Ah-gilak looked around him with a critical and contemptuous eye. “Dod-burn it” he ejaculated. “What dod-burned landlubber built this tub? There ain’t a gol-durned thing right about her. I reckon as how she’d sail sidewise just as well as she would ahead! an’ a lateen sail!” he added, disgustedly. “Now, you should have saw the Dolly Dorcas; there was a sweet ship.”
Ghak the Hairy One glared at him with a dangerous gleam in his eye, for Ghak was proud of every ship in the Navy of the Empire of Pellucidar. They were the first ships he had ever seen and they carried the first sails; to him they were the last word in perfection and modernity. Abner Perry had designed them; did this little, toothless runt think he could do better than Abner Perry? With a great, hairy hand Ghak seized Ah-gilak by the beard.
“Wait!” cautioned David. “I think Ah-gilak knows what he is talking about. He sailed ships on the outer Earth. Perry never did. Perry did the best he could down here, with no knowledge of ship design and no one to help him who had ever seen a ship before. He would be the first to welcome some one who could help us build a better navy. I think we can use Ah-gilak after we get home.”
Ghak reluctantly released Ah-gilak’s beard. “He talks too much,” he said, and, turning, walked away.
“If I hadn’t been wrecked in the Arctic and washed down into this dod-burned world,” said Ah-gilak, “I would probably have commanded the fastest clipper ship in the world today. I was aimin’ for to build it just as soon as I got back to Cape Cod.”
“Clipper ship!” said David. “There aren’t any more clipper ships. I don’t suppose there’s been one built in more than fifty years.”
“Why, dod-burn you,” exclaimed Ah-gilak; “they hadn’t been building ’em more’n five year when the Dolly Dorcas went down—let’s see; that was 1845.”
David Innes looked at him in amazement. “Are you sure of that date?” he demanded.
“Sure as I am that I’m standin’ here, as the feller said,” replied Ah-gilak.
“How old were you when the Dolly Dorcas was lost?” asked David.
“I was forty years old. I can always remember, because my birthday was the same as President Tyler’s. He would have been fifty-five on March 29th, 1845, if he lived; an’ I was just fifteen years younger than him. They was talkin’ about a feller named Polk runnin’ for President when we sailed.”
“Do you know how old you are now?” asked David.
“Well, I sort o’ lost track o’ time down here in this dod-burned world; but I reckon I must be close to sixty.”
“Not very close,” said David; “you’re a hundred and fifty-three.”
“Well, of all the dod-burned liars, you sure take the cake! A hundred an’ fifty-three! God an’ Gabriel! Do I look a hundred an’ fifty-three?”
“No,” said David; “I’d say that you don’t look a day over a hundred and fifty.”
The old man looked at David disgustedly. “I ain’t mentionin’ no names,” he said; “but some folks ain’t got no more sense than a white pine dog with a poplar tail, as the feller said;” then he turned and walked away.
Hodon had been listening to the conversation; but he knew nothing about years or ages, and he wondered what it all meant. Anyway, he would not have been much interested, had he; for he was thinking of O-aa, and wondering where she was. He was sorry now that he had not stayed on shore and searched for her.
The flag ship of the little fleet of three ships was called Amoz in honor of Dian the Beautiful, who came from the land of Amoz. It was crowded with five hundred warriors. It had eight guns, four on a side, on a lower deck. There were solid shot, chain shot, and shells for each of the guns, all of which were muzzle loading. They had to be run back on crude wooden tracks to load, and then run forward again, with their muzzles sticking out of port holes to fire; they were the pride of the Navy.
The sailors who manned the Amoz and the other ships were copper colored Mezops from the Anoroc Islands; and the Admiral of the Fleet was Ja, King of Anoroc. The lateen sail of the Amoz was enormous; it required the combined strength of fifty husky Mezops to raise it. Like the gas bag of Perry’s balloon and the fabric of his late aeroplane, it was made of the peritonea of dinosaurs. This was one of Perry’s prime discoveries, for there were lots of dinosaurs and their peritonea were large and tough. Habitually, they objected to giving them up; so it was quite an exciting job collecting peritonea, for dinosaurs such as carry A-1 peritonea are large, ferocious, and ill-mannered.
The fleet had been under way for but a short time, when Ah-gilak, casting a weather eye about from long habit, discovered a cloud astern. “We’re a-goin’ to have a blow,” he said to Ja, and pointed.
Ja looked and nodded. “Yes,” he said, and gave orders to shorten sail.
The cloud was not very large when it was first discovered, but it was undeniably a wind cloud. As it came closer, it grew in extent; and it became black. Ragged shreds of it whipped ahead. Around the ship was a sudden, deadly calm.
“We’re a-goin’ to have more ’n a gale. That there looks like a dod-burned hurricane.”
Now there was a sudden gust of wind that made the sagging sail flap angrily. Ja had ordered it close reefed; and the Mezops were battling with the whipping peritonea, as the wind increased in violence.
And now the storm was upon them. Rolling black clouds shut out the eternal sun, lightning flashed, and thunder roared; rain began to fall—not in drops or sheets, but in solid masses. The wind wailed and shrieked like some ferocious demon of destruction. Men clung to the ship’s rails, to one another, to anything that they could lay hands on to keep from being blown overboard.
David Innes went among them, ordering them below; at last only the Mezop sailors and a few Sarians remained on the upper deck—they and the little old man, Ah-gilak. Innes and Ghak and Hodon clustered behind Ja and Ah-gilak. The little old man was in his element.
“I bin wrecked seven times,” he shrieked above the storm, “an’ I can be wrecked again, as the feller said; an’ dod-burn it if I don’t think I’m goin’ to be.”
The sea had risen, and the waves were growing constantly in immensity. The clumsy, overloaded ship wallowed out of one great sea only to be half swallowed by another.
So dark was it and so thick the rain that neither of the other ships could be seen. David was fearful for the safety of the little Sari; in fact, he was fearful for the fate of all three of the ships if the storm did not abate soon or if it increased in violence. As though possessed of sardonic humor, the hurricane raged even more violently while the thought was yet in David’s mind.
The Amoz rose upon the crest of a watery mountain to plunge into a watery abyss. The men clung to whatever they could as the ship buried its nose deep in the sea; and a huge, following wave combed over the stern, submerging them.
David thought it was the end. He knew that the ship would never rise again from beneath those tons of raging water, yet still he clung to the thing he had seized. Slowly, ponderously, like some gigantic beast trying to drag itself from quick-sand, the Amoz, staggered up, shaking the water from its deck.
“Dod-burne me!” screamed Ah-gilak; “but this is a sweet ship. It didn’t take half that sea to swamp the Dolly Dorcas, and I thought she was a sweet ship. Well live and learn, as the feller said.”
There were not as many men on the deck as there had been. David wondered how many of the poor devils had been lost. He looked at those about him; Ghak, and Ja, and Hondon, and Ah-gilak were all there.
David looked up at the waves as they towered above the ship, and he looked down into the abysses as the ship started down from the crest. “Seventy feet,” he said, half to himself; “a good seventy feet.”
Suddenly Ah-gilak yelled, “Make fast there an’ say your prayers!”
David glanced astern. The most stupendous wave he had ever seen trembled above them—hundreds of tons of water poised to crush the ship; then it came!