I TOWARD THE ETERNAL FIRES
II A STRANGE WORLD
III A CHANGE OF MASTERS
IV DIAN THE BEAUTIFUL
VI THE BEGINNING OF HORROR
VIII THE MAHAR TEMPLE
IX THE FACE OF DEATH
X PHUTRA AGAIN
XI FOUR DEAD MAHARS
XIII THE SLY ONE
XIV THE GARDEN OF EDEN
XV BACK TO EARTH
IN THE FIRST PLACE PLEASE BEAR IN MIND THAT I do not expect you to
believe this story. Nor could you wonder had you witnessed a recent
experience of mine when, in the armor of blissful and stupendous
ignorance, I gaily narrated the gist of it to a Fellow of the Royal
Geological Society on the occasion of my last trip to London.
You would surely have thought that I had been detected in no less a
heinous crime than the purloining of the Crown Jewels from the Tower,
or putting poison in the coffee of His Majesty the King.
The erudite gentleman in whom I confided congealed before I was half
through!--it is all that saved him from exploding--and my dreams of an
Honorary Fellowship, gold medals, and a niche in the Hall of Fame faded
into the thin, cold air of his arctic atmosphere.
But I believe the story, and so would you, and so would the learned
Fellow of the Royal Geological Society, had you and he heard it from
the lips of the man who told it to me. Had you seen, as I did, the
fire of truth in those gray eyes; had you felt the ring of sincerity in
that quiet voice; had you realized the pathos of it all--you, too,
would believe. You would not have needed the final ocular proof that I
had--the weird rhamphorhynchus-like creature which he had brought back
with him from the inner world.
I came upon him quite suddenly, and no less unexpectedly, upon the rim
of the great Sahara Desert. He was standing before a goat-skin tent
amidst a clump of date palms within a tiny oasis. Close by was an Arab
douar of some eight or ten tents.
I had come down from the north to hunt lion. My party consisted of a
dozen children of the desert--I was the only "white" man. As we
approached the little clump of verdure I saw the man come from his tent
and with hand-shaded eyes peer intently at us. At sight of me he
advanced rapidly to meet us.
"A white man!" he cried. "May the good Lord be praised! I have been
watching you for hours, hoping against hope that THIS time there would
be a white man. Tell me the date. What year is it?"
And when I had told him he staggered as though he had been struck full
in the face, so that he was compelled to grasp my stirrup leather for
"It cannot be!" he cried after a moment. "It cannot be! Tell me that
you are mistaken, or that you are but joking."
"I am telling you the truth, my friend," I replied. "Why should I
deceive a stranger, or attempt to, in so simple a matter as the date?"
For some time he stood in silence, with bowed head.
"Ten years!" he murmured, at last. "Ten years, and I thought that at
the most it could be scarce more than one!" That night he told me his
story--the story that I give you here as nearly in his own words as I
can recall them.
TOWARD THE ETERNAL FIRES
I WAS BORN IN CONNECTICUT ABOUT THIRTY YEARS ago. My name is David
Innes. My father was a wealthy mine owner. When I was nineteen he
died. All his property was to be mine when I had attained my
majority--provided that I had devoted the two years intervening in
close application to the great business I was to inherit.
I did my best to fulfil the last wishes of my parent--not because of
the inheritance, but because I loved and honored my father. For six
months I toiled in the mines and in the counting-rooms, for I wished to
know every minute detail of the business.
Then Perry interested me in his invention. He was an old fellow who
had devoted the better part of a long life to the perfection of a
mechanical subterranean prospector. As relaxation he studied
paleontology. I looked over his plans, listened to his arguments,
inspected his working model--and then, convinced, I advanced the funds
necessary to construct a full-sized, practical prospector.
I shall not go into the details of its construction--it lies out there
in the desert now--about two miles from here. Tomorrow you may care to
ride out and see it. Roughly, it is a steel cylinder a hundred feet
long, and jointed so that it may turn and twist through solid rock if
need be. At one end is a mighty revolving drill operated by an engine
which Perry said generated more power to the cubic inch than any o