The Eternal Lover

Part II

Chapter XV

What the Cave Revealed

Edgar Rice Burroughs

WHEN Victoria Custer opened her eyes the first face that she saw was that of her brother, Barney, bent above her. She looked at him in puzzled bewilderment for a moment. Presently she reached her hands toward him.

“Where am I?” she asked. “What has happened?”

“You’re all right, Vic,” replied the young man. “You’re safe and sound in Lord Greystoke’s bungalow.”

For another moment the girl knit her brows in perplexity.

“But the earthquake,” she asked, “wasn’t there an earthquake?”

“A little one, Vic, but it didn’t amount to anything—there wasn’t any damage done.”

“How long have I been—er—this way?” she continued.

“You swooned about three minutes ago,” replied her brother. “I just put you down here and sent Esmeralda for some brandy when you opened your eyes.”

“Three minutes,” murmured the girl—“three minutes!”

That night after the others had retired Barney Custer sat beside his sister’s bed, and long into the early morning she told him in simple words and without sign of hysteria the story that I have told here, of Nat-ul and Nu, the son of Nu.

“I think,” she said, when she had finished the strange tale, “that I shall be happier for this vision, or whatever one may call it. I have met my dream man and lived again the life that he and I lived countless ages ago. Even if he comes to me in my dreams again it will not disturb me. I am glad that it was but a dream, and that Mr. Curtiss was not killed by Terkoz, and that all those other terrible things were not real.”

“Now,” said Barney, with a smile, “you may be able to listen to what Curtiss has been trying to tell you.” It was a half question.

Victoria Custer shook her head.

“No,” she said, “I could never love him now. I cannot tell you why, but it may be that what I have lived through in those three minutes revealed more than the dim and distant past. Terkoz has never liked him, you know.”

Barney did not pursue the subject. He kissed the girl good night and as the east commenced to lighten to the coming dawn he sought his own room and a few hours’ sleep.

The next day it was decided that Victoria and Barney should start for the coast as soon as porters could be procured, which would require but a few days at the most. Lieutenant Butzow, Curtiss and I decided to accompany them.

It was the last day of their stay at the Greystoke ranch. The others were hunting. Barney and Victoria had remained to put the finishing touches upon their packing, but that was done now and the girl begged for a last ride over the broad, game dotted valley of Uziri.

Before they had covered a mile Barney saw that his sister had some particular objective in mind, for she rode straight as an arrow and rapidly, with scarce a word, straight south toward the foot of the rugged mountains that bound the Waziri’s country upon that side—in the very direction that she had previously shunned. After a couple of hours of stiff riding they came to the foot of the lofty cliff that had formerly so filled Victoria with terror and misgivings.

“What’s the idea, Vic,” asked the man, “I thought you were through with all this.”

“I am, Barney,” she replied, “or will be after today, but I just couldn’t go away without satisfying my curiosity. I want to know that there is no cave here in which a man might be buried.”

She dismounted and started to climb the rugged escarpment. Barney was amazed at the agility and strength of the slender girl. It kept him puffing to remain near her in her rapid ascent.

At last she stopped suddenly upon a narrow ledge. When Barney reached her side he saw that she was very white, and he paled himself when he saw what her eyes rested upon. The earthquake had dislodged a great boulder that for ages evidently had formed a part of the face of the cliff. Now it had tilted outward a half dozen feet, revealing behind it the mouth of a gloomy cavern.

Barney took Victoria’s hand. It was very cold and trembled a little.

“Come,” he said, “this has gone far enough, Vic. You’ll be sick again if you keep it up. Come back to the horses—we’ve seen all we want to see.”

She shook her head.

“Not until I have searched that cave,” she said, almost defiantly, and Barney knew that she would have her way.

Together they entered the forbidding grotto, Barney in advance, striking matches with one hand while he clung to his cocked rifle with the other; but there was nothing there that longer had the power to injure.

In a far corner the feeble rays of the match lighted something that brought Barney to a sudden halt. He tried to turn the girl back as though there was nothing more to be seen, but she had seen too and pressed forward. She made her brother light another match, and there before them lay the crumbling skeleton of a large man. By its side rested a broken, stone-tipped spear, and there was a stone knife and a stone ax as well.

“Look!” whispered the girl, pointing to something that lay just beyond the skeleton.

Barney raised the match he held until its feeble flame carried to that other object—the grinning skull of a great cat, its upper jaw armed with two mighty, eighteen-inch, curved fangs.

“Oo, the killer of men and of mammals,” whispered Victoria Custer, in an awed voice, “and Nu, the son of Nu, who killed him for his Nat-ul—for me!”


The Eternal Lover - Contents

Back    |    Words Home    |    Edgar Rice Burroughs Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback