At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 22

which had
now regained its senses and its feet, fled howling with fright. Past
us swept the pursued and the pursuers, nor did the hairy ones accord us
more than a passing glance until the arena had been emptied of its
former occupants. Then they returned to us, and one who seemed to have
authority among them directed that we be brought with them.

When we had passed out of the amphitheater onto the great plain we saw
a caravan of men and women--human beings like ourselves--and for the
first time hope and relief filled my heart, until I could have cried
out in the exuberance of my happiness. It is true that they were a
half-naked, wild-appearing aggregation; but they at least were
fashioned along the same lines as ourselves--there was nothing
grotesque or horrible about them as about the other creatures in this
strange, weird world.

But as we came closer, our hearts sank once more, for we discovered
that the poor wretches were chained neck to neck in a long line, and
that the gorilla-men were their guards. With little ceremony Perry and
I were chained at the end of the line, and without further ado the
interrupted march was resumed.

Up to this time the excitement had kept us both up; but now the
tiresome monotony of the long march across the sun-baked plain brought
on all the agonies consequent to a long-denied sleep. On and on we
stumbled beneath that hateful noonday sun. If we fell we were prodded
with a sharp point. Our companions in chains did not stumble. They
strode along proudly erect. Occasionally they would exchange words
with one another in a monosyllabic language. They were a
noble-appearing race with well-formed heads and perfect physiques. The
men were heavily bearded, tall and muscular; the women, smaller and
more gracefully molded, with great masses of raven hair caught into
loose knots upon their heads. The features of both sexes were well
proportioned--there was not a face among them that would have been
called even plain if judged by earthly standards. They wore no
ornaments; but this I later learned was due to the fact that their
captors had stripped them of everything of value. As garmenture the
women possessed a single robe of some light-colored, spotted hide,
rather similar in appearance to a leopard's skin. This they wore
either supported entirely about the waist by a leathern thong, so that
it hung partially below the knee on one side, or possibly looped
gracefully across one shoulder.

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