At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 48

with which he came which seemed quite
sufficiently menacing, so that I did not need the added evidence of
brandishing spear and scowling face to warn me that I was in no safe
position, but whither to flee was indeed a momentous question.

The speed of the fellow seemed to preclude the possibility of escaping
him upon the open beach. There was but a single alternative--the rude
skiff--and with a celerity which equaled his, I pushed the thing into
the sea and as it floated gave a final shove and clambered in over the
end.

A cry of rage rose from the owner of the primitive craft, and an
instant later his heavy, stone-tipped spear grazed my shoulder and
buried itself in the bow of the boat beyond. Then I grasped the
paddle, and with feverish haste urged the awkward, wobbly thing out
upon the surface of the sea.

A glance over my shoulder showed me that the copper-colored one had
plunged in after me and was swimming rapidly in pursuit. His mighty
strokes bade fair to close up the distance between us in short order,
for at best I could make but slow progress with my unfamiliar craft,
which nosed stubbornly in every direction but that which I desired to
follow, so that fully half my energy was expended in turning its blunt
prow back into the course.

I had covered some hundred yards from shore when it became evident that
my pursuer must grasp the stern of the skiff within the next half-dozen
strokes. In a frenzy of despair, I bent to the grandfather of all
paddles in a hopeless effort to escape, and still the copper giant
behind me gained and gained.

His hand was reaching upward for the stern when I saw a sleek, sinuous
body shoot from the depths below. The man saw it too, and the look of
terror that overspread his face assured me that I need have no further
concern as to him, for the fear of certain death was in his look.

And then about him coiled the great, slimy folds of a hideous monster
of that prehistoric deep--a mighty serpent of the sea, with fanged
jaws, and darting forked tongue, with bulging eyes, and bony
protuberances upon head and snout that formed short, stout horns.

As I looked at that hopeless struggle my eyes met those of the doomed
man, and I could have sworn that in his I saw an expression of hopeless
appeal. But whether I did or not there swept through me a sudden
compassion for the fellow.

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