A CHANGE OF MASTERS
We must have traveled several miles through the dark and dismal wood when we
came 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 immediately
answered from within, and a moment later a swarm of creatures of the same
strange race as those who had captured me poured out to meet us. Again I was the
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 think that their
treatment was dictated by either cruelty or malice--I was a curiosity, a freak,
a new plaything, and their childish minds required the added evidence of all
their senses to back up the testimony of their eyes.
Presently they dragged me within the village, which consisted of several
hundred rude shelters of boughs and leaves supported upon the branches of the
Between the huts, which sometimes formed crooked streets, were dead branches
and the trunks of small trees which connected the huts upon one tree to those
within adjoining trees; the whole network of huts and pathways forming an almost
solid flooring a good fifty feet above the ground.
I wondered why these agile creatures required connecting bridges between the
trees, but later when I saw the motley aggregation of half-savage beasts which
they 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 worrying the
dyryth, and many goatlike animals whose distended udders explained the reasons
for their presence.
My guard halted before one of the huts into which I was pushed; then two of
the creatures squatted down before the entrance--to prevent my escape,
doubtless. Though where I should have escaped to I certainly had not the
remotest conception. I had no more than entered the dark shadows of the interior
than there fell upon my ears the tones of a familiar voice, in prayer.
"Perry!" I cried. "Dear old Perry! Thank the Lord you are
"David! Can it be possible that you escaped?" And the old man
stumbled toward me and threw his arms about me.
He had seen me fall before the dyryth, and then he had been seized by a
number of the ape-creatures and borne through the tree tops to their village.
His captors had been as inquisitive as to his strange clothing as had mine, with
the 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
"Maybe we can borrow a couple," I rejoined. "They seem to be
quite the thing this season. I wonder what the creatures intend doing with us,
Perry. They don't seem really savage. What do you suppose they can be? You were
about to tell me where we are when that great hairy frigate bore down upon
us--have you really any idea at all?"
"Yes, David," he replied, "I know precisely where we are. We
have made a magnificent discovery, my boy! We have proved that the earth is
hollow. We have 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
us through the crust beneath our outer world. At that point it reached the
center of gravity of the five-hundred-mile-thick crust. Up to that point we had
been descending--direction is, of course, merely relative. Then at the moment
that our seats revolved--the thing that made you believe that we had turned
about and were speeding upward--we passed the center of gravity and, though we
did not alter the direction of our progress, yet we were in reality moving
upward--toward the surface of the inner world. Does not the strange fauna and
flora which we have seen convince you that you are not in the world of your
birth? And the horizon--could it present the strange aspects which we both noted
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 through five hundred miles of solid crust?"
"It is not the sun of the outer world that we see here. It is another
sun--an entirely different sun--that casts its eternal noonday effulgence upon
the face of the inner world. Look at it now, David--if you can see it from the
doorway of this hut--and you will see that it is still in the exact center of
the heavens. 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. It cooled, and as it cooled it shrank. At length a thin crust of solid
matter formed upon its outer surface--a sort of shell; but within it was
partially molten matter and highly expanded gases. As it continued to cool, what
happened? Centrifugal force burled the particles of the nebulous center toward
the crust as rapidly as they approached a solid state. You have seen the same
principle practically applied in the modern cream separator. Presently there was
only a small super-heated core of gaseous matter remaining within a huge vacant
interior left by the contraction of the cooling gases. The equal attraction of
the solid crust from all directions maintained this luminous core in the exact
center of the hollow globe. What remains of it is the sun you 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 noonday light and torrid heat.
"This inner world must have cooled sufficiently to support animal life
long ages after life appeared upon the outer crust, but that the same agencies
were at work here is evident from the similar forms of both animal and vegetable
creation 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 found in South
"But the grotesque inhabitants of this forest?" I urged.
"Surely they have no counterpart in the earth's history."
"Who can tell?" he rejoined. "They may constitute the link
between ape and man, all traces of which have been swallowed by the countless
convulsions which have racked the outer crust, or they may be merely the result
of evolution along slightly different lines--either is quite possible."
Further speculation was interrupted by the appearance of several of our
captors before the entrance of the hut. Two of them entered and dragged us
forth. The perilous pathways and the surrounding trees were filled with the
black ape-men, their females, and their young. There was not an ornament, a
weapon, 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 do you suppose they intend doing with us?"
We were not long in learning. As on the occasion of our trip to the village
we were seized by a couple of the powerful creatures and whirled away through
the tree 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 we
plunged toward instant death among the tangled deadwood beneath. But on both
occasions those lithe, powerful tails reached out and found sustaining branches,
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 be the stubbing
of one's toe at a street crossing in the outer world--they but laughed
uproariously and sped on with me.
For some time they continued through the forest--how long I could not guess
for I was learning, what was later borne very forcefully to my mind, that time
ceases to be a factor the moment means for measuring it cease to exist. Our
watches were gone, and we were living beneath a stationary sun. Already I was
puzzled to compute the period of time which had elapsed since we broke through
the crust of the inner world. It might be hours, or it might be days--who in the
world could tell where it was always noon! By the sun, no time had elapsed--but
my judgment told me that we must have been several hours in this strange world.
Presently the forest terminated, and we came out upon a level plain. A short
distance before us rose a few low, rocky hills. Toward these our captors urged
us, and after a short time led us through a narrow pass into a tiny, circular
valley. Here they got down to work, and we were soon convinced that if we were
not to die to make a Roman holiday, we were to die for some other purpose. The
attitude of our captors altered immediately as they entered the natural arena
within the rocky hills. Their laughter ceased. Grim ferocity marked their
bestial faces--bared fangs menaced us.
We were placed in the center of the amphitheater--the thousand creatures
forming a great ring about us. Then a wolf-dog was brought--hyaenadon Perry
called it--and turned loose with us inside the circle. The thing's body was as
large as that of a full-grown mastiff, its legs were short and powerful, and its
jaws broad and strong. Dark, shaggy hair covered its back and sides, while its
breast and belly were quite white. As it slunk toward us it presented a most
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 my
movement the beast veered off a bit and commenced circling us. Evidently it had
been a target for stones before. The ape-things were dancing up and down urging
the brute on with savage cries, until at last, seeing that I did not throw, he
At Andover, and later at Yale, I had pitched on winning ball teams. My speed
and control must both have been above the ordinary, for I made such a record
during my senior year at college that overtures were made to me in behalf of one
of the great major-league teams; but in the tightest pitch that ever had
confronted 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 absolute
command, 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 in back of
that throw. The stone caught the hyaenodon full upon the end of the nose, and
sent him bowling over upon his back.
At the same instant a chorus of shrieks and howls arose from the circle of
spectators, so that for a moment I thought that the upsetting of their champion
was the cause; but in this I soon saw that I was mistaken. As I looked, 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 hairy
men--gorilla-like creatures armed with spears and hatchets, and bearing long,
oval shields. Like demons they set upon the ape-things, and before them the
hyaenodon, which had now regained its senses and its feet, fled howling with
fright. Past us swept the pursued and the pursuers, nor did the hairy ones
accord us more than a passing glance until the arena had been emptied of its
former occupants. Then they returned to us, and one who seemed to have authority
among them directed that we be brought with them.
When we had passed out of the amphitheater onto the great plain we saw a
caravan of men and women--human beings like ourselves--and for the first time
hope and relief filled my heart, until I could have cried out in the exuberance
of my happiness. It is true that they were a half-naked, wild-appearing
aggregation; but they at least were fashioned along the same lines as
ourselves--there was nothing grotesque or horrible about them as about the other
creatures in this strange, weird world.
But as we came closer, our hearts sank once more, for we discovered that the
poor 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 the end 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 tiresome
monotony of the long march across the sun-baked plain brought on all the agonies
consequent to a long-denied sleep. On and on we stumbled beneath that hateful
noonday sun. If we fell we were prodded with a sharp point. Our companions in
chains did not stumble. They strode along proudly erect. Occasionally they would
exchange words with one another in a monosyllabic language. They were a
noble-appearing race with well-formed heads and perfect physiques. The men were
heavily bearded, tall and muscular; the women, smaller and more gracefully
molded, with great masses of raven hair caught into loose knots upon their
heads. The features of both sexes were well proportioned--there was not a face
among them that would have been called even plain if judged by earthly
standards. They wore no ornaments; but this I later learned was due to the fact
that their captors had stripped them of everything of value. As garmenture the
women possessed a single robe of some light-colored, spotted hide, rather
similar in appearance to a leopard's skin. This they wore either supported
entirely about the waist by a leathern thong, so that it hung partially below
the knee on one side, or possibly looped gracefully across one shoulder. Their
feet were shod with skin sandals. The men wore loin cloths of the hide of some
shaggy beast, long ends of which depended before and behind nearly to the
ground. In some instances these ends were finished with the strong talons of the
beast from which the hides had been taken.
Our guards, whom I already have described as gorilla-like men, were rather
lighter in build than a gorilla, but even so they were indeed mighty creatures.
Their arms and legs were proportioned more in conformity with human standards,
but their entire bodies were covered with shaggy, brown hair, and their faces
were quite as brutal as those of the few stuffed specimens of the gorilla which
I had seen in the museums at home.
Their only redeeming feature lay in the development of the head above and
back of the ears. In this respect they were not one whit less human than we.
They were 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 their feet
were shod with thick hide of some mammoth creature of this inner world.
Their arms and necks were encircled by many ornaments of metal--silver
predominating--and on their tunics were sewn the heads of tiny reptiles in odd
and rather artistic designs. They talked among themselves as they marched along
on either side of us, but in a language which I perceived differed from that
employed by our fellow prisoners. When they addressed the latter they used what
appeared to be a third language, and which I later learned is a mongrel 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
asleep much of the time for hours before a halt was called--then we dropped in
our tracks. I say "for hours," but how may one measure time where time
does not exist! When our march commenced the sun stood at zenith. When we halted
our shadows still pointed toward nadir. Whether an instant or an eternity of
earthly time elapsed who may say. That march may have occupied nine years and
eleven months of the ten years that I spent in the inner world, or it may have
been accomplished in the fraction of a second--I cannot tell. But this I do know
that since you have told me that ten years have elapsed since I departed from
this earth I have lost all respect for time--I am commencing to doubt that such
a thing exists other than in the weak, finite mind of man.