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Chapter 8 (continued)
As fond as I had grown of him, I could have thrust a knife into him, so keenly did I feel the affront that had been put upon me. But at last the long banquet was concluded. The tables were removed. The emperor ascended a dais at one end of the room and seated himself upon a throne, and the entertainment commenced. It was only what ancient history might have led me to expect--musicians, dancing girls, jugglers, and the like.
Near midnight, the master of ceremonies announced that the slave women who had been presented to the emperor since his arrival in New Gondar would be exhibited, that the royal host would select such as he wished, after which he would present the balance of them to his guests. Ah, what royal generosity!
A small door at one side of the room opened, and the poor creatures filed in and were ranged in a long line before the throne. Their backs were toward me. I saw only an occasional profile as now and then a bolder spirit among them turned to survey the apartment and the gorgeous assemblage of officers in their brilliant dress uniforms. They were profiles of young girls, and pretty, but horror was indelibly stamped upon them all. I shuddered as I contemplated their sad fate, and turned my eyes away.
I heard the master of ceremonies command them to prostrate themselves before the emperor, and the sounds as they went upon their knees before him, touching their foreheads to the floor. Then came the official's voice again, in sharp and peremptory command.
"Down, slave!" he cried. "Make obeisance to your sovereign!"
I looked up, attracted by the tone of the man's voice, to see a single, straight, slim figure standing erect in the center of the line of prostrate girls, her arms folded across her breast and little chin in the air. Her back was toward me--I could not see her face, though I should like to see the countenance of this savage young lioness, standing there defiant among that herd of terrified sheep.
"Down! Down!" shouted the master of ceremonies, taking a step toward her and half drawing his sword.
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