Giantess Stories: The Root of Ampoi                                    by                            Clarke Ashton Smith  A CIRCUS had arrived in

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The Root of Ampoi

by

Clarke Ashton Smith

A CIRCUS had arrived in Auburn. The siding at the station was

crowded with long lines of cars from which issued a medley of

exotic howls, growls, snarls and trumpetings. Elephants and

zebras and dromedaries were led along the main streets; and many

of the freaks and performers wandered about the town.

Two bearded ladies passed with the graceful air and walk of

women of fashion. Then came a whole troupe of midgets, trudging

along with the look of mournful, sophisticated children. And then

I saw the giant, who was slightly more than eight feet tall and

magnificently built, with no sign of disproportion which often

attends giantism. He was merely a fine physical specimen of the

ordinary man, somewhat more than life-size. And even at first

glance there was something about his features and his gait which

suggested a seaman.

I am a doctor; and the man provoked my medical curiosity.

His abnormal bulk and height, without trace of acromegaly, was

something I had never happened to meet before.

He must have felt my interest, for he returned my gaze with

a speculative eye; and then, lurching in sailor-like fashion, he

came over to me.

"I say, sir, could a chap buy a drink in this 'ere town?" He

queried cautiously.

I made a quick decision.

"Come with me," I replied. "I'm an allopath; and I can tell

without asking that you're a sick man."

We were only a block from my office. I steered the giant up

the stairs and into my private sanctum. He almost filled the

place, even when he sat down at my urging. I brought out a bottle

of rye and poured a liberal glassful for him. He downed it with

manifest appreciation. He had worn an air of mild depression when

I first me him; now he began to brighten.

"You wouldn't think, to look at me, that I wasn't always a

bloomin' giant," he soliloquized.

"Have another drink," I suggested.

After the second glass, he resumed a little mournfully: "No,

sire, Jim Knox wasn't always a damn circus freak."

Then, with little urging on my part, he told me his story.

Knox, an adventurous Cockney, had followed half the seas of

the world as a common sailor and boatswain in his younger years.

He had visited many strange places, had known many bizarre

experiences. Before he had reached the age of thirty, his

restless and daring disposition led him to undertake an

incredibly fantastic quest.

The events preceding this quest were somewhat unusual in

themselves. Ship-wrecked by a wild typhoon in the Banda Sea, and

apparently the one survivor, Knox had drifted for two days on a

hatch torn from the battered and sinking vessel. Then, rescued by

a native-fishing-proa, he had been carried to Salawatti.

The Rajah of Salawatti, an old and monkey-like Malay, was

very nice to Knox. The Rajah was a teller of voluminous tales;

and the boatswain was a patient listener. On the basis of

congeniality, Knox became an honored guest for a month or more in

the Rajah's palace. Here, among other wonders retailed by his

host, he heard for the first time the rumor of a most remarkable

Papuan tribe.

This unique tribe dwelt on a well-nigh inaccessible plateau

of the Arfak Mountains. The women were nine feet tall and white

as milk; but the men, strangely, were of normal stature and

darker hue. They were friendly to the rare travelers who reached

their domains; and they would trade for glass beads and mirrors

the pigeon's blood rubies in which their mountain-slopes

abounded. AS proof of the latter statement, the Rajah showed Knox

a large, flawless, uncut ruby, which he claimed had come from

this region.

Knox was hardly inclined to credit the item about the giant

women; but the rubies sounded far less improbable. It was

characteristic of him that, with little thought of the danger,

difficulty, or the sheer absurdity of such a venture, he made up

his mind at once to visit the Arfak Mountains.

Bidding farewell to his host, who mourned the loss of a good

listener, he continued his odyssey. By means that he failed to

specify in his history, Knox procured two sackfuls of mirrors and

glass beads, and managed to reach the coast of northwestern New

Guinea. At Andai, in Arrak, he hired a guide who purported to

know the whereabouts of the giant Amazons, and struck boldly

inland toward the mountains.

The guide, who was half Malay and half Papuan, bore one of

the sacks of baubles on his shoulders; and Knox carried the

other. He fondly hoped to return with the two sacks full of

smoldering dark-red rubies.

It was a little known land. Some of the peoples were reputed

to be head-hunters and cannibals; but Knox found them friendly

enough. But somehow, as he went on, the guide began to exhibit a

growing haziness in his geography. When they reached the middle

slopes of the Arfak range, Knox realized that the guide knew

little more than he himself regarding the location of the

fabulous ruby-strewn plateau.

They went on through the steepening forest. Before them,

above trees that were still tall and semi-tropical, arose the

granite scarps and crags of a high mountain-wall, behind which

the afternoon sun had disappeared. In early twilight, they camped

at the foot of a seemingly insuperable cliff.

Knox awoke in a blazing yellow dawn, to discover that his

guide had departed, taking one of the sacks of trinkets--which,

from a savage viewpoint, would constitute enough capital to set

the fellow up in business for life. Knox shrugged his shoulders

and swore a little. The guide wasn't much of a loss; but he

didn't like having his jewel-purchasing power diminished by half.

He looked at the cliffs above. Tier on tier they toward in

the glow of dawn, with tops scarce distinguishable from the

clouds about them. Somehow, the more he looked the surer he

became that they were the cliffs guarding the hidden plateau.

With their silence and inaccessible solitude, their air of

eternal reserve and remoteness, they couldn't be anything else

but the ramparts of a realm of titan women and pigeons' blood

rubies.

He shouldered his pack and followed the granite wall in

search of a likely starting-place for the climb he had determined

to attempt. The upright rock was smooth as a metal sheet, and

didn't offer a toehold for a spider monkey. But at least he came

to a deep chasm which formed the bed of a summer-dried cataract.

He began to ascend the chasm, which was no mean feat in itself,

for the stream-bed was a series of high shelves, like a giant

stairway.

Half the time he dangled by his fingers without a toehold,

or stretched on tiptoe and felt precariously for a finger-grip.,

The climb was a ticklish business, with death on the pointed

rocks below as the penalty of the least miscalculation.

He dared not look back on the way he had climbed in that

giddy chasm. Toward noon, he saw above him the menacing overhang

of a huge crag, where the straightening gully ceased in a black-

mouthed cavern.

He scrambled up the final shelf into the cave, hoping that

it led, as was likely, to an upper entrance made by the mountain

torrent. By the light of struck matches, he scaled, he scaled a

slippery incline. The cave soon narrowed; and Knox could often

brace himself between the walls, as if in a chimney's interior.

After long upward groping, he discerned a tiny glimmering

ahead, like a pin-prick in the solid gloom. Knox, nearly worn out

with his efforts, was immensely heartened. But again the cave

narrowed, till he could squeeze no farther with the pack on his

back. He slid back a little and removed the sack, which he then

proceeded to push before him up a declivity of forty-five

degrees. In those days, Knox was of average height and somewhat

slender; but even so, he could barely wriggle through the last

ten feet of the cavern.

He gave the sack a final heave and landed it on the surface

without. Then he squirmed through the opening and fell exhausted

in the sunlight. He lay almost at the fountain head of the dried

stream, in a saucer-like hollow at the foot of a gentle slope of

granite beyond whose bare ridge the clouds were white and near.

Knox congratulated himself on his gift as an alpine climber.

He felt no doubt whatever that he had reached the threshold of

the hidden realm of rubies and giant women.

Suddenly, as he lay there, several men appeared against the

clouds, on the ridge above. Striding like mountaineers, they came

toward him with excited jabberings and gestures of amazement; and

he rose and stood awaiting them.

Knox must have been a singular spectacle. His clothing and

face were bestreaked with dirt and with the stains of parti-

colored ores acquired in his passage through the cavern. The

approaching men seemed to regard him with a sort of awe.

They were dressed in short reddish-purple tunics, and wore

leather sandals. They did not belong to any of the lowland types:

their skin was a light sienna, and their features were good

according to European standards. All were armed with long

javelins but seemed friendly. Wide-eyed, and apparently somewhat

timorous, they addressed Knox in a language which bore no

likeness to any Melanesian tongue he had ever heard.

He replied in all the languages of which he head the least

smattering: but plainly they could not understand him. Then he

untied his sack, took out a double handful of beads, and tried to

convey by pantomime the information that he was a trader from

remote lands.

The man nodded their heads. Beckoning him to follow them,

they returned toward the cloud-rimmed ridge. Knox trudged along

behind them, feeling quite sure that he had found the people of

the Rajah's tale.

Topping the ridge, he saw the perspectives of a long

plateau, full of woods, streams and cultivated fields. In the

mild and slanting sunlight, he and his guides descended a path

among flowering willow-herbs and rhododendrons to the plateau.

There it soon became a well-trodden road, running through forests

of dammar and fields of wheat. Houses of rough -hewn stone with

thatched roofs, evincing a higher civilization than the huts of

the Papuan seaboard, began to appear at intervals.

Men, garbed in the same style as Knox's guides, were working

in the fields. Then Knox perceived several women, standing

together in an idle group. Now he was compelled to believe the

whole story about the hidden people, for these women were eight

feet or more in height and had the proportions of shapely

goddesses! Their complexion was not a milky fairness, as in

Rajah's tale, but was tawny and cream-like and many shade lighter

than that of the men. Knox felt a jubilant excitement as they

turned their calm gaze upon him and watched him with the air of

majestic statues. He had found the legendary realm; and he had

peered among the pebbles and grasses of the wayside, half

expecting to see them intersown with rubies. None was in

evidence, however.

A town appeared, circling a sapphire lake with one-storied

but well-built houses laid out in regular streets. Many people

were strolling or standing about; and all the women were tawny

giantesses, and all the men were of average stature, with umber

or sienna complexions.

A crowd gathered about Knox; and his guides were questioned

in a quite peremptory manner by some of the titan females, who

eyed the boatswain with embarrassing intentions. He divined at

once the respect and obeisance paid these women by the men, and

inferred the superior position which they held. They all wore the

tranquil and assured look of empresses.

Knox was led to a building near the lake. It was larger and

more pretentious than the others. The roomy interior was arrased

with roughly pictured fabrics and furnished with chairs and

couches of ebony. The general effect was rudely sybaritic and

palatial, and much enhanced by the unusual height of the

ceilings.

In a sort of audience-room, a woman sat enthroned on a broad

dias. Several others stood about her like a bodyguard. She wore

no crown, no jewels, and her dress differed in no wise from the

short kilts of the other women. But Knox knew that he had entered

the presence of a queen. The woman was fairer than the rest, with

long rippling chestnut hair and fine oval features. The gaze that

she turned upon Knox was filled with a feminine mingling of

mildness and severity.

The boatswain assumed his most gallant manner, which must

have been a little nullified by his dirt-smeared face and

apparel. He bowed before the giantess; and she addressed him with

a few soft words in which he sensed a courteous welcome. Then he

opened his pack and selected a mirror and string of blue beads,

which he offered to the queen. She accepted the gifts gravely,

showing neither pleasure nor surprise.

After dismissing the men who had brought Knox to her

presence, the queen turned and spoke to her female attendants.

They came forward and gave Knox to understand that he must

accompany them. They led him to an open court, containing a huge

bath fed by the waters of the blue lake. Here, in spite of his

protests and strugglings, they undressed him as if he had been a

little boy. They then plunged him into the water and scrubbed him

thoroughly with scrapers of stiff vegetable fiber. One of them

brought him a brown tunic and a pair of sandals in lieu of his

former raiment.

Though somewhat discomforted and abashed by his summary

treatment, Knox couldn't help feeling like a different man after

his renovation. And when the woman brought in a meal of taro and

millet-cake and roast pigeon, piled on enormous platters, he

began to forgive them for his embarrassment.

Two of his fair attendants remained with him during the

meal; and afterwards they gave him a lesson in their language by

pointing at various objects and naming them. Knox soon acquired a

knowledge of much domestic nomenclature.

The queen herself appeared later and proceeded to take a

hand in his instruction. Her name, he learned, was Mabousa. Knox

was an apt pupil; and the days lesson was plainly satisfactory to

all concerned. Knox realized more clearly than before that the

queen was a beautiful woman; but he wished that she was not quite

so large and imposing. He felt so juvenile beside her. The queen,

on her part, seemed to regard Knox with a far from unfavorable

gravity. He saw that she was giving him a good deal of thought

and consideration.

Knox almost forgot the rubies of which he had come in

search; and when he remembered them, he decided to wait till he

had learned more of the language before broaching the subject.

A room in the palace was assigned to him; and he inferred

the he could remain indefinitely as Mabousa's guest. He ate at

the same table with the queen and a half-dozen attendants. It

seemed that he was the only man in the establishment. The chairs

were all designed for giantesses, with one exception, which

resembled the high chair in which a child sits at table amongst

its elders. Knox occupied this chair.

Many days went by; and he learned enough of the language for

all practical purposes. It was a tranquil but far from unpleasant

life. He soon grew familiar with the general conditions of life

in the country ruled by Mabousa, which was called Ondoar. It was

quite isolated from the world without, for the mountain walls

around it could be scaled only at the point which Knox had so

fortuitously discovered. Few strangers had ever obtained the

entrance. The people were prosperous and contented, leading a

pastoral existence under the benign but absolute matriarchy of

Mabousa. The women governed their husbands by sheer virtue of

physical superiority; but there seemed to be fully as much

domestic amity as in household of countries where a reverse

dominion prevails.

Knox wondered greatly about the superior stature of the

women, which struck him as being a strange provision of nature.

Somehow he did not venture to ask any questions; and no one

volunteered to tell him the secret.

He kept an eye open for rubies, and was puzzled by the

paucity of these gems. A few inferior rubies, as well as small

sapphires and emeralds, were worn by some of the men as ear-ring

pendants, though none of the women was addicted to such

ornaments. Knox wondered if they didn't have a lot of rubies

stored away somewhere. He had come here to trade for red corundum

and had carried a whole sack-load of the requisite medium of

barter up an impossible mountainside; so he was loath to

relinquish the idea.

One day he resolved to open the subject with Mabousa. For

some reason, he never quite knew why, it was hard to speak of

such matters to the dignified and lovely giantess. But business

was business.

He was groping for suitable words, when he suddenly noticed

that Mabousa too had something on her mind. She had grown

uncommonly silent and the way she kept looking at him was

disconcerting and even embarrassing. He wonder what was the

matter; also, he began to wonder if these people were

cannibalistic. Her gaze was so eager and avid.

Before he could speak of the rubies and his willingness to

buy them with glass beads, mabousa startled him by coming out

with flatly phrased proposal of marriage. To say the least, Knox

was unprepared. But it seemed uncivil, as will as unpolitic, to

refuse. He had never been proposed to before by a queen or a

giantess, and he thought it would be hardly proper etiquette to

decline a heart and hand of such capacity. Also, as Mabousa's

husband, he would be in a most advantageous position to negotiate

for rubies. And Mabousa was undeniably attractive, even though

she was built on a grand scale. After a little hemming and

hawing, he accepted her proposal, and was literally swept of his

feet as the lady gathered him to the gargantuan charms of her

bosom.

The wedding proved to be a very simple affair: a mere matter

of verbal agreement in the presence of several female witnesses.

Knox was amazed by the ease and rapidity with which he assume the

bonds of holy matrimony.

He learned a lot of things from his marriage with Mabousa.

He found at the wedding-supper that the high chair he had been

occupying at the royal table was usually reserved for the queen's

consort. Later, he learned the secret of the woman's size and

stature. All the children, boys and girls, were of ordinary size

at birth; but the girls were fed by their mothers on a certain

root which caused them to increase in height and bulk beyond the

natural limits.

The root was gathered on the highest mountain slopes. Its

peculiar virtu was mainly due to the mode of preparation whose

secret had been carefully guarded by the women and handed down

from mother to daughter. Its use had been known for several

generals. At one time the men had been the ruling sex; but an

accidental discovery of the root by a down-trodden wife named

Ampoi had soon led to a reversal of this domination. In

consequences the memory of Ampoi was highly venerated by the

females, as that of a savioress.

Knox also acquired much other information, on matters both

social and domestic. But nothing was ever said about rubies. He

was forced to decide that the plenitude of these jewels in Ondoar

must have been sheer fable; a purely decorative addition to the

story of the giant Amazons.

His marriage led to other disillusionments. as the queen's

consort, he had expected to have a share in the government of

Ondoar, and had looked forward to a few kingly prerogatives. But

he soon found that he was merely a male adjunct of Mabousa, with

no legal rights, no privileges other than those which she, out of

wifely affection, might choose to accord him. She was kind and

loving, but also strong-minded, not to say bossy; and he learned

that he couldn't do anything or go anywhere without first

consulting her and obtaining permission.

She would sometimes reprimand him, would often set him right

on some point of Ondoarian etiquette, or the general conduct of

life, in a sweet but strict manner; and it never occurred to her

that he might even wish to dispute any of her mandates. He,

however was irked more and more by this feminine tyranny. His

male pride, his many British spirit, revolted. If the lady had

been of suitable size he would, in his own phrase, "Have knocked

her about a little." But, under the circumstances, any attempt to

chasten her by main strength hardly seemed advisable.

Along with all this, he grew quite found of her in this

fashion. There were many things that endeared her to him; and he

felt that she would be an exemplary wife, if there were only some

way of curbing her deplorable tendency to domineer.

Time went on, as it was a habit of doing. Mabousa seemed to

be well enough satisfied with her spouse. But Knox brooded a good

deal over the false position in which he felt she had placed him,

and the daily injury to his manhood. He wished that there were

some way of correcting matters, and of asserting his natural

rights and putting Mabousa in her place.

One day he remembered the root on which the women of Ondoar

were fed. Why couldn't he get hold of some of it and grow big

himself like Mabousa, or bigger? Then he would be able to handle

her in the proper style. The more the thought of it, the more

this appealed to him as the ideal solution of his marital

difficulties.

The main problem, however, was to obtain the root. He

questioned some of the other men in a discreet way, but none of

them could tell him anything about it. The women never permitted

the men to accompany them when they gathered the stuff; and the

process of preparing it for consumption was carried on in deep

caverns. Several men had dared to steal the food in past years;

tow of them indeed, had grown to giant stature on what they had

stolen. But all had been punished by the women with life-long

exile from Ondoar.

All this was rather discouraging. also, it served to

increase Knox's contempt for the men of Ondoar, whom he looked

upon as spineless, effeminate lot. However, he didn't give up his

plan. But, after much deliberation and scheming, he found himself

no nearer to a solution of the problem than before.

Perhaps he would have resigned himself, as better men have

done, to an inevitable life-long henpecking. But at least, in the

birth of a female baby to Mabousa and himself, he found the

opportunity he had been seeking.

The child was like any other girl infant, and Knox was no

less proud of it, no less imbued with the customary parental

sentiments, than other fathers have been. It did not occur to

him, till the baby was old enough to be weaned and fed on the

special food, that he would now have in his own home a first-rate

chance to appropriate some of this food for his personal use.

The simple and artless Mabousa was wholly without suspicion

of such unlawful designs. Male obedience to the feministic law of

the land was so thoroughly taken for granted that she even showed

him the strange foodstuff and often fed the child in his

presence. Nor did she conceal from him the large earthen jar in

which she kept her reserve supply.

The jar stood in the palace kitchen, among others filled

with more ordinary staples of diet. One day, when Mabousa had

gone to the country on some political errand, and the waiting

women were all preoccupied with other than culinary matters, Knox

stole into the kitchen and carried away a small bagful of the

stuff, which he then hid in his own room. In his fear of

detection, he felt more of an actual thrill than at any time

since the boyhood days when he had pilfered apples from London

street-barrows behind the backs of the vendors.

The stuff looked like a fine variety of sago, and had an

aromatic smell and spicy taste. Knox ate a little of it at once

but dared not indulge himself to the extent of a full meal for

fear that the consequences would be visible. He had watched the

incredible growth of the child, which had gained the proportions

of a normal six-year old girl in a fortnight under the influence

of the miraculous nutrient; and he did not wish to have his theft

discovered, and the further use of the food prevented, in the

first stage of his own development toward gianthood.

He felt that some sort of seclusion would be advisable till

he could attain the bulk and stature which would ensure a

position as master in his own household. He must somehow remove

himself from all female supervision during the period of growth.

This, for one so thoroughly subject to petticoat government,

with all his goings and comings minutely regulated, was no mean

problem. But again fortune favored Knox: for the hunting season

in Ondoar had now permitted by their wives to visit the higher

mountains and spend days or weeks in tracking down a certain

agile species of alpine deer, known as the oklah.

Perhaps Mabousa wondered a little at the sudden interest

shown by Knox in oklah-hunting, and his equally sudden devotion

to a practice with the javelins used by the hunters. But she saw

no reason for deny him permission to make the desired trip;

merely stipulating that he should go in company with certain

other dutiful husbands, and should be very careful of dangerous

cliffs and crevasses.

The company of other husband was not exactly in accord with

Knox's plan; but he knew better than to argue the point. He had

contrived to make several more visits to the palace pantry, and

had stolen enough of the forbidden food to turn him into a robust

and wife-taming titan. Somehow, on that trip among the mountains,

in spite of the meek and law-abiding males with whom he was

condemned to go, he would find chances to consume all he had

stolen. He would return a conquering Anakim, a roaring Goliath;

and everyone, especially Mabousa, would stand from under.

Knox hid the food, disguised as a bag of millet meal, in his

private supply of provisions. He also carried some of it in his

pockets, and would eat a mouthful or two whenever the men weren't

looking. And at night, when they were all sleeping quietly, he

would steal to the bag and devour the aromatic stuff by the

handful.

The result was truly phenomenal, for Knox could watch

himself swell after the first square meal. He broadened and shot

up inch by inch, to the manifest bewilderment of his companions,

none of whom, at firs, was imaginative enough to suspect the true

reason. He saw them eyeing him with a sort of speculative awe and

curiosity, such as civilized people would display fore a wild man

from Borneo. Obviously they regarded his growth as a kind of

biological anomaly, or perhaps as part of the queer behavior that

might well be expected from a foreigner of doubtful antecedents.

The hunters were now in the highest mountains, at the

northernmost end of Ondoar. Here, among the stupendous riven

crags and piled pinnacles, they pursued the elusive oklah; and

Knox began to attain a length of limb that enabled him to leap

across chasms over which the others could not follow.

At least one or two of them must have gotten suspicious.

They took to watching Knox, and one night they surprised him in

the act of devouring the sacred food. They tried to warn him,

with a sort of holy horror in their demeanor, that he was doing a

dreadful and forbidden thing, and would bring himself the direct

consequences.

Knox, who was beginning to feel as well as look like an

actual giant, told them to mind their own business. Moreover, he

went on to express his frank and uncensored opinion of the

sapless, decadent, and effeminate males of Ondoar. After that the

men left him alone but murmured fearfully among themselves and

watched his every move with apprehensive glances. Knox despised

them so thoroughly, that he failed to attach any special

significance to the furtive disappearance of two members of the

party. Indeed, at the time, he hardly noticed that they had gone.

After a fortnight of alpine climbing, the hunters had slain

their due quota of long-horned and goat-footed oklah; and Knox

had consumed his entire store of the stolen food and had grown to

proportions which, he felt sure, would enable him to subdue his

domineering helpmate and show her the proper inferiority of the

female sex. It was time to return: Knox's companions would not

have dreamt of exceeding the limit set by the women, who had

enjoined them to come back at the end of a fortnight; and Knox

was eager to demonstrate his new-won superiority of bulk and

brawn.

As they came down from the mountains and crossed the

cultivated plain, Knox saw that the other men were lagging behind

more and more, with a sort of fearfulness and shrinking timidity.

He strode on before them, carrying three full-sized oklah slung

over his shoulders, as a lesser man would have carried so many

rabbits.

The fields and roads were deserted, and none of the titan

women was in sight anywhere. Knox wondered a little about this;

but feeling himself so much the master of the general situation,

he did not over-exert his mind in curious conjectures.

However, as they approached the town, the desolation and

silence became a trifle ominous. Knox's fellow-hunters were

obviously stricken with dire and growing terror. But Knox did not

feel that he should lower his dignity be even asking the reason.

They entered the streets, which were also strangely quite.

There was no evidence of life, other than the pale and frightened

faces of a few men that peered from the windows and furtively

opened doors.

At last they came in sight of the palace. Now the mystery

was explained, for apparently all the women of Ondoar had

gathered in the square before the building! They were drawn up in

a massive and appallingly solid formation, like an army of giant

Amazons; and their utter stillness was more dreadful than the

shouting and tumult of battle-fields. Knox felt an unwilling but

irresistible dismay before the swelling thews of their mighty

arms, the solemn heaving of gargantuan bosoms, and the awful and

austere gaze with which they regarded him in unison.

Suddenly he perceived that he was quite alone--the other men

had faded away like shadows, as if they did not even dare to

remain and watch his fate. He felt an almost undeniable impulse

to flee; but his British valor prevented him from yielding to it.

Pace by face he forced himself to go on toward the embattled

women.

They waited for him in stony silence, immovable as

caryatides. He saw Mabousa in the front rank, her serving-women

about her. She watched him with eyes in which he could read

nothing but unutterable reproach. She did not speak; and somehow

the jaunty words with which he had intended to greet her were

congealed on his lips.

All at once, with a massed and terrible striding movement,

the women surrounded Knox. He lost sight of Mabousa in the solid

wall of titanesses. Great, brawny hands were grasping him,

tearing the spear from his fingers and oklah from his shoulders.

He struggled as became a doughty Briton. But one man, even though

he had eaten the food of giantesses, could do nothing against the

whole tribe of eight-foot females.

Maintaining a silence more formidable than any outcry, they

bore him through the town and along the road by which he had

entered Ondoar, and up the mountain path to the outmost ramparts

of the land. There from the beetling crag above the gully he had

climbed, they lowered him with a tackle of heavy ropes to the dry

torrent-bed two hundred feet below, and left him to find his way

down the perilous mountainside and back to the outer world that

would accept him hence-forward only as a circus freak.

Giantess Stories: The Root of Ampoi                                    by                            Clarke Ashton Smith  A CIRCUS had arrived in

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