theory which gradually descended the ladder of time and became a full-grown myth, with no evidence to prove the statement.
THE knowledge of the actual existence of Atlantis left him cold. This civilized people had, then, been throbbing in full force and splendor, when, according to the debatable theological belief, man had started to crawl around in his heavenly garden upon earth! They had been infinitely superior thinkers, when the long-decayed civilizations had thought they were at the apex of their prime.
Suddenly a voice pervaded the entire room and Mansfield saw that Yuxa and Venia stiffened, their heads bowed in reverence.
The voice said: "Yuxa, the council of the men of learning and the priests are convened below to hear the story of our distinguished and honored guest, Sir John Mansfield. Pray take him hence!"
Long after the voice had died into nothingness did the two hold their heads lowered. Mansfield kept flashing his amazed eyes around the room for some explanation to this marvel. From the very walls this utterance had come.
Finally the high priest rose and donned a short cassock which fitted him snugly. He scanned the Englishman's face and stated:
"Ra has spoken!"
The stranger to the land shook his head to clear it. What was all this foolishness! Ra speaking? The very idea made him burst forth into an inward smile. Ra, the supreme deity, speaking from his heavenly throne! Ha! He shook his head that such highly intelligent men might be hoodwinked as this!
But Mansfield kept his face free from his thoughts. He understood now that he was being regarded highly by these men; it wouldn't do to tread upon their beliefs from the very first. He would be frowned upon, suspicion would be directed upon him. And he was already beginning to like this friendly and honest soul that was Yuxa. He told himself somewhat abashedly that if he kept glancing any more at that incredible goddess near him, he might be subjected to the base ignominy of an eye-strain and that, positively, wouldn't do. He needed his eyes now in the greatest happenings of his life, one of the foremost discoveries of all time. He must refrain from eying the graceful figure who was possessed of an artistic superbness that was brilliantly unearthly.
"Come," ordered the high priest. "We go!"
THEY proceeded toward the wall, and Mansfield gazed questioningly as he saw Yuxa stalk straight at the doorless obstruction. Just as he reached it a panel slid back and a large opening appeared. The Englishman halted in astonishment at the apparent miracle and Yuxa, looking back, quickly understood. He laughed and beckoned him closer, pointing to a small colored niche in the wall. He bent over and stretched a thin elastic covering which lay over a small bulb. It was yellowish and flashed brilliantly.
"Every room is like that, Sir John Mansfield. All the corridors are too. When you perceive the niche and walk straight at it, the emanating waves from your physical body are picked up by this supersensitive globe. It controls the intricate mechanism which unlocks the hidden panel. Kneel over and I shall show you.... Ordinarily, it is of dull yellow color. But our bodies are so close that it is operating up to its capacity."
It was stupendous, thought the scientist. The photoelectric cell acted in similar fashion, dependent upon emanating waves. Their very knowledge of it raised his esteem of them immeasurably. They were truly a modern people.
The upper portion of the temple, which the trio were now vacating, shaped up as a gorgeous outfitting of religious designs and garbs. Mansfield found himself going through resplendent interiors one after another. Individually, they were the shrines of the gods which were worshipped devoutly.
The most superbly fitted was the chamber of Ra. At one end was a golden throne of fine carving, next to an altar; the high priest informed Sir John that it was for the eternal repose of the greatest of all divine beings, always occupied by Ra.
"Never," stated the tall blonde man reverently, "has anyone ever seated himself in the throne. Ra, may he ever look upon us with a benign eye, sits there forever and ever."
In rapid succession followed the chamber of Osiris, with an immense effigy of an ox suspended over the altar; of Isis, who had originally been the goddess of the earth but later was enthroned upon a lunar heaven; the room of the god Canopus, with the four corners submerged in water; of Aelurus, the Egyptian deity, who had originally been a gorgeous Diana, but to be unmolested by the giants had transformed herself into a cat.
All of these figures Mansfield recognized with a glowing heart. His archaeological findings had brought him face to face with many of them; scientific lore had given him a clear depiction of all of them.
Well did he realize what this meant, from the standpoint of knowledge! Never had he or any other living person stood in chambers of worship real as this! It was with reluctance that he left them behind.
THERE was one, however, which held him a while, suffusing him with strength and power, as he gazed upon its massive import. It was the covenant of Chou; in the Egyptian category he corresponded to the Roman Hercules. An immense figure of stone stood in the middle of the room. On it was inscribed a prayer form. Sir John Mansfield gazed at it covetously, but a nudge at his elbow made him continue on his way.
He walked steadily downward to the council room, his brow furrowed in thought. The honor of being permitted residence in the temple of the gods was something out of the ordinary. Only the high priests were afforded entry into the shrines. That he had been taken above here showed the respect they had for him.
Atlantis! It kept ringing through his brain without cease! He had discovered the lost race—and found a people worshipping deities absolutely foreign to them. Atlantis men and women who prayed to Egyptian gods! What power that fellow Cheops had! To rule over a people far above his own in intellect. How had he done it?
He thought they were never going to stop going downward, when he came out of his muse. He raised his head to find himself in an immense room flooded with light and replete with humanity At the sight of him, voices broke into a din that was deafening. He blinked to relieve the strain of the brilliance.
Around the hall were seated many men. In the middle of the room was a large table around which squatted more. Yuxa moved to the head of the gathering, beckoned Mansfield to him. Gradually a stillness dropped upon the audience.
For the first time Mansfield had an excellent view and study of the men of Atlantis. It was a peculiar thing, he noticed how they all seemed alike in their handsomeness and physique; tall bodies of powerful construction; physiognomies sculptured of magnificent animate material. The assemblage of men was enough to make him intake his breath sharply.
He heard Yuxa talking, paying tribute to him. And then, after a while, he found himself on his feet speaking slowly, trying to find himself in words. His eyes were roaming on the eager rapt faces. They wanted to know everything! And he started in to give it to them.
But like a thunderclap every head dropped. Mansfield, standing alone, heard a profoundly raucous voice break upon them.
"Arise! Men of Atlantis! The blacks have risen!"
Again that same voice! What potency had it that made everybody's head bow to his breast so awedly? Yuxa had told him that Ra spoke thus from his eternal resting place. The Englishman wondered.
BUT the next instant, as the tone had died away, every man was on his feet. The blacks had risen! The white men were pouring out in a mass, and Mansfield found that Yuxa was leading him out by the elbow, through the door by which he had entered. With Venia on his heels, the high priest ran upward into the temple. He pattered quickly after them.
"The blacks again!" snapped the high priest. "They must be subdued!"
Flitting after Yuxa was in itself an arduous task. He whirled on like a mad-man. Presently Mansfield found himself in a small chamber. Yuxa ran quickly to the wall and pressed something. Instantly a large section slid back and before them stretched an open vista of an illuminated country. It was the city of Atlantis!
Mansfield ran to it and peered out. Far beyond he saw a crazy twinkling of lights. From all the houses men were dodging in and out. They were carrying small cylinders in their hands, speeding toward that mad flickering of yellowish green lights. Yuxa brushed by him, holding, too, one of the weapons with which all of the men below were armed.
Closer and closer came the flashes, until Mansfield soon visioned a large mass of black men steadily forging onward. With a grumble, Yuxa tossed the cylinder from him and ran out. In a few moments he was back again, rolling a large machine quickly before him. He kicked the cylinder out of the way and centered the large thing out over the city, then turned its nozzle down upon the mass of men below.
The fighting was fierce now. He heard Venia ask her parent: "How did the blacks get so many cylinders?"
The high priest shrugged his shoulders. His blue eyes were gazing steadfastly at the struggle. The mass of men was coming closer with each ensuing moment. Mansfield saw beneath him huge blacks, Nubian in physique. He had seen two of them earlier, when they had brought into the chamber the food, but they had possessed docile faces. Those below were brutal-appearing in every respect. They smacked of evil and were of savage aspect.
Mansfield perceived a strange thing about the battle. All of the whites were armed with cylinders. But only a few of the blacks were possessors of the same, the rest toting long glistening knives and metallic clubs.
From his vantage point he asked himself whether this was a childish prank of some sort The whites were shooting rays at the blacks without apparent effect the blacks were mowing down their foe with slashing blacks and felling dubs! It looked a massacre and his eyes popped. The advantage was all with the invaders. That ray business was no good at all! What was this foolishness?
YUXA clicked a lever, and from the mouth of the machine there spewed forth the same yellow-green spray, but it had wide latitude. It gathered in the entire mass of fighting men.
"It's all over now," the high priest said calmly. "Those simple-headed fellows do not realize that they have no chance. All the time they attack against one-sided odds. It is foolish of them."
But the Englishman was watching closely. And it was far from being over! The two bodies of men were one whirlpool of seething humanity, the whites sending their constant rays into their attackers without damage, the blacks with their few shafts doing the same. It was the wielding of those large blades and clubs which wreaked the greatest toll. The whites were falling, slashed and bleeding, the blacks hardly injured. It was very evident, in the face of this, that the battle wouldn't last long.
MANSFIELD whirled on the high priest. "It is terrible! Why don't you stop the slaughter? Look! The whites are being driven back. The clubs and knives are knocking them to pieces!"
The high priest didn't move from the scene. He pointed. "Look!"
And Sir John did look. The thing was turning into a rout, a farce. The blacks were falling in great numbers; and nothing seemed to have struck them! All down the line they were dropping heavily to the ground. Those in the rear instantly gave up and retreated with a celerity that lost them to view soon. The Englishman stood and gaped at the sudden change of affairs.
"What—what was that?" he demanded in wonder. "They—they weren't even touched!"
Yuxa laughed. "The rays! Paralyzed the blacks! Paralyzed the whites! Paralyzed everyone!"
It was true. The men of Atlantis were falling, white and black. What was this? Did these men have to kill off their own just to bring down the foe? It looked ridiculous.
The high priest must have understood the other's quandary. He smiled.
"They are paralysed but not injured. All will be brought back to life very soon. Our men will be going about their duties shortly, the blacks will be quartered."
Mansfield stared over the edge of the temple and saw that already large groups of whites were beginning to clear away the many men lying prone on the ground. Within a brief space of time the earth was clear of bodies, and had not one seen with his own eyes that battle he would never have thought that a conflict had been staged.
The high priest snapped the weapon shut and rolled it away. Mansfield glanced around and saw that Venia was gone too. The scientist leaned on the parapet in thought. But he got no time for meditation, for Yuxa appeared again.
"The black invaders are a strange type, Sir John. Curiously enough. There is a large colony of them beyond the man-eating matter. It keeps them incarcerated. Nothing can conquer that grayish matter—save one thing. And that is a certain emanation. It devours everything else.
"But the blacks managed to secure those rays, and thus get through the man-eating wall. The blacks which we have here with us are vastly superior to the belligerent ones you just saw. Of course, they were all alike once, but through a process which I shall show you later, we subjugate them for our needs. But there are some blacks who for some reason or other fail to react properly to our treatment and it is these we have to contend with. They discover where our rays are hidden and manage to get them out to their brethren. But they are really foolish. They cannot defeat us, much as their greedy natures would desire that."
"Why don't you clean them out once and for all time?" Mansfield inquired. "It would save you all this worry and trouble."
"They are harmless. We could wipe them out for good. But we don't want to. While they abound in their natural grounds we can learn their habits and study their minds. Their brains are an open book to us. We simply endure their tendencies, even to our occasional disadvantage."
The high priest wiped his brow.
Though his mien had at no time showed acute trouble, Mansfield saw that the problem of the blacks was a source of displeasure to him. It was he who stood at the head of his people, and it was to him that they looked in time of danger.
Sir John asked, "How about those who are severely wounded?"
Yuxa gazed at him. "They are easily repaired. It is only those who receive a deadly blow that we can do nothing for. You will see."
And again, as they stood there, there came to them that voice! It was by now rasping upon Mansfield's nerves, though the high priest, with his customary awe dropped his head.
"The dungeons are ready, Yuxa, The blacks are ready to be transformed. Proceed!"
The Englishman's narrowed eyes probed every corner of the room. The dead-sounding tone spoke through the walls, everywhere! But his prying glances found no opening. Nothing!
What mysticism was this that spoke in any room, though the very walls, that received reverent obeyance? Yuxa had calmly said that Ra spoke! But that was utterly too ludicrous to believe, though he wanted earnestly to believe this honest-faced man, the high priest of Atlantis. He scoffed at the idea that it was a heavenly voice. It was ridiculous!
That Yuxa bad nothing to do with this deception was dear, Mansfield saw. It would take more than that to make him humble himself like this at some trickery he was aware of. Yuxa had told him that this same voice had spoken down through the ages to every generation of Atlantis, from the day Cheops had died! There was something ominous about this! And the more Mansfield thought of it, the less he could understand it. Being a twentieth-century scientist he longed avidly to hound this mystery to its source. But being, also, an honored personage in this holy temple of the gods he realized, too, that it did not give him reason to misapply their trust in him.
Yuxa strode to the panel. "Come, Sir John."
THROUGH a labyrinth of corridors they went, to pause before a large rectangular glass. The high priest pressed a projection on the wall and the glass suddenly became animate. A stationary picture flashed into view, and after a glance at it Yuxa pressed again and a sectional panel glided back noiselessly.
Mansfield perceived a large platform which led out over a ten or twelve foot drop. They went on it and the opening slid back behind them. Yuxa led him to the end of the stage and he saw a large cylinder that seemed to be some sort of vehicle. Up ahead, situated every fifty feet or so, were large circular rings of metal braced on stout pillars which were rooted firmly in the ground. Far down the lighted tunnel those circular rings appeared at regular intervals.
THEY entered the car and the high priest approached a large bulb, similar to the one which activated the hidden panel, and turned a switch. Then he waved his hand over the reddening ball. In a flash the car whizzed away. It sped speedily through the suspended circles, which Yuxa explained as magnets operated by the bulb. It was more ingenuity of the Atlantis mind.
The speed of the magnetic car was tremendous as it whirled through the giant rings. At one time, the vehicle suddenly came to an easy stop, and Mansfield saw through the glass partitions that they had reached an intersection and that another vehicle was whirring by. And in the next instant they were continuing their journey downward.
Along the brilliantly lighted walls there appeared occasionally large stretches of transparent glass which showed subterranean chambers, and several times many men were to be seen at work there. Soon they were passing chamber upon chamber and slowing down. The car gradually came to a stop and Yuxa moved toward the entrance.
A large portion of the wall of glass now showed a jumble of men. Mansfield went, through the panel and found himself in a huge underground, cave-like interior which had dozens of illuminated entrances, through which men were entering and leaving.
But what absorbed his interest was the number of surly blacks who were crouched, shackled against the walls. It was the dungeon which harbored the captured men. And lying upon the floor were many whites who had just been released from the paralyzing ray of the counter- and antidotal emanation. They were lounging around, gathering once more their strength, watching haphazardly the proceedings which were about to begin.
At the entrance of the high priest and Sir John Mansfield, the hubbub subsided. Yuxa paced the vast hall, Mansfield following upon his footsteps. The high priest gazed occasionally at some feature of a black who was fastened securely in chains, then strode on.
Yuxa addressed a man similarly garbed as was he, a youngish appearing fellow.
"Kodro, are they all here?"
He nodded. "All the blacks are here. Those who are injured are in the individual chambers awaiting your leisure."
A large group of men gathered around them. Many straightened up and left hurriedly for other parts. Yuxa started at the nearest black.
At the silence which ensued among the whites, there rose from the captured throats a vicious and malevolent abuse, to which no attention was paid. The whitish pupils of their dark eyes were shot with imprecations, their thick voluptuous jowls slobbered with anathema. Their ham-like hands clenched and unclenched with a spasmodic desire to tear and rend.
Yuxa moved hesitatingly by each one, eying every attractive feature which might be made use of. Mansfield noted curiously that he paid no attention to brute strength. It seemed that the high priest was trying to segregate those with some human nature in their physical construction.
AT a gesture of the high priest a white would focus his cylinder upon the fellow, until he slumped unconscious in his fetters; then two others would lift him to their shoulders and carry him out.
Those who were passed by raised a bedlam of menacing snarls.
It took several hours for Yuxa to make the entire round of the chamber. More than fifty likable prospects had been saturated with the devitalizing ray and had been taken forth. The high priest nodded almost imperceptibly to Kodro, then turned to Mansfield.
"Now you shall see how we do away with these creatures. It is the most humane passing for them. They are too base for our needs and will be better off where they are going."
There came through the portal at the far end a large contraption on wheels, with Kodro moving actively about it directing its slow progress. The crate-like construction was shining with a bluish light from the outside and the men steered it with the utmost care into the middle of the room. A hush came over the blacks as they viewed it.
Mansfield could not make out the contours of the thing; the strange creamy azure effulgence lay over it all. The captives' eyes were shot with terror. They knew what that object was that stood near them. Gone was their struggling; spent was their smoldering hatred; present was a terrifying palsy that wracked their brawny bodies.
A white reached up and unlocked a side of the big box on wheels, and with the release of the heavy door slid out the bluish light, clinging, however, to the opening as it swung. There, staring out from the center was something grayish which bubbled seethingly.
The deathly silence was split as the blacks renewed their fury, putting forth their utmost strength in an endeavor to release themselves from the links. The sight of that grayish matter had imbued them with a ferocious, maddening frenzy; they shrilled ear-splittingly, rolling their blood-shot orbs insanely.
Yuxa moved down and pointed at one. "He!" said the High Priest;
The huge negro was suddenly set upon by a half-dozen whites and loosened from his fetters. He fought with utter abandon to free himself of the many hands which held him safely, cried, begged, wheedled. He twisted and contorted his body. The whites lunged toward the thing on wheels, lugging their load of human flesh, and bracing themselves before the aperture they heaved him directly into the grayish matter. An unearthly cry burst from him as he slopped into it.
Mansfield, unnerved by the procedure, stared at the sight of the black body plopping into the stuff. The head and the right arm struck first, sticking in it like glue. The gray matter started to spread over, covering him up, and slowly there began before Mansfield's eyes the complete dissolution of the black body.
The matter ate him up as it burbled over him and in a short while there was nothing left in view other than a black shank. In a moment it too was gone. The drab essence kept reaching out reflexively for more, unsatiated.
SO this was the man-eating matter? What a demoniacal means of eradication, Mansfield shuddered. What could that stuff be, anyway? It looked like some sort of malignant animal matter. He fell back from the thought of putting that through a microscopic study.
As he watched, he noticed that the thing was starting to creep from its shallow depository in the crate on wheels. Kodro slammed shut the door with the bluish emanation. After a short respite he opened it again, revealing the settled organism huddled in the center.
The blacks were glaring at each other, vividly aware of their own impending fate. And they knew that nothing could help them now.
Yuxa said to Mansfield, "The man-eating matter is the only thing that cowers these brutes. There is a ribbon of this stuff separating the black colony from the white. It is controlled by fixed rays of this bluish light. The blacks cannot get out unless they secure cylinders of this ray, which they often do."
"But what is that awful thing?" the Englishman persisted.
"In some ways it has been a good thing for us, Sir John. I don't know what it is. Aeons ago, our scientists, were experimenting with animal cells and thought they had struck the creation of life. They concocted a large amount of the matter and settled down to wait for the outcome. They had visions of creating man—-imagine that! You can easily wonder, now that you've seen it work, why it was that the whole land wasn't eaten up. The matter started in to devour everything after a while. If it hadn't been for the fortunate discovery of this repellent ray, life would have succumbed here. It is the only thing which keeps it in check."
The process of eliminating the blacks was continued, but Mansfield turned from the sight with a shudder and strolled absently toward a lighted portal. This was getting him upset; it rasped on his sense of fairness. But these men knew what they were doing. It wasn't often that such a potent weapon was at hand with which to fight the foe. The whites were not to be condemned for the practise.
The strange feature of that thing was its unquenchable hunger. It took body after body into its grisly, inhuman mouth, enough in quantity to displace its own mass. Yet it didn't seem to get any larger or smaller. Its convulsive motion kept calling for more and more! Gray, hideous matter° Good lord! Another shudder shook him.
He was glad he had left the vast dungeon behind, now that he was strolling down the lighted tunnel. He couldn't stand the sight of the thing. Men were moving about constantly. They went by him bowing respectfully. His movements were free from surveillance. He was one of them, a high member.
The scientist warmed at their reception and acceptance. And he began to look at them clearly. It wasn't a recalcitrant gesture or revenge that prompted them to do away with the captured Nubian creatures. It was only that they wanted freedom for the proper outlet of their own cultured expressions. The blacks were a constant thorn in their sides.
And Yuxa was a splendid fellow. He hadn't at any time forced upon him a command of any sort. The high priest realized the difference that might exist between his people and those up above; he was lucid-minded enough to let him follow his own inclination. People down here didn't eye everybody else with suspicion. They lived like one vast family in contentment and harmony.
AND then there was Venia—He wondered where she had gone from that upper room in the temple, during the imbroglio. Well, he'd soon get a chance to get amongst the dwellings of the whites and become friendly with the people. He could study their habits, their likes and dislikes, see what sort of family Life was being lived.
He was thus draped in thought when his eye halted at an entrance into a small chamber. There were many bodies of white men there, slashed and clubbed, unconsciously recumbent upon slabs of rock. Around them were several handsome men chatting. At the sight of him they rose instantly.
Mansfield nodded to them and entered. He surveyed the injured men. Several, he noticed, were in critical condition. Nothing was being done to them.
"Why are they permitted to lie like this? They will die."
"No, Sir John," one man said. "They will not die. Those large bulbs overhead are spraying their mangled bodies with a light that keeps the wounds from making any progress, from deteriorating. We await only Yuxa. They will be on their feet in a short while."
Mansfield gazed at one body with astonishment. A man's whole chest was laid open. He could even see the aorta leading to the heart.
"He will die!"
The white shook his head with a smile. "No. It is not fatal."
He sat down and rested himself on a stone bench, shaking his head in puzzlement. This would be interesting to watch. If they ever patched up that fellow, or all of these men, they were master-minds.
Presently the high priest strode in and his eyes lit up with pleasure as he saw Mansfield.
"Thought I had lost you, Sir John."
Immediately the men about him began straightening up the man on the slab, nearest to the door. His head had been slashed from brow clear to the back; skull was clearly fractured. Yuxa and another tall man with him scanned the injury carefully.
Against the wall was a case in which were many strange types of instruments of surgery. From the ceiling fell a whole array of bulbs of many designs. The tall man reached up and brought down a tube which he snapped on. It buzzed with consistency, as a dazzling white light sped from a small hole in the center. The thin beam was allowed to play upon the cloven skull, while Yuxa busied himself with the instruments.
He selected a sharp one, obviously a scalpel, and, unmindful of the noisy ray which was playing upon the fracture, cut loose all shredded flesh and bone. At one place, Mansfield saw that there was at least a half-inch of brain matter open to view. The high priest, with sure and experienced hands, removed all foreign matter from the wound. The steady gush of the ray held by the tall man flowed into the injured place. What it did, the Englishman couldn't perceive, but he did remark that not one drop of blood had been shed in the operation.
When Yuxa had finished his work of delicacy, he straightened up. Another bulb was brought down. It was oblong in shape, with a long handle from its base. The lengthy stem was fitted into a groove at the head of the slab and turned on. From its ugly mouth there issued a deep red which suffused the entire head of the unconscious man.
Mansfield bent closely to watch the effect upon the open cranium. Slowly, ever so slowly, just as though a new growth was being manufactured, the two edges of bone were coming together. An astounded exclamation sprang from him. It was incredible, unbelievable! His eyes were upon the wound, searching for some tell-tale evidence that a cavity had been there, long after the hole had been covered up. But there was nothing, absolutely nothing. The skin and bone had come together and the head was as normal as his!
He stood up, eyes glistening. What miraculous craft lay here! What superhuman beings these men were! Think of it! This would have been a fatal case upon the earth; surgery such as this had never been seen. And it was the rays—rays—rays! The men of Atlantis were literally composed of rays!
YUXA was at another table working. The tall man came back and surveyed the head. He nodded to himself, snapped off the rays, took out yet another bulb and flashed it into life. It was the antidote to the paralyzing emanation, for the large frame of the reclining man went through a shudder, his muscles flexing and re- flexing. Presently his eyes opened. He stared around him, sat up with a jerk.
In a jiffy he was off the slab and walking around, smiling. Just like that! It was almost uncanny!
Nobody paid any attention to him; on earth the fact would have been spread to every corner of the world. The high priest didn't even lift his head from the mangled leg he was working upon. And then Mansfield saw that body whose chest had been laid open. While he had been gasping over the repaired head, Yuxa had finished the man and gone on. He stared at the chest in wonder. The reddish ray was spraying it. There wasn't anything there which would have pointed to a former wound!
Sir John Mansfield went from table to table as in a dream. Soon the slabs were becoming empty and live, healthy humans were filling up the room. When the last man had bounded from the slab and stretched his arras, he turned to the high priest. But Yuxa said, preoccupiedly: "Now for the blacks!"
THE chamber wherein the blacks were secluded was a more tempestuous place. Dozens upon dozens of men were entering and leaving. All around the walls were limp forms of the blacks who had been picked from the captured group. They were still under the influence of the paralyzing ray, save for a half dozen or so in one corner who, for some reason, had not been subjected to the unconscious state. These set up a noise which almost deafened Mansfield.
There was a large table directly in the middle of the room. Toward it hastened the high priest. Arranged upon a small slab was a neat row of more instruments. Already there reposed upon the table a gently breathing figure of a black. Somehow, in his sleep the fellow didn't appear so vicious and wicked. There was a somnolence in his features.
A liquid from a flask was poured upon his hairy head, and as the whitish, buzzing bulb sprayed upon the skull, every hair came off like a peeled skin, leaving the flesh bare for operation.
"I'll explain the method," Yuxa said to Mansfield. "We discovered through minute study of the brain that every lobe is there for some purpose. In one there is contained the factor which controls the working of nerve coordination, in another is sorrow and so forth. There is a certain group which caters to emotion. In the operation which I am about to perform you will notice that I remove but a small portion of one of the lobes. It is one of the group of emotions; one which reacts to hatred, revenge, lust and so on. It is that essence of discontent which must be withdrawn before the black can be of use to us. Now watch."
It happened so fast that the scientist barely got a view of what the high priest did. The scalpel made one quick incision into the bone which was like soft putty under the ray. The deft fingers laid bade the ends of the flesh and bone; not one drop of blood was evident.
With another slender instrument of the type of scissors, he delved into the narrow aperture and with a quick movement flicked out a piece of whitish matter that was no larger than the shred of a finger-nail Again he did this. Then, with expedition the reddish light focused itself upon the wound. A new flesh and bone coated over the severed lobe.
"It is simple," continued Yuxa. "The sections which compose the brain are, after all, but fountains from which arise every emotion or basic action of the human body. Why shouldn't we strike at the source always, instead of prowling ineffectually in case of need? This fellow, from now on, will retain every sense which he had hitherto been subject to, but when it comes to the display of those negative features which I mentioned, he will not take part."
"The bloodlessness!" cried Mansfield. "How do you accomplish that?"
"That is controlled by the absorption rays, which that beam of buzzing light produces. It sutures every incision instantly, softens all bone and flesh immediately for the path of the knife. The blood vessels are not tampered with. It also controls the temperature of the body, keeping it in normal state always. The red ray here creates a rapid growth of superficial flesh which will suffice adequately, until the natural process brings about a full recovery. At no time is there any danger or discomfiture to the patient."
The black's respiratory organs were rising and falling steadily. He was released from his cataleptic stage and his eyes fluttered open. Yuxa shut off the rays. "Just watch his actions."
The black bolted upright, grinned sheepishly at the men around him. He dropped off the table and gazed inquiringly at the men chained to the walls. Presently he strolled over to the few black men who were conscious and talked to them. Their reception of him was a fiery and blasphemous curse upon his head. He had desecrated his blackdom. But he was indifferent to that. Casually he spoke to them of their incarceration: everything seemed to be perfectly normal to him.
It was at that moment that a huge negro, tugging violently at his chains, succeeded in breaking loose. For a moment the actual freedom dazed him. Then, with a tremendous cry issuing from his lungs, he leaped through the air, his writhing, post-like arms tensed for the unwary figure of the high priest. Down upon him he came!
THE place was in an uproar. The whites stared at this instantaneous occurrence, rooted immovably even when the snaky fingers of the prisoner sunk into Yuxa's neck in an attempt to tear his jugular from his throat. The high priest, taken at such a terrific disadvantage, was pawing the air, his legs sliding from under him. His head was being forced back and his eyes were distended.
With an unconscious gesture, Mansfield's hand shot downward to his hip; with the same motion his revolver flicked out and he fired! Since he had entered Atlantis, the presence of that weapon had almost been forgotten. It was only when his hand brushed by it, that he was cognizant of its contact with his hip. But now—now he was thankful that he had had the foresight to equip himself with it.
The massive black, his insane eyes glued murderously upon his victim, suddenly relaxed as blood gushed from his head. He released Yuxa, who tottered with hand clutching his bruised throat. The black fell forward upon his face.
The sound of the exploding gun reverberated throughout the room and everyone suddenly stopped dead in their tracks, frozen with surprise at the sight of such a deed suddenly done, a body sprawled upon the floor. They whirled with mouths agape to stare at this stranger to Atlantis, holding his hand over a stick which spat death.
THE high priest came slowly toward Mansfield, eyeing him intently, and looking at the weapon.
"What power you hold in your hand, my man! You have saved me from a beastly finish... I have often wondered what that was which clung to your mid-body. May the gods preserve you!" A deep sigh fell from his lips.
And with that he came to the stranger and encircled his shoulders with a quivering arm; an absolute act of brotherhood. The high priest looked at his fellow-men and bowed; they nodded in silent respect.
Mansfield felt somewhat foolish standing there with the gun, and having the men bow before him. He knew that they weren't paying tribute to his magic. It was only their Utopian spirit which spoke at the saving of their leader. Their eyes were suffused with affection; comradely worship. He slipped the gun back into the holster.
Later, when the work was finished in the dungeons and he was taken back to the chamber where the men of learning and the priests were convened again, he had to show them what power really was contained in his "noise-stick." He had to explain powder, the mystery of how the steel-jacketed bullet was expelled through the medium of the gases formed by the decomposition of the same powder. He took a stand away from a wall and shot once at it. Then he held aloft the retrieved misshapen bullet, passed it around for all to see. And it was clear that they understood him. This new-fangled thing wasn't beyond their receptiveness.
Mansfield enlarged upon the daily existence of the races upon the earth, and they sat by with studious quietude. There was no greed or conquest in their gaze, nor envy of any superiority which might exist. Rather, they beamed upon learning that a civilized people existed, and not a bestial people like their own blacks.
One scientist arose and desired to know whether it might be possible for the men of Atlantis to be received cordially and without malice upon the earth.
Sir John Mansfield's face warmed. "You will be the greatest guests man has ever received. Your accomplishments are of a high order, and with your capacity to absorb there is no reason for your not acclimating yourselves immediately."
That brought a shattering din. They clapped and pounded. Then they wanted to know, was he a disciple of their gods? Did all the people above recognize Ra as their supreme being?
"No," replied Mansfield calmly. And he went into a dissertation of the types of worship engaged in. Even with that there was no abatement of the elation which had electrified them. They had been secluded underground for thousands of years, and to change their abode to a more advantageous place was something that thrilled them immensely.
The cheering and yelling was snapped off like a breath. A raucous voice burst in upon them. There was a harshness in the intonation, an admonition.
"People of Atlantis! Ra has heard the tale of the stranger. He has received the enthusiasm the white men have for a new home. Listen closely, my children. Ra does not doubt for one moment the truth as stated by the courageous Sir John Mansfield, but Ra is the supreme being of the universe. And Ra does not wish that his children leave the land of their own making! You shall not go forth! Ra has spoken!"
The voice! That infernal thing! Mansfield stood at the table and observed how a thrilling sensation could be nipped in the bud. The faces which were bowed now rose from the breasts, the countenances impassive. It was a simple matter to see that they accepted Ra and his word as final.
MORE than ever now did the Englishman long for some clue which would dislodge that voice. He yearned to hound it from its lair. Ra! Tomfoolery! Rot! There was no such thing. Someone was making high pleasure of these splendid men of Atlantis! Someone—but Good Heavens! that someone had spoken to these people's ancestors for millenniums! What was it that possessed such a supernatural power to speak through the walls, through the very passing of time?
It was a genuine puzzle to the scientist. One moment his brow creased with scorn; the next he was ready to admit that he was wrong in his supposition. If only he could find whence that voice came? But the very walls were nonproductive. They told not of the secret!
And the whites accepted it without query. They submitted to everything it said with a finality that Mansfield found overbearing.
"Ra guides our fate," Yuxa said with awe. "He is our supreme deity, cares for us from the heaven! He does not wish us to leave here. That is definitely settled."
There was utter faith in his statement, in his calm eyes. And then things began to happen!
OUR hero is now in the traditional land of Atlantis; an old, old story of ancient days opens for us in the second installment of this narration. The interest of the story rises after the introduction, as we may call, it of the first chapters. We are sure that it will hold our readers' attention and prepare them for the interesting finale which will appear in the third and last installment.
EL KASR was one of those ancient spots on the face of the earth which always held Sir John Mansfield, greatest living archaeologist and Egyptologist, spellbound. A native, Horda, who had worked with Sir John in the Libyan desert excavations five years previous, meets him and begs money for whisky for his white derelict master in exchange for a very old manuscript which he claims is genuine. In his room, Mansfield carefully studies the hieroglyphics and, after submitting the manuscript to every known test, is certain the document is genuine. It was written about 2800-2700 B.C. and by no other person than the great Egyptian king, Cheops, himself. After hours of study, Mansfield has the following data: Beneath the giant statue of a reposing body of an animal with a human head is the only entrance to Atlantis. With the further instructions in the manuscript indelibly printed on his mind, Sir John starts out for the great Sphinx. After many disheartening attempts to find an elusive spring given in the record, and governing the opening of the secret panel, he disgustedly smashes the supposed spot and the panel slowly opens. He dashes into the opening just as the panel starts to close, without realizing his sealed fate. Once inside, however, his torch beam falls upon the inscribed walls and he forgets everything else. The stones are covered with the history of Egypt up to the time of Cheops. The need of fresh air and of water leads Sir John down a dark passage which ends abruptly in a hole ten feet square, almost sending him into the pit. Following instructions inscribed on the wall, he plunges his knife blade into a slit in the wall and the void becomes completely closed up. Standing on the platform, Sir John pulls the blade from the wall and immediately the stage drops at a terrific speed, throwing him to the floor and knocking him unconscious.
Some time later, Sir John opens his eyes and Yuxa, High Priest of the Whites of Atlantis, speaks to him in the ancient Egyptian tongue and explains all that has happened to the people of Atlantis and also how they had followed Sir John's movements from the time he entered the Sphinx. Yuxa's daughter, Venia, is also present. After being fed and somewhat rested, Sir John is taken to the Council chambers, where he tells the people of Atlantis about the civilization on the surface of the earth. In the middle of the talk a voice is beard saying, "The Blacks have arisen." The Blacks are the slaves of the white people of Atlantis. The battle that ensues is a very peculiar one, being fought entirely with paralyzing rays, as far as the Whites are concerned, but the Blacks use clubs and knives. The science of surgery has progressed in Atlantis far in advance of anything known on the surface of the earth, so wounds are easily healed. The Blacks are finally subdued, and the Whites who have been fatally wounded, in Sir John's opinion, are treated with rays and are soon walking around again as if nothing had happened to them. And then things begin to happen.
DOWN the aisle sped the tall figure of Kodro, his arms gesticulating wildly.
"Venia! Venia has been taken!"
Yuxa stood stock-still at the announcement, his face masked.
"What are you talking about, man?" he demanded harshly.
"The blacks!" cried the young man. "The outpost has just reported that a group of blacks have crossed the man-eating line with a girl. It was Venia, How she was captured they can't tell."
The news was startling. Mansfield felt a tremor pass through his body. Venia taken by those bestial creatures!
The thought was horrifying. Such a young and refreshing body in the clutches of a horde of brutes was enough to make the man shudder! He remembered distinctly now that the girl hadn't been in view at the finish of the battle between the two bodies of men. The observation had clicked in his brain at the time; now it took on alarming proportions. Sometime during the hectic melee she had either gone from the room and had been seized by the blacks, or else a black had stolen up into the temple and had carried her off from under their very eyes. The former seemed more probable, though. He glanced at the high priest.
Yuxa was uncontrollable. Seldom had Mansfield seen any man tike this. A virulent display of emotion that seemed to rise deep from within him drained his ashy countenance.
"Drop everything!" ordered the high priest with a snap. "She must be saved from the wretches."
HIS voice faltered. But the men were on their way already. Mansfield hustled out with them. Surely, it seemed to him, there was a purpose in capturing the girl Taking tier life, in compensation for the number of their own who were done away with, didn't sound plausible, even though revenge was highly dominant in Ike black mind. It was more likely, he thought, she would be kept as a hostage. She was the daughter of the high priest. And they had made a specific effort to get only her. There would have been little trouble, compared to getting into the temple and capturing Venia, to have secured other white women; but, no, they had gone after the beautiful blonde-hatred girl.
"The outpost," stated Kodro in anguish, "says that a large number of blacks covered the girl as they carried her across. Many of them were killed, but they succeeded in getting her through. Our men couldn't break into their defense."
Naturally, all work was disrupted. Yuxa kept his thoughts now to himself. It might have been that he was fearful of trusting his voice out loud. And Mansfield readily read him. He possessed an intense devotion for his offspring. His eyes tried to keep out that hideous expression of horror—what might happen to his daughter!
And Mansfield found that those shudders which were prickling his back and "needling" the base of his brain held him in an awful grasp. He found himself issuing into prayer: "God! Let nothing happen to the poor girl!"
Already the news had spread throughout the city and preparations were being made. Scores and scores of men were pouring out into the open streets and thoroughfares. Yuxa leaped among them, raising his hand.
"My brothers, this has reached the climax! The men of Atlantis have tolerated the black race since the beginning of time. We have stood for their periodical displays, overlooking their brutal natures, even trying to make respectable men out of them. They are coarsely ungrateful! Now.... This is the time they shall suffer. From this moment on they shall all be rounded up and subjected to the brain dissection! If they resist, kill!"
He hadn't spoken or mentioned Venia's name. He didn't have to. Mansfield saw how the capture of the girl had upset all of them. To them, the daughter of the high priest was as sacred as her sire.
One man exclaimed: "An entire chamber of cylinders has been looted. A group of blacks overpowered the guards during the main fight and made off with them. It will be no easy matter. They will fight beyond the man-eating line—"
Yuxa's eyes were electric sparks. "We shall cross! Every white man will lay down his life to wipe out the black evil!"
It was now that Mansfield received his initiation into their efficiency. Into units they divided, nothing like the untidy mass of men who had met the oncoming blacks. Each unit had as its head either a priest or man of science, the latter distinguished by a sparkling metallic tiara around the head. It was decided that the men were to proceed to the man-eating wall; there the rays which were centered upon the malignant grayish matter were to be shut off in one place; a unit armed with hand-cylinders would drive the seething stuff into the main stretch and the overhead rays would be thrown back on again. In that manner it would be able to make a wide channel in the grayish matter through which the men could pour.
Mansfield was next to Yuxa, at the head of the main body of men, as the wall of demarcation was reached. Up ahead, there could be seen already at work the unit with the rays. In both directions, as far as the eye could reach, extended the colorful emanation which guarded the man-eating matter. It was a beautiful creamy blue.
The unit cleared a large hole directly through the center and the men rushed through, into an open plain. Far ahead was the lighted outline of the habitat which harbored the blacks. But no force of men was at hand to meet them!
The Englishman thought it strange, this progress without onslaught. If the blacks had taken pains to secure the daughter of the high priest, they surely would have maintained a strong stand in keeping her with them. But no rush of blacks was evident which would show a dark body of men! Onward poured the whites.
THEY were soon on the outskirts of the village and Yuxa, with foresight, distributed his men accordingly. They were to surround the entire place, and give no quarter. Venia must be secured even if every man had to stake his life. And not a black must be permitted to escape. All must be taken.
But if there was a battle, it was decidedly one-sided. For the white men of Atlantis circled the entire black place, swooped down upon the buildings, pouring through the arched portals, and not one black man was evident! There was nobody there!
They poked through every interior for hours without finding a trace of them, and their amazement knew no bounds. Yuxa was in a frenzy. It was now beginning to dawn upon the white men that the black race had been even more insidious than they had appeared. But there was no other place they could have gone. The large number of them could absolutely not have gone anywhere without the whites being aware of it, yet the paradoxical fact remained squarely to oppose them.
They were scattered all over the place, forcing prying eyes into anything that looked suspicious. Sir John Mansfield found himself a lone hand in this affair, prodding his nose in and out of the dwellings. They were rather fine stone buildings, worthy of a better mind and more stable temperament, he thought. The walls were tapestried with fine cloth drawings and designs, the furniture was finely wrought of metal. The doors, however, were simple in construction, not similar to the walls in the temple. It was comparatively easy to go from room to room. It was strange. The colony couldn't have transported itself into thin air. The blacks must be around here somewhere, Mansfield wondered. Could they have foreseen this invasion and have countermoved into the city of Atlantis at the same time the whites were going through the man-eating wall? It hardly seemed probable. There were too many men about the temple; some word would have come to them had that happened.
He found himself in a cellar which was littered with refuse. Carefully, he moved around, inspecting the odds and ends which were heaped there. In one corner the wall was almost obscured from sight by a pile of trash. Detaching piece by piece he placed them in the middle of the room. Maybe there was some reason for all this maze! But when he had finally got a look at the filthy wall, the slimy stone told him he had failed.
It was arduous work, this tugging and toting of the broken and misshapen articles. His clothes were bedaubed with dirt, and torn, and somewhat weary he moved one of the broken chairs closer, braced it against the wall and sat down. His cylinder which he had used more as an illuminating projector than a weapon, was flashed around the basement.
It was a wide and deep cellar. The upper floor rested squarely upon a stable foundation, without any support in the center. Well-built. And suddenly he leaped from his chair with a cry, as his light played upon a tatter of a garment against the wall nearby! In one bound he reached it and snatched it up.
IT was a clean piece of cloth which had no place in this grimy interior. He'd swear he had seen the design somewhere recently! Certainly he had! He remembered it distinctly now. Coming out of his unconscious state in the upper chambers of the temple, just after entering Atlantis, his eyes had fallen upon the garment which clothed a body seated near him. This tatter was a piece torn from the robe of Venia!
This knowledge galvanized him. Venia had passed this way! She had struggled and had parted with this. Down into the bedraggled place she had been brought!
Mansfield stood firmly on his feet, poised for something he knew not what. It seemed to him that this remnant forecast imminent danger. It had some relation to the problem of the disappearing blacks, that he was sure. And it meant that somewhere near was the girl! Venia was nearby. He must not fail her; he must be cautious!
He, first, must find out whether these walls were false or not, whether the littered cellar was only a blind to conceal some hidden means of exit. Quickly he went around the walls and knocked on the blocks of stone for a hollow sound. His thoughts were in a furor. Had the daughter of the high priest been done away with? This piece of the robe spoke for itself. There had been a struggle. And a struggle, a resistance, brought to Mansfield's shuddering mind any possibility. Those creatures might have taken their vengeance out on her and have killed her!
For a moment he debated the idea of hastening up and bringing to light this discovery. The whites could wreck this cellar in a short time and find out whether there was a hidden spot about. But time would be lost. That wouldn't do. While he was hurrying upward, anything might happen to the girl. And Mansfield kept telling himself that Venia was yet alive, that she couldn't have been slain!
He tapped with fierce energy. But a solid echo kept ringing in his ears! It ridiculed his haste! But he couldn't give up—he couldn't! He was ready to lay his life down that this theory of a rag was right; that everything lay right here! His eager knife swept swiftly through cracks and cracks. Maybe a slab would come loose! Working frantically, of a sudden he felt his spine shiver with an iciness that almost coagulated his blood, brought cessation to his respiration. A voice was behind him!
"Ha! What fortune brings us the stranger to Atlantis!"
He whirled, throwing his light around but he didn't need it. A huge negro, bare of clothing but for a filthy girdle of cloth, stood leering at him through crooked, yellow teeth. His beastly scowl accentuated his abnormal nose and mouth, his body glistened with a sheen from the small light he was holding focussed upon the Englishman.
AND then Mansfield saw the opening in the wail behind the fellow. It yawned blackly in a steep descent. And it was right near the spot where he had picked up the torn cloth! What a fool he had been not to search there first!
With a cry that rumbled from his larynx, Mansfield leaped. Running through his mind was his own condemnation for not getting assistance when he had had time. For now, coming out of the hole was another and another huge black! They carried clubs that would have frightened away a behemoth! The odds were tremendously against him.
Mansfield struck the foremost black squarely and together they crashed to the floor. In a moment legs and arms were thrashing the air as the other two blacks were cast into the fight. The scientist's blood was gushing through him at a high pressure, racing with a madness that forced three blows where ordinarily he would have struck one.
He lashed out with his boot once and succeeded in dislodging a face which had its slashing fangs in his calf. These men fought like carnivorous beasts! His fists crunched venomously again and again upon abhorrent visages that grunted, and he saw blood and blood! He was covered with the red stuff.
A ferocious blow caught him fairly in the mouth and he went berserk. He sprang on the fellow nearest him and wrapped his long arms about his neck and choked him. Another blow struck him glancingly on the side of the head and numbed his hold, throwing him back against the wall.
It was a moment's respite, and he gasped for breath, surveying through misty eyes the situation. One black was on the ground moaning. That must have been the fellow he had kicked heavily in the face! But the other two, battered and bruised, were slowly creeping upon him, eyeing him through slitty orbs. Mansfield took a deep breath. There was no way out of this now. He'd have to yell with all his might to get the whites to know he was in trouble!
But he never opened his mouth. The two blacks made swift disconcerting moves, and one of them let fly the club! It caught Mansfield right under the ear. He was felled like a poled ox—a total blackness suffusing his consciousness!
FOR all of Sir John Mansfield's years of experience in the delving in archaeological information concerning races and peoples who had existed down through the ages, the vast profundity of knowledge attained didn't equal one whit the experience he was now gathering in the very midst of a historical, supposedly legendary people.
So he couldn't help but thinking now, lolling on the ground, trying to assuage that terrific ache which sprang from his almost split head. Where he was he didn't know. But a good two hours before he had roused himself from his stupor and had found that he was in this intensely dark place. He made no effort to rise, but lay back and fell into intermittent meditation, for all the throbbing, pounding head.
Things certainly had happened since his arrival, he told himself. There was no denying the fact that he had seen plenty in his short presence in Atlantis, enough that would enable him to bring to a kaleidoscopic clearness the intimate mannerisms which existed here. He had informative values at hand, which would cause a revision of ancient historial civilization. And think of those brilliant things, the brain dissection process, the multifarious number of rays! And that man-eating animal matter! A substance like that, in the possession of a great power, would practically mean absolute dominance. Let loose a quantity of the parasitic organism in any one country and that nation with its people was doomed!
Yes, this rotating earth certainly did contain miracles, mysteries, which the human eye was too blind to size up. Just imagine one of the wonders of the world, the Great Sphinx, standing as it had for untold centuries over a desert plain, unknown as to purpose, unexploited as to intention. Why, billions of eyes had gazed speculatively upon the massive edifice down through time and had simply conjectured it as a whim of a long- dead ruler of a mighty Egyptian people. Little had they thought that it stood ready to be utilized, ready to display its hidden wares, and only for the taking. But no one had seen!
A great god that was designed for Silence. It didn't speak— couldn't speak. But how well it replied in silent language once its meaning was established. During the forty to fifty centuries, but two men had fallen heir to the means of entrance—had found that such a thing did exist—he and that long-rotted carcass which lay doubled up and shapeless at the foot of the massive slab in the stone passage. And now——
GRADUALLY he came out of this revery. He became more and more rational. Presently his musings were gone and he found that his splitting head was resounding to the predicament he was in. The blacks, with their uncanny hatred, had created this safety rendezvous, of which the whites knew nothing. They must have foreseen such a time as this.
It grew upon the scientist's mind that their occasional attacks had not been, as the high priest had believed, aimless essays. They had probably tried time and again to get the daughter of Yuxa. Now they felt that they held the upper hand, something with which to formulate a plea for themselves. There wasn't a white man who wouldn't give his life to save the girl.
He rose groggily and steadied himself against the wall. Still he could see nothing. It was a Stygian blackness which enveloped him. He stumbled, hugging the wall closely, fumbling along it. He wondered what sort of room he was in. Perhaps there was some means of escape from it.
His hand, dragging back and forth, fell across his hip and he let out a burst of surprised relief. His gun was still in its holster, together with the cartridges! What luck! The black captors had not taken them from him. They had not, apparently, understood their importance, known their real value. Those, animal-featured creatures would, of course, not understand anything other than a ray cylinder, a club, or a knife. They had paid no attention to his gun! What fortune!
It was an elation that in itself almost healed the palpitating head. The presence of his revolver meant to him more than anything else right now. He could stand off a whole regiment of blacks, given a point of vantage. His blood tore through his veins and arteries with shrieking hope, with fired purpose. If only he could find some way of getting out of here, the better were his chances for rescuing the girl. He must get out!
Venia must be gotten from their clutches. He felt sure now that she still lived. Hadn't they taken pains not to do away with him? Their only hope in saving their own skins was to play a tactful hand, and that they seemed to be doing.
He must have progressed with his back to the wall for about fifty feet when the darkness suddenly gave way to an illumination which threw the entire place into relief. He found himself in a large chamber with a low ceiling. But what brought his lips to a pursing whistle was the sight that met his eye. His feet rested upon a narrow ledge about three feet wide which ran away from the wall, then dropped slopingly to the very center of the room, where there loomed up a circular hole about ten feet in diameter!
HOW fortunate he was! Had he started to prowl about before, he would have undoubtedly stepped off the rim of the ledge and skidded downward to that round pit which took on a more terrifying aspect the longer he looked at it. It was a sure means of self-destruction.
His head was in a daze. His theory was all shattered. They didn't care whether he lived or not! Had he slipped here he would now probably have been a dead man. Good Lord! He hoped Venia hadn't been thrown into this place!
His eyes met the blank stare of bare walls. There seemed to be no opening from this chamber. He stared long at that circular pit below him, pondering the idea of letting himself down from the ledge and finding out where the hole led. The more he gazed around at the unending walls, the more attractive loomed the possibility that the hole might take him somewhere. If he were careful and cautious, he could be sure of his footing.
He dropped over the flat rim and wriggled down slowly. His hands and feet moved with infinite precision. There was a moment when he thought that his body was going to fly from under him, but his wet and perspiring hands clamped down on the cold stone and nipped the momentum.
At the edge of the circular pit he dug his hobnailed boots into the stone, setting himself, and looked down. An awful cry went from him as his eyes gazed at the unbelievable thing down there! That hole was a receptacle for the grayish man-eating matter! Once one had seen that bubbling animal substance, the eye would never forget it. And the bluish iridescent ray hovered over it, keeping it in check!
Great Heavens! He must get away quickly, back upon the ledge. Every moment he tottered on this edge might mean doom for him! What a fool he had been to take this horrible chance! Had he known what lay there nothing under the sun could have made him slide down to it so lambently!
His fingers grasped the stone till they bled, and he started to crawl back up. This was nothing like the untroubled descent but a moment before. The very thought of his narrow escape from a hideous death made his upward progress all the more severe. It was a deep relief when his tensed fingers touched the top of the ledge and he drew himself upon it. His body was shaking.
FEEBLY he dropped in a crevice next to the wall and exhaled horrible thoughts. The picture of those blacks being fed to the matter rose up before him in virulent waves. It wasn't a cherished end, any way one would look at it. That unearthly stuff took you and kept your passing a secret in its fiendish heart.
He shrunk against the wall, thankful for its protection. His hand fell over the butt of his gun and caressed it. Just give him one good break! Let him get possession of Venia! And by thunder he would fill every attacking black with bullets! His mouth fastened into a grim line. All he wanted was just one crack at those fiends. That he had been thrown into such an awful place was making him decidedly angry. The sight of the man-eating stuff had turned his fairness and tolerance to one side. His fingers itched to get around the throat of a black.
He was lying thus crouched when from the corner of his eye he saw a section of the wall just overhead slide upward and a leering countenance show itself. The black fellow was looking in to see whether the prisoner had fallen into the pit. A huge mouth opened into the semblance of a grin as he stared at the grisly pit.
Spontaneously, Mansfield saw that Fate had opened its hand to his unuttered plea. Here was his opportunity! The black didn't see him because he lay directly beneath him. But if the fellow decided to glance below, it would be a simple matter to glimpse him. The gloating face, however, seemed content to think that he had slid into the grayish death.
With a leap, Mansfield was out of his crouched position, and he timed his outstretched hands beautifully. The wiry fingers enveloped the black throat before the other knew what happened. A terrific jerk, and the scientist had pulled him through the opening.
It was a delightful feeling, this yielding neck in his hands. There was a terrified look on the black face; it tried to bite itself loose from the steely muscles which was clamping out life. His vocal muscles were paralyzed; he couldn't cry out. The voice never was heard again! Mansfield released him and he flew over the brink and crashed head-first into oblique descent, striking the edge of the circular pit, bounding directly across it to smash into the opposite side, then dropped from view into that hungry mass below.
The Englishman tottered on the ledge from the exertion. It had carried him away from the wall, near the edge. With a supreme effort he threw himself upward and clutched the opened panel. It saved him instantly. He clung to it, breathing spasmodically; then, with feline agility, he leaped through it and was in the other room.
It was an elaborate interior, with many seats and lounges; and fortunately it was empty. He had to work fast, though. In one motion he closed up the panel and surveyed minutely the room.
THERE came to his hearing the sound of voices and like a flash he dropped behind one of the large, bedecked chairs. From a narrow slit between the rungs he saw a cloth being pushed aside and two blacks entered.
They glanced about questioningly. One them said,
"Where is Mantsi? He was supposed to be here."
The other strolled over to the panel and flung it open. "Look! The prisoner has fallen into the pit! He is not there!"
"Good! He is one less white to contend with!
"Mantsi must have gone up to report it to Okrulla; Ha! Ha!"
Both fell into a laughing cackle which brought utter disgust to the concealed man. They were no more than beasts in emotional expression. Mansfield could see them sit down upon a lounge. Their widespread nostrils contracted with each steamy breath; their greenish orbs were slits that moved around unceasingly with horrifying effect.
But the Englishman was tensed. His hand was on his gun, eyeing every move. Not now did he intend that he should be taken a prisoner again without retaliation. His fears were unfounded, however; one of them rose to his feet and leered:
"We hold the upper hand now. Okrulla will make those white devils come to us. He has the girl!" Both burst into a loathsome sputter. "They think they'll get her when Okrulla demands complete freedom for us. Ha, ha! We shall mow them down when they least know it. The girl will be Okrulla's. And we'll all have the choice pick of the rest!"
Mansfield fought hard to keep his laboring breath from giving him away. How he longed to throw himself into the open and send slugs into their rotten bodies! But he couldn't do that. He must use discretion. Freedom was a thing to him now when he had boundless duties resting upon his head. What he had heard from these two evil lips forebode a terrible disaster. He felt that the white would assume the old regime, once more, if they would be able to get the daughter of the high priest back again.
And he, Mansfield, was the only white man who knew of all! It behooved him to move with sanity, with caution.
The standing black moved toward the door. "You stay here, Katka. I shall go over and see what the girl is doing. When Mantsi returns, you can leave."
And with another of those demoniacal laughs he quit the room. The remaining black rose from the lounge and moved around. Presently he strode to the panel and glared through it. Another cackle dropped from him. He seated himself upon the chair, behind which crouched Mansfield.
It was now or never! The scientist gathered his energy for one swift blow. Silently he removed his gun and held it by the barrel. He sprang up and swung with all his might at the black head which was turning startlingly; the force almost tore the weapon from his hands. The fellow stiffened, sank forward.
With a frenzied speed he raised the heavy body and dragged it to the open panel. A heave, and he saw the figure bound out upon the slope, skid crazily downward and out over the pit, dropping from sight. Another one dealt with!
He rushed toward the opening of the draped cloth and peered out; An inward rush of gladness rose within him.
Proceeding along the long corridor was the black who had said he was going to where Venia was! Mansfield could follow him straight there!
QUICKLY, cautiously, he padded after the fellow. The black was swinging along in care-free fashion, utterly scornful of everything but of his own importance. And Mansfield gave no cause for him to feel that someone was following. He hugged the walls like a dark shadow flitting in long noiseless strides when he had the opportunity, gliding along step by step when the other slowed.
The corridor was a very long one, sinuous and narrow. At one time the black came abreast of a portal and gazed into it, looking absently backward, but the Englishman was a silent posing figure which blended perfectly with the surroundings.
Sir John Mansfield was glad of one thing. He knew where the pit chamber was situated. It struck him that he, alone, could withstand any number of assailants there with his gun. It was an excellent stand. He could pick them off one by one as they came through. Could pitch them into the gray matter.
The black stopped before a door and glided in. Mansfield followed carefully, pressed against the wall. Now was the time to proceed with caution. In all probability that was where Venia was. He couldn't jumble the whole thing at this momentous instant. He must not let his chance slide through his fingers.
His hand came in contact with a sharp turn in the wall and he squirmed silently around it. A dark cloth shrouded what he presumed to be the door. With imperceptible precision he drew it aside. A thin beam of light greeted him.
The room was empty, and was in appearance similar to the one he had left. In a moment he had slipped through, standing statuesque, keen, eyes flitting around. He heard loud voices and dropped like a plummet behind a divan.
The cloth at the other end of the room swished back and the black he had been following emerged in the company of another. They moved toward the center, talking.
"Give her another hour in there. Make her suffer!"
"As you say!" He nodded.
"Good! Then she will be taken to Okrulla." Again he heard that name.
They laughed gleefully. With a farewell gesture one went to the entrance and departed. The other chuckled to himself, flexed his arms and went into the next room.
MANSFIELD waited for a few moments. It was clear to him that Venia was in the next room. Now was the time to collect himself. He rose from behind his concealment with a trembling heart. The girl was undergoing torture. That much he gleaned from their conversation. And the thought of the girl undergoing forced hardship fired his brain.
He sprang from his cover and snatched the weapon from its holster. In a twinkling he had torn aside the covering of the portal.
It was a two-by-four construction, completely paneled in a transparent matter which gave insight into a large room beyond. Mansfield halted, watching the black who was applying his strength on a lever of some sort. The fellow pulled the thing back; at the move there issued from a large pipe in the ceiling a hissing sound, like escaping compressed air.
And then he saw Venia. She had been thrown into the air from her crouched position on the floor, and the same unseen force grasped her and hurled her against the wall. Her eyes were staring widely, hair disheveled, but her lips were pressed tightly together. She was resisting this torture without a moan.
It was some sort of vacuum chamber. There were round holes in the wall at regular intervals, and as the black threw back the lever something forced all the air out of the room. The rushing force picked up everything within and slammed them viciously against the walls.
The sight of the daughter of the high priest being knocked about so viciously brought a fierce expression to Mansfield's eyes. He yelled once, indiscreetly, causing the black to whirl around. The dusky fellow sprang upon him with a curse, but fell backward as a bullet crashed into him.
The Englishman's first act was to release the lever and let the girl slump from her forced posture against the wall. He knew now that the shot might have been heard. It would have reverberated clear down the corridor. He must work with celerity.
Like a trapped animal in a burning cage, he sped around and around trying to find some means of opening the glass panel. But he could find nothing! He knocked violently against the glass, pressed his face in it, waving frantically.
His movements were seen immediately. The girl rose to her feet and stared amazedly at him. She tumbled toward him but her last bit of strength had gone, and with a movement of the mouth she sank once more upon the ground.
There came to Mansfield's ears the sound of slapping feet and he hurried to lug the body of the black back into the first room, where he tossed him under a lounge. Anything that would delay the blacks from finding out what had happened. His mind was on one thing now. He couldn't save Venia at the moment. He must take care of himself.
One good thing, though. Venia had seen him. That meant a lot. She would know that he was around to protect her. It would give her a rejuvenation of spirit to keep on fighting, knowing that someone was at hand to come to her aid.
HE dived behind a chair just as two blacks came bounding into the room, staring wildly for the explanation of that sudden noise. Mansfield saw both distinctly. He laughed to himself as he saw the two come out of the torture chamber with astonished faces. They looked at each other for a moment, then returned to stare once more into the transparent wall.
Mansfield glided out like a ghostly being, breathing a sigh of relief when once again in the corridor. But a glance told him that he must not tarry. From the other end of the passage were running more blacks. He might be able to make his way to the pit room, if he were careful.
In the shadows he moved. He thanked the guiding hand, which watched over him, that at that moment no black men were coming toward him from the nearer end of the corridor. That would mean instant discovery. It was a break for him that the chamber of the man-eating matter was at the end of the long hallway.
In a flash he had sped across the corridor and into the chamber. But his slithering feet spoke volumes to the black who was napping in a chair. The fellow sprang to his feet, rubbing his bleary eyes! Surprise was all over him.
"Ghost of the gods! Where did—"
Sir John Mansfield's gun roared once and the other pitched over on his face. Almost before he had hit the ground the scientist had hoisted him upon his shoulder; and he hauled him to the panel and disposed of him.
He couldn't have helped firing, even though he knew the shot would be investigated immediately. The negro would have come out of his stupor at any moment and this wasn't a time he could afford to fight with a black. He would probably have struggled with him ineffectually until the others came; then it would have been all over. They would have thrown him into the circular chasm without another word. He was only a pestiferous thorn in the black domain. He was not wanted then.
FEET pounded and, again, he concealed himself. A half dozen men came in with a rush, halting with utter consternation on their distorted faces. They looked through the open panel, turned in dismay.
"What is this strange noise which sounds through the walls?" one of them said. "And where is the guard?"
"We found nothing where the girl is. The guard is gone, too. I tell you, it is a sign of wrath from the gods! They look evilly upon our attitude to the whites!"
"Stop! Enough of your snivelling, Brexshu. Speak not of the diety in such tongue!" There was a snarl in his voice.
Mansfield, while watching with abated breath, saw the infuriated face of the man, presumably the leader, go stark mad; saw him raise his ham-like fist and crush the other into insensibility with one blow. The fellow's knees buckled from under him and he stretched out. The other blacks stood around and gaped.
"No more do I hear such blasphemy! Understand? The gods are with us! Throw this rodent through the hole!"
Two blacks lifted the unconscious man as though he were a mere feather and flung him out. Then the leader said:
"Two of you stay here. If that sharp noise occurs, find out what causes it. We are safe here. The girl is the only white in the hidden depths. And if those guards show their faces, pounce upon them and dispatch them as was done to Brexshu."
They nodded. Mansfield couldn't help but smile. Those guards were gone forever now! And these simple fellows! Not once had they instituted a search of the chambers. They were charged with the dogmatic belief that their creation of a hidden place was unapproachable, that nobody could get to them. Perhaps that might be true, but he, Mansfield, was loose. It didn't enter their minds to search for anybody. The only thing they understood was what they saw. They had seen him thrown into the pit. No one had ever gone out alive from it. Thus he was a dead man.
But Mansfield's heart beat very much in life as he slouched in back of the obstruction. And his grin was a thing which felt good to his tired and bruised body. That welt on the head still ached.
He let up his vigil not one iota, holding the gun firmly in his hand. The two blacks were pacing the room nervously, sitting down, getting up. If only these creatures had a little mental capacity, they might be an exceedingly dangerous foe. He shifted his position a trifle. The cramp in his leg sent a prickling sensation through it.
The next moment his exuberance burst into a groan of dismay as his foot caught in the leg of the chair and it skidded forward, revealing his crouching posture clearly!
THE nerves of the blacks were on edge, and the sudden scraping of the chair brought them to their feet Their eyes fell upon the doubled-up figure of the man they had thought long dead, and they screamed hoarsely. Then their greenish eyes became infused with a fearful vengeance, and they sprang with arms outstretched, maniacally bent upon destruction.
The first impact of the three bodies knocked the gun from Mansfield's hand and he went down beneath the crushing weight. Two arms, like whipcords, went around him and began to squeeze the air from his lungs. He was stunned; his breath had left him in the fall. But it was this that saved him from those strong elastic arms which were trying to strangle him. His body became limp even though his mind was clearing. The black loosed his hold a trifle to get even a better one; Mansfield's knee came up with a sudden, vicious jerk. The black face betook a pastiness that made his ebon a sickly yellow, and he slumped backward and rolled over.
Gasping, snorting, Mansfield rolled out of the way of the black who dived for him. But the black fingers succeeded in getting a hold of his khaki shirt and they dug their nails into it, clear to the skin. In another moment the two were rolling over the floor, legs draping over each other, in a wild scrap. Fingers clawed red streaks into each others' faces in an endeavor to get a lasting grip.
The black presently got his thumb in Mansfield's eye and gouged. It was so harsh a pain that the scientist thought he was going mad. He sunk his teeth into that iron fist until the blood dribbled around his lips. His right hand cupped the disgusting face and shoved backward.
Never had he fought like this! It was life or death! The taste of that horribly salty blood upon his lips was abominably sickening. In his confused subconscious mind he was a carnivorous beast feasting on the life fluid of another beast! A power- suffusing gall crept over him.
The thumb was a piece of lacerated flesh and bone and it dropped, useless, from the eye of Mansfield. It had been chewed down to numbness. Slowly the crush of his ribs began to tell on him. In another moment they would give way to a snap. And then their writhing bodies crashed into a table—and it toppled over on them!
They were free once more. Mansfield sprang to his feet, his frantic eyes sweeping the room for the gun. It was lying right at his feet! He couldn't deceive himself now; he had very little strength left; his eye hurt him awfully; and the black before him rose with a vigor that manifested his reserve power! He dived for the gun and gripped it with an inspiring clutch. Lord! didn't it feel good within his palm!
JUST in time did he whirl. Both blacks were now upon their feet. Their faces were hardly human any more. The pupils of their eyes were pin-points of repulsiveness.
One of them had drawn a long slender blade from his dirty loin cloth and was advancing ominously; the other was still groggy from the knee-jam and groaning feebly, but he circled to get in an effective blow.
Mansfield felt a sag in his muscles. His braised eye was burning him dreadfully. It couldn't last much longer. Both blacks leaped through the air.
His finger pulled back the trigger. The room reverberated to the crash; the black with the knife stopped in mid-air, the blade slipping from his fingers and clanking to the floor. The noise of the gun halted the other abruptly. He gaped with open mouth at the deed committed right before his eyes, glanced unbelievedly at his fellow black, who lay gasping his last. With a fiendish yell he sprang for the knife, grasped it. His arm drew back and flung the sharp point straight at the Englishman's breast, with a speed that made the shining metal quiver as it hurtled through space!
In the same split second Mansfield flung himself to one side and fired again. The black was knocked backward by the thudding bullet and the knife whizzed by Mansfield, only slashing his shirt. He stood on the balls of his feet and rocked, regaining his breath. Without another glance at the fallen pair he whirled for the door and was out in the corridor.
There wasn't time to dispose of the bodies. He must get out of the place. Where, he didn't know. Twice the blacks had been puzzled by the loud report; twice they had blundered in the attempt to solve the mystery. But, now, the sight of the two prone, bleeding bodies would be associated with an existing fact, and they would scour the place for some reason until they found him. No—he wasn't safe at all; he must be doing something.
Across the corridor he saw a draped doorway, into which he plunged. Behind him sounded the rush of numerous feet. A glance ahead revealed the bottom steps of a flight of long winding stairs and he fled upward. His breath was laboring painfully.
HE bounded up and up, when he reached a turn. He halted for a short spell to get his breath. In the angle of the corner a cloth covered a small alcove. He spread it open to look at it—just as many voices and feet were to be heard coming up the stairs!
Quickly he threw himself into the narrow confinement. It held one person very uncomfortably, but it wasn't bodily convenience that he was looking for at the moment. Any pause would help and this afforded it. With swift deft fingers he rolled back the cloth cover and held it without a ripple. And to his ears there came loudly now the approaching mob, the puffing breath of many bodies, the harsh strident tones, the scrape of many sandals. Past him they bounded!
"There is something amiss here!" a voice gasped as it went by. "The noise! And now here are two dead ones!"
"I tell you, the whites have something to do with this. One of them must have gotten through. Shujee saw someone flit out down there and make this way!"
So someone had seen him, had he? Well, that simply meant that they would be looking and searching for him until they found him. His trump card of being an unexpected enemy down here had vanished. He had to be wary now. Mansfield's stiffened figure moved not one flick, his rigid fingers trembled not as they kept the cover from uncovering his presence.
The last pair of feet had clumped by. He listened for more, but there were none. It wouldn't last long, he knew. This brief escape would soon be bringing them all back down this way just as soon as they had scoured the upper corridors and rooms. They would search every possible avenue. It was rash to remain here.
His hand reached behind him and palmed the wall, while his brow puckered up in thought. How well did he realize the oppressive odds which were against him! He didn't know his way around here; anything he might do would probably be just the wrong effort. The only thing he was sure of was that a fierce mob of men would swoop down upon him and tear him to shreds!
He pressed his hand against the wall with a determined eye. He was going to see it through! He'd give until his last bit of strength gave out!
And then he felt himself flying backward!
Something must have loosened behind him from the pressure of his hand. His surprised face looked behind him just in time to see a large slab of rock pivot quickly to one side. With nothing to support him at his back, he fell like a load of metal down that yawning opening. It was a fall of only a half a dozen or so feet, but it stunned him completely for a minute.
His twisting head had crashed into some solid substance with a resounding smack, his body following in a quick accompaniment.
HIS brain cleared. He moved first one leg, then the other, testing for broken bones. His arm, which had crumpled beneath his body, moved out and shook itself. It truly was miraculous that he hadn't broken something in that short heavy fall.
He sat up and rubbed his head. That organ certainly had, of late, been the recipient of plenty. But the faithful old dependable still worked! His eyes were becoming accustomed to the dim light of the room. He glanced upward.
There was a short flight of steps leading down from the slab of stone through which he had fallen. The unexpectedness of the fall had caused them to abet rather than to hinder his sudden drop. It was a wonder he hadn't broken half his bones!
He laughed elatedly. Something really seemed to be taking care of him! It sent a warm feeling rushing through him. And he swept an eager eye around him.
The glance startled him. The walls of the room were arrayed in narrow compartments, and in each of the cell-like three-sided affairs there stared unblinkingly back at him the most hideous of faces! It was a sight that almost knocked him off his feet!
He crouched with gun in hand expectantly, waiting. But those frightful, cadaverous visages made no move toward him. Their horrid features were so repellant that Mansfield stood rooted like an inanimate statue. But he couldn't remain thus forever, so he crept closer to the first stall. His weapon was ready to fire and ready to kill.
A glance inside, and he burst into a laugh that peeled off the ghastly feeling which had covered him during the past few moments.
They weren't live things! Only masklike effigies! He paced from cell to cell and satisfied himself on that point. Masks! But what forbidding depictions! They were enough to make the blood crawl within you, these uncanny, weird faces! From every neck there depended a long robe.
Mansfield understood now what they were. Gaudy displays of a high priest, which herded superstitious and susceptible blacks into submission. And he, Sir John Mansfield, had the fortunate experience of falling directly into this! He chuckled to himself.
There were dozens of the gruesome faces all around. Probably this chamber was entered only by the priest. With almost childish inquisitiveness he dropped one of them over his head and paraded around to acquire the feeling. Satisfaction dripped from him. Wait until he told this to some of his colleagues back in England! Here he was attired in the regal garment of a god! He could with a gesture decide the fate of mankind! Ha! Ha!
He bolted upright suddenly. A voice came to him faintly. In a bound he was back in the cell, standing up, still garbed in the robe with the ugly head. He was just in time!
The slab of stone through which he had fallen glided back and a Mack strode down the steps! From within the beastly mask Mansfield envisioned the most splendid specimen of a body he had ever seen. The negro was fully eight feet tall if he was an inch. His shoulders were like mountain tops charged with a beauteous, graceful ripple.
He walked directly to the cell in which Mansfield was concealed, gazed preoccupiedly into it! There was a frown upon the black face.
"That noise!" he muttered audibly. "They think it is Ra! Fools! I must do something to steady them. They must realize that I Okrulla, am endowed with the smile of the gods!"
He turned away from the stall and moved to another one, and Mansfield breathed a silent relief. He selected a fierce face abstractly, fixed the robe and head upon him, then departed through a door at the other end of the room, closing it noiselessly behind him.
SO that was Okrulla! What a creature! His countenance was instilled with hate, but it could be plainly seen that there was a reasoning power behind that skull. He wasn't like the rest of the race, with negligible forehead, prognathous jaw. That fellow radiated a fierce will and man power. He would be an uncomely foe to deal with!
Mansfield ran to the door through which he had gone and opened it surreptitiously. He saw a large hollow shell and it was empty. He crept into it and looked around. There sounded now the booming voice of Okrulla with distinctness. He was speaking.
"Men of the black race of Atlantis! The time has come for us to destroy the white devils and their power. I, Okrulla, son of the gods, upon whom I bestowed their smiling favors, have been chosen to lead you into the land of complete freedom, I wear now the sign of heaven It was draped upon me by heavenly hands."
Mansfield flashed a speculative eye about him, wondering from whence this came. The shell was the inside of something which he couldn't shape out. Then he struck it! It was the inside of an altar, and near by there stretched back the raised dais. The ceiling was just over his head. He stood on the platform and looked through the narrow illuminated slit. An exclamation hissed through his lips!
He was peering into a large chamber in which there were many blacks. And right next to him—only the thin wall separated them--was Okrulla, in all the fineries of priesthood! His hand was outstretched toward his people.
"No more shall there be bartering. That is over. We are to rule by the grace of the gods. Bring on the blood with which the mouth of Ra will taste our sincerity!"
Ceremonies and religions rites ensued. The entire gathering fell to their knees and knocked their foreheads against the cold stone and from their throats there rose fervent incoherent phrases. Some of the fanatics banged their heads with violence. It brought a grin to the face of the concealed man.
Something made Mansfield look at his gun, and it was a lucky thing, All of the chambers were full of empty shells; he quickly took them out and refilled the weapon with fresh cartridges.
And then, the towering, regalia-decked figure of Okrulla rose, up. The ferocity of the hideous head was not lost upon his followers. They cowered on their benches, quavered at the least gesticulation of a movable ear, eye or tooth. Fierce fangs protruded from the mouth of the mask. The priest was truly displayed in majestic power at the moment, and the unruly subjects were like babes under his insidious eye.
"Bring forth the offering!"
FROM a doorway at the other end of the chamber came into view two blacks dragging someone between them. They must have been waiting there for a signal. It was a white person, Mansfield saw from the distance. And his muscles tensed at the sight of the form dragged over the floor.
The party reached the center of the stage, right before the altar upon which Okrulla stood. Sir John Mansfield's heart leaped into his throat, a quiver ran down his spine.
It was Venia!
THE girl had suffered much in the torture chamber. Her face was bruised and there were wounds on her legs and arms. She was totally spent, and the black guards were hauling her without concern.
Mansfield, rooted to the slit, saw her eyelids flutter, saw her eyes stare back at the great figure upon the dais. There issued no murmur or groan from her lips, but her blue eyes spoke volumes of utter loathing.
"Daughter of the high priest," rumbled the ferocious head, "your race is doomed by the gods! The black people have been chosen to lead!"
The girl drew herself up in scornful attitude, loosened herself from the clutches of the scowling blacks on either side, raised a defiant, tousled head. Still she said nothing.
Okrulla laughed creepily. "It is despoiling the beauty of Atlantis to offer you on the altar, but the gods want you!"
Venia's eyes flashed terror, but it died away just as quickly. The Englishman saw her breast rise and fall quickly as the realization was forced upon her. Her mouth became a grim line.
"Have you something to say?" the priest offered in a slimy voice.
Her head tossed back. "Your carcasses will be fed to the man- eating matter!" her soft voice declared.
"Ha!" roared the man. "She dares to defy the will of the gods! She dares! This offspring of an accursed people? Enough of your blasphemy! To the altar!"
Brawny arms lifted the fighting, struggling girl as though she were but a child and deposited her upon the silk-adorned shrine. Quickly experienced fingers strapped her heaving form securely to the flat-topped surface. Her agonized face was only a few feet away from him. Mansfield braced himself for action.
The guards fell back to the benches and the priest rose to pace the platform angrily. A vituperous stream of hatred he heaped upon the heads of the white men of Atlantis. He cursed them with a frenzied joy that made the head-dress quiver. And the blacks glistened with the sight of a new-born power almost in their hands.
The girl was staring wildly at the gesturing Okrulla, when she became startled at the sound of a whispering voice at her very ear.
"Don't turn your head, Venia. Don't them know that I am here."
THE girl closed her eyes in joyful assent. She had heard him plainly. There came upon her face now a beautiful expression. Her drawn countenance relaxed into a mockery that derided the fanatic speech of the black priest.
Okrulla turned and snatched a long poniard from his girdle beneath the robe. He began a slithering dance upon the dais, and presently the entire gathering was burst into song, an eerie, unmusical chant that pricked the nerves with horror. Their faces were not human any more; jowls were slavering for human blood, eyes were rolling to the avid accompaniment of twitching muscles.
Closer and closer came the dancing black. Closer came the upraised arm which grasped the pointed black. Higher and higher extended the closed fist. It was reaching to a great height, ready to plunge with a lightning streak that would bring the appeasement of desire. The priest was next to the girl with venom burning in the mask's orbs.
The black voices died away in a whisper, waiting eagerly for the climax move of the ritual.
The point was directly over the girl's heart. She stared fascinatedly at it, without horror, without qualm.
"Ra! I bring you the cup bubbling with our humble offering!" And the arm began its swift descent!
The silence in the room was suddenly split by a terrific yell from a begarbed figure which had risen from apparently nowhere, and a resounding crack of a gun! The mouth of the priest opened in surprise, only to be the recipient of the chunk of metal that tore clean through his head. The sleek poniard dropped from his spasmodic fingers and fell upon the palpitating bosom of the girl, hilt downward. Okrulla rolled over the dais and flopped sprawlingly upon the stone floor.
Right before their eyes a miracle had happened. The blacks were looking at a bulbous head of utter ugliness, at a body from which spat instant death!
It was Ra! Ra! Okrulla had sacrileged his mission upon the earth. The gods had not desired this!
"I am Ra! Bow down in repentance for your deeds!" said the booming voice.
They dropped prone on their faces, moaning in terror. Not a face dared to lift upward. Bodies groveled, seeking reprieve for their misdeeds, pleading in prayer for condonement.
Mansfield stood over the closed eyes of the girl and looked at her, touched her fair cheek. Her lids flickered. He bent closer, but the hideous garb didn't frighten her.
"Sir John!" Her voice almost broke.
"Good girl!" spoke the admiring voice of the rescuer. "You are a brave girl!"
Swiftly, he cut loose the bonds with the sharp blade. He swept the chamber, but the blacks were still groaning fitfully. His voice boomed out in harsher tones. Every head dug deeper.
"BLACK men of Atlantis! Harken! Ra speaks! You have desecrated your trust upon the earth. Your priest, Okrulla, has been a scoundrel. He has sought to rid the land of Atlantis of the white men! It was not with my approval! It was prompted by his greed. I have come from my heavenly abode to save this fair daughter of the high priest of the white men. Had you killed her, every single one of you would have been struck with my noise! Arise!"
They rose to their feet and gawked shamefacedly at the towering head which had spoken so rebukingly to them. The mention of the noise had brought them to a quaking stand.
"Hereafter bring food offerings to the altar. Begone with blood!"
They filed out quickly, daring not one look backward, lest that thundering voice of the gods strike them down. In a short while the chamber was empty.
Mansfield turned to the girl and helped her down from the death-slab. She clung to him as to a long-lost brother; his strong arm gave support around her waist. He kicked aside the small panel which led them under the shrine; they entered, then he kicked it shut once more. The hollow shell resounded to the echo of their feet.
In the room of the robes Mansfield placed the girl upon a soft lounge, tore off the hideous thing he wore. His face was shining strangely, suffused with the unexpected success.
"Sir John, truly you are a god. Only Ra could have done what you did!"
He laughed. "Okrulla is gone, Venia. The blacks are too simple-minded to defy a religious belief!"
She debated the statement. "Do you know who Okrulla was? He was the black whom we captured once, and to whom we gave the brain treatment. But something didn't work out according to the rules and he disappeared with many ray-tubes. There are several more like him here who did that. It is those blacks we have to contend with. They forget easily. Soon they will be trying to get us again."
So that was the reason for Okrulla's reasoning power! Well, he was gone now. And he rather thought the dangerous uprising was over. He told it to the girl, but she shook her head.
FROM her he discovered that she had been captured during the attack upon Atlantis. Several blacks had masqueraded as temple servants and had taken her off during the battle. She shuddered when he asked her of their treatment. Only too well did he remember that chamber which had exacted so much of her.
Presently he glanced down and saw that she was asleep. Poor girl, he thought. She needed it. She was tired and worn. He curled himself up in a silky robe and sat at the foot of the lounge in deep thought. Now that he had the upper hand, he must devise some means of getting out of there with her. He might be able to play this rôle of Ra for a while, but the effect would soon wear off amongst the blacks. That wouldn't last forever. And this gun was his chief hold upon the creatures.
The thing to do, he told himself again, was to bend every effort to find where the outlet of the underground habitat was. He realized that it would have to be a crafty approach. The minds of these fellows wouldn't understand if the great Ra suddenly asked them the question. He must know everything! And he really knew little.
But he was glad now that Okrulla was gone. Probably he had been the only one who had ever gone into this room. He would have immediately recognized that mask robe which he had worn, would have known that someone was resorting to trickery. And he would have been a deadly enemy with that knowledge.
Thinking, musing, Mansfield nodded, and lay down at length for a moment of relaxation. He needed it badly, too. His whole body just yearned for a sweet repose.
Some time later he awoke, feeling old strength flowing back into his veins. It had been the first sleep he had had since that impromptu one up in the Great Sphinx—and didn't it feel good! His body clamored for a thing just like this!
He moved to the shell and looked out of the slit. A smile broke over his face. There was a great platter of food upon the altar. His orders were being followed out to the word. The body of Okrulla had been taken out, too. A deep silence pervaded the chamber.
He removed the food and took it into the inner chamber. He awoke Venia and they ate in silence. Both ate famishedly, a contented sigh falling when they had had enough.
"Venia, we can't stay here. Our only chance to get out of this place is to get out among the blacks. We might hear something which will show us. But don't ask any questions. Come, don one of these robes."
It was a good idea, she admitted. Staying here would lead them nowhere, that was positive. He helped her put on one of the robes, adjusting it so that it didn't drag on the ground, then dressed himself in the ugly garment as before. Underneath the garment he gripped securely the gun, ready to draw the trigger finger back into the speech of death.
They went out of the shell, into the chamber of the many benches, and walked slowly to the door.
"Under no condition," whispered Mansfield, "must you get separated from me. It is our only salvation. Keep your eyes open. And I'll do all the talking that must be done."
She nodded, the grotesque head bobbing up and down. They left the entrance behind them and emerged into a long corridor. Several blacks were lolling there and their eyes popped as the godly creatures came out of the chamber of rites. They fell upon their knees in humble subjection. Others issued from doorways and saw, too, the heavenly beings going slowly along, and they responded also with obsequious bows.
THE two moved along without a word, occasionally prying into a chamber. They paid little attention to the black men and women who flattened themselves out at their appearance. On and on they promenaded. Then Mansfield caught a glimpse of the stairway which led downward to the lower paths, the one he had rushed up ahead of his pursuers.
He nudged the girl. "This might lead us somewhere. I know there are lots of blacks below. Might hear something."
They started down. At one place, the bend in the flight, he saw the cloth in front of the alcove through which he had been catapulted. He couldn't resist pulling it to one side and scrutinizing the slab which moved inward to the priest's sanctuary. In some manner he must have exerted pressure upon the right spot. It was a wonder the blacks hadn't discovered this before.
Down in the corridor beneath, they found many blacks, and their sudden entrance brought a hush which was answered only by the lowering of the heads. The great deity, Ra, was walking amongst them! The supreme god of all! The beastly visage adorning Mansfield scowled ferociously, but inside there was a smile.
They came to a doorway and Mansfield felt the arm on his side quiver with a shudder. He gazed up askance, forgetting that he couldn't read that inhuman face. Then he understood. It was the torture chamber. Orientating his position by it, he gazed down the length of the passage and saw that the pit of horror was down at the other end.
Mansfield tried to figure this out. It stood to reason that, if there were an exit out of this place, it would be at a high level and not down here—somewhere at the highest elevation. But where was that? In the labyrinth of corridors it was a trying task to figure anything out like this. He'd better get up and search the upper passages.
Then a shriek split his eardrums and he whirled. The corridor was empty! The girl had vanished! In some stealthy manner Venia had disappeared. Again that scream rent the atmosphere, but this time it ceased suddenly, as though the voice had been choked into silence!
MANSFIELD cursed himself for the fool he was. Venia had been right. The blacks were never to be trusted. They were dangerous at all times. And he, the dupe that he had been, had been led on by their silly demonstrations and had trusted that they were believing him to be Ra. All the time he had been drawing the girl and himself closer and closer into their net.
It was plain now. They were afraid of his gun. It was easy for them to know beneath which robe he was. And artfully they stole the girl right from his side. They had been afraid to tamper with him. He spat death too viciously.
Ra! These bestial minds accepted no deity, he told himself scornfully. They might be easily frightened, but only for the moment. Nothing could subjugate these brutes for any length of time.
The capture again of Venia had happened so spontaneously, that he didn't know where to turn for the moment. He clutched his weapon with a fierce grip, swept the corridor about him with a swift scrutiny. It was bare of all life. Then, like a streak, he sped down to the end of the passage to the chamber of the circular pit of the man-eating gray matter.
It was familiar ground he trod on now. Not so very long before he had scuttled down this very passage like a trapped beast and had succeeded in freeing himself and coming out on top. But now it was a different matter. There was a lump in his throat at the thought of that scream which had suddenly stopped, at the thought of the danger the girl might be in now, and all due to his abominable carelessness. She might be dead by this time. The black devils were desperate. They wouldn't take chances any more. A defenseless girl meant nothing to their crooked minds. A prayer broke from his lips for her safety.
He flung aside the cloth from the anteroom of the pit of doom. And immediately he had his hands full.
There were a half dozen blacks there armed with clubs, apparently waiting for him. The moment he bounded into the room, they fell like a scourge upon him. His gun barked once and the foremost black fell backward, stumbling into two who were right behind him, knocking them both off their feet. The flashing eyes of the scientist saw a heavy club swing toward his head with crushing intent. He tried to leap out of the way but did not succeed. It crashed into him!
He had Okrulla to thank for the negligible damage the wooden club did. The head-dress was composed of a strong material that made the club bounce right up again and out of the wielder's hands. The tight-fitting cap of metal bore the full brunt of the blow, which hardly dazed the white man.
MANSFIELD tore the robe away from his shoulders, freeing his firing arm for better use. Once again the gun barked and another black pitched to the ground. Two negroes were now on the floor, one pawing the air and with distorted face—the other flattened against the stone.
The blacks were nerved to fight it out to a finish. They wanted badly to rid themselves of this man with the noisy thing in his hands, who still had the hideous head perched atop of him. But their very own eyes had seen what had happened to two of them after the same number of loud cracks. It was disheartening to pile in against such an incomprehensible factor of supernatural deadliness, yet with cries of abandon they flew at him, to get in a finishing blow. Their shrieks of rage cluttered up the room.
But this was what Mansfield liked now. At close quarters he couldn't miss hitting their bodies. The only thing which might worry him was that his gun would be emptied and more of the blacks would rush in before he could refill the chambers. But that was a passing fear.
The blacks could stand no more of it after two more of them, crashed to the ground. They dashed for the door and plunged out head-first.
Mansfield leaped over the fallen bodies and brought up against the panel. A swift glance into it and a fearful cry burst from his throat.
The girl was lying on the slope, her fingers holding tightly to the edge of the narrow ledge. Her eyes were shut with terror. Slowly she was slipping downward, her white hands bleeding from the fierce but impossible attempt to clutch securely.
At the sound of his voice she looked up at his grotesque head silhouetted in the opening, her lips trying to form some word. But Mansfield didn't need that word to see what she was going through. He slammed the gun into the holster and in the same motion was through the panel—just as the girl let go and commenced to slide down to a horrible death!
In a twinkling he tore off his cumbersome sham of a masked head and he cast it out toward the center of the pit. Then he threw himself face downward on the narrow ledge, and then gradually slid off the rim upon the decline, his feet behind him ramming hard into the unyielding rock. He now let his upper part of the body sway slowly, carefully, rigidly, his arms stretched far out to the slowly sliding girl.
She was skidding down and down and her eyes were wide open to the attempt of the Englishman. Her fingers kept pace with her descent by rubbing perspiring lines in the slope. And then she began to gain momentum!
MANSFIELD'S torso was now fully out over the ledge; his eyes stared unafraidly at the circular pit, which now looked so dreadfully close.
With one hand braced under him, he shot out the other to the girl and Venia, desperation forcing her to her utmost to stop the maddening glide, gave a sudden leap! If it failed, the next moment would see her shoot down at a speedy pace with but one end. But it was her only chance!
Her fingers fell into the outstretched palm of Mansfield. The moment that bleeding soft hand dropped into his, a vise encircled it. It stopped altogether the fall of the girl, but it pulled him out of position and he felt his feet give way behind him. For a moment he was positive that it was all over. Then the loosened feet again held and he was secure with the girl in his strong grasp.
But safety was far from being a fact! There remained yet the arduous job of getting both of them out of the precarious position. Neither was in a shape to move around without drastic result.
Mansfield, thinking hard and fast, felt that there was only one thing to do. He'd lie like this and brace hard. With his hands he might be able to work the girl up and past and over him. In that way she might be raised until her hands once more reached the ledge and she was able to get back upon it.
Quickly he outlined the plan to her and she nodded briefly with understanding. His tense hands pulled her up inch by inch until be was grasping her around her waist; then she was able to move up on her own power. Once she slid back for a short distance, but he halted that immediately. Those steely muscles dug into her without regard; he knew he hurt her. In a short while the soles of her sandals flicked by his sight and disappeared.
He heard her laboring breath pant: "I've got it!"
Then came two small but powerful hands wrapped around his ankles, and in a jiffy he was back upon the ledge. The girl dropped upon him in exhaustion, devouring him with eyes full of thanks. Her face was drawn with the suffering she had undergone.
Mansfield made as though to sit down next to her, when a blood-curdling yell came from behind him. He whirled and saw a leering countenance in the panel. A negro stood there, club in hand, sneering at them.
"Ra! 'Tis none else but the stranger! He escaped once from the pit, but now——"
A LOUD, rising cackle burst from him as he slammed shut the opening, just as the scientist lunged at it. From behind it there died away the throaty, high-pitched voice.
Mansfield's balled fist could make no indentation against that resolute rock, and with a shrug of his shoulders he turned away from it and looked at the girl.
"Venia, do you know where we are?"
Her blonde head nodded. "It is the man-eating matter. I know, for the blacks copied this chamber from the one in which we imprison dangerous negroes."
"Then you know what this means. We'll be kept here until we slip from exhaustion down there."
She didn't reply, but leaned with back against the wall and clasped her arms about her knees. Her blonde hair was a sheen from which sparkled the tiny drops of irradiating beams from the walls.
And then something came over Mansfield, something which had never happened to his manly life before. He wanted of a sudden to take that beautiful, courageous daughter of the high priest in his arms and caress her. His heart was trembling strangely. The girl's drawn eyes were staring unseeingly into space. It molded her features into a classic piece of sculptured marble. Each contour, each line was perfectly chiseled. She seemed to have matured, blossomed into superbness within a brief interval.
"Sir John," she said without turning to him, "if we ever get out of here, the white men of Atlantis will revere you more than ever before. Since your coming many unbelievable things have occurred. You have fought with your own life for our welfare. Does your land contain all of your type?"
He wanted to tell her that any living man, given one look at her, would have laid his life down in her defense, but she was so serious in her statement that he could say nothing.
The girl searched his face under an intensifying study. "Your land is one place I would have liked to see. If it bears your mankind, it must be heaven to live in."
Mansfield had to turn away from her keen look; it embarrassed him. He changed the topic with: "Where is the entrance to this hole? You must have seen it when they brought you down."
She shook her head. "They blindfolded me. I don't know where they led me in."
Mansfield didn't understand it. As he had reasoned before, it seemed probable that the opening would be somewhere in the upper corridors. It appeared logical. The higher one got, the closer he would get to the upper ground. He knew that the entrance was through the cellar in which he had been captured. But where that led to down here was an enigma.
WHAT caused him to think of that, when there was no chance for them to be freed of this pit? Was it that he wouldn't—couldn't give up in the face of insurmountable odds—because of the girl? He glanced at her and something caught him up. Confound it, why had she been forced into all this—such a beautiful thing? It wasn't his sense of justice. He wouldn't mind it much if he had to figure it all out, were he the only one. But her presence made his every move heavy with weighty precision. Nothing he did could be wrong from now on. He hadn't himself to think of.
He could easily read the resignation on Venia's face. There was something about the man-eating stuff that cowed every soul in Atlantis, black or white. In spite of the rays which controlled it, it was an indefinably conclusive essence which could not be dealt with, or hoped against. Its malignant, overpowering effect was final!
Still, he told himself grimly, he couldn't give up. The blacks held the upper hand now. But he didn't forget that he had once escaped from this very same spot! Those fellows would keep them down here without food or water until they became incredibly weak; then, with nothing to support their failing arms and legs, they would slide down in some moment of unwariness. That was the way this pit of doom worked!
How many hours passed thus in thought, he did not knew. The silence and stillness of the chamber was working on him. He didn't want to get up on his feet lest he totter. He had been staring too long at that lighted circle in the concave center of the chamber for his own good. It had him dizzy.
The idea had been lurking in his brain for some time, before he found himself aware of it. He gnawed at it. It was the only thing they could do. It had to succeed!
He sat at the side of the sleeping girl, holding her hand, lest some slight movement in her slumber would send her tumbling over the side. Venia was sleeping so peacefully that he was reluctant to awake her. But the success of the idea was dependent upon being in readiness. And the opportunity might pass while she slept. He awakened her.
This is the conclusion of "The Lost City." The story has been much admired and it holds its interest to the end. We are now in the midst of the rebellion in Atlantis, and the story draws to a very nice conclusion. The narration is full of action.
THE girl was alert almost as soon as she opened her eyes. She eyed him askance.
"Venia, I have thought of something. It is our only chance."
She sat up quickly. Mansfield took from his hip the revolver and held it aloft.
"You've seen bow this works, with what quickness I dispatch the blacks." He knocked it open and put new shells into it. "This" —he showed her the pressing of the trigger—"is how it works." Carefully he went into elaboration of the handing of the gun. And the highly developed mind of the girl understood readily.
"It is our only chance, Venia. The blacks have never see anyone else but myself use it. They think that no one else can. That is shown by the way they took you right under my eyes. You are supposed to be harmless. What I am going to do is this: I am going to give it to you. Then I shall crouch beneath the panel. When they open it to see how we are faring, they will not be able to see me unless they lean out and look down. If they were to see me they would close that panel instantly. But after one look, if they don't find me, they will think that I have perished. Understand? I want the black to lean in! I'll take care of him. You are to press this trigger on any face that shows up near him."
The girl fell in with the plan with shining eyes. "But are you sure I can use this—this—"
He laughed exuberantly. "You can't help it. Just hold it tight and point it directly at the black head or body and pull that finger. Don't be frightened by the noise. All I want is just one black skull to come into the pit. Just one! Shoot anyone who tries to close the panel. Fear naught!"
It infused them both with new courage. They discussed it from all angles. "They are bound to open that panel some time," he told her. "It is the only way they can find out what we are doing, whether any of us have gone down—there."
THE girl stationed herself a little distance away from the closed opening. Mansfield crouched right under it. The girl was to keep the weapon from view, in case a black eye would alight upon it at the very beginning; then to use it swiftly. He was to keep his eyes on her, and, when she nodded, he would know that the hole had been opened.
They settled down to wait. It was only a matter of waiting. The panel would be opened some time. It seemed like hours to Mansfield as he slouched there; his knees were becoming numbed; but he didn't dare move for fear that it might be at that moment that the blacks would deem it the right time to open it. His eyes were glued on the face of the girl for some sign: her eyes were centered upon the closed portal.
Just when he felt that he would have to change his position or drop, there was a flicker in the girl's face. She nodded imperceptibly, the hand behind her tensing.
He looked up and saw that a square light was thrown against the wall. It was now or never! Were he to lose this chance it was a foregone conclusion he would never get another one. Even a black mind wouldn't fall for this simple trick twice in succession. Mansfield had accomplished it once before, but no black knew of that. That unfortunate fellow was now a dissolved thing somewhere at the bottom of the circular pit in which reposed the man-eating matter.
He heard a voice above him say:
"Look! The stranger has at last fallen into the pit! Good! The girl is crouched there yet!"
Several voices broke into a gleeful cheer in the ante-room. To Mansfield the sound of those throats meant that he would have to strike decisively. The element of surprise must not be lost. All of them must not be given time to coordinate their actions.
He saw Venia nod again. An outline of a blackish physiognomy shadowed the wall and then the full head was thrust forward, into the chamber.
Like a flash of lightning his arms moved up and fixed themselves around that neck. A heave, and the body was half way through. Hands of steel crushed the breath from the negro. He was at such a disadvantage that he couldn't bring his arms into play, and thus Mansfield held him, choking him into submission. And the Englishman saw, with a cheering glance, that so long as he kept the fellow half-in and half-out it would be impossible to close the panel.
A black face slipped closer to the opening; there was an upraised club and Venia moved in front of him and fired. He flopped backward into the remaining black who was right behind him.
"Quick!" she cried. "They are down. Release him."
Mansfield steadied himself and let sail the fellow. A hoarse howl of horror throated from him, but it was the last sound he ever made. He bounced out of view presently.
Mansfield lifted the girl and tossed her through the aperture, following with a bound that knocked him off his feet as he alighted right atop the fallen blacks. Immediately he was clenched with the rising negro who sunk his teeth into his ear. Venia huddled against the wall, watched entranced the flailing arms, the rippling muscles. Their freedom had been enacted within such a brief interval that she was momentarily stunned, the gun hanging limply from her fingers. But a gasp fell from her lips as she saw the huge paw of the black slowly forcing back Mansfield's head, and she plunged into them, pointing the muzzle of the weapon at the hideous head, pulling the trigger. The negro's head turned, his eyes wide open; his hands relaxed; he dropped on the ground.
The strange weapon, however, was too much for the girl of Atlantis. The supernatural ease and manner with which it dealt with the enemy was not lost upon her, and awed her deeply. She fell back against the wall, the revolver slipping from her finger-tips. Mansfield caught it as it fell, his hand touching hers. There was gratitude in his eyes. Her soft skin electrified him.
The next moment he had crushed her to him and was kissing her milk-white brow. She clung to him with her remaining strength, eagerly. It was the first manifestation of love Mansfield had ever shown to any bit of womanhood. But it had not its origin then. Many hours of fearful ordeals had they suffered together; many moments of trying hardships. These had molded them together.
Strangely enough, no blacks had come plowing into the chamber after all the shouting and noise. But Mansfield saw that the fellow Venia had first fired upon was now returning to consciousness. He sat up and looked stupidly at the two who stood over him, held a hand to a creased head from which blood was dripping. He cowered at the sight of the gun pointed at his breast.
Mansfield stood looking at him. A jubilant feeling came over Mm. It was indeed fortunate that Venia hadn't killed this fellow. He was injured enough to be incapable of fighting but he was becoming clear-minded to answer questions. And that was what was wanted now. From this black Mansfield could find out how to get out of the beastly hole.
He prodded him with the gun, with terrifying motions, and the black screamed. Perspiration was pouring down his face, eyes were distended.
"Do you want to die?" the scientist barked.
The huddling man shook his head violently, shrinking still farther away from the thing which catapulted death. "No! No!"
"You will die by this fire from the heaven if you don't reply to question!"
The ebony face twitched. "I'll tell you anything!"
Mansfield glared at him. "How do you get out of here?"
The black man of Atlantis stared at him, eyes rolling, then pointed toward the door. But Mansfield jabbed the gun into has ribs with a suddenness that knocked him against the wall. The creature cried: "That way! That way!"
And he pointed directly through the panel of the pit of doom!
Sir John Mansfield's brow furrowed in surprise, in wonder. What was thus fellow talking about, anyway? He smiled wryly.
"Sure, everybody goes out that way—for ever! And if you don't answer immediately, that's where you go!"
The black had great respect for the ever-shifting gun. His eyes were constantly upon its prowling mouth and when it came nearer to him he bowled shudderingly.
"That way! That way!"
Something in the man's frightened face seemed to tell Mansfield that he wasn't lying. But he couldn't believe for a moment the pit chamber was the outlet of this subterranean abode. It didn't sound reasonable.
He prodded the fellow toward the panel.
"Now get me, you scoundrel. Into that opening you go. Show me what you mean. What entrance are you talking about! And don't forget! One false move out of you and this"—he patted the gun—"will spit into you from any distance!"
The man nodded briskly, understandingly. He leaped with alacrity through the aperture into the pit of the man-eating matter. The way in which he jumped into it proved without a doubt to the scientist that there was some way somewhere in there. The black had no fear of the grisly chamber.
The fellow walked cautiously around the precarious ledge and came at the opposite end to a blank slab. His fumbling fingers pressed something. Instantly a huge blackness showed behind a swinging rock. The black pointed.
Mansfield and Venia felt a tingling at the sight of the exit. It was the last place where they would ever expect it. And how ingenious it was! Any body of invaders could come rushing through it, only to be forced by their own momentum into the ghastly circular pit below. Nothing could stop them. It was a fine piece of black strategy, uncovered only through the fears of a black for a weapon which had him frightened stiff!
Mansfield lifted the girl through the panel and followed her. He grasped her hand and led her carefully around the ledge. The lighted pit in the center had little terror for them now. They were soon standing next to the palsied black.
At that moment there came a roar of human voices. Faces loomed in the panel opening and pointed and gesticulated toward them. They were shrieking frenziedly at the black who had broken his faith and had shown the two prisoners the precious exit from their hidden depth. Curses and more curses burst upon them.
Mansfield was thankful that the mob hadn't burst in upon them a few moments before. They would never have been able to overcome such numbers, or get through the paneled opening safely. And even as he watched he saw the foremost blacks clambering over into the chamber via the panel.
He poked the injured black. "Lead! And remember, one tricky move out of you and you go to join your fathers!"
Into the opening they ran, the howls of the pursuers splitting their ear-drums as they advanced.
THE tunnel was as dark as night for a short distance, then from the walls there came that effulgence which was so commonplace in Atlantis. It lighted up the passage and Mansfield saw that the tunnel was about fifteen feet wide, giving enough room for a number of men to move along abreast. Then the footing became uncertain, as the stone floor shot upward at a sharp angle. It wasn't easy to sprint up this with speed.
The black, however, seemed not to mind the grade as he ran before them, his feet carrying him swiftly, until he was a good distance ahead of the hurrying pair. Mansfield let out a yell which halted him dead in his tracks and brought him scurrying back. The scientist couldn't afford to lose this black now. On him they depended upon all of their freedom. He, and he alone, knew where they were going. And the way he tried to outpace them and lose them showed his anxiety of getting out of the range of the gun which Mansfield now held.
Up and up they ran. Behind them they could hear the steadily rising voices of the blacks. If those fellows ran as fast as the black in front of them, they would soon overtake them. They were probably used to this; he and Venia were not. And there was immediate danger of slipping and falling. His boots were not made to fly over this sharp stone incline. They were constantly skidding from under him.
It was with a glad cry that he saw the walls of the tunnel coming together.
And soon they were gliding between a space where he could reach out with outstretched arms and touch both sides at one time. That meant much, right now. It wouldn't prevent a horde from coming upon them from the rear at one time. The pursuers would have to move up in double file, at the most.
Mansfield ran immediately behind the daughter of the high priest. He marveled at the agility with which those slender legs carried her ahead. She was like a breath of wind now; every moment seemed to give her new strength. Her chest rose and fell without strain. She had adapted herself to the situation with a vim!
He glanced behind him and saw the foremost of the blacks running swiftly, his club held like a feather in his hands. It roused the fury in the black face as Mansfield looked back. He lifted his burly stick and swung it viciously.
There came a bend in the tunnel and the black ahead flitted around it, Venia following. Mansfield came to a sudden halt, whirled and fired. The black let out a shriek of pain and plunged through the air, to fall with a crunch that sounded like snapping bones. The body turned over and over, and the scientist's eye, just as he was disappearing around the turn, caught the rushing blacks bowling into the prone figure and piling upon each other, blocking up the passage.
The pause would help them a lot, he knew. They couldn't go on running like this all day. The blacks were far swifter than they. The underground channel had to lead somewhere and end sometime. He caught sight of the girl ahead, running smoothly; and the black, his feet animated by the sound of the loathsome gun, put on another burst of speed.
Far behind him came the resumption of the pursuit. They were on the trail once more, detained no longer by the body of the black leader. The scientist, panting from the exertion, caught up with the girl and pattered behind her. He saw the black slow down and come to a stop. All three of them stopped in their tracks to keep from bumping into each other. They had come to the end of the tunnel!
FIGURES were appearing at the other end of the passage, around that bend, accompanied by outbursts that sent them, baffled by a blank wall, into anxious haste.
"Quick," Mansfield commanded the black. "Open it up."
The fellow eyed those of his own ilk who were tearing up the narrow, lighted path. He hesitated for a moment, But only for a moment, for the scientist wasn't fooling with him now. He slammed the negro against the wall with one hand, and with the other fired the gun, nipping the black's ear.
The fellow's eyes were crazed with fear. He cried and sobbed and begged, seeing death staring him in the face. Not more than seventy-five feet away were the howling blacks. Mansfield gave them a swift glance, jerked the negro back to his feet with a prod in the stomach that almost doubled him up.
The black fingers dived for the wall, met a small dent. Instantly the primary rock fell backward, and Mansfield found himself looking into the littered cellar in which he had once gone searching around. He uttered a cry of delight, shoving the girl recklessly through the opening, whirling just in time to face the nearest black ten feet away who was bounding with upraised club!
He didn't hesitate. The revolver spurted flame; the impetus carried the victim on, to drop him two feet away from the Englishman, the club bouncing past Mansfield and through the opening! The closest black had been dealt with!
The ebony men set up a terrific din as they saw their quarry dive through the portal and disappear. They dived after him with murder in their eyes, to meet the cracking of the gun. Nothing could keep them back. They were insane for white blood, they were hellishly crazed for the feeling of white skin beneath their tearing hands.
Mansfield saw with relief that the girl had sped up the stairs of the basement and he followed with long strides, firing backward at the heads which were bobbing out of the entrance. But his part in the affair was over. Rushing down the steps came the white men of Atlantis, swinging their ray cylinders, like heavy bludgeons, instead of with the slow paralyzing cylinders. The two bodies of men met fiercely, though the whites were vastly superior in numbers.
Out on the plain Mansfield saw Venia in the arms of her father. He was holding her close as though never to let her go. Men were grouped about them, sending up cheer after cheer. They piled around the torn and disheveled stranger like a brother long-lost. Hands patted him on the shoulder. Everybody wanted to touch him, to praise him.
The high priest took the scientist by the arm.
"Sir John, we searched long for you and Venia and were on the verge of giving up. We were just about ready to leave in force, when we heard those loud crashes of your weapon. May the gods heap upon your divine head their benign favors."
THERE was a kindness and warmth from Yuxa which abashed Mansfield. The haughty eyes were humbling themselves before him. The high priest held the form of his daughter tightly, gripping the arm of the stranger with the other hand.
Behind them still continued the noise of the fighting, but it was dying out. The vehement voices of the blacks were thinning out as more and more of the whites tore down into the cellar to throw themselves into the thick of it. Mansfield looked around him and saw that a vast army of white men were assembled, waiting for some official word to be heard, now that they had discovered the entrance to the black underground pits. But the Englishman turned to the high priest.
"Yuxa, call back your men. Do not let them go through the tunnel."
The leader of the whites gazed at him inquiringly. "Why?"
Rapidly he told of the precarious footing which was afforded down the passageway which led into the pit of doom. There was not enough room there to begin hand-to-hand engagement save for several men. And the pit of the man-eating plant was all against them. Even if they succeeded in getting into it, there wasn't any way of getting through unless through the panel And a whole army of men couldn't get through that at one time. The blacks had the decided advantage any way one looked at it. They could pick off their assailants one at a lime.
But it was an advantage to the whites too. Mansfield pointed out. The blacks couldn't get out either. The logic of it struck home with the high priest immediately. Immediately the officers were giving the men the order to recede, leaving but a handful of whites to guard the entrance to the cellar.
"Some other means must be had," Mansfield advised them, and then it came to him—the solution. He pulled Yuxa close and told him. "It will take time but it is the best way. Start immediately and dig a half dozen tunnels underground, underneath the wall of the man-eating plant, and have these tunnels break into the corridors of the blacks all at one time. In that way you all can pile into them at once."
THE city of Atlantis fêted the stranger as no city ever fêted a victor before. Women, tall and beautiful, twined their arms around him as he strode along and kissed him unreservedly and unashamedly. His embarrassment rose when the men, too, threw their arms about him and pressed their kisses of undying friendship upon his brow. It was a custom which they now imbibed to their fullest—and to the Englishman's dismay and horror. And occasionally he glanced back to see Yuxa smiling upon him and Venia's rapt eyes centered upon his face. His dirty and torn garments were a pitiable sight in his own eyes, but they seemed to be a handsome shroud of victory to them all.
Handsome children, straight as arrows, clambered between his knees and he had to reach down and drag them to his shoulders. It was a constant cheer that burst from their throats. Never had be remotely realized that some day he might be received like this anywhere, let alone in a strange land which had never had the light of day, the breath of anything but a self-manufactured atmosphere.
It was the first time he really saw Atlantis for what it was. The picture remained with him forever—women, like Venia, with a superbness of grace and body that was dream-like in aspect; men with a warmth of character and heart that had existed only in theory and fancy. Far and away stretched the great city, brilliant lights of every hue; myriads of rays flashed across the subterranean sky, a gorgeous spectrum of color.
WORK was halted at every depth. Every black vassal came to the top to gorge himself with the huge platters of food which appeared from everywhere, to drink from the deep urns of the exhilarating liquids. The return of the daughter of the high priest, safe and sound, was an occasion of merriment and glee.
Mansfield had been separated from the company of Venia and her parent. He had permitted himself to be led from group to group and to recount over and over again his magical escapes from the horrifying pit of doom. The thing had never happened before. Shudders were plainly evident, blue eyes gaped awedly upon him. He was an object of fascination.
But he was now tired of this aimless feasting. He wanted more and more to see Venia again, to look at her, to feel her soft hand in his. Finding his opportunity, he dived into a ground portal of the huge temple and disappeared. The hallways seemed dolefully bare and empty as he walked briskly upward. He felt now that he could find the upper chambers of the high priest. He wanted to see Venia, Be wanted to be alone with the girl The memory of the all-too-brief moment in the anteroom of the man- eating pit chamber with Venia in his arms blotted out all this rejoicing. He wanted to rejoice with someone else—with her.
Swiftly be went up and up, turning into corridor after corridor, and after a time he discovered to his chagrin that he actually knew little of the temple. Every hall-passage was similar in aspect to the next one, and though he halted occasionally and entered sliding panels, he found himself in unfamiliar and empty rooms. During ordinary times, there would have been somebody going or coming and he would have been put upon the proper path, but they were all down below now, singing and making merry. He roamed the corridors until he knew eventually that he was lost.
At the far end he saw a lounge against the wall and he sat down and scratched his head. He'd stay around until someone came by and then get his bearings. Then he bolted upright! Someone as speaking to him!
"Yon are an inspired man, Sir John Mansfield. You are truly gifted!"
It was the loud, raucous voice! The mystery of that entity had been torn from his mind by the rapidly ensuing events, and he had completely forgotten about it. But now it sounded all around him, speaking with candor and directness at him!
He leaped to his feet and stared with narrowed eyes at the walls. Where was this thing coming from? What uttered those words in such an insipid tone?
MANSFIELD'S flicking and penetrative glances saw a portal at the other end of the corridor open and a figure emerge, gazing around for some answer to the sound heard. It was Yuxa, and he immediately made for him, pattering down the heavily rugged floor. The high priest saw him coming and greeted him. Behind him, through the opened panel, the scientist saw the girl.
Yuxa approached him and laid his arm around him with utmost affection.
"Venia has told me everything—my son!"
They entered the room. The girl was attired in fresh garments, a new robe reaching to her knees, and a resplendent tiara which encircled her blonde head like a halo. Mansfield took her in his arms and kissed her.
"May Ra bless you, my children!" the high priest said, with an effusive expression in his eyes.
Suddenly Yuxa's head fell from his shoulder and bowed. The voice was speaking again!
"Conduct the ritual of victory to Ra in the holy chamber, Yuxa."
Mansfield was angry. Decidedly angry! His blood cavorted madly at the sound of that voice. What beastly right had it to break him from the ecstatic feeling of holding the daughter of the high priest in his arms? It was the voice of a confounded old rascal, that's what it was! His mind tensed with the unuttered desire. He'd find out the source of that thing before many hours were over! He'd drag it all over the floor for the white men to see what sort of Ra was using them in ridiculous subjection. Yes—he'd— But, confound it, that voice had spoken for ages! What was this?
YUXA stood in reverent position for a moment, then quit the room. Venia went to the wail and opened a large portion of it, giving a wide view of the bustling throng below. She leaned out with him at her side. The men and women below caught a glimpse of them and burst into hailing cries. Their arms flung upward in commendatory gestures, their throats yelling themselves hoarse.
The figure of the high priest appeared and all became still. Soon there was a steady flow into the temple, up to the chamber of the supreme deity of Atlantis, the god worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, and later supplanted in the faith of the men of Atlantis by that ancient character, Cheops. The victory ritual was a holy one.
The two stood next to each other, looking down. Presently there were but a few left below, those on guard.
"Come, Sir John. We must go now."
The chamber of Ra was a vast amphitheater with a huge golden throne near the dais. Mansfield, entering the room from a corner near the altar, recalled the time he had gone through it with Yuxa. And he distinctly remembered that the high priest had told him that the delicately carved seat had never contained any living person; that it was the recipient of Ra at all times.
The place was peculiarly quiet, for all of the many people seated and yet to be seated. All heads were held in respectful posture. Gone was the exuberance manifested but a short time before. The religious ritual in the chamber of the great god was too holy a one.
The high priest entered presently and came quickly up the rugged aisle to the altar. He was now clad in a long garment which brushed the floor, but his head was bare. It was nothing like those religious displays of the blacks, where a hideous and horrifying face was used to affect and move the assembled crowd.
Mansfield found himself sitting next to Venia, on a small, backless bench in front of Yuxa and a short distance away from the golden throne, that dull, glistening thing which squatted near the shrine. The Englishman concentrated his gaze upon the seat of precious metal, the chair into which no one had ever dropped. The legs seemed rooted to the floor, strong and well- rounded. That throne of Ra would find an open welcome in any museum, he mused.
The voices about him broke into a soft, purring incantation of one pitch. It was a plea for righteous life, and reward after death; for happiness to continue and to enter into their mode of existence. It was a hearty and true expression that came from them. They meant every word they said.
BUT this was only the preliminary prayer, he discovered. The real one, the victory ritual, came later. And what an ear- splitting din it was! Even to the sense of the supposedly listening god it was considered as a holy gesture.
Every person rose to his feet and threw up the arms in a plea. The lungs took deep breaths, the voices suddenly breaking into a growing shriek that continued until all air was spent, following which they abruptly sat down. That was the victory ritual!
It was all highly interesting to the scientist. He missed nothing, however irrelevant it might appear. The victory ritual to the god Ra had been offered since time immemorial. The ancient Egyptians returned from a slain foe with hailing cries. This, to which he had just listened, was a perfect replica of the one of thousands of years ago!
Ra, to the Egyptians, was a combination of the majesties studding the wide, spacious heaven. But to Atlantis the meaning of the sun or moon was only historical, something none had ever seen.
But those living knew, however, that such did exist.
Mansfield glanced around at the tapestries for some symbol which might explain the shape of Ra. Generally a god was caricatured in some form or fashion. But the garbed walls were bare of anything to that effect. Only the golden chair seemed symbolic of something. There was some sort of inscription upon the legs and arms.
Then, like a thunderclap, there came upon the assembly a noise like a cough. And another. Everybody sat immobile, expectant. The voice spread over them and all heads bowed.
"High priest of Atlantis, your victory ritual has reached the ears of Ra! And, for the first time in the history of Atlantis, there shall be an ascendence to the heaven! Seat the heroic stranger upon the chair of Ra!"
There was a sharp and breathless halt. Mansfield's heart was pounding. Venia, for the first time in her life, broke away from the respectful bow which held her drooping head and raised it frantically, looking at him. Her eyes were terrorized. Such a thing had never occurred before in the annals of the underground land—the seating of anyone upon the throne of holiness, the seat of Ra! None knew what would be incurred by that act. There was a fear which leaped from her beautiful eyes, an apprehension which the Englishman did not miss.
Sir John Mansfield's eyes were clouded. Was this a trick of some sort? Perhaps the blacks were behind this, and they now saw their opportunity of doing away with him! But no! How could the ebony creatures have got away with this farce for so many ages? It hardly seemed possible.
YET, there was something here which forced itself upon the white man. Something that he ridiculed as not being of supernatural and godly potency. There couldn't be anything like that! He wanted badly to uncover it, and what better time was to be had than now? The solution lay within his grasp. He was going to sit down in that golden throne and await the consequences. Something would probably happen. And he intended to solve it all. If there were danger imminent, that contingency was to be met somehow. But right now he must go through with it.
With a soothing shake of the head he calmed the girl, and her tremulous countenance turned from him to stare ahead. He rose to his feet, every head looking at him unblinkingly, and moved toward the throne. Standing before it for a moment he studied intently the construction, but perceived nothing which might arouse his suspicions. Everything appeared forward and innocent.
He sat down abruptly! A silence that could have been cut with a knife held everybody transfixed. But nothing happened!
Sitting in the seat was nothing extraordinary. It was similar to any other repose. Hard and not any too comfortable. He glanced about him, observing the faces focused upon him. Then the voice spoke again with finality, upon trembling, twitching nerves.
"Look upon the courageous man, men of Atlantis! He goes now!"
Mansfield had no time to prepare himself for what followed. He was thrown back into the chair and he clung hard to the arms, as a sudden blinding flash enveloped the entire dais and the spot where the chair was placed, A stinging sensation smarted his eyes, and he began to cough. As though from a distance, he heard the scream of a girl and knew that it was Venia.
The cloud hung thickly over him, obstructing all vision. He shook his head to clear it. Suddenly he felt himself rising swiftly! He knew that the chair was going straight up with him, for his arms were leaning heavily on the golden arms of the seat. His stomach felt hollow from the spurt upward!
Was it really shooting into heaven? he tried to ask himself in amazement. This soaring up and up, what was it? What unearthly power made it ascend? It couldn't be supernatural, he told himself. He was a scientist, cold and penetrative. And that realization made him shudder. He felt now that he had it! He was going to be smashed against the stone ceiling, flattened into a lifeless form! That was it! Someone was going to get rid of him!
But nothing like that happened. His head suddenly shot into a brilliant light that relieved his smarting eyes, but dazzled him so that he couldn't see anything for a while. He stopped coughing and sputtering. Something tore him from the chair and threw him upon a soft bed, stunning him but momentarily.
His eyes gradually became used to the light and he gazed around him. The intensity of the illumination was thinning out.
"HERE!" A thin voice was speaking to him. To his ringing ears it sounded very much similar to that raucous voice. He whirled, sprang to his feet.
There, sitting before a great table upon which a luminous light fell in brilliant lances, was a small wizened figure, whose body was dried and thin. He was hairless, his face accentuated by high cheekbones, and the only thing he wore was a metallic girdle of sparkling color.
The figure radiated an aura of untold age. Even as Mansfield looked fascinatedly at him, he could feel those eyes bearing the weight of many centuries. The thin face bore the semblance of a smile. Was this that heavenly entity, Ra? And was this—was this heaven?
"Who are you?" Mansfield demanded in a queer tone.
The other pointed at the table before him and beckoned. "Come here."
Mansfield strode over and gazed upon the flat top. It was some sort of reflector, lined off into sections. His eyes looked eagerly. The old man was pointing to a square of large dimensions. Tiny dots were spotting the glass. He turned a knob and the section leaped into huge proportions. Staring back at Mansfield was a lucid picture of the chamber of Ra, the one he had just quit forcibly! The Englishman saw the impassive faces staring at the cloud which still hung around the altar, saw Venia standing near her father with her hand clamped over her mouth. Then the mist cleared away and he could see the golden throne sitting there as it had always sat. And of course it was empty.
The girl stared at the great throne with distorted eyes, then slumped forward, to be caught by the high priest and carried from the room. The ritual was over. All filed out with heads hanging.
MANSFIELD whirled upon the old fellow, who sat with orbs fixed upon the glass.
"Who are you? What is this magic with which you cower these men?"
"You are staring at Ra—"
Mansfield exclaimed, "Bosh! What rascality are you up to here?"
The spontaneous and impulsive stranger never lost the whimsical smile on the emaciated face.
"You are a clever man, Sir John Mansfield. No use deceiving you. Pray sit down and refresh yourself by relaxing. You are overwrought."
But Mansfield was not to be forced into a seat. With demanding tone he asked again, "Who are you?"
The eyes of the old man stared at him eagerly, looking right through him.
"You demand, Sir John. Are you really interested?"
Mansfield's breath was coming faster now. He couldn't diagnose that creepy feeling which was quivering down his spine. He nodded his head.
Those deep, awfully deep eyes smiled at him. The bald head bent forward.
"I am Cheops!"
QUITE a little while later, Sir John Mansfield found himself sitting in a chair with mouth agape, staring unbelievingly at the amused countenance of the other.
"Cheops! Cheops! The Egyptian king!" he murmured. "He died five thousand years ago. This fellow must be an imposter! Cheops! There is no.... What is the matter with me, anyway?"
And, indeed, it seemed very probable that he was out of his mind. Had he been able to see his own face at that moment he would have been alarmed at its colorless pastiness. He couldn't shut his mouth; it was open wide enough to stick two closed fists into it. He couldn't think straight.
An old, bony arm extended toward him. "Come, come, my good man! Pull yourself together!"
The sound of the other's voice did more than anything else to wipe off that impossible silliness. Mansfield took a deep breath and glared around him. A burst of dismay, of utter wonder, came from him. Right to the side of him was a transparent wall through which he could see the entire city of Atlantis, and, down below, there issued from the floor of the temple orderly throngs of men and women. They were the ones who had left the chamber of Ra shortly before!
He didn't understand this. Where he sat now was somewhere at the top of the temple. Probably on the top. And he could look down and see everyone. The glass was in clear view of those below. Yet not one of those heads which occasionally glanced upward to the top of the edifice ever showed surprise or notice of it. He, Mansfield, had taken in every line of the temple when be had returned from the black land beyond the man-eating plant, and he was positive that there had been nothing like this above the holy building. It had been a blank wall at this point—of that he was sure. What miracle was this?
HIS roving mind clicked back to the fellow who called himself Cheops. He surveyed him from head to foot.
He was the most shriveled, living mummy he had ever seen. Save for those brilliant, profound eyes, which were like a burbling pool of age-old wisdom and lore, he would hardly have seemed to possess animation. Yet, there stood the paradox!
He whispered awedly: "Tell me, why do you call yourself Cheops? Are you a descendant of the famous Egyptian dynasty of that name?"
The fellow laughed—a metallic, dead sound.
"No! I am not a descendent! I am Cheops, the man who has lived almost five thousand turns by that instrument"—he pointed near the wall and Mansfield saw a slowly revolving globe which resembled the earth, turning upon an axis.
Above it were suspended in the air two balls of some metal which defied gravity. They, also, moved in imperceptible rotation.
The English scientist inspected it closely, while the old fellow continued to explain the working of the instrument. The globe was girdled by a strip of metal the same as that of which the two balls which floated, were composed. He could see that the orbits were similar to those of the sun and moon, and that the earth turned once fully to represent the passing of a day. Three hundred and sixty-five turns in one entire revolution designated a fully completed year. That much Mansfield discovered from the man who called himself Cheops. The instrument was a very ingenious piece! But that could wait. It was this shrunken thing of a human, who interested him the most at the moment.
He stared at him long, speculatively. He was old. But no man could live that long. Cheops or anyone else! There were thousands of questions that he wanted to ask, to make the other talk about himself. What was this that seemed so elusively mysterious? He didn't want to term him an absolute liar, without having the facts before him. And yet he wanted to believe this man before him. That strange feeling which was rippling through him wasn't without import. He had felt it before, even though his mind wouldn't hold faith or believe, and he had found out differently.
The old man seemed to read his thoughts. His eyes narrowed as if concentrating inwardly, then he spoke.
"I will tell you, Sir John Mansfield. I fully realize your puzzled and unbelieving mien. I am Cheops. The original Cheops. Rest your mind on that point.
"You found the papyrus manuscript which I wrote ages ago. Thus you understand how I became acquainted with the existence of Atlantis. But it was more than that. I found the men of learning here to be so greatly developed that my pithy scientists were but foolish men in Egypt. I discovered that one of them had concocted a flame which would recreate the physical cells of the human body without the necessity of the subsistence upon food and water. That was the greatest creation of any human mind! It was the fountain of eternal life! But I shall show you later!....
"From the first glance into this extraordinary land, I completely forgot my own. I arranged finally to have my supposed body buried in a tomb, but it was only that of a slave. That necessary passing wiped from the minds of my people the life of Cheops. And that was what I had wanted. I had built in the meantime many pyramids and monuments so as to hide the true meaning of the Great Sphinx. You know its purpose.
"The men of Atlantis—I speak of the whites—are of much beneficence of mind and heart. So were their fathers. They accepted me as one of their own. And puttering around with their men of science and seeing how I could live forever, I took in hand the formula of the flame of life. This abode, I am at present in, can never be discovered. The matter which envelops it is of transparent substance which yields to no pressure. None can look in or see it, it is so impenetrable, but I within it am not handicapped in any way by it. That is why you can see everything going on below and no one there will be the wiser.
"Here, look at the table before you. It is partitioned off into sections, perceive? Those sections correspond to every chamber in this temple, and those strips are the underground dungeons and corridors. I can communicate at any time with any one of them simply by moving this knob which brings it to large relief. In every room and corridor are placed tiny but superpowerful bulbs which absorb every irradiation, both physical and inanimate. They are reflectors. My voice is carried through this tube here to each room, through thin slits in the four corners which are powerful amplifying devices. I will get you the chamber of the high priest and Venia, to explain to you the better."
His index finger fell upon a rectangular square in which were two moving dots, and he turned the knob near-by. Immediately the square loomed large, and Mansfield observed the chamber in which he had first awakened in Atlantis, saw the forms of Venia and Yuxa quite distinctly.
The girl was standing over a table, listlessly; Yuxa was pacing the room, a sad expression upon his countenance. Cheops turned another knob and spoke into the tube. Instantly both the high priest and his daughter straightened and lowered their heads in reverence. Gradually the picture bulged until Mansfield felt that he could almost reach out and touch the pair, so close were they.
"Fear not," Cheops said to them. "John Mansfield is safe and contented. He shall speak to you." The scientist took the speaking tube, eyes rapt upon the heaving breast of the girl. He spoke. "Yuxa and Venia! Be assured that I am safe! Happy I am!"
The girl whirled at the sound of his voice, and Mansfield saw her big blue eyes shine, a beautiful smile upon her lovely face. The high priest relaxed, the lines in his face disappearing.
And then Cheops turned the knob again and the picture was shut off, to flicker down to two small, moving dots again.
"Do you see and believe?" And he smiled at the stranger to Atlantis.
MANSFIELD felt a heavy weight taken from him. The sight of the girl made him feel light and susceptible to anything now. He began to see what spell Venia had put upon him; what yearning she had cast into his hitherto impassive heart—the stony heart of an old and worldly scientist. He grinned at Cheops youthfully.
The emaciated man continued: "As I have told you already, I do not need food. Haven't taken anything through my mouth for thousands of years. The flame of life supplies everything for the metabolic progress of my body!"
Mansfield dropped into the chair and extended his legs with a sigh. Everything had flashed upon him in meteoric kaleidoscope and he hadn't bad time to digest them all. He had discovered the land of Atlantis, That in itself was a finding that should eclipse everything else. But it was nothing compared to the solution of the mystery of the raucous voice! No stretch of the imagination could ever have foreseen this!
For a long while he conversed with Cheops, replying to the questions which the other bombarded him with incessantly; what the greatness was of the people who lived now over the landscapes of the planet, the forms of government, the means of sustaining life, what the precious metal, gold, meant as a medium of barter and exchange; the wireless, the airplane. Cheops kept shaking his head, understanding them not. His brow creased enigmatically.
The withered man rudely interrupted him by springing to his feet.
"Come! It b time I must bathe in the flame of life again!"
Mansfield rose, trying to conceal his eagerness. His mind was exceptionally clear now. This was what he was waiting for. His scientific process of reasoning was back in full. Now he would be able to see what this mastery of life was; whether this man really was Cheops. It would corroborate his farfetched statements, if they were true.
Cheops touched a slightly elevated spot and the transparent wall slid hack They were in a room which was very small. On the four sides were packed four long metallic cones with covers upon them. The little man went to each and threw back the cover. A reddish substance was in them. He caressed it with a gentle hand.
"This is my god! There is none other! It gives me the power to live as long as Time? It is my flame of everlasting life!"
HE stood in the middle of the room and kicked a foot-switch. Instantly from the four sides there glowed a strange efflorescence, a cold light of red and blue. The radiation came together and suffused the small chamber. It was a scintillating blend.
Cheops tore loose the girdle from his body and fell into the very center of the effluvia. His body took on a brilliant color, as though he were being roasted alive, but his eyes distended with a sensual gratification, an enjoyment of every sensation known to man. His arms fell back, his body limp, and he hung in the air, quivering perceptibly.
To this day Mansfield never knew what happened to him. He could never describe the feelings which went through him. The only thing he remembered after getting into the middle of the room, into the thick of the emanation, was that his eyes couldn't see anything but that his body was feeling, feeling! There surged through him a ripping of something that he didn't mind in the least, and he wanted—oh, so badly—to just lie back and sleep on forever and ever!
How long he was in this coma he couldn't tell. But there rose presently to his senses a feeling of satiation, and he felt that he had had enough. His body was pliant as it had seldom if ever been before; it was as though he had been dipped bodily into a mythical fountain of youth, and had had every care and worry peeled off with a motherly hand and touch!
His arms lifted with a flexibility that was a joy. He took a deep inhalation that penetrated to the bottom of his lungs, a depth which he had never experienced. It was profound, this feeling.
He saw Cheops at one side, watching him keenly. The man wrapped his girdle around him, remarking:
"You were in it for a long time. Your young body will remember that refreshment for years to come. My old body gathers the flame into it in a short time."
Mansfield was now convinced. That fellow was Cheops. He couldn't deny this reddish substance which had built him up like this. Only, as he gazed upon the shrunken form, he saw what ages of the flame did to the body. It reduced it to a bony counterpart of what it had once been.
Lord! If only such a thing were to be had upon the earth! Think what it would mean! Bodies worn and wasted brought back to the freshness of youth! Senility a thing unknown, overcome and banished. The possibilities wire amazing.
There was a new respect in his eyes for the man who had lived longer than any human being, whose brain ceded not to the ravages of that unconquerable essence: Time.
They returned to the other room and fell into a conversation that stocked the scientist's mind with many fine points of an ancient civilization. Cheops was amazed at the knowledge of the Englishman concerning his people of Egypt. Sir John Mansfield was getting his information now from a source which would be the envy of the world of science. Even he, himself, couldn't get over the thrill—that he was speaking to an ancient ruler of very much live proportions, of exceedingly clear and retentive memory, who was just as anxious to narrate as to absorb. He was chatting with the famous Cheops!
"How was I brought up here?" Mansfield asked suddenly.
"Through the golden throne in the chamber of Ra. I created a smoky and dense mist to envelop the chair, so as to prevent those watching from observing the operation. The legs of the chair are rooted firmly into long rods; these rods forced the chair upward to the ceiling, the floor right here, where a trapdoor is opened. Then the throne is dropped back while the mist is still thick, so that during the entire procedure nothing is clear to the men of Atlantis. They could see nothing because of the mist."
CHEOPS seated himself at the glass-topped table and studied the moving dots in the small squares. He engulfed himself completely in his task, knobbing every now and then some square into prominence to perceive what went on there. Mansfield sat at his side in silence, following each turn of the knob avidly. Once, during the long period as they scanned the board, Cheops found some reason to turn to the chamber of the high priest, and Sir John Mansfield's eyes discovered the girl and the father at a table absorbing food, while two ebony blacks stood by stiffly. There was a far-away look on her face. Cheops glanced at him with a smile.
Mansfield watched the streets of Atlantis through the transparent walls, then turned and asked:
"Why is it that no one has ever come out of the Great Sphinx? Through the same way that I came in by. It would be possible, I think."
Cheops shook his head. "No man of Atlantis will ever go forth through the squatting god! It cannot be done!"
Mansfield felt something pull at him at the statement. An odd tremor stole through him. This strange wonder had often interrogated him. But what did he mean by saying that no one could get through the Great Sphinx? Why, that was the only way out of here!
"No," stated Cheops. "There is no chance there. That final drop on the cage-slab can only be worked from the passage on top, with the black of the knife. But even if you might succeed in getting up there, there is no means of opening the slab in the paw where you entered. It can only be operated from the outside!"
The knowledge came down upon Mansfield with a crash. Great Heavens! Why, that—that meant that he couldn't get out of this place! That he was destined to spend the rest of his days in this underground abode! And that thought shut out everything else. The only thing that assuaged the terrible emptiness rising within him was the thought of Venia. It was the only salve in this sudden predicament. What good would all this newly found knowledge be if he were not able to make it known to his own people, to the world? If he had to live out the rest of his existence here—and the thought of such a possibility detracted much from the magnificence of Atlantis—it would be a hollow shell of a discovery. Something, which is found and would be of great value to everybody, is of infinitesimal worth when unattainable, or concealed.
Mansfield sat in his chair, tried to speak but could not.
"However," continued Cheops, "there is one place where it is possible to emerge from Atlantis"—and Mansfield hung on to his breath—"but there is great danger of losing one's life there!"
"Where is it—where is it?" precipitated the Englishman.
The erstwhile Ra dropped his eyes over the other. "I don't understand your eagerness. You are become one of us now, Sir John Mansfield It is the chamber of the flowing water. But forget it. You have seen what powers I am imbued with. Thousands of years are too long a time to be secluded, however. I desire human company. And I have chosen you, my man. How would you like to go on living forever and ever? How would you like to experience the flame of life surging over your body often? It impresses you, does it not?"
But Mansfield never replied to that question. The shriveled man suddenly leaped to his feet with a shriek and pointed out beyond the city confines.
"The man-eating wall! The fixed rays which control the matter are out! They have been destroyed!"
IN a twinkling Cheops had glued the mouthpiece to his lips and was roaring the news into every chamber. Mansfield, observing with fascination the squares before him, saw the stationary dots suddenly flit around like flies. There was a crazy movement on the reflector table. And looking out of the invisible glass he saw men pouring out of their domiciles and lugging cylindrical objects. Below, the portals of the temple were gushing forth hundreds of men.
Cheops roared, to no one in particular. "What fools they have been! Where were the guards? Those cylinders will barely be able to cope with that hideous mass!"
"Did the mechanism break?" Mansfield asked.
"No! The blacks have destroyed them! Those rays couldn't fail on their own account! What blasted minded creatures the blacks are! Can't they realize that the gray stuff eats black the same as white? They are doomed, too!"
It was clear now! That gray matter worked fast, so fast that it would swallow dozens of men before the rays could drive it back. If there were two bodies of men on either side of it and both directed their cylinders at it at the same time, it could be held stationary until the main rays were fixed again. But there was no great number of men, of course, on the black habitat side, only a handful, and those without ray tubes. The horrible grisly essence would eat through them. And once that fiendish matter was uncontrollable, man here would be doomed! Cheops was right!
Mansfield was activated. He wanted to do something, not to sit up here and watch the white people's chances go glimmering. He must get down there and direct the fighting. Quickly he told Cheops of his intentions. Cheops listened, strode to get at the mouthpiece, but Mansfield grasped it.
"No! Not that way! I must be down there with them! I have to be there!"
For a second the ancient ruler hesitated, then acquiesced. Swiftly he ran to the wall and pulled back a small lever. Mansfield saw a trapdoor in the floor open; something was coming up into it. It was the golden throne from the chamber of Ra. The chair was being hoisted into it by four long poles of metal, until the seat was half in the room. He threw himself into it, held tight to the arms, and the last sight he had of Cheops was his face turned to the glass walls as he hurriedly pulled back the lever.
Even before the golden throne had reached the floor, he had tossed himself to the rugged ground and was streaking for the entrance. Out in the corridor a few men were making mad dashes downward. Practically everybody had already gone.
He raced speedily to the chamber of the high priest and found it empty. Yuxa and Venia were somewhere below. Without a moment's hesitation he flew downward, pacing in large strides. He overtook some laggards, left them far behind, paying no attention to their startled glances at his presence.
Out in the city he ran, from the door of the temple. Men were still milling onward. His eye swept the scene, and he grew angry.
"What fools they are! Why don't they do this systematically? They are all rushing into its horrible jaws!"
But hundreds of men had seen him.
They pointed at him, gesticulated with a surprised array of faces. From somewhere ahead, Mansfield saw a group forcing itself back through the mob. When the men had got into the clear he found that they were hurrying toward him, yelling. It was Yuxa and his official heads, the men of learning and the other dignitaries. And Venia was with them. Mansfield gave them no time to ask him questions.
"Get all the men lined up, quick! Against the edge of the city. Have them point their cylinders directly at the ground in front of them. Pay no attention to the gray stuff. There must be a wail of rays packed tightly together, so that not one inch of the growth can get through!"
YUXA flashed the order. Venia came to his side and Mansfield held her arm, looking into her face. There was no fear in her! a resolute mouth and brave eyes. She had the utmost confidence in him.
Up ahead the yelling, frantic voices had subsided somewhat and a more orderly tone was to be perceived. Men lined up without a qualm now, and threw the emanation from their tubes directly before them. Rays were cast at a broad front from every angle, to permit no minute avenue of seepage.
And then several men scurried up with panting breath from the rear.
"The blacks have broken a tunnel through to the dungeons and are coming upward. They are destroying everything!"
The news left everybody agape. All the man strength was needed to fight the deadly matter; there could be no attention paid to the blacks. And the crafty minds of the ebony creatures had figured that out. They had broken the rays mechanism to get the whites all up above. Then they had crashed through with their strategic blow!
But their strategy was awfully correct now, Mansfield told himself with a shudder! That man-eating wall needed the most careful of attention. If distracted, the stuff would come right in upon them all! Those hideous blacks couldn't reason that far ahead!
AND at the verification of the black attack from the rear, which came in the shape of howling, demoniac ebon bodies swinging clubs and cylinders, there was a furor in the ranks of the white men. Many tore away from the line which had been created to fight the gray matter, leaving gaping holes in the bluish front. Into the oncoming black mass they threw themselves.
Mansfield drew Venia clear back into the shelter of the temple walls. His voice rose and fell, trying to assemble the men once again, but his efforts fell on deafened ears. Nobody heard him. Everyone was busy protecting himself from black, swishing arms which were inflicting terrible blows.
It was useless to stand here like this. And he couldn't do anything else. Mansfield easily saw that doom was approaching swiftly for all. That seething, undulating mass of animal procreation was rumbling on and on, closer and closer! Not a hundred yards away from the city's edge! A groan burst, from his lips.
He whirled on the girl. "It's all over, Venia. We can do nothing. The heartless blacks couldn't see this far ahead. The damnable, inhuman creatures!"
The girl wrapped her arms about him and held him tight. Over her shoulder, Mansfield eyed the slowly slobbering mass which would soon shroud them all with its incomprehensible composition. Well, he groaned again, if it did it would take two bodies right here at one eating. He was not going to release Venia.
And then a thought came to him and he stood erect, gazing into the face of the girl. Why hadn't he thought of it before? This place was doomed to extinction now. But there might be some way to save Venia and himself if they worked fast.
He asked quickly, "Where is the chamber of the flowing water?"
The girl didn't understand. "Flowing water?"
He waxed more anxious. "Is there any chamber where there is water, lots of it? Anything like that?"
Her eyes opened. "You mean—where our water supply comes from?"
"That's the one," he exulted. "Come, how do we get there?" Once more his eyes swept the fray, which was growing wilder and wilder, and once more he saw that the mass of gray would be upon them with gorging intent in a short while. Nothing, nothing could be done.
"I was there but once in my life, Sir John. But I think I know the way."
Turning, she dived into the temple. Mansfield was upon her heels, and ran swiftly to a level corridor, where she breathlessly pressed open a panel. He saw that it was one of the magnetic vehicles. They rushed into the car and closed the door, just as a huge black came bounding upon the platform after them.
HIS club crashed against the closed door and knocked it half open, but in the split interim Venia had waved her hand over the glowing tube and the car moved away with a jerk, between the large circular rings. The black stumbled on the edge of the platform, couldn't regain his equilibrium and fell head foremost down on the road-bed of the carrier.
"Why do you want to go to the flowing water below? It is a nice place in which to conceal ourselves, but we will be found in the end." The girl was looking at him queerly.
He knew what she was thinking. He, the strong man who performed miracles, was running away and hiding! But he laughed, causing the beautiful eyes to raise in question. He grasped her blonde head in both hands....
"How would you like to g to my land, Venia?"
The girl stared. "You—you mean—"
He kissed her brow fervently. "You dear creature. Somewhere below is the only exit from Atlantis. And I'm going to find it. Will you go with me?"
A sudden sob fell from the girl. She looked backward, toward the land which had reared her, and her eyes welled. It was clear to her now. If Sir John Mansfield said that Atlantis was doomed, it was conclusive. In the rear were her father and the ones she loved. They—they were going down to ruin—to ruin!
"I go!" whispered the soft voice, with a break.
The vehicle rushed downward at a tremendous speed. Suddenly they were thrown against the wall as it stopped abruptly, permitting another car to pass their front. The intersection showed a vehicle ahead which was packed full with ferocious blacks quarreling among themselves. But they caught sight of the huddled pair, and in an instant were turning their car around to follow them.
The girl was watching the other move carefully. She waved her hand upon the shining bulb and pressed a knob. It sent them shooting downward again at a speed that caused them to hold tight to the rings in the sides. But from behind came the roused voices of their pursuers, breaking through the silence of the speeding vehicles.
"We are almost there, Sir John. Hold the door open. We're going to stop suddenly. Both of us will fall out. I am going to turn this knob and throw off the power control That will throw theirs off, too, and they'll crash into us with their momentum."
THE conveyance came abreast of a long row of underground chambers, and Mansfield snatched out his revolver and spun the chambers. All of them were holding used shells. He felt his belt and shook his head with a grimace. There were only four cartridges on him. The rest had been fired or had been torn loose from the belt. He quickly inserted the four last. Suddenly the girl snapped back the knob and they leaped through the door upon a platform. The car had come to an instant standstill, and not fifty feet away whizzed the one with the blacks. A frantic black was pushing back the control knob, to no avail.
The fleeing pair were through the door of a large chamber when there came the splintering crash of both vehicles. Metal and glass flew in all directions. Groans and shrieks split the air. Bodies were hurtling crazily to crash sickeningly into unyielding obstacles!
The noise of the smash died away. The flying pieces of metal floundered against the underground walls. Not a black raised his head.
THE Englishman perceived immediately how the water supply was attained. There was a rushing subterranean stream eddying through the deep stone walls, which rose to join the floor of the chamber. Mansfield fell at the edge and peered over, but saw nothing other than the moving water. The walls were bare and solid. The only opening was the one they had come through. He looked at the girl meditatively. Was Cheops telling him the truth when he said that the chamber of the flowing water was the only exit from Atlantis? It didn't seem, to be, now that he was here. The walls could be seen to lead nowhere. His heart sank at the thought that he might have been duped by the emaciated old fellow. This chamber wasn't an outlet, but as perfect a trap as could be gotten into.
"Are you sure there is no other chamber where there is water?" he asked the girl.
She shook her head. "See those long pointed tubes? They carry the water up to the city. They have always done it."
There was nothing for him to do now but to inspect the walls in the hope that a hollow ring would reveal a hidden entrance. With the butt of his gun he went around and sounded them. No echoing reverberation came to his expectant ears. The girl watched him circling the chamber with anxious eyes.
Presently he gave up in disgust, strode to the rim of the floor and stared down at the stream. His fingers went carefully around the edge, but failed in disclosing anything.
The girl ran to the entrance and gasped. Mansfield hurried toward her. Coming down the road-bed was a score of blacks, and as they caught sight of the pair they screamed with delight. Voices shrieked the glee that at last the stranger was in their hands, that the daughter of the high priest was theirs for the taking!
Mansfield drew the girl into the chamber behind him. His mouth was fixed, his face taut. For the first time he feared the outcome of a struggle. With only four bullets available against a howling horde that was rushing pell-mell upon them, and this chamber of the underground stream the trap that it was. No hope presented itself from any viewpoint.
The blacks climbed upon the braces of the framework and leaped to the platform. Mansfield took deliberate aim and fired at the first fellow to show his head. The black threw up his clawing hands and toppled over.
BUT it didn't stall the others. For once the sound of the gun held no terror for them. They were maniacally worked up; sanity was gone. All they desired was the feel of the white bodies in their ripping hands. They wanted to tear and crush and kill—kill! Nothing else would satisfy their slavering jowls now.
Again and again Mansfield fired into their midst, forcing a momentary halt. Then the gun clicked upon an empty shell! The weapon was of no value to him now. The blacks rushed through the opening.
The attack forced the man and the girl back to the very edge of the stream. He saw Venia glance at him with fear in her drawn eyes. Then she tottered on the brink and fell headmost into the turbulent river!
His mind went blank. With a horrible cry he flung the gun into the face of the nearest black. Like a madman he fought the hideous faces—clawed and tore. His bloody fist ached from the crunch of ebony visages. They piled in on top of him, swinging their clubs to get a fatal blow in effectually.
And then a club crashed against his breast and it knocked him backward. He went pitching over the edge, to splash bodily into the stream!
The water closed over his head and open mouth, and when he came to the top after a while, sputtering and coughing, he felt as though he must have swallowed the whole river. The water was lukewarm. His eyes opened, but he could see nothing for the total blackness which engulfed the place.
His anxiety was for Venia. He doubted much whether she could swim, whether anyone in Atlantis could swim. At no time had she seen a large body of water.
The current was swift and it carried him on, making useless his attempt to use a powerful stroke. He wondered where the girl was. With reaching arms he felt around him as he was being swept onward, hoping that he might come in contact with her, but nothing but water filtered through his fingers. Only when he reached upward did he feel his finger-tips brush against a smooth polished rock, and he knew it was the roof of this watery passage. Every moment he waited for that final surge which would send him crashing into something which would dash his brains out!
He couldn't believe for a moment that this was the egress which Cheops had spoken of, that only through this could one find his way out of Atlantis.
He raised his voice loudly, the wall just over his head throwing back his roar with a deafening sound. Suddenly a thrill went through him. Was it his own voice that echoed so faintly? He thought not.
Time after time he felt his strength giving out. His arms rasped against an eroded wall with such force that they were aching terribly. But he wasn't going to give in to this onrushing torrent. Maybe it was the thought of a watery grave that gave him courage; and he detested a demise of such nature.
He yelled again and was certain that the echo wasn't of his making. He was sure that the girl was still living. His chilled throat burst into another shout.
"Venia!" he yelled.
A sound came from near him—a gasping, coughing noise—but once again the drag beneath the waters occupied his mind. When he came up again his voice was too spent to raise in a shout, and his lungs were fighting for breath. The loathsome, watery grave was beginning to loom fearfully close! His arms were heavy weights. He felt himself slipping. There must be some end to this steady river! It couldn't go on and on and on underneath the earth without emerging somewhere. If it did—well, his numbed mind knew the answer. His body fought the swirling, swishing water, knew that if something did not happen soon, it would be all over with him. He wasn't superhuman. He had been fortunate in surviving this long.
And thinking of that sent a more icy chill through his veins. Without a doubt Venia had succumbed. She couldn't have survived this whirling water this long. He was almost on the verge of going down for the last time himself.
If only there were some light. The ghastly blackness didn't help him any. It only made the rising bumps on his head much larger as a surge carried him with force against the roof!
There came a magical change in light just then. His eyes were blinded by a severe whiteness that burned deeply into his retina. His hand flung feebly upward, but there was no roof there this time to tear his skin to pieces! His heart leaped!
He opened his eyes and—a deep cry fell from his lips! God! The sun was shining right into his eyes! What a feeling!
QUICKLY his eyes became used to the light and he sent scouring glances about him. He was in the middle of a small river. Then he became galvanized into action. All fatigue and tiredness had vanished. His roving eyes had caught sight of a form in the water a short distance away.
It was a blonde dripping head which flashed under the glistening sun! A voluntary movement of a hand! It was Venia, and she was alive!
No eddy in the world could have held him back now. His stroke carried him through the water in such strides that an onlooker on the shore would have rubbed his eyes and looked again at the miracle. He reached her just as she was going down; her eyes looked at him glazedly.
He must get her to the shore immediately, and with that intention porpoised toward the nearest bank, the girl held gently yet securely.
He lifted her clear out of the water and laid her upon the sandy shore. Unmindful he was of the condition he was in. His experienced hands forced out the water from her lungs. Her eyes opened presently and recognized him with a sweet smile. Sir John Mansfield raised a glowing face to the sovereign of the heavens lolling along in his fiery chariot and blinked.
ALMOST six years have passed. Six years redundant of heartaches and jubilation. Six years in which one eminent archaeologist, Sir John Mansfield, knew the degree, of ridicule and scorn, appreciated the fullness of abounding happiness. And that joy obscured everything else in the end.
Venia was very much affected by the sun and the changing climates of the earth, for a long year. When Sir John Mansfield came out of that hospital on that December evening with the assurance that she would live, he threw up his arms in silent prayer of gratitude. He knew then what the girl meant to him.
The word of the famous scientist had always been fraught with authenticity and fact. But when he revealed the narrative of his experience, from the first moment of encountering Horda el Abrim and the renegade white in El Kasr, to the emerging from Atlantis through the underground stream, he was beset by a volume of hooting and disbelief that even unto a heart such as his it created a fierce dislike for his fellow colleagues.
They demanded the manuscript of Cheops. But, alas! the hotel in Cairo in which he had put his papyrus evidence for safekeeping had burned to the ground and the manager had perished in the flames. It was never found.
Hoping that the Egyptian government might lend an attentive ear, he turned to them. Reluctantly it sent a committee to the Great Sphinx, and when repeated insertions of a black failed to bring forth the awaited reverberation, they shrugged their shoulders. But Mansfield begged them to break down that massive slab in the paw. Even if they might not succeed in reaching Atlantis, there was that fabulous fortune to be attained in the vault where all of those gorgeous and priceless carvings were. The committee laughed in his face. What! Break down the age-old Sphinx to satisfy a whim? And a rather—how might it be termed?— unbalanced whim?
MANSFIELD fumed at the dunderheads, then turned abruptly from them, holding hack his rage. If that was the way the world of science accepted what was probably the greatest discovery of any age—well, then! The blockheads could go on following their noses! He was through with all of them!
He withdrew from every activity, even from the University. His sole delight now was to sit before the fire with Venia in his arms, and recount those happenings of not so very long ago.
Every night they asked themselves whether Atlantis had really perished. And it seemed so, for several ensuing summers they had tried to open the slab of the Great Sphinx, but there was no movement. It spelt the complete wiping out of the race below. There was no one, apparently, to operate the mechanism that controlled the Sphinx.
And that flame of life of Cheops! What a thing that would mean to the world above! But that, too, was gone now, buried under that uncontrollable man-eating organism. Yuxa, Cheops, all of them had been subdued into a nothingness! It was a bitter thought to these two.
But when they gaze upon that golden-haired lad who plays at their feet, looking like the young demi-god he really is in the eyes of his parents, their joy knows no bounds. He is compensation enough for the bitterness which has assailed the famous scientist and his wife, the sorrow that was forced upon them.
And when his honest and frank eyes of blue glance upward toward them, they hold each other more tightly and ask the Benign Hand to guard and protect him, to keep him from all evil. He is their happiness! They live for him.
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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