McEwen of the Shining Slave Makers
by Theodore Dreiser
It was a hot day in August. The parching rays of a summer
sun had faded the once sappy green leaves of the trees to a
dull and dusty hue. The grass, still good to look upon in
shady places, spread sere and dry where the light had
fallen unbroken. The roads were hot with thick dust, and
wherever a stone path led, it reflected heat to weary body
Robert McEwen had taken a seat under a fine old beech tree
whose broad arms cast a welcome shade. He had come here out
of the toil of the busy streets.
For a time he gave himself over to blank contemplation of
the broad park and the occasional carriages that jingled
by. Presently his meditation was broken by an ant on his
trousers, which he flipped away with his finger. This awoke
him to the thought that there might be more upon him. He
stood up, shaking and brushing himself. Then he noticed an
ant running along the walk in front of him. He stamped on
"I guess that will do for you," he said, half aloud, and
sat down again.
Now only did he really notice the walk. It was wide and
hard and hot. Many ants were hurrying about, and now he saw
that they were black. At last, one more active than the
others fixed his eye. He followed it with his glance for
more than a score of feet.
This particular ant was progressing urgently, now to the
right, now to the left, stopping here and there, but never
for more than a second. Its energy, the zigzag course it
pursued, the frequency with which it halted to examine
something, enlisted his interest. As he gazed, the path
grew in imagination until it assumed immense proportions.
Suddenly he bestirred himself, took a single glance and
then jumped, rubbing his eyes. He was in an unknown world,
strange in every detail. The branched and many-limbed trees
had disappeared. A forest of immense flat swords of green
swayed in the air above him. The ground between lacked its
carpet of green and was roughly strewn with immense
boulders of clay. The air was strong with an odor which
seemed strange and yet familiar. Only the hot sun streaming
down and a sky of faultless blue betokened a familiar
world. In regard to himself McEwen felt peculiar and yet
familiar. What was it that made these surroundings and
himself seem odd and yet usual? He could not tell. His
three pairs of limbs and his vigorous mandibles seemed
natural enough. The fact that he sensed rather than saw
things was natural and yet odd. Forthwith moved by a sense
of duty, necessity, and a kind of tribal obligation which
he more felt than understood, he set out in search of food
and prey and presently came to a broad plain, so wide that
his eye could scarce command more than what seemed an
immediate portion of it. He halted and breathed with a
feeling of relief. Just then a voice startled him.
"Anything to eat hereabout?" questioned the newcomer in a
friendly and yet self-interested tone.
McEwen drew back.
"I do not know," he said, "I have just--"
"Terrible," said the stranger, not waiting to hear his
answer. "It looks like famine. You know the Sanguineæ have
gone to war."
"No," answered McEwen mechanically.
"Yes," said the other, "they raided the Fuscæ yesterday.
They'll be down on us next."
With that the stranger made off. McEwen was about to
exclaim at the use of the word us when a ravenous
craving for food, brought now forcibly to his mind by the
words of the other, made him start in haste after him.
Then came another who bespoke him in passing.
"I haven't found a thing to-day, and I've been all the way
to the Pratensis region. I didn't dare go any further
without having some others with me. They're hungry, too, up
there, though they've just made a raid. You heard the
Sanguineæ went to war, didn't you?"
"Yes, he told me," said McEwen, indicating the retreating
figure of the stranger.
"Oh, Ermi. Yes, he's been over in their territory. Well,
I'll be going now."
McEwen hastened after Ermi at a good pace, and soon
overtook him. The latter had stopped and was gathering in
his mandibles a jagged crumb, almost as large as himself.
"Oh!" exclaimed McEwen eagerly, "where did you get that?"
"Here," said Ermi.
"Will you give me a little?"
"I will not," said the other, and a light came in his eye
that was almost evil.
"All right," said McEwen, made bold by hunger and yet
cautious by danger, "which way would you advise me to
"Wherever you please," said Ermi, "why ask me? You are not
new at seeking," and strode off.
"The forest was better than this," thought McEwen; "there I
would not die of the heat, anyhow, and I might find food.
Here is nothing," and he turned and glanced about for a
sight of the jungle whence he had come.
Far to the left and rear of him he saw it, those great
up-standing swords. As he gazed, revolving in his troubled
mind whether he should return or not, he saw another like
himself hurrying toward him out of the distance.
He eagerly hailed the newcomer, who was yet a long way off.
"What is it?" asked the other, coming up rapidly.
"Do you know where I can get something to eat?"
"Is that why you called me?" he answered, eyeing him
angrily. "Do you ask in time of famine? Certainly not. If I
had anything for myself, I would not be out here. Go and
hunt for it like the rest of us. Why should you be asking?"
"I have been hunting," cried McEwen, his anger rising. "I
have searched here until I am almost starved."
"No worse off than any of us, are you?" said the other.
"Look at me. Do you suppose I am feasting?"
He went off in high dudgeon, and McEwen gazed after him in
astonishment. The indifference and sufficiency were at once
surprising and yet familiar. Later he found himself falling
rapidly into helpless lassitude from both hunger and heat,
when a voice, as of one in pain, hailed him.
"Ho!" it cried.
"Hello!" he answered.
"Come, come!" was the feeble reply.
McEwen started forward at once. When he was still many
times his own length away he recognized the voice as that
of his testy friend of a little while before, but now sadly
changed. He was stretched upon the earth, working his
"What is it?" asked McEwen solicitously. "What ails you?
How did this happen?"
"I don't know," said the other. "I was passing along here
when that struck me," indicating a huge boulder. "I am done
for, though. You may as well have this food now, since you
are one of us. The tribe can use what you do not eat," he
"Oh, nothing of the sort," said McEwen solicitously, the
while he viewed the crushed limbs and side of the sufferer.
"You'll be all right. Why do you speak of death? Just tell
me where to take you, or whom to go for."
"No," said the other, "it would be no use. You see how it
is. They could do nothing for me. I did not want your aid.
I merely wanted you to have this food here. I shall not
want it now."
"Don't say that," returned McEwen. "You mustn't talk about
dying. There must be something I can do. Tell me. I don't
want your food."
"No, there isn't anything you could do. There isn't any
cure, you know that. Report, when you return, how I was
killed. Just leave me now and take that with you. They need
it, if you do not."
McEwen viewed him silently. This reference to a colony or
tribe or home seemed to clarify many things for him. He
remembered now apparently the long road he had come, the
immense galleries of the colony to which he belonged under
the earth, the passages by which he had made his way in and
out, the powerful and revered ant mother, various larvæ to
be fed and eggs to be tended. To be sure. That was it. He
was a part of this immense colony or group. The heat must
have affected his sensory powers. He must gather food and
return there--kill spiders, beetles, grubs, and bring them
back to help provision the colony. That was it. Only there
were so few to be found here, for some reason.
The sufferer closed his eyes in evident pain, and trembled
convulsively. Then he fell back and died.
McEwen gazed upon the now fast stiffening body, with all
but indifference, and wondered. The spectacle seemed so
familiar as to be all but commonplace. Apparently he had
seen so many die that way. Had he not, in times past,
reported the deaths of hundreds?
"Is he dead?" asked a voice at his side.
"Yes," said McEwen, scarcely bringing himself out of his
meditation sufficiently to observe the newcomer.
"Well, then, he will not need this, I guess," said the
other, and he seized upon the huge lump with his mandibles,
but McEwen was on the alert and savage into the bargain, on
the instant. He, too, gripped his mandibles upon it.
"I was called by him to have this, before he died," he
shouted "and I propose to have it. Let go."
"That I will not," said the other with great vigor and
energy. "I'll have some of it, at least," and, giving a
mighty wrench, which sent both himself and McEwen
sprawling, he tore off a goodly portion of it and ran,
gaining his feet so quickly that he was a good length off
before McEwen arose. The latter was too hungry, however, to
linger in useless rage, and now fell to and ate before any
other should disturb him. Then, feeling partially
satisfied, he stretched himself languorously and continued
more at his leisure. After a time he shook himself out of
his torpor which had seized on him with his eating, and
made off for the distant jungle, in which direction, as he
now felt, lay the colony home.
He was in one of the darkest and thickest portions of the
route thither when there was borne to him from afar the
sound of feet in marching time, and a murmuring as of
distant voices. He stopped and listened. Presently the
sounds grew louder and more individual. He could now tell
that a great company was nearing him. The narrow path which
he followed was clear for some distance, and open to
observation. Not knowing what creatures he was about to
meet, he stepped out of it into a thicket, at one side and
took up a position behind a great boulder. The tramp of
many feet was now so close as to bode contact and
discovery, and he saw, through the interstices of green
stalks, a strange column filing along the path he had left.
They were no other than a company of red warriors--slave
makers like himself, only of a different species, the
fierce Sanguineæ that Ermi had spoken of as having gone to
To war they certainly had been, and no doubt were going
again. Nearly every warrior carried with him some mark of
plunder or of death. Many bore in their mandibles dead
bodies of the enemy or their larvæ captured from a Fuscan
colony. Others bore upon their legs the severed heads of
the poor blacks who had been slain in the defense of their
home, and whose jaws still clung to their foes, fixed in
the rigor of death. Still others dragged the bodies of
their victims, and shouted as they went, making the long,
lonely path to ring with uncanny sounds as they disappeared
in the distance.
McEwen came furtively out after a time and looked after
them. He had gotten far to the left of the warriors and
somewhat to the front of them, and was just about to leave
the shadow of one clump of bushes to hurry to a neighboring
stone, when there filed out from the very shelter upon
which he had his eye fixed, the figure of one whom he
immediately recognized as Ermi. The latter seemed to await
a favorable opportunity when he should not be observed, and
then started running. McEwen followed. In the distance
could be seen a group of the Sanguineæ, who had evidently
paused for something, moving about in great excitement, in
groups of two or three, gesticulating and talking. Some of
those not otherwise engaged displayed a sensibility of
danger or a lust of war by working their jaws and sawing at
heavy stones with their mandibles. Presently one gazed in
the direction of Ermi, and shouted to the others.
Immediately four warriors set out in pursuit. McEwen
hastened after Ermi, to see what would become of him.
Discreetly hidden himself, he could do this with
considerable equanimity. As he approached, he saw Ermi
moving backward and forward, endeavoring to close the
entrance to a cave in which he had now taken refuge.
Apparently that warrior had become aware that no time was
to be lost, since he also could see the pursuing Sanguineæ.
With a swiftness born of daring and a keen realization of
danger, he arranged a large boulder at the very edge of the
portal as a key, and then others in such position that when
the first should topple in the others would follow. Then he
crawled deftly inside the portal, and pulling the keystone,
toppled the whole mass in after him.
This was hardly done when the Sanguineæ were upon him. They
were four cruel, murderous fighters, deeply scarred. One,
called by the others Og, had a black's head at his thigh.
One of his temples bore a scar, and the tip of his left
antenna was broken. He was a keen old warrior, however, and
scented the prey at once.
"Hi, you!" he shouted to the others. "Here's the place."
Just then another drew near to the portal which Ermi had
barricaded. He looked at it closely, walked about several
times, sounded with his antennæ and then listened. There
was no answer.
"Hist!" he exclaimed to the others.
Now they came up. They also looked, but so well had Ermi
done his work that they were puzzled.
"I'm not sure," said Og, "it looks to me more like an
abandoned cave than an entrance."
"Tear it open, anyway," advocated Ponan, the second of the
quartette, speaking for the first time. "There may be no
"Aha!" cried Og, "Good! We will see anyhow."
"Come on!" yelled Maru, a third, seizing the largest
boulder, "Mandibles to!"
"Out with him!" cried Om, jumping eagerly to work. "We will
have him out in a jiffy!"
It was not an easy task, as the boulders were heavy and
deep, but they tore them out. Later they dragged forth
Ermi, who, finding himself captured, seized the head of
Maru with his mandibles. Og, on the other hand, seized one
of Ermi's legs in his powerful jaws. The others also had
taken hold. The antennae of all were thrown back, and the
entire mass went pushing and shoving, turning and tumbling
in a whirl.
McEwen gazed, excited and sympathetic. At first he thought
to avoid it all, having a horror of death, but a moment
later decided to come to his friend's rescue, a feeling of
tribal relationship which was overwhelming coming over him.
Springing forward, he clambered upon the back of Og, at
whose neck he began to saw with his powerful teeth. Og,
realizing a new adversary, released his hold upon Ermi's
limb and endeavored to shake off his new enemy. McEwen held
tight, however. The others, however, too excited to observe
the newcomer, still struggled to destroy Ermi. The latter
had stuck steadily to his labor of killing Maru, and now,
when Og's hold was loosened, he gave a powerful crush and
Maru breathed his last. This advantaged him little,
however, for both Ponan and Om were attacking his sides.
"Take that!" shouted Om, throwing himself violently upon
Ermi and turning him over. "Saw off his head, Ponan."
Ponan released his hold and sprang for Ermi's head. There
was a kicking and crushing of jaws, and Ponan secured his
"Kill him!" yelled Om. "Come, Og! Come!"
At this very moment Og's severed head fell to the ground,
and McEwen leaping from his back, sprang to the aid of
"Come!" he shouted at Ponan, who was sawing at Ermi's head.
"It's two to two now," and McEwen gave such a wrench to
Ponan's side that he writhed in pain, and released his hold
But recovering himself he leaped upon McEwen, and bore him
The fight was now more desperate than ever. The combatants
rolled and tossed. McEwen's right antenna was broken by his
fall, and one of his legs was injured. He could seem to get
no hold upon his adversary, whom he now felt to be working
toward his neck.
"Let go!" he yelled, gnashing at him with his mandibles,
but Ponan only tightened his murderous jaws.
Better fortune was now with Ermi, however, who was a more
experienced fighter. Getting a grip upon Om's body, he
hurled him to the ground and left him stunned and
Seeing McEwen's predicament, he now sprang to his aid. The
latter was being sadly worsted and but for the generous aid
of Ermi, would have been killed. The latter struck Ponan a
terrific blow with his head and having stunned him, dragged
him off. The two, though much injured, now seized upon the
unfortunate Sanguinea and tore him in two, and would have
done as much for Om, had they not discovered that that
bedraggled warrior had recovered sufficiently to crawl away
McEwen and Ermi now drew near to each other in warm
"Come with me," said Ermi. "They are all about here now and
that coward who escaped will have them upon us. There is a
corridor into our home from here, only I was not able to
reach it before they caught me. Help me barricade this
Together they built up the stones more effectually than
before, and then entered, toppling the mass in behind them.
With considerable labor, they built up another barricade
"You watch a moment, now," said Ermi to McEwen, and then
hurried down a long passage through which he soon returned
bringing with him a sentinel, who took up guard duty at the
point where the fight had occurred. "He will stay here and
give the alarm in case another attack is made," he
"Come now," he added, touching McEwen affectionately with
his antennæ. Leading the way, Ermi took him along a long
winding corridor with which, somehow, he seemed to be
familiar, and through various secret passages into the
"You see," he said to McEwen familiarly, as they went,
"they could not have gotten in here, even if they had
killed me, without knowing the way. Our passageways are too
intricate. But it is as well to keep a picket there, now
that they are about. Where have you been? You do not belong
to our colony, do you?"
McEwen related his experiences since their meeting in the
desert, without explaining where he came from.
He knew that he was a member of some other colony of this
same tribe without being sure of which one. A strange
feeling of wandering confusion possessed him, as though he
had been injured in some way, somewhere, and was lost for
"Well, you might as well stay with us, now," said Ermi.
"Are you hungry?"
"Very," said McEwen.
"Then we will eat at once."
McEwen now gazed upon a domed chamber of vast proportions,
with which, also, he seemed familiar, an old inhabitant of
one such, no less. It had several doors that opened out
into galleries, and corridors leading to other chambers and
store rooms, a home for thousands.
Many members of this allied family now hurried to meet
them, all genially enough.
"You have had an encounter with them?" asked several at
"Nothing to speak of," said Ermi, who, fighter that he was,
had also a touch of vanity. "Look after my friend here, who
has saved my life."
"Not I!" cried McEwen warmly.
They could not explain, however, before they were seized by
their admirers and carried into a chamber where none of the
din of preparation penetrated, and where was a carpet of
soft grass threads upon which they might lie.
Injured though they were, neither could endure lying still
for long, and were soon poking about, though unable to do
anything. McEwen was privileged to idle and listlessly
watch an attack on one portal of the cave which lasted an
entire day, resulting in failure for the invaders. It was a
rather broken affair, the principal excitement occurring
about the barricaded portals and secret exits at the end of
the long corridors, where McEwen often found himself in the
way. The story of his prowess had been well told by Ermi,
and he was a friend and hero whom many served. A sort of
ambulance service was established which not only looked to
the bringing in of the injured, but also to the removal of
the dead. A graveyard was prepared just outside one of the
secret entrances, far from the scene of the siege, and here
the dead were laid in orderly rows.
The siege having ended temporarily the same day it began,
the household resumed its old order. Those who had remained
within went forth for forage. The care of the communal
young, which had been somewhat interrupted, was now
resumed. Larvæ and chrysalis, which had been left almost
unattended in the vast nurseries, were moved to and fro
between the rooms where the broken sunlight warmed, and the
shadow gave them rest.
"There is war ahead," said Ermi to McEwen one day not long
after this. "These Sanguineæ will never let us alone until
we give them battle. We shall have to stir up the whole
race of Shining Slave Makers and fight all the Sanguineæ
before we have peace again."
"Good," said McEwen. "I am ready."
"So am I," answered Ermi, "but it is no light matter. They
are our ancient enemy and as powerful as we. If we meet
again you will see war that is war."
Not long after this McEwen and Ermi, foraging together,
encountered a Sanguinea, who fought with them and was
slain. Numerous Lucidi, of which tribe he found himself to
be a member, left the community of a morning to labor and
were never heard of again. Encounters between parties of
both camps were frequent, and orderly living ceased.
At last the entire community was in a ferment, and a
council was called. It was held in the main saloon of the
formicary, a vast chamber whose hollowed dome rose like the
open sky above them. The queen of the community was
present, and all the chief warriors, including Ermi and
McEwen. Loud talking and fierce comment were indulged in to
no point, until Yumi, long a light in the councils of the
Lucidi, spoke. He was short and sharp of speech.
"We must go to war," he said. "Our old enemies will give us
no peace. Send couriers to all the colonies of the Shining
Slave Makers. We will meet the Red Slave Makers as we did
"Ah," said an old Lucidi, who stood at McEwen's side, "that
was a great battle. You don't remember. You were too young.
There were thousands and thousands in that. I could not
walk for the dead."
"Are we to have another such?" asked McEwen.
"If the rest of us come. We are a great people. The Shining
Slave Makers are numberless."
Just then another voice spoke, and Ermi listened.
"Let us send for them to come here. When the Sanguineæ
again lay siege let us pour out and destroy them. Let none
"Let us first send couriers and hear what our people say,"
broke in Ermi loudly. "The Sanguineæ are a vast people
also. We must have numbers. It must be a decisive battle."
"Ay, ay," answered many. "Send the couriers!"
Forthwith messengers were dispatched to all parts, calling
the hordes of the Shining Slave Makers to war. In due
course they returned, bringing information that they were
coming. Their colonies also had been attacked. Later the
warriors of the allied tribes began to put in an
It was a gathering of legions. The paths in the forests
about resounded with their halloos. With the arrival of the
first cohorts of these friendly colonies, there was a minor
encounter with an irritant host of the Sanguineæ foraging
hereabout, who were driven back and destroyed. Later there
were many minor encounters and deaths before the hosts were
fully assembled, but the end was not yet. All knew that.
The Sanguineæ had fled, but not in cowardice. They would
The one problem with this vast host, now that it was
assembled, was food. Eventually they expected to discover
this in the sacked homes of the Sanguineæ, but temporarily
other provision must be made. The entire region had to be
scoured. Colonies of Fuscæ and Schauffusi living in nearby
territory were attacked and destroyed. Their storehouses
were ransacked and the contents distributed. Every form of
life was attacked and still there was not enough.
Both McEwen and Ermi, now inseparable, joined in one of
these raids. It was upon a colony of Fuscæ, who had their
home in a neighboring forest. The company went singing on
their way until within a short distance of the colony, when
they became silent.
"Let us not lose track of one another," said McEwen.
"No," said Ermi, "but they are nothing. We will take all
they possess without a struggle. See them running."
As he said this, he motioned in the direction of several
Fuscæ that were fleeing toward their portals in terror. The
Lucidi set up a shout, and darted after, plunging into the
open gates, striking and slaying as they went. In a few
minutes those first in came out again carrying their booty.
Others were singly engaged in fiercest battle with large
groups of the weaker Fuscæ. Only a few of the latter were
inclined to fight. They seemed for the most part dazed by
their misfortunes. Numbers hung from the topmost blades of
the towering sword-trees, and the broad, floor-like leaves
of the massive weeds, about their caves where they had
taken refuge, holding in their jaws baby larvæ and cocoons
rescued from the invaders, with which they had hurriedly
fled to these nearest elevated objects.
Singly, McEwen pursued a dozen, and reveled in the sport of
killing them. He tumbled them with rushes of his body,
crushed them with his mandibles, and poisoned them with his
"Do you need help?" called Ermi once, who was always near
"Yes," called McEwen scornfully, "bring me more of them."
Soon the deadly work was over and the two comrades,
gathering a mass of food, joined the returning band,
singing as they went
"To-morrow," said Ermi, as they went along, "we will meet
the Sanguineæ. It is agreed. The leaders are conferring
McEwen did not learn where these latter were, but somehow
he was pleased. An insane lust of combat was now upon him.
"They will not be four to two this time," he laughed
"No, and we will not be barricading against them, either,"
laughed Ermi, the lust of war simmering in his veins.
As they came near their camp, however, they found a large
number of the assembled companies already in motion.
Thousands upon thousands of those who had arrived were
already assembled in one group or another and were prepared
for action. There were cries and sounds of fighting, and
long lines of Lucidi hurrying hither and thither.
"What's the matter?" asked Ermi excitedly.
"The Sanguineæ," was the answer. "They are returning."
Instantly McEwen became sober. Ermi turned to him
"Now," he said solemnly, "courage. We're in for it."
A tremendous hubbub followed. Already vast legions of the
Lucidi were bearing away to the east. McEwen and Ermi, not
being able to find their own, fell in with a strange
"Order!" shouted a voice in their ears. "Fall in line. We
The twain mechanically obeyed, and dropped behind a regular
line. Soon they were winding along with other long lines of
warriors through the tall sword trees, and in a little
while reached a huge, smooth, open plain where already the
actual fighting had begun. Thousands were here, apparently
hundreds of thousands. There was little order, and scarcely
any was needed apparently, since all contacts were
individual or between small groups. It all depended now on
numbers, and the results of the contests between
individuals, or at the most, these small groups. Ermi,
McEwen, and several other Lucidi were about to seize upon
one Sanguinea, who was approaching them, when an amazing
rush of the latter broke them, and McEwen found himself
separated from Ermi with a red demon snapping at his
throat. Dazed by the shock and clamor, he almost fell a
prey to this first charge. A moment later, however, his
courage and daring returned. With a furious bound, he
recovered himself and forced himself upon his adversary,
snapping his jaws in his neck.
"Take that!" he said to the tumbling carcass.
He had no sooner ended one foe, however, than another
clutched him. They were on every hand, hard, merciless
fighters like himself and Ermi who rushed and tore and
sawed with amazing force. McEwen faced his newest adversary
swiftly. While the latter was seeking for McEwen's head and
antennæ with his mandibles, the former with a quick snap
seized his foe by the neck. Turning up his abdomen, he
ejected formic acid into the throat of the other. That
Meanwhile the battle continued on every hand with the same
mad vehemence. Already the dead clogged the ground. Here,
single combatants struggled--there, whole lines moved and
swayed in deadly combat. Ever and anon new lines were
formed, and strange hosts of friends or enemies came up,
falling upon the combatants of both sides with murderous
enthusiasm. McEwen, in a strange daze and lust of death,
seemed to think nothing of it. He was alone now--lost in a
tossing sea of war, and terror seemed to have forsaken him.
It was wonderful, he thought, mysterious--
As enemy after enemy assailed him, he fought them as he
best knew, an old method to him, apparently, and as they
died, he wished them to die--broken, poisoned, sawed in
two. He began to count and exult in the numbers he had
slain. It was at last as though he were dreaming, and all
around was a vain, dark, surging mass of enemies.
Finally, four of the Sanguineæ seized upon him in a group,
and he went down before them, almost helpless. Swiftly they
tore at his head and body, endeavoring to dispose of him
quickly. One seized a leg, another an antenna. A third
jumped and sawed at his neck. Still he did not care. It was
all war, and he would struggle to the last shred of his
strength, eagerly, enthusiastically. At last he seemed to
When he opened his eyes again, Ermi was beside him.
"Well?" said Ermi.
"Well?" answered McEwen.
"You were about done for, then."
"Was I?" he answered. "How are things going?"
"I cannot tell yet," said Ermi. "All I know is that you
were faring badly when I came up. Two of them were dead,
but the other two were killing you."
"You should have left me to them," said McEwen, noticing
now for the first time Ermi's wounds. "It does not matter
so much--one Lucidi more or less--what of it? But you have
"I--oh, nothing. You are the one to complain. I fear you
are badly injured."
"Oh, I," returned McEwen heavily, feeling at last the
weight of death upon him, "I am done for. I cannot live. I
felt myself dying some time ago."
He closed his eyes and trembled. In another moment--
* * * * *
McEwen opened his eyes. Strangely enough he was looking out
upon jingling carriages and loitering passersby in the
great city park. It was all so strange, by comparison with
that which he had so recently seen, the tall buildings in
the distance, instead of the sword trees, the trees, the
flowers. He jumped to his feet in astonishment, then sank
back again in equal amaze, a passerby eyeing him curiously
"I have been asleep," he said in a troubled way. "I have
been dreaming. And what a dream!"
He shut his eyes again, wishing, for some strange
reason--charm, sympathy, strangeness--to regain the lost
scene. An odd longing filled his heart, a sense of
comradeship lost, of some friend he knew missing. When he
opened his eyes again he seemed to realize something more
of what had been happening, but it was fading, fading.
At his feet lay the plain and the ants with whom he had
recently been--or so he thought. Yes, there, only a few
feet away in the parched grass, was an arid spot, over-run
with insects. He gazed upon it, in amazement, searching for
the details of a lost world. Now, as he saw, coming closer,
a giant battle was in progress, such a one, for instance,
as that in which he had been engaged in his dream. The
ground was strewn with dead ants. Thousands upon thousands
were sawing and striking at each other quite in the manner
in which he had dreamed. What was this?--a revelation of
the spirit and significance of a lesser life or of his
own--or what? And what was life if the strange passions,
moods and necessities which conditioned him here could
condition those there on so minute a plane?
"Why, I was there," he said dazedly and a little
dreamfully, "a little while ago. I died there--or as well
as died there--in my dream. At least I woke out of it into
this or sank from that into this."
Stooping closer he could see where lines were drawn, how in
places the forces raged in confusion, and the field was
cluttered with the dead. At one moment an odd mad
enthusiasm such as he had experienced in his dream-world
lay hold of him, and he looked for the advantage of the
Shining Slave Makers--the blacks--as he thought of the two
warring hosts as against the reds. But finding it not, the
mood passed, and he stood gazing, lost in wonder. What a
strange world! he thought. What worlds within worlds, all
apparently full of necessity, contention, binding emotions
and unities--and all with sorrow, their sorrow--a vague,
sad something out of far-off things which had been there,
and was here in this strong bright city day, had been there
and would be here until this odd, strange thing called
life had ended.