At the Earth's Core
Chapter 3. A Change Of Masters
We must have traveled several miles through the dark and dismal wood when we came
suddenly upon a dense village built high among the branches of the trees. As we
approached it my escort broke into wild shouting which was immediately answered from
within, and a moment later a swarm of creatures of the same strange race as those who
had captured me poured out to meet us. Again I was the center of a wildly chattering
horde. I was pulled this way and that. Pinched, pounded, and thumped until I was black
and blue, yet I do not think that their treatment was dictated by either cruelty or malice--I
was a curiosity, a freak, a new plaything, and their childish minds required the added
evidence of all their senses to back up the testimony of their eyes.
Presently they dragged me within the village, which consisted of several hundred rude
shelters of boughs and leaves supported upon the branches of the trees.
Between the huts, which sometimes formed crooked streets, were dead branches and the
trunks of small trees which connected the huts upon one tree to those within adjoining
trees; the whole network of huts and pathways forming an almost solid flooring a good
fifty feet above the ground.
I wondered why these agile creatures required connecting bridges between the trees, but
later when I saw the motley aggregation of half-savage beasts which they kept within
their village I realized the necessity for the pathways. There were a number of the same
vicious wolf-dogs which we had left worrying the dyryth, and many goatlike animals
whose distended udders explained the reasons for their presence.
My guard halted before one of the huts into which I was pushed; then two of the creatures
squatted down before the entrance--to prevent my escape, doubtless. Though where I
should have escaped to I certainly had not the remotest conception. I had no more than
entered the dark shadows of the interior than there fell upon my ears the tones of a
familiar voice, in prayer.
"Perry!" I cried. "Dear old Perry! Thank the Lord you are safe."
"David! Can it be possible that you escaped?" And the old man stumbled toward me and
threw his arms about me.
He had seen me fall before the dyryth, and then he had been seized by a number of the
ape-creatures and borne through the tree tops to their village. His captors had been as
inquisitive as to his strange clothing as had mine, with the same result. As we looked at
each other we could not help but laugh.
"With a tail, David," remarked Perry, "you would make a very handsome ape."