A moment later I was standing before a dozen Mahars--the
social investigators of Phutra. They asked me many questions,
through a Sagoth interpreter. I answered them all truthfully.
They seemed particularly interested in my account of the outer
earth and the strange vehicle which had brought Perry and me to
Pellucidar. I thought that I had convinced them, and after they
had sat in silence for a long time following my examination, I
expected to be ordered returned to my quarters.
"Come," he said to me, "you are sentenced to the experimental
pits for having dared to insult the intelligence of the mighty
ones with the ridiculous tale you have had the temerity to unfold
"Believe you!" he laughed. "Do you mean to say that you
expected any one to believe so impossible a lie?"
The Mahars had paid not the slightest attention to me as I had
been brought into the room. So deeply immersed were they in their
work that I am sure they did not even know that the Sagoths had
entered with me. The door was close by. Would that I could reach
it! But those heavy chains precluded any such possibility. I
looked about for some means of escape from my bonds. Upon the
floor between me and the Mahars lay a tiny surgical instrument
which one of them must have dropped. It looked not unlike a
button-hook, but was much smaller, and its point was sharpened. A
hundred times in my boyhood days had I picked locks with a
buttonhook. Could I but reach that little bit of polished steel I
might yet effect at least a temporary escape.
At last I turned about and extended one foot toward the
object. My heart came to my throat! I could just touch the thing!
But suppose that in my effort to drag it toward me I should
accidentally shove it still farther away and thus entirely out of
reach! Cold sweat broke out upon me from every pore. Slowly and
cautiously I made the effort. My toes dropped upon the cold
metal. Gradually I worked it toward me until I felt that it was
within reach of my hand and a moment later I had turned about and
the precious thing was in my grasp.
Those at the table had their backs toward me. But for the
creature walking toward us I might have escaped that moment.
Slowly the thing approached me, when its attention was attracted
by a huge slave chained a few yards to my right. Here the reptile
stopped and commenced to go over the poor devil carefully, and as
it did so its back turned toward me for an instant, and in that
instant I gave two mighty leaps that carried me out of the
chamber into the corridor beyond, down which I raced with all the
speed I could command.
Presently I reduced my speed to a brisk walk, and later
realizing the danger of running into some new predicament, were I
not careful, I moved still more slowly and cautiously. After a
time I came to a passage that seemed in some mysterious way
familiar to me, and presently, chancing to glance within a
chamber which led from the corridor I saw three Mahars curled up
in slumber upon a bed of skins. I could have shouted aloud in joy
and relief. It was the same corridor and the same Mahars that I
had intended to have lead so important a role in our escape from
Phutra. Providence had indeed been kind to me, for the reptiles
Both were glad to see me, it was needless to say, though of
course they had known nothing of the fate that had been meted out
to me by my judges. It was decided that no time should now be
lost before attempting to put our plan of escape to the test, as
I could not hope to remain hidden from the Sagoths long, nor
could I forever carry that bale of skins about upon my head
without arousing suspicion. However it seemed likely that it
would carry me once more safely through the crowded passages and
chambers of the upper levels, and so I set out with Perry and
Ghak--the stench of the illy cured pelts fairly choking me.
Down to the main floor we encountered many Mahars, Sagoths,
and slaves; but no attention was paid to us as we had become a
part of the domestic life of the building. There was but a single
entrance leading from the place into the avenue and this was well
guarded by Sagoths--this doorway alone were we forbidden to pass.
It is true that we were not supposed to enter the deeper
corridors and apartments except on special occasions when we were
instructed to do so; but as we were considered a lower order
without intelligence there was little reason to fear that we
could accomplish any harm by so doing, and so we were not
hindered as we entered the corridor which led below.
Having come to the apartment in which the three Mahars slept I
entered silently on tiptoe, forgetting that the creatures were
without the sense of hearing. With a quick thrust through the
heart I disposed of the first but my second thrust was not so
fortunate, so that before I could kill the next of my victims it
had hurled itself against the third, who sprang quickly up,
facing me with wide-distended jaws. But fighting is not the
occupation which the race of Mahars loves, and when the thing saw
that I already had dispatched two of its companions, and that my
sword was red with their blood, it made a dash to escape me. But
I was too quick for it, and so, half hopping, half flying, it
scurried down another corridor with me close upon its heels.
Of a sudden it turned into an apartment on the right of the
corridor, and an instant later as I rushed in I found myself
facing two of the Mahars. The one who had been there when we
entered had been occupied with a number of metal vessels, into
which had been put powders and liquids as I judged from the array
of flasks standing about upon the bench where it had been
working. In an instant I realized what I had stumbled upon. It
was the very room for the finding of which Perry had given me
minute directions. It was the buried chamber in which was hidden
the Great Secret of the race of Mahars. And on the bench beside
the flasks lay the skin-bound book which held the only copy of
the thing I was to have sought, after dispatching the three
Mahars in their sleep.
Back and forth across the floor we struggled--the Mahar
dealing me terrific, cutting blows with her fore feet, while I
attempted to protect my body with my left hand, at the same time
watching for an opportunity to transfer my blade from my now
useless sword hand to its rapidly weakening mate. At last I was
successful, and with what seemed to me my last ounce of strength
I ran the blade through the ugly body of my foe.
And as I grasped it did I think of what it meant to the human
race of Pellucidar--did there flash through my mind the thought
that countless generations of my own kind yet unborn would have
reason to worship me for the thing that I had accomplished for
them? I did not. I thought of a beautiful oval face, gazing out
of limpid eyes, through a waving mass of jet-black hair. I
thought of red, red lips, God-made for kissing. And of a sudden,
apropos of nothing, standing there alone in the secret chamber of
the Mahars of Pellucidar, I realized that I loved Dian the