At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 24

this earth I have lost all respect for time--I am commencing to
doubt that such a thing exists other than in the weak, finite mind of
man.




IV

DIAN THE BEAUTIFUL


When our guards aroused us from sleep we were much refreshed. They
gave us food. Strips of dried meat it was, but it put new life and
strength into us, so that now we too marched with high-held heads, and
took noble strides. At least I did, for I was young and proud; but
poor Perry hated walking. On earth I had often seen him call a cab to
travel a square--he was paying for it now, and his old legs wobbled so
that I put my arm about him and half carried him through the balance of
those frightful marches.

The country began to change at last, and we wound up out of the level
plain through mighty mountains of virgin granite. The tropical verdure
of the lowlands was replaced by hardier vegetation, but even here the
effects of constant heat and light were apparent in the immensity of
the trees and the profusion of foliage and blooms. Crystal streams
roared through their rocky channels, fed by the perpetual snows which
we could see far above us. Above the snowcapped heights hung masses of
heavy clouds. It was these, Perry explained, which evidently served
the double purpose of replenishing the melting snows and protecting
them from the direct rays of the sun.

By this time we had picked up a smattering of the bastard language in
which our guards addressed us, as well as making good headway in the
rather charming tongue of our co-captives. Directly ahead of me in the
chain gang was a young woman. Three feet of chain linked us together
in a forced companionship which I, at least, soon rejoiced in. For I
found her a willing teacher, and from her I learned the language of her
tribe, and much of the life and customs of the inner world--at least
that part of it with which she was familiar.

She told me that she was called Dian the Beautiful, and that she
belonged to the tribe of Amoz, which dwells in the cliffs above the
Darel Az, or shallow sea.

"How came you here?" I asked her.

"I was running away from Jubal the Ugly One," she answered, as though
that was explanation quite sufficient.

"Who is Jubal the Ugly One?" I asked. "And why did you run away from
him?"

She looked at me in surprise.

"Why DOES a woman run away

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