Edgar Rice Burroughs.

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The People That Time Forgot


Edgar Rice Burroughs

Chapter 1

I am forced to admit that even though I had traveled a long distance to
place Bowen Tyler's manuscript in the hands of his father, I was still
a trifle skeptical as to its sincerity, since I could not but recall
that it had not been many years since Bowen had been one of the most
notorious practical jokers of his alma mater. The truth was that as I
sat in the Tyler library at Santa Monica I commenced to feel a trifle
foolish and to wish that I had merely forwarded the manuscript by
express instead of bearing it personally, for I confess that I do not
enjoy being laughed at. I have a well-developed sense of humor - when
the joke is not on me.

Mr. Tyler, Sr., was expected almost hourly. The last steamer in from
Honolulu had brought information of the date of the expected sailing of
his yacht _Toreador_, which was now twenty-four hours overdue. Mr.
Tyler's assistant secretary, who had been left at home, assured me that
there was no doubt but that the _Toreador_ had sailed as promised, since
he knew his employer well enough to be positive that nothing short of
an act of God would prevent his doing what he had planned to do. I was
also aware of the fact that the sending apparatus of the _Toreador_'s
wireless equipment was sealed, and that it would only be used in event
of dire necessity. There was, therefore, nothing to do but wait, and
we waited.

We discussed the manuscript and hazarded guesses concerning it and the
strange events it narrated. The torpedoing of the liner upon which
Bowen J. Tyler, Jr., had taken passage for France to join the American
Ambulance was a well-known fact, and I had further substantiated by
wire to the New York office of the owners, that a Miss La Rue had been
booked for passage. Further, neither she nor Bowen had been mentioned
among the list of survivors; nor had the body of either of them been

Their rescue by the English tug was entirely probable; the capture of
the enemy _U-33_ by the tug's crew was not beyond the range of
possibility; and their adventures during the perilous cruise which the
treachery and deceit of Benson extended until they found themselves in
the waters of the far South Pacific with depleted stores and poisoned
water-casks, while bordering upon the fantastic, appeared logical
enough as narrated, event by event, in the manuscript.

Caprona has always been considered a more or less mythical land, though
it is vouched for by an eminent navigator of the eighteenth century;
but Bowen's narrative made it seem very real, however many miles of
trackless ocean lay between us and it. Yes, the narrative had us
guessing. We were agreed that it was most improbable; but neither of
us could say that anything which it contained was beyond the range of
possibility. The weird flora and fauna of Caspak were as possible
under the thick, warm atmospheric conditions of the super-heated crater
as they were in the Mesozoic era under almost exactly similar
conditions, which were then probably world-wide. The assistant
secretary had heard of Caproni and his discoveries, but admitted that
he never had taken much stock in the one nor the other. We were agreed
that the one statement most difficult of explanation was that which
reported the entire absence of human young among the various tribes
with which Tyler had had intercourse. This was the one irreconcilable
statement of the manuscript. A world of adults! It was impossible.

We speculated upon the probable fate of Bradley and his party of
English sailors. Tyler had found the graves of two of them; how many
more might have perished! And Miss La Rue - could a young girl long
have survived the horrors of Caspak after having been separated from
all of her own kind? The assistant secretary wondered if Nobs still
was with her, and then we both smiled at this tacit acceptance of the
truth of the whole uncanny tale:

"I suppose I'm a fool," remarked the assistant secretary; "but by
George, I can't help believing it, and I can see that girl now, with
the big Airedale at her side protecting her from the terrors of a
million years ago. I can visualize the entire scene - the apelike
Grimaldi men huddled in their filthy caves; the huge pterodactyls
soaring through the heavy air upon their bat-like wings; the mighty
dinosaurs moving their clumsy hulks beneath the dark shadows of
preglacial forests - the dragons which we considered myths until science
taught us that they were the true recollections of the first man,
handed down through countless ages by word of mouth from father to son
out of the unrecorded dawn of humanity."

"It is stupendous - if true," I replied. "And to think that possibly
they are still there - Tyler and Miss La Rue - surrounded by hideous
dangers, and that possibly Bradley still lives, and some of his party!
I can't help hoping all the time that Bowen and the girl have found the
others; the last Bowen knew of them, there were six left, all told - the
mate Bradley, the engineer Olson, and Wilson, Whitely, Brady and
Sinclair. There might be some hope for them if they could join forces;
but separated, I'm afraid they couldn't last long."

"If only they hadn't let the German prisoners capture the _U-33_! Bowen
should have had better judgment than to have trusted them at all. The
chances are von Schoenvorts succeeded in getting safely back to Kiel
and is strutting around with an Iron Cross this very minute. With a
large supply of oil from the wells they discovered in Caspak, with
plenty of water and ample provisions, there is no reason why they
couldn't have negotiated the submerged tunnel beneath the barrier
cliffs and made good their escape."

"I don't like 'em," said the assistant secretary; "but sometimes you
got to hand it to 'em."

"Yes," I growled, "and there's nothing I'd enjoy more than _handing it
to them_!" And then the telephone-bell rang.

The assistant secretary answered, and as I watched him, I saw his jaw
drop and his face go white. "My God!" he exclaimed as he hung up the
receiver as one in a trance. "It can't be!"

"What?" I asked.

"Mr. Tyler is dead," he answered in a dull voice. "He died at sea,
suddenly, yesterday."

The next ten days were occupied in burying Mr. Bowen J. Tyler, Sr., and
arranging plans for the succor of his son. Mr. Tom Billings, the late
Mr. Tyler's secretary, did it all. He is force, energy, initiative and
good judgment combined and personified. I never have beheld a more
dynamic young man. He handled lawyers, courts and executors as a
sculptor handles his modeling clay. He formed, fashioned and forced
them to his will. He had been a classmate of Bowen Tyler at college,
and a fraternity brother, and before that he had been an impoverished
and improvident cow-puncher on one of the great Tyler ranches. Tyler,
Sr., had picked him out of thousands of employees and made him; or
rather Tyler had given him the opportunity, and then Billings had made
himself. Tyler, Jr., as good a judge of men as his father, had taken
him into his friendship, and between the two of them they had turned
out a man who would have died for a Tyler as quickly as he would have
for his flag. Yet there was none of the sycophant or fawner in
Billings; ordinarily I do not wax enthusiastic about men, but this man
Billings comes as close to my conception of what a regular man should
be as any I have ever met. I venture to say that before Bowen J. Tyler
sent him to college he had never heard the word _ethics_, and yet I am
equally sure that in all his life he never has transgressed a single
tenet of the code of ethics of an American gentleman.

Ten days after they brought Mr. Tyler's body off the _Toreador_, we
steamed out into the Pacific in search of Caprona. There were forty in
the party, including the master and crew of the _Toreador_; and Billings
the indomitable was in command. We had a long and uninteresting search
for Caprona, for the old map upon which the assistant secretary had
finally located it was most inaccurate. When its grim walls finally
rose out of the ocean's mists before us, we were so far south that it
was a question as to whether we were in the South Pacific or the
Antarctic. Bergs were numerous, and it was very cold.

All during the trip Billings had steadfastly evaded questions as to how
we were to enter Caspak after we had found Caprona. Bowen Tyler's
manuscript had made it perfectly evident to all that the subterranean
outlet of the Caspakian River was the only means of ingress or egress
to the crater world beyond the impregnable cliffs. Tyler's party had
been able to navigate this channel because their craft had been a
submarine; but the _Toreador_ could as easily have flown over the cliffs
as sailed under them. Jimmy Hollis and Colin Short whiled away many an
hour inventing schemes for surmounting the obstacle presented by the
barrier cliffs, and making ridiculous wagers as to which one Tom
Billings had in mind; but immediately we were all assured that we had
raised Caprona, Billings called us together.

"There was no use in talking about these things," he said, "until we
found the island. At best it can be but conjecture on our part until
we have been able to scrutinize the coast closely. Each of us has
formed a mental picture of the Capronian seacoast from Bowen's
manuscript, and it is not likely that any two of these pictures
resemble each other, or that any of them resemble the coast as we shall
presently find it. I have in view three plans for scaling the cliffs,
and the means for carrying out each is in the hold. There is an
electric drill with plenty of waterproof cable to reach from the ship's
dynamos to the cliff-top when the _Toreador_ is anchored at a safe
distance from shore, and there is sufficient half-inch iron rod to
build a ladder from the base to the top of the cliff. It would be a
long, arduous and dangerous work to bore the holes and insert the rungs
of the ladder from the bottom upward; yet it can be done.

"I also have a life-saving mortar with which we might be able to throw
a line over the summit of the cliffs; but this plan would necessitate
one of us climbing to the top with the chances more than even that the
line would cut at the summit, or the hooks at the upper end would slip.

"My third plan seems to me the most feasible. You all saw a number of
large, heavy boxes lowered into the hold before we sailed. I know you
did, because you asked me what they contained and commented upon the
large letter 'H' which was painted upon each box. These boxes contain
the various parts of a hydro-aeroplane. I purpose assembling this upon
the strip of beach described in Bowen's manuscript - the beach where he
found the dead body of the apelike man - provided there is sufficient
space above high water; otherwise we shall have to assemble it on deck
and lower it over the side. After it is assembled, I shall carry
tackle and ropes to the cliff-top, and then it will be comparatively
simple to hoist the search-party and its supplies in safety. Or I can
make a sufficient number of trips to land the entire party in the
valley beyond the barrier; all will depend, of course, upon what my
first reconnaissance reveals."

That afternoon we steamed slowly along the face of Caprona's towering

"You see now," remarked Billings as we craned our necks to scan the
summit thousands of feet above us, "how futile it would have been to
waste our time in working out details of a plan to surmount those." And
he jerked his thumb toward the cliffs. "It would take weeks, possibly
months, to construct a ladder to the top. I had no conception of their
formidable height. Our mortar would not carry a line halfway to the
crest of the lowest point. There is no use discussing any plan other
than the hydro-aeroplane. We'll find the beach and get busy."

Late the following morning the lookout announced that he could discern
surf about a mile ahead; and as we approached, we all saw the line of
breakers broken by a long sweep of rolling surf upon a narrow beach.
The launch was lowered, and five of us made a landing, getting a good
ducking in the ice-cold waters in the doing of it; but we were rewarded
by the finding of the clean-picked bones of what might have been the
skeleton of a high order of ape or a very low order of man, lying close
to the base of the cliff. Billings was satisfied, as were the rest of
us, that this was the beach mentioned by Bowen, and we further found
that there was ample room to assemble the sea-plane.

Billings, having arrived at a decision, lost no time in acting, with
the result that before mid-afternoon we had landed all the large boxes
marked "H" upon the beach, and were busily engaged in opening them.
Two days later the plane was assembled and tuned. We loaded tackles
and ropes, water, food and ammunition in it, and then we each implored
Billings to let us be the one to accompany him. But he would take no
one. That was Billings; if there was any especially difficult or
dangerous work to be done, that one man could do, Billings always did
it himself. If he needed assistance, he never called for
volunteers - just selected the man or men he considered best qualified
for the duty. He said that he considered the principles underlying all
volunteer service fundamentally wrong, and that it seemed to him that
calling for volunteers reflected upon the courage and loyalty of the
entire command.

We rolled the plane down to the water's edge, and Billings mounted the
pilot's seat. There was a moment's delay as he assured himself that he
had everything necessary. Jimmy Hollis went over his armament and
ammunition to see that nothing had been omitted. Besides pistol and
rifle, there was the machine-gun mounted in front of him on the plane,
and ammunition for all three. Bowen's account of the terrors of Caspak
had impressed us all with the necessity for proper means of defense.

At last all was ready. The motor was started, and we pushed the plane
out into the surf. A moment later, and she was skimming seaward.
Gently she rose from the surface of the water, executed a wide spiral
as she mounted rapidly, circled once far above us and then disappeared
over the crest of the cliffs. We all stood silent and expectant, our
eyes glued upon the towering summit above us. Hollis, who was now in
command, consulted his wrist-watch at frequent intervals.

"Gad," exclaimed Short, "we ought to be hearing from him pretty soon!"

Hollis laughed nervously. "He's been gone only ten minutes," he

"Seems like an hour," snapped Short. "What's that? Did you hear that?
He's firing! It's the machine-gun! Oh, Lord; and here we are as
helpless as a lot of old ladies ten thousand miles away! We can't do a
thing. We don't know what's happening. Why didn't he let one of us go
with him?"

Yes, it was the machine-gun. We would hear it distinctly for at least
a minute. Then came silence. That was two weeks ago. We have had no
sign nor signal from Tom Billings since.

Chapter 2

I'll never forget my first impressions of Caspak as I circled in, high
over the surrounding cliffs. From the plane I looked down through a
mist upon the blurred landscape beneath me. The hot, humid atmosphere
of Caspak condenses as it is fanned by the cold Antarctic air-currents
which sweep across the crater's top, sending a tenuous ribbon of vapor
far out across the Pacific. Through this the picture gave one the
suggestion of a colossal impressionistic canvas in greens and browns
and scarlets and yellows surrounding the deep blue of the inland
sea - just blobs of color taking form through the tumbling mist.

I dived close to the cliffs and skirted them for several miles without
finding the least indication of a suitable landing-place; and then I
swung back at a lower level, looking for a clearing close to the bottom
of the mighty escarpment; but I could find none of sufficient area to
insure safety. I was flying pretty low by this time, not only looking
for landing places but watching the myriad life beneath me. I was down
pretty well toward the south end of the island, where an arm of the
lake reaches far inland, and I could see the surface of the water
literally black with creatures of some sort. I was too far up to
recognize individuals, but the general impression was of a vast army of
amphibious monsters. The land was almost equally alive with crawling,
leaping, running, flying things. It was one of the latter which nearly
did for me while my attention was fixed upon the weird scene below.

The first intimation I had of it was the sudden blotting out of the
sunlight from above, and as I glanced quickly up, I saw a most terrific
creature swooping down upon me. It must have been fully eighty feet
long from the end of its long, hideous beak to the tip of its thick,
short tail, with an equal spread of wings. It was coming straight for
me and hissing frightfully - I could hear it above the whir of the
propeller. It was coming straight down toward the muzzle of the
machine-gun and I let it have it right in the breast; but still it came
for me, so that I had to dive and turn, though I was dangerously close
to earth.

The thing didn't miss me by a dozen feet, and when I rose, it wheeled
and followed me, but only to the cooler air close to the level of the
cliff-tops; there it turned again and dropped. Something - man's
natural love of battle and the chase, I presume - impelled me to pursue
it, and so I too circled and dived. The moment I came down into the
warm atmosphere of Caspak, the creature came for me again, rising above
me so that it might swoop down upon me. Nothing could better have
suited my armament, since my machine-gun was pointed upward at an angle
of about 45 degrees and could not be either depressed or elevated by the
pilot. If I had brought someone along with me, we could have raked the
great reptile from almost any position, but as the creature's mode of
attack was always from above, he always found me ready with a hail of
bullets. The battle must have lasted a minute or more before the thing
suddenly turned completely over in the air and fell to the ground.

Bowen and I roomed together at college, and I learned a lot from him
outside my regular course. He was a pretty good scholar despite his
love of fun, and his particular hobby was paleontology. He used to
tell me about the various forms of animal and vegetable life which had
covered the globe during former eras, and so I was pretty well
acquainted with the fishes, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals of
paleolithic times. I knew that the thing that had attacked me was some
sort of pterodactyl which should have been extinct millions of years
ago. It was all that I needed to realize that Bowen had exaggerated
nothing in his manuscript.

Having disposed of my first foe, I set myself once more to search for a
landing-place near to the base of the cliffs beyond which my party
awaited me. I knew how anxious they would be for word from me, and I
was equally anxious to relieve their minds and also to get them and our
supplies well within Caspak, so that we might set off about our
business of finding and rescuing Bowen Tyler; but the pterodactyl's
carcass had scarcely fallen before I was surrounded by at least a dozen
of the hideous things, some large, some small, but all bent upon my
destruction. I could not cope with them all, and so I rose rapidly
from among them to the cooler strata wherein they dared not follow; and
then I recalled that Bowen's narrative distinctly indicated that the
farther north one traveled in Caspak, the fewer were the terrible
reptiles which rendered human life impossible at the southern end of
the island.

There seemed nothing now but to search out a more northerly
landing-place and then return to the _Toreador_ and transport my
companions, two by two, over the cliffs and deposit them at the
rendezvous. As I flew north, the temptation to explore overcame me. I
knew that I could easily cover Caspak and return to the beach with less
petrol than I had in my tanks; and there was the hope, too, that I
might find Bowen or some of his party. The broad expanse of the inland
sea lured me out over its waters, and as I crossed, I saw at either
extremity of the great body of water an island - one to the south and
one to the north; but I did not alter my course to examine either
closely, leaving that to a later time.

The further shore of the sea revealed a much narrower strip of land
between the cliffs and the water than upon the western side; but it was
a hillier and more open country. There were splendid landing-places,
and in the distance, toward the north, I thought I descried a village;
but of that I was not positive. However, as I approached the land, I
saw a number of human figures apparently pursuing one who fled across a
broad expanse of meadow. As I dropped lower to have a better look at
these people, they caught the whirring of my propellers and looked
aloft. They paused an instant - pursuers and pursued; and then they
broke and raced for the shelter of the nearest wood. Almost
instantaneously a huge bulk swooped down upon me, and as I looked up, I
realized that there were flying reptiles even in this part of Caspak.
The creature dived for my right wing so quickly that nothing but a
sheer drop could have saved me. I was already close to the ground, so
that my maneuver was extremely dangerous; but I was in a fair way of
making it successfully when I saw that I was too closely approaching a
large tree. My effort to dodge the tree and the pterodactyl at the
same time resulted disastrously. One wing touched an upper branch; the
plane tipped and swung around, and then, out of control, dashed into
the branches of the tree, where it came to rest, battered and torn,
forty feet above the ground.

Hissing loudly, the huge reptile swept close above the tree in which my
plane had lodged, circled twice over me and then flapped away toward
the south. As I guessed then and was to learn later, forests are the
surest sanctuary from these hideous creatures, which, with their
enormous spread of wing and their great weight, are as much out of
place among trees as is a seaplane.

For a minute or so I clung there to my battered flyer, now useless
beyond redemption, my brain numbed by the frightful catastrophe that
had befallen me. All my plans for the succor of Bowen and Miss La Rue
had depended upon this craft, and in a few brief minutes my own selfish
love of adventure had wrecked their hopes and mine. And what effect it
might have upon the future of the balance of the rescuing expedition I
could not even guess. Their lives, too, might be sacrificed to my
suicidal foolishness. That I was doomed seemed inevitable; but I can
honestly say that the fate of my friends concerned me more greatly than
did my own.

Beyond the barrier cliffs my party was even now nervously awaiting my
return. Presently apprehension and fear would claim them - and they
would never know! They would attempt to scale the cliffs - of that I
was sure; but I was not so positive that they would succeed; and after
a while they would turn back, what there were left of them, and go
sadly and mournfully upon their return journey to home. Home! I set
my jaws and tried to forget the word, for I knew that I should never
again see home.

And what of Bowen and his girl? I had doomed them too. They would
never even know that an attempt had been made to rescue them. If they
still lived, they might some day come upon the ruined remnants of this
great plane hanging in its lofty sepulcher and hazard vain guesses and
be filled with wonder; but they would never know; and I could not but
be glad that they would not know that Tom Billings had sealed their
death-warrants by his criminal selfishness.

All these useless regrets were getting me in a bad way; but at last I
shook myself and tried to put such things out of my mind and take hold
of conditions as they existed and do my level best to wrest victory
from defeat. I was badly shaken up and bruised, but considered myself
mighty lucky to escape with my life. The plane hung at a precarious
angle, so that it was with difficulty and considerable danger that I
climbed from it into the tree and then to the ground.

My predicament was grave. Between me and my friends lay an inland sea
fully sixty miles wide at this point and an estimated land-distance of

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