At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 30

Never in all my
life had I witnessed a more horrible exhibition of bestial rage--I
thanked God that Dian had not been one of those left to endure it.

Of the twelve prisoners who had been chained ahead of me each alternate
one had been freed commencing with Dian. Hooja was gone. Ghak
remained. What could it mean? How had it been accomplished? The
commander of the guards was investigating. Soon he discovered that the
rude locks which had held the neckbands in place had been deftly picked.

"Hooja the Sly One," murmured Ghak, who was now next to me in line.
"He has taken the girl that you would not have," he continued, glancing
at me.

"That I would not have!" I cried. "What do you mean?"

He looked at me closely for a moment.

"I have doubted your story that you are from another world," he said at
last, "but yet upon no other grounds could your ignorance of the ways
of Pellucidar be explained. Do you really mean that you do not know
that you offended the Beautiful One, and how?"

"I do not know, Ghak," I replied.

"Then shall I tell you. When a man of Pellucidar intervenes between
another man and the woman the other man would have, the woman belongs
to the victor. Dian the Beautiful belongs to you. You should have
claimed her or released her. Had you taken her hand, it would have
indicated your desire to make her your mate, and had you raised her
hand above her head and then dropped it, it would have meant that you
did not wish her for a mate and that you released her from all
obligation to you. By doing neither you have put upon her the greatest
affront that a man may put upon a woman. Now she is your slave. No
man will take her as mate, or may take her honorably, until he shall
have overcome you in combat, and men do not choose slave women as their
mates--at least not the men of Pellucidar."

"I did not know, Ghak," I cried. "I did not know. Not for all
Pellucidar would I have harmed Dian the Beautiful by word, or look, or
act of mine. I do not want her as my slave. I do not want her as
my--" but here I stopped. The vision of that sweet and innocent face
floated before me amidst the soft mists of imagination, and where I

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