by Jack London
"These are our ancestors, and their history is our
history. Remember that as surely as we one day swung
down out of the trees and walked upright, just as
surely, on a far earlier day, did we crawl up out of
the sea and achieve our first adventure on land."
Pictures! Pictures! Pictures! Often, before I learned,
did I wonder whence came the multitudes of pictures
that thronged my dreams; for they were pictures the
like of which I had never seen in real wake-a-day life.
They tormented my childhood, making of my dreams a
procession of nightmares and a little later convincing
me that I was different from my kind, a creature
unnatural and accursed.
In my days only did I attain any measure of happiness.
My nights marked the reign of fear--and such fear! I
make bold to state that no man of all the men who walk
the earth with me ever suffer fear of like kind and
degree. For my fear is the fear of long ago, the fear
that was rampant in the Younger World, and in the youth
of the Younger World. In short, the fear that reigned
supreme in that period known as the Mid-Pleistocene.
What do I mean? I see explanation is necessary before I
can tell you of the substance of my dreams. Otherwise,
little could you know of the meaning of the things I
know so well. As I write this, all the beings and
happenings of that other world rise up before me in
vast phantasmagoria, and I know that to you they would
be rhymeless and reasonless.
What to you the friendship of Lop-Ear, the warm lure of
the Swift One, the lust and the atavism of Red-Eye? A
screaming incoherence and no more. And a screaming
incoherence, likewise, the doings of the Fire People
and the Tree People, and the gibbering councils of the
horde. For you know not the peace of the cool caves in
the cliffs, the circus of the drinking-places at the
end of the day. You have never felt the bite of the
morning wind in the tree-tops, nor is the taste of
young bark sweet in your mouth.
It would be better, I dare say, for you to make your
approach, as I made mine, through my childhood. As a
boy I was very like other boys--in my waking hours. It
was in my sleep that I was different. From my earliest
recollection my sleep was a period of terror. Rarely
were my dreams tinctured with happiness. As a rule,
they were stuffed with fear--and with a fear so strange
and alien that it had no ponderable quality. No fear
that I experienced in my waking life resembled the fear
that possessed me in my sleep. It was of a quality and
kind that transcended all my experiences.
For instance, I was a city boy, a city child, rather,
to whom the country was an unexplored domain. Yet I
never dreamed of cities; nor did a house ever occur in
any of my dreams. Nor, for that matter, did any of my
human kind ever break through the wall of my sleep. I,
who had seen trees only in parks and illustrated books,
wandered in my sleep through interminable forests. And
further, these dream trees were not a mere blur on my
vision. They were sharp and distinct. I was on terms
of practised intimacy with them. I saw every branch
and twig; I saw and knew every different leaf.
Well do I remember the first time in my waking life
that I saw an oak tree. As I looked at the leaves and
branches and gnarls, it came to me with distressing
vividness that I had seen that same kind of tree many
and countless times n my sleep. So I was not
surprised, still later on in my life, to recognize
instantly, the first time I saw them, trees such as the
spruce, the yew, the birch, and the laurel. I had seen
them all before, and was seeing them even then, every
night, in my sleep.
This, as you have already discerned, violates the first
law of dreaming, namely, that in one's dreams one sees
only what he has seen in his waking life, or
combinations of the things he has seen in his waking
life. But all my dreams violated this law. In my
dreams I never saw ANYTHING of which I had knowledge in
my waking life. My dream life and my waking life were
lives apart, with not one thing in common save myself.
I was the connecting link that somehow lived both
Early in my childhood I learned that nuts came from the
grocer, berries from the fruit man; but before ever
that knowledge was mine, in my dreams I picked nuts
from trees, or gathered them and ate them from the
ground underneath trees, and in the same way I ate
berries from vines and bushes. This was beyond any
experience of mine.
I shall never forget the first time I saw blueberries
served on the table. I had never seen blueberries
before, and yet, at the sight of them, there leaped up
in my mind memories of dreams wherein I had wandered
through swampy land eating my fill of them. My mother
set before me a dish of the berries. I filled my
spoon, but before I raised it to my mouth I knew just
how they would taste. Nor was I disappointed. It was
the same tang that I had tasted a thousand times in my
Snakes? Long before I had heard of the existence of
snakes, I was tormented by them in my sleep. They
lurked for me in the forest glades; leaped up,
striking, under my feet; squirmed off through the dry
grass or across naked patches of rock; or pursued me
into the tree-tops, encircling the trunks with their
great shining bodies, driving me higher and higher or
farther and farther out on swaying and crackling
branches, the ground a dizzy distance beneath me.
Snakes!--with their forked tongues, their beady eyes
and glittering scales, their hissing and their
rattling--did I not already know them far too well on
that day of my first circus when I saw the
snake-charmer lift them up?
They were old friends of mine, enemies rather, that
peopled my nights with fear.
Ah, those endless forests, and their horror-haunted
gloom! For what eternities have I wandered through
them, a timid, hunted creature, starting at the least
sound, frightened of my own shadow, keyed-up, ever
alert and vigilant, ready on the instant to dash away
in mad flight for my life. For I was the prey of all
manner of fierce life that dwelt in the forest, and it
was in ecstasies of fear that I fled before the hunting
When I was five years old I went to my first circus. I
came home from it sick--but not from peanuts and pink
lemonade. Let me tell you. As we entered the animal
tent, a hoarse roaring shook the air. I tore my hand
loose from my father's and dashed wildly back through
the entrance. I collided with people, fell down; and
all the time I was screaming with terror. My father
caught me and soothed me. He pointed to the crowd of
people, all careless of the roaring, and cheered me
with assurances of safety.
Nevertheless, it was in fear and trembling, and with
much encouragement on his part, that I at last
approached the lion's cage. Ah, I knew him on the
instant. The beast! The terrible one! And on my inner
vision flashed the memories of my dreams,--the midday
sun shining on tall grass, the wild bull grazing
quietly, the sudden parting of the grass before the
swift rush of the tawny one, his leap to the bull's
back, the crashing and the bellowing, and the crunch
crunch of bones; or again, the cool quiet of the
water-hole, the wild horse up to his knees and drinking
softly, and then the tawny one--always the tawny one!--
the leap, the screaming and the splashing of the horse,
and the crunch crunch of bones; and yet again, the
sombre twilight and the sad silence of the end of day,
and then the great full-throated roar, sudden, like a
trump of doom, and swift upon it the insane shrieking
and chattering among the trees, and I, too, am
trembling with fear and am one of the many shrieking
and chattering among the trees.
At the sight of him, helpless, within the bars of his
cage, I became enraged. I gritted my teeth at him,
danced up and down, screaming an incoherent mockery and
making antic faces. He responded, rushing against the
bars and roaring back at me his impotent wrath. Ah, he
knew me, too, and the sounds I made were the sounds of
old time and intelligible to him.
My parents were frightened. "The child is ill," said
my mother. "He is hysterical," said my father. I never
told them, and they never knew. Already had I
developed reticence concerning this quality of mine,
this semi-disassociation of personality as I think I am
justified in calling it.
I saw the snake-charmer, and no more of the circus did
I see that night. I was taken home, nervous and
overwrought, sick with the invasion of my real life by
that other life of my dreams.
I have mentioned my reticence. Only once did I confide
the strangeness of it all to another. He was a boy--my
chum; and we were eight years old. From my dreams I
reconstructed for him pictures of that vanished world
in which I do believe I once lived. I told him of the
terrors of that early time, of Lop-Ear and the pranks
we played, of the gibbering councils, and of the Fire
People and their squatting places.
He laughed at me, and jeered, and told me tales of
ghosts and of the dead that walk at night. But mostly
did he laugh at my feeble fancy. I told him more, and
he laughed the harder. I swore in all earnestness that
these things were so, and he began to look upon me
queerly. Also, he gave amazing garblings of my tales
to our playmates, until all began to look upon me
It was a bitter experience, but I learned my lesson. I
was different from my kind. I was abnormal with
something they could not understand, and the telling of
which would cause only misunderstanding. When the
stories of ghosts and goblins went around, I kept
quiet. I smiled grimly to myself. I thought of my
nights of fear, and knew that mine were the real
things--real as life itself, not attenuated vapors and
For me no terrors resided in the thought of bugaboos
and wicked ogres. The fall through leafy branches and
the dizzy heights; the snakes that struck at me as I
dodged and leaped away in chattering flight; the wild
dogs that hunted me across the open spaces to the
timber--these were terrors concrete and actual,
happenings and not imaginings, things of the living
flesh and of sweat and blood. Ogres and bugaboos and I
had been happy bed-fellows, compared with these terrors
that made their bed with me throughout my childhood,
and that still bed with me, now, as I write this, full
I have said that in my dreams I never saw a human
being. Of this fact I became aware very early, and
felt poignantly the lack of my own kind. As a very
little child, even, I had a feeling, in the midst of
the horror of my dreaming, that if I could find but one
man, only one human, I should be saved from my
dreaming, that I should be surrounded no more by
haunting terrors. This thought obsessed me every night
of my life for years--if only I could find that one
human and be saved!
I must iterate that I had this thought in the midst of
my dreaming, and I take it as an evidence of the
merging of my two personalities, as evidence of a point
of contact between the two disassociated parts of me.
My dream personality lived in the long ago, before ever
man, as we know him, came to be; and my other and
wake-a-day personality projected itself, to the extent
of the knowledge of man's existence, into the substance
of my dreams.
Perhaps the psychologists of the book will find fault
with my way of using the phrase, "disassociation of
personality." I know their use of it, yet am compelled
to use it in my own way in default of a better phrase.
I take shelter behind the inadequacy of the English
language. And now to the explanation of my use, or
misuse, of the phrase.
It was not till I was a young man, at college, that I
got any clew to the significance of my dreams, and to
the cause of them. Up to that time they had been
meaningless and without apparent causation. But at
college I discovered evolution and psychology, and
learned the explanation of various strange mental
states and experiences. For instance, there was the
falling-through-space dream--the commonest dream
experience, one practically known, by first-hand
experience, to all men.
This, my professor told me, was a racial memory. It
dated back to our remote ancestors who lived in trees.
With them, being tree-dwellers, the liability of
falling was an ever-present menace. Many lost their
lives that way; all of them experienced terrible falls,
saving themselves by clutching branches as they fell
toward the ground.
Now a terrible fall, averted in such fashion, was
productive of shock. Such shock was productive of
molecular changes in the cerebral cells. These
molecular changes were transmitted to the cerebral
cells of progeny, became, in short, racial memories.
Thus, when you and I, asleep or dozing off to sleep,
fall through space and awake to sickening consciousness
just before we strike, we are merely remembering what
happened to our arboreal ancestors, and which has been
stamped by cerebral changes into the heredity of the
There is nothing strange in this, any more than there
is anything strange in an instinct. An instinct is
merely a habit that is stamped into the stuff of our
heredity, that is all. It will be noted, in passing,
that in this falling dream which is so familiar to you
and me and all of us, we never strike bottom. To
strike bottom would be destruction. Those of our
arboreal ancestors who struck bottom died forthwith.
True, the shock of their fall was communicated to the
cerebral cells, but they died immediately, before they
could have progeny. You and I are descended from those
that did not strike bottom; that is why you and I, in
our dreams, never strike bottom.
And now we come to disassociation of personality. We
never have this sense of falling when we are wide
awake. Our wake-a-day personality has no experience of
it. Then--and here the argument is irresistible--it
must be another and distinct personality that falls
when we are asleep, and that has had experience of such
falling--that has, in short, a memory of past-day race
experiences, just as our wake-a-day personality has a
memory of our wake-a-day experiences.
It was at this stage in my reasoning that I began to
see the light. And quickly the light burst upon me
with dazzling brightness, illuminating and explaining
all that had been weird and uncanny and unnaturally
impossible in my dream experiences. In my sleep it was
not my wake-a-day personality that took charge of me;
it was another and distinct personality, possessing a
new and totally different fund of experiences, and, to
the point of my dreaming, possessing memories of those
totally different experiences.
What was this personality? When had it itself lived a
wake-a-day life on this planet in order to collect this
fund of strange experiences? These were questions that
my dreams themselves answered. He lived in the long
ago, when the world was young, in that period that we
call the Mid-Pleistocene. He fell from the trees but
did not strike bottom. He gibbered with fear at the
roaring of the lions. He was pursued by beasts of
prey, struck at by deadly snakes. He chattered with
his kind in council, and he received rough usage at the
hands of the Fire People in the day that he fled before
But, I hear you objecting, why is it that these racial
memories are not ours as well, seeing that we have a
vague other-personality that falls through space while
And I may answer with another question. Why is a
two-headed calf? And my own answer to this is that it
is a freak. And so I answer your question. I have
this other-personality and these complete racial
memories because I am a freak.
But let me be more explicit.
The commonest race memory we have is the
falling-through-space dream. This other-personality is
very vague. About the only memory it has is that of
falling. But many of us have sharper, more distinct
other-personalities. Many of us have the flying dream,
the pursuing-monster dream, color dreams, suffocation
dreams, and the reptile and vermin dreams. In short,
while this other-personality is vestigial in all of us,
in some of us it is almost obliterated, while in others
of us it is more pronounced. Some of us have stronger
and completer race memories than others.
It is all a question of varying degree of possession of
the other-personality. In myself, the degree of
possession is enormous. My other-personality is almost
equal in power with my own personality. And in this
matter I am, as I said, a freak--a freak of heredity.
I do believe that it is the possession of this
other-personality--but not so strong a one as
mine--that has in some few others given rise to belief
in personal reincarnation experiences. It is very
plausible to such people, a most convincing hypothesis.
When they have visions of scenes they have never seen
in the flesh, memories of acts and events dating back
in time, the simplest explanation is that they have
But they make the mistake of ignoring their own
duality. They do not recognize their
other-personality. They think it is their own
personality, that they have only one personality; and
from such a premise they can conclude only that they
have lived previous lives.
But they are wrong. It is not reincarnation. I have
visions of myself roaming through the forests of the
Younger World; and yet it is not myself that I see but
one that is only remotely a part of me, as my father
and my grandfather are parts of me less remote. This
other-self of mine is an ancestor, a progenitor of my
progenitors in the early line of my race, himself the
progeny of a line that long before his time developed
fingers and toes and climbed up into the trees.
I must again, at the risk of boring, repeat that I am,
in this one thing, to be considered a freak. Not alone
do I possess racial memory to an enormous extent, but I
possess the memories of one particular and far-removed
progenitor. And yet, while this is most unusual, there
is nothing over-remarkable about it.
Follow my reasoning. An instinct is a racial memory.
Very good. Then you and I and all of us receive these
memories from our fathers and mothers, as they received
them from their fathers and mothers. Therefore there
must be a medium whereby these memories are transmitted
from generation to generation. This medium is what
Weismann terms the "germplasm." It carries the memories
of the whole evolution of the race. These memories are
dim and confused, and many of them are lost. But some
strains of germplasm carry an excessive freightage of
memories--are, to be scientific, more atavistic than
other strains; and such a strain is mine. I am a freak
of heredity, an atavistic nightmare--call me what you
will; but here I am, real and alive, eating three
hearty meals a day, and what are you going to do about
And now, before I take up my tale, I want to anticipate
the doubting Thomases of psychology, who are prone to
scoff, and who would otherwise surely say that the
coherence of my dreams is due to overstudy and the
subconscious projection of my knowledge of evolution
into my dreams. In the first place, I have never been
a zealous student. I graduated last of my class. I
cared more for athletics, and--there is no reason I
should not confess it--more for billiards.
Further, I had no knowledge of evolution until I was at
college, whereas in my childhood and youth I had
already lived in my dreams all the details of that
other, long-ago life. I will say, however, that these
details were mixed and incoherent until I came to know
the science of evolution. Evolution was the key. It
gave the explanation, gave sanity to the pranks of this
atavistic brain of mine that, modern and normal, harked
back to a past so remote as to be contemporaneous with
the raw beginnings of mankind.
For in this past I know of, man, as we to-day know him,
did not exist. It was in the period of his becoming
that I must have lived and had my being.
The commonest dream of my early childhood was something
like this: It seemed that I was very small and that I
lay curled up in a sort of nest of twigs and boughs.
Sometimes I was lying on my back. In this position it
seemed that I spent many hours, watching the play of
sunlight on the foliage and the stirring of the leaves
by the wind. Often the nest itself moved back and
forth when the wind was strong.
But always, while so lying in the nest, I was mastered
as of tremendous space beneath me. I never saw it, I
never peered over the edge of the nest to see; but I
KNEW and feared that space that lurked just beneath me
and that ever threatened me like a maw of some
This dream, in which I was quiescent and which was more
like a condition than an experience of action, I
dreamed very often in my early childhood. But
suddenly, there would rush into the very midst of it
strange forms and ferocious happenings, the thunder and
crashing of storm, or unfamiliar landscapes such as in
my wake-a-day life I had never seen. The result was
confusion and nightmare. I could comprehend nothing of
it. There was no logic of sequence.
You see, I did not dream consecutively. One moment I
was a wee babe of the Younger World lying in my tree
nest; the next moment I was a grown man of the Younger
World locked in combat with the hideous Red-Eye; and
the next moment I was creeping carefully down to the
water-hole in the heat of the day. Events, years apart
in their occurrence in the Younger World, occurred with
me within the space of several minutes, or seconds.
It was all a jumble, but this jumble I shall not
inflict upon you. It was not until I was a young man
and had dreamed many thousand times, that everything
straightened out and became clear and plain. Then it
was that I got the clew of time, and was able to piece
together events and actions in their proper order.
Thus was I able to reconstruct the vanished Younger
World as it was at the time I lived in it--or at the
time my other-self lived in it. The distinction does
not matter; for I, too, the modern man, have gone back
and lived that early life in the company of my
For your convenience, since this is to be no
sociological screed, I shall frame together the
different events into a comprehensive story. For there
is a certain thread of continuity and happening that
runs through all the dreams. There is my friendship
with Lop-Ear, for instance. Also, there is the enmity
of Red-Eye, and the love of the Swift One. Taking it
all in all, a fairly coherent and interesting story I
am sure you will agree.
I do not remember much of my mother. Possibly the
earliest recollection I have of her--and certainly the
sharpest--is the following: It seemed I was lying on
the ground. I was somewhat older than during the nest
days, but still helpless. I rolled about in the dry
leaves, playing with them and making crooning, rasping
noises in my throat. The sun shone warmly and I was
happy, and comfortable. I was in a little open space.
Around me, on all sides, were bushes and fern-like
growths, and overhead and all about were the trunks and
branches of forest trees.
Suddenly I heard a sound. I sat upright and listened.
I made no movement. The little noises died down in my
throat, and I sat as one petrified. The sound drew
closer. It was like the grunt of a pig. Then I began
to hear the sounds caused by the moving of a body
through the brush. Next I saw the ferns agitated by
the passage of the body. Then the ferns parted, and I
saw gleaming eyes, a long snout, and white tusks.
It was a wild boar. He peered at me curiously. He
grunted once or twice and shifted his weight from one
foreleg to the other, at the same time moving his head
from side to side and swaying the ferns. Still I sat
as one petrified, my eyes unblinking as I stared at
him, fear eating at my heart.
It seemed that this movelessness and silence on my part
was what was expected of me. I was not to cry out in
the face of fear. It was a dictate of instinct. And
so I sat there and waited for I knew not what. The
boar thrust the ferns aside and stepped into the open.
The curiosity went out of his eyes, and they gleamed
cruelly. He tossed his head at me threateningly and
advanced a step. This he did again, and yet again.
Then I screamed...or shrieked--I cannot describe it,
but it was a shrill and terrible cry. And it seems
that it, too, at this stage of the proceedings, was the
thing expected of me. From not far away came an
answering cry. My sounds seemed momentarily to
disconcert the boar, and while he halted and shifted
his weight with indecision, an apparition burst upon
She was like a large orangutan, my mother, or like a
chimpanzee, and yet, in sharp and definite ways, quite
different. She was heavier of build than they, and had
less hair. Her arms were not so long, and her legs
were stouter. She wore no clothes--only her natural
hair. And I can tell you she was a fury when she was
And like a fury she dashed upon the scene. She was
gritting her teeth, making frightful grimaces,
snarling, uttering sharp and continuous cries that
sounded like "kh-ah! kh-ah!" So sudden and formidable
was her appearance that the boar involuntarily bunched
himself together on the defensive and bristled as she
swerved toward him. Then she swerved toward me. She
had quite taken the breath out of him. I knew just
what to do in that moment of time she had gained. I
leaped to meet her, catching her about the waist and
holding on hand and foot--yes, by my feet; I could hold
on by them as readily as by my hands. I could feel in
my tense grip the pull of the hair as her skin and her
muscles moved beneath with her efforts.
As I say, I leaped to meet her, and on the instant she
leaped straight up into the air, catching an
overhanging branch with her hands. The next instant,
with clashing tusks, the boar drove past underneath.
He had recovered from his surprise and sprung forward,
emitting a squeal that was almost a trumpeting. At any
rate it was a call, for it was followed by the rushing
of bodies through the ferns and brush from all
From every side wild hogs dashed into the open space--a
score of them. But my mother swung over the top of a
thick limb, a dozen feet from the ground, and, still
holding on to her, we perched there in safety. She was
very excited. She chattered and screamed, and scolded
down at the bristling, tooth-gnashing circle that had
gathered beneath. I, too, trembling, peered down at
the angry beasts and did my best to imitate my mother's
From the distance came similar cries, only pitched
deeper, into a sort of roaring bass. These grew
momentarily louder, and soon I saw him approaching, my
father--at least, by all the evidence of the times, I
am driven to conclude that he was my father.
He was not an extremely prepossessing father, as
fathers go. He seemed half man, and half ape, and yet
not ape, and not yet man. I fail to describe him.
There is nothing like him to-day on the earth, under
the earth, nor in the earth. He was a large man in his
day, and he must have weighed all of a hundred and
thirty pounds. His face was broad and flat, and the
eyebrows over-hung the eyes. The eyes themselves were
small, deep-set, and close together. He had
practically no nose at all. It was squat and broad,
apparently with-out any bridge, while the nostrils were
like two holes in the face, opening outward instead of
The forehead slanted back from the eyes, and the hair
began right at the eyes and ran up over the head. The
head itself was preposterously small and was supported
on an equally preposterous, thick, short neck.
There was an elemental economy about his body--as was
there about all our bodies. The chest was deep, it is
true, cavernously deep; but there were no full-swelling
muscles, no wide-spreading shoulders, no clean-limbed
straightness, no generous symmetry of outline. It
represented strength, that body of my father's,
strength without beauty; ferocious, primordial
strength, made to clutch and gripe and rend and
His hips were thin; and the legs, lean and hairy, were
crooked and stringy-muscled. In fact, my father's legs
were more like arms. They were twisted and gnarly, and
with scarcely the semblance of the full meaty calf such
as graces your leg and mine. I remember he could not
walk on the flat of his foot. This was because it was
a prehensile foot, more like a hand than a foot. The
great toe, instead of being in line with the other
toes, opposed them, like a thumb, and its opposition to
the other toes was what enabled him to get a grip with
his foot. This was why he could not walk on the flat
of his foot.
But his appearance was no more unusual than the manner
of his coming, there to my mother and me as we perched
above the angry wild pigs. He came through the trees,
leaping from limb to limb and from tree to tree; and he
came swiftly. I can see him now, in my wake-a-day
life, as I write this, swinging along through the
trees, a four-handed, hairy creature, howling with
rage, pausing now and again to beat his chest with his
clenched fist, leaping ten-and-fifteen-foot gaps,
catching a branch with one hand and swinging on across
another gap to catch with his other hand and go on,
never hesitating, never at a loss as to how to proceed
on his arboreal way.
And as I watched him I felt in my own being, in my very
muscles themselves, the surge and thrill of desire to
go leaping from bough to bough; and I felt also the
guarantee of the latent power in that being and in
those muscles of mine. And why not? Little boys watch
their fathers swing axes and fell trees, and feel in
themselves that some day they, too, will swing axes and
fell trees. And so with me. The life that was in me
was constituted to do what my father did, and it
whispered to me secretly and ambitiously of aerial
paths and forest flights.
At last my father joined us. He was extremely angry.
I remember the out-thrust of his protruding underlip as
he glared down at the wild pigs. He snarled something
like a dog, and I remember that his eye-teeth were
large, like fangs, and that they impressed me
His conduct served only the more to infuriate the pigs.
He broke off twigs and small branches and flung them
down upon our enemies. He even hung by one hand,
tantalizingly just beyond reach, and mocked them as
they gnashed their tusks with impotent rage. Not
content with this, he broke off a stout branch, and,
holding on with one hand and foot, jabbed the
infuriated beasts in the sides and whacked them across
their noses. Needless to state, my mother and I enjoyed
But one tires of all good things, and in the end, my
father, chuckling maliciously the while, led the way
across the trees. Now it was that my ambitions ebbed
away, and I became timid, holding tightly to my mother
as she climbed and swung through space. I remember
when the branch broke with her weight. She had made a
wide leap, and with the snap of the wood I was
overwhelmed with the sickening consciousness of falling
through space, the pair of us. The forest and the
sunshine on the rustling leaves vanished from my eyes.
I had a fading glimpse of my father abruptly arresting
his progress to look, and then all was blackness.
The next moment I was awake, in my sheeted bed,
sweating, trembling, nauseated. The window was up, and
a cool air was blowing through the room. The
night-lamp was burning calmly. And because of this I
take it that the wild pigs did not get us, that we
never fetched bottom; else I should not be here now, a
thousand centuries after, to remember the event.
And now put yourself in my place for a moment. Walk
with me a bit in my tender childhood, bed with me a
night and imagine yourself dreaming such
incomprehensible horrors. Remember I was an
inexperienced child. I had never seen a wild boar in
my life. For that matter I had never seen a
domesticated pig. The nearest approach to one that I
had seen was breakfast bacon sizzling in its fat. And
yet here, real as life, wild boars dashed through my
dreams, and I, with fantastic parents, swung through
the lofty tree-spaces.
Do you wonder that I was frightened and oppressed by my
nightmare-ridden nights? I was accursed. And, worst
of all, I was afraid to tell. I do not know why,
except that I had a feeling of guilt, though I knew no
better of what I was guilty. So it was, through long
years, that I suffered in silence, until I came to
man's estate and learned the why and wherefore of my
There is one puzzling thing about these prehistoric
memories of mine. It is the vagueness of the time
element. I lo not always know the order of events;--or
can I tell, between some events, whether one, two, or
four or five years have elapsed. I can only roughly
tell the passage of time by judging the changes in the
appearance and pursuits of my fellows.
Also, I can apply the logic of events to the various
happenings. For instance, there is no doubt whatever
that my mother and I were treed by the wild pigs and
fled and fell in the days before I made the
acquaintance of Lop-Ear, who became what I may call my
boyhood chum. And it is just as conclusive that
between these two periods I must have left my mother.
I have no memory of my father than the one I have
given. Never, in the years that followed, did he
reappear. And from my knowledge of the times, the only
explanation possible lies in that he perished shortly
after the adventure with the wild pigs. That it must
have been an untimely end, there is no discussion. He
was in full vigor, and only sudden and violent death
could have taken him off. But I know not the manner of
his going--whether he was drowned in the river, or was
swallowed by a snake, or went into the stomach of old
Saber-Tooth, the tiger, is beyond my knowledge.
For know that I remember only the things I saw myself,
with my own eyes, in those prehistoric days. If my
mother knew my father's end, she never told me. For
that matter I doubt if she had a vocabulary adequate to
convey such information. Perhaps, all told, the Folk
in that day had a vocabulary of thirty or forty sounds.
I call them SOUNDS, rather than WORDS, because sounds
they were primarily. They had no fixed values, to be
altered by adjectives and adverbs. These latter were
tools of speech not yet invented. Instead of qualifying
nouns or verbs by the use of adjectives and adverbs, we
qualified sounds by intonation, by changes in quantity
and pitch, by retarding and by accelerating. The
length of time employed in the utterance of a
particular sound shaded its meaning.
We had no conjugation. One judged the tense by the
context. We talked only concrete things because we
thought only concrete things. Also, we depended
largely on pantomime. The simplest abstraction was
practically beyond our thinking; and when one did
happen to think one, he was hard put to communicate it
to his fellows. There were no sounds for it. He was
pressing beyond the limits of his vocabulary. If he
invented sounds for it, his fellows did not understand
the sounds. Then it was that he fell back on
pantomime, illustrating the thought wherever possible
and at the same time repeating the new sound over and
Thus language grew. By the few sounds we possessed we
were enabled to think a short distance beyond those
sounds; then came the need for new sounds wherewith to
express the new thought. Sometimes, however, we thought
too long a distance in advance of our sounds, managed
to achieve abstractions (dim ones I grant), which we
failed utterly to make known to other folk. After all,
language did not grow fast in that day.
Oh, believe me, we were amazingly simple. But we did
know a lot that is not known to-day. We could twitch
our ears, prick them up and flatten them down at will.
And we could scratch between our shoulders with ease.
We could throw stones with our feet. I have done it
many a time. And for that matter, I could keep my
knees straight, bend forward from the hips, and touch,
not the tips of my fingers, but the points of my
elbows, to the ground. And as for bird-nesting--well,
I only wish the twentieth-century boy could see us.
But we made no collections of eggs. We ate them.
I remember--but I out-run my story. First let me tell
of Lop-Ear and our friendship. Very early in my life,
I separated from my mother. Possibly this was because,
after the death of my father, she took to herself a
second husband. I have few recollections of him, and
they are not of the best. He was a light fellow.
There was no solidity to him. He was too voluble. His
infernal chattering worries me even now as I think of
it. His mind was too inconsequential to permit him to
possess purpose. Monkeys in their cages always remind
me of him. He was monkeyish. That is the best
description I can give of him.
He hated me from the first. And I quickly learned to
be afraid of him and his malicious pranks. Whenever he
came in sight I crept close to my mother and clung to
her. But I was growing older all the time, and it was
inevitable that I should from time to time stray from
her, and stray farther and farther. And these were the
opportunities that the Chatterer waited for. (I may as
well explain that we bore no names in those days; were
not known by any name. For the sake of convenience I
have myself given names to the various Folk I was more
closely in contact with, and the "Chatterer" is the
most fitting description I can find for that precious
stepfather of mine. As for me, I have named myself
"Big-Tooth." My eye-teeth were pronouncedly large.)
But to return to the Chatterer. He persistently
terrorized me. He was always pinching me and cuffing
me, and on occasion he was not above biting me. Often
my mother interfered, and the way she made his fur fly
was a joy to see. But the result of all this was a
beautiful and unending family quarrel, in which I was
the bone of contention.
No, my home-life was not happy. I smile to myself as I
write the phrase. Home-life! Home! I had no home in
the modern sense of the term. My home was an
association, not a habitation. I lived in my mother's
care, not in a house. And my mother lived anywhere, so
long as when night came she was above the ground.
My mother was old-fashioned. She still clung to her
trees. It is true, the more progressive members of our
horde lived in the caves above the river. But my
mother was suspicious and unprogressive. The trees were
good enough for her. Of course, we had one particular
tree in which we usually roosted, though we often
roosted in other trees when nightfall caught us. In a
convenient fork was a sort of rude platform of twigs
and branches and creeping things. It was more like a
huge bird-nest than anything else, though it was a
thousand times cruder in the weaving than any
bird-nest. But it had one feature that I have never
seen attached to any bird-nest, namely, a roof.
Oh, not a roof such as modern man makes! Nor a roof
such as is made by the lowest aborigines of to-day. It
was infinitely more clumsy than the clumsiest handiwork
of man--of man as we know him. It was put together in a
casual, helter-skelter sort of way. Above the fork of
the tree whereon we rested was a pile of dead branches
and brush. Four or five adjacent forks held what I may
term the various ridge-poles. These were merely stout
sticks an inch or so in diameter. On them rested the
brush and branches. These seemed to have been tossed on
almost aimlessly. There was no attempt at thatching.
And I must confess that the roof leaked miserably in a
But the Chatterer. He made home-life a burden for both
my mother and me--and by home-life I mean, not the
leaky nest in the tree, but the group-life of the three
of us. He was most malicious in his persecution of me.
That was the one purpose to which he held steadfastly
for longer than five minutes. Also, as time went by,
my mother was less eager in her defence of me. I
think, what of the continuous rows raised by the
Chatterer, that I must have become a nuisance to her.
At any rate, the situation went from bad to worse so
rapidly that I should soon, of my own volition, have
left home. But the satisfaction of performing so
independent an act was denied me. Before I was ready
to go, I was thrown out. And I mean this literally.
The opportunity came to the Chatterer one day when I
was alone in the nest. My mother and the Chatterer had
gone away together toward the blueberry swamp. He must
have planned the whole thing, for I heard him returning
alone through the forest, roaring with self-induced
rage as he came. Like all the men of our horde, when
they were angry or were trying to make themselves
angry, he stopped now and again to hammer on his chest
with his fist.
I realized the helplessness of my situation, and
crouched trembling in the nest. The Chatterer came
directly to the tree--I remember it was an oak
tree--and began to climb up. And he never ceased for a
moment from his infernal row. As I have said, our
language was extremely meagre, and he must have
strained it by the variety of ways in which he informed
me of his undying hatred of me and of his intention
there and then to have it out with me.
As he climbed to the fork, I fled out the great
horizontal limb. He followed me, and out I went,
farther and farther. At last I was out amongst the
small twigs and leaves. The Chatterer was ever a
coward, and greater always than any anger he ever
worked up was his caution. He was afraid to follow me
out amongst the leaves and twigs. For that matter, his
greater weight would have crashed him through the
foliage before he could have got to me.
But it was not necessary for him to reach me, and well
he knew it, the scoundrel! With a malevolent expression
on his face, his beady eyes gleaming with cruel
intelligence, he began teetering. Teetering!--and with
me out on the very edge of the bough, clutching at the
twigs that broke continually with my weight. Twenty
feet beneath me was the earth.
Wildly and more--wildly he teetered, grinning at me his
gloating hatred. Then came the end. All four holds
broke at the same time, and I fell, back-downward,
looking up at him, my hands and feet still clutching
the broken twigs. Luckily, there were no wild pigs
under me, and my fall was broken by the tough and
Usually, my falls destroy my dreams, the nervous shock
being sufficient to bridge the thousand centuries in an
instant and hurl me wide awake into my little bed,
where, perchance, I lie sweating and trembling and hear
the cuckoo clock calling the hour in the hall. But
this dream of my leaving home I have had many times,
and never yet have I been awakened by it. Always do I
crash, shrieking, down through the brush and fetch up
with a bump on the ground.
Scratched and bruised and whimpering, I lay where I had
fallen. Peering up through the bushes, I could see the
Chatterer. He had set up a demoniacal chant of joy and
was keeping time to it with his teetering. I quickly
hushed my whimpering. I was no longer in the safety of
the trees, and I knew the danger I ran of bringing upon
myself the hunting animals by too audible an expression
of my grief.
I remember, as my sobs died down, that I became
interested in watching the strange light-effects
produced by partially opening and closing my tear-wet
eyelids. Then I began to investigate, and found that I
was not so very badly damaged by my fall. I had lost
some hair and hide, here and there; the sharp and
jagged end of a broken branch had thrust fully an inch
into my forearm; and my right hip, which had borne the
brunt of my contact with the ground, was aching
intolerably. But these, after all, were only petty
hurts. No bones were broken, and in those days the
flesh of man had finer healing qualities than it has
to-day. Yet it was a severe fall, for I limped with my
injured hip for fully a week afterward.
Next, as I lay in the bushes, there came upon me a
feeling of desolation, a consciousness that I was
homeless. I made up my mind never to return to my
mother and the Chatterer. I would go far away through
the terrible forest, and find some tree for myself in
which to roost. As for food, I knew where to find it.
For the last year at least I had not been beholden to
my mother for food. All she had furnished me was
protection and guidance.
I crawled softly out through the bushes. Once I looked
back and saw the Chatterer still chanting and
teetering. It was not a pleasant sight. I knew pretty
well how to be cautious, and I was exceedingly careful
on this my first journey in the world.
I gave no thought as to where I was going. I had but
one purpose, and that was to go away beyond the reach
of the Chatterer. I climbed into the trees and
wandered on amongst them for hours, passing from tree
to tree and never touching the ground. But I did not
go in any particular direction, nor did I travel
steadily. It was my nature, as it was the nature of all
my folk, to be inconsequential. Besides, I was a mere
child, and I stopped a great deal to play by the way.
The events that befell me on my leaving home are very
vague in my mind. My dreams do not cover them. Much
has my other-self forgotten, and particularly at this
very period. Nor have I been able to frame up the
various dreams so as to bridge the gap between my
leaving the home-tree and my arrival at the caves.
I remember that several times I came to open spaces.
These I crossed in great trepidation, descending to the
ground and running at the top of my speed. I remember
that there were days of rain and days of sunshine, so
that I must have wandered alone for quite a time. I
especially dream of my misery in the rain, and of my
sufferings from hunger and how I appeased it. One very
strong impression is of hunting little lizards on the
rocky top of an open knoll. They ran under the rocks,
and most of them escaped; but occasionally I turned
over a stone and caught one. I was frightened away
from this knoll by snakes. They did not pursue me.
They were merely basking on flat rocks in the sun. But
such was my inherited fear of them that I fled as fast
as if they had been after me.
Then I gnawed bitter bark from young trees. I remember
vaguely the eating of many green nuts, with soft shells
and milky kernels. And I remember most distinctly
suffering from a stomach-ache. It may have been caused
by the green nuts, and maybe by the lizards. I do not
know. But I do know that I was fortunate in not being
devoured during the several hours I was knotted up on
the ground with the colic.
My vision of the scene came abruptly, as I emerged from
the forest. I found myself on the edge of a large
clear space. On one side of this space rose up high
bluffs. On the other side was the river. The earth
bank ran steeply down to the water, but here and there,
in several places, where at some time slides of earth
had occurred, there were run-ways. These were the
drinking-places of the Folk that lived in the caves.
And this was the main abiding-place of the Folk that I
had chanced upon. This was, I may say, by stretching
the word, the village. My mother and the Chatterer and
I, and a few other simple bodies, were what might be
termed suburban residents. We were part of the horde,
though we lived a distance away from it. It was only a
short distance, though it had taken me, what of my
wandering, all of a week to arrive. Had I come
directly, I could have covered the trip in an hour.
But to return. From the edge of the forest I saw the
caves in the bluff, the open space, and the run-ways to
the drinking-places. And in the open space I saw many
of the Folk. I had been straying, alone and a child,
for a week. During that time I had seen not one of my
kind. I had lived in terror and desolation. And now,
at the sight of my kind, I was overcome with gladness,
and I ran wildly toward them.
Then it was that a strange thing happened. Some one of
the Folk saw me and uttered a warning cry. On the
instant, crying out with fear and panic, the Folk fled
away. Leaping and scrambling over the rocks, they
plunged into the mouths of the caves and
disappeared...all but one, a little baby, that had been
dropped in the excitement close to the base of the
bluff. He was wailing dolefully. His mother dashed
out; he sprang to meet her and held on tightly as she
scrambled back into the cave.
I was all alone. The populous open space had of a
sudden become deserted. I sat down forlornly and
whimpered. I could not understand. Why had the Folk
run away from me? In later time, when I came to know
their ways, I was to learn. When they saw me dashing
out of the forest at top speed they concluded that I
was being pursued by some hunting animal. By my
unceremonious approach I had stampeded them.
As I sat and watched the cave-mouths I became aware
that the Folk were watching me. Soon they were
thrusting their heads out. A little later they were
calling back and forth to one another. In the hurry
and confusion it had happened that all had not gained
their own caves. Some of the young ones had sought
refuge in other caves. The mothers did not call for
them by name, because that was an invention we had not
yet made. All were nameless. The mothers uttered
querulous, anxious cries, which were recognized by the
young ones. Thus, had my mother been there calling to
me, I should have recognized her voice amongst the
voices of a thousand mothers, and in the same way would
she have recognized mine amongst a thousand.
This calling back and forth continued for some time,
but they were too cautious to come out of their caves
and descend to the ground. Finally one did come. He
was destined to play a large part in my life, and for
that matter he already played a large part in the lives
of all the members of the horde. He it was whom I
shall call Red-Eye in the pages of this history--so
called because of his inflamed eyes, the lids being
always red, and, by the peculiar effect they produced,
seeming to advertise the terrible savagery of him. The
color of his soul was red.
He was a monster in all ways. Physically he was a
giant. He must have weighed one hundred and seventy
pounds. He was the largest one of our kind I ever saw.
Nor did I ever see one of the Fire People so large as
he, nor one of the Tree People. Sometimes, when in the
newspapers I happen upon descriptions of our modern
bruisers and prizefighters, I wonder what chance the
best of them would have had against him.
I am afraid not much of a chance. With one grip of his
iron fingers and a pull, he could have plucked a
muscle, say a biceps, by the roots, clear out of their
bodies. A back-handed, loose blow of his fist could
have smashed their skulls like egg-shells. With a sweep
of his wicked feet (or hind-hands) he could have
disembowelled them. A twist could have broken their
necks, and I know that with a single crunch of his jaws
he could have pierced, at the same moment, the great
vein of the throat in front and the spinal marrow at
He could spring twenty feet horizontally from a sitting
position. He was abominably hairy. It was a matter of
pride with us to be not very hairy. But he was covered
with hair all over, on the inside of the arms as well
as the outside, and even the ears themselves. The only
places on him where the hair did not grow were the
soles of his hands and feet and beneath his eyes. He
was frightfully ugly, his ferocious grinning mouth and
huge down-hanging under-lip being but in harmony with
his terrible eyes.
This was Red-Eye. And right gingerly he crept out or
his cave and descended to the ground. Ignoring me, he
proceeded to reconnoitre. He bent forward from the
hips as he walked; and so far forward did he bend, and
so long were his arms, that with every step he touched
the knuckles of his hands to the ground on either side
of him. He was awkward in the semi-erect position of
walking that he assumed, and he really touched his
knuckles to the ground in order to balance himself.
But oh, I tell you he could run on all-fours! Now this
was something at which we were particularly awkward.
Furthermore, it was a rare individual among us who
balanced himself with his knuckles when walking. Such
an individual was an atavism, and Red-Eye was an even
That is what he was--an atavism. We were in the
process of changing our tree-life to life on the
ground. For many generations we had been going through
this change, and our bodies and carriage had likewise
changed. But Red-Eye had reverted to the more
primitive tree-dwelling type. Perforce, because he was
born in our horde he stayed with us; but in actuality
he was an atavism and his place was elsewhere.
Very circumspect and very alert, he moved here and
there about the open space, peering through the vistas
among the trees and trying to catch a glimpse of the
hunting animal that all suspected had pursued me. And
while he did this, taking no notice of me, the Folk
crowded at the cave-mouths and watched.
At last he evidently decided that there was no danger
lurking about. He was returning from the head of the
run-way, from where he had taken a peep down at the
drinking-place. His course brought him near, but still
he did not notice me. He proceeded casually on his way
until abreast of me, and then, without warning and with
incredible swiftness, he smote me a buffet on the head.
I was knocked backward fully a dozen feet before I
fetched up against the ground, and I remember,
half-stunned, even as the blow was struck, hearing the
wild uproar of clucking and shrieking laughter that
arose from the caves. It was a great joke--at least in
that day; and right heartily the Folk appreciated it.
Thus was I received into the horde. Red-Eye paid no
further attention to me, and I was at liberty to
whimper and sob to my heart's content. Several of the
women gathered curiously about me, and I recognized
them. I had encountered them the preceding year when
my mother had taken me to the hazelnut canyons.
But they quickly left me alone, being replaced by a
dozen curious and teasing youngsters. They formed a
circle around me, pointing their fingers, making faces,
and poking and pinching me. I was frightened, and for
a time I endured them, then anger got the best of me
and I sprang tooth and nail upon the most audacious one
of them--none other than Lop-Ear himself. I have so
named him because he could prick up only one of his
ears. The other ear always hung limp and without
movement. Some accident had injured the muscles and
deprived him of the use of it.
He closed with me, and we went at it for all the world
like a couple of small boys fighting. We scratched and
bit, pulled hair, clinched, and threw each other down.
I remember I succeeded in getting on him what in my
college days I learned was called a half-Nelson. This
hold gave me the decided advantage. But I did not
enjoy it long. He twisted up one leg, and with the
foot (or hind-hand) made so savage an onslaught upon my
abdomen as to threaten to disembowel me. I had to
release him in order to save myself, and then we went
at it again.
Lop-Ear was a year older than I, but I was several
times angrier than he, and in the end he took to his
heels. I chased him across the open and down a run-way
to the river. But he was better acquainted with the
locality and ran along the edge of the water and up
another run-way. He cut diagonally across the open
space and dashed into a wide-mouthed cave.
Before I knew it, I had plunged after him into the
darkness. The next moment I was badly frightened. I
had never been in a cave before. I began to whimper
and cry out. Lop-Ear chattered mockingly at me, and,
springing upon me unseen, tumbled me over. He did not
risk a second encounter, however, and took himself off.
I was between him and the entrance, and he did not pass
me; yet he seemed to have gone away. I listened, but
could get no clew as to where he was. This puzzled me,
and when I regained the outside I sat down to watch.
He never came out of the entrance, of that I was
certain; yet at the end of several minutes he chuckled
at my elbow. Again I ran after him, and again he ran
into the cave; but this time I stopped at the mouth. I
dropped back a short distance and watched. He did not
come out, yet, as before, he chuckled at my elbow and
was chased by me a third time into the cave.
This performance was repeated several times. Then I
followed him into the cave, where I searched vainly for
him. I was curious. I could not understand how he
eluded me. Always he went into the cave, never did he
come out of it, yet always did he arrive there at my
elbow and mock me. Thus did our fight transform itself
into a game of hide and seek.
All afternoon, with occasional intervals, we kept it
up, and a playful, friendly spirit arose between us.
In the end, he did not run away from me, and we sat
together with our arms around each other. A little
later he disclosed the mystery of the wide-mouthed
cave. Holding me by the hand he led me inside. It
connected by a narrow crevice with another cave, and it
was through this that we regained the open air.
We were now good friends. When the other young ones
gathered around to tease, he joined with me in
attacking them; and so viciously did we behave that
before long I was let alone. Lop-Ear made me
acquainted with the village. There was little that he
could tell me of conditions and customs--he had not the
necessary vocabulary; but by observing his actions I
learned much, and also he showed me places and things.
He took me up the open space, between the caves and the
river, and into the forest beyond, where, in a grassy
place among the trees, we made a meal of stringy-rooted
carrots. After that we had a good drink at the river
and started up the run-way to the caves.
It was in the run-way that we came upon Red-Eye again.
The first I knew, Lop-Ear had shrunk away to one side
and was crouching low against the bank. Naturally and
involuntarily, I imitated him. Then it was that I
looked to see the cause of his fear. It was Red-Eye,
swaggering down the centre of the run-way and scowling
fiercely with his inflamed eyes. I noticed that all
the youngsters shrank away from him as we had done,
while the grown-ups regarded him with wary eyes when
he drew near, and stepped aside to give him the centre
of the path.
As twilight came on, the open space was deserted. The
Folk were seeking the safety of the caves. Lop-Ear led
the way to bed. High up the bluff we climbed, higher
than all the other caves, to a tiny crevice that could
not be seen from the ground. Into this Lop-Ear
squeezed. I followed with difficulty, so narrow was
the entrance, and found myself in a small rock-chamber.
It was very low--not more than a couple of feet in
height, and possibly three feet by four in width and
length. Here, cuddled together in each other's arms,
we slept out the night.
While the more courageous of the youngsters played in
and out of the large-mouthed caves, I early learned
that such caves were unoccupied. No one slept in them
at night. Only the crevice-mouthed caves were used,
the narrower the mouth the better. This was from fear
of the preying animals that made life a burden to us in
those days and nights.
The first morning, after my night's sleep with Lop-Ear,
I learned the advantage of the narrow-mouthed caves.
It was just daylight when old Saber-Tooth, the tiger,
walked into the open space. Two of the Folk were
already up. They made a rush for it. Whether they
were panic-stricken, or whether he was too close on
their heels for them to attempt to scramble up the
bluff to the crevices, I do not know; but at any rate
they dashed into the wide-mouthed cave wherein Lop-Ear
and I had played the afternoon before.
What happened inside there was no way of telling, but
it is fair to conclude that the two Folk slipped
through the connecting crevice into the other cave.
This crevice was too small to allow for the passage of
Saber-Tooth, and he came out the way he had gone in,
unsatisfied and angry. It was evident that his night's
hunting had been unsuccessful and that he had expected
to make a meal off of us. He caught sight of the two
Folk at the other cave-mouth and sprang for them. Of
course, they darted through the passageway into the
first cave. He emerged angrier than ever and snarling.
Pandemonium broke loose amongst the rest of us. All up
and down the great bluff, we crowded the crevices and
outside ledges, and we were all chattering and
shrieking in a thousand keys. And we were all making
faces--snarling faces; this was an instinct with us.
We were as angry as Saber-Tooth, though our anger was
allied with fear. I remember that I shrieked and made
faces with the best of them. Not only did they set the
example, but I felt the urge from within me to do the
same things they were doing. My hair was bristling,
and I was convulsed with a fierce, unreasoning rage.
For some time old Saber-Tooth continued dashing in and
out of first the one cave and then the other. But the
two Folk merely slipped back and forth through the
connecting crevice and eluded him. In the meantime the
rest of us up the bluff had proceeded to action. Every
time he appeared outside we pelted him with rocks. At
first we merely dropped them on him, but we soon began
to whiz them down with the added force of our muscles.
This bombardment drew Saber-Tooth's attention to us and
made him angrier than ever. He abandoned his pursuit
of the two Folk and sprang up the bluff toward the rest
of us, clawing at the crumbling rock and snarling as he
clawed his upward way. At this awful sight, the last
one of us sought refuge inside our caves. I know this,
because I peeped out and saw the whole bluff-side
deserted, save for Saber-Tooth, who had lost his
footing and was sliding and falling down.
I called out the cry of encouragement, and again the
bluff was covered by the screaming horde and the stones
were falling faster than ever. Saber-Tooth was frantic
with rage. Time and again he assaulted the bluff.
Once he even gained the first crevice-entrances before
he fell back, but was unable to force his way inside.
With each upward rush he made, waves of fear surged
over us. At first, at such times, most of us dashed
inside; but some remained outside to hammer him with
stones, and soon all of us remained outside and kept up
Never was so masterly a creature so completely baffled.
It hurt his pride terribly, thus to be outwitted by the
small and tender Folk. He stood on the ground and
looked up at us, snarling, lashing his tail, snapping
at the stones that fell near to him. Once I whizzed
down a stone, and just at the right moment he looked
up. It caught him full on the end of his nose, and he
went straight up in the air, all four feet of him,
roaring and caterwauling, what of the hurt and
He was beaten and he knew it. Recovering his dignity,
he stalked out solemnly from under the rain of stones.
He stopped in the middle of the open space and looked
wistfully and hungrily back at us. He hated to forego
the meal, and we were just so much meat, cornered but
inaccessible. This sight of him started us to
laughing. We laughed derisively and uproariously, all
of us. Now animals do not like mockery. To be laughed
at makes them angry. And in such fashion our laughter
affected Saber-Tooth. He turned with a roar and
charged the bluff again. This was what we wanted. The
fight had become a game, and we took huge delight in
But this attack did not last long. He quickly
recovered his common sense, and besides, our missiles
were shrewd to hurt. Vividly do I recollect the vision
of one bulging eye of his, swollen almost shut by one
of the stones we had thrown. And vividly do I retain
the picture of him as he stood on the edge of the
forest whither he had finally retreated. He was
looking back at us, his writhing lips lifted clear of
the very roots of his huge fangs, his hair bristling
and his tail lashing. He gave one last snarl and slid
from view among the trees.
And then such a chattering as went up. We swarmed out
of our holes, examining the marks his claws had made on
the crumbling rock of the bluff, all of us talking at
once. One of the two Folk who had been caught in the
double cave was part-grown, half child and half youth.
They had come out proudly from their refuge, and we
surrounded them in an admiring crowd. Then the young
fellow's mother broke through and fell upon him in a
tremendous rage, boxing his ears, pulling his hair, and
shrieking like a demon. She was a strapping big woman,
very hairy, and the thrashing she gave him was a
delight to the horde. We roared with laughter, holding
on to one another or rolling on the ground in our glee.
In spite of the reign of fear under which we lived, the
Folk were always great laughers. We had the sense of
humor. Our merriment was Gargantuan. It was never
restrained. There was nothing half way about it. When
a thing was funny we were convulsed with appreciation
of it, and the simplest, crudest things were funny to
us. Oh, we were great laughers, I can tell you.
The way we had treated Saber-Tooth was the way we
treated all animals that invaded the village. We kept
our run-ways and drinking-places to ourselves by making
life miserable for the animals that trespassed or
strayed upon our immediate territory. Even the fiercest
hunting animals we so bedevilled that they learned to
leave our places alone. We were not fighters like
them; we were cunning and cowardly, and it was because
of our cunning and cowardice, and our inordinate
capacity for fear, that we survived in that frightfully
hostile environment of the Younger World.
Lop-Ear, I figure, was a year older than I. What his
past history was he had no way of telling me, but as I
never saw anything of his mother I believed him to be
an orphan. After all, fathers did not count in our
horde. Marriage was as yet in a rude state, and
couples had a way of quarrelling and separating.
Modern man, what of his divorce institution, does the
same thing legally. But we had no laws. Custom was
all we went by, and our custom in this particular
matter was rather promiscuous .
Nevertheless, as this narrative will show later on, we
betrayed glimmering adumbrations of the monogamy that
was later to give power to, and make mighty, such
tribes as embraced it. Furthermore, even at the time I
was born, there were several faithful couples that
lived in the trees in the neighborhood of my mother.
Living in the thick of the horde did not conduce to
monogamy. It was for this reason, undoubtedly, that
the faithful couples went away and lived by themselves.
Through many years these couples stayed together,
though when the man or woman died or was eaten the
survivor invariably found a new mate.
There was one thing that greatly puzzled me during the
first days of my residence in the horde. There was a
nameless and incommunicable fear that rested upon all.
At first it appeared to be connected wholly with
direction. The horde feared the northeast. It lived
in perpetual apprehension of that quarter of the
compass. And every individual gazed more frequently
and with greater alarm in that direction than in any
When Lop-Ear and I went toward the north-east to eat
the stringy-rooted carrots that at that season were at
their best, he became unusually timid. He was content
to eat the leavings, the big tough carrots and the
little ropy ones, rather than to venture a short
distance farther on to where the carrots were as yet
untouched. When I so ventured, he scolded me and
quarrelled with me. He gave me to understand that in
that direction was some horrible danger, but just what
the horrible danger was his paucity of language would
not permit him to say.
Many a good meal I got in this fashion, while he
scolded and chattered vainly at me. I could not
understand. I kept very alert, but I could see no
danger. I calculated always the distance between
myself and the nearest tree, and knew that to that
haven of refuge I could out-foot the Tawny One, or old
Saber-Tooth, did one or the other suddenly appear.
One late afternoon, in the village, a great uproar
arose. The horde was animated with a single emotion,
that of fear. The bluff-side swarmed with the Folk,
all gazing and pointing into the northeast. I did not
know what it was, but I scrambled all the way up to the
safety of my own high little cave before ever I turned
around to see.
And then, across the river, away into the northeast, I
saw for the first time the mystery of smoke. It was
the biggest animal I had ever seen. I thought it was a
monster snake, up-ended, rearing its head high above
the trees and swaying back and forth. And yet,
somehow, I seemed to gather from the conduct of the
Folk that the smoke itself was not the danger. They
appeared to fear it as the token of something else.
What this something else was I was unable to guess.
Nor could they tell me. Yet I was soon to know, and I
was to know it as a thing more terrible than the Tawny
One, than old Saber-Tooth, than the snakes themselves,
than which it seemed there could be no things more
Broken-Tooth was another youngster who lived by
himself. His mother lived in the caves, but two more
children had come after him and he had been thrust out
to shift for himself. We had witnessed the performance
during the several preceding days, and it had given us
no little glee. Broken-Tooth did not want to go, and
every time his mother left the cave he sneaked back
into it. When she returned and found him there her
rages were delightful. Half the horde made a practice
of watching for these moments. First, from within the
cave, would come her scolding and shrieking. Then we
could hear sounds of the thrashing and the yelling of
Broken-Tooth. About this time the two younger children
joined in. And finally, like the eruption of a
miniature volcano, Broken-Tooth would come flying out.
At the end of several days his leaving home was
accomplished. He wailed his grief, unheeded, from the
centre of the open space, for at least half an hour,
and then came to live with Lop-Ear and me. Our cave was
small, but with squeezing there was room for three. I
have no recollection of Broken-Tooth spending more than
one night with us, so the accident must have happened
It came in the middle of the day. In the morning we
had eaten our fill of the carrots, and then, made
heedless by play, we had ventured on to the big trees
just beyond. I cannot understand how Lop-Ear got over
his habitual caution, but it must have been the play.
We were having a great time playing tree tag. And such
tag! We leaped ten or fifteen-foot gaps as a matter of
course. And a twenty or twenty-five foot deliberate
drop clear down to the ground was nothing to us. In
fact, I am almost afraid to say the great distances we
dropped. As we grew older and heavier we found we had
to be more cautious in dropping, but at that age our
bodies were all strings and springs and we could do
Broken-Tooth displayed remarkable agility in the game.
He was "It" less frequently than any of us, and in the
course of the game he discovered one difficult "slip"
that neither Lop-Ear nor I was able to accomplish. To
be truthful, we were afraid to attempt it.
When we were "It," Broken-Tooth always ran out to the
end of a lofty branch in a certain tree. From the end
of the branch to the ground it must have been seventy
feet, and nothing intervened to break a fall. But
about twenty feet lower down, and fully fifteen feet
out from the perpendicular, was the thick branch of
As we ran out the limb, Broken-Tooth, facing us, would
begin teetering. This naturally impeded our progress;
but there was more in the teetering than that. He
teetered with his back to the jump he was to make.
Just as we nearly reached him he would let go. The
teetering branch was like a spring-board. It threw him
far out, backward, as he fell. And as he fell he
turned around sidewise in the air so as to face the
other branch into which he was falling. This branch
bent far down under the impact, and sometimes there was
an ominous crackling; but it never broke, and out of
the leaves was always to be seen the face of
Broken-Tooth grinning triumphantly up at us.
I was "It" the last time Broken-Tooth tried this. He
had gained the end of the branch and begun his
teetering, and I was creeping out after him, when
suddenly there came a low warning cry from Lop-Ear. I
looked down and saw him in the main fork of the tree
crouching close against the trunk. Instinctively I
crouched down upon the thick limb. Broken-Tooth
stopped teetering, but the branch would not stop, and
his body continued bobbing up and down with the
I heard the crackle of a dry twig, and looking down saw
my first Fire-Man. He was creeping stealthily along on
the ground and peering up into the tree. At first I
thought he was a wild animal, because he wore around
his waist and over his shoulders a ragged piece of
bearskin. And then I saw his hands and feet, and more
clearly his features. He was very much like my kind,
except that he was less hairy and that his feet were
less like hands than ours. In fact, he and his people,
as I was later to know, were far less hairy than we,
though we, in turn, were equally less hairy than the
It came to me instantly, as I looked at him. This was
the terror of the northeast, of which the mystery of
smoke was a token. Yet I was puzzled. Certainly he
was nothing; of which to be afraid. Red-Eye or any of
our strong men would have been more than a match for
him. He was old, too, wizened with age, and the hair
on his face was gray. Also, he limped badly with one
leg. There was no doubt at all that we could out-run
him and out-climb him. He could never catch us, that
But he carried something in his hand that I had never
seen before. It was a bow and arrow. But at that time
a bow and arrow had no meaning for me. How was I to
know that death lurked in that bent piece of wood? But
Lop-Ear knew. He had evidently seen the Fire People
before and knew something of their ways. The Fire-Man
peered up at him and circled around the tree. And
around the main trunk above the fork Lop-Ear circled
too, keeping always the trunk between himself and the
The latter abruptly reversed his circling. Lop-Ear,
caught unawares, also hastily reversed, but did not win
the protection of the trunk until after the Fire-Man
had twanged the bow.
I saw the arrow leap up, miss Lop-Ear, glance against a
limb, and fall back to the ground. I danced up and
down on my lofty perch with delight. It was a game!
The Fire-Man was throwing things at Lop-Ear as we
sometimes threw things at one another.
The game continued a little longer, but Lop-Ear did not
expose himself a second time. Then the Fire-Man gave
it up. I leaned far out over my horizontal limb and
chattered down at him. I wanted to play. I wanted to
have him try to hit me with the thing. He saw me, but
ignored me, turning his attention to Broken-Tooth, who
was still teetering slightly and involuntarily on the
end of the branch.
The first arrow leaped upward. Broken-Tooth yelled
with fright and pain. It had reached its mark. This
put a new complexion on the matter. I no longer cared
to play, but crouched trembling close to my limb. A
second arrow and a third soared up, missing
Broken-Tooth, rustling the leaves as they passed
through, arching in their flight and returning to
The Fire-Man stretched his bow again. He shifted his
position, walking away several steps, then shifted it a
second time. The bow-string twanged, the arrow leaped
upward, and Broken-Tooth, uttering a terrible scream,
fell off the branch. I saw him as he went down,
turning over and over, all arms and legs it seemed, the
shaft of the arrow projecting from his chest and
appearing and disappearing with each revolution of his
Sheer down, screaming, seventy feet he fell, smashing
to the earth with an audible thud and crunch, his body
rebounding slightly and settling down again. Still he
lived, for he moved and squirmed, clawing with his
hands and feet. I remember the Fire-Man running
forward with a stone and hammering him on the
head...and then I remember no more.
Always, during my childhood, at this stage of the
dream, did I wake up screaming with fright--to find,
often, my mother or nurse, anxious and startled, by my
bedside, passing soothing hands through my hair and
telling me that they were there and that there was
nothing to fear.
My next dream, in the order of succession, begins
always with the flight of Lop-Ear and myself through
the forest. The Fire-Man and Broken-Tooth and the tree
of the tragedy are gone. Lop-Ear and I, in a cautious
panic, are fleeing through the trees. In my right leg
is a burning pain; and from the flesh, protruding head
and shaft from either side, is an arrow of the
Fire-Man. Not only did the pull and strain of it pain
me severely, but it bothered my movements and made it
impossible for me to keep up with Lop-Ear.
At last I gave up, crouching in the secure fork of a
tree. Lop-Ear went right on. I called to him--most
plaintively, I remember; and he stopped and looked
back. Then he returned to me, climbing into the fork
and examining the arrow. He tried to pull it out, but
one way the flesh resisted the barbed lead, and the
other way it resisted the feathered shaft. Also, it
hurt grievously, and I stopped him.
For some time we crouched there, Lop-Ear nervous and
anxious to be gone, perpetually and apprehensively
peering this way and that, and myself whimpering softly
and sobbing. Lop-Ear was plainly in a funk, and yet
his conduct in remaining by me, in spite of his fear, I
take as a foreshadowing of the altruism and comradeship
that have helped make man the mightiest of the animals.
Once again Lop-Ear tried to drag the arrow through the
flesh, and I angrily stopped him. Then he bent down
and began gnawing the shaft of the arrow with his
teeth. As he did so he held the arrow firmly in both
hands so that it would not play about in the wound, and
at the same time I held on to him. I often meditate
upon this scene--the two of us, half-grown cubs, in the
childhood of the race, and the one mastering his fear,
beating down his selfish impulse of flight, in order to
stand by and succor the other. And there rises up
before me all that was there foreshadowed, and I see
visions of Damon and Pythias, of life-saving crews and
Red Cross nurses, of martyrs and leaders of forlorn
hopes, of Father Damien, and of the Christ himself, and
of all the men of earth, mighty of stature, whose
strength may trace back to the elemental loins of
Lop-Ear and Big-Tooth and other dim denizens of the
When Lop-Ear had chewed off the head of the arrow, the
shaft was withdrawn easily enough. I started to go on,
but this time it was he that stopped me. My leg was
bleeding profusely. Some of the smaller veins had
doubtless been ruptured. Running out to the end of a
branch, Lop-Ear gathered a handful of green leaves.
These he stuffed into the wound. They accomplished the
purpose, for the bleeding soon stopped. Then we went
on together, back to the safety of the caves.
Well do I remember that first winter after I left home.
I have long dreams of sitting shivering in the cold.
Lop-Ear and I sit close together, with our arms and
legs about each other, blue-faced and with chattering
teeth. It got particularly crisp along toward morning.
In those chill early hours we slept little, huddling
together in numb misery and waiting for the sunrise in
order to get warm.
When we went outside there was a crackle of frost under
foot. One morning we discovered ice on the surface of
the quiet water in the eddy where was the
drinking-place, and there was a great How-do-you-do
about it. Old Marrow-Bone was the oldest member of the
horde, and he had never seen anything like it before.
I remember the worried, plaintive look that came into
his eyes as he examined the ice. (This plaintive look
always came into our eyes when we did not understand a
thing, or when we felt the prod of some vague and
inexpressible desire.) Red-Eye, too, when he
investigated the ice, looked bleak and plaintive, and
stared across the river into the northeast, as though
in some way he connected the Fire People with this
But we found ice only on that one morning, and that was
the coldest winter we experienced. I have no memory of
other winters when it was so cold. I have often
thought that that cold winter was a fore-runner of the
countless cold winters to come, as the ice-sheet from
farther north crept down over the face of the land. But
we never saw that ice-sheet. Many generations must
have passed away before the descendants of the horde
migrated south, or remained and adapted themselves to
the changed conditions.
Life was hit or miss and happy-go-lucky with us.
Little was ever planned, and less was executed. We ate
when we were hungry, drank when we were thirsty,
avoided our carnivorous enemies, took shelter in the
caves at night, and for the rest just sort of played
along through life.
We were very curious, easily amused, and full of tricks
and pranks. There was no seriousness about us, except
when we were in danger or were angry, in which cases
the one was quickly forgotten and the other as quickly
We were inconsecutive, illogical, and inconsequential.
We had no steadfastness of purpose, and it was here
that the Fire People were ahead of us. They possessed
all these things of which we possessed so little.
Occasionally, however, especially in the realm of the
emotions, we were capable of long-cherished purpose.
The faithfulness of the monogamic couples I have
referred to may be explained as a matter of habit; but
my long desire for the Swift One cannot be so
explained, any more than can be explained the undying
enmity between me and Red-Eye.
But it was our inconsequentiality and stupidity that
especially distresses me when I look back upon that
life in the long ago. Once I found a broken gourd which
happened to lie right side up and which had been filled
with the rain. The water was sweet, and I drank it. I
even took the gourd down to the stream and filled it
with more water, some of which I drank and some of
which I poured over Lop-Ear. And then I threw the
gourd away. It never entered my head to fill the gourd
with water and carry it into my cave. Yet often I was
thirsty at night, especially after eating wild onions
and watercress, and no one ever dared leave the caves
at night for a drink.
Another time I found a dry; gourd, inside of which the
seeds rattled. I had fun with it for a while. But it
was a play thing, nothing more. And yet, it was not
long after this that the using of gourds for storing
water became the general practice of the horde. But I
was not the inventor. The honor was due to old
Marrow-Bone, and it is fair to assume that it was the
necessity of his great age that brought about the
At any rate, the first member of the horde to use
gourds was Marrow-Bone. He kept a supply of
drinking-water in his cave, which cave belonged to his
son, the Hairless One, who permitted him to occupy a
corner of it. We used to see Marrow-Bone filling his
gourd at the drinking-place and carrying it carefully
up to his cave. Imitation was strong in the Folk, and
first one, and then another and another, procured a
gourd and used it in similar fashion, until it was a
general practice with all of us so to store water.
Sometimes old Marrow-Bone had sick spells and was
unable to leave the cave. Then it was that the
Hairless One filled the gourd for him. A little later,
the Hairless One deputed the task to Long-Lip, his
son. And after that, even when Marrow-Bone was well
again, Long-Lip continued carrying water for him. By
and by, except on unusual occasions, the men never
carried any water at all, leaving the task to the women
and larger children. Lop-Ear and I were independent.
We carried water only for ourselves, and we often
mocked the young water-carriers when they were called
away from play to fill the gourds.
Progress was slow with us. We played through life,
even the adults, much in the same way that children
play, and we played as none of the other animals
played. What little we learned, was usually in the
course of play, and was due to our curiosity and
keenness of appreciation. For that matter, the one big
invention of the horde, during the time I lived with
it, was the use of gourds. At first we stored only
water in the gourds--in imitation of old Marrow-Bone.
But one day some one of the women--I do not know which
one--filled a gourd with black-berries and carried it
to her cave. In no time all the women were carrying
berries and nuts and roots in the gourds. The idea,
once started, had to go on. Another evolution of the
carrying-receptacle was due to the women. Without
doubt, some woman's gourd was too small, or else she
had forgotten her gourd; but be that as it may, she
bent two great leaves together, pinning the seams with
twigs, and carried home a bigger quantity of berries
than could have been contained in the largest gourd.
So far we got, and no farther, in the transportation of
supplies during the years I lived with the Folk. It
never entered anybody's head to weave a basket out of
willow-withes. Sometimes the men and women tied tough
vines about the bundles of ferns and branches that they
carried to the caves to sleep upon. Possibly in ten or
twenty generations we might have worked up to the
weaving of baskets. And of this, one thing is sure: if
once we wove withes into baskets, the next and
inevitable step would have been the weaving of cloth.
Clothes would have followed, and with covering our
nakedness would have come modesty.
Thus was momentum gained in the Younger World. But we
were without this momentum. We were just getting
started, and we could not go far in a single
generation. We were without weapons, without fire, and
in the raw beginnings of speech. The device of writing
lay so far in the future that I am appalled when I
think of it.
Even I was once on the verge of a great discovery. To
show you how fortuitous was development in those days
let me state that had it not been for the gluttony of
Lop-Ear I might have brought about the domestication of
the dog. And this was something that the Fire People
who lived to the northeast had not yet achieved. They
were without dogs; this I knew from observation. But
let me tell you how Lop-Ear's gluttony possibly set
back our social development many generations.
Well to the west of our caves was a great swamp, but to
the south lay a stretch of low, rocky hills. These
were little frequented for two reasons. First of all,
there was no food there of the kind we ate; and next,
those rocky hills were filled with the lairs of
But Lop-Ear and I strayed over to the hills one day.
We would not have strayed had we not been teasing a
tiger. Please do not laugh. It was old Saber-Tooth
himself. We were perfectly safe. We chanced upon him
in the forest, early in the morning, and from the
safety of the branches overhead we chattered down at
him our dislike and hatred. And from branch to branch,
and from tree to tree, we followed overhead, making an
infernal row and warning all the forest-dwellers that
old Saber-Tooth was coming.
We spoiled his hunting for him, anyway. And we made
him good and angry. He snarled at us and lashed his
tail, and sometimes he paused and stared up at us
quietly for a long time, as if debating in his mind
some way by which he could get hold of us. But we only
laughed and pelted him with twigs and the ends of
This tiger-baiting was common sport among the folk.
Sometimes half the horde would follow from overhead a
tiger or lion that had ventured out in the daytime. It
was our revenge; for more than one member of the horde,
caught unexpectedly, had gone the way of the tiger's
belly or the lion's. Also, by such ordeals of
helplessness and shame, we taught the hunting animals
to some extent to keep out of our territory. And then
it was funny. It was a great game.
And so Lop-Ear and I had chased Saber-Tooth across
three miles of forest. Toward the last he put his tail
between his legs and fled from our gibing like a beaten
cur. We did our best to keep up with him; but when we
reached the edge of the forest he was no more than a
streak in the distance.
I don't know what prompted us, unless it was curiosity;
but after playing around awhile, Lop-Ear and I ventured
across the open ground to the edge of the rocky hills.
We did not go far. Possibly at no time were we more
than a hundred yards from the trees. Coming around a
sharp corner of rock (we went very carefully, because
we did not know what we might encounter), we came upon
three puppies playing in the sun.
They did not see us, and we watched them for some time.
They were wild dogs. In the rock-wall was a horizontal
fissure--evidently the lair where their mother had left
them, and where they should have remained had they been
obedient. But the growing life, that in Lop-Ear and me
had impelled us to venture away from the forest, had
driven the puppies out of the cave to frolic. I know
how their mother would have punished them had she
But it was Lop-Ear and I who caught them. He looked at
me, and then we made a dash for it. The puppies knew
no place to run except into the lair, and we headed
them off. One rushed between my legs. I squatted and
grabbed him. He sank his sharp little teeth into my
arm, and I dropped him in the suddenness of the hurt
and surprise. The next moment he had scurried inside.
Lop-Ear, struggling with the second puppy, scowled at
me and intimated by a variety of sounds the different
kinds of a fool and a bungler that I was. This made me
ashamed and spurred me to valor. I grabbed the
remaining puppy by the tail. He got his teeth into me
once, and then I got him by the nape of the neck.
Lop-Ear and I sat down, and held the puppies up, and
looked at them, and laughed.
They were snarling and yelping and crying. Lop-Ear
started suddenly. He thought he had heard something.
We looked at each other in fear, realizing the danger
of our position. The one thing that made animals
raging demons was tampering with their young. And
these puppies that made such a racket belonged to the
wild dogs. Well we knew them, running in packs, the
terror of the grass-eating animals. We had watched
them following the herds of cattle and bison and
dragging down the calves, the aged, and the sick. We
had been chased by them ourselves, more than once. I
had seen one of the Folk, a woman, run down by them and
caught just as she reached the shelter of the woods.
Had she not been tired out by the run, she might have
made it into a tree. She tried, and slipped, and fell
back. They made short work of her.
We did not stare at each other longer than a moment.
Keeping tight hold of our prizes, we ran for the woods.
Once in the security of a tall tree, we held up the
puppies and laughed again. You see, we had to have our
laugh out, no matter what happened.
And then began one of the hardest tasks I ever
attempted. We started to carry the puppies to our
cave. Instead of using our hands for climbing, most of
the time they were occupied with holding our squirming
captives. Once we tried to walk on the ground, but
were treed by a miserable hyena, who followed along
underneath. He was a wise hyena.
Lop-Ear got an idea. He remembered how we tied up
bundles of leaves to carry home for beds. Breaking off
some tough vines, he tied his puppy's legs together,
and then, with another piece of vine passed around his
neck, slung the puppy on his back. This left him with
hands and feet free to climb. He was jubilant, and did
not wait for me to finish tying my puppy's legs, but
started on. There was one difficulty, however. The
puppy wouldn't stay slung on Lop-Ear's back. It swung
around to the side and then on in front. Its teeth
were not tied, and the next thing it did was to sink
its teeth into Lop-Ear's soft and unprotected stomach.
He let out a scream, nearly fell, and clutched a branch
violently with both hands to save himself. The vine
around his neck broke, and the puppy, its four legs
still tied, dropped to the ground. The hyena proceeded
Lop-Ear was disgusted and angry. He abused the hyena,
and then went off alone through the trees. I had no
reason that I knew for wanting to carry the puppy to
the cave, except that I WANTED to; and I stayed by my
task. I made the work a great deal easier by
elaborating on Lop-Ear's idea. Not only did I tie the
puppy's legs, but I thrust a stick through his jaws and
tied them together securely.
At last I got the puppy home. I imagine I had more
pertinacity than the average Folk, or else I should not
have succeeded. They laughed at me when they saw me
lugging the puppy up to my high little cave, but I did
not mind. Success crowned my efforts, and there was
the puppy. He was a plaything such as none of the Folk
possessed. He learned rapidly. When I played with him
and he bit me, I boxed his ears, and then he did not
try again to bite for a long time.
I was quite taken up with him. He was something new,
and it was a characteristic of the Folk to like new
things. When I saw that he refused fruits and
vegetables, I caught birds for him and squirrels and
young rabbits. (We Folk were meat-eaters, as well as
vegetarians, and we were adept at catching small game.)
The puppy ate the meat and thrived. As well as I can
estimate, I must have had him over a week. And then,
coming back to the cave one day with a nestful of
young-hatched pheasants, I found Lop-Ear had killed the
puppy and was just beginning to eat him. I sprang for
Lop-Ear,--the cave was small,--and we went at it tooth
And thus, in a fight, ended one of the earliest
attempts to domesticate the dog. We pulled hair out in
handfuls, and scratched and bit and gouged. Then we
sulked and made up. After that we ate the puppy. Raw?
Yes. We had not yet discovered fire. Our evolution
into cooking animals lay in the tight-rolled scroll of
Red-Eye was an atavism. He was the great discordant
element in our horde. He was more primitive than any
of us. He did not belong with us, yet we were still so
primitive ourselves that we were incapable of a
cooperative effort strong enough to kill him or cast
him out. Rude as was our social organization, he was,
nevertheless, too rude to live in it. He tended always
to destroy the horde by his unsocial acts. He was
really a reversion to an earlier type, and his place
was with the Tree People rather than with us who were
in the process of becoming men.
He was a monster of cruelty, which is saying a great
deal in that day. He beat his wives--not that he ever
had more than one wife at a time, but that he was
married many times. It was impossible for any woman to
live with him, and yet they did live with him, out of
compulsion. There was no gainsaying him.
No man was strong enough to stand against him.
Often do I have visions of the quiet hour before the
twilight. From drinking-place and carrot patch and
berry swamp the Folk are trooping into the open space
before the caves. They dare linger no later than this,
for the dreadful darkness is approaching, in which the
world is given over to the carnage of the hunting
animals, while the fore-runners of man hide tremblingly
in their holes.
There yet remain to us a few minutes before we climb to
our caves. We are tired from the play of the day, and
the sounds we make are subdued. Even the cubs, still
greedy for fun and antics, play with restraint. The
wind from the sea has died down, and the shadows are
lengthening with the last of the sun's descent. And
then, suddenly, from Red-Eye's cave, breaks a wild
screaming and the sound of blows. He is beating his
At first an awed silence comes upon us. But as the
blows and screams continue we break out into an insane
gibbering of helpless rage. It is plain that the men
resent Red-Eye's actions, but they are too afraid of
him. The blows cease, and a low groaning dies away,
while we chatter among ourselves and the sad twilight
creeps upon us.
We, to whom most happenings were jokes, never laughed
during Red-Eye's wife-beatings. We knew too well the
tragedy of them. On more than one morning, at the base
of the cliff, did we find the body of his latest wife.
He had tossed her there, after she had died, from his
cave-mouth. He never buried his dead. The task of
carrying away the bodies, that else would have polluted
our abiding-place, he left to the horde. We usually
flung them into the river below the last
Not alone did Red-Eye murder his wives, but he also
murdered for his wives, in order to get them. When he
wanted a new wife and selected the wife of another man,
he promptly killed that man. Two of these murders I saw
myself. The whole horde knew, but could do nothing.
We had not yet developed any government, to speak of,
inside the horde. We had certain customs and visited
our wrath upon the unlucky ones who violated those
customs. Thus, for example, the individual who defiled
a drinking-place would be attacked by every onlooker,
while one who deliberately gave a false alarm was the
recipient of much rough usage at our hands. But Red-Eye
walked rough-shod over all our customs, and we so
feared him that we were incapable of the collective
action necessary to punish him.
It was during the sixth winter in our cave that Lop-Ear
and I discovered that we were really growing up. From
the first it had been a squeeze to get in through the
entrance-crevice. This had had its advantages,
however. It had prevented the larger Folk from taking
our cave away from us. And it was a most desirable
cave, the highest on the bluff, the safest, and in
winter the smallest and warmest.
To show the stage of the mental development of the
Folk, I may state that it would have been a simple
thing for some of them to have driven us out and
enlarged the crevice-opening. But they never thought
of it. Lop-Ear and I did not think of it either until
our increasing size compelled us to make an
enlargement. This occurred when summer was well along
and we were fat with better forage. We worked at the
crevice in spells, when the fancy struck us.
At first we dug the crumbling rocks away with our
fingers, until our nails got sore, when I accidentally
stumbled upon the idea of using a piece of wood on the
rock. This worked well. Also it worked woe. One
morning early, we had scratched out of the wall quite a
heap of fragments. I gave the heap a shove over the
lip of the entrance. The next moment there came up
from below a howl of rage. There was no need to look.
We knew the voice only too well. The rubbish had
descended upon Red-Eye.
We crouched down in the cave in consternation. A
minute later he was at the entrance, peering in at us
with his inflamed eyes and raging like a demon. But he
was too large. He could not get in to us. Suddenly he
went away. This was suspicious. By all we knew of
Folk nature he should have remained and had out his
rage. I crept to the entrance and peeped down. I could
see him just beginning to mount the bluff again. In
one hand he carried a long stick. Before I could
divine his plan, he was back at the entrance and
savagely jabbing the stick in at us.
His thrusts were prodigious. They could have
disembowelled us. We shrank back against the
side-walls, where we were almost out of range. But by
industrious poking he got us now and again--cruel,
scraping jabs with the end of the stick that raked off
the hide and hair. When we screamed with the hurt, he
roared his satisfaction and jabbed the harder.
I began to grow angry. I had a temper of my own in
those days, and pretty considerable courage, too,
albeit it was largely the courage of the cornered rat.
I caught hold of the stick with my hands, but such was
his strength that he jerked me into the crevice. He
reached for me with his long arm, and his nails tore my
flesh as I leaped back from the clutch and gained the
comparative safety of the side-wall.
He began poking again, and caught me a painful blow on
the shoulder. Beyond shivering with fright and yelling
when he was hit, Lop-Ear did nothing. I looked for a
stick with which to jab back, but found only the end of
a branch, an inch through and a foot long. I threw
this at Red-Eye. It did no damage, though he howled
with a sudden increase of rage at my daring to strike
back. He began jabbing furiously. I found a fragment
of rock and threw it at him, striking him on the chest.
This emboldened me, and, besides, I was now as angry as
he, and had lost all fear. I ripped fragment of rock
from the wall. The piece must have weighed two or
three pounds. With my strength I slammed it full into
Red-Eye's face. It nearly finished him. He staggered
backward, dropping his stick, and almost fell off the
He was a ferocious sight. His face was covered with
blood, and he was snarling and gnashing his fangs like
a wild boar. He wiped the blood from his eyes, caught
sight of me, and roared with fury. His stick was gone,
so he began ripping out chunks of crumbling rock and
throwing them in at me. This supplied me with
ammunition. I gave him as good as he sent, and better;
for he presented a good target, while he caught only
glimpses of me as I snuggled against the side-wall.
Suddenly he disappeared again. From the lip of the
cave I saw him descending. All the horde had gathered
outside and in awed silence was looking on. As he
descended, the more timid ones scurried for their
caves. I could see old Marrow-Bone tottering along as
fast as he could. Red-Eye sprang out from the wall and
finished the last twenty feet through the air. He
landed alongside a mother who was just beginning the
ascent. She screamed with fear, and the two-year-old
child that was clinging to her released its grip and
rolled at Red-Eye's feet. Both he and the mother
reached for it, and he got it. The next moment the
frail little body had whirled through the air and
shattered against the wall. The mother ran to it,
caught it up in her arms, and crouched over it crying.
Red-Eye started over to pick up the stick. Old
Marrow-Bone had tottered into his way. Red-Eye's great
hand shot out and clutched the old man by the back of
the neck. I looked to see his neck broken. His body
went limp as he surrendered himself to his fate.
Red-Eye hesitated a moment, and Marrow-Bone, shivering
terribly, bowed his head and covered his face with his
crossed arms. Then Red-Eye slammed him face-downward
to the ground. Old Marrow-Bone did not struggle. He
lay there crying with the fear of death. I saw the
Hairless One, out in the open space, beating his chest
and bristling, but afraid to come forward. And then,
in obedience to some whim of his erratic spirit,
Red-Eye let the old man alone and passed on and
recovered the stick.
He returned to the wall and began to climb up.
Lop-Ear, who was shivering and peeping alongside of me,
scrambled back into the cave. It was plain that
Red-Eye was bent upon murder. I was desperate and
angry and fairly cool. Running back and forth along
the neighboring ledges, I gathered a heap of rocks at
the cave-entrance. Red-Eye was now several yards
beneath me, concealed for the moment by an out-jut of
the cliff. As he climbed, his head came into view, and
I banged a rock down. It missed, striking the wall and
shattering; but the flying dust and grit filled his
eyes and he drew back out of view.
A chuckling and chattering arose from the horde, that
played the part of audience. At last there was one of
the Folk who dared to face Red-Eye. As their approval
and acclamation arose on the air, Red-Eye snarled down
at them, and on the instant they were subdued to
silence. Encouraged by this evidence of his power, he
thrust his head into view, and by scowling and snarling
and gnashing his fangs tried to intimidate me. He
scowled horribly, contracting the scalp strongly over
the brows and bringing the hair down from the top of
the head until each hair stood apart and pointed
The sight chilled me, but I mastered my fear, and, with
a stone poised in my hand, threatened him back. He
still tried to advance. I drove the stone down at him
and made a sheer miss. The next shot was a success.
The stone struck him on the neck. He slipped back out
of sight, but as he disappeared I could see him
clutching for a grip on the wall with one hand, and
with the other clutching at his throat. The stick fell
clattering to the ground.
I could not see him any more, though I could hear him
choking and strangling and coughing. The audience kept
a death-like silence. I crouched on the lip of the
entrance and waited. The strangling and coughing died
down, and I could hear him now and again clearing his
throat. A little later he began to climb down. He
went very quietly, pausing every moment or so to
stretch his neck or to feel it with his hand.
At the sight of him descending, the whole horde, with
wild screams and yells, stampeded for the woods. Old
Marrow-Bone, hobbling and tottering, followed behind.
Red-Eye took no notice of the flight. When he reached
the ground he skirted the base of the bluff and climbed
up and into his own cave. He did not look around once.
I stared at Lop-Ear, and he stared back. We understood
each other. Immediately, and with great caution and
quietness, we began climbing up the cliff. When we
reached the top we looked back. The abiding-place was
deserted, Red-Eye remained in his cave, and the horde
had disappeared in the depths of the forest.
We turned and ran. We dashed across the open spaces
and down the slopes unmindful of possible snakes in the
grass, until we reached the woods. Up into the trees
we went, and on and on, swinging our arboreal flight
until we had put miles between us and the caves. And
then, and not till then, in the security of a great
fork, we paused, looked at each other, and began to
laugh. We held on to each other, arms and legs, our
eyes streaming tears, our ,sides aching, and laughed
and laughed and laughed.
After we had had out our laugh, Lop-Ear and I curved
back in our flight and got breakfast in the blueberry
swamp. It was the same swamp to which I had made my
first journeys in the world, years before, accompanied
by my mother. I had seen little of her in the
intervening time. Usually, when she visited the horde
at the caves, I was away in the forest. I had once or
twice caught glimpses of the Chatterer in the open
space, and had had the pleasure of making faces at him
and angering him from the mouth of my cave. Beyond
such amenities I had left my family severely alone. I
was not much interested in it, and anyway I was doing
very well by myself.
After eating our fill of berries, with two nestfuls of
partly hatched quail-eggs for dessert, Lop-Ear and I
wandered circumspectly into the woods toward the river.
Here was where stood my old home-tree, out of which I
had been thrown by the Chatterer. It was still
occupied. There had been increase in the family.
Clinging tight to my mother was a little baby. Also,
there was a girl, partly grown, who cautiously regarded
us from one of the lower branches. She was evidently
my sister, or half-sister, rather.
My mother recognized me, but she warned me away when I
started to climb into the tree. Lop-Ear, who was more
cautious by far than I, beat a retreat, nor could I
persuade him to return. Later in the day, however, my
sister came down to the ground, and there and in
neighboring trees we romped and played all afternoon.
And then came trouble. She was my sister, but that did
not prevent her from treating me abominably, for she
had inherited all the viciousness of the Chatterer.
She turned upon me suddenly, in a petty rage, and
scratched me, tore my hair, and sank her sharp little
teeth deep into my forearm. I lost my temper. I did
not injure her, but it was undoubtedly the soundest
spanking she had received up to that time.
How she yelled and squalled. The Chatterer, who had
been away all day and who was only then returning,
heard the noise and rushed for the spot. My mother
also rushed, but he got there first. Lop-Ear and I did
not wait his coming. We were off and away, and the
Chatterer gave us the chase of our lives through the
After the chase was over, and Lop-Ear and I had had out
our laugh, we discovered that twilight was falling.
Here was night with all its terrors upon us, and to
return to the caves was out of the question. Red-Eye
made that impossible. We took refuge in a tree that
stood apart from other trees, and high up in a fork we
passed the night. It was a miserable night. For the
first few hours it rained heavily, then it turned cold
and a chill wind blew upon us. Soaked through, with
shivering bodies and chattering teeth, we huddled in
each other's arms. We missed the snug, dry cave that
so quickly warmed with the heat of our bodies.
Morning found us wretched and resolved. We would not
spend another such night. Remembering the
tree-shelters of our elders, we set to work to make one
for ourselves. We built the framework of a rough nest,
and on higher forks overhead even got in several
ridge-poles for the roof. Then the sun came out, and
under its benign influence we forgot the hardships of
the night and went off in search of breakfast. After
that, to show the inconsequentiality of life in those
days, we fell to playing. It must have taken us all of
a month, working intermittently, to make our
tree-house; and then, when it was completed, we never
used it again.
But I run ahead of my story. When we fell to playing,
after breakfast, on the second day away from the caves,
Lop-Ear led me a chase through the trees and down to
the river. We came out upon it where a large slough
entered from the blueberry swamp. The mouth of this
slough was wide, while the slough itself was
practically without a current. In the dead water, just
inside its mouth, lay a tangled mass of tree trunks.
Some of these, what of the wear and tear of freshets
and of being stranded long summers on sand-bars, were
seasoned and dry and without branches. They floated
high in the water, and bobbed up and down or rolled
over when we put our weight upon them.
Here and there between the trunks were water-cracks,
and through them we could see schools of small fish,
like minnows, darting back and forth. Lop-Ear and I
became fishermen at once. Lying flat on the logs,
keeping perfectly quiet, waiting till the minnows came
close, we would make swift passes with our hands. Our
prizes we ate on the spot, wriggling and moist. We did
not notice the lack of salt.
The mouth of the slough became our favorite playground.
Here we spent many hours each day, catching fish and
playing on the logs, and here, one day, we learned our
first lessons in navigation. The log on which Lop-Ear
was lying got adrift. He was curled up on his side,
asleep. A light fan of air slowly drifted the log away
from the shore, and when I noticed his predicament the
distance was already too great for him to leap.
At first the episode seemed merely funny to me. But
when one of the vagrant impulses of fear, common in
that age of perpetual insecurity, moved within me, I
was struck with my own loneliness. I was made suddenly
aware of Lop-Ear's remoteness out there on that alien
element a few feet away. I called loudly to him a
warning cry. He awoke frightened, and shifted his
weight rashly on the log. It turned over, sousing him
under. Three times again it soused him under as he
tried to climb out upon it. Then he succeeded,
crouching upon it and chattering with fear.
I could do nothing. Nor could he. Swimming was
something of which we knew nothing. We were already
too far removed from the lower life-forms to have the
instinct for swimming, and we had not yet become
sufficiently man-like to undertake it as the working
out of a problem. I roamed disconsolately up and down
the bank, keeping as close to him in his involuntary
travels as I could, while he wailed and cried till it
was a wonder that he did not bring down upon us every
hunting animal within a mile.
The hours passed. The sun climbed overhead and began
its descent to the west. The light wind died down and
left Lop-Ear on his log floating around a hundred feet
away. And then, somehow, I know not how, Lop-Ear made
the great discovery. He began paddling with his hands.
At first his progress was slow and erratic. Then he
straightened out and began laboriously to paddle nearer
and nearer. I could not understand. I sat down and
watched and waited until he gained the shore.
But he had learned something, which was more than I had
done. Later in the afternoon, he deliberately launched
out from shore on the log. Still later he persuaded me
to join him, and I, too, learned the trick of paddling.
For the next several days we could not tear ourselves
away from the slough. So absorbed were we in our new
game that we almost neglected to eat. We even roosted
in a nearby tree at night. And we forgot that Red-Eye
We were always trying new logs, and we learned that the
smaller the log the faster we could make it go. Also,
we learned that the smaller the log the more liable it
was to roll over and give us a ducking. Still another
thing about small logs we learned. One day we paddled
our individual logs alongside each other. And then,
quite by accident, in the course of play, we discovered
that when each, with one hand and foot, held on to the
other's log, the logs were steadied and did not turn
over. Lying side by side in this position, our outside
hands and feet were left free for paddling. Our final
discovery was that this arrangement enabled us to use
still smaller logs and thereby gain greater speed. And
there our discoveries ended. We had invented the most
primitive catamaran, and we did not have sense enough
to know it. It never entered our heads to lash the
logs together with tough vines or stringy roots. We
were content to hold the logs together with our hands
It was not until we got over our first enthusiasm for
navigation and had begun to return to our tree-shelter
to sleep at night, that we found the Swift One. I saw
her first, gathering young acorns from the branches of
a large oak near our tree. She was very timid. At
first, she kept very still; but when she saw that she
was discovered she dropped to the ground and dashed
wildly away. We caught occasional glimpses of her from
day to day, and came to look for her when we travelled
back and forth between our tree and the mouth of the
And then, one day, she did not run away. She waited
our coming, and made soft peace-sounds. We could not
get very near, however. When we seemed to approach too
close, she darted suddenly away and from a safe
distance uttered the soft sounds again. This continued
for some days. It took a long while to get acquainted
with her, but finally it was accomplished and she
joined us sometimes in our play.
I liked her from the first. She was of most pleasing
appearance. She was very mild. Her eyes were the
mildest I had ever seen. In this she was quite unlike
the rest of the girls and women of the Folk, who were
born viragos. She never made harsh, angry cries, and
it seemed to be her nature to flee away from trouble
rather than to remain and fight.
The mildness I have mentioned seemed to emanate from
her whole being. Her bodily as well as facial
appearance was the cause of this. Her eyes were larger
than most of her kind, and they were not so deep-set,
while the lashes were longer and more regular. Nor was
her nose so thick and squat. It had quite a bridge,
and the nostrils opened downward. Her incisors were
not large, nor was her upper lip long and down-hanging,
nor her lower lip protruding. She was not very hairy,
except on the outsides of arms and legs and across the
shoulders; and while she was thin-hipped, her calves
were not twisted and gnarly.
I have often wondered, looking back upon her from the
twentieth century through the medium of my dreams, and
it has always occurred to me that possibly she may have
been related to the Fire People. Her father, or
mother, might well have come from that higher stock.
While such things were not common, still they did
occur, and I have seen the proof of them with my own
eyes, even to the extent of members of the horde
turning renegade and going to live with the Tree
All of which is neither here nor there. The Swift One
was radically different from any of the females of the
horde, and I had a liking for her from the first. Her
mildness and gentleness attracted me. She was never
rough, and she never fought. She always ran away, and
right here may be noted the significance of the naming
of her. She was a better climber than Lop-Ear or I.
When we played tag we could never catch her except by
accident, while she could catch us at will. She was
remarkably swift in all her movements, and she had a
genius for judging distances that was equalled only by
her daring. Excessively timid in all other matters,
she was without fear when it came to climbing or
running through the trees, and Lop-Ear and I were
awkward and lumbering and cowardly in comparison.
She was an orphan. We never saw her with any one, and
there was no telling how long she had lived alone in
the world. She must have learned early in her helpless
childhood that safety lay only in flight. She was very
wise and very discreet. It became a sort of game with
Lop-Ear and me to try to find where she lived. It was
certain that she had a tree-shelter somewhere, and not
very far away; but trail her as we would, we could
never find it. She was willing enough to join with us
at play in the day-time, but the secret of her
abiding-place she guarded jealously.
It must be remembered that the description I have just
given of the Swift One is not the description that
would have been given by Big-Tooth, my other self of my
dreams, my prehistoric ancestor. It is by the medium of
my dreams that I, the modern man, look through the eyes
of Big-Tooth and see.
And so it is with much that I narrate of the events of
that far-off time. There is a duality about my
impressions that is too confusing to inflict upon my
readers. I shall merely pause here in my narrative to
indicate this duality, this perplexing mixing of
personality. It is I, the modern, who look back across
the centuries and weigh and analyze the emotions and
motives of Big-Tooth, my other self. He did not
bother to weigh and analyze. He was simplicity itself.
He just lived events, without ever pondering why he
lived them in his particular and often erratic way.
As I, my real self, grew older, I entered more and more
into the substance of my dreams. One may dream, and
even in the midst of the dream be aware that he is
dreaming, and if the dream be bad, comfort himself with
the thought that it is only a dream. This is a common
experience with all of us. And so it was that I, the
modern, often entered into my dreaming, and in the
consequent strange dual personality was both actor and
spectator. And right often have I, the modern, been
perturbed and vexed by the foolishness, illogic,
obtuseness, and general all-round stupendous stupidity
of myself, the primitive.
And one thing more, before I end this digression. Have
you ever dreamed that you dreamed? Dogs dream, horses
dream, all animals dream. In Big-Tooth's day the
half-men dreamed, and when the dreams were bad they
howled in their sleep. Now I, the modern, have lain
down with Big-Tooth and dreamed his dreams.
This is getting almost beyond the grip of the
intellect, I know; but I do know that I have done this
thing. And let me tell you that the flying and
crawling dreams of Big-Tooth were as vivid to him as
the falling-through-space dream is to you.
For Big-Tooth also had an other-self, and when he slept
that other-self dreamed back into the past, back to the
winged reptiles and the clash and the onset of dragons,
and beyond that to the scurrying, rodent-like life of
the tiny mammals, and far remoter still, to the
shore-slime of the primeval sea. I cannot, I dare not,
say more. It is all too vague and complicated and
awful. I can only hint of those vast and terrific
vistas through which I have peered hazily at the
progression of life, not upward from the ape to man,
but upward from the worm.
And now to return to my tale. I, Big-Tooth, knew not
the Swift One as a creature of finer facial and bodily
symmetry, with long-lashed eyes and a bridge to her
nose and down-opening nostrils that made toward beauty.
I knew her only as the mild-eyed young female who made
soft sounds and did not fight. I liked to play with
her, I knew not why, to seek food in her company, and
to go bird-nesting with her. And I must confess she
taught me things about tree-climbing. She was very
wise, very strong, and no clinging skirts impeded her
It was about this time that a slight defection arose on
the part of Lop-Ear. He got into the habit of
wandering off in the direction of the tree where my
mother lived. He had taken a liking to my vicious
sister, and the Chatterer had come to tolerate him.
Also, there were several other young people, progeny of
the monogamic couples that lived in the neighborhood,
and Lop-Ear played with these young people.
I could never get the Swift One to join with them.
Whenever I visited them she dropped behind and
disappeared. I remember once making a strong effort to
persuade her. But she cast backward, anxious glances,
then retreated, calling to me from a tree. So it was
that I did not make a practice of accompanying Lop-Ear
when he went to visit his new friends. The Swift One
and I were good comrades, but, try as I would, I could
never find her tree-shelter. Undoubtedly, had nothing
happened, we would have soon mated, for our liking was
mutual; but the something did happen.
One morning, the Swift One not having put in an
appearance, Lop-Ear and I were down at the mouth of
the slough playing on the logs. We had scarcely got
out on the water, when we were startled by a roar of
rage. It was Red-Eye. He was crouching on the edge of
the timber jam and glowering his hatred at us. We were
badly frightened, for here was no narrow-mouthed cave
for refuge. But the twenty feet of water that
intervened gave us temporary safety, and we plucked up
Red-Eye stood up erect and began beating his hairy
chest with his fist. Our two logs were side by side,
and we sat on them and laughed at him. At first our
laughter was half-hearted, tinged with fear, but as we
became convinced of his impotence we waxed uproarious.
He raged and raged at us, and ground his teeth in
helpless fury. And in our fancied security we mocked
and mocked him. We were ever short-sighted, we Folk.
Red-Eye abruptly ceased his breast-beating and
tooth-grinding, and ran across the timber-jam to the
shore. And just as abruptly our merriment gave way to
consternation. It was not Red-Eye's way to forego
revenge so easily. We waited in fear and trembling for
whatever was to happen. It never struck us to paddle
away. He came back with great leaps across the jam,
one huge hand filled with round, water-washed pebbles.
I am glad that he was unable to find larger missiles,
say stones weighing two or three pounds, for we were no
more than a score of feet away, and he surely would
have killed us.
As it was, we were in no small danger. Zip! A tiny
pebble whirred past with the force almost of a bullet.
Lop-Ear and I began paddling frantically.
Whiz-zip-bang ! Lop-Ear screamed with sudden anguish.
The pebble had struck him between the shoulders. Then I
got one and yelled. The only thing that saved us was
the exhausting of Red-Eye's ammunition. He dashed back
to the gravel-bed for more, while Lop-Ear and I
Gradually we drew out of range, though Red-Eye
continued making trips for more ammunition and the
pebbles continued to whiz about us. Out in the centre
of the slough there was a slight current, and in our
excitement we failed to notice that it was drifting us
into the river. We paddled, and Red-Eye kept as close
as he could to us by following along the shore. Then
he discovered larger rocks. Such ammunition increased
his range. One fragment, fully five pounds in weight,
crashed on the log alongside of me, and such was its
impact that it drove a score of splinters, like fiery
needles, into my leg. Had it struck me it would have
And then the river current caught us. So wildly were
we paddling that Red-Eye was the first to notice it,
and our first warning was his yell of triumph. Where
the edge of the current struck the slough-water was a
series of eddies or small whirlpools. These caught our
clumsy logs and whirled them end for end, back and
forth and around. We quit paddling and devoted our
whole energy to holding the logs together alongside
each other. In the meanwhile Red-Eye continued to
bombard us, the rock fragments falling about us,
splashing water on us, and menacing our lives. At the
same time he gloated over us, wildly and vociferously.
It happened that there was a sharp turn in the river at
the point where the slough entered, and the whole main
current of the river was deflected to the other bank.
And toward that bank, which was the north bank, we
drifted rapidly, at the same time going down-stream.
This quickly took us out of range of Red-Eye, and the
last we saw of him was far out on a point of land,
where he was jumping up and down and chanting a paean
Beyond holding the two logs together, Lop-Ear and I did
nothing. We were resigned to our fate, and we remained
resigned until we aroused to the fact that we were
drifting along the north shore not a hundred feet away.
We began to paddle for it. Here the main force of the
current was flung back toward the south shore, and the
result of our paddling was that we crossed the current
where it was swiftest and narrowest. Before we were
aware, we were out of it and in a quiet eddy.
Our logs drifted slowly and at last grounded gently on
the bank. Lop-Ear and I crept ashore. The logs drifted
on out of the eddy and swept away down the stream. We
looked at each other, but we did not laugh. We were in
a strange land, and it did not enter our minds that we
could return to our own land in the same manner that we
We had learned how to cross a river, though we did not
know it. And this was something that no one else of the
Folk had ever done. We were the first of the Folk to
set foot on the north bank of the river, and, for that
matter, I believe the last. That they would have done
so in the time to come is undoubted; but the migration
of the Fire People, and the consequent migration of the
survivors of the Folk, set back our evolution for
Indeed, there is no telling how disastrous was to be
the outcome of the Fire People's migration.
Personally, I am prone to believe that it brought about
the destruction of the Folk; that we, a branch of lower
life budding toward the human, were nipped short off
and perished down by the roaring surf where the river
entered the sea. Of course, in such an eventuality, I
remain to be accounted for; but I outrun my story, and
such accounting will be made before I am done.
I have no idea how long Lop-Ear and I wandered in the
land north of the river. We were like mariners wrecked
on a desert isle, so far as concerned the likelihood of
our getting home again. We turned our backs upon the
river, and for weeks and months adventured in that
wilderness where there were no Folk. It is very
difficult for me to reconstruct our journeying, and
impossible to do it from day to day. Most of it is
hazy and indistinct, though here and there I have vivid
recollections of things that happened.
Especially do I remember the hunger we endured on the
mountains between Long Lake and Far Lake, and the calf
we caught sleeping in the thicket. Also, there are the
Tree People who dwelt in the forest between Long Lake
and the mountains. It was they who chased us into the
mountains and compelled us to travel on to Far Lake.
First, after we left the river, we worked toward the
west till we came to a small stream that flowed through
marshlands. Here we turned away toward the north,
skirting the marshes and after several days arriving at
what I have called Long Lake. We spent some time
around its upper end, where we found food in plenty;
and then, one day, in the forest, we ran foul of the
Tree People. These creatures were ferocious apes,
nothing more. And yet they were not so different from
us. They were more hairy, it is true; their legs were
a trifle more twisted and gnarly, their eyes a bit
smaller, their necks a bit thicker and shorter, and
their nostrils slightly more like orifices in a sunken
surface; but they had no hair on their faces and on the
palms of their hands and the soles of their feet, and
they made sounds similar to ours with somewhat similar
meanings. After all, the Tree People and the Folk were
not so unlike.
I found him first, a little withered, dried-up old
fellow, wrinkled-faced and bleary-eyed and tottery. He
was legitimate prey. In our world there was no
sympathy between the kinds, and he was not our kind.
He was a Tree-Man, and he was very old. He was sitting
at the foot of a tree--evidently his tree, for we could
see the tattered nest in the branches, in which he
slept at night.
I pointed him out to Lop-Ear, and we made a rush for
him. He started to climb, but was too slow. I caught
him by the leg and dragged him back. Then we had fun.
We pinched him, pulled his hair, tweaked his ears, and
poked twigs into him, and all the while we laughed with
streaming eyes. His futile anger was most absurd. He
was a comical sight, striving to fan into flame the
cold ashes of his youth, to resurrect his strength dead
and gone through the oozing of the years--making woful
faces in place of the ferocious ones he intended,
grinding his worn teeth together, beating his meagre
chest with feeble fists.
Also, he had a cough, and he gasped and hacked and
spluttered prodigiously. Every time he tried to climb
the tree we pulled him back, until at last he
surrendered to his weakness and did no more than sit
and weep. And Lop-Ear and I sat with him, our arms
around each other, and laughed at his wretchedness.
From weeping he went to whining, and from whining to
wailing, until at last he achieved a scream. This
alarmed us, but the more we tried to make him cease,
the louder he screamed. And then, from not far away in
the forest, came a "Goek! Goek!" to our ears. To this
there were answering cries, several of them, and from
very far off we could hear a big, bass "Goek! Goek!
Goek!" Also, the "Whoo-whoo !" call was rising in the
forest all around us.
Then came the chase. It seemed it never would end.
They raced us through the trees, the whole tribe of
them, and nearly caught us. We were forced to take to
the ground, and here we had the advantage, for they
were truly the Tree People, and while they out-climbed
us we out-footed them on the ground. We broke away
toward the north, the tribe howling on our track.
Across the open spaces we gained, and in the brush they
caught up with us, and more than once it was nip and
tuck. And as the chase continued, we realized that we
were not their kind, either, and that the bonds between
us were anything but sympathetic.
They ran us for hours. The forest seemed interminable.
We kept to the glades as much as possible, but they
always ended in more thick forest. Sometimes we
thought we had escaped, and sat down to rest; but
always, before we could recover our breath, we would
hear the hateful "Whoo-whoo!" cries and the terrible
"Goek! Goek! Goek!" This latter sometimes terminated in
a savage "Ha ha ha ha haaaaa!!!"
And in this fashion were we hunted through the forest
by the exasperated Tree People. At last, by
mid-afternoon, the slopes began rising higher and
higher and the trees were becoming smaller. Then we
came out on the grassy flanks of the mountains. Here
was where we could make time, and here the Tree People
gave up and returned to their forest.
The mountains were bleak and inhospitable, and three
times that afternoon we tried to regain the woods. But
the Tree People were lying in wait, and they drove us
back. Lop-Ear and I slept that night in a dwarf tree,
no larger than a bush. Here was no security, and we
would have been easy prey for any hunting animal that
In the morning, what of our new-gained respect for the
Tree People, we faced into the mountains. That we had
no definite plan, or even idea, I am confident. We
were merely driven on by the danger we had escaped. Of
our wanderings through the mountains I have only misty
memories. We were in that bleak region many days, and
we suffered much, especially from fear, it was all so
new and strange. Also, we suffered from the cold, and
later from hunger.
It--was a desolate land of rocks and foaming streams
and clattering cataracts. We climbed and descended
mighty canyons and gorges; and ever, from every view
point, there spread out before us, in all directions,
range upon range, the unceasing mountains. We slept at
night in holes and crevices, and on one cold night we
perched on top a slender pinnacle of rock that was
almost like a tree.
And then, at last, one hot midday, dizzy with hunger,
we gained the divide. From this high backbone of
earth, to the north, across the diminishing,
down-falling ranges, we caught a glimpse of a far lake.
The sun shone upon it, and about it were open, level
grass-lands, while to the eastward we saw the dark line
of a wide-stretching forest.
We were two days in gaining the lake, and we were weak
with hunger; but on its shore, sleeping snugly in a
thicket, we found a part-grown calf. It gave us much
trouble, for we knew no other way to kill than with our
hands. When we had gorged our fill, we carried the
remainder of the meat to the eastward forest and hid it
in a tree. We never returned to that tree, for the
shore of the stream that drained Far Lake was packed
thick with salmon that had come up from the sea to
Westward from the lake stretched the grass-lands, and
here were multitudes of bison and wild cattle. Also
were there many packs of wild dogs, and as there were
no trees it was not a safe place for us. We followed
north along the stream for days. Then, and for what
reason I do not know, we abruptly left the stream and
swung to the east, and then to the southeast, through a
great forest. I shall not bore you with our journey.
I but indicate it to show how we finally arrived at the
Fire People's country.
We came out upon the river, but we did not know it for
our river. We had been lost so long that we had come to
accept the condition of being lost as habitual. As I
look back I see clearly how our lives and destinies are
shaped by the merest chance. We did not know it was
our river--there was no way of telling; and if we had
never crossed it we would most probably have never
returned to the horde; and I, the modern, the thousand
centuries yet to be born, would never have been born .
And yet Lop-Ear and I wanted greatly to return. We had
experienced homesickness on our journey, the yearning
for our own kind and land; and often had I had
recollections of the Swift One, the young female who
made soft sounds, whom it was good to be with, and who
lived by herself nobody knew where. My recollections
of her were accompanied by sensations of hunger, and
these I felt when I was not hungry and when I had just
But to come back to the river. Food was plentiful,
principally berries and succulent roots, and on the
river bank we played and lingered for days. And then
the idea came to Lop-Ear. It was a visible process,
the coming of the idea. I saw it. The expression in
his eyes became plaintive and querulous, and he was
greatly perturbed. Then his eyes went muddy, as if he
had lost his grip on the inchoate thought. This was
followed by the plaintive, querulous expression as the
idea persisted and he clutched it anew. He looked at
me, and at the river and the far shore. He tried to
speak, but had no sounds with which to express the
idea. The result was a gibberish that made me laugh.
This angered him, and he grabbed me suddenly and threw
me on my back. Of course we fought, and in the end I
chased him up a tree, where he secured a long branch
and poked me every time I tried to get at him.
And the idea had gone glimmering. I did not know, and
he had forgotten. But the next morning it awoke in him
again. Perhaps it was the homing instinct in him
asserting itself that made the idea persist. At any
rate it was there, and clearer than before. He led me
down to the water, where a log had grounded in an eddy.
I thought he was minded to play, as we had played in
the mouth of the slough. Nor did I change my mind as I
watched him tow up a second log from farther down the
It was not until we were on the logs, side by side and
holding them together, and had paddled out into the
current, that I learned his intention. He paused to
point at the far shore, and resumed his paddling, at
the same time uttering loud and encouraging cries. I
understood, and we paddled energetically. The swift
current caught us, flung us toward the south shore, but
before we could make a landing flung us back toward the
Here arose dissension. Seeing the north shore so near,
I began to paddle for it. Lop-Ear tried to paddle for
the south shore. The logs swung around in circles, and
we got nowhere, and all the time the forest was
flashing past as we drifted down the stream. We could
not fight. We knew better than to let go the grips of
hands and feet that held the logs together. But we
chattered and abused each other with our tongues until
the current flung us toward the south bank again. That
was now the nearest goal, and together and amicably we
paddled for it. We landed in an eddy, and climbed
directly into the trees to reconnoitre.
It was not until the night of our first day on the
south bank of the river that we discovered the Fire
People. What must have been a band of wandering
hunters went into camp not far from the tree in which
Lop-Ear and I had elected to roost for the night. The
voices of the Fire People at first alarmed us, but
later, when darkness had come, we were attracted by the
fire. We crept cautiously and silently from tree to
tree till we got a good view of the scene.
In an open space among the trees, near to the river,
the fire was burning. About it were half a dozen
Fire-Men. Lop-Ear clutched me suddenly, and I could
feel him tremble. I looked more closely, and saw the
wizened little old hunter who had shot Broken-Tooth out
of the tree years before. When he got up and walked
about, throwing fresh wood upon the fire, I saw that he
limped with his crippled leg. Whatever it was, it was
a permanent injury. He seemed more dried up and
wizened than ever, and the hair on his face was quite
The other hunters were young men. I noted, lying near
them on the ground, their bows and arrows, and I knew
the weapons for what they were. The Fire-Men wore
animal skins around their waists and across their
shoulders. Their arms and legs, however, were bare,
and they wore no footgear. As I have said before, they
were not quite so hairy as we of the Folk. They did
not have large heads, and between them and the Folk
there was very little difference in the degree of the
slant of the head back from the eyes.
They were less stooped than we, less springy in their
movements. Their backbones and hips and knee-joints
seemed more rigid. Their arms were not so long as ours
either, and I did not notice that they ever balanced
themselves when they walked, by touching the ground on
either side with their hands. Also, their muscles were
more rounded and symmetrical than ours, and their faces
were more pleasing. Their nose orifices opened
downward; likewise the bridges of their noses were more
developed, did not look so squat nor crushed as ours.
Their lips were less flabby and pendent, and their
eye-teeth did not look so much like fangs. However,
they were quite as thin-hipped as we, and did not weigh
much more. Take it all in all, they were less different
from us than were we from the Tree People. Certainly,
all three kinds were related, and not so remotely
related at that.
The fire around which they sat was especially
attractive. Lop-Ear and I sat for hours, watching the
flames and smoke. It was most fascinating when fresh
fuel was thrown on and showers of sparks went flying
upward. I wanted to come closer and look at the fire,
but there was no way. We were crouching in the forks
of a tree on the edge of the open space, and we did not
dare run the risk of being discovered.
The Fire-Men squatted around the fire and slept with
their heads bowed forward on their knees. They did not
sleep soundly. Their ears twitched in their sleep, and
they were restless. Every little while one or another
got up and threw more wood upon the fire. About the
circle of light in the forest, in the darkness beyond,
roamed hunting animals. Lop-Ear and I could tell them
by their sounds. There were wild dogs and a hyena, and
for a time there was a great yelping and snarling that
awakened on the instant the whole circle of sleeping
Once a lion and a lioness stood beneath our tree and
gazed out with bristling hair and blinking eyes. The
lion licked his chops and was nervous with eagerness,
as if he wanted to go forward and make a meal. But the
lioness was more cautious. It was she that discovered
us, and the pair stood and looked up at us, silently,
with twitching, scenting nostrils. Then they growled,
looked once again at the fire, and turned away into the
For a much longer time Lop-Ear and I remained and
watched. Now and again we could hear the crashing of
heavy bodies in the thickets and underbrush, and from
the darkness of the other side, across the circle, we
could see eyes gleaming in the firelight. In the
distance we heard a lion roar, and from far off came
the scream of some stricken animal, splashing and
floundering in a drinking-place. Also, from the river,
came a great grunting of rhinoceroses.
In the morning, after having had our sleep, we crept
back to the fire. It was still smouldering, and the
Fire-Men were gone. We made a circle through the
forest to make sure, and then we ran to the fire. I
wanted to see what it was like, and between thumb and
finger I picked up a glowing coal. My cry of pain and
fear, as I dropped it, stampeded Lop-Ear into the
trees, and his flight frightened me after him.
The next time we came back more cautiously, and we
avoided the glowing coals. We fell to imitating the
Fire-Men. We squatted down by the fire, and with heads
bent forward on our knees, made believe to sleep. Then
we mimicked their speech, talking to each other in
their fashion and making a great gibberish. I
remembered seeing the wizened old hunter poke the fire
with a stick. I poked the fire with a stick, turning
up masses of live coals and clouds of white ashes.
This was great sport, and soon we were coated white
with the ashes.
It was inevitable that we should imitate the Fire-Men
in replenishing the fire. We tried it first with small
pieces of wood. It was a success. The wood flamed up
and crackled, and we danced and gibbered with delight.
Then we began to throw on larger pieces of wood. We
put on more and more, until we had a mighty fire. We
dashed excitedly back and forth, dragging dead limbs
and branches from out the forest. The flames soared
higher and higher, and the smoke-column out-towered the
trees. There was a tremendous snapping and crackling
and roaring. It was the most monumental work we had
ever effected with our hands, and we were proud of it.
We, too, were Fire-Men, we thought, as we danced there,
white gnomes in the conflagration.
The dried grass and underbrush caught fire, but we did
not notice it. Suddenly a great tree on the edge of
the open space burst into flames.
We looked at it with startled eyes. The heat of it
drove us back. Another tree caught, and another, and
then half a dozen. We were frightened. The monster
had broken loose. We crouched down in fear, while the
fire ate around the circle and hemmed us in. Into
Lop-Ear's eyes came the plaintive look that always
accompanied incomprehension, and I know that in my eyes
must have been the same look. We huddled, with our
arms around each other, until the heat began to reach
us and the odor of burning hair was in our nostrils.
Then we made a dash of it, and fled away westward
through the forest, looking back and laughing as we
By the middle of the day we came to a neck of land,
made, as we afterward discovered, by a great curve of
the river that almost completed a circle. Right across
the neck lay bunched several low and partly wooded
hills. Over these we climbed, looking backward at the
forest which had become a sea of flame that swept
eastward before a rising wind. We continued to the
west, following the river bank, and before we knew it
we were in the midst of the abiding-place of the Fire
This abiding-place was a splendid strategic selection.
It was a peninsula, protected on three sides by the
curving river. On only one side was it accessible by
land. This was the narrow neck of the peninsula, and
here the several low hills were a natural obstacle.
Practically isolated from the rest of the world, the
Fire People must have here lived and prospered for a
long time. In fact, I think it was their prosperity
that was responsible for the subsequent migration that
worked such calamity upon the Folk. The Fire People
must have increased in numbers until they pressed
uncomfortably against the bounds of their habitat.
They were expanding, and in the course of their
expanding they drove the Folk before them, and settled
down themselves in the caves and occupied the territory
that we had occupied.
But Lop-Ear and I little dreamed of all this when we
found ourselves in the Fire People's stronghold. We
had but one idea, and that was to get away, though we
could not forbear humoring our curiosity by peeping out
upon the village. For the first time we saw the women
and children of the Fire People. The latter ran for
the most part naked, though the former wore skins of
The Fire People, like ourselves, lived in caves. The
open space in front of the caves sloped down to the
river, and in the open space burned many small fires.
But whether or not the Fire People cooked their food, I
do not know. Lop-Ear and I did not see them cook. Yet
it is my opinion that they surely must have performed
some sort of rude cookery. Like us, they carried water
in gourds from the river. There was much coming and
going, and loud cries made by the women and children.
The latter played about and cut up antics quite in the
same way as did the children of the Folk, and they more
nearly resembled the children of the Folk than did the
grown Fire People resemble the grown Folk.
Lop-Ear and I did not linger long. We saw some of the
part-grown boys shooting with bow and arrow, and we
sneaked back into the thicker forest and made our way
to the river. And there we found a catamaran, a real
catamaran, one evidently made by some Fire-Man. The
two logs were small and straight, and were lashed
together by means of tough roots and crosspieces of
This time the idea occurred simultaneously to us. We
were trying to escape out of the Fire People's
territory. What better way than by crossing the river
on these logs? We climbed on board and shoved off. A
sudden something gripped the catamaran and flung it
downstream violently against the bank. The abrupt
stoppage almost whipped us off into the water. The
catamaran was tied to a tree by a rope of twisted
roots. This we untied before shoving off again.
By the time we had paddled well out into the current,
we had drifted so far downstream that we were in full
view of the Fire People's abiding-place. So occupied
were we with our paddling, our eyes fixed upon the
other bank, that we knew nothing until aroused by a
yell from the shore. We looked around. There were the
Fire People, many of them, looking at us and pointing
at us, and more were crawling out of the caves. We sat
up to watch, and forgot all about paddling. There was
a great hullabaloo on the shore. Some of the Fire-Men
discharged their bows at us, and a few of the arrows
fell near us, but the range was too great.
It was a great day for Lop-Ear and me. To the east the
conflagration we had started was filling half the sky
with smoke. And here we were, perfectly safe in the
middle of the river, encircling the Fire People's
stronghold. We sat and laughed at them as we dashed
by, swinging south, and southeast to east, and even to
northeast, and then east again, southeast and south and
on around to the west, a great double curve where the
river nearly tied a knot in itself.
As we swept on to the west, the Fire People far behind,
a familiar scene flashed upon our eyes.
It was the great drinking-place, where we had wandered
once or twice to watch the circus of the animals when
they came down to drink. Beyond it, we knew, was the
carrot patch, and beyond that the caves and the
abiding-place of the horde. We began to paddle for the
bank that slid swiftly past, and before we knew it we
were down upon the drinking-places used by the horde.
There were the women and children, the water carriers,
a number of them, filling their gourds. At sight of us
they stampeded madly up the run-ways, leaving behind
them a trail of gourds they had dropped.
We landed, and of course we neglected to tie up the
catamaran, which floated off down the river. Right
cautiously we crept up a run-way. The Folk had all
disappeared into their holes, though here and there we
could see a face peering out at us. There was no sign
of Red-Eye. We were home again. And that night we
slept in our own little cave high up on the cliff,
though first we had to evict a couple of pugnacious
youngsters who had taken possession.
The months came and went. The drama and tragedy of the
future were yet to come upon the stage, and in the
meantime we pounded nuts and lived. It--vas a good
year, I remember, for nuts. We used to fill gourds
with nuts and carry them to the pounding-places. We
placed them in depressions in the rock, and, with a
piece of rock in our hands, we cracked them and ate
them as we cracked.
It was the fall of the year when Lop-Ear and I returned
from our long adventure-journey, and the winter that
followed was mild. I made frequent trips to the
neighborhood of my old home-tree, and frequently I
searched the whole territory that lay between the
blueberry swamp and the mouth of the slough where
Lop-Ear and I had learned navigation, but no clew could
I get of the Swift One. She had disappeared. And I
wanted her. I was impelled by that hunger which I have
mentioned, and which was akin to physical hunger,
albeit it came often upon me when my stomach was full.
But all my search was vain.
Life was not monotonous at the caves, however. There
was Red-Eye to be considered. Lop-Ear and I never knew
a moment's peace except when we were in our own little
cave. In spite of the enlargement of the entrance we
had made, it was still a tight squeeze for us to get
in. And though from time to time we continued to
enlarge, it was still too small for Red-Eye's monstrous
body. But he never stormed our cave again. He had
learned the lesson well, and he carried on his neck a
bulging lump to show where I had hit him with the rock.
This lump never went away, and it was prominent enough
to be seen at a distance. I often took great delight
in watching that evidence of my handiwork; and
sometimes, when I was myself assuredly safe, the sight
of it caused me to laugh.
While the other Folk would not have come to our rescue
had Red-Eye proceeded to tear Lop-Ear and me to pieces
before their eyes, nevertheless they sympathized with
us. Possibly it was not sympathy but the way they
expressed their hatred for Red-Eye; at any rate they
always warned us of his approach. Whether in the
forest, at the drinking-places, or in the open space
before the caves, they were always quick to warn us.
Thus we had the advantage of many eyes in our feud with
Red-Eye, the atavism.
Once he nearly got me. It was early in the morning,
and the Folk were not yet up. The surprise was
complete. I was cut off from the way up the cliff to
my cave. Before I knew it I had dashed into the
double-cave,--the cave where Lop-Ear had first eluded
me long years before, and where old Saber-Tooth had
come to discomfiture when he pursued the two Folk. By
the time I had got through the connecting passage
between the two caves, I discovered that Red-Eye was
not following me. The next moment he charged into the
cave from the outside. I slipped back through the
passage, and he charged out and around and in upon me
again. I merely repeated my performance of slipping
through the passage.
He kept me there half a day before he gave up. After
that, when Lop-Ear and I were reasonably sure of
gaining the double-cave, we did not retreat up the
cliff to our own cave when Red-Eye came upon the scene.
All we did was to keep an eye on him and see that he
did not cut across our line of retreat.
It was during this winter that Red-Eye killed his
latest wife with abuse and repeated beatings. I have
called him an atavism, but in this he was worse than an
atavism, for the males of the lower animals do not
maltreat and murder their mates. In this I take it
that Red-Eye, in spite of his tremendous atavistic
tendencies, foreshadowed the coming of man, for it is
the males of the human species only that murder their
As was to be expected, with the doing away of one wife
Red-Eye proceeded to get another. He decided upon the
Singing One. She was the granddaughter of old
Marrow-Bone, and the daughter of the Hairless One. She
was a young thing, greatly given to singing at the
mouth of her cave in the twilight, and she had but
recently mated with Crooked-Leg. He was a quiet
individual, molesting no one and not given to bickering
with his fellows. He was no fighter anyway. He was
small and lean, and not so active on his legs as the
rest of us.
Red-Eye never committed a more outrageous deed. It was
in the quiet at the end of the day, when we began to
congregate in the open space before climbing into our
caves. Suddenly the Singing One dashed up a run-way
from a drinking-place, pursued by Red-Eye. She ran to
her husband. Poor little Crooked-Leg was terribly
scared. But he was a hero. He knew that death was
upon him, yet he did not run away. He stood up, and
chattered, bristled, and showed his teeth.
Red-Eye roared with rage. It was an offence to him
that any of the Folk should dare to withstand him. His
hand shot out and clutched Crooked-Leg by the neck.
The latter sank his teeth into Red-Eye's arm; but the
next moment, with a broken neck, Crooked-Leg was
floundering and squirming on the ground. The Singing
One screeched and gibbered. Red-Eye seized her by the
hair of her head and dragged her toward his cave. He
handled her roughly when the climb began, and he
dragged and hauled her up into the cave.
We were very angry, insanely, vociferously angry.
Beating our chests, bristling, and gnashing our teeth,
we gathered together in our rage. We felt the prod of
gregarious instinct, the drawing together as though for
united action, the impulse toward cooperation. In dim
ways this need for united action was impressed upon us.
But there was no way to achieve it because there was no
way to express it. We did not turn to, all of us, and
destroy Red-Eye, because we lacked a vocabulary. We
were vaguely thinking thoughts for which there were no
thought-symbols. These thought-symbols were yet to be
slowly and painfully invented.
We tried to freight sound with the vague thoughts that
flitted like shadows through our consciousness. The
Hairless One began to chatter loudly. By his noises he
expressed anger against Red-Eye and desire to hurt
Red-Eye. Thus far he got, and thus far we understood.
But when he tried to express the cooperative impulse
that stirred within him, his noises became gibberish.
Then Big-Face, with brow-bristling and chest-pounding,
began to chatter. One after another of us joined in the
orgy of rage, until even old Marrow-Bone was mumbling
and spluttering with his cracked voice and withered
lips. Some one seized a stick and began pounding a
log. In a moment he had struck a rhythm.
Unconsciously, our yells and exclamations yielded to
this rhythm. It had a soothing effect upon us; and
before we knew it, our rage forgotten, we were in the
full swing of a hee-hee council.
These hee-hee councils splendidly illustrate the
inconsecutiveness and inconsequentiality of the Folk.
Here were we, drawn together by mutual rage and the
impulse toward cooperation, led off into forgetfulness
by the establishment of a rude rhythm. We were
sociable and gregarious, and these singing and laughing
councils satisfied us. In ways the hee-hee council was
an adumbration of the councils of primitive man, and of
the great national assemblies and international
conventions of latter-day man. But we Folk of the
Younger World lacked speech, and whenever we were so
drawn together we precipitated babel, out of which
arose a unanimity of rhythm that contained within
itself the essentials of art yet to come. It was art
There was nothing long-continued about these rhythms
that we struck. A rhythm was soon lost, and
pandemonium reigned until we could find the rhythm
again or start a new one. Sometimes half a dozen
rhythms would be swinging simultaneously, each rhythm
backed by a group that strove ardently to drown out the
In the intervals of pandemonium, each chattered, cut
up, hooted, screeched, and danced, himself sufficient
unto himself, filled with his own ideas and volitions
to the exclusion of all others, a veritable centre of
the universe, divorced for the time being from any
unanimity with the other universe-centres leaping and
yelling around him. Then would come the rhythm--a
clapping of hands; the beating of a stick upon a log;
the example of one that leaped with repetitions; or the
chanting of one that uttered, explosively and
regularly, with inflection that rose and fell, "A-bang,
a-bang! A-bang, a-bang!" One after another of the
self-centred Folk would yield to it, and soon all would
be dancing or chanting in chorus. "Ha-ah, ha-ah,
ha-ah-ha!" was one of our favorite choruses, and
another was, "Eh-wah, eh-wah, eh-wah-hah!"
And so, with mad antics, leaping, reeling, and
over-balancing, we danced and sang in the sombre
twilight of the primeval world, inducing forgetfulness,
achieving unanimity, and working ourselves up into
sensuous frenzy. And so it was that our rage against
Red-Eye was soothed away by art, and we screamed the
wild choruses of the hee-hee council until the night
warned us of its terrors, and we crept away to our
holes in the rocks, calling softly to one another,
while the stars came out and darkness settled down.
We were afraid only of the dark. We had no germs of
religion, no conceptions of an unseen world. We knew
only the real world, and the things we feared were the
real things, the concrete dangers, the flesh-and-blood
animals that preyed. It was they that made us afraid
of the dark, for darkness was the time of the hunting
animals. It was then that they came out of their lairs
and pounced upon one from the dark wherein they lurked
Possibly it was out of this fear of the real denizens
of the dark that the fear of the unreal denizens was
later to develop and to culminate in a whole and mighty
unseen world. As imagination grew it is likely that
the fear of death increased until the Folk that were to
come projected this fear into the dark and peopled it
with spirits. I think the Fire People had already
begun to be afraid of the dark in this fashion; but the
reasons we Folk had for breaking up our hee-hee
councils and fleeing to our holes were old Saber-Tooth,
the lions and the jackals, the wild dogs and the
wolves, and all the hungry, meat-eating breeds.
Lop-Ear got married. It was the second winter after
our adventure-journey, and it was most unexpected. He
gave me no warning. The first I knew was one twilight
when I climbed the cliff to our cave. I squeezed into
the entrance and there I stopped. There was no room
for me. Lop-Ear and his mate were in possession, and
she was none other than my sister, the daughter of my
step-father, the Chatterer.
I tried to force my way in. There was space only for
two, and that space was already occupied. Also, they
had me at a disadvantage, and, what of the scratching
and hair-pulling I received, I was glad to retreat. I
slept that night, and for many nights, in the
connecting passage of the double-cave. From my
experience it seemed reasonably safe. As the two Folk
had dodged old Saber-Tooth, and as I had dodged
Red-Eye, so it seemed to me that I could dodge the
hunting animals by going back and forth between the two
I had forgotten the wild dogs. They were small enough
to go through any passage that I could squeeze through.
One night they nosed me out. Had they entered both
caves at the same time they would have got me. As it
was, followed by some of them through the passage, I
dashed out the mouth of the other cave. Outside were
the rest of the wild dogs. They sprang for me as I
sprang for the cliff-wall and began to climb. One of
them, a lean and hungry brute, caught me in mid-leap.
His teeth sank into my thigh-muscles, and he nearly
dragged me back. He held on, but I made no effort to
dislodge him, devoting my whole effort to climbing out
of reach of the rest of the brutes.
Not until I was safe from them did I turn my attention
to that live agony on my thigh. And then, a dozen feet
above the snapping pack that leaped and scrambled
against the wall and fell back, I got the dog by the
throat and slowly throttled him. I was a long time
doing it. He clawed and ripped my hair and hide with
his hind-paws, and ever he jerked and lunged with his
weight to drag me from the wall.
At last his teeth opened and released my torn flesh. I
carried his body up the cliff with me, and perched out
the night in the entrance of my old cave, wherein were
Lop-Ear and my sister. But first I had to endure a
storm of abuse from the aroused horde for being the
cause of the disturbance. I had my revenge. From time
to time, as the noise of the pack below eased down, I
dropped a rock and started it up again. Whereupon,
from all around, the abuse of the exasperated Folk
began afresh. In the morning I shared the dog with
Lop-Ear and his wife, and for several days the three of
us were neither vegetarians nor fruitarians.
Lop-Ear's marriage was not a happy one, and the
consolation about it is that it did not last very long.
Neither he nor I was happy during that period. I was
lonely. I suffered the inconvenience of being cast out
of my safe little cave, and somehow I did not make it
up with any other of the young males. I suppose my
long-continued chumming with Lop-Ear had become a
I might have married, it is true; and most likely I
should have married had it not been for the dearth of
females in the horde. This dearth, it is fair to
assume, was caused by the exorbitance of Red-Eye, and
it illustrates the menace he was to the existence of
the horde. Then there was the Swift One, whom I had
At any rate, during the period of Lop-Ear's marriage I
knocked about from pillar to post, in danger every
night that I slept, and never comfortable. One of the
Folk died, and his widow was taken into the cave of
another one of the Folk. I took possession of the
abandoned cave, but it was wide-mouthed, and after
Red-Eye nearly trapped me in it one day, I returned to
sleeping in the passage of the double-cave. During the
summer, however, I used to stay away from the caves for
weeks, sleeping in a tree-shelter I made near the mouth
of the slough.
I have said that Lop-Ear was not happy. My sister was
the daughter of the Chatterer, and she made Lop-Ear's
life miserable for him. In no other cave was there so
much squabbling and bickering. If Red-Eye was a
Bluebeard, Lop-Ear was hen-pecked; and I imagine that
Red-Eye was too shrewd ever to covet Lop-Ear's wife.
Fortunately for Lop-Ear, she died. An unusual thing
happened that summer. Late, almost at the end of it, a
second crop of the stringy-rooted carrots sprang up.
These unexpected second-crop roots were young and juicy
and tender, and for some time the carrot-patch was the
favorite feeding-place of the horde. One morning,
early, several score of us were there making our
breakfast. On one side of me was the Hairless One.
Beyond him were his father and son, old Marrow-Bone and
Long-Lip. On the other side of me were my sister and
Lop-Ear, she being next to me.
There was no warning. On the sudden, both the Hairless
One and my sister sprang and screamed. At the same
instant I heard the thud of the arrows that transfixed
them. The next instant they were down on the ground,
floundering and gasping, and the rest of us were
stampeding for the trees. An arrow drove past me and
entered the ground, its feathered shaft vibrating and
oscillating from the impact of its arrested flight. I
remember clearly how I swerved as I ran, to go past it,
and that I gave it a needlessly wide berth. I must
have shied at it as a horse shies at an object it
Lop-Ear took a smashing fall as he ran beside me. An
arrow had driven through the calf of his leg and
tripped him. He tried to run, but was tripped and
thrown by it a second time. He sat up, crouching,
trembling with fear, and called to me pleadingly. I
dashed back. He showed me the arrow. I caught hold of
it to pull it out, but the consequent hurt made him
seize my hand and stop me. A flying arrow passed
between us. Another struck a rock, splintered, and
fell to the ground. This was too much. I pulled,
suddenly, with all my might. Lop-Ear screamed as the
arrow came out, and struck at me angrily. But the next
moment we were in full flight again.
I looked back. Old Marrow-Bone, deserted and far
behind, was tottering silently along in his handicapped
race with death. Sometimes he almost fell, and once he
did fall; but no more arrows were coming. He scrambled
weakly to his feet. Age burdened him heavily, but he
did not want to die. The three Fire-Men, who were now
running forward from their forest ambush, could easily
have got him, but they did not try. Perhaps he was too
old and tough. But they did want the Hairless One and
my sister, for as I looked back from the trees I could
see the Fire-Men beating in their heads with rocks.
One of the Fire-Men was the wizened old hunter who
We went on through the trees toward the caves--an
excited and disorderly mob that drove before it to
their holes all the small life of the forest, and that
set the blue-jays screaming impudently. Now that there
was no immediate danger, Long-Lip waited for his
grand-father, Marrow-Bone; and with the gap of a
generation between them, the old fellow and the youth
brought up our rear.
And so it was that Lop-Ear became a bachelor once more.
That night I slept with him in the old cave, and our
old life of chumming began again. The loss of his mate
seemed to cause him no grief. At least he showed no
signs of it, nor of need for her. It was the wound in
his leg that seemed to bother him, and it was all of a
week before he got back again to his old spryness.
Marrow-Bone was the only old member in the horde.
Sometimes, on looking back upon him, when the vision of
him is most clear, I note a striking resemblance
between him and the father of my father's gardener.
The gardener's father was very old, very wrinkled and
withered; and for all the world, when he peered through
his tiny, bleary eyes and mumbled with his toothless
gums, he looked and acted like old Marrow-Bone. This
resemblance, as a child, used to frighten me. I always
ran when I saw the old man tottering along on his two
canes. Old Marrow-Bone even had a bit of sparse and
straggly white beard that seemed identical with the
whiskers of the old man.
As I have said, Marrow-Bone was the only old member of
the horde. He was an exception. The Folk never lived
to old age. Middle age was fairly rare. Death by
violence was the common way of death. They died as my
father had died, as Broken-Tooth had died, as my sister
and the Hairless One had just died--abruptly and
brutally, in the full possession of their faculties, in
the full swing and rush of life. Natural death? To
die violently was the natural way of dying in those
No one died of old age among the Folk. I never knew of
a case. Even Marrow-Bone did not die that way, and he
was the only one in my generation who had the chance.
A bad rippling, any serious accidental or temporary
impairment of the faculties, meant swift death. As a
rule, these deaths were not witnessed.
Members of the horde simply dropped out of sight. They
left the caves in the morning, and they never came
back. They disappeared--into the ravenous maws of the
This inroad of the Fire People on the carrot-patch was
the beginning of the end, though we did not know it.
The hunters of the Fire People began to appear more
frequently as the time went by. They came in twos and
threes, creeping silently through the forest, with
their flying arrows able to annihilate distance and
bring down prey from the top of the loftiest tree
without themselves climbing into it. The bow and arrow
was like an enormous extension of their leaping and
striking muscles, so that, virtually, they could leap
and kill at a hundred feet and more. This made them far
more terrible than Saber-Tooth himself. And then they
were very wise. They had speech that enabled them more
effectively to reason, and in addition they understood
We Folk came to be very circumspect when we were in the
forest. We were more alert and vigilant and timid. No
longer were the trees a protection to be relied upon.
No longer could we perch on a branch and laugh down at
our carnivorous enemies on the ground. The Fire People
were carnivorous, with claws and fangs a hundred feet
long, the most terrible of all the hunting animals that
ranged the primeval world.
One morning, before the Folk had dispersed to the
forest, there was a panic among the water-carriers and
those who had gone down to the river to drink. The
whole horde fled to the caves. It was our habit, at
such times, to flee first and investigate afterward. We
waited in the mouths of our caves and watched. After
some time a Fire-Man stepped cautiously into the open
space. It was the little wizened old hunter. He stood
for a long time and watched us, looking our caves and
the cliff-wall up and down. He descended one of the
run-ways to a drinking-place, returning a few minutes
later by another run-way. Again he stood and watched
us carefully, for a long time. Then he turned on his
heel and limped into the forest, leaving us calling
querulously and plaintively to one another from the
I found her down in the old neighborhood near the
blueberry swamp, where my mother lived and where
Lop-Ear and I had built our first tree-shelter. It was
unexpected. As I came under the tree I heard the
familiar soft sound and looked up. There she was, the
Swift One, sitting on a limb and swinging her legs back
and forth as she looked at me.
I stood still for some time. The sight of her had made
me very happy. And then an unrest and a pain began to
creep in on this happiness. I started to climb the
tree after her, and she retreated slowly out the limb.
Just as I reached for her, she sprang through the air
and landed in the branches of the next tree. From amid
the rustling leaves she peeped out at me and made soft
sounds. I leaped straight for her, and after an
exciting chase the situation was duplicated, for there
she was, making soft sounds and peeping out from the
leaves of a third tree.
It was borne in upon me that somehow it was different
now from the old days before Lop-Ear and I had gone on
our adventure-journey. I wanted her, and I knew that I
wanted her. And she knew it, too. That was why she
would not let me come near her. I forgot that she was
truly the Swift One, and that in the art of climbing
she had been my teacher. I pursued her from tree to
tree, and ever she eluded me, peeping back at me with
kindly eyes, making soft sounds, and dancing and
leaping and teetering before me just out of reach. The
more she eluded me, the more I wanted to catch her, and
the lengthening shadows of the afternoon bore witness
to the futility of my effort.
As I pursued her, or sometimes rested in an adjoining
tree and watched her, I noticed the change in her. She
was larger, heavier, more grown-up. Her lines were
rounder, her muscles fuller, and there was about her
that indefinite something of maturity that was new to
her and that incited me on. Three years she had been
gone--three years at the very least, and the change in
her was marked. I say three years; it is as near as I
can measure the time. A fourth year may have elapsed,
which I have confused with the happenings of the other
three years. The more I think of it, the more
confident I am that it must be four years that she was
Where she went, why she went, and what happened to her
during that time, I do not know. There was no way for
her to tell me, any more than there was a way for
Lop-Ear and me to tell the Folk what we had seen when
we were away. Like us, the chance is she had gone off
on an adventure-journey, and by herself. On the other
hand, it is possible that Red-Eye may have been the
cause of her going. It is quite certain that he must
have come upon her from time to time, wandering in the
woods; and if he had pursued her there is no question
but that it would have been sufficient to drive her
away. From subsequent events, I am led to believe that
she must have travelled far to the south, across a
range of mountains and down to the banks of a strange
river, away from any of her kind. Many Tree People
lived down there, and I think it must have been they
who finally drove her back to the horde and to me. My
reasons for this I shall explain later.
The shadows grew longer, and I pursued more ardently
than ever, and still I could not catch her. She made
believe that she was trying desperately to escape me,
and all the time she managed to keep just beyond reach.
I forgot everything--time, the oncoming of night, and
my meat-eating enemies. I was insane with love of her,
and with--anger, too, because she would not let me come
up with her. It was strange how this anger against her
seemed to be part of my desire for her.
As I have said, I forgot everything. In racing across
an open space I ran full tilt upon a colony of snakes.
They did not deter me. I was mad. They struck at me,
but I ducked and dodged and ran on. Then there was a
python that ordinarily would have sent me screeching to
a tree-top. He did run me into a tree; but the Swift
One was going out of sight, and I sprang back to the
ground and went on. It was a close shave. Then there
was my old enemy, the hyena. From my conduct he was
sure something was going to happen, and he followed me
for an hour. Once we exasperated a band of wild pigs,
and they took after us. The Swift One dared a wide
leap between trees that was too much for me. I had to
take to the ground. There were the pigs. I didn't
care. I struck the earth within a yard of the nearest
one. They flanked me as I ran, and chased me into two
different trees out of the line of my pursuit of the
Swift One. I ventured the ground again, doubled back,
and crossed a wide open space, with the whole band
grunting, bristling, and tusk-gnashing at my heels.
If I had tripped or stumbled in that open space, there
would have been no chance for me. But I didn't. And I
didn't care whether I did or not. I was in such mood
that I would have faced old Saber-Tooth himself, or a
score of arrow-shooting Fire People. Such was the
madness of love...with me. With the Swift One it was
different. She was very wise. She did not take any
real risks, and I remember, on looking back across the
centuries to that wild love-chase, that when the pigs
delayed me she did not run away very fast, but waited,
rather, for me to take up the pursuit again. Also, she
directed her retreat before me, going always in the
direction she wanted to go.
At last came the dark. She led me around the mossy
shoulder of a canyon wall that out-jutted among the
trees. After that we penetrated a dense mass of
underbrush that scraped and ripped me in passing. But
she never ruffled a hair. She knew the way. In the
midst of the thicket was a large oak. I was very close
to her when she climbed it; and in the forks, in the
nest-shelter I had sought so long and vainly, I caught
The hyena had taken our trail again, and he now sat
down on the ground and made hungry noises. But we did
not mind, and we laughed at him when he snarled and
went away through the thicket. It was the spring-time,
and the night noises were many and varied. As was the
custom at that time of the year, there was much
fighting among the animals. From the nest we could
hear the squealing and neighing of wild horses, the
trumpeting of elephants, and the roaring of lions. But
the moon came out, and the air was warm, and we laughed
and were unafraid.
I remember, next morning, that we came upon two ruffled
cock-birds that fought so ardently that I went right up
to them and caught them by their necks. Thus did the
Swift One and I get our wedding breakfast. They were
delicious. It was easy to catch birds in the spring of
the year. There was one night that year when two elk
fought in the moonlight, while the Swift One and I
watched from the trees; and we saw a lion and lioness
crawl up to them unheeded, and kill them as they
There is no telling how long we might have lived in the
Swift One's tree-shelter. But one day, while we were
away, the tree was struck by lightning. Great limbs
were riven, and the nest was demolished. I started to
rebuild, but the Swift One would have nothing to do
with it. As I was to learn, she was greatly afraid of
lightning, and I could not persuade her back into the
tree. So it came about, our honeymoon over, that we
went to the caves to live. As Lop-Ear had evicted me
from the cave when he got married, I now evicted him;
and the Swift One and I settled down in it, while he
slept at night in the connecting passage of the double
And with our coming to live with the horde came
trouble. Red-Eye had had I don't know how many wives
since the Singing One. She had gone the way of the
rest. At present he had a little, soft, spiritless
thing that whimpered and wept all the time, whether he
beat her or not; and her passing was a question of very
little time. Before she passed, even, Red-Eye set his
eyes on the Swift One; and when she passed, the
persecution of the Swift One began.
Well for her that she was the Swift One, that she had
that amazing aptitude for swift flight through the
trees. She needed all her wisdom and daring in order
to keep out of the clutches of Red-Eye. I could not
help her. He was so powerful a monster that he could
have torn me limb from limb. As it was, to my death I
carried an injured shoulder that ached and went lame in
rainy weather and that was a mark of is handiwork.
The Swift One was sick at the time I received this
injury. It must have been a touch of the malaria from
which we sometimes suffered; but whatever it was, it
made her dull and heavy. She did not have the
accustomed spring to her muscles, and was indeed in
poor shape for flight when Red-Eye cornered her near
the lair of the wild dogs, several miles south from the
caves. Usually, she would have circled around him,
beaten him in the straight-away, and gained the
protection of our small-mouthed cave. But she could
not circle him. She was too dull and slow. Each time
he headed her off, until she gave over the attempt and
devoted her energies wholly to keeping out of his
Had she not been sick it would have been child's play
for her to elude him; but as it was, it required all
her caution and cunning. It was to her advantage that
she could travel on thinner branches than he, and make
wider leaps. Also, she was an unerring judge of
distance, and she had an instinct for knowing the
strength of twigs, branches, and rotten limbs.
It was an interminable chase. Round and round and back
and forth for long stretches through the forest they
dashed. There was great excitement among the other
Folk. They set up a wild chattering, that was loudest
when Red-Eye was at a distance, and that hushed when
the chase led him near. They were impotent onlookers.
The females screeched and gibbered, and the males beat
their chests in helpless rage. Big Face was especially
angry, and though he hushed his racket when Red-Eye
drew near, he did not hush it to the extent the others
As for me, I played no brave part. I know I was
anything but a hero. Besides, of what use would it
have been for me to encounter Red-Eye? He was the
mighty monster, the abysmal brute, and there was no
hope for me in a conflict of strength. He would have
killed me, and the situation would have remained
unchanged. He would have caught the Swift One before
she could have gained the cave. As it was, I could
only look on in helpless fury, and dodge out of the way
and cease my raging when he came too near.
The hours passed. It was late afternoon. And still
the chase went on. Red-Eye was bent upon exhausting
the Swift One. He deliberately ran her down. After a
long time she began to tire and could no longer
maintain her headlong flight. Then it was that she
began going far out on the thinnest branches, where he
could not follow. Thus she might have got a breathing
spell, but Red-Eye was fiendish. Unable to follow her,
he dislodged her by shaking her off. With all his
strength and weight, he would shake the branch back and
forth until he snapped her off as one would snap a fly
from a whip-lash. The first time, she saved herself by
falling into branches lower down. Another time, though
they did not save her from the ground, they broke her
fall. Still another time, so fiercely did he snap her
from the branch, she was flung clear across a gap into
another tree. It was remarkable, the way she gripped
and saved herself. Only when driven to it did she seek
the temporary safety of the thin branches. But she was
so tired that she could not otherwise avoid him, and
time after time she was compelled to take to the thin
Still the chase went on, and still the Folk screeched,
beat their chests, and gnashed their teeth. Then came
the end. It was almost twilight. Trembling, panting,
struggling for breath, the Swift One clung pitiably to
a high thin branch. It was thirty feet to the ground,
and nothing intervened. Red-Eye swung back and forth
on the branch farther down. It became a pendulum,
swinging wider and wider with every lunge of his
weight. Then he reversed suddenly, just before the
downward swing was completed. Her grips were torn
loose, and, screaming, she was hurled toward the
But she righted herself in mid-air and descended feet
first. Ordinarily, from such a height, the spring in
her legs would have eased the shock of impact with the
ground. But she was exhausted. She could not exercise
this spring. Her legs gave under her, having only
partly met the shock, and she crashed on over on her
side. This, as it turned out, did not injure her, but
it did knock the breath from her lungs. She lay
helpless and struggling for air.
Red-Eye rushed upon her and seized her. With his
gnarly fingers twisted into the hair of her head, he
stood up and roared in triumph and defiance at the awed
Folk that watched from the trees. Then it was that I
went mad. Caution was thrown to the winds; forgotten
was the will to live of my flesh. Even as Red-Eye
roared, from behind I dashed upon him. So unexpected
was my charge that I knocked him off his feet. I
twined my arms and legs around him and strove to hold
him down. This would have been impossible to
accomplish had he not held tightly with one hand to the
Swift One's hair.
Encouraged by my conduct, Big-Face became a sudden
ally. He charged in, sank his teeth in Red-Eye's arm,
and ripped and tore at his face. This was the time for
the rest of the Folk to have joined in. It was the
chance to do for Red-Eye for all time. But they
remained afraid in the trees.
It was inevitable that Red-Eye should win in the
struggle against the two of us. The reason he did not
finish us off immediately was that the Swift One
clogged his movements. She had regained her breath and
was beginning to resist. He would not release his
clutch on her hair, and this handicapped him. He got a
grip on my arm. It was the beginning of the end for
me. He began to draw me toward him into a position
where he could sink his teeth into my throat. His
mouth was open, and he was grinning. And yet, though
he had just begun to exert his strength, in that moment
he wrenched my shoulder so that I suffered from it for
the remainder of my life.
And in that moment something happened. There was no
warning. A great body smashed down upon the four of us
locked together. We were driven violently apart and
rolled over and over, and in the suddenness of surprise
we released our holds on one another. At the moment of
the shock, Big-Face screamed terribly. I did not know
what had happened, though I smelled tiger and caught a
glimpse of striped fur as I sprang for a tree.
It was old Saber-Tooth. Aroused in his lair by the
noise we had made, he had crept upon us unnoticed. The
Swift One gained the next tree to mine, and I
immediately joined her. I put my arms around her and
held her close to me while she whimpered and cried
softly. From the ground came a snarling, and crunching
of bones. It was Saber-Tooth making his supper off of
what had been Big-Face. From beyond, with inflamed
rims and eyes, Red-Eye peered down. Here was a monster
mightier than he. The Swift One and I turned and went
away quietly through the trees toward the cave, while
the Folk gathered overhead and showered down abuse and
twigs and branches upon their ancient enemy. He lashed
his tail and snarled, but went on eating.
And in such fashion were we saved. It was a mere
accident--the sheerest accident. Else would I have
died, there in Red-Eye's clutch, and there would have
been no bridging of time to the tune of a thousand
centuries down to a progeny that reads newspapers and
rides on electric cars--ay, and that writes narratives
of bygone happenings even as this is written.
It was in the early fall of the following year that it
happened. After his failure to get the Swift One,
Red-Eye had taken another wife; and, strange to relate,
she was still alive. Stranger still, they had a baby
several months old--Red-Eye's first child. His previous
wives had never lived long enough to bear him children.
The year had gone well for all of us. The weather had
been exceptionally mild and food plentiful. I remember
especially the turnips of that year. The nut crop was
also very heavy, and the wild plums were larger and
sweeter than usual.
In short, it was a golden year. And then it happened.
It was in the early morning, and we were surprised in
our caves. In the chill gray light we awoke from
sleep, most of us, to encounter death. The Swift One
and I were aroused by a pandemonium of screeching and
gibbering. Our cave was the highest of all on the
cliff, and we crept to the mouth and peered down. The
open space was filled with the Fire People. Their
cries and yells were added to the clamor, but they had
order and plan, while we Folk had none. Each one of us
fought and acted for himself, and no one of us knew the
extent of the calamity that was befalling us.
By the time we got to stone-throwing, the Fire People
had massed thick at the base of the cliff. Our first
volley must have mashed some heads, for when they
swerved back from the cliff three of their number were
left upon the ground. These were struggling and
floundering, and one was trying to crawl away. But we
fixed them. By this time we males were roaring with
rage, and we rained rocks upon the three men that were
down. Several of the Fire-Men returned to drag them
into safety, but our rocks drove the rescuers back.
The Fire People became enraged. Also, they became
cautious. In spite of their angry yells, they kept at
a distance and sent flights of arrows against us. This
put an end to the rock-throwing. By the time half a
dozen of us had been killed and a score injured, the
rest of us retreated inside our caves. I was not out
of range in my lofty cave, but the distance was great
enough to spoil effective shooting, and the Fire People
did not waste many arrows on me. Furthermore, I was
curious. I wanted to see. While the Swift One
remained well inside the cave, trembling with fear and
making low wailing sounds because I would not come in,
I crouched at the entrance and watched.
The fighting had now become intermittent. It was a
sort of deadlock. We were in the caves, and the
question with the Fire People was how to get us out.
They did not dare come in after us, and in general we
would not expose ourselves to their arrows.
Occasionally, when one of them drew in close to the
base of the cliff, one or another of the Folk would
smash a rock down. In return, he would be transfixed
by half a dozen arrows. This ruse worked well for some
time, but finally the Folk no longer were inveigled
into showing themselves. The deadlock was complete.
Behind the Fire People I could see the little wizened
old hunter directing it all. They obeyed him, and went
here and there at his commands. Some of them went into
the forest and returned with loads of dry wood, leaves,
and grass. All the Fire People drew in closer. While
most of them stood by with bows and arrows, ready to
shoot any of the Folk that exposed themselves, several
of the Fire-Men heaped the dry grass and wood at the
mouths of the lower tier of caves. Out of these heaps
they conjured the monster we feared--FIRE. At first,
wisps of smoke arose and curled up the cliff. Then I
could see the red-tongued flames darting in and out
through the wood like tiny snakes. The smoke grew
thicker and thicker, at times shrouding the whole face
of the cliff. But I was high up and it did not bother
me much, though it stung my eyes and I rubbed them with
Old Marrow-Bone was the first to be smoked out. A
light fan of air drifted the smoke away at the time so
that I saw clearly. He broke out through the smoke,
stepping on a burning coal and screaming with the
sudden hurt of it, and essayed to climb up the cliff.
The arrows showered about him. He came to a pause on a
ledge, clutching a knob of rock for support, gasping
and sneezing and shaking his head. He swayed back and
forth. The feathered ends of a dozen arrows were
sticking out of him. He was an old man, and he did not
want to die. He swayed wider and wider, his knees
giving under him, and as he swayed he wailed most
plaintively. His hand released its grip and he lurched
outward to the fall. His old bones must have been
sadly broken. He groaned and strove feebly to rise,
but a Fire-Man rushed in upon him and brained him with
And as it happened with Marrow-Bone, so it happened
with many of the Folk. Unable to endure the
smoke-suffocation, they rushed out to fall beneath the
arrows. Some of the women and children remained in the
caves to strangle to death, but the majority met death
When the Fire-Men had in this fashion cleared the first
tier of caves, they began making arrangements to
duplicate the operation on the second tier of caves.
It was while they were climbing up with their grass and
wood, that Red-Eye, followed by his wife, with the baby
holding to her tightly, made a successful flight up the
cliff. The Fire-Men must have concluded that in the
interval between the smoking-out operations we would
remain in our caves; so that they were unprepared, and
their arrows did not begin to fly till Red-Eye and his
wife were well up the wall. When he reached the top,
he turned about and glared down at them, roaring and
beating his chest. They arched their arrows at him,
and though he was untouched he fled on.
I watched a third tier smoked out, and a fourth. A few
of the Folk escaped up the cliff, but most of them were
shot off the face of it as they strove to climb. I
remember Long-Lip. He got as far as my ledge, crying
piteously, an arrow clear through his chest, the
feathered shaft sticking out behind, the bone head
sticking out before, shot through the back as he
climbed. He sank down on my ledge bleeding profusely
at the mouth.
It was about this time that the upper tiers seemed to
empty themselves spontaneously. Nearly all the Folk
not yet smoked out stampeded up the cliff at the same
time. This was the saving of many. The Fire People
could not shoot arrows fast enough. They filled the
air with arrows, and scores of the stricken Folk came
tumbling down; but still there were a few who reached
the top and got away.
The impulse of flight was now stronger in me than
curiosity. The arrows had ceased flying. The last of
the Folk seemed gone, though there may have been a few
still hiding in the upper caves. The Swift One and I
started to make a scramble for the cliff-top. At sight
of us a great cry went up from the Fire People. This
was not caused by me, but by the Swift One. They were
chattering excitedly and pointing her out to one
another. They did not try to shoot her. Not an arrow
was discharged. They began calling softly and
coaxingly. I stopped and looked down. She was afraid,
and whimpered and urged me on. So we went up over the
top and plunged into the trees.
This event has often caused me to wonder and speculate.
If she were really of their kind, she must have been
lost from them at a time when she was too young to
remember, else would she not have been afraid of them.
On the other hand, it may well have been that while she
was their kind she had never been lost from them; that
she had been born in the wild forest far from their
haunts, her father maybe a renegade Fire-Man, her
mother maybe one of my own kind, one of the Folk. But
who shall say? These things are beyond me, and the
Swift One knew no more about them than did I.
We lived through a day of terror. Most of the
survivors fled toward the blueberry swamp and took
refuge in the forest in that neighborhood. And all day
hunting parties of the Fire People ranged the forest,
killing us wherever they found us. It must have been a
deliberately executed plan. Increasing beyond the
limits of their own territory, they had decided on
making a conquest of ours. Sorry the conquest! We had
no chance against them. It was slaughter,
indiscriminate slaughter, for they spared none, killing
old and young, effectively ridding the land of our
It was like the end of the world to us. We fled to the
trees as a last refuge, only to be surrounded and
killed, family by family. We saw much of this during
that day, and besides, I wanted to see. The Swift One
and I never remained long in one tree, and so escaped
being surrounded. But there seemed no place to go.
The Fire-Men were everywhere, bent on their task of
extermination. Every way we turned we encountered them,
and because of this we saw much of their handiwork.
I did not see what became of my mother, but I did see
the Chatterer shot down out of the old home-tree. And
I am afraid that at the sight I did a bit of joyous
teetering. Before I leave this portion of my
narrative, I must tell of Red-Eye. He was caught with
his wife in a tree down by the blueberry swamp. The
Swift One and I stopped long enough in our flight to
see. The Fire-Men were too intent upon their work to
notice us, and, furthermore, we were well screened by
the thicket in which we crouched.
Fully a score of the hunters were under the tree,
discharging arrows into it. They always picked up
their arrows when they fell back to earth. I could not
see Red-Eye, but I could hear him howling from
somewhere in the tree.
After a short interval his howling grew muffled. He
must have crawled into a hollow in the trunk. But his
wife did not win this shelter. An arrow brought her to
the ground. She was severely hurt, for she made no
effort to get away. She crouched in a sheltering way
over her baby (which clung tightly to her), and made
pleading signs and sounds to the Fire-Men. They
gathered about her and laughed at her--even as Lop-Ear
and I had laughed at the old Tree-Man. And even as we
had poked him with twigs and sticks, so did the
Fire-Men with Red-Eye's wife. They poked her with the
ends of their bows, and prodded her in the ribs. But
she was poor fun. She would not fight. Nor, for that
matter, would she get angry. She continued to crouch
over her baby and to plead. One of the Fire-Men
stepped close to her. In his hand was a club. She saw
and understood, but she made only the pleading sounds
until the blow fell.
Red-Eye, in the hollow of the trunk, was safe from
their arrows. They stood together and debated for a
while, then one of them climbed into the tree. What
happened up there I could not tell, but I heard him
yell and saw the excitement of those that remained
beneath. After several minutes his body crashed down
to the ground. He did not move. They looked at him
and raised his head, but it fell back limply when they
let go. Red-Eye had accounted for himself.
They were very angry. There was an opening into the
trunk close to the ground. They gathered wood and
grass and built a fire. The Swift One and I, our arms
around each other, waited and watched in the thicket.
Sometimes they threw upon the fire green branches with
many leaves, whereupon the smoke became very thick.
We saw them suddenly swerve back from the tree. They
were not quick enough. Red-Eye's flying body landed in
the midst of them.
He was in a frightful rage, smashing about with his
long arms right and left. He pulled the face off one
of them, literally pulled it off with those gnarly
fingers of his and those tremendous muscles. He bit
another through the neck. The Fire-Men fell back with
wild fierce yells, then rushed upon him. He managed to
get hold of a club and began crushing heads like
eggshells. He was too much for them, and they were
compelled to fall back again. This was his chance, and
he turned his back upon them and ran for it, still
howling wrathfully. A few arrows sped after him, but
he plunged into a thicket and was gone.
The Swift One and I crept quietly away, only to run
foul of another party of Fire-Men. They chased us into
the blueberry swamp, but we knew the tree-paths across
the farther morasses where they could not follow on the
ground, and so we escaped. We came out on the other
side into a narrow strip of forest that separated the
blueberry swamp from the great swamp that extended
westward. Here we met Lop-Ear. How he had escaped I
cannot imagine, unless he had not slept the preceding
night at the caves.
Here, in the strip of forest, we might have built
tree-shelters and settled down; but the Fire People
were performing their work of extermination thoroughly.
In the afternoon, Hair-Face and his wife fled out from
among the trees to the east, passed us, and were gone.
They fled silently and swiftly, with alarm in their
faces. In the direction from which they had come we
heard the cries and yells of the hunters, and the
screeching of some one of the Folk. The Fire People
had found their way across the swamp.
The Swift One, Lop-Ear, and I followed on the heels of
Hair-Face and his wife. When we came to the edge of
the great swamp, we stopped. We did not know its
paths. It was outside our territory, and it had been
always avoided by the Folk. None had ever gone into
it--at least, to return. In our minds it represented
mystery and fear, the terrible unknown. As I say, we
stopped at the edge of it. We were afraid. The cries
of the Fire-Men were drawing nearer. We looked at one
another. Hair-Face ran out on the quaking morass and
gained the firmer footing of a grass-hummock a dozen
yards away. His wife did not follow. She tried to, but
shrank back from the treacherous surface and cowered
The Swift One did not wait for me, nor did she pause
till she had passed beyond Hair-Face a hundred yards
and gained a much larger hummock. By the time Lop-Ear
and I had caught up with her, the Fire-Men appeared
among the trees. Hair-Face's wife, driven by them into
panic terror, dashed after us. But she ran blindly,
without caution, and broke through the crust. We
turned and watched, and saw them shoot her with arrows
as she sank down in the mud. The arrows began falling
about us. Hair-Face had now joined us, and the four of
us plunged on, we knew not whither, deeper and deeper
into the swamp.
Of our wanderings in the great swamp I have no clear
knowledge. When I strive to remember, I have a riot of
unrelated impressions and a loss of time-value. I have
no idea of how long we were in that vast everglade, but
it must have been for weeks. My memories of what
occurred invariably take the form of nightmare. For
untold ages, oppressed by protean fear, I am aware of
wandering, endlessly wandering, through a dank and
soggy wilderness, where poisonous snakes struck at us,
and animals roared around us, and the mud quaked under
us and sucked at our heels.
I know that we were turned from our course countless
times by streams and lakes and slimy seas. Then there
were storms and risings of the water over great areas
of the low-lying lands; and there were periods of
hunger and misery when we were kept prisoners in the
trees for days and days by these transient floods.
Very strong upon me is one picture. Large trees are
about us, and from their branches hang gray filaments
of moss, while great creepers, like monstrous serpents,
curl around the trunks and writhe in tangles through
the air. And all about is the mud, soft mud, that
bubbles forth gases, and that heaves and sighs with
internal agitations. And in the midst of all this are
a dozen of us. We are lean and wretched, and our bones
show through our tight-stretched skins. We do not sing
and chatter and laugh. We play no pranks. For once
our volatile and exuberant spirits are hopelessly
subdued. We make plaintive, querulous noises, look at
one another, and cluster close together. It is like
the meeting of the handful of survivors after the day
of the end of the world.
This event is without connection with the other events
in the swamp. How we ever managed to cross it, I do
not know, but at last we came out where a low range of
hills ran down to the bank of the river. It was our
river emerging like ourselves from the great swamp. On
the south bank, where the river had broken its way
through the hills, we found many sand-stone caves.
Beyond, toward the west, the ocean boomed on the bar
that lay across the river's mouth. And here, in the
caves, we settled down in our abiding-place by the sea.
There were not many of us. From time to time, as the
days went by, more of the Folk appeared. They dragged
themselves from the swamp singly, and in twos and
threes, more dead than alive, mere perambulating
skeletons, until at last there were thirty of us. Then
no more came from the swamp, and Red-Eye was not among
us. It was noticeable that no children had survived the
I shall not tell in detail of the years we lived by the
sea. It was not a happy abiding-place. The air was
raw and chill, and we suffered continually from
coughing and colds. We could not survive in such an
environment. True, we had children; but they had
little hold on life and died early, while we died
faster than new ones were born. Our number steadily
Then the radical change in our diet was not good for
us. We got few vegetables and fruits, and became
fish-eaters. There were mussels and abalones and clams
and rock-oysters, and great ocean-crabs that were
thrown upon the beaches in stormy weather. Also, we
found several kinds of seaweed that were good to eat.
But the change in diet caused us stomach troubles, and
none of us ever waxed fat. We were all lean and
dyspeptic-looking. It was in getting the big abalones
that Lop-Ear was lost. One of them closed upon his
fingers at low-tide, and then the flood-tide came in
and drowned him. We found his body the next day, and
it was a lesson to us. Not another one of us was ever
caught in the closing shell of an abalone.
The Swift One and I managed to bring up one child, a
boy--at least we managed to bring him along for several
years. But I am quite confident he could never have
survived that terrible climate. And then, one day, the
Fire People appeared again. They had come down the
river, not on a catamaran, but in a rude dug-out.
There were three of them that paddled in it, and one of
them was the little wizened old hunter. They landed on
our beach, and he limped across the sand and examined
They went away in a few minutes, but the Swift One was
badly scared. We were all frightened, but none of us
to the extent that she was. She whimpered and cried
and was restless all that night. In the morning she
took the child in her arms, and by sharp cries,
gestures, and example, started me on our second long
flight. There were eight of the Folk (all that was left
of the horde) that remained behind in the caves. There
was no hope for them. Without doubt, even if the Fire
People did not return, they must soon have perished.
It was a bad climate down there by the sea. The Folk
were not constituted for the coast-dwelling life.
We travelled south, for days skirting the great swamp
but never venturing into it. Once we broke back to the
westward, crossing a range of mountains and coming down
to the coast. But it was no place for us. There were
no trees--only bleak headlands, a thundering surf, and
strong winds that seemed never to cease from blowing.
We turned back across the mountains, travelling east
and south, until we came in touch with the great swamp
Soon we gained the southern extremity of the swamp, and
we continued our course south and east. It was a
pleasant land. The air was warm, and we were again in
the forest. Later on we crossed a low-lying range of
hills and found ourselves in an even better forest
country. The farther we penetrated from the coast the
warmer we found it, and we went on and on until we came
to a large river that seemed familiar to the Swift One.
It was where she must have come during the four years'
absence from the harde. This river we crossed on logs,
landing on side at the large bluff. High up on the
bluff we found our new home most difficult of access
and quite hidden from any eye beneath.
There is little more of my tale to tell. Here the
Swift One and I lived and reared our family. And here
my memories end. We never made another migration. I
never dream beyond our high, inaccessible cave. And
here must have been born the child that inherited the
stuff of my dreams, that had moulded into its being all
the impressions of my life--or of the life of
Big-Tooth, rather, who is my other-self, and not my
real self, but who is so real to me that often I am
unable to tell what age I am living in.
I often wonder about this line of descent. I, the
modern, am incontestably a man; yet I, Big-Tooth, the
primitive, am not a man. Somewhere, and by straight
line of descent, these two parties to my dual
personality were connected. Were the Folk, before
their destruction, in the process of becoming men? And
did I and mine carry through this process? On the other
hand, may not some descendant of mine have gone in to
the Fire People and become one of them? I do not know.
There is no way of learning. One thing only is
certain, and that is that Big-Tooth did stamp into the
cerebral constitution of one of his progeny all the
impressions of his life, and stamped them in so
indelibly that the hosts of intervening generations
have failed to obliterate them.
There is one other thing of which I must speak before I
close. It is a dream that I dream often, and in point
of time the real event must have occurred during the
period of my living in the high, inaccessible cave. I
remember that I wandered far in the forest toward the
east. There I came upon a tribe of Tree People. I
crouched in a thicket and watched them at play. They
were holding a laughing council, jumping up and down
and screeching rude choruses.
Suddenly they hushed their noise and ceased their
capering. They shrank down in fear, and quested
anxiously about with their eyes for a way of retreat.
Then Red-Eye walked in among them. They cowered away
from him. All were frightened. But he made no attempt
to hurt them. He was one of them. At his heels, on
stringy bended legs, supporting herself with knuckles
to the ground on either side, walked an old female of
the Tree People, his latest wife. He sat down in the
midst of the circle. I can see him now, as I write
this, scowling, his eyes inflamed, as he peers about
him at the circle of the Tree People. And as he peers
he crooks one monstrous leg and with his gnarly toes
scratches himself on the stomach. He is Red-Eye, the