At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 21

as they entered the natural arena within the rocky
hills. Their laughter ceased. Grim ferocity marked their bestial
faces--bared fangs menaced us.

We were placed in the center of the amphitheater--the thousand
creatures forming a great ring about us. Then a wolf-dog was
brought--hyaenodon Perry called it--and turned loose with us inside the
circle. The thing's body was as large as that of a full-grown mastiff,
its legs were short and powerful, and its jaws broad and strong. Dark,
shaggy hair covered its back and sides, while its breast and belly were
quite white. As it slunk toward us it presented a most formidable
aspect with its upcurled lips baring its mighty fangs.

Perry was on his knees, praying. I stooped and picked up a small
stone. At my movement the beast veered off a bit and commenced
circling us. Evidently it had been a target for stones before. The
ape-things were dancing up and down urging the brute on with savage
cries, until at last, seeing that I did not throw, he charged us.

At Andover, and later at Yale, I had pitched on winning ball teams. My
speed and control must both have been above the ordinary, for I made
such a record during my senior year at college that overtures were made
to me in behalf of one of the great major-league teams; but in the
tightest pitch that ever had confronted me in the past I had never been
in such need for control as now.

As I wound up for the delivery, I held my nerves and muscles under
absolute command, though the grinning jaws were hurtling toward me at
terrific speed. And then I let go, with every ounce of my weight and
muscle and science in back of that throw. The stone caught the
hyaenodon full upon the end of the nose, and sent him bowling over upon
his back.

At the same instant a chorus of shrieks and howls arose from the circle
of spectators, so that for a moment I thought that the upsetting of
their champion was the cause; but in this I soon saw that I was
mistaken. As I looked, the ape-things broke in all directions toward
the surrounding hills, and then I distinguished the real cause of their
perturbation. Behind them, streaming through the pass which leads into
the valley, came a swarm of hairy men--gorilla-like creatures armed
with spears and hatchets, and bearing long, oval shields. Like demons
they set upon the ape-things, and before them

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