“We may,” he replied; “but you will find that the Sagoths can move with incredible swiftness, and as they are almost tireless they are doubtless much fresher than we. Then—” he paused, glancing at Perry.
I knew what he meant. The old man was exhausted. For much of the period of our flight either Ghak or I had half supported him on the march. With such a handicap, less fleet pursuers than the Sagoths might easily overtake us before we could scale the rugged heights which confronted us.
“You and Hooja go on ahead,” I said. “Perry and I will make it if we are able. We cannot travel as rapidly as you two, and there is no reason why all should be lost because of that. It can’t be helped—we have simply to face it.”
“I will not desert a companion,” was Ghak’s simple reply. I hadn’t known that this great, hairy, primeval man had any such nobility of character stowed away inside him. I had always liked him, but now to my liking was added honor and respect. Yes, and love.
But still I urged him to go on ahead, insisting that if he could reach his people he might be able to bring out a sufficient force to drive off the Sagoths and rescue Perry and myself.
No, he wouldn’t leave us, and that was all there was to it, but he suggested that Hooja might hurry on and warn the Sarians of the king’s danger. It didn’t require much urging to start Hooja—the naked idea was enough to send him leaping on ahead of us into the foothills which we now had reached.
Perry realized that he was jeopardizing Ghak’s life and mine and the old fellow fairly begged us to go on without him, although I knew that he was suffering a perfect anguish of terror at the thought of falling into the hands of the Sagoths. Ghak finally solved the problem, in part, by lifting Perry in his powerful arms and carrying him. While the act cut down Ghak’s speed he still could travel faster thus than when half supporting the stumbling old man.
The Sagoths were gaining on us rapidly, for once they had sighted us they had greatly increased their speed. On and on we stumbled up the narrow canyon that Ghak had chosen to approach the heights of Sari. On either side rose precipitous cliffs of gorgeous, parti-colored rock, while beneath our feet a thick mountain grass formed a soft and noiseless carpet. Since we had entered the canyon we had had no glimpse of our pursuers, and I was commencing to hope that they had lost our trail and that we would reach the now rapidly nearing cliffs in time to scale them before we should be overtaken.
Ahead we neither saw nor heard any sign which might betoken the success of Hooja’s mission. By now he should have reached the outposts of the Sarians, and we should at least hear the savage cries of the tribesmen as they swarmed to arms in answer to their king’s appeal for succor. In another moment the frowning cliffs ahead should be black with primeval warriors. But nothing of the kind happened—as a matter of fact the Sly One had betrayed us. At the moment that we expected to see Sarian spearmen charging to our relief at Hooja’s back, the craven traitor was sneaking around the outskirts of the nearest Sarian village, that he might come up from the other side when it was too late to save us, claiming that he had become lost among the mountains.
Hooja still harbored ill will against me because of the blow I had struck in Dian’s protection, and his malevolent spirit was equal to sacrificing us all that he might be revenged upon me.