Friday, November 9, 2007


The Land that Time Forgot By Edgar Rice Burroughs

The Land that Time Forgot
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Chapter 1
It must have been a little after three o'clock in the afternoon
that it happened--the afternoon of June 3rd, 1916. It seems
incredible that all that I have passed through--all those weird
and terrifying experiences--should have been encompassed within
so short a span as three brief months. Rather might I have
experienced a cosmic cycle, with all its changes and evolutions
for that which I have seen with my own eyes in this brief
interval of time--things that no other mortal eye had seen
before, glimpses of a world past, a world dead, a world so
long dead that even in the lowest Cambrian stratum no trace of
it remains. Fused with the melting inner crust, it has passed
forever beyond the ken of man other than in that lost pocket of
the earth whither fate has borne me and where my doom is sealed.
I am here and here must remain.
After reading this far, my interest, which already had been
stimulated by the finding of the manuscript, was approaching
the boiling-point. I had come to Greenland for the summer, on the
advice of my physician, and was slowly being bored to extinction,
as I had thoughtlessly neglected to bring sufficient reading-matter.
Being an indifferent fisherman, my enthusiasm for this form of
sport soon waned; yet in the absence of other forms of recreation
I was now risking my life in an entirely inadequate boat off Cape
Farewell at the southernmost extremity of Greenland.
Greenland! As a descriptive appellation, it is a sorry joke--but my
story has nothing to do with Greenland, nothing to do with me; so I
shall get through with the one and the other as rapidly as possible.
The inadequate boat finally arrived at a precarious landing, the
natives, waist-deep in the surf, assisting. I was carried ashore,
and while the evening meal was being prepared, I wandered to and
fro along the rocky, shattered shore. Bits of surf-harried
beach clove the worn granite, or whatever the rocks of Cape
Farewell may be composed of, and as I followed the ebbing tide
down one of these soft stretches, I saw the thing. Were one
to bump into a Bengal tiger in the ravine behind the Bimini
Baths, one could be no more surprised than was I to see a
perfectly good quart thermos bottle turning and twisting in the
surf of Cape Farewell at the southern extremity of Greenland.
I rescued it, but I was soaked above the knees doing it; and then
I sat down in the sand and opened it, and in the long twilight
read the manuscript, neatly written and tightly folded, which was
its contents.
You have read the opening paragraph, and if you are an imaginative
idiot like myself, you will want to read the rest of it; so I shall
give it to you here, omitting quotation marks--which are difficult
of remembrance. In two minutes you will forget me.
My home is in Santa Monica. I am, or was, junior member of my
father's firm. We are ship-builders. Of recent years we have
specialized on submarines, which we have built for Germany,
England, France and the United States. I know a sub as a mother
knows her baby's face, and have commanded a score of them on
their trial runs. Yet my inclinations were all toward aviation.
I graduated under Curtiss, and after a long siege with my father
obtained his permission to try for the Lafayette Escadrille. As a
stepping-stone I obtained an appointment in the American ambulance
service and was on my way to France when three shrill whistles
altered, in as many seconds, my entire scheme of life.
I was sitting on deck with some of the fellows who were going
into the American ambulance service with me, my Airedale, Crown
Prince Nobbler, asleep at my feet, when the first blast of the
whistle shattered the peace and security of the ship. Ever since
entering the U-boat zone we had been on the lookout for periscopes,
and children that we were, bemoaning the unkind fate that was to
see us safely into France on the morrow without a glimpse of the
dread marauders. We were young; we craved thrills, and God knows
we got them that day; yet by comparison with that through which I
have since passed they were as tame as a Punch-and-Judy show.
I shall never forget the ashy faces of the passengers as they
stampeded for their life-belts, though there was no panic.
Nobs rose with a low growl. I rose, also, and over the ship's
side, I saw not two hundred yards distant the periscope of a
submarine, while racing toward the liner the wake of a torpedo
was distinctly visible. We were aboard an American ship--which,
of course, was not armed. We were entirely defenseless; yet
without warning, we were being torpedoed.
I stood rigid, spellbound, watching the white wake of the torpedo.
It struck us on the starboard side almost amidships. The vessel
rocked as though the sea beneath it had been uptorn by a mighty volcano.
We were thrown to the decks, bruised and stunned, and then above
the ship, carrying with it fragments of steel and wood and
dismembered human bodies, rose a column of water hundreds of feet
into the air.
The silence which followed the detonation of the exploding torpedo
was almost equally horrifying. It lasted for perhaps two seconds,
to be followed by the screams and moans of the wounded, the cursing
of the men and the hoarse commands of the ship's officers. They were
splendid--they and their crew. Never before had I been so proud of
my nationality as I was that moment. In all the chaos which followed
the torpedoing of the liner no officer or member of the crew lost his
head or showed in the slightest any degree of panic or fear.
While we were attempting to lower boats, the submarine emerged
and trained guns on us. The officer in command ordered us to
lower our flag, but this the captain of the liner refused to do.
The ship was listing frightfully to starboard, rendering the port
boats useless, while half the starboard boats had been demolished
by the explosion. Even while the passengers were crowding the
starboard rail and scrambling into the few boats left to us, the
submarine commenced shelling the ship. I saw one shell burst in
a group of women and children, and then I turned my head and
covered my eyes.
When I looked again to horror was added chagrin, for with the
emerging of the U-boat I had recognized her as a product of
our own shipyard. I knew her to a rivet. I had superintended
her construction. I had sat in that very conning-tower and
directed the efforts of the sweating crew below when first her
prow clove the sunny summer waters of the Pacific; and now this
creature of my brain and hand had turned Frankenstein, bent upon
pursuing me to my death.
A second shell exploded upon the deck. One of the lifeboats,
frightfully overcrowded, swung at a dangerous angle from its davits.
A fragment of the shell shattered the bow tackle, and I saw the
women and children and the men vomited into the sea beneath,
while the boat dangled stern up for a moment from its single
davit, and at last with increasing momentum dived into the midst
of the struggling victims screaming upon the face of the waters.
Now I saw men spring to the rail and leap into the ocean. The deck
was tilting to an impossible angle. Nobs braced himself with all
four feet to keep from slipping into the scuppers and looked up
into my face with a questioning whine. I stooped and stroked
his head.
"Come on, boy!" I cried, and running to the side of the ship,
dived headforemost over the rail. When I came up, the first
thing I saw was Nobs swimming about in a bewildered sort of way
a few yards from me. At sight of me his ears went flat, and his
lips parted in a characteristic grin.
The submarine was withdrawing toward the north, but all the time
it was shelling the open boats, three of them, loaded to the
gunwales with survivors. Fortunately the small boats presented
a rather poor target, which, combined with the bad marksmanship
of the Germans preserved their occupants from harm; and after a
few minutes a blotch of smoke appeared upon the eastern horizon
and the U-boat submerged and disappeared.
All the time the lifeboats has been pulling away from the danger
of the sinking liner, and now, though I yelled at the top of my
lungs, they either did not hear my appeals for help or else did
not dare return to succor me. Nobs and I had gained some little
distance from the ship when it rolled completely over and sank.
We were caught in the suction only enough to be drawn backward
a few yards, neither of us being carried beneath the surface.
I glanced hurriedly about for something to which to cling.
My eyes were directed toward the point at which the liner had
disappeared when there came from the depths of the ocean the
muffled reverberation of an explosion, and almost simultaneously
a geyser of water in which were shattered lifeboats, human bodies,
steam, coal, oil, and the flotsam of a liner's deck leaped high
above the surface of the sea--a watery column momentarily marking
the grave of another ship in this greatest cemetery of the seas.
When the turbulent waters had somewhat subsided and the sea had
ceased to spew up wreckage, I ventured to swim back in search of
something substantial enough to support my weight and that of
Nobs as well. I had gotten well over the area of the wreck when
not a half-dozen yards ahead of me a lifeboat shot bow foremost
out of the ocean almost its entire length to flop down upon its
keel with a mighty splash. It must have been carried far below,
held to its mother ship by a single rope which finally parted to
the enormous strain put upon it. In no other way can I account
for its having leaped so far out of the water--a beneficent
circumstance to which I doubtless owe my life, and that of
another far dearer to me than my own. I say beneficent
circumstance even in the face of the fact that a fate far more
hideous confronts us than that which we escaped that day; for
because of that circumstance I have met her whom otherwise I
never should have known; I have met and loved her. At least I
have had that great happiness in life; nor can Caspak, with all
her horrors, expunge that which has been.
So for the thousandth time I thank the strange fate which sent
that lifeboat hurtling upward from the green pit of destruction
to which it had been dragged--sent it far up above the surface,
emptying its water as it rose above the waves, and dropping it
upon the surface of the sea, buoyant and safe.
It did not take me long to clamber over its side and drag Nobs in
to comparative safety, and then I glanced around upon the scene
of death and desolation which surrounded us. The sea was
littered with wreckage among which floated the pitiful forms
of women and children, buoyed up by their useless lifebelts.
Some were torn and mangled; others lay rolling quietly to the
motion of the sea, their countenances composed and peaceful;
others were set in hideous lines of agony or horror. Close to
the boat's side floated the figure of a girl. Her face was
turned upward, held above the surface by her life-belt, and was
framed in a floating mass of dark and waving hair. She was
very beautiful. I had never looked upon such perfect features,
such a divine molding which was at the same time human--
intensely human. It was a face filled with character and
strength and femininity--the face of one who was created to
love and to be loved. The cheeks were flushed to the hue of
life and health and vitality, and yet she lay there upon the
bosom of the sea, dead. I felt something rise in my throat as
I looked down upon that radiant vision, and I swore that I
should live to avenge her murder.
And then I let my eyes drop once more to the face upon the water,
and what I saw nearly tumbled me backward into the sea, for the
eyes in the dead face had opened; the lips had parted; and one
hand was raised toward me in a mute appeal for succor. She lived!
She was not dead! I leaned over the boat's side and drew her quickly
in to the comparative safety which God had given me. I removed her
life-belt and my soggy coat and made a pillow for her head. I chafed
her hands and arms and feet. I worked over her for an hour, and
at last I was rewarded by a deep sigh, and again those great eyes
opened and looked into mine.
At that I was all embarrassment. I have never been a ladies' man;
at Leland-Stanford I was the butt of the class because of my
hopeless imbecility in the presence of a pretty girl; but the men
liked me, nevertheless. I was rubbing one of her hands when she
opened her eyes, and I dropped it as though it were a red-hot rivet.
Those eyes took me in slowly from head to foot; then they wandered
slowly around the horizon marked by the rising and falling gunwales
of the lifeboat. They looked at Nobs and softened, and then came
back to me filled with questioning.
"I--I--" I stammered, moving away and stumbling over the next thwart.
The vision smiled wanly.
"Aye-aye, sir!" she replied faintly, and again her lips drooped,
and her long lashes swept the firm, fair texture of her skin.
"I hope that you are feeling better," I finally managed to say.
"Do you know," she said after a moment of silence, "I have
been awake for a long time! But I did not dare open my eyes.
I thought I must be dead, and I was afraid to look, for fear
that I should see nothing but blackness about me. I am afraid
to die! Tell me what happened after the ship went down.
I remember all that happened before--oh, but I wish that I
might forget it!" A sob broke her voice. "The beasts!" she
went on after a moment. "And to think that I was to have
married one of them--a lieutenant in the German navy."
Presently she resumed as though she had not ceased speaking.
"I went down and down and down. I thought I should never cease
to sink. I felt no particular distress until I suddenly started
upward at ever-increasing velocity; then my lungs seemed about to
burst, and I must have lost consciousness, for I remember nothing
more until I opened my eyes after listening to a torrent of
invective against Germany and Germans. Tell me, please, all that
happened after the ship sank."
I told her, then, as well as I could, all that I had seen--the
submarine shelling the open boats and all the rest of it.
She thought it marvelous that we should have been spared in so
providential a manner, and I had a pretty speech upon my tongue's
end, but lacked the nerve to deliver it. Nobs had come over and
nosed his muzzle into her lap, and she stroked his ugly face, and
at last she leaned over and put her cheek against his forehead.
I have always admired Nobs; but this was the first time that it
had ever occurred to me that I might wish to be Nobs. I wondered
how he would take it, for he is as unused to women as I. But he
took to it as a duck takes to water. What I lack of being a
ladies' man, Nobs certainly makes up for as a ladies' dog.
The old scalawag just closed his eyes and put on one of the
softest "sugar-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth" expressions you ever
saw and stood there taking it and asking for more. It made
me jealous.
"You seem fond of dogs," I said.
"I am fond of this dog," she replied.
Whether she meant anything personal in that reply I did not know;
but I took it as personal and it made me feel mighty good.
As we drifted about upon that vast expanse of loneliness it is
not strange that we should quickly become well acquainted.
Constantly we scanned the horizon for signs of smoke, venturing
guesses as to our chances of rescue; but darkness settled, and
the black night enveloped us without ever the sight of a speck
upon the waters.
We were thirsty, hungry, uncomfortable, and cold. Our wet
garments had dried but little and I knew that the girl must be
in grave danger from the exposure to a night of cold and wet
upon the water in an open boat, without sufficient clothing and
no food. I had managed to bail all the water out of the boat
with cupped hands, ending by mopping the balance up with my
handkerchief--a slow and back-breaking procedure; thus I had
made a comparatively dry place for the girl to lie down low in
the bottom of the boat, where the sides would protect her from
the night wind, and when at last she did so, almost overcome as
she was by weakness and fatigue, I threw my wet coat over her
further to thwart the chill. But it was of no avail; as I sat
watching her, the moonlight marking out the graceful curves of
her slender young body, I saw her shiver.
"Isn't there something I can do?" I asked. "You can't lie there
chilled through all night. Can't you suggest something?"
She shook her head. "We must grin and bear it," she replied
after a moment.
Nobbler came and lay down on the thwart beside me, his back
against my leg, and I sat staring in dumb misery at the girl,
knowing in my heart of hearts that she might die before morning
came, for what with the shock and exposure, she had already gone
through enough to kill almost any woman. And as I gazed down at
her, so small and delicate and helpless, there was born slowly
within my breast a new emotion. It had never been there before;
now it will never cease to be there. It made me almost frantic
in my desire to find some way to keep warm and cooling lifeblood
in her veins. I was cold myself, though I had almost forgotten
it until Nobbler moved and I felt a new sensation of cold along
my leg against which he had lain, and suddenly realized that in
that one spot I had been warm. Like a great light came the
understanding of a means to warm the girl. Immediately I knelt
beside her to put my scheme into practice when suddenly I was
overwhelmed with embarrassment. Would she permit it, even if I
could muster the courage to suggest it? Then I saw her frame
convulse, shudderingly, her muscles reacting to her rapidly
lowering temperature, and casting prudery to the winds, I
threw myself down beside her and took her in my arms, pressing
her body close to mine.
She drew away suddenly, voicing a little cry of fright, and tried
to push me from her.
"Forgive me," I managed to stammer. "It is the only way.
You will die of exposure if you are not warmed, and Nobs and
I are the only means we can command for furnishing warmth."
And I held her tightly while I called Nobs and bade him lie
down at her back. The girl didn't struggle any more when she
learned my purpose; but she gave two or three little gasps,
and then began to cry softly, burying her face on my arm, and
thus she fell asleep.
Chapter 2
Toward morning, I must have dozed, though it seemed to me at the
time that I had lain awake for days, instead of hours. When I
finally opened my eyes, it was daylight, and the girl's hair
was in my face, and she was breathing normally. I thanked God
for that. She had turned her head during the night so that as I
opened my eyes I saw her face not an inch from mine, my lips
almost touching hers.
It was Nobs who finally awoke her. He got up, stretched, turned
around a few times and lay down again, and the girl opened her
eyes and looked into mine. Hers went very wide at first, and
then slowly comprehension came to her, and she smiled.
"You have been very good to me," she said, as I helped her to
rise, though if the truth were known I was more in need of
assistance than she; the circulation all along my left side
seeming to be paralyzed entirely. "You have been very good
to me." And that was the only mention she ever made of it; yet
I know that she was thankful and that only reserve prevented her
from referring to what, to say the least, was an embarrassing
situation, however unavoidable.
Shortly after daylight we saw smoke apparently coming straight
toward us, and after a time we made out the squat lines of a
tug--one of those fearless exponents of England's supremacy of
the sea that tows sailing ships into French and English ports.
I stood up on a thwart and waved my soggy coat above my head.
Nobs stood upon another and barked. The girl sat at my feet
straining her eyes toward the deck of the oncoming boat.
"They see us," she said at last. "There is a man answering
your signal." She was right. A lump came into my throat--for
her sake rather than for mine. She was saved, and none too soon.
She could not have lived through another night upon the Channel;
she might not have lived through the coming day.
The tug came close beside us, and a man on deck threw us a rope.
Willing hands dragged us to the deck, Nobs scrambling nimbly
aboard without assistance. The rough men were gentle as mothers
with the girl. Plying us both with questions they hustled her to
the captain's cabin and me to the boiler-room. They told the
girl to take off her wet clothes and throw them outside the door
that they might be dried, and then to slip into the captain's
bunk and get warm. They didn't have to tell me to strip after I
once got into the warmth of the boiler-room. In a jiffy, my
clothes hung about where they might dry most quickly, and I
myself was absorbing, through every pore, the welcome heat of the
stifling compartment. They brought us hot soup and coffee, and
then those who were not on duty sat around and helped me damn the
Kaiser and his brood.
As soon as our clothes were dry, they bade us don them, as the
chances were always more than fair in those waters that we should
run into trouble with the enemy, as I was only too well aware.
What with the warmth and the feeling of safety for the girl, and
the knowledge that a little rest and food would quickly overcome
the effects of her experiences of the past dismal hours, I was
feeling more content than I had experienced since those three
whistle-blasts had shattered the peace of my world the
previous afternoon.
But peace upon the Channel has been but a transitory thing since
August, 1914. It proved itself such that morning, for I had
scarce gotten into my dry clothes and taken the girl's apparel
to the captain's cabin when an order was shouted down into the
engine-room for full speed ahead, and an instant later I heard
the dull boom of a gun. In a moment I was up on deck to see an
enemy submarine about two hundred yards off our port bow. She had
signaled us to stop, and our skipper had ignored the order; but
now she had her gun trained on us, and the second shot grazed
the cabin, warning the belligerent tug-captain that it was time
to obey. Once again an order went down to the engine-room, and
the tug reduced speed. The U-boat ceased firing and ordered the
tug to come about and approach. Our momentum had carried us a
little beyond the enemy craft, but we were turning now on the
arc of a circle that would bring us alongside her. As I stood
watching the maneuver and wondering what was to become of us, I
felt something touch my elbow and turned to see the girl standing
at my side. She looked up into my face with a rueful expression.
"They seem bent on our destruction," she said, "and it looks like
the same boat that sunk us yesterday."
"It is," I replied. "I know her well. I helped design her and
took her out on her first run."
The girl drew back from me with a little exclamation of surprise
and disappointment. "I thought you were an American," she said.
"I had no idea you were a--a--"
"Nor am I," I replied. "Americans have been building submarines
for all nations for many years. I wish, though, that we had gone
bankrupt, my father and I, before ever we turned out that
Frankenstein of a thing."
We were approaching the U-boat at half speed now, and I could
almost distinguish the features of the men upon her deck.
A sailor stepped to my side and slipped something hard and cold
into my hand. I did not have to look at it to know that it was
a heavy pistol. "Tyke 'er an' use 'er," was all he said.
Our bow was pointed straight toward the U-boat now as I heard
word passed to the engine for full speed ahead. I instantly
grasped the brazen effrontery of the plucky English skipper--he
was going to ram five hundreds tons of U-boat in the face of her
trained gun. I could scarce repress a cheer. At first the
boches didn't seem to grasp his intention. Evidently they
thought they were witnessing an exhibition of poor seamanship,
and they yelled their warnings to the tug to reduce speed and
throw the helm hard to port.
We were within fifty feet of them when they awakened to the
intentional menace of our maneuver. Their gun crew was off its
guard; but they sprang to their piece now and sent a futile shell
above our heads. Nobs leaped about and barked furiously. "Let 'em
have it!" commanded the tug-captain, and instantly revolvers and
rifles poured bullets upon the deck of the submersible. Two of
the gun-crew went down; the other trained their piece at the
water-line of the oncoming tug. The balance of those on deck
replied to our small-arms fire, directing their efforts toward
the man at our wheel.
I hastily pushed the girl down the companionway leading to the
engine-room, and then I raised my pistol and fired my first shot
at a boche. What happened in the next few seconds happened so
quickly that details are rather blurred in my memory. I saw the
helmsman lunge forward upon the wheel, pulling the helm around so
that the tug sheered off quickly from her course, and I recall
realizing that all our efforts were to be in vain, because of all
the men aboard, Fate had decreed that this one should fall first
to an enemy bullet. I saw the depleted gun-crew on the submarine
fire their piece and I felt the shock of impact and heard the
loud explosion as the shell struck and exploded in our bows.
I saw and realized these things even as I was leaping into the
pilot-house and grasping the wheel, standing astride the dead
body of the helmsman. With all my strength I threw the helm
to starboard; but it was too late to effect the purpose of
our skipper. The best I did was to scrape alongside the sub.
I heard someone shriek an order into the engine-room; the boat
shuddered and trembled to the sudden reversing of the engines,
and our speed quickly lessened. Then I saw what that madman of
a skipper planned since his first scheme had gone wrong.
With a loud-yelled command, he leaped to the slippery deck of the
submersible, and at his heels came his hardy crew. I sprang from
the pilot-house and followed, not to be left out in the cold when
it came to strafing the boches. From the engine room companionway
came the engineer and stockers, and together we leaped after the
balance of the crew and into the hand-to-hand fight that was
covering the wet deck with red blood. Beside me came Nobs, silent
now, and grim. Germans were emerging from the open hatch to take
part in the battle on deck. At first the pistols cracked amidst
the cursing of the men and the loud commands of the commander and
his junior; but presently we were too indiscriminately mixed to
make it safe to use our firearms, and the battle resolved itself
into a hand-to-hand struggle for possession of the deck.
The sole aim of each of us was to hurl one of the opposing force
into the sea. I shall never forget the hideous expression upon
the face of the great Prussian with whom chance confronted me.
He lowered his head and rushed at me, bellowing like a bull.
With a quick side-step and ducking low beneath his outstretched
arms, I eluded him; and as he turned to come back at me, I landed
a blow upon his chin which sent him spinning toward the edge of
the deck. I saw his wild endeavors to regain his equilibrium;
I saw him reel drunkenly for an instant upon the brink of eternity
and then, with a loud scream, slip into the sea. At the same
instant a pair of giant arms encircled me from behind and lifted
me entirely off my feet. Kick and squirm as I would, I could
neither turn toward my antagonist nor free myself from his
maniacal grasp. Relentlessly he was rushing me toward the side
of the vessel and death. There was none to stay him, for each
of my companions was more than occupied by from one to three of
the enemy. For an instant I was fearful for myself, and then I
saw that which filled me with a far greater terror for another.
My boche was bearing me toward the side of the submarine against
which the tug was still pounding. That I should be ground to
death between the two was lost upon me as I saw the girl standing
alone upon the tug's deck, as I saw the stern high in air and the
bow rapidly settling for the final dive, as I saw death from
which I could not save her clutching at the skirts of the woman
I now knew all too well that I loved.
I had perhaps the fraction of a second longer to live when I
heard an angry growl behind us mingle with a cry of pain and rage
from the giant who carried me. Instantly he went backward to the
deck, and as he did so he threw his arms outwards to save himself,
freeing me. I fell heavily upon him, but was upon my feet in
the instant. As I arose, I cast a single glance at my opponent.
Never again would he menace me or another, for Nob's great jaws
had closed upon his throat. Then I sprang toward the edge of the
deck closest to the girl upon the sinking tug.
"Jump!" I cried. "Jump!" And I held out my arms to her.
Instantly as though with implicit confidence in my ability to
save her, she leaped over the side of the tug onto the sloping,
slippery side of the U-boat. I reached far over to seize
her hand. At the same instant the tug pointed its stern
straight toward the sky and plunged out of sight. My hand
missed the girl's by a fraction of an inch, and I saw her slip
into the sea; but scarce had she touched the water when I was
in after her.
The sinking tug drew us far below the surface; but I had seized
her the moment I struck the water, and so we went down together,
and together we came up--a few yards from the U-boat. The first
thing I heard was Nobs barking furiously; evidently he had missed
me and was searching. A single glance at the vessel's deck
assured me that the battle was over and that we had been
victorious, for I saw our survivors holding a handful of the
enemy at pistol points while one by one the rest of the crew was
coming out of the craft's interior and lining up on deck with the
other prisoners.
As I swam toward the submarine with the girl, Nobs' persistent
barking attracted the attention of some of the tug's crew, so
that as soon as we reached the side there were hands to help
us aboard. I asked the girl if she was hurt, but she assured
me that she was none the worse for this second wetting; nor did
she seem to suffer any from shock. I was to learn for myself
that this slender and seemingly delicate creature possessed
the heart and courage of a warrior.
As we joined our own party, I found the tug's mate checking up
our survivors. There were ten of us left, not including the girl.
Our brave skipper was missing, as were eight others. There had
been nineteen of us in the attacking party and we had accounted
in one way and another during the battle for sixteen Germans and
had taken nine prisoners, including the commander. His lieutenant
had been killed.
"Not a bad day's work," said Bradley, the mate, when he had
completed his roll. "Only losing the skipper," he added, "was
the worst. He was a fine man, a fine man."
Olson--who in spite of his name was Irish, and in spite of his
not being Scotch had been the tug's engineer--was standing with
Bradley and me. "Yis," he agreed, "it's a day's wor-rk we're after
doin', but what are we goin' to be doin' wid it now we got it?"
"We'll run her into the nearest English port," said Bradley,
"and then we'll all go ashore and get our V. C.'s," he
concluded, laughing.
"How you goin' to run her?" queried Olson. "You can't trust
these Dutchmen."
Bradley scratched his head. "I guess you're right," he admitted.
"And I don't know the first thing about a sub."
"I do," I assured him. "I know more about this particular sub
than the officer who commanded her."
Both men looked at me in astonishment, and then I had to explain
all over again as I had explained to the girl. Bradley and Olson
were delighted. Immediately I was put in command, and the first
thing I did was to go below with Olson and inspect the craft
thoroughly for hidden boches and damaged machinery. There were
no Germans below, and everything was intact and in ship-shape
working order. I then ordered all hands below except one man who
was to act as lookout. Questioning the Germans, I found that all
except the commander were willing to resume their posts and aid
in bringing the vessel into an English port. I believe that they
were relieved at the prospect of being detained at a comfortable
English prison-camp for the duration of the war after the perils
and privations through which they had passed. The officer,
however, assured me that he would never be a party to the capture
of his vessel.
There was, therefore, nothing to do but put the man in irons.
As we were preparing to put this decision into force, the girl
descended from the deck. It was the first time that she or the
German officer had seen each other's faces since we had boarded
the U-boat. I was assisting the girl down the ladder and still
retained a hold upon her arm--possibly after such support was no
longer necessary--when she turned and looked squarely into the
face of the German. Each voiced a sudden exclamation of surprise
and dismay.
"Lys!" he cried, and took a step toward her.
The girl's eyes went wide, and slowly filled with a great horror,
as she shrank back. Then her slender figure stiffened to the
erectness of a soldier, and with chin in air and without a word
she turned her back upon the officer.
"Take him away," I directed the two men who guarded him, "and put
him in irons."
When he had gone, the girl raised her eyes to mine. "He is the
German of whom I spoke," she said. "He is Baron von Schoenvorts."
I merely inclined my head. She had loved him! I wondered if in
her heart of hearts she did not love him yet. Immediately I
became insanely jealous. I hated Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts
with such utter intensity that the emotion thrilled me with a
species of exaltation.
But I didn't have much chance to enjoy my hatred then, for
almost immediately the lookout poked his face over the hatchway
and bawled down that there was smoke on the horizon, dead ahead.
Immediately I went on deck to investigate, and Bradley came with me.
"If she's friendly," he said, "we'll speak her. If she's not,
we'll sink her--eh, captain?"
"Yes, lieutenant," I replied, and it was his turn to smile.
We hoisted the Union Jack and remained on deck, asking Bradley
to go below and assign to each member of the crew his duty,
placing one Englishman with a pistol beside each German.
"Half speed ahead," I commanded.
More rapidly now we closed the distance between ourselves and the
stranger, until I could plainly see the red ensign of the British
merchant marine. My heart swelled with pride at the thought that
presently admiring British tars would be congratulating us upon
our notable capture; and just about then the merchant steamer
must have sighted us, for she veered suddenly toward the north,
and a moment later dense volumes of smoke issued from her funnels.
Then, steering a zigzag course, she fled from us as though we had
been the bubonic plague. I altered the course of the submarine
and set off in chase; but the steamer was faster than we, and soon
left us hopelessly astern.
With a rueful smile, I directed that our original course be
resumed, and once again we set off toward merry England.
That was three months ago, and we haven't arrived yet; nor
is there any likelihood that we ever shall.
The steamer we had just sighted must have wirelessed a warning,
for it wasn't half an hour before we saw more smoke on the
horizon, and this time the vessel flew the white ensign of the
Royal Navy and carried guns. She didn't veer to the north or
anywhere else, but bore down on us rapidly. I was just preparing
to signal her, when a flame flashed from her bows, and an instant
later the water in front of us was thrown high by the explosion
of a shell.
Bradley had come on deck and was standing beside me. "About one
more of those, and she'll have our range," he said. "She doesn't
seem to take much stock in our Union Jack."
A second shell passed over us, and then I gave the command to
change our direction, at the same time directing Bradley to go
below and give the order to submerge. I passed Nobs down to him,
and following, saw to the closing and fastening of the hatch.
It seemed to me that the diving-tanks never had filled so slowly.
We heard a loud explosion apparently directly above us; the craft
trembled to the shock which threw us all to the deck. I expected
momentarily to feel the deluge of inrushing water, but none came.
Instead we continued to submerge until the manometer registered forty
feet and then I knew that we were safe. Safe! I almost smiled.
I had relieved Olson, who had remained in the tower at my direction,
having been a member of one of the early British submarine crews,
and therefore having some knowledge of the business. Bradley was
at my side. He looked at me quizzically.
"What the devil are we to do?" he asked. "The merchantman will
flee us; the war-vessel will destroy us; neither will believe our
colors or give us a chance to explain. We will meet even a worse
reception if we go nosing around a British port--mines, nets and
all of it. We can't do it."
"Let's try it again when this fellow has lost the scent,"
I urged. "There must come a ship that will believe us."
And try it again we did, only to be almost rammed by a huge freighter.
Later we were fired upon by a destroyer, and two merchantmen
turned and fled at our approach. For two days we cruised up
and down the Channel trying to tell some one, who would listen,
that we were friends; but no one would listen. After our
encounter with the first warship I had given instructions
that a wireless message be sent out explaining our predicament;
but to my chagrin I discovered that both sending and receiving
instruments had disappeared.
"There is only one place you can go," von Schoenvorts sent word
to me, "and that is Kiel. You can't land anywhere else in
these waters. If you wish, I will take you there, and I can
promise that you will be treated well."
"There is another place we can go," I sent back my reply, "and we
will before we'll go to Germany. That place is hell."
Chapter 3
Those were anxious days, during which I had but little opportunity
to associate with Lys. I had given her the commander's room,
Bradley and I taking that of the deck-officer, while Olson and
two of our best men occupied the room ordinarily allotted to
petty officers. I made Nobs' bed down in Lys' room, for I knew
she would feel less alone.
Nothing of much moment occurred for a while after we left British
waters behind us. We ran steadily along upon the surface, making
good time. The first two boats we sighted made off as fast as they
could go; and the third, a huge freighter, fired on us, forcing us
to submerge. It was after this that our troubles commenced.
One of the Diesel engines broke down in the morning, and while
we were working on it, the forward port diving-tank commenced
to fill. I was on deck at the time and noted the gradual list.
Guessing at once what was happening, I leaped for the hatch and
slamming it closed above my head, dropped to the centrale. By this
time the craft was going down by the head with a most unpleasant
list to port, and I didn't wait to transmit orders to some one
else but ran as fast as I could for the valve that let the sea
into the forward port diving-tank. It was wide open. To close
it and to have the pump started that would empty it were the work
of but a minute; but we had had a close call.
I knew that the valve had never opened itself. Some one had
opened it--some one who was willing to die himself if he might at
the same time encompass the death of all of us.
After that I kept a guard pacing the length of the narrow craft.
We worked upon the engine all that day and night and half the
following day. Most of the time we drifted idly upon the
surface, but toward noon we sighted smoke due west, and having
found that only enemies inhabited the world for us, I ordered
that the other engine be started so that we could move out of the
path of the oncoming steamer. The moment the engine started to
turn, however, there was a grinding sound of tortured steel, and
when it had been stopped, we found that some one had placed a
cold-chisel in one of the gears.
It was another two days before we were ready to limp along,
half repaired. The night before the repairs were completed,
the sentry came to my room and awoke me. He was rather an
intelligent fellow of the English middle class, in whom I had
much confidence.
"Well, Wilson," I asked. "What's the matter now?"
He raised his finger to his lips and came closer to me. "I think
I've found out who's doin' the mischief," he whispered, and
nodded his head toward the girl's room. "I seen her sneakin'
from the crew's room just now," he went on. "She'd been in
gassin' wit' the boche commander. Benson seen her in there las'
night, too, but he never said nothin' till I goes on watch tonight.
Benson's sorter slow in the head, an' he never puts two an' two
together till some one else has made four out of it."
If the man had come in and struck me suddenly in the face, I
could have been no more surprised.
"Say nothing of this to anyone," I ordered. "Keep your eyes and
ears open and report every suspicious thing you see or hear."
The man saluted and left me; but for an hour or more I tossed,
restless, upon my hard bunk in an agony of jealousy and fear.
Finally I fell into a troubled sleep. It was daylight when I awoke.
We were steaming along slowly upon the surface, my orders having
been to proceed at half speed until we could take an observation
and determine our position. The sky had been overcast all the
previous day and all night; but as I stepped into the centrale
that morning I was delighted to see that the sun was again shining.
The spirits of the men seemed improved; everything seemed propitious.
I forgot at once the cruel misgivings of the past night as I set
to work to take my observations.
What a blow awaited me! The sextant and chronometer had both
been broken beyond repair, and they had been broken just this
very night. They had been broken upon the night that Lys had been
seen talking with von Schoenvorts. I think that it was this last
thought which hurt me the worst. I could look the other disaster
in the face with equanimity; but the bald fact that Lys might be
a traitor appalled me.
I called Bradley and Olson on deck and told them what had
happened, but for the life of me I couldn't bring myself to
repeat what Wilson had reported to me the previous night.
In fact, as I had given the matter thought, it seemed incredible
that the girl could have passed through my room, in which Bradley
and I slept, and then carried on a conversation in the crew's
room, in which Von Schoenvorts was kept, without having been seen
by more than a single man.
Bradley shook his head. "I can't make it out," he said. "One of
those boches must be pretty clever to come it over us all like
this; but they haven't harmed us as much as they think; there are
still the extra instruments."
It was my turn now to shake a doleful head. "There are no extra
instruments," I told them. "They too have disappeared as did the
wireless apparatus."
Both men looked at me in amazement. "We still have the compass
and the sun," said Olson. "They may be after getting the compass
some night; but they's too many of us around in the daytime fer
'em to get the sun."
It was then that one of the men stuck his head up through the
hatchway and seeing me, asked permission to come on deck and get
a breath of fresh air. I recognized him as Benson, the man who,
Wilson had said, reported having seen Lys with von Schoenvorts two
nights before. I motioned him on deck and then called him to one
side, asking if he had seen anything out of the way or unusual
during his trick on watch the night before. The fellow scratched
his head a moment and said, "No," and then as though it was an
afterthought, he told me that he had seen the girl in the crew's
room about midnight talking with the German commander, but as
there hadn't seemed to him to be any harm in that, he hadn't said
anything about it. Telling him never to fail to report to me
anything in the slightest out of the ordinary routine of the ship,
I dismissed him.
Several of the other men now asked permission to come on deck, and
soon all but those actually engaged in some necessary duty were
standing around smoking and talking, all in the best of spirits.
I took advantage of the absence of the men upon the deck to go
below for my breakfast, which the cook was already preparing
upon the electric stove. Lys, followed by Nobs, appeared as I
entered the centrale. She met me with a pleasant "Good morning!"
which I am afraid I replied to in a tone that was rather constrained
and surly.
"Will you breakfast with me?" I suddenly asked the girl,
determined to commence a probe of my own along the lines which
duty demanded.
She nodded a sweet acceptance of my invitation, and together we
sat down at the little table of the officers' mess.
"You slept well last night?" I asked.
"All night," she replied. "I am a splendid sleeper."
Her manner was so straightforward and honest that I could not
bring myself to believe in her duplicity; yet--Thinking to
surprise her into a betrayal of her guilt, I blurted out: "The
chronometer and sextant were both destroyed last night; there is
a traitor among us." But she never turned a hair by way of
evidencing guilty knowledge of the catastrophe.
"Who could it have been?" she cried. "The Germans would be crazy
to do it, for their lives are as much at stake as ours."
"Men are often glad to die for an ideal--an ideal of patriotism,
perhaps," I replied; "and a willingness to martyr themselves
includes a willingness to sacrifice others, even those who
love them. Women are much the same, except that they will go
even further than most men--they will sacrifice everything, even
honor, for love."
I watched her face carefully as I spoke, and I thought that I
detected a very faint flush mounting her cheek. Seeing an
opening and an advantage, I sought to follow it up.
"Take von Schoenvorts, for instance," I continued: "he would
doubtless be glad to die and take us all with him, could he
prevent in no other way the falling of his vessel into enemy hands.
He would sacrifice anyone, even you; and if you still love him,
you might be his ready tool. Do you understand me?"
She looked at me in wide-eyed consternation for a moment, and
then she went very white and rose from her seat. "I do," she
replied, and turning her back upon me, she walked quickly toward
her room. I started to follow, for even believing what I did, I
was sorry that I had hurt her. I reached the door to the crew's
room just behind her and in time to see von Schoenvorts lean
forward and whisper something to her as she passed; but she must
have guessed that she might be watched, for she passed on.
That afternoon it clouded over; the wind mounted to a gale, and
the sea rose until the craft was wallowing and rolling frightfully.
Nearly everyone aboard was sick; the air became foul and oppressive.
For twenty-four hours I did not leave my post in the conning tower,
as both Olson and Bradley were sick. Finally I found that I must
get a little rest, and so I looked about for some one to relieve me.
Benson volunteered. He had not been sick, and assured me that he
was a former R.N. man and had been detailed for submarine duty
for over two years. I was glad that it was he, for I had
considerable confidence in his loyalty, and so it was with a
feeling of security that I went below and lay down.
I slept twelve hours straight, and when I awoke and discovered
what I had done, I lost no time in getting to the conning tower.
There sat Benson as wide awake as could be, and the compass
showed that we were heading straight into the west. The storm
was still raging; nor did it abate its fury until the fourth day.
We were all pretty well done up and looked forward to the time
when we could go on deck and fill our lungs with fresh air.
During the whole four days I had not seen the girl, as she
evidently kept closely to her room; and during this time no
untoward incident had occurred aboard the boat--a fact which
seemed to strengthen the web of circumstantial evidence about her.
For six more days after the storm lessened we still had fairly
rough weather; nor did the sun once show himself during all
that time. For the season--it was now the middle of June--the
storm was unusual; but being from southern California, I was
accustomed to unusual weather. In fact, I have discovered that
the world over, unusual weather prevails at all times of the year.
We kept steadily to our westward course, and as the U-33 was one
of the fastest submersibles we had ever turned out, I knew that we
must be pretty close to the North American coast. What puzzled
me most was the fact that for six days we had not sighted a
single ship. It seemed remarkable that we could cross the
Atlantic almost to the coast of the American continent without
glimpsing smoke or sail, and at last I came to the conclusion
that we were way off our course, but whether to the north or to
the south of it I could not determine.
On the seventh day the sea lay comparatively calm at early dawn.
There was a slight haze upon the ocean which had cut off our view
of the stars; but conditions all pointed toward a clear morrow, and
I was on deck anxiously awaiting the rising of the sun. My eyes
were glued upon the impenetrable mist astern, for there in the east
I should see the first glow of the rising sun that would assure me
we were still upon the right course. Gradually the heavens
lightened; but astern I could see no intenser glow that would
indicate the rising sun behind the mist. Bradley was standing
at my side. Presently he touched my arm.
"Look, captain," he said, and pointed south.
I looked and gasped, for there directly to port I saw outlined
through the haze the red top of the rising sun. Hurrying to the
tower, I looked at the compass. It showed that we were holding
steadily upon our westward course. Either the sun was rising in
the south, or the compass had been tampered with. The conclusion
was obvious.
I went back to Bradley and told him what I had discovered.
"And," I concluded, "we can't make another five hundred knots
without oil; our provisions are running low and so is our water.
God only knows how far south we have run."
"There is nothing to do," he replied, "other than to alter our
course once more toward the west; we must raise land soon or we
shall all be lost."
I told him to do so; and then I set to work improvising a crude
sextant with which we finally took our bearings in a rough and
most unsatisfactory manner; for when the work was done, we did
not know how far from the truth the result might be. It showed
us to be about 20' north and 30' west--nearly twenty-five
hundred miles off our course. In short, if our reading was
anywhere near correct, we must have been traveling due south for
six days. Bradley now relieved Benson, for we had arranged our
shifts so that the latter and Olson now divided the nights,
while Bradley and I alternated with one another during the days.
I questioned both Olson and Benson closely in the matter of the
compass; but each stoutly maintained that no one had tampered
with it during his tour of duty. Benson gave me a knowing smile,
as much as to say: "Well, you and I know who did this." Yet I
could not believe that it was the girl.
We kept to our westerly course for several hours when the
lookout's cry announced a sail. I ordered the U-33's course
altered, and we bore down upon the stranger, for I had come to
a decision which was the result of necessity. We could not lie
there in the middle of the Atlantic and starve to death if there
was any way out of it. The sailing ship saw us while we were
still a long way off, as was evidenced by her efforts to escape.
There was scarcely any wind, however, and her case was hopeless;
so when we drew near and signaled her to stop, she came into the
wind and lay there with her sails flapping idly. We moved in
quite close to her. She was the Balmen of Halmstad, Sweden, with
a general cargo from Brazil for Spain.
I explained our circumstances to her skipper and asked for food,
water and oil; but when he found that we were not German, he
became very angry and abusive and started to draw away from us;
but I was in no mood for any such business. Turning toward
Bradley, who was in the conning-tower, I snapped out:
"Gun-service on deck! To the diving stations!" We had no
opportunity for drill; but every man had been posted as to
his duties, and the German members of the crew understood that
it was obedience or death for them, as each was accompanied by
a man with a pistol. Most of them, though, were only too glad
to obey me.
Bradley passed the order down into the ship and a moment later
the gun-crew clambered up the narrow ladder and at my direction
trained their piece upon the slow-moving Swede. "Fire a shot
across her bow," I instructed the gun-captain.
Accept it from me, it didn't take that Swede long to see the
error of his way and get the red and white pennant signifying
"I understand" to the masthead. Once again the sails flapped
idly, and then I ordered him to lower a boat and come after me.
With Olson and a couple of the Englishmen I boarded the ship,
and from her cargo selected what we needed--oil, provisions
and water. I gave the master of the Balmen a receipt for what
we took, together with an affidavit signed by Bradley, Olson, and
myself, stating briefly how we had come into possession of the
U-33 and the urgency of our need for what we took. We addressed
both to any British agent with the request that the owners of the
Balmen be reimbursed; but whether or not they were, I do not know. [1]
[1] Late in July, 1916, an item in the shipping news mentioned a
Swedish sailing vessel, Balmen, Rio de Janiero to Barcelona, sunk
by a German raider sometime in June. A single survivor in an open
boat was picked up off the Cape Verde Islands, in a dying condition.
He expired without giving any details.
With water, food, and oil aboard, we felt that we had obtained
a new lease of life. Now, too, we knew definitely where we were,
and I determined to make for Georgetown, British Guiana--but I
was destined to again suffer bitter disappointment.
Six of us of the loyal crew had come on deck either to serve the
gun or board the Swede during our set-to with her; and now, one
by one, we descended the ladder into the centrale. I was the
last to come, and when I reached the bottom, I found myself
looking into the muzzle of a pistol in the hands of Baron
Friedrich von Schoenvorts--I saw all my men lined up at one
side with the remaining eight Germans standing guard over them.
I couldn't imagine how it had happened; but it had. Later I
learned that they had first overpowered Benson, who was asleep
in his bunk, and taken his pistol from him, and then had found
it an easy matter to disarm the cook and the remaining two
Englishmen below. After that it had been comparatively simple
to stand at the foot of the ladder and arrest each individual as
he descended.
The first thing von Schoenvorts did was to send for me and
announce that as a pirate I was to be shot early the next morning.
Then he explained that the U-33 would cruise in these waters for
a time, sinking neutral and enemy shipping indiscriminately, and
looking for one of the German raiders that was supposed to be in
these parts.
He didn't shoot me the next morning as he had promised, and it
has never been clear to me why he postponed the execution of
my sentence. Instead he kept me ironed just as he had been;
then he kicked Bradley out of my room and took it all to himself.
We cruised for a long time, sinking many vessels, all but one by
gunfire, but we did not come across a German raider. I was
surprised to note that von Schoenvorts often permitted Benson to
take command; but I reconciled this by the fact that Benson
appeared to know more of the duties of a submarine commander than
did any of the Stupid Germans.
Once or twice Lys passed me; but for the most part she kept to
her room. The first time she hesitated as though she wished to
speak to me; but I did not raise my head, and finally she passed on.
Then one day came the word that we were about to round the Horn and
that von Schoenvorts had taken it into his fool head to cruise up
along the Pacific coast of North America and prey upon all sorts
and conditions of merchantmen.
"I'll put the fear of God and the Kaiser into them," he said.
The very first day we entered the South Pacific we had an adventure.
It turned out to be quite the most exciting adventure I had
ever encountered. It fell about this way. About eight bells of
the forenoon watch I heard a hail from the deck, and presently
the footsteps of the entire ship's company, from the amount of
noise I heard at the ladder. Some one yelled back to those who
had not yet reached the level of the deck: "It's the raider,
the German raider Geier!"
I saw that we had reached the end of our rope. Below all was
quiet--not a man remained. A door opened at the end of the
narrow hull, and presently Nobs came trotting up to me. He licked
my face and rolled over on his back, reaching for me with his big,
awkward paws. Then other footsteps sounded, approaching me.
I knew whose they were, and I looked straight down at the flooring.
The girl was coming almost at a run--she was at my side immediately.
"Here!" she cried. "Quick!" And she slipped something into my hand.
It was a key--the key to my irons. At my side she also laid a
pistol, and then she went on into the centrale. As she passed me,
I saw that she carried another pistol for herself. It did not
take me long to liberate myself, and then I was at her side.
"How can I thank you?" I started; but she shut me up with a word.
"Do not thank me," she said coldly. "I do not care to hear your
thanks or any other expression from you. Do not stand there
looking at me. I have given you a chance to do something--now
do it!" The last was a peremptory command that made me jump.
Glancing up, I saw that the tower was empty, and I lost no time
in clambering up, looking about me. About a hundred yards off
lay a small, swift cruiser-raider, and above her floated the
German man-of-war's flag. A boat had just been lowered, and I
could see it moving toward us filled with officers and men.
The cruiser lay dead ahead. "My," I thought, "what a wonderful targ--"
I stopped even thinking, so surprised and shocked was I by the
boldness of my imagery. The girl was just below me. I looked
down on her wistfully. Could I trust her? Why had she released
me at this moment? I must! I must! There was no other way.
I dropped back below. "Ask Olson to step down here, please,"
I requested; "and don't let anyone see you ask him."
She looked at me with a puzzled expression on her face for the
barest fraction of a second, and then she turned and went up
the ladder. A moment later Olson returned, and the girl
followed him. "Quick!" I whispered to the big Irishman, and
made for the bow compartment where the torpedo-tubes are built
into the boat; here, too, were the torpedoes. The girl
accompanied us, and when she saw the thing I had in mind,
she stepped forward and lent a hand to the swinging of the
great cylinder of death and destruction into the mouth of
its tube. With oil and main strength we shoved the torpedo
home and shut the tube; then I ran back to the conning-tower,
praying in my heart of hearts that the U-33 had not swung her
bow away from the prey. No, thank God!
Never could aim have been truer. I signaled back to Olson:
"Let 'er go!" The U-33 trembled from stem to stern as the torpedo
shot from its tube. I saw the white wake leap from her bow straight
toward the enemy cruiser. A chorus of hoarse yells arose from the
deck of our own craft: I saw the officers stand suddenly erect in
the boat that was approaching us, and I heard loud cries and
curses from the raider. Then I turned my attention to my
own business. Most of the men on the submarine's deck were
standing in paralyzed fascination, staring at the torpedo.
Bradley happened to be looking toward the conning-tower and
saw me. I sprang on deck and ran toward him. "Quick!" I whispered.
"While they are stunned, we must overcome them."
A German was standing near Bradley--just in front of him.
The Englishman struck the fellow a frantic blow upon the neck
and at the same time snatched his pistol from its holster.
Von Schoenvorts had recovered from his first surprise quickly
and had turned toward the main hatch to investigate. I covered
him with my revolver, and at the same instant the torpedo struck
the raider, the terrific explosion drowning the German's command
to his men.
Bradley was now running from one to another of our men, and
though some of the Germans saw and heard him, they seemed too
stunned for action.
Olson was below, so that there were only nine of us against eight
Germans, for the man Bradley had struck still lay upon the deck.
Only two of us were armed; but the heart seemed to have gone out
of the boches, and they put up but half-hearted resistance.
Von Schoenvorts was the worst--he was fairly frenzied with rage
and chagrin, and he came charging for me like a mad bull, and as
he came he discharged his pistol. If he'd stopped long enough to
take aim, he might have gotten me; but his pace made him wild,
so that not a shot touched me, and then we clinched and went to
the deck. This left two pistols, which two of my own men were
quick to appropriate. The Baron was no match for me in a
hand-to-hand encounter, and I soon had him pinned to the deck
and the life almost choked out of him.
A half-hour later things had quieted down, and all was much the
same as before the prisoners had revolted--only we kept a much
closer watch on von Schoenvorts. The Geier had sunk while we
were still battling upon our deck, and afterward we had drawn
away toward the north, leaving the survivors to the attention of
the single boat which had been making its way toward us when
Olson launched the torpedo. I suppose the poor devils never
reached land, and if they did, they most probably perished on
that cold and unhospitable shore; but I couldn't permit them
aboard the U-33. We had all the Germans we could take care of.
That evening the girl asked permission to go on deck. She said
that she felt the effects of long confinement below, and I
readily granted her request. I could not understand her, and I
craved an opportunity to talk with her again in an effort to
fathom her and her intentions, and so I made it a point to
follow her up the ladder. It was a clear, cold, beautiful night.
The sea was calm except for the white water at our bows and the
two long radiating swells running far off into the distance upon
either hand astern, forming a great V which our propellers filled
with choppy waves. Benson was in the tower, we were bound for
San Diego and all looked well.
Lys stood with a heavy blanket wrapped around her slender figure,
and as I approached her, she half turned toward me to see who it was.
When she recognized me, she immediately turned away.
"I want to thank you," I said, "for your bravery and loyalty--you
were magnificent. I am sorry that you had reason before to think
that I doubted you."
"You did doubt me," she replied in a level voice. "You practically
accused me of aiding Baron von Schoenvorts. I can never forgive you."
There was a great deal of finality in both her words and tone.
"I could not believe it," I said; "and yet two of my men reported
having seen you in conversation with von Schoenvorts late at
night upon two separate occasions--after each of which some great
damage was found done us in the morning. I didn't want to doubt
you; but I carried all the responsibility of the lives of these
men, of the safety of the ship, of your life and mine. I had to
watch you, and I had to put you on your guard against a repetition
of your madness."
She was looking at me now with those great eyes of hers, very
wide and round.
"Who told you that I spoke with Baron von Schoenvorts at night,
or any other time?" she asked.
"I cannot tell you, Lys," I replied, "but it came to me from two
different sources."
"Then two men have lied," she asserted without heat. "I have not
spoken to Baron von Schoenvorts other than in your presence when
first we came aboard the U-33. And please, when you address me,
remember that to others than my intimates I am Miss La Rue."
Did you ever get slapped in the face when you least expected it?
No? Well, then you do not know how I felt at that moment.
I could feel the hot, red flush surging up my neck, across my
cheeks, over my ears, clear to my scalp. And it made me love her
all the more; it made me swear inwardly a thousand solemn oaths
that I would win her.
Chapter 4
For several days things went along in about the same course.
I took our position every morning with my crude sextant; but the
results were always most unsatisfactory. They always showed a
considerable westing when I knew that we had been sailing due north.
I blamed my crude instrument, and kept on. Then one afternoon the
girl came to me.
"Pardon me," she said, "but were I you, I should watch this man
Benson--especially when he is in charge." I asked her what she
meant, thinking I could see the influence of von Schoenvorts
raising a suspicion against one of my most trusted men.
"If you will note the boat's course a half-hour after Benson goes
on duty," she said, "you will know what I mean, and you will
understand why he prefers a night watch. Possibly, too, you will
understand some other things that have taken place aboard."
Then she went back to her room, thus ending the conversation.
I waited until half an hour after Benson had gone on duty, and then
I went on deck, passing through the conning-tower where Benson sat,
and looking at the compass. It showed that our course was
north by west--that is, one point west of north, which was, for
our assumed position, about right. I was greatly relieved to
find that nothing was wrong, for the girl's words had caused me
considerable apprehension. I was about to return to my room when
a thought occurred to me that again caused me to change my
mind--and, incidentally, came near proving my death-warrant.
When I had left the conning-tower little more than a half-hour
since, the sea had been breaking over the port bow, and it seemed
to me quite improbable that in so short a time an equally heavy
sea could be deluging us from the opposite side of the ship--winds
may change quickly, but not a long, heavy sea. There was only
one other solution--since I left the tower, our course had been
altered some eight points. Turning quickly, I climbed out upon
the conning-tower. A single glance at the heavens confirmed my
suspicions; the constellations which should have been dead ahead
were directly starboard. We were sailing due west.
Just for an instant longer I stood there to check up my
calculations--I wanted to be quite sure before I accused Benson
of perfidy, and about the only thing I came near making quite
sure of was death. I cannot see even now how I escaped it.
I was standing on the edge of the conning-tower, when a heavy
palm suddenly struck me between the shoulders and hurled me
forward into space. The drop to the triangular deck forward of
the conning-tower might easily have broken a leg for me, or I
might have slipped off onto the deck and rolled overboard; but
fate was upon my side, as I was only slightly bruised. As I
came to my feet, I heard the conning-tower cover slam. There is
a ladder which leads from the deck to the top of the tower.
Up this I scrambled, as fast as I could go; but Benson had
the cover tight before I reached it.
I stood there a moment in dumb consternation. What did the
fellow intend? What was going on below? If Benson was a traitor,
how could I know that there were not other traitors among us?
I cursed myself for my folly in going out upon the deck, and then
this thought suggested another--a hideous one: who was it that
had really been responsible for my being here?
Thinking to attract attention from inside the craft, I again ran
down the ladder and onto the small deck only to find that the
steel covers of the conning-tower windows were shut, and then I
leaned with my back against the tower and cursed myself for a
gullible idiot.
I glanced at the bow. The sea seemed to be getting heavier, for
every wave now washed completely over the lower deck. I watched
them for a moment, and then a sudden chill pervaded my entire being.
It was not the chill of wet clothing, or the dashing spray which
drenched my face; no, it was the chill of the hand of death upon
my heart. In an instant I had turned the last corner of life's
highway and was looking God Almighty in the face--the U-33 was
being slowly submerged!
It would be difficult, even impossible, to set down in writing
my sensations at that moment. All I can particularly recall
is that I laughed, though neither from a spirit of bravado nor
from hysteria. And I wanted to smoke. Lord! how I did want to
smoke; but that was out of the question.
I watched the water rise until the little deck I stood on was awash,
and then I clambered once more to the top of the conning-tower.
From the very slow submergence of the boat I knew that Benson was
doing the entire trick alone--that he was merely permitting the
diving-tanks to fill and that the diving-rudders were not in use.
The throbbing of the engines ceased, and in its stead came the
steady vibration of the electric motors. The water was halfway
up the conning-tower! I had perhaps five minutes longer on the deck.
I tried to decide what I should do after I was washed away. Should I
swim until exhaustion claimed me, or should I give up and end the
agony at the first plunge?
From below came two muffled reports. They sounded not unlike shots.
Was Benson meeting with resistance? Personally it could mean little
to me, for even though my men might overcome the enemy, none would
know of my predicament until long after it was too late to succor me.
The top of the conning-tower was now awash. I clung to the wireless
mast, while the great waves surged sometimes completely over me.
I knew the end was near and, almost involuntarily, I did that
which I had not done since childhood--I prayed. After that I
felt better.
I clung and waited, but the water rose no higher.
Instead it receded. Now the top of the conning-tower received
only the crests of the higher waves; now the little triangular
deck below became visible! What had occurred within? Did Benson
believe me already gone, and was he emerging because of that
belief, or had he and his forces been vanquished? The suspense
was more wearing than that which I had endured while waiting
for dissolution. Presently the main deck came into view, and
then the conning-tower opened behind me, and I turned to look
into the anxious face of Bradley. An expression of relief
overspread his features.
"Thank God, man!" was all he said as he reached forth and dragged
me into the tower. I was cold and numb and rather all in.
Another few minutes would have done for me, I am sure, but the
warmth of the interior helped to revive me, aided and abetted by
some brandy which Bradley poured down my throat, from which it
nearly removed the membrane. That brandy would have revived a corpse.
When I got down into the centrale, I saw the Germans lined up on
one side with a couple of my men with pistols standing over them.
Von Schoenvorts was among them. On the floor lay Benson,
moaning, and beyond him stood the girl, a revolver in one hand.
I looked about, bewildered.
"What has happened down here?" I asked. "Tell me!"
Bradley replied. "You see the result, sir," he said. "It might
have been a very different result but for Miss La Rue. We were
all asleep. Benson had relieved the guard early in the evening;
there was no one to watch him--no one but Miss La Rue. She felt
the submergence of the boat and came out of her room to investigate.
She was just in time to see Benson at the diving rudders. When he
saw her, he raised his pistol and fired point-blank at her, but he
missed and she fired--and didn't miss. The two shots awakened
everyone, and as our men were armed, the result was inevitable as
you see it; but it would have been very different had it not been
for Miss La Rue. It was she who closed the diving-tank sea-cocks
and roused Olson and me, and had the pumps started to empty them."
And there I had been thinking that through her machinations I had
been lured to the deck and to my death! I could have gone on my
knees to her and begged her forgiveness--or at least I could
have, had I not been Anglo-Saxon. As it was, I could only remove
my soggy cap and bow and mumble my appreciation. She made no
reply--only turned and walked very rapidly toward her room.
Could I have heard aright? Was it really a sob that came floating
back to me through the narrow aisle of the U-33?
Benson died that night. He remained defiant almost to the last;
but just before he went out, he motioned to me, and I leaned over
to catch the faintly whispered words.
"I did it alone," he said. "I did it because I hate you--I hate
all your kind. I was kicked out of your shipyard at Santa Monica.
I was locked out of California. I am an I. W. W. I became a German
agent--not because I love them, for I hate them too--but because
I wanted to injure Americans, whom I hated more. I threw the
wireless apparatus overboard. I destroyed the chronometer and
the sextant. I devised a scheme for varying the compass to suit
my wishes. I told Wilson that I had seen the girl talking with
von Schoenvorts, and I made the poor egg think he had seen her
doing the same thing. I am sorry--sorry that my plans failed.
I hate you."
He didn't die for a half-hour after that; nor did he speak
again--aloud; but just a few seconds before he went to meet his
Maker, his lips moved in a faint whisper; and as I leaned closer
to catch his words, what do you suppose I heard? "Now--I--lay
me--down--to--sleep" That was all; Benson was dead. We threw his
body overboard.
The wind of that night brought on some pretty rough weather with
a lot of black clouds which persisted for several days. We didn't
know what course we had been holding, and there was no way of
finding out, as we could no longer trust the compass, not knowing
what Benson had done to it. The long and the short of it was that
we cruised about aimlessly until the sun came out again. I'll never
forget that day or its surprises. We reckoned, or rather guessed,
that we were somewhere off the coast of Peru. The wind, which had
been blowing fitfully from the east, suddenly veered around into
the south, and presently we felt a sudden chill.
"Peru!" snorted Olson. "When were yez after smellin' iceber-rgs
off Peru?"
Icebergs! "Icebergs, nothin'!" exclaimed one of the Englishmen.
"Why, man, they don't come north of fourteen here in these waters."
"Then," replied Olson, "ye're sout' of fourteen, me b'y."
We thought he was crazy; but he wasn't, for that afternoon we
sighted a great berg south of us, and we'd been running north, we
thought, for days. I can tell you we were a discouraged lot; but we
got a faint thrill of hope early the next morning when the lookout
bawled down the open hatch: "Land! Land northwest by west!"
I think we were all sick for the sight of land. I know that I was;
but my interest was quickly dissipated by the sudden illness of
three of the Germans. Almost simultaneously they commenced vomiting.
They couldn't suggest any explanation for it. I asked them what
they had eaten, and found they had eaten nothing other than the
food cooked for all of us. "Have you drunk anything?" I asked,
for I knew that there was liquor aboard, and medicines in the
same locker.
"Only water," moaned one of them. "We all drank water together
this morning. We opened a new tank. Maybe it was the water."
I started an investigation which revealed a terrifying condition--
some one, probably Benson, had poisoned all the running water on
the ship. It would have been worse, though, had land not been
in sight. The sight of land filled us with renewed hope.
Our course had been altered, and we were rapidly approaching what
appeared to be a precipitous headland. Cliffs, seemingly rising
perpendicularly out of the sea, faded away into the mist upon either
hand as we approached. The land before us might have been a continent,
so mighty appeared the shoreline; yet we knew that we must be
thousands of miles from the nearest western land-mass--New Zealand
or Australia.
We took our bearings with our crude and inaccurate instruments;
we searched the chart; we cudgeled our brains; and at last it was
Bradley who suggested a solution. He was in the tower and
watching the compass, to which he called my attention. The needle
was pointing straight toward the land. Bradley swung the helm
hard to starboard. I could feel the U-33 respond, and yet the
arrow still clung straight and sure toward the distant cliffs.
"What do you make of it?" I asked him.
"Did you ever hear of Caproni?" he asked.
"An early Italian navigator?" I returned.
"Yes; he followed Cook about 1721. He is scarcely mentioned even
by contemporaneous historians--probably because he got into
political difficulties on his return to Italy. It was the
fashion to scoff at his claims, but I recall reading one of his
works--his only one, I believe--in which he described a new
continent in the south seas, a continent made up of `some strange
metal' which attracted the compass; a rockbound, inhospitable coast,
without beach or harbor, which extended for hundreds of miles.
He could make no landing; nor in the several days he cruised about
it did he see sign of life. He called it Caprona and sailed away.
I believe, sir, that we are looking upon the coast of Caprona,
uncharted and forgotten for two hundred years."
"If you are right, it might account for much of the deviation of
the compass during the past two days," I suggested. "Caprona
has been luring us upon her deadly rocks. Well, we'll accept
her challenge. We'll land upon Caprona. Along that long front
there must be a vulnerable spot. We will find it, Bradley, for
we must find it. We must find water on Caprona, or we must die."
And so we approached the coast upon which no living eyes had
ever rested. Straight from the ocean's depths rose towering
cliffs, shot with brown and blues and greens--withered moss
and lichen and the verdigris of copper, and everywhere the
rusty ocher of iron pyrites. The cliff-tops, though ragged,
were of such uniform height as to suggest the boundaries of
a great plateau, and now and again we caught glimpses of verdure
topping the rocky escarpment, as though bush or jungle-land had
pushed outward from a lush vegetation farther inland to signal
to an unseeing world that Caprona lived and joyed in life beyond
her austere and repellent coast.
But metaphor, however poetic, never slaked a dry throat.
To enjoy Caprona's romantic suggestions we must have water,
and so we came in close, always sounding, and skirted the shore.
As close in as we dared cruise, we found fathomless depths, and
always the same undented coastline of bald cliffs. As darkness
threatened, we drew away and lay well off the coast all night.
We had not as yet really commenced to suffer for lack of water;
but I knew that it would not be long before we did, and so at the
first streak of dawn I moved in again and once more took up the
hopeless survey of the forbidding coast.
Toward noon we discovered a beach, the first we had seen. It was
a narrow strip of sand at the base of a part of the cliff that
seemed lower than any we had before scanned. At its foot, half
buried in the sand, lay great boulders, mute evidence that in a
bygone age some mighty natural force had crumpled Caprona's
barrier at this point. It was Bradley who first called our
attention to a strange object lying among the boulders above
the surf.
"Looks like a man," he said, and passed his glasses to me.
I looked long and carefully and could have sworn that the thing
I saw was the sprawled figure of a human being. Miss La Rue was
on deck with us. I turned and asked her to go below. Without a
word she did as I bade. Then I stripped, and as I did so, Nobs
looked questioningly at me. He had been wont at home to enter
the surf with me, and evidently he had not forgotten it.
"What are you going to do, sir?" asked Olson.
"I'm going to see what that thing is on shore," I replied.
"If it's a man, it may mean that Caprona is inhabited, or it
may merely mean that some poor devils were shipwrecked here.
I ought to be able to tell from the clothing which is more
near the truth.
"How about sharks?" queried Olson. "Sure, you ought to carry a knoife."
"Here you are, sir," cried one of the men.
It was a long slim blade he offered--one that I could carry
between my teeth--and so I accepted it gladly.
"Keep close in," I directed Bradley, and then I dived over the
side and struck out for the narrow beach. There was another
splash directly behind me, and turning my head, I saw faithful
old Nobs swimming valiantly in my wake.
The surf was not heavy, and there was no undertow, so we made
shore easily, effecting an equally easy landing. The beach
was composed largely of small stones worn smooth by the action
of water. There was little sand, though from the deck of the U-33
the beach had appeared to be all sand, and I saw no evidences of
mollusca or crustacea such as are common to all beaches I have
previously seen. I attribute this to the fact of the smallness
of the beach, the enormous depth of surrounding water and the
great distance at which Caprona lies from her nearest neighbor.
As Nobs and I approached the recumbent figure farther up the
beach, I was appraised by my nose that whether or not, the thing
had once been organic and alive, but that for some time it had
been dead. Nobs halted, sniffed and growled. A little later he
sat down upon his haunches, raised his muzzle to the heavens and
bayed forth a most dismal howl. I shied a small stone at him and
bade him shut up--his uncanny noise made me nervous. When I had
come quite close to the thing, I still could not say whether it
had been man or beast. The carcass was badly swollen and
partly decomposed. There was no sign of clothing upon or
about it. A fine, brownish hair covered the chest and abdomen,
and the face, the palms of the hands, the feet, the shoulders and
back were practically hairless. The creature must have been
about the height of a fair sized man; its features were similar
to those of a man; yet had it been a man?
I could not say, for it resembled an ape no more than it did
a man. Its large toes protruded laterally as do those of the
semiarboreal peoples of Borneo, the Philippines and other remote
regions where low types still persist. The countenance might
have been that of a cross between Pithecanthropus, the Java
ape-man, and a daughter of the Piltdown race of prehistoric Sussex.
A wooden cudgel lay beside the corpse.
Now this fact set me thinking. There was no wood of any
description in sight. There was nothing about the beach to
suggest a wrecked mariner. There was absolutely nothing about
the body to suggest that it might possibly in life have known a
maritime experience. It was the body of a low type of man or a
high type of beast. In neither instance would it have been of a
seafaring race. Therefore I deduced that it was native to
Caprona--that it lived inland, and that it had fallen or been
hurled from the cliffs above. Such being the case, Caprona was
inhabitable, if not inhabited, by man; but how to reach the
inhabitable interior! That was the question. A closer view
of the cliffs than had been afforded me from the deck of the
U-33 only confirmed my conviction that no mortal man could scale
those perpendicular heights; there was not a finger-hold, not a
toe-hold, upon them. I turned away baffled.
Nobs and I met with no sharks upon our return journey to
the submarine. My report filled everyone with theories and
speculations, and with renewed hope and determination. They all
reasoned along the same lines that I had reasoned--the
conclusions were obvious, but not the water. We were now
thirstier than ever.
The balance of that day we spent in continuing a minute and
fruitless exploration of the monotonous coast. There was not
another break in the frowning cliffs--not even another minute
patch of pebbly beach. As the sun fell, so did our spirits.
I had tried to make advances to the girl again; but she would
have none of me, and so I was not only thirsty but otherwise sad
and downhearted. I was glad when the new day broke the hideous
spell of a sleepless night.
The morning's search brought us no shred of hope. Caprona was
impregnable--that was the decision of all; yet we kept on. It must
have been about two bells of the afternoon watch that Bradley called
my attention to the branch of a tree, with leaves upon it, floating
on the sea. "It may have been carried down to the ocean by a river,"
he suggested.
"Yes, " I replied, "it may have; it may have tumbled or been thrown
off the top of one of these cliffs."
Bradley's face fell. "I thought of that, too," he replied, "but
I wanted to believe the other."
"Right you are!" I cried. "We must believe the other until we
prove it false. We can't afford to give up heart now, when we
need heart most. The branch was carried down by a river, and we
are going to find that river." I smote my open palm with a
clenched fist, to emphasize a determination unsupported by hope.
"There!" I cried suddenly. "See that, Bradley?" And I pointed at
a spot closer to shore. "See that, man!" Some flowers and
grasses and another leafy branch floated toward us. We both
scanned the water and the coastline. Bradley evidently
discovered something, or at least thought that he had. He called
down for a bucket and a rope, and when they were passed up to
him, he lowered the former into the sea and drew it in filled
with water. Of this he took a taste, and straightening up,
looked into my eyes with an expression of elation--as much as to
say "I told you so!"
"This water is warm," he announced, "and fresh!"
I grabbed the bucket and tasted its contents. The water was very
warm, and it was fresh, but there was a most unpleasant taste to it.
"Did you ever taste water from a stagnant pool full of tadpoles?"
Bradley asked.
"That's it," I exclaimed, "--that's just the taste exactly,
though I haven't experienced it since boyhood; but how can water
from a flowing stream, taste thus, and what the dickens makes it
so warm? It must be at least 70 or 80 Fahrenheit, possibly higher."
"Yes," agreed Bradley, "I should say higher; but where does it
come from?"
"That is easily discovered now that we have found it," I answered.
"It can't come from the ocean; so it must come from the land.
All that we have to do is follow it, and sooner or later we shall
come upon its source."
We were already rather close in; but I ordered the U-33's prow
turned inshore and we crept slowly along, constantly dipping up
the water and tasting it to assure ourselves that we didn't get
outside the fresh-water current. There was a very light off-shore
wind and scarcely any breakers, so that the approach to the shore
was continued without finding bottom; yet though we were already
quite close, we saw no indication of any indention in the coast
from which even a tiny brooklet might issue, and certainly no
mouth of a large river such as this must necessarily be to freshen
the ocean even two hundred yards from shore. The tide was running
out, and this, together with the strong flow of the freshwater
current, would have prevented our going against the cliffs even
had we not been under power; as it was we had to buck the combined
forces in order to hold our position at all. We came up to within
twenty-five feet of the sheer wall, which loomed high above us.
There was no break in its forbidding face. As we watched the face
of the waters and searched the cliff's high face, Olson suggested
that the fresh water might come from a submarine geyser. This, he
said, would account for its heat; but even as he spoke a bush,
covered thickly with leaves and flowers, bubbled to the surface
and floated off astern.
"Flowering shrubs don't thrive in the subterranean caverns from
which geysers spring," suggested Bradley.
Olson shook his head. "It beats me," he said.
"I've got it!" I exclaimed suddenly. "Look there!" And I pointed
at the base of the cliff ahead of us, which the receding tide was
gradually exposing to our view. They all looked, and all saw
what I had seen--the top of a dark opening in the rock, through
which water was pouring out into the sea. "It's the subterranean
channel of an inland river," I cried. "It flows through a land
covered with vegetation--and therefore a land upon which the
sun shines. No subterranean caverns produce any order of plant
life even remotely resembling what we have seen disgorged by
this river. Beyond those cliffs lie fertile lands and fresh
water--perhaps, game!"
"Yis, sir," said Olson, "behoind the cliffs! Ye spoke a true
word, sir--behoind!"
Bradley laughed--a rather sorry laugh, though. "You might as
well call our attention to the fact, sir," he said, "that science
has indicated that there is fresh water and vegetation on Mars."
"Not at all," I rejoined. "A U-boat isn't constructed to navigate
space, but it is designed to travel below the surface of the water."
"You'd be after sailin' into that blank pocket?" asked Olson.
"I would, Olson," I replied. "We haven't one chance for life in
a hundred thousand if we don't find food and water upon Caprona.
This water coming out of the cliff is not salt; but neither is it
fit to drink, though each of us has drunk. It is fair to assume
that inland the river is fed by pure streams, that there are
fruits and herbs and game. Shall we lie out here and die of
thirst and starvation with a land of plenty possibly only a few
hundred yards away? We have the means for navigating a
subterranean river. Are we too cowardly to utilize this means?"
"Be afther goin' to it," said Olson.
"I'm willing to see it through," agreed Bradley.
"Then under the bottom, wi' the best o' luck an' give 'em hell!"
cried a young fellow who had been in the trenches.
"To the diving-stations!" I commanded, and in less than a minute
the deck was deserted, the conning-tower covers had slammed to
and the U-33 was submerging--possibly for the last time. I know
that I had this feeling, and I think that most of the others did.
As we went down, I sat in the tower with the searchlight
projecting its seemingly feeble rays ahead. We submerged very
slowly and without headway more than sufficient to keep her nose
in the right direction, and as we went down, I saw outlined ahead
of us the black opening in the great cliff. It was an opening
that would have admitted a half-dozen U-boats at one and the same
time, roughly cylindrical in contour--and dark as the pit of perdition.
As I gave the command which sent the U-33 slowly ahead, I could
not but feel a certain uncanny presentiment of evil. Where were
we going? What lay at the end of this great sewer? Had we bidden
farewell forever to the sunlight and life, or were there before
us dangers even greater than those which we now faced? I tried to
keep my mind from vain imagining by calling everything which I
observed to the eager ears below. I was the eyes of the whole
company, and I did my best not to fail them. We had advanced a
hundred yards, perhaps, when our first danger confronted us.
Just ahead was a sharp right-angle turn in the tunnel. I could
see the river's flotsam hurtling against the rocky wall upon the
left as it was driven on by the mighty current, and I feared for
the safety of the U-33 in making so sharp a turn under such
adverse conditions; but there was nothing for it but to try.
I didn't warn my fellows of the danger--it could have but caused
them useless apprehension, for if we were to be smashed against
the rocky wall, no power on earth could avert the quick end that
would come to us. I gave the command full speed ahead and went
charging toward the menace. I was forced to approach the
dangerous left-hand wall in order to make the turn, and I
depended upon the power of the motors to carry us through the
surging waters in safety. Well, we made it; but it was a
narrow squeak. As we swung around, the full force of the current
caught us and drove the stern against the rocks; there was a thud
which sent a tremor through the whole craft, and then a moment of
nasty grinding as the steel hull scraped the rock wall. I expected
momentarily the inrush of waters that would seal our doom; but
presently from below came the welcome word that all was well.
In another fifty yards there was a second turn, this time toward
the left! but it was more of a gentle curve, and we took it
without trouble. After that it was plain sailing, though as far
as I could know, there might be most anything ahead of us, and my
nerves strained to the snapping-point every instant. After the
second turn the channel ran comparatively straight for between
one hundred and fifty and two hundred yards. The waters grew
suddenly lighter, and my spirits rose accordingly. I shouted
down to those below that I saw daylight ahead, and a great shout
of thanksgiving reverberated through the ship. A moment later we
emerged into sunlit water, and immediately I raised the periscope
and looked about me upon the strangest landscape I had ever seen.
We were in the middle of a broad and now sluggish river the banks
of which were lined by giant, arboraceous ferns, raising their
mighty fronds fifty, one hundred, two hundred feet into the
quiet air. Close by us something rose to the surface of the river
and dashed at the periscope. I had a vision of wide, distended jaws,
and then all was blotted out. A shiver ran down into the tower as
the thing closed upon the periscope. A moment later it was gone,
and I could see again. Above the trees there soared into my vision
a huge thing on batlike wings--a creature large as a large whale,
but fashioned more after the order of a lizard. Then again
something charged the periscope and blotted out the mirror. I will
confess that I was almost gasping for breath as I gave the commands
to emerge. Into what sort of strange land had fate guided us?
The instant the deck was awash, I opened the conning-tower hatch
and stepped out. In another minute the deck-hatch lifted, and
those who were not on duty below streamed up the ladder, Olson
bringing Nobs under one arm. For several minutes no one spoke;
I think they must each have been as overcome by awe as was I.
All about us was a flora and fauna as strange and wonderful to us
as might have been those upon a distant planet had we suddenly
been miraculously transported through ether to an unknown world.
Even the grass upon the nearer bank was unearthly--lush and high
it grew, and each blade bore upon its tip a brilliant flower--
violet or yellow or carmine or blue--making as gorgeous a sward
as human imagination might conceive. But the life! It teemed.
The tall, fernlike trees were alive with monkeys, snakes, and lizards.
Huge insects hummed and buzzed hither and thither. Mighty forms
could be seen moving upon the ground in the thick forest, while
the bosom of the river wriggled with living things, and above
flapped the wings of gigantic creatures such as we are taught have
been extinct throughout countless ages.
"Look!" cried Olson. "Would you look at the giraffe comin' up
out o' the bottom of the say?" We looked in the direction he
pointed and saw a long, glossy neck surmounted by a small head
rising above the surface of the river. Presently the back of the
creature was exposed, brown and glossy as the water dripped from it.
It turned its eyes upon us, opened its lizard-like mouth, emitted
a shrill hiss and came for us. The thing must have been sixteen
or eighteen feet in length and closely resembled pictures I had
seen of restored plesiosaurs of the lower Jurassic. It charged
us as savagely as a mad bull, and one would have thought it
intended to destroy and devour the mighty U-boat, as I verily
believe it did intend.
We were moving slowly up the river as the creature bore down upon
us with distended jaws. The long neck was far outstretched, and
the four flippers with which it swam were working with powerful
strokes, carrying it forward at a rapid pace. When it reached
the craft's side, the jaws closed upon one of the stanchions of
the deck rail and tore it from its socket as though it had been
a toothpick stuck in putty. At this exhibition of titanic
strength I think we all simultaneously stepped backward, and
Bradley drew his revolver and fired. The bullet struck the thing
in the neck, just above its body; but instead of disabling it,
merely increased its rage. Its hissing rose to a shrill scream
as it raised half its body out of water onto the sloping sides of
the hull of the U-33 and endeavored to scramble upon the deck to
devour us. A dozen shots rang out as we who were armed drew our
pistols and fired at the thing; but though struck several times,
it showed no signs of succumbing and only floundered farther
aboard the submarine.
I had noticed that the girl had come on deck and was standing not
far behind me, and when I saw the danger to which we were all
exposed, I turned and forced her toward the hatch. We had not
spoken for some days, and we did not speak now; but she gave me
a disdainful look, which was quite as eloquent as words, and
broke loose from my grasp. I saw I could do nothing with her
unless I exerted force, and so I turned with my back toward her
that I might be in a position to shield her from the strange
reptile should it really succeed in reaching the deck; and as I
did so I saw the thing raise one flipper over the rail, dart its
head forward and with the quickness of lightning seize upon one
of the boches. I ran forward, discharging my pistol into the
creature's body in an effort to force it to relinquish its prey;
but I might as profitably have shot at the sun.
Shrieking and screaming, the German was dragged from the deck,
and the moment the reptile was clear of the boat, it dived
beneath the surface of the water with its terrified prey.
I think we were all more or less shaken by the frightfulness of
the tragedy--until Olson remarked that the balance of power now
rested where it belonged. Following the death of Benson we had
been nine and nine--nine Germans and nine "Allies," as we called
ourselves, now there were but eight Germans. We never counted
the girl on either side, I suppose because she was a girl, though
we knew well enough now that she was ours.
And so Olson's remark helped to clear the atmosphere for the
Allies at least, and then our attention was once more directed
toward the river, for around us there had sprung up a perfect
bedlam of screams and hisses and a seething caldron of hideous
reptiles, devoid of fear and filled only with hunger and with rage.
They clambered, squirmed and wriggled to the deck, forcing
us steadily backward, though we emptied our pistols into them.
There were all sorts and conditions of horrible things--huge,
hideous, grotesque, monstrous--a veritable Mesozoic nightmare.
I saw that the girl was gotten below as quickly as possible, and
she took Nobs with her--poor Nobs had nearly barked his head off;
and I think, too, that for the first time since his littlest
puppyhood he had known fear; nor can I blame him. After the girl
I sent Bradley and most of the Allies and then the Germans who
were on deck--von Schoenvorts being still in irons below.
The creatures were approaching perilously close before I dropped
through the hatchway and slammed down the cover. Then I went
into the tower and ordered full speed ahead, hoping to distance
the fearsome things; but it was useless. Not only could any of
them easily outdistance the U-33, but the further upstream we
progressed the greater the number of our besiegers, until fearful
of navigating a strange river at high speed, I gave orders to
reduce and moved slowly and majestically through the plunging,
hissing mass. I was mighty glad that our entrance into the
interior of Caprona had been inside a submarine rather than in
any other form of vessel. I could readily understand how it
might have been that Caprona had been invaded in the past by
venturesome navigators without word of it ever reaching the
outside world, for I can assure you that only by submarine could
man pass up that great sluggish river, alive.
We proceeded up the river for some forty miles before darkness
overtook us. I was afraid to submerge and lie on the bottom
overnight for fear that the mud might be deep enough to hold us,
and as we could not hold with the anchor, I ran in close to
shore, and in a brief interim of attack from the reptiles we made
fast to a large tree. We also dipped up some of the river water
and found it, though quite warm, a little sweeter than before.
We had food enough, and with the water we were all quite
refreshed; but we missed fresh meat. It had been weeks, now,
since we had tasted it, and the sight of the reptiles gave me
an idea--that a steak or two from one of them might not be
bad eating. So I went on deck with a rifle, twenty of which were
aboard the U-33. At sight of me a huge thing charged and climbed
to the deck. I retreated to the top of the conning-tower, and
when it had raised its mighty bulk to the level of the little deck
on which I stood, I let it have a bullet right between the eyes.
The thing stopped then and looked at me a moment as much as to
say: "Why this thing has a stinger! I must be careful." And then
it reached out its long neck and opened its mighty jaws and grabbed
for me; but I wasn't there. I had tumbled backward into the tower,
and I mighty near killed myself doing it. When I glanced up, that
little head on the end of its long neck was coming straight down on
top of me, and once more I tumbled into greater safety, sprawling
upon the floor of the centrale.
Olson was looking up, and seeing what was poking about in the
tower, ran for an ax; nor did he hesitate a moment when he
returned with one, but sprang up the ladder and commenced
chopping away at that hideous face. The thing didn't have
sufficient brainpan to entertain more than a single idea at once.
Though chopped and hacked, and with a bullethole between its
eyes, it still persisted madly in its attempt to get inside the
tower and devour Olson, though its body was many times the
diameter of the hatch; nor did it cease its efforts until after
Olson had succeeded in decapitating it. Then the two men went on
deck through the main hatch, and while one kept watch, the other
cut a hind quarter off Plesiosaurus Olsoni, as Bradley dubbed
the thing. Meantime Olson cut off the long neck, saying that it
would make fine soup. By the time we had cleared away the blood
and refuse in the tower, the cook had juicy steaks and a steaming
broth upon the electric stove, and the aroma arising from P. Olsoni
filled us an with a hitherto unfelt admiration for him and all his kind.
Chapter 5
The steaks we had that night, and they were fine; and the
following morning we tasted the broth. It seemed odd to be
eating a creature that should, by all the laws of paleontology,
have been extinct for several million years. It gave one a
feeling of newness that was almost embarrassing, although it
didn't seem to embarrass our appetites. Olson ate until I
thought he would burst.
The girl ate with us that night at the little officers' mess just
back of the torpedo compartment. The narrow table was unfolded;
the four stools were set out; and for the first time in days we
sat down to eat, and for the first time in weeks we had something
to eat other than the monotony of the short rations of an
impoverished U-boat. Nobs sat between the girl and me and was
fed with morsels of the Plesiosaurus steak, at the risk of
forever contaminating his manners. He looked at me sheepishly
all the time, for he knew that no well-bred dog should eat at
table; but the poor fellow was so wasted from improper food that
I couldn't enjoy my own meal had he been denied an immediate share
in it; and anyway Lys wanted to feed him. So there you are.
Lys was coldly polite to me and sweetly gracious to Bradley
and Olson. She wasn't of the gushing type, I knew; so I didn't
expect much from her and was duly grateful for the few morsels of
attention she threw upon the floor to me. We had a pleasant
meal, with only one unfortunate occurrence--when Olson suggested
that possibly the creature we were eating was the same one that
ate the German. It was some time before we could persuade the
girl to continue her meal, but at last Bradley prevailed upon
her, pointing out that we had come upstream nearly forty miles
since the boche had been seized, and that during that time we
had seen literally thousands of these denizens of the river,
indicating that the chances were very remote that this was the
same Plesiosaur. "And anyway," he concluded, "it was only a
scheme of Mr. Olson's to get all the steaks for himself."
We discussed the future and ventured opinions as to what lay
before us; but we could only theorize at best, for none of
us knew. If the whole land was infested by these and similar
horrid monsters, life would be impossible upon it, and we decided
that we would only search long enough to find and take aboard fresh
water and such meat and fruits as might be safely procurable and
then retrace our way beneath the cliffs to the open sea.
And so at last we turned into our narrow bunks, hopeful, happy
and at peace with ourselves, our lives and our God, to awaken the
following morning refreshed and still optimistic. We had an easy
time getting away--as we learned later, because the saurians do
not commence to feed until late in the morning. From noon to
midnight their curve of activity is at its height, while from
dawn to about nine o'clock it is lowest. As a matter of fact, we
didn't see one of them all the time we were getting under way,
though I had the cannon raised to the deck and manned against
an assault. I hoped, but I was none too sure, that shells might
discourage them. The trees were full of monkeys of all sizes and
shades, and once we thought we saw a manlike creature watching us
from the depth of the forest.
Shortly after we resumed our course upstream, we saw the mouth of
another and smaller river emptying into the main channel from the
south--that is, upon our right; and almost immediately after we
came upon a large island five or six miles in length; and at
fifty miles there was a still larger river than the last coming
in from the northwest, the course of the main stream having now
changed to northeast by southwest. The water was quite free from
reptiles, and the vegetation upon the banks of the river had
altered to more open and parklike forest, with eucalyptus and
acacia mingled with a scattering of tree ferns, as though two
distinct periods of geologic time had overlapped and merged.
The grass, too, was less flowering, though there were still
gorgeous patches mottling the greensward; and lastly, the fauna
was less multitudinous.
Six or seven miles farther, and the river widened considerably;
before us opened an expanse of water to the farther horizon, and
then we sailed out upon an inland sea so large that only a shoreline
upon our side was visible to us. The waters all about us
were alive with life. There were still a few reptiles; but there
were fish by the thousands, by the millions.
The water of the inland sea was very warm, almost hot, and the
atmosphere was hot and heavy above it. It seemed strange that
beyond the buttressed walls of Caprona icebergs floated and the
south wind was biting, for only a gentle breeze moved across
the face of these living waters, and that was damp and warm.
Gradually, we commenced to divest ourselves of our clothing,
retaining only sufficient for modesty; but the sun was not hot.
It was more the heat of a steam-room than of an oven.
We coasted up the shore of the lake in a north-westerly direction,
sounding all the time. We found the lake deep and the bottom
rocky and steeply shelving toward the center, and once when I
moved straight out from shore to take other soundings we could
find no bottom whatsoever. In open spaces along the shore we
caught occasional glimpses of the distant cliffs, and here
they appeared only a trifle less precipitous than those which
bound Caprona on the seaward side. My theory is that in a far
distant era Caprona was a mighty mountain--perhaps the world's
mightiest volcanic action blew off the entire crest, blew
thousands of feet of the mountain upward and outward and onto the
surrounding continent, leaving a great crater; and then,
possibly, the continent sank as ancient continents have been
known to do, leaving only the summit of Caprona above the sea.
The encircling walls, the central lake, the hot springs which
feed the lake, all point to a conclusion, and the fauna and the
flora bear indisputable evidence that Caprona was once part of
some great land-mass.
As we cruised up along the coast, the landscape continued a more
or less open forest, with here and there a small plain where we
saw animals grazing. With my glass I could make out a species of
large red deer, some antelope and what appeared to be a species
of horse; and once I saw the shaggy form of what might have been
a monstrous bison. Here was game a plenty! There seemed little
danger of starving upon Caprona. The game, however, seemed wary;
for the instant the animals discovered us, they threw up their
heads and tails and went cavorting off, those farther inland
following the example of the others until all were lost in the
mazes of the distant forest. Only the great, shaggy ox stood
his ground. With lowered head he watched us until we had passed,
and then continued feeding.
About twenty miles up the coast from the mouth of the river we
encountered low cliffs of sandstone, broken and tortured evidence
of the great upheaval which had torn Caprona asunder in the past,
intermingling upon a common level the rock formations of widely
separated eras, fusing some and leaving others untouched.
We ran along beside them for a matter of ten miles, arriving off
a broad cleft which led into what appeared to be another lake.
As we were in search of pure water, we did not wish to overlook
any portion of the coast, and so after sounding and finding that
we had ample depth, I ran the U-33 between head-lands into as
pretty a landlocked harbor as sailormen could care to see, with
good water right up to within a few yards of the shore. As we
cruised slowly along, two of the boches again saw what they
believed to be a man, or manlike creature, watching us from a
fringe of trees a hundred yards inland, and shortly after we
discovered the mouth of a small stream emptying into the bay:
It was the first stream we had found since leaving the river, and
I at once made preparations to test its water. To land, it would
be necessary to run the U-33 close in to the shore, at least as
close as we could, for even these waters were infested, though,
not so thickly, by savage reptiles. I ordered sufficient water
let into the diving-tanks to lower us about a foot, and then I
ran the bow slowly toward the shore, confident that should we run
aground, we still had sufficient lifting force to free us when
the water should be pumped out of the tanks; but the bow nosed
its way gently into the reeds and touched the shore with the keel
still clear.
My men were all armed now with both rifles and pistols, each
having plenty of ammunition. I ordered one of the Germans ashore
with a line, and sent two of my own men to guard him, for from
what little we had seen of Caprona, or Caspak as we learned later
to call the interior, we realized that any instant some new and
terrible danger might confront us. The line was made fast to a
small tree, and at the same time I had the stern anchor dropped.
As soon as the boche and his guard were aboard again, I called
all hands on deck, including von Schoenvorts, and there I
explained to them that the time had come for us to enter into
some sort of an agreement among ourselves that would relieve
us of the annoyance and embarrassment of being divided into two
antagonistic parts--prisoners and captors. I told them that it
was obvious our very existence depended upon our unity of action,
that we were to all intent and purpose entering a new world as
far from the seat and causes of our own world-war as if millions
of miles of space and eons of time separated us from our past
lives and habitations.
"There is no reason why we should carry our racial and political
hatreds into Caprona," I insisted. "The Germans among us might
kill all the English, or the English might kill the last German,
without affecting in the slightest degree either the outcome of
even the smallest skirmish upon the western front or the opinion
of a single individual in any belligerent or neutral country.
I therefore put the issue squarely to you all; shall we bury our
animosities and work together with and for one another while we
remain upon Caprona, or must we continue thus divided and but half
armed, possibly until death has claimed the last of us? And let
me tell you, if you have not already realized it, the chances are
a thousand to one that not one of us ever will see the outside
world again. We are safe now in the matter of food and water; we
could provision the U-33 for a long cruise; but we are practically
out of fuel, and without fuel we cannot hope to reach the ocean,
as only a submarine can pass through the barrier cliffs. What is
your answer?" I turned toward von Schoenvorts.
He eyed me in that disagreeable way of his and demanded to know,
in case they accepted my suggestion, what their status would be
in event of our finding a way to escape with the U-33. I replied
that I felt that if we had all worked loyally together we should
leave Caprona upon a common footing, and to that end I suggested
that should the remote possibility of our escape in the submarine
develop into reality, we should then immediately make for the
nearest neutral port and give ourselves into the hands of the
authorities, when we should all probably be interned for the
duration of the war. To my surprise he agreed that this was fair
and told me that they would accept my conditions and that I could
depend upon their loyalty to the common cause.
I thanked him and then addressed each one of his men individually,
and each gave me his word that he would abide by all that I
had outlined. It was further understood that we were to act as
a military organization under military rules and discipline--I
as commander, with Bradley as my first lieutenant and Olson as
my second, in command of the Englishmen; while von Schoenvorts
was to act as an additional second lieutenant and have charge of
his own men. The four of us were to constitute a military court
under which men might be tried and sentenced to punishment for
infraction of military rules and discipline, even to the passing
of the death-sentence.
I then had arms and ammunition issued to the Germans, and leaving
Bradley and five men to guard the U-33, the balance of us went ashore.
The first thing we did was to taste the water of the little stream--
which, to our delight, we found sweet, pure and cold. This stream
was entirely free from dangerous reptiles, because, as I later
discovered, they became immediately dormant when subjected to a much
lower temperature than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They dislike cold water
and keep as far away from it as possible. There were countless
brook-trout here, and deep holes that invited us to bathe, and along
the bank of the stream were trees bearing a close resemblance to
ash and beech and oak, their characteristics evidently induced by
the lower temperature of the air above the cold water and by the
fact that their roots were watered by the water from the stream
rather than from the warm springs which we afterward found in such
abundance elsewhere.
Our first concern was to fill the water tanks of the U-33 with
fresh water, and that having been accomplished, we set out to
hunt for game and explore inland for a short distance. Olson, von
Schoenvorts, two Englishmen and two Germans accompanied me,
leaving ten to guard the ship and the girl. I had intended
leaving Nobs behind, but he got away and joined me and was so
happy over it that I hadn't the heart to send him back. We followed
the stream upward through a beautiful country for about five miles,
and then came upon its source in a little boulder-strewn clearing.
From among the rocks bubbled fully twenty ice-cold springs.
North of the clearing rose sandstone cliffs to a height of some
fifty to seventy-five feet, with tall trees growing at their base
and almost concealing them from our view. To the west the country
was flat and sparsely wooded, and here it was that we saw our first
game--a large red deer. It was grazing away from us and had not
seen us when one of my men called my attention to it. Motioning for
silence and having the rest of the party lie down, I crept toward
the quarry, accompanied only by Whitely. We got within a hundred
yards of the deer when he suddenly raised his antlered head and
pricked up his great ears. We both fired at once and had the
satisfaction of seeing the buck drop; then we ran forward to finish
him with our knives. The deer lay in a small open space close to
a clump of acacias, and we had advanced to within several yards
of our kill when we both halted suddenly and simultaneously.
Whitely looked at me, and I looked at Whitely, and then we both
looked back in the direction of the deer.
"Blime!' he said. "Wot is hit, sir?"
"It looks to me, Whitely, like an error," I said; "some assistant
god who had been creating elephants must have been temporarily
transferred to the lizard-department."
"Hi wouldn't s'y that, sir," said Whitely; "it sounds blasphemous."
"It is more blasphemous than that thing which is swiping our
meat," I replied, for whatever the thing was, it had leaped upon
our deer and was devouring it in great mouthfuls which it
swallowed without mastication. The creature appeared to be a
great lizard at least ten feet high, with a huge, powerful tail
as long as its torso, mighty hind legs and short forelegs. When it
had advanced from the wood, it hopped much after the fashion of a
kangaroo, using its hind feet and tail to propel it, and when it
stood erect, it sat upon its tail. Its head was long and thick,
with a blunt muzzle, and the opening of the jaws ran back to a
point behind the eyes, and the jaws were armed with long sharp teeth.
The scaly body was covered with black and yellow spots about a foot
in diameter and irregular in contour. These spots were outlined in
red with edgings about an inch wide. The underside of the chest,
body and tail were a greenish white.
"Wot s'y we pot the bloomin' bird, sir?" suggested Whitely.
I told him to wait until I gave the word; then we would fire
simultaneously, he at the heart and I at the spine.
"Hat the 'eart, sir--yes, sir," he replied, and raised his piece
to his shoulder.
Our shots rang out together. The thing raised its head and
looked about until its eyes rested upon us; then it gave vent to
a most appalling hiss that rose to the crescendo of a terrific
shriek and came for us.
"Beat it, Whitely!" I cried as I turned to run.
We were about a quarter of a mile from the rest of our party, and
in full sight of them as they lay in the tall grass watching us.
That they saw all that had happened was evidenced by the fact that
they now rose and ran toward us, and at their head leaped Nobs.
The creature in our rear was gaining on us rapidly when Nobs flew
past me like a meteor and rushed straight for the frightful reptile.
I tried to recall him, but he would pay no attention to me, and as
I couldn't see him sacrificed, I, too, stopped and faced the monster.
The creature appeared to be more impressed with Nobs than by us and
our firearms, for it stopped as the Airedale dashed at it growling,
and struck at him viciously with its powerful jaws.
Nobs, though, was lightning by comparison with the slow thinking
beast and dodged his opponent's thrust with ease. Then he raced
to the rear of the tremendous thing and seized it by the tail.
There Nobs made the error of his life. Within that mottled organ
were the muscles of a Titan, the force of a dozen mighty
catapults, and the owner of the tail was fully aware of the
possibilities which it contained. With a single flip of the tip
it sent poor Nobs sailing through the air a hundred feet above
the ground, straight back into the clump of acacias from which
the beast had leaped upon our kill--and then the grotesque thing
sank lifeless to the ground.
Olson and von Schoenvorts came up a minute later with their men;
then we all cautiously approached the still form upon the ground.
The creature was quite dead, and an examination resulted in
disclosing the fact that Whitely's bullet had pierced its heart,
and mine had severed the spinal cord.
"But why didn't it die instantly?" I exclaimed.
"Because," said von Schoenvorts in his disagreeable way, "the
beast is so large, and its nervous organization of so low a
caliber, that it took all this time for the intelligence of death
to reach and be impressed upon the minute brain. The thing was
dead when your bullets struck it; but it did not know it for
several seconds--possibly a minute. If I am not mistaken, it is
an Allosaurus of the Upper Jurassic, remains of which have been
found in Central Wyoming, in the suburbs of New York."
An Irishman by the name of Brady grinned. I afterward learned
that he had served three years on the traffic-squad of the
Chicago police force.
I had been calling Nobs in the meantime and was about to set out
in search of him, fearing, to tell the truth, to do so lest I
find him mangled and dead among the trees of the acacia grove,
when he suddenly emerged from among the boles, his ears flattened,
his tail between his legs and his body screwed into a suppliant S.
He was unharmed except for minor bruises; but he was the most
chastened dog I have ever seen.
We gathered up what was left of the red deer after skinning and
cleaning it, and set out upon our return journey toward the U-boat.
On the way Olson, von Schoenvorts and I discussed the needs of our
immediate future, and we were unanimous in placing foremost the
necessity of a permanent camp on shore. The interior of a U-boat
is about as impossible and uncomfortable an abiding-place as one
can well imagine, and in this warm climate, and in warm water, it
was almost unendurable. So we decided to construct a palisaded camp.
Chapter 6
As we strolled slowly back toward the boat, planning and discussing
this, we were suddenly startled by a loud and unmistakable detonation.
"A shell from the U-33!" exclaimed von Schoenvorts.
"What can be after signifyin'?" queried Olson.
"They are in trouble," I answered for all, "and it's up to us
to get back to them. Drop that carcass," I directed the men
carrying the meat, "and follow me!" I set off at a rapid run
in the direction of the harbor.
We ran for the better part of a mile without hearing anything
more from the direction of the harbor, and then I reduced the
speed to a walk, for the exercise was telling on us who had been
cooped up for so long in the confined interior of the U-33.
Puffing and panting, we plodded on until within about a mile of
the harbor we came upon a sight that brought us all up standing.
We had been passing through a little heavier timber than was
usual to this part of the country, when we suddenly emerged into
an open space in the center of which was such a band as might
have caused the most courageous to pause. It consisted of upward
of five hundred individuals representing several species closely
allied to man. There were anthropoid apes and gorillas--these
I had no difficulty in recognizing; but there were other forms
which I had never before seen, and I was hard put to it to say
whether they were ape or man. Some of them resembled the corpse
we had found upon the narrow beach against Caprona's sea-wall,
while others were of a still lower type, more nearly resembling
the apes, and yet others were uncannily manlike, standing there
erect, being less hairy and possessing better shaped heads.
There was one among the lot, evidently the leader of them, who
bore a close resemblance to the so-called Neanderthal man of La
Chapelle-aux-Saints. There was the same short, stocky trunk upon
which rested an enormous head habitually bent forward into the
same curvature as the back, the arms shorter than the legs, and
the lower leg considerably shorter than that of modern man, the
knees bent forward and never straightened. This creature and one
or two others who appeared to be of a lower order than he, yet
higher than that of the apes, carried heavy clubs; the others were
armed only with giant muscles and fighting fangs--nature's weapons.
All were males, and all were entirely naked; nor was there upon
even the highest among them a sign of ornamentation.
At sight of us they turned with bared fangs and low growls to
confront us. I did not wish to fire among them unless it became
absolutely necessary, and so I started to lead my party around
them; but the instant that the Neanderthal man guessed my
intention, he evidently attributed it to cowardice upon our part,
and with a wild cry he leaped toward us, waving his cudgel above
his head. The others followed him, and in a minute we should have
been overwhelmed. I gave the order to fire, and at the first
volley six of them went down, including the Neanderthal man.
The others hesitated a moment and then broke for the trees, some
running nimbly among the branches, while others lost themselves
to us between the boles. Both von Schoenvorts and I noticed that
at least two of the higher, manlike types took to the trees quite
as nimbly as the apes, while others that more nearly approached
man in carriage and appearance sought safety upon the ground with
the gorillas.
An examination disclosed that five of our erstwhile opponents
were dead and the sixth, the Neanderthal man, was but slightly
wounded, a bullet having glanced from his thick skull, stunning him.
We decided to take him with us to camp, and by means of belts we
managed to secure his hands behind his back and place a leash
around his neck before he regained consciousness. We then
retraced our steps for our meat being convinced by our own
experience that those aboard the U-33 had been able to frighten
off this party with a single shell--but when we came to where we
had left the deer it had disappeared.
On the return journey Whitely and I preceded the rest of the
party by about a hundred yards in the hope of getting another
shot at something edible, for we were all greatly disgusted
and disappointed by the loss of our venison. Whitely and I
advanced very cautiously, and not having the whole party with
us, we fared better than on the journey out, bagging two large
antelope not a half-mile from the harbor; so with our game and
our prisoner we made a cheerful return to the boat, where we
found that all were safe. On the shore a little north of where
we lay there were the corpses of twenty of the wild creatures who
had attacked Bradley and his party in our absence, and the rest
of whom we had met and scattered a few minutes later.
We felt that we had taught these wild ape-men a lesson and that
because of it we would be safer in the future--at least safer
from them; but we decided not to abate our carefulness one whit;
feeling that this new world was filled with terrors still unknown
to us; nor were we wrong.
The following morning we commenced work upon our camp, Bradley,
Olson, von Schoenvorts, Miss La Rue, and I having sat up half the
night discussing the matter and drawing plans. We set the men at
work felling trees, selecting for the purpose jarrah, a hard,
weather-resisting timber which grew in profusion near by. Half the
men labored while the other half stood guard, alternating each hour
with an hour off at noon. Olson directed this work. Bradley, von
Schoenvorts and I, with Miss La Rue's help, staked out the various
buildings and the outer wall. When the day was done, we had quite
an array of logs nicely notched and ready for our building operations
on the morrow, and we were all tired, for after the buildings had
been staked out we all fell in and helped with the logging--all but
von Schoenvorts. He, being a Prussian and a gentleman, couldn't
stoop to such menial labor in the presence of his men, and I didn't
see fit to ask it of him, as the work was purely voluntary upon
our part. He spent the afternoon shaping a swagger-stick from the
branch of jarrah and talking with Miss La Rue, who had sufficiently
unbent toward him to notice his existence.
We saw nothing of the wild men of the previous day, and only once
were we menaced by any of the strange denizens of Caprona, when
some frightful nightmare of the sky swooped down upon us, only to
be driven off by a fusillade of bullets. The thing appeared to
be some variety of pterodactyl, and what with its enormous size
and ferocious aspect was most awe-inspiring. There was another
incident, too, which to me at least was far more unpleasant than
the sudden onslaught of the prehistoric reptile. Two of the men,
both Germans, were stripping a felled tree of its branches.
Von Schoenvorts had completed his swagger-stick, and he and I
were passing close to where the two worked.
One of them threw to his rear a small branch that he had just
chopped off, and as misfortune would have it, it struck von
Schoenvorts across the face. It couldn't have hurt him, for it
didn't leave a mark; but he flew into a terrific rage, shouting:
"Attention!" in a loud voice. The sailor immediately
straightened up, faced his officer, clicked his heels together
and saluted. "Pig!" roared the Baron, and struck the fellow
across the face, breaking his nose. I grabbed von Schoenvorts'
arm and jerked him away before he could strike again, if such had
been his intention, and then he raised his little stick to strike
me; but before it descended the muzzle of my pistol was against
his belly and he must have seen in my eyes that nothing would
suit me better than an excuse to pull the trigger. Like all his
kind and all other bullies, von Schoenvorts was a coward at
heart, and so he dropped his hand to his side and started to turn
away; but I pulled him back, and there before his men I told him
that such a thing must never again occur--that no man was to be
struck or otherwise punished other than in due process of the
laws that we had made and the court that we had established.
All the time the sailor stood rigidly at attention, nor could I
tell from his expression whether he most resented the blow his
officer had struck him or my interference in the gospel of the
Kaiser-breed. Nor did he move until I said to him: "Plesser, you
may return to your quarters and dress your wound." Then he
saluted and marched stiffly off toward the U-33.
Just before dusk we moved out into the bay a hundred yards from
shore and dropped anchor, for I felt that we should be safer
there than elsewhere. I also detailed men to stand watch during
the night and appointed Olson officer of the watch for the entire
night, telling him to bring his blankets on deck and get what
rest he could. At dinner we tasted our first roast Caprona
antelope, and we had a mess of greens that the cook had found
growing along the stream. All during the meal von Schoenvorts
was silent and surly.
After dinner we all went on deck and watched the unfamiliar
scenes of a Capronian night--that is, all but von Schoenvorts.
There was less to see than to hear. From the great inland lake
behind us came the hissing and the screaming of countless saurians.
Above us we heard the flap of giant wings, while from the shore
rose the multitudinous voices of a tropical jungle--of a warm,
damp atmosphere such as must have enveloped the entire earth
during the Palezoic and Mesozoic eras. But here were intermingled
the voices of later eras--the scream of the panther, the roar of
the lion, the baying of wolves and a thunderous growling which
we could attribute to nothing earthly but which one day we were
to connect with the most fearsome of ancient creatures.
One by one the others went to their rooms, until the girl and
I were left alone together, for I had permitted the watch to
go below for a few minutes, knowing that I would be on deck.
Miss La Rue was very quiet, though she replied graciously
enough to whatever I had to say that required reply. I asked
her if she did not feel well.
"Yes," she said, "but I am depressed by the awfulness of it all.
I feel of so little consequence--so small and helpless in the
face of all these myriad manifestations of life stripped to the
bone of its savagery and brutality. I realize as never before
how cheap and valueless a thing is life. Life seems a joke, a
cruel, grim joke. You are a laughable incident or a terrifying
one as you happen to be less powerful or more powerful than some
other form of life which crosses your path; but as a rule you are
of no moment whatsoever to anything but yourself. You are a comic
little figure, hopping from the cradle to the grave. Yes, that
is our trouble--we take ourselves too seriously; but Caprona
should be a sure cure for that." She paused and laughed.
"You have evolved a beautiful philosophy," I said. "It fills
such a longing in the human breast. It is full, it is
satisfying, it is ennobling. What wonderous strides toward
perfection the human race might have made if the first man had
evolved it and it had persisted until now as the creed of humanity."
"I don't like irony," she said; "it indicates a small soul."
"What other sort of soul, then, would you expect from `a comic
little figure hopping from the cradle to the grave'?" I inquired.
"And what difference does it make, anyway, what you like and what
you don't like? You are here for but an instant, and you mustn't
take yourself too seriously."
She looked up at me with a smile. "I imagine that I am frightened and
blue," she said, "and I know that I am very, very homesick and lonely."
There was almost a sob in her voice as she concluded. It was the
first time that she had spoken thus to me. Involuntarily, I laid
my hand upon hers where it rested on the rail.
"I know how difficult your position is," I said; "but don't feel
that you are alone. There is--is one here who--who would do
anything in the world for you," I ended lamely. She did not
withdraw her hand, and she looked up into my face with tears on her
cheeks and I read in her eyes the thanks her lips could not voice.
Then she looked away across the weird moonlit landscape and sighed.
Evidently her new-found philosophy had tumbled about her ears, for
she was seemingly taking herself seriously. I wanted to take her
in my arms and tell her how I loved her, and had taken her hand
from the rail and started to draw her toward me when Olson came
blundering up on deck with his bedding.
The following morning we started building operations in earnest,
and things progressed finely. The Neanderthal man was something
of a care, for we had to keep him in irons all the time, and he
was mighty savage when approached; but after a time he became
more docile, and then we tried to discover if he had a language.
Lys spent a great deal of time talking to him and trying to draw
him out; but for a long while she was unsuccessful. It took us
three weeks to build all the houses, which we constructed close
by a cold spring some two miles from the harbor.
We changed our plans a trifle when it came to building the
palisade, for we found a rotted cliff near by where we could get
all the flat building-stone we needed, and so we constructed a
stone wall entirely around the buildings. It was in the form of
a square, with bastions and towers at each corner which would
permit an enfilading fire along any side of the fort, and was
about one hundred and thirty-five feet square on the outside,
with walls three feet thick at the bottom and about a foot and
a half wide at the top, and fifteen feet high. It took a long
time to build that wall, and we all turned in and helped except
von Schoenvorts, who, by the way, had not spoken to me except
in the line of official business since our encounter--a condition
of armed neutrality which suited me to a T. We have just finished
it, the last touches being put on today. I quit about a week ago
and commenced working on this chronicle for our strange adventures,
which will account for any minor errors in chronology which may
have crept in; there was so much material that I may have made
some mistakes, but I think they are but minor and few.
I see in reading over the last few pages that I neglected to
state that Lys finally discovered that the Neanderthal man
possessed a language. She had learned to speak it, and so have
I, to some extent. It was he--his name he says is Am, or Ahm--
who told us that this country is called Caspak. When we asked
him how far it extended, he waved both arms about his head in an
all-including gesture which took in, apparently, the entire universe.
He is more tractable now, and we are going to release him, for he
has assured us that he will not permit his fellows to harm us.
He calls us Galus and says that in a short time he will be a Galu.
It is not quite clear to us what he means. He says that there are
many Galus north of us, and that as soon as he becomes one he will
go and live with them.
Ahm went out to hunt with us yesterday and was much impressed by
the ease with which our rifles brought down antelopes and deer.
We have been living upon the fat of the land, Ahm, having shown
us the edible fruits, tubers and herbs, and twice a week we go
out after fresh meat. A certain proportion of this we dry and
store away, for we do not know what may come. Our drying process
is really smoking. We have also dried a large quantity of two
varieties of cereal which grow wild a few miles south of us.
One of these is a giant Indian maize--a lofty perennial often fifty
and sixty feet in height, with ears the size off a man's body and
kernels as large as your fist. We have had to construct a second
store house for the great quantity of this that we have gathered.
September 3, 1916: Three months ago today the torpedo from the
U-33 started me from the peaceful deck of the American liner upon
the strange voyage which has ended here in Caspak. We have settled
down to an acceptance of our fate, for all are convinced that none
of us will ever see the outer world again. Ahm's repeated assertions
that there are human beings like ourselves in Caspak have roused
the men to a keen desire for exploration. I sent out one party
last week under Bradley. Ahm, who is now free to go and come as
he wishes, accompanied them. They marched about twenty-five miles
due west, encountering many terrible beasts and reptiles and not
a few manlike creatures whom Ahm sent away. Here is Bradley's
report of the expedition:
Marched fifteen miles the first day, camping on the bank of a
large stream which runs southward. Game was plentiful and we saw
several varieties which we had not before encountered in Caspak.
Just before making camp we were charged by an enormous woolly
rhinoceros, which Plesser dropped with a perfect shot. We had
rhinoceros-steaks for supper. Ahm called the thing "Atis." It was
almost a continuous battle from the time we left the fort until we
arrived at camp. The mind of man can scarce conceive the plethora
of carnivorous life in this lost world; and their prey, of course,
is even more abundant.
The second day we marched about ten miles to the foot of the cliffs.
Passed through dense forests close to the base of the cliffs.
Saw manlike creatures and a low order of ape in one band, and
some of the men swore that there was a white man among them.
They were inclined to attack us at first; but a volley from our
rifles caused them to change their minds. We scaled the cliffs
as far as we could; but near the top they are absolutely
perpendicular without any sufficient cleft or protuberance to
give hand or foot-hold. All were disappointed, for we hungered
for a view of the ocean and the outside world. We even had a
hope that we might see and attract the attention of a passing ship.
Our exploration has determined one thing which will probably
be of little value to us and never heard of beyond Caprona's
walls--this crater was once entirely filled with water.
Indisputable evidence of this is on the face of the cliffs.
Our return journey occupied two days and was as filled with
adventure as usual. We are all becoming accustomed to adventure.
It is beginning to pall on us. We suffered no casualties and
there was no illness.
I had to smile as I read Bradley's report. In those four days
he had doubtless passed through more adventures than an African
big-game hunter experiences in a lifetime, and yet he covered it
all in a few lines. Yes, we are becoming accustomed to adventure.
Not a day passes that one or more of us does not face death at
least once. Ahm taught us a few things that have proved
profitable and saved us much ammunition, which it is useless
to expend except for food or in the last recourse of selfpreservation.
Now when we are attacked by large flying reptiles
we run beneath spreading trees; when land carnivora threaten us,
we climb into trees, and we have learned not to fire at any of
the dinosaurs unless we can keep out of their reach for at least
two minutes after hitting them in the brain or spine, or five
minutes after puncturing their hearts--it takes them so long to die.
To hit them elsewhere is worse than useless, for they do not seem
to notice it, and we had discovered that such shots do not kill
or even disable them.
September 7, 1916: Much has happened since I last wrote. Bradley is
away again on another exploration expedition to the cliffs. He expects
to be gone several weeks and to follow along their base in search of
a point where they may be scaled. He took Sinclair, Brady, James,
and Tippet with him. Ahm has disappeared. He has been gone about
three days; but the most startling thing I have on record is that
von Schoenvorts and Olson while out hunting the other day discovered
oil about fifteen miles north of us beyond the sandstone cliffs.
Olson says there is a geyser of oil there, and von Schoenvorts is
making preparations to refine it. If he succeeds, we shall have
the means for leaving Caspak and returning to our own world.
I can scarce believe the truth of it. We are all elated to the
seventh heaven of bliss. Pray God we shall not be disappointed.
I have tried on several occasions to broach the subject of my
love to Lys; but she will not listen.
Chapter 7
October 8, 1916: This is the last entry I shall make upon
my manuscript. When this is done, I shall be through. Though I
may pray that it reaches the haunts of civilized man, my better
judgment tells me that it will never be perused by other eyes
than mine, and that even though it should, it would be too late
to avail me. I am alone upon the summit of the great cliff
overlooking the broad Pacific. A chill south wind bites at my
marrow, while far below me I can see the tropic foliage of Caspak
on the one hand and huge icebergs from the near Antarctic upon
the other. Presently I shall stuff my folded manuscript into the
thermos bottle I have carried with me for the purpose since I
left the fort--Fort Dinosaur we named it--and hurl it far outward
over the cliff-top into the Pacific. What current washes the
shore of Caprona I know not; whither my bottle will be borne I
cannot even guess; but I have done all that mortal man may do to
notify the world of my whereabouts and the dangers that threaten
those of us who remain alive in Caspak--if there be any other
than myself.
About the 8th of September I accompanied Olson and von
Schoenvorts to the oil-geyser. Lys came with us, and we took a
number of things which von Schoenvorts wanted for the purpose
of erecting a crude refinery. We went up the coast some ten or
twelve miles in the U-33, tying up to shore near the mouth of a
small stream which emptied great volumes of crude oil into the
sea--I find it difficult to call this great lake by any other name.
Then we disembarked and went inland about five miles, where we came
upon a small lake entirely filled with oil, from the center of
which a geyser of oil spouted.
On the edge of the lake we helped von Schoenvorts build his
primitive refinery. We worked with him for two days until he got
things fairly well started, and then we returned to Fort Dinosaur,
as I feared that Bradley might return and be worried by our absence.
The U-33 merely landed those of us that were to return to the fort
and then retraced its course toward the oil-well. Olson, Whitely,
Wilson, Miss La Rue, and myself disembarked, while von Schoenvorts
and his German crew returned to refine the oil. The next day
Plesser and two other Germans came down overland for ammunition.
Plesser said they had been attacked by wild men and had exhausted
a great deal of ammunition. He also asked permission to get some
dried meat and maize, saying that they were so busy with the work
of refining that they had no time to hunt. I let him have
everything he asked for, and never once did a suspicion of their
intentions enter my mind. They returned to the oil-well the same
day, while we continued with the multitudinous duties of camp life.
For three days nothing of moment occurred. Bradley did not
return; nor did we have any word from von Schoenvorts. In the
evening Lys and I went up into one of the bastion towers and
listened to the grim and terrible nightlife of the frightful ages
of the past. Once a saber-tooth screamed almost beneath us, and
the girl shrank close against me. As I felt her body against
mine, all the pent love of these three long months shattered the
bonds of timidity and conviction, and I swept her up into my arms
and covered her face and lips with kisses. She did not struggle
to free herself; but instead her dear arms crept up about my neck
and drew my own face even closer to hers.
"You love me, Lys?" I cried.
I felt her head nod an affirmative against my breast. "Tell me,
Lys," I begged, "tell me in words how much you love me."
Low and sweet and tender came the answer: "I love you beyond
all conception."
My heart filled with rapture then, and it fills now as it has
each of the countless times I have recalled those dear words, as
it shall fill always until death has claimed me. I may never see
her again; she may not know how I love her--she may question, she
may doubt; but always true and steady, and warm with the fires of
love my heart beats for the girl who said that night: "I love you
beyond all conception."
For a long time we sat there upon the little bench constructed for
the sentry that we had not as yet thought it necessary to post in
more than one of the four towers. We learned to know one another
better in those two brief hours than we had in all the months that
had intervened since we had been thrown together. She told me that
she had loved me from the first, and that she never had loved von
Schoenvorts, their engagement having been arranged by her aunt for
social reasons.
That was the happiest evening of my life; nor ever do I expect
to experience its like; but at last, as is the way of happiness,
it terminated. We descended to the compound, and I walked with Lys
to the door of her quarters. There again she kissed me and bade
me good night, and then she went in and closed the door.
I went to my own room, and there I sat by the light of one of the
crude candles we had made from the tallow of the beasts we had
killed, and lived over the events of the evening. At last I
turned in and fell asleep, dreaming happy dreams and planning for
the future, for even in savage Caspak I was bound to make my girl
safe and happy. It was daylight when I awoke. Wilson, who was
acting as cook, was up and astir at his duties in the cook-house.
The others slept; but I arose and followed by Nobs went down to
the stream for a plunge. As was our custom, I went armed with
both rifle and revolver; but I stripped and had my swim without
further disturbance than the approach of a large hyena, a number
of which occupied caves in the sand-stone cliffs north of the camp.
These brutes are enormous and exceedingly ferocious. I imagine
they correspond with the cave-hyena of prehistoric times.
This fellow charged Nobs, whose Capronian experiences had taught
him that discretion is the better part of valor--with the result
that he dived head foremost into the stream beside me after giving
vent to a series of ferocious growls which had no more effect upon
Hyaena spelaeus than might a sweet smile upon an enraged tusker.
Afterward I shot the beast, and Nobs had a feast while I dressed,
for he had become quite a raw-meat eater during our numerous hunting
expeditions, upon which we always gave him a portion of the kill.
Whitely and Olson were up and dressed when we returned, and we
all sat down to a good breakfast. I could not but wonder at Lys'
absence from the table, for she had always been one of the
earliest risers in camp; so about nine o'clock, becoming
apprehensive lest she might be indisposed, I went to the door of
her room and knocked. I received no response, though I finally
pounded with all my strength; then I turned the knob and entered,
only to find that she was not there. Her bed had been occupied,
and her clothing lay where she had placed it the previous night
upon retiring; but Lys was gone. To say that I was distracted
with terror would be to put it mildly. Though I knew she could
not be in camp, I searched every square inch of the compound and
all the buildings, yet without avail.
It was Whitely who discovered the first clue--a huge human-like
footprint in the soft earth beside the spring, and indications of
a struggle in the mud.
Then I found a tiny handkerchief close to the outer wall.
Lys had been stolen! It was all too plain. Some hideous member
of the ape-man tribe had entered the fort and carried her off.
While I stood stunned and horrified at the frightful evidence
before me, there came from the direction of the great lake an
increasing sound that rose to the volume of a shriek. We all
looked up as the noise approached apparently just above us, and
a moment later there followed a terrific explosion which hurled
us to the ground. When we clambered to our feet, we saw a large
section of the west wall torn and shattered. It was Olson who
first recovered from his daze sufficiently to guess the
explanation of the phenomenon.
"A shell!" he cried. "And there ain't no shells in Caspak
besides what's on the U-33. The dirty boches are shellin'
the fort. Come on!" And he grasped his rifle and started on
a run toward the lake. It was over two miles, but we did not pause
until the harbor was in view, and still we could not see the lake
because of the sandstone cliffs which intervened. We ran as fast
as we could around the lower end of the harbor, scrambled up the
cliffs and at last stood upon their summit in full view of the lake.
Far away down the coast, toward the river through which we had come
to reach the lake, we saw upon the surface the outline of the U-33,
black smoke vomiting from her funnel.
Von Schoenvorts had succeeded in refining the oil! The cur had
broken his every pledge and was leaving us there to our fates.
He had even shelled the fort as a parting compliment; nor could
anything have been more truly Prussian than this leave-taking of
the Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts.
Olson, Whitely, Wilson, and I stood for a moment looking at
one another. It seemed incredible that man could be so
perfidious--that we had really seen with our own eyes the thing
that we had seen; but when we returned to the fort, the shattered
wall gave us ample evidence that there was no mistake.
Then we began to speculate as to whether it had been an ape-man
or a Prussian that had abducted Lys. From what we knew of von
Schoenvorts, we would not have been surprised at anything from
him; but the footprints by the spring seemed indisputable
evidence that one of Caprona's undeveloped men had borne off
the girl I loved.
As soon as I had assured myself that such was the case, I made my
preparations to follow and rescue her. Olson, Whitely, and
Wilson each wished to accompany me; but I told them that they
were needed here, since with Bradley's party still absent and the
Germans gone it was necessary that we conserve our force as far
as might be possible.
Chapter 8
It was a sad leave-taking as in silence I shook hands with each
of the three remaining men. Even poor Nobs appeared dejected as
we quit the compound and set out upon the well-marked spoor of
the abductor. Not once did I turn my eyes backward toward
Fort Dinosaur. I have not looked upon it since--nor in all
likelihood shall I ever look upon it again. The trail led
northwest until it reached the western end of the sandstone
cliffs to the north of the fort; there it ran into a well-defined
path which wound northward into a country we had not as yet explored.
It was a beautiful, gently rolling country, broken by occasional
outcroppings of sandstone and by patches of dense forest relieved
by open, park-like stretches and broad meadows whereon grazed
countless herbivorous animals--red deer, aurochs, and infinite
variety of antelope and at least three distinct species of horse,
the latter ranging in size from a creature about as large as
Nobs to a magnificent animal fourteen to sixteen hands high.
These creatures fed together in perfect amity; nor did they show
any great indications of terror when Nobs and I approached.
They moved out of our way and kept their eyes upon us until we
had passed; then they resumed their feeding.
The path led straight across the clearing into another forest,
lying upon the verge of which I saw a bit of white. It appeared
to stand out in marked contrast and incongruity to all its
surroundings, and when I stopped to examine it, I found that
it was a small strip of muslin--part of the hem of a garment.
At once I was all excitement, for I knew that it was a sign left
by Lys that she had been carried this way; it was a tiny bit torn
from the hem of the undergarment that she wore in lieu of the
night-robes she had lost with the sinking of the liner.
Crushing the bit of fabric to my lips, I pressed on even more
rapidly than before, because I now knew that I was upon the right
trail and that up to this, point at least, Lys still had lived.
I made over twenty miles that day, for I was now hardened to
fatigue and accustomed to long hikes, having spent considerable
time hunting and exploring in the immediate vicinity of camp.
A dozen times that day was my life threatened by fearsome creatures
of the earth or sky, though I could not but note that the farther
north I traveled, the fewer were the great dinosaurs, though they
still persisted in lesser numbers. On the other hand the
quantity of ruminants and the variety and frequency of
carnivorous animals increased. Each square mile of Caspak
harbored its terrors.
At intervals along the way I found bits of muslin, and often they
reassured me when otherwise I should have been doubtful of the trail
to take where two crossed or where there were forks, as occurred
at several points. And so, as night was drawing on, I came to the
southern end of a line of cliffs loftier than any I had seen before,
and as I approached them, there was wafted to my nostrils the pungent
aroma of woodsmoke. What could it mean? There could, to my mind,
be but a single solution: man abided close by, a higher order of
man than we had as yet seen, other than Ahm, the Neanderthal man.
I wondered again as I had so many times that day if it had not been
Ahm who stole Lys.
Cautiously I approached the flank of the cliffs, where they
terminated in an abrupt escarpment as though some all powerful
hand had broken off a great section of rock and set it upon the
surface of the earth. It was now quite dark, and as I crept
around the edge of the cliff, I saw at a little distance a great
fire around which were many figures--apparently human figures.
Cautioning Nobs to silence, and he had learned many lessons in
the value of obedience since we had entered Caspak, I slunk
forward, taking advantage of whatever cover I could find, until
from behind a bush I could distinctly see the creatures assembled
by the fire. They were human and yet not human. I should say
that they were a little higher in the scale of evolution than
Ahm, possibly occupying a place of evolution between that of the
Neanderthal man and what is known as the Grimaldi race. Their features
were distinctly negroid, though their skins were white. A considerable
portion of both torso and limbs were covered with short hair, and
their physical proportions were in many aspects apelike, though not
so much so as were Ahm's. They carried themselves in a more erect
position, although their arms were considerably longer than those
of the Neanderthal man. As I watched them, I saw that they possessed
a language, that they had knowledge of fire and that they carried
besides the wooden club of Ahm, a thing which resembled a crude
stone hatchet. Evidently they were very low in the scale of
humanity, but they were a step upward from those I had previously
seen in Caspak.
But what interested me most was the slender figure of a dainty
girl, clad only in a thin bit of muslin which scarce covered her
knees--a bit of muslin torn and ragged about the lower hem. It was
Lys, and she was alive and so far as I could see, unharmed. A huge
brute with thick lips and prognathous jaw stood at her shoulder.
He was talking loudly and gesticulating wildly. I was close enough
to hear his words, which were similar to the language of Ahm, though
much fuller, for there were many words I could not understand.
However I caught the gist of what he was saying--which in effect
was that he had found and captured this Galu, that she was his
and that he defied anyone to question his right of possession.
It appeared to me, as I afterward learned was the fact, that I was
witnessing the most primitive of marriage ceremonies. The assembled
members of the tribe looked on and listened in a sort of dull and
perfunctory apathy, for the speaker was by far the mightiest of the clan.
There seemed no one to dispute his claims when he said, or rather
shouted, in stentorian tones: "I am Tsa. This is my she.
Who wishes her more than Tsa?"
"I do," I said in the language of Ahm, and I stepped out into the
firelight before them. Lys gave a little cry of joy and started
toward me, but Tsa grasped her arm and dragged her back.
"Who are you?" shrieked Tsa. "I kill! I kill! I kill!"
"The she is mine," I replied, "and I have come to claim her.
I kill if you do not let her come to me." And I raised my pistol
to a level with his heart. Of course the creature had no conception
of the purpose of the strange little implement which I was poking
toward him. With a sound that was half human and half the growl
of a wild beast, he sprang toward me. I aimed at his heart and
fired, and as he sprawled headlong to the ground, the others of
his tribe, overcome by fright at the report of the pistol,
scattered toward the cliffs--while Lys, with outstretched arms,
ran toward me.
As I crushed her to me, there rose from the black night behind us
and then to our right and to our left a series of frightful
screams and shrieks, bellowings, roars and growls. It was the
night-life of this jungle world coming into its own--the huge,
carnivorous nocturnal beasts which make the nights of Caspak hideous.
A shuddering sob ran through Lys' figure. "O God," she cried,
"give me the strength to endure, for his sake!" I saw that
she was upon the verge of a breakdown, after all that she must
have passed through of fear and horror that day, and I tried to
quiet and reassure her as best I might; but even to me the future
looked most unpromising, for what chance of life had we against
the frightful hunters of the night who even now were prowling
closer to us?
Now I turned to see what had become of the tribe, and in the
fitful glare of the fire I perceived that the face of the
cliff was pitted with large holes into which the man-things
were clambering. "Come," I said to Lys, "we must follow them.
We cannot last a half-hour out here. We must find a cave."
Already we could see the blazing green eyes of the hungry carnivora.
I seized a brand from the fire and hurled it out into the night,
and there came back an answering chorus of savage and rageful
protest; but the eyes vanished for a short time. Selecting a
burning branch for each of us, we advanced toward the cliffs,
where we were met by angry threats.
"They will kill us," said Lys. "We may as well keep on in search
of another refuge."
"They will not kill us so surely as will those others out there,"
I replied. "I am going to seek shelter in one of these caves;
nor will the man-things prevent." And I kept on in the direction
of the cliff's base. A huge creature stood upon a ledge and
brandished his stone hatchet. "Come and I will kill you and take
the she," he boasted.
"You saw how Tsa fared when he would have kept my she," I replied
in his own tongue. "Thus will you fare and all your fellows if
you do not permit us to come in peace among you out of the dangers
of the night."
"Go north," he screamed. "Go north among the Galus, and we will
not harm you. Some day will we be Galus; but now we are not.
You do not belong among us. Go away or we will kill you. The she
may remain if she is afraid, and we will keep her; but the he
must depart."
"The he won't depart," I replied, and approached still nearer.
Rough and narrow ledges formed by nature gave access to the
upper caves. A man might scale them if unhampered and unhindered,
but to clamber upward in the face of a belligerent tribe of half-men
and with a girl to assist was beyond my capability.
"I do not fear you," screamed the creature. "You were close to
Tsa; but I am far above you. You cannot harm me as you harmed Tsa.
Go away!"
I placed a foot upon the lowest ledge and clambered upward,
reaching down and pulling Lys to my side. Already I felt safer.
Soon we would be out of danger of the beasts again closing in
upon us. The man above us raised his stone hatchet above his head
and leaped lightly down to meet us. His position above me gave
him a great advantage, or at least so he probably thought, for he
came with every show of confidence. I hated to do it, but there
seemed no other way, and so I shot him down as I had shot down Tsa.
"You see," I cried to his fellows, "that I can kill you wherever
you may be. A long way off I can kill you as well as I can kill
you near by. Let us come among you in peace. I will not harm you
if you do not harm us. We will take a cave high up. Speak!"
"Come, then," said one. "If you will not harm us, you may come.
Take Tsa's hole, which lies above you."
The creature showed us the mouth of a black cave, but he kept at
a distance while he did it, and Lys followed me as I crawled in
to explore. I had matches with me, and in the light of one I
found a small cavern with a flat roof and floor which followed
the cleavage of the strata. Pieces of the roof had fallen at
some long-distant date, as was evidenced by the depth of the
filth and rubble in which they were embedded. Even a superficial
examination revealed the fact that nothing had ever been
attempted that might have improved the livability of the cavern;
nor, should I judge, had it ever been cleaned out. With considerable
difficulty I loosened some of the larger pieces of broken rock which
littered the floor and placed them as a barrier before the doorway.
It was too dark to do more than this. I then gave Lys a piece of
dried meat, and sitting inside the entrance, we dined as must have
some of our ancient forbears at the dawning of the age of man, while
far below the open diapason of the savage night rose weird and
horrifying to our ears. In the light of the great fire still
burning we could see huge, skulking forms, and in the blacker
background countless flaming eyes.
Lys shuddered, and I put my arm around her and drew her to me;
and thus we sat throughout the hot night. She told me of her
abduction and of the fright she had undergone, and together we
thanked God that she had come through unharmed, because the great
brute had dared not pause along the danger-infested way. She said
that they had but just reached the cliffs when I arrived, for on
several occasions her captor had been forced to take to the trees
with her to escape the clutches of some hungry cave-lion or sabertoothed
tiger, and that twice they had been obliged to remain for
considerable periods before the beasts had retired.
Nobs, by dint of much scrambling and one or two narrow escapes
from death, had managed to follow us up the cliff and was now
curled between me and the doorway, having devoured a piece of the
dried meat, which he seemed to relish immensely. He was the
first to fall asleep; but I imagine we must have followed suit
soon, for we were both tired. I had laid aside my ammunitionbelt
and rifle, though both were close beside me; but my pistol
I kept in my lap beneath my hand. However, we were not disturbed
during the night, and when I awoke, the sun was shining on the
tree-tops in the distance. Lys' head had drooped to my breast,
and my arm was still about her.
Shortly afterward Lys awoke, and for a moment she could not seem
to comprehend her situation. She looked at me and then turned
and glanced at my arm about her, and then she seemed quite
suddenly to realize the scantiness of her apparel and drew away,
covering her face with her palms and blushing furiously. I drew
her back toward me and kissed her, and then she threw her arms
about my neck and wept softly in mute surrender to the inevitable.
It was an hour later before the tribe began to stir about.
We watched them from our "apartment," as Lys called it.
Neither men nor women wore any sort of clothing or ornaments,
and they all seemed to be about of an age; nor were there any
babies or children among them. This was, to us, the strangest
and most inexplicable of facts, but it recalled to us that
though we had seen many of the lesser developed wild people
of Caspak, we had never yet seen a child or an old man or woman.
After a while they became less suspicious of us and then quite
friendly in their brutish way. They picked at the fabric of our
clothing, which seemed to interest them, and examined my rifle
and pistol and the ammunition in the belt around my waist.
I showed them the thermos-bottle, and when I poured a little water
from it, they were delighted, thinking that it was a spring which
I carried about with me--a never-failing source of water supply.
One thing we both noticed among their other characteristics: they
never laughed nor smiled; and then we remembered that Ahm had
never done so, either. I asked them if they knew Ahm; but they
said they did not.
One of them said: "Back there we may have known him." And he
jerked his head to the south.
"You came from back there?" I asked. He looked at me in surprise.
"We all come from there," he said. "After a while we go there."
And this time he jerked his head toward the north. "Be Galus,"
he concluded.
Many times now had we heard this reference to becoming Galus.
Ahm had spoken of it many times. Lys and I decided that it was
a sort of original religious conviction, as much a part of them
as their instinct for self-preservation--a primal acceptance of
a hereafter and a holier state. It was a brilliant theory, but
it was all wrong. I know it now, and how far we were from
guessing the wonderful, the miraculous, the gigantic truth which
even yet I may only guess at--the thing that sets Caspak apart
from all the rest of the world far more definitely than her
isolated geographical position or her impregnable barrier of
giant cliffs. If I could live to return to civilization, I
should have meat for the clergy and the layman to chew upon for
years--and for the evolutionists, too.
After breakfast the men set out to hunt, while the women went to
a large pool of warm water covered with a green scum and filled
with billions of tadpoles. They waded in to where the water was
about a foot deep and lay down in the mud. They remained there
from one to two hours and then returned to the cliff. While we
were with them, we saw this same thing repeated every morning;
but though we asked them why they did it we could get no reply
which was intelligible to us. All they vouchsafed in way of
explanation was the single word Ata. They tried to get Lys to go
in with them and could not understand why she refused. After the
first day I went hunting with the men, leaving my pistol and
Nobs with Lys, but she never had to use them, for no reptile or
beast ever approached the pool while the women were there--nor,
so far as we know, at other times. There was no spoor of wild
beast in the soft mud along the banks, and the water certainly
didn't look fit to drink.
This tribe lived largely upon the smaller animals which they
bowled over with their stone hatchets after making a wide circle
about their quarry and driving it so that it had to pass close to
one of their number. The little horses and the smaller antelope
they secured in sufficient numbers to support life, and they also
ate numerous varieties of fruits and vegetables. They never
brought in more than sufficient food for their immediate needs;
but why bother? The food problem of Caspak is not one to cause
worry to her inhabitants.
The fourth day Lys told me that she thought she felt equal to
attempting the return journey on the morrow, and so I set out for
the hunt in high spirits, for I was anxious to return to the fort
and learn if Bradley and his party had returned and what had been
the result of his expedition. I also wanted to relieve their
minds as to Lys and myself, as I knew that they must have already
given us up for dead. It was a cloudy day, though warm, as it
always is in Caspak. It seemed odd to realize that just a few
miles away winter lay upon the storm-tossed ocean, and that snow
might be falling all about Caprona; but no snow could ever
penetrate the damp, hot atmosphere of the great crater.
We had to go quite a bit farther than usual before we could
surround a little bunch of antelope, and as I was helping drive
them, I saw a fine red deer a couple of hundred yards behind me.
He must have been asleep in the long grass, for I saw him rise
and look about him in a bewildered way, and then I raised my gun
and let him have it. He dropped, and I ran forward to finish him
with the long thin knife, which one of the men had given me; but
just as I reached him, he staggered to his feet and ran on for
another two hundred yards--when I dropped him again. Once more
was this repeated before I was able to reach him and cut his
throat; then I looked around for my companions, as I wanted them
to come and carry the meat home; but I could see nothing of them.
I called a few times and waited, but there was no response and no
one came. At last I became disgusted, and cutting off all the
meat that I could conveniently carry, I set off in the direction
of the cliffs. I must have gone about a mile before the truth
dawn upon me--I was lost, hopelessly lost.
The entire sky was still completely blotted out by dense clouds;
nor was there any landmark visible by which I might have taken
my bearings. I went on in the direction I thought was south but
which I now imagine must have been about due north, without
detecting a single familiar object. In a dense wood I suddenly
stumbled upon a thing which at first filled me with hope and later
with the most utter despair and dejection. It was a little mound
of new-turned earth sprinkled with flowers long since withered,
and at one end was a flat slab of sandstone stuck in the ground.
It was a grave, and it meant for me that I had at last stumbled
into a country inhabited by human beings. I would find them;
they would direct me to the cliffs; perhaps they would accompany
me and take us back with them to their abodes--to the abodes of
men and women like ourselves. My hopes and my imagination ran
riot in the few yards I had to cover to reach that lonely grave
and stoop that I might read the rude characters scratched upon
the simple headstone. This is what I read:
SEPT., A.D. 1916 R. I. P.
Tippet! It seemed incredible. Tippet lying here in this gloomy wood!
Tippet dead! He had been a good man, but the personal loss was not
what affected me. It was the fact that this silent grave gave
evidence that Bradley had come this far upon his expedition and that
he too probably was lost, for it was not our intention that he should
be long gone. If I had stumbled upon the grave of one of the party,
was it not within reason to believe that the bones of the others lay
scattered somewhere near?
Chapter 9
As I stood looking down upon that sad and lonely mound, wrapped
in the most dismal of reflections and premonitions, I was
suddenly seized from behind and thrown to earth. As I fell, a
warm body fell on top of me, and hands grasped my arms and legs.
When I could look up, I saw a number of giant fingers pinioning
me down, while others stood about surveying me. Here again was
a new type of man--a higher type than the primitive tribe I had
just quitted. They were a taller people, too, with better-shaped
skulls and more intelligent faces. There were less of the ape
characteristics about their features, and less of the negroid, too.
They carried weapons, stone-shod spears, stone knives, and hatchets--
and they wore ornaments and breech-cloths--the former of feathers
worn in their hair and the latter made of a single snake-skin cured
with the head on, the head depending to their knees.
Of course I did not take in all these details upon the instant of
my capture, for I was busy with other matters. Three of the
warriors were sitting upon me, trying to hold me down by main
strength and awkwardness, and they were having their hands full
in the doing, I can tell you. I don't like to appear conceited,
but I may as well admit that I am proud of my strength and the
science that I have acquired and developed in the directing of
it--that and my horsemanship I always have been proud of. And now,
that day, all the long hours that I had put into careful study,
practice and training brought me in two or three minutes a full
return upon my investment. Californians, as a rule, are familiar
with ju-jutsu, and I especially had made a study of it for several
years, both at school and in the gym of the Los Angeles Athletic
Club, while recently I had had, in my employ, a Jap who was a
wonder at the art.
It took me just about thirty seconds to break the elbow of one of
my assailants, trip another and send him stumbling backward among
his fellows, and throw the third completely over my head in such
a way that when he fell his neck was broken. In the instant that
the others of the party stood in mute and inactive surprise, I
unslung my rifle--which, carelessly, I had been carrying across
my back; and when they charged, as I felt they would, I put a
bullet in the forehead of one of them. This stopped them all
temporarily--not the death of their fellow, but the report of the
rifle, the first they had ever heard. Before they were ready to
attack me again, one of them spoke in a commanding tone to his
fellows, and in a language similar but still more comprehensive
than that of the tribe to the south, as theirs was more complete
than Ahm's. He commanded them to stand back and then he advanced
and addressed me.
He asked me who I was, from whence I came and what my intentions were.
I replied that I was a stranger in Caspak, that I was lost and that
my only desire was to find my way back to my companions. He asked
where they were and I told him toward the south somewhere, using
the Caspakian phrase which, literally translated, means "toward
the beginning." His surprise showed upon his face before he voiced
it in words. "There are no Galus there," he said.
"I tell you," I said angrily, "that I am from another country,
far from Caspak, far beyond the high cliffs. I do not know who
the Galus may be; I have never seen them. This is the farthest
north I have been. Look at me--look at my clothing and my weapons.
Have you ever seen a Galu or any other creature in Caspak who
possessed such things?"
He had to admit that he had not, and also that he was much
interested in me, my rifle and the way I had handled his
three warriors. Finally he became half convinced that I was
telling him the truth and offered to aid me if I would show him
how I had thrown the man over my head and also make him a present
of the "bang-spear," as he called it. I refused to give him my
rifle, but promised to show him the trick he wished to learn if
he would guide me in the right direction. He told me that he
would do so tomorrow, that it was too late today and that I might
come to their village and spend the night with them. I was loath
to lose so much time; but the fellow was obdurate, and so I
accompanied them. The two dead men they left where they had
fallen, nor gave them a second glance--thus cheap is life upon Caspak.
These people also were cave-dwellers, but their caves showed the
result of a higher intelligence that brought them a step nearer
to civilized man than the tribe next "toward the beginning."
The interiors of their caverns were cleared of rubbish, though
still far from clean, and they had pallets of dried grasses
covered with the skins of leopard, lynx, and bear, while before
the entrances were barriers of stone and small, rudely circular
stone ovens. The walls of the cavern to which I was conducted were
covered with drawings scratched upon the sandstone. There were
the outlines of the giant red-deer, of mammoths, of tigers and
other beasts. Here, as in the last tribe, there were no children
or any old people. The men of this tribe had two names, or
rather names of two syllables, and their language contained words
of two syllables; whereas in the tribe of Tsa the words were all
of a single syllable, with the exception of a very few like Atis
and Galus. The chief's name was To-jo, and his household
consisted of seven females and himself. These women were much
more comely, or rather less hideous than those of Tsa's people;
one of them, even, was almost pretty, being less hairy and having
a rather nice skin, with high coloring.
They were all much interested in me and examined my clothing and
equipment carefully, handling and feeling and smelling of each article.
I learned from them that their people were known as Bandlu, or
spear-men; Tsa's race was called Sto-lu--hatchet-men. Below these
in the scale of evolution came the Bo-lu, or club-men, and then the
Alus, who had no weapons and no language. In that word I recognized
what to me seemed the most remarkable discovery I had made upon
Caprona, for unless it were mere coincidence, I had come upon a word
that had been handed down from the beginning of spoken language upon
earth, been handed down for millions of years, perhaps, with
little change. It was the sole remaining thread of the ancient
woof of a dawning culture which had been woven when Caprona was
a fiery mount upon a great land-mass teeming with life. It linked
the unfathomable then to the eternal now. And yet it may have been
pure coincidence; my better judgment tells me that it is coincidence
that in Caspak the term for speechless man is Alus, and in the outer
world of our own day it is Alalus.
The comely woman of whom I spoke was called So-ta, and she took
such a lively interest in me that To-jo finally objected to her
attentions, emphasizing his displeasure by knocking her down and
kicking her into a corner of the cavern. I leaped between them
while he was still kicking her, and obtaining a quick hold upon
him, dragged him screaming with pain from the cave. Then I made
him promise not to hurt the she again, upon pain of worse punishment.
So-ta gave me a grateful look; but To-jo and the balance of his women
were sullen and ominous.
Later in the evening So-ta confided to me that she was soon to
leave the tribe.
"So-ta soon to be Kro-lu," she confided in a low whisper. I asked
her what a Kro-lu might be, and she tried to explain, but I do not
yet know if I understood her. From her gestures I deduced that the
Kro-lus were a people who were armed with bows and arrows, had
vessels in which to cook their food and huts of some sort in which
they lived, and were accompanied by animals. It was all very
fragmentary and vague, but the idea seemed to be that the Kro-lus
were a more advanced people than the Band-lus. I pondered a long
time upon all that I had heard, before sleep came to me. I tried
to find some connection between these various races that would
explain the universal hope which each of them harbored that some
day they would become Galus. So-ta had given me a suggestion; but
the resulting idea was so weird that I could scarce even entertain
it; yet it coincided with Ahm's expressed hope, with the various
steps in evolution I had noted in the several tribes I had encountered
and with the range of type represented in each tribe. For example,
among the Band-lu were such types as So-ta, who seemed to me to be
the highest in the scale of evolution, and To-jo, who was just a
shade nearer the ape, while there were others who had flatter noses,
more prognathous faces and hairier bodies. The question puzzled me.
Possibly in the outer world the answer to it is locked in the bosom
of the Sphinx. Who knows? I do not.
Thinking the thoughts of a lunatic or a dope-fiend, I fell asleep;
and when I awoke, my hands and feet were securely tied and my
weapons had been taken from me. How they did it without awakening
me I cannot tell you. It was humiliating, but it was true.
To-jo stood above me. The early light of morning was dimly
filtering into the cave.
"Tell me," he demanded, "how to throw a man over my head and
break his neck, for I am going to kill you, and I wish to know
this thing before you die."
Of all the ingenuous declarations I have ever heard, this one
copped the proverbial bun. It struck me as so funny that, even
in the face of death, I laughed. Death, I may remark here, had,
however, lost much of his terror for me. I had become a disciple
of Lys' fleeting philosophy of the valuelessness of human life.
I realized that she was quite right--that we were but comic figures
hopping from the cradle to the grave, of interest to practically
no other created thing than ourselves and our few intimates.
Behind To-jo stood So-ta. She raised one hand with the palm
toward me--the Caspakian equivalent of a negative shake of the head.
"Let me think about it," I parried, and To-jo said that he would
wait until night. He would give me a day to think it over; then
he left, and the women left--the men for the hunt, and the women,
as I later learned from So-ta, for the warm pool where they immersed
their bodies as did the shes of the Sto-lu. "Ata," explained So-ta,
when I questioned her as to the purpose of this matutinal rite;
but that was later.
I must have lain there bound and uncomfortable for two or three
hours when at last So-ta entered the cave. She carried a sharp
knife--mine, in fact, and with it she cut my bonds.
"Come!" she said. "So-ta will go with you back to the Galus.
It is time that So-ta left the Band-lu. Together we will go to
the Kro-lu, and after that the Galus. To-jo will kill you tonight.
He will kill So-ta if he knows that So-ta aided you. We will
go together."
"I will go with you to the Kro-lu," I replied, "but then I must
return to my own people `toward the beginning.'"
"You cannot go back," she said. "It is forbidden. They would
kill you. Thus far have you come--there is no returning."
"But I must return," I insisted. "My people are there. I must
return and lead them in this direction."
She insisted, and I insisted; but at last we compromised. I was
to escort her as far as the country of the Kro-lu and then I was
to go back after my own people and lead them north into a land
where the dangers were fewer and the people less murderous.
She brought me all my belongings that had been filched from
me--rifle, ammunition, knife, and thermos bottle, and then hand
in hand we descended the cliff and set off toward the north.
For three days we continued upon our way, until we arrived
outside a village of thatched huts just at dusk. So-ta said
that she would enter alone; I must not be seen if I did not
intend to remain, as it was forbidden that one should return
and live after having advanced this far. So she left me.
She was a dear girl and a stanch and true comrade--more like
a man than a woman. In her simple barbaric way she was both
refined and chaste. She had been the wife of To-jo. Among the
Kro-lu she would find another mate after the manner of the
strange Caspakian world; but she told me very frankly that
whenever I returned, she would leave her mate and come to me, as
she preferred me above all others. I was becoming a ladies' man
after a lifetime of bashfulness!
At the outskirts of the village I left her without even seeing
the sort of people who inhabited it, and set off through the
growing darkness toward the south. On the third day I made a
detour westward to avoid the country of the Band-lu, as I did not
care to be detained by a meeting with To-jo. On the sixth day I
came to the cliffs of the Sto-lu, and my heart beat fast as I
approached them, for here was Lys. Soon I would hold her tight
in my arms again; soon her warm lips would merge with mine.
I felt sure that she was still safe among the hatchet people, and
I was already picturing the joy and the love-light in her eyes
when she should see me once more as I emerged from the last clump
of trees and almost ran toward the cliffs.
It was late in the morning. The women must have returned from
the pool; yet as I drew near, I saw no sign of life whatever.
"They have remained longer," I thought; but when I was quite
close to the base of the cliffs, I saw that which dashed my hopes
and my happiness to earth. Strewn along the ground were a score
of mute and horrible suggestions of what had taken place during
my absence--bones picked clean of flesh, the bones of manlike
creatures, the bones of many of the tribe of Sto-lu; nor in any
cave was there sign of life.
Closely I examined the ghastly remains fearful each instant that
I should find the dainty skull that would shatter my happiness
for life; but though I searched diligently, picking up every
one of the twenty-odd skulls, I found none that was the skull
of a creature but slightly removed from the ape. Hope, then,
still lived. For another three days I searched north and south,
east and west for the hatchetmen of Caspak; but never a trace of
them did I find. It was raining most of the time now, and the
weather was as near cold as it ever seems to get on Caprona.
At last I gave up the search and set off toward Fort Dinosaur.
For a week--a week filled with the terrors and dangers of a
primeval world--I pushed on in the direction I thought was south.
The sun never shone; the rain scarcely ever ceased falling.
The beasts I met with were fewer in number but infinitely more
terrible in temper; yet I lived on until there came to me the
realization that I was hopelessly lost, that a year of sunshine
would not again give me my bearings; and while I was cast down by
this terrifying knowledge, the knowledge that I never again could
find Lys, I stumbled upon another grave--the grave of William James,
with its little crude headstone and its scrawled characters
recording that he had died upon the 13th of September--killed by
a saber-tooth tiger.
I think that I almost gave up then. Never in my life have I felt
more hopeless or helpless or alone. I was lost. I could not
find my friends. I did not even know that they still lived; in
fact, I could not bring myself to believe that they did. I was
sure that Lys was dead. I wanted myself to die, and yet I clung
to life--useless and hopeless and harrowing a thing as it had become.
I clung to life because some ancient, reptilian forbear had clung
to life and transmitted to me through the ages the most powerful
motive that guided his minute brain--the motive of self-preservation.
At last I came to the great barrier-cliffs; and after three days
of mad effort--of maniacal effort--I scaled them. I built crude
ladders; I wedged sticks in narrow fissures; I chopped toe-holds
and finger-holds with my long knife; but at last I scaled them.
Near the summit I came upon a huge cavern. It is the abode of
some mighty winged creature of the Triassic--or rather it was.
Now it is mine. I slew the thing and took its abode. I reached
the summit and looked out upon the broad gray terrible Pacific of
the far-southern winter. It was cold up there. It is cold here
today; yet here I sit watching, watching, watching for the thing
I know will never come--for a sail.
Chapter 10
Once a day I descend to the base of the cliff and hunt, and fill
my stomach with water from a clear cold spring. I have three
gourds which I fill with water and take back to my cave against
the long nights. I have fashioned a spear and a bow and arrow,
that I may conserve my ammunition, which is running low. My clothes
are worn to shreds. Tomorrow I shall discard them for leopard-skins
which I have tanned and sewn into a garment strong and warm. It is
cold up here. I have a fire burning and I sit bent over it while
I write; but I am safe here. No other living creature ventures
to the chill summit of the barrier cliffs. I am safe, and I am
alone with my sorrows and my remembered joys--but without hope.
It is said that hope springs eternal in the human breast; but there
is none in mine.
I am about done. Presently I shall fold these pages and push
them into my thermos bottle. I shall cork it and screw the cap
tight, and then I shall hurl it as far out into the sea as my
strength will permit. The wind is off-shore; the tide is running
out; perhaps it will be carried into one of those numerous
ocean-currents which sweep perpetually from pole to pole and
from continent to continent, to be deposited at last upon some
inhabited shore. If fate is kind and this does happen, then, for
God's sake, come and get me!
It was a week ago that I wrote the preceding paragraph, which I
thought would end the written record of my life upon Caprona.
I had paused to put a new point on my quill and stir the crude ink
(which I made by crushing a black variety of berry and mixing it
with water) before attaching my signature, when faintly from the
valley far below came an unmistakable sound which brought me to
my feet, trembling with excitement, to peer eagerly downward from
my dizzy ledge. How full of meaning that sound was to me you may
guess when I tell you that it was the report of a firearm! For a
moment my gaze traversed the landscape beneath until it was
caught and held by four figures near the base of the cliff--a
human figure held at bay by three hyaenodons, those ferocious and
blood-thirsty wild dogs of the Eocene. A fourth beast lay dead
or dying near by.
I couldn't be sure, looking down from above as I was; but yet I
trembled like a leaf in the intuitive belief that it was Lys, and
my judgment served to confirm my wild desire, for whoever it was
carried only a pistol, and thus had Lys been armed. The first
wave of sudden joy which surged through me was short-lived in the
face of the swift-following conviction that the one who fought
below was already doomed. Luck and only luck it must have
been which had permitted that first shot to lay low one of the
savage creatures, for even such a heavy weapon as my pistol is
entirely inadequate against even the lesser carnivora of Caspak.
In a moment the three would charge! A futile shot would but tend
more greatly to enrage the one it chanced to hit; and then the
three would drag down the little human figure and tear it to pieces.
And maybe it was Lys! My heart stood still at the thought, but mind
and muscle responded to the quick decision I was forced to make.
There was but a single hope--a single chance--and I took it.
I raised my rifle to my shoulder and took careful aim. It was
a long shot, a dangerous shot, for unless one is accustomed to
it, shooting from a considerable altitude is most deceptive work.
There is, though, something about marksmanship which is quite
beyond all scientific laws.
Upon no other theory can I explain my marksmanship of that moment.
Three times my rifle spoke--three quick, short syllables of death.
I did not take conscious aim; and yet at each report a beast
crumpled in its tracks!
From my ledge to the base of the cliff is a matter of several
thousand feet of dangerous climbing; yet I venture to say that
the first ape from whose loins my line has descended never could
have equaled the speed with which I literally dropped down the
face of that rugged escarpment. The last two hundred feet is
over a steep incline of loose rubble to the valley bottom, and I
had just reached the top of this when there arose to my ears an
agonized cry--"Bowen! Bowen! Quick, my love, quick!"
I had been too much occupied with the dangers of the descent to
glance down toward the valley; but that cry which told me that it
was indeed Lys, and that she was again in danger, brought my eyes
quickly upon her in time to see a hairy, burly brute seize her
and start off at a run toward the near-by wood. From rock to
rock, chamoislike, I leaped downward toward the valley, in
pursuit of Lys and her hideous abductor.
He was heavier than I by many pounds, and so weighted by the
burden he carried that I easily overtook him; and at last he
turned, snarling, to face me. It was Kho of the tribe of Tsa,
the hatchet-men. He recognized me, and with a low growl he
threw Lys aside and came for me. "The she is mine," he cried.
"I kill! I kill!"
I had had to discard my rifle before I commenced the rapid descent
of the cliff, so that now I was armed only with a hunting knife,
and this I whipped from its scabbard as Kho leaped toward me.
He was a mighty beast, mightily muscled, and the urge that has
made males fight since the dawn of life on earth filled him with
the blood-lust and the thirst to slay; but not one whit less did
it fill me with the same primal passions. Two abysmal beasts
sprang at each other's throats that day beneath the shadow of
earth's oldest cliffs--the man of now and the man-thing of the
earliest, forgotten then, imbued by the same deathless passion
that has come down unchanged through all the epochs, periods and
eras of time from the beginning, and which shall continue to the
incalculable end--woman, the imperishable Alpha and Omega of life.
Kho closed and sought my jugular with his teeth. He seemed to
forget the hatchet dangling by its aurochs-hide thong at his hip,
as I forgot, for the moment, the dagger in my hand. And I doubt
not but that Kho would easily have bested me in an encounter of
that sort had not Lys' voice awakened within my momentarily
reverted brain the skill and cunning of reasoning man.
"Bowen!" she cried. "Your knife! Your knife!"
It was enough. It recalled me from the forgotten eon to which my
brain had flown and left me once again a modern man battling with
a clumsy, unskilled brute. No longer did my jaws snap at the
hairy throat before me; but instead my knife sought and found a
space between two ribs over the savage heart. Kho voiced a single
horrid scream, stiffened spasmodically and sank to the earth.
And Lys threw herself into my arms. All the fears and sorrows of
the past were wiped away, and once again I was the happiest of men.
With some misgivings I shortly afterward cast my eyes upward
toward the precarious ledge which ran before my cave, for it
seemed to me quite beyond all reason to expect a dainty modern
belle to essay the perils of that frightful climb. I asked her
if she thought she could brave the ascent, and she laughed gayly
in my face.
"Watch!" she cried, and ran eagerly toward the base of the cliff.
Like a squirrel she clambered swiftly aloft, so that I was forced
to exert myself to keep pace with her. At first she frightened me;
but presently I was aware that she was quite as safe here as was I.
When we finally came to my ledge and I again held her in my arms,
she recalled to my mind that for several weeks she had been living
the life of a cave-girl with the tribe of hatchet-men. They had
been driven from their former caves by another tribe which had slain
many and carried off quite half the females, and the new cliffs to
which they had flown had proven far higher and more precipitous, so
that she had become, through necessity, a most practiced climber.
She told me of Kho's desire for her, since all his females had
been stolen and of how her life had been a constant nightmare of
terror as she sought by night and by day to elude the great brute.
For a time Nobs had been all the protection she required; but one
day he disappeared--nor has she seen him since. She believes that
he was deliberately made away with; and so do I, for we both are
sure that he never would have deserted her. With her means of
protection gone, Lys was now at the mercy of the hatchet-man;
nor was it many hours before he had caught her at the base of the
cliff and seized her; but as he bore her triumphantly aloft toward
his cave, she had managed to break loose and escape him.
"For three days he has pursued me," she said, "through this
horrible world. How I have passed through in safety I cannot
guess, nor how I have always managed to outdistance him; yet I
have done it, until just as you discovered me. Fate was kind
to us, Bowen."
I nodded my head in assent and crushed her to me. And then we
talked and planned as I cooked antelope-steaks over my fire, and
we came to the conclusion that there was no hope of rescue, that
she and I were doomed to live and die upon Caprona. Well, it
might be worse! I would rather live here always with Lys than to
live elsewhere without her; and she, dear girl, says the same of
me; but I am afraid of this life for her. It is a hard, fierce,
dangerous life, and I shall pray always that we shall be rescued
from it--for her sake.
That night the clouds broke, and the moon shone down upon our
little ledge; and there, hand in hand, we turned our faces toward
heaven and plighted our troth beneath the eyes of God. No human
agency could have married us more sacredly than we are wed. We are
man and wife, and we are content. If God wills it, we shall live
out our lives here. If He wills otherwise, then this manuscript
which I shall now consign to the inscrutable forces of the sea
shall fall into friendly hands. However, we are each without hope.
And so we say good-bye in this, our last message to the world beyond
the barrier cliffs.
(Signed) Bowen J. Tyler, Jr. Lys La R. Tyler.

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