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The Story of Ab by Stanley Waterloo

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Author of "A Man and a Woman," "An Odd Situation," etc.


This is the story of Ab, a man of the Age of Stone, who lived so long ago
that we cannot closely fix the date, and who loved and fought well.

In his work the author has been cordially assisted by some of the ablest
searchers of two continents into the life history of prehistoric times.
With characteristic helpfulness and interest, these already burdened
students have aided and encouraged him, and to them he desires to express
his sense of profound obligation and his earnest thanks.

Once only does the writer depart from accepted theories of scientific
research. After an at least long-continued study of existing evidence and
information relating to the Stone Ages, the conviction grew upon him that
the mysterious gap supposed by scientific teachers to divide Paleolithic
from Neolithic man never really existed. No convulsion of nature, no new
race of human beings is needed to explain the difference between the
relics of Paleolithic and Neolithic strugglers. Growth, experiment,
adaptation, discovery, inevitable in man, sufficiently account for all
the relatively swift changes from one form of primitive life to another
more advanced, from the time of chipped to that of polished implements.
Man has been, from the beginning, under the never resting, never
hastening, forces of evolution. The earth from which he sprang holds the
record of his transformations in her peat-beds, her buried caverns and
her rocky fastnesses. The eternal laws change man, but they themselves do
not change.

Ab and Lightfoot and others of the cave people whose story is told in the
tale which follows the author cannot disown. He has shown them as they
were. Hungry and cold, they slew the fierce beasts which were scarcely
more savage than they, and were fed and clothed by their flesh and fur.
In the caves of the earth the cave men and their families were safely
sheltered. Theirs were the elemental wants and passions. They were
swayed by love, in some form at least, by jealousy, fear, revenge, and by
the memory of benefits and wrongs. They cherished their young; they
fought desperately with the beasts of their time, and with each other,
and, when their brief, turbulent lives were ended, they passed into
silence, but not into oblivion. The old Earth carefully preserved their
story, so that we, their children, may read it now.

S. W.















































Drifted beech leaves had made a soft, clean bed in a little hollow in a
wood. The wood was beside a river, the trend of which was toward the
east. There was an almost precipitous slope, perhaps a hundred and fifty
feet from the wood, downward to the river. The wood itself, a sort of
peninsula, was mall in extent and partly isolated from the greater forest
back of it by a slight clearing. Just below the wood, or, in fact, almost
in it and near the crest of the rugged bank, the mouth of a small cave
was visible. It was so blocked with stones as to leave barely room for
the entrance of a human being. The little couch of beech leaves already
referred to was not many yards from the cave.

On the leafy bed rolled about and kicked up his short legs in glee a
little brown babe. It was evident that he could not walk yet and his lack
of length and width and thickness indicated what might be a babe not more
than a year of age, but, despite his apparent youth, this man-child
seemed content thus left alone, while his grip on the twigs which had
fallen into his bed was strong, as he was strong, and he was breaking
them delightedly. Not only was the hair upon his head at least twice as
long as that of the average year-old child of today, but there were downy
indications upon his arms and legs, and his general aspect was a swart
and rugged one. He was about as far from a weakly child in appearance as
could be well imagined and he was about as jolly a looking baby, too, as
one could wish to see. He was laughing and cooing as he kicked about
among the beech leaves and looked upward at the blue sky. His dress has
not yet been alluded to and an apology for the negligence may be found in
the fact that he had no dress. He wore nothing. He was a baby of the time
of the cave men; of the closing period of the age of chipped stone
instruments; the epoch of mild climate; the ending of one great animal
group and the beginning of another; the time when the mammoth, the
rhinoceros, the great cave tiger and cave bear, the huge elk, reindeer
and aurochs and urus and hosts of little horses, fed or gamboled in the
same forests and plains, with much discretion as to relative distances
from each other.

It was some time ago, no matter how many thousands of years, when the
child--they called him Ab--lay there, naked, upon his bed of beech
leaves. It may be said, too, that there existed for him every chance for
a lively and interesting existence. There was prospect that he would be
engaged in running away from something or running after something during
most of his life. Times were not dull for humanity in the age of stone.
The children had no lack of things to interest, if not always to amuse,
them, and neither had the men and women. And this is the truthful story
of the boy Ab and his playmates and of what happened when he grew to be a

It is well to speak here of the river. The stream has been already
mentioned as flowing to the eastward. It did not flow in that direction
regularly; its course was twisted and diverted, and there were bays and
inlets and rapids between precipices, and islands and wooded peninsulas,
and then the river merged into a lake of miles in extent, the waters
converging into the river again. So it was that the banks in one place
might form a height and in another merge evenly into a densely wooded
forest or a wide plain. It was so, too, that these conditions might exist
opposite each other. Thus the woodland might face the plain, or the
precipice some vast extending marsh.

To speak further of this river it may be mentioned, incidentally, that
to-day its upper reaches still exist and that the relatively small stream
remaining is called the Thames. Beside and across it lies the greatest
city in the world and its mouth is upon what is called the English
Channel. At the time when the baby, Ab, slept that afternoon in his nest
in the beech leaves this river was not called the Thames, it was only
called the Running Water, to distinguish it from the waters of the coast.
It did not empty into the British Channel, for the simple and sufficient
reason that there was no such channel at the time. Where now exists that
famous passage which makes islands of Great Britain, where, tossed upon
the choppy waves, the travelers of the world are seasick, where Drake and
Howard chased the Great Armada to the Northern seas and where, to-day,
the ships of the nations are steered toward a social and commercial
center, was then good, solid earth crowned with great forests, and the
present little tail end of a river was part of a great affluent of the
Rhine, the German river famous still, but then with a size and sweep
worth talking of. Then the Thames and the Elbe and Weser, into which
tumbled a thousand smaller streams, all went to feed what is now the
Rhine, and that then tremendous river held its course through dense
forests and deep gorges until it reached broad plains, where the North
Sea is to-day, and blended finally with the Northern Ocean.

The trees which stood upon the bank of the great river, or which could be
seen in the far distance beyond the marsh or plain, were not all the same
as now exist. There was still a distinctive presence of the towering
conifers, something such as are represented in the redwood forests of
California to-day, or, in other forms, in some Australian woods. There
was a suggestion of the fernlike but gigantic age of growth of the
distant past, the past when the earth's surface was yet warm and its air
misty, and there was an exuberance of all plant and forest growth,
something compared with which the growth in the same latitude, just now,
would make, it may be, but a stunted showing. It is wonderful, though,
the close resemblance between most of the trees of the cave man's age, so
many tens of thousands of years ago, and the trees most common to the
temperate zone to-day. The peat bogs and the caverns and the strata of
deposits in a host of places tell truthfully what trees grew in this
distant time. Already the oak and beech and walnut and butternut and
hazel reared their graceful forms aloft, and the ground beneath their
spreading branches was strewn with the store of nuts which gave a portion
of food for many of the beasts and for man as well. The ash and the yew
were there, tough and springy of fiber and destined in the far future to
become famous in song and story, because they would furnish the wood from
which was made the weapon of the bowman. The maple was there with all its
symmetry. There was the elm, the dogged and beautiful tree-thing of
to-day, which so clings to life and nourishes in the midst of unwholesome
city surroundings and makes the human hive so much the better. There were
the pines, the sycamore, the foxwood and dogwood, and lime and laurel and
poplar and elder and willow, and the cherry and crab apple and others of
the fruit-bearing kind, since so developed that they are great factors in
man's subsistence now. It was a time of plenty which was riotous. There
remained, too, a vestige of the animal as well as of the vegetable life
of the remoter ages. There were strange and dangerous creatures which
came sometimes up the river from its inlet into the ocean. Such events
had been matters of interest, not to say of anxiety, to Ab's ancestors.

The baby lying there among the beech leaves tired, finally, of its cooing
and twig-snapping and slept the sleep of dreamless early childhood. He
slept happily and noiselessly, but when he at last awoke his demeanor
showed a change. He had nothing to distract him, unless it might be the
breaking of twigs again. He had no toys, and, being hungry, he began to
yell. So far as can be learned from early data, babies, when hungry, have
always yelled. And, of old, as to-day, when a baby yelled, the woman who
had borne it was likely to appear at once upon the scene. Ab's mother
came running lightly from the river bank toward where the youngster lay.
She was worthy of attention as she ran, and this is but a bungling
attempt at a description of her and of her dress.

It should be explained here, with much care and caution, that the mother
of Ab moved in the best and most exclusive circles of the time. She
belonged to the aristocracy and, it may be added, regarding this fine
lady personally, that she had the weakness of paying much attention to
her dress. She was what might properly be called a leader of society,
though society was at the time somewhat attenuated, families living,
generally, some miles apart, and various obstacles, chiefly in the form
of large, man-eating animals, complicating the matter of paying calls. As
for the calls themselves, they were nearly as often aggressive as social,
and there is a certain degree of difference between the vicious use of a
flint ax and the leaving of a card with a bending lackey. But all this
doesn't matter. The mother of Ab belonged to the very cream of the cream,
and was dressed accordingly. Her garb was elegant but simple; it had,
first, the one great merit, that it could easily be put on or taken off.
It was sustained with but a single knot, a bow-knot--they had learned to
make a bow-knot and other knots in the stone age, for, because of the
manual requirements for living, they were cleverer fumblers with their
fingers than we are now--and the lady here described had tied her knot in
a manner not to be excelled by any other woman in all the fiercely
beast-ranged countryside.

The gown itself was of a quality to please the eye of the most carping.
It was made from the skins of wolverines, and was drawn in loosely about
the waist by a tied band, but was really sustained by a strip of the skin
which encircled the left shoulder and back and breast. This left the
right arm free from all encumbrance, a matter of some importance, for to
be right-handed was a quality of the cave man as of the man today. We
should have a grudge against them for this carelessness, and should, may
be, form an ambidextrous league, improving upon the past and teaching and
forcing young children to use each hand alike.

The garment of wolverine skins, sewed neatly together with thread of
sinews, was all the young mother wore. Thus hanging from the shoulder and
fully encircling her, it reached from the waist to about half way down
between the hips and the knees. It was as delightful a gown as ever was
contrived by ambitious modiste or mincing male designer in these modern
times. It fitted with a free and easy looseness and its colors were such
as blended smoothly and kindly with the complexion of its wearer. The fur
of the wolverine was a mixed black and white, but neither black nor white
is the word to use. The black was not black; it was only a swart sort of
color, and the white was not white; it was but a dingy, lighter contrast
to the darker surface beside it. Yet the combination was rather good.
There was enough of difference to catch the eye and not enough of
glaringness to offend it. The mother of Ab would be counted by a wise
observer as the possessor of good taste. Still, dress is a small matter.
There is something to say about the cave mother aside from the mere
description of her gown.



It is but an act of simple gallantry and justice to assert that the cave
woman had a certain unhampered swing of movement which the modern woman
often lacks. Without any reflection upon the blessed woman of to-day, it
must be said truthfully that she can neither leap a creek nor surmount
some such obstacle as a monster tree trunk with a close approach to the
ease and grace of this mother who came bounding through the forest. There
was nothing unknowing or hesitant about her movements. She ran swiftly
and leaped lightly when occasion came. She was lithe as the panther and
as careless of where her brown feet touched the ground.

The woman had physical charms. She was of about the average size of
womanhood as we see it embodied now, but her waist was not compressed at
an unseemly angle, and much resembled in its contour that of the Venus of
Milo which has become such a stock example of the healthfully
symmetrical. Her hair was brown and long. It was innocent of knot or coil
or braid, and was transfixed by no abatis of dangerous pins. It was not
parted but was thrown straight backward over the head and hung down
fairly and far between brown shoulders. It was a fine head of hair; there
could be no question about that. It had gloss and color. Captious
critics, reasoning from the standpoint of another age, might think it
needed combing, but that is only a matter of opinion. It was tangled
together in a compact and fluffy mass, and so did not wander into the
woman's eyes, which was a good thing and a great convenience, for bright
eyes and unobstructed vision were required in those lively days.

The face of this lady showed, at a glance, that no cosmetic had ever been
relied upon to give it an artificial charm. As a matter of fact it would
have been difficult to use cosmetics upon that face in the modern way,
for there was a suggestion of something more than down upon the
countenance, and there were certain irregularities of facial outline so
prominent that such details as the little matter of complexion must be
trifling. The eyes were deep set and small, the nose was short and thick
and possessed a certain vagueness of outline not easy of description. The
upper lip was excessively long and the under lip protruding. The chin was
well defined and firm. The mouth was rather wide, and the teeth were
strong and even, and as white as any ivory ever seen. Such was the face,
and there may be added some details of interest about the figure. The
arms of this fascinating woman were perfectly proportioned. They were
adapted to the times and were very beautiful. Down each of them from
shoulder to elbow ran a strip of short dark hair. From either hand ran
upward to the elbow another strip of hair, and the two, meeting at the
elbow, formed a delightful little tuft reminding one of what is known as
a "widow's peak," or that little point which grows down so charmingly on
an occasional woman's forehead. Her biceps were tremendous, as must
necessarily be the case with a lady accustomed to swing from limb to limb
along the treetops. Her thumb was nearly as long as her fingers, and the
palms of her hands were hard. Her legs were like her arms in their degree
of muscular development and hairy adornment. She had beautiful feet. It
is to be admitted that her heels projected a trifle more than is counted
the ideal thing at the present day, and that her big toe and all the
other toes were very much in evidence, but there is not one woman in
ten thousand now who could as handily pick up objects with her toes as
could the mother of the baby Ab. She was as brown as a nut, with the tan
of a half tropical summer, and as healthy a creature, from tawny head to
backward sloping heel, as ever trod a path in the world's history. This
was the quality of the lady who came so swiftly to learn the nature of
her offspring's trouble. Ladies of that day attended, as a rule, to the
wants of their own children. A wet nurse was a thing unknown and a dry
one as unthought of. This was good for the children.

The woman made a dive into the little hollow and picked the babe from its
nest of leaves and tossed him up lightly, and at once his crying ceased,
and his little brown arms went around her neck, and he cooed and prattled
in very much the same fashion as does a babe of the present time. He was
content, all in a moment, yet some noise must have aroused him, for, as
it chanced, there was great need that this particular babe at this
particular moment should have awakened and cried aloud for his mother.
This was made evident immediately. As the woman tossed him aloft in her
arms and cuddled him again there came a sound to her ears which made her
leap like some wilder creature of the forest up to a little vantage
ground. She turned her head, and then--you should have seen the woman!

Very nearly above them swung down one of the branches of a great beech
tree. The mother threw the child into the hollow of her left arm, and
leaped upward a yard to catch the branch with her right hand. So she hung
dangling. Then, instantly, holding him firmly by one arm in her left
hand, she lowered the child between her legs and clasped them about him
closely. And then, had it been your fortune to be born in those times,
you might have seen good climbing. With both her strong arms free, this
vigorous matron ran up the stout beech limb which depended downward from
the great bole of the tree until she was twenty feet above the ground,
and then, lifting herself into a comfortable place, in a moment was
sitting there at ease, her legs and one arm coiled about the big branch
and a smaller upstanding one, while the other arm held the brown babe
close to her bosom.

This charming lady of the period had reached her perch in the beech tree
top none too soon. Even as she swung herself into place upon the huge
bough, there came rushing across the space beneath, snarling, smelling
and seeking, a brute as foul and dangerous as could be imagined for
mother and son upon the ground. It was of a dirty dun color, mottled and
striped with a lighter but still dingy hue. It had a black, hoggish nose,
but there were fangs in its great jaws. It resembled a huge wolf, save as
to its massiveness and club countenance, It was one of the monster hyenas
of the time, a beast which must have been as dangerous to the men then
living as any animal except the cave tiger and the cave bear. Its
degenerate posterity, as they shuffle uneasily back and forth when caged
to-day, are perhaps not less foul of aspect, but are relatively pygmies.
Doubtless the brute had scented the sleeping babe, and, snarling aloud in
its search, had waked it, inducing the cry which proved the child's

The beast scented immediately the prey above him and leaped upward
ferociously and vainly. Was the woman thus beset thus holding herself
aloft and with her child upon one arm in a state of sickening anxiety?
Hardly! She but encircled the supporting branch the closer, and laughed
aloud. She even poked one bare foot down at the leaping beast, and waved
her leg in provocation. At the same time there was no doubt that she was
beset. Furthermore she was hungry, and so she raised her voice, and sent
out through the forest a strange call, a quavering minor wail, but
something to be heard at a great distance. There was no delay in the
response, for delays were dangerous when cave men lived. The call was
answered instantly and the answering cry was repeated as she called
again, the sound of the reply approaching near and nearer all the time.
All at once the manner of her calling changed; it was an appeal no
longer; it was a conversation, an odd, clucking, penetrating speech in
the shortest of sentences. She was telling of the situation. There was
prompt reply; the voice seemed suddenly higher in the air and then came,
swinging easily from branch to branch along the treetops, the father of
Ab, a person who felt a natural and aggressive interest in what was going

To describe the cave man it is, it may be, best of all to say that he was
the woman over again, only stronger, longer limbed and deeper chested,
firmer of jaw and more grim of countenance. He was dressed almost as she
was. From his broad shoulder hung a cloak of the skin of some wild beast
but the cord which tied it was a stout one, and in the belt thus formed
was stuck a weapon of such quality as men have rarely carried since. It
was a stone ax; an ax heavier than any battle-ax of mediaeval times, its
haft a scant three feet in length, inclosing the ax through a split in
the tough wood, all being held in place by a taut and hardened mass of
knotted sinews. It was a fearful weapon, but one only to be wielded by
such a man as this, one with arms almost as mighty as those of the

The man sat himself upon the limb beside his wife and child. The two
talked together in their clucking language for a moment or two, but few
words were wasted. Words had not their present abundance in those days;
action was everything. The man was hungry, too, and wanted to get home as
soon as possible. He had secured food, which was awaiting them, and this
slight, annoying episode of the day must be ended promptly. He clambered
easily up the tree and wrenched off a deadened limb at least two yards in
length, then tumbling back again and passing his wife and child along the
main branch, he swung down to where the leaping beast could almost reach
him. The heavy club he carried gave him an advantage. With a whistling
sweep, as the hyena leaped upward in its ravenous folly, came this huge
club crashing against the thick skull, a blow so fair and stark and
strong that the stunned beast fell backward upon the ground, and then,
down, lightly as any monkey, dropped the cave man. The huge stone ax went
crashing into the brain of the quivering brute, and that was the end of
the incident. Mother and child leaped down together, and the man and
woman went chattering toward their cave. This was not a particularly
eventful day with them; they were accustomed to such things.

They went strolling off through the beech glades, the strong, hairy,
heavy-jawed man, the muscular but more lightly built woman and the child,
perched firmly and chattering blithely upon her shoulder as they walked,
or, rather, half trotted along the river side and toward the cave. They
were light of foot and light of thought, but there was ever that almost
unconscious alertness appertaining to their time. Their flexible ears
twitched, and turned, now forward now backward, to catch the slightest
sound. Their nostrils were open for dangerous scents, or for the scent of
that which might give them food, either animal or vegetable, and as for
the eyes, well, they were the sharpest existent within the history of the
human race. They were keen of vision at long distance and close at hand,
and ever were they in motion, swiftly turned sidewise this way and that,
peering far ahead or looking backward to note what enemies of the wood
might be upon the trail. So, swiftly along the glade and ever alert, went
the father and mother of Ab, carrying the strong child with them.

There came no new alarm, and soon the cave was reached, though on the way
there was a momentary deviation from the path, to gather up the nuts and
berries the woman had found in the afternoon while the babe was lying
sleeping. The fruitage was held in a great leaf, a pliant thing pulled
together at the edges, tied stoutly with a strand of tough grass, and
making a handy pouch containing a quart or two of the food, which was the
woman's contribution to the evening meal. As for the father, he had more
to offer, as was evident when the cave was reached.

The man and woman crept through the narrow entrance and stood erect in a
recess in the rocks twenty feet square, at least, and perhaps fifteen
feet in height. Looking upward one could see a gleam of light from the
outer world. The orifice through which the light came was the chimney,
dug downward with much travail from the level of the land above. Directly
underneath the opening was the fireplace, for men had learned thoroughly
the use of fire, and had even some fancies as to getting rid of smoke.
There were smoldering embers upon the hearth, embers of the hardest of
wood, the wood which would preserve a fire for the greatest length of
time, for the cave man had neither flint and steel nor matches, and when
a fire expired it was a matter of some difficulty to secure a flame
again. On this occasion there was no trouble. The embers were beaten up
easily into glowing coals and twigs and dry dead limbs cast upon them
made soon a roaring flame. As the cave was lighted the proprietor pointed
laughingly to the abundance of meat he had secured. It was food of the
finest sort and in such quantity that even this stalwart being's strength
must have been exceptionally tested in bringing the burden to the cave.
It was something in quality for an epicure of the day and there was
enough of it to make the cave man's family easy for a week, at least. It
was a hind quarter of a wild horse.



Despite the hyena and baby incident, the day had been a satisfactory one
for this cave family. Of course, had the woman failed to reach just when
she did the hollow in which her babe was left there would have come a
tragedy in the extinction of a young and promising cave child, and the
two would have been mourning, as even wild beasts mourn for their lost
young. But there was little reversion to past possibilities in the minds
of the cave people. The couple were not worrying over what might have
been. The mother had found food of one sort in abundance, and the
father's fortune had been royal. He had tossed a rock from a precipice a
hundred feet in height down into a passing herd of the little wild
horses, and great luck had followed, for one of them had been killed, and
so this was a holiday in the cave. The man and wife were at ease and had
each an appetite.

The nuts gathered by the woman were tossed in a heap among the ashes and
live coals were raked upon them, and the popping which followed showed
how well they were being roasted. A sturdy twig, two yards in length and
sharpened at the end, was utilized by the man in cooking the strips of
meat cut from the haunch of the wild horse and very savory were the odors
that filled the cave. There was the faint perfume of the crackling nuts
and there was the fragrant beneficence of the broiling meat. There are no
definite records upon the subject; the chef of to-day can give you no
information on the point, but there is reason to believe that a steak
from the wild horse of the time was something admirable. There is a sort
of maxim current in this age, in civilized rural communities, to the
effect that those quadrupeds are good to eat which "chew the cud or part
the hoof." The horse of to-day is a creature with but one toe to each
leg--we all know that--but the horse of the cave man's time had only
lately parted with the split hoof, and so was fairly edible, even
according to the modern standard.

The father and mother of Ab were not more than two years past their
honeymoon. They, in their way, were glad that their union had been so
blest and that a lusty man-child was rolling about and crowing and cooing
upon the earthen floor of the cave. They lived from hand to mouth, and
from day to day, and this day had been a good one. They were there
together, man, woman and child. They had warmth and food. The entrance to
the cave was barred so that no monster of the period might enter. They
could eat and sleep with a certainty of the perfect digestion which
followed such a life as theirs and with a certainty of all peace for the
moment. Even the child mumbled heartily, though not yet very strongly, at
the delicious meat of the little horse, and, the meal ended, the two lay
down upon a mass of leaves which made their bed, and the child lay
snuggled and warm within reach of them. The aristocracy of the time had
gone to sleep.

There was silence in the cave, but, outside, the world was not so still.
The night was not always one of silence in the cave man's time. The hours
of darkness were those when the creature which walked upon two legs was
no longer gliding through the forest with ready club or spear, and when
those creatures which used four legs instead of two, especially the
defenseless, felt more at ease than in the daytime. The grass-eating
animals emerged from the forest into the plateaus and upon the low plains
along the river side and the flesh-eaters began again their hunting. It
was a time of wild life, and of wild death, for out of the abundance much
was taken; there were nightly tragedies, and the beasts of prey were as
glutted as the urus or the elk which fed on the sweet grasses. It was but
a matter of difference in diet and in the manner of doing away with one
life which must be sacrificed to support another. There was liveliness at
night with the queer thing, man, out of the way, and brutes and beasts of
many sorts, taking their chances together, were happier with him absent.
They could not understand him, and liked him not, though the great-clawed
and sharp-toothed ones had a vast desire to eat him. He was a disturbing
element in the community of the plain and forest.

And, while all this play of life and death went on outside, the three
people, the man, woman and child, in the cave slept as soundly as sleep
the drunken or the just. They were full-fed and warm and safe. No beast
of a size greater than that of a lank wolf or sinewy wildcat could enter
the cave through the narrow entrance between the heaped-up rocks, and of
these, as of any other dangerous beast, there was none which would face
what barred even the narrow passage, for it was fire. Just at the
entrance the all-night fire of knots and hardest wood smoked, flamed and
smoldered and flickered, and then flamed again, and held the passageway
securely. No animal that ever lived, save man, has ever dared the touch
of fire. It was the cave man's guardian.



Such were the father and mother of Ab, and such was the boy himself. His
surroundings have not been indicated with all the definiteness desirable,
because of the lack of certain data, but, in a general way, the degree of
his birth, the manner of his rearing and the natural aspects of his
estate have been described. That the young man had a promising future
could not admit of doubt. He was the first-born of an important family of
a great race and his inheritance had no boundaries. Just where the
possessions of the Ab family began or where they terminated no bird nor
beast nor human being could tell. The estates of the family extended from
the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean and there were no dividing lines.
Of course, something depended upon the existence or non-existence of a
stronger cave family somewhere else, but that mattered not. And the babe
grew into a sturdy youth, just as grow the boys of today, and had his
friendships and adventures. He did not attend the public schools--the
school system was what might reasonably be termed inefficient in his
time--nor did he attend a private school, for the private schools were
weak, as well, but he did attend the great school of Nature from the
moment he opened his eyes in the morning until he closed them at night.
Of his schoolboy days and his friendships and his various affairs, this
is the immediate story.

The father and mother of Ab as has, it is hoped, been made apparent, were
strong people, intelligent up to the grade of the time and worthy of
regard in many ways. The two could fairly hold their own, not only
against the wild beasts, but against any other cave pair, should the
emergency arise. They had names, of course. The name of Ab's father was
One-Ear, the sequence of an incident occurring when he was very young, an
accidental and too intimate acquaintance with a species of wildcat which
infested the region and from which the babe had been rescued none too
soon. The name of Ab's mother was Red-Spot, and she had been so called
because of a not unsightly but conspicuous birthmark appearing on her
left shoulder. As to ancestry, Ab's father could distinctly remember his
own grandfather as the old gentleman had appeared just previous to his
consumption by a monstrous bear, and Red-Spot had some vague remembrance
of her own grandmother.

As for Ab's own name, it came from no personal mark or peculiarity or as
the result of any particular incident of his babyhood. It was merely a
convenient adaptation by his parents of a childish expression of his own,
a labial attempt to say something. His mother had mimicked his babyish
prattlings, the father had laughed over the mimicry, and, almost
unconsciously, they referred to their baby afterward as "Ab," until it
grew into a name which should be his for life. There was no formal early
naming of a child in those days; the name eventually made itself, and
that was all there was to it. There was, for instance, a child living not
many miles away, destined to be a future playmate and ally of Ab, who,
though of nearly the same age, had not yet been named at all. His title,
when he finally attained it, was merely Oak. This was not because he was
straight as an oak, or because he had an acorn birthmark, but because
adjoining the cave where he was born stood a great oak with spreading
limbs, from one of which was dangled a rude cradle, into which the babe
was tied, and where he would be safe from all attacks during the absence
of his parents on such occasions as they did not wish the burden of
carrying him about. "Rock-a-by-baby upon the tree-top" was often a
reality in the time of the cave men.

Ab was fortunate in being born at a reasonably comfortable stage of the
world's history. He had a decent prospect as to clothing and shelter, and
there was abundance of food for those brave enough or ingenious enough to
win it. The climate was not enervating. There were cold times for the
people of the epoch and, in their seasons, harsh and chilling winds swept
over bare and chilling glaciers, though a semi-tropical landscape was all
about. So suddenly had come the change from frigid cold to moderate
warmth, that the vast fields of ice once moving southward were not thawed
to their utmost depths even when rank vegetation and a teeming life had
sprung up in the now European area, and so it came that, in some places,
cold, white monuments and glittering plateaus still showed themselves
amid the forest and fed the tumbling streams which made the rivers
rushing to the ocean. There were days of bitter cold in winter and sultry
heat in summer.

It may fairly be borne in mind of this child Ab that he was somewhat
different from the child of to-day, and nearer the quadruped in his
manner of swift development. The puppy though delinquent in the matter of
opening it's eyes, waddles clumsily upon its legs very early in its
career. Ab, of course, had his eyes open from the beginning, and if the
babe of to-day were to stand upright as soon as Ab did, his mother would
be the proudest creature going and his father, at the club, would be
acting intolerable. It must be admitted, though, that neither One-Ear nor
Red-Spot manifested an extraordinary degree of enthusiasm over the
precociousness of their first-born. He was not, for the time, remarkable,
and parents of the day were less prone than now to spoiling children.
Ab's layette had been of beech leaves, his bed had been of beech leaves,
and a beech twig, supple and stinging, had already been applied to him
when he misbehaved himself. As he grew older his acquaintance with it
would be more familiar. Strict disciplinarians in their way, though
affectionate enough after their own fashion, were the parents of
the time.

The existence of this good family of the day continued without dire
misadventure. Ab at nine years of age was a fine boy. There could be no
question about that. He was as strong as a young gibbon, and, it must be
admitted, in certain characteristics would have conveyed to the learned
observer of to-day a suggestion of that same animal. His eyes were bright
and keen and his mouth and nose were worth looking at. His nose was
broad, with nostrils aggressively prominent, and as for his mouth, it was
what would be called to-day excessively generous in its proportions for a
boy of his size. But it did not lack expression. His lips could quiver at
times, or become firmly set, and there was very much of what might, even
then, be called "manliness" in the general bearing of the sturdy little
cave child. He had never cried much when a babe--cave children were not
much addicted to crying, save when very hungry--and he had grown to his
present stature, which was not very great, with a healthfulness and
general manner of buoyancy all the time. He was as rugged a child of his
age as could be found between the shore that lay long leagues westward of
what is now the western point of Ireland and anywhere into middle Europe.
He had begun to have feelings and hopes and ambitions, too. He had found
what his surroundings meant. He had at least done one thing well. He had
made well-received advances toward a friend; and a friend is a great
thing for a boy, when he is another boy of about the same age. This
friendship was not quite commonplace.

Ab, who could climb like a young monkey, laid most casually the
foundation for this companionship which was to affect his future life. He
had scrambled, one day, up a tree standing near the cave, and, climbing
out along a limb near its top, had found a comfortable resting-place, and
there upon the swaying bough was "teetering" comfortably, when something
in another tree, further up the river, caught his sharp eye. It was a
dark mass,--it might have been anything caught in a treetop,--but the odd
part of it was that it was "teetering" just as he was. Ab watched the
object for a long time curiously, and finally decided that it must be
another boy, or perhaps a girl, who was swaying in the distant tree.
There came to him a vigorous thought. He resolved to become better
acquainted; he resolved dimly, for this was the first time that any idea
of further affiliation with anyone had come into his youthful mind. Of
course, it must not be understood that he had been in absolute retirement
throughout his young but not uneventful life. Other cave men and women,
sometimes accompanied by their children, had visited the cave of One-Ear
and Red-Spot and Ab had become somewhat acquainted with other human
beings and with what were then the usages of the best hungry society. He
had never, though, become really familiar with anyone save his father and
mother and the children which his mother had borne after him, a boy and a
girl. This particular afternoon a sudden boyish yearning came upon him.
He wanted to know who the youth might be who was swinging in the distant
tree. He was a resolute young cub, and to determine was to act.

It was rare, particularly in the wooded districts of the country of the
cave men, for a boy of nine to go a mile from home alone. There was
danger lurking in every rod and rood, and, naturally, such a boy would
not be versed in all woodcraft, nor have the necessary strength of arm
for a long arboreal journey, swinging himself along beneath the
intermingling branches of close-standing trees. So this departure was,
for Ab, a venture something out of the common. But he was strong for his
age, and traversed rapidly a considerable distance through the treetops
in the direction of what he saw. Once or twice, though, there came
exigencies of leaping and grasping aloft to which he felt himself
unequal, and then, plucky boy as he was, he slid down the bole of the
tree and, looking about cautiously, made a dash across some little glade
and climbed again. He had traversed little more than half the distance
toward the object he sought when his sharp ears caught the sound of
rustling leaves ahead of him. He slipped behind the trunk of the tree
into whose top he was clambering and then, reaching out his head, peered
forward warily. As he thus ensconced himself, the sound he had heard
ceased suddenly. It was odd. The boy was perplexed and somewhat anxious.
He could but peer and peer and remain absolutely quiet. At last his
searching watchfulness was rewarded. He saw a brown protuberance on the
side of a great tree, above where the branches began, not twoscore yards
distant from him, and that brown protuberance moved slightly. It was
evident that the protuberance was watching him as he was watching it. He
realized what it meant. There was another boy there! He was not
particularly afraid of another boy and at once came out of hiding. The
other boy came calmly into view as well. They sat there, looking at each
other, each at ease upon a great branch, each with an arm sustaining
himself, each with his little brown legs dangling carelessly, and each
gazing upon the other with bright eyes evincing alike watchfulness and
curiosity and some suspicion. So they sat, perched easily, these
excellent young, monkeyish boys of the time, each waiting for the other
to begin the conversation, just as two boys wait when they thus meet
today. Their talk would not perhaps be intelligible to any professor of
languages in all the present world, but it was a language, however
limited its vocabulary, which sufficed for the needs of the men and women
and children of the cave time. It was Ab who first broke the silence:

"Who are you?" he said.

"I am Oak," responded the other boy. "Who are you?"

"Me? Oh, I am Ab."

"Where do you come from?"

"From the cave by the beeches; and where do you come from?"

"I come from the cave where the river turns, and I am not afraid of you."

"I am not afraid of you, either," said Ab.

"Let us climb down and get upon that big rock and throw stones at things
in the water," said Oak.

"All right," said Ab.

And the two slid, one after the other, down the great tree trunks and ran
rapidly to the base of a huge rock overtopping the river, and with sides
almost perpendicular, but with crevices and projections which enabled the
expert youngsters to ascend it with ease. There was a little plateau upon
its top a few yards in area and, once established there, the boys were
safe from prowling beasts. And this was the manner of the first meeting
of two who were destined to grow to manhood together, to be good
companions and have full young lives, howbeit somewhat exciting at times,
and to affect each other for joy and sorrow, and good and bad, and all
that makes the quality of being.



What always happens when two boys not yet fairly in their 'teens meet, at
first aggressively, and then, each gradually overcoming this apprehension
of the other, decide upon a close acquaintance and long comradeship?
Their talk is firmly optimistic and they constitute much of the world. As
for Ab and Oak, when there had come to them an ease in conversation,
there dawned gradually upon each the idea that, next to himself, the
other was probably the most important personage in the world, fitting
companion and confederate of a boy who in an incredibly short space of
time was going to become a man and do things on a tremendous scale.
Seated upon the rock, a point of ease and vantage, they talked long of
what two boys might do, and so earnest did they become in considering
their possible great exploits that Ab demanded of Oak that he go with him
to his home. This was a serious matter. It was a no slight thing for a
boy of that day, allowed a playground within certain limits adjacent to
his cave home, to venture far away; but this in Oak's life was a great
occasion. It was the first time he had ever met and talked with a boy of
his age, and he became suddenly reckless, assenting promptly to Ab's
proposal. They ran along the forest paths together toward Ab's cave,
clucking in their queer language and utilizing in that short journey most
of the brief vocabulary of the day in anticipatory account of what they
were going to do.

Ab's father and mother rather approved of Oak. They even went so far as
to consent that Ab might pay a return visit upon the succeeding day,
though it was stipulated that the father--and this was a demand the
mother made--should accompany the boy upon most of the journey. One-Ear
knew Oak's father very well. Oak's father, Stripe-Face, was a man of
standing in the widely-scattered community. Stripe-Face was so called
because in a casual, and, on his part, altogether uninvited encounter
with a cave bear when he was a young man, a sweep of the claws of his
adversary had plowed furrows down one cheek, leaving scars thereafter
which were livid streaks. One-Ear and Stripe-Face were good friends.
Sometimes they hunted together; they had fought together, and it was
nothing out of the way, and but natural, that Ab and Oak should become
companions. So it came that One-Ear went across the forest with his boy
the next day and visited the cave of Stripe-Face, and that the two young
cubs went out together buoyant and in conquering mood, while the grown
men planned something for their own advantage. Certainly the boys matched
well. A finer pair of youngsters of eight or nine years of age could
hardly be imagined than these two who sallied forth that afternoon. They
send very fine boys nowadays to our great high schools in the United
States, and to Rugby and Eaton and Harrow in England, but never went
forth a finer pair to learn things. No smattering of letters or lore of
any printed sort had these rugged youths, but their eyes were piercing as
those of the eagle, the grip of their hands was strong, their pace was
swift when they ran upon the ground and their course almost as rapid when
they swung along the treetops. They were self-possessed and ready and
alert and prepared to pass an examination for admission to any university
of the time; that is, to any of Nature's universities, where
matriculation depended upon prompt conception of existing dangers and the
ways of avoiding them, and of all adroitness in attainments which gave
food and shelter and safety. Eh! but they were a gallant pair, these two
young gentlemen who burst forth, owning the world entirely and feeling a
serene confidence in their ability, united, to maintain their rights. And
their ambitions soon took a definite turn. They decided that they must
kill a horse!

The wild horse of the time, already referred to as esteemed for his
edible qualities, was, in the opinion of the cave people, but of moderate
value otherwise. He was abundant, ranging in herds of hundreds along the
pampas of the great Thames valley, and furnished forth abundant food for
man as well as the wild beasts, when they could capture him. His skin,
though, was not counted of much worth. Its short hair afforded little
warmth in cloak or breech-clout, and the tanned pelt became hard and
uncomfortable when it dried after a wetting. Still, there were various
uses for this horse's hide. It made fine strings and thongs, and the
beast's flesh, as has been said, was a staple of the larder. The first
great resolve of Ab and Oak, these two gallant soldiers of fortune, was
that, alone and unaided, they would circumvent and slay one of these wild
horses, thereby astonishing their respective families, at the same time
gaining the means for filling the stomachs of those families to
repletion, and altogether covering themselves with glory.

Not in a day nor in a week were the plans of these youthful warriors and
statesmen matured. The wild horse had long since learned that the
creature man was as dangerous to it as were any of the fierce four-footed
animals which hunted it, and its scent was good and its pace was swift
and it went in herds and avoided doubtful places. Not so easy a task as
it might seem was that which Ab and Oak had resolved upon. There must be
some elaborate device to attain their end, but they were confident. They
had noted often what older hunters did, and they felt themselves as good
as anybody. They plotted long and earnestly and even made a mental
distribution of their quarry, deciding what should be done with its skin
and with its meat, far in advance of any determination upon a plan for
its capture and destruction. They were boys.

There was no objection from the parents. They knew that the boys must
learn to become hunters, and if the two were not now capable of taking
care of themselves in the wood, then they were but disappointing
offspring. Consent secured, the boys acted entirely upon their own
responsibility, and, to make their subsequent plans clearer, it may be
well to explain a little more of the geography of the region. The cave of
Ab was on the north side of the stream, where the rocky banks came close
together with a little beach at either side, and the cave of Oak was
perhaps a mile to the westward, on the same side of the stream and with
very similar surroundings. On the south side of the river, opposite the
high banks between the two caves, the land was a prairie valley reaching
far away. On the north side as well there was at one place a little
valley, but it reached back only a few hundred yards from the river and
was surrounded by the forest-crowned hills. The close standing oaks and
beeches afforded, in emergency, a highway among their ranches, and along
this pathway the boys were comparatively safe. Either could climb a tree
at any time, and of the animals that were dangerous in the treetops there
were but few; in fact, there was only one of note, a tawny, cat-like
creature, not numerous, and resembling the lynx of the present day.
Almost in the midst of the little plain or valley, on the north side of
the river, rose a clump of trees, and in this the two boys saw means
afforded them for a realization of their hopes. The wild horses fed
daily in the valley to the north, as in the greater one to the south of
the river. But there also, in the high grass, as upon the south,
sometimes lurked the great beasts of prey, and to be far away from a tree
upon the plain was an unsafe thing for a cave man. From the forest edge
to the clump of trees was not more than two minutes' rush for a vigorous
boy and it was this fact which suggested to the youths their plan of
capture of the horse.

The homes of the cave men were located, when possible, where the refuge
of safety overhung closely the river's bank, and where the non-climbing
animals must pass along beneath them, but, even at that period of few men
and abundant animal life, there had developed an acuteness among the
weaker beasts, and they had learned to avoid certain paths that had
proved fatal to their brethren. They were numerous in the plains and
comparatively careless there, relying upon their speed to escape more
dangerous wild beasts, but they passed rarely beneath the ledges, where a
weighty rock dropped suddenly meant certain death. It was not a task
entirely easy for the cave men to have meat with regularity, flush as was
the life about them. New devices must be resorted to, and Ab and Oak were
about to employ one not infrequently successful.

The clam of the period, particularly the clam along this reach of the
upper Thames, was a marvel in his make-up. He was as large as he was
luscious, as abundant as he was both and was a great feature in the food
supply of the time. Not merely was he a feature in the food supply, but
in a mechanical way, and the first object sought by the boys, after their
plan had been agreed upon, was the shell of the great clam. They had no
difficulty in securing what they wanted, for strewn all about each cave
were the big shells in abundance. Sharp-edged, firm-backed, one of these
shells made an admirable little shovel, something with which to cut the
turf and throw up the soil, a most useful implement in the hands of the
river haunting people. The idea of the youngsters was simply this: Their
rendezvous should be at that point in the forest nearest the clump of
trees standing solitary in the valley below. They would select the safest
hours and then from the high ground make a sudden dash to the tree clump.
They would be watchful, of course, and seek to avoid the class of animals
for whom boys made admirable luncheon. Once at the clump of trees and
safely ensconced among the branches, they could determine wisely upon the
next step in their adventure. They were very knowing, these young men,
for they had observed their elders. What they wanted to do, what was the
end and aim of all this recklessness, was to dig a pit in this rich
valley land close to the clump of trees, a pit say some ten feet in
length by six feet in breadth and seven or eight feet in depth. That
meant a gigantic labor. Gillian, of "The Toilers of the Sea," assigned to
himself hardly a greater task. These were boys of the cave kind and must,
perforce, conduct themselves originally. As to the details of the plan,
well, they were only vague, as yet, but rapidly assuming a form more

The first thing essential for the boys was to reach the clump of trees.
It was just before noon one day when they swung together on a tree branch
sweeping nearly to the ground, and at a point upon the hill directly
opposite the clump. This was the time selected for their first dash. They
studied every square yard of the long grass of the little valley with
anxious eyes. In the distance was feeding a small drove of wild horses
and, farther away, close by the river side, upreared occasionally what
might be the antlers of the great elk of the period. Between the boys and
the clump of trees there was no movement of the grass, nor any sign of
life. They could discern no trace of any lurking beast.

"Are you afraid?" asked Ab.

"Not if we run together."

"All right," said Ab; "let's go it with a rush."

The slim brown bodies dropped lightly to the ground together, each of the
boys clasping one of the clamshells. Side by side they darted down the
slope and across through the deep grass until the clump of trees was
reached, when, like two young apes, they scrambled into the safety of the

The tree up which they had clambered was the largest of the group and of
dense foliage. It was one of the huge conifers of the age, but its
branches extended to within perhaps thirty feet of the ground, and from
the greatest of these side branches reached out, growing so close
together as to make almost a platform. It was but the work of a half hour
for these boys, with their arboreal gifts, to twine additional limbs
together and to construct for themselves a solid nest and lookout where
they might rest at ease, at a distance above the greatest leap of any
beast existing. In this nest they curled themselves down and, after much
clucking debate, formulated their plan of operation. Only one boy should
dig at a time, the other must remain in the nest as a lookout.

Swift to act in those days were men, because necessity had made it a
habit to them, and swifter still, as a matter of course, were impulsive
boys. Their tree nest fairly made, work, they decided, must begin at
once. The only point to be determined upon was regarding the location of
the pit. There was a tempting spread of green herbage some hundred feet
to the north and east of the tree, a place where the grass was high but
not so high as it was elsewhere. It had been grazed already by the
wandering horses and it was likely that they would visit the tempting
area again. There, it was finally settled, should the pit be dug. It was
quite a distance from the tree, but the increased chances of securing a
wild horse by making the pit in that particular place more than offset,
in the estimation of the boys, the added danger of a longer run for
safety in an emergency. The only question remaining was as to who should
do the first digging and who be the first lookout? There was a violent
debate upon this subject.

"I will go and dig and you shall keep watch," said Oak.

"No, I'll dig and you shall watch," was Ab's response. "I can run faster
than you."

Oak hesitated and was reluctant. He was sturdy, this young gentleman, but
Ab possessed, somehow, the mastering spirit. It was settled finally that
Ab should dig and Oak should watch. And so Ab slid down the tree,
clamshell in hand, and began laboring vigorously at the spot agreed upon.

It was not a difficult task for a strong boy to cut through tough grass
roots with the keen edge of the clamshell. He outlined roughly and
rapidly the boundaries of the pit to be dug and then began chopping out
sods just as the workman preparing to garnish some park or lawn begins
his work to-day. Meanwhile, Oak, all eyes, was peering in every
direction. His place was one of great responsibility, and he recognized
the fact. It was a tremendous moment for the youngsters.



It was not alone necessary for the plans of Ab and Oak that there should
be made a deep hole in the ground. It was quite as essential for their
purposes that the earth removed should not be visible upon the adjacent
surface. The location of the pit, as has been explained, was some yards
to the northeast of the tree in which the lookout had been made. A few
yards southwest of the tree was a slight declivity and damp hollow, for
from that point the land sloped, in a reed-grown marsh toward the river.
It was decided to throw into this marsh all the excavated soil, and so,
when Ab had outlined the pit and cut up its surface into sods, he carried
them one by one to the bank and cast them down among the reeds where the
water still made little puddles. In time of flood the river spread out
into a lake, reaching even as far as here. The sod removed, there was
exposed a rectangle of black soil, for the earth was of alluvial deposit
and easy of digging. Shellful after shellful of the dirt did Ab carry
from where the pit was to be, trotting patiently back and forth, but the
work was wearisome and there was a great waste of energy. It was Oak who
gave an inspiration.

"We must carry more at a time," he called out. And then he tossed down to
Ab a wolfskin which had been given him by his father as a protection on
cold nights and which he had brought along, tied about his waist, quite
incidentally, for, ordinarily, these boys wore no clothing in warm
weather. Clothing, in the cave time, appertained only to manhood and
womanhood, save in winter. But Oak had brought the skin along because he
had noticed a vast acorn crop upon his way to and from the rendezvous and
had in mind to carry back to his own home cave some of the nuts. The pelt
was now to serve an immediately useful purpose.

Spreading the skin upon the grass beside him, Ab heaped it with the dirt
until there had accumulated as much as he could carry, when, gathering
the corners together, he struggled with the enclosed load manfully to the
bank and spilled it down into the morass. The digging went on rapidly
until Ab, out of breath and tired, threw down the skin and climbed into
the treetop and became the watchman, while Oak assumed his labor. So they
worked alternately in treetop and upon the ground until the sun's rays
shot red and slanting from the west. Wiser than to linger until dusk had
too far deepened were these youngsters of the period. The clamshells were
left in the pit. The lookout above declared nothing in sight, then slid
to the ground and joined his friend, and another dash was made to the
hill and the safety of its treetops. It was in great spirits that the
boys separated to seek their respective homes. They felt that they were
personages of consequence. They had no doubt of the success of the
enterprise in which they had embarked, and the next day found them
together again at an early hour, when the digging was enthusiastically

Many a load of dirt was carried on the second day from the pit to the
marsh's edge, and only once did the lookout have occasion to suggest to
his working companion that he had better climb the tree. A movement in
the high grass some hundred yards away had aroused suspicion; some wild
animal had passed, but, whatever it was, it did not approach the clump of
trees and work was resumed at once. When dusk came the moist black soil
found in the pit had all been carried away and the boys had reached, to
their intense disgust, a stratum of hard packed gravel. That meant
infinitely more difficult work for them and the use of some new utensil.

There was nothing daunting in the new problem. When it came to the mere
matter of securing a tool for digging the hard gravel, both Ab and Oak
were easily at home. The cave dwellers, haunting the river side for
centuries, had learned how to deal with gravel, and when Ab returned to
the scene the next day he brought with him a sturdy oaken stave some six
feet in length, sharpened to a point and hardened in the fire until it
was almost iron-like in its quality. Plunged into the gravel as far as
the force of a blow could drive it, and pulled backward with the leverage
obtained, the gravel was loosened and pried upward either in masses which
could be lifted out entire, or so crumbled that it could be easily dished
out with the clamshell. The work went on more slowly, but not less
steadily nor hopefully than on the days preceding, and, for some time,
was uninterrupted by any striking incident. The boys were becoming
buoyant. They decided that the grassy valley was almost uninfested by
things dangerous. They became reckless sometimes, and would work in the
pit together. As a rule, though, they were cautious--this was an inherent
and necessary quality of a cave being--and it was well for them that it
was so, for when an emergency came only one of them was in the pit, while
the other was aloft in the lookout and alert.

It was about three o'clock one afternoon when Ab, whose turn it chanced
to be, was working valiantly in the pit, while Oak, all eyes, was perched
aloft. Suddenly there came from the treetop a yell which was no boyish
expression of exuberance of spirits. It was something which made Ab leap
from the excavation as he heard it and reach the side of Oak as the
latter came literally tumbling down the bole of the tree of watching.

"Run!" Oak said, and the two darted across the valley and reached the
forest and clambered into safe hiding among the clustering branches.
Then, in the intervals between his gasping breath, Oak managed to again
articulate a word:

"Look!" he said.

Ab looked and, in an instant, realized how wise had been Oak's alarming
cry and how well it was for them that they were so distant from the clump
of trees so near the river. What he saw was that which would have made
the boys' fathers flee as swiftly had they been in their children's
place. Yet what Ab looked upon was only a waving, in sinuous regularity,
of the rushes between the tree clump and the river and the lifting of a
head some ten or fifteen feet above the reed-tops. What had so alarmed
the boys was what would have disturbed a whole tribe of their kinsmen,
even though they had chanced to be assembled, armed to the teeth with
such weapons as they then possessed. What they saw was not of the common.
Very rarely indeed, along the Thames, had occurred such an invasion. The
father of Oak had never seen the thing at all, and the father of Ab had
seen it but once, and that many years before. It was the great serpent of
the seas!

Safely concealed in the branches of a tree overlooking the little valley,
the boys soon recovered their normal breathing capacity and were able to
converse again. Not more than a couple of minutes, at the utmost, had
passed between their departure from their place of labor and their
establishment in this same tree. The creature which had so alarmed them
was still gliding swiftly across the morass between the lowland and the
river. It came forward through the marsh undeviatingly toward the tree
clump, the tall reeds quivering as it passed, but its approach indicated
by no sound or other token of disturbance. The slight bank reached, there
was uplifted a great serpent head, and then, without hesitation, the
monster swept forward to the trees and soon hung dangling from the
branches of the largest one, its great coils twined loosely about trunk
and limb, its head swinging gently back and forth just below the lower
branch. It was a serpent at least sixty feet in length, and two feet or
more in breadth at its huge middle. It was queerly but not brilliantly
spotted, and its head was very nearly that of the anaconda of to-day.
Already the sea-serpent had become amphibious. It had already acquired
the knowledge it has transmitted to the anaconda, that it might leave the
stream, and, from some vantage point upon the shore, find more surely a
victim than in the waters of the sea or river. This monster serpent was
but waiting for the advent of any land animal, save perhaps those so
great as the mammoth or the great elk, or, possibly, even the cave
bear or the cave tiger. The mammoth was, of course, an impossibility,
even to the sea-serpent. The elk, with its size and vast antlers, was, to
put it at the mildest, a perplexing thing to swallow. The rhinoceros was
dangerous, and as for the cave bear and the cave tiger, they were
uncomfortable customers for anything alive. But there were the cattle,
the aurochs and the urus, and the little horses and deer, and wild hog
and a score of other creatures which, in the estimation of the
sea-serpent, were extremely edible. A tidbit to the serpent was a man, but
he did not get one in half a century.

Not long did the boys remain even in a harborage so distant. Each fled
homeward with his story.



It was with scant breath, when they reached their respective caves, that
the boys told the story of the dread which had invaded the marsh-land.
What they reported was no light event and, the next morning, their
fathers were with them in the treetop at the safe distance which the
wooded crest afforded and watching with apprehensive eyes the movements
of the monster settled in the rugged valley tree. There was slight
movement to note. Coiled easily around the bole, just above where the
branches began, and resting a portion of its body upon a thick, extending
limb, its head and perhaps ten or fifteen feet of its length swinging
downward, the great serpent still hung awaiting its prey, ready to launch
itself upon any hapless victim which might come within its reach. That
its appetite would soon be gratified admitted of little doubt. Profiting
by the absence of the boys, who while at work made no effort to conceal
themselves, groups of wild horses were already feeding in the lowlands,
and the elk and wild ox were visible here and there. The group in the
treetop on the crest realized that it had business on hand. The
sea-serpent was a terror to the cave people, and when one appeared to
haunt the river the word was swiftly spread, and they gathered to
accomplish its end if possible. With warnings to the boys they left
behind them, the fathers sped away in different directions, one up, the
other down, the river's bank, Stripe-Face to seek the help of some of the
cave people and One-Ear to arouse the Shell people, as they were called,
whose home was beside a creek some miles below. Into the home of the
little colony One-Ear went swinging a little later, demanding to see the
head man of the fishing village, and there ensued an earnest conversation
of short sentences, but one which caused immediate commotion. To the hill
dwellers the rare advent of a sea-serpent was comparatively a small
matter, but it was a serious thing to the Shell folk. The sea-serpent
might come up the creek and be among them at any moment, ravaging their
community. The Shell people were grateful for the warning, but there were
few of them at home, and less than a dozen could be mustered to go with
One-Ear to the rendezvous.

They were too late, the hardy people who came up to assail the serpent,
because the serpent had not waited for them. The two boys roosting in the
treetop on the height had beheld what was not pleasant to look upon, for
they had seen a yearling of the aurochs enveloped by the thing, which
whipped down suddenly from the branches, and the crushed quadruped had
been swallowed in the serpent's way. But the dinner which might suffice
it for weeks had not, in all entirety, the effect upon it which would
follow the swallowing of a wild deer by its degenerate descendants of the
Amazonian or Indian forests.

The serpent did not lie a listless mass, helplessly digesting the product
of the tragedy upon the spot of its occurrence, but crawled away slowly
through the reeds, and instinctively to the water, into which it slid
with scarce a splash, and then went drifting lazily away upon the current
toward the sea. It had been years since one of these big water serpents
had invaded the river at such a distance from its mouth and never came
another up so far. There were causes promoting rapidly the extinction of
their dreadful kind.

Three or four days were required before Ab and Oak realized, after what
had taken place, that there were in the community any more important
personages than they, and that they had work before them, if they were to
continue in their glorious career. When everyday matters finally asserted
themselves, there was their pit not yet completed. Because of their
absence, a greater aggregation of beasts was feeding in the little
valley. Not only the aurochs, the ancient bison, the urus, the progenitor
of the horned cattle of to-day, wild horse and great elk and reindeer
were seen within short distances from each other, but the big, hairy
rhinoceros of the time was crossing the valley again and rioting in its
herbage or wallowing in the pools where the valley dipped downward to the
marsh. The mammoth with its young had swung clumsily across the area of
rich feed, and, lurking in its train, eyeing hungrily and bloodthirstily
the mammoth's calf, had crept the great cave tiger. The monster cave bear
had shambled through the high grass, seeking some small food in default
of that which might follow the conquest of a beast of size. The uncomely
hyenas had gone slinking here and there and had found something worthy
their foul appetite. All this change had come because the two boys, being
boys and full of importance, had neglected their undertaking for about a
week and had talked each in his own home with an air intended to be
imposing, and had met each other with much dignity of bearing, at their
favorite perching-place in the treetop on the hillside. When there came
to them finally a consciousness that, to remain people of magnitude in
the world, they must continue to do something, they went to work bravely.
The change which had come upon the valley in their brief absence tended
to increase their confidence, for, as thus exhibited, early as was the
age, the advent of the human being, young or old, somehow affected all
animate nature and terrified it, and the boys saw this. Not that the
great beasts did not prey upon man, but then, as now, the man to the
great beast was something of a terror, and man, weak as he was, knew
himself and recognized himself as the head of all creation. The mammoth,
the huge, thick-coated rhinoceros, sabre-tooth, the monstrous tiger, or
the bear, or the hyena, or the loping wolf, or short-bodied and vicious
wolverine were to him, even then, but lower creatures. Man felt himself
the master of the world, and his children inherited the perception.

Work in the pit progressed now rapidly and not a great number of days
passed before it had attained the depth required. The boy at work was
compelled, when emerging, to climb a dried branch which rested against
the pit's edge, and the lookout in the tree exercised an extra caution,
since his comrade below could no longer attain safety in a moment. But
the work was done at last, that is, the work of digging, and there
remained but the completion of the pitfall, a delicate though not a
difficult matter. Across the pit, and very close together, were laid
criss-crosses of slender branches, brought in armfuls from the forest;
over these dry grass was spread, thinly but evenly, and over this again
dust and dirt and more grass and twigs, all precautions being observed to
give the place a natural appearance. In this the boys succeeded very
well. Shrewd must have been the animal of any sort which could detect the
trap. Their chief work done, the boys must now wait wisely. The place was
deserted again and no nearer approach was made to the pitfall than the
treetops of the hillside. There the boys were to be found every day,
eager and anxious and hopeful as boys are generally. There was not
occasion for getting closer to the trap, for, from their distant perch,
its surface was distinctly visible and they could distinguish if it had
been broken in. Those were days of suppressed excitement for the two;
they could see the buffalo and wild horses moving here and there, but
fortune was still perverse and the trap was not approached. Before its
occupation by them, the place where they had dug had appeared the
favorite feeding-place; now, with all perversity, the wild horses and
other animals grazed elsewhere, and the boys began to fear that they had
left some traces of their work which revealed it to the wily beasts. On
one day, for an hour or two, their hearts were in their mouths. There
issued from the forest to the westward the stately Irish elk. It moved
forward across the valley to the waters on the other side, and, after
drinking its fill, began feeding directly toward the tree clump. It
reached the immediate vicinity of the pitfall and stood beneath the
trees, fairly outlined against the opening beyond, and affording
to the almost breathless couple a splendid spectacle. A magnificent
creature was the great elk of the time of the cave men, the Irish elk, as
those who study the past have named it, because its bones have been found
so frequently in what are now the preserving peat bogs of Ireland. But
the elk passed beyond the sight of the watchers, and so their bright
hopes fell.

The crispness of full autumn had come, one morning, when Ab and Oak met
as usual and looked out across the valley to learn if anything had
happened in the vicinity of the pitfall. The hoar frost, lying heavily on
the herbage, made the valley resemble a sea of silver, checkered and
spotted all over darkly. These dark spots and lines were the traces of
such animals as had been in the valley during the night or toward early
morning. Leading everywhere were heavy trails and light ones, telling the
story of the night. But very little heed to these things was paid by the
ardent boys. They were too full of their own affairs. As they swung into
place together upon their favorite limb and looked across the valley,
they uttered a simultaneous and joyous shout. Something had taken place
at the pitfall!

All about the trap the surface of the ground was dark and the area of
darkness extended even to the little bank of the swamp on the riverside.
Careless of danger, the boys dropped to the ground and, spears in hand,
ran like deer toward the scene of their weeks of labor. Side by side they
bounded to the edge of the excavation, which now yawned open to the sky.
They had triumphed at last! As they saw what the pitfall held, they
yelled in unison, and danced wildly around the opening, in the very
height of boyish triumph. The exultation was fully justified, for the
pitfall held a young rhinoceros, a creature only a few months old, but so
huge already that it nearly filled the excavation. It was utterly
helpless in the position it occupied. It was wedged in, incapable of
moving more than slightly in any direction. Its long snout, with its
sprouting pair of horns, was almost level with the surface of the ground
and its small bright eyes leered wickedly at its noisy enemies. It
struggled clumsily upon their approach, but nothing could relieve the
hopelessness of its plight.

All about the pitfall the earth was plowed in furrows and beaten down by
the feet of some monstrous animal. Evidently the calf was in the company
of its mother when it fell a victim to the art of the pitfall diggers. It
was plain that the mother had spent most of the night about her young in
a vain effort to release it. Well did the cave boys understand the signs,
and, after their first wild outburst of joy over the capture, a sense of
the delicacy, not to say danger, of their situation came upon them. It
was not well to interfere with the family affairs of the rhinoceros.
Where had the mother gone? They looked about, but could see nothing to
justify their fears. Only for a moment, though, did their sense of safety
last; hardly had the echo of their shouting come back from the hillside
than there was a splashing and rasping of bushes in the swamp and the
rush of some huge animal toward the little ascent leading to the valley
proper. There needed no word from either boy; the frightened couple
bounded to the tree of refuge and had barely begun clambering up its
trunk than there rose to view, mad with rage and charging viciously, the
mother of the calf rhinoceros.



The rhinoceros of the Stone Age was a monstrous creature, an animal
varying in many respects from either species of the animal of the present
day, though perhaps somewhat closely allied to the huge double-horned and
now nearly extinct white rhinoceros of southern Africa. But the brute of
the prehistoric age was a beast of greater size, and its skin, instead of
being bare, was densely covered with a dingy colored, crinkly hair,
almost a wool. It was something to be dreaded by most creatures even in
this time of great, fierce animals. It turned aside for nothing; it was
the personification of courage and senseless ferocity when aroused.
Rarely seeking a conflict, it avoided none. The huge mammoth, a more
peaceful pachyderm, would ordinarily hesitate before barring its path,
while even the cave tiger, fiercest and most dreaded of the carnivora of
the time, though it might prey upon the young rhinoceros when opportunity
occurred, never voluntarily attacked the full-grown animal. From that
almost impervious shield of leather hide, an inch or more in thickness,
protected further by the woolly covering, even the terrible strokes of
the tiger's claws glanced off with but a trifling rending, while one
single lucky upward heave of the twin horns upon the great snout would
pierce and rend, as if it were a trifling obstacle, the body of any
animal existing. The lifting power of that prodigious neck was something
almost beyond conception. It was an awful engine of death when its
opportunity chanced to come. On the other hand, the rhinoceros of this
ancient world had but a limited range of vision, and was as dull-witted
and dangerously impulsive as its African prototype of today.

But short-sighted as it was, the boys clambering up the tree were near
enough for the perception of the great beast which burst over the
hummock, and it charged directly at them, the tree quivering when the
shoulder of the monster struck it as it passed, though the boys, already
in the branches, were in safety. Checking herself a little distance
beyond, the rhinoceros mother returned, snorting fiercely, and began
walking round and round the calf imprisoned in the pitfall. The boys
comprehended perfectly the story of the night. The calf once ensnared,
the mother had sought in vain to rescue it, and, finally, wearied with
her exertion, had retired just over the little descent, there to wallow
and rest while still keeping guard over her imprisoned young. The
spectacle now, as she walked around the trap, was something which would
have been pitiful to a later race of man. The beast would get down upon
her knees and plow the dirt about the calf with her long horns. She would
seek to get her snout beneath its body sidewise, and so lift it, though
each effort was necessarily futile. There was no room for any leverage,
the calf fitted the cavity. The boys clung to their perches in safety,
but in perplexity. Hours passed, but the mother rhinoceros showed no
inclination to depart. It was three o'clock in the afternoon when she
went away to the wallow, returning once or twice to her young before
descending the bank, and, even when she had reached the marsh, snorting
querulously for some time before settling down to rest.

The boys waited until all was quiet in the marsh, and, as a matter of
prudence, for some time longer. They wanted to feel assured that the
monster was asleep, then, quietly, they slid down the tree trunk and,
with noiseless step, stole by the pitfall and toward the hillside. A few
yards further on their pace changed to a run, which did not cease until
they reached the forest and its refuge, nor, even there, did they linger
for any length of time. Each started for his home; for their adventure
had again assumed a quality which demanded the consideration of older
heads and the assistance of older hands. It was agreed that they should
again bring their fathers with them--by a fortunate coincidence each knew
where to find his parent on this particular day--and that they should
meet as soon as possible. It was more than an hour later when the two
fathers and two sons, the men armed with the best weapons they possessed,
appeared upon the scene. So far as the watchers from the hillside could
determine, all was quiet about the clump of trees and the vicinity of the
pitfall. It was late in the afternoon now and the men decided that the
best course to pursue would be to steal down across the valley, kill the
imprisoned calf and then escape as soon as possible, leaving the mother
to find her offspring dead; reasoning that she would then abandon it.
Afterward the calf could be taken out and there would be a feast of cave
men upon the tender food and much benefit derived in utilization of
the tough yet not, at its age, too thick hide of the uncommon quarry.
There was but one difficulty in the way of carrying out this enterprise:
the wind was from the north and blew from the hunters toward the river,
and the rhinoceros, though lacking much range of vision, was as acute of
scent as the gray wolves which sometimes strayed like shadows through the
forest or the hyenas which scented from afar the living or the dead.
Still, the venture was determined upon.

The four descended the hill, the two boys in the rear, treading with the
lightness of the tiger cat, and went cautiously across the valley and
toward the tree trunk. Certainly no sound they made could have reached
the ear of the monster wallowing below the bank, but the wind carried to
its nostrils the message of their coming. They were not half way across
the valley when the rhinoceros floundered up to the level and charged
wildly along the course of the wafted scent. There was a flight for the
hillside, made none too soon, but yet in time for safety. Walking around
in circles, snorting viciously, the great beast lingered in the vicinity
for a time, then went back to its imprisoned calf, where it repeated the
performance of earlier in the day and finally retired again to its hidden
resting-place near by. It was dusk now and the shadows were deepening
about the valley.

The men, well up in the tree with the boys, were undetermined what to do.
They might steal along to the eastward and approach the calf from another
direction without disturbing the great brute by their scent. But it was
becoming darker every moment and the region was a dangerous one. In the
valley and away from the trees they were at a disadvantage and at night
there were fearful things abroad. Still, they decided to take the risk,
and the four, following the crest of the slight hill, moved along its
circle southeastward toward the river bank, each on the alert and each
with watchful eyes scanning the forest depths to the left or the valley
to the right. Suddenly One-Ear leaped back into the shadow, waved his
hand to check the advance of those behind him, then pointed silently
across the valley and toward the clump of trees.

Not a hundred yards from the pitfall the high grass was swaying gently;
some creature was passing along toward the pitfall and a thing of no
slight size. Every eye of the quartet was strained now to learn what
might be the interloper upon the scene. It was nearly dark, but the eyes
of the cave men, almost nocturnal in their adaptation as they were,
distinguished a long, dark body emerging from the reeds and circling
curiously and cautiously around the pitfall; nearer and nearer it
approached the helpless prisoner until perhaps twenty feet distant from
it. Here the thing seemed to crouch and remain quiescent, but only for a
little time. Then resounded across the valley a screaming roar, so fierce
and raucous and death-telling and terrifying that even the hardened
hunters leaped with affright. At the same moment a dark object shot
through the air and landed on the back of the creature in the shallow
pit. The tiger was abroad! There was a wild bleat of terror and agony, a
growl fiercer and shorter than the first hoarse cry of the tiger, and,
then, for a moment silence, but only for a moment. Snorts, almost as
terrible in their significance as the tiger's roar, came from the
marsh's edge. A vast form loomed above the slight embankment and there
came the thunder of ponderous feet. The rhinoceros mother was charging
the great tiger!

There was a repetition of the fierce snorts, with the wild rush of the
rhinoceros, another roar, the sound of which reechoed through the valley,
and then could be dimly seen a black something flying through the air and
alighting, apparently, upon the back of the charging monster. There was a
confusion of forms and a confusion of terrifying sounds, the snarling
roar of the great tiger and half whistling bellow of the great pachyderm,
but nothing could be seen distinctly. That a gigantic duel was in
progress the cave men knew, and knew, as well, that its scene was one
upon which they could not venture. The clamor had not ended when the
darkness became complete and then each father, with his son, fled swiftly

Early the next morning, the four were together again at the same point of
safety and advantage, and again the frost-covered valley was a sea of
silver, this time unmarred by the criss-crosses of feeding or hunting
animals. There was no sign of life; no creature of the forest or the
plain was so daring as to venture soon upon the battlefield of the
rhinoceros and the cave tiger. Cautiously the cave men and their sons
made their way across the valley and approached the pitfall. What was
revealed to them told in a moment the whole story. The half-devoured body
of the rhinoceros calf was in the pit. It had been killed, no doubt, by
the tiger's first fierce assault, its back broken by the first blow of
the great forearm, or its vertebrae torn apart by the first grasp of the
great jaws. There were signs of the conflict all about, but that it had
not come to a deadly issue was apparent. Only by some accident could the
rhinoceros have caught upon its horns the agile monster cat, and only by
an accident even more remote could the tiger have reached a vital part of
its huge enemy. There had been a long and weary battle--a mother creature
fighting for her young and the great flesh-eater fighting for his prey.
But the combatants had assuredly separated without the death of either,
and the bereaved rhinoceros, knowing her young one to be dead, had
finally left the valley, while the tiger had returned to its prey and fed
its fill. But there was much meat left. There were, in the estimation of
the cave people, few more acceptable feasts than that obtainable from the
flesh of a young rhinoceros. The first instinct of the two men was to
work fiercely with their flint knives and cut out great lumps of meat
from the body in the pit. Hardly had they begun their work, when, as
by common impulse, each clambered out from the depression suddenly, and
there was a brief and earnest discussion. The cave tiger, monarch of the
time, was not a creature to abandon what he had slain until he had
devoured it utterly. Gorged though he might be, he was undoubtedly in
hiding within a comparatively short distance. He would return again
inevitably. He might be lying sleeping in the nearest clump of bushes! It
was possible that his appetite might come upon him soon again and that he
might appear at any moment. What chance then for the human beings who had
ventured into his dining-room? There was but one sensible course to
follow, and that was instant retreat. The four fled again to the hillside
and the forest, carrying with them, however, the masses of flesh already
severed from the body of the calf. There was food for a day or two for
each family.

And so ended the first woodland venture of these daring boys. For days
the vicinity of the little valley was not sought by either man or youth,
since the tiger might still be lurking near. When, later, the youths
dared to visit the scene of their bold exploit, there were only bones in
the pitfall they had made. The tiger had eaten its prey and had gone to
other fields. In later autumn came a great flood down the valley, rising
so high that the father of Oak and all his family were driven temporarily
from their cave by the water's influx and compelled to seek another
habitation many miles away. Some time passed before the comrades met

As for Ab, this exploit might be counted almost as the beginning of his
manhood. His father--and fathers had even then a certain paternal
pride--had come to recognize in a degree the vigor and daring of his son.
The mother, of course, was even more appreciative, though to her firstborn
she could give scant attention, as Ab had the small brother in the cave
now and the little sister who was still smaller, but from this time the
youth became a person of some importance. He grew rapidly, and the sinewy
stripling developed, not increasing strength and stature and rounding
brawn alone, for he had both ingenuity and persistency of purpose,
qualities which made him rather an exception among the cave boys of his



Attention has already been called to the fact that the family of Ab were
of the aristocracy of the region, and it should be added that the
interior of One-Ear's mansion corresponded with his standing in the
community. It was a fine cave, there was no doubt about that, and Red-Spot
was a notable housekeeper. As a rule, the bones remaining about the
fire after a meal were soon thrown outside--at least they were never
allowed to accumulate for more than a month or two. The beds were
excellent, for, in addition to the mass of leaves heaped upon the earth
which formed a resting-place for the family, there were spread the skins
of various animals. The water privileges of the establishment were
extensive, for there was the river in front, much utilized for drinking
purposes. There were ledges and shelves of rock projecting here and there
from the sides of the cave, and upon these were laid the weapons and
implements of the household, so that, excepting an occasional bone upon
the earthen floor, or, perhaps, a spattering of red, where some animal
had been cut up for roasting, the place was very neat indeed. The fact
that the smoke from the fire could, when the wind was right, ascend
easily through the roof made the residence one of the finest within a
large district of the country. As to light, it cannot be said that the
house was well provided. The fire at night illuminated a small area and,
in the daytime, light entered through the doorway, and, to an extent,
through the hole in the cave's top, as did also the rains, but the light
was by no means perfect. The doorway, for obvious reasons, was narrow and
there was a huge rock, long ago rolled inside with much travail, which
could on occasion be utilized in blocking the narrow passage. Barely room
to squeeze by this obstruction existed at the doorway. The sneaking but
dangerous hyena had a keen scent and was full of curiosity. The monster
bear of the time was ever hungry and the great cave tiger, though rarer,
was, as has been shown, a haunting dread. Great attention was paid to
doorways in those days, not from an artistic point of view exactly, but
from reasons cogent enough in the estimation of the cave men. But the
cave was warm and safe and the sharp eyes of its inhabitants, accustomed
to the semi-darkness, found slight difficulty in discerning objects in
the gloom. Very content with their habitation were all the family and
Red-Spot particularly, as a chatelaine should, felt much pride in her

It may be added that the family of One-Ear was a happy one. His life with
Red-Spot was the sequence of what might be termed a fortunate marriage.
It is true that standards vary with times, and that the demeanor of the
couple toward each other was occasionally not what would be counted the
index of domestic felicity in this more artificial and deceptive age. It
was never fully determined whether One-Ear or Red-Spot could throw a
stone ax with the greater accuracy, although certainly he could hurl one
with greater force than could his wife. But the deftness of each in
eluding such dangerous missiles was about the same, and no great harm had
at any time resulted from the effects of momentary ebullitions of anger,
followed by action on the part of either. There had not been at any time
a scandal in the family. The pair were faithful to each other. Society
was somewhat scattered in those days, and the cave twain, anywhere, were
generally as steadfast as the lion and the lioness. It was centuries
later, too, before the cave men's posterity became degenerate enough or
prosperous enough, or safe enough, to be polygamous, and, so far as the
area of the Thames valley or even the entire "Paris basin," as it is
called, was concerned, monogamy held its own very fairly, from the
shell-beds of the earliest kitchen-middens to the time of the bronze ax
and the dawn of what we now call civilization.

There were now five members in this family of the period, One-Ear,
Red-Spot, Ab, Bark and Beech-Leaf, the two last named being Ab's younger
brother and little more than baby sister. The names given them had come
in the same accidental way as had the name of Ab. The brother, when very
small, had imitated in babyish way the barking of some wolfish creature
outside which had haunted the cave's vicinity at night time, and so the
name of Bark, bestowed accidentally by Ab himself, had become the
youngster's title for life. As to Beech-Leaf, she had gained her name in
another way. She was a fat and joyous little specimen of a cave baby and
not much addicted to lying as dormant as babies sometimes do. The
bearskin upon which her mother laid her had not infrequently proven too
limited an area for her exploits and she would roll from it into the
great bed of beech leaves upon which it was placed, and become fairly
lost in the brown mass. So often had this hilarious young lady to be
disinterred from the beech leaf bed, that the name given her came
naturally, through association of ideas. Between the birth of Ab and that
of his younger brother an interval of five years had taken place, the
birth of the sister occurring three or four years later. So it came that
Ab, in the absence of his father and mother, was distinctly the head of
the family, admonitory to his brother, with ideas as to the physical
discipline requisite on occasion, and, in a rude way, fond of and
protective toward the baby sister.

There was a certain regularity in the daily program of the household,
although, with reference to what was liable to occur outside, it can
hardly be said to have partaken of the element of monotony. The work of
the day consisted merely in getting something to eat, and in this work
father and mother alike took an active part, their individual duties
being somewhat varied. In a general way One-Ear relied upon himself for
the provision of flesh, but there were roots and nuts and fruits, in
their season, and in the gathering of these Red-Spot was an admitted
expert. Not that all her efforts were confined to the fruits of the soil
and forest, for she could, if need be, assist her husband in the pursuit
or capture of any animal. She was not less clever than he in that
animal's subsequent dissection, and was far more expert in its cooking.
In the tanning of skins she was an adept. So it chanced that at this time
the father and mother frequently left the cave together in the morning,
their elder son remaining as protector of the younger inmates. When
occasionally he went with his parents, or was allowed to venture forth
alone, extra precautions were taken as to the cave's approaches. Just
outside the entrance was a stone similar to the one on the inside, and
when the two young children were left unguarded this outside barricade
was rolled against what remained of the entrance, so that the small
people, though prisoners, were at least secure from dangerous animals.
Of course there were variations in the program. There was that degree of
fellowship among the cave men, even at this early age, to allow of an
occasional banding together for hunting purposes, a battle of some sort
or the surrounding and destruction of some of the greater animals. At
such times One-Ear would be absent from the cave for days and Ab and his
mother would remain sole guardians. The boy enjoyed these occasions
immensely; they gave him a fine sense of responsibility and importance,
and did much toward the development of the manhood that was in him,
increasing his self-reliance and perfecting him in the art of winning his
daily bread, or what was daily bread's equivalent at the time in which he
lived. It was not in outdoor and physical life alone that he grew. There
was something more to him, a combination of traits somewhere which made
him a little beyond and above the mere seeker after food. He was never
entirely dormant, a sleeper on the skins and beech leaves, even when in
the shelter of the cave, after the day's adventures. He reasoned
according to such gifts as circumstances had afforded him and he had the
instinct of devising. An instinct toward devising was a great thing to
its possessor in the time of the cave people.

We know very well to-day, or think we know, that the influence of the
mother, in most cases, dominates that of the father in making the future
of the man-child. It may be that this comes because in early life the
boy, throughout the time when all he sees or learns will be most clear in
his memory until he dies, is more with the woman parent than with the
man, who is afield; or, it may be, there is some criss-cross law of
nature which makes the man ordinarily transmit his qualities to the
daughter and the woman transmit hers to the son. About that we do not
know yet. But it is certain that Ab was more like his mother than his
father, and that in these young days of his he was more immediately under
her influence. And Red-Spot was superior in many ways to the ordinary
woman of the cave time.

It was good for the boy that he was so under the maternal dominion, and
that, as he lingered about the cave, he aided in the making of threads of
sinew or intestine, or looked on interestedly as his mother, using the
bone needle, which he often sharpened for her with his flint scraper,
sewed together the skins which made the garments of the family. The
needle was one without an eye, a mere awl, which made holes through which
the thread was pushed. As the growing boy lounged or labored near his
mother, alternately helpful or annoying, as the case might be, he learned
many things which were of value to him in the future, and resolved upon
brave actions which should be greatly to his credit. He was but a cub, a
young being almost as unreasoning in some ways as the beasts of the wood,
but he had his hopes and vanities, as has even the working beaver or the
dancing crane, and from the long mother-talks came a degree of
definiteness of outline to his ambitions. He would be the greatest hunter
and warrior in all the region!

The cave mother easily understood her child's increasing daringness and
vigor, and though swift to anger and strong of hand, she could not but
feel a pride in and tell her tales to the boy beside her. After a time,
when the family of Oak returned to the cave above and the boys were much
together again, the mother began to see less of her son. The influence of
the days spent by her side remained with the boy, however, and much that
he learned there was of value in his later active life.



It was at about this time, the time when Ab had begun to develop from
boyhood into strong and aspiring youth, that his family was increased
from five to six by the addition of a singular character, Old Mok. This
personage was bent and seemingly old, but he was younger than he looked,
though he was not extremely fair to look upon. He had a shock of grizzled
hair, a short, stiff, unpleasant beard, and the condition of one of his
legs made him a cripple of an exaggerated type. He could hobble about and
on great occasions make a journey of some length, but he was practically
debarred from hunting. The extraordinary curvature of his twisted leg
was, as usual in his time, the result of an encounter with some wild
beast. The limb curved like a corkscrew and was so much shorter than the
other leg that the man was really safe only when the walls of a cave
enclosed him. But if his legs were weak his brain and arms were not. In
that grizzled head was much intelligence and the arms were those of a
great climber. His toes were clasping things and he was at home in a
treetop. But he did not travel much. There was no need. Old Mok had
special gifts, and they were such as made him a desirable friend among
the cave men. He had, in his youth, been a mighty hunter and had so
learned that he could tell wonderfully the ways of beasts and swimming
things and the ways of slaying or eluding them. Best of all, he was such
a fashioner of weapons as the valley had rarely known, and, because of
this, was in great request as a cared-for inmate of almost any cave which
hit his fancy. After his crippling he had drifted from one haven to
another, never quite satisfied with what he found, and now he had come to
live, as he supposed, with his old friend, One-Ear, until life should
end. Despite his harshness of appearance--and neither of the two could
ever afterward explain it--there was something about the grim old man
which commended him to Ab from the very first. There was an occasional
twinkle in the fierce old fellow's eye and sometimes a certain cackle in
his clucking talk, which betokened not unkindliness toward a healthy
youngster, and the two soon grew together, as often the young and old may

Though but what might be called in one sense a dependent, the crippled
hunter had a dignity and was arbitrary in the expression of his views.
Never once, through all the thousands of years which have passed since he
hobbled here and there, has lived an armorer more famous among those who
knew him best. No fashioner of sword, or lance, or coat of mail or plate,
in the far later centuries, had better reputation than had Mok with his
friends and patrons for the making of good weapons, though it may be that
his clientele was less numerous by hundreds to one than that of some
later manufacturer of a Toledo blade. He might be living partly as a
dependent, but he could do almost as he willed. Who should have standing
if it were not accorded to the most gifted chipper of flint and carver of
mammoth tooth in all the region from where the little waters came down to
make a river, to where the blue, broad stream, blending with friendly
currents, was lost in what is now the great North Sea?

A boy and an old man can come together closely, and that has, through all
the ages, been a good thing for each. The boy learns that which enables
him to do things and the man is happy in watching the development of one
of his own kind. Helping and advising Ab, and sometimes Oak as well, Old
Mok did not discourage sometimes reckless undertakings. In those days
chances were accepted. So when any magnificent scheme suggested itself to
the two youths, Ab at once sought his adviser and was not discountenanced.

It was a great night in the cave when Ab brought home two fluffy gray
bundles not much larger than kittens and tied them in a corner with
thongs of sinew, sinew so tough and stringy that it could not easily be
severed by the sharp teeth which were at once applied to it. The fluffy
gray bundles were two young wolves, and were, for Ab, a great possession.
They were not even brother and sister, these cubs, and had been gallantly
captured by the two courageous rangers, Ab and Oak. For some time the
boys had noted lurking shadows about a rugged height close by the river,
some distance below the cave of Ab, and had resolved upon a closer
investigation. A particularly ugly brute was the wolf of the cave man's
time, but one which, when not in pack, was unlikely to assail two
well-armed and sturdy youths in daylight; and the result of much cautious
spying was that they found two dens, each with young in them, and at a
time when the old wolves were away. In one den Ab seized upon two of the
snarling cubs and Oak did the same in the other, and then the raiders
fled with such speed as was in them, until they were at a safe distance
from the place where things would not go well with them should the robbed
parents return. Once in safe territory, each exchanged a cub for one
seized by the other and then each went home in triumph. Ab was especially
delighted. He was determined to feed his cubs with the utmost care and to
keep them alive and growing. He was full of the fancy and delighted in
it, but he had assumed a great responsibility.


The cubs were tied in a corner of the cave and at once commanded the
attention and unbounded admiration of Bark and Beech-Leaf. The young lady
especially delighted in the little beasts and could usually be found
lying in the corner with them, the baby wolves learning in time to play
with her as if she were a wolf-suckled cub herself. Bark had almost the
same relations with the little brutes and Ab looked after them most
carefully. Even the father and mother became interested in the antics of
the young children and young wolves and the cubs became acknowledged, if
not particularly respected, members of the family. But Ab's dream was too
much for sudden realization. Not all at once could the wild thing become
a tame one. As the cubs grew and their teeth became longer and sharper,
there was an occasional conflict and the arms of Bark and Beech-Leaf were
scarred in consequence, until at last Ab, though he protested hardly, was
compelled to give up his pets. Somehow, he was not in the mood for
killing the half grown beasts, and so he simply turned them loose, but
they did not, as he had thought they would, flee to the forest. They had
known almost no life except that of the cave, they had got their meat
there and, at night, the twain were at the doorway whining for food. To
them were tossed some half-gnawed bones and they received them with
joyous yelps and snarls. Thenceforth they hung about the cave and
retained, practically, their place in the family, oddly enough showing
particular animosity to those of their own kind who ventured near the
place. One day, the female was found in the cave's rear with four little
whelps lying beside her, and that settled it! The family petted the young
animals and they grew up tamer and more obedient than had been their
father and mother. Protected by man, they were unlikely to revert to
wildness. Members of the pack which grew from them were, in time,
bestowed as valued gifts among the cave men of the region and much came
of it. The two boys did a greater day's work than they could comprehend
when they raided the dens by the river's side.

But there was much beside the capture of wolf cubs to occupy the
attention of the boys. They counted themselves the finest bird hunters in
the community and, to a certain extent, justified the proud claim made.
No youths could set a snare more deftly or hurl a stone more surely, and
there was much bird life for them to seek. The bustard fed in the vast
nut forests, the capercailzie was proud upon the moors, where the
heath-cock was as jaunty, and the willow grouse and partridge were wise in
covert to avoid the hungry snowy owl. Upon the river and lagoons and
creeks the swan and wild goose and countless duck made constant clamor,
and there were water-rail and snipe along the shallows. There were eggs
to be found, and an egg baked in the ashes was a thing most excellent. It
was with the waterfowl that the boys were most successful. The ducks
would in their feeding approach close to the shores of the river banks or
the little islands and would gather in bunches so near to where the boys
were hidden that the young hunters, leaping suddenly to their feet and
hurling their stones together, rarely failed to secure at least a single
victim. There were muskrats along the banks and there was a great beaver,
which was not abundant, and which was a mighty creature of his kind. Of
muskrats the boys speared many--and roasted muskrat is so good that it is
eaten by the Indians and some of the white hunters in Canada to-day--but
the big beaver they did not succeed in capturing at this stage of their
career. Once they saw a seal, which had come up the river from the sea,
and pursued it, running along the banks for miles, but it proved as
elusive as the great beaver.

But, as a matter of course, it was upon land that the greatest sport was
had. There were the wild hogs, but the hogs were wary and the big boars
dangerous, and it was only when a litter of the young could be pounced
upon somewhere that flint-headed spears were fully up to the emergency.
On such occasions there was fine pigsticking, and then the atmosphere in
the caves would be made fascinating with the odor of roasting suckling.
There is a story by a great and gentle writer telling how a Chinaman
first discovered the beauties of roast pig. It is an admirable tale and
it is well that it was written, but the cave man, many tens of thousands
of years before there was a China, yielded to the allurements of young
pig, and sought him accordingly.

The musk-ox, which still mingled with the animals of the river basin, was
almost as difficult of approach as in arctic wilds to-day, as was a small
animal, half goat, half antelope, which fed upon the rocky hillsides or
wherever the high reaches were. There were squirrels in the trees, but
they were seldom caught, and the tailless hare which fed in the river
meadows was not easily approached and was swift as the sea wind in its
flight, swifter than a sort of fox which sought it constantly. But the
burrowing things were surer game. There were martens and zerboas, and
marmots and hedgehogs and badgers, all good to eat and attainable to
those who could dig as could these brawny youths. The game once driven to
its hole, the clamshell and the sharpened fire-hardened spade-stick were
brought into use and the fate of the animal sought was rarely long in
doubt. It is true that the scene lacked one element very noticeable when
boys dig out any animal to-day. There was not the inevitable and
important dog, but the youths were swift of sight and quick of hand, and
the hidden creature, once unearthed, seldom escaped. One of the prizes of
those feats of excavation was the badger, for not only was it edible, but
its snow-white teeth, perforated and strung on sinew, made necklaces
which were highly valued.

The youths did not think of attacking many of the dangerous brutes. They
might have risked the issue with a small leopard which existed then, or
faced the wildcat, but what they sought most was the wolverine, because
it had fur so long and oddly marked, and because it was braver than other
animals of its size and came more boldly to some bait of meat, affording
opportunity for fine spear-throwing. And, apropos of the wolverine, the
glutton, as it is called in Europe, it is something still admired. It is
a vicious, bloodthirsty, unchanging and, to the widely-informed and
scientifically sentimental, lovable animal. It is vicious and
bloodthirsty because that is its nature. It is lovable because, through
all the generations, it has come down just the same. The cave man knew it
just as it is now; the early Teuton knew it when "hides" of land were the
rewards of warriors. The Roman knew it when he made forays to the far
north for a few centuries and learned how sharp were the blades of the
Rhine-folk and the Briton. The Druid and the Angle and Jute and Saxon
knew it, and it is known to-day in all northern Europe and Asia and
America, in fact, in nearly all the northern temperate zone. The
wolverine is something wonderful; it laughs at the ages; its bones, found
side by side with those of the cave hyena, are the same as those found in
its body as it exists to-day. It is an anomaly, an animal which does not
advance nor retrograde.

The two big boys grew daily in the science of gaining food and grew more
and more of importance in their respective households. Sometimes either
one of them might hunt alone, but this was not the rule. It was safer for

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