By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 81

toward Hooja's village, nor did I relish
doing so now; but Dian's life might hinge upon the success of my
venture, and so I could not afford to take chances. To have met
suddenly with discovery and had a score or more of armed warriors upon
me might have been very grand and heroic; but it would have immediately
put an end to all my earthly activities, nor have accomplished aught in
the service of Dian.

Well, I must have traveled nearly a mile across that mesa without
seeing a sign of anyone, when all of a sudden, as I crept around the
edge of a boulder, I ran plump into a man, down on all fours like
myself, crawling toward me.



His head was turned over his shoulder as I first saw him--he was
looking back toward the village. As I leaped for him his eyes fell
upon me. Never in my life have I seen a more surprised mortal than
this poor cave man. Before he could utter a single scream of warning
or alarm I had my fingers on his throat and had dragged him behind the
boulder, where I proceeded to sit upon him, while I figured out what I
had best do with him.

He struggled a little at first, but finally lay still, and so I
released the pressure of my fingers at his windpipe, for which I
imagine he was quite thankful--I know that I should have been.

I hated to kill him in cold blood; but what else I was to do with him I
could not see, for to turn him loose would have been merely to have the
entire village aroused and down upon me in a moment. The fellow lay
looking up at me with the surprise still deeply written on his
countenance. At last, all of a sudden, a look of recognition entered
his eyes.

"I have seen you before," he said. "I saw you in the arena at the
Mahars' city of Phutra when the thipdars dragged the tarag from you and
your mate. I never understood that. Afterward they put me in the
arena with two warriors from Gombul."

He smiled in recollection.

"It would have been the same had there been ten warriors from Gombul.
I slew them, winning my freedom. Look!"

He half turned his left shoulder toward me, exhibiting the newly healed
scar of the Mahars' branded mark.

"Then," he continued, "as I was returning to my people I met some of
them fleeing.

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