At the Earth's Core

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 94

and the instinct for protection of the other
sex, which nearly must have equaled the instinct of self-preservation
in primeval man, drew me to the girl's side like an irresistible magnet.

Almost thoughtless of the consequences, I leaped from the end of the
ledge upon which I stood, for the tiny shelf twenty feet below. At the
same instant the dragon darted in toward the girl, but my sudden advent
upon the scene must have startled him for he veered to one side, and
then rose above us once more.

The noise I made as I landed beside her convinced the girl that the end
had come, for she thought I was the dragon; but finally when no cruel
fangs closed upon her she raised her eyes in astonishment. As they
fell upon me the expression that came into them would be difficult to
describe; but her feelings could scarcely have been one whit more
complicated than my own--for the wide eyes that looked into mine were
those of Dian the Beautiful.

"Dian!" I cried. "Dian! Thank God that I came in time."

"You?" she whispered, and then she hid her face again; nor could I tell
whether she were glad or angry that I had come.

Once more the dragon was sweeping toward us, and so rapidly that I had
no time to unsling my bow. All that I could do was to snatch up a
rock, and hurl it at the thing's hideous face. Again my aim was true,
and with a hiss of pain and rage the reptile wheeled once more and
soared away.

Quickly I fitted an arrow now that I might be ready at the next attack,
and as I did so I looked down at the girl, so that I surprised her in a
surreptitious glance which she was stealing at me; but immediately, she
again covered her face with her hands.

"Look at me, Dian," I pleaded. "Are you not glad to see me?"

She looked straight into my eyes.

"I hate you," she said, and then, as I was about to beg for a fair
hearing she pointed over my shoulder. "The thipdar comes," she said,
and I turned again to meet the reptile.

So this was a thipdar. I might have known it. The cruel bloodhound of
the Mahars. The long-extinct pterodactyl of the outer world. But this
time I met it with a weapon it never had faced before. I had selected
my longest arrow, and with all my strength had bent

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