I must have fallen asleep from exhaustion. When I awoke
I was very hungry, and after busying myself searching
for fruit for a while, I set off through the jungle to
find the beach. I knew that the island was not so large
but that I could easily find the sea if I did but move
in a straight line, but there came the difficulty as there
was no way in which I could direct my course and hold it,
the sun, of course, being always directly above my head,
and the trees so thickly set that I could see no distant
object which might serve to guide me in a straight line.
As it was I must have walked for a great distance since I
ate four times and slept twice before I reached the sea,
but at last I did so, and my pleasure at the sight of it
was greatly enhanced by the chance discovery of a hidden
canoe among the bushes through which I had stumbled just
prior to coming upon the beach.
I can tell you that it did not take me long to pull
that awkward craft down to the water and shove it far
out from shore. My experience with Ja had taught me that
if I were to steal another canoe I must be quick about
it and get far beyond the owner's reach as soon as possible.
I must have come out upon the opposite side of the
island from that at which Ja and I had entered it,
for the mainland was nowhere in sight. For a long time I
paddled around the shore, though well out, before I saw
the mainland in the distance. At the sight of it I lost
no time in directing my course toward it, for I had long
since made up my mind to return to Phutra and give myself
up that I might be once more with Perry and Ghak the Hairy One.
I felt that I was a fool ever to have attempted to
escape alone, especially in view of the fact that our
plans were already well formulated to make a break for
freedom together. Of course I realized that the chances
of the success of our proposed venture were slim indeed,
but I knew that I never could enjoy freedom without
Perry so long as the old man lived, and I had learned
that the probability that I might find him was less than slight.
Had Perry been dead, I should gladly have pitted my
strength and wit against the savage and primordial world
in which I found myself. I could have lived in seclusion
within some rocky cave until I had found the means to
outfit myself with the crude weapons of the Stone Age,
and then set out in search of her whose image had now
become the constant companion of my waking hours,
and the central and beloved figure of my dreams.
But, to the best of my knowledge, Perry still lived
and it was my duty and wish to be again with him, that we
might share the dangers and vicissitudes of the strange
world we had discovered. And Ghak, too; the great,
shaggy man had found a place in the hearts of us both,
for he was indeed every inch a man and king.
Uncouth, perhaps, and brutal, too, if judged too harshly
by the standards of effete twentieth- century civilization,
but withal noble, dignified, chivalrous, and loveable.
Chance carried me to the very beach upon which I
had discovered Ja's canoe, and a short time later I
was scrambling up the steep bank to retrace my steps
from the plain of Phutra. But my troubles came when I
entered the canyon beyond the summit, for here I found
that several of them centered at the point where I
crossed the divide, and which one I had traversed
to reach the pass I could not for the life of me remember.
It was all a matter of chance and so I set off down
that which seemed the easiest going, and in this I made
the same mistake that many of us do in selecting the path
along which we shall follow out the course of our lives,
and again learned that it is not always best to follow
the line of least resistance.
By the time I had eaten eight meals and slept twice
I was convinced that I was upon the wrong trail,
for between Phutra and the inland sea I had not slept
at all, and had eaten but once. To retrace my steps
to the summit of the divide and explore another canyon
seemed the only solution of my problem, but a sudden
widening and levelness of the canyon just before me seemed
to suggest that it was about to open into a level country,
and with the lure of discovery strong upon me I decided
to proceed but a short distance farther before I turned back.
The next turn of the canyon brought me to its mouth,
and before me I saw a narrow plain leading down to an ocean.
At my right the side of the canyon continued to the
water's edge, the valley lying to my left, and the foot
of it running gradually into the sea, where it formed
a broad level beach.
Clumps of strange trees dotted the landscape here and there
almost to the water, and rank grass and ferns grew between.
From the nature of the vegetation I was convinced that
the land between the ocean and the foothills was swampy,
though directly before me it seemed dry enough all the
way to the sandy strip along which the restless waters
advanced and retreated.
Curiosity prompted me to walk down to the beach,
for the scene was very beautiful. As I passed along
beside the deep and tangled vegetation of the swamp I
thought that I saw a movement of the ferns at my left,
but though I stopped a moment to look it was not repeated,
and if anything lay hid there my eyes could not penetrate
the dense foliage to discern it.
Presently I stood upon the beach looking out over the
wide and lonely sea across whose forbidding bosom no
human being had yet ventured, to discover what strange
and mysterious lands lay beyond, or what its invisible
islands held of riches, wonders, or adventure.
What savage faces, what fierce and formidable beasts were
this very instant watching the lapping of the waves upon
its farther shore! How far did it extend? Perry had told
me that the seas of Pellucidar were small in comparison
with those of the outer crust, but even so this great ocean
might stretch its broad expanse for thousands of miles.
For countless ages it had rolled up and down its countless
miles of shore, and yet today it remained all unknown
beyond the tiny strip that was visible from its beaches.
The fascination of speculation was strong upon me.
It was as though I had been carried back to the birth
time of our own outer world to look upon its lands and
seas ages before man had traversed either. Here was a
new world, all untouched. It called to me to explore it.
I was dreaming of the excitement and adventure which lay
before us could Perry and I but escape the Mahars,
when something, a slight noise I imagine, drew my attention
As I turned, romance, adventure, and discovery in the
abstract took wing before the terrible embodiment of all
three in concrete form that I beheld advancing upon me.
A huge, slimy amphibian it was, with toad-like body and the
mighty jaws of an alligator. Its immense carcass must have
weighed tons, and yet it moved swiftly and silently toward me.
Upon one hand was the bluff that ran from the canyon to the sea,
on the other the fearsome swamp from which the creature
had sneaked upon me, behind lay the mighty untracked sea,
and before me in the center of the narrow way that led
to safety stood this huge mountain of terrible and menacing flesh.
A single glance at the thing was sufficient to assure me
that I was facing one of those long-extinct, prehistoric
creatures whose fossilized remains are found within
the outer crust as far back as the Triassic formation,
a gigantic labyrinthodon. And there I was, unarmed, and,
with the exception of a loin cloth, as naked as I had come
into the world. I could imagine how my first ancestor
felt that distant, prehistoric morn that he encountered
for the first time the terrifying progenitor of the thing
that had me cornered now beside the restless, mysterious sea.
Unquestionably he had escaped, or I should not have been
within Pellucidar or elsewhere, and I wished at that moment
that he had handed down to me with the various attributes
that I presumed I have inherited from him, the specific
application of the instinct of self-preservation which saved
him from the fate which loomed so close before me today.
To seek escape in the swamp or in the ocean would have been
similar to jumping into a den of lions to escape one upon
the outside. The sea and swamp both were doubtless alive
with these mighty, carnivorous amphibians, and if not,
the individual that menaced me would pursue me into either
the sea or the swamp with equal facility.
There seemed nothing to do but stand supinely and await my end.
I thought of Perry--how he would wonder what had become of me.
I thought of my friends of the outer world, and of how they
all would go on living their lives in total ignorance
of the strange and terrible fate that had overtaken me,
or unguessing the weird surroundings which had witnessed
the last frightful agony of my extinction. And with these
thoughts came a realization of how unimportant to the life
and happiness of the world is the existence of any one of us.
We may be snuffed out without an instant's warning, and for
a brief day our friends speak of us with subdued voices.
The following morning, while the first worm is busily
engaged in testing the construction of our coffin,
they are teeing up for the first hole to suffer more
acute sorrow over a sliced ball than they did over our,
to us, untimely demise. The labyrinthodon was coming
more slowly now. He seemed to realize that escape for me
was impossible, and I could have sworn that his huge,
fanged jaws grinned in pleasurable appreciation of
my predicament, or was it in anticipation of the juicy
morsel which would so soon be pulp between those
He was about fifty feet from me when I heard a voice
calling to me from the direction of the bluff at my left.
I looked and could have shouted in delight at the sight
that met my eyes, for there stood Ja, waving frantically
to me, and urging me to run for it to the cliff's base.
I had no idea that I should escape the monster that had
marked me for his breakfast, but at least I should not
die alone. Human eyes would watch me end. It was cold
comfort I presume, but yet I derived some slight peace
of mind from the contemplation of it.
To run seemed ridiculous, especially toward that steep
and unscalable cliff, and yet I did so, and as I ran I
saw Ja, agile as a monkey, crawl down the precipitous
face of the rocks, clinging to small projections, and the
tough creepers that had found root-hold here and there.
The labyrinthodon evidently thought that Ja was coming
to double his portion of human flesh, so he was in no
haste to pursue me to the cliff and frighten away this
other tidbit. Instead he merely trotted along behind me.
As I approached the foot of the cliff I saw what Ja intended
doing, but I doubted if the thing would prove successful.
He had come down to within twenty feet of the bottom,
and there, clinging with one hand to a small ledge,
and with his feet resting, precariously upon tiny bushes
that grew from the solid face of the rock, he lowered
the point of his long spear until it hung some six feet
above the ground.
To clamber up that slim shaft without dragging Ja down
and precipitating both to the same doom from which the
copper-colored one was attempting to save me seemed
utterly impossible, and as I came near the spear I told
Ja so, and that I could not risk him to try to save myself.
But he insisted that he knew what he was doing and was
in no danger himself.
"The danger is still yours," he called, "for unless you
move much more rapidly than you are now, the sithic
will be upon you and drag you back before ever you
are halfway up the spear--he can rear up and reach
you with ease anywhere below where I stand."
Well, Ja should know his own business, I thought, and so I
grasped the spear and clambered up toward the red man
as rapidly as I could--being so far removed from my simian
ancestors as I am. I imagine the slow-witted sithic,
as Ja called him, suddenly realized our intentions and
that he was quite likely to lose all his meal instead
of having it doubled as he had hoped.
When he saw me clambering up that spear he let out a hiss
that fairly shook the ground, and came charging after me
at a terrific rate. I had reached the top of the spear
by this time, or almost; another six inches would give
me a hold on Ja's hand, when I felt a sudden wrench from
below and glancing fearfully downward saw the mighty jaws
of the monster close on the sharp point of the weapon.
I made a frantic effort to reach Ja's hand, the sithic
gave a tremendous tug that came near to jerking Ja
from his frail hold on the surface of the rock,
the spear slipped from his fingers, and still clinging
to it I plunged feet foremost toward my executioner.
At the instant that he felt the spear come away from Ja's
hand the creature must have opened his huge jaws to catch me,
for when I came down, still clinging to the butt end
of the weapon, the point yet rested in his mouth and the
result was that the sharpened end transfixed his lower jaw.
With the pain he snapped his mouth closed.
I fell upon his snout, lost my hold upon the spear,
rolled the length of his face and head, across his
short neck onto his broad back and from there to the ground.
Scarce had I touched the earth than I was upon my feet,
dashing madly for the path by which I had entered this
horrible valley. A glance over my shoulder showed me
the sithic engaged in pawing at the spear stuck through
his lower jaw, and so busily engaged did he remain in this
occupation that I had gained the safety of the cliff top
before he was ready to take up the pursuit. When he did
not discover me in sight within the valley he dashed,
hissing into the rank vegetation of the swamp and that was
the last I saw of him.