THE PRE-HISTORIC WORLD.
THERE is an epoch in the life of humanity which, as its name indicates, could have no history; it is that long period of ages which elapsed between the moment when man first appeared on earth and the time when oral tradition and writing began to establish the acts of his existence.
This unknown period then seemed to belong solely to the domain of poesy and romance; but if poesy lives by brilliant fictions, romance which, as has been said of Walter Scott's masterpieces, is often "truer than history" requires, in order to interest, to rest upon fact. Now, romances of the ages which preceded historic times have long been impossible; all the elements were lacking. The immortal Cuvier, the inventor of Palæontology, would not even admit that man existed in that remote antiquity. European scientists refused to believe that the flint objects found in the Quaternary rock by the illustrious Boucher de Perthes might be the products of human industry. It is only within a few years that new, incontestable, startling discoveries have liberated this period from the mysterious clouds that veiled it.
Science has now obtained the most exact and positive results. It not only knows that man existed myriads of years before historic times, but determines to what race he belonged, amid what surroundings he lived; and from them deduces his character, manners, and customs. It has found his weapons, his barbaric ornaments, the utensils of his rustic dwelling, and even the remains of his coarse food. Day by day discoveries multiply in all quarters of the globe, and at the present time, by means of analogy, a perfectly clear idea of pre-historic man may be formed,
Thus the romance of those remote epochs has become possible, and we have ventured to undertake it, scrupulously following step by step the indications of science. We have endeavored to stem up in three tales the discoveries of the scientists of all countries, among whom Cuvier, Boucher de Perthes, Le Hon, Lartet, Lyell, and G. de Mortillet are the most eminent. The first of these tales, THE PARISIANS OF THE STONE AGE, is a study of the inhabitants of Parisian soil, who were the contemporaries of the mammoth and cave-bear. These inhabitants, who seem to have belonged to the Mongol race, are considered as having lived by families and in caves, given up to the fiercest passions, the most brutal instincts. In THE LACUSTRIAN CITY, whose action takes place several thousand years later, man, who belongs to the race called the dolmen nation, lives by tribes in clusters of terrestrial or lacustrian habitations; it is the intermediate Age of Polished Stone and the commencement of the Bronze Age. Finally, in the third tale, THE FOUNDATION OF PARIS, we have studied the Age of Metals, and the mode of life of the Gallic nations several centuries before Cæsar's arrival in Gaul. There, although touching upon the most ancient historical traditions, we have depended especially upon the monuments Archæology has recently revealed.
It will be understood how many difficulties this totally novel work presented. We have been obliged to frame in a fiction which we have endeavored to render interesting numerous details whose sole interest consists in exactness. We have striven to reconstruct, to revive, this unknown world, and, if we had not feared to fatigue the reader, might have cited some scientist as authority at every sentence, almost every line. But in a popular work we have thought it our duty to confine ourselves to the most indispensable quotations.
The reader shall decide whether we have attained our purpose. To-morrow, perhaps other discoveries will modify the knowledge already gained, open a wider field to the imagination; but whatever may be the fate of this work, we shall be glad to have been the literary pioneer who first penetrated regions so long unknown, and applaud whoever shall desire to attempt the task again.
I. THE LANDSCAPE.
LET us go back through the ages; let us pass several thousand years beyond the forty centuries common tradition assigns as the date of the creation of the world before the birth of Jesus Christ.
We are in the geological epoch called by scientific men the "Quaternary" period. Humanity is still very near its origin. It extends through the period which preceded the age of metals, and has received the name of the Age of Polished Stone.
This epoch, which but a short time ago was shrouded in mysterious obscurity, has within the past few years been revealed by monuments so numerous, so authentic, so indisputable, that it is possible to describe it exactly, as Cuvier described antediluvian monsters from the bones found in the geological strata.
In the place where, so many centuries after, the city of Paris was to be built, extended a strange and savage solitude. If we climb one of the hills that overlook it for instance, that which in historic times was to be called Montmartre see what a scene we behold.
As far as the eye can reach there is nothing but trees, foliage, and water. On all the hills, now called Ménilmontant, Chaumont, Sainte-Geneviève, Mont Valérien, tower oaks, pines, beeches, immense masses of foliage that extend to the verge of the horizon, perhaps to the limits of the future Gaul. Swamps, however, appeared here and there. One, formed by a brook that flowed from Ménilmontant, covered the space which was afterward to be occupied by the farm of La Grange-Batelière, then the two opera-houses, and extended to the site of the Hôtel-de-Ville. A second, at the bottom of Mont Lucotitius, marked the mouth of the Bièvre. But the place where the swamps were most extensive was on the banks of the Seine, which had not yet completely hollowed out the valley whose centre it now occupies.
The Seine did not then resemble the peaceful, civilized, sleepy river that, confined by majestic wharves, now flows beneath magnificent bridges. It wound between the cliffs that in many places bordered its course, and its bed frequently changed. It had the width, swiftness, and impetuosity of the great American rivers. Its yellow, muddy waves and rapid current swept away whole trees, like the Orinoco and Amazon. On the surface of this tawny sheet of water appeared the three or four islands that were to contain the Lutèce of the Gauls, but these islands were bare and sandy. Only the principal one, destined to become the "city" of Paris, was covered with brushwood, whose highest branches held clods of earth and clumps of dry moss, as if the ancient Sequana, in its frequent inundations, submerged them.
The whole of this vast basin displayed to the eye neither structures of wood or stone, boats, roads, nor anything that showed the labor of man. Everywhere appeared high grass, trees overgrown with tangled vines, stagnant or flowing water; in short, a desert, which, however, swarmed with living creatures.
Above the river appeared the hideous heads of hippopotami emerging from its depths. These monsters, whose congeners now exist only in the rivers and great lakes of Africa, came in herds on sunny days to sleep on the island where now stand Notre Dame and the Palais de justice. Sometimes, too, a loud noise was heard in the swamps; the reeds and rushes shook violently; water and slime were spouted into the air. This whirlwind of mud was caused by the gambols of the rhinoceroses with chambered nostrils; and these formidable animals, with massive limbs and a double horn on the nose, soon gained the shore, shaking their thick hides and uttering loud roars.
In the glades of the forest and on the pasture-land were numerous animals of various kinds, principally belonging to the herbivorous order. There were herds of the wild oxen, called aurochs and uri, which were still so numerous in Gaul at the time of the invasion of the Franks; reindeer and the common deer, grazing side by side with the gigantic antlered megatherium, a species now extinct. Troops of wild horses, far smaller than our domestic animal, but full of strength and spirit, were also visible. The king of this herbivorous population was the mammoth, that huge elephant with curved tusks, body covered with hair, and long black mane, whose size was twice that of our modern elephant. The mammoth usually grazed alone or with a small number of animals of the same species, and then neither reindeer, wild horses, nor aurochs feared the proximity of these colossal creatures. But when any cause a migration, an alarm united the mammoths in a vast herd and hurled them through the forests, what a magnificent spectacle they must have afforded! The earth shook under their heavy tread; the grass and bushes were trampled, crushed in an instant as if by the passage of a thousand chariots; and the oldest trees, torn up by the roots or broken, left wide avenues, like those opened by waterspouts in tropical forests.
Yet, we repeat, the mammoth was not usually feared by the inoffensive ruminants, and, except for a few quarrels between different species, their days were sufficiently peaceful; but as soon as the sun set the scene suddenly changed.
Then arose the screams of the hyena, the howls of innumerable wolves, with which sometimes mingled the growls of the cave-bear. At this ominous signal the herbivorous animals, which were already seeking shelter for the night, pressed trembling against each other. The herds of aurochs and reindeer presented to their cowardly enemies a row of threatening horns, as the bison and deer of America do in similar circumstances; the horses prepared to defend themselves by violent kicks. Usually, these demonstrations were sufficient to keep off the wolves and hyenas, which, in spite of their numbers, only ventured to attack single animals. But often a terrible tumult arose in the darkness; thousands of animals, wild with terror, fled through the forests and over the plains in every direction, while a loud roar echoed from the depths of the waste. The cave-lion, that formidable feline which partook of the characteristics of both lion and tiger, and, according to the bones found in Parisian soil, was nearly fourteen feet long and taller than our largest bulls, was the cause of this alarm, and had just seized a victim. No resistance was possible against such an enemy; all the creatures of this antediluvian world were filled with terror; even the mammoths, infected by the general fright, fled at full speed like the reindeer.
Such were the quadrupeds that inhabited the banks of the Seine in the Quaternary period. What conflicts, struggles, scenes of carnage, incessantly occurred amid these innumerable animals, powerful or weak, crafty or cruel! The most feeble became the prey of the strongest; the large devoured the small, according to the primordial law of Nature. Cries of pain and death arose every hour. Everywhere blood flowed in streams, and fierce mouths were always at hand to eagerly drink it. The immense masses of bones found in the earth prove the exuberance of life at that period and the grand scale on which extermination was practised to correct its excess.
But man, it will be asked, man, cast helpless and naked into the midst of these carnivorous animals, amid these huge mammoths, hyenas, bears, and lions the size of bulls, where was he and how did he live?
Man! Let us see.
II. THE CAVE.
THE sun was setting at the close of a foggy day. Although it was in the month of August, the air was cold; the foliage of the forest had the rusty hues that now appear only at the end of autumn. The Parisian climate then resembled that of Sweden and Norway, for the time was very near the geological epoch called the Glacial Period, during which the fate of the human race becomes so enigmatical. At this time, in fact, the earth grew cold without any known cause; Europe was covered with immense glaciers, to which we owe the transportation of isolated rocks now called " erratic blocks." Moss,1 which at the present day grows only in Greenland, is found in the strata of the Quaternary period in the latitude of Paris, and we have seen that among the animals living on Parisian soil were the reindeer, the rhinoceros with chambered nostrils, and the mammoth. Now the reindeer inhabits Lapland, and the last region occupied by the other two species before their disappearance from the surface of the globe was the snowy waste near the North Pole.
At the time of which we are now speaking there was halfway down the hill of Montmartre a large grotto, whose entrance was protected by enormous stones forming a cyclopean structure and leaving only a narrow passage. No trace of agriculture was visible around. The hill, like the plain, was covered by the virgin forest. Only a few paths, opened by wild beasts, enabled one to move through the almost impenetrable thickets.
The approaches to this grotto were piled with broken bones of all sizes. Yet, if it had first been hollowed out by some large burrowing animal, the cave could not now be inhabited by it: the structure that protected the entrance, in spite of its rudeness, was the work of human hands; and, besides, smoke, an infallible sign of the presence of man, rose through the stones placed one above another.
In fact, if we enter the cave we shall find ourselves in the presence of a Parisian family of that remote period. Only a dim light came through the opening, and the fire on the hearth did not blaze. Still, we could see that the family consisted of five persons the father, mother, a daughter seventeen or eighteen years old, and two boys, one twelve, the other nearly ten. These people did not represent the elegant type of the Caucasian race which at the present day is predominant in Europe; they belonged, on the contrary, to a race similar to the Esquimaux and Lapps. 'They were short and sturdy in figure. It would have been difficult to distinguish the exact hue of their sun-burnt and dirty complexions, but their skulls were of the elongated form naturalists call dolichocephalic (long-headed, and which shows a low degree of intelligence. Their long, straight hair grew very low on the forehead. Their eyes were small, fierce in expression, and had extremely prominent brows. Their jaws were also very prominent, their noses flat, and in their shapeless garments of reindeer or bear skin they presented the appearance of actual savages.
The father, a man fifty-five or sixty years old, was sitting near the entrance of the cave; he seemed ill, and his left arm was bound to his body by a strip of undressed leather. On one of his hunting expeditions, a few days before, this arm had been torn by the claws of a wild beast, and doubtless the painful wound diminished his usual activity.
His limbs, like those of his family, were thin and slender, while his hands and feet were immensely large. His gray beard mingled with long hair of the same color, which, full of impurities, floated over his shoulders. He was clad in a sort of tunic of auroch-skins, which left his arms and legs bare. Although no danger threatened at the moment, one of the axes of hewn flint which have been found in such immense quantities in the strata of rock of that period lay within his reach. To make use of his leisure-time, he held in his uninjured hand a sort of hammer made of stone pierced in the middle, with which he was sharpening the point of a stone arrow. But perhaps his wound made him unusually awkward, for ever and anon he ground his teeth and uttered an angry growl.
The mother and daughter were seated on the ground a few paces off, and while the older woman was cleaning a fresh skin with a flint scraper, the young girl was sewing, by means of a bone needle and the sinew of an animal, a garment intended for one of her brothers. The shape of their garments differed very slightly from those of the husband and boys; they wore tunics of skins, and the mother, with her hair hanging over her wrinkled face, her eyes reddened by the smoke, flabby neck and aurochskin garment soiled with grease and dried blood, was a most repulsive specimen of the feminine sex in those ancient times.
On the other hand, the daughter, thanks to her youth, had a sort of relative beauty. True, her features preserved the indelible signs of her race, the prominent jaws, thick lips, flat nose, small eyes, and low forehead; but she did not lack freshness, and her person revealed the first dawning of that coquetry which was afterward to be so prodigiously developed in her descendants, the Parisians. Thus, her long black hair, fastened by a leather thong, formed a queue in the Chinese fashion. She had not had sufficient skill to twist it or arrange it on her head like a crown, but the long braid, falling now over the right shoulder and now the left, was by no means ungraceful. Besides, this cave-coquette wore two necklaces one of wolves' teeth polished by rubbing, the other of shells. Around her arms were several bracelets made of shells, and even scarlet berries recently gathered in the neighboring thickets. But the special charm in this odd face was the air of mischievous merriment that characterized it, and the tendency of the thick lips to smile and show the superb white teeth.
Let us finish the description of this family of savages. The two boys, squatting near the fire, were watching the cooking of a dozen small animals broiling on the hot coals for supper. Half naked in their short garments, they showed remarkable activity and agility. With uncombed hair and dirty faces, their task did not occupy their attention so completely as to prevent them from occasionally indulging in noisy gambols. They tumbled over each other, half screaming, half laughing, or rolled about on the ground like monkeys. The younger lad had a whistle made of a bone,2 from which he occasionally drew sharp sounds of the most ear-splitting character; then the parents interfered to restore order. The father and mother uttered a low growl, the young girl raised her arm as if to strike them; and, though the two little satyrs did not seem to be much alarmed by these threatening demonstrations, they remained silent and motionless a moment, to begin again a little later.
The dwelling seemed perfectly suited to its rude occupants. The grotto was rough and irregular, and the faint light coming from without could not illumine the whole interior. It contained no article of furniture. The bed consisted of a heap of moss and dry leaves, on which father, mother, and children slept pell-mell without undressing. The seats were blocks of stone. Not a dish, not a piece of earthenware, was to be seen. Yet the family appeared to be very wealthy for those times. From pegs of wood and bone, fastened into the chinks of the cave, hung axes and knives of flint, a bow and arrows, together with mammoths' tusks and reindeers' antlers, intended for the manufacture of articles indispensable in the household.3 It might be supposed that the bones scattered over the floor of the grotto, and which rolled under the feet every instant, were destined for the same purpose. These bones exhaled an infectious odor, which, blended with that of the food broiling on the coals and the acrid smoke filling the subterranean habitation, formed a repulsive atmosphere, unendurable to any one who had not been long accustomed to it.
The conversation did not appear to be very active. Language at that period, like the dialects of certain Indian tribes of the present day, must have consisted of only a few hundred words, for there were no complex ideas to express. Most of the time they talked in monosyllables, or even by signs, yet they understood each other sufficiently well for the very simple acts to be executed in common.
At the moment when, the sun having set, the cave began to grow darker, the father, who was called Lynx (he had either given himself the title or received it from his neighbors, for there were no family names in those days), rose from his seat and uttered a short exclamation. This was the signal to close the cave; already howls began to echo from the woods as usual, and there was cause to fear the attack of some wild beast.
Instantly every one was on the move. The object to be accomplished was to push before the entrance a huge stone that rested against the side of the cave, and fasten it in its place by means of a piece of unhewn timber. Lynx could usually perform the task alone, but, as his wound lessened his strength, he now required the assistance of the family. The two women, stronger than many of the men of our times, came to help him. The children also wanted to aid, but, as they were in the way, received several antediluvian cuffs, strikingly like modern ones, only they were perhaps more vigorous and brutal.
A few minutes were sufficient to barricade the cave. The interior was now lighted only by the fire, on which the children from time to time threw pieces of dry wood. But the daughter of the house, who was called Deer on account of her swiftness of foot, hastily lighted a resinous larch-bough to serve as a torch, while the old mother, named, in consequence of a natural infirmity, Deaf, busied herself in making preparations for supper. This supper, alas! was by no means an abundant meal. There was no agriculture in those days; the people lived entirely by the products of the chase. So, when the head of a family found himself, as under the present circumstances, unable to hunt, the fare was meagre enough. On this day the supper consisted of the little animals cooked on the embers, and which were water-rats. Rats seem to have played an important part in the food of primitive man;4 these had been procured by the older boy, who from his skill was called Rat-Catcher, while the younger lad, the boy with the whistle, had been named Whistler. Deaf, for her share, brought from a corner several handfuls of acorns and chestnuts picked up under the trees, and added them to the repast.
They were sitting on the ground around the fire, and the master of the house was already stretching out his huge hand, with its hooked nails, to seize a broiled rat, when a harsh, guttural cry, that seemed to be a call, came from without. The cry was so harsh in its intonations that it might have been uttered by some animal in the forest, but the inhabitants of the cave started; they had recognized a human voice. The call being repeated, Lynx answered by a similar exclamation. Then some one said,
" I'm Red, who lives on the Green Mountain, on the other side of the river. The wolves and hyenas are already prowling about, and the lion is beginning to roar. Let me in; I've killed a reindeer, and we'll eat it together."
The name of the hunter who asked hospitality was perhaps no recommendation to the master of the house, who was distrustful by character and necessity; but to turn a man from the door during the night was to doom him to almost inevitable death. Besides, the famished family had heard the hunter's proposal, and between the rocks piled one above another that protected the entrance of the cavern saw that Red really bore on his shoulders a fine animal of most appetizing appearance.
"A reindeer!" Deer and the children exclaimed joyously.
"A reindeer!" repeated Deaf.
Lynx, in his turn, seemed to comprehend that a meal of venison was preferable to the lean water-rats and acorns that formed the bill of fare that evening. This consideration conquered the prudential motives that had at first made him hesitate to admit a stranger. So he resolved to remove, with the aid of his family, the rock that served as a door, and when the hunter had entered the entrance of the cave was barricaded again.
III. THE GUEST.
THE new-comer looked still more fierce and brutal than the master of the house. He was stout and in the prime of life; his special distinction was thick red hair floating over his shoulders, and a beard of the same color that completely concealed his mouth: from this he derived his name. His bear-skin tunic, as usual, left bare his limbs, which were covered with red hair like those of Esau in the Bible. He too wore bracelets and necklaces made of shells and the teeth of wild animals. His accoutrements were remarkable: besides the flint knife and axe and the arrows with stone heads thrust into his belt, he carried in one hand a bow whose string was made of the entrails of some animal. The other hand held a sort of club, formed of the lower jaw of a large beast with its sharp canine teeth. A long bone served as a handle for this weapon, which was very heavy and must have been formidable.5
Red made no sign of greeting on entering the cave; courtesy was unknown among these rude beings, who did not even live in tribes, only in families. He contented himself with throwing down the reindeer, at which the women and children instantly rushed like dogs on a quarry. Without paying the slightest attention to them, the hunter sat down wearily on a stone, and seemed to notice no one except the master of the habitation. He still held in his hand his terrible club, to be used at the slightest warning.
Lynx, on his part, had made no sign of welcome to his guest, but seized his axe. Both gazed intently at each other without exchanging a word.
Nevertheless, this was not their first meeting. Red, as he had said, lived with his family in a cave on the side of Mont Saint Genevieve, afterward called by the Romans Mont Lucotitius, on the opposite bank of the Seine. Now, as there were neither boats nor bridges to cross the river, and the stream with its swift current, vast swamps, hippopotami, and rhinoceroses with chambered nostrils, was not easy to pass either by fording or on a log guided by a pole, intercourse was not very frequent between the scattered inhabitants of Montmartre and those of the Quartier Latin. It was only when a hunter from one or the other bank was on his rounds that, as in the present case, transient relations existed between them.
Lynx and Red, who were not on the best of terms, continued to watch each other with glittering eyes. But the hunter at last seemed to perceive that he ought to show some signs of interest in the master of the habitation where he was receiving hospitality, and pointing to Lynx's arm, swathed in an offensive skin, "Hurt?" he asked in his guttural voice.
" Yes hyena. Base, cowardly beast!" replied Lynx, grinding his teeth.
The memory of his accident appeared to rouse his anger and change the course of his thoughts. He went up to the fleshless head of an animal that lay in the corner of the cave, and dealt it a blow with his axe that shattered it in fragments. It was the skull of the hyena that had wounded him, and which had been eaten by the family during the preceding days. This puerile revenge accomplished, he resumed his seat near his guest, who no longer thought of anything but watching the new preparations for supper, for he was almost famishing.
The family were not inactive. With the skill given by habit, the two women, assisted by the children, had set to work to skin and cut up the reindeer. The hide having been quickly removed, large venison steaks replaced the wretched water-rats, which were contemptuously thrust aside, to the dismay of Rat-Catcher. Besides, the company, while waiting for the more solid portion of the repast, regaled themselves with another kind of dainty.
The prevailing taste of this race seems to have been for the marrow of the bones of animals. This is the explanation given for the immense quantity of bones split lengthwise found in the geological strata of the Quaternary period. These exquisite side-dishes had not been forgotten; the large bones of the reindeer had been cracked with stones, and, to give the steaks time to cook to a nicety, guest, father, mother, and children began to suck the marrow, still raw and warm, of the ruminant.
But Red was not entirely absorbed in this sensual gratification. His tawny eyes attentively followed every movement of Deer, who was helping her mother prepare the venison. She performed this sufficiently repulsive task with a heavy grace, an artless sprightliness, that seemed to delight the rude hunter. Thus, while the clothes, hands, and even the face, of Deaf were stained with blood, the daughter had found means to avoid these hideous splashes and preserve her neatness. Armed with her flint knife a marvel of art for the times, for the deer-horn handle was adorned with carving she delicately detached the sinews, which when dried were to serve many household uses. While performing her task she sometimes addressed a merry word to the young brothers gambolling around her, or uttered a shrill laugh, which, though perhaps somewhat vacant, was full of mirth.
Red, in a sort of rapture, forgot to suck the marrow of a huge bone he had seized. But when supper was ready he no longer thought of anything except doing honor to the repast, for the satisfaction of the appetite in these rude natures was the first and most imperious necessity.
They took their places round the fire, and each snatched a steak from the embers. Yet there was a sort of hierarchy among the table-companions. The men helped themselves first, then came the women, and then the boys. All tore their food to pieces. Not a word was exchanged, but by way of compensation their jaws made a horrible noise. This noise was caused by the peculiar shape of the mouth among the individuals of this primitive race. Instead of having the upper jaw project considerably above the lower one, like ours, their jaws fitted exactly, which produced a singular snapping sound when they took food. Thus the teeth of Lynx and Deaf, who were advanced in years, were half worn down,6 and this arrangement of the jaws caused an indistinctness of pronunciation in speaking.
The appearance of the grotto at this moment can easily be imagined. It was filled with a dense, nauseous, suffocating smoke. The fire no longer blazed; the resinous branch used as a torch looked like a red spot in the hot mist; and the perspiration was streaming down the faces of the company.
But nothing disheartened the party, an example of whose voracity could now be furnished only by certain tribes of Indians. The first supply of steaks having disappeared, a second was prepared, then a third, until the reindeer was entirely devoured. Then the company, thoroughly gorged, seemed to think of nothing but sleep. The children were the first to reach the back of the cave, where there was a heap of moss, on which they threw themselves and fell asleep without further ceremony. Deaf was not slow in following their example, and only Lynx, his daughter, and the hunter remained.
The pain of his wound, or perhaps some secret anxiety, had prevented the head of the family from extending his gluttony to the last extreme, and Deer had shown herself sufficiently temperate, though she had played a brilliant part in the festival. But Red had devoured for his share what would now be enough to surfeit six strong men. Stupefied by this excess of food, he had scarcely strength to rise. Yet he began to look at the young girl, who, having finished her supper, seemed disposed to amuse herself by a little coquetry. She laughed from time to time and rattled her necklaces.
So, although Lynx had pointed with his finger to a hollow in the ground at some distance from the family couch where his guest might sleep, Red did not seem to notice it.
He did not remove his eyes from Deer, and suddenly said in his harsh voice,
"Lynx, I'll take your daughter, and kill an auroch to give you in exchange."
On hearing this very delicate proposal, Deer burst into a mocking laugh. Her father grasped his axe and answered,
"No, no. You already have a wife and children on the Green Mountain."
Red made a hideous face.
"The woman is too old," he replied, "and the children are grown up. Listen, there is a bear near here. I'll kill him, and take Deer to live in his cave with me. I'm a good hunter. Deer shall never want reindeer or horse meat."
This attractive prospect only excited the merriment of the little flirt.
"I'm promised to Fair-Hair," she said saucily.
Red doubtless knew the person called Fair-Hair, for the repulsive features of the inhabitant of Lucotitius assumed a contemptuous expression.
"Fair-Hair bad hunter," he answered; " Deer will starve to death. He won't know how to defend her against the wild beasts."
"He has already killed a mammoth and given his tusks to my father," cried the young girl, proudly. " Look!" At the same time she pointed to two colossal tusks hanging on the wall of the cave.
"Fair-Hair will make beautiful things out of the ivory, like these," she continued. She held before Red's eyes her flint knife, whose handle, it will be remembered, was carefully carved, then several little articles of bone ornamented with drawings of animals-things which, in spite of the coarseness of the work, showed that their maker must be an artist of the first rank for the times.
Red did not look at them; he snarled with rage and jealousy, while Lynx, whose mind was very dull, seemed proud of his daughter's eloquence and ready wit. Deer, seeing her rude admirer baffled, added in a jeering tone, Fair-Hair wants me; I want nobody else. He likes to laugh, and we laugh together. He's coming for me to-morrow, and my father will let me go. Let Red hunt the wolf and hyena."
Then, still laughing, she ran to the end of the cave, where she lay down between her mother and little brothers.
Red uttered a furious exclamation and rose to follow her; her father, axe in hand, barred his way. Then he seemed about to turn his rage upon Lynx, but as soon as he stood up the effect of the immense quantity of meat he had eaten made itself felt; he tottered, yawned horribly, and sank heavily on the ground. He stirred a few minutes longer, but soon, like Polyphemus under similar circumstances, remained motionless and fell into a deep sleep on the rough earth.
Lynx knew by experience that this slumber would not be broken until the next day, and therefore stretched himself on the heap of moss, where he too soon fell asleep.
IV. THE ABDUCTION
THE night passed quietly to the inhabitants of the Montmartre grotto, and nothing disturbed their repose. At the approach of dawn the infernal concert of wild beasts gradually ceased, and at last a ray of light, falling through the chinks in the rocks, entered the subterranean habitation.
Every one was instantly in motion. The duties of the toilet were not long; it was only necessary to leave the bed and shake one's self. Deer was the first to arise, not because she had to attend to household cares, for there were no domestic duties; she merely obeyed the laws of her active temperament, and perhaps the thought of her lover, who was to come that day, occupied her mind.
However this might be, at the moment she was bounding toward the entrance of the cave she heard a loud yawn, and saw her father's guest, who, drawing up his huge figure to its full height, was stretching himself. Deer was passing him when she felt herself seized by an iron hand, and Red said,
"Will Deer come with me? I'll give her bear-skins to wear; she shall have all the marrow in my game."
But Deer, by a sudden movement, released herself, and answered with her perpetual laugh,
"No, no; Fair-Hair will come this morning. He's going to bring me more bracelets and necklaces."
"I'll kill Fair-Hair," growled the hunter, clenching his hands.
He was perhaps going to try to seize the young savage again, but, as we know, the troglodyte family had just risen. Lynx, with the help of his wife and children, had removed the wooden bars and pushed aside the rock that served for a door. At the same instant that a flood of light streamed into the cave the master of the dwelling said to the stranger, in a by no means courteous tone,
"It is day. The wild beasts have gone back to their dens. The uri and aurochs are grazing in the plains. It's time for the hunter to go."
This was a formal dismissal, and Red had no cause to be offended, for hospitality was not exercised in a very chivalrous fashion in those days. He picked up his bow and arrows, which he thrust into his belt, then, seizing the jaw he used as a club, seemed about to retire without resistance.
But before leaving he cast a last glance at Deer. The young girl uttered a still more mocking shout of laughter, as if to insult the disappointment of her unlucky admirer.
Instantly Red's eyes flashed and a roar of fury escaped his lips. He rushed forward, seized the coquettish beauty by the waist, raised her from the ground, and began to carry her away.
The whole family, excited by the cries of the struggling Deer, fell upon the ravisher. Deaf clung to her daughter; the boys seized the legs of the treacherous guest to throw him down. The father threw himself before Red and dealt him a blow on the head with his axe that seemed enough to fell an auroch.
But the blow was doubtless deadened by the hunter's thick hair, or else Lynx, weakened by his wound, did not have his usual strength; for Red still stood erect. Without releasing his prey, he brandished his formidable club in the hand still at liberty, and in his turn dealt Lynx a blow on the head which stretched him lifeless with a broken skull.
Deaf, seeing him on the ground, redoubled her yells and buried her nails in the hunter's flesh. The latter did not seem to notice it; raising his club again, he struck the unfortunate woman on the forehead, and she fell bleeding and senseless at her husband's side.
The two children remained, and vainly endeavored to throw down the murderer, but they were by no means formidable adversaries to this Hercules. By a mere movement of the arm he hurled one to the right and the other to the left against the walls of the cave, where they lay, if not killed, at least stunned, by the violence of the shock.
All this was accomplished in a few seconds, and, the conflict being over, Red thought only of flying with his prey. So he left the grotto without even looking behind him, and turned toward the forest, carrying Deer as a wolf carries a sheep.
But the young girl did not remain impassive. She struggled convulsively against the strong arm that held her, scratched and bit, uttering the most terrible shrieks; but the ravisher continued his way without fear or remorse. The poor child's despairing cries for aid were heard an instant longer, then the majestic silence of the Parisian solitudes again returned.
Several hours passed. A pale, dull sunlight illuminated the country. Groans issued from the cave, whose mouth remained open. They were uttered by Deaf, who survived her frightful wound. The two little boys, although terribly bruised, had risen. They seemed bewildered, stupefied, and, though they went to look at their dead father and dying mother, were too stupid to give the slightest assistance to the injured woman moaning at their feet, or take any action whatever. Pressed against each other, they dared not stir, expecting some event whose nature they could not have clearly described. This terror had still another cause. One of the huge hyenas that made such terrible concerts at night had been warned by its peculiar instinct of the presence of a corpse, and, though this animal usually ventures forth only after dark, had glided through the thickets to the entrance of the grotto, where it paced steadily to and fro. Its sense of smell told it that there were living creatures with the dead, and its cowardice prevented it from going farther. Yet, pressed by hunger, it would not go away, and thus moved incessantly to and fro before the cave.
Suddenly the brute stopped, as if it had heard a sound which had not yet reached the ears of the besieged children; then it re-entered the brushwood and vanished. Whistler and Rat-Catcher were beginning to breathe more freely, when the rustling of dry leaves and the rolling of pebbles under the foot of a pedestrian were heard outside; a human figure appeared at some distance.
The children fancied that Red, after having killed their father, their mother, and perhaps their sister, was returning to massacre them too. Overwhelmed with terror, they rushed into the farthest recesses of the cave, where they crouched in silence.
But they were mistaken; it was not Red who approached the cave, but a tall youth of twenty, clad in furs, with his head and feet bare. We will not say that he was handsome according to our particular type of beauty, but he would have afforded a proof of the fact recognized by modern scientists,7 that in those remote ages two different races of men inhabited the banks of the Seine. Fair-Hair for it was Deer's lover was far from presenting the physical characteristics of the race now predominant in Europe. Thus, his head was still somewhat elongated in form, although he belonged to the brachycephalic8 type (pardon the word), and his nose was flat, his eyebrows were more prominent and his lips thicker than those of the men of the present day. But, to make amends, his eyes were bright and clear, and his irregular features expressed craft and good-humor, if not intelligence. His fair hair to which he owed his name was long and silky, and his complexion, though sun-burnt, fair as that of the Celtic race from which we have descended.
His accoutrements consisted of a deer-skin pouch suspended across his hips by a thong, and a flint axe thrust into his belt. He held in his hand a sort of spear, whose point was made of the horn of a reindeer. Perhaps these weapons were insufficient at a time when a man could go only a few steps from his home without being exposed to various perils, but Fair-Hair had a lover's boldness. Besides, he had not come a long distance; his family lived on the other side of the hill of Montmartre, in a cave like that occupied by Lynx. This family consisted, besides the father and mother, of six stalwart brothers and sisters, several of whom were already married. Fair-Hair had seen Deer while hunting near the cave, fallen in love with her, and become engaged with the consent of the parents. He intended to take her away as soon as he had a cave to serve as a home for the new household: the one occupied by his own family could accommodate no more inhabitants. Meantime, he often visited the young girl, always bringing her as gifts carvings of bone or ivory, in whose execution he excelled, and which gave him the reputation of an artist of the first rank among the human beings scattered through the valley of the Seine.
This day also he was coming to offer the coquettish young girl the products of his art, and walked with a rapid step, a smile upon his lips. When he reached the entrance of the cave he paused and cast an eager glance within, but his eyes, dazzled by the broad light of day, could distinguish nothing. Deaf, either from exhaustion or because she was quite dead, had ceased to moan; the grotto seemed deserted.
"Deer!" called the young man.
No one answered, but Fair-Hair heard a rustling in the dry leaves forming the bed, and concluded that the habitation was not empty, as he had at first supposed. Still smiling, he advanced a short distance, and felt something cold and wet under his bare feet. He stooped, and perceived that he had been walking through a pool of blood.
But this circumstance gave no cause for alarm in a hunter's abode; so he continued loudly:
"Deer is hiding! Deer wants to laugh at me! So she sha'n't have the pretty things I've brought."
He drew from his deer-skin pouch bracelets of teeth, pieces of ivory and horn, on which he had sketched in his rude way figures of men and animals, then held them aloft to arouse the envy of his fiancée, whom he supposed to be lurking in the gloom.
Although Deer had not heard him, this time he received an answer. Besides the poor old woman, who began to moan again, children's voices cried from the recesses of the cave,
"It's Fair-Hair! it's Fair-Hair!"
At the same moment Whistler and Rat-Catcher ran toward the family friend.
Fair-Hair at first took no notice of them. He was becoming accustomed to the gloom, and beginning to distinguish certain objects. Bending toward Deaf, he saw the terrible wound in the poor woman's skull, at the same time that he perceived the body of Lynx lying a few paces off.
This scene of carnage did not move Fair-Hair as it would have done a man of our times. The rude generation of those days, habituated to live in the midst of dangers of every kind, full of savage instincts, were familiar with such sights. Yet the young savage's face expressed astonishment. Having once more examined the dead man and the wounded wife, he asked the children,
"Who did this?"
"Red," replied the oldest.
"Red, who lives on the Green Mountain?"
Fair-Hair tried to obtain some information from the little boys, who, too terrified or too bewildered to answer plainly, contented themselves with repeating incessantly,
"It was Red, who lives on the Green Mountain."
Suddenly a thought entered Fair-Hair's mind.
"And Deer?" he asked.
"Red has carried her off."
"Did he kill her too?"
"No, she fought, and she didn't want to go."
Fair-Hair uttered a furious exclamation, which proved that if he were not a very affectionate friend to the parents of his betrothed bride, he was at least an ardent and jealous lover. It now required no great effort of the imagination to understand the horrible drama that had just been enacted. Red, whose cruel ferocity was known throughout the whole neighborhood, had tried to seize the young girl, and, as the father and mother opposed the abduction, killed them both.
Having gained this certainty, Fair-Hair thought only of pursuing the ravisher. He was already walking toward the entrance of the cave, when the two children clung to him.
"Take me," said the older boy.
"And me too," cried the other.
However unknown to the young hunter the refinements of humanity might be, he felt how terrible was the orphans' situation. The cave being open, wild beasts, attracted by the odor of the corpse and the blood, would not fail to enter it even in broad daylight. Besides, Deaf was still alive and needed help. So Deer's lover, notwithstanding his anxiety to get away, made a few arrangements for the benefit of the unfortunate family.
His first care was to drag the body of Lynx into a corner and cover it with leaves, until it could be buried according to the rites then in use. Next he raised Deaf, who redoubled her groans, and carried her to the common bed. To dress the wound he took a handful of very fine moss, dipped it in water, and laid it on the injured part. This was all his surgical knowledge allowed him to do, and the patient really seemed relieved, for her moans grew less audible.
He still had to provide for the two children, who must remain alone for a time whose duration it was impossible for him to fix. Fair-Hair filled at a neighboring pond a skin vessel and several urus' horns, intended to hold the supply of water. Moreover, he ascertained that the cave still contained a small stock of chestnuts, beechnuts, and acorns, which would serve as food for the children, and, if necessary, the mother also. The fire was out, and it would have been too long a task to relight it by rubbing two pieces of dry wood together, according to the method practised even in our times among certain savage tribes. Fair-Hair did not think of doing so, but it was important to bar the cave against the entrance of wild beasts.
The young man, with his natural ingenuity, instantly thought of a means of closing the entrance which would be amply sufficient for the necessities of the moment. The rock that usually served for a door was pushed across the mouth of the cave, and as there was still an empty space between the stone block and the roof, FairHair showed the children how to place, after he had gone out, the wooden cross-pieces intended to complete the barricade. Thanks to this arrangement, the air and light could enter the cave, but the space between the bars was not large enough to permit the passage of any dangerous carnivorous animal.
These preparations being finished, he said to the children,
"I'm going to look for Deer; if I meet Red, I'll kill him. You must not stir out until to-morrow. If you do, the wild beasts will eat you. I'll come back with Deer or die."
He explained to them that they would have occasionally to dip in water the moss which covered their mother's wound, and prepared to depart.
As his spear might be in his way on the expedition he was planning, he left it in the cave, and to supply its place took possession of the dead Lynx's bow and arrows; and after ascertaining that the bow-string was in good order and the points of the arrows sharp enough, he strode over the rock at the entrance.
By his directions and with his aid, Rat-Catcher and Whistler skilfully adjusted the wooden crossbars within. Then Fair-Hair, convinced that he had done everything for his friends' safety which the circumstances required, walked rapidly away.
The fate of the unfortunate children whom he was leaving for an indefinite time in the dark, noisome cave with their father's corpse and their dying mother might have caused him some anxiety, but the thought of his beloved Deer completely absorbed his mind. Besides, the little savages themselves did not seem to take their situation very tragically. They remained quiet and silent a few moments after the singular events which had just occurred, but soon resumed their usual noisy sports, without troubling themselves about the groans Deaf uttered from time to time. The younger boy began to nibble chestnuts and draw shrill sounds from his bone whistle, while the older lad, no longer fearing any control, played with his father's spears.
FAIR-HAIR, on leaving Lynx's cave, walked very rapidly, but ere long slackened his pace to examine the ground and direct his search in the most efficient manner.
The trees, which were very numerous and very tall, bounded the view in every direction. Like those of our day, these trees were oaks, beeches, birches, and elms, although perhaps several species now extinct might have been discovered among them. From time to time glades appeared in which grazed herds of herbivorous animals reindeer, horses, aurochs which swarmed everywhere; but there were no means of communication except the roads, or rather paths, these wild beasts made through the woods when they went to the water or changed their pasturage-grounds, Nature being still untouched by the labor of man.
Fair-Hair had scarcely left the vicinity of Montmartre when he found in the virgin forest an avenue broad and straight, though still encumbered here and there by fallen trees. The soil was trodden down and trampled as if chariots and horsemen had passed over it daily. This was the path through which the mammoths went night and morning to the river, and in their continual trips they had worn this wide road, which was used by the other animals in the neighborhood. Although these colossal creatures were not dangerous to man, it would not be prudent to be found in their avenue; but at such an hour Fair-Hair only ran the risk of meeting a few isolated ones, and they doubtless would not think of molesting him if he did not disturb them. So he boldly entered the road, and the following are the reasons that induced him to take this direction:
"Red," he thought, "must have been in haste to reach the river, and has doubtless chosen the mammoths' road, which is the most direct and easy. Besides, he is carrying poor Deer, who would not follow him willingly, and he has not ventured into the thickets and bogs with such a burden. Red is apparently ignorant that the Seine has risen very much during the night, and he can no longer cross it either by fording or on a log, as usual. So he will be obliged to remain on this bank of the river, and I cannot fail to meet him soon, in spite of the start he has obtained."
We dare not assert that these reflections presented themselves with so much distinctness to the young man's mind, but they were very nearly his impressions, and, full of the hope of success, he continued his way.
Every instant neighs, growls, roars, strange sounds, uttered by animals that for the greater part of the time remained invisible, were heard from the forest. Sometimes, here and there herds of deer were seen amidst the tall grass, but they did not show much fear at the sight of a passer-by, for human beings were then too few in number, and not sufficiently formidable, for animals to recognize their power. It would have been easy for Fair-Hair to send an arrow at some buck or reindeer fawn, but he did not think of doing so, and contented himself with picking some wild berries while continuing to walk on with watchful eyes and weapons ready for instant use.
He thus reached a spot where a brook crossed the road, and according to the custom of hunters attentively examined the marks impressed on the damp soil. They consisted principally of the round, deep footprints of mammoths, amid which appeared a few human footsteps. He had recognized the large flat foot of the terrible Red, when he suddenly uttered an exclamation of rage. Beside the first marks he had just discovered others much smaller and lighter, though they bore no resemblance to those of Atalanta the footprints of his beloved Deer.
"So she's walking?", he muttered; "she is going with him of her own free will? I'll kill them both!" This discovery proved that Fair-Hair was really on the track of the fugitives. So, after having made certain examinations which were to be useful to him afterward, he continued his way, and soon found himself at the end of the avenue on the banks of the Seine.
We have already given an idea of the scene the river presented; at this moment, in particular, it had the majestic and imposing appearance of a real arm of the sea. Swollen by some storm, it had overflowed its banks, submerging the islands where Paris was to be built, and inundating its vast marshes. It would have been impossible to cross it even if boats had existed. Its muddy waves rose to a great height; its current seemed irresistible; and the trees it swept away, with their roots and branches, would have crushed any one who attempted to cross it by swimming. Thus it was very evident that Red had not reached the other shore with his prisoner, and Fair-Hair's eyes wandered eagerly over the vast landscape outspread before him.
The fog common to the Parisian climate overspread the country, while white clouds floated at intervals across the sun. Several large mammals were gambolling in the swampy plains that bordered the Seine. There were, in the first place, three or four belated mammoths, which had gone into the water up to their knees to drink or bathe. They rose like living mountains above the surface of the river, whose impetuous current was ruffled by their movements. The male had formidable tusks curved in a half circle, and while the young ones amused themselves by hurling huge jets of water into the air with their trunks, he raised his aloft, trumpeting loudly. The rhinoceroses with chambered nostrils were indulging in their usual gambols among the reeds. These animals, whose bones have been found while digging the canal of the Ourcq, were, as we have said, covered with hair like the mammoths, but their skins did not form folds like those of the African rhinoceros. Fierce and stupid, they fought among themselves, hurling vast quantities of mud into the air, and did not seem at all disturbed by the neighborhood of the hippopotami, who sometimes sported on the surface of the water.
And all this was not far from the place where now stands the Pont-Neuf!
These scenes of antediluvian Nature possessed no interest for Fair-Hair; he was longing to catch a glimpse of the hunter and his beloved Deer. But human beings must have seemed, as it were, thrown into the shade by the vast expanse of country, and formed only imperceptible points on this stage peopled with colossal shapes.
By means of searching with his piercing eyes each curve in the shore, he at last distinguished, in the direction where the Hotel de Ville was to rise, two persons who appeared to be going up the bank of the river. He thought he recognized those whom he sought, and, to convince himself of the fact, began to run with an agility of which few men of our days would be capable, but which was one of the necessities of savage life. The pedestrians having no motives for going at the same rate of speed, he gained rapidly upon them, and soon recognized Deer and her conqueror.
Red seemed disconcerted by the freshet, which he had not expected, and his gait showed extreme irresolution. He moved with an uncertain step, and evidently did not know what to do.
Deer, who was walking by his side, frequently turned her head. Though the poor girl did not lack strength, she seemed wearied by her long journey through woods and marshes. Her feet and the edge of her tunic were soiled with mire; her whole person expressed deep despondency. Yet Fair-Hair was still wondering that she did not attempt to make her escape, when he had an explanation of this docility.
Red, despairing of finding any means to cross the Seine, at last seemed to take a new resolution, and with an imperious gesture pointed toward the forest.
Lynx's daughter, either because she expected to be seen and rescued amid the open plains, or feared to enter the woods in such company, showed some signs of resistance; instantly, Red, springing upon her, struck her with unheard-of brutality with the handle of his club.
This was not the first time the lover had employed this method of making the object of his affection follow him, and more than one bloody bruise might already have been seen on the arms and shoulders of the unfortunate Deer.
Respect for woman did not exist at that period, and the dominion of the stronger over the weaker sex was exercised without limit. Nevertheless, Fair-Hair, on seeing the girl he loved thus abused, could not restrain himself, and uttered a cry of anger.
Scarcely had the exclamation, so different from the sounds usually heard in these solitary wastes, echoed on the air, than Fair-Hair perceived his imprudence. He could succeed in his pursuit only by surprising his adversary, for Red, well armed, of herculean strength, extraordinary agility, and brutal courage, would not allow his prey to be snatched from him so long as a breath of life remained. It was only by surprise that it was possible to conquer him, and it was madness to put him on his guard.
Fair-Hair recollected this in time. As soon as the chivalric protest escaped his lips he threw himself face downward in the tall grass and remained motionless.
He had been heard. Red stopped beating the poor woman, and looked around him. Deer herself seemed to forget her sufferings; she had turned again with a sudden start. Perhaps she had recognized her lover's voice, perhaps the hope of deliverance again awoke. However this might be, Fair-Hair, distrusting the savage's piercing gaze, and knowing that the slightest sign, the slightest movement, was liable to betray him, remained cowering among the reeds, without daring to raise his head. It was only after a long time that he cautiously lifted it. As the shout was not repeated, Red and Deer had doubtless finally believed that it did not issue from human lips, and continued their walk toward the forest, where they soon disappeared.
Fair-Hair then left his hiding-place and continued his rapid walk, crouching under the brushwood. He thus reached the part of the forest where Red and Deer had just entered; but here he encountered a new difficulty. The thicket was intersected in every direction by the narrow paths made by the wild beasts in going to the river. Which of these paths had the hunter and his companion chosen? The earth, either too dry or too wet, retained no footprints. Besides, there was no time to patiently follow a trail. If Fair-Hair had known how to swear, he would have made the woods echo with his oaths; as it was, he began to wander about, growling and beating his breast with rage.
We will leave him to his wrath and anxiety, to rejoin Deer and her companion.
Lynx's daughter, as we have said, did not yield without resistance to the orders of her parent's assassin; but, conquered by violence, she had seemed to resign herself to her fate. During the journey, as may be supposed, the conversation had not been very animated; in those days action took the place of words and thoughts. The poor creature walked silently by the side of Red, who watched her craftily, with an expression of as much anger and hatred as love. Deer could not expect to be rescued unless her lover should interfere in her behalf. There was no protecting authority. A small number of families lived scattered over vast extents of country, and each of them depended entirely upon the father. The oppressed had no means of defence against the oppressor; although there must have been certain notions of justice, religion, and morality, they were so vague that they could not be a serious check upon the gross instincts and fierce passions of this ignorant race.
Deer understood that even if they encountered by accident some other hunter from the neighborhood, he would not dare to try to rescue her. We know what hope she had felt when in the cry uttered behind her she fancied that she had recognized her lover's voice. Unfortunately, this hope had been but a flash of lightning, and when the poor girl re-entered the forest large tears filled her eyes.
The persecutor troubled himself very little about her tears, perhaps did not notice them. But as they plunged farther and farther into the woods his attitude toward the prisoner changed, and his glance visibly softened. Soon something like a smile appeared on his hideous face, and once he put his huge hand on Deer's shoulder, uttering a sort of joyous growl, which would have reminded one of a bear.
Deer seemed more alarmed by his good-humor than by the anger he had just shown. She kept as far away as possible, and as he still drew nearer, repeating his ominous growl, she tried to change the course of his ideas.
"I'm hungry," she said abruptly; "is Red so bad a hunter that he can give me nothing to eat?"
The young girl had really been inspired, and Red seemed touched by such a reproach. Besides, perhaps the remark reminded him that he had eaten nothing himself since the night before, that it was almost noon, and his ogreish hunger was gnawing at his stomach. He started, and said in his guttural voice,
"Deer shall eat."
Just at that moment they entered a glade where herds of deer had cropped the turf. Nothing was visible on the shorn and trampled grass except a young horse with a small body and immense head, a species then very numerous. The primitive man did not yet think of riding, but the horse was excellent game and formed his principal article of food.9 The young animal of which we are speaking, although less than twenty paces distant from the pedestrians, was not disturbed by their presence, and while browsing on the foliage of a shrub watched them with its gentle but inquisitive eyes. Red seized his bow, and with inconceivable quickness discharged an arrow that passed through its throat. The poor creature neighed loudly with pain and turned to fly, but, its strength failing, fell upon its knees. Quick as thought, Red sprang forward and put an end to its suffering by breaking its skull.
Then the hunter turned triumphantly toward his companion, who thought it advisable to reward him for his skill by an approving nod.
The game being secured, it was only necessary to prepare it. Now, it will be remembered that fire was obtained by a slow and difficult process, which consisted of rubbing two pieces of dry wood against each other; and although the Parisians of the ancient world usually ate meat broiled, they were not so fastidious when hunting; they then managed very well with raw meat. So Red never thought of lighting a fire. He signed to Deer to sit down, and hastened to cut up the horse, whose smoking flesh still quivered.
He dexterously removed the bones containing the marrow, cracked them lengthwise by means of his axe, and gallantly offered them to Deer. For himself he cut from the animal's fillet a huge piece, which he tore to pieces with his teeth and nails, and then devoured with his usual gluttony, not seeming to notice the absence of seasoning.
We should like to be able to say that Fair-Hair's betrothed bride showed some tokens of horror or disgust at this cannibal repast, but truth compels us to confess that custom on the one hand and hunger on the other prevented her from manifesting the slightest repugnance. Forgetting her annoyances, her fatigue, her terrible anxiety, she began to suck the marrow from the bones with all the satisfaction of a pretty glutton of our own day eating cakes at a confectioner's in the Boulevard Italien.
The wide glade was surrounded by tall trees, and while beneath their shade a partial obscurity reigned, the two companions were in the broad daylight in the centre of the open space. Red had chosen this place to prevent any surprise not that he remembered the alarm caused by the cry Fair-Hair had uttered a few moments before, but it behooved him to be on his guard, for they were continually surrounded by danger.
Nevertheless, Deer, now that the first wants of hunger were appeased, relapsed into her sorrowful thoughts.
She stopped eating, and refused even the horse's brain, which the hunter pointed out as a dainty worthy of her. Red, while swallowing the bleeding flesh, continued to watch his companion.
His eyes sparkled with pleasure under their lashes, and it was doubtful whether this satisfaction was caused by the present good cheer or the thought of having in his power a creature who seemed to him so beautiful.
Deer noticed these things, but hoped that her persecutor, by dint of gorging himself with meat, would at last fall into the state of torpor and stupefaction that usually accompanied his digestion. This hope soon vanished. Red stopped devouring the raw flesh, and contented himself with nibbling, by way of dessert, what the young girl had rejected. But his ardent glances did not cease; he still uttered his gleeful growl, and several times stretched out his hand to give her a friendly pat.
Deer drew herself as far as possible out of the reach of these rude caresses, and listened for the sound of some deliverer approaching amid the silence of the woods. Nothing stirred except a wolf, which scented the feast and was waiting among the bushes for the opportunity to get his share.
Red noticed the young girl's agitation, and his mirth increased. Still chewing, laughing, and muttering, he tried to reach her with his huge black hand. At last Deer lost patience, and pushing it away said in a tone of horror,
"Red killed Deaf and Lynx."
This reproach did not seem to be at all understood by the savage. On the contrary, he thought it a compliment, for he answered, laughing,
"Red was the strongest."
What answer could be made to this logic? Yet poor Deer appealed to all the religion and morality she knew to try to soften the hunter.
"When the strong have been wicked during their lives," she said, "the Great Spirit punishes them after death."
This thought was too lofty for Red's intelligence. Yet he had listened attentively, and seemed trying to understand. At the end of a moment he burst into another shout of laughter, and replied,
"Red is alive."
The unfortunate girl, whose arguments were exhausted, was silent. Red ceased to eat. His laughter and mutterings became louder and more continuous. Suddenly he stretched out both hands to seize Deer, who by a sudden movement escaped, and fled toward the thicket with the lightness of the animal whose name she bore.
But if she was agile, the hunter was no less so. He nimbly rose in his turn, picked up his club, and pursued her, grumbling loudly, not with love, but fury.
Thanks to his impetuous bounds, he soon overtook her and brandished his formidable weapon to strike. Deer uttered a cry of agony, which was answered from the depths of the forest by the voice she had already heard. At the same moment an arrow, discharged by an invisible hand, grazed her face and pierced the hunter's throat, as Red's arrow had cut the horse's a few instants before.
Streams of blood deluged the bear-skin tunic worn by Deer's persecutor, but so great was the vigor of this race that he remained standing, and, though he could neither cry out nor walk, angrily tried to draw out the arrow that had wounded him. As he could not succeed, he wished at least to avenge himself, and convulsively shook his club. Deer, who had paused to see whence this unexpected help came, was in danger of being killed, when another arrow whizzed by and buried itself in the hunter's breast.
This time Red's limbs bent; he turned, then sank upon the ground, which he tore with his nails and bit, uttering inarticulate sounds.
At the same instant a man emerged from the underbrush and appeared on the edge of the forest. Bow in hand, he stood ready to discharge a third arrow in case of necessity. This youth, though he bore no resemblance to the Pythian Apollo, seemed to Deer handsomer than the god "of the silver bow."
"Fair-Hair!" she cried in delight.
Fair-Hair, for it was he, at first remained motionless, with his eyes fixed upon his enemy. As there was nothing more to be feared from that quarter, he lowered his bow and sprang toward his betrothed bride, crying in an ecstasy of joy,
And they fell into each other's arms. There were no long speeches between them, but the young girl's eyes expressed the most ardent gratitude, while the youth's sparkled with pride and the joy of success.
They soon approached the wounded man, who was writhing on the ground in the convulsions of agony. Fair-Hair wanted to regain his arrows, and at the same time seize the necklaces and weapons of the conquered man, the slightest products of human industry possessing infinite value in those days.
He leaned over the dying man and pulled out his arrows, without troubling himself any more about his sufferings than an Indian of the present time heeds the torture of the man he scalps. Although superior to his enemy in certain respects, he felt no scruple about treating Red in the same way that Red, under similar circumstances, would have treated him.
The unfortunate hunter could not speak, but, stretched on his back with clenched fists, still retained his consciousness. Certain Russians of the Mongolian race, surviving in our wars terrible wounds which would have instantly killed a European, might even at the present time furnish instances of similar vitality.
Deer, however, had the courage to look at the assassin of her family, and, yielding to a feeling of indignation, struck him in the face with her bare foot. Red tried to bite it, but failed.
Fair-Hair, who had just taken possession of the wounded man's equipments, seemed amused by this mutual hatred. Nevertheless, he put his arm around Deer's waist and tried to draw her away.
The revengeful girl resisted. "Red is still alive," she said.
"Pshaw!" replied Fair-Hair quietly, "the wolves will finish him."
And he led her gently toward the spot where lay the remnants of the horse. The lover remembered that he too was famishing, and had every right to the vanquished hunter's game.
They sat down, and the meal began again. But how little it resembled the first one! The young people's delight seemed equal. Deer did not eat, but enjoyed watching her companion, who, however, did not show the hideous gluttony of the other hunter. They talked little, as usual, but to make amends looked at each other incessantly, laughed, and played all sorts of merry pranks. After the repast was over Fair-Hair offered his betrothed bride the necklaces and bracelets he had made for her, and the coquette hastened to adorn herself with them. Absorbed in the joy of seeing each other again after having endured trials so severe, they did not trouble themselves about the miserable Red, who was gasping a few paces away, and whose eyes, already glazed by approaching death, rested upon them with an expression of jealousy and powerless rage.
The hours slipped away unnoticed by the lovers; Fair-Hair and Deer did not think how time was passing. The sun was about to set; to be overtaken by the darkness in these woods, which swarmed with so many formidable animals, was, they were aware, to expose themselves to a terrible death.
Fortunately, Fair-Hair perceived the danger. He suddenly rose. "Let us go," said he.
He tools his weapons, and loaded Deer with Red's arms. Lynx's daughter, however, was perfectly capable of performing the task of carrying them. As they were preparing to set out, she asked, "Where is Fair-Hair going to take me?"
The young hunter seemed to be reflecting.
"Lynx has been killed," he said at last, "and his cave no longer has a master. I'll go there with Deer; I will be the head of the family, I will carry Lynx to the cave of the dead; then I'll support the women and children by hunting."
"Very well," replied Deer.
And they began to walk toward home.
When, on their way to the edge of the woods, they passed Red, the dying man made visible efforts to speak, and waved his arms. His dilated eyes seemed to implore the young couple not to leave him helpless and unarmed in this solitude. Deer could not restrain an emotion of pity, and wanted to stop, but Fair-Hair shrugged his shoulders and forced her to continue her way.
The wounded man had been right in fearing their departure. Scarcely had the two lovers left the glade when it was invaded by an immense number of gray, tawny, speckled animals, which, concealed in the neighboring thickets, had been awaiting this moment. They rushed forward open-mouthed, uttering greedy howls. Some dashed toward the horse, whose bloody fragments they eagerly seized, while others fell upon Red, covering him completely.
Deer and her companion heard behind them the cracking of bones, fierce cries, the sound of an obstinate struggle between the foul animals fighting over their prey, but took no heed, and walked rapidly away. Then, as the impressions of these savages were very transient, they were soon laughing with the utmost.
VI. SCENES OF THE PRIMITIVE WORLD.
DEER and Fair-Hair, absorbed in the pleasure of being in each other's society again, had really lingered too long. It was quite dark under the shadow of the trees, and the paths traced by the herbivorous animals without any fixed direction might easily be mistaken. It thus seemed doubtful whether the hunter and young girl could succeed in reaching the cave of Montmartre before nightfall. The beasts of prey, almost inoffensive when the sun was above the horizon, were assembling as usual to go in quest of food. Already they were calling each other by ominous howls in every direction, and the terrible concert would last until the following morning. Yet between the Seine and Montmartre there was not a single habitation, not a refuge everywhere stretched the swamps and the virgin forest.
The young hunter did not forget these alarming truths, and, after wandering several minutes through the tangled paths that constantly turned back, paused to examine the surroundings. At last, extending his arm toward the setting sun, he suddenly exclaimed,
"Quick! the mammoths' road!"
He hastily took the direction indicated, and Deer followed, notwithstanding the roughness of the way. At last she said timidly,
"It's late. The mammoths are in motion; they'll crush us."
"Quick! quick!" replied Fair-Hair laconically.
They reached the long avenue the antediluvian elephants had made in the forest, and which extended almost all the way from the river to Montmartre; but, as Deer had foreseen, it was no longer deserted as in the morning. The mammoths were going in groups to the water, and while moving snatched a tuft of grass with their trunks or absently broke off a large bough. Thanks to the luminous strip of sky above the double row of trees, these enormous animals were seen carelessly advancing toward the Seine, and ever and anon one, in the exuberance of his good-humor, uttered the resonant sounds that echoed through the vast forests like the notes of a trumpet.
As we have said, Fair-Hair and his companion had only this way of reaching the cave speedily, and they advanced, gliding along the sides of the avenue. Yet they had nothing to fear except being inadvertently trampled under foot. The peaceful monsters, covered with their long black hair, trusting in their irresistible strength, did not appear to notice the human beings passing them, or, if they perceived them, did not condescend to attack the frail pigmies they could have annihilated with a breath.
The audacity of the two young people therefore seemed destined to remain unpunished, and they had performed part of the journey unmolested when they became witnesses of one of those majestic scenes so frequent in the primitive world, but of which nothing in our day can afford any idea.
Fair-Hair and his companion had reached the place which so many centuries after was to be the Boulevard Montmartre. On their left extended the swamps of the future Grange Batelière. As they were crossing this vast open space to regain the elephants' avenue, which continued for some distance on the other side, they suddenly heard before them a terrible uproar which constantly increased.
One would have said that it was a tempest suddenly unchained. The darkness did not allow the cause to be seen, but the earth trembled as if under the gallop of ten thousand horses. The dust and leaves formed a cloud whence issued strange, thundering sounds. There was no living creature that would not have been seized with terror at the approach of this tumult, whose source was still unknown.
Deer and Fair-Hair, though their nerves were not easily shaken, had paused in terror on the side of the road, and were gazing in the direction whence the danger might come. The mammoths, just now grazing so quietly, had faced about and pricked up their huge ears. But they were doubtless not ignorant of the cause of this alarm, for they answered with shrill screams the screams that now reached them, and which must have been a call; then, turning back, set out at full speed with their trunks in the air.
Deer and Fair-Hair anxiously tried to discover from what this terrible fright proceeded. The mammoths, threatened by some sudden danger, had assembled in an immense herd, and were rushing forward, rallying by their cries all the animals of their species. They soon poured out of the avenue, leaping on each other in their frantic course, stumbling, covered with dust, slime, and the branches of trees, noisily clashing their long tusks, but advancing with the speed of the hurricane.
The enemy that produced this panic among the colossal animals was not slow in revealing itself. Above the tumult caused by the flying mammoths was heard a horrible roar that might be compared to the rolling of thunder. When this terrible sound was heard everything else relapsed into silence; it seemed as if the king or rather tyrant of creation at that remote period had just raised his sovereign voice.
Fair-Hair and Deer remained motionless with terror. The youth seized his companion's hand.
"The lion!" said he.
"The lion!" repeated Deer in dismay.
And both rushed toward the marsh to get out of the way of the elephants.
The marsh offered no shelter; only at some distance from the avenue appeared an isolated rock, brought there by some cataclysm, and which rose about ten feet above the plain. The two poor fugitives ran in that direction, and fortunately were marvelously swift-footed, for the living hurricane was already bursting upon them. At last they reached the rock, and, panting for breath, bathed in perspiration, trembling with terror, succeeded in climbing upon its summit.
But was this a safe asylum? They soon perceived that they could not have chosen their place of refuge more unfortunately.
The mammoths, instead of continuing their way along the avenue which led to the river, rushed impetuously into the marshes. Pursued through the forest by their formidable enemy, they could not move freely and prepare for mutual defence, as their congeners, the African elephants, now do when attacked by a lion. But the open space on their path offering them a sort of tiltyard, they vied with each other in rushing into it to accept the battle.
In an instant the plain was covered; bushes and reeds disappeared under their huge feet. They moved anxiously about, looking frequently in the same direction. Numerous as they already were, new-comers still arrived, and the last, more and more excited by the lion's roars, ran with a lightness of which one would not have believed such masses of flesh capable.
Besides, this apparent confusion did not last long. The mammoths, obeying a plan that seemed to have been arranged beforehand, formed into a compact, regular troop. The females and young ones were placed in the centre; on the outside stood the old males, who expected to bear the principal shock and held their huge trunks in readiness. Soon, all, with bristling manes, trunks in the air, eyes and ears on the watch, stood motionless, and their order of battle was such that the nearest was only twenty paces from the rock where Deer and Fair-Hair had taken refuge.
Silence ensued. The mammoths, doubtless reassured by the strong position they had just assumed, and which enabled them to give each other mutual aid, no longer uttered the trumpet-like sounds that expressed their fear or anger. They were ready for resistance and awaited the enemy.
This enemy at last appeared. The two lovers in the dim twilight saw it spring with mighty bounds into the open space; and certainly a single glance was sufficient to understand the terror it inspired.
The cave-lion10 was, as we have said, three or four times larger than the largest African lion. According to the bones often found in the earth, it was about fourteen feet long, and united the characteristics of the lion and tiger. Its color was a reddish-gray, striped with brown; its long tail was ringed with black and fawn color. The throat and under part of the body were snow-white.11 This huge animal, whose teeth were five inches long, and whose paws were armed with retractile nails six and a half inches long, paused a moment on the edge of the forest to examine the mammoths' position; its round eyes glowed in the darkness like balls of fire. Motionless, with open jaws, it stood, waving its sinewy tail as if ready to spring.
The African lion never ventures to attack a herd of elephants when they have had time to put themselves on their guard, as the Parisian mammoths were now. But the cave-lion did not seem willing to draw back, and again uttered its terrible roar in token of defiance.
The mammoths, on their part, answered by the trumpet-like sounds of which we have spoken, as if to announce that they accepted the combat; but the intelligent animals took care to make no change in their order of battle, and continued to form a solid mass, presenting in every direction menacing tusks and trunks.
Seeing that its demonstration had not produced the expected effect, the lion was seized with fury. Its roars and the waving of its tail did not cease, its eyes continued to blaze. At last it began to creep along, circling around the watchful mammoths as if seeking a weak point in their battalion.
Now, while thus prowling, roaring, tearing the earth with its claws and throwing it into the air, Fair-Hair and his companion noticed that it was approaching nearer and nearer to them, and already almost touched the low rock they had climbed.
Imagine their terror! True, the lion, engaged in a stupendous conflict with adversaries worthy of it, doubtless would not condescend to notice the presence of two poor human creatures; but was it not to be feared that it might leap on the rock, and then what would become of the unfortunate lovers? Brushed aside by a single movement of its huge paw, they would be in a few instants mere shapeless masses cast out on the plain for the wolves and hyenas of the forest.
It might be supposed, in fact, that the fierce animal intended to take up its position on the rock, for it turned its glowing eyeballs in that direction. If Deer had been a woman of our day, she would not have failed to faint, and thus complicate a situation already so critical; but she contented herself with clinging convulsively to her companion, and the latter, although habituated for a long period to all kinds of dangers, was on the point of springing with her to the bottom of the rock to avoid an encounter that seemed inevitable.
Fortunately, there was no occasion to resort to this extreme measure. The lion stopped looking toward them, and at last decided to make the attack. It uttered another roar, bounded thirty or forty feet, and, clearing one of the huge males that formed the outer row, seized a young mammoth, whose tender, delicate flesh seemed to deserve its preference.
Then the tumult became frightful. The line of battle was broken, and each mammoth rushed to the assistance of the wounded one. A hundred trunks fell upon the lion, which was clinging to its victim's back and devouring it alive. A horrible conflict took place. All these colossal animals were crowding against each other, crushing and struggling to deal a blow at the common enemy. There was no longer anything but a mountain of flesh a moving, changing mountain, whence issued abrupt sounds, the noise of tusks striking against each other and shattering sounds that suggested the trumpets of the last judgment.
It was difficult to foresee what would be the result of this conflict of monsters. A dense smoke rose from the huge heated bodies; stones, dry leaves, tufts of hair flew through the air. Neither lion nor mammoths could be distinguished, but, as we have said, a moving, roaring mass, whose every change made the earth tremble.
Deer, in terror, covered her eyes, pressing closer to her lover. Fair-Hair alone coolly estimated the extent of the peril. The combat was taking place only a few paces from them. They might be crushed by the slightest shock, without even having time to utter a cry. Once they felt the rock that served them as a refuge violently shaken, and almost lost their balance; a mammoth had grazed it with his huge foot in passing. Yet Fair-Hair understood that there was more chance of safety by remaining where they were than to risk being crushed on the plain when these formidable animals separated.
Although the conflict had not lasted more than two or three minutes, the young people were beginning to find the time very long, when suddenly something like the roc in the Arabian Nights flew over their heads and alighted noiselessly behind them. At first they did not know what it could be, but soon recognized the lion, which, vanquished, gave up the conflict and was regaining the forest, making tremendous bounds.
The formidable feline, as if ashamed of its defeat, no longer roared. On the other hand, the mammoths celebrated their victory by trumpeting noisily, and several huge males, either through bravado or revenge, set out in pursuit of the fugitive.
The others began to disperse. The attention of Deer and Fair-Hair was particularly fixed upon the young mammoth which had been attacked by the lion. In spite of the promptness of the rescue, the poor animal was cruelly lacerated; the earth over which it moved was drenched with blood. It tottered as it walked, and several of its protectors seemed to be caressing it with their trunks. The touching solicitude manifested by a female was particularly noticeable; she was doubtless a tender mother, though tall enough to reach to the second story of a house. She supported and guided it, and the whole family moved slowly toward the avenue, where they soon disappeared.
VII. A NIGHT IN THE WOODS.
NIGHT had closed in; the marsh which had served for the battle-field was becoming again deserted. The few mammoths moving here and there like dark masses were scarcely visible; the trumpeting and roars had ceased. But as the large animals grew silent, the smaller ones once more commenced their noise. Hyenas and wolves, collected in troops, uttered their mournful howls and advanced toward the swamp, doubtless in the hope of devouring some victim of the battle.
It now seemed impossible for Deer and Fair-Hair to reach the cave of Montmartre that night. There was more than a quarter of a league to be traversed through the thickets in total darkness, and all the savage denizens of the woods were issuing from their lairs. Yet the danger of remaining on the isolated rock, where they were exposed to attacks of every kind, was no less great. Fair-Hair therefore warned his companion that it was time to continue their way, and they advanced toward Montmartre.
When they entered the shadow of the trees they moved with the utmost caution. The howls increased, and now seemed so near that the animals must be only a few paces away. Before, behind, among the bushes, in the tall grass, fiery eyes glowed like so many will-o'-the-wisps. Sometimes some of these nocturnal beasts stopped in the lovers' path, and seemed about to dispute their way, but when they approached sprang quickly aside and joined the constantly-increasing troop.
At the end of a few instants this troop was so numerous, so noisy, that Deer, in spite of her familiarity with such encounters, in spite of the confidence her lover's presence must have inspired, showed fresh signs of terror. While walking on she constantly shook the flint axe taken from Red. But these useless demonstrations only served to render the pack more eager, more furious, in the pursuit.
The hunter only laughed at his companion's fright. When the hyenas and wolves pressed upon them too closely, he contented himself with turning and uttering a sharp cry that put the cowardly animals to flight. Nevertheless, he was not ignorant that certain casualties might suddenly change the face of affairs; so he said to Deer,
"There's nothing to fear so long as we keep on our feet. But we mustn't fall."
In fact, the slightest fall would be fatal, and yet nothing was easier than to stumble. The mammoths' avenue, encumbered with branches and tree-trunks in consequence of the recent panic, was constantly growing narrower and made numerous turns. Every instant the lovers were stopped by obstacles over which they were obliged to climb, in spite of the eager opposition of the noisy pack at their heels, whose boldness became greater and greater, and the young couple were hemmed in on all sides. They could not see the animals that harassed them, but their glittering eyes and loud howls betrayed the large number of their enemies. They seemed to look upon them as their certain prey, and were evidently only waiting for a favorable opportunity to attack an opportunity that could not fail to occur.
Fair-Hair resolved to make some demonstrations to render the wild beasts more cautious. A wolf, having approached too near, received a violent blow with the club that hurled him almost lifeless among the pack; then seizing his bow, the hunter shot an arrow haphazard into the moving crowd a few paces from him. The arrow doubtless struck, for plaintive cries instantly arose. But the lesson produced no important result; the lovers having continued their way, the pack followed, no less numerous, no less noisy, than before.
They were still in the utmost danger, and Fair-Hair was trying to think of some stratagem to escape the fierce animals, when a marvelous change occurred. The howls ceased, the beasts dispersed as if seized with a sudden fear. Nothing was audible in this portion of the forest except the rustling of the leaves and bushes through which the fugitives were dashing. The lovers found themselves entirely at liberty.
Deer was already rejoicing in this inexplicable circumstance, but Fair-Hair, far less reassured, looked around him to discover the cause. A sort of loud sniffing, repeated at regular intervals, fell upon his ear, and he perceived in the gloom, scarcely thirty paces away, two glowing eyes which, judging from their huge dimensions, could not be those of a hyena or wolf.
The young hunter now knew why the beasts of prey had beat a retreat so hastily.
"The great bear of the caves!" he said in a low tone to his companion.
What was to be done with this new enemy, against which the weapons of those days were almost powerless? Fair-Hair was not slow in forming his resolution. Seeing above his head a large branch that seemed to belong to an ancient tree, he raised Deer in his arms as high as possible, murmuring,
Deer, who, as we have often said, was no fine lady, swung herself nimbly on the bough. Scarcely had she reached it when Fair-Hair, springing upward with incredible agility, seized the branch in his turn, raised himself by the strength of his wrists, and was soon beside his companion, eight or ten feet above the ground.
It was quite time. The cave-bear, which had stopped to sniff and discover the wanderers, whose scent was borne to it by the wind, moved forward again at a trot toward the spot where the two lovers had just been. On reaching it, it sniffed again, then rising on its hind paws, cast a cunning glance at the young couple, and such was its height that it seemed almost able to reach them.
In fact, the cave-bear was greatly superior in size to the bears of our day, the whole creation peculiar to that strange period having colossal proportions. Its forehead was bulging, and it was covered with thick fur. Its habits and ferocity could only be compared with those of its congener, the " grizzly bear " of North America, the terrible animal whose astonishing feats are related by travellers. Its strength equalled its ferocity, and, next to the cave-lion, it was the most formidable destroyer of the pre-historic world.
Deer, on feeling the warmth of its noisome breath, could not restrain a cry of terror. Fair-Hair hastened to reassure her. Although the brute's muzzle was not more than a foot from the branch, the animal was too heavy to be able to leap; besides, like the grizzly bear, it could not climb trees. So the lovers had no cause to fear that it would try to dislodge them from their temporary asylum, and Deer, with the changefulness of mind that seems to be characteristic of children and savages, philosophically resigned herself to the situation.
The cave-bear, after having sniffed a moment, and convinced itself that it could do nothing against these human beings, fell back on all-fours. But either from natural ferocity, or simply on account of the curiosity of which certain animals often give examples, it did not stir from the spot.
Deer and Fair-Hair took no further trouble about it, and settled themselves comfortably in a fork of the tree to spend the night. They had perceived the impossibility of reaching the cave of Montmartre at this late hour, and their only means of safety was to take refuge in some tree until sunrise. This would do as well as any other, and they could wait patiently until the bear, weary of useless watching, should think proper to beat a retreat. Yet Lynx's daughter showed a certain excitement, laughing nervously, as if she were not so calm as she would have liked to appear.
The bear, hearing the foliage rustle above its head, remained on the watch, sometimes standing on two feet, sometimes on four; sniffing and panting by turns, it did not leave its post.
Deer, irritated by this obstinacy, resolved to avenge herself. She had kept Red's bow and thrown it over her shoulder, while carrying in her belt the flint arrows and axe. Through mischief, rather than the hope of driving the importunate besieger away, she fitted an arrow to the bow and discharged it.
She had a certain skill in the use of weapons, for in those days, when human life was constantly threatened, women often found themselves compelled to aid or defend their relatives. Besides, the bear was very near, and even a child could not have missed the huge mass, especially as two glittering eyes showed exactly where to aim.
Deer hit her mark, and a frightful howl instantly echoed on the air. The wounded bear rolled on the ground, trying to draw out the arrow that had struck it, biting itself with rage because it could not succeed. Soon it rose and directed its fury against the tree which served for a fortress to its adversaries. In the twinkling of an eye the old oak was stripped of its bark to a great height by the strong, sharp claws of the animal.
At the moment the arrow was discharged Fair-Hair could not repress an exclamation of anger. The young girl, terrified by what she had done, threw her arms around his neck, imploring pardon. The hunter's wrath could not resist her caresses; he returned Deer's embrace and answered gently,
"Imprudent! Now the bear won't lose sight of us so long as it has a breath of life."
These anticipations were correct. The animal, after vainly using its claws and teeth upon the trunk of the tree, resumed its position under the bough where the lovers were encamped, and began to watch them askance. When the pain of its wound became too severe, it renewed its growls and again tore long strips from the oak tree, but returned to its post, and nothing seemed to conquer its obstinacy.
But the lovers were confident that they had no peril to fear, at least for the moment. Ignorant of the refinements of civilized life, they felt little anxiety at the necessity of spending a whole night in a tree besieged by this formidable brute. As a keen wind began to make itself felt, and they wore clothing that protected them very insufficiently against the severity of the climate, they continued to cling closely to each other. Soon Deer, exhausted by fatigue, fell asleep with her head resting on her companion's shoulder.
He, on the contrary, took care not to yield to slumber. It was his duty to be ready for any event, and save the young girl from a fall which would inevitably have been fatal. So he remained with his eyes wide open, carefully supporting his beloved Deer, who had perfect confidence in his watchfulness and strength. She was often awakened with a start by the growling of the bear, but instantly fell asleep again, making a little plaintive murmur, like that of a child in its mother's arms.
This state of affairs remained unchanged until the first light of dawn began to color the sky. Deer awoke in gay spirits, refreshed by the few hours' repose. But when she cast her eyes toward the foot of the tree she saw the huge bear, which, with bristling hair stained with blood and eyes fiercer than ever, remained at its post. They at first hoped that the daylight would put it to flight, like the rest of the nocturnal animals, whose distant clamor had just died away. In vain. The sun appeared, casting its golden rays through the mist and foliage. The bear did not raise the siege; its restless movements, its howls, showed that its fury was not diminished.
Fair-Hair looked at the fierce brute, and suddenly said to Deer,
"We must kill the bear or stay here through another night."
The young girl answered timidly,
"Arrows won't pierce it, and stone axes slip over its fur or are blunted and broken."
"I will kill it," said Fair-Hair firmly. "We will bear Lynx to the cave of the dead to-day. I'll summon my family, and we will eat the funeral feast. We'll eat the bear at Lynx's funeral."
Perhaps there was a great deal of bravado in this promise. The lovers had only five or six arrows, and arrows, unless by some extraordinary chance, could not seriously injure an animal of that size. Besides, a hand-to-hand conflict was not to be thought of. No man, if he had been a giant, would have ventured to cope with the iron frame of the cave-bear. Yet Fair-Hair, after pointing out to Deer her share in the conflict, prepared everything for the attack. Soon the growls became incessant; all the denizens of the forest were seized with terror at the noise of this battle.
VIII. THE FAMILY.
LET us now return to Lynx's cave, where since the morning of the preceding day the two children and their mother had been shut up with the corpse of the head of the family.
During the first few hours Whistler and Rat-Catcher had endured the solitude with a tolerable degree of philosophy. A few rays of light streamed through the timbers Fair-Hair had skilfully arranged, and enabled them to continue their sports while nibbling acorns and chestnuts.
With the ignorance natural to their years, and the heedlessness peculiar to their rude natures, they gave no thought to their dead father and dying mother, but profited by the perfect liberty they possessed. Yet, mechanically obeying Fair-Hair's direction, one or the other had not neglected to occasionally dip in water the moss laid on Deaf's wound as a dressing. This primitive remedy, which accident had doubtless revealed to this ancient generation, was not slow in producing a marvelous effect.
Toward the end of the day, Deaf, though she had a fracture in her forehead which would have instantly killed a woman of our race, gradually recovered her consciousness. Accustomed to expect no assistance, the unfortunate woman dragged herself on her hands and knees toward the horn that contained the supply of water, put her lips to it, and drank eagerly.
Rat-Catcher and Whistler did not trouble themselves about her. Wearied by the confinement, which had been greatly prolonged, they had just climbed on the rock placed across the entrance, and were trying to remove the timbers to go and play outside. It was a great piece of imprudence, for night was closing in, and the striped hyena that had been prowling around the cave since the morning (perhaps a former owner of the habitation) was lurking in the neighboring bushes. Yet they were on the point of executing their dangerous project when a harsh cry, half sad, half threatening, rose behind them and made them turn their heads.
At the sight of their mother they paused in their task. They remembered sundry manual corrections Deaf had often administered, and were not very certain she might not deal new ones.
So they jumped down from the rock, and approaching the injured woman looked at her with more curiosity than tenderness. As the damp moss that served as a dressing for the wound had fallen off, the oldest boy took a fresh handful, dipped it in water, and laid it on Deaf's forehead. The old woman, who was at first exhausted by her painful exertions, raised herself again and asked,
"Killed," replied Rat-Catcher carelessly, pointing to the place where the corpse lay.
Deaf groaned, but continued, "Deer?"
"Red carried her off."
Rat-Catcher added almost instantly, "I'm hungry."
"I'm hungry," repeated his brother, who to show his impatience was drawing the shrillest sounds from his bone whistle.
The little savages, accustomed to gorge themselves on half-raw meat, really felt as if their stomachs were empty. Deaf, in spite of her wound, in spite of the grief caused by her husband's death and her daughter's disappearance, also felt the want of something to eat, for this dull race seemed to possess insatiable rapacity. Yet the mother did not think of herself. On hearing her children's cry, "I'm hungry," she summoned up a little strength and crept toward the place where the acorns and beechnuts reserved for the wants of the family were stored. Alas! the young gluttons, for want of occupation, had devoured everything; there was nothing in the cave which could serve for food.
This circumstance capped the climax of the unfortunate woman's despair, and she sank upon the earth. The children, without troubling themselves any more about her, began to cry, pushed each other, and at last fought without listening to Deaf's remonstrances.
Meantime, night closed in. Rat-Catcher and Whistler, whose desire for sleep was even more imperious than that for food, threw themselves on the dry leaves and fell into a heavy slumber. Deaf, exhausted by her exertions and worn out by her terrible suffering, remained in the place to which she had crawled.
It was a terrible night, and human beings at that period must have frequently spent similar ones. The fire, it will be remembered, had gone out long before, and the cold soon chilled the occupants of the cave. Besides, as soon as daylight had vanished the usual howling was heard without, and this time rose incessantly at the very mouth of the grotto. The obstinate hyena of which we have spoken, perceiving the apparent insecurity of the barricade, tried to break through it, and called its companions by its screams. A large band assembled, and during the whole night these hideous animals attacked Lynx's abode. Some persistently scratched the stones to separate them and slip through the interstices. Others assailed the timbers with teeth and claws. When one was weary, another succeeded it, and they disputed with each other for the best places. Every instant there was reason to fear that the beams might give way; a hyena often thrust its head between them and filled the cavern with its yells.
Several times poor Deaf thought that the barricade had yielded, that the monsters had entered her abode. Even the children were roused by the horrible tumult, but sleep soon conquered terror.
The mother of the family did not give way to despair. Inured to hardships, accustomed to suffering, habituated to danger, she was not a woman to remain inactive so long as a breath of life lingered. Still dragging herself along on her hands and knees, she took from a corner a spear with a flint head, and lay down near the mouth of the cave. When a hyena became too bold or too noisy Deaf dealt it a blow through the bars; the beast instantly fled howling away, while another took its place.
We see that the night spent by the inhabitants of the grotto was even more terrible than the one passed by Deer and Fair-Hair, besieged in a tree by a cave-bear. Toward morning Deaf no longer had strength even to brandish the spear. She remained unconscious at her post, and if the eager brutes had succeeded in forcing their way into the cave, they would have easily conquered its only defender. Fortunately, thanks to Fair-Hair's wise precautions, the bars were firmly fastened, and the hyenas were forced to retire at the first dawn of day.
Deaf remained motionless for nearly an hour longer; she seemed dead, but was only asleep, overpowered by fatigue and sorrow. Perhaps she would have remained in this condition still longer, but the slumber that might have been so beneficial was not respected. Her children rose and began to utter their usual cry, "I'm hungry."
Deaf opened her eyes, and, again becoming conscious of her misery, also felt more imperiously than ever the need of food. Besides, the stock of water was exhausted; thirst was growing as pressing as hunger. It was useless to hesitate; they must leave the grotto.
The old woman at last yielded to necessity. After having convinced herself, by looking through the bars, that everything was quiet outside, she helped the children remove the barricade. A gust of fresh air suddenly entered the noisome cave, full of half-dried bones and all kinds of impurities. Rat-Catcher and Whistler were eagerly climbing the rock to spring out of doors, when their mother again held them back. She had just perceived some one gliding along the sort of path, choked with bushes, that led to the cave. Now, of all the enemies which at that period threatened man, the most dangerous was man himself.
"Somebody is coming!" exclaimed Deaf in terror. The children crouched behind the rock. Deaf had no time to replace the bars, but she seized her spear, stood on the threshold of her subterranean abode, and prepared to repel a new attack.
She did not wait long; a human figure appeared among the rocks.
"Deer!" cried the old woman in a transport of joy. "Deer! Deer!" exclaimed the children in their turn. It was really Deer. In one hand she held a bow, in the other a flint axe. She seemed overwhelmed with fatigue. At the sight of her mother alive and standing before her, she uttered an exclamation of joy and sprang lightly into the cave.
Both seemed happy in seeing each other again, but they did not resort to any of the caresses and embraces by which a mother and daughter of our day would mutually show their affection. They confined themselves to looking at each other, laughing stupidly, and uttering disconnected words. The children, on seeing their elder sister, who had often provided for their wants, could think of nothing except to repeat their tiresome refrain, "I'm hungry."
Yet Deaf wanted some information. "Where is Red?" she asked.
"Red? Dead," replied Deer.
"Good! good!" cried the old woman, clapping her hands with revengeful satisfaction. "And Fair-Hair?" she continued.
"Fair-Hair," replied Deer, raising her head proudly, "shot Red with his arrows, and he shall be my husband. He has killed a cave-bear. He's coming with his whole family to carry Lynx to the cave of the dead, and we'll eat the bear at the funeral feast. Then Fair-Hair will be master here."
"Good!" repeated Deaf, delighted with the long story her daughter related.
The boys only understood that there was going to be a feast, and jumped for joy, exclaiming,
"A bear! I'll have something to eat."
A few moments after the persons whose coming Deer had announced reached the grotto. Fair-Hair and several of his relatives, men and women, appeared to bury the body of Lynx according to the rites then in use.
We can guess what had occurred. The bear, weakened by numerous wounds and loss of blood, had at last succumbed to the blows of Fair-Hair and his companion; then both, by great efforts, had raised the animal into a tree to preserve it from the wolves and hyenas, which would have devoured it a few instants after the departure of the conquerors. Having taken this precaution, Fair-Hair sent Deer alone to Lynx's cave, which he could do without much danger to her, as it was only a short distance. He himself had gone to the abode of his own family, on the other side of the mountain, to make arrangements for his father-in-law's funeral.
Besides the persons who accompanied him, several others were to be present at the ceremony, but they had gone to find the bear in the woods. The whole number was not more than twenty, though almost the whole population of the neighborhood; for, we repeat, the human race was then by no means numerous, and was scattered over the earth in families. To find other inhabitants of Parisian soil it would have been necessary to go up the right bank of the Seine to Chaumont, or ascend the left to Mont Lucotitius and Grenelle.
Moreover, the ceremonies of a funeral were the only occasions on which these rude hunters met, and the custom of assembling all the invited guests at a banquet had perhaps contributed to the establishment of such a usage.
Fair-Hair's relatives were of the same type as himself, though they had not his frank and almost intelligent face. The shape of their skin garments varied according to the convenience of each individual; fashion did not appear to be very tyrannical. The women, like the men, were armed with bows, lances, or clubs. Fair-Hair's father, still a strong, vigorous man, exerted a certain degree of authority over all the members of his family. He held in his hand one of those singular insignia of office several specimens of which have been found in the strata of the Quaternary period, and which, from their resemblance to those savage chiefs still carry, have been recognized as "rulers' batons." This one, the work of Fair-Hair, was a piece of reindeer's horn pierced with two holes, on which the hunter had carved the figures of animals.12 Still, it may be doubted whether these batons gave the head of a family or tribe undisputed power when age had deprived him of the strength necessary to make himself respected: veneration for the old is a virtue of later times.
The new-comers, on entering Lynx's grotto, addressed no courteous greeting, no word of consolation, to the afflicted family. Two men made a sort of litter of branches; others went to look at the body of the former master of the habitation. All examined in turn the terrible wound in the dead man's head, but said nothing; and if they had any thought, it was doubtless that the man who had dealt the fearful blow must be a great champion.
The remains of Lynx were placed on the improvised bier, and they set out. Every one followed the bearers; even the widow, who in spite of her weakness wished to join the procession, especially as the place of burial was only a few hundred paces distant.
As soon as the body was borne across the threshold of the cave, first Deaf, then Deer, and then the other women present, uttered mournful cries. We must confess that these lamentations, like those at Irish burials, seemed rather prescribed by an invariable etiquette than the result of real sorrow. They ceased when the party had proceeded a certain distance from the dead man's former abode, but burst forth afresh at the sight of the place where the corpse was to be interred.
Halfway down the hill between Lynx's cave and that occupied by Fair-Hair's family was a large, low grotto, usually closed by a stone, which by great exertions gad just been removed. Before this cavern, whence exhaled a nauseating odor, extended a sort of terrace, in which seven or eight persons were busily occupied. A fire had been lighted in the centre of the terrace, and while one of the bystanders constantly threw on wood, others were cutting up the bear, which they had had great difficulty in conveying to the spot. The monstrous animal had been stripped of its skin, and they were detaching the long bones with flint knives and axes, while large steaks, placed on the embers, already poured forth a thick, black smoke.
On perceiving the funeral train the women on the terrace united their wails to those Deer and her mother were already uttering; but this was a mere ceremony, and silence soon returned. Then the bearers placed the body at the entrance of the grotto, at the back of which several squatting skeletons were visible, and before completing the interment they proceeded to the traditional feast.
Humanity, we see, was at the primitive period when it buried its dead in grottos, so many of which are found in Sweden and Norway. In later years men were to build the tumuli and covered avenues rude monuments which were only artificial grottos. Afterward human pride invented the megalithic monuments and pyramids.
The feast began, and the sight of the hideous corpse stretched on the threshold of its last abode did not seem to occupy the attention of the guests. They sat on the ground around the fire, and ate with their usual gluttony. They began by breaking the bear's bones an operation that presented many difficulties on account of their metallic hardness, and for which heavy stones were used. The precious marrow having been devoured, the guests attacked the steaks, and each gorged himself with meat without troubling himself about his neighbors.
They talked little, as usual. But Fair-Hair, the king of the festival, said a few words about his conflict with the great bear of the caves, as well as the manner in which he had despatched Red, the abductor of his beloved Deer. These remarks were perhaps not very clever, but the guests, with their mouths full, uttered a hearty laugh, which according to our ideas was scarcely appropriate to the occasion.
Deer and her mother took part in the festival, and the poor widow, with her fractured skull and bloody hair, did not seem less eager for food. As to the children, they gave themselves up to the indulgence of their appetites with great delight, and doubtless forgot that the generous repast was given on the occasion of their father's funeral.
At last the noise of the jaws ceased; the guests, stupefied by food, seemed to understand that it was time to finish the ceremony. They rose, and everybody proceeded toward the grotto.
The women's wails again arose, and continued while Fair-Hair and another hunter were arranging the body of Lynx in a squatting posture, according to the traditional mode. These arrangements being completed, several pieces of bear's meat, which had been reserved during the banquet, were placed in the grotto, together with the dead man's weapons his bow, club, and spear.
This was not all; each of Lynx's relatives, each of the guests, offered a gift to the corpse. The widow approached first, and placed beside her husband a flint scraper and a bone needle, emblems of the tasks she performed in the household. Deer took from her arm a bracelet made of the teeth of wolves and offered it to her father. The boys, roused by the example, brought, perhaps not without regret, one his sling of auroch's sinews, the other his whistle of reindeer bone. Fair-Hair laid beside the body an axe, whose bone handle, representing a mammoth, was one of his finest carvings. Each of the guests added to these pious gifts a weapon or utensil which he thought worthy to serve for a present to the dead.
It is owing to this custom that we find in these ancient burial-places so many incongruous objects, relics of a world very different from ours. It also proved, let us hasten to say, that these savages, in spite of their brutishness, believed in a second life. This food, these weapons, and utensils of every description, placed in the grotto of the dead, were, according to their ideas, supplies for a new life, whose needs were to be analogous to those of this existence; and, though there are no decisive proofs of it, everything leads to the supposition that they also believed in the existence of a Creator, the sovereign Master of all things.
After these ceremonies they left the grotto, and while the men were replacing the stone the women uttered a last salvo of wails and lamentations. At last, the work being completed, several of the guests returned to the fire to gather up the remnants of the banquet, while others prepared to accompany Fair-Hair to Lynx's cave, of which he was going to take possession.
They began their march with a certain solemnity; it was a nuptial ceremony succeeding the funeral one. First came the head of the family, holding his ruler's baton, and beside him Fair-Hair himself, armed with his lance with a flint head. Then followed two sturdy young men, carrying the skin of the cave-bear; this skin, the principal wealth of the household, was to serve as a bed for the newly-wedded pair. Next walked the invited guests and the dead man's sons, holding as nuptial torches two glowing firebrands to relight the fire in the cave. The women came last, in the humble attitude the weaker sex occupied toward the stronger in barbarous times.
They followed the almost invisible path that wound through the woods and thickets, but no one spoke, no joyful exclamations were heard. The nuptial march greatly resembled the funeral procession. No sounds were audible except the groans of poor Deaf, who was suffering from her wound, and to whom no one offered consolation or support.
Thus they reached the cave, which everybody entered to install the young couple, but there were neither prayers, speeches, nor ceremonies of any description. They merely relighted the fire, and when the wood began to crackle and the smoke rose in clouds, Fair-Hair, standing erect, lance in hand, said with marked emphasis,
"I am Deer's husband, and I have avenged Lynx. Now I will feed the family by the products of my hunting. Let each be careful to obey me!"
Such, according to the ideas of modern science, were the humble predecessors of the Parisian population, which was to exert so great an influence over the whole world. The few savages who inhabited the caves of Montmartre, Grenelle, Levallois, Pecq, and probably other localities, now impossible to recognize, disappeared with the mammoth and cave-bear at the end of the Quaternary period. Did they perish in the terrible cataclysms that ensued. or emigrate with the reindeer and other animals of species still living that have left their bones in our geological strata? No one can say; a more intelligent, if not less ferocious, race succeeded them in future Gaul, and this race we shall study to the threshold of history.