Tarzan and the Lost Empire

Chapter 8

Edgar Rice Burroughs

MALLIUS LEPUS conducted von Harben from the quarters of the captain of the gate in the south wall of the island city of Castrum Mare and, summoning a soldier, bade him fetch Gabula.

“You shall come with me as my guest, Erich von Harben,” announced Mallius Lepus, “and, by Jupiter, unless I am mistaken, Septimus Favonius will thank me for bringing such a find. His dinners lag for want of novelty, for long since has he exhausted all the possibilities of Castrum Mare. He has even had a Negro chief from the Western forest as his guest of honor, and once he invited the aristocracy of Castrum Mare to meet a great ape.

“His friends will be mad to meet a barbarian chief from Germania—you are a chief, are you not?” And as von Harben was about to reply, Mallius Lepus stayed him with a gesture. “Never mind! You shall be introduced as a chief and if I do not know any different I cannot be accused of falsifying.”

Von Harben smiled as he realized how alike was human nature the world over and in all periods of time.

“Here is your slave now,” said Mallius. “As the guest of Septimus Favonius you will have others to do your bidding, but doubtless you will want to have your own body-servant as well.”

“Yes,” said von Harben. “Gabula has been very faithful. I should hate to part with him.”

Mallius led the way to a long shed-like building beneath the inner face of the rampart, here were two litters and a number of strapping bearers. As Mallius appeared eight of these sprang to their stations in front and behind one one of the litters and carried it from the shed, lowering it to the ground again before their master.

“And tell me, if you have visited Rome recently, does my litter compare favorably with those now used by the nobles?” demanded Mallius.

“There have been many changes, Mallius Lepus, since the Rome of which your historian, Sanguinarius, wrote. Were I to tell you of even the least of them, I fear that you would not believe me.”

“But certainly there could have been no great change in the style of litters,” argued Mallius, “and I cannot believe that the patricians have ceased to use them.”

“Their litters travel upon wheels now,” said von Harben.

“Incredible!” exclaimed Mallius, “It would be torture to bump over the rough pavements and country roads on the great wooden wheels of ox-carts. No, Erich von Harben, I am afraid I cannot believe that story.”

“The city pavements are smooth today and the country side is cut in all directions by wide, level highways over which the litters of the modern citizens of Rome roll at great speed on small wheels with soft tires—nothing like the great wooden wheels of the ox-carts you have in mind, Mallius Lepus.”

The officer called a command to his carriers, who broke into a smart run.

“I warrant you, Erich von Harben, that there be no litters in all Rome that move at greater speed than this,” he boasted.

“How fast are we traveling now?” asked von Harben.

“Better than eighty-five hundred paces an hour “ replied Mallius.

“Fifty thousand paces an hour is nothing unusual for the wheeled litters of today,” said von Harben. “We call them automobiles.”

“You are going to be a great success,” cried Mallius, slapping von Harben upon the shoulder. “May Jupiter strike me dead if the guests of Septimus Favonius do not say that I have made a find indeed. Tell them that there be litter-carriers in Rome today who can run fifty thousand paces in an hour and they will acclaim you the greatest entertainer as well as the greatest liar Castrum Mare has ever seen.”

Von Harben laughed good-naturedly. “But you will have to admit, my friend, that I never said that there were litter-bearers who could run fifty thousand paces an hour,” he reminded Mallius.

“But did you not assure me that the litters traveled that fast? How then may a litter travel unless it is carried by bearers. Perhaps the litters of today are carried by horses. Where are the horses that can run fifty thousand paces in an hour?”

“The litters are neither carried nor drawn by horses or men, Mallius,” said von Harben.

The officer leaned back against the soft cushion of the carriage, roaring with laughter. “They fly then, I presume,” he jeered. “By Hercules, you must tell this all over again to Septimus Favonius. I promise you that he will love you.”

They were passing along a broad avenue bordered by old trees. There was no pavement and the surface of the street was deep with dust. The houses were built quite up to the street line and where there was space between adjacent houses a high wall closed the aperture, so that each side of the street presented a solid front of masonry broken by arched gateways, heavy doors, and small unglazed windows, heavily barred.

“These are residences?” asked von Harben, indicating the buildings they were passing.

“Yes,” said Mallius.

“From the massive doors and heavily barred windows I should judge that your city is overrun with criminals,” commented von Harben.

Mallius shook his head. “On the contrary,” he said, “we have few criminals in Castrum Mare. The defenses that you see are against the possible uprising of slaves or invasions by barbarians. Upon several occasions during the life of the city such things have occurred, and so we build to safeguard against disaster in the event that there should be a recurrence of them, but even so, doors are seldom locked, even at night, for there are no thieves to break in, no criminals to menace the lives of our people. If a man has done wrong to a fellow man he may have reason to expect the dagger of the assassin, but if his conscience be cleared he may live without fear of attack.”

“I cannot conceive of a city without criminals,” said von Harben. “How do you account for it?”

“That is simple,” replied Mallius. “When Honus Hasta revolted and founded the city of Castrum Mare in the 953rd year of Rome, Castra Sanguinarius was overrun with criminals, so that no man dared go abroad at night without an armed body-guard, nor was any one safe within his own home, and Honus Hasta, who became the first Emperor of the East, swore that there should be no criminals in Castrum Mare and he made laws so, drastic that no thief or murderer lived to propagate his kind. Indeed, the laws of Honus Hasta destroyed not only the criminal, but all the members of his family, so that there was none to transmit to posterity the criminal inclinations of a depraved sire.

”There are many who thought Honus Hasta a cruel tyrant, but time has shown the wisdom of many of his acts and certainly our freedom from criminals may only be ascribed to the fact that the laws of Honus Hasta prevented the breeding of criminals. So seldom now does an individual arise who steals or wantonly murders that it is an event of as great moment as any that can occur, and the entire city takes a holiday to see the culprit and his family destroyed.”

Entering an avenue of more pretentious homes, the litter-bearers halted before an ornate gate where Lepus and Erich descended from the litter. In answer to the summons of the former, the gate was opened by a slave and von Harben followed his new friend across a tiled forecourt into an inner garden, where beneath the shade of a tree a stout, elderly man was writing at a low desk. It was with something of a thrill that von Harben noted the ancient Roman inkstand, the reed pen, and the roll of parchment that the man was using as naturally as though they had not been quite extinct for a thousand years.

“Greetings, Uncle!” cried Lepus, and as the older man turned toward them, “I have brought you a guest such as no citizen of Castrum Mare has entertained since the founding of the city. This, my uncle, is Erich von Harben, barbarian chief from far Germania.” Then to von Harben, “My revered uncle, Septimus Favonius.”

Septimus Favonius arose and greeted von Harben hospitably, yet with such a measure of conscious dignity as to carry the suggestion that a barbarian, even though a chief and a guest, could not be received upon a plane of actual social equality by a citizen of Rome.

Very briefly Lepus recounted the occurrences leading to his meeting with von Harben. Septimus Favonius seconded his nephew’s invitation to be their guest, and then, at the suggestion of the older man, Lepus took Erich to his apartments to outfit him with fresh apparel.

An hour later, Erich, shaved and appareled as a young Roman patrician, stepped from the apartment, which had been placed at his disposal, into the adjoining chamber, which was a part of the suite of Mallius Lepus.

“Go on down to the garden,” said Lepus, “and when I am dressed I shall join you there.”

As von Harben passed through the home of Septimus Favonius on his way to the garden court, he was impressed by the peculiar blending of various cultures in the architecture and decoration of the home.

The walls and columns of the building followed the simplest Grecian lines of architecture, while the rugs, hangings, and mural decorations showed marked evidence of both oriental and savage African influences. The latter he could understand, but the source of the oriental designs in many of the decorations was quite beyond him, since it was obvious that The Lost Tribe had had no intercourse with the outside world, other than with the savage Bagegos, for many centuries.

And when he stepped out into the garden, which was of considerable extent, he saw a further blending of Rome and savage Africa, for while the main part of the building was roofed with handmade tile, several porches were covered with native grass thatch, while a small outbuilding at the far end of the garden was a replica of a Bagego hut except that the walls were left unplastered, so that the structure appeared in the nature of a summer-house. Septimus Favonius had left the garden and von Harben took advantage of the fact to examine his surroundings more closely. The garden was laid out with winding, graveled walks, bordered by shrubs and flowers, with an occasional tree, some of which gave evidence of great age.

The young man’s mind, his eyes, his imagination were so fully occupied with his surroundings that he experienced a sensation almost akin to shock as he followed the turning of the path around a large ornamental shrub and came face to face with a young woman.

That she was equally surprised was evidenced by the consternation apparent in her expression as she looked wide-eyed into the eyes of von Harben. For quite an appreciable moment of time they stood looking at one another. Von Harben thought that never in his life had he seen so beautiful a girl. What the girl thought, von Harben did not know. It was she who broke the silence.

“Who are you?” she asked, in a voice little above a whisper, as one might conceivably address an apparition that had arisen suddenly and unexpectedly before him.

“I am a stranger here,” replied von Harben, “and I owe you an apology for intruding upon your privacy. I thought that I was alone in the garden.”

“Who are you?” repeated the girl. “I have never seen your face before or one like yours.”

“And I,” said von Harben, “have never seen a girl like you. Perhaps I am dreaming. Perhaps you do not exist at all, for it does not seem credible that in the world of realities such a one as you could exist.”

The girl blushed. “You are not of Castrum Mare,” she said. “That I can see.” Her tone was a trifle cold and slightly haughty.

“I have offended you,” said von Harben. “I ask your pardon. I did not mean to be offensive, but coming upon you so unexpectedly quite took my breath away.”

”And your manners, too?” asked the girl, but now her eyes were smiling.

“You have forgiven me?” asked von Harben.

“You will have to tell me who you are and why you are here before I can answer that,” she replied. “For all I know you might be an enemy or a barbarian.”

Von Harben laughed. “Mallius Lepus, who invited me here, insists that I am a barbarian,” he said, “but even so I am the guest of Septimus Favonius, his uncle.”

The girl shrugged. “I am not surprised,” she said. “My father is notorious for the guests he honors.”

“You are the daughter of Favonius?” asked von Harben.

“Yes, I am Favonia,” replied the girl, “but you have not yet told me about yourself. I command you to do so,” she said, imperiously.

“I am Erich von Harben of Germania,” said the young man.

“Germania!” “claimed the girl. “Caesar wrote of Germania, as did Sanguinarius. It seems very far away.”

“It never seemed so far as now,” said von Harben; “yet the three thousand miles of distance seem nothing by comparison with the centuries of time that intervene.”

The girl puckered her brows. “I do not understand you,” she said.

“No,” said von Harben, “and I cannot blame you.”

“You are a chief, of course?” she asked.

He did not deny the insinuation, for he had been quick to see from the attitude of the three patricians he had met that the social standing of a barbarian in Castrum Mare might be easily open to question, unless his barbarism was somewhat mitigated by a title. Proud as he was of his nationality, von Harben realized that it was a far cry from the European barbarians of Caesar’s day to their cultured descendants of the twentieth century and that it would probably be impossible to convince these people of the changes that have taken place since their history was written; and, also, he was conscious of a very definite desire to appear well in the eyes of this lovely maiden of a bygone age.

“Favonia!” exclaimed von Harben. He scarcely breathed the name.

The girl looked up at him questioningly. “Yes!” she said.

“It is such a lovely name,” he said. “I never heard it spoken before.”

“You like it?” she asked.

“Very much, indeed.”

The girl puckered her brows in thought, She had beautiful penciled brows and a forehead that denoted an intelligence that was belied by neither her eyes, her manner, nor her speech. “I am glad that you like my name, but I do not understand why I should be glad. You say that you are a barbarian, and yet you do not seem like a barbarian. Your appearance and your manner are those of a patrician, though perhaps you are overbold with a young woman you have never met before, but that I ascribe to the ignorance of the barbarian and so I forgive it.”

“Being a barbarian has its compensations,” laughed von Harben, “and perhaps I am a barbarian. I may be again forgiven if I say you are quite the most beautiful girl I have ever seen and the only one—I could—,” he hesitated.

“You could what?” she demanded.

“Even a barbarian should not dare to say what I was about to say to one whom I have known scarce half a dozen minutes.”

“Whoever you may be, you show rare discrimination,” came in a sarcastic tone in a man’s voice directly behind von Harben.

The girl looked up in surprise and von Harben wheeled about simultaneously, for neither had been aware of the presence of another. Facing him von Harben saw a short, dark, greasy-looking young man in an elaborate tunic, his hand resting upon the hilt of the short sword that hung at his hip. There was a sarcastic sneer upon the face of the newcomer.

“Who is your barbarian friend, Favonia?” he demanded.

“This is Erich von Harben, a guest in the home of Septimus Favonius, my father,” replied the girl, haughtily; and to von Harben, “This is Fulvus Fupus, who accepts the hospitality of Septimus Favonius so often that he feels free to criticize another guest.”

Fupus flushed. “I apologize,” he said, “but one may never know when to honor or when to ridicule one of Septimus Favonius’s guests of honor. The last, if I recall correctly, was an ape, and before that there was a barbarian from some outer village—but they are always interesting and I am sure that the barbarian, Erich von Harben, will prove no exception to the rule.” The man’s tone was sarcastic and obnoxious to a degree, and it was with difficulty that von Harben restrained his mounting temper.

Fortunately, at this moment, Mallius Lepus joined them and von Harben was formally presented to Favonia. Fulvus Fupus thereafter paid little attention to von Harben, but devoted his time assiduously to Favonia. Von Harben knew from their conversation that they were upon friendly and intimate terms and he guessed that Fupus was in love with Favonia, though he could not tell from the girl’s attitude whether or not she returned his affection.

There was something else that von Harben was sure of that he too was in love with Favonia. Upon several occasions in life he had thought that he was in love, but his sensations and reactions upon those other occasions had not been the same in either kind or degree as those which he now experienced. He found himself hating Fulvus Fupus, whom he had known scarce a quarter of an hour and whose greatest offense, aside from looking lovingly at Favonia, had been a certain arrogant sarcasm of speech and manner—certainly no sufficient warrant for a sane man to wish to do murder, and yet Erich von Harben fingered the butt of his Luger, which he had insisted upon wearing in addition to the slim dagger with which Mallius Lepus had armed him.

Later, when Septimus Favonius joined them, he suggested that they all go to the baths and Mallius Lepus whispered to von Harben that his uncle was already itching to exhibit his new find.

“He will take us to the Baths of Caesar,” said Lepus, “which are patronized by the richest patricians only, so have a few good stories ready, but save your best ones, like that you told me about the modern Roman litters, for the dinner that my uncle is sure to give tonight—for he will have the best of Castrum Mare there, possibly even the Emperor himself.

The Baths of Caesar were housed in an imposing building, of which that portion facing on the avenue was given over to what appeared to be exclusive shops. The main entrance led to a large court where the warmth with which the party was greeted by a number of patrons of the Baths already congregated there attested to the popularity of Favonius, his daughter, and his nephew, while it was evident to von Harben that there was less enthusiasm manifested for Fulvus Fupus.

Servants conducted the bathers to the dressing-rooms, the men’s and women’s being in different quarters of the building.

After his clothes were removed, von Harben’s body was anointed with oils in a warm room and then he was led into a hot room and from there with the other men he passed into a large apartment containing a plunge where both the men and women gathered. About the plunge were seats for several hundred people, and in the Baths of Caesar these were constructed of highly polished granite.

While von Harben enjoyed the prospect of a swim in the clear, cold water of the frigidarium, he was much more interested by the opportunity it afforded him to be with Favonia again. She was swimming slowly around the pool when he entered the room and, making a long, running dive, von Harben slipped easily and gracefully into the water, a few strokes bringing him to her side. A murmur of applause that followed meant nothing to von Harben, for he did not know that diving was an unknown art among the citizens of Castrum Mare.

Fulvus Fupus, who had entered the frigidarium behind von Harben, sneered as he saw the dive and heard the applause. He had never seen it done before, but he could see the thing was very easy, and realizing the advantages of so graceful an accomplishment, he determined at once to show the assembled patricians, and especially Favonia, that he was equally a master of this athletic art as was the barbarian.

Running, as he had seen von Harben run, toward the edge of the pool, Fulvus Fupus sprang high into the air and came straight down upon his belly with a resounding smack that sent the wind out of him and the water splashing high in all directions.

Gasping for breath, he managed to reach the side of the pool, where he clung while the laughter of the assembled patricians brought the scarlet of mortification to his face. Whereas before he had viewed von Harben with contempt and some slight suspicion, he now viewed him with contempt, suspicion, and hatred. Disgruntled, Fupus clambered from the pool and returned immediately to the dressing-room, where he donned his garments.

“Going already, Fupus?” demanded a young patrician who was disrobing in the apodyterium.

”Yes,” growled Fupus.

“I hear you came with Septimus Favonius and his new find. What sort may he be?”

“Listen well, Caeilius Metellus,” said Fupus. “This man who calls himself Erich von Harben says that he is a chief from Germania, but I believe otherwise.”

“What do you believe?” demanded Metellus, politely, though evidently with no considerable interest.

Fupus came close to the other. “I believe him to be a spy from Castra Sanguinarius,” he whispered, “and that he is only pretending that he is a barbarian.”

“But they say that he does not speak our language well,” said Metellus.

“He speaks it as any man might speak it who wanted to pretend that he did not understand it or that it was new to him,” said Fupus.

Metellus shook his head. “Septimus Favonius is no fool,” he said. “I doubt if there is anyone in Castra Sanguinarius sufficiently clever to fool him to such an extent.”

“There is only one man who has any right to judge as to that,” snapped Fupus, “and he is going to have the facts before I am an hour older.”

“Whom do you mean?” asked Metellus.

“Validus Augustus, Emperor of the East—I am going to him at once.”

“Don’t be a fool, Fupus,” counseled Metellus. “You will only get yourself laughed at or possibly worse. Know you not that Septimus Favonius is high in the favor of the Emperor?”

“Perhaps, but is it not also known that he was friendly with Cassius Hasta, nephew of the Emperor, whom Validus Augustus accused of treason and banished. It would not take much to convince the Emperor that this Erich von Harben is an emissary of Cassius Hasta, who is reputed to be in Castra Sanguinarius.”

Caeilius Metellus laughed. “Go on then and make a fool of yourself, Fupus,” he said. “You will probably bring up at the end of a rope.”

“The end of a rope will terminate this business,” agreed Fupus, “but von Harben will be there, not I.”

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