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From Plight To Plight







From: Pellucidar

I have never been much of a runner; I hate running. But if ever a
sprinter broke into smithereens all world's records it was I that day
when I fled before those hideous beasts along the narrow spit of rocky
cliff between two narrow fiords toward the Sojar Az. Just as I reached
the verge of the cliff the foremost of the brutes was upon me. He
leaped and closed his massive jaws upon my shoulder.

The momentum of his flying body, added to that of my own, carried the
two of us over the cliff. It was a hideous fall. The cliff was almost
perpendicular. At its foot broke the sea against a solid wall of rock.

We struck the cliff-face once in our descent and then plunged into the
salt sea. With the impact with the water the hyaenodon released his
hold upon my shoulder.

As I came sputtering to the surface I looked about for some tiny foot-
or hand-hold where I might cling for a moment of rest and recuperation.
The cliff itself offered me nothing, so I swam toward the mouth of the
fiord.

At the far end I could see that erosion from above had washed down
sufficient rubble to form a narrow ribbon of beach. Toward this I swam
with all my strength. Not once did I look behind me, since every
unnecessary movement in swimming detracts so much from one's endurance
speed. Not until I had drawn myself safely out upon the beach did I
turn my eyes back toward the sea for the hyaenodon. He was swimming
slowly and apparently painfully toward the beach upon where I stood.

I watched him for a long time, wondering, why it was that such a
doglike animal was not a better swimmer. As he neared me I realized
that he was weakening rapidly. I had gathered a handful of stones to
be ready for his assault when he landed, but in a moment I let them
fall from my hands. It was evident that the brute either was no
swimmer or else was severely injured, for by now he was making
practically no headway. Indeed, it was with quite apparent difficulty
that he kept his nose above the surface of the sea.

He was not more than fifty yards from shore when he went under. I
watched the spot where he had disappeared, and in a moment I saw his
head reappear. The look of dumb misery in his eyes struck a chord in
my breast, for I love dogs. I forgot that he was a vicious, primordial
wolf-thing--a man-eater, a scourge, and a terror. I saw only the sad
eyes that looked like the eyes of Raja, my dead collie of the outer
world.

I did not stop to weigh and consider. In other words, I did not stop
to think, which I believe must be the way of men who do things--in
contradistinction to those who think much and do nothing. Instead, I
leaped back into the water and swam out toward the drowning beast. At
first he showed his teeth at my approach, but just before I reached him
he went under for the second time, so that I had to dive to get him.

I grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and though he weighed as much
as a Shetland pony, I managed to drag him to shore and well up upon the
beach. Here I found that one of his forelegs was broken--the crash
against the cliff-face must have done it.

By this time all the fight was out of him, so that when I had gathered
a few tiny branches from some of the stunted trees that grew in the
crevices of the cliff, and returned to him he permitted me to set his
broken leg and bind it in splints. I had to tear part of my shirt into
bits to obtain a bandage, but at last the job was done. Then I sat
stroking the savage head and talking to the beast in the man-dog talk
with which you are familiar, if you ever owned and loved a dog.

When he is well, I thought, he probably will turn upon me and attempt
to devour me, and against that eventuality I gathered together a pile
of rocks and set to work to fashion a stone-knife. We were bottled up
at the head of the fiord as completely as if we had been behind prison
bars. Before us spread the Sojar Az, and else-where about us rose
unscalable cliffs.

Fortunately a little rivulet trickled down the side of the rocky wall,
giving us ample supply of fresh water--some of which I kept constantly
beside the hyaenodon in a huge, bowl-shaped shell, of which there were
count-less numbers among the rubble of the beach.

For food we subsisted upon shellfish and an occasional bird that I
succeeded in knocking over with a rock, for long practice as a pitcher
on prep-school and varsity nines had made me an excellent shot with a
hand-thrown missile.

It was not long before the hyaenodon's leg was sufficiently mended to
permit him to rise and hobble about on three legs. I shall never
forget with what intent interest I watched his first attempt. Close at
my hand lay my pile of rocks. Slowly the beast came to his three good
feet. He stretched himself, lowered his head, and lapped water from
the drinking-shell at his side, turned and looked at me, and then
hobbled off toward the cliffs.

Thrice he traversed the entire extent of our prison, seeking, I
imagine, a loop-hole for escape, but finding none he returned in my
direction. Slowly he came quite close to me, sniffed at my shoes, my
puttees, my hands, and then limped off a few feet and lay down again.

Now that he was able to get around, I was a little un-certain as to the
wisdom of my impulsive mercy.

How could I sleep with that ferocious thing prowling about the narrow
confines of our prison?

Should I close my eyes it might be to open them again to the feel of
those mighty jaws at my throat. To say the least, I was uncomfortable.

I have had too much experience with dumb animals to bank very strongly
on any sense of gratitude which may be attributed to them by
inexperienced sentimentalists. I believe that some animals love their
masters, but I doubt very much if their affection is the outcome of
gratitude--a characteristic that is so rare as to be only occasionally
traceable in the seemingly unselfish acts of man himself.

But finally I was forced to sleep. Tired nature would be put off no
longer. I simply fell asleep, willy nilly, as I sat looking out to
sea. I had been very uncomfortable since my ducking in the ocean, for
though I could see the sunlight on the water half-way toward the island
and upon the island itself, no ray of it fell upon us. We were well
within the Land of Awful Shadow. A perpetual half-warmth pervaded the
atmosphere, but clothing was slow in drying, and so from loss of sleep
and great physical discomfort, I at last gave way to nature's demands
and sank into profound slumber.

When I awoke it was with a start, for a heavy body was upon me. My
first thought was that the hyaenodon had at last attacked me, but as my
eyes opened and I struggled to rise, I saw that a man was astride me
and three others bending close above him.

I am no weakling--and never have been. My experience in the hard life
of the inner world has turned my thews to steel. Even such giants as
Ghak the Hairy One have praised my strength; but to it is added another
quality which they lack--science.

The man upon me held me down awkwardly, leaving me many openings--one
of which I was not slow in taking advantage of, so that almost before
the fellow knew that I was awake I was upon my feet with my arms over
his shoulders and about his waist and had hurled him heavily over my
head to the hard rubble of the beach, where he lay quite still.

In the instant that I arose I had seen the hyaenodon lying asleep
beside a boulder a few yards away. So nearly was he the color of the
rock that he was scarcely discernible. Evidently the newcomers had not
seen him.

I had not more than freed myself from one of my antagonists before the
other three were upon me. They did not work silently now, but charged
me with savage cries--a mistake upon their part. The fact that they
did not draw their weapons against me convinced me that they desired to
take me alive; but I fought as desperately as if death loomed immediate
and sure.

The battle was short, for scarce had their first wild whoop
reverberated through the rocky fiord, and they had closed upon me, than
a hairy mass of demoniacal rage hurtled among us.

It was the hyaenodon!

In an instant he had pulled down one of the men, and with a single
shake, terrier-like, had broken his neck. Then he was upon another.
In their efforts to vanquish the wolf-dog the savages forgot all about
me, thus giving me an instant in which to snatch a knife from the
loin-string of him who had first fallen and account for another of
them. Almost simultaneously the hyaenodon pulled down the remaining
enemy, crushing his skull with a single bite of those fearsome jaws.

The battle was over--unless the beast considered me fair prey, too. I
waited, ready for him with knife and bludgeon--also filched from a dead
foeman; but he paid no attention to me, falling to work instead to
devour one of the corpses.

The beast bad been handicapped but little by his splinted leg; but
having eaten he lay down and commenced to gnaw at the bandage. I was
sitting some little distance away devouring shellfish, of which, by the
way, I was becoming exceedingly tired.

Presently, the hyaenodon arose and came toward me. I did not move. He
stopped in front of me and deliberately raised his bandaged leg and
pawed my knee. His act was as intelligible as words--he wished the
bandage removed.

I took the great paw in one hand and with the other hand untied and
unwound the bandage, removed the splints and felt of the injured
member. As far as I could judge the bone was completely knit. The
joint was stiff; when I bent it a little the brute winced--but he
neither growled nor tried to pull away. Very slowly and gently I
rubbed the joint and applied pressure to it for a few moments.

Then I set it down upon the ground. The hyaenodon walked around me a
few times, and then lay down at my side, his body touching mine. I
laid my hand upon his head. He did not move. Slowly, I scratched
about his ears and neck and down beneath the fierce jaws. The only
sign he gave was to raise his chin a trifle that I might better caress
him.

That was enough! From that moment I have never again felt suspicion of
Raja, as I immediately named him. Somehow all sense of loneliness
vanished, too--I had a dog! I had never guessed precisely what it was
that was lacking to life in Pellucidar, but now I knew it was the total
absence of domestic animals.

Man here had not yet reached the point where he might take the time
from slaughter and escaping slaughter to make friends with any of the
brute creation. I must qualify this statement a trifle and say that
this was true of those tribes with which I was most familiar. The
Thurians do domesticate the colossal lidi, traversing the great Lidi
Plains upon the backs of these grotesque and stupendous monsters, and
possibly there may also be other, far-distant peoples within the great
world, who have tamed others of the wild things of jungle, plain or
mountain.

The Thurians practice agriculture in a crude sort of way. It is my
opinion that this is one of the earliest steps from savagery to
civilization. The taming of wild beasts and their domestication
follows.

Perry argues that wild dogs were first domesticated for hunting
purposes; but I do not agree with him. I believe that if their
domestication were not purely the result of an accident, as, for
example, my taming of the hyaenodon, it came about through the desire
of tribes who had previously domesticated flocks and herds to have some
strong, ferocious beast to guard their roaming property. However, I
lean rather more strongly to the theory of accident.

As I sat there upon the beach of the little fiord eating my unpalatable
shell-fish, I commenced to wonder how it had been that the four savages
had been able to reach me, though I had been unable to escape from my
natural prison. I glanced about in all directions, searching for an
explanation. At last my eyes fell upon the bow of a small dugout
protruding scarce a foot from behind a large boulder lying half in the
water at the edge of the beach.

At my discovery I leaped to my feet so suddenly that it brought Raja,
growling and bristling, upon all fours in an instant. For the moment I
had forgotten him. But his savage rumbling did not cause me any
uneasiness. He glanced quickly about in all directions as if searching
for the cause of my excitement. Then, as I walked rapidly down toward
the dugout, he slunk silently after me.

The dugout was similar in many respects to those which I had seen in
use by the Mezops. In it were four paddles. I was much delighted, as
it promptly offered me the escape I had been craving.

I pushed it out into water that would float it, stepped in and called
to Raja to enter. At first he did not seem to understand what I wished
of him, but after I had paddled out a few yards he plunged through the
surf and swam after me. When he had come alongside I grasped the
scruff of his neck, and after a considerable struggle, in which I
several times came near to over-turning the canoe, I managed to drag
him aboard, where he shook himself vigorously and squatted down before
me.

After emerging from the fiord, I paddled southward along the coast,
where presently the lofty cliffs gave way to lower and more level
country. It was here some-where that I should come upon the principal
village of the Thurians. When, after a time, I saw in the distance
what I took to be huts in a clearing near the shore, I drew quickly
into land, for though I had been furnished credentials by Kolk, I was
not sufficiently familiar with the tribal characteristics of these
people to know whether I should receive a friendly welcome or not; and
in case I should not, I wanted to be sure of having a canoe hidden
safely away so that I might undertake the trip to the island, in any
event--provided, of course, that I escaped the Thurians should they
prove belligerent.

At the point where I landed the shore was quite low. A forest of pale,
scrubby ferns ran down almost to the beach. Here I dragged up the
dugout, hiding it well within the vegetation, and with some loose rocks
built a cairn upon the beach to mark my cache. Then I turned my steps
toward the Thurian village.

As I proceeded I began to speculate upon the possible actions of Raja
when we should enter the presence of other men than myself. The brute
was padding softly at my side, his sensitive nose constantly atwitch
and his fierce eyes moving restlessly from side to side--nothing would
ever take Raja unawares!

The more I thought upon the matter the greater be-came my perturbation.
I did not want Raja to attack any of the people upon whose friendship I
so greatly depended, nor did I want him injured or slain by them.

I wondered if Raja would stand for a leash. His head as he paced
beside me was level with my hip. I laid my hand upon it caressingly.
As I did so he turned and looked up into my face, his jaws parting and
his red tongue lolling as you have seen your own dog's beneath a love
pat.

"Just been waiting all your life to be tamed and loved, haven't you,
old man?" I asked. "You're nothing but a good pup, and the man who put
the hyaeno in your name ought to be sued for libel."

Raja bared his mighty fangs with upcurled, snarling lips and licked my
hand.

"You're grinning, you old fraud, you!" I cried. "If you're not, I'll
eat you. I'll bet a doughnut you're nothing but some kid's poor old
Fido, masquerading around as a real, live man-eater."

Raja whined. And so we walked on together toward Thuria--I talking to
the beast at my side, and he seeming to enjoy my company no less than I
enjoyed his. If you don't think it's lonesome wandering all by
yourself through savage, unknown Pellucidar, why, just try it, and you
will not wonder that I was glad of the company of this first dog--this
living replica of the fierce and now extinct hyaenodon of the outer
crust that hunted in savage packs the great elk across the snows of
southern France, in the days when the mastodon roamed at will over the
broad continent of which the British Isles were then a part, and
perchance left his footprints and his bones in the sands of Atlantis as
well.

Thus I dreamed as we moved on toward Thuria. My dreaming was rudely
shattered by a savage growl from Raja. I looked down at him. He had
stopped in his tracks as one turned to stone. A thin ridge of stiff
hair bristled along the entire length of his spine. His yellow green
eyes were fastened upon the scrubby jungle at our right.

I fastened my fingers in the bristles at his neck and turned my eyes in
the direction that his pointed. At first I saw nothing. Then a slight
movement of the bushes riveted my attention. I thought it must be some
wild beast, and was glad of the primitive weapons I had taken from the
bodies of the warriors who had attacked me.

Presently I distinguished two eyes peering at us from the vegetation.
I took a step in their direction, and as I did so a youth arose and
fled precipitately in the direction we had been going. Raja struggled
to be after him, but I held tightly to his neck, an act which he did
not seem to relish, for he turned on me with bared fangs.

I determined that now was as good a time as any to discover just how
deep was Raja's affection for me. One of us could be master, and
logically I was the one. He growled at me. I cuffed him sharply
across the nose. He looked it me for a moment in surprised
bewilderment, and then he growled again. I made another feint at him,
expecting that it would bring him at my throat; but instead he winced
and crouched down.

Raja was subdued!

I stooped and patted him. Then I took a piece of the rope that
constituted a part of my equipment and made a leash for him.

Thus we resumed our journey toward Thuria. The youth who had seen us
was evidently of the Thurians. That he had lost no time in racing
homeward and spreading the word of my coming was evidenced when we had
come within sight of the clearing, and the village--the first real
village, by the way, that I had ever seen constructed by human
Pellucidarians. There was a rude rectangle walled with logs and
boulders, in which were a hundred or more thatched huts of similar
construction. There was no gate. Ladders that could be removed by
night led over the palisade.

Before the village were assembled a great concourse of warriors.
Inside I could see the heads of women and children peering over the top
of the wall; and also, farther back, the long necks of lidi, topped by
their tiny heads. Lidi, by the way, is both the singular and plural
form of the noun that describes the huge beasts of burden of the
Thurians. They are enormous quadrupeds, eighty or a hundred feet long,
with very small heads perched at the top of very long, slender necks.
Their heads are quite forty feet from the ground. Their gait is slow
and deliberate, but so enormous are their strides that, as a matter of
fact, they cover the ground quite rapidly.

Perry has told me that they are almost identical with the fossilized
remains of the diplodocus of the outer crust's Jurassic age. I have to
take his word for it--and I guess you will, unless you know more of
such matters than I.

As we came in sight of the warriors the men set up a great jabbering.
Their eyes were wide in astonishment--only, I presume, because of my
strange garmenture, but as well from the fact that I came in company
with a jalok, which is the Pellucidarian name of the hyaenodon.

Raja tugged at his leash, growling and showing his long white fangs.
He would have liked nothing better than to be at the throats of the
whole aggregation; but I held him in with the leash, though it took all
my strength to do it. My free hand I held above my head, palm out, in
token of the peacefulness of my mission.

In the foreground I saw the youth who had discovered us, and I could
tell from the way he carried himself that he was quite overcome by his
own importance. The warriors about him were all fine looking fellows,
though shorter and squatter than the Sarians or the Amozites. Their
color, too, was a bit lighter, owing, no doubt, to the fact that much
of their lives is spent within the shadow of the world that hangs
forever above their country.

A little in advance of the others was a bearded fellow tricked out in
many ornaments. I didn't need to ask to know that he was the
chieftain--doubtless Goork, father of Kolk. Now to him I addressed
myself.

"I am David," I said, "Emperor of the Federated Kingdoms of Pellucidar.
Doubtless you have heard of me?"

He nodded his head affirmatively.

"I come from Sari," I continued, "where I just met Kolk, the son of
Goork. I bear a token from Kolk to his father, which will prove that I
am a friend."

Again the warrior nodded. "I am Goork," he said. "Where is the token?"

"Here," I replied, and fished into the game-bag where I had placed it.

Goork and his people waited in silence. My hand searched the inside of
the bag.

It was empty!

The token had been stolen with my arms!





Next: Captive

Previous: A Pendent World



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