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| Home | Reading Room The Land that Time Forgot

The Land that Time Forgot
by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Chapter 6

As we strolled slowly back toward the boat, planning and discussing
this, we were suddenly startled by a loud and unmistakable detonation.

"A shell from the U-33!" exclaimed von Schoenvorts.

"What can be after signifyin'?" queried Olson.

"They are in trouble," I answered for all, "and it's up to us
to get back to them. Drop that carcass," I directed the men
carrying the meat, "and follow me!" I set off at a rapid run
in the direction of the harbor.

We ran for the better part of a mile without hearing anything
more from the direction of the harbor, and then I reduced the
speed to a walk, for the exercise was telling on us who had been
cooped up for so long in the confined interior of the U-33.
Puffing and panting, we plodded on until within about a mile of
the harbor we came upon a sight that brought us all up standing.
We had been passing through a little heavier timber than was
usual to this part of the country, when we suddenly emerged into
an open space in the center of which was such a band as might
have caused the most courageous to pause. It consisted of upward
of five hundred individuals representing several species closely
allied to man. There were anthropoid apes and gorillas--these
I had no difficulty in recognizing; but there were other forms
which I had never before seen, and I was hard put to it to say
whether they were ape or man. Some of them resembled the corpse
we had found upon the narrow beach against Caprona's sea-wall,
while others were of a still lower type, more nearly resembling
the apes, and yet others were uncannily manlike, standing there
erect, being less hairy and possessing better shaped heads.

There was one among the lot, evidently the leader of them, who
bore a close resemblance to the so-called Neanderthal man of La
Chapelle-aux-Saints. There was the same short, stocky trunk upon
which rested an enormous head habitually bent forward into the
same curvature as the back, the arms shorter than the legs, and
the lower leg considerably shorter than that of modern man, the
knees bent forward and never straightened. This creature and one
or two others who appeared to be of a lower order than he, yet
higher than that of the apes, carried heavy clubs; the others were
armed only with giant muscles and fighting fangs--nature's weapons.
All were males, and all were entirely naked; nor was there upon
even the highest among them a sign of ornamentation.

At sight of us they turned with bared fangs and low growls to
confront us. I did not wish to fire among them unless it became
absolutely necessary, and so I started to lead my party around
them; but the instant that the Neanderthal man guessed my
intention, he evidently attributed it to cowardice upon our part,
and with a wild cry he leaped toward us, waving his cudgel above
his head. The others followed him, and in a minute we should have
been overwhelmed. I gave the order to fire, and at the first
volley six of them went down, including the Neanderthal man.
The others hesitated a moment and then broke for the trees, some
running nimbly among the branches, while others lost themselves
to us between the boles. Both von Schoenvorts and I noticed that
at least two of the higher, manlike types took to the trees quite
as nimbly as the apes, while others that more nearly approached
man in carriage and appearance sought safety upon the ground with
the gorillas.

An examination disclosed that five of our erstwhile opponents
were dead and the sixth, the Neanderthal man, was but slightly
wounded, a bullet having glanced from his thick skull, stunning him.
We decided to take him with us to camp, and by means of belts we
managed to secure his hands behind his back and place a leash
around his neck before he regained consciousness. We then
retraced our steps for our meat being convinced by our own
experience that those aboard the U-33 had been able to frighten
off this party with a single shell--but when we came to where we
had left the deer it had disappeared.

On the return journey Whitely and I preceded the rest of the
party by about a hundred yards in the hope of getting another
shot at something edible, for we were all greatly disgusted
and disappointed by the loss of our venison. Whitely and I
advanced very cautiously, and not having the whole party with
us, we fared better than on the journey out, bagging two large
antelope not a half-mile from the harbor; so with our game and
our prisoner we made a cheerful return to the boat, where we
found that all were safe. On the shore a little north of where
we lay there were the corpses of twenty of the wild creatures who
had attacked Bradley and his party in our absence, and the rest
of whom we had met and scattered a few minutes later.

We felt that we had taught these wild ape-men a lesson and that
because of it we would be safer in the future--at least safer
from them; but we decided not to abate our carefulness one whit;
feeling that this new world was filled with terrors still unknown
to us; nor were we wrong.
The following morning we commenced work upon our camp, Bradley,
Olson, von Schoenvorts, Miss La Rue, and I having sat up half the
night discussing the matter and drawing plans. We set the men at
work felling trees, selecting for the purpose jarrah, a hard,
weather-resisting timber which grew in profusion near by. Half the
men labored while the other half stood guard, alternating each hour
with an hour off at noon. Olson directed this work. Bradley, von
Schoenvorts and I, with Miss La Rue's help, staked out the various
buildings and the outer wall. When the day was done, we had quite
an array of logs nicely notched and ready for our building operations
on the morrow, and we were all tired, for after the buildings had
been staked out we all fell in and helped with the logging--all but
von Schoenvorts. He, being a Prussian and a gentleman, couldn't
stoop to such menial labor in the presence of his men, and I didn't
see fit to ask it of him, as the work was purely voluntary upon
our part. He spent the afternoon shaping a swagger-stick from the
branch of jarrah and talking with Miss La Rue, who had sufficiently
unbent toward him to notice his existence.

We saw nothing of the wild men of the previous day, and only once
were we menaced by any of the strange denizens of Caprona, when
some frightful nightmare of the sky swooped down upon us, only to
be driven off by a fusillade of bullets. The thing appeared to
be some variety of pterodactyl, and what with its enormous size
and ferocious aspect was most awe-inspiring. There was another
incident, too, which to me at least was far more unpleasant than
the sudden onslaught of the prehistoric reptile. Two of the men,
both Germans, were stripping a felled tree of its branches.
Von Schoenvorts had completed his swagger-stick, and he and I
were passing close to where the two worked.

One of them threw to his rear a small branch that he had just
chopped off, and as misfortune would have it, it struck von
Schoenvorts across the face. It couldn't have hurt him, for it
didn't leave a mark; but he flew into a terrific rage, shouting:
"Attention!" in a loud voice. The sailor immediately
straightened up, faced his officer, clicked his heels together
and saluted. "Pig!" roared the Baron, and struck the fellow
across the face, breaking his nose. I grabbed von Schoenvorts'
arm and jerked him away before he could strike again, if such had
been his intention, and then he raised his little stick to strike
me; but before it descended the muzzle of my pistol was against
his belly and he must have seen in my eyes that nothing would
suit me better than an excuse to pull the trigger. Like all his
kind and all other bullies, von Schoenvorts was a coward at
heart, and so he dropped his hand to his side and started to turn
away; but I pulled him back, and there before his men I told him
that such a thing must never again occur--that no man was to be
struck or otherwise punished other than in due process of the
laws that we had made and the court that we had established.
All the time the sailor stood rigidly at attention, nor could I
tell from his expression whether he most resented the blow his
officer had struck him or my interference in the gospel of the
Kaiser-breed. Nor did he move until I said to him: "Plesser, you
may return to your quarters and dress your wound." Then he
saluted and marched stiffly off toward the U-33.

Just before dusk we moved out into the bay a hundred yards from
shore and dropped anchor, for I felt that we should be safer
there than elsewhere. I also detailed men to stand watch during
the night and appointed Olson officer of the watch for the entire
night, telling him to bring his blankets on deck and get what
rest he could. At dinner we tasted our first roast Caprona
antelope, and we had a mess of greens that the cook had found
growing along the stream. All during the meal von Schoenvorts
was silent and surly.

After dinner we all went on deck and watched the unfamiliar
scenes of a Capronian night--that is, all but von Schoenvorts.
There was less to see than to hear. From the great inland lake
behind us came the hissing and the screaming of countless saurians.
Above us we heard the flap of giant wings, while from the shore
rose the multitudinous voices of a tropical jungle--of a warm,
damp atmosphere such as must have enveloped the entire earth
during the Palezoic and Mesozoic eras. But here were intermingled
the voices of later eras--the scream of the panther, the roar of
the lion, the baying of wolves and a thunderous growling which
we could attribute to nothing earthly but which one day we were
to connect with the most fearsome of ancient creatures.

One by one the others went to their rooms, until the girl and
I were left alone together, for I had permitted the watch to
go below for a few minutes, knowing that I would be on deck.
Miss La Rue was very quiet, though she replied graciously
enough to whatever I had to say that required reply. I asked
her if she did not feel well.

"Yes," she said, "but I am depressed by the awfulness of it all.
I feel of so little consequence--so small and helpless in the
face of all these myriad manifestations of life stripped to the
bone of its savagery and brutality. I realize as never before
how cheap and valueless a thing is life. Life seems a joke, a
cruel, grim joke. You are a laughable incident or a terrifying
one as you happen to be less powerful or more powerful than some
other form of life which crosses your path; but as a rule you are
of no moment whatsoever to anything but yourself. You are a comic
little figure, hopping from the cradle to the grave. Yes, that
is our trouble--we take ourselves too seriously; but Caprona
should be a sure cure for that." She paused and laughed.

"You have evolved a beautiful philosophy," I said. "It fills
such a longing in the human breast. It is full, it is
satisfying, it is ennobling. What wonderous strides toward
perfection the human race might have made if the first man had
evolved it and it had persisted until now as the creed of humanity."

"I don't like irony," she said; "it indicates a small soul."

"What other sort of soul, then, would you expect from `a comic
little figure hopping from the cradle to the grave'?" I inquired.
"And what difference does it make, anyway, what you like and what
you don't like? You are here for but an instant, and you mustn't
take yourself too seriously."

She looked up at me with a smile. "I imagine that I am frightened and
blue," she said, "and I know that I am very, very homesick and lonely."
There was almost a sob in her voice as she concluded. It was the
first time that she had spoken thus to me. Involuntarily, I laid
my hand upon hers where it rested on the rail.

"I know how difficult your position is," I said; "but don't feel
that you are alone. There is--is one here who--who would do
anything in the world for you," I ended lamely. She did not
withdraw her hand, and she looked up into my face with tears on her
cheeks and I read in her eyes the thanks her lips could not voice.
Then she looked away across the weird moonlit landscape and sighed.
Evidently her new-found philosophy had tumbled about her ears, for
she was seemingly taking herself seriously. I wanted to take her
in my arms and tell her how I loved her, and had taken her hand
from the rail and started to draw her toward me when Olson came
blundering up on deck with his bedding.
The following morning we started building operations in earnest,
and things progressed finely. The Neanderthal man was something
of a care, for we had to keep him in irons all the time, and he
was mighty savage when approached; but after a time he became
more docile, and then we tried to discover if he had a language.
Lys spent a great deal of time talking to him and trying to draw
him out; but for a long while she was unsuccessful. It took us
three weeks to build all the houses, which we constructed close
by a cold spring some two miles from the harbor.

We changed our plans a trifle when it came to building the
palisade, for we found a rotted cliff near by where we could get
all the flat building-stone we needed, and so we constructed a
stone wall entirely around the buildings. It was in the form of
a square, with bastions and towers at each corner which would
permit an enfilading fire along any side of the fort, and was
about one hundred and thirty-five feet square on the outside,
with walls three feet thick at the bottom and about a foot and
a half wide at the top, and fifteen feet high. It took a long
time to build that wall, and we all turned in and helped except
von Schoenvorts, who, by the way, had not spoken to me except
in the line of official business since our encounter--a condition
of armed neutrality which suited me to a T. We have just finished
it, the last touches being put on today. I quit about a week ago
and commenced working on this chronicle for our strange adventures,
which will account for any minor errors in chronology which may
have crept in; there was so much material that I may have made
some mistakes, but I think they are but minor and few.

I see in reading over the last few pages that I neglected to
state that Lys finally discovered that the Neanderthal man
possessed a language. She had learned to speak it, and so have
I, to some extent. It was he--his name he says is Am, or Ahm--
who told us that this country is called Caspak. When we asked
him how far it extended, he waved both arms about his head in an
all-including gesture which took in, apparently, the entire universe.
He is more tractable now, and we are going to release him, for he
has assured us that he will not permit his fellows to harm us.
He calls us Galus and says that in a short time he will be a Galu.
It is not quite clear to us what he means. He says that there are
many Galus north of us, and that as soon as he becomes one he will
go and live with them.

Ahm went out to hunt with us yesterday and was much impressed by
the ease with which our rifles brought down antelopes and deer.
We have been living upon the fat of the land, Ahm, having shown
us the edible fruits, tubers and herbs, and twice a week we go
out after fresh meat. A certain proportion of this we dry and
store away, for we do not know what may come. Our drying process
is really smoking. We have also dried a large quantity of two
varieties of cereal which grow wild a few miles south of us.
One of these is a giant Indian maize--a lofty perennial often fifty
and sixty feet in height, with ears the size off a man's body and
kernels as large as your fist. We have had to construct a second
store house for the great quantity of this that we have gathered.

September 3, 1916: Three months ago today the torpedo from the
U-33 started me from the peaceful deck of the American liner upon
the strange voyage which has ended here in Caspak. We have settled
down to an acceptance of our fate, for all are convinced that none
of us will ever see the outer world again. Ahm's repeated assertions
that there are human beings like ourselves in Caspak have roused
the men to a keen desire for exploration. I sent out one party
last week under Bradley. Ahm, who is now free to go and come as
he wishes, accompanied them. They marched about twenty-five miles
due west, encountering many terrible beasts and reptiles and not
a few manlike creatures whom Ahm sent away. Here is Bradley's
report of the expedition:

Marched fifteen miles the first day, camping on the bank of a
large stream which runs southward. Game was plentiful and we saw
several varieties which we had not before encountered in Caspak.
Just before making camp we were charged by an enormous woolly
rhinoceros, which Plesser dropped with a perfect shot. We had
rhinoceros-steaks for supper. Ahm called the thing "Atis." It was
almost a continuous battle from the time we left the fort until we
arrived at camp. The mind of man can scarce conceive the plethora
of carnivorous life in this lost world; and their prey, of course,
is even more abundant.

The second day we marched about ten miles to the foot of the cliffs.
Passed through dense forests close to the base of the cliffs.
Saw manlike creatures and a low order of ape in one band, and
some of the men swore that there was a white man among them.
They were inclined to attack us at first; but a volley from our
rifles caused them to change their minds. We scaled the cliffs
as far as we could; but near the top they are absolutely
perpendicular without any sufficient cleft or protuberance to
give hand or foot-hold. All were disappointed, for we hungered
for a view of the ocean and the outside world. We even had a
hope that we might see and attract the attention of a passing ship.
Our exploration has determined one thing which will probably
be of little value to us and never heard of beyond Caprona's
walls--this crater was once entirely filled with water.
Indisputable evidence of this is on the face of the cliffs.

Our return journey occupied two days and was as filled with
adventure as usual. We are all becoming accustomed to adventure.
It is beginning to pall on us. We suffered no casualties and
there was no illness.

I had to smile as I read Bradley's report. In those four days
he had doubtless passed through more adventures than an African
big-game hunter experiences in a lifetime, and yet he covered it
all in a few lines. Yes, we are becoming accustomed to adventure.
Not a day passes that one or more of us does not face death at
least once. Ahm taught us a few things that have proved
profitable and saved us much ammunition, which it is useless
to expend except for food or in the last recourse of self-
preservation. Now when we are attacked by large flying reptiles
we run beneath spreading trees; when land carnivora threaten us,
we climb into trees, and we have learned not to fire at any of
the dinosaurs unless we can keep out of their reach for at least
two minutes after hitting them in the brain or spine, or five
minutes after puncturing their hearts--it takes them so long to die.
To hit them elsewhere is worse than useless, for they do not seem
to notice it, and we had discovered that such shots do not kill
or even disable them.

September 7, 1916: Much has happened since I last wrote. Bradley is
away again on another exploration expedition to the cliffs. He expects
to be gone several weeks and to follow along their base in search of
a point where they may be scaled. He took Sinclair, Brady, James,
and Tippet with him. Ahm has disappeared. He has been gone about
three days; but the most startling thing I have on record is that
von Schoenvorts and Olson while out hunting the other day discovered
oil about fifteen miles north of us beyond the sandstone cliffs.
Olson says there is a geyser of oil there, and von Schoenvorts is
making preparations to refine it. If he succeeds, we shall have
the means for leaving Caspak and returning to our own world.
I can scarce believe the truth of it. We are all elated to the
seventh heaven of bliss. Pray God we shall not be disappointed.

I have tried on several occasions to broach the subject of my
love to Lys; but she will not listen.



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