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Chapter 7. From Plight To Plight
I have never been much of a runner; I hate running. But if ever a sprinter broke into
smithereens all world's records it was I that day when I fled before those hide- ous beasts
along the narrow spit of rocky cliff between two narrow fiords toward the Sojar Az. Just
as I reached the verge of the cliff the foremost of the brutes was upon me. He leaped and
closed his massive jaws upon my shoulder.
The momentum of his flying body, added to that of my own, carried the two of us over
the cliff. It was a hideous fall. The cliff was almost perpendicular. At its foot broke the
sea against a solid wall of rock.
We struck the cliff-face once in our descent and then plunged into the salt sea. With the
impact with the water the hyaenodon released his hold upon my shoulder.
As I came sputtering to the surface I looked about for some tiny foot- or hand-hold where
I might cling for a moment of rest and recuperation. The cliff itself offered me nothing,
so I swam toward the mouth of the fiord.
At the far end I could see that erosion from above had washed down sufficient rubble to
form a narrow ribbon of beach. Toward this I swam with all my strength. Not once did I
look behind me, since every unnecessary movement in swimming detracts so much from
one's endurance speed. Not until I had drawn myself safely out upon the beach did I turn
my eyes back toward the sea for the hyaenodon. He was swimming slowly and
apparently painfully toward the beach upon where I stood.
I watched him for a long time, wondering, why it was that such a doglike animal was not
a better swimmer. As he neared me I realized that he was weakening rapidly. I had
gathered a handful of stones to be ready for his assault when he landed, but in a moment I
let them fall from my hands. It was evident that the brute either was no swimmer or else
was severely in- jured, for by now he was making practically no head- way. Indeed, it
was with quite apparent difficulty that he kept his nose above the surface of the sea.
He was not more than fifty yards from shore when he went under. I watched the spot
where he had disap- peared, and in a moment I saw his head reappear. The look of dumb
misery in his eyes struck a chord in my breast, for I love dogs. I forgot that he was a
vicious, primordial wolf-thing--a man-eater, a scourge, and a terror. I saw only the sad
eyes that looked like the eyes of Raja, my dead collie of the outer world.
I did not stop to weigh and consider. In other words, I did not stop to think, which I
believe must be the way of men who do things--in contradistinction to those who think
much and do nothing. Instead, I leaped back into the water and swam out toward the
drowning beast. At first he showed his teeth at my approach, but just before I reached
him he went under for the second time, so that I had to dive to get him.