Infomotions, Inc.Out of Time's Abyss / Burroughs, Edgar Rice, 1875-1950



Author: Burroughs, Edgar Rice, 1875-1950
Title: Out of Time's Abyss
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): bradley
Contributor(s): Plouffe, Simon, 1956- [Editor]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 37,792 words (really short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 64 (easy)
Identifier: etext553
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Title: Out of Time's Abyss

Author: Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Created by Judith Boss, Omaha, Nebraska





Out of Time's Abyss

By Edgar Rice Burroughs





Chapter I


This is the tale of Bradley after he left Fort Dinosaur upon the
west coast of the great lake that is in the center of the island.

Upon the fourth day of September, 1916, he set out with four
companions, Sinclair, Brady, James, and Tippet, to search along
the base of the barrier cliffs for a point at which they might
be scaled.

Through the heavy Caspakian air, beneath the swollen sun, the
five men marched northwest from Fort Dinosaur, now waist-deep
in lush, jungle grasses starred with myriad gorgeous blooms, now
across open meadow-land and parklike expanses and again plunging
into dense forests of eucalyptus and acacia and giant arboreous
ferns with feathered fronds waving gently a hundred feet above
their heads.

About them upon the ground, among the trees and in the air over
them moved and swung and soared the countless forms of Caspak's
teeming life.  Always were they menaced by some frightful thing
and seldom were their rifles cool, yet even in the brief time
they had dwelt upon Caprona they had become callous to danger,
so that they swung along laughing and chatting like soldiers on
a summer hike.

"This reminds me of South Clark Street," remarked Brady, who had
once served on the traffic squad in Chicago; and as no one asked
him why, he volunteered that it was "because it's no place for
an Irishman."

"South Clark Street and heaven have something in common, then,"
suggested Sinclair.  James and Tippet laughed, and then a hideous
growl broke from a dense thicket ahead and diverted their
attention to other matters.

"One of them behemoths of 'Oly Writ," muttered Tippet as they came
to a halt and with guns ready awaited the almost inevitable charge.

"Hungry lot o' beggars, these," said Bradley; "always trying to
eat everything they see."

For a moment no further sound came from the thicket.  "He may be
feeding now," suggested Bradley.  "We'll try to go around him.
Can't waste ammunition.  Won't last forever.  Follow me."  And he
set off at right angles to their former course, hoping to avert
a charge.  They had taken a dozen steps, perhaps, when the
thicket moved to the advance of the thing within it, the leafy
branches parted, and the hideous head of a gigantic bear emerged.

"Pick your trees," whispered Bradley.  "Can't waste ammunition."

The men looked about them.  The bear took a couple of steps
forward, still growling menacingly.  He was exposed to the
shoulders now.  Tippet took one look at the monster and bolted
for the nearest tree; and then the bear charged.  He charged
straight for Tippet.  The other men scattered for the various
trees they had selected--all except Bradley.  He stood watching
Tippet and the bear.  The man had a good start and the tree was
not far away; but the speed of the enormous creature behind him
was something to marvel at, yet Tippet was in a fair way to make
his sanctuary when his foot caught in a tangle of roots and down
he went, his rifle flying from his hand and falling several
yards away.  Instantly Bradley's piece was at his shoulder, there
was a sharp report answered by a roar of mingled rage and pain
from the carnivore.  Tippet attempted to scramble to his feet.

"Lie still!" shouted Bradley.  "Can't waste ammunition."

The bear halted in its tracks, wheeled toward Bradley and then
back again toward Tippet.  Again the former's rifle spit angrily,
and the bear turned again in his direction.  Bradley shouted
loudly.  "Come on, you behemoth of Holy Writ!" he cried.  "Come on,
you duffer!  Can't waste ammunition."  And as he saw the bear
apparently upon the verge of deciding to charge him, he
encouraged the idea by backing rapidly away, knowing that an
angry beast will more often charge one who moves than one who
lies still.

And the bear did charge.  Like a bolt of lightning he flashed
down upon the Englishman.  "Now run!"  Bradley called to Tippet
and himself turned in flight toward a nearby tree.  The other
men, now safely ensconced upon various branches, watched the race
with breathless interest.  Would Bradley make it?  It seemed
scarce possible.  And if he didn't!  James gasped at the thought.
Six feet at the shoulder stood the frightful mountain of
blood-mad flesh and bone and sinew that was bearing down with the
speed of an express train upon the seemingly slow-moving man.

It all happened in a few seconds; but they were seconds that
seemed like hours to the men who watched.  They saw Tippet leap
to his feet at Bradley's shouted warning.  They saw him run,
stooping to recover his rifle as he passed the spot where it
had fallen.  They saw him glance back toward Bradley, and then they
saw him stop short of the tree that might have given him safety
and turn back in the direction of the bear.  Firing as he ran,
Tippet raced after the great cave bear--the monstrous thing that
should have been extinct ages before--ran for it and fired even
as the beast was almost upon Bradley.  The men in the trees
scarcely breathed.  It seemed to them such a futile thing for
Tippet to do, and Tippet of all men!  They had never looked upon
Tippet as a coward--there seemed to be no cowards among that
strangely assorted company that Fate had gathered together from
the four corners of the earth--but Tippet was considered a
cautious man.  Overcautious, some thought him.  How futile he and
his little pop-gun appeared as he dashed after that living engine
of destruction!  But, oh, how glorious!  It was some such thought
as this that ran through Brady's mind, though articulated it
might have been expressed otherwise, albeit more forcefully.

Just then it occurred to Brady to fire and he, too, opened upon
the bear, but at the same instant the animal stumbled and fell
forward, though still growling most fearsomely.  Tippet never
stopped running or firing until he stood within a foot of the
brute, which lay almost touching Bradley and was already
struggling to regain its feet.  Placing the muzzle of his gun
against the bear's ear, Tippet pulled the trigger.  The creature
sank limply to the ground and Bradley scrambled to his feet.

"Good work, Tippet," he said.  "Mightily obliged to you--awful
waste of ammunition, really."

And then they resumed the march and in fifteen minutes the
encounter had ceased even to be a topic of conversation.

For two days they continued upon their perilous way.  Already the
cliffs loomed high and forbidding close ahead without sign of
break to encourage hope that somewhere they might be scaled.
Late in the afternoon the party crossed a small stream of warm
water upon the sluggishly moving surface of which floated
countless millions of tiny green eggs surrounded by a light scum
of the same color, though of a darker shade.  Their past
experience of Caspak had taught them that they might expect to
come upon a stagnant pool of warm water if they followed the
stream to its source; but there they were almost certain to find
some of Caspak's grotesque, manlike creatures.  Already since
they had disembarked from the U-33 after its perilous trip
through the subterranean channel beneath the barrier cliffs had
brought them into the inland sea of Caspak, had they encountered
what had appeared to be three distinct types of these creatures.
There had been the pure apes--huge, gorillalike beasts--and those
who walked, a trifle more erect and had features with just a
shade more of the human cast about them.  Then there were men
like Ahm, whom they had captured and confined at the fort--Ahm,
the club-man.  "Well-known club-man," Tyler had called him.  Ahm
and his people had knowledge of a speech.  They had a language,
in which they were unlike the race just inferior to them, and
they walked much more erect and were less hairy: but it was
principally the fact that they possessed a spoken language and
carried a weapon that differentiated them from the others.

All of these peoples had proven belligerent in the extreme.  In
common with the rest of the fauna of Caprona the first law of
nature as they seemed to understand it was to kill--kill--kill.
And so it was that Bradley had no desire to follow up the little
stream toward the pool near which were sure to be the caves of
some savage tribe, but fortune played him an unkind trick, for
the pool was much closer than he imagined, its southern end
reaching fully a mile south of the point at which they crossed
the stream, and so it was that after forcing their way through a
tangle of jungle vegetation they came out upon the edge of the
pool which they had wished to avoid.

Almost simultaneously there appeared south of them a party of
naked men armed with clubs and hatchets.  Both parties halted as
they caught sight of one another.  The men from the fort saw
before them a hunting party evidently returning to its caves or
village laden with meat.  They were large men with features
closely resembling those of the African Negro though their
skins were white.  Short hair grew upon a large portion of their
limbs and bodies, which still retained a considerable trace of
apish progenitors.  They were, however, a distinctly higher type
than the Bo-lu, or club-men.

Bradley would have been glad to have averted a meeting; but as he
desired to lead his party south around the end of the pool, and
as it was hemmed in by the jungle on one side and the water on
the other, there seemed no escape from an encounter.

On the chance that he might avoid a clash, Bradley stepped
forward with upraised hand.  "We are friends, " he called in the
tongue of Ahm, the Bolu, who had been held a prisoner at the
fort; "permit us to pass in peace.  We will not harm you."

At this the hatchet-men set up a great jabbering with much
laughter, loud and boisterous.  "No," shouted one, "you will not
harm us, for we shall kill you.  Come!  We kill!  We kill!"
And with hideous shouts they charged down upon the Europeans.

"Sinclair, you may fire," said Bradley quietly."  Pick off
the leader.  Can't waste ammunition."

The Englishman raised his piece to his shoulder and took quick
aim at the breast of the yelling savage leaping toward them.
Directly behind the leader came another hatchet-man, and with the
report of Sinclair's rifle both warriors lunged forward in the
tall grass, pierced by the same bullet.  The effect upon the rest
of the band was electrical.  As one man they came to a sudden
halt, wheeled to the east and dashed into the jungle, where the
men could hear them forcing their way in an effort to put as much
distance as possible between themselves and the authors of this
new and frightful noise that killed warriors at a great distance.

Both the savages were dead when Bradley approached to examine
them, and as the Europeans gathered around, other eyes were bent
upon them with greater curiosity than they displayed for the
victim of Sinclair's bullet.  When the party again took up the
march around the southern end of the pool the owner of the eyes
followed them--large, round eyes, almost expressionless except
for a certain cold cruelty which glinted malignly from under
their pale gray irises.

All unconscious of the stalker, the men came, late in the
afternoon, to a spot which seemed favorable as a campsite.
A cold spring bubbled from the base of a rocky formation which
overhung and partially encircled a small inclosure.  At Bradley's
command, the men took up the duties assigned them--gathering
wood, building a cook-fire and preparing the evening meal.
It was while they were thus engaged that Brady's attention was
attracted by the dismal flapping of huge wings.  He glanced up,
expecting to see one of the great flying reptiles of a bygone
age, his rifle ready in his hand.  Brady was a brave man.  He had
groped his way up narrow tenement stairs and taken an armed
maniac from a dark room without turning a hair; but now as he
looked up, he went white and staggered back.

"Gawd!" he almost screamed.  "What is it?"

Attracted by Brady's cry the others seized their rifles as they
followed his wide-eyed, frozen gaze, nor was there one of them
that was not moved by some species of terror or awe.  Then Brady
spoke again in an almost inaudible voice.  "Holy Mother protect
us--it's a banshee!"

Bradley, always cool almost to indifference in the face of
danger, felt a strange, creeping sensation run over his flesh, as
slowly, not a hundred feet above them, the thing flapped itself
across the sky, its huge, round eyes glaring down upon them.
And until it disappeared over the tops of the trees of a near-by
wood the five men stood as though paralyzed, their eyes never
leaving the weird shape; nor never one of them appearing to recall
that he grasped a loaded rifle in his hands.

With the passing of the thing, came the reaction.  Tippet sank to
the ground and buried his face in his hands.  "Oh, Gord," he moaned.
"Tyke me awy from this orful plice."  Brady, recovered from the
first shock, swore loud and luridly.  He called upon all the
saints to witness that he was unafraid and that anybody with half
an eye could have seen that the creature was nothing more than
"one av thim flyin' alligators" that they all were familiar with.

"Yes," said Sinclair with fine sarcasm, "we've saw so many of
them with white shrouds on 'em."

"Shut up, you fool!" growled Brady.  "If you know so much, tell
us what it was after bein' then."

Then he turned toward Bradley.  "What was it, sor, do you think?"
he asked.

Bradley shook his head.  "I don't know," he said.  "It looked like
a winged human being clothed in a flowing white robe.  Its face
was more human than otherwise.  That is the way it looked to me;
but what it really was I can't even guess, for such a creature is
as far beyond my experience or knowledge as it is beyond yours.
All that I am sure of is that whatever else it may have been, it
was quite material--it was no ghost; rather just another of the
strange forms of life which we have met here and with which we
should be accustomed by this time."

Tippet looked up.  His face was still ashy.  "Yer cawn't tell
me," he cried.  "Hi seen hit.  Blime, Hi seen hit.  Hit was ha
dead man flyin' through the hair.  Didn't Hi see 'is heyes?
Oh, Gord! Didn't Hi see 'em?"

"It didn't look like any beast or reptile to me," spoke up Sinclair.
"It was lookin' right down at me when I looked up and I saw its
face plain as I see yours.  It had big round eyes that looked all
cold and dead, and its cheeks were sunken in deep, and I could see
its yellow teeth behind thin, tight-drawn lips--like a man who had
been dead a long while, sir," he added, turning toward Bradley.

"Yes!" James had not spoken since the apparition had passed over them,
and now it was scarce speech which he uttered--rather a series of
articulate gasps.  "Yes--dead--a--long--while.  It--means something.
It--come--for some--one.  For one--of
us.  One--of us is goin'--
to die.  I'm goin' to die!" he ended in a wail.

"Come!  Come!" snapped Bradley.  "Won't do.  Won't do at all.
Get to work, all of you.  Waste of time.  Can't waste time."

His authoritative tones brought them all up standing, and
presently each was occupied with his own duties; but each worked
in silence and there was no singing and no bantering such as had
marked the making of previous camps.  Not until they had eaten
and to each had been issued the little ration of smoking tobacco
allowed after each evening meal did any sign of a relaxation of
taut nerves appear.  It was Brady who showed the first signs of
returning good spirits.  He commenced humming "It's a Long Way to
Tipperary" and presently to voice the words, but he was well into
his third song before anyone joined him, and even then there
seemed a dismal note in even the gayest of tunes.

A huge fire blazed in the opening of their rocky shelter that the
prowling carnivora might be kept at bay; and always one man stood
on guard, watchfully alert against a sudden rush by some maddened
beast of the jungle.  Beyond the fire, yellow-green spots of
flame appeared, moved restlessly about, disappeared and
reappeared, accompanied by a hideous chorus of screams and growls
and roars as the hungry meat-eaters hunting through the night
were attracted by the light or the scent of possible prey.

But to such sights and sounds as these the five men had
become callous.  They sang or talked as unconcernedly as they
might have done in the bar-room of some publichouse at home.

Sinclair was standing guard.  The others were listening to
Brady's description of traffic congestion at the Rush Street
bridge during the rush hour at night.  The fire crackled cheerily.
The owners of the yellow-green eyes raised their frightful chorus
to the heavens.  Conditions seemed again to have returned to normal.
And then, as though the hand of Death had reached out and touched
them all, the five men tensed into sudden rigidity.

Above the nocturnal diapason of the teeming jungle sounded a
dismal flapping of wings and over head, through the thick night,
a shadowy form passed across the diffused light of the flaring
camp-fire.  Sinclair raised his rifle and fired.  An eerie wail
floated down from above and the apparition, whatever it might
have been, was swallowed by the darkness.  For several seconds
the listening men heard the sound of those dismally flapping wings
lessening in the distance until they could no longer be heard.

Bradley was the first to speak.  "Shouldn't have fired,
Sinclair," he said; "can't waste ammunition."  But there was
no note of censure in his tone.  It was as though he understood
the nervous reaction that had compelled the other's act.

"I couldn't help it, sir," said Sinclair.  "Lord, it would take
an iron man to keep from shootin' at that awful thing.  Do you
believe in ghosts, sir?"

"No," replied Bradley.  "No such things."

"I don't know about that," said Brady.  "There was a woman
murdered over on the prairie near Brighton--her throat was cut
from ear to ear, and--"

"Shut up," snapped Bradley.

"My grandaddy used to live down Coppington wy," said Tippet.
"They were a hold ruined castle on a 'ill near by, hand at midnight
they used to see pale blue lights through the windows an 'ear--"

"Will you close your hatch!" demanded Bradley.  "You fools will
have yourselves scared to death in a minute.  Now go to sleep."

But there was little sleep in camp that night until utter
exhaustion overtook the harassed men toward morning; nor was
there any return of the weird creature that had set the nerves of
each of them on edge.

The following forenoon the party reached the base of the barrier
cliffs and for two days marched northward in an effort to
discover a break in the frowning abutment that raised its rocky
face almost perpendicularly above them, yet nowhere was there the
slightest indication that the cliffs were scalable.

Disheartened, Bradley determined to turn back toward the fort, as
he already had exceeded the time decided upon by Bowen Tyler and
himself for the expedition.  The cliffs for many miles had been
trending in a northeasterly direction, indicating to Bradley that
they were approaching the northern extremity of the island.
According to the best of his calculations they had made
sufficient easting during the past two days to have brought them
to a point almost directly north of Fort Dinosaur and as nothing
could be gained by retracing their steps along the base of the
cliffs he decided to strike due south through the unexplored
country between them and the fort.

That night (September 9, 1916), they made camp a short distance
from the cliffs beside one of the numerous cool springs that are
to be found within Caspak, oftentimes close beside the still
more numerous warm and hot springs which feed the many pools.
After supper the men lay smoking and chatting among themselves.
Tippet was on guard.  Fewer night prowlers threatened them, and
the men were commenting upon the fact that the farther north they
had traveled the smaller the number of all species of animals
became, though it was still present in what would have seemed
appalling plenitude in any other part of the world.  The diminution
in reptilian life was the most noticeable change in the fauna of
northern Caspak.  Here, however, were forms they had not met
elsewhere, several of which were of gigantic proportions.

According to their custom all, with the exception of the man on
guard, sought sleep early, nor, once disposed upon the ground for
slumber, were they long in finding it.  It seemed to Bradley that
he had scarcely closed his eyes when he was brought to his feet,
wide awake, by a piercing scream which was punctuated by the
sharp report of a rifle from the direction of the fire where
Tippet stood guard.  As he ran toward the man, Bradley heard
above him the same uncanny wail that had set every nerve on edge
several nights before, and the dismal flapping of huge wings.
He did not need to look up at the white-shrouded figure winging
slowly away into the night to know that their grim visitor
had returned.

The muscles of his arm, reacting to the sight and sound of the
menacing form, carried his hand to the butt of his pistol; but
after he had drawn the weapon, he immediately returned it to its
holster with a shrug.

"What for?" he muttered.  "Can't waste ammunition."  Then he
walked quickly to where Tippet lay sprawled upon his face.
By this time James, Brady and Sinclair were at his heels, each
with his rifle in readiness.

"Is he dead, sir?" whispered James as Bradley kneeled beside the
prostrate form.

Bradley turned Tippet over on his back and pressed an ear close
to the other's heart.  In a moment he raised his head.
"Fainted," he announced.  "Get water.  Hurry!"  Then he loosened
Tippet's shirt at the throat and when the water was brought,
threw a cupful in the man's face.  Slowly Tippet regained
consciousness and sat up.  At first he looked curiously into the
faces of the men about him; then an expression of terror
overspread his features.  He shot a startled glance up into the
black void above and then burying his face in his arms began to
sob like a child.

"What's wrong, man?" demanded Bradley.  "Buck up!  Can't play
cry-baby.  Waste of energy.  What happened?"

"Wot 'appened, sir!" wailed Tippet.  "Oh, Gord, sir!   Hit came back.
Hit came for me, sir.  Right hit did, sir; strite hat me, sir;
hand with long w'ite 'ands it clawed for me.  Oh, Gord!  Hit almost
caught me, sir.  Hi'm has good as dead; Hi'm a marked man; that's
wot Hi ham.  Hit was a-goin' for to carry me horf, sir."

"Stuff and nonsense," snapped Bradley.  "Did you get a good look
at it?"

Tippet said that he did--a much better look than he wanted.
The thing had almost clutched him, and he had looked straight
into its eyes--"dead heyes in a dead face," he had described them.

"Wot was it after bein', do you think?" inquired Brady.

"Hit was Death," moaned Tippet, shuddering, and again a pall of
gloom fell upon the little party.

The following day Tippet walked as one in a trance.  He never
spoke except in reply to a direct question, which more often than
not had to be repeated before it could attract his attention.
He insisted that he was already a dead man, for if the thing didn't
come for him during the day he would never live through another
night of agonized apprehension, waiting for the frightful end
that he was positive was in store for him.  "I'll see to that,"
he said, and they all knew that Tippet meant to take his own life
before darkness set in.

Bradley tried to reason with him, in his short, crisp way, but
soon saw the futility of it; nor could he take the man's weapons
from him without subjecting him to almost certain death from any
of the numberless dangers that beset their way.

The entire party was moody and glum.  There was none of the
bantering that had marked their intercourse before, even in the
face of blighting hardships and hideous danger.  This was a new
menace that threatened them, something that they couldn't
explain; and so, naturally, it aroused within them superstitious
fear which Tippet's attitude only tended to augment.  To add
further to their gloom, their way led through a dense forest,
where, on account of the underbrush, it was difficult to make
even a mile an hour.  Constant watchfulness was required to avoid
the many snakes of various degrees of repulsiveness and enormity
that infested the wood; and the only ray of hope they had to
cling to was that the forest would, like the majority of
Caspakian forests, prove to be of no considerable extent.

Bradley was in the lead when he came suddenly upon a grotesque
creature of Titanic proportions.  Crouching among the trees,
which here commenced to thin out slightly, Bradley saw what
appeared to be an enormous dragon devouring the carcass of
a mammoth.  From frightful jaws to the tip of its long tail it
was fully forty feet in length.  Its body was covered with plates
of thick skin which bore a striking resemblance to armor-plate.
The creature saw Bradley almost at the same instant that he saw
it and reared up on its enormous hind legs until its head towered
a full twenty-five feet above the ground.  From the cavernous
jaws issued a hissing sound of a volume equal to the escaping steam
from the safety-valves of half a dozen locomotives, and then the
creature came for the man.

"Scatter!" shouted Bradley to those behind him; and all but
Tippet heeded the warning.  The man stood as though dazed, and
when Bradley saw the other's danger, he too stopped and wheeling
about sent a bullet into the massive body forcing its way through
the trees toward him.  The shot struck the creature in the belly
where there was no protecting armor, eliciting a new note which
rose in a shrill whistle and ended in a wail.  It was then that
Tippet appeared to come out of his trance, for with a cry of
terror he turned and fled to the left.  Bradley, seeing that he
had as good an opportunity as the others to escape, now turned his
attention to extricating himself; and as the woods seemed dense
on the right, he ran in that direction, hoping that the close-set
boles would prevent pursuit on the part of the great reptile.
The dragon paid no further attention to him, however, for Tippet's
sudden break for liberty had attracted its attention; and after
Tippet it went, bowling over small trees, uprooting underbrush
and leaving a wake behind it like that of a small tornado.

Bradley, the moment he had discovered the thing was pursuing
Tippet, had followed it.  He was afraid to fire for fear of
hitting the man, and so it was that he came upon them at the very
moment that the monster lunged its great weight forward upon the
doomed man.  The sharp, three-toed talons of the forelimbs seized
poor Tippet, and Bradley saw the unfortunate fellow lifted high
above the ground as the creature again reared up on its hind
legs, immediately transferring Tippet's body to its gaping jaws,
which closed with a sickening, crunching sound as Tippet's bones
cracked beneath the great teeth.

Bradley half raised his rifle to fire again and then lowered it
with a shake of his head.  Tippet was beyond succor--why waste a
bullet that Caspak could never replace?  If he could now escape
the further notice of the monster it would be a wiser act than to
throw his life away in futile revenge.  He saw that the reptile
was not looking in his direction, and so he slipped noiselessly
behind the bole of a large tree and thence quietly faded away in
the direction he believed the others to have taken.  At what he
considered a safe distance he halted and looked back.  Half hidden
by the intervening trees he still could see the huge head and the
massive jaws from which protrude the limp legs of the dead man.
Then, as though struck by the hammer of Thor, the creature
collapsed and crumpled to the ground.  Bradley's single bullet,
penetrating the body through the soft skin of the belly, had slain
the Titan.

A few minutes later, Bradley found the others of the party.
The four returned cautiously to the spot where the creature lay
and after convincing themselves that it was quite dead, came close
to it.  It was an arduous and gruesome job extricating Tippet's
mangled remains from the powerful jaws, the men working for the
most part silently.

"It was the work of the banshee all right," muttered Brady.
"It warned poor Tippet, it did."

"Hit killed him, that's wot hit did, hand hit'll kill some more
of us," said James, his lower lip trembling.

"If it was a ghost," interjected Sinclair, "and I don't say as it
was; but if it was, why, it could take on any form it wanted to.
It might have turned itself into this thing, which ain't no
natural thing at all, just to get poor Tippet.  If it had of been
a lion or something else humanlike it wouldn't look so strange;
but this here thing ain't humanlike.  There ain't no such thing
an' never was."

"Bullets don't kill ghosts," said Bradley, "so this couldn't have
been a ghost.  Furthermore, there are no such things.  I've been
trying to place this creature.  Just succeeded.  It's a tyrannosaurus.
Saw picture of skeleton in magazine.  There's one in New York
Natural History Museum.  Seems to me it said it was found in place
called Hell Creek somewhere in western North America.  Supposed to
have lived about six million years ago."

"Hell Creek's in Montana," said Sinclair.  "I used to punch cows
in Wyoming, an' I've heard of Hell Creek.  Do you s'pose that
there thing's six million years old?"  His tone was skeptical.

"No," replied Bradley; "But it would indicate that the island
of Caprona has stood almost without change for more than six
million years."

The conversation and Bradley's assurance that the creature was
not of supernatural origin helped to raise a trifle the spirits
of the men; and then came another diversion in the form of
ravenous meat-eaters attracted to the spot by the uncanny sense
of smell which had apprised them of the presence of flesh, killed
and ready for the eating.

It was a constant battle while they dug a grave and consigned all
that was mortal of John Tippet to his last, lonely resting-place.
Nor would they leave then; but remained to fashion a rude head-
stone from a crumbling out-cropping of sandstone and to gather
a mass of the gorgeous flowers growing in such great profusion
around them and heap the new-made grave with bright blooms.
Upon the headstone Sinclair scratched in rude characters the words:


HERE LIES JOHN TIPPET
     ENGLISHMAN
KILLED BY TYRANNOSAURUS
  10 SEPT. A.D. 1916
       R.I.P.

and Bradley repeated a short prayer before they left their
comrade forever.

For three days the party marched due south through forests and
meadow-land and great park-like areas where countless herbivorous
animals grazed--deer and antelope and bos and the little ecca,
the smallest species of Caspakian horse, about the size of a rabbit.
There were other horses too; but all were small, the largest being
not above eight hands in height.  Preying continually upon the
herbivora were the meat-eaters, large and small--wolves, hyaenadons,
panthers, lions, tigers, and bear as well as several large and
ferocious species of reptilian life.

On September twelfth the party scaled a line of sandstone cliffs
which crossed their route toward the south; but they crossed them
only after an encounter with the tribe that inhabited the numerous
caves which pitted the face of the escarpment.  That night they
camped upon a rocky plateau which was sparsely wooded with jarrah,
and here once again they were visited by the weird, nocturnal
apparition that had already filled them with a nameless terror.

As on the night of September ninth the first warning came
from the sentinel standing guard over his sleeping companions.
A terror-stricken cry punctuated by the crack of a rifle brought
Bradley, Sinclair and Brady to their feet in time to see James,
with clubbed rifle, battling with a white-robed figure that
hovered on widespread wings on a level with the Englishman's head.
As they ran, shouting, forward, it was obvious to them that the
weird and terrible apparition was attempting to seize James; but
when it saw the others coming to his rescue, it desisted,
flapping rapidly upward and away, its long, ragged wings giving
forth the peculiarly dismal notes which always characterized the
sound of its flying.

Bradley fired at the vanishing menacer of their peace and safety;
but whether he scored a hit or not, none could tell, though,
following the shot, there was wafted back to them the same
piercing wail that had on other occasions frozen their marrow.

Then they turned toward James, who lay face downward upon the
ground, trembling as with ague.  For a time he could not even
speak, but at last regained sufficient composure to tell them
how the thing must have swooped silently upon him from above
and behind as the first premonition of danger he had received
was when the long, clawlike fingers had clutched him beneath
either arm.  In the melee his rifle had been discharged and he
had broken away at the same instant and turned to defend himself
with the butt.  The rest they had seen.

From that instant James was an absolutely broken man.
He maintained with shaking lips that his doom was sealed, that
the thing had marked him for its own, and that he was as good as
dead, nor could any amount of argument or raillery convince him
to the contrary.  He had seen Tippet marked and claimed and now
he had been marked.  Nor were his constant reiterations of this
belief without effect upon the rest of the party.  Even Bradley
felt depressed, though for the sake of the others he managed to
hide it beneath a show of confidence he was far from feeling.

And on the following day William James was killed by a
saber-tooth tiger--September 13, 1916.  Beneath a jarrah tree on
the stony plateau on the northern edge of the Sto-lu country in
the land that Time forgot, he lies in a lonely grave marked by a
rough headstone.

Southward from his grave marched three grim and silent men.
To the best of Bradley's reckoning they were some twenty-five
miles north of Fort Dinosaur, and that they might reach the fort
on the following day, they plodded on until darkness overtook them.
With comparative safety fifteen miles away, they made camp at last;
but there was no singing now and no joking.  In the bottom of his
heart each prayed that they might come safely through just this
night, for they knew that during the morrow they would make the
final stretch, yet the nerves of each were taut with strained
anticipation of what gruesome thing might flap down upon them from
the black sky, marking another for its own.  Who would be the next?

As was their custom, they took turns at guard, each man doing two
hours and then arousing the next.  Brady had gone on from eight
to ten, followed by Sinclair from ten to twelve, then Bradley had
been awakened.  Brady would stand the last guard from two to
four, as they had determined to start the moment that it became
light enough to insure comparative safety upon the trail.

The snapping of a twig aroused Brady out of a dead sleep, and as
he opened his eyes, he saw that it was broad daylight and that at
twenty paces from him stood a huge lion.  As the man sprang to
his feet, his rifle ready in his hand, Sinclair awoke and took in
the scene in a single swift glance.  The fire was out and Bradley
was nowhere in sight.  For a long moment the lion and the men
eyed one another.  The latter had no mind to fire if the beast
minded its own affairs--they were only too glad to let it go its
way if it would; but the lion was of a different mind.

Suddenly the long tail snapped stiffly erect, and as though it
had been attached to two trigger fingers the two rifles spoke in
unison, for both men knew this signal only too well--the
immediate forerunner of a deadly charge.  As the brute's head had
been raised, his spine had not been visible; and so they did what
they had learned by long experience was best to do.  Each covered
a front leg, and as the tail snapped aloft, fired.  With a
hideous roar the mighty flesh-eater lurched forward to the ground
with both front legs broken.  It was an easy accomplishment in
the instant before the beast charged--after, it would have been
well-nigh an impossible feat.  Brady stepped close in and finished
him with a shot in the base of the brain lest his terrific
roarings should attract his mate or others of their kind.

Then the two men turned and looked at one another.  "Where is
Lieutenant Bradley?" asked Sinclair.  They walked to the fire.
Only a few smoking embers remained.  A few feet away lay
Bradley's rifle.  There was no evidence of a struggle.  The two
men circled about the camp twice and on the last lap Brady
stooped and picked up an object which had lain about ten yards
beyond the fire--it was Bradley's cap.  Again the two looked
questioningly at one another, and then, simultaneously, both
pairs of eyes swung upward and searched the sky.  A moment later
Brady was examining the ground about the spot where Bradley's cap
had lain.  It was one of those little barren, sandy stretches
that they had found only upon this stony plateau.  Brady's own
footsteps showed as plainly as black ink upon white paper; but
his was the only foot that had marred the smooth, windswept
surface--there was no sign that Bradley had crossed the spot
upon the surface of the ground, and yet his cap lay well
toward the center of it.

Breakfastless and with shaken nerves the two survivors plunged
madly into the long day's march.  Both were strong, courageous,
resourceful men; but each had reached the limit of human nerve
endurance and each felt that he would rather die than spend
another night in the hideous open of that frightful land.
Vivid in the mind of each was a picture of Bradley's end, for
though neither had witnessed the tragedy, both could imagine almost
precisely what had occurred.  They did not discuss it--they did
not even mention it--yet all day long the thing was uppermost in
the mind of each and mingled with it a similar picture with himself
as victim should they fail to make Fort Dinosaur before dark.

And so they plunged forward at reckless speed, their clothes,
their hands, their faces torn by the retarding underbrush that
reached forth to hinder them.  Again and again they fell; but be
it to their credit that the one always waited and helped the
other and that into the mind of neither entered the thought or
the temptation to desert his companion--they would reach the fort
together if both survived, or neither would reach it.

They encountered the usual number of savage beasts and reptiles;
but they met them with a courageous recklessness born of desperation,
and by virtue of the very madness of the chances they took, they
came through unscathed and with the minimum of delay.

Shortly after noon they reached the end of the plateau.
Before them was a drop of two hundred feet to the valley beneath.
To the left, in the distance, they could see the waters of the
great inland sea that covers a considerable portion of the area
of the crater island of Caprona and at a little lesser distance
to the south of the cliffs they saw a thin spiral of smoke arising
above the tree-tops.

The landscape was familiar--each recognized it immediately
and knew that that smoky column marked the spot where Dinosaur
had stood.  Was the fort still there, or did the smoke arise
from the smoldering embers of the building they had helped to
fashion for the housing of their party?  Who could say!

Thirty precious minutes that seemed as many hours to the
impatient men were consumed in locating a precarious way from the
summit to the base of the cliffs that bounded the plateau upon
the south, and then once again they struck off upon level ground
toward their goal.  The closer they approached the fort the
greater became their apprehension that all would not be well.
They pictured the barracks deserted or the small company
massacred and the buildings in ashes.  It was almost in a frenzy
of fear that they broke through the final fringe of jungle and
stood at last upon the verge of the open meadow a half-mile from
Fort Dinosaur.

"Lord!" ejaculated Sinclair.  "They are still there!"  And he fell
to his knees, sobbing.

Brady trembled like a leaf as he crossed himself and gave silent
thanks, for there before them stood the sturdy ramparts of
Dinosaur and from inside the inclosure rose a thin spiral of
smoke that marked the location of the cook-house.  All was well,
then, and their comrades were preparing the evening meal!

Across the clearing they raced as though they had not already
covered in a single day a trackless, primeval country that
might easily have required two days by fresh and untired men.
Within hailing distance they set up such a loud shouting that
presently heads appeared above the top of the parapet and soon
answering shouts were rising from within Fort Dinosaur.  A moment
later three men issued from the inclosure and came forward to
meet the survivors and listen to the hurried story of the eleven
eventful days since they had set out upon their expedition to the
barrier cliffs.  They heard of the deaths of Tippet and James and
of the disappearance of Lieutenant Bradley, and a new terror
settled upon Dinosaur.

Olson, the Irish engineer, with Whitely and Wilson constituted
the remnants of Dinosaur's defenders, and to Brady and Sinclair
they narrated the salient events that had transpired since Bradley
and his party had marched away on September 4th.  They told them
of the infamous act of Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts and his
German crew who had stolen the U-33, breaking their parole, and
steaming away toward the subterranean opening through the barrier
cliffs that carried the waters of the inland sea into the open
Pacific beyond; and of the cowardly shelling of the fort.

They told of the disappearance of Miss La Rue in the night of
September 11th, and of the departure of Bowen Tyler in search of
her, accompanied only by his Airedale, Nobs.  Thus of the
original party of eleven Allies and nine Germans that had
constituted the company of the U-33 when she left English waters
after her capture by the crew of the English tug there were but
five now to be accounted for at Fort Dinosaur.  Benson, Tippet,
James, and one of the Germans were known to be dead.  It was
assumed that Bradley, Tyler and the girl had already succumbed to
some of the savage denizens of Caspak, while the fate of the
Germans was equally unknown, though it might readily be believed
that they had made good their escape.  They had had ample time to
provision the ship and the refining of the crude oil they had
discovered north of the fort could have insured them an ample
supply to carry them back to Germany.



Chapter 2


When bradley went on guard at midnight, September 14th, his
thoughts were largely occupied with rejoicing that the night
was almost spent without serious mishap and that the morrow
would doubtless see them all safely returned to Fort Dinosaur.
The hopefulness of his mood was tinged with sorrow by recollection
of the two members of his party who lay back there in the savage
wilderness and for whom there would never again be a homecoming.

No premonition of impending ill cast gloom over his anticipations
for the coming day, for Bradley was a man who, while taking every
precaution against possible danger, permitted no gloomy
forebodings to weigh down his spirit.  When danger threatened, he
was prepared; but he was not forever courting disaster, and so it
was that when about one o'clock in the morning of the fifteenth,
he heard the dismal flapping of giant wings overhead, he was
neither surprised nor frightened but idly prepared for an attack
he had known might reasonably be expected.

The sound seemed to come from the south, and presently, low above
the trees in that direction, the man made out a dim, shadowy form
circling slowly about.  Bradley was a brave man, yet so keen was
the feeling of revulsion engendered by the sight and sound of
that grim, uncanny shape that he distinctly felt the gooseflesh
rise over the surface of his body, and it was with difficulty
that he refrained from following an instinctive urge to fire upon
the nocturnal intruder.  Better, far better would it have been
had he given in to the insistent demand of his subconscious
mentor; but his almost fanatical obsession to save ammunition
proved now his undoing, for while his attention was riveted upon
the thing circling before him and while his ears were filled with
the beating of its wings, there swooped silently out of the black
night behind him another weird and ghostly shape.  With its huge
wings partly closed for the dive and its white robe fluttering in
its wake, the apparition swooped down upon the Englishman.

So great was the force of the impact when the thing struck
Bradley between the shoulders that the man was half stunned.
His rifle flew from his grasp; he felt clawlike talons of great
strength seize him beneath his arms and sweep him off his feet;
and then the thing rose swiftly with him, so swiftly that his cap
was blown from his head by the rush of air as he was borne
rapidly upward into the inky sky and the cry of warning to his
companions was forced back into his lungs.

The creature wheeled immediately toward the east and was at once
joined by its fellow, who circled them once and then fell in
behind them.  Bradley now realized the strategy that the pair
had used to capture him and at once concluded that he was in the
power of reasoning beings closely related to the human race if
not actually of it.

Past experience suggested that the great wings were a part of
some ingenious mechanical device, for the limitations of the
human mind, which is always loath to accept aught beyond its own
little experience, would not permit him to entertain the idea
that the creatures might be naturally winged and at the same time
of human origin.  From his position Bradley could not see the
wings of his captor, nor in the darkness had he been able to
examine those of the second creature closely when it circled
before him.  He listened for the puff of a motor or some other
telltale sound that would prove the correctness of his theory.
However, he was rewarded with nothing more than the constant
flap-flap.

Presently, far below and ahead, he saw the waters of the inland
sea, and a moment later he was borne over them.  Then his captor
did that which proved beyond doubt to Bradley that he was in the
hands of human beings who had devised an almost perfect scheme of
duplicating, mechanically, the wings of a bird--the thing spoke
to its companion and in a language that Bradley partially
understood, since he recognized words that he had learned from
the savage races of Caspak.  From this he judged that they were
human, and being human, he knew that they could have no natural
wings--for who had ever seen a human being so adorned!
Therefore their wings must be mechanical.  Thus Bradley reasoned--
thus most of us reason; not by what might be possible; but by what
has fallen within the range of our experience.

What he heard them say was to the effect that having covered
half the distance the burden would now be transferred from one
to the other.  Bradley wondered how the exchange was to
be accomplished.  He knew that those giant wings would not
permit the creatures to approach one another closely enough
to effect the transfer in this manner; but he was soon to
discover that they had other means of doing it.

He felt the thing that carried him rise to a greater altitude,
and below he glimpsed momentarily the second white-robed figure;
then the creature above sounded a low call, it was answered from
below, and instantly Bradley felt the clutching talons release
him; gasping for breath, he hurtled downward through space.

For a terrifying instant, pregnant with horror, Bradley fell;
then something swooped for him from behind, another pair of
talons clutched him beneath the arms, his downward rush was
checked, within another hundred feet, and close to the surface
of the sea he was again borne upward.  As a hawk dives for a
songbird on the wing, so this great, human bird dived for Bradley.
It was a harrowing experience, but soon over, and once again
the captive was being carried swiftly toward the east and what
fate he could not even guess.

It was immediately following his transfer in mid-air that Bradley
made out the shadowy form of a large island far ahead, and not
long after, he realized that this must be the intended
destination of his captors.  Nor was he mistaken.  Three quarters
of an hour from the time of his seizure his captors dropped
gently to earth in the strangest city that human eye had ever
rested upon.  Just a brief glimpse of his immediate surroundings
vouchsafed Bradley before he was whisked into the interior of one
of the buildings; but in that momentary glance he saw strange
piles of stone and wood and mud fashioned into buildings of all
conceivable sizes and shapes, sometimes piled high on top of one
another, sometimes standing alone in an open court-way, but
usually crowded and jammed together, so that there were no
streets or alleys between them other than a few which ended
almost as soon as they began.  The principal doorways appeared to
be in the roofs, and it was through one of these that Bradley was
inducted into the dark interior of a low-ceiled room.  Here he
was pushed roughly into a corner where he tripped over a thick
mat, and there his captors left him.  He heard them moving about
in the darkness for a moment, and several times he saw their
large luminous eyes glowing in the dark.  Finally, these
disappeared and silence reigned, broken only by the breathing of
the creature which indicated to the Englishman that they were
sleeping somewhere in the same apartment.

It was now evident that the mat upon the floor was intended for
sleeping purposes and that the rough shove that had sent him to
it had been a rude invitation to repose.  After taking stock of
himself and finding that he still had his pistol and ammunition,
some matches, a little tobacco, a canteen full of water and a
razor, Bradley made himself comfortable upon the mat and was soon
asleep, knowing that an attempted escape in the darkness without
knowledge of his surroundings would be predoomed to failure.

When he awoke, it was broad daylight, and the sight that met his
eyes made him rub them again and again to assure himself that
they were really open and that he was not dreaming.  A broad
shaft of morning light poured through the open doorway in the
ceiling of the room which was about thirty feet square, or
roughly square, being irregular in shape, one side curving
outward, another being indented by what might have been the
corner of another building jutting into it, another alcoved by
three sides of an octagon, while the fourth was serpentine
in contour.  Two windows let in more daylight, while two doors
evidently gave ingress to other rooms.  The walls were partially
ceiled with thin strips of wood, nicely fitted and finished,
partially plastered and the rest covered with a fine, woven cloth.
Figures of reptiles and beasts were painted without regard to
any uniform scheme here and there upon the walls.  A striking
feature of the decorations consisted of several engaged columns
set into the walls at no regular intervals, the capitals of
each supporting a human skull the cranium of which touched the
ceiling, as though the latter was supported by these grim
reminders either of departed relatives or of some hideous tribal
rite--Bradley could not but wonder which.

Yet it was none of these things that filled him with greatest
wonder--no, it was the figures of the two creatures that had
captured him and brought him hither.  At one end of the room a
stout pole about two inches in diameter ran horizontally from
wall to wall some six or seven feet from the floor, its ends
securely set in two of the columns.  Hanging by their knees from
this perch, their heads downward and their bodies wrapped in
their huge wings, slept the creatures of the night before--like
two great, horrid bats they hung, asleep.

As Bradley gazed upon them in wide-eyed astonishment, he saw
plainly that all his intelligence, all his acquired knowledge
through years of observation and experience were set at naught by
the simple evidence of the fact that stood out glaringly before
his eyes--the creatures' wings were not mechanical devices but as
natural appendages, growing from their shoulderblades, as were
their arms and legs.  He saw, too, that except for their wings
the pair bore a strong resemblance to human beings, though
fashioned in a most grotesque mold.

As he sat gazing at them, one of the two awoke, separated his
wings to release his arms that had been folded across his breast,
placed his hands upon the floor, dropped his feet and stood erect.
For a moment he stretched his great wings slowly, solemnly
blinking his large round eyes.  Then his gaze fell upon Bradley.
The thin lips drew back tightly against yellow teeth in a grimace
that was nothing but hideous.  It could not have been termed a
smile, and what emotion it registered the Englishman was at a
loss to guess.  No expression whatever altered the steady gaze
of those large, round eyes; there was no color upon the pasty,
sunken cheeks.  A death's head grimaced as though a man long
dead raised his parchment-covered skull from an old grave.

The creature stood about the height of an average man but
appeared much taller from the fact that the joints of his long
wings rose fully a foot above his hairless head.  The bare arms
were long and sinewy, ending in strong, bony hands with clawlike
fingers--almost talonlike in their suggestiveness.  The white
robe was separated in front, revealing skinny legs and the
further fact that the thing wore but the single garment, which
was of fine, woven cloth.  From crown to sole the portions of
the body exposed were entirely hairless, and as he noted this,
Bradley also noted for the first time the cause of much of the
seeming expressionlessness of the creature's countenance--it had
neither eye-brows or lashes.  The ears were small and rested flat
against the skull, which was noticeably round, though the face
was quite flat.  The creature had small feet, beautifully arched
and plump, but so out of keeping with every other physical
attribute it possessed as to appear ridiculous.

After eyeing Bradley for a moment the thing approached him.
"Where from?" it asked.

"England," replied Bradley, as briefly.

"Where is England and what?" pursued the questioner.

"It is a country far from here," answered the Englishman.

"Are your people cor-sva-jo or cos-ata-lu?"

"I do not understand you," said Bradley; "and now suppose you
answer a few questions.  Who are you?  What country is this?
Why did you bring me here?"

Again the sepulchral grimace.  "We are Wieroos--Luata is our father.
Caspak is ours.  This, our country, is called Oo-oh.  We brought
you here for (literally) Him Who Speaks for Luata to gaze upon
and question.  He would know from whence you came and why; but
principally if you be cos-ata-lu."

"And if I am not cos--whatever you call the bloomin' beast--
what of it?"

The Wieroo raised his wings in a very human shrug and waved his
bony claws toward the human skulls supporting the ceiling.
His gesture was eloquent; but he embellished it by remarking,
"And possibly if you are."

"I'm hungry," snapped Bradley.

The Wieroo motioned him to one of the doors which he threw open,
permitting Bradley to pass out onto another roof on a level lower
than that upon which they had landed earlier in the morning.
By daylight the city appeared even more remarkable than in the
moonlight, though less weird and unreal.  The houses of all
shapes and sizes were piled about as a child might pile blocks of
various forms and colors.  He saw now that there were what might
be called streets or alleys, but they ran in baffling turns and
twists, nor ever reached a destination, always ending in a dead
wall where some Wieroo had built a house across them.

Upon each house was a slender column supporting a human skull.
Sometimes the columns were at one corner of the roof, sometimes
at another, or again they rose from the center or near the
center, and the columns were of varying heights, from that of
a man to those which rose twenty feet above their roofs.
The skulls were, as a rule, painted--blue or white, or in
combinations of both colors.  The most effective were painted
blue with the teeth white and the eye-sockets rimmed with white.

There were other skulls--thousands of them--tens, hundreds
of thousands.  They rimmed the eaves of every house, they were
set in the plaster of the outer walls and at no great distance
from where Bradley stood rose a round tower built entirely of
human skulls.  And the city extended in every direction as far
as the Englishman could see.

All about him Wieroos were moving across the roofs or winging
through the air.  The sad sound of their flapping wings rose and
fell like a solemn dirge.  Most of them were appareled all in
white, like his captors; but others had markings of red or blue
or yellow slashed across the front of their robes.

His guide pointed toward a doorway in an alley below them.
"Go there and eat," he commanded, "and then come back.
You cannot escape.  If any question you, say that you belong
to Fosh-bal-soj.  There is the way."  And this time he pointed
to the top of a ladder which protruded above the eaves of the
roof near-by.  Then he turned and reentered the house.

Bradley looked about him.  No, he could not escape--that
seemed evident.  The city appeared interminable, and beyond the
city, if not a savage wilderness filled with wild beasts, there
was the broad inland sea infested with horrid monsters.  No wonder
his captor felt safe in turning him loose in Oo-oh--he wondered if
that was the name of the country or the city and if there were
other cities like this upon the island.

Slowly he descended the ladder to the seemingly deserted alley
which was paved with what appeared to be large, round cobblestones.
He looked again at the smooth, worn pavement, and a rueful grin
crossed his features--the alley was paved with skulls.  "The City
of Human Skulls," mused Bradley.  "They must have been collectin'
'em since Adam," he thought, and then he crossed and entered the
building through the doorway that had been pointed out to him.

Inside he found a large room in which were many Wieroos seated
before pedestals the tops of which were hollowed out so that
they resembled the ordinary bird drinking- and bathing-fonts so
commonly seen on suburban lawns.  A seat protruded from each of
the four sides of the pedestals--just a flat board with a support
running from its outer end diagonally to the base of the pedestal.

As Bradley entered, some of the Wieroos espied him, and a dismal
wail arose.  Whether it was a greeting or a threat, Bradley did
not know.  Suddenly from a dark alcove another Wieroo rushed out
toward him.  "Who are you?" he cried.  "What do you want?"

"Fosh-bal-soj sent me here to eat," replied Bradley.

"Do you belong to Fosh-bal-soj?" asked the other.

"That appears to be what he thinks," answered the Englishman.

"Are you cos-ata-lu?" demanded the Wieroo.

"Give me something to eat or I'll be all of that," replied Bradley.

The Wieroo looked puzzled.  "Sit here, jaal-lu," he snapped,
and Bradley sat down unconscious of the fact that he had been
insulted by being called a hyena-man, an appellation of contempt
in Caspak.

The Wieroo had seated him at a pedestal by himself, and as he sat
waiting for what was next to transpire, he looked about him at
the Wieroo in his immediate vicinity.  He saw that in each font
was a quantity of food, and that each Wieroo was armed with a
wooden skewer, sharpened at one end; with which they carried
solid portions of food to their mouths.  At the other end of the
skewer was fastened a small clam-shell.  This was used to scoop
up the smaller and softer portions of the repast into which all
four of the occupants of each table dipped impartially.  The Wieroo
leaned far over their food, scooping it up rapidly and with much
noise, and so great was their haste that a part of each mouthful
always fell back into the common dish; and when they choked, by
reason of the rapidity with which they attempted to bolt their
food, they often lost it all.  Bradley was glad that he had a
pedestal all to himself.

Soon the keeper of the place returned with a wooden bowl filled
with food.  This he dumped into Bradley's "trough," as he already
thought of it.  The Englishman was glad that he could not see
into the dark alcove or know what were all the ingredients that
constituted the mess before him, for he was very hungry.

After the first mouthful he cared even less to investigate the
antecedents of the dish, for he found it peculiarly palatable.
It seemed to consist of a combination of meat, fruits,
vegetables, small fish and other undistinguishable articles of
food all seasoned to produce a gastronomic effect that was at
once baffling and delicious.

When he had finished, his trough was empty, and then he commenced
to wonder who was to settle for his meal.  As he waited for the
proprietor to return, he fell to examining the dish from which he
had eaten and the pedestal upon which it rested.  The font was of
stone worn smooth by long-continued use, the four outer edges
hollowed and polished by the contact of the countless Wieroo
bodies that had leaned against them for how long a period of time
Bradley could not even guess.  Everything about the place carried
the impression of hoary age.  The carved pedestals were black
with use, the wooden seats were worn hollow, the floor of stone
slabs was polished by the contact of possibly millions of naked
feet and worn away in the aisles between the pedestals so that
the latter rested upon little mounds of stone several inches
above the general level of the floor.

Finally, seeing that no one came to collect, Bradley arose and
started for the doorway.  He had covered half the distance when
he heard the voice of mine host calling to him:  "Come back,
jaal-lu," screamed the Wieroo; and Bradley did as he was bid.
As he approached the creature which stood now behind a large,
flat-topped pedestal beside the alcove, he saw lying upon the
smooth surface something that almost elicited a gasp of
astonishment from him--a simple, common thing it was, or would
have been almost anywhere in the world but Caspak--a square bit
of paper!

And on it, in a fine hand, written compactly, were many strange
hieroglyphics!  These remarkable creatures, then, had a written as
well as a spoken language and besides the art of weaving cloth
possessed that of paper-making.  Could it be that such grotesque
beings represented the high culture of the human race within the
boundaries of Caspak?  Had natural selection produced during the
countless ages of Caspakian life a winged monstrosity that
represented the earthly pinnacle of man's evolution?

Bradley had noted something of the obvious indications of a
gradual evolution from ape to spearman as exemplified by the
several overlapping races of Alalus, club-men and hatchet-men
that formed the connecting links between the two extremes with
which he, had come in contact.  He had heard of the Krolus and
the Galus--reputed to be still higher in the plane of evolution--
and now he had indisputable evidence of a race possessing
refinements of civilization eons in advance of the spear-men.
The conjectures awakened by even a momentary consideration of the
possibilities involved became at once as wildly bizarre as the
insane imagings of a drug addict.

As these thoughts flashed through his mind, the Wieroo held out
a pen of bone fixed to a wooden holder and at the same time made
a sign that Bradley was to write upon the paper.  It was
difficult to judge from the expressionless features of the Wieroo
what was passing in the creature's mind, but Bradley could not
but feel that the thing cast a supercilious glance upon him as
much as to say, "Of course you do not know how to write, you
poor, low creature; but you can make your mark."

Bradley seized the pen and in a clear, bold hand wrote:  "John
Bradley, England."  The Wieroo showed evidences of consternation
as it seized the piece of paper and examined the writing with
every mark of incredulity and surprise.  Of course it could make
nothing of the strange characters; but it evidently accepted them
as proof that Bradley possessed knowledge of a written language
of his own, for following the Englishman's entry it made a few
characters of its own.

"You will come here again just before Lua hides his face behind
the great cliff," announced the creature, "unless before that you
are summoned by Him Who Speaks for Luata, in which case you will
not have to eat any more."

"Reassuring cuss," thought Bradley as he turned and left
the building.

Outside were several Wieroos that had been eating at the
pedestals within.  They immediately surrounded him, asking all
sorts of questions, plucking at his garments, his ammunition-belt
and his pistol.  Their demeanor was entirely different from what
it had been within the eating-place and Bradley was to learn that
a house of food was sanctuary for him, since the stern laws of
the Wieroos forbade altercations within such walls.  Now they
were rough and threatening, as with wings half spread they
hovered about him in menacing attitudes, barring his way to the
ladder leading to the roof from whence he had descended; but the
Englishman was not one to brook interference for long.  He attempted
at first to push his way past them, and then when one seized his
arm and jerked him roughly back, Bradley swung upon the creature
and with a heavy blow to the jaw felled it.

Instantly pandemonium reigned.  Loud wails arose, great wings
opened and closed with a loud, beating noise and many clawlike
hands reached forth to clutch him.  Bradley struck to right
and left.  He dared not use his pistol for fear that once they
discovered its power he would be overcome by weight of numbers
and relieved of possession of what he considered his trump card,
to be reserved until the last moment that it might be used to aid
in his escape, for already the Englishman was planning, though
almost hopelessly, such an attempt.

A few blows convinced Bradley that the Wieroos were arrant
cowards and that they bore no weapons, for after two or three had
fallen beneath his fists the others formed a circle about him,
but at a safe distance and contented themselves with threatening
and blustering, while those whom he had felled lay upon the
pavement without trying to arise, the while they moaned and
wailed in lugubrious chorus.

Again Bradley strode toward the ladder, and this time the circle
parted before him; but no sooner had he ascended a few rungs than
he was seized by one foot and an effort made to drag him down.
With a quick backward glance the Englishman, clinging firmly to
the ladder with both hands, drew up his free foot and with all
the strength of a powerful leg, planted a heavy shoe squarely in
the flat face of the Wieroo that held him.  Shrieking horribly,
the creature clapped both hands to its face and sank to the
ground while Bradley clambered quickly the remaining distance to
the roof, though no sooner did he reach the top of the ladder
than a great flapping of wings beneath him warned him that the
Wieroos were rising after him.  A moment later they swarmed about
his head as he ran for the apartment in which he had spent the
early hours of the morning after his arrival.

It was but a short distance from the top of the ladder to the
doorway, and Bradley had almost reached his goal when the door
flew open and Fosh-bal-soj stepped out.  Immediately the pursuing
Wieroos demanded punishment of the jaal-lu who had so
grievously maltreated them.  Fosh-bal-soj listened to their
complaints and then with a sudden sweep of his right hand seized
Bradley by the scruff of the neck and hurled him sprawling
through the doorway upon the floor of the chamber.

So sudden was the assault and so surprising the strength of the
Wieroo that the Englishman was taken completely off his guard.
When he arose, the door was closed, and Fosh-bal-soj was standing
over him, his hideous face contorted into an expression of rage
and hatred.

"Hyena, snake, lizard!" he screamed.  "You would dare lay your
low, vile, profaning hands upon even the lowliest of the Wieroos--
the sacred chosen of Luata!"

Bradley was mad, and so he spoke in a very low, calm voice while
a half-smile played across his lips but his cold, gray eyes
were unsmiling.

"What you did to me just now," he said, "--I am going to kill
you for that," and even as he spoke, he launched himself at the
throat of Fosh-bal-soj.  The other Wieroo that had been asleep
when Bradley left the chamber had departed, and the two were alone.
Fosh-bal-soj displayed little of the cowardice of those that had
attacked Bradley in the alleyway, but that may have been because
he had so slight opportunity, for Bradley had him by the throat
before he could utter a cry and with his right hand struck him
heavily and repeatedly upon his face and over his heart--ugly,
smashing, short-arm jabs of the sort that take the fight out of
a man in quick time.

But Fosh-bal-soj was of no mind to die passively.  He clawed and
struck at Bradley while with his great wings he attempted to
shield himself from the merciless rain of blows, at the same time
searching for a hold upon his antagonist's throat.  Presently he
succeeded in tripping the Englishman, and together the two fell
heavily to the floor, Bradley underneath, and at the same instant
the Wieroo fastened his long talons about the other's windpipe.

Fosh-bal-soj was possessed of enormous strength and he was
fighting for his life.  The Englishman soon realized that the
battle was going against him.  Already his lungs were pounding
painfully for air as he reached for his pistol.  It was with
difficulty that he drew it from its holster, and even then, with
death staring him in the face, he thought of his precious ammunition.
"Can't waste it," he thought; and slipping his fingers to the
barrel he raised the weapon and struck Fosh-bal-soj a terrific
blow between the eyes.  Instantly the clawlike fingers released
their hold, and the creature sank limply to the floor beside
Bradley, who lay for several minutes gasping painfully in an
effort to regain his breath.

When he was able, he rose, and leaned close over the Wieroo,
lying silent and motionless, his wings dropping limply and his
great, round eyes staring blankly toward the ceiling.  A brief
examination convinced Bradley that the thing was dead, and with
the conviction came an overwhelming sense of the dangers which
must now confront him; but how was he to escape?

His first thought was to find some means for concealing the
evidence of his deed and then to make a bold effort to escape.
Stepping to the second door he pushed it gently open and peered
in upon what seemed to be a store room.  In it was a litter of
cloth such as the Wieroos' robes were fashioned from, a number
of chests painted blue and white, with white hieroglyphics
painted in bold strokes upon the blue and blue hieroglyphics upon
the white.  In one corner was a pile of human skulls reaching
almost to the ceiling and in another a stack of dried Wieroo wings.
The chamber was as irregularly shaped as the other and had but a
single window and a second door at the further end, but was
without the exit through the roof and, most important of all,
there was no creature of any sort in it.

As quickly as possible Bradley dragged the dead Wieroo through
the doorway and closed the door; then he looked about for a place
to conceal the corpse.  One of the chests was large enough to
hold the body if the knees were bent well up, and with this idea
in view Bradley approached the chest to open it.  The lid was
made in two pieces, each being hinged at an opposite end of the
chest and joining nicely where they met in the center of the
chest, making a snug, well-fitting joint.  There was no lock.
Bradley raised one half the cover and looked in.  With a smothered
"By Jove!" he bent closer to examine the contents--the chest
was about half filled with an assortment of golden trinkets.
There were what appeared to be bracelets, anklets and brooches
of virgin gold.

Realizing that there was no room in the chest for the body of the
Wieroo, Bradley turned to seek another means of concealing the
evidence of his crime.  There was a space between the chests and
the wall, and into this he forced the corpse, piling the
discarded robes upon it until it was entirely hidden from sight;
but now how was he to make good his escape in the bright glare of
that early Spring day?

He walked to the door at the far end of the apartment and
cautiously opened it an inch.  Before him and about two feet away
was the blank wall of another building.  Bradley opened the door
a little farther and looked in both directions.  There was no one
in sight to the left over a considerable expanse of roof-top, and
to the right another building shut off his line of vision at
about twenty feet.  Slipping out, he turned to the right and in
a few steps found a narrow passageway between two buildings.
Turning into this he passed about half its length when he saw a
Wieroo appear at the opposite end and halt.  The creature was not
looking down the passageway; but at any moment it might turn its
eyes toward him, when he would be immediately discovered.

To Bradley's left was a triangular niche in the wall of one of
the houses and into this he dodged, thus concealing himself from
the sight of the Wieroo.  Beside him was a door painted a vivid
yellow and constructed after the same fashion as the other Wieroo
doors he had seen, being made up of countless narrow strips of
wood from four to six inches in length laid on in patches of
about the same width, the strips in adjacent patches never
running in the same direction.  The result bore some resemblance
to a crazy patchwork quilt, which was heightened when, as in one
of the doors he had seen, contiguous patches were painted
different colors.  The strips appeared to have been bound
together and to the underlying framework of the door with gut or
fiber and also glued, after which a thick coating of paint had
been applied.  One edge of the door was formed of a straight,
round pole about two inches in diameter that protruded at top and
bottom, the projections setting in round holes in both lintel and
sill forming the axis upon which the door swung.  An eccentric
disk upon the inside face of the door engaged a slot in the frame
when it was desired to secure the door against intruders.

As Bradley stood flattened against the wall waiting for the
Wieroo to move on, he heard the creature's wings brushing against
the sides of the buildings as it made its way down the narrow
passage in his direction.  As the yellow door offered the only
means of escape without detection, the Englishman decided to risk
whatever might lie beyond it, and so, boldly pushing it in, he
crossed the threshold and entered a small apartment.

As he did so, he heard a muffled ejaculation of surprise, and
turning his eyes in the direction from whence the sound had come,
he beheld a wide-eyed girl standing flattened against the
opposite wall, an expression of incredulity upon her face.  At a
glance he saw that she was of no race of humans that he had come
in contact with since his arrival upon Caprona--there was no
trace about her form or features of any relationship to those low
orders of men, nor was she appareled as they--or, rather, she did
not entirely lack apparel as did most of them.

A soft hide fell from her left shoulder to just below her left
hip on one side and almost to her right knee on the other, a
loose girdle was about her waist, and golden ornaments such as he
had seen in the blue-and-white chest encircled her arms and legs,
while a golden fillet with a triangular diadem bound her heavy
hair above her brows.  Her skin was white as from long confinement
within doors; but it was clear and fine.  Her figure, but partially
concealed by the soft deerskin, was all curves of symmetry and
youthful grace, while her features might easily have been the envy
of the most feted of Continental beauties.

If the girl was surprised by the sudden appearance of Bradley,
the latter was absolutely astounded to discover so wondrous
a creature among the hideous inhabitants of the City of
Human Skulls.  For a moment the two looked at one another in
unconcealed consternation, and then Bradley spoke, using to
the best of his poor ability, the common tongue of Caspak.

"Who are you," he asked, "and from where do you come?  Do not tell
me that you are a Wieroo."

"No," she replied, "I am no Wieroo."  And she shuddered slightly as
she pronounced the word.  "I am a Galu; but who and what are you?
I am sure that you are no Galu, from your garments; but you are
like the Galus in other respects.  I know that you are not of
this frightful city, for I have been here for almost ten moons,
and never have I seen a male Galu brought hither before, nor are
there such as you and I, other than prisoners in the land of
Oo-oh, and these are all females.  Are you a prisoner, then?"

He told her briefly who and what he was, though he doubted if she
understood, and from her he learned that she had been a prisoner
there for many months; but for what purpose he did not then
learn, as in the midst of their conversation the yellow door
swung open and a Wieroo with a robe slashed with yellow entered.

At sight of Bradley the creature became furious.  "Whence came
this reptile?" it demanded of the girl.  "How long has it been
here with you?"

"It came through the doorway just ahead of you," Bradley answered
for the girl.

The Wieroo looked relieved.  "It is well for the girl that
this is so," it said, "for now only you will have to die."
And stepping to the door the creature raised its voice in
one of those uncanny, depressing wails.

The Englishman looked toward the girl.  "Shall I kill it?" he
asked, half drawing his pistol.  "What is best to do?--I do not
wish to endanger you."

The Wieroo backed toward the door.  "Defiler!" it screamed.
"You dare to threaten one of the sacred chosen of Luata!"

"Do not kill him," cried the girl, "for then there could be no
hope for you.  That you are here, alive, shows that they may not
intend to kill you at all, and so there is a chance for you if
you do not anger them; but touch him in violence and your
bleached skull will top the loftiest pedestal of Oo-oh."

"And what of you?" asked Bradley.

"I am already doomed," replied the girl; "I am cos-ata-lo."

"Cos-ata-lo! cos-ata-lu!"  What did these phrases mean that
they were so oft repeated by the denizens of Oo-oh?  Lu and
lo, Bradley knew to mean man and woman; ata; was
employed variously to indicate life, eggs, young, reproduction
and kindred subject; cos was a negative; but in combination
they were meaningless to the European.

"Do you mean they will kill you?" asked Bradley.

"I but wish that they would," replied the girl.  "My fate is to
be worse than death--in just a few nights more, with the coming
of the new moon."

"Poor she-snake!" snapped the Wieroo.  "You are to become sacred
above all other shes.  He Who Speaks for Luata has chosen you
for himself.  Today you go to his temple--"the Wieroo used a
phrase meaning literally High Place--"where you will receive
the sacred commands."

The girl shuddered and cast a sorrowful glance toward Bradley.
"Ah," she sighed, "if I could but see my beloved country once again!"

The man stepped suddenly close to her side before the Wieroo
could interpose and in a low voice asked her if there was no
way by which he might encompass her escape.  She shook her
head sorrowfully.  "Even if we escaped the city," she replied,
"there is the big water between the island of Oo-oh and the
Galu shore."

"And what is beyond the city, if we could leave it?" pursued Bradley.

"I  may only guess from what I have heard since I was brought
here," she answered; "but by reports and chance remarks I take it
to be a beautiful land in which there are but few wild beasts and
no men, for only the Wieroos live upon this island and they dwell
always in cities of which there are three, this being the largest.
The others are at the far end of the island, which is about three
marches from end to end and at its widest point about one march."

From his own experience and from what the natives on the mainland
had told him, Bradley knew that ten miles was a good day's march
in Caspak, owing to the fact that at most points it was a
trackless wilderness and at all times travelers were beset by
hideous beasts and reptiles that greatly impeded rapid progress.

The two had spoken rapidly but were now interrupted by the advent
through the opening in the roof of several Wieroos who had come
in answer to the alarm it of the yellow slashing had uttered.

"This jaal-lu,"  cried the offended one, "has threatened me.
Take its hatchet from it and make it fast where it can do no
harm until He Who Speaks for Luata has said what shall be done
with it.  It is one of those strange creatures that Fosh-bal-soj
discovered first above the Band-lu country and followed back toward
the beginning.  He Who Speaks for Luata sent Fosh-bal-soj to fetch
him one of the creatures, and here it is.  It is hoped that it may
be from another world and hold the secret of the cos-ata-lus."

The Wieroos approached boldly to take Bradley's "hatchet" from
him, their leader having indicated the pistol hanging in its
holster at the Englishman's hip, but the first one went reeling
backward against his fellows from the blow to the chin which
Bradley followed up with a rush and the intention to clean up the
room in record time; but he had reckoned without the opening in
the roof.  Two were down and a great wailing and moaning was
arising when reinforcements appeared from above.  Bradley did not
see them; but the girl did, and though she cried out a warning,
it came too late for him to avoid a large Wieroo who dived
headforemost for him, striking him between the shoulders and
bearing him to the floor.  Instantly a dozen more were piling on
top of him.  His pistol was wrenched from its holster and he was
securely pinioned down by the weight of numbers.

At a word from the Wieroo of the yellow slashing who evidently
was a person of authority, one left and presently returned with
fiber ropes with which Bradley was tightly bound.

"Now bear him to the Blue Place of Seven Skulls," directed the
chief Wieroo, "and one take the word of all that has passed to
Him Who Speaks for Luata."

Each of the creatures raised a hand, the back against its face,
as though in salute.  One seized Bradley and carried him through
the yellow doorway to the roof from whence it rose upon its
wide-spread wings and flapped off across the roof-tops of Oo-oh
with its heavy burden clutched in its long talons.

Below him Bradley could see the city stretching away to a
distance on every hand.  It was not as large as he had imagined,
though he judged that it was at least three miles square.
The houses were piled in indescribable heaps, sometimes to a
height of a hundred feet.  The streets and alleys were short
and crooked and there were many areas where buildings had been
wedged in so closely that no light could possibly reach the
lowest tiers, the entire surface of the ground being packed
solidly with them.

The colors were varied and startling, the architecture amazing.
Many roofs were cup or saucer-shaped with a small hole in the
center of each, as though they had been constructed to catch
rain-water and conduct it to a reservoir beneath; but nearly all
the others had the large opening in the top that Bradley had seen
used by these flying men in lieu of doorways.  At all levels were
the myriad poles surmounted by grinning skulls; but the two most
prominent features of the city were the round tower of human
skulls that Bradley had noted earlier in the day and another and
much larger edifice near the center of the city.  As they
approached it, Bradley saw that it was a huge building rising a
hundred feet in height from the ground and that it stood alone in
the center of what might have been called a plaza in some other
part of the world.  Its various parts, however, were set together
with the same strange irregularity that marked the architecture
of the city as a whole; and it was capped by an enormous
saucer-shaped roof which projected far beyond the eaves, having
the appearance of a colossal Chinese coolie hat, inverted.

The Wieroo bearing Bradley passed over one corner of the open
space about the large building, revealing to the Englishman grass
and trees and running water beneath.  They passed the building
and about five hundred yards beyond the creature alighted on the
roof of a square, blue building surmounted by seven poles bearing
seven skulls.  This then, thought Bradley, is the Blue Place of
Seven Skulls.

Over the opening in the roof was a grated covering, and this the
Wieroo removed.  The thing then tied a piece of fiber rope to one
of Bradley's ankles and rolled him over the edge of the opening.
All was dark below and for an instant the Englishman came as near
to experiencing real terror as he had ever come in his life before.
As he rolled off into the black abyss he felt the rope tighten
about his ankle and an instant later he was stopped with a sudden
jerk to swing pendulumlike, head downward.  Then the creature
lowered away until Bradley's head came in sudden and painful
contact with the floor below, after which the Wieroo let loose
of the rope entirely and the Englishman's body crashed to the
wooden planking.  He felt the free end of the rope dropped
upon him and heard the grating being slid into place above him.



Chapter 3


Half-stunned, Bradley lay for a minute as he had fallen and then
slowly and painfully wriggled into a less uncomfortable position.
He could see nothing of his surroundings in the gloom about him
until after a few minutes his eyes became accustomed to the dark
interior when he rolled them from side to side in survey of his prison.

He discovered himself to be in a bare room which was windowless,
nor could he see any other opening than that through which he had
been lowered.  In one corner was a huddled mass that might have
been almost anything from a bundle of rags to a dead body.

Almost immediately after he had taken his bearings Bradley
commenced working with his bonds.  He was a man of powerful
physique, and as from the first he had been imbued with a belief
that the fiber ropes were too weak to hold him, he worked on
with a firm conviction that sooner or later they would part to
his strainings.  After a matter of five minutes he was positive
that the strands about his wrists were beginning to give; but he
was compelled to rest then from exhaustion.

As he lay, his eyes rested upon the bundle in the corner, and
presently he could have sworn that the thing moved.  With eyes
straining through the gloom the man lay watching the grim and
sinister thing in the corner.  Perhaps his overwrought nerves
were playing a sorry joke upon him.  He thought of this and also
that his condition of utter helplessness might still further have
stimulated his imagination.  He closed his eyes and sought to
relax his muscles and his nerves; but when he looked again, he
knew that he had not been mistaken--the thing had moved; now it
lay in a slightly altered form and farther from the wall.  It was
nearer him.

With renewed strength Bradley strained at his bonds, his
fascinated gaze still glued upon the shapeless bundle.  No longer
was there any doubt that it moved--he saw it rise in the center
several inches and then creep closer to him.  It sank and arose
again--a headless, hideous, monstrous thing of menace.  Its very
silence rendered it the more terrible.

Bradley was a brave man; ordinarily his nerves were of steel; but
to be at the mercy of some unknown and nameless horror, to be
unable to defend himself--it was these things that almost
unstrung him, for at best he was only human.  To stand in the
open, even with the odds all against him; to be able to use his
fists, to put up some sort of defense, to inflict punishment upon
his adversary--then he could face death with a smile.  It was not
death that he feared now--it was that horror of the unknown that
is part of the fiber of every son of woman.

Closer and closer came the shapeless mass.  Bradley lay
motionless and listened.  What was that he heard!  Breathing?
He could not be mistaken--and then from out of the bundle of rags
issued a hollow groan.  Bradley felt his hair rise upon his head.
He struggled with the slowly parting strands that held him.
The thing beside him rose up higher than before and the Englishman
could have sworn that he saw a single eye peering at him from
among the tumbled cloth.  For a moment the bundle remained
motionless--only the sound of breathing issued from it, then
there broke from it a maniacal laugh.

Cold sweat stood upon Bradley's brow as he tugged for liberation.
He saw the rags rise higher and higher above him until at last
they tumbled upon the floor from the body of a naked man--a thin,
a bony, a hideous caricature of man, that mouthed and mummed and,
wabbling upon its weak and shaking legs, crumpled to the floor
again, still laughing--laughing horribly.

It crawled toward Bradley.  "Food!  Food!" it screamed.
"There is a way out! There is a way out!"

Dragging itself to his side the creature slumped upon the
Englishman's breast.  "Food!" it shrilled as with its bony
fingers and its teeth, it sought the man's bare throat.

"Food!  There is a way out!"  Bradley felt teeth upon his jugular.
He turned and twisted, shaking himself free for an instant; but
once more with hideous persistence the thing fastened itself
upon him.  The weak jaws were unable to send the dull teeth through
the victim's flesh; but Bradley felt it pawing, pawing, pawing,
like a monstrous rat, seeking his life's blood.

The skinny arms now embraced his neck, holding the teeth to his
throat against all his efforts to dislodge the thing.  Weak as it
was it had strength enough for this in its mad efforts to eat.
Mumbling as it worked, it repeated again and again, "Food!  Food!
There is a way out!" until Bradley thought those two expressions
alone would drive him mad.

And all but mad he was as with a final effort backed by almost
maniacal strength he tore his wrists from the confining bonds and
grasping the repulsive thing upon his breast hurled it halfway
across the room.  Panting like a spent hound Bradley worked at
the thongs about his ankles while the maniac lay quivering and
mumbling where it had fallen.  Presently the Englishman leaped to
his feet--freer than he had ever before felt in all his life,
though he was still hopelessly a prisoner in the Blue Place of
Seven Skulls.

With his back against the wall for support, so weak the reaction
left him, Bradley stood watching the creature upon the floor.
He saw it move and slowly raise itself to its hands and knees,
where it swayed to and fro as its eyes roved about in search of
him; and when at last they found him, there broke from the drawn
lips the mumbled words:  "Food!  Food!  There is a way out!"
The pitiful supplication in the tones touched the Englishman's heart.
He knew that this could be no Wieroo, but possibly once a man like
himself who had been cast into this pit of solitary confinement
with this hideous result that might in time be his fate, also.

And then, too, there was the suggestion of hope held out by the
constant reiteration of the phrase, "There is a way out."
Was there a way out?  What did this poor thing know?

"Who are you and how long have you been here?" Bradley
suddenly demanded.

For a moment the man upon the floor made no response, then
mumblingly came the words:  "Food!  Food!"

"Stop!" commanded the Englishman--the injunction might have been
barked from the muzzle of a pistol.  It brought the man to a
sitting posture, his hands off the ground.  He stopped swaying to
and fro and appeared to be startled into an attempt to master his
faculties of concentration and thought.

Bradley repeated his questions sharply.

"I am An-Tak, the Galu," replied the man.  "Luata alone knows how
long I have been here--maybe ten moons, maybe ten moons three
times"--it was the Caspakian equivalent of thirty.  "I was young
and strong when they brought me here.  Now I am old and very weak.
I am cos-ata-lu--that is why they have not killed me.
If I tell them the secret of becoming cos-ata-lu they will
take me out; but how can I tell them that which Luata alone knows?

"What is cos-ata-lu?" demanded Bradley.

"Food!  Food!  There is a way out!" mumbled the Galu.

Bradley strode across the floor, seized the man by his shoulders
and shook him.

"Tell me," he cried, "what is cos-ata-lu?"

"Food!" whimpered An-Tak.

Bradley bethought himself.  His haversack had not been taken
from him.  In it besides his razor and knife were odds and ends
of equipment and a small quantity of dried meat.  He tossed a small
strip of the latter to the starving Galu.  An-Tak seized upon it
and devoured it ravenously.  It instilled new life in the man.

"What is cos-ata-lu?" insisted Bradley again.

An-Tak tried to explain.  His narrative was often broken by
lapses of concentration during which he reverted to his plaintive
mumbling for food and recurrence to the statement that there was
a way out; but by firmness and patience the Englishman drew out
piece-meal a more or less lucid exposition of the remarkable
scheme of evolution that rules in Caspak.  In it he found
explanations of the hitherto inexplicable.  He discovered why he
had seen no babes or children among the Caspakian tribes with
which he had come in contact; why each more northerly tribe
evinced a higher state of development than those south of them;
why each tribe included individuals ranging in physical and
mental characteristics from the highest of the next lower race to
the lowest of the next higher, and why the women of each tribe
immersed themselves morning for an hour or more in the warm pools
near which the habitations of their people always were located;
and, too, he discovered why those pools were almost immune from
the attacks of carnivorous animals and reptiles.

He learned that all but those who were cos-ata-lu came up
cor-sva-jo, or from the beginning.  The egg from which
they first developed into tadpole form was deposited, with
millions of others, in one of the warm pools and with it a
poisonous serum that the carnivora instinctively shunned.
Down the warm stream from the pool floated the countless billions
of eggs and tadpoles, developing as they drifted slowly toward
the sea.  Some became tadpoles in the pool, some in the sluggish
stream and some not until they reached the great inland sea.
In the next stage they became fishes or reptiles, An-Tak was not
positive which, and in this form, always developing, they swam
far to the south, where, amid the rank and teeming jungles, some
of them evolved into amphibians.  Always there were those whose
development stopped at the first stage, others whose development
ceased when they became reptiles, while by far the greater
proportion formed the food supply of the ravenous creatures of
the deep.

Few indeed were those that eventually developed into baboons and
then apes, which was considered by Caspakians the real beginning
of evolution.  From the egg, then, the individual developed
slowly into a higher form, just as the frog's egg develops through
various stages from a fish with gills to a frog with lungs.
With that thought in mind Bradley discovered that it was not
difficult to believe in the possibility of such a scheme--
there was nothing new in it.

From the ape the individual, if it survived, slowly developed
into the lowest order of man--the Alu--and then by degrees to
Bo-lu, Sto-lu, Band-lu, Kro-lu and finally Galu.  And in each
stage countless millions of other eggs were deposited in the warm
pools of the various races and floated down to the great sea to
go through a similar process of evolution outside the womb as
develops our own young within; but in Caspak the scheme is much
more inclusive, for it combines not only individual development
but the evolution of species and genera.  If an egg survives it
goes through all the stages of development that man has passed
through during the unthinkable eons since life first moved upon
the earth's face.

The final stage--that which the Galus have almost attained and
for which all hope--is cos-ata-lu, which literally, means
no-egg-man, or one who is born directly as are the young of the
outer world of mammals.  Some of the Galus produce cos-ata-lu
and cos-ata-lo both; the Weiroos only cos-ata-lu--in
other words all Wieroos are born male, and so they prey upon the
Galus for their women and sometimes capture and torture the Galu
men who are cos-ata-lu in an endeavor to learn the secret
which they believe will give them unlimited power over all other
denizens of Caspak.

No Wieroos come up from the beginning--all are born of the Wieroo
fathers and Galu mothers who are cos-ata-lo, and there are
very few of the latter owing to the long and precarious stages
of development.  Seven generations of the same ancestor must come
up from the beginning before a cos-ata-lu child may be born;
and when one considers the frightful dangers that surround the
vital spark from the moment it leaves the warm pool where it has
been deposited to float down to the sea amid the voracious creatures
that swarm the surface and the deeps and the almost equally
unthinkable trials of its effort to survive after it once becomes
a land animal and starts northward through the horrors of the
Caspakian jungles and forests, it is plainly a wonder that even
a single babe has ever been born to a Galu woman.

Seven cycles it requires before the seventh Galu can complete the
seventh danger-infested circle since its first Galu ancestor
achieved the state of Galu.  For ages before, the ancestors of
this first Galu may have developed from a Band-lu or Bo-lu egg
without ever once completing the whole circle--that is from a
Galu egg, back to a fully developed Galu.

Bradley's head was whirling before he even commenced to grasp the
complexities of Caspakian evolution; but as the truth slowly
filtered into his understanding--as gradually it became possible
for him to visualize the scheme, it appeared simpler.  In fact,
it seemed even less difficult of comprehension than that with
which he was familiar.

For several minutes after An-Tak ceased speaking, his voice
having trailed off weakly into silence, neither spoke again.
Then the Galu recommenced his, "Food!  Food!  There is a way out!"
Bradley tossed him another bit of dried meat, waiting patiently
until he had eaten it, this time more slowly.

"What do you mean by saying there is a way out?" he asked.

"He who died here just after I came, told me," replied An-Tak.
"He said there was a way out, that he had discovered it but was
too weak to use his knowledge.  He was trying to tell me how to
find it when he died.  Oh, Luata, if he had lived but a moment more!"

"They do not feed you here?" asked Bradley.

"No, they give me water once a day--that is all."

"But how have you lived, then?"

"The lizards and the rats," replied An-Tak. "The lizards are not
so bad; but the rats are foul to taste.  However, I must eat them
or they would eat me, and they are better than nothing; but of
late they do not come so often, and I have not had a lizard for
a long time.  I shall eat though," he mumbled.  "I shall eat now,
for you cannot remain awake forever."  He laughed, a cackling, dry
laugh.  "When you sleep, An-Tak will eat."

It was horrible.  Bradley shuddered.  For a long time each sat
in silence.  The Englishman could guess why the other made no
sound--he awaited the moment that sleep should overcome his victim.
In the long silence there was born upon Bradley's ears a faint,
monotonous sound as of running water.  He listened intently.
It seemed to come from far beneath the floor.

"What is that noise?" he asked.  "That sounds like water running
through a narrow channel."

"It is the river," replied An-Tak.  "Why do you not go to sleep?
It passes directly beneath the Blue Place of Seven Skulls.  It runs
through the temple grounds, beneath the temple and under the city.
When we die, they will cut off our heads and throw our bodies into
the river.  At the mouth of the river await many large reptiles.
Thus do they feed.  The Wieroos do likewise with their own dead,
keeping only the skulls and the wings.  Come, let us sleep."

"Do the reptiles come up the river into the city?" asked Bradley.

"The water is too cold--they never leave the warm water of the
great pool," replied An-Tak.

"Let us search for the way out," suggested Bradley.

An-Tak shook his head.  "I have searched for it all these moons,"
he said.  "If I could not find it, how would you?"

Bradley made no reply but commenced a diligent examination of the
walls and floor of the room, pressing over each square foot
and tapping with his knuckles.  About six feet from the floor
he discovered a sleeping-perch near one end of the apartment.
He asked An-Tak about it, but the Galu said that no Weiroo
had occupied the place since he had been incarcerated there.
Again and again Bradley went over the floor and walls as high
up as he could reach.  Finally he swung himself to the perch,
that he might examine at least one end of the room all the way
to the ceiling.

In the center of the wall close to the top, an area about three
feet square gave forth a hollow sound when he rapped upon it.
Bradley felt over every square inch of that area with the tips of
his fingers.  Near the top he found a small round hole a trifle
larger in diameter than his forefinger, which he immediately
stuck into it.  The panel, if such it was, seemed about an
inch thick, and beyond it his finger encountered nothing.
Bradley crooked his finger upon the opposite side of the panel
and pulled toward him, steadily but with considerable force.
Suddenly the panel flew inward, nearly precipitating the man to
the floor.  It was hinged at the bottom, and when lowered the
outer edge rested upon the perch, making a little platform
parallel with the floor of the room.

Beyond the opening was an utterly dark void.  The Englishman
leaned through it and reached his arm as far as possible into the
blackness but touched nothing.  Then he fumbled in his haversack
for a match, a few of which remained to him.  When he struck it,
An-Tak gave a cry of terror.  Bradley held the light far into the
opening before him and in its flickering rays saw the top of a
ladder descending into a black abyss below.  How far down it
extended he could not guess; but that he should soon know
definitely he was positive.

"You have found it!  You have found the way out!" screamed An-Tak.
"Oh, Luata!  And now I am too weak to go.  Take me with you!
Take me with you!"

"Shut up!" admonished Bradley.  "You will have the whole flock of
birds around our heads in a minute, and neither of us will escape.
Be quiet, and I'll go ahead.  If I find a way out, I'll come back
and help you, if you'll promise not to try to eat me up again."

"I promise," cried An-Tak.  "Oh, Luata!  How could you blame me?
I am half crazed of hunger and long confinement and the horror of
the lizards and the rats and the constant waiting for death."

"I know," said Bradley simply.  "I'm sorry for you, old top.
Keep a stiff upper lip."  And he slipped through the opening,
found the ladder with his feet, closed the panel behind him, and
started downward into the darkness.

Below him rose more and more distinctly the sound of running water.
The air felt damp and cool.  He could see nothing of his
surroundings and felt nothing but the smooth, worn sides and
rungs of the ladder down which he felt his way cautiously lest a
broken rung or a misstep should hurl him downward.

As he descended thus slowly, the ladder seemed interminable and
the pit bottomless, yet he realized when at last he reached the
bottom that he could not have descended more than fifty feet.
The bottom of the ladder rested on a narrow ledge paved with what
felt like large round stones, but what he knew from experience to
be human skulls.  He could not but marvel as to where so many
countless thousands of the things had come from, until he paused
to consider that the infancy of Caspak dated doubtlessly back
into remote ages, far beyond what the outer world considered the
beginning of earthly time.  For all these eons the Wieroos might
have been collecting human skulls from their enemies and their
own dead--enough to have built an entire city of them.

Feeling his way along the narrow ledge, Bradley came presently to
a blank wall that stretched out over the water swirling beneath
him, as far as he could reach.  Stooping, he groped about with
one hand, reaching down toward the surface of the water, and
discovered that the bottom of the wall arched above the stream.
How much space there was between the water and the arch he could
not tell, nor how deep the former.  There was only one way in
which he might learn these things, and that was to lower himself
into the stream.  For only an instant he hesitated weighing
his chances.  Behind him lay almost certainly the horrid fate of
An-Tak; before him nothing worse than a comparatively painless
death by drowning.  Holding his haversack above his head with one
hand he lowered his feet slowly over the edge of the narrow platform.
Almost immediately he felt the swirling of cold water about his
ankles, and then with a silent prayer he let himself drop gently
into the stream.

Great was Bradley's relief when he found the water no more
than waist deep and beneath his feet a firm, gravel bottom.
Feeling his way cautiously he moved downward with the current,
which was not so strong as he had imagined from the noise of
the running water.

Beneath the first arch he made his way, following the winding
curvatures of the right-hand wall.  After a few yards of progress
his hand came suddenly in contact with a slimy thing clinging to
the wall--a thing that hissed and scuttled out of reach.  What it
was, the man could not know; but almost instantly there was a
splash in the water just ahead of him and then another.

On he went, passing beneath other arches at varying distances,
and always in utter darkness.  Unseen denizens of this great
sewer, disturbed by the intruder, splashed into the water ahead
of him and wriggled away.  Time and again his hand touched them
and never for an instant could he be sure that at the next step
some gruesome thing might not attack him.  He had strapped his
haversack about his neck, well above the surface of the water,
and in his left hand he carried his knife.  Other precautions
there were none to take.

The monotony of the blind trail was increased by the fact that
from the moment he had started from the foot of the ladder he had
counted his every step.  He had promised to return for An-Tak if
it proved humanly possible to do so, and he knew that in the
blackness of the tunnel he could locate the foot of the ladder in
no other way.

He had taken two hundred and sixty-nine steps--afterward he knew
that he should never forget that number--when something bumped
gently against him from behind.  Instantly he wheeled about and
with knife ready to defend himself stretched forth his right hand
to push away the object that now had lodged against his body.
His fingers feeling through the darkness came in contact with
something cold and clammy--they passed to and fro over the thing
until Bradley knew that it was the face of a dead man floating
upon the surface of the stream.  With an oath he pushed his
gruesome companion out into mid-stream to float on down toward
the great pool and the awaiting scavengers of the deep.

At his four hundred and thirteenth step another corpse bumped
against him--how many had passed him without touching he could
not guess; but suddenly he experienced the sensation of being
surrounded by dead faces floating along with him, all set in
hideous grimaces, their dead eyes glaring at this profaning alien
who dared intrude upon the waters of this river of the dead--a
horrid escort, pregnant with dire forebodings and with menace.

Though he advanced very slowly, he tried always to take steps of
about the same length; so that he knew that though considerable
time had elapsed, yet he had really advanced no more than four
hundred yards when ahead he saw a lessening of the pitch-darkness,
and at the next turn of the stream his surroundings became
vaguelydiscernible.  Above him was an arched roof and on either
hand walls pierced at intervals by apertures covered with
wooden doors.  Just ahead of him in the roof of the aqueduct
was a round, black hole about thirty inches in diameter.
His eyes still rested upon the opening when there shot downward
from it to the water below the naked body of a human being which
almost immediately rose to the surface again and floated off down
the stream.  In the dim light Bradley saw that it was a dead
Wieroo from which the wings and head had been removed.  A moment
later another headless body floated past, recalling what An-Tak
had told him of the skull-collecting customs of the Wieroo.
Bradley wondered how it happened that the first corpse he had
encountered in the stream had not been similarly mutilated.

The farther he advanced now, the lighter it became.  The number
of corpses was much smaller than he had imagined, only two more
passing him before, at six hundred steps, or about five hundred
yards, from the point he had taken to the stream, he came to the
end of the tunnel and looked out upon sunlit water, running
between grassy banks.

One of the last corpses to pass him was still clothed in the
white robe of a Wieroo, blood-stained over the headless neck that
it concealed.

Drawing closer to the opening leading into the bright daylight,
Bradley surveyed what lay beyond.  A short distance before him a
large building stood in the center of several acres of grass and
tree-covered ground, spanning the stream which disappeared
through an opening in its foundation wall.  From the large
saucer-shaped roof and the vivid colorings of the various
heterogeneous parts of the structure he recognized it as the
temple past which he had been borne to the Blue Place of
Seven Skulls.

To and fro flew Wieroos, going to and from the temple.
Others passed on foot across the open grounds, assisting
themselves with their great wings, so that they barely skimmed
the earth.  To leave the mouth of the tunnel would have been
to court instant discovery and capture; but by what other
avenue he might escape, Bradley could not guess, unless he
retraced his steps up the stream and sought egress from the
other end of the city.  The thought of traversing that dark
and horror-ridden tunnel for perhaps miles he could not
entertain--there must be some other way.  Perhaps after dark
he could steal through the temple grounds and continue on
downstream until he had come beyond the city; and so he stood
and waited until his limbs became almost paralyzed with cold,
and he knew that he must find some other plan for escape.

A half-formed decision to risk an attempt to swim under water to
the temple was crystallizing in spite of the fact that any chance
Wieroo flying above the stream might easily see him, when again
a floating object bumped against him from behind and lodged
across his back.  Turning quickly he saw that the thing was what
he had immediately guessed it to be--a headless and wingless
Wieroo corpse.  With a grunt of disgust he was about to push it
from him when the white garment enshrouding it suggested a bold
plan to his resourceful brain.  Grasping the corpse by an arm he
tore the garment from it and then let the body float downward
toward the temple.  With great care he draped the robe about him;
the bloody blotch that had covered the severed neck he arranged
about his own head.  His haversack he rolled as tightly as
possible and stuffed beneath his coat over his breast.  Then he
fell gently to the surface of the stream and lying upon his back
floated downward with the current and out into the open sunlight.

Through the weave of the cloth he could distinguish large objects.
He saw a Wieroo flap dismally above him; he saw the banks of the
stream float slowly past; he heard a sudden wail upon the right-
hand shore, and his heart stood still lest his ruse had been
discovered; but never by a move of a muscle did he betray that
aught but a cold lump of clay floated there upon the bosom of the
water, and soon, though it seemed an eternity to him, the direct
sunlight was blotted out, and he knew that he had entered beneath
the temple.

Quickly he felt for bottom with his feet and as quickly stood
erect, snatching the bloody, clammy cloth from his face.  On both
sides were blank walls and before him the river turned a sharp
corner and disappeared.  Feeling his way cautiously forward he
approached the turn and looked around the corner.  To his left
was a low platform about a foot above the level of the stream,
and onto this he lost no time in climbing, for he was soaked from
head to foot, cold and almost exhausted.

As he lay resting on the skull-paved shelf, he saw in the center
of the vault above the river another of those sinister round
holes through which he momentarily expected to see a headless
corpse shoot downward in its last plunge to a watery grave.
A few feet along the platform a closed door broke the blankness of
the wall.  As he lay looking at it and wondering what lay behind,
his mind filled with fragments of many wild schemes of escape, it
opened and a white robed Wieroo stepped out upon the platform.
The creature carried a large wooden basin filled with rubbish.
Its eyes were not upon Bradley, who drew himself to a squatting
position and crouched as far back in the corner of the niche in
which the platform was set as he could force himself.  The Wieroo
stepped to the edge of the platform and dumped the rubbish into
the stream.  If it turned away from him as it started to retrace
its steps to the doorway, there was a small chance that it might
not see him; but if it turned toward him there was none at all.
Bradley held his breath.

The Wieroo paused a moment, gazing down into the water, then it
straightened up and turned toward the Englishman.  Bradley did
not move.  The Wieroo stopped and stared intently at him.
It approached him questioningly.  Still Bradley remained as
though carved of stone.  The creature was directly in front
of him.  It stopped.  There was no chance on earth that it would
not discover what he was.

With the quickness of a cat, Bradley sprang to his feet and with
all his great strength, backed by his heavy weight, struck the
Wieroo upon the point of the chin.  Without a sound the thing
crumpled to the platform, while Bradley, acting almost
instinctively to the urge of the first law of nature, rolled the
inanimate body over the edge into the river.

Then he looked at the open doorway, crossed the platform and
peered within the apartment beyond.  What he saw was a large
room, dimly lighted, and about the side rows of wooden vessels
stacked one upon another.  There was no Wieroo in sight, so the
Englishman entered.  At the far end of the room was another door,
and as he crossed toward it, he glanced into some of the vessels,
which he found were filled with dried fruits, vegetables and fish.
Without more ado he stuffed his pockets and his haversack full,
thinking of the poor creature awaiting his return in the gloom
of the Place of Seven Skulls.

When night came, he would return and fetch An-Tak this far at
least; but in the meantime it was his intention to reconnoiter in
the hope that he might discover some easier way out of the city
than that offered by the chill, black channel of the ghastly
river of corpses.

Beyond the farther door stretched a long passageway from
which closed doorways led into other parts of the cellars of
the temple.  A few yards from the storeroom a ladder rose from
the corridor through an aperture in the ceiling.  Bradley paused
at the foot of it, debating the wisdom of further investigation
against a return to the river; but strong within him was the
spirit of exploration that has scattered his race to the four
corners of the earth.  What new mysteries lay hidden in the
chambers above?  The urge to know was strong upon him though his
better judgment warned him that the safer course lay in retreat.
For a moment he stood thus, running his fingers through his hair;
then he cast discretion to the winds and began the ascent.

In conformity with such Wieroo architecture as he had already
observed, the well through which the ladder rose continually
canted at an angle from the perpendicular.  At more or less
regular stages it was pierced by apertures closed by doors, none
of which he could open until he had climbed fully fifty feet from
the river level.  Here he discovered a door already ajar opening
into a large, circular chamber, the walls and floors of which
were covered with the skins of wild beasts and with rugs of many
colors; but what interested him most was the occupants of the
room--a Wieroo, and a girl of human proportions.  She was
standing with her back against a column which rose from the
center of the apartment from floor to ceiling--a hollow column
about forty inches in diameter in which he could see an opening
some thirty inches across.  The girl's side was toward Bradley,
and her face averted, for she was watching the Wieroo, who was
now advancing slowly toward her, talking as he came.

Bradley could distinctly hear the words of the creature, who was
urging the girl to accompany him to another Wieroo city.  "Come with
me," he said, "and you shall have your life; remain here and He Who
Speaks for Luata will claim you for his own; and when he is done
with you, your skull will bleach at the top of a tall staff while
your body feeds the reptiles at the mouth of the River of Death.
Even though you bring into the world a female Wieroo, your fate
will be the same if you do not escape him, while with me you shall
have life and food and none shall harm you."

He was quite close to the girl when she replied by striking him
in the face with all her strength.  "Until I am slain," she cried,
"I shall fight against you all."  From the throat of the Wieroo
issued that dismal wail that Bradley had heard so often in the
past--it was like a scream of pain smothered to a groan--and then
the thing leaped upon the girl, its face working in hideous
grimaces as it clawed and beat at her to force her to the floor.

The Englishman was upon the point of entering to defend her when
a door at the opposite side of the chamber opened to admit a huge
Wieroo clothed entirely in red.  At sight of the two struggling
upon the floor the newcomer raised his voice in a shriek of rage.
Instantly the Wieroo who was attacking the girl leaped to his
feet and faced the other.

"I heard," screamed he who had just entered the room.  "I heard,
and when He Who Speaks for Lu-ata shall have heard--" He paused
and made a suggestive movement of a finger across his throat.

"He shall not hear," returned the first Wieroo as, with a
powerful motion of his great wings, he launched himself upon the
red-robed figure.  The latter dodged the first charge, drew a
wicked-looking curved blade from beneath its red robe, spread its
wings and dived for its antagonist.  Beating their wings, wailing
and groaning, the two hideous things sparred for position.
The white-robed one being unarmed sought to grasp the other by
the wrist of its knife-hand and by the throat, while the latter
hopped around on its dainty white feet, seeking an opening for a
mortal blow.  Once it struck and missed, and then the other
rushed in and clinched, at the same time securing both the holds
it sought.  Immediately the two commenced beating at each other's
heads with the joints of their wings, kicking with their soft,
puny feet and biting, each at the other's face.

In the meantime the girl moved about the room, keeping out of the
way of the duelists, and as she did so, Bradley caught a glimpse
of her full face and immediately recognized her as the girl of
the place of the yellow door.  He did not dare intervene now
until one of the Wieroo had overcome the other, lest the two
should turn upon him at once, when the chances were fair that he
would be defeated in so unequal a battle as the curved blade of
the red Wieroo would render it, and so he waited, watching the
white-robed figure slowly choking the life from him of the red robe.
The protruding tongue and the popping eyes proclaimed that the
end was near and a moment later the red robe sank to the floor
of the room, the curved blade slipping from nerveless fingers.
For an instant longer the victor clung to the throat of his
defeated antagonist and then he rose, dragging the body after
him, and approached the central column.  Here he raised the body
and thrust it into the aperture where Bradley saw it drop
suddenly from sight.  Instantly there flashed into his memory the
circular openings in the roof of the river vault and the corpses
he had seen drop from them to the water beneath.

As the body disappeared, the Wieroo turned and cast about the
room for the girl.  For a moment he stood eying her.  "You saw,"
he muttered, "and if you tell them, He Who Speaks for Luata will
have my wings severed while still I live and my head will be
severed and I shall be cast into the River of Death, for thus it
happens even to the highest who slay one of the red robe.  You saw,
and you must die!" he ended with a scream as he rushed upon the girl.

Bradley waited no longer.  Leaping into the room he ran for the
Wieroo, who had already seized the girl, and as he ran, he
stooped and picked up the curved blade.  The creature's back was
toward him as, with his left hand, he seized it by the neck.
Like a flash the great wings beat backward as the creature
turned, and Bradley was swept from his feet, though he still
retained his hold upon the blade.  Instantly the Wieroo was
upon him.  Bradley lay slightly raised upon his left elbow, his
right arm free, and as the thing came close, he cut at the hideous
face with all the strength that lay within him.  The blade struck
at the junction of the neck and torso and with such force as to
completely decapitate the Wieroo, the hideous head dropping to
the floor and the body falling forward upon the Englishman.
Pushing it from him he rose to his feet and faced the wide-eyed girl.

"Luata!" she exclaimed.  "How came you here?"

Bradley shrugged.  "Here I am," he said; "but the thing now is to
get out of here--both of us."

The girl shook her head.  "It cannot be," she stated sadly.

"That is what I thought when they dropped me into the Blue Place
of Seven Skulls," replied Bradley.  "Can't be done.  I did it.--
Here!  You're mussing up the floor something awful, you."  This last
to the dead Wieroo as he stooped and dragged the corpse to the
central shaft, where he raised it to the aperture and let it
slip into the tube.  Then he picked up the head and tossed it
after the body.  "Don't be so glum," he admonished the former as
he carried it toward the well; "smile!"

"But how can he smile?" questioned the girl, a half-puzzled,
half-frightened look upon her face.  "He is dead."

"That's so," admitted Bradley, "and I suppose he does feel a bit
cut up about it."

The girl shook her head and edged away from the man--toward the door.

"Come!" said the Englishman.  "We've got to get out of here.
If you don't know a better way than the river, it's the river then."

The girl still eyed him askance.  "But how could he smile when he
was dead?"

Bradley laughed aloud.  "I thought we English were supposed to
have the least sense of humor of any people in the world," he
cried; "but now I've found one human being who hasn't any.
Of course you don't know half I'm saying; but don't worry, little
girl; I'm not going to hurt you, and if I can get you out of
here, I'll do it."

Even if she did not understand all he said, she at least read
something in his smiling, countenance--something which reassured her.
"I do not fear you," she said; "though I do not understand all
that you say even though you speak my own tongue and use words
that I know.  But as for escaping"--she sighed--"alas, how can
it be done?"

"I escaped from the Blue Place of Seven Skulls," Bradley
reminded her.  "Come!"  And he turned toward the shaft and
the ladder that he had ascended from the river.  "We cannot
waste time here."

The girl followed him; but at the doorway both drew back, for
from below came the sound of some one ascending.

Bradley tiptoed to the door and peered cautiously into the well;
then he stepped back beside the girl.  "There are half a dozen of
them coming up; but possibly they will pass this room."

"No," she said, "they will pass directly through this room--they
are on their way to Him Who Speaks for Luata.  We may be able to
hide in the next room--there are skins there beneath which we
may crawl.  They will not stop in that room; but they may stop in
this one for a short time--the other room is blue."

"What's that go to do with it?" demanded the Englishman.

"They fear blue," she replied.  "In every room where murder has
been done you will find blue--a certain amount for each murder.
When the room is all blue, they shun it.  This room has much
blue; but evidently they kill mostly in the next room, which is
now all blue."

"But there is blue on the outside of every house I have seen,"
said Bradley.

"Yes, " assented the girl, "and there are blue rooms in each of
those houses--when all the rooms are blue then the whole outside
of the house will be blue as is the Blue Place of Seven Skulls.
There are many such here."

"And the skulls with blue upon them?" inquired Bradley.
"Did they belong to murderers?"

"They were murdered--some of them; those with only a small amount
of blue were murderers--known murderers.  All Wieroos are murderers.
When they have committed a certain number of murders without being
caught at it, they confess to Him Who Speaks for Luata and are
advanced, after which they wear robes with a slash of some color--
I think yellow comes first.  When they reach a point where the
entire robe is of yellow, they discard it for a white robe with a
red slash; and when one wins a complete red robe, he carries such
a long, curved knife as you have in your hand; after that comes
the blue slash on a white robe, and then, I suppose, an all blue robe.
I have never seen such a one."

As they talked in low tones they had moved from the room of the
death shaft into an all blue room adjoining, where they sat down
together in a corner with their backs against a wall and drew a
pile of hides over themselves.  A moment later they heard a
number of Wieroos enter the chamber.  They were talking together
as they crossed the floor, or the two could not have heard them.
Halfway across the chamber they halted as the door toward which
they were advancing opened and a dozen others of their kind
entered the apartment.

Bradley could guess all this by the increased volume of sound and
the dismal greetings; but the sudden silence that almost
immediately ensued he could not fathom, for he could not know
that from beneath one of the hides that covered him protruded one
of his heavy army shoes, or that some eighteen large Wieroos with
robes either solid red or slashed with red or blue were standing
gazing at it.  Nor could he hear their stealthy approach.

The first intimation he had that he had been discovered was when
his foot was suddenly seized, and he was yanked violently from
beneath the hides to find himself surrounded by menacing blades.
They would have slain him on the spot had not one clothed all in
red held them back, saying that He Who Speaks for Luata desired
to see this strange creature.

As they led Bradley away, he caught an opportunity to glance back
toward the hides to see what had become of the girl, and, to his
gratification, he discovered that she still lay concealed beneath
the hides.  He wondered if she would have the nerve to attempt
the river trip alone and regretted that now he could not
accompany her.  He felt rather all in, himself, more so than
he had at any time since he had been captured by the Wieroo,
for there appeared not the slightest cause for hope in his
present predicament.  He had dropped the curved blade beneath the
hides when he had been jerked so violently from their fancied security.
It was almost in a spirit of resigned hopelessness that he quietly
accompanied his captors through various chambers and corridors
toward the heart of the temple.



Chapter 4


The farther the group progressed, the more barbaric and the more
sumptuous became the decorations.  Hides of leopard and tiger
predominated, apparently because of their more beautiful
markings, and decorative skulls became more and more numerous.
Many of the latter were mounted in precious metals and set with
colored stones and priceless gems, while thick upon the hides
that covered the walls were golden ornaments similar to those
worn by the girl and those which had filled the chests he had
examined in the storeroom of Fosh-bal-soj, leading the Englishman
to the conviction that all such were spoils of war or theft,
since each piece seemed made for personal adornment, while in so
far as he had seen, no Wieroo wore ornaments of any sort.

And also as they advanced the more numerous became the Wieroos
moving hither and thither within the temple.  Many now were the
solid red robes and those that were slashed with blue--a
veritable hive of murderers.

At last the party halted in a room in which were many Wieroos who
gathered about Bradley questioning his captors and examining him
and his apparel.  One of the party accompanying the Englishman
spoke to a Wieroo that stood beside a door leading from the room.
"Tell Him Who Speaks for Luata," he said, "that Fosh-bal-soj we
could not find; but that in returning we found this creature
within the temple, hiding.  It must be the same that Fosh-bal-soj
captured in the Sto-lu country during the last darkness.
Doubtless He Who Speaks for Luata would wish to see and question
this strange thing."

The creature addressed turned and slipped through the doorway,
closing the door after it, but first depositing its curved blade
upon the floor without.  Its post was immediately taken by
another and Bradley now saw that at least twenty such guards
loitered in the immediate vicinity.  The doorkeeper was gone but
for a moment, and when he returned, he signified that Bradley's
party was to enter the next chamber; but first each of the
Wieroos removed his curved weapon and laid it upon the floor.
The door was swung open, and the party, now reduced to Bradley
and five Wieroos, was ushered across the threshold into a large,
irregularly shaped room in which a single, giant Wieroo whose
robe was solid blue sat upon a raised dais.

The creature's face was white with the whiteness of a corpse, its
dead eyes entirely expressionless, its cruel, thin lips tight-drawn
against yellow teeth in a perpetual grimace.  Upon either side of
it lay an enormous, curved sword, similar to those with which some
of the other Wieroos had been armed, but larger and heavier.
Constantly its clawlike fingers played with one or the other of
these weapons.

The walls of the chamber as well as the floor were entirely
hidden by skins and woven fabrics.  Blue predominated in all
the colorations.  Fastened against the hides were many pairs of
Wieroo wings, mounted so that they resembled long, black shields.
Upon the ceiling were painted in blue characters a bewildering
series of hieroglyphics and upon pedestals set against the walls
or standing out well within the room were many human skulls.

As the Wieroos approached the figure upon the dais, they leaned
far forward, raising their wings above their heads and stretching
their necks as though offering them to the sharp swords of the
grim and hideous creature.

"O Thou Who Speakest for Luata!" exclaimed one of the party.
"We bring you the strange creature that Fosh-bal-soj captured
and brought thither at thy command."

So this then was the godlike figure that spoke for divinity!
This arch-murderer was the Caspakian representative of God on Earth!
His blue robe announced him the one and the seeming humility of his
minions the other.  For a long minute he glared at Bradley.  Then he
began to question him--from whence he came and how, the name and
description of his native country, and a hundred other queries.

"Are you cos-ata-lu?" the creature asked.

Bradley replied that he was and that all his kind were, as well
as every living thing in his part of the world.

"Can you tell me the secret?" asked the creature.

Bradley hesitated and then, thinking to gain time, replied in
the affirmative.

"What is it?" demanded the Wieroo, leaning far forward and
exhibiting every evidence of excited interest.

Bradley leaned forward and whispered:  "It is for your ears alone;
I will not divulge it to others, and then only on condition that
you carry me and the girl I saw in the place of the yellow door
near to that of Fosh-bal-soj back to her own country."

The thing rose in wrath, holding one of its swords above its head.

"Who are you to make terms for Him Who Speaks for Luata?"
it shrilled.  "Tell me the secret or die where you stand!"

"And if I die now, the secret goes with me," Bradley reminded him.
"Never again will you get the opportunity to question another of
my kind who knows the secret."  Anything to gain time, to get the
rest of the Wieroos from the room, that he might plan some scheme
for escape and put it into effect.

The creature turned upon the leader of the party that had
brought Bradley.

"Is the thing with weapons?" it asked.

"No," was the response.

"Then go; but tell the guard to remain close by," commanded the
high one.

The Wieroos salaamed and withdrew, closing the door behind them.
He Who Speaks for Luata grasped a sword nervously in his right hand.
At his left side lay the second weapon.  It was evident that he
lived in constant dread of being assassinated.  The fact that he
permitted none with weapons within his presence and that he
always kept two swords at his side pointed to this.

Bradley was racking his brain to find some suggestion of a plan
whereby he might turn the situation to his own account.  His eyes
wandered past the weird figure before him; they played about the
walls of the apartment as though hoping to draw inspiration from
the dead skulls and the hides and the wings, and then they came
back to the face of the Wieroo god, now working in anger.

"Quick!" screamed the thing.  "The secret!"

"Will you give me and the girl our freedom?" insisted Bradley.

For an instant the thing hesitated, and then it grumbled "Yes."
At the same instant Bradley saw two hides upon the wall directly
back of the dais separate and a face appear in the opening.
No change of expression upon the Englishman's countenance betrayed
that he had seen aught to surprise him, though surprised he was
for the face in the aperture was that of the girl he had but just
left hidden beneath the hides in another chamber.  A white and
shapely arm now pushed past the face into the room, and in the
hand, tightly clutched, was the curved blade, smeared with blood,
that Bradley had dropped beneath the hides at the moment he had
been discovered and drawn from his concealment.

"Listen, then," said Bradley in a low voice to the Wieroo.
"You shall know the secret of cos-ata-lu as well as do
I; but none other may hear it.  Lean close--I will whisper
it into your ear."

He moved forward and stepped upon the dais.  The creature raised
its sword ready to strike at the first indication of treachery,
and Bradley stooped beneath the blade and put his ear close to
the gruesome face.  As he did so, he rested his weight upon his
hands, one upon either side of the Wieroo's body, his right hand
upon the hilt of the spare sword lying at the left of Him Who
Speaks for Luata.

"This then is the secret of both life and death," he whispered,
and at the same instant he grasped the Wieroo by the right wrist
and with his own right hand swung the extra blade in a sudden
vicious blow against the creature's neck before the thing could
give even a single cry of alarm; then without waiting an instant
Bradley leaped past the dead god and vanished behind the hides
that had hidden the girl.

Wide-eyed and panting the girl seized his arm.  "Oh, what have
you done?" she cried.  "He Who Speaks for Luata will be avenged
by Luata.  Now indeed must you die.  There is no escape, for even
though we reached my own country Luata can find you out."

"Bosh!" exclaimed Bradley, and then:  "But you were going to knife
him yourself."

"Then I alone should have died," she replied.

Bradley scratched his head.  "Neither of us is going to die," he
said; "at least not at the hands of any god.  If we don't get out
of here though, we'll die right enough.  Can you find your way
back to the room where I first came upon you in the temple?"

"I know the way," replied the girl; "but I doubt if we can go
back without being seen.  I came hither because I only met
Wieroos who knew that I am supposed now to be in the temple;
but you could go elsewhere without being discovered."

Bradley's ingenuity had come up against a stone wall.
There seemed no possibility of escape.  He looked about him.
They were in a small room where lay a litter of rubbish--torn
bits of cloth, old hides, pieces of fiber rope.  In the center
of the room was a cylindrical shaft with an opening in its face.
Bradley knew it for what it was.  Here the arch-fiend dragged his
victims and cast their bodies into the river of death far below.
The floor about the opening in the shaft and the sides of the
shaft were clotted thick with a dried, dark brown substance that
the Englishman knew had once been blood.  The place had the
appearance of having been a veritable shambles.  An odor of
decaying flesh permeated the air.

The Englishman crossed to the shaft and peered into the opening.
All below was dark as pitch; but at the bottom he knew was
the river.  Suddenly an inspiration and a bold scheme leaped to
his mind.  Turning quickly he hunted about the room until he
found what he sought--a quantity of the rope that lay strewn here
and there.  With rapid fingers he unsnarled the different lengths,
the girl helping him, and then he tied the ends together until he
had three ropes about seventy-five feet in length.  He fastened
these together at each end and without a word secured one of the
ends about the girl's body beneath her arms.

"Don't be frightened," he said at length, as he led her toward
the opening in the shaft.  "I'm going to lower you to the river,
and then I'm coming down after you.  When you are safe below,
give two quick jerks upon the rope.  If there is danger there and
you want me to draw you up into the shaft, jerk once.  Don't be
afraid--it is the only way."

"I am not afraid," replied the girl, rather haughtily Bradley
thought, and herself climbed through the aperture and hung by her
hands waiting for Bradley to lower her.

As rapidly as was consistent with safety, the man paid out the rope.
When it was about half out, he heard loud cries and wails suddenly
arise within the room they had just quitted.  The slaying of their
god had been discovered by the Wieroos.  A search for the slayer
would begin at once.

Lord!  Would the girl never reach the river?  At last, just as he
was positive that searchers were already entering the room behind
him, there came two quick tugs at the rope.  Instantly Bradley
made the rest of the strands fast about the shaft, slipped into
the black tube and began a hurried descent toward the river.
An instant later he stood waist deep in water beside the girl.
Impulsively she reached toward him and grasped his arm.
A strange thrill ran through him at the contact; but he only cut
the rope from about her body and lifted her to the little shelf
at the river's side.

"How can we leave here?" she asked.

"By the river," he replied; "but first I must go back to the
Blue Place of Seven Skulls and get the poor devil I left there.
I'll have to wait until after dark, though, as I cannot pass
through the open stretch of river in the temple gardens by day."

"There is another way," said the girl.  "I have never seen
it; but often I have heard them speak of it--a corridor that
runs beside the river from one end of the city to the other.
Through the gardens it is below ground.  If we could find an
entrance to it, we could leave here at once.  It is not safe here,
for they will search every inch of the temple and the grounds."

"Come," said Bradley.  "We'll have a look for it, anyway." And so
saying he approached one of the doors that opened onto the
skull-paved shelf.

They found the corridor easily, for it paralleled the river,
separated from it only by a single wall.  It took them beneath the
gardens and the city, always through inky darkness.  After they
had reached the other side of the gardens, Bradley counted his
steps until he had retraced as many as he had taken coming down
the stream; but though they had to grope their way along, it was
a much more rapid trip than the former.

When he thought he was about opposite the point at which he had
descended from the Blue Place of Seven Skulls, he sought and
found a doorway leading out onto the river; and then, still in
the blackest darkness, he lowered himself into the stream and
felt up and down upon the opposite side for the little shelf and
the ladder.  Ten yards from where he had emerged he found them,
while the girl waited upon the opposite side.

To ascend to the secret panel was the work of but a minute.
Here he paused and listened lest a Wieroo might be visiting the
prison in search of him or the other inmate; but no sound came from
the gloomy interior.  Bradley could not but muse upon the joy of
the man on the opposite side when he should drop down to him with
food and a new hope for escape.  Then he opened the panel and
looked into the room.  The faint light from the grating above
revealed the pile of rags in one corner; but the man lay beneath
them, he made no response to Bradley's low greeting.

The Englishman lowered himself to the floor of the room and
approached the rags.  Stooping he lifted a corner of them.
Yes, there was the man asleep.  Bradley shook him--there was
no response.  He stooped lower and in the dim light examined
An-Tak; then he stood up with a sigh.  A rat leaped from beneath
the coverings and scurried away.  "Poor devil!" muttered Bradley.

He crossed the room to swing himself to the perch preparatory to
quitting the Blue Place of Seven Skulls forever.  Beneath the
perch he paused.  "I'll not give them the satisfaction," he growled.
"Let them believe that he escaped."

Returning to the pile of rags he gathered the man into his arms.
It was difficult work raising him to the high perch and dragging
him through the small opening and thus down the ladder; but
presently it was done, and Bradley had lowered the body into the
river and cast it off.  "Good-bye, old top!" he whispered.

A moment later he had rejoined the girl and hand in hand they
were following the dark corridor upstream toward the farther end
of the city.  She told him that the Wieroos seldom frequented
these lower passages, as the air here was too chill for them; but
occasionally they came, and as they could see quite as well by
night as by day, they would be sure to discover Bradley and the girl.

"If they come close enough," she said, "we can see their eyes
shining in the dark--they resemble dull splotches of light.
They glow, but do not blaze like the eyes of the tiger or the lion."

The man could not but note the very evident horror with which she
mentioned the creatures.  To him they were uncanny; but she had
been used to them for a year almost, and probably all her life
she had either seen or heard of them constantly.

"Why do you fear them so?" he asked.  "It seems more than any
ordinary fear of the harm they can do you."

She tried to explain; but the nearest he could gather was that
she looked upon the Wieroo almost as supernatural beings.
"There is a legend current among my people that once the Wieroo
were unlike us only in that they possessed rudimentary wings.
They lived in villages in the Galu country, and while the two peoples
often warred, they held no hatred for one another.  In those days
each race came up from the beginning and there was great rivalry
as to which was the higher in the scale of evolution.  The Wieroo
developed the first cos-ata-lu but they were always male--
never could they reproduce woman.  Slowly they commenced to
develop certain attributes of the mind which, they considered,
placed them upon a still higher level and which gave them many
advantages over us, seeing which they thought only of mental
development--their minds became like stars and the rivers, moving
always in the same manner, never varying.  They called this
tas-ad, which means doing everything the right way, or, in
other words, the Wieroo way.  If foe or friend, right or wrong,
stood in the way of tas-ad, then it must be crushed.

"Soon the Galus and the lesser races of men came to hate and
fear them.  It was then that the Wieroos decided to carry
tas-ad into every part of the world.  They were very
warlike and very numerous, although they had long since adopted
the policy of slaying all those among them whose wings did not
show advanced development.

"It took ages for all this to happen--very slowly came the
different changes; but at last the Wieroos had wings they
could use.  But by reason of always making war upon their neighbors
they were hated by every creature of Caspak, for no one wanted
their tas-ad, and so they used their wings to fly to this
island when the other races turned against them and threatened to
kill them all.  So cruel had they become and so bloodthirsty that
they no longer had hearts that beat with love or sympathy; but
their very cruelty and wickedness kept them from conquering the
other races, since they were also cruel and wicked to one
another, so that no Wieroo trusted another.

"Always were they slaying those above them that they might rise
in power and possessions, until at last came the more powerful
than the others with a tas-ad all his own.  He gathered
about him a few of the most terrible Wieroos, and among them they
made laws which took from all but these few Wieroos every weapon
they possessed.

"Now their tas-ad has reached a high plane among them.
They make many wonderful things that we cannot make.  They think
great thoughts, no doubt, and still dream of greatness to come,
but their thoughts and their acts are regulated by ages of
custom--they are all alike--and they are most unhappy."

As the girl talked, the two moved steadily along the dark
passageway beside the river.  They had advanced a considerable
distance when there sounded faintly from far ahead the muffled
roar of falling water, which increased in volume as they moved
forward until at last it filled the corridor with a deafening sound.
Then the corridor ended in a blank wall; but in a niche to the
right was a ladder leading aloft, and to the left was a door
opening onto the river.  Bradley tried the latter first and
as he opened it, felt a heavy spray against his face. The little
shelf outside the doorway was wet and slippery, the roaring of
the water tremendous.  There could be but one explanation--they
had reached a waterfall in the river, and if the corridor
actually terminated here, their escape was effectually cut off,
since it was quite evidently impossible to follow the bed of the
river and ascend the falls.

As the ladder was the only alternative, the two turned toward
it and, the man first, began the ascent, which was through a
well similar to that which had led him to the upper floors of
the temple.  As he climbed, Bradley felt for openings in the sides
of the shaft; but he discovered none below fifty feet.  The first
he came to was ajar, letting a faint light into the well.  As he
paused, the girl climbed to his side, and together they looked
through the crack into a low-ceiled chamber in which were several
Galu women and an equal number of hideous little replicas of the
full-grown Wieroos with which Bradley was not quite familiar.

He could feel the body of the girl pressed close to his tremble
as her eyes rested upon the inmates of the room, and involuntarily
his arm encircled her shoulders as though to protect her from some
danger which he sensed without recognizing.

"Poor things," she whispered.  "This is their horrible fate--to
be imprisoned here beneath the surface of the city with their
hideous offspring whom they hate as they hate their fathers.
A Wieroo keeps his children thus hidden until they are full-grown
lest they be murdered by their fellows.  The lower rooms of the
city are filled with many such as these."

Several feet above was a second door beyond which they found a
small room stored with food in wooden vessels.  A grated window
in one wall opened above an alley, and through it they could see
that they were just below the roof of the building.  Darkness was
coming, and at Bradley's suggestion they decided to remain hidden
here until after dark and then to ascend to the roof and reconnoiter.

Shortly after they had settled themselves they heard something
descending the ladder from above.  They hoped that it would
continue on down the well and fairly held their breath as the
sound approached the door to the storeroom.  Their hearts sank as
they heard the door open and from between cracks in the vessels
behind which they hid saw a yellow-slashed Wieroo enter the room.
Each recognized him immediately, the girl indicating the fact of
her own recognition by a sudden pressure of her fingers on
Bradley's arm.  It was the Wieroo of the yellow slashing whose
abode was the place of the yellow door in which Bradley had first
seen the girl.

The creature carried a wooden bowl which it filled with dried
food from several of the vessels; then it turned and quit the room.
Bradley could see through the partially open doorway that it
descended the ladder.  The girl told him that it was taking the
food to the women and the young below, and that while it might
return immediately, the chances were that it would remain for
some time.

"We are just below the place of the yellow door," she said.
"It is far from the edge of the city; so far that we may not
hope to escape if we ascend to the roofs here."

"I think," replied the man, "that of all the places in Oo-oh this
will be the easiest to escape from.  Anyway, I want to return to
the place of the yellow door and get my pistol if it is there."

"It is still there," replied, the girl.  "I saw it placed in a chest
where he keeps the things he takes from his prisoners and victims."

"Good!" exclaimed Bradley.  "Now come, quickly.  "And the two
crossed the room to the well and ascended the ladder a short
distance to its top where they found another door that opened
into a vacant room--the same in which Bradley had first met
the girl.  To find the pistol was a matter of but a moment's
search on the part of Bradley's companion; and then, at the
Englishman's signal, she followed him to the yellow door.

It was quite dark without as the two entered the narrow passage
between two buildings.  A few steps brought them undiscovered to
the doorway of the storeroom where lay the body of Fosh-bal-soj.
In the distance, toward the temple, they could hear sounds as of
a great gathering of Wieroos--the peculiar, uncanny wailing
rising above the dismal flapping of countless wings.

"They have heard of the killing of Him Who Speaks for Luata,"
whispered the girl.  "Soon they will spread in all directions
searching for us."

"And will they find us?"

"As surely as Lua gives light by day," she replied; "and when
they find us, they will tear us to pieces, for only the Wieroos
may murder--only they may practice tas-ad."

"But they will not kill you," said Bradley.  "You did not slay him."

"It will make no difference," she insisted.  "If they find us
together they will slay us both."

"Then they won't find us together," announced Bradley decisively.
"You stay right here--you won't be any worse off than before I
came--and I'll get as far as I can and account for as many of the
beggars as possible before they get me.  Good-bye!  You're a mighty
decent little girl.  I wish that I might have helped you."

"No," she cried.  "Do not leave me.  I would rather die.  I had
hoped and hoped to find some way to return to my own country.
I wanted to go back to An-Tak, who must be very lonely without me;
but I know that it can never be.  It is difficult to kill hope,
though mine is nearly dead.  Do not leave me."

"An-Tak!" Bradley repeated.  "You loved a man called An-Tak?"

"Yes," replied the girl.  "An-Tak was away, hunting, when the
Wieroo caught me.  How he must have grieved for me!  He also was
cos-ata-lu, twelve moons older than I, and all our lives we
have been together."

Bradley remained silent.  So she loved An-Tak.  He hadn't the
heart to tell her that An-Tak had died, or how.

At the door of Fosh-bal-soj's storeroom they halted to listen.
No sound came from within, and gently Bradley pushed open the door.
All was inky darkness as they entered; but presently their eyes
became accustomed to the gloom that was partially relieved by the
soft starlight without.  The Englishman searched and found those
things for which he had come--two robes, two pairs of dead wings
and several lengths of fiber rope.  One pair of the wings he
adjusted to the girl's shoulders by means of the rope.  Then he
draped the robe about her, carrying the cowl over her head.

He heard her gasp of astonishment when she realized the ingenuity
and boldness of his plan; then he directed her to adjust the other
pair of wings and the robe upon him.  Working with strong, deft
fingers she soon had the work completed, and the two stepped out
upon the roof, to all intent and purpose genuine Wieroos.  Besides his
pistol Bradley carried the sword of the slain Wieroo prophet, while
the girl was armed with the small blade of the red Wieroo.

Side by side they walked slowly across the roofs toward the north
edge of the city.  Wieroos flapped above them and several times
they passed others walking or sitting upon the roofs.  From the
temple still rose the sounds of commotion, now pierced by
occasional shrill screams.

"The murderers are abroad," whispered the girl.  "Thus will
another become the tongue of Luata.  It is well for us, since it
keeps them too busy to give the time for searching for us.
They think that we cannot escape the city, and they know that
we cannot leave the island--and so do I."

Bradley shook his head.  "If there is any way, we will find it,"
he said.

"There is no way," replied the girl.

Bradley made no response, and in silence they continued until the
outer edge of roofs was visible before them.  "We are almost
there," he whispered.

The girl felt for his fingers and pressed them.  He could feel
hers trembling as he returned the pressure, nor did he relinquish
her hand; and thus they came to the edge of the last roof.

Here they halted and looked about them.  To be seen attempting to
descend to the ground below would be to betray the fact that they
were not Wieroos.  Bradley wished that their wings were attached
to their bodies by sinew and muscle rather than by ropes of fiber.
A Wieroo was flapping far overhead.  Two more stood near a door a
few yards distant.  Standing between these and one of the outer
pedestals that supported one of the numerous skulls Bradley made
one end of a piece of rope fast about the pedestal and dropped
the other end to the ground outside the city.  Then they waited.

It was an hour before the coast was entirely clear and then a
moment came when no Wieroo was in sight.  "Now!" whispered
Bradley; and the girl grasped the rope and slid over the edge of
the roof into the darkness below.  A moment later Bradley felt
two quick pulls upon the rope and immediately followed to the
girl's side.

Across a narrow clearing they made their way and into a wood beyond.
All night they walked, following the river upward toward its source,
and at dawn they took shelter in a thicket beside the stream.  At no
time did they hear the cry of a carnivore, and though many startled
animals fled as they approached, they were not once menaced by a
wild beast.  When Bradley expressed surprise at the absence of the
fiercest beasts that are so numerous upon the mainland of Caprona,
the girl explained the reason that is contained in one of their
ancient legends.

"When the Wieroos first developed wings upon which they could
fly, they found this island devoid of any life other than a
few reptiles that live either upon land or in the water and
these only close to the coast.  Requiring meat for food the
Wieroos carried to the island such animals as they wished for
that purpose.  They still occasionally bring them, and this
with the natural increase keeps them provided with flesh."

"As it will us," suggested Bradley.

The first day they remained in hiding, eating only the dried food
that Bradley had brought with him from the temple storeroom, and
the next night they set out again up the river, continuing
steadily on until almost dawn, when they came to low hills where
the river wound through a gorge--it was little more than rivulet
now, the water clear and cold and filled with fish similar to
brook trout though much larger.  Not wishing to leave the stream
the two waded along its bed to a spot where the gorge widened
between perpendicular bluffs to a wooded acre of level land.
Here they stopped, for here also the stream ended.  They had
reached its source--many cold springs bubbling up from the center
of a little natural amphitheater in the hills and forming a clear
and beautiful pool overshadowed by trees upon one side and
bounded by a little clearing upon the other.

With the coming of the sun they saw they had stumbled upon a
place where they might remain hidden from the Wieroos for a long
time and also one that they could defend against these winged
creatures, since the trees would shield them from an attack from
above and also hamper the movements of the creatures should they
attempt to follow them into the wood.

For three days they rested here before trying to explore the
neighboring country.  On the fourth, Bradley stated that he was
going to scale the bluffs and learn what lay beyond.  He told the
girl that she should remain in hiding; but she refused to be
left, saying that whatever fate was to be his, she intended to
share it, so that he was at last forced to permit her to come
with him.  Through woods at the summit of the bluff they made
their way toward the north and had gone but a short distance when
the wood ended and before them they saw the waters of the inland
sea and dimly in the distance the coveted shore.

The beach lay some two hundred yards from the foot of the hill
on which they stood, nor was there a tree nor any other form of
shelter between them and the water as far up and down the coast
as they could see.  Among other plans Bradley had thought of
constructing a covered raft upon which they might drift to the
mainland; but as such a contrivance would necessarily be of
considerable weight, it must be built in the water of the sea,
since they could not hope to move it even a short distance overland.

"If this wood was only at the edge of the water," he sighed.

"But it is not," the girl reminded him, and then:  "Let us make
the best of it.  We have escaped from death for a time at least.
We have food and good water and peace and each other.  What more
could we have upon the mainland?"

"But I thought you wanted to get back to your own country!"
he exclaimed.

She cast her eyes upon the ground and half turned away.  "I do,"
she said, "yet I am happy here.  I could be little happier there."

Bradley stood in silent thought.  "`We have food and good water
and peace and each other!'" he repeated to himself.  He turned
then and looked at the girl, and it was as though in the days
that they had been together this was the first time that he
had really seen her.  The circumstances that had thrown them
together, the dangers through which they had passed, all the
weird and horrible surroundings that had formed the background of
his knowledge of her had had their effect--she had been but the
companion of an adventure; her self-reliance, her endurance, her
loyalty, had been only what one man might expect of another, and
he saw that he had unconsciously assumed an attitude toward her
that he might have assumed toward a man.  Yet there had been a
difference--he recalled now the strange sensation of elation that
had thrilled him upon the occasions when the girl had pressed his
hand in hers, and the depression that had followed her announcement
of her love for An-Tak.

He took a step toward her.  A fierce yearning to seize her and
crush her in his arms, swept over him, and then there flashed
upon the screen of recollection the picture of a stately hall set
amidst broad gardens and ancient trees and of a proud old man
with beetling brows--an old man who held his head very high--and
Bradley shook his head and turned away again.

They went back then to their little acre, and the days came
and went, and the man fashioned spear and bow and arrows and
hunted with them that they might have meat, and he made hooks
of fishbone and caught fishes with wondrous flies of his own
invention; and the girl gathered fruits and cooked the flesh
and the fish and made beds of branches and soft grasses.
She cured the hides of the animals he killed and made them
soft by much pounding.  She made sandals for herself and for
the man and fashioned a hide after the manner of those worn
by the warriors of her tribe and made the man wear it, for his
own garments were in rags.

She was always the same--sweet and kind and helpful--but always
there was about her manner and her expression just a trace of
wistfulness, and often she sat and looked at the man when he did
not know it, her brows puckered in thought as though she were
trying to fathom and to understand him.

In the face of the cliff, Bradley scooped a cave from the rotted
granite of which the hill was composed, making a shelter for them
against the rains.  He brought wood for their cook-fire which
they used only in the middle of the day--a time when there was
little likelihood of Wieroos being in the air so far from their
city--and then he learned to bank it with earth in such a way that
the embers held until the following noon without giving off smoke.

Always he was planning on reaching the mainland, and never a day
passed that he did not go to the top of the hill and look out
across the sea toward the dark, distant line that meant for
him comparative freedom and possibly reunion with his comrades.
The girl always went with him, standing at his side and watching the
stern expression on his face with just a tinge of sadness on her own.

"You are not happy," she said once.

"I should be over there with my men," he replied.  "I do not know
what may have happened to them."

"I  want you to be happy," she said quite simply; "but I should
be very lonely if you went away and left me here."

He put his hand on her shoulder.  "I would not do that, little
girl," he said gently.  "If you cannot go with me, I shall not go.
If either of us must go alone, it will be you."

Her face lighted to a wondrous smile.  "Then we shall not be
separated," she said, "for I shall never leave you as long as we
both live."

He looked down into her face for a moment and then:  "Who was
An-Tak? " he asked.

"My brother," she replied.  "Why?"

And then, even less than before, could he tell her.  It was then
that he did something he had never done before--he put his arms
about her and stooping, kissed her forehead.  "Until you find
An-Tak," he said, "I will be your brother."

She drew away.  "I already have a brother," she said, "and I do
not want another."



Chapter 5


Days became weeks, and weeks became months, and the months
followed one another in a lazy procession of hot, humid days and
warm, humid nights.  The fugitives saw never a Wieroo by day
though often at night they heard the melancholy flapping of giant
wings far above them.

Each day was much like its predecessor.  Bradley splashed about
for a few minutes in the cold pool early each morning and after
a time the girl tried it and liked it.  Toward the center it was
deep enough for swimming, and so he taught her to swim--she was
probably the first human being in all Caspak's long ages who had
done this thing.  And then while she prepared breakfast, the man
shaved--this he never neglected.  At first it was a source of
wonderment to the girl, for the Galu men are beardless.

When they needed meat, he hunted, otherwise he busied himself
in improving their shelter, making new and better weapons,
perfecting his knowledge of the girl's language and teaching her
to speak and to write English--anything that would keep them
both occupied.  He still sought new plans for escape, but with
ever-lessening enthusiasm, since each new scheme presented some
insurmountable obstacle.

And then one day as a bolt out of a clear sky came that which
blasted the peace and security of their sanctuary forever.
Bradley was just emerging from the water after his morning
plunge when from overhead came the sound of flapping wings.
Glancing quickly up the man saw a white-robed Wieroo circling
slowly above him.  That he had been discovered he could not
doubt since the creature even dropped to a lower altitude as
though to assure itself that what it saw was a man.  Then it
rose rapidly and winged away toward the city.

For two days Bradley and the girl lived in a constant state of
apprehension, awaiting the moment when the hunters would come for
them; but nothing happened until just after dawn of the third
day, when the flapping of wings apprised them of the approach
of Wieroos.  Together they went to the edge of the wood and
looked up to see five red-robed creatures dropping slowly in
ever-lessening spirals toward their little amphitheater.  With no
attempt at concealment they came, sure of their ability to
overwhelm these two fugitives, and with the fullest measure of
self-confidence they landed in the clearing but a few yards from
the man and the girl.

Following a plan already discussed Bradley and the girl retreated
slowly into the woods.  The Wieroos advanced, calling upon them
to give themselves up; but the quarry made no reply.  Farther and
farther into the little wood Bradley led the hunters, permitting
them to approach ever closer; then he circled back again toward
the clearing, evidently to the great delight of the Wieroos, who
now followed more leisurely, awaiting the moment when they should
be beyond the trees and able to use their wings.  They had opened
into semicircular formation now with the evident intention of
cutting the two off from returning into the wood.  Each Wieroo
advanced with his curved blade ready in his hand, each hideous
face blank and expressionless.

It was then that Bradley opened fire with his pistol--three
shots, aimed with careful deliberation, for it had been long
since he had used the weapon, and he could not afford to chance
wasting ammunition on misses.  At each shot a Wieroo dropped; and
then the remaining two sought escape by flight, screaming and
wailing after the manner of their kind.  When a Wieroo runs, his
wings spread almost without any volition upon his part, since
from time immemorial he has always used them to balance himself
and accelerate his running speed so that in the open they appear
to skim the surface of the ground when in the act of running.
But here in the woods, among the close-set boles, the spreading
of their wings proved their undoing--it hindered and stopped them
and threw them to the ground, and then Bradley was upon them
threatening them with instant death if they did not surrender--
promising them their freedom if they did his bidding.

"As you have seen," he cried, "I can kill you when I wish and at
a distance.  You cannot escape me.  Your only hope of life lies
in obedience.  Quick, or I kill!"

The Wieroos stopped and faced him.  "What do you want of us?"
asked one.

"Throw aside your weapons," Bradley commanded.  After a moment's
hesitation they obeyed.

"Now approach!"  A great plan--the only plan--had suddenly come
to him like an inspiration.

The Wieroos came closer and halted at his command.  Bradley turned
to the girl.  "There is rope in the shelter," he said.  "Fetch it!"

She did as he bid, and then he directed her to fasten one end of
a fifty-foot length to the ankle of one of the Wieroos and the
opposite end to the second.  The creatures gave evidence of great
fear, but they dared not attempt to prevent the act.

"Now go out into the clearing," said Bradley, "and remember that
I am walking close behind and that I will shoot the nearer one
should either attempt to escape--that will hold the other until
I can kill him as well."

In the open he halted them.  "The girl will get upon the back
of the one in front," announced the Englishman.  "I will mount
the other.  She carries a sharp blade, and I carry this weapon
that you know kills easily at a distance.  If you disobey in
the slightest, the instructions that I am about to give you, you
shall both die.  That we must die with you, will not deter us.
If you obey, I promise to set you free without harming you.

"You will carry us due west, depositing us upon the shore of the
mainland--that is all.  It is the price of your lives.  Do you agree?"

Sullenly the Wieroos acquiesced.  Bradley examined the knots that
held the rope to their ankles, and feeling them secure directed
the girl to mount the back of the leading Wieroo, himself upon
the other.  Then he gave the signal for the two to rise together.
With loud flapping of the powerful wings the creatures took to
the air, circling once before they topped the trees upon the hill
and then taking a course due west out over the waters of the sea.

Nowhere about them could Bradley see signs of other Wieroos, nor
of those other menaces which he had feared might bring disaster
to his plans for escape--the huge, winged reptilia that are so
numerous above the southern areas of Caspak and which are often
seen, though in lesser numbers, farther north.

Nearer and nearer loomed the mainland--a broad, parklike expanse
stretching inland to the foot of a low plateau spread out before them.
The little dots in the foreground became grazing herds of deer
and antelope and bos; a huge woolly rhinoceros wallowed in a
mudhole to the right, and beyond, a mighty mammoth culled the
tender shoots from a tall tree.  The roars and screams and growls
of giant carnivora came faintly to their ears.  Ah, this was Caspak.
With all of its dangers and its primal savagery it brought a
fullness to the throat of the Englishman as to one who sees and
hears the familiar sights and sounds of home after a long absence.
Then the Wieroos dropped swiftly downward to the flower-starred
turf that grew almost to the water's edge, the fugitives slipped
from their backs, and Bradley told the red-robed creatures they
were free to go.

When he had cut the ropes from their ankles they rose with that
uncanny wailing upon their lips that always brought a shudder to
the Englishman, and upon dismal wings they flapped away toward
frightful Oo-oh.

When the creatures had gone, the girl turned toward Bradley.
"Why did you have them bring us here?" she asked.  "Now we are
far from my country.  We may never live to reach it, as we are
among enemies who, while not so horrible will kill us just as
surely as would the Wieroos should they capture us, and we have
before us many marches through lands filled with savage beasts."

"There were two reasons," replied Bradley.  "You told me that
there are two Wieroo cities at the eastern end of the island.
To have passed near either of them might have been to have brought
about our heads hundreds of the creatures from whom we could not
possibly have escaped.  Again, my friends must be near this spot--
it cannot be over two marches to the fort of which I have told you.
It is my duty to return to them.  If they still live we shall find
a way to return you to your people."

"And you?" asked the girl.

"I escaped from Oo-oh," replied Bradley.  "I have accomplished
the impossible once, and so I shall accomplish it again--I shall
escape from Caspak."

He was not looking at her face as he answered her, and so he
did not see the shadow of sorrow that crossed her countenance.
When he raised his eyes again, she was smiling.

"What you wish, I wish," said the girl.

Southward along the coast they made their way following the
beach, where the walking was best, but always keeping close
enough to trees to insure sanctuary from the beasts and reptiles
that so often menaced them.  It was late in the afternoon when
the girl suddenly seized Bradley's arm and pointed straight ahead
along the shore.  "What is that?" she whispered.  "What strange
reptile is it?"

Bradley looked in the direction her slim forefinger indicated.
He rubbed his eyes and looked again, and then he seized her wrist
and drew her quickly behind a clump of bushes.

"What is it?" she asked.

"It is the most frightful reptile that the waters of the world
have ever known," he replied.  "It is a German U-boat!"

An expression of amazement and understanding lighted her features.
"It is the thing of which you told me," she exclaimed, "--the
thing that swims under the water and carries men in its belly!"

"It is," replied Bradley.

"Then why do you hide from it?" asked the girl.  "You said that
now it belonged to your friends."

"Many months have passed since I knew what was going on among my
friends," he replied.  "I cannot know what has befallen them.
They should have been gone from here in this vessel long since,
and so I cannot understand why it is still here.  I am going to
investigate first before I show myself.  When I left, there were
more Germans on the U-33 than there were men of my own party at
the fort, and I have had sufficient experience of Germans to know
that they will bear watching--if they have not been properly
watched since I left."

Making their way through a fringe of wood that grew a few yards
inland the two crept unseen toward the U-boat which lay moored to
the shore at a point which Bradley now recognized as being near
the oil-pool north of Dinosaur.  As close as possible to the
vessel they halted, crouching low among the dense vegetation, and
watched the boat for signs of human life about it.  The hatches
were closed--no one could be seen or heard.  For five minutes
Bradley watched, and then he determined to board the submarine
and investigate.  He had risen to carry his decision into effect
when there suddenly broke upon his ear, uttered in loud and
menacing tones, a volley of German oaths and expletives among
which he heard Englische schweinhunde repeated several times.
The voice did not come from the direction of the U-boat; but
from inland.  Creeping forward Bradley reached a spot where,
through the creepers hanging from the trees, he could see a party
of men coming down toward the shore.

He saw Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts and six of his men--all
armed--while marching in a little knot among them were Olson,
Brady, Sinclair, Wilson, and Whitely.

Bradley knew nothing of the disappearance of Bowen Tyler and Miss
La Rue, nor of the perfidy of the Germans in shelling the fort
and attempting to escape in the U-33; but he was in no way
surprised at what he saw before him.

The little party came slowly onward, the prisoners staggering
beneath heavy cans of oil, while Schwartz, one of the German
noncommissioned officers cursed and beat them with a stick of
wood, impartially.  Von Schoenvorts walked in the rear of the
column, encouraging Schwartz and laughing at the discomfiture of
the Britishers.  Dietz, Heinz, and Klatz also seemed to enjoy the
entertainment immensely; but two of the men--Plesser and Hindle--
marched with eyes straight to the front and with scowling faces.

Bradley felt his blood boil at sight of the cowardly indignities
being heaped upon his men, and in the brief span of time occupied
by the column to come abreast of where he lay hidden he made his
plans, foolhardy though he knew them.  Then he drew the girl
close to him.  "Stay here," he whispered.  "I am going out to
fight those beasts; but I shall be killed.  Do not let them
see you.  Do not let them take you alive.  They are more cruel,
more cowardly, more bestial than the Wieroos."

The girl pressed close to him, her face very white.  "Go, if that
is right," she whispered; "but if you die, I shall die, for I
cannot live without you."  He looked sharply into her eyes.
"Oh!" he ejaculated.  "What an idiot I have been!  Nor could I
live without you, little girl."  And he drew her very close and
kissed her lips.  "Good-bye."  He disengaged himself from her
arms and looked again in time to see that the rear of the column
had just passed him.  Then he rose and leaped quickly and
silently from the jungle.

Suddenly von Schoenvorts felt an arm thrown about his neck and
his pistol jerked from its holster.  He gave a cry of fright and
warning, and his men turned to see a half-naked white man holding
their leader securely from behind and aiming a pistol at them
over his shoulder.

"Drop those guns!" came in short, sharp syllables and perfect
German from the lips of the newcomer.  "Drop them or I'll put a
bullet through the back of von Schoenvorts' head."

The Germans hesitated for a moment, looking first toward von
Schoenvorts and then to Schwartz, who was evidently second in
command, for orders.

"It's the English pig, Bradley," shouted the latter, "and he's
alone--go and get him!"

"Go yourself," growled Plesser.  Hindle moved close to the side
of Plesser and whispered something to him.  The latter nodded.
Suddenly von Schoenvorts wheeled about and seized Bradley's
pistol arm with both hands, "Now!" he shouted.  "Come and take
him, quick!"

Schwartz and three others leaped forward; but Plesser and Hindle
held back, looking questioningly toward the English prisoners.
Then Plesser spoke.  "Now is your chance, Englander," he
called in low tones.  "Seize Hindle and me and take our guns from
us--we will not fight hard."

Olson and Brady were not long in acting upon the suggestion.
They had seen enough of the brutal treatment von Schoenvorts
accorded his men and the especially venomous attentions he
had taken great enjoyment in according Plesser and Hindle
to understand that these two might be sincere in a desire
for revenge.  In another moment the two Germans were unarmed
and Olson and Brady were running to the support of Bradley;
but already it seemed too late.

Von Schoenvorts had managed to drag the Englishman around so that
his back was toward Schwartz and the other advancing Germans.
Schwartz was almost upon Bradley with gun clubbed and ready to
smash down upon the Englishman's skull.  Brady and Olson were
charging the Germans in the rear with Wilson, Whitely, and
Sinclair supporting them with bare fists.  It seemed that Bradley
was doomed when, apparently out of space, an arrow whizzed,
striking Schwartz in the side, passing half-way through his body
to crumple him to earth.  With a shriek the man fell, and at the
same time Olson and Brady saw the slim figure of a young girl
standing at the edge of the jungle coolly fitting another arrow
to her bow.

Bradley had now succeeded in wrestling his arm free from von
Schoenvorts' grip and in dropping the latter with a blow from the
butt of his pistol.  The rest of the English and Germans were
engaged in a hand-to-hand encounter.  Plesser and Hindle standing
aside from the melee and urging their comrades to surrender and
join with the English against the tyranny of von Schoenvorts.
Heinz and Klatz, possibly influenced by their exhortation, were
putting up but a half-hearted resistance; but Dietz, a huge,
bearded, bull-necked Prussian, yelling like a maniac, sought to
exterminate the Englische schweinhunde with his bayonet,
fearing to fire his piece lest he kill some of his comrades.

It was Olson who engaged him, and though unused to the long
German rifle and bayonet, he met the bull-rush of the Hun with
the cold, cruel precision and science of English bayonet-fighting.
There was no feinting, no retiring and no parrying that was not
also an attack.  Bayonet-fighting today is not a pretty thing to
see--it is not an artistic fencing-match in which men give and
take--it is slaughter inevitable and quickly over.

Dietz lunged once madly at Olson's throat.  A short point, with
just a twist of the bayonet to the left sent the sharp blade over
the Englishman's left shoulder.  Instantly he stepped close in,
dropped his rifle through his hands and grasped it with both
hands close below the muzzle and with a short, sharp jab sent his
blade up beneath Dietz's chin to the brain.  So quickly was the
thing done and so quick the withdrawal that Olson had wheeled to
take on another adversary before the German's corpse had toppled
to the ground.

But there were no more adversaries to take on.  Heinz and Klatz
had thrown down their rifles and with hands above their heads
were crying "Kamerad!  Kamerad!" at the tops of their voices.
Von Schoenvorts still lay where he had fallen.  Plesser and
Hindle were explaining to Bradley that they were glad of the
outcome of the fight, as they could no longer endure the
brutality of the U-boat commander.

The remainder of the men were looking at the girl who now
advanced slowly, her bow ready, when Bradley turned toward her
and held out his hand.

"Co-Tan," he said, "unstring your bow--these are my friends,
and yours."  And to the Englishmen:  "This is Co-Tan.  You who
saw her save me from Schwartz know a part of what I owe her."

The rough men gathered about the girl, and when she spoke to them
in broken English, with a smile upon her lips enhancing the charm
of her irresistible accent, each and every one of them promptly
fell in love with her and constituted himself henceforth her
guardian and her slave.

A moment later the attention of each was called to Plesser by a
volley of invective.  They turned in time to see the man running
toward von Schoenvorts who was just rising from the ground.
Plesser carried a rifle with bayonet fixed, that he had snatched
from the side of Dietz's corpse.  Von Schoenvorts' face was livid
with fear, his jaws working as though he would call for help; but
no sound came from his blue lips.

"You struck me," shrieked Plesser.  "Once, twice, three times,
you struck me, pig.  You murdered Schwerke--you drove him insane
by your cruelty until he took his own life.  You are only one of
your kind--they are all like you from the Kaiser down.  I wish
that you were the Kaiser.  Thus would I do!"  And he lunged his
bayonet through von Schoenvorts' chest.  Then he let his rifle
fall with the dying man and wheeled toward Bradley.  "Here I am,"
he said.  "Do with me as you like.  All my life I have been
kicked and cuffed by such as that, and yet always have I gone out
when they commanded, singing, to give up my life if need be to
keep them in power.  Only lately have I come to know what a fool
I have been.  But now I am no longer a fool, and besides, I am
avenged and Schwerke is avenged, so you can kill me if you wish.
Here I am."

"If I was after bein' the king," said Olson, "I'd pin the V.C. on
your noble chist; but bein' only an Irishman with a Swede name,
for which God forgive me, the bist I can do is shake your hand."

"You will not be punished," said Bradley.  "There are four of you
left--if you four want to come along and work with us, we will
take you; but you will come as prisoners."

"It suits me," said Plesser.  "Now that the captain-lieutenant is
dead you need not fear us.  All our lives we have known nothing
but to obey his class.  If I had not killed him, I suppose I
would be fool enough to obey him again; but he is dead.  Now we
will obey you--we must obey some one."

"And you?"  Bradley turned to the other survivors of the original
crew of the U-33.  Each promised obedience.

The two dead Germans were buried in a single grave, and then the
party boarded the submarine and stowed away the oil.

Here Bradley told the men what had befallen him since the night
of September 14th when he had disappeared so mysteriously from
the camp upon the plateau.  Now he learned for the first time
that Bowen J. Tyler, Jr., and Miss La Rue had been missing even
longer than he and that no faintest trace of them had been discovered.

Olson told him of how the Germans had returned and waited in
ambush for them outside the fort, capturing them that they might
be used to assist in the work of refining the oil and later in
manning the U-33, and Plesser told briefly of the experiences of
the German crew under von Schoenvorts since they had escaped from
Caspak months before--of how they lost their bearings after
having been shelled by ships they had attempted to sneak farther
north and how at last with provisions gone and fuel almost
exhausted they had sought and at last found, more by accident
than design, the mysterious island they had once been so glad to
leave behind.

"Now," announced Bradley, "we'll plan for the future.  The boat
has fuel, provisions and water for a month, I believe you said,
Plesser; there are ten of us to man it.  We have a last sad duty
here--we must search for Miss La Rue and Mr. Tyler.  I say a sad
duty because we know that we shall not find them; but it is none
the less our duty to comb the shoreline, firing signal shells at
intervals, that we at least may leave at last with full knowledge
that we have done all that men might do to locate them."

None dissented from this conviction, nor was there a voice raised
in protest against the plan to at least make assurance doubly
sure before quitting Caspak forever.

And so they started, cruising slowly up the coast and firing an
occasional shot from the gun.  Often the vessel was brought to a
stop, and always there were anxious eyes scanning the shore for
an answering signal.  Late in the afternoon they caught sight of
a number of Band-lu warriors; but when the vessel approached the
shore and the natives realized that human beings stood upon the
back of the strange monster of the sea, they fled in terror
before Bradley could come within hailing distance.

That night they dropped anchor at the mouth of a sluggish stream
whose warm waters swarmed with millions of tiny tadpolelike
organisms--minute human spawn starting on their precarious
journey from some inland pool toward "the beginning"--a journey
which one in millions, perhaps, might survive to complete.
Already almost at the inception of life they were being greeted
by thousands of voracious mouths as fish and reptiles of many
kinds fought to devour them, the while other and larger creatures
pursued the devourers, to be, in turn, preyed upon by some other
of the countless forms that inhabit the deeps of Caprona's
frightful sea.

The second day was practically a repetition of the first.
They moved very slowly with frequent stops and once they landed
in the Kro-lu country to hunt.  Here they were attacked by the
bow-and-arrow men, whom they could not persuade to palaver
with them.  So belligerent were the natives that it became
necessary to fire into them in order to escape their persistent
and ferocious attentions.

"What chance," asked Bradley, as they were returning to the boat
with their game, "could Tyler and Miss La Rue have had among such
as these?"

But they continued on their fruitless quest, and the third day,
after cruising along the shore of a deep inlet, they passed a
line of lofty cliffs that formed the southern shore of the inlet
and rounded a sharp promontory about noon.  Co-Tan and Bradley
were on deck alone, and as the new shoreline appeared beyond the
point, the girl gave an exclamation of joy and seized the man's
hand in hers.

"Oh, look!" she cried.  "The Galu country!  The Galu country!
It is my country that I never thought to see again."

"You are glad to come again, Co-Tan?" asked Bradley.

"Oh, so glad!" she cried.  "And you will come with me to my people?
We may live here among them, and you will be a great warrior--oh,
when Jor dies you may even be chief, for there is none so mighty
as my warrior.  You will come?"

Bradley shook his head.  "I cannot, little Co-Tan," he answered.
"My country needs me, and I must go back.  Maybe someday I
shall return.  You will not forget me, Co-Tan?"

She looked at him in wide-eyed wonder.  "You are going away from
me?" she asked in a very small voice.  "You are going away from Co-Tan?"

Bradley looked down upon the little bowed head.  He felt the soft
cheek against his bare arm; and he felt something else there too--
hot drops of moisture that ran down to his very finger-tips and
splashed, but each one wrung from a woman's heart.

He bent low and raised the tear-stained face to his own.
"No, Co-Tan," he said, "I am not going away from you--for you
are going with me.  You are going back to my own country to be
my wife.  Tell me that you will, Co-Tan."  And he bent still lower
yet from his height and kissed her lips.  Nor did he need more
than the wonderful new light in her eyes to tell him that she
would go to the end of the world with him if he would but take her.
And then the gun-crew came up from below again to fire a signal
shot, and the two were brought down from the high heaven of their
new happiness to the scarred and weather-beaten deck of the U-33.

An hour later the vessel was running close in by a shore of
wondrous beauty beside a parklike meadow that stretched back a
mile inland to the foot of a plateau when Whitely called
attention to a score of figures clambering downward from the
elevation to the lowland below.  The engines were reversed and
the boat brought to a stop while all hands gathered on deck to
watch the little party coming toward them across the meadow.

"They are Galus," cried Co-Tan; "they are my own people.  Let me
speak to them lest they think we come to fight them.  Put me
ashore, my man, and I will go meet them."

The nose of the U-boat was run close in to the steep bank; but
when Co-Tan would have run forward alone, Bradley seized her hand
and held her back.  "I will go with you, Co-Tan," he said; and
together they advanced to meet the oncoming party.

There were about twenty warriors moving forward in a thin line,
as our infantry advance as skirmishers.  Bradley could not but
notice the marked difference between this formation and the
moblike methods of the lower tribes he had come in contact with,
and he commented upon it to Co-Tan.

"Galu warriors always advance into battle thus," she said.
"The lesser people remain in a huddled group where they can scarce
use their weapons the while they present so big a mark to us that
our spears and arrows cannot miss them; but when they hurl theirs
at our warriors, if they miss the first man, there is no chance that
they will kill some one behind him.

"Stand still now," she cautioned, "and fold your arms.  They will
not harm us then."

Bradley did as he was bid, and the two stood with arms folded as
the line of warriors approached.  When they had come within some
fifty yards, they halted and one spoke.  "Who are you and from
whence do you come?" he asked; and then Co-Tan gave a little,
glad cry and sprang forward with out-stretched arms.

"Oh, Tan!" she exclaimed.  "Do you not know your little Co-Tan?"

The warrior stared, incredulous, for a moment, and then he, too,
ran forward and when they met, took the girl in his arms.  It was
then that Bradley experienced to the full a sensation that was
new to him--a sudden hatred for the strange warrior before him
and a desire to kill without knowing why he would kill.  He moved
quickly to the girl's side and grasped her wrist.

"Who is this man?" he demanded in cold tones.

Co-Tan turned a surprised face toward the Englishman and then of
a sudden broke forth into a merry peal of laughter.  "This is my
father, Brad-lee," she cried.

"And who is Brad-lee?" demanded the warrior.

"He is my man," replied Co-Tan simply.

"By what right?" insisted Tan.

And then she told him briefly of all that she had passed through
since the Wieroos had stolen her and of how Bradley had rescued
her and sought to rescue An-Tak, her brother.

"You are satisfied with him?" asked Tan.

"Yes," replied the girl proudly.

It was then that Bradley's attention was attracted to the edge of
the plateau by a movement there, and looking closely he saw a
horse bearing two figures sliding down the steep declivity.
Once at the bottom, the animal came charging across the meadowland
at a rapid run.  It was a magnificent animal--a great bay stallion
with a white-blazed face and white forelegs to the knees, its
barrel encircled by a broad surcingle of white; and as it came to
a sudden stop beside Tan, the Englishman saw that it bore a man
and a girl--a tall man and a girl as beautiful as Co-Tan.  When the
girl espied the latter, she slid from the horse and ran toward her,
fairly screaming for joy.

The man dismounted and stood beside Tan.  Like Bradley he was
garbed after the fashion of the surrounding warriors; but
there was a subtle difference between him and his companion.
Possibly he detected a similar difference in Bradley, for his
first question was, "From what country?" and though he spoke in
Galu Bradley thought he detected an accent.

"England," replied Bradley.

A broad smile lighted the newcomer's face as he held out his hand.
"I am Tom Billings of Santa Monica, California," he said.  "I know
all about you, and I'm mighty glad to find you alive."

"How did you get here?" asked Bradley.  "I thought ours was the
only party of men from the outer world ever to enter Caprona."

"It was, until we came in search of Bowen J. Tyler, Jr.,"
replied Billings.  "We  found him and sent him home with his
bride; but I was kept a prisoner here."

Bradley's face darkened--then they were not among friends
after all.  "There are ten of us down there on a German sub
with small-arms and a gun," he said quickly in English.
"It will be no trick to get away from these people."

"You don't know my jailer," replied Billings, "or you'd not be
so sure.  Wait, I'll introduce you."  And then turning to the girl
who had accompanied him he called her by name.  "Ajor," he said,
"permit me to introduce Lieutenant Bradley; Lieutenant, Mrs.
Billings--my jailer!"

The Englishman laughed as he shook hands with the girl.  "You are
not as good a soldier as I," he said to Billings.  "Instead of
being taken prisoner myself I have taken one--Mrs. Bradley, this
is Mr. Billings."

Ajor, quick to understand, turned toward Co-Tan.  "You are going
back with him to his country?" she asked.  Co-Tan admitted it.

"You dare?" asked Ajor.  "But your father will not permit it--
Jor, my father, High Chief of the Galus, will not permit it, for
like me you are cos-ata-lo.  Oh, Co-Tan, if we but could!
How I would love to see all the strange and wonderful things of
which my Tom tells me!"

Bradley bent and whispered in her ear.  "Say the word and you may
both go with us."

Billings heard and speaking in English, asked Ajor if she would go.

"Yes," she answered, "If you wish it; but you know, my Tom, that
if Jor captures us, both you and Co-Tan's man will pay the
penalty with your lives--not even his love for me nor his
admiration for you can save you."

Bradley noticed that she spoke in English--broken English like
Co-Tan's but equally appealing.  "We can easily get you aboard
the ship," he said, "on some pretext or other, and then we can
steam away.  They can neither harm nor detain us, nor will we
have to fire a shot at them."

And so it was done, Bradley and Co-Tan taking Ajor and Billings
aboard to "show" them the vessel, which almost immediately raised
anchor and moved slowly out into the sea.

"I hate to do it," said Billings.  "They have been fine to me.
Jor and Tan are splendid men and they will think me an ingrate;
but I can't waste my life here when there is so much to be done
in the outer world."

As they steamed down the inland sea past the island of Oo-oh, the
stories of their adventures were retold, and Bradley learned that
Bowen Tyler and his bride had left the Galu country but a
fortnight before and that there was every reason to believe that
the Toreador might still be lying in the Pacific not far off
the subterranean mouth of the river which emitted Caprona's
heated waters into the ocean.

Late in the second day, after running through swarms of hideous
reptiles, they submerged at the point where the river entered
beneath the cliffs and shortly after rose to the sunlit surface
of the Pacific; but nowhere as far as they could see was sign of
another craft.  Down the coast they steamed toward the beach
where Billings had made his crossing in the hydro-aeroplane and
just at dusk the lookout announced a light dead ahead.  It proved
to be aboard the Toreador, and a half-hour later there was
such a reunion on the deck of the trig little yacht as no one
there had ever dreamed might be possible.  Of the Allies there
were only Tippet and James to be mourned, and no one mourned any
of the Germans dead nor Benson, the traitor, whose ugly story was
first told in Bowen Tyler's manuscript.

Tyler and the rescue party had but just reached the yacht
that afternoon.  They had heard, faintly, the signal shots fired
by the U-33 but had been unable to locate their direction and so
had assumed that they had come from the guns of the Toreador.

It was a happy party that sailed north toward sunny, southern
California, the old U-33 trailing in the wake of the Toreador
and flying with the latter the glorious Stars and Stripes
beneath which she had been born in the shipyard at Santa Monica.
Three newly married couples, their bonds now duly solemnized by
the master of the ship, joyed in the peace and security of the
untracked waters of the south Pacific and the unique honeymoon
which, had it not been for stern duty ahead, they could have
wished protracted till the end of time.

And so they came one day to dock at the shipyard which Bowen
Tyler now controlled, and here the U-33 still lies while those
who passed so many eventful days within and because of her, have
gone their various ways.






I have made the following changes to the text:

PAGE  LINE    ORIGINAL          CHANGED TO
  10    12    of                 or
  14    19    of animals life    of animals
  31    26    is arms            his arms
  37    14    above this         above his
  37    23    Bradley,           Bradley
  54    18    man                man
  57    14    and of Oo-oh       of Oo-oh
  62    18    spend              spent
  63    31    and mumbled        the mumbled
  64     9    things             thing
  80    30    east               cast
 104    16    proaching          proached
 106    30    cos-at-lu          cos-ata-lu
 126    17    not artistic       not an artistic
 126    25    close below        hands close below
 130     1    internals          intervals
 132     9    than               that
 132    10    splashes           splashed
 134     3    know know          not know


End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Out of Time's Abyss
by Edgar Rice Burroughs


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