FROM PLIGHT TO PLIGHT
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
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
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 head- way. 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 uncertain 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
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
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
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 roam- ing 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
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 seem- ing 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 yel- low 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 in- stead 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 re- moved 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 bur- den 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
In the foreground I saw the youth who had discovered us, and I could tell
from the way he carried him- self 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
Again the warrior nodded. "I am Goork," he said. "Where is the
"Here," I replied, and fished into the game-bag where I had placed
Goork and his people waited in silence. My hand searched the inside of the
It was empty!
The token had been stolen with my arms!