I glanced at Perry as the thing passed me to inspect him. The
old man was gazing at the horrid creature with wide astonished
eyes. When it passed on, he turned to me.
As we continued on through the main avenue of Phutra we saw
many thousand of the creatures coming and going upon their daily
duties. They paid but little attention to us. Phutra is laid out
underground with a regularity that indicates remarkable
engineering skill. It is hewn from solid limestone strata. The
streets are broad and of a uniform height of twenty feet. At
intervals tubes pierce the roof of this underground city, and by
means of lenses and reflectors transmit the sunlight, softened
and diffused, to dispel what would otherwise be Cimmerian
darkness. In like manner air is introduced.
I never did quite grasp him, though he endeavored to explain
it to me upon numerous occasions. I suggested telepathy, but he
said no, that it was not telepathy since they could only
communicate when in each others' presence, nor could they talk
with the Sagoths or the other inhabitants of Pellucidar by the
same method they used to converse with one another.
"You do not, Perry," I replied. He shook his head in despair,
and returned to his work. They had set us to carrying a great
accumulation of Maharan literature from one apartment to another,
and there arranging it upon shelves. I suggested to Perry that we
were in the public library of Phutra, but later, as he commenced
to discover the key to their written language, he assured me that
we were handling the ancient archives of the race.
At my suggestion Perry and I fashioned some swords of scraps
of iron which we discovered among some rubbish in the cells where
we slept, for we were permitted almost unrestrained freedom of
action within the limits of the building to which we had been
assigned. So great were the number of slaves who waited upon the
inhabitants of Phutra that none of us was apt to be overburdened
with work, nor were our masters unkind to us.
We had completed these arrangements for our protection after
leaving Phutra when the Sagoths who had been sent to recapture
the escaped prisoners returned with four of them, of whom Hooja
was one. Dian and two others had eluded them. It so happened that
Hooja was confined in the same building with us. He told Ghak
that he had not seen Dian or the others after releasing them
within the dark grotto. What had become of them he had not the
faintest conception--they might be wandering yet, lost within the
labyrinthine tunnel, if not dead from starvation.
"Perry, " I confided to the old man, "if I have to search
every inch of this diminutive world I am going to find Dian the
Beautiful and right the wrong I unintentionally did her." That
was the excuse I made for Perry's benefit.
"Look," he cried, pointing to it, "this is evidently water,
and all this land. Do you notice the general configuration of the
two areas? Where the oceans are upon the outer crust, is land
here. These relatively small areas of ocean follow the general
lines of the continents of the outer world.
"Where within vast Pellucidar would you search for your Dian?
Without stars, or moon, or changing sun how could you find her
even though you knew where she might be found?"
"If Ghak will accompany us we may be able to do it," I
"Ghak," I said, "we are determined to escape from this
bondage. Will you accompany us?"
"Could you find your way back to your own land?" asked Perry.
"And could you aid David in his search for Dian?"
"But how," persisted Perry, "could you travel to strange
country without heavenly bodies or a compass to guide you?"
"Then Dian could have found her way directly to her own
people?" I asked.
I was for making the attempted escape at once, but both Perry
and Ghak counseled waiting for some propitious accident which
would insure us some small degree of success. I didn't see what
accident could befall a whole community in a land of perpetual
daylight where the inhabitants had no fixed habits of sleep. Why,
I am sure that some of the Mahars never sleep, while others may,
at long intervals, crawl into the dark recesses beneath their
dwellings and curl up in protracted slumber. Perry says that if a
Mahar stays awake for three years he will make up all his lost
sleep in a long year's snooze. That may be all true, but I never
saw but three of them asleep, and it was the sight of these three
that gave me a suggestion for our means of escape.
Hastening back to Perry where he pored over a musty pile of,
to me, meaningless hieroglyphics, I explained my plan to him. To
my surprise he was horrified.
"Murder to kill a reptilian monster?" I asked in
"Life within Pellucidar is far younger than upon the outer
crust. Here man has but reached a stage analogous to the Stone
Age of our own world's history, but for countless millions of
years these reptiles have been progressing. Possibly it is the
sixth sense which I am sure they possess that has given them an
advantage over the other and more frightfully armed of their
fellows; but this we may never know. They look upon us as we look
upon the beasts of our fields, and I learn from their written
records that other races of Mahars feed upon men--they keep them
in great droves, as we keep cattle. They breed them most
carefully, and when they are quite fat, they kill and eat
"What is there horrible about it, David?" the old man asked.
"They understand us no better than we understand the lower
animals of our own world. Why, I have come across here very
learned discussions of the question as to whether gilaks, that is
men, have any means of communication. One writer claims that we
do not even reason--that our every act is mechanical, or
instinctive. The dominant race of Pellucidar, David, have not yet
learned that men converse among themselves, or reason. Because we
do not converse as they do it is beyond them to imagine that we
converse at all. It is thus that we reason in relation to the
brutes of our own world. They know that the Sagoths have a spoken
language, but they cannot comprehend it, or how it manifests
itself, since they have no auditory apparatus. They believe that
the motions of the lips alone convey the meaning. That the
Sagoths can communicate with us is incomprehensible to them.
"Very well then, Perry." I replied. "I shall become a
"I wonder, David," he said at length, "as you are determined
to carry out your wild scheme, if we could not accomplish
something of very real and lasting benefit for the human race of
Pellucidar at the same time. Listen, I have learned much of a
most surprising nature from these archives of the Mahars. That
you may not appreciate my plan I shall briefly outline the
history of the race.
"What happened? Immediately the necessity for males ceased to
exist--the race was no longer dependent upon them. More ages
elapsed until at the present time we find a race consisting
exclusively of females. But here is the point. The secret of this
chemical formula is kept by a single race of Mahars. It is in the
city of Phutra, and unless I am greatly in error I judge from
your description of the vaults through which you passed today
that it lies hidden in the cellar of this building.
"David, if we can escape, and at the same time take with us
this great secret what will we not have accomplished for the
human race within Pellucidar!" The very thought of it fairly
overpowered me. Why, we two would be the means of placing the men
of the inner world in their rightful place among created things.
Only the Sagoths would then stand between them and absolute
supremacy, and I was not quite sure but that the Sagoths owed all
their power to the greater intelligence of the Mahars--I could
not believe that these gorilla-like beasts were the mental
superiors of the human race of Pellucidar.
"David," said the old man, "I believe that God sent us here
for just that purpose--it shall be my life work to teach them His
word--to lead them into the light of His mercy while we are
training their hearts and hands in the ways of culture and
Ghak had entered the apartment some time before we concluded
our conversation, and now he wanted to know what we were so
excited about. Perry thought we had best not tell him too much,
and so I only explained that I had a plan for escape. When I had
outlined it to him, he seemed about as horror-struck as Perry had
been; but for a different reason. The Hairy One only considered
the horrible fate that would be ours were we discovered; but at
last I prevailed upon him to accept my plan as the only feasible
one, and when I had assured him that I would take all the
responsibility for it were we captured, he accorded a reluctant