Part 2 out of 2
and as we could not hold with the anchor, I ran in close to
shore, and in a brief interim of attack from the reptiles we made
fast to a large tree. We also dipped up some of the river water
and found it, though quite warm, a little sweeter than before.
We had food enough, and with the water we were all quite
refreshed; but we missed fresh meat. It had been weeks, now,
since we had tasted it, and the sight of the reptiles gave me
an idea--that a steak or two from one of them might not be
bad eating. So I went on deck with a rifle, twenty of which were
aboard the U-33. At sight of me a huge thing charged and climbed
to the deck. I retreated to the top of the conning-tower, and
when it had raised its mighty bulk to the level of the little deck
on which I stood, I let it have a bullet right between the eyes.
The thing stopped then and looked at me a moment as much as to
say: "Why this thing has a stinger! I must be careful." And then
it reached out its long neck and opened its mighty jaws and grabbed
for me; but I wasn't there. I had tumbled backward into the tower,
and I mighty near killed myself doing it. When I glanced up, that
little head on the end of its long neck was coming straight down on
top of me, and once more I tumbled into greater safety, sprawling
upon the floor of the centrale.
Olson was looking up, and seeing what was poking about in the
tower, ran for an ax; nor did he hesitate a moment when he
returned with one, but sprang up the ladder and commenced
chopping away at that hideous face. The thing didn't have
sufficient brainpan to entertain more than a single idea at once.
Though chopped and hacked, and with a bullethole between its
eyes, it still persisted madly in its attempt to get inside the
tower and devour Olson, though its body was many times the
diameter of the hatch; nor did it cease its efforts until after
Olson had succeeded in decapitating it. Then the two men went on
deck through the main hatch, and while one kept watch, the other
cut a hind quarter off Plesiosaurus Olsoni, as Bradley dubbed
the thing. Meantime Olson cut off the long neck, saying that it
would make fine soup. By the time we had cleared away the blood
and refuse in the tower, the cook had juicy steaks and a steaming
broth upon the electric stove, and the aroma arising from P. Olsoni
filled us an with a hitherto unfelt admiration for him and all his kind.
The steaks we had that night, and they were fine; and the
following morning we tasted the broth. It seemed odd to be
eating a creature that should, by all the laws of paleontology,
have been extinct for several million years. It gave one a
feeling of newness that was almost embarrassing, although it
didn't seem to embarrass our appetites. Olson ate until I
thought he would burst.
The girl ate with us that night at the little officers' mess just
back of the torpedo compartment. The narrow table was unfolded;
the four stools were set out; and for the first time in days we
sat down to eat, and for the first time in weeks we had something
to eat other than the monotony of the short rations of an
impoverished U-boat. Nobs sat between the girl and me and was
fed with morsels of the Plesiosaurus steak, at the risk of
forever contaminating his manners. He looked at me sheepishly
all the time, for he knew that no well-bred dog should eat at
table; but the poor fellow was so wasted from improper food that
I couldn't enjoy my own meal had he been denied an immediate share
in it; and anyway Lys wanted to feed him. So there you are.
Lys was coldly polite to me and sweetly gracious to Bradley
and Olson. She wasn't of the gushing type, I knew; so I didn't
expect much from her and was duly grateful for the few morsels of
attention she threw upon the floor to me. We had a pleasant
meal, with only one unfortunate occurrence--when Olson suggested
that possibly the creature we were eating was the same one that
ate the German. It was some time before we could persuade the
girl to continue her meal, but at last Bradley prevailed upon
her, pointing out that we had come upstream nearly forty miles
since the boche had been seized, and that during that time we
had seen literally thousands of these denizens of the river,
indicating that the chances were very remote that this was the
same Plesiosaur. "And anyway," he concluded, "it was only a
scheme of Mr. Olson's to get all the steaks for himself."
We discussed the future and ventured opinions as to what lay
before us; but we could only theorize at best, for none of
us knew. If the whole land was infested by these and similar
horrid monsters, life would be impossible upon it, and we decided
that we would only search long enough to find and take aboard fresh
water and such meat and fruits as might be safely procurable and
then retrace our way beneath the cliffs to the open sea.
And so at last we turned into our narrow bunks, hopeful, happy
and at peace with ourselves, our lives and our God, to awaken the
following morning refreshed and still optimistic. We had an easy
time getting away--as we learned later, because the saurians do
not commence to feed until late in the morning. From noon to
midnight their curve of activity is at its height, while from
dawn to about nine o'clock it is lowest. As a matter of fact, we
didn't see one of them all the time we were getting under way,
though I had the cannon raised to the deck and manned against
an assault. I hoped, but I was none too sure, that shells might
discourage them. The trees were full of monkeys of all sizes and
shades, and once we thought we saw a manlike creature watching us
from the depth of the forest.
Shortly after we resumed our course upstream, we saw the mouth of
another and smaller river emptying into the main channel from the
south--that is, upon our right; and almost immediately after we
came upon a large island five or six miles in length; and at
fifty miles there was a still larger river than the last coming
in from the northwest, the course of the main stream having now
changed to northeast by southwest. The water was quite free from
reptiles, and the vegetation upon the banks of the river had
altered to more open and parklike forest, with eucalyptus and
acacia mingled with a scattering of tree ferns, as though two
distinct periods of geologic time had overlapped and merged.
The grass, too, was less flowering, though there were still
gorgeous patches mottling the greensward; and lastly, the fauna
was less multitudinous.
Six or seven miles farther, and the river widened considerably;
before us opened an expanse of water to the farther horizon, and
then we sailed out upon an inland sea so large that only a shore-
line upon our side was visible to us. The waters all about us
were alive with life. There were still a few reptiles; but there
were fish by the thousands, by the millions.
The water of the inland sea was very warm, almost hot, and the
atmosphere was hot and heavy above it. It seemed strange that
beyond the buttressed walls of Caprona icebergs floated and the
south wind was biting, for only a gentle breeze moved across
the face of these living waters, and that was damp and warm.
Gradually, we commenced to divest ourselves of our clothing,
retaining only sufficient for modesty; but the sun was not hot.
It was more the heat of a steam-room than of an oven.
We coasted up the shore of the lake in a north-westerly direction,
sounding all the time. We found the lake deep and the bottom
rocky and steeply shelving toward the center, and once when I
moved straight out from shore to take other soundings we could
find no bottom whatsoever. In open spaces along the shore we
caught occasional glimpses of the distant cliffs, and here
they appeared only a trifle less precipitous than those which
bound Caprona on the seaward side. My theory is that in a far
distant era Caprona was a mighty mountain--perhaps the world's
mightiest volcanic action blew off the entire crest, blew
thousands of feet of the mountain upward and outward and onto the
surrounding continent, leaving a great crater; and then,
possibly, the continent sank as ancient continents have been
known to do, leaving only the summit of Caprona above the sea.
The encircling walls, the central lake, the hot springs which
feed the lake, all point to a conclusion, and the fauna and the
flora bear indisputable evidence that Caprona was once part of
some great land-mass.
As we cruised up along the coast, the landscape continued a more
or less open forest, with here and there a small plain where we
saw animals grazing. With my glass I could make out a species of
large red deer, some antelope and what appeared to be a species
of horse; and once I saw the shaggy form of what might have been
a monstrous bison. Here was game a plenty! There seemed little
danger of starving upon Caprona. The game, however, seemed wary;
for the instant the animals discovered us, they threw up their
heads and tails and went cavorting off, those farther inland
following the example of the others until all were lost in the
mazes of the distant forest. Only the great, shaggy ox stood
his ground. With lowered head he watched us until we had passed,
and then continued feeding.
About twenty miles up the coast from the mouth of the river we
encountered low cliffs of sandstone, broken and tortured evidence
of the great upheaval which had torn Caprona asunder in the past,
intermingling upon a common level the rock formations of widely
separated eras, fusing some and leaving others untouched.
We ran along beside them for a matter of ten miles, arriving off
a broad cleft which led into what appeared to be another lake.
As we were in search of pure water, we did not wish to overlook
any portion of the coast, and so after sounding and finding that
we had ample depth, I ran the U-33 between head-lands into as
pretty a landlocked harbor as sailormen could care to see, with
good water right up to within a few yards of the shore. As we
cruised slowly along, two of the boches again saw what they
believed to be a man, or manlike creature, watching us from a
fringe of trees a hundred yards inland, and shortly after we
discovered the mouth of a small stream emptying into the bay:
It was the first stream we had found since leaving the river, and
I at once made preparations to test its water. To land, it would
be necessary to run the U-33 close in to the shore, at least as
close as we could, for even these waters were infested, though,
not so thickly, by savage reptiles. I ordered sufficient water
let into the diving-tanks to lower us about a foot, and then I
ran the bow slowly toward the shore, confident that should we run
aground, we still had sufficient lifting force to free us when
the water should be pumped out of the tanks; but the bow nosed
its way gently into the reeds and touched the shore with the keel
My men were all armed now with both rifles and pistols, each
having plenty of ammunition. I ordered one of the Germans ashore
with a line, and sent two of my own men to guard him, for from
what little we had seen of Caprona, or Caspak as we learned later
to call the interior, we realized that any instant some new and
terrible danger might confront us. The line was made fast to a
small tree, and at the same time I had the stern anchor dropped.
As soon as the boche and his guard were aboard again, I called
all hands on deck, including von Schoenvorts, and there I
explained to them that the time had come for us to enter into
some sort of an agreement among ourselves that would relieve
us of the annoyance and embarrassment of being divided into two
antagonistic parts--prisoners and captors. I told them that it
was obvious our very existence depended upon our unity of action,
that we were to all intent and purpose entering a new world as
far from the seat and causes of our own world-war as if millions
of miles of space and eons of time separated us from our past
lives and habitations.
"There is no reason why we should carry our racial and political
hatreds into Caprona," I insisted. "The Germans among us might
kill all the English, or the English might kill the last German,
without affecting in the slightest degree either the outcome of
even the smallest skirmish upon the western front or the opinion
of a single individual in any belligerent or neutral country.
I therefore put the issue squarely to you all; shall we bury our
animosities and work together with and for one another while we
remain upon Caprona, or must we continue thus divided and but half
armed, possibly until death has claimed the last of us? And let
me tell you, if you have not already realized it, the chances are
a thousand to one that not one of us ever will see the outside
world again. We are safe now in the matter of food and water; we
could provision the U-33 for a long cruise; but we are practically
out of fuel, and without fuel we cannot hope to reach the ocean,
as only a submarine can pass through the barrier cliffs. What is
your answer?" I turned toward von Schoenvorts.
He eyed me in that disagreeable way of his and demanded to know,
in case they accepted my suggestion, what their status would be
in event of our finding a way to escape with the U-33. I replied
that I felt that if we had all worked loyally together we should
leave Caprona upon a common footing, and to that end I suggested
that should the remote possibility of our escape in the submarine
develop into reality, we should then immediately make for the
nearest neutral port and give ourselves into the hands of the
authorities, when we should all probably be interned for the
duration of the war. To my surprise he agreed that this was fair
and told me that they would accept my conditions and that I could
depend upon their loyalty to the common cause.
I thanked him and then addressed each one of his men individually,
and each gave me his word that he would abide by all that I
had outlined. It was further understood that we were to act as
a military organization under military rules and discipline--I
as commander, with Bradley as my first lieutenant and Olson as
my second, in command of the Englishmen; while von Schoenvorts
was to act as an additional second lieutenant and have charge of
his own men. The four of us were to constitute a military court
under which men might be tried and sentenced to punishment for
infraction of military rules and discipline, even to the passing
of the death-sentence.
I then had arms and ammunition issued to the Germans, and leaving
Bradley and five men to guard the U-33, the balance of us went ashore.
The first thing we did was to taste the water of the little stream--
which, to our delight, we found sweet, pure and cold. This stream
was entirely free from dangerous reptiles, because, as I later
discovered, they became immediately dormant when subjected to a much
lower temperature than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. They dislike cold water
and keep as far away from it as possible. There were countless
brook-trout here, and deep holes that invited us to bathe, and along
the bank of the stream were trees bearing a close resemblance to
ash and beech and oak, their characteristics evidently induced by
the lower temperature of the air above the cold water and by the
fact that their roots were watered by the water from the stream
rather than from the warm springs which we afterward found in such
Our first concern was to fill the water tanks of the U-33 with
fresh water, and that having been accomplished, we set out to
hunt for game and explore inland for a short distance. Olson, von
Schoenvorts, two Englishmen and two Germans accompanied me,
leaving ten to guard the ship and the girl. I had intended
leaving Nobs behind, but he got away and joined me and was so
happy over it that I hadn't the heart to send him back. We followed
the stream upward through a beautiful country for about five miles,
and then came upon its source in a little boulder-strewn clearing.
From among the rocks bubbled fully twenty ice-cold springs.
North of the clearing rose sandstone cliffs to a height of some
fifty to seventy-five feet, with tall trees growing at their base
and almost concealing them from our view. To the west the country
was flat and sparsely wooded, and here it was that we saw our first
game--a large red deer. It was grazing away from us and had not
seen us when one of my men called my attention to it. Motioning for
silence and having the rest of the party lie down, I crept toward
the quarry, accompanied only by Whitely. We got within a hundred
yards of the deer when he suddenly raised his antlered head and
pricked up his great ears. We both fired at once and had the
satisfaction of seeing the buck drop; then we ran forward to finish
him with our knives. The deer lay in a small open space close to
a clump of acacias, and we had advanced to within several yards
of our kill when we both halted suddenly and simultaneously.
Whitely looked at me, and I looked at Whitely, and then we both
looked back in the direction of the deer.
"Blime!' he said. "Wot is hit, sir?"
"It looks to me, Whitely, like an error," I said; "some assistant
god who had been creating elephants must have been temporarily
transferred to the lizard-department."
"Hi wouldn't s'y that, sir," said Whitely; "it sounds blasphemous."
"It is more blasphemous than that thing which is swiping our
meat," I replied, for whatever the thing was, it had leaped upon
our deer and was devouring it in great mouthfuls which it
swallowed without mastication. The creature appeared to be a
great lizard at least ten feet high, with a huge, powerful tail
as long as its torso, mighty hind legs and short forelegs. When it
had advanced from the wood, it hopped much after the fashion of a
kangaroo, using its hind feet and tail to propel it, and when it
stood erect, it sat upon its tail. Its head was long and thick,
with a blunt muzzle, and the opening of the jaws ran back to a
point behind the eyes, and the jaws were armed with long sharp teeth.
The scaly body was covered with black and yellow spots about a foot
in diameter and irregular in contour. These spots were outlined in
red with edgings about an inch wide. The underside of the chest,
body and tail were a greenish white.
"Wot s'y we pot the bloomin' bird, sir?" suggested Whitely.
I told him to wait until I gave the word; then we would fire
simultaneously, he at the heart and I at the spine.
"Hat the 'eart, sir--yes, sir," he replied, and raised his piece
to his shoulder.
Our shots rang out together. The thing raised its head and
looked about until its eyes rested upon us; then it gave vent to
a most appalling hiss that rose to the crescendo of a terrific
shriek and came for us.
"Beat it, Whitely!" I cried as I turned to run.
We were about a quarter of a mile from the rest of our party, and
in full sight of them as they lay in the tall grass watching us.
That they saw all that had happened was evidenced by the fact that
they now rose and ran toward us, and at their head leaped Nobs.
The creature in our rear was gaining on us rapidly when Nobs flew
past me like a meteor and rushed straight for the frightful reptile.
I tried to recall him, but he would pay no attention to me, and as
I couldn't see him sacrificed, I, too, stopped and faced the monster.
The creature appeared to be more impressed with Nobs than by us and
our firearms, for it stopped as the Airedale dashed at it growling,
and struck at him viciously with its powerful jaws.
Nobs, though, was lightning by comparison with the slow thinking
beast and dodged his opponent's thrust with ease. Then he raced
to the rear of the tremendous thing and seized it by the tail.
There Nobs made the error of his life. Within that mottled organ
were the muscles of a Titan, the force of a dozen mighty
catapults, and the owner of the tail was fully aware of the
possibilities which it contained. With a single flip of the tip
it sent poor Nobs sailing through the air a hundred feet above
the ground, straight back into the clump of acacias from which
the beast had leaped upon our kill--and then the grotesque thing
sank lifeless to the ground.
Olson and von Schoenvorts came up a minute later with their men;
then we all cautiously approached the still form upon the ground.
The creature was quite dead, and an examination resulted in
disclosing the fact that Whitely's bullet had pierced its heart,
and mine had severed the spinal cord.
"But why didn't it die instantly?" I exclaimed.
"Because," said von Schoenvorts in his disagreeable way, "the
beast is so large, and its nervous organization of so low a
caliber, that it took all this time for the intelligence of death
to reach and be impressed upon the minute brain. The thing was
dead when your bullets struck it; but it did not know it for
several seconds--possibly a minute. If I am not mistaken, it is
an Allosaurus of the Upper Jurassic, remains of which have been
found in Central Wyoming, in the suburbs of New York."
An Irishman by the name of Brady grinned. I afterward learned
that he had served three years on the traffic-squad of the
Chicago police force.
I had been calling Nobs in the meantime and was about to set out
in search of him, fearing, to tell the truth, to do so lest I
find him mangled and dead among the trees of the acacia grove,
when he suddenly emerged from among the boles, his ears flattened,
his tail between his legs and his body screwed into a suppliant S.
He was unharmed except for minor bruises; but he was the most
chastened dog I have ever seen.
We gathered up what was left of the red deer after skinning and
cleaning it, and set out upon our return journey toward the U-boat.
On the way Olson, von Schoenvorts and I discussed the needs of our
immediate future, and we were unanimous in placing foremost the
necessity of a permanent camp on shore. The interior of a U-boat
is about as impossible and uncomfortable an abiding-place as one
can well imagine, and in this warm climate, and in warm water, it
was almost unendurable. So we decided to construct a palisaded camp.
As we strolled slowly back toward the boat, planning and discussing
this, we were suddenly startled by a loud and unmistakable detonation.
"A shell from the U-33!" exclaimed von Schoenvorts.
"What can be after signifyin'?" queried Olson.
"They are in trouble," I answered for all, "and it's up to us
to get back to them. Drop that carcass," I directed the men
carrying the meat, "and follow me!" I set off at a rapid run
in the direction of the harbor.
We ran for the better part of a mile without hearing anything
more from the direction of the harbor, and then I reduced the
speed to a walk, for the exercise was telling on us who had been
cooped up for so long in the confined interior of the U-33.
Puffing and panting, we plodded on until within about a mile of
the harbor we came upon a sight that brought us all up standing.
We had been passing through a little heavier timber than was
usual to this part of the country, when we suddenly emerged into
an open space in the center of which was such a band as might
have caused the most courageous to pause. It consisted of upward
of five hundred individuals representing several species closely
allied to man. There were anthropoid apes and gorillas--these
I had no difficulty in recognizing; but there were other forms
which I had never before seen, and I was hard put to it to say
whether they were ape or man. Some of them resembled the corpse
we had found upon the narrow beach against Caprona's sea-wall,
while others were of a still lower type, more nearly resembling
the apes, and yet others were uncannily manlike, standing there
erect, being less hairy and possessing better shaped heads.
There was one among the lot, evidently the leader of them, who
bore a close resemblance to the so-called Neanderthal man of La
Chapelle-aux-Saints. There was the same short, stocky trunk upon
which rested an enormous head habitually bent forward into the
same curvature as the back, the arms shorter than the legs, and
the lower leg considerably shorter than that of modern man, the
knees bent forward and never straightened. This creature and one
or two others who appeared to be of a lower order than he, yet
higher than that of the apes, carried heavy clubs; the others were
armed only with giant muscles and fighting fangs--nature's weapons.
All were males, and all were entirely naked; nor was there upon
even the highest among them a sign of ornamentation.
At sight of us they turned with bared fangs and low growls to
confront us. I did not wish to fire among them unless it became
absolutely necessary, and so I started to lead my party around
them; but the instant that the Neanderthal man guessed my
intention, he evidently attributed it to cowardice upon our part,
and with a wild cry he leaped toward us, waving his cudgel above
his head. The others followed him, and in a minute we should have
been overwhelmed. I gave the order to fire, and at the first
volley six of them went down, including the Neanderthal man.
The others hesitated a moment and then broke for the trees, some
running nimbly among the branches, while others lost themselves
to us between the boles. Both von Schoenvorts and I noticed that
at least two of the higher, manlike types took to the trees quite
as nimbly as the apes, while others that more nearly approached
man in carriage and appearance sought safety upon the ground with
An examination disclosed that five of our erstwhile opponents
were dead and the sixth, the Neanderthal man, was but slightly
wounded, a bullet having glanced from his thick skull, stunning him.
We decided to take him with us to camp, and by means of belts we
managed to secure his hands behind his back and place a leash
around his neck before he regained consciousness. We then
retraced our steps for our meat being convinced by our own
experience that those aboard the U-33 had been able to frighten
off this party with a single shell--but when we came to where we
had left the deer it had disappeared.
On the return journey Whitely and I preceded the rest of the
party by about a hundred yards in the hope of getting another
shot at something edible, for we were all greatly disgusted
and disappointed by the loss of our venison. Whitely and I
advanced very cautiously, and not having the whole party with
us, we fared better than on the journey out, bagging two large
antelope not a half-mile from the harbor; so with our game and
our prisoner we made a cheerful return to the boat, where we
found that all were safe. On the shore a little north of where
we lay there were the corpses of twenty of the wild creatures who
had attacked Bradley and his party in our absence, and the rest
of whom we had met and scattered a few minutes later.
We felt that we had taught these wild ape-men a lesson and that
because of it we would be safer in the future--at least safer
from them; but we decided not to abate our carefulness one whit;
feeling that this new world was filled with terrors still unknown
to us; nor were we wrong.
The following morning we commenced work upon our camp, Bradley,
Olson, von Schoenvorts, Miss La Rue, and I having sat up half the
night discussing the matter and drawing plans. We set the men at
work felling trees, selecting for the purpose jarrah, a hard,
weather-resisting timber which grew in profusion near by. Half the
men labored while the other half stood guard, alternating each hour
with an hour off at noon. Olson directed this work. Bradley, von
Schoenvorts and I, with Miss La Rue's help, staked out the various
buildings and the outer wall. When the day was done, we had quite
an array of logs nicely notched and ready for our building operations
on the morrow, and we were all tired, for after the buildings had
been staked out we all fell in and helped with the logging--all but
von Schoenvorts. He, being a Prussian and a gentleman, couldn't
stoop to such menial labor in the presence of his men, and I didn't
see fit to ask it of him, as the work was purely voluntary upon
our part. He spent the afternoon shaping a swagger-stick from the
branch of jarrah and talking with Miss La Rue, who had sufficiently
unbent toward him to notice his existence.
We saw nothing of the wild men of the previous day, and only once
were we menaced by any of the strange denizens of Caprona, when
some frightful nightmare of the sky swooped down upon us, only to
be driven off by a fusillade of bullets. The thing appeared to
be some variety of pterodactyl, and what with its enormous size
and ferocious aspect was most awe-inspiring. There was another
incident, too, which to me at least was far more unpleasant than
the sudden onslaught of the prehistoric reptile. Two of the men,
both Germans, were stripping a felled tree of its branches.
Von Schoenvorts had completed his swagger-stick, and he and I
were passing close to where the two worked.
One of them threw to his rear a small branch that he had just
chopped off, and as misfortune would have it, it struck von
Schoenvorts across the face. It couldn't have hurt him, for it
didn't leave a mark; but he flew into a terrific rage, shouting:
"Attention!" in a loud voice. The sailor immediately
straightened up, faced his officer, clicked his heels together
and saluted. "Pig!" roared the Baron, and struck the fellow
across the face, breaking his nose. I grabbed von Schoenvorts'
arm and jerked him away before he could strike again, if such had
been his intention, and then he raised his little stick to strike
me; but before it descended the muzzle of my pistol was against
his belly and he must have seen in my eyes that nothing would
suit me better than an excuse to pull the trigger. Like all his
kind and all other bullies, von Schoenvorts was a coward at
heart, and so he dropped his hand to his side and started to turn
away; but I pulled him back, and there before his men I told him
that such a thing must never again occur--that no man was to be
struck or otherwise punished other than in due process of the
laws that we had made and the court that we had established.
All the time the sailor stood rigidly at attention, nor could I
tell from his expression whether he most resented the blow his
officer had struck him or my interference in the gospel of the
Kaiser-breed. Nor did he move until I said to him: "Plesser, you
may return to your quarters and dress your wound." Then he
saluted and marched stiffly off toward the U-33.
Just before dusk we moved out into the bay a hundred yards from
shore and dropped anchor, for I felt that we should be safer
there than elsewhere. I also detailed men to stand watch during
the night and appointed Olson officer of the watch for the entire
night, telling him to bring his blankets on deck and get what
rest he could. At dinner we tasted our first roast Caprona
antelope, and we had a mess of greens that the cook had found
growing along the stream. All during the meal von Schoenvorts
was silent and surly.
After dinner we all went on deck and watched the unfamiliar
scenes of a Capronian night--that is, all but von Schoenvorts.
There was less to see than to hear. From the great inland lake
behind us came the hissing and the screaming of countless saurians.
Above us we heard the flap of giant wings, while from the shore
rose the multitudinous voices of a tropical jungle--of a warm,
damp atmosphere such as must have enveloped the entire earth
during the Palezoic and Mesozoic eras. But here were intermingled
the voices of later eras--the scream of the panther, the roar of
the lion, the baying of wolves and a thunderous growling which
we could attribute to nothing earthly but which one day we were
to connect with the most fearsome of ancient creatures.
One by one the others went to their rooms, until the girl and
I were left alone together, for I had permitted the watch to
go below for a few minutes, knowing that I would be on deck.
Miss La Rue was very quiet, though she replied graciously
enough to whatever I had to say that required reply. I asked
her if she did not feel well.
"Yes," she said, "but I am depressed by the awfulness of it all.
I feel of so little consequence--so small and helpless in the
face of all these myriad manifestations of life stripped to the
bone of its savagery and brutality. I realize as never before
how cheap and valueless a thing is life. Life seems a joke, a
cruel, grim joke. You are a laughable incident or a terrifying
one as you happen to be less powerful or more powerful than some
other form of life which crosses your path; but as a rule you are
of no moment whatsoever to anything but yourself. You are a comic
little figure, hopping from the cradle to the grave. Yes, that
is our trouble--we take ourselves too seriously; but Caprona
should be a sure cure for that." She paused and laughed.
"You have evolved a beautiful philosophy," I said. "It fills
such a longing in the human breast. It is full, it is
satisfying, it is ennobling. What wonderous strides toward
perfection the human race might have made if the first man had
evolved it and it had persisted until now as the creed of humanity."
"I don't like irony," she said; "it indicates a small soul."
"What other sort of soul, then, would you expect from `a comic
little figure hopping from the cradle to the grave'?" I inquired.
"And what difference does it make, anyway, what you like and what
you don't like? You are here for but an instant, and you mustn't
take yourself too seriously."
She looked up at me with a smile. "I imagine that I am frightened and
blue," she said, "and I know that I am very, very homesick and lonely."
There was almost a sob in her voice as she concluded. It was the
first time that she had spoken thus to me. Involuntarily, I laid
my hand upon hers where it rested on the rail.
"I know how difficult your position is," I said; "but don't feel
that you are alone. There is--is one here who--who would do
anything in the world for you," I ended lamely. She did not
withdraw her hand, and she looked up into my face with tears on her
cheeks and I read in her eyes the thanks her lips could not voice.
Then she looked away across the weird moonlit landscape and sighed.
Evidently her new-found philosophy had tumbled about her ears, for
she was seemingly taking herself seriously. I wanted to take her
in my arms and tell her how I loved her, and had taken her hand
from the rail and started to draw her toward me when Olson came
blundering up on deck with his bedding.
The following morning we started building operations in earnest,
and things progressed finely. The Neanderthal man was something
of a care, for we had to keep him in irons all the time, and he
was mighty savage when approached; but after a time he became
more docile, and then we tried to discover if he had a language.
Lys spent a great deal of time talking to him and trying to draw
him out; but for a long while she was unsuccessful. It took us
three weeks to build all the houses, which we constructed close
by a cold spring some two miles from the harbor.
We changed our plans a trifle when it came to building the
palisade, for we found a rotted cliff near by where we could get
all the flat building-stone we needed, and so we constructed a
stone wall entirely around the buildings. It was in the form of
a square, with bastions and towers at each corner which would
permit an enfilading fire along any side of the fort, and was
about one hundred and thirty-five feet square on the outside,
with walls three feet thick at the bottom and about a foot and
a half wide at the top, and fifteen feet high. It took a long
time to build that wall, and we all turned in and helped except
von Schoenvorts, who, by the way, had not spoken to me except
in the line of official business since our encounter--a condition
of armed neutrality which suited me to a T. We have just finished
it, the last touches being put on today. I quit about a week ago
and commenced working on this chronicle for our strange adventures,
which will account for any minor errors in chronology which may
have crept in; there was so much material that I may have made
some mistakes, but I think they are but minor and few.
I see in reading over the last few pages that I neglected to
state that Lys finally discovered that the Neanderthal man
possessed a language. She had learned to speak it, and so have
I, to some extent. It was he--his name he says is Am, or Ahm--
who told us that this country is called Caspak. When we asked
him how far it extended, he waved both arms about his head in an
all-including gesture which took in, apparently, the entire universe.
He is more tractable now, and we are going to release him, for he
has assured us that he will not permit his fellows to harm us.
He calls us Galus and says that in a short time he will be a Galu.
It is not quite clear to us what he means. He says that there are
many Galus north of us, and that as soon as he becomes one he will
go and live with them.
Ahm went out to hunt with us yesterday and was much impressed by
the ease with which our rifles brought down antelopes and deer.
We have been living upon the fat of the land, Ahm, having shown
us the edible fruits, tubers and herbs, and twice a week we go
out after fresh meat. A certain proportion of this we dry and
store away, for we do not know what may come. Our drying process
is really smoking. We have also dried a large quantity of two
varieties of cereal which grow wild a few miles south of us.
One of these is a giant Indian maize--a lofty perennial often fifty
and sixty feet in height, with ears the size off a man's body and
kernels as large as your fist. We have had to construct a second
store house for the great quantity of this that we have gathered.
September 3, 1916: Three months ago today the torpedo from the
U-33 started me from the peaceful deck of the American liner upon
the strange voyage which has ended here in Caspak. We have settled
down to an acceptance of our fate, for all are convinced that none
of us will ever see the outer world again. Ahm's repeated assertions
that there are human beings like ourselves in Caspak have roused
the men to a keen desire for exploration. I sent out one party
last week under Bradley. Ahm, who is now free to go and come as
he wishes, accompanied them. They marched about twenty-five miles
due west, encountering many terrible beasts and reptiles and not
a few manlike creatures whom Ahm sent away. Here is Bradley's
report of the expedition:
Marched fifteen miles the first day, camping on the bank of a
large stream which runs southward. Game was plentiful and we saw
several varieties which we had not before encountered in Caspak.
Just before making camp we were charged by an enormous woolly
rhinoceros, which Plesser dropped with a perfect shot. We had
rhinoceros-steaks for supper. Ahm called the thing "Atis." It was
almost a continuous battle from the time we left the fort until we
arrived at camp. The mind of man can scarce conceive the plethora
of carnivorous life in this lost world; and their prey, of course,
is even more abundant.
The second day we marched about ten miles to the foot of the cliffs.
Passed through dense forests close to the base of the cliffs.
Saw manlike creatures and a low order of ape in one band, and
some of the men swore that there was a white man among them.
They were inclined to attack us at first; but a volley from our
rifles caused them to change their minds. We scaled the cliffs
as far as we could; but near the top they are absolutely
perpendicular without any sufficient cleft or protuberance to
give hand or foot-hold. All were disappointed, for we hungered
for a view of the ocean and the outside world. We even had a
hope that we might see and attract the attention of a passing ship.
Our exploration has determined one thing which will probably
be of little value to us and never heard of beyond Caprona's
walls--this crater was once entirely filled with water.
Indisputable evidence of this is on the face of the cliffs.
Our return journey occupied two days and was as filled with
adventure as usual. We are all becoming accustomed to adventure.
It is beginning to pall on us. We suffered no casualties and
there was no illness.
I had to smile as I read Bradley's report. In those four days
he had doubtless passed through more adventures than an African
big-game hunter experiences in a lifetime, and yet he covered it
all in a few lines. Yes, we are becoming accustomed to adventure.
Not a day passes that one or more of us does not face death at
least once. Ahm taught us a few things that have proved
profitable and saved us much ammunition, which it is useless
to expend except for food or in the last recourse of self-
preservation. Now when we are attacked by large flying reptiles
we run beneath spreading trees; when land carnivora threaten us,
we climb into trees, and we have learned not to fire at any of
the dinosaurs unless we can keep out of their reach for at least
two minutes after hitting them in the brain or spine, or five
minutes after puncturing their hearts--it takes them so long to die.
To hit them elsewhere is worse than useless, for they do not seem
to notice it, and we had discovered that such shots do not kill
or even disable them.
September 7, 1916: Much has happened since I last wrote. Bradley is
away again on another exploration expedition to the cliffs. He expects
to be gone several weeks and to follow along their base in search of
a point where they may be scaled. He took Sinclair, Brady, James,
and Tippet with him. Ahm has disappeared. He has been gone about
three days; but the most startling thing I have on record is that
von Schoenvorts and Olson while out hunting the other day discovered
oil about fifteen miles north of us beyond the sandstone cliffs.
Olson says there is a geyser of oil there, and von Schoenvorts is
making preparations to refine it. If he succeeds, we shall have
the means for leaving Caspak and returning to our own world.
I can scarce believe the truth of it. We are all elated to the
seventh heaven of bliss. Pray God we shall not be disappointed.
I have tried on several occasions to broach the subject of my
love to Lys; but she will not listen.
October 8, 1916: This is the last entry I shall make upon
my manuscript. When this is done, I shall be through. Though I
may pray that it reaches the haunts of civilized man, my better
judgment tells me that it will never be perused by other eyes
than mine, and that even though it should, it would be too late
to avail me. I am alone upon the summit of the great cliff
overlooking the broad Pacific. A chill south wind bites at my
marrow, while far below me I can see the tropic foliage of Caspak
on the one hand and huge icebergs from the near Antarctic upon
the other. Presently I shall stuff my folded manuscript into the
thermos bottle I have carried with me for the purpose since I
left the fort--Fort Dinosaur we named it--and hurl it far outward
over the cliff-top into the Pacific. What current washes the
shore of Caprona I know not; whither my bottle will be borne I
cannot even guess; but I have done all that mortal man may do to
notify the world of my whereabouts and the dangers that threaten
those of us who remain alive in Caspak--if there be any other
About the 8th of September I accompanied Olson and von
Schoenvorts to the oil-geyser. Lys came with us, and we took a
number of things which von Schoenvorts wanted for the purpose
of erecting a crude refinery. We went up the coast some ten or
twelve miles in the U-33, tying up to shore near the mouth of a
small stream which emptied great volumes of crude oil into the
sea--I find it difficult to call this great lake by any other name.
Then we disembarked and went inland about five miles, where we came
upon a small lake entirely filled with oil, from the center of
which a geyser of oil spouted.
On the edge of the lake we helped von Schoenvorts build his
primitive refinery. We worked with him for two days until he got
things fairly well started, and then we returned to Fort Dinosaur,
as I feared that Bradley might return and be worried by our absence.
The U-33 merely landed those of us that were to return to the fort
and then retraced its course toward the oil-well. Olson, Whitely,
Wilson, Miss La Rue, and myself disembarked, while von Schoenvorts
and his German crew returned to refine the oil. The next day
Plesser and two other Germans came down overland for ammunition.
Plesser said they had been attacked by wild men and had exhausted
a great deal of ammunition. He also asked permission to get some
dried meat and maize, saying that they were so busy with the work
of refining that they had no time to hunt. I let him have
everything he asked for, and never once did a suspicion of their
intentions enter my mind. They returned to the oil-well the same
day, while we continued with the multitudinous duties of camp life.
For three days nothing of moment occurred. Bradley did not
return; nor did we have any word from von Schoenvorts. In the
evening Lys and I went up into one of the bastion towers and
listened to the grim and terrible nightlife of the frightful ages
of the past. Once a saber-tooth screamed almost beneath us, and
the girl shrank close against me. As I felt her body against
mine, all the pent love of these three long months shattered the
bonds of timidity and conviction, and I swept her up into my arms
and covered her face and lips with kisses. She did not struggle
to free herself; but instead her dear arms crept up about my neck
and drew my own face even closer to hers.
"You love me, Lys?" I cried.
I felt her head nod an affirmative against my breast. "Tell me,
Lys," I begged, "tell me in words how much you love me."
Low and sweet and tender came the answer: "I love you beyond
My heart filled with rapture then, and it fills now as it has
each of the countless times I have recalled those dear words, as
it shall fill always until death has claimed me. I may never see
her again; she may not know how I love her--she may question, she
may doubt; but always true and steady, and warm with the fires of
love my heart beats for the girl who said that night: "I love you
beyond all conception."
For a long time we sat there upon the little bench constructed for
the sentry that we had not as yet thought it necessary to post in
more than one of the four towers. We learned to know one another
better in those two brief hours than we had in all the months that
had intervened since we had been thrown together. She told me that
she had loved me from the first, and that she never had loved von
Schoenvorts, their engagement having been arranged by her aunt for
That was the happiest evening of my life; nor ever do I expect
to experience its like; but at last, as is the way of happiness,
it terminated. We descended to the compound, and I walked with Lys
to the door of her quarters. There again she kissed me and bade
me good night, and then she went in and closed the door.
I went to my own room, and there I sat by the light of one of the
crude candles we had made from the tallow of the beasts we had
killed, and lived over the events of the evening. At last I
turned in and fell asleep, dreaming happy dreams and planning for
the future, for even in savage Caspak I was bound to make my girl
safe and happy. It was daylight when I awoke. Wilson, who was
acting as cook, was up and astir at his duties in the cook-house.
The others slept; but I arose and followed by Nobs went down to
the stream for a plunge. As was our custom, I went armed with
both rifle and revolver; but I stripped and had my swim without
further disturbance than the approach of a large hyena, a number
of which occupied caves in the sand-stone cliffs north of the camp.
These brutes are enormous and exceedingly ferocious. I imagine
they correspond with the cave-hyena of prehistoric times.
This fellow charged Nobs, whose Capronian experiences had taught
him that discretion is the better part of valor--with the result
that he dived head foremost into the stream beside me after giving
vent to a series of ferocious growls which had no more effect upon
Hyaena spelaeus than might a sweet smile upon an enraged tusker.
Afterward I shot the beast, and Nobs had a feast while I dressed,
for he had become quite a raw-meat eater during our numerous hunting
expeditions, upon which we always gave him a portion of the kill.
Whitely and Olson were up and dressed when we returned, and we
all sat down to a good breakfast. I could not but wonder at Lys'
absence from the table, for she had always been one of the
earliest risers in camp; so about nine o'clock, becoming
apprehensive lest she might be indisposed, I went to the door of
her room and knocked. I received no response, though I finally
pounded with all my strength; then I turned the knob and entered,
only to find that she was not there. Her bed had been occupied,
and her clothing lay where she had placed it the previous night
upon retiring; but Lys was gone. To say that I was distracted
with terror would be to put it mildly. Though I knew she could
not be in camp, I searched every square inch of the compound and
all the buildings, yet without avail.
It was Whitely who discovered the first clue--a huge human-like
footprint in the soft earth beside the spring, and indications of
a struggle in the mud.
Then I found a tiny handkerchief close to the outer wall.
Lys had been stolen! It was all too plain. Some hideous member
of the ape-man tribe had entered the fort and carried her off.
While I stood stunned and horrified at the frightful evidence
before me, there came from the direction of the great lake an
increasing sound that rose to the volume of a shriek. We all
looked up as the noise approached apparently just above us, and
a moment later there followed a terrific explosion which hurled
us to the ground. When we clambered to our feet, we saw a large
section of the west wall torn and shattered. It was Olson who
first recovered from his daze sufficiently to guess the
explanation of the phenomenon.
"A shell!" he cried. "And there ain't no shells in Caspak
besides what's on the U-33. The dirty boches are shellin'
the fort. Come on!" And he grasped his rifle and started on
a run toward the lake. It was over two miles, but we did not pause
until the harbor was in view, and still we could not see the lake
because of the sandstone cliffs which intervened. We ran as fast
as we could around the lower end of the harbor, scrambled up the
cliffs and at last stood upon their summit in full view of the lake.
Far away down the coast, toward the river through which we had come
to reach the lake, we saw upon the surface the outline of the U-33,
black smoke vomiting from her funnel.
Von Schoenvorts had succeeded in refining the oil! The cur had
broken his every pledge and was leaving us there to our fates.
He had even shelled the fort as a parting compliment; nor could
anything have been more truly Prussian than this leave-taking of
the Baron Friedrich von Schoenvorts.
Olson, Whitely, Wilson, and I stood for a moment looking at
one another. It seemed incredible that man could be so
perfidious--that we had really seen with our own eyes the thing
that we had seen; but when we returned to the fort, the shattered
wall gave us ample evidence that there was no mistake.
Then we began to speculate as to whether it had been an ape-man
or a Prussian that had abducted Lys. From what we knew of von
Schoenvorts, we would not have been surprised at anything from
him; but the footprints by the spring seemed indisputable
evidence that one of Caprona's undeveloped men had borne off
the girl I loved.
As soon as I had assured myself that such was the case, I made my
preparations to follow and rescue her. Olson, Whitely, and
Wilson each wished to accompany me; but I told them that they
were needed here, since with Bradley's party still absent and the
Germans gone it was necessary that we conserve our force as far
as might be possible.
It was a sad leave-taking as in silence I shook hands with each
of the three remaining men. Even poor Nobs appeared dejected as
we quit the compound and set out upon the well-marked spoor of
the abductor. Not once did I turn my eyes backward toward
Fort Dinosaur. I have not looked upon it since--nor in all
likelihood shall I ever look upon it again. The trail led
northwest until it reached the western end of the sandstone
cliffs to the north of the fort; there it ran into a well-defined
path which wound northward into a country we had not as yet explored.
It was a beautiful, gently rolling country, broken by occasional
outcroppings of sandstone and by patches of dense forest relieved
by open, park-like stretches and broad meadows whereon grazed
countless herbivorous animals--red deer, aurochs, and infinite
variety of antelope and at least three distinct species of horse,
the latter ranging in size from a creature about as large as
Nobs to a magnificent animal fourteen to sixteen hands high.
These creatures fed together in perfect amity; nor did they show
any great indications of terror when Nobs and I approached.
They moved out of our way and kept their eyes upon us until we
had passed; then they resumed their feeding.
The path led straight across the clearing into another forest,
lying upon the verge of which I saw a bit of white. It appeared
to stand out in marked contrast and incongruity to all its
surroundings, and when I stopped to examine it, I found that
it was a small strip of muslin--part of the hem of a garment.
At once I was all excitement, for I knew that it was a sign left
by Lys that she had been carried this way; it was a tiny bit torn
from the hem of the undergarment that she wore in lieu of the
night-robes she had lost with the sinking of the liner.
Crushing the bit of fabric to my lips, I pressed on even more
rapidly than before, because I now knew that I was upon the right
trail and that up to this, point at least, Lys still had lived.
I made over twenty miles that day, for I was now hardened to
fatigue and accustomed to long hikes, having spent considerable
time hunting and exploring in the immediate vicinity of camp.
A dozen times that day was my life threatened by fearsome creatures
of the earth or sky, though I could not but note that the farther
north I traveled, the fewer were the great dinosaurs, though they
still persisted in lesser numbers. On the other hand the
quantity of ruminants and the variety and frequency of
carnivorous animals increased. Each square mile of Caspak
harbored its terrors.
At intervals along the way I found bits of muslin, and often they
reassured me when otherwise I should have been doubtful of the trail
to take where two crossed or where there were forks, as occurred
at several points. And so, as night was drawing on, I came to the
southern end of a line of cliffs loftier than any I had seen before,
and as I approached them, there was wafted to my nostrils the pungent
aroma of woodsmoke. What could it mean? There could, to my mind,
be but a single solution: man abided close by, a higher order of
man than we had as yet seen, other than Ahm, the Neanderthal man.
I wondered again as I had so many times that day if it had not been
Ahm who stole Lys.
Cautiously I approached the flank of the cliffs, where they
terminated in an abrupt escarpment as though some all powerful
hand had broken off a great section of rock and set it upon the
surface of the earth. It was now quite dark, and as I crept
around the edge of the cliff, I saw at a little distance a great
fire around which were many figures--apparently human figures.
Cautioning Nobs to silence, and he had learned many lessons in
the value of obedience since we had entered Caspak, I slunk
forward, taking advantage of whatever cover I could find, until
from behind a bush I could distinctly see the creatures assembled
by the fire. They were human and yet not human. I should say
that they were a little higher in the scale of evolution than
Ahm, possibly occupying a place of evolution between that of the
Neanderthal man and what is known as the Grimaldi race. Their features
were distinctly negroid, though their skins were white. A considerable
portion of both torso and limbs were covered with short hair, and
their physical proportions were in many aspects apelike, though not
so much so as were Ahm's. They carried themselves in a more erect
position, although their arms were considerably longer than those
of the Neanderthal man. As I watched them, I saw that they possessed
a language, that they had knowledge of fire and that they carried
besides the wooden club of Ahm, a thing which resembled a crude
stone hatchet. Evidently they were very low in the scale of
humanity, but they were a step upward from those I had previously
seen in Caspak.
But what interested me most was the slender figure of a dainty
girl, clad only in a thin bit of muslin which scarce covered her
knees--a bit of muslin torn and ragged about the lower hem. It was
Lys, and she was alive and so far as I could see, unharmed. A huge
brute with thick lips and prognathous jaw stood at her shoulder.
He was talking loudly and gesticulating wildly. I was close enough
to hear his words, which were similar to the language of Ahm, though
much fuller, for there were many words I could not understand.
However I caught the gist of what he was saying--which in effect
was that he had found and captured this Galu, that she was his
and that he defied anyone to question his right of possession.
It appeared to me, as I afterward learned was the fact, that I was
witnessing the most primitive of marriage ceremonies. The assembled
members of the tribe looked on and listened in a sort of dull and
perfunctory apathy, for the speaker was by far the mightiest of the clan.
There seemed no one to dispute his claims when he said, or rather
shouted, in stentorian tones: "I am Tsa. This is my she.
Who wishes her more than Tsa?"
"I do," I said in the language of Ahm, and I stepped out into the
firelight before them. Lys gave a little cry of joy and started
toward me, but Tsa grasped her arm and dragged her back.
"Who are you?" shrieked Tsa. "I kill! I kill! I kill!"
"The she is mine," I replied, "and I have come to claim her.
I kill if you do not let her come to me." And I raised my pistol
to a level with his heart. Of course the creature had no conception
of the purpose of the strange little implement which I was poking
toward him. With a sound that was half human and half the growl
of a wild beast, he sprang toward me. I aimed at his heart and
fired, and as he sprawled headlong to the ground, the others of
his tribe, overcome by fright at the report of the pistol,
scattered toward the cliffs--while Lys, with outstretched arms,
ran toward me.
As I crushed her to me, there rose from the black night behind us
and then to our right and to our left a series of frightful
screams and shrieks, bellowings, roars and growls. It was the
night-life of this jungle world coming into its own--the huge,
carnivorous nocturnal beasts which make the nights of Caspak hideous.
A shuddering sob ran through Lys' figure. "O God," she cried,
"give me the strength to endure, for his sake!" I saw that
she was upon the verge of a breakdown, after all that she must
have passed through of fear and horror that day, and I tried to
quiet and reassure her as best I might; but even to me the future
looked most unpromising, for what chance of life had we against
the frightful hunters of the night who even now were prowling
closer to us?
Now I turned to see what had become of the tribe, and in the
fitful glare of the fire I perceived that the face of the
cliff was pitted with large holes into which the man-things
were clambering. "Come," I said to Lys, "we must follow them.
We cannot last a half-hour out here. We must find a cave."
Already we could see the blazing green eyes of the hungry carnivora.
I seized a brand from the fire and hurled it out into the night,
and there came back an answering chorus of savage and rageful
protest; but the eyes vanished for a short time. Selecting a
burning branch for each of us, we advanced toward the cliffs,
where we were met by angry threats.
"They will kill us," said Lys. "We may as well keep on in search
of another refuge."
"They will not kill us so surely as will those others out there,"
I replied. "I am going to seek shelter in one of these caves;
nor will the man-things prevent." And I kept on in the direction
of the cliff's base. A huge creature stood upon a ledge and
brandished his stone hatchet. "Come and I will kill you and take
the she," he boasted.
"You saw how Tsa fared when he would have kept my she," I replied
in his own tongue. "Thus will you fare and all your fellows if
you do not permit us to come in peace among you out of the dangers
of the night."
"Go north," he screamed. "Go north among the Galus, and we will
not harm you. Some day will we be Galus; but now we are not.
You do not belong among us. Go away or we will kill you. The she
may remain if she is afraid, and we will keep her; but the he
"The he won't depart," I replied, and approached still nearer.
Rough and narrow ledges formed by nature gave access to the
upper caves. A man might scale them if unhampered and unhindered,
but to clamber upward in the face of a belligerent tribe of half-men
and with a girl to assist was beyond my capability.
"I do not fear you," screamed the creature. "You were close to
Tsa; but I am far above you. You cannot harm me as you harmed Tsa.
I placed a foot upon the lowest ledge and clambered upward,
reaching down and pulling Lys to my side. Already I felt safer.
Soon we would be out of danger of the beasts again closing in
upon us. The man above us raised his stone hatchet above his head
and leaped lightly down to meet us. His position above me gave
him a great advantage, or at least so he probably thought, for he
came with every show of confidence. I hated to do it, but there
seemed no other way, and so I shot him down as I had shot down Tsa.
"You see," I cried to his fellows, "that I can kill you wherever
you may be. A long way off I can kill you as well as I can kill
you near by. Let us come among you in peace. I will not harm you
if you do not harm us. We will take a cave high up. Speak!"
"Come, then," said one. "If you will not harm us, you may come.
Take Tsa's hole, which lies above you."
The creature showed us the mouth of a black cave, but he kept at
a distance while he did it, and Lys followed me as I crawled in
to explore. I had matches with me, and in the light of one I
found a small cavern with a flat roof and floor which followed
the cleavage of the strata. Pieces of the roof had fallen at
some long-distant date, as was evidenced by the depth of the
filth and rubble in which they were embedded. Even a superficial
examination revealed the fact that nothing had ever been
attempted that might have improved the livability of the cavern;
nor, should I judge, had it ever been cleaned out. With considerable
difficulty I loosened some of the larger pieces of broken rock which
littered the floor and placed them as a barrier before the doorway.
It was too dark to do more than this. I then gave Lys a piece of
dried meat, and sitting inside the entrance, we dined as must have
some of our ancient forbears at the dawning of the age of man, while
far below the open diapason of the savage night rose weird and
horrifying to our ears. In the light of the great fire still
burning we could see huge, skulking forms, and in the blacker
background countless flaming eyes.
Lys shuddered, and I put my arm around her and drew her to me;
and thus we sat throughout the hot night. She told me of her
abduction and of the fright she had undergone, and together we
thanked God that she had come through unharmed, because the great
brute had dared not pause along the danger-infested way. She said
that they had but just reached the cliffs when I arrived, for on
several occasions her captor had been forced to take to the trees
with her to escape the clutches of some hungry cave-lion or saber-
toothed tiger, and that twice they had been obliged to remain for
considerable periods before the beasts had retired.
Nobs, by dint of much scrambling and one or two narrow escapes
from death, had managed to follow us up the cliff and was now
curled between me and the doorway, having devoured a piece of the
dried meat, which he seemed to relish immensely. He was the
first to fall asleep; but I imagine we must have followed suit
soon, for we were both tired. I had laid aside my ammunition-
belt and rifle, though both were close beside me; but my pistol
I kept in my lap beneath my hand. However, we were not disturbed
during the night, and when I awoke, the sun was shining on the
tree-tops in the distance. Lys' head had drooped to my breast,
and my arm was still about her.
Shortly afterward Lys awoke, and for a moment she could not seem
to comprehend her situation. She looked at me and then turned
and glanced at my arm about her, and then she seemed quite
suddenly to realize the scantiness of her apparel and drew away,
covering her face with her palms and blushing furiously. I drew
her back toward me and kissed her, and then she threw her arms
about my neck and wept softly in mute surrender to the inevitable.
It was an hour later before the tribe began to stir about.
We watched them from our "apartment," as Lys called it.
Neither men nor women wore any sort of clothing or ornaments,
and they all seemed to be about of an age; nor were there any
babies or children among them. This was, to us, the strangest
and most inexplicable of facts, but it recalled to us that
though we had seen many of the lesser developed wild people
of Caspak, we had never yet seen a child or an old man or woman.
After a while they became less suspicious of us and then quite
friendly in their brutish way. They picked at the fabric of our
clothing, which seemed to interest them, and examined my rifle
and pistol and the ammunition in the belt around my waist.
I showed them the thermos-bottle, and when I poured a little water
from it, they were delighted, thinking that it was a spring which
I carried about with me--a never-failing source of water supply.
One thing we both noticed among their other characteristics: they
never laughed nor smiled; and then we remembered that Ahm had
never done so, either. I asked them if they knew Ahm; but they
said they did not.
One of them said: "Back there we may have known him." And he
jerked his head to the south.
"You came from back there?" I asked. He looked at me in surprise.
"We all come from there," he said. "After a while we go there."
And this time he jerked his head toward the north. "Be Galus,"
Many times now had we heard this reference to becoming Galus.
Ahm had spoken of it many times. Lys and I decided that it was
a sort of original religious conviction, as much a part of them
as their instinct for self-preservation--a primal acceptance of
a hereafter and a holier state. It was a brilliant theory, but
it was all wrong. I know it now, and how far we were from
guessing the wonderful, the miraculous, the gigantic truth which
even yet I may only guess at--the thing that sets Caspak apart
from all the rest of the world far more definitely than her
isolated geographical position or her impregnable barrier of
giant cliffs. If I could live to return to civilization, I
should have meat for the clergy and the layman to chew upon for
years--and for the evolutionists, too.
After breakfast the men set out to hunt, while the women went to
a large pool of warm water covered with a green scum and filled
with billions of tadpoles. They waded in to where the water was
about a foot deep and lay down in the mud. They remained there
from one to two hours and then returned to the cliff. While we
were with them, we saw this same thing repeated every morning;
but though we asked them why they did it we could get no reply
which was intelligible to us. All they vouchsafed in way of
explanation was the single word Ata. They tried to get Lys to go
in with them and could not understand why she refused. After the
first day I went hunting with the men, leaving my pistol and
Nobs with Lys, but she never had to use them, for no reptile or
beast ever approached the pool while the women were there--nor,
so far as we know, at other times. There was no spoor of wild
beast in the soft mud along the banks, and the water certainly
didn't look fit to drink.
This tribe lived largely upon the smaller animals which they
bowled over with their stone hatchets after making a wide circle
about their quarry and driving it so that it had to pass close to
one of their number. The little horses and the smaller antelope
they secured in sufficient numbers to support life, and they also
ate numerous varieties of fruits and vegetables. They never
brought in more than sufficient food for their immediate needs;
but why bother? The food problem of Caspak is not one to cause
worry to her inhabitants.
The fourth day Lys told me that she thought she felt equal to
attempting the return journey on the morrow, and so I set out for
the hunt in high spirits, for I was anxious to return to the fort
and learn if Bradley and his party had returned and what had been
the result of his expedition. I also wanted to relieve their
minds as to Lys and myself, as I knew that they must have already
given us up for dead. It was a cloudy day, though warm, as it
always is in Caspak. It seemed odd to realize that just a few
miles away winter lay upon the storm-tossed ocean, and that snow
might be falling all about Caprona; but no snow could ever
penetrate the damp, hot atmosphere of the great crater.
We had to go quite a bit farther than usual before we could
surround a little bunch of antelope, and as I was helping drive
them, I saw a fine red deer a couple of hundred yards behind me.
He must have been asleep in the long grass, for I saw him rise
and look about him in a bewildered way, and then I raised my gun
and let him have it. He dropped, and I ran forward to finish him
with the long thin knife, which one of the men had given me; but
just as I reached him, he staggered to his feet and ran on for
another two hundred yards--when I dropped him again. Once more
was this repeated before I was able to reach him and cut his
throat; then I looked around for my companions, as I wanted them
to come and carry the meat home; but I could see nothing of them.
I called a few times and waited, but there was no response and no
one came. At last I became disgusted, and cutting off all the
meat that I could conveniently carry, I set off in the direction
of the cliffs. I must have gone about a mile before the truth
dawn upon me--I was lost, hopelessly lost.
The entire sky was still completely blotted out by dense clouds;
nor was there any landmark visible by which I might have taken
my bearings. I went on in the direction I thought was south but
which I now imagine must have been about due north, without
detecting a single familiar object. In a dense wood I suddenly
stumbled upon a thing which at first filled me with hope and later
with the most utter despair and dejection. It was a little mound
of new-turned earth sprinkled with flowers long since withered,
and at one end was a flat slab of sandstone stuck in the ground.
It was a grave, and it meant for me that I had at last stumbled
into a country inhabited by human beings. I would find them;
they would direct me to the cliffs; perhaps they would accompany
me and take us back with them to their abodes--to the abodes of
men and women like ourselves. My hopes and my imagination ran
riot in the few yards I had to cover to reach that lonely grave
and stoop that I might read the rude characters scratched upon
the simple headstone. This is what I read:
HERE LIES JOHN TIPPET ENGLISHMAN KILLED BY TYRANNOSAURUS 10
SEPT., A.D. 1916 R. I. P.
Tippet! It seemed incredible. Tippet lying here in this gloomy wood!
Tippet dead! He had been a good man, but the personal loss was not
what affected me. It was the fact that this silent grave gave
evidence that Bradley had come this far upon his expedition and that
he too probably was lost, for it was not our intention that he should
be long gone. If I had stumbled upon the grave of one of the party,
was it not within reason to believe that the bones of the others lay
scattered somewhere near?
As I stood looking down upon that sad and lonely mound, wrapped
in the most dismal of reflections and premonitions, I was
suddenly seized from behind and thrown to earth. As I fell, a
warm body fell on top of me, and hands grasped my arms and legs.
When I could look up, I saw a number of giant fingers pinioning
me down, while others stood about surveying me. Here again was
a new type of man--a higher type than the primitive tribe I had
just quitted. They were a taller people, too, with better-shaped
skulls and more intelligent faces. There were less of the ape
characteristics about their features, and less of the negroid, too.
They carried weapons, stone-shod spears, stone knives, and hatchets--
and they wore ornaments and breech-cloths--the former of feathers
worn in their hair and the latter made of a single snake-skin cured
with the head on, the head depending to their knees.
Of course I did not take in all these details upon the instant of
my capture, for I was busy with other matters. Three of the
warriors were sitting upon me, trying to hold me down by main
strength and awkwardness, and they were having their hands full
in the doing, I can tell you. I don't like to appear conceited,
but I may as well admit that I am proud of my strength and the
science that I have acquired and developed in the directing of
it--that and my horsemanship I always have been proud of. And now,
that day, all the long hours that I had put into careful study,
practice and training brought me in two or three minutes a full
return upon my investment. Californians, as a rule, are familiar
with ju-jutsu, and I especially had made a study of it for several
years, both at school and in the gym of the Los Angeles Athletic
Club, while recently I had had, in my employ, a Jap who was a
wonder at the art.
It took me just about thirty seconds to break the elbow of one of
my assailants, trip another and send him stumbling backward among
his fellows, and throw the third completely over my head in such
a way that when he fell his neck was broken. In the instant that
the others of the party stood in mute and inactive surprise, I
unslung my rifle--which, carelessly, I had been carrying across
my back; and when they charged, as I felt they would, I put a
bullet in the forehead of one of them. This stopped them all
temporarily--not the death of their fellow, but the report of the
rifle, the first they had ever heard. Before they were ready to
attack me again, one of them spoke in a commanding tone to his
fellows, and in a language similar but still more comprehensive
than that of the tribe to the south, as theirs was more complete
than Ahm's. He commanded them to stand back and then he advanced
and addressed me.
He asked me who I was, from whence I came and what my intentions were.
I replied that I was a stranger in Caspak, that I was lost and that
my only desire was to find my way back to my companions. He asked
where they were and I told him toward the south somewhere, using
the Caspakian phrase which, literally translated, means "toward
the beginning." His surprise showed upon his face before he voiced
it in words. "There are no Galus there," he said.
"I tell you," I said angrily, "that I am from another country,
far from Caspak, far beyond the high cliffs. I do not know who
the Galus may be; I have never seen them. This is the farthest
north I have been. Look at me--look at my clothing and my weapons.
Have you ever seen a Galu or any other creature in Caspak who
possessed such things?"
He had to admit that he had not, and also that he was much
interested in me, my rifle and the way I had handled his
three warriors. Finally he became half convinced that I was
telling him the truth and offered to aid me if I would show him
how I had thrown the man over my head and also make him a present
of the "bang-spear," as he called it. I refused to give him my
rifle, but promised to show him the trick he wished to learn if
he would guide me in the right direction. He told me that he
would do so tomorrow, that it was too late today and that I might
come to their village and spend the night with them. I was loath
to lose so much time; but the fellow was obdurate, and so I
accompanied them. The two dead men they left where they had
fallen, nor gave them a second glance--thus cheap is life upon Caspak.
These people also were cave-dwellers, but their caves showed the
result of a higher intelligence that brought them a step nearer
to civilized man than the tribe next "toward the beginning."
The interiors of their caverns were cleared of rubbish, though
still far from clean, and they had pallets of dried grasses
covered with the skins of leopard, lynx, and bear, while before
the entrances were barriers of stone and small, rudely circular
stone ovens. The walls of the cavern to which I was conducted were
covered with drawings scratched upon the sandstone. There were
the outlines of the giant red-deer, of mammoths, of tigers and
other beasts. Here, as in the last tribe, there were no children
or any old people. The men of this tribe had two names, or
rather names of two syllables, and their language contained words
of two syllables; whereas in the tribe of Tsa the words were all
of a single syllable, with the exception of a very few like Atis
and Galus. The chief's name was To-jo, and his household
consisted of seven females and himself. These women were much
more comely, or rather less hideous than those of Tsa's people;
one of them, even, was almost pretty, being less hairy and having
a rather nice skin, with high coloring.
They were all much interested in me and examined my clothing and
equipment carefully, handling and feeling and smelling of each article.
I learned from them that their people were known as Bandlu, or
spear-men; Tsa's race was called Sto-lu--hatchet-men. Below these
in the scale of evolution came the Bo-lu, or club-men, and then the
Alus, who had no weapons and no language. In that word I recognized
what to me seemed the most remarkable discovery I had made upon
Caprona, for unless it were mere coincidence, I had come upon a word
that had been handed down from the beginning of spoken language upon
earth, been handed down for millions of years, perhaps, with
little change. It was the sole remaining thread of the ancient
woof of a dawning culture which had been woven when Caprona was
a fiery mount upon a great land-mass teeming with life. It linked
the unfathomable then to the eternal now. And yet it may have been
pure coincidence; my better judgment tells me that it is coincidence
that in Caspak the term for speechless man is Alus, and in the outer
world of our own day it is Alalus.
The comely woman of whom I spoke was called So-ta, and she took
such a lively interest in me that To-jo finally objected to her
attentions, emphasizing his displeasure by knocking her down and
kicking her into a corner of the cavern. I leaped between them
while he was still kicking her, and obtaining a quick hold upon
him, dragged him screaming with pain from the cave. Then I made
him promise not to hurt the she again, upon pain of worse punishment.
So-ta gave me a grateful look; but To-jo and the balance of his women
were sullen and ominous.
Later in the evening So-ta confided to me that she was soon to
leave the tribe.
"So-ta soon to be Kro-lu," she confided in a low whisper. I asked
her what a Kro-lu might be, and she tried to explain, but I do not
yet know if I understood her. From her gestures I deduced that the
Kro-lus were a people who were armed with bows and arrows, had
vessels in which to cook their food and huts of some sort in which
they lived, and were accompanied by animals. It was all very
fragmentary and vague, but the idea seemed to be that the Kro-lus
were a more advanced people than the Band-lus. I pondered a long
time upon all that I had heard, before sleep came to me. I tried
to find some connection between these various races that would
explain the universal hope which each of them harbored that some
day they would become Galus. So-ta had given me a suggestion; but
the resulting idea was so weird that I could scarce even entertain
it; yet it coincided with Ahm's expressed hope, with the various
steps in evolution I had noted in the several tribes I had encountered
and with the range of type represented in each tribe. For example,
among the Band-lu were such types as So-ta, who seemed to me to be
the highest in the scale of evolution, and To-jo, who was just a
shade nearer the ape, while there were others who had flatter noses,
more prognathous faces and hairier bodies. The question puzzled me.
Possibly in the outer world the answer to it is locked in the bosom
of the Sphinx. Who knows? I do not.
Thinking the thoughts of a lunatic or a dope-fiend, I fell asleep;
and when I awoke, my hands and feet were securely tied and my
weapons had been taken from me. How they did it without awakening
me I cannot tell you. It was humiliating, but it was true.
To-jo stood above me. The early light of morning was dimly
filtering into the cave.
"Tell me," he demanded, "how to throw a man over my head and
break his neck, for I am going to kill you, and I wish to know
this thing before you die."
Of all the ingenuous declarations I have ever heard, this one
copped the proverbial bun. It struck me as so funny that, even
in the face of death, I laughed. Death, I may remark here, had,
however, lost much of his terror for me. I had become a disciple
of Lys' fleeting philosophy of the valuelessness of human life.
I realized that she was quite right--that we were but comic figures
hopping from the cradle to the grave, of interest to practically
no other created thing than ourselves and our few intimates.
Behind To-jo stood So-ta. She raised one hand with the palm
toward me--the Caspakian equivalent of a negative shake of the head.
"Let me think about it," I parried, and To-jo said that he would
wait until night. He would give me a day to think it over; then
he left, and the women left--the men for the hunt, and the women,
as I later learned from So-ta, for the warm pool where they immersed
their bodies as did the shes of the Sto-lu. "Ata," explained So-ta,
when I questioned her as to the purpose of this matutinal rite;
but that was later.
I must have lain there bound and uncomfortable for two or three
hours when at last So-ta entered the cave. She carried a sharp
knife--mine, in fact, and with it she cut my bonds.
"Come!" she said. "So-ta will go with you back to the Galus.
It is time that So-ta left the Band-lu. Together we will go to
the Kro-lu, and after that the Galus. To-jo will kill you tonight.
He will kill So-ta if he knows that So-ta aided you. We will
"I will go with you to the Kro-lu," I replied, "but then I must
return to my own people `toward the beginning.'"
"You cannot go back," she said. "It is forbidden. They would
kill you. Thus far have you come--there is no returning."
"But I must return," I insisted. "My people are there. I must
return and lead them in this direction."
She insisted, and I insisted; but at last we compromised. I was
to escort her as far as the country of the Kro-lu and then I was
to go back after my own people and lead them north into a land
where the dangers were fewer and the people less murderous.
She brought me all my belongings that had been filched from
me--rifle, ammunition, knife, and thermos bottle, and then hand
in hand we descended the cliff and set off toward the north.
For three days we continued upon our way, until we arrived
outside a village of thatched huts just at dusk. So-ta said
that she would enter alone; I must not be seen if I did not
intend to remain, as it was forbidden that one should return
and live after having advanced this far. So she left me.
She was a dear girl and a stanch and true comrade--more like
a man than a woman. In her simple barbaric way she was both
refined and chaste. She had been the wife of To-jo. Among the
Kro-lu she would find another mate after the manner of the
strange Caspakian world; but she told me very frankly that
whenever I returned, she would leave her mate and come to me, as
she preferred me above all others. I was becoming a ladies' man
after a lifetime of bashfulness!
At the outskirts of the village I left her without even seeing
the sort of people who inhabited it, and set off through the
growing darkness toward the south. On the third day I made a
detour westward to avoid the country of the Band-lu, as I did not
care to be detained by a meeting with To-jo. On the sixth day I
came to the cliffs of the Sto-lu, and my heart beat fast as I
approached them, for here was Lys. Soon I would hold her tight
in my arms again; soon her warm lips would merge with mine.
I felt sure that she was still safe among the hatchet people, and
I was already picturing the joy and the love-light in her eyes
when she should see me once more as I emerged from the last clump
of trees and almost ran toward the cliffs.
It was late in the morning. The women must have returned from
the pool; yet as I drew near, I saw no sign of life whatever.
"They have remained longer," I thought; but when I was quite
close to the base of the cliffs, I saw that which dashed my hopes
and my happiness to earth. Strewn along the ground were a score
of mute and horrible suggestions of what had taken place during
my absence--bones picked clean of flesh, the bones of manlike
creatures, the bones of many of the tribe of Sto-lu; nor in any
cave was there sign of life.
Closely I examined the ghastly remains fearful each instant that
I should find the dainty skull that would shatter my happiness
for life; but though I searched diligently, picking up every
one of the twenty-odd skulls, I found none that was the skull
of a creature but slightly removed from the ape. Hope, then,
still lived. For another three days I searched north and south,
east and west for the hatchetmen of Caspak; but never a trace of
them did I find. It was raining most of the time now, and the
weather was as near cold as it ever seems to get on Caprona.
At last I gave up the search and set off toward Fort Dinosaur.
For a week--a week filled with the terrors and dangers of a
primeval world--I pushed on in the direction I thought was south.
The sun never shone; the rain scarcely ever ceased falling.
The beasts I met with were fewer in number but infinitely more
terrible in temper; yet I lived on until there came to me the
realization that I was hopelessly lost, that a year of sunshine
would not again give me my bearings; and while I was cast down by
this terrifying knowledge, the knowledge that I never again could
find Lys, I stumbled upon another grave--the grave of William James,
with its little crude headstone and its scrawled characters
recording that he had died upon the 13th of September--killed by
a saber-tooth tiger.
I think that I almost gave up then. Never in my life have I felt
more hopeless or helpless or alone. I was lost. I could not
find my friends. I did not even know that they still lived; in
fact, I could not bring myself to believe that they did. I was
sure that Lys was dead. I wanted myself to die, and yet I clung
to life--useless and hopeless and harrowing a thing as it had become.
I clung to life because some ancient, reptilian forbear had clung
to life and transmitted to me through the ages the most powerful
motive that guided his minute brain--the motive of self-preservation.
At last I came to the great barrier-cliffs; and after three days
of mad effort--of maniacal effort--I scaled them. I built crude
ladders; I wedged sticks in narrow fissures; I chopped toe-holds
and finger-holds with my long knife; but at last I scaled them.
Near the summit I came upon a huge cavern. It is the abode of
some mighty winged creature of the Triassic--or rather it was.
Now it is mine. I slew the thing and took its abode. I reached
the summit and looked out upon the broad gray terrible Pacific of
the far-southern winter. It was cold up there. It is cold here
today; yet here I sit watching, watching, watching for the thing
I know will never come--for a sail.
Once a day I descend to the base of the cliff and hunt, and fill
my stomach with water from a clear cold spring. I have three
gourds which I fill with water and take back to my cave against
the long nights. I have fashioned a spear and a bow and arrow,
that I may conserve my ammunition, which is running low. My clothes
are worn to shreds. Tomorrow I shall discard them for leopard-skins
which I have tanned and sewn into a garment strong and warm. It is
cold up here. I have a fire burning and I sit bent over it while
I write; but I am safe here. No other living creature ventures
to the chill summit of the barrier cliffs. I am safe, and I am
alone with my sorrows and my remembered joys--but without hope.
It is said that hope springs eternal in the human breast; but there
is none in mine.
I am about done. Presently I shall fold these pages and push
them into my thermos bottle. I shall cork it and screw the cap
tight, and then I shall hurl it as far out into the sea as my
strength will permit. The wind is off-shore; the tide is running
out; perhaps it will be carried into one of those numerous
ocean-currents which sweep perpetually from pole to pole and
from continent to continent, to be deposited at last upon some
inhabited shore. If fate is kind and this does happen, then, for
God's sake, come and get me!
It was a week ago that I wrote the preceding paragraph, which I
thought would end the written record of my life upon Caprona.
I had paused to put a new point on my quill and stir the crude ink
(which I made by crushing a black variety of berry and mixing it
with water) before attaching my signature, when faintly from the
valley far below came an unmistakable sound which brought me to
my feet, trembling with excitement, to peer eagerly downward from
my dizzy ledge. How full of meaning that sound was to me you may
guess when I tell you that it was the report of a firearm! For a
moment my gaze traversed the landscape beneath until it was
caught and held by four figures near the base of the cliff--a
human figure held at bay by three hyaenodons, those ferocious and
blood-thirsty wild dogs of the Eocene. A fourth beast lay dead
or dying near by.
I couldn't be sure, looking down from above as I was; but yet I
trembled like a leaf in the intuitive belief that it was Lys, and
my judgment served to confirm my wild desire, for whoever it was
carried only a pistol, and thus had Lys been armed. The first
wave of sudden joy which surged through me was short-lived in the
face of the swift-following conviction that the one who fought
below was already doomed. Luck and only luck it must have
been which had permitted that first shot to lay low one of the
savage creatures, for even such a heavy weapon as my pistol is
entirely inadequate against even the lesser carnivora of Caspak.
In a moment the three would charge! A futile shot would but tend
more greatly to enrage the one it chanced to hit; and then the
three would drag down the little human figure and tear it to pieces.
And maybe it was Lys! My heart stood still at the thought, but mind
and muscle responded to the quick decision I was forced to make.
There was but a single hope--a single chance--and I took it.
I raised my rifle to my shoulder and took careful aim. It was
a long shot, a dangerous shot, for unless one is accustomed to
it, shooting from a considerable altitude is most deceptive work.
There is, though, something about marksmanship which is quite
beyond all scientific laws.
Upon no other theory can I explain my marksmanship of that moment.
Three times my rifle spoke--three quick, short syllables of death.
I did not take conscious aim; and yet at each report a beast
crumpled in its tracks!
From my ledge to the base of the cliff is a matter of several
thousand feet of dangerous climbing; yet I venture to say that
the first ape from whose loins my line has descended never could
have equaled the speed with which I literally dropped down the
face of that rugged escarpment. The last two hundred feet is
over a steep incline of loose rubble to the valley bottom, and I
had just reached the top of this when there arose to my ears an
agonized cry--"Bowen! Bowen! Quick, my love, quick!"
I had been too much occupied with the dangers of the descent to
glance down toward the valley; but that cry which told me that it
was indeed Lys, and that she was again in danger, brought my eyes
quickly upon her in time to see a hairy, burly brute seize her
and start off at a run toward the near-by wood. From rock to
rock, chamoislike, I leaped downward toward the valley, in
pursuit of Lys and her hideous abductor.
He was heavier than I by many pounds, and so weighted by the
burden he carried that I easily overtook him; and at last he
turned, snarling, to face me. It was Kho of the tribe of Tsa,
the hatchet-men. He recognized me, and with a low growl he
threw Lys aside and came for me. "The she is mine," he cried.
"I kill! I kill!"
I had had to discard my rifle before I commenced the rapid descent
of the cliff, so that now I was armed only with a hunting knife,
and this I whipped from its scabbard as Kho leaped toward me.
He was a mighty beast, mightily muscled, and the urge that has
made males fight since the dawn of life on earth filled him with
the blood-lust and the thirst to slay; but not one whit less did
it fill me with the same primal passions. Two abysmal beasts
sprang at each other's throats that day beneath the shadow of
earth's oldest cliffs--the man of now and the man-thing of the
earliest, forgotten then, imbued by the same deathless passion
that has come down unchanged through all the epochs, periods and
eras of time from the beginning, and which shall continue to the
incalculable end--woman, the imperishable Alpha and Omega of life.
Kho closed and sought my jugular with his teeth. He seemed to
forget the hatchet dangling by its aurochs-hide thong at his hip,
as I forgot, for the moment, the dagger in my hand. And I doubt
not but that Kho would easily have bested me in an encounter of
that sort had not Lys' voice awakened within my momentarily
reverted brain the skill and cunning of reasoning man.
"Bowen!" she cried. "Your knife! Your knife!"
It was enough. It recalled me from the forgotten eon to which my
brain had flown and left me once again a modern man battling with
a clumsy, unskilled brute. No longer did my jaws snap at the
hairy throat before me; but instead my knife sought and found a
space between two ribs over the savage heart. Kho voiced a single
horrid scream, stiffened spasmodically and sank to the earth.
And Lys threw herself into my arms. All the fears and sorrows of
the past were wiped away, and once again I was the happiest of men.
With some misgivings I shortly afterward cast my eyes upward
toward the precarious ledge which ran before my cave, for it
seemed to me quite beyond all reason to expect a dainty modern
belle to essay the perils of that frightful climb. I asked her
if she thought she could brave the ascent, and she laughed gayly
in my face.
"Watch!" she cried, and ran eagerly toward the base of the cliff.
Like a squirrel she clambered swiftly aloft, so that I was forced
to exert myself to keep pace with her. At first she frightened me;
but presently I was aware that she was quite as safe here as was I.
When we finally came to my ledge and I again held her in my arms,
she recalled to my mind that for several weeks she had been living
the life of a cave-girl with the tribe of hatchet-men. They had
been driven from their former caves by another tribe which had slain
many and carried off quite half the females, and the new cliffs to
which they had flown had proven far higher and more precipitous, so
that she had become, through necessity, a most practiced climber.
She told me of Kho's desire for her, since all his females had
been stolen and of how her life had been a constant nightmare of
terror as she sought by night and by day to elude the great brute.
For a time Nobs had been all the protection she required; but one
day he disappeared--nor has she seen him since. She believes that
he was deliberately made away with; and so do I, for we both are
sure that he never would have deserted her. With her means of
protection gone, Lys was now at the mercy of the hatchet-man;
nor was it many hours before he had caught her at the base of the
cliff and seized her; but as he bore her triumphantly aloft toward
his cave, she had managed to break loose and escape him.
"For three days he has pursued me," she said, "through this
horrible world. How I have passed through in safety I cannot
guess, nor how I have always managed to outdistance him; yet I
have done it, until just as you discovered me. Fate was kind
to us, Bowen."
I nodded my head in assent and crushed her to me. And then we
talked and planned as I cooked antelope-steaks over my fire, and
we came to the conclusion that there was no hope of rescue, that
she and I were doomed to live and die upon Caprona. Well, it
might be worse! I would rather live here always with Lys than to
live elsewhere without her; and she, dear girl, says the same of
me; but I am afraid of this life for her. It is a hard, fierce,
dangerous life, and I shall pray always that we shall be rescued
from it--for her sake.
That night the clouds broke, and the moon shone down upon our
little ledge; and there, hand in hand, we turned our faces toward
heaven and plighted our troth beneath the eyes of God. No human
agency could have married us more sacredly than we are wed. We are
man and wife, and we are content. If God wills it, we shall live
out our lives here. If He wills otherwise, then this manuscript
which I shall now consign to the inscrutable forces of the sea
shall fall into friendly hands. However, we are each without hope.
And so we say good-bye in this, our last message to the world beyond
the barrier cliffs.
(Signed) Bowen J. Tyler, Jr. Lys La R. Tyler.