For an instant I stood there thinking of her, and then, with a sigh, I tucked
the book in the thong that supported my loin cloth, and turned to leave the
apartment. At the bottom of the corridor which leads aloft from the lower
chambers I whistled in accordance with the prearranged signal which was to
announce to Perry and Ghak that I had been successful. A moment later they stood
beside me, and to my surprise I saw that Hooja the Sly One accompanied them.
"He joined us," explained Perry, "and would not be denied. The
fellow is a fox. He scents escape, and rather than be thwarted of our chance now
I told him that I would bring him to you, and let you decide whether he might
I had no love for Hooja, and no confidence in him. I was sure that if he
thought it would profit him he would betray us; but I saw no way out of it now,
and the fact that I had killed four Mahars instead of only the three I had
expected to, made it possible to include the fellow in our scheme of escape.
"Very well," I said, "you may come with us, Hooja; but at the
first intimation of treachery I shall run my sword through you. Do you
He said that he did.
Some time later we had removed the skins from the four Mahars, and so
succeeded in crawling inside of them ourselves that there seemed an excellent
chance for us to pass unnoticed from Phutra. It was not an easy thing to fasten
the hides together where we had split them along the belly to remove them from
their carcasses, but by remaining out until the others had all been sewed in
with my help, and then leaving an aperture in the breast of Perry's skin through
which he could pass his hands to sew me up, we were enabled to accomplish our
design to really much better purpose than I had hoped. We managed 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 was finally solved, so
that when we moved about we did so quite naturally. Tiny holes punctured in the
baggy throats into which our heads were thrust permitted us to see well enough
to guide our progress.
Thus we started up toward the main floor of the building. Ghak headed the
strange procession, then came Perry, followed by Hooja, while I brought up the
rear, after admonishing Hooja that I had so arranged my sword that I could
thrust it through the head of my disguise into his vitals were he to show any
indication of faltering.
As the noise of hurrying feet warned me that we were entering the busy
corridors of the main level, my heart came up into my mouth. It is with no sense
of shame that I admit that I was frightened--never before in my life, nor since,
did I experience any such agony of soulsearing fear and suspense as enveloped
me. If it be possible to sweat blood, I sweat it then.
Slowly, after the manner of locomotion habitual to the Mahars, when they are
not using their wings, we crept through throngs of busy slaves, Sagoths, and
Mahars. After what seemed an eternity we reached the outer door which leads into
the main avenue of Phutra. Many Sagoths loitered near the opening. They glanced
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 realized that the warm
blood from my wounded arm was trickling down through the dead foot of the Mahar
skin I wore and leaving its tell-tale mark upon the pavement, 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 in
the 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 dead thing that
covered me. I once had seen a great Mahar freeze a presumptuous Sagoth with a
look. It seemed my only hope, and so I tried it. Stopping in my tracks I moved
my sword so that it made the dead head appear to turn inquiring eyes upon the
gorilla-man. For a long moment I stood perfectly still, eyeing the fellow with
those dead eyes. Then I lowered the head and started slowly on. For a moment all
hung in the balance, but before I touched him the guard stepped 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 of
our enemies that surrounded us on all sides. Fortunately, there was a great
concourse of Mahars repairing to the shallow lake which lies a mile or more from
the city. They go there to indulge their amphibian proclivities in diving for
small fish, and enjoying the cool depths of the water. It is a fresh-water lake,
shallow, and free from the larger reptiles which make the use of the great 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. For
some distance Ghak remained with the stream that was traveling toward the lake,
but finally, at the bottom of a little gully he halted, and there we remained
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 prisons
unbearable, so that after passing a low divide, and entering a sheltering
forest, we finally discarded the Mahar skins that had brought us thus far in
I shall not weary you with the details of that bitter and galling flight. How
we traveled at a dogged run until we dropped in our tracks. How we were beset by
strange and terrible beasts. How we barely escaped the cruel fangs of lions and
tigers the size of which would dwarf into pitiful insignificance the greatest
felines of the outer world.
On and on we raced, our one thought to put as much distance between ourselves
and 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 behind us
relentless Sagoths were dogging our tracks. Ghak said they never failed to hunt
down their quarry until they had captured it or themselves been turned back by a
Our only hope, he said, lay in reaching his tribe which was quite strong
enough 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,
we came in sight of the dun escarpment which buttressed the foothills of Sari.
At almost the same instant, Hooja, who looked ever quite as much behind as
before, announced that he could see a body of men far behind us topping a low
ridge 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 with incredible swiftness, and as they are almost tireless they are
doubtless much fresher than we. Then--" he paused, glancing at Perry.
I knew what he meant. The old man was exhausted. For much of the period of
our flight either Ghak or I had half supported him on the march. With such a
handicap, less fleet pursuers than the Sagoths might easily overtake us before
we 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 should be lost because of that. It can't be helped--we have simply to
"I will not desert a companion," was Ghak's simple reply. I hadn't
known that this great, hairy, primeval man had any such nobility of character
stowed away inside him. I had always liked him, but now to my liking was added
honor and respect. Yes, and love.
But still I urged him to go on ahead, insisting that if he could reach his
people he might be able to bring out a sufficient force to drive off the Sagoths
and rescue Perry and myself.
No, he wouldn't leave us, and that was all there was to it, but he suggested
that Hooja might hurry on and warn the Sarians of the king's danger. It didn't
require much urging to start Hooja--the naked idea was enough to send him
leaping 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 old
fellow fairly begged us to go on without him, although I knew that he was
suffering a perfect anguish of terror at the thought of falling into the hands
of the Sagoths. Ghak finally solved the problem, in part, by lifting Perry in
his powerful arms and carrying him. While the act cut down Ghak's speed he still
could travel faster thus than when half supporting the stumbling old man.