Ja and Jav and Ko checked off the men to see that all were present. “Where is the girl?” asked Ja. No one had seen her, and Ja sent men to search the ship for her. They returned to report that she was not on board, and Ja turned fierce eyes on Ah-gilak.
“What did you do with her, old man?” demanded Ja.
“I did nothing to her.”
“You wanted to put her ashore. I think you threw her overboard.”
“We do not need him any more,” said Jav. “I think we should kill him.”
“No! No!” screamed Ah-gilak. “I did not throw the girl overboard. I do not know what became of her. Do not kill me, I am just a poor old man who would not harm any one.”
“We all know that you are a liar,” said Ja, “so nothing you may say makes any difference. However, as no one saw you throw the girl overboard I shall give you the benefit of the doubt and not kill you. Instead, I shall leave you aboard the ship.”
“But it will break up and I shall be drowned,” pleaded Ah-gilak.
“That is your affair, not mine,” said Ja. So the Mezops abandoned the wreck of the John Tyler, leaving Ah-gilak behind.
The Mezops reached the shore in safety and shortly after, the fog lifted. A strong wind sprang up, blowing from the land toward the sea. The Mezops saw the sails of the John Tyler fill.
“The old man is in bad way,” said Jav.
“Look!” cried Ko. “The ship is moving out to sea.”
“The tide came in and floated her,” said Ja. “Maybe we should not have abandoned her so soon. I do not like the land.”
“Perhaps we could overhaul her in the boats,” suggested one.
So they manned the boats and paddled after the John Tyler. Ah-gilak saw them coming and guessed their intention. Impelled by the urges—fear of the Mezops and a desire for revenge—he took the wheel and steered a course that took full advantage of the wind; and the John Tyler picked up speed and showed a pretty pair of heels to the sweating Mezops, who soon gave up the chase and started back toward shore.
“The old son of a sithic!” exclaimed Jav. The sithic is a toadlike reptile.
The jalok is a big, shaggy hyaenodon, with a body as large as a leopard’s but with longer legs. Jaloks usually hunt in packs, and not even the largest and fiercest of animals is safe from attack. They are without fear, and they are always hungry. O-aa knew all about jaloks, and she wished that she was up a tree—literally. She certainly was, figuratively. She was also behind the eight ball, but O-aa, knew nothing of eight balls. To be behind the eight ball and up a tree at the same time is very bad business.
O-aa drew her knife and waited. The jalok lay down and cradled his powerful jaws on his outstretched front legs, and eyed O-aa. This surprised the girl. She had expected the beast to rush her. The animal looked like a big, shaggy dog; but O-aa was not deceived by appearances. She knew that sometimes jaloks were tamed, but they were never domesticated. This one was probably not hungry, and was waiting until he was.
I can’t stay here forever, just waiting to be eaten, thought O-aa; so she started along slowly in the direction she had been going. The jalok got up and followed her.
Below her stretched a gentle declivity down to a narrow coastal plain. A little stream, starting from some place at her left, wound down the mountainside. It was joined by other little streams to form a little river that meandered across the plain down to the sea. It was all a scene of exquisite beauty—a little gem set in an azure sea. But for the moment it was all lost on O-aa as she glanced behind and saw the jalok following her.
If I climb a tree, thought O-aa, the jalok will lie down beneath it until I come down or fall out. O-aa knew her jaloks; so she kept on walking.
She had descended about a half mile when she heard a savage growl ahead and to her left. As she looked, a codon broke from the cover of some tall grass, and charged her. O-aa knew that she was lost, but she held her knife in readiness and waited her end. Then something flashed by her. It was the jalok. He met the codon, a huge timber wolf, long extinct upon the outer crust, at the moment that it leaped for O-aa.
Then followed what bade fair to be a battle royal between these two savage, powerful beasts; and O-aa took advantage of their preoccupation to make good her escape. As she ran down the mountainside, the roars and growls of the battling beasts filled her ears. But not for long. Suddenly they stopped. O-aa glanced back, and again her heart sank. The jalok was coming toward her at a run. Behind him, she could see the still form of the codon lying where it had died.
O-aa stood still. The end was inevitable. She might as well face it now. The jalok stopped a few yards from her; then it moved toward her again wagging its tail! That has meant the same thing in the dog family from the Cretaceous age to the present day, on the outer crust or in the Inner World at the earth’s core.
O-aa sheathed her knife and waited. The jalok came close and looked up into her face, and O-aa placed a hand upon its head and scratched it behind an ear. The great beast licked her hand, and when O-aa started down toward the sea again, it walked at her side, brushing against her. Not since she had lost Hodon had O-aa felt so safe. She tangled her fingers in the shaggy collar that zinged the jalok’s neck, as though she would never let him go again.
Until this moment she had not realized how friendless and alone she had been since she had said goodby to David and Abner Perry and Ghak. But now she had both a friend and a protector. O-aa was almost happy.
As they neared the beach, the jalok moved toward the right; and O-aa followed him. He led her to a little cove. Here she saw an outrigger canoe drawn up on the beach above high water. The jalok stopped beside it and looked up at her. In the canoe were the weapons and the loincloth of a man. And in these things, O-aa read a story. She could see by the general appearance of the articles in the canoe that they had lain untouched for some time. She knew that a man did not go naked and unarmed far from his weapons. And thus she reconstructed the story: A warrior had paddled from the mainland with his jalok to hunt, perhaps. He had gone into the sea to bathe, and had been seized and devoured by one of the innumerable voracious creatures which swarm in the waters of the Korsar Az. Or perhaps a thipdar had swooped down and seized him. At any rate, she was confident that he had gone never to return and, she had fallen heir to his weapons, his canoe, and his jalok. But there remained a mile of terrifying water between herself and the mainland!
She looked across to the farther shore just in time to see the John Tyler put to sea. She could not know that the ship bore only Ah-gilak. The others, far down the coast, were too far away for her to see them. She looked at the canoe and out again across the water. The jalok lay at her feet. She ruffled his shaggy mane with a sandalled foot, and he looked up at her and bared his fangs in a canine grin—terrible fangs set in mighty jaws that could tear her to pieces in a moment.
O-aa sat down on the ground beside the jalok and tried to plan for the future. What she was really trying to do was raise her courage to a point that would permit her to launch the canoe and paddle across that fearsome mile. Every time it reached the sticking point she would look out and see a terrible head or a dorsal fin break the surface of the sea. Then her courage would do a nose dive. And when she realized that the wind was against her, she breathed a sigh of relief for so excellent an excuse to delay her departure.
She examined the contents of the canoe more closely. She saw a stone knife, a stone tipped spear, a tomahawk with a well shaped stone head and a wooden haft, a bow, a quiver of arrows, two paddles, a pole six or seven feet long, a woven fibre mat, and some cordage of braided grasses. These articles suggested something to O-aa that would never have entered her head before she began her adventures on that unfamiliar medium which rolled and tossed in illimitable vastness to form the Sojar Az and Korsar Az. O-aa had learned much that was no part of the education of a cave girl from Kali.
She examined further and found a hole in a thwart and beneath it a corresponding receptacle in the bottom of the canoe. Now she knew what the pole was for and the fibre mat and the cordage. All she had to do, she decided, was wait for a favorable wind. That would be much better than paddling; and as she intended to wait for a strong wind, it would result in a much shorter passage, which would cut down the odds that were always against the survival of any who put to sea in Pellucidar.
Her doom postponed until the wind changed, O-aa realized that she was hungry. She took the spear, the quiver of arrows, and the bow and set forth to hunt. The jalok accompanied her.