At the Earth's Core
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 1 out of 3
Created by Judith Boss, Omaha, Nebraska
At the Earth's Core
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
In the first place please bear in mind that I do not expect you to
believe this story. Nor could you wonder had you witnessed a recent
experience of mine when, in the armor of blissful and stupendous
ignorance, I gaily narrated the gist of it to a Fellow of the Royal
Geological Society on the occasion of my last trip to London.
You would surely have thought that I had been detected in no less
a heinous crime than the purloining of the Crown Jewels from the
Tower, or putting poison in the coffee of His Majesty the King.
The erudite gentleman in whom I confided congealed before I was half
through!--it is all that saved him from exploding--and my dreams
of an Honorary Fellowship, gold medals, and a niche in the Hall of
Fame faded into the thin, cold air of his arctic atmosphere.
But I believe the story, and so would you, and so would the learned
Fellow of the Royal Geological Society, had you and he heard it
from the lips of the man who told it to me. Had you seen, as I
did, the fire of truth in those gray eyes; had you felt the ring
of sincerity in that quiet voice; had you realized the pathos of it
all--you, too, would believe. You would not have needed the final
ocular proof that I had--the weird rhamphorhynchus-like creature
which he had brought back with him from the inner world.
I came upon him quite suddenly, and no less unexpectedly, upon the
rim of the great Sahara Desert. He was standing before a goat-skin
tent amidst a clump of date palms within a tiny oasis. Close by
was an Arab douar of some eight or ten tents.
I had come down from the north to hunt lion. My party consisted
of a dozen children of the desert--I was the only "white" man. As
we approached the little clump of verdure I saw the man come from
his tent and with hand-shaded eyes peer intently at us. At sight
of me he advanced rapidly to meet us.
"A white man!" he cried. "May the good Lord be praised! I have
been watching you for hours, hoping against hope that THIS time
there would be a white man. Tell me the date. What year is it?"
And when I had told him he staggered as though he had been struck
full in the face, so that he was compelled to grasp my stirrup
leather for support.
"It cannot be!" he cried after a moment. "It cannot be! Tell me
that you are mistaken, or that you are but joking."
"I am telling you the truth, my friend," I replied. "Why should
I deceive a stranger, or attempt to, in so simple a matter as the
For some time he stood in silence, with bowed head.
"Ten years!" he murmured, at last. "Ten years, and I thought that
at the most it could be scarce more than one!" That night he told
me his story--the story that I give you here as nearly in his own
words as I can recall them.
TOWARD THE ETERNAL FIRES
I was born in Connecticut about thirty years ago. My name is David
Innes. My father was a wealthy mine owner. When I was nineteen
he died. All his property was to be mine when I had attained my
majority--provided that I had devoted the two years intervening in
close application to the great business I was to inherit.
I did my best to fulfil the last wishes of my parent--not because
of the inheritance, but because I loved and honored my father. For
six months I toiled in the mines and in the counting-rooms, for I
wished to know every minute detail of the business.
Then Perry interested me in his invention. He was an old fellow
who had devoted the better part of a long life to the perfection
of a mechanical subterranean prospector. As relaxation he studied
paleontology. I looked over his plans, listened to his arguments,
inspected his working model--and then, convinced, I advanced the
funds necessary to construct a full-sized, practical prospector.
I shall not go into the details of its construction--it lies out
there in the desert now--about two miles from here. Tomorrow you
may care to ride out and see it. Roughly, it is a steel cylinder
a hundred feet long, and jointed so that it may turn and twist
through solid rock if need be. At one end is a mighty revolving
drill operated by an engine which Perry said generated more power
to the cubic inch than any other engine did to the cubic foot. I
remember that he used to claim that that invention alone would
make us fabulously wealthy--we were going to make the whole thing
public after the successful issue of our first secret trial--but
Perry never returned from that trial trip, and I only after ten
I recall as it were but yesterday the night of that momentous
occasion upon which we were to test the practicality of that
wondrous invention. It was near midnight when we repaired to the
lofty tower in which Perry had constructed his "iron mole" as he
was wont to call the thing. The great nose rested upon the bare
earth of the floor. We passed through the doors into the outer
jacket, secured them, and then passing on into the cabin, which
contained the controlling mechanism within the inner tube, switched
on the electric lights.
Perry looked to his generator; to the great tanks that held the
life-giving chemicals with which he was to manufacture fresh air
to replace that which we consumed in breathing; to his instruments
for recording temperatures, speed, distance, and for examining the
materials through which we were to pass.
He tested the steering device, and overlooked the mighty cogs which
transmitted its marvelous velocity to the giant drill at the nose
of his strange craft.
Our seats, into which we strapped ourselves, were so arranged upon
transverse bars that we would be upright whether the craft were
ploughing her way downward into the bowels of the earth, or running
horizontally along some great seam of coal, or rising vertically
toward the surface again.
At length all was ready. Perry bowed his head in prayer. For
a moment we were silent, and then the old man's hand grasped the
starting lever. 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. We were off!
The noise was deafening. The sensation was frightful. For a full
minute neither of us could do aught but cling with the proverbial
desperation of the drowning man to the handrails of our swinging
seats. Then Perry glanced at the thermometer.
"Gad!" he cried, "it cannot be possible--quick! What does the
distance meter read?"
That and the speedometer were both on my side of the cabin, and as I
turned to take a reading from the former I could see Perry muttering.
"Ten degrees rise--it cannot be possible!" and then I saw him tug
frantically upon the steering wheel.
As I finally found the tiny needle in the dim light I translated
Perry's evident excitement, and my heart sank within me. But when I
spoke I hid the fear which haunted me. "It will be seven hundred
feet, Perry," I said, "by the time you can turn her into the
"You'd better lend me a hand then, my boy," he replied, "for I cannot
budge her out of the vertical alone. God give that our combined
strength may be equal to the task, for else we are lost."
I wormed my way to the old man's side with never a doubt but that
the great wheel would yield on the instant to the power of my young
and vigorous muscles. Nor was my belief mere vanity, for always
had my physique been the envy and despair of my fellows. And for
that very reason it had waxed even greater than nature had intended,
since my natural pride in my great strength had led me to care for
and develop my body and my muscles by every means within my power.
What with boxing, football, and baseball, I had been in training
And so it was with the utmost confidence that I laid hold of the
huge iron rim; but though I threw every ounce of my strength into
it, my best effort was as unavailing as Perry's had been--the
thing would not budge--the grim, insensate, horrible thing that
was holding us upon the straight road to death!
At length I gave up the useless struggle, and without a word
returned to my seat. There was no need for words--at least none
that I could imagine, unless Perry desired to pray. And I was
quite sure that he would, for he never left an opportunity neglected
where he might sandwich in a prayer. He prayed when he arose in
the morning, he prayed before he ate, he prayed when he had finished
eating, and before he went to bed at night he prayed again. In
between he often found excuses to pray even when the provocation
seemed far-fetched to my worldly eyes--now that he was about to die
I felt positive that I should witness a perfect orgy of prayer--if
one may allude with such a simile to so solemn an act.
But to my astonishment I discovered that with death staring him in
the face Abner Perry was transformed into a new being. From his
lips there flowed--not prayer--but a clear and limpid stream of
undiluted profanity, and it was all directed at that quietly stubborn
piece of unyielding mechanism.
"I should think, Perry," I chided, "that a man of your professed
religiousness would rather be at his prayers than cursing in the
presence of imminent death."
"Death!" he cried. "Death is it that appalls you? That is nothing
by comparison with the loss the world must suffer. Why, David
within this iron cylinder we have demonstrated possibilities that
science has scarce dreamed. We have harnessed a new principle, and
with it animated a piece of steel with the power of ten thousand
men. That two lives will be snuffed out is nothing to the world
calamity that entombs in the bowels of the earth the discoveries
that I have made and proved in the successful construction of the
thing that is now carrying us farther and farther toward the eternal
I am frank to admit that for myself I was much more concerned with
our own immediate future than with any problematic loss which the
world might be about to suffer. The world was at least ignorant
of its bereavement, while to me it was a real and terrible actuality.
"What can we do?" I asked, hiding my perturbation beneath the mask
of a low and level voice.
"We may stop here, and die of asphyxiation when our atmosphere tanks
are empty," replied Perry, "or we may continue on with the slight
hope that we may later sufficiently deflect the prospector from
the vertical to carry us along the arc of a great circle which must
eventually return us to the surface. If we succeed in so doing
before we reach the higher internal temperature we may even yet
survive. There would seem to me to be about one chance in several
million that we shall succeed--otherwise we shall die more quickly
but no more surely than as though we sat supinely waiting for the
torture of a slow and horrible death."
I glanced at the thermometer. It registered 110 degrees. While
we were talking the mighty iron mole had bored its way over a mile
into the rock of the earth's crust.
"Let us continue on, then," I replied. "It should soon be over at
this rate. You never intimated that the speed of this thing would
be so high, Perry. Didn't you know it?"
"No," he answered. "I could not figure the speed exactly, for I
had no instrument for measuring the mighty power of my generator.
I reasoned, however, that we should make about five hundred yards
"And we are making seven miles an hour," I concluded for him,
as I sat with my eyes upon the distance meter. "How thick is the
Earth's crust, Perry?" I asked.
"There are almost as many conjectures as to that as there
are geologists," was his answer. "One estimates it thirty miles,
because the internal heat, increasing at the rate of about one
degree to each sixty to seventy feet depth, would be sufficient to
fuse the most refractory substances at that distance beneath the
surface. Another finds that the phenomena of precession and nutation
require that the earth, if not entirely solid, must at least have
a shell not less than eight hundred to a thousand miles in thickness.
So there you are. You may take your choice."
"And if it should prove solid?" I asked.
"It will be all the same to us in the end, David," replied Perry.
"At the best our fuel will suffice to carry us but three or four
days, while our atmosphere cannot last to exceed three. Neither,
then, is sufficient to bear us in the safety through eight thousand
miles of rock to the antipodes."
"If the crust is of sufficient thickness we shall come to a final
stop between six and seven hundred miles beneath the earth's surface;
but during the last hundred and fifty miles of our journey we shall
be corpses. Am I correct?" I asked.
"Quite correct, David. Are you frightened?"
"I do not know. It all has come so suddenly that I scarce believe
that either of us realizes the real terrors of our position. I feel
that I should be reduced to panic; but yet I am not. I imagine that
the shock has been so great as to partially stun our sensibilities."
Again I turned to the thermometer. The mercury was rising with less
rapidity. It was now but 140 degrees, although we had penetrated
to a depth of nearly four miles. I told Perry, and he smiled.
"We have shattered one theory at least," was his only comment, and
then he returned to his self-assumed occupation of fluently cursing
the steering wheel. I once heard a pirate swear, but his best
efforts would have seemed like those of a tyro alongside of Perry's
masterful and scientific imprecations.
Once more I tried my hand at the wheel, but I might as well have
essayed to swing the earth itself. At my suggestion Perry stopped
the generator, and as we came to rest I again threw all my strength
into a supreme effort to move the thing even a hair's breadth--but
the results were as barren as when we had been traveling at top
I shook my head sadly, and motioned to the starting lever. Perry
pulled it toward him, and once again we were plunging downward
toward eternity at the rate of seven miles an hour. I sat with my
eyes glued to the thermometer and the distance meter. The mercury
was rising very slowly now, though even at 145 degrees it was almost
unbearable within the narrow confines of our metal prison.
About noon, or twelve hours after our start upon this unfortunate
journey, we had bored to a depth of eighty-four miles, at which
point the mercury registered 153 degrees F.
Perry was becoming more hopeful, although upon what meager food
he sustained his optimism I could not conjecture. From cursing he
had turned to singing--I felt that the strain had at last affected
his mind. For several hours we had not spoken except as he asked
me for the readings of the instruments from time to time, and
I announced them. My thoughts were filled with vain regrets. I
recalled numerous acts of my past life which I should have been
glad to have had a few more years to live down. There was the
affair in the Latin Commons at Andover when Calhoun and I had put
gunpowder in the stove--and nearly killed one of the masters. And
then--but what was the use, I was about to die and atone for all
these things and several more. Already the heat was sufficient
to give me a foretaste of the hereafter. A few more degrees and
I felt that I should lose consciousness.
"What are the readings now, David?" Perry's voice broke in upon my
"Ninety miles and 153 degrees," I replied.
"Gad, but we've knocked that thirty-mile-crust theory into a cocked
hat!" he cried gleefully.
"Precious lot of good it will do us," I growled back.
"But my boy," he continued, "doesn't that temperature reading mean
anything to you? Why it hasn't gone up in six miles. Think of
"Yes, I'm thinking of it," I answered; "but what difference will
it make when our air supply is exhausted whether the temperature
is 153 degrees or 153,000? We'll be just as dead, and no one
will know the difference, anyhow." But I must admit that for some
unaccountable reason the stationary temperature did renew my waning
hope. What I hoped for I could not have explained, nor did I try.
The very fact, as Perry took pains to explain, of the blasting of
several very exact and learned scientific hypotheses made it apparent
that we could not know what lay before us within the bowels of
the earth, and so we might continue to hope for the best, at least
until we were dead--when hope would no longer be essential to
our happiness. It was very good, and logical reasoning, and so I
At one hundred miles the temperature had DROPPED TO 152 1/2 DEGREES!
When I announced it Perry reached over and hugged me.
From then on until noon of the second day, it continued to drop
until it became as uncomfortably cold as it had been unbearably hot
before. At the depth of two hundred and forty miles our nostrils
were assailed by almost overpowering ammonia fumes, and the
temperature had dropped to TEN BELOW ZERO! We suffered nearly two
hours of this intense and bitter cold, until at about two hundred
and forty-five miles from the surface of the earth we entered a
stratum of solid ice, when the mercury quickly rose to 32 degrees.
During the next three hours we passed through ten miles of ice,
eventually emerging into another series of ammonia-impregnated
strata, where the mercury again fell to ten degrees below zero.
Slowly it rose once more until we were convinced that at last we
were nearing the molten interior of the earth. At four hundred
miles the temperature had reached 153 degrees. Feverishly I watched
the thermometer. Slowly it rose. Perry had ceased singing and
was at last praying.
Our hopes had received such a deathblow that the gradually
increasing heat seemed to our distorted imaginations much greater
than it really was. For another hour I saw that pitiless column
of mercury rise and rise until at four hundred and ten miles it
stood at 153 degrees. Now it was that we began to hang upon those
readings in almost breathless anxiety.
One hundred and fifty-three degrees had been the maximum temperature
above the ice stratum. Would it stop at this point again, or would
it continue its merciless climb? We knew that there was no hope,
and yet with the persistence of life itself we continued to hope
against practical certainty.
Already the air tanks were at low ebb--there was barely enough of
the precious gases to sustain us for another twelve hours. But
would we be alive to know or care? It seemed incredible.
At four hundred and twenty miles I took another reading.
"Perry!" I shouted. "Perry, man! She's going down! She's going
down! She's 152 degrees again."
"Gad!" he cried. "What can it mean? Can the earth be cold at the
"I do not know, Perry," I answered; "but thank God, if I am to die
it shall not be by fire--that is all that I have feared. I can
face the thought of any death but that."
Down, down went the mercury until it stood as low as it had seven
miles from the surface of the earth, and then of a sudden the
realization broke upon us that death was very near. Perry was the
first to discover it. I saw him fussing with the valves that regulate
the air supply. And at the same time I experienced difficulty in
breathing. My head felt dizzy--my limbs heavy.
I saw Perry crumple in his seat. He gave himself a shake and sat
erect again. Then he turned toward me.
"Good-bye, David," he said. "I guess this is the end," and then
he smiled and closed his eyes.
"Good-bye, Perry, and good luck to you," I answered, smiling back
at him. But I fought off that awful lethargy. I was very young--I
did not want to die.
For an hour I battled against the cruelly enveloping death that
surrounded me upon all sides. At first I found that by climbing
high into the framework above me I could find more of the precious
life-giving elements, and for a while these sustained me. It must
have been an hour after Perry had succumbed that I at last came
to the realization that I could no longer carry on this unequal
struggle against the inevitable.
With my last flickering ray of consciousness I turned mechanically
toward the distance meter. It stood at exactly five hundred miles
from the earth's surface--and then of a sudden the huge thing that
bore us came to a stop. The rattle of hurtling rock through the
hollow jacket ceased. The wild racing of the giant drill betokened
that it was running loose in AIR--and then another truth flashed
upon me. The point of the prospector was ABOVE us. Slowly it
dawned on me that since passing through the ice strata it had been
above. We had turned in the ice and sped upward toward the earth's
crust. Thank God! We were safe!
I put my nose to the intake pipe through which samples were to have
been taken during the passage of the prospector through the earth,
and my fondest hopes were realized--a flood of fresh air was pouring
into the iron cabin. The reaction left me in a state of collapse,
and I lost consciousness.
A STRANGE WORLD
I was unconscious little more than an instant, for as I lunged
forward from the crossbeam to which I had been clinging, and fell
with a crash to the floor of the cabin, the shock brought me to
My first concern was with Perry. I was horrified at the thought
that upon the very threshold of salvation he might be dead. Tearing
open his shirt I placed my ear to his breast. I could have cried
with relief--his heart was beating quite regularly.
At the water tank I wetted my handkerchief, slapping it smartly
across his forehead and face several times. In a moment I was
rewarded by the raising of his lids. For a time he lay wide-eyed
and quite uncomprehending. Then his scattered wits slowly
foregathered, and he sat up sniffing the air with an expression of
wonderment upon his face.
"Why, David," he cried at last, "it's air, as sure as I live.
Why--why what does it mean? Where in the world are we? What has
"It means that we're back at the surface all right, Perry," I cried;
"but where, I don't know. I haven't opened her up yet. Been too
busy reviving you. Lord, man, but you had a close squeak!"
"You say we're back at the surface, David? How can that be? How
long have I been unconscious?"
"Not long. We turned in the ice stratum. Don't you recall the
sudden whirling of our seats? After that the drill was above you
instead of below. We didn't notice it at the time; but I recall
"You mean to say that we turned back in the ice stratum, David?
That is not possible. The prospector cannot turn unless its nose
is deflected from the outside--by some external force or resistance--the
steering wheel within would have moved in response. The steering
wheel has not budged, David, since we started. You know that."
I did know it; but here we were with our drill racing in pure air,
and copious volumes of it pouring into the cabin.
"We couldn't have turned in the ice stratum, Perry, I know as well
as you," I replied; "but the fact remains that we did, for here we
are this minute at the surface of the earth again, and I am going
out to see just where."
"Better wait till morning, David--it must be midnight now."
I glanced at the chronometer.
"Half after twelve. We have been out seventy-two hours, so it
must be midnight. Nevertheless I am going to have a look at the
blessed sky that I had given up all hope of ever seeing again,"
and so saying I lifted the bars from the inner door, and swung it
open. There was quite a quantity of loose material in the jacket,
and this I had to remove with a shovel to get at the opposite door
in the outer shell.
In a short time I had removed enough of the earth and rock to the
floor of the cabin to expose the door beyond. Perry was directly
behind me as I threw it open. The upper half was above the surface
of the ground. With an expression of surprise I turned and looked
at Perry--it was broad daylight without!
"Something seems to have gone wrong either with our calculations
or the chronometer," I said. Perry shook his head--there was a
strange expression in his eyes.
"Let's have a look beyond that door, David," he cried.
Together we stepped out to stand in silent contemplation of a
landscape at once weird and beautiful. Before us a low and level
shore stretched down to a silent sea. As far as the eye could reach
the surface of the water was dotted with countless tiny isles--some
of towering, barren, granitic rock--others resplendent in gorgeous
trappings of tropical vegetation, myriad starred with the magnificent
splendor of vivid blooms.
Behind us rose a dark and forbidding wood of giant arborescent
ferns intermingled with the commoner types of a primeval tropical
forest. Huge creepers depended in great loops from tree to tree,
dense under-brush overgrew a tangled mass of fallen trunks and
branches. Upon the outer verge we could see the same splendid
coloring of countless blossoms that glorified the islands, but
within the dense shadows all seemed dark and gloomy as the grave.
And upon all the noonday sun poured its torrid rays out of a
"Where on earth can we be?" I asked, turning to Perry.
For some moments the old man did not reply. He stood with bowed
head, buried in deep thought. But at last he spoke.
"David," he said, "I am not so sure that we are ON earth."
"What do you mean Perry?" I cried. "Do you think that we are dead,
and this is heaven?" He smiled, and turning, pointing to the nose
of the prospector protruding from the ground at our backs.
"But for that, David, I might believe that we were indeed come to
the country beyond the Styx. The prospector renders that theory
untenable--it, certainly, could never have gone to heaven. However
I am willing to concede that we actually may be in another world
from that which we have always known. If we are not ON earth,
there is every reason to believe that we may be IN it."
"We may have quartered through the earth's crust and come out upon
some tropical island of the West Indies," I suggested. Again Perry
shook his head.
"Let us wait and see, David," he replied, "and in the meantime
suppose we do a bit of exploring up and down the coast--we may find
a native who can enlighten us."
As we walked along the beach Perry gazed long and earnestly across
the water. Evidently he was wrestling with a mighty problem.
"David," he said abruptly, "do you perceive anything unusual about
As I looked I began to appreciate the reason for the strangeness of
the landscape that had haunted me from the first with an illusive
suggestion of the bizarre and unnatural--THERE WAS NO HORIZON!
As far as the eye could reach out the sea continued and upon its
bosom floated tiny islands, those in the distance reduced to mere
specks; but ever beyond them was the sea, until the impression became
quite real that one was LOOKING UP at the most distant point that
the eyes could fathom--the distance was lost in the distance. That
was all--there was no clear-cut horizontal line marking the dip of
the globe below the line of vision.
"A great light is commencing to break on me," continued Perry,
taking out his watch. "I believe that I have partially solved the
riddle. It is now two o'clock. When we emerged from the prospector
the sun was directly above us. Where is it now?"
I glanced up to find the great orb still motionless in the center
of the heaven. And such a sun! I had scarcely noticed it before.
Fully thrice the size of the sun I had known throughout my life,
and apparently so near that the sight of it carried the conviction
that one might almost reach up and touch it.
"My God, Perry, where are we?" I exclaimed. "This thing is beginning
to get on my nerves."
"I think that I may state quite positively, David," he commenced,
"that we are--" but he got no further. From behind us in the vicinity
of the prospector there came the most thunderous, awe-inspiring
roar that ever had fallen upon my ears. With one accord we turned
to discover the author of that fearsome noise.
Had I still retained the suspicion that we were on earth the sight
that met my eyes would quite entirely have banished it. Emerging
from the forest was a colossal beast which closely resembled a
bear. It was fully as large as the largest elephant and with great
forepaws armed with huge claws. Its nose, or snout, depended nearly
a foot below its lower jaw, much after the manner of a rudimentary
trunk. The giant body was covered by a coat of thick, shaggy hair.
Roaring horribly it came toward us at a ponderous, shuffling trot.
I turned to Perry to suggest that it might be wise to seek other
surroundings--the idea had evidently occurred to Perry previously,
for he was already a hundred paces away, and with each second his
prodigious bounds increased the distance. I had never guessed what
latent speed possibilities the old gentleman possessed.
I saw that he was headed toward a little point of the forest which
ran out toward the sea not far from where we had been standing,
and as the mighty creature, the sight of which had galvanized him
into such remarkable action, was forging steadily toward me. I
set off after Perry, though at a somewhat more decorous pace. It
was evident that the massive beast pursuing us was not built for
speed, so all that I considered necessary was to gain the trees
sufficiently ahead of it to enable me to climb to the safety of
some great branch before it came up.
Notwithstanding our danger I could not help but laugh at Perry's
frantic capers as he essayed to gain the safety of the lower branches
of the trees he now had reached. The stems were bare for a distance
of some fifteen feet--at least on those trees which Perry attempted
to ascend, for the suggestion of safety carried by the larger of
the forest giants had evidently attracted him to them. A dozen
times he scrambled up the trunks like a huge cat only to fall back
to the ground once more, and with each failure he cast a horrified
glance over his shoulder at the oncoming brute, simultaneously
emitting terror-stricken shrieks that awoke the echoes of the grim
At length he spied a dangling creeper about the bigness of one's
wrist, and when I reached the trees he was racing madly up it, hand
over hand. He had almost reached the lowest branch of the tree
from which the creeper depended when the thing parted beneath his
weight and he fell sprawling at my feet.
The misfortune now was no longer amusing, for the beast was already
too close to us for comfort. Seizing Perry by the shoulder I dragged
him to his feet, and rushing to a smaller tree--one that he could
easily encircle with his arms and legs--I boosted him as far up
as I could, and then left him to his fate, for a glance over my
shoulder revealed the awful beast almost upon me.
It was the great size of the thing alone that saved me. Its
enormous bulk rendered it too slow upon its feet to cope with the
agility of my young muscles, and so I was enabled to dodge out of
its way and run completely behind it before its slow wits could
direct it in pursuit.
The few seconds of grace that this gave me found me safely lodged
in the branches of a tree a few paces from that in which Perry had
at last found a haven.
Did I say safely lodged? At the time I thought we were quite safe,
and so did Perry. He was praying--raising his voice in thanksgiving
at our deliverance--and had just completed a sort of paeon of
gratitude that the thing couldn't climb a tree when without warning
it reared up beneath him on its enormous tail and hind feet, and
reached those fearfully armed paws quite to the branch upon which
The accompanying roar was all but drowned in Perry's scream of
fright, and he came near tumbling headlong into the gaping jaws
beneath him, so precipitate was his impetuous haste to vacate the
dangerous limb. It was with a deep sigh of relief that I saw him
gain a higher branch in safety.
And then the brute did that which froze us both anew with horror.
Grasping the tree's stem with his powerful paws he dragged down
with all the great weight of his huge bulk and all the irresistible
force of those mighty muscles. Slowly, but surely, the stem began
to bend toward him. Inch by inch he worked his paws upward as
the tree leaned more and more from the perpendicular. Perry clung
chattering in a panic of terror. Higher and higher into the bending
and swaying tree he clambered. More and more rapidly was the tree
top inclining toward the ground.
I saw now why the great brute was armed with such enormous paws.
The use that he was putting them to was precisely that for which
nature had intended them. The sloth-like creature was herbivorous,
and to feed that mighty carcass entire trees must be stripped of
their foliage. The reason for its attacking us might easily be
accounted for on the supposition of an ugly disposition such as
that which the fierce and stupid rhinoceros of Africa possesses.
But these were later reflections. At the moment I was too frantic
with apprehension on Perry's behalf to consider aught other than
a means to save him from the death that loomed so close.
Realizing that I could outdistance the clumsy brute in the open,
I dropped from my leafy sanctuary intent only on distracting the
thing's attention from Perry long enough to enable the old man to
gain the safety of a larger tree. There were many close by which
not even the terrific strength of that titanic monster could bend.
As I touched the ground I snatched a broken limb from the tangled
mass that matted the jungle-like floor of the forest and, leaping
unnoticed behind the shaggy back, dealt the brute a terrific blow.
My plan worked like magic. From the previous slowness of the beast
I had been led to look for no such marvelous agility as he now
displayed. Releasing his hold upon the tree he dropped on all
fours and at the same time swung his great, wicked tail with a
force that would have broken every bone in my body had it struck
me; but, fortunately, I had turned to flee at the very instant that
I felt my blow land upon the towering back.
As it started in pursuit of me I made the mistake of running along
the edge of the forest rather than making for the open beach. In a
moment I was knee-deep in rotting vegetation, and the awful thing
behind me was gaining rapidly as I floundered and fell in my efforts
to extricate myself.
A fallen log gave me an instant's advantage, for climbing upon it
I leaped to another a few paces farther on, and in this way was able
to keep clear of the mush that carpeted the surrounding ground. But
the zigzag course that this necessitated was placing such a heavy
handicap upon me that my pursuer was steadily gaining upon me.
Suddenly from behind I heard a tumult of howls, and sharp, piercing
barks--much the sound that a pack of wolves raises when in full
cry. Involuntarily I glanced backward to discover the origin of
this new and menacing note with the result that I missed my footing
and went sprawling once more upon my face in the deep muck.
My mammoth enemy was so close by this time that I knew I must feel
the weight of one of his terrible paws before I could rise, but to
my surprise the blow did not fall upon me. The howling and snapping
and barking of the new element which had been infused into the
melee now seemed centered quite close behind me, and as I raised
myself upon my hands and glanced around I saw what it was that had
distracted the DYRYTH, as I afterward learned the thing is called,
from my trail.
It was surrounded by a pack of some hundred wolf-like creatures--wild
dogs they seemed--that rushed growling and snapping in upon it
from all sides, so that they sank their white fangs into the slow
brute and were away again before it could reach them with its huge
paws or sweeping tail.
But these were not all that my startled eyes perceived. Chattering
and gibbering through the lower branches of the trees came a company
of manlike creatures evidently urging on the dog pack. They were
to all appearances strikingly similar in aspect to the Negro of
Africa. Their skins were very black, and their features much like
those of the more pronounced Negroid type except that the head
receded more rapidly above the eyes, leaving little or no forehead.
Their arms were rather longer and their legs shorter in proportion
to the torso than in man, and later I noticed that their great
toes protruded at right angles from their feet--because of their
arboreal habits, I presume. Behind them trailed long, slender
tails which they used in climbing quite as much as they did either
their hands or feet.
I had stumbled to my feet the moment that I discovered that the
wolf-dogs were holding the dyryth at bay. At sight of me several
of the savage creatures left off worrying the great brute to come
slinking with bared fangs toward me, and as I turned to run toward
the trees again to seek safety among the lower branches, I saw
a number of the man-apes leaping and chattering in the foliage of
the nearest tree.
Between them and the beasts behind me there was little choice,
but at least there was a doubt as to the reception these grotesque
parodies on humanity would accord me, while there was none as to
the fate which awaited me beneath the grinning fangs of my fierce
And so I raced on toward the trees intending to pass beneath that
which held the man-things and take refuge in another farther on;
but the wolf-dogs were very close behind me--so close that I had
despaired of escaping them, when one of the creatures in the tree
above swung down headforemost, his tail looped about a great limb,
and grasping me beneath my armpits swung me in safety up among his
There they fell to examining me with the utmost excitement and
curiosity. They picked at my clothing, my hair, and my flesh. They
turned me about to see if I had a tail, and when they discovered
that I was not so equipped they fell into roars of laughter. Their
teeth were very large and white and even, except for the upper
canines which were a trifle longer than the others--protruding just
a bit when the mouth was closed.
When they had examined me for a few moments one of them discovered
that my clothing was not a part of me, with the result that garment
by garment they tore it from me amidst peals of the wildest laughter.
Apelike, they essayed to don the apparel themselves, but their
ingenuity was not sufficient to the task and so they gave it up.
In the meantime I had been straining my eyes to catch a glimpse
of Perry, but nowhere about could I see him, although the clump of
trees in which he had first taken refuge was in full view. I was
much exercised by fear that something had befallen him, and though
I called his name aloud several times there was no response.
Tired at last of playing with my clothing the creatures threw it to
the ground, and catching me, one on either side, by an arm, started
off at a most terrifying pace through the tree tops. Never have I
experienced such a journey before or since--even now I oftentimes
awake from a deep sleep haunted by the horrid remembrance of that
From tree to tree the agile creatures sprang like flying squirrels,
while the cold sweat stood upon my brow as I glimpsed the
depths beneath, into which a single misstep on the part of either
of my bearers would hurl me. As they bore me along, my mind was
occupied with a thousand bewildering thoughts. What had become of
Perry? Would I ever see him again? What were the intentions of
these half-human things into whose hands I had fallen? Were they
inhabitants of the same world into which I had been born? No! It
could not be. But yet where else? I had not left that earth--of
that I was sure. Still neither could I reconcile the things which
I had seen to a belief that I was still in the world of my birth.
With a sigh I gave it up.
A CHANGE OF MASTERS
We must have traveled several miles through the dark and dismal
wood when we came suddenly upon a dense village built high among
the branches of the trees. As we approached it my escort broke
into wild shouting which was immediately answered from within, and
a moment later a swarm of creatures of the same strange race as
those who had captured me poured out to meet us. Again I was the
center of a wildly chattering horde. I was pulled this way and
that. Pinched, pounded, and thumped until I was black and blue,
yet I do not think that their treatment was dictated by either
cruelty or malice--I was a curiosity, a freak, a new plaything,
and their childish minds required the added evidence of all their
senses to back up the testimony of their eyes.
Presently they dragged me within the village, which consisted of
several hundred rude shelters of boughs and leaves supported upon
the branches of the trees.
Between the huts, which sometimes formed crooked streets, were dead
branches and the trunks of small trees which connected the huts
upon one tree to those within adjoining trees; the whole network
of huts and pathways forming an almost solid flooring a good fifty
feet above the ground.
I wondered why these agile creatures required connecting bridges
between the trees, but later when I saw the motley aggregation of
half-savage beasts which they kept within their village I realized
the necessity for the pathways. There were a number of the same
vicious wolf-dogs which we had left worrying the dyryth, and many
goatlike animals whose distended udders explained the reasons for
My guard halted before one of the huts into which I was pushed;
then two of the creatures squatted down before the entrance--to
prevent my escape, doubtless. Though where I should have escaped
to I certainly had not the remotest conception. I had no more than
entered the dark shadows of the interior than there fell upon my
ears the tones of a familiar voice, in prayer.
"Perry!" I cried. "Dear old Perry! Thank the Lord you are safe."
"David! Can it be possible that you escaped?" And the old man
stumbled toward me and threw his arms about me.
He had seen me fall before the dyryth, and then he had been seized
by a number of the ape-creatures and borne through the tree tops
to their village. His captors had been as inquisitive as to his
strange clothing as had mine, with the same result. As we looked
at each other we could not help but laugh.
"With a tail, David," remarked Perry, "you would make a very handsome
"Maybe we can borrow a couple," I rejoined. "They seem to be quite
the thing this season. I wonder what the creatures intend doing
with us, Perry. They don't seem really savage. What do you
suppose they can be? You were about to tell me where we are when
that great hairy frigate bore down upon us--have you really any
idea at all?"
"Yes, David," he replied, "I know precisely where we are. We have
made a magnificent discovery, my boy! We have proved that the
earth is hollow. We have passed entirely through its crust to the
"Perry, you are mad!"
"Not at all, David. For two hundred and fifty miles our prospector
bore us through the crust beneath our outer world. At that point
it reached the center of gravity of the five-hundred-mile-thick
crust. Up to that point we had been descending--direction is,
of course, merely relative. Then at the moment that our seats
revolved--the thing that made you believe that we had turned about
and were speeding upward--we passed the center of gravity and,
though we did not alter the direction of our progress, yet we were
in reality moving upward--toward the surface of the inner world.
Does not the strange fauna and flora which we have seen convince you
that you are not in the world of your birth? And the horizon--could
it present the strange aspects which we both noted unless we were
indeed standing upon the inside surface of a sphere?"
"But the sun, Perry!" I urged. "How in the world can the sun shine
through five hundred miles of solid crust?"
"It is not the sun of the outer world that we see here. It
is another sun--an entirely different sun--that casts its eternal
noonday effulgence upon the face of the inner world. Look at it
now, David--if you can see it from the doorway of this hut--and
you will see that it is still in the exact center of the heavens.
We have been here for many hours--yet it is still noon.
"And withal it is very simple, David. The earth was once a nebulous
mass. It cooled, and as it cooled it shrank. At length a thin
crust of solid matter formed upon its outer surface--a sort of
shell; but within it was partially molten matter and highly expanded
gases. As it continued to cool, what happened? Centrifugal
force burled the particles of the nebulous center toward the crust
as rapidly as they approached a solid state. You have seen the
same principle practically applied in the modern cream separator.
Presently there was only a small super-heated core of gaseous matter
remaining within a huge vacant interior left by the contraction of
the cooling gases. The equal attraction of the solid crust from
all directions maintained this luminous core in the exact center of
the hollow globe. What remains of it is the sun you saw today--a
relatively tiny thing at the exact center of the earth. Equally
to every part of this inner world it diffuses its perpetual noonday
light and torrid heat.
"This inner world must have cooled sufficiently to support animal
life long ages after life appeared upon the outer crust, but that
the same agencies were at work here is evident from the similar
forms of both animal and vegetable creation which we have already
seen. Take the great beast which attacked us, for example.
Unquestionably a counterpart of the Megatherium of the post-Pliocene
period of the outer crust, whose fossilized skeleton has been found
in South America."
"But the grotesque inhabitants of this forest?" I urged. "Surely
they have no counterpart in the earth's history."
"Who can tell?" he rejoined. "They may constitute the link between ape
and man, all traces of which have been swallowed by the countless
convulsions which have racked the outer crust, or they may be merely
the result of evolution along slightly different lines--either is
Further speculation was interrupted by the appearance of several
of our captors before the entrance of the hut. Two of them entered
and dragged us forth. The perilous pathways and the surrounding
trees were filled with the black ape-men, their females, and their
young. There was not an ornament, a weapon, or a garment among
"Quite low in the scale of creation," commented Perry.
"Quite high enough to play the deuce with us, though," I replied.
"Now what do you suppose they intend doing with us?"
We were not long in learning. As on the occasion of our trip to
the village we were seized by a couple of the powerful creatures
and whirled away through the tree tops, while about us and in our
wake raced a chattering, jabbering, grinning horde of sleek, black
Twice my bearers missed their footing, and my heart ceased beating
as we plunged toward instant death among the tangled deadwood beneath.
But on both occasions those lithe, powerful tails reached out and
found sustaining branches, nor did either of the creatures loosen
their grasp upon me. In fact, it seemed that the incidents were
of no greater moment to them than would be the stubbing of one's
toe at a street crossing in the outer world--they but laughed
uproariously and sped on with me.
For some time they continued through the forest--how long I could
not guess for I was learning, what was later borne very forcefully
to my mind, that time ceases to be a factor the moment means for
measuring it cease to exist. Our watches were gone, and we were
living beneath a stationary sun. Already I was puzzled to compute
the period of time which had elapsed since we broke through the crust
of the inner world. It might be hours, or it might be days--who
in the world could tell where it was always noon! By the sun, no
time had elapsed--but my judgment told me that we must have been
several hours in this strange world.
Presently the forest terminated, and we came out upon a level plain.
A short distance before us rose a few low, rocky hills. Toward
these our captors urged us, and after a short time led us through
a narrow pass into a tiny, circular valley. Here they got down
to work, and we were soon convinced that if we were not to die to
make a Roman holiday, we were to die for some other purpose. The
attitude of our captors altered immediately as they entered the
natural arena within the rocky hills. Their laughter ceased. Grim
ferocity marked their bestial faces--bared fangs menaced us.
We were placed in the center of the amphitheater--the thousand
creatures forming a great ring about us. Then a wolf-dog was
brought--hyaenadon Perry called it--and turned loose with us inside
the circle. The thing's body was as large as that of a full-grown
mastiff, its legs were short and powerful, and its jaws broad
and strong. Dark, shaggy hair covered its back and sides, while
its breast and belly were quite white. As it slunk toward us it
presented a most formidable aspect with its upcurled lips baring
its mighty fangs.
Perry was on his knees, praying. I stooped and picked up a small
stone. At my movement the beast veered off a bit and commenced
circling us. Evidently it had been a target for stones before.
The ape-things were dancing up and down urging the brute on with
savage cries, until at last, seeing that I did not throw, he charged
At Andover, and later at Yale, I had pitched on winning ball teams.
My speed and control must both have been above the ordinary, for I
made such a record during my senior year at college that overtures
were made to me in behalf of one of the great major-league teams;
but in the tightest pitch that ever had confronted me in the past
I had never been in such need for control as now.
As I wound up for the delivery, I held my nerves and muscles under
absolute command, though the grinning jaws were hurtling toward
me at terrific speed. And then I let go, with every ounce of my
weight and muscle and science in back of that throw. The stone
caught the hyaenodon full upon the end of the nose, and sent him
bowling over upon his back.
At the same instant a chorus of shrieks and howls arose from
the circle of spectators, so that for a moment I thought that the
upsetting of their champion was the cause; but in this I soon saw
that I was mistaken. As I looked, the ape-things broke in all
directions toward the surrounding hills, and then I distinguished
the real cause of their perturbation. Behind them, streaming
through the pass which leads into the valley, came a swarm of
hairy men--gorilla-like creatures armed with spears and hatchets,
and bearing long, oval shields. Like demons they set upon the
ape-things, and before them the hyaenodon, which had now regained
its senses and its feet, fled howling with fright. Past us swept
the pursued and the pursuers, nor did the hairy ones accord us
more than a passing glance until the arena had been emptied of its
former occupants. Then they returned to us, and one who seemed to
have authority among them directed that we be brought with them.
When we had passed out of the amphitheater onto the great plain we
saw a caravan of men and women--human beings like ourselves--and
for the first time hope and relief filled my heart, until I could
have cried out in the exuberance of my happiness. It is true that
they were a half-naked, wild-appearing aggregation; but they at
least were fashioned along the same lines as ourselves--there was
nothing grotesque or horrible about them as about the other creatures
in this strange, weird world.
But as we came closer, our hearts sank once more, for we discovered
that the poor wretches were chained neck to neck in a long line,
and that the gorilla-men were their guards. With little ceremony
Perry and I were chained at the end of the line, and without further
ado the interrupted march was resumed.
Up to this time the excitement had kept us both up; but now the
tiresome monotony of the long march across the sun-baked plain
brought on all the agonies consequent to a long-denied sleep. On
and on we stumbled beneath that hateful noonday sun. If we fell
we were prodded with a sharp point. Our companions in chains did
not stumble. They strode along proudly erect. Occasionally they
would exchange words with one another in a monosyllabic language.
They were a noble-appearing race with well-formed heads and perfect
physiques. The men were heavily bearded, tall and muscular; the
women, smaller and more gracefully molded, with great masses of
raven hair caught into loose knots upon their heads. The features
of both sexes were well proportioned--there was not a face among
them that would have been called even plain if judged by earthly
standards. They wore no ornaments; but this I later learned was
due to the fact that their captors had stripped them of everything
of value. As garmenture the women possessed a single robe of
some light-colored, spotted hide, rather similar in appearance to
a leopard's skin. This they wore either supported entirely about
the waist by a leathern thong, so that it hung partially below the
knee on one side, or possibly looped gracefully across one shoulder.
Their feet were shod with skin sandals. The men wore loin cloths of
the hide of some shaggy beast, long ends of which depended before
and behind nearly to the ground. In some instances these ends were
finished with the strong talons of the beast from which the hides
had been taken.
Our guards, whom I already have described as gorilla-like men,
were rather lighter in build than a gorilla, but even so they were
indeed mighty creatures. Their arms and legs were proportioned
more in conformity with human standards, but their entire bodies
were covered with shaggy, brown hair, and their faces were quite as
brutal as those of the few stuffed specimens of the gorilla which
I had seen in the museums at home.
Their only redeeming feature lay in the development of the head
above and back of the ears. In this respect they were not one
whit less human than we. They were clothed in a sort of tunic of
light cloth which reached to the knees. Beneath this they wore
only a loin cloth of the same material, while their feet were shod
with thick hide of some mammoth creature of this inner world.
Their arms and necks were encircled by many ornaments of metal--silver
predominating--and on their tunics were sewn the heads of tiny
reptiles in odd and rather artistic designs. They talked among
themselves as they marched along on either side of us, but in a
language which I perceived differed from that employed by our fellow
prisoners. When they addressed the latter they used what appeared
to be a third language, and which I later learned is a mongrel
tongue rather analogous to the Pidgin-English of the Chinese coolie.
How far we marched I have no conception, nor has Perry. Both of us
were asleep much of the time for hours before a halt was called--then
we dropped in our tracks. I say "for hours," but how may one
measure time where time does not exist! When our march commenced
the sun stood at zenith. When we halted our shadows still pointed
toward nadir. Whether an instant or an eternity of earthly time
elapsed who may say. That march may have occupied nine years and
eleven months of the ten years that I spent in the inner world,
or it may have been accomplished in the fraction of a second--I
cannot tell. But this I do know that since you have told me that
ten years have elapsed since I departed from this earth I have lost
all respect for time--I am commencing to doubt that such a thing
exists other than in the weak, finite mind of man.
DIAN THE BEAUTIFUL
When our guards aroused us from sleep we were much refreshed. They
gave us food. Strips of dried meat it was, but it put new life and
strength into us, so that now we too marched with high-held heads,
and took noble strides. At least I did, for I was young and proud;
but poor Perry hated walking. On earth I had often seen him call
a cab to travel a square--he was paying for it now, and his old
legs wobbled so that I put my arm about him and half carried him
through the balance of those frightful marches.
The country began to change at last, and we wound up out of the
level plain through mighty mountains of virgin granite. The tropical
verdure of the lowlands was replaced by hardier vegetation, but
even here the effects of constant heat and light were apparent in
the immensity of the trees and the profusion of foliage and blooms.
Crystal streams roared through their rocky channels, fed by the
perpetual snows which we could see far above us. Above the snowcapped
heights hung masses of heavy clouds. It was these, Perry explained,
which evidently served the double purpose of replenishing the
melting snows and protecting them from the direct rays of the sun.
By this time we had picked up a smattering of the bastard language
in which our guards addressed us, as well as making good headway
in the rather charming tongue of our co-captives. Directly ahead
of me in the chain gang was a young woman. Three feet of chain
linked us together in a forced companionship which I, at least,
soon rejoiced in. For I found her a willing teacher, and from
her I learned the language of her tribe, and much of the life and
customs of the inner world--at least that part of it with which
she was familiar.
She told me that she was called Dian the Beautiful, and that she
belonged to the tribe of Amoz, which dwells in the cliffs above
the Darel Az, or shallow sea.
"How came you here?" I asked her.
"I was running away from Jubal the Ugly One," she answered, as
though that was explanation quite sufficient.
"Who is Jubal the Ugly One?" I asked. "And why did you run away
She looked at me in surprise.
"Why DOES a woman run away from a man?" she answered my question
"They do not, where I come from," I replied. "Sometimes they run
But she could not understand. Nor could I get her to grasp the
fact that I was of another world. She was quite as positive that
creation was originated solely to produce her own kind and the
world she lived in as are many of the outer world.
"But Jubal," I insisted. "Tell me about him, and why you ran away
to be chained by the neck and scourged across the face of a world."
"Jubal the Ugly One placed his trophy before my father's house. It
was the head of a mighty tandor. It remained there and no greater
trophy was placed beside it. So I knew that Jubal the Ugly One
would come and take me as his mate. None other so powerful wished
me, or they would have slain a mightier beast and thus have won me
from Jubal. My father is not a mighty hunter. Once he was, but a
sadok tossed him, and never again had he the full use of his right
arm. My brother, Dacor the Strong One, had gone to the land of
Sari to steal a mate for himself. Thus there was none, father,
brother, or lover, to save me from Jubal the Ugly One, and I ran
away and hid among the hills that skirt the land of Amoz. And
there these Sagoths found me and made me captive."
"What will they do with you?" I asked. "Where are they taking us?"
Again she looked her incredulity.
"I can almost believe that you are of another world," she said,
"for otherwise such ignorance were inexplicable. Do you really
mean that you do not know that the Sagoths are the creatures of
the Mahars--the mighty Mahars who think they own Pellucidar and all
that walks or grows upon its surface, or creeps or burrows beneath,
or swims within its lakes and oceans, or flies through its air? Next
you will be telling me that you never before heard of the Mahars!"
I was loath to do it, and further incur her scorn; but there was
no alternative if I were to absorb knowledge, so I made a clean
breast of my pitiful ignorance as to the mighty Mahars. She was
shocked. But she did her very best to enlighten me, though much
that she said was as Greek would have been to her. She described
the Mahars largely by comparisons. In this way they were like unto
thipdars, in that to the hairless lidi.
About all I gleaned of them was that they were quite hideous, had
wings, and webbed feet; lived in cities built beneath the ground;
could swim under water for great distances, and were very, very
wise. The Sagoths were their weapons of offense and defense, and
the races like herself were their hands and feet--they were the
slaves and servants who did all the manual labor. The Mahars were
the heads--the brains--of the inner world. I longed to see this
wondrous race of supermen.
Perry learned the language with me. When we halted, as we
occasionally did, though sometimes the halts seemed ages apart, he
would join in the conversation, as would Ghak the Hairy One, he who
was chained just ahead of Dian the Beautiful. Ahead of Ghak was
Hooja the Sly One. He too entered the conversation occasionally.
Most of his remarks were directed toward Dian the Beautiful. It
didn't take half an eye to see that he had developed a bad case; but
the girl appeared totally oblivious to his thinly veiled advances.
Did I say thinly veiled? There is a race of men in New Zealand,
or Australia, I have forgotten which, who indicate their preference
for the lady of their affections by banging her over the head with
a bludgeon. By comparison with this method Hooja's lovemaking might
be called thinly veiled. At first it caused me to blush violently
although I have seen several Old Years out at Rectors, and in other
less fashionable places off Broadway, and in Vienna, and Hamburg.
But the girl! She was magnificent. It was easy to see that she
considered herself as entirely above and apart from her present
surroundings and company. She talked with me, and with Perry, and
with the taciturn Ghak because we were respectful; but she couldn't
even see Hooja the Sly One, much less hear him, and that made him
furious. He tried to get one of the Sagoths to move the girl up
ahead of him in the slave gang, but the fellow only poked him with
his spear and told him that he had selected the girl for his own
property--that he would buy her from the Mahars as soon as they
reached Phutra. Phutra, it seemed, was the city of our destination.
After passing over the first chain of mountains we skirted a salt
sea, upon whose bosom swam countless horrid things. Seal-like
creatures there were with long necks stretching ten and more feet
above their enormous bodies and whose snake heads were split with
gaping mouths bristling with countless fangs. There were huge
tortoises too, paddling about among these other reptiles, which
Perry said were Plesiosaurs of the Lias. I didn't question his
veracity--they might have been most anything.
Dian told me they were tandorazes, or tandors of the sea, and that
the other, and more fearsome reptiles, which occasionally rose from
the deep to do battle with them, were azdyryths, or sea-dyryths--Perry
called them Ichthyosaurs. They resembled a whale with the head of
I had forgotten what little geology I had studied at school--about
all that remained was an impression of horror that the illustrations
of restored prehistoric monsters had made upon me, and a well-defined
belief that any man with a pig's shank and a vivid imagination
could "restore" most any sort of paleolithic monster he saw fit,
and take rank as a first class paleontologist. But when I saw these
sleek, shiny carcasses shimmering in the sunlight as they emerged
from the ocean, shaking their giant heads; when I saw the waters
roll from their sinuous bodies in miniature waterfalls as they glided
hither and thither, now upon the surface, now half submerged; as I
saw them meet, open-mouthed, hissing and snorting, in their titanic
and interminable warring I realized how futile is man's poor, weak
imagination by comparison with Nature's incredible genius.
And Perry! He was absolutely flabbergasted. He said so himself.
"David," he remarked, after we had marched for a long time beside
that awful sea. "David, I used to teach geology, and I thought
that I believed what I taught; but now I see that I did not believe
it--that it is impossible for man to believe such things as these
unless he sees them with his own eyes. We take things for granted,
perhaps, because we are told them over and over again, and have no
way of disproving them--like religions, for example; but we don't
believe them, we only think we do. If you ever get back to the
outer world you will find that the geologists and paleontologists
will be the first to set you down a liar, for they know that no
such creatures as they restore ever existed. It is all right to
IMAGINE them as existing in an equally imaginary epoch--but now?
At the next halt Hooja the Sly One managed to find enough slack
chain to permit him to worm himself back quite close to Dian. We
were all standing, and as he edged near the girl she turned her
back upon him in such a truly earthly feminine manner that I could
scarce repress a smile; but it was a short-lived smile for on the
instant the Sly One's hand fell upon the girl's bare arm, jerking
her roughly toward him.
I was not then familiar with the customs or social ethics
which prevailed within Pellucidar; but even so I did not need the
appealing look which the girl shot to me from her magnificent eyes
to influence my subsequent act. What the Sly One's intention was
I paused not to inquire; but instead, before he could lay hold of
her with his other hand, I placed a right to the point of his jaw
that felled him in his tracks.
A roar of approval went up from those of the other prisoners and
the Sagoths who had witnessed the brief drama; not, as I later
learned, because I had championed the girl, but for the neat and,
to them, astounding method by which I had bested Hooja.
And the girl? At first she looked at me with wide, wondering
eyes, and then she dropped her head, her face half averted, and a
delicate flush suffused her cheek. For a moment she stood thus in
silence, and then her head went high, and she turned her back upon
me as she had upon Hooja. Some of the prisoners laughed, and I
saw the face of Ghak the Hairy One go very black as he looked at
me searchingly. And what I could see of Dian's cheek went suddenly
from red to white.
Immediately after we resumed the march, and though I realized that
in some way I had offended Dian the Beautiful I could not prevail
upon her to talk with me that I might learn wherein I had erred--in
fact I might quite as well have been addressing a sphinx for all
the attention I got. At last my own foolish pride stepped in and
prevented my making any further attempts, and thus a companionship
that without my realizing it had come to mean a great deal to me was
cut off. Thereafter I confined my conversation to Perry. Hooja
did not renew his advances toward the girl, nor did he again venture
Again the weary and apparently interminable marching became a
perfect nightmare of horrors to me. The more firmly fixed became
the realization that the girl's friendship had meant so much to me,
the more I came to miss it; and the more impregnable the barrier
of silly pride. But I was very young and would not ask Ghak for
the explanation which I was sure he could give, and that might have
made everything all right again.
On the march, or during halts, Dian refused consistently to notice
me--when her eyes wandered in my direction she looked either over
my head or directly through me. At last I became desperate, and
determined to swallow my self-esteem, and again beg her to tell me
how I had offended, and how I might make reparation. I made up my
mind that I should do this at the next halt. We were approaching
another range of mountains at the time, and when we reached them,
instead of winding across them through some high-flung pass we
entered a mighty natural tunnel--a series of labyrinthine grottoes,
dark as Erebus.
The guards had no torches or light of any description. In fact we
had seen no artificial light or sign of fire since we had entered
Pellucidar. In a land of perpetual noon there is no need of light
above ground, yet I marveled that they had no means of lighting
their way through these dark, subterranean passages. So we crept
along at a snail's pace, with much stumbling and falling--the
guards keeping up a singsong chant ahead of us, interspersed with
certain high notes which I found always indicated rough places and
Halts were now more frequent, but I did not wish to speak to Dian
until I could see from the expression of her face how she was
receiving my apologies. At last a faint glow ahead forewarned us
of the end of the tunnel, for which I for one was devoutly thankful.
Then at a sudden turn we emerged into the full light of the noonday
But with it came a sudden realization of what meant to me a
real catastrophe--Dian was gone, and with her a half-dozen other
prisoners. The guards saw it too, and the ferocity of their rage
was terrible to behold. Their awesome, bestial faces were contorted
in the most diabolical expressions, as they accused each other of
responsibility for the loss. Finally they fell upon us, beating
us with their spear shafts, and hatchets. They had already killed
two near the head of the line, and were like to have finished the
balance of us when their leader finally put a stop to the brutal
slaughter. Never in all my life had I witnessed a more horrible
exhibition of bestial rage--I thanked God that Dian had not been
one of those left to endure it.
Of the twelve prisoners who had been chained ahead of me each
alternate one had been freed commencing with Dian. Hooja was gone.
Ghak remained. What could it mean? How had it been accomplished?
The commander of the guards was investigating. Soon he discovered
that the rude locks which had held the neckbands in place had been
"Hooja the Sly One," murmured Ghak, who was now next to me in line.
"He has taken the girl that you would not have," he continued,
glancing at me.
"That I would not have!" I cried. "What do you mean?"
He looked at me closely for a moment.
"I have doubted your story that you are from another world," he
said at last, "but yet upon no other grounds could your ignorance
of the ways of Pellucidar be explained. Do you really mean that
you do not know that you offended the Beautiful One, and how?"
"I do not know, Ghak," I replied.
"Then shall I tell you. When a man of Pellucidar intervenes
between another man and the woman the other man would have, the
woman belongs to the victor. Dian the Beautiful belongs to you.
You should have claimed her or released her. Had you taken her
hand, it would have indicated your desire to make her your mate,
and had you raised her hand above her head and then dropped it,
it would have meant that you did not wish her for a mate and that
you released her from all obligation to you. By doing neither you
have put upon her the greatest affront that a man may put upon a
woman. Now she is your slave. No man will take her as mate, or
may take her honorably, until he shall have overcome you in combat,
and men do not choose slave women as their mates--at least not the
men of Pellucidar."
"I did not know, Ghak," I cried. "I did not know. Not for all
Pellucidar would I have harmed Dian the Beautiful by word, or look,
or act of mine. I do not want her as my slave. I do not want her
as my--" but here I stopped. The vision of that sweet and innocent
face floated before me amidst the soft mists of imagination, and
where I had on the second believed that I clung only to the memory
of a gentle friendship I had lost, yet now it seemed that it would
have been disloyalty to her to have said that I did not want Dian
the Beautiful as my mate. I had not thought of her except as a
welcome friend in a strange, cruel world. Even now I did not think
that I loved her.
I believe Ghak must have read the truth more in my expression than
in my words, for presently he laid his hand upon my shoulder.
"Man of another world," he said, "I believe you. Lips may lie,
but when the heart speaks through the eyes it tells only the truth.
Your heart has spoken to me. I know now that you meant no affront
to Dian the Beautiful. She is not of my tribe; but her mother is
my sister. She does not know it--her mother was stolen by Dian's
father who came with many others of the tribe of Amoz to battle
with us for our women--the most beautiful women of Pellucidar.
Then was her father king of Amoz, and her mother was daughter of
the king of Sari--to whose power I, his son, have succeeded. Dian
is the daughter of kings, though her father is no longer king since
the sadok tossed him and Jubal the Ugly One wrested his kingship
from him. Because of her lineage the wrong you did her was greatly
magnified in the eyes of all who saw it. She will never forgive
I asked Ghak if there was not some way in which I could release the
girl from the bondage and ignominy I had unwittingly placed upon
"If ever you find her, yes," he answered. "Merely to raise her hand
above her head and drop it in the presence of others is sufficient
to release her; but how may you ever find her, you who are doomed
to a life of slavery yourself in the buried city of Phutra?"
"Is there no escape?" I asked.
"Hooja the Sly One escaped and took the others with him," replied
Ghak. "But there are no more dark places on the way to Phutra,
and once there it is not so easy--the Mahars are very wise. Even
if one escaped from Phutra there are the thipdars--they would find
you, and then--" the Hairy One shuddered. "No, you will never
escape the Mahars."
It was a cheerful prospect. I asked Perry what he thought about
it; but he only shrugged his shoulders and continued a longwinded
prayer he had been at for some time. He was wont to say that the
only redeeming feature of our captivity was the ample time it gave
him for the improvisation of prayers--it was becoming an obsession
with him. The Sagoths had begun to take notice of his habit of
declaiming throughout entire marches. One of them asked him what
he was saying--to whom he was talking. The question gave me an
idea, so I answered quickly before Perry could say anything.
"Do not interrupt him," I said. "He is a very holy man in the world
from which we come. He is speaking to spirits which you cannot
see--do not interrupt him or they will spring out of the air upon
you and rend you limb from limb--like that," and I jumped toward
the great brute with a loud "Boo!" that sent him stumbling backward.
I took a long chance, I realized, but if we could make any capital
out of Perry's harmless mania I wanted to make it while the making
was prime. It worked splendidly. The Sagoths treated us both with
marked respect during the balance of the journey, and then passed
the word along to their masters, the Mahars.
Two marches after this episode we came to the city of Phutra. The
entrance to it was marked by two lofty towers of granite, which
guarded a flight of steps leading to the buried city. Sagoths
were on guard here as well as at a hundred or more other towers
scattered about over a large plain.
As we descended the broad staircase which led to the main avenue of
Phutra I caught my first sight of the dominant race of the inner
world. Involuntarily I shrank back as one of the creatures approached
to inspect us. A more hideous thing it would be impossible to
imagine. The all-powerful Mahars of Pellucidar are great reptiles,
some six or eight feet in length, with long narrow heads and great
round eyes. Their beak-like mouths are lined with sharp, white
fangs, and the backs of their huge, lizard bodies are serrated
into bony ridges from their necks to the end of their long tails.
Their feet are equipped with three webbed toes, while from the fore
feet membranous wings, which are attached to their bodies just in
front of the hind legs, protrude at an angle of 45 degrees toward
the rear, ending in sharp points several feet above their bodies.
I glanced at Perry as the thing passed me to inspect him. The old
man was gazing at the horrid creature with wide astonished eyes.
When it passed on, he turned to me.
"A rhamphorhynchus of the Middle Olitic, David," he said, "but,
gad, how enormous! The largest remains we ever have discovered have
never indicated a size greater than that attained by an ordinary
As we continued on through the main avenue of Phutra we saw many
thousand of the creatures coming and going upon their daily duties.
They paid but little attention to us. Phutra is laid out underground
with a regularity that indicates remarkable engineering skill. It
is hewn from solid limestone strata. The streets are broad and
of a uniform height of twenty feet. At intervals tubes pierce the
roof of this underground city, and by means of lenses and reflectors
transmit the sunlight, softened and diffused, to dispel what would
otherwise be Cimmerian darkness. In like manner air is introduced.
Perry and I were taken, with Ghak, to a large public building,
where one of the Sagoths who had formed our guard explained to a
Maharan official the circumstances surrounding our capture. The
method of communication between these two was remarkable in that
no spoken words were exchanged. They employed a species of sign
language. As I was to learn later, the Mahars have no ears, not
any spoken language. Among themselves they communicate by means
of what Perry says must be a sixth sense which is cognizant of a
I never did quite grasp him, though he endeavored to explain it
to me upon numerous occasions. I suggested telepathy, but he said
no, that it was not telepathy since they could only communicate when
in each others' presence, nor could they talk with the Sagoths or
the other inhabitants of Pellucidar by the same method they used
to converse with one another.
"What they do," said Perry, "is to project their thoughts into the
fourth dimension, when they become appreciable to the sixth sense
of their listener. Do I make myself quite clear?"
"You do not, Perry," I replied. He shook his head in despair,
and returned to his work. They had set us to carrying a great
accumulation of Maharan literature from one apartment to another,
and there arranging it upon shelves. I suggested to Perry that we
were in the public library of Phutra, but later, as he commenced
to discover the key to their written language, he assured me that
we were handling the ancient archives of the race.
During this period my thoughts were continually upon Dian the
Beautiful. I was, of course, glad that she had escaped the Mahars,
and the fate that had been suggested by the Sagoth who had threatened
to purchase her upon our arrival at Phutra. I often wondered if
the little party of fugitives had been overtaken by the guards who
had returned to search for them. Sometimes I was not so sure but
that I should have been more contented to know that Dian was here
in Phutra, than to think of her at the mercy of Hooja the Sly One.
Ghak, Perry, and I often talked together of possible escape, but
the Sarian was so steeped in his lifelong belief that no one could
escape from the Mahars except by a miracle, that he was not much
aid to us--his attitude was of one who waits for the miracle to
come to him.
At my suggestion Perry and I fashioned some swords of scraps of
iron which we discovered among some rubbish in the cells where we
slept, for we were permitted almost unrestrained freedom of action
within the limits of the building to which we had been assigned.
So great were the number of slaves who waited upon the inhabitants
of Phutra that none of us was apt to be overburdened with work,
nor were our masters unkind to us.
We hid our new weapons beneath the skins which formed our beds, and
then Perry conceived the idea of making bows and arrows--weapons
apparently unknown within Pellucidar. Next came shields; but these
I found it easier to steal from the walls of the outer guardroom
of the building.
We had completed these arrangements for our protection after leaving
Phutra when the Sagoths who had been sent to recapture the escaped
prisoners returned with four of them, of whom Hooja was one. Dian
and two others had eluded them. It so happened that Hooja was
confined in the same building with us. He told Ghak that he had not
seen Dian or the others after releasing them within the dark grotto.
What had become of them he had not the faintest conception--they
might be wandering yet, lost within the labyrinthine tunnel, if
not dead from starvation.
I was now still further apprehensive as to the fate of Dian, and at
this time, I imagine, came the first realization that my affection
for the girl might be prompted by more than friendship. During
my waking hours she was constantly the subject of my thoughts, and
when I slept her dear face haunted my dreams. More than ever was
I determined to escape the Mahars.
"Perry, " I confided to the old man, "if I have to search every
inch of this diminutive world I am going to find Dian the Beautiful
and right the wrong I unintentionally did her." That was the excuse
I made for Perry's benefit.
"Diminutive world!" he scoffed. "You don't know what you are
talking about, my boy," and then he showed me a map of Pellucidar
which he had recently discovered among the manuscript he was
"Look," he cried, pointing to it, "this is evidently water, and
all this land. Do you notice the general configuration of the two
areas? Where the oceans are upon the outer crust, is land here.
These relatively small areas of ocean follow the general lines of
the continents of the outer world.
"We know that the crust of the globe is 500 miles in thickness;
then the inside diameter of Pellucidar must be 7,000 miles, and the
superficial area 165,480,000 square miles. Three-fourths of this
is land. Think of it! A land area of 124,110,000 square miles!
Our own world contains but 53,000,000 square miles of land, the
balance of its surface being covered by water. Just as we often
compare nations by their relative land areas, so if we compare
these two worlds in the same way we have the strange anomaly of a
larger world within a smaller one!
"Where within vast Pellucidar would you search for your Dian?
Without stars, or moon, or changing sun how could you find her even
though you knew where she might be found?"
The proposition was a corker. It quite took my breath away; but
I found that it left me all the more determined to attempt it.
"If Ghak will accompany us we may be able to do it," I suggested.
Perry and I sought him out and put the question straight to him.
"Ghak," I said, "we are determined to escape from this bondage.
Will you accompany us?"
"They will set the thipdars upon us," he said, "and then we shall
be killed; but--" he hesitated--"I would take the chance if I
thought that I might possibly escape and return to my own people."
"Could you find your way back to your own land?" asked Perry. "And
could you aid David in his search for Dian?"
"But how," persisted Perry, "could you travel to strange country
without heavenly bodies or a compass to guide you?"
Ghak didn't know what Perry meant by heavenly bodies or a compass,
but he assured us that you might blindfold any man of Pellucidar
and carry him to the farthermost corner of the world, yet he would
be able to come directly to his own home again by the shortest route.
He seemed surprised to think that we found anything wonderful in
it. Perry said it must be some sort of homing instinct such as is
possessed by certain breeds of earthly pigeons. I didn't know, of
course, but it gave me an idea.
"Then Dian could have found her way directly to her own people?"
"Surely," replied Ghak, "unless some mighty beast of prey killed
I was for making the attempted escape at once, but both Perry and
Ghak counseled waiting for some propitious accident which would
insure us some small degree of success. I didn't see what accident
could befall a whole community in a land of perpetual daylight where
the inhabitants had no fixed habits of sleep. Why, I am sure that
some of the Mahars never sleep, while others may, at long intervals,
crawl into the dark recesses beneath their dwellings and curl up
in protracted slumber. Perry says that if a Mahar stays awake for
three years he will make up all his lost sleep in a long year's
snooze. That may be all true, but I never saw but three of them
asleep, and it was the sight of these three that gave me a suggestion
for our means of escape.
I had been searching about far below the levels that we slaves were
supposed to frequent--possibly fifty feet beneath the main floor
of the building--among a network of corridors and apartments, when
I came suddenly upon three Mahars curled up upon a bed of skins. At
first I thought they were dead, but later their regular breathing
convinced me of my error. Like a flash the thought came to me of
the marvelous opportunity these sleeping reptiles offered as a means
of eluding the watchfulness of our captors and the Sagoth guards.
Hastening back to Perry where he pored over a musty pile of, to
me, meaningless hieroglyphics, I explained my plan to him. To my
surprise he was horrified.
"It would be murder, David," he cried.
"Murder to kill a reptilian monster?" I asked in astonishment.
"Here they are not monsters, David," he replied. "Here they are
the dominant race--we are the 'monsters'--the lower orders. In
Pellucidar evolution has progressed along different lines than
upon the outer earth. These terrible convulsions of nature time
and time again wiped out the existing species--but for this fact
some monster of the Saurozoic epoch might rule today upon our own
world. We see here what might well have occurred in our own history
had conditions been what they have been here.
"Life within Pellucidar is far younger than upon the outer crust.
Here man has but reached a stage analogous to the Stone Age of
our own world's history, but for countless millions of years these
reptiles have been progressing. Possibly it is the sixth sense
which I am sure they possess that has given them an advantage over
the other and more frightfully armed of their fellows; but this
we may never know. They look upon us as we look upon the beasts
of our fields, and I learn from their written records that other
races of Mahars feed upon men--they keep them in great droves, as
we keep cattle. They breed them most carefully, and when they are
quite fat, they kill and eat them."
"What is there horrible about it, David?" the old man asked. "They
understand us no better than we understand the lower animals of our
own world. Why, I have come across here very learned discussions
of the question as to whether gilaks, that is men, have any means
of communication. One writer claims that we do not even reason--that
our every act is mechanical, or instinctive. The dominant race
of Pellucidar, David, have not yet learned that men converse among
themselves, or reason. Because we do not converse as they do it
is beyond them to imagine that we converse at all. It is thus that
we reason in relation to the brutes of our own world. They know
that the Sagoths have a spoken language, but they cannot comprehend
it, or how it manifests itself, since they have no auditory apparatus.
They believe that the motions of the lips alone convey the meaning.
That the Sagoths can communicate with us is incomprehensible to
"Yes, David," he concluded, "it would entail murder to carry out
"Very well then, Perry." I replied. "I shall become a murderer."
He got me to go over the plan again most carefully, and for some
reason which was not at the time clear to me insisted upon a very
careful description of the apartments and corridors I had just
"I wonder, David," he said at length, "as you are determined to
carry out your wild scheme, if we could not accomplish something
of very real and lasting benefit for the human race of Pellucidar
at the same time. Listen, I have learned much of a most surprising
nature from these archives of the Mahars. That you may not appreciate
my plan I shall briefly outline the history of the race.
"Once the males were all-powerful, but ages ago the females, little
by little, assumed the mastery. For other ages no noticeable change
took place in the race of Mahars. It continued to progress under
the intelligent and beneficent rule of the ladies. Science took
vast strides. This was especially true of the sciences which we
know as biology and eugenics. Finally a certain female scientist
announced the fact that she had discovered a method whereby eggs
might be fertilized by chemical means after they were laid--all
true reptiles, you know, are hatched from eggs.
"What happened? Immediately the necessity for males ceased to
exist--the race was no longer dependent upon them. More ages elapsed
until at the present time we find a race consisting exclusively
of females. But here is the point. The secret of this chemical
formula is kept by a single race of Mahars. It is in the city of
Phutra, and unless I am greatly in error I judge from your description
of the vaults through which you passed today that it lies hidden
in the cellar of this building.
"For two reasons they hide it away and guard it jealously. First,
because upon it depends the very life of the race of Mahars, and second,
owing to the fact that when it was public property as at first so
many were experimenting with it that the danger of over-population
became very grave.
"David, if we can escape, and at the same time take with us this
great secret what will we not have accomplished for the human race
within Pellucidar!" The very thought of it fairly overpowered me.
Why, we two would be the means of placing the men of the inner world
in their rightful place among created things. Only the Sagoths
would then stand between them and absolute supremacy, and I was
not quite sure but that the Sagoths owed all their power to the
greater intelligence of the Mahars--I could not believe that these
gorilla-like beasts were the mental superiors of the human race of
"Why, Perry," I exclaimed, "you and I may reclaim a whole world!
Together we can lead the races of men out of the darkness of ignorance
into the light of advancement and civilization. At one step we may
carry them from the Age of Stone to the twentieth century. It's
marvelous--absolutely marvelous just to think about it."
"David," said the old man, "I believe that God sent us here for just
that purpose--it shall be my life work to teach them His word--to
lead them into the light of His mercy while we are training their
hearts and hands in the ways of culture and civilization."
"You are right, Perry," I said, "and while you are teaching them
to pray I'll be teaching them to fight, and between us we'll make
a race of men that will be an honor to us both."
Ghak had entered the apartment some time before we concluded our
conversation, and now he wanted to know what we were so excited
about. Perry thought we had best not tell him too much, and so I
only explained that I had a plan for escape. When I had outlined
it to him, he seemed about as horror-struck as Perry had been; but
for a different reason. The Hairy One only considered the horrible
fate that would be ours were we discovered; but at last I prevailed
upon him to accept my plan as the only feasible one, and when I had
assured him that I would take all the responsibility for it were
we captured, he accorded a reluctant assent.
THE BEGINNING OF HORROR
Within Pellucidar one time is as good as another. There were no
nights to mask our attempted escape. All must be done in broad
daylight--all but the work I had to do in the apartment beneath the
building. So we determined to put our plan to an immediate test
lest the Mahars who made it possible should awake before I reached
them; but we were doomed to disappointment, for no sooner had
we reached the main floor of the building on our way to the pits
beneath, than we encountered hurrying bands of slaves being hastened
under strong Sagoth guard out of the edifice to the avenue beyond.
Other Sagoths were darting hither and thither in search of other
slaves, and the moment that we appeared we were pounced upon and
hustled into the line of marching humans.
What the purpose or nature of the general exodus we did not know,
but presently through the line of captives ran the rumor that two
escaped slaves had been recaptured--a man and a woman--and that we
were marching to witness their punishment, for the man had killed
a Sagoth of the detachment that had pursued and overtaken them.
At the intelligence my heart sprang to my throat, for I was sure
that the two were of those who escaped in the dark grotto with
Hooja the Sly One, and that Dian must be the woman. Ghak thought
so too, as did Perry.
"Is there naught that we may do to save her?" I asked Ghak.
"Naught," he replied.
Along the crowded avenue we marched, the guards showing unusual
cruelty toward us, as though we, too, had been implicated in the
murder of their fellow. The occasion was to serve as an object-lesson
to all other slaves of the danger and futility of attempted escape,
and the fatal consequences of taking the life of a superior being,
and so I imagine that Sagoths felt amply justified in making the
entire proceeding as uncomfortable and painful to us as possible.
They jabbed us with their spears and struck at us with the hatchets
at the least provocation, and at no provocation at all. It was a
most uncomfortable half-hour that we spent before we were finally
herded through a low entrance into a huge building the center of
which was given up to a good-sized arena. Benches surrounded this
open space upon three sides, and along the fourth were heaped huge
bowlders which rose in receding tiers toward the roof.
At first I couldn't make out the purpose of this mighty pile of
rock, unless it were intended as a rough and picturesque background
for the scenes which were enacted in the arena before it, but
presently, after the wooden benches had been pretty well filled by
slaves and Sagoths, I discovered the purpose of the bowlders, for
then the Mahars began to file into the enclosure.
They marched directly across the arena toward the rocks upon the
opposite side, where, spreading their bat-like wings, they rose
above the high wall of the pit, settling down upon the bowlders
above. These were the reserved seats, the boxes of the elect.
Reptiles that they are, the rough surface of a great stone is
to them as plush as upholstery to us. Here they lolled, blinking
their hideous eyes, and doubtless conversing with one another in
their sixth-sense-fourth-dimension language.
For the first time I beheld their queen. She differed from the
others in no feature that was appreciable to my earthly eyes, in
fact all Mahars look alike to me: but when she crossed the arena
after the balance of her female subjects had found their bowlders,
she was preceded by a score of huge Sagoths, the largest I ever
had seen, and on either side of her waddled a huge thipdar, while
behind came another score of Sagoth guardsmen.
At the barrier the Sagoths clambered up the steep side with truly
apelike agility, while behind them the haughty queen rose upon her
wings with her two frightful dragons close beside her, and settled
down upon the largest bowlder of them all in the exact center of
that side of the amphitheater which is reserved for the dominant
race. Here she squatted, a most repulsive and uninteresting queen;
though doubtless quite as well assured of her beauty and divine
right to rule as the proudest monarch of the outer world.
And then the music started--music without sound! The Mahars cannot
hear, so the drums and fifes and horns of earthly bands are unknown
among them. The "band" consists of a score or more Mahars. It
filed out in the center of the arena where the creatures upon the
rocks might see it, and there it performed for fifteen or twenty
Their technic consisted in waving their tails and moving their
heads in a regular succession of measured movements resulting in a
cadence which evidently pleased the eye of the Mahar as the cadence
of our own instrumental music pleases our ears. Sometimes the band
took measured steps in unison to one side or the other, or backward
and again forward--it all seemed very silly and meaningless to me,
but at the end of the first piece the Mahars upon the rocks showed
the first indications of enthusiasm that I had seen displayed by
the dominant race of Pellucidar. They beat their great wings up
and down, and smote their rocky perches with their mighty tails
until the ground shook. Then the band started another piece, and
all was again as silent as the grave. That was one great beauty
about Mahar music--if you didn't happen to like a piece that was
being played all you had to do was shut your eyes.
When the band had exhausted its repertory it took wing and settled
upon the rocks above and behind the queen. Then the business of
the day was on. A man and woman were pushed into the arena by a
couple of Sagoth guardsmen. I leaned forward in my seat to scrutinize
the female--hoping against hope that she might prove to be another
than Dian the Beautiful. Her back was toward me for a while, and
the sight of the great mass of raven hair piled high upon her head
filled me with alarm.
Presently a door in one side of the arena wall was opened to admit
a huge, shaggy, bull-like creature.
"A Bos," whispered Perry, excitedly. "His kind roamed the outer
crust with the cave bear and the mammoth ages and ages ago. We
have been carried back a million years, David, to the childhood of
a planet--is it not wondrous?"
But I saw only the raven hair of a half-naked girl, and my heart
stood still in dumb misery at the sight of her, nor had I any eyes
for the wonders of natural history. But for Perry and Ghak I should
have leaped to the floor of the arena and shared whatever fate lay
in store for this priceless treasure of the Stone Age.
With the advent of the Bos--they call the thing a thag within
Pellucidar--two spears were tossed into the arena at the feet of
the prisoners. It seemed to me that a bean shooter would have been
as effective against the mighty monster as these pitiful weapons.
As the animal approached the two, bellowing and pawing the ground
with the strength of many earthly bulls, another door directly
beneath us was opened, and from it issued the most terrific roar
that ever had fallen upon my outraged ears. I could not at first
see the beast from which emanated this fearsome challenge, but
the sound had the effect of bringing the two victims around with
a sudden start, and then I saw the girl's face--she was not Dian!
I could have wept for relief.
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