The Lost Continent

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 78

his headquarters in the
stone building that was called the palace. That night came a lull in
the hostilities--a truce had been arranged.

Colonel Belik summoned me about seven o'clock to dress him for a
function at the palace. In the midst of death and defeat the emperor
was about to give a great banquet to his officers. I was to accompany
my master and wait upon him--I, Jefferson Turck, lieutenant in the
Pan-American navy!

In the privacy of the colonel's quarters I had become accustomed to my
menial duties, lightened as they were by the natural kindliness of my
master, but the thought of appearing in public as a common slave
revolted every fine instinct within me. Yet there was nothing for it
but to obey.

I cannot, even now, bring myself to a narration of the humiliation
which I experienced that night as I stood behind my black master in
silent servility, now pouring his wine, now cutting up his meats for
him, now fanning him with a large, plumed fan of feathers.

As fond as I had grown of him, I could have thrust a knife into him, so
keenly did I feel the affront that had been put upon me. But at last
the long banquet was concluded. The tables were removed. The emperor
ascended a dais at one end of the room and seated himself upon a
throne, and the entertainment commenced. It was only what ancient
history might have led me to expect--musicians, dancing girls,
jugglers, and the like.

Near midnight, the master of ceremonies announced that the slave women
who had been presented to the emperor since his arrival in New Gondar
would be exhibited, that the royal host would select such as he wished,
after which he would present the balance of them to his guests. Ah,
what royal generosity!

A small door at one side of the room opened, and the poor creatures
filed in and were ranged in a long line before the throne. Their backs
were toward me. I saw only an occasional profile as now and then a
bolder spirit among them turned to survey the apartment and the
gorgeous assemblage of officers in their brilliant dress uniforms.
They were profiles of young girls, and pretty, but horror was indelibly
stamped upon them all. I shuddered as I contemplated their sad fate,
and turned my eyes away.

I heard the master of ceremonies command them to prostrate themselves
before the emperor, and the sounds as they went upon their knees before
him, touching their foreheads

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