The Lost Continent

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 85

multitudes of men, women, and
children fleeing toward the west. Soldiers, afoot and mounted, were
joining the mad exodus. Now and then a camel or an elephant would pass
bearing some officer or dignitary to safety. It was evident that the
city would fall at any moment--a fact which was amply proclaimed by the
terror-stricken haste of the fear-mad mob.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They came upon us so unexpectedly

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