Sure-Dart

A Story of Strange Hunters
and Stranger Game
in the Days of Monsters

Frederick Hankerson Costello [1851-1921]

1909. Chicago. A.C. McClurg & Co.

 

PREFACE

IN this story I have taken a few liberties with what are generally accepted in the scientific world as facts, and so I suppose some explanations are desirable. The greatest liberty I have taken is with regard to the introduction of human beings into the story when the period is so very remote. The period is that called by geologists the Secondary, and the particular part of it is toward the close of what is termed the Cretaceous. As far as our knowledge goes at the present time, this is a date several hundred thousand years earlier than the coming of man. But I desired to introduce human beings to make the story more interesting, and I felt a greater right to do so because there was nothing in the condition of the earth at that time which would have made it impossible for human beings to live and flourish. In fact, the conditions were more favorable than in some of the inhabited parts of the earth now.
Another bit of license is that relating to the animals and birds. I have introduced a few rather earlier than some authorities would allow, and have detained others on the stage, so to speak, a little longer than perhaps there is scientific authority for. But I believe that this matter is of slight importance, and the more so because specialists are by no means agreed as to the dates, and because all our absolute knowledge is comparatively limited.
Beyond this, I think the story follows the lines of accepted fact and conclusions. Thus Colorado, with its great fresh-water sea; with its strange forests of mingled palms, oaks, beeches, yew-like conifers, and cycads (which were like palms crossed with gigantic ferns) with its hot, steamy days, and its tropic nights, when a moon bigger and brighter than we have ever seen looked down on a world that would have made us gasp by its strangeness – these are brought on our stage faithfully and without exaggeration.
And neither are those seeming nightmares, the monsters of the story, exaggerated. I have spoken "by the card" when I have asked to step out before us the lizard as big as a small house, and that could have pulled a man out of the upper branches of a moderately tall tree; that other lizard creature bigger than any elephant, but that looked somewhat like a hideous caricature of a rhinoceros; and yet again, the creature nearly as big as the last, that had a part of its brain substance in its rump, and a spiked tail that could have switched once and dashed a man into a bloody pulp.
Then there are faithful pictures of the smaller creatures – the toothed birds, the bat-like lizards which stretched nearly twenty feet across the spread wings, and the turtles as big over as an old-fashioned tavern table.
But I am raising too much of the curtain. I will make one more explanation and then let it fall. In giving names to the monsters and other wild creatures, I have invented in behalf of the human characters such as are simple and would naturally be suggested by the looks or ways of the creatures themselves. It would hardly do to proceed on the line of reasoning of the old lady who said that she did not marvel so much that the remains of ancient creatures had been discovered as that science had found out also their names. However, to be more informing, I have inserted a list of the modern names of the principal creatures.

FREDERICK H. COSTELLO. BANGOR, MAINE, July I, 1909.

CONTENTS
CHAPTER PAGE
I. HUNTING TERRIBLE GAME 15
II. MORE THAN ONE KIND OF SURPRISE 28
III. THE FLIGHT TO THE HILLS 39
IV. HARD PRESSED 50
V. THE STAND OF DESPERATE MEN 57
VI. THE END OF THE FIGHT 70
VII. BETWEEN TWO FIRES 84
VIII. PLUCK AND GOOD LUCK 95
IX. THE GREAT DOUBLE DUEL, AND THINGS LATER 106
X. THE TRAPPER TRAPPED 119
XI. BAD NEWS AND SERIOUS ANTICIPATIONS . . . . 131
XII. THE HUNTERS' STORY 144
XIII. A DUBIOUS PROSPECT 157
XIV. THE FIGHT AT THE BARRICADE 168
XV. THE SECOND ASSAULT 178
XVI. SOME SHREWD AND PLUCKY WORK 195
XVII. NATURE COMES INTO THE FIGHT 202
XVIII. NATURE RELENTS AND QUITS THE FIELD . . . 215
XIX. TO BE MADE INTO FRESH MEAT 227
XX. THE LAST CHANCE 239
XXI. SURE-DART'S LUCKY MISS 247
XXII. PEACE BY CONQUEST 259
XXIII. THE TEST OF THE "DART-SENDER" 275
XXIV. THE CRISIS 289
XXV. SURE-DART FINDS NEW ENEMIES 298
XXVI. PEACE ON LAND AND LAKE 311

ILLUSTRATIONS (by Walter J. Enright)
 
Sure-dart witnesses the battle of the sea monsters Frontispiece
"Three-horns' great weight, in spite of the spread of his feet, and of his vast strength, told tremendously against him" 90
"' Hold him !' shouted Hop-foot, skipping to Sure-dart's side" 134
"It was now that Big-axe did that which sent his name down the years in the legends of his people " . . 174
"Sure-dart crept out of his nest, taking his spear with him" 210

MODERN NAMES OF CREATURES OF THE STORY
 
DEATH-BEAST Ceteosaurus, or "monster lizard." One American variety is also called tyrannosaurus rex, or "tyrant king lizard." It is likewise known as "terrible lizard." It was a large, flesh-eating dinosaur.
THUNDER-BEAST Atlantosaurus, or "gigantic lizard." A dinosaur of the brontosaurus or "thunder lizard " family, and the largest land animal known.
GREAT STALKER An American species of the iguanodon, called thespesius or "marvellous." It is also called claosaurus. It was a vegetable eating dinosaur.
LITTLE STALKER A smaller variety of the thespesius family.
MARSH-HOPPER The smallest known dinosaur. It was a thespesius on a diminutive scale.
THREE-HORNS Triceratops. A dinosaur somewhat like a rhinoceros. It was not carnivorous.
THORN-TAIL Stegosaurus, or "backlered lizard." One of the strangest-looking of the dinosaurs.
FISH-SNAKE Plesiosaurus or elasmosaurus. A marine monster with a long, snake-like neck.
GREAT KILLER Mosasaur, or "Meuse River lizard," a kind of lizard-crocodile.
GREAT FLIPPER Archæochelon, or" primitive turtle." An enormous turtle.
SPEAR-TOOTH A moderately large, very voracious fish, with a huge head and teeth like sharp spikes.
WORM-TAIL Archæopteryx, or "primitive bird." A strange bird of the Jurassic period, but possibly surviving to the Cretaceous, the period of the story.
TERROR BIRD Brontornis, or "thunder bird."
BIG BEAST-BIRD Pterodactyl, the "finger-winged." A kind of flying lizard, with enormous wings.
SCAMPERER Hyracotherium. The ancestor of the horse. He does not properly belong to the period of the story, but to a time later.