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HOME > Science Fiction > The Story of the Amulet > CHAPTER 9. ATLANTIS
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You will understand that the adventure of the Babylonian queen in London was the only one that had occupied any time at all. But the children’s time was very fully taken up by talking over all the wonderful things seen and done in the Past, where, by the power of the Amulet, they seemed to spend hours and hours, only to find when they got back to London that the whole thing had been briefer than a lightning flash.

They talked of the Past at their meals, in their walks, in the dining-room, in the first-floor drawing-room, but most of all on the stairs. It was an old house; it had once been a fashionable one, and was a fine one still. The banister rails of the stairs were excellent for sliding down, and in the corners of the landings were big alcoves that had once held graceful statues, and now quite often held the graceful forms of Cyril, Robert, Anthea, and Jane.

One day Cyril and Robert in tight white underclothing had spent a pleasant hour in reproducing the attitudes of statues seen either in the British Museum, or in Father’s big photograph book. But the show ended abruptly because Robert wanted to be the Venus of Milo, and for this purpose pulled at the sheet which served for drapery at the very moment when Cyril, looking really quite like the Discobolos—with a gold and white saucer for the disc—was standing on one foot, and under that one foot was the sheet.

Of course the Discobolos and his disc and the would-be Venus came down together, and everyone was a good deal hurt, especially the saucer, which would never be the same again, however neatly one might join its uneven bits with Seccotine or the white of an egg.

‘I hope you’re satisfied,’ said Cyril, holding his head where a large lump was rising.

‘Quite, thanks,’ said Robert bitterly. His thumb had caught in the banisters and bent itself back almost to breaking point.

‘I AM so sorry, poor, dear Squirrel,’ said Anthea; ‘and you were looking so lovely. I’ll get a wet rag. Bobs, go and hold your hand under the hot-water tap. It’s what ballet girls do with their legs when they hurt them. I saw it in a book.’

‘What book?’ said Robert disagreeably. But he went.

When he came back Cyril’s head had been bandaged by his sisters, and he had been brought to the state of mind where he was able reluctantly to admit that he supposed Robert hadn’t done it on purpose.

Robert replying with equal suavity, Anthea hastened to lead the talk away from the accident.

‘I suppose you don’t feel like going anywhere through the Amulet,’ she said.

‘Egypt!’ said Jane promptly. ‘I want to see the pussy cats.’

‘Not me—too hot,’ said Cyril. ‘It’s about as much as I can stand here—let alone Egypt.’ It was indeed, hot, even on the second landing, which was the coolest place in the house. ‘Let’s go to the North Pole.’

‘I don’t suppose the Amulet was ever there—and we might get our fingers frost-bitten so that we could never hold it up to get home again. No thanks,’ said Robert.

‘I say,’ said Jane, ‘let’s get the Psammead and ask its advice. It will like us asking, even if we don’t take it.’

The Psammead was brought up in its green silk embroidered bag, but before it could be asked anything the door of the learned gentleman’s room opened and the voice of the visitor who had been lunching with him was heard on the stairs. He seemed to be speaking with the door handle in his hand.

‘You see a doctor, old boy,’ he said; ‘all that about thought-transference is just simply twaddle. You’ve been over-working. Take a holiday. Go to Dieppe.’

‘I’d rather go to Babylon,’ said the learned gentleman.

‘I wish you’d go to Atlantis some time, while we’re about it, so as to give me some tips for my Nineteenth Century article when you come home.’

‘I wish I could,’ said the voice of the learned gentleman. ‘Goodbye. Take care of yourself.’

The door was banged, and the visitor came smiling down the stairs—a stout, prosperous, big man. The children had to get up to let him pass.

‘Hullo, Kiddies,’ he said, glancing at the bandages on the head of Cyril and the hand of Robert, ‘been in the wars?’

‘It’s all right,’ said Cyril. ‘I say, what was that Atlantic place you wanted him to go to? We couldn’t help hearing you talk.’

‘You talk so VERY loud, you see,’ said Jane soothingly.

‘Atlantis,’ said the visitor, ‘the lost Atlantis, garden of the Hesperides. Great continent—disappeared in the sea. You can read about it in Plato.’

‘Thank you,’ said Cyril doubtfully.

‘Were there any Amulets there?’ asked Anthea, made anxious by a sudden thought.

‘Hundreds, I should think. So HE’S been talking to you?’

‘Yes, often. He’s very kind to us. We like him awfully.’

‘Well, what he wants is a holiday; you persuade him to take one. What he wants is a change of scene. You see, his head is crusted so thickly inside with knowledge about Egypt and Assyria and things that you can’t hammer anything into it unless you keep hard at it all day long for days and days. And I haven’t time. But you live in the house. You can hammer almost incessantly. Just try your hands, will you? Right. So long!’

He went down the stairs three at a time, and Jane remarked that he was a nice man, and she thought he had little girls of his own.

‘I should like to have them to play with,’ she added pensively.

The three elder ones exchanged glances. Cyril nodded.

‘All right. LET’S go to Atlantis,’ he said.

‘Let’s go to Atlantis and take the learned gentleman with us,’ said Anthea; ‘he’ll think it’s a dream, afterwards, but it’ll certainly be a change of scene.’

‘Why not take him to nice Egypt?’ asked Jane.

‘Too hot,’ said Cyril shortly.

‘Or Babylon, where he wants to go?’

‘I’ve had enough of Babylon,’ said Robert, ‘at least for the present. And so have the others. I don’t know why,’ he added, forestalling the question on Jane’s lips, ‘but somehow we have. Squirrel, let’s take off these beastly bandages and get into flannels. We can’t go in our unders.’

‘He WISHED to go to Atlantis, so he’s got to go some time; and he might as well go with us,’ said Anthea.

This was how it was that the learned gentleman, permitting himself a few moments of relaxation in his chair, after the fatigue of listening to opinions (about Atlantis and many other things) with which he did not at all agree, opened his eyes to find his four young friends standing in front of him in a row.

‘Will you come,’ said Anthea, ‘to Atlantis with us?’

‘To know that you are dreaming shows that the dream is nearly at an end,’ he told himself; ‘or perhaps it’s only a game, like “How many miles to Babylon?”.’ So he said aloud: ‘Thank you very much, but I have only a quarter of an hour to spare.’

‘It doesn’t take any time,’ said Cyril; ‘time is only a mode of thought, you know, and you’ve got to go some time, so why not with us?’

‘Very well,’ said the learned gentleman, now quite certain that he was dreaming.

Anthea held out her soft, pink hand. He took it. She pulled him gently to his feet. Jane held up the Amulet.

‘To just outside Atlantis,’ said Cyril, and Jane said the Name of Power.

‘You owl!’ said Robert, ‘it’s an island. Outside an island’s all water.’

‘I won’t go. I WON’T,’ said the Psammead, kicking and struggling in its bag.

But already the Amulet had grown to a great arch. Cyril pushed the learned gentleman, as undoubtedly the first-born, through the arch—not into water, but on to a wooden floor, out of doors. The others followed. The Amulet grew smaller again, and there they all were, standing on the deck of a ship whose sailors were busy making her fast with chains to rings on a white quay-side. The rings and the chains were of a metal that shone red-yellow like gold.

Everyone on the ship seemed too busy at first to notice the group of newcomers from Fitzroy Street. Those who seemed to be officers were shouting orders to the men.

They stood and looked across the wide quay to the town that rose beyond it. What they saw was the most beautiful sight any of them had ever seen—or ever dreamed of.

The blue sea sparkled in soft sunlight; little white-capped waves broke softly against the marble breakwaters that guarded the shipping of a great city from the wilderness of winter winds and seas. The quay was of marble, white and sparkling with a veining bright as gold. The city was of marble, red and white. The greater buildings that seemed to be temples and palaces were roofed with what looked like gold and silver, but most of the roofs were of copper that glowed golden-red on the houses on the hills among which the city stood, and shaded into marvellous tints of green and blue and purple where they had been touched by the salt sea spray and the fumes of the dyeing and smelting works of the lower town.

Broad and magnificent flights of marble stairs led up from the quay to a sort of terrace that seemed to run along for miles, and beyond rose the town built on a hill.

The learned gentleman drew a long breath. ‘Wonderful!’ he said, ‘wonderful!’

‘I say, Mr—what’s your name,’ said Robert. ‘He means,’ said Anthea, with gentle politeness, ‘that we never can remember your name. I know it’s Mr De Something.’

‘When I was your age I was called Jimmy,’ he said timidly. ‘Would you mind? I should feel more at home in a dream like this if I—Anything that made me seem more like one of you.’

‘Thank you—Jimmy,’ said Anthea with an effort. It seemed such a cheek to be saying Jimmy to a grown-up man. ‘Jimmy, DEAR,’ she added, with no effort at all. Jimmy smiled and looked pleased.

But now the ship was made fast, and the Captain had time to notice other things. He came towards them, and he was dressed in the best of all possible dresses for the seafaring life.

‘What are you doing here?’ he asked rather fiercely. ‘Do you come to bless or to curse?’

‘To bless, of course,’ said Cyril. ‘I’m sorry if it annoys you, but we’re here by magic. We come from the land of the sun-rising,’ he went on explanatorily.

‘I see,’ said the Captain; no one had expected that he would. ‘I didn’t notice at first, but of course I hope you’re a good omen. It’s needed. And this,’ he pointed to the learned gentleman, ‘your slave, I presume?’

‘Not at all,’ said Anthea; ‘he’s a very great man. A sage, don’t they call it? And we want to see all your beautiful city, and your temples and things, and then we shall go back, and he will tell his friend, and his friend will write a book about it.’

‘What,’ asked the Captain, fingering a rope, ‘is a book?’

‘A record—something written, or,’ she added hastily, remembering the Babylonian writing, ‘or engraved.’

Some sudden impulse of confidence made Jane pluck the Amulet from the neck of her frock.

‘Like this,’ she said.

The Captain looked at it curiously, but, the other three were relieved to notice, without any of that overwhelming interest which the mere name of it had roused in Egypt and Babylon.

‘The stone is of our country,’ he said; ‘and that which is engraved on it, it is like our writing, but I cannot read it. What is the name of your sage?’

‘Ji-jimmy,’ said Anthea hesitatingly.

The Captain repeated, ‘Ji-jimmy. Will you land?’ he added. ‘And shall I lead you to the Kings?’

‘Look here,’ said Robert, ‘does your King hate strangers?’

‘Our Kings are ten,’ said the Captain, ‘and the Royal line, unbroken from Poseidon, the father of us all, has the noble tradition to do honour to strangers if they come in peace.’

‘Then lead on, please,’ said Robert, ‘though I SHOULD like to see all over your beautiful ship, and sail about in her.’

‘That shall be later,’ said the Captain; ‘just now we’re afraid of a storm—do you notice that odd rumbling?’

‘That’s nothing, master,’ said an old sailor who stood near; ‘it’s the pilchards coming in, that’s all.’

‘Too loud,’ said the Captain.

There was a rather anxious pause; then the Captain stepped on to the quay, and the others followed him.

‘Do talk to him—Jimmy,’ said Anthea as they went; ‘you can find out all sorts of things for your friend’s book.’

‘Please excuse me,’ he said earnestly. ‘If I talk I shall wake up; and besides, I can’t understand what he says.’

No one else could think of anything to say, so that it was in complete silence that they followed the Captain up the marble steps and through the streets of the town. There were streets and shops and houses and markets.

‘It’s just like Babylon,’ whispered Jane, ‘only everything’s perfectly different.’

‘It’s a great comfort the ten Kings have been properly brought up—to be kind to strangers,’ Anthea whispered to Cyril.

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘no deepest dungeons here.’

There were no horses or chariots in the street, but there were handcarts and low trolleys running on thick log-wheels, and porters carrying packets on their heads, and a good many of the people were riding on what looked like elephants, only the great beasts were hairy, and they had not that mild expression we are accustomed to meet on the faces of the elephants at the Zoo.

‘Mammoths!’ murmured the learned gentleman, and stumbled over a loose stone.

The people in the streets kept crowding round them as they went along, but the Captain always dispersed the crowd before it grew uncomfortably thick by saying—

‘Children of the Sun God and their High Priest—come to bless the City.’

And then the people would draw back with a low murmur that sounded like a suppressed cheer.

Many of the buildings were covered with gold, but the gold on the bigger buildings was of a different colour, and they had sorts of steeples of burnished silver rising above them.

‘Are all these houses real gold?’ asked Jane.

‘The temples are covered with gold, of course,’ answered the Captain, ‘but the houses are only oricalchum. It’s not quite so expensive.’

The learned gentleman, now very pale, stumbled along in a dazed way, repeating:


‘Don’t be frightened,&rs............
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