Elissa eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 161 pages of information about Elissa.
the writer has ventured—­no easy task—­to suggest incidents such as might have accompanied this first extinction of the Phoenician Zimbabwe.  The pursuit indeed is one in which he can only hope to fill the place of a humble pioneer, since it is certain that in times to come the dead fortress-temples of South Africa will occupy the pens of many generations of the writers of romance who, as he hopes, may have more ascertained facts to build upon than are available to-day.

ELISSA

CHAPTER I

THE CARAVAN

The sun, which shone upon a day that was gathered to the past some three thousand years ago, was setting in full glory over the expanses of south-eastern Africa—­the Libya of the ancients.  Its last burning rays fell upon a cavalcade of weary men, who, together with long strings of camels, asses and oxen, after much toil had struggled to the crest of a line of stony hills, where they were halted to recover breath.  Before them lay a plain, clothed with sere yellow grass—­for the season was winter—­and bounded by mountains of no great height, upon whose slopes stood the city which they had travelled far to seek.  It was the ancient city of Zimboe, whereof the lonely ruins are known to us moderns as Zimbabwe.

At the sight of its flat-roofed houses of sun-dried brick, set upon the side of the opposing hill, and dominated by a huge circular building of dark stone, the caravan raised a great shout of joy.  It shouted in several tongues, in the tongues of Phoenicia, of Egypt, of the Hebrews, of Arabia, and of the coasts of Africa, for all these peoples were represented amongst its numbers.  Well might the wanderers cry out in their delight, seeing that at length, after eight months of perilous travelling from the coast, they beheld the walls of their city of rest, of the golden Ophir of the Bible.  Their company had started from the eastern port, numbering fifteen hundred men, besides women and children, and of those not more than half were left alive.  Once a savage tribe had ambushed them, killing many.  Once the pestilential fever of the low lands had taken them so that they died of it by scores.  Twice also had they suffered heavily through hunger and thirst, to say nothing of their losses by the fangs of lions, crocodiles, and other wild beasts which with the country swarmed.  Now their toils were over; and for six months, or perhaps a year, they might rest and trade in the Great City, enjoying its wealth, its flesh-pots, and the unholy orgies which, among people of the Phoenician race, were dignified by the name of the worship of the gods of heaven.

Soon the clamour died away, and although no command was given, the caravan started on at speed.  All weariness faded from the faces of the wayworn travellers, even the very camels and asses, shrunk, as most of them were, to mere skeletons, seemed to understand that labour and blows were done with, and forgetting their loads, shambled unurged down the stony path.  One man lingered, however.  Clearly he was a person of rank, for eight or ten attendants surrounded him.

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Elissa from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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