SEVERAL YEARS had elapsed since I had found the op- portunity to do any big-game hunting; for at last I had my plans almost perfected for a return to my old stampinggrounds in northern Africa, where in other days I had had excellent sport in pursuit of the king of beasts.
The date of my departure had been set; I was to leave in two weeks. No schoolboy counting the lagging hours that must pass before the beginning of "long vacation" released him to the delirious joys of the sum- mer camp could have been filled with greater im- patience or keener anticipation.And then came a letter that started me for Africa twelve days ahead of my schedule.
Often am I in receipt of letters from strangers who have found something in a story of mine to commend or to condemn. My interest in this department of my correspondence is ever fresh. I opened this particular letter with all the zest of pleasurable anticipation with which I had opened so many others. The post-mark (Algiers) had aroused my interest and curiosity, es- pecially at this time, since it was Algiers that was presently to witness the termination of my coming sea voyage in search of sport and adventure.Before the reading of that letter was completed lions and lion-hunting had fled my thoughts, and I was in a state of excitement bordering upon frenzy. It--well, read it yourself, and see if you, too, do not find food for frantic conjecture, for tantalizing doubts, and for a great hope. Here it is: DEAR SIR: I think that I have run across one of the most remarkable coincidences in modern literature. But let me start at the beginning: I am, by profession, a wanderer upon the face of the earth. I have no trade--nor any other occupation. My father bequeathed me a competency; some remoter ancestors lust to roam. I have combined the two and invested them carefully and without extravagance.
I became interested in your story, At the Earth's Core, not so much because of the probability of the tale as of a great and abiding wonder that people should be paid real money for writing such impossible trash. You will pardon my candor, but it is necessary that you understand my mental attitude toward this particular story--that you may credit that which fol- lows.
Shortly thereafter I started for the Sahara in search of a rather rare species of antelope that is to be found only occasionally within a limited area at a certain season of the year. My chase led me far from the haunts of man.
It was a fruitless search, however, in so far as antelope is concerned; but one night as I lay courting sleep at the edge of a little cluster of date-palms that surround an ancient well in the midst of the arid, shifting sands, I suddenly became conscious of a strange sound coming apparently from the earth beneath my head.It was an intermittent ticking! No reptile or insect with which I am familiar re- produces any such notes. I lay for an hour--listening intently. At last my curiosity got the better of me. I arose, lighted my lamp and commenced to investigate.
My bedding lay upon a rug stretched directly upon the warm sand. The noise appeared to be coming from beneath the rug. I raised it, but found nothing--yet, at intervals, the sound continued.I dug into the sand with the point of my hunting- knife. A few inches below the surface of the sand I encountered a solid substance that had the feel of wood beneath the sharp steel. Excavating about it, I unearthed a small wooden box. From this receptacle issued the strange sound that I had heard. How had it come here? What did it contain? In attempting to lift it from its burying place I dis- covered that it seemed to be held fast by means of a very small insulated cable running farther into the sand beneath it.
My first impulse was to drag the thing loose by main strength; but fortunately I thought better of this and fell to examining the box. I soon saw that it was covered by a hinged lid, which was held closed by a simple screwhook and eye.It took but a moment to loosen this and raise the cover, when, to my utter astonishment, I discovered an ordinary telegraph instrument clicking away within. "What in the world," thought I, "is this thing doing here?"
That it was a French military instrument was my first guess; but really there didn't seem much likelihood that this was the correct explanation, when one took into account the loneliness and remoteness of the spot.
As I sat gazing at my remarkable find, which was tick- ing and clicking away there in the silence of the desert night, trying to convey some message which I was unable to interpret, my eyes fell upon a bit of paper lying in the bottom of the box beside the instrument. I picked it up and examined it. Upon it were written but two letters:
Once, in an interval of silence upon the part of the receiving instrument, I moved the sending-key up and down a few times. Instantly the receiving mechanism commenced to work frantically.
I tried to recall something of the Morse Code, with which I had played as a little boy--but time had obliterated it from my memory. I became almost frantic as I let my imagination run riot among the possibilities for which this clicking instrument might stand.Some poor devil at the unknown other end might be in dire need of succor. The very franticness of the instrument's wild clashing betokened something of the kind. And there sat I, powerless to interpret, and so power- less to help! It was then that the inspiration came to me. In a flash there leaped to my mind the closing paragraphs of the story I had read in the club at Algiers: Does the answer lie somewhere upon the bosom of the broad Sahara, at the ends of two tiny wires, hidden beneath a lost cairn?
The idea seemed preposterous. Experience and in- telligence combined to assure me that there could be no slightest grain of truth or possibility in your wild tale--it was fiction pure and simple.And yet where WERE the other ends of those wires? What was this instrument--ticking away here in the great Sahara--but a travesty upon the possible! Would I have believed in it had I not seen it with my own eyes? And the initials--D. I.--upon the slip of paper! David's initials were these--David Innes.
I smiled at my imaginings. I ridiculed the assumption that there was an inner world and that these wires led downward through the earth's crust to the surface of Pellucidar. And yet--
Well, I sat there all night, listening to that tantalizing clicking, now and then moving the sending-key just to let the other end know that the instrument had been discovered. In the morning, after carefully returning the box to its hole and covering it over with sand, I called my servants about me, snatched a hurried breakfast, mounted my horse, and started upon a forced march for Algiers.
Heaven knows, unless it is that the persistent clicking of that unfathomable enigma out there in the vast silences of the Sahara has so wrought upon my nerves that reason refuses longer to function sanely.I cannot hear it now, yet I know that far away to the south, all alone beneath the sands, it is still pounding out its vain, frantic appeal. It is maddening It is your fault--I want you to release me from it. Cable me at once, at my expense, that there was no basis of fact for your story, At the Earth's Core. Very respectfully yours, COGDON NESTOR, --and--Club, Algiers. June 1st,--. Ten minutes after reading this letter I had cabled Mr. Nestor as follows: Story true. Await me Algiers. As fast as train and boat would carry me, I sped toward my destination. For all those dragging days my mind was a whirl of mad conjecture, of frantic hope, of numbing fear.
The finding of the telegraph-instrument practically assured me that David Innes had driven Perry's iron mole back through the earth's crust to the buried world of Pellucidar; but what adventures had befallen him since his return?Had he found Dian the Beautiful, his half-savage mate, safe among his friends, or had Hooja the Sly One succeeded in his nefarious schemes to abduct her? Did Abner Perry, the lovable old inventor and pale- ontologist, still live?
Had the federated tribes of Pellucidar succeeded in overthrowing the mighty Mahars, the dominant race of reptilian monsters, and their fierce, gorilla-like sol- diery, the savage Sagoths?
I must admit that I was in a state bordering upon nervous prostration when I entered the and-Club, in Algiers, and inquired for Mr. Nestor. A moment later I was ushered into his presence, to find myself clasping hands with the sort of chap that the world holds only too few of.
He was a tall, smooth-faced man of about thirty, clean-cut, straight, and strong, and weather-tanned to the hue of a desert Arab. I liked him immensely from the first, and I hope that after our three months together in the desert country--three months not entirely lack- ing in adventure--he found that a man may be a writer of "impossible trash" and yet have some redeem- ing qualities.
The day following my arrival at Algiers we left for the south, Nestor having made all arrangements in advance, guessing, as he naturally did, that I could be coming to Africa for but a single purpose--to hasten at once to the buried telegraph-instrument and wrest its secret from it.
In addition to our native servants, we took along an English telegraph-operator named Frank Downes. Nothing of interest enlivened our journey by rail and caravan till we came to the cluster of date-palms about the ancient well upon the rim of the Sahara.
It was the very spot at which I first had seen David Innes. If he had ever raised a cairn above the telegraph instrument no sign of it remained now. Had it not been for the chance that caused Cogdon Nestor to throw down his sleeping rug directly over the hidden instru- ment, it might still be clicking there unheard--and this story still unwritten.
When we reached the spot and unearthed the little box the instrument was quiet, nor did repeated attempts upon the part of our telegrapher succeed in winning a response from the other end of the line. After several days of futile endeavor to raise Pellucidar, we had be- gun to despair. I was as positive that the other end of that little cable protruded through the surface of the inner world as I am that I sit here today in my study-- when about midnight of the fourth day I was awakened by the sound of the instrument.
Leaping to my feet I grasped Downes roughly by the neck and dragged him out of his blankets. He didn't need to be told what caused my excitement, for the instant he was awake he, too, heard the long-hoped for click, and with a whoop of delight pounced upon the instrument.Nestor was on his feet almost as soon as I. The three of us huddled about that little box as if our lives depended upon the message it had for us. Downes interrupted the clicking with his sending- key. The noise of the receiver stopped instantly. "Ask who it is, Downes," I directed. He did so, and while we awaited the Englishman's translation of the reply, I doubt if either Nestor or I breathed. "He says he's David Innes," said Downes. "He wants to know who we are." "Tell him," said I; "and that we want to know how he is--and all that has befallen him since I last saw him."
For two months I talked with David Innes almost every day, and as Downes translated, either Nestor or I took notes. From these, arranged in chronological order, I have set down the following account of the further adventures of David Innes at the earth's core, practically in his own words.
The Arabs, of whom I wrote you at the end of my last letter (Innes began), and whom I thought to be enemies intent only upon murdering me, proved to be exceed- ingly friendly--they were searching for the very band of marauders that had threatened my existence. The huge rhamphorhynchus-like reptile that I had brought back with me from the inner world--the ugly Mahar that Hooja the Sly One had substituted for my dear Dian at the moment of my departure--filled them with wonder and with awe.Nor less so did the mighty subterranean prospector which had carried me to Pellucidar and back again, and which lay out in the desert about two miles from my camp.
With their help I managed to get the unwieldy tons of its great bulk into a vertical position--the nose deep in a hole we had dug in the sand and the rest of it supported by the trunks of date-palms cut for the purpose.It was a mighty engineering job with only wild Arabs and their wilder mounts to do the work of an electric crane--but finally it was completed, and I was ready for departure.
For some time I hesitated to take the Mahar back with me. She had been docile and quiet ever since she had discovered herself virtually a prisoner aboard the "iron mole." It had been, of course, impossible for me to communicate with her since she had no auditory organs and I no knowledge of her fourth-dimension, sixth-sense method of communication.
Naturally I am kind-hearted, and so I found it beyond me to leave even this hateful and repulsive thing alone in a strange and hostile world. The result was that when I entered the iron mole I took her with me.
That she knew that we were about to return to Pellucidar was evident, for immediately her manner changed from that of habitual gloom that had pervaded her, to an almost human expression of contentment and delight.
Our trip through the earth's crust was but a repetition of my two former journeys between the inner and the outer worlds. This time, however, I imagine that we must have maintained a more nearly perpendicular course, for we accomplished the journey in a few min- utes' less time than upon the occasion of my first journey through the five-hundredmile crust. just a trifle less than seventy-two hours after our departure into the sands of the Sahara, we broke through the surface of Pellucidar.
Fortune once again favored me by the slightest of margins, for when I opened the door in the prospector's outer jacket I saw that we had missed coming up through the bottom of an ocean by but a few hundred yards.
The aspect of the surrounding country was entirely unfamiliar to me--I had no conception of precisely where I was upon the one hundred and twenty-four million square miles of Pellucidar's vast land surface.
The perpetual midday sun poured down its torrid rays from zenith, as it had done since the beginning of Pellucidarian time--as it would continue to do to the end of it. Before me, across the wide sea, the weird, horizonless seascape folded gently upward to meet the sky until it lost itself to view in the azure depths of distance far above the level of my eyes.How strange it looked! How vastly different from the flat and puny area of the circumscribed vision of the dweller upon the outer crust!
I was lost. Though I wandered ceaselessly throughout a lifetime, I might never discover the whereabouts of my former friends of this strange and savage world. Never again might I see dear old Perry, nor Ghak the Hairy One, nor Dacor the Strong One, nor that other infinitely precious one--my sweet and noble mate, Dian the Beautiful!
But even so I was glad to tread once more the surface of Pellucidar. Mysterious and terrible, grotesque and savage though she is in many of her aspects, I can not but love her. Her very savagery appealed to me, for it is the savagery of unspoiled Nature.The magnificence of her tropic beauties enthralled me. Her mighty land areas breathed unfettered free- dom. Her untracked oceans, whispering of virgin wonders unsullied by the eye of man, beckoned me out upon their restless bosoms. Not for an instant did I regret the world of my nativity. I was in Pellucidar. I was home. And I was content.
As I stood dreaming beside the giant thing that had brought me safely through the earth's crust, my travel- ing companion, the hideous Mahar, emerged from the interior of the prospector and stood beside me. For a long time she remained motionless.What thoughts were passing through the convolutions of her reptilian brain? I do not know. She was a member of the dominant race of Pel- lucidar. By a strange freak of evolution her kind had first developed the power of reason in that world of anomalies.
To her, creatures such as I were of a lower order. As Perry had discovered among the writings of her kind in the buried city of Phutra, it was still an open question among the Mahars as to whether man pos- sessed means of intelligent communication or the power of reason.
Her kind believed that in the center of all-pervading solidity there was a single, vast, spherical cavity, which was Pellucidar. This cavity had been left there for the sole purpose of providing a place for the creation and propagation of the Mahar race. Everything within it had been put there for the uses of the Mahar.
I wondered what this particular Mahar might think now. I found pleasure in speculating upon just what the effect had been upon her of passing through the earth's crust, and coming out into a world that one of even less intelligence than the great Mahars could easily see was a different world from her own Pel- lucidar.What had she thought of the outer world's tiny sun? What had been the effect upon her of the moon and myriad stars of the clear African nights? How had she explained them?
With what sensations of awe must she first have watched the sun moving slowly across the heavens to disappear at last beneath the western horizon, leaving in his wake that which the Mahar had never before witnessed--the darkness of night? For upon Pellucidar there is no night. The stationary sun hangs forever in the center of the Pellucidarian sky-directly overhead.
Then, too, she must have been impressed by the wondrous mechanism of the prospector which had bored its way from world to world and back again. And that it had been driven by a rational being must also have occurred to her.
Too, she bad seen me conversing with other men upon the earth's surface. She had seen the arrival of the caravan of books and arms, and ammunition, and the balance of the heterogeneous collection which I had crammed into the cabin of the iron mole for trans- portation to Pellucidar.
She had seen all these evidences of a civilization and brain-power transcending in scientific achieve- ment anything that her race had produced; nor once had she seen a creature of her own kind.There could have been but a single deduction in the mind of the Mahar--there were other worlds than Pellucidar, and the gilak was a rational being.
Now the creature at my side was creeping slowly toward the near-by sea. At my hip hung a long-barreled six-shooter--somehow I had been unable to find the same sensation of security in the newfangled auto- matics that had been perfected since my first departure from the outer world--and in my hand was a heavy express rifle.
I could have shot the Mahar with ease, for I knew intuitively that she was escaping--but I did not.
I felt that if she could return to her own kind with the story of her adventures, the position of the human race within Pellucidar would be advanced immensely at a single stride, for at once man would take his proper place in the considerations of the reptilia.
Finally she spread her giant wings, flapped them vigorously a score of times and rose above the blue sea. A single time she circled far aloft--and then straight as an arrow she sped away.I watched her until the distant haze enveloped her and she had disappeared. I was alone. My first concern was to discover where within Pel- lucidar I might be--and in what direction lay the land of the Sarians where Ghak the Hairy One ruled. But how was I to guess in which direction lay Sari? And if I set out to search--what then?
Could I find my way back to the prospector with its priceless freight of books, firearms, ammunition, scien- tific instruments, and still more books--its great library of reference works upon every conceivable branch of ap- plied sciences?And if I could not, of what value was all this vast storehouse of potential civilization and progress to be to the world of my adoption? Upon the other hand, if I remained here alone with it, what could I accomplish singlehanded? Nothing.
But where there was no east, no west, no north, no south, no stars, no moon, and only a stationary mid- day sun, how was I to find my way back to this spot should ever I get out of sight of it?I didn't know.
For a long time I stood buried in deep thought, when it occurred to me to try out one of the compasses I had brought and ascertain if it remained steadily fixed upon an unvarying pole. I reentered the prospector and fetched a compass without.
Moving a considerable distance from the prospector that the needle might not be influenced by its great bulk of iron and steel I turned the delicate instrument about in every direction.
Always and steadily the needle remained rigidly fixed upon a point straight out to sea, apparently pointing toward a large island some ten or twenty miles distant. This then should be north.
I drew my note-book from my pocket and made a careful topographical sketch of the locality within the range of my vision. Due north lay the island, far out upon the shimmering sea.
The spot I had chosen for my observations was the top of a large, flat boulder which rose six or eight feet above the turf. This spot I called Greenwich. The boulder was the "Royal Observatory."
I had made a start! I cannot tell you what a sense of relief was imparted to me by the simple fact that there was at least one spot within Pellucidar with a familiar name and a place upon a map.It was with almost childish joy that I made a little circle in my note-book and traced the word Greenwich beside it. Now I felt I might start out upon my search with some assurance of finding my way back again to the prospector.
I decided that at first I would travel directly south in the hope that I might in that direction find some familiar landmark. It was as good a direction as any. This much at least might be said of it.
Among the many other things I had brought from the outer world were a number of pedometers. I slipped three of these into my pockets with the idea that I might arrive at a more or less accurate mean from the registrations of them all.On my map I would register so many paces south, so many east, so many west, and so on. When I was ready to return I would then do so by any route that I might choose.
I also strapped a considerable quantity of ammuni- tion across my shoulders, pocketed some matches, and hooked an aluminum fry-pan and a small stew-kettle of the same metal to my belt.I was ready--ready to go forth and explore a world!
Ready to search a land area of 124,110,000 square miles for my friends, my incomparable mate, and good old Perry!
And so, after locking the door in the outer shell of the prospector, I set out upon my quest. Due south I traveled, across lovely valleys thick-dotted with graz- ing herds.
Ibex and musk-sheep fell before my good old revolver, so that I lacked not for food in the higher altitudes. The forests and the plains gave plentifully of fruits and wild birds, antelope, aurochsen, and elk.Occasionally, for the larger game animals and the gigantic beasts of prey, I used my express rifle, but for the most part the revolver filled all my needs.
There were times, too, when faced by a mighty cave bear, a saber-toothed tiger, or huge felis spelaea, black- maned and terrible, even my powerful rifle seemed pitifully inadequate--but fortune favored me so that I passed unscathed through adventures that even the recollection of causes the short hairs to bristle at the nape of my neck.
How long I wandered toward the south I do not know, for shortly after I left the prospector something went wrong with my watch, and I was again at the mercy of the baffling timelessness of Pellucidar, forging steadily ahead beneath the great, motionless sun which hangs eternally at noon.I ate many times, however, so that days must have elapsed, possibly months with no familiar landscape rewarding my eager eyes. I saw no men nor signs of men. Nor is this strange, for Pellucidar, in its land area, is immense, while the human race there is very young and consequently far from numerous. Doubtless upon that long search mine was the first human foot to touch the soil in many places--mine the first human eye to rest upon the gorgeous wonders of the landscape.
It was a staggering thought. I could not but dwell upon it often as I made my lonely way through this virgin world. Then, quite suddenly, one day I stepped out of the peace of manless primality into the presence of man--and peace was gone.It happened thus:
I had been following a ravine downward out of a chain of lofty hills and had paused at its mouth to view the lovely little valley that lay before me. At one side was tangled wood, while straight ahead a river wound peacefully along parallel to the cliffs in which the hills terminated at the valley's edge.
Presently, as I stood enjoying the lovely scene, as insatiate for Nature's wonders as if I had not looked upon similar landscapes countless times, a sound of shouting broke from the direction of the woods. That the harsh, discordant notes rose from the throats of men I could not doubt.
I slipped behind a large boulder near the mouth of the ravine and waited. I could hear the crashing of underbrush in the forest, and I guessed that whoever came came quickly-pursued and pursuers, doubtless.In a short time some hunted animal would break into view, and a moment later a score of half-naked savages would come leaping after with spears or club or great stone-knives.
I had seen the thing so many times during my life within Pellucidar that I felt that I could anticipate to a nicety precisely what I was about to witness. I hoped that the hunters would prove friendly and be able to direct me toward Sari.Even as I was thinking these thoughts the quarry emerged from the forest. But it was no terrified four- footed beast. Instead, what I saw was an old man-- a terrified old man!
Staggering feebly and hopelessly from what must have been some very terrible fate, if one could judge from the horrified expressions he continually cast behind him toward the wood, he came stumbling on in my direction.
He had covered but a short distance from the forest when I beheld the first of his pursuers--a Sagoth, one of those grim and terrible gorilla-men who guard the mighty Mahars in their buried cities, faring forth from time to time upon slave-raiding or punitive expeditions against the human race of Pellucidar, of whom the dominant race of the inner world think as we think of the bison or the wild sheep of our own world.Close behind the foremost Sagoth came others until a full dozen raced, shouting after the terror-stricken old man. They would be upon him shortly, that was plain. One of them was rapidly overhauling him, his back- thrown spear-arm testifying to his purpose. And then, quite with the suddenness of an unex- pected blow, I realized a past familiarity with the gait and carriage of the fugitive.
Simultaneously there swept over me the staggering fact that the old man was--PERRY! That he was about to die before my very eyes with no hope that I could reach him in time to avert the awful catastrophe-- for to me it meant a real catastrophe!Perry was my best friend.
Dian, of course, I looked upon as more than friend. She was my mate--a part of me. I had entirely forgotten the rifle in my hand and the revolvers at my belt; one does not readily syn- chronize his thoughts with the stone age and the twentieth century simultaneously.Now from past habit I still thought in the stone age, and in my thoughts of the stone age there were no thoughts of firearms.
The fellow was almost upon Perry when the feel of the gun in my hand awoke me from the lethargy of terror that had gripped me. From behind my boulder I threw up the heavy express rifle--a mighty engine of destruction that might bring down a cave bear or a mammoth at a single shot--and let drive at the Sagoth's broad, hairy breast.At the sound of the shot he stopped stock-still. His spear dropped from his hand. Then he lunged forward upon his face.
The effect upon the others was little less remarkable. Perry alone could have possibly guessed the meaning of the loud report or explained its connection with the sudden collapse of the Sagoth. The other gorilla-men halted for but an instant. Then with renewed shrieks of rage they sprang forward to finish Perry.
At the same time I stepped from behind my boul- der, drawing one of my revolvers that I might conserve the more precious ammunition of the express rifle. Quickly I fired again with the lesser weapon.
Then it was that all eyes were directed toward me. Another Sagoth fell to the bullet from the revolver; but it did not stop his companions. They were out for revenge as well as blood now, and they meant to have both.
As I ran forward toward Perry I fired four more shots, dropping three of our antagonists. Then at last the remaining seven wavered. It was too much for them, this roaring death that leaped, invisible, upon them from a great distance.
As they hesitated I reached Perry's side. I have never seen such an expression upon any man's face as that upon Perry's when he recognized me. I have no words wherewith to describe it. There was not time to talk then--scarce for a greeting. I thrust the full, loaded revolver into his hand, fired the last shot in my own, and reloaded. There were but six Sagoths left then.
They started toward us once more, though I could see that they were terrified probably as much by the noise of the guns as by their effects. They never reached us. Half-way the three that remained turned and fled, and we let them go.
The last we saw of them they were disappearing into the tangled undergrowth of the forest. And then Perry turned and threw his arms about my neck and, burying his old face upon my shoulder, wept like a child.
It seemed that Hooja had made it appear that I had intentionally left Dian behind, and that I did not purpose ever returning to Pellucidar. He told them that I was of another world and that I had tired of this and of its inhabitants.
To Dian he had explained that I had a mate in the world to which I was returning; that I had never intended taking Dian the Beautiful back with me; and that she had seen the last of me.Shortly afterward Dian had disappeared from the camp, nor had Perry seen or heard aught of her since. He had no conception of the time that had elapsed since I had departed, but guessed that many years had dragged their slow way into the past.
Hooja, too, had disappeared very soon after Dian had left. The Sarians, under Ghak the Hairy One, and the Amozites under Dacor the Strong One, Dian's brother, had fallen out over my supposed defection, for Ghak would not believe that I had thus treacher- ously deceived and deserted them.
The result had been that these two powerful tribes had fallen upon one another with the new weapons that Perry and I had taught them to make and to use. Other tribes of the new federation took sides with the original disputants or set up petty revolutions of their own.The result was the total demolition of the work we had so well started.
Taking advantage of the tribal war, the Mahars had gathered their Sagoths in force and fallen upon one tribe after another in rapid succession, wreaking awful havoc among them and reducing them for the most part to as pitiable a state of terror as that from which we had raised them.
Alone of all the once-mighty federation the Sarians and the Amozites with a few other tribes continued to maintain their defiance of the Mahars; but these tribes were still divided among themselves, nor had it seemed at all probable to Perry when he had last been among them that any attempt at re-amalgamation would be made."And thus, your majesty," he concluded, "has faded back into the oblivion of the Stone
Age our wondrous dream and with it has gone the First Empire of Pel- lucidar." We both had to smile at the use of my royal title, yet I was indeed still "Emperor of Pellucidar," and some day I meant to rebuild what the vile act of the treacherous Hooja had torn down.But first I would find my empress. To me she was worth forty empires. "Have you no clue as to the whereabouts of Dian?" I asked. "None whatever," replied Perry. "It was in search of her that I came to the pretty pass in which you dis- covered me, and from which, David, you saved me.
"I knew perfectly well that you had not intentionally deserted either Dian or Pellucidar. I guessed that in some way Hooja the Sly One was at the bottom of the matter, and I determined to go to Amoz, where I guessed that Dian might come to the protection of her brother, and do my utmost to convince her, and through her Dacor the Strong One, that we had all been victims of a treacherous plot to which you were no party."I came to Amoz after a most trying and terrible journey, only to find that Dian was not among her brother's people and that they knew naught of her whereabouts.
"Dacor, I am sure, wanted to be fair and just, but so great were his grief and anger over the disap- pearance of his sister that he could not listen to reason, but kept repeating time and again that only your return to Pellucidar could prove the honesty of your intentions.
"Then came a stranger from another tribe, sent I am sure at the instigation of Hooja. He so turned the Amozites against me that I was forced to flee their country to escape assassination."In attempting to return to Sari I became lost, and then the Sagoths discovered me. For a long time I eluded them, hiding in caves and wading in rivers to throw them off my trail. "I lived on nuts and fruits and the edible roots that chance threw in my way.
"I traveled on and on, in what directions I could not even guess; and at last I could elude them no longer and the end came as I had long foreseen that it would come, except that I had not foreseen that you would be there to save me."
We rested in our camp until Perry had regained sufficient strength to travel again. We planned much, rebuilding all our shattered air-castles; but above all we planned most to find Dian.
I could not believe that she was dead, yet where she might be in this savage world, and under what frightful conditions she might be living, I could not guess.
When Perry was rested we returned to the prospector, where he fitted himself out fully like a civilized human being--under-clothing, socks, shoes, khaki jacket and breeches and good, substantial puttees.
When I had come upon him he was clothed in rough sadak sandals, a gee-string and a tunic fashioned from the shaggy hide of a thag. Now he wore real clothing again for the first time since the ape-folk had stripped us of our apparel that long-gone day that had witnessed our advent within Pellucidar.With a bandoleer of cartridges across his shoulder, two six-shooters at his hips, and a rifle in his hand he was a much rejuvenated Perry.
Indeed he was quite a different person altogether from the rather shaky old man who had entered the prospector with me ten or eleven years before, for the trial trip that had plunged us into such wondrous ad- ventures and into such a strange and hitherto un- dreamed-of-world.Now he was straight and active. His muscles, almost atrophied from disuse in his former life, had filled out.
He was still an old man of course, but instead of appearing ten years older than he really was, as he had when we left the outer world, he now appeared about ten years younger. The wild, free life of Pel- lucidar had worked wonders for him.
Well, it must need have done so or killed him, for a man of Perry's former physical condition could not long have survived the dangers and rigors of the primi- tive life of the inner world.
Perry had been greatly interested in my map and in the "royal observatory" at Greenwich. By use of the pedometers we had retraced our way to the prospector with ease and accuracy.Now that we were ready to set out again we decided to follow a different route on the chance that it might lead us into more familiar territory.
I shall not weary you with a repetition of the count- less adventures of our long search. Encounters with wild beasts of gigantic size were of almost daily occur- rence; but with our deadly express rifles we ran com- paratively little risk when one recalls that previously we had both traversed this world of frightful dangers inadequately armed with crude, primitive weapons and all but naked.
We ate and slept many times--so many that we lost count--and so I do not know how long we roamed, though our map shows the distances and direc- tions quite accurately. We must have covered a great many thousand square miles of territory, and yet we had seen nothing in the way of a familiar landmark, when from the heights of a mountain-range we were crossing I descried far in the distance great masses of billowing clouds. Now clouds are practically unknown in the skies of Pellucidar. The moment that my eyes rested upon them my heart leaped. I seized Perry's arm and, point- ing toward the horizonless distance, shouted:"The Mountains of the Clouds!" "They lie close to Phutra, and the country of our worst enemies, the Mahars," Perry remonstrated. "I know it," I replied, "but they give us a starting-point from which to prosecute our search intelligently. They are at least a familiar landmark. "They tell us that we are upon the right trail and not wandering far in the wrong direction.
"Furthermore, close to the Mountains of the Clouds dwells a good friend, Ja the Mezop. You did not know him, but you know all that he did for me and all that he will gladly do to aid me."At least he can direct us upon the right direction toward Sari."
"The Mountains of the Clouds constitute a mighty range," replied Perry. "They must cover an enormous territory. How are you to find your friend in all the great country that is visible from their rugged flanks?""Easily," I answered him, "for Ja gave me minute di- rections. I recall almost his exact words: "'You need merely come to the foot of the highest peak of the Mountains of the Clouds. There you will find a river that flows into the Lural Az.
"'Directly opposite the mouth of the river you will see three large islands far out--so far that they are barely discernible. The one to the extreme left as you face them from the mouth of the river is Anoroc, where I rule the tribe of Anoroc.'"
And so we hastened onward toward the great cloud- mass that was to be our guide for several weary marches. At last we came close to the towering crags, Alp-like in their grandeur.
Rising nobly among its noble fellows, one stupendous peak reared its giant head thousands of feet above the others. It was he whom we sought; but at its foot no river wound down toward any sea.
"It must rise from the opposite side," suggested Perry, casting a rueful glance at the forbidding heights that barred our further progress. "We cannot endure the arctic cold of those high flung passes, and to traverse the endless miles about this interminable range might re- quire a year or more. The land we seek must lie upon the opposite side of the mountains.""Then we must cross them," I insisted. Perry shrugged.
"We can't do it, David," he repeated, "We are dressed for the tropics. We should freeze to death among the snows and glaciers long before we had discovered a pass to the opposite side.""We must cross them," I reiterated. "We will cross them." I had a plan, and that plan we carried out. It took some time. First we made a permanent camp part way up the slopes where there was good water. Then we set out in search of the great, shaggy cave bear of the higher altitudes.
He is a mighty animal--a terrible animal. He is but little larger than his cousin of the lesser, lower hills; but he makes up for it in the awfulness of his ferocity and in the length and thickness of his shaggy coat. It was his coat that we were after.
We came upon him quite unexpectedly. I was trudg- ing in advance along a rocky trail worn smooth by the padded feet of countless ages of wild beasts. At a shoul- der of the mountain around which the path ran I came face to face with the Titan.I was going up for a fur coat. He was coming down for breakfast. Each realized that here was the very thing he sought. With a horrid roar the beast charged me. At my right the cliff rose straight upward for thou- sands of feet. At my left it dropped into a dim, abysmal canon. In front of me was the bear. Behind me was Perry. I shouted to him in warning, and then I raised my rifle and fired into the broad breast of the creature. There was no time to take aim; the thing was too close upon me.
But that my bullet took effect was evident from the howl of rage and pain that broke from the frothing jowls. It didn't stop him, though.
I fired again, and then he was upon me. Down I went beneath his ton of maddened, clawing flesh and bone and sinew.
I thought that I should find him farther down the trail, probably finishing Perry, and so I leaped in the direction I supposed him to be, to find Perry perched upon a pro- jecting rock several feet above the trail. My cry of warn- ing had given him time to reach this point of safety.There he squatted, his eyes wide and his mouth ajar, the picture of abject terror and consternation. "Where is he?" he cried when he saw me. "Where is he?" "Didn't he come this way?" I asked, "Nothing came this way," replied the old man. "But I heard his roars--he must have been as large as an elephant." "He was," I admitted; "but where in the world do you suppose he disappeared to?" Then came a possible explanation to my mind. I re- turned to the point at which the bear had hurled me down and peered over the edge of the cliff into the abyss below. Far, far down I saw a small brown blotch near the bottom of the canon. It was the bear.
My second shot must have killed him, and so his dead body, after hurling me to the path, had toppled over into the abyss. I shivered at the thought of how close I, too, must have been to going over with him.
It took us a long time to reach the carcass, and arduous labor to remove the great pelt. But at last the thing was accomplished, and we returned to camp dragging the heavy trophy behind us.
Here we devoted another considerable period to scraping and curing it. When this was done to our satisfaction we made heavy boots, trousers, and coats of the shaggy skin, turning the fur in.
From the scraps we fashioned caps that came down around our ears, with flaps that fell about our shoulders and breasts. We were now fairly well equipped for our search for a pass to the opposite side of the Mountains of the Clouds.
Our first step now was to move our camp upward to the very edge of the perpetual snows which cap this lofty range. Here we built a snug, secure little hut, which we provisioned and stored with fuel for its di- minutive fireplace.
Systematically we worked upward in both directions from our base, and when we had at last discovered what seemed might prove a feasible pass we moved our be- longings to a new hut farther up.It was hard work--cold, bitter, cruel work. Not a step did we take in advance but the grim reaper strode silently in our tracks.
There were the great cave bears in the timber, and gaunt, lean wolves--huge creatures twice the size of our Canadian timber-wolves. Farther up we were as- sailed by enormous white bears--hungry, devilish fellows, who came roaring across the rough glacier tops at the first glimpse of us, or stalked us stealthily by scent when they had not yet seen us.
It is one of the peculiarities of life within Pellucidar that man is more often the hunted than the hunter. Myriad are the huge-bellied carnivora of this primitive world. Never, from birth to death, are those great bellies sufficiently filled, so always are their mighty owners prowling about in search of meat.
Terribly armed for battle as they are, man presents to them in his primal state an easy prey, slow of foot, puny of strength, ill-equipped by nature with natural weapons of defense.
The bears looked upon us as easy meat. Only our heavy rifles saved us from prompt extinction. Poor Perry never was a raging lion at heart, and I am convinced that the terrors of that awful period must have caused him poignant mental anguish.
When we were abroad pushing our trail farther and farther toward the distant break which, we assumed, marked a feasible way across the range, we never knew at what second some great engine of clawed and fanged destruction might rush upon us from behind, or lie in wait for us beyond an ice-hummock or a jutting shoulder of the craggy steeps.
The roar of our rifles was constantly shattering the world-old silence of stupendous canons upon which the eye of man had never before gazed. And when in the comparative safety of our hut we lay down to sleep the great beasts roared and fought without the walls, clawed and battered at the door, or rushed their colossal frames headlong against the hut's sides until it rocked and trembled to the impact.
Yes, it was a gay life.
He'd count our cartridges one by one and then try to figure how long it would be before the last was ex- pended and we must either remain in the hut until we starved to death or venture forth, empty, to fill the belly of some hungry bear.
I must admit that I, too, felt worried, for our progress was indeed snail-like, and our ammunition could not last forever. In discussing the problem, finally we came to the decision to burn our bridges behind us and make one last supreme effort to cross the divide.
It would mean that we must go without sleep for a long period, and with the further chance that when the time came that sleep could no longer be denied we might still be high in the frozen regions of perpetual snow and ice, where sleep would mean certain death, exposed as we would be to the attacks of wild beasts and without shelter from the hideous cold.
But we decided that we must take these chances and so at last we set forth from our hut for the last time, carrying such necessities as we felt we could least afford to do without. The bears seemed unusually troublesome and determined that time, and as we clambered slowly upward beyond the highest point to which we had previously attained, the cold became infinitely more intense.Presently, with two great bears dogging our footsteps we entered a dense fog, We had reached the heights that are so often cloud- wrapped for long periods. We could see nothing a few paces beyond our noses. We dared not turn back into the teeth of the bears which we could hear grunting behind us. To meet them in this bewildering fog would have been to court instant death. Perry was almost overcome by the hopelessness of our situation. He flopped down on his knees and began to pray. It was the first time I had heard him at his old habit since my return to Pellucidar, and I had thought that he had given up his little idiosyncrasy; but he hadn't. Far from it.
I let him pray for a short time undisturbed, and then as I was about to suggest that we had better be pushing along one of the bears in our rear let out a roar that made the earth fairly tremble beneath our feet.
It brought Perry to his feet as if he had been stung by a wasp, and sent him racing ahead through the blind- ing fog at a gait that I knew must soon end in disaster were it not checked.
Crevasses in the glacier-ice were far too frequent to permit of reckless speed even in a clear atmosphere, and then there were hideous precipices along the edges of which our way often led us. I shivered as I thought of the poor old fellow's peril.At the top of my lungs I called to him to stop, but he did not answer me. And then I hurried on in the di- rection he had gone, faster by far than safety dictated.
For a while I thought I heard him ahead of me, but at last, though I paused often to listen and to call to him, I heard nothing more, not even the grunting of the bears that had been behind us. All was deathly silence--the silence of the tomb. About me lay the thick, impenetrable fog.I was alone. Perry was gone--gone forever, I had not the slightest doubt.
Somewhere near by lay the mouth of a treacherous fissure, and far down at its icy bottom lay all that was mortal of my old friend, Abner Perry. There would his body he preserved in its icy sepulcher for countless ages, until on some far distant day the slow-moving river of ice had wound its snail-like way down to the warmer level, there to disgorge its grisly evidence of grim tragedy, and what in that far future age, might mean baffling mystery.
Experience has since taught me that these great beasts are as terror-stricken by this phenomenon as a landsman by a fog at sea, and that no sooner does a fog envelop them than they make the best of their way to lower levels and a clear atmosphere. It was well for me that this was true.I felt very sad and lonely as I crawled along the diffi- cult footing. My own predicament weighed less heavily upon me than the loss of Perry, for I loved the old fellow.
That I should ever win the opposite slopes of the range I began to doubt, for though I am naturally sanguine, I imagine that the bereavement which had befallen me had cast such a gloom over my spirits that I could see no slightest ray of hope for the future.
Then, too, the blighting, gray oblivion of the cold, damp clouds through which I wandered was distress- ing. Hope thrives best in sunlight, and I am sure that it does not thrive at all in a fog.
But the instinct of self-preservation is stronger than hope. It thrives, fortunately, upon nothing. It takes root upon the brink of the grave, and blossoms in the jaws of death. Now it flourished bravely upon the breast of dead hope, and urged me onward and upward in a stern endeavor to justify its existence.As I advanced the fog became denser. I could see nothing beyond my nose. Even the snow and ice I trod were invisible. I could not see below the breast of my bearskin coat. I seemed to be floating in a sea of vapor.
To go forward over a dangerous glacier under such conditions was little short of madness; but I could not have stopped going had I known positively that death lay two paces before my nose. In the first place, it was too cold to stop, and in the second, I should have gone mad but for the excitement of the perils that beset each forward step.
For some time the ground had been rougher and steeper, until I had been forced to scale a considerable height that had carried me from the glacier entirely. I was sure from my compass that I was following the right general direction, and so I kept on.
Once more the ground was level. From the wind that blew about me I guessed that I must be upon some ex- posed peak of ridge.
And then quite suddenly I stepped out into space. Wildly I turned and clutched at the ground that had slipped from beneath my feet.
As suddenly as I had pitched into space, with equal suddenness did I emerge from the fog, out of which I shot like a projectile from a cannon into clear daylight. My speed was so great that I could see nothing about me but a blurred and indistinct sheet of smooth and frozen snow, that rushed past me with express-train velocity.
I must have slid downward thousands of feet before the steep incline curved gently on to a broad, smooth, snow-covered plateau. Across this I hurtled with slowly diminishing velocity, until at last objects about me began to take definite shape.
Far ahead, miles and miles away, I saw a great valley and mighty woods, and beyond these a broad expanse of water. In the nearer foreground I discerned a small, dark blob of color upon the shimmering whiteness of the snow."A bear," thought I, and thanked the instinct that had impelled me to cling tenaciously to my rifle during the moments of my awful tumble.
At the rate I was going it would be but a moment before I should be quite abreast the thing; nor was it long before I came to a sudden stop in soft snow, upon which the sun was shining, not twenty paces from the object of my most immediate apprehension.It was standing upon its hind legs waiting for me. As I scrambled to my feet to meet it, I dropped my gun in the snow and doubled up with laughter. It was Perry. The expression upon his face, combined with the relief I felt at seeing him again safe and sound, was too much for my overwrought nerves. "David!" be cried. "David, my boy! God has been good to an old man. He has answered my prayer."
It seems that Perry in his mad flight had plunged over the brink at about the same point as that at which I had stepped over it a short time later. Chance had done for us what long periods of rational labor had failed to accomplish.We had crossed the divide. We were upon the side of the Mountains of the Clouds that we had for so long been attempting to reach. We looked about. Below us were green trees and warm jungles. In the distance was a great sea. "The Lural Az," I said, pointing toward its blue-green surface. Somehow--the gods alone can explain it--Perry, too, had clung to his rifle during his mad descent of the icy slope. For that there was cause for great rejoicing.
Neither of us was worse for his experience, so after shaking the snow from our clothing, we set off at a great rate down toward the warmth and comfort of the forest and the jungle.
The going was easy by comparison with the awful obstacles we had had to encounter upon the opposite side of the divide. There were beasts, of course, but we came through safely.
Before we halted to eat or rest, we stood beside a little mountain brook beneath the wondrous trees of the primeval forest in an atmosphere of warmth and com- fort. It reminded me of an early June day in the Maine Woods.We fell to work with our short axes and cut enough small trees to build a rude protection from the fiercer beasts. Then we lay down to sleep.
How long we slept I do not know. Perry says that inasmuch as there is no means of measuring time within Pellucidar, there can be no such thing as time here, and that we may have slept an outer earthly year, or we may have slept but a second.
But this I know. We had stuck the ends of some of the saplings into the ground in the building of our shelter, first stripping the leaves and branches from them, and when we awoke we found that many of them had thrust forth sprouts.
Personally, I think that we slept at least a month; but who may say? The sun marked midday when we closed our eyes; it was still in the same position when we opened them; nor had it varied a hair's breadth in the interim.It is most baffling, this question of elapsed time within Pellucidar.
Anyhow, I was famished when we awoke. I think that it was the pangs of hunger that awoke me. Ptarmigan and wild boar fell before my revolver within a dozen moments of my awakening. Perry soon had a roaring fire blazing by the brink of the little stream.It was a good and delicious meal we made. Though we did not eat the entire boar, we made a very large hole in him, while the ptarmigan was but a mouthful.
Having satisfied our hunger, we determined to set forth at once in search of Anoroc and my old friend, Ja the Mezop. We each thought that by following the little stream downward, we should come upon the large river which Ja had told me emptied into the Lural Az op- posite his island.
We did so; nor were we disappointed, for at last after a pleasant journey--and what journey would not be pleasant after the hardships we had endured among the peaks of the Mountains of the Clouds--we came upon a broad flood that rushed majestically onward in the di- rection of the great sea we had seen from the snowy slopes of the mountains.
For three long marches we followed the left bank of the growing river, until at last we saw it roll its mighty volume into the vast waters of the sea. Far out across the rippling ocean we described three islands. The one to the left must be Anoroc.At last we had come close to a solution of our problem --the road to Sari. But how to reach the islands was now the foremost question in our minds. We must build a canoe.
Perry is a most resourceful man. He has an axiom which carries the thought-kernel that what man has done, man can do, and it doesn't cut any figure with Perry whether a fellow knows how to do it or not.
He set out to make gunpowder once, shortly after our escape from Phutra and at the beginning of the con- federation of the wild tribes of Pellucidar. He said that some one, without any knowledge of the fact that such a thing might be concocted, had once stumbled upon it by accident, and so he couldn't see why a fellow who knew all about powder except how to make it couldn't do as well.
He worked mighty hard mixing all sorts of things together, until finally he evolved a substance that looked like powder. He had been very proud of the stuff, and had gone about the village of the Sarians exhibiting it to every one who would listen to him, and explaining what its purpose was and what terrific havoc it would work, until finally the natives became so terrified at the stuff that they wouldn't come within a rod of Perry and his invention.
Finally, I suggested that we experiment with it and see what it would do, so Perry built a fire, after placing the powder at a safe distance, and then touched a glow- ing ember to a minute particle of the deadly explosive. It extinguished the ember.
Repeated experiments with it determined me that in searching for a high explosive, Perry had stumbled upon a fire-extinguisher that would have made his fortune for him back in our own world.
So now he set himself to work to build a scientific canoe. I had suggested that we construct a dugout, but Perry convinced me that we must build something more in keeping with our positions of supermen in this world of the Stone Age.
"We must impress these natives with our superiority," he explained. "You must not forget, David, that you are emperor of Pellucidar. As such you may not with dignity approach the shores of a foreign power in so crude a vessel as a dugout." I pointed out to Perry that it wasn't much more in- congruous for the emperor to cruise in a canoe, than it was for the prime minister to attempt to build one with his own hands.
He had to smile at that; but in extenuation of his act he assured me that it was quite customary for prime ministers to give their personal attention to the building of imperial navies; "and this," he said, "is the imperial navy of his Serene Highness, David I, Emperor of the Federated Kingdoms of Pellucidar."
I grinned; but Perry was quite serious about it. It had always seemed rather more or less of a joke to me that I should be addressed as majesty and all the rest of it. Yet my imperial power and dignity had been a very real thing during my brief reign.
Twenty tribes had joined the federation, and their chiefs had sworn eternal fealty to one another and to me. Among them were many powerful though savage na- tions. Their chiefs we had made kings; their tribal lands kingdoms.
We had armed them with bows and arrows and swords, in addition to their own more primitive weapons. I had trained them in military discipline and in so much of the art of war as I had gleaned from extensive read- ing of the campaigns of Napoleon, Von Moltke, Grant, and the ancients.
We had marked out as best we could natural bounda- ries dividing the various kingdoms. We had warned tribes beyond these boundaries that they must not trespass, and we had marched against and severely punished those who had.
We had met and defeated the Mahars and the Sagoths. In short, we had demonstrated our rights to empire, and very rapidly were we being recognized and heralded abroad when my departure for the outer world and Hooja's treachery had set us back.
But now I had returned. The work that fate had undone must be done again, and though I must need smile at my imperial honors, I none the less felt the weight of duty and obligation that rested upon my shoulders.
Slowly the imperial navy progressed toward com- pletion. She was a wondrous craft, but I had my doubts about her. When I voiced them to Perry, he reminded me gently that my people for many generations had been mine-owners, not ship-builders, and consequently I couldn't be expected to know much about the matter.
I was minded to inquire into his hereditary fitness to design battleships; but inasmuch as I already knew that his father had been a minister in a back-woods village far from the coast, I hesitated lest I offend the dear old fellow.
He was immensely serious about his work, and I must admit that in so far as appearances went he did ex- tremely well with the meager tools and assistance at his command. We had only two short axes and our hunting- knives; yet with these we hewed trees, split them into planks, surfaced and fitted them.
The "navy" was some forty feet in length by ten feet beam. Her sides were quite straight and fully ten feet high--"for the purpose," explained Perry, "of adding dignity to her appearance and rendering it less easy for an enemy to board her."
As a matter of fact, I knew that he had had in mind the safety of her crew under javelinfire--the lofty sides made an admirable shelter. Inside she reminded me of nothing so much as a floating trench. There was also some slight analogy to a huge coffin.
Her prow sloped sharply backward from the water- line--quite like a line of battleship. Perry had designed her more for moral effect upon an enemy, I think, than for any real harm she might inflict, and so those parts which were to show were the most imposing.
Below the water-line she was practically non-existent. She should have had considerable draft; but, as the enemy couldn't have seen it, Perry decided to do away with it, and so made her flat-bottomed. It was this that caused my doubts about her.
There was another little idiosyncrasy of design that escaped us both until she was about ready to launch-- there was no method of propulsion. Her sides were far too high to permit the use of sweeps, and when Perry suggested that we pole her, I remonstrated on the grounds that it would be a most undignified and awk- ward manner of sweeping down upon the foe, even if we could find or wield poles that would reach to the bottom of the ocean.
Finally I suggested that we convert her into a sailing vessel. When once the idea took hold Perry was most enthusiastic about it, and nothing would do but a four- masted, fullrigged ship.
Again I tried to dissuade him, but he was simply crazy over the psychological effect which the appearance of this strange and mighty craft would have upon the natives of Pellucidar. So we rigged her with thin hides for sails and dried gut for rope.
Neither of us knew much about sailing a full-rigged ship; but that didn't worry me a great deal, for I was confident that we should never be called upon to do so, and as the day of launching approached I was positive of it.
We had built her upon a low bank of the river close to where it emptied into the sea, and just above high tide. Her keel we had laid upon several rollers cut from small trees, the ends of the rollers in turn resting upon parallel tracks of long saplings. Her stern was toward the water.
A few hours before we were ready to launch her she made quite an imposing picture, for Perry had insisted upon setting every shred of "canvas." I told him that I didn't know much about it, but I was sure that at launch- ing the hull only should have been completed, every- thing else being completed after she had floated safely. At the last minute there was some delay while we sought a name for her. I wanted her christened the Perry in honor both of her designer and that other great naval genius of another world, Captain Oliver Hazard Perry, of the United States Navy. But Perry was too modest; he wouldn't hear of it.
We finally decided to establish a system in the naming of the fleet. Battle-ships of the first-class should bear the names of kingdoms of the federation; armored cruisers the names of kings; cruisers the names of cities, and so on down the line. Therefore, we decided to name the first battle-ship Sari, after the first of the federated kingdoms.
The launching of the Sari proved easier than I con- templated. Perry wanted me to get in and break some- thing over the bow as she floated out upon the bosom of the river, but I told him that I should feel safer on dry land until I saw which side up the Sari would float.
I could see by the expression of the old man's face that my words had hurt him; but I noticed that he didn't offer to get in himself, and so I felt less contrition than I might otherwise.
When we cut the ropes and removed the blocks that held the Sari in place she started for the water with a lunge. Before she hit it she was going at a reckless speed, for we had laid our tracks quite down to the water, greased them, and at intervals placed rollers all ready to receive the ship as she moved forward with stately dignity. But there was no dignity in the Sari.
When she touched the surface of the river she must have been going twenty or thirty miles an hour. Her momentum carried her well out into the stream, until she came to a sudden halt at the end of the long line which we had had the foresight to attach to her bow and fasten to a large tree upon the bank.The moment her progress was checked she promptly capsized. Perry was overwhelmed. I didn't upbraid him, nor remind him that I had "told him so." His grief was so genuine and so apparent that I didn't have the heart to reproach him, even were I inclined to that particular sort of meanness.
"Come, come, old man!" I cried. "It's not as bad as it looks. Give me a hand with this rope, and we'll drag her up as far as we can; and then when the tide goes out we'll try another scheme. I think we can make a go of her yet."
Well, we managed to get her up into shallow water. When the tide receded she lay there on her side in the mud, quite a pitiable object for the premier battle-ship of a world--"the terror of the seas" was the way Perry had occasionally described her.
We had to work fast; but before the tide came in again we had stripped her of her sails and masts, righted her, and filled her about a quarter full of rock ballast. If she didn't stick too fast in the mud I was sure that she would float this time right side up.
I can tell you that it was with palpitating hearts that we sat upon the river-bank and watched that tide come slowly in. The tides of Pellucidar don't amount to much by comparison with our higher tides of the outer world, but I knew that it ought to prove ample to float the Sari.
Nor was I mistaken. Finally we had the satisfaction of seeing the vessel rise out of the mud and float slowly upstream with the tide. As the water rose we pulled her in quite close to the bank and clambered aboard.
She rested safely now upon an even keel; nor did she leak, for she was well calked with fiber and tarry pitch. We rigged up a single short mast and light sail, fastened planking down over the ballast to form a deck, worked her out into midstream with a couple of sweeps, and dropped our primitive stone anchor to await the turn of the tide that would bear us out to sea.
While we waited we devoted the time to the con- struction of an upper deck, since the one immediately above the ballast was some seven feet from the gunwale. The second deck was four feet above this. In it was a large, commodious hatch, leading to the lower deck. The sides of the ship rose three feet above the upper deck, forming an excellent breastwork, which we loopholed at intervals that we might lie prone and fire upon an enemy.Though we were sailing out upon a peaceful mission in search of my friend Ja, we knew that we might meet with people of some other island who would prove unfriendly. At last the tide turned. We weighed anchor. Slowly we drifted down the great river toward the sea.
About us swarmed the mighty denizens of the prim- eval deep--plesiosauri and ichthyosauria with all their horrid, slimy cousins whose names were as the names of aunts and uncles to Perry, but which I have never been able to recall an hour after having heard them.At last we were safely launched upon the journey to which we had looked forward for so long, and the results of which meant so much to me.
The Sari proved a most erratic craft. She might have done well enough upon a park lagoon if safely anchored, but upon the bosom of a mighty ocean she left much to be desired.
Sailing with the wind she did her best; but in quarter- ing or when close-hauled she drifted terribly, as a nautical man might have guessed she would. We couldn't keep within miles of our course, and our progress was pitifully slow.
Instead of making for the island of Anoroc, we bore far to the right, until it became evident that we should have to pass between the two right-hand islands and attempt to return toward Anoroc from the opposite side.As we neared the islands Perry was quite overcome by their beauty. When we were directly between two of them he fairly went into raptures; nor could I blame him. The tropical luxuriance of the foliage that dripped almost to the water's edge and the vivid colors of the blooms that shot the green made a most gorgeous spectacle.
Perry was right in the midst of a flowery panegyric on the wonders of the peaceful beauty of the scene when a canoe shot out from the nearest island. There were a dozen warriors in it; it was quickly followed by a second and third.Of course we couldn't know the intentions of the strangers, but we could pretty well guess them.
Perry wanted to man the sweeps and try to get away from them, but I soon convinced him that any speed of which the Sari was capable would be far too slow to outdistance the swift, though awkward, dugouts of the Mezops.
I waited until they were quite close enough to hear me, and then I hailed them. I told them that we were friends of the Mezops, and that we were upon a visit to Ja of Anoroc, to which they replied that they were at war with Ja, and that if we would wait a minute they'd board us and throw our corpses to the azdyryths.
I warned them that they would get the worst of it if they didn't leave us alone, but they only shouted in derision and paddled swiftly toward us. It was evident that they were considerably impressed by the appear- ance and dimensions of our craft, but as these fellows know no fear they were not at all awed.
Seeing that they were determined to give battle, I leaned over the rail of the Sari and brought the im- perial battle-squadron of the Emperor of Pellucidar into action for the first time in the history of a world. In other and simpler words, I fired my revolver at the nearest canoe.
The effect was magical. A warrior rose from his knees, threw his paddle aloft, stiffened into rigidity for an instant, and then toppled overboard.
The others ceased paddling, and, with wide eyes, looked first at me and then at the battling sea-things which fought for the corpse of their comrade. To them it must have seemed a miracle that I should be able to stand at thrice the range of the most powerful javelin- thrower and with a loud noise and a smudge of smoke slay one of their number with an invisible missile.But only for an instant were they paralyzed with wonder. Then, with savage shouts, they fell once more to their paddles and forged rapidly toward us. Again and again I fired. At each shot a warrior sank to the bottom of the canoe or tumbled overboard.
When the prow of the first craft touched the side of the Sari it contained only dead and dying men. The other two dugouts were approaching rapidly, so I turned my attention toward them.
I think that they must have been commencing to have some doubts--those wild, naked, red warriors--for when the first man fell in the second boat, the others stopped paddling and commenced to jabber among themselves.
The third boat pulled up alongside the second and its crews joined in the conference. Taking advantage of the lull in the battle, I called out to the survivors to return to their shore."I have no fight with you," I cried, and then I told them who I was and added that if they would live in peace they must sooner or later join forces with me.
"Go back now to your people," I counseled them, "and tell them that you have seen David I, Emperor of the Federated Kingdoms of Pellucidar, and that single- handed he has overcome you, just as be intends over- coming the Mahars and the Sagoths and any other peoples of Pellucidar who threaten the peace and wel- fare of his empire."
Slowly they turned the noses of their canoes toward land. It was evident that they were impressed; yet that they were loath to give up without further con- testing my claim to naval supremacy was also apparent, for some of their number seemed to be exhorting the others to a renewal of the conflict.However, at last they drew slowly away, and the Sari, which had not decreased her snaillike speed during this, her first engagement, continued upon her slow, uneven way. Presently Perry stuck his head up through the hatch and hailed me. "Have the scoundrels departed?" he asked. "Have you killed them all?" "Those whom I failed to kill have departed, Perry," I replied.
He came out on deck and, peering over the side, descried the lone canoe floating a short distance astern with its grim and grisly freight. Farther his eyes wan- dered to the retreating boats."David," said he at last, "this is a notable occasion. It is a great day in the annals of Pellucidar. We have won a glorious victory. "Your majesty's navy has routed a fleet of the enemy thrice its own size, manned by ten times as many men. Let us give thanks."
I could scarce restrain a smile at Perry's use of the pronoun "we," yet I was glad to share the rejoicing with him as I shall always be glad to share everything with the dear old fellow.
Perry is the only male coward I have ever known whom I could respect and love. He was not created for fighting; but I think that if the occasion should ever arise where it became necessary he would give his life cheer- fully for me--yes, I KNOW it.
It took us a long time to work around the islands and draw in close to Anoroc. In the leisure afforded we took turns working on our map, and by means of the compass and a little guesswork we set down the shoreline we had left and the three islands with fair accuracy.
Crossed sabers marked the spot where the first great naval engagement of a world had taken place. In a note- book we jotted down, as had been our custom, details that would be of historical value later.
Opposite Anoroc we came to anchor quite close to shore. I knew from my previous experience with the tortuous trails of the island that I could never find my way inland to the hidden tree-village of the Mezop chieftain, Ja; so we remained aboard the Sari, firing our express rifles at intervals to attract the attention of the natives.
After some ten shots had been fired at considerable intervals a body of copper-colored warriors appeared upon the shore. They watched us for a moment and then I hailed them, asking the whereabouts of my old friend Ja.
They did not reply at once, but stood with their heads together in serious and animated discussion. Continually they turned their eyes toward our strange craft. It was evident that they were greatly puzzled by our appear- ance as well as unable to explain the source of the loud noises that had attracted their attention to us. At last one of the warriors addressed us.
"Who are you who seek Ja?" he asked. "What would you of our chief?" "We are friends," I replied. "I am David. Tell Ja that David, whose life be once saved from a sithic, has come again to visit him."If you will send out a canoe we will come ashore. We cannot bring our great warship closer in." Again they talked for a considerable time. Then two of them entered a canoe that several dragged from its hiding-place in the jungle and paddled swiftly toward us.
They were magnificent specimens of manhood. Perry had never seen a member of this red race close to be- fore. In fact, the dead men in the canoe we had left astern after the battle and the survivors who were paddling rapidly toward their shore were the first he ever had seen. He had been greatly impressed by their physical beauty and the promise of superior intelligence which their well-shaped skulls gave.
The two who now paddled out received us into their canoe with dignified courtesy. To my inquiries relative to Ja they explained that he had not been in the village when our signals were heard, but that runners had been sent out after him and that doubtless he was already upon his way to the coast.
One of the men remembered me from the occasion of my former visit to the island; he was extremely agree- able the moment that he came close enough to recognize me. He said that Ja would be delighted to welcome me, and that all the tribe of Anoroc knew of me by repute, and had received explicit instructions from their chief- tain that if any of them should ever come upon me to show me every kindness and attention.Upon shore we were received with equal honor. While we stood conversing with our bronze friends a tall warrior leaped suddenly from the jungle. It was Ja. As his eyes fell upon me his face lighted with pleasure. He came quickly forward to greet me after the manner of his tribe.
Toward Perry he was equally hospitable. The old man fell in love with the savage giant as completely as had I. Ja conducted us along the maze-like trail to his strange village, where he gave over one of the tree- houses for our exclusive use.Perry was much interested in the unique habitation, which resembled nothing so much as a huge wasp's nest built around the bole of a tree well above the ground.
After we had eaten and rested Ja came to see us with a number of his head men. They listened attentively to my story, which included a narrative of the events lead- ing to the formation of the federated kingdoms, the battle with the Mahars, my journey to the outer world, and my return to Pellucidar and search for Sari and my mate.
Ja told me that the Mezops had heard something of the federation and had been much interested in it. He had even gone so far as to send a party of warriors toward Sari to investigate the reports, and to arrange for the entrance of Anoroc into the empire in case it ap- peared that there was any truth in the rumors that one of the aims of the federation was the overthrow of the Mahars.
The delegation had met with a party of Sagoths. As there had been a truce between the Mahars and the Mezops for many generations, they camped with these warriors of the reptiles, from whom they learned that the federation had gone to pieces. So the party returned to Anoroc.
When I showed Ja our map and explained its purpose to him, he was much interested. The location of Anoroc, the Mountains of the Clouds, the river, and the strip of seacoast were all familiar to him.
He quickly indicated the position of the inland sea and close beside it, the city of Phutra, where one of the powerful Mahar nations had its seat. He likewise showed us where Sari should be and carried his own coast-line as far north and south as it was known to him.
His additions to the map convinced us that Green- wich lay upon the verge of this same sea, and that it might be reached by water more easily than by the arduous crossing of the mountains or the dangerous ap- proach through Phutra, which lay almost directly in line between Anoroc and Greenwich to the northwest.
If Sari lay upon the same water then the shore-line must bend far back toward the southwest of Greenwich --an assumption which, by the way, we found later to be true. Also, Sari was upon a lofty plateau at the southern end of a mighty gulf of the Great Ocean.
The location which Ja gave to distant Amoz puzzled us, for it placed it due north of Greenwich, apparently in mid-ocean. As Ja had never been so far and knew only of Amoz through hearsay, we thought that he must be mistaken; but he was not. Amoz lies directly north of Greenwich across the mouth of the same gulf as that upon which Sari is.
The sense of direction and location of these primitive Pellucidarians is little short of uncanny, as I have had occasion to remark in the past. You may take one of them to the uttermost ends of his world, to places of which he has never even heard, yet without sun or moon or stars to guide him, without map or compass, he will travel straight for home in the shortest direction.Mountains, rivers, and seas may have to be gone around. but never once does his sense of direction fail him--the homing instinct is supreme.
In the same remarkable way they never forget the location of any place to which they have ever been, and know that of many of which they have only heard from others who have visited them.
In short, each Pellucidarian is a walking geography of his own district and of much of the country contiguous thereto. It always proved of the greatest aid to Perry and me; nevertheless we were anxious to enlarge our map, for we at least were not endowed with the homing instinct.
After several long councils it was decided that, in order to expedite matters, Perry should return to the prospector with a strong party of Mezops and fetch the freight I had brought from the outer world. Ja and his warriors were much impressed by our firearms, and were also anxious to build boats with sails.
As we had arms at the prospector and also books on boat-building we thought that it might prove an ex- cellent idea to start these naturally maritime people upon the construction of a well built navy of staunch sailing-vessels. I was sure that with definite plans to go by Perry could oversee the construction of an adequate flotilla.
I warned him, however, not to be too ambitious, and to forget about dreadnoughts and armored cruisers for a while and build instead a few small sailing-boats that could be manned by four or five men.
I was to proceed to Sari, and while prosecuting my search for Dian attempt at the same time the rehabili- tation of the federation. Perry was going as far as possible by water, with the chances that the entire trip might be made in that manner, which proved to be the fact.
With a couple of Mezops as companions I started for Sari. In order to avoid crossing the principal range of the Mountains of the Clouds we took a route that passed a little way south of Phutra. We had eaten four times and slept once, and were, as my companions told me, not far from the great Mahar city, when we were sud- denly confronted by a considerable band of Sagoths.
They did not attack us, owing to the peace which exists between the Mahars and the Mezops, but I could see that they looked upon me with considerable sus- picion. My friends told them that I was a stranger from a remote country, and as we had previously planned against such a contingency I pretended ignorance of the language which the human beings of Pellucidar em- ploy in conversing with the gorilla-like soldiery of the Mahars.
I noticed, and not without misgivings, that the leader of the Sagoths eyed me with an expression that be- tokened partial recognition. I was sure that he had seen me before during the period of my incarceration in Phutra and that he was trying to recall my identity.
It worried me not a little. I was extremely thankful when we bade them adieu and continued upon our journey.
Several times during the next few marches I became acutely conscious of the sensation of being watched by unseen eyes, but I did not speak of my suspicions to my companions. Later I had reason to regret my reticence, for--
We had killed an antelope and after eating our fill I had lain down to sleep. The Pellucidarians, who seem seldom if ever to require sleep, joined me in this instance, for we had had a very trying march along the northern foothills of the Mountains of the Clouds, and now with their bellies filled with meat they seemed ready for slumber.
When I awoke it was with a start to find a couple of huge Sagoths astride me. They pinioned my arms and legs, and later chained my wrists behind my back. Then they let me up.I saw my companions; the brave fellows lay dead where they had slept, javelined to death without a chance at self-defense.
I was furious. I threatened the Sagoth leader with all sorts of dire reprisals; but when he heard me speak the hybrid language that is the medium of communication between his kind and the human race of the inner world he only grinned, as much as to say, "I thought so!"
They had not taken my revolvers or ammunition away from me because they did not know what they were; but my heavy rifle I had lost. They simply left it where it had lain beside me.So low in the scale of intelligence are they, that they had not sufficient interest in this strange object even to fetch it along with them.
I knew from the direction of our march that they were taking me to Phutra. Once there I did not need much of an imagination to picture what my fate would be. It was the arena and a wild thag or fierce tarag for me--unless the Mahars elected to take me to the pits.
In that case my end would be no more certain, though infinitely more horrible and painful, for in the pits I should be subjected to cruel vivisection. From what I had once seen of their methods in the pits of Phutra I knew them to be the opposite of merciful, whereas in the arena I should be quickly despatched by some savage beast.
Arrived at the underground city, I was taken im- mediately before a slimy Mahar. When the creature had received the report of the Sagoth its cold eyes glistened with malice and hatred as they were turned balefully upon me.
I knew then that my identity had been guessed. With a show of excitement that I had never before seen evinced by a member of the dominant race of Pellucidar, the Mahar hustled me away, heavily guarded, through the main avenue of the city to one of the principal buildings.Here we were ushered into a great hall where presently many Mahars gathered.
In utter silence they conversed, for they have no oral speech since they are without auditory nerves. Their method of communication Perry has likened to the pro- jection of a sixth sense into a fourth dimension, where it becomes cognizable to the sixth sense of their audience.Be that as it may, however, it was evident that I was the subject of discussion, and from the hateful looks bestowed upon me not a particularly pleasant subject.
How long I waited for their decision I do not know, but it must have been a very long time. Finally one of the Sagoths addressed me. He was acting as interpreter for his masters."The Mahars will spare your life," he said, "and re- lease you on one condition." "And what is that condition?" I asked, though I could guess its terms. "That you return to them that which you stole from the pits of Phutra when you killed the four Mahars and escaped," he replied. I had thought that that would be it. The great secret upon which depended the continuance of the Mahar race was safely hid where only Dian and I knew. I ventured to imagine that they would have given me much more than my liberty to have it safely in their keeping again; but after that--what? Would they keep their promises?
I doubted it. With the secret of artificial propagation once more in their hands their numbers would soon be made so to overrun the world of Pellucidar that there could be no hope for the eventual supremacy of the human race, the cause for which I so devoutly hoped, for which I had consecrated my life, and for which I was not willing to give my life.
Yes! In that moment as I stood before the heartless tribunal I felt that my life would be a very little thing to give could it save to the human race of Pellucidar the chance to come into its own by insuring the eventual extinction of the hated, powerful Mahars."Come!" exclaimed the Sagoths. "The mighty Mahars await your reply."
"You may say to them," I answered, "that I shall not tell them where the great secret is hid."
When this had been translated to them there was a great beating of reptilian wings, gaping of sharp-fanged jaws, and hideous hissing. I thought that they were about to fall upon me on the spot, and so I laid my hands upon my revolvers; but at length they became more quiet and presently transmitted some command to my Sagoth guard, the chief of which laid a heavy hand upon my arm and pushed me roughly before him from the audience-chamber.
They took me to the pits, where I lay carefully guarded. I was sure that I was to be taken to the vivi- section laboratory, and it required all my courage to fortify myself against the terrors of so fearful a death. In Pellucidar, where there is no time, death-agonies may endure for eternities.Accordingly, I had to steel myself against an endless doom, which now stared me in the face!
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! Could I but have had my lost express-gun in my hands at that moment! A single wellplaced shot would have crumbled even this great monster. The best I could hope to ac- complish was to divert the thing from the girl to myself and then to place as many bullets as possible in it before it reached and mauled me into insensibility and death.
There is a certain unwritten law of the arena that vouchsafes freedom and immunity to the victor, be he beast or human being--both of whom, by the way, are all the same to the Mahar. That is, they were accus- tomed to look upon man as a lower animal before Perry and I broke through the Pellucidarian crust, but I imagine that they were beginning to alter their views a trifle and to realize that in the gilak--their word for human being--they had a highly organized, reasoning being to contend with.
Be that as it may, the chances were that the tarag alone would profit by the law of the arena. A few more of his long strides, a prodigious leap, and he would be upon the girl. I raised a revolver and fired. The bullet struck him in the left hind leg. It couldn't have damaged him much; but the report of the shot brought him around, facing me.
I think the snarling visage of a huge, enraged, saber- toothed tiger is one of the most terrible sights in the world. Especially if he be snarling at you and there be nothing between the two of you but bare sand.
Even as he faced me a little cry from the girl carried my eyes beyond the brute to her face. Hers was fastened upon me with an expression of incredulity that baffles description. There was both hope and horror in them, too."Dian!" I cried. "My Heavens, Dian!"
I saw her lips form the name David, as with raised javelin she rushed forward upon the tarag. She was a tigress then--a primitive savage female defending her loved one. Before she could reach the beast with her puny weapon, I fired again at the point where the tarag's neck met his left shoulder. If I could get a bullet through there it might reach his heart. The bullet didn't reach his heart, but it stopped him for an instant.
It was then that a strange thing happened. I heard a great hissing from the stands occupied by the Mahars, and as I glanced toward them I saw three mighty thipdars--the winged dragons that guard the queen, or, as Perry calls them, pterodactyls--rise swiftly from their rocks and dart lightning-like, toward the center of the arena. They are huge, powerful reptiles. One of them, with the advantage which his wings might give him, would easily be a match for a cave bear or a tarag.
These three, to my consternation, swooped down upon the tarag as he was gathering himself for a final charge upon me. They buried their talons in his back and lifted him bodily from the arena as if he had been a chicken in the clutches of a hawk.
What could it mean? I was baffled for an explanation; but with the tarag gone I lost no time in hastening to Dian's side. With a little cry of delight she threw herself into my arms. So lost were we in the ecstasy of reunion that neither of us--to this day--can tell what became of the tarag.
The first thing we were aware of was the presence of a body of Sagoths about us. Gruffly they commanded us to follow them. They led us from the arena and back through the streets of Phutra to the audience chamber in which I had been tried and sentenced. Here we found ourselves facing the same cold, cruel tribunal.
Again a Sagoth acted as interpreter. He explained that our lives bad been spared because at the last moment Tu-al-sa had returned to Phutra, and seeing me in the arena had prevailed upon the queen to spare my life."Who is Tu-al-sa?" I asked. "A Mahar whose last male ancestor was--ages ago-- the last of the male rulers among the Mahars," he replied. "Why should she wish to have my life spared?"
He shrugged his shoulders and then repeated my question to the Mahar spokesman. When the latter had explained in the strange sign-language that passes for speech between the Mahars and their fighting men the Sagoth turned again to me:
"For a long time you had Tu-al-sa in your power," he explained. "You might easily have killed her or aban- doned her in a strange world--but you did neither. You did not harm her, and you brought her back with you to Pellucidar and set her free to return to Phutra. This is your reward."
Now I understood. The Mahar who had been my in- voluntary companion upon my return to the outer world was Tu-al-sa. This was the first time that I had learned the lady's name. I thanked fate that I had not left her upon the sands of the Sahara--or put a bullet in her, as I had been tempted to do.
I was surprised to discover that gratitude was a characteristic of the dominant race of Pellucidar. I could never think of them as aught but cold-blooded, brainless reptiles, though Perry had de- voted much time in explaining to me that owing to a strange freak of evolution among all the genera of the inner world, this species of the reptilia had advanced to a position quite analogous to that which man holds upon the outer crust.
He had often told me that there was every reason to believe from their writings, which he had learned to read while we were incarcerated in Phutra, that they were a just race, and that in certain branches of science and arts they were quite well advanced, especially in genetics and metaphysics, engineering and architecture.
While it had always been difficult for me to look upon these things as other than slimy, winged crocodiles-- which, by the way, they do not at all resemble--I was now forced to a realization of the fact that I was in the hands of enlightened creatures--for justice and grati- tude are certain hallmarks of rationality and culture.
But what they purposed for us further was of most imminent interest to me. They might save us from the tarag and yet not free us. They looked upon us yet, to some extent, I knew, as creatures of a lower order, and so as we are unable to place ourselves in the position of the brutes we enslave--thinking that they are happier in bondage than in the free fulfilment of the purposes for which nature intended them--the Mahars, too, might consider our welfare better conserved in captivity than among the dangers of the savage freedom we craved. Naturally, I was next impelled to inquire their further intent.
To my question, put through the Sagoth interpreter, I received the reply that having spared my life they con- sidered that Tu-al-sa's debt of gratitude was canceled. They still had against me, however, the crime of which I had been guilty--the unforgivable crime of stealing the great secret. They, therefore, intended holding Dian and me prisoners until the manuscript was returned to them.
They would, they said, send an escort of Sagoths with me to fetch the precious document from its hiding-place, keeping Dian at Phutra as a hostage and releasing us both the moment that the document was safely restored to their queen.
There was no doubt but that they had the upper hand. However, there was so much more at stake than the liberty or even the lives of Dian and myself, that I did not deem it expedient to accept their offer without giving the matter careful thought.
Without the great secret this maleless race must even- tually become extinct. For ages they had fertilized their eggs by an artificial process, the secret of which lay hidden in the little cave of a far-off valley where Dian and I had spent our honeymoon. I was none too sure that I could find the valley again, nor that I cared to. So long as the powerful reptilian race of Pellucidar continued to propagate, just so long would the position of man within the inner world be jeopardized. There could not be two dominant races.I said as much to Dian.
"You used to tell me," she replied, "of the wonderful things you could accomplish with the inventions of your own world. Now you have returned with all that is necessary to place this great power in the hands of the men of Pellucidar."You told me of great engines of destruction which would cast a bursting ball of metal among our enemies, killing hundreds of them at one time.
"You told me of mighty fortresses of stone which a thousand men armed with big and little engines such as these could hold forever against a million Sagoths. "You told me of great canoes which moved across the water without paddles, and which spat death from holes in their sides."All these may now belong to the men of Pellucidar. Why should we fear the Mahars? "Let them breed! Let their numbers increase by thou- sands. They will be helpless before the power of the Emperor of Pellucidar. "But if you remain a prisoner in Phutra, what may we accomplish? "What could the men of Pellucidar do without you to lead them?
"They would fight among themselves, and while they fought the Mahars would fall upon them, and even though the Mahar race should die out, of what value would the emancipation of the human race be to them without the knowledge, which you alone may wield, to guide them toward the wonderful civilization of which you have told me so much that I long for its comforts and luxuries as I never before longed for anything."No, David; the Mahars cannot harm us if you are at liberty. Let them have their secret that you and I may return to our people, and lead them to the conquest of all Pellucidar."
It was plain that Dian was ambitious, and that her ambition had not dulled her reasoning faculties. She was right. Nothing could be gained by remaining bottled up in Phutra for the rest of our lives.
It was true that Perry might do much with the con- tents of the prospector, or iron mole, in which I had brought down the implements of outer-world civiliza- tion; but Perry was a man of peace.
He could never weld the warring factions of the disrupted federation. He could never win new tribes to the empire. He would fiddle around manufacturing gun-powder and trying to improve upon it until some one blew him up with his own invention. He wasn't practical. He never would get anywhere without a balance-wheel--without some one to direct his energies.Perry needed me and I needed him. If we were going to do anything for Pellucidar we must be free to do it together.
The outcome of it all was that I agreed to the Mahars' proposition. They promised that Dian would be well treated and protected from every indignity during my absence. So I set out with a hundred Sagoths in search of the little valley which I had stumbled upon by acci- dent, and which I might and might not find again.
We traveled directly toward Sari. Stopping at the camp where I had been captured I recovered my express rifle, for which I was very thankful. I found it lying where I had left it when I had been overpowered in my sleep by the Sagoths who bad captured me and slain my Mezop companions.
On the way I added materially to my map, an occu- pation which did not elicit from the Sagoths even a shadow of interest. I felt that the human race of Pelluci- dar had little to fear from these gorilla-men. They were fighters--that was all. We might even use them later ourselves in this same capacity. They had not sufficient brain power to constitute a menace to the advancement of the human race.
As we neared the spot where I hoped to find the little valley I became more and more confident of success. Every landmark was familiar to me, and I was sure now that I knew the exact location of the cave.
It was at about this time that I sighted a number of the half-naked warriors of the human race of Pellucidar. They were marching across our front. At sight of us they halted; that there would be a fight I could not doubt. These Sagoths would never permit an opportunity for the capture of slaves for their Mahar masters to escape them.
I saw that the men were armed with bows and arrows, long lances and swords, so I guessed that they must have been members of the federation, for only my people had been thus equipped. Before Perry and I came the men of Pellucidar had only the crudest weapons wherewith to slay one another.The Sagoths, too, were evidently expecting battle. With savage shouts they rushed forward toward the human warriors.
Then a strange thing happened. The leader of the human beings stepped forward with upraised hands. The Sagoths ceased their war-cries and advanced slowly to meet him. There was a long parley during which I could see that I was often the subject of their discourse. The Sagoths' leader pointed in the direction in which I had told him the valley lay. Evidently he was explaining the nature of our expedition to the leader of the warriors. It was all a puzzle to me.What human being could be upon such excellent terms with the gorilla-men?
I couldn't imagine. I tried to get a good look at the fellow, but the Sagoths had left me in the rear with a guard when they had advanced to battle, and the dis- tance was too great for me to recognize the features of any of the human beings.
Finally the parley was concluded and the men con- tinued on their way while the Sagoths returned to where I stood with my guard. It was time for eating, so we stopped where we were and made our meal. The Sa- goths didn't tell me who it was they had met, and I did not ask, though I must confess that I was quite curious.
They permitted me to sleep at this halt. Afterward we took up the last leg of our journey. I found the valley without difficulty and led my guard directly to the cave. At its mouth the Sagoths halted and I entered alone.
I noticed as I felt about the floor in the dim light that there was a pile of fresh-turned rubble there. Presently my hands came to the spot where the great secret had been buried. There was a cavity where I had carefully smoothed the earth over the hiding-place of the docu- ment--the manuscript was gone!
Frantically I searched the whole interior of the cave several times over, but without other result than a com- plete confirmation of my worst fears. Someone had been here ahead of me and stolen the great secret.
The one thing within Pellucidar which might free Dian and me was gone, nor was it likely that I should ever learn its whereabouts. If a Mahar had found it, which was quite improbable, the chances were that the dominant race would never divulge the fact that they had recovered the precious document. If a cave man had happened upon it he would have no conception of its meaning or value, and as a consequence it would be lost or destroyed in short order.
With bowed head and broken hopes I came out of the cave and told the Sagoth chieftain what I had dis- covered. It didn't mean much to the fellow, who doubt- less had but little better idea of the contents of the document I had been sent to fetch to his masters than would the cave man who in all probability had dis- covered it.
The Sagoth knew only that I had failed in my mission, so he took advantage of the fact to make the return journey to Phutra as disagreeable as possible. I did not rebel, though I had with me the means to destroy them all.
I did not dare rebel because of the consequences to Dian. I intended demanding her release on the grounds that she was in no way guilty of the theft, and that my failure to recover the document had not lessened the value of the good faith I had had in offering to do so. The Mahars might keep me in slavery if they chose, but Dian should be returned safely to her people.
I was full of my scheme when we entered Phutra and I was conducted directly to the great audience-chamber. The Mahars listened to the report of the Sagoth chief- tain, and so difficult is it to judge their emotions from their almost expressionless countenance, that I was at a loss to know how terrible might be their wrath as they learned that their great secret, upon which rested the fate of their race, might now be irretrievably lost.
Presently I could see that she who presided was com- municating something to the Sagoth interpreter--doubt- less something to be transmitted to me which might give me a forewarning of the fate which lay in store for me. One thing I had decided definitely: If they would not free Dian I should turn loose upon Phutra with my little arsenal. Alone I might even win to freedom, and if I could learn where Dian was imprisoned it would be worth the attempt to free her. My thoughts were inter- rupted by the interpreter.
"The mighty Mahars," he said, "are unable to reconcile your statement that the document is lost with your action in sending it to them by a special messenger. They wish to know if you have so soon forgotten the truth or if you are merely ignoring it.""I sent them no document," I cried. "Ask them what they mean."
"They say," he went on after conversing with the Mahar for a moment, "that just before your return to Phutra, Hooja the Sly One came, bringing the great secret with him. He said that you had sent him ahead with it, asking him to deliver it and return to Sari where you would await him, bringing the girl with him.""Dian?" I gasped. "The Mahars have given over Dian into the keeping of Hooja." "Surely," he replied. "What of it? She is only a gilak," as you or I would say, "She is only a cow."
The Mahars set me free as they had promised, but with strict injunctions never to approach Phutra or any other Mahar city. They also made it perfectly plain that they considered me a dangerous creature, and that having wiped the slate clean in so far as they were under obligations to me, they now considered me fair prey. Should I again fall into their hands, they intimated it would go ill with me.
They would not tell me in which direction Hooja had set forth with Dian, so I departed from Phutra, filled with bitterness against the Mahars, and rage toward the Sly One who had once again robbed me of my greatest treasure.
At first I was minded to go directly back to Anoroc; but upon second thought turned my face toward Sari, as I felt that somewhere in that direction Hooja would travel, his own country lying in that general direction.
Of my journey to Sari it is only necessary to say that it was fraught with the usual excitement and adventure, incident to all travel across the face of savage Pellucidar. The dangers, however, were greatly reduced through the medium of my armament. I often wondered how it had happened that I had ever survived the first ten years of my life within the inner world, when, naked and primitively armed, I had traversed great areas of her beast-ridden surface.
With the aid of my map, which I had kept with great care during my march with the Sagoths in search of the great secret, I arrived at Sari at last. As I topped the lofty plateau in whose rocky cliffs the principal tribe of Sarians find their cave-homes, a great hue and cry arose from those who first discovered me.
Like wasps from their nests the hairy warriors poured from their caves. The bows with their poison-tipped arrows, which I had taught them to fashion and to use, were raised against me. Swords of hammered iron-- another of my innovations--menaced me, as with lusty shouts the horde charged down.
It was a critical moment. Before I should be recog- nized I might be dead. It was evident that all semblance of intertribal relationship had ceased with my going, and that my people had reverted to their former savage, suspicious hatred of all strangers. My garb must have puzzled them, too, for never before of course had they seen a man clothed in khaki and puttees.
Leaning my express rifle against my body I raised both hands aloft. It was the peace-sign that is recognized everywhere upon the surface of Pellucidar. The charging warriors paused and surveyed me. I looked for my friend Ghak, the Hairy One, king of Sari, and presently I saw him coming from a distance. Ah, but it was good to see his mighty, hairy form once more! A friend was Ghak--a friend well worth the having; and it had been some time since I had seen a friend.
Shouldering his way through the throng of warriors, the mighty chieftain advanced toward me. There was an expression of puzzlement upon his fine features. He crossed the space between the warriors and myself, halt- ing before me.
I did not speak. I did not even smile. I wanted to see if Ghak, my principal lieutenant, would recognize me. For some time he stood there looking me over carefully. His eyes took in my large pith helmet, my khaki jacket, and bandoleers of cartridges, the two revolvers swinging at my hips, the large rifle resting against my body. Still I stood with my hands above my head. He examined my puttees and my strong tan shoes--a little the worse for wear now. Then he glanced up once more to my face. As his gaze rested there quite steadily for some moments I saw recognition tinged with awe creep across his countenance.
Presently without a word he took one of my hands in his and dropping to one knee raised my fingers to his lips. Perry had taught them this trick, nor ever did the most polished courtier of all the grand courts of Europe perform the little act of homage with greater grace and dignity.
Quickly I raised Ghak to his feet, clasping both his hands in mine. I think there must have been tears in my eyes then--I know I felt too full for words. The king of Sari turned toward his warriors."Our emperor has come back," he announced. "Come hither and--"
But he got no further, for the shouts that broke from those savage throats would have drowned the voice of heaven itself. I had never guessed how much they thought of me. As they clustered around, almost fighting for the chance to kiss my hand, I saw again the vision of empire which I had thought faded forever.
With such as these I could conquer a world. With such as these I WOULD conquer one! If the Sarians had remained loyal, so too would the Amozites be loyal still, and the Kalians, and the Suvians, and all the great tribes who had formed the federation that was to eman- cipate the human race of Pellucidar.Perry was safe with the Mezops; I was safe with the Sarians; now if Dian were but safe with me the future would look bright indeed.
It did not take long to outline to Ghak all that had befallen me since I had departed from Pellucidar, and to get down to the business of finding Dian, which to me at that moment was of even greater importance than the very empire itself.When I told him that Hooja had stolen her, he stamped his foot in rage.
"It is always the Sly One!" he cried. "It was Hooja who caused the first trouble between you and the Beautiful One.
"It was Hooja who betrayed our trust, and all but caused our recapture by the Sagoths that time we escaped from Phutra.
"He has become a very powerful enemy now," I re- plied. "That he is allied in some way with the Mahars is evidenced by the familiarity of his relations with the Sagoths who were accompanying me in search of the great secret, for it must have been Hooja whom I saw conversing with them just before we reached the valley. Doubtless they told him of our quest and he hastened on ahead of us, discovered the cave and stole the document. Well does he deserve his appellation of the Sly One."
With Ghak and his head men I held a number of consultations. The upshot of them was a decision to com- bine our search for Dian with an attempt to rebuild the crumbled federation. To this end twenty warriors were despatched in pairs to ten of the leading kingdoms, with instructions to make every effort to discover the where- abouts of Hooja and Dian, while prosecuting their missions to the chieftains to whom they were sent.
Ghak was to remain at home to receive the various delegations which we invited to come to Sari on the business of the federation. Four hundred warriors were started for Anoroc to fetch Perry and the contents of the prospector, to the capitol of the empire, which was also the principal settlements of the Sarians.
At first it was intended that I remain at Sari, that I might be in readiness to hasten forth at the first report of the discovery of Dian; but I found the inaction in the face of my deep solicitude for the welfare of my mate so galling that scarce had the several units departed upon their missions before I, too, chafed to be actively engaged upon the search.
It was after my second sleep, subsequent to the de- parture of the warriors, as I recall that I at last went to Ghak with the admission that I could no longer support the intolerable longing to be personally upon the trail of my lost love.
Ghak tried to dissuade me, though I could tell that his heart was with me in my wish to be away and really doing something. It was while we were arguing upon the subject that a stranger, with hands above his head, entered the village. He was immediately surrounded by warriors and conducted to Ghak's presence.
The fellow was a typical cave man--squat muscular, and hairy, and of a type I had not seen before. His features, like those of all the primeval men of Pellucidar, were regular and fine. His weapons consisted of a stone ax and knife and a heavy knobbed bludgeon of wood. His skin was very white.
"I am Kolk, son of Goork, who is chief of the Thurians," replied the stranger. "From Thuria I have come in search of the land of Amoz, where dwells Dacor, the Strong One, who stole my sister, Canda, the Grace- ful One, to be his mate.
"We of Thuria had heard of a great chieftain who has bound together many tribes, and my father has sent me to Dacor to learn if there be truth in these stories, and if so to offer the services of Thuria to him whom we have heard called emperor.""The stories are true," replied Ghak, "and here is the emperor of whom you have heard. You need travel no farther." Kolk was delighted. He told us much of the wonderful resources of Thuria, the Land of Awful Shadow, and of his long journey in search of Amoz. "And why," I asked, "does Goork, your father, desire to join his kingdom to the empire?"
"There are two reasons," replied the young man. "For- ever have the Mahars, who dwell beyond the Lidi Plains which lie at the farther rim of the Land of Awful Shadow, taken heavy toll of our people, whom they either force into lifelong slavery or fatten for their feasts. We have heard that the great emperor makes successful war upon the Mahars, against whom we should be glad to fight.
"Recently has another reason come. Upon a great island which lies in the Sojar Az, but a short distance from our shores, a wicked man has collected a great band of outcast warriors of all tribes. Even are there many Sagoths among them, sent by the Mahars to aid the Wicked One.
"This band makes raids upon our villages, and it is constantly growing in size and strength, for the Mahars give liberty to any of their male prisoners who will promise to fight with this band against the enemies of the Mahars. It is the purpose of the Mahars thus to raise a force of our own kind to combat the growth and menace of the new empire of which I have come to seek information. All this we learned from one of our own warriors who had pretended to sympathize with this band and had then escaped at the first opportunity.""Who could this man be," I asked Ghak, "who leads so vile a movement against his own kind?"
"His name is Hooja," spoke up Kolk, answering my question. Ghak and I looked at each other. Relief was written upon his countenance and I know that it was beating strongly in my heart. At last we had discovered a tan- gible clue to the whereabouts of Hooja--and with the clue a guide!
But when I broached the subject to Kolk he demurred. He had come a long way, he explained, to see his sister and to confer with Dacor. Moreover, he had instructions from his father which he could not ignore lightly. But even so he would return with me and show me the way to the island of the Thurian shore if by doing so we might accomplish anything.
"But we cannot," he urged. "Hooja is powerful. He has thousands of warriors. He has only to call upon his Mahar allies to receive a countless horde of Sagoths to do his bidding against his human enemies."Let us wait until you may gather an equal horde from the kingdoms of your empire. Then we may march against Hooja with some show of success. "But first must you lure him to the mainland, for who among you knows how to construct the strange things that carry Hooja and his band back and forth across the water? "We are not island people. We do not go upon the water. We know nothing of such things."
I couldn't persuade him to do more than direct me upon the way. I showed him my map, which now in- cluded a great area of country extending from Anoroc upon the east to Sari upon the west, and from the river south of the Mountains of the Clouds north to Amoz. As soon as I had explained it to him he drew a line with his finger, showing a sea-coast far to the west and south of Sari, and a great circle which he said marked the extent of the Land of Awful Shadow in which lay Thuria.
The shadow extended southeast of the coast out into the sea half-way to a large island, which he said was the seat of Hooja's traitorous government. The island itself lay in the light of the noonday sun. Northwest of the coast and embracing a part of Thuria lay the Lidi Plains, upon the northwestern verge of which was situ- ated the Mahar city which took such heavy toll of the Thurians.Thus were the unhappy people now between two fires, with Hooja upon one side and the Mahars upon the other. I did not wonder that they sent out an appeal for succor.
Though Ghak and Kolk both attempted to dissuade me, I was determined to set out at once, nor did I delay longer than to make a copy of my map to be given to Perry that he might add to his that which I had set down since we parted. I left a letter for him as well, in which among other things I advanced the theory that the Sojar Az, or Great Sea, which Kolk mentioned as stretching eastward from Thuria, might indeed be the same mighty ocean as that which, swinging around the southern end of a continent ran northward along the shore opposite Phutra, mingling its waters with the huge gulf upon which lay Sari, Amoz, and Greenwich.
Against this possibility I urged him to hasten the building of a fleet of small sailingvessels, which we might utilize should I find it impossible to entice Hooja's horde to the mainland.
I told Ghak what I had written, and suggested that as soon as he could he should make new treaties with the various kingdoms of the empire, collect an army and march toward Thuria--this of course against the possi- bility of my detention through some cause or other.
Kolk gave me a sign to his father--a lidi, or beast of burden, crudely scratched upon a bit of bone, and be- neath the lidi a man and a flower; all very rudely done perhaps, but none the less effective as I well knew from my long years among the primitive men of Pellucidar.
The lidi is the tribal beast of the Thurians; the man and the flower in the combination in which they ap- peared bore a double significance, as they constituted not only a message to the effect that the bearer came in peace, but were also Kolk's signature.And so, armed with my credentials and my small arsenal, I set out alone upon my quest for the dearest girl in this world or yours.
Kolk gave me explicit directions, though with my map I do not believe that I could have gone wrong. As a matter of fact I did not need the map at all, since the principal landmark of the first half of my journey, a gi- gantic mountainpeak, was plainly visible from Sari, though a good hundred miles away.
At the southern base of this mountain a river rose and ran in a westerly direction, finally turning south and emptying into the Sojar Az some forty miles northeast of Thuria. All that I had to do was follow this river to the sea and then follow the coast to Thuria.
Two hundred and forty miles of wild mountain and primeval jungle, of untracked plain, of nameless rivers, of deadly swamps and savage forests lay ahead of me, yet never had I been more eager for an adventure than now, for never had more depended upon haste and success.
I do not know how long a time that journey required, and only half did I appreciate the varied wonders that each new march unfolded before me, for my mind and heart were filled with but a single image--that of a perfect girl whose great, dark eyes looked bravely forth from a frame of raven hair.
It was not until I had passed the high peak and found the river that my eyes first discovered the pendent world, the tiny satellite which hangs low over the surface of Pellucidar casting its perpetual shadow always upon the same spot--the area that is known here as the Land of Awful Shadow, in which dwells the tribe of Thuria.
From the distance and the elevation of the highlands where I stood the Pellucidarian noonday moon showed half in sunshine and half in shadow, while directly be- neath it was plainly visible the round dark spot upon the surface of Pellucidar where the sun has never shone. From where I stood the moon appeared to hang so low above the ground as almost to touch it; but later I was to learn that it floats a mile above the surface--which seems indeed quite close for a moon.
Following the river downward I soon lost sight of the tiny planet as I entered the mazes of a lofty forest. Nor did I catch another glimpse of it for some time--several marches at least. However, when the river led me to the sea, or rather just before it reached the sea, of a sudden the sky became overcast and the size and luxuriance of the vegetation diminished as by magic--as if an omni- potent hand had drawn a line upon the earth, and said:
"Upon this side shall the trees and the shrubs, the grasses and the flowers, riot in profusion of rich colors, gigantic size and bewildering abundance; and upon that side shall they be dwarfed and pale and scant."
Instantly I looked above, for clouds are so uncommon in the skies of Pellucidar--they are practically unknown except above the mightiest mountain ranges--that it had given me something of a start to discover the sun obliterated. But I was not long in coming to a realization of the cause of the shadow.
Above me hung another world. I could see its moun- tains and valleys, oceans, lakes, and rivers, its broad, grassy plains and dense forests. But too great was the distance and too deep the shadow of its under side for me to distinguish any movement as of animal life.Instantly a great curiosity was awakened within me. The questions which the sight of this planet, so tanta- lizingly close, raised in my mind were numerous and unanswerable. Was it inhabited? If so, by what manner and form of creature?
Were its people as relatively diminutive as their little world, or were they as disproportionately huge as the lesser attraction of gravity upon the surface of their globe would permit of their being?
As I watched it, I saw that it was revolving upon an axis that lay parallel to the surface of Pellucidar, so that during each revolution its entire surface was once ex- posed to the world below and once bathed in the heat of the great sun above. The little world had that which Pellucidar could not have--a day and night, and-- greatest of boons to one outerearthly born--time.
Here I saw a chance to give time to Pellucidar, using this mighty clock, revolving perpetually in the heavens, to record the passage of the hours for the earth below. Here should be located an observatory, from which might be flashed by wireless to every corner of the em- pire the correct time once each day. That this time would be easily measured I had no doubt, since so plain were the landmarks upon the under surface of the satellite that it would be but necessary to erect a simple instrument and mark the instant of passage of a given landmark across the instrument.
But then was not the time for dreaming; I must de- vote my mind to the purpose of my journey. So I hastened onward beneath the great shadow. As I ad- vanced I could not but note the changing nature of the vegetation and the paling of its hues.
The river led me a short distance within the shadow before it emptied into the Sojar Az. Then I continued in a southerly direction along the coast toward the village of Thuria, where I hoped to find Goork and deliver to him my credentials.
I had progressed no great distance from the mouth of the river when I discerned, lying some distance at sea, a great island. This I assumed to be the stronghold of Hooja, nor did I doubt that upon it even now was Dian.
The way was most difficult, since shortly after leaving the river I encountered lofty cliffs split by numerous long, narrow fiords, each of which necessitated a con- siderable detour. As the crow flies it is about twenty miles from the mouth of the river to Thuria, but be- fore I had covered half of it I was fagged. There was no familiar fruit or vegetable growing upon the rocky soil of the cliff-tops, and I would have fared ill for food had not a hare broken cover almost beneath my nose.
I carried bow and arrows to conserve my ammunition- supply, but so quick was the little animal that I had no time to draw and fit a shaft. In fact my dinner was a hundred yards away and going like the proverbial bat when I dropped my six-shooter on it. It was a pretty shot and when coupled with a good dinner made me quite contented with myself.
After eating I lay down and slept. When I awoke I was scarcely so self-satisfied, for I had not more than opened my eyes before I became aware of the presence, barely a hundred yards from me, of a pack of some twenty huge wolf-dogs--the things which Perry insisted upon calling hyaenodons--and almost simultaneously I discovered that while I slept my revolvers, rifle, bow, arrows, and knife had been stolen from me.And the wolf-dog pack was preparing to rush me.