Out of Time's Abyss

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 44

in which he might learn these things,
and that was to lower himself into the stream. For only an instant he
hesitated weighing his chances. Behind him lay almost certainly the
horrid fate of An-Tak; before him nothing worse than a comparatively
painless death by drowning. Holding his haversack above his head with
one hand he lowered his feet slowly over the edge of the narrow
platform. Almost immediately he felt the swirling of cold water about
his ankles, and then with a silent prayer he let himself drop gently
into the stream.

Great was Bradley's relief when he found the water no more than waist
deep and beneath his feet a firm, gravel bottom. Feeling his way
cautiously he moved downward with the current, which was not so strong
as he had imagined from the noise of the running water.

Beneath the first arch he made his way, following the winding
curvatures of the right-hand wall. After a few yards of progress his
hand came suddenly in contact with a slimy thing clinging to the
wall--a thing that hissed and scuttled out of reach. What it was, the
man could not know; but almost instantly there was a splash in the
water just ahead of him and then another.

On he went, passing beneath other arches at varying distances, and
always in utter darkness. Unseen denizens of this great sewer,
disturbed by the intruder, splashed into the water ahead of him and
wriggled away. Time and again his hand touched them and never for an
instant could he be sure that at the next step some gruesome thing
might not attack him. He had strapped his haversack about his neck,
well above the surface of the water, and in his left hand he carried
his knife. Other precautions there were none to take.

The monotony of the blind trail was increased by the fact that from the
moment he had started from the foot of the ladder he had counted his
every step. He had promised to return for An-Tak if it proved humanly
possible to do so, and he knew that in the blackness of the tunnel he
could locate the foot of the ladder in no other way.

He had taken two hundred and sixty-nine steps--afterward he knew that
he should never forget that number--when something bumped gently
against him from behind. Instantly he wheeled about and with knife
ready to defend himself stretched forth his right hand to push away the
object that now had lodged against his body.

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