The Story of Ab
Stanley Waterloo

Part 3 out of 4

ground? Fear clutched at Ab's heart, his limbs trembled under him. He
whimpered like a lost and friendless hound and crouched close to the
hospitable fire. His brain wavered under the stress of strange new
impressions. He recalled some mutterings of Old Mok about the dead, that
they had been seen after it was known that they were deep in the ground,
but he knew it was not good to speak or think of such things. Again Ab
sprang to his feet. It would not do to shut his eyes, for then he saw
plainly Oak in his shallow hole in the dark earth and the face Ab had
hurried to cover first when he was burying his friend, there under the
trees. And so the night wore away, sleep coming fitfully from time to
time. Ab could not explore his retreat in the strange firelight nor run
the risks of another night journey across the wild beasts' chosen country.
He began to be hungry, with the fierce hunger of brute strength, sharpened
by terrific labors, but he must wait for the morning. The night seemed
endless. There was no relief from the thoughts which tortured him, but, at
last, morning broke, and in action Ab found the escape he had longed for.



It was light now and the sun shone fairly on Ab's place of refuge. As his
senses brought to him full appreciation he wondered at the scene about
him. He was in a glade so depressed as to be a valley. About it, to the
east and north and west, in a wavering, tossing wall, rose the uplifting
line of fire through which he had leaped, though there were spaces where
the height was insignificant. On the south, and extending till it circled
a trifle to east, rose a wall of rock, evidently the end of a
forest-covered promontory, for trees grew thickly to its very edge and
their green branches overhung its sheer descent. Coming from some crevice
of the rocks on the east, and tumbling downward through the valley, was a
riotous brook, which disappeared through some opening at the west. Within
this area, thus hemmed in by fire and rock, appeared no living thing save
the birds which sang upon the bushes beside the small stream's banks and
the butterflies which hung above the flowers and all the insect world
which joined in the soft, humming chorus of the morning. It was something
that Ab looked upon with delighted wonder, but without understanding. What
he saw was not a marvel. It was but the result of one of many upheavals at
a time when the earth's cooled shell was somewhat thinner than now and
when earthquakes, though there were no cities to overthrow, at least made
havoc sometimes by changing the face of nature. There had come a great
semi-circular crack in the earth, near and extending to the line of the
sheer rock range. The natural gas, the product of the vegetation of
thousands of centuries before, had found a chance to escape and had poured
forth into the outer world. Something, perhaps a lightning stroke and a
flaming tree, perhaps some cave man making fire and consumed on the
instant when he succeeded, had ignited the sheet of rising gas, and the
result was the wall of flame. It was all natural and commonplace, for the
time. There were other upleaping flame sheets in the surrounding region
forever burning--as there are in northern Asia to-day--but Ab knew of
these fires only from Old Mok's tales. He stood wonderstruck at what he
saw about him.

But this man in the valley was young and very strong, with tissues to be
renewed, and the physical man within him clamored and demanded. He must
eat. He ran forward and around, anxiously observant, and soon learned that
at the western end of the valley, where the little creek tumbled through a
rocky cut into a lower level, there was easy exit from the
fire-encompassed and protected area. He clambered along the creek's rough,
descending side. He emerged upon an easier slope and then found it
possible to climb the hillside to the plane of the great wood. There must,
he thought, be food of some sort, even for a man with only Oak's knife in
his possession! There was the forest and there were nuts. He was in the
forest soon, among the gray-trunked, black-mottled beeches and the rough
brown oaks. He found something of what he sought, the nuts lying under
shed leaves, though the supply was scant. But nuts, to the cave man, made
moderately good food, supplying a part of the sustenance he required, and
Ab ate of what he could find and arose from the devouring search and
looked about him.

He was weaponless, save for the knife, and a flint knife was but a thing
for closest struggle. He longed now for his ax and spear and the strong
bow which could hurt so at a distance. But there was one sort of weapon to
be had. There was the club. He wandered about among the tops of fallen
trees and wrenched at their dried limbs, and finally tore one away and
broke off, later, with a prying leverage, what made a rough but available
club for a cave man's purposes. It was much better than nothing. Then
began a steady trot toward what should be fair life again. There were
vague paths through the forest made by wild beasts. As he moved the man
thought deeply.

He thought of the fire-wall, and could not with all his reasoning
determine upon the cause of its existence, and so abandoned the subject as
a thing, the nub of which was unreachable. That was the freshest object in
his mind and the first to be mentally disposed of. But there were other
subjects which came in swift succession. As he went along with a dog's
gait he was not in much terror, practically weaponless as he was. His eye
was good and he was going through the forest in the daylight. He was
strong enough, club in hand, to meet the minor beasts. As for the others,
if any of them appeared, there were the trees, and he could climb. So, as
he trotted he could afford to think.

And he thought much that day, this perplexed man, our grandfather with so
many "greats" before the word. He had nothing to divert him even in the
selection of the course toward his cave. He noted not where the sun stood,
nor in what direction the tiny head-waters of the rivulets took their
course, nor how the moss grew on the trees. He traveled in the wood by
instinct, by some almost unexplainable gift which comes to the thing of
the woods. The wolf has it; the Indian has it; sometimes the white man of
to-day has it.

As he went Ab engaged in deeper and more sustained thought than ever
before in all his life. He was alone; new and strange scenes had enlarged
his knowledge and swift happenings had made keener his perceptions. For
days his entire being had been powerfully affected by his meeting with
Lightfoot at the Feast of the Mammoth and the events which had followed
that meeting in such swift succession. The tragedy of Oak's death had
quickened his sensibilities. Besides, what had ensued latest had been what
was required to make him in a condition for the divination of things. The
wise agree that much stimulant or much deprivation enables the brain
convolutions to do their work well, though deprivation gets the cleaner
end. The asceticism of Marcus Aurelius was productive of greater results
than the deep drinking of any gallant young Roman man of letters of whom
he was a patron. The literature of fasting thinkers is something fine. Ab,
after exerting his strength to the utmost for days, had not eaten of
flesh, and the strong influences to which he was subjected were exerted
upon a man still, practically, fasting. For a time, the rude and
earth-born child of the cave was lifted into a region of comparative
sentiment and imagination. It was an experience which affected materially
all his later life.

Ever to the trotting man came the feelings which must follow fierce love
and deadly action and vague remorse and fear of something indefinable. He
saw the face and form of Lightfoot; he saw again the struggle,
death-ending, with the friend of youth and of mutual growing into manhood.
He remembered dimly the half insane flight, the leaps across the dreaded
morass and, more distinctly, the chase by the wolves. The aspect of the
Fire Country and of all that followed his awakening was, of course, yet
fresh in his mind. He was burdened.

Ever uprising and oppressing above all else was the memory of the man he
had killed and buried, covering the face first, so that it might not look
at him. Was Oak really dead? he asked himself again! Had not he, Ab, as
soon as he slept again, seen, alive and well, the close friend of his? He
clung to the vision. He reasoned as deeply as it was in him to reason.

As he struggled in his mind to obtain light there came to him the fancy of
other things dimly related to the death mystery which had perplexed him
and all his kind. There must be some one who made the river rise and fall
or the nut-bearing forest be either fruitful or the hard reverse. Who and
what could it be? What should he do, what should all his friends do in the
matter of relation to this unknown thing?

With this day and hour did not come really the beginning of Ab's thought
upon the subject of what was, to him and those he knew, the supernatural.
He had thought in the past--he could not help it--of the shadow and the
echo. He remembered how he and Oak had talked about the echo, and how they
had tried to get rid of the thing which had more than once called back to
them insolently across the valley. Every word they shouted this hidden
creature would mockingly repeat and there was no recourse for them. They
had once fully armed themselves and, in a burst of desperate bravery, had
resolved to find who and what the owner of this voice was and have, at
least, a fight. They had crossed the valley and ranged about the woodland
whence the voice seemed to have come, but they never found what they

The shadow which pursued them on sunny afternoons had puzzled them in
another way. Very persistent had been the flat, black, earth-clinging and
distorted thing which followed them so everywhere. What was this black,
following thing, anyhow, this thing which swung its unsubstantial body
around as one moved but which ever kept its own feet at the feet of the
pursued, wherever there was no shade, and which lay there beside one so

But the echoes and the shadows were nothing as compared with the things
which came to one at night. What were those creatures which came when a
man was sleeping? Why did they escape with the dawn and appear again only
when he was asleep and helpless, at least until he awoke fairly and seized
his ax?

The sun rose high and dropped slowly down toward the west, where the far
ocean was, and the shadows somewhat lengthened, but it was still light
along the forest pathways and the untiring man still hurried on. He was
now close to his country and becoming careless and at ease. But his
imagination was still busy; he could not free himself of memory. There
came to him still the vision of the friend he had buried, hiding his face
first of all. The frenzy of his wish for knowing rushed again upon him.
Where was Oak now? he demanded of himself and of all nature. "Where is
Oak?" he yelled to the familiar trees beside his path. But the trees, even
to the cave man, so close to them in the economy of wild life, so like
them in his naturalness, could give no answer.

So the cave man struggled in his dim, uncertain way with the eternal
question: "If a man die shall he live again?" So the human mind still
struggles, after thousands of centuries have contributed to its
development. A wall more impassable than the wall of flame Ab had so
lately looked upon still rises between us and those who no longer live. We
reach out for some knowledge of those who have died, and go almost into
madness because we can grasp nothing. Silence unbroken, darkness
impenetrable ever guard the mystery of death. In the long ages since the
cave man ran that day, love and hope have in faith erected, beyond the
grim barriers of blackness and despair, fair pavilions of promise and
consolation, but to the stern examiners of physical fact and reality there
has come no news from beyond the walls of silence since. We clamor
tearfully for some word from those who are dead, but no answer comes. So
Ab groped and strove alone in the forest, in his youth and ignorance, and
in the youth and ignorance of our race.

Upon the pathway along the river's bank Ab emerged at last. All was
familiar to him now. There, by the clump of trees in the flat below, was
the place where he and Oak had dug the pit when they were but mere boys
and had learned their first important lessons in sterner woodcraft. Soon
came in sight, as he ran, the entrance to the cave of his own family. He
was home again. But he was not the one who had left that rude habitation
three days before. He had gone away a youth. He had come back one who had
suffered and thought. He came back a man.



Lightfoot, when Ab seized Oak, had fled away from the two infuriated men,
as the hare runs, and had sped into the forest. She had the impetus of new
fear now and ran swiftly as became her name, never looking behind her, nor
did she slacken her pace, though panting and exhausted, until she found
herself approaching the cave where lived her playmate, Moonface, not more
than an hour's run from her own home.

The fleeing girl was fortunate in stumbling upon her friend as soon as she
came into the open space about the cave. Moonface was enjoying herself
lazily that afternoon. She was leaning back idly in a swing of vines to
which she had braided a flexible back, and was blinking somnolently in the
sunshine as the visitor leaped from the wood. Moonface recognized her
friend, gave a quavering cry of delight and came slipping and rolling
recklessly to the ground to meet her. Lightfoot uttered no word. She stood
breathless, and was rather carried than led by Moonface to an easy seat,
moss-padded, upon twisted tree roots, which was that young lady's ordinary
resting-place. Upon this seat the two sank, one overcome with past fear
and present fatigue, and the other with an all-absorbing and demanding
curiosity. It was beyond the ordinary scope of the self-restraining forces
in Moonface to await with calm the recovery of Lightfoot's breath and
powers of conversation. She pinched and shook her friend and demanded,
half-crying but impatiently, some explanation. It was a great hour for
Moonface, the greatest in her life. Here was her friend and dictator
panting and terrified like some weak, hunted-down thing of the wood. It
was a marvel. At last Lightfoot spoke:

"They are fighting at the foot of the hill!" she said, and Moonface at
once guessed the whole story, for she was not blind, this wide-mouthed

"Why did you run away?" she asked.

"I ran because I was scared. One of them must be dead before this time. I
am glad I am alive myself," Lightfoot gasped. Then the girl covered her
face with her hands as she recalled Ab's face, distorted by passion and
murderous hate, and Oak's equally maddened look as, before the onrush, he
had grasped her so firmly that the marks of his fingers remained blue upon
her arms and slender waist and neck.

Then Lightfoot, slow to regain her composure, told tremblingly the story
of all that had occurred, finding comfort in the unaffrighted look upon
the face, as well as in the reassuring talk, of her easy-going,
unimaginative and cheerful and faithful companion. She remained as a guest
at the cave overnight and the next forenoon, when she took her way for
home, she was accompanied by Moonface. Gradually, as the hours passed,
Lightfoot regained something of her usual frame of mind and a little of
her ordinary manner of careless light-heartedness, but when home had been
reached and the girls had rested and eaten and she heard Moonface telling
anew for her the story of the flight in the wood, while her father,
Hilltop, and her two strapping brothers listened with interest, but with
no degree of excitement, she felt again the wild alarm and horror and
uncertainty which had affected her when first she fled from what was to
her so dreadful. She crept away from the cave door near which the others
sat enjoying the balmy midsummer afternoon, beckoning to one of her
brothers to follow her, as the big fellow did unquestioningly, for
Lightfoot had been, almost from young girlhood, the dominant force in the
family, even the strong father, though it was contrary to the spirit of
the time, admiring and yielding to his one daughter without much comment.
The great, hulking youth, well armed and ready for any adventure, joined
her, nothing both, and the two disappeared, like shadows, in the depths of
the forest.

Lightfoot had been the housekeeper in the cave of Hilltop, the cave of the
greatest hunter of the region, young despite the years which had
encompassed him, and father of two boys who were fine specimens of the
better men of the time. They were splendid whelps, and this slim thing,
whom they had cared for as she grew, dominated them easily, though the age
was not one of vast family affection, while chivalry, of course, did not
exist. Hilltop's wife had died two years before, and Lightfoot, with
unconscious force, had taken her mother's place. There was none other with
woman's ways to help the men in the rock-guarded home on the windy hill.
Hilltop had not been altogether unthinking all this time. He had often
looked upon his daughter's friend, the jolly, swart and well-fed Moonface,
and had much approved of her, but, today, as he listened to her story, he
did not pay such attention as was demanded by the interest of the theme.
An occasional death, though it were the killing of one cave man by
another, was not a matter of huge importance. He was not inflamed in any
way by what he heard, but as he looked and listened to the comfortable
young person who was speaking, the idea, hastened it may be by some loving
and domestic instinct, grew slowly in his brain that she might make for
him as excellent a mate as any other of the "good matches" to be found in
the immediately surrounding country. He was a most directly reasoning
person, this Hilltop, best of hunters and generally respected on the
forest ridges. After the thought once dawned upon him, it grew and grew,
and an idea fairly developed in Hilltop's mind meant action. His
fifty-five years of age had hardly cooled and had certainly not nearly
approached to freezing the blood in his outstanding veins. He had a suit
to make, and make at once. That he might have no interruption he bade
Stone-Arm, his remaining son, who sat on a rock near by, and who had
listened, open-mouthed, to the recital of Moonface, to seek his brother
and Lightfoot in the forest path. There might be beasts abroad and two men
were better than one, said this crafty father-hunter-lover.

The boy, clever tracker as a red Indian or Australian trailer, soon found
the path his brother and Lightfoot had taken and joined them. As he
listened to what they were saying he was glad he had been sent to follow
them. They were hastening toward the valley. The trees were beginning to
cast long shadows when the three came to where the more abrupt hillside
reached the slope and where the torn ground, broken limbs and twigs and
deep-indented footprints in the soil gave glaring evidence to the eye of
yesterday's struggle. But, aside from all this, there was something else.
There was a carpet of yellowish-brown leaves, at the edge of the circle of
fray, where a man had fallen. On the clean stretch of evenly rain-packed
leaves there were spots from which the scarlet had but lately faded into
crimson. There was a place where the surface was disturbed and sunken a
little. All three knew that a man had died there.

The two young men and their sister stood together uttering no word. The
men were amazed. The woman half comprehended all. She did not hesitate a
moment. Guided by a sure instinct, Lightfoot reached, without thought or
conscious search, the spot of unnatural earth which reared itself so near
to them, the spot where was fresh stone-covered soil and where a man was
buried. The pile of stones, newly heaped upon the moist earth, told their

Someone was buried there, but whom? Was it Oak or Ab?

"Shall I dig?" said Stone-Arm, making ready for the task, while Branch,
his elder brother, prepared for work as well.

"No! No!" cried Lightfoot. "He is buried deep and the stones are over him.
It will be night soon and the wolves and hyenas would be here before we
could get away. Let it be. Someone is there, but the one who killed him
has buried him. He will come back!" The two boys were silent, and
Lightfoot led the way toward home. When the three reached the cave of
Hilltop the sun was setting. Something had happened at the cave, but there
arises at this point no stern demand for going into details. Hilltop,
brave man, was no laggard in wooing, and Moonface was not a nervous young
person. When the other members of the household reached the cave Moonface
was already installed as mistress. There would be no reprisals from an
injured family. The girl had lived with her ancient father, whom she had
half-supported and who would, possibly, be transplanted to Hilltop's cave
for such pottering life as he was still capable of during the rest of his
existence. The new regime was fairly established.

The arrangement suited Lightfoot well enough. This astounding stepmother
had been her humble but faithful friend. Lightfoot was a ruling woman
spirit wherever she was, and she knew it, though she bowed at all times to
the rule of strength as the only law. Nevertheless she knew how to get her
own way. With Moonface, everything was easy for her and she found it
rather pleasant than otherwise to find the other young woman made suddenly
a permanent resident of the cave in which she had been born and had lived
all her life. As the two girls met, and the situation was curtly announced
by Hilltop, their faces were worth the seeing. There was alarm and
hopefulness upon the countenance of Moonface, sudden astonishment and
indignation, and then reflection, upon the face of Lightfoot. After a few
moments of thought both girls laughed cheerfully.

The story of the newly found grave made but little impression upon the
group and Lightfoot, the only one of the household who thought much about
it, thought silently. To her the single question was: "Who lay there?"
There was nothing strange to the others of the family in the thought that
one man should have killed another, and no one attached blame to or
proposed punishment of the slayer. Sometimes after such a happening, the
cave man who had slain another might have a rock rolled suddenly upon him
from a height, or in passing a thicket have the flint head of a spear
driven through him, but this was only the deed, perhaps, of an enraged
father or brother, not in any sense a matter of course in the way of
justice, and even such attempt at reprisal was not the rule.

But in the bosom of Lightfoot was a weight like a stone. It was as heavy,
she thought, as one of the stones on the bare ground over the body of the
man who lay there in the dark earth, because he had run after her. Who was
it? It might be Ab! And all through the night the girl tossed uneasily on
her bed of leaves, as she did for nights to come.

As for Moonface, who shall say what that rotund and hairy young person
thought when the family had settled down to the changed order of things
and she had adjusted herself to the duties of a matron in her new home?
She was not less broadly buoyant and beaming, but who can tell that, when
she noted Lightfoot's burning look and thoughtful mien, Moonface did not
sometimes think of the two young men who, but yesterday, had rejoiced in
such strength and vigor and charm of power and who were so good to look
upon? She was a wife now, but to another sort of man. Even the feminine
among writers of erotic novels have not yet revealed what the young moon
thinks when she "holds the old moon in her arms." Anyhow, Hilltop was a
defense and a great provider of food. He was a fine figure of a man, too.


Lightfoot was not much in the cave now. She lingered about the open space
or wandered in the near wood. A woman's instinct told her to be out-doors
all the time she could. A man would seek her, but with the thought came an
awful dread. Which man? One afternoon she saw something.

Two gray forms flitted across an open space in the forest near the cave,
and in a moment the girl was in a treetop. What followed was the
unexpected. Close behind the gray things came a man, fully armed,
straight, eager and alert and silent in his wood surroundings, with eyes
roving over and searching all the open space about the cave of Hilltop.
The man was Ab.

The girl gave a shriek of delight, then, alarmed at the sound she had
made, cowered behind a refuge of leaves and branches. She was happy beyond
all her experience before. The question which had been in all her thoughts
was answered! It was Oak, not Ab, who lay in the ground on the hillside.
And, even as she realized this fully, there was a swift upward scramble
and the young cave man was beside her on the limb. There was no running
away this time. The girl's face told its story well enough, so well that
Ab, still lately doubting, though resolved, knew that his fitting mate
belonged to him. There came to them the happiness which ever comes to
lovers, be they man or bird or beast, and then came swift conclusion. He
told her she must go with him at once, told her of the new cave and of all
he had done, but the girl, well aware of the dangers of the beast-haunted
region where the new home had been selected, was thoroughly alarmed. Then
Ab told her of the little flying spears which Old Mok had made for him,
and about the wonderful bow which sent them to their mark, and the girl
was reassured and soon began to feel exceedingly brave and proud of her
lover and his prowess.

No need of carrying off a girl by force or craft on this occasion, for
Hilltop had fully recognized Ab's strength and quality. The two went to
the cave together and there was eating and then, later, two skin-clad
human beings, a man and a woman, went away together through the forest.
Their journey was a long one and a careful lookout was necessary as they
hurried along a pathway of the strange country. But the cave was reached
at last, just as the sun burned red and gave a rosy glow to everything.

Silently the two came into the open space in front of what was to be their
fortress and abode. Solid was the rock about the entrance and narrow the
blocked opening. Smoke curled in a pretty spiral upward from where
smoldered the fire Ab had made the day before. Lightfoot looked upon it
all and laughed joyously, though tremblingly, for she had now given
herself to a man and he had brought her to his place of living.

As for the man, he looked down upon the girl delightedly. His pulse beat
fast. He put his arm about her and together they entered the cave. There
was a marriage but no ceremony. Just as robins mate when they have met or
as the buck and doe, so faithful man and wife became these two.

Darkness fell, the fire at the cave entrance flashed up fiercely and Ab
and Lightfoot were "at home."



The sun shone brilliantly, birds were singing and the balsam firs gave
forth their morning incense as Ab and Lightfoot issued from their cave.
They had eaten heartily, and came out buoyant and delighted with the
world which was theirs. The chattering of the waterfowl along the river
reached their ears faintly, the leaves were moved by a gentle breeze,
there was a hum of insects in the air and the very pulse of living could
be felt. Ab carried his new weapon proudly, hungering for the love and
admiration of this girl of his, and eager to show her its powers and to
exhibit his own skill. At his back hung his quiver of mammoth bone. His
bow, unstrung, was in his hand. In front of the cave was a bare area of
many yards in extent, then came a few scattering trees and, at a distance
of perhaps two hundred yards, the forest began. Across the open space of
ground, with its great mass of branches crushed together not far from the
cave's mouth, had fallen one of the gigantic conifers' of the time, and
was there gradually decaying, its huge limbs and bole, disintegrating,
and dry as punk, affording, close at hand, a vast fuel supply, the
exceptional value of which Ab had recognized when making his selection of
a home. Near the edge of the little clearing made by nature, Ab seated
himself upon a log, and drawing Lightfoot down to a seat beside him,
began enthusiastically to make clear the marvels of the weapon he had
devised and which he and Old Mok had developed into something startling
in its possibilities.

All details of the explanation made by the earnest young hunter, it is
probable, Lightfoot did not comprehend. She looked proudly at him,
fingering the flint pointed arrows curiously, yet seemed rather intent
upon the man than the wood and stone. But when he pointed at a great knot
in a tree near them and bent his bow and sent an arrow fairly into the
target, and when, even with her strength, Lightfoot could not pull the
arrow out, she was wild with admiration and excitement. She begged to be
taught how to use, herself, this wonderful new weapon, for she recognized
as readily as could anyone its adaptation to the use of one of inferior
strength. The delighted lover was certainly as desirous as she that she
should some day become an expert. He handed her the bow, retaining, slung
over his shoulder, fortunately, as it developed, the bone quiver full of
Old Mok's best arrows. He taught her, first, how to bend and string the
bow. There were failures and successes, and there was much laughter from
the merry-hearted Lightfoot. Finally, it happened that Ab was not just
content with the quality of the particular arrow which he had selected
for Lightfoot's use. He had taken a slender one with a clean flint head,
but something about the notch had not quite suited him. With a thin, hard
stone scraper, carried in a pouch of his furry garb, he began rasping and
filing at this notch to make it better fit the string of tendons, while
Lightfoot, with the bow still strung, stood beside him. At last, tired of
holding the thing in her hands, she passed it over her head and one
shoulder and stood there jauntily, with both hands free, while the man
scraped away with the one little flake of flint in his possession, and,
as he worked, paused from time to time note how well he was rounding the
notch in the end of the slight hardwood shaft. It was just as he was
holding up to her eyes the arrow, now made almost an ideal one, according
to his fancy, when there came to the ears of the two a sound, distinct,
ominous and implying to them deadly peril, a sound such that, though
nerves spoke and muscles acted, they were very near the momentary
paralysis which sometimes come from sudden fearful shock. From close
beside them came the half grunt and half growl of the great cave bear!

With the instinct born of generations, each leaped independently toward
the nearest tree, and, with the unconscious strength and celerity which
comes to even wild animals with the dread of death at hand, each
clambered to a treetop before a word was spoken. Scarcely had either left
the ground before there was a rush into the open glade of a huge brown
hairy form, and this was instantly followed by another. As Ab and
Lightfoot climbed far amid the branches and looked down, they saw
upreared at the base of each tree the figure of one of the monsters whose
hungry exclamations they knew so well. They had been careless, these two
lovers, especially the man. He had known well, but for the moment had
forgotten how beast-infested was the immediate area about his new home,
and now had come the consequence of his thoughtlessness. He and his wife
had been driven to the treetops within a few yards of their own
hearthstone, leaving their weapons inside their cave!

Alarmed and panting, after settling down to a firm seat far aloft, each
looked about to see what had become of the other. Each was at once
reassured as to the present, and each became much perplexed as to the
future. The cave bear, like his weaker and degenerate descendant, the
grizzly of to-day, had the quality of persistence well developed, and
both Ab and Lightfoot knew that the siege of their enemies would be
something more than for the moment. The trees in which they perched were
very close to the wood, but not so close that the forest could be reached
by passing from branch to branch. Their two trees were not far from each
other, but their branches did not intermingle. There was a distinct
opening between them. The tree up which Lightfoot had scrambled was a
great fir towering high above the strong beech in which Ab had found his
safety. Branches of the fir hung down until between their ends and Ab's
less lofty covert there were but a few yards of space. Still, one trying
to reach the beech from the lofty fir would find an unpleasantly wide

Each of the creatures in the tree was unarmed. Ab still bore the quiver
full of admirable arrows, and across the breast of Lightfoot still hung
the strong bow which she had slung about her in such blithesome mood.
Soon began an exceedingly earnest conversation. Ab, eager to reach again
the fair creature who now belonged to him, was half frantic with rage,
and Lightfoot was far from her usual mood of careless gaiety. The two
talked and considered, though but to little purpose, and, finally, after
weary hours, the night came on. It was a trying situation. Man and woman
were in equal danger. The bears were hungry--and the cave bear knew his
quarry. The beasts beneath were not disposed to leave the prey they had
imprisoned aloft. The night grew, but either Ab or Lightfoot, looking
down, could see the glare of small, hungry eyes. There was gentle talk
between the two, for this was a great strait and, in straits, souls, be
they prehistoric, historic or of to-day, always come closer together.
Very much more loving lovers, even, than they were before, became the two
perched aloft that night. It was a comfort for the wedded pair to call to
each other through the darkness. After a time, however, muscles grew lax
with the continued strain. Weariness clouded the spirits of the couple
and almost overcame them and only the thing which has always, in great
stress, given the greatest strength in this world--the love of male and
female--sustained them. They stood the test pretty well. To sleep in a
tree top was an easy thing for them, with the precautions, simple and
natural, of the time. Each plaited a withe of twigs with which to be tied
to the tree or limb, and resting in the hollow nest where some great limb
joined the bole, slept as sleep tired children, until the awakening of
nature awoke these who were nature's own. When Ab awoke, he had more on
his mind than Lightfoot, for he was the one who must care for the two. He
blinked and wondered where he was. Then he remembered all, suddenly. He
looked across anxiously at a slender brown thing lying asleep, coiled so
close to the bole of the tree to which she was bound that she seemed
almost a part of it. Then he looked down, and, after what he saw, thought
very seriously. The bears were there! He looked up at the bright sky and
all about him, and inhaled all the fragrance of the forest, and felt
strong, and that he knew what he should do. He called aloud.

The girl awoke, frightened. She would have fallen had she not been bound
to the tree. Gradually, the full meaning of the situation dawned upon her
and she began to cry. She was hungry, her limbs were stiffened by her
bands, and there was death below. But there, close to her, was the Man.
His voice gradually reassured her. He was becoming angry now, almost
raging. Here he was, the lord of a cave, independent and master as much
as any other man whom he knew, perched in one tree while his bride of a
day was in the top of another, yet kept apart from her by the brutes

He had decided what to do, and now he talked to Lightfoot with all the
frankness of the strong male who felt that he had another to care for,
and who realized his responsibility and authority together. As the
strength and decided personality of the young man came to her through his
voice, the young woman drew her scanty fur robe about her and checked her
tears. She became comparatively calm and reasonable.

The tree in which Lightfoot had found refuge had many long slender
branches lowering toward the giant beech into which the man had made his
retreat. Ab argued that it was possible--barely possible--for Lightfoot's
compact, agile, slender body to be launched in just the right way from
one of the branches of the taller tree, and, swinging in its descent
across the space between the two, lodge among the branches of the beech
with him. Strong arms ready to clasp her as she came and to withstand the
shock and to hold her safely he promised and, to enforce his plea, he
pointed out that, unless they thus took their fate in hand, there was
starvation awaiting them as they were, while carrying out his plan, if
any accident befell, there was only swift though dreadful death to reckon
with. There was one chance for their lives and that chance must be taken.
Ab called to his young wife:

"Crawl out upon a branch above me, swing down from it, swing hard and
throw yourself to me. I will catch you and hold you. I am strong."

The woman, with all faith in the man, still demurred. It was a great
test, even for the times and the occasion. But hunger was upon her and
she was cold and was, naturally, very brave. She lowered herself and
climbed down and reached an out-extending limb, and there, across the
gap, she saw Ab with his strong legs twined about the uprearing branch
along which he laid, with giant brown arms stretched out confidently and
with eyes steadily regarding her, eyes which had love and longing and a
lot of fight in them. She walked out along the limb, holding herself
safely by a firm hand-hold on the limb above, until the one her bare feet
rested upon swayed and tipped uncertainly. Then came her time of trial of
nerve and trust. Suddenly she stooped, caught the lower limb with her
hands and then swung beneath it, hanging by her hands alone, and, hand
over hand, passed herself along until she reached almost its end. Then
she began swaying back and forth. She was but a few yards above Ab now,
dangling in mid-air, while, below her, the two hungry bears had rushed
together and were looking upward with red, anticipating eyes, the ooze
coming from their mouths. The moment was awful. Soon she must be a
mangled thing devoured by frightful beasts, or else a woman with a life
renewed. She looked at Ab, and, with courage regained, prepared for the
great effort which must end all or gain a better lease of life.

She swung back and forth, each drawing up and outreach and flexible
motion of her arms giving more momentum to the sway and conserving force
for the launch of herself she was about to make. The desperation and
strength of a wood-wise creature, so bravely combined, alone enabled her
to obey Ab's hoarse command.

Ab, with his arms outreaching in their strength, feeling the fierce eyes
of the hungry bears below boring into his very heart, leaned forward and
upward as the swing of the woman reached its climax. With a cry of
warning, the woman launched herself and shot downward and forward, like a
bolt to its mark, a very desirable lump of femininity as appearing in
mid-air, but one somewhat forcible in its alighting.

Ab was strong, but when that girl landed fairly in his brawny arms, as
she did beautifully, it was touch and go, for a fraction of a second,
whether both should fall to the ground together or both be saved. He
caught her deftly, but there was a great shock and swing and then, with a
vast effort, there came recovery and the man drew himself, shaking, back
to the support of the branch from which he had been almost wrenched away,
at the same time placing beside him the object he had just caught.

There was absolute silence for a moment or two between these
unconventional lovers to whom had come escape from a hard situation. They
were drawing deep breaths and recovering an equilibrium. There they sat
together on the strong branch, each of them as secure and, for the
moment, as perfectly at home as if lying on a couch in the cave. Each of
them was panting and each of them rejoicing. It was unlikely that upon
their trained, robust nerves the life-endangering episode of a moment
could have a more than passing effect. They sat so together for some
minutes with arms entwined, still drawing deep breaths, and, a little
later, began to laugh chucklingly, as breath came to be spared for such
exhibition if human feeling. Gradually, the indrawing and expelling of
the glorious air shortened. The two had regained their normal condition
and Ab's face lengthened and the lines upon it became more distinct. He
was all himself again, but in no dallying mood. He gave a triumphant
whoop which echoed through the forest, shook his clenched hand savagely
at the brutes below and reached toward Lightfoot for the bow which hung
about her shoulders.



The brown, downy woman knew, on the instant, what was her husband's mood
and immediate intent when he thus shouted and took into his own keeping
again the stiff bow which hung about her shoulders. She knew that her
lord was not merely in a glad, but that he was also in a vengeful frame
of mind, that he wanted from her what would enable him to kill things,
and that, equipped again, he was full of the spirit of fight. She knew
that, of the four animals grouped together, two huge creatures of the
ground and two slighter ones perched in a tree top, the chances were that
the condition of those below had suddenly become the less preferable.

The bow was about Ab's shoulders instantly, and then this preposterous
young gentleman of the period turned to the woman and laughed, and caught
her in one of his arms a little closer, and drew her up against him and
laid his cheek against her own for a moment and drew it away and laughed
again. The kiss, it is believed, had not fully developed itself in the
cave man's time, but there were substitutes. Then, releasing her, he said
gleefully and chucklingly, "follow me;" and they clambered down the bole
of the beech together until they reached the biggest and very lowest limb
of all. It was perhaps twenty feet above the ground. A little below their
dangling feet the hungry bears, hitherto more patient, now, with their
expected prey so close at hand, becoming desperately excited, ran about,
frothing and foaming and red-eyed, uprearing themselves in awful
nearness, at times, in their eagerness to reach the prey which they had
so awaited and which, to their intelligence, seemed about falling into
their jaws. They had so driven into trees before, and finally consumed
exhausted cave men and women. As bears went, they were doubtless logical
animals. They could not know that there had come into possession of this
particular pair of creatures of the sort they had occasionally eaten, a
trifling thing of wood and sinew string and flint point, which was
destined henceforth to make a decided change in the relative condition of
the biped and quadruped hunters of the time. How could they know that
something small and sharp would fly down and sting them more deeply than
they had ever been stung before, that it would sting so deeply that their
arteries might be cut, or their hearts pierced and that then they must
lie down and die? The well-thrown spear had been, in other ages, a vast
surprise to the carnivora of the period, but there was something yet to

When they had reached the huge branch so near the ground both Ab and
Lightfoot were for a moment startled and lifted their feet instinctively,
but it was only for a moment in the case of the man. He knew that he was
perfectly safe and that he had with him an engine of death. He selected
his best and strongest arrow, he fitted it carefully to the string and
then, as his mother had done years before above the hyena which sought
her child, he reached one foot down as far as he could, and swung it back
and forth tantalizingly, just above the larger of the hungry beasts
below. The monster, fierce with hunger and the desire for prey, roared
aloud and upreared himself by the tree trunk and tore the bark with his
strong claws, throwing back his great head as he looked upward at the
quarry so near him and yet just beyond his reach. This was the man's
opportunity. Ab drew back the arrow till the flint head rested close by
his out-straining hand and the tough wood of the bow creaked under the
thrust of his muscled arm. Then he released the shaft. So close together
were man and bear that archer's skill of aim was not required. The brown
target could not be missed. The arrow struck with a tear and the flint
head drove through skin and tissue till its point protruded at the back
of the great brute's neck. The bear fell suddenly backward, then rose
again and reached blindly at its neck with its huge fore-paws, while from
where the arrow had entered the blood came out in spurts. Suddenly the
bear ceased its appalling roars and started for the cave. There had come
to it the instinct which makes such great beasts seek to die alone. It
rushed at the narrow entrance but its course was scarcely noted by the
couple in the tree. The other bear, the female, was seeking to reach them
in no less savage mood than had animated her stricken mate.

Not often, when the cave man first learned the use of the bow, came to
him such fortune with a first strong shot as that which had so come to
Ab. Again he selected a good arrow, again shot his strongest and best,
but the shaft only buried itself in the shoulder and served but to drive
to absolute madness the raging creature thus sorely hurt. The forest
echoed with the roaring of the infuriated animal, and as she reared
herself clambering against the tree the tough fiber was rended away in
great slivers, and the man and woman were glad that the trunk was thick
and that they owned a natural citadel. Again and again did Ab discharge
his arrows and still fail to reach a vital part of the terror below. She
fairly bristled with the shafts. It was inevitable that she must die, but
when the last shot had sped she was still infuriate and, apparently, as
strong as ever. The archer looked down upon her with some measure of
despondency in his face, but by no means with despair. He and his bride
must wait. That was all, and this he told to Lightfoot. That intelligent
and reliable young helpmate of a few hours, who had looked upon what had
occurred with an awed admiration, did not exhibit any depression. Her
husband, fortunate Benedict, had produced a great effect upon her by his
feat. She felt herself something like a queen. Had she known enough and
had the fancies of the Ruth of some thousands of decades later she would
have told him how completely thenceforth his people were her people and
his gods her gods.

The she bear became finally somewhat quieted; she tore less angrily at
the tree and made less of the terrible clamor which had for the moment
driven from the immediate region all the inmates of the wood, for none
save the cave tiger cared to be in the immediate neighborhood of the cave
bear. Her roars changed into roaring growls, and she wandered
staggeringly about. At last she started blindly and weakly toward the
forest, and just as she had passed beneath its shadow, paused, weaved
back and forth for a moment, and then fell over heavily. She was dead.

Not an action of the beast had escaped the eyes of Ab. Well he knew the
ways of wounded things. As the bear toppled over he gave utterance to a
whoop and, with a word to the girl beside him, slid lightly to the
ground, she following him at once. It was very good to be upon the earth
again. Ab stamped with his feet and stretched his arms, and the woman
danced upon the grass and laughed gleefully. But this was only for a
moment or so. Ab started toward the cave, and as he reached the entrance,
gave a great cry of rage and dismay. Lightfoot ran to his side and even
her ready laugh failed her when she looked upon his perplexed and stormy
countenance and saw what had happened. The rump of the monster he bear
was what she looked upon. The beast, in his instinctive effort to crawl
into some dark place to die, had fairly driven himself into the cave's
entrance, dislodging some of the stones Ab had placed there, had wedged
himself in firmly, and had died before he could extricate his great
carcass. The two human beings were homeless and, with all the arrows
gone, weaponless, in the midst of a region so dangerously infested that
any movement afoot was but inviting death. They were hungry, too, for
many hours had passed since they had tasted food. It was not matter of
surprise that even the stout-hearted cave man stood aghast.

The occasion for Ab's alarm was fully verified. From the spot where the
cave bear lay at the forest's edge came a sharp, snapping growl. The
lurking hyenas had found the food, and a long, inquiring howl from
another direction told that the wolves had scented it and were gathering.
For the instant Ab was himself almost helpless with fear. The woman was
simply nerveless. Then the man, so accustomed to physical danger,
recovered himself. He sprang forward, seized a stout fragment of limb
which might serve as a sort of weapon, and, turning to the woman, said
only the one word "fire."

Lightfoot understood and life came to her again. None in all the region
could make a fire more swiftly than she. Her quick eye detected just the
base she wanted in a punkish fragment of wood and the harder and pointed
bit of limb to be used in making the friction. In a time scarcely worth
the noting the point was whirling about and burning into the wooden base,
twirling with a skill and velocity not comprehensible by us to-day, for
the cave people had perfected wonderfully this greatest manual art of the
time, and Lightfoot, muscular and enduring, was, as already said, in this
thing the cleverest among the clever. Ab, with ready club in hand,
advanced cautiously toward the point at the wood's edge where lay the
body of the bear. He paused as he came near enough to see what was
happening. Four great hyenas were tearing eagerly at the flesh of the
dead brute, and behind them, deeper in the wood, were shining eyes, and
Ab knew that the wolf pack was gathering. The bear consumed, the man and
woman, without defense, would surely be devoured. It was a desperate
strait, but, though he was weaponless, there was the cave man's great
resort, the fire, and there might be a chance for life. To seek the tree
tops would be dangerous even now, and once ensconced in such harborage,
only starvation was awaiting. He moved back noiselessly, with as little
apparent motion as possible, for he did not want to attract the attention
of the gleaming eyes in the distance, until he came near Lightfoot again,
and then he abandoned caution of movement and began tearing frantically
at the limbs and debris of the great dead conifer, and to build a
semicircular fence in front of the cave entrance. He did the swift work
of half a score of men in his desperation and anxiety, his great strength
serving him well in his compelling strait.

Meanwhile the stick twirled and rasped in the hands of the brown woman
seated on the ground, and at last a tiny thread of smoke arose. The
continued friction had done its work. Deft himself at fire-making, Ab
knew just what was wanted at this moment and ran to his wife's side with
punk from the dead tree, rubbed to a powder in his hard hands. The
powder, poured gently down upon the point where the increasing heat had
brought the gleam of fire, burst, almost at once, into a little flame.
What followed was simple and easy. Dry twigs made the slight flame a
greater one and then, at a dozen different points, the wall which Ab had
built was fired. They were safe, for the time at least. Behind them was
the uprearing rock in which was the cave and before them, almost
encircling them completely, was the ring of fire which no wild beast
would cross. At one end, close to the rock, a space had been left by Ab,
that he and Lightfoot might, through it, reach the vast store of fuel
which lay there ready to the hand and so close that there was no danger
in visiting it. Hardly had the flame extended itself along the slight
wooden barrier than the whole wood and clearing resounded with terrifying
sounds. The wolf pack had increased until strong enough to battle with
the hyenas for the remainder of the feast in the wood, and their fight
was on.

The feeling of terror had passed away from this young bride and groom,
with the assurance of present safety, and Ab felt the need of eating.
"There is meat," he said, as he pointed toward the haunches of the bear,
half-protruding from the rock, "and there is fire. The fire will cook the
meat, and, besides, we are safe. We will eat!"

The bridegroom of but a day or two said this somewhat grandiloquently,
but he was not disposed to be vain or grandiloquent a little later. He
put his hand to the belt of his furry garb and found no sharp flint knife
there! It had been lost in his late tree clambering. He put his hand into
the pouch of his cloak and found only the flint skin scraper, the scraper
with which he had improved the arrow's notch, though it was not
originally intended for such use. It was all that remained to him of
weapon or utensil. But it would cut or tear, though with infinite effort,
and the man, to reassure the woman, laughed, and assailed the brown
haunch before him. Even with his strength, it was difficult for Ab to
penetrate the tough skin of the bear with an implement intended for
scraping, not for cutting, and it was only after he had finally cut, or
rather dug, away enough to enable him to get his fingers under the skin
and tear away an area of it by sheer main strength that the flesh was
made available. That end once attained, there followed a hard transverse
digging with the scraper, a grasp about tissue of strong, impressed
fingers, and a shred of flesh came away. It was tossed at once to a young
person who, long twig in hand, stood eagerly waiting. She caught the
shred as she had caught the fine bit of mammoth when first she and Ab had
met, and it was at once impaled and thrust into the flames. It was
withdrawn, it is to be feared, a trifle underdone, and then it
disappeared, as did other shreds of excellent bear's meat which came
following. It was a sight for a dyspeptic to note the eating of this
belle-matron of the region on this somewhat exceptional occasion.

Strip after strip did Ab tear away and toss to his wife until the
expression on her face became a shade more peaceful and then it dawned
upon him that she was eating and that he was not. There was clamor in his
stomach. He sprang away from the bear, gave Lightfoot the scraper and
commanded her to get food for him as he had done for her. The girl
complied and did as well as had done the man in digging away the meat. He
ate as she had done, and, at last, partly gorged and content, allowed her
to take her place at the fire and again eat to his serving. He had shown
what, from the standard of the time, must be counted as most gallant and
generous and courteous demeanor. He had thought a little of the woman.

A tiny rill of cold water trickled down on one side of the outer door of
their cave. With this their thirst was slaked, and they ate and ate. The
shadows lengthened and Ab replenished again and again the fire. From the
semicircle of forest all about came the sound of footsteps rustling in
the leaves. But the two people inside the fire fence, hungry no longer,
were content. Ab talked to his wife:

"The fire will keep the man-eating things away," he said. "I ran not long
ago with things behind me, and I would have been eaten had I not come
upon a ring of fire like the one we have made. I leaped it and the eaters
could not reach me. But, for the fire I leaped there was no wood. It came
out of a crack in the ground. Some day we will go there and I will show
you that thing which is so strange."

The woman listened, delighted, but, at last, there was a nodding of the
head. She lay back upon the grass a sleepy being. Ab looked at her and
thought deeply. Where was safety? As they were, one of them must be awake
all the time to keep the fire replenished. Until he could enter the cave
again he must be weaponless. Only the fire could protect the two. They
had heat and food and nothing to fear for the moment, but they must
fairly eat their way into a safety which would be permanent!

He kept the fire alight far into the darkness, and then, piling the fuel
high all along the line of defense, he aroused the sleeping woman and
told her she must keep the flames bright while he slept in his turn. She
was just the wife for such an emergency as this, and rose uncomplainingly
to do her part of the guarding work. From the forest all about came
snarling sounds or threatening growls, and eyes blazed in the somber
depths beneath the trees. There were hungry things out there and they
wanted to eat a man and woman, but fire they feared. The woman was not

After hours had passed the man awoke and took the woman's place and she
slept in his stead. Morning came and the sounds from the forest died away
partly, but the man and woman knew of the fierce creatures still lurking
there. They knew what was before them. They must delve and eat their way
into the cave as soon as possible.

Ab scraped at the bear's huge body with his inefficient bit of flint and
dug away food in abundance, which he heaped up in a little red mound
inside the fire, but the bear was a monstrous beast and it was a long way
from tail to head. The days of the honeymoon passed with a degree of
travail, for there was no moment when one of the two must not be awake
feeding the guarding fire or digging at the bear. They ate still heartily
on the second day but it is simple, truthful history to admit that on the
sixth day bear's meat palled somewhat on the happy couple. To have eaten
thirty quails in thirty days or, at a pinch, thirty quails in two days
would have been nothing to either of them, but bear's meat eaten as part
of what might be called a tunneling exploit ceased, finally, to possess
an attractive flavor. There was a degree of shade cast by all these
obtrusive circumstances across this honeymoon, but there came a day and
hour when the bear was largely eaten, and fairly dug away as to much of
the rest of him, and then, quite suddenly, his head and fore-quarters
toppled forward into the cave, leaving the passage free, and when Ab and
Lightfoot followed, one shouting and the other laughing, one coming again
to his fortress and his weapons and his power, and the other to her
hearth and duties.



The sun rose brightly the next morning and when Ab, armed and watchful,
rolled the big stone away and passed the smoldering fire and issued from
the cave into the open, the scene he looked upon was fair in every way.
Of what had been left of the great bear not a trace remained. Even the
bones had been dragged into the forest by the ravening creatures who had
fed there during the night. There were birds singing and there were no
enemies in sight. Ab called to Lightfoot and the two went forth together,
loving and brave, but no longer careless in that too interesting region.

And so began the home life of these two people. It was, in its way and
relatively, as sweet and delicious as the first home life of any loving
and appreciating man and woman of to-day. The two were very close, as the
conditions under which they lived demanded. They were the only human
beings within a radius of miles. The family of the cave man of the time
was serenely independent, each having its own territory, and depending
upon itself for its existence. And the two troubled themselves about
nothing. Who better than they could daily win the means of animal

Ab taught Lightfoot the art of cracking away the flakes of the flint
nodules and of the finer chipping and rasping which made perfect the
spear and arrowheads, and never was pupil swifter in the learning. He
taught her, too, the use of his new weapon, and in all his life he did no
wiser thing! It was not long before she became easily his superior with
the bow, so far as her strength would allow, and her strength was far
from insignificant. Her arrows flew with greater accuracy than his,
though the buzzing shaft had not as yet, and did not have for many
centuries later, the "gray goose" feather which made the doing of its
mission far more certain. Lightfoot brought to the cave the capercailzie
and willow grouse and other birds which were good things for the larder,
and Ab looked on admiringly. Even in their joint hunting, when there was
a half rivalry, he was happy in her. Somehow, the arrow sang more merrily
when it flew from Lightfoot's bow.

Better than Ab, too, could the young wife do rare climbing when in a nest
far out upon some branch were eggs good for roasting and which could be
reached only by a light-weight. And she learned the woods about them
well, and, though ever dreading when alone, found where were the trees
from which fell the greatest store of nuts and where, in the mud along
the river's side, her long and highly educated toes could reach the clams
which were excellent to feed upon.

But never did the hunter leave the cave without a fear. Ever, even in the
daytime, was there too much rustling among the leaves of the near forest.
Ever when day had gone was there the sound of padded feet on the sward
about the cave's blocked entrance. Ever, at night, looking out through
the narrow space between the heaped rocks, could the two inside the cave
see fierce and blazing eyes and there would come to them the sound of
snarls and growls as the beasts of different quality met one another. Yet
the two cared little for these fearful surroundings of the darkness. They
were safe enough. In the morning there were no signs of the lurking
beasts of prey. They were somewhere near, though, and waiting, and so Ab
and Lightfoot had the strain of constant watchfulness upon them.

It may be that because of this ever present peril the two grew closer
together. It could not well be otherwise with human beings thus bound and
isolated and facing and living upon the rest of nature, part of it
seeking always their own lives. They became a wonderfully loving couple,
as love went in that rude time. Despite the too wearing outlook imposed
upon them, because they were in so dangerous a locality, they were very
happy. Yet, one day, came a difference and a hurt.

Oak, apparently forgotten by others, was remembered by Ab, though never
spoken of. Sometimes the man had tossed upon his bed of leaves and had
muttered in his sleep, and the one word he had most often spoken in this
troubled dreaming was the name of Oak. Early in their married life
Lightfoot, to whom the memory of the dead man, so little had she known
him, was a far less haunting thing than to her husband, had suddenly
broken a silence, saying "Where is Oak?" There was no answer, but the
look of the man of whom she had asked the question was such that she was
glad to creep from his sight unharmed. Yet once again, months later, she
forgot herself and mocked Ab when he had been boastful over some exploit
of strength and courage and when he had seemed to say that he knew no
fear. She, but to tease him, sprang up with a face convulsed and
agonized, and with staring eyes and hands opening and shutting, had cried
out "Oak! Oak!" as she had seen Ab do at night. Her mimic terror was
changed on the moment into reality. With a shudder and then with a glare
in his eyes the man leaped toward her, snatching his great ax from his
belt and swinging it above her head. The woman shrieked and shrank to the
ground. The man whirled the weapon aloft and then, his face twitching
convulsively, checked its descent. He may, in that moment, have thought
of what followed the slaying of the other who had been close to him.
There was no death done, but, thenceforth, Lightfoot never uttered aloud
the name of Oak. She became more sedate and grave of bearing.

The episode was but a passing, though not a forgotten one in the lives of
the two. The months went by and there were tranquil hours in the cave as,
at night, the weapons were shaped, and Lightfoot boasted of the
arrowheads she had learned to make so well. Sometimes Old Mok would be
rowed up the river to them by the sturdy and venturesome Bark, who had
grown into a particularly fine youth and who now cared for nothing more
than his big brother's admiration. Between Old Mok and Lightfoot, to Ab's
great delight, grew up the warmest friendship. The old man taught the
woman more of the details of good arrow-making and all he knew of
woodcraft in all ways, and the lord of the place soon found his wife
giving opinions with an air of the utmost knowledge and authority.
Whatever came to him from her and Old Mok pleased him, and when she told
him of some of the finer points of arrow-making he stretched out his
brawny arms and laughed.

But there came, in time, a shade upon the face of the man. The incident
of the talk of Oak may have brought to his mind again more freshly and
keenly the memory of the Fire Country. There he had found safety and
great comfort. Why should not he and Lightfoot seize upon this home and
live there? It was a wonderful place and warm, and there were forests at
hand. He became so absorbed in his own thoughts on this great theme that
the woman who was his could not understand his mood, but, one day, he
told her of what he had been thinking and of what he had resolved upon.
"I am going to the Fire Country," he said.

Armed, this time with spear and ax and bow and arrow, and with food
abundant in the pouch of his skin garb, Ab left the cave in which
Lightfoot was now to stay most of the time, well barricaded, for that she
was to hunt afar alone in such a region was not even to be thought of.
What thoughts came to the man as he traversed again the forest paths
where he had so pondered as he once ran before can be but guessed at.
Certainly he had learned no more of Oak.

Lightfoot, left alone in the cave, became at once a most discreet and
careful personage, for one of her buoyant and daring temperament. She had
often taken risks since her marriage, but there was always the chance of
finding within the sound of her voice her big mate, Ab, should danger
overtake her. She remained close to the cave, and when early dusk came
she lugged the stone barriers into place and built a night-fire within
the entrance. The fierce and hungry beasts of the wood came, as usual,
lurking and sniffing harshly about the entrance, and when she ventured
there and peered outside she saw the wicked and leering eyes. Alone and a
little alarmed, she became more vengeful than she would have been with
the big, careless Ab beside her. She would have sport with her bow. The
advantage of the bow is that it requires no swing of space for its work
as is demanded of the flung spear. An arrow may be sent through a mere
loophole with no probable demerit as to what it will accomplish. So the
woman brought her strongest bow--and far beyond the rough bow of Ab's
first make was the bow they now possessed--and gathered together many of
the arrows she could make so well and use so well, and, thus equipped,
went again to the cave's entrance, and through the space between the
heaped rocks of the doorway sent toward the eyes of wolf, or cave hyena,
shafts to which they were unaccustomed, but which, somehow, pierced and
could find mid-body quite as well as the cave man's spear. There was a
certain comfort in the work, though it could not affect her condition in
one way or another. It was only something of a gain to drive the eyes

And Ab reached the Fire Valley again. He found it as comfortable and
untenanted as when the leap through the ring of flame had saved his life.
He clambered up the creek and wandered along its banks, where the grass
was green because of the warmth about, and studied all the qualities of
the naturally defended valley. "I will make my home here," he said.
"Lightfoot shall come with me."

The man returned to his cave and his lonely mate again and told her of
the Fire Country. He said that in the Fire Valley they would be safer and
happier, and told her how he had found an opening underneath the cliff
which they could soon enlarge into a cave to meet all wants. Not that a
cave was really needed in a fire valley, but they might have one if they
cared. And Lightfoot was glad of the departure.

The pair gathered their belongings together and there was the long
journey over again which Ab had just accomplished. But it was far
different from either journey that he had made. There with him was his
wife, and he was all equipped and was to begin a new sort of life which
would, he felt, be good. Lightfoot, bearing her load gallantly, was not
less jubilant. As a matter of plain fact, though Lightfoot had been happy
in the cave in the forest, she had always recognized certain of its
disadvantages, as had, in the end, her fearless husband. It is, in a
general way, vexatious to live in a locality where, as soon as you leave
your hearthstone, you incur, at least, a chance of an exciting and
uncomfortable episode and then lodgment in the maw of some imposing
creature of the carnivora. Lightfoot was quite ready to seek with Ab the
Fire Valley of which he had so often told her. She was a plucky young
matron, but there were extremes.

There were no adventures on the journey worth relating. The Fire Valley
was reached at nightfall and the two struggled weariedly up the rugged
path beside the creek which issued from the valley's western end. As they
reached the level Ab threw down his burden, as did Lightfoot, and as the
woman's eyes roved over the bright scene, she gave a great gasp of
delight. "It is our home!" she cried.

They ate and slept in the light and warmth of surrounding flames, and
when the day came they began the work of enlarging what was to be their
cave. But, though they worked earnestly, they did not care so much for
the prospective shelter as they might have done. What a cave had given
was warmth and safety. Here they had both, out of doors and under the
clear sky. It was a new and glorious life. Sometimes, though happy, the
woman worked a little wearily, and, not long after the settlement of the
two in their new home, a child was born to them, a son, robust and
sturdy, who came afterward to be known as Little Mok.



There came to Ab and Lightfoot that comfort which comes with laboring for
something desired. In all that the two did amid their pleasant
surroundings life became a greater thing because its dangers were so
lessened and its burdens lightened. But they were not long the sole human
beings in the Fire Valley. There was room for many and soon Old Mok took
up his permanent abode with them, for he was most contented when with Ab,
who seemed so like a son to him. A cave of his own was dug for Mok,
where, with his carving and his making of arrows and spearheads, he was
happy in his old age. Soon followed a hegira which made, for the first
time, a community. The whole family of Ab, One-Ear, Red-Spot and Bark and
Beech-leaf and the later ones, all came, and another cave was made, and
then old Hilltop was persuaded to follow the example and come with
Moonface and Branch and Stone Arm, his big sons, and the group, thus
established and naturally protected, feared nothing which might happen.
The effect of daily counsel together soon made itself distinctly felt,
and, under circumstances so different, many of the old ways were departed
from. Half a mile to the south the creek, which made a bend adown its
course, tumbled into the river and upon the river were wild fowl in
abundance and in its depths were fish. The forest abounded in game and
there were great nut-bearing trees and the wild fruits in their season.
Wild bees hovered over the flowers in the open places and there were
hoards of wild honey to be found in the hollows of deadened trunks or in
the high rock crevices. A great honey-gatherer, by the way, was
Lightfoot, who could climb so well, and who, furthermore, had her own
fancy for sweet things. It was either Bark or Moonface who usually
accompanied her on her expeditions, and they brought back great store of
this attractive spoil. The years passed and the community grew, not
merely in numbers, but intelligence. Though always an adviser with Old
Mok, Ab's chief male companion in adventure was the stanch Hilltop, who
was a man worth hunting with. Having two such men to lead and with a
force so strong behind them the valley people were able to cope with the
more dangerous animals venturesomely, and soon the number of these was so
decreased that even the children might venture a little way beyond the
steep barriers which had been raised where the flame circle had its gaps.
The opening to the north was closed by a high stone wall and that along
the creek defended as effectively, in a different way. They were having
good times in the valley.

At first, the home of all was in the caves dug in the soft rock of the
ledge, for of those who came to the novel refuge there was, for a season,
none who could sleep in the bright light from the never-waning flames.
There came a time, though, when, in midsummer, Ab grumbled at the heat
within his cave and he and Lightfoot built for themselves an outside
refuge, made of a bark-covered "lean-to" of long branches propped against
the rock. Thus was the first house made. The habitation proved so
comfortable that others in the valley imitated it and soon there was a
hive of similar huts along the foot of the overhanging precipice. When
the short, sharp winter came, all did not seek their caves again, but the
huts were made warmer by the addition to their walls of bark and skins,
and cave dwelling in the valley was finally abandoned. There was one
exception. Old Mok would not leave his warm retreat, and, as long as he
lived, his rock burrow was his home.

There came also, as recruits, young men, friends of the young men of the
valley, and the band waxed and waned, for nothing could at once change
the roving and independent habits of the cave men. But there came
children to the mothers, the broad Moonface being especially to the fore
in this regard, and a fine group of youngsters played and straggled up
and down the creek and fought valiantly together, as cave children
should. The heads of families were friendly, though independent. Usually
they lived each without any reference to anyone else, but when a great
hunt was on, or any emergency called, the band came together and fought,
for the time, under Ab's tacitly admitted leadership. And the young men
brought wives from the country round.

The area of improvement widened. Around the Fire Village the zone of
safety spread. The roar of the great cave tiger was less often heard
within miles of the flaming torches of the valley so inhabited. There
grew into existence something almost like a system of traffic, for, from
distant parts, hitherto unknown, came other cave men, bringing skins, or
flints, or tusks for carving, which they were eager to exchange for the
new weapon and for instruction in its uses. Ab was the first chieftain,
the first to draw about him a clan of followers. The cave men were taking
their first lesson in a slight, half unconfessed obedience, that first
essential of community life where there is yet no law, not even the
unwritten law of custom.

Running in and out among the children, sometimes pummeled by them, were a
score or two of gray, four-footed, bone-awaiting creatures, who, though
as yet uncounted in such relation, were destined to furnish a factor in
man's advancement. They were wolves and yet no longer wolves. They had
learned to cling to man, but were not yet intelligent enough or taught
enough to aid him in his hunting. They were the dogs of the future, the
four-footed things destined to become the closest friends of men of
future ages, the descendants of the four cubs Ab and Oak had taken from
the dens so many years before.

It was humanizing for the children, this association of such a number
together, though they ran only a little less wildly than those who had
heretofore been born in the isolated caves. There came more of an average
of intelligence among them, thus associated, though but little more
attention was paid them than the cave men had afforded offspring in the
past. There had come to Ab after Little Mok two strong sons, Reindeer and
Sure-Aim, very much like him in his youth, but of them, until they
reached the age of help and hunting, he saw little. Lightfoot regarded
them far more closely, for, despite the many duties which had come upon
her, there never disappeared the mother's tenderness and watchfulness.
And so it was with Moonface, whose brood was so great, and who was like a
noisy hen with chickens. So existed the hovering mother instinct with all
the women of the valley, though then the mothers fished and hunted and
had stirring events to distract them from domesticity and close affection
almost as much as had the men.

From this oddly formed community came a difference in certain ways of
doing certain things, which changed man's status, which made a revolution
second only to that made by the bow and for which even men of thought
have not accounted as they should have done, with the illustration before
them in our own times of what has followed so swiftly the use of steam
and, later, of electricity. Men write of and wonder at the strange gap
between what are called the Paleolithic and the Neolithic ages, that is,
between the ages when the spearheads and ax and arrowheads were of stone
chipped roughly into shape, and the age of stone even-edged and smoothly
polished. There was really no gap worth speaking of. The Paleolithic age
changed as suddenly into the Neolithic as the age of horse power changed
into that of steam and electricity, allowance being always made for the
slower transmission of a new intelligence in the days when men lived
alone and when a hundred years in the diffusion of knowledge was as a
year to-day.

One day Ab went into Old Mok's cave grumbling. "I shot an arrow into a
great deer," he said, "and I was close and shot it with all my force, but
the beast ran before it fell and we had far to carry the meat. I tore the
arrow from him and the blood upon the shaft showed that it had not gone
half way in. I looked at the arrow and there was a jagged point uprising
from its side. How can a man drive deeply an arrow which is so rough? Are
you getting too old to make good spears and arrows, Mok?" And the man
fumed a little. Old Mok made no reply, but he thought long and deeply
after Ab had left the cave. Certainly Ab must have good arrows! Was there
any way of bettering them? And, the next day, the crippled old man might
have been seen looking for something beside the creek where it found its
exit from the valley. There were stones ground into smoothness tossed up
along the shore and the old man studied them most carefully. Many times
he had bent over a stream, watching, thinking, but this time he acted. He
noted a small sandstone block against which were rasping stones of harder
texture, and he picked this from the tumbling current and carried it to
his cave. Then, pouring a little water upon a depression in the stone's
face, he selected his best big arrowhead and began rubbing it upon the
wet sandstone. It was a weary work, for flint and sandstone are different
things and flint is much the harder, but there came a slow result.
Smoother and smoother became the chipped arrowhead, and two days
later--for all the waking hours of two days were required in the weary
grinding--Old Mok gave to Ab an arrow as smooth of surface and keen of
edge as ever flew from bow while stone was used. And not many years
passed--as years are counted in old history--before the smoothed stone
weaponhead became the common property of cave men. The time of chipped
stone had ended and that of smoothed stone had begun. There was no space
between them to be counted now. One swiftly became the other. It was a
matter of necessity, this exhibition of enterprise and sense by the early
man in the prompt general utilization of a new discovery. And not alone
in the improvements in means which came when men of the hunting type were
so gathered in a community were the bow and the smoothed implements,
though these were the greatest of the discoveries of the epoch. The
fishermen who went to the river were not content with the raft-like
devices of the aquatic Shell People and learned, in time, that hollowed
logs would float and that, with the aid of fire and flint axes, a great
log could be hollowed. And never a Phoenician ship-builder, never a
Fulton of the steamer, never a modern designer of great yachts, stood
higher in the estimation of his fellows than stood the expert in the
making of the rude boats, as uncouth in appearance as the river-horse
which sometimes upset them, but from which men could, at least, let down
their lines or dart their spears to secure the fish in the teeming
waters. And the fishermen had better spears and hooks now, for comparison
was necessarily always made among devices, and bone barbs and hooks were
whittled out from which the fish no longer often floundered. There came,
in time, the making of rude nets, plaited simply from the tough marsh
grasses, but they served the purpose and lessened somewhat the gravity of
the great food question.



One day, at noon, a man burst, panting, through the wide open entrance to
the Fire Valley. His coat of skin was rent and hung awry and, as all
could see when he staggered down the pathway, the flesh was torn from one
cheek and arm, and down his leg on one side was the stain of dried blood.
He was exhausted from his hurt and his run and his talk was, at first,
almost unmeaning. He was met by some of the older and wiser among those
who saw him coming and to their questions answered only by demanding Ab,
who came at once. The hard-breathing and wounded man could only utter the
words "Big tiger," when he pitched forward and became unconscious. But
his words had been enough. Well understood was it by all who listened
what a raid of the cave tiger meant, and there was a running to the
gateway and soon was raised the wall of ready stone, upbuilt so high that
even the leaping monster could not hope to reach its summit. Later the
story of the wounded, but now conscious and refreshed runner, was told
with more of detail and coherence.

The messenger brought out what he had to tell gaspingly. He had lost much
blood and was faint, but he told how there had taken place something
awful in the village of the Shell Men. It was but little after dusk the
night before when the Shell Men were gathered together in merrymaking
after good fishing and lucky gathering of what there was to eat along the
shores of the shell fish and the egg-laying turtles and the capture of a
huge river-horse. It had been, up to midnight, one of the greatest and
most joyous meetings the Shell People had joined in for many years. They
were close-gathered and prosperous and content, and though there was
daily turmoil and risk of death upon the water and sometimes as great
risk upon the land, yet the village fringing the waters had grown, and
the midden--the "kitchen-midden" of future ages--had raised itself
steadily and now stretched far up and down the creek which was a river
branch and far backward from the creek toward the forest which ended with
the uplands. They had learned to dread the forest little, the water
people, but from the forest now came what made for each in all the
village a dread and horror. The cave tiger had been among them!

The Shell People had gathered together upon the sward fronting their line
of shallow caves and one of them, the story-teller and singer, was
chanting aloud of the river-horse and the great spoil which was theirs,
when there was a hungry roar and the yell or shriek of all, men or women
not too stricken by fear to be unable to utter sound, and then the leap
into their midst of the cave tiger! Perhaps the story-teller's chant had
called the monster's attention to him, perhaps his attitude attracted it;
whatever may have been the influence, the tiger seized the singer and
leaped lightly into the open beyond the caves and, as lightly, with long
bounds, into the blackness of the forest beyond.

There was a moment of awe and horror and then the spirit of the brave
Shell Men asserted itself. There was grasping of weapons and an
outpouring in pursuit of the devourer. Easy to follow was the trail, for
a monster beast carrying a man cannot drop lightly in his leaps. There
was a brief mile or two traversed, though hours were consumed in the
search, and then, as morn was breaking, the seekers came upon what was
left of the singer. It was not much and it lay across the forest pathway,
for the cave tiger did not deign to hide his prey. There came a half
moaning growl from the forest. That growl meant lurking death. Then the
seekers fled. There was consultation and a resolve to ask for help. So
the runner, the man stricken down by a casual stroke in the tiger's rush,
but bravest among his tribe, had come to the Fire Valley.

To the panting stranger Ab had not much to say. He saw to it that the man
was refreshed and cared for and that the deep scars along his side were
dressed after the cave man's fashion. But through the night which
followed the great cave leader pondered deeply. Why should men thus live
and dread the cave tiger? Surely men were wiser than any beast! This one
monster must, anyhow, be slain!

But little it mattered to all surrounding nature that the strong man in
the Fire Valley had resolved upon the death of the cave tiger. The tiger
was yet alive! There was a difference in the pulse of all the woodland.
There was a hush throughout the forest. The word, somehow, went to every
nerve of all the world of beasts, "Sabre-Tooth is here!" Even the huge
cave bear shuffled aside as there came to him the scent of the invader.
The aurochs and the urus, the towering elk, the reindeer and the lesser
horned and antlered things fled wildly as the tainted air brought to them
the tale of impending murder. Only the huge rhinoceros and mammoth stood
their ground, and even these were terror-stricken with regard for their
guarded young whenever the tiger neared them. The rhinoceros stood then,
fierce-fronted and dangerous, its offspring hovering by its flanks, and
the mammoths gathered in a ring encircling their calves and presenting an
outward range of tusks to meet the hovering devourer. The dread was all
about. The forest became seemingly nearly lifeless. There was less
barking and yelping, less reckless playfulness of wild creatures, less
rustling of the leaves and pattering along the forest paths. There was
fear and quiet, for Sabre-Tooth had come!

The runner, refreshed and strengthened by food and sleep, appeared before
Ab in the morning and told his story more in detail and got in return the
short answer: "We will go with you and help you and your people. Tigers
must be killed!"

Rarely before had man gone out voluntarily to hunt the great cave tiger.
He had, sometimes in awful strait, defended himself against the monster
as best he could, but to seek the encounter where the odds were so great
against him was an ugly task. Now the man-slayer was to be the pursued
instead of the pursuer. It required courage. The vengeful wounded man
looked upon Ab with a grim, admiring regard. "You fear not?" he said.

There was bustling in the valley and soon a stalwart dozen men were armed
with bow and spear and the journey was taken up toward the Shell Men's
home. The village was reached at mid-day and as the little troop emerged
from the forest the death wail fell upon their ears. "The tiger has come
again!" exclaimed the runner.

It was true. The tiger had come again! Once more with his stunning roar
he had swept through the village and had taken another victim, a woman,
the wife of one of the head men. Too benumbed by fear, this time, to act
at once, the Shell Men had not pursued the great brute into the darkness.
They had but ventured out in the morning and followed the trail and found
that the tiger had carried the woman in very nearly the same direction as
he had borne the man and that what remained from his gorging of the night
lay where his earlier feast had been. It was the first tragedy almost

The little group of Fire Valley folk entered the village and were
received with shouts from the men, while from the throats of the women
still rose the death wail. There were more people about the huts than Ab
had ever seen there and he recognized at once among the group many of the
cave men from the East, strong people of his own kind. As the wounded
runner had gone to the Fire Valley, so another had been sent to the East,
to call upon another group for aid, and the Eastern cave people, under
the leadership of a huge, swarthy man called Boarface, had come to learn
what the strait was and to decide upon what degree of help they could
afford to give. Between these Eastern and the Western cave men there was
a certain coldness. There was no open enmity, though at some time in the
past there had been family battles and memories of feuds were still
existent. But Ab and Boarface met genially and there was not a trace of
difference now. Boarface joined readily in the council which was held and
decided that he would aid in the desperate hunt, and certainly his aid
was not to be despised when his followers were looked upon. They were a
stalwart lot.

The way was taken by the gathered fighting men toward where, across the
forest path, lay part of a woman. As the place was neared the band
gathered close together and there were outpointing spears, just as the
mammoths' tusks outpointed when the beasts guarded their young from the
thing now hunted. But there came no attack and no sound from the forest.
The tiger must be sleeping. Beneath a huge tree bordering the pathway lay
what remained of the woman's body. Fifty feet above, and almost directly
over this dreadful remnant of humanity, shot out a branch as thick as a
man's body. There was consultation among the hunters and in this Ab took
the lead, while Boarface and the Shell Men who had come to help assented
readily. No need existed for the risk of an open fight with this great
beast. Craft must be used and Ab gave forth his swift commands.

The Fire Valley leader had seen to it that his company had brought what
he needed in his effort to kill the tiger. There were two great tanned,
tough urus hides. There were lengths of rhinoceros hide, cut thickly,
which would endure a strain of more than the weight of ten brawny men.
There was one spear, with a shaft of ash wood at least fifteen feet in
length and as thick as a man's wrist. Its head was a blade of hardest
flint, but the spear was too heavy for a man's hurling. It had been made
for another use.

There was little hesitation in what was done, for Ab knew well the
quality of the work he had in hand. He unfolded his plan briefly and then
he himself climbed to the treetop and out upon the limb, carrying with
him the knotted strip of rhinoceros hide. In the pouch of his skin
garment were pebbles. He reached a place on the big limb overhanging the
path and dropped a pebble. It struck the earth a yard or two away from
what remained of the woman's body and he shouted to those below to drag
the mangled body to the spot where the pebble had hit the earth. They
were about to do so when from the forest on one side of the path came a
roar, so appalling in every way that there was no thought of anything
among most of the workers save of sudden flight. The tiger was in the
wood and very near and a scent had reached him. There was a flight which
left upon the ground beneath the tree branches only old Hilltop and the
rough Boarface and some dozen sturdy followers, these about equally
divided between the East and the West men of the hills. There was swift
and sharp work then.

The tiger might come at any moment, and that meant death to one at least.
But those who remained were brave men and they had come far to encompass
this tiger's ending. They dragged what remained of the tiger's prey to
where the pebble had hit the earth. Ab, clinging and raging aloft, afar
out upon the limb, shouted to Hilltop to bring him the spear and the urus
skins, and soon the sturdy old man was beside him. Then, about two deep
notches in the huge shaft, thongs were soon tied strongly, and just below
its middle were attached the bag-shaped urus skins. Near its end the
rhinoceros thong was knotted and then it was left hanging from the limb
supported by this strong rope, while, three-fourths of the way down its
length, dangled on each side the two empty bags of hide. Short orders
were given, and, directed by Boarface, one man after another climbed the
tree, each with a weight of stones carried in his pouch, and each
delivering his load to old Hilltop, who, lying well out upon the limb,
passed the stones to Ab, who placed them in the skin pouches on either
side the suspended and threatening spear. The big skin pouches on either
side were filling rapidly, when there came from the forest another roar,
nearer and more appalling than before, and some of the workers below fled
panic-stricken. Ab shouted and frothed and foamed as the men ran. Old
Hilltop slid down the tree, ax in hand, followed by the dark Boarface,
and one or two of the men below were captured and made to work again.
Soon all the work which Ab had in mind was done. Above the path, just
over what remained of the woman, hung the great spear, weighted with half
a thousand pounds of stone and sure to reach its mark should the tiger
seek its prey again. The branch was broad and the line of rhinoceros skin
taut, and Ab's flint knife was keen of edge. Only courage and calmness
were needed in the dread presence of the monster of the time. Neither the
swarthy Boarface nor the gaunt Hilltop wanted to leave him, but Ab forced
them away.

Not long to wait had the cave man, but the men who had been with him were
already distant. The shadows were growing long now, but the light was
still from the sunshine of the early afternoon. The man lying along the
limb, knife in hand, could hear no sound save the soft swish of leaves
against each other as the breeze of later day pushed its way through the
forest, or the alarmed cries of knowing birds who saw on the ground
beneath them a huge thing slip along with scarce a sound from the impact
of his fearfully clawed but padded feet as he sought the meal he had
prepared for himself. The great beast was approaching. The great man
aloft was waiting.

Into the open along the path came the tiger, and Ab, gripping the limb
more firmly, looked down upon the thing so closely and in daylight for
the first time in his life. Ab was certainly brave, and he was calm and
wise and thinking beyond his time, but when he saw plainly this beast
which had slipped so easily and silently from the forest, safe though he
was upon his perch, he was more than startled. The thing was so huge and
with an aspect so terrible to look upon!

The great cat's head moved slowly from side to side; the baleful eyes
blazed up and down the pathway and the tawny muzzle was lifted to catch
what burden there might be on the air. The beast seemed satisfied,
emerging fairly into the sunlight. Immense of size but with the graceful
lankness of the tigers of to-day, Sabre-Tooth somewhat resembled them,
though, beside him, the largest inmate of the Indian jungle would appear
but puny. The creature Ab looked upon that day so long ago was beautiful,
in his way. He was beautiful as is the peacock or the banded rattlesnake.
There were color contrasts and fine blendings. The stripes upon him were
wonderfully rich, and as he came creeping toward the body, he was as
splendid as he was dreadful.

With every nerve strained, but with his first impulse of something like
terror gone, Ab watched the devourer beneath him while his sharp flint
knife, hard gripped, bore lightly against the taut rhinoceros-hide rope.
The tiger began his ghastly meal but was not quite beneath the suspended
spear. Then came some distant sound in the forest and he raised his head
and shifted his position.


He was fairly under the spear now. The knife pressed firmly against the
rawhide was drawn back and forth noiselessly but with effectiveness.
Suddenly the last tissue parted and the enormously weighted spear fell
like a lightning-stroke. The broad flint head struck the tiger fairly
between the shoulders, and, impelled by such a weight, passed through his
huge body as if it had met no obstacle. Upon the strong shaft of ash the
monster was impaled. There echoed and reechoed through the forest a roar
so fearful that even the hunters whom Ab had sent far away from the scene
of the tragedy clambered to the trees for refuge. The struggles of the
pierced brute were tremendous beyond description, but no strength could
avail it now; it had received its death wound and soon the great tiger
lay still, as harmless as the squirrel, frightened and hidden in his
nest. In wild triumph Ab slid to the ground and then the long cry to
summon his party went echoing through the wood. When the others found him
he had withdrawn the spear and was already engaged, flint knife in hand,
in stripping from the huge body the glorious robe it wore.

There was excitement and rejoicing. The terror had been slain! The Shell
People were frantic in their exultation. Meanwhile Ab had called upon his
own people to assist him and the wonderful skin of the tiger was soon
stretched out upon the ground, a glorious possession for a cave man.

"I will have half of it," declared Boarface, and he and Ab faced each
other menacingly. "It shall not be cut," was the fierce retort. "It is
mine. I killed the tiger!"

Strong hands gripped stone axes and there was chance of deadly fray then
and there, but the Shell People interfered and the Shell People excelled
in number, and were a potent influence for peace. Ab carried away the
splendid trophy, but as Boarface and his men departed, there were black
faces and threatening words.



Among all the children of Ab--and remarkable it was for the age--the best
loved was Little Mok, the eldest son. When the child, strong and joyous,
was scarcely two years old, he fell from a ledge off the cliff where he
had climbed to play, and both his legs were broken. Strange to say he
survived the accident in that time when the law of the survival of the
fittest was almost invariable in its sternest and most purely physical
demonstration. The mother love of Lightfoot warded off the last pitiless
blow of nature, although the child, a hopeless cripple, never after
walked. The name Little Mok was naturally given him, and before long the
child had won the heart, as well as the name, of the limping old maker of
axes, spearheads and arrows.

The closer ties of family life, as we know them now, existed but in their
outlines to the cave man. The man and woman were faithful to each other
with the fidelity of the higher animals and their children were cared for
with rough tenderness in their infancy. The time of absolute dependence
was made very short, though, and children very early were required to
find some of their own food, and taught by necessity to protect
themselves. But Little Mok, unable to take up for himself the burden of
an independent existence, was not slain nor left to die of neglect as
might have been another child thus crippled in the time in which he
lived. He, once spared, grew into the wild hearts of those closest to him
and became the guarded and cherished one of the rude home of Ab and
Lightfoot, and to him was thus given the continuous love and care which
the strong-limbed boys and girls of the family lost and never missed.

It was a strange thing for the time. The child had qualities other than
the negative ones of helplessness and weakness with which to bind to him
the hearts of those around him, but the primary fact of his entire
dependence upon them was what made him the center of the little circle of
untaught, untamed cave people who lived in the Fire Valley. He may have
been the first child ever so cherished from such impulse.

From his mother the child inherited a joyous disposition which nothing
could subdue. Often on the return home from some little expedition on
which it had been practicable to take him, sitting on Lightfoot's
shoulder, or on the still stronger arm of old One-Ear, his silent,
somewhat brooding grandfather, the little brown boy made the woods ring
with shrill bird calls, or the mimicry of animals, and ever his laughter
filled the spaces in between these sounds. Other children flocked around
the merry youngster, seeking to emulate his play of voice and the
oldsters smiled as they saw and heard the joyous confusion about the tiny
reveler. The excursions to the river were Little Mok's chief delight from
his early childhood. He entered into the preparations for them with a
zest and keen enjoyment born of the presence of an adventurous spirit in
a maimed body, and when the fishing party left the Fire Camp it was
incomplete if Little Mok was not carried lightly at the van, the life and
joy of the occasion.

No one ever forgot the day when Little Mok, then about six years old,
caught his first fish. His joy and pride infected all as he exhibited his
prize and boasted of what he would catch in the river next, and when, on
the return, Old Mok saluted him as the "Great Fisherman," the elf's
elation became too great for any expression. His little chest heaved, his
eyes flashed, and then he wriggled from Lightfoot's arms into the lap of
Old Mok, snuggled down into the old man's furs and hid his face there;
and the two understood each other.

It was soon after this great event of the first fish-catching that
Red-Spot, Ab's mother, died. She had never quite adapted herself to the
new life in the Fire Valley, and after a time she began to grow old very
fast. At last a fever attacked her and the end of her patient, busy life
came. After her death One-Ear was much in Old Mok's cave, the two had so
long been friends. There with them the crippled boy was often to be
found. He was not always gay and joyous. Sometimes he lay for days on his
bed of leaves at home, in weakness and pain, silent and unlike himself.
Then when Lightfoot's care had given him back a little strength, he would
beg to be taken to Old Mok's cave. There he could sleep, he said, away
from the noise and the lights of the outside world, and finally he
claimed and was allowed a nest of his own in the warmest and darkest nook
of Old Mok's den, where he slept every night, and sometimes a good part
of the day, when one of his times of pain and weakness was upon him. Here
during many a long hour of work, experiment and argument, the wide eyes
and quick ears of Little Mok saw and heard, while Ab, Mok and One-Ear
bent over their work at arrowhead or spear point, and talked of what
might be done to improve the weapons upon which so much depended. Here,
when no one else remained in the weary darkness of night and the half
light of stormy days Old Mok beguiled the time with stories, and
sometimes in a hoarse voice even attempted to chant to his little hearer
snatches of the wild singing tales of the Shell People, for the Shell
People had a sort of story song.

Once, when Lightfoot sat by Old Mok's fire, she told them of the time
when she and Ab found themselves outside their cave, unarmed, with a bear
to be eaten through before they could get into their door, and Little Mok
surprised his mother and Old Mok by an outburst of laughter at the tale.
He had a glimmering of humor, and saw the droll side of the adventure, a
view which had not occurred to Lightfoot, nor to Ab. The little lad, of
the world, yet not in it, saw vaguely the surprises, lights and shades
and contrasts of existence, and sometimes they made him laugh. The laugh
of the cave man was not a common event, and when it came was likely to be
sober and sardonic, at least it was so when not simply an evidence of
rude health and high animal spirits. Humor is one of the latest, as it is
one of the most precious, grains shaken out of Time's hour-glass, but
Little Mok somehow caught a tiny bit of the rainbow gift, long before its
time in the world, and soon, with him, it was to disappear for centuries
to come.

One day when Little Mok was brought back from an expedition to the river,
he told Old Mok how he had sat long on the bank, too tired to fish, and
had just rested and feasted his eyes on the wood, the stream, the small
darting creatures in it, the birds, and the animals which came to drink.
Describing a herd of reindeer which had passed near him, Little Mok took
up a piece of Old Mok's red chalkstone and on the wall of the cave drew a
picture of the animal. The veteran stared in surprise. The picture was
wonderfully life-like in grasp and detail. The child owned that great
gift, the memory of sight, and his hand was cunning. Encouraged by his
success, the boy drew on, delighting Old Mok with his singular fidelity
and skill. Then came hours and days of sketching and etching in the old
man's cave. The master was delighted. He brought out from their hiding
places his choicest pieces of mammoth tusk or teeth of the river-horse
for Little Mok's etchings and carvings. And, as time passed, the young
artist excelled the old one, and became the pride and boast of his friend
and teacher. Sometimes the little lad would work far into the night, for
he could not pause when he had begun a thing until it was complete--but
then he would sleep in his warm nest until noon the next day, crawling
out to cook a bit of meat for himself at the nearest fire, or sharing Old
Mok's meal, as was more convenient.

While everything else in the Fire Valley was growing, developing and
flourishing, Little Mok's frail body had ever grown but slowly, and about
the beginning of his twelfth year there appeared a change in him. He
became permanently weak and grew more and more helpless day by day. His
cherished excursions to the river, even his little journeys on old
One-Ear's strong arm to the cliff top, from whence he could see the whole
world at once, had all to be abandoned.

When the winter snows began to whirl in the air Little Mok was lying
quietly on his bed, his great eyes looking wistfully up at Lightfoot, who
in vain taxed her limited skill and resources to tempt him to eat and
become more sturdy. She hovered over him like a distressed mother bird
over its youngling fallen from the nest, but, with all her efforts, she
could not bring back even his usual slight measure of health and strength
to the poor Little Mok. Ab came sometimes and looked sadly at the two and
then walked moodily away, a great weight on his breast. Old Mok was
always at work, and yet always ready to give Little Mok water or turn his
weary little frame on its rude bed, or spread the furs over the wasted
body, and always Lightfoot waited and hoped and feared.

And at last Little Mok died, and was buried under the stones, and the
snow fell over the lonely cairn under the fir trees outside the Fire
Valley where his grave was made.

Lightfoot was silent and sad, and could not smile nor laugh any more. She
longed for Little Mok, and did not eat or sleep. One night Ab, trying to
comfort her, said, "You will see him again."

"What do you mean?" cried Lightfoot. And Ab only answered, "You will see
him; he will come at night. Go to sleep, and you will see him."

But Lightfoot could not sleep yet and for many a night her eyes closed
only when extreme fatigue compelled sleep toward the morning.

And at last, after many days and nights, Lightfoot, when asleep, saw
Little Mok. Just as in life, she saw him, with all his familiar looks and
motions. But he did not stay long. And again and again she saw him, and
it comforted her somewhat because he smiled. There had come to her such a
heartache about him, lying out there under the snow and stones, with no
one to care for him, that the smile warmed her heavy heart and she told
Ab that she had seen Little Mok, only whispering it to him--for it was
not well, she knew, to talk about such things--and she whispered to Ab,
too, her anguish that Little Mok only came at night, and never when it
was day, but she did not complain. She only said: "I want to see him in
the daytime."

And Ab could think of nothing to say. But that made him think more and
more. He felt drawn closer to Lightfoot, his wife, no longer a young
girl, but the mother of Little Mok, who was dead, and of all his

In his mind arose, vaguely obscure, yet persistent, the idea that brute
strength and vigor, keen senses and reckless bravery were not, after all,
the sole qualities that make and influence men. Old Mok, crippled and
disabled for the hunt and defense, was nevertheless a power not to be
despised, and Little Mok, the helpless child, had been still strong
enough to win and keep the love of all the stalwart and rough cave
people. Ab was sorry for Lightfoot. When in the spring the forlorn mother
held in her arms a baby girl a little brightness came into her eyes
again, and Ab, seeing this, was glad, but neither Ab nor Lightfoot ever
forgot their eldest and dearest, Little Mok.



While Ab had been occupied by home affairs trouble for him and his people
had been brewing. By no means unknown to each other before the tiger hunt
were Ab and Boarface. They had hunted together and once Boarface, with
half a dozen companions, had visited the Fire Valley and had noted its
many attractions and advantages. Now Boarface had gone away angry and
muttering, and he was not a man to be thought of lightly. His rage over
the memory of Ab's trophy did not decrease with the return to his own
region. Why should this cave man of the West have sole possession of that
valley, which was warm and green throughout the winter and where the wild
beasts could not enter? Why had he, this Ab, been allowed to go away with
all the tiger's skin? Brooding enlarged into resolve and Boarface
gathered together his relations and adherents. "Let us go and take the
Fire Valley of Ab," he said to them, and, gradually, though objections
were made to the undertaking of an enterprise so fraught with danger, the
listeners were persuaded.

"There are other fires far down the river," said one old man. "Let us go
there, if it is fire we most need, and so we will not disturb nor anger
Ab, who has lived in his valley for many years. Why battle with Ab and
all his people?"

But Boarface laughed aloud: "There are many other earth fires," he said.
"I know them well, but there is no other fire which chances to make a
flaming fence about a valley close to the great rocks, and which has
water within the space it surrounds and which makes a wall against all
the wild beasts. We will fight and win the valley of Ab."

And so they were led into the venture. They sought, too, the aid of the
Shell People in this raid, but were not successful. The Shell People were
not unfriendly to those of the Fire Valley, and had not Ab been really
the one to kill the tiger? Besides, it was not wise for the waterside
dwellers to engage in any controversy between the forest factions, for
the hill people had memories and heavy axes. A few of the younger and
more adventurous joined the force of Boarface, but the alliance had no
tribal sanction. Still, the force of the swarthy leader of the Eastern
cave men was by no means insignificant. It contained good fighting men,
and, when runners had gone far and wide in the Eastern country, there
were gathered nearly ten score of hunters who could throw the spear or
wield the ax and who were not fearful of their lives. The band led by
Boarface started for the Fire Country, intending to surprise the people
in the valley. They moved swiftly, but not so swiftly as a fleet young
man from the Shell People who preceded them. He was sent by the elders a
day before the time fixed for the assault, and so Ab learned all about
the intended raid. Then went forth runners from the valley; then the
matron Lightfoot's eyes became fiery, since Ab was threatened; then old
Hilltop looked carefully over his spears, and poised thoughtfully his
great stone ax; then Moonface smote her children and gathered together
certain weapons, and then Old Mok went into his cave and stayed there,
working at none knew what.

They came from all about, the Western cave men, for never in the valley
had food or shelter been refused to any and the Eastern cave men were not
loved. Many a quarrel over game had taken place between the raging
hunters of the different tribes, and many a bloody single-handed
encounter had come in the depths of the forest. The band was not a large
one, the Eastern men being far more numerous, but the outlook was not as
fine as it might be for the advancing Boarface. The force assembled
inside the valley was, in point of numbers, but little more than half his
own, but it was entrenched and well-armed, and there were those among the
defenders whom it was not well to meet in fight. But Boarface was
confident and was not dismayed when his force crept into the open only to
find the ordinary valley entrance barred and all preparations made for
giving him a welcome of the warmer sort. There was what could not be
thoroughly barricaded in so brief a time, the entrance where the brook
issued at the west. This pass must be forced, for the straight, uprising
wall between the flames and across the opening to the north was something
relatively unassailable. It was too narrow and too high and sheer and
there were too many holes in the wall through which could be sent those
piercing arrows which the Western cave men knew how to use so well. The
battle must be up along the bed of the little creek. The water was low at
this season, so low that a man might wade easily anywhere, and there had
been erected only a slight barrier, enough to keep wild beasts away, for
Ab had never thought of invasion by human beings. The creek tumbled
downward, through passages, between straight-sided, ruggedly built stone
heaps, with spaces between wide enough to admit a man, but not any great
beast of prey. There was no place where, by a man, the wall could not
easily be mounted and, above, there was no really good place of vantage
for the defenders.

So the invading force, concealment of action being no longer necessary,
ranged themselves along the banks of the creek to the west of the valley
and prepared for a rush. They had certain chances in their favor. They
were strong men, who knew how to use their weapons well, and they were in
numbers almost as two to one. Meanwhile, inside the valley, where the
approach and plans of the enemy had been seen and understood, there had
gone on swiftly, under Ab's stern direction, such preparation for the
fray as seemed most adequate with the means at hand.

The great advantage possessed was that the defenders, on firm footing
themselves, could meet men climbing, and so, a little further up the
creek than the beast-opposing wall, had been thrown up what was little
more than a rude platform of rock, wide and with a broad expanse of top,
on which all the valley's force might cluster in an emergency. Upon this
the people were to gather, defending the first pass, if they could, by
flights of spears and arrows and here, at the end, to win or lose. This
was the general preparation for the onslaught, but there had been
precautions taken more personal and more involving the course of the most
important of the people of the valley.

At the left of the gorge, where must come the invaders, the rock rose
sheerly and at one place extended outward a shelf, high up, but reached
easily from the Fire Valley side. There were consultations between Ab and
the angry and anxious and almost tearful Lightfoot. That charming lady,
now easily the best archer of the tribe, had developed at once into a
fighting creature and now demanded that her place be assigned to her.
With her own bow, and with arrows in quantity, it was decided that she
should occupy the ledge and do all she could. Upon the ledge was
comparative safety in the fray, and Ab directed that she should go there.
Old Hilltop said but little. It was understood, almost as a matter of
course, that he would be upon the barrier and there face, with Ab, the
greatest issue. The old man was by no means unsatisfactory to look upon
as he moved silently about and got ready the weapons he might have to
use. Gaunt, strong-muscled and resolute, he was worthy of admiration.
Ever following him with her eyes, when not engaged in the chastisement of
one of her swart brood, was Moonface, for Moonface had long since learned
to regard her grizzled lord with love as well as much respect.

There were other good fighting men and other women beside these mentioned
who would do their best, but these few were the dominant figures.
Meanwhile, Boarface and his strong band had decided upon their plan of
attack and would soon rush up the bed of the shallow stream with all the
bravery and ferocity of those who were accustomed to face death lightly
and to seize that which they wanted.

The invaders came clambering up the creek's course, openly and with
menacing and defiant shouts, for any concealment was now out of the
question. They had but few bows and could, under the conditions, send no
arrow flight which would be of avail, but they had thews and sinews and
spears and axes. As they came with such rush as men might make up a
tumbling waterway with slipping pebbles beneath the feet and forced
themselves one by one between the heaped stone piles and fairly in front
of the barrier there was a discharge of arrows and more than one man,
impaled by a stone-headed shaft, fell, to dabble feebly in the water, and
did not rise again. But there came a time in the fight when the bow must
be abandoned.

The assault was good and the demeanor of the men behind the barrier was
good as well. Not more gallant was one group than the other for there
were splendid fighters in both ranks. The boasted short sword of the
Romans, in times effeminate, as compared with these, afforded not in its
wielding a greater test of personal courage than the handling of the
flint-headed spear or the stone knife or chipped ax. There, all along the
barrier, was the real grappling of man and man, with further existence as
the issue.

The invaders, losing many of their number, for arrows flew steadily and a
mass so large could not easily be missed even by the most bungling of
those strong archers, swept upward to the barrier and then was a
muscular, deadly tumult worth the seeing. To the south and nearest the
side where Lightfoot was perched with her bow and great bunch of arrows
Ab stood in front, while to his right and near the other end of the rude
stone rampart was stationed old Hilltop, and he hurled his spears and
slew men as they came. The fight became simply a death struggle, with the
advantage of position upon one side and of numbers on the other. And Ab
and Boarface were each seeking the other.

So the struggle lasted for a long half hour, and when it ended there were
dead and dying men upon the barrier, while the waters of the creek were
reddened by the blood of the slain assailants. The assault now ebbed a
little. Neither Ab nor Hilltop had been injured in the struggle. As the
invaders pressed close Ab had noted the whish of an arrow now and then
and the hurt to one pressing him closely, and old Hilltop had heard the
wild cries of a woman who hovered in his rear and hurled stones in the
faces of those who strove to reach him. And now there came a lull.

Boarface had recognized the futility of scaling, under such conditions, a
steep so well defended and had thought of a better way to gain his end
and crush Ab and his people. He had heard the story of Ab's first advent
into the valley when, chased by the wolves, he leaped through the flame,
and there came an inspiration to him! What one man had done others could
do, and, with picked warriors of his band, he made a swift detour, while,
at the same time, the main body rushed desperately upon the barrier

What had been good fighting before was better now. Lives were lost, and
soon all arrows were spent and all spears thrown, and then came but the
dull clashing of stone axes. Ab raged up and down, and, ever in the
front, faced the oncoming foe and slew as could slay the strong and
utterly desperate. More than once his life was but a toy of chance as men
sprang toward him, two or three together, but ever at such moment there
sang an arrow by his head and one of his assailants, pierced in throat or
body, fell back blindly, hampering his companions, whose heads Ab's great
ax was seeking fiercely. And, all the time, nearer the northern end of
the barrier, old Hilltop fought serenely and dreadfully. There were many
dead men in the pools of the creek between the barrier and the entrance
to the valley. And about Ab ever sang the arrows from the rocky shelf.

There was wild clamor, the clash of weapons and the shouting of
battle-crazed men but there was not enough to drown the sound of a scream
which rose piercingly above the din. Ab recognized the voice of Lightfoot
and raised his eyes to see the woman, regardless of her own safety,


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