At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 57

shores to mark where the two vanished.

For a time all was silence within the temple. The slaves were
motionless in terror. The Mahars watched the surface of the water for
the reappearance of their queen, and presently at one end of the tank
her head rose slowly into view. She was backing toward the surface,
her eyes fixed before her as they had been when she dragged the
helpless girl to her doom.

And then to my utter amazement I saw the forehead and eyes of the
maiden come slowly out of the depths, following the gaze of the reptile
just as when she had disappeared beneath the surface. On and on came
the girl until she stood in water that reached barely to her knees, and
though she had been beneath the surface sufficient time to have drowned
her thrice over there was no indication, other than her dripping hair
and glistening body, that she had been submerged at all.

Again and again the queen led the girl into the depths and out again,
until the uncanny weirdness of the thing got on my nerves so that I
could have leaped into the tank to the child's rescue had I not taken a
firm hold of myself.

Once they were below much longer than usual, and when they came to the
surface I was horrified to see that one of the girl's arms was
gone--gnawed completely off at the shoulder--but the poor thing gave no
indication of realizing pain, only the horror in her set eyes seemed
intensified.

The next time they appeared the other arm was gone, and then the
breasts, and then a part of the face--it was awful. The poor creatures
on the islands awaiting their fate tried to cover their eyes with their
hands to hide the fearful sight, but now I saw that they too were under
the hypnotic spell of the reptiles, so that they could only crouch in
terror with their eyes fixed upon the terrible thing that was
transpiring before them.

Finally the queen was under much longer than ever before, and when she
rose she came alone and swam sleepily toward her bowlder. The moment
she mounted it seemed to be the signal for the other Mahars to enter
the tank, and then commenced, upon a larger scale, a repetition of the
uncanny performance through which the queen had led her victim.

Only the women and children fell prey to the Mahars--they being the
weakest and most tender--and when they had satisfied their appetite for
human flesh, some of them

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