Furp was convinced that they were just ordinary mortals who had come to Tanga-tanga by accident; but he knew that most of the people believed in them, and so he did not dare to act against them too openly. He would gladly have had them killed; for now he was not receiving from Ope, the high priest, even a quarter as many pieces of bronze as he had before the advent of the Noada.
It was a little better since Pu had come, but the avaricious Furp wanted much more. Ope, the high priest, was secretly their enemy, and for the same reason that Furp was; but being a simple and superstitious fool, he had convinced himself that it was really a true god and goddess who sat upon the dais of the temple.
Though their enemies were powerful, those who believed in Pu and the Noada were many; and they were loved by these because the amount of their taxes and offerings had been greatly reduced, and now they had pieces of bronze with which to buy more food, and such other things as they required.
Both David and O-aa felt the undercurrent of intrigue against them, and they also felt that many of the common people were their friends; but these were never allowed to speak with them alone, as they were always surrounded by the priests of the temple, or the temple guards.
“I wish I might talk with some of these people alone,” said David upon one of the few occasions where he had an opportunity to speak even to O-aa without being overheard by a priest or a warrior. “I think they are our friends, and if anyone were plotting against us, they would tell us if they had the opportunity.”
“I am sure of it,” said O-aa. “They have always liked me; and now they like you, too; for between us we have saved them a great many pieces of metal.”
Suddenly David snapped his fingers, “I have it!” he exclaimed. “In the world from which I come there is a great and old religious faith whose communicants may come and confess theirs sins and be forgiven. They come alone and whisper to the priest, telling him what is troubling their hearts; and no one but the priest may hear them. Pu is going to ordain that the people of Tanga-tanga have this privilege, with one great advantage over confessors in that other world, in that they may confess their sins directly to the ear of their god.”
“Ope won’t let you do it,” said O-aa.
“There is a good, old American expression, which you would not understand, that explains succinctly just how I purpose winning Ope over.”
“What are you going to do, then?” inquired O-aa.
“I am going to scare the pants off him,” said David.
“What are pants?” asked O-aa.
“That is neither here nor there,” replied David.
“Here comes Ope now,” said O-aa. “I shall watch while you scare his pants off.”
Ope, the high priest, came sinuously towards them; his gait reminding David of the silent approach of a snake.
David glared at the high priest sternly. “Ope,” he said in a terrible voice, “I know what you have been thinking.”
“I-I-I-I don’t know what you mean,” stammered the high priest.
“Oh, yes you do,” said David, “Don’t you know that you could be struck dead for thinking such thoughts?”
“No, most gracious Pu; honestly, I have not thought a bad thought about you. I have not thought of harming you—” and then he stopped suddenly; realizing, perhaps, that he had given himself away.
“I even know what you are thinking this instant,” cried David; and Ope’s knees smote together. “See that there is no more of it,” continued David; “and be sure that you obey my slightest wish, or that of your Noada.”
Ope dropped to his knees and covered his eyes with his palms. “Most glorious Pu,” he said, “you shall never have reason to upbraid me again.”
“And you’d better tell Furp to be careful what he thinks,” said O-aa.
“I shall tell him,” said Ope, “but Furp is a wicked man, and he may not believe me.”
“In spite of the wickedness of Tanga-tanga, I am going to bring a great blessing to its people,” said David. “Have built for me immediately against the wall beside the dais a room two paces square, with a door, and place two benches within it. The room should be two and a half paces high, and have no ceiling.”
“It shall be done at once, most glorious Pu,” said Ope, the high priest.
“See that it is,” said David, “and when it is done, summon the people to the temple; for I would speak to them and explain this wonderful blessing that I am bringing them.”
Ope, the high priest, was dying to know what the blessing was, but he did not dare ask; and he was still worrying and cudgeling his brain as he went away to arrange to have artisans build a clay room such as David had demanded.
I am sure that he is really Pu, thought Ope, the high priest. I am thinking good thoughts of him and of our Noada; and I always must. I must keep thinking good thoughts of them, good thoughts; and I must not let Furp put any bad thoughts into my head. He thought this last thought in the hope that Pu was listening to it and would place all the blame upon Furp for the bad thoughts which Ope knew only too well he had been entertaining.
When the little room beside the dais was completed David directed that the people be summoned to the temple; and the lesser priests went out in their hideous masks and beat upon drums and summoned the people to come to the temple of Pu; and the temple was so crowded with people that no more could get in, and those who could not get into the temple filled the plaza.
It was O-aa who addressed them: “Pu has decided to confer upon the people of Tanga-tanga a great blessing,” she said. “Many of you have sinned; and if you have sinned much and have not been forgiven by Pu, it will be difficult for you to get into Karana after you die. Therefore, Pu has had constructed this little room here, where you may go, one at a time, and sit with Pu and confess your sins, that Pu may grant you forgiveness. You cannot all come at once, but between sleeps Pu will listen to the sins of twenty. Go forth into the plaza now and explain this to the others who are there; and then let twenty return to the temple to confess.”
The people rushed out into the plaza then, and explained this marvelous thing to those who had not heard O-aa’s words; and there was almost a riot before twenty had been selected to lay their sins before Pu prior to the next sleep.
David went into the little room, and the first of those who were to confess came and kneeled before him, covering his eyes with his hands. David told him to raise and sit on the other bench; and then he said, “You may now confess your sins, and be forgiven.”
“Many sleeps ago,” said the man, “before you and our Noada came, I stole pieces of metal from a neighbor who had money; because the priests and the go-sha had taken so many of mine from me that I did not have any to buy food for my family.”
“When you are able to do so, you may return the pieces to the man from whom you took them,” said David, “and you shall be forgiven. Did you know,” continued David, “that if you have heard words spoken against Pu or the Noada, and have not come and told them, that that is a sin?”
“I did not know that,” said the man, “but I have heard words spoken against you and the Noada. The warriors of Furp go among the people, telling them that you and the Noada are not from Karana; are from Molop Az, and that some day soon you will destroy Tanga-tanga and take all its people to the Molop Az for the Little Men to devour. I did not believe that, and there are a good many others who do not believe it, but there are some who do; and these warriors are trying to incite them to murder you and the Noada.”
“What is your name?” asked David; and when the man had told him David scratched the name with the point of his dagger in the clay of the wall of the little room. The man watched this process almost fearfully, for he knew nothing of the alphabets, or of writing. “This,” said David, “is the sign of your forgiveness. It will stand as long as the temple stands, and Pu and the Noada remain here in safety. Now go on about your business, whatever it may be, and as you work learn the names of as many as possible who are loyal to Pu and the Noada; so that if we are ever in trouble you may summon them to the temple to defend us.”
The man left the temple, and it did not occur to him that it was strange that god and a Noada who were all powerful should require the help of mortals to defend them.
After many sleeps David had spoken with many of the citizens; and he had scratched upon the walls of the little room the names of those that he thought could be depended upon to be loyal to him and to O-aa. Nor was Furp idle during this time, for he had determined to rid himself of these two who were constantly increasing their hold upon the people; and depriving him of the pieces of bronze which he had been accustomed to collect from the temple and from the people.
Both Furp and Ope were quite concerned about this new confessional which permitted Pu to speak secretly with the people; but they would have been more concerned had they known that Pu, who now controlled the finances of the temple, was giving pieces of bronze to those who were loyal to him, in the privacy of the confessional, with which to purchase swords, and bows and arrows.
Ah-gilak, the little old man from Cape Cod, was much concerned over the fate of David Innes, whom he greatly admired, not only because of his ability and courage, but because David was from Hartford, Connecticut; and he felt that in this outlandish world at the center of the earth New Englanders were bound together by a common tie.
“Dod-burn it,” he said to Abner Perry, shortly after David had departed, “how is this ding-busted idiot goin’ to get back if that contraption carries him across the nameless strait that everyone says is at the end of the world?”
“I don’t know,” said Abner Perry sadly; “and to think that it is all my fault, all my fault. Because I am a careless absentminded old fool, I have sent the two I loved best to death.”
“Well, settin’ around cryin’ over split milk ain’t goin’ to butter no parsnips, as the feller said,” rejoined Ah-gilak. “What we ought to do is do sump’n about it.”
“What can we do?” asked Abner Perry. “There is nothing that I would not do. I have been seriously considering building another balloon with which to follow them.”
“Humph!” ejaculated Ah-gilak. “You sure are the dod-burndest old fool I’ve ever heard tell of. What good could you do if you did float over the nameless strait in one of them contraptions? We’d only have three of you to look for, instead of two. But I got a idea that I’ve been thinking about ever since David left.”
“What is it?” asked Perry.
“Well, you see,” explained the little old man, “afore the Dolly Dorcas was wrecked in the Arctic Ocean in 1845, I’d been a-plannin’ that when I got back to Cape Cod I’d build me a clipper ship, the finest, fastest clipper ship that ever cut salt water. But then, of course the Dolly Dorcas she did get wrecked, and I drifted down here into this dod-burned hole in the ground; and I ain’t never had no chance to build no clipper ship; but now, if I had the men and the tools, I could build one; and we could go down and cross this here nameless strait, and maybe we could find David and this here Dian the Beautiful.”
Abner Perry brightened immediately at the suggestion. “Do you think you could do it, Ah-gilak?” he asked. “For if you can, I can furnish you the men and the tools. We haven’t got a ship left seaworthy enough to navigate the nameless strait in safety; and if you can build one and sail it, I can furnish the men to build it, and the men to man it.”
“Let’s start, then,” said Ah-gilak. “Procrastination is the mother of invention, as the feller said.”
With this hope held out to him, Abner Perry was a new man. He sent for Ghak the Hairy One, who was king of Sari; and who theoretically ruled the loose federation of the Empire of Pellucidar while David was absent. Perry explained to Ghak what Ah-gilak had proposed, and Ghak was as enthusiastic as either of them. Thus it was that the entire tribe of Sarians, men, women and children, trekked to Amoz, which is on the Darel Az, a shallow sea that is really only a bay on the coast of the Lural Az.
They took with them arms and ammunition and tools—axes with hammers and chisels and mattocks, all the tools that Perry had taught them to make, after he himself had achieved steel following his discovery and smelting of iron ore, and the happy presence of carbon in the foothills near Sari.
Ghak sent runners to Thuria, Suvi, and Kali; and eventually a thousand men were gathered at Amoz, felling trees and shaping the timbers; and hunters went forth and killed dinosaurs for the peritonea which was to form the sails.
Ah-gilak did not design the huge clipper ship he had planned to build at Cape Cod, but a smaller one that might be equally fast, and just as seaworthy.
Ja, the Mezop, came from the Anoroc Islands with a hundred men who were to help with the building of the ship and man it after it was launched; for the Mezops are the seafaring men of the Empire of Pellucidar.
The women fabricated the shrouds and the rigging from the fibers of an abacalike plant; and even the children worked, fetching and carrying.
No man may know how long it took to build that clipper ship, in a world where it is always noon and there are no moving celestial bodies to mark the passage of time; a fact which always annoyed Ah-gilak.
“Dod-burn that dod-blasted sun!” he exclaimed. “Why don’t it rise and set like a sun oughta? How’s a feller goin’ to know when to quit work? Gad and Gabriel! It ain’t decent.”
But the Pellucidarians knew when to quit work. When they were hungry they stopped and ate; when they were sleepy they crawled into the darkest place they could find and went to sleep. Then the little old man from Cape Cod would dance around in a frenzy of rage and profanity, if their sleeping or their eating interfered with the building of the clipper. However, the work progressed, and eventually the clipper was ready to launch. The ways were greased, and every preparation had been made. A hundred men stood by the blocks, ready to pull them away.
“Dod-burn it!” exclaimed Ah-gilak. “We got to christen ’er, and we plumb forgot to find a name for her.”
“You designed her and you built her,” said Abner Perry; “and so I think that you are the one who should have the privilege of naming her.”
“That’s fair enough,” said Ah-gilak, “and I’m going to call her the John Tyler, because I voted for him for president at the last election; that is, I voted for him and William Henry Harrison; but when Harrison died.”
“Why, that was a hundred and eighteen years ago, man!” exclaimed Abner Perry.
“I don’t give a dod-blasted whoop if it was a thousand and eighteen years ago,” said Ah-gilak. “I voted for Harrison and Tyler at the last election.”
“Do you know what year it is now?” asked Abner Perry.
“David Innes tried to tell me that I was a hundred and fifty-three years old,” said Ah-gilak; “but he has lived down here in this dod-burned hole in the ground so long he’s crazy. They don’t none of you know what year this is. They ain’t no years here; they ain’t no months! they ain’t no weeks; they ain’t no days; they ain’t nothin’ but noon. How you going to count time when it’s always noon? Anyhow I’m going to name her the John Tyler.”
“I think that’s an excellent name,” said Abner Perry.
“Now we ought to have a bottle of something to bust on her bow while I christen her,” said Ah-gilak. “If a thing’s worth doin’ at all, don’t put it off till tomorrow, as the feller said.”
The best substitute for a bottle of champagne which they could find was a clay jug filled with water. Ah-gilak held it in his hand and stood by the bow of the clipper. Suddenly he turned to Abner Perry. “This ain’t right,” he said. “Who ever heard of a man christening a ship?”
“Stellara, the mate of Tartar, the son of Ghak is here,” said Abner Perry. “Let her christen the John Tyler;” and so Stellara came, and Ah-gilak told her what to do; and at his signal the men pulled the blocks away immediately after Stellara had broken the jug of water on the bow of the clipper and said, “I christen thee the John Tyler.”
The ship slipped down the ways into the Darel Az; and the people of Thuria and Sari and Amoz and Suvi and Kali, screamed with delight.
The cannon had been put aboard her before they launched her; and now they set about rigging her, and this work Ah-gilak insisted must be done by the Mezops, who were to be the sailors that manned the ship; so that they would know every rope and spar. It was all a tremendous undertaking for people of the stone age, for they had so much to learn and when the ship was rigged the Mezops had to be drilled in making sail and taking it in quickly. Fortunately they were not only seafaring men, but semi-arboreal, as they lived in trees on their native islands. They ran up the shrouds like monkeys, and out upon the yardarms as though they had been born upon them.
“They may be red Injuns,” said Ah-gilak to Perry, “but they’re goin’ to make fine sailormen.”
Vast quantities of water in bamboo containers was stored aboard, as was the salt meat, vegetables, nuts, and quantities of the rough flour that Abner Perry had taught the Pellucidarians to make.
At last the Mezops were well drilled, and the John Tyler prepared to sail. Ah-gilak was skipper, Ja was the first mate and navigator. The second and third mates were Jav and Ko, while Ghak the Hairy One commanded two hundred picked warriors; for, being cavemen, they anticipated having to do battle after they had landed in the terra incognita beyond the nameless strait.
They had neither compass, nor sextant, nor any chronometer; but they had a man from Thuria aboard who could point the general direction; and Ja knew the great ocean currents that flowed directly along their course.
With all sails set to a fair wind, the John Tyler tossed the white water from her bow as she sailed gallantly out into the Lural Az in her quest for David Innes and Dian the Beautiful; and, for the first time since Dian had floated away toward the Land of Awful Shadow, Abner Perry felt hope budding in his breast; and for the first time in one hundred thirteen years the little old man from Cape Cod was really happy.