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Produced by Judith Boss. HTML version by Al Haines.









The Land that Time Forgot


By

Edgar Rice Burroughs




Chapter 1

It must have been a little after three o'clock in the afternoon that it
happened - the afternoon of June 3rd, 1916. It seems incredible that
all that I have passed through - all those weird and terrifying
experiences - should have been encompassed within so short a span as
three brief months. Rather might I have experienced a cosmic cycle,
with all its changes and evolutions for that which I have seen with my
own eyes in this brief interval of time - things that no other mortal
eye had seen before, glimpses of a world past, a world dead, a world so
long dead that even in the lowest Cambrian stratum no trace of it
remains. Fused with the melting inner crust, it has passed forever
beyond the ken of man other than in that lost pocket of the earth
whither fate has borne me and where my doom is sealed. I am here and
here must remain.


After reading this far, my interest, which already had been stimulated
by the finding of the manuscript, was approaching the boiling-point. I
had come to Greenland for the summer, on the advice of my physician,
and was slowly being bored to extinction, as I had thoughtlessly
neglected to bring sufficient reading-matter. Being an indifferent
fisherman, my enthusiasm for this form of sport soon waned; yet in the
absence of other forms of recreation I was now risking my life in an
entirely inadequate boat off Cape Farewell at the southernmost
extremity of Greenland.

Greenland! As a descriptive appellation, it is a sorry joke - but my
story has nothing to do with Greenland, nothing to do with me; so I
shall get through with the one and the other as rapidly as possible.

The inadequate boat finally arrived at a precarious landing, the
natives, waist-deep in the surf, assisting. I was carried ashore, and
while the evening meal was being prepared, I wandered to and fro along
the rocky, shattered shore. Bits of surf-harried beach clove the worn
granite, or whatever the rocks of Cape Farewell may be composed of, and
as I followed the ebbing tide down one of these soft stretches, I saw
the thing. Were one to bump into a Bengal tiger in the ravine behind
the Bimini Baths, one could be no more surprised than was I to see a
perfectly good quart thermos bottle turning and twisting in the surf of
Cape Farewell at the southern extremity of Greenland. I rescued it, but
I was soaked above the knees doing it; and then I sat down in the sand
and opened it, and in the long twilight read the manuscript, neatly
written and tightly folded, which was its contents.

You have read the opening paragraph, and if you are an imaginative
idiot like myself, you will want to read the rest of it; so I shall
give it to you here, omitting quotation marks - which are difficult of
remembrance. In two minutes you will forget me.


My home is in Santa Monica. I am, or was, junior member of my father's
firm. We are ship-builders. Of recent years we have specialized on
submarines, which we have built for Germany, England, France and the
United States. I know a sub as a mother knows her baby's face, and
have commanded a score of them on their trial runs. Yet my
inclinations were all toward aviation. I graduated under Curtiss, and
after a long siege with my father obtained his permission to try for
the Lafayette Escadrille. As a stepping-stone I obtained an
appointment in the American ambulance service and was on my way to
France when three shrill whistles altered, in as many seconds, my
entire scheme of life.

I was sitting on deck with some of the fellows who were going into the
American ambulance service with me, my Airedale, Crown Prince Nobbler,
asleep at my feet, when the first blast of the whistle shattered the
peace and security of the ship. Ever since entering the U-boat zone we
had been on the lookout for periscopes, and children that we were,
bemoaning the unkind fate that was to see us safely into France on the
morrow without a glimpse of the dread marauders. We were young; we
craved thrills, and God knows we got them that day; yet by comparison
with that through which I have since passed they were as tame as a
Punch-and-Judy show.

I shall never forget the ashy faces of the passengers as they stampeded
for their life-belts, though there was no panic. Nobs rose with a low
growl. I rose, also, and over the ship's side, I saw not two hundred
yards distant the periscope of a submarine, while racing toward the
liner the wake of a torpedo was distinctly visible. We were aboard an
American ship - which, of course, was not armed. We were entirely
defenseless; yet without warning, we were being torpedoed.

I stood rigid, spellbound, watching the white wake of the torpedo. It
struck us on the starboard side almost amidships. The vessel rocked as
though the sea beneath it had been uptorn by a mighty volcano. We were
thrown to the decks, bruised and stunned, and then above the ship,
carrying with it fragments of steel and wood and dismembered human
bodies, rose a column of water hundreds of feet into the air.

The silence which followed the detonation of the exploding torpedo was
almost equally horrifying. It lasted for perhaps two seconds, to be
followed by the screams and moans of the wounded, the cursing of the
men and the hoarse commands of the ship's officers. They were
splendid - they and their crew. Never before had I been so proud of my
nationality as I was that moment. In all the chaos which followed the
torpedoing of the liner no officer or member of the crew lost his head
or showed in the slightest any degree of panic or fear.

While we were attempting to lower boats, the submarine emerged and
trained guns on us. The officer in command ordered us to lower our
flag, but this the captain of the liner refused to do. The ship was
listing frightfully to starboard, rendering the port boats useless,
while half the starboard boats had been demolished by the explosion.
Even while the passengers were crowding the starboard rail and
scrambling into the few boats left to us, the submarine commenced
shelling the ship. I saw one shell burst in a group of women and
children, and then I turned my head and covered my eyes.

When I looked again to horror was added chagrin, for with the emerging
of the U-boat I had recognized her as a product of our own shipyard. I
knew her to a rivet. I had superintended her construction. I had sat
in that very conning-tower and directed the efforts of the sweating
crew below when first her prow clove the sunny summer waters of the
Pacific; and now this creature of my brain and hand had turned
Frankenstein, bent upon pursuing me to my death.

A second shell exploded upon the deck. One of the lifeboats,
frightfully overcrowded, swung at a dangerous angle from its davits. A
fragment of the shell shattered the bow tackle, and I saw the women and
children and the men vomited into the sea beneath, while the boat
dangled stern up for a moment from its single davit, and at last with
increasing momentum dived into the midst of the struggling victims
screaming upon the face of the waters.

Now I saw men spring to the rail and leap into the ocean. The deck was
tilting to an impossible angle. Nobs braced himself with all four feet
to keep from slipping into the scuppers and looked up into my face with
a questioning whine. I stooped and stroked his head.

"Come on, boy!" I cried, and running to the side of the ship, dived
headforemost over the rail. When I came up, the first thing I saw was
Nobs swimming about in a bewildered sort of way a few yards from me.
At sight of me his ears went flat, and his lips parted in a
characteristic grin.

The submarine was withdrawing toward the north, but all the time it was
shelling the open boats, three of them, loaded to the gunwales with
survivors. Fortunately the small boats presented a rather poor target,
which, combined with the bad marksmanship of the Germans preserved
their occupants from harm; and after a few minutes a blotch of smoke
appeared upon the eastern horizon and the U-boat submerged and
disappeared.

All the time the lifeboats had been pulling away from the danger of the
sinking liner, and now, though I yelled at the top of my lungs, they
either did not hear my appeals for help or else did not dare return to
succor me. Nobs and I had gained some little distance from the ship
when it rolled completely over and sank. We were caught in the suction
only enough to be drawn backward a few yards, neither of us being
carried beneath the surface. I glanced hurriedly about for something to
which to cling. My eyes were directed toward the point at which the
liner had disappeared when there came from the depths of the ocean the
muffled reverberation of an explosion, and almost simultaneously a
geyser of water in which were shattered lifeboats, human bodies, steam,
coal, oil, and the flotsam of a liner's deck leaped high above the
surface of the sea - a watery column momentarily marking the grave of
another ship in this greatest cemetery of the seas.

When the turbulent waters had somewhat subsided and the sea had ceased
to spew up wreckage, I ventured to swim back in search of something
substantial enough to support my weight and that of Nobs as well. I
had gotten well over the area of the wreck when not a half-dozen yards
ahead of me a lifeboat shot bow foremost out of the ocean almost its
entire length to flop down upon its keel with a mighty splash. It must
have been carried far below, held to its mother ship by a single rope
which finally parted to the enormous strain put upon it. In no other
way can I account for its having leaped so far out of the water - a
beneficent circumstance to which I doubtless owe my life, and that of
another far dearer to me than my own. I say beneficent circumstance
even in the face of the fact that a fate far more hideous confronts us
than that which we escaped that day; for because of that circumstance I
have met her whom otherwise I never should have known; I have met and
loved her. At least I have had that great happiness in life; nor can
Caspak, with all her horrors, expunge that which has been.

So for the thousandth time I thank the strange fate which sent that
lifeboat hurtling upward from the green pit of destruction to which it
had been dragged - sent it far up above the surface, emptying its water
as it rose above the waves, and dropping it upon the surface of the
sea, buoyant and safe.

It did not take me long to clamber over its side and drag Nobs in to
comparative safety, and then I glanced around upon the scene of death
and desolation which surrounded us. The sea was littered with wreckage
among which floated the pitiful forms of women and children, buoyed up
by their useless lifebelts. Some were torn and mangled; others lay
rolling quietly to the motion of the sea, their countenances composed
and peaceful; others were set in hideous lines of agony or horror.
Close to the boat's side floated the figure of a girl. Her face was
turned upward, held above the surface by her life-belt, and was framed
in a floating mass of dark and waving hair. She was very beautiful. I
had never looked upon such perfect features, such a divine molding
which was at the same time human - intensely human. It was a face
filled with character and strength and femininity - the face of one who
was created to love and to be loved. The cheeks were flushed to the
hue of life and health and vitality, and yet she lay there upon the
bosom of the sea, dead. I felt something rise in my throat as I looked
down upon that radiant vision, and I swore that I should live to avenge
her murder.

And then I let my eyes drop once more to the face upon the water, and
what I saw nearly tumbled me backward into the sea, for the eyes in the
dead face had opened; the lips had parted; and one hand was raised
toward me in a mute appeal for succor. She lived! She was not dead! I
leaned over the boat's side and drew her quickly in to the comparative
safety which God had given me. I removed her life-belt and my soggy
coat and made a pillow for her head. I chafed her hands and arms and
feet. I worked over her for an hour, and at last I was rewarded by a
deep sigh, and again those great eyes opened and looked into mine.

At that I was all embarrassment. I have never been a ladies' man; at
Leland-Stanford I was the butt of the class because of my hopeless
imbecility in the presence of a pretty girl; but the men liked me,
nevertheless. I was rubbing one of her hands when she opened her eyes,
and I dropped it as though it were a red-hot rivet. Those eyes took me
in slowly from head to foot; then they wandered slowly around the
horizon marked by the rising and falling gunwales of the lifeboat.
They looked at Nobs and softened, and then came back to me filled with
questioning.

"I - I - " I stammered, moving away and stumbling over the next thwart.
The vision smiled wanly.

"Aye-aye, sir!" she replied faintly, and again her lips drooped, and
her long lashes swept the firm, fair texture of her skin.

"I hope that you are feeling better," I finally managed to say.

"Do you know," she said after a moment of silence, "I have been awake
for a long time! But I did not dare open my eyes. I thought I must be
dead, and I was afraid to look, for fear that I should see nothing but
blackness about me. I am afraid to die! Tell me what happened after
the ship went down. I remember all that happened before - oh, but I wish
that I might forget it!" A sob broke her voice. "The beasts!" she
went on after a moment. "And to think that I was to have married one
of them - a lieutenant in the German navy."

Presently she resumed as though she had not ceased speaking. "I went
down and down and down. I thought I should never cease to sink. I
felt no particular distress until I suddenly started upward at
ever-increasing velocity; then my lungs seemed about to burst, and I
must have lost consciousness, for I remember nothing more until I
opened my eyes after listening to a torrent of invective against
Germany and Germans. Tell me, please, all that happened after the ship
sank."

I told her, then, as well as I could, all that I had seen - the
submarine shelling the open boats and all the rest of it. She thought
it marvelous that we should have been spared in so providential a
manner, and I had a pretty speech upon my tongue's end, but lacked the
nerve to deliver it. Nobs had come over and nosed his muzzle into her
lap, and she stroked his ugly face, and at last she leaned over and put
her cheek against his forehead. I have always admired Nobs; but this
was the first time that it had ever occurred to me that I might wish to
be Nobs. I wondered how he would take it, for he is as unused to women
as I. But he took to it as a duck takes to water. What I lack of
being a ladies' man, Nobs certainly makes up for as a ladies' dog. The
old scalawag just closed his eyes and put on one of the softest
"sugar-wouldn't-melt-in-my-mouth" expressions you ever saw and stood
there taking it and asking for more. It made me jealous.

"You seem fond of dogs," I said.

"I am fond of this dog," she replied.

Whether she meant anything personal in that reply I did not know; but I
took it as personal and it made me feel mighty good.

As we drifted about upon that vast expanse of loneliness it is not
strange that we should quickly become well acquainted. Constantly we
scanned the horizon for signs of smoke, venturing guesses as to our
chances of rescue; but darkness settled, and the black night enveloped
us without ever the sight of a speck upon the waters.

We were thirsty, hungry, uncomfortable, and cold. Our wet garments had
dried but little and I knew that the girl must be in grave danger from
the exposure to a night of cold and wet upon the water in an open boat,
without sufficient clothing and no food. I had managed to bail all the
water out of the boat with cupped hands, ending by mopping the balance
up with my handkerchief - a slow and back-breaking procedure; thus I had
made a comparatively dry place for the girl to lie down low in the
bottom of the boat, where the sides would protect her from the night
wind, and when at last she did so, almost overcome as she was by
weakness and fatigue, I threw my wet coat over her further to thwart
the chill. But it was of no avail; as I sat watching her, the
moonlight marking out the graceful curves of her slender young body, I
saw her shiver.

"Isn't there something I can do?" I asked. "You can't lie there
chilled through all night. Can't you suggest something?"

She shook her head. "We must grin and bear it," she replied after a
moment.

Nobbler came and lay down on the thwart beside me, his back against my
leg, and I sat staring in dumb misery at the girl, knowing in my heart
of hearts that she might die before morning came, for what with the
shock and exposure, she had already gone through enough to kill almost
any woman. And as I gazed down at her, so small and delicate and
helpless, there was born slowly within my breast a new emotion. It had
never been there before; now it will never cease to be there. It made
me almost frantic in my desire to find some way to keep warm the
cooling lifeblood in her veins. I was cold myself, though I had almost
forgotten it until Nobbler moved and I felt a new sensation of cold
along my leg against which he had lain, and suddenly realized that in
that one spot I had been warm. Like a great light came the
understanding of a means to warm the girl. Immediately I knelt beside
her to put my scheme into practice when suddenly I was overwhelmed with
embarrassment. Would she permit it, even if I could muster the courage
to suggest it? Then I saw her frame convulse, shudderingly, her
muscles reacting to her rapidly lowering temperature, and casting
prudery to the winds, I threw myself down beside her and took her in my
arms, pressing her body close to mine.

She drew away suddenly, voicing a little cry of fright, and tried to
push me from her.

"Forgive me," I managed to stammer. "It is the only way. You will die
of exposure if you are not warmed, and Nobs and I are the only means we
can command for furnishing warmth." And I held her tightly while I
called Nobs and bade him lie down at her back. The girl didn't
struggle any more when she learned my purpose; but she gave two or
three little gasps, and then began to cry softly, burying her face on
my arm, and thus she fell asleep.



Chapter 2

Toward morning, I must have dozed, though it seemed to me at the time
that I had lain awake for days, instead of hours. When I finally
opened my eyes, it was daylight, and the girl's hair was in my face,
and she was breathing normally. I thanked God for that. She had
turned her head during the night so that as I opened my eyes I saw her
face not an inch from mine, my lips almost touching hers.

It was Nobs who finally awoke her. He got up, stretched, turned around
a few times and lay down again, and the girl opened her eyes and looked
into mine. Hers went very wide at first, and then slowly comprehension
came to her, and she smiled.

"You have been very good to me," she said, as I helped her to rise,
though if the truth were known I was more in need of assistance than
she; the circulation all along my left side seeming to be paralyzed
entirely. "You have been very good to me." And that was the only
mention she ever made of it; yet I know that she was thankful and that
only reserve prevented her from referring to what, to say the least,
was an embarrassing situation, however unavoidable.

Shortly after daylight we saw smoke apparently coming straight toward
us, and after a time we made out the squat lines of a tug - one of those
fearless exponents of England's supremacy of the sea that tows sailing
ships into French and English ports. I stood up on a thwart and waved
my soggy coat above my head. Nobs stood upon another and barked. The
girl sat at my feet straining her eyes toward the deck of the oncoming
boat. "They see us," she said at last. "There is a man answering your
signal." She was right. A lump came into my throat - for her sake
rather than for mine. She was saved, and none too soon. She could not
have lived through another night upon the Channel; she might not have
lived through the coming day.

The tug came close beside us, and a man on deck threw us a rope.
Willing hands dragged us to the deck, Nobs scrambling nimbly aboard
without assistance. The rough men were gentle as mothers with the
girl. Plying us both with questions they hustled her to the captain's
cabin and me to the boiler-room. They told the girl to take off her
wet clothes and throw them outside the door that they might be dried,
and then to slip into the captain's bunk and get warm. They didn't
have to tell me to strip after I once got into the warmth of the
boiler-room. In a jiffy, my clothes hung about where they might dry
most quickly, and I myself was absorbing, through every pore, the
welcome heat of the stifling compartment. They brought us hot soup and
coffee, and then those who were not on duty sat around and helped me
damn the Kaiser and his brood.

As soon as our clothes were dry, they bade us don them, as the chances
were always more than fair in those waters that we should run into
trouble with the enemy, as I was only too well aware. What with the
warmth and the feeling of safety for the girl, and the knowledge that a
little rest and food would quickly overcome the effects of her
experiences of the past dismal hours, I was feeling more content than I
had experienced since those three whistle-blasts had shattered the
peace of my world the previous afternoon.

But peace upon the Channel has been but a transitory thing since
August, 1914. It proved itself such that morning, for I had scarce
gotten into my dry clothes and taken the girl's apparel to the
captain's cabin when an order was shouted down into the engine-room for
full speed ahead, and an instant later I heard the dull boom of a gun.
In a moment I was up on deck to see an enemy submarine about two
hundred yards off our port bow. She had signaled us to stop, and our
skipper had ignored the order; but now she had her gun trained on us,
and the second shot grazed the cabin, warning the belligerent
tug-captain that it was time to obey. Once again an order went down to
the engine-room, and the tug reduced speed. The U-boat ceased firing
and ordered the tug to come about and approach. Our momentum had
carried us a little beyond the enemy craft, but we were turning now on
the arc of a circle that would bring us alongside her. As I stood
watching the maneuver and wondering what was to become of us, I felt
something touch my elbow and turned to see the girl standing at my
side. She looked up into my face with a rueful expression. "They seem
bent on our destruction," she said, "and it looks like the same boat
that sunk us yesterday."

"It is," I replied. "I know her well. I helped design her and took
her out on her first run."

The girl drew back from me with a little exclamation of surprise and
disappointment. "I thought you were an American," she said. "I had no
idea you were a - a - "

"Nor am I," I replied. "Americans have been building submarines for
all nations for many years. I wish, though, that we had gone bankrupt,
my father and I, before ever we turned out that Frankenstein of a
thing."

We were approaching the U-boat at half speed now, and I could almost
distinguish the features of the men upon her deck. A sailor stepped to
my side and slipped something hard and cold into my hand. I did not
have to look at it to know that it was a heavy pistol. "Tyke 'er an'
use 'er," was all he said.

Our bow was pointed straight toward the U-boat now as I heard word
passed to the engine for full speed ahead. I instantly grasped the
brazen effrontery of the plucky English skipper - he was going to ram
five hundreds tons of U-boat in the face of her trained gun. I could
scarce repress a cheer. At first the boches didn't seem to grasp his
intention. Evidently they thought they were witnessing an exhibition
of poor seamanship, and they yelled their warnings to the tug to reduce
speed and throw the helm hard to port.

We were within fifty feet of them when they awakened to the intentional
menace of our maneuver. Their gun crew was off its guard; but they
sprang to their piece now and sent a futile shell above our heads.


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsThe Land That Time Forgot → online text (page 1 of 9)