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Volume 3986

Part Twenty-Five
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)

(Chapter 4 concluded)
We left Bradley and the Galu girl walking along the dark passageway that runs alongside the River of Death. The girl has just explained to Bradley a current legend about Wieroo history and their theory of doing things the right way, that is, the Wieroo way, called tas-ad, or in English, justified murder. Bradley has not thought too much about the girl, but he did note a certain thrill he got when she grasped his arm after he dropped into the river after her. We will have to see whether Bradley regards himself as a ladies’ man.
“As the girl talked, the two moved steadily along the dark passageway beside the river. They had advanced a considerable distance when there sounded faintly from ahead the muffled roar of falling water, which increased in volume as they moved forward until at last it filled the corridor with a deafening sound.
Then the corridor ended in a blank wall; but in a niche to the right was a ladder leading aloft, and to the left a door opening onto the river. Bradley tried the latter first and as he opened it, felt a heavy spray against his face. The little shelf outside the doorway was wet and slippery, the roaring of the water tremendous.
There could be but one explanation – they had reached a waterfall in the river, and if the corridor actually terminated here, their escape was effectually cut off, since it was quite evidently impossible to follow the bed of the river and ascend the falls.
“As the latter was the only alternative, the two turned toward it and, the man first, began the ascent, which was through a well similar to that which had led him to the upper floors of the temple. As he climbed, Bradley felt for openings in the sides of the shaft; but he discovered none below fifty feet. The first he came to was ajar, letting a faint light into the well. As he paused, the girl climbed to his side, and together they looked through the crack into a low-ceiled chamber in which were several Galu women and an equal number of hideous little replicas of the full-grown Wieroos with which Bradley was now quite familiar.
“He could feel the body of the girl pressed close to his tremble as her eyes rested upon the inmates of the room, and involuntarily his arm encircled her shoulders as though to protect her from some danger which he sensed without recognizing.
“‘Poor things,’ she whispered. ‘This is their horrible fate – to be imprisoned here beneath the surface of the city with their hideous offspring whom they hate as they hate their fathers. A Wieroo keeps his children hidden until they are full-grown lest they be murdered by their fellows. The lower rooms of the city are filled with many such as these.
“Several feet above was a second door beyond which they found a small room stored with food in wooden vessels. A grated window in one wall opened above an alley, and through it they could see that they were just below the roof of the building. Darkness was coming, and at Bradley’s suggestion they decided to remain hidden here until after dark and then to ascend to the roof and reconnoiter.
“Shortly after they had settled themselves they heard something descending the ladder from above. They hoped that it would continue on down the well and fairly held their breath as the sound approached the door to the storeroom. Their hearts sank as they heard the door open and from between cracks in the vessels behind which they hid saw a yellow-slashed Wieroo enter the room. Each recognized him immediately, the girl indicating the fact of her own recognition by a sudden pressure of her fingers on Bradley’s arm. It was the Wieroo of the yellow slashing whose abode was the place of the yellow door in which Bradley had first seen the girl.
“The creature carried a wooden bowl which it filled with dried food from several of the vessels; then it turned and quit the room. Bradley could see through the partially open doorway that it descended the ladder. The girl told him that it was taking the food to the women and the young below, and that while it might return immediately, the chances were that it would remain for some time.
“‘We are just below the place of the yellow door,’ she said. ‘It is far from the edge of the city; so far that we may not hope to escape if we ascend to the roofs here.’
“‘I think,’ replied the man, ‘that of all the places in Oo-oh this will be the easiest to escape from. Anyway, I want to return the place of the yellow door and get my pistol if it is there.’
“‘It is still there,’ replied the girl. ‘I saw it placed in a chest where he keeps the things he takes from his prisoners and victims.’
“‘Good!’ exclaimed Bradley. ‘Now come, quickly.’ And the two crossed the room to the well and ascended the ladder a short distance to its top where they found another door that opened into a vacant room – the same in which Bradley had first met the girl. To find the pistol was a matter of but a moment’s search on the part of Bradley’s companion; and then, at the Englishman’s signal, she followed him to the yellow door.
“It was quite dark without as the two entered the narrow passage between two buildings. A few steps brought them undiscovered to the doorway of the storeroom where lay the body of Fosh-bal-soj. In the distance, toward the temple, they could hear sounds as of a great gathering of Wieroos – the peculiar, uncanny wailing rising above the dismal flapping of countless wings.
“‘They have heard of the killing of Him Who Speaks for Luata,’ whispered the girl. ‘Soon they will spread in all directions searching for us.’
“‘And will they find us?’
“‘As surely as Lua gives light by day,’ she replied; ‘and when they find us, they will tear us to pieces, for only the Wieroos may murder – only they may practice tas-ad.’
“‘But they will not kill you,’ said Bradley. ‘You did not slay him.’
“‘It will make no difference,’ she insisted. ‘If they find us together they will slay us both.’
“‘Then they won’t find us together,’ announced Bradley decisively. ‘You stay right here – you won’t be any worse off than before I came – and I’ll get as far as I can and account for as many of the beggars as possible before they get me. Good-bye! You’re a mighty decent little girl. I wish that I might have helped you.’
“‘No,’ she cried. ‘Do not leave me. I would rather die. I had hoped and hoped to find some way to return to my own country. I wanted to go back to An-Tak, who must be very lonely without me; but I know that it can never be. It is difficult to kill hope, though mine is nearly dead. Do not leave me.’” (OTA/4.)
How’s that for an ERB mind twister? Did she really say An-Tak? And was Bradley really willing to leave the girl behind out of some noble idea that only he would then have to die?

He hasn’t even yet found out what her name is. So, just how is our hero going to respond to this new dilemma?

“An-Tak!’ Bradley repeated. ‘You loved a man called An-Tak?’
“‘Yes,’ replied the girl. ‘An-Tak was away, hunting, when the Wieroo caught me. How he must have grieved for me! He also was cos-ata-lu, twelve moons older than I, and all our lives we have been together.’
“Bradley remained silent. So she loved An-Tak. He hadn’t the heart to tell her that An-Tak had died, or how.
“At the door of Fosh-bal-soj’s storeroom they halted to listen. No sound came from within, and gently Bradley pushed open the door. All was inky darkness as they entered; but presently their eyes became accustomed to the gloom that was partially relieved by the soft starlight without. The Englishman searched and found those things for which he had come – two robes, two pairs of dead wings and several lengths of fiber rope. One pair of the wings he adjusted to the girl’s shoulders by means of the rope. Then he draped the robe about her, carrying the cowl over her head.
“He heard her gasp of astonishment when she realized the ingenuity and boldness of his plan; then he directed her to adjust the other pair of wings and the robe upon him. Working with strong, deft fingers she soon had the work completed, and the two stepped out upon the roof, to all intent and purpose genuine Wieroos. Besides his pistol Bradley carried the sword of the slain Wieroo prophet, while the girl was armed with the small blade of the red Wieroo.” (OTA/4.)
This is the first we’ve heard that Wieroo robes come equipped with hoods, but it is a good thing that they do since otherwise the fact that both the girl and Bradley have hair on their heads while the Wieroos are hairless from crown to foot would have given them away. It would have had to cover most of their faces as well, since there are no female Wieroos, and Bradley must have needed a shave after two days in captivity. They would also have had to keep the fronts of the robes as closed as possible for obvious reasons.
“Side by side they walked slowly across the roofs toward the north edge of the city. Wieroos flapped above them and several times they passed others walking or sitting upon the roofs. From the temple still rose the sounds of commotion, now pierced by occasional shrill screams.
“‘The murderers are abroad,’ whispered the girl. ‘Thus will another become the tongue of Luata. It is well for us, since it keeps them too busy to give the time for searching for us. They think that we cannot escape the city, and they know that we cannot leave the island – and so do I.’
“Bradley shook his head. ‘If there is any way, we will find it,’ he said.
“‘There is no way,’ replied the girl.
“Bradley made no response, and in silence they continued until the outer edge of roofs was visible before them. ‘We are almost there,’ he whispered.
“The girl felt for his fingers and pressed them. He could feel hers trembling as he returned the pressure, nor did he relinquish her hand; and thus they came to the edge of the last roof.
“Here they halted and looked about them. To be seen attempting to descend to the ground below would be to betray the fact that they were not Wieroos. Bradley wished that their wings were attached to their bodies by sinew and muscle rather than by ropes of fiber. A Wieroo was flapping far overhead. Two more stood near a door a few yards distant. Standing between these and one of the outer pedestals that supported one of the numerous skulls Bradley made one end of a piece of rope fast about the pedestal and dropped the other end to the ground outside the city. Then they waited.
“It was an hour before the coast was entirely clear and then a moment came when no Wieroo was in sight. ‘Now!’ whispered Bradley; and the girl grasped the rope and slid over the edge of the roof into the darkness below. A moment later Bradley felt two quick pulls upon the rope and immediately followed to the girl’s side.
“Across a narrow clearing they made their way and into a wood beyond. All night they walked, following the river upward toward its source, and at dawn they took shelter in a thicket beside the stream.” (OTA/4.)
I know, I know, just when you have gotten used to ERB throwing curve balls at our heroes every time they almost make their escape, he fools everyone by allowing them to escape without incident. Yes, he always has a surprise up his sleeve, even when there is no surprise. We must assumed that once they were in the wood, they discarded their Wieroo disguise.
“At no time did they hear the cry of a carnivore, and though many startled animals fled as they approached, they were not once menaced by a wild beast. When Bradley expressed surprise at the absence of of the fiercest beasts that are so numerous upon the mainland of Caprona, the girl explained the reason that is contained in one of their ancient legends.
“When the Wieroos first developed wings upon which they could fly, they found this island devoid of any life other than a few reptiles that live either upon land or in the water and these only close to the coast. Requiring meat for food the Wieroos carried to the island such animals as they wished for that purpose. They still occasionally bring them, and this with the natural increase keeps them provided with flesh.’
“‘As it will us,’ suggested Bradley.
“The first day they remained in hiding, eating only the dried food that Bradley had brought with him from the temple storeroom, and the next night they set out again up the river, continuing steadily on until almost dawn, when they came to low hills where the river wound through a gorge – it was little more than a rivulet now, the water clear and cold and filled with fish similar to brook trout though much larger. Not wishing to leave the stream the two waded along its bed to a spot where the gorge widened between perpendicular bluffs to a wooded acre of level land. Here they stopped, for here also the stream ended. They had reached its source – many cold springs bubbling up from the center of a little natural amphitheater in the hills and forming a clear and beautiful pool overshadowed by trees upon one side and bounded by a little clearing upon the other.
“With the coming of the sun they saw they had stumbled upon a place where they might remain hidden from the Wieroos for a long time and also one that they could defend against these winged creatures, since the trees would shield them from an attack from above and also hamper the movements of the creatures should they attempt to follow them into the wood.
“For three days they rested here before trying to explore the neighboring country. On the fourth, Bradley stated that he was going to scale the bluffs and learn what lay beyond. He told the girl that she should remain in hiding; but she refused to be left, saying that whatever fate was to be his, she intended to share it, so that he was at last forced to permit her to come with him. Through the woods at the summit of the bluff they made their way toward the north and had gone but a short distance when the wood ended and before them they saw the waters of the inland sea and dimly in the distance the coveted shore.
“The beach lay some two hundred yards from the foot of the hill on which they stood, nor was there a tree nor any other form of shelter between them and the water as far up and down the coast as they could see. Among other plans Bradley had thought of constructing a covered raft upon which they might drift to the mainland; but as such a contrivance would necessarily be of considerable weight, it must be built in the water of the sea, since they could not hope to move it even a short distance overland.
“‘If this wood was only at the edge of the water,’ he sighed.
“‘But it is not,’ the girl reminded him, and then: ‘Let us make the best of it. We have escaped from death for a time at least. We have food and good water and peace and each other. What more could we have upon the mainland?’
“‘But I thought you wanted to get back to your own country!” he exclaimed.’” (OTA/4.)
Bradley too is culture bound, a little slow on the uptake. If he had any ideas about the girl, they were soon shattered when he discovered that she was in love with An-Tak. Plus from her story it would not have been hard for him to imagine a sexual relationship between them. In the Victorian mind of the Englishman, she was no longer a virgin and thus “spoiled” as a potential mate, since almost all men during this period would not marry any one less than a virgin, unless they were “perverted.” He must have realized that this barrier did not exist in the mind of the girl, but he still thinks of her as a savage, beneath the dignity of an English gentleman. Of course, he does not seem to have the same prejudices as the Americans, Bowen and Billings, who, nevertheless, still managed to overcome them.
“She cast her eyes upon the ground and half turned away. ‘I do,’ she said, ‘yet I am happy here. I could be little happier there.’
“Bradley stood in silent thought. ‘We have food and good water and peace and each other!’ he repeated to himself. He turned then and looked at the girl, and it was though in the days that they had been together this was the first time that he had really seen her. The circumstances that had thrown them together, the dangers through which they had passed, all the weird and horrible surroundings that had formed the background of his knowledge of her had had their effect – she had been but the companion of an adventure; her self-reliance, her endurance, her loyalty, had been only what one man might expect of another, and he saw that he had unconsciously assumed an attitude toward her that he might have assumed toward a man. Yet there had been a difference – he recalled now the strange sensation of elation that had thrilled him upon occasions where the girl had pressed his hand in hers, and the depression that had followed her announcement of her love for An-Tak.
“He took a step toward her. A fierce yearning to seize her and crush her in his arms, swept over him, and then there flashed upon the screen of recollection the picture of a stately hall set amidst broad gardens and ancient trees and of a proud old man with beetling brows – an old man who held his head very high – and Bradley shook his head and turned away.” (OTA/4.)
This Bradley is full of surprises. Who could have imagined the first mate of a tug boat coming from a well-to-do English family? He has a reputation to uphold, whatever reasons caused him to become a sailor. He is, after all, an officer and a gentleman. If he goes for this little savage, what is his father going to think?
“They went back then to their little acre, and the days came and went, and the man fashioned spear and bow and arrows and hunted with them that they might have meat, and he made hooks of fish-bone and caught fishes with wondrous flies of his own invention; and the girl gathered fruits and cooked the flesh and the fish and made beds of branches and soft grasses. She cured the hides of the animals he killed and made them soft by much pounding. She made sandals for herself and for the man and fashioned a hide after the manner of those worn by the warriors of her tribe and made the man wear it, for his own garments were in rags.
“She was always the same – sweet and kind and helpful – but always there was about her manner and her expression just a trace of wistfulness, and often she sat and looked at the man when he did not know it, her brows puckered in thought as though she were trying to fathom and to understand him.
“In the face of the cliff, Bradley scooped a cave from the rotted granite of which the hill was composed, making a shelter for them against the rains. He brought wood for their cook-fire which they used only in the middle of the day – a time when there was little likelihood of Wieroos being in the air so far from their city – and then he learned to bank it with earth in such a way that the embers held until the following noon without giving off smoke.
“Always he was planning on reaching the mainland, and never a day passed that he did not go to the top of the hill and look out across the sea toward the dark, distant line that meant for him comparative freedom and possibly reunion with his comrades. The girl always went with him, standing at his side and watching the stern expression on his face with just a tinge of sadness on her own.
“‘You’re not happy,’ she said once.
“‘I should be over there with my men,’ he replied. ‘I do not know what may have happened to them.’
“‘I want you to be happy,’ she said quite simply; ‘but I should be very lonely if you went away and left me here.’
“He put his hand on her shoulder. ‘I would not do that, little girl,’ he said gently. ‘If you cannot go with me, I shall not go. If either of us must go alone, it will be you.’
“Her face lighted to a wondrous smile. ‘Then we shall not be separated,’ she said, ‘for I shall never leave you as long as we both live.’
“He looked down into her face for a moment and then: ‘Who was An-Tak?’ he asked.
“‘My brother,’ she replied. ‘Why?’
“And then, even less than before, could he tell her. It was then that he did something he had never done before – he put his arms about her and stooping, kissed her forehead. ‘Until you find An-Tak,’ he said, ‘I will be your brother.’ “She drew away. ‘I already have a brother,’ she said, ‘and I do not want another.’” (OTA/4.)
And who can blame her? Strike two for Bradley. Even then they have found their Garden of Eden. In this little God’s Acre, we know that Eve has already taken a bite out of the apple. In the meantime she must wait for her Adam to eventually succumb to temptation and also eat of the fruit. And that is where we will leave him at the conclusion of Chapter 4. 
One more chapter to go. Stay tuned.
(Continued in Part Twenty-Six)
(For any comments, contact

Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)
ERBzine Refs
The Land that Time Forgot - eText edition

CASPAK IN REVIEW by Steve Servello
Caspak Dictionary by Banks Miller
Wieroo of Caprona by Den Valdron
The Mystery of Caprona by Den Valdron
Caspak Maps
Caspakian Demography
Caspakian Fauna
Caspak Art by Mahlon Blaine
Sociology of the Wieroo by Rick Johnson
Popular Science and the Land That Time Forgot by Phil Burger
LOOSE STRING ~ COS-ATA-LO by Sailor Barsoom
The Land That Time Forgot - Film Version
The Land That Time Forgot - ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.

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