The Lost Continent

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 77

gifts brought in from the far outlying districts by
the commanding officers of the frontier posts. The majority of them
were women, destined, I was told, for the harems of the emperor and his
favorites. It made my old companion clench his fists to see those poor
white women marching past to their horrid fates, and, though I shared
his sentiments, I was as powerless to alter their destinies as he.

For a week the troops kept pouring in and out of New Gondar--in,
always, from the south and west, but always toward the east. Each new
contingent brought its gifts to the emperor. From the south they
brought rugs and ornaments and jewels; from the west, slaves; for the
commanding officers of the western frontier posts had naught else to
bring.

From the number of women they brought, I judged that they knew the
weakness of their imperial master.

And then soldiers commenced coming in from the east, but not with the
gay assurance of those who came from the south and west--no, these
others came in covered wagons, blood-soaked and suffering. They came
at first in little parties of eight or ten, and then they came in
fifties, in hundreds, and one day a thousand maimed and dying men were
carted into New Gondar.

It was then that Menelek XIV became uneasy. For fifty years his armies
had conquered wherever they had marched. At first he had led them in
person, lately his presence within a hundred miles of the battle line
had been sufficient for large engagements--for minor ones only the
knowledge that they were fighting for the glory of their sovereign was
necessary to win victories.

One morning, New Gondar was awakened by the booming of cannon. It was
the first intimation that the townspeople had received that the enemy
was forcing the imperial troops back upon the city. Dust covered
couriers galloped in from the front. Fresh troops hastened from the
city, and about noon Menelek rode out surrounded by his staff.

For three days thereafter we could hear the cannonading and the
spitting of the small arms, for the battle line was scarce two leagues
from New Gondar. The city was filled with wounded. Just outside,
soldiers were engaged in throwing up earthworks. It was evident to the
least enlightened that Menelek expected further reverses.

And then the imperial troops fell back upon these new defenses, or,
rather, they were forced back by the enemy. Shells commenced to fall
within the city. Menelek returned and took up

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