At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 72

the riddle of my return, for riddle they
still considered it.

I had spoken to the Sagoths as I had for the purpose of throwing them
off the scent of my purposed attempt at escape. If they thought that I
was so satisfied with my lot within Phutra that I would voluntarily
return when I had once had so excellent an opportunity to escape, they
would never for an instant imagine that I could be occupied in
arranging another escape immediately upon my return to the city.

So they led me before a slimy Mahar who clung to a slimy rock within
the large room that was the thing's office. With cold, reptilian eyes
the creature seemed to bore through the thin veneer of my deceit and
read my inmost thoughts. It heeded the story which the Sagoths told of
my return to Phutra, watching the gorilla-men's lips and fingers during
the recital. Then it questioned me through one of the Sagoths.

"You say that you returned to Phutra of your own free will, because you
think yourself better off here than elsewhere--do you not know that you
may be the next chosen to give up your life in the interests of the
wonderful scientific investigations that our learned ones are
continually occupied with?"

I hadn't heard of anything of that nature, but I thought best not to
admit it.

"I could be in no more danger here," I said, "than naked and unarmed in
the savage jungles or upon the lonely plains of Pellucidar. I was
fortunate, I think, to return to Phutra at all. As it was I barely
escaped death within the jaws of a huge sithic. No, I am sure that I
am safer in the hands of intelligent creatures such as rule Phutra. At
least such would be the case in my own world, where human beings like
myself rule supreme. There the higher races of man extend protection
and hospitality to the stranger within their gates, and being a
stranger here I naturally assumed that a like courtesy would be
accorded me."

The Mahar looked at me in silence for some time after I ceased speaking
and the Sagoth had translated my words to his master. The creature
seemed deep in thought. Presently he communicated some message to the
Sagoth. The latter turned, and motioning me to follow him, left the
presence of the reptile. Behind and on either side of me marched the
balance of the guard.

"What are they going to do with me?" I asked

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