An Unseen Hunter
Part of: LAST OF EARTH
From: A Journey In Other Worlds
They calculated that they had come ten or twelve miles from the
place at which they built the raft, while the damp salt breeze
blowing from the south showed them they were near the ocean.
Concluding that large bodies of water must be very much alike on
all planets, they decided to make for a range of hills due north
and a few miles off, and to complete the circuit of the square in
returning to the Callisto. The soft wet sand was covered with
huge and curious tracks, doubtless made by creatures that had
come to the stream during the night to drink, and they noticed
with satisfaction as they set out that the fresher ones led off
in the direction in which they were going. For practice, they
blew off the heads of the boa-constrictors as they hung from the
trees, and of the other huge snakes that moved along the ground,
with explosive bullets, in every thicket through which they
passed, knowing that the game, never having been shot at, would
not take fright at the noise. Sometimes they came upon great
masses of snakes, intertwined and coiled like worms; in these
cases Cortlandt brought his gun into play, raking them with
duck-shot to his heart's content. "As the function of these
reptiles," he explained, "is to form a soil on which higher life
may grow, we may as well help along their metamorphosis by
artificial means." They were impressed by the tremendous
cannon-like reports of their firearms, which they perceived at
once resulted from the great density of the Jovian atmosphere.
And this was also a considerable aid to them in making muscular
exertion, for it had just the reverse effect of rarefied mountain
air, and they seldom had to expand their lungs fully in order to
The ground continued to be marked with very large footprints.
Often the impressions were those of a biped like some huge bird,
except that occasionally the creature had put down one or both
forefeet, and a thick tail had evidently dragged nearly all the
time it walked erect. Presently, coming to something they had
taken for a large flat rock, they were surprised to see it move.
It was about twelve feet wide by eighteen feet long, while its
shell seemed at least a foot thick, and it was of course the
largest turtle they had ever seen.
"Twenty-four people could dine at a table of this size with
ease," said Bearwarden, "while it would make soup for a regiment.
I wonder if it belongs to the snapping or diamond-backed
At this juncture the monster again moved.
"As it is heading in our direction," resumed Bearwarden, "I vote
we strike for a free pass," and, taking a run, he sprang with his
spiked boots upon the turtle's shell and clambered upon the flat
top, which was about six feet from the ground. He was quickly
followed by Ayrault, who was not much ahead of Cortlandt, for,
notwithstanding his fifty years, the professor was very spry.
The tortoise was almost the exact counterpart of the Glyptodon
asper that formerly existed on earth, and shambled along at a
jerky gait, about half as fast again as they could walk, and
while it continued to go in their direction they were greatly
pleased. They soon found that by dropping the butts of their
rifles sharply and simultaneously on either side, just back of
the head, they could direct their course, by making their steed
swerve away from the stamping.
"It is strange," said Ayrault, "that, with the
exception of the mastodon and this tortoise, we have seen
none of the monsters that seem to appear at the close of
Carboniferous periods, although the ground is covered
with their tracks."
"Probably we did not reach the grounds at the right time of day,"
replied Bearwarden. "The large game doubtless stays in the woods
and jungles till night."
"I fancy," said Cortlandt, "we shall find representatives of all
the species that once lived upon the earth. In the case of the
singing flowers and the Jack-o'-lantern jelly-fish, we have, in
addition, seen developments the existence of which no scientist
has ever before even suspected."
Occasionally the tortoise stopped, whereupon they poked it from
behind with their knives. It was a vicious-looking brute, and
had a huge horny beak, with which it bit off young trees that
stood in its way as though they had been blades of grass. They
were passing through a valley about half a mile wide, bordered on
each side by woods, when Bearwarden suddenly exclaimed, "Here we
have it!" and, looking forward, they unexpectedly saw a head rise
and remain poised about fifteen feet from the ground. It was a
dinosaur, and belonged to the scaled or armoured species. In a
few moments another head appeared, and towered several feet above
the first. The head was obviously reptilian, but had a beak
similar to that of their tortoise. The hind legs were developed
like those of a kangaroo, while the small rudimentary forepaws,
which could be used as hands or for going quadruped-fashion, now
hung down. The strong thick tail was evidently of great use to
them when standing erect, by forming a sort of tripod.
"How I wish we could take a pair of those creatures with us when
we return to the earth!" said Cortlandt.
"They would be trump cards," replied Bearwarden, "in a zoological
garden or a dime museum, and would take the wind out of the sails
of all the other freaks."
As they lay flat on the turtle's back, the monsters gazed at them
unconcernedly, munching the palm-tree fruit so loudly that they
could be heard a long distance.
"Having nothing to fear from a tortoise," resumed Cortlandt,
"they may allow us to stalk them. We are in their eyes like
hippocentaurs, except that we are part of a tortoise instead of
part of a horse, or else they take us for a parasite or fibrous
growth on the shell."
"They would not have much to fear from us as we really are,"
replied Bearwarden, "were it not for our explosive bullets."
"I am surprised," said Ayrault, "that graminivorous animals
should be so heavily armed as these, since there can be no great
struggle in obtaining their food."
"From the looks of their jaws," replied Cortlandt, "I should say
they are omnivorous, and would doubtless prefer meat to what they
are eating now. Something seems to have gone wrong with the
animal creation hereabouts to-day."
Their war-horse clanked along like a badly rusted machine,
approaching the dinosaurs obliquely. When only about fifty yards
intervened, as the hunters were preparing to aim, their attention
was diverted by a tremendous commotion in the woods on their left
and somewhat ahead. With the crunching of dead branches and
swaying of the trees, a drove of monsters made a hasty exit and
sped across the open valley. Some showed only the tops of their
backs above the long grass, while others shambled and leaped with
their heads nearly thirty feet above the ground. The dinosaurs
instantly dropped on all-fours and joined in the flight, though
at about half-minute intervals they rose on their hind legs and
for a few seconds ran erect. The drove passed about half a mile
before the travellers, and made straight for the woods opposite;
but hardly had the monsters been out of sight two minutes when
they reappeared, even more precipitately than before, and fled up
the valley in the same direction as the tortoise.
"The animals here," said Bearwarden, "behave as though they were
going to catch a train; only our friend beneath us seems superior
"I would give a good deal to know," said Cortlandt, "what is
pursuing those giants, and whether it is identical or similar to
the mutilator of the mastodon. Nothing but abject terror could
make them run like that."
"I have a well-formed idea," said Bearwarden, "that a hunt is
going on, with no doubt two parties, one in the woods on either
side, and that the hunters may be on a scale commensurate with
that of their victims."
"If the excitement is caused by men," replied Cortlandt, "our
exploration may turn out to be a far more difficult undertaking
than we anticipated. But why, if there are men in those woods,
do they not show themselves?--for they could certainly keep pace
with the game more easily in the open than among the trees."
"Because," replied Bearwarden, "the men in the woods are
doubtless the beaters, whose duty it is to drive the game into
and up the valley, at the end of which the killing will be done."
"We may have a chance to see it," said Ayrault, "or to take a
hand, for we are travelling straight in that direction, and shall
be able to give a good account ourselves if our rights are
"Why," asked Cortlandt, "if the hunting parties that have been in
our vicinity were only beaters, should they have mutilated the
mastodon in such it way that he could not walk? And how were
they able to take themselves off so quickly--for man in his
natural state has never been a fast mover? I repeat, it will
upset my theories if we find men."
It was obvious to them that tortoises were not much troubled by
the apparently general foe, for the specimen in which they were
just then interested continued his course entirely unconcerned.
Soon, however, he seemed to feel fatigue, for he drew his feet
and head within his shell, which he tightly closed, and after
that no poking or prodding had the desired effect.
"I suspect we must depend on shank's mares for a time," said
Bearwarden, cheerfully, as they scrambled down.
"We can now see," said Cortlandt, "why our friend was so
unconcerned, since he has but to draw himself within himself to
become invulnerable to anything short of a stroke of lightning;
for no bird could have power enough to raise and drop him from a
great height upon rocks, as the eagles do on earth."
"I suspect, if anxious for turtle soup," said Bearwarden, "we
must attach a lightning--rod, and wait for a thunderstorm to
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