Part 2 out of 3
across the open ground to the edge of the rocky hills.
We did not go far. Possibly at no time were we more
than a hundred yards from the trees. Coming around a
sharp corner of rock (we went very carefully, because
we did not know what we might encounter), we came upon
three puppies playing in the sun.
They did not see us, and we watched them for some time.
They were wild dogs. In the rock-wall was a horizontal
fissure--evidently the lair where their mother had left
them, and where they should have remained had they been
obedient. But the growing life, that in Lop-Ear and me
had impelled us to venture away from the forest, had
driven the puppies out of the cave to frolic. I know
how their mother would have punished them had she
But it was Lop-Ear and I who caught them. He looked at
me, and then we made a dash for it. The puppies knew
no place to run except into the lair, and we headed
them off. One rushed between my legs. I squatted and
grabbed him. He sank his sharp little teeth into my
arm, and I dropped him in the suddenness of the hurt
and surprise. The next moment he had scurried inside.
Lop-Ear, struggling with the second puppy, scowled at
me and intimated by a variety of sounds the different
kinds of a fool and a bungler that I was. This made me
ashamed and spurred me to valor. I grabbed the
remaining puppy by the tail. He got his teeth into me
once, and then I got him by the nape of the neck.
Lop-Ear and I sat down, and held the puppies up, and
looked at them, and laughed.
They were snarling and yelping and crying. Lop-Ear
started suddenly. He thought he had heard something.
We looked at each other in fear, realizing the danger
of our position. The one thing that made animals
raging demons was tampering with their young. And
these puppies that made such a racket belonged to the
wild dogs. Well we knew them, running in packs, the
terror of the grass-eating animals. We had watched
them following the herds of cattle and bison and
dragging down the calves, the aged, and the sick. We
had been chased by them ourselves, more than once. I
had seen one of the Folk, a woman, run down by them and
caught just as she reached the shelter of the woods.
Had she not been tired out by the run, she might have
made it into a tree. She tried, and slipped, and fell
back. They made short work of her.
We did not stare at each other longer than a moment.
Keeping tight hold of our prizes, we ran for the woods.
Once in the security of a tall tree, we held up the
puppies and laughed again. You see, we had to have our
laugh out, no matter what happened.
And then began one of the hardest tasks I ever
attempted. We started to carry the puppies to our
cave. Instead of using our hands for climbing, most of
the time they were occupied with holding our squirming
captives. Once we tried to walk on the ground, but
were treed by a miserable hyena, who followed along
underneath. He was a wise hyena.
Lop-Ear got an idea. He remembered how we tied up
bundles of leaves to carry home for beds. Breaking off
some tough vines, he tied his puppy's legs together,
and then, with another piece of vine passed around his
neck, slung the puppy on his back. This left him with
hands and feet free to climb. He was jubilant, and did
not wait for me to finish tying my puppy's legs, but
started on. There was one difficulty, however. The
puppy wouldn't stay slung on Lop-Ear's back. It swung
around to the side and then on in front. Its teeth
were not tied, and the next thing it did was to sink
its teeth into Lop-Ear's soft and unprotected stomach.
He let out a scream, nearly fell, and clutched a branch
violently with both hands to save himself. The vine
around his neck broke, and the puppy, its four legs
still tied, dropped to the ground. The hyena proceeded
Lop-Ear was disgusted and angry. He abused the hyena,
and then went off alone through the trees. I had no
reason that I knew for wanting to carry the puppy to
the cave, except that I WANTED to; and I stayed by my
task. I made the work a great deal easier by
elaborating on Lop-Ear's idea. Not only did I tie the
puppy's legs, but I thrust a stick through his jaws and
tied them together securely.
At last I got the puppy home. I imagine I had more
pertinacity than the average Folk, or else I should not
have succeeded. They laughed at me when they saw me
lugging the puppy up to my high little cave, but I did
not mind. Success crowned my efforts, and there was
the puppy. He was a plaything such as none of the Folk
possessed. He learned rapidly. When I played with him
and he bit me, I boxed his ears, and then he did not
try again to bite for a long time.
I was quite taken up with him. He was something new,
and it was a characteristic of the Folk to like new
things. When I saw that he refused fruits and
vegetables, I caught birds for him and squirrels and
young rabbits. (We Folk were meat-eaters, as well as
vegetarians, and we were adept at catching small game.)
The puppy ate the meat and thrived. As well as I can
estimate, I must have had him over a week. And then,
coming back to the cave one day with a nestful of
young-hatched pheasants, I found Lop-Ear had killed the
puppy and was just beginning to eat him. I sprang for
Lop-Ear,--the cave was small,--and we went at it tooth
And thus, in a fight, ended one of the earliest
attempts to domesticate the dog. We pulled hair out in
handfuls, and scratched and bit and gouged. Then we
sulked and made up. After that we ate the puppy. Raw?
Yes. We had not yet discovered fire. Our evolution
into cooking animals lay in the tight-rolled scroll of
Red-Eye was an atavism. He was the great discordant
element in our horde. He was more primitive than any
of us. He did not belong with us, yet we were still so
primitive ourselves that we were incapable of a
cooperative effort strong enough to kill him or cast
him out. Rude as was our social organization, he was,
nevertheless, too rude to live in it. He tended always
to destroy the horde by his unsocial acts. He was
really a reversion to an earlier type, and his place
was with the Tree People rather than with us who were
in the process of becoming men.
He was a monster of cruelty, which is saying a great
deal in that day. He beat his wives--not that he ever
had more than one wife at a time, but that he was
married many times. It was impossible for any woman to
live with him, and yet they did live with him, out of
compulsion. There was no gainsaying him.
No man was strong enough to stand against him.
Often do I have visions of the quiet hour before the
twilight. From drinking-place and carrot patch and
berry swamp the Folk are trooping into the open space
before the caves. They dare linger no later than this,
for the dreadful darkness is approaching, in which the
world is given over to the carnage of the hunting
animals, while the fore-runners of man hide tremblingly
in their holes.
There yet remain to us a few minutes before we climb to
our caves. We are tired from the play of the day, and
the sounds we make are subdued. Even the cubs, still
greedy for fun and antics, play with restraint. The
wind from the sea has died down, and the shadows are
lengthening with the last of the sun's descent. And
then, suddenly, from Red-Eye's cave, breaks a wild
screaming and the sound of blows. He is beating his
At first an awed silence comes upon us. But as the
blows and screams continue we break out into an insane
gibbering of helpless rage. It is plain that the men
resent Red-Eye's actions, but they are too afraid of
him. The blows cease, and a low groaning dies away,
while we chatter among ourselves and the sad twilight
creeps upon us.
We, to whom most happenings were jokes, never laughed
during Red-Eye's wife-beatings. We knew too well the
tragedy of them. On more than one morning, at the base
of the cliff, did we find the body of his latest wife.
He had tossed her there, after she had died, from his
cave-mouth. He never buried his dead. The task of
carrying away the bodies, that else would have polluted
our abiding-place, he left to the horde. We usually
flung them into the river below the last
Not alone did Red-Eye murder his wives, but he also
murdered for his wives, in order to get them. When he
wanted a new wife and selected the wife of another man,
he promptly killed that man. Two of these murders I saw
myself. The whole horde knew, but could do nothing.
We had not yet developed any government, to speak of,
inside the horde. We had certain customs and visited
our wrath upon the unlucky ones who violated those
customs. Thus, for example, the individual who defiled
a drinking-place would be attacked by every onlooker,
while one who deliberately gave a false alarm was the
recipient of much rough usage at our hands. But Red-Eye
walked rough-shod over all our customs, and we so
feared him that we were incapable of the collective
action necessary to punish him.
It was during the sixth winter in our cave that Lop-Ear
and I discovered that we were really growing up. From
the first it had been a squeeze to get in through the
entrance-crevice. This had had its advantages,
however. It had prevented the larger Folk from taking
our cave away from us. And it was a most desirable
cave, the highest on the bluff, the safest, and in
winter the smallest and warmest.
To show the stage of the mental development of the
Folk, I may state that it would have been a simple
thing for some of them to have driven us out and
enlarged the crevice-opening. But they never thought
of it. Lop-Ear and I did not think of it either until
our increasing size compelled us to make an
enlargement. This occurred when summer was well along
and we were fat with better forage. We worked at the
crevice in spells, when the fancy struck us.
At first we dug the crumbling rocks away with our
fingers, until our nails got sore, when I accidentally
stumbled upon the idea of using a piece of wood on the
rock. This worked well. Also it worked woe. One
morning early, we had scratched out of the wall quite a
heap of fragments. I gave the heap a shove over the
lip of the entrance. The next moment there came up
from below a howl of rage. There was no need to look.
We knew the voice only too well. The rubbish had
descended upon Red-Eye.
We crouched down in the cave in consternation. A
minute later he was at the entrance, peering in at us
with his inflamed eyes and raging like a demon. But he
was too large. He could not get in to us. Suddenly he
went away. This was suspicious. By all we knew of
Folk nature he should have remained and had out his
rage. I crept to the entrance and peeped down. I could
see him just beginning to mount the bluff again. In
one hand he carried a long stick. Before I could
divine his plan, he was back at the entrance and
savagely jabbing the stick in at us.
His thrusts were prodigious. They could have
disembowelled us. We shrank back against the
side-walls, where we were almost out of range. But by
industrious poking he got us now and again--cruel,
scraping jabs with the end of the stick that raked off
the hide and hair. When we screamed with the hurt, he
roared his satisfaction and jabbed the harder.
I began to grow angry. I had a temper of my own in
those days, and pretty considerable courage, too,
albeit it was largely the courage of the cornered rat.
I caught hold of the stick with my hands, but such was
his strength that he jerked me into the crevice. He
reached for me with his long arm, and his nails tore my
flesh as I leaped back from the clutch and gained the
comparative safety of the side-wall.
He began poking again, and caught me a painful blow on
the shoulder. Beyond shivering with fright and yelling
when he was hit, Lop-Ear did nothing. I looked for a
stick with which to jab back, but found only the end of
a branch, an inch through and a foot long. I threw
this at Red-Eye. It did no damage, though he howled
with a sudden increase of rage at my daring to strike
back. He began jabbing furiously. I found a fragment
of rock and threw it at him, striking him on the chest.
This emboldened me, and, besides, I was now as angry as
he, and had lost all fear. I ripped fragment of rock
from the wall. The piece must have weighed two or
three pounds. With my strength I slammed it full into
Red-Eye's face. It nearly finished him. He staggered
backward, dropping his stick, and almost fell off the
He was a ferocious sight. His face was covered with
blood, and he was snarling and gnashing his fangs like
a wild boar. He wiped the blood from his eyes, caught
sight of me, and roared with fury. His stick was gone,
so he began ripping out chunks of crumbling rock and
throwing them in at me. This supplied me with
ammunition. I gave him as good as he sent, and better;
for he presented a good target, while he caught only
glimpses of me as I snuggled against the side-wall.
Suddenly he disappeared again. From the lip of the
cave I saw him descending. All the horde had gathered
outside and in awed silence was looking on. As he
descended, the more timid ones scurried for their
caves. I could see old Marrow-Bone tottering along as
fast as he could. Red-Eye sprang out from the wall and
finished the last twenty feet through the air. He
landed alongside a mother who was just beginning the
ascent. She screamed with fear, and the two-year-old
child that was clinging to her released its grip and
rolled at Red-Eye's feet. Both he and the mother
reached for it, and he got it. The next moment the
frail little body had whirled through the air and
shattered against the wall. The mother ran to it,
caught it up in her arms, and crouched over it crying.
Red-Eye started over to pick up the stick. Old
Marrow-Bone had tottered into his way. Red-Eye's great
hand shot out and clutched the old man by the back of
the neck. I looked to see his neck broken. His body
went limp as he surrendered himself to his fate.
Red-Eye hesitated a moment, and Marrow-Bone, shivering
terribly, bowed his head and covered his face with his
crossed arms. Then Red-Eye slammed him face-downward
to the ground. Old Marrow-Bone did not struggle. He
lay there crying with the fear of death. I saw the
Hairless One, out in the open space, beating his chest
and bristling, but afraid to come forward. And then,
in obedience to some whim of his erratic spirit,
Red-Eye let the old man alone and passed on and
recovered the stick.
He returned to the wall and began to climb up.
Lop-Ear, who was shivering and peeping alongside of me,
scrambled back into the cave. It was plain that
Red-Eye was bent upon murder. I was desperate and
angry and fairly cool. Running back and forth along
the neighboring ledges, I gathered a heap of rocks at
the cave-entrance. Red-Eye was now several yards
beneath me, concealed for the moment by an out-jut of
the cliff. As he climbed, his head came into view, and
I banged a rock down. It missed, striking the wall and
shattering; but the flying dust and grit filled his
eyes and he drew back out of view.
A chuckling and chattering arose from the horde, that
played the part of audience. At last there was one of
the Folk who dared to face Red-Eye. As their approval
and acclamation arose on the air, Red-Eye snarled down
at them, and on the instant they were subdued to
silence. Encouraged by this evidence of his power, he
thrust his head into view, and by scowling and snarling
and gnashing his fangs tried to intimidate me. He
scowled horribly, contracting the scalp strongly over
the brows and bringing the hair down from the top of
the head until each hair stood apart and pointed
The sight chilled me, but I mastered my fear, and, with
a stone poised in my hand, threatened him back. He
still tried to advance. I drove the stone down at him
and made a sheer miss. The next shot was a success.
The stone struck him on the neck. He slipped back out
of sight, but as he disappeared I could see him
clutching for a grip on the wall with one hand, and
with the other clutching at his throat. The stick fell
clattering to the ground.
I could not see him any more, though I could hear him
choking and strangling and coughing. The audience kept
a death-like silence. I crouched on the lip of the
entrance and waited. The strangling and coughing died
down, and I could hear him now and again clearing his
throat. A little later he began to climb down. He
went very quietly, pausing every moment or so to
stretch his neck or to feel it with his hand.
At the sight of him descending, the whole horde, with
wild screams and yells, stampeded for the woods. Old
Marrow-Bone, hobbling and tottering, followed behind.
Red-Eye took no notice of the flight. When he reached
the ground he skirted the base of the bluff and climbed
up and into his own cave. He did not look around once.
I stared at Lop-Ear, and he stared back. We understood
each other. Immediately, and with great caution and
quietness, we began climbing up the cliff. When we
reached the top we looked back. The abiding-place was
deserted, Red-Eye remained in his cave, and the horde
had disappeared in the depths of the forest.
We turned and ran. We dashed across the open spaces
and down the slopes unmindful of possible snakes in the
grass, until we reached the woods. Up into the trees
we went, and on and on, swinging our arboreal flight
until we had put miles between us and the caves. And
then, and not till then, in the security of a great
fork, we paused, looked at each other, and began to
laugh. We held on to each other, arms and legs, our
eyes streaming tears, our ,sides aching, and laughed
and laughed and laughed.
After we had had out our laugh, Lop-Ear and I curved
back in our flight and got breakfast in the blueberry
swamp. It was the same swamp to which I had made my
first journeys in the world, years before, accompanied
by my mother. I had seen little of her in the
intervening time. Usually, when she visited the horde
at the caves, I was away in the forest. I had once or
twice caught glimpses of the Chatterer in the open
space, and had had the pleasure of making faces at him
and angering him from the mouth of my cave. Beyond
such amenities I had left my family severely alone. I
was not much interested in it, and anyway I was doing
very well by myself.
After eating our fill of berries, with two nestfuls of
partly hatched quail-eggs for dessert, Lop-Ear and I
wandered circumspectly into the woods toward the river.
Here was where stood my old home-tree, out of which I
had been thrown by the Chatterer. It was still
occupied. There had been increase in the family.
Clinging tight to my mother was a little baby. Also,
there was a girl, partly grown, who cautiously regarded
us from one of the lower branches. She was evidently
my sister, or half-sister, rather.
My mother recognized me, but she warned me away when I
started to climb into the tree. Lop-Ear, who was more
cautious by far than I, beat a retreat, nor could I
persuade him to return. Later in the day, however, my
sister came down to the ground, and there and in
neighboring trees we romped and played all afternoon.
And then came trouble. She was my sister, but that did
not prevent her from treating me abominably, for she
had inherited all the viciousness of the Chatterer.
She turned upon me suddenly, in a petty rage, and
scratched me, tore my hair, and sank her sharp little
teeth deep into my forearm. I lost my temper. I did
not injure her, but it was undoubtedly the soundest
spanking she had received up to that time.
How she yelled and squalled. The Chatterer, who had
been away all day and who was only then returning,
heard the noise and rushed for the spot. My mother
also rushed, but he got there first. Lop-Ear and I did
not wait his coming. We were off and away, and the
Chatterer gave us the chase of our lives through the
After the chase was over, and Lop-Ear and I had had out
our laugh, we discovered that twilight was falling.
Here was night with all its terrors upon us, and to
return to the caves was out of the question. Red-Eye
made that impossible. We took refuge in a tree that
stood apart from other trees, and high up in a fork we
passed the night. It was a miserable night. For the
first few hours it rained heavily, then it turned cold
and a chill wind blew upon us. Soaked through, with
shivering bodies and chattering teeth, we huddled in
each other's arms. We missed the snug, dry cave that
so quickly warmed with the heat of our bodies.
Morning found us wretched and resolved. We would not
spend another such night. Remembering the
tree-shelters of our elders, we set to work to make one
for ourselves. We built the framework of a rough nest,
and on higher forks overhead even got in several
ridge-poles for the roof. Then the sun came out, and
under its benign influence we forgot the hardships of
the night and went off in search of breakfast. After
that, to show the inconsequentiality of life in those
days, we fell to playing. It must have taken us all of
a month, working intermittently, to make our
tree-house; and then, when it was completed, we never
used it again.
But I run ahead of my story. When we fell to playing,
after breakfast, on the second day away from the caves,
Lop-Ear led me a chase through the trees and down to
the river. We came out upon it where a large slough
entered from the blueberry swamp. The mouth of this
slough was wide, while the slough itself was
practically without a current. In the dead water, just
inside its mouth, lay a tangled mass of tree trunks.
Some of these, what of the wear and tear of freshets
and of being stranded long summers on sand-bars, were
seasoned and dry and without branches. They floated
high in the water, and bobbed up and down or rolled
over when we put our weight upon them.
Here and there between the trunks were water-cracks,
and through them we could see schools of small fish,
like minnows, darting back and forth. Lop-Ear and I
became fishermen at once. Lying flat on the logs,
keeping perfectly quiet, waiting till the minnows came
close, we would make swift passes with our hands. Our
prizes we ate on the spot, wriggling and moist. We did
not notice the lack of salt.
The mouth of the slough became our favorite playground.
Here we spent many hours each day, catching fish and
playing on the logs, and here, one day, we learned our
first lessons in navigation. The log on which Lop-Ear
was lying got adrift. He was curled up on his side,
asleep. A light fan of air slowly drifted the log away
from the shore, and when I noticed his predicament the
distance was already too great for him to leap.
At first the episode seemed merely funny to me. But
when one of the vagrant impulses of fear, common in
that age of perpetual insecurity, moved within me, I
was struck with my own loneliness. I was made suddenly
aware of Lop-Ear's remoteness out there on that alien
element a few feet away. I called loudly to him a
warning cry. He awoke frightened, and shifted his
weight rashly on the log. It turned over, sousing him
under. Three times again it soused him under as he
tried to climb out upon it. Then he succeeded,
crouching upon it and chattering with fear.
I could do nothing. Nor could he. Swimming was
something of which we knew nothing. We were already
too far removed from the lower life-forms to have the
instinct for swimming, and we had not yet become
sufficiently man-like to undertake it as the working
out of a problem. I roamed disconsolately up and down
the bank, keeping as close to him in his involuntary
travels as I could, while he wailed and cried till it
was a wonder that he did not bring down upon us every
hunting animal within a mile.
The hours passed. The sun climbed overhead and began
its descent to the west. The light wind died down and
left Lop-Ear on his log floating around a hundred feet
away. And then, somehow, I know not how, Lop-Ear made
the great discovery. He began paddling with his hands.
At first his progress was slow and erratic. Then he
straightened out and began laboriously to paddle nearer
and nearer. I could not understand. I sat down and
watched and waited until he gained the shore.
But he had learned something, which was more than I had
done. Later in the afternoon, he deliberately launched
out from shore on the log. Still later he persuaded me
to join him, and I, too, learned the trick of paddling.
For the next several days we could not tear ourselves
away from the slough. So absorbed were we in our new
game that we almost neglected to eat. We even roosted
in a nearby tree at night. And we forgot that Red-Eye
We were always trying new logs, and we learned that the
smaller the log the faster we could make it go. Also,
we learned that the smaller the log the more liable it
was to roll over and give us a ducking. Still another
thing about small logs we learned. One day we paddled
our individual logs alongside each other. And then,
quite by accident, in the course of play, we discovered
that when each, with one hand and foot, held on to the
other's log, the logs were steadied and did not turn
over. Lying side by side in this position, our outside
hands and feet were left free for paddling. Our final
discovery was that this arrangement enabled us to use
still smaller logs and thereby gain greater speed. And
there our discoveries ended. We had invented the most
primitive catamaran, and we did not have sense enough
to know it. It never entered our heads to lash the
logs together with tough vines or stringy roots. We
were content to hold the logs together with our hands
It was not until we got over our first enthusiasm for
navigation and had begun to return to our tree-shelter
to sleep at night, that we found the Swift One. I saw
her first, gathering young acorns from the branches of
a large oak near our tree. She was very timid. At
first, she kept very still; but when she saw that she
was discovered she dropped to the ground and dashed
wildly away. We caught occasional glimpses of her from
day to day, and came to look for her when we travelled
back and forth between our tree and the mouth of the
And then, one day, she did not run away. She waited
our coming, and made soft peace-sounds. We could not
get very near, however. When we seemed to approach too
close, she darted suddenly away and from a safe
distance uttered the soft sounds again. This continued
for some days. It took a long while to get acquainted
with her, but finally it was accomplished and she
joined us sometimes in our play.
I liked her from the first. She was of most pleasing
appearance. She was very mild. Her eyes were the
mildest I had ever seen. In this she was quite unlike
the rest of the girls and women of the Folk, who were
born viragos. She never made harsh, angry cries, and
it seemed to be her nature to flee away from trouble
rather than to remain and fight.
The mildness I have mentioned seemed to emanate from
her whole being. Her bodily as well as facial
appearance was the cause of this. Her eyes were larger
than most of her kind, and they were not so deep-set,
while the lashes were longer and more regular. Nor was
her nose so thick and squat. It had quite a bridge,
and the nostrils opened downward. Her incisors were
not large, nor was her upper lip long and down-hanging,
nor her lower lip protruding. She was not very hairy,
except on the outsides of arms and legs and across the
shoulders; and while she was thin-hipped, her calves
were not twisted and gnarly.
I have often wondered, looking back upon her from the
twentieth century through the medium of my dreams, and
it has always occurred to me that possibly she may have
been related to the Fire People. Her father, or
mother, might well have come from that higher stock.
While such things were not common, still they did
occur, and I have seen the proof of them with my own
eyes, even to the extent of members of the horde
turning renegade and going to live with the Tree
All of which is neither here nor there. The Swift One
was radically different from any of the females of the
horde, and I had a liking for her from the first. Her
mildness and gentleness attracted me. She was never
rough, and she never fought. She always ran away, and
right here may be noted the significance of the naming
of her. She was a better climber than Lop-Ear or I.
When we played tag we could never catch her except by
accident, while she could catch us at will. She was
remarkably swift in all her movements, and she had a
genius for judging distances that was equalled only by
her daring. Excessively timid in all other matters,
she was without fear when it came to climbing or
running through the trees, and Lop-Ear and I were
awkward and lumbering and cowardly in comparison.
She was an orphan. We never saw her with any one, and
there was no telling how long she had lived alone in
the world. She must have learned early in her helpless
childhood that safety lay only in flight. She was very
wise and very discreet. It became a sort of game with
Lop-Ear and me to try to find where she lived. It was
certain that she had a tree-shelter somewhere, and not
very far away; but trail her as we would, we could
never find it. She was willing enough to join with us
at play in the day-time, but the secret of her
abiding-place she guarded jealously.
It must be remembered that the description I have just
given of the Swift One is not the description that
would have been given by Big-Tooth, my other self of my
dreams, my prehistoric ancestor. It is by the medium of
my dreams that I, the modern man, look through the eyes
of Big-Tooth and see.
And so it is with much that I narrate of the events of
that far-off time. There is a duality about my
impressions that is too confusing to inflict upon my
readers. I shall merely pause here in my narrative to
indicate this duality, this perplexing mixing of
personality. It is I, the modern, who look back across
the centuries and weigh and analyze the emotions and
motives of Big-Tooth, my other self. He did not
bother to weigh and analyze. He was simplicity itself.
He just lived events, without ever pondering why he
lived them in his particular and often erratic way.
As I, my real self, grew older, I entered more and more
into the substance of my dreams. One may dream, and
even in the midst of the dream be aware that he is
dreaming, and if the dream be bad, comfort himself with
the thought that it is only a dream. This is a common
experience with all of us. And so it was that I, the
modern, often entered into my dreaming, and in the
consequent strange dual personality was both actor and
spectator. And right often have I, the modern, been
perturbed and vexed by the foolishness, illogic,
obtuseness, and general all-round stupendous stupidity
of myself, the primitive.
And one thing more, before I end this digression. Have
you ever dreamed that you dreamed? Dogs dream, horses
dream, all animals dream. In Big-Tooth's day the
half-men dreamed, and when the dreams were bad they
howled in their sleep. Now I, the modern, have lain
down with Big-Tooth and dreamed his dreams.
This is getting almost beyond the grip of the
intellect, I know; but I do know that I have done this
thing. And let me tell you that the flying and
crawling dreams of Big-Tooth were as vivid to him as
the falling-through-space dream is to you.
For Big-Tooth also had an other-self, and when he slept
that other-self dreamed back into the past, back to the
winged reptiles and the clash and the onset of dragons,
and beyond that to the scurrying, rodent-like life of
the tiny mammals, and far remoter still, to the
shore-slime of the primeval sea. I cannot, I dare not,
say more. It is all too vague and complicated and
awful. I can only hint of those vast and terrific
vistas through which I have peered hazily at the
progression of life, not upward from the ape to man,
but upward from the worm.
And now to return to my tale. I, Big-Tooth, knew not
the Swift One as a creature of finer facial and bodily
symmetry, with long-lashed eyes and a bridge to her
nose and down-opening nostrils that made toward beauty.
I knew her only as the mild-eyed young female who made
soft sounds and did not fight. I liked to play with
her, I knew not why, to seek food in her company, and
to go bird-nesting with her. And I must confess she
taught me things about tree-climbing. She was very
wise, very strong, and no clinging skirts impeded her
It was about this time that a slight defection arose on
the part of Lop-Ear. He got into the habit of
wandering off in the direction of the tree where my
mother lived. He had taken a liking to my vicious
sister, and the Chatterer had come to tolerate him.
Also, there were several other young people, progeny of
the monogamic couples that lived in the neighborhood,
and Lop-Ear played with these young people.
I could never get the Swift One to join with them.
Whenever I visited them she dropped behind and
disappeared. I remember once making a strong effort to
persuade her. But she cast backward, anxious glances,
then retreated, calling to me from a tree. So it was
that I did not make a practice of accompanying Lop-Ear
when he went to visit his new friends. The Swift One
and I were good comrades, but, try as I would, I could
never find her tree-shelter. Undoubtedly, had nothing
happened, we would have soon mated, for our liking was
mutual; but the something did happen.
One morning, the Swift One not having put in an
appearance, Lop-Ear and I were down at the mouth of
the slough playing on the logs. We had scarcely got
out on the water, when we were startled by a roar of
rage. It was Red-Eye. He was crouching on the edge of
the timber jam and glowering his hatred at us. We were
badly frightened, for here was no narrow-mouthed cave
for refuge. But the twenty feet of water that
intervened gave us temporary safety, and we plucked up
Red-Eye stood up erect and began beating his hairy
chest with his fist. Our two logs were side by side,
and we sat on them and laughed at him. At first our
laughter was half-hearted, tinged with fear, but as we
became convinced of his impotence we waxed uproarious.
He raged and raged at us, and ground his teeth in
helpless fury. And in our fancied security we mocked
and mocked him. We were ever short-sighted, we Folk.
Red-Eye abruptly ceased his breast-beating and
tooth-grinding, and ran across the timber-jam to the
shore. And just as abruptly our merriment gave way to
consternation. It was not Red-Eye's way to forego
revenge so easily. We waited in fear and trembling for
whatever was to happen. It never struck us to paddle
away. He came back with great leaps across the jam,
one huge hand filled with round, water-washed pebbles.
I am glad that he was unable to find larger missiles,
say stones weighing two or three pounds, for we were no
more than a score of feet away, and he surely would
have killed us.
As it was, we were in no small danger. Zip! A tiny
pebble whirred past with the force almost of a bullet.
Lop-Ear and I began paddling frantically.
Whiz-zip-bang ! Lop-Ear screamed with sudden anguish.
The pebble had struck him between the shoulders. Then I
got one and yelled. The only thing that saved us was
the exhausting of Red-Eye's ammunition. He dashed back
to the gravel-bed for more, while Lop-Ear and I
Gradually we drew out of range, though Red-Eye
continued making trips for more ammunition and the
pebbles continued to whiz about us. Out in the centre
of the slough there was a slight current, and in our
excitement we failed to notice that it was drifting us
into the river. We paddled, and Red-Eye kept as close
as he could to us by following along the shore. Then
he discovered larger rocks. Such ammunition increased
his range. One fragment, fully five pounds in weight,
crashed on the log alongside of me, and such was its
impact that it drove a score of splinters, like fiery
needles, into my leg. Had it struck me it would have
And then the river current caught us. So wildly were
we paddling that Red-Eye was the first to notice it,
and our first warning was his yell of triumph. Where
the edge of the current struck the slough-water was a
series of eddies or small whirlpools. These caught our
clumsy logs and whirled them end for end, back and
forth and around. We quit paddling and devoted our
whole energy to holding the logs together alongside
each other. In the meanwhile Red-Eye continued to
bombard us, the rock fragments falling about us,
splashing water on us, and menacing our lives. At the
same time he gloated over us, wildly and vociferously.
It happened that there was a sharp turn in the river at
the point where the slough entered, and the whole main
current of the river was deflected to the other bank.
And toward that bank, which was the north bank, we
drifted rapidly, at the same time going down-stream.
This quickly took us out of range of Red-Eye, and the
last we saw of him was far out on a point of land,
where he was jumping up and down and chanting a paean
Beyond holding the two logs together, Lop-Ear and I did
nothing. We were resigned to our fate, and we remained
resigned until we aroused to the fact that we were
drifting along the north shore not a hundred feet away.
We began to paddle for it. Here the main force of the
current was flung back toward the south shore, and the
result of our paddling was that we crossed the current
where it was swiftest and narrowest. Before we were
aware, we were out of it and in a quiet eddy.
Our logs drifted slowly and at last grounded gently on
the bank. Lop-Ear and I crept ashore. The logs drifted
on out of the eddy and swept away down the stream. We
looked at each other, but we did not laugh. We were in
a strange land, and it did not enter our minds that we
could return to our own land in the same manner that we
We had learned how to cross a river, though we did not
know it. And this was something that no one else of the
Folk had ever done. We were the first of the Folk to
set foot on the north bank of the river, and, for that
matter, I believe the last. That they would have done
so in the time to come is undoubted; but the migration
of the Fire People, and the consequent migration of the
survivors of the Folk, set back our evolution for
Indeed, there is no telling how disastrous was to be
the outcome of the Fire People's migration.
Personally, I am prone to believe that it brought about
the destruction of the Folk; that we, a branch of lower
life budding toward the human, were nipped short off
and perished down by the roaring surf where the river
entered the sea. Of course, in such an eventuality, I
remain to be accounted for; but I outrun my story, and
such accounting will be made before I am done.
I have no idea how long Lop-Ear and I wandered in the
land north of the river. We were like mariners wrecked
on a desert isle, so far as concerned the likelihood of
our getting home again. We turned our backs upon the
river, and for weeks and months adventured in that
wilderness where there were no Folk. It is very
difficult for me to reconstruct our journeying, and
impossible to do it from day to day. Most of it is
hazy and indistinct, though here and there I have vivid
recollections of things that happened.
Especially do I remember the hunger we endured on the
mountains between Long Lake and Far Lake, and the calf
we caught sleeping in the thicket. Also, there are the
Tree People who dwelt in the forest between Long Lake
and the mountains. It was they who chased us into the
mountains and compelled us to travel on to Far Lake.
First, after we left the river, we worked toward the
west till we came to a small stream that flowed through
marshlands. Here we turned away toward the north,
skirting the marshes and after several days arriving at
what I have called Long Lake. We spent some time
around its upper end, where we found food in plenty;
and then, one day, in the forest, we ran foul of the
Tree People. These creatures were ferocious apes,
nothing more. And yet they were not so different from
us. They were more hairy, it is true; their legs were
a trifle more twisted and gnarly, their eyes a bit
smaller, their necks a bit thicker and shorter, and
their nostrils slightly more like orifices in a sunken
surface; but they had no hair on their faces and on the
palms of their hands and the soles of their feet, and
they made sounds similar to ours with somewhat similar
meanings. After all, the Tree People and the Folk were
not so unlike.
I found him first, a little withered, dried-up old
fellow, wrinkled-faced and bleary-eyed and tottery. He
was legitimate prey. In our world there was no
sympathy between the kinds, and he was not our kind.
He was a Tree-Man, and he was very old. He was sitting
at the foot of a tree--evidently his tree, for we could
see the tattered nest in the branches, in which he
slept at night.
I pointed him out to Lop-Ear, and we made a rush for
him. He started to climb, but was too slow. I caught
him by the leg and dragged him back. Then we had fun.
We pinched him, pulled his hair, tweaked his ears, and
poked twigs into him, and all the while we laughed with
streaming eyes. His futile anger was most absurd. He
was a comical sight, striving to fan into flame the
cold ashes of his youth, to resurrect his strength dead
and gone through the oozing of the years--making woful
faces in place of the ferocious ones he intended,
grinding his worn teeth together, beating his meagre
chest with feeble fists.
Also, he had a cough, and he gasped and hacked and
spluttered prodigiously. Every time he tried to climb
the tree we pulled him back, until at last he
surrendered to his weakness and did no more than sit
and weep. And Lop-Ear and I sat with him, our arms
around each other, and laughed at his wretchedness.
From weeping he went to whining, and from whining to
wailing, until at last he achieved a scream. This
alarmed us, but the more we tried to make him cease,
the louder he screamed. And then, from not far away in
the forest, came a "Goek! Goek!" to our ears. To this
there were answering cries, several of them, and from
very far off we could hear a big, bass "Goek! Goek!
Goek!" Also, the "Whoo-whoo !" call was rising in the
forest all around us.
Then came the chase. It seemed it never would end.
They raced us through the trees, the whole tribe of
them, and nearly caught us. We were forced to take to
the ground, and here we had the advantage, for they
were truly the Tree People, and while they out-climbed
us we out-footed them on the ground. We broke away
toward the north, the tribe howling on our track.
Across the open spaces we gained, and in the brush they
caught up with us, and more than once it was nip and
tuck. And as the chase continued, we realized that we
were not their kind, either, and that the bonds between
us were anything but sympathetic.
They ran us for hours. The forest seemed interminable.
We kept to the glades as much as possible, but they
always ended in more thick forest. Sometimes we
thought we had escaped, and sat down to rest; but
always, before we could recover our breath, we would
hear the hateful "Whoo-whoo!" cries and the terrible
"Goek! Goek! Goek!" This latter sometimes terminated in
a savage "Ha ha ha ha haaaaa!!!"
And in this fashion were we hunted through the forest
by the exasperated Tree People. At last, by
mid-afternoon, the slopes began rising higher and
higher and the trees were becoming smaller. Then we
came out on the grassy flanks of the mountains. Here
was where we could make time, and here the Tree People
gave up and returned to their forest.
The mountains were bleak and inhospitable, and three
times that afternoon we tried to regain the woods. But
the Tree People were lying in wait, and they drove us
back. Lop-Ear and I slept that night in a dwarf tree,
no larger than a bush. Here was no security, and we
would have been easy prey for any hunting animal that
In the morning, what of our new-gained respect for the
Tree People, we faced into the mountains. That we had
no definite plan, or even idea, I am confident. We
were merely driven on by the danger we had escaped. Of
our wanderings through the mountains I have only misty
memories. We were in that bleak region many days, and
we suffered much, especially from fear, it was all so
new and strange. Also, we suffered from the cold, and
later from hunger.
It--was a desolate land of rocks and foaming streams
and clattering cataracts. We climbed and descended
mighty canyons and gorges; and ever, from every view
point, there spread out before us, in all directions,
range upon range, the unceasing mountains. We slept at
night in holes and crevices, and on one cold night we
perched on top a slender pinnacle of rock that was
almost like a tree.
And then, at last, one hot midday, dizzy with hunger,
we gained the divide. From this high backbone of
earth, to the north, across the diminishing,
down-falling ranges, we caught a glimpse of a far lake.
The sun shone upon it, and about it were open, level
grass-lands, while to the eastward we saw the dark line
of a wide-stretching forest.
We were two days in gaining the lake, and we were weak
with hunger; but on its shore, sleeping snugly in a
thicket, we found a part-grown calf. It gave us much
trouble, for we knew no other way to kill than with our
hands. When we had gorged our fill, we carried the
remainder of the meat to the eastward forest and hid it
in a tree. We never returned to that tree, for the
shore of the stream that drained Far Lake was packed
thick with salmon that had come up from the sea to
Westward from the lake stretched the grass-lands, and
here were multitudes of bison and wild cattle. Also
were there many packs of wild dogs, and as there were
no trees it was not a safe place for us. We followed
north along the stream for days. Then, and for what
reason I do not know, we abruptly left the stream and
swung to the east, and then to the southeast, through a
great forest. I shall not bore you with our journey.
I but indicate it to show how we finally arrived at the
Fire People's country.
We came out upon the river, but we did not know it for
our river. We had been lost so long that we had come to
accept the condition of being lost as habitual. As I
look back I see clearly how our lives and destinies are
shaped by the merest chance. We did not know it was
our river--there was no way of telling; and if we had
never crossed it we would most probably have never
returned to the horde; and I, the modern, the thousand
centuries yet to be born, would never have been born .
And yet Lop-Ear and I wanted greatly to return. We had
experienced homesickness on our journey, the yearning
for our own kind and land; and often had I had
recollections of the Swift One, the young female who
made soft sounds, whom it was good to be with, and who
lived by herself nobody knew where. My recollections
of her were accompanied by sensations of hunger, and
these I felt when I was not hungry and when I had just
But to come back to the river. Food was plentiful,
principally berries and succulent roots, and on the
river bank we played and lingered for days. And then
the idea came to Lop-Ear. It was a visible process,
the coming of the idea. I saw it. The expression in
his eyes became plaintive and querulous, and he was
greatly perturbed. Then his eyes went muddy, as if he
had lost his grip on the inchoate thought. This was
followed by the plaintive, querulous expression as the
idea persisted and he clutched it anew. He looked at
me, and at the river and the far shore. He tried to
speak, but had no sounds with which to express the
idea. The result was a gibberish that made me laugh.
This angered him, and he grabbed me suddenly and threw
me on my back. Of course we fought, and in the end I
chased him up a tree, where he secured a long branch
and poked me every time I tried to get at him.
And the idea had gone glimmering. I did not know, and
he had forgotten. But the next morning it awoke in him
again. Perhaps it was the homing instinct in him
asserting itself that made the idea persist. At any
rate it was there, and clearer than before. He led me
down to the water, where a log had grounded in an eddy.
I thought he was minded to play, as we had played in
the mouth of the slough. Nor did I change my mind as I
watched him tow up a second log from farther down the
It was not until we were on the logs, side by side and
holding them together, and had paddled out into the
current, that I learned his intention. He paused to
point at the far shore, and resumed his paddling, at
the same time uttering loud and encouraging cries. I
understood, and we paddled energetically. The swift
current caught us, flung us toward the south shore, but
before we could make a landing flung us back toward the
Here arose dissension. Seeing the north shore so near,
I began to paddle for it. Lop-Ear tried to paddle for
the south shore. The logs swung around in circles, and
we got nowhere, and all the time the forest was
flashing past as we drifted down the stream. We could
not fight. We knew better than to let go the grips of
hands and feet that held the logs together. But we
chattered and abused each other with our tongues until
the current flung us toward the south bank again. That
was now the nearest goal, and together and amicably we
paddled for it. We landed in an eddy, and climbed
directly into the trees to reconnoitre.
It was not until the night of our first day on the
south bank of the river that we discovered the Fire
People. What must have been a band of wandering
hunters went into camp not far from the tree in which
Lop-Ear and I had elected to roost for the night. The
voices of the Fire People at first alarmed us, but
later, when darkness had come, we were attracted by the
fire. We crept cautiously and silently from tree to
tree till we got a good view of the scene.
In an open space among the trees, near to the river,
the fire was burning. About it were half a dozen
Fire-Men. Lop-Ear clutched me suddenly, and I could
feel him tremble. I looked more closely, and saw the
wizened little old hunter who had shot Broken-Tooth out
of the tree years before. When he got up and walked
about, throwing fresh wood upon the fire, I saw that he
limped with his crippled leg. Whatever it was, it was
a permanent injury. He seemed more dried up and
wizened than ever, and the hair on his face was quite
The other hunters were young men. I noted, lying near
them on the ground, their bows and arrows, and I knew
the weapons for what they were. The Fire-Men wore
animal skins around their waists and across their
shoulders. Their arms and legs, however, were bare,
and they wore no footgear. As I have said before, they
were not quite so hairy as we of the Folk. They did
not have large heads, and between them and the Folk
there was very little difference in the degree of the
slant of the head back from the eyes.
They were less stooped than we, less springy in their
movements. Their backbones and hips and knee-joints
seemed more rigid. Their arms were not so long as ours
either, and I did not notice that they ever balanced
themselves when they walked, by touching the ground on
either side with their hands. Also, their muscles were
more rounded and symmetrical than ours, and their faces
were more pleasing. Their nose orifices opened
downward; likewise the bridges of their noses were more
developed, did not look so squat nor crushed as ours.
Their lips were less flabby and pendent, and their
eye-teeth did not look so much like fangs. However,
they were quite as thin-hipped as we, and did not weigh
much more. Take it all in all, they were less different
from us than were we from the Tree People. Certainly,
all three kinds were related, and not so remotely
related at that.
The fire around which they sat was especially
attractive. Lop-Ear and I sat for hours, watching the
flames and smoke. It was most fascinating when fresh
fuel was thrown on and showers of sparks went flying
upward. I wanted to come closer and look at the fire,
but there was no way. We were crouching in the forks
of a tree on the edge of the open space, and we did not
dare run the risk of being discovered.
The Fire-Men squatted around the fire and slept with
their heads bowed forward on their knees. They did not
sleep soundly. Their ears twitched in their sleep, and
they were restless. Every little while one or another
got up and threw more wood upon the fire. About the
circle of light in the forest, in the darkness beyond,
roamed hunting animals. Lop-Ear and I could tell them
by their sounds. There were wild dogs and a hyena, and
for a time there was a great yelping and snarling that
awakened on the instant the whole circle of sleeping
Once a lion and a lioness stood beneath our tree and
gazed out with bristling hair and blinking eyes. The
lion licked his chops and was nervous with eagerness,
as if he wanted to go forward and make a meal. But the
lioness was more cautious. It was she that discovered
us, and the pair stood and looked up at us, silently,
with twitching, scenting nostrils. Then they growled,
looked once again at the fire, and turned away into the
For a much longer time Lop-Ear and I remained and
watched. Now and again we could hear the crashing of
heavy bodies in the thickets and underbrush, and from
the darkness of the other side, across the circle, we
could see eyes gleaming in the firelight. In the
distance we heard a lion roar, and from far off came
the scream of some stricken animal, splashing and
floundering in a drinking-place. Also, from the river,
came a great grunting of rhinoceroses.
In the morning, after having had our sleep, we crept
back to the fire. It was still smouldering, and the
Fire-Men were gone. We made a circle through the
forest to make sure, and then we ran to the fire. I
wanted to see what it was like, and between thumb and
finger I picked up a glowing coal. My cry of pain and
fear, as I dropped it, stampeded Lop-Ear into the
trees, and his flight frightened me after him.
The next time we came back more cautiously, and we
avoided the glowing coals. We fell to imitating the
Fire-Men. We squatted down by the fire, and with heads
bent forward on our knees, made believe to sleep. Then
we mimicked their speech, talking to each other in
their fashion and making a great gibberish. I
remembered seeing the wizened old hunter poke the fire
with a stick. I poked the fire with a stick, turning
up masses of live coals and clouds of white ashes.
This was great sport, and soon we were coated white
with the ashes.
It was inevitable that we should imitate the Fire-Men
in replenishing the fire. We tried it first with small
pieces of wood. It was a success. The wood flamed up
and crackled, and we danced and gibbered with delight.
Then we began to throw on larger pieces of wood. We
put on more and more, until we had a mighty fire. We
dashed excitedly back and forth, dragging dead limbs
and branches from out the forest. The flames soared
higher and higher, and the smoke-column out-towered the
trees. There was a tremendous snapping and crackling
and roaring. It was the most monumental work we had
ever effected with our hands, and we were proud of it.
We, too, were Fire-Men, we thought, as we danced there,
white gnomes in the conflagration.
The dried grass and underbrush caught fire, but we did
not notice it. Suddenly a great tree on the edge of
the open space burst into flames.
We looked at it with startled eyes. The heat of it
drove us back. Another tree caught, and another, and
then half a dozen. We were frightened. The monster
had broken loose. We crouched down in fear, while the
fire ate around the circle and hemmed us in. Into
Lop-Ear's eyes came the plaintive look that always
accompanied incomprehension, and I know that in my eyes
must have been the same look. We huddled, with our
arms around each other, until the heat began to reach
us and the odor of burning hair was in our nostrils.
Then we made a dash of it, and fled away westward
through the forest, looking back and laughing as we
By the middle of the day we came to a neck of land,
made, as we afterward discovered, by a great curve of
the river that almost completed a circle. Right across
the neck lay bunched several low and partly wooded
hills. Over these we climbed, looking backward at the
forest which had become a sea of flame that swept
eastward before a rising wind. We continued to the
west, following the river bank, and before we knew it
we were in the midst of the abiding-place of the Fire
This abiding-place was a splendid strategic selection.
It was a peninsula, protected on three sides by the
curving river. On only one side was it accessible by
land. This was the narrow neck of the peninsula, and
here the several low hills were a natural obstacle.
Practically isolated from the rest of the world, the
Fire People must have here lived and prospered for a
long time. In fact, I think it was their prosperity
that was responsible for the subsequent migration that
worked such calamity upon the Folk. The Fire People
must have increased in numbers until they pressed
uncomfortably against the bounds of their habitat.
They were expanding, and in the course of their
expanding they drove the Folk before them, and settled
down themselves in the caves and occupied the territory
that we had occupied.
But Lop-Ear and I little dreamed of all this when we
found ourselves in the Fire People's stronghold. We
had but one idea, and that was to get away, though we
could not forbear humoring our curiosity by peeping out
upon the village. For the first time we saw the women
and children of the Fire People. The latter ran for
the most part naked, though the former wore skins of
The Fire People, like ourselves, lived in caves. The
open space in front of the caves sloped down to the
river, and in the open space burned many small fires.
But whether or not the Fire People cooked their food, I
do not know. Lop-Ear and I did not see them cook. Yet
it is my opinion that they surely must have performed
some sort of rude cookery. Like us, they carried water
in gourds from the river. There was much coming and
going, and loud cries made by the women and children.
The latter played about and cut up antics quite in the
same way as did the children of the Folk, and they more
nearly resembled the children of the Folk than did the
grown Fire People resemble the grown Folk.
Lop-Ear and I did not linger long. We saw some of the
part-grown boys shooting with bow and arrow, and we
sneaked back into the thicker forest and made our way
to the river. And there we found a catamaran, a real
catamaran, one evidently made by some Fire-Man. The
two logs were small and straight, and were lashed
together by means of tough roots and crosspieces of
This time the idea occurred simultaneously to us. We
were trying to escape out of the Fire People's
territory. What better way than by crossing the river
on these logs? We climbed on board and shoved off. A
sudden something gripped the catamaran and flung it
downstream violently against the bank. The abrupt
stoppage almost whipped us off into the water. The
catamaran was tied to a tree by a rope of twisted
roots. This we untied before shoving off again.
By the time we had paddled well out into the current,
we had drifted so far downstream that we were in full
view of the Fire People's abiding-place. So occupied
were we with our paddling, our eyes fixed upon the
other bank, that we knew nothing until aroused by a
yell from the shore. We looked around. There were the
Fire People, many of them, looking at us and pointing
at us, and more were crawling out of the caves. We sat
up to watch, and forgot all about paddling. There was
a great hullabaloo on the shore. Some of the Fire-Men
discharged their bows at us, and a few of the arrows
fell near us, but the range was too great.
It was a great day for Lop-Ear and me. To the east the
conflagration we had started was filling half the sky
with smoke. And here we were, perfectly safe in the
middle of the river, encircling the Fire People's
stronghold. We sat and laughed at them as we dashed
by, swinging south, and southeast to east, and even to
northeast, and then east again, southeast and south and
on around to the west, a great double curve where the
river nearly tied a knot in itself.
As we swept on to the west, the Fire People far behind,
a familiar scene flashed upon our eyes.
It was the great drinking-place, where we had wandered
once or twice to watch the circus of the animals when
they came down to drink. Beyond it, we knew, was the
carrot patch, and beyond that the caves and the
abiding-place of the horde. We began to paddle for the
bank that slid swiftly past, and before we knew it we
were down upon the drinking-places used by the horde.
There were the women and children, the water carriers,
a number of them, filling their gourds. At sight of us
they stampeded madly up the run-ways, leaving behind
them a trail of gourds they had dropped.
We landed, and of course we neglected to tie up the
catamaran, which floated off down the river. Right
cautiously we crept up a run-way. The Folk had all
disappeared into their holes, though here and there we
could see a face peering out at us. There was no sign
of Red-Eye. We were home again. And that night we
slept in our own little cave high up on the cliff,
though first we had to evict a couple of pugnacious
youngsters who had taken possession.
The months came and went. The drama and tragedy of the
future were yet to come upon the stage, and in the
meantime we pounded nuts and lived. It--vas a good
year, I remember, for nuts. We used to fill gourds
with nuts and carry them to the pounding-places. We
placed them in depressions in the rock, and, with a
piece of rock in our hands, we cracked them and ate
them as we cracked.
It was the fall of the year when Lop-Ear and I returned
from our long adventure-journey, and the winter that
followed was mild. I made frequent trips to the
neighborhood of my old home-tree, and frequently I
searched the whole territory that lay between the
blueberry swamp and the mouth of the slough where
Lop-Ear and I had learned navigation, but no clew could
I get of the Swift One. She had disappeared. And I
wanted her. I was impelled by that hunger which I have
mentioned, and which was akin to physical hunger,
albeit it came often upon me when my stomach was full.
But all my search was vain.
Life was not monotonous at the caves, however. There
was Red-Eye to be considered. Lop-Ear and I never knew
a moment's peace except when we were in our own little
cave. In spite of the enlargement of the entrance we
had made, it was still a tight squeeze for us to get
in. And though from time to time we continued to
enlarge, it was still too small for Red-Eye's monstrous
body. But he never stormed our cave again. He had
learned the lesson well, and he carried on his neck a
bulging lump to show where I had hit him with the rock.
This lump never went away, and it was prominent enough
to be seen at a distance. I often took great delight
in watching that evidence of my handiwork; and
sometimes, when I was myself assuredly safe, the sight
of it caused me to laugh.
While the other Folk would not have come to our rescue
had Red-Eye proceeded to tear Lop-Ear and me to pieces
before their eyes, nevertheless they sympathized with
us. Possibly it was not sympathy but the way they
expressed their hatred for Red-Eye; at any rate they
always warned us of his approach. Whether in the
forest, at the drinking-places, or in the open space
before the caves, they were always quick to warn us.
Thus we had the advantage of many eyes in our feud with
Red-Eye, the atavism.
Once he nearly got me. It was early in the morning,
and the Folk were not yet up. The surprise was
complete. I was cut off from the way up the cliff to
my cave. Before I knew it I had dashed into the
double-cave,--the cave where Lop-Ear had first eluded
me long years before, and where old Saber-Tooth had
come to discomfiture when he pursued the two Folk. By
the time I had got through the connecting passage
between the two caves, I discovered that Red-Eye was
not following me. The next moment he charged into the
cave from the outside. I slipped back through the
passage, and he charged out and around and in upon me
again. I merely repeated my performance of slipping
through the passage.
He kept me there half a day before he gave up. After
that, when Lop-Ear and I were reasonably sure of
gaining the double-cave, we did not retreat up the
cliff to our own cave when Red-Eye came upon the scene.
All we did was to keep an eye on him and see that he
did not cut across our line of retreat.
It was during this winter that Red-Eye killed his
latest wife with abuse and repeated beatings. I have
called him an atavism, but in this he was worse than an
atavism, for the males of the lower animals do not
maltreat and murder their mates. In this I take it
that Red-Eye, in spite of his tremendous atavistic
tendencies, foreshadowed the coming of man, for it is
the males of the human species only that murder their
As was to be expected, with the doing away of one wife
Red-Eye proceeded to get another. He decided upon the
Singing One. She was the granddaughter of old
Marrow-Bone, and the daughter of the Hairless One. She
was a young thing, greatly given to singing at the
mouth of her cave in the twilight, and she had but
recently mated with Crooked-Leg. He was a quiet
individual, molesting no one and not given to bickering
with his fellows. He was no fighter anyway. He was
small and lean, and not so active on his legs as the
rest of us.
Red-Eye never committed a more outrageous deed. It was
in the quiet at the end of the day, when we began to
congregate in the open space before climbing into our
caves. Suddenly the Singing One dashed up a run-way
from a drinking-place, pursued by Red-Eye. She ran to
her husband. Poor little Crooked-Leg was terribly
scared. But he was a hero. He knew that death was
upon him, yet he did not run away. He stood up, and
chattered, bristled, and showed his teeth.
Red-Eye roared with rage. It was an offence to him
that any of the Folk should dare to withstand him. His
hand shot out and clutched Crooked-Leg by the neck.
The latter sank his teeth into Red-Eye's arm; but the
next moment, with a broken neck, Crooked-Leg was
floundering and squirming on the ground. The Singing
One screeched and gibbered. Red-Eye seized her by the
hair of her head and dragged her toward his cave. He
handled her roughly when the climb began, and he
dragged and hauled her up into the cave.
We were very angry, insanely, vociferously angry.
Beating our chests, bristling, and gnashing our teeth,
we gathered together in our rage. We felt the prod of
gregarious instinct, the drawing together as though for
united action, the impulse toward cooperation. In dim
ways this need for united action was impressed upon us.
But there was no way to achieve it because there was no
way to express it. We did not turn to, all of us, and
destroy Red-Eye, because we lacked a vocabulary. We
were vaguely thinking thoughts for which there were no
thought-symbols. These thought-symbols were yet to be
slowly and painfully invented.
We tried to freight sound with the vague thoughts that
flitted like shadows through our consciousness. The
Hairless One began to chatter loudly. By his noises he
expressed anger against Red-Eye and desire to hurt
Red-Eye. Thus far he got, and thus far we understood.
But when he tried to express the cooperative impulse
that stirred within him, his noises became gibberish.
Then Big-Face, with brow-bristling and chest-pounding,
began to chatter. One after another of us joined in the
orgy of rage, until even old Marrow-Bone was mumbling
and spluttering with his cracked voice and withered
lips. Some one seized a stick and began pounding a
log. In a moment he had struck a rhythm.
Unconsciously, our yells and exclamations yielded to
this rhythm. It had a soothing effect upon us; and
before we knew it, our rage forgotten, we were in the
full swing of a hee-hee council.
These hee-hee councils splendidly illustrate the
inconsecutiveness and inconsequentiality of the Folk.
Here were we, drawn together by mutual rage and the
impulse toward cooperation, led off into forgetfulness
by the establishment of a rude rhythm. We were
sociable and gregarious, and these singing and laughing
councils satisfied us. In ways the hee-hee council was
an adumbration of the councils of primitive man, and of
the great national assemblies and international
conventions of latter-day man. But we Folk of the
Younger World lacked speech, and whenever we were so
drawn together we precipitated babel, out of which
arose a unanimity of rhythm that contained within
itself the essentials of art yet to come. It was art
There was nothing long-continued about these rhythms
that we struck. A rhythm was soon lost, and
pandemonium reigned until we could find the rhythm
again or start a new one. Sometimes half a dozen
rhythms would be swinging simultaneously, each rhythm
backed by a group that strove ardently to drown out the
In the intervals of pandemonium, each chattered, cut
up, hooted, screeched, and danced, himself sufficient
unto himself, filled with his own ideas and volitions
to the exclusion of all others, a veritable centre of
the universe, divorced for the time being from any
unanimity with the other universe-centres leaping and
yelling around him. Then would come the rhythm--a
clapping of hands; the beating of a stick upon a log;
the example of one that leaped with repetitions; or the
chanting of one that uttered, explosively and
regularly, with inflection that rose and fell, "A-bang,
a-bang! A-bang, a-bang!" One after another of the
self-centred Folk would yield to it, and soon all would
be dancing or chanting in chorus. "Ha-ah, ha-ah,
ha-ah-ha!" was one of our favorite choruses, and
another was, "Eh-wah, eh-wah, eh-wah-hah!"
And so, with mad antics, leaping, reeling, and
over-balancing, we danced and sang in the sombre
twilight of the primeval world, inducing forgetfulness,
achieving unanimity, and working ourselves up into
sensuous frenzy. And so it was that our rage against
Red-Eye was soothed away by art, and we screamed the
wild choruses of the hee-hee council until the night
warned us of its terrors, and we crept away to our
holes in the rocks, calling softly to one another,
while the stars came out and darkness settled down.
We were afraid only of the dark. We had no germs of
religion, no conceptions of an unseen world. We knew
only the real world, and the things we feared were the
real things, the concrete dangers, the flesh-and-blood
animals that preyed. It was they that made us afraid
of the dark, for darkness was the time of the hunting
animals. It was then that they came out of their lairs
and pounced upon one from the dark wherein they lurked
Possibly it was out of this fear of the real denizens
of the dark that the fear of the unreal denizens was
later to develop and to culminate in a whole and mighty
unseen world. As imagination grew it is likely that
the fear of death increased until the Folk that were to
come projected this fear into the dark and peopled it
with spirits. I think the Fire People had already
begun to be afraid of the dark in this fashion; but the
reasons we Folk had for breaking up our hee-hee
councils and fleeing to our holes were old Saber-Tooth,
the lions and the jackals, the wild dogs and the
wolves, and all the hungry, meat-eating breeds.
Lop-Ear got married. It was the second winter after
our adventure-journey, and it was most unexpected. He
gave me no warning. The first I knew was one twilight
when I climbed the cliff to our cave. I squeezed into
the entrance and there I stopped. There was no room
for me. Lop-Ear and his mate were in possession, and
she was none other than my sister, the daughter of my
step-father, the Chatterer.
I tried to force my way in. There was space only for
two, and that space was already occupied. Also, they
had me at a disadvantage, and, what of the scratching
and hair-pulling I received, I was glad to retreat. I
slept that night, and for many nights, in the
connecting passage of the double-cave. From my
experience it seemed reasonably safe. As the two Folk
had dodged old Saber-Tooth, and as I had dodged
Red-Eye, so it seemed to me that I could dodge the
hunting animals by going back and forth between the two
I had forgotten the wild dogs. They were small enough
to go through any passage that I could squeeze through.
One night they nosed me out. Had they entered both
caves at the same time they would have got me. As it
was, followed by some of them through the passage, I
dashed out the mouth of the other cave. Outside were
the rest of the wild dogs. They sprang for me as I
sprang for the cliff-wall and began to climb. One of
them, a lean and hungry brute, caught me in mid-leap.
His teeth sank into my thigh-muscles, and he nearly
dragged me back. He held on, but I made no effort to
dislodge him, devoting my whole effort to climbing out
of reach of the rest of the brutes.
Not until I was safe from them did I turn my attention
to that live agony on my thigh. And then, a dozen feet
above the snapping pack that leaped and scrambled
against the wall and fell back, I got the dog by the
throat and slowly throttled him. I was a long time
doing it. He clawed and ripped my hair and hide with
his hind-paws, and ever he jerked and lunged with his
weight to drag me from the wall.
At last his teeth opened and released my torn flesh. I
carried his body up the cliff with me, and perched out
the night in the entrance of my old cave, wherein were
Lop-Ear and my sister. But first I had to endure a
storm of abuse from the aroused horde for being the
cause of the disturbance. I had my revenge. From time
to time, as the noise of the pack below eased down, I
dropped a rock and started it up again. Whereupon,
from all around, the abuse of the exasperated Folk
began afresh. In the morning I shared the dog with
Lop-Ear and his wife, and for several days the three of
us were neither vegetarians nor fruitarians.
Lop-Ear's marriage was not a happy one, and the
consolation about it is that it did not last very long.
Neither he nor I was happy during that period. I was
lonely. I suffered the inconvenience of being cast out
of my safe little cave, and somehow I did not make it
up with any other of the young males. I suppose my
long-continued chumming with Lop-Ear had become a
I might have married, it is true; and most likely I
should have married had it not been for the dearth of
females in the horde. This dearth, it is fair to
assume, was caused by the exorbitance of Red-Eye, and
it illustrates the menace he was to the existence of
the horde. Then there was the Swift One, whom I had
At any rate, during the period of Lop-Ear's marriage I
knocked about from pillar to post, in danger every
night that I slept, and never comfortable. One of the
Folk died, and his widow was taken into the cave of
another one of the Folk. I took possession of the
abandoned cave, but it was wide-mouthed, and after
Red-Eye nearly trapped me in it one day, I returned to
sleeping in the passage of the double-cave. During the
summer, however, I used to stay away from the caves for
weeks, sleeping in a tree-shelter I made near the mouth
of the slough.
I have said that Lop-Ear was not happy. My sister was
the daughter of the Chatterer, and she made Lop-Ear's
life miserable for him. In no other cave was there so
much squabbling and bickering. If Red-Eye was a
Bluebeard, Lop-Ear was hen-pecked; and I imagine that
Red-Eye was too shrewd ever to covet Lop-Ear's wife.
Fortunately for Lop-Ear, she died. An unusual thing
happened that summer. Late, almost at the end of it, a
second crop of the stringy-rooted carrots sprang up.
These unexpected second-crop roots were young and juicy
and tender, and for some time the carrot-patch was the
favorite feeding-place of the horde. One morning,
early, several score of us were there making our
breakfast. On one side of me was the Hairless One.
Beyond him were his father and son, old Marrow-Bone and
Long-Lip. On the other side of me were my sister and
Lop-Ear, she being next to me.
There was no warning. On the sudden, both the Hairless
One and my sister sprang and screamed. At the same
instant I heard the thud of the arrows that transfixed
them. The next instant they were down on the ground,
floundering and gasping, and the rest of us were
stampeding for the trees. An arrow drove past me and
entered the ground, its feathered shaft vibrating and
oscillating from the impact of its arrested flight. I
remember clearly how I swerved as I ran, to go past it,
and that I gave it a needlessly wide berth. I must
have shied at it as a horse shies at an object it
Lop-Ear took a smashing fall as he ran beside me. An
arrow had driven through the calf of his leg and
tripped him. He tried to run, but was tripped and
thrown by it a second time. He sat up, crouching,
trembling with fear, and called to me pleadingly. I
dashed back. He showed me the arrow. I caught hold of
it to pull it out, but the consequent hurt made him
seize my hand and stop me. A flying arrow passed
between us. Another struck a rock, splintered, and
fell to the ground. This was too much. I pulled,
suddenly, with all my might. Lop-Ear screamed as the
arrow came out, and struck at me angrily. But the next
moment we were in full flight again.
I looked back. Old Marrow-Bone, deserted and far
behind, was tottering silently along in his handicapped
race with death. Sometimes he almost fell, and once he
did fall; but no more arrows were coming. He scrambled
weakly to his feet. Age burdened him heavily, but he
did not want to die. The three Fire-Men, who were now
running forward from their forest ambush, could easily
have got him, but they did not try. Perhaps he was too
old and tough. But they did want the Hairless One and
my sister, for as I looked back from the trees I could
see the Fire-Men beating in their heads with rocks.
One of the Fire-Men was the wizened old hunter who
We went on through the trees toward the caves--an
excited and disorderly mob that drove before it to
their holes all the small life of the forest, and that
set the blue-jays screaming impudently. Now that there
was no immediate danger, Long-Lip waited for his
grand-father, Marrow-Bone; and with the gap of a
generation between them, the old fellow and the youth
brought up our rear.
And so it was that Lop-Ear became a bachelor once more.
That night I slept with him in the old cave, and our
old life of chumming began again. The loss of his mate
seemed to cause him no grief. At least he showed no
signs of it, nor of need for her. It was the wound in
his leg that seemed to bother him, and it was all of a
week before he got back again to his old spryness.
Marrow-Bone was the only old member in the horde.
Sometimes, on looking back upon him, when the vision of
him is most clear, I note a striking resemblance
between him and the father of my father's gardener.
The gardener's father was very old, very wrinkled and
withered; and for all the world, when he peered through
his tiny, bleary eyes and mumbled with his toothless
gums, he looked and acted like old Marrow-Bone. This
resemblance, as a child, used to frighten me. I always
ran when I saw the old man tottering along on his two
canes. Old Marrow-Bone even had a bit of sparse and
straggly white beard that seemed identical with the
whiskers of the old man.
As I have said, Marrow-Bone was the only old member of
the horde. He was an exception. The Folk never lived
to old age. Middle age was fairly rare. Death by
violence was the common way of death. They died as my
father had died, as Broken-Tooth had died, as my sister
and the Hairless One had just died--abruptly and
brutally, in the full possession of their faculties, in
the full swing and rush of life. Natural death? To
die violently was the natural way of dying in those
No one died of old age among the Folk. I never knew of
a case. Even Marrow-Bone did not die that way, and he
was the only one in my generation who had the chance.
A bad rippling, any serious accidental or temporary
impairment of the faculties, meant swift death. As a
rule, these deaths were not witnessed.
Members of the horde simply dropped out of sight. They
left the caves in the morning, and they never came
back. They disappeared--into the ravenous maws of the
This inroad of the Fire People on the carrot-patch was
the beginning of the end, though we did not know it.
The hunters of the Fire People began to appear more
frequently as the time went by. They came in twos and
threes, creeping silently through the forest, with
their flying arrows able to annihilate distance and
bring down prey from the top of the loftiest tree
without themselves climbing into it. The bow and arrow
was like an enormous extension of their leaping and
striking muscles, so that, virtually, they could leap
and kill at a hundred feet and more. This made them far
more terrible than Saber-Tooth himself. And then they
were very wise. They had speech that enabled them more
effectively to reason, and in addition they understood
We Folk came to be very circumspect when we were in the
forest. We were more alert and vigilant and timid. No
longer were the trees a protection to be relied upon.
No longer could we perch on a branch and laugh down at
our carnivorous enemies on the ground. The Fire People
were carnivorous, with claws and fangs a hundred feet
long, the most terrible of all the hunting animals that
ranged the primeval world.
One morning, before the Folk had dispersed to the
forest, there was a panic among the water-carriers and
those who had gone down to the river to drink. The
whole horde fled to the caves. It was our habit, at
such times, to flee first and investigate afterward. We
waited in the mouths of our caves and watched. After
some time a Fire-Man stepped cautiously into the open
space. It was the little wizened old hunter. He stood
for a long time and watched us, looking our caves and
the cliff-wall up and down. He descended one of the
run-ways to a drinking-place, returning a few minutes
later by another run-way. Again he stood and watched
us carefully, for a long time. Then he turned on his
heel and limped into the forest, leaving us calling
querulously and plaintively to one another from the
I found her down in the old neighborhood near the
blueberry swamp, where my mother lived and where
Lop-Ear and I had built our first tree-shelter. It was
unexpected. As I came under the tree I heard the
familiar soft sound and looked up. There she was, the
Swift One, sitting on a limb and swinging her legs back
and forth as she looked at me.
I stood still for some time. The sight of her had made
me very happy. And then an unrest and a pain began to
creep in on this happiness. I started to climb the
tree after her, and she retreated slowly out the limb.
Just as I reached for her, she sprang through the air
and landed in the branches of the next tree. From amid
the rustling leaves she peeped out at me and made soft
sounds. I leaped straight for her, and after an
exciting chase the situation was duplicated, for there
she was, making soft sounds and peeping out from the
leaves of a third tree.
It was borne in upon me that somehow it was different
now from the old days before Lop-Ear and I had gone on
our adventure-journey. I wanted her, and I knew that I
wanted her. And she knew it, too. That was why she
would not let me come near her. I forgot that she was
truly the Swift One, and that in the art of climbing
she had been my teacher. I pursued her from tree to
tree, and ever she eluded me, peeping back at me with
kindly eyes, making soft sounds, and dancing and
leaping and teetering before me just out of reach. The
more she eluded me, the more I wanted to catch her, and
the lengthening shadows of the afternoon bore witness
to the futility of my effort.
As I pursued her, or sometimes rested in an adjoining
tree and watched her, I noticed the change in her. She
was larger, heavier, more grown-up. Her lines were
rounder, her muscles fuller, and there was about her
that indefinite something of maturity that was new to
her and that incited me on. Three years she had been
gone--three years at the very least, and the change in
her was marked. I say three years; it is as near as I
can measure the time. A fourth year may have elapsed,
which I have confused with the happenings of the other
three years. The more I think of it, the more
confident I am that it must be four years that she was
Where she went, why she went, and what happened to her
during that time, I do not know. There was no way for
her to tell me, any more than there was a way for
Lop-Ear and me to tell the Folk what we had seen when
we were away. Like us, the chance is she had gone off
on an adventure-journey, and by herself. On the other
hand, it is possible that Red-Eye may have been the
cause of her going. It is quite certain that he must
have come upon her from time to time, wandering in the
woods; and if he had pursued her there is no question
but that it would have been sufficient to drive her
away. From subsequent events, I am led to believe that
she must have travelled far to the south, across a
range of mountains and down to the banks of a strange
river, away from any of her kind. Many Tree People
lived down there, and I think it must have been they
who finally drove her back to the horde and to me. My
reasons for this I shall explain later.
The shadows grew longer, and I pursued more ardently
than ever, and still I could not catch her. She made
believe that she was trying desperately to escape me,
and all the time she managed to keep just beyond reach.
I forgot everything--time, the oncoming of night, and
my meat-eating enemies. I was insane with love of her,
and with--anger, too, because she would not let me come
up with her. It was strange how this anger against her
seemed to be part of my desire for her.
As I have said, I forgot everything. In racing across
an open space I ran full tilt upon a colony of snakes.
They did not deter me. I was mad. They struck at me,
but I ducked and dodged and ran on. Then there was a
python that ordinarily would have sent me screeching to
a tree-top. He did run me into a tree; but the Swift
One was going out of sight, and I sprang back to the
ground and went on. It was a close shave. Then there
was my old enemy, the hyena. From my conduct he was
sure something was going to happen, and he followed me
for an hour. Once we exasperated a band of wild pigs,
and they took after us. The Swift One dared a wide
leap between trees that was too much for me. I had to
take to the ground. There were the pigs. I didn't
care. I struck the earth within a yard of the nearest
one. They flanked me as I ran, and chased me into two
different trees out of the line of my pursuit of the
Swift One. I ventured the ground again, doubled back,
and crossed a wide open space, with the whole band
grunting, bristling, and tusk-gnashing at my heels.
If I had tripped or stumbled in that open space, there
would have been no chance for me. But I didn't. And I
didn't care whether I did or not. I was in such mood
that I would have faced old Saber-Tooth himself, or a
score of arrow-shooting Fire People. Such was the
madness of love...with me. With the Swift One it was
different. She was very wise. She did not take any
real risks, and I remember, on looking back across the
centuries to that wild love-chase, that when the pigs
delayed me she did not run away very fast, but waited,
rather, for me to take up the pursuit again. Also, she
directed her retreat before me, going always in the
direction she wanted to go.
At last came the dark. She led me around the mossy
shoulder of a canyon wall that out-jutted among the
trees. After that we penetrated a dense mass of
underbrush that scraped and ripped me in passing. But
she never ruffled a hair. She knew the way. In the
midst of the thicket was a large oak. I was very close
to her when she climbed it; and in the forks, in the
nest-shelter I had sought so long and vainly, I caught
The hyena had taken our trail again, and he now sat
down on the ground and made hungry noises. But we did
not mind, and we laughed at him when he snarled and
went away through the thicket. It was the spring-time,
and the night noises were many and varied. As was the
custom at that time of the year, there was much
fighting among the animals. From the nest we could
hear the squealing and neighing of wild horses, the
trumpeting of elephants, and the roaring of lions. But
the moon came out, and the air was warm, and we laughed
and were unafraid.
I remember, next morning, that we came upon two ruffled
cock-birds that fought so ardently that I went right up
to them and caught them by their necks. Thus did the
Swift One and I get our wedding breakfast. They were
delicious. It was easy to catch birds in the spring of
the year. There was one night that year when two elk
fought in the moonlight, while the Swift One and I
watched from the trees; and we saw a lion and lioness
crawl up to them unheeded, and kill them as they
There is no telling how long we might have lived in the
Swift One's tree-shelter. But one day, while we were
away, the tree was struck by lightning. Great limbs
were riven, and the nest was demolished. I started to
rebuild, but the Swift One would have nothing to do
with it. As I was to learn, she was greatly afraid of
lightning, and I could not persuade her back into the