Part 1 out of 3
by Jack London
"These are our ancestors, and their history is our
history. Remember that as surely as we one day swung
down out of the trees and walked upright, just as
surely, on a far earlier day, did we crawl up out of
the sea and achieve our first adventure on land."
Pictures! Pictures! Pictures! Often, before I learned,
did I wonder whence came the multitudes of pictures
that thronged my dreams; for they were pictures the
like of which I had never seen in real wake-a-day life.
They tormented my childhood, making of my dreams a
procession of nightmares and a little later convincing
me that I was different from my kind, a creature
unnatural and accursed.
In my days only did I attain any measure of happiness.
My nights marked the reign of fear--and such fear! I
make bold to state that no man of all the men who walk
the earth with me ever suffer fear of like kind and
degree. For my fear is the fear of long ago, the fear
that was rampant in the Younger World, and in the youth
of the Younger World. In short, the fear that reigned
supreme in that period known as the Mid-Pleistocene.
What do I mean? I see explanation is necessary before I
can tell you of the substance of my dreams. Otherwise,
little could you know of the meaning of the things I
know so well. As I write this, all the beings and
happenings of that other world rise up before me in
vast phantasmagoria, and I know that to you they would
be rhymeless and reasonless.
What to you the friendship of Lop-Ear, the warm lure of
the Swift One, the lust and the atavism of Red-Eye? A
screaming incoherence and no more. And a screaming
incoherence, likewise, the doings of the Fire People
and the Tree People, and the gibbering councils of the
horde. For you know not the peace of the cool caves in
the cliffs, the circus of the drinking-places at the
end of the day. You have never felt the bite of the
morning wind in the tree-tops, nor is the taste of
young bark sweet in your mouth.
It would be better, I dare say, for you to make your
approach, as I made mine, through my childhood. As a
boy I was very like other boys--in my waking hours. It
was in my sleep that I was different. From my earliest
recollection my sleep was a period of terror. Rarely
were my dreams tinctured with happiness. As a rule,
they were stuffed with fear--and with a fear so strange
and alien that it had no ponderable quality. No fear
that I experienced in my waking life resembled the fear
that possessed me in my sleep. It was of a quality and
kind that transcended all my experiences.
For instance, I was a city boy, a city child, rather,
to whom the country was an unexplored domain. Yet I
never dreamed of cities; nor did a house ever occur in
any of my dreams. Nor, for that matter, did any of my
human kind ever break through the wall of my sleep. I,
who had seen trees only in parks and illustrated books,
wandered in my sleep through interminable forests. And
further, these dream trees were not a mere blur on my
vision. They were sharp and distinct. I was on terms
of practised intimacy with them. I saw every branch
and twig; I saw and knew every different leaf.
Well do I remember the first time in my waking life
that I saw an oak tree. As I looked at the leaves and
branches and gnarls, it came to me with distressing
vividness that I had seen that same kind of tree many
and countless times n my sleep. So I was not
surprised, still later on in my life, to recognize
instantly, the first time I saw them, trees such as the
spruce, the yew, the birch, and the laurel. I had seen
them all before, and was seeing them even then, every
night, in my sleep.
This, as you have already discerned, violates the first
law of dreaming, namely, that in one's dreams one sees
only what he has seen in his waking life, or
combinations of the things he has seen in his waking
life. But all my dreams violated this law. In my
dreams I never saw ANYTHING of which I had knowledge in
my waking life. My dream life and my waking life were
lives apart, with not one thing in common save myself.
I was the connecting link that somehow lived both
Early in my childhood I learned that nuts came from the
grocer, berries from the fruit man; but before ever
that knowledge was mine, in my dreams I picked nuts
from trees, or gathered them and ate them from the
ground underneath trees, and in the same way I ate
berries from vines and bushes. This was beyond any
experience of mine.
I shall never forget the first time I saw blueberries
served on the table. I had never seen blueberries
before, and yet, at the sight of them, there leaped up
in my mind memories of dreams wherein I had wandered
through swampy land eating my fill of them. My mother
set before me a dish of the berries. I filled my
spoon, but before I raised it to my mouth I knew just
how they would taste. Nor was I disappointed. It was
the same tang that I had tasted a thousand times in my
Snakes? Long before I had heard of the existence of
snakes, I was tormented by them in my sleep. They
lurked for me in the forest glades; leaped up,
striking, under my feet; squirmed off through the dry
grass or across naked patches of rock; or pursued me
into the tree-tops, encircling the trunks with their
great shining bodies, driving me higher and higher or
farther and farther out on swaying and crackling
branches, the ground a dizzy distance beneath me.
Snakes!--with their forked tongues, their beady eyes
and glittering scales, their hissing and their
rattling--did I not already know them far too well on
that day of my first circus when I saw the
snake-charmer lift them up?
They were old friends of mine, enemies rather, that
peopled my nights with fear.
Ah, those endless forests, and their horror-haunted
gloom! For what eternities have I wandered through
them, a timid, hunted creature, starting at the least
sound, frightened of my own shadow, keyed-up, ever
alert and vigilant, ready on the instant to dash away
in mad flight for my life. For I was the prey of all
manner of fierce life that dwelt in the forest, and it
was in ecstasies of fear that I fled before the hunting
When I was five years old I went to my first circus. I
came home from it sick--but not from peanuts and pink
lemonade. Let me tell you. As we entered the animal
tent, a hoarse roaring shook the air. I tore my hand
loose from my father's and dashed wildly back through
the entrance. I collided with people, fell down; and
all the time I was screaming with terror. My father
caught me and soothed me. He pointed to the crowd of
people, all careless of the roaring, and cheered me
with assurances of safety.
Nevertheless, it was in fear and trembling, and with
much encouragement on his part, that I at last
approached the lion's cage. Ah, I knew him on the
instant. The beast! The terrible one! And on my inner
vision flashed the memories of my dreams,--the midday
sun shining on tall grass, the wild bull grazing
quietly, the sudden parting of the grass before the
swift rush of the tawny one, his leap to the bull's
back, the crashing and the bellowing, and the crunch
crunch of bones; or again, the cool quiet of the
water-hole, the wild horse up to his knees and drinking
softly, and then the tawny one--always the tawny one!--
the leap, the screaming and the splashing of the horse,
and the crunch crunch of bones; and yet again, the
sombre twilight and the sad silence of the end of day,
and then the great full-throated roar, sudden, like a
trump of doom, and swift upon it the insane shrieking
and chattering among the trees, and I, too, am
trembling with fear and am one of the many shrieking
and chattering among the trees.
At the sight of him, helpless, within the bars of his
cage, I became enraged. I gritted my teeth at him,
danced up and down, screaming an incoherent mockery and
making antic faces. He responded, rushing against the
bars and roaring back at me his impotent wrath. Ah, he
knew me, too, and the sounds I made were the sounds of
old time and intelligible to him.
My parents were frightened. "The child is ill," said
my mother. "He is hysterical," said my father. I never
told them, and they never knew. Already had I
developed reticence concerning this quality of mine,
this semi-disassociation of personality as I think I am
justified in calling it.
I saw the snake-charmer, and no more of the circus did
I see that night. I was taken home, nervous and
overwrought, sick with the invasion of my real life by
that other life of my dreams.
I have mentioned my reticence. Only once did I confide
the strangeness of it all to another. He was a boy--my
chum; and we were eight years old. From my dreams I
reconstructed for him pictures of that vanished world
in which I do believe I once lived. I told him of the
terrors of that early time, of Lop-Ear and the pranks
we played, of the gibbering councils, and of the Fire
People and their squatting places.
He laughed at me, and jeered, and told me tales of
ghosts and of the dead that walk at night. But mostly
did he laugh at my feeble fancy. I told him more, and
he laughed the harder. I swore in all earnestness that
these things were so, and he began to look upon me
queerly. Also, he gave amazing garblings of my tales
to our playmates, until all began to look upon me
It was a bitter experience, but I learned my lesson. I
was different from my kind. I was abnormal with
something they could not understand, and the telling of
which would cause only misunderstanding. When the
stories of ghosts and goblins went around, I kept
quiet. I smiled grimly to myself. I thought of my
nights of fear, and knew that mine were the real
things--real as life itself, not attenuated vapors and
For me no terrors resided in the thought of bugaboos
and wicked ogres. The fall through leafy branches and
the dizzy heights; the snakes that struck at me as I
dodged and leaped away in chattering flight; the wild
dogs that hunted me across the open spaces to the
timber--these were terrors concrete and actual,
happenings and not imaginings, things of the living
flesh and of sweat and blood. Ogres and bugaboos and I
had been happy bed-fellows, compared with these terrors
that made their bed with me throughout my childhood,
and that still bed with me, now, as I write this, full
I have said that in my dreams I never saw a human
being. Of this fact I became aware very early, and
felt poignantly the lack of my own kind. As a very
little child, even, I had a feeling, in the midst of
the horror of my dreaming, that if I could find but one
man, only one human, I should be saved from my
dreaming, that I should be surrounded no more by
haunting terrors. This thought obsessed me every night
of my life for years--if only I could find that one
human and be saved!
I must iterate that I had this thought in the midst of
my dreaming, and I take it as an evidence of the
merging of my two personalities, as evidence of a point
of contact between the two disassociated parts of me.
My dream personality lived in the long ago, before ever
man, as we know him, came to be; and my other and
wake-a-day personality projected itself, to the extent
of the knowledge of man's existence, into the substance
of my dreams.
Perhaps the psychologists of the book will find fault
with my way of using the phrase, "disassociation of
personality." I know their use of it, yet am compelled
to use it in my own way in default of a better phrase.
I take shelter behind the inadequacy of the English
language. And now to the explanation of my use, or
misuse, of the phrase.
It was not till I was a young man, at college, that I
got any clew to the significance of my dreams, and to
the cause of them. Up to that time they had been
meaningless and without apparent causation. But at
college I discovered evolution and psychology, and
learned the explanation of various strange mental
states and experiences. For instance, there was the
falling-through-space dream--the commonest dream
experience, one practically known, by first-hand
experience, to all men.
This, my professor told me, was a racial memory. It
dated back to our remote ancestors who lived in trees.
With them, being tree-dwellers, the liability of
falling was an ever-present menace. Many lost their
lives that way; all of them experienced terrible falls,
saving themselves by clutching branches as they fell
toward the ground.
Now a terrible fall, averted in such fashion, was
productive of shock. Such shock was productive of
molecular changes in the cerebral cells. These
molecular changes were transmitted to the cerebral
cells of progeny, became, in short, racial memories.
Thus, when you and I, asleep or dozing off to sleep,
fall through space and awake to sickening consciousness
just before we strike, we are merely remembering what
happened to our arboreal ancestors, and which has been
stamped by cerebral changes into the heredity of the
There is nothing strange in this, any more than there
is anything strange in an instinct. An instinct is
merely a habit that is stamped into the stuff of our
heredity, that is all. It will be noted, in passing,
that in this falling dream which is so familiar to you
and me and all of us, we never strike bottom. To
strike bottom would be destruction. Those of our
arboreal ancestors who struck bottom died forthwith.
True, the shock of their fall was communicated to the
cerebral cells, but they died immediately, before they
could have progeny. You and I are descended from those
that did not strike bottom; that is why you and I, in
our dreams, never strike bottom.
And now we come to disassociation of personality. We
never have this sense of falling when we are wide
awake. Our wake-a-day personality has no experience of
it. Then--and here the argument is irresistible--it
must be another and distinct personality that falls
when we are asleep, and that has had experience of such
falling--that has, in short, a memory of past-day race
experiences, just as our wake-a-day personality has a
memory of our wake-a-day experiences.
It was at this stage in my reasoning that I began to
see the light. And quickly the light burst upon me
with dazzling brightness, illuminating and explaining
all that had been weird and uncanny and unnaturally
impossible in my dream experiences. In my sleep it was
not my wake-a-day personality that took charge of me;
it was another and distinct personality, possessing a
new and totally different fund of experiences, and, to
the point of my dreaming, possessing memories of those
totally different experiences.
What was this personality? When had it itself lived a
wake-a-day life on this planet in order to collect this
fund of strange experiences? These were questions that
my dreams themselves answered. He lived in the long
ago, when the world was young, in that period that we
call the Mid-Pleistocene. He fell from the trees but
did not strike bottom. He gibbered with fear at the
roaring of the lions. He was pursued by beasts of
prey, struck at by deadly snakes. He chattered with
his kind in council, and he received rough usage at the
hands of the Fire People in the day that he fled before
But, I hear you objecting, why is it that these racial
memories are not ours as well, seeing that we have a
vague other-personality that falls through space while
And I may answer with another question. Why is a
two-headed calf? And my own answer to this is that it
is a freak. And so I answer your question. I have
this other-personality and these complete racial
memories because I am a freak.
But let me be more explicit.
The commonest race memory we have is the
falling-through-space dream. This other-personality is
very vague. About the only memory it has is that of
falling. But many of us have sharper, more distinct
other-personalities. Many of us have the flying dream,
the pursuing-monster dream, color dreams, suffocation
dreams, and the reptile and vermin dreams. In short,
while this other-personality is vestigial in all of us,
in some of us it is almost obliterated, while in others
of us it is more pronounced. Some of us have stronger
and completer race memories than others.
It is all a question of varying degree of possession of
the other-personality. In myself, the degree of
possession is enormous. My other-personality is almost
equal in power with my own personality. And in this
matter I am, as I said, a freak--a freak of heredity.
I do believe that it is the possession of this
other-personality--but not so strong a one as
mine--that has in some few others given rise to belief
in personal reincarnation experiences. It is very
plausible to such people, a most convincing hypothesis.
When they have visions of scenes they have never seen
in the flesh, memories of acts and events dating back
in time, the simplest explanation is that they have
But they make the mistake of ignoring their own
duality. They do not recognize their
other-personality. They think it is their own
personality, that they have only one personality; and
from such a premise they can conclude only that they
have lived previous lives.
But they are wrong. It is not reincarnation. I have
visions of myself roaming through the forests of the
Younger World; and yet it is not myself that I see but
one that is only remotely a part of me, as my father
and my grandfather are parts of me less remote. This
other-self of mine is an ancestor, a progenitor of my
progenitors in the early line of my race, himself the
progeny of a line that long before his time developed
fingers and toes and climbed up into the trees.
I must again, at the risk of boring, repeat that I am,
in this one thing, to be considered a freak. Not alone
do I possess racial memory to an enormous extent, but I
possess the memories of one particular and far-removed
progenitor. And yet, while this is most unusual, there
is nothing over-remarkable about it.
Follow my reasoning. An instinct is a racial memory.
Very good. Then you and I and all of us receive these
memories from our fathers and mothers, as they received
them from their fathers and mothers. Therefore there
must be a medium whereby these memories are transmitted
from generation to generation. This medium is what
Weismann terms the "germplasm." It carries the memories
of the whole evolution of the race. These memories are
dim and confused, and many of them are lost. But some
strains of germplasm carry an excessive freightage of
memories--are, to be scientific, more atavistic than
other strains; and such a strain is mine. I am a freak
of heredity, an atavistic nightmare--call me what you
will; but here I am, real and alive, eating three
hearty meals a day, and what are you going to do about
And now, before I take up my tale, I want to anticipate
the doubting Thomases of psychology, who are prone to
scoff, and who would otherwise surely say that the
coherence of my dreams is due to overstudy and the
subconscious projection of my knowledge of evolution
into my dreams. In the first place, I have never been
a zealous student. I graduated last of my class. I
cared more for athletics, and--there is no reason I
should not confess it--more for billiards.
Further, I had no knowledge of evolution until I was at
college, whereas in my childhood and youth I had
already lived in my dreams all the details of that
other, long-ago life. I will say, however, that these
details were mixed and incoherent until I came to know
the science of evolution. Evolution was the key. It
gave the explanation, gave sanity to the pranks of this
atavistic brain of mine that, modern and normal, harked
back to a past so remote as to be contemporaneous with
the raw beginnings of mankind.
For in this past I know of, man, as we to-day know him,
did not exist. It was in the period of his becoming
that I must have lived and had my being.
The commonest dream of my early childhood was something
like this: It seemed that I was very small and that I
lay curled up in a sort of nest of twigs and boughs.
Sometimes I was lying on my back. In this position it
seemed that I spent many hours, watching the play of
sunlight on the foliage and the stirring of the leaves
by the wind. Often the nest itself moved back and
forth when the wind was strong.
But always, while so lying in the nest, I was mastered
as of tremendous space beneath me. I never saw it, I
never peered over the edge of the nest to see; but I
KNEW and feared that space that lurked just beneath me
and that ever threatened me like a maw of some
This dream, in which I was quiescent and which was more
like a condition than an experience of action, I
dreamed very often in my early childhood. But
suddenly, there would rush into the very midst of it
strange forms and ferocious happenings, the thunder and
crashing of storm, or unfamiliar landscapes such as in
my wake-a-day life I had never seen. The result was
confusion and nightmare. I could comprehend nothing of
it. There was no logic of sequence.
You see, I did not dream consecutively. One moment I
was a wee babe of the Younger World lying in my tree
nest; the next moment I was a grown man of the Younger
World locked in combat with the hideous Red-Eye; and
the next moment I was creeping carefully down to the
water-hole in the heat of the day. Events, years apart
in their occurrence in the Younger World, occurred with
me within the space of several minutes, or seconds.
It was all a jumble, but this jumble I shall not
inflict upon you. It was not until I was a young man
and had dreamed many thousand times, that everything
straightened out and became clear and plain. Then it
was that I got the clew of time, and was able to piece
together events and actions in their proper order.
Thus was I able to reconstruct the vanished Younger
World as it was at the time I lived in it--or at the
time my other-self lived in it. The distinction does
not matter; for I, too, the modern man, have gone back
and lived that early life in the company of my
For your convenience, since this is to be no
sociological screed, I shall frame together the
different events into a comprehensive story. For there
is a certain thread of continuity and happening that
runs through all the dreams. There is my friendship
with Lop-Ear, for instance. Also, there is the enmity
of Red-Eye, and the love of the Swift One. Taking it
all in all, a fairly coherent and interesting story I
am sure you will agree.
I do not remember much of my mother. Possibly the
earliest recollection I have of her--and certainly the
sharpest--is the following: It seemed I was lying on
the ground. I was somewhat older than during the nest
days, but still helpless. I rolled about in the dry
leaves, playing with them and making crooning, rasping
noises in my throat. The sun shone warmly and I was
happy, and comfortable. I was in a little open space.
Around me, on all sides, were bushes and fern-like
growths, and overhead and all about were the trunks and
branches of forest trees.
Suddenly I heard a sound. I sat upright and listened.
I made no movement. The little noises died down in my
throat, and I sat as one petrified. The sound drew
closer. It was like the grunt of a pig. Then I began
to hear the sounds caused by the moving of a body
through the brush. Next I saw the ferns agitated by
the passage of the body. Then the ferns parted, and I
saw gleaming eyes, a long snout, and white tusks.
It was a wild boar. He peered at me curiously. He
grunted once or twice and shifted his weight from one
foreleg to the other, at the same time moving his head
from side to side and swaying the ferns. Still I sat
as one petrified, my eyes unblinking as I stared at
him, fear eating at my heart.
It seemed that this movelessness and silence on my part
was what was expected of me. I was not to cry out in
the face of fear. It was a dictate of instinct. And
so I sat there and waited for I knew not what. The
boar thrust the ferns aside and stepped into the open.
The curiosity went out of his eyes, and they gleamed
cruelly. He tossed his head at me threateningly and
advanced a step. This he did again, and yet again.
Then I screamed...or shrieked--I cannot describe it,
but it was a shrill and terrible cry. And it seems
that it, too, at this stage of the proceedings, was the
thing expected of me. From not far away came an
answering cry. My sounds seemed momentarily to
disconcert the boar, and while he halted and shifted
his weight with indecision, an apparition burst upon
She was like a large orangutan, my mother, or like a
chimpanzee, and yet, in sharp and definite ways, quite
different. She was heavier of build than they, and had
less hair. Her arms were not so long, and her legs
were stouter. She wore no clothes--only her natural
hair. And I can tell you she was a fury when she was
And like a fury she dashed upon the scene. She was
gritting her teeth, making frightful grimaces,
snarling, uttering sharp and continuous cries that
sounded like "kh-ah! kh-ah!" So sudden and formidable
was her appearance that the boar involuntarily bunched
himself together on the defensive and bristled as she
swerved toward him. Then she swerved toward me. She
had quite taken the breath out of him. I knew just
what to do in that moment of time she had gained. I
leaped to meet her, catching her about the waist and
holding on hand and foot--yes, by my feet; I could hold
on by them as readily as by my hands. I could feel in
my tense grip the pull of the hair as her skin and her
muscles moved beneath with her efforts.
As I say, I leaped to meet her, and on the instant she
leaped straight up into the air, catching an
overhanging branch with her hands. The next instant,
with clashing tusks, the boar drove past underneath.
He had recovered from his surprise and sprung forward,
emitting a squeal that was almost a trumpeting. At any
rate it was a call, for it was followed by the rushing
of bodies through the ferns and brush from all
From every side wild hogs dashed into the open space--a
score of them. But my mother swung over the top of a
thick limb, a dozen feet from the ground, and, still
holding on to her, we perched there in safety. She was
very excited. She chattered and screamed, and scolded
down at the bristling, tooth-gnashing circle that had
gathered beneath. I, too, trembling, peered down at
the angry beasts and did my best to imitate my mother's
From the distance came similar cries, only pitched
deeper, into a sort of roaring bass. These grew
momentarily louder, and soon I saw him approaching, my
father--at least, by all the evidence of the times, I
am driven to conclude that he was my father.
He was not an extremely prepossessing father, as
fathers go. He seemed half man, and half ape, and yet
not ape, and not yet man. I fail to describe him.
There is nothing like him to-day on the earth, under
the earth, nor in the earth. He was a large man in his
day, and he must have weighed all of a hundred and
thirty pounds. His face was broad and flat, and the
eyebrows over-hung the eyes. The eyes themselves were
small, deep-set, and close together. He had
practically no nose at all. It was squat and broad,
apparently with-out any bridge, while the nostrils were
like two holes in the face, opening outward instead of
The forehead slanted back from the eyes, and the hair
began right at the eyes and ran up over the head. The
head itself was preposterously small and was supported
on an equally preposterous, thick, short neck.
There was an elemental economy about his body--as was
there about all our bodies. The chest was deep, it is
true, cavernously deep; but there were no full-swelling
muscles, no wide-spreading shoulders, no clean-limbed
straightness, no generous symmetry of outline. It
represented strength, that body of my father's,
strength without beauty; ferocious, primordial
strength, made to clutch and gripe and rend and
His hips were thin; and the legs, lean and hairy, were
crooked and stringy-muscled. In fact, my father's legs
were more like arms. They were twisted and gnarly, and
with scarcely the semblance of the full meaty calf such
as graces your leg and mine. I remember he could not
walk on the flat of his foot. This was because it was
a prehensile foot, more like a hand than a foot. The
great toe, instead of being in line with the other
toes, opposed them, like a thumb, and its opposition to
the other toes was what enabled him to get a grip with
his foot. This was why he could not walk on the flat
of his foot.
But his appearance was no more unusual than the manner
of his coming, there to my mother and me as we perched
above the angry wild pigs. He came through the trees,
leaping from limb to limb and from tree to tree; and he
came swiftly. I can see him now, in my wake-a-day
life, as I write this, swinging along through the
trees, a four-handed, hairy creature, howling with
rage, pausing now and again to beat his chest with his
clenched fist, leaping ten-and-fifteen-foot gaps,
catching a branch with one hand and swinging on across
another gap to catch with his other hand and go on,
never hesitating, never at a loss as to how to proceed
on his arboreal way.
And as I watched him I felt in my own being, in my very
muscles themselves, the surge and thrill of desire to
go leaping from bough to bough; and I felt also the
guarantee of the latent power in that being and in
those muscles of mine. And why not? Little boys watch
their fathers swing axes and fell trees, and feel in
themselves that some day they, too, will swing axes and
fell trees. And so with me. The life that was in me
was constituted to do what my father did, and it
whispered to me secretly and ambitiously of aerial
paths and forest flights.
At last my father joined us. He was extremely angry.
I remember the out-thrust of his protruding underlip as
he glared down at the wild pigs. He snarled something
like a dog, and I remember that his eye-teeth were
large, like fangs, and that they impressed me
His conduct served only the more to infuriate the pigs.
He broke off twigs and small branches and flung them
down upon our enemies. He even hung by one hand,
tantalizingly just beyond reach, and mocked them as
they gnashed their tusks with impotent rage. Not
content with this, he broke off a stout branch, and,
holding on with one hand and foot, jabbed the
infuriated beasts in the sides and whacked them across
their noses. Needless to state, my mother and I enjoyed
But one tires of all good things, and in the end, my
father, chuckling maliciously the while, led the way
across the trees. Now it was that my ambitions ebbed
away, and I became timid, holding tightly to my mother
as she climbed and swung through space. I remember
when the branch broke with her weight. She had made a
wide leap, and with the snap of the wood I was
overwhelmed with the sickening consciousness of falling
through space, the pair of us. The forest and the
sunshine on the rustling leaves vanished from my eyes.
I had a fading glimpse of my father abruptly arresting
his progress to look, and then all was blackness.
The next moment I was awake, in my sheeted bed,
sweating, trembling, nauseated. The window was up, and
a cool air was blowing through the room. The
night-lamp was burning calmly. And because of this I
take it that the wild pigs did not get us, that we
never fetched bottom; else I should not be here now, a
thousand centuries after, to remember the event.
And now put yourself in my place for a moment. Walk
with me a bit in my tender childhood, bed with me a
night and imagine yourself dreaming such
incomprehensible horrors. Remember I was an
inexperienced child. I had never seen a wild boar in
my life. For that matter I had never seen a
domesticated pig. The nearest approach to one that I
had seen was breakfast bacon sizzling in its fat. And
yet here, real as life, wild boars dashed through my
dreams, and I, with fantastic parents, swung through
the lofty tree-spaces.
Do you wonder that I was frightened and oppressed by my
nightmare-ridden nights? I was accursed. And, worst
of all, I was afraid to tell. I do not know why,
except that I had a feeling of guilt, though I knew no
better of what I was guilty. So it was, through long
years, that I suffered in silence, until I came to
man's estate and learned the why and wherefore of my
There is one puzzling thing about these prehistoric
memories of mine. It is the vagueness of the time
element. I lo not always know the order of events;--or
can I tell, between some events, whether one, two, or
four or five years have elapsed. I can only roughly
tell the passage of time by judging the changes in the
appearance and pursuits of my fellows.
Also, I can apply the logic of events to the various
happenings. For instance, there is no doubt whatever
that my mother and I were treed by the wild pigs and
fled and fell in the days before I made the
acquaintance of Lop-Ear, who became what I may call my
boyhood chum. And it is just as conclusive that
between these two periods I must have left my mother.
I have no memory of my father than the one I have
given. Never, in the years that followed, did he
reappear. And from my knowledge of the times, the only
explanation possible lies in that he perished shortly
after the adventure with the wild pigs. That it must
have been an untimely end, there is no discussion. He
was in full vigor, and only sudden and violent death
could have taken him off. But I know not the manner of
his going--whether he was drowned in the river, or was
swallowed by a snake, or went into the stomach of old
Saber-Tooth, the tiger, is beyond my knowledge.
For know that I remember only the things I saw myself,
with my own eyes, in those prehistoric days. If my
mother knew my father's end, she never told me. For
that matter I doubt if she had a vocabulary adequate to
convey such information. Perhaps, all told, the Folk
in that day had a vocabulary of thirty or forty sounds.
I call them SOUNDS, rather than WORDS, because sounds
they were primarily. They had no fixed values, to be
altered by adjectives and adverbs. These latter were
tools of speech not yet invented. Instead of qualifying
nouns or verbs by the use of adjectives and adverbs, we
qualified sounds by intonation, by changes in quantity
and pitch, by retarding and by accelerating. The
length of time employed in the utterance of a
particular sound shaded its meaning.
We had no conjugation. One judged the tense by the
context. We talked only concrete things because we
thought only concrete things. Also, we depended
largely on pantomime. The simplest abstraction was
practically beyond our thinking; and when one did
happen to think one, he was hard put to communicate it
to his fellows. There were no sounds for it. He was
pressing beyond the limits of his vocabulary. If he
invented sounds for it, his fellows did not understand
the sounds. Then it was that he fell back on
pantomime, illustrating the thought wherever possible
and at the same time repeating the new sound over and
Thus language grew. By the few sounds we possessed we
were enabled to think a short distance beyond those
sounds; then came the need for new sounds wherewith to
express the new thought. Sometimes, however, we thought
too long a distance in advance of our sounds, managed
to achieve abstractions (dim ones I grant), which we
failed utterly to make known to other folk. After all,
language did not grow fast in that day.
Oh, believe me, we were amazingly simple. But we did
know a lot that is not known to-day. We could twitch
our ears, prick them up and flatten them down at will.
And we could scratch between our shoulders with ease.
We could throw stones with our feet. I have done it
many a time. And for that matter, I could keep my
knees straight, bend forward from the hips, and touch,
not the tips of my fingers, but the points of my
elbows, to the ground. And as for bird-nesting--well,
I only wish the twentieth-century boy could see us.
But we made no collections of eggs. We ate them.
I remember--but I out-run my story. First let me tell
of Lop-Ear and our friendship. Very early in my life,
I separated from my mother. Possibly this was because,
after the death of my father, she took to herself a
second husband. I have few recollections of him, and
they are not of the best. He was a light fellow.
There was no solidity to him. He was too voluble. His
infernal chattering worries me even now as I think of
it. His mind was too inconsequential to permit him to
possess purpose. Monkeys in their cages always remind
me of him. He was monkeyish. That is the best
description I can give of him.
He hated me from the first. And I quickly learned to
be afraid of him and his malicious pranks. Whenever he
came in sight I crept close to my mother and clung to
her. But I was growing older all the time, and it was
inevitable that I should from time to time stray from
her, and stray farther and farther. And these were the
opportunities that the Chatterer waited for. (I may as
well explain that we bore no names in those days; were
not known by any name. For the sake of convenience I
have myself given names to the various Folk I was more
closely in contact with, and the "Chatterer" is the
most fitting description I can find for that precious
stepfather of mine. As for me, I have named myself
"Big-Tooth." My eye-teeth were pronouncedly large.)
But to return to the Chatterer. He persistently
terrorized me. He was always pinching me and cuffing
me, and on occasion he was not above biting me. Often
my mother interfered, and the way she made his fur fly
was a joy to see. But the result of all this was a
beautiful and unending family quarrel, in which I was
the bone of contention.
No, my home-life was not happy. I smile to myself as I
write the phrase. Home-life! Home! I had no home in
the modern sense of the term. My home was an
association, not a habitation. I lived in my mother's
care, not in a house. And my mother lived anywhere, so
long as when night came she was above the ground.
My mother was old-fashioned. She still clung to her
trees. It is true, the more progressive members of our
horde lived in the caves above the river. But my
mother was suspicious and unprogressive. The trees were
good enough for her. Of course, we had one particular
tree in which we usually roosted, though we often
roosted in other trees when nightfall caught us. In a
convenient fork was a sort of rude platform of twigs
and branches and creeping things. It was more like a
huge bird-nest than anything else, though it was a
thousand times cruder in the weaving than any
bird-nest. But it had one feature that I have never
seen attached to any bird-nest, namely, a roof.
Oh, not a roof such as modern man makes! Nor a roof
such as is made by the lowest aborigines of to-day. It
was infinitely more clumsy than the clumsiest handiwork
of man--of man as we know him. It was put together in a
casual, helter-skelter sort of way. Above the fork of
the tree whereon we rested was a pile of dead branches
and brush. Four or five adjacent forks held what I may
term the various ridge-poles. These were merely stout
sticks an inch or so in diameter. On them rested the
brush and branches. These seemed to have been tossed on
almost aimlessly. There was no attempt at thatching.
And I must confess that the roof leaked miserably in a
But the Chatterer. He made home-life a burden for both
my mother and me--and by home-life I mean, not the
leaky nest in the tree, but the group-life of the three
of us. He was most malicious in his persecution of me.
That was the one purpose to which he held steadfastly
for longer than five minutes. Also, as time went by,
my mother was less eager in her defence of me. I
think, what of the continuous rows raised by the
Chatterer, that I must have become a nuisance to her.
At any rate, the situation went from bad to worse so
rapidly that I should soon, of my own volition, have
left home. But the satisfaction of performing so
independent an act was denied me. Before I was ready
to go, I was thrown out. And I mean this literally.
The opportunity came to the Chatterer one day when I
was alone in the nest. My mother and the Chatterer had
gone away together toward the blueberry swamp. He must
have planned the whole thing, for I heard him returning
alone through the forest, roaring with self-induced
rage as he came. Like all the men of our horde, when
they were angry or were trying to make themselves
angry, he stopped now and again to hammer on his chest
with his fist.
I realized the helplessness of my situation, and
crouched trembling in the nest. The Chatterer came
directly to the tree--I remember it was an oak
tree--and began to climb up. And he never ceased for a
moment from his infernal row. As I have said, our
language was extremely meagre, and he must have
strained it by the variety of ways in which he informed
me of his undying hatred of me and of his intention
there and then to have it out with me.
As he climbed to the fork, I fled out the great
horizontal limb. He followed me, and out I went,
farther and farther. At last I was out amongst the
small twigs and leaves. The Chatterer was ever a
coward, and greater always than any anger he ever
worked up was his caution. He was afraid to follow me
out amongst the leaves and twigs. For that matter, his
greater weight would have crashed him through the
foliage before he could have got to me.
But it was not necessary for him to reach me, and well
he knew it, the scoundrel! With a malevolent expression
on his face, his beady eyes gleaming with cruel
intelligence, he began teetering. Teetering!--and with
me out on the very edge of the bough, clutching at the
twigs that broke continually with my weight. Twenty
feet beneath me was the earth.
Wildly and more--wildly he teetered, grinning at me his
gloating hatred. Then came the end. All four holds
broke at the same time, and I fell, back-downward,
looking up at him, my hands and feet still clutching
the broken twigs. Luckily, there were no wild pigs
under me, and my fall was broken by the tough and
Usually, my falls destroy my dreams, the nervous shock
being sufficient to bridge the thousand centuries in an
instant and hurl me wide awake into my little bed,
where, perchance, I lie sweating and trembling and hear
the cuckoo clock calling the hour in the hall. But
this dream of my leaving home I have had many times,
and never yet have I been awakened by it. Always do I
crash, shrieking, down through the brush and fetch up
with a bump on the ground.
Scratched and bruised and whimpering, I lay where I had
fallen. Peering up through the bushes, I could see the
Chatterer. He had set up a demoniacal chant of joy and
was keeping time to it with his teetering. I quickly
hushed my whimpering. I was no longer in the safety of
the trees, and I knew the danger I ran of bringing upon
myself the hunting animals by too audible an expression
of my grief.
I remember, as my sobs died down, that I became
interested in watching the strange light-effects
produced by partially opening and closing my tear-wet
eyelids. Then I began to investigate, and found that I
was not so very badly damaged by my fall. I had lost
some hair and hide, here and there; the sharp and
jagged end of a broken branch had thrust fully an inch
into my forearm; and my right hip, which had borne the
brunt of my contact with the ground, was aching
intolerably. But these, after all, were only petty
hurts. No bones were broken, and in those days the
flesh of man had finer healing qualities than it has
to-day. Yet it was a severe fall, for I limped with my
injured hip for fully a week afterward.
Next, as I lay in the bushes, there came upon me a
feeling of desolation, a consciousness that I was
homeless. I made up my mind never to return to my
mother and the Chatterer. I would go far away through
the terrible forest, and find some tree for myself in
which to roost. As for food, I knew where to find it.
For the last year at least I had not been beholden to
my mother for food. All she had furnished me was
protection and guidance.
I crawled softly out through the bushes. Once I looked
back and saw the Chatterer still chanting and
teetering. It was not a pleasant sight. I knew pretty
well how to be cautious, and I was exceedingly careful
on this my first journey in the world.
I gave no thought as to where I was going. I had but
one purpose, and that was to go away beyond the reach
of the Chatterer. I climbed into the trees and
wandered on amongst them for hours, passing from tree
to tree and never touching the ground. But I did not
go in any particular direction, nor did I travel
steadily. It was my nature, as it was the nature of all
my folk, to be inconsequential. Besides, I was a mere
child, and I stopped a great deal to play by the way.
The events that befell me on my leaving home are very
vague in my mind. My dreams do not cover them. Much
has my other-self forgotten, and particularly at this
very period. Nor have I been able to frame up the
various dreams so as to bridge the gap between my
leaving the home-tree and my arrival at the caves.
I remember that several times I came to open spaces.
These I crossed in great trepidation, descending to the
ground and running at the top of my speed. I remember
that there were days of rain and days of sunshine, so
that I must have wandered alone for quite a time. I
especially dream of my misery in the rain, and of my
sufferings from hunger and how I appeased it. One very
strong impression is of hunting little lizards on the
rocky top of an open knoll. They ran under the rocks,
and most of them escaped; but occasionally I turned
over a stone and caught one. I was frightened away
from this knoll by snakes. They did not pursue me.
They were merely basking on flat rocks in the sun. But
such was my inherited fear of them that I fled as fast
as if they had been after me.
Then I gnawed bitter bark from young trees. I remember
vaguely the eating of many green nuts, with soft shells
and milky kernels. And I remember most distinctly
suffering from a stomach-ache. It may have been caused
by the green nuts, and maybe by the lizards. I do not
know. But I do know that I was fortunate in not being
devoured during the several hours I was knotted up on
the ground with the colic.
My vision of the scene came abruptly, as I emerged from
the forest. I found myself on the edge of a large
clear space. On one side of this space rose up high
bluffs. On the other side was the river. The earth
bank ran steeply down to the water, but here and there,
in several places, where at some time slides of earth
had occurred, there were run-ways. These were the
drinking-places of the Folk that lived in the caves.
And this was the main abiding-place of the Folk that I
had chanced upon. This was, I may say, by stretching
the word, the village. My mother and the Chatterer and
I, and a few other simple bodies, were what might be
termed suburban residents. We were part of the horde,
though we lived a distance away from it. It was only a
short distance, though it had taken me, what of my
wandering, all of a week to arrive. Had I come
directly, I could have covered the trip in an hour.
But to return. From the edge of the forest I saw the
caves in the bluff, the open space, and the run-ways to
the drinking-places. And in the open space I saw many
of the Folk. I had been straying, alone and a child,
for a week. During that time I had seen not one of my
kind. I had lived in terror and desolation. And now,
at the sight of my kind, I was overcome with gladness,
and I ran wildly toward them.
Then it was that a strange thing happened. Some one of
the Folk saw me and uttered a warning cry. On the
instant, crying out with fear and panic, the Folk fled
away. Leaping and scrambling over the rocks, they
plunged into the mouths of the caves and
disappeared...all but one, a little baby, that had been
dropped in the excitement close to the base of the
bluff. He was wailing dolefully. His mother dashed
out; he sprang to meet her and held on tightly as she
scrambled back into the cave.
I was all alone. The populous open space had of a
sudden become deserted. I sat down forlornly and
whimpered. I could not understand. Why had the Folk
run away from me? In later time, when I came to know
their ways, I was to learn. When they saw me dashing
out of the forest at top speed they concluded that I
was being pursued by some hunting animal. By my
unceremonious approach I had stampeded them.
As I sat and watched the cave-mouths I became aware
that the Folk were watching me. Soon they were
thrusting their heads out. A little later they were
calling back and forth to one another. In the hurry
and confusion it had happened that all had not gained
their own caves. Some of the young ones had sought
refuge in other caves. The mothers did not call for
them by name, because that was an invention we had not
yet made. All were nameless. The mothers uttered
querulous, anxious cries, which were recognized by the
young ones. Thus, had my mother been there calling to
me, I should have recognized her voice amongst the
voices of a thousand mothers, and in the same way would
she have recognized mine amongst a thousand.
This calling back and forth continued for some time,
but they were too cautious to come out of their caves
and descend to the ground. Finally one did come. He
was destined to play a large part in my life, and for
that matter he already played a large part in the lives
of all the members of the horde. He it was whom I
shall call Red-Eye in the pages of this history--so
called because of his inflamed eyes, the lids being
always red, and, by the peculiar effect they produced,
seeming to advertise the terrible savagery of him. The
color of his soul was red.
He was a monster in all ways. Physically he was a
giant. He must have weighed one hundred and seventy
pounds. He was the largest one of our kind I ever saw.
Nor did I ever see one of the Fire People so large as
he, nor one of the Tree People. Sometimes, when in the
newspapers I happen upon descriptions of our modern
bruisers and prizefighters, I wonder what chance the
best of them would have had against him.
I am afraid not much of a chance. With one grip of his
iron fingers and a pull, he could have plucked a
muscle, say a biceps, by the roots, clear out of their
bodies. A back-handed, loose blow of his fist could
have smashed their skulls like egg-shells. With a sweep
of his wicked feet (or hind-hands) he could have
disembowelled them. A twist could have broken their
necks, and I know that with a single crunch of his jaws
he could have pierced, at the same moment, the great
vein of the throat in front and the spinal marrow at
He could spring twenty feet horizontally from a sitting
position. He was abominably hairy. It was a matter of
pride with us to be not very hairy. But he was covered
with hair all over, on the inside of the arms as well
as the outside, and even the ears themselves. The only
places on him where the hair did not grow were the
soles of his hands and feet and beneath his eyes. He
was frightfully ugly, his ferocious grinning mouth and
huge down-hanging under-lip being but in harmony with
his terrible eyes.
This was Red-Eye. And right gingerly he crept out or
his cave and descended to the ground. Ignoring me, he
proceeded to reconnoitre. He bent forward from the
hips as he walked; and so far forward did he bend, and
so long were his arms, that with every step he touched
the knuckles of his hands to the ground on either side
of him. He was awkward in the semi-erect position of
walking that he assumed, and he really touched his
knuckles to the ground in order to balance himself.
But oh, I tell you he could run on all-fours! Now this
was something at which we were particularly awkward.
Furthermore, it was a rare individual among us who
balanced himself with his knuckles when walking. Such
an individual was an atavism, and Red-Eye was an even
That is what he was--an atavism. We were in the
process of changing our tree-life to life on the
ground. For many generations we had been going through
this change, and our bodies and carriage had likewise
changed. But Red-Eye had reverted to the more
primitive tree-dwelling type. Perforce, because he was
born in our horde he stayed with us; but in actuality
he was an atavism and his place was elsewhere.
Very circumspect and very alert, he moved here and
there about the open space, peering through the vistas
among the trees and trying to catch a glimpse of the
hunting animal that all suspected had pursued me. And
while he did this, taking no notice of me, the Folk
crowded at the cave-mouths and watched.
At last he evidently decided that there was no danger
lurking about. He was returning from the head of the
run-way, from where he had taken a peep down at the
drinking-place. His course brought him near, but still
he did not notice me. He proceeded casually on his way
until abreast of me, and then, without warning and with
incredible swiftness, he smote me a buffet on the head.
I was knocked backward fully a dozen feet before I
fetched up against the ground, and I remember,
half-stunned, even as the blow was struck, hearing the
wild uproar of clucking and shrieking laughter that
arose from the caves. It was a great joke--at least in
that day; and right heartily the Folk appreciated it.
Thus was I received into the horde. Red-Eye paid no
further attention to me, and I was at liberty to
whimper and sob to my heart's content. Several of the
women gathered curiously about me, and I recognized
them. I had encountered them the preceding year when
my mother had taken me to the hazelnut canyons.
But they quickly left me alone, being replaced by a
dozen curious and teasing youngsters. They formed a
circle around me, pointing their fingers, making faces,
and poking and pinching me. I was frightened, and for
a time I endured them, then anger got the best of me
and I sprang tooth and nail upon the most audacious one
of them--none other than Lop-Ear himself. I have so
named him because he could prick up only one of his
ears. The other ear always hung limp and without
movement. Some accident had injured the muscles and
deprived him of the use of it.
He closed with me, and we went at it for all the world
like a couple of small boys fighting. We scratched and
bit, pulled hair, clinched, and threw each other down.
I remember I succeeded in getting on him what in my
college days I learned was called a half-Nelson. This
hold gave me the decided advantage. But I did not
enjoy it long. He twisted up one leg, and with the
foot (or hind-hand) made so savage an onslaught upon my
abdomen as to threaten to disembowel me. I had to
release him in order to save myself, and then we went
at it again.
Lop-Ear was a year older than I, but I was several
times angrier than he, and in the end he took to his
heels. I chased him across the open and down a run-way
to the river. But he was better acquainted with the
locality and ran along the edge of the water and up
another run-way. He cut diagonally across the open
space and dashed into a wide-mouthed cave.
Before I knew it, I had plunged after him into the
darkness. The next moment I was badly frightened. I
had never been in a cave before. I began to whimper
and cry out. Lop-Ear chattered mockingly at me, and,
springing upon me unseen, tumbled me over. He did not
risk a second encounter, however, and took himself off.
I was between him and the entrance, and he did not pass
me; yet he seemed to have gone away. I listened, but
could get no clew as to where he was. This puzzled me,
and when I regained the outside I sat down to watch.
He never came out of the entrance, of that I was
certain; yet at the end of several minutes he chuckled
at my elbow. Again I ran after him, and again he ran
into the cave; but this time I stopped at the mouth. I
dropped back a short distance and watched. He did not
come out, yet, as before, he chuckled at my elbow and
was chased by me a third time into the cave.
This performance was repeated several times. Then I
followed him into the cave, where I searched vainly for
him. I was curious. I could not understand how he
eluded me. Always he went into the cave, never did he
come out of it, yet always did he arrive there at my
elbow and mock me. Thus did our fight transform itself
into a game of hide and seek.
All afternoon, with occasional intervals, we kept it
up, and a playful, friendly spirit arose between us.
In the end, he did not run away from me, and we sat
together with our arms around each other. A little
later he disclosed the mystery of the wide-mouthed
cave. Holding me by the hand he led me inside. It
connected by a narrow crevice with another cave, and it
was through this that we regained the open air.
We were now good friends. When the other young ones
gathered around to tease, he joined with me in
attacking them; and so viciously did we behave that
before long I was let alone. Lop-Ear made me
acquainted with the village. There was little that he
could tell me of conditions and customs--he had not the
necessary vocabulary; but by observing his actions I
learned much, and also he showed me places and things.
He took me up the open space, between the caves and the
river, and into the forest beyond, where, in a grassy
place among the trees, we made a meal of stringy-rooted
carrots. After that we had a good drink at the river
and started up the run-way to the caves.
It was in the run-way that we came upon Red-Eye again.
The first I knew, Lop-Ear had shrunk away to one side
and was crouching low against the bank. Naturally and
involuntarily, I imitated him. Then it was that I
looked to see the cause of his fear. It was Red-Eye,
swaggering down the centre of the run-way and scowling
fiercely with his inflamed eyes. I noticed that all
the youngsters shrank away from him as we had done,
while the grown-ups regarded him with wary eyes when
he drew near, and stepped aside to give him the centre
of the path.
As twilight came on, the open space was deserted. The
Folk were seeking the safety of the caves. Lop-Ear led
the way to bed. High up the bluff we climbed, higher
than all the other caves, to a tiny crevice that could
not be seen from the ground. Into this Lop-Ear
squeezed. I followed with difficulty, so narrow was
the entrance, and found myself in a small rock-chamber.
It was very low--not more than a couple of feet in
height, and possibly three feet by four in width and
length. Here, cuddled together in each other's arms,
we slept out the night.
While the more courageous of the youngsters played in
and out of the large-mouthed caves, I early learned
that such caves were unoccupied. No one slept in them
at night. Only the crevice-mouthed caves were used,
the narrower the mouth the better. This was from fear
of the preying animals that made life a burden to us in
those days and nights.
The first morning, after my night's sleep with Lop-Ear,
I learned the advantage of the narrow-mouthed caves.
It was just daylight when old Saber-Tooth, the tiger,
walked into the open space. Two of the Folk were
already up. They made a rush for it. Whether they
were panic-stricken, or whether he was too close on
their heels for them to attempt to scramble up the
bluff to the crevices, I do not know; but at any rate
they dashed into the wide-mouthed cave wherein Lop-Ear
and I had played the afternoon before.
What happened inside there was no way of telling, but
it is fair to conclude that the two Folk slipped
through the connecting crevice into the other cave.
This crevice was too small to allow for the passage of
Saber-Tooth, and he came out the way he had gone in,
unsatisfied and angry. It was evident that his night's
hunting had been unsuccessful and that he had expected
to make a meal off of us. He caught sight of the two
Folk at the other cave-mouth and sprang for them. Of
course, they darted through the passageway into the
first cave. He emerged angrier than ever and snarling.
Pandemonium broke loose amongst the rest of us. All up
and down the great bluff, we crowded the crevices and
outside ledges, and we were all chattering and
shrieking in a thousand keys. And we were all making
faces--snarling faces; this was an instinct with us.
We were as angry as Saber-Tooth, though our anger was
allied with fear. I remember that I shrieked and made
faces with the best of them. Not only did they set the
example, but I felt the urge from within me to do the
same things they were doing. My hair was bristling,
and I was convulsed with a fierce, unreasoning rage.
For some time old Saber-Tooth continued dashing in and
out of first the one cave and then the other. But the
two Folk merely slipped back and forth through the
connecting crevice and eluded him. In the meantime the
rest of us up the bluff had proceeded to action. Every
time he appeared outside we pelted him with rocks. At
first we merely dropped them on him, but we soon began
to whiz them down with the added force of our muscles.
This bombardment drew Saber-Tooth's attention to us and
made him angrier than ever. He abandoned his pursuit
of the two Folk and sprang up the bluff toward the rest
of us, clawing at the crumbling rock and snarling as he
clawed his upward way. At this awful sight, the last
one of us sought refuge inside our caves. I know this,
because I peeped out and saw the whole bluff-side
deserted, save for Saber-Tooth, who had lost his
footing and was sliding and falling down.
I called out the cry of encouragement, and again the
bluff was covered by the screaming horde and the stones
were falling faster than ever. Saber-Tooth was frantic
with rage. Time and again he assaulted the bluff.
Once he even gained the first crevice-entrances before
he fell back, but was unable to force his way inside.
With each upward rush he made, waves of fear surged
over us. At first, at such times, most of us dashed
inside; but some remained outside to hammer him with
stones, and soon all of us remained outside and kept up
Never was so masterly a creature so completely baffled.
It hurt his pride terribly, thus to be outwitted by the
small and tender Folk. He stood on the ground and
looked up at us, snarling, lashing his tail, snapping
at the stones that fell near to him. Once I whizzed
down a stone, and just at the right moment he looked
up. It caught him full on the end of his nose, and he
went straight up in the air, all four feet of him,
roaring and caterwauling, what of the hurt and
He was beaten and he knew it. Recovering his dignity,
he stalked out solemnly from under the rain of stones.
He stopped in the middle of the open space and looked
wistfully and hungrily back at us. He hated to forego
the meal, and we were just so much meat, cornered but
inaccessible. This sight of him started us to
laughing. We laughed derisively and uproariously, all
of us. Now animals do not like mockery. To be laughed
at makes them angry. And in such fashion our laughter
affected Saber-Tooth. He turned with a roar and
charged the bluff again. This was what we wanted. The
fight had become a game, and we took huge delight in
But this attack did not last long. He quickly
recovered his common sense, and besides, our missiles
were shrewd to hurt. Vividly do I recollect the vision
of one bulging eye of his, swollen almost shut by one
of the stones we had thrown. And vividly do I retain
the picture of him as he stood on the edge of the
forest whither he had finally retreated. He was
looking back at us, his writhing lips lifted clear of
the very roots of his huge fangs, his hair bristling
and his tail lashing. He gave one last snarl and slid
from view among the trees.
And then such a chattering as went up. We swarmed out
of our holes, examining the marks his claws had made on
the crumbling rock of the bluff, all of us talking at
once. One of the two Folk who had been caught in the
double cave was part-grown, half child and half youth.
They had come out proudly from their refuge, and we
surrounded them in an admiring crowd. Then the young
fellow's mother broke through and fell upon him in a
tremendous rage, boxing his ears, pulling his hair, and
shrieking like a demon. She was a strapping big woman,
very hairy, and the thrashing she gave him was a
delight to the horde. We roared with laughter, holding
on to one another or rolling on the ground in our glee.
In spite of the reign of fear under which we lived, the
Folk were always great laughers. We had the sense of
humor. Our merriment was Gargantuan. It was never
restrained. There was nothing half way about it. When
a thing was funny we were convulsed with appreciation
of it, and the simplest, crudest things were funny to
us. Oh, we were great laughers, I can tell you.
The way we had treated Saber-Tooth was the way we
treated all animals that invaded the village. We kept
our run-ways and drinking-places to ourselves by making
life miserable for the animals that trespassed or
strayed upon our immediate territory. Even the fiercest
hunting animals we so bedevilled that they learned to
leave our places alone. We were not fighters like
them; we were cunning and cowardly, and it was because
of our cunning and cowardice, and our inordinate
capacity for fear, that we survived in that frightfully
hostile environment of the Younger World.
Lop-Ear, I figure, was a year older than I. What his
past history was he had no way of telling me, but as I
never saw anything of his mother I believed him to be
an orphan. After all, fathers did not count in our
horde. Marriage was as yet in a rude state, and
couples had a way of quarrelling and separating.
Modern man, what of his divorce institution, does the
same thing legally. But we had no laws. Custom was
all we went by, and our custom in this particular
matter was rather promiscuous .
Nevertheless, as this narrative will show later on, we
betrayed glimmering adumbrations of the monogamy that
was later to give power to, and make mighty, such
tribes as embraced it. Furthermore, even at the time I
was born, there were several faithful couples that
lived in the trees in the neighborhood of my mother.
Living in the thick of the horde did not conduce to
monogamy. It was for this reason, undoubtedly, that
the faithful couples went away and lived by themselves.
Through many years these couples stayed together,
though when the man or woman died or was eaten the
survivor invariably found a new mate.
There was one thing that greatly puzzled me during the
first days of my residence in the horde. There was a
nameless and incommunicable fear that rested upon all.
At first it appeared to be connected wholly with
direction. The horde feared the northeast. It lived
in perpetual apprehension of that quarter of the
compass. And every individual gazed more frequently
and with greater alarm in that direction than in any
When Lop-Ear and I went toward the north-east to eat
the stringy-rooted carrots that at that season were at
their best, he became unusually timid. He was content
to eat the leavings, the big tough carrots and the
little ropy ones, rather than to venture a short
distance farther on to where the carrots were as yet
untouched. When I so ventured, he scolded me and
quarrelled with me. He gave me to understand that in
that direction was some horrible danger, but just what
the horrible danger was his paucity of language would
not permit him to say.
Many a good meal I got in this fashion, while he
scolded and chattered vainly at me. I could not
understand. I kept very alert, but I could see no
danger. I calculated always the distance between
myself and the nearest tree, and knew that to that
haven of refuge I could out-foot the Tawny One, or old
Saber-Tooth, did one or the other suddenly appear.
One late afternoon, in the village, a great uproar
arose. The horde was animated with a single emotion,
that of fear. The bluff-side swarmed with the Folk,
all gazing and pointing into the northeast. I did not
know what it was, but I scrambled all the way up to the
safety of my own high little cave before ever I turned
around to see.
And then, across the river, away into the northeast, I
saw for the first time the mystery of smoke. It was
the biggest animal I had ever seen. I thought it was a
monster snake, up-ended, rearing its head high above
the trees and swaying back and forth. And yet,
somehow, I seemed to gather from the conduct of the
Folk that the smoke itself was not the danger. They
appeared to fear it as the token of something else.
What this something else was I was unable to guess.
Nor could they tell me. Yet I was soon to know, and I
was to know it as a thing more terrible than the Tawny
One, than old Saber-Tooth, than the snakes themselves,
than which it seemed there could be no things more
Broken-Tooth was another youngster who lived by
himself. His mother lived in the caves, but two more
children had come after him and he had been thrust out
to shift for himself. We had witnessed the performance
during the several preceding days, and it had given us
no little glee. Broken-Tooth did not want to go, and
every time his mother left the cave he sneaked back
into it. When she returned and found him there her
rages were delightful. Half the horde made a practice
of watching for these moments. First, from within the
cave, would come her scolding and shrieking. Then we
could hear sounds of the thrashing and the yelling of
Broken-Tooth. About this time the two younger children
joined in. And finally, like the eruption of a
miniature volcano, Broken-Tooth would come flying out.
At the end of several days his leaving home was
accomplished. He wailed his grief, unheeded, from the
centre of the open space, for at least half an hour,
and then came to live with Lop-Ear and me. Our cave was
small, but with squeezing there was room for three. I
have no recollection of Broken-Tooth spending more than
one night with us, so the accident must have happened
It came in the middle of the day. In the morning we
had eaten our fill of the carrots, and then, made
heedless by play, we had ventured on to the big trees
just beyond. I cannot understand how Lop-Ear got over
his habitual caution, but it must have been the play.
We were having a great time playing tree tag. And such
tag! We leaped ten or fifteen-foot gaps as a matter of
course. And a twenty or twenty-five foot deliberate
drop clear down to the ground was nothing to us. In
fact, I am almost afraid to say the great distances we
dropped. As we grew older and heavier we found we had
to be more cautious in dropping, but at that age our
bodies were all strings and springs and we could do
Broken-Tooth displayed remarkable agility in the game.
He was "It" less frequently than any of us, and in the
course of the game he discovered one difficult "slip"
that neither Lop-Ear nor I was able to accomplish. To
be truthful, we were afraid to attempt it.
When we were "It," Broken-Tooth always ran out to the
end of a lofty branch in a certain tree. From the end
of the branch to the ground it must have been seventy
feet, and nothing intervened to break a fall. But
about twenty feet lower down, and fully fifteen feet
out from the perpendicular, was the thick branch of
As we ran out the limb, Broken-Tooth, facing us, would
begin teetering. This naturally impeded our progress;
but there was more in the teetering than that. He
teetered with his back to the jump he was to make.
Just as we nearly reached him he would let go. The
teetering branch was like a spring-board. It threw him
far out, backward, as he fell. And as he fell he
turned around sidewise in the air so as to face the
other branch into which he was falling. This branch
bent far down under the impact, and sometimes there was
an ominous crackling; but it never broke, and out of
the leaves was always to be seen the face of
Broken-Tooth grinning triumphantly up at us.
I was "It" the last time Broken-Tooth tried this. He
had gained the end of the branch and begun his
teetering, and I was creeping out after him, when
suddenly there came a low warning cry from Lop-Ear. I
looked down and saw him in the main fork of the tree
crouching close against the trunk. Instinctively I
crouched down upon the thick limb. Broken-Tooth
stopped teetering, but the branch would not stop, and
his body continued bobbing up and down with the
I heard the crackle of a dry twig, and looking down saw
my first Fire-Man. He was creeping stealthily along on
the ground and peering up into the tree. At first I
thought he was a wild animal, because he wore around
his waist and over his shoulders a ragged piece of
bearskin. And then I saw his hands and feet, and more
clearly his features. He was very much like my kind,
except that he was less hairy and that his feet were
less like hands than ours. In fact, he and his people,
as I was later to know, were far less hairy than we,
though we, in turn, were equally less hairy than the
It came to me instantly, as I looked at him. This was
the terror of the northeast, of which the mystery of
smoke was a token. Yet I was puzzled. Certainly he
was nothing; of which to be afraid. Red-Eye or any of
our strong men would have been more than a match for
him. He was old, too, wizened with age, and the hair
on his face was gray. Also, he limped badly with one
leg. There was no doubt at all that we could out-run
him and out-climb him. He could never catch us, that
But he carried something in his hand that I had never
seen before. It was a bow and arrow. But at that time
a bow and arrow had no meaning for me. How was I to
know that death lurked in that bent piece of wood? But
Lop-Ear knew. He had evidently seen the Fire People
before and knew something of their ways. The Fire-Man
peered up at him and circled around the tree. And
around the main trunk above the fork Lop-Ear circled
too, keeping always the trunk between himself and the
The latter abruptly reversed his circling. Lop-Ear,
caught unawares, also hastily reversed, but did not win
the protection of the trunk until after the Fire-Man
had twanged the bow.
I saw the arrow leap up, miss Lop-Ear, glance against a
limb, and fall back to the ground. I danced up and
down on my lofty perch with delight. It was a game!
The Fire-Man was throwing things at Lop-Ear as we
sometimes threw things at one another.
The game continued a little longer, but Lop-Ear did not
expose himself a second time. Then the Fire-Man gave
it up. I leaned far out over my horizontal limb and
chattered down at him. I wanted to play. I wanted to
have him try to hit me with the thing. He saw me, but
ignored me, turning his attention to Broken-Tooth, who
was still teetering slightly and involuntarily on the
end of the branch.
The first arrow leaped upward. Broken-Tooth yelled
with fright and pain. It had reached its mark. This
put a new complexion on the matter. I no longer cared
to play, but crouched trembling close to my limb. A
second arrow and a third soared up, missing
Broken-Tooth, rustling the leaves as they passed
through, arching in their flight and returning to
The Fire-Man stretched his bow again. He shifted his
position, walking away several steps, then shifted it a
second time. The bow-string twanged, the arrow leaped
upward, and Broken-Tooth, uttering a terrible scream,
fell off the branch. I saw him as he went down,
turning over and over, all arms and legs it seemed, the
shaft of the arrow projecting from his chest and
appearing and disappearing with each revolution of his
Sheer down, screaming, seventy feet he fell, smashing
to the earth with an audible thud and crunch, his body
rebounding slightly and settling down again. Still he
lived, for he moved and squirmed, clawing with his
hands and feet. I remember the Fire-Man running
forward with a stone and hammering him on the
head...and then I remember no more.
Always, during my childhood, at this stage of the
dream, did I wake up screaming with fright--to find,
often, my mother or nurse, anxious and startled, by my
bedside, passing soothing hands through my hair and
telling me that they were there and that there was
nothing to fear.
My next dream, in the order of succession, begins
always with the flight of Lop-Ear and myself through
the forest. The Fire-Man and Broken-Tooth and the tree
of the tragedy are gone. Lop-Ear and I, in a cautious
panic, are fleeing through the trees. In my right leg
is a burning pain; and from the flesh, protruding head
and shaft from either side, is an arrow of the
Fire-Man. Not only did the pull and strain of it pain
me severely, but it bothered my movements and made it
impossible for me to keep up with Lop-Ear.
At last I gave up, crouching in the secure fork of a
tree. Lop-Ear went right on. I called to him--most
plaintively, I remember; and he stopped and looked
back. Then he returned to me, climbing into the fork
and examining the arrow. He tried to pull it out, but
one way the flesh resisted the barbed lead, and the
other way it resisted the feathered shaft. Also, it
hurt grievously, and I stopped him.
For some time we crouched there, Lop-Ear nervous and
anxious to be gone, perpetually and apprehensively
peering this way and that, and myself whimpering softly
and sobbing. Lop-Ear was plainly in a funk, and yet
his conduct in remaining by me, in spite of his fear, I
take as a foreshadowing of the altruism and comradeship
that have helped make man the mightiest of the animals.
Once again Lop-Ear tried to drag the arrow through the
flesh, and I angrily stopped him. Then he bent down
and began gnawing the shaft of the arrow with his
teeth. As he did so he held the arrow firmly in both
hands so that it would not play about in the wound, and
at the same time I held on to him. I often meditate
upon this scene--the two of us, half-grown cubs, in the
childhood of the race, and the one mastering his fear,
beating down his selfish impulse of flight, in order to
stand by and succor the other. And there rises up
before me all that was there foreshadowed, and I see
visions of Damon and Pythias, of life-saving crews and
Red Cross nurses, of martyrs and leaders of forlorn
hopes, of Father Damien, and of the Christ himself, and
of all the men of earth, mighty of stature, whose
strength may trace back to the elemental loins of
Lop-Ear and Big-Tooth and other dim denizens of the
When Lop-Ear had chewed off the head of the arrow, the
shaft was withdrawn easily enough. I started to go on,
but this time it was he that stopped me. My leg was
bleeding profusely. Some of the smaller veins had
doubtless been ruptured. Running out to the end of a
branch, Lop-Ear gathered a handful of green leaves.
These he stuffed into the wound. They accomplished the
purpose, for the bleeding soon stopped. Then we went
on together, back to the safety of the caves.
Well do I remember that first winter after I left home.
I have long dreams of sitting shivering in the cold.
Lop-Ear and I sit close together, with our arms and
legs about each other, blue-faced and with chattering
teeth. It got particularly crisp along toward morning.
In those chill early hours we slept little, huddling
together in numb misery and waiting for the sunrise in
order to get warm.
When we went outside there was a crackle of frost under
foot. One morning we discovered ice on the surface of
the quiet water in the eddy where was the
drinking-place, and there was a great How-do-you-do
about it. Old Marrow-Bone was the oldest member of the
horde, and he had never seen anything like it before.
I remember the worried, plaintive look that came into
his eyes as he examined the ice. (This plaintive look
always came into our eyes when we did not understand a
thing, or when we felt the prod of some vague and
inexpressible desire.) Red-Eye, too, when he
investigated the ice, looked bleak and plaintive, and
stared across the river into the northeast, as though
in some way he connected the Fire People with this
But we found ice only on that one morning, and that was
the coldest winter we experienced. I have no memory of
other winters when it was so cold. I have often
thought that that cold winter was a fore-runner of the
countless cold winters to come, as the ice-sheet from
farther north crept down over the face of the land. But
we never saw that ice-sheet. Many generations must
have passed away before the descendants of the horde
migrated south, or remained and adapted themselves to
the changed conditions.
Life was hit or miss and happy-go-lucky with us.
Little was ever planned, and less was executed. We ate
when we were hungry, drank when we were thirsty,
avoided our carnivorous enemies, took shelter in the
caves at night, and for the rest just sort of played
along through life.
We were very curious, easily amused, and full of tricks
and pranks. There was no seriousness about us, except
when we were in danger or were angry, in which cases
the one was quickly forgotten and the other as quickly
We were inconsecutive, illogical, and inconsequential.
We had no steadfastness of purpose, and it was here
that the Fire People were ahead of us. They possessed
all these things of which we possessed so little.
Occasionally, however, especially in the realm of the
emotions, we were capable of long-cherished purpose.
The faithfulness of the monogamic couples I have
referred to may be explained as a matter of habit; but
my long desire for the Swift One cannot be so
explained, any more than can be explained the undying
enmity between me and Red-Eye.
But it was our inconsequentiality and stupidity that
especially distresses me when I look back upon that
life in the long ago. Once I found a broken gourd which
happened to lie right side up and which had been filled
with the rain. The water was sweet, and I drank it. I
even took the gourd down to the stream and filled it
with more water, some of which I drank and some of
which I poured over Lop-Ear. And then I threw the
gourd away. It never entered my head to fill the gourd
with water and carry it into my cave. Yet often I was
thirsty at night, especially after eating wild onions
and watercress, and no one ever dared leave the caves
at night for a drink.
Another time I found a dry; gourd, inside of which the
seeds rattled. I had fun with it for a while. But it
was a play thing, nothing more. And yet, it was not
long after this that the using of gourds for storing
water became the general practice of the horde. But I
was not the inventor. The honor was due to old
Marrow-Bone, and it is fair to assume that it was the
necessity of his great age that brought about the
At any rate, the first member of the horde to use
gourds was Marrow-Bone. He kept a supply of
drinking-water in his cave, which cave belonged to his
son, the Hairless One, who permitted him to occupy a
corner of it. We used to see Marrow-Bone filling his
gourd at the drinking-place and carrying it carefully
up to his cave. Imitation was strong in the Folk, and
first one, and then another and another, procured a
gourd and used it in similar fashion, until it was a
general practice with all of us so to store water.
Sometimes old Marrow-Bone had sick spells and was
unable to leave the cave. Then it was that the
Hairless One filled the gourd for him. A little later,
the Hairless One deputed the task to Long-Lip, his
son. And after that, even when Marrow-Bone was well
again, Long-Lip continued carrying water for him. By
and by, except on unusual occasions, the men never
carried any water at all, leaving the task to the women
and larger children. Lop-Ear and I were independent.
We carried water only for ourselves, and we often
mocked the young water-carriers when they were called
away from play to fill the gourds.
Progress was slow with us. We played through life,
even the adults, much in the same way that children
play, and we played as none of the other animals
played. What little we learned, was usually in the
course of play, and was due to our curiosity and
keenness of appreciation. For that matter, the one big
invention of the horde, during the time I lived with
it, was the use of gourds. At first we stored only
water in the gourds--in imitation of old Marrow-Bone.
But one day some one of the women--I do not know which
one--filled a gourd with black-berries and carried it
to her cave. In no time all the women were carrying
berries and nuts and roots in the gourds. The idea,
once started, had to go on. Another evolution of the
carrying-receptacle was due to the women. Without
doubt, some woman's gourd was too small, or else she
had forgotten her gourd; but be that as it may, she
bent two great leaves together, pinning the seams with
twigs, and carried home a bigger quantity of berries
than could have been contained in the largest gourd.
So far we got, and no farther, in the transportation of
supplies during the years I lived with the Folk. It
never entered anybody's head to weave a basket out of
willow-withes. Sometimes the men and women tied tough
vines about the bundles of ferns and branches that they
carried to the caves to sleep upon. Possibly in ten or
twenty generations we might have worked up to the
weaving of baskets. And of this, one thing is sure: if
once we wove withes into baskets, the next and
inevitable step would have been the weaving of cloth.
Clothes would have followed, and with covering our
nakedness would have come modesty.
Thus was momentum gained in the Younger World. But we
were without this momentum. We were just getting
started, and we could not go far in a single
generation. We were without weapons, without fire, and
in the raw beginnings of speech. The device of writing
lay so far in the future that I am appalled when I
think of it.
Even I was once on the verge of a great discovery. To
show you how fortuitous was development in those days
let me state that had it not been for the gluttony of
Lop-Ear I might have brought about the domestication of
the dog. And this was something that the Fire People
who lived to the northeast had not yet achieved. They
were without dogs; this I knew from observation. But
let me tell you how Lop-Ear's gluttony possibly set
back our social development many generations.
Well to the west of our caves was a great swamp, but to
the south lay a stretch of low, rocky hills. These
were little frequented for two reasons. First of all,
there was no food there of the kind we ate; and next,
those rocky hills were filled with the lairs of
But Lop-Ear and I strayed over to the hills one day.
We would not have strayed had we not been teasing a
tiger. Please do not laugh. It was old Saber-Tooth
himself. We were perfectly safe. We chanced upon him
in the forest, early in the morning, and from the
safety of the branches overhead we chattered down at
him our dislike and hatred. And from branch to branch,
and from tree to tree, we followed overhead, making an
infernal row and warning all the forest-dwellers that
old Saber-Tooth was coming.
We spoiled his hunting for him, anyway. And we made
him good and angry. He snarled at us and lashed his
tail, and sometimes he paused and stared up at us
quietly for a long time, as if debating in his mind
some way by which he could get hold of us. But we only
laughed and pelted him with twigs and the ends of
This tiger-baiting was common sport among the folk.
Sometimes half the horde would follow from overhead a
tiger or lion that had ventured out in the daytime. It
was our revenge; for more than one member of the horde,
caught unexpectedly, had gone the way of the tiger's
belly or the lion's. Also, by such ordeals of
helplessness and shame, we taught the hunting animals
to some extent to keep out of our territory. And then
it was funny. It was a great game.
And so Lop-Ear and I had chased Saber-Tooth across
three miles of forest. Toward the last he put his tail
between his legs and fled from our gibing like a beaten
cur. We did our best to keep up with him; but when we
reached the edge of the forest he was no more than a
streak in the distance.
I don't know what prompted us, unless it was curiosity;
but after playing around awhile, Lop-Ear and I ventured