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Title: A Woman of the Ice Age
Author: Gratacap, L. P. (Louis Pope)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A WOMAN OF THE ICE AGE



  A WOMAN OF THE
  ICE AGE

  BY

  L. P. GRATACAP

  Author of “The Certainty of a
  Future Life in Mars.”

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  BRENTANO’S
  1906


  Copyright, 1906, by
  L. P. GRATACAP



[Illustration]


A WOMAN OF THE ICE AGE



APOLOGY


The _Prehistoric Man_ needs rehabilitation. At least it can be urged
that there are possible phases of the prehistoric man that can be
elevated into emotional dignity, not unworthy of romance and heroics.
It has been too commonly assumed, under the omnipresent pressure of
scientific generalizations, that the _prehistoric_ was a semi-feral
type of human animal, squalid, distorted, simian-faced, thin-thighed
and adumbrant, without speech, perchance groping his blind and
biological course upward, by some sort of evolution, into a reasoning,
talking, purposive and spiritual creature; that he was a faunal
expression simply, like a _triceratops_ in the Upper Cretaceous, or a
_mud-buffalo_ in the Philippines.

But there is some sense in claiming for him the possibilities of
dramatic action and feeling, assuring to him the restitution of poetic
feeling, religious designs, and emotional episodes. It is sensible,
for if we place the _prehistoric_ anywhere before the advent of human
annals, the length in time of his existence is so enormous that it is
inconceivable that he could not have evolved speech, and if speech
then the retinue of feelings and ideas which arise with speech, just
as speech itself is the index of a cerebral cortex that has become
elaborately modified. Let us look at this claim more closely; let us
even affectionately increase, intensify and adorn it.

This story has been written under the influence of a melodramatic
assumption, hostile, it will be said, to probability, and essentially
fanciful, chimerical and fabulous. It cannot be denied that it departs,
perhaps summarily, from the postulates of archæology, as to the life
and demeanor and mental compass, or, more particularly, emotional
resources of that necessary object who must, to relieve anthropology of
its lugubrious alarm over accepting a quicker entrance into the world
of our race, have lived in the great Prehistoric Day of Geology.

In the day which saw the passage into sedimentary records of the last
of the Tertiaries, and carried on its calendars the rise, amplitude and
disappearance of the Ice Age, in that day Man lived, and he lived all
through it, and it was a long day, measured by thousands of years. But
why must it be predicated that man could not have reached in that day
such a range of feelings as are involved in the rise and refinement of
love? It is perfectly true, as it is entirely permissible so to choose,
that this tale of the Woman of the Ice Age, has to do with the advanced
types of prehistoric man, and that thus typified the author has reason
to insist that Lhatto and Ogga are just creations.

The physical perfection of Lhatto and Ogga cannot be wisely disputed.
The _prehistoric_ is usually thought of as a half-emancipated ape,
shaggy with hair, protuberant in eye-brows and mouth, shuffling,
chattering his uncouth experiments in speech or conveying his desires
by grimaces, shrugs, gestures and contortions. But when we realize,
that however explained, evolution does not present us with abundant
intermediate forms in its processes of improvement, but rather
offers us a range of ascending steps, or positions, with the blended
connexions removed, it is quite unlikely that in the evolution of man
there was any hesitancy in passing from the monkey state to the rights
of primogeniture as God’s image.

And the prehistoric must have done so. The requirements of his life,
the need of strength and agility, of ingenuity, of muscular resources
coupled with the fruitfulness of improving forms, as from century to
century reproduction placed him farther and farther in the void and
waste of a world, inarticulate and unbridled, these things made him,
where environment was favorable, sinuous, forceful, tall, harmonious in
physique. And these things, besides putting upon the body the abiding
beauty of form, through allied avenues of change would have placed upon
his face the stamp of beauty in expression. At least with some. And of
these were Lhatto and Ogga. It is not obligatory to be too precise. The
romance bends to no sterile laws of ratiocination and logic. It may,
for an instant, supercede the harshest negations of science. It does so
in this book, but not too carelessly.

For as to environment, it cannot be too sharply noted that it adapts
and modifies its organic contents. The plant, the animal, the Man, are
bent and made according to the emotional plan it permits.

Buckle has shown how the physical features of a land have been
profoundly active in shaping the racial temperaments of the contrasted
populations of India and Greece. In India nature is dominating; the
lofty mountains, the torrential and wide rivers, the tyrannous climate,
form so severe and overpowering a restraint upon human activity
that man becomes dwarfed and insignificant. In Greece, nature, less
oppressively developed, has induced the growth of a radiant and high
and forceful type of man.

Prof. Keane has said of the Hebrew intellect that it is “less varied,
but more intense, a contrast due to the monotonous and almost
changeless environment of yellow sands, blue skies, flora and fauna
limited to a few species, and mainly confined to oases and plains,
reclaimed by irrigation from the desert, everywhere presenting
the same uniform aspect.” Prof. Gregory has also pointed out the
decisive influence of physical environment on the East African races.
He summarizes the aspects of these under the general heading of
“instability,” as the variable rainfall, earth movements, etc. He says
these “keep alive a disposition toward nomad life, alien alike to the
growth of either a fatalism like that of India, or culture like that
of Greece. All the tribes, however, cannot become nomadic. Some of
them are physically and mentally incompetent for the strains of such a
life, and must be content with servitude, or else submit to the ever
recurring raids of the more powerful tribes. The physical conditions of
the country therefore help to divide the people into two classes: one
consists of warlike, conquering nomads; the other of feebler races, who
either eke out a precarious existence on mountain summits, in forest
clearings, and on islands in the vast malarial swamp, or else live as
serfs and helots in subjection to the dominant tribes.”

The intensive influence of nature upon man is deeply hidden in the
response Man makes to his physical surroundings, which response in some
way grows from the attributes of his mind, as that he loves beauty,
that he is stimulated to action by desire, that he feels the subtlety
of contrast and color, and living wonders and natural splendor.

And that we may extract from this truth the last possible quantity of
justification, the story here places Lhatto and Ogga in the midst of
a great diversity and extension of natural features. It assumes that
long before their time man had eventuated. Not a shadow and mask and
caricature, but man in the possession of a mental character that was
responsive to all these wonders about him. It assumes that whereas men
living near or in glaciated and cold countries were still immersed in a
sort of moral hebitude; those men, as Ogga and Lhatto, who by a sudden
juxtaposition of the cold and the hot, were swayed by the contrasted
marvels of the glacier and semi-tropic forest, had felt the excitation
of their sense of beauty and wonder and worship. It assumes for them at
least a psychological stage. It assumes that such a region of contrasts
could have existed along our western coasts, where the great terminal
moraine, the limital outline of the glacier, bends northward. Here was
a southern section, warm and prolific and luxuriant, and here was a
northern section, as described in the story, lingering under the malign
torpor of ice and snow.

It assumes that the period of time chosen, when the Ice was itself
surrendering its strongholds and in stubborn despair relinquishing its
conquests, was not so far distant from the historic or semi-historic
period, not so far distant from this present period of emotional
complexity.

Nor is this last assumption unreasonable. The views as to the distance
of the Ice Age in time from our own geological day have undergone some
marked changes. It is no longer a requisite of geological orthodoxy to
place that period in a chronological perspective diminishing to a point
of time which may be sixty thousand years away.

Sir Henry H. Howorth, Prof. Bonney, Matthieu Williams, Pettersen,
Kjerulf have promulgated their views as to the necessary assumptions
of the Glacialists. Howorth, indeed, says (_Glacial Nightmare and
the Flood_) of the tremendous conception of a continental ice-sheet
sweeping over the Northern Sea from Norway into Great Britain, that
it was “the invention of Croll, who, sitting in his armchair, and
endowed with a brilliant imagination, imposed upon sober science this
extraordinary postulate.”

The recentness,--and we may here quote acceptably from the Rev. H. N.
Hutchinson--“of the Glacial period, is becoming much more generally
recognized, and many geologists failed to see how the striations,
moraines and _roches moutonnées_ could have lasted for anything like
the periods required by the Astronomical theory. One is inclined to
think that delicate striations and polishings would have been destroyed
by atmospheric influences within the space of twenty thousand years.”

Lhatto and Ogga were indeed placed at a great distance from us, but
they are not therefore utterly lost in the shadows or clouds of
antiquity, of myth and fable, or somnambulous reverie, as to be alien
to our hearts and sympathies.

Lhatto and Ogga were the heirs to a vast amount of temperamental
evolution. If they were elevated in feeling, adroit and sensitive in
thought, there had been enough time expended in developing men to
bestow upon them these virtues of the head and heart.

Has not Prof. A. H. Keane, in his authoritative Compendium of Geography
and Travel of South America, said that, “it is beyond reasonable doubt
that man had spread in _early Pleistocene_ times from his eastern
cradle to the New World, probably by two routes: from Europe by the
still persisting land connexion with Greenland and Labrador, and from
Asia by the narrow Behring Sea?”

He says “the inference seems inevitable that South America was already
in _Pleistocene_ time peopled to its utmost (?) limits by two primitive
races, that still persist in the same region”; and if South America _a
fortiori_ North America.

It is here assumed, and with reason, that Lhatto and Ogga and
Lagk talked, and Prof. Cunningham has pointed out that speech has
necessitated structural modifications in the human brain _totally
absent_ from the brain of the Anthropoid Ape, and of the speechless
microcephalic idiot.

These waifs of reconstruction dwelling in the dark backward of time,
from whom, as from others, the motions of the heart and head were
to start the wide ethnic impulses which have moved to and fro, like
luminous and refluent waves, over the sad face of savage life, these
waifs deny no natural assumptions. They lead us only into a new zone of
imaginative work, and we are bidden to weave fabrics of design which
carry on them the pictures of a lost past, when strange creatures, long
extinct, were known to men, themselves extinct, when a strange epoch
was placing its landmarks over a world, upon which the dawn of Mind had
opened, when the _Prehistoric_ somehow extricated from an inheritance
of claws and hair and carnivorous ferocity, felt the mystery of the
earth, looked with question upon the unrolled skies, and began the long
drama of human love and hate.

Let it be so. Let us not be overscrupulous in the dogmas of our
literary faith, nor too inquisitive as to the realism of a resurrected
day. Were we always too cautious, our religion--which furnishes
you, reader, with the balm and fortitude of your existence--would
decrepitate and pass away into smoke and dust.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER I.

PRELUDE.


The existence of Man in the geological period that preceded the
one we live in, in his full anthropoid reality, possessing a mind,
self conscious, radiant with powers of creation, of language, of
inquisition, has been established. Man, vested with his essential
attributes and physiologically and psychologically erect, as a peculiar
dissonant and discrete living thing lived and died in the Quarternary
Day of this Earth. The proof is incontestible. The fact is fixed to-day
in the records of scientific assertion and discovery.

Doubtfully realized at first, it has been slowly established through
the heaping up of successive proofs, that in the waning years of that
geological section of time called the Ice Age, man had begun this slow
conquest of the earth.

All geological periods are text book accidents, or professional
conveniences. The diorama of geological change was a continuous
evolution of physics and topography, the rolling ages did not halt at
sectional points, the mechanism of Creation did not stop at intervals
to permit the introduction of a new set of designs and preparations, a
new web of structural fancies and ideas, a new _modus operandi_ and a
new _modus vivendi_.

Neither can we contend for moments of catastrophic intervention and
the sudden release of Omnipotent mandates, sweeping away what had
previously lived, and inundating the regions of life with irruptions of
new forms.

The movement of life beginning within the recesses of Archæan time
went on in its progress from a few centres of creation, until as age
succeeded age, and the first utterances of life began to fill the voids
of ocean and land, the kingdoms of animal being slowly possessed the
earth.

And yet it is also true that the course of organic evolution in the
records of palæontology expresses an Intention accomplishing its
purpose under resistance. It conforms in the phenomena it presents to
the conception of a Mind pursuing a purpose with an accelerated motion
as that purpose was approached. For what is that record of extinct life?

From the first scintillations of life in the Cambrian era to the last
contributions of Zoic energy in the Tertiaries, we see a succession
of ascending stages of life, a series of zoological platforms which
are linked together by a stairway of organisms passing from one to the
next, and separated by a disappearance of forms which never reappear.
Resistance is periodically overcome, but by it the intention of a
Supreme Mind to produce the highest and widest and deepest life is
forced into a display of creative energy.

In the earlier ages--the Palæozoic--the invertebrates appear in greater
numbers, and the lower orders of plants, and only the preparatory
groups of the vertebrates force their prophetic outlines in view, the
invertebrates and plants begin in more generalized forms, and advance
to the more specialized, which are the higher.

As the intention is to embrace higher zoological and structural ideas,
this again awakens resistance, and we see its gradual repulse. These
periodic floodings or gushes of forms of life, as the brachiopods in
the Silurian, the trilobites in the upper Potsdam, and crustacea in
modern seas, the bivalves in the Devonian, the crinoids in the Lower
Carboniferous, the echinoids in the Cretaceous, the cephalopods and
reptiles in the Jurassic, the gastropods and mammals in the Tertiaries,
are the wide escape of a propulsive intention as it overcomes
resistance, which it has undermined or repelled by processes of
development, slowly and unintermittently inaugurated long before.

Premonitions of these outbursts are found before they come, in the
genera and orders of the preceding era. So striking is this that it
has led M. Naudin, a French naturalist, with no theological hobbies
or convictions, to propound, on the evidence, the analogous idea, that
a force of variation or origination of forms has acted rhythmically
or unintermittently, because each movement was the result of the
rupture of an equilibrium, the liberation of a force which till then
was retained in a potential state, by some opposing force or obstacle,
overcoming which, it passes to a new equilibrium, and so on.

Hence stages of dynamic activity and static repose, of origination of
species and types, alternated with periods of stability or fixity.
The time-piece does not run down regularly, but “la force procede par
saccades; et par pulsation d’autant plus energiques que la nature etait
plus près de son commencement.”

Now, it is a remarkable circumstance, strengthening the Doctrine of
Intention, that the vast length of time involved in the progress
of the Palæozoic Ages was employed in establishing the kingdoms of
invertebrate life, and that as at its close, the vertebrate type
was reached (in which resided the potential power of the highest
development) the Supreme Will rose swiftly to its object--Man, his
powers and destiny!

Resistance accumulated against the flow of that intention, and by
obstruction attempted to close its exit into the pregnant channel of
vertebrate forms. This resistance was slowly dissipated through the
prolific avenues of invertebrate life. And the Intending Mind, having
ushered in the vertebrates, thence proceeds with rapidity through its
evolving phases to complete its organic purpose, creating Man, and
pushing in upon the world’s stage the vast psychic consequences of this
supreme result.

And Man is reached--When! How! Where! The figures of men are observed
stealing along the banks of the swollen Somme, in northern France, in
the twilight of an Arctic day. The river, exasperated by the continuous
contributions of cold streams rushing from distant summits that still
retain the remnants of the shrinking burden of the northern ice sheet,
washes the high levels with its turbid waves. Squalid shelters hide the
rude domesticities of these skin-coated and tangle-haired aborigines of
the earth, these mysterious tenants of the unconquered virgin world in
whose crania lies the potency of art and science. Through the long mist
of time they move like spectral groups presented to us, as dumb figures
mechanically manipulated upon a distant stage. They use the motions
of men engaged in play, in fishing, in mending nets, in repelling
enemies, in rude wrestling, in working points of stone, or carving
ivory, in erecting low-roofed houses, in cleaning skins, in felling
trees and engaging in rapid navigation on the calamitous and groaning
stream before them. Women are seen here and there amongst them, and
children; faces stir with laughter, gesticulation accompanies the
dumb motion of their lips. It is an imaginative kinetoscope wherein
sound has vanished, and motion only, articulate throughout with human
adaptibility, remains before our eyes. We are watching the pre-Adamites.

Again we see men moving in scattered bands along the banks of the
Delaware, in New Jersey. The river, widely extended, has invaded the
outlying country in broad, lake-like arms, and only at narrowing
throats between cliffs and resistant ledges does the confined flood
raise a murmur of expostulation as it churns in flying spray against
its gneissoid barriers. Ice, in broad, deep cakes, or low piled up
hummocks, or occasional castellated ice hills carrying stones upon
their surface, appear over the wave-scurried waters, and now and then
from some concealed inlet, a rude dug-out moves cautiously, piloted
by strong arms, crossing between the struggling fragments of ice to
gain, in a series of hesitating advances, the opposite shore. Human
figures disembark, they climb up the bank by a half-worn escalade of
steps rudely dug into the frozen gravel and sand, and disappear in the
black opening of a cave excavated in the cliff faces, and overhung by
the projecting angles of an irregular boulder of rock, half imbedded
and half exposed, in the morainal mass of earth and pebbles, sand and
stone.

The country for leagues about is desolate; in its denuded state it
exposes to the scowling sky its torn areas, furrowed with gulches,
heaped up cairns, plains strewn with loosened stones, while stranded
along a distant coast line and gleaming in titanic splendor, far beyond
on remote terraces, are icebergs. They are tumbling in decay before
a sun more southern than their origin, and contributing a hundred
rivulets, spreading fan-like in lines of silver over the flat declines
about them, meandering to the gray shores, deserted by an ebbing tide.

The rigors of the Ice Age in its extremest form have passed, and here,
in its lingering epoch of control, man, inventive, apt, procreative and
vocal, holding the augury of the civilized ages advancing towards him,
is seen.

Seen amid a waste of which he is a part, but from which by no
conceivable dream of transformation was he evolved. The moment of
his birth on earth was more propitious. Nature cradled him somewhere
beneath other skies, warmer suns and blossoming life. He has survived
the Ice Age. His adaptive nature has met it, as it crept like some
continental torpor over the fair world it supplanted. He has lived
through and out of it. He has kept alive on earth in the awful
desolation of this menace and assassination, his inherited flame of
intelligence, and the primal instincts of man. Before the Ice Age, man
was.

Again in the broad savannahs of the Mississippi Valley man is
discovered, where its waters, confluent with the broad streams flowing
from Missouri and Ohio, spread in sluggish lake-like expanses, stirred
by the river flow into movement, around archipelagoes of low islands.
The waves of this water met the retreating frontier of the ice-cap,
vociferous with the fall of shivered icebergs, and washed on one hand
the lowlands of Appalachia, yet glistening from snow-buried crests, and
the emergent domes of the Rocky Mountains, on the other, yet flecked
with scattered citadels of ice, resisting extermination in valley-bowls
and precipice-lined declivities.

The scene wears a softened aspect. The low islands have retained a
cheerful growth of trees, and amongst them flowering bushes and patches
of keen-colored flowers invite rest and dreams. Glades pass across the
larger domains of insulated land; white beeches shine beneath trees,
whose shadows are thrown in meshes of crossing lines and figures upon
them, and a blazing sun, set in the zenith, administers to the wide
expanse a temperate splendor. And here man again moves across the
foreground of our vision. He is less weirdly strange and aboriginal,
less dumb and impenetrable, and, as he stands alone upon a projecting
tip of sand, with an erect beauty, a touch of decoration in his dress
shows he has outgrown the dogged stupor of animal life. The charms
of emotion have also awakened him; we hear, over the waters, the long
musical halloo of a calling voice, and somewhere rising from the tufted
wilderness answering voices in sweet sopranos return the salutation.

He turns to the meridian sun, and fear clouds his face. Across the
sunlight a darkening blot has arisen. Its whirling and tempestuous
shapes change from second to second--a murmur in the air, made visible
by a thousand increasing ripples on the blinded water, tells of some
approaching storm. The man has dropped upon his knees, the struggling
lines of his face, as he watches the black cloud, deepen into a rigid
expression of terror. Now the waves roll heavily upon the beach, the
light is extinguished, and there descends a rain of dust. It thickens
until the air is impenetrable, the man, prostrate upon his face, is
lost to sight. The verdurous islands disappear, and the descending
_Loess_ dust extinguishes the sun.

It is another phase of human life in the vast backward of time, when
the dust and dirt deposits of the Mississippi, and its tributary
valleys, were accumulating as the ice fled northward. Again Man comes
into our view, the same identity of thought and form, which makes the
hero and the lover, the fundamental consciousness developed, as in you
and me.

We move westward to where the Sierra Nevada Valley Mountains breast
the Sacramento Valley, and nod to the answering summons of the Coast
Range, where the rays that empurple the sawed edges of the Sierras dip
the peaks of the coast in roseate halos.

A sunburst from the gathered edges of a thunderstorm reveals upon a
platform of rock, that sticks out from the mountain side like a lozenge
from a cake, a group of sunburnt men and women. Somewhat higher up
and behind them a circle of low covers made of boughs, woven together
and rudely thatched, indicates their simple homes. The place of their
sojourn has been propitiously, even tastefully chosen. It is a somewhat
scattered woodland, made up of colossal cone-bearing trees, that
seem located at such even distances apart that their contact creates
over the ground beneath them a softened twilight, though the sun at
its zenith pours over their motionless and dependent boughs its full
effulgence. The spot forms a terrace upon the ascending areas of a
great mountain chain whose highest and peaked ridges glisten from
distant snowfields.

Before this group of silent people, far below them in the broad valley
of the present Sacramento, a scene of incomparable interest and beauty
is displayed. They seem absorbed in its contemplation, and to their
eyes perchance its varied features appeal with a force symptomatic
of all the intense delight the poet or the artist would to-day feel
before the return of its exciting and marvellous incidents.

It is a critical moment in the vast drama of orogenic change, which has
built the continent; one act in that procession of acts, which moulded
the surface of the earth into habitable forms, and etched its surface
with the beauty of design.

The broad physiographic trough upon which these mountain denizens are
gazing has become an area of conflict. The volcanic forces of the
earth are even now engaged in making monumental deformations, and here
below them they watch the splendid crisis of an engagement between the
lava-rock welling from the furnaces of the earth’s interior, and the
flashing currents of foam-filled water. Let us trace the picture.

On one side of the broad depression, filled to its farthest marge with
intermittent forest-land, broad backs of alluvial sand, and seamed with
sparkling rivers, rise the myriad summits of a long range of mountains
torn by time and deeply bitten into picturesque contrasts of ravine,
gorge, canyon, buttes and facetted pinnacles of stone. Far over the
wide valley, scarcely seen, but still like a shadow upon the horizon,
is the western limit of this quarternary basin, another line of hills,
less wonderful, younger, and rather monotonously low.

The landscape disappears northward in bare regions that are hidden in
clouds of mist, and far southward, and to the west, spectators just
discern the limits of the Salt Sea. But it is upon the marvels beneath
them that their eyes are fixed, eyes that are yet more quickly arrested
by sensation, by the brusque struggles of natural forces, than by the
alluring distance, shimmering hot beneath the noon-day sun.

Almost immediately beneath their feet, though on the level of the
general valley, is a river bed, which, deserted by its former tenant,
still holds dwindling lakes of water, somewhat connected, like a string
of opal dishes, by filaments of thin and feeble rivulets. At a point
north of them and fixed to their attention upon the mountain side by
a dull murmurous succession of detonations, and splintering gashes in
the rock, a pasty exudation of molten rock slips down in black lines
or faintly rubescent streaks, and, uniting in an invading tongue of
slaggy fusion, has entered the river valley, which is now, at its first
courses, filled from rim to rim with half liquid scoria.

The lithic tide is carried on in a sluggish simulation of water
currents, rolling over in its advance, or spurting in sudden liquid
torrents from swelling concretions; now caught by the asperities of
the channel, and now flowing faster at its unimpeded centre, dragged
out in liguous coils and ropes of lava, and again, down some steeper
declivity, tumbling in a shaggy cataract of braids, tortuous links,
and vermiculate confusion. Beneath the mute group the igneous outburst
has reached a pond, one of the derelict lakes along the river’s
deserted way, and it is the fierce conflict thus begun which holds
them in a rapt posture, like modelled images. As the flowing rock
enters the lake with slow and even step, or spills into it, in flocks
of bubbling slag, from its higher decrepitating surfaces, explosion
follows explosion; the water is ejected in spurts of spray, and falling
backward over the hot and half consolidated magma, flashes into steam.
Rising clouds of vapor conceal the exact limits of the invasion, and
points of contact, but the coarse rumble, the intermittent gushes of
water upward, the far away reverberations of the earth’s opening crust,
and the quivering pulsations that shake the table rock on which our
spectators are standing, announce the new geological chapter in the
world’s making, the last catastrophe before the earth lies quiet and
smiling at the feet of men.

As they turn away in frightened dismay, the sunlight flashes from
their tawny necks, their girdled arms and ankles, and from the bunched
tresses of their dark hair, flashes from gold. They are the gold
ornaments formed in naive and curious ways which these early children
of the earth filched from the stream beds, that soon, before their
gaze, from shore to shore, will be wedged tight with black dikes of
rock, holding down the sealed bonanzas, until in Time’s own time the
life of a later day shall search the primeval sands again, and dress
its beauty too with the same entrancing glitter.

The picture disappears, but we are standing where the Calaveras
Skull, the discovery of human implements beneath the Table Mountains
of California have proven that Man was a witness of these geognostic
changes in the great internal valley of that state.

Shall we pursue the western trail of men’s birth, bending our eyes
upon the mysterious regions of southeastern Asia, where perhaps a too
inquisitive scrutiny will reveal the very beginnings of the human tribe?

We have no reason to go further. We have observed the changing aspect
of man from the edges of the ice sheet in western Europe and eastern
North America, his ameliorated habits in the loess valley of the
Mississippi and Missouri. In the far west where the contemporaneous
climatic conditions were milder, or even conjoined with phases that
were semi-tropic we have found him, at the same time that farther
north, and pervasively to the east, frigid or boreal aspects prevailed.

It is with the story of Love, told of these strange and remote periods
of Time, that we are now concerned, and we place the Woman of the Ice
Age far in the West, somewhere not exposed to the extreme arctic
vicissitudes of a glacial imprisonment, although not quite beyond
the rumors and tokens of its partial survival, nor quite within the
lassitudes of a southern and perennial summer, but at a possible
point of such picturesque contrasts, of such organic fascination, of
such compromises in physical expression, that we may discern in her
the elements of poetry, elements born of her response to Nature’s
vitality and variousness, and with them elements of passion born of
her inheritance of blood instincts, which had formed in her ancestors,
under the same diversity of natural features. In Her, prehistoric
and primal, the type of all women since, we shall find the instinct
of love, evincing its supremacy over her nature, holding her before
the mirror of her own vanity, rousing her to the extremest verge of
her emotional design and activity, nursing her on the breast of its
satisfaction, and filling her life with the currents of its amorous
expectations.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER II.

THE PLACE.


It was a region of splendid contrasts. A continental zone which
presented in the wide range of its mere longitudinal extent a
succession of physical features that were opposite and embraced a
variety of climate, that by reason of meteorological diversity had
carved and dressed those physical features into a series of natural
wonders.

Far to the north rose a group of mountain peaks, so arranged that
they appeared like successive steps of ascent to the swelling dome,
central and dominant, over its gathered satellites, each of which
was marvellous alone, but in this association seemed forgotten or
remembered only as it increased by contrast the majesty of the great
mountain mass it attended.

This superb elevation was itself broken up into radiating chasms, whose
rocky sides rose in black keels of relief above the snow filled gorges
they defined, while surmounting them all a keen shaft of granite,
roseate in a hundred lights, or wrapped in pendulous and waving veils
of mist, climbed steeply to the clouds.

The crowded and crushed snow masses, nevé-like emerged upon all the
lower shoulders of the huge crest in glacial fields of ice. Here their
Arctic currents, sweeping around the lower summits, were reinforced
by new accessions, springing from these lesser altitudes, which in
confusion poured upon them, and by many avenues of obstruction and
accidents of interference, repulse and rupture, converted the great
multiplied ice zone, encircling the whole congery of peaks, and
plunging outward over vertical escarpments to lower levels, into a
stupendous spectacle of chaos. Icebergs crossed their pinnacles in the
descent, the riven ice stream ejected blocks of ice hundreds of feet
in length, and the split glacier, seamed by colossal cleavages to the
abysses of its rocky floor, displayed its green depths. Detonations
rose upon the air, caught by the waiting winds and drifted southward
over the wild plains, the long indented coast and the far interior
canons; south to forest lands and waving grass savannahs, while near at
hand its rough roar startled the sleeping mastodon and brought terror
to men.

From this glory, which in the Sun of that strange day shone like
a titanic crown of jewels, the land areas fell suddenly away, and
expanded southward into a long sea margin on the west, and arid and
rocky wildernesses on the east, where deep canyons with vertical walls,
a thousand feet high, held in their dark bosoms the frigid waters from
the northern glaciers. An intermediate region, between the palisaded
or tenuous coast-line and these mysterious untenanted rents and time,
wind and water worn ravines, revealed scenes more mild and radiant,
wherein the apparel of nature was more colored, and where she bore
those features of appropriate beauty where river and lake, forest land
and flowered field unite in their abundance to appeal to the hearts of
men.

This hospitable land was varied. It slowly liberated itself, like an
escaping captive, from the desolation of the East, where the plains
were broken with chilled lava beds, jagged peaks, asperities of
stone, standing like geologic spectres, canyons holding emprisoned
and viewless rivers, wide and gloomy lakes around whose margins the
struggling relics of an extinct flora seemed slowly confessing their
defeat before phases of climate less lenient than their predecessors.
It freed itself from broad depressions, the beds of ancient lakes swept
by freezing winds from the northern ice country, and bare and empty,
exposing to the sky their orb-like circumference, ghastly with white
alkaline encrustation, like the pallid optic of a great leviathan,
whitened with the films of decomposition.

From all this area, rigid with the articulate expression of Death, a
land to the West began its fertile margins, tentatively uttering a new
design, with grass grown hills, low vegetation, and modest, scarcely
obvious brooks, loosening themselves in placid currents from the
highlands. Then, as if it felt the assurance of an improving destiny,
woods rose over ranges of increasing altitude, rivers swept in circling
glory through narrow and alluvial valleys, and groves of great trees
clustered over mountain terraces, defiled in green seas of leafy glory
to the lowlands, where the rhythm of verdurous beauty was resumed in
more open country, the reincarnated spirit of Nature loosened its power
upon a coast line, washed by the restless ocean.

The coast was strangely beautiful. Wide coves paved with argent or
golden sands opened the straight lines of its rocky and lofty shores
with broad emarginations. These inviting bays, defended by crowning
capes or jutting and attenuated peninsulas of dethroned basaltic
columns, formed peaceful harbors wherein the fleeing surges of the
sea often came to rest in limpid pulsations; or else, with diminished
power, but greater speed and imposing crescent beauty, rolled upon
them in avalanches of spray. The land came down to these charming
regions in undulating surfaces, sometimes deeply wooded, though
often more artificially indented with scattered or solitary trees.
Not infrequently it accompanied, in its descent, the devious flow of
rivers, expanding into estuaries of such proportions that the fleet of
a modern nation might have floated safely within their borders.

The smaller coves furnished a more minute and exquisite interest. Here
partially degraded escarpments of stone walled them in with steep
ascents of talus, over which ambitious vegetation, almost baffled in
its encounter with sea fogs and saline breezes, produced an irregular
covering of green, and displayed the ample ingenuity of its struggle.
This ingenuity was shown in the twisted roots of trees holding, like
closed fists enwrapped boulders, by roots penetrating at obtuse
angles the split surfaces of the palisades, or, entangled in a knot
of mutually helpful buttresses, suspending some adventurous pine at
a sharp angle above the splashing and murmurous tides below it. The
dazzlingly clear water in these darkened and umbrageous coves, revealed
with every shaft of light, the broad fronds of algae, floating like
aprons in green sheets, rising upon dark stem-like roots from the
cold waters. Here, upon the sides of detached masses of rock, sported
companies of sea lions, their gleaming and undulated flanks formed for
an instant into motionless groups of beauty, to be dissolved the next
moment in revels of wreathed confusion. Far out beyond the shore, domes
of rock, just covered by each swelling wave, broke the surface with
areas of foam, and again beyond these stood, as the last vestige of the
eroded coast frontier, some needle of stone, in whose fugitive and
vanishing shadows sea-gulls rested, that again, by a sudden access of
volition, swept over it in clouds of ascending and descending plumes.

The coast-line was itself the index of a varied origin. For miles the
palisades of dark or frowning trap dikes rose precipitously above the
tide, their columnar formation yielding only a stubborn concession to
the incessant labors of air and ocean, though the scenic marvel of
cathedral spires and excavated reverberating sea caves, left by their
retreat, excused the tardy surrender to decay.

Wherever the sedimentary strata of slate or limestone, frequently but
half consolidated, and therefore more easily attacked, formed the land
surfaces, the country descended gently to the sea, and swept backward
with dissected features to the coast ranges, gleaming distantly.
Through these tracts the beds of rivers were formed, and their
currents, under two contrasted phases, appeared upon the coast-line.
They either flowed through degraded valleys, slowly expanding into the
broad estuarine coves mentioned before, or, unable to reach the easily
attacked mineral beds, and forced to flow outward upon the surface of
dense igneous rocks, leaped into the sea by cascades walled in somber
gorges, or broke with sudden splendor over precipices of unchanged
basalt.

In that pleistocene day the region, now summoned before the eye by
the familiar process of adaptive reconstruction, shrunk far northward
into low lying and frigid plains, narrowly escaping, by their slight
differential elevation, submergence from the western ocean. In this
uninviting northland, which lay like a neck of transition between the
ice mountains and their glacial precincts still farther north, and the
southern country, scattered forests of scrub willow, beech and spruces,
alternated with sand flats, cold bogs, and cairn-like moraines of stone
and gravel. The latter, swept by ice winds, drenched in snow and rains,
darkened by thunder clouds or lit by momentary blazes of the sun, held
the resistant remnants of the ice sheet, as tottering and stranded
fractions perched upon their harsh shoulders. They exposed gulches,
radiating from their summits, each occupied by momentary torrents of
water, from the melting ice cap, which, often collecting in lower
basins, formed extended semi-glacial lakes, hesitatingly bordered by a
thin growth of herbs, and in sections connected by narrow straits into
chains of untenanted and gloomy pools.

Through the monotony of this wilderness wandered herds of the mastodon,
and here on the edges of the frosted lakes stood the primeval elephant,
the mammoth of those swiftly receding days now scarcely penetrated by
the vision of science and imagination.

These faunal restorations were yet further extended. To the east of
this inhospitable and terrible zone, in cold and almost treeless
sections scarred by ravine and canon, and trending upward into the
abyssal recesses of the mountains, the cave bear secured an abiding
home.

South over the edges of that sweeter land in which the crowded life of
plants and animals, evicted from its northern habitat by the exactions
of the cold, now strained its activity and device to maintain a
simultaneous existence, in this prolific country, the pleistocene horse
ranged in thronging bands. He scarcely impinged on the high terrains
where the sabre-toothed tiger dwelt, but by preference traversed the
grassy campus, following the streams, where their widened valleys,
recently formed, were uninvaded by the forests, and sometimes forced an
inquisitive path over the high country to the margins of the ocean.

A meteorological complexity reflected and rivalled all of these
contrasts of position and occupation, and from within the sealed
envelope of the earth’s crust, also, movements and voices responded
to the ceaseless alternations of heat and cold, tempest and silence,
serene and raging hours.

The warm southern winds sweeping from the broad Carribean Continent,
gathering moisture from the wide gulf of the Mississippi, reached
these more northern regions dense with saturation, and were suddenly
chilled by rarefaction as they were lifted into higher elevations
by the low lying flood of cold air, pouring in from the glaciated
poles. The contact zone between these displaced masses of hot and
moisture-laden air, and the underlying frosted and more slowly drifting
atmosphere precipitated a meteorological violence, an exorbitant vigor
of meteorological phenomena. Then ensued the tumult of storm and
electrical perturbation.

The rivers rose upon their banks, the sinister and blackened skies
emptied their bosoms of their watery contents, avalanches rolled down
the mountain sides, the air smitten with a thousand forks of lightning
vibrated with the internal electric charges that evoked all the echoes
of canyon, peak and plain. Cyclonic winds tore through the forests and
bent the crowded heads of the trees. Then the marshalled clouds fled
in torrents of rain or were dissipated in the dazzling warfare, and
then turquoise skies bent over the washed lands, a summer sun opened
the petals of innumerable flowers, the cool air scarcely lifted from
the ground the scent of its warm palpitations, and, to the detonations
of the storm, succeeded the still unpacified but vanishing roar of the
overladen streams.

In winter the petrifying touch of cold descended from the margins of
the glaciers, and the denuded trees, the snow blankets of the higher
land, the stilled streams and the pale skies imparted a sepulchral
stare to the shrunk soil that turned its dead face upward to its leaden
dome.

To the excitement and changes of external nature the unadjusted
equilibria of the interior of the earth contributed new and dangerous
surprises--earthquakes threw down the cliffs into foaming rivers,
shook loose from their prehensile bases the towering pines upon the
hillsides, or started in repetition the sundered strata from the
mountains, and changed the face of nature with scarred exposures and
inundated valleys. The earth opened along shivering seams, and the
exuded lava rising from centres of stupendous pressure poured out in
belts its half consolidated magmas.

Volcanic vents broke their seals and the uprushing tides of gas and
steam and cinders turned the day to night, and signalized the distant
craters with voluminous wreathes and columns and ash-filled whirlwinds;
sometimes in a fierce intoxication of chaotic incident, emptying upon
surrounding snowfields their hot and scorching rains.

Thus nature wore all the wardrobe of her almost exhaustless store,
displayed all the properties of her acquisitions through ages of
geological change, and assembled the most startling devices for
awakening attention and vitalizing motion.

She seemed at this point on the earth’s surface so to arrange and
direct her vast physical resources for rousing the mind, charging the
heart, and stiffening the will, that the new being, arising from
its cradle, and beginning the task of occupying the world, might be
suddenly endowed with mind and heart and will, so vigorously organized,
as to make that conquest easy.

Amidst these wide contrasts of climate and scene, of internal and
external energy, of products and denizens, lived a race of prehistoric
men and women thinly scattered in villages over the shoulders, the
valleys and the alluvial terraces of the Sierra Nevadas in Central
California, at a point where a broad ingress of the sea swept past
the degraded and depressed Coast Ranges. Here, from the startling and
multiplied expressions of nature, the full influence of environment
encompassed at an impressionable instant the dawning powers, the
pulses of its primal heat, the mental movements, the suddenly erected
passions of this Glacial and Occidental Man, this strange and almost
silent creature, appearing from the unknown, and moving forward on the
listless feet of the centuries towards the powers and civilization of
the orient.

Broadly reviewed, we have for the stage of this prehistoric drama, its
pictures and stirring scenes of adventure and haphazard perils, the
arctic glacial zone, the canyon country on the East, the Fair Land on
the West and South, and beyond the unchanging ocean, as primal then as
when it swept its fluctuating waves over Archaean ledges.

The particular place where our eyes discover, in this vast area, the
movements of men, was situated in a grove of giant trees upon an upland
that formed a terrace on the sides of a mountain range almost wooded to
its summit, where the dwindling vegetation exposed the naked precipices
of an abrupt and overhanging crest. In front of the upland the ground
slipped suddenly down in slanting and again vertical faces of rock and
soil to a sort of bottom land, a long elliptical depression holding
at its lower end a basin of water, which, as it indicated no visible
source of supply, must have been fed from the streams formed in the
heavy rain-falls, or from the springs issuing over its hidden floor.
The land rose in a low swell beyond this, and upon the margin of the
latter elevation the possible inhabitant gazed upon the sea from the
edge of an intrusive dike of rock, which, wall-like, rose along the
edge of the western wave, its anterior face marked in most places by
rising piles of fragmental rock.

Northward it rose to steeper heights whose unencumbered exposures made
sheer precipices above the frothing billows sweeping in at their feet.
The grass crept to the very verge of these dizzy elevations, the mist
rolled down upon them at moments, and again they described angular
apices of dark stone against the clear blue or cloud flecked zenith.
From these latter pinnacles of observation the Fair Land with its
mountains and rivers and valleys could be well discerned on the east,
and the glittering spire of the ice mountain with its wide skirts of
ice imperfectly descried northward.

At the moment of time when the retrospective and imaginative eye of
this narrator fell upon the secluded upland, mentioned above, a path
led down to the valley and its lake, a path somewhat precariously
conducted over overhanging walls of rock. It crossed the valley almost
lost to sight in tall grass, rose upon the lower swell and seemed to
carry its adventuresome follower straight over the edge of the trap
dike into the sea.

A little reckless exploration would have shown, however, that it led to
no such useless and careless termination. It became on the face of the
trap dike a very broken and disjointed path indeed, but still a path.

It became a ladder of rocky steps, which, if successfully followed,
brought the traveller to a beach of water-worn and rounded pebbles,
which again southward disappeared into a more extended sand plain.
Behind this sand plain the dike precipice visibly dwindled, until it
too disappeared beneath the folds of a sparsely wooded shore. To any
human eye, perhaps unwontedly addicted to piercing the air with its
long vision, there would have been discerned far out to sea a line of
foaming breakers careering upon jagged backs of rock, and again even
beyond this, like ghosts, white ice-bergs, tilted or erect, following
each other in a spectral march.

On the upland where the path we have thus traced to the shore, began,
somewhat withdrawn into the shadows of the colossal trunks of trees,
were a few covered spaces made habitable by skins and boughs of
trees. Their design, if design could be applicable to so undesigned
a structure, consisted in a few posts lightly driven in the soil,
connected at their upper ends by long sapling stems, which were again
connected by crossed boughs, on which the lesser twigs were left
undisturbed, and on this light webbing were piled more boughs and
leaves until the accumulation assumed a mounded shape. By the fertility
of nature, seeds, falling in this nidus of gradually accumulating
leaf mould, had started into life, and, augmented through the years,
had converted it into a sort of herbal patch, which in the season of
blossoming became gay and radiant with flowers.

Beneath this ornamental roof the slender equipment of an aboriginal
camp was spread. A rude crane suspended from the roof, at a point where
a chimney-like opening had been made in the surplusage of leaves and
boughs, supported a stone vessel, pendent from it by cords of tree
fibre or coarse grass. The stone vessel was blackened by repeated
exposure to the dull fires made from leaves and peat moss, and
resembled the few others which, discarded and broken, seemed carefully
laid aside at one corner of this well ventilated apartment. The only
other noticeable furnishment of the room were the skins of foxes and
bears, rankly oleaginous and discolored, thrown down around the central
fire place, where were gathered in a disorderly pile a few stone axes
with wooden handles, some awkwardly made bows, and a few delicately
chipped blades of stone, neatly united to shafts of wood by means of a
black pitch.

No walls enclosed this defective suggestion of a house, and only on
one side hung a woven mat of natural fibre hideously bedaubed with
red paint or iron ochre, most shockingly constrained to portray a
portentous animal rising hobby-horse like on its hind and abnormally
lengthened legs.

It was thirty thousand years, more or less, before the birth of Christ
that a woman stood leaning against one of the four corner posts of this
simple habitation at the widened and worn opening of the highland path
described above, and gazed upward to the sky, in whose sapphire depths
the rising sun of day had begun to form clouds, sucked up from the
broad western ocean.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER III.

LHATTO--THE WOMAN.


Ageless woman! The beckoning centuries seem to run before her tireless
energies, still stretching forward the span of her sublime motherhood,
still exacting the tribute of her sons and daughters to meet the needs
of History!

She becomes in retrospect the origin of human life, the vast
procreative source of all civilization and all progress, and from her
bosoms, clutched by the fixed hand of infancy, flows the milk that has
formed the tissues of all known human annals.

Prophecy dwells upon her head, for from her proceed the nations of
the earth. Poetry and Drama surround her, for she, in her evocative
charm, haunts the innermost chambers of Desire, and it is her touch
that lights the fires, else unseen, upon each altar of Passion, of
Aspiration, of Revelry, of Joy.

Nature is her antitype, and in Nature as in a mirror she sees the
multiplied reflections of her own beneficence and her own fertility.
She rules in the vestiture of Man’s Empress, and the flood of time yet
bears upon its tides the meanings of her presence and her powers.

Immortal Woman! in whose dowry Intention has placed all things
beautiful and tender, around whose neck hang the prayers of men, and
from whose eyes shine the rewards of men; she who by a welcome paradox
makes her weakness the unmastered ruler of men, and whose promises are
the last incentives to their ambition.

In the metaphors of Revelation she stands revealed as the victim of
her own surrender to enjoyment, and through a miraculous genesis of
life she is enthroned upon the seat of Mercy, as the vehicle of Man’s
restoration.

And this Primal Woman? Shall such panegyric belong to her? She stands
upon the threshold. Behind her the depths and mists of Oblivion--before
her Man’s Empire over Life. Let us see.

As we watch her thus beaming and looking upward, she springs forward
into a patch of light made by the sun’s descending rays through some
aperture in the boughs of the high trees. Her beauty is revealed.
She is not tall, but the tense vigor of her muscles, all uncovered
and shining in the sun like a golden bronze, gives her superb frame,
modelled with a charm of outline born of exercise, an imposing
expression. She is not voluptuous, but the graded and blending
surfaces of her body--softly tinted with that indescribable color
that becomes an embrowned bronze, alive in the shadows, and a lustrous
metallic sheen in the high lights--form a picture of enticement. The
swollen excrescences of breast and hips, repulsive to all adroit and
delicate desire, are replaced by refined outlines, sexual in meaning,
but restrained to the limits of sculptural modesty. Her neck sweeps
deliciously upward from the bare shoulders, imprinted with the kisses
of the sun, bearing a head, perhaps small but exquisitely adjusted,
and displaying features puzzling in their type, and suggestive of the
subtle union of the American, the Negroid and the Malayan.

The nose aquiline, but thinly ridged and faintly expanding into nervous
and sensitive nostrils, the lips full and pouting, yet short, the eyes
half limpid and dark, but carrying flashes of defiance, the forehead
low, the cheeks oval and delicately hollowed, the ears small and just
obviously inverted, and the chin abrupt and firmly built; the whole
composition lending itself to a range of expressions from languor to
anger and repudiation. Nor was it deprived of less extreme shades of
meaning. As she stood in the light, her eyebrows arched in attention,
the smooth skin between them disturbed by a few lines of indecision
and her lips parted in expectation, she leaned forward, and a look of
infinite interest, a strange pained thoughtfulness arose in her face.
She raised her hands as if in oblation to the light above her, her
tumultuous black hair streamed down her naked back, and she sighed.

The poise was perfect, the aesthetic unity complete. Gold bands held
her ankles, gold links were upon her wrists and ears, a white shell
comb was inserted in her hair, and an apron of fox skin hung before
her. Such was Lhatto, the girl of the Sierras, before human history
began, the Woman of the Ice Age, living in the warm Fair Land in North
America.

We are not concerned in proving the reasonableness of this fair
vision. Eve has been made beautiful by Art. Why not Lhatto by Fiction?
And why not beautiful indeed? Child of Nature, nurtured amidst its
beauties, trained in the many ways of earning life from its free gifts,
dispensing with all artifices of living, gathering strength, and color,
form, feeling and passion from the splendor of Nature’s panorama and
action. The wonderfulness of such panorama and action was in this
temperate and tropic and frigid zone unsurpassed. Why not find in these
first Earthlings some impassioned instance--accident it might be--of
Creation’s early effort to reflect,--as if in sportive prophecy of all
Woman should be thereafter,--the approaching terrors and glories of her
reign in history and story, in play and legend, poetry and music.

Lhatto stood an instant longer in the sun. Then, as if regulating her
movements by some carefully conceived purpose, she turned back to the
sylvan camp and drew from a rude receptacle, fashioned from the trunk
of a tree, a more complete covering, seized a harpoon-like weapon
from the ground, crowded a pemmican mass of cooked grain and smoked
meat into a woven basket, rudely ornamented with figures, and turning
backward spoke to the moving figures of men and women far off in the
perspective of the forest.

Her voice belonged to and fitted all her natural charm. It was musical
and jubilant with woody sweetness, and a lingering ring, like the
melting and penetrating calls of birds. It made her more beautiful.

“To the water,” she cried, and the passive figures, scarcely arrested
in their toil, answered back with murmurs of assent. Lhatto turned
again, and Atalanta-like, sped down the path that started at the upland
and ended on the distant shore.

She carried her clothing and the food basket, pressed in a bundle close
beneath her left arm, while her hand held the harpoon, her right hand
was raised before her and like a Grecian herald, “she ran swiftly.”
She soon reached the edge of the upland where the path descended to
the valley and the lake. Here her agility and sure footedness were
seriously tested. The broken descent was a series of intervals between
rough and angular blocks of stone, slippery with lichens or moss, and
now wet from some recent shower. The path with long interruptions where
no evidence of its direction could be seen, was detected by worn spots
or traces, upon the larger blocks. Lhatto seemed to exert no thought
upon the selection of her way. With light feet she sprang from point
to point, and running along the narrow edge of some decumbent mass of
rock, suddenly dropped from its side to a lower level without volition,
so vigorous and just was her instinct of place and action.

She had reached the valley; the high grass nurtured by some favorable
influence reached half way up to her own height and pressed upon her.
Its swaying ran in radial waves outward from her vanishing figure,
as her laggard arm, now thrown behind her, swept its mobile crests.
Suddenly she emerged on the dome beyond, bare or scantily dressed in
verdure, and here her figure became instantly and superbly visible.

A wind blowing freshly from the sea, and now chilling and raw, brushed
backward the glistening hair, color throbbed in her cheeks with a
deeper dye, her bosom pulsating with the efforts of her unusual
exertion rose and fell, and to her eyes had risen some suppressed
emotion that gave them brilliancy; her lips, after a moment’s pause
while her uplifted head, with a sort of statuesque elation, greeted
the blue sky, opened suddenly with song.

Or was it but a cry, a weird inchoate yearning for music’s melody and
rhythm?

It rose upon the air of that immeasurably distant day, and floated out
over the waves that were making their own rudimental symphonies on the
lonely shores. It rose upward and floated backward to the forests where
the birds in myriad ways were beating the same air, on which it came,
with song. It was part of the intuition of all feeling things to put
their feelings into the subtle measure of music. And she who sang had
come upon earth before civilization or science or art, in formal types,
had yet been dreamed of. It was the prototype of folk song, or nursery
croon, of legendary melodies, of national anthem, the song of Lhatto,
on the outskirts of all regulated thought and invention.

Imagine--all you who behind foot-lights, and in front of crescent
platforms, hear the manifold choruses that shall in some way, sometimes
inscrutable, sometimes clear, interpret for you feeling or fancy, that
use all the sound resources of orchestras straining in all imaginable
ways to construct new fabrics of notes, building in echoes of old
tunes, forgotten lays, choral unions of tones, and hurrying from grave
to gay, from slow to quick, in the laborious compilation that rises
with elastic buoyancy, until the last chord crashes or sobs, and the
listener departs numbed and despairing--imagine Lhatto on the door
step of human time singing to the morning skies.

Yes! it was a song. It was articulate. This earliest woman had wedded
music to words, and both, in her, perhaps from still more venerable
traditions, or from the creative genius of merely strong feeling, were
signals of man’s primal worship of the sea, and were intelligible. Thus
she sang:--

THE SONG OF LHATTO.

  Stay waves. Hold wind. Enough!
  Enough! The fish swims on your face,
  The fish swims in the deep water,
  The clouds swim with the fish,
  The sun buries his head there too.
  My boat hurts your face,
  Your face will eat my boat,
  It will swim with the fish
  And the clouds, and the sun.
  Stop waves. Stop wind. Enough!
  Enough!
  Let me swim too with the fish,
  And the clouds and the sun,
  Hurry waves, hurry wind.
  The boat I make wounds the
  Face of the water. Enough! Enough!

Perhaps it was not music, nor poetry, nor sense, but as the voice
shrilly mounted the sloping rocks and called from all their crannies,
their hiding nooks, their inviolate grottoes the--till then--unused
echoes, the Woman leaped and danced, her bundle dropped from her
arm, and with hands outstretched to the ocean, her face radiant and
laughing, she swung to and fro, pacing and stamping the ground in a
circle.

Then a stranger thing happened, and something more grave and beautiful.

Lhatto knelt and bowed to the far-away sea, and her voice became
silent. So the Woman there in the Earth’s Dawn begat music and
poetry and worship; the mists from the ocean spread about her, the
swarming voices of the day entered her ears, and perchance far down
in her perturbed soul, by some skill of the Great Intention, she saw
and heard the hurrying centuries rampant with life, pregnant with
passion, furious with ambition, prostrate--as she had been before the
sea--prostrate before a Woman’s form, and voice, and soul.

Lhatto rose, resumed her burden and hastened to the edge of the cliff
where the path abruptly ended in a disjointed natural ladder of stone
leading aimlessly, and, as if by preference, dangerously down the
vertical face of the dike.

Lhatto certainly felt no diffidence. From point to point she descended
with ease, leaping with careless accuracy, and scarcely pausing in her
rapid and twisting course. Suddenly her onward motion ceased. She had
reached the lowest step visible from the edge of the bluff; below was a
long interval, perhaps twenty feet to the rolled pebbles on the beach
now rapidly succumbing to the inundation of the inflowing tide.

Her form bent forward. She was scanning the awkward gap, and some
exclamation of apparent wonder escaped her. The last step, a conical
and half sloping fragment of rock, which had usually afforded the final
element in the chain of precarious footholds, had disappeared. Some
dislocation had thrown it over, perhaps the assault of a heavy billow,
and the distance between her position and the shore was uninterrupted
by any intermediate break.

The woman was disconcerted for an instant. But that intuitive response
of her muscular and trained body to each quick and adequate decision
of her mind was instantly displayed. She flung from her the bundle
of clothing, wrapped tightly around the basket of food, and shot
the harpoon far off, aiming at a flat exposure of fine sand between
the larger boulders. Both disappeared below her. She sank to the
narrow shelf on which she had been standing, and with the keenest
agility swung down below its edge, suspending her pendant body by
her outstretched arms, and then began slowly to sway, each flexure
of her back starting a wider amptitude of oscillation, until her
feet alternately rose so far as to bring the axis of her body almost
parallel with the edge of rock to which she tenaciously clung.

Her design was evident. Immediately below her the fallen boulder
lying on its side thrust upward a comb of sharp edges treacherously
marked by braids of green sea-weed. To have dropped upon these flinty
serrations would have meant a serious injury. To escape it she now
essayed to give herself propulsive power sufficient to pass to one side
of this obstacle.

In another second of time she had loosened one hand, continuing with
the other this supremely difficult exercise, which shot into her face
tides of color, and revealed the superb physique, texture and power
of her steel-like muscles. She suddenly released her hold when the
wide swing had become most extended, and shot, half turning backward,
far beyond the threatening boulder, falling with graceful recovery of
her inclined body, as the arrest on the shore brought her head upward
with the yet unexpended energy of translation. It was a skillful and
dexterous feat.

For an instant she covered her face with her hands. The exertion had
been significant and unusual. The bundle and harpoon, the latter fixed
upright in the sand, were recovered, and with a relaxed, perhaps a
slightly halting step, Lhatto made her way over the sea wall of rolled
and polished pebbles to the less dismal and barren shores beyond, where
a long beach passed upward into dunes, drifted into hillocks, and
partially induced to support a scattered wood of dark, motionless, and
elongated cedars.

The lonely woman, emblem and promise, stood a long time on that
untenanted shore looking outward, the encroaching tide slowly
encircling her feet with wavelets, while each advancing ripple bearing
some bubble of foam bound her ankles with a ring of airy beads.

Before the ocean, whether in calm or in storm, youth feels the power of
its silence and its immensity. The wind that moved over its passionless
face when still, the wind that carries hurricanes over the same ocean
when convulsed and dangerous, solicit the recreant passions of youth,
aimless, boundless, and unfulfilled.

Though speechless its murmurs are the voices of sirens luring him
with musical and seducing phrases to enter its green abyss and find
delight. The horizon, a merely necessary optical limit, a mathematical
certainty, a physical injunction upon eyesight, is to youth a line on
the threshold of New Worlds, a doorway to all the pleasures that the
leaping heart, with wise madness, craves incessantly.

To the Woman of the Ice Age, to Lhatto, still struggling with the youth
of her own life, and struggling more profoundly but unconsciously,
and forever inexplicably, with the youth of the race, at the birth
of emotion, at the birth of thought, of worship, of sexual fruition,
competency, and desire, this remorseless inspiration of the ocean
smote upon her breast and mind like some vast magic magnetism, holding
her senses in its irresistible blissful power. And Nature was Lhatto’s
schoolhouse; perhaps more deeply than ever since amongst men she dwelt
in Nature, nursing at its breast, and yielding, as a child should
yield, terror to its imprecations, obedience to its prayers.

But Lhatto, though thus imperiously influenced, had no introspections
in the matter. She simply turned her beautiful face to the sea, and
somehow a voice from that great deep said to her “Come!”

The sun had reached the ninth hour of the day when Lhatto turned
backward to the shore, leaving the waves that were now lapping with
soft kisses her knees and thrusting out innumerable tongues upon her
smooth and sculptured thighs. She made her way unhesitatingly to a
thicket of cedars which, by some propulsion, and encouraged by a spring
of water welling upward near them, had advanced far beyond their
companions, and by reason of this temerity had become the target of
storms, which had broken their boughs, bent their growth, and thrust
them upon each other as if, in a last fraternal embrace, they had
concluded to die together.

In the shadow of this thicket, and now evident, as the Woman advanced
toward it, lay a narrow keeled but somewhat well shaped and serviceable
boat. It was a tree trunk hollowed out with some precision, the method
being clearly indicated by the charred remnants of its roughened and
chipped interior surfaces. The original tree trunk had been hewn down,
its outer bark removed and one half of its circumference hacked away.
Upon the section of the tree thus exposed fires had been lighted, or
heated stones placed, and the incinerated wood loosened and excavated.
The process had been toilsome; but in the primitive occupations of that
prehistoric people, time or exertion counted for little, so free could
they then be in the expenditure of each.

The boat had not been altogether carelessly conceived. A sort of prow,
a square stem, full sides and a flat bottom made it useful along the
shore fisheries, and a long paddle now lying at the bottom of the boat,
and bruised and indented by use, showed that its occurrence was not
accidental.

Lhatto threw her food basket and harpoon into the boat and then
unwrapping the little bundle of clothes took out a pair of skin
breeches, a soft fabric shirt, and a seal-skin blouse or jacket. She
unloosened the fox skin apron about her loins. It dropped to the
ground, and the nude Eurydice, save for the glittering anklets and
wristlets and necklace, for an instant saw her beauty in the still
encroaching waters that may even have hastened their tardier approach
to indulge in the shadowy carresses of her reflection.

It was only for an instant, for even then modesty--the primal
birthright and ornament of womanhood--in this wild child of nature,
this woman hidden in the nameless, dateless past, made clear its
claims. Lhatto, with a startled look, through which there also sprang
hints of a mischievous and tantalizing happiness in her own beauty,
half bent, half turned, though only the impersonal sky and rocks and
trees were there, and snatched the waiting garments. Quickly they were
drawn on over her warm bronzed skin, and then seizing the boat’s stern
and pushing outward, she drove it across the shallow tidal flood, its
harsh grating sounding strangely on that empty shore.

It floated, and as Lhatto stepped upon it, the sides were half hidden
in the water. Her hand, with balanced rhythm, paddled the little
boat out from the shore, and the crude invention evinced some artful
adaptation for its purposes as it moved on an even and noiseless keel.

She first propelled it beneath the highest sheer cliff of dark basalt,
whose pediments lay fathoms deep beneath the wave. The steep walls
resounded in hollow and reinforced echoes, as she worked her way
through gaunt spires of rock or looking upward caught the tiny rain
that shot from some narrow shelf of rock tufted with grass, drenched
with percolating waters.

For a moment she rested, and then her wandering eye turned seaward.
Far out she saw the lifted ledges, remnants of the wasted dike, now
withdrawn through the age-long conflict with frost and wave, leaving
behind these rugged roots; and she saw too the glint of a seal’s gray
body on the rocks. Quickly she turned the careening canoe and shot
towards the distant spot where the white spray dashed upward. Perhaps
a mile’s distance would cover the breadth of water she crossed,
perhaps less. The ledges almost formed a low islet, and Lhatto still
noticing the unchanged location of the seal whose eyes arrested by her
approach now rested, half vagrantly turning from side to side, upon the
unexpected visitor, steered her boat to the opposite end of the little
patch of reef. It occupied her but a moment to slide the boat up upon a
convenient and smoothed edge, and then as quickly to seize her harpoon,
and hunter-like, creeping almost prostrate on the rocks, to reach a
point almost directly above her still undisturbed prey.

Even as she raised in the air the sharp bone point of the harpoon
above it, its eyes turned half languidly upon her, but no sense of
alarm, scarcely an indolent effort to see her more clearly, interfered
with her design. Lhatto paused, and the poise and action of her body,
although hidden and disguised by her more cumbrous clothing, were
strikingly suggestive, and full of interest. The succeeding second,
and the harpoon, hurled with splendid precision, buried its murderous
point in the neck of the seal that tumbling from its perch struggled
momentarily in the water, pouring out a red stain upon the foam and
green blades of waves. Its efforts were soon over, and hauled back
and earned by Lhatto to the boat, its glazed eyes seemed to renew its
vacant inquisition of this cruel and unexplained intruder.

Lhatto stood irresolute. Her minute scrutiny of the dead animal showed
an awakening repulsion, and to the first glance of satisfaction
succeeded an unsettled expression in which perchance regret fought with
wonder, and finally surrendered to the latter. For the woman kneeled
and pressed and smoothed the drenched skin, lifted up the disfigured
head, and holding it in both hands so that its shadowed orbs were in
the direct line of her vision, she sang again, and this time the song
was low and whispering and plaintive.

THE SONG OF LHATTO.

  The eye has gone out, and the breath,
  And the thing is still, broken.
  Where is the eye-look and the breath-spirit?
  In the water, in the air, nowhere.
  Hit it, it does not move.
  Warm it, it does not move.
  The wind cannot make it move.
  Nor the water, nor the Sun.
  Has it gone away? Will it come back?

And the primal woman leaned over the dead seal, and before the mystery
of death began the long interrogation which man has ever put to this
same wonder, running on past false prophets, ethnic faiths, revelation
and modern science.

Lhatto disengaged the harpoon point which, as in the same instrument
of the Esquimaux to-day, was attached by a thong to the wooden shaft
that carried it, and washed it clean and replaced it in a socket in a
handle. She laid it in the boat and stood lingering over the spot where
the seal had been slain, perhaps with some propitiary thought, for the
life she had taken from the world.

She turned to the boat that now with the receding tide had become half
elevated from the water on the widening surfaces of the bared rocks. A
light push, a leap and the rocking dug-out shot outward in a maze of
ripples, with its agile occupant still standing upright, a curious gaze
of interest rising in her face as she looked northward to the blanched
and drifting ice bergs, intermittently visible and absent on the far
horizon.

The girl slowly resumed her paddling, and began, after some hesitation,
to row still further outward from the shore, that now seemed a long
way off, its details softened into confused blotches of color, and
its irregularities of outline merged into bold and simple shapes. The
strangeness of her position, the weird isolation of her voyage on
the Pacific, a human waif in the great void of expectancy of nature,
certainly carried no intimation of its poetic or dramatic interest to
her primitive experience, and feeling. She, the naive precursor of a
continent’s population!

A fascination only drew her outward, the compelling curiosity of her
nature, that delicate and insistent inquisitiveness of woman, which in
more conventional forms is reduced and dissipated into the idle and
transitory whims of modern life.

In Lhatto, this minimized attitude of interest in trifles, innuendos
and intrigues, was foreshadowed by a great yearning; the stalwart,
uninjured, bare response of her strong passionate heart to her own
questioning of nature, to the myriad strains of sympathy between her
and this chrysalis of mysteries into which she had been born. How shall
we justly realize the proportions or properties of the first full
formed human soul in a woman, standing somewhere near the marvellous
incident which evolved or made her; yet possessing an indescribable
heritage of half-animal instincts, transmuted let us hope, by the
benison of the Great Intention, into a labyrinth of longings, and
dreams, and hopes, and queries.

She moved constantly outward on the waste of waters, and her face was
turned to the land looming up behind its first declivities in purple
mountain tops, here and there accentuated in sharp and sparkling
pinnacles. Still outward. And now so recklessly had she advanced that
the thronging fingers of a great oceanic current, sweeping northward,
like myriads of tiny tentacles, each the lapping summit of a drop
of water, had seized her boat and slowly swerved it from its path,
carrying it on the broad river of its eddying tides.

Lhatto seemed to notice nothing at first, but suddenly she rose to
her feet. The receding land seemed miles away, the sun shone from the
zenith, the little groups of rocks on which she had landed were lost to
sight, a low creeping ripple made itself heard and the boat rose upon
the successive swelling convexities of larger and larger waves. The
realization of her position was acute. She worked vigorously to draw
her little vessel out of the hastening and now vociferous tide, but for
once her strong arm, nerved into desperation by a sense of impending
danger, was impotent.

The struggle between the woman and the now exulting water, leaping and
splashing upon her terror-stricken face, was an unequal combat. The
insidious gliding wavelets, as if instinct with a hidden purpose, had
disguised their force until their softly augmented power had reached
the full measure of an irresistible purpose. Nothing now in that
woman--become frail before the strength of natural agencies--could save
her.

She stood up, and dropping the useless paddle, between her scooped
hands shouted to the shore. The wild sad cry drifted lonely, shivering
unanswered, over the hopeless plain of water, and if it reached the
shore, died forgotten against the flinty barriers, or lost itself in
cranny, crevice, and defile.

The tide grew stronger as if exultant in its remorseless purpose. The
boat swayed and swung like a chip upon a descending stream, the dancing
waters leaped about it, the long swells rose higher, and a growing cold
caused the young creature to draw her wisely designed clothing closer
to her form, while the unused paddle lay at her feet, and far beyond,
as her appealing eyes looked northward, the great icebergs drew nearer.

Indeed the spectacle became each moment strangely beautiful and
stupendous, and the despairing woman, in whom the dawning responses to
beauty daily strengthened, forgot for a moment her extremity, in the
superb picture that grew and grew as the now shooting currents carried
her against its awful frigid majesty.

The day was far spent, the sun’s red disk hung on the very edge of the
western horizon and the far away shores of the Fair Land, from which
Lhatto had drifted, seemed drenched in purple, though above their peaks
and domes of rock, a rosy light yet lingered. The sun, unattended by
clouds but veiled in some unapparent mist, glowed garnet red, and its
dissipated or obstructed rays dimly touched the ocean’s face with
molten glints and splashes of bronzy gold.

North of the Fair Land, north of Lhatto lay the ice country, and it
was thither her eyes turned with wonderment. She had heard of the ice
country. Between it and her own Fair Land stretched the intermediate
morainal zone, already described, where the hairy mastodon roamed in
a dwindled but widely disseminated flora of low willows, birches,
beeches, and gnarled ashes and spruce, where, in sheltered places,
carpets of meadow sprinkled with color, spread between high beds of
naked gravel, boulder piles, and clay. Her people had hunted there.

It was a strange climatic contiguity, the cold and ice-burdened north,
the temperate or semi-tropic region of the Fair Land south, the neck of
transition between.

It was not an impossible condition. In Dr. J. W. Gregory’s _Great Rift
Valley of Africa_, a description is given of his ascending to the
snow fields and glaciers of Mt. Kenya, and the reader is introduced
to a succession of climates precisely such as prevailed in this
reconstructed area of North America where the Romance of Lhatto and of
Ogga was, as here described, evolved.

Mt. Kenya itself, garlanded with glaciers and snow beds, rises some
16,000 feet in the air almost beneath the equator.

The lowlands, miles away from its dark and arctic peaks, are tropical,
where at 2 degrees South Latitude, the Athi River pours into the
Indian Ocean. Nearer to the baffling peak, as the land rises, immense
and dense forests spread an almost impassible skirt about it, the
coniferous trees (_podocarpus_) and bamboo jungles indicate a cooler
atmosphere, and through them hustle the chattering monkies (_Colobus_).
Swamps, morainal hillocks succeed, the forests are replaced by herbs
and bushes and scattering groves, with interspersed peat bogs, and
then, beyond such a region of severer temperate conditions, rise the
arctic highlands of the central confluence of ridges, chasms, and
peaks, where a perpetual winter reigns. And all these progressive
alternations are encountered in a radial circumference of fifty miles.

Already the hastening oceanic stream had carried Lhatto, as the night
fell, nearly a hundred miles from the morning’s shore.

The night had indeed come; and Lhatto, who had long ago abandoned her
desperate struggles to escape from the pitiless tide, crawled to the
bottom of the boat, and crushing upon her head a cap of seal-skin, the
last item of clothing left in her bundle, and eating ravenously of the
meat and grain in her little basket, resigned herself to the strange
possibilities now close upon her. And resigned herself without fear!

Fear indeed holds an awful sway in the primeval brain, stultified and
dizzy before the unaccountable events in nature, its life and death,
its storms and its silence, the stars, the depths of the earth, and
all moving things. But an exalted phantasy sways there too. A sudden
realization of fate and supernatural impulse, of swimming and winged
and footed destinies carrying one on to prejudged conclusions, premade
ends, prefixed disasters.

So Lhatto sat and dreamed and waited, and the biting air sank into
her breast, and she fell asleep, almost undisturbed, acquiescent to
all that might happen. And the same stars in the moonless night shone
on her then, in the Ice Age, as they would shine on the same waters
to-day, in the Age of Knowledge. And so Lhatto glided on unconscious,
to the ice and the snow and the glaciers.

As the sun broke over the eastern rims of land, as its rays fell upon
the half blinded eyes of the waking woman, a chill like a physical
impact shook her frame. It was a strange and picturesque scene, one of
unimaginable wonderfulness and beauty which met her eyes, and startled
her into the widest wakefulness by the piercing cold. And it also was a
scene of fantastic fearfulness and danger. The current had brought her
to the lips, to the opening mouths and throats, the manifold necks and
elongations, the waters fleeted with icebergs, the radiant cathedral
spires, the minaretted roofs, the spouting super or englacial rivers,
the dirt accumulations spilled from its lapsing morainal crusts;
at the beryl wall of the Great Glacier, covering the North country,
_where_ it slid from the distant plateaux, even from the ice encased
Mountain of Zit, rigid in frost, amid its dead and frozen hills,
_where_ it moved with breaks and bounds and dull detonations into the
sea.

As the sun climbed the cloudless sky the immensity of this continental
ice sheet was revealed to Lhatto. The very centre and composed
inspiration of it all was the great towering mountain with its jutting
and defiant peak of rock, where, as was shown before, the superb
elevation was itself broken up into radiating chasms whose rocky
sides rose in black keels of relief above the snow-filled gorges they
defined, while surmounting them all, a keen shaft of granite, roseate
in a hundred lights, or wrapped in pendulous and waving veils of mist,
rose steeply to the clouds.

The extreme velocity of the current had abated and the dug-out floated
slowly forward into this chaotic splendor of icy things. A vagary
of the tide branching sideways brought the boat and its bewildered
occupant into a sea of icebergs, ice-cakes, hummocks and toppling
mounds of ice, where before her rose the very front of the high glacial
stream pushing steadily into the water. In this amphitheatre of
wonders, the crystal prison of the Ice King, full of structure and full
of the most diffused and entrancing colors, here and there, in sockets
and rifts, acute with passionate intensity, the boat rested, bobbing on
the fluctuating waves.

Lhatto stood up on the dancing raft. Her limbs cramped with cold and
the long stagnant sleep, seemed scarcely able to support her. But
stamping and rubbing brought the life back to them, and the blazing
sunlight brought back vitality to her body, even as it also started
the ice streams, and to each tension of the ice masses supplied the
loosening warmth that hastened their solution.

Before Lhatto was a terrace of ice, its minor irregularities masked
by distance, with a height of many hundreds of feet, gashed, riven
and melting, running for miles and miles interminably backward and
sideward. At its feet, washed by the water, thousands of ice floats
rose idly, or were rocked with waves produced by the falling into the
sea of new additions to their number. Rivers were flowing in places
over the ice front, discolored with mud, while leaning boulders of
rocks at points were balanced on the edge of the glacier, or at other
points protruding from the midst of its face, waited momentarily their
own discharge into the ocean.

Beautiful and sublime ships of ice seemed stationary about her with
their deep keels yet anchored to the sea bottom, sculptured and
dissected, with snow drifts piled high upon them or arching in white
cornices from the sides. An incessant murmur entered her ears, now and
then punctuated by a sharper note of cracking and splitting, while the
surges from the falling bodies, accompanied by most audible splashes,
kept her boat tipping and turning, and rendered each movement she
ventured to make, uncertain.

It was the panorama unrolled before her eyes landward beyond the blue
and green precipices of the immediate glacier that drew her rapt
attention. The rocky signal surmounting Zit soared above the ice
fields, whose united surfaces, softened into an unbroken expanse, like
huge shields, encircled it with gleaming armor; its lower attendant
mountains secured a precarious freedom from the dominant oppression,
some raising their heads in dark crests, above the snows, and the
others banked over their highest reaches with fillets or reflecting
bombs of snow. Below all these elevations the universal ice, written
with a thousand details of serac, gorge, moraine, crevasse, and
noonituck swept its dazzling and incredible domain.

Lhatto was beginning to feel a cruel hunger and she was very cold. The
warm shirt, the seal skin dress, protected her, and over her feet she
had also drawn a pair of sealskin boots, all so providently provided in
her bundle of clothes, that it was almost certain that she had not been
entirely without prevision of her coming necessity. But now it was
hunger, too, that added its terrors to her isolation. She suddenly cast
a satisfied glance upon the dead seal, already almost forgotten, lying
in the boat. Beneath its plush-like covering lay the rich nutritous fat
that feeds the fires of life beneath polar skies, with instantaneous
and adequate fuel.

Her thoughts, now again wakeful and swarming upward with fresh hopes of
escape, as the tide had stopped, and land far south showed its varying
outlines, were suddenly interrupted. Although apparently arrested, her
boat had been drawing imperceptibly closer to an enormous berg which
lay, tilted sideways, from some dislocation of its centre of gravity,
its bottom immovable in the mud. A beetling wedge of ice formed its
apex. Beneath this impending block and straight against a shelf of ice
at its base, the exile had drifted. The dug-out struck the ice-cake
sharply and Lhatto was thrown forward upon the prow of the small boat.
Her fall was fortunate. The next instant, long enough for the slight
concussion to be communicated to the toppling summit, the great mass
fell, splintering like some colossal Rupert’s bubble into myriads
of fragments, indenting the water with a deep concavity upon whose
depression the refluent waves rolled in deafening disorder. Lhatto
lay just beyond--by the narrowest margin--the extreme verge of its
showering cleavages. The stern of the boat was hit by a big cake and
sank beneath the water. Lhatto leaped to her feet, sped forward upon
the ice shelf of the berg and falling flat, grasped the retreating
dug-out, which, sucked outward, almost pulled her after it. The strong
muscles and the roughened edges of the berg holding her back by their
asperities, catching in her loose and wrinkled dress, saved all.

Another moment the stress of peril was past, and Lhatto drew over the
rim of the ice shelf the boat still containing the captured seal. A
stranger and larger craft was now the vehicle of her further adventures.

Adventure was indeed certain, for relieved of its cumbrous and
dislodged pinnacle, the huge iceberg reeled slowly over and with a
pulsating boom that shook the gathered snows from its shoulders, in
storms of irridescent dust, it rose from its muddy fastenings and
floated; to follow perchance the spectral procession which in the
morning of the previous day Lhatto had seen far south, proceeding
outward on the trackless deep.

But apprehensions were for the instant forgotten. The woman drew
from the pocket of her trousers a long thin blade, that shining from
its concave facets revealed the substance of obsidian, or volcanic
glass. She squeezed the plush-like skin of the seal, draining away the
absorbed water, and then cut deeply into its back, and dexterously
working the stone knife, dislodged the fat in lumps. And these she ate.

The reassuring comfort of satiety, the new warmth bringing with it
courage, made Lhatto keen and anxious again. She reviewed the chances
of her escape. The berg was moving. That she could detect by watching
the sharp edges of its arête pass the features of the glacier beyond
it, and that it was likely to follow in the wake of the endless train
of emigrants whose majestic beauty was destined to vanish before
the tropic suns, dropping like despoiled queens their ornaments of
sparkling jewels in the hot waters of the south, was equally certain.
What means did she possess to effect her escape? The boat was intact,
food was there, the harpoon and paddle still remained, and her own
good heart and buoyant muscles, the quick concurrence of ardor and of
strength, were also hers.

The berg moved steadily out to sea. No time was to be lost; the sea
was as yet undisturbed, save by its own unquiet breathing, and even
this perturbation, near the shore, and shielded as her position was by
fences of icy peninsulas and drifting ice, was now scarcely noticeable.
If she left the berg and trusted herself upon the water, could she shun
the tides which had brought her there? To answer this question it was
essential for Lhatto to find out exactly where she was. The body and
mass of the berg, in steps and colonnaded loveliness, was between her
and the distance, only the shelf on which she stood offered any room
for foothold or support.

She looked intently upward. Above her she could see a shoulder of ice
projecting outward, and it seemed so disposed to the central trunk of
ice as to suggest that it surrounded it with a sort of lower platform.
If she could surmount this the wider circuit of vision would enable her
to form her plans. The task was not easy. The wall of ice at her very
face was steep and actually inclined outwards, and the nearest margin
of its pendent edges was thirty feet away.

Lhatto studied the problem, but it was an impossible physical feat
to ascend the glassy slope. The iceberg, with occasional shuddering
thrills which broke the snow loose from its higher parts, sending down
white showers upon the startled woman, was slowly veering seaward.
The circling eddies around its edges betrayed its motion. It even
seemed that the shelf on which she stood was being invaded by the sea
water. Her boat, a few minutes ago dry on the ice, was now partially
surrounded by water. Her dismay increased. Running almost hopelessly to
and fro, a waif of humanity in the great arctic world, straining her
eyes from the extremities of the tipping shelf where she stood, to see
if possible what surmounted the platform above her, which she desired
to reach, her eye noted a horn-like projection of cylindrical ice,
suddenly revealed by one of the discharges of the powdery snow above.

It was a stalactitic formation of ice extending outward like the round
limb of a tree. Lhatto’s eye detected here an opportunity. Wound around
the long harpoon she had brought, were many feet of strongly woven
cord, a provision made by her people in their hunting excursions, when
their prey dove or swam from them. It was attached to the harpoon
blade, and the device contemplated a separation of the blade from the
stock or handle which floated to the surface, though still united by
this long thong to the wounded animal, seeking escape below the water.

Lhatto quickly unwound this cord, severed it from the stock and blade
and threw one end over the uprising and ringent projection. In another
instant she had looped the other end about her thighs, pulled the noose
tightly around her limbs, and then, seizing the disengaged end, drew
herself upward as a trapeze performer does to-day in a circus ring.

When near the projection she caught it with one hand, let go of the
rope and flung her other hand upon it and then drew herself quickly
upward, flinging her legs upon the crust around her. She had gained an
ample space extending outward from the spire of the iceberg on all
sides. She could walk around the central mass and her eye traversed the
whole visible area of the shores.

Instinctively she looked upward to Zit. Its granite obelisk still
gleamed amid the ice, and a rare splendor of unbroken sunshine flooded
the marvellous picture. A second time the Woman sank to her knees and
from her untrained lips, from the speechless impulse of her heart,
there rose a prayer for safety, and she stretched out her imploring
hands to the distant mountain.

As she thus bowed to the sensible Deity before her, great wraiths and
swirling towers of snow seemed developed upon one edge of the vast
scene. They rose as colossal and advancing clouds, and closed with
immense strides the whole picture of the mountain. Cold winds descended
from their flanks, bearing a tornado of ice particles, whirring
snow-flakes and poignant sleet. Poor Lhatto! She trembled in the gale
and cold; the iceberg, pushed by the storm’s harsh hands, reeled
outward, and the descending blizzard rapidly hid the outlines of the
coast. The woman had caught the slightest glance eastward, but it was
enough to show her that the glaciated areas faded away somewhere south
into a barren region which seemed again succeeded by the Fair Country.

There was no time to lose. Other bergs loosened from their moorings,
or started in more rapid motion, were crowding now upon the _massif_
on which Lhatto stood, the water spaces about her were filled with
cakes and hummocks, the waters themselves, violently disturbed, were
forming into waves, the blinding snow crowded the air, and the dismal
frightening moment seemed to seal her fate.

She turned anxiously and looked over the platform’s edge to see if her
one little hope, the small dug-out, was yet upon the lower shelf. To
her alarm, the greater part of this ledge had disappeared; a triangular
section still held the canoe, but the leaping waves were falling upon
it and it rocked upon the slippery floor, with every intimation of
quickly following the broken portions of the berg. Lhatto, stricken
with terror at the thought of her separation from the one link
connecting her with home and the sweet memories of the southern land,
looked hastily about her for some quick escape from the dilemma. She
had inadvertently approached the curling edge of the upper platform
and stood peering over it upon a bank of drifted snow. The plate of
ice beneath her broke with a sharp rattle, and Lhatto, buried in the
snow bank, was flung headlong upon the ice beneath. She emerged unhurt
from the protecting blankets of wet snow and leaped to the dug-out.
Another instant and she had coiled up the pendent strand from the ice
bough by which she had ascended, thrown it and the harpoon into the
boat, now slipping away with every new oscillation, and following both,
launched herself amid the wilderness of ice, in the bitter breath from
the frosty deserts of the glacier, in that desolate black moment when
the light of day seemed extinguished, and the power of night held her
prisoner in this sepulchre of death, with the shrill blasts whistling
about her, a thousand missiles of hail pelting her remorselessly, and
the inky waters, beaten into froth, curling their smitten crests about
her.

Then the natal heroism emerged; her spirit met the unexpected and
monstrous demand, her muscles stiffened into sinews of iron, and the
prescience of her mind, educated by numberless adventures, directed her.

The very proximity of the stalking bergs, somewhat aligned in rows,
protected Lhatto against the fiercer assaults of the wind, and
permitted her to secure shelter from the rising waters. She adroitly
directed her way between these stealthy and splendid argonauts,
shooting across open lanes of water between them, skirting cautiously
their quiet margins, even clinging to them, waiting for a propitious
moment to move safely onward in her course.

The instinct of direction in wild men and women is acute and
infallible. The obstreperous confusion of warring details in natural
features becomes with them a completely composed picture with all the
details properly distributed, and the relations of parts all accurately
designed. Lhatto had seen but little from the iceberg, and distance had
veiled it, but some compass of direction set instantly in her bright
mind, and she knew, even in this labyrinth, the avenue of escape. It
lay to the south-east.

The sudden tempest almost as suddenly abated, but all the startled
movements it had inaugurated continued its physical effects long after
its activity had ceased. The ice continued to pour outward from the
glacier, the water remained froward and dangerous. Lhatto, still aiming
to shield herself from the waves, had clung to the larger floats of ice
in such wise as to secure immunity from their attack, but she could not
much longer afford to drift with them too far to sea. She would have
again met that tide perchance which first brought her northward, and
besides she realized that, nearer in shore, a back setting tide might
help her on her difficult return.

The moment had come for her to venture out upon the broken waves, and
auspiciously as she shot her canoe from behind a barrier of ice to
which she had tenaciously held, the sun again opened the canopy of the
sky, and a light shaft flung athwart her boat seemed propitious to her
animated fancy.

She had already passed over miles of water from the glacier’s edge and
her encouraged heart grew hopeful. She left the friendly berg and
directed her boat eastward against the waves. She worked the sea-worthy
little dug-out with temerity and skill. She sat looking forward and
her keen eyes, helped now by the renewed sunlight, watched the crested
waves, their slanting or direct approach, and while she resisted
their tendency to carry her from the shore, she so far permitted them
to neutralize her advance, as was necessary to avert the danger of
upsetting.

It was a clever and strong series of efforts, and to the sympathetic
spirits watching her from some asylum in the skies her success must
have elicited approving nods.

Slowly as the night fell the lapsing wind faded away; the sun’s parting
rays piercing the higher atmosphere, left the cold world in darkness;
spectral and terrifying shadows stole over the ice fields and one
by one the stars in the firmament lit their everlasting vigils, and
Lhatto, still struggling with the waves, moved silently shoreward,
almost despairing with fatigue, but calling, in her brave primeval
heart, upon all the powers of the blue black dome above her to bring
her safely home.

All that night the tireless arms worked, and the nursed boat overcame
the distance with increasing ease; the tide, mutable with new
affections, now helped the exhausted maiden in place of opposing her,
the wind, soothed into pity by the moving spectacle, brushed her
onward with alternating puffs, and the surges on the far away shore
made themselves heard so as to direct her path. Birds from the shore
piped above her head, and ever and anon an earthy odor swept over her
bowed head, to lure her hope with reviving thoughts of life and flowers.

But Lhatto slept. Her prostrate form lay backwards in the boat, the
paddle had dropped from her nerveless hand, her seal skin cap had
slipped from the clustering hair, dark with moisture, that pressed down
upon her narrow and arched brow, the darting eyes were closed, and
as the sun again toiled upward in the east, his light, touching many
things with beauty, touched none more gently than the sleeping girl,
saved from the sea anemone, or the thronging fish or the myriad coral
beds, to be the mother of new men.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER IV.

OGGA--THE MAN.


Where the opening valleys of the Fair Land turned northward into the
Dismal Country of heaped ridges, interminable peat hogs, low woods,
and scanty or puissant streams, upon an upland sparingly covered with
trees, and almost on its incline to the lowland beyond it, dwelt
Ogga--the mastodon hunter.

His house, if house it could be called, was a sort of tent of bark
with skins placed upon an interior framework of sticks and so disposed
that its doorway closed by a broad slab of bark, torn from the great
Sequoia, looked over the Dismal Country to the northwest, and the
strong eyes of its occupant could see the great glacier, and, if the
air was clear, could always see the dark minaret of Zit above it.

The spot was redolent with charm--a charm that gained in interest as
the eye turned to the ragged land north of it, where the dreary plain,
showing occasional interruptions of hillock and stream, formed a refuge
for its disappearing tenantry of mastodon and bear. By some accident
of vegetable distribution, or through some violence of weather, a
smooth clear space surrounded Ogga’s bark home.

Behind this advancing table land, a dark block of lofty trees rose
with majestic forcefulness. They were the giant trees. Their tapering
summits with arrow-like precision melted into the blue sky like a
winged flight of birds, and far beneath, the broad trunks stood in dark
colonnades, a kind of architectural vestibule to the mantling woods,
hiding, with their deep umbrageous solidity, the retreating and rising
and falling mountains.

When Ogga opened the door of his tent he could look over the steep
land ascending to the glacier, and not infrequently he watched the
mastodon moving in small herds, or a few individuals in pairs stirring
in dark patches among the low trees and bushes at the sides of rivers;
could even see their white tusks reflecting the light from the curved
ivory, could even hear their low trumpet calls increasing to brisk
short snorts, or the wash of the pond waters as their slouching bodies
entered some unfrequented pool to drink or bathe.

The sides of his tepee were partially covered with mastodon hide, and
fragments of tusk and a few large molars of the prehistoric beast lay
on the ground near his door way.

The mastodon was itself a proboscidian which had become widely
distributed through the northern half of the American Continent
at the close of the Great Glacial Day. It advanced southward and
retreated northward, if such expressions have a permissible use, with
the advance and retreat of the glacier, the great ice cap, which had
in an irregular manner, modified by position, topography and local
conditions, stretched from the highlands of Canada north and south.
Thus distended it had enveloped the present eastern, middle and western
states, withdrawing farther north as its edge extended to the West,
but in the West connected with outlying positions along the higher
altitudes of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas, and pressing
to the borders of the ocean at every possible opportunity.

The warm winds from the Pacific, a rise on the west coast, then as
now of the isothermal lines, contracted its western expansion. The
flora and silva of this section, thrust backward from the north by
the invasion of the ice, somewhat more encouraged here in their
resiliency against the cold, with intermittent daring stoutly defended
more advanced northern stations than did the floras and silva of the
East. In the East the long lip of the glacier hung, on the southern
boundaries of Pennsylvania, and its refrigerating influence was felt
many degrees further south.

Along the fringes of local glaciers as that of the Mountain of Zit
in the abundant vegetation--the grasses, the bushes, the aspiring
woodland--which were fed by streams, percolating through the sands or
issuing in the clay basins and losing some of the extreme cold, in
these favorite spots the mastodon congregated. They moved through the
country in small herds, frequently in pairs. A certain caution had
become hereditary, for prowling sabre-toothed cats (_Smilodon_) were
lured from warmer regions to prey upon these boreal elephants. The
method of attack which the nature of the ground made most effective
was for the cat to crouch upon some table land or shelf overlooking a
defile leading to a pool or stream, or a meadow, and blurring itself
with the brown yellowish soil, await the approach of its cumbrous
antagonist. It invariably chose the last member of the procession, or
better, a belated straggler. Leaping from its high perch, executing
springs of surprising velocity and width, it landed on the back of its
terrified victim. A struggle ensued, which not infrequently resulted in
the discomfiture of the sanguinary bandit, for unless too much engaged
or too quickly disabled, the surprised mastodon trumpeted its distress,
and this often led to a return of the bulls of the herd, in which case,
as the odds became more formidable, the vicious tiger retreated, but
never without inflicting dangerous wounds.

Its flight did not mean, however, permanent retreat. It dogged the
footsteps of the listless mastodons expecting that the wounded member
of the herd would drop behind and become an easy captive, or die
from some vital lesion. In either case the ferocious smilodon easily
completed its design.

Ogga had indeed witnessed a strange reversal of parts in these combats.
The mastodons, if there were more than one bull in the herds, seemed to
become infuriated at times, and, encouraged by numbers, turn savagely
upon the snarling pleistocene lion and chase it for long distances. The
tiger, with tail withdrawn and seized with panic, would rush headlong
away, the bristling mastodon pursuing; the heavy trampling, the impetus
of their great bodies against interfering trees or shrubs, and their
encouraging calls making a weird tumult in those silent deserts. But
such a chase was quite usually or always unavailing. The cat, springing
sideways, would vanish from view up a tree, the slope of a bank, or
even in the long grass, and the disappointed or confused mastodons,
losing sight of their enemy, would suddenly collide in an animated
throng, and, still exasperated, turn with sudden vehemence upon each
other.

The smilodon, the terrific tiger of those young years, voracious and
blood-thirsty, was not a natural occupant of this northern zone. It was
a rare animal, though almost constantly present in the warmer seasons,
in small numbers or perhaps in single pairs. It belonged to the regions
of South America, but at that time the Isthmus of Panama had a much
greater lateral extension, and the avenues of animal migration north or
south became greatly widened. A coastal platform, torrid and moist, and
the central ridges, flanks, and successional elevations of the Rocky
Mountains offered a contrasted range of conditions for the movement to
and fro of wild animals.

Predatory animals, like the smilodon, made their way northward with
precarious and tentative advances. And the mastodon so far established
itself in South America, as to become under the modifying influences of
separation and environment the elephant of the Andes in Peru.

As Dr. Von Schenck has recorded, the Bengal tiger ranges northward to
the latitude of 52 degrees or even 48 degrees in Asia, to which point
the Polar Bear in a reversed manner descends from the north.

It is easy to conceive that contemporaneous possession of a common
ground by a hunter and carnivorous beast like the Sabre-toothed Tiger,
and the vegetable feeding elephants, would have acted as an inducement,
of varying intensity but always present, for the former to extend its
range and enter the grazing grounds, the formal metropolis of the
latter.

Ogga was an ivory hunter and he had also encountered a few displaced
walrus coming down from the Behring Sea region. The occasional pursuit
of these visitors carried him to the shores of the ocean, and so in his
zestful and industrious quest for this precious material he had become
acquainted with the trails, passes, rivers, lakes and inhabitants
of this whole land. It was his domain. The fierce inclemency of its
winters, the terrors of its storms, the temperate luxuriance of
its summers, were all known to him, and in its long and vigorous
exploration by him he had passed almost into the arid canyon country on
the east. Amid so much varied activity, from this dependence upon skill
and strength and courage, the character of Ogga had grown upward into
a structure of available and solid qualities of heart and mind, and to
him, as to all these precursory denizens, an intimacy with nature, a
perpetual companionship with the air and the ground, and the beasts,
had woven a thread of sentiment not unreal, not unusual, in the strong
fibres of his being.

It was the morning of the same day on which Lhatto hastened from the
highland to the shore, driven by an instinct or some suasion, knit in
with the destiny of races, that Ogga stood watching the chasing snow
wreaths upon the distant Zit, equipped for a new hunt for ivory amongst
the hidden mastodon in the low country before him. He was a picture of
aboriginal beauty.

His stature was accentuated by the spareness of his frame, its
muscular precision, and the coppery swarthiness of its hue. He wore a
skin apron and at the moment when he emerged from his tent nothing else
hid the sinewy and blended outlines of the figure, incorporated with
suggestions of endurance, pliability and action.

His face was youthful, in an Indian type, the cheek-bones high but not
relieved, the eyes set and scrutinizing, with that ineffable gaze of
mystery fitting his relations to an unborn world. His hair, black and
braided, hung about his head, and he had drawn into his wide mouth with
its thin lips a string upon which his teeth were fixed, gleaming above
a short chin carried backward into the mandibular processes of his jaw
by strong quadrangular lines. His beauty would have startled, by its
brusque combination of grace and poise and woodland variety, a drawing
room of exquisites but it would have also soon become repellent under
such artificial conditions, and would only have courted the admiration
of curiosity. Where he was, in the morning light, at the side of the
rough wigwam upon an upland on whose carpet of grass the sunlight lay
in patches, with the sombre and wonderful majesty of primeval forests,
themselves the type of an extinct time, behind him, and with that
lonely landscape of steppe and lake and river before him, its farthest
edges rising to the unmantled glory of the glacier, Ogga was superb
and invincible, and prophetic. He waved his hand significantly to the
distance and even as Lhatto had bowed and prayed to Zit, Ogga now
bent forward and with arms folded across his breast, littered some
incoherency of worship to the titular and tutelary genius of his world.

For a few moments Ogga disappeared and when again he stood at the
doorway he was accoutred for the hunt which was to be the day’s
occupation.

A long knife made of green nephritic stone hung by a twisted cord about
his neck, close fitting skin trousers of fox’s or wolf’s skin, the fur
cut or burnt off to the surface of the hide, covered his legs, a belt
of mastodon skin girded his waist, held in place by two pins of bone.
A sort of shawl or mantel tied at the cincture of his neck was thrown
backward behind his shoulders. This latter element of his attire was
the entire skin of a reindeer, curtailed of its tail and legs, and
forming a sort of peak or hood above his head. A basket, holding the
pemmican-like masses which Lhatto had taken with her to the shore, some
flint-stones, or “fire makers,” and scraps of dried and powdered wood,
were fastened to his belt, and in one hand he swung a formidable spear.

This latter weapon, the insignia and instrument of his trade and
prowess, was an illustrious example of wild art. It was almost seven
feet long--the shaft made of a dense arbor-vitae wood much rubbed
and rudely ornamented with incised lines, herring bone patterns, and
circles; the shaft bore at its bifurcated or socketed extremity a
superb flat blade of walrus ivory, the tusk or canine of one of these
phocidean creatures, but despoiled of its cylindricity, and made into
an evenly tapering javelin of fatal power. Two rings of dark green
stone, cemented with pitch, held it firmly to the handle, and inscribed
upon it was a doubtful outline of a mastodon. One other implement
completed his equipment. It was a stone hammer of fair proportions,
withed tightly to a wooden handle which clasped it around its hollowed
sides, and came together beyond it. This was stuck, handle down, into
his belt.

The hunter stood still, and shading his eyes, as if irresolute,
looked towards a remote oval of water which, suddenly illuminated
by the sun, threw its rays upward with the intensity of a spectrum.
His inspection of the distant spot was satisfactory. He grunted and
turned down the path. It led after a few premonitory winds straight
down the embankment, and after half a mile entered the seclusion of a
small cedar wood. The trees were not, however, in such proximity as to
preclude the sunlight. There were more or less open spaces, and here
in charming profusion grew clumps of wild anemone. Inside the wood,
the murmur of running water at a distance became quickly audible, its
faint vibrations failing to penetrate entirely the acoustic hedge of
trees.

The man hurried along with great strides and soon emerged from the
wood, which a backward glance would have discovered occupied a thin
slip of arable soil at the edges of the stormy, boulder-covered plain,
through which our Nimrod was forcing his way with impatient haste. The
scene, except for the bright sky and the copious sunlight, would have
been disquieting and dreary. It was a sort of domed eskar or gravel
heap formed by glacial agencies which had vanished. Crossing its low
crest where the trains of boulders, fragments of rock, angular and
scored erratics imparted an unmistakable glacial expression to the
whole accumulation, Ogga found himself looking into a long depression
holding now a swiftly flowing river. The stream was quite unequal in
this respect. Broad pools expanded its course in places and here its
current became sluggish or imperceptible. Releasing itself from these,
temporary relaxations, it poured over low dams of clay and sand, and
spilled in foam and cataracts to lower levels, on its certain way to
the coast.

One of these lakes was near at hand. It was the water Ogga had seen
from his tent reflecting the sun’s rays. Toward it, still following
the summit of the prolonged ridge, Ogga turned his steps. The violence
or power or duration of the former ice transportation was seen by the
monoliths amongst which he moved. Great cubes of stone thrown against
each other and surmounted by others, formed veritable observatories,
while approximate alignments of huge masses brought so closely together
that their opposed sides formed alleys and corridors, in which the sun
never penetrated; impregnable shelters for fugitive reserves of ice, or
snow still remaining from the winter’s storms.

At times Ogga quite disappeared in these hidden streets, his
reappearance occurring after such an interval of time as had permitted
him to make considerable progress towards the lake. Finally, climbing
a long slope, over one aspect of which the escaping waters from above
emptied themselves in a noisy torrent, Ogga stood on the edge of a very
considerable basin. It was formed in a continuation, on a higher level,
of the eskar over which he had been moving. Receding around it were
terraces of gravel and sand and clay. The lake lay in this enclosed
pocket, a deep hole formed perchance by some torrential power of water,
or occupied at a former time by an enormous mass of ice, a fraction of
a great glacier which had become imbedded in the mud and stony debris,
and finally, succumbing to the increasing heat, had melted, discharging
its mineral burdens about it, heaping up the walls of its own prison,
until it itself vanished, its witness and transmuted form being the
lake that succeeded it. The terrace, or higher ground embracing it,
formed at points vertical escarpment, especially at its upper end,
where the river that fed it had worn down its bed through the centre of
such an embankment of wasted and foreign matter.

The lake was not unattractive. It was a sort of Arctic mere. Vegetation
in low growths of willows or alders and ashes, emphasized in the most
surprising way by an aberrant pine or even cypress, sticking up its
tall spire, covered some of its sides. In patches of grass, the Arctic
scene displayed a vigor and brilliancy that brought even from the
apathetic Ogga exclamations of interest or delight.

The hunter, emerging on this deep tarn, paused. His eyes rose above
the borders of the lake, crossed the empty plateau beyond it, and
met again far off Zit, with its iron crown, amid the discomfited and
baffled glaciers whose tardy defeat was already recorded in this vacant
ground. He seemed absorbed in contemplation when a brushing sound, the
sway of crushing branches, and a half suffocated sigh proceeding from a
bunch of birches at the head of the lake almost immediately bordering
the debouchement of the vociferous river, turned all his languor into
strained expectation.

The next instant and the curving tusks of an immense mastodon sprang
into view from between the parting branches, and the uplifted trunk of
the proboscidean, lifted up between them, hurled outward in this arena
of devastation and utter solitude the same trumpeting note which from
its congeners in the tropics of India or Africa awoke the echoes of
the jungle and the bush. Ogga fell flat upon his chest, watching every
movement of his great quarry. The mastodon stopped at the water’s edge
and then with a renewed roar plunged into the lake. He was alone. Ogga
knew well the call. It was the cry of the desolation of loneliness.
The great beast had in some way lost his companions; diverted from
their _spoor_ or possibly attacked, it had wandered from the herd, and
with almost human desperation was struggling to regain them. The cry
was not the note of anger, its shrill vibrant hoarseness marked the
exacerbation of a sense of desertion and hopelessness.

The place where the huge creature had entered the water was not deep
but thickly encumbered with silt and sediment brought by the stream,
loaded with the dust of the attrition of the ancient rocks. Into this
unconsolidated mud the unfortunate and disturbed animal sank deeply.
Its fore quarters sank first and as its body entered the pond its
entire bulk seemed suddenly swallowed up. Its head disappeared beneath
the water. The tips of the tusks and the exsert trunk, through which it
breathed, were yet above the surface. It was visibly fighting fiercely
against engulfment, and the agitated water broke in small waves at the
side of Ogga.

The herculean strength of the mastodon won, and essaying still deeper
water, liberated from its treacherous footing, it reappeared, its head
half emergent, swimming to the opposite shore. Ogga arose on his knees,
his spear drawn tightly across his abdomen by both hands, and a smile
lurking in his face still wove its intangible tracery of pleasure about
his eyes.

And now the dramatic movement increased in interest. As Ogga looked
the smile vanished from his eyes, a sudden keen excitement took its
place, he leaped to his feet, his mouth opened as if he were about to
speak, but no word or syllable or sound was heard. Moving stealthily,
crouching, belly flat, upon the ground, to which in color it offered a
deceptive resemblance, Ogga saw on the opposite bank towards which the
disconcerted mastodon was now strenuously swimming, the hateful form of
the tiger-cat, the smilodon, the sabre-toothed, the vagrant savage from
the south.

Indeed the spectacle roused all the deeply seated, and through
practice, exercised instincts of the hunter. He watched, and the color
slowly ebbing from his cheeks again ebbed back, his hands clasping
the useless spear rose and fell, the surges of his emotion broke in
suspirations from his lips, the soul of the hunter realized the meaning
of that animal encounter beneath the glacial skies.

The mastodon now clambered with frequent scrambles and awkward plunges
up the opposite bank. Its footing, uncertain on the rolling stones and
pebbles, dislodged from the terrace, hardly permitted it to make much
progress. Still immersed in the water, its broad back glistening with
drops of water enmeshed in its hairy hide, it stood still, rolling its
long trunk between its tusks and emitting harsh cries of distress and
recall.

The brown heap upon the scantily clothed upland, on the very verge
of the incline up which the mastodon was endeavoring to rise, moved
cautiously forward, and Ogga could see rising and falling in the long
grass the sweeping tail of the cat; he could see the half opened jaws
of the beast of prey exposing the murderous canine that descended
from its upper jaw, curving backward, like a white stiletto; he could
even discern that masked movement of the muscles which the cat so
wonderfully controls and by which it slips along the ground with almost
imperceptible creeping of its hidden feet. Ogga saw the whitish fur of
its underside pressed out in thick folds as the animal hugged the earth
with furtive malice.

And yet the mastodon was unconscious. Perhaps if he had seen the
ambush, it would not have diverted him from his purpose. Again he
forced his huge mass out of water up the bank. The water now rose
above his hind quarters, but his shoulders were fully exposed. Again
he trumpeted, turning his head slowly around. In another instant his
eyes would have detected the smilodon. The latter had now abandoned
concealment, it rose to its full height, then sank back upon its
haunches, its whole body disappeared. The succeeding moment, as Ogga
leaped to his feet, the body of the cat was launched into the air.
Ogga saw its outspread legs, the extended claws, the tail stiffened
outward in a line with its back; his ears caught the half stifled
snarl of the descending carnivore as it rose from the bank, and
immediately they heard also the thud of its impact upon the gray and
brown prominences of the mastodon’s body. The crafty creature had
not altogether succeeded. The great impetus given to it in its wide
leap outward, and a necessary descent in a vertical line of over some
twenty feet imparted an unexpected revolution to its body. It fell
upon the mastodon but was propelled over it, and a confused jumble
of tail, legs, head and claws met Ogga’s view, as, in the excitement
of his interest, he ran forward. The terrific elastic strength of
the animal saved it from falling in the water. It recovered itself,
inflicting long lacerations in the hide of its host. Almost instantly
as it regained its own equilibrium it dashed forward to the head of its
victim.

The mastodon at first seemed shocked into immobility, the next moment
its head shook violently, its trunk with leviathan energy was swung
around and backwards, its evident design being to dislodge the invader.
To avoid this revolving sledge the cat had sprung forward and crouching
upon the frontal bones of the elephant had, with claw and tooth,
attacked its eyes. The excruciating agony drove the mastodon into a
demoniacal rage; the cat had torn away one cheek and the excavated
orbit of the elephant’s eye was drenched in blood. The mastodon,
furious and demented, turned backward into the lake, and as he turned
some rolling stone beneath his feet, some inequality or sudden
compression of the muddy floor threw him sideways. With an asthmatic
roar, his trunk still lifted above the surface, he sank, and the
imperilled cat, half immersed, clung to his head, so deeply submerged
as to deprive her of all opportunity of assault.

The cat’s position was indeed unique. The elephant had now completely
abandoned its first attempt to reach the other side of the lake.
It turned and swam into the central current, that eddied in broad
swirling vortices directly in the path of the inrushing river. The
cat perched upon its living raft was plainly disconcerted. Its own
irritable snarls mingled with the occasional whines of the mastodon;
it stirred restlessly in its unwelcome bath, its glaring eyes and
hideously distended mouth, turning upon Ogga, whose presence, no
longer concealed, seemed to add a new motive or accent of ferocity to
its dismay.

The exit of the water from the lake was made over a glacial dam,
forming the slope Ogga had ascended. Through this wall the corrosive
action of the stream had partially excavated a shallow channel. The
descent was still abrupt, and the overflow of the lake, which now was
excessive by reasons of the accelerated contributions from the melting
ice-barriers and fluviatile discharges from the glaciers, poured down
over it in a deep flood.

Towards this perilous avenue of escape the mastodon was moving, and the
smilodon, tamed now by the cold and its untoward position, had abated
its defiant growls. With eyes almost piteously fixed upon the shores,
its cries had fainted into disconsolate moans. Erecting itself upon its
unstable support, the head of the mastodon, which sensibly had risen
so that the mammoth could itself discover its position, the cat seemed
about to project itself upon the water and seek summary escape from its
embarrassments.

Both had now more than half passed the centre of the small but deep
lake, and the current which had relaxed its velocity as their distance
increased to the head of the lake, began to resume its initial force
as it felt the suction of the waterfall at the foot of the expanse. At
this moment, a critical one for the smilodon, the elephant suddenly
sank completely, his trunk and the polished tips of his tusks
disappearing simultaneously. The cat, completely inundated, was swept
from its high perch, and sprawling in the water, was forced to swim to
safety. At this instant Ogga became a participant in the feral drama.

Running along the rim of the pond, he placed himself where the cat,
slowly extricating itself from the middle tide, was with difficulty
directing its way. He untied the reindeer skin from his neck, dropped
the spear, and hastily surveying the ground, chose a few plummet-shaped
stones from the numbers of stones encumbering the bank. Armed with
these he retired a short way back from the very edge of the lake, to a
low elevation. This slight prominence afforded him a clearer view and
brought the range of his efforts more directly upon the upper surfaces
of the bewildered animal. His object was evident.

The cat was now swimming directly toward him. Ogga raised his arm.
With lightning speed, with the swiftness of a hurled bolt, the smooth
missile left his hand and smashed against the skull of the smilodon.
It was followed by a rain of others. They crashed upon the creature,
they entered its eyes, they tore its skin, they broke its teeth,
they opened its back. The water foamed with their rapid impact. The
desolated beast, now reduced to suppliance, still pursued its course
to the shore. During the short intervals when Ogga searched about him
for those water-worn and ellipsoidal pebbles which furnished him with
the most effective weapons, the creature, still strong and formidable,
gained in its approach. At last its feet touched the bottom, and as
if renewed in all its tenacious instincts, dripping and shrunk, its
beautiful coat pressed upon its lank and muscular form, it sprang
forward, its horrid mouth suffused and vomiting blood.

Ogga sprang to meet it. But he held no rounded stones. Above his head
was poised a heavy boulder. As he advanced the smilodon with cowering
and subtle evasion crouched; its head lay flat upon the earth, its
long tail swept the ground behind it with eager oscillations. Ogga
rushed on. The dazed animal did not move, the great rock fell upon its
crumbling, cracking skull. The smilodon was dead.

The mastodon had reaped the reward of its nimble strategy. Relieved
of its incubus it had turned again to the opposite banks, and when
Ogga had despatched its foe, it stood on the plain, suffering from its
wounds and wailing in whistling squeaks which sounded incongruously
enough when compared with its enormous size. Its bulk was indeed
unusual, and Ogga looked at the superb tusks garnishing the huge head,
with envy. It was just then browsing, tearing up small herbs, seizing
bushes and uprooting them, and with its trunk beating them upon its own
body at the spots where its dead enemy had inflicted painful gashes.

Ogga recovered his composure. He dragged the smiloden up from the
water’s edge, replaced his shawl, picked up his spear, and hurried on
up the stream. About a mile beyond the lake, the river which fed it
broadened out in a flat, saucer-like depression full of stones and
boulders, over which it rippled and broke with musical cadences. Here
Ogga readily crossed the stream, and once over hastened back, hoping to
find the mastodon, which it was now his evident intention to secure.
The prey was more vulnerable because of its lost eyesight, though its
isolation, as Ogga well knew, would add vigor to its self-defence, and
its recent experience render it less susceptible to stratagem.

When Ogga had returned on the other side to the herbage and bushes
where he had left the mastodon, the animal had gone. It was not
difficult to trace its steps, and indeed its frequent trumpetings heard
at a distance revealed inerrantly its location. The trail led up; a
continuous ascent carried the hunter from the lower valley to a wide
and mountainous plain, extending indefinitely on all sides, and only
interrupted in its even surfaces by islands of unassorted glacial tilt.
These formed elliptical elevations. They were the unremoved relics of
a great deposit of the same material, covering this whole area, which
had resisted the pluvial agencies which had degraded and disturbed
the morainal accumulations. Their elongated shape--one axis longer
than the other, and the longer axes in all cases directed in the same
direction--showed their origin. Floods of water had at some time poured
over this terrace, gradually the streams on the surface had excavated
for themselves deeper channels, and then wearing away their banks,
had finally crossed the partitions separating them from neighboring
streams, and the confluent and united inundation had denuded and
degraded the whole plain. These residual hillocks were now the only
witnesses of the former surface and composition of the land.

When Ogga reached the level of this plain, as he glanced across it, no
trace of the mastodon was discovered. The almost naked field before him
was empty. But there had been no mistaking the heavy impress of the
prodigious feet of the mastodon, and without halting, Ogga followed the
great foot marks out into the plain. They led him directly to one of
these isolated projecting spools of gravel, and they disappeared behind
it.

This projection was some thirteen or fifteen feet high, its upper
surface was coated with a feeble growth of grass, and its sides
incurved so that the upper rim of the mound ran outward and overhung. A
few observations only were necessary to reveal to Ogga the exhausted
quadruped sitting behind the mound preternaturally still, its hind legs
thrown sideways, its fore legs stiffly extended, and its great head,
covered with the deep furrows made by the tiger’s claws and shockingly
disfigured, where its right eye had been gouged from its socket, thrown
backward.

Ogga spoke: “He is mine;” but he watched him for many moments longer,
forming his plans, and preparing for the skillful work which would save
his words from becoming an idle boast. Again the man threw away his
cloak and basket, flung from him the heavy stone maul, retaining only
his spear and knife.

He clambered carefully to the top of the mound, examined its
circumference, and when apparently satisfied with his observation,
placed the ivory spear at one point near the edge, and on the side
above the still motionless mastodon. Then Ogga slid and tumbled down,
drew his nephrite knife from his neck and crept around to the mastodon.
The brute had remained in the same position, but its pain forced from
it deep sighs, and it trembled. Ogga’s demeanor was inspired with
daring and though his movements were governed by extreme caution, there
was not implied for an instant hesitancy or fear.

Slowly on hand and knees he approached, from behind, the strangely
inert creature; when a few paces off he bounded to his feet, tore
forward, and utterly regardless of the monumental power before him,
and its amazing superiority in strength, rushed upon its side nearest
the dirt wall. The nephrite blade was brandished in the air, its fine
edge directed forwards. With frantic energy, Ogga immediately beneath
the bleeding wound on the animal’s head, drove the stone scimitar into
the folds of its neck, and with such force, such urgency, that it was
buried to the hilt. Quick as a flash he deserted his hold, sprang
up the dirt wall, clutched its overhanging edge, where his previous
observation had located a half buried boulder, and with his hand on the
stone support, drew himself above. His spear was at his side. He seized
it and stood erect, glowing with a splendid excitement, but voiceless;
his eyes were fixed below him.

The mastodon, completely surprised, had regained its feet, convulsed
with a blind rage. It stumbled backward, and as it raised its head it
caught sight of the defiant figure above it. Pain and fury incited it.
With a stifled bellow it plunged forward, its head bent, its tusks
prominent. It had but one aim, the upheaval of the pedestal on which
Ogga awaited its attack. Again Ogga smiled. He encroached upon the
farthest margin of the diminutive table and held his spear before him
tightly clasped with both hands.

The impetus of the mastodon was extreme. As it struck the bank against
which its useless anger impelled it, the tusks buried themselves in the
earth and the vanquished monster was momentarily held, its twisted head
held firmly against the dirt by the chancery of its own impalement.
Then Ogga jumped. He sprang to the head of the animal below him, its
occipital development affording room for his support. Balanced for
an instant, he raised his spear upward and then, at the exact nuchal
symphysis, forced it through skin and between the vertebrae, cutting
the spinal cord. With a throb that shook the colossal fabric of the
beast, the mastodon rolled sidewise and fell, and its tusks ripped out
of their burial in the earth. Ogga declined with the heaving mass and
lit upon the ground. The mastodon also was dead.

The afternoon of the day had come, and neither food or drink had passed
the mouth of the hunter. He turned back to the basket with its pemmican
contents and sitting on a rock where he could see his mighty prey,
where he could also see the ice pinnacles of Zit, the long furrowed
glacier also, and just dimly, at this elevation, catch the blue hazes
of the sea where Lhatto was fighting for her life, Ogga, the hunter and
the Man, broke his fast.

The incident is one of interest to recall. In the remoteness of a
day which science unsuccessfully endeavors to fix, but with lofty
magnanimity in its indifference to economy of time, places any
where from fifty to one hundred thousand years ago, the human
species, evolved or created, catching in its face the reflection of
higher things, feeling the pregnancy of its own fate in its untold
yearnings, its misty spiritual instincts, its forming language, its
emotional power, had begun the process of subduing the earth and
all that therein is. The uses of food, the preparation of clothing,
the devices of defense and attack, the ingenuity of observation and
application, the coinage of tales and prayers and verses, the emergence
of passion and of art, of the sense of beauty, the utilization of the
hard and wearable things of the soil, of animals, its grasping after
preeminence, its deification of courage and endurance, all these
things come before us, in the prefigurement of them in this story, of
Lhatto and of Ogga. And the chances of the race, then as now, lay in
the young. Theirs was power, was ambition, was aspiration, was the
indefinable lure and reward of love. On their lips words first formed,
their minds were the conceiving minds, their hands the artificers,
and in their organs resided the sexual promises of life. And Ogga and
Lhatto were both young.

When Ogga had finished his meal, he walked away for a short distance
and at a spring softly flowing beneath a rock quenched his thirst,
leaning flat at its rim and sucking up the sparkle and the cold. The
man returned to the immense bulk of the mastodon, and began at once
to free from its skull the ivory tusks. With his stone maul he broke
in the alveolar sockets and from the shattered bone drew forth these
exaggerated teeth.

The night was sensibly nearer when this task was completed.
Re-installing his slender outfit, wrapping more closely the reindeer
coat about him, balancing the ivory bows over his shoulders and holding
them as well, with his spear and knife, stuck full of blood, Ogga
turned back over the plain to the river in the lower valley, on whose
bank lay the bruised smilodon. But Ogga had no intention of recovering
the cat’s skin. His way, as the waning day shot red streaks into the
sky, and the northern lights, with phosphorescent palpitation, rose
above Zit, lay across the plain more to the west, bringing him finally
much below the lake, and the cedar wood which he had traversed in the
morning. He was advancing to the shore.

As the stars lit the immensity of the black zenith, the Man had reached
the shelter of a huge erratic of such proportions and posture that,
tilted over on one side, it formed a sort of leanto. Here he rested,
casting down the ivory tusks. He swept together with his hand a few dry
fragments of wood and hurled upon them the uprooted trunks of small
trees. He took from his basket the dry tinder, struck the “fire makers”
together, holding his head close to the ground; a spark ignited the
punk-like powder, his breath fanned the little flame into a blaze, the
wood became ignited, and the ascending forks of the fire licked up
the tree trunks while they cast grotesque shadows on the granite face
behind them, and in those shadows a wavering and distorted silhouette
of Ogga himself swayed to and fro as he sang the song of the mastodon.

OGGA’S SONG

  The great Mover stirs in the wood
  His horns are white as the snow
  And he makes a loud sound.
  His feet are big as dog’s, his legs like trees,
  The hair stands out on his breast and his back
  He drinks the river dry and swims in the lake.

  He must die; he must move no more;
  On the plain he must die, in the wood;
  In the lake; Ogga must have his horns.
  Where comes the Mover? He is born of the Ice.

  He has come from Zit, Where goes the Mover?
  He goes through the wood, he sleeps there,
  In the morning he shall come again.
  No! he comes no more. Ogga has sent him away.

  The river runs, the lake runs
  And the Mover runs never again.

So sang Ogga, on the threshold of poetic feeling, in the days of
the Ice. His voice was not unmelodious, its chanting cry, with half
symptomatic expression, rose on the night air in that stony desert,
while the river sang too its endless lament, and, awakened from sombre
reveries, the snowy owl darted from its perch, sweeping the ground
with silver wings. Long before the light of the rising sun had built a
bridge of golden mosaic across the East upon the flaky clouds, Ogga
had left his improvised camp. The ivory tusks were secreted beneath
the rock. His reindeer mantle was again clasped about his shoulders,
and the nephrite blade which had hung about his neck was in one hand,
the stone hammer stuck in his belt, the precious basket yet holding
a remnant of its first contents under his arm, and with his other
disengaged hand he had seized the spear. He strode along the banks,
varied with many inequalities, of the murmuring river, and from his
haste seemed intent upon some well defined object. As the day dawned,
descending from the first light-touched crest of Zit with widening
circles over all the landscape, its increasing splendor fell with
a sudden flash of brightness upon a bank of white clay directly in
the path Ogga was following. The river had uncovered this nucleus
otherwise buried in superimposed stones and sand, exactly at the spot
where its waters bending southward had forced their way through the
narrow obstacle of this transverse ridge. The river delayed in its
course had formed in its eddying impatience a shallow expansion. On
the edge of this deeper pool Ogga halted. He dropped the spear and
the basket and the knife, and ran to the clay bank. He dug into the
plastic and slightly granular material, filling his closed hands with
it. Returning, he placed the knife, the spear and the hammer, which he
detached from his belt, in the shallow water, and then one after the
other, smeared and rubbed them with the sandy clay. The adherent blood
was slowly removed, and the lustrous implements became again sweet and
comely.

The man regarded them with admiration. They were his friends, his
solicitors and helpers. Used well, they returned to him in results all
his attention, and they were well formed, symmetrical, expressive, apt,
faithful, unchanged, unchangeable. His hand glided with blandishing
pressure along the keen edge of the green stone, and he placed the
ivory apex of the spear lovingly against his cheeks. He was well
pleased. Ogga laughed.

Then the man threw off his own garments and naked ran like a deer up
and down the sandy plain for the space of a mile or so, his hands and
arms now moving over his head, now shooting outwards, now falling with
resounding thwacks against his thighs. The speed and exertion were
really considerable. Ogga glowed and burned, his cheeks were hot with
flame, the drops of sweat slipped down his breast, his breath panted.
As he turned back on his last lap the man rushed onward into the water,
and splashing, half plunging, sank from sight in the cool pool.

A few yards from the shore his black hair rose above the ripples,
a dash into the shore and the ablution was finished. Then, his
habiliaments resumed, his allies, the friendly weapons, placed aright,
the young hunter strode southward to the distant shore, still miles
away, while the steppe country grew less drear and savage. The glaciers
were farther and farther away, the clouds about Zit hid its pinnacle,
the land became smoothed and green with carpets of grass, deer sprang
suddenly aside in flight through spruce and willow groves, a low hum of
waves seaward became audible, and now and then a gull flew piping above
his head to some faraway eerie. A south wind wooed him, and his heart,
by some instinct of approach to a great joy, became light and eager.

It was the afternoon of the same day that Ogga saw the sea. He saw it
limpid, shining from its mirror-like face with dazzling refulgence.
He was on a sort of knoll made by a northern outlier of the long
meridional dike which framed on its sea side the country of Lhatto--the
Fair Land. From this tubercle of rock covered with soil, he gazed
directly down upon its glassy surface. He went cautiously on, not
accustomed to the ragged descent, over split, splintered and weathered
rock cleavages. But his strength, the supple resources of his knit and
tireless body, met the unusual exercise, and Ogga at length stood upon
the shore of the Ocean.

He stood upon a flat boulder, a sort of natural stone table, and a sort
of stupor, a poetic amazement, held him stunned. The coast line south
of him was full of beauty, the beetling cliffs, their verdurous and
dependent edges, the far off headlands, bays paved with colored rock;
the coast line north of him so recently formed upon the upturned and
disordered face of nature, culminating in crystalline glory in the ice
zone about Zit--the pathless waters before him, all, all united in some
sort of appeal that eviscerated and smote him, and a nameless longing
for companionship, the endless, depthless cry for love coordinate with
the bursting fires of desire and devotion transmuted the wild man into
something noble and ecstatic.

He left his equipment on the shore and ran forward--from stone to stone
he leaped with unpremeditated cunning; his zig zag course, as he passed
from one pebble to another, brought him at last to the verge of a tiny
harbor entered by a neck of water, and fortressed by dark rocks draped
beneath with tressy sea weeds.

His pursuit was checked; he could go no further. His eyes, bright with
ardor and delight, sought out the line of pale icebergs, and then
they fell below him upon the transparent and liquid beryl lapping
languorously at his feet. And as they fell, upon their retinas
sprang the image fair and true, of a sleeping woman’s face, dark and
beautiful, amid dishevelled hair, rocking in a little boat, as in a
cradle, on the quietly heaving bosom of the sea. It was Lhatto.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER V.

THE MEETING.


In the newly systematized psychologies the analysis of love carries our
introspection to equilibrating shocks of feeling, of an accommodation
between an objective irritant and a subjective impulse, to
gratification of sense inwrought with the emotional satisfactions that
arise from perceptions of fitness, sympathy, congruity and the like;
and doubtless a process of ratiocination would make of love, or find in
it, all this. But love remains, and can we not be thankful that it does
so remain, a penetrating ecstacy that invades sense and thought, and
issues, like an electric fluid, instantaneously from all the surfaces
of our feeling, and thus transmutes that feeling, giving it glory and
radiance; that it changes the being in whose enraptured soul its flakes
of fire have fallen, making the limit of his excellence possible,
the range and widest capability of his nature patent, and along with
its energizing influence upon all his dynamic powers, awakening the
spiritual fires as well; or, more aptly and truly, elevating the
outlook, the intention, the design, thrusting upon him by a sort of
imperious moral necessity, the sweeter aspects of his relations to
beings, to himself, and widening his love by the whole compass of his
possible emotional exaltation, so that he become protagonistic, chaste
and fair.

At least in the best men this is so, and even by some sort of
adumbration and suggestion, giving them momentary periods of nobility,
of insight, of joyful self-sacrifice, also true in the poorer sort.
Ogga was indeed a wild man, a prehistoric, a creature of the plain,
living next to nature, supplying his daily needs by a harsh ingenuity,
wringing from obstacles a concession to his daily requests, a being
utterly removed from all modern conceptions of social physics, a
being on whose uplifted face no word of revelation or literature or
exhortation had ever fallen, one whose instincts, the germinal moments
of whose mind, with its inseparable faculties of observation and
deduction, had only become active and projected under the influences
of nature. But then what a nature it was. It was the dying years
of an extraordinary geological phenomenon, the Ice Age, when the
splendid relics of the crystalline ice-cap yet clung to the higher
elevations of the continent, when in their retreat there had been left
a weird confusion of ice and river, and refuse masses of a denuded
world, monumental in extent and meaning, when animals, strange, big,
and desperate, ranged through the land, while in the scene, chosen
for this imaginative creation, to these boreal stages of life and
topography, were conjoined the insistent claims of warmer conditions
on the south in the Fair Land; and again to the east entered the
majestic desolations of the canyon country. In the chapter on The
Place the marvellous variety of natural conditions under which both
Ogga and Lhatto lived--for we have seen in their various and errant
life, however specialized, they were meeting all of them--were those
which appealed to their wonder, their fear, their admiration, awoke
in them joy and amazement and desire, fed the springs of poetic
impulse, stirred the sense of worship and dependence, and propagated
the thrilling currents of question and imagination. They reacted more
intricately, more coherently upon their moral nature by which, better
perchance than through the agency of books and stories, lessons and
education, the fine outlines of courage and devotion, self-sacrifice
and concentration, grew in their character, and without vagueness or
confusion, lifted them into a relief, stalwart and unique.

As Ogga saw Lhatto he loved her, and he loved her nobly. The
whole process of approach, preparation, attack and capture was
instantaneously traversed. How could it be otherwise! The physiological
instant was critical and victorious. Ogga was young, the tides of blood
in his veins bore with them the impetuous claims of nature. And who,
born amongst men, shall not know beauty? Ogga’s eyes had only met the
forest, the wild animal, the untenanted steppes, the sky, the ice,
the river, but when they met the face of Lhatto, the charm of abiding
there was unquestioned. It fed his heart with a satisfaction, and
passion leaping to the cup, from whose fulness its own thirst should be
quenched, suddenly became realized; importunate, defiant, triumphant,
mature and regnant.

And then by the dear subtlety of all things great and good, with
passion came also, with unhesitating foot, reverence and happiness and
aspiration, and Love thus born made of Ogga a divine thing, and of
Lhatto, yet unwaking, yet unknown, a woman drifting ashore in a little
awkward boat from the irresolute sea, it made of her a wonder of life,
full of affluent loveliness, full of assured excellence, full of peace,
and Ogga, feeling all these things, knelt and touched the hand of the
sleeping girl.

Lhatto awoke. The rising sun, with its steeper rays, would soon have
smitten her eyelids apart. Was it not better to awake and find her
eyes looking in the face of a lover? It was a benison of destiny,
and, like all appointed things, seemed only a part of nature, as
do the stars, the moon, the showers, the flight of birds; and to
Lhatto, Ogga standing there smiling and listful, seemed a necessary
recompense, a blissful completion of her dreams, a friend coming down
from the unknown, and yet stamped with all the traits of familiar
acquaintanceship and loyalty. With that, the operatic stage of their
encounter passed, though all its shrewd and fine results remained, and
Lhatto jumped from the boat and stood by Ogga, and then both seized the
boat, lifted it to the rock on which they were, and carried it to the
shore.

The passage to the shore, with their inconvenient load, over the
separated rocks, had not been without difficulties; and in the way of
caution, encouragement and direction, Ogga had spoken to Lhatto. Now
he told her to stop, now to lift her end of the boat higher, again to
rest it until he could more securely hold it, then anon, he asked her
to wait because the harpoon or the paddle or the seal had changed their
places and threatened to fall out.

Besides, though he carried the heavier end where the seal lay, he
essayed to carry it all, at places where the slippery rocks made the
transit harder, and then Lhatto spoke and reproached him and laughed,
and held her end and tugged away from him. And so it happened that
in the work they became known to each other, and when the mute canoe
rested on the sandy beach between them, it was their common friend and
they shook hands over it and laughed, and Ogga caught Lhatto in his
arms and kissed her.

And Lhatto, yet unblemished in that dawn of time, took Ogga’s face
between her hands, and pressed her own lips upon his, and there was
neither shame nor surrender in the act, for both were fair and free,
and in the simplicity of their hearts lived on the impulse that ruled
each minute, without check of calculation or artifice, duplicity or
sloth or strategy. An instant later, Lhatto fell backward to the
ground. Her endurance was overcome, hunger and fatigue, the long
exposure, the last efforts with the canoe, broke down her strength.

Ogga realized all this. He placed her higher up the bank, upon the
thick turf, and under the shade of trees, he brought her water from a
spring. He emptied his pemmican bag, he made a fire and cooked portions
of the seal; and Lhatto, returning to herself, thanked him and ate;
and life, restored to her by this sudden power that met her hopes and
completed them, seemed more gracious and caressing and dear.

Then Lhatto told him, as they sat by the waning fire with the canoe
a little way before them, the torn seal at Ogga’s feet, the spilled
basket of pemmican on one side, the whispering branches overhead, and
the broad rapture of the far-away ice-peaks shining about Zit, before
their eyes, told him of her strange adventure; the morning spent on the
shore, the sudden wicked tide--Lhatto called it “the Water God”--the
dreadful icebergs, her escape, her forgetfulness, and then her waking
amongst the rocks with Ogga sent to her by “the Air-Spirit--the Spirit
of Zit.”

And Ogga shook his head and asked: “Where are your people?” Lhatto
pointed southward to the jutting capes, and standing up, her eyes
screened by her hand, told him to look well and he too might see a dark
hill on the water--“It was from there, a deer’s run back in the land;”
and Lhatto turned to him, who rose above her, so strong and eager, and
moved by the most feminine of motives, asked--“And where are yours?”

Then Ogga motioned her to the bank again, and told her the story of
his life: he had pictures in his mind of a flat grassy table where he
played with other wild boys amid a great desolation of rocks, deep
chasms, ragged and grisly cliffs, but on the table the air was sweet
and cool, and there was a little deer that the older men had brought in
to the grassy table, and Ogga loved the animal and played with it, and
fought the other boys who plagued it and mocked him.

Now amongst these boys was one of his age and size, strong like him,
but silent and envious. And one day as Ogga held the deer in his arms,
the boy pushed against the deer and struck it with a stone, so that the
deer was hurt, and they were at the edge of a little cliff on one side
of the grassy tableland. Ogga became enraged and struck the intruder
and they wrestled on the edge of the little cliff, and Ogga was strong,
for he was coming into manhood, and he pushed the enemy over the cliff
and he fell amongst the rocks and lay there moaning.

Then Ogga became frightened, for this boy was the son of the head man.
When this happened it was about night fall and Ogga knew the path down
the rocks to the river, for he had carried up water that way, and he
snatched up the deer and hurried down the rocks and reached the river
and forded it and went up on the other side, and so wandered on and on.
The deer died and Ogga made food of it, drying its flesh in the sun,
still angry and wondering and frightened; he went on and on and on. And
he came to the Fair Land; its berries, fish and animals supported him.
He made stone knives for himself, he framed spears, he clothed himself
with skins, sewed with thread of plant fibres and with needles of bone.
Ogga was skillful in fashioning, and his skill grew, and as he lived
so, he came northward toward the steppe country and saw the mastodon.
Then he felt a desire to possess its great white tusks, and one day
he found a dead mastodon, and from its tusks he made many things,
patiently working in the woods for many years. He met men who bought
these things, exchanging baskets and green stone knives and even gold.
And so he became a hunter and lived alone in a bark tent watching
the Mastodon and becoming fearless and strong and knowing. Such was
Ogga’s story. And, though these two were wild denizens of nature, yet
so palpable is this human soul of ours, so fraught with kindred sense
in all its aspects, that as Lhatto listened she became as Desdemona did
before the Moor, “_She loved him for the dangers he had passed._”

Scarcely had Ogga told his story, with halting phrase perchance, and
yet with words then loaded with the poesy of infancy, when a low roar
increasing in loudness was heard by the two, and with it the ground
about them trembled, a dislodged bird’s nest fell at their feet, the
water shrank suddenly from the shore, uncovering the glistening rocks
like worn teeth in a colossal jaw, and then returned with bristling
vigor rushing backward up the land in pell mell surges.

Ogga and Lhatto sprang to their feet. A weird and purplish light
invaded the sky, another rumble, louder, with irregular reverberations
like the lateral explosions of sound in a summer thunder storm,
followed the first; and the ground shook constantly, a tree slipped
with a patch of earth above them, the ocean tumbled headlong on the
land, and, raising their eyes, they saw with a new terror smoke forming
on Zit.

It was indeed far below Zit that the gush of ashes and volcanic dust
were emitted. A small cone had become the conduit of an igneous
outburst, its heated summit had already bared it of snows, and its
riven top opening with successive shocks had become a chimney for the
evolved lapilli, the erupted gases, and the slowly exuded lava flow.

The ashen cloud rose up, densely straight at first, and encountering
some upper current, was spread out in dark layers, which, expanded
by rapid propulsion, descending and ascending, blurred and enveloped
the ice region, and whirled outward began to rain an impalpable dirt
about Ogga and Lhatto. As if, with repeated strokes upon its prison
doors, the enclosed fires of the earth struggled outwards, the shocks
continued, the waves rolled far up on the land. Spray flung from the
billows covered the two terrified spectators. They had retreated
inland. Suddenly a blast of flame seemed to mount upward in the
wreathing column of smoke, and then a wind pouring down upon them,
blinded them with dust and suffocating gases. Ogga, still mindful of
the uses of his spear, had snatched it from the ground upon the first
alarm, and now turning with bewildered eyes to Lhatto, he stretched
it before him to the woodlands southward, and they ran on, her hand
upon his shoulder, over the rugged land. They entered the forest, and
threading an open way, reached the banks of one of those rivers which
were indicated as reaching to the shore, in wide mouths, and bordered
by almost unimpeded meadow land. It was as if at some former time the
meadow land had formed part of the river bottom, and now formed its
banks, and the woodland had not as yet succeeded in establishing itself
upon this virgin soil.

The refuge was welcome. The incredible horror they had seen, unknown
before, the thought of some superhuman conflict in which their minds
linked the powers and destiny of Zit, had baffled and stunned them.

To the strange vagrant bodies of men who in little groups occupied
this diversified land, and of whom both Lhatto and Ogga were somewhat
contrasted types, Zit, the unchanging apex in the same sky that bent
over all, was a sort of religious fixity, a God, the open and clear
manifestation of the supernatural.

And it had happened by reason of this mountain’s structural prominence,
its very great physical grandeur, its appealing beauty, that the simple
tendencies in aboriginal worship had been greatly elevated. Fetichism
was not as prevalent, the absurd and pernicious frivolities of a
childish idolatry had no such absorbing play, and under the absorption
of interest in the great mountain, fable and legend had woven about Zit
a curious mythology, and to it the worship of these races had been
lifted. The mid-day sun half flooded the solitude which Ogga and Lhatto
had reached, for even here a murky veil latticed the sunlight with
skeins of shadow.

The two fugitives had stopped just where a solitary tree, stricken
by some accidents of storm, had been thrown down across the stream.
Its spreading top still green and full of leaves lay on one bank,
its enormous trunk crossed the river like a bridge, and the upturned
roots, shooting out, like distracted arms, from the huge flake of
ground enclosing them, marked its opposite extremity. Ogga and Lhatto
scrambled through the branches, and quickly reached the other side, and
when they came to the disk of earth they leaned against it and looked
upward. Broken palls of black clouds were thickening above them, and
tremors still quivering in the rocks shook their support.

Lhatto took Ogga’s arm and drawing him to her said: “The Fire-Breather
fights with Zit.”

And Ogga asked her what it meant, and so, watching the sombering sky,
even noting the falling dust of ashes sprinkling the water underneath
them with a minute rain, Lhatto told him the legend of Zit.


THE LEGEND OF ZIT.

“It was long ago, and Zit, the spirit of the Snow and Cold, rose on the
earth. His mouth blew icy blasts, his fingers dripped with icicles,
from his nose fell blinding storms of snow, his ears poured out sleet
and rain, and his eyes froze everything on which they fell. He walked
over the earth. He walked over the earth and the rivers stopped in
their running, the hills were hidden in snow, the trees grew pale and
naked, the lakes became as floors over which the wild beast roamed, and
the great sea was crowded with the big drops of ice-like towers which
broke off from his fingers.

“And he went on and on, the animals fled before him, for they shivered
when he opened his mouth, the trees broke and fell with the load of
snow that shot from his great white nose, the rivers were filled with
rain from his ears, and they became stiff and quiet again when the
glitter of his eyes shone upon them, and so the world was disappearing
before Zit, the Spirit of Cold and Snow.

“Then the Fire-Breather, way down in the breast of the earth, asleep,
felt the chill through the thick skin of the ground which he wore
around him, and he woke with a cry and hurried out to try to get to the
top of the earth and kill Zit, with his hot breath, with the fire from
his eyes, with his warm hands. And the Fire-Breather knocked and pushed
at the doors of his own house, and he could not move it, it was frozen
tight, and he tried to get out at the window and it was stopped with
snow, and he broke a hole in the roof and was half way out, with his
head above the earth, when Zit rushed on him and with his mouth and his
fingers and his nose and his ears and his eyes, pushed him back and he
sank in the earth groaning and shaking.

“Then Zit took the highest mountain which stood where the Fire-Breather
tried to climb out of the earth, and laid down on it and covered it
with ice and snow, and he sat there and broke icicles off his fingers
to sail in the sea, and blew snow from his nose till all the hills were
buried, and when the sun came he looked at it and kept it cold, and the
Fire-Breather was dumb and still.

“And now and then when Zit falls asleep the Fire-Breather knows it
by his snoring and then he pushes up again and gets on his hands and
knees and fights Zit. Some time he will escape. He is trying now, he is
fighting Zit, for Zit has fallen asleep.”

So Lhatto told Ogga, and they crept down from the stump on which they
stood, and as the day darkened, ran on together with backward glances.

They had entered a wide valley running south between two ridges of
rather high foot hills, behind which on the east extended a mountain
range up which clambered the deep woods, but leaving its higher
summits bare. A muddy stream filtered through this valley which
shortly spread out variously and became a sort of inland savannah of
tall waving grasses that crept up to and even entered the limits of
a very considerable lake or pond. It was shallow, however, and in the
incipient stages of natural redemption by filling up from the deposits
of the sluggish silt-laden stream that fed it on one side. This stream
indeed, falling with broken descent from the mountain range, betrayed
its distant water-falls by the roar that came to the ears of the
wanderers through the thick woods above them. Throughout the lake were
low emergent banks of mud on which plants were growing, while thick
mattresses of water weed dotted its surface everywhere. The valley
stretched on indefinitely beyond.

Ogga suddenly cried out and pointed to the farther edge of the lake.
From the distances in the produced valley there was swarming, in
rushing companies, an army of wild horses. They seemed countless.
They were entering in a solid stream, merged into a single surface by
compression, producing a curious semblance, in their crowded compact
progression, to the serpentine undulations of some titanic snake
or worm, whose skin bore flecks or monticules of hair. They were
yet so far away that to Ogga and Lhatto their individual forms were
indistinguishable.

As they advanced upon the savannah they visibly distended, and then
the rapidity of their approach became obvious, even calculable. In a
few minutes this avalanche of wild horses would surround or overwhelm
the lovers. And the animals were panic stricken. The sudden violence
of the seismic convulsion had communicated an indescribable terror to
these nomads--the pleistocene horse of North America--and with neighs,
attaining a falsetto note like piercing shrieks, they came bounding
on, momentarily freed, in the broader arena of the savannah, from the
restraint of mutual impingement.

Ogga realized the danger. He turned sideways and with Lhatto now
clasping his arm, with a new fear, flew across the field to the nearest
outlying grove of trees. Among their dense trunks there was safety. The
diversion was made none too quickly. As they reached the trees, the
first arrivals brushed past them, their heads erected and their eyes
blazing and wild in an agony of terror. Soon the feral current, dense
and expressive of some illimitable pressure, crushed upon them, and
they saw horses thrown down, trampled into unrecognizable mutilation,
while others, thrown against trees or rocks with ribs and legs broken,
writhed in mortal torments.

The pleistocene horse of the Americas, both North and South, was a
reality. Developed through the slowly piled up centuries from the
Eohippus of the first tertiaries, the modern horse was practically
given to the world in the Ice Age. Then he lived on this Continent and
the men of that polar day knew and used him; the drawings on the rock
walls of the Combarelles Cave in France show that in Europe. There can
be no pretense of objection to the same claim here.

But it has been an unsolved mystery how the pleistocene horse should
have so utterly vanished that when the Europeans came to North
America he had no existing representation, and even the Indians had
no legendary lore narrating their past knowledge of him. Sudden
and extensive destruction only can account for so extraordinary a
disappearance. It was under circumstances doubtless as strange and
awful as that which Ogga and Lhatto now witnessed that the horse owed
in some measure his rapid and complete extinction.

Scarcely had the amphitheatre before them become filled with the equine
multitude, accessions to whose numbers seemed constantly received,
until it seemed as if no possible foothold could be secured by a new
individual, when, in some way, developed through the volcanic outbursts
upon Zit, a stupendous electric storm burst upon the valley. Before it
came the picture before the man and woman was a strange one. Lhatto
reached and touched the sweating breast of a stallion pinned against
the tree behind which she stood. The vast breathing mass emitting
the ordurous odors of their steaming bodies, seemed crushed into one
dark palpitation, its unity here and there broken by some plunging
horse smitten with madness, and rearing upward, an image of sudden art
with mane and distended nostrils, bloodshot eyes and beating hoofs
falling in a hail of blows upon the back of a quivering companion.
Sudden shocks of agitation swept through them, and then, by reason
of an increased compression, the agonized cries increased, as if, in
the almost human susceptibility of the horse, his sounds took on the
piteous vocality of suffering men.

In an instant the ragged or bold outlines of the rising mountains bore
along their crests rushing pinnacles of clouds, a wind sucked through
the valley, driving, the shallow water of the lake into waves, and
tearing millions of leaves from the trees, hurling them broadcast or
projecting them in vortices through the air; upon this followed a lurid
twilight, beneath whose stifling solemnity the equine concourse became
stilled, and then a dreadful cold, some precursor of disaster, sank
upon the doomed multitude. It was the awful pause before destruction.
Leaping with incredible frequency from cloud to cloud, great forks of
lightning rent the sky; the bulging and cavernous outlines of vapor
dissolved in sheets of water, beneath the reverberations, peal upon
peal, of incessant thunder. The blackness of night descended, the
wind rose in tornadoes, and in the shrill blast, like some inconstant
titanic accompaniment of voices, the multitudinous wail of the horses
rose and fell.

The descending torrents swept through the forests, tearing gulches
in the ground, ripping out boulders from their beds and racing madly
through the herd of animals. Ogga, with superhuman strength, held
Lhatto and himself to the trunk of a small sapling that had twined its
roots about a deeply sunken stone.

And the horses? With the last pathetic impulse of unbearable panic,
they plunged by thousands into the insatiable lake of mud and water,
its extent now swollen beyond all limits by the avalanches pouring in
on every side. They were ingulfed almost as soon as they entered this
inland sea, and as the lightning flung its quick and keen glances into
the valley, the awful horror of the scene, converted into a saturnalia
of animal carnage, made Ogga and Lhatto shudder with a horrible
surprise.

The storm slowly abated, the rolling thunders receded amongst the
mountains, the lightnings shrank back northward, the rainfall was over.
With the dying storm the tumult in the valley ceased. The dreadful
sounds of drowning and submerging beasts, the spasms of conflict
amongst those on the banks and in the plain had passed. The decimated
host, now free to move in the unencumbered space, had taken flight. The
thud and impact of their fleeing hoofs were plainly heard by Ogga and
Lhatto. They moved southward, out through the embrasure by which they
had come, into the long reaches of valley land that perhaps extended
for leagues and from which, by some common whim of madness, they had
converged into the fatal pool.

When the sun stood upon the mountains, in the morning, only the cruel
vestiges of their presence remained. The disturbed and hideous lake
exposed their bodies, erect legs sticking up from reversed trunks,
heads enveloped in tangled manes, carcasses broken and bleeding, their
convex sides excavated and yawning, and over the plain in heaps rose
the signals of the shocking struggle.

Nature, with that stoical placidity, that unruffled and heartless
evenness of temper that often seems to make her beauty only the mask
of some implacable enmity, was again calm and beautiful. The palls of
ash had been washed from the heavens, the mountains were radiant, the
trees radiant also; the torn ground yet bore witness to the slaughter
of the night, and the fouled lake, its islands of vegetation riotously
dismembered, like some dishevelled bacchanale, lay in the morning light
a picture of shame.

Ogga and Lhatto, sleepless through the long and dreadful night, wearied
with fatigue of body and soul, stumbled out from the shadows of the
forest into the sunlit valley. Lhatto motioned to the entrance from the
river by which they had yesterday ascended. Ogga said--“It is best,”
and they left the hateful spot, where the processes of death had worked
so triumphantly. The fecundity of life and the powers of destruction
move with even foot, and in the necessary and remorseless balance of
life and death, Nature involves no blame for her equanimity, for in
the eternity of her design, all incidents of joy or woe are equally
invisible and unimportant.

Observations on the heartlessness of nature were certainly not made by
Ogga and Lhatto, whatever indefinite mutiny the woman’s heart of the
latter may have felt against it. They hurried away from the fateful
place, and returned to the river valley. The tree over whose convenient
boughs they had crossed the stream was swept away and, ferried by the
flood, had been cast ashore some distance down, high on the terrace,
from which the subsiding waters had again retreated. It lay there gaunt
with every naked root extended. Neither one of them knew exactly their
present position, but Ogga, watching the wind above them, concluded
that eastward there was escape from the walled-in gorge. They were the
more willing to reach higher ground because they could again see Zit,
and, if the struggle between him and the Fire-Breather had given him
the upper hand, as both believed, his serene and splendid brow would be
again visible.

The travellers were indeed worn and hungry. The warm light revived
their spirits, and--shall it be recorded--they embraced each other
with tears and smiles and kisses. Hunger was to be appeased, for no
circumstances of sentiment or grief will ever permit us to forget that
both sentiment and grief live on food and drink. The water of the river
was fresh and pure, and Ogga, who yet carried his sturdy and useful
spear, and wore about his neck the green stone knife, though the basket
had been abandoned when they began their flight from the shore, knew he
would soon secure food.

His alert eyes had already detected the trail of bear, and as they
moved up the river he clung with Lhatto to the river’s bank, fearing
some ambush. They had proceeded on the way a long distance, in which it
was most noticeable that the river bed was rising, from its frequent
cataracts and long inclines covered with foaming waves, when the fall
and splash of water was heard and a waving mist above the forest
indicated the nearness of a waterfall.

Ogga had become especially eager, rushing in and out amongst the
shrubs, which clustered now, more and more closely, to the river’s
brim. At one point he followed a fresh trail which he had discovered,
and a moment later a savage growl broke upon the sylvan stillness, and
Lhatto ran into the shadows whence the sound issued. She hurried up
a winding way half broken through the first undergrowth and finally
emerging in the woodland, where its plain outlines led her on until she
came to a cliff-side, part of the walls of the valley. Here an exciting
combat was in progress; Ogga was holding at bay a brown bear which had
retreated to a ledge which it had gained by a flight of most natural
steps, and up these steps Ogga was himself slowly ascending, the bear
fiercely objecting but awed by the spear which Ogga flourished in his
face, and which had already once penetrated his tough sides. The wound
the bear had received was a serious one, he was already disabled.

Ogga, encouraged by Lhatto, who clapped her hands with admiration,
pressed upon the creature. He had now touched the threshold of the
ledge. It was some thirty feet above the stones, talus, and boulders
at the foot of the cliff, and the encounter promised to be final, for
one or the other. Ogga avoided the thrusts of the animal, keeping
it away by savage punches with the spear’s point. The bear realized
its predicament as it came nearer to the limit of the rocky table,
and reared and ambled forward. It was this moment that Ogga had
anticipated; stooping as quickly as the bear rose on its haunches, he
drove the ivory javelin into its exposed abdomen. With a deep howl of
pain the bear fell sideways and slid from the ledge, dropping heavily
almost at the feet of Lhatto, dead. Ogga had held his spear and it
became disengaged from the bear, as it tumbled from the cliff. He
stood upright, looking down, and there was pride and happiness in his
face, and in Lhatto’s there was no less.

Ogga opened the bear, cutting with the sharp nephrite blade broad
strips of meat; he took two stones, choosing them carefully from the
boulder pile, and gathered a kind of dead wood from the under sides of
fallen trees, and bending flat to the ground, blowing softly, ignited
the natural tinder with the sparks from the stones. The cheerful flame,
nursed with little sticks, grew into a fire, and he placed stones in
the heat, piling upon them more wood. At last, with a broken bough,
he brushed the fire aside and thrust the bear strips upon the stones,
almost covered with fervent cinders. Thus was it cooked, and Ogga and
Lhatto, prototypes of the long retinue of woodmen who have found life
and wonders and new gastronomic pleasures in the primeval forests,
were again made strong and buoyant and resolute. Through the favoring
fortune of birth, these two aboriginal lovers carried within their
untutored natures, some of the quintessence of noble instincts, and
there was between them neither violence nor shame.

Their further progress was prevented by an encircling cliff, high
and unassailable. It was over this that the head-waters of the river
poured, forming in their descent the falls, whose shattered and
buoyant spray floated above the trees. The wall seemed impregnable, a
sheer verticality actually leaning forward so that the falls, dripping
in a descent of more than a hundred feet, arched forward and left
behind them a deep recess, a cold drenched cavern. Into this, behind
the thundering solidity of the continuous sheet of water, leaping
from the sunlight above, where its coruscating folds entwined, to the
rayless depth in the forest-land below, Ogga and Lhatto carefully
peered and entered. They were in strange and unusual surroundings; they
moved in a sort of semi-conical cave, almost dark from the interception
of the outer light by the falls that seemed scarcely translucent.
Groping backward to the rock, Lhatto, exclaiming with surprise, called
Ogga to her, and showed a crevice running upward in the beds of rock
through which a crepuscular light, apparently shining from above, was
seen. Hesitatingly Ogga crept into the gash, which was almost dry.
He disappeared for a moment, then his voice calling Lhatto summoned
her, and the girl crept after him. The crevice, cleaving the vertical
schists, ran upward at such an oblique angle, and so discontinuously,
being somewhat faulted in its ascent, that without cutting across the
floor of the stream it passed the falls, piercing to the light at some
point on the table-land above. It was just possible to squeeze through
this cryptic passage, but it offered no real danger or difficulty, the
very closeness of its parallel sides affording constant support.

Lhatto and Ogga went on, and after some not unusual and helpful
exercise, emerged upon an upper elevation, a sort of mesa-land, crowned
by the ranges from whose boisterous crests the storm of the last
night had descended. They had indeed turned the northern edge of this
Sierra and before them, in the purple and indistinguishable shadowed
distances, where peaks and minarets and sculptured stone seemed melting
together in a vaporous uncertainty, lay the Canyon Country, and far
westward, shining in all his ermine and beryl hues, Zit remained
unchanged. The Fire-Breather had withdrawn to the earth and again lay
still.

And here Ogga and Lhatto rested. The love that ran with increasing
ardor through their souls, had now risen to that impassionate chance
when each word and gesture of endearment thrust anew upon them
the expectation and the opportunity of bliss. The warm night sank
breathless upon those verdurous highlands, the fragrance of the pines,
the half momentary delicacy of the odors of wild plants, the succoring
murmur of the river, the dull lustre of the moon as it rose amongst the
phantom-laden fogs, coming from hidden streams in all that creviced and
monumental land before them, engaged, in languorous alliance, to give
their love its final consecration.

And Ogga, standing by the river and taking Lhatto by the hand, bent
himself and her towards the white pallor of Zit, and said--“I take thee
for my wife.” And Lhatto, answering, said--“I am yours.”

The earth’s orb wheeled on through its incredible pathway in space,
which no consecutive movement through ages and ages shall ever yet
define or limit, the agencies of nature sprang to their appointed
places in the economy of all things growing, moving and acting; the
Eternal Law, with executions blind and patient, fulfilled the Great
Intention, and then, as it were, the next instant, the Moon sank on the
western wave, the Sun swimming upward in the East flooded the expectant
earth with light, and Ogga and Lhatto, awaking, saw the figure of a man
standing motionless on the brink of the river.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER VI.

THE INTRUDER.


The little village of the horse-hunters, if village it could be called
when it was a sort of communal dwelling house, was built upon a very
flat and scantily herbaged plain, forming an elevated mesa, rather
sharply defined by cliff-sides. These cliffs were not continuously
precipitate or high, on all sides; and at one point access to the
summit was readily gained by broken inclines which actually permitted
the inhabitants of this isolated spot to form a rude road, so
skillfully constructed that by adaptation and selection, a pathway had
been built or smoothed to the bottom of the citadel of rock on which
the village stood. The butte rose with receding walls, disposed in
ascending steps or terraces from a canyon-like valley, from which again
escape to the country beyond was gained by less easy means.

The butte of the horse-hunters formed indeed a depressed elliptical
elevation, planular at the top, which stood at the intersection of two
canyons, whose walls actually rose above it on all sides. Its position
was very picturesque. Running southwestward a deep gorge opened,
which extended back around the insular terrace, and divided on its
north eastern exposures into two tributary canyons of extreme depth
and narrowness. These two smaller arroyos united in the larger gorge,
and in both of them a stream, with intermittent flow, gave a temporary
animation to the dismal loveliness, the confluence of the rivers making
a more considerable body of water in the larger canyon. From the
plain of the butte’s crest, encircling walls were seen on all sides;
southward the descending vista, along the broken and bold declivities
of the large canyon with the river it contained reduced to a white
ribbon; northward the ascending vistas, in the two narrower canyons
with vertical walls, the streams running through their deep defiles,
reduced to a white thread.

The butte only, amongst the eminences about it, was at all easily
approached, and then its ascent on one side alone offered any
attractive invitations. The rocks of the canyon were variously colored,
and the myriad fancy which had carved and trenched and cut them into
innumerable profiles, had indulged in a still wider complexity of
invention in its panoramic marvels of color. Bands of blood red lay
across the exposed strata, fading with inconstant undulations into
brown and yellow ochres--purple shades filled up the diversified
pallet, and white strips of quartz or unctuous edges of clay streaked
the cliffs with weird and sudden contrasts.

In the mornings the extraordinary picture was dim with mists, the
tricks of optical interference, reflection and diffraction raising
strange phantoms in the silent gorges, and at night the shadows
stealing upward and quenching the radiant illumination imparted an
almost theatrical effectiveness, as if an artful scene shifter had
manipulated the setting sun, and pulled into place the changing and
relevant flies and screens.

It was in the latter time that shadows settled like a flood upon the
home of the horse-hunters--when the sunlight still fell on the heights
about them, and they were submerged in a twilight night long before the
sun had deserted the uplands.

It was the evening of the day when Ogga killed the mastodon that the
four medicine men of the little village--Shan, Flitout, Slin and
Slaggar--squatted on the edge of the mesa, gazing with half shut,
squinting eyes, into the vacancy before them. They had attained
a sufficient distinction in ugliness, querulousness, abiding and
carefully nurtured vindictiveness to hold without question in that
aboriginal community, the preeminence their position implied. Their
mutual distrust of one another had rendered more acute their craftiness
of demeanor. They incessantly quarreled, and the religious exhibitions
of their thaumaturgic powers were made none the less ridiculous by
their evident desire to excell their rivals in impossible antics.
Nature had furnished them with contrasted physical features, but a
common calling, and a very uniform tendency to intrigue produced a
noticeable resemblance amongst them. They were seldom separate from
each other, although their companionship led them into the most
discordant wrangles which usually ended in an encounter which excelled
in acerbity of language, rather than in bodily violence.

Perhaps expressions in that early age were more restricted than in a
later age, but as Renan has pointed out, primal language gained in
compression what it lacked in capriciousness, and the squabbles and
fights of the four _doctors_, consisting generally of hair-pulling
and flesh scratching, like modern duels amongst cats, were punctuated
by sharp and shrieking exclamations which had sufficient poignancy of
meaning to make the melee more prolonged and vigorous.

It may be objected that the assumption of Medicine Men amongst these
prehistoric and glacial people is audacious and impossible. But in this
current of pictures given in this absolutely veracious reconstruction
of that vanished time, it must be remembered that the author is dealing
with ethnic conditions that had reached some degree of complexity.
The instincts and rudimentary or moral or psychic motions in men had
begun their sway long before the time given in this story. Men had
been long upon the earth, and their distribution which involved means
and ways more primitive and considerably slower than the railroad or
the steamship, had been accomplished through a process of migration
which not only brought them under influences in Nature contrasted and
various, and developed self-initiative and constructive faculties, but
by every possible avenue of appeal stirred their fear and reverence,
and very quickly inaugurated morality and intensity of religious
practices. And such practices would have developed quite rapidly as the
imagination was powerfully excited by their environment.

It has been from the first assumed that in this Ice Age, as depicted
in this story, the arctic severity of the north did, at least in the
western portion of this continent, come close at hand with far milder
conditions, and that the severity of self-preservation in this zone was
not at all so urgent as to repress or degrade or eliminate religious
customs. This is in itself, however, a concession to unnecessary
censoriousness, as the Esquimaux who to-day live in the ice, have well
advanced religious customs of humane and symbolic interest.

That medicine men or something like, them should have reached an almost
instantaneous importance is most likely. The credulity of an aboriginal
mind increased by the wonders of natural phenomena and the hardships
of life, the mystery of death and the growth of many natural feelings
of love and terror, would have quite quickly started the pretensions
of crazy or inflamed, senile or adroit, individuals who could have
easily insisted upon their special privileges and powers of divination,
and by reason of ingenuity and fortuitous circumstance, given their
pretensions a very deceiving appearance of reality.

At any rate, the four worthies to whom the attention of the reader is
now invited--Shan, Flitout, Slin and Slaggar--were veritable facts
at the very time when the mountain of Zit was incased in the broad
skirts of a semi-continental ice-sheet, when Ogga the hunter killed the
mastodon in the steppe country south of the glacier, and when Lhatto
left the upland of the Sierras in the Fair Land to kill seal in the
coast waters of the Pacific. And they were also, be it insisted with no
less emphasis, the medicine men of the horse-hunters who lived in the
Canyon Country east of the Fair Land, and who had begun to assume some
premonitional resemblances to the Pueblo Indians of today.

The Horse-Hunters were an outlying settlement of kindred peoples to the
south and their present location was found useful as bringing them near
the grazing grounds of the wild horses in the river bottoms of the Fair
Land. The exchanges amongst aboriginal peoples,--their commerce,--was
more general than might be at first supposed and the Horse-Hunters
found ample opportunities for making useful bargains with the horses
they secured. Their origin, like that of all these disassociated and
stray inhabitants, was even then lost in antiquity. Their habits and
the business which helped to sustain them, were hereditary. They
occupied a peculiar and inaccessible retreat, not contiguous even to
their hunting fields. These latter were, however, reached by a trail
which presented few difficulties for the conduct of their captives,
though the way was long and circuitous. The aspect of their whole life
was unique and unintelligible, though they seldom were inclined to
improve or explain it. How they came to the lonely table-land, and why,
in so remote a position they should have found it convenient to pursue
their peculiar calling, were unanswered, unanswerable questions. The
hunters amongst them were not many, generally the young and artful, and
though they captured and subdued horses, they found no use for them.
The wild people further south who became their customers came to the
mesa with food supplies, clothing and implements, and took away the
animals, and thus the Horse-Hunters, in an impoverished and sad way,
maintained their strange and lofty seclusion.

The four worthies who pretended to direct the spiritual destinies of
the colony, had arisen, and their varying statures and girths, as they
turned to the waning light in the sky above them, became apparent, as
well as the less easily defined peculiarities of their physiognomies.
Shan was a strong and high man, braced with broad thighs which, from
the execution of many trying and prolonged dances, displayed their
muscles in rigid relief, but his narrow chest and pinched neck imparted
insignificance to the rest of his figure. His appearance was completed
by a large head, heavily covered with tangled locks, from which a face
of mingled cruelty and deceit gazed at you from lancet shaped eyes, one
of which had been disabled by disease, and the second, compelled to do
duty for two, opened wide with a sinister glare beneath a low straight
hairy eyebrow. His nose was thin and beaked, his mouth distorted and
sunken, which, in the infrequent occasions when he became amused,
opened with a cackling laugh and revealed a single incisor.

Flitout, who stood next to him, was a thin and shrunken man, stooping
and angular, with a peculiar flapping of his arms, symptomatic of some
nervous irritability or weakness, which gave him a not unfanciful
resemblance to a wounded bird trying to fly. His face was even more
concealed than that of Shan’s by the coarse and unkempt hair which
framed it, and as he lifted his head, his bright and restless eyes
moving incessantly, betokened some mental excitement or disorder which
much of his conduct showed was not far removed from insanity. His
face was really pallid, but the grease, paint and dirt which seamed
or smeared it, concealed the evidences of his anaemic and dissipated
condition. His voice was cracked and piping, a cough racked his weary
chest with intermittent spasms, and he spat with malevolent zeal at
almost everything moving near him.

Slin alone in this extraordinary company was fat, or of such
proportions as made, in contrast with his associates, that epithet
appropriate. But this greater bulk carried with it no compensatory
advantages. His bulging eyes, thick cheeks and puffed lips, were
disfigured with pimples and pustules. His distended abdomen was
suspended above short and thick set legs. His arms, lengthened by
some freak of satirical cunning, reached to his knees, an adjustment
of parts which, taken in conjunction with protruding and heavy ears,
and a skull, alone, amongst the four, largely deprived of its natural
covering, gave him a very real likeness to an orang-outang. His
disposition was, perhaps, as simian as his looks, and while he owed
to that fact some sense of humour, it was also responsible for his
wickedness, his jealousy and his uncontrollable fits of temper.

Slaggar was the youngest of them all and not without pretense to
natural proportions. He was of medium size and apparently muscular. It
was his peculiar pigmentation that attracted comment. He was in a state
of partial decoloration. Irregular patches of pinkish white skin, like
geographic markings, were distributed over his face, and two, extending
from the angles of his mouth to the corners of his eyes, made his
grimace or scowls equally hideous and shocking.

The four men were covered quite imperfectly with skins, and around the
neck of each hung a perforated stone, while ivory beads decorated the
knuckles of their hands, and ribbons of red and yellow ochre striped
their naked legs.

The salutation to the parting day completed, they sat down again with
their eyes fixed on the almost irresolvable depths of gloom beneath
them. The full moon was just then climbing in the east. Suddenly there
emerged amongst them from the shadows a short stalwart figure with a
face, could it have seen clearly, of real distinction and aboriginal
comeliness. It was Lagk, the son of the headman of the little tribe, a
hunchback.

A voice from the shadows--“Are there any horse?”

“No,” from the four doctors, in a basso from Shan, a falsetto from
Flitout, a tenor from Slin, and a barytone from Slaggar. The four
started to their feet and faced the inquirer.

Then came the voice, even and monotonous in intonation, “I go to fetch
them.”

“Not to-night,” exclaimed Flitout with a nasal snarl, as he directed
his expectoration at a moving object at his feet.

“Why! The moon is up--the way I know. To-morrow I will be at the
fields. I will drive in many.”

“Well,” added the nonchalant Slaggar, as the moon, peering now upon
them with its orb almost fully developed above the rim of cliffs,
revealed the entire group, “Luck and return.” “Pray to Zit and watch
the eye of the moon,” was the adjuration from Shan. The interview might
have ended then had not the insolent Slin ventured to interject, “And
keep your hump on your back.”

The young man dropped the thongs and ropes and lassos of hide which he
held, the stone knife from his hand also, and flung himself with a loud
imprecation upon the grinning and wriggling Silenus before him. Slin,
surprised by the sudden resentment, and fearing his capacious abdomen
might meet with some untoward violence from his young assailant, jumped
behind his companions, who quite unwilling to incur the enmity of the
young brave, avoided the efforts of Slin to form of their interposed
bodies a screen, and quickly jumped aside. Slin, quivering with
uncertainty, his talon-like hands spread in deprecation before him,
still dodging and screaming some unintelligible apology for his insult,
was struck fairly in his rumpled and creased visage by the irate youth.
He stumbled and fell on his back, a piteous spectacle of helplessness,
his short legs kicking in the air in an exposure not altogether
deprived of some of the coarser elements of comedy.

His official comrades seemed irresolute in this extremity, as to
whether their rival should be left to his humiliation, or whether
the dignity of their craft required some united assertion of
self-protection. Lagk, half expecting their attack, stood with clenched
fists, one hand reaching to the ground to recover the dropped knives.
The outlook was somewhat too serious for the spirit of the three
religious mendicants, and they drew back, quite aware that their recoil
was interpreted as cowardice, and yet quite unable to conduct any
action that might save their dignity.

Slin had recovered his upright position but not his equanimity. The
struggle between his rage and the sense of his own physical impotence
was not unnoticed by Lagk, who taunted him to some sort of explosion:
“Put more toads in the hump on your own belly, and then you can touch
the hump on my back, old liar.”

Slin was furious, he cowered in a passion of hate and futile
vindictiveness--his glance fell on his inert but uneasy companions. If
he could divert the eye of the youth to them, their discomfiture might
lead to some resistance that would be more dangerous than his own, for
the unconcerned horse-tamer.

“They told me to say it. They said your hump would curse you. They
said you got it because Zit hated you. They said your hump has a snake
in it and it bites, bites, bites all the time.” As Slin uttered this
improvised and well conceived lie he pointed to his astounded friends,
in whose varied expressions of confusion nothing was more clear than
a fundamental dissatisfaction with the turn the affair was taking. As
Slin closed his sentences, his shrill voice rose higher and higher with
insertive ferocity upon the last words. He had not miscalculated the
effect of the scathing taunt. Lagk, with the keen susceptibility of
an injured man, his own strained sense of suffering exasperated into
rage by these repeated allusions to his deformity, knelt to the earth,
seized a big pebble, and leaning forward, hurled it at the bewildered
group. They sprang apart and the stone rolled over the mesa, and with
its last hesitating turn, plunged down the cliff side into the shadows.

The situation became at once dramatic. Flitout, least adapted for
physical defense, was fleeing with asthmatic coughs across the plain,
his arms flapping, producing a spectral imitation of an ambling heron.
Shan, behind him, was using his stiff legs with adroit agility;
Slaggar alone withdrew with sullen and menacing gestures of defiance,
while Slin, thus momentarily relieved of his fears, and enjoying an
oblique revenge, had recovered his equanimity, and while rubbing a
somewhat injured posterior with one hand, controlled his laughter with
the other by holding it over his mouth.

The hero of the fracas disdained pursuit, but contented himself with
suddenly changing Slin’s illusions by kicking him in the shin and
telling him to follow his brave associates.

Lagk turned and looked at the full moon flooding this place of
mysteries and wonder; a thousand shadows, ten thousand surfaces of
light covered the cathedral depths, and far out upon the illimitable
wilderness of spire and butte, crevice, gorge, ravine, wall and
canyon-slope, the silver glory stayed. Lagk was hardly sentimental, but
upon him as upon all these wondering hearts the poetic power of nature
wrought its indispensable and irrevocable spell.

Lagk was a strong and formidable figure, though the accident of his
youth had produced a disfiguring thickening and shortening of his
chest. He was one of the most successful of the horse-hunters and
tamers, and his skill had won him the apt nickname of _the hoofed
beast’s master_. Masterful he was in many ways, and his imperious
scorn of the doctors who were superstitiously regarded by his
contemporaries, was only one exhibition of his proud and fearless
nature.

He strode across the mesa, passed through the shadow of the walls of
the communal house and descended the road, which with many turns and
deflections and straight level lengths, formed the avenue of exit and
entrance for their lonely settlement.

The method adopted or inherited by the horse-tamers for the capture
and subduing of their four-footed prisoners was effective, but it
required boldness, resources and strength in its executants. The horse
lived in droves or families along the edges and in the grass lands of
the Fair Country. Thither the horse-hunters repaired, and equipped
with strong lassos, with which even in that ancient day they were
well supplied, awaited the approach of their prey. The custom was to
entice or drive, or simply wait for their horses to pass near the edge
of the woods in the neighborhood of some tree, and then to lasso some
convenient individual and running back to the tree, hold him by winding
the lasso’s end around the tree. If the hunters were in companies the
lassos were thrown in numbers over the unfortunate animal and he became
fastened to as many trees. His struggles were generally unavailing, and
he could after some hours, be thrown and vanquished.

A more cruel but even more effective system, was to starve the horse
after his capture until his strength and spirit visibly diminished,
and then slowly to revive him. This peculiar practice was pursued
with great refinement by the horse-hunters and its results were
astonishing--pliant and obedient servants were made of the most
obstreperous and apparently invincible beasts. Lagk and his people did
not ride the horse, though amongst their customers there were skillful
horsemen; they drove or led him back to their camp in the canyon, where
at regular seasons the occupants of the southern settlements convened,
and a market day--the prototype of all bargaining and commercial
haggling since--was inaugurated.

Lagk was festooned with lassos, his skill enabling him to use them in
succession on the same animal. In this way he quickly reduced it to
submission, and he often returned to the camp from his expeditions with
half a dozen captives.

When Lagk reached the end of the long slant, his pathway almost
brilliantly illumined by the zenith-soaring moon, he found a pleasant
heat radiating from the walls of rock, and creeping to a familiar
shelter, he lay down and slept.

Long before the dawn, just as Ogga left his stony bed, Lagk had shaken
off the clinging drowsiness of the night, and had resumed his walk. The
trail led him through narrow defiles and over interposed table-lands,
but presented at no point great difficulties, even the last ascent
which extricated him from the aisles of the canyon country, not
claiming any extreme test of endurance.

It was a slope or talus of splintered rock, fragments dejected by frost
or heat, rain and sun, from the steep channelled palisades above, that
arrested Lagk for a moment just at the beginning of this last station
in his journey. He stood looking at the gray, herb-sprinkled surface,
like the stone heap of chippings and refuse in a modern quarry. He took
a thick dense rock from the ground and hurled it against the lower face
of the cliff,--a vibration, a dislodgement of loose particles that came
rattling down in diminishing numbers, and some readjustment of the
flakes in the talus,--and then suddenly a buzz increasing to a rasping
insistent locust cry, and there appeared over the extended incline
the emergent heads of the desert rattlers. Sinister and threatening,
the bodies raised for a foot or so, and thrown into recoiled loops
swinging uneasily with a graceful restlessness, the snakes, except for
size, acted with one impulse and one posture. Their flat heads, darting
tongues, and checkered bodies swam before Lagk’s eyes like a low
thicket of animated plants. He drew back and hurled a pebble amongst
them. The half expiring susurra sprang again into a fierce sibilancy,
and the aroused beasts started out with a simultaneous motion that made
them seem like animal springs worked together, at one and the same
pressure. They shot forward, bending their elated bodies, and then, in
a single sweep, that spread with unanimity amongst them, raising their
squamate heads and falling backward like so many hundred curved and
elastic wands.

Lagk hastened on; the day was climbing fast, and a long distance
intervened before his feet touched the hunting fields. At last he
descended the slope of a pass that brought him to a southern portion
of the same valley, in whose northern extension lay the lake that has
been described, and where Lhatto and Ogga saw the cruel sepulchre of
the wild horses. It was then that Lagk realized the presence of the
volcanic disturbance that clouded Zit. The ashes and dirt fell around
him and far away from the summit of the pass he discerned on those
frozen heights he had never visited, but which to him were a sort of
Olympus, and which only in the clearest days he could see, the wreaths
of smoke, the rushing pillars of darkness, and the forked radiance
playing on their sides or lighting them with livid lambency.

Long did Lagk watch the ominous clouds; he forgot his errand, and stood
like some carven image in the open pass above a chaparral with eyes
fixed on the unearthly picture. And as he looked the earth tremors
came. A mocking bird flew to a tree near him, jumping with excited
interest from branch to branch and uttering the “cha-cha-la-ca” of
the Texan Guan. Some thrushes lingered near the mute spectator and
sang. A tit-mouse whistled its sweet, clear notes in his ear, a group
of woodpeckers gathered near him on a projecting bough like a little
colony of colored toys. Some ground squirrels ran forward and halted
like a corvee of minute cavalry in front of him, and while he remained
unmoved, unnoticing, the sullen movement of terror in the air and earth
brought strangely into his companionship a mountain lion, less rare
then than to-day, crawling with prostrate paunch, upon a lifted cornice
of rock, her outline designated in the sky in a black silhouette. Below
him in the trail of the descending pass, a bear suddenly blocked the
way, snuffing the air, and scratching anxiously upon the trembling
earth. Above him aimlessly wheeled a company of bats.

The singular congery of associates gathered around the solitary
figure, momentarily, in the still panic of the instant, forgetful of
their natural antipathies and fears, resembled some adamic renewal of
intercourse between man and Nature. Even while the motionless group
was thus assembled, Lagk’s ears caught the sound of trampling feet,
the thunder of a thousand desperate hoofs beating the valley floor. He
looked hastily towards the distance and his trained eye saw the phalanx
of wild horses stampeding up the valley.

And yet he remained apathetic and estranged. The terror of Zit rested
on the face of all things, the security of the foot-stool was gone, the
reverberations of rumbling thunder coming nearer, the still darkening
sky, encompassed the whole circle of attention. Again Lagk looked to
the north, and still the birds and animals, and even the crouching
puma, stayed like rivetted and dead beings.

Rapidly the storm gathered and the enlarging circuit of the electric
tempest spread around them and the crawling thunders deepened into
bomb-like explosions. The flood gates of the sky opened, and pitchy
darkness wiped out the heavens and the earth. Lagk hurried to a crevice
in the rocks, a seam of dislocation deep and wide enough to shelter
him. The frightened animals dissolved away and the drenched mountain
side, deserted and smitten, was lit in every recess when the blinding
lightning flashed. The wind, in furious gusts, tore through the oak
trees, howling and moaning, its exasperation raised to a sharp shriek,
as it sped through the fissured cliffs.

Lagk crept from his hiding place in the morning, stiff and depressed.
He sat long in the sun, wondering, eating mechanically of the food he
had brought with him in a skin bag. But the returning serenity of the
world, the resumed chorus of the birds, the cleared ether, his own
improved spirits restored his quailed courage, and as he again saw Zit
triumphant, shining, immobile, the order of things as he knew it,
seemed renewed and he bethought himself of his errand.

He did not turn down the pass to the valley where he had seen the
stream of doomed horses hastening. Had his footsteps been attended by
any sympathetic observer, the latter would have wondered why he climbed
so toilsomely up a pinched, scarcely possible trail to a shoulder of
the mountain range. The difficult way surmounted, Lagk found himself
upon a projecting spur of rock set out from the mountain mass and
rising to an apex from which a very broad view of the region was
obtained. He continued his scramble up to this apex--a cluster of riven
quartz or granite pinnacles--and here the beauties of a great quarry
table-land on one side, the flanks wooded and irregular, falling into
the horse valley on the other, Zit and its icy assemblage of peaks far
north, and the canyon country to the east, like an etching on a copper
plate, were revealed. Lagk lingered a long time watching the shifting
lights, and seemingly fascinated by the wondrous picture. He even lay
flat in the warming sun upon one glistening quartz cleavage, and slept.
The place cherished and suited him and he seemed to have forgotten the
purpose of his expedition.

It was late in the afternoon that as Lagk, yet in his stupor of
admiration or uncertainty, looked upon the trough shaped table-land
in which springs and brooks from the mountain, by slow approximation,
formed the head waters of a stream, he saw a solitary horse moving with
a limp and broken gait, upon the flat plain below him. It was at the
river’s edge, and, with a stumbling and pained approach to the water,
throwing up its head and whinneying, it slowly entered the stream and
drank.

Lagk cautiously left his aery, swinging himself down the rocks by
saplings, the tough branches of low rhododendrons, and sliding here
and there over pine needles. It was not long before he too was on the
upland, creeping out toward the spot where the lonely horse stood,
snorting and switching its tail with nervous reiteration. As Lagk
drew nearer, he could see that the animal had injured a fore-leg, and
was yet, at intervals, shivering with terror. He raised himself, and
as he did so the horse, turning, caught sight of him. With a broken
plunge, he sprang from the river’s shallows and ran directly towards
Lagk, whinneying in apparent recognition. It was a surprising and
disconcerting issue. Lagk was motionless with wonder. The animal came
nearer and nearer, and as its movements were friendly and reassuring
Lagk awaited it.

It came forward sniffing portentously. Lagk raised his hand and
called it soothingly; the wild beast submitted with nonchalant
affection. It pushed its nose upon Lagk’s hand and pressed upon him
with eagerness. Its spirit subdued by the anarchy in nature seemed
tamed into obedience, and it almost nestled, in its big equine way,
against the delighted horse-tamer. Lagk walked over the open plain
and his complacent companion followed him. Lagk examined the wounded
leg, and the horse noted his interest with satisfaction. Rest would
soon restore the sprained ankle of the horse and Lagk, knowing a pine
grove a mile or so further on, patted and encouraged the creature, and
after intervals of halting, as night fell, the two slunk together into
the wood. Lagk tied his willing comrade to a tree with the deepening
shadows and, still weary with his own amazement and exposure, he lay
down in the shielded spot and passed into the nebulous fancies of an
over wrought and mystified mind.

It was the dawn, dewy and slumbrous, the mists rose from the river,
they sped outward above the tips of the trees, they clung in tiny
clouds to the ground. Lagk awoke and leading the horse, now somehow
fastened to him by ties of friendliness, walked to the river and drank.
He looked around him, his eye swept the hillside, and there in the
mist just as he was, phantasmal and yet half expected, stood a man and
woman. It was Ogga and Lhatto. Why half expected?

Lagk could not have explained his eagerness to see them closer nor
how, in feeling this curiosity, expectations seemed to forestall all
wonder that these new creatures should be there. There seemed to be a
naturalness in it, that his heart, his mind, his eyes should meet, in
the adumbrant day, some nascent answer to his dreaming thoughts. And so
he walked toward them. Neither Ogga nor Lhatto moved. The tenderness of
their own happiness forbade the consciousness of interruption.

Lagk came close; Ogga strong, triumphant, with the wildness of that
younger day incorporated in his steel sinews, his dark lines, his
piercing eye, the unchecked richness and color of his hair, in his
arrowy and shooting gestures, in the demeanor of an unsoiled and
dustless youth, gazed at him with recognition. It was Lagk, the son of
the herdsman, whom he had thrown from the cliff in defense of his pet.

And Lagk, strong too, and though not triumphant, confident and brave,
bearing many traces of physical nobility, not altogether dwarfed by
his infirmity, and with a face not unlike the visage he beheld, gazed
also with recognition. It was Ogga who had pushed him from the cliff,
who had brought upon him the ridicule of the Medicine Men, who made him
now hesitating before the charms of the wild woman before him. Lagk had
never felt before the presence of a beautiful woman.

Small wonder that his blood rushed to his cheek, that his eyes blazed
with retaliation, that his hands clutched tightly upon the knife in
his belt. The sense of wrong unnerved and over-mastered him. He sprang
at Ogga with an uplifted arm, but Lhatto ran between them, and Ogga,
curbing his own quickly roused resentment, spoke even softly, “Lagk,
let that be gone. It is over. I am your friend.”

Lagk stumbled backward, and his head fell against the warm shoulder
of the horse, who had moved forward with himself. The mute friendship
of the animal turned his thoughts, and the three, with the horse
following, walked to the river in silence.

Ogga told Lagk of his life, how he had met Lhatto, that they were
man and wife, and Lhatto also told her story. They asked Lagk about
himself, they spoke of the death of the horses, of the terrors that
had threatened Zit, and as soon as the sun rose and it grew warmer and
the hunger of the night had been appeased, they seemed eager and happy
in each other’s company, and the melancholy and brooding Lagk felt a
strange pleasure entering his heart. It was a fitful and perilous joy.

His eyes sought Lhatto with increasing earnestness, with desire. She
was so different from all women he had seen. Her grace, her sweet
strength and aptness, the potency of her beauty, was a revelation, for
in the camp of the horse-hunters and amongst the trading people of the
south, he had not met such a woman. They were coarse and shrunken, age
had wrinkled and distorted them, work had made them pinched and ailing;
exposure, a rude life, and perhaps no heritage of shape or feature,
deprived them of charm. They did not please his eye.

Ogga and Lhatto were exceptionable and yet not unique. The prehistorics
were living close upon the period of emergence from something animal
and unformed. Traces of a strange or a debased ancestry lingered
amongst them, but it was not wonderful, not impossible, that in many
instances the efforts of nature, always ascending, always ameliorating
and artful, should produce types of human perfection. Nature so quickly
raises her ideals and her mechanism is so perfect, her power to follow
up an ideal with execution so implicit! The outlines and muscles
of a wild animal are sometimes the very acme of possible physical
expression, the beauty of an animal’s eye surpasses description, the
grace of an animal’s movement touches the keenest criticism with
despair, the adaptive structure of an animal’s frame and bones excels
the widest appreciation of art and of artificers.

Have we not seen amongst savage races, whose routine of life brings
them into the air, trains them to run, to lie in wait, to fight, to
urge wild beasts, to watch the telltale skies for storm, to strive with
the inert resistance of stone, and refractory materials; who know the
plants of the forest, the bark of the trees, the trail and scent of the
beasts, have we not seen those who have been formed into strict types
of beauty? And thought has left upon them too, its refining stamp,
poetry has lit the flame of their eyes, and emotion spread the seal of
its presence and of its pressure over the whole face.

In Winthrop’s _Canoe and the Saddle_ occurs this opulent description
of Prince and Poins (by soubriquet) his Indian guides. “It was worth a
shirt, nay shirts, merely to be escorted by these graceful centaurs. No
saddle intervened between them and their horses, no stirrup compelled
their legs, a hair rope, twisted around the mustang’s lower lip, was
their only horse furniture. ‘Owhhigh tenas,’ the younger, claimed to
be one of Owhhigh boys. _Nowhere have I seen a more beautiful youth;
he rode like an Elgin marble._ A circlet of Otter fur, plumed with
an eagle’s feather, crowned him. His forehead was hardly perceptibly
flattened, and his expression was honest and merry, not like the
sombre, suspicious visage of Loolocan, disciple of Talipus.”

And again of the chief Kamaiakan, clad in the surplus and the dregs of
human hosiery and tailoring, the superb writer says: “Yet Kamaiakan
was not a scare-crow. Within this garment of disjunctive conjunction he
stood a chieftainly man. He had the advantage of an imposing presence
and hearing and above all a good face, a well lighted Pharos, at the
top of his colossal frame. We generally recognize whether there is a
man looking at us from behind what he chances to use for eyes, and when
we detect the man we are cheered or bullied, according to what we are.
It is intrinsically more likely that the chieftainly man will be an
acknowledged chief among simple savages than in any of the transitional
phases of civilization preceding the educated simplicity of social
life, whither we now tend. Kamaiakan, in order to be the chiefest chief
of the Yakimahs, must be clever enough to master the dodges of salmon,
and the will of wayward mustangs; or, like Fine-Ear, he must know where
Kamas-bulbs are mining a passage for their sprouts; or he must be able
to tramp farther and far better than his fellows; or by a certain
tamanous that is in him, he must have power to persuade or convince, to
win or overbear, he must be best as a hunter, a horseman, a warrior,
an orator. These are personal attributes, not heritable; if Kamaiakan,
Junior, is a Nature’s nobody, he takes no permanent benefit by his
parentage.”

But nature fails to hit the mark persistently. Her efforts, always
intentionally perfect through the obstruction of accident, of heredity,
of use and of misuse, decline into homeliness and torpidity, and even
abortions. Now amongst wild people, let it be insisted amongst these
prehistorics, fortunate conjunctions of mother and father, of embryo
and environment, of employment and indulgence, might naturally have
been mingled with mistakes, indirection, harm, over-work, deprivation,
hunger and hardships of surroundings. But where such fortunate
conjunctions happened, where the efflorescence, the flowering, came to
view under the smile of some creative fancy reckless of tradition or
conventions, making the thing on which it worked beautiful, according
to the law of the thing’s type, may not, even at the earliest moment,
may not such images and glories have arisen?

In Lhatto and in Ogga such an image and glory was realized, and its
power, its attractiveness, was felt by Lagk; he yielded to it as a bird
yields to the call of music, as flowers yield to the summons of the
sun, as rivers yield to the encompassing embrace of the ocean, as all
things incomplete and yearning yield to the complementary that makes
them full and complete, adequate and strong.

And the three, with the changing days, still wandered on southward in
those summer hours full of unlacing heat, of fragrance and endless
mystery, rich in the languid temper of air that develops sense and
feeling, and germinates and brings to fruitage the bud of love. So Lagk
loved Lhatto.

The days were serene and clear. Zit’s contest with the Fire-Breather
had been followed by peace so unmistakable and reassuring that it was a
conviction with the three nomads that the Fire-Breather had abandoned
an unequal fight. The last plume of smoke had faded away, the earth had
again lapsed into sleep, the glacier sky only reflected the poignant
splendor of the ice-cap.

The strange animal companion of their journey still followed, and he
had not been unwisely used. The instinct for human companionship is
soon awakened, indeed, the currents of response spring into motion
almost by anticipation with the dog and horse. Kindness fostered the
natural union, and the horse attached itself with servile affection to
the careful and painstaking Lagk.

Both Lagk and Ogga were skillful in woodcraft. They shaped bows and
arrows, they wrought in stone, they knit the braided boughs above the
fire. Lagk was ingenious and conniving in various skills. He shaped
artful traps for bird and beast, he called the wild things to him by
mimic whistles, notes and cries, he knew the flowers of the wood and
plain, he devised keen hooks and caught gleaming fish from the rivers,
he burrowed in the banks of the streams for the pearl unios, and he
found wonderful spiral shells on the land, he chased the radiant
insects, and sometimes returned from his excursions with tesselated
snakes wound about his arms. And all these wonders and many more he
diligently sought for, to bring them to Lhatto, and he would tell her
what he knew, and Lhatto learned to care for him, to feel an interest
in his knowledge, even in his attentions.

And it was then, even in that old, old time as it has ever been since:
The persuasion of kindness and indulgent interest was mistaken by the
forlorn heart which essayed to find in them its peace and satisfaction,
for a woman’s love. The cruel misconception worked quickly upon the
nervous and excitable temperament of Lagk, and his darkening scowls,
when Ogga drew Lhatto to himself, grew deeper in their dread and
hatred. They betrayed a plotting soul, dark in its sense of injury, apt
to provocation and retaliation, and driven by physical inferiority to
schemes of cunning and deceit, to impish freaks of sin and shame.

The love of Ogga and Lhatto was primal and strong, and carried in
itself and made affirmative in them, the simple principles of the
moral law. Without doubt the moral law may have been ignored in savage
communities, in the irregular gatherings of primal populations, in
those first avulsions from the life of beasts, of ethnic cultures. And
yet, who knows? The sudden step from tree climbing and nest building
monkeys to the attitude and attention of men may have brought with it
some equally sudden illumination, some transcendent push that raises
men at that first instant above the levels they sank to later, even
as the first dawn of day is brighter than the succeeding hours. But,
however imagined, the love of Ogga and Lhatto lifted their union above
accidental intercourse and fitted it to things supreme and eternal.

The singular migration of these three with the ancillary horse, may
awaken ridicule in the reader accustomed to some anxious calculations
about the weather, the size and appointments of his room, his nearness
to a market and the conveniences of transportation for his wife
and family. The domesticities of Arcadia scarcely conform to the
intricacies of the West End Avenue, nor are the virgin instincts of men
cramped or deteriorated by the stiffening varnish of self-indulgence.

Their casual camps embraced a wide loveliness and variety. The open
forest, the glades, the timbered uplands, the valley levels, defile
and peak, lakes set like sapphires within beryl rims of trees, rushing
torrents carrying in their waters the tint of the washed woods, and
holding in their mirrowy pools the cold and painted trout, the cliff
side from whose prominence the world seemed suddenly displayed, or
the climbing pinnacle whence even the blue ocean like a dream swam
upon their vision, still tireless in its endless task of renewing and
destroying continents, and still, with the witchery of its deathless
charm, calling men to its pale lips.

And to them were gathered the most rare of incidents, the appurtenances
of nature swelled their resources in sport and pleasant episodes, the
arsenal of the skies beset their path with thrilling dangers, and all
living things accompanied them in a procession of beauty and wonderment
and terror. They saw the black snake snare the fledged firstlings of
the nest, they met the shrike impaling its furred captive on the thorn,
the herons were startled from their hidden homes, rising cloudlike in
discordant streams to the overhanging trees; the hawk, before their
eyes, set its talons in the squealing chipmunk, and the water moccasin
glided within their reach after the leaping frog along the slimy edges
of pond and pool; the lizards basked in the sunshine, their eyes
glimmering like gold-encircled stones, undisturbed at their approach,
and anon, the silence of some valley changed in a moment to the mocked
minstrelsy of an orchestra, when the migrant birds invaded it.

Deer with timid outlook awaited them within the sheltering shadows
of the forest, their missiles lamed the shuddering partridge in the
fields, and Ogga fought the wild bear, where the edges of the pines
laid their pencilled shadows on the lichened rocks; Lagk trapped the
beaver at its clumsy dam, inundating the woods, and changing a forest
glade to a luxuriant dilapidation of moss covered logs, he chased the
keen whistling bat to its last covert.

The cougar slunk to its lairs with menace and distrust before them,
and, in their adventuresome invasion, they essayed to trace the grizzly
to the verge of its retreat in the mountain caves.

The scenic and theatrical diversity of storms filling the air with
colliding vapors, and the earth’s broad floor with deluge, and seaming
the spent spaces of the heavens with fire, surrounded them.

They saw the stiff oaks snap before the cyclone’s blow, and through the
snapping boughs of the pines caught the lightning in its race to earth.

Beasts and birds and plants crowded then into a shorter space, in an
area to which fled the evicted tenantry of the north, and into which by
an equal impulse of migration, entered the denizens of the south. These
were their clustering companions. They moved amongst them, merged and
lost, as part themselves of the aboriginal concourse, and yet lifted
above all this commotion, this myriad footed and colored and flowered
tapestry of life by the carriage within themselves of the destiny of
men, by the possession of a secret emotion that was to be finally
resolved in the tragedy of death.

A note of interrogation may be here interposed. How was it that Ogga
and Lhatto and Lagk should thus move away from their occupations and
attachments, and begin an aimless wandering, a listless adventure among
perils and surprises and uncertainties? It can be understood better
by implication and suggestion rather than by explanation. It was
not rational. It was ethnic. It belonged to the period of zoological
settlement. It was part of the animal movement which was establishing
biological centres, determining geographical range, bringing too the
sparse population of the world into a heterogeneous distribution, by
which the world itself might become more quickly peopled.

And there were imminent reasons too. To roam, to pass from place to
place, to follow streams, to thread mountain passes, to trace the
shore, to pass north and south, east and west by centrifugal impulses,
which cannot be defined or limited, belonged to the infancy of the race
as they now solely are implanted in the infancy of the individual.

Who shall gauge the “world fever” in the youth of a day which knew
no boarded and bricked and stone domiciles? When the contact with
the elements and all the retinue of their phenomena with the beast,
the fish, the plant, was so quick, so constant, so marked, that man
was drawn into, or rather was the finished expression of geographic
mutability, of the ebb and flow of life in its incessant effort to
cover and possess the earth.

The nomads in the deflections of their travel drew towards the sea
coast. Lhatto told Lagk of the great plain of water, and her pictures,
not inadroitly made, gave her absorbed listener a desire to see the
liquid wonder. Ogga had not been unobservant. The love which Lagk
bore Lhatto, his unconcealed devotion, the simple earnestness of his
industrious attentions came to his ears, and passed before his eyes,
not inaudible nor unseen. But from the confidence of his possession,
from the massiveness and rigorous simplicity of his nature, he did not
care to impugn the motives of Lagk, nor the fidelity of Lhatto. He felt
a tacit self-reproach that he had ever injured Lagk, that he had forced
him to a lower physical level, and it seemed, in his magnanimous motion
for restitution, some consolation that Lagk found joy in Lhatto’s
company, and that Lhatto returned to him a certain measure--not
traitorous nor fatal--of affection.

They finally reached the coast range, a wide and fertile vale had been
traversed, the foot hills of an encompassing mountain chain surmounted,
the dark forests, entombing the gray rocks in a sepulchre of shadow,
crossed, and upon the flat shoulders of the mountain the three stood
looking westward over the ultra-marine floor of the ocean, with its
lighter aqua-marine margins, while scarcely moving, though turreted
upward in the zenith, in illimitable surfaces of resistance, the white
cumuli formed an ermine wall against the unimaginable Orient. The
scene was splendid in its breadth and inspiration, and in the clear
atmosphere, its coloring was simple and strong. It was almost noon.

Lagk gazed as if the splendor, the beauty, the oceanic magnitude of
the water had stunned him. What traces of genealogical survival in
his memory, remote, unfathomable, dimly rising to the surface of
his psychic consciousness, may not have contributed to his profound
feeling! For sometime, doubtless before Zit was imprisoned in the
glaciers, his ancestors, wanderers on the earth, had crossed that azure
field, had trailed along its resounding shores, and fed themselves upon
the life, the fish and mollusks, that spun a web of being upon the
edges of its unfructified and barren breast.

Lagk turned questioningly to Lhatto: “When we came you said I
could hear the story of the Great Water Spirit. There is the great
water--tell me the story. Ogga will listen too.” Ogga was quite
willing. And so Lhatto, sitting between them, with her head in
her hands that rested on her knees, and her eyes fixed, as if in
corroborative inquiry, upon the sea, told the Legend of the Great Water
Spirit.


THE LEGEND OF THE GREAT WATER SPIRIT.

“Many, many suns ago the Great Water Spirit was in the air over the
whole earth, so that Zit could not be seen. It was a white spirit that
was very sorry because it had no children, and it cried, and its tears
ran down upon the earth and wet the trees and the rocks. And then it
stopped crying. And the little lizard that had run into the wet places
which the tears of the Great Water Spirit made, when they dried up
whispered very loud, ‘Great Water Spirit, you have no children, cry
much and you will have more children.’ So the Great Water Spirit cried
again and its tears ran down upon the earth and made holes of water.
And the little lizard ran into the holes of water and kept quiet until
they too were dried up. Then it whispered very loud again, ‘Great Water
Spirit, you have no children, cry much and you will have children.’

“And the Great Water Spirit cried again, and its tears ran down and
made holes of water and little running places. And as it cried, Zit
began to be seen, but all its tears that fell upon Zit were changed to
ice, and as the Great Water Spirit cried it grew thinner and thinner.
And the little lizard was happy a long time in the holes of water and
the running places, and when they dried up again it had grown bigger
and could talk more and it called out very loud, ‘Oh, Great Water
Spirit, you have no children, cry until you die and you will have
children.’

“And then the Great Water Spirit made terrible noises and cried and
cried, until the tears hid Zit again and the mountains and the trees,
and the tears ran down in rivers from the hills, and the ground was
full of tears and spouted them up again, (springs,) but where they fell
upon Zit they only made snow and ice. And still the Great Water Spirit
cried and the tears tore the ground and carried down trees and pushed
out rocks, and the tears ran on and on, until they came together and
made the ocean, and then the Great Water Spirit died and the air was
clear, but the tears ran on over the ground. But when the Fire-Breather
up high (the Sun) sent its arrows on the ocean, the Great Water Spirit
went up again in the air and made the clouds, and when it saw the holes
and murmuring and spouting places dry, it cried again, and the tears
kept its children--for these were its children--alive. And all water
runs to the ocean and the ocean is the grave and the cradle too of the
Great Water Spirit.

“The tears of the Great Water Spirit are the rain. When the Water
Spirit is glad there is no rain, and when the Water Spirit is not
glad there is rain. And the ocean is all the tears of the Great Water
Spirit. And the Water Spirit wanted things to live in the ocean. And so
it saw on the hills the foxes, and it went over them and cried, and the
tears came down big and fast and the foxes were carried into the ocean
and made seals. And the Water Spirit saw snakes and lizards and little
birds on the hills, and it went over them and cried, and the tears came
down big and fast and the snakes and lizards and the little birds made
the fishes of the ocean, because they were carried into the sea.

“And many, many suns ago, before Zit was, and the Ice Spirit was not,
there came a boat on the ocean, and when the Great Water Spirit saw it,
he was very angry. And he cried and blew and the tears filled the boat
and the blowing upset it, and the Men Spirits in it were killed.

“But the Men Spirits made another boat and pushed it out on the ocean,
and they pushed it so fast that it got a great way over the ocean
before the Great Water Spirit saw it, and when he saw it, he ran over
the water making much noise, and he cried great tears and blew--but the
fire spirit (the Sun) shot his arrows at him so that he ran off, and
the Men Spirits in the boat came to the land and lived here.

“And more Men Spirits came and walked over the land. And then the Great
Water Spirit was more angry and he cried and blew, and tears came from
his eyes, and snow blew out of his mouth, and he asked Zit to help
him. And Zit made it very cold, and Zit kept the Fire-Breather under
the ground, and he made it so cold that the rivers were solid, and the
ground was hid under the snow, and the Men Spirits and the bear and the
wolf and the deer came away, and the trees and flowers went with them,
and Zit ruled alone, over the ice. But when the Fire-Breather moves,
the ice goes back a little and the day comes when Zit will die.”

As Lhatto finished, Ogga, who stood by her side, bent upon her and
kissed her on the neck. Lagk had his eyes fixed on Lhatto; the movement
and action of Ogga seemed to bewilder and infuriate him. He drew
aside hastily, his black eyes glittering, his mobile mouth drawn into
a scowl, and his nervous hands clenched hard upon one another as if
under some superhuman control to restrain them. The next instant, as if
seized with a sudden resolve, he leaped through some juniper bushes and
disappeared.

Lhatto and Ogga were alone. Ogga knelt by the woman’s side and took her
hands and drew her face and body nearer to his own. “Lagk loves you,”
he said.

Lhatto smiled. Who shall measure the subtle sense of joy which comes
to a woman, even to a wild emancipated creature like Lhatto, from a
man’s admiration! “Perhaps,” answered Lhatto. “I know it,” persisted
Ogga, and he raised her hands and placed them upon his shoulders,
and a darkness passed over his visage that surrendered its impotent
suspicions as Lhatto flung her face upon his own, and held him closer
and closer, and the whisper crept into his ear: “He may love me, but I
love you, Ogga, and it is all well with us.”

Lagk reappeared, his face was at the aperture of the parted junipers;
behind him the horse was standing, and his head above Lagk’s seemed to
peer forward with almost the same frightened eagerness as his master.
Lagk had seen, had heard all and the momentary agony that creased his
face with frowns, passed into a sullen contraction of the brows, a
settled, determined, half pre-occupied glance at Ogga as he led the
horse upon the upland table--its back covered by thongs and lassos laid
there by Lagk.

He left the horse and approached Ogga and Lhatto, yet oblivious of his
presence. They rose instantly, their eyes filled with that light that
in the savage, as in the modern, does most certainly send its throbbing
fires of passion and yearning and rapture into those strange organs
from whose windows man’s soul looks out upon the world.

Lagk seemed almost unconcerned. He motioned to Ogga to follow him. The
two went out through the junipers, that sprang back again, and Lhatto
was left alone. Lagk led Ogga through some scattered woods and brought
him out upon a higher upland sparsely clothed in grass. There the two
men became engaged in earnest talk. Lagk motioned to the horizon and
his gesticulations became vehement and rapid. Ogga listened, his arms
folded, the braids of his hair framing the brown face, thrown slightly
forward, while the half bent shoulders expressed his interest in the
recital of his friend. At length the appeal prevailed, if appeal it
was, and Ogga walked on, out upon the upland, his ivory spear in his
hand, the nephrite knife about his neck, and the stone sledge in his
belt.

It was curious and not altogether reassuring then to watch Lagk. He
threw his hands backward upon his deformed shoulders, lifted them in
the air, and brought them back upon his breast with the spread fingers
buried in the exposed flesh of his bosom. His face, capable of violent
changes in expression, became sombre and thoughtful, and then there
stole over it an increasing smile, that seemed fed by some anticipation
of pleasure, and lit his face with a wicked and baleful joy. Lagk
watched Ogga until the receding form disappeared, dropping down behind
rocks and trees. Lagk stood for an instant longer, as if gathering his
thoughts for the execution of his plans.

Then he stole back through the juniper trees and saw Lhatto had
resumed her first posture, her head in her hands, her elbows on her
knees, and her face turned in reverie to the distant sea. The horse
was pulling upon the branches of a maple. Lagk stepped quietly in upon
the place that was soon to become the stage of so much terror. He
moved noiselessly to the side of Lhatto, holding a leathern thong of
considerable length in his hand. He leaned upon her. She hastily drew
herself upward. With an inarticulate shout, Lagk threw in rapid coils
the thong about her, pinning her arms closely to her side. They were
drawn tight and strongly; like a vise they held her arms helpless and
motionless. The action was so daring, so unexpected that Lhatto almost
yielded to it without resistance. An instant later she looked at Lagk.
His face was close to hers, his breath brushed her cheeks, a strange
gleam of exultation shone in his eyes. He seized her in his arms and
pushed his lips upon her with the violence of ravenous desire. Lhatto
jumped to her feet and struck him away with a savage kick.

It was not well aimed. It hurt, but the hurt incensed Lagk. The color
had rushed to Lhatto’s face, her chest rose and fell with the tumult
of her own anger and disgust, but the flaming of her temper made her
more beautiful, more desirable, and Lagk felt the tension of his
craven thoughts. Lhatto was motionless. She made no attempt to escape.
She looked at Lagk--her arms straightened to her side, giving her a
strained uprightness--with a curious interest, her eyes wide apart and
her lips compressed, and a red spot in her cheeks that spread to the
spaces beneath her eyes, glowing darkly under her bronzed skin.

But Lagk waited no longer. A leathern thong gathered in his hands,
snatched from the horse’s back, with bowed body he sped like a
ferret forward, and whirled the cord about Lhatto’s legs. He ran on
around her, drawing nearer and nearer with every loop of his circuit
tightening the web that held her rigid like an imprisoned fly, until he
had come quite close to her absolutely still form. He stopped in front
of her and as he turned his face to hers she spat upon it. It was like
a spark to a magazine. The hidden revolt which Lagk nursed, which made
him rebellious against the humiliation of his deformity, which defiled
the springs of his good nature and had fed the poisonous growths of
envy and malice and discontent, burst furiously into flame. From his
jagged lips, malediction started.

He threw his arms around the helpless woman and swung her from him
with rage. The torrent of his indignation was not assuaged by the
sad picture of her fall upon the stony ground. He stood over her and
taunted her helplessness, swore she should be his, that Ogga would not
return, that he would carry her to the eyrie of the horse hunters, that
the Medicine Men would help him, that her life should no longer be by
the side of the Great Water Spirit. And then the tempestuous and fickle
creature, in an outburst of wailing love, knelt by Lhatto, raised her
head and besought her to think well of him; he would make her his wife,
he would treat her well, he loved her, he would bring her birds and
wild animals, and train horses for her, he would make her beautiful
with flowers and plumes, he would show her the stars in the sky, and
tell her where the fish lived, she should forget Ogga, Ogga had gone
away, he had forgotten her, Ogga was dead, Ogga wanted him, Lagk, to
take her to his home.

His supplications became piteous and cringing. The wild man, touched
with the deathless passion which no art of modern affectation or
sycophancy can disguise or control, was in a paroxysm of despair. He
laid his head on Lhatto’s bound arm and implored her to be kind to
him. And Lhatto still was mute. His anger was rekindled. He raised her
roughly and carried her like a log to the horse. He said nothing, but
strapped her Mazeppa-like to the horse’s back. He was even tender,
placing soft skins between her and the animal. His vagaries of temper,
the illicit madness of his first thoughts had been succeeded by stolid
determination, and he made haste to vanish with his captive from their
little camp.

The equipment with which he left it was slight enough. A lasso hung
around his neck, a few knives of stone were stuck in his belt, and
with nothing else he led the horse, carrying the still motionless
Lhatto, from the upland, and began the toilsome descent to the lowland,
trusting to his own sense of direction and the accidents of topography,
to find his way back to the canyon country, but, above all, solicitous,
that by means of his tortuous advance, he might escape pursuit. It
required some skill to bring on the horse without accident or injury to
its burden, but Lagk was both skillful and thoughtful, and slowly the
two threaded a devious path, while Ogga hunted the strange new beast
which Lagk had urged him to capture.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER VII.

THE SLOTH.


When Ogga left Lagk, he crossed the uplands with rapid strides. His
hunter’s keen desire and ambition had been roused by the strange
report which Lagk had made to him. Lagk had told him of a singular
and monstrous beast which he had seen, almost casually, as the three
travelers made their way up to the mountain ridge. In one of his
rambling excursions he had entered a savannah-like level, which
appeared to be a southern extension of the horse valley, where Ogga
and Lhatto had witnessed the strange devastation of the equine host.
Here he had been arrested by a squeaking grunt, and tracing the curious
interruption, had detected in a grove of ash trees, assembled near a
depressed and wet area of heavy grass, a new and formidable creature.
It had a covering of tawny hair, it was standing on its hind feet, and
was dragging down with its huge front hands the pendant branches. Lagk
had not dared to approach it closer; its novel and whimsical homeliness
had dismayed him. He had concealed his discovery until the episode of
Ogga’s and Lhatto’s love duet suggested its useful interjection as a
device for securing Ogga’s absence.

It was this anomalous and new animal wonder that Ogga was now in search
of. Suspicion of Lagk’s intentions, suspicion of his truthfulness, at
first deterred Ogga, but Lagk’s asseverations became so earnest, and
the picture he drew was so inexplicable that Ogga felt drawn to the
eccentric chase by curiosity alone.

He had crossed the open field and found its further end cut by a
landslide which had scoured a broad concavity down the side of the
mountain, heaping up at the limit of its denudation the accumulated
earth into a huge mound, promiscuously mixed with projecting boughs
and trunks and mangled roots of trees and with fragments of rock. The
erosion formed a convenient line of descent for about half a mile.
Ogga slipped down the irregular and smooth surfaces and reached the
debris at its foot. Up that he ascended a short way, as far as its
annoying entanglement of sticks and stones allowed, and there he could
see far below him an opening in the unbroken wilderness which might be
interpreted as the spot mentioned by Lagk.

He knew that their movement westward and south had brought them
now to the west wall of the Horse Valley, and that this continuous
triangle which seemed to form an avenue of indefinite extension, was
characterized by many side outlets or tributaries running for miles up
lateral ravines. Through these ravines a stream, rising at some higher
elevation usually was conducted, and they were further distinguished
by widenings or shelf-like expansions, free from trees, supporting
a luxuriant herbage, and almost invariably provided with marsh-like
bowls, where the water seemed to disappear or at best sluggishly emerge
from its inferior limits. These ravines were very warm and humid, and
by some occult reasoning, which bore no resemblance to the zoological
deductions of a naturalist, Ogga thought this shapeless and sluggish
beast, which fed on leaves and twigs, would be likely to find such
places congenial to its unusual nature.

He remained upon the view-point he had secured for a long time. He
studied the scene, noting the trees, the points of rocky exposure,
the precipices, the cataract-like fall of the forest at spots where
there was some defalcation of the ground on which they stood, and thus
completed the mental survey, whose imagery, immutably fixed in his
memory, would help him reach the glade wherein he located his unknown
guest.

When he had sufficiently stored his impressions and observations,
he climbed down the forward slope of the mound of detritus and
disappeared in the forest. We can hardly imagine that the details of
his meanderings could interest the reader, even if it were possible
to bring before the reader’s eye the features of his woodland journey.
The forests of the later Ice Age in southwestern America were probably
not essentially different in physical circumstances from the forests
of the same region to-day, except that in pleistocene time the
encroaching ice-cap had thrust southward the flora and the fauna that
had previously mantled with its color and animated with its diversity
the wide northern plains of North America, and so produced a biological
congestion, a crowding of types and forms, species and genera, like
a crush of humans, or of cattle, for that matter, striving to pass
simultaneously through a narrow entrance into some escapement, or
breadth of localities beyond; except for this, the forests in their
gloom and silence, in fallen monarchs, moss-covered and beetle-lined,
were just as they are to-day.

Ogga certainly did not recognize that around him was going on an
invisible struggle, a contest unmarked by outcry or blows or surging
pressures. Certainly, there was such a conflict impending and in
progress. The conflict for survival amongst the birds and beasts and
plants was real, though noiseless. A population of living things that
had spread itself over a continent had been forced to compress itself
in much smaller areas, and share at the same time this restriction
with that same area’s own previous population. A carnage slow and
exterminating, a crafty emergence of adaptations in plants and
in animals that fitted this or that one to take advantage of its
competitors and displace them, was evidently present, though as he
pushed his toilsome way through shredded brakes and undergrowth, or
walked in the twilight of the gigantic pines, or scaled some moderate
pinnacle of rock to reset the bearings of his course, the depths kept
their impenetrable secrets and in the development of life of which he,
Ogga, was a divine element, covered with their shadows its remorseless
consequences.

Ogga had made his way through that endless wood, the witness in the
skies and earth of many marvels. It had arisen in the dateless past,
and while with the coming and the going years its leaves had sprouted
and ripened and fallen, their shade had screened a changing animal
world. Those intangible unknown processes of alteration, which by the
subtlety of their influence upon the plants themselves evoked also
responses in the creature of the mountain and the plain, were replacing
an old fauna by a newer one. And Ogga was about to discover a relic
of a passing race. The sun had moved behind the mountain crests and
the narrow valley, faintly deepening into a verdant crease, like the
enrichment of a deeper colored border to a fabric, which passed on its
further side, was traversed by a stream. Towards this the prehistoric
turned, crossing the grass inundated field, bare of trees, in the
ashen gold of the falling day.

There was opposite to the place where Ogga had emerged from the wood a
clump of low ginko trees. These strange plants, living to-day and in
Asia, were barely surviving from the tertiaries in the glacial age,
while their antecedent rise was far off in the mesozoic, in the vast
periods of reptilian abundance. It was Lagk’s description of this spot
and the singular fan-leafed trees which made Ogga certain that he had
reached the position where the new creature Lagk had run upon was to be
found.

As Ogga came nearer to the peculiar trees, their scarcity and thinness
of foliage, united with the whorl-like arrangement of their branches,
permitted him to see distinctly the animal novelty which Lagk had urged
him to pursue.

It had evidently remained at the very place in which it was discovered,
and its strangeness, its whimsical union of grotesque deformity and
awkwardness with mere physical mass, caused the hunter to stop in
amazement, sinking slowly to the ground in the tall grass, and stalking
stealthily towards the unusual object. It was engaged in feeding. For
this purpose it had raised itself upon its hind legs and had stretched
its long forearms upward, distending their length to the utmost to
reach the high twigs. It afforded Ogga a complete display of its
strange proportions, and the young savage remained motionless, puzzled
and astonished.

The animal was covered with a coat of coarse, dun-colored hair, growing
heavily in patches about its thighs and forelegs, not unlike the skirts
of pelage about Indian sheep. Its forefeet were provided with enormous
extensive claws, which fastened themselves like little anchors upon the
swaying branches. These served the purpose of drawing to it the leafy
boughs on which it fed with its bizarre and produced jaws, behind and
above which, in deeply set sockets, burned its small, immobile eyes.
Its great, heavy quarters supported its somewhat contracted body,
though one of great size, and their assistance was supplemented by an
enormous tail. This stretched behind the creature like a round log and
seemed serviceable as a support, though moved by the animal itself with
exertion and extreme slowness.

The stray long hair of the body disappeared on the tail, which lay
inert behind it, thickly swathed in its gray investiture of flesh and
skin. A strange, gaunt and horrible appearance, part of that untempered
productivity of nature which has engaged its energies so long in
fruitless and disappointing creations! The nightmares and disjointed
reveries of some struggling mind rising to its ideals through a host
of abhorrent things, things which once animate must linger through an
inexorable law of vitality and heredity until the correction of time
can destroy them. Indeed, this monstrous waif was itself the furthest
of a receding biological wave, a stranded horror dying before the
approach of conditions more benign and judicious. It was the gigantic
sloth, the relative of the megatherium and mylodon, the excrescent
development of that group of animals which typify to the psychologist
the inertia of mind and the collapse of invention, the drugged
dyspeptic sleep of creation and creators.

Now, as a matter of more discreet scientific statement, the world of
science has almost resolved, after some remarkable demonstrations of
Dr. J. R. Wortman, to believe that the great South American family of
the sloths (_Tardigrades_) originated in the North American continent,
that they issued from the family of the _Ganodonta_. It seems certain
that late in that epoch, which preceded the Ice Age, the huge
representatives of this aberrant and forlorn stem of animal crudities
and curiosities, lived in the western regions of our continent. Whether
by slow and prolonged emigration from the South, painfully encountering
carnivorous foes and the accidents of climate, or whether indigenous
in their development from some original centre of growth here in North
America, they certainly passed their semi-slumbrous life, developed
upon a scale of colossal size in and west of the Rocky Mountains.

It is not altogether easy to imagine this prodigious animal,
resembling the extinct marvels whose skeletons in their weird
homeliness and leviathan bulk charm the wonder seeking eyes of
visitors in Madrid and Buenos Ayres, as actually living somewhere
near the Sierras. And yet it presents no very difficult scheme of
reconstruction. There was a hot climate, luxuriant and dense forests,
interspersed with bottom lands, humid and saturated, and dry altitudes.
The rapacity of mere animal enemies as a contemporaneous incident
would have been no more marked in California than in Brazil, not any
more remarkable than the elephant and the tiger to-day in India, or
the rhinoceros and the lion in Africa. The range of the great sloth
may have been so adjusted to the range of the savage cats as not to
render its existence too precarious, and then it had attained itself
a formidable size, and its alert and muscular foe may not have found
it an easy or despairing prey. A blow from its monstrous tail, a
close, ripping onslaught from the terrible horny talons that resemble
long recurved hooks upon its feet, eviscerating and cruel, might very
quickly have established an equilibrium of advantages against its
crafty antagonist. At any rate, its presence in the western borders
of our country seems certain in the late pleistocene period. It is no
extravagant assumption that some trailing and solitary remnant of the
vanishing tribe should be seen in the glacial day.

It was before a creature of this sort, gigantic, grotesque, decadent
and foreign, that Ogga stared with all his eyes, thinking to please
Lhatto by bringing back to her some trophy from its body. The strange
beast continued its prolonged feeding and Ogga watched. The night,
darkening the valley with blue shadows, that sensibly thickened,
overtaking each other and pressing like a repulsing force the fleeing
lights, rising upward on the mountain, soon hid the animal, and with
the night came rain and a low wind raising innumerable voices in the
great woods.

Ogga stole under the cover of the darkness across the valley, and
guided by that indefinite light which even in the starless nights
pervades the air drew near to his prey whose occasional movements he
heard, heavy, slow and irregular. Under a chance shelter beyond the
ginko grove, made of heavy suffragan bushes, he waited for the morning.

The morning came with uneven accessions of light. A pearly glimmer
entered the valley from the east, upon the tops of the hills, and then
flitted like a hesitating bird from point to point, dwelling at last
upon the copse where Ogga had retreated. It was yet faint, vague,
vacillating, rising; it seemed like a startled fugitive, retreating
to the widening skies and then returning with new courage. Slowly the
shadows fled. The sun lifted the curtains of mist and the scarlet
ribbons died out in the blazoned azure as with a wide awakening force
the full day rushed into the valley.

Ogga had long arisen. The first pulsations of the dawn had met his
erect, expectant gaze. No sound came from the ginko trees and the
rasping sonority of the great beast’s respirations was no longer
audible. Ogga concluded the creature had moved. He waited for the
coming day, and before the full apparel of light descended on the place
he stole forward to note the changed position of his new quarry.

The ginko grove was empty. Leaves from the denuded branches lay on the
ground, and the broken, torn and stripped boughs hung in confusion
from the slim and needle-shaped trunks. Ogga scowled and hastened into
the midst of the disarray. The sodden ground had been trampled into
mud, and the long grass was tossed and smoothed in rolls, where the
prostrate animal had apparently rested. Ogga soon detected an exit for
the strange occupant of the grove at an aperture between two trees.
Through this opening the sloth had made its way, pressing outward the
young saplings and leaving on their sides a few separated hairs scraped
from its tawny sides. The prints of its huge spoor were unmistakable.
There were the broad impression of its feet and the depressed concavity
of the trail of its hideous tail. Ogga looked out from the trees and
following in the yet unsettled dawn the bunched subsidences in the
grass, tangled low holes of verdure, his eyes rested out in the valley
in the tall grass, on a dull yellow mound. It was the recumbent sloth.
Its attitude was the limit of clumsy repose, an appropriate expression
of its own meaningless enormity. Like an elephant, in kneeling, its
forelegs were thrown forward, its hind legs bent, and its great uncouth
head terminating with horrid ugliness its shrunken neck, thrown upon
the ground between its front _mani_, while its angular back pushed
upward in a thatched prominence, half reclined, stuck out its inane
shapelessness towards Ogga, he peering at the oddity with increased
interest.

And now a rapid brush and the light swinging backward of branches
startled his attention. With a quickened pulse, with blood coursing
backward in a regurgitation of fright, Ogga saw a few yards before him
the black bodies of two pumas (_Machaerodus_). They seemed indifferent
or unaware of his neighborhood. They were crouched beneath the slowly
balancing up and down movement of an alder, and their eyes, yellow and
expanded, were fixed upon the sloth. Ogga recognized the antipodes
of expression in this contrast of animal temperament and forms. The
sloth, gigantic, turgid in bulk and feeling, slow, inert, grewsome and
unwieldy, pushed into the foreground of zoological monsters by some
vital movement started along the line of animal evolution, a huge,
unadapted and decrescent whim of nature! The puma, lithe, insinuating,
electric in its response to any evanescent desire, holding in its power
all the resources of grace and agility and cunning and treacherous
audacity, its widest range of emotion covering the purr of affection,
and the infuriated snarl and attack of maddened malice, and living
and to live. All this Ogga felt, and he observed with pleasure the
sinuous motion outward through the grass of the cats, with their bodies
pressed close to the ground, their tails swinging and jerking slowly,
the elbows of their forelegs stretching the soft velvet of their skin
upward behind their elongated necks.

The sloth was unconscious of this serpentine and murderous approach.
It still lay motionless, like a singular, yellowish protuberance on
the surface of the ground. Ogga felt unwilling to leave it unwarned.
His feelings of terror at the entrance so unexpectedly of the panthers
urged him to hope for their repulse and injury by the huge beast, and
he made some natural calculations upon so equal a combat, inuring to
his own benefit by the maiming or death of both sides in this animal
duel. He took measures to arouse the sleeping victim before the eager
and engrossed assailants should attack it.

He hurried to the border of the small brook and picked up a few
pebbles. With these gathered in the skin cloak he carried, he ran back
to the ginko trees. He clambered from a low limb to the broken base
of a large branch, and steadying himself against the tree trunk, was
successful in disengaging his right arm so that it was at liberty for
his now very apparent, intention of rousing the sloth by the discharge
of his smooth and stony missiles. His position overlooked the sleeping
monster, and luckily was not in the line of the pumas, whose dusky and
lean outlines he also commanded, but at a very different angle. It was
far from his designs to draw their attention to himself.

Ogga was strong, strong in his youth and strong through the exercise
of his toils in hunting. It was not difficult for him to send the
water-rolled pebbles as far as the sloth, nor less easy to hit its
broad sides. The first stone fell upon the shoulder of the creature,
and scarcely had its impact been felt, and the stone itself had rolled
to the ground, than another, and more effectively directed, struck its
back. A third, larger, and more swiftly driven through the air, landed
on one of its outstretched paws, crushing its horny hoofs. The sloth
was awakened. It rose to its feet and turning with a half indolent
movement of surprise, its eyes encountered the crouching, motionless
figures of the cats, their lips quivering in their retraction from
gleaming and sabre-like teeth.

Its behaviour was curious, and Ogga, still enlaced among the ginko
boughs, remained motionless; perhaps at the uncouth and shambling
cowardice of the beast, a smile crossed his dark face. The sloth,
when it discovered its assailants, turned heavily around, and raised
itself as a quivering pile of flesh upon its broad and massive legs;
its prolonged head thrown forward, uneasily swinging up and down, and
its forelegs with their powerful claws aimlessly beating and pawing
the air. The next instant the larger of the cats shot like a long bolt
from the ground, its outspread paws descried by Ogga in its lightning
passage, and fell plump upon the breast of the sloth, below its neck.
As the huge monster felt the laceration of the cat’s talons, followed
by a savage, burrowing thrust of its armed jaws at the neck, where the
sloth was less heavily coated with hair, it emitted a half musical,
whimpering scream, so out of reason with its great size that Ogga
laughed. The next instant the second cat sprang on the creature’s
flanks, burying its head in the softer flesh of its abdomen. But the
first attack had already expiated with death its hardihood. The sloth,
frantic and smarting, had, as if impulsively, closed its powerful
front limbs over the arched back of its enemy, and with an effort that
gained a momentum from the desperation of its own fear, crushed it
to a lifeless pulp. And as it did so, with a swooning sob it dropped
forward, the blood flowing in rivulets from its own severed cervical
arteries. Its fall enveloped beneath it the second cat, yet mining
with voracious eagerness into the intestines of its wretched prey. A
second later this cat emerged, fighting to escape its own sepulchre
from beneath the mountainous mass overhanging it.

Ogga had already dropped from the trees and had ventured out into the
valley. He was not far distant from the waning contest. When he saw the
panther’s head beneath the sloth, wriggling with violence to extricate
itself, he ran forward and his descending spear of ivory pierced its
eye. Another rending snarl, and the raging creature, blinded in the
copious gushes of blood and humous, and struck again and again by Ogga,
expired, while with a last somnolent groan, the megatherium lapsed
sideways and hid the puma under its own shaggy sides.

Ogga knew the fight was finished, and with grim satisfaction he
reviewed the opportunities for his own trophies. But it was soon
evident his mind had changed. A few of the great claws only of the
sloth were broken or cut away by Ogga, and he turned hastily backward
to the forest and the mountain. He had concluded to bring both Lhatto
and Lagk to the strange sight, and only show, as some surety for his
incredible story, the great claws of the unknown animal.

So Ogga reentered the twilight of the forest and passed through those
solitudes, yet undisturbed by man, man, that inevitable summation of
those forces which had made them, and of whom Ogga, strong, radiant and
simple, was the forerunner and type.

His return, hastened by the expectation of the wonder of his friends
over the recital of his experience, and by his own better acquaintance
with the way which he had partially marked on his descent, was almost
accomplished at nightfall. The moon placed a sheen of silver on the
mountain peaks, and the far distant darkness below him screened the
dead creatures, whose impotent encounter he had seen in the morning. He
stood wonderingly on the edge of the little upland at the further end
of which was the simple camp where Lhatto and Lagk awaited his return.
He could afford to linger, and surely his mind could afford to think.

A child’s mind and the mind of the infancy of the race may not, in some
respects, be inaptly compared. But it would be plainly silly to bring
them closely together in any claims of exact resemblance. At least in
the infancy of the race we are dealing with adults in whom passions
of mature life have become developed, and upon whom the practical
experiences of life, in winning food and shelter and clothing, have
made lasting marks. How foolish to place a child’s faculties or
apprehensions in such a category! In one thing, perchance, they are
strikingly alike, the futility, weakness or absence of language. But
behind the silence of the prehistoric is a web of emotional life, the
maze of natural impressions, and the formed habits of making and doing
things. Behind the silence of the child is an embryo mind, and only
that.

But feeling and thought which, as they are refined, issue so naturally
in speech in our cultivated life, may, in the prehistoric, as in many
examples of living men and women, have moved over the nerve tissue with
no response at the portals of the lips. It is a trite suggestion that
the poets speak our unuttered thoughts, and their exquisite phrase
makes clearer to us our own yearnings and inquietudes and doubts.

The prehistoric man in Ogga, the prehistoric woman in Lhatto, was not
some dishevelled emergence from simian ugliness, turpitude and filth.
In their minds the lamp of intelligence, in their hearts the fire of
love had both been lit, and they burned fairly, and gave light, though
no written page, no entwined sentences displayed them. They were there.
Back of them the twilight of growth from immense and carnal and animal
beginnings may have brooded over men or women. And along side of them
inchoate or drivelling beings, less well conditioned in their descent
and habitat, may have walked on legs and slung stone hatchets. But in
Ogga and Lhatto, while the Ice Age dwindled in the North, while the
resumptive vigor of vegetable and animal life was capturing again
the deserted northland, while the mastodon moved on the face of the
earth, and the great sloth yet stayed, and the cave tiger stole along
the fretted edges of the cliffs, in them Life had begun the intonation
of its great unceasing symphony of ideals, and hopes! and dreads, and
sorrows, joys and tears, and they both heard and _knew_ it.

So Ogga lingered in the upland gazing at the full moon, his heart
strangely stirred. Religion in Ogga and Lhatto had reached only the
indefinite stage of awe and wonder. It hardly yet expressed itself in
signs or stories. But with it was poetic recognition, which, perhaps,
as duly hound in with the impressions of the senses, with what we see
and hear and smell and feel, rises early, indeed earliest. And to Ogga,
a somnambulous sense of the beauty of the world, of the wonderment of
his own passion for Lhatto, of the mystery of things, of the flux and
fall of the life of trees, and birds, and beasts, came then, and he
lingered, and as he stretched upward his hands to the white Orb, there
came to him also, as there comes in water at our feet, the mirrored
image of a distant cloud, a mild surprise of a sense of mercy and of
goodness, and Ogga took up the spear which had dropped to his feet, yet
encrusted with the blood and brains of the slain puma, and went forward
to the camp.



[Illustration]


CHAPTER VIII.

THE CHASE.


In prehistoric time the camp was the stopping place, a few boughs, a
few skins, a fire amongst stones, perhaps a shelter under a rock. In
the southern land where they now were and in the summer, the young
hardihood and trained activity of these youths required little else,
and as the streams and ponds, or the life of the woods, furnished them
food, when inland, or the shores of the sea, sustenance, when on the
coast, their ease of movement was unlimited. In this respect also, Ogga
and Lhatto had been exceptional.

The early man roves but with stealth and with slowness along rivers and
coast lines. He finds his bearings by their familiar configuration,
and only furtively enters the untrodden and pathless wilderness.
But Ogga and Lhatto were not aimless, though in these first weeks
of indulgence, and from that superior loftiness of nature which had
fitted them for new tasks, they had been adventuresome. They intended
to fix their destination southward on the sea coast, and had at no
time, in these days of wandering, forgotten their intention. Lagk,
who was more familiar with the interior, had guided them, but with
many vacillations. Their steps had tended southward along the mountain
ridges. They calculated they were not now far distant from their rest.

Ogga pushed aside a wavering branch and stepped on the little cleared
space where for a few days he and Lhatto had lingered, feeling the
charm of its elevation in the clear salubrity of the air, the haunting
wonders of the distant view of the ocean, and those many laxative and
gentle interests that arise with lovers in solitude and remoteness.

Ogga, in the moonlight which made everything visible, saw that the
camp was deserted, and a sudden shadow darkened his face, the blood
surged to his cheeks, and he stood looking about him with a curious
inquietude. The horse that with Lagk had been their companion and had
proven not unuseful in their wanderings, was also gone. No trace of
thong or lasso which commonly hung from the branches, or lay tangled
and displayed on the rocks, was there and--he began to move rapidly to
and fro over the ledge--the skins that Lagk had prepared, which formed
a rude alleviation to their primitive condition, had also disappeared.

Ogga stopped, his head hung forward, he knelt and gazed at impressions
in the scanty soil at one side of the rock, where infiltrating and
creeping mosses, with a film of earth, formed a green carpet. He saw
the hoof marks of the horse, and the long foot marks of Lagk, but
nothing else. The slighter thin steps of Lhatto were not there, and yet
Lhatto also was gone. With a new accession of excitement Ogga rushed to
the opposite side, and throwing himself upon the ground that appeared
there, and which was part of the encroaching upland-field which he had
just crossed, looked for the telltale steps. There were none. Again he
leaped to his feet, and stood irresolute.

Fast swarming thoughts filled his mind. He recalled Lhatto’s
confession, he remembered the clinging constancy of Lagk to Lhatto,
he weighed well Lagk’s resentment for himself, he recurred to his own
distrust and wonder over Lagk’s importunate insistency that he should
go alone to hunt the sloth, and then there stole into his brooding
thoughts the hitherto suppressed suspicions of Lhatto’s faith. He
remembered--how vividly the images rose in quiet succession to taunt
and tempt his patience--when Lhatto asked so anxiously if it was not
late for Lagk to return from some hunt he had undertaken for her sake,
how she sat with Lagk and listened to his long stories of the birds and
beasts, how she had wandered away with him to see some nest or wild
flower, how she had helped him dress the skins, and had amused herself
with so much archness and tenderness, sticking bright feathers in his
hair, while he worked at his nets, or strengthened and stiffened and
lengthened his lassos. He remembered--could it be pain that spread like
an aching ulcer over his heart--how Lhatto had pitied Lagk’s deformity,
and once Lagk had held her in his arms and kissed her, and Lhatto did
not repel him, and once again--Ogga strode to the edge of the ledge
and looked down the steep sides of the rock, even leaning forward over
the peril below him--he found her bending over Lagk sleeping, and she
touched his face with her lips.

The strange unbidden thought of self-destruction, perhaps thus first
entering the heart of man, vanished, and following it, leaping like a
flame that has lain stifled in smoke, or moved unheeded, along hidden
tracts of heat towards the surface and the air, came the devastating
fire of jealousy and hatred and the thirst for vengeance.

The prehistoric man then discovered his endowment of emotions, and
under the sudden summons of his offended passions, became as modern
as Leontes or Agamemnon. Ogga’s face certainly assumed no extreme
distortion of rage, and the air was not imperatively needed to repeat
his imprecations to the surrounding rocks. He simply walked, with
perhaps the sparkle of a peculiar light newly awakened in his eyes, and
a slightly noticeable tension of the muscles of his arm as his hands
grasped the long used ivory spear, and there was, were our eyes near
enough to discern it, a sinister pallor in his cheeks; he walked to the
edge of the ledge and listened.

He turned his face to the directions below, above, around him, and,
motionless, like some lost animal expectant to regain his companions
by some wandering bleat or call, listened. Then, when that conjecture
proved fruitless, he fell upon his knees and studied the imprints that
were freshly made in the soil. The path Lagk and Lhatto had taken was
soon determined, and Ogga, with a sudden quivering ejaculation--the
first word he had spoken--followed the descending trail.

Lagk had hurried Lhatto away, and yet his movements were not neglectful
of her comfort. The horse sought its path with trepidation, down the
steeper defiles of the descent to the valley, and not infrequently
Lagk’s strength and presence of mind alone prevented a serious accident
to beast and burden. His progress, greatly as he wished to hasten it,
was slow, nor was his own knowledge of the aisles and passages of the
woods quite sufficient. He intended to gain a prolongation of the
valley where the sloth had been seen, and pass beyond the ranges east
of it by some clove or depression, or, if that was impossible, by some
shoulder of the cordillera from which he might more successfully plot
his return to the canyon.

The country was not altogether difficult to traverse. The forests were
continuous but not densely interrupted with undergrowth, and when the
valleys between the ranges were reached they formed quite open highways
for miles. Treeless areas extended on the mountain sides in places,
and here upon a plateau country the igneous agencies had developed a
landscape, weird and chaotic, where black shadows and glaring patches
of light marked the violent contrasts of cliff and plain.

Lagk had been solicitous and tender with Lhatto. He loved her, and his
passion, by the corrective influence of his mind, superior to brutal
concupiscence, had maintained a certain aboriginal gallantry. He
brought her water and food. He plucked tender berries and offered them
to her. Except for the acceptance of water Lhatto remained stolid and
stubbornly unresponsive. Lagk would have unloosed the irksome bonds
and taken her with him under less constraint, but the sense of capture
was delightful to him, the physical possession thus assured seemed to
enervate and entrance him. He often paused in their descent, and stood
near Lhatto, his hand upon her body and his keen eyes, brilliant, with
a seam of light crossing them, in a frenzy of anticipation, resting
upon her.

Such unwise surrenders to his fancy lost him time, the stumbling and
uncertain horse and his own hesitation as to the way added increased
delays, which were unfavorable for his escape from a resentful foe
whose feet were winged with anger, whose muscles sprang forward under
the whip of scorn, and in whose veins the blood bounded with a thirst
for murder.

Yes! in the prehistoric, in Ogga, the gaunt horror of the desire to
kill had arisen. The pallid beast of hatred, ridden by the clutching
hags of envy and jealousy and spite and terror, ran before Ogga in
his path. He--Ogga--stared wildly at the image of a man, stifled and
gasping, held at the throat by Ogga’s hand--his own--until the eyes
started from their sockets, turning their lifeless whitenesses downward
and upward in the wanton agony of death. Ogga’s hands, thrust before
him, caught, in his dreaming mind, the body of Lagk, and they raised
it, struggling, kicking, voluble with cries and tears and prayers,
above the earth, above the splintered rocks, harsh and ragged with
edges and translucent tips, and these same hands smashed the pitiful
and shrinking body upon the hard edges, the lacerating, piercing tips,
and it lay there before Ogga, palpitating like a slain animal, gushing
red tides of blood.

Ogga’s feet, whose impetuous haste, now sent him bounding like a
ball over an obstructing rock, now with slippery treachery sent him
sprawling from the damp mossiness of a fallen tree, those flying feet,
suddenly in Ogga’s inner sight, became immobile, stamped upon the
cracked and pensile neck of the deceiver, of the girl he loved, before
whom, before this happened, the wide earth and all the firmament of
stars were pale, inconsequent, and foolish things. With such surprising
madness did Ogga hunt the felons of his joy, the vague misery of his
desolation cutting his heart, in the sudden blackness which _touched_
him on every side.

Lagk had hurried up the valley where Ogga had found the sloth, and the
pale topped mountains rose, as he advanced, into flinty pinnacles,
gray and spectral, in the summer sun. They rose as the valley widened,
their bared heads destitute of covering, sending into the broad zenith
the half-visible rays of the reflected heat and light. They thrust
out wide shoulders, the shadows resting in the cold remoteness of
their elevations, revealing cliffs and recesses, ragged gorges and
wandering seams of dislocation. Lagk paused again and again, wondering
and dismayed. His path forward became more strange, and though he had
roamed for years through this country of the wild horses, this southern
marge frightened him with its sublimity. Its insistent immensity
oppressed him and the silent solitudes by some power of evocation, that
rests in all things majestic, summoned to his lips some confession of
disgrace and shame.

He had not been harsh with Lhatto. He curbed his own impatience and
fear by resting from hour to hour, for he was not insensible of the
restraint and discomfort which Lhatto suffered. He had even lifted
her from the horse, like some fragile burden, and laid her on soft
couches of grass or moss. But he did not change the thongs that held
her rigid, swathed in a panoply of imprisoning cords. He was afraid to
loosen her, fearful perhaps of her agility, her sylvan velocity that,
as the bird flies, or the wild cat leaps, or the squirrel runs, would
evade, confuse and escape him. He could not be sure. Her silence,
yet unbroken, though now and then her lips twitched with suffocating
rage, or perhaps with sharp aches and dull misery, made him bitter and
distrustful.

But now, before the awful splendor of the external world, before the
unvoiced appeal of those mountains up whose sides he was pressing and
whose altitudes, with their stony retinue of forms and faces gazing
unchanged, and yet with every moment a renewed persistency of inquiry,
made him tremble with alarm; before these things a kind of contrition
arose in him, and because it came from his own burning love--as in all
love there is something holy and self-condemning--he came slowly to the
side of Lhatto on the horse and spoke:

“Lhatto, I do not mean harm or hurt. You shall be with me in my land
and with my people. I will be so good to you. I love you. The spirit
men shall be good to you. You will have so much to eat, to wear, and
you shall do nothing. I took you because I cannot live anyway, besides.
I will bring you birds and little animals, and furs and flowers. You
shall be beautiful. And my people will do as you say, all of them, or I
will kill them. Let it be so. Forget Ogga. Love me.”

And yet as he spoke, Ogga, growing hotter, warier, keener, surer,
deadlier, followed his trail, even as the meteoric spark that crosses
the black night follows its inerrant path to earth.

But Lhatto did not answer. In that woman’s heart, primeval with the
centuries, the rapture of devotion had its birth. Her ears were deaf,
her eyes were filled with the image of the man who woke her sleeping
on the rocking waves, and her heart was still with the great hope and
prayer that he would find her. Such a spirit dwelt in this woman of the
Ice Age, the prehistoric, in whom grew, by some mystery of design, the
consecration of fidelity.

They hurried on. Lagk incensed, beat the lagging horse, and desperate
by an increasing apprehension of Ogga’s pursuit, breathlessly pushed
upward, expecting from a high and desert tableland, which he had
descried, to see more clearly his way eastward to the canyon land.

At last they reached, by toilsome struggles in which Lhatto suffered,
the edge of a wide plain. On its farthest margin still rose the
baffling mountain peaks. It was a bowl-shaped expanse, of sand and
pebbles, that sloped by the most imperceptible subsidence to a small
lake. Sage bushes, groups of cedars, presenting angular and dwarfed and
prostrate forms, offered in spots some relief to the unmasked stare of
the palpitating scent. The day was well advanced. By some peculiarity
of position, or by some vagary of weather, the air was motionless, and
the unclouded sun shone mercilessly, until the heated stones emitted a
radiant warmth and the parched herbage seemed melted and shrunken.

Over the singular field of stones and sand the little and exhausted
company forced their way, Lagk by turns pulling the reluctant beast, or
else from behind pelting it with pebbles. By means of such exertions he
reached the sides of the lake which revealed a border of mimic beaches
and low precipitous cliffs. Turning up a defile where a temporary
shade was secured from some fantastic trees, whose roots, by all the
available ingenuity of a subterranean quest for moisture, had fastened
themselves in riven rocks and over included boulders, they finally
emerged upon a flat exposure that rose from the lake in a vertical
wall, and like some miniature stage, commanded the desolate and
monotonous surroundings.

It was a granite ledge hollowed over its surface with small
depressions, which were now pools of water from some recent rain, and
upon it lay scattered blocks, a few crowded together in a low wall,
full of apertures and chance shelters, beyond which again the arid
deposit stretched to the last needles of the range. Beyond these peaks
Lagk felt certain he should find an avenue of escape. To the wall of
drifted or weathered boulders he made his way, the shadows of the horse
with its recumbent load and the short muscular body of Lagk, moving
over the granite floor of the pedestal, like phantom silhouettes, the
sun burning the crystalline edges of the roughened asperities of the
rocks into dust.

In the shadow of this wall they rested and Lagk looked long at Lhatto,
still silent. Slowly he passed his hand over her body, slowly his
fingers sought the knotted cords, slowly they unfastened the entwined
and embracing thongs, and slowly one by one the cords dropped from
Lhatto, and slowly the freed woman, with gestures of distress and
stiffness, rose on the back of the horse. It was not altogether painful
for her. She had been indeed cruelly confined, and on her legs and arms
and breast the strictures of the skin were visible. An enfeeblement
had overcome her, and as Lagk seized her in his arms and carried her
resistless to the rocks, his love seemed kindled to a more poignant
fury by the pressure of her warm and helpless body. She sat beside him,
her eyes with a wandering glance searching the strange spot. The color
had faded in her cheeks, its hue, that had been like the sheen of a
delicate bronze, was replaced by a pasty pallor, and a ring of shadow
lay beneath each eye. But to Lagk she was the same, but more precious,
more desirable, more his own. An eagle flying with convulsive leaps
from rock to rock approached them. Its whistling cackle seemed to mock
the loneliness and weakness of the girl.

Lagk placed his hand upon her neck. He stood before her so that his
broad body shut out the sun; his other hand lifted her toward him; her
supineness thrilled him with a strange insanity. His thoughts ran pêle
mêle towards the gratification of his love. And yet--and yet--; the
circling eagle with its senile chatter rose flapping in the blazing
light, a hundred scintillations seemed flashed before Lagk’s eyes, a
breeze that had arisen brought to his ears the patter of the waves
upon the highland lake, and off, far off beyond him the gray and white
needles of the cordilleras, like blanched images of rebuke, stood
waiting. Lagk spoke. His voice was thin and whispering, and the breath
that came with it on the cheeks of Lhatto was hot and humid. He said,
“Lhatto, you are mine.”

Then Lhatto sprang upward; at last her tired lips opened, and the faint
vestiges of her strength which had grown together in that interval of
resting, into something useful and vehement, forced him from her. Her
words, “I hate you,” were not misunderstood, nor misconceived, nor
welcomed. Lagk sprang back with tigerish zeal. The two, the Woman and
the Intruder, fought together on the silent radiant granite table,
while the horse nibbled the niggardly and grudging bunch grass.

It was an unequal effort. Lagk was strong and behind his strength was
the grizzly power of his rage and desire, and Lhatto, whose, strength
had been slowly ebbing, resisted only with the last cooperative fusion
of muscle and of will. Lagk forced her to the stones. For an instant
they rested, Lhatto’s head bent forward and pushed against Lagk’s
breast, who held her arms twisted from him in a vice-like clutch. The
coupled pair slowly fell backward to the rock they had for an instant
deserted, the slow retreat broken only by sudden wrenchings and
spasmodic returns of Lhatto’s expiring strength and revulsion.

It was over. Lagk bent down and bit Lhatto in the neck like any savage
or wicked thing that feels the impulse of an unquenchable thirst. And
then--a shadow from above shut out the light, a block of rock rolled
down the wall, a groan like the muttering and imprisoned sighs of a
tree bent in a storm of wind--all this happened in the acute silence
and sunlit splendor of the place. Lagk raised his head. Above him on
the tumbled stones stood Ogga.

Ogga had indeed hastened. His quick eye had followed the trail
unhesitatingly and he had never paused. His chase had been unbroken.
The springs or brooks here and there had quenched his thirst, but food
had not passed his lips nor sleep visited his body. Perhaps he was
not strong enough for the rescue. He had detected below the mountain
desert the fleeing footsteps of his rival and he had crept upon the
sandy mesa quite unseen. He had seen as he approached, bending behind
bushes, stalking in the grass, running from boulder to boulder, the
movements of the two before him. The approach he made had been a little
circuitous and it was while he was skirting the opposite side of the
cairn of stones that Lagk had attacked Lhatto. Ogga, the moment this
screen removed the chances of his detection, ran rapidly forward, and
climbing the rampart saw the waning fight. He stood almost directly
above Lagk. He heard Lhatto speak.

In an instant the dark torrent of vengeance lost its worst, its deepest
tint; the thought of Lhatto’s faith made him again more human. It was
now against Lagk that the fierce mutiny of his thoughts turned. And
as the agony of his rage burst forth, mixed with a strange sweetness
of reassurance, his lips moved, and the moan, that made Lagk look up,
issued on the rising wind. The two men--the prehistorics--were face to
face, and now all scores were to be wiped out between them. Thus at
the threshold, even beyond the threshold, in the untenanted spaces of
origin, the play of love and retaliation and jealousy and hate, began
its devastating path. Yes! and with one the sense of guilt was not
unnoticed.

Lagk hastily abandoned Lhatto. He too knew the crisis was reached, and
his old resentment against Ogga flamed up; expiation was at hand, or
else--that silence that he had sometimes seen amongst his own people in
the canyon. His mind worked quickly, and as he retreated, backing out
over the level floor of rock, he bethought himself of his resources.
He knew Ogga’s strength, his size and agility. He was himself strong,
but he felt a safety in craft, and the implement of his cunning was the
lasso, that had so often caught and tamed the wild horses.

Ogga leaped down towards Lagk, but turned to Lhatto. She was
breathless, she said nothing, she only pointed to Lagk, and her eyes
lit up with pleasure, with madness of joy even. Ogga had thrown away
his spear, in his hand was only the stone knife. The instant lost in
the recognition of the lovers allowed Lagk time to pass sideways and
recover a long skin rope with a sort of noose in it. He wound this
hastily, still hurrying away, anxious to bring Ogga after him in a
running attack.

It came. Ogga, crouching, ran like a dart upon him. Lagk hoped to see
him stumble and fall. The sure foot of the mastodon hunter skimmed the
ground as a bird’s wing. Lagk trembled. He too crouched. In a dizzy
circle, widening and contracting, thudding the air with a faint, steamy
whizz and whirr, the thong sped above his head. Then it widened the
rotating, undulous noose, and the line sprang from his hand and fell,
vibrating in an irregular elipse over the head of Ogga, upon his neck.
It lay unperceived by him upon his shoulders. It tightened; the quick
restraint was noticed. Ogga seized it with his hands, his knife dropped
to the rock and broke. He was already worsted.

As a spider, touching each radiating line of his web, feels the
telltale tremble that acquaints it with a new capture, so Lagk realized
his advantage, and with all his force, holding his place as best he
could, against the manifold and plunging struggles of his prey, he drew
him outward, outward over the granite ledge towards the lake. Ogga,
blinded by his own rage and bewilderment, helped the sinister purpose
of his enemy by too much resistance. The taut rope enabled Lagk to jerk
him again and again, upsetting and felling him, and every time he hit
the stone pavement over which in the hot sun, he was thus impatiently
sprawling, harsh wounds were given.

His strength already severely tested by his pursuit, by his long fast,
was unequal to this new emergency. Sometimes, in his overthrows, his
head struck the unyielding floor. He was succumbing, he grew dizzy, he
fought wildly with the implacable cord. His best efforts only saved
him from being choked, and his imprisoned hands, occupied in saving
his neck from the tightening rope, were useless. He reeled, the blood
flowed down his face. His eyes seemed rolling in his head, and then
sounds of confusion burst on his ears. As to all men, approaching
exhaustion and unconsciousness, pictures floated before his eyes, the
smilodon and mastodon, the steppe country, Zit and the ice blanket, the
ocean, the boat with Lhatto, the stampede of the wild horses and then,
again, and again, and again, Lhatto. How then he resisted his cogent
foe! How her face summoned up new desperate energies, but how pitiably
inadequate! He tossed to and fro on the rock, falling, rising, pitching
headlong, a toy, a waif, in the iron hands of the relentless Lagk. And
Lhatto, stealing outward too from the wall, following with even pace
Ogga’s circling and vain motions, held her hands before her face, in
great pain and sorrow.

Lagk knew his advantage, saw Ogga’s downfall and helplessness, but by a
cool precision of judgment, of prudence, risked nothing by coming too
near his prey, nor did he relax an instant the sharp pressure of the
cord. His plans slowly fixed, as the fight, now unequal and in his own
hands, drew certainly to a close. The fixation of his plan came with
the recollection of his own injury in youth at Ogga’s hands. Ogga had
pushed him from the cliff--he would push Ogga from the cliff, but into
the depthless waters; into the cold embrace of death; he would leave
him dead on the mountain top, in the blue hidden recess of the mountain
lake. And then Lhatto!

The quick comprehension of his life-long thirst for vengeance and the
possession of the woman who now claimed his heart with unspeakable
power, suffocated him with its delirium of satisfaction. He cried
aloud, he reviled Ogga; the ribald, the obscene, the torturing cruelty
of the savage, ran loose in his vulgar, wicked jubilation. Strength
came to his arms. He hurled the smarting, almost senseless Ogga this
way and that; each fall of the staggering victim elicited new shouts of
triumph. He waved his arms, his lips spat upon the prostrate hunter,
whom at length he drew to himself, to the cliff’s edge, and he watched
the bleeding body, the matted hair, the rolling eyes, the mouth
discolored and thick with gore. Ogga was vanquished. Lagk possessed the
earth and Lhatto! The Woman of the Ice Age was his! It was enough.

Lagk stood at the brink of the cliff, and Ogga, motionless, lay at
his feet. Below him the lake waters, yet disturbed by the wind which
had become stronger, colder with the sinking sun, splashed against
the broken face of the cliff. Their waves ran in upon half revealed
points of rock, and their spray was flung upward over higher edges
and irregular prominences. The cliff’s edge was undercut, and as Lagk
looked down, he stood upon a cornice of rock immediately above the
broken masses of granite, partially submerged, partially exposed.
The waters of the lake were at this point deep. Lagk noted that with
interest. He leaned over the splintered abyss.

A dark spot crossed the rocks. It was the shadow of the eagle flying on
broad pinions to the forests he had left. Lagk watched it obliviously.
The faint impact of running feet came to his ears. With a start he
turned; the thong about Ogga dropped from his hand, but he had not
turned too quickly--Lhatto’s hands were beating with a sudden shock
upon his unbalanced body. It needed but a touch to throw him over, and
she had come with the impetus which the swiftness of the wind gave her.

He slipped, the extreme lip of the granite crumbled as he fell,
writhing in a horror that smote his face with many grimaces, and stood
in his eyes like a spectre in a doorway and even ran through his thick
hair and bade it rise. Lagk fell. His hands clutched backward at
the woman, but they closed only on inviolable air. His head pitched
down and struck the splintered, rough faces of the stone. His body
lingered for an instant on the verge of the cold waiting waters and
as it turned in the last hideous convulsion, its eyes met Lhatto still
bending and gazing at his last chance.

The waters broke in crisping ripples and the white spray rose in
the red light of the sun, hid now in a sultry haze. Lagk lost
consciousness, the harsh bruise of his fall had crushed his ribs; he
sank into the green filminess of the lake like a heavy dark mass,
not altogether without resistance. The water was churned with the
involuntary muscular revolt; the currents rising upward from his
twisting body, his flail-like extended arms, seamed the surface with
interlacing currents. Lhatto still watched until all was gone, until
even the perturbed water, save for the brushing of the wind, had come
to rest.

Then Lhatto turned to Ogga. He was leaning on one arm with a wavering
effort at steadiness, the other mechanically engaged in freeing his
neck from the fatal noose, and his face, smeared and disfigured, was
lifted towards her. The young savage woman, the Prehistoric, knelt
beside him. She wiped his face with her hands, and put her cheeks to
his. She hurried to the lake and brought water in her scooped palms
and poured it on his head. She gathered skins from where they had been
thrown down by Lagk. These she brought to Ogga and so placed them under
and about him that he might rest more easily. She knelt beside him and,
as instinctively as might a nurse to-day, soothed and caressed him.
Ogga’s head lay in her lap, his eyes, now filled with tenderness and
shining with joy, were fixed on hers. She brought him food. The horse
was recovered. Finally, as Ogga was able to walk, though only feebly
yet, the harsh concussion on his head yet lingering in dumb aches and
dizzy and whirling shadows dancing before his eyes, she led him to the
slim shelter of the rocks. The nightfall hastened. The intense stars
shown in the inky vault above them, and the creeping cold followed the
dazzling sunshine and the intemperate heat.

They gathered the warm furs about them, they shrank together in the
night, they talked softly about Lagk, only a little way from them in
the bottom of the lake, and their yet wondering minds, timid before the
strange catastrophe of death, changed the shadows they saw about them
into his image. He seemed to lurk in the crevice behind them, he rose
suddenly at the end of the cairn, he stooped over them from the air, he
crept between them, motionless and unfelt. They clasped each other in
fright, and their eyes wild with a suffocating dread of interruption,
of dispersal, of some nocturnal vengeance sweeping with the bat’s wing,
from the air upon them, grew weary at length, and the shuddering horror
succumbed to sleep. The morning sun smote their faces, pressed together
by the pressure of love and fear. Their arms unlocked, their eyelids
wet with dew parted, their lips opened with smiles; love rested upon
them like a consecration, and with the sense of warmth, in the sunlight
of the full day, the bright haloes and beckoning joys of life came back
tumultuously, gay and sweet.

Ogga soon revived. The recuperative power in the wild man is part of
the recuperative power of the wild life about him, of the animals, the
plants, of the riven soil settling back into peace and cohesion and new
fruitfulness, after shock and storm and fire. So again they prepared to
move southward. Lhatto longed for the sea, and in both were growing the
hidden instincts of home seeking, of rest; and dreams of a fair spot
sheltered from storms, where there was good fishing, and trees and the
surf beaten beaches, and the long endless plain of the ocean stretching
into the scarlet blankets of the sunset, formed in their eyes, and drew
them onward with irrevocable power.

They hardly knew the way, but they also knew no fear. After they had
left the haunted sand plateau, hurrying from it with averted faces,
fearing lest the long arms of Lagk might reach out from the lake and
pull them back to himself in the cold water; after they had left it
and entered the shielding woods, moving with the acceleration of
anticipation through the twilight day to the distant open valleys, to
the rivers and the long pale copses of _shinta_ bushes, their hearts
beat high.

Their love enfolded them like a shining light that threw on all
things its own radiance, and their enlaced bodies chasing through the
solitudes seemed a tantalizing replacement, in the dim distant America
of the Prehistorics, of some Hellenic fancy. The horse, mute companion
and mute mourner, for Lagk possessed the singular traumeristic power
over animals which is the sixth sense in some peculiar natures, had not
followed them. Nor did they care. Even his intrusion spoiled their joy;
so transcendental, by some choice accident of nature, had life become
in these savage waifs, floating on the doorway of history, and yet thus
prefiguring, before the dawn of records, the immutability of love.

And thus moving southward they discovered at length that they were
skirting the foot hills of a range of mountains which placed its high
barrier--a barrier that increased daily--between them and the sea. They
did not notice that an insensible divergence, accentuated at times by
sharper deflections to the east, was widening their distance from the
ocean. They were anxious to find some path across the towering peaks,
some defile of approach to the coast, but day by day the inexorable
mountains seemed to raise their restraining hands and deny escape.
The ranges multiplied. Lhatto and Ogga entered a region of manifold
complexity, the Sierras developed about them in bewildering frequency,
and the growth of the forests became more dense.

Their confusion increased; the valley which had, like a broad avenue of
transit, led them on, now was lost in a series of parallel or divergent
ravines. Their path, marked before, in monumental style, by the steep
and bare crests of the cordilleras, was now hopelessly disconcerted
by the intricacy and hardships of the new paths, and these children
of nature, taught only in the rough methods of aboriginal calculation
and instinct, slowly lost heart in the midst of a vast topographical
difficulty. They could not surmount the intermediate ranges and push
westward. The task dismayed them. The small game which Ogga had
contrived to take, was becoming more scarce, the rivers disappeared and
the asperity and disturbed condition of the ground offered in places
almost insurmountable obstacles to their advance. In this dilemma,
beginning to feel a strange loneliness and dread, a certain nervous
irresolution, characteristic of the aboriginal mind, they began to
elude the problem they could not determine, by following the most easy
path, fleeing like children from an omnipresent danger along simple and
self-indulgent ways.

And so it came to pass that they hastened into lower levels, traversing
country that became more parched, more desolate and bare.

The herbage alone accompanied them; the trees already halted as if
unable or fearful to enter the lowlands, and desert the protecting
shadows and nutritious soil of the hills. The ground was baked and
a saline efflorescence hid the surface with a dazzling crust. The
sun devoured them with its flagrant power, water almost disappeared,
and what they drank acted with terrifying distress and inscrutable
pains. They had indeed entered a desert charged with all the powers of
annihilation, itself a sepulchre, remote and pitiless. Over it hung the
oppression of irrespirable volumes of air quivering with heat, and from
it came the infiltrating currents of minute alkaline dust, stirred into
invisible clouds by the accidental winds, winds that came from the hot
fires of a furnace, and bore with them the pang of flames.

The pair had grown thin and haggard and hollow eyed, despairing with a
gaunt terror that stalked behind them, holding each other’s hands and
blind to prudence or reprieve, still driving on, believing it would
pass, even as they saw miraged before them a distant limit, verdant,
shadowy, with mirrors of water and bending and rising grasses.

The moment of unreason had come, their brains pierced by the awful heat
lost the tottering balance of sanity, and their vagabond footsteps
carried them wherever the illusions of their blinded eyes led. But
still linked by the potent power of their affection, in this last sad
travesty of union, they kept their hands closed together.

It was the end of day. Lhatto and Ogga had fallen on the caustic desert
almost unconscious. The clouds had robbed the sun during the last hours
of its persecuting zeal, of something of its power. They gathered
still more closely as the light died out in the sky, and the momentary
assuagement of the heat restored the lovers to temporary reason and
self possession.

It was Lhatto, looking still with the tenderness of sympathy upon the
sufferings of Ogga, his own eyes growing brighter in the supervening
moments of restoration, who spoke, and her voice came as a whisper, the
inarticulate breath of death.

“Ogga, we go to the Ice Spirit. We go together. The Fire-Spirit kills
us. But there is no more hurt now. We are happy.” The voice was still.
And Ogga, denied of the last lingering impulses of effort and recovery,
yet by some interior remnant of volition, leaned forward upon Lhatto.
Their lips touched.

The atmospheric change had come. A few drops of water grudgingly
squeezed from the leaden sky fell upon them. Lhatto held up her hand
and in its wasted palm the falling drops ran together in a little
circle. Death was upon her, the agony of the creeping fires of thirst
was in her throat; Ogga had fallen backward, and upon him the silence
of Hereafter rested, but the woman, strong with the superhuman
strength of her great love, pressed the wet palm upon his lips, and
died.

So, in the far backward of time, as the Ice Age departed, the Man
and the Woman began the endless Poem of Life, endlessly beautiful,
endlessly sad.



THE LITERARY COLLECTOR PRESS

GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT



TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES:

  Text in italics is surrounded by underscores: _italics_.

  Archaic spelling that may have been in use at the time of publication
  has been preserved.

  Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.





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