Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 12 Pursuit

  • For an instant I stood there thinking of her, and then, with a sigh, I tucke_he book in the thong that supported my loin cloth, and turned to leave th_partment. At the bottom of the corridor which leads aloft from the lowe_hambers I whistled in accordance with the prearranged signal which was t_nnounce to Perry and Ghak that I had been successful. A moment later the_tood beside me, and to my surprise I saw that Hooja the Sly One accompanie_hem.
  • "He joined us," explained Perry, "and would not be denied. The fellow is _ox. He scents escape, and rather than be thwarted of our chance now I tol_im that I would bring him to you, and let you decide whether he migh_ccompany us."
  • I had no love for Hooja, and no confidence in him. I was sure that if h_hought it would profit him he would betray us; but I saw no way out of i_ow, and the fact that I had killed four Mahars instead of only the three _ad expected to, made it possible to include the fellow in our scheme o_scape.
  • "Very well," I said, "you may come with us, Hooja; but at the first intimatio_f treachery I shall run my sword through you. Do you understand?"
  • He said that he did.
  • Some time later we had removed the skins from the four Mahars, and s_ucceeded in crawling inside of them ourselves that there seemed an excellen_hance for us to pass unnoticed from Phutra. It was not an easy thing t_asten the hides together where we had split them along the belly to remov_hem from their carcasses, but by remaining out until the others had all bee_ewed in with my help, and then leaving an aperture in the breast of Perry'_kin through which he could pass his hands to sew me up, we were enabled t_ccomplish our design to really much better purpose than I had hoped. W_anaged to keep the heads erect by passing our swords up through the necks,
  • and by the same means were enabled to move them about in a life-like manner.
  • We had our greatest difficulty with the webbed feet, but even that problem wa_inally solved, so that when we moved about we did so quite naturally. Tin_oles punctured in the baggy throats into which our heads were thrus_ermitted us to see well enough to guide our progress.
  • Thus we started up toward the main floor of the building. Ghak headed th_trange procession, then came Perry, followed by Hooja, while I brought up th_ear, after admonishing Hooja that I had so arranged my sword that I coul_hrust it through the head of my disguise into his vitals were he to show an_ndication of faltering.
  • As the noise of hurrying feet warned me that we were entering the bus_orridors of the main level, my heart came up into my mouth. It is with n_ense of shame that I admit that I was frightened—never before in my life, no_ince, did I experience any such agony of soulsearing fear and suspense a_nveloped me. If it be possible to sweat blood, I sweat it then.
  • Slowly, after the manner of locomotion habitual to the Mahars, when they ar_ot using their wings, we crept through throngs of busy slaves, Sagoths, an_ahars. After what seemed an eternity we reached the outer door which lead_nto the main avenue of Phutra. Many Sagoths loitered near the opening. The_lanced at Ghak as he padded between them. Then Perry passed, and then Hooja.
  • Now it was my turn, and then in a sudden fit of freezing terror I realize_hat the warm blood from my wounded arm was trickling down through the dea_oot of the Mahar skin I wore and leaving its tell-tale mark upon th_avement, for I saw a Sagoth call a companion's attention to it.
  • The guard stepped before me and pointing to my bleeding foot spoke to me i_he sign language which these two races employ as a means of communication.
  • Even had I known what he was saying I could not have replied with the dea_hing that covered me. I once had seen a great Mahar freeze a presumptuou_agoth with a look. It seemed my only hope, and so I tried it. Stopping in m_racks I moved my sword so that it made the dead head appear to turn inquirin_yes upon the gorilla-man. For a long moment I stood perfectly still, eyein_he fellow with those dead eyes. Then I lowered the head and started slowl_n. For a moment all hung in the balance, but before I touched him the guar_tepped to one side, and I passed on out into the avenue.
  • On we went up the broad street, but now we were safe for the very numbers o_ur enemies that surrounded us on all sides. Fortunately, there was a grea_oncourse of Mahars repairing to the shallow lake which lies a mile or mor_rom the city. They go there to indulge their amphibian proclivities in divin_or small fish, and enjoying the cool depths of the water. It is a fresh-wate_ake, shallow, and free from the larger reptiles which make the use of th_reat seas of Pellucidar impossible for any but their own kind.
  • In the thick of the crowd we passed up the steps and out onto the plain. Fo_ome distance Ghak remained with the stream that was traveling toward th_ake, but finally, at the bottom of a little gully he halted, and there w_emained until all had passed and we were alone. Then, still in our disguises,
  • we set off directly away from Phutra.
  • The heat of the vertical rays of the sun was fast making our horrible prison_nbearable, so that after passing a low divide, and entering a shelterin_orest, we finally discarded the Mahar skins that had brought us thus far i_afety.
  • I shall not weary you with the details of that bitter and galling flight. Ho_e traveled at a dogged run until we dropped in our tracks. How we were bese_y strange and terrible beasts. How we barely escaped the cruel fangs of lion_nd tigers the size of which would dwarf into pitiful insignificance th_reatest felines of the outer world.
  • On and on we raced, our one thought to put as much distance between ourselve_nd Phutra as possible. Ghak was leading us to his own land—the land of Sari.
  • No sign of pursuit had developed, and yet we were sure that somewhere behin_s relentless Sagoths were dogging our tracks. Ghak said they never failed t_unt down their quarry until they had captured it or themselves been turne_ack by a superior force.
  • Our only hope, he said, lay in reaching his tribe which was quite stron_nough in their mountain fastness to beat off any number of Sagoths.
  • At last, after what seemed months, and may, I now realize, have been years, w_ame in sight of the dun escarpment which buttressed the foothills of Sari. A_lmost the same instant, Hooja, who looked ever quite as much behind a_efore, announced that he could see a body of men far behind us topping a lo_idge in our wake. It was the long-expected pursuit.
  • I asked Ghak if we could make Sari in time to escape them.
  • "We may," he replied; "but you will find that the Sagoths can move wit_ncredible swiftness, and as they are almost tireless they are doubtless muc_resher than we. Then—" he paused, glancing at Perry.
  • I knew what he meant. The old man was exhausted. For much of the period of ou_light either Ghak or I had half supported him on the march. With such _andicap, less fleet pursuers than the Sagoths might easily overtake us befor_e could scale the rugged heights which confronted us.
  • "You and Hooja go on ahead," I said. "Perry and I will make it if we are able.
  • We cannot travel as rapidly as you two, and there is no reason why all shoul_e lost because of that. It can't be helped—we have simply to face it."
  • "I will not desert a companion," was Ghak's simple reply. I hadn't known tha_his great, hairy, primeval man had any such nobility of character stowed awa_nside him. I had always liked him, but now to my liking was added honor an_espect. Yes, and love.
  • But still I urged him to go on ahead, insisting that if he could reach hi_eople he might be able to bring out a sufficient force to drive off th_agoths and rescue Perry and myself.
  • No, he wouldn't leave us, and that was all there was to it, but he suggeste_hat Hooja might hurry on and warn the Sarians of the king's danger. It didn'_equire much urging to start Hooja—the naked idea was enough to send hi_eaping on ahead of us into the foothills which we now had reached.
  • Perry realized that he was jeopardizing Ghak's life and mine and the ol_ellow fairly begged us to go on without him, although I knew that he wa_uffering a perfect anguish of terror at the thought of falling into the hand_f the Sagoths. Ghak finally solved the problem, in part, by lifting Perry i_is powerful arms and carrying him. While the act cut down Ghak's speed h_till could travel faster thus than when half supporting the stumbling ol_an.