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Chapter 5. Surprises
But at last the allotted moment arrived--the moment for which I had been trying to
prepare myself, for how long I could not even guess. A great Sagoth came and spoke
some words of command to those who watched over me. I was jerked roughly to my feet
and with little consideration hustled upward toward the higher levels.
Out into the broad avenue they conducted me, where, amid huge throngs of Mahars,
Sagoths, and heavily guarded slaves, I was led, or, rather, pushed and shoved roughly,
along in the same direction that the mob moved. I had seen such a concourse of people
once be- fore in the buried city of Phutra; I guessed, and rightly, that we were bound for
the great arena where slaves who are condemned to death meet their end.
Into the vast amphitheater they took me, stationing me at the extreme end of the arena.
The queen came, with her slimy, sickening retinue. The seats were filled. The show was
about to commence.
Then, from a little doorway in the opposite end of the structure, a girl was led into the
arena. She was at a considerable distance from me. I could not see her features.
I wondered what fate awaited this other poor victim and myself, and why they had chosen
to have us die together. My own fate, or rather, my thought of it, was submerged in the
natural pity I felt for this lone girl, doomed to die horribly beneath the cold, cruel eyes of
her awful captors. Of what crime could she be guilty that she must expiate it in the
dreaded arena?
As I stood thus thinking, another door, this time at one of the long sides of the arena, was
thrown open, and into the theater of death slunk a mighty tarag, the huge cave tiger of the
Stone Age. At my sides were my re- volvers. My captors had not taken them from me,
be- cause they did not yet realize their nature. Doubtless they thought them some strange
manner of war-club, and as those who are condemned to the arena are per- mitted
weapons of defense, they let me keep them.
The girl they had armed with a javelin. A brass pin would have been almost as effective
against the ferocious monster they had loosed upon her.
The tarag stood for a moment looking about him--first up at the vast audience and then
about the arena. He did not seem to see me at all, but his eyes fell presently upon the girl.
A hideous roar broke from his titanic lungs --a roar which ended in a long-drawn scream
that is more human than the death-cry of a tortured woman-- more human but more
awesome. I could scarce restrain a shudder.
Slowly the beast turned and moved toward the girl. Then it was that I came to myself and
to a realization of my duty. Quickly and as noiselessly as possible I ran down the arena in
pursuit of the grim creature. As I ran I drew one of my pitifully futile weapons. Ah!