At the Earth's Core HTML version

Chapter 12. Pursuit
For an instant I stood there thinking of her, and then, with a sigh, I tucked the book in the
thong that supported my loin cloth, and turned to leave the apartment. At the bottom of
the corridor which leads aloft from the lower chambers I whistled in accordance with the
prearranged signal which was to announce to Perry and Ghak that I had been successful.
A moment later they stood beside me, and to my surprise I saw that Hooja the Sly One
accompanied them.
"He joined us," explained Perry, "and would not be denied. The fellow is a fox. He scents
escape, and rather than be thwarted of our chance now I told him that I would bring him
to you, and let you decide whether he might accompany us."
I had no love for Hooja, and no confidence in him. I was sure that if he thought it would
profit him he would betray us; but I saw no way out of it now, and the fact that I had
killed four Mahars instead of only the three I had expected to, made it possible to include
the fellow in our scheme of escape.
"Very well," I said, "you may come with us, Hooja; but at the first intimation of treachery
I shall run my sword through you. Do you understand?"
He said that he did.
Some time later we had removed the skins from the four Mahars, and so succeeded in
crawling inside of them ourselves that there seemed an excellent chance for us to pass
unnoticed from Phutra. It was not an easy thing to fasten the hides together where we had
split them along the belly to remove them from their carcasses, but by remaining out until
the others had all been sewed in with my help, and then leaving an aperture in the breast
of Perry's skin through which he could pass his hands to sew me up, we were enabled to
accomplish our design to really much better purpose than I had hoped. We managed to
keep the heads erect by passing our swords up through the necks, and by the same means
were enabled to move them about in a life-like manner. We had our greatest difficulty
with the webbed feet, but even that problem was finally solved, so that when we moved
about we did so quite naturally. Tiny holes punctured in the baggy throats into which our
heads were thrust permitted us to see well enough to guide our progress.
Thus we started up toward the main floor of the building. Ghak headed the strange
procession, then came Perry, followed by Hooja, while I brought up the rear, after
admonishing Hooja that I had so arranged my sword that I could thrust it through the
head of my disguise into his vitals were he to show any indication of faltering.
As the noise of hurrying feet warned me that we were entering the busy corridors of the
main level, my heart came up into my mouth. It is with no sense of shame that I admit
that I was frightened--never before in my life, nor since, did I experience any such agony