A Journey in Other Worlds HTML version

A Providential Intervention
The valley narrowed as they advanced, the banks rising gently on both sides. Both
dragons had flown straight to a grove of tall, spreading trees. On coming near to this, they
noticed a faint smell like that of the dragon, and also like the trace they found in the air
on leaving the Callisto the day before, after they had sought safety within it. Soon it
almost knocked them down.
"We must get to windward," said Cortlandt. "I already feel faint, and believe those
dragons could kill a man by breathing on him."
Accordingly, they skirted around the grove, and having made a quarter circle--for they
did not wish the dragons to wind them--again drew nearer. Tree after tree was passed,
and finally they saw an open space twelve or fifteen acres in area at the centre of the
grove, when they were arrested by a curious sound of munching. Peering among the
trunks of the huge trees, they advanced cautiously, but stopped aghast. In the opening
were at least a hundred dragons devouring the toadstools with which the ground was
covered. Many of them were thirty to forty feet long, with huge and terribly long, sharp
claws, and jaws armed with gleaming batteries of teeth. Though they had evidently lungs,
and the claws and mouth of an animal, they reminded the observers in many respects of
insects enormously exaggerated, for their wings, composed of a sort of transparent scale,
were small, and moved, as they had already seen, at far greater speed than those of a bird.
Their projecting eyes were also set rigidly in their heads instead of turning, and consisted
of a number of flat surfaces or facets, like a fly's eye, so that they could see backward and
all around, each facet seeing anything the rays from which came at right angles to its
surface. This beautiful grove was doubtless their feeding-ground, and, as such, was likely
to be visited by many more. Concluding it would be wise to let their wounded game
escape, the three men were about to retreat, having found it difficult to breathe the air
even at that distance from the monsters, when the wounded dragon that they had
observed moving about in a very restless manner, and evidently suffering a good deal
from the effect of its wounds, espied them, and, with a roar that made the echoes ring,
started towards them slowly along the ground, followed by the entire herd, the nearer of
which now also saw them. Seeing that their lives were in danger, the hunters quickly
regained the open, and then stretched their legs against the wind. The dragons came
through the trees on the ground, and then, raising themselves by their wings, the whole
swarm, snorting, and darkening the air with their deadly breath, made straight for the
men, who by comparison looked like Lilliputians. With the slug from his right barrel
Bearwarden ended the wounded dragon's career by shooting him through the head, and
with his left laid low the one following. Ayrault also killed two huge monsters, and
Cortlandt killed one and wounded another. Their supply of prepared cartridges was then
exhausted, and they fell back on their revolvers and ineffective spreading shot. Resolved
to sell their lives dearly, they retreated, keeping their backs to the wind, with the
poisonous dragons in front. But the breeze was very slight, and they were being rapidly
blinded and asphyxiated by the loathsome fumes, and deafened by the hideous roaring
and snapping of the dragons' jaws. Realizing that they could not much longer reply to the