By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 46

noticed as I felt about the floor in the dim light that there was a
pile of fresh-turned rubble there. Presently my hands came to the spot
where the great secret had been buried. There was a cavity where I had
carefully smoothed the earth over the hiding-place of the document--the
manuscript was gone!

Frantically I searched the whole interior of the cave several times
over, but without other result than a complete confirmation of my worst
fears. Someone had been here ahead of me and stolen the great secret.

The one thing within Pellucidar which might free Dian and me was gone,
nor was it likely that I should ever learn its whereabouts. If a Mahar
had found it, which was quite improbable, the chances were that the
dominant race would never divulge the fact that they had recovered the
precious document. If a cave man had happened upon it he would have no
conception of its meaning or value, and as a consequence it would be
lost or destroyed in short order.

With bowed head and broken hopes I came out of the cave and told the
Sagoth chieftain what I had discovered. It didn't mean much to the
fellow, who doubt-less had but little better idea of the contents of
the document I had been sent to fetch to his masters than would the
cave man who in all probability had discovered it.

The Sagoth knew only that I had failed in my mission, so he took
advantage of the fact to make the return journey to Phutra as
disagreeable as possible. I did not rebel, though I had with me the
means to destroy them all. I did not dare rebel because of the
consequences to Dian. I intended demanding her release on the grounds
that she was in no way guilty of the theft, and that my failure to
recover the document had not lessened the value of the good faith I had
had in offering to do so. The Mahars might keep me in slavery if they
chose, but Dian should be returned safely to her people.

I was full of my scheme when we entered Phutra and I was conducted
directly to the great audience-chamber. The Mahars listened to the
report of the Sagoth chieftain, and so difficult is it to judge their
emotions from their almost expressionless countenance, that I was at a
loss to know how terrible might be their wrath as they learned that
their great secret, upon which rested the fate of

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