Part II Chapter 2 Savage Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

O-aa, always alert to danger, nevertheless was not aware of the man hiding in the bushes. He was a large man with broad shoulders, a deep chest, and mighty forearms and biceps. He wore a loin cloth made of the feathers of birds—yellow feathers with two transverse bars of red feathers. It was artistic and striking. He had rings in his ears; they were made of fish bone. A few strands of his hair were braided and made into a small knot at the top of the back of his head; into this knot were stuck three long, yellow feathers barred with red. He carried a stone knife and a spear tipped with the tooth of a huge shark. His features were strong and regular; he was a handsome man, and he was sun-tanned to a golden bronze.

As O-aa came opposite him, he leaped from his concealment and seized her by the hair; then he started to drag her through the bushes down toward the beach. He soon found that that was not so easy as he had hoped. Dragging O-aa was like dragging a cat with hydrophobia; O-aa didn’t drag worth a cent. She pulled back; she bit; she scratched; she kicked; and when she wasn’t biting, she was emitting a stream of vitriolic vituperation that would have done credit to Pegler when on the subject of Mr. Brown.

Cave people of the Stone Age are of few words and short tempers; the prehistoric Adonis who was dragging O-aa along by the hair was no exception that proved the rule; he was wholly orthodox. After a couple of bites, he raised his spear and clunked O-aa on the head with the haft of it; and O-aa took the full count. Then he swung her across one shoulder and trotted down to the beach, where a canoe was drawn up on the sand. He dumped O-aa into it and then pulled it out into the water.

He held it against the incoming rollers; and at precisely the psychological moment, he leaped in and paddled strongly. The light craft rose on the next roller, dove into the trough beyond, and O-aa was launched upon the great sea she so greatly feared.

When she recovered consciousness her heart sank. The canoe was leaping about boisterously, and land was already far away. The man sat upon the deck of the tapering stern and paddled with a very broad, flat paddle. O-aa appraised him furtively. She noted and appreciated his pulchritude at the same time that she was seeking to formulate a plan for killing him.

She also examined the canoe. It was about twenty feet long, with a three-foot beam; it was decked over fore and aft for about six feet, leaving an eight foot cockpit; transverse booms were lashed across it at each end of the cockpit, protruding outboard about four feet on either side; lashed to the underside of the ends of these booms was a twenty foot length of bamboo, about six inches in diameter, running parallel with the craft on each side, the whole constituting a double outrigger canoe. It was a clumsy craft to handle, but it was uncapsizable; even O-aa, who knew nothing about boats or seas, could see that; and she felt reassured. She would have been even more reassured had she known that the compartments beneath the two decks were watertight and that in addition to this, they held fresh water in bamboo containers and a quantity of food.

The man saw that she had regained consciousness. “What is your name?” he asked.

“My name is O-aa,” she snapped; “I am the daughter of a king. When my mate, my father, and my seven brothers learn of this, they will come and kill you.”

The man laughed. “My name is La-ak,” he said. “I live on the Island of Canda. I have six wives; you will be the seventh. With seven wives I shall be a very important man; our chief has only seven. I came to the mainland to get another wife; I did not have to look long, did I?” Again he laughed.

“I will not mate with you,” O-aa snapped.

Once again La-ak laughed. “You will be glad to,” he said, “after my other six wives teach you how to behave—that is, you will if you live through it; they will not stand for any foolishness. They have already killed two women whom I brought home, who refused to become my wives. In my country no man may take a mate without her consent. I think it is a very foolish custom; but it is an old one, and we have to abide by it.”

“You had better take me back to the mainland,” said O-aa, “for I will not mate with you; and I shall certainly kill some of your wives before they kill me; then you will be worse off than you are now.”

He looked at her for a long time before he spoke again. “I believe you,” he said; “but you are very beautiful, and I do not intend to be cheated of you entirely. What happens in this canoe, no one in Canda will ever know, for I’ll throw you overboard before we get there;” then he laid down his paddle and came toward her.

David Innes, Hodon, and the little old man, Ah-gilak, boarded the ship of Ghak the Hairy One; and when all of the other warriors had boarded this and the other ships, the fleet set sail.

Ah-gilak looked around him with a critical and contemptuous eye. “Dod-burn it!” he ejaculated. “What dod-burned landlubber built this tub? There ain’t a gol-durned thing right about her. I reckon as how she’d sail sidewise just as well as she would ahead! an’ a lateen sail!” he added, disgustedly. “Now, you should have saw the Dolly Dorcas; there was a sweet ship.”

Ghak the Hairy One glared at him with a dangerous gleam in his eye, for Ghak was proud of every ship in the Navy of the Empire of Pellucidar. They were the first ships he had ever seen and they carried the first sails; to him they were the last word in perfection and modernity. Abner Perry had designed them; did this little, toothless runt think he could do better than Abner Perry? With a great, hairy hand Ghak seized Ah-gilak by the beard.

“Wait!” cautioned David. “I think Ah-gilak knows what he is talking about. He sailed ships on the outer Earth. Perry never did. Perry did the best he could down here, with no knowledge of ship design and no one to help him who had ever seen a ship before. He would be the first to welcome some one who could help us build a better navy. I think we can use Ah-gilak after we get home.”

Ghak reluctantly released Ah-gilak’s beard. “He talks too much,” he said; and, turning, walked away.

“If I hadn’t been wrecked in the Arctic and washed down into this dod-burned world,” said Ah-gilak, “I would probably have commanded the fastest clipper ship in the world today. I was aimin’ for to build it just as soon as I got back to Cape Cod.”

“Clipper ship!” said David. “There aren’t any more clipper ships. I don’t suppose there’s been one built in more than fifty years.”

“Why, dod-burn you,” exclaimed Ah-gilak; “they hadn’t been building ’em more’n five year when the Dolly Dorcas went down—let’s see; that was 1845.”

David Innes looked at him in amazement. “Are you sure of that date?” he demanded.

“Sure as I am that I’m standin’ here, as the feller said,” replied Ah-gilak.

“How old were you when the Dolly Dorcas was lost?” asked David.

“I was forty years old. I can always remember, because my birthday was the same as President Tyler’s. He would have been fifty-five on March 29th, 1845, if he lived; an’ I was just fifteen years younger than him. They was talkin’ about a feller named Polk runnin’ for President when we sailed.”

“Do you know how old you are now?” asked David.

“Well, I sort o’ lost track o’ time down here in this dod-burned world; but I reckon I must be close to sixty.”

“Not very close,” said David; “you’re a hundred and fifty-three.”

“Well, of all the dod-burned liars, you sure take the cake! A hundred an’ fifty-three! God an’ Gabriel! Do I look a hundred an’ fifty-three?”

“No,” said David; “I’d say that you don’t look a day over a hundred and fifty.”

The old man looked at David disgustedly. “I ain’t mentionin’ no names,” he said; “but some folks ain’t got no more sense than a white pine dog with a poplar tail, as the feller said”; then he turned and walked away.

Hodon had been listening to the conversation; but he knew nothing about years or ages, and he wondered what it all meant. Anyway, he would not have been much interested, had he; for he was thinking of O-aa, and wondering where she was. He was sorry now that he had not stayed on shore and searched for her.

The flag ship of the little fleet of three ships was called Amoz in honor of Dian the Beautiful, who came from the land of Amoz. It was crowded with five hundred warriors. It had eight guns, four on a side, on a lower deck. There were solid shot, chain shot, and shells for each of the guns, all of which were muzzle loading. They had to be run back on crude wooden tracks to load, and then run forward again, with their muzzles sticking out of port holes, to fire; they were the pride of the Navy.

The sailors who manned the Amoz and the other ships were copper colored Mezops from the Anoroc Islands; and the Admiral of the Fleet was Ja, King of Anoroc. The lateen sail of the Amoz was enormous; it required the combined strength of fifty husky Mezops to raise it. Like the gas bag of Perry’s balloon and the fabric of his late aeroplane, it was made of the peritonea of dinosaurs. This was one of Perry’s prime discoveries, for there were lots of dinosaurs and their peritonea were large and tough. Habitually, they objected to giving them up; so it was quite an exciting job collecting peritonea, for dinosaurs such as carry A-1 peritonea are large, ferocious, and ill-mannered.

The fleet had been under way for but a short time, when Ah-gilak, casting a weather eye about from long habit, discovered a cloud astern. “We’re a-goin’ to have a blow,” he said to Ja, and pointed.

Ja looked and nodded. “Yes,” he said, and gave orders to shorten sail.

The cloud was not very large when it was first discovered, but it was undeniably a wind cloud. As it came closer, it grew in extent; and it became black. Ragged shreds of it whipped ahead. Around the ship was a sudden, deadly calm.

“We’re a-goin’ to have more’n a gale. That there looks like a dod-burned hurricane.”

Now there was a sudden gust of wind that made the sagging sail flap angrily. Ja had ordered it close reefed; and the Mezops were battling with the whipping peritonea, as the wind increased in violence.

And now the storm was upon them. Rolling black clouds shut out the eternal sun, lightning flashed, and thunder roared; rain began to fall—not in drops or sheets, but in solid masses. The wind wailed and shrieked like some ferocious demon of destruction. Men clung to the ship’s rails, to one another, to anything that they could lay hands on to keep from being blown overboard.

David Innes went among them, ordering them below; at last only the Mezop sailors and a few Sarians remained on the upper deck—they and the little old man, Ah-gilak. Innes and Ghak and Hodon clustered behind Ja and Ah-gilak. The little old man was in his element.

“I bin wrecked seven times,” he shrieked above the storm, “an’ I can be wrecked again, as the feller said; an’ dod-burn it if I don’t think I’m goin’ to be.”

The sea had risen, and the waves were growing constantly in immensity. The clumsy, overloaded ship wallowed out of one great sea only to be half swallowed by another.

So dark was it and so thick the rain that neither of the other ships could be seen. David was fearful for the safety of the little Sari; in fact, he was fearful for the fate of all three of the ships if the storm did not abate soon or if it increased in violence. As though possessed of sardonic humor, the hurricane raged even more violently while the thought was yet in David’s mind.

The Amoz rose upon the crest of a watery mountain to plunge into a watery abyss. The men clung to whatever they could as the ship buried its nose deep in the sea; and a huge, following wave combed over the stern, submerging them.

David thought it was the end. He knew that the ship would never rise again from beneath those tons of raging water, yet still he clung to the thing he had seized. Slowly, ponderously, like some gigantic beast trying to drag itself from quick-sand, the Amoz, staggered up, shaking the water from its deck.

“Dod-burn me!” screamed Ah-gilak; “but this is a sweet ship. It didn’t take half that sea to swamp the Dolly Dorcas, and I thought she was a sweet ship. Well, live and learn, as the feller said.”

There were not as many men on the deck as there had been. David wondered how many of the poor devils had been lost. He looked at those about him; Ghak, and Ja, and Hodon, and Ah-gilak were all there.

David looked up at the waves as they towered above the ship, and he looked down into the abysses as the ship started down from the crest. “Seventy feet,” he said, half to himself; “a good seventy feet.”

Suddenly Ah-gilak yelled, “Make fast there an’ say your prayers!”

David glanced astern. The most stupendous wave he had ever seen trembled above them—hundreds of tons of water poised to crush the ship; then it came!

Dian the Beautiful awaited the end with supreme indifference; she had reached the limit of human endurance; but she was not afraid. In fact, she was just a little fascinated by the situation, and wondered whether the screaming thipdar winging toward her was coming for her or the gas bag—not that it would make much difference to her in the end.

Suddenly the giant pterodactyl veered to one side, and rushed past. Dian watched it as it soared away, waiting for it to turn and renew the attack; but it did not return. It had finally discovered something of which it was afraid.

Dian looked down over the edge of the basket. She could see the land beyond the strait quite plainly now; she seemed to be much lower, and wondered. She did not know that the gas was leaking from the balloon where the thipdar had nipped it.

It was some time before she realized the truth—that the balloon was actually descending; and now she had something more to worry about: would it reach the shore, or would it come down in the water? If the latter, she would make food for some saurian; or for a horde of them that would tear her to pieces.

And on the land a short distance back from the shore she saw an amazing sight for Pellucidar—a city, a walled city. She would not have known what it was had David not told her of the cities of his world. Well, she might be about as well off among the saurians as among strange human beings. There was little choice, but upon reflection she hoped that the balloon reached the land before it came down.

It was quite low now, and the land was still a good half mile away. She tried to gauge the relation between its drop and its horizontal progress toward the land. She looked down over the edge of the basket and saw that the rope was already dragging in the water. The rope was five hundred feet long. After a part of the rope was submerged the balloon didn’t seem to drop any more; but its progress toward land was also retarded, as it dragged the submerged rope through the water. However, it appeared now that it would reach the land first.

Dian was congratulating herself on this as she peered down into the strait when she saw the head of a creature which she knew as an aztarag, or tiger of the sea, break the water near the trailing rope.

She was congratulating herself upon the fact that she was not down there, when the creature seized the rope in its mighty jaws and started for the center of the strait.

This was too much! Tired, hungry, thirsty, and exhausted, though no longer cold, Dian almost broke down. With an effort she kept back the tears for now there was no hope.

But was there one! If she could cut the rope, the balloon would be freed; and would continue on toward shore. Relieved of the weight of five hundred feet of heavy rope, it would certainly drift far inland before it came down. But she couldn’t reach the rope; it was fastened to the underneath side of the basket.

There must be some way! She drew her stone knife and commenced to hack at the wickerwork of the basket’s floor. At last she had a hole large enough to get her arm through. Feeling around, she found the large rope. It was attached to the basket by many smaller ropes which ran to the periphery of the basket’s bottom.

Dian commenced to saw on these smaller ropes. She could see through the hole in the bottom of the basket, and she saw that the balloon was being rapidly dragged toward the water—the aztarag had sounded and was pulling the balloon down behind it!

The girl worked frantically, for once the basket was submerged she would be lost—the sea beneath her was alive with hungry creatures. She saw a gigantic shark just below her; it thrust its snout out of water; and she could almost touch it, as the last rope parted.

Instantly the balloon leaped into the air, and once more started its precarious and seemingly endless journey toward the mysterious world beyond the nameless strait.