We must have traveled several miles through the dark and dismal wood when w_ame 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 immediatel_nswered from within, and a moment later a swarm of creatures of the sam_trange race as those who had captured me poured out to meet us. Again I wa_he 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 thin_hat their treatment was dictated by either cruelty or malice—I was _uriosity, a freak, a new plaything, and their childish minds required th_dded evidence of all their senses to back up the testimony of their eyes.
Presently they dragged me within the village, which consisted of severa_undred rude shelters of boughs and leaves supported upon the branches of th_rees.
Between the huts, which sometimes formed crooked streets, were dead branche_nd the trunks of small trees which connected the huts upon one tree to thos_ithin adjoining trees; the whole network of huts and pathways forming a_lmost solid flooring a good fifty feet above the ground.
I wondered why these agile creatures required connecting bridges between th_rees, but later when I saw the motley aggregation of half-savage beasts whic_hey 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 worryin_he dyryth, and many goatlike animals whose distended udders explained th_easons for their presence.
My guard halted before one of the huts into which I was pushed; then two o_he creatures squatted down before the entrance—to prevent my escape,
doubtless. Though where I should have escaped to I certainly had not th_emotest conception. I had no more than entered the dark shadows of th_nterior than there fell upon my ears the tones of a familiar voice, i_rayer.
"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 towar_e and threw his arms about me.
He had seen me fall before the dyryth, and then he had been seized by a numbe_f the ape-creatures and borne through the tree tops to their village. Hi_aptors had been as inquisitive as to his strange clothing as had mine, wit_he 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 ape."
"Maybe we can borrow a couple," I rejoined. "They seem to be quite the thin_his season. I wonder what the creatures intend doing with us, Perry. The_on't seem really savage. What do you suppose they can be? You were about t_ell me where we are when that great hairy frigate bore down upon us—have yo_eally any idea at all?"
"Yes, David," he replied, "I know precisely where we are. We have made _agnificent discovery, my boy! We have proved that the earth is hollow. W_ave passed entirely through its crust to the inner world."
"Perry, you are mad!"
"Not at all, David. For two hundred and fifty miles our prospector bore u_hrough the crust beneath our outer world. At that point it reached the cente_f gravity of the five-hundred-mile-thick crust. Up to that point we had bee_escending—direction is, of course, merely relative. Then at the moment tha_ur seats revolved—the thing that made you believe that we had turned abou_nd were speeding upward—we passed the center of gravity and, though we di_ot alter the direction of our progress, yet we were in reality movin_pward—toward the surface of the inner world. Does not the strange fauna an_lora which we have seen convince you that you are not in the world of you_irth? And the horizon—could it present the strange aspects which we bot_oted 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 throug_ive hundred miles of solid crust?"
"It is not the sun of the outer world that we see here. It is another sun—a_ntirely different sun—that casts its eternal noonday effulgence upon the fac_f the inner world. Look at it now, David—if you can see it from the doorwa_f this hut—and you will see that it is still in the exact center of th_eavens. 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. I_ooled, and as it cooled it shrank. At length a thin crust of solid matte_ormed upon its outer surface—a sort of shell; but within it was partiall_olten matter and highly expanded gases. As it continued to cool, wha_appened? Centrifugal force burled the particles of the nebulous center towar_he crust as rapidly as they approached a solid state. You have seen the sam_rinciple practically applied in the modern cream separator. Presently ther_as only a small super-heated core of gaseous matter remaining within a hug_acant interior left by the contraction of the cooling gases. The equa_ttraction of the solid crust from all directions maintained this luminou_ore in the exact center of the hollow globe. What remains of it is the su_ou 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 noonda_ight and torrid heat.
"This inner world must have cooled sufficiently to support animal life lon_ges after life appeared upon the outer crust, but that the same agencies wer_t work here is evident from the similar forms of both animal and vegetabl_reation 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 foun_n South America."
"But the grotesque inhabitants of this forest?" I urged. "Surely they have n_ounterpart in the earth's history."
"Who can tell?" he rejoined. "They may constitute the link between ape an_an, all traces of which have been swallowed by the countless convulsion_hich have racked the outer crust, or they may be merely the result o_volution along slightly different lines—either is quite possible."
Further speculation was interrupted by the appearance of several of ou_aptors before the entrance of the hut. Two of them entered and dragged u_orth. The perilous pathways and the surrounding trees were filled with th_lack ape-men, their females, and their young. There was not an ornament, _eapon, or a garment among the lot.
"Quite low in the scale of creation," commented Perry.
"Quite high enough to play the deuce with us, though," I replied. "Now what d_ou suppose they intend doing with us?"
We were not long in learning. As on the occasion of our trip to the village w_ere seized by a couple of the powerful creatures and whirled away through th_ree tops, while about us and in our wake raced a chattering, jabbering,
grinning horde of sleek, black ape-things.
Twice my bearers missed their footing, and my heart ceased beating as w_lunged toward instant death among the tangled deadwood beneath. But on bot_ccasions those lithe, powerful tails reached out and found sustainin_ranches, 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 b_he stubbing of one's toe at a street crossing in the outer world—they bu_aughed uproariously and sped on with me.
For some time they continued through the forest—how long I could not guess fo_ was learning, what was later borne very forcefully to my mind, that tim_eases to be a factor the moment means for measuring it cease to exist. Ou_atches were gone, and we were living beneath a stationary sun. Already I wa_uzzled to compute the period of time which had elapsed since we broke throug_he crust of the inner world. It might be hours, or it might be days—who i_he world could tell where it was always noon! By the sun, no time ha_lapsed—but my judgment told me that we must have been several hours in thi_trange world.
Presently the forest terminated, and we came out upon a level plain. A shor_istance before us rose a few low, rocky hills. Toward these our captors urge_s, and after a short time led us through a narrow pass into a tiny, circula_alley. Here they got down to work, and we were soon convinced that if we wer_ot to die to make a Roman holiday, we were to die for some other purpose. Th_ttitude of our captors altered immediately as they entered the natural aren_ithin the rocky hills. Their laughter ceased. Grim ferocity marked thei_estial faces—bared fangs menaced us.
We were placed in the center of the amphitheater—the thousand creature_orming a great ring about us. Then a wolf-dog was brought—hyaenadon Perr_alled it—and turned loose with us inside the circle. The thing's body was a_arge as that of a full-grown mastiff, its legs were short and powerful, an_ts jaws broad and strong. Dark, shaggy hair covered its back and sides, whil_ts breast and belly were quite white. As it slunk toward us it presented _ost 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 m_ovement the beast veered off a bit and commenced circling us. Evidently i_ad been a target for stones before. The ape-things were dancing up and dow_rging the brute on with savage cries, until at last, seeing that I did no_hrow, he charged us.
At Andover, and later at Yale, I had pitched on winning ball teams. My spee_nd control must both have been above the ordinary, for I made such a recor_uring my senior year at college that overtures were made to me in behalf o_ne of the great major-league teams; but in the tightest pitch that ever ha_onfronted 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 absolut_ommand, 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 i_ack of that throw. The stone caught the hyaenodon full upon the end of th_ose, and sent him bowling over upon his back.
At the same instant a chorus of shrieks and howls arose from the circle o_pectators, so that for a moment I thought that the upsetting of thei_hampion was the cause; but in this I soon saw that I was mistaken. As _ooked, 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 hair_en—gorilla-like creatures armed with spears and hatchets, and bearing long,
oval shields. Like demons they set upon the ape-things, and before them th_yaenodon, which had now regained its senses and its feet, fled howling wit_right. Past us swept the pursued and the pursuers, nor did the hairy one_ccord us more than a passing glance until the arena had been emptied of it_ormer occupants. Then they returned to us, and one who seemed to hav_uthority among them directed that we be brought with them.
When we had passed out of the amphitheater onto the great plain we saw _aravan of men and women—human beings like ourselves—and for the first tim_ope and relief filled my heart, until I could have cried out in th_xuberance of my happiness. It is true that they were a half-naked, wild-
appearing aggregation; but they at least were fashioned along the same line_s ourselves—there was nothing grotesque or horrible about them as about th_ther creatures in this strange, weird world.
But as we came closer, our hearts sank once more, for we discovered that th_oor 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 th_nd 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 tiresom_onotony of the long march across the sun-baked plain brought on all th_gonies consequent to a long-denied sleep. On and on we stumbled beneath tha_ateful noonday sun. If we fell we were prodded with a sharp point. Ou_ompanions in chains did not stumble. They strode along proudly erect.
Occasionally they would exchange words with one another in a monosyllabi_anguage. They were a noble-appearing race with well-formed heads and perfec_hysiques. The men were heavily bearded, tall and muscular; the women, smalle_nd more gracefully molded, with great masses of raven hair caught into loos_nots upon their heads. The features of both sexes were wel_roportioned—there was not a face among them that would have been called eve_lain if judged by earthly standards. They wore no ornaments; but this I late_earned was due to the fact that their captors had stripped them of everythin_f value. As garmenture the women possessed a single robe of some light-
colored, spotted hide, rather similar in appearance to a leopard's skin. Thi_hey wore either supported entirely about the waist by a leathern thong, s_hat it hung partially below the knee on one side, or possibly loope_racefully across one shoulder. Their feet were shod with skin sandals. Th_en wore loin cloths of the hide of some shaggy beast, long ends of whic_epended before and behind nearly to the ground. In some instances these end_ere finished with the strong talons of the beast from which the hides ha_een taken.
Our guards, whom I already have described as gorilla-like men, were rathe_ighter in build than a gorilla, but even so they were indeed might_reatures. Their arms and legs were proportioned more in conformity with huma_tandards, but their entire bodies were covered with shaggy, brown hair, an_heir faces were quite as brutal as those of the few stuffed specimens of th_orilla which I had seen in the museums at home.
Their only redeeming feature lay in the development of the head above and bac_f the ears. In this respect they were not one whit less human than we. The_ere 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 thei_eet were shod with thick hide of some mammoth creature of this inner world.
Their arms and necks were encircled by many ornaments of metal—silve_redominating—and on their tunics were sewn the heads of tiny reptiles in od_nd rather artistic designs. They talked among themselves as they marche_long on either side of us, but in a language which I perceived differed fro_hat employed by our fellow prisoners. When they addressed the latter the_sed what appeared to be a third language, and which I later learned is _ongrel 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 aslee_uch of the time for hours before a halt was called—then we dropped in ou_racks. I say "for hours," but how may one measure time where time does no_xist! When our march commenced the sun stood at zenith. When we halted ou_hadows still pointed toward nadir. Whether an instant or an eternity o_arthly time elapsed who may say. That march may have occupied nine years an_leven months of the ten years that I spent in the inner world, or it may hav_een accomplished in the fraction of a second—I cannot tell. But this I d_now that since you have told me that ten years have elapsed since I departe_rom this earth I have lost all respect for time—I am commencing to doubt tha_uch a thing exists other than in the weak, finite mind of man.