At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 28

himself back quite close to Dian. We were all
standing, and as he edged near the girl she turned her back upon him in
such a truly earthly feminine manner that I could scarce repress a
smile; but it was a short-lived smile for on the instant the Sly One's
hand fell upon the girl's bare arm, jerking her roughly toward him.

I was not then familiar with the customs or social ethics which
prevailed within Pellucidar; but even so I did not need the appealing
look which the girl shot to me from her magnificent eyes to influence
my subsequent act. What the Sly One's intention was I paused not to
inquire; but instead, before he could lay hold of her with his other
hand, I placed a right to the point of his jaw that felled him in his
tracks.

A roar of approval went up from those of the other prisoners and the
Sagoths who had witnessed the brief drama; not, as I later learned,
because I had championed the girl, but for the neat and, to them,
astounding method by which I had bested Hooja.

And the girl? At first she looked at me with wide, wondering eyes, and
then she dropped her head, her face half averted, and a delicate flush
suffused her cheek. For a moment she stood thus in silence, and then
her head went high, and she turned her back upon me as she had upon
Hooja. Some of the prisoners laughed, and I saw the face of Ghak the
Hairy One go very black as he looked at me searchingly. And what I
could see of Dian's cheek went suddenly from red to white.

Immediately after we resumed the march, and though I realized that in
some way I had offended Dian the Beautiful I could not prevail upon her
to talk with me that I might learn wherein I had erred--in fact I might
quite as well have been addressing a sphinx for all the attention I
got. At last my own foolish pride stepped in and prevented my making
any further attempts, and thus a companionship that without my
realizing it had come to mean a great deal to me was cut off.
Thereafter I confined my conversation to Perry. Hooja did not renew
his advances toward the girl, nor did he again venture near me.

Again the weary and apparently interminable marching became a perfect
nightmare of horrors to me. The more firmly fixed became the
realization that the girl's friendship had meant

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