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At the Earth's Core by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part 3 out of 3

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As we drew nearer the barrier cliffs and no sign of rescuing Sarians
appeared Ghak became both angry and alarmed, and presently as the
sound of rapidly approaching pursuit fell upon our ears, he called
to me over his shoulder that we were lost.

A backward glance gave me a glimpse of the first of the Sagoths at
the far end of a considerable stretch of canyon through which we
had just passed, and then a sudden turning shut the ugly creature
from my view; but the loud howl of triumphant rage which rose behind
us was evidence that the gorilla-man had sighted us.

Again the canyon veered sharply to the left, but to the right another
branch ran on at a lesser deviation from the general direction, so
that appeared more like the main canyon than the lefthand branch.
The Sagoths were now not over two hundred and fifty yards behind
us, and I saw that it was hopeless for us to expect to escape other
than by a ruse. There was a bare chance of saving Ghak and Perry,
and as I reached the branching of the canyon I took the chance.

Pausing there I waited until the foremost Sagoth hove into sight.
Ghak and Perry had disappeared around a bend in the left-hand canyon,
and as the Sagoth's savage yell announced that he had seen me I
turned and fled up the right-hand branch. My ruse was successful,
and the entire party of man-hunters raced headlong after me up one
canyon while Ghak bore Perry to safety up the other.

Running has never been my particular athletic forte, and now when
my very life depended upon fleetness of foot I cannot say that I
ran any better than on the occasions when my pitiful base running
had called down upon my head the rooter's raucous and reproachful
cries of "Ice Wagon," and "Call a cab."

The Sagoths were gaining on me rapidly. There was one in particular,
fleeter than his fellows, who was perilously close. The canyon had
become a rocky slit, rising roughly at a steep angle toward what
seemed a pass between two abutting peaks. What lay beyond I could
not even guess--possibly a sheer drop of hundreds of feet into the
corresponding valley upon the other side. Could it be that I had
plunged into a cul-de-sac?

Realizing that I could not hope to outdistance the Sagoths to the
top of the canyon I had determined to risk all in an attempt to
check them temporarily, and to this end had unslung my rudely made
bow and plucked an arrow from the skin quiver which hung behind my
shoulder. As I fitted the shaft with my right hand I stopped and
wheeled toward the gorilla-man.

In the world of my birth I never had drawn a shaft, but since our
escape from Phutra I had kept the party supplied with small game
by means of my arrows, and so, through necessity, had developed
a fair degree of accuracy. During our flight from Phutra I had
restrung my bow with a piece of heavy gut taken from a huge tiger
which Ghak and I had worried and finally dispatched with arrows,
spear, and sword. The hard wood of the bow was extremely tough
and this, with the strength and elasticity of my new string, gave
me unwonted confidence in my weapon.

Never had I greater need of steady nerves than then--never were my
nerves and muscles under better control. I sighted as carefully
and deliberately as though at a straw target. The Sagoth had never
before seen a bow and arrow, but of a sudden it must have swept over
his dull intellect that the thing I held toward him was some sort
of engine of destruction, for he too came to a halt, simultaneously
swinging his hatchet for a throw. It is one of the many methods in
which they employ this weapon, and the accuracy of aim which they
achieve, even under the most unfavorable circumstances, is little
short of miraculous.

My shaft was drawn back its full length--my eye had centered
its sharp point upon the left breast of my adversary; and then
he launched his hatchet and I released my arrow. At the instant
that our missiles flew I leaped to one side, but the Sagoth sprang
forward to follow up his attack with a spear thrust. I felt the
swish of the hatchet at it grazed my head, and at the same instant
my shaft pierced the Sagoth's savage heart, and with a single groan
he lunged almost at my feet--stone dead. Close behind him were two
more--fifty yards perhaps--but the distance gave me time to snatch
up the dead guardsman's shield, for the close call his hatchet had
just given me had borne in upon me the urgent need I had for one.
Those which I had purloined at Phutra we had not been able to bring
along because their size precluded our concealing them within the
skins of the Mahars which had brought us safely from the city.

With the shield slipped well up on my left arm I let fly with
another arrow, which brought down a second Sagoth, and then as his
fellow's hatchet sped toward me I caught it upon the shield, and
fitted another shaft for him; but he did not wait to receive it.
Instead, he turned and retreated toward the main body of gorilla-men.
Evidently he had seen enough of me for the moment.

Once more I took up my flight, nor were the Sagoths apparently
overanxious to press their pursuit so closely as before. Unmolested
I reached the top of the canyon where I found a sheer drop of two
or three hundred feet to the bottom of a rocky chasm; but on the
left a narrow ledge rounded the shoulder of the overhanging cliff.
Along this I advanced, and at a sudden turning, a few yards beyond
the canyon's end, the path widened, and at my left I saw the opening
to a large cave. Before, the ledge continued until it passed from
sight about another projecting buttress of the mountain.

Here, I felt, I could defy an army, for but a single foeman could
advance upon me at a time, nor could he know that I was awaiting
him until he came full upon me around the corner of the turn. About
me lay scattered stones crumbled from the cliff above. They were
of various sizes and shapes, but enough were of handy dimensions
for use as ammunition in lieu of my precious arrows. Gathering a
number of stones into a little pile beside the mouth of the cave
I waited the advance of the Sagoths.

As I stood there, tense and silent, listening for the first faint
sound that should announce the approach of my enemies, a slight
noise from within the cave's black depths attracted my attention.
It might have been produced by the moving of the great body of some
huge beast rising from the rock floor of its lair. At almost the
same instant I thought that I caught the scraping of hide sandals
upon the ledge beyond the turn. For the next few seconds my
attention was considerably divided.

And then from the inky blackness at my right I saw two flaming eyes
glaring into mine. They were on a level that was over two feet
above my head. It is true that the beast who owned them might be
standing upon a ledge within the cave, or that it might be rearing
up upon its hind legs; but I had seen enough of the monsters of
Pellucidar to know that I might be facing some new and frightful
Titan whose dimensions and ferocity eclipsed those of any I had
seen before.

Whatever it was, it was coming slowly toward the entrance of the
cave, and now, deep and forbidding, it uttered a low and ominous
growl. I waited no longer to dispute possession of the ledge with
the thing which owned that voice. The noise had not been loud--I
doubt if the Sagoths heard it at all--but the suggestion of latent
possibilities behind it was such that I knew it would only emanate
from a gigantic and ferocious beast.

As I backed along the ledge I soon was past the mouth of the
cave, where I no longer could see those fearful flaming eyes, but
an instant later I caught sight of the fiendish face of a Sagoth
as it warily advanced beyond the cliff's turn on the far side of
the cave's mouth. As the fellow saw me he leaped along the ledge
in pursuit, and after him came as many of his companions as could
crowd upon each other's heels. At the same time the beast emerged
from the cave, so that he and the Sagoths came face to face upon
that narrow ledge.

The thing was an enormous cave bear, rearing its colossal bulk fully
eight feet at the shoulder, while from the tip of its nose to the
end of its stubby tail it was fully twelve feet in length. As it
sighted the Sagoths it emitted a most frightful roar, and with open
mouth charged full upon them. With a cry of terror the foremost
gorilla-man turned to escape, but behind him he ran full upon his
on-rushing companions.

The horror of the following seconds is indescribable. The Sagoth
nearest the cave bear, finding his escape blocked, turned and
leaped deliberately to an awful death upon the jagged rocks three
hundred feet below. Then those giant jaws reached out and gathered
in the next--there was a sickening sound of crushing bones, and
the mangled corpse was dropped over the cliff's edge. Nor did the
mighty beast even pause in his steady advance along the ledge.

Shrieking Sagoths were now leaping madly over the precipice to
escape him, and the last I saw he rounded the turn still pursuing
the demoralized remnant of the man hunters. For a long time I
could hear the horrid roaring of the brute intermingled with the
screams and shrieks of his victims, until finally the awful sounds
dwindled and disappeared in the distance.

Later I learned from Ghak, who had finally come to his tribesmen
and returned with a party to rescue me, that the ryth, as it is
called, pursued the Sagoths until it had exterminated the entire
band. Ghak was, of course, positive that I had fallen prey to the
terrible creature, which, within Pellucidar, is truly the king of
beasts.

Not caring to venture back into the canyon, where I might fall
prey either to the cave bear or the Sagoths I continued on along
the ledge, believing that by following around the mountain I could
reach the land of Sari from another direction. But I evidently
became confused by the twisting and turning of the canyons and
gullies, for I did not come to the land of Sari then, nor for a
long time thereafter.

XIV

THE GARDEN OF EDEN

WITH NO HEAVENLY GUIDE, IT IS LITTLE WONDER that I became confused
and lost in the labyrinthine maze of those mighty hills. What,
in reality, I did was to pass entirely through them and come out
above the valley upon the farther side. I know that I wandered
for a long time, until tired and hungry I came upon a small cave
in the face of the limestone formation which had taken the place
of the granite farther back.

The cave which took my fancy lay halfway up the precipitous side
of a lofty cliff. The way to it was such that I knew no extremely
formidable beast could frequent it, nor was it large enough to make
a comfortable habitat for any but the smaller mammals or reptiles.
Yet it was with the utmost caution that I crawled within its dark
interior.

Here I found a rather large chamber, lighted by a narrow cleft
in the rock above which let the sunlight filter in in sufficient
quantities partially to dispel the utter darkness which I had
expected. The cave was entirely empty, nor were there any signs of
its having been recently occupied. The opening was comparatively
small, so that after considerable effort I was able to lug up a
bowlder from the valley below which entirely blocked it.

Then I returned again to the valley for an armful of grasses and
on this trip was fortunate enough to knock over an orthopi, the
diminutive horse of Pellucidar, a little animal about the size of
a fox terrier, which abounds in all parts of the inner world. Thus,
with food and bedding I returned to my lair, where after a meal
of raw meat, to which I had now become quite accustomed, I dragged
the bowlder before the entrance and curled myself upon a bed of
grasses--a naked, primeval, cave man, as savagely primitive as my
prehistoric progenitors.

I awoke rested but hungry, and pushing the bowlder aside crawled
out upon the little rocky shelf which was my front porch. Before
me spread a small but beautiful valley, through the center of which
a clear and sparkling river wound its way down to an inland sea,
the blue waters of which were just visible between the two mountain
ranges which embraced this little paradise. The sides of the
opposite hills were green with verdure, for a great forest clothed
them to the foot of the red and yellow and copper green of the towering
crags which formed their summit. The valley itself was carpeted
with a luxuriant grass, while here and there patches of wild flowers
made great splashes of vivid color against the prevailing green.

Dotted over the face of the valley were little clusters of palmlike
trees--three or four together as a rule. Beneath these stood
antelope, while others grazed in the open, or wandered gracefully
to a near-by ford to drink. There were several species of this
beautiful animal, the most magnificent somewhat resembling the giant
eland of Africa, except that their spiral horns form a complete
curve backward over their ears and then forward again beneath
them, ending in sharp and formidable points some two feet before
the face and above the eyes. In size they remind one of a pure
bred Hereford bull, yet they are very agile and fast. The broad
yellow bands that stripe the dark roan of their coats made me take
them for zebra when I first saw them. All in all they are handsome
animals, and added the finishing touch to the strange and lovely
landscape that spread before my new home.

I had determined to make the cave my headquarters, and with it as
a base make a systematic exploration of the surrounding country in
search of the land of Sari. First I devoured the remainder of the
carcass of the orthopi I had killed before my last sleep. Then I
hid the Great Secret in a deep niche at the back of my cave, rolled
the bowlder before my front door, and with bow, arrows, sword, and
shield scrambled down into the peaceful valley.

The grazing herds moved to one side as I passed through them, the
little orthopi evincing the greatest wariness and galloping to
safest distances. All the animals stopped feeding as I approached,
and after moving to what they considered a safe distance stood
contemplating me with serious eyes and up-cocked ears. Once one
of the old bull antelopes of the striped species lowered his head
and bellowed angrily--even taking a few steps in my direction,
so that I thought he meant to charge; but after I had passed, he
resumed feeding as though nothing had disturbed him.

Near the lower end of the valley I passed a number of tapirs, and
across the river saw a great sadok, the enormous double-horned
progenitor of the modern rhinoceros. At the valley's end the
cliffs upon the left ran out into the sea, so that to pass around
them as I desired to do it was necessary to scale them in search of
a ledge along which I might continue my journey. Some fifty feet
from the base I came upon a projection which formed a natural path
along the face of the cliff, and this I followed out over the sea
toward the cliff's end.

Here the ledge inclined rapidly upward toward the top of the
cliffs--the stratum which formed it evidently having been forced up
at this steep angle when the mountains behind it were born. As I
climbed carefully up the ascent my attention suddenly was attracted
aloft by the sound of strange hissing, and what resembled the
flapping of wings.

And at the first glance there broke upon my horrified vision the
most frightful thing I had seen even within Pellucidar. It was a
giant dragon such as is pictured in the legends and fairy tales of
earth folk. Its huge body must have measured forty feet in length,
while the batlike wings that supported it in midair had a spread of
fully thirty. Its gaping jaws were armed with long, sharp teeth,
and its claw equipped with horrible talons.

The hissing noise which had first attracted my attention was issuing
from its throat, and seemed to be directed at something beyond
and below me which I could not see. The ledge upon which I stood
terminated abruptly a few paces farther on, and as I reached the
end I saw the cause of the reptile's agitation.

Some time in past ages an earthquake had produced a fault at this
point, so that beyond the spot where I stood the strata had slipped
down a matter of twenty feet. The result was that the continuation
of my ledge lay twenty feet below me, where it ended as abruptly
as did the end upon which I stood.

And here, evidently halted in flight by this insurmountable break
in the ledge, stood the object of the creature's attack--a girl
cowering upon the narrow platform, her face buried in her arms, as
though to shut out the sight of the frightful death which hovered
just above her.

The dragon was circling lower, and seemed about to dart in upon
its prey. There was no time to be lost, scarce an instant in which
to weigh the possible chances that I had against the awfully armed
creature; but the sight of that frightened girl below me called
out to all that was best in me, and the instinct for protection
of the other sex, which nearly must have equaled the instinct of
self-preservation in primeval man, drew me to the girl's side like
an irresistible magnet.

Almost thoughtless of the consequences, I leaped from the end of
the ledge upon which I stood, for the tiny shelf twenty feet below.
At the same instant the dragon darted in toward the girl, but my
sudden advent upon the scene must have startled him for he veered
to one side, and then rose above us once more.

The noise I made as I landed beside her convinced the girl that the
end had come, for she thought I was the dragon; but finally when
no cruel fangs closed upon her she raised her eyes in astonishment.
As they fell upon me the expression that came into them would be
difficult to describe; but her feelings could scarcely have been
one whit more complicated than my own--for the wide eyes that looked
into mine were those of Dian the Beautiful.

"Dian!" I cried. "Dian! Thank God that I came in time."

"You?" she whispered, and then she hid her face again; nor could
I tell whether she were glad or angry that I had come.

Once more the dragon was sweeping toward us, and so rapidly that I
had no time to unsling my bow. All that I could do was to snatch
up a rock, and hurl it at the thing's hideous face. Again my aim
was true, and with a hiss of pain and rage the reptile wheeled once
more and soared away.

Quickly I fitted an arrow now that I might be ready at the
next attack, and as I did so I looked down at the girl, so that I
surprised her in a surreptitious glance which she was stealing at
me; but immediately, she again covered her face with her hands.

"Look at me, Dian," I pleaded. "Are you not glad to see me?"

She looked straight into my eyes.

"I hate you," she said, and then, as I was about to beg for a fair
hearing she pointed over my shoulder. "The thipdar comes," she
said, and I turned again to meet the reptile.

So this was a thipdar. I might have known it. The cruel bloodhound
of the Mahars. The long-extinct pterodactyl of the outer world.
But this time I met it with a weapon it never had faced before. I
had selected my longest arrow, and with all my strength had bent
the bow until the very tip of the shaft rested upon the thumb of
my left hand, and then as the great creature darted toward us I
let drive straight for that tough breast.

Hissing like the escape valve of a steam engine, the mighty creature
fell turning and twisting into the sea below, my arrow buried
completely in its carcass. I turned toward the girl. She was
looking past me. It was evident that she had seen the thipdar die.

"Dian," I said, "won't you tell me that you are not sorry that I
have found you?"

"I hate you," was her only reply; but I imagined that there was less
vehemence in it than before--yet it might have been but my imagination.

"Why do you hate me, Dian?" I asked, but she did not answer me.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, "and what has happened to you
since Hooja freed you from the Sagoths?"

At first I thought that she was going to ignore me entirely, but
finally she thought better of it.

"I was again running away from Jubal the Ugly One," she said.
"After I escaped from the Sagoths I made my way alone back to my
own land; but on account of Jubal I did not dare enter the villages
or let any of my friends know that I had returned for fear that
Jubal might find out. By watching for a long time I found that my
brother had not yet returned, and so I continued to live in a cave
beside a valley which my race seldom frequents, awaiting the time
that he should come back and free me from Jubal.

"But at last one of Jubal's hunters saw me as I was creeping toward
my father's cave to see if my brother had yet returned and he gave
the alarm and Jubal set out after me. He has been pursuing me
across many lands. He cannot be far behind me now. When he comes
he will kill you and carry me back to his cave. He is a terrible
man. I have gone as far as I can go, and there is no escape," and
she looked hopelessly up at the continuation of the ledge twenty
feet above us.

"But he shall not have me," she suddenly cried, with great vehemence.
"The sea is there"--she pointed over the edge of the cliff--"and
the sea shall have me rather than Jubal."

"But I have you now Dian," I cried; "nor shall Jubal, nor any other
have you, for you are mine," and I seized her hand, nor did I lift
it above her head and let it fall in token of release.

She had risen to her feet, and was looking straight into my eyes
with level gaze.

"I do not believe you," she said, "for if you meant it you would
have done this when the others were present to witness it--then I
should truly have been your mate; now there is no one to see you
do it, for you know that without witnesses your act does not bind
you to me," and she withdrew her hand from mine and turned away.

I tried to convince her that I was sincere, but she simply couldn't
forget the humiliation that I had put upon her on that other
occasion.

"If you mean all that you say you will have ample chance to prove
it," she said, "if Jubal does not catch and kill you. I am in your
power, and the treatment you accord me will be the best proof of
your intentions toward me. I am not your mate, and again I tell
you that I hate you, and that I should be glad if I never saw you
again."

Dian certainly was candid. There was no gainsaying that. In fact
I found candor and directness to be quite a marked characteristic
of the cave men of Pellucidar. Finally I suggested that we make
some attempt to gain my cave, where we might escape the searching
Jubal, for I am free to admit that I had no considerable desire to
meet the formidable and ferocious creature, of whose mighty prowess
Dian had told me when I first met her. He it was who, armed with
a puny knife, had met and killed a cave bear in a hand-to-hand
struggle. It was Jubal who could cast his spear entirely through
the armored carcass of the sadok at fifty paces. It was he who
had crushed the skull of a charging dyryth with a single blow of
his war club. No, I was not pining to meet the Ugly One-and it
was quite certain that I should not go out and hunt for him; but
the matter was taken out of my hands very quickly, as is often the
way, and I did meet Jubal the Ugly One face to face.

This is how it happened. I had led Dian back along the ledge the
way she had come, searching for a path that would lead us to the
top of the cliff, for I knew that we could then cross over to the
edge of my own little valley, where I felt certain we should find
a means of ingress from the cliff top. As we proceeded along the
ledge I gave Dian minute directions for finding my cave against
the chance of something happening to me. I knew that she would be
quite safely hidden away from pursuit once she gained the shelter
of my lair, and the valley would afford her ample means of sustenance.

Also, I was very much piqued by her treatment of me. My heart was
sad and heavy, and I wanted to make her feel badly by suggesting
that something terrible might happen to me--that I might, in fact,
be killed. But it didn't work worth a cent, at least as far as I
could perceive. Dian simply shrugged those magnificent shoulders
of hers, and murmured something to the effect that one was not rid
of trouble so easily as that.

For a while I kept still. I was utterly squelched. And to think
that I had twice protected her from attack--the last time risking
my life to save hers. It was incredible that even a daughter of
the Stone Age could be so ungrateful--so heartless; but maybe her
heart partook of the qualities of her epoch.

Presently we found a rift in the cliff which had been widened and
extended by the action of the water draining through it from the
plateau above. It gave us a rather rough climb to the summit,
but finally we stood upon the level mesa which stretched back for
several miles to the mountain range. Behind us lay the broad inland
sea, curving upward in the horizonless distance to merge into the
blue of the sky, so that for all the world it looked as though the
sea lapped back to arch completely over us and disappear beyond
the distant mountains at our backs--the weird and uncanny aspect
of the seascapes of Pellucidar balk description.

At our right lay a dense forest, but to the left the country was
open and clear to the plateau's farther verge. It was in this
direction that our way led, and we had turned to resume our journey
when Dian touched my arm. I turned to her, thinking that she was
about to make peace overtures; but I was mistaken.

"Jubal," she said, and nodded toward the forest.

I looked, and there, emerging from the dense wood, came a perfect
whale of a man. He must have been seven feet tall, and proportioned
accordingly. He still was too far off to distinguish his features.

"Run," I said to Dian. "I can engage him until you get a good
start. Maybe I can hold him until you have gotten entirely away,"
and then, without a backward glance, I advanced to meet the Ugly
One. I had hoped that Dian would have a kind word to say to me
before she went, for she must have known that I was going to my death
for her sake; but she never even so much as bid me good-bye, and it
was with a heavy heart that I strode through the flower-bespangled
grass to my doom.

When I had come close enough to Jubal to distinguish his features
I understood how it was that he had earned the sobriquet of Ugly
One. Apparently some fearful beast had ripped away one entire
side of his face. The eye was gone, the nose, and all the flesh,
so that his jaws and all his teeth were exposed and grinning through
the horrible scar.

Formerly he may have been as good to look upon as the others of
his handsome race, and it may be that the terrible result of this
encounter had tended to sour an already strong and brutal character.
However this may be it is quite certain that he was not a pretty
sight, and now that his features, or what remained of them, were
distorted in rage at the sight of Dian with another male, he was
indeed most terrible to see--and much more terrible to meet.

He had broken into a run now, and as he advanced he raised his
mighty spear, while I halted and fitting an arrow to my bow took
as steady aim as I could. I was somewhat longer than usual, for I
must confess that the sight of this awful man had wrought upon my
nerves to such an extent that my knees were anything but steady.
What chance had I against this mighty warrior for whom even the
fiercest cave bear had no terrors! Could I hope to best one who
slaughtered the sadok and dyryth singlehanded! I shuddered; but,
in fairness to myself, my fear was more for Dian than for my own
fate.

And then the great brute launched his massive stone-tipped spear,
and I raised my shield to break the force of its terrific velocity.
The impact hurled me to my knees, but the shield had deflected the
missile and I was unscathed. Jubal was rushing upon me now with the
only remaining weapon that he carried--a murderous-looking knife.
He was too close for a careful bowshot, but I let drive at him as
he came, without taking aim. My arrow pierced the fleshy part of
his thigh, inflicting a painful but not disabling wound. And then
he was upon me.

My agility saved me for the instant. I ducked beneath his raised
arm, and when he wheeled to come at me again he found a sword's
point in his face. And a moment later he felt an inch or two of
it in the muscles of his knife arm, so that thereafter he went more
warily.

It was a duel of strategy now--the great, hairy man maneuvering
to get inside my guard where he could bring those giant thews to
play, while my wits were directed to the task of keeping him at
arm's length. Thrice he rushed me, and thrice I caught his knife
blow upon my shield. Each time my sword found his body--once
penetrating to his lung. He was covered with blood by this time,
and the internal hemorrhage induced paroxysms of coughing that
brought the red stream through the hideous mouth and nose, covering
his face and breast with bloody froth. He was a most unlovely
spectacle, but he was far from dead.

As the duel continued I began to gain confidence, for, to be
perfectly candid, I had not expected to survive the first rush of
that monstrous engine of ungoverned rage and hatred. And I think
that Jubal, from utter contempt of me, began to change to a feeling
of respect, and then in his primitive mind there evidently loomed
the thought that perhaps at last he had met his master, and was
facing his end.

At any rate it is only upon this hypothesis that I can account for
his next act, which was in the nature of a last resort--a sort of
forlorn hope, which could only have been born of the belief that
if he did not kill me quickly I should kill him. It happened on
the occasion of his fourth charge, when, instead of striking at me
with his knife, he dropped that weapon, and seizing my sword blade
in both his hands wrenched the weapon from my grasp as easily as
from a babe.

Flinging it far to one side he stood motionless for just an instant
glaring into my face with such a horrid leer of malignant triumph
as to almost unnerve me--then he sprang for me with his bare hands.
But it was Jubal's day to learn new methods of warfare. For the
first time he had seen a bow and arrows, never before that duel had
he beheld a sword, and now he learned what a man who knows may do
with his bare fists.

As he came for me, like a great bear, I ducked again beneath his
outstretched arm, and as I came up planted as clean a blow upon
his jaw as ever you have seen. Down went that great mountain of
flesh sprawling upon the ground. He was so surprised and dazed
that he lay there for several seconds before he made any attempt to
rise, and I stood over him with another dose ready when he should
gain his knees.

Up he came at last, almost roaring in his rage and mortification;
but he didn't stay up--I let him have a left fair on the point of
the jaw that sent him tumbling over on his back. By this time I
think Jubal had gone mad with hate, for no sane man would have come
back for more as many times as he did. Time after time I bowled
him over as fast as he could stagger up, until toward the last he
lay longer on the ground between blows, and each time came up weaker
than before.

He was bleeding very profusely now from the wound in his lungs, and
presently a terrific blow over the heart sent him reeling heavily
to the ground, where he lay very still, and somehow I knew at once
that Jubal the Ugly One would never get up again. But even as I
looked upon that massive body lying there so grim and terrible in
death, I could not believe that I, single-handed, had bested this
slayer of fearful beasts--this gigantic ogre of the Stone Age.

Picking up my sword I leaned upon it, looking down on the dead
body of my foeman, and as I thought of the battle I had just fought
and won a great idea was born in my brain--the outcome of this and
the suggestion that Perry had made within the city of Phutra. If
skill and science could render a comparative pygmy the master of
this mighty brute, what could not the brute's fellows accomplish
with the same skill and science. Why all Pellucidar would be at
their feet--and I would be their king and Dian their queen.

Dian! A little wave of doubt swept over me. It was quite within
the possibilities of Dian to look down upon me even were I king.
She was quite the most superior person I ever had met--with the most
convincing way of letting you know that she was superior. Well,
I could go to the cave, and tell her that I had killed Jubal, and
then she might feel more kindly toward me, since I had freed her
of her tormentor. I hoped that she had found the cave easily--it
would be terrible had I lost her again, and I turned to gather up
my shield and bow to hurry after her, when to my astonishment I
found her standing not ten paces behind me.

"Girl!" I cried, "what are you doing here? I thought that you had
gone to the cave, as I told you to do."

Up went her head, and the look that she gave me took all the majesty
out of me, and left me feeling more like the palace janitor--if
palaces have janitors.

"As you told me to do!" she cried, stamping her little foot. "I
do as I please. I am the daughter of a king, and furthermore, I
hate you."

I was dumbfounded--this was my thanks for saving her from Jubal!
I turned and looked at the corpse. "May be that I saved you from
a worse fate, old man," I said, but I guess it was lost on Dian,
for she never seemed to notice it at all.

"Let us go to my cave," I said, "I am tired and hungry."

She followed along a pace behind me, neither of us speaking. I
was too angry, and she evidently didn't care to converse with the
lower orders. I was mad all the way through, as I had certainly
felt that at least a word of thanks should have rewarded me, for
I knew that even by her own standards, I must have done a very
wonderful thing to have killed the redoubtable Jubal in a hand-to-hand
encounter.

We had no difficulty in finding my lair, and then I went down into
the valley and bowled over a small antelope, which I dragged up the
steep ascent to the ledge before the door. Here we ate in silence.
Occasionally I glanced at her, thinking that the sight of her tearing
at raw flesh with her hands and teeth like some wild animal would
cause a revulsion of my sentiments toward her; but to my surprise
I found that she ate quite as daintily as the most civilized woman
of my acquaintance, and finally I found myself gazing in foolish
rapture at the beauties of her strong, white teeth. Such is love.

After our repast we went down to the river together and bathed
our hands and faces, and then after drinking our fill went back to
the cave. Without a word I crawled into the farthest corner and,
curling up, was soon asleep.

When I awoke I found Dian sitting in the doorway looking out across
the valley. As I came out she moved to one side to let me pass,
but she had no word for me. I wanted to hate her, but I couldn't.
Every time I looked at her something came up in my throat, so that
I nearly choked. I had never been in love before, but I did not
need any aid in diagnosing my case--I certainly had it and had it
bad. God, how I loved that beautiful, disdainful, tantalizing,
prehistoric girl!

After we had eaten again I asked Dian if she intended returning to
her tribe now that Jubal was dead, but she shook her head sadly,
and said that she did not dare, for there was still Jubal's brother
to be considered--his oldest brother.

"What has he to do with it?" I asked. "Does he too want you, or
has the option on you become a family heirloom, to be passed on
down from generation to generation?"

She was not quite sure as to what I meant.

"It is probable," she said, "that they all will want revenge for
the death of Jubal--there are seven of them--seven terrible men.
Someone may have to kill them all, if I am to return to my people."

It began to look as though I had assumed a contract much too large
for me--about seven sizes, in fact.

"Had Jubal any cousins?" I asked. It was just as well to know the
worst at once.

"Yes," replied Dian, "but they don't count--they all have mates.
Jubal's brothers have no mates because Jubal could get none for
himself. He was so ugly that women ran away from him--some have
even thrown themselves from the cliffs of Amoz into the Darel Az
rather than mate with the Ugly One."

"But what had that to do with his brothers?" I asked.

"I forget that you are not of Pellucidar," said Dian, with a look
of pity mixed with contempt, and the contempt seemed to be laid
on a little thicker than the circumstance warranted--as though to
make quite certain that I shouldn't overlook it. "You see," she
continued, "a younger brother may not take a mate until all his
older brothers have done so, unless the older brother waives his
prerogative, which Jubal would not do, knowing that as long as
he kept them single they would be all the keener in aiding him to
secure a mate."

Noticing that Dian was becoming more communicative I began to entertain
hopes that she might be warming up toward me a bit, although upon
what slender thread I hung my hopes I soon discovered.

"As you dare not return to Amoz," I ventured, "what is to become of
you since you cannot be happy here with me, hating me as you do?"

"I shall have to put up with you," she replied coldly, "until you
see fit to go elsewhere and leave me in peace, then I shall get
along very well alone."

I looked at her in utter amazement. It seemed incredible that even
a prehistoric woman could be so cold and heartless and ungrateful.
Then I arose.

"I shall leave you NOW," I said haughtily, "I have had quite enough
of your ingratitude and your insults," and then I turned and strode
majestically down toward the valley. I had taken a hundred steps
in absolute silence, and then Dian spoke.

"I hate you!" she shouted, and her voice broke--in rage, I thought.

I was absolutely miserable, but I hadn't gone too far when I began
to realize that I couldn't leave her alone there without protection,
to hunt her own food amid the dangers of that savage world. She
might hate me, and revile me, and heap indignity after indignity
upon me, as she already had, until I should have hated her; but
the pitiful fact remained that I loved her, and I couldn't leave
her there alone.

The more I thought about it the madder I got, so that by the time
I reached the valley I was furious, and the result of it was that
I turned right around and went up that cliff again as fast as I
had come down. I saw that Dian had left the ledge and gone within
the cave, but I bolted right in after her. She was lying upon her
face on the pile of grasses I had gathered for her bed. When she
heard me enter she sprang to her feet like a tigress.

"I hate you!" she cried.

Coming from the brilliant light of the noonday sun into the
semidarkness of the cave I could not see her features, and I was
rather glad, for I disliked to think of the hate that I should have
read there.

I never said a word to her at first. I just strode across the
cave and grasped her by the wrists, and when she struggled, I put
my arm around her so as to pinion her hands to her sides. She
fought like a tigress, but I took my free hand and pushed her head
back--I imagine that I had suddenly turned brute, that I had gone
back a thousand million years, and was again a veritable cave man
taking my mate by force--and then I kissed that beautiful mouth
again and again.

"Dian," I cried, shaking her roughly, "I love you. Can't you
understand that I love you? That I love you better than all else
in this world or my own? That I am going to have you? That love
like mine cannot be denied?"

I noticed that she lay very still in my arms now, and as my eyes
became accustomed to the light I saw that she was smiling--a very
contented, happy smile. I was thunderstruck. Then I realized that,
very gently, she was trying to disengage her arms, and I loosened
my grip upon them so that she could do so. Slowly they came up and
stole about my neck, and then she drew my lips down to hers once
more and held them there for a long time. At last she spoke.

"Why didn't you do this at first, David? I have been waiting so
long."

"What!" I cried. "You said that you hated me!"

"Did you expect me to run into your arms, and say that I loved you
before I knew that you loved me?" she asked.

"But I have told you right along that I love you," I said. "Love
speaks in acts," she replied. "You could have made your mouth say
what you wished it to say, but just now when you came and took me
in your arms your heart spoke to mine in the language that a woman's
heart understands. What a silly man you are, David?"

"Then you haven't hated me at all, Dian?" I asked.

"I have loved you always," she whispered, "from the first moment
that I saw you, although I did not know it until that time you
struck down Hooja the Sly One, and then spurned me."

"But I didn't spurn you, dear," I cried. "I didn't know your
ways--I doubt if I do now. It seems incredible that you could have
reviled me so, and yet have cared for me all the time."

"You might have known," she said, "when I did not run away from
you that it was not hate which chained me to you. While you were
battling with Jubal, I could have run to the edge of the forest,
and when I learned the outcome of the combat it would have been a
simple thing to have eluded you and returned to my own people."

"But Jubal's brothers--and cousins--" I reminded her, "how about
them?"

She smiled, and hid her face on my shoulder.

"I had to tell you SOMETHING, David," she whispered. "I must needs
have SOME excuse for remaining near you."

"You little sinner!" I exclaimed. "And you have caused me all this
anguish for nothing!"

"I have suffered even more," she answered simply, "for I thought
that you did not love me, and I was helpless. I couldn't come
to you and demand that my love be returned, as you have just come
to me. Just now when you went away hope went with you. I was
wretched, terrified, miserable, and my heart was breaking. I wept,
and I have not done that before since my mother died," and now I
saw that there was the moisture of tears about her eyes. It was
near to making me cry myself when I thought of all that poor child
had been through. Motherless and unprotected; hunted across a
savage, primeval world by that hideous brute of a man; exposed to
the attacks of the countless fearsome denizens of its mountains,
its plains, and its jungles--it was a miracle that she had survived
it all.

To me it was a revelation of the things my early forebears must
have endured that the human race of the outer crust might survive.
It made me very proud to think that I had won the love of such
a woman. Of course she couldn't read or write; there was nothing
cultured or refined about her as you judge culture and refinement;
but she was the essence of all that is best in woman, for she was
good, and brave, and noble, and virtuous. And she was all these
things in spite of the fact that their observance entailed suffering
and danger and possible death.

How much easier it would have been to have gone to Jubal in the
first place! She would have been his lawful mate. She would have
been queen in her own land--and it meant just as much to the cave
woman to be a queen in the Stone Age as it does to the woman of
today to be a queen now; it's all comparative glory any way you
look at it, and if there were only half-naked savages on the outer
crust today, you'd find that it would be considerable glory to be
the wife a Dahomey chief.

I couldn't help but compare Dian's action with that of a splendid
young woman I had known in New York--I mean splendid to look at
and to talk to. She had been head over heels in love with a chum
of mine--a clean, manly chap--but she had married a broken-down,
disreputable old debauchee because he was a count in some dinky
little European principality that was not even accorded a distinctive
color by Rand McNally.

Yes, I was mighty proud of Dian.

After a time we decided to set out for Sari, as I was anxious to
see Perry, and to know that all was right with him. I had told
Dian about our plan of emancipating the human race of Pellucidar,
and she was fairly wild over it. She said that if Dacor, her
brother, would only return he could easily be king of Amoz, and
that then he and Ghak could form an alliance. That would give us
a flying start, for the Sarians and the Amozites were both very
powerful tribes. Once they had been armed with swords, and bows
and arrows, and trained in their use we were confident that they
could overcome any tribe that seemed disinclined to join the great
army of federated states with which we were planning to march upon
the Mahars.

I explained the various destructive engines of war which Perry
and I could construct after a little experimentation--gunpowder,
rifles, cannon, and the like, and Dian would clap her hands, and
throw her arms about my neck, and tell me what a wonderful thing
I was. She was beginning to think that I was omnipotent although
I really hadn't done anything but talk--but that is the way with
women when they love. Perry used to say that if a fellow was
one-tenth as remarkable as his wife or mother thought him, he would
have the world by the tail with a down-hill drag.

The first time we started for Sari I stepped into a nest of poisonous
vipers before we reached the valley. A little fellow stung me on
the ankle, and Dian made me come back to the cave. She said that
I mustn't exercise, or it might prove fatal--if it had been a
full-grown snake that struck me she said, I wouldn't have moved a
single pace from the nest--I'd have died in my tracks, so virulent
is the poison. As it was I must have been laid up for quite a
while, though Dian's poultices of herbs and leaves finally reduced
the swelling and drew out the poison.

The episode proved most fortunate, however, as it gave me an idea
which added a thousand-fold to the value of my arrows as missiles
of offense and defense. As soon as I was able to be about again,
I sought out some adult vipers of the species which had stung me,
and having killed them, I extracted their virus, smearing it upon
the tips of several arrows. Later I shot a hyaenodon with one of
these, and though my arrow inflicted but a superficial flesh wound
the beast crumpled in death almost immediately after he was hit.

We now set out once more for the land of the Sarians, and it was with
feelings of sincere regret that we bade good-bye to our beautiful
Garden of Eden, in the comparative peace and harmony of which we
had lived the happiest moments of our lives. How long we had been
there I did not know, for as I have told you, time had ceased to
exist for me beneath that eternal noonday sun--it may have been an
hour, or a month of earthly time; I do not know.

XV

BACK TO EARTH

WE CROSSED THE RIVER AND PASSED THROUGH THE mountains beyond, and
finally we came out upon a great level plain which stretched away
as far as the eye could reach. I cannot tell you in what direction
it stretched even if you would care to know, for all the while that
I was within Pellucidar I never discovered any but local methods
of indicating direction--there is no north, no south, no east, no
west. UP is about the only direction which is well defined, and
that, of course, is DOWN to you of the outer crust. Since the sun
neither rises nor sets there is no method of indicating direction
beyond visible objects such as high mountains, forests, lakes, and
seas.

The plain which lies beyond the white cliffs which flank the Darel
Az upon the shore nearest the Mountains of the Clouds is about
as near to any direction as any Pellucidarian can come. If you
happen not to have heard of the Darel Az, or the white cliffs, or
the Mountains of the Clouds you feel that there is something lacking,
and long for the good old understandable northeast and southwest
of the outer world.

We had barely entered the great plain when we discovered two enormous
animals approaching us from a great distance. So far were they
that we could not distinguish what manner of beasts they might be,
but as they came closer, I saw that they were enormous quadrupeds,
eighty or a hundred feet long, with tiny heads perched at the top
of very long necks. Their heads must have been quite forty feet
from the ground. The beasts moved very slowly--that is their action
was slow--but their strides covered such a great distance that in
reality they traveled considerably faster than a man walks.

As they drew still nearer we discovered that upon the back of each
sat a human being. Then Dian knew what they were, though she never
before had seen one.

"They are lidis from the land of the Thorians," she cried. "Thoria
lies at the outer verge of the Land of Awful Shadow. The Thorians
alone of all the races of Pellucidar ride the lidi, for nowhere
else than beside the dark country are they found."

"What is the Land of Awful Shadow?" I asked.

"It is the land which lies beneath the Dead World," replied Dian;
"the Dead World which hangs forever between the sun and Pellucidar
above the Land of Awful Shadow. It is the Dead World which makes
the great shadow upon this portion of Pellucidar."

I did not fully understand what she meant, nor am I sure that I do
yet, for I have never been to that part of Pellucidar from which
the Dead World is visible; but Perry says that it is the moon of
Pellucidar--a tiny planet within a planet--and that it revolves
around the earth's axis coincidently with the earth, and thus is
always above the same spot within Pellucidar.

I remember that Perry was very much excited when I told him about
this Dead World, for he seemed to think that it explained the
hitherto inexplicable phenomena of nutation and the precession of
the equinoxes.

When the two upon the lidis had come quite close to us we saw that
one was a man and the other a woman. The former had held up his
two hands, palms toward us, in sign of peace, and I had answered him
in kind, when he suddenly gave a cry of astonishment and pleasure,
and slipping from his enormous mount ran forward toward Dian,
throwing his arms about her.

In an instant I was white with jealousy, but only for an instant;
since Dian quickly drew the man toward me, telling him that I was
David, her mate.

"And this is my brother, Dacor the Strong One, David," she said to
me.

It appeared that the woman was Dacor's mate. He had found none
to his liking among the Sari, nor farther on until he had come to
the land of the Thoria, and there he had found and fought for this
very lovely Thorian maiden whom he was bringing back to his own
people.

When they had heard our story and our plans they decided to accompany
us to Sari, that Dacor and Ghak might come to an agreement relative
to an alliance, as Dacor was quite as enthusiastic about the proposed
annihilation of the Mahars and Sagoths as either Dian or I.

After a journey which was, for Pellucidar, quite uneventful, we
came to the first of the Sarian villages which consists of between
one and two hundred artificial caves cut into the face of a great
cliff. Here to our immense delight, we found both Perry and Ghak.
The old man was quite overcome at sight of me for he had long since
given me up as dead.

When I introduced Dian as my wife, he didn't quite know what to
say, but he afterward remarked that with the pick of two worlds I
could not have done better.

Ghak and Dacor reached a very amicable arrangement, and it was at
a council of the head men of the various tribes of the Sari that the
eventual form of government was tentatively agreed upon. Roughly,
the various kingdoms were to remain virtually independent, but there
was to be one great overlord, or emperor. It was decided that I
should be the first of the dynasty of the emperors of Pellucidar.

We set about teaching the women how to make bows and arrows, and
poison pouches. The young men hunted the vipers which provided
the virus, and it was they who mined the iron ore, and fashioned
the swords under Perry's direction. Rapidly the fever spread from
one tribe to another until representatives from nations so far
distant that the Sarians had never even heard of them came in to
take the oath of allegiance which we required, and to learn the
art of making the new weapons and using them.

We sent our young men out as instructors to every nation of the
federation, and the movement had reached colossal proportions before
the Mahars discovered it. The first intimation they had was when
three of their great slave caravans were annihilated in rapid
succession. They could not comprehend that the lower orders had
suddenly developed a power which rendered them really formidable.

In one of the skirmishes with slave caravans some of our Sarians
took a number of Sagoth prisoners, and among them were two who had
been members of the guards within the building where we had been
confined at Phutra. They told us that the Mahars were frantic with
rage when they discovered what had taken place in the cellars of
the buildings. The Sagoths knew that something very terrible had
befallen their masters, but the Mahars had been most careful to
see that no inkling of the true nature of their vital affliction
reached beyond their own race. How long it would take for the race
to become extinct it was impossible even to guess; but that this
must eventually happen seemed inevitable.

The Mahars had offered fabulous rewards for the capture of any one
of us alive, and at the same time had threatened to inflict the
direst punishment upon whomever should harm us. The Sagoths could
not understand these seemingly paradoxical instructions, though
their purpose was quite evident to me. The Mahars wanted the Great
Secret, and they knew that we alone could deliver it to them.

Perry's experiments in the manufacture of gunpowder and the fashioning
of rifles had not progressed as rapidly as we had hoped--there was
a whole lot about these two arts which Perry didn't know. We were
both assured that the solution of these problems would advance
the cause of civilization within Pellucidar thousands of years at
a single stroke. Then there were various other arts and sciences
which we wished to introduce, but our combined knowledge of them
did not embrace the mechanical details which alone could render
them of commercial, or practical value.

"David," said Perry, immediately after his latest failure to produce
gunpowder that would even burn, "one of us must return to the
outer world and bring back the information we lack. Here we have
all the labor and materials for reproducing anything that ever has
been produced above--what we lack is knowledge. Let us go back
and get that knowledge in the shape of books--then this world will
indeed be at our feet."

And so it was decided that I should return in the prospector,
which still lay upon the edge of the forest at the point where we
had first penetrated to the surface of the inner world. Dian would
not listen to any arrangement for my going which did not include
her, and I was not sorry that she wished to accompany me, for I
wanted her to see my world, and I wanted my world to see her.

With a large force of men we marched to the great iron mole, which
Perry soon had hoisted into position with its nose pointed back
toward the outer crust. He went over all the machinery carefully.
He replenished the air tanks, and manufactured oil for the engine.
At last everything was ready, and we were about to set out when our
pickets, a long, thin line of which had surrounded our camp at all
times, reported that a great body of what appeared to be Sagoths
and Mahars were approaching from the direction of Phutra.

Dian and I were ready to embark, but I was anxious to witness the
first clash between two fair-sized armies of the opposing races of
Pellucidar. I realized that this was to mark the historic beginning
of a mighty struggle for possession of a world, and as the first
emperor of Pellucidar I felt that it was not alone my duty, but my
right, to be in the thick of that momentous struggle.

As the opposing army approached we saw that there were many Mahars
with the Sagoth troops--an indication of the vast importance which
the dominant race placed upon the outcome of this campaign, for
it was not customary with them to take active part in the sorties
which their creatures made for slaves--the only form of warfare
which they waged upon the lower orders.

Ghak and Dacor were both with us, having come primarily to view the
prospector. I placed Ghak with some of his Sarians on the right of
our battle line. Dacor took the left, while I commanded the center.
Behind us I stationed a sufficient reserve under one of Ghak's
head men. The Sagoths advanced steadily with menacing spears, and
I let them come until they were within easy bowshot before I gave
the word to fire.

At the first volley of poison-tipped arrows the front ranks of the
gorilla-men crumpled to the ground; but those behind charged over
the prostrate forms of their comrades in a wild, mad rush to be upon
us with their spears. A second volley stopped them for an instant,
and then my reserve sprang through the openings in the firing line
to engage them with sword and shield. The clumsy spears of the
Sagoths were no match for the swords of the Sarian and Amozite,
who turned the spear thrusts aside with their shields and leaped
to close quarters with their lighter, handier weapons.

Ghak took his archers along the enemy's flank, and while the
swordsmen engaged them in front, he poured volley after volley into
their unprotected left. The Mahars did little real fighting, and
were more in the way than otherwise, though occasionally one of
them would fasten its powerful jaw upon the arm or leg of a Sarian.

The battle did not last a great while, for when Dacor and I led our
men in upon the Sagoth's right with naked swords they were already
so demoralized that they turned and fled before us. We pursued
them for some time, taking many prisoners and recovering nearly a
hundred slaves, among whom was Hooja the Sly One.

He told me that he had been captured while on his way to his own
land; but that his life had been spared in hope that through him
the Mahars would learn the whereabouts of their Great Secret. Ghak
and I were inclined to think that the Sly One had been guiding
this expedition to the land of Sari, where he thought that the book
might be found in Perry's possession; but we had no proof of this
and so we took him in and treated him as one of us, although none
liked him. And how he rewarded my generosity you will presently
learn.

There were a number of Mahars among our prisoners, and so fearful
were our own people of them that they would not approach them
unless completely covered from the sight of the reptiles by a piece
of skin. Even Dian shared the popular superstition regarding the
evil effects of exposure to the eyes of angry Mahars, and though
I laughed at her fears I was willing enough to humor them if it
would relieve her apprehension in any degree, and so she sat apart
from the prospector, near which the Mahars had been chained, while
Perry and I again inspected every portion of the mechanism.

At last I took my place in the driving seat, and called to one of
the men without to fetch Dian. It happened that Hooja stood quite
close to the doorway of the prospector, so that it was he who,
without my knowledge, went to bring her; but how he succeeded in
accomplishing the fiendish thing he did, I cannot guess, unless
there were others in the plot to aid him. Nor can I believe that,
since all my people were loyal to me and would have made short
work of Hooja had he suggested the heartless scheme, even had he
had time to acquaint another with it. It was all done so quickly
that I may only believe that it was the result of sudden impulse,
aided by a number of, to Hooja, fortuitous circumstances occurring
at precisely the right moment.

All I know is that it was Hooja who brought Dian to the prospector,
still wrapped from head to toe in the skin of an enormous cave lion
which covered her since the Mahar prisoners had been brought into
camp. He deposited his burden in the seat beside me. I was all
ready to get under way. The good-byes had been said. Perry had
grasped my hand in the last, long farewell. I closed and barred the
outer and inner doors, took my seat again at the driving mechanism,
and pulled the starting lever.

As before on that far-gone night that had witnessed our first trial
of the iron monster, there was a frightful roaring beneath us--the
giant frame trembled and vibrated--there was a rush of sound as the
loose earth passed up through the hollow space between the inner
and outer jackets to be deposited in our wake. Once more the thing
was off.

But on the instant of departure I was nearly thrown from my seat by
the sudden lurching of the prospector. At first I did not realize
what had happened, but presently it dawned upon me that just
before entering the crust the towering body had fallen through its
supporting scaffolding, and that instead of entering the ground
vertically we were plunging into it at a different angle. Where it
would bring us out upon the upper crust I could not even conjecture.
And then I turned to note the effect of this strange experience
upon Dian. She still sat shrouded in the great skin.

"Come, come," I cried, laughing, "come out of your shell. No Mahar
eyes can reach you here," and I leaned over and snatched the lion
skin from her. And then I shrank back upon my seat in utter horror.

The thing beneath the skin was not Dian--it was a hideous Mahar.
Instantly I realized the trick that Hooja had played upon me, and
the purpose of it. Rid of me, forever as he doubtless thought,
Dian would be at his mercy. Frantically I tore at the steering
wheel in an effort to turn the prospector back toward Pellucidar;
but, as on that other occasion, I could not budge the thing a hair.

It is needless to recount the horrors or the monotony of that journey.
It varied but little from the former one which had brought us from
the outer to the inner world. Because of the angle at which we
had entered the ground the trip required nearly a day longer, and
brought me out here upon the sand of the Sahara instead of in the
United States as I had hoped.

For months I have been waiting here for a white man to come. I
dared not leave the prospector for fear I should never be able to
find it again--the shifting sands of the desert would soon cover
it, and then my only hope of returning to my Dian and her Pellucidar
would be gone forever.

That I ever shall see her again seems but remotely possible, for
how may I know upon what part of Pellucidar my return journey may
terminate--and how, without a north or south or an east or a west
may I hope ever to find my way across that vast world to the tiny
spot where my lost love lies grieving for me?

That is the story as David Innes told it to me in the goat-skin tent
upon the rim of the great Sahara Desert. The next day he took me
out to see the prospector--it was precisely as he had described it.
So huge was it that it could have been brought to this inaccessible
part of the world by no means of transportation that existed there--it
could only have come in the way that David Innes said it came--up
through the crust of the earth from the inner world of Pellucidar.

I spent a week with him, and then, abandoned my lion hunt, returned
directly to the coast and hurried to London where I purchased a
great quantity of stuff which he wished to take back to Pellucidar
with him. There were books, rifles, revolvers, ammunition, cameras,
chemicals, telephones, telegraph instruments, wire, tool and more
books--books upon every subject under the sun. He said he wanted
a library with which they could reproduce the wonders of the twentieth
century in the Stone Age and if quantity counts for anything I got
it for him.

I took the things back to Algeria myself, and accompanied them to
the end of the railroad; but from here I was recalled to America
upon important business. However, I was able to employ a very
trustworthy man to take charge of the caravan--the same guide,
in fact, who had accompanied me on the previous trip into the
Sahara--and after writing a long letter to Innes in which I gave
him my American address, I saw the expedition head south.

Among the other things which I sent to Innes was over five hundred
miles of double, insulated wire of a very fine gauge. I had
it packed on a special reel at his suggestion, as it was his idea
that he could fasten one end here before he left and by paying it
out through the end of the prospector lay a telegraph line between
the outer and inner worlds. In my letter I told him to be sure to
mark the terminus of the line very plainly with a high cairn, in
case I was not able to reach him before he set out, so that I might
easily find and communicate with him should he be so fortunate as
to reach Pellucidar.

I received several letters from him after I returned to America--in
fact he took advantage of every northward-passing caravan to drop
me word of some sort. His last letter was written the day before
he intended to depart. Here it is.

MY DEAR FRIEND:

Tomorrow I shall set out in quest of Pellucidar and Dian. That is
if the Arabs don't get me. They have been very nasty of late. I
don't know the cause, but on two occasions they have threatened my
life. One, more friendly than the rest, told me today that they
intended attacking me tonight. It would be unfortunate should anything
of that sort happen now that I am so nearly ready to depart.

However, maybe I will be as well off, for the nearer the hour
approaches, the slenderer my chances for success appear.

Here is the friendly Arab who is to take this letter north for me,
so good-bye, and God bless you for your kindness to me.

The Arab tells me to hurry, for he sees a cloud of sand to the
south--he thinks it is the party coming to murder me, and he doesn't
want to be found with me. So goodbye again.

Yours,

DAVID INNES.

A year later found me at the end of the railroad once more, headed
for the spot where I had left Innes. My first disappointment was
when I discovered that my old guide had died within a few weeks
of my return, nor could I find any member of my former party who
could lead me to the same spot.

For months I searched that scorching land, interviewing countless
desert sheiks in the hope that at last I might find one who had
heard of Innes and his wonderful iron mole. Constantly my eyes
scanned the blinding waste of sand for the ricky cairn beneath
which I was to find the wires leading to Pellucidar--but always
was I unsuccessful.

And always do these awful questions harass me when I think of David
Innes and his strange adventures.

Did the Arabs murder him, after all, just on the eve of his departure?
Or, did he again turn the nose of his iron monster toward the inner
world? Did he reach it, or lies he somewhere buried in the heart
of the great crust? And if he did come again to Pellucidar was it
to break through into the bottom of one of her great island seas,
or among some savage race far, far from the land of his heart's
desire?

Does the answer lie somewhere upon the bosom of the broad Sahara,
at the end of two tiny wires, hidden beneath a lost cairn? I wonder.

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