ERB'S EMBRYONIC JOURNEY:
THE TRIMESTERS OF CASPAK
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)
THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT
This last chapter of The People that Time Forgot is
one of my favorites in the trilogy because it shows off ERB’s extensive
knowledge and experience breaking horses. If you were not already aware,
ERB was a superb horseman. When visiting ERB’s office at the latest Dum-Dum
one of the staff ladies present told us that ERB used to ride his horse
down from his house up in the hills to the office each work day morning.
He couldn’t get it out of his system even as he got older and more successful.
I think of ERB’s youth with horses every time I watch Ben Johnson riding
his horse standing on top of the saddle, riding it like a surfboard. I
can’t remember which John Ford Western that was in, perhaps She Wore
a Yellow Ribbon or Fort Apache, but I marvel every time I see
it. I also saw an old picture of a young ERB riding his horse in the same
position and knew at once that here was a man with a passion for riding
horses. He must have been a splendid spectacle riding with the 7th Cavalry,
even though he hated almost every minute of it. Well, back to our first
F. Tom Billings (continued);
“To run up the inclined surface of the
palisade and drop to the ground outside was the work of but a moment, or
would have been but for Nobs. I had to put my rope about him after we reached
the top, lift him over the sharpened stakes and lower him upon the outside.
To find Ajor in the unknown country to the north seemed rather hopeless;
yet I could do no less than try, praying in the meanwhile that she would
come through unscathed and in safety to her father. “As Nobs and I swung
along in the growing light of the coming day, I was impressed by the lessening
numbers of savage beasts the farther north I traveled. With the decrease
among the carnivora, the herbivora increased in quantity, though anywhere
in Caspak they are sufficiently plentiful to furnish ample food for the
meat-eaters of each locality. The wild cattle, antelope, deer, and horses
I passed showed changes in evolution from their cousins farther north.
The kine were smaller and less shaggy, the horses larger. North of the
Kro-lu village I saw a small band of the latter about the size of those
of our old Western plains – such as the Indians bred in former days and
to a lesser extent even now. They were fat and sleek, and I looked upon
them with covetous eyes and with thoughts that any old cow-puncher may
well imagine I might entertain after having hoofed it for weeks; but they
were wary, scarce permitting me to approach within bow-andarrow range,
much less within roping-distance; yet I still had hopes which I never discarded.
There is some humor here, where Tom asks the dog for advice and when the
dog answers him he doesn’t believe it and has to be forced to follow the
dog or suffer a bite. Anyone who has ever owned a dog will understand this
kind of humor. ERB loved animals and had a real gift with them. And he
loved talking to animal trainers, especially lion tamers.
“Twice before noon we were stalked and charged
by man-eaters; but even though I was without firearms, I still had ample
protection in Nobs, who evidently had learned something of Caspakian hunt
rules under the tutorage of Du-seen or some other Galu, and of course a
great deal more by experience. He always was on the alert for dangerous
foes, invariably warning me by low growls of the approach of a large carnivorous
animal long before I could either see or hear it, and then when the thing
appeared, he would run snapping at its heels, drawing the charge away from
me until I found safety in some tree; yet never did the wily Nobs take
an unnecessary chance of a mauling. He would dart in and away so quickly
that not even the lightninglike movements of the great cats could reach
him. I have seen him tantalize them thus until they fairly screamed in
“The greatest inconvenience the hunters caused
me was the delay, for they have a nasty habit of keeping one treed for
an hour or more if balked in their designs; but at last we came in sight
of a line of cliffs running east and west across our path as far as the
eye could see in either direction, and I knew that we reached the natural
boundary which marks the line between the Kro-lu and Galu countries. The
southern face of these cliffs loomed high and forbidding, rising to an
altitude of some two hundred feet, sheer and precipitous, without a break
that the eye could perceive. How I was to find a crossing I could not guess.
Whether to search to the east toward the still loftier barrier-cliffs fronting
upon the ocean, or westward in the direction of the inland sea was a question
which baffled me. Were there many passes or only one? I had no way of knowing.
I could but trust to chance. It never occurred to me that Nobs had made
the crossing at least once, possibly a greater number of times, and that
he might lead me to the pass; and so it was with no idea of assistance
that I appealed to him as a man alone with a dumb brute so often does.
“‘Nobs,’ I said, ‘how the devil are we going
to cross those cliffs?’
“I do not say that he understood me, even though
I realize that an Airedale is a mighty intelligent dog; but I swear that
he seemed to understand me, for he wheeled about, barking joyously and
trotted off toward the west; and when I didn’t follow him, he ran back
to me, barking furiously, and at last taking hold of the calf of my leg
in an effort to pull me along in the direction he wished me to go. Now,
as my legs were naked and Nobs’ jaws are much more powerful than he realized,
I gave in and followed him, for I knew that I might as well go west as
east, as far as any knowledge I had of the correct direction went.” (PTF/7.)
“We followed the base of the cliffs for
a considerable distance. The ground was rolling and tree-dotted and covered
with grazing animals, alone, in pairs and in herds – a motley aggregation
of the modern and extinct herbivora of the world. A huge wooly mastodon
stood swaying to and fro in the shade of a giant fern – a mighty bull with
enormous upcurving tusks. Near him grazed an aurochs bull with a cow and
calf, close beside a lone rhinoceros asleep in a dusthole. Deer, antelope,
bison, horses, sheep, and goats were all in sight at the same time, and
at a little distance a great megatherium reared up on its huge tail and
massive hind feet to tear the leaves from a tall tree. The forgotten past
rubbed flanks with the present – while Tom Billings, modern of the moderns,
passed in the garb of a pre-Glacial man, and before him rooted a creature
of breed scarce sixty years old. Nobs was a parvenu; but it failed to worry
Are you beginning to wonder if old Tom is starting to get grandiose ideas
some big ideas for the future of Caspak? One only has to remember the epic
story of the 300 Spartans holding the pass at Thermopylae to understand
the military logic he is contemplating. Now back to our Caspakian Alexander:
“As we neared the inland sea we saw more flying
reptiles several great amphibians, but none of them attacked us. As we
were topping a rise in the middle of the afternoon, I saw something that
brought me to a sudden stop. Calling Nobs in a whisper, I cautioned him
to silence and kept him at heel while I threw myself flat and watched,
from behind a sheltering shrub, a body of warriors approaching the cliff
from the south. I could see that they were Galus, and I guessed that Du-seen
led them. They had taken a shorter route to the pass and so had overhauled
me. I could see them plainly, for they were no great distance away, and
I saw with relief that Ajor was not with them.
“The cliffs before them were broken and ragged,
those coming from the east overlapping the cliffs from the west. Into the
defile formed by this overlapping the party filed. I could see them climbing
upward for a few minutes, and then they disappeared from view. When the
last of them had passed from sight, I rose and and bent my steps in the
direction of the pass – the same pass toward which Nobs had evidently been
leading me. I went warily as I approached it, for fear the party might
have halted to rest. If they hadn’t halted, I had no fear of being discovered,
for I had seen that the Galus marched without point, flankers or rear guard;
and when I reached the pass and saw a narrow, one-man trail leading upward
at a stiff angle, I wished that I were chief of the Galus for a few weeks.
A dozen men could hold off forever in that narrow pass all the hordes which
might be brought up from the south; yet there it lay entirely unguarded.
“The Galus might be a great people in Caspak;
but they were pitifully inefficient in even the simpler forms of military
tactics. I was surpised that even a man of the Stone Age should be so lacking
in military perspicacity. Du-seen dropped far below par in my estimation
as I saw the slovenly formataion of his troop as it passed through an enemy
country and entered the domain of the chief against whom he had risen in
revolt; but Du-seen must have known Jor the chief and known that Jor would
not be waiting for him at the pass. Nevertheless he took unwarranted chances.
With one squad of a home-guard company I could have conquered Caspak. (PTF/7.)
“Nobs and I followed the summit of the
pass, and there we saw the party defiling into the Galu country, the level
of which was not, on an average, over fifty feet below the summit of the
cliffs and about a hundred and fifty feel above the adjacent Kro-lu domain.
Immediately the landscape changed. The trees, the flowers and the shrubs
were of a hardier type, and I realized that at night that Galu blanket
might be almost a necessity. Acacia and eucalyptus predominated among the
trees; yet there were ash and oak and even pine and fir and hemlock. The
treelife was riotous. The forests were dense and peopled by enormous trees.
From the summit of the cliff I could see forests rising hundreds of feet
above the level upon which I stood, and even at the distance they were
from me I realized that the boles were of gigantic size.
We don’t have to have degrees in psychology to understand that Tom is beginning
to think like a Caspakian. He is going native, the plight of many a white
man. And don’t you just love the feel ERB gives the reader for the countryside
in his vivid descriptions. He makes it seem like a real place.
“At last I had come to the Galu country. Though
not conceived in Caspak, I had indeed come up cor-sva-jo – from the beginning
I had come up through the hideous horrors of the lower Caspakian spheres
of evolution, and I could not but feel something of the elation and pride
which had filled To-mar and So-al when they realized that the call had
come to them and they were about to rise from the estate of Band-lus to
that of Kro-lus. I was glad that I was not batu.” (PTF/7.)
“But where was Ajor? Though my eyes searched
the wide landscape before me, I saw nothing other than the warriors of
Du-seen and the beasts of the fields and the forests. Surrounded by forests,
I could see wide plains dotting the country as far as the eye could reach;
but nowhere was a sign of a small Galu she – the beloved she whom I would
have given my right hand to see.
Now we come to a long drawn out scene where ERB shows off his horsemanship.
One of my favorite ERB stories is from his uncompleted autobiography where
he tells the story of how he broke Whiskey Jack, a big black horse who
had allegedly killed several men who had tried to break him. It was at
his brothers’ ranch near American Falls, Idaho, and his favorite cowboy
“Nobs and I were hungry; we had not eaten since
the preceding night, and below us was game – deer, sheep, anything that
a hungry hunter might crave; so down the steep trail we made our way, and
then upon my belly with Nobs crouching low behind me, I crawled toward
a small herd of red deer feeding at the edge of a plain close beside a
forest. There was ample cover, what with solitary trees and dotting bushes,
so that I found no difficulty in stalking up wind to within fifty feet
of my quarry – a large, sleek doe unaccompanied by a fawn. Greatly then
did I regret my rifle. Never in my life had I shot an arrow; but I knew
how it was done, and fitting the shaft to my string, I aimed carefully
and let drive. At the same instant I called to Nobs and leaped to my feet.
“The arrow caught the doe full in the side, and
in the same moment Nobs was after her. She turned to flee with the two
of us pursuing her, Nobs with his great fangs bared and I with my short
spear poised for a cast. The balance of the herd sprang quickly away; but
the hurt doe lagged, and in a moment Nobs was beside her and had leaped
at her throat. He had her down when I came up, and I finished her with
my spear. It didn’t take me long to have a fire going and a steak broiling,
and while I was preparing my own feast, Nobs was filling himself with raw
venison. Never have I enjoyed a meal so heartily.
“For two days I searched fruitlessly back and
forth from the inland sea almost to the border of the barrier cliffs for
some trace of Ajor, and always I trended northward; but I saw no sign of
any human being, not even the band of Galu warriors under Du-seen; and
then I commenced to have misgivings. Had Chal-az spoken the truth to me
when he said that Ajor had quit the village of the Kro-lu? Might he not
have been acting upon the orders of Al-tan, in whose savage bosom might
have lurked some small spark of shame that he had attempted to do to death
one who befriended a Kro-lu warrior – a guest who had brought no harm upon
the Kro-lu race – and thus have sent me out upon a fruitless mission in
the hope the wild beasts would do what Al-tan hesitated to do? I did not
know; but the more I thought upon it, the more convinced I became that
Ajor had not quitted the Kro-lu village; but if not, what had brought Du-seen
forth without her? There was a puzzler, and once again I was all at sea.”
present, Texas Pete.
On the first try the horse bucked like crazy and fell down on its side,
falling on and knocking the wind out of the fifteen year old ERB, but he
got back on the horse, and following Texas Pete’s instructions, they blindfolded
Whiskey Jack and ERB eventually wore him down and broke him. Texas Pete
also taught ERB how to trick shoot a gun; but not for long because he soon
became an outlaw after killing a rival gunman for an old range war reward.
That boy, ERB, got quite a first hand education of the Wild West.
This almost rodeo sequence does little to drive the plot but is to be
enjoyed for the sheer pleasure of watching an old pro show off his chops.
So, yee-haw, giddy-up, cowboy!
“On the second day of my experience of
the Galu country I came upon a bunch of as magnificent horses as it has
ever been my lot to see. They were dark bays with blazed faces and perfect
suringles of white about their barrels. Their forelegs were white to the
knees. In height they stood almost sixteen hands, the mares being a trifle
smaller than the stallions, of which there were three or four in this band
of a hundrred, which comprised many colts and half-grown horses. Their
markings were almost identical, indicating a purity of strain that might
have persisted since long ages ago. I had coveted one of the little ponies
of the Kro-lu country, imagine my state of mind when I came upon these
magnificent creatures! No sooner had I espied them that I determined to
possess one of them; nor did it take me long to select a beautiful young
stallion – a four-year old, I guessed him.
I have to stop at this point and ask myself why ERB would have reminded
his readers that Tom’s genitalia were fully exposed for all the world to
see? ERB loved the nude form, both male and female. I would venture to
speculate that ERB was not gay or bisexual, but was still fascinated by
male nudity and in a very exhibitionist way, reminded his readers that
Tom had genitalia to flash for their delight. Who’s to say?
“The horses were grazing close to the edge of
the forest in which Nobs and I were concealed, while the ground between
us and them was dotted with clumps of flowering brush which offered perfect
concealment. The stallion of my choice grazed with a filly and two yearlings
a little apart from the balance of the herd and nearest to the forest and
to me. At my whispered ‘Charge!’ Nobs flattened himself to the ground,
and I knew that he would not again move until I called him, unless danger
threatened me from the rear. Carefully I crept forward toward my unsuspecting
quarry, coming undetected to the concealment of a bush not more than twenty
feet from him. Here I quietly arranged my noose, spreading it flat and
open upon the ground.
“To step to one side of the bush and throw directly
from the ground, which is the style I am best in, would take but an instant,
and in that instant the stallion would doubtless be under way at top speed
in the opposite direction. Then he would most certainly rise slightly upon
his hind feet and throw up his head, presenting a perfect target for my
noose as he pivoted.
“Yes, I had it beautifully worked out, and I
waited until he should turn in my direction. At last it became evident
that he was doing so, when apparently without cause, the filly raised her
head, neighed and started off at a trot in the opposite direction, immediately
followed, of course, by the colts and my stallion. It looked for a moment
as though my last hope was blasted; but presently their fright, if fright
it was, passed, and they resumed grazing again a hundred yards farther
on. This time there was no bush within fifty feet of them, and I was at
a loss as to how to get within safe roping-distance. Anywhere under forty
feet I am an excellent roper, at fifty feet I am fair; but over that I
knew it would be a matter of luck if I succeeded in getting my noose about
the beautiful arched neck.
“As I stood debating the question in my mind,
I was almost upon the point of making the attempt at the long throw. I
had plenty of rope, this Galu weapon being fully sixty feet long. How I
wished for the collies from the ranch! At a word they would have circled
this little bunch and driven it straight down to me; and then it flashed
into my mind that Nobs had run with those collies all one summer, that
he had gone down to the pasture with them after the cows every evening
and done his part in driving them back to the milking-barn, and had done
it intelligently; but Nobs had never done the thing alone, and it had been
a year since he had done it at all. However, the chances were more in favor
of my foozling the long throw than that Nobs would fall down in his part
if I gave him the chance.
“Having come to a decision, I had to creep back
to Nobs and get him, and then with him at my heels return to a large bush
near the four horses. Here we could see directly through the bush, and
pointing the animals out to Nobs I whispered: ‘Fetch ‘em, boy!’
“In that instant he was gone, circling wide toward
the rear of the quarry. They caught sight of him almost immediately and
broke into a trot away from him; but when they saw that he was apparently
giving them a wide berth they stopped again, though they stood watching
him, with high-held heads and quivering nostrils. It was a beautiful sight.
And then Nobs turned in behind them and trotted slowly back toward me.
He did not bark, nor come rushing down upon them, and when he had come
closer to them, he proceeded at a walk. The splendid creatures seemed more
curious than fearful, making no effort to escape until Nobs was quite close
to them; then they trotted slowly away, but at right angles.
“And now the fun and trouble commenced. Nobs,
of course, attempted to turn them, and he seemed to have selected the stallion
to work upon, for he paid no attention to the others, having intelligence
enough to know that the lone dog could run his legs off before he could
round up four horses that didn’t wish to be rounded up. The stallion, however,
had notions of his own about being headed, and the result was as pretty
a race as one would care to see. Gad, how that horse could run! He seemed
to flatten out and shoot through the air with the very minimum of exertion,
and at his forefoot ran Nobs, doing his best to turn him. He was barking
now, and twice he leaped high against the stallion’s flank; but this cost
too much effort and always lost him ground, as each time he was hurled
heels over head by the impact; yet before they disappeared over a rise
in the ground I was sure that Nobs’ persistence was bearing fruit; it seemed
to me that the horse was giving way a trifle to the right. Nobs was between
him and the main herd, to which the yearling and filly had already fled.
“As I stood waiting for Nobs’ return, I could
not but speculate upon my chances should I be attacked by some formidable
beast. I was some distance from the forest and armed with weapons in the
use of which I was quite untrained, though I had practiced some with the
spear since leaving the Kro-lu country. I must admit that my thoughts were
not pleasant ones, verging almost upon cowardice, until I chanced to think
of little Ajor alone in this same land and armed only with a knife! I was
immediately filled with shame; but in thinking the matter over since, I
have come to the conclusion that my state of mind was influenced largely
by my approximate nakedness. If you have never wandered about in broad
daylight garbed in a bit of red-deerskin of inadequate length, you can
have no conception of the sensation of futility that overwhelms one. Clothes,
to a man accustomed to wearing clothes, impart a certain self-confidence;
lack of them induces panic.”
“But no beast attacked me, though I saw
several menacing forms passing through the dark aisles of the forest. At
last I commenced to worry over Nobs’ protracted absence and to fear that
something had befallen him. I was coiling my rope to start out in search
of him, when I saw the stallion leap into view at almost the same spot
behind which he had disappeared, and at his heels ran Nobs. Neither was
running so fast or furiously as when last I had seen them.
I wish I had a great horse story to tell, but I don’t. Ever since I used
to listen to the Lone Ranger radio series as a young boy when my father
was assigned to Fort Richardson, Alaska, I wanted to be a cowboy. I had
a cowboy outfit when I was three years old. When I was five and living
in Kansas City, Kansas, I watched every Western they showed on our new
TV – a lot of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Hoppalong Cassidy – and I even
wore a cowboy jacket to my kindergarten class pictures, even though we
were going through a terrible heat wave and my teacher tried to talk me
out of it. I almost died with joy every time my dad would take my brother
and I for pony rides.
“The horse, as he approached me, I could see
was laboring hard; yet he kept gamely to his task, and Nobs, too. The splendid
fellow was driving the quarry straight for me. I crouched behind my bush
and laid my noose in readiness to throw. As the two approached my hiding-place,
Nobs reduced his speed, and the stallion, evidently only too glad of the
respite, dropped into a trot. It was at this gait that he passed me; my
rope-hand flew forward; the honda, well down, held the noose open, and
the beautiful bay fairly ran his head into it.
“Instantly he wheeled to dash off at right angles.
I braced myself with the rope around my hip and brought him to a sudden
stand. Rearing and struggling, he fought for his liberty while Nobs, panting
and with lolling tongue, came and threw himself down near me. He seemed
to know that his work was done and that he had earned his rest. The stallion
was pretty well spent, and after a few minutes of struggling he stood with
feet far spread, nostrils dilated and eyes wide, watching me as I edged
slowly toward him, taking in the slack of the rope as I advanced. A dozen
times he reared and tried to break away; but always I spoke soothingly
to him, and after an hour of effort I succeeded in reaching his head and
stroking his muzzle. Then I gathered a handful of grass and offered it
to him, and always I talked to him in a quiet and reassuring voice.
“I had expected a battle royal; but on the contrary
I found his taming a matter of comparative ease. Though wild, he was gentle
to a degree, and of such remarkable intelligence that he soon discovered
that I had no intention of harming him. After that, all was easy. Before
that day was done, I had taught him to lead and to stand while I stroked
his head and flanks, and to eat from my hand, and had the satisfaction
of seeing the light of fear die in his large, intelligent eyes.
“The following day I fashioned a hackamore from
a piece which I cut from the end of my long Galu rope, and then I mounted
him fully prepared for a struggle of titanic proportions in which I was
none too sure that he would not come off victor; but he never made the
slightest effort to unseat me, and from then on his education was rapid.
No horse ever learned more quickly the meaing of the rein and the pressure
of the knees. I think he soon learned to love me, and I know that I loved
him; while he and Nobs were the best of pals. I called him Ace. I had a
friend who was once in the French flying-corps, and when Ace let himself
out, he certainly flew.
“I cannot explain to you, nor can you understand,
unless you too are a horseman, the exhilerating feeling of well-being which
pervaded me from the moment that I commenced riding Ace. I was a new man,
imbued with a sense of superiority that led me to feel that I could go
forth and conquer all Caspak singlehanded. Now, when I needed meat, I ran
it down on Ace and roped it, and when some great beast with which we could
not cope threatened us, we galloped away to safety; but for the most part
the creatures we met looked upon us in terror, for Ace and I in combination
presented a new and unusual beast beyond their experience and ken.” (PTF/7.)
But when I was ten years old in Fresno, California, I had my first real
ride on real live horse. Our neighborhood was close to the fledging Fresno
State College campus on Shaw Avenue in the mid-Fifties, and there were
still many fields and horse pastures in the largely undeveloped area. I
remember running from angry bulls as we explored the area as kids.
But at the end of our street, between our street and Wolters Elementary,
there was a huge field (soon to become a tract home development – which
became my paper route), and we would cut across the field to get to school
and hence passed the pasture of Buttercup, a spotted horse.
We always would bring sugar cubes and loved having him eat them out
of our hands. One day I got the brilliant idea that I was a cowboy, a master
horseman. I thought, if I climb up on the barbed wire fence dividing me
from the horse, I can fling a leg over the horse and ride him.
Well, I got on top of him all right, but unlike Ace, Buttercup had an
undying desire to unseat me. I held on to his mane in sheer fright as he
galloped from one end of his pasture to the other, and then, suddenly,
he bucked me off of him and I went head over heels tumbling into the dirt.
He stopped and looked at me as if I were a fool, as if daring me to try
again. Then he snorted and trotted back to the sugar cubes. I limped out
of that pasture in pure shame. I walked bowlegged for a week and never
wanted to be a cowboy again. That’s when I first desired to be the first
man on the moon. At least I was maturing.
“For five days I rode back and forth
across the southern end of the Galu country without seeing a human being;
yet all the time I was working slowly toward the north, for I had determined
to comb the territory thoroughly in search of Ajor; but on the fifth day
as I emerged from a forest, I saw some distance ahead of me a single small
figure pursued by many others. Instantly I recognized the quarry as Ajor.
The entire party was fully a mile away from me, and they were crossing
my path at right angles, Ajor a few hundred yards in advance of those who
followed her. One of her pursuers was far in advance of the others, and
was gaining upon her rapidly. With a word and a pressure of the knees I
sent Ace leaping out into the open, and with Nobs running close alongside,
we raced toward her.” (PTF/7.)
One of ERB’s favorite themes is an animal army. I unashamedly admit that
my favorite ERB novel is The Beasts of Tarzan, for this very
reason. If you love animals, you are automatically, whether you know it
or not, an ERB fan.
“At first none of them saw us; but as
we neared Ajor, the pack behind the foremost pursuer discovered us and
set up such a howl as I never before have heard. They were all Galus, and
I soon recognized the foremost as Du-seen. He was almost upon Ajor now,
and with a sense of terror such as I had never before experienced, I saw
that he ran with his knife in his hand and that his intention was to slay
rather than capture. I could not understand it; but I could only urge Ace
to greater speed, and most nobly did the wondrous creature respond to my
demands. If ever a four-footed creature approximated flying, it was Ace
This last point cannot be overemphasized. This is brought out graphically
in the movie, Ulzana’s Raid. There is a scene where a cavalry man
sent out to warn settlers that Ulzana is loose and raiding, shoots a blonde
woman in the head when the Indians are approaching, then shoots himself
in the head when he is surrounded. The blonde woman has a young boy who
witnesses the whole thing, who is left alive for ambiguous reasons. There
is an innate understanding among the settlers that it is better to kill
yourself than to be tortured by the Apaches. This is Ajor’s philosophy,
and who can blame her?
“Du-seen, intent upon his brutal design, had
as yet not noticed us. He was within a pace of Ajor when Ace and I dashed
between them, and I, leaning down to the left, swept my little barbarian
into the hollow of an arm and up to the withers of my glorious Ace. We
had snatched her from the very clutches of Duseen, who halted, mystified
and raging. Ajor, too, was mystified, as we had come up from diagonally
behind her so that she had no idea that we were near until she was swung
to Ace’s back. The little savage turned with drawn knife to stab me, thinking
that I was some new enemy, when her eyes found my face and she recognized
me. With a little sob she threw her arms about my neck, gasping: ‘My Tom!
“And then Ace sank suddenly into thick mud to
his belly, and Ajor and I were thrown far over his head. He had run into
one of those numerous springs which cover Caspak. Sometimes they are little
lakes, again tiny pools, and often mere quagmires of mud, as was this one
overgrown with lush grasses which effectually hid its treacherous identity.
It is a wonder that Ace did not break a leg, so fast he was going when
he fell; but he didn’t, though with four good legs he was unable to wallow
from the mire. Ajor and I had sprawled face down into the covering grasses
and so had not sunk deeply; but when we tried to rise, we found that there
was not footing, and presently we saw that Du-seen and his followers were
coming down upon us. There was no escape. It was evident that we were doomed.
“‘Slay me!’ begged Ajor. ‘Let me die at thy loved
hands rather than beneath the knife of this hateful thing, for he will
kill me. He has sworn to kill me. Last night he captured me, and when later
he would have his way with me, I struck him with my fists and with my knife
I stabbed him, and then I escaped, leaving him raging in pain and thwarted
desire. Today they searched for me and found me; and as I fled, Du-seen
ran after me crying that he would slay me. Kill me, my Tom, and then fall
upon thine own spear, for they will kill you horribly if they take you
“I couldn’t kill her – not at least until
the last moment; and I told her so, and that I loved her, and that until
death came, I would live and fight for her. “Nobs had followed us into
the bog and done fairly well at first, but when he neared us, he too sank
to his belly and could only flounder about. We were in this predicament
when Du-seen and his followers approached the edge of the horrible swamp.
I saw that Al-tan was with him and many other Kro-lu warriors. The alliance
against Jor the chief had, therefore, been consummated, and this horde
was already marching upon the Galu city. I sighed as I thought how close
I had been to saving not only Ajor but her father and his people from defeat
Wow, did I predict that or what? Like I said, this is the oldest situation
technique in the book and you don’t have to ask why to see how effective
“Beyond the swamp was a dense wood. Could we
have reached this, we would have been safe; but it might as well have been
a hundred miles away as a hundred yards across that hideous lake of sticky
mud. Upon the edge of the swamp Du-seen and his horde halted to revile
us. The could not reach us with their hands; but at a command from Du-seen
they fitted arrows to their bows, and I saw that the end had come. Ajor
huddled close to me, and I took her in my arms. ‘I love you, Tom,’ she
said, ‘only you.’ Tears came to my eyes then, not tears of self-pity for
my predicament, but tears from a heart filled with a great love – a heart
that sees the sun of its life and its love setting even as it rises.
“The renegade Galus and their Kro-lu allies stood
waiting for the word from Du-seen that would launch that barbed avalanche
of death upon us, when there broke from the wood beyond the swamp the sweetest
music that ever fell upon the ears of man – the sharp staccato of at least
two score rifles fired rapidly at will. Down went the Galu and Kro-lu warriors
like tenpins before the deadly fullisade.
“What could it mean? To me it meant but one thing,
and that was that Hollis and Short and the others had scaled the cliffs
and made their way north to the Galu country upon the opposite side of
the island in time to save Ajor and me from almost certain death. I didn’t
have to have an introduction to them to know that the men who held those
rifles were the men of my own party; and when, a few minutes later, they
came forth from their concealment, my eyes verified my hopes. There they
were, every man-jack of them; and with them were a thousand straight, sleek
warriors of the Galu race; and ahead of the others came two men in the
garb of Galus. Each was tall and straight and wonderfully muscled; yet
they differed as Ace might differ from a perfect specimen of another species.
As they approached the mire, Ajor held forth her arms and cried, ‘Jor,
my chief! My father!’ and the elder of the two rushed in knee-deep to rescue
her, and then the other came closer and looked into my face, and his eyes
went wide, and mine too, and I cried: ‘Bowen! For heaven’s sake, Bowen
“It was he. My search was ended. Around
me were all my company and the man we had searched a new world to find.
They cut saplings from the forest and laid a road into the swamp before
they could get us all out, and then we marched back to the city of Jor
the Galu chief, and there was great rejoicing when Ajor came home again
mounted upon the glossy back of the stallion Ace.
All right, we must assume that Bowen discovered the Galu village of Jor
after Ajor fled for Tom was the first man outside of Caspak that she’d
ever seen. Thus the coincidences are tightly interwoven. Just like in real
life. While I was at the Dum-Dum on Saturday, August 18, 2012, I was surprised
in the Marriott hotel lobby in Woodland Hills, California, by a legal colleague
of mine, who was there on his wife’s business. The odds of this meeting
taking place were literally astronomical, but these things are so common
in my life, I have to believe it is the same for almost everyone. This
is why I don’t rule out God from my analysis.
“Tyler and Hollis and Short and all the rest
of us Americans nearly worked our jaws loose on the march back to the village,
and for days afterward we kept it up. They told me how they had crossed
the barrier cliffs in five days, working twenty-four hours a day in three
eight-hour shifts with two reliefs to each shift alternating half-hourly.
Two men with electric drills driven from the dynamos aboard the Toreador
drilled two holes four feet apart in the face of the cliff and in the same
horizontal planes. The holes slanted slightly downward. Into these holes
the iron rods brought as part of our equipment and for just this purpose
were inserted, extending about a foot beyond the face of the rock, across
these two rods a plank was laid, and then the next shift, mounting to the
new level, bored two more holes five feet above the new platform, and so
“During the nights the searchlights from the
Toreador were kept playing upon the cliff at the point where the drills
were working and at the rate of ten feet an hour the summit was reached
upon the fifth day. Ropes were lowered, blocks lashed to trees at the top,
and the crude elevators rigged, so that by the night of the fifth day the
entire party, with the exception of the new men needed to man the Toreador,
were within Caspak with an abundance of arms, ammunition and equipment.
“From then on, they fought their way north in
search of me, after a vain and perilous effort to enter the hideous reptile-infested
country to the south. Owing to the number of guns among them, they had
not lost a man; but their path was strewn with the dead creatures they
had been forced to slay to win their way to the north end of the island,
where they found Bowen and his bride among the Galus of Jor.”
And this time, following the Tarzan debacle where there was a question
about fornication between Tarzan and Jane before her father officially
married them, ERB smooths over the issue of the relationship between Bowan
and Lys with a comforting factual basis:
“The reunion between Bowen and Nobs was
marked by a frantic display upon Nobs’ part, which almost stripped Bowen
of the scanty attire that the Galu custom had vouchsafed him. When we arrived
at the Galu city, Lys La Rue was waiting to welcome us. She was Mrs. Tyler
now, as the master of the Toreador had married them the very day that the
search party had found them, though neither Lys nor Bowen would admit that
any civil or religious ceremony could have rendered more sacred the bonds
with which God had united them.” (PTF/7.)
If you wish to know ERB’s views on fornication, there they are. In ERB’s
view, and mine, love makes everything okay with the Almighty, whoever he
or she is.
“Neither Bowen nor the party from the
Toreador had seen any sign of Bradley and his party. They had been so long
lost now that any hopes for them must be definitely abandoned. The Galus
had heard rumors of them, as had the Western Kro-lu and Band-lu; but none
had seen aught of them since they had left Fort Dinosaur months since.
This reminds me of a personal judgment I had with myself about sleeping
in the nude. I had always been taught that it was somehow wrong to sleep
naked. I always slept in pajamas or my briefs. I was 28 years old when
I finally started to sleep in the nude. It kind of excited me, that I was
somehow being naughty, but now I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t
believe in these modern times that people still sleep in clothing.
“We rested in Jor’s village for a fortnight while
we prepared for the southward journey to the point where the Toreador was
to lie off shore in wait for us. During these weeks Chal-az came up from
the Kro-lu country, now a fullfledged Galu. He told us that the remnants
of Al-tan’s party had been slain when they attempted to re-enter Kro-lu.
Chal-az had been made chief, and when he rose, had left the tribe under
a new leader whom all respected.
“Nobs stuck close to Bowen; but Ace and Ajor
and I went out upon many long rides through the beautiful north Galu country.
Chal-az had brought my arms and ammunition up from Kro-lu with him; but
my clothes were gone; nor did I miss them once I became accustomed to the
free attire of the Galu.” (PTF/78.)
“At last came the time for our departure;
upon the following morning we were to set out toward the south and the
Toreador and dear old California. I had asked Ajor to go with us; but Jor
her father had refused to listen to the suggestion. No pleas could swerve
him from his decision: Ajor, the cos-ata-lo, from whom might spring a new
and greater Caspakian race, could not be spared. I might have any other
she among the Galus; but Ajor – no!” (PTF/7.)
At first, this might seem like just an author’s will to keep the narrative
moving, but on serious reflection vis-a-vis another culture’s evolutionary
goal, this is a very interesting twist ERB puts into the narrative. No
one knows Caspakian evolution better than someone who has come up cor-sva-lo,
from the beginning. This is why the rebellion of Du-seen was seen by the
majority of Galus as an abomination. It is the like the violent premature
revolution of the proletariat against the ruling class, as if it by the
violence itself it will somehow make a country more evolved, yet even by
Marxian dialectics, such a revolution is bound to fail since it hasn’t
gone through the necessary capitalist phase of development. This was the
false Kro-lu dream of the batu, Al-tan.
“The poor child was heartbroken; and
as for me, I was slowly realizing the hold that Ajor had upon my heart
and wondering how I should get along without her. As I held her in my arms
that last night, I tried to imagine what life woud be without her, for
at last there had come to me the realization that I loved her – loved my
little barbarian; and as I finally tore myself away and went to my own
hut to snatch a few hours’ sleep before we set off upon our long journey
on the morrow, I consoled myself with the thought that time would heal
the wound and that back in my native land I should find a mate who would
be all and more to me than little Ajor could ever be – a woman of my own
race and my own culture.
We will never know why ERB chose not to continue the Caspakian adventure
past the next novel, which deals with the ill-fated Bradley expedition.
We are left wondering how the young Alexander, armed with a Galu army and
modern weapons, conquered the island of Caprona, but we can well imagine
that he did. This leads us to an a well known fact about introducing modern
technology into ancient cultures.
“Morning came more quickly than I could have
wished. I rose and breakfasted, but saw nothing of Ajor. It was best, I
thought that I go thus without the harrowing pangs of a last farewell.
The party formed for the march, an escort of Galu warriors ready to accompany
us. I could not even bear to go to Ace’s corral and bid him farewell. The
night before, I had given him to Ajor, and now in my mind the two seemed
“And so we marched away, down along the street
flanked with its stone houses and out through the wide gateway in the stone
wall which surrounds the city and on across the clearing toward the forest
through which we must pass to reach the northern boundary of Galu, beyond
which we would turn south. At the edge of the forest I cast a last backward
glance at the city which held my heart, and beside the massive gateway
I saw that which brought me to a sudden halt. It was a little figure leaning
against one of the great upright posts upon which the gates swing – a crumpled
little figure; and even at this distance I could see its shoulders heave
to the sobs that racked it. It was the last straw.
“Bowen was near me. ‘Good-bye, old man,’ I said.
‘I’m going back.’
“He looked at me in surprise. ‘Good-bye, old
man,’ he said, and grasped my hand. ‘I’d thought you’d do it in the end.’
“And then I went back and took Ajor in my arms
and kissed the tears from her eyes and a smile to her lips while together
we watched the last of the Americans disappear into the forest.” (PTF/7.)
H.G. Wells dealt with this in The First Men in the Moon,
where one of the scientists left behind introduces gun powder to the culture
of the Moon beings, disturbing the balance of power. ERB dealt with this
also in his Pellucidar series. Anyway, that’s the end of the second book
of the trilogy.
Next, Out of Time’s Abyss.
(Continued in Part Eighteen)