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The Story of Ab by Stanley Waterloo

Part 2 out of 4

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two than one, when the forest was invaded deeply. But not all their time
was spent in evading or seeking the life of such living things as they
might discover. They had a home life sometimes as entertaining as the
life found anywhere outside.



Those were happy times in the cave, where Ab, developing now into an
exceedingly stalwart youth, found the long evenings about the fire far
from monotonous. There was Mok, the mentor, who had grown so fond of him,
and there was most interesting work to do in making from the dark flint
nodules or obsidian fragments--always eagerly seized upon when discovered
by the cave people in their wanderings--the spearheads and rude knives
and skin scrapers so essential to their needs. The flint nodule was but a
small mass of the stone, often somewhat pear-shaped. Though apparently a
solid mass, composed of the hardest substance then known, it lay in what
might be called a series of flakes about a center, and, in wise hands,
these flakes could be chipped or pried away unbroken. The flake, once
won, was often slightly concave on the outside and convex on the other,
but the core of the stone was something more equally balanced in
formation and, when properly finished, made a mighty spearhead. For the
heavy axes and mallets, other stones, such as we now call granite,
redstone or quartose grit, were often used, but in the making of all the
weapons was required the exercise of infinite skill and patience. To make
the flakes symmetrical demanded the nicest perception and judgment of
power of stroke, for, with each flake gained, there resulted a new form
to the surface of the stone. The object was always to secure a flake with
a point, a strong middle ridge and sides as nearly edged as possible. And
in the striking off of these flakes and their finishing others of the
cave men were to old Mok as the child is to the man.

Ab hung about the old man at his work and was finally allowed to help
him. If, at first, the boy could do nothing else, he could, with his
flint scraper, work industriously at the smoothing of the long spear
shafts, and when he had learned to do well at this he was at last allowed
to venture upon the stone chipping, especially when into old Mok's
possession had come a piece of flint the quality of which he did not
quite approve and for the ruining of which in the splitting he cared but

There were disasters innumerable when the boy began and much bad stone
was spoiled, but he had a will and a good eye and hand, and it came, in
time, that he could strike off a flake with only a little less of
deftness than his teacher and that, even in the more delicate work of the
finer chipping to complete the weapon, he was a workman not to be
despised. He had an ambition in it all and old Mok was satisfied with
what he did.

The boy was always experimenting, ever trying a new flint chipper or
using a third stone to tap delicately the one held in the hand to make
the fracture, or wondering aloud why it would not be well to make this
flint knife a little thinner, or that spearhead a trifle heavier. He was
questioning as he worked and something of a nuisance with it all, but old
Mok endured with what was, for him, an astonishing degree of patience,
and would sometimes comment grumblingly to the effect that the boy could
at least chip stone far better than some men. And then the veteran would
look at One-Ear, who was, notoriously, a bad flint worker,--though, a
weapon once in his grasp, there were few could use it with surer eye or
heavier hand--and would chuckle as he made the comment. As for One-Ear,
he listened placidly enough. He was glad a son of his could make good
weapons. So much the better for the family!

As times went, Ab was a tolerably good boy to his mother. Nearly all
young cave males were good boys until the time came when their thews and
sinews outmatched the strength of those who had borne them, and this, be
it said, was at no early age, for the woman, hunting and working with the
man, was no maternal weakling whose buffet was unworthy of notice. A blow
from the cave mother's hand was something to be respected and avoided.
The use of strength was the general law, and the cave woman, though she
would die for her young, yet demanded that her young should obey her
until the time came when the maternal instinct of first direction blended
with and was finally lost in pride over the force of the being to whom
she had given birth. So Ab had vigorous duties about the household.

As has been told already, Red-Spot was a notable housekeeper and there
was such product of the cave cooking as would make happy any gourmand of
to-day who could appreciate the quality of what had a most natural
flavor. Regarding her kitchen appliances Red-Spot had a matron's
justifiable pride. Not only was there the wood fire, into which, held on
long, pointed sticks, could be thrust all sorts of meat for the somewhat
smoky broiling, and the hot coals and ashes in which could be roasted the
clams and the clay-covered fish, but there was the place for boiling,
which only the more fortunate of the cave people owned. Her growing son
had aided much in the attainment of this good housewife's fond desire.

With much travail, involving all the force the cave family could muster
and including the assistance of Oak's father and of Oak himself, who
rejoiced with Ab in the proceedings, there had been rolled into the cave
a huge sandstone rock with a top which was nearly flat. Here was to be
the great pot, sometimes used as a roasting place, as well, which only
the more pretentious of the caves could boast. On the middle of the big
stone's uppermost surface old Mok chipped with an ax the outline of a
rude circle some two feet in diameter. This defined roughly the size of
the kettle to be made. Inside the circle, the sandstone must be dug out
to a big kettle's proper depth, and upon the boy, Ab, must devolve most
of this healthful but not over-attractive labor.

The boy went at the task gallantly, in the beginning, and pecked away
with a stone chisel and gained a most respectable hollow within a day or
two, but his enthusiasm subsided with the continuity of much effort with
small result. He wanted more weight to his chisel of flint set firmly in
reindeer's horn, and a greater impact to the blows into which could not
be put the force resulting from a swing of arm. He thought much. Then he
secured a long stick and bound his chisel strongly to it at one end, the
top of the chisel resting against a projecting stub of limb, so that it
could not be driven upward. To the other end of the stick he bound a
stone of some pounds in weight and then, holding the shaft with both
hands, lifted it and let the whole drop into the depression he had
already made. The flint chisel bit deeply under the heavy impact and the
days were few before Ab had dug in the sandstone rock a cavity which
would hold much meat and water. There was an unconscious celebration when
the big kettle was completed. It was nearly filled with water, and into
the water were flung great chunks of the meat of a reindeer killed that
day. Meanwhile, the cave fire had been replenished with dry wood and
there had been formed a wide bed of coals, upon which were cast numerous
stones of moderate size, which soon attained a shining heat. A sort of
tongs made of green withes served to remove the stones, one after
another, from the mass of coal, and drop them in with the meat and water.
Within a little time the water was fairly boiling and soon there was a
monster stew giving forth rich odors and ready to be eaten. And it was
not allowed to get over-cool after that summoning fragrance had once
extended throughout the cave. There was a rush for the clam shells which
served for soup dishes or cups, there was spearing with sharpened sticks
for pieces of the boiled meat, and all were satisfied, though there was
shrill complaint from Bark, whose turn at the kettle came late, and much
clamor from chubby Beech-Leaf, who was not yet tall enough to help
herself, but who was cared for by the mother. It may be that, to some
people of to-day, the stew would be counted lacking in quality of
seasoning, but an opinion upon seasoning depends largely upon the stomach
and the time, and, besides, it may be that the dirt clinging to the
stones cast into the water gave a certain flavor as fine in its way as
could be imparted by salt and pepper.

Old Mok, observing silently, had decidedly approved of Ab's device for
easier digging into sandstone than was the old manner of pecking away
with a chisel held in the hand. He was almost disposed now to admit the
big lad to something like a plane of equality in the work they did
together. He became more affable in their converse, and the youth was, in
the same degree, delighted and ambitious. They experimented with the
stick and weight and chisel in accomplishing the difficult work of
splitting from boulders the larger fragments of stone from which weapons
were to be made, and learned that by heavy, steady pressure of the
breast, thus augmented by heavy weight, they could fracture more evenly
than by blow of stone, ax or hammer. They learned that two could work
together in stone chipping and do better work than one. Old Mok would
hold the forming weapon-head in one hand and the horn-hafted chisel in
another, pressing the blade close against the stone and at just such
angle as would secure the result he sought, while Ab, advised as to the
force of each succeeding stroke, tapped lightly upon the chisel's head.
Woe was it for the boy if once he missed his stroke and caught the old
man's fingers! Very delicate became the chipping done by these two
artists, and excellent beyond any before made were the axes and
spearheads produced by what, in modern times, would have been known under
the title of "Old Mok & Co."

At this time, too, Ab took lessons in making all the varied articles of
elk or reindeer horn and the drinking cups from the horns of urus and
aurochs. Old Mok even went so far as to attempt teaching the youth
something of carving figures upon tusks and shoulder blades, but in this
art Ab never greatly excelled. He was too much a creature of action. The
bone needles used by Red-Spot in making skin garments he could form
readily enough and he made whistles for Bark and Beech-Leaf, but his
inclinations were all toward larger things. To become a fighter and a
hunter remained his chief ambition.

Rather keen, with light snows but nipping airs, were the winters of this
country of the cave men, and there were articles of food essential to
variety which were, necessarily, stored before the cold season came.
There were roots which were edible and which could be dried, and there
were nuts in abundance, beyond all need. Beechnuts and acorns were
gathered in the autumn, the children at this time earning fully the right
of home and food, and the stores were heaped in granaries dug into the
cave's sides. Should the snow at any time fall too deeply for
hunting--though such an occurrence was very rare--or should any other
cause, such, for instance, as the appearance of the great cave tiger in
the region, make the game scarce and hunting perilous, there was the
recourse of nuts and roots and no danger of starvation. There was no fear
of suffering from thirst. Man early learned to carry water in a pouch of
skin and there were sometimes made rock cavities, after the manner of the
cave kettle, where water could be stored for an emergency. Besieging wild
beasts could embarrass but could not greatly alarm the family, for, with
store of wood and food and water, the besieged could wait, and it was not
well for the flesh-seeking quadruped to approach within a long
spear-thrust's length of the cavern's narrow entrance.

The winter following the establishment of Ab's real companionship with
Old Mok, as it chanced, was not a hard one. There fell snow enough for
tracking, but not so deeply as to incommode the hunter. There had been a
wonderful nut-fall in the autumn and the cave was stored with such
quantity of this food that there was no chance of real privation. The ice
was clean upon the river and through the holes hacked with stone axes
fish were dragged forth in abundance upon the rude bone and stone hooks,
which served their purpose far better than when, in summer time, the line
was longer and the fish escaped so often from the barbless implements. It
was a great season in all that made a cave family's life something easy
and complacent and vastly promotive of the social amenities and the
advancement of art and literature--that is, they were not compelled to
make any sudden raid on others to assure the means of subsistence, and
there was time for the carving of bones and the telling of strange
stories of the past. The elders declared it one of the finest winters
they had ever known.

And so Old Mok and Ab worked well that winter and the youth acquired such
wisdom that his casual advice to Oak when the two were out together was
something worth listening to because of its confidence and ponderosity.
Concerning flint scraper, drill, spearhead, ax or bone or wooden haft,
there was, his talk would indicate, practically nothing for the boy to
learn. That was his own opinion, though, as he grew older, he learned to
modify it greatly. With his adviser he had made good weapons and some
improvements; yet all this was nothing. It was destined that an
accidental discovery should be his, the effect of which would be to
change the cave man's rank among living things. But the youth, just now,
was greatly content with himself. He was older and more modest when he
made his great discovery.

It was when the fire blazed out at night, when all had fed, when the
tired people lay about resting, but not ready yet for sleep, and the
story of the day's events was given, that Old Mok's ordinarily still
tongue would sometimes loosen and he would tell of what happened when he
was a boy, or of the strange tales which had been told him of the time
long past, the times when the Shell and Cave people were one, times when
there were monstrous things abroad and life was hard to keep. To all
these legends the hearers listened wonderingly, and upon them afterward
Ab and Oak would sometimes speculate together and question as to their



It was worth while listening to Old Mok when he forgot himself and talked
and became earnestly reminiscent in telling of what he had seen or had
heard when he was young. One day there had been trouble in the cave, for
Bark, left in charge, had neglected the fire and it had "gone out," and
upon the return of his parents there had been blows and harsh language,
and then much pivotal grinding together of dry sticks before a new flame
was gained, and it was only after the odor of cooked flesh filled the
place and strong jaws were busy that the anger of One-Ear had abated and
the group became a comfortable one. Ab had come in hungry and the value of
fire, after what had happened, was brought to his mind forcibly. He laid
himself down upon the cave's floor near Old Mok, who was fashioning a
shaft of some sort, and, as he lay, poked his toes at Beechleaf, who
chuckled and gurgled as she rolled about, never for a moment relinquishing
a portion of the slender shin bone of a deer, upon the flesh of which the
family had fed. It was a short piece but full of marrow, and the child
sucked and mumbled away at it in utmost bliss. Ab thought, somehow, of how
poor would have been the eating with the meat uncooked, and looked at his
hands, still reddened--for it was he who had twisted the stick which made
the fire again. "Fire is good!" he said to Mok.

The old man kept his flint scraper going for a moment or two before he
answered; then he grunted:

"Yes, it's good if you don't get burned. I've been burned," and he thrust
out an arm upon which appeared a cicatrice.

Ab was interested. "Where did you get that?" he queried.

"Far from here, far beyond the black swamp and the red hills that are
farther still. It was when I was strong."

"Tell me about it," said the youth.

"There is a fire country," answered Old Mok, "away beyond the swamp and
woods and the place of the big rocks. It is a wonderful place. The fire
comes out of the ground in long sheets and it is always the same. The rain
and the snow do not stop it. Do I not know? Have I not seen it? Did I not
get this scar going too near the flame and stumbling and falling against a
hot rock almost within it? There is too much fire sometimes!"

The old man continued: "There are many places of fire. They are to the
east and south. Some of the Shell People who have gone far down the river
have seen them. But the one where I was burned is not so far away as they;
it is up the river to the northwest."

And Ab was interested and questioned Old Mok further about the strange
region where flames came from the ground as bushes grow, and where snow or
water did not make them disappear. He was destined, at a later day, to be
very glad that he had learned the little that was told him. But to-night
he was intent only on getting all the tales he could from the veteran
while he was in the mood. "Tell about the Shell People," he cried, "and
who they are and where they came from. They are different from us."

"Yes, they are different from us," said Old Mok, "but there was a time, I
have heard it told, when we were like them. The very old men say that
their grandfathers told them that once there were only Shell People
anywhere in this country, the people who lived along the shores and who
never hunted nor went far away from the little islands, because they were
afraid of the beasts in the forests. Sometimes they would venture into the
wood to gather nuts and roots, but they lived mostly on the fish and
clams. But there came a time when brave men were born among them who said
they would have more of the forest things, and that they would no longer
stay fearfully upon the little islands. So they came into the forest and
the Cave Men began. And I think this story true."

"I think it is true," Old Mok continued, "because the Shell People, you
can see, must have lived very long where they are now. Up and down the
creek where they live and along other creeks there lie banks of earth
which are very long and reach far back. And this is not really earth, but
is all made up of shells and bones and stone spearheads and the things
which lie about a Shell Man's place. I know, for I have dug into these
long banks myself and have seen that of which I tell. Long, very long,
must the Shell People have lived along the creeks and shores to have made
the banks of bones and shells so high."

And Old Mok was right. They talk of us as the descendants of an Aryan
race. Never from Aryan alone came the drifting, changing Western being of
to-day. But a part of him was born where bald plains were or where were
olive trees and roses. All modern science, and modern thoughtfulness, and
all later broadened intelligence are yielding to an admission of the fact
that he, though of course commingling with his visitors of the ages, was
born and changed where he now exists. The kitchen-midden--the name given
by scientists to refuse from his dwelling places--the kitchen-middens of
Denmark, as Denmark is to-day, alone, regardless of other fields, suffice
to tell a wondrous story. Imagine a kitchen-midden, that is to say the
detritus of ordinary living in different ages, accumulated along the side
of some ancient water course, having for its dimensions miles in length,
extending hundreds of yards back from the margin of this creek, of tens
and tens of thousands of years ago, and having a depth of often many feet
along this water course. Imagine this vast deposit telling the history of
a thousand centuries or more, beginning first with the deposit of clams
and mussel shells and of the shells of such other creatures as might
inhabit this river seeking its way to the North Sea. Imagine this deposit
increasing year after year and century by century, but changing its
character and quality as it rose, and the base is laid for reasoning.

At first these creatures who ranged up and down the ancient Danish creek
and devoured the clams and periwinkles must have been, as one might say,
but little more than surely anthropoid. Could such as these have migrated
from the Asiatic plateaus?

The kitchen-middens tell the early story with greater accuracy than could
any writer who ever lifted pen. Here the creek-loving, ape-like creatures
ranged up and down and quelled their appetites. They died after they had
begotten sons and daughters; and to these sons and daughters came an added
intelligence, brought from experience and shifting surroundings. The
kitchen-middens give graphic details. The bottom layer, as has been said,
is but of shells. Above it, in another layer, counting thousands of years
in growth, appear the cracked bones of then existing animals and appear
also traces of charred wood, showing that primitive man had learned what
fire was. And later come the rudely carved bones of the mammoth and woolly
rhinoceros and the Irish elk; then come rude flint instruments, and later
the age of smoothed stone, with all its accompanying fossils, bones and
indications; and so on upward, with a steady sweep, until close to the
surface of this kitchen-midden appear the bronze spear, the axhead and the
rude dagger of the being who became the Druid and who is an ancestor whom
we recognize. From the kitchen-midden to the pinnacle of all that is great
to-day extends a chain not a link of which is weak.

"They tell strange stories, too, the Shell People," Old Mok continued,
"for they are greater story-tellers than the Cave Men are, more of them
being together in one place, and the old men always tell the tales to the
children so that they are never forgotten by any of the people. They say
that once huge things came out of the great waters and up the creeks, such
as even the big cave tiger dare not face. And the old men say that their
grandfathers once saw with their own eyes a monster serpent many times as
large as the one you two saw, which came swimming up the creek and seized
upon the river horses there and devoured them as easily as the cave bear
would a little deer. And the serpent seized upon some of the Cave People
who were upon the water and devoured them as well, though such as they
were but a mouthful to him. And this tale, too, I believe, for the old
Shell Men who told me what their grandfathers had seen were not of the
foolish sort."

"But of another sort of story they have told me," Mok continued, "I think
little. The old men tell of a time when those who went down the river to
the greater river and followed it down to the sea, which seems to have no
end, saw what no man can see to-day. But they do not say that their
grandfathers saw these things. They only say that their grandfathers told
of what had been told them by their grandfathers farther back, of a story
which had come down to them, so old that it was older than the great trees
were, of monstrous things which swam along the shores and which were not
serpents, though they had long necks and serpent heads, because they had
great bodies which were driven by flippers through the water as the beaver
goes with his broad feet. And at the same time, the old story goes, were
great birds, far taller than a man, who fed where now the bustards and the
capercailzie are. And these tales I do not believe, though I have seen
bones washed from the riversides and hillsides by the rains which must
have come from creatures different from those we meet now in the forests
or the waters. They are wonderful story-tellers, the old men of the Shell

"And they tell other strange stories," continued the old man. "They say
that very long ago the cold and ice came down, and all the people and
animals fled before it, and that the summer was cold as now the winter is,
and that the men and beasts fled together to the south, and were there for
a long time, but came back again as the cold and ice went back. They say,
too, that in still later times, the fireplaces where the flames came out
of great cracks in the earth were in tens of places where they are in one
now, and that, even in the ice time, the flames came up, and that the ice
was melted and then ran in rivers to the sea. And these things I do not
believe, for how can men tell of what there was so long ago? They are but
the gabblings of the old, who talk so much."

Many other stories the veteran told, but what most affected Ab was his
account of the vale of fire. He hoped to see it sometime.



It may be that never in what was destined to be a life of many changes was
Ab happier than in this period of his lusty boyhood and early manhood,
when there was so much that was new, when he was full of hope and
confidence and of ambition regarding what a mighty hunter and great man he
would become in time. As the years passed he was not less indefatigable in
his experiments, and the day came when a marvelous success followed one of
them, although, like most inventions, it was suggested in the most trivial
and accidental manner.

It chanced one afternoon that Ab, a young man of twenty now, had returned
early from the wood and was lying lazily upon the sward near the cave's
entrance, while, not far away, Bark and the still chubby Beechleaf were
rolling about. The boy was teasing the girl at times and then doing
something to amuse or awe her. He had found a stiff length of twig and was
engaged in idly bending the ends together and then letting them fly apart
with a snap, meanwhile advancing toward and threatening with the impact
the half-alarmed but wholly delighted Beechleaf. Tired of this, at last,
Bark, with no particular intent, drew forth from the pouch in his skin
cloak a string of sinew, and drawing the ends of the strong twig somewhat
nearly together, attached the cord to each, thus producing accidentally a
petty bow of most rotund proportions. He found that the string twanged
joyously, and, to the delight of Beechleaf, kept twanging it for such time
as his boyish temperament would allow a single occupation. Then he picked
from the ground a long, slender pencil of white wood, a sliver, perhaps,
from the making of a spear shaft, and began strumming with it upon the
taut sinew string. This made a twang of a new sort, and again the boy and
girl were interested temporarily. But, at last, even this variation of
amusement with the new toy became monotonous, and Bark ceased strumming
and began a series of boyish experiments with his plaything. He put one
end of the stick against the string and pushed it back until the other end
would press against the inside of the twig, and the result would be a
taut, new figure in wood and string which would keep its form even when
laid upon the ground. Bark made and unmade the thing a time or two, and
then came great disaster. He had drawn the little stick, so held in the
way we now call arrowwise, back nearly to the point where its head would
come inside the bent twig and there fix itself, when the slight thing
escaped his hands and flew away.

The quiet of the afternoon was broken by a piercing childish yell which
lacked no element of earnestness. Ab leaped to his feet and was by the
youngsters in a moment. He saw the terrified Beechleaf standing, screaming
still, with a fat arm outheld, from which dangled a little shaft of wood
which had pierced the flesh just deeply enough to give it hold. Bark stood
looking at her, astonished and alarmed. Understanding nothing of the
circumstances, and supposing the girl's hurt came from Bark's careless
flinging of sticks toward her, Ab started toward his brother to administer
one of those buffets which were so easy to give or get among cave
children. But Bark darted behind a convenient tree and there shrieked out
his innocence of dire intent, just as the boy of to-day so fluently
defends himself in any strait where castigation looms in sight. He told of
the queer plaything he had made, and offered to show how all had happened.

Ab was doubtful but laughing now, for the little shaft, which had scarcely
pierced the skin of Beechleaf's arm had fallen to the ground and that
young person's fright had given way to vengeful indignation and she was
demanding that Bark be hit with something. He allowed the sinner to give
his proof. Bark, taking his toy, essayed to show how Beechleaf had been
injured. He was the most unfortunate of youths. He succeeded but too well.
The mimic arrow flew again and the sound that rang out now was not the cry
of a child. It was the yell of a great youth, who felt a sudden and
poignant hurt, and who was not maintaining any dignity. Had Bark been as
sure of hand and certain of aim as any archer who lived in later centuries
he could not have sent an arrow more fairly to its mark than he sent that
admirable sliver into the chest of his big brother. For a second the
culprit stood with staring eyes, then dropped his toy and flew into the
forest with a howl which betokened his fear of something little less than
sudden death.

Ab's first impulse was to pursue his sinful younger brother, but, after
the first leap, he checked himself and paused to pluck away the thing
which, so light the force that had impelled it, had not gone deeply in. He
knew now that Bark was really blameless, and, picking up the abandoned
plaything, began its examination thoughtfully and curiously.

The young man's instinct toward experiment exhibited itself as usual and
he put the splinter against the string and drew it back and let it fly as
he had seen Bark do--that promising sprig, by the way, being now engaged
in peering from the wood and trying to form an estimate as to whether or
not his return was yet advisable. Ab learned that the force of the bent
twig would throw the sliver farther than he could toss it with his hand,
and he wondered what would follow were something like this plaything, the
device of which Bark had so stumbled upon, to be made and tried on a
greater scale. "I'll make one like it, only larger," he said to himself.

The venturesome but more or less diplomatic Bark had, by this time,
emerged from the wood and was apprehensively edging up toward the place
where Ab was standing. The older brother saw him and called to him to come
and try the thing again and the youngster knew that he was safe. Then the
two toyed with the plaything for an hour or two and Ab became more and
more interested in its qualities. He had no definite idea as to its
possibilities. He thought only of it as a curious thing which should be

The next day Ab hacked from a low-limbed tree a branch as thick as his
finger and about a yard in length, and, first trimming it, bent it as Bark
had bent the twig and tied a strong sinew cord across. It was a not
discreditable bow, considering the fact that it was the first ever made,
though one end was smaller than the other and it was rough of outline.
Then Ab cut a straight willow twig, as long nearly as the bow, and began
repeating the experiments of the day before. Never was man more astonished
than this youth after he had drawn the twig back nearly to its head and
let it go!

So drawn by a strong arm, the shaft when released flew faster and farther
than the maker of what he thought of chiefly as a thing of sport had
imagined could be possible. He had long to search for the headless arrow
and when he found it he went away to where were bare open stretches, that
he might see always where it fell. Once as he sent it from the string it
struck fairly against an oak and, pointless as it was, forced itself
deeply into the hard brown bark and hung there quivering. Then came to the
youth a flash of thought which had its effect upon the ages: "What if
there had been a point to the flying thing and it had struck a reindeer or
any of the hunted animals?"

He pulled the shaft from the tree and stood there pondering for a moment
or two, then suddenly started running toward the cave. He must see Old

The old man was at work and alone and the young man told him, somewhat
excitedly, why he had thus come running to him. The elder listened with
some patience but with a commiserating grin upon his face. He had heard
young men tell of great ideas before, of a new and better way of digging
pits, or of fishing, or making deadfalls for wild beasts. But he listened
and yielded finally to Ab's earnest demand that he should hobble out into
the open and see with his own eyes how the strung bow would send the
shaft. They went together to an open space, and again and again Ab showed
to his old friend what the new thing would do. With the second shot there
came a new light into the eyes of the veteran hunter and he bade Ab run to
the cave and bring back with him his favorite spear. The young man was
back as soon as strong legs could bring him, and when he burst into the
open he found Mok standing a long spear's cast from the greatest of the
trees which stood about the opening.

"Throw your spear at the tree," said Mok. "Throw strongly as you can."

Ab hurled the spear as the Zulu of later times might hurl his assagai, as
strongly and as well, but the distance was overmuch for spear throwing
with good effect, and the flint point pierced the wood so lightly that the
weight of the long shaft was too great for the holding force and it sank
slowly to the ground and pulled away the head. A wild beast struck by the
spear at such distance would have been sorely pricked, but not hurt

"Now take the plaything," said Old Mok, "and throw the little shaft at the
tree with that."

Ab did as he was told, and, poor marksman with his new device, of course
missed the big tree repeatedly, broad as the mark was, but when, at last,
the bolt struck the hard trunk fairly there was a sound which told of the
sharpness of the blow and the headless shaft rebounded back for yards. Old
Mok looked upon it all delightedly.

"It may be there is something to your plaything," he said to the young
man. "We will make a better one. But your shaft is good for nothing. We
will make a straighter and stronger one and upon the end of it will put a
little spearhead, and then we can tell how deeply it will go into the
wood. We will work."

For days the two labored earnestly together, and when they came again into
the open they bore a stronger bow, one tapered at the end opposite the
natural tapering of the branch, so that it was far more flexible and
symmetrical than the one they had tried before. They had abundance of ash
and yew and these remained the good bow wood of all the time of archery.
And the shaft was straight and bore a miniature spearhead at its end. The
thought of notching the shaft to fit the string came naturally and
inevitably. The bow had its first arrow.

An old man is not so easily affected as a young one, nor so hopeful, but
when the second test was done the veteran Mok was the wilder and more
delighted of the two who shot at the tree in the forest glade. He saw it
all! No longer could the spear be counted as the thing with which to do
most grievous hurt at a safe distance from whatever might be dangerous.
With the better bow and straighter shaft the marksmanship improved; even
for these two callow archers it was not difficult to hit at a distance of
a double spear's cast the bole of the huge tree, two yards in width at
least. And the arrow whistled as if it were a living thing, a hawk seeking
its prey, and the flint head was buried so deeply in the wood that both
Mok and Ab knew that they had found something better than any weapon the
cave men had ever known!

There followed many days more of the eager working of the old man and the
young one in the cave, and there was much testing of the new device, and
finally, one morning, Ab issued forth armed with his ax and knife, but
without his spear. He bore, instead, a bow which was the best and
strongest the two had yet learned to fashion, and a sheaf of arrows slung
behind his back in a quiver made of a hollow section of a mammoth's leg
bone which had long been kicked about the cave. The two workers had
drilled holes in the bone and passed thongs through and made a wooden
bottom to the thing and now it had found its purpose. The bow was rude, as
were the arrows, and the archer was not yet a certain marksman, though he
had practiced diligently, but the bow was stiff, at least, and the arrows
had keen heads of flint and the arms of the hunter were strong as was the

There was a weary and fruitless search for game, but late in the afternoon
the youth came upon a slight, sheer descent, along the foot of which ran a
shallow but broad creek, beyond which was a little grass-grown valley,
where were feeding a fine herd of the little deer. They were feeding in
the direction of the creek and the wind blew from them to the hunter, so
that no rumor of their danger was carried to them on the breeze. Ab
concealed himself among the bushes on the little height and awaited what
might happen. The herd fed slowly toward him.

As the deer neared the creek they grouped themselves together about where
were the greenest and richest feeding-places, and when they reached the
very border of the stream they were gathered in a bunch of half a hundred,
close together. They were just beyond a spear's cast from the watcher, but
this was a test, not of the spear, but of the bow, and the most
inexperienced of archers, shooting from where Ab was hidden, must strike
some one of the beasts in that broad herd. Ab sprang to his feet and drew
his arrow to the head. The deer gathered for a second in affright,
crowding each other before the wild bursting away together, and then the
bow-string twanged, and the arrow sang hungrily, and there was the swift
thud of hundreds of light feet, and the little glade was almost silent. It
was not quite silent, for, floundering in its death struggles, was a
single deer, through which had passed an arrow so fiercely driven that its
flint head projected from the side opposite that which it had entered.


Half wild with triumph was the youth who bore home the arrow-stricken
quarry, and not much more elated was he than the old man, who heard the
story of the hunt, and who recognized, at once far more clearly than the
younger one, the quality of the new weapon which had been discovered; the
thing destined to become the greatest implement both of chase and warfare
for thousands of years to come, and which was to be gradually improved,
even by these two, until it became more to them than they could yet

But the lips of each of the two makers of the bow were sealed for the
time. Ab and Old Mok cherished together their mighty secret.



Ab and Oak, ranging far in their hunting expeditions, had, long since,
formed the acquaintance of the Shell People, and had even partaken of
their hospitality, though there was not much to attract a guest in the
abodes of the creek-haunters. Their homes were but small caves, not much
more than deep burrows, dug here and there in the banks, above high water
mark, and protected from wild beasts by the usual heaped rocks, leaving
only a narrow passage. This insured warmth and comparative safety, but the
homes lacked the spaciousness of the caves and caverns of the hills, and
the food of fish and clams and periwinkles, with flesh and fruit but
seldom gained, had little attraction for the occasional cave visitor. Ab
and Oak would sometimes traffic with the Shell People, exchanging some
creature of the land for a product of the water, but they made brief stay
in a locality where the food and odors were not quite to their accustomed
taste. Yet the settlement had a slight degree of interest to them. They
had noted the buxom quality of some of the Shell maidens, and the two had
now attained an age when a bright-eyed young person of the other sex was
agreeable to look upon. But there had been no love passages. Neither of
the youths was yet so badly stricken.

There came an autumn morning when Ab and Oak, who had met at daybreak,
determined to visit the Shell People and go with them upon a fishing
expedition. The Shell People often fished from boats, and the boats were
excellent. Each consisted of four or five short logs of the most buoyant
wood, bound firmly together with tough withes, but the contrivance was
more than a simple raft, because, at the bow, it had been hewed to a
point, and the logs had been so chosen that each curved upward there. It
had been learned that the waves sometimes encountered could so more easily
be cleft or overridden. None of these boats could sink, and the man of the
time was quite at home in the water. It was fun for the young men whose
tale is told here to go with the Shell People and assist in spearing fish
or drawing them from the river's depths upon rude hooks, and the Shell
People did not object, but were rather proud of the attendance of
representatives of the hillside aristocracy.

The morning was one to make men far older than these two most confident
and full of life. The season was late, though the river's waters were not
yet cold. The mast had already begun to fall and the nuts lay thickly
among the leaves. Every morning, and more regularly than it comes now,
there was a spread of glistening hoar frost upon the lowlands and the
little open lands in the forest and upon every spot not tree-protected. At
such times there appeared to the eyes of the cave people the splendor of
nature such as we now can hardly comprehend. It came most strikingly in
spring and autumn, and was something wonderful. The cave men, probably,
did not appreciate it. They were accustomed to it, for it was part of the
record of every year. Doubtless there came a greater vigor to them in the
keen air of the hoar frost time, doubtless the step of each was made more
springy and each man's valor more defined in this choice atmosphere.
Temperate, with a wonderful keenness to it, was the climate of the cave
region in the valley of the present Thames. Even in the days of the cave
men, the Gulf Stream, swinging from the equator in the great warm current
already formed, laved the then peninsula as it now laves the British
Isles. The climate, as has been told, was almost as equable then as now,
but with a certain crispness which was a heritage from the glacial epoch.
It was a time to live in, and the two were merry on their journey in the
glittering morning.

The young men idled on their way and wasted an hour or two in vain
attempts to approach a feeding deer nearly enough for effective
spear-throwing. They were late when, after swimming the creek, they
reached the Shell village and there learned that the party had already
gone. They decided that they might, perhaps, overtake the fishermen, and
so, with the hunter's easy lope, started briskly down the river bank. They
were not destined to fish that day.

Three or four miles had been passed and a straight stretch of the river
had been attained, at the end of which, a mile away, could be seen the
boats of the Shell People, to be lost to sight a moment later as they
swept around a bend. But there was something else in sight. Perched
comfortably upon a rock, the sides of which were so precipitous that they
afforded a foothold only for human beings, was a young woman of the Shell
People who had before attracted Ab's attention and something of his
admiration. She was fishing diligently. She had been left by the fishing
party, to be taken up on their return, because, in the rush of waters
about the base of the rock, was a haunt of a small fish esteemed
particularly, and because the girl was one of the little tribe's adepts
with hook and line She raised her eyes as she heard the patter of
footsteps upon the shore, but did not exhibit any alarm when she saw the
two young men. The ordinary young woman of the Shell People did not worry
when away from land. She could swim like an otter and dive like a loon,
and of wild beasts she had no fear when she was thus safely bestowed away
from the death-harboring forest. The maiden on the rock was most serene.


The young men called to her, but she made no answer. She but fished away
demurely, from time to time hauling up a flashing finny thing, which she
calmly bumped on the rock and then tossed upon the silvery heap, which had
already assumed fair dimensions, close behind her. As Ab looked upon the
young fisherwoman his interest in her grew rapidly and he was silent,
though Oak called out taunting words and asked her if she could not talk.
It was not this young woman, but another, who had most pleased Oak among
the girls of the Shell People.

It was not love yet with Ab, but the maiden interested him. He held no
defined wish to carry her away to a new home with him, but there arose a
feeling that he wanted to know her better. There might,--he didn't
know--be as good wives among the Shell maidens as among the well-running
girls of the hills.

"I'll swim to the rock!" he said to his companion, and Oak laughed loudly.

Short time elapsed between decision and action in those days, and hardly
had Ab spoken when he flung his fur covering into the hands of Oak, and,
clad only in the clout about his hips, dropped, with a splash, into the
water. All this time the girl had been eyeing every motion closely. As the
little waves rose laughingly about the man, she descended lightly from her
perch and slid into the stream as easily and silently as a beaver might
have done. And then began a chase. The girl, finding mid-current swiftly,
was a full hundred yards ahead as Ab came fairly in her wake.

A splendid swimmer was the stalwart young man of the hills. He had been in
and out of water almost daily since early childhood, and, though there had
never been a test, was confident that, among all the Shell People, there
was none he could not overtake, despite what he had heard and knew of
their wonderful cleverness in the water. Were not his arms and legs longer
and stronger than theirs and his chest deeper? He felt that he could
outswim easily any bold fisherman among them, and as for this girl, he
would overtake her very quickly and draw her to the bank, and then there
would be an interview of much enjoyment, at least to him. His strong arm
swept the water back, and his strong legs, working with them, drove his
body forward swiftly toward the brown object not very far ahead. Along the
bank ran the laughing and shouting Oak.

Yard by yard, Ab's mighty strokes brought him nearer the object of his
pursuit. She was swimming breast forward, as was he--for that was his only
way--she with a dog-like paddling stroke, and often she turned her head to
look backward at the man. She did not, even yet, appear affrighted, and
this Ab wondered at, for it was seldom that a girl of the time, thus
hunted, was not, and with reason, terrified. She, possibly, understood
that the chase did not involve a real abduction, for she and her pursuer
had often met, but there was, at least, reason enough for avoiding too
close contact on this day. She swam on steadily, and, as steadily, Ab
gained upon her.

Down the long stretch of tumbling river, sweeping eastward between hill
and slope and plain and woodland, went the chase, while the panting and
cheering Oak, strong-legged and enduring as he was, barely kept pace with
the two heads he could see bobbing, not far apart now, in the tossing
waters. Ab had long since forgotten Oak. He had forgotten how it was that
he came to be thus swimming in the river. His thought was only what now
made up an overmastering aim. He must reach and seize upon the girl before

Closer and closer, though she as much as he was aided by the swift
current, the young man approached the girl. The hundred yards had lessened
into tens and he could plainly see now the wake about her and the
occasional up-flip of her brown heels as she went high in her stroke. He
now felt easily assured of her and laughed to himself as he swept his arms
backward in a fiercer stroke and came so close that he could discern her
outline through the water. It was but a matter of endurance, he chuckled
to himself. How could a woman outswim a man like him?

It was just at the time when this thought came that Ab saw the Shell girl
lift her head and turn it toward him and laugh--laugh recklessly, almost
in his very face, so close together were they now. And then she taught him
something! There was a dip such as the otter makes when he seeks the
depths and there was no longer a girl in sight! But this was only a
demonstration, made in sheer audacity and blithesome insolence, for the
brown head soon appeared again some yards ahead and there was another
twist of it and another merry laugh. Then the neat body turned upon its
side, and with quick outdriving legstrokes and the overhand and underhand
pulling-forward which modern swimmers partly know, the girl shot ahead
through the tiny white-capped waves and away from the swimmer so close
behind her, as to-day the cutter leaves the scow. From the river bank came
a wild yelp, the significance of which, if analyzed, might have included
astonishment and great delight and brotherly derision. Oak was having a
great day of it! He was the sole witness of a swimming-match the like of
which was rare, and he was getting even with his friend for various
assumptions of superiority in various doings.

Unexhausted and sturdy and stubborn, Ab was not the one to abandon his
long chase because of this new phase of things. He inhaled a great breath
and made the water foam with his swift strokes, but as well might a wild
goose chase a swallow on the wing as he seek to overtake that brown streak
on the water. It was wonderful, the manner in which that Shell girl swam!
She was like the birds which swim and dive and dip, and know of nothing
which they fear if only they are in the water far enough away from where
there is the need of stalking over soil and stone. It was not that the
Shell girl was other than at home on land. She was quite at home there and
reasonably fleet, but the creek and river had so been her element from
babyhood that the chase of the hill man had been, from the start, a sheer

Ab lifted himself in the waters and gazed upon the dark spot far away,
and, piqued and maddened, put forth all the swimming strength there was
left in his brawny body. It seemed for a brief time that he was almost
equal to the task of gaining upon what was little more than a dot upon the
surface far ahead. But his scant prospect of success was only momentary.
The trifling spot in the distant drifts of the river seemed to have
certain ideas of its own. The speed of its course in the water did not
abate and, in a moment, it was carried around the bend, and lost to sight.
Ab drifted to the turn and saw, below, a girl clambering into safety among
the rafts of the fishing Shell People. What she would tell them he did not
know. That was not a matter to be much considered.

There was but one thing to be done and that was to reach the land and
return to a life more strictly earthly and more comfortable. There is
nothing like water for overcoming a young man's fancy for many things. Ab
swam now with a somewhat tired and languid stroke to the shore, where Oak
awaited him hilariously. They almost came to blows that afternoon, and
blows between such as they might have easily meant sudden death. But they
were not rivals yet and there was much to talk of good-naturedly, after
some slight outflamings of passion on the part of Ab, and the two men were
good friends again.

The sum of all the day was that there had been much exercise and fun, for
Oak at least. Ab had not caught the Shell girl, manfully as he had
striven. Had he caught her and talked with her upon the river bank it
might have changed the current of his life. With a man so young and sturdy
and so full of life the laughing fancy of a moment might have changed into
a stronger feeling and the swimming girl might have become a woman of the
cave people, one not quite so equal by heritage to the task of breeding
good climbing and running and fighting and progressive beings as some girl
of the hills.

It matters little what might have happened had the outcome of the day's
effort been the reverse of what it was. This is but the account of the
race and what the sequel was when Ab swam so far and furiously and well.
It was his first flirtation. It was yet to come to him that he should be
really in love in the cave man's way.



It was late autumn, and a light snow covered the ground, when one day a
cave man, panting for breath, came running down the river bank and paused
at the cave of One-Ear. He had news, great news! He told his story
hurriedly, and then was taken into the cave and given meat, while Ab,
seizing his weapons, fled downward further still toward the great
kitchen-midden of the Shell People. Just as ages and ages later, not far
from the same region, some Scottish runner carried the fiery cross, Ab ran
exultingly with the news it was his to bring. There must be an immediate
gathering, not only of the cave men, but of the Shell People as well, and
great mutual effort for great gain. The mammoths were near the point of
the upland!

The runner to the cave of One-Ear was a hunter living some miles to the
north, upon a ledge of a broad forest-covered plateau terminating on the
west in a slope which ended in a precipice with more than a hundred feet
of sheer descent to the valley below. On rare occasions a herd of mammoths
invaded the forest and worked itself toward the apex of the plateau, and
then word went all over the region, for it was an event in the history of
the cave men. If but a sufficient force could be suddenly assembled, food
in abundance for all was almost certainly assured. The prize was something
stupendous, but prompt action was required, and there might be tragedies.
As bees hum and gather when their hive is disturbed, so did the Shell
People when Ab burst in upon them and delivered his message. There was
rushing about and a gathering of weapons and a sorting out of men who
should go upon the expedition. But little time was wasted. Within half an
hour Ab was straining back again up the river toward his own abode, while
behind him trailed half a hundred of the Shell People, armed in a way
effective enough, but which, in the estimation of the cave men, was
preposterous. The spears of the Shell People had shafts of different wood
and heads of different material from those of the cave men, and they used
their weapons in a different manner. Accustomed to the spearing of fish or
of an occasional water beast, like a small hippopotamus, which still
existed in the rivers of the peninsula, they always threw their
spears--though the cave people were experts with this as well--and, as a
last resource in close conflict, they used no stone ax or mace, but simply
ran away, to throw again from a distance, or to fly again, as conditions
made advisable. But they were brave in a way--it was necessary that all
who would live must have a certain animal bravery in those days--and
their numbers made them essential in the rare hunting of the mammoth.

When the company reached the home of Ab they found already assembled there
a score of the hill men, and, as the word had gone out in every direction,
it was found, when the rendezvous was reached, which was the cave of
Hilltop, the man living near the crest of the plateau, and the one who had
made the first run down the river, that there were more than a hundred,
counting all together, to advance against the herd and, if possible, drive
the great beasts toward the precipice. Among this hundred there was none
more delighted than Ab and Oak, for, of course, these two had found each
other in the group, and were almost like a brace of dogs whining for the
danger and the hunt.

Not lightly was an expedition against a herd of mammoths to be begun, even
by a hundred well-armed people of the time of the cave men. The mammoth
was a monster beast, with perhaps somewhat less of sagaciousness than the
modern elephant, but with a temper which was demoniacal when aroused, and
with a strength which nothing could resist. He could be slain only by
strategy. Hence the everlasting watch over the triangular plateau and the
gathering of the cave and river people to catch him at a disadvantage.
But, even with a drove feeding near the slope which led to the precipice,
the cave men would have been helpless without the introduction of other
elements than their weapons and their clamor. The mammoth paid no more
attention to the cave man with a spear than to one of the little wild
horses which fed near him at times. The pygmy did not alarm him, but did
the pygmy ever venture upon an attack, then it was likely to be seized by
the huge trunk and flung against rock or tree, to fall crushed and
mangled, or else it was trodden viciously under foot. From one thing,
though, the mammoth, huge as he was, would flee in terror. He could not
face the element of fire, and this the cave men had learned to their
advantage. They could drive the mammoth when they dare not venture to
attack him, and herein lay their advantage.

Under direction of the veteran hunter, Hilltop, who had discovered the
whereabouts of the drove, preparations were made for the dangerous
advance, and the first thing done was the breaking off of dry roots of the
overturned pitch pines, and gathering of knots of the same trees, with
limbs attached, to serve as handles. These roots and knots, once lighted,
would blaze for hours and made the most perfect of natural torches.
Lengths of bark of certain other trees when bound together and lighted at
one end burned almost as long and brightly as the roots and knots. Each
man carried an unlighted torch of one kind or another, in addition to his
weapons, and when this provision was made the band was stretched out in a
long line and a silent advance began through the forest. The herd of
mammoths was composed of nineteen, led by a monster even of his kind, and
men who had been watching them all night and during the forenoon said that
the herd was feeding very near the edge of the wood, where it ended on the
slope leading to the precipice. There was ice upon the slope and there
were chances of a great day's hunting. To cut off the mammoths, that is,
to extend a line across the uprising peninsula where they were feeding,
would require a line of not more than about five hundred yards in length,
and as there were more than a hundred of the hunters, the line which could
be formed would be most effective. Lighted punk, which preserved fire and
gave forth no odor to speak of, was carried by a number of the men, and
the advance began.

It had been an exhilarating scene when the cave men and Shell People first
assembled and when the work of gathering material for the torches was in
progress. So far was the gathering from the present haunt of the game that
caution had been unnecessary, and there was talk and laughter and all the
open enjoyment of an anticipated conquest. The light snow, barely covering
the ground, flashed in the sun, and the hunters, practically impervious to
the slight cold, were almost prankish in their demeanor. Ab and Oak
especially were buoyant. This was the first hunt upon the rocky peninsula
of either of them, and they were delighted with the new surroundings and
eager for the fray to come. All about was talk and laughter, which became
general with any slight physical disaster which came to one among the
hunters in the climbing of some tree for a promising dead branch or
finding a treacherous hollow when assailing the roots of some upturned
pine. It was a brisk scene and a lively one, that which occurred that
crisp morning in late autumn when the wild men gathered to hunt the
mammoth. All was brightness and jollity and noise.

Very different, in a moment, was the condition when the hunters entered
the forest and, extended in line, began their advance toward the huge
objects of their search. The cave man, almost a wild beast himself in some
of his ways, had, on occasion, a footfall as light as that of any animal
of the time. The twig scarcely crackled and the leaf scarcely rustled
beneath his tread, and when the long line entered the wood the silence of
death fell there, for the hunters made no sound, and what slight sound the
woodland had before--the clatter of the woodpeckers and jays--was hushed
by their advance. So through the forest, which was tolerably close, the
dark line swept quietly forward until there came from somewhere a sudden
signal, and with a still more cautious advance and contraction of the line
as the peninsula narrowed the quarry was brought in sight of all.

Close to the edge of the slope, and separated by a slight open space from
the forest proper, was an evergreen grove, in which the herd of monster
beasts was feeding. A great bull, with long up-curling tusks, loomed above
them all, and was farthest away in the grove. The hunters, hidden in the
forest, lay voiceless and motionless until the elders decided upon a plan
of attack, and then the word was passed along that each man must fire his

All along the edge of the wood arose the flashing of little flames. These
grew in magnitude until a line of fire ran clear across the wood, and the
mammoths nearest raised their trunks and showed signs of uneasiness. Then
came a signal, a wild shout, and at once, with a yell, the long line burst
into the open, each man waving his flaming torch and rushing toward the

There was a chance--a slight one--that the whole herd might be stampeded,
but this had rarely happened within the memory of the oldest hunter. The
mammoth, though subject to panic, did not lack intelligence and when in a
group was conscious of its strength. As that yell ascended, the startled
beasts first rushed deeper into the grove and then, as the slope beyond
was revealed to them, turned and charged blindly, all save one, the great
tusker, who was feeding at the grove's outer verge. They came on, great
mountains of flesh, but swerved as they met the advancing line of fire and
weaved aimlessly up and down for a moment or two. Then a huge bull, stung
by a spear hurled by one of the hunters and frantic with fear, plunged
forward across the line and the others followed blindly. Three men were
crushed to death in their passage and all the mammoths were gone save the
big bull, who had started to rejoin his herd but had not reached it in
time. He was now raging up and down in the grove, bewildered and
trumpeting angrily. Immediately the hunters gathered closer together and
made their line of fire continuous.

The mammoth rushed out clear of the trees and stood looming up, a
magnificent creature of unrivaled size and majesty. His huge tusks shone
out whitely against the mountain of dark shaggy hair. His small eyes
blazed viciously as he raised his trunk and trumpeted out what seemed
either a hoarse call to his herd or a roar of agony over his strait. He
seemed for a moment as if about to rush upon the dense line of his
tormentors, but the flaming faggots dashed almost in his face by the
reckless and excited hunters daunted him, and, as a spear lodged in his
trunk, he turned with almost a shriek of pain and dashed into the grove
again. Close at his heels bounded the hundred men, yelling like demons and
forgetting all danger in the madness of the chase. Right through the grove
the great beast crashed and then half turned as he came to the open slope
beyond. Running beside him was a daring youth trying in vain to pierce him
in the belly with his flint-headed spear, and, as the mammoth came for the
moment to a half halt, his keen eyes noted the pygmy, his great trunk shot
downward and backward, picked up the man and hurled him yards away against
the base of a great tree, the body as it struck being crushed out of all
semblance to man and dropping to the earth a shapeless lump. But the fire
behind and about the desperate mammoth seemed all one flame now, countless
spears thrown with all the force of strong arms were piercing his tough
hide, and out upon the slope toward the precipice the great beast plunged.
Upon his very flanks was the fire and about him all the stinging danger
from the half-crazed hunters. He lunged forward, slipped upon the smooth
glacial floor beneath him, tried to turn again to meet his thronging foes
and face the ring of flame, and then, wavering, floundering, moving
wonderfully for a creature of his vast size, but uncertain as to foothold,
he was driven to the very crest of the ledge, and, scrambling vainly,
carrying away an avalanche of ice, snow and shrubs, went crashing to his
death, a hundred feet below!



To the right and left of the precipice the fall to the plain below was
more gradual, and with exultant yells, the cave and Shell men rushed in
either direction, those venturing nearest the sheer descent going down
like monkeys, clinging as they went to shrubs and vines, while those who
ran to where the drop was a degree more passable fairly tumbled downward
to the plain. In an incredibly short space of time absolute silence
prevailed in and about the grove where the scene had lately been so
fiercely stirring. In the valley below there was wildest clamor.

It was a great occasion for the human beings of the region. There was no
question as to the value of the prize the hunters had secured. Never
before in any joint hunting expedition, within the memory of the oldest
present, had followed more satisfactory result. The spoil was well worth
the great effort that had been made; in the estimation of the time,
perhaps worth the death of the hunters who had been killed. The huge beast
lay dead, close to the base of the cliff. One great, yellow-white, curved
tusk had been snapped off and showed itself distinct upon the grass some
feet away from the mountain of flesh so lately animated. The sight was one
worth looking upon in any age, for, in point of grandeur of appearance,
the mammoth, while not as huge as some of the monsters of reptilian times,
had a looming impressiveness never surpassed by any beast on the earth's
surface. Though prone and dead he was impressive.

But the cave and Shell men were not so much impressed as they were
delighted. They had come into possession of food in abundance and there
would be a feast of all the people of the region, and, after that,
abundant meat in many a hut and cave for many a day. The hunters were
noisy and excited. A group pounced upon the broken tusk--for a mammoth
tusk, or a piece of one, was a prize in a cave dwelling--and there was
prospect of a struggle, but grim voices checked the wrangle of those who
had seized upon this portion of the spoil and it was laid aside, to be
apportioned later. The feast was the thing to be considered now.

Again swift-footed messengers ran along forest paths and swam streams and
thridded wood and thicket, this time to assemble, not the hunters alone,
but with them all members of households who could conveniently and safely
come to the gathering of the morrow, when the feast of the mammoth would
be on. The messengers dispatched, the great carcass was assailed, and keen
flint knives, wielded by strong and skillful hands, were soon separating
from the body the thick skin, which was divided as seemed best to the
leaders of the gathering, Hilltop, the old hunter, for his special
services, getting the chief award in the division. Then long slices of the
meat were cut away, fires were built, the hunters ate to repletion and
afterward, with a few remaining awake as guards, slept the sleep of the
healthy and fully fed. Not in these modern days would such preliminary
consumption of food be counted wisest preparation for a feast on the
morrow, but the cave and Shell men were alike independent of affections of
the stomach or the liver, and could, for days in sequence, gorge
themselves most buoyantly.

The morning came crisp and clear, and, with the morning, came from all
directions swiftly moving men and women, elated and hungry and expectant.
The first families and all other families of the region were gathering for
the greatest social function of the time. The men of various households
had already exerted themselves and a score or two of fires were burning,
while the odor of broiling meat was fragrant all about. Hunter husbands
met their broods, and there was banqueting, which increased as, hour after
hour, new groups came in. The families of both Ab and Oak were among those
early in the valley, Beechleaf and Bark, wide-eyed and curious, coming
upon the scene as a sort of advance guard and proudly greeting Ab. All
about was heard clucking talk and laughter, an occasional shout, and ever
the cracking of stone upon the more fragile thing, as the monster's
roasted bones were broken to secure the marrow in them.

There was hilarity and universal enjoyment, though the assemblage, almost
by instinct, divided itself into two groups. The cave men and the Shell
men, while at this time friendly, were, as has been indicated, unlike in
many tastes and customs and to an extent unlike in appearance. The cave
man, accustomed to run like the deer along the forest ways, or to avoid
sudden danger by swift upward clambering and swinging along among
treetops, was leaner and more muscular than the Shell man, and had in his
countenance a more daring and confident expression. The Shell man was
shorter and, though brawny of build, less active of movement. He had spent
more hours of each day of his life in his rude raft-boat, or in walking
slowly with poised spear along creek banks, or, with bent back, digging
for the great luscious shell-fish which made a portion of his food, than
he had spent afoot and on land, with the smell of growing things in his
nostrils. The flavor of the water was his, the flavor of the wood the cave
man's. So it was that at the feast of the mammoth the allies naturally and
good-naturedly became somewhat grouped, each person according to his kind.
When hunger was satisfied and the talking-time came on, those with objects
and impulses the same could compare notes most interestedly. Constantly
the number of the feasters increased, and by mid-day there was a company
of magnitude. Much meat was required to feed such a number, but there were
tons of meat in a mammoth, enough to defy the immediate assaults of a much
greater assemblage than this of exceedingly healthy people. And the smoke
from the fires ascended and these rugged ones ate and were happy.

But there came a time in the afternoon when even such feasters as were
assembled on this occasion became, in a measure, content, when this one
and that one began to look about, and when what might be called the social
amenities of the period began. Veterans flocked together, reminiscent of
former days when another mammoth had been driven over this same cliff; the
young grouped about different firesides, and there was talk of feats of
strength and daring and an occasional friendly grapple. Slender, sinewy
girls, who had girls' ways then as now, ate together and looked about
coquettishly and safely, for none had come without their natural
guardians. Rarely in the history of the cave men had there been a
gathering more generally and thoroughly festive, one where good eating had
made more good fellowship. Possibly--for all things are relative--there
has never occurred an affair of more social importance within the
centuries since. Human beings, dangerous ones, were merry and trusting
together, and the young looked at each other.

Of course Ab and Oak had been eating in company. They had risked
themselves dangerously in the battle on the cliff, had escaped injury and
were here now, young men of importance, each endowed with an appetite
corresponding with the physical exertion of which he was capable and which
he never hesitated to make. The amount either of those young men had eaten
was sufficient to make a gourmand, though of grossest Roman times, fairly
sick with envy, and they were still eating, though, it must be confessed,
with modified enthusiasm. Each held in his hand a smoking lump of flesh
from some favored portion of the mammoth and each rent away an occasional
mouthful with much content. Suddenly Ab ceased mastication and stood
silent, gazing intently at a not unpleasing object a few yards distant.

Two girls stood together near a fire about which were grouped perhaps a
dozen people. The two were eating, not voraciously, but with an apparent
degree of interest in what they were doing, for they had not been among
the early arrivals. It was upon these two that Ab's wandering glance had
fallen and had been held, and it was not surprising that he had become so
interested. Either of the couple was fitted to attract attention, though a
pair more utterly unlike it would be difficult to imagine. One was slight
and the other the very reverse, but each had striking characteristics.

They stood there, the two, just as two girls so often stand to-day, the
hand of one laid half-caressingly upon the hip of the other. The beaming,
broad one was chattering volubly and the slender one listening carelessly.
The talking of the heavier girl was interrupted evenly by her mumbling at
a juicy strip of meat. Her hunger, it was clear, had not yet been
satisfied, and it was as clear, too, that her companion had yet an
appetite. The slender one was, seemingly, not much interested in the
conversation, but the other chattered on. It was plain that she was a most
contented being. She was symmetrical only from the point of view of
admirers of the heavily built. She had very broad hips and muscular arms
and was somewhat squat of structure. It is hesitatingly to be admitted of
this young lady that, sturdy and prepossessing, from a practical point of
view, as she might be to the average food-winning cave man, she lacked a
certain something which would, to the observant, place her at once in good
society. She was an exceedingly hairy young woman. She wore the usual
covering of skins, but she would have been well-draped, in moderately
temperate weather, had the covering been absent. Either for fashion's sake
or comfort, not much weight of foreign texture in addition to her own
hirsute and, to a certain extent, graceful, natural garb, was needed. She
was a female Esau of the time, just a great, good-hearted, strong and
honest cave girl, of the subordinate and obedient class which began
thousands of years before did history, one who recognized in the girl who
stood beside her a stronger and dominating spirit, and who had been
received as a trusted friend and willing assistant. It is so to-day, even
among the creatures which are said to have no souls, the dogs especially.
But the girl had strength and a certain quick, animal intelligence. She
was the daughter of a cave man living not far from the home of old
Hilltop, and her name was Moonface. Her countenance was so broad and
beaming that the appellation had suggested itself in her jolly childhood.

Very different from Moonface was the slender being who, having eaten a
strip of meat, was now seeking diligently with a splinter for the marrow
in the fragment of bone her father had tossed toward her. Her father was
Hilltop, the veteran of the immediate region and the hero of the day, and
she was called Lightfoot, a name she had gained early, for not in all the
country round about was another who could pass over the surface of the
earth with greater swiftness than could she. And it was upon Lightfoot
that Ab was looking.

The young woman would have been fair to look upon, or at least
fascinating, to the most world-wearied and listless man of the present
day. She stood there, easily and gracefully, her arms and part of her
breast, above, and her legs from about the knees, below, showing clearly
from beneath her covering of skins. Her deep brown hair, knotted back with
a string of the tough inner bark of some tree, hung upon the middle of her
flat, in-setting back. She was not quite like any of the other girls about
her. Her eyes were larger and softer and there was more reflection and
variety of expression in them. Her limbs were quite as long as those of
any of her companions and the fingers and toes, though slenderer, were
quite as suggestive of quick and strong grasping capabilities, but there
was, with all the proof of springiness and litheness, a certain rounding
out. The strip of hair upon her legs below the knees was slight and
silken, as was also that upon her arms. Yet, undoubted leader in society
as her appearance indicated, quite aside from her father's standing, there
was in her face, with all its loftiness of air, a certain blithesomeness
which was almost at variance with conditions. She was a most lovable young
woman--there could be no question about that--and Ab had, as he looked
upon her for the first time, felt the fact from head to heel. He thought
of her as like the leopard tree-cat, most graceful creature of the wood,
so trim was she and full of elasticity, and thought of her, too, as he
looked in her intelligent face, as higher in another way. He was somewhat
awed, but he was courageous. He had, so far in life, but sought to get
what he wanted whenever it was in sight. Now he was nonplussed.

Presently Lightfoot raised her eyes and they met those of Ab. The young
people looked at each other steadily for a moment and then the glance of
the girl was turned away. But, meanwhile, the man had recovered himself.
He had been eating, absent-mindedly, a well-cooked portion of a great
steak of the mammoth's choicest part. He now tore it in twain and watched
the girl intently. She raised her eyes again and he tossed her a half of
the smoking flesh. She saw the movement, caught the food deftly in one
hand as it reached her, and looked at Ab and laughed. There was no mock
modesty. She began eating the choice morsel contentedly; the two were, in
a manner, now made formally acquainted.

The young man did not, on the instant, pursue his seeming advantage, the
result of an impulsive bravery requiring a greater effort on his part than
the courage he had shown in conflict with many a beast of the forest. He
did not talk to the young woman. But he thought to himself, while his
blood bubbled in his veins, that he would find her again; that he would
find her in the wood! She did not look at him more, for her people were
clustering about her and this was a great occasion.

Ab was recalled to himself by a hoarse exclamation. Oak was looking at him
fiercely. There was no other sound, but the young man stood gazing fixedly
at the place where the girl had just been lost amid the group about her.
And Ab knew instinctively, as men have learned to know so well in all the
years, from the feeling which comes to them at such a time, that he had a
rival, that Oak also had seen and loved this slender creature of the

There was a division of the mammoth flesh and hide and tusks. Ab struggled
manfully for a portion of one of the tusks, which he wanted for Old Mok's
carving, and won it at last, the elders deciding that he and Oak had
fought well enough upon the cliff to entitle them to a part of the honor
of the spoil, and Oak opposing nothing done by Ab, though his looks were
glowering. Then, as the sun passed toward the west, all the people
separated to take the dangerous paths toward their homes. Ab and Oak
journeyed away together. Ab was jubilant, though doubtful, while the face
of Oak was dark. The heart of neither was light within him.



Drifting away in various directions toward their homes the Cave and Shell
People still kept in groups, by instinct. Social functions terminated
before dark and guests going and coming kept together for mutual
protection in those days of the cave bear and other beasts. But on the day
of the Feast of the Mammoth there was somewhat less than the usual
precaution shown. There were vigorous and well-armed hunters at hand by
scores, and under such escort women and children might travel after dusk
with a degree of safety, unless, indeed, the great cave tiger,
Sabre-Tooth, chanced to be abroad, but he was more rarely to be met than
others of the wild beasts of the time. When he came it was as a
thunderbolt and there were death and mourning in his trail. The march
through the forest as the shadows deepened was most watchful. There was a
keen lookout on the part of the men, and the women kept their children
well in hand. From time to time, one family after another detached itself
from the main body and melted into the forest on the path to its own cave
near at hand. Thus Hilltop and his family left the group in which were Ab
and Oak, and glances of fire followed them as they went. The two girls,
Lightfoot and Moonface, had walked together, chattering like crows. They
had strung red berries upon grasses and had hung them in their hair and
around their necks, and were fine creatures. Lightfoot, as was her wont,
laughed freakishly at whatever pleased her, and in her merry mood had an
able second in her sturdy companion. There were moments, though, when even
the irrepressible Lightfoot was thoughtful and so quiet that the girl who
was with her wondered. The greater girl had been lightly touched with that
unnamable force which has changed men and women throughout all the ages.
The picture of Ab's earnest face was in her mind and would not depart. She
could not, of course, define her own mood, nor did she attempt it. She
felt within herself a certain quaking, as of fear, at the thought of him,
and yet, so she told herself again and again, she was not afraid. All the
time she could see Ab's face, with its look of longing and possession, but
with something else in it, when his eyes met hers, which she could not
name nor understand. She could not speak of him, but Moonface had upon her
no such stilling influence.

"They look alike," she said.

Lightfoot assented, knowing the girl meant Ab and Oak. "But Ab is taller
and stronger," Moonface continued, and Lightfoot assented as
indifferently, for, somehow, of the two she had remembered definitely one
only. She became daring in her reflections: "What if he should want to
carry me to his cave?" and then she tried to run away from the thought and
from anything and everybody else, leaping forward, outracing and leaving
all the company. She reached her father's cave far ahead of the others and
stood, laughing, at the entrance, as the family and Moonface, a guest for
the night, came trotting up.

And Ab, the buoyant and strong, was not himself as he journeyed with the
homeward-pressing company. His mood changed and he dropped away from Oak
and lagged in the rear of the little band as it wound its way through the
forest. Slight time was needed for others to recognize his mood, and he
was strong of arm and quick of temper, as all knew well, and, so, he was
soon left to stalk behind in independent sulkiness. He felt a weight in
his breast; a fiery spot burned there. He was fierce with Oak because Oak
had looked at Lightfoot with a warm light in his eyes. He! when he should
have known that Ab was looking at her! This made rage in his heart; and
sadness came, too, because he was perplexed over the girl. "How can I get
her?" he mumbled to himself, as he stalked along.

Meanwhile, at the van of the company there was noise and frolic. Assembled
in force, they were for the hour free from dread of the haunting terror of
wild beasts, and, satisfied with eating, the Cave and Shell People were in
one of the merriest moods of their lives, collectively speaking. The young
men were especially jubilant and exuberant of demeanor. Their sport was
rough and dangerous. There were scuffling and wrestling and the more
reckless threw their stone axes, sometimes at each other, always, it is
true, with warning cries, but with such wild, unconscious strength put in
the throwing that the finding of a living target might mean death. Ab,
engrossed in thoughts of something far apart from the rude sport about
him, became nervously impatient. Like the girl, he wanted to escape from
his thoughts, and bounding ahead to mingle with the darting and swinging
group in front, he was soon the swift and stalwart leader in their
foolishly risky sport, the center of the whole commotion. One muscled man
would hurl his stone hatchet or strong flint-headed spear at a green tree
and another would imitate him until a space in advance was covered and the
word given for a rush, when all would race for the target, each striving
to reach it first and detach his own weapon before others came. It was a
merry but too careless contest, with a chance of some serious happening.
There followed a series of these mad games and the oldsters smiled as they
heard the sound of vigorous contest and themselves raced as they could, to
keep in close company with the stronger force.

Ab had shown his speed in all his playing. Now he ran to the front and
plucked out his spear, a winner, then doubled and ran back beside the
pathway to mingle with the central body of travelers, having in mind only
to keep in the heart and forefront of as many contests as possible. There
was more shouting and another rush from the main body and, bounding aside
from all, he ran to get the chance of again hurling his spear as well. A
great oak stood in the middle of the pathway and toward it already a spear
or two had been sent, all aimed, as the first thrower had indicated, at a
white fungus growth which protruded from the tree. It was a matter of
accuracy this time. Ab leaped ahead some yards in advance of all and
hurled his spear. He saw the white chips fly from the side of the fungus
target, saw the quivering of the spear shaft with the head deep sunken in
the wood, and then felt a sudden shock and pain in one of his legs. He
fell sideways off the path and beneath the brushwood, as the wild band,
young and old, swept by. He was crippled and could not walk. He called
aloud, but none heard him amid the shouting of that careless race. He
tried to struggle to his feet, but one leg failed him and he fell back,
lying prone, just aside from the forest path, nearly weaponless and the
easy prey of the wild beasts. What had hurt him so grievously was a spear
thrown wildly from behind him. It had, hurled with great strength, struck
a smooth tree trunk and glanced aside, the point of the spear striking the
young man fairly in the calf of the leg, entering somewhat the bone
itself, and shocking, for the moment, every nerve. The flint sides had cut
a vein or two and these were bleeding, but that was nothing. The real
danger lay in his helplessness. Ab was alone, and would afford good eating
for those of the forest who, before long, would be seeking him. The scent
of the wild beast was a wonderful thing. The man tried to rise, then lay
back sullenly. Far in the distance, and growing fainter and fainter, he
could hear the shouts of the laughing spear-throwers.

The strong young man, thus left alone to death almost inevitable, did not
altogether despair. He had still with him his good stone ax and his long
and keen stone knife. He would, at least, hurt something sorely before he
was eaten, he thought grimly to himself. And then he pressed leaves
together on the cut upon his leg, and laid himself back upon the leaves
and waited.

He did not have to wait long. He had not thought to do so. How full the
woods were of blood-scenting and man-eating things none knew better than
he. His ear, keen and trained, caught the patter of a distant approach.
"Wolves," he said to himself at first, and then "Hyenas," for the step was
puzzling. He was perplexed. The step was regular, and it was not in the
forest on either side, but was coming up the path. A terror came upon him
and he had crawled deeper into the shades, when he noted that the steps
first ceased, and then that they wandered searchingly and uncertainly.
Then, loud and strong, rang out a voice, calling his name, and it was the
voice of Oak! He could not answer for a moment, and then he cried out

Oak had, in the forward-rushing group, seen Ab's hurt and fall, but had
thought it a trifling matter, since no outcry came from those behind, and
so had kept his course away and ahead with the rest. But finally he had
noted the absence of Ab and had questioned, and then--first telling some
of his immediate companions that they were to lag and wait for him--had
started back upon a run to reach the place where he had last seen his
friend. It was easy now to arrange wet leaves about Ab's crippling, but
little more than temporary, wound. The two, one leaning upon the other and
hobbling painfully, and each with weapons in hand, contrived, at last, to
reach Oak's lingering and grumbling contingent. Ab was helped along by two
instead of one then, and the rest was easy. When the pathway leading to
home was reached, Oak accompanied his friend, and the two passed the night

Ab, once on his own bed, with Oak couched beside him, was surprised to
find, not merely that his physical pain was going, but that the greater
one was gone. The weight and burning had left his breast and he was no
longer angry at Oak. He thought blindly but directly toward conclusions.
He had almost wanted to kill Oak, all because each saw the charm of and
wanted the possession of a slender, beautiful creature of their kind. Then
something dangerous had happened to him, and this same Oak, his friend,
the man he had wished to kill, had come back and saved his life. The sense
which we call gratitude, and which is not unmingled with what we call
honor, came to this young cave man then. He thought of many things,
worried and wakeful as he was, and perhaps made more acute of perception
by the slight, exciting fever of his wound.

He thought of how the two, he and Oak, had planned and risked together, of
their boyish follies and failures and successes, and of how, in later
years, Oak had often helped him, of how he had saved Oak's life once in
the river swamp, where quicksands were, of how Oak had now offset even
that debt by carrying him away from certain ending amid wild beasts. No
one--and of the cave men he knew many--no one in all the careless, merry
party had missed him save Oak. He doubtless could not have told himself
why it was, but he was glad that he could repay it all and have the
balance still upon his side. He was glad that he had the secret of the bow
and arrow to reveal. That should be Oak's! So it came that, late that
night, when the fire in the cave had burned low and when one could not
wisely speak above a whisper, Ab told Oak the story of the new weapon, of
how it had been discovered, of how it was to be used and of all it was for
hunters and fighters. Furthermore, he brought his best bow and best arrows
forth, and told Oak they were his and that they would practice together in
the morning. His astonished and delighted companion had little to say over
the revelation. He was eager for the morning, but he straightened out his
limbs upon the leafy mattress and slept well. So, somewhat later, did the
half-feverish Ab.

Morning came and the cave people were astir. There was brief though hearty
feeding and then Ab and Oak and Old Mok, to whom Ab had said much aside,
went away from the cave and into the forest. There Oak was taught the
potency of the new weapon, its deadly quality and the safety of distance
it afforded its user. It was a great morning for all three, not excepting
the stern and critical old teacher, when they thus met together in the
wood and the secret of what two had found was so transmitted to another.
As for Oak, he was fairly aflame with excitement. He was far from slow of
mind and he recognized in a moment the enormous advantage of the new way
of killing either the things they ate, or the things they dreaded most. He
could scarcely restrain his eagerness to experiment for himself. Before
noon had come he was gone, carrying away the bow and the good arrows. As
he disappeared in the wood Ab said nothing, but to himself he thought:

"He may have all the bows and arrows he can make, but I will have
Lightfoot myself!"

Ab and Mok started for the cave again, Ab, bow in hand and with ready
arrow. There was a patter of feet upon leaves in the wood beside them and
then the arrow was fitted to the string, while Old Mok, strong-armed if
weak-legged, raised aloft his spear. The two were seeking no conflict with
wild beasts today and were but defensive and alert. They were puzzled by
the sound their quick ears caught. "Patter, patter," ever beside them, but
deep in the forest shade, came the sound of menacing followers of some

There was tension of nerves. Old Mok, sturdy and unconsciously fatalistic,
was more self-contained than the youth at his side, bow-armed and with
flint ax and knife ready for instant use. At last an open space was
reached across which ran the well-worn path. Now the danger must reveal
itself. The two men emerged into the glade, and, a moment later, there
bounded into it gamboling and full of welcome, the wolf cubs, which had
played about the cave so long, who were now detached from their own kind
and preferred the companionship of man. There was laughter then, and a
more careless demeanor with the weapon borne.



Different from his former self became this young forester, Ab. He was
thinking of something other than wild beasts and their pursuit.
Instinctively, the course of his hunting expeditions tended toward the
northwest and soon the impulse changed to a design. He must look upon
Lightfoot again! Henceforth he haunted the hill region, and never keener
for quarry or more alert for the approach of some dangerous animal was the
eye of this woodsman than it was for the appearance somewhere of a slender
figure of a cave girl. Neither game nor things to dread were numerous in
the vicinity of the home of Hilltop, for there one of the hardiest and
wisest among hunters had occupied his cave for many years, and wild beasts
learn things. So it chanced that Lightfoot could wander farther afield
than could most girls of the time. Ab knew all this well, for the quality
of expert and venturesome old Hilltop was familiar to all the cave men
throughout a wide stretch of country. So Ab, somewhat shamefaced to his
own consciousness, hunted in a region not the best for spoil, and looked
for a girl who might appear on some forest path, moderately safe from the
rush of any of the hungry man-eaters of the wood.

But not all the time of this wild lover was wasted in haunting the
possible idling-places of the girl he wanted so. With love there had come
to him such sense and thoughtfulness as has come with earnest love to
millions since. What could he do with Lightfoot should he gain her? He was
but a big, young fighting man and hunter, still sleeping, almost nightly,
on one of the leaf beds in his father's cave. With a wife of his own he
must have a cave of his own. Compared with his first impulses toward the
girl, this was a new train of thought, and, as we recognize it to-day, a
nobler one. He wanted to care for his own. He wanted a cave fit for the
reception of such a woman as this, to him, the sweetest and proudest of
all beings, Lightfoot, daughter of old Hilltop, of the wooded highlands.

Far up the river, far beyond the home of Oak's father and beyond the
shining marshlands and the purple heather reaches which made the foothills
pleasant, extended to the river's bank a promontory, bold and picturesque
and clad heavily with the best of trees. It was a great stretch of land,
where, in some of nature's grim work, the earth had been up-heaved and
there had been raised good soil for giant forests, and at the same time
been made broad caverns to become future habitations of the creature known
as man. But the trees bore nuts and fruits, and such creatures as found
food in nuts and fruits, and, later, such as loved rich herbage, came to
the forest in great numbers, and then followed such as fed upon these
again, all the flesh eaters, to whom man was, as any other living thing,
to be seized upon and devoured. The promontory, so rich in game and nuts
and fruits, was, at the same time, the most dangerous in all the region
for human habitation. There were deep, dry caves within its limits, but in
none of them had a cave man yet ventured to make his home. It was toward
this promontory that the young man in love turned his eyes. Because others
had feared to make a home in this lone, high region should he also fear?
There was food there in plenty and if there were chance of fighting in
plenty, so much the better! Was he not strong and fleet; had he not the
best of spears and axes? Above all, had he not the new weapon which made
man far above the beasts? Here was the place for a home which should be
the best in all this region of the cave men. Here game and food of all
kinds would be most abundant. The situation would demand a brave man and a
woman scarcely less courageous, but would not he and the girl he was
determined to bring there meet all occasion? His mind was fixed.

Ab found a cave, one clean and dry and opening out upon a slight treeless
area, and this he, lover-like, improved for the woman he had resolved to
bring there, arranging carefully the interior of which must be a home. He
had fancies such as lovers have exhibited from since the time when the
plesiosaurus swashed away in the strand of a warm sea a hollow nursery for
the birth and first tending of the young of his odd kind, up to the later
time when men have squandered fortunes on the sleeping rooms of women they
have loved. He toiled for many days. With his ax he chipped away the
cavern's sharp protuberances at each side, and with the stone chips from
the walls and with what he brought from outside, he made the floor white
and clean and nearly level. He built a fireplace and chipped into a huge
stone, which, fortunately, lay inside the cave, a hollow for holding
drinking water, or for the boiling of meat. He built up a passage-way at
the entrance, allowing something but not too much more than his own width,
as the gauge for measurement of its breadth. He brought into the cave a
deep carpet of leaves and made a wide bed in one corner and this he
covered with furred skins, for many skins Ab owned in his own right. Then,
with a thick fragment of tough branch as a lever, he rolled a big stone
near the cave's entrance and left it ready to be occupied as a home. The
woman was still lacking.

There came a day when Ab, impatient after his searching and waiting, but
yet resolute, had killed a capercailzie--the great grouse-like bird of the
time, the descendants of which live to-day in northern forests--and had
built a fire and feasted, and then, instinctively careful, had climbed to
the first broad, low branch of an enormous tree and there adjusted himself
to sleep the sleep of one who has eaten heartily. He lay with the big
branch for a bed, supported on either side by green, upspringing twigs,
and slept well for an hour or two and then awoke, lazy and listless, but
with much good to him from the repast and rest. It was not yet very late
in the afternoon and the sun still shone kindly upon him, as upon a whole
world of rejoicing things. Something like a reflection of the life of the
morning was beginning to manifest itself, as is ever the way where forests
and wild things are. The wonderful noise of wood life was renewed. As the
young man awakened, he felt in every pulse the thrilling powers of
existence. Everything was fair to look upon. His ears took in the sound of
the voices of birds, already beginning vesper songs, though the afternoon
was yet so early as scarcely to hint of evening, and the scent from a
thousand plants and flowers, permeating and intoxicating, reached his
senses as he lounged sprawlingly upon his safe bed aloft.

It was attractive, the scene which Ab looked upon. The forest was in all
the glory of summer and nesting and breeding things were happy. There was
the fullness of the being of trees and plants and of all birds and beasts.
There was a soft commingling of sounds which told of the life about, the
effect of which was, somehow, almost drowsy in the blending of all
together. The great ferns waved gently along the hollows as the slight
breeze touched them. They were queer, those ferns. They were not quite so
slender and tapering and gothic as the ferns we see to-day. They were a
trifle more lush and ragged, and their tips were sometimes almost rounded.
But Ab noted little of fern or bird. It was only the general sensuousness
that was upon him. The smell of the pines was a partial tonic to the
healthy, half-awakened man, and, though he lay back upon the rugged wooden
bed and half dozed again, nature had aroused him a trifle beyond the point
of relapse into absolute, unknowing slumber. There was coming to him a
sharpness of perception which affected the quiescence of his enjoyment. He
rose to a sitting posture and looked about him. At once his eyes flashed,
every nerve and muscle became tense and the blood leaped turbulently in
his veins. He had seen that for which he had come into this region, the
girl who had so reached his rude, careless heart. Lightfoot was very near

The girl, all unconscious, was sitting upon the trunk of a fallen tree
which lay close beside a creek. There was an abundance of small pebbles
upon the little strand and the young lady was absent-mindedly engaged in
an occupation in which, to the observer, she took some interest, while
she, no doubt, was really thinking of something else. She sat there,
slender, beautiful and excelling, in her way, the belle of the period,
merely amusing herself. Her toes were charming toes. There could be no
debate on that point, for, while long and strong and flexible, they had a
certain evenness and symmetry. They were being idly employed just now. At
the creek's edge, half imbedded in the ground, uprose the crest of a
granite stone. Picking up pebble after pebble in her admirable toes,
Lightfoot was engaged in throwing them, one after another, at the
outstanding point of granite, utilizing in the performance only those toes
and the brown leg below the knee. She did exceedingly well and hit the
red-brown target often. Ab, hot-headed and fierce lover in the tree top,
looked on admiringly. How perfect of form was she; how bright the face!
and then, forgetting himself, he cried aloud and slid from the branch as
easily and swiftly as any serpent and started running toward the girl. He
must have her!

With his cry, the girl leaped to her feet, and as he reached the ground,
recognized him on the instant. She knew in the same instant that they had
felt together and that it was not by accident that he was near her. She
had felt as he; so far as a woman may feel with a man; but maidens are
maidens, and sweet lightness dreads force, and a modified terror came upon
her. She paused for a moment, then turned and ran toward the upland

Not a moment hesitating or faltering as affected by the girl's action was
the young man who had tumbled from the tree bed. The blood dancing within
him and the great natural impulse of gaining what was greatest to him in
life controlled him now. He was hot with fierce lovingness. He ran well,
but he did not run better than the graceful thing before him.

Even for the critical being of the great cities of to-day, the one who
"manages" races of all sorts, it would have been worth while to see this
race in the forest. As the doe leaps, scarcely touching the ground, ran
Lightfoot. As the wolf or hound runs, less swift for the moment, but
tireless, ran the man behind her. Yet of all the men in the cave region,
this flying girl wanted most this man to take her! It was the maidenly
force-dreading instinct alone which made her run.

Ab, dogged and enduring, lost no space as the race led away toward the
hill and home of the fleet thing ahead of him. There were miles to be
covered, and therein he had hope. They were on the straight path to
Hilltop's cave, though there were divergent, curving side paths almost as
available; but to avoid her pursuer, the fugitive could take none of
these. There were cross-cuts everywhere. In leaving the direct path she
would but lose ground. To reach soon enough by straight, clean running the
towering wooded hill in which was her father's cave seemed the only hope
of the half-unwilling fugitive.

There were descents and ascents in the long chase and plateaus where the
running was on level ground. Straining forward, gaining little, but
confident of overtaking the girl, Ab, deep-chested and physically
untroubled, pressed onward, when he noted that the girl made a sudden
spurt and bounded forward with a speed not shown before, while, at the
same time, she swerved from the right of the path.

It was not Ab who had made her swerve. Some new alarm had come to her. She
was about to reach and, as Ab supposed, pass one of the inletting paths
entering almost at right angles from the left. She did not pass it. She
leaped into it in evident terror and then, breaking out from the wood on
the right, came another form and one surely in swift following. Ab knew
the figure well. Oak was the new pursuer!

The awful rage which rose in the heart of Ab as he saw what was happening
is what can no more be described than one can tell what a tiger in the
jungle thinks. He saw another--the other his friend--pursuing and
intending to take what he wanted to be his and what had become to him more
than all else in the world; more than much eating and the skins of things
to keep him warm, more than a mammoth's tooth to carve, more than the
glorious skin of the great cave tiger, the possession of which made a rude
nobility, more than anything and all else! He leaped aside from the path.
He knew well the other path upon which were running Oak and Lightfoot. He
knew that he could intercept them, because, though the running was not so
good, the distance to be covered was much less, for to him path running
was a light matter. In the wood he ran as easily and leaped as well and
attained a point almost as quickly as the beasts. There was a stress of
effort and, as the shadows deepened, he burst in upon the cross path where
he knew were the fleeing Lightfoot and following Oak. He had thought to
head them off, but Ab was not the only man who was swift of foot in the
cave country. They passed, almost as he bounded from the forest. He saw
them close together not many yards ahead of him and, with a shout of rage,
bent himself in swift and terrible pursuit again.

It was all plain to Ab now as he flew along, unnoted by the two ahead of
him. He knew that Oak had, like him, determined to own Lightfoot, and had
like him, been seeking her. Only chance had made the chase thus cross
Oak's path; but that made no difference. There must be a grim meeting
soon. Ab could see that the endurance of the wonderfully fleet-footed
woman was not equal to that of the man so near her. She would soon be
overtaken. Before her rose the hill, not a mile in its slope, where were
her father's cave, and safety. He knew that she had not the strength to
breast it fleetly enough for covert. And, as he looked, he saw the girl
turn a frightened face toward her close pursuer and knew that she saw him
as well. Her pace slackened for a moment as this revelation came to her,
and he felt, somehow, that in him she recognized comparative protection.
Then she recovered herself and bent all the power she had toward the
ascent. But Oak had been gaining steadily, and now, with a sudden rush, he
reached her and grasped her, the woman shrieking wildly. A moment later Ab
rushed in upon them with a shout. Instinctively Oak released the girl, for
in the cry he heard that which meant menace and immediate danger. As
Lightfoot felt herself free she stood for a moment or two without a
movement, with wide-open eyes, looking upon what was happening before her.
Then she bounded away, not looking backward as she ran.


The two men stood there glaring at each other, Oak perched, and yet not
perched, so broad and perfect was his foothold, on the crest of a slight
shelf of the downward slope. There stood the two men, poised, the one
above, the other below, two who had been as close together from childhood
as all the attributes of mind and body might allow, and yet now as far
apart as human beings may be. They were beautiful in a way, each in his
murderous, unconscious posing for the leap. The sun hit the blue ax of Oak
and made it look a gray. The raised ax of Ab, which was of a lighter
colored stone, was in the shade and its yellowness was darkened into
brown. The spectacle lasted for but a second. As Oak leaped Ab bounded
aside and they stood upon a level, a tiny plateau, and there was fierce,
strong fencing. One could not note its methods; even the keen-eyed
wolverine, crouching low upon an adjacent monster limb, could never have
followed the swift movements of these stone axes. The dreadful play was
brief. The clash of stone together ceased as there came a duller sound,
which told that stone had bitten bone. Oak, slightly the higher of the
two, as they stood thus in the fray, leaned forward suddenly, his arms
aloft, while from his hand dropped the blue ax. He floundered down
uncouthly and grasped the beech leaves with his hands, and then lay still.
Ab stood there weaponless, a creature wandering of mind. His yellow ax had
parted from his hand, sunk deeply into the skull of Oak, and he looked
upon it curiously and vacantly. He was not sane. He stepped forward and
pulled the ax away and lifted it to a level with his eyes and went to
where the sunlight shone. The ax was not yellow any more. Meanwhile a girl
was flitting toward her home and the shadows of the waning day were



Ab looked toward the forest wherein Lightfoot had fled and then looked
upon that which lay at his feet. It was Oak--there were the form and
features of his friend--but, somehow, it was not Oak. There was too much
silence and the blood upon the leaves seemed far too bright. His rage
departed, and he wanted Oak to answer and called to him, but Oak did not
answer. Then came slowly to him the idea that Oak was dead and that the
wild beasts would that night devour the dead man where he lay. The thought
nerved him to desperate, sudden action. He leaped forward, he put his arms
about the body and carried it away to a hollow in the wooded slope. He
worked madly, doing some things as he had seen the cave people do at other
buryings. He placed the weapons of Oak beside him. He took from his belt
his own knife, because it was better than that of Oak, and laid it close
to the dead man's hand, and then, first covering the body with beech
leaves, he worked frantically upon the overhanging soil, prying it down
with a sharp-pointed fragment of limb, and tossing in upon all as heavy
stones as he could lift, until a great cairn rose above the hunter who
would hunt no more.

Panting with his efforts, Ab sat himself down upon a rock and looked upon
the monument he had raised. Again he called to Oak, but there was still no
answer. The sun had set, evening shadows thickened around him. Then there
came upon the live man a feeling as dreadful as it was new, and, with a
yell, which was almost a shriek, he leaped to his feet and bounded away in
fearful flight.

He only knew this, that there was something hurt his inside of body and
soul, but not the inside of him as it had been when once he had eaten
poisonous berries or when he had eaten too much of the little deer. It was
something different. It was an awful oppression, which seemed to leave his
body, in a manner, unfeeling but which had a great dread about it and
which made him think and think of the dead man, and made him want to run
away and keep running. He had always run far that day, but he was not
tired now. His legs seemed to have the hard sinews of the stag in them but
up toward the top of him was something for them to carry away as fast and
far as possible from somewhere. He raced from the dense woodland down into
the broad morass to the west--beyond which was the rock country--and into
which he had rarely ventured, so treacherous its ways. What cared he now!
He made great leaps and his muscles and sinews responded to the thought of
him. To cross that morass safely required a touch on tussocks and an
upbounding aside, a zig-zag exhibition of great strength and knowingness
and recklessness. But it was unreasoning; it was the instinct begotten of
long training and, now, of the absence of all nervousness. Each taut toe
touched each point of bearing just as was required above the quagmire,
and, all unperceiving and uncaring, he fled over dirty death as easily as
he might have run upon some hardened woodland pathway. He did not think
nor know nor care about what he was doing. He was only running away from
the something he had never known before! Why should he be running now? He
had killed things before and not cared and had forgotten. Why should he
care now? But there was the something which made him run. And where was
Oak? Would Oak meet him again and would they hunt together? No, Oak would
not come, and he, this Ab, had made it so! He must run. No one was
following him--he knew that--but he must run!

The marsh was passed, night had fallen, but he ran on, pressing into the
bear and tiger haunted forest beyond. Anything, anything, to make him
forget the strange feeling and the thing which made him run! He plunged
into a forest path, utterly reckless, wanting relief, a seeker for
whatever might come.

In that age and under such conditions as to locality it was inevitable
that the creature, man, running through such a forest path at night, must
face some fierce creature of the carnivora seeking his body for food. Ab,
blinded of mood, cared not for and avoided not a fight, though it might be
with the monster bear or even the great tiger. There was no reason in his
madness. He was, though he knew it not, a practical suicide, yet one who
would die fighting. What to him were weight and strength to-night? What to
him were such encounters as might come with hungry four-footed things? It
would but relieve him were some of the beasts to try to gain his life and
eat his body. His being seemed valueless, and as for the wild beasts--and
here came out the splendid death-facing quality of the cave man--well, it
would be odd if there were not more deaths than one! But all this was
vague and only a minor part of thought.

Sometimes, as if to invite death, he yelled as he ran. He yelled whenever
in his fleeting visions he saw Oak lying dead again. So ran the man who
had killed another.

There was a growl ahead of him, a sudden breaking away of the bushes, and
then he was thrown back, stunned and bleeding, because a great paw had
smitten him. Whatever the beast might be, it was hungry and had found what
seemed easy prey. There was a difference, though, which the animal,--it
was doubtless a bear--unfortunately for him, did not comprehend, between
the quality of the being he proposed to eat just now and of other animals
included in his ordinary menu. But the bear did not reason; he but plunged
forward to crush out the remaining life of the runner his great paw had
driven back and down and then to enjoy his meal.

The man was little hurt. His skin coat had somewhat protected him and his
sinewy body had such toughness that the hurling of it backward for a few
feet was not anything involving a fatality. Very surely and suddenly had
been thrust upon him now the practical lesson of being or dying, and it
was good for the half-crazed runner, for it cleared his mind. But it made
him no less desperate or careless. With strength almost maniacal he leaped
at what he would have fled from at any other time, and, swinging his ax
with the quickness of light, struck tremendously at the great lowering
head. He yelled again as he felt stone cut and crash into bone, though
himself swept aside once more as a great paw, sidestruck, hurled him into
the bushes. He bounded to his feet and saw something huge and dark and
gasping floundering in the pathway. He thought not but ran on panting. By
some strange freak of forest fortune abetting might the man wandering of
mind had driven his ax nearly to the haft into the skull of his huge
assailant. It may be that never before had a cave man, thus armed, done so
well. The slayer ran on wildly, and now weaponless.

Soon to the runner the scene changed. The trees crowded each other less
closely and there was less of denned pathway. There came something of an
ascent and he breasted it, though less swiftly, for, despite the impelling
force, nature had claims, and muscles were wearying of their work. Fewer
and fewer grew the trees. He knew that he was where there was now a sweep
of rocky highlands and that he was not far from the Fire Country, of which
Old Mok had so often told him. He burst into the open, and as he came out
under the stars, which he could see again, he heard an ominous whine, too
near, and a distant howl behind him. A wolf pack wanted him.

He shuddered as he ran. The life instinct was fully awakened in him now,
as the dread from which he had run became more distant. Had he heard that
close whine and distant howl before he fairly reached the open he would
have sought a treetop for refuge. Now it was too late. He must run ahead
blindly across the treeless space for such harborage as might come. Far
ahead of him he could see light, the light of fire, reaching out toward
him through the darkness. He was panting and wearied, but the sounds
behind him were spur enough to bring the nearly dead to life. He bowed his
head and ran with such effort as he had never made before in all his wild
and daring existence.

The wolves of the time, greater, swifter and fiercer than the gaunt gray
wolves of northern latitudes and historic times, ran well, but so did
contemporaneous man run well, and the chase was hard. With his life to
save, Ab swept panting over the rocky ground with a swiftness begotten of
the grand last effort of remaining strength, running straight toward the
light, while the wolf pack, now gathered, hurled itself from the wood
behind and followed swiftly and relentlessly. Ever before the man shone
the light more brightly; ever behind him became more distinct the sound
made by the following pack. It was a dire strait for the running man. He
was no longer thinking of what he had lately done. He ran.


The light he had seen extended as he neared it into what looked like a
great fence of flame lying across his way. There were gaps in the fence
where the flame, still continuous, was not so high as elsewhere. He did
not hesitate. He ran straight ahead. Closer and closer behind him crowded
the pursuing wolves, and straight at the flame he ran. There was one
chance in many, he thought, and he took it without hesitation. Close
before him now loomed the wall of flame. Close behind him slavering jaws
were working in anticipation, and there was a strain for the last rush.
There was no alternative. Straight at the fire wall where it was lowest
rushed Ab, and with a great leap he went at and through the curling crest
of the yellow flame!

The man had found safety! There was a moment of heat and then he knew
himself to be sprawling upon green turf. A little of the strength of
desperation was still with him and he bounded to his feet and looked
about. There were no wolves. Beside him was a great flat rock, and he
clambered upon this, and then, over the crest of the flames could see
easily enough the glaring eyes of his late pursuers. They were running up
and down, raging for their prey, but kept from him beyond all peradventure
by the fire they could not face. Ab started upright on the rock panting
and defiant, a splendid creature erect there in the firelight.

Soon there came to the man a more perfect sense of his safety. He shouted
aloud to the flitting, snarling creatures, which could not harm him now;
he stooped and found jagged stones, which he sent whirling among them.
There was a savage satisfaction in it.

Suddenly the man fell to the ground, fairly groaning with exhaustion.
Nature had become indignant and the time for recuperation had been
reached. The wearied runner lay breathing heavily and was soon asleep. The
flames which had afforded safety gave also a grateful warmth in the chill
night, and so it was that scarcely had his body touched the ground when he
became oblivious to all about him, only the heaving of the broad chest
showing that the man lying fairly exposed in the light was a living thing.
The varying wind sometimes carried the sheet of flame to its utmost extent
toward him, so that the heat must have been intense, and again would carry
it in an opposite direction while the cold air swept down upon the
sleeping man. Nothing disturbed him. Inured alike to heat and cold, Ab
slept on, slept for hours the sleep which follows vast strain and
endurance in a healthy human being. Then the form lying on the ground
moved restlessly and muttered exclamations came from the lips. The man was

For as the sleeper lay there--he remembered it when he awoke and wondered
over it many times in after years--Oak sprang through the flames, as he
himself had done, and soon lay panting by his side. The lapping of the
fire, the snapping and snarling of the wolves beyond and the familiar
sound of Oak's voice all mingled confusedly in his ears, and then he and
Oak raced together over the rough ground, and wrestled and fought and
played as they had wrestled and fought and played together for years. And
the hours passed and the wind changed and the flames almost scorched him
and Ab started up, looking about him into the wild aspect of the Fire
Country; for the night had passed and the sun had risen and set again
since the exhausted man had fallen upon the ground and become unconscious.

Ab rolled instinctively a little away from the smoky sheets of flame and,
sitting up, looked for Oak. He could not see him. He ran wildly around
among the rocks looking for him and despairingly called aloud his name.
The moment his voice had been hoarsely lifted, "Oak!" the memory of all
that had happened rushed upon him. He stood there in the red firelight a
statue of despair. Oak was dead; he had killed Oak, and buried him with
his own hands, and yet he had seen Oak but a minute ago! He had bounded
through the flames and had wrestled and run races with Ab, and they had
talked together, and yet Oak must be lying in the ground back there in the
forest by the little hill. Oak was dead. How could he get out of the

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