SEVERAL YEARS had elapsed since I had found the opportunity to do any
big-game hunting; for at last I had my plans almost perfected for a return to my
old stamping-grounds in northern Africa, where in other days I had had excellent
sport in pursuit of the king of beasts.
The date of my departure had been set; I was to leave in two weeks. No
schoolboy counting the lagging hours that must pass before the beginning of
"long vacation" released him to the delirious joys of the summer camp
could have been filled with greater impatience or keener anticipation.
And then came a letter that started me for Africa twelve days ahead of my
Often am I in receipt of letters from strangers who have found something in a
story of mine to commend or to condemn. My interest in this department of my
correspondence is ever fresh. I opened this particular letter with all the zest
of pleasurable anticipation with which I had opened so many others. The
post-mark (Algiers) had aroused my interest and curiosity, especially at this
time, since it was Algiers that was presently to witness the termination of my
coming sea voyage in search of sport and adventure.
Before the reading of that letter was completed lions and lion-hunting had
fled my thoughts, and I was in a state of excitement bordering upon frenzy.
It--well, read it yourself, and see if you, too, do not find food for frantic
conjecture, for tantalizing doubts, and for a great hope.
Here it is:
DEAR SIR: I think that I have run across one of the most remarkable
coincidences in modern literature. But let me start at the beginning:
I am, by profession, a wanderer upon the face of the earth. I have no
trade--nor any other occupation.
My father bequeathed me a competency; some remoter ancestors lust to roam. I
have combined the two and invested them carefully and without extravagance.
I became interested in your story, At the Earth's Core, not so much because
of the probability of the tale as of a great and abiding wonder that people
should be paid real money for writing such impossible trash. You will pardon my
candor, but it is necessary that you understand my mental attitude toward this
particular story--that you may credit that which follows.
Shortly thereafter I started for the Sahara in search of a rather rare
species of antelope that is to be found only occasionally within a limited area
at a certain season of the year. My chase led me far from the haunts of man.
It was a fruitless search, however, in so far as antelope is concerned; but
one night as I lay courting sleep at the edge of a little cluster of date-palms
that surround an ancient well in the midst of the arid, shifting sands, I
suddenly became conscious of a strange sound coming apparently from the earth
beneath my head.
It was an intermittent ticking!
No reptile or insect with which I am familiar re- produces any such notes. I
lay for an hour--listening intently.
At last my curiosity got the better of me. I arose, lighted my lamp and
commenced to investigate.
My bedding lay upon a rug stretched directly upon the warm sand. The noise
appeared to be coming from beneath the rug. I raised it, but found nothing--yet,
at intervals, the sound continued.
I dug into the sand with the point of my hunting- knife. A few inches below
the surface of the sand I encountered a solid substance that had the feel of
wood beneath the sharp steel.
Excavating about it, I unearthed a small wooden box. From this receptacle
issued the strange sound that I had heard.
How had it come here?
What did it contain?
In attempting to lift it from its burying place I discovered that it seemed
to be held fast by means of a very small insulated cable running farther into
the sand beneath it.
My first impulse was to drag the thing loose by main strength; but
fortunately I thought better of this and fell to examining the box. I soon saw
that it was covered by a hinged lid, which was held closed by a simple screwhook
It took but a moment to loosen this and raise the cover, when, to my utter
astonishment, I discovered an ordinary telegraph instrument clicking away
"What in the world," thought I, "is this thing doing
That it was a French military instrument was my first guess; but really there
didn't seem much likelihood that this was the correct explanation, when one took
into account the loneliness and remoteness of the spot.
As I sat gazing at my remarkable find, which was ticking and clicking away
there in the silence of the desert night, trying to convey some message which I
was unable to interpret, my eyes fell upon a bit of paper lying in the bottom of
the box beside the instrument. I picked it up and examined it. Upon it were
written but two letters:
They meant nothing to me then. I was baffled.
Once, in an interval of silence upon the part of the receiving instrument, I
moved the sending-key up and down a few times. Instantly the receiving mechanism
commenced to work frantically.
I tried to recall something of the Morse Code, with which I had played as a
little boy--but time had obliterated it from my memory. I became almost frantic
as I let my imagination run riot among the possibilities for which this clicking
instrument might stand.
Some poor devil at the unknown other end might be in dire need of succor. The
very franticness of the instrument's wild clashing betokened something of the
And there sat I, powerless to interpret, and so power- less to help!
It was then that the inspiration came to me. In a flash there leaped to my
mind the closing paragraphs of the story I had read in the club at Algiers:
Does the answer lie somewhere upon the bosom of the broad Sahara, at the ends
of two tiny wires, hidden beneath a lost cairn?
The idea seemed preposterous. Experience and intelligence combined to assure
me that there could be no slightest grain of truth or possibility in your wild
tale--it was fiction pure and simple.
And yet where WERE the other ends of those wires?
What was this instrument--ticking away here in the great Sahara--but a
travesty upon the possible!
Would I have believed in it had I not seen it with my own eyes?
And the initials--D. I.--upon the slip of paper!
David's initials were these--David Innes.
I smiled at my imaginings. I ridiculed the assumption that there was an inner
world and that these wires led downward through the earth's crust to the surface
of Pellucidar. And yet--
Well, I sat there all night, listening to that tantalizing clicking, now and
then moving the sending-key just to let the other end know that the instrument
had been discovered. In the morning, after carefully returning the box to its
hole and covering it over with sand, I called my servants about me, snatched a
hurried breakfast, mounted my horse, and started upon a forced march for
I arrived here today. In writing you this letter I feel that I am making a
fool of myself.
There is no David Innes.
There is no Dian the Beautiful.
There is no world within a world.
Pellucidar is but a realm of your imagination--nothing more.
The incident of the finding of that buried telegraph instrument upon the
lonely Sahara is little short of uncanny, in view of your story of the
adventures of David Innes.
I have called it one of the most remarkable coincidences in modern fiction. I
called it literature before, but--again pardon my candor--your story is not.
And now--why am I writing you?
Heaven knows, unless it is that the persistent clicking of that unfathomable
enigma out there in the vast silences of the Sahara has so wrought upon my
nerves that reason refuses longer to function sanely.
I cannot hear it now, yet I know that far away to the south, all alone
beneath the sands, it is still pounding out its vain, frantic appeal.
It is maddening
It is your fault--I want you to release me from it.
Cable me at once, at my expense, that there was no basis of fact for your
story, At the Earth's Core.
Very respectfully yours,
Ten minutes after reading this letter I had cabled Mr. Nestor as follows:
Story true. Await me Algiers.
As fast as train and boat would carry me, I sped toward my destination. For
all those dragging days my mind was a whirl of mad conjecture, of frantic hope,
of numbing fear.
The finding of the telegraph-instrument practically assured me that David
Innes had driven Perry's iron mole back through the earth's crust to the buried
world of Pellucidar; but what adventures had befallen him since his return?
Had he found Dian the Beautiful, his half-savage mate, safe among his
friends, or had Hooja the Sly One succeeded in his nefarious schemes to abduct
Did Abner Perry, the lovable old inventor and paleontologist, still live?
Had the federated tribes of Pellucidar succeeded in overthrowing the mighty
Mahars, the dominant race of reptilian monsters, and their fierce, gorilla-like
soldiery, the savage Sagoths?
I must admit that I was in a state bordering upon nervous prostration when I
entered the -and-Club, in Algiers, and inquired for Mr. Nestor. A moment later I
was ushered into his presence, to find myself clasping hands with the sort of
chap that the world holds only too few of.
He was a tall, smooth-faced man of about thirty, clean-cut, straight, and
strong, and weather-tanned to the hue of a desert Arab. I liked him immensely
from the first, and I hope that after our three months together in the desert
country--three months not entirely lack- ing in adventure--he found that a man
may be a writer of "impossible trash" and yet have some redeem- ing
The day following my arrival at Algiers we left for the south, Nestor having
made all arrangements in advance, guessing, as he naturally did, that I could be
coming to Africa for but a single purpose--to hasten at once to the buried
telegraph-instrument and wrest its secret from it.
In addition to our native servants, we took along an English
telegraph-operator named Frank Downes. Nothing of interest enlivened our journey
by rail and caravan till we came to the cluster of date-palms about the ancient
well upon the rim of the Sahara.
It was the very spot at which I first had seen David Innes. If he had ever
raised a cairn above the telegraph instrument no sign of it remained now. Had it
not been for the chance that caused Cogdon Nestor to throw down his sleeping rug
directly over the hidden instrument, it might still be clicking there
unheard--and this story still unwritten.
When we reached the spot and unearthed the little box the instrument was
quiet, nor did repeated attempts upon the part of our telegrapher succeed in
winning a response from the other end of the line. After several days of futile
endeavor to raise Pellucidar, we had be- gun to despair. I was as positive that
the other end of that little cable protruded through the surface of the inner
world as I am that I sit here today in my study-- when about midnight of the
fourth day I was awakened by the sound of the instrument.
Leaping to my feet I grasped Downes roughly by the neck and dragged him out
of his blankets. He didn't need to be told what caused my excitement, for the
instant he was awake he, too, heard the long-hoped for click, and with a whoop
of delight pounced upon the instrument.
Nestor was on his feet almost as soon as I. The three of us huddled about
that little box as if our lives depended upon the message it had for us.
Downes interrupted the clicking with his sending- key. The noise of the
receiver stopped instantly.
"Ask who it is, Downes," I directed.
He did so, and while we awaited the Englishman's translation of the reply, I
doubt if either Nestor or I breathed.
"He says he's David Innes," said Downes. "He wants to know who
"Tell him," said I; "and that we want to know how he is--and
all that has befallen him since I last saw him."
For two months I talked with David Innes almost every day, and as Downes
translated, either Nestor or I took notes. From these, arranged in chronological
order, I have set down the following account of the further adventures of David
Innes at the earth's core, practically in his own words.