Out of the Miocene
(In Two Parts - Part Two)
By John Charles Beecham
SYNOPSIS OF PART ONE
While working for the United States geodetic survey, mapping a desert tableland in the great Southwest, Bruce Dayton, scientist and authority on the Jurassic reptilia, meets with a strange, half-mad individual by the name of Eugene Scott, who has lived for years in a hidden cave. Scott has chosen. this hermit existence that he might better devote himself to the study of evolution, and so contribute to science knowledge that would place him beside Aristotle and Darwin. He claims he knows how to send back through the ages to the first forms of life, a man such as Dayton, and asks the young man's permission to dispatch him upon that amazing journey. Dayton humors the old fellow and, in a fever, falls asleep. In a bewildering daze Dayton finds himself living in trees, an ape man, known as Aka, the sentinel. Among his tribe are two that are to play important roles in his destiny one Gru, his chief, a brutish gorilla-like creature, and his mate Baba, the "pretty one." Because he has indulged in a prank, Aka is snarled at by the tribe and Gru punishes him mercilessly. Baba expresses sympathy for him because of his hurt, Gru comes upon them in a tender moment and is blood-mad instantly enraged, he almost crushes the life out of Aka, but Baba flies to help her lover against her fierce mate. Gru, filled with hate and murder, pursues the pair as they swing their way through labyrinths of trees. They escape only to be confronted by terrors and dangers of an unknown world. Baba is happy in her chosen lover, but he, struggling with higher impulses, repels her. She leaps away from him and vanishes.
BABA remained in the trees all day. I should have left her, but could not find justification for leaving her to Gru's mercies. As an ape man, such moral considerations did not trouble me. But the ape-man desire for companionship and attraction for her, working subconsciously, kept me hovering near. I brought her some berries in one of these ape-man states, but she refused them. Toward evening I made a shelter in the trees, modeled after the old camp.
All day I kept a wary eye busy searching the dense glade for a sign of our enemy. That Gru would come, I was positive. When night fell, dread and fear of the darkness came upon me. I had felt some of this terror before in the old camp, but not so acutely, for there I could huddle with the others, and that reassured me. When I was alone during the past week, with the human soul ascendant, I felt no fear. But now a primitive, childlike horror of darkness and the unknown and known terrors it concealed. possessed my half-brute soul. From every copse and thickly-leaved branch I saw the face of the gorilla king. At every rustle I shrank farther into the hut.
Baba, whose return darkness compelled, was no less afraid. All that night we crouched and shivered until the breaking of dawn brought relief.
With the first faint light filtering through the treetops, Baba left me. There was no formal leave-taking. She merely ignored my existence and swung away through the treetops, not toward the old camp, but toward the slope that terminated in the distant mountain chain. My ape-man self, piqued, curious, and still desiring her, compelled me to follow. At first she quickened her pace, so that I could scarcely keep up. But she did not intend to run away from me, I know, or she would have. Gradually she traveled more slowly, and I followed just behind.
We must have been a strange pair, even for that primitive wilderness. She, the ape woman, scorned; I, the scorner, half of me desiring her, the other half abhorring. I was like a man in the grip of morphine; I knew it was poison, but could not stop.
At noon we rested for a few hours. We kept apart, were companions, but no more.
A sudden rustling, as if some heavy creature had swung on a limb that bent beneath his weight, caused us both to leap ahead in wild panic. One idea possessed us Gru. For an hour we raced. All that time my ape-man mind was instinct with a something that could help us in this terrible need and deliver us from Gru. It was the same illusive something I could not recall or summon the day before, but I did not know it. Like an "infant crying in the night, an infant crying for the light," my brute intelligence groped about through the intense blackness of its world for that other self, my human ego. A metaphysician, striving to penetrate the abysses of infinity with the searchlight of thought for some explanation of the eternal mysteries of life and after-life, can realize the dead void, the darkness, the dense nothing upon nothing through which my primitive intelligence labored to rise to attain consciousness of that other ego.
Baba realized that something was wrong, as she had the day before. When we finally stopped, she hovered quietly about, trying to efface herself, yet always near, keeping her face turned from mine,
I might have lost the human at that time but for Baba. I was becoming querulous again, when she restored normal intelligence, not purposely, but by accident.
She was bending down a young sapling, when it slipped from her fingers and straightened. The impetus detached a leaf and sent it whirling.
My brute mind, just learning to reason, caught the import of that whirling leaf. Like Newton deducing the laws of gravitation from a falling apple, it perceived that a missile could be thrown in that way. My human intelligence returned, and I knew that what I needed to protect us from Gru was a bow and arrow.
The terrible fear of losing the human element again possessed me. I realized, too, that by permitting the human mind to lie dormant, it became torpid and refused to react to the sensations I experienced. I must think, think, think or become brute. First, I must make arms, a bow, arrow, and spear. Then I must have shelter and fire. Fire and weapons with these two I was safe from Gru.
A stout branch of yew gave me the wood for a long bow. But I had no string. First I thought of a rope of tough grasses. I made several, but they snapped. Others were too thick to be serviceable.
I killed a rabbit-like creature that afternoon, and the skin, lying on the ground, gave me an idea. With a sharp stick I cut it into ribbons. These, spliced, made the string for the bow.
By nightfall the bow was completed, but I had no arrows. Afraid that Gru had spied us out and waited for night to trap us, we traveled several miles before sunset.
It was another night of terrors and broken sleep. At every sound we were tense for a bound into the higher treetops. But nothing disturbed us, except a little wild cat, whose green eyes flared fire from a neighboring tree.
In the morning I found some splendid sticks for arrow shafts. There was nothing to scrape or shape them with, and nothing to tip them so they would penetrate a tough, hairy hide. I searched carefully for a sharp bit of stone, but the ground was carpeted with cones and leaves, and fine white sand or mud formed the floor.
All this time we were gradually ascending, and the vegetation became less rank. The atmosphere was also sensibly colder. I shivered at night, and but for the warm sunlight, I knew I would be shivering now.
The mountains! I suddenly recollected the glimpse of lofty peaks I had from the treetops. On those bare rocks I would find at least shale, perhaps quartz, granite, or, best of all, flint.
Now I took the lead and pressed upward. I forgot Baba. The joy of making something, of creation, of labor, was mine. Other emotions were stifled. She might have turned back, and I never realized the parting.
In making this confession I feel no shame. It marked another advance, the birth of ambition and love of accomplishment. The best-loved wife in the world cannot expect to be in her husband's thoughts during business hours.
But Baba did not forget me. Puzzled and piqued, I think, by this new mood, she followed. There was also another reason the mother instinct was strong in her. Although she recognized that we could not mate, that something in me must always be alien to her, she realized also that I needed some one's care to guard me from the many dangers of our wild existence. She recognized further that this protection could only come from her. So with feminine self-sacrifice, knowing she was abhorred, although she knew not why, she watched over me.
We were now in the region of the evergreens. It was becoming very cold. Still we pressed upward. There were no longer any trees, and we were forced to travel on the ground. The underbrush dwarfed as we advanced. It was below our shoulders. Now we found it only in scraggly patches. Moss succeeded the scrub growth.
Finally we reached the crest. It was the edge of an almost impassable plateau of arid, conglomerate rock, cut and scarred by endless seams and fissures and outcropping ledges, and sloping upward to a still loftier ridge. The lava formation was like an immense lake, instantaneously congealed while lashed by a terrific hurricane. At some dim and distant epoch, while the land below was quaking and belching gases from innumerable pores, this huge torrent of molten rock must have swept down from those distant ridges that now reposed so peaceably. Yet it had seemed to me, when I first awoke to a realization of my presence in the Tertiary, that I had gone back to the birth of the world. What an infinity stretched before and after!
Not that such thoughts occurred to me then. I was petulant, and hugely disappointed at my failure to find flint hard enough for arrowheads. That search, for the time, was the absorbing purpose and aim of life. I forgot that I was in an arid country, where there was no water and no food. I forgot the danger of getting lost in its mazes. I forgot the dangers of this era. It seemed as if my mind could grasp but one idea, and that idea, the need for flint.
Baba, with doglike fidelity, followed. Yet at that time my human consciousness dominated. I did not realize then the grave danger that threatened me, the gradual dimming of the divine light of reason. It was as if this gross body and gross mind were too coarse fuel to keep the flame burning; air devitalized of oxygen. The spirit was losing its power to shine through, to control and direct. Eventually this must mean
Finally I found what I wanted. It was a gaunt spur of metamorphic rock, rising from the broken sheet of lava like a derelict mast from a shoal. Surviving the ancient flames, it must have been swept along irresistibly until it finally found lodgment here.
I almost hugged the rock in pure ecstasy. Then I looked at it blankly. I had no tools. Not until that moment had the need of any occurred to me. A fatuous fool, I had dreamed that arrowheads of flint must be common wherever the rock was. Carefully examining the stone, I strove to find some crack or crevice. There was no trace of cleavage. Everywhere about was the soft lava, rotted by frost and rain for thousands of years. There was nothing hard enough to chip off a segment of stone from this spur. I searched in ever widening circles, first walking, then running, as the sinking sun impelled haste. I came back to the rock, beating it with my hands in vain impotence. As wrath grew, and the peevishness common to simple-minded creatures, I screamed, kicked, and cursed, foaming at the mouth. Baba's solemn, questioning eyes at length calmed me.
The thrill that the lone prospector in an unknown creek feels as he gazes into his pan and sees pay dirt for the first time after years of gold hunting, the keen joy of the pearl hunter in finding a gem of purest water, were mine the next moment. Hardly had I taken ten steps from the rock before I saw nestling in a niche, not one, but two pieces of stone, undoubtedly chipped from the rock. I swooped down and dug them out.
Baba shrilled a warning. One more pull, and one of the rocks would be loose, so I did not look up. She screamed again piercingly, and leaped ahead of me, her face instinct with terror and self-sacrifice. I caught a glimpse of her as she swept past me, but that glimpse was enough to call me to my feet.
Not ten feet from me was a man. Not an ape man, but a human. Clad in the skin of a bear, about five feet six inches tall, he walked with a carriage as free and erect as man ever walked. He had just emerged from a ravine, and he came toward us slowly, threatening with a huge club and a stone ax caught in a scabbard of rough leather at his side. Baba was ahead of me, menacing with growls and sweeps of her arms, but the fear of death was on her, and I knew it.
What I should have done was make friends. I was human; he was human. He was an earlier progenitor of the later race of men, my race. My place was with him and his people. There the human in me might expand and cast off the ape-man incubus that was stifling it.
But I made no overture of friendship. In that moment of danger, like other moments, the human reverted. The ape man came to the fore and saw his mate threatened. With my precious rock in my hand how I came to hold it I cannot explain, for that was not our ape-man mode of fighting I sprang ahead of Baba.
My show of fight must have intimidated the hunter. It must have been different from what he expected. Probably the ape-man race always fled, as an inferior before a superior people. At any rate he stopped, holding his club lightly in readiness.
I shoved Baba back. We began retreating, she first, slowly, then more rapidly, finally, in a panic. We were awkward on these rough rocks, confused, and ignorant of the road; the hunter was agile and familiar with his surroundings. Constantly he threatened, worrying us; and repeatedly I charged him, but he easily eluded me. Baba was slower than I, and I had to wait for her.
I did not realize that the cave man was skillfully driving us. It was not until I saw an impassable ravine just ahead that I perceived we were trapped.
A flood of rage possessed me. With the madness of beasts when they are cornered, I turned on him. He saw me coming, dropped his ax and skins, and backed against a rock, swinging his club. I stopped short in my charge.
Then he came slowly toward me. Never was I nearer death than that moment, even when Gru's arms were around me, yet I was not afraid. I was only savagely angry. Not an evolution of his club escaped me, and I calculated, even in the frenzy of madness, on a chance to jump in and get my fingers on his throat before he could swing. All the time I growled and spat and whirled my arms intimidatingly.
As he pressed closer, he kept a wary eye upon Baba. He had us in a pocket where a lateral gully met the big ravine nearly at right angles, both sloping down in acute precipices for over a hundred feet.
With the fury of desperation, Baba lumbered toward him. He struck at her, but she fell as the club descended, and her skin was only barked. He whirled the club to dash out her brains. A bellow of rage, and I was almost upon him. He stepped back to escape my charge. That step was his last. Leaning backward, with the oddly curious look of a than who has lost his balance and strives to recover equilibrium, he slipped down. It seemed ages before we heard the dull thud of his body striking the rocks below. I dared not look over the cliffs to see.
But one emotion possessed us, to escape from there. The place was full of terrors. To get back to the trees again, where we had refuge, where we could move as we were made to move, through the branches, was our supreme desire.
Before we left, I picked up the cave man's dress of skins that he had thrown aside as he warily approached us, and his ax. Why I did this, I do not know. It may have been a primitive instinct for loot, the spoils that fall to the victor. It may have been a vague stirring of the human, or that instinct for development that made man from the ape.
Baba watched me with huge distrust. In fact, she feared me. Adoption of the cave man's garb made me cave man to her, and therefore a potential enemy, at least some one to be watched. The careful manner in which she kept out of reach, the suspicion alert in her keen black eyes, plainly revealed this. I began to understand the deadly enmity of ape man for cave man, and cave man for ape man, of the superior race for the inferior and the inferior for the superior. It is that kind of feeling that made the Versailles of the fifteenth Louis possible, I think, and the French revolution; Newport and nihilism.
But though Baba distrusted, her devotion did not waver. Out of reach, but never far away, she toiled after me. It was nearly dark before we found the edge of the plateau again. We had unknowingly made a considerable detour. In that rough country it was impossible to follow a trail.
As the sun set I picked a sheltered gully for the camp. The shadows began to cluster, and with the dark returned my ape-man fears. I dropped the flints and the skins, and whined softly. Baba came swiftly toward me, and whined, too. We crouched there together, two lost children, while the chilling night wind gathered strength and howled above. It became cold, bitterly cold, and our teeth chattered, but I never thought to cover us with the skins.
There was a touch of red in the dense shadow of the opposite cliff wall. I do not remember that the phenomenon made any impression upon me. As an ape man, I accepted conditions as I found them, without striving to reason causes. But I do remember that, cramped from long sitting, I stepped upward and saw
A crescent of fires, brightly blazing, far down the cliff, and men and women about the fires. Men and women, children, too. eating and sleeping and mating, unashamed and without restraint.
I could almost hear the crackling of the flames. I could almost snuff the smoke. I looked, saw every detail of the scene with a vividness that memory will always retain, and burrowed back into the gully in a pandemonium of fright. Baba understood, and her whining ceased, as did mine. All night we skulked there, too frightened to sleep.
In the morning, weak from hunger and lack of sleep, we silently fled along the rim of the plateau, away from the village of cave men, and retreated to our native forests.
I was too much of a beast to meet men.
Our panic lasted until we reached the treetops. Curious how the trees were home to me, and the restful security they gave. Yet when I first swung from limb to limb, I shrank before every leap. So familiar had these surroundings become.
In my flight I carried the two flints with the cave-man dress and the stone ax. The single idea that I must have those stones. which carried me so far up the plateau, persisted. My ape-man mind was incapable of other thought while this purpose was unfulfilled.
But now that I had the flints, what should I do with them? I looked at them stupidly. The idea remained tantalizingly out of reach. My simply constructed ape-man mind could not reason the analogy between the bow and flints. Its inability aroused a dull sort of fury that made me gnash my teeth and work myself into a frenzy. I snapped off branches in a black rage, and threw the bow aside.
Exhausted, I became calmer. The violence of emotion subsided. The distant idea came to me, seeping through the walls that separated my human consciousness from my ape-man consciousness. I only know that I suddenly knew, the dark was light, and I perceived that I must have small pieces of stone to make arrowheads.
But how to break the flints? I pounded them together. That was futile. I climbed a tree and let one drop on the other. Both flints were broken. After three days of infinite toil rubbing the pieces together, I. had arrowheads. Another day's work gave me a quiver of six arrows.
Those four days were the most wonderful of that strange life. I do not recollect that the human ego dominated a single moment during all that time. Of course, it suggested and advised, but I was scarcely conscious of it. The sharply defined transition from one state to the other was gone. There was no violence of emotions to accentuate the differences between my two stages of life, as a civilized man, and as a creature of the primitive.
My ape-man intelligence, undoubtedly absorbing strength from the human spirit that dwelt within, developed tremendously. It was wonderful how I could reason. Without suggestion from the human spirit, my ape-man self understood that arrows must have hard points to penetrate and kill. It understood that a bow and arrows lengthened my arm and enabled me to kill my enemies before they could reach me.
This power of thought came from tremendous concentration for days upon one problem how to kill Gru. I knew that, brawn against brawn, he was my master. My strength, though more than common, was no match against his. I must kill him before he could reach me.
The bow and arrows enabled me to do that. Thinking constantly the one thought to kill Gru I was able to recognize the potentiality of the weapon.
So those arrows were made by me as an ape man, with fingers whose only training was making shirts from leaves. The shafts were crude, and the heads not firmly fastened, but practice perfected skill.
A little opossum-like creature, running along a branch, was the first victim of the world's first bow. I shot two shafts, and the second brought it tumbling to the ground. The arrow snapped in two, and this cost me considerable time in duplicating it, but I was happy. I had proved my skill. For a week I practiced assiduously.
Baba kept more and more away from me. I could see her daily, watching me with wondering eyes, eyes that testified of a pathetic devotion. But I was outstripping her in the race toward the human, and she sensed it. I saw her finger one of the arrows once. I had carelessly left it in a tree. She handled it fearsomely, feeling the barb, and stroking the feathered shaft. When she saw me she quickly put it down.
Poor Baba! Hers was a bigger problem than mine. Mine only to meet my enemy and kill him. Hers to hold a man to whom she had given herself, but who had never been hers, whose world was new and unknown to her, very mysterious, and full of things inexplicable to her simply organized mind. I have seen wives like that, wives of the ordinary sort, with brilliant husbands, and, oh, their hopeless devotion, their helplessness and their fears!
Day after day I gained in skill. Had we the means of making a fire, I could have kept us plentifully supplied with meat.
Meat! How the craving for it grew. Roots and berries we had plenty, but the flesh hunger made me long to rend and tear the carcasses of things I killed, while they still dripped blood. Yet something always held me back. It was as if my human self, now almost obliterated from active consciousness, guarded me from those grosser sins that would have made me all beast.
With the meat hunger came a vague dissatisfaction with this elysian life. Day by day it grew. The weather possibly accentuated it. The nights were colder and longer. The rains were more frequent. Below, all the earth floor was in a constant ferment, steaming and laboring in the mighty travail of stupendous production. Thick mists gathered morning and evening, and at length even the noonday sun could hardly dispel them. It seemed as if all the world above was dripping moisture, and the ground became a steeping, quaking, soggy quagmire, fouler every day.
Recollections of the sunlit plateau, of the camp on the mountainside with the crescent of fires, began to obtrude. I became more and more restless. The instinct toward migration was also upon Baba. A couple of times she had started southward, and looked to see if I would follow. When I did not, she came back sulkily.
Possibly it was only a seasonal instinct, common to all these creatures, to escape to a sunnier clime while the rains lasted, that possessed me with this fever to move. Yet I think the craving for human companionship had something to do with it. For when I finally did turn toward the hills, I was dressed in the cave man's skins and carried his stone ax.
Baba objected, but vainly. A sort of companionship was developing between us, tolerant on my part, humbly submissive on hers. How her fierce nature had changed! When she saw I was determined to go, she followed.
I struck a more easterly course this time, away from the plateau, and toward the cliff. I wanted to see these humans at close range and meet them. The approach was carefully planned. There was a little creek running not far from the camp, bordered by a grove of trees. The creek ran into a considerable forest, to which we could escape if threatened. Following the belt of trees, I reconnoitered the camp of the Humans.
Again that mystery fire! But now no longer a mystery. The phenomenon so new, so strange and fear inspiring to my ape-man self, so transcending all previous experience when I first saw it, was no longer novel. Intuitively I recognized it. It was fire. Nothing to be afraid of, tool and servant of man fire. I, an ape man unacquainted with fire until a short time before, now knew it, and understood its purpose to give ,warmth. Yet I had never been near it.
Whence this knowledge? To me it is the convincing proof that the old struggle between my ape-man soul and my human soul for possession of this body was at an end. The two had merged. I was an ape man, but a super ape man, with a human intelligence of many things.
Of course I did not know these things then. My mind was not attuned to abstractions. It was too simply organized, too primitive. But at that moment I stood on the threshold of a new and wonderful life. My dual personality was made one. There were to be no more transitions from one state to another. I was an entirely new creature, different from any that has ever been in this world before or after, a compound of the Tertiary and the twentieth century.
The change must have occurred while I was struggling to make any arrows. My dominant aim in making the arrows is the dominant aim of men in all stages of their evolution self-protection. The single purpose was the flame that fused the two natures.
When I left the heavy forest for the lower growth fringing the creek, Baba expostulated. First she scolded in shrill warning and stamped her feet. When I persisted she changed to short, sharp cries of distress and low whining. So typically feminine that mood, so much the woman trying to coerce her man, and when that fails, cajolery. She was afraid, womanly afraid, and womanly she tried to hold me back.
The camp was a gently sloping open place at the foot of a precipice of soft, weather-worn rock, pitted with small black openings in and out of which the cave dwellers wriggled. In a broad arc, inclosing the group of caves, were a series of fires so close that they made practically a ribbon of flame encircling the camp. Only in one place was an opening, with a sentinel on guard. Better than walls of stone was the barrier of flame against the dangers of the primitive world. No invading army of tree dwellers and no wild beasts could penetrate it. The cliff was accessible in only one place, where the rock had been worn smooth in a zigzag ascent for about a hundred and fifty feet.
There were eight grown males, about twice that many females, and thirty or more children of both sexes in the camp. The males lolled about indolently, and the females replenished the fire, chattering volubly. The busy clack-clack o f the women and the bored air of their mates was so deliciously human and funny that I laugh each time I recall it. But I lacked a sense of humor then.
Without attempting concealment, I left the shelter of the trees, and walked several steps into the open. Baba kept in the outskirts of the forest, but near enough to watch proceedings.
The camp was instantly in an uproar. At the alarm of the sentinel the men jumped to their feet and grasped their axes, stone-pointed spears, and clubs. The women fled, shrieking, to the caves, bundling in their children before them. Two ran out again and picked up youngsters forgotten in the rush.
I stopped, and whined ingratiatingly. Whined, I say, for the sounds made by my lips can only be classified as whines. In our primitive language there was no word for peace or friendship. Our vocabulary only expressed rancor and hate, and the primitive wants of food and shelter. There was a cry that meant we were cold and miserable, and a different cry to express our gratification at food. There was also the mating cry. These, with variations, constituted our language.
When they saw there was only one enemy, and he dressed in the garb of a cave man, three of them advanced cautiously outside the circle of flame and came toward me. I stepped a little nearer, whining again. Their alert eyes twinkled from the tree growth to me, as if they suspected treachery. One of them discovered Baba, and stopped the others quickly.
I placed the bow on the ground, and that nearly cost my life. For one of them, the chief of the camp, threw a spear at me. As I bent it whizzed by, flecking a piece of skin from my shoulder.
Baba again saved me. With a fierce cry of rage she launched out of the trees, snarling and foaming. They stopped, and, in the moment's respite, I picked up the precious bow. I fled for the trees with Baba, but they were fleeter. The chief was only a few steps behind me, when, fitting a shaft to the bow, I whirled around and shot. The arrow penetrated the fleshy part of his throat, the barb going through. Spurting blood, he fell headlong.
That made it two and two. They were a cowardly breed, those ape men, for they left their leader and raced back to the shelter of the flames. Unmindful of the ax in my belt, I jumped toward the wounded man to beat out his brains by butting his head against the rock. As I reached him, he raised himself. He was a gruesome sight, the blood pouring from the wound, and the arrow imbedded in the flesh. He tried to rise, but sank back helplessly. Although he must have read my purpose, and could not have expected any other fate in that savage time, he faced me courageously. Scorn of death, pride that disdained to ask mercy of a foe shone from his eves and ennobled him
Something stirred within me. Probably it was the call of the human, that spontaneous admiration for courage which was one of the earliest human attributes. I leaned over him, and, to his astonishment, broke off the barb and pulled out the shaft. With some healing herbs and a bandage of leaves and vines I bound the wound and stanched the flow of blood.
Curious eyes from the camp watched this performance. It must have been utterly inexplicable to them, utterly in variance with the code of eye for eye and tooth for tooth, which was the only law the Tertiary knew.
Baba, too how she stared and mistrusted! Yet all the time she was studying me, striving to understand these odd moods. Nothing I could do would amaze her. But she must know my, every act, and endeavor to piece it into the new scheme of things.
A startled fawn leaped out of a thicket across the stream just as we finished bathing. Before it could disappear, my bow twanged. A couple of steps, and it sank to the ground, in plain view.
There were shouts of amazement from the camp. Baba looked on with fond pride. I exulted, for it was the biggest thing I had shot. My new acquaintance trembled. This new way of killing was a fearful mystery to him.
I motioned to him to help me carry the deer to camp. Together we dragged it to the fire and skinned it with rude knives that he produced. The other folk still kept to the caves, although I could see eyes peering curiously, and vague outlines of forms that retreated swiftly into the blackness the moment my glance questioned.
While we skinned the deer and roasted parts of it over the flame, the cave man and I became friends. Our languages were practically the same, although his vocabulary was bigger. He possessed a greater variation of sounds than I did, and could express more ideas to his kind. Put I acquired these new sounds readily. There was no reason why a confusion of tongues should exist. since both of us expressed with elemental sounds our elemental wants. There was no more reason why our speech should differ than why one infant's cry should differ from another's.
Klo, the Bold One, was his name. I told him mine, and we repeated each other's. Then we rubbed dirt on each other's faces to show that our friendship was undying. Before this happened some one in the caves had thrown a stone at me, but Klo leaped after him and cuffed him roundly.
The fragrant smell of cooking venison brought the cave dwellers out one by one. First they smelled the rich aroma, snuffing loudly. Then the bolder ones, particularly the youngsters, came nearer. I held out pieces of meat toward them. By and by one of the more courageous snatched a piece out of my hand. After that it was easier, and we were soon acquainted.
Baba still kept to the forest. Not because I was ashamed of my neglect for her, or because I was grateful, for such emotions were unknown at that time, but because her companionship was pleasant, I went to the creek and called her. She still distrusted, and refused to come. It was not until night began to settle, bringing with it all the terrors of darkness, that she tremblingly emerged into the open. I led her to the camp.
Her fears were quickly observed by the others. With the instinct of small creatures for meanness, they attempted to pester her and intimidate her with petty cruelties. But after I had beaten a few soundly, her position in the camp was secured. They recognized my mastery because Klo did.
I was bigger and stronger than these cave men. They were short of five feet high, and I was a couple of inches over that height. They lacked my depth of chest and my heavy muscles. In fact, I was quite a giant among them, and by far the strongest and most athletic being in the camp.
But they were swifter than I on the ground. They had a cunning, a thievish, cruel cunning that had Baba and me at a disadvantage. We of the tree people were honest with each other. We fought our enemies as hard as we could, and used every crook and wile to overcome them, but we were true to our friends. These cave folk had no knowledge of camp unity or loyalty to their fellows. Every man's hand was against every other man's. They never fought in the open, but struck from behind. In our tree colony, each man had his mate. If an ape man was away from the camp on a hunting expedition or at sentinel's post, the others left his mate alone. When a tree man was killed, somebody else took the widow to wife. We were not monogamous, for if we had been half the females would have been without mates. The men, the hunters and the warriors, were killed off the most rapidly. Some of them, therefore, had several wives. But no female was coerced to dwell with any male; it was her own voluntary choice that gave her a mate, be she maid or widow.
But here it was different. The females were the weaker, so they did all the work. No man's mate was safe from the other men. The women were common property. Only the stern hand of Klo, who was greatly superior to his fellows in courage and the moral virtues, kept order in the camp and prevented anarchy. They had banded together for mutual protection, yet were it not for Klo would have been their own worst enemies.
Outside of Klo there was not a virtue in the camp, not the faintest stirring of an altruistic impulse. The women were shallow, vain, chattering, unchaste creatures; the men debauched and enervated by their own excesses, thieves and liars, boastful idlers, fond of strutting around, treacherous to the last degree.
Into such company had I fallen. Yet these folk lived in caves and had stone tools and weapons, and were consequently far advanced of the tree people. They had fire were these our ancestors?
I am convinced that they were not. History shows repeated instances of barbarian peoples advancing to a high civilization to be corrupted, lose the racial vigor which gave them such tremendous impetus above their fellows, and succumb to barbarians whose only superiority was a physical one, and who after several generations adopted the civilization of the conquered and advanced it. Witness the Greeks triumphing over the horde of Persia, and the Germanic tribes conquering Rome.
The tree people, only ape men yet, would wipe out this race eventually as the Teutons and Goths wiped out Rome, thus acquiring fire and weapons and tools of stone. The bow and arrow would follow, and some one would discover how to fashion tools from molten metal. After that decay, and another new race.
I cannot place Klo. Sometimes his odd gait makes me think he was what I was, a renegade tree man. Perhaps he was one of those rare characters that nature sometimes plants among a degenerate race, a Hannibal among the Carthaginians. Loyalty, courage, honesty, morality, the virtues his fellows lacked were his. He was the leader because he alone was fit; because he dared more than the others, and because he was the only one they could trust.
Baba and me they accepted for two reasons. The first and most potent was the bow. I could kill at a greater distance than they could. The second was Klo. His influence in the camp would have secured us toleration, even if the bow had not compelled fear and respect.
The thievish propensity and treachery of these human beasts I learned the first night. Baba and I were sitting beside the fire when I felt a sharp tug at the bow I was lightly holding. I whirled around as a cave man pulled it from me. A single leap, and I had him. If he had escaped, I might have chased in vain; I beat him cruelly, until he howled for mercy, and none of the others, who clustered around, dared stop me. If I had lost the bow, I am sure they would have rushed in and killed me. But when I recovered it they cackled in glee over the thief's discomfiture, prodding him and filling the night with their discordant clacking. The incident taught me never to let my fingers off my weapons.
When we retired into one of the caves which Klo assigned us, a heavy rock, from the plateau above, shot down and narrowly missed us. Luckily I saw it start, and hurled Baba against the cliff. The rock splintered where we had stood. It was useless to shoot, and useless to try to find the treacherous wretch who loosened the stone. Baba and I retired to the cave, whose entrance was just large enough for us to crawl in. We pulled the rock against it. It took. our combined strength, which assured me that no cave man would be likely to move it quickly. I explored the cave to make sure it had no back door.
That was the beginning of many days in the camp and nights in the cave. Baba and I kept aloof from these people, except Klo, who had no wife, and who shared our councils and taught our clumsy fingers the fashioning of stones and how to build a fire by rubbing sticks and many other arts.
Baba found the women as frivolous and nauseating as I did the men, and they reciprocated her feeling heartily. There was also more or less jealousy. The women tried desperately to flirt with me, and the men strove to make advances to Baba, but both of us were impervious to these wiles.
But the life was a miserable one. Many times I resolved to leave the camp and live again in the open, but as the cold rains increased and the warm fires became more congenial, it was harder to break away. We realized the discomforts we would suffer living in the trees with the rains penetrating our flimsy shelter and the cold winds chilling us. There was Gru to consider, too, but we were no longer afraid of him now that I could shoot. It was Klo, however, who kept us in the camp, for his companionship began to mean much.
One of the arts we learned was to snare animals and catch them in pits. The cave men were too lazy to hunt small game and too cowardly to chase the larger animals, but they had the cunning to get both.
So the winter passed. We saw no snow, for this was before the glacial epoch, and although we were in what is now the temperate zone, it had a climate like that of southern California to-day.
When spring came, and the rains ceased, and the sun smiled daily and dried up the bubbling quagmires that covered all the low ground, the vague stirring of unrest and migration that had filled us before and led us to the cave men again developed. It was no longer pleasant for us to live in a cave. Fires were unnecessary, except to cook food. It was a pleasure to swing from limb to limb again.
One day a party of the cave men, out hunting, caught us swinging about in the trees. That evening, when we returned, there was hubbub in the camp. Familiarity had worn off the edge of their first fear of us, and when we came into the open, a threatening, gesticulating throng received us. I was astonished, but the constant reiteration of "Ru, ru," their word for tree people, explained the situation. They had accepted us as cave men. Now we proved to be tree folk. Hence we were spies and traitors. How they gnashed their teeth and foamed at the mouth as they stood in the entrances to their caves, ready to slip out of sight if I so much as reached for an arrow! Klo alone tried to defend us, but his authority was ignored.
We were sick of the camp, so we did not dispute them or try to fight our way in. We turned back to the forest, and camped in a tree that night.
Where to go was the problem the next morning. No home, and the big wide world stretched before. Baba yearned for old associations, the trees where we lived while I made the bow and arrows, and all that region of splendid forest.
But my heart was turned toward the highlands. From our treetop we could see the mighty mountain chain, peak after peak, stretching before. In the shadows of those snow-clad peaks I knew were pleasant vales where there was water and food in abundance. The explorer's fever was on me. and I urged pressing eastward away from the old life and Gru. Baba yielded as usual.
The decision meant retracing our steps and skirting the camp. As we neared the creek I saw a cave man waiting by the stream. In those days every stranger was an enemy, and we approached cautiously. He turned around, and I saw it was Klo.
How we embraced, and rubbed dirt in each others' faces to testify our joy in meeting. With the uncanny intuition of a savage, Klo had divined that we would cross the creek, and planned to meet us. He was as weary of the camp as we, so we three set out together. I caught a final glimpse of the cave men through the trees, quarreling and gorging and lusting as usual when Klo was gone. It was the last I ever saw of them.
The whole world was migrating. Cave people and tree people, swamp people and hill people, all were seeking new homes. The cave people kept to the barren slopes, while we of the tree folk clung to the timbered valleys. Fear of beasts lurking in the jungles and bogs drove them to the hillsides; fear of the cave folk and their stone weapons kept us in the trees. The jungle carnivora we had no difficulty in avoiding.
The trend was largely northward, although it diverged east and west in greater or less angles. We were heading nearly due cast, and crossed fresh trails three or four tunes each day.
Spring, the call of a new year, was responsible for this tremendous migration. As the warm sun sapped the moisture from the forest, and the world budded out in fresh green, and all the myriad voices of the woodland and the marshes, stilled during the rainy period, were heard again, a spontaneous instinct for new fields and new forests filled every breast. Man followed the birds north, east, and west, and peopled the whole earth.
We proceeded carefully. Our first day's experiences taught us caution. We were mounting the crest of .a naked hill when a score of cave people came from the other side. Luckily Klo saw them first. We backed toward a patch of forest, but they discovered us before we could hide. It was nip and tuck to the trees, and a stone hammer whizzed over Baba's shoulder. That so angered me that I wheeled and let go an arrow. It scratched one of the cave men, and his scream of pain made the whole tribe scamper. The trees hid us.
Later a tribe of tree people chased us, but by dodging from forest to glade repeatedly we eluded them. Looking back as we finished crossing a particularly long open space, nearly half a mile wide, I saw a huge ape man just emerging from the patch of forest we had left and toiling along in the rear of the tree people. He towered among the others and beat his chest with his hands in his rage.
It was only a glimpse I had, but before me rose the picture of Gru when I first saw him coming toward the through the trees. The cruel blow he struck me then rang again in my ears. Even at that distance I recognized the thrashing arms and shambling gait of the avenger. The single glimpse was enough. A snarl of warning to Baba, and we were off at a breakneck pace through the trees that left the tree men far behind. Every crackling branch nerved us to a more rapid pace that Klo could hardly maintain. Now to the right, then to the left we swerved, now we doubled, and again leaped a watercourse to hide our tracks. I felt in anticipation Gru's terrible arms around me, and the bones bending, and the horrible suffocation. In my panic I never once thought of the bow and the liberation it might bring.
When the darkness gathered, we picked out a big tree for shelter. Klo, who did not know Gru, ridiculed our fears. The rapid pace must have upset his usual poise, for he became quite noisy and boastful. Night gathered, intensely black, wonderfully still. At length I sank into a troubled sleep.
Next I remember a terrible dream of Gru bending over me, fiendish malice distorting his face into the wildest nightmare of brute passion.
I shrieked, and in the hisses and discordant croakings and the quavering cry of tigers and the crashing of thickets as some frightened creature fled through them did I hear a strangled cry? I leaped upward, somebody just behind. A smothered gasp told the it was Baba. As we jumped I heard branches snap, followed by a thud below, as though a big limb had fallen. We fled on the wings of the wind through the intense darkness, risking our lives in every swing, instinct our only guide. A hundred times I leaped ahead without knowing whether there was a branch beyond or not, springing straight into the blackness with hands outstretched to catch the first support. Sometimes I dropped twenty or thirty feet before my fall was arrested. I never once thought of the risk, for just behind was vengeance incarnate, unseen and unheard, but remorselessly pursuing. Though our straining senses were unable to hear a rustle or detect a smell that revealed Gru, we felt him stalking us, and the feeling spurred us on. Once we stumbled upon a sleeping python, and only quick wit and the thin branches of the higher treetops saved its. Dawn found us, utterly exhausted, still laboring ahead.
Although Baba was with me, Klo was missing. We waited in a lofty tree until nearly noon. By this time I had learned that our wild flight of the night before had been in a circle. Eyes and ears alert for every suspicious sound, we proceeded to the place we had slept the night before. The tree was in a wide bend of a creek, so that it was not difficult to find it, once we located the stream.
We found Klo where I feared we would find him. He was lying at the base of the tree, dead. His throat was blue and swollen, and blood and foam frothed his lips. Both of his legs had been broken by the fall, for they were grotesquely bent under him, as if a giant force had hurled him down.
For some moments we were so paralyzed with terror that we could not stir. A distant crashing in the branches recalled us. Again we fled, speeding breathlessly through the trees until several miles separated us from Klo's remains.
Did Gru come, as I dreamed, and in the darkness seize Klo instead of me and hurl hum to the ground? Or was it some other ape man or gorilla who found us in his lair?
I think it was Gru. Monkeys and men do not roam the jungles at night.
Baba and I traveled many leagues that day, still steadily upward. We reached a table-land that stretched with a few breaks to the base of a smoking mountain. Our love for the tree-clad valleys was gone. They were too full of the terror Gru. Fire no longer had any terrors for us, and our only hope of safety lay in dwelling in some inaccessible cave.
When we reached the table-land, the mountain seemed only a few hours' journey away, but it took its four days to reach its base. Twice only rapid running and my bow and arrows saved us from the cave people. Every man's hand was against its. Food was scarce, and water scarcer. Rage and bitterness filled my heart, making me more savage every day. Is it any wonder that I sank to the beast, and that practically all the human in me disappeared.
On the fourth day, I remember, I ate raw flesh for the first time. It was a little four-footed creature, with four toes on each foot, and no bigger than a fox, I had shot. Now I know it was a hyracotherium, ancestor of our horse. The raw meat was nauseating, but it nourished. We drank the blood; too, in our terrible thirst, for all the springs were sulphurous. But it did not relieve us much, for our parched throats soon craved water with tenfold intensity.
Baba made no complaint. She was content to follow where I led. Behind, both of us believed, was Gru, and death. So great was my fear that my former feeble trust in the bow and arrows was utterly gone. If only we could cross this mountain chain and find a pleasant valley opposite, we would be safe, I thought.
Huge precipices, rising sheer for hundreds oŁ feet, finally balked our farther eastward progress. We turned south, following the cliff wall, and leaving the smoking mountain behind. The plateau was cleft, on our second day's journey since we changed directions, with a deep valley through which a creeklet ran, tumbling down the mountainside in a sparkling cascade, and scattering a million shining pearls as it daringly leaped.
How deeply we drank! How delicious it was to splash water at each other! We were like children together. It was the first water we had tasted in six days. The blood of the hyracotherium and some eggs Baba had found that we sucked raw had been our only drink during that time; and hyracotherium meat and young bark our only food. In the valley were succulent roots and stalks, berries, and plenty of animal food to be snared or shot. I rubbed sticks together as the cave men had taught me, and built a fire.
We rested three days. On the fourth day I discovered that the creek was only a tributary of a larger stream that flowed through a pass in the mountain chain. Through the door thus opened to us, I did not hesitate to pass. We followed the windings of the river almost to its source in the region of snows. I found a huge crack in the ridge, as if the peaks, in cooling, had contracted and left this break. The waters in this cleft flowed eastward, instead of westward, as they did before. We had crossed the watershed.
From now on traveling was easier. The forests were thicker, and the rill grew to a creek, the creek to a rivulet, and the rivulet to a river as fresh streams swelled its waters. We found plenteous evidences of life, too, but previous unpleasant receptions had made us cautious. We traveled slowly, feeling our way, and avoided colonies. It was easy enough, for there was always chattering about a camp to warn us when we came within close proximity to it. We were seen several times and chased, but by this time we were sufficiently adept in the art of avoiding pursuit to foil our enemies.
One chase nearly proved our undoing. Our narrow escape brought us up another notch in our evolution.
There were two colonies of ape men, a mile or two apart, on the same bank of the river. When we stumbled on the first and were discovered, we did not know the proximity of the second. We followed our usual tactics, breaking for the higher open ground. But the river made a sharp right angle just below, and before we realized it we were hemmed in between the stream, the town below, and our pursuers just behind. I could hear their shrill shrieks of warning to the downriver colonists, the answering cries, and the whoops of triumph as they penned us in.
In desperation we broke into a tangle of canebrake lining the river. Ordinarily we would not have dared risk the cane for fear of snakes, but the worse fear of the tree folk conquered the other.
As we huddled together in the thick cane, I saw the nose of a dugout in a little inlet. Some fishermen had probably hidden it there. The use Klo and his cave men had made of hollow logs to cross streams instantly recurred to me. I bundled the protesting Baba in the boat, where she lay prone on the bottom, too frightened to move and I beside her.
We drifted by the town before the dugout was observed. Then an excited female leaped into another boat and tried to recover the supposedly runaway craft. It was not until she was near enough to perceive us that I sprang up and began paddling desperately. By this time we were below the village. While she shrieked the alarm and paddled desperately back, I drove our clumsy craft ahead with awkward strokes. If there was any pursuit, the tree folk must soon have become discouraged, for we did not see them again.
It took me a couple of days to acquire the knack of paddling, and Baba even longer to accustom herself to water about her, but it saved us many weary miles on foot and in the trees. We also learned to fish. The discovery was purely by accident, and the credit is Baba's. A marsh fowl had formed our dinner, and Baba had thrown the bones overboard. Her fingers, always itching for something to do since we were no longer in the trees, had wound a long creeper about a sharp-pointed, crooked bone, to which some flesh still adhered. Holding the vine, she felt a sharp tug at it. She let it go with a little, frightened cry, but I caught it and pulled it in. We had hooked a fish. After this we fished daily. The river teemed with finny creatures, and experience rapidly taught us to improve our methods. We no longer had starvation to fear.
It was largely a hill country we were going through, although the hills constantly decreased in size, and were more largely of clay and marl formation than of rock, as the foothills. One evening we stopped at the base of a lofty bluff. We always camped ashore at night, for the river held many monsters.
In the morning Baba and I climbed the hill to get a view of the country ahead, for by this time our many dangers had taught us the savage's caution to proceed warily in a strange country.
The slope was heavily wooded. Forests meant danger of beasts, so Baba and I kept to the trees. The growth we were familiar with dwarfed after a succession of undulations until we came to a small glade.
Before us, like a vast, many-pillared cave, was the shadow of a mighty forest. Giant trunks, twice a man's length and more in thickness, rose in solemn grandeur for hundreds of feet to the heavens. Ahead of us their outlines grew fainter and disappeared in an immense blackness. The only light in this Cimmerian wold was reflected from the side. The huge canopy of branches and thick needles that stretched above effectually shut out every ray of sunlight. The silence was tomblike. Whatever secrets nature had burned in these recesses were sacred from human eye.
Gazing into the black depths, a sense of awe overcame us. My feeble mind filled it with unknown terrors, strange beasts and stranger shapes, goblins and demons, creatures of the night that slew and devoured silently. I shrank away, shuddering. Baba was even more frightened, for she whined plaintively and clung to me. Her voice profaning the awful silence rang like an alarm bell to all the demons of the wood to my distraught mind, and I silenced her with a strangled snarl.
I know the forest now. It was the sequoia, California's giant redwood, of which a few lone specimens remain to-day to be the wonder and admiration of man. But if men of to-day could see that forest they would not marvel at the dark dreams of spirits and goblins, sprite and demons that haunted the primitive savage.
A lone redwood, like a picket on guard duty, loomed among the familiar deciduous trees some distance downslope. The neighboring trees made it easy to climb. For a hundred feet or more we remained on one side of the thick trunk, and then I worked around and saw the country we were entering.
Less than six miles away stretched a mighty sea. No mere inland lake lay before us, but an ocean. Far as eye could see it stretched, the horizon alone limiting it. Distant as we were, I could see the restless heaving of its surface.
The sea! We had reached the sea To my simple mind at that time it marked the end of the world. This was the only fact I could grasp. We had come to the end of our journey. Beyond lay nothingness.
What sea was it?
Little that question troubled me then. The human, absorbed in the ape man, and the ape man united with the human had no capacity for such cogitation. But since my return to my proper sphere, the question has persisted.
I have no doubt that the wonderful body of water which I saw is the Kansas Sea of the Tertiary, the mighty ocean that covered the whole Mississippi Valley from the Rocky Mountains to the Alleghenies. The wonderful sequoia forest is one proof of this, for it is only in the Rocky Mountain region that these trees are found. The Rockies were also the early home of the hyracotherium, ancestor of the horse. It was somewhere in Colorado or in Wyoming that I lived during those wonderful days. As I now travel about Denver, Pueblo, and neighboring towns I almost recognize some of the hills and valleys I passed through so long before civilization began.
In the days when the world's face showed none of its present lines, when it differed from this present world as much as the butterfly differs from the cocoon, the Kansas Sea separated the towering peaks of the Alleghenies from the huge mountain chains of the Pacific region, destined to become the backbone of a vast continent. Beside the lofty ridges of those days our present Rockies and Alleghenies are only foothills. Majestic Pikes Peak is only a shadow of its former self, its once inaccessible slopes now man's playground. So nature has dwarfed.
In those days Atlantis, mother of nations, occupied the bed of what is now the Atlantic, its northernmost shores west of the Bay of Biscay, and its southernmost coast line below the equator. East and west it stretched, joining the Americas and Africa. The Pillars of Hercules had not yet been placed. There were no icebound poles, for the interior heat was still sufficient to keep the earth warm when each pole's yearly long night prevailed. Everywhere was intense, brooding heat and excessive moisture, limitless production, cataclysm of storm, violence and destruction. Building up and tearing down, the process was ceaseless; all making for nature's crowning creation, man.
Of all places where life at that time abounded most, and, consequently, death; where the stress of production was heaviest and the period of life, on account of the fierce competition. shortest, was the borders of that old Kansas Sea. with its wonderfully blissful climate, its beauteous hills and plains, its tumultuous rivers, its sunlit beaches and glaring chalk cliffs, and its dark forest glens.
In such a country I lived and knew it not until I left to take my place in my own world again.
Had I climbed the sequoia during the first days of my life in the Tertiary, the human in me would instantly have responded to the mystery "What sea?" and tried to discover its identity. It is the unknown that fascinates and leads men to sacrifice comfort and even life.
But now the human had quite succumbed. Mingled inextricably with the brute, it could exercise no independent thought as at first. It was only a leaven toward better impulses, and gave me a more facile mind than my fellows. Consequently the sight of those reaches of tumultuous ocean meant to me only the end of our journey. This, I am sure, was all that it meant to Baba, plus her nameless fear of all that was unknown. In all our wanderings she trembled and hung back while I adventurously led. In that day the fundamental principle of man boldly leading and woman timorously following, that some equal-rights advocates to-day assume to ignore, already existed.
We descended the tree, and returned to our canoe. A few miles, a final turn around a sullen slope, the river's last barrier to the sea, and we broke into a sandy plain that declined almost imperceptibly into the ocean. The river widened and forked. Like a tired workman almost home, its eddying current ceased their swift flight, and sauntered lazily to meet the ocean.
Our boat began to rock. So fascinated was I by the spectacle of the huge seas beating in thunderous surf upon the beach that I had no thought of our own situation. A big wave smote us, and I tried to head for shore.
The clumsy boat was struck by a surf as it lay broadside to the sea, and we were spilled into the water. Down I went into the green depths. There was a roaring in my ears, a nauseating taste of bitter waters, a sense of suffocation, and I was above again.
I hail never been in deep water before to my knowledge not with this body. But instantly I seemed to know what to do. Baba and I struck out for shore together, nimbly and confidently, as though we had been swimmers since babyhood.
The primitive man did not have to learn to swim. Knowledge of that art was as much his heritage as knowledge of tree life. Like other mammals he was able to take care of himself in the water. It is only since civilization reduced our lung capacity that swimming became an acquired art.
Our boat was gone, and the paddles, but by and by the waves tossed them back to us. Night was falling, so we hastened to the nearest forest.
Beautiful was that sunset, the fiery globe of the sun sinking into a haze of purple grays, leaving a trail of glorious colors that played hide and seek on the scudding clouds. Yet the beauty did not impress me. For with the coming of night those old terrors of the darkness, the terror that gripped me during my first nights in this world and after we fled from Gru, recurred. We huddled in the trees, breath hushed, muscles tense. The gnats buzzed around us and drilled fiendishly, the fog grew thicker, and the cold chilled to the marrow, but motionless we clung to a lofty branch. Every faculty was alert to perceive the hidden horror that somewhere, we felt, roamed the dark night and might stumble upon us.
In the nights just gone before we had no such fears. They were part of the forgotten days on the other side of the Great Divide. Why should they reappear?
Because this was a dead land. On all that vast shore,. as far as eye could see, there was no vestige of animal life. Not the chirp of a bird, not the splash of a fish leaping at sundown from the river's mirrored surface, not the croak of a frog or the startled scurry of a wood mouse broke the dread monotony. The ceaseless roar of the surf, pounding out its endless sermon on the wrath to come, and the whir and buzz of the insects were the only sounds on that silent shore. It was as if Death had walked through here and laid its cold hand on all that breathed.
In this darkness, before our tortured minds, there formed strange shapes, leering faces, goblins that mocked us. Hour by hour the agony increased, and we held each other with grips that dug to the bone. Still the awful silence endured, age after age, a seeming eternity.
Is it any wonder that when a pale, ghostly moon pierced the mantle of fog with feeble beams that she was to us a deliverer, a beneficent deity? Is it strange that we should silently address to her thoughts which if clothed in speech would be prayer?
At last morning came. It found us wet with the marsh damps and shivering. The sun warmed and dried us. The shapes of the night fled, and, cramped and miserable, we descended to face each day's first problem food.
In the trees there was none. They were all low shrubs, compared to the trees of the uplands that we knew, although many of them would be thought of respectable height in these degenerate days. Some lifted branches eighty feet high.
All the trees near the river were stripped of their foliage for some thirty feet up. It was as if a terrific windstorm had shorn away the twigs and leafery of the lower branches and left them like fleshless bones.
Oddly enough, as I observed this, the terror of the night, the fear of the silence and all it might portend of some dread presence, obsessed me. The cunning of the wild creatures that was our heritage could not explain the mystery of these gaunt branches to us, but we trembled and feared.
There was no food in the scanty vegetation, so we turned to the river. I paddled out, and Baba waited ashore. For a half hour I tried every one of my favorite lures without getting a nibble. The eyes of a decaying fish Baba found on the beach supplied me with bait. I tried out the weedy patches, fished inshore and out, deep and on the surface, but not the flash of a fin could I detect, or was there the faintest suspicion of a pull on the line. It looked like a breakfastless morning.
The utter absence of fish life would ordinarily have made me foolishly, childishly angry. But this morning it frightened me. What mystery could these waters hide, that all life fled from them as it did from the shore? There was not even a bird overhead to tell us "God's in His heaven, all's right with the world." Zeal to prove the panic ridiculous urged me to the utmost skill in angling. Eyes that detected the flash of a fin long before the fish saw the bait searched the turbid waters with tragic intensity.
I was fishing near shore when suddenly I felt that somewhere, close behind me, something was watching. Perhaps it was intuition, perhaps a suspicious splash of the water that caused me to turn around swiftly.
Not two hundred feet away two enormous saucer-shaped eyes, cupped in a flat forehead that rose only a few inches above the surface, were fixed upon me. Green fires flashed in each iris. Their cold ferocity hypnotized me. Almost instantly the creature revealed itself. A long snout, armed with double rows of huge fangs, sharply serrated, shot up. Then a huge neck, thick as a horse's body, followed, rising ten feet above the water's surface, while I quaked in the boat, unable to move. As forty feet of tail in three immense undulations clove the water the creature splashed with its mighty flukes, leaping across twenty feet of space with the single drive. Screaming, I jumped ashore. I already felt the huge maw closing on me, the crunch of teeth, and bones snapping.
The water foamed behind me. Faster than I had ever run before I bounded up the beach, but it seemed as if my legs were frozen stiff. I heard a shrill hiss of rage, and an answering hiss; a great splashing of water, weird sounds, half screams, half hisses, the thrashing of gigantic flukes; but I sped on without looking around.
Baba stopped me with a pointed finger. From the depths of the green river, where it had been silently spying me, perhaps, while I was fishing, waiting the favorable opportunity when it could spill the boat and take me, had risen a second forty-foot monster, a short-necked mosasaur. Balked of its prey, it had turned on its hereditary enemy, zeuglodon, the long-necked creature. The two kings of the Kansas Sea were at battle.
I could hardly see them. The water was upheaved as though by an eruption. Columns of spray were hurled in the air, hiding the combatants. Through the haze I saw the long, arched neck of the zeuglodon curved down, and its huge teeth in the mososaur's shoulder. I saw the mososaur's spikelike teeth gripping the zeuglodon's throat with a bulldog hold that not even death could release. The powerful flukes and tails of both the forty-foot brutes pounded the water in a thunderous diapason.
For a half hour they fought. Their fury was indescribable. The waters were stained red. Now they were under the surface, and only the wild eddying above revealed where they struggled. Again they were on top, lashing the waters to froth in leviathanic frenzy. The green of the river turned red, the minutes dragged by, but there seemed to be no diminution of the struggle. But gradually the mososaur's teeth sank deeper, and the zeuuglodon cut through its enemy's thick hide and tore away huge strips of flesh. The action of the flukes became weaker. The zeuglodon's neck lost its fine arch sagged flabbily, and dropped. Its white belly turned upward.
The mosasaur, its teeth imbedded in its enemy's throat, floated seaward with it. A little offshore the two bodies floated together, and then I saw the leathery dun of the mososaur's hide replaced by a dirty yellowish white as the huge carcass turned over. The sea scorned the remains, and washed them shoreward. But already the pikes, the swordfish, and the sharks of that sea had found prey. We could see the huge bulks agitated as the fish pulled at the flesh. Sick of the sea and its horrors, we fled inland.
No longer following the course of the river, we headed north, leaving our canoe. In the distance the sunlight glinted on a dazzling cliff, and primitive curiosity moved us to see what it was like. We found some turtles' eggs on the shore of a big bay jutting several miles inland. They were Archelon's undoubtedly, for that huge creature, a dozen feet long, with a head a full yard long, lived in that sea. How puny our biggest turtles of to-day would have looked beside it. By and by the sandy beach disappeared, and the country once more became rugged and barren. The rock was soft and a light gray, almost white. We had found the chalk cliffs.
We traveled inland again, for there was no food except eggs in this land. We were soon back in the forests. The slope was steadily upward, precipitous hills succeeding each other.
Baba was climbing a hill, looking for berries, when I heard her shriek. Both of us jumped for the nearest tree. The tree Baba got was a rod or two ahead of mine. At its base, clawing the bark, was a thoroughly angry bear. I opened my quiver. The first arrow brought a snarl of pain and rage. The second brought the bear to the ground. In falling, it dropped on the shaft, which drove the flint nearly through its body before it snapped off. We descended cautiously. The bear was quite dead.
Here was meat for many a day. But Baba had news. Gesticulating, she urged me to follow her up the hillside. Snugly concealed in a bramble of bushes was a cave, warm and dry. Inside were a couple of cubs, only a few weeks old.
My first thought was to kill them. But Baba objected. When I threw them out, she brought them back. We had quite a tiff about them; I struck her on two occasions, and she bit me in the arm. The upshot was that I went away sulkily and she kept the cubs. Thus they came to live with us, and we had a family to care for.
To keep the meat away from tigers or other beasts, I hung it in a tree. It happened that we built our camp fire under the same tree. After several days I discovered a distinct flavor in the meat, quite unlike that of fresh bear steak. Baba and I both decided we liked it. The art of smoking meat was discovered.
One day I wandered toward the south again. Gradually the trees thinned. Topping a rise, I saw the sequoia forest. I presume it is the same one I saw before, for these trees were not very plentiful. In somber majesty, like a colony of austere religions devotees in the midst of a great city who keep their own little community free from the world, the tall redwoods towered heavenward. Not a sound came from their secret depths, but the gloomy avenues suggested untold mysteries.
It was a new world. With all the lure of a new and unknown domain, it challenged exploration and conquest. Something of the explorer's zeal thrilled me as I stood wonderingly before it, shivering in dread of what might be concealed there, but already decided to learn its secrets.
First I built a fire. Gathering several pitchy knots, I lit one of them, and ventured cautiously into the shade. From above came a low murmur, like the roar of the sea heard miles away. It was the wind stirring in the treetops. Save for that the sound of my footsteps was the only thing to break the silence.
A feeling of awe came over me. Dimly I felt in my savage breast something of the sensation man experiences when he enters hallowed precincts. The unexpected crackling of a twig sent shivering spasms along my spine. Teeth chattering, eyes striving vainly to pierce the blackness that inclosed me on all sides except for the few feet my feeble light illuminated, I ventured on.
Suddenly I became aware of another creature beside me in this cavernous blackness. First it was the shuffling, stealthy slide of a huge body trailing me that I heard. Then, close behind, there was a series of sharp sniffs, of an animal guided by its sense of smell toward me.
I looked for a tree to hide in, but there was none. Straight and smooth as the face of a brick wall the huge trunks reached upward, without the sign of a friendly branch. I circled about in extremity of terror, fleeing at top speed. Behind, nearer and nearer, came the persistent snuff, snuff, and the sound of a great bulk leaping after me.
And then I saw it. A huge cave bear, twelve or thirteen feet high, not a dozen feet behind, and coming straight for me. With a yell of terror I dropped my light, and leaped ahead into the blackness.
Almost instantly, it seemed, I crashed against a giant trunk and fell, half stunned. I was up again in a moment knife in hand, to chance one slash at the brute before it could strike me.
But the beast had stopped over the light. Amazedly I watched it snuff the air over the still brightly blazing torch. Its huge arms swung vainly through the smoke, like a magician conjuring. I guessed the situation at once the beast was blind. It was hunting the smoke, not me, for the smoke hid my smell.
One foot lumbered forward and rested on a part of the torch. The bear roared in pain, jerked its foot upward, and beat the air frantically. It ran ahead, and crashed into a tree, as I had done. Able to find its way about with ease in darkness, it was utterly helpless in the light.
Courage returned. I almost chuckled. Fitting an arrow to the bow, I let it fly. It pierced the skin, for the beast roared with pain again, and whirled its paws around. Emptying my quiver, I shot a dozen arrows at close range. The last one was carefully aimed at only a few yards' distance, and struck the bear's right eye, penetrating to the brain. It fell beside the torch, expiring with a grunt. The first cave bear probably ever killed by man had fallen a trophy to my bow.
I took along no evidence of the killing. Not knowing what other dangers lurked here, I cut away my arrows as quickly as possible. Following the track I came, I fled pell-mell, and did not breathe freely until I had crossed the borders of the sequoia forest.
Twilight hovered deeply over the woods, and all the feathered folk were cheeping and twittering good night when I reached the home range. The darkness made me cautious, and I took to the trees. That is how, less than a mile from our cave, I blundered into a camp of tree folk.
I was almost in the midst of them before I discovered them. Only a thin screen of leaves separated us. They were huddled together around the main stem of a big tree. The lack of shelter and order showed they had just arrived and were camping for the night only.
One of them crowded another. A torrent of ape-man abuse followed in a harsh, dry, female voice. No need for me to peer through the leaf screen and recognize Kuku, the hag. There beside her was Ai-yai, the swift one, superbly oblivious of her angry clacking, and clinging comfortably to the desired branch he had stolen from the old ape woman. There, too, were the others of the colony: Long-nosed Mog, Kush, Gur, Go, Hiki, Roo, and Stir, and all the smaller apes, besides several additions to the colony.
Unwilling to betray myself, I hid. I heard their muttering, and gathered that they were waiting for some one, the chief of the band. In his absence they were afraid. As they whined their fears, a clammy terror began to creep upon me, too. I dreaded to learn whom they were waiting for.
Presently I heard a crashing of branches. The ape-man colony below stirred expectantly.
There came a low growl. An electric thrill of anticipation tingled my nerves. Those low gutturals, that peculiar intonation, whose were they but Gru's? His fingers on my throat, the snarl of vengeance in the night, and Klo's broken body the next morning, those nights of terror that we waited for him poured on my terrified soul, submerging every sense but that of awful fear. Numbness overpowered me, and I shrank into the branches.
Out of the murk there loomed a huge form. The bulging chin, the massive, stooping shoulders resting on a barrel-like chest, proclaimed Gru. No need for a second savage growl or the others to shrink from him. I knew him from the way he buffeted an ape child that blundered in his way. The same Gru I had known, only more savage, more cruel, more bestial.
There was blood on his hands. In a flash I realized that he had come from the direction of our cave. Dazed, sick at heart, visioning a scene too dreadful for utterance, I fled toward the hidden hollow. In reckless disregard of prowling tigers I stormed through the berry patch that concealed the entrance. The cave was empty
Every nook and corner of it I searched. I had no light, but my fingers traveled over every inch of floor and side wall. There was no one there. Yet I could detect a smell, foreign to the cave, but familiar. Grit had been there. What had become of Baba?
Outside again I stood in the bright starlight, a mark for any prowling beast, striving with crude, brutish intellect to imagine what had occurred. The fear of Gru was dead. I was a savage, robbed of his mate. I was a brute. Hate and murder lust; murder lust and hate, the two prime passions of the primitive, burned fiercely within me. Their flame consumed whatever last lingering vestige of human virtue remained. I kept reasoning power, but I lost the divine spark that knows and seeks good.
There was a cautious hiss from a near-by tree. I whirled toward the voice. The hiss was repeated. I leaped upward, and found Baba!
In delirium of joy I pressed her toward me until she gasped. It was our first and only embrace.
The merest accident saved me, she told me. Gru's barbarous cruelty frustrated his own vengeance. He stopped to kill one of the cubs playing outside the cave. That moment, Baba, rushing out.made the trees. He tried to follow, but she dodged and circled until he lost her. When he left, and I did not return, she thought we had met and he had killed me.
As she told the story, my fury increased. Every incident of our hunted lives, the hunger, the thirst, the dangers, the sufferings we had undergone, recurred. I lived them all again; the waterless days in the desert when my swollen tongue hung raw and cooked from my mouth; the chill nights when we clung, wet and shelterless, to the branches while pitiless, ice-cold rains drenched and froze us; the hunted days and nights of agony and fear and the dreams of his cruel fingers on my throat and his fangs gleaming yellow in the mid-light. As I lived them mind and body fused under the scorching flame of a rage and ferocity so terrible that the blood charged to my head and pounded in my temples like the beating of a thousand drums.
In that rage, some slight glimmer of intelligence remained. I could purpose and reason. A resolution was formed. I must kill Gru.
I had thought of it before. Ever since I first saw him I knew the time must come when we must meet, fang to fang, his strength against my wit, and one of us remain. But then I thought only of defending myself. This was different.
I did not look upon Gru as a wild beast to be slaughtered. I did not consider him a menace to any society but my own and Baba's. But because he menaced us, I made up my mind to remove him. In this thought I considered him no different type of creature than myself. That made my purpose murder.
I planned the killing with deliberation. Baba did not object. Her first need was protection, and the means of that protection she left to me.
Gru, I guessed, would come to the cave in the morning, hoping to find us there, or near there. I would lie in ambush, concealed by the branches of a tree near the entrance. At the first favorable chance I would shoot him.
With diabolical care I cleaned my arrows and looked after the heads. I tested the bow. There was no sleep that night. Intoxicated in the anticipation of the greatest of all killings, the murder of one of my tribe, I could not sleep. The first faint glimmering of sunrise found me alert.
I had not long to wait. Hoping to surprise us in the cave, perhaps, Gru came stealthily through the forest almost before the light filtered through to the ground. He came as a gorilla, walking on the earth floor. We watched him from our ambush. I could feel the limb quiver slightly with Baba's tremblings, but my old fear of him was gone. This morning I felt master. The stern pleasure of killing a hateful thing filled me as I grimly waited.
Curious to see what he would do, I forbore to shoot when he passed within a few feet of our tree and crossed the berry-patch. Then he peered inside. First to the left, then to the right, he craned his head, striving to interpret the blackness. He made a fair mark, his broad back turned toward me, but I delayed a shot.
The cave's mouth swallowed him. A minute, perhaps, though it seemed longer, and he was outside again. Shooting quick, penetrating glances, he studied each tree. Full and fair he looked at the branch that hid us. I could see his inflamed eyeballs and the wicked fires that played within, but he failed to see us.
He turned, and looked inside the cave again, as if half doubting his own search. As he leaned in, he lifted his right arm to steady himself, placing his hand against the cliff that roofed the cave. The tender skin under the armpits was revealed. I saw my chance and let drive.
The arrow went true. Three inches of the shaft was buried in his chest. He turned stupidly, not yet realizing he was struck. He tugged at the shaft and snapped it off. A second arrow struck him in the shoulder. He looked up and saw me.
With a roar of murder madness he straightened and leaped toward me. I was fitting a third arrow to my bow. The shaft flew, but he lurched, and it only scratched the side of his head.
Then he understood I could kill him before he could reach me. For a moment's space, while I loosened another arrow, he looked at me, calculating his chance to reach me before I could strike. I expected a charge, and had my arrow ready, but he turned and dove for the cave. Before I could shoot, he had disappeared. I roared a challenge at him that was half a bellow of triumph, but got no answer. Gru knew I was his master.
Oh, the keen joy of the victor! I realized it then. Spurning concealment, I jumped to the ground, roaring challenges, taunting Gru. Baba, still afraid, implored me to stay in the trees, but I knew my mastery. I did not care to try conclusions in the cave just yet, and waited, a grim besieger, knowing that thirst would drive Grit from his lair.
It was nearly noon when Grit showed himself again. The heat was intolerable. Baba and I drank from the spring near by, and gurgled tantalizingly as we drank, that Gru might hear and suffer.
I was a little distant in the wood when be appeared. He painfully tottered a few steps out of the cave. His body and limbs were crusted with blood. His form seemed shrunken, and immeasurably weakened and aged. As I ran forward, in answer to Baba's call, I instinctively felt that I loomed more powerful than he; that man to man, with fist and fang, I was his master now.
When he saw me he dropped back into the cave. His wounds and the intense heat must have created a raging thirst. Another hour, perhaps, and he came out again. This time he tried to make a feeble dash to the woods. Carefully picking my arrow, without moving a step, I shot. It caught him in the back, and he fell. I rushed forward, stringing another shaft. A glance told me he was dead. I turned him over. The glassy eyes stared heavenward. There lay the abysmal brute who had made existence dreadful for us. Mightier than I with nature's endowments, he was victim of the intelligence that produced civilization and made the weaker man equal to his stronger brother.
A surge of savage frenzy that obliterated every spark of the divine swept through me. The whole world was red and black, and Gru's corpse and Baba and I all that filled it. In a delirium of savage delight, screaming, leaping, tearing my hair, whirling in dizzy circles, I gloated over my victory. And Baba?
Her madness surpassed mine. In passionate abandon she tore away the corded cloth wound around her waist. Naked as she was when I first saw her, she raved about her dead mate's body.
Hand in hand we danced, whooping, beating ourselves, then apart again, tearing our hair. We kicked the corpse and spit at it. We roared vain challenges, and I pounded my bulging chest. The blood throbbed in my head. The bloodshot eyes hardly saw in the scarlet haze that inclosed us thickly. Every passion and appetite clamored for satisfaction.
Already the ants were gathering about the body. We left them to their prey, and went to our cave, reeling in exhaustion.
The darkness settled. Baba seized me, and drew me toward her. Her arms held me tight. Her voice sank to a hoarse whisper, and her breath burned my face.
A sense of horrible suffocation and overpowering nausea, and I broke from her grip. At the instant the scarlet haze was split. Understanding came back. The human and brute souls were cleaved, and the human saw the brute in all its nakedness.
Running in letters of fire through my brain was every thought and act of the afternoon. Like a drunken murderer, shocked into soberness by the still, dead body before him, I perceived what I had become.
I was a savage; worse than savage brute.
Oh, the gathering horror, the disgust of self. Remorselessly it crept upon me, the light growing brighter every moment. I saw the gradual descent into savagery, the constant retrogression, culminating in the beast paean.
Again Baba strained me toward her. I burst from her twining arms and dashed into the outer air. Of what followed I have no distinct recollection. The black of night hid everything. Dense clouds obscured the stars. In the jungle the tiger called, and the huge, carnivorous lizards, and all the fierce beasts of that era. But unheeding and unheeding, I clashed on, on through swamp and jungle and prairie, always on foot, with burning lungs and half choked, but answering the cries of jungle and grass plains with shrieks that made them skulk and slip away with drooping tails as I dashed madly by. Stumbling, panting, raving, with limbs aching, I raced on, and purged the gross savagery from my body.
For that night I was quite mad.
How many hours or days I roamed the woods in this state, I do not know. One morning I awoke in a new and unknown country. I was quite rational and human again. Memory harked back after a spell to Gru's death and the night in the cave, but I quickly found new subject for thought.
I was thin, almost emaciated. My bones showed gauntly everywhere, and I was terribly weak. I could guess at some terrific strain upon this body, and possibly sickness, but I had no recollection of it.
I was a stranger in a strange land. It was again as that first morning of my awakening in this world, but now I had knowledge. The ape-man habits and instincts persisted and kept me safe, but I slept on the ground and lived as nearly like a human as I could in that wilderness. My body was all that was ape-man of me, the ape-man soul was now as submerged as the human had been.
For a month I lived that way. During that time I learned to reflect and even philosophize on my experiences. I saw that they, though unique, were remarkably similar to those of every man who faces life in the raw. Every man who yields to passion or indulges himself sinks that much into the brute. Repetition of the offense confirms it into a habit. So a chain of circumstances may eventually make a murderer. All men have their weaknesses, and centuries of civilization have not elevated us, emotionally, much above the ape-man.
One day I saw a strange sight. I was resting in the shelter of a grove of Lonchopteris, a giant fern, whose huge fronds effectually concealed me, when I saw two ape people swing through near-by trees. The first was Baba. The second was Ai-yai.
I could hardly believe. But they were near enough to make recognition certain. Baba had returned to her tribe and mated with Ai-yai.
Two days later, when I awoke in the morning, it was to find myself under a roof. Williams sat beside me, and the others were cooking breakfast outside. I tried to rise, but he pushed me back.
"You've been sick a long time," he explained, when I questioned him. "Smallpox. Strangest case I ever heard of."
"But Professor Scott?" I asked. "What became of him?"
"He caught it, too, and died a few hours ago."
Had his disappearance anything to do with my return, I wondered.
"Did he say anything before he died about my case?"
"That's funny, too, your asking that question. He was a lot worse than you were, but he fought against dying to give you time, he said. I couldn't make out what he meant, and we thought he was crazy. This morning, when he felt the end coming, he wrote a message for you, and just got through some hypnotism business when he fell back, dead."
He gave me the message. It read:Smallpox got me and I am dying. I am calling you back so you can tell your story to the world. I gave you all the time I could. A Moses on Nebo, I cannot reach the promised land, but do not forget Eugene Scott when you tell your story. It was for the good of science.
He wronged me, but I accept his plea of extenuation "for the good of science."
Whether Scott actually accomplished what he claimed, degraded me to some remote ancestor, and endowed me with that ancestor's body and brains, or whether my life in that other world merely reflected Scott's crazed mind while I lay in a fever under his hypnotic influence, I do not know.
Williams and the others found me the second clay after I left the camp. They say I was sick nearly two months. Certain it is that those sixty days have made me a creature of moods, estranged from my fellow beings. My constant fear is that some trace of the ape-man soul still persists, and may some time make its appearance. Then the world will say: "Poor fellow. Gone mad on too much learning."
Little it will guess Gru's body on the hillside and the ape-man revel over it.
Thanks to Camille E. Cazedessus of Pulpdom magazine, who brought this story to my attention, and provided a copy of Part I. back