The first concern of the Ruvans was to rebuild their village; and in this work everyone joined, including the women and children. When this work was completed, I told Ro-Tai that I was going to repair the damage done to the sailing canoe. He asked me if I wanted any help, but I told him that I would need no one other than my slave, Lu-Bra. He did not insist upon my taking anyone else, nor did he put any watch over me this time. Evidently he had accepted me as a full-fledged member of the tribe; and so Lu-Bra and I went down to the seashore to commence our task.
Having found that I had no intention of harming her, the girl’s spirits had returned and she seemed quite content and happy.
While I worked on the canoe, I had her gather food and prepare it. She also collected a supply pf water from the trees, and filled bamboo containers with it. These things I hid in the forest near my work.
I made some bone fish-hooks for her, and taught her how to fish in the quiet waters of the inlet. The fish she caught, she smoked and dried and packed away for future use.
I did not acquaint her with my plan; but I had to place some trust in her, as it was necessary to caution her to silence relative to our collection and storage of food and water. She asked no questions, and that was a good sign, for a person who asks no questions can usually keep his own counsel.
She had been a prisoner of the Ko-vans for a considerable period, probably for a number of years of outer earthly time. She had been there when Dian and Do-gad had been brought from the mainland, and had become well acquainted with Dian who told her that after she had escaped from the man-eating giants of Azar, she had also succeeded in escaping from Do-gad but that he had pursued her and that the very moment he had overtaken her they had both been captured by the Ko-vans.
I shuddered to think of all that my lovely Dian had been compelled to endure because her love for me had driven her forth in search of me. That she should die without knowing that I was comparatively safe seemed a cruel blow of Fate. She could not even know that I had escaped from the Jukans after I had left her in the cave and gone back to rescue Zor and Kleeto.
My work upon the canoe progressed nicely; but I was still highly impatient for the moment when I could put my plan into execution. The only danger now was that it might be discovered if some Ruvan stumbled upon our cache of food and water. I would have hard work explaining that away.
At last it was finished; and on the way back to the village I warned Lu-Bra to be sure not to mention this fact. “Certainly not,” she said. “Do you think I want to give our plan away?”
Our plan! “Why do you call it our plan?” I asked. “You don’t even know what I have in mind.”
“Oh yes I do,” she said; “and it is our plan, because I have worked and helped you.”
“That is right,” I said; “and whatever the plan is, it is ours together; and we will carry it out together, and we will say nothing about it to anyone else. Is that right?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
“And what do you think the plan is?” I asked her.
“You are going back to the mainland in that canoe which goes without paddles; and you are taking me with you to point the direction. to Suvi, because you cannot do it yourself. That is why you chose me from among the other slaves of Ko-va. I am not a fool, David. It is all quite plain to me, and you need have no fear that I shall divulge our secret to anyone.”
I liked the use of the word “our.” It almost assured her loyalty, even aside from anything else that she had said.
“I was very fortunate,” I said.
“In what way?” she demanded.
“In finding you, instead of another slave, on Ko-va. You are intelligent and loyal, and you also know when you are well off. But how did you know that I could not find my way to the mainland without someone’s help?”
“Who, in Suvi, does not know all about David, Emperor of Pellucidar?” she demanded. “Who does not know that he is from another world, and that he can do almost anything better than we of Pellucidar, but that if he is taken out of sight of familiar landmarks, he could never find his way home again? That is a marvel to us Pellucidarians, something which we cannot understand. It must be a strange world in which you lived, where no one dared go far from home, knowing that he could never find it again.”
“But we do find our way around, even better than Pellucidarians, “I said, “because we not only can find our way home, but we can find our way to any place in our world.”
“That,” she said, “is incomprehensible.” I had been working on the canoe every steadily, and, of course, there being no way of measuring time, I had no way of knowing how long we had been absent from the village. Having had our own food supply, we had eaten occasionally, but neither of us slept. The fact that both of us were very sleepy should have told us that we had been absent for a considerable period of time; and this must have been true, for when we returned we discovered that preparations had been almost completed for a huge feast to celebrate our victory over the Ko-vans. Everybody was very excited about it, but all that Lu-Bra and I wanted to do was to go to our huts and sleep.
O-Ra, who often sought my company when I was in the village, asked me what in the world Lu-Bra and I could be doing to be away so much.
“We are working on the canoe that goes without paddles,” I replied.
“I shall have to come with you the next time you go,” she said, “because I have never seen it.”
Well, that was just what I didn’t want, because I had planned that the next time Lu-Bra and I went to the canoe we would never return. We had only returned this time in order to get a good sleep before we set out upon our voyage; but I said, “That will be fine, O-Ra; but why don’t you wait until I have finished it?”
“Oh, I can come then, too, and have a ride in it,” she said. “Do you know, David, I wish that you were not white. I cannot imagine a finer mate than you. I think I shall ask Ro-Tai to make an exception in your case, so that I may be your mate.”
“Because I have a slave?” I asked, laughing.
“No,” she said. “I should get rid of Lu-Bra because I think you like her too well. I would not care to have a rival.”
The young lady was quite frank. Sometimes these paleolithic maidens are; but not always. Dian had been just the opposite.
“Well,” I said, “you may make somebody a fine mate, but not me. I already have one.”
O-Ra shrugged. “Oh, you’ll never see her again,” she said. “You’ve got to live here all the rest of your life, and you might as well have a mate.”
“Forget it, O-Ra,” I said, “and pick out a nice man of your own race.”
“Do you mean that you don’t want me?” she demanded, angrily.
“It is not a question of wanting you or not wanting you,” I replied. “It is that as I told you before, I already have a mate; and in my country we never have but one at a time.”
“That’s not the reason,” she snapped. “You’re in love with Lu-Bra. That’s why you go out together alone all the time. Any fool could see that.”
“Well, have it your own way, O-Ra,” I said. “I’m going to get some sleep now;” and I turned and left her.
When I awoke I was thoroughly rested; and, shortly after, Lu-Bra awoke. When we came out of the hut we saw that they were already gathering for the feast. I was ravenously hungry and wanted to eat, and I knew that Lu-Bra must want to also. The fact that a feast was going on gave us an excellent opportunity to escape without detection, since every member of the tribe would be in the village during the feast, and there would be no likelihood of anyone discovering us while we launched the canoe and loaded it up with our supplies.
I suggested this to Lu-Bra. “I think we can get out of here, now, without being seen,” I said. “They will think that we are still asleep in our hut, if they miss us, which they may not.”
“Good,” she said. “We can keep the huts between us and them until we enter the forest;” and so we bade farewell to the village of the Ruvans for what we hoped would be the last time.
We hurried to the canoe; and, with our combined efforts, managed finally to drag it into the water; then we hastened to load it with our provisions.
We had just about completed our work when I saw someone approaching through the forest from the direction of the village. It was too late now to conceal what we were doing, and I knew that whoever it was would know what we were contemplating the moment that they saw us loading the canoe with water and food.
Lu-Bra was returning from the cache with her arms full, and I was just starting back for another load, when O-Ra burst upon the scene.
“So that’s what you’re doing,” she flared, angrily. “You are going to run away, and you are going to take that white-faced thing with you.”
“You guessed it the first time, O-Ra,” I said.
“Well, you’re not going to do it. I’ll see to that,” she snapped. “But if you want to escape from Ruva, I’ll go with you instead of that girl. If you won’t do that, I’ll give the alarm.”
“But I have to take Lu-Bra,” I said. “Otherwise, I could never find the mainland.” I thought maybe by explaining I could mollify her. “You know, O-Ra, that you could not show me how to reach the mainland.”
“Very well take her along, too, then, as guide; but I am going as your mate.”
“No, O-Ra,” I said. “I am sorry; but that would not work out.”
“You won’t take me?” she asked.
Her eyes flashed angrily for a moment, and then she turned and walked back into the forest. It seemed to me that she had given up very easily.
Lu-Bra and I hurried as fast as we could to load the remainder of our provisions in the canoe. We couldn’t afford to leave without taking everything that we had collected, for we had no idea how long we would be on the water before we reached the mainland.
We had stowed away the last load, and Lu-Bra had taken her place in the canoe, when I heard the sounds of approaching men; and I knew that O-Ra had returned to the village and reported what she had discovered. I pushed off and paddled away from shore just as forty or fifty Ru-van warriors burst into sight. Ro-Tai was in the lead, and he shouted to me to come back; but I turned the nose of the canoe toward the open sea and started to hoist the sail. There was a slight off-shore wind, and it seemed an eternity before the sail caught the little breeze that reached us. Both Lu-Bra and I paddled frantically; but if we did not get more wind we never could escape the Ruvans, who were now piling into their canoes to take up the pursuit.
The leading canoe shot out from the shore; but now we were far enough out so that we were catching a little more wind and moving just a little more rapidly. However, they were overhauling us; and all the time Ro-Tai was shouting for me to come back; and his canoe was drawing nearer.
They came within a spear-throw of us; but now we were holding about even. Ro-Tai stood up in the canoe with his spear poised to throw.
“Come back,” he said, “or you die!” Lu-Bra had crossed from Ko-va in the canoe, and since then she had asked many questions relative to its handling. Whether or not she could steer it I didn’t know, but I had to take the chance; and so I called her to me and told her to take the steering paddle; then I fitted an arrow to my bow and stood up.
“Ro-Tai, I do not want to kill you,” I said; “but if you don’t lay down that spear I shall have to.”
He hesitated a moment. A gust of wind bellied our sail bravely, and the canoe leaped ahead just as Ro-Tai hurled his weapon. I knew that it would fall short; and so I did not shoot him, for I liked Ro-Tai and he had been kind to me.
“Do not forget, Ro-Tai,” I called back, “that I could have killed you but that I did not. I am your friend; but I want to return to my own country.”
We were pulling away from them rapidly now. For awhile they followed us; but, seeing the futility of further pursuit, they at last turned back.