At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 29

so much to me, the
more I came to miss it; and the more impregnable the barrier of silly
pride. But I was very young and would not ask Ghak for the explanation
which I was sure he could give, and that might have made everything all
right again.

On the march, or during halts, Dian refused consistently to notice
me--when her eyes wandered in my direction she looked either over my
head or directly through me. At last I became desperate, and
determined to swallow my self-esteem, and again beg her to tell me how
I had offended, and how I might make reparation. I made up my mind
that I should do this at the next halt. We were approaching another
range of mountains at the time, and when we reached them, instead of
winding across them through some high-flung pass we entered a mighty
natural tunnel--a series of labyrinthine grottoes, dark as Erebus.

The guards had no torches or light of any description. In fact we had
seen no artificial light or sign of fire since we had entered
Pellucidar. In a land of perpetual noon there is no need of light
above ground, yet I marveled that they had no means of lighting their
way through these dark, subterranean passages. So we crept along at a
snail's pace, with much stumbling and falling--the guards keeping up a
singsong chant ahead of us, interspersed with certain high notes which
I found always indicated rough places and turns.

Halts were now more frequent, but I did not wish to speak to Dian until
I could see from the expression of her face how she was receiving my
apologies. At last a faint glow ahead forewarned us of the end of the
tunnel, for which I for one was devoutly thankful. Then at a sudden
turn we emerged into the full light of the noonday sun.

But with it came a sudden realization of what meant to me a real
catastrophe--Dian was gone, and with her a half-dozen other prisoners.
The guards saw it too, and the ferocity of their rage was terrible to
behold. Their awesome, bestial faces were contorted in the most
diabolical expressions, as they accused each other of responsibility
for the loss. Finally they fell upon us, beating us with their spear
shafts, and hatchets. They had already killed two near the head of the
line, and were like to have finished the balance of us when their
leader finally put a stop to the brutal slaughter.

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