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Chapter 3

The report of a gun blasted the silence of a dead Devonport
with startling abruptness.

It came from the direction of the launch, and in an instant
we three were running for the boat as fast as our legs would
carry us. As we came in sight of it we saw Delcarte a
hundred yards inland from the launch, leaning over something
which lay upon the ground. As we called to him he waved his
cap, and stooping, lifted a small deer for our inspection.

I was about to congratulate him on his trophy when we were
startled by a horrid, half-human, half-bestial scream a
little ahead and to the right of us. It seemed to come from
a clump of rank and tangled bush not far from where Delcarte
stood. It was a horrid, fearsome sound, the like of which
never had fallen upon my ears before.

We looked in the direction from which it came. The smile
had died from Delcarte's lips. Even at the distance we were
from him I saw his face go suddenly white, and he quickly
threw his rifle to his shoulder. At the same moment the
thing that had given tongue to the cry moved from the
concealing brushwood far enough for us, too, to see it.

Both Taylor and Snider gave little gasps of astonishment and
dismay.

"What is it, sir?" asked the latter.

The creature stood about the height of a tall man's waist,
and was long and gaunt and sinuous, with a tawny coat
striped with black, and with white throat and belly. In
conformation it was similar to a cat--a huge cat,
exaggerated colossal cat, with fiendish eyes and the most
devilish cast of countenance, as it wrinkled its bristling
snout and bared its great yellow fangs.

It was pacing, or rather, slinking, straight for Delcarte,
who had now leveled his rifle upon it.

"What is it, sir?" mumbled Snider again, and then a half-
forgotten picture from an old natural history sprang to my
mind, and I recognized in the frightful beast the Felis
tigris of ancient Asia, specimens of which had, in former
centuries, been exhibited in the Western Hemisphere.

Snider and Taylor were armed with rifles and revolvers,
while I carried only a revolver. Seizing Snider's rifle
from his trembling hands, I called to Taylor to follow me,
and together we ran forward, shouting, to attract the
beast's attention from Delcarte until we should all be quite
close enough to attack with the greatest assurance of
success.

I cried to Delcarte not to fire until we reached his side,
for I was fearful lest our small caliber, steel-jacketed
bullets should, far from killing the beast, tend merely to
enrage it still further. But he misunderstood me, thinking
that I had ordered him to fire.

With the report of his rifle the tiger stopped short in
apparent surprise, then turned and bit savagely at its
shoulder for an instant, after which it wheeled again toward
Delcarte, issuing the most terrific roars and screams, and
launched itself, with incredible speed, toward the brave
fellow, who now stood his ground pumping bullets from his
automatic rifle as rapidly as the weapon would fire.

Taylor and I also opened up on the creature, and as it was
broadside to us it offered a splendid target, though for all
the impression we appeared to make upon the great cat we
might as well have been launching soap bubbles at it.

Straight as a torpedo it rushed for Delcarte, and, as Taylor
and I stumbled on through the tall grass toward our
unfortunate comrade, we saw the tiger rear upon him and
crush him to the earth.

Not a backward step had the noble Delcarte taken. Two
hundred years of peace had not sapped the red blood from his
courageous line. He went down beneath that avalanche of
bestial savagery still working his gun and with his face
toward his antagonist. Even in the instant that I thought
him dead I could not help but feel a thrill of pride that he
was one of my men, one of my class, a Pan-American gentleman
of birth. And that he had demonstrated one of the principal
contentions of the army-and-navy adherents--that military
training was necessary for the salvation of personal courage
in the Pan-American race which for generations had had to
face no dangers more grave than those incident to ordinary
life in a highly civilized community, safeguarded by every
means at the disposal of a perfectly organized and all-
powerful government utilizing the best that advanced science
could suggest.

As we ran toward Delcarte, both Taylor and I were struck by
the fact that the beast upon him appeared not to be mauling
him, but lay quiet and motionless upon its prey, and when we
were quite close, and the muzzles of our guns were at the
animal's head, I saw the explanation of this sudden
cessation of hostilities--Felis tigris was dead.

One of our bullets, or one of the last that Delcarte fired,
had penetrated the heart, and the beast had died even as it
sprawled forward crushing Delcarte to the ground.

A moment later, with our assistance, the man had scrambled
from beneath the carcass of his would-be slayer, without a
scratch to indicate how close to death he had been.

Delcarte's buoyance was entirely unruffled. He came from
under the tiger with a broad grin on his handsome face, nor
could I perceive that a muscle trembled or that his voice
showed the least indication of nervousness or excitement.

With the termination of the adventure, we began to speculate
upon the explanation of the presence of this savage brute at
large so great a distance from its native habitat. My
readings had taught me that it was practically unknown
outside of Asia, and that, so late as the twentieth century,
at least, there had been no savage beasts outside captivity
in England.

As we talked, Snider joined us, and I returned his rifle to
him. Taylor and Delcarte picked up the slain deer, and we
all started down toward the launch, walking slowly.
Delcarte wanted to fetch the tiger's skin, but I had to deny
him permission, since we had no means to properly cure it.

Upon the beach, we skinned the deer and cut away as much
meat as we thought we could dispose of, and as we were again
embarking to continue up the river for fresh water and fuel,
we were startled by a series of screams from the bushes a
short distance away.

"Another Felis tigris," said Taylor.

"Or a dozen of them," supplemented Delcarte, and, even as he
spoke, there leaped into sight, one after another, eight of
the beasts, full grown--magnificent specimens.

At the sight of us, they came charging down like infuriated
demons. I saw that three rifles would be no match for them,
and so I gave the word to put out from shore, hoping that
the "tiger," as the ancients called him, could not swim.

Sure enough, they all halted at the beach, pacing back and
forth, uttering fiendish cries, and glaring at us in the
most malevolent manner.

As we motored away, we presently heard the calls of similar
animals far inland. They seemed to be answering the cries
of their fellows at the water's edge, and from the wide
distribution and great volume of the sound we came to the
conclusion that enormous numbers of these beasts must roam
the adjacent country.

"They have eaten up the inhabitants," murmured Snider,
shuddering.

"I imagine you are right," I agreed, "for their extreme
boldness and fearlessness in the presence of man would
suggest either that man is entirely unknown to them, or that
they are extremely familiar with him as their natural and
most easily procured prey."

"But where did they come from?" asked Delcarte. "Could they
have traveled here from Asia?"

I shook my head. The thing was a puzzle to me. I knew that
it was practically beyond reason to imagine that tigers had
crossed the mountain ranges and rivers and all the great
continent of Europe to travel this far from their native
lairs, and entirely impossible that they should have crossed
the English Channel at all. Yet here they were, and in
great numbers.

We continued up the Tamar several miles, filled our casks,
and then landed to cook some of our deer steak, and have the
first square meal that had fallen to our lot since the
Coldwater deserted us. But scarce had we built our fire and
prepared the meat for cooking than Snider, whose eyes had
been constantly roving about the landscape from the moment
that we left the launch, touched me on the arm and pointed
to a clump of bushes which grew a couple of hundred yards
away.

Half concealed behind their screening foliage I saw the
yellow and black of a big tiger, and, as I looked, the beast
stalked majestically toward us. A moment later, he was
followed by another and another, and it is needless to state
that we beat a hasty retreat to the launch.

The country was apparently infested by these huge Carnivora,
for after three other attempts to land and cook our food we
were forced to abandon the idea entirely, as each time we
were driven off by hunting tigers.

It was also equally impossible to obtain the necessary
ingredients for our chemical fuel, and, as we had very
little left aboard, we determined to step our folding mast
and proceed under sail, hoarding our fuel supply for use in
emergencies.

I may say that it was with no regret that we bid adieu to
Tigerland, as we rechristened the ancient Devon, and,
beating out into the Channel, turned the launch's nose
southeast, to round Bolt Head and continue up the coast
toward the Strait of Dover and the North Sea.

I was determined to reach London as soon as possible, that
we might obtain fresh clothing, meet with cultured people,
and learn from the lips of Englishmen the secrets of the two
centuries since the East had been divorced from the West.

Our first stopping place was the Isle of Wight. We entered
the Solent about ten o'clock one morning, and I must confess
that my heart sank as we came close to shore. No lighthouse
was visible, though one was plainly indicated upon my map.
Upon neither shore was sign of human habitation. We skirted
the northern shore of the island in fruitless search for
man, and then at last landed upon an eastern point, where
Newport should have stood, but where only weeds and great
trees and tangled wild wood rioted, and not a single manmade
thing was visible to the eye.

Before landing, I had the men substitute soft bullets for
the steel-jacketed projectiles with which their belts and
magazines were filled. Thus equipped, we felt upon more
even terms with the tigers, but there was no sign of the
tigers, and I decided that they must be confined to the
mainland.

After eating, we set out in search of fuel, leaving Taylor
to guard the launch. For some reason I could not trust
Snider alone. I knew that he looked with disapproval upon
my plan to visit England, and I did not know but what at his
first opportunity, he might desert us, taking the launch
with him, and attempt to return to Pan-America.

That he would be fool enough to venture it, I did not doubt.

We had gone inland for a mile or more, and were passing
through a park-like wood, when we came suddenly upon the
first human beings we had seen since we sighted the English
coast.

There were a score of men in the party. Hairy, half-naked
men they were, resting in the shade of a great tree. At the
first sight of us they sprang to their feet with wild yells,
seizing long spears that had lain beside them as they
rested.

For a matter of fifty yards they ran from us as rapidly as
they could, and then they turned and surveyed us for a
moment. Evidently emboldened by the scarcity of our
numbers, they commenced to advance upon us, brandishing
their spears and shouting horribly.

They were short and muscular of build, with long hair and
beards tangled and matted with filth. Their heads, however,
were shapely, and their eyes, though fierce and warlike,
were intelligent.

Appreciation of these physical attributes came later, of
course, when I had better opportunity to study the men at
close range and under circumstances less fraught with danger
and excitement. At the moment I saw, and with unmixed
wonder, only a score of wild savages charging down upon us,
where I had expected to find a community of civilized and
enlightened people.

Each of us was armed with rifle, revolver, and cutlass, but
as we stood shoulder to shoulder facing the wild men I was
loath to give the command to fire upon them, inflicting
death or suffering upon strangers with whom we had no
quarrel, and so I attempted to restrain them for the moment
that we might parley with them.

To this end I raised my left hand above my head with the
palm toward them as the most natural gesture indicative of
peaceful intentions which occurred to me. At the same time
I called aloud to them that we were friends, though, from
their appearance, there was nothing to indicate that they
might understand Pan-American, or ancient English, which are
of course practically identical.

At my gesture and words they ceased their shouting and came
to a halt a few paces from us. Then, in deep tones, one who
was in advance of the others and whom I took to be the chief
or leader of the party replied in a tongue which while
intelligible to us, was so distorted from the English
language from which it evidently had sprung, that it was
with difficulty that we interpreted it.

"Who are you," he asked, "and from what country?"

I told him that we were from Pan-America, but he only shook
his head and asked where that was. He had never heard of
it, or of the Atlantic Ocean which I told him separated his
country from mine.

"It has been two hundred years," I told him, "since a Pan-
American visited England."

"England?" he asked. "What is England?"

"Why this is a part of England!" I exclaimed.

"This is Grubitten," he assured me. "I know nothing about
England, and I have lived here all my life."

It was not until long after that the derivation of Grubitten
occurred to me. Unquestionably it is a corruption of Great
Britain, a name formerly given to the large island
comprising England, Scotland and Wales. Subsequently we
heard it pronounced Grabrittin and Grubritten.

I then asked the fellow if he could direct us to Ryde or
Newport; but again he shook his head, and said that he never
had heard of such countries. And when I asked him if there
were any cities in this country he did not know what I
meant, never having heard the word cities.

I explained my meaning as best I could by stating that by
city I referred to a place where many people lived together
in houses.

"Oh," he exclaimed, "you mean a camp! Yes, there are two
great camps here, East Camp and West Camp. We are from East
Camp."

The use of the word camp to describe a collection of
habitations naturally suggested war to me, and my next
question was as to whether the war was over, and who had
been victorious.

"No," he replied to this question. "The war is not yet
over. But it soon will be, and it will end, as it always
does, with the Westenders running away. We, the Eastenders,
are always victorious."

"No," I said, seeing that he referred to the petty tribal
wars of his little island, "I mean the Great War, the war
with Germany. Is it ended--and who was victorious?"

He shook his head impatiently.

"I never heard," he said, "of any of these strange countries
of which you speak."

It seemed incredible, and yet it was true. These people
living at the very seat of the Great War knew nothing of it,
though but two centuries had passed since, to our knowledge,
it had been running in the height of its titanic
frightfulness all about them, and to us upon the far side of
the Atlantic still was a subject of keen interest.

Here was a lifelong inhabitant of the Isle of Wight who
never had heard of either Germany or England! I turned to
him quite suddenly with a new question.

"What people live upon the mainland?" I asked, and pointed
in the direction of the Hants coast.

"No one lives there," he replied.

"Long ago, it is said, my people dwelt across the waters
upon that other land; but the wild beasts devoured them in
such numbers that finally they were driven here, paddling
across upon logs and driftwood, nor has any dared return
since, because of the frightful creatures which dwell in
that horrid country."

"Do no other peoples ever come to your country in ships?" I
asked.

He never heard the word ship before, and did not know its
meaning. But he assured me that until we came he had
thought that there were no other peoples in the world other
than the Grubittens, who consist of the Eastenders and the
Westenders of the ancient Isle of Wight.

Assured that we were inclined to friendliness, our new
acquaintances led us to their village, or, as they call it,
camp. There we found a thousand people, perhaps, dwelling
in rude shelters, and living upon the fruits of the chase
and such sea food as is obtainable close to shore, for they
had no boats, nor any knowledge of such things.

Their weapons were most primitive, consisting of rude spears
tipped with pieces of metal pounded roughly into shape.
They had no literature, no religion, and recognized no law
other than the law of might. They produced fire by striking
a bit of flint and steel together, but for the most part
they ate their food raw. Marriage is unknown among them,
and while they have the word, mother, they did not know what
I meant by "father." The males fight for the favor of the
females. They practice infanticide, and kill the aged and
physically unfit.

The family consists of the mother and the children, the men
dwelling sometimes in one hut and sometimes in another.
Owing to their bloody duels, they are always numerically
inferior to the women, so there is shelter for them all.

We spent several hours in the village, where we were objects
of the greatest curiosity. The inhabitants examined our
clothing and all our belongings, and asked innumerable
questions concerning the strange country from which we had
come and the manner of our coming.

I questioned many of them concerning past historical events,
but they knew nothing beyond the narrow limits of their
island and the savage, primitive life they led there.
London they had never heard of, and they assured me that I
would find no human beings upon the mainland.

Much saddened by what I had seen, I took my departure from
them, and the three of us made our way back to the launch,
accompanied by about five hundred men, women, girls, and
boys.

As we sailed away, after procuring the necessary ingredients
of our chemical fuel, the Grubittens lined the shore in
silent wonder at the strange sight of our dainty craft
dancing over the sparkling waters, and watched us until we
were lost to their sight.

Edgar Rice Burroughs

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