Arthur Conan Doyle Fullscreen The Lost World (1912)


The same short, broad figure, the same heavy shoulders, the same forward hang of the arms, the same bristling beard merging itself in the hairy chest.

Only above the eyebrows, where the sloping forehead and low, curved skull of the ape-man were in sharp contrast to the broad brow and magnificent cranium of the European, could one see any marked difference.

At every other point the king was an absurd parody of the Professor.

All this, which takes me so long to describe, impressed itself upon me in a few seconds. Then we had very different things to think of, for an active drama was in progress.

Two of the ape-men had seized one of the Indians out of the group and dragged him forward to the edge of the cliff.

The king raised his hand as a signal.

They caught the man by his leg and arm, and swung him three times backwards and forwards with tremendous violence. Then, with a frightful heave they shot the poor wretch over the precipice.

With such force did they throw him that he curved high in the air before beginning to drop.

As he vanished from sight, the whole assembly, except the guards, rushed forward to the edge of the precipice, and there was a long pause of absolute silence, broken by a mad yell of delight.

They sprang about, tossing their long, hairy arms in the air and howling with exultation.

Then they fell back from the edge, formed themselves again into line, and waited for the next victim.

This time it was Summerlee.

Two of his guards caught him by the wrists and pulled him brutally to the front.

His thin figure and long limbs struggled and fluttered like a chicken being dragged from a coop.

Challenger had turned to the king and waved his hands frantically before him.

He was begging, pleading, imploring for his comrade's life.

The ape-man pushed him roughly aside and shook his head.

It was the last conscious movement he was to make upon earth. Lord John's rifle cracked, and the king sank down, a tangled red sprawling thing, upon the ground.

"Shoot into the thick of them!

Shoot! sonny, shoot!" cried my companion.

There are strange red depths in the soul of the most commonplace man.

I am tenderhearted by nature, and have found my eyes moist many a time over the scream of a wounded hare.

Yet the blood lust was on me now.

I found myself on my feet emptying one magazine, then the other, clicking open the breech to re-load, snapping it to again, while cheering and yelling with pure ferocity and joy of slaughter as I did so.

With our four guns the two of us made a horrible havoc.

Both the guards who held Summerlee were down, and he was staggering about like a drunken man in his amazement, unable to realize that he was a free man.

The dense mob of ape-men ran about in bewilderment, marveling whence this storm of death was coming or what it might mean.

They waved, gesticulated, screamed, and tripped up over those who had fallen.

Then, with a sudden impulse, they all rushed in a howling crowd to the trees for shelter, leaving the ground behind them spotted with their stricken comrades.

The prisoners were left for the moment standing alone in the middle of the clearing.

Challenger's quick brain had grasped the situation.

He seized the bewildered Summerlee by the arm, and they both ran towards us.

Two of their guards bounded after them and fell to two bullets from Lord John.

We ran forward into the open to meet our friends, and pressed a loaded rifle into the hands of each.

But Summerlee was at the end of his strength.

He could hardly totter.

Already the ape-men were recovering from their panic.

They were coming through the brushwood and threatening to cut us off.

Challenger and I ran Summerlee along, one at each of his elbows, while Lord John covered our retreat, firing again and again as savage heads snarled at us out of the bushes.

For a mile or more the chattering brutes were at our very heels.

Then the pursuit slackened, for they learned our power and would no longer face that unerring rifle.

When we had at last reached the camp, we looked back and found ourselves alone.

So it seemed to us; and yet we were mistaken.

We had hardly closed the thornbush door of our zareba, clasped each other's hands, and thrown ourselves panting upon the ground beside our spring, when we heard a patter of feet and then a gentle, plaintive crying from outside our entrance.

Lord Roxton rushed forward, rifle in hand, and threw it open.

There, prostrate upon their faces, lay the little red figures of the four surviving Indians, trembling with fear of us and yet imploring our protection.

With an expressive sweep of his hands one of them pointed to the woods around them, and indicated that they were full of danger. Then, darting forward, he threw his arms round Lord John's legs, and rested his face upon them.

"By George!" cried our peer, pulling at his moustache in great perplexity,

"I say—what the deuce are we to do with these people?

Get up, little chappie, and take your face off my boots."