Returning to the wheel, he took stock of his situation. It did not appear too rosy. Twenty or thirty men were required to man the John Tyler. Obviously, one little old man could not. With the wind he had now, he could hold on as long as there was ocean ahead. He might even maneuver the ship a little, for Ah-gilak had spent a lifetime under sail. But a storm would be his undoing.
Without stars or moon, with a stationary sun, he could not navigate even had he had the necessary instruments and a dependable chart, none of which he had. Nor could he have navigated the nameless strait could he have found it. Ah-gilak was in a bad way, and he knew it; so he decided to beach John Tyler at the earliest opportunity and take his chances on land.
O-aa followed the little river. She moved warily, taking advantage of cover-trees, tall grasses, underbrush. She moved silently, as silently as the great beast at her side. Her left hand grasped her bow and several arrows, another arrow was fitted to the bow and drawn part way back, presenting an analogy to a loaded .45 with a full clip in the magazine and the safety off.
Suddenly three horses broke from nearby underbrush, and in quick succession two arrows brought two of them down. O-aa rushed in and finished them with her knife, while the jalok pursued and dragged down the third.
O-aa picked up the two horses she had shot and waited while the jalok devoured his kill; then they started back toward the canoe. The girl knew her prey as orthopi; but you would have recognized them as Hyracotherii of the Lower Eocene, the early ancestors of Seabiscuit and Whirlaway, little creatures about the size of foxes.
The girl gave one of the orthopi to the jalok; then she made fire and cooked much of the other for herself. Her hunger satisfied, she lay down beneath a tree and slept.
When she awoke, she looked around for the jalok; but he was nowhere to be seen. O-aa was swept by a wave of loneliness. She had been heartened by the promise of companionship and protection which the savage beast had offered. Suddenly the future looked very black. In her fit of despondency, the shore of the mainland seemed to have receded; and she peopled the world with terrifying menaces, which was wholly superfluous, as Nature had already attended to that.
She gave herself up to self-pity for only a short time; then she lifted her chin and braced her shoulders and was the self-sufficient cave girl of Kali once more. She looked out across the water, and realized that the wind had changed while she slept and was blowing strongly toward the mainland.
Going to the canoe, she stepped the mast and rigged the sail to the best of her ability, which was not mean; for O-aa was a highly intelligent young person, observant and with a retentive memory. She tugged on the canoe and found that she could move it, but before she dragged it into the sea she decided to look around once more for the jalok.
She was glad that she had, for she saw him coming down toward her carrying something on his back. When he was closer, she saw that it was the carcass of small deer which he had thrown across his shoulders, still holding to it with his jaws—carrying it as the African lion has been known to carry its prey.
He came up to her, wagging his tail, and laid his kill at her feet. O-aa was so glad to see him that she dropped to her knees and put both arms around his shaggy collar and hugged him. Doubtless, this was something new in the jalok’s life; but he seemed to understand and like it, for he bared his fangs in a grin and licked the girl’s face.
Now O-aa was faced with a problem. If she waited to cook some of the deer and eat, the wind might change. On the other hand she couldn’t bear to abandon so much good meat. The alternative was to take it with her, but would the jalok let her take the carcass away from him? She determined to experiment. Seizing the deer, she started to drag it down toward the water’s edge. The jalok watched her; then, apparently getting the idea, he took hold of it and helped her. O-aa realized what she had become almost convinced of, that here was a well trained hunting animal that had worked with and for his dead master.
Having deposited the deer on the beach, O-aa dragged the canoe down to the water. It taxed her strength, but at last she was rewarded by seeing it afloat. Then she carried the deer to it.
She had no name for the jalok, and did not know how to call him to get into the canoe. She did not need to know. As she climbed over the gunwale, he leaped aboard and took his station in the bow.
The stern of the canoe was still resting on the sandy, bottom, but the sail had filled and was tugging to free it. A few vigorous shoves with a paddle freed the little craft, and O-aa was on her way across the frightful water.
Steering with a paddle, O-aa kept the nose of her craft pointed at a spot on the opposite shore and the wind always directly astern. As the wind freshened, the canoe fairly raced through the water. This was much better than paddling and much faster. O-aa could imagine that this would be a delightful way to travel were it not for the innumerable horrors that infested the ocean and the terrific storms which occasionally whipped it into fury.
Constantly searching the surface of the sea for signs of danger, the girl glanced back and saw the long neck and small head of a tandoraz, which, in Pellucidarian, means mammoth of the sea. The reptile was following the canoe and gaining on it slowly. O-aa well knew what was in that tiny brain. She also knew that the best she could do with any of her weapons was to infuriate it.
Had she known a god, she would have prayed to him for more wind; but, knowing no god, she had to depend entirely on her own resources. Suddenly her eye’s fell upon the deer. If she couldn’t destroy the tandoraz, perhaps she might escape it if she could but delay it.
The shore was not far away now, and the canoe was racing through the water almost as fast as the reptile was swimming; although O-aa was none too sure that the creature was exerting itself anywhere near to the limit of its powers. Nor was it.
With a steel knife that David had given her she ripped open the belly of the carcass and eviscerated it. Glancing back, she saw that the tandoraz was almost upon her. The cold, reptilian eyes glared down upon her. The snake-like jaws gaped wide.
Dragging the viscera to the stern of the canoe, she dropped it overboard directly in front of the hissing creature. The next couple of seconds were an eternity. Would the thing take the bait? Would the stupid mind in its tiny brain be thus easily diverted from the fixed idea that it had been following?
The odor of fresh animal matter and blood turned the scale in O-aa’s favor. The neck arched and the head struck viciously at the viscera. As the tandoraz stopped, to tear at this luscious tid-bit, the canoe drew away. The distance widened. The shore was quite close now, but there was a heavy surf pounding on a sandy beach.
O-aa had resumed the paddle and was steering once more. Her heart was filled with rejoicing. Her escape from death had been all too close, and by comparison the menace of the heavy surf seemed trivial. She looked back at the tandoraz, and her heart missed a beat. Evidently sensing that its prey was escaping, it was coming through the water at terrific speed in pursuit.
O-aa glanced forward again. She was confident that the canoe would reach the surf before the tandoraz could overhaul it. But what then? She didn’t believe that the canoe could live in what seemed to her the mountainous waves that broke upon the shore and rolled far up the beach. The reptile would be upon them as they were thrown into the water. It could not get them all. She could only hope that the thing would seize the carcass of the deer rather than upon her or the jalok which still sat in the bow of the canoe all unconscious of the tragedy of the past few minutes.
Again the “mammoth of the sea” loomed above her. The canoe was caught by a great roller and lifted high. O-aa felt a sudden surging rush as though the canoe, sentient of impending danger, sought to escape in a burst of speed.
Riding high now, just over the crest of the roller, the outrigger raced toward the beach like a frightened deer; and in a swirl of foamy water came to rest on the sand well out of reach of the tandoraz. O-aa leaped out and held it from being drawn out again by the receding waves, and with the next she dragged it well up to safety. Then she threw herself down on the sand, exhausted.
The jalok came and sat down beside her. She stroked its shaggy coat. “We made it,” she said. “I didn’t think we should.” The jalok said nothing. At least not in words. He put a great paw on her and licked her ear.
“I shall have to give you a name,” said O-aa. “Let me see. Ah, I have it! Rahna. That is a good name for you, Rahna.”
Rahna means killer.