Poseidon’s Paradise: The Romance of Atlantis by Elizabeth G. Birkmaier, chapter name QUEEN ATLANA


From the state chamber the king sped buoyantly through the great hall, with its lines of bowing officers and attendants, each as smiling as himself over this war prospect; and thence, to the right, along the corridor, to the queen’s bower room.

Most eloquently did this large apartment testify to the industry of the queen and her ladies, as theirs were the embroidery upon the hangings of byssus and the coverings of the couches, the plaiting of the great mats upon the inlaid floor, the festooning of the flowers from the satinwood walls. The room was a veritable bower in its brightness, fragrance, and floral adornments; and, as the climax to its charms, three of its sides opened upon the fairy-like, private garden, which spread to the eastward.

The queen’s ladies were throwing over a couch the covering they had just finished as the king entered. After low salutations, they withdrew. The queen, meanwhile, had arisen for greeting; and, sad as it may seem, was wondering at her husband’s cheerfulness of mien.

Queen Atlana was tall, gracious, lovely. She was Atlano’s cousin, being the daughter of his father’s brother by a princess of Khemi. Owing to her Semitic blood, hers was not the complexion of the true Atlanteans. In her, the mixture of the red and yellow had produced a richness of skin whose tints were of the olive and the peach. Her eyes were brown, large, soft, and lustrous; her hair, black and waving, and worn in high braids about her head. Her features were straight, the forehead receding but little, and the mouth beautiful and tender.

Her robe was of fine white linen, embroidered in buff; and hung from her shoulders in folds to the floor, being confined at the waist by a golden girdle. Her perfect arms were bare and without ornament. With a grace bewitching, she moved toward the king, her face flushing sweetly, and said low in love:

“With joy I greet thee, Atlano.”

He took her extended hand and led her to her couch, responding, as he sat down beside her, “With the like feeling do I greet thee, Atlana.”

Her eyes lighted gladly. Such crumbs had begun to fall rarely from the king’s table, and, therefore, had now the fullness of the banqueting board. Smiling, she said:

“Thou art happy, Atlano. Comest thou from the meeting of the captains?”

“The captains left an hour hence. Since then we have had thought for matters of weight.”

There was a strange exultation about him. She looked at him in inquiry.

“Thou askest not of the meeting.”

“It was in my thought. Tell me of it.”

“There were the like olden speeches of cargoes taken out and cargoes brought back, of the planting of our people in new lands, and their doings; of spoils taken. Pfui! how sick am I of it! How great is my wish to put some other in my place to hearken to it all!”

“But the people would not have it. It hath ever been the custom of the kings.”

“A custom of the fools! How weary I grow of it! This day I was almost in sleep. But one thing I heard that roused me!”

“What heardst thou?”

He was rubbing his hands gloatingly, his long, thin, cruel hands.

“What thinkest thou, Atlana?”

“I think not. Tell me.”

He waited, delighting to prolong her impatience; and then drawled:

“We have heard—that—will force—us—to—”

“To what?”

“To war.”

She looked so incredulous that he laughed. “I say the truth, Atlana. We are to war.”

“To war!”

Her face had blanched, yet she could not believe.

“Yea, Atlana, to war. A new power showeth itself to the north of Khemi. It aimeth to hold the Middle Sea. We go to crush it!”

She grew faint at his relentless tone. However, she managed to plead:

“It cannot harm us. Spare it.”

“Spare it! Much would it spare us should it grow stronger. Even now is it mighty enough to thrust us to one side. Do us harm! That is my fear.”

“Atlano, I beseech that thou wilt seek no quarrel with this people.”

“There is no need to seek. I will make one. I will show them that Atlantis still hath being—that she is not dead of her power, her wealth, her spoils, her glory. Spoils! Here will be another—a grand one! Here will another land mourn its being—those marvels of vessels sink beneath the waters, or, better, swell the numbers of our own. Here will Atlantis show another line to that dreaming Khemi that doth not rouse even when the smallest haven goeth beyond her in treading the sea. What are her piles of stone to one strong, free breath of the sea? And what a glory to hold every breath as we have until now! Base Khemi—to be thus given over to her sands, her works of stone!”

“Atlano, call to mind that I am fond of Khemi. It is the land of my mother.”

“One would know it when thou wouldst bid me spare this Pelasgia.”

“Thou art wrong to trouble this people.”

“Such is what I might look for from thee. Ever art thou against me!”

“When have I ever been against thee?”

He tried hard to recall an instance, but could not. Less angry, he insisted:

“As a wife, thou hast the right to think with me—hast the right to bid me good speed when I go to crush this people.”

“Thou! Thou wilt not go?”

“I go to crush them. The gods have my vow. Here have I rusted too long. I am as king of Khemi!”

“Thou wilt be killed! Atlano, thou wilt be killed!”

“Then wilt thou be queen,” he returned derisively. “Thou art next in line with all thy Khemian blood, and these Atlanteans love thee. Ill would they take it should Oltis come after me—for his father counteth not. That smooth Oltis—well doth he wish it! But I shall not be killed, if but to bring to naught the hopes of that cunning priest. He thinketh I see not through him.” Loud rang his mocking laugh.

The queen arose, and, standing before him, besought:

“Atlano, for the sake of our land and people, war not. Think of our Atlanteans who will not come back—of their darkened homes. Call to mind how, in the time of thy father, we lost our people in warring against Fun-hi. And what evil came of it, for it brought on the death of thy father!”

“Yea, but it made the way for me.”


“Say on, ‘Atlano!’ Well should I sicken of my name!” (He had arisen to face her vindictively.) “I say to thee, Atlana, we are to war, war. And now I have done with it—and thee.” (He turned to go.)

“So be it—war! But I warn thee, it is one thing to war, another to win.”

“Put not upon it an evil eye, Atlana. If thou dost croak, I fear.” (He was again facing her.)

“I croak not, but I warn thee. The cause is not just.”

“Thou art in evil temper this day. It is best that I go to the temple and talk with Oltis. Ah, thou dost shake!”

“Why art thou ever with Oltis if thou trustest him not?”

“I like to draw him on, to make him believe I think with him, to make him take my way in the end. I like to see him, the proud one, bend—bend—because I am the king. He is a toad.”

“But thou goest to this toad from me.”

“Yea, but wert thou more as he I would stay with thee.”

“Think. Thou didst call him a toad.”

“I mean, wert thou not so bent of mind. Oltis never sayeth nay to me. It would be better, Atlana, couldst thou ever think with me.”

“It is but this time, Atlano. Come, sit with me again. I will be more calm.”

“Nay, I go.”

“Go not to Oltis.”

“I like the mirth of it.”

“I fear him. He will do thee evil.”

There was another mocking laugh. “If thou didst but know, I think evil toward him. I like him not. And now my good wishes I leave thee.”

“Go not.”

Seeing there were tears in her eyes, he stooped to kiss her carelessly; then, drew from her restraining hand and went out.

Atlana was left to weep inconsolably. Well she loved her husband; and hard to bear was his growing indifference. Now had come this new terror, this suddenly sprung up cloud of war, and the injustice of such a contest could presage only defeat. For the remainder of the day she continued alone, given over to despondency, and dreading lest any eye should witness her plight.

Before night, many were the aching hearts on the island beside the queen’s. The wives of high and low degree had alike fallen to sorrowing. Mourning was rife among the females of the land, and grew in intensity from the hard-heartedness of the males, who had no patience with such puerile manifestations, and, therefore, laughed at them, derided. When some wives took courage to hint of the possibility of defeat, they were so withered by scorn as to run for hiding places; and it was days before quite a goodly number rallied sufficiently to show themselves. The women of Atlantis could imagine and suffer thereby as ably as their sisters of to-day.

As the preparations grew brisker, more despairing became these Atlantean women. As for the queen, she only brightened when in presence of the king. Then she was strong. Thus he knew not of the agony she was enduring—could not have appreciated it had she disclosed it. Once he even complimented her upon her sensible way of accepting the matter, she smiling back in a weary manner that was lost upon him, so centered was he in self. But, day by day, she grew more fond, if possible, so that his eyes opened somewhat; and, at last, he exclaimed:

“Atlana, where didst thou get such heart? Well would it be if thou hadst children.”

“Children! Torment me not!”

The cry was tragic. The king, though amazed, scoffed:

“Thou sayest well. They are but a torment.”

“I meant not that they are a torment. It is torment that I have them not!”

Wildly she spoke, unsealing her lips upon this subject, and to the astounding of the king, as she continued:

“Why speakest thou of children, and at this time? It is hard to bear. To have no child to look upon, to nurse, to clasp! Here is the heart of a mother, but where is the child to cling to it, to bless it? I am alone—alone!”

She bowed her head to hide the bursting tears. The king, touched, attempted consolation.

“Grieve not, Atlana. I care for children but to vex Oltis. As life is, they are ever a trouble.”

“I care not about Oltis. For trouble, fathers have no trouble. It is the mothers alone—who have to bear—that have the right to murmur. But I should never murmur.”

“Nay, for a queen need have no care.”

“I should have care, and hail it, were I many times a queen.”

Such strong yearning was in her face that the king exclaimed:

“Atlana, what is it? What is upon thee? Is it this matter of war?”

“Day and night I think of naught else. Hard have I tried to be brave. Atlano, go not from me. The pain I cannot bear.”

“There is no need for pain. We go to lay Pelasgia low. And I shall come again. Think, thou art the wife of a king. Trouble me no longer with bodings of evil. Would we had a child. It would take my place.”

Atlana sighed, and raised her head, determined to say no more. Relieved that her tears had ceased, Atlano said more gently:

“Let us sail down to the harbor. There have the vessels of all the ports gathered. It will cheer thee but to look upon them.”

Fine cheer, indeed, was this for such an aching heart! The queen looked at him, thinking he meant to jest. But no, his earnestness was too apparent. Already had his face brightened at the prospect. So she forced a smile, and, calling her ladies, gave the necessary orders.

Shortly, herself, the king, and a few of the nobles, with their wives, went gliding down Luith to the harbor. But great heaviness of spirit was beneath the smiles of these women; and this heaviness increased when, upon arriving at the harbor, they beheld the many war vessels in brave array, with pennants flying, and men crowding their decks. Bitter was it to listen to the exulting speeches of Atlano and his nobles; bitterer, to listen to the acclamations of those on deck and shore. The nobles’ wives looked from their queen to each other, but could derive no comfort, no hope. There was not one to lighten the gloom of the others among these suffering women.